Beginning Saturday, October 21, 2017, San Antonio families will be able to enjoy new areas of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Work has been underway for an eight-acre expansion that includes a new entrance, a welcome center, an expanded gift shop, culinary gardens with an outdoor kitchen, classrooms for field trips, and—opening in March 2018—new family play areas. My family and I attended the member preview event last night, and I wanted to share photos of the new areas and tips about enjoying the garden’s grand opening weekend on October 21-22, 2017.
Visitors driving up Funston Place will encounter a new set of iron gates decorated with the garden’s Alamo-façade-edged hibiscus flower motif. Inside the gates, there are new parking areas and walkways leading to the Halsell Welcome Building. The large admission kiosk has four windows, allowing crowds to enter the garden faster with shorter lines.
On your left as you enter, the garden’s expanded gift shop has a bigger selection of decor, books, tools, toys, and more. Also, there are grab-and-go foods and a dedicated paleta freezer.
Guests are welcomed by bistro tables and chairs under the branches of a spreading oak tree and adjacent to a restful water feature. The shelves are stocked with plants for sale, a fundraiser for the garden.
The backdrop for this welcome area is the Mays Family Display Garden, a slope decked with colorful, showy plants. A sweeping promenade leads past the display garden to the formal and display gardens (including the Kumamoto En garden and the Fountain Plaza), the Lucille Halsell Conservatory, and other long-time garden landmarks.
To the south of the promenade, the H-E-B Discovery Center helps visitors get acquainted with the garden and plan their walks. A static map shows the garden layout, while video displays share garden history and upcoming events. A cart with vases of cuttings shows what is currently in bloom, labeled with their common and scientific names.
Nearby classroom space is ready for students to visit the garden for field trips. The rooms are equipped for messy, hands-on projects like making terrariums.
South of the classrooms are rows of vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, edible flowers, and more—the Culinary Garden. These beds have great teaching potential to help children learn where their food comes from.
Children may be more willing to try a new food like rainbow Swiss chard if they can see it growing from the ground and how colorful it looks when fresh.
Within the culinary garden, the Goldsbury Foundation Pavilion and CHEF Teaching Kitchen will host programs to help families learn about healthy eating.
Chef Dave Terrazas will lead cooking classes in the outdoor kitchen so that visitors can connect the growing plants in the culinary garden with healthy, plant-based foods that they can prepare in their own kitchens.
For years, the garden has been a place to enjoy the beauty of nature and learn more about Texas habitats. The new areas of the garden add another layer to understanding how humans interact with plants. The culinary garden and teaching kitchen demonstrate how plants give us tasty foods that keep us healthy. The discovery center and classrooms will show visitors of all ages, but especially school-age children, how we are affected by the cycles of nature, including the changing of the seasons and the reactions of air, water, and nutrients in our environment. These interactive spaces will be a big draw for visitors who may be new to the garden or haven’t visited in a while.
Unfortunately, the Family Adventure Garden is not yet ready for visitors. The current estimate is that it will open on March 3, 2018. During a sneak peek, I was able to see the path of the water feature, as well as play houses, sandboxes, and lots of shade structures.
The public is welcome to attend the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s grand opening weekend on October 21-22, 2017. Advance tickets for Saturday and Sunday are available online. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. On both Saturday and Sunday, there will be special activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., including hands-on children’s activities, lawn games, wellness activities, speakers and cooking demos, food trucks, music and performances, and a limited supply of plant giveaways. The garden will remain open to all ages until 5 p.m. on both days. On Saturday evening from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., adult guests (age 21 and over) can dress up for Moonlight in the Garden of Good & Evil; tickets are available online.
Ongoing events that coincide with grand opening weekend include Art in the Garden (through December 31) featuring sculptures by George Tobolowsky, the Scarecrow Trail (through November 12) with spooky creations by local groups and nonprofits, and a Family Drop-in Program on Sunday, October 22 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The garden is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is $12 for adults, $9 for children ages 3–13, and free for children under three years old. If applicable, ask for the student, military, or senior discount. Members get in free.
The San Antonio Botanical Garden has been one of my family’s favorite escapes for years. It fills my heart with joy to see it reach a new level of excellence. I hope more families will discover the garden as a place to learn and to relax.
- “First look at the $22 million San Antonio Botanical Garden expansion ahead of its opening,” Steve Bennett, Mysanantonio.com, October 17, 2017
- “New growth blooms at the San Antonio Botanical Garden,” Steve Bennett, San Antonio Express-News, October 16, 2017
- “San Antonio Botanical Garden grows a side of delicious at new culinary garden,” Paul Stephen, San Antonio Express-News, October 16, 2017
- “Where imagination blooms,” Enrique Bonilla, Paisano, October 18, 2017
- “Botanical Garden’s Expansion Adds New Dimension to Cultural Corridor,” Bekah McNeel, Rivard Report, October 20, 2017