By MeLinda Schnyder
February 02, 2022
Themed gardens, a historic carousel and special events make Kansas’ Botanica, The Wichita Gardens a year-round destination.
The secret of Downing Children’s Garden at Botanica Wichita is that it was designed for adults. Ever since Marty Miller, executive director of the attraction in the Riverside neighborhood of Wichita, Kansas, told me that fact, I’ve felt justified in starting my visits to the 20-acre Botanica Wichita with a stroll through this imaginative, interactive garden even though I’m typically exploring without children.
Downing Children’s Garden has full-size features so that adults can discover alongside the children they bring — or on their own — instead of sitting on a bench and just watching the fun. Visitors enter the garden along a rainbow trail, passing through an archway of tinted, translucent glass that casts a rainbow on the ground when the sun hits it just right. An alternate route leads younger guests through smaller rainbows.
Both paths bring you to a sunflower-shaped fountain, and from there, you can head in numerous directions within the one-acre garden and try out different interactive elements. There’s a farm with raised beds and a working water pump, the Alexander Bee House showcasing an observation hive of honeybees and beekeeping equipment, a musical maze, a treehouse and a 20-foot-tall monster tree with a face big enough to climb into. Look closely along the paths; scattered among the rhododendrons, hardy ferns, tree lilacs and redbuds are surprises, including larger-than-life ant sculptures, tiny fairies and mischievous mice building a rocket to reach a moon made of cheese. “Every guest who crosses under the rainbow becomes a kid again,” says Miller. “Our children’s garden has inspired other children’s gardens across the country.”