Enter the Children's Garden through a tree-lined walkway, with whimsical paths encouraging children to pay attention to the trees around them. Look down to see the names of each path engraved in the ground and try to spot matching trees along the path. Can you find Oak-A Avenue, Elm Expressway, and Ash Alley? Try a new route each time you enter the Garden.
- Find our one-acre Maze Garden right across from the Children's Garden. Once you reach the entrance, you make your own unique adventure! Look for seven different plant rooms tucked inside this living puzzle. If you’d rather watch from above, climb the stairs to a 12-foot high lookout platform built around a stunning 60-foot tall sycamore tree. There, you'll enjoy a bird's-eye view of family and friends as they navigate the maze.
- Step into this restored prairie to experience the first of many rich sites for bird watching at the Arboretum. Keep your eyes out for common yellowthroats, flycatchers, and many different sparrows flittering among the tall prairie plants. Willoway Creek, which flows between the prairie and Sterling Pond, can also host winter wrens and ovenbirds.
- Sterling Pond is a good place to spot waterfowl, including wood ducks. Relax on the wooden bridge while you look for wildlife and listen to the sounds of water passing over the dam. In the summer, keep your eyes peeled for Indigo Buntings in the small marsh just across the bridge.
- This patch of West Side coniferous forest may be serene, but make sure to stay alert and keep your eyes up. You can see great-horned owls here year-round, and perhaps a northern saw-whet owl in the winter if you’re lucky. You may also see hawks at the treetops from across Lake Marmo.
- The area around Pine Hill contains some of the oldest existing plantings of the Arboretum, dating from 1922 when it first opened. Here you'll find stately pines with snow covered boughs that can be enjoyed for their natural beauty In late winter. Return in early spring to look for great horned owls who have commandeered other birds' nests in which to raise their fluff-headed young.
- Sit quietly beside Lake Marmo (named after Joy Morton's wife, Margaret Morton) for peaceful reflection or great bird watching. Raptors can be seen in the treetops over the water. Waterfowl also come here, and as you continue on Main Trail Loop 2 to Joy Path, keep your eye out for colorful birds like Scarlet Tanagers by the oak savanna.
- This pathway offers a pleasant stroll down the West Side’s gentle hill. Enjoy a variety of gardens, graceful trees, and native woods as you descend. In the skies, you might see flycatchers and phoebes, so keep your eyes open for their distinctive hawking behavior. You may also catch a glimpse of a hairy woodpecker or a bluebird.
- Look for host goldfinches, sparrows, common yellowthroats, barn swallows, tree swallows, and red-winged blackbirds around Sunfish Pond and the surrounding meadow. For some cool trees, check out the bald cypresses between Sunfish Pond and Lake Jopamaca. Can you find any of this tree’s famous “knees” poking out from the wet soils?
- From the Visitor Center, walk past the Ground Cover Garden towards the parallel rows of shrubs to enter the Hedge Collection. The organic-looking hedges to your right are “unsheared” while the formal-looking hedges to your left are “sheared.” This is a great spot to race the kids. Look for four white columns and see who can reach them first!
- Located within the Children's Garden, The Backyard Discovery Garden features familiar things that children might recognize in their own backyard, uniquely designed to encourage deeper exploration. Enter under a colorful pergola, then start exploring! There are four mini-gardens for you to discover. Can you find spitting frogs, larger-than-life musical flowers, a windmill, and a dog house?
- Journey into Adventure Woods for great opportunities to crawl, climb, and splash through the natural world. Start out under the wooden arch and continue along the path until you find an area you want to explore. Love water? Check out Wonder Pond or the Secret Stream. Love climbing? Look for several elevated play structures and turn the kids loose. Be on the lookout for fairies hidden among the trees throughout.