[photo credit: Monika McNabb]
Thunder Bay Centennial Botanical Conservatory
A visit to Thunder Bay’s Centennial Botanical Conservatory is the most affordable tropical vacation your family will ever take! Admission is free, although the donations at the box at the door are greatly appreciated. You and your kids will love it for a lot of reasons…here are our top five.
1. It’s perfect for those blah grey days or super-cold weather
All your senses are engaged: the feel of warm humid air on your skin, the sound of trickling water, the scent of dirt and moisture and growing green things. Kids can see fruit like lemons, papayas, mangos and even one teeny tiny pineapple growing on trees right in the arboretum. Other plants include a coffee bean plant, eucalyptus, Indian rubber tree, fishtail palm, bird’s nest fern and plenty of colourful tropical blooms. (Kid favourite: pom pom plant.) The “What’s Happening” section at the Friends of the Thunder Bay Conservatory website has good information on the various plants.
2. You can now go at night
If you’re looking for a peaceful way to wind down before bedtime, the Conservatory is now open from noon to 8pm, Wednesday to Sunday. (Monday and Tuesday are 10am to 4pm.) It’s open just about every day of the year, except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Good Friday.
3. It offers low-key family fun
Walk the pathways with a toddler, cruise up and down the bridge and drop coins into the pond, watch for the occasional bird that has sneaked in, see if you can spot the ladybugs that have been released to naturally combat bugs like aphids, play a (respectful) game of hide and seek, feel the sparkly purple amethyst embedded in the walls, hand your kiddos a sketch pad or camera: there are dozens of family-friendly ways to enjoy the Conservatory. Plus, see if your kids can spot the tiny fairy house…it’s often decorated for upcoming holidays!
4. Fun special events
The Friends of the Conservatory are starting to offer special events as well, with themes like “an afternoon in the tropics” or seasonal holidays like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day with live music, snacks and children’s activities. One new event that had more than 300 people dancing in the paths was The Green House, where local DJs and producers Aticka, Jader Ag and Matt spun some tunes.
5. There are outdoor activities for kids too
In the summer, check out the Children’s Community Garden, a straw bale garden where kids help plant the veggies in June and harvest them in September. There are also perennial gardens and a pollinators’ garden to give honeybees a hand. Past events have included a workshop for making a hummingbird feeder and an international plants scavenger hunt.
1601 Dease Street (off Balmoral)