Discover the Morris Arboretum

Discover the Morris Arboretum

by Kelly Di Cesare

Have you ever planned a fun, educational day for your family? You research, google-map and anticipate the wondrous learning experience you are about to unwrap for your beloved family. You wake at the crack of dawn, prepare a hearty breakfast for everyone, and call them downstairs; all the while chanting in a sing-songy voice how wonderful and interesting this day is going to be. 

You break out comfortable footwear for all, you pack snacks for the trip, and you grab the buy one/get one free admission coupon you have been carrying around since last spring. 

With your armor of cheerfulness, you deflect the “how-far-is-it’s,” the “when-can-we-eat’s,” and the “he’s-looking-out-MY-window’s.”  

You get semi-lost and then stuck in traffic, you reach your destination only to discover there is an unexpected $20 parking fee, and at the admission window, you realize you didn’t read the fine print on the coupon and it can only be used on Tuesdays that have a full moon.

Onward Soldier – paint that smile on and keep marching.

Once in the museum, you elbow your way through the crowds to each attraction screaming over your shoulder, “THIS IS FUN! THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN!”

Two hours later you are a mess. You’re hoarse from screeching a mere 7,000 times, “Did you read that? Isn’t it interesting?” Your hands are raw from all the antibacterial soap you’ve been smearing on them, and you’re tired of telling your kids, “No, I am NOT buying you a souvenir at the gift shop.”

You hang your head in defeat. 

Sound familiar? Well, alas mamas…
I have the antidote for you. It is Morris Arboretum. 

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is a 92-acre oasis about 35 miles from Coopersburg. If you read about it, you’ll find that it is the official arboretum of the Commonwealth and is listed on the National Register of Historic places. Sounds rather high-brow doesn’t it?  Don’t let that deter you. It is awesome. 

Morris Arboretum can capture the adult crowd. That’s easy. But, what about the kids? Well, faster than your kids can grumble, “Wait… you want me to spend the whole day looking at TREES?” they will be won over hook, line and sinker, thanks to the tree house. The giant, crazy tree house. 

ArboretumThe way the tree house is constructed is very clever. You walk out on a boardwalk and next thing you realize is you are 50 feet above the ground. It has two huge nets that you can lay in and just stare at the ground below you or flip over and stare at the tree tops above you.  

Once you can drag yourself and your kids away from the treehouse (good luck), grab a scavenger hunt game for the kids, follow the paths, and let the afternoon unfold.

There are so many little sections of the estate tucked here and there so take your time and enjoy. And, if you’re feeling like a rock star parent, you can throw some educational stuff in and your kids won’t suspect a thing. There is a spring house. Explain THAT to your kids. “What… wait… you mean THAT was the fridge?”  

There is a tiny log cabin along a picturesque stream. Go inside and you’ll find a set of Lincoln Logs. Remember them? Explain THAT to your kids. “What… wait… you mean THESE were your Legos?” 

Plus, in the summer, there is a train exhibit called The Garden Railway. It highlights historical sites but also fun things like The Oscar Meyer Weiner car. Explain THAT to you kids. “What… wait… you mean there used to be a car that drove around shaped like a giant hot dog?”

Another fun thing to do is go sit by the giant bronze bell and watch a social experiment unfold before your eyes. Every male who walks up to the bell puts his head in the bell. Every female who walks up to the bell knows that every male she is with is going to stick his head in the bell. It is very fun to watch.

Faster than your kids can grumble, “Wait… you want me to spend the whole day looking at TREES?” they will be won over hook, line and sinker, thanks to the tree house. The giant, crazy tree house.

You can walk through the grove of redwoods, visit the Fernery, take the trails that parallel the Wissahickon Creek, check out the numerous metal sculptures around the estate that create optical illusions, and you can see the swans at the pond. You will see people sketching, families picnicking, yogis’ yoga-ing, and kids rolling down hills (not a bottle of hand sanitizer to be seen). But the gardens, whew, the gardens are beautiful.  

I am a self-proclaimed door knob when it comes to plants. I can confidently distinguish between a tomato plant and a Christmas tree but that’s about the extent of my horticultural knowledge. Even though I can’t tell you the genus of any plant, I can tell you this is a beautiful and peaceful place. People smile and laugh while visiting Morris Arboretum. They sit and exhale, they stroll and talk, they take pictures for the best Christmas card picture ever, but most of all, I think they enjoy the unaltered, simple space.  

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