I was recently invited to become a Star Blogger for Longwood Gardens. This is such an exciting opportunity, because not only do I just love Longwood Gardens, but my little guy is now at an age where it will be fun for us to attend as a family. A few Thursdays ago, I went to a special evening just for bloggers to see this year’s holiday display. I was full of questions, because I want all families to be able to enjoy this spectacular event, and I know we all have apprehensions. What makes me nervous is the unknown–will there be food there for him to eat? Where can I take him to the bathroom? How far will we have to walk, should I take a stroller/wheelchair or not? Well, here you go, I’ve assembled as much information as I could to help everyone have a nice time.
When to go
If you can, go either on Tue/Wed/Thurs/Fri, and try to arrive around 2 or 2:30, and leave at dusk. Because we have shorter days this time of year, the lights start to come on around 3. This is also a very quiet time as most of the morning groups have left and the evening rush hasn’t started. Weekends are the most crowded and it costs $5 more per person. Mondays are reserved for Members, so consider getting a membership too. I’m a huge fan of taking my kid out of school for legitimate family and educational opportunities, and for me this qualifies as one. There is timed entrance, so make sure you purchase a ticket online beforehand. The week between Christmas and New Years is also very crowded.
Here is a quick list of items that we do when we travel, just a reminder of what is educational when you are visiting places. Use this if you are going to fill out one of those forms for your school for “educational travel.”
- Applying already acquired skills across all environments
- Speech-mimicking sounds, trying new vocalizations in pronouncing new words
- Literacy-reading program brochures, flyers, maps, signs, as appropriate
- Math-as appropriate-money involved, counting, matching
- Sensory & Textures-touching new things, tasting new things
- Joint attention-viewing things or exhibits together
- Social skills-waiting in line, waiting your turn, respecting personal space of others
- PT-walking across uneven surfaces, inclines & declines, stairs, increasing endurance
- OT-fine motor can be done just about anywhere, many places have fun activities for kids
Crowds/Waiting in Line
Much of this is addressed as far as “when to go.” Just know that while not impossible, if you go on a weekend during the holidays, it will be very crowded with much waiting in line.
There was plenty of handicapped parking very close to the entrance. They also have wheelchairs to use if you need them.
If your child is noise sensitive, the only concern I would have would be crowds and the noise and activity associated with bunches of people around. There are daily concerts during the holidays, but you do not have to view them. If there is some particular noise or instrument that bothers your child, check the holiday concert schedule beforehand to avoid it. Most children I know with special needs love music, so I would go out of my way to find one that is enjoyable for them. Since Longwood Gardens is so large, there are corners and benches and places that you can walk off to, if you need to sit quietly for a few moments are regroup.
The Conservatory has about four or five family restrooms. They are huge with a changing area. Again, my only concern would be crowds and waiting in line, so try to go when it’s not crowded.
Some children with special needs really want to avoid textures of leaves and plants, and some enjoy them a bit too much if you know what I mean. You are able to get very close to all the flowers and plants, so it may require extra supervision. My little guy just loves to brush his hands over flowers and plants and branches, and I would be mortified if he ruined one of the displays! There is a children’s garden where there are things for them to touch.
Longwood Gardens has soft lighting in almost every area we went to. Unless it was particularly bright outside, a light sensitive child shouldn’t have any problems. However, if your child needs very bright light to be able to see and navigate well, they may need extra assistance particularly in their buildings. The walkways and paths are not all necessarily smooth and flat, and some are concrete or paved and not very colorful. It can be difficult to discern when a walking surface is going to change. There are plenty of wide ramps and walkways.
Depending on which display you are viewing, many of them have very rich colors which I know will be appealing to my little guy.
There is a cafeteria style place to eat as well as a formal sit down restaurant. When I inquired as to special diets, restrictions and nutritional information for families living with Diabetes, this is what I was told:
- We have made conscious changes to our menus over the past year—more and more guest have dietary restrictions. We label these foods as such.
- We strive to always have options for: Gluten free, vegan or vegetarian, Lactose intolerant. We label foods that have nuts in them, although we recommend asking b/c we are not a nut-free facility.
- Nutritional information is not available at this time, although our company is developing programs and tested menus to work towards this. We are not quite there at the time, also not sure if we will adapt to this system as it reduces options.
- The café gets thousands of visitors each month, and we really strive to of options for all allergies, dietary restrictions. Café staff is always willing to provide special meals / preparations if desired. A little bit of heads up is appreciated.
- 1906 menus are broken down by chef: does it contain flour, animal products, dairy etc, also; how can it be modified to suit the needs of the particular guest. We are happy to accommodate where we can.
So there you go, now you know!
When I travel with my little guy, the only thing that makes me nervous about taking him places is the unknown. Hopefully this helps eliminate that for your family. With this knowledge you can prepare, predict and plan and help everyone to have a more enjoyable time.
The only question I forgot to ask was about kids who travel with either a nurse or TSS, and admission for them. So please call before you go and inquire.