Make Vivid Memories in Columbus

The Franklin Park Conservatory’s main glass greenhouse was first opened to the public in 1895 and was built on the original site of the Ohio State Fair. (photo by Julie Geiss)

We celebrated a milestone anniversary this summer. In the blink of an eye, my oldest daughter turned 18. She wanted to meet her cousin, who had also just turned 18, for an overnight trip somewhere in Ohio.

After considering several options, we decided to meet in Columbus. Botany and books were the themes of the trip.

Our first stop was at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens located on Broad Street, less than two miles from downtown.

Franklin Park Conservatory is like stepping back in time to the Victorian era. The main glass greenhouse was first opened to the public in 1895 and was built on the original site of the Ohio State Fair.

In addition to the greenhouse, a lake with a boathouse and motorable trails made the 88-acre park a popular landmark for many around the turn of the century.

Kindergarten

We couldn’t resist walking around the kindergarten at first, even though technically we didn’t have any children with us. Teenage cousins ​​can still enjoy the enchantment of a kindergarten. We watched the smaller visitors enter the garden through a willow tunnel.

The 2-acre garden featured many other interactive exhibits, including a bird’s eye view of the canopy walkway located 10 feet above the garden. Native Ohio plants and animals are on display, and visitors can even enter an enlarged Cardinals’ Nest. Jump rope bridges bring adults and children alike closer to the giant multi-person hammock that is the height of excitement at 13 feet tall.

After our passage in the kindergarten, we continued outside to the Grand Mallway of the Conservatory. We had to stop several times on the way to admire the perennials that lined the sidewalk. We inspected many of the over 230 seasonal display containers featuring colorful foliage.

Paul Bussé

Our destination was the Paul Busse Garden Railroad, exhibited for the second time at the Conservatory. Paul Busse is originally from Ohio. He graduated from Ohio State University in 1972 with a degree in landscape architecture.

He started his own business that focused on building exceptional outdoor living spaces. He then moved on to building garden railroads using LGB’s g-scale model trains.

He then founded the company Applied Imagination, which brings whimsical masterpieces to life by combining landscaping with railroads. Applied Imagination’s signature look uses plant material to create “botanical architecture”.

Entire displays are made with natural materials like sticks, birch bark and lotus pods. Smaller details are added with materials like pine cones, acorns, and seeds.

We were mesmerized as soon as we walked by the Paul Busse Garden Railroad exhibit: 1,122 feet of track wrapped around four smaller themed areas like FairyTale Land and Wild West Town. Several different G-scale model trains made their way along the track around miniature waterfalls, a water tower, and even the Three Little Pigs houses.

Three biomes

Once we hit the heat of the day, we decided to head inside the conservatory building. The conservatory is divided into three different biomes.

We walked through the conifers and deciduous trees of the Himalayan mountain biome. Next, we walked across the canopy bridge into the rainforest wetland biome.

Finally, we admired the cacti and succulents inside the desert biome. Loved watching all the small trees in the bonsai yard up close. A tree was 365 years old. We were greeted by a flock of brightly feathered flamingos, created by adding annual flowers to the metal structures.

Throughout the veranda, colorful glass art pieces created by Dale Chihuly were prominently displayed. The shiny glass breathtakingly accented the natural plants and flowers.

After admiring all the different exhibits on display, we headed to The Book Loft of German Village, which is best described as a maze of books. Several stairs and small corridors later, we got lost in the 32 book rooms.

Our destination for dinner was the newly renovated Budd Dairy Co. Food Hall located in the Italian village of Fourth Street. The Budd Dairy Company boasted of having the country’s only sanitary refrigerated milk wagon in 1914 and was later the first company in the United States to use electric vehicles for milk delivery.

The building, first constructed in 1914 as a modern milk bottling plant, now houses 10 different kitchens that are part of the Cameron Mitchell restaurants. I generally feel more comfortable in the countryside or on nature trails, but I certainly cherished our time in Columbus.

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