My husband and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary. This year, our celebration included a romantic afternoon at the Thanksgiving Point Gardens. Our family has previously visited Thanksgiving Point's sprawling campus, which includes a dinosaur museum, a farm, a children's garden, a golf course, movie theaters and restaurants, but we had not yet seen the main gardens. This seemed like a perfect opportunity.
June is an excellent time of year for a garden visit and Ashton Gardens exceeded my expectations as the setting for a romantic afternoon. We did not pick-up a map at the admissions desk, but meandered around the garden's 55 acres for about three hours, discovering something new around every turn.
Our first “discovery” after wandering down the hill from the main building was hard to miss. It's the largest man-made waterfall in the Western hemisphere. The waterfall is the backdrop for a large amphitheatre and we watched children roll down the grassy hillbefore walking up and around the falls.
A short time later, we happened upon the Rose Garden which was in full bloom. Between the picturesque arched pathway and the many colorful rose varieties, it's hard to take a bad photo here. We know, because our little camera was recently drenched in a rainstorm and we took all these photos without a working viewfinder.
A short bridge brought us next to the koi pond. At first, we enjoyed watching the few koi near the bridge, until we followed the stream to a pond filled with dozens of these colorful fish. Here, we found coin-operated fish food dispensers and watched the children around us toss pellets to the swarming fish below. We thought of our own children and how they will enjoy the koi pond when it's their turn to visit these gardens.
We discovered a set of columns at the top of a small hill where we enjoyed a lovely overlook, an iron carousel covered in flowers, and a fountain cascading down a set of stairs through a dozen bathtub-shaped receptacles. The “No Swimming” signs were well placed, because it might have been tempting to soak in one of them. My favorite area was the Secret Garden. This garden is walled and somewhat concealed, so without a map I really did feel like we had discovered something special.
Since my visit, the Light of the World Garden has been completed. It features 15 larger-than-life sculptures depicting the life and mission of Jesus Christ. I can't imagine a more peaceful and beautiful setting for an inspirational garden of this type.
Golf carts and Segways are available for rent, but unless you have mobility problems, I recommend seeing the garden on foot. The expansive views and individual plants and flowers are meant to be enjoyed slowly. Furthermore, Segways might be fun for a unique first date, but they are not remotely romantic. You can't stroll hand-in-hand or enjoy a conversation on a Segway.
I look forward to bringing our children back to discover Ashton Gardens in their own way, but that will be a completely different experience. I am still enjoying the memory of our romantic afternoon so much, there's no need to rush.
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