Since its grand opening in 1995, Frederik Meijer Gardens http://www.meijergardens.org has grown out of its artistic apprenticeship and blossomed into the cultural, botanical and sculptural Mecca for Michigan residents and the greater Great Lakes region. The 125-acre attraction on Grand Rapids’ Northeast side is a year round experience comprised of wetlands, woodlands, meadows, indoor and outdoor botanical gardens, world-class sculptures and performances by nationally acclaimed musicians. The crown jewel of the indoor gardens is the five-story Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, the largest facility of its type in the state and is home to tropical plants and flowers from five continents including 30’ high palm trees, coconut trees, bamboo, papyrus and vibrant orchids. The giant greenhouse also features a waterfall, gentle streams and is maintained at a delightful 75 degrees. Next to the conservatory, the Gardens’ indoor horticulture collection also includes a carnivorous plant house and desert and Victorian gardens. In 2000, Meijer Gardens opened three state-of-the-art galleries that have held the works of Picasso, George Segal, Mark di Suvero and Claes Oldenburg.
The 35-acre outdoor sculpture park is filled with works by famous and world-renowned artists like Rodin, Henry Moore, Sansovino, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Jacques Lipchitz. Some of the works are colossal, the most famous of which is Leonardo Da Vinci’s American Horse, the 24’ bronze equestrian by sculptor Nina Akamu. Seeing is believing as no picture does it justice. It is simultaneously detailed and immense, beautiful and inspirational, fun and awe inspiring. If for no other reason, visit Meijer Gardens to see the Da Vinci Horse. Learn more about it online: http://www.leonardoshorse.org
Other grandiose works include the 35’ Grand Rapids Arch by Andy Goldsworthy, the 23’ tall Male/Female by Johnathan Borofsky the 42’ canopy B-Tree II by Kenneth Snelson, and the recently unveiled 12’x12’x22’ PALETTAGRANDE meaning “Big Scoop” or “Large Shovel” in Italian. Learn more about it online: http://palettagrande.blogspot.com
Another one of the great assets of Meijer Gardens is its consistent variability. Year after year, season after season, visit after visit, there is always something new. Each year during March and April, the conservatory hosts “Butterflies are Blooming”, the largest temporary butterfly exhibit in the US. http://www.foremostbutterflies.com More than 6,000 butterflies representing dozens of species from Asia and South America flutter freely indoors for nine weeks. Throughout the year, the Gardens host a number of plant shows such as the Bonsai Show, Orchid Show and Iris Show, as well as classes, lectures and tours. Every year the summer concert series brings a fresh lineup of national headliner musical performances to the outdoor amphitheater. Christmas time brings 300,000 lights twinkling indoors and out as “Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World” showcases the decorations, music and food of more than 40 countries and cultures. New galleries and exhibits are constantly being introduced. Construction and expansion are familiar themes. You will want to periodically visit online to get the scoop on the latest happenings. One constant is assured, you will not be bored at Frederik Meijer Gardens.
This year was no exception, actually entirely unique as it ushered in a new dimension to the Gardens, the art of humor. On September 16, 2006 the outdoor sculpture park launched a brand new sculpture exhibit featuring Francesco Nicola Sansovino’s “PALETTAGRANDE” which means “Big Scoop” or “Large Shovel” in Italian. A big scoop it was, measuring 12 × 12 foot with a 22 foot handle, the largest public scoop exhibit in Grand Rapids history. The curator/director of the sculpture program at Meijer Gardens said it best at the exhibit’s media introduction. “Meijer Gardens is delighted to bring art into our community by presenting Francesco Nicola Sansovino in Grand Rapids, an exhibition that complements the history and significance of Leonardo Da Vinci’s great horse ‘Gran Cavallo’ and expresses nature’s call as we all can relate. We are pleased to work with Fondamento per la Scultura Naturale (Foundation for Natural Sculpture) to bring about this important piece of whimsical imagery. Sansovino’s grand vision is now fulfilled, to see us smile at ourselves and find playful delight in the creativity of art in all its frolicsome forms, even mischievousness.” Smile and laugh at ourselves we did, and Sansovino must have been giggling in his grave as well. The exhibit featured its own web site for visitors to enjoy well after the curtain closed on this interim exhibit http://palettagrande.blogspot.com
Meijer Gardens is not just for grown-ups, kids can have endless hours of fun in the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden. Covering five acres, it’s one of the biggest children’s gardens in the nation with ten-themed areas like the Tree House Village, Butterfly Maze and log cabin. Kids can also play with boats in the kid-sized model of the Great Lakes, jump through fountains, build sand castles and dig for dinosaur bones.
Other outdoor areas include Michigan’s Farm Garden, Woodland Shade Garden and the wetlands boardwalk. Indoor facilities for galleries, education, special events, shopping, dining and relaxing complement the garden experience.
Quite literally everywhere you look, you are engaged in a rich cultural experience which stimulates and refreshes your senses, mind, body and soul. Quite obviously this Grand Rapids resident highly recommends Meijer Gardens as part of your West Michigan travel experiences. I just love the Gardens, I think you will too!over 6 years ago