Twinkle turned 6, y’all. And I don’t even know how that happened because I’m pretty sure we brought her home from the hospital just yesterday. But, apparently, time flies while you’re having fun, and here we are. For her birthday, Twinkle said she wanted to “be with the butterflies.” And normally, that might be a tall request that’s hard to accommodate in a literal sense. But it turns out we’re not far from Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa. And wouldn’t you know it, they have a butterfly garden visitors can walk through.
Twinkle, we got you covered, girl.
And if you’ve never been to Reiman Gardens, then you simply must add it to your day trip as you pass through Iowa on your way to wherever you’re really going. Because this place is amazing. In the 18 years since I had last been there, so much had changed. I don’t remember it being nearly this cool. In fact, K-Hubs and I went once on a weeknight before winter set in, walked through, and basically never thought about it again.
I’m glad Twinkle thought of butterfly gardens so we could revisit what is truly a magical place. This year’s exhibit, Nature of the Game, provided life-sized games for children and adults to play with, everything from chess to Connect 4. It was a blast. And, if you’re big on nature play and loose parts play like we are, then Reiman Gardens will be right up your alley!
GETTING READY TO VISIT THE GARDENS
Okay, so if you’re going to visit the gardens, what do you need to do?
Set aside at least a half day, if not more. Admission to Reiman Gardens was fairly cheap. As a family of four, we were in and out in under $30. I’m there for that. The experience was worth every penny.
Plan to go through the butterfly garden. You’ll have to be careful going in and out so as not to lose any butterflies, or hitchhikers, as they were called. There are mirrors on your way out that allow you to check your clothing for any little beauties who might tag along with you on the rest of your trip.
Avoid game day. Maybe. Reiman Gardens shares parking with the football stadium. So when the Cyclones have home games, Reiman Gardens doesn’t offer parking for visitors. I believe you can park outside the gardens and walk in. But it can be a bit of a haul. Admittedly, we just avoid game days, in general, unless we’re actually going to the game. I love Ames. But campus town is narrowly laid out, so when traffic comes to town, things get a little cramped.
WHAT TO SEE AT REIMAN GARDENS
I fell instantly in love with the Potting Shed. That might have been my favorite part of the gardens. It’s in the top three, at least. And because I watch too many whodunnits, I absolutely felt like I was in my own episode of Midsomer Murders, but without the murders, thank God. Also, if I ever move to Europe and open my own pub or café, I’m calling it the Potting Shed.
It turns out, Reiman Gardens is also home to the world’s largest concrete gnome, Elwood. He really is huge, but he’s cute. And he’s tucked away near the Potting Shed. Seriously, one of my favorite areas of the whole place. I cannot even.
Twinkle loved the experience, too, saying it was her best birthday ever. Again, I can’t deal. I cannot handle that my baby isn’t really a baby anymore. She might always be my baby, but she’s no longer a baby. Who even makes these rules, anyway? Because the days may be long, but the years are oh, so short. And the years need to slow down.
EATING GLUTEN-FREE IN AMES, IOWA
We didn’t eat at Reiman Gardens. Instead we trekked over to another hot spot in the area, Hickory Park. They have an incredible gluten-free menu, including gluten-free fries. Each time we are there, a manager visits our table to make sure everything is prepared to our needs.
And in lieu of a birthday sundae, the staff brings our girls a bowl of birthday fries, complete with a candle. Because, yes, you can actually balance a single candle in a bunch of fries, if only long enough to sing a birthday song. You guys, how do you even not love that action? It’s our family’s new way to celebrate birthdays.
If you’re in the mood for an incredible outdoor sensory experience for kids and adults to enjoy together, then Reiman Gardens is where it’s at!