The day we visited the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington as part of our #VisitBurlON FAM trip tour, it was raining. Despite big drops splashing on our camera bags, we were very happy, as were the RBG employees. With no rain for almost a month, the grass was a bit brown and the flowers shriveled up a bit… not the best scenario for a place that thrives on showcasing some of the most beautiful gardens in Canada.
This was my first visit to the RBG grounds, aside from the trails at Hendrie Valley and the Arboretum. While we couldn’t explore too much of the outdoor grounds, we did enough exploring that inspired me to share with you seven things to do at the RBG in Burlington, no matter the weather conditions.
Located inside a greenhouse attached to the main visitor building, the Mediterranean Garden contains plants from the region – from olive trees to Egyptian rushes that grow along the Nile.
Turning immediately right of the entrance, you walk along a path that takes you on a journey of the various countries in the Mediterranean region via the plants that grow there. Fine fir and pine trees with super-soft needles brush against you in spots. A koi fish pond attracts the attention of little kids.
The second level brings you to a stunning recreation of an outdoor patio at some Italian or Spanish home, with gorgeous fiery blooms. Walking further along you see a second room attached to the Mediterranean Garden full of cactus and agave plants and other desert flora. Avoid getting too close or the plants will bite!
Reflect at the Hendrie Park Reflecting Pools & Centennial Rose Garden
When you head outside of the main RBG building and go through the underpass, you will find yourself on a long walkway, surrounding by elevated gardens on either side. In the distance you see a shimmering on the ground – this is the reflecting pools. This is Hendrie Park with a number of garden sections.
During our visit, the pools were devoid of water plants and disturbed by the falling rain. Not too much reflection was happening during our visit. Even with the rain, if you aren’t paying attention to what’s on the ground, you may mistake the pools at dark slabs of concrete. You can only imagine how lovely this spot is on a clear day with little wind.
Surrounding the pools are rose gardens and pergola-covered trails with climbing vines and plants.
On a beautiful day, this is a place to reconnect with nature and to stop and smell the roses. A must visit during your tour of the RBG.
Lunch at the Turner Pavilion Tea Room
All the exploring at the RBG can build up an appetite. Stopping at the Turner Pavilion Tea Room at the reflecting ponds, you find yourself in a well-lit, room with high ceilings and large windows that offer a beautiful view of the gardens. A large fireplace with a stone mantle and large mirror attracts the eye. If you look up, you see a train perched on tracks that hang right by the sides of the room.
The menu is simple – soup of the day, Panini sandwich of the day, grilled chicken wraps and scones. It’s the perfect spot for a bit of tea and a bite to eat. During my visit I tried the grilled vegetable Panini sandwich with a side salad. Delicious and simply put together, it satisfied my hunger without making me feel overly full.
We shared scones which come with a creamy cheese and berry compote. Enough for two people to share.
This is such a cute spot that you can bring your mom or mother-in-law for a spot of tea and scones for a nice afternoon out, after a walk in the gardens.
Get Inspired – Learn About Flowers, Bushes & Trees
For anybody who has a new home or wants to re-do their gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens are the place to visit for inspiration and advice.
You can see trees, bushes and flowers in person to figure out how big they grow. You can see how flowers look when planted in beds. Staff can help answer your questions and inspire you with recommendations.
Hendrie Park is one of the places to see outdoor gardens, as is the Laking Garden, while other indoor plants can be found at the main RBG building.
Know a gardener for whom you need to get a birthday or Holiday gift? Or perhaps you need to get a child’s gift. The shop at the RBG is full of items related to gardens – from books to decorative vases. Natural landscape paintings and prints can be purchased here as well.
Enjoy the outdoor trails – Arboretum, Hendrie Valley
The RBG includes more than 27 kilometres of trails at the Arboretum and Hendrie Valley. There are four trailheads and two canoe launch sites offering something for both hikers and paddlers.
Hendrie Valley is one of my favourite spots for a short hike. The boardwalk takes you through a marsh that is home to many water birds. Chickadees and other birds fly around this area looking for seed placed on tree stumps.
Keep an eye out for cranes, ducks and swans that swim along the creek.
The Arboretum trails take you around Cootes Paradise, where, if you are lucky, you can spot bald eagles that have made a nest in one of the trees.
Practice Your Photography Skills
The RBG is the perfect place to bring your camera to practice macro photography skills. Both amateur and serious photographers will have their tripods set up and a macro lens attached to a DSLR camera body, focusing on blooms. Just be aware of others trying to pass on pathways. Share the space!
We’ve seen wildlife photographers bring their humongous lenses to Hendrie Valley to photograph birds from a distance. The last time we hiked there, we saw one that looked like a mini-rocket launcher attached to a tiny-in-comparison DSLR body.
Hours: Open daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting May 2
Cost for entry: Members – free; Adult 7$12.50; Senior/Student: $10.50; child ages 4 to 12 $7.50; child under the age of 4 – free; Family of 4 with children under 18, $30.50.
Our visit at the RBG was sponsored by Tourism Burlington (thank you!), however all thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.
What’s your favourite thing to do at the RBG in Burlington?