1. The Cultural Gardens in Rockefeller Park
You might have heard of the Cultural Gardens, but many people haven't visited them. The gardens represent the cultural groups that made Cleveland what it is today - a vibrant, ambitious community. The gardens were designed and built by, and to the largest possible extent are maintained by members of the communities which they represent. The statues, monuments, dedications, fountains, and design of each garden reflects and respects where we come from. They are celebrating their centennial this year, so what better time to remind yourself of the beauty and purpose of the gardens.
2. Perkins Wildlife Center at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Get up close and personal like never before in the newly renovated Perkins Wildlife Center! The center is home to a host of animals native to Ohio: otters, coyotes, bobcats, falcons, hawks and more. It's designed to be as immersive as possible while allowing the animals to be happy and comfortable. The enclosure is full of native trees and other plants. Entry to the wildlife center is included in the admissions price.
3. Cleveland Botanical Garden
Where else can you visit a lush tropical rainforest in the dead of a Cleveland winter? The Cleveland Botanical Garden transports you like a character from a fairytale. Explore the gardens to find out what's across that bridge, or through those gates. Try to keep still as butterflies perch on your finger. They have dozens of programs for adults, kids, and families.
4. Midtown Learning Farm
One of the Cleveland Botanical Garden's programs aims to get local communities involved with nature through urban farming. Midtown Learning Farm is one of the largest and best established, and aims to teach youth about sustainable living and environmental responsibility, and to give them real life experience in business and healthy eating. Cleveland's push toward eating and buying local (sometimes called "locavore" eating) is alive and well here, as the produce grown in these gardens is sold back to the community at affordable prices. Food vouchers and coupons are also accepted.
5. Rockefeller Park Greenhouse
Located just of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, this greenhouse has seasonal flower displays and specialty gardens. There's a formal Japanese Garden, and a Latin-American cactus garden, as well as beautiful orchid gardens and Christmas bulb displays. Admission is free.
6. GardenWalk Cleveland
Step 1: Pick a suburb. Step 2: Download a map. Step 3: Take a self-guided tour through the best, most productive and most beautiful gardens in the area! Each year, GardenWalk produces maps of various neighborhoods marking public squares, tree lines, and private houses with the best gardens. See what your neighbors are up to and get some friendly advice on how to improve your gardening. If you're lucky you might also score some bargains on fresh-laid eggs or home-grown tomatoes. Check out their website to download the maps.
7. The Greater Cleveland Beekeepers Association
Regardless of how you feel about insects, bees are necessary to the continued survival of basically every living thing on the planet. The Greater Cleveland Beekeepers Association is doing its part in trying to save bees which are rapidly disappearing from North America. Attend a monthly beginners' class at the Rocky River Nature Center. Learn how to make mead from home-harvested honey, and get tips on rearing bees. Join these passionate apiarists in saving North American bees (and by proxy ourselves) from extinction. These are also the people to call if you need a bee hive or swarm removed from your property - they'll relocate the bees in a way that is safest for both you and the bees.
8. Geauga Observatory Park
This park is one of the few parks in the world that has been dedicated as a Silver Tier Dark Sky Park. This means that the park (and observatory) are far enough away from sources of light pollution that your view of the night sky is one of the best in the area. There are only five of these parks east of the Mississippi, and one of these is right outside Cleveland! On clear nights, use the observatory's telescope, or take your own for some unparalleled stargazing.
Are there any natural hidden gems that you would add to this list? Where do you go to experience nature in the city?
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