For years en route to Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia I had passed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Morris Arboretum. I always figured it was just some big park loaded with a bunch of boring trees. So a few weeks ago during a trip to Cape May, New Jersey I was surprised at how green this beach town was and how little I recognized the names of all those wonderful plants. Figuring the Morris Arboretum to be my botanical salvation, albeit a boring botanical salvation, I jumped in my car and visited Penn’s Arboretum. I loved it. It was way, way, way better than I ever thought it would be.
Arriving at the Parking Lot
There is plenty of parking at the Morris Arboretum but your experience will start much quicker if you are able to park in the limited spaces at the very top of the lot. If not, you’ll park a couple thousand feet further down hill and have to walk up like a Tibetan Sherpa or take the shuttle a few minutes up the winding road to what is essentially the entrance to the whole experience.
Pretty cool. Your trip pretty much begins at the museum gift shop where you can pick up a map for free, buy some cool stuff (I bought some delicious, locally produced wildflower honey) or grab a snack at the cafe. From there, you walk a short distance to a really interesting observation deck about 30 feet or so in the air (don’t worry, you don’t have to climb up, you are already that high when you park, you’ll see what I mean) and you more or less get to experience what seems like a giant tree house in the canopy in the trees. Pretty neat and unexpected.
From there there are several really neat gardens to walk through with various flowers, herbs and plenty of butterflies. Again really neat (and, trust me, I a totally bad – a$$’d guy so don’t take what I say lightly and quite educational too. Most of the trees and plants are identified by placards along the way.
There is a short but sweet greenhouse filled with tropical plants (more on this here )…. and tropical weather too…. it’s only about a two minute walk through but pretty hot and steamy so if you are prone to heat stroke, you might want to just poke your head in the door. Actually it wasn’t that bad, I’m sure the dead guy outside was just sunning himself… kidding. Here’s a picture of the greenhouse
There are miles of paved trails and some wide open spaces that would make for a very nice picnic (only on summer Thursday nights as of the date of this post). There are also some wonderful little shaded trails that take you back along tiny streams, fountains, and other pleasant nooks and crannies of the park.
On thing that surprised me about the park was how small it seems from the outside but how utterly massive it is on the inside. The park, if you’ve ever driven by it along Germantown Pike looks big for a suburban Philadelphia park but when you get inside I assure you that you can not see from one end of the park to the other. The rolling hills filled with plant life and paved trails takes up a wonderfully deceptive amount of space that you can really lose yourself in (but without actually getting lost)
I never thought I’d like this but I loved it. Not sure if this is a year round exhibit or not but the Morris Arboretum train set is pretty impressive too. To my surprise, I like it. They are miniature trains not large enough to ride on but probably slightly bigger than what you would put around the living room. Each set had a little theme that would take the trains by famous places both locally and around the world. Check it out. I thought it would be dumb but I enjoyed the whimsical nature of the set up.
Amenities and Admission
There are public bathrooms, a cafe, gift shop and free parking. There is admission to the museum $16 for an adult when I went but check out there website below for up to date info.
Penn’s Morris Arboretum website - U of P Arboretum Near Norristown
Check Out The Location of the Morris Arboretum below. Very easy to get to. (If you are still interested in the great outdoors consider reading my review of Valley Forge Park
Where is It