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Unique Family Fun at the Ithaca Children’s Garden

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I travel a lot with my young children, and that means that we often visit playgrounds around both New York and elsewhere. However, we’ve never visited somewhere quite like the Ithaca Children’s Garden.

That’s because the Ithaca Children’s Garden isn’t a normal playground, and you won’t find things like traditional swings and slides in this three-acre space. Instead, there are creative areas designed to spark kids’ imaginations and encourage unique play.

The Ithaca Children’s Garden is located on the southern end of Cass Park in northern Ithaca near where Six Mile Creek enters Cayuga Lake.

The entrance to the Ithaca Children's Garden in the Finger Lakes
The entrance to the Ithaca Children’s Garden.

The garden first opened in its current location in 2004 with a mission of connecting children with nature.

To this end, there are 15 different areas of the Ithaca Children’s Garden, including gardens, ponds, playing apparatuses, and much more. Certainly some of these areas lead to more structured activities, but there really is a very casual attitude here with the goal of letting children play how they want.

The entrance to the Butterfly Garden at the Ithaca Children's Garden in New York.
The Butterfly Garden at the Ithaca Children’s Garden.

I was really amazed how much variety they packed into a relatively small space, and my children had a great time exploring spots like the wildflower meadow and the rice paddy pond during our visit.

Their favorite space, however, was the Anarchy Garden, which had a sign on a tree proclaiming it to be a space with “No Rules”.

Children playing in the Anarchy Garden in the Ithaca Children's Garden in New York.
The Anarchy Garden is one of the most fun and unique spaces in the garden.

Truthfully, this place is a kid’s dream and likely a nightmare for helicopter parents as it’s literally just a dirt area with a ton of random things including large tires, pieces of wood, and even unattached plastic slides that kids can use their imagination with.

While it’s certainly unconventional, my kids had a blast moving things around and creating their own play areas, and my wife and I really enjoyed seeing what they came up with.

Girl playing with large items in the Anarchy Garden at the Ithaca Children's Garden in Tompkins County, NY
The Anarchy Garden is great for creative play.

Another area they really enjoyed was the garden’s giant turtle sculpture.

Named Gaia, this sculpture is approximately 50 feet long and 30 feet wide, creating a massive structure for kids to explore and climb on. There is also a lot of symbolism built into the structure, which makes it a great learning opportunity as well.

Giant turtle statue at the Ithaca Children's Garden in Ithaca New York
Gaia the Turtle is a fun sculpture for kids to play on.

There are also a lot other great areas for kids to explore within the Ithaca Children’s Garden including a native wildflower garden, a large green space, manicured gardens, and even some small play houses for kids to enjoy.

There is also a small pond with small nets available for kids wanting to catch tadpoles or other aquatic wildlife, and a few enclosures that have animals like chickens and bunnies.

Child leaning over a small pond at the Ithaca Children's Garden in Ithaca New York
There are a ton of play spaces for kids to explore with their imagination.

Overall, the Ithaca Children’s Garden is one of the most incredible play spaces I’ve encountered in my travels around New York. While it’s certainly a non-traditional area in many respects, that leads to a ton of creative play opportunities that kids are sure to love.

So, the next time you are visiting Ithaca with kids, make sure to explore this fabulous spot.

Looking for more to do in the area? Check out the Museum of the Earth, the Sciencenter, and the Ithaca Falls.

Ithaca Children’s Garden

Hours: Daily: Dawn to Dusk

Cost: Free

Website: IthacaChildrensGarden.org

Address: 121 Turtle Lane
Ithaca, NY 14850


See map below for other area attractions.

More nearby places worth exploring

Find more things to do in the Finger Lakes

1 thought on “Unique Family Fun at the Ithaca Children’s Garden”

  1. Hi Jim,

    We’re absolutely thrilled to hear that you and your children had a wonderful visit to the Ithaca Children’s Garden (ICG)! Learning about the special moments families share in the Garden is always a joy, and we’re thrilled to hear that your kids enjoyed playing and building in the Hands-on Nature Anarchy Zone!

    Thanks again for visiting and writing this piece. We can’t wait to welcome you back soon!


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