The Morton Arboretum is teeing up a new summertime attraction in 2024: Wonder Woods Mini Golf. The nine-hole pop-up experience will be open May 24 through Sept. 2, with interactive, tree-themed features designed for all ages.
“Each hole brings the Arboretum’s tree research to life in a playful way,” said Amy Scott, head of exhibitions. “People enjoy connecting to trees and nature through the Arboretum’s outdoor exhibitions, such as Of the Earth, and this imaginative mini golf course will be another fun way to develop an appreciation for trees, their benefits and their vital importance to a healthy environment.”
The one-of-a-kind course is being designed by the Arboretum and will incorporate whimsical features at each hole to illustrate different scientific concepts, including how sound is used by researchers to detect tree decay or what tree rings can tell scientists about the life of a tree and its environment.
“Our aim is to create a unique course that will be unlike anywhere else,” Scott said. “It will have unexpected elements, such as a foosball-inspired hole with acorns from various species of oak trees to a replica of the Chicago skyline with a stylized urban tree canopy.”
Vibrant visual elements will also illustrate the roles trees play in reducing the impacts of climate change, supporting ecosystems and benefiting communities. For example, one area will include a fabricated tree canopy overhead that will provide shade to mini golfers, highlighting how trees cool streets and homes on hot days.
“The Arboretum continually seeks to inform the public about the importance of environmental stewardship, and fun, family-friendly programming, such as mini golf, helps engage the next generation in becoming tree champions,” Scott said. “We want to foster a connection between trees and people, and inspire everyone to work toward the best ecological outcomes for generations to come, while having a great time.
The Mini Golf course will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Tickets for the attraction will be in addition to Arboretum general admission. Member tickets will be $8 for adults and $6 for children, and nonmember tickets will be $10 for adults and $8 for children. Additional rounds of play will be available for purchase on-site for a nominal fee. The Of the Earth sculpture exhibition will continue through spring 2025, and is also included with admission
More information about the Arboretum’s new Mini Golf experience will be available at mortonarb.org in 2024.
“Of the Earth” at The Morton Arboretum
On May 24, 2023, we had the privilege of seeing the newest sculptures at The Morton Arboretum and they are beautiful! The Morton Arboretum is a favorite for us and if you haven’t been to the Children’s Garden yet, you are missing out!
We have an inside look at the areas designed for kids at The Morton Arboretum as well as a sneak peek of the new sculptures by Polish-American artist Olga Ziemska called “Of the Earth”, which officially opens on Friday, May 26, 2023 and will be at The Morton Arboretum through Spring 2025.
In Polish, Ziemska means “of the earth.” Her work will is created from reclaimed tree branches and other natural materials gathered from various locations throughout the Arboretum’s 1,700 acres. Ziemska said that some of the Arboretum’s tree-filled landscapes inspired her because they reminded her of the landscapes of Poland, where she has previously lived and regularly visits her family.
Everything in life is derived from the same basic elements that form everything in nature, including ourselves. There is no separation.Olga Ziemska
Where can you find the sculptures at The Morton Arboretum?
Let’s go on a self-guided tour to get a sneak peek of all five sculptures from “Of the Earth”!
We found that with little kids it’s best to see the sculptures that you need to drive to first, then end with walking to the last two and playing at the Children’s Garden. So that’s the route that we will take you on now.
When you enter The Morton Arboretum from the guard gate, instead of parking in the main parking lot by the visitor’s center, take a left and drive on the street that goes along the backside of the parking lot, which is P1 (Parking Lot P-1).
You’ll notice that there start to be places to pull over with a few parking spots that are labeled P2, P3, etc. The first sculpture is near P4.
Inspired by a recurring theme in Ziemska’s work that considers the “body as landscape,” Strata is a 45-foot-long reclining female figure emerging from the ground at the base of a hill in the Crabapple Collection.
There are signs saying, “Exhibition in Progress. Please do not touch or climb.” Please note that this one is really tempting to climb. It’s covered with turf on top and almost creates a ramp for kids to walk up. While you walk towards this one it’s best to prepare your kids not to touch.
Get back in the car and drive to P14. Note: Don’t take alternate routes that veer to the left. There isn’t a shortcut to P14 and you don’t want to miss the next one!
Oculus comprises two 10-foot-tall human head profiles fit with hundreds of varying sizes of tree cookies, or the cross-sections of a tree, and mirrored eyes that reflect the surrounding Maple Collection and yourselves.
These are fun to peek through or take pictures of reflections in the eyes. Very creative!
The next sculpture is on the other side of the Arboretum, so it’s a longer drive than the first two. (Did you know that there are miles of roads at The Morton Arboretum? It’s a great place to take a drive, hike, or bike.)
Get back in your car and continue driving to pass through to the west side. You’ll see a sign that directs you to the Main Gate, gatehouse, Visitor Center, and Main parking lot, but you do not want to go that way. Instead, head under the bridge and continue along the main route over the DuPage River until you get to P20.
Ona “she” in Polish is the sole sculpture situated on the Arboretum’s West Side The 14-foot-tall piece depicts a woman with wind-swept tree branch hair and mirrored eyes. The movement in the hair is impressive!
That concludes the driving portion of the exhibit, so you can head back to the main parking lot and walk from there. The next sculpture is right near the Visitor Center.
Stillness in Motion: The Matka Series
Of the Earth’s signature piece, is the newest in Ziemska’s Matka “mother” in Polish series, following versions in Romania and Poland The 6-foot-tall female figure is composed mostly of willow tree branches.
Finally, head to the left until you get to Meadow Lake, then go right along the concrete path to see the final sculpture.
Hear: With an ear to the ground
Hear is a 5-foot-tall horizontal human head that appears to be at rest in its natural surroundings with Meadow Lake as its backdrop.
You can also see this one from the edge of the Children’s Garden. Keep reading below for a taste of what you will find at the Children’s Garden, which we highly recommend visiting.
About Olga Ziemska
Olga Ziemska is a sculptor and artist who lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio. She has had residencies with the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Poland, YATOO International in Korea, RespirArt Sculpture Park in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy and the Taoyuan Land Art Festival in Taiwan. Among her prestigious grants and awards were a Fulbright Fellowship and a Creative Workforce Fellowship.
In 2007, Ziemska was selected as a Wendy L. Moore Emerging Artist by the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. Ziemska was selected by Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery as a 2018 Woman Artist to Watch. She is a graduate of the Columbus College of Art & Design and an alumnus of the Rhode Island School of Design.
Ziemska has built a career in the male-dominated art world, exploring her multiple identities as a first-generation child of Polish immigrants, an American, an artist, a woman and a human. She has exhibited and created public installations in Poland, Taiwan, Italy, South Korea, Mexico and other locations globally in a career spanning more than 20 years.
The exhibition “Of the Earth” will run through spring 2025.
Award-Winning Children’s Garden at The Morton Arboretum
The Children’s Garden at The Morton Arboretum is an amazing place for kids to explore and play. There are numerous water features, play structures amidst naturally beautiful landscapes, and opportunities to learn and interact with nature.
This area is open at 9am for members and 10am for general admission. We found that it starts getting crowded at 11am during the week.
The pond is a huge hit. Feel free to use the stepping stones to make your way around and through the pond. Kids really enjoy getting their feet wet and exploring in this area.
The spring and early summer is an exciting time at the pond because the tadpoles hatch and you can see the life cycle of tadpoles and toads. We have an entire section on the tadpoles and when to expect to see them below, so keep reading for the inside info!
The various water pumps spread throughout the Children’s Garden are also popular.
There are also several playground areas carved into the landscape, including slides, ramps, climbing structures and ropes. The Morton Arboretum does a great job of incorporating play without interrupting the live plants and beautiful landscape.
Want to cool off? There is a misting station in this area, disguised as a huge watering can.
Push the silver knob under the spraying arm to start the mist.
The interactive games and learning opportunities are interspersed throughout the garden areas.
Pro tip! Bring extra clothes with you! There are a lot of opportunities for water play in the Children’s Garden.
There is so much more at The Morton Arboretum to enjoy! My kids always gravitate towards the hedge maze (there is a short hedge maze for younger children and tall bushes for the older ones).
We made it to the lookout point and planned our exit route!
Tadpoles at The Children’s Garden
There is definite excitement around the pond starting in mid-May. The tadpoles usually hatch around Mother’s Day, so it’s good to go about two weeks later when they start moving around more.
And that’s true this year too! On May 24, 2023 there were tons of tadpoles swimming around in the pond, which added fun while hopping from stone to stone.
Kids of all ages and adults enjoy stepping on the stones across the pond, looking at the tadpoles curiously, scooping them up and releasing them and giggling.
It’s cute because random kids were so eager to share with me what they found and where I could see the most tadpoles all in one place. I loved seeing the excitement and wonder in their eyes!
My kids wondered when the tadpoles start growing legs… so I looked it up! Below is a great video that shows the different stages of frog development. Please note that the tadpoles at The Morton Arboretum are American Toads, but the videos on frogs show the life cycle much better!
It takes about 6-9 weeks for the legs to develop, so my guess is that will happen starting the third week of June? Anyway, it’s a great opportunity for your kids to be able to see part of their development. How fun to go now and then again when the legs start growing!
Mission of The Morton Arboretum
The Morton Arboretum’s mission is to collect and study trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world, to display them across naturally beautiful landscapes for people to study and enjoy, and to learn how to grow them in ways that enhance our environment.
Did you know that they can also help you with your own garden? The Morton Arboretum has a plant clinic, so if you are unsure what type of plant or tree you have in your yard, you can send a photo to email@example.com and they can help you with plant identification. Also, if you are at The Morton Arboretum and love one of the plants, shrubs, or trees that you come across, you can call them at (630) 719-2424.
Where to Eat
You can pack a lunch and eat it on the tables outside (there are tables both in the Children’s Garden and outside the main building) or you have the option to buy food at the Ginko Café and eat inside or out on the attached porch area. We have also grabbed sandwiches at the café right outside the restaurant and eaten them outside. In any case, there are tons of options to make it easy.
Past Exhibits at The Morton Arboretum
Flip to the next page to see what types of exhibits The Morton Arboretum has had in the past to get a flavor of what’s to come.