Perfect for a stroll or picnic, The Arboretum at Penn State is sure to please.

Opened in the fall of 2009, this relatively new addition to campus is 395 acres and includes the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens. The arboretum is Penn State’s second (the first is at Penn State Behrend), and the second in Centre County (the other being Rhoneymeade Arboretum & Sculpture Garden in nearby Centre Hall).

The arboretum’s mission is simple: to promote scholarship and education about plants, their history and their importance on earth.

It’s an easy place to spend an hour or two enjoying the wide variety of flora that call the gardens home. It’s especially beautiful in spring when flowers are in bloom (you can use their interactive Blooming Bulb map to locate your favorite), and in the fall when leaves begin to change.

However, there’s something wonderful to see here in every season, especially the warmer months. The Display Garden, for example, is arrayed on both sides of the Joan Milius Smith Esplanade and showcases a quilt of color. Beautiful flowers can be found throughout the arboretum, including areas like the Rose & Fragrance Garden and the Oasis Garden & Lotus Pool.

Other unique habitat exists in the arboretum, including the Grove of the Ancients, which displays species with ancient origins, and the Dr. James J. & Lynn D. Ramage Marsh Meadow, which contains wetland plants and also serves the functional purpose of infiltrating storm water into underground aquifers.

For kids, the Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden is popular. It provides a safe and unique space for kids to explore nature and celebrate the plants, animals and geography of Central Pennsylvania.

Children will also likely enjoy the Pollinator and Bird Garden, which is currently under construction and will add three acres to the botanic gardens. One of the designers’ main concerns was the birds and insects the new garden will attract. Working with Penn State-based and outside experts, a plan was developed that encourages ecological diversity including different habitats such as wetlands, woodland and dry meadow. The new garden will display a large array of plants — over 390 unique species — most of which are native to Pennsylvania or the Appalachian region, and is expected to open to the public in late 2020.

In the meantime, there’s plenty to do and see. Annual events like Shakespeare in the Gardens and Music in the Gardens are popular, as are guided nature walks and children’s activities.

Many of these events wouldn’t be possible without the assistance of volunteers, who help with everything from spring planting to staffing events. For those interested in helping out, information can be obtained online or at the Forest Resources Building.

And speaking of events, the arboretum is a great place to hold yours. Whether you’re looking for a wedding venue or a place for a family reunion, you can rest assured the arboretum will provide a beautiful backdrop.

In just a few years, The Arboretum at Penn State has become a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. The Arboretum is located in State College near Beaver Stadium on Park Avenue, and admission is free. However, you’ll likely need to pay for parking, the closest available being the East Parking Deck near Berkey Creamery.

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