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In the Blooms at Powell Gardens


Article by Chelsey Modde

Photography by Chelsey Modde

Many of us are seeking a change of scenery these days.  Just a short drive from Kansas City, nestled in the countryside, Powell Gardens awaits bursting with blooms and activities - readily offering an escape and an opportunity to get grounded.

The botanical gardens welcome the public to a 175-acre oasis, unfolding across eight sprawling gardens, a three-mile nature trail, stunning architecture, rotating exhibitions and seasonal festivals. A long-time favorite begins this weekend with the 2020 Festival of Butterflies. 

In the current public health climate, Powell Gardens is in a unique position to pivot rather than close – offering families some much needed reprieve from the confines of home. The destination has worked to afford guests the opportunity to step out of their “new normal” routines and explore some of nature’s finest offerings, reimagining and reworking existing programs as well as creating some new ones. 

Food with a View

As always, a little something to snack on makes just about any family outing better.  

To keep visitors fueled while Café Thyme is closed, the gardens have partnered with KC culinary icon, Chef Michael Foust of Black Sheep + Market. He’s at the helm of the Garden’s dining experience, offering garden-fresh, grab-and-go options at both the Visitor Center and The Missouri Barn.  Many items feature ingredients sourced from the Heartland Harvest Garden - one of the nation’s premiere edible gardens. It’s the perfect way to make a day of your visit and enjoy lunch on the grounds. For the over 21 crowd, wine is available for purchase at both locations.  Linger awhile with a glass and soak in the relaxed environment.

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A Duet Between Art and Nature  

There’s a longstanding history between art and nature, each inspiring the other.  When the planned summer concert series was cancelled, the team here got creative in collaboration with local artists to elevate your visit. 

Press Play will debut next month and like most things here, it will grow through the season. It’s a new exhibition featuring works by 10 local musicians, artists, writers, and dancers that sprinkles extra pizzazz throughout the gardens. Cool fact: guests can activate QR codes to hear plant-inspired poems, prompts from dancers, or music inspired by the view. 

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2020 Festival of Butterflies 

This Friday kicks off the 23rd annual Festival of Butterflies --- a family favorite event granting guests an interactive and immersive experience following the Monarch butterflies’ migratory path. 

The journey begins at the Visitor Center, where hundreds of colorful, free-flying butterflies and moths flutter inside the Martha Jane Phillips Starr Butterfly Conservatory.  This is up-close and personal, allowing you to walk as free as the butterflies inside the space and check out the display showcasing each phase of metamorphosis.

Outside you’re transported to Mexico where the staff has transformed the Seed to Plate Greenhouse into the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán, Mexico -- a World Heritage Site where monarch butterflies spend the winter months. A trail symbolizing the butterflies’ migration is lined with native flowers from each region that lands you at the outdoor habitat where the Gardens raise native Missouri butterflies each year. 

The festival runs through August 9, but kicks off this weekend with seasonal and butterfly-centered fun:

After Hours Event, Friday, July 24, 6 p.m.- Sunset:  An evening event featuring live music, snacks and drinks, complemented by stunning sunset views to celebrate the peak of the summer season.

Play with Plants: Pollinators, Saturday, July 25, from 1-4 p.m.: Drop in for a hands-on experience with catepillars and butterflies in the native butterfly house. Make sure to bring your camera for this photo op!

Rhythm, Blooms, & Butterflies,  Saturday, July 25 & Sunday, July 26 Noon–4 p.m.: Enjoy the rhythm of live music inspired by the migratory path of the Monarch butterfly. Chef Michael Foust will be serving up his take on KC BBQ as you sit, stroll, or dance to the music outside.

You can check out the full list of activities and events here. In an effort to keep guests safe, visitors are encouraged to grab a ticket in advance for contactless check-in. Get your tickets and register for a specific timeslot here.

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