This summer hasn’t really had the “get outside and play in the park” kind of weather. It’s either super hot, or raining. So when we had a rare comfortable day two weeks ago, I decided that we needed a fun outdoor adventure. So we decided to cross something off our to-do list that had been there for a while. Wickham Park!
You may recall we wrote about Santa’s Workshop at Wickham Park a couple of years ago.
Christmastime at Wickham Park is pretty magical. But a visit during the daylight, on a beautiful summer day is such a different world!
Wickham Park is located right on the Manchester/East Hartford line, literally off the ramp for I-84. The park has only one entrance which is located on Route 44. The park is open seven days a week from the first weekend in April through the last weekend in October. Regular Park hours are from 9:30 a.m. to sunset.
You’ll spot their sign right by the main gate.
If you are driving into Wickham park, there is a fee for vehicles of $5 on Monday – Friday and $7 on Saturdays and Sundays. You can walk in at no cost. When you pull into the front gate, there is an attendant collecting the fee. Make sure you have the cash for this entrance fee! They also offer season passes, and more information for those can be found on their website.
You’ll be given a map of Wickham Park’s grounds when you arrive. You can also find their map online if you want to plan your visit.
(From Wickham Park’s website)
The park was looking rather green after all the rain we have been getting!
The road around the park is mostly two lanes but the roads are narrow so you will definitely want to follow their speed limit of 15 miles per hour and drive very carefully!
There are signs that help point you in the right direction depending on where you want to go. Wickham Park is 250 acres and home to ten gardens, open fields, a nature center, an aviary, a playground, sports facilities, picnic areas and much more! It is easy to spend a whole day here at the park.
We started with a walk through one of their many gardens. You’ll find parking lots near the entrances to most of the gardens. A few gardens will require a little walk but overall, it’s easy to get around. They ask that you not park on the roadways.
You will find the first group of gardens right near the entrance. These include the Wetlands Garden, the English Garden, the Scottish Garden and the Oriental Garden. We made our way through all of these except the Wetlands Garden. You can park in Lot A to get to any of these.
The English Garden was the longest to walk through but it had so many blooming flowers and great spots to stop for photos.
We peaked at the Scottish Garden quickly – I loved this pathway! The Scottish Garden entrance can be reached by either going through the English Garden or around the Oriental Garden.
He was more focused on the little pond we spotted in the Oriental Garden! There was also a little family of ducks in the pond that grabbed his interest… and his graham crackers!
Around the bend, you can park by the Irish Garden and walk through that area. Since there was an event going on in the Irish Garden that night, we skipped that one. As a result, we did not go into the Italian Shrine or the Rhododendron Garden either.
Instead we spend most of our time in the Lotus Garden. You can park in Lot C and walk in to the garden. He enjoyed the pond here too. There were several other boys running around looking for the frogs they could hear croaking in the water. We discovered that the ground gets rather muddy too in this area (especially after all the rain we have been having). So unfortunately, mommy didn’t let him get as close to the pond as he would have liked (I had spare clothes, but no spare shoes!!)
Right by the Lotus Garden, we spotted one of many areas with picnic tables and even two more playgrounds. You can find picnic spots in the Hemlock Groves, the Hickory Groves, Beech Grove and Laurel Grove. There are unreserved picnic areas that are available for outings and picnics with under 15 people. The picnic areas and pavilions can be reserved for use at Wickham Park for events with 16-700 people. The playgrounds are located by Hickory Grove I and Hemlock Grove 1.
You’ll find an even bigger play area towards the beginning of the park and right around the corner from the Oriental Garden. The playground is located next to the Nature Center and the Aviary. You’ll find parking nearby and signs that will point you in the right direction.
One of the best features of the playground here at Wickham Park? It’s completely fenced in. This is great because the playground is right next to the main drive up to the Cabin.
The playground is pretty big and there are a number of things to do. The area is on mulch and grass so if there are any falls, it’ll be a soft landing. With all the trees, the playground is also pretty well shaded.
There are two playscapes with slides and things to climb, as well as a firetruck shaped playscape.
This freestanding curvy slide was also very fun!
There are plenty of smaller play structures in the area as well. The merry-go-round was especially popular while we were there!
There are small riding toys that this child loved!
The playground also had two swingsets including a baby swingset.
And for us tired parents, they have benches. Several in fact.
After a good hour of playing, I finally coaxed the child into visiting the other attractions in this area. First, we checked out the Aviary.
The aviary was small and easy to walk through. It’s home to over 50 colorful birds. You’ll find turkeys, pheasants, peafowl, owls, waterfowl, and exotic chickens throughout. If you remember your quarters, you can buy bird food and feed the birds!
The park also shelters turkey vultures, Red-Trailed haws, Canada geese, and a Great Horned Owl.
We headed to the Sensory Garden next, which is located across from the aviary. The sensory garden is very peaceful with each section of the garden focuses on the five senses, and a sixth sense designated as “Imagination”. On their website, Wickham Park boasts that the sensory park is the largest of its kind in New England. The garden has water features, statues, trees, shrubs and lots of flowers.
We enjoyed our walk through the sensory garden and then headed into the Nature Center & Museum which is located right next door.
Inside the Nature Center you can learn all about animal species and native plants. There are interactive displays as well as exhibits where you can learn about the history of Wickham Park. This During the weekends, there is a concession stand and picnic store open to the public.
On the other side of the Nature Center, you’ll find the restrooms. There are restrooms at the cabin and by the Wickham Pavilion as well (however, they are not available during events); and there are restrooms by the Oriental Garden, open on weekends only.
Of course, I can’t forget about the Cabin. The Cabin at Wickham Park is home to Santa’s Workshop, as well as the location of many weddings and special events. Since it was a Friday night, they were getting ready for a wedding at the park. We did not get to explore the area of the cabin but it did lead to some interesting questions on the car ride home, including “Why didn’t I go to your wedding, momma?” I have only had the chance to see the Cabin during Christmas but from the pictures online, it looks like a great spot for weddings!
(From Wickham Park’s website)
What a great summer afternoon we had at Wickham Park! We loved Santa’s Workshop but what a whole different experience during a beautiful summer day. I wish I had thought to pack a picnic lunch because we would have spent all day exploring the gardens – I need to go back to see the rhododendron garden, those are my favorite!
Hopefully with cooler weather coming soon, you can find time to explore Wickham Park. They are open until the end of October so if you can get out for an afternoon adventure, I highly recommend it!
This about sums it up…
1329 West Middle Turnpike – Manchester
Seasonally from April to October, seven days a week, 9:30 a.m. to sunset
Vehicle Fee for cars: $5 per visit on weekdays; $7 per visit on weekends. No fee for walk-ins.
- Stroller accessible but some areas may be difficult to maneuver throughout the park
- Multiple garden trails to roam through
- Wear sneakers and dress comfortable!
- Picnic areas available for use to smaller parties (under 15 people) or for rent for larger events
- Large gated playground in center of park and two smaller playgrounds near picnic areas
- Athletic Fields, volleyball courts, tennis courts for use
- Aviary – great for the kids!
- Great views! Bring your camera!
- Seasonal events including Santa’s Workshop
- Indoor Nature Center with animal and plant exhibits
- Concession stand open on weekends
- Bathrooms available at Nature Center (and in other areas when no events are going on)
- Plenty of parking available throughout the park
- Many areas are shaded – but be cautious of sunny areas on a bright day
- Pack a picnic and stay for the day!