Curious about "Pure Michigan"? Start in Midland!
The state of Michigan has been working hard to shed its outdated image as a gritty, industrial state. The gorgeous "Pure Michigan" ad campaign has really shown the state's natural resources and pristine environment in a new light and I was anxious to return to Michigan to see the kind of state displayed in the ads with my own eyes.
Dow Garden was the perfect place for me to start getting reacquainted with Michigan's more natural side. The gardens were initially conceived by Howard Dow (the founder of Dow Chemical), who had a keen interest in all scientific endeavors and first stared the gardens at the end of the 1800's. His son, renowned architect Alden Dow, also added his own unique touches throughout the mid 1900's.
Today, the property has grown from a grand family estate to 110 acres consisting of mature trees, rare flowers and shrubs, herbs, sculpture, and landscaping features. My favourite element was a sculpture of a young ballerina, bent down low in a dramatic stretch.
For such an impeccably landscaped property, the gardens are remarkably informal. Walking on the grass is permitted, even encouraged! Plants can be touched and sniffed and sometimes even eaten (well, if the staff happen to be harvesting in the herb garden!) Newly married couples and high school prom attendees flock to the gardens every spring and summer for photos.
In addition to the gardens, there are a couple of must-see historical homes on the property, including Howard Dow's family compound (look outside for the original iron rings where the horses were once tethered) and the cutting edge architecture of Alden Dow's 1930's estate.
Visitors should come prepared to spend some time on their feet. A cursory tour takes an hour and you could easily spend several more to explore all of the garden's nooks and crannies - but it would be just as nice to pack a picnic and find a quiet spot for some private reflection. Tours are available in motorized scooters for those with limited mobility.
Admission to Dow Garden costs just $5, which represents a great value, and the gardens are open year round. For a mere $10 you can purchase a year long, transferable pass - an excellent deal and the perfect way to encourage more exploration of this "Pure Michigan" we're all talking about!
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My visit was facilitated in part by Michigan Tourism. This did not influence my review and all opinions remain my own.