Review: The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens Pumpkin Festival
Dallas Arboretum Pumpkin Festival
The Dallas Arboretum is considered by many critics to be one of the finest botanical gardens in the country. Situated in Dallas, Texas on the banks of White Rock Lake, this 66 - acre park has a stunning variety of plants in twelve different gardens, as well as three recreational areas for children. The Arboretum also has frequent concerts April - October and picnic areas.
My family has season passes to the Arboretum, and we visited the garden recently to enjoy three specific events taking place during the fall season of 2012. These three events, taking place concurrently, were:
- Cinderella's Pumpkin Village
- The Chihuly Exhibit
- Small Houses of Great Artists
We found the Dallas Arboretum to be a beautiful garden with an amazing array of different kinds of plants to admire. We greatly enjoyed the children's areas and admired very much the breathtaking glass sculptures created by Dave Chihuly. However, we found our enjoyment of the pumpkin festival somewhat marred by a disturbing number of rotting pumpkins and we were very disappointed with the meal we purchased on-site. Read on for a full review of the Dallas Arboretum as it appeared in November of 2012.
A Visit to the Pumpkin Village
According to the pamphlets we read in the gardens, Cinderella's Pumpkin Village contained 50,000 pumpkins in November of 2012. That's a lot of pumpkins.They greeted us at the entrance as we bought our tickets. They surrounded the gleaming glass of the Chihuly sculptures in an bizarre aesthetic partnership that was charming in its juxtaposition of nature and art. They overflowed into the children's area... and then, yes, they had a village all to themselves. As we entered Cinderella's Pumpkin Village, I was intrigued by the sheer number of different varieties of pumpkins the staff of the Arboretum had assembled for this festival. The garden was filled with plots displaying the different species of pumpkins, and my children had the opportunity to learn the real difference between a pumpkin and a gourd.
Cinderella's pumpkin carriage sat in the middle of this village, carefully set up for photo opportunities, but I found it oddly unnecessary. The real pumpkins were more interesting, and made for more educational conversations and much funnier pictures. However, as we walked through the Pumpkin Village my daughter, who has a much better sense of smell than I do, announced that she could smell some of them rotting. Unfortunately we got to experience that first-hand almost immediately thereafter; my youngest son stepped in one of the rotting pumpkins and we had to spend a considerable amount of time cleaning his shoes. I think the aesthetic appeal of this exhibit would have been improved if they cleared out the pumpkins that were beginning to decompose.
The Chihuly Exhibit
Dave Chihuly is an artist based in Chicago who creates majestic glass sculptures that are dazzling in their size and use of color. His sculptures have been shown on tour throughout the nation. The sculptures, first placed on loan to the Dallas Arboretum in May, were expected to stay for six months. Due to their incredible popularity, the exhibit has been extended until December 31.
The Dallas Arboretum used these unusual sculptures to wonderful effect in this particular botanical setting. Some of them nestled in the gardens as if they were a new kind of plant. Others added a glorious spark of color to fountains that ran like panes of water. Over in the Women's Garden, huge multicolored crystal globes were scattered around the fountains as if they were the prizes in an Easter egg hunt for giants. The Dallas Star, shown above, was the highlight of the Chihuly Exhibit for me. The spires of the star flared out as if we were observing a crystallized explosion.
The Chihuly Exhibit has attracted visitors from all over the nation to the Dallas Arboretum, and they are definitely worth the trip, especially if viewed after sunset in the "Chihuly Nights" programs. My only criticism of this breathtaking exhibit was again about maintenance issues; my hawk-eyed daughter noticed that some of the sculptures had not been cleaned recently and were looking much dustier and less incandescent than they did when we visited the exhibit earlier this summer.
Small Houses of Great Artists
The final special exhibit that enticed us to visit the Dallas Arboretum this fall was a special event especially for children - the Small Houses of Great Artists exhibit. Five local architects constructed these playhouses, which were intended to reflect the artistic style of five great painters:
- Pablo Picasso
- Georges Seurat
- Georgia O'Keefe
- Vincent Van Gogh
- Claude Monet
Each playhouse included a large sculpture resembling a story book which gave basic biographical information about the artist being highlighted. I thought the quality of execution on the five different playhouses varied quite a bit, but the Picasso House was truly bizarre and impressive. My artistic daughter was very interested in the lives of the artists, but my youngest son was a bit bored.
Dining Recommendation - Eat Elsewhere
The Dallas Arboretum is a world-class garden, but we were not impressed with our meal at the Lula Mae Slaughter Terrace Restaurant. Inspired by the display of pumpkins all around us, I was excited at the prospect of sampling the squash soup. However, when the soup actually arrived, we found it exceedingly bland. My husband refused to eat his and I made it more palatable by using it as a dip for my rather thin and limp grilled cheese sandwich. We were puzzled by the garden's policy on lids and straws. I can respect the idea that the garden might not want us to have straws for our beverages, but if that is the case, why were we given lids that had spots for straws in the middle? Why did the juice boxes given to our children have straws? I am not sure they thought this through. At any rate, in the future I believe we will arrange to eat elsewhere before entering the Dallas Arboretum.
The Dallas Arboretum is a world-class garden, one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The Pumpkin Village was educational and the Chihuly exhibit was inspiring. We would like to see the staff pay closer attention to maintaining these excellent exhibits, and we were not impressed with the food. These two criticisms are the only reasons why I have given the Dallas Arboretum four stars rather than five.