Just a few minutes from my mom’s house in Valparaiso, and a place I had driven past countless times, is Taltree Arboretum, one of Northwest Indiana’s hidden gems. Taltree Arboretum is an oak preserve full of gardens, wetlands, prairies, and trails that offers year-round activities and events that are great for everyone.
I visited Taltree one morning with my mom and Marisol. We entered and paid the US$10 entrance fee (as of October 2017) and went straight to the depot, which features a model railroad garden in the back.
The Railway Garden features model trains that travel from the early days of the American railroad until around the 1920s, with scenes from the Civil War, Lincoln’s funeral train, a limestone quarry, and cities and towns. Several bridges add to the scenery.
Near the Railway Garden were several Halloween decorations. We visited in early October and were told that the garden is decorated differently every season. There were also displays near the parking lot.
With over five miles of trails through natural and restored habitats, Taltree is a great place to go hiking, running, birdwatching, or to walk your dog. Each trail is an extension of the main Bluebird Trail, which is a 1.63 mile loop around a prairie and past wetlands.
Other trails are named for birds, some of which can be found in the habitats the trails go through. Notable are the Heron Trail, which surrounds a pond ideal for spotting herons, and the Owl Trail, featuring one of the most diverse oak collections in the world.
Not too far from the parking lot are some of Taltree’s special gardens. The Rose Garden has several colorful flowers (no roses during my visit).
The Adventure Garden features musical instruments, goats and chickens, and encourages environmental awareness.
The Native Plant Garden displays plants native to the region and attracts monarch butterflies.
Taltree hosts numerous events and activities throughout the year, many catering to families and children. Check the official website for more information.