A LEGO Lawnmover at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Photo by Robert Rivard.
Artist Sean Kenney's LEGO Lawnmover at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Photo by Robert Rivard.

For Millennials on a tight budget who are looking for something different to do, enjoy the season’s cool weather by inviting a friend to the San Antonio Botanical Garden. It’s an especially cool outing right now for anyone who grew up playing with LEGO bricks.

I’ve recently received some really nice email messages from readers who say they’ve used Rivard Report articles to plan unconventional dates after tiring of outings limited to food and drink. One reader wrote to say how much she and her boyfriend enjoyed a kayak outing on the King William Reach of the San Antonio River, and another said he and his date made the first of what are now regular bike trips to Hardberger Park and along Salado Creek.

We want to start suggesting weekend outings that are affordable, interesting and, perhaps, unfamiliar destinations for people who are new to San Antonio or who haven’t explore all corners of the city.

Artist Sean Kenney’s LEGO hummingbird at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Photo by Robert Rivard.

Have you been to the San Antonio Botanical Garden at 555 Funston Place?

The Botanical Garden is 38 acres of amazing plants, trees, waters, and public art, set right in the heart of the urban core. It’s a 15-minute walk from Broadway on the high ground near Fort Sam Houston. The Witte Museum and the under-construction Do Seum, which opens next summer, are both minutes away. For families with children, the three destinations will make for a full day.

At the Botanical Garden, families with young children should make their way to the Children’s Vegetable Garden or inquire about the next family Flashlight Night for insect spotting and getting lost in a light maze.

Couples without kids will find the Botanical Garden a romantic, park-like retreat, where shaded pathways and dense plantings offer quiet escape and the chance to enjoy the company of a companion in a natural setting without leaving the city.

Right now, two very different exhibitions add to the experience. LEGO artist Sean Kenney, a self-styled “professional kid,” has 27 of his LEGO sculptures on display in a show entitled “Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks.” One of my favorites is the lawn mower, emblematic of what you can do away with at home if you take advantage of the Botanical Garden’s wildscaping and water saver educational displays.

A second exhibition offered in collaboration with the Blue Start Art Museum features the sculptures of acclaimed Chicago artist and sculptor Richard Hunt. Several of the works are inside, or just outside, the Lucile Halsell Conservatory.

A bronze sculpture by Richard Hunt in the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Photo by Robert Rivard.

Both exhibitions will end in January, so go now.

It’s an affordable outing: Admission is $10 per person, $8 for students, active military, and seniors. Children’s tickets are $7, but kids under three are free. If you decide to return, consider a membership: $45 for an individual, $65 for a family. You also gain free admission to 200 other botanical gardens around the country. More importantly, if you go more than twice a year, you’ll save money as a member enjoying unlimited free visits, as well as discounts in the gift shop, restaurant, and for classes and camps.

The Botanical Garden is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The only times it is closed are Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Artist Sean Kenney’s LEGO butterfly at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Photo by Robert Rivard.

The permanent plant collection is extraordinary, and the layout of the Botanical Garden allows visitors to experience very different Texas environments while enjoying a tranquil escape from urban life. Sitting on a bench at the edge of the lake in an East Texas Piney Woods setting is one of my favorite secret places in the city. Looking for a place to propose marriage? This might be it.

You can come back to exchange vows. The Botanical Garden is one of the city’s most in-demand wedding venues. Stand under the Wisteria Arbor and use your imagination. The Gardens make a great backdrop for family photography. The Holidays in Bloom starts on Nov. 28 and runs through the end of the year.

Every month there are organized walks with a birding docent if you want to learn more about birding, or in the company of a master naturalist if you want to learn more about the plant and tree collection, and what you might want to plant in your own garden or yard at home while saving water.

Dog Days will be held the Dec. 6-7 weekend. Take your dog and for a $5 donation per animal you can stroll the grounds with your pet on the leash. Dog pools and treats will be available. How many places are there in the city where you can take a date and his or her pet out for a good time?

*Featured/top image: A LEGO Lawnmower at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Photo by Robert Rivard.

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Urban Baby Goes to the Museum

Date Like a Therapist

The Do Seum, San Antonio’s Kid’s Museum, Taking Shape

The Feed: Not in My Back Yard

Kayaking in King William and Along the Mission Reach

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.

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