Oswald Visitor Center
Completed in 2005, the breathtaking Oswald Visitor Center is a spectacular 45,000-square-foot building that serves as a formal entry to the Arboretum and an information hub for the more than a quarter-million people who visit each year. Its soaring McQuinn Great Hall features a 40-foot ceiling framed by Douglas fir trusses, huge windows and skylights. The Great Hall is where you'll find the Arboretum's reception desk and touch-screen kiosks, as well as special exhibits at various times throughout the year.
Other highlights include the 375-seat MacMillan Auditorium; the Wall Education Wing, with two high-tech classrooms and a teaching garden; a large gift store featuring a wide selection of books, toys, clothing, and other unique garden items and gifts; a cafeteria-style restaurant; and the Reedy Gallery, featuring ever-changing art exhibits.
The Visitor Center incorporates many "green" features. Windows were strategically placed to capture maximum natural daylight through the seasons. An automated lighting system complements the natural daylight, providing supplemental electrical light on cloudy days or evenings and dimming when natural daylight filters into the building. Geothermal energy provides heating and cooling year-round by tapping the natural storehouse of energy just below the Earth's surface.
The Visitor Center is connected to the historic Snyder Building via an enclosed skyway which enhances the functionality of both buildings. The Oswald Visitor Center is surrounded by six uniquely designed outdoor terraces and gardens.
The historic Leon C. Snyder Education and Research Building is named for the Arboretum's first director, and was designed by noted Minnesota architect Edwin Lundie. The Arboretum's original structure opened its doors in 1974. Its design echoes a European country manor, combining massive wood timbers and cathedral ceilings with earth-tone colors to create warm, intimate settings for meetings, seminars, and receptions.
Nestled on the ground floor of the Snyder Building, the Andersen Horticultural Library features 20,000 volumes on horticulture, natural history and children's literature. The largest horticultural research library in the Upper Midwest, it also maintains one of the largest seed and nursery catalog collections in the country, with nearly 73,000 items dating from 1614 to the present.
Dedicated in 1980, the Meyers-Deats Conservatory in the Snyder Building is especially popular during the winter months, when visitors crave a "tropical" break. The small conservatory features permanent bromeliad, orchid and cactus collections, as well as ferns and other tropical and sub-tropical plants.
Marion Andrus Learning Center and the Sally Pegues Oswald A Growing Place for Kids
The Arboretum's ongoing mission to educate and entertain Minnesota's families has allowed it to cultivate a truly child-friendly destination, with dozens of marvelous things to do.
The Marion Andrus Learning Center - featuring the Sally Pegues Oswald A Growing Place for Kids - is a bustling hub for year-round family programs and adult classes, as well as children's garden and summer camp programs. More than 50,000 children each year participate in the Arboretum's nationally recognized hands-on, science-based learning programs.
The Learning Center's outdoor "Under the Oak" nature play area is an excellent spot for creative play beneath the spreading branches of a majestic bur oak, the oldest tree at the Arboretum.
While the idea to build an Arboretum was still just a spark of inspiration, the Berens family would often travel to their family cabin in the woods - known then as "The Ranch" - from their home in Excelsior. This is the only structure remaining from the Arboretum's original 160-acre property.
Located in the woods near the entrance to Three-Mile Drive, the Berens Cabin was remodeled and served as the Arboretum's temporary headquarters for a while. In the late '60s, it was known as the Reception Center, filling the roles of gatehouse, gift shop and refreshment stop, all operated by auxiliary volunteers.
After the Snyder Building opened in 1974 as the new visitor center, the Berens Cabin housed various staff members and even a visiting professor from China. As the building aged and became uninhabitable, it was used for storage.
Then in 2000, thanks to a substantial gift from twin sisters Mary and Lola Berens, the Berens Cabin was rehabilitated and became what it is known as today - an Arboretum history center.
One of the Arboretum's most photographed and painted structures, the iconic Red Barn was built in 1920 on what used to be the Williams farm. Framed by a variety of trees and lush prairie, it is a proud symbol of Minnesota's agrarian legacy.
Nestled in a natural lowland area, Frog Hollow is the Arboretum's original maintenance building that has also served as an office, classrooms and plant sale building over the years. Since 1980, it has been the craft workshop for the Arboretum Auxiliary.
Within these walls, the auxiliary creates stunning floral arrangements, centerpieces and other crafts to sell at its popular fall Harvest and Holiday sales. Every spring, it becomes an informal classroom where youngsters learn about maple syruping.
Located near the Frog Hollow building, the Syrup Evaporator House bustles with activity every spring during syruping season at the Arboretum. It was constructed in the fall of 1969.
Clotilde Irvine Sensory Garden
The fully accessible Clotilde Irvine Sensory Garden was dedicated in 1996 and, along with the Therapeutic Horticulture Program Center, provides an ideal setting for the Arboretum's Therapeutic Horticulture Program. With its model display of accessible containers and planting designs suitable for a variety of gardening styles and abilities, this garden was designed to appeal to all the senses while it demonstrates ways gardens can be made accessible.
Margot Picnic Shelters and Ordway Picnic Shelter
Pack a meal or purchase some snacks at the Arboretum Restaurant and head to one of our picnic areas for lunch among the leaves. Funded by generous donors, the Arboretum's Margot Picnic Area was built in 1969. It is conveniently located just to the north of the Oswald Visitor Center, tucked into a stand of mature trees. Two permanent shelters (one of which is equipped with restrooms, and both with water and electricity) are available, and picnic tables are located throughout the picnic area.
A wide-open, elevated space adjacent to the shelters provides striking views in all directions, and is an ideal place for games or activities. Several hundred parking spots -- including bus parking -- are just a short walk away.
Designed by noted architect Edwin Lundie and built in 1962, the Ordway Shelter features Douglas fir beams fixed in place with wooden pegs. The Ordway Shelter overlooks the Green Heron Pond with its Trex Deck performance/viewing area.
Horticultural Research Center
The Arboretum's roots reach back to 1908, when its Horticultural Research Center (HRC) began developing apple varieties that could survive in the state's subzero temperatures. Located 1 mile west of the Arboretum's entrance, the HRC has grown over the past century to become the center of fruit research for the upper Midwest, generating more than 90 plant introductions. Odds are there's an Arboretum-researched product in your refrigerator, wine rack, or garden, from disease-resistant azaleas and dogwoods to the cold-hardy Frontenac wine grape to its most famous apple introductions, the Haralson and the Honeycrisp, which continue to be in high demand in Minnesota and across the country. Researchers at the 230-acre HRC continue to work to develop hardy strains of a wide variety of plants, shade trees to shrubs.
No trip to the Arboretum would be complete without a stop at the AppleHouse. From late August through mid-October, you can purchase apples from a changing inventory of 80 varieties throughout the season-from longtime favorites to recent University of Minnesota introductions. A variety of local produce and specialty gift items are also available.
The AppleHouse is located one mile west of the Arboretum on State Highway 5 and Rolling Acres Road. Call ahead (612-301-3487) for apple varieties and featured selections of produce and plants available on the day of your visit.