Making milestone memories in Columbus

glass greenhouse at Franklin Park Conservatory
The main glass greenhouse at Franklin Park Conservatory was first opened to the public in 1895 and was built on the original site of the Ohio State Fair. (Julie Geiss photo)

We celebrated a milestone birthday this summer. In the blink of an eye, my oldest daughter turned 18. She wanted to meet her cousin, who had also just celebrated her 18th birthday, for an overnight trip somewhere in Ohio. 

After looking at several options, we decided to meet in Columbus. Botanicals and books were the themes of the trip. 

Our first stop was at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens located on Broad Street, less than two miles from downtown. 

Franklin Park Conservatory is like a trip back in time to the Victorian era. The main glass greenhouse was first opened to the public in 1895 and was built on the original site of the Ohio State Fair. 

In addition to the greenhouse, a lake with a boathouse and carriage trails made the 88-acre park a popular place of interest for many people during the turn of the century. 

Children’s Garden

We couldn’t resist walking through the Children’s Garden first, even though technically we didn’t have any children with us. Teenage cousins can still appreciate the enchantment of a children’s garden. We watched as the smallest visitors entered the garden through a willow tunnel. 

The 2-acre garden had many more interactive displays including a bird’s eye view on the canopy walk situated 10 feet above the garden. Ohio’s native plants and animals are showcased and visitors can even step inside a magnified cardinals’ nest. Jumpy rope bridges bring adults and children closer to the giant multi-person hammock that is the crest of excitement at 13 feet high. 

After our time in the children’s garden, we continued outside to the Grand Mallway of the Conservatory. We had to stop several times along the way to admire the perennials lining the sidewalk. We inspected many of the over 230 seasonal display containers featuring colorful foliage. 

Paul Busse

Our destination was the Paul Busse Garden Railway on exhibit for the second time at the Conservatory. Paul Busse is a native of Ohio. He graduated from the Ohio State University in 1972 with a degree in landscape architecture. 

He created his own company that focused on building exceptional outdoor living spaces. He later transitioned to building garden railroads using LGB’s g-scale model trains. 

He went on to found the company Applied Imagination, which brings to life whimsical masterpieces by combining landscaping with railroads. Applied Imagination signature look uses plant material to create “botanical architecture.” 

Entire displays are made with natural materials like sticks, birch bark and lotus pods. Smaller details are added with materials like pine cones, acorns, and seeds. 

We were mesmerized as soon as we walked close to the Paul Busse Garden Railway display: 1,122 feet of track wrapped itself around four smaller themed areas like FairyTale Land and Wild West Town. Several different G scale model trains chugged their way along the track around miniature waterfalls, a water tower, and even the Three Little Pigs’ houses. 

Three biomes

Once we hit the heat of the day, we decided to head inside the conservatory building. The conservatory is divided into three different biomes. 

We strolled through the conifers and deciduous trees of the Himalayan Mountain biome. Then we crossed the canopy bridge in the humid Rainforest Biome. 

Finally, we admired the cacti and succulents inside the Desert Biome. I loved looking closely at all the tiny trees in the Bonsai Courtyard. One tree was 365 years old. We were greeted by a flock of brightly feathered flamingos, created by adding annual blooms to metal structures. 

Throughout the conservatory, colored glass artwork created by Dale Chihuly was prominently displayed. The bright glass breathtakingly accentuated the natural plants and flowers. 

After admiring all the different exhibits on display, we headed to The Book Loft of German Village which is best described as a maze of books. Several staircases and small hallways later, we were lost in the 32 rooms of books. 

Our dinner destination was the newly remodeled Budd Dairy Co. Food Hall located in the Italian Village on Fourth Street. The Budd Dairy Company boasted of having the only sanitary refrigerated milk wagon in the country in 1914 and later was the first company in the United States to use electric vehicles for milk delivery. 

The building, first constructed in 1914 as a modern milk bottling plant, is now home to 10 different kitchens as a part of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. I usually feel most at home in the country or on nature trails, but I certainly cherished our time in Columbus.


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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at



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