Exploring the Myriad Gardens and Crystal Bridge
On a 17-acre spread in the heart of Oklahoma City lies a Project 180 success story: The Myriad Botanical Gardens. And if you think you’ve seen it before, you need to give this iconic landmark a second look.
History of the Myriad Gardens
For 30 years, the Gardens have provided a natural oasis in the city, with paths and greenery throughout, highlighted by the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory (designed by architect I. M. Pei) in the center of it all.
As part of the Project 180 renovation, the Crystal Bridge was updated and the grounds were completely redesigned to increase both accessibility and versatility. “We want the community to see the Myriad Gardens as the heart of downtown Oklahoma City,” said Maureen Heffernan, Executive Director. “It is a place for everyone to play, relax, learn and be inspired.”
Fun For All Ages
This beautiful, mild winter has provided many opportunities to enjoy the outdoor areas at the gardens. I brought my kids (ages 7 and 9) one Sunday afternoon, to play at the park and listen to local kindie rock musicians the Sugar Free All Stars, who were playing in celebration of their recent Grammy win.
We entered the park from the west, directly into the Children’s Garden, which is filled with oversized structures that virtually beg children to use their imaginations to find ways to play on and around the area. Though the garden lies along Reno Avenue, the fence and single entry point afford a layer of safety for adventurous kids. It wasn’t warm enough to see the Children’s Fountain in action, but the sheer size and creative design of the structure make me look forward to revisiting the park in warmer weather.
After visiting the very clean and well-appointed rest room facilities (a happy find in any park setting!), we wandered across the bridge spanning the lake, where amazingly large and colorful koi fish swam in the waters below. The bridge also overlooks the water stage, which has been upgraded and includes additional seating (and individual seats!) and improved accessibility.
Tables and chairs are scattered around the grounds, providing ample seating for park visitors to sit and enjoy the day in this new community focal point.
On the Grand Lawn, in the shadow of the new Devon Tower, we relaxed on the grass and snapped shots that looked like we were holding the tower in our hands. The bandshell provided the perfect venue for a Sunday afternoon concert in the Oklahoma sunshine. And even with all that we saw on this visit, we only scratched the surface.
More To See
On another visit to the Gardens, I was able to explore the other areas of the park. Entering from the east is the Seasonal Plaza, which held the ice skating rink this winter, just outside the planned restaurant. The building is there but a tenant has yet to be named.
To the east of this area is a fenced dog release area where dogs are permitted off their leashes to run free. As with the other parts of the gardens, there is ample shade from the sun, seating (for humans) and dog-friendly amenities such as low-to-the-ground water fountains and ample waste disposal.
To the west is the Meinders Garden and Meadows which includes pathways and water features among the native trees, flowers and grasses that abound. Even though I visited before the trees and plants were in full, leafy splendor, there was much to see.
East and West Lakes
Just under the Crystal Bridge itself lie the East and West Lakes. Long a place where visitors could come and see local wildlife (koi fish, ducks and turtles are among the frequently spotted visitors), the access to the lakes has been updated with amazing result.
When thinking “accessibility,” my mind quickly conjures up the adaptations that make a space more accessible to visitors of all physical abilities; but these accessibility updates address that and more. There are stairs and ramps and paths and stone seating areas that provide a myriad (no pun intended) of accessibility points to the lakes and surrounding landscaping, and from each turn or step there is something to appreciate. From various plantings to water features, the area around the lakes invites exploration from all ages and abilities.
The Crystal Bridge
Entering the Crystal Bridge from the south end, visitors will quickly note the updated and spacious new Welcome Center. Within the Bridge itself, updates have been made to the plants but the biggest change—and biggest impact—is a result of each and every tile being meticulously removed and replaced and the repainting of the entire structure. This subtle update seems to reinvigorate the Gardens.
So, yes, in the many years that the Myriad Botanical Gardens have been open in Oklahoma City, I imagine that you may have visited, perhaps even many times over the years. But if you haven’t visited for a while? It’s time to visit again.
Visit the Myriad Gardens
The Myriad Gardens is located at 301 W Reno Avenue, on the northwest corner of Robinson and Reno in downtown Oklahoma City.
Admission to the Myriad Botanical Gardens outdoor grounds is free, open 6:00am–11:00pm daily.
The Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory is open Monday–Saturday, 9:00am–5:00pm; Sunday, 11:00am–5:00pm (until 7:00pm from June 1–Labor Day). Admission $7 adults; $6 seniors, students (with ID) and active military; $5 children 4–12; age 3 and under free.
Visitors are always welcome to take snapshots at the Myriad Gardens, though permits may be required for professional photographers or special circumstances; photography guidelines may be requested by calling 405-297-3996.
Mari Farthing is the editor of MetroFamily Magazine.