The Holden Arboretum: Among the Trees

The Holden Arboretum: Among the Trees

I’m a strong believer that every once in a while, people need to commune with the trees.

I like saying it that way because it sounds a bit hippy-ish and that amuses me. But in all seriousness, studies have shown that people who spend at least an hour a week out in nature are less prone to depression, and just being in nature can improve a person’s emotional well-being. In South Korea, worried parents are sending their children to summer camps that teach them how to spend time in nature instead of on their phones or computers (internet addiction has been acknowledged as a public health problem there, with people – including teenagers – spending as much as 14 hours a day online and displaying all the telltale signs of addiction).

Holden Arboretum pond
A lovely pond at the Holden Arboretum

And aside from all of this, sometimes it’s nice just to be around pretty things.

A bit outside Cleveland, in a suburb called Kirtland, is a place dedicated to just that. The Holden Arboretum boasts about 3,600 acres of woodland, meadows, marshes, and carefully cultivated gardens to entice the senses. Just what the doctor ordered on one of the last warm, sunny days of summer.

Holden Arboretum was founded by the Holden family, whose patriarch, Albert Fairchild Holden, made his fortune as a mining mogul. When he died, he left a large portion of his estate earmarked for the creation of an arboretum. This may seem like an odd philanthropic endeavor, but remember that the people of the early 20th century were fascinated with ecology. Also, one of Holden’s daughters was particularly interested in plants and flowers, but she died young. The project was in part in memory of her.

Canopy Walk
The Canopy Walk at the Holden Arboretum

The original site of the arboretum was originally 100 acres, but grew in size and scope through private patronage and through alliance with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. It now is home to over 9,000 types of woody plants. It’s not all trees and bushes, though: there are also collections of lilacs, bulb plants (like tulips), and all manner of marshy, wetland plants like waterlilies.

What drew me to the Holden Arboretum – apart from the chance for a day outside with nature – were the Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower.

The Canopy Walk is an elevated walkway – a suspended bridge, really – 65 feet off the ground. The idea was to give visitors an idea of what the world looks like to the birds and squirrels who live way up in the tops of the trees. All along the route, there are displays showing the life cycle of trees and the different types of animals that can be spotted in those trees on any given day.

Emergent Tower sign
One of the educational signposts on the Emergent Tower

The Emergent Tower is a tower that rises 120 feet above the ground. On the way up, there are child-friendly displays about the life cycles of trees and their roles in the ecosystem. Once you get to the top, there’s an amazing 360-degree view of the surrounding area. To the north, you can see Lake Erie, and to the east you can see the Appalachian foothills starting to take shape. The view was well worth the climb to the top – even if the structure does sway like a tree in the breeze!

Luckily for me and my dislike of swaying staircases, there are over 20 miles of walking trails through the arboretum, giving me plenty of time to calm down and stop to smell the flowers.

Holden Arboretum flowers
Some lovely flowers at the Holden Arboretum

Visiting the Arboretum:

Getting there: No public transport is available to the arboretum. Instead, plug the address for the visitor center into your car’s GPS: 9550 Sperry Road, Kirtland, OH 44094.


  • General admission to the arboretum costs $12 for adults and $8 for children
  • Tickets for the Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower are $4 for adults and $2 for children, added to the general admission
  • Memberships are also available.

Opening hours: The arboretum is open daily from 9-5, year-round (excepting holidays). The Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower are open between April 1st and November 1st.

Website: You can visit the Holden Arboretum website here.

Good to know:

  • Brown bag it! There’s a nice picnic area right by the visitor center for anyone looking to enjoy some snacks they’ve brought from home.
  • Wear some walking shoes! These paths go for miles – make sure your feet are ready for it!

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