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“Decent everyday playdate but not for vacation”

The Children's Garden
Ranked #55 of 144 things to do in Sarasota
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Reviewed May 28, 2013

I've visited the Children's Garden for play dates and parties about 15 times over the past few years. It's a well-intentioned place, but there are some safety concerns parents need to be aware of.

The place is relatively safe for kids 4/5 and up, but kids smaller than that need to be watched extremely closely. There have often been broken wood in swings, broken bars in welded play equipment and other unsafe items that have gone unfixed for months/years. Most notably a wooden slat in a swing had a foot-long jagged piece of wood sticking out of it for almost a year. After about six months the staff put a paper sign on it that said "don't use" but that doesn't help the toddlers running about with broken jagged wood at eye level. There is often splintered wood and rusty screws sticking out of play equipment where children climb, and some steel play items are top-heavy, tippy and dangerous if small kids tug on them. We have even had problems with our toddler going into a play stall and coming out covered in animal feces, and a staff not at all concerned about it. There is a play area full of garage-sale and donated dress up outfits, but it's very scary because its clear the items don't get cleaned and the racks are jammed with play clothing of unknown origin. Every decent mom I know forbids their child from playing in that area because it looks like a great way to catch lice. There have been issues with broken toys in the sandbox and rotten shoes on the wooden centipede in the play area. They also don't spray for insects, and the tire mountain and other play areas are often infested with ants that can bite. So pretty much every inch of space a small child is going to play in needs to be inspected before you let them use it. It's frustrating to bring your child somewhere and constantly have to tell them "no" because things are broken and unsafe.

Now that my child is 5 I don't worry that she'll do something gross like put on a hat left laying around or hurt herself climbing on splintered wood so we occasionally visit when we need a change of pace. It's not a peaceful place for a parent to take a toddler because you have to watch out for so many little dangerous things and continually remove children from unsafe situations. There are also a lot of regulars who bring their kids here and don't supervise them at all while moms sit together and chat. We frequently have problems with unsupervised kids taking toys away from my children, pushing them out of the way in lines, etc. It can also get uncomfortable when kids who are being ignored by their parents try to push in on my play with my own kids and don't respect boundaries.

Overall if you live in SRQ and need a place for an occasional play date this is ok if you know what you're in for, but it's not worth the hassle and safety issues for anyone on vacation or with limited time.

6  Thank HColes11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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49 - 53 of 66 reviews

Reviewed April 24, 2013

Somehow the Children's Garden is an amalgamation of good-hearted volunteers, Sarasota tax money and the ideas of what must have been a crazy old man. The place is a dump, plain and simple. But there has been tons of creative juices squeezed over the old place and the result is a tiny theme park, hidden off near the railroad on 10th Way (half a block from 10th Street).

As a long-time Realtor I suspect this was once a house on a lot that is nearly an acre. And if I let my imagination run wild, I guess it was owned by a crazy old artist, who liked to weld sculptures and build funky buildings out of cement and beer bottles. The layout is imaginative, but the concepts are stronger than the final product. For example they have a creative maze in which you wander around aimlessly wondering how to get out--it does really go anywhere, and the walls, instead of being boxwood hedges are actually galvanized wire with a fern or weed growing up in it.

Other options for the kids include dressing up--there are racks of goodwill style clothing that if you are a size 1 or 2 you are free to try on and prance about. My wife was concerned with head lice, so she would not allow any of that.

But with all my reservations regarding the condition and age of the various "attractions", my 9 year-old granddaughter loved it. So I'll give her two votes, and if I average all the ballots, The Children's Garden gets one thumbs up.

3  Thank EnglewoodDane
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 22, 2013

I have to admit when pulled up, I almost turned around and left but I'm so glad I didn't. It's a beautiful place for younger kids. My twin 3 year old girls had a blast. They LOVED the Pirate Ship, the Fairy Garden and the Slide. We spent a few hours there. I Love places that let children be children. They could basically play on or with anything in sight. They planted green beans and were able to take them home. Read a book in the little library. Dressed up and took tons of great pictures. Only negative was the mosquito's so bring spray although they did offer some. Nothing fancy but lots of fun.

Thank Disneygal827
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 27, 2013

Went with 3 grandkids ages 2, 7, 9; and (thankfully) their parents. While I agree with other reviewers that it is aimed at kids a bit under 9; our 9 year old granddaughter enjoyed leading her younger cousins around. So families should be OK with kids up to 12 or even older if they also have younger ones and the older kid enjoys being a "big brother" or "big sister". Some reviewers have commented on pricing: true that it can be expensive for a large group..but the admission is for all day, and groups can leave for lunch and come back. Kids 3 and under are free. A better way to spend money than at the movies! Manyfamilies bring their own lunch, and there are many places to sit down to eat lunches or snacks. This is a family operated place that became a non-profit in the past few years. The play areas are labors of love by family members with welding, construction, and gardening skills. A very worthwhile place that encourages imaginations.

Thank MattS.24
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 17, 2013

What a great spot for fun in Sarasota! This is a pleasant spot with lots of items to spur kids' imaginations and encourage play for everyone.

Thank Deb K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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