By Ohio.org Staff
Posted On: Apr 4, 2022
As you pass through the majestic wrought iron gates and follow the winding, tree-lined road into Kingwood Center Gardens, you may feel as though you're entering the grounds of a castle. The illusion continues as you crest the hill and catch a glimpse of the stately brick mansion and enchanting gardens. It may feel impossible that just a few seconds ago you were on a busy road in Mansfield, Ohio, but that's just part of the charm of this 47-acre horticulture wonderland.
New this year, you can also enter Kingwood Center Gardens from the B&O Trail. The most elegant access point on the bike trail, the Center welcomes bikers, walkers and runners to take a detour from their journey to explore the gardens.
Though even the parking lot is more of a parking garden, with flourishing garden beds, the real adventure begins when you enter through the new Garden Gateway Visitor Center. Completed in late 2020, the addition transforms the visitor experience with its Garden & Gift Shop; the Gateway Café, which boasts indoor and outdoor seating; and the Exhibit Gallery highlighting the legacy of Charles Kelley King, the estate's original owner. The new facilities also enable the Garden to stay open year-round with special events like Wine Walk, Pumpkin Glow and Christmas at Kingwood.
After purchasing your ticket, and maybe grabbing an iced tea or snack from the café, you'll pass through a set of double doors leading to the gardens. Take a moment to snap a picture in front of the allée leading up to King's mansion or on the boardwalk that passes over a small stream, then pick a direction to start exploring — head for the duck pond, perennial gardens or mansion.
Read on to find what else lies along the brick paths.
In Full Bloom
Although the peacocks that freely roam the property might disagree, the star of the show at Kingwood Center Gardens will always be the creative floral displays, and varieties of trees and plants in all shades of green.
The gardens of Kingwood are a true showcase of horticulture, from the first peek of the daffodils and tulips in early spring through the explosion of color in the summer to the last hint of the fall foliage.
According to Director of Horticulture Mark Hoover, each seasonal display is meticulously planned months in advance. "Each gardener is in charge of planning a new spring and summer design for their garden," he says. "The designs change from year to year and include over 25,000 new spring bulbs and 25,000 summer annuals each season."
In conjunction with the Garden Gateway addition, a newly expanded Perennial Garden offers a diverse collection of forms, colors and textures beginning in early spring and not ending until late fall. Plants are labeled so you can point out your favorites and take note of any new discoveries to add to your own yards later. The daylily collection is truly extraordinary, a labor of love from a former Kingwood gardener, with dozens of varieties and hybrids on display.
In the Terrace Garden, a central fountain provides a relaxing spot where children can toss a coin and make a wish, and adults can stop to rest. The Woodland Garden is a quiet spot carved out in the woods where shade-loving plants thrive. As you wander through the Herb Garden, marvel at the way many plants are not just beautiful, but functional, too. Admire the rich hues of dye plants, the aromatic leaves of plants you might recognize from your spice cabinet and distinctive leaves of medicinal plants. The original garden, located near Kingwood Hall, is today referred to as Mr. King's Formal Gardens.
And don't forget to stop by the Display Greenhouse, bursting with variety all year-round. Densely packed with tropical and desert plants, including a fruit-bearing banana tree, it’s the perfect place to stop and snap a selfie. There's also a display of carnivorous plants that's sure to enthrall children, including Venus fly trap and pitcher plants.
Around Every Corner
There's a gorgeous surprise around every corner in Kingwood. Follow the brick walkways, lined with vibrant blooms, and you'll also find multiple free-roaming peacocks, sparkling fountains, ponds dappled with lily pads, art displays, duck ponds, and multiple terraces, pavilions and benches that provide a shady spot to rest. Pack a picnic lunch or grab a bite from the on-site café to enjoy at one of the tables or benches.
"Many times, you'll find grandparents who spent their childhood at Kingwood feeding the ducks now doing the same thing with their grandchildren," adds Mark Hoover, director of horticulture.
The beautiful and inviting gardens create the perfect space for visitors of all ages to bond. You'll find grandparents introducing grandchildren to a love of gardening, couples capturing engagement photos or enjoying an evening out, and friends meeting up for a reunion.
At the corner of the property near the kid-centered Peacock Playhouse (the property's former gatehouse), you'll find the Storybook Trail, a feature designed especially for young visitors. Walk, run or skip along a woodland path and experience seasonal stories. When the flowers first begin to bloom you might find the tale of Rabbit, Bear, Bird and Mouse within the pages of The Thing About Spring by Daniel Kirk. As the story changes with each season, kids can look forward to returning for new tales.
Grab a Bite to Eat
Everything tastes better amidst beautiful scenery, and the new Gateway Café, open from 10AM–6:30PM every day, offers both a delicious menu and gorgeous views. Start your day with fresh donuts and a cup of Caruso signature blend coffee, stop by for lunch or end your day with an adult beverage on the spacious outdoor terrace. Operated by Buehler's Fresh Foods, the menu offers an assortment of healthy and delicious soups, salads and sandwiches, including Little Garden Sprouts lunch boxes for kids.
The café can even be a destination in itself — no admission fee is needed if you are only dining at the café or browsing the Garden & Gift Shop.
Kingwood Hall is the former home of Charles Kelley King, who in 1893 was hired as the first electrical engineer at the Ohio Brass Company. King rose through the ranks to eventually become President and Chairman of the Board, and in 1926, started construction on the French provincial–style mansion.
King left most of his estate to the private foundation that continues to operate Kingwood Center Gardens today. Following his wishes, his garden estate and home opened to the public in 1953. Kingwood Hall, the mansion where he lived, is open to visitors and maintains most of its original furnishings and decor. For the first time, some rooms on the third floor are open for guided tours following recent restoration efforts in the bedchambers of the King family and house staff. Guided tours of Kingwood Hall are on Fridays and Sundays at 11AM and 1PM. Make your reservations online or at the Welcome Desk.
In the foyer of the manor, exhibit cases showcase the history of the Ohio Brass Company, as well as a new exhibit that debuted in 2020: "Elegant Entertaining Kingwood-style." According to local lore, King was quite the entertainer. Admire his eclectic collection of china and table décor.
Also of note is King's extensive book collection, including many on botany. Kingwood Hall features both a library and reading room, which at one time included more than 8,000 books.
Grow Your Own
At the Garden & Gift Shop, choose a living souvenir like a baby succulent or leafy perennial to plant in your own garden, or take home whimsical garden-inspired artwork or a Kingwood memento, such as a peacock feather. Copies of the stories featured on the Storybook Trail are also available for purchase.
Plan a Return Visit
According to Hoover, fall is one of the most beautiful times to visit Kingwood. Once Thanksgiving is over, the estate is transformed into a winter wonderland. Twinkling lights sparkle against the snow-coated landscape and holiday decorations bring joy to every corner. Be sure to check the website often for an ever-evolving calendar of events that includes kids' programs, workshops, guided tours, concerts and even a 5K.
While you're in town, why not plan a longer trek or bike ride on the B&O Trail, now accessible from Kingwood? The paved path stretches 18.4 miles through four communities, with a variety of parks, restaurants and attractions accessible just off the trail. For more family fun, take a short drive to downtown Mansfield. Take a spin at the Richland Carrousel Park and play at the Little Buckeye Children's Museum, soon to be part of the new Imagination District. If you're up for another detour, hop in the car and head to the Ohio Bird Sanctuary. Meet birds of prey and check out the new treehouse.
Know Before You Go
- Children 12 and under are free. No pets allowed.
- Museums for All program – Those who use EBT can purchase admission tickets for $1.00.
- Free First Mondays: Feb–November, admission is free on the first Monday of the month.
- The new King Ballroom is an exciting new addition to Kingwood's existing rental space – perfect for meetings, parties and banquets.