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Today's Family Magazine

Heritage meets beauty at Cleveland Cultural Gardens

Aug 12, 2016 07:08PM ● By Today's Family

The Albanian Garden is just one of 29 beautiful gardens you will find at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.

By Mary Flenner

As Cleveland weather warms up and your family is looking to get out and explore, be sure to add the Cultural Gardens to your summer bucket list. Not only are they a beautiful cultural experience, they're also celebrating their centennial this year.

There are currently 29 cultural gardens, with six more in progress. The chain of gardens stretches over 254 acres, from University Circle to Rockefeller Park, along East Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Each garden represents a different culture and together, they stand as a symbol of brotherhood.

Many Clevelanders don’t realize just how unique these gardens are. "The gardens are truly an outdoor museum. We are the only one in the world of its size, scale and number of nationalities," said Sheila Crawford, president of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation.

"They represent the great ethnic diversity in Cleveland and the sense of respect and acceptance for different cultures and traditions," Crawford continues.

The gardens feature flags, busts of predominant cultural figures, trees and flowers that represent the garden of the home country. They focus on culture, science, music, art history and heritage and are completely maintained by a legion of dedicated volunteers, which is quite an accomplishment today.

John D. Rockefeller donated the land for the gardens in 1896 as part of Cleveland’s centennial celebration. In 1916, journalist and Shakespeare enthusiast Leo Weidenthal helped establish the Shakespeare Garden, which was later designated as the British Garden. During the dedication of the Shakespeare Garden, Weidenthal felt that similar sites should be created for each national community settling in Cleveland.

The first gardens were predominantly European, as Cleveland was becoming home to more and more emigrating Europeans, but they have grown to focus on the Middle East, Asia and Africa as well.

"These gardens are important because they preserve a rich history about Cleveland. They represent the waves of immigrants who came to Cleveland and found a welcoming place," says Crawford. "This is Cleveland's Central Park, and when people stroll through from garden to garden, they get a sense of how we are all really more alike in the world than different."

The gardens are celebrating their 100th anniversary during their One World Day festival on August 28, 2016. It will feature a flag parade, live music, cultural dances and costumes, performances, authentic ethnic food and more. A naturalization ceremony will take place, celebrating the newest Americans. Children can receive play passports, where they are awarded stamps from each garden as they identify colors in the nation's flag, or say a word in the language and learn a little bit about the different cultures. Lolly the Trolley will offer free tours of all the gardens and entry and parking are also free.

The garden also hosts summer events like Opera in the Italian Garden, Liszt concert in the Hungarian Garden, brass bands in the German Garden and more.

Visit for more information and to view a full list of their centennial celebration events.