Adventure, Experience, Featured Articles
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Tapping into Our Love of Treehouses

treehouse alnwick gardens
tree adventure uni pennsylvania

Tree Adventure at Morris Arboretum, University of Pennsylvania.
Photo Courtesy of Morris Arboretum, by Paul Worchol

Why are we so fascinated with treehouses? Structurally it defies odds balanced between sprawling branches, nestled amongst the birds. Artistically, it challenges how we define space – they’re whimsical and unique looking. For whatever the reason, we’re drawn to treehouses no matter if we grew up in the city, country or suburbs.

The closest I came to having a treehouse as a child was using old bed sheets with duct tape taped to the dining room chairs.

Still, I love them.

Whether it’s a simple backyard clubhouse made from a few planks and a rope ladder, or a destination to explore on a family vacation, one thing is for sure – they’re cool to explore.

Treehouses tap into our inner child speaking to the explorer, naturalist and dreamer within all of us.

If you’re looking for a treehouse adventure, without having to stay over, these wonderful treehouse experiences might be right up your street… or tree.

Alnwick Garden, Northumberland, UK

treehouse alnwick gardensPhoto Credit: Christine Westerback

Looking for more treehouse romance and intrigue? Alnwick Garden in Northumberland, United Kingdom is a fairytale in the making. With a rose garden, cherry orchard and Grand Cascade water fountain, it’s as if you stepped into a historical romance novel.

As for the intrigue, check out the their Poison Garden with its exotic, deadly flowers. No joke, gardeners must wear gloves at all times when working with the poppies, belladonna, foxgloves and other potentially harmful blooms. Guests cannot touch any of the plants, which are caged but easily seen.

alnwick gardens Photo Credit: Dave Pickersgill

For a more lighthearted romp, navigate the rope bridges, suspension bridges and walkways – all leading to the cedar shingled Treehouse. Created with Scandinavian redwood, English and Scots pine and Canadian cedar, The Treehouse has curious, curvy roofs that draw visitors worldwide.

It’s a 6,000 square foot structure, built in 2004 by Robert McAlpine, designed by the Napper Architects. With balconies, verandas and cottage-like structures, it reminds me of a crooked dollhouse, but on a larger scale.

Lunch and dinner are served at The Treehouse Restaurant. To add to its charm, in the center of the restaurant sits an open fire, surrounded by white lights and trees coming up through the floorboards. The food is locally grown and fresh, often accompanied by live entertainment. Or stop by the adorable Potting Shed for a drink or light meal.

Nature’s Castles at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania, USA

natures castles longwood gardensPhoto Courtesy of: © Cambridge2000.com

Nestled among tulip poplar trees with hand carved dragons, the enchanting Canopy Cathedral treehouse in Longwood Gardens is a must see. Visit Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania and it’ll feel like you stepped onto a botanical movie set.

Longwood is a public garden located on 1,077 acres with 20 indoor and 20 outdoor gardens amidst water fountains and a 4-acre glass conservatory. They host artists, musicians, fireworks and holiday exhibits with thousands of stunning red and white poinsettias.

Back in 1907, Pierre duPont bought Longwood, a working farm and aboretum. As he built his corporate empire, he used his fortune to develop lush acres of gardens. His generous nature has touched millions because when he died in 1946 the trust he set up took over and opened Longwood to the public.

Fast forward to today. Longwood is open 365 days a year, even on Christmas day. The temporary treehouses were so popular, they’ve now taken up permanent residence.

Make sure you explore all three: The Canopy Cathedral, the Lookout Loft and The Birdhouse. The treehouses stand alone on steel supports with a pin foundation which protects their roots to avoid damaging the trees.

The majestic Canopy Cathedral is the most unique treehouse out of the three. It is a replica of a Norwegian Church with church pews. Inside, the double stairwell allows visitors a great view of the Italian Water Garden.

lookout loft longwood gardensPhotos Courtesy of: © Cambridge2000.com

The Lookout Loft is a more rustic, simpler structure than the Cathedral with only one floor, yet very pretty. Designed and built by Bill Allen of Forever Young Treehouses (now known as The Treehouse Guys) from Warren, Vermont, it’s similar to an Adirondack themed home. Built closer to the ground, it is wheelchair accessible. Nearby there’s a self-guided meditation Forest Walk to explore.

The smallest of the three, the Birdhouse looks like a classic, kids clubhouse. With two flights of stairs leading up to the top, it’s a fun climb. Jake Jacob and Pete Nelson of The Treehouse Workshop of Seattle, Washington built both the Cathedral and the Birdhouse.

If you get hungry after all that exploring, you can eat at The Terrace, Longwood’s certified green restaurant. It uses only the freshest fruits and vegetable. Also, it has efficient lighting, sustainable furniture made with 70% recycled materials and eco-friendly flooring.

Morris Arboretum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA

morris arboretum

Tree Adventure in the snow.
Photo Courtesy of Morris Arboretum, by Paul Meyer.

The people of Philly obviously love their treehouses. Out on a Limb: A Tree Adventure at the Morris Arboretum offers yet another reason to let your inner child run free. It is a walkway built on stilts within the trees, leading to a suspended man-sized Bird’s Nest.

Don’t miss the 250-year-old Chestnut Oak tree, which is the centerpiece of their exhibit. Designed by Metcalfe Architecture & Design this exhibit focuses on tree specimens, so they took great care in protecting them as they created this adventure.

As with the previous treehouses, the structure doesn’t actually touch the trees – they’re protected with wooden slats and stabilizing fabric. In case of any weather damage, each piece can be repaired separately. Furthermore the whole exhibit can be moved if necessary with cranes and reassembled.

walkways morris arboretumPhotos Courtesy of Morris Arboretum, by Paul Warchol

The steel micro-piles don’t hurt the trees roots like cement ones would, and help hold up the 450 foot long walkway and suspension bridge. The walkway is made out of harvested back locust wood decking, which doesn’t need to be pressure treated and withstands the test of time.

Leading across the bridge to the Bird’s Nest, children love “sitting” on the eggs that are left behind. There’s the Squirrel Scramble, a rope-netting that visitors sit on to relax. Being 50 feet up provides great views allowing visitors a new perspective.

And that’s the whole point of treehouses, a fresh and new perspective.

Do you have a secret passion for treehouses? Which one is your favorite?

Filed under: Adventure, Experience, Featured Articles

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Michelle Bermas lives in Massachusetts with her husband Harry and two kids. She has a gypsy heart that adores writing, traveling, romance, meeting new people, exploring and adventure of any kind. She’s not brave just eager for the next big adventure. She’s ziplined and high roped hoping she wouldn’t faint from fear, flown a single engine cessna, crash-landed in a hot air balloon while pregnant and accidentally ate crocodile when she thought it was simply a round, fried mozzarella ball. Michelle’s work has been published in The Sunday Boston Globe Magazine, The Boston Globe newspaper, The Patriot Ledger Newspaper, USATODAY.com, South Shore Living Magazine and more.

10 Comments

  1. Jennifer C. says

    Fantastic article! Just checked out the website for Longwood Gardens~~would love to visit with my family!

  2. Nadia says

    Nice article! I now want to pack and go visit these amazing tree houses.

  3. Pingback: Tapping into Our Love of Treehouses | Michelle Bermas

  4. Elizabeth says

    Great article, makes me want to go on a trip to check out all these cool places!

  5. Michelle Bermas says

    Thank you. Like I said in the article, I’ve never had a treehouse. But as an adult, I’d love a Book Nook tree house stacked with magazines and romance novels.

    I’d crawl up there and see the fall trees turning orange and red. The smells would relax me as I sat back against soft pillows and watched for birds…Who else wants an adult getaway?!

  6. Staying in a tree house is an amazing experience. I stayed at Pezulu Tree Houses in South Africa a few years ago. The sights and sounds of wild animals passing underneath our tree house in the bush was truly humbling, you couldn’t have been closer to nature!

    • Wow, Pezulu looks and sounds amazing! I’ll put it on our list of places to check out when we finally head that way.
      Thanks 🙂

  7. The main concept of the tree house is to spend your time with nature and wildlife which is a great experience to become stress free and fresh all time.

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