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GTPulse: Explore Traverse City Fairy Homes

From travel shampoo and conditioner sets to any dog Paris Hilton has owned, things are inherently more adorable and more interesting when they’re miniature. Fairy homes and gardens are the newest way to obsess over the cuteness of something made miniature. Fairy gardens are small, mystical worlds made out of items found in nature. A search for a fairy garden or fairy home on Pinterest will display adorable scenes, like a fairy dining table made out of an acorn or a fairy roof crafted from fallen shavings of a paper birch tree. You don’t need to fawn over fairy gardens through Pinterest, there is a whole woods full of handmade fairy garden homes right here in Traverse City.

The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park is home to a lot of cool stuff. An afternoon could easily be spent looking at the various gardens and rare plants that the garden has. I was lucky enough to have the best tour guide, Mike McNulty, visitor center manager of the Botanic Garden take me around a decent chunk of the grounds.

Beyond the fairy homes there is a labyrinth being built that will be circular shaped with a clear path to walk, as opposed to a challenging maze. The labyrinth will be used as a healing, meditative walk surrounded by plants with calming properties. When the labyrinth is completed it will be the largest in the state of Michigan. There is also an old horse barn converted into a garden, as well as lilac trees and elm trees.

“American Elms have been devastated and wiped out by Dutch elm disease and that’s why people your age haven’t seen them.”

Mike was right. I had never saw an Elm tree or an Elm leaf until then. Also, I had no idea lilacs could grow on anything besides bushes until then. There are all kinds of secrets to be found and wonder to be had at the Botanic Gardens.

To get to where the fairy homes are Mike and I had to go under an arch made of branches, into a woods. I expected to see a large display of fairy homes clustered together, but that’s not the how the homes are set up. The fairy homes are spread out along a trail that winds through the woods. Before beginning the fairy trails Mike points out a large birds nest with human size robin’s eggs in it that happens to be the largest robin’s nest in the world.

The fairy homes are made by local community members. Every year, local community blog Life and Whim, and The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park have people create and display their fairy homes in a wooded area on the garden’s grounds. The event, called Fairy Fest, lets fairy home builders claim any spot they’d like to place their woodland creation by tying a ribbon around a tree or landmark. This year 53 people entered fairy homes for the trails.

The fairy trails are a way to inspire children while they’re out in nature. The mystical nature of fairy homes and the vastness of the woods make a great combination for sparking imagination and creativity in young kids. It’s therapeutic for both parents and children to be out in the quiet presence of deer, squirrels and fairies and it is a great, free activity for parents to take their little ones to.

The houses are charming and unique, each in their own way. Some houses looked like replicas of homes you would see in a neighborhood, and others look like cottages in the woods. There’s even a Lego made fairy home hidden behind some willowy branches. A sailing ship with sails made from white bark and a hammock made from a leaf were clever inventions that made me smile. Renditions of The Old Lady and the Shoe and Hansel and Gretel were also nostalgic and sweet.

Some of the fairy homes are more difficult to find than others, which just contributes to more time and fun exploring the trails. Some of the fairy homes have also been destroyed by weather, which is a part of the process. Because the fairy homes are meant to be displayed until next spring, some of them will not be able to stand the test of time against Mother Nature. What is left of the fairy homes will be cleared away next May before the next installment of fairy trails. If the homes are made from natural items, there is no evidence that the home was ever there.

The fairy trails are a magical thing to witness. The walk in the woods is a great way to get outside for an afternoon. If you’re inspired by the miniature, mystical homes consider contributing a home of your own creation to the fairy trails next year. The project would be fun for any novice, artist or family. Kid or adult, the fairy trails are a magical time for all.

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