Mary's Garden

On June 21, 2014, the Children's Museum of Sonoma County opened Mary's Garden thanks to a major grant from the State of California Parks and Recreation Department.  Named after the Spanish word for butterfly "mariposa", it highlights how our natural resources are both beautiful and connected to our lives. The garden features interactive exhibits designed to explore earth, air, wind, energy, water. Native habitats and gardening beds help children learn about local sustainable plants and food production. Mary's Garden helps to build visitors’ knowledge of sustainability, water management, and recycling & reuse through playful and engaging experiences that appeal to a broad range of ages. 


Russian River Waterway

The miniature Russian River begins with a naturally filtered spring as the head water and then cascades down a gently sloping hill through a series of small rocky waterfalls culminating in a shallow basin at the bottom. Children are encouraged to catch and release life-like simulated salmon fish as they swim down the river.  Signage nearby helps educate families on the importance of the Russian River Watershed and the various kinds of salmon that call it home. 

Mary the Butterfly

Mary the Butterfly is the focus character of the garden.  Kids are invited to flap the wings of this mechanical butterfly sculpture and discover the physics of simple machines and how they work.

Interactive Butterflies

Around the garden, there are three other butterflies that allow visitors to experience wind, solar and simple machine features. These sculptures vary in size and height to allow children of all ages the opportunity to try and see if they can make the butterfly wings flap.

Wind Powered Butterflies

Use the wind to power the wings of this interactive butterfly sculpture.

Farm Stand & Raised Vegetable Beds

Explore how farms work in the Farm Area of Mary's Garden.  Learn how plants grow, what foods are grown in California, what the tools and water needed to farm, how certain foods grow, and how foods are harvested! The Farm Stand is a child’s opportunity to participate in a farmer’s market!  Choose from pretend fresh produce while learning about healthy choices. There are endless amounts of imaginative play opportunities as children immerse themselves into the Sonoma County farming world. 

Farm Tractor

Climb aboard this real John Deere 1940’s tractor and imagine you are operating the vehicle!  Experience first-hand the history of tools used in farming!

Soft Sculpture Caterpillar

This three foot high soft sculpture is large enough to illustrate the detailed beauty of a caterpillar’s colors and markings.  The hearts and imaginations of children are captured as they climb on and experience a caterpillar from a tactile perspective as well as visual.

Mechanical Waterplay Area

With an apparent magnetic, magical pull, nothing draws children more quickly than water play! A series of galvanized steel water tables cascade from high to low providing opportunities for extensive outdoor water experimentation and exploration.

Children build dams, float objects down stream, create floods, waterfalls, waves and more. A wealth of learning takes place through pouring, dumping, filling, pumping, funneling, straining and sifting!

Sonoma County Shoreline

This exhibit is similar to a sand pit, but with a completely different feel!  Explore how soft gravel feels while you dig for buried items and play in the bubbling rocks.

Butterfly Egg

Climb into this interactive butterfly egg and learn about what it feels like to be in the first stage of a butterfly's life cycle! cc


Curl into this hammock shaped like chrysalis!  Learn about how a caterpillar forms a chrysalis as it prepares to become a butterfly and act out what it would be like if you were a caterpillar in that stage!


A windmill is one of the most energy efficient and ingenious ways ever devised to pump water from under the ground. A windmill harnesses the free and renewable energy of the wind and uses that energy to lift underground water to the surface for farm and ranch uses.  Because windmills are so efficient and durable, the basic design hasn’t changed in almost 150 years. The secret lies in the way a windmill harnesses the wind’s energy to power ingenious water pump located deep underground.

Megaflora Sculpture by Bruce Johnson

Made from huge salvaged redwood stumps from a tributary of the Eel River in Northern California,  “Megaflora” is large enough to impress and to challenge kids, but it is also small enough for kids to investigate and comprehend.  It is the tactile forms, the energetic spaces, interior passages and physical scale of this sculpture that invites children to explore.


Donated by REACH Helicopter, this exhibit is a designed to serve a dual purpose. It builds visitors’ knowledge of the relationship between flying insects and other flying creatures found in nature as well as how the helicopter was originally used as a life saving aircraft. The exhibit inspires kids of all ages to imagine piloting a helicopter on a lifesaving rescue mission while on the outside looking like a dragonfly that has just touched down on a Lilly pad next to the Russian River.

Imagination Playground - AKA Big Blue Blocks

These modular, rectilinear parts are easy to stack, line up and move around. Children enjoy an endless variety of play patterns including construction, pretend play, role-playing and inventing their own games. Most importantly, they are deeply engaged, active and have hours of fun.