Guided Tours and Group Visits

small group of adults on a tour at the Arboretum

Group visitors often want to include a free guided tour as part of their educational or recreational arboretum visit. Group free tours are offered when a Tour Reservation Request Form, downloadable from this page, is submitted electronically or by mail with fourteen days advance notice, for groups of six or more. Groups requesting tours vary and may be entire classes or grade levels for public schools, community agencies, civic groups, garden clubs, homeschool groups, or elder hostels.

Visitors of all ages learn about nature, botany, horticulture, ecology, and plant and tree species native to the Appalachians. Tours normally are given on the arboretum grounds, but each spring a guided field trip showcasing notable wildflower sites, and each fall a guided field trip showcasing remarkable trees are also offered.

Educational tours and programs available:

  • The Forest Web
    Discover how living and non-living organisms coexist and thrive in the forest ecology. While learning how to identify forest species, particularly Virginia natives, participants will also explore how animals and plants work with each other to fully utilize all the resources that a forest can offer. Also covered in this tour will be how humans can best impact the forest and its wildlife.

  • Throw and Grow Seed Balls
    Learn about what an arboretum is, and how it allows plant and animal life to grow and reproduce. Many plants reproduce through seeds, and students will learn about what seeds are and different ways that seeds can be spread throughout the environment. The importance of native plants will be emphasized. This program will begin with a short tour of the arboretum and conclude with each participant making his or her own seed ball (hardened mixture of soil, clay, and flower seeds) that can be taken home and tossed outside, encouraging the spread of native Virginia flora.

  • Specialized Programs
    The staff at the EJC Arboretum can design a program to suit specialized or classroom-based education needs. Though programs at the Arboretum usually have a plant or ecology focus, these specialized programs can incorporate animals and more ideas. Examples include: edible plants, creative writing, geography, navigation, herbs, fall color, etc.
    Please e-mail the Education Coordinator, Nichole Barrows with your ideas.

distant photo of two adults strolling through a field at the Arboretum

Educational tours and programs are customizable for adults or children and are approximately one hour in length.

Please be aware that the maximum size for a tour or program is approximately 20 people. Larger groups will need to schedule either two consecutive tours or two simultaneous tours.

Event and season-based tours are offered each year for Historic Garden Week, and Arbor Day and are provided on a walk-up basis, free of charge, without advance reservation, and without any tour form being submitted.

To make reservations for a guided tour, please use the downloadable reservation form below. Also, please visit our calendar to check the availability of your preferred tour date.

School Field Trips and Guided Tours:

Tour Brochure

Tour Reservation and Group Visit Form:

Tour Reservation and Group Visit Form

For group guided tours:

Please download, fillout digitally or print and return to traasjm@jmu.edu.

For non-guided group visits:

Please download, fillout digitally or print and return to traasjm@jmu.edu.

Testimonials from our Guests

"It's very difficult to find field trips that are developmentally appropriate for our preschool kiddos. Most people don't understand that 4 and 5 year olds simply can't sit and listen with the attention you might get from older kids. All children, but especially preschool-aged children, need to MOVE and DO and TOUCH -- I truly couldn't be more pleased with our experience at the Arboretum. The children made seed balls and were allowed to roam and explore nature freely. Our tour guide was kind, flexible, and great with the students. I'll definitely be bringing my kids back next year!"

- Kiki Wootten,
Keister Elementary

Thank you for having us! All four of us teachers really enjoyed the field trip. The seed ball activity was fun and engaging. The tour was also engaging- the students particularly enjoyed 'smelling the dirt' and 'painting' the leaves. We will definitely plan on coming again next year!

- Laura Wheeler,
Mountain View Elementary School

Thank you so much for your kind words and for all of the assistance you provided to make the best out of our day! What a wonderful visit our group had at the Arboretum. Upon our arrival, guides were ready to lead us on paths sharing information about the flowers and trees. Students enjoyed learning more about nature and following the trails. Thanks again for a great afternoon!

- Katrina Blubaugh,
J. Frank Hillyard Middle School

The guided tours are a wonderful way to tie together the concepts we explore with our children in PreK. Concepts such as living/ non-living, decomposition, seasons, animal habitat, our role in preserving nature, etc., and the seed balls are a great way to take a little of the Arboretum home with the kids, share with their parents, and encourage parents to consider this amazing free family activity they can do anytime of the year!

- Jennifer Trumbo,
Fulks Run Elementary

"Even weeks later, my kids are still pointing out things they learned on their Forest Web tour. They can confidently identify a Redbud tree or Oak Leaf Hydrangea, and they marvel at how, with a little moisture and sunlight, they can see actual plant cells, without even needing a microscope. And they learned all that in just the first few minutes of the tour. It was packed with practical learning that drew my kids in and kept them engaged the whole time."

- Nell-Marie Colman

Grounds open free to the public, dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.
The Arboretum offices in the Frances Plecker Ed Center are open weekdays. Calls and emails are answered from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, except holidays. Check the website calendar for holiday closings.

Edith J. Carrier Arboretum at James Madison University
(540) 568-3194
780 University Blvd, MSC 3705
Harrisonburg, VA 22807