Spring is around the corner. You know what that means: It’s home and garden show season! From little township shows to huge, multi-acre extravaganzas, home and garden shows bring us dreams and inspiration for our own landscapes.
All the new things to see and do can be a bit overwhelming. Without proper preparation, you may miss a class, a demonstration, a booth or an exhibit that you wanted to see. Making a plan before you go can help you take it all in stride.
BEFORE YOU GO
- Look for discount tickets. Check with your local municipal offices. Some local recreation departments will buy bulk group tickets at a discount for residents. Advance tickets are often less expensive than show week or box office pricing. Sign up for the show’s email newsletters and watch for special newspaper editions that may contain coupons. The big shows can be expensive; it’s worth the extra legwork to sniff out some rebates.
- Check for parking, public transport and accessibility options. PARKING: If you’re driving in, have second, third and fourth backup parking plans. City convention centers don’t always have the best parking rates and their allotted parking fills up quickly, especially on the weekends of the show. You can program multiple parking destinations into your GPS application, and drive to each one by one until you find a spot. PUBLIC TRANSPORT: If you are taking the bus or train or even an Uber, check ahead for schedules and for what is considered “peak” commuting time. While attending during the week or after 4 pm is a good way to avoid the big crowds, the fares and time to get you there may increase during rush hour. ACCESSIBILITY: Make sure there are working elevators and where they are located. Scooters are sometimes offered for rental by some convention centers. If a reservation system is available, use it. When in doubt if a scooter will be needed, reserve it anyway. You can always call and cancel the reservation.
- If possible, get a vendor map before the show opens. Print it out or map a route on the .pdf or .jpg on your phone. Scout out which vendors are a must-see. Add a camera icon or a star to vendors and displays you definitely want to photograph. Scouting out a floor route beforehand can help you hit all the hot spots.
AT THE SHOW
- Bring a camera and take notes. It’s easier to show a picture to your local nursery owner three months after the show than it is to dig up the memory of what you saw. Camera phones are sufficient. Make sure to also take notes on your phone or with a pen and paper.
- If you are bringing children to the show, be sure to bring along snacks. While most shows have food vendors, lines can be long at peak times.
- Avoid the crowds. For a week-long show, Wednesdays are usually to be the least attended. Also, shows tend to clear out after 4 pm everyday. Weekends are crowded both days. On any day, starting at the “end” of the typical viewing path may help get you better views.
- Bring a sweater. Convention spaces get colder as they get larger. Gardeners prefer their display spaces a bit cooler to help the plants last. Vendors get quite toasty as they are moving and lifting things and waiting on customers. So expect a slight chill. Leave your parka at the coat check but make sure to bring a sweater and perhaps fingerless gloves if you tend to feel chilled.
- Perhaps shop first. You may want to hit the shopping section of the show at the beginning of the day when it tends to be less crowded. If you can easily get to your car or don’t mind carrying your wares, then this may be a good option for getting the most out of the shops. Also, the shops are mini home and garden displays themselves. It’s nice to meander through them without the throngs of shoppers.
We can’t wait for the sites and scenery of the upcoming home and garden show season. We hope you find something new and exciting, or more of the best tried-and-true additions to your home and landscape. A little preparation goes a long way. Get in convention mode and go forth into that great, green garden show in your town!