I often see visitors puzzling over the maps of the grounds given out by Longwood Gardens. The maps are in various languages, both European and Asian, but visitors still puzzle over them. When I approach to help, their first question is often, “Where are we on the map?”
Problem solved. Technology has caught up. If you open the interactive map on the Longwood website (Longwood has a a free WiFi connection throughout the Gardens, or you can use your own smartphone connection), you will see a blue circle marking your position that will move along with you. This is possible because smartphones and tablets today have a GPS function that an interactive map can use.
There are two ways to get to the map. You can simply enter longwoodgardens.org/map/ (Note it is .org, not the more familiar .com or .net, and “map” is singular. This one map does it all by zooming in or out. Every browser I know of will automatically add the preface “http//:”) Or, you can log into the Longwood Garden’s website, longwoodgardens.org, then click on “Maps” prominent in the upper right corner of the opening screen. You can’t miss it.
The opening screen on the computer version has a view of the new fountains taken by a flying drone that is worth seeing. You can see the open spaces and benches the fountain area now has. (The site graphics are different for phones and tablets to account for their smaller screens and narrower bandwidth capabilities.)
My favorite place in all of Longwood Gardens is the Acacia Passage, especially in winter when its tiny yellow flowers are in bloom on long, dangling vines. After the bloom, the gardeners severely prune back the vines, as they must to make room for next year’s growth. Come after the pruning, and you will not be impressed by the stubble.
I panicked when the Acacia Passage did not show on the map, but all I needed to do was zoom in a little further. (The search box takes you away from the map.) The map is designed for the tiny screen of a smartphone and more details emerge as you zoom in. Many areas have photos that open with a click.
(Most of the references to the flowers in the Acacia Passage are about other flowers displayed there, but I think the acacia blooms themselves are magical. The plants give off a faint cinnamon-like odor that generates memories of my childhood visits. Another volunteer from South Africa, where acacia grows wild. said it evokes childhood memories for her, too. We both agreed the faint smell is different from any other.)
International Exit Icon
There is an orange icon on the map of a stick-man getting up from a wheelchair. Younger people are used to icons with no explanation, but I am not. Click on that one and it will highlight all of the paths accessible by wheelchair (or scooter, or stroller). The stick-man, I have learned, does not represent getting up from his wheelchair, but zipping along on his own power.
(Icons are easy to mistake. When in China, I saw many icons of a running man (above). I thought this was the symbol for a restroom, but it is the international symbol for “exit.” Now I know, but I still think he looks like he is running into a brightly-lit restroom.)
If you are not at Longwood Gardens, obviously the map cannot show your position. (I confess I am only relying on Longwood’s description of the blue dot. I cannot test it here on my home computer, and I always forget to test it on their tablet while I am there. I do know you can still view the map on your home computer to plan your visit. Except for the dot, all else will be the same.) Once you are here and you do not have a tablet or a smartphone you can carry around with you, many volunteers throughout Longwood are supplied with iPads that can display the map and your location on it. I expect visitors will understand the blue dot actually on the map much better than my vaguely waving finger. I promise to use the map more often.
You cannot (yet) draw your planned route on the map, but they have many smart people constantly working on their website, and I would not be surprised to find that feature on a future update.
Be tolerant. Some websites, like Longwood’s, are necessarily complex because they have a lot of information for a variety of users: students, contractors, employees, volunteers, and visitors. Each comes to the website with a unique set of needs and knowledge.
Zooming in on the map will open more details and labels. If you are operating an Android system, don’t bother going to the Play Store to download a Longwood Gardens app. The only ones are for the the Bruce Monroe light show of several years ago. You have to go to the Longwood Gardens website for the current information. Apps no longer supported should be taken down by their owners or at least warn you on their opening page.
When I encounter any complex website with many menu levels, I try to find the site map. The site map lists all of the pages on that site with their links, and I often go there first (or as a last resort) to find what I want. You can find all sorts of nooks and crannies of information on a site map, I kid you not, but sometimes you wish there was a site map to show you where the site map is.
Rather than spending most of your day searching for the Longwood Gardens site map, you can go directly there by longwoodgardens.org/sitemap/ (The site map lists a blog, but that blog is not this one.)
Note 9/29: I was at Longwood, did use the map with my Nexus 7 tablet, and the blue dot worked as advertised, both on the grounds and inside buildings. An unidentified icon of a large blue dot with an arrow at an angle on one side, looking like the symbol for a male, will center the map on your position.
Occasionally, the map was slow to respond, but that could have been the fault of my tablet, and perhaps a weak signal where I was standing. But respond it did, with enough patience. All-in-all, a very helpful tool when visiting the Gardens.