Thanksgiving Point

Thanksgiving Point is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit indoor and outdoor farm, garden, and museum complex in Lehi, Utah, United States. Its five main include Ashton Gardens, Butterfly Biosphere, Farm Country, Museum of Ancient Life, and Museum of Natural Curiosity, and Ashton Gardens. It also operates multiple dining options, events spaces, and gift shops. Each year, approximately 2.8 million guests visit Thanksgiving Point.

Thanksgiving Point
LocationThanksgiving Point
3003 N Thanksgiving Way
Lehi, Utah
Utah, United States
CoordinatesCoordinates: 40°25′53″N 111°54′09″W / 40.4313°N 111.9026°W / 40.4313; -111.9026
VisitorsAverage of 2.8 million each year
DirectorMike L Washburn

Other businesses under separate management but located on Thanksgiving Point's campuses include Brick Canvas Studios[1], Holdman Studios and Glass Art Institute[2], Larry H. Miller Megaplex Theatres [3], and Thanksgiving Point Golf Course[4].


Thanksgiving Point was founded in 1995 by Karen Jackman Ashton and Alan C. Ashton.[5] Alan Ashton co-founded software company WordPerfect with Bruce Bastian in Provo, Utah in 1979. In 1994, WordPerfect was sold to Utah-based Novell for nearly a billion dollars.[6] After the sale, Alan purchased farm land in Lehi, Utah and gifted it to his wife Karen as a Valentine's Day gift on February 14,1995. They planned to build a community garden and farm experience. The name for the project, Thanksgiving Point, was chosen to express gratitude.[7] Thanksgiving Point Institute registered as a 501(c)(3) organization in 1997.

The first venue to open to the public in 1996 was Farm Country. Farm Country's exhibits demonstrate the origins of the food supply in a working farm environment.

In 1997[8], Thanksgiving Gardens (renamed Ashton Gardens in 2016 [9]) partially opened to the public for its first season. In 2000, the gardens fully opened as a flagship 55-acre experience dedicated to offer the community a reflective and peaceful place.[10]

In 2000, the Museum of Ancient Life opened [11] with a travel-through-time dinosaur walk through a 30,000 square foot venue.

The 45,000 square foot Museum of Natural Curiosity opened in 2014.[12] The family science museum offers four indoor galleries and a 3-acre garden gallery.

In 2019, Butterfly Biosphere opened as Utah's first insectarium. A 10,000 square foot USDA certified conservatory has a path through hundreds of exotic butterflies from around the world.[13]

Ashton GardensEdit

The gardens opened to the public in 1997 as Thanksgiving Gardens. The master plan was developed with Salt Lake City landscape architect Leonard Grassli. The gardens cover approximately 55 acres and include 15 different themed gardens, including a replica of the garden described in Frances Hodgson Burnett's book The Secret Garden. Other themed garden rooms include a Monet pond, Rocky Mountain landscapes, and a rose garden growing 60 different varieties.

At the opening of the 2016 season, Thanksgiving Point renamed the gardens "Ashton Gardens" in honor of the contributions and vision of Alan and Karen Ashton and the Ashton Family Foundation.[14]

Community horticulture courses are offered by Utah State University master gardener volunteers. Commonly offered courses include square foot gardening and perennial plant landscape design. Some gardens demonstrate water-wise gardening techniques and the irrigation and water features work as a vast water reclamation system.

Light of the World GardenEdit

Light of the World Garden is a 2.5 acre garden located in Ashton Gardens created and donated by bronze sculpture artist Angela Johnson[15]. It features 35 monument-size sculptures from the Bible New Testament account of the life of Jesus.

Butterfly BiosphereEdit

The Butterfly Biosphere is home to hundreds of species of animals, including 20 species of tarantulas, beetles as big as your fist, and hundreds of butterflies from around the world. Species on exhibit including species like Blue Morpho, Atlas Moth, Black Widow Spider, and Goliath Beetle.

In 2020, a Leafcutter Ant exhibit debuted as a new permanent exhibit.[16]

Farm CountryEdit

Calf feeding demonstration in Farm Country

Farm Country is a working farm open to visitors. During the summer, a Junior Master Gardener Club[17] maintains the garden, growing things like tomatoes, basil, peppers, watermelon, and pumpkins. Other demonstration gardens include a USDA People's Garden.[18] There are daily live cow-milking demonstrations, traditional farm animals, and wagon and pony rides.

Museum of Ancient LifeEdit

Lobby area in the Museum of Ancient Life (dinosaur skeletal mounts seen in the photograph: Othnielosaurus fleeing from Torvosaurus)

The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point first opened in 2000. A group of Utah paleontologists approached Thanksgiving Point with an idea to build a world-class dinosaur museum. Together, they planned and assembled the exhibits of the Museum of Ancient Life, one of the world's largest collections of mounted fossils.[19][20] The museum's goal was to take collections out of cases and put them into an immersive environment.

The museum also features a large movie screen auditorium named the Mammoth Screen 3D Theater. During museum hours, the theater shows large format science films relevant to the museum's collections and exhibition.

Museum of Natural CuriosityEdit

Thanksgiving Point's Museum of Natural Curiosity opened in May 2014.[21] The museum features five exhibit areas: Rainforest, Waterworks, Kidopolis, Traveling Exhibits, and a five-acre outdoor component, Discovery Garden.

Discovery GardenEdit

Discovery Garden is the outdoor gallery of the Museum of Natural Curiosity. It is an educational area designed to teach youth about the natural environment. The garden includes two hedgerow mazes, an "eco-pond", and a replica of Timpanogos Cave. Discovery Garden also includes the Arbor Day Foundation-certified Nature Explore Classroom, the first certified in Utah and one of only 65 in the continental United States.[22]

Classes and EventsEdit

Thanksgiving Point also offers a variety of classes for both youth and adults on topics such as cooking, animal husbandry, robotics, gardening, fitness, arts and crafts, and glass-blowing.

Thanksgiving Point produces and holds events throughout the year. Examples include a spring tulip festival, a seasonal corn maze, a holiday lights experience called Luminaria, and other seasonal events.

Tulips at Thanksgiving Point tulip festival

Private social and corporate events such as weddings, parties, and corporate functions are held in conference and meeting rooms throughout Thanksgiving Point.


Several other businesses are located on Thanksgiving Point's campus but are managed by various entities.

Thanksgiving Point Golf CourseEdit

Thanksgiving Point Golf Course is operated and managed by a private management company and Troon[23]. It is the largest public golf course in Utah at 7,728 yards (7,066 m) long and more than 200 acres (0.81 km2). The course was designed by professional golfer Johnny Miller.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Chapman, George (December 9, 2015). "Utah inventions: WordPerfect led the PC word processing market for almost 10 years". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  7. ^ Allred, Cathy (March 9, 2011). "Valentine legacy: Ashtons celebrate gift of Thanksgiving Point". Daily Herald. Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Thanksgiving Point renames gardens in honor of its founders". Deseret News. March 3, 2016.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Sagers, Larry A. (April 3, 2011). "Teaching children the joy of gardening". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  18. ^ "People's Garden | USDA". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  19. ^ Diverse Utah - Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, from BootsnAll Travel
  20. ^ Martin, Hugo (October 19, 2008). "Jurassic Lark". Los Angeles Times.
  21. ^ Laypath, Allison (April 28, 2014). "Museum of Natural Curiosity to open at Thanksgiving Point". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  22. ^ Allred, Cathy (March 9, 2011). "Thanksgiving Point brushing off winter, preparing for spring". Daily Herald. Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  23. ^

External linksEdit