Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Ariz. from Must-See U.S. Public Gardens

Must-See U.S. Public Gardens


Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Ariz.

Named a Travelers’ Choice 2013 Winner by TripAdvisor, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has been described as a history museum, free-range zoo and botanical garden all rolled into one. Additionally, the site is home to an aquarium, earth science center and a desert loop trail, making it the complete Southwestern package.
—Diana Gerstacker


Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta, Ga.

“Every time I go to the [Atlanta Botanical] Gardens there's something new popping up,” writes one user on TripAdvisor. “The artistry and talent to put together the change of seasons mixed with the history and whimsy is marvelous. It's a great place to go to be inspired and unwind from the hectic world.” When visiting be sure not to miss The Fuqua Orchid Center; a rare showcase of high-elevation orchids that have never before been grown in the southeast.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Amy Wagliardo

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Vail, Colo.

The world’s highest alpine garden sits in the Colorado Rockies at 8,250 feet above sea level. One of the most visited gardens in America; the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens host more than 100,000 guests annually, free of charge. Offering guided tours, children’s educational programs and yoga classes, this garden is a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Selbe B

Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Isle, Wash.

This award-winning garden and nature preserve is described by visitors as quiet and serene. The onset of spring presents flowers in full bloom and an array of wildlife to be witnessed as well. Set out on the Camellia Walk for a glimpse at gorgeous plants including Temple Bells, plum trees, and skunk cabbages.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Paul Hamilton

Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Fla.

This National Historic Landmark has been described as “an ever changing work of art.” Home to 126 different species of birds, the gopher tortoise and the endangered eastern indigo snake, this garden offers views of wildlife only rivaled by the sight of the Singing Tower echoed in the reflection pool.
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Christopher Long

Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, S.C.

Embark on an excursion through an enchanted forest, set sail on a ship that will take you back in time, or observe all of your favorite animals (alligators, foxes and exotic birds, oh my!) all within the confines of one the country’s most beloved public gardens. Last year Brookgreen was named one of the top 10 gardens in the US by TripAdvisor and the charming oasis offers 10 acres of exciting scenery to be explored.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Joseph Holmes

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is beautiful year-round, but never more so than in spring when the garden's cherry esplanade is in full blossom. But from the heady fragances of its lilac and magnolia collections to the celebralness of its English cottage-garden-style Shakespeare Garden there is something for every season. The Garden's café features sustainably farmed and locally sourced food.
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/JR P

Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Ga.

Countless online reviewers say that this 6,500-acre garden and wildlife area is absolutely worth the entrance fee. One user on TripAdvisor even compared her visit to “being close to heaven.” With everything from their Birds of Prey Show and Butterfly Center to the Sibley Horticultural Center and Mr. Cason's Vegetable Garden this garden offers something for every type of nature lover. Plus, with activities like golf, tennis, fly fishing and biking available, exercise enthusiasts will be pleased with a visit here, too. 
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/JR P

Chanticleer, Wayne, Pa.

Located less than 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, Chanticleer is the perfect escape from the big city hustle. A popular spot among painters and photographers, this flawlessly curated oasis is considered a hidden gem by those who visit frequently. Avoid early week visits, as the garden is closed on Monday and Tuesday of each week.
—Diana Gerstacker


Cheekwood Botanical Garden, Nashville, Tenn.

A 55-acre estate located in Tennessee’s capital city, Cheekwood showcases a stunning array of plants amidst its natural country estate landscape. Explore 11 different specialty display gardens and the art museum before settling down for lunch at the Pineapple Room restaurant. “This garden is the perfect size to spend several hours in the outdoors,” says one user on Trip Advisor.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Sandeep Pawar

Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Ill.

Spanning 385 acres, with 25 separate floral arrangement areas, Chicago Botanic Garden is a haven for flowers and birds alike. The site also features indoor greenhouses, a library and a café, perfect for short rests in the substantial park grounds.
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/JR P

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay, Maine

Escape by the ocean and indulge in the beauty of this garden’s shorefront landscapes featuring extraordinary stonework, scenic waterfalls and of course, a wide range of eye-pleasing plants. Coastal Main is open year-round with something for everyone to enjoy during every season and November through mid-April admission is free.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Dace Dugdale

Denver Botanic Garden, Denver, Colo.

This urban garden, set on 23 acres, is home to an astounding array of wildlife. According to TripAdvisor, more than 15,000 species call Denver Botanic Gardens home. The site regularly hosts events, special exhibits and has a team of scientists on hand for research and conservation purposes.
—Diana Gerstacker


Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Ariz.

As one of only 24 botanical gardens accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, Desert Botanical Garden aims to educate and inspire its visitors about protecting and preserving the natural beauty of the desert. On display right now: Artist Dale Chihuly’s energetic exhibit which TripAdvisor users cannot stop raving about.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Adam Skowronski

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, Coral Gables, Fla.

Home to the largest palm collection in the U.S., tropical fruits and flowering trees, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens is a one-of-a-kind habitation that can only be found in Florida. Travelers rave about the butterfly exhibit and garden, which is only part of the recently completed Paul and Swanee DiMare Science Village.
—Diana Gerstacker


Filoli Gardens, Woodside, Calif.

As site of the National Trust of Historic Preservation, Filoli is a widely cherished country estate. Home to an exquisite collection of plants, the landscape is rich with history and the extensive Garden Resource Center boasts a deep and detailed knowledge-base. “It is unparalleled given the location, the number of flowers and the historical importance to the community,” says one user on TripAdvisor.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Jason Coleman

Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, Ohio

A great attraction year round with lots to offer kids, Franklin Park Conservatory has been described by one visitor as “a site you’ll remember.” Themed gardens, glass sculptures and wine offerings round out this kid-friendly spot, making it perfect for date night as well.
—Diana Gerstacker

William J. Hebert

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Frederik Meijer Gardens website reads, “Always growing. Always beautiful. Always new.” And with exhilarating attractions like summer concerts, extravagant garden parties, and an expansive collection of interesting sculptures, we’d add “always exciting” to that list, too. A few must-see exhibits here: the carnivorous plant house, Kid-Sense Garden, the 1880’s Farmhouse and the Butterfly Maze.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Jennifer Boyer

Hillwood Museum & Gardens, District of Columbia

Once home to the Post Cereal heiress, the Hillwood estate sits on a perfectly manicured 25 acres and has been described as the closest thing to a European palace you can find in the U.S. Well stocked with Russian and French art, the massive residence is only the beginning. The Hillwood Museum & Gardens won the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2013.
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Sean Byron

Huntington Library & Garden, San Marino, Calif.

Featuring an extensive collection of rare books and manuscripts, a distinguished display of art, and 120 acres of botanical gardens, this San Marino garden truly offers something interesting for each one of its visitors. With 14 different gardens, including an herb garden, Japanese garden, lily ponds, and the Shakespeare garden to choose from, plant-lovers will easily enjoy an entire day of horticultural exploration.
—Katie Rosenbrock


Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, Va.

Named one of Richmond’s top destinations in 2014 by Frommer’s, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is one of the most visited attractions in the area. This 80-acre site is home to the only classically domed conservatory in the Mid-Atlantic and sees more than 300,000 annual visitors. The garden isn’t only for travelers, though—13,000 local households have paid memberships and more than 500 people volunteer to maintain and improve the grounds each year.
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Peter Miller

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pa.

Summer concert series, wine and jazz festivals, and thrilling fountain shows are just a few of the thrilling attractions that Longwood visitors adore. “There are not words adequate to describe the beauty and wonder of this amazing place. Even in winter it is awash in an uncountable array of plants and flowers from all over the world and come spring the place becomes an Eden,” one TripAdvisor user exclaims.
—Katie Rosenbrock


Ganna Walska’s Lotusland, Montecito, Calif.

“There were several times on the tour when my jaw dropped open. It is just that breathtaking,” said one reviewer on TripAdvisor. Ganna Walska, the garden’s creator, was an offbeat visionary who described herself as an enemy of the ordinary. She sought the largest, most unusual plants and would pay any price to get them. This one-of-a-kind haven is far from a classic English garden, but that’s why it’s well worth a visit. lotusland
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Aaron Carlson

Missouri Botanical Garden (Shaw's Garden), St. Louis, Mo.

A site of historic interest, this garden was once home to the botanist and philanthropist Henry Shaw. According to TripAdivsor the site’s most famous building is the Buckminster Fuller dome, which houses a stunning collection of tropical plants. Other garden highlights include specialty gardens like the Seiwa-En Garden (the largest Japanese garden in the U.S.), Victorian and Ottoman.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Lorenzo Santos

New York Botanical Garden, New York, N.Y.

This stunning 250-acre urban garden is a top attraction in the Bronx. Complete with 50 themed gardens, indoor rainforests and popular year-round events, you won’t know where to start. Luckily, there is an App to help you figure it out.
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Katie Wheeler

Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, Wis.

Perhaps one of the most affordable attractions on our list, Olbrich’s outdoor gardens are free and open daily and access to the conservatory costs only $2 (except for on Wednesdays and Saturdays when it’s free from 10 a.m. to noon). The outdoor landscape lends 16 stunning acres of Midwest plants and inside the conservatory you’ll find an exotic display of tropical flowers, orchids and birds.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Ryan Stavely

Portland Japanese Garden, Portland, Ore.

Loved for its tranquility, Portland Japanese Garden appears beautiful in pictures, but photos cannot compare to being surrounded by the scenery. “[There’s] nothing like standing and taking it all in,” said one TripAdvisor reviewer.
—Diana Gerstacker

Flickr/Ivy Dawned

Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham, N.C.

This North Carolina garden boasts an impressive landscape design and of course, a quality display of horticulture that provides visitors with plenty of things to see, smell and learn about. Half of the organization’s budget is generously funded by Duke University (the other half comes from donations), the garden is open 365 days a year and admission is free.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Flickr/Roxanne Ready

Springs Preserve, Las Vegas, Nev.

In a city known for anything but nature and conservation, Springs Preserve has quietly thrived, becoming one of the best gardens in all of Nevada. Winner of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence in 2013, the preserve sits on 180 acres and is a perfect alternative to “the strip.”
—Diana Gerstacker


Wave Hill, Bronx, N.Y.

“Trails through the woods, historical buildings, an art gallery; it's a N.Y. treasure, being kept alive & beautified,” one TripAdvisor enthusiastically writes of Wave Hill. The garden is a 28-acre, non-profit cultural institution whose up-keepers aim to celebrate and preserve the legacy of the landscape.
—Katie Rosenbrock

Must-See U.S. Public Gardens