Courtesy of Longwood Gardens
Courtesy of Longwood Gardens
Courtesy of Longwood Gardens
Sometimes, you just want to get lost in nature. But you don’t have to dive deep into the forest or trek to a national park in order to do so — you can just go to a botanical garden. These special spaces are lush with vegetation, artwork, ponds and greenhouses where you can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. While there are amazing botanical gardens all across the country, these are some of the best.
Courtesy of Franklin Park Conservatory
The best botanical gardens follow a few key guidelines. They are open to the public and provide truly awe-inspiring vistas. They also have some sort of research component and offer educational programming. These botanical gardens don’t just check off those boxes, they go above and beyond with their lush scenery and community involvement.
Courtesy of Sarah P. Duke Gardens/Clarence Burke, Photographer
The Sarah P. Duke Gardens on the campus of Duke University is free and open 365 days a year. As if that isn’t enough reason to stop by this Durham, North Carolina, gem, you’ll see plants native to the South as well as fascinating carnivorous plants. An English garden, peaceful pond and Japanese maples are just some of the reasons that Duke is one of the most beautiful college campuses in America.
Courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden/Antonio M. Rosario, Photographer
You’ll never know you’re in a bustling area of Brooklyn, New York, when visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This urban garden is perhaps best known for its annual Sakura Matsuri festival, which celebrates Japanese culture and numerous blooming cherry blossom trees in the spring. Indeed, this botanical garden is one of the best places in the world to see cherry blossoms.
Courtesy of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden/Tom Hennessy, Photographer
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia, has 12 distinct areas, each with its own remarkable beauty. The Cochrane Rose Garden is perhaps the most romantic of all the areas here, with over 70 varieties of blooming roses across 1,300 rose bushes. You can also easily get lost in the Woodland Walk, which has lush greenery that will make you forget you’re just 10 miles from Richmond’s American Civil War Museum, one of the must-visit spots for American history buffs.
Courtesy of Atlanta Botanical Garden
The Atlanta Botanical Garden has been going strong since 1976, with 30 acres of gardens to explore. One of the best date spots in America, this Georgia garden houses the Storza Woods, where you can walk among the treetops along the Kendeda Canopy Walk. Other highlights include the Cascades Garden with an ethereal Earth Goddess installation and the romantic Rose Garden with over 100 different kinds of roses.
Courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden/Cassidy Moody, Photographer
St. Louis’ Missouri Botanical Garden is America’s oldest continually operating botanical garden and a National Historic Landmark. The 79-acre garden’s highlights include its expansive orchid collection, with roughly 6,500 individual blooms and 686 different kinds of plants, as well as the 14-acre Japanese Garden and its cherry trees. The orchids and cherry blossoms are in bloom in March, putting this place right up there with the best springtime destinations in America.
Courtesy of San Francisco Botanical Garden
San Francisco is one of the most expensive destinations in America, but if you’re looking to do something affordable, hit up the San Francisco Botanical Garden. This place is perhaps best known for its magnificent magnolias collection, one of the most significant conservation collections of this bloom in America. The 200-plus trees are at their prime from January to March and include 63 different species, many of which are rare or historic.
Chicago is a city with no shortage of things to do and see, including movie locations you can visit in real life. But if you find yourself in the Windy City, be sure to stop by the Garfield Park Conservatory. Despite being in the middle of the city, this botanical garden has over 10 acres of outdoor space and a massive indoor conservatory. Inside, you will find a variety of landscapes from a massive tropical garden with palm trees to a desert house filled with cacti and succulents.
Courtesy of Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens/Roxanne Perkins, Photographer
The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg, California, is located right by the Pacific Ocean and is one of those places only West Coasters know about. In addition to its oceanside views, this garden is famous for its rhododendron collection. There are more than 1,000 flowers from 124 species. Catch them during peak bloom in April and May.
Courtesy of Desert Botanical Garden
You will never think that the desert is devoid of life again after visiting Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden. This space has over 55 acres and thousands of species of cacti, trees and flowers from desert climates around the world. In addition to taking in the giant cacti and rare species, be sure to see what just might be the largest agave collection in the United States with over 180 species of this plant. Admission is complimentary on the second Tuesday of every month, making this place one of the best free attractions in America.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Park Conservancy
With over 100 acres of green space, the Elizabeth Park Conservancy in West Hartford, Connecticut, is home to the first municipal rose garden in the United States. This romantic spot has over 15,000 rose bushes and 800 varieties of flowers and a gazebo that is draped in rambler roses, making for a supremely stunning sight.
© Denver Botanic Gardens/Scott Dressel-Martin, Photographer
The Denver Botanic Gardens has dozens of distinctive gardens across 24 acres at its York Street site. This garden is renowned for its Gardens of the West, which highlight plants that thrive in Colorado’s vast steppe climate, including succulents, ornamental grasses and other drought-tolerant plants. While this garden thrives in the spring and summer, visit during the holidays to see the immersive Blossoms of Light display, one of the most amazing Christmas light displays in America.
Anderson Japanese Gardens/Yelp
The Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois, is an authentic Japanese garden that has the three classic elements of such a space: stone structures, water and plants. Walk the winding pathways across 12 acres to see streams, waterfalls and koi-filled ponds as well as the lush Asian-inspired architecture and greenery. It’s the perfect place to relax and take some “me time.”
Courtesy of City of Boston/Lauren Patrick, photographer
Boston Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in America and dates way back to 1837. This National Historic Landmark is free to meander through and visit, but be sure to take a ride on the pond in one of the iconic swan boats for a classic experience. Complete your day in Boston by visiting the nearby Faneuil Hall Marketplace, one of the most-visited tourist attractions in America.
Courtesy of Dallas Arboretum
The Dallas Arboretum is a massive botanical garden that spans 66 acres with 19 distinctive areas including an 8-acre children's garden with 150 interactive science games. Every spring, the Dallas Arboretum hosts Dallas Blooms, a seasonal festival with over 500,000 tulips, daffodils, Dutch iris and hyacinths. Springtime also brings blooming cherry blossoms and azaleas to the gardens, making this one of the most Instagrammable springtime spots.
Courtesy of Tucson Botanical Garden/Randy Larson, photographer
The Tucson Botanical Garden is the perfect place to get away from it all. Look no further than the botanical garden’s peaceful Zen Garden, which is a truly relaxing sight. If you want to further explore your inner peace, the Tucson Botanical Garden also offers classes on tai chi, yoga, journaling and other small habits that can change your life.
Courtesy of Franklin Park Conservatory
The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the best places in America for indoor fun, thanks to its massive greenhouses and biomes. Explore diverse plant life from the rainforest to the desert to the Pacific islands all while being in the heart of the Midwest. When the weather is nice, check out the 88-acre Franklin Park, which always has stunning seasonal blooms.
Located in the heart of one of the trendiest travel destinations, Albuquerque, New Mexico, the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden features more than 1.5 miles of paths through 13 different exhibits. As soon as you enter the botanic garden gates, you will see the walled gardens featuring Spanish-Moorish architecture. You’ll feel like a world traveler here as you explore the Sasebo Japanese Garden, Mediterranean Conservatory and the Rio Grande Heritage Farm, which resembles a 1930s farmstead.
Courtesy of United States Botanic Garden
Established on the National Mall in 1820, the United States Botanic Garden is full of history. While the District of Columbia as a whole is best known for its picturesque cherry blossoms, the United States Botanical Garden has 65,000 plants including Mid-Atlantic plants and roses across the Conservatory, the National Garden and Bartholdi Park.
Courtesy of New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx claims the title of the largest botanical garden in an American city. Indeed, this space is expansive at a whopping 250 acres that contain 50 specialty gardens and more than 1 million plants. Because of the NYBG’s scope, there’s a garden area for everyone here at any time of year, from an Orchid Show in February to water lilies and lotus blooms in the summer. There’s so much to do in New York City, it can be easy to forget about this spot, making the NYBG one of the most underrated tourist spots in America.
Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden
Located 20 miles north of Chicago in Glencoe, Illinois, the Chicago Botanic Garden is perhaps best known for its annual Orchid Show, which runs in February and March. During this event, more than 10,000 blooms are illuminated, hung as chandeliers, cascaded over flying carpets and displayed in other remarkable ways. If orchids aren’t your thing, this massive botanical garden also boasts 385 acres and more than 2.6 million plants, so you’ll certainly find a spot for a beautiful photo.
One of the best things to do in Florida beyond the beach, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida, is a warm-weather wonderland. The best way to see this expansive botanical garden is via a 45-minute free, narrated tram tour during which you'll learn all about the different plant collections across Fairchild. Highlights of this space include The Richard H. Simons Rainforest, where you’re literally surrounded by rich, green plant life, and the butterfly garden.
Located in Papaikou on the big island of Hawaii, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden has over 2,000 species of plants across 40 acres thanks to its natural greenhouse atmosphere and fertile volcanic soil. See the 200 different species of palm trees in Palm Vista and marvel at the tropical Hawaiian plants such as the bat plant, hibiscus and spider lily. The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is also one of those great destinations for animal lovers — it’s the home to wildlife like the Black-crowned night heron, mongoose and Hawaiian monk seal.
With 110 acres of gardens, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, North Carolina, has nine distinctive areas. Don’t miss the imaginative children's garden called the Lost Hollow, the 8,000-square-foot orchid conservatory or over 3 miles of garden trails for easy, relaxing hikes.
Courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden/Mike Centioli, Photographer
Once called “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan,” the Portland Japanese Garden overlooks the city of Portland, Oregon, and is the definition of tranquil. With 12 acres and eight distinctive gardens, you can immerse yourself in Japanese architecture, plant life and culture by seeing the serene tea garden or marveling at the incredible art of bonsai in the Ellie M. Hill Bonsai Terrace. Seeing an authentic Japanese garden is one of the experiences you want to have abroad, but this is the next best thing.
Courtesy of Longwood Gardens
Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, is absolutely massive, featuring 1,100 acres of gardens. Don’t think you have to visit during the spring, either. This botanical garden has five distinctive seasons: Orchid Extravaganza in winter, Spring Blooms, Festival of Fountains in summer, Autumn's Colors and a Longwood Christmas. Visit in October and stroll through Peirce’s Woods to see some of the best fall foliage in America.
Courtesy of Bellevue Botanical Garden
The Bellevue Botanical Garden began in 1981 when Cal and Harriet Shorts gave their mid-century home and 7.5 acres of land to the city of Bellevue, Washington. Now, nearly 30 years later, this humble homestead has grown into a 53-acre botanical garden with 14 distinctive areas, including those dedicated to dahlias, rhododendrons and fuchsias. The Bellevue Botanical Garden also offers classes on garden design, urban gardening and how to care for flowers like fuchsias and hydrangea, perfect for any rookie who wants to know how to start a garden.
Courtesy of Tower Hill Botanic Garden
The Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts, is expansive, with 171 acres and 17 different gardens. This botanical garden is dedicated to horticulture with designated areas for growing vegetables, oranges, lemons and different apple varieties. One of the most popular spots here is the Field of Daffodils, where 25,000 daffodils bloom in late April, making it one of the places that really comes alive in the springtime.
A dog-friendly park, the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville, Florida, is comprised of 68 acres. Within that, there are 24 major areas, including a butterfly garden, the largest herb garden in the Southeast, a vinery and the Wedding Oak, an idyllic wedding venue. If you want a wholly different experience, visit in May for the annual Moonlight Walk, where the botanical garden is illuminated with 1,500 luminaries and lasers. It's a sight like no other.
Courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one of the most underrated American towns and is worth visiting for its breweries and museums, but also be sure to stop by the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. This 158-acre space has Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory and numerous themed gardens. The 30-acre sculpture park is perfect for art lovers and is home to 300 different works of art from the late 19th century.
Courtesy of Brookgreen Gardens/“Call of the Sea” by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth
Located 17 miles south of popular tourist spot Myrtle Beach, Brookgreen Gardens is an absolutely enormous space with over 9,100 acres of gardens, zoo, sculpture space and Lowcountry trails in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. The most remarkable part of this expansive botanical garden is Live Oak Allée, where 250-year-old oak trees drape over the pathways.
With 10 different areas to explore, the Bloedel Reserve in Bainbridge Island, Washington, has truly stunning views of Puget Sound. You don’t have to go to the spring-fed Reflection Pool to have a moment of contemplation. This botanical garden has a Strolls for Well-Being program, where participants take 12 walks through the gardens and learn how to reconnect with nature, experience joy and express gratitude.
Ganna Walska Lotusland/Yelp
Founded by the late eccentric Ganna Walska, an opera singer and socialite, the 37-acre Ganna Walska Lotusland has over 20 distinctive gardens. If you love succulents, this is the garden for you — Lotusland features gardens dedicated to cactus, succulent and euphorbia plants. Only accessible through private tours, Lotusland will change the way you see plants and maybe inspire you to start a garden of your own.
A part of the University of Minnesota, up there with the most beautiful colleges in the Midwest, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is actually 26 miles from campus in Chaska, Minnesota. This garden features over 5,000 plants across 1,200 acres including tons of trees and shrubs, so you really feel like you're lost in the forest.
Courtesy of Memphis Botanic Garden
The Memphis Botanic Garden in Memphis, Tennessee, has numerous gardens across 96 acres. For a touch of the South, be sure to see the Magnolia Trail, which features over 300 trees, and for an international feel, wander through the Asian Garden and peep the Japanese Maples. While in Memphis, be sure to walk along Beale Street and visit Sun Studio, just two of the 101 things every American should do in a lifetime.
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*After a reporters error, this slide was updated on 3/13/2020 to reflect the acreage of Memphis Botanic Garden