Check out some of the most bizarre and beautiful plants in the world at a botanical garden. Most gardens allow visitors to sit on benches next to peaceful ponds, as well as take a stroll down winding paths lined with fragrant rose bushes. Whether you’re a local or visitor staying at a vacation rental nearby, you are sure to be awed by the country’s top botanical gardens.
1. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden – Richmond, Virginia
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond is regularly ranked among the top botanical gardens in the United States. It’s easy to see why as you stroll through the fragrant Rose Garden and explore the 11,000 square-foot glass-domed Conservatory. For families, the Children’s Garden is a must-visit; here, your little ones can climb a mulberry tree, dig in the dirt, and play on the universally accessible CWDKids Tree House. The garden is beautiful year-round, but it’s particularly stunning during the spring tulip bloom and the fall color season.
2. Desert Botanical Garden – Phoenix, Arizona
Wander through towering stands of flowering cacti at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Five different hiking trails take you past more than 50,000 plants; in the spring, be sure to explore the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail, which overflows with thrilling blooms. The garden also hosts rotating sculpture exhibitions and a popular annual butterfly exhibit each autumn. If you’re visiting at Christmas, don’t miss Las Noches de las Luminarias, when more than more than 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags fill the grounds with a magical glow.
3. Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Brooklyn, New York
Surround yourself with nature just minutes from the chaos of Manhattan at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The garden is at its most spectacular in the spring; in April and May, head for the Louisa Clark Spencer Lilac Collection for an overwhelming explosion of scent, and at the end of April, stroll down the Cherry Esplanade amid a forest of cherry blossoms. If you’re visiting in winter, warm up in the glass-enclosed Tropical Pavilion and Desert Pavilion.
4. Portland Japanese Garden – Portland, Oregon
Feel like you’ve stepped into another world at the Portland Japanese Garden, which sits in Washington Park. The most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan itself, this spot is packed with cultural references and exotic plants. Enjoy a walking meditation past waterfalls and streams in the Strolling Pond Garden, or follow paths of stepping stones to a peaceful tea house in the Tea Garden. The garden is open year-round, but it’s at its most colorful during the fall.
5. Missouri Botanical Garden – St. Louis, Missouri
With its Victorian hedge maze and hands-on Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden, the Missouri Botanical Garden has something for the whole family. The highlight is the Climatron, a geodesic dome that houses a tropical rainforest; the dome is warm and balmy year-round, and the river aquarium gives you a close-up look at rare tropical fish. The best time to visit is late spring, when the flowers are blooming and the temperatures are comfortable.
6. Memphis Botanic Garden – Memphis, Tennessee
For families with kids, the Memphis Botanic Garden is a must-see spot. Here, there’s no need to rein in active kids; set them free in My Big Backyard to climb into tree houses, build forts, and wiggle through worm tunnels. Other great spots in the garden, which is best visited in the spring and summer, include the calming Sensory Garden and the vibrant Daffodil Hill.
7. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens – Columbus, Ohio
Enjoy warm weather any time of the year at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus. Here, the enormous glass Conservatory hosts multiple biomes, so you can stroll through the desert or explore the rain forest. Outside, explore the formal Grand Mallway, or head into the magnificent Palm House, a grand Victorian-style glass greenhouse.
8. New York Botanical Garden – New York City, New York
One of the Big Apple’s hidden gems, the New York Botanical Garden is well worth the trip to the Bronx in the spring, summer, or fall. The United States’ largest Victorian-era glass house, which is home to 11 different environments, is the showpiece of the gardens. On the grounds, lose yourself in the scent of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, or feel the city noises drain away in the depths of the Thain Family Forest.
9. Allerton Garden – Kauai, Hawaii
The Allerton Garden, which is located on the south shore of Kauai, is a tropical paradise. It’s a must-see for film fans; the garden’s stunning Moreton Bay fig trees have served as filming locations for blockbuster hits including Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean. On a tour of the garden, you can stroll through a dense bamboo grove, explore a wild jungle setting, and see trees bursting with tropical fruit. The gardens are spectacular any time of year; for a lower chance of rain, visit during the summer.
10. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden – Coral Gables, Florida
Enjoy the shade at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, which is located on Old Cutler Road in Coral Gables. Allow a colorful butterfly to land on your shoulder in the Wings of the Tropics exhibit, or hike around the main trail to see the largest collection of palm trees in the United States. For a peek at the garden’s most bizarre, exotic plants, head for the Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House.
11. Atlanta Botanical Garden – Atlanta, Georgia
With its wide grounds and long paths, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is a great place for families. Play in the water fountains in the Lou Glenn Children’s Garden, or get high in the treetops on the thrilling Kendeda Canopy Walk. Don’t miss the Edible Garden, where you can see in-season fruits and veggies. The best time to visit is in May, when the roses are in full bloom, and at the holidays, when the Garden Lights event illuminates the garden.
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