A walk in a tranquil, beautiful botanical garden is a healthy activity whether you’re on vacation, or enjoying the nature in your local area. For those who might not be familiar with the term, a botanical garden is dedicated to the collection, cultivation, and display of a wide range of plants – labeled with their proper names for easy identification.Botanical gardens are often run by universities or other scientific research organizations, and they maintain the grounds and study the plants. There might be special plants, like cacti or herbs, or there might be plants you see every single day, like oak trees and grass. Visitor services at a botanical garden might include tours, educational displays, art exhibitions, open-air theatrical and musical performances, and other entertainment.
Most states have many botanical gardens open to the public, but only a handful can impress us enough to make our list of the top botanical gardens worth traveling for in the US. We’ve chosen these award-winners based on the plants on display, visitor activities and services, as well as customer reviews. So if you’re someone who appreciates nature and its study, consider a botanical garden visit on your next vacation.
Standing as one of Albuquerque’s most visited attractions, the ABQ BioPark is a unique environmental museum comprising four facilities – an aquarium, a zoo, fishing lakes, and a botanical garden. With plenty to do at the facility, the botanical garden can sometimes be overlooked, but we’d caution you against that. Open daily from 9am to 430pm, the botanical garden houses an Old World walled garden, conservatories representing both Mediterranean and Desert climates, a Japanese garden and a butterfly pavilion, among other exhibits. The site hosts field trips, Japanese garden tours, bird watching and more daily. There are over 100 plants and trees in the botanical garden, with those in bloom changing every season. As with most gardens on this list, you can rent it out for a wedding or other types of parties. Don’t forget to grab a souvenir at the gift shop or a sandwich at the cafe on your way out!
Ranked #1 out of 234 ‘Things to do” in Tucson on TripAdvisor, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has it all. The museum showcases the Sonoran Desert region, home to over 2,000 species of plants and known as the lushest desert on earth. With over 56,000 individual specimens planted on the grounds, you won’t run out of flora to look at. Walk through the desert grasslands, tropical forest, cactus center, pollination gardens, palo verde trees and more. Spend some time in the walk in aviary and see the birds flying directly above your head. The Raptor Free Flight is especially popular, where hawks and other birds showcase their flying and diving prowess, all in your vicinity. This museum welcomes over 400,000 visitors per year!
Weighing in at #3 ranked ‘Things to do’ in Atlanta on TripAdvisor, Atlanta Botanical Gardens are a must-visit in any season. You’ll find this attraction near Piedmont Park in downtown Atlanta. In the winter the Garden has a holiday light show. “Garden Lights, Holiday Nights” began in 2011 featuring displays created with more than 1.5 million lights. The Kendeda Canopy Walk allows visitors to walk over 600 feet of oaks, hickories and poplars. The Storza Woods, one of the last urban forests remaining, are viewed from above on this skywalk. The Rose Garden is a romantic beauty, you can eat your way through the Edible Garden, and the Children’s Garden has whimsical sculptures, fountains, and interpretive exhibits on botany, ecology, and nutrition. The Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory contains indoor exhibits of plants from tropical rainforests and deserts. The rain forest room of the Fuqua Conservatory is also populated by tropical birds, turtles, and several exhibits of poison dart frogs
You wouldn’t think that such incredible plant life could grow in the arid California sun, but you’ll be in awe of what’s presented at Balboa Park in San Diego. Balboa Park contains 350 species of plants on 1,200 acres (490 ha) of rolling hills and canyons, with approximately 1,500 trees. One of the most photographed spots in San Diego is of the Botanical Building with the lagoon and lily pads in the foreground (seen above). You’ll find seasonal flower displays inside as well as over 2000 permanent plants. There’s an Old Cactus Garden to explore, a Children’s Garden with educational classes, a Japanese Friendship garden, and of course a rose garden. The Alcazar Garden will transport you to Spain with ornate fountains, while the Australian Garden will send you down under with native plants from across the world.
Located in Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has been viewed by adoring visitors since 1910. Over 900,000 visitors per year enjoy the plants on display here. The specialty gardens at the BBG are what keeps bringing visitors back. Areas like the Cherry Tree garden that makes you feel as if you were strolling down a country road in Japan. The Hill-and-Pond garden is another area with very strong Japanese influence and is one of the most photographed areas in the BBG. The Shakespeare Garden showcases over 90 flora mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays! The Cranford Rose Garden has over 5000 bushes full of gorgeous roses. The herbarium contains a particular set of plants from the NYC metro areas for study, called the New York Metropolitan Flora project. There are many educational classes like a workshop for kids, internships, bonsai tree conservation classes and more. Open from 8am to 1230pm, tickets cost $12 for adults, but admission on a winter weekend is free!
Within 30 minutes of Philadelphia, Chanticleer is one of the great gardens of the region. It is open Wednesday through Sunday, April through October. The grounds of Chanticleer are vast, but sprinkled throughout are flora displays and curated gardens that are incredible to walk through. For example, the Asian Forest features plants from China, Korea, and Japan in the style of an American woodland. At Bell’s Run Creek you’ll find a bubbling brook that flows into a water wheel. In the Cut Flower Garden Tall, statuesque plants such as foxgloves and hollyhocks bloom in the summer. The Gravel Garden and Elevated Walkway are two architectural triumphs in a sea of floral ones. In the orchard you’ll find 80,000 daffodils in spring time. The Ruin Garden has grown around the fallen stones of the old Minder House, and the Serpentine Garden has a snake like appearance caused by well-maintained rows of young junipers. Lastly, in the Teacup Garden you’ll find a cacophony of sights and smells, all around a centerpiece of a fountain that looks like a teacup.
This arboretum ranks in at #1 of all ‘Things to do’ in Dallas. Do you have any idea how difficult that is? Reviewers have ranked it higher than the other 196 attractions in Dallas. Once you dig a little deeper, you’ll see why. Tickets are $15 for adults and they have a special “rainy day” cancellation policy which eases weather fears. With over 66 acres to explore, the specialized gardens are plentiful, like a azalea Color Garden, a fern dell, a Children’s Adventure Garden, and a beautiful crape myrtle walkway, among dozens of other areas to enjoy. The events are what really sets this venue apart – a Thursday concert series, nature nights, spring tea, senior nights, piano concerts, a Halloween pumpkin patch, a 12 Days of Christmas extravaganza, wine tours, whiskey tasting, fermentation guides, kids camps, and more. Also, Dallas Blooms: The Artistry in Nature is a spring event that was rated as one of the best in America. They also have a gift shop that is full of perfect souvenirs for your family.
This massive 112 acre plot is the talk of any traveler visiting Huntsville. Open year round for a $12 fee, the Huntsville Botanical Garden … The Biblical Garden feature plants mentioned in the Bible and the Daylily Garden offers over 675 cultivars of daylilies. Fern Glade has over 175 species of ferns, and a trip to the Herb Garden will show you 14 smaller garden areas and a cottage to explore. There are many seasonal events for guests, like in the winter the Beaks and Barks event encourages locals to come walk through with their dogs on the birding trail. Huntsville Blooms is a massive showcase for the garden in spring, and the Scarecrow Trail spooks visitors during Halloween season with hay rides and a Sorghum Maze. During the holidays, Galaxy of Lights is a holiday light extravaganza featuring larger-than-life animated light displays. There are fantastic walking opportunities year round on the Dogwood Trail and the Nature Trails, and of course around the entire grounds.
On the north side of Richmond, VA you’ll find the immaculately kept Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. This oasis has a country club feel and features winding paths around the grounds. Offering yoga, floral design, art illustration, beekeeping and more the Garden is always busy with locals and travelers. A classical domed Conservatory is the only one of its kind in the mid-Atlantic. More than a dozen themed gardens include a Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Asian Valley and Cherry Tree Walk.
By the people of St. Louis and all of those who visit the Missouri Botanical Garden, it can be only described as “a treasure”. It is also known informally as Shaw’s Garden for founder and philanthropist Henry Shaw. A vibrant tropical rainforest thrives inside the Climatron conservatory, while the adjoining Temperate House is home to a multitude of Mediterranean species. The Japanese Garden covers 14 acres, making it one of the largest Japanese strolling gardens in North America. Visit the sundial in the Ottoman Garden or the rhododendrons in the English Woodland Garden. The Victorian District has a hedge maze that should not be missed! The major event of the year is the Japanese Festival, where the culture, food, horticulture and people of the region are celebrated during Labor Day weekend. Visitors can shop and dine on site as well.