These can’t-miss botanical gardens and arboretums are some of the best in the country, and the images are stunning. Go ahead and add these gardens to your travel bucket list!

By Emily VanSchmus
July 19, 2019

There’s nothing like spending time in your own garden, but wandering through a botanical garden is a great way to find fresh garden inspiration. Many of them also offer classes that provide valuable tips and ideas for your own landscapes. The U.S. is home to hundreds of botanical gardens, arboretums, and conservatories, which range from dozens of acres in size to modest urban sites. Some have been around for decades and are steeped in history, while others are brand new. Each one has something unique to offer, and is worth a visit, but we’ve rounded up our favorite must-see gardens around the country.

Missouri Botanical Garden

Located in the heart of St. Louis, the Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the most popular in the country. This year, the Travel Channel named it one of America’s Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens for its almost 80 acres of gardens, displays, and historic landmarks. It includes a 14-acre Japanese garden, a Floral Display Hall that is home to an annual rare orchid show, and the sprawling 1850 estate of garden founder Henry Shaw. The gardens are open year-round and entrance is free on certain Saturdays for local residents. 

Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona leaves no doubt that stunningly beautiful landscapes are possible even in very dry climates. It comprises more than 50,000 plants, including 379 rare and endangered species as well as an extensive collection of agave and other cacti, which thrive in the arid southwest climate.

Image courtesy of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

Made famous by its annual pumpkin village display, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in east Texas sprawls over 66 acres. The gardens were voted One of the South’s Best Botanical Gardens by Southern Living Magazine in 2017. While all of the gardens are stunning, the Trial Garden is at the center of the Arboretum’s research efforts and features between 3,000 and 5,000 new plants annually; to date, the Trial Garden has planted and researched more than 1.4 million plants.

United States Botanic Garden

Located steps away from the United States Capitol building, it’s no surprise that the United States Botanic Garden exceeds expectations. Walk through both indoor and outdoor gardens, including a butterfly garden, rose garden, and the First Ladies water garden, which pays tribute to some of the country’s most important women. According to the organization’s website, the idea for the garden came directly from George Washington himself, although Congress did not establish the official gardens until 1820. The Conservatory and National Garden are free to visit every day of the year, and often feature free shows and exhibits.

Related: Garden Ideas from the United States Botanic Garden

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Centrally located in Columbus, Ohio, The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is home to more than 400 species, spread across 90 acres of land. In addition to its fabulous plant collections, the conservatory also offers daily classes and sessions, like a build-your-own terrarium course and an event called Cocktails at the Conservatory—sign us up!

Related: Host a Terrarium-Making Party

Image courtesy of the Denver Botanic Garden.

Denver Botanic Gardens

While the Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado are gorgeous year-round, the gardens are especially striking in the winter months. The gardens feature permanent tempered glass sculptures by award-winning glass artist Dale Chihuly, which become the primary attractions on snowy days. The gardens also host an annual holiday light show called Blossoms of Light that runs November through January every year.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens are the only gardens on our must-see list with a direct ocean view. The gardens span 47 acres of coastline between California's iconic Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean, which the gardens actively preserves through its conservation program. In addition to breathtaking ocean views, the gardens enable visitors to experience a variety of plants that can only be grown in mild climates like that of northern California.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia was named one of the Top 10 North American Gardens by the Canadian Garden Tourism Council and the American Public Gardens Association. With more than 50 acres of beautifully designed landscapes, it’s no surprise this garden has been topping travel lists for years. 

All of these gardens participate in the American Horticultural Society's Reciprocal Admissions Program, which provides free admission or other benefits to this organization's members as well as members of any of the participating gardens. What better way to save a little money while visiting all these amazing places!

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