Springtime is the best time to visit a botanical garden if you are a nature and flower lover as well as appreciate the new growth of lush green lawnscapes. I’ve decided to team up with a group of online adventurers for them to share their favorite botanical gardens throughout the USA.
Let’s get the adventure started in the Southeast.
Best Southeast Botanical Gardens You Must Visit This Spring
#1) Huntsville Botanical Gardens – Huntsville, AL
Melody Pittman from the Wherever I May Roam Blog and myself highly recommend Huntsville Botanical Gardens in Huntsville, AL. I’m partial to this garden since it’s in my backyard and I visit regularly for new landscape inspiration.
I’m fascinated by the Huntsville Botanical Garden (https://hsvbg.org) which is as much fun to hang out in and just read a book or magazine as it is to wander the unique gardens with pristine trees, plants, and flowers. There are 112 acres to explore in this Alabama gem, which also includes a lovely Children’s Garden and the largest open-air butterfly house in the country.
My two favorite gardens are the Damson Aquatic Garden, with serene, picturesque pergolas sitting over a colorful water lily pool, and the Herb Garden. The Herb Garden is unlike any other that I’ve seen, with an adorable cottage amidst 13 theme gardens. Some are designed for wheelchair patrons and some for special needs. There is one portion of medical herbs, but the real star of the show is the Biblical Garden, with plants that are mentioned in the Bible. I’ve never seen many of the plants in this herb garden before.
#2) Cheekwood Botanical Garden – Nashville, TN
Walk among 250,000 blooming bulbs in the spring or one mile of holiday lights in the winter at Cheekwood. The 55-acre botanical garden and art museum presents world-class exhibits, spectacular gardens an historic estate unlike anything else. Visitors can enjoy family activities, programming for all ages, year-round festivals, and special events like Cheekwood in Bloom, Cheekwood Harvest, and Holiday Lights.
Learn More: Cheekwood Botanical Garden
#3) Memphis Botanic Garden – Memphis, TN
Memphis Botanica Garden hosts over 250,000 visitors each year, connects people with nature, and increases awareness and appreciation for the environment. The 96-acre property includes 30 specialty gardens and a Level 4 Arboretum, which provides the ability to interact with various families of plants, flowers, and trees. Memphis Botanic Gardens hosts special events and new exhibits, like Alice’s Adventures at the Garden opening in May 2022.
Learn More: Memphis Botanic Garden
Rip Van Winkle Gardens
Located close to Avery Island in New Iberia, Jefferson Island is one of five wooded “islands” near the southernmost part of Louisiana’s delta country. These salt domes rise up above the grassy marshlands and prairies that surround them. A mysterious place, the island is haunted by the legend that Jean Lafitte, the pirate, buried his treasures under the giant live oaks that would later shelter Rip Van Winkle Gardens.
The vista leading to the gardens is fringed with Rip Van Winkle Road, a 1.5- mile avenue of live oaks, and sentinels along the roadside. On both sides of the road, ponds surrounded by cypress trees offer two places of residence for the egrets and spoonbills that cross the road daily, sometimes accompanied by a thick-billed pelican. Visitors can see the birds at Rip’s Rookery during the nesting and rearing period in the spring.
On November 20, 1980, a drilling rig pierced one of the giant caverns of the Diamond Crystal Salt Mine under Lake Peigneur, flooding the entire mine. A vortex swallowed the lake, 65 acres of native woodland, a welcome center, a glass conservatory, and a new home.
Guests can watch the video of the catastrophe and tour the restored semi-tropical grounds among bamboos, camellias, azaleas, hydrangea, sugar kettle fountains, and exotic Asian statuary under the watchful eyes of the resident peacocks. Guided tours of the Joseph Jefferson Home (ca. 1870), the Victorian hunting lodge, and the painting studio of stage actor Joseph Jefferson, who portrayed Rip Van Winkle, are also available. Café Jefferson is open daily for lunch with a full Cajun and Creole menu and a stunning view of Lake Peigneur and the gardens. There are three well-appointed bed and breakfast cottages to call home for a peaceful get-away.
Learn More at Iberia Travel https://www.iberiatravel.com
#5) Birmingham Botanical Gardens – Birmingham, AL
Vanessa Shields, travel expert and creator of Traveling Ness recommends this lovely garden located in the middle of Alabama.
Any visit to Alabama should include visiting the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in Birmingham. There are 30 different themed gardens covering 67 acres all manicured to perfection.
Exploring Alabama’s largest living museum, the Birmingham Botanical Garden is an outdoor oasis within the city.
The rose gardens are one of the first parts you will come upon with roses in various colors sectioned within planters separated by grass and brick pathways, a sculpture, and a gazebo.
After wandering the rose and Ireland Iris Gardens you feel like you have been transported to the lavish gardens of Europe.
For nature lovers that want to go on a peaceful walk, explore the Alabama woodlands area for its secluded surroundings.
Or for those that have always wanted to visit Japan, the Japanese gardens are spectacular. The top highlights to see are the bold red Gateway to Heaven entrance, the bonsai pavilion, and large koi ponds with bridges.
Every garden is a photographer’s dream with the opportunity to capture over 12,000 unique plants. For a unique botanical garden experience, consider taking gardening, yoga, or lunch & learn class.
Before you leave, don’t miss out on visiting America’s only public horticultural library located in the Garden Center!
#6) Sunken Gardens – St. Petersburg, FL
While a visit to St. Petersburg, Florida offers many delights for the traveler, few are as inspiring as the Sunken Gardens. This unique garden sphere is located in the midst of the city hustle and bustle, but you’ll quickly leave the world behind as you descend intertwining pathways into a sunken oasis.
The Sunken Gardens originally opened to visitors nearly a hundred years ago and is recognized as one of the oldest roadside attractions. Today, however, the gardens offer far more than oddities. Here, over 50,000 species of tropical plants, including some of the oldest living specimens in the area, turn this 4-acre former lakebed into a calm and cooling haven.
Take a guided tour or garden class to learn more about the plant life living in the garden or simply wander at will. The soothing sound of flowing water and the colors of multiple plant species will always guide your feet onward to see what lies around each new bend.
The Sunken Gardens is also home to a flock of Chilean Flamingos, all descendants of the original birds brought to the botanical gardens in 1956. You can find the Sunken Gardens located at 1825 4th Street North in St. Petersburg, a must-do for any gardening enthusiast or anyone simply looking to leave the cares of the world behind for a few hours.
Kathleen Hesketh, author and travel blogger, Seconds to Go
#7) UT Gardens – Knoxville, TN
UT Gardens is one of three state botanical gardens in Tennessee sites in the state. The outdoor learning laboratory is open year-round and free to the public. Visitors can walk among the blooms, and attend workshops, horticultural therapy, children’s programming, and events. Visit UT Gardens for more.
Best Northeast Botanical Gardens You Must Visit
#1) Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens – Boothbay, Maine
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, located in the coastal town of Boothbay, Maine, is the largest botanical garden in New England. With nearly 300 tidal acres to explore, it’s an ideal spot to witness the beauty of flowers, walk the trails, see beautiful art and enjoy hands-on educational experiences for the whole family. Here are some highlights:
- 17 acres of gardens and numerous walking trails through forests and along the shore of Back River.
- Relax at their Meditation Garden or engage your senses at The Lerner Garden of the Five Senses.
- Watch butterflies flutter and pollinate flowers in the Butterfly House or see bees hard at work in the Native Bee Exhibit.
- The gardens have numerous art and sculpture exhibits throughout the year as well as many permanent pieces. Their most recent exhibit, Guardians of the Seeds by Thomas Dambo, showcases larger-than-life, recycled-wood troll sculptures.
- Kids and adults alike will enjoy checking out The Caterpillar Lab, where you can meet dozens of species and chat with the lab experts.
People can learn more by going to VisitMaine.com
#2) Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek
The Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek is an innovative educational and sustainable public botanic garden, situated near the Delaware Beaches and focused on preserving and showcasing native Atlantic Coastal Plain beauty. The 37-acre garden is a mix of a plateau, woodlands, and more than 1,000 feet of tidal waterfront on Pepper Creek. Professional horticultural displays create a sense of place, echoing the soft beauty of Delaware’s Inland Bays, and inspiring the continued conservation of the region’s unique ecological habitats. Don’t miss wandering the curving paths of the Meadow Garden, an innovative and picturesque refuge created by renowned plantsman PietOudolf. Birding enthusiasts flock to the Woodland Gardens and the Meadow, both ideal environments for native and migratory birds. Other activities include walking tours, children’s fun, classes, art, special events, and someday soon, weddings.
The Gardens’ new 800-square-foot rustic cedar restroom facility features several “Green Technology” features, including a 1,000-gallon stainless steel cistern and a “rain chain” that captures the rainwater from the restroom roof that in turn waters the rain garden’s native plant — which in turn filter the rainwater!
#3) New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill – Boylston, MA
New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill located in Boylston, Massachusetts is the premier destination for horticulturists and plant enthusiasts across New England. Having recently changed its name from Tower Hill Botanic Garden, New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill has remained true to its mission of a public community garden since its founding by the Worcester County Horticultural Society in 1840. The 171-acre botanic garden and arboretum feature 17 distinct gardens, preserved woodlands, and miles of walking trails.
Visitors and members of the New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill have long cherished the location for special events including weddings, family gatherings, hands-on activities and education for all ages, and more. Recently, their newest world-class garden, The Ramble will soon become a family favorite this spring and summer. With innovative features that invite visitors to explore the 1.5 acres, families and children are encouraged to take outdoor classes available, interact with nature and become stewards of the environment. New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill plans to extend its experiences to the entire region for all who seek the beauty of the Gardens as well as promote sustainability and biodiversity in the natural world.
#4) The Gardens at The Inn at Little Washington
The Inn at Little Washington, located outside of Washington DC in the Shenandoah Valley, is home to expansive gardens making for the perfect day trip, or overnight excursion, for visitors to explore the beauty of Virginia’s countryside.
Open to both guests and the public, The Inn’s gardens, helmed by Farmer in Residence, Joneve Murphy, produce more than 200 different varieties of vegetables, microgreens, herbs, and edible flowers. All of these are utilized at The Inn’s three-Michelin starred restaurant, and the campus’ new cafe, Patty O’s Cafe & Bakery. These vegetables account for approximately 8,000 pounds of the products used annually across the two restaurants.
More than 10,000 tulip bulbs are planted on the grounds and will begin to bloom this spring. The show garden is planted in beautiful patterns and all growing areas are managed organically. The campus is also home to a dwarf cherry tree orchard and a 672-square-foot greenhouse, in which guests have the opportunity to dine in. Guests will encounter Joneve regularly on walks around the 24-acre campus, tours with Joneve can also be organized. Garden snakes are known to appear to say hello and a highlight of the tour is always the “Bug Inn,” twelve “rooms” built in the vegetable garden to the house and attract beneficial bugs.
Learn more at https://www.theinnatlittlewashington.com/
Southern USA Botanical Gardens You Must Visit This Spring
#1) South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center – Corpus Christi, TX
The South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center in Corpus Christi, Texas is a must with its unique fauna and flora that makes outdoor and birding enthusiasts swoon. The property features Hummingbird, Arid, Plumeria, and Tropical gardens that give you an insight into beautiful views and great educational opportunities through various observatories and a future outdoor learning center. As a way to keep the gardens an open and inclusive space, a sensory garden is on property. Admission to the garden ranges from $5-$7 for nonmembers.
Corpus Christi is also widely known as a top premier birding destination which makes for a great birding scene through the South Texas Botanical Gardens. For the fourth year, the gardens will also be hosting the birdies Festival in America. The festival seeks new heights, in species counts, field trip excitement where festival go-ers can experience three premier world-class birding destinations, without leaving Texas!
For more information visit: https://www.visitcorpuschristi.com/listing/south-texas-botanical-gardens-%26-nature-center/208/
#2) Houston Botanic Garden – Houston, TX
From guided meditation classes, wellness walks, fairy gardening, plant-based culinary classes, a theatre where you can hear sounds that reflect the weather forecast, art installations from local Houston artists, Sunday Concert Series, the Houston Botanic Garden is home to so much discovery on its 120-acre property.
The Houston Botanic Garden includes a Global Collection Garden, the primary setting with three zones (arid, subtropics, and tropical); the Edible Garden, an exhibit of medicinal and edible plants/flowers from around the world; an Event Lawn and Glade; Susan Garver’s Children’s Discovery Garden, a three-acre area with natural play areas; Botanic Boulevard, a tree-line entrance; Picnic Grove; and Stormwater Detention Wetlands with plants that can help with flood control and water purification.
#3) Zilker Botanical Garden – Austin, TX
LoneStarMike, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Brian Donovan CEO of TimeShatter recommends the Zilker Botanical Garden is located in the heart of downtown Austin, Texas. It’s considered to be “the jewel in the heart of Austin.” Sitting on just under 30 acres, the Zilker Botanical Gardens has enough room for everyone to get a little reprieve from the busy city life. With ponds stocked with koi, to the Japanese Garden, to the rose garden, Zilker really is an urban oasis. The park is open to the public most days, year-round, with admission. The park hosts events year-round, so there’s always something special going on at the park, and is usually included with the price of admission. When in Austin, it’s a great little relaxing stop on your tour of the city.
Southwest Botanical Gardens You Must Visit This Spring
#1) ABQ Biopark Botanic Garden – Albuquerque, NM
At the Botanic Garden at ABQ Biopark, guests can explore over one and a half miles of paths through both formal and whimsical gardens. Designed to delight your senses, the botanic garden has several exhibits, including Mediterranean and Desert Conservatories, a 1930’s era farmstead, Japanese gardens, and a children’s fantasy garden where a fourteen-foot-high topiary dragon guards the castle gates. Additionally, the butterfly and bee exhibit offers an immersive experience featuring over 40 species of butterflies and moths as well as other pollinators, and the BUGarium features naturalistic habitats designed to reveal the unseen wonders of “bugs” from around the world. These exhibits, among several others, guarantee and nature-filled day for visitors of all generations.
Learn more: Visit Albuquerque
#2) Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens – Mendocino, CA
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Mendocino, California is the best botanical garden to visit for the ocean views.
As you wander the 47 acres of oceanfront property, there are various paths ultimately leading to the coastal bluffs.
Take a seat on one of several benches or in the Cliff House to enjoy the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and coastline. You may even spot a few whales migrating past you!
Explore the well-manicured Perennial Garden, the Woodlands, Camellia Collection, Magnolia Collection, the Dahlia Garden, and more.
For those that love art, you can find various sculptures scattered among the gardens too. And what better way to take in the gardens than with a yoga class, workshop, or a bird and whale watching walk.
If you happen to visit between December thru June, the Rhododendron flowers will be blooming!
#3) The Huntington Botanical Gardens
Kevin NguyenFounder at KevinNguyenExperiences.com recommends this gem in southern California.
“The Huntington is the best botanical garden in the USA due to its breadth of various different themed gardens you can explore. Imagine walking into a Japanese garden with zen gardens then being whisked away to an Australian-themed garden with Eucalyptus and finally to a beautiful English-styled rose garden. The Huntington Botanical Gardens is this and much more. Even if you are not a fan of one garden, there are chances you’ll find a garden that will wow and amazes you.”
Finally, as the cherry on top, a visit to The Huntington isn’t just exclusive to viewing gardens but it also includes a massive library and several art galleries all within the same vicinity! The galleries contain paintings and other sculptures from both American and European artists. Rain or shine, you’ll be able to enjoy The Huntington whether indoors or outdoors.
The Huntington is a short drive away from Los Angeles so whether you live in the area or are just visiting, a trip to the Huntington Botanical Gardens is only a short drive away!
Northern Botanical Gardens You Must Visit This Spring
#1) Quad City Botanical Center – Rock Island, Il
The Quad City Botanical Center in Rock Island, Illinois, is a must-see tourist destination for garden and art enthusiasts. This year-round tropical garden features a conservatory on the cutting edge of design, plus outdoor gardens when the weather turns warm again after winter.
The indoor conservatory is a tropical oasis in the Quad Cities with towering palm trees and exotic tropical plants that grow alongside the curving brick walkways throughout the garden. The mood is further enhanced by the sound of the 14-foot waterfall that glints in the sunshine coming in from the skylights. Watch the koi fish lazily swim in the pond or look for the turtle that has a home in the tropical garden too.
After exploring the plants native to nearly 100 tropical destinations, step out into the beautiful outdoor gardens. The grounds of the Quad City Botanical Center are filled with both annual and perennial flowers. Rare and unusual conifers, prairie flowers and plants, ornamental grasses, colorful annuals, and unique perennials surround a brick patio and pond. Multi-colored tulips, yellow daffodils, purple Muscari, and heirloom iris awaken each spring, while summer brings an effusion of birds, blooms, and butterflies.
The Children’s Garden is a popular spot because of its water feature that was designed to be played in by the kids. It’s an interpretation of the Mississippi River with a flowing stream and ways to change how the water flows and fun alligator, fish, and boat sculptures for pretend play. Look for the pocket fairy garden and watch up to four model trains in their garden spot.
For more information, visit www.qcgardens.com
#2) Munsinger and Clemens Gardens – St. Cloud, MN
Located along the Mississippi River across from St. Cloud State University, Munsinger and Clemens Gardens is a picturesque escape full of a huge variety of plant and flower life along with water features, plenty of seating, a gift shop, peacock enclosure, and more. Stroll the winding paths and brick pathways and enjoy a mix of shade and sun, beautiful nature and manmade creations, and so much more as you experience this dazzling St. Cloud treasure. Munsinger Gardens and Clemens Gardens are two distinct but adjacent gardens on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Munsinger Gardens dates back to the 30s; the WPA-constructed paths and garden areas are still here, refurbished and expanded in the 80s. This 14-acre garden features winding flower-bordered paths shaded under tall pines that wrap around grassy picnic areas, water features, a whimsical cottage, and of course the banks of the beautiful Mississippi River.
The Clemens Gardens, developed primarily in the 90s, provide 7 acres of considerable contrast. A collection of six gardens characterized by a formal European style, they are situated on the sunny hill above Munsinger. Among them are the Virginia Clemens Rose Garden, the Rest Area Garden, the Formal Garden, the White Garden, the Perennial Garden, and the Treillage Garden. All are enhanced with decorative ironwork and fountains. Both Gardens dazzle from late spring deep into fall.
The Gardens are open every day from Spring to Fall from 7:00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. Admission is free, and professional photography requires a permit but casual photos are highly encouraged. For more information, visit https://www.munsingerclemens.com/
#3) Cleveland Botanical Gardens – Cleveland, OH
Meredity from Kreateabuzz Documentary Films recommends the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. On one side is a hot, dry desert environment graced by baobabs and other African bottle trees you would never normally encounter here in the Rust Belt.. On the other side is a spacious, misty, multi-level rainforest with lots of bright-colored butterflies drifting hither and yon and plentiful plant and insect wonders to discover. While, in the streets outside, the surrounding university and museum corridor bustles with urban activity, inside these gardens is a quiet, magical, exhilarating world.
Midwest Botanical Gardens That You Must Visit This Spring
#1) Botanica Wichita – Wichita, KS
Vanessa Whiteside, a Wichitan and owner of the blog, www.onedelightfullife.com says about Botanica Wichita, “Even after several visits, you’re bound to discover something new every time you walk through the gardens. I love meandering the paths as they wind through thematic garden spaces and around beautiful sculptures. I never miss a chance to experience the Koch Carousel Gardens, the butterfly house, and the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Botanica is a treasure in the heart of downtown Wichita.“