There’s nothing like a visit to a botanical garden to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, soak up some peace and tranquility, and delight in the natural beauty of flowers, plants, and trees. Whether you’re interested in seeking inspiration for your home garden, exploring the history behind heritage sites, or just getting outside for a stroll in picturesque surroundings, botanical gardens have something for you.
These eight are among the best of the hundreds of wonderful botanical gardens and arboretums all across the US:
1. United States Botanic Garden
When it comes to American botanical gardens, you’ll find the historic United States Botanic Garden on just about every “best of” list. First conceived of by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison in the late 1700s, the garden was established by Congress in 1820, and has occupied its current location since 1933.
Come for the history, stay for the collection of 65,000 plants, the gorgeous conservatory, and a rare moment of serenity just steps from the US Capitol. Bonus: admission to the garden is free of charge all year round.
2. San Francisco Botanical Garden
San Francisco’s rapidly shifting weather patterns make the city the perfect home for one of the world’s most naturally biodiverse botanical gardens. Covering 55 acres in Golden Gate Park, the garden features some 8,000 plants native to just about every climatic zone on earth.
This means you’ll not only find California redwoods here, but also high-elevation tropical gardens housing equatorial mountain plants as well as the most varied collection of magnolias outside China.
3. Denver Botanic Gardens
If you think botanical gardens are only worth visiting in the spring or summer, it’s time to think again. The Denver Botanic Gardens offer visitors a unique opportunity to see just how striking a botanical garden can be during the winter months. Exploring the gardens on snowy days, when sound is muffled and the shapes and silhouettes of the plants have been transformed by snow, is a truly special experience.
Be sure not to miss the tempered glass sculptures by award-winning artist Dale Chihuly. They are on permanent display around the gardens and are especially eye-catching in winter.
4. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens have only been open to visitors since 2007. However, these distinctive gardens are already proving to be one of the region’s most popular destinations.
Created with the aim of preserving, protecting, and showcasing coastal Maine’s natural beauty, the gardens span 270 acres of tidal shoreland, including almost a mile of tidal saltwater frontage. Visitors can wander through a dramatic and compelling natural landscape while viewing some of the finest examples of plants suited to the specific conditions of the northern Atlantic coast.
5. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Located in Fort Bragg, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is another of America’s few gardens set right on the coast. These beautiful gardens cover a 47-acre stretch of California coastline between the iconic Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean.
Not surprisingly, helping to preserve the coast and the ocean is a key priority of the gardens’ conservation program. Visitors can enjoy breathtaking ocean views, view a diverse array of plants only found in mild climates, and spot more than 160 species of coastal birds.
6. Desert Botanical Garden
Located in Phoenix, Arizona, the Desert Botanical Garden is living proof that the words “desert” and “garden” aren’t mutually exclusive. The garden was established in 1939 by the Arizona Native Plant Society to educate locals and visitors alike about the Sonoran Desert’s unique plant and animal life.
The result is a stunning 140-acre garden with five different walking loops that meander through a collection of over 50,000 plants. These include a diverse array of agave and cacti, desert wildflowers, and arid herbs.
7. Missouri Botanical Garden
One of America’s most popular botanical gardens is located right in the heart of St. Louis, Missouri, on the former estate of the garden’s founder, Henry Shaw. In the 1840s and 50s, Shaw set about developing the 75 acres surrounding his country home into a beautiful, European-style botanical garden.
Today, the garden welcomes nearly 1 million visitors every year to its distinctive attractions. These include Shaw’s historic house; a gorgeous 14-acre Japanese garden; one of the world’s largest rare orchid collections; and the unique Climatron greenhouse, which is the first ever conservatory to be housed in a geodesic dome.
8. Washington Park Arboretum
There is much to enjoy about this 230-acre parkland next to Lake Washington. The main road is lined with trees that display beautiful blooms in the spring and bright foliage in the fall. Additionally, its series of meticulously landscaped gardens meander through wetlands and woodlands.
But the highlight of the Washington Park Arboretum is undoubtedly the Japanese Garden. The largest of its kind found anywhere outside Japan, this garden greets visitors every spring with the Pacific Northwest’s most stunning display of cherry blossoms.