The Country's Best Gardens

The Country's Best Gardens

Get to know the country’s best botanical gardens to consider for your next vacation.

By: Mary S.

Botanical gardens provide a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of life. Summer is underway and gardens everywhere are in full bloom. Whether you’re a flower lover or want to enjoy the great outdoors, these gardens around the country are some of the best ways to experience nature’s beauty.

Missouri Botanical Garden
This National Historic Landmark was founded in 1859 and is the country's oldest botanical garden. Located in St. Louis, the 79-acre garden continues to inspire and educate visitors. There are several themed gardens like the Victoria, Daylily, Sensory, Herb and Rose Gardens, plus a maze and a Pincushion Garden with about 25,000 succulents planted in geometric designs. See landscapes from around the world with the Japanese, Chinese, Bavarian and Ottoman Gardens. The Children’s Garden offers wonderful features like a tree house, steamboat and limestone cave.

The Climatron is a domed greenhouse and conservatory emulating a tropical rainforest. It contains over 2,800 plants, a waterfall and a river aquarium in a controlled environment. Explore the Butterfly House with thousands of butterflies. Wildflowers surround several trails around the park.

Huntington Library, Art Collections and Gardens
This gem is tucked in the Los Angeles suburb of San Marino and is a lovely escape from the city. Fourteen gardens on 120 acres include rose, herb, palm, camellia, lily pond, and desert themes, as well as Chinese and Australian gardens and a Japanese garden with a ceremonial teahouse. The popular Children’s Garden has many interactive areas including garden tunnels and plant clubhouses.

This is also one of the country’s finest research libraries with over nine million items in its collection, including Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales Ellesmere manuscript. In addition, the complex houses an extensive art collection that includes Gainesborough's Blue Boy and Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie.

Desert Botanical Garden
While the desert may not be what comes to mind for beautiful blooms, this garden in Phoenix, Arizona will definitely change your mind. There are over 55,000 displays showcasing the world’s diverse desert plants. Several trails and permanent exhibits take visitors through an abundant display of cacti, succulents, towering saguaros (mostly found in Arizona) and desert wildflowers. There are also trails to learn how the desert dwellers used these plants for food, tools and homes.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
This 270-acre waterfront garden showcases Maine's coastal landscape. Located over an hour from Portland, the grounds are filled with many flowering plants and trees. Several pathways and trails lead to well-maintained gardens and coastlines for amazing views. Themed gardens include the Rhododendron and Rose Gardens, as well as the Garden of the Five Senses. River cruises are available to see the area from a different perspective. Don’t miss the Kitchen Garden Café, where much of their produce is directly harvested from the gardens outside.

Portland Japanese Garden
This garden is repeatedly dubbed as the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan and is one of Oregon's favorite attractions. The garden embodies harmony, peace, simplicity and beauty. Its 5.5-acre area may be small, but it is meticulously laid out to take advantage of every space. It is filled with beautifully maintained shrubs, trees and plants.

There are five separate garden styles that include streams, quiet pathways and dry landscape areas of raked sand and stone, ideal for meditation. The Tea Garden has a symbolic stone walkway that leads to the authentic teahouse exclusively made of wooden pegs.

Grounds for Sculpture
This 42-acre public sculpture park and museum contains over 270 artworks from contemporary artists. Paintings come alive with their reconstruction into sculptures and settings. Visitors are encouraged to touch many of the marked sculptures. The life-sized sculptures are set amidst an arboretum and gardens with ponds, paved terraces and over 2,000 trees.

Several colorful peacocks also roam around freely. The park is located in Hamilton Township, which is about an hour from New York City and Philadelphia. Only 2,500 visitors are allowed inside at any given time to enhance everyone's experience.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
The tropics come alive at this 83-acre garden in Coral Gables, near Miami, Florida. Numerous tropical plant exhibits from around the world make this a visual and sensory feast. Walk through the 700-foot long Vine Pergola under flowering vines for a memorable experience. Fairchild has 11 lakes and water features, with tropical fish and some of the world's largest water lilies.

The Tropical Fruit Pavilion allows visitors to touch and taste exotic fruits grown locally. Stroll through rare plants and the largest collection of palms and ancient cycads in the world. The Wings of the Tropics exhibit is filled with thousands of colorful butterflies that are released twice daily. Experience the Simons Rainforest exhibit amid two acres of waterfalls, streams, orchids and palms.

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Mary writes for Hilton Mom Voyage and lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 12 year-old daughter and nine year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory of Guam, and believes all those years of island fever ignited her serious case of wanderlust.

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