The Midwest is home to numerous nature experiences, including botanical gardens. Each time I visit one of these attractions, I find myself planning a return visit. Each season offers something new to experience. The sights, colors, and smells are sure to lure you in. Each of these botanical gardens has something unique to offer and is worth every moment you spend exploring.
1. Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory
Fort Wayne, Indiana
The Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory is located in downtown Fort Wayne. The gardens are open all year, and there are three indoor gardens that showcase more than 1,200 plants and 72 different types of cacti. Indoors you will find the Tropical Garden, Desert Garden, and the Showcase Garden. There are also waterfalls, goldfish, numerous cacti, and beautiful seasonal displays that showcase the time of year you visit. You will want to stroll the pathways around the main building to see the different types of grasses, fish, and art that sit next to the city.
This botanical garden is unique because it offers natural beauty in the heart of Fort Wayne. It's a place to reflect, move at a slower pace, and connect with nature. Parking is free when you park at the Civic Center Parking Garage with a validated ticket from the Conservatory.
Pro Tip: If you need a wheelchair-accessible entrance, you will want to enter along Calhoun Street. Wheelchairs and strollers are easy to navigate through the gardens as well. There is a small entrance fee for all guests. Dress in layers, as you will be indoors and outdoors when visiting these beautiful gardens.
2. Sunken Gardens
The Sunken Gardens in Lincoln are free to visit. The art that sits among the colorful plants and flowers is stunning. A waterfall, lily pond, and sculptures make these gardens one of the best I have ever visited. On the day that I explored the gardens, volunteers were weeding the flower beds. The garden area is not large, but it is bursting with everything you would want to experience while visiting a botanical garden. August is a fantastic time of year to visit, as the colors are rich and the weather is nice. Free parking is nearby, and the gardens are wheelchair-accessible. You will want to allow yourself a minimum of an hour to explore this gorgeous area in Lincoln.
Wichita is home to Botanica, 17 acres of beautiful gardens embedded in the Riverside neighborhood. The Koch Carousel Garden is home to one of the few remaining Allan Herschell carousels in the world. Along with the Butterfly House, the Butterfly Garden is always bursting with butterflies among the budding flowers. If you are a bird enthusiast, you will appreciate the Woodland Bird Garden. Make time to look at the art, water fountains, and all that nature has provided in this beautiful setting. What stands out to me the most is that these gardens are in a metropolitan area, and you are immediately taken into a natural environment. There is a small entrance fee, and the gardens are open all year long. Dress in layers, as you will be in and out of buildings while visiting.
4. International Peace Garden
Dunseith, North Dakota
The International Peace Garden may be the least visited botanical garden in the country because it’s located on the Canadian border in North Dakota. With more than 2,400 acres of indoor and outdoor spaces, these gardens will help you find peace. A visit to these gardens, which includes an opportunity to stand in Canada and the U.S. at the same time, will mesmerize you. You will want to drive your car to different areas of the park and then walk around. This park is stunning and offers a lot of wide-open spaces. Summertime is the best time of year to visit, as the colors are vibrant. The grounds are also popular for skiing and hiking in the winter. There are a small number of wheelchairs available, and they can be reserved by calling (888) 432-6733.
You will cross over into Canada during your visit, and you will need identification for re-entry into the U.S. A passport, Nexus Card, or government ID with a birth certificate will be required to cross back into the United States.
5. Central Gardens of North Iowa
Clear Lake, Iowa
Central Gardens of North Iowa is located in the heart of Clear Lake. The 2.75 acres of gardens are kept beautiful all year long by volunteers. These calming gardens are open May 1 through November 1, from sunrise to sunset. Sunrise is a prime time to stroll these grounds. The birds are chirping, and the squirrels are chasing each other through the brush, which makes for fun viewing. Each time I wander through these gardens, I find something new. The tulips are bursting with color in May, and the fall colors appear when September rolls around. Each month brings its beauty to these gardens. There is no entrance fee, and free parking is nearby. Plan a minimum of one hour for your visit. The paved path is wheelchair-friendly and a fairly even surface.
6. Toledo Botanical Garden
The Toledo Botanical Garden is open daily from 7 a.m. until dusk. It is often referred to as a museum of plants. Put on a good pair of walking shoes and explore the 60 acres of natural beauty. I love the Artisan Village, which consists of sculptures that are located through the garden. This garden is similar to others in the Midwest in that you can plan on visiting several times throughout the year and seeing something different in bloom each season. The dahlias are located near the rose garden and are exceptional when in bloom.
The Doneghy Inclusive Garden offers wheelchair-accessible garden beds, ADA-compliant seating with a pergola, a sensory water wall, and planting with scent and touch. This section of the Toledo Botanical Garden makes it an over-the-top experience for everyone. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the view. It's important to note that everyone will enjoy this section of the garden, as it's truly a beautiful part of the area. If you enjoy painting, pack an easel and your painting brushes. These gardens offer the view of a painted picture around every bend.
7. Anderson Japanese Gardens
The Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford is one of the most unique gardens I have experienced in the Midwest. The landscape in the gardens resembles a Japanese-style landscape. This landscape, accompanied by water and plants that change colors throughout the season, makes it a great year-round garden to visit. The pagodas and stone lanterns bring the Japanese experience to life as you stroll through the 12 acres. Visitors are asked to be quiet as they experience the ambiance that the gardens have to offer. There is a small entrance fee, and the gardens are wheelchair-accessible. Plan 90 minutes for your visit and wear comfortable walking shoes.
8. Overland Park Arboretum And Botanical Gardens
Overland Park, Kansas
The Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is made up of 300 acres in the Kansas City region. There are more than 1,700 species of plants with various landscapes that are sure to capture your attention. These incredible gardens have more than six miles of paved and wood chip hiking trails. The wide-open prairie makes it easy for you to find your own space to experience these beautiful gardens. The trails are wheelchair-accessible, and there are benches to sit on along the trails. There are two 75-foot bridges that highlight the trails.
The gardens are open all year long, and the colors change through the season. The vibrant colors flow from the hills, and the wildflowers are extremely beautiful in July. A fun thing to see is the Legacy Garden. It is home to time capsules that are opened every 25 years. The International Sculpture Garden is home to a series of sculptures located in a dry oak savanna ecosystem. Plan to spend a minimum of two hours in these gardens, as there is a lot to experience. There is a small admission fee for each visit unless you have an annual pass.
These eight botanical gardens each offer something unique for each visitor. Some of these botanical gardens offer winter activities, as well. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular in many gardens and parks throughout the Midwest. As with any of these incredible botanical gardens, plan to visit several times throughout the year. Here are some tips to help make all of your visits the best they can be.
Save money by buying a membership that will cover your entrance fees throughout the year. Dress appropriately for the season and in layers. Keep in mind that the Midwest can be extremely hot in the summer and frigid in the winter.
When you immerse yourself into these gardens, you will find a new sense of peace and calm in your life. You cannot visit any of these gardens without a new appreciation of the experience that these incredible botanical gardens have to offer. Each of these gardens offers authenticity, uniqueness, and an opportunity for you to connect with nature.