TravelAwaits readers voted in our 2021 Best of Travel Awards to help us determine everything from the best beaches to the friendliest small towns. Our readers have spoken. Here are the best botanical gardens in the United States.
Winner: Flamingo Gardens
Located about 20 minutes west of Fort Lauderdale in Davie, Flamingo Gardens is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Florida. The 60-acre botanical garden and wildlife refuge is home to over 3,000 species of rare and tropical, subtropical, and native plants and trees.
In addition to flora, the wildlife sanctuary offers up-close views of over 90 species of Florida fauna, including a flamboyance of flamingos, peacocks, alligators, bobcats, eagles, and panthers.
Finalist: International Peace Garden
Dunseith, North Dakota/Boissevain, Manitoba
Straddling the Canadian border in North Dakota, the International Peace Garden affords visitors the opportunity to stand in two countries simultaneously. Here, you can find one of the largest cacti and succulent collections in the world. June and July are optimal times to see the more than 80,000 flowering annuals, and the perennials are in all their glory.
At more than 2,400 acres, you’ll want to drive your car to different areas of the park and then walk around. Nestled in the heart of the Turtle Mountains, it’s also a popular spot for camping and hiking. Heads up: You will need identification for re-entry into the U.S.
Finalist: Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens
Over 60 types of gardens grace the scenic 56 acres of Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. From the beautiful rose garden to the peaceful Japanese garden, there’s something for everyone. An edible garden is cleverly dubbed the “Garden of Eat’n.” Entirely staffed by volunteers, the garden runs on donations. A large part of the arboretum is handicap accessible, and most of it is fairly level.
Missouri Botanical Garden
St. Louis, Missouri
Operating continuously since 1859, Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the country’s oldest. Its 79 acres of botanical bliss sit adjacent to St. Louis’s Tower Grove Park. Meander through the air-conditioned Climatron®, a unique dome-shaped greenhouse. Take in the tranquil Japanese Garden, and stop and smell the roses at the Lehmann Rose Garden. Kids love running around the Children’s Garden area, while adults appreciate the free Whitaker Music Festival on Wednesday nights, due to return in summer 2022.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Set on nearly 300 acres, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is the largest botanical garden in New England. In addition to spectacular flowers, the gardens feature impressive stonework and majestic waterfalls. Don’t miss the children’s garden if you have young ones with you. The main section of the gardens is paved, but make sure to wear sturdy shoes if you’re going to tackle some of the walking trails on site. Scooters are available to rent if you want to cover more ground.
San Diego Botanic Garden
Not to be confused with Balboa Park Botanical Garden, San Diego Botanic Garden is actually north of San Diego in Encinitas. The sunny southern California weather is the perfect climate for everything from succulents to subtropical fruit. Boasting the nation’s largest collection of bamboo, the gardens are also home to native plants, desert gardens, a tropical rainforest (complete with 60-foot waterfall), an interactive children’s garden, and four miles of scenic trails.
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
About an hour outside of Philadelphia, which is America’s Garden Capital, you’ll find the world-renowned Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. One of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the country, this slice of paradise features a lily pond, orchid house, gorgeous greenhouse, fountain park, and more.
In the spring, you can tiptoe through nearly a quarter-million tulips. In the summer, take in Illuminated Fountain Performances as the stunning fountains’ jets synchronize to lights and music. It’s also a popular destination at Christmas, when over 500,000 lights are used to illuminate more than 100 decorated trees. A miniature railway and 140-foot-long tunnel of light round out the festivities. Note that a timed ticket reservation is required in order to keep the crowds manageable.
Denver Botanic Gardens
Stroll through an oasis of greenery, aromatic blooms, reflecting ponds, and striking statuary at the Denver Botanic Gardens (DBG). Located in the heart of Denver, The York Street Gardens offer 24 acres of botanic beauty, while Chatfield Farm serves as a 750-acre suburban nature preserve.
York Street’s diverse gardens highlight local, international, ornamental, shade, and water plants and flowers. Water lilies populate the aptly named Monet Pool. One of the world’s most unique collections of exotic plants is housed at the Tropical Conservatory.
The Science Pyramid offers a unique way to learn more about the interconnection of people and landscapes. Enjoy bonsai and tea gardens and an authentic Japanese Tea Ceremony House, and register for a traditional tea ceremony experience.
Peak bloom is from June through September, but there are special events throughout the year. Blossoms of Light is a holiday tradition during which the garden’s flora and naturalistic landscapes are illuminated by lights.
Desert Botanical Garden
Surrounded by Phoenix’s 1,500-acre preserve, Papago Park, Desert Botanical Garden is just 10 minutes from Sky Harbor. Springtime, when the cacti and wildflowers are in bloom, is the best season to visit the 55-acre garden. Avoid visiting in the heat of the Arizona summer. In the winter, garden paths are lined with thousands of flickering luminaria bags for Las Noches de las Luminarias.
About 1.5 miles of trails wind their way through the garden, including the K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail. Although the garden trails are all easy to walk (and fully accessible via wheelchair), be sure to wear comfy shoes that you don’t mind getting dusty or dirty. Swing by the gift shop to pick up a prickly pear souvenir.
New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, New York
Located in the Bronx, the New York Botanical Garden covers a vast swath of land — 250 acres in the Bronx Park — and has over a million plants. Founded in 1891, it contains 50 gardens, which include a cascading waterfall, acres of wetlands, and an untouched forest with trees that are over 200 years old.
The Metz Library is one of the foremost and largest botanical libraries in the Western Hemisphere with over 11,000,000 articles. Other outstanding attractions include the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, the native plant garden, and a Victorian-style greenhouse. Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and the Holiday Train Show are great for children, while adults are drawn to the amazing Orchid Show.
The Dallas Arboretum And Botanical Garden
Situated on scenic White Rock Lake, The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is just a handful of miles northeast of downtown. Stroll through six and a half acres of large blankets of lavishly blooming azaleas, tulips, and daffodils at the Margaret Elizabeth Jonsson Color Garden. Kids love the children’s garden and its 20-foot-high waterfall. Enjoy a three-course tea at the DeGolyer Tea Room.
The garden is especially famous for its Halloween displays, featuring 100,000 pumpkins in an incredible Pumpkin Village. During Holiday at the Arboretum, visitors can walk through the garden while looking at 25-foot-tall Victorian-style gazebos decorated to represent the 12 Days of Christmas. At night, the display is illuminated by more than a million lights.