Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, with friends or alone, set some time aside to visit a public garden. There’s nothing quite like strolling through a warm conservatory filled with exotic plants on a grey winter’s day, enjoying the fragrance of thousands of rose blooms in summer, or gleaning ideas for your home landscape from artistically designed borders.

By visiting these gardens, you are also often helping to support important conservation work and horticultural research, all while being inspired and learning about different plants and gardening techniques.

Here are our recommendations for some of the very best gardens to visit across the country.

On this page: West Coast Gardens | Midwest Gardens | Southwest Gardens | Rocky Mountain Gardens | Northeast Gardens | Southeast Gardens

WEST COAST GARDENS

Photo by Karen Chapman.

BELLEVUE BOTANICAL GARDEN
Bellevue, WA

A true urban jewel, there is something here for everyone—and in every season. Children of all ages will love the 150-foot-long suspension bridge over a deep ravine, as well as the naturalistic Urban Meadow, while keen gardeners and photographers will want to explore the highly acclaimed perennial border with its innovative combinations.

While you're in the area, check out these other gardens in our self-guided day trip to Seattle.

Photo by Janet Loughrey

PORTLAND JAPANESE GARDEN
Portland, OR

A tranquil oasis for all who enter the traditional gates, this 12-acre garden includes eight separate garden styles, meandering streams, peaceful pathways, an authentic Japanese Tea House, and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood.

To complete your tour, visit the Cultural Village designed by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in traditional Japanese arts through seasonal activities, performances, and demonstrations.

Discover other local gardens in our self-guided day trip to Portland.

Photo by Karen Chapman

FILOLI
Woodside, CA

There is so much to see and absorb at Filoli. This is a visit to savor.

Reminiscent of a grand English estate, you are sure to be enchanted by the traditional terraces, manicured lawns, and stone balustrades, with breathtaking distant views to the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Charming brick garden structures can be found throughout the grounds, a perfect setting for the clusters of weathered terracotta pots filled with seasonal bulbs and flowers. Yet there is so much more: geometric beds filled with color corralled by clipped hedges, long vistas that lure you through the garden spaces, serene water features, and formal allées.

In springtime, the orchard is truly delightful as thousands of naturalized daffodils bloom beneath the gnarled fruit trees.

Photo by Kelly Kilpatrick

SAN FRANCISCO BOTANICAL GARDENS
San Francisco, CA

Travel the world in 55 acres as you explore landscaped gardens and open spaces. If you happen to be here during the months of January or February, be sure to visit the spectacular display of over 200 magnolias in bloom—many of them rare varieties. The Succulent Garden and New Zealand exhibits are also always popular.

While you’re here, check out these other nearby gardens as recommended in our self-guided day trip to San Francisco.

Photo by Karen Chapman

THE HUNTINGTON BOTANICAL GARDENS
San Marino, CA

If you are seeking inspiration on a grand scale, this elegant 207-acre estate came highly recommended by our local garden expert in our self-guided day trip to Los Angeles.

While you could easily spend an entire day here, the Desert Garden is a “must see", especially with the late afternoon sun backlighting the cactus collection. The California Garden adjacent to the restaurant is a remarkable demonstration of how beautiful native and dry-climate plants can be.

Photo by Kit Leong / Shutterstock

DESCANSO GARDENS
Flintridge, CA

From the forest of heritage coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) to a themed Rose Garden with companion plantings, and a Camelia Collection to California Natives, this remarkable retreat offers year-round natural beauty as well as botanical collections and seasonal displays.

Check out their Bloom Calendar to discover highlights you won’t want to miss during your visit.

MID-WEST GARDENS

Photo courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden

CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN
Glencoe, IL

Gather ideas for your home landscape, explore the multi-sensory Enabling Garden, and review the top performers in the trial gardens. Our local garden expert recommended this garden as being somewhere that one could learn something new every day.

Check out the full details, together with ideas to make this a full day of garden-hopping in our self-guided tour of gardens in Chicago.

See their website to check the concert and events schedule too.

Photo by aceshot1 / Shutterstock

MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN
St. Louis, MO

Not your average botanical garden, this is now registered as a National Historic Landmark and has been open to the public since 1859. Looking for notable plant collections? Check. Demonstration gardens? There are 23 to collect ideas from. Conservatories? There are three: a futuristic geodesic dome structure covers over a half-acre, a delightful brick conservatory that dates back to 1882, and a more recent temperate house that features several themed displays.

In short, this is a true destination and one that deserves your support.

Photo by Pat Dooley / Shutterstock

CLEVELAND BOTANICAL GARDEN
Cleveland, OH

What this garden lacks in acreage it makes up for in abundance and innovation. From the lush Gateway Garden to the aptly named Inspiration Gardens, you will be amazed by the ideas that you can incorporate into your own garden.

When you’re ready to step into the glasshouse, you can visit both the Dr. Seuss-like landscape and exotic animals of Madagascar, as well as the tropical rainforest of Costa Rica complete with butterflies and gently cooing ground doves.

SOUTHWEST GARDENS

Photo courtesy San Antonio Botanical Garden

SAN ANTONIO BOTANICAL GARDEN
San Antonio, TX

The best public gardens offer inspiration, education, and innovation—and this botanical garden delivers. Visitors will appreciate not only the water-wise ideas found along the Texas Native Trail, but also the opportunity to view the local and migrating birds from within the Bird Watch structure. This thoughtful design affords unobtrusive bird watching, so be sure to pack your binoculars.

The garden also includes a number of architecturally significant structures including a futuristic glass conservatory and several buildings dating back to the 1800s.

It’s only a 1-hour drive from here to Austin, so be sure to check out our self-guided day trip to outstanding gardens in Austin while you’re in the area.

Photo by RK2 Photography / Shutterstock

FORT WORTH BOTANIC GARDEN
Fort Worth, TX

Review what’s happening each season and you’ll quickly realize there is no bad time to visit. Whether your interest lies in vegetable gardening, perennials, water conservation, or specialist collections, this botanic garden won’t disappoint.

Should you visit in spring, be sure to visit the butterfly exhibit, the largest exhibit of live, exotic butterflies in north central Texas.

Photo courtesy of Desert Botanical Garden

DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN
Phoenix, AZ

Our local garden expert recommended this 55-acre garden if you are in the Phoenix area, especially highlighting the Desert Discovery Loop Trail in the heart of the garden with its otherworldly example of cacti and succulents. There are several other trails to explore as well as rotating art exhibits and the award-winning restaurant which is a “must".

Phoenix-area self-guided day trip coming soon! Sign up for our Travel Newsletter to be notified when it's available.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN GARDENS

Photo by Scott Dressel-Martin, Denver Botanic Garden

DENVER BOTANIC GARDEN
Denver, CO

With indoor seasonal displays and innovative gardens that showcase native and adapted plants that thrive in the Colorado regions, as well as internationally inspired and ornamental gardens, this is a botanic garden that you will want to return to again and again.

Whether you seek ideas for sun or shade, dry gardens or water gardens, there are plenty here.

Denver-area self-guided day trip coming soon! Sign up for our Travel Newsletter to be notified when it's available.

NORTHEAST GARDENS

Photo courtesy DC Gardens

UNITED STATES BOTANIC GARDEN
Washington, DC

A diverse range of garden experiences awaits visitors here. The historic conservatory houses courtyard gardens, themed garden rooms, and special exhibits. Just outside the National Garden, there are plantings that represent different environments from around the United States.

Across the road from the conservatory, Bartholdi Park is a showcase for exciting plant combinations centered around a stunning fountain.

Read what our local garden expert had to say and discover other nearby gardens to visit in our self-guided day trip to Washington DC.

Photo by Antonio Rosario

BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN
Brooklyn, NY

Now over a century old, but considered to represent the very best in urban gardening and horticultural display, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a 52-acre oasis tucked within a major metropolis.

Be sure to visit the Water Garden, where a meandering stream flows into a pond that also serves to capture excess rainwater. Summer highlights here include riparian plants, such as summer-blooming hibiscus and sedges that have adapted to live near the water’s edge. This is also a wonderful place to look for dragonflies, frogs, and ducks—a welcome respite from city life.

Check out our self-guided day trip to New York City for more ideas.

Photo courtesy New York Botanical Garden

NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN
Bronx, NY

Our local garden expert highlighted this world-famous garden in our self-guided day trip to New York City, commenting that this 250-acre garden has “an embarrassment of riches."

With 50 specialty gardens and collections, even with the benefit of the garden trolley service, it may not be possible to see everything in a single visit.

Photo by Karen Chapman

LONGWOOD GARDENS
Kennett Square, PA

If you’re visiting Philadelphia, Longwood should be your primary garden destination. Appreciated as much for its outstanding conservatory displays as the illuminated Fountain Festivals, this world-class garden never disappoints.

Take time to stroll through the 86-acre meadow to experience the best practices in ecological garden design. Marvel at the tapestry of naturalistic plantings, enjoy the butterflies and birds. Listen to the wind rattling seed heads in fall and the cries of hawks wheeling overhead. This is a place that will touch your heart.

While you’re in the area, be sure to visit Chanticleer and the other outstanding gardens highlighted in our self-guided day trip to Philadelphia.

SOUTHEAST GARDENS

Photo by Karen Chapman

ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDENS
Atlanta, GA

Renowned plant collections, beautiful displays, and spectacular exhibitions combine to create an exciting urban oasis in the heart of Midtown. The garden includes 30 acres of outdoor gardens, an award-winning Children’s Garden, the serene Storza Woods highlighted by a unique Canopy Walk, and the picturesque Skyline Garden.

Atlanta-area self-guided day trip coming soon! Sign up for our Travel Newsletter to be notified when it's available.

Photo by Timur Laykov / Shutterstock

NAPLES BOTANICAL GARDENS
Naples, FL

Explore the exciting themed gardens that represent the culture and flora of the tropics, from Bali to Brazil and the Caribbean Islands. Enjoy the delightful Children’s Garden where kids of all ages will delight in the water fountains, butterflies, and a treehouse as they learn about the unique Floridian habitats.

Visitors also have the wonderful opportunity to visit the 90-acre nature sanctuary where mangrove swamps provide habitat for wildlife including eagles, otters, tree frogs, and gopher tortoises.

FAIRCHILD TROPICAL BOTANIC GARDENS
Coral Gables, FL

Begin your visit with a free tram tour around the Garden to learn more about the history, mission, and plant collections—it’s a great way to get an overview before venturing out on your own.

Indulge your senses by walking beneath the exotic Vine Pergola adorned with dozens of colorful flowering vines. Then, visit the Tropical Flowering Tree Arboretum and seek out the allspice tree to appreciate the sweet, yet spicy, fragrance of the foliage. Special exhibits, conservatories, and the aromatic Tropical Fruit Pavilion all combine to give visitors a true taste of the tropics.

See all of the Garden Design Self-Guided Day Trips

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