23 of the Most Beautiful Gardens in America
Need a breath of fresh air? From cherry blossoms and azaleas to cacti and rock art, these stunning gardens around the country are calling your name.
A breath of fresh air
If you’re looking to escape the house and take a day trip or domestic vacation this summer, look no further than America’s vibrant collection of botanical gardens and landscaped estates. Take a moment to grab a pen and jot down the properties nearest you, then plan a trip to one of the most beautiful gardens in America.
Note: Some of these gardens may be temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio, Texas
This delightfully calming garden sits inside Brackenridge Park. The garden was a long time coming and was built between 1918 and 1942. Gardeners have continued renovating and improving it over the years. The Japanese Tea Garden blooms year-round with floral displays hanging over walkways, a 60-foot waterfall, and ponds teeming with rich orange koi. The garden is traditionally popular for intimate weddings as well as with those seeking a peaceful break at the Jingu House Café, which features Asian cuisine and hot and cold teas.
Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix
Arizona’s stunning display of desert plants includes more than 20,000 varieties of cacti, succulents, herbs, and more. The Desert Botanical Garden‘s trails guide visitors through displays on landscaping, water conservation, and the medicinal uses of edible plants. Against the backdrop of the Sonoran Desert’s red rocks, the plants look lush and strikingly colorful.
United States Botanic Gardens in Washington, D.C.
This capital-worthy collection of gardens calls itself a “museum with a difference” because of its living artifacts from all over the world. The United States Botanic Gardens encompasses a traditional conservatory, a rose garden, the lawn terrace, amphitheater, and Bartholi Park. Perhaps most popular of all is the soaring conservatory, with a top-level bursting with tropical rainforest plants. Walk among the greenery while glancing down at the flower gardens below. Fair warning—the conservatory drips with thick humidity on summer days.
Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
Whether you want to take a spin around the carousel, relax on a Segway tour, or simply explore a few of the 1,000 acres, Golden Gate Park is a beautiful place to spend the day. This park includes ten lakes, so there are plenty of places to view wetland wildlife. You could even take a pedal boat on the water! For a fun duck-watching adventure, stop by Mallard Lake or relax under blooming cherry and plum trees, head to Elk Glen Lake. Don’t forget to identify the flowers and plants in the marshy gardens along the way. Don’t have the space for your own gardening oasis? Don’t let that stop you! Here are the best container garden ideas that will inspire you to start your own.
Missouri Botanical Gardens in St Louis, Missouri
The Missouri Botanical Gardens offer an abundance of shady walkways and tranquil flower gardens, including the 14-acre Japanese Garden, one of the largest in the country, with waterfalls, lotus blossoms, and flowering trees that thrum with life. The botanical gardens also include three conservatories: the domed Climatron, the traditional brick Linnean House, and the Shoenberg Temperate House. Set aside time to visit each on a rainy summer day, enjoying the rainforest plants and array of foliage from climates around the world.
Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
The conservatory at Longwood Gardens is one of its most iconic spaces: Towering pillars hold a glass roof aloft above myriad flowering plants for an effect that is equal parts soothing and energizing, depending on your mood. Though particularly magical for gardeners, the Longwood Gardens can be enjoyed by the whole family. From posing in front of the blooming wisteria trees to hunting for the gardens “freaky plants” such as the Brazilian Dutchman’s Pipe or the Giant Lobelia, both young and old will enjoy exploring the vast collection. But watch out! You might stumble across some plants you didn’t know could be dangerous.
Topiary Garden (Deaf School Park) in Columbus, Ohio
Growing from the remains of the Old Deaf School Park in Columbus, Topiary Garden delights with its structured, manicured design. The garden’s website states, “Today, the Topiary Garden in Old Deaf School Park is the only public park of its kind, not only in Ohio but in the world as well. The Topiary Garden is a living recreation of George Seurat’s famous post-Impressionist painting, ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte.'” The park is free to the public and is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Visit in the afternoon light to get the full effect of the homage to Seurat.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has been well-recognized as one of the top gardens in the country. And there are good reasons why: With more than 50 acres of colorful gardens, at least 12 themed gardens, and a classic domed conservatory, it has everything a gardener or anthophile could want. The Rose Garden and Cherry Tree Walk display classic beauty, while the Community Kitchen Garden and Children’s Garden offer educational opportunities for the whole family.
Duke Gardens in Durham, North Carolina
In early spring, the cherry trees blossom at Duke Gardens, located on the campus of Duke University. In the early summer, mountain laurel, foxglove, and “Annabelle” smooth hydrangeas take the stage. No matter the season, something is always blooming in the historic gardens, arboretum, or Blomquist Garden of native plants.
Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon
The Portland Japanese Garden offers virtual tours for anyone eager to explore from afar. On the cusp of summer, the garden is green, the path boundaries velvety with moss, while the koi fish do laps around the sunny ponds while the Cultural Village remains quiet with the current lack of tea demonstrations. When the space reopens, consider setting aside an entire afternoon or morning to stroll the pond garden, browse the art exhibitions, and enjoy tea at Umami Cafe. Not sure what that means? Here are 14 foods with natural umami flavor.
Asticou Azalea Garden in Mount Desert, Maine
The Asticou Azalea Garden is part of a land and garden preserve with limited openings to the public. Check the website to plan your visit during open admission. Though not as accessible as some of the other gardens around the country, this location offers a beautifully landscaped natural haven from everyday responsibilities. The garden was planted in 1957 by Charles K. Savage, bringing to life his dream for a profusion of azaleas along the shores of a pond. He envisioned the doubling effect of blossoms reflected in the water’s edge—a vision that endures in real life for visitors to enjoy.
Garden Of Eden in Maui, Hawaii
Maui’s Garden of Eden calls itself “a little bit of paradise on the road to Hana!” Who can argue with that? A lush tropical garden exploding with palm trees and blooming foliage overlooks the ocean. The garden includes 26 acres of trails in a quintessential island setting. While photo opportunities abound, take a moment to slow down, breathe the heavy ocean air, and quietly take in the colorful nature around you. The Garden of Eden is only one of 20 reasons Maui is the best Hawaiian island.
Bloedel Reserve in Bainbridge Island, Washington
Whether you’re drawn to the laceleaf maple trees in the Japanese Garden, the forested Moss Garden, or the profusion of blooms in The Glen, you will be entranced by the 150 acres of woodlands and gardens at Bloedel Reserve. The Reserve’s guiding vision is “To provide refreshment and tranquility in the presence of natural beauty.” This and more is accomplished through a commitment to conservation, creative horticulture, and an emphasis on how nature is inextricably tied to mental well-being. Normally open year-round, the natural landscapes and tended gardens offer a diverse array of horticultural delights.
Quilt Gardens in Elkhart County, Indiana
The Quilt Gardens along Elkhart County’s Heritage Trail blend two time-tested hobbies in a seasonal display of more than a million blooms. In 2020, the Quilt Gardens include 16 massive flower gardens, as well as several giant hand-painted quilt murals. Experiencing the Quilt Gardens does require a set of wheels since the Heritage Trail winds through six Elkhart County towns. Perhaps one of the most prominent quilt gardens is the flowerbed at Das Dutchman Essenhaus, an Amish-style restaurant in Middlebury, Indiana. Find out more hidden gems in every state.
Huntsville Botanical Gardens in Huntsville, Alabama
The 112-acre Huntsville Botanical Gardens are open all year with a rotating variety of displays. The Damson Aquatic Garden is particularly striking, anchored by a large reflecting pool beneath the Aquatic Pavilion. On a hot summer day, take the pathway to the north of the pavilion. It bisects two pools equipped with water jets to cool visitors with a sparkling spray. The Fern Glade is also a summer oasis, scattered with 150 species of ferns. Finally, strike out on a journey along the Dogwood Trail, where you’ll witness native Alabama species against a soundtrack of birdsong.
Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.
The historic estate of Dumbarton Oaks sits in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. While Dumbarton Oaks is heavy with historic relevance and a museum full of world-class art collections, no visit is complete without a stroll through the gardens: the South Lawn, Orangery, and Green Garden. In the winter months, the Orangery serves as a small greenhouse that holds citrus trees, oleander, and gardenias. In the summer, visitors can rest on the grassy terrace of the Green Garden, which offers a sweeping view of the entire estate. As you explore the area, see if you can remember why Washington D.C. is not a state!
Limahuli Garden in Kauai, Hawaii
Lava and vines and palms, oh my! Kauai’s Limahuli Garden sits at the bottom of a valley lined 1,000-year-old lava rock terraces, at the center of the garden is a bounty of ferns, vines, palms, and dozens of endangered plants and birds. According to the website, “Limahuli Garden is a pu’uhonua (place of refuge) for an ecological system that honors the connection between nature and humanity, where indigenous traditions live in the 21st Century.” Check out the true meaning behind several other Hawaiian words and phrases.
Central Park Conservancy Garden in New York City
Though NYC’s Central Park has plenty of open green spaces and places to rest in the shade of a giant tree, the Conservatory Gardens is the only formal garden space in the park. The Central Park website calls it “an oasis within an oasis with an especially grand entrance.” Though the grounds have only a 6-acre footprint, the space manages to feel soaring and grand due to the 12-foot fountain leading up to the Wisteria Pergola.
Public Garden in Boston
Did you know that Boston Commons was the first official public park in the United States? Two centuries later, in 1837, Boston’s Public Garden was also opened as the first public botanical garden in the country. But don’t let its old age make you think Public Garden is stuffy or boring. According to the website, “The Parks Department maintains the Victorian traditions to the best of their abilities, so you can judge its beauty for yourself. Admire the rich and unusual plants, the Lagoon, the monuments and fountains, and the Swan Boats.” For a completely free afternoon of basking in nature, head to Public Garden any day of the year. Boston is one of the best cities for American history buffs.
The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina
North Carolinians already know the Biltmore Estate as a grand attraction, event venue, and magical Christmas wonderland. But the gardens and grounds are equally stunning. The grounds include 20 miles of trails along wild beauty and manicured spaces. Don’t miss Biltmore’s Azalea Garden and Rose Garden, brimming with blooms against a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For a sneak peek at the gardens, check out the monthly Bloom Report.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Dallas
Springtime in Texas can feel like summer in other parts of the country, but the heat and humidity are the perfect conditions for strolling through the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden‘s picturesque Magnolia Glade or seasonal plantings in the McCasland Sunken Garden. The Lay Family Garden includes ornamental plants against a waterfall backdrop, while Nancy’s Garden comes to life in a palette of fuchsia and purple.
Chicago Botanical Garden in Chicago
With a limited reopening June 9, the Chicago Botanical Garden should be on your list of summer destinations. The sprawling 385-acre garden includes millions of plants and flowers clustered into a variety of serene settings. There are 27 display gardens and four distinct natural areas. It’s no wonder more than one million people visit the gardens each year. Summertime at the Garden is a particularly magical time, with free evening concerts Monday through Thursday. Bring snacks for a picnic or dine at one of the property’s two food establishments. While you’re relaxing, you might even discover why Chicago is called the “Windy City.”
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida
Whether you prefer narrated tram tours of the native plants or a slow stroll through the butterfly garden, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden has a leisurely activity for you. Glass artist Dale Chihuly has even called it, “One of my favorite places in the world to show my work.” The Fairchild website offers visitors plenty of ways to enjoy nature at the garden: “Find a bench and sit down to read and relax for some peaceful reflection. Explore the Simons Rainforest and find yourself along a rushing stream with surprising waterfalls and petite cascades. Look up into the canopy of towering trees and see amazing orchids, colorful vines and birds-nest anthuriums growing on the trees! Visit the Montgomery Palmetum… carefully admire palm trunks covered in spines or with fibers like an intricate weaving.” Next, read on to find out the best-kept secret in every state.