Claude Monet said, “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.” And just as a museum is a place to witness impressive works of art, a botanical garden is much the same. If you’re ready to witness blooming orchids, learn about the transformation of butterflies or walk through a rainforest, plan a trip to one of these impressive botanical gardens in the U.S.
United States Botanic Garden, Washington, D.C.
The idea of a national garden was first envisioned by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. In 1820, that dream came to fruition with the creation of the United States Botanic Garden.
This garden has been in continuous operation since 1850. The conservatory is home to both desert and tropical environments, and its rotating exhibits have included blooming orchids and edible plants. The newest addition is the National Garden, which features rose and butterfly gardens in addition to a space dedicated to mid-Atlantic plants. Best of all, entrance to the United States Botanic Garden is completely free, making it an economical (and lovely) way to spend an afternoon.
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Columbus, Ohio
Should you find yourself in Columbus, a visit to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a must. Home to 88 acres of gardens, the conservatory greenhouses feature flora and fauna from around the world, with rainforest, desert and mountain biomes.
Connected to the conservatory is the John F. Wolfe Palm House, a Victorian-style greenhouse that still features one of the house’s original plants, a fiddle-leaf fig. At night, the Palm House is illuminated by thousands of lights, making it a magical sight to behold. The botanical gardens also feature rotating exhibits, including Blooms and Butterflies, where visitors can get up close and personal with exotic butterflies in the Pacific Island Water Garden.
Don’t leave without stopping by the Hot Shop, an outdoor pavilion dedicated to glass blowing, which hosts daily demonstrations and offers weekly classes to the public.
Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois
While technically not within city limits, the suburban location of the Chicago Botanic Garden contributes to the magnificence of the space. Unburdened by the limitations of the city, this botanical garden is spread across an impressive 400 acres. With four natural areas and 26 different gardens, it’s one of the largest botanical gardens in the country.
Lovers of Japanese gardens will be amazed by the impressive collection of over 200 bonsai trees, some of which were gifted from bonsai master Susumu Nakamura. There’s also an English walled garden, a native plant garden and a sensory garden.
Entrance to the gardens is free, although parking is not. Luckily, the North Branch Trail of Chicago’s bike path runs right by the botanic garden, so you need not pay for parking if you’re willing to put in some physical effort.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Dallas, Texas
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a mesmerizing experience, with 66 acres of flora and fauna to explore within city limits. Between the manicured gardens, the magnolia grove and the photogenic crape myrtle tree tunnel, the gardens are prime for exploration. From the elegant Woman’s Garden, which features minimal sculptures and infinity pools, to the Color Garden, which is awash in the vibrant hues of blooming flowers, each garden is distinct and lovely in its own way.
For the best events, try visiting in the spring of fall. The springtime boasts Dallas Blooms, which celebrates the emergence of 500,000 tulips, while autumn brings the infamous Pumpkin Village to the pecan grove. Best of all, the gardens host live music concerts every Thursday during the spring and early fall, a family-friendly and outdoor event next to White Rock Lake.
Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri
Created in 1859 by Henry Shaw, the Missouri Botanical Garden is truly something to behold. Having immigrated from England at 18, Shaw found America’s soil to be “uncultivated” and “without trees or fences.” Forty years later, after amassing a considerable fortune, he created these botanical gardens in St. Louis to give back to the community and recreate the gardens of his homeland.
Today, it is considered one of the top botanical gardens in the world. Visitors can walk through Shaw’s restored residence, which is complete with an authentic Victorian garden and labyrinthian hedge maze. In addition to a large Japanese garden and a beautiful collection of cherry trees, the garden’s claim to fame is the Climatron. This large geodesic dome recreates a rainforest in 24,000 square feet of space. Inside, visitors find themselves in a tropical paradise, with lush greenery, an exotic fish aquarium, tumbling waterfalls and 2,800 tropical plants.