The 10 Best U.S. Gardens To Stroll Through—Even in Cold Weather
Travel experts weigh in on where you'll see the best floral displays this season.
Modern technology is a wonderful thing but its prevalence has also resulted in people spending more time indoors. Studies have shown that taking a break to spend time outside can have a significant impact on our mental and physical health. Luckily, you don't have to travel far to connect with nature. The United States is full of lush gardens where you can stroll year-round through a botanical wonderland of blooms, topiary, and architecture—even in winter. So, we asked some expert travelers to tell us the best gardens in the U.S. for checking out foliage all year round.
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The Best Gardens in the U.S. to Visit All Year Round
1. Newfields, Indiana
Pamela Dittmer McKuen, a travel writer who has visited countless gardens around the country says Newfields in Indianapolis is a magical place. "Newfields is a magnificent urban park in the heart of Indianapolis that seamlessly merges art and the natural world," she says. "Anchoring the 150-acre-plus campus is an art museum featuring the work of the old masters and pop expressionists. I'm especially drawn to the juxtaposition of Roy Lichtenstein sculptures, manicured lawns, and various themed gardens." Newfields is also home to The Lume, an incredible immersive art exhibit currently featuring the work of Monet.
Visiting during the holidays is extra-rewarding when over a million and a half lights transform the landscape into a winter wonderland.
2. Garvan Woodland Gardens, Arkansas
Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas weaves together the beauty of the natural world with stunning works of architecture like chapels and treehouses. Travel writer Heide Brandes says she was spellbound by the 210-acre campus, located on the shores of beautiful Lake Hamilton. "In addition to the immaculate landscaping, Garvan Woodland Gardens imparts an overwhelming sense of peace and magic," she says. "You feel in tune with nature when you smell the loamy scent of the forest and hidden views of lakes, wildlife, rainbow flowers, and serene hills. The roaming peacocks are a fun touch, too!"
During the holidays, Garven Woodland Gardens looks like a fairyland as visitors stroll underneath twinkling lights.
3. Desert Botanical Garden, Arizona
Travel writer Rebecca Treon practically swoons when she talks about the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. The 55 cultivated acres of the garden contrast dramatically against a backdrop of bright red rocks rising from the Sonoran Desert floor making it one of the best gardens in the U.S. "It's full of cool desert plants, cacti, trees, and plants that are really otherworldly," says Treon.
The garden is a year-round destination with paper lanterns lighting the pathways and events like carolers and live music during the holiday season. Afterward, Treon suggests a Cloth & Flame dinner under the stars and a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesen West in Scottsdale.
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4. Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Ohio
Meg St. Esprit McGivigan, a travel writer, is a big fan of Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio. "It looks somewhat unassuming when you first pull up because the entry is nondescript." She adds that once you're inside, "there are so many indoor rooms and paths in the conservatory and the 88-acre outdoor portion has some of the most elaborate topiaries I've ever seen."
During the holidays, the indoor areas are filled with holiday blooms and colorful poinsettias while the outdoor space is draped in lights. Visitors can also get in the spirit with live music and an intricate gingerbread display.
5. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado
Travel writer Ruksana Hussain raves about the stellar Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado. "They've managed a nice balance of water and greenery which makes it a little bit more relaxing," she says. "There are sculptures across the gardens and a nice cafe to dine at amidst all the flowers and trees. They have a conservatory of tropical plants that's impressive and little benches spread across the gardens to take a break or do some coloring…"
For more than three decades, the garden has held Blossoms of Light, a holiday event where everything is awash with brilliant displays of color, sculptures, and light.
6. Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Georgia
Hussain also enthusiastically recommends the 30-acre Atlanta Botanical Gardens, an oasis of nature located in the midtown area of Atlanta, Georgia, that offers a lot more than just lush gardens. "They have great programming through the year, a gorgeous canopy walk, and host amazing events, including chef demos and sculpture displays," she says. "They have one of the largest Dale Chihuly garden exhibits. They also have an amphibian display and some amazing displays of orchids."
In winter, the popular Garden Nights, Holiday Lights event dazzles visitors when the gardens morph into a world of colorful lights. Atlanta Botanical Gardens is conveniently located right next to Piedmont Park.
7. Portland Japanese Garden, Oregon
Travel writer Rebecca Deurlein says Portland Japanese Garden is outstanding. "The garden is expansive and stays true to the traditional Japanese Garden," she says. "You can lose yourself in quiet enclaves with bubbling fountains and koi fish. The colors are earthy and muted and the entire experience is an exercise in tranquility." The 12-acre sanctuary is considered to be one of the most authentic Japanese Gardens outside of Asia. During the holidays, keep on the lookout for special events, including a Japanese New Year celebration.
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8. Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania
The travel writer Catherine Smith says Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania is on of the best gardens in the U.S. "I've been visiting Longwood Gardens regularly since I was a child and I had no idea how special and unique it was until I traveled and lived in other areas of the country," she says. "It covers about 400 acres and you can spend hours exploring the conservatories, checking out the synchronized light shows in the Fountain Gardens, and climbing treehouses in the Forest Walk." Smith adds that Longwood Gardens is especially magical during the holidays when the grounds are covered with sparkling lights.
9. Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Wisconsin
Smith says she is also fascinated by Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to featuring a gorgeous 10-acre campus and 10,000-square-foot conservatory, she loves the regular experiences held onsite. "They do a really cool event called Cocktails in the Conservatory where you get to sip botanically inspired cocktails while touring the conservatory and learning about all the plants that grow there," she says. "It's really tasty and educational!"
During the holiday season, visitors can channel their inner child when model trains weave through a landscape of bright red poinsettias and evergreen trees.
10. Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, New York
Aileen Weintraub, author of several books related to travel including Secrets of the American Museum of Natural History, has spent so much time at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden that she says it feels like she practically grew up there. The 52-acre garden is a lush paradise in the heart of the city, and undoubtedly one of the best gardens in the U.S. Highlights include a rose garden, a Japanese garden full of hills and ponds, and a Shakespeare garden featuring more than 80 plants mentioned in the Bard's plays and poems.
During the holidays the gardens are home to Lightscape, an illuminated trail featuring over a million lights and works of art.