It might not seem like a typical bucket-list item, but visiting some of the nation's most beautiful gardens might actually add a few years to your life as you slow down and savor nature's splendor. From gorgeous flowers, to virgin forests, to innovative water-saving designs, you can discover wonders of the plant world – sometimes right in your own backyard. Check out some of our favorite must-see gardens.
Biltmore Estate (Asheville, North Carolina)
The estate offers more than 8,000 acres that include a mansion, winery and more than 75 acres of gardens. The garden areas feature many styles, including a 4-acre walled, formal English garden, a shrub garden with more than 500 shrubs, an Italian garden with fountains and statuary, and a turn-of-the-century-style conservatory.
Huntington Botanical Gardens (San Marino, California)
These gardens are part of the Huntington Library and Art Collections. The botanical gardens offer 120 acres of tended landscapes, including many themed gardens, such as the famous Japanese Garden and Desert Garden, along with lily ponds, Jungle Garden, children's garden and an interactive conservatory that allows visitors to discover the fascinating world of plants.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Austin, Texas)
This botanical garden celebrates native plants, most famously the iconic bluebonnet. The facility comprises 279 acres, with 12 of them devoted to gardens and hiking trails. An elaborate rain water collection system captures and re-uses rainfall. Gardens include a series of homeowner inspiration gardens to show ways to use native plants in a typical yard. Meadows, ponds, woodlands and a stream add to the gardens on display.
Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania)
More than 1,000 acres of gardens, native woodlands and rolling meadows make Longwood Gardens a favorite destination for Philadelphia-area visitors. Features include: 20 indoor gardens in 4.5 acres of greenhouses, 20 outdoor gardens, fountain shows, fireworks and a 10,010-pipe organ. Seasonal floral displays in the main conservatory are breathtaking.
Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis)
This is one of the nation's oldest botanical gardens, founded in 1859. It's a green retreat in the midst of St. Louis with more than 79 acres of gardens, including the largest Japanese garden in the nation (14 acres), a hedge maze, rose garden, and children's garden with a pioneer village and playground. There's also a Victorian country-style mansion on site. The Butterfly House is located in nearby Faust Park.
New York Botanical Gardens (Bronx)
These 250-acre gardens provide a green escape from the Big Apple and include a children's garden, edible garden, virgin old-growth forest, Victorian-era conservatory, rose garden and outstanding seasonal plantings. Wednesday afternoons offer free admission to locals. Twenty minutes north of Grand Central on the MetroNorth; NYBG has its own stop.
Walt Disney World, Epcot Center (Orlando, Florida)
The Epcot Center hosts its International Flower & Garden Festival in the spring each year. Check their website for this year’s dates. The festival features extra-special Disney character topiaries, HGTV garden demonstrations, World Showcase tastings and park plantings that exceed traditional Disney flair.
Washington Park (Portland)
This renowned 400-plus acre park includes three botanical destinations: Hoyt Arboretum, an International Rose Test Garden with more than 9,500 rose plants, and the 5.5-acre Portland Japanese Garden. The arboretum is a 187-acre living museum with more than 8,000 trees and plants. Other features of the park include a zoo, children's museum, playgrounds and 15 miles of trails.
Want to venture outside the United States? Add a visit to one of these famous gardens to your bucket list:
- Butchart Gardens, British Columbia, Canada
- Keukenhoff, the world's largest flower garden, Lisse, The Netherlands (open in spring only)
- Claude Monet's Garden at Giverny, France
- The Garden of Cosmic Speculation at Portrack House in Dumfries, Scotland (open 5 hours, one day per year)
- Suan Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden, Chonburi Province, Thailand