Ready for a road trip somewhere warmer? Grab some snacks and throw on your favorite playlist because your next stop is closer than you think. We’re going on a journey to see plants and blooming flowers along your holiday travel route.
If you’re planning a cross country trek or holiday road trip to see the fam, this guide to the nation’s most breathtaking botanical gardens is your unofficial road map. Time travel through a living Victorian-era garden time capsule or visit tropical jungles in the middle of January. You can escape to these lush indoor oases with this inspiring holiday adventure itinerary.
Botanical Gardens on Holiday Travel Routes
Driving the highways during the winter season gives you plenty of time to dream of what’s under that canopy of snow. Thaw out in your own piece of paradise that’s already on your way.
San Francisco Botanical Gardens – San Francisco, CA
Boasting some of the widest varieties of plants gathered from around the world, this Bay Area gem has everything from indigenous giant redwood trees to Chinese rhododendrons only found at high elevations. The cool, foggy climate of the San Francisco area is uniquely suited to host rare collections of flora from geographically distant locations. You can plot international holiday travel and see the world in a single day without leaving these gardens.
Huntington Library and Gardens – San Marino, CA
This historic botanical garden boasts some of the most curated greenspace in the Southwestern United States. With landscapes that include an elaborate rose garden, rare cacti, a Japanese garden and a world famous library with more than 11,000 texts; it’s a unique escape that stays lush and beautiful year round. Highlights include their Bonsai garden which is home to trees estimated to be over 1,000 years old.
Desert Botanical Garden – Phoenix, AZ
These desert cactus and succulent gardens are complemented by outdoor art installations and a special holiday season event. Las Noches de las Luminarias is an installation of 8,000 flickering bags illuminating the evening backdrop of the unique desert plantscape. A highlight of their collection is a reserve of 400 rare or endangered species, which means you are unlikely to see them anywhere else in the world. For succulent plants and cacti that fulfill your green dreams, this southwestern landscape is heaven on Earth.
Denver Botanic Gardens – Denver, CO
If you’re crossing the central U.S., you can make your way up to Denver to check out the impressive botanic gardens in the mile-high city. Their unique collection includes a garden dedicated entirely to native plants or “volunteers” like tillandsia air plants that have survived and thrived in Colorado since before the arrival of European explorers.
St. Louis, MO – Missouri Botanical Garden
Beneath a geodesic dome designed by famed architect R. Buckminster Fuller, this garden is the second largest herbarium in the United States. With over 6.6 million species the Missouri Botanical Garden has two glass conservatories including the Climatron (which sounds like a music genre with a dance either called “the sweat” or “the shiver”). The 8,900 square foot Temperate House is home to their carnivorous plant collection, watch your fingers.
Chicago Botanic Garden – Chicago, IL
With a sprawling 400 acres of collected plants and flowers, The Chicago Botanic Garden is the largest botanical garden in the United States. With 385 acres and nine islands of curated gardens, this eco-destination will take more than a day of exploration to see everything. The grandeur of the Chicago Botanic Garden is in how much plant life they’ve gathered given how massive it is. There are few Botanical Gardens outside of Kew Gardens in London, England with such a rich history and vast plant collection. Major cities like Chicago can mean hectic holiday travel, but if you’re cruising by the Windy City anyway, it’s worth the journey to get a little warmth in their the indoor conservatory.
Franklin Park Conservancy and Botanical Garden – Columbus, OH
The original Victorian glass greenhouse was built in 1895 and their collection has steadily grown since. Indoor conservatory habitats include plants and flowers from the Amazon rainforest, the Himalayas, and tropical flowers that only grow in the rich volcanic soil of the Pacific islands. It’s truly a paradise preserved under glass.
New York Botanical Gardens – Bronx, NY
When you think of the world’s largest collection of indoor palm trees, New York isn’t on the short list of destinations. With 250 acres of collected plants and flowers, the New York Botanical Gardens has just that, plus impressive collections of popular flowers like daffodils, peonies and azaleas. With all the attractions New York has to offer, this unique garden escape is not one to be missed.
Tower Hill Botanic Garden – Boylston, MA
Home to the third oldest horticultural society in the U.S., Tower Hill has two impressive conservatories named for fragrant fruit trees. The Limonaia is a spiritual retreat dedicated to the grandeur of seasonally hardy lemon trees. Surrounded on all sides by picture windows, skylights and pastoral views; the Limonaia is a monument dedicated to the growth of the warm colors of blooming citrus.
The Orangerie is a more recent addition to Tower Hill, full of plants which bloom in winter. It’s a unique collection meant to highlight the colder months rather than serve as an escape from them. In the summer the plants of both conservatories are moved outside and become part of the outdoor botanical gardens until temperatures begin to cool again.
United States Botanical Garden – Washington, D.C.
The only botanic garden established by the U.S. Congress, since 1820 this “living plant museum” has not only been preserving and cultivating plants and flowers, they also have a Plant Hotline! That’s right, you can call the USBG directly and leave a message or send them an email to have your growing questions answered by an expert. One of the best parts, you can check out what’s blooming in the conservatory online which is updated daily. You can plan your trip around your favorite plants and flowers!
Fairchild Botanical Garden – Coral Gables, FL
This 83-acre tropical botanical garden opened in 1938 in the Coral Gables neighborhood of Miami. Since 2012, Fairchild has been the home of the American Orchid Society which has been a resource for orchid care since 1921. The garden itself is home to the annual Orchid Festival in mid-March each year, an annual destination that draws orchid lovers from all over the world.
Holiday travel across the country at any time of year is always an adventure. See the highlights of every season at these botanical gardens or one of the 700 botanical gardens and arboretums in the United States. Your next green adventure may be closer than you think. Until you can fit one of these stops into your next journey, you can get unique bouquets of fragrant flowers brought to you wherever you are. See you on the road!