Botanical gardens can be a beautiful, quiet activity almost any time of year, but it takes a bit of preparation to fully enjoy botanical gardens.
Botanical gardens are a great place to learn about flower and tree identification, local sacred plants, and rare plants. Many gardens have presentations from local botanists, plant researchers, or ethnobotanists and conduct plant sales. Some public gardens are also involved in seed banking, breeding, and growing native plants to help the local ecosystems thrive. In short, botanical gardens are a great place to learn more about plants as well as a fun activity!
Whether you’re a parent trying to ensure that your children enjoy an upcoming trip, or an enthusiastic host who wants to rock an upcoming visit for guests, here are our top tips for appreciating public gardens.
The Comprehensive Guide to Loving Botanical Gardens
Like any activity, visiting botanical gardens takes a bit of planning ahead. Regardless of whether your botanical garden is a new addition to the city or is an ancient relic, each botanical garden is unique. Plan on at least a few hours for most botanical gardens, and prepare yourself for walking.
What to Wear When Visiting Botanical Gardens
Since almost all botanical gardens are outdoors and have several acres of grounds to explore, you need to be prepared for walking around. Even if your local botanical garden has a big greenhouse, you’ll likely be walking all day. When you get dressed in the morning, don’t forget:
- Comfortable walking shoes that can get a bit dirty or dusty. While this might be a good time to start breaking in new hiking boots, the botanical gardens are no place for nice work shoes.
- A hat. This will keep the sun off your face and neck or keep your ears warm. You’ll enjoy the gardens much more if you’re not squinting, cold, or sunburnt!
- Dress in layers according to the weather report for the day. You might get pretty warm while walking around, so don’t just wear a single large jacket that doesn’t allow you to fine-tune your temperature.
- Keep in mind that most botanic gardens don’t have a coat check, so be prepared to carry your layers all day!
In short, plan on dressing appropriately for being outside for a few hours. Check the weather before you head out and wear comfy shoes. Botanical gardens can be especially beautiful shortly after the rain, so don’t let a bit of water scare you away!
What to Pack for Visiting Botanical Gardens
Now that you’re dressed for success at the botanical gardens, it’s time to pack your supplies. While you certainly can get away with visiting the botanical gardens with nothing more than the clothes on your back, bringing along a small bag can help you get the most out of your visit.
Be sure that you pack:
- Water. While most botanical gardens will have a water fountain or two available, they’re often spread far apart. Many botanical gardens are quite expansive, so carrying your water with you will reduce backtracking.
- Snacks. Hunger pains are a great way to ruin a fun day out with friends or family. Bring something simple to share with your companions.
- Sunscreen. You’ll be outside all day, and avoiding sunburn is always a good idea!
- Money for donations, entry fee, and snacks. Many botanical gardens are nonprofits and charge entry fees. Although the majority accept credit card, you might want to bring some cash along so that you can easily donate to support the local gardens.
- Your camera or phone. Photographing the flowers is half the fun of visiting botanical gardens for many of us, so don’t forget your camera!
- A plant identification guide. Many botanical gardens have small guides or labels on the plants, but they are often difficult to decipher. If you’re not plant savvy, you might want to download the PlantSnap app so that you can easily identify plants during your visit.
Most botanical gardens allow you to bring small bags in and don’t mind if you bring your own snacks, but double-check with your local gardens. Ensure that your local botanic gardens are stroller or wheelchair accessible before you go to avoid disappointment. Most botanic gardens do not allow pets.
When to Visit Botanical Gardens
If you’re hoping for a serene, quiet visit to the botanical gardens, you’ll want to plan your visit carefully. Many botanical gardens are quite popular and will be crowded on pleasant spring and summer days. There’s not really a bad time to visit most botanical gardens, but keep in mind that sunny weekends will be much more crowded.
Be sure to check the website of your local botanic garden to check for early closures, holidays, special events, or free days.
- Winter is one of my favorite times to visit botanical gardens. The grounds are often quiet and still. You get to appreciate the non-flowering plants under a new light and might get to speak to the staff of the gardens uninterrupted.
- Spring is peak flower season, making it a popular time to visit botanical gardens. Keep in mind that spring can also be extra muddy before visiting in white pants. Spring is also a great time to swing by botanical gardens to see if they have a plant sale or ongoing seedling sales.
- Summer is another great time to visit botanical gardens. Most plants will have full leaf coverage, and many plants continue blooming well into the summer months. Keep in mind that summer visits might be hot, dry, or crowded.
- Arriving early will help you beat the crowds (and heat) on summer days!
- Fall is a quiet time at most botanical gardens. There may be fewer visitors and less greenery despite continued warm temperatures. If your botanical gardens have evergreen trees or a greenhouse, fall is a perfect time to beat the crowds for a serene day.
Depending on your mood, you might want to aim to visit botanical gardens during the week or on a cooler day. This will reduce crowds. If you don’t mind a few companions during your visit and really enjoy warm days, then plan your visit for a warm summer weekend. It’s all up to you!
How to Plan Your Visit
If you’re not a major plant nerd, visiting the entire botanical gardens in one day might be too much for you. Some botanical gardens are truly huge, so planning your visit will help you get the most out of it!
Even though I’d spend all day at the botanical gardens if I could, my friends don’t always agree with me. Here are my favorite tips for planning your visit to botanical gardens:
- Get a map. This should be obvious, but getting a map can help even if you’ve already visited the gardens a few times. Maps will help you out as you look for rest spots, bathrooms, or a favorite fountain as well as plan a route.
- Ask the experts. Many botanical gardens have friendly expert volunteers ready to help you plan your visit. You can ask the experts what’s blooming right now, what areas are under construction, and what parts of the garden are must-see. They’ll be happy to help you plot a course through the gardens.
- Prioritize your favorites and chart a path. If you know you might not make it through the whole park in one day, plan out a route that makes sense and helps you hit your favorites. Personally, I always visit the Japanese gardens at the Denver Botanic Gardens. I love walking along the bonsai and koi ponds. No matter how many times I visit, I always ensure I walk through. If you don’t have any idea what to go see, ask the experts what’s best this time of year!
- Don’t neglect rest spots. Plan a bit of time into your day for sitting down. This will help the whole group recuperate and fully enjoy the day. In my experience, you’re better off taking a rest stop or two than trying to push through all day.
- Discuss with your group. Would you rather move quickly and see the whole garden, or move slowly and maybe miss a few sections? Each group will have its own dynamics. You can avoid frustration by establishing a game plan early on.
Visiting public gardens is a great activity any time of year if you’re prepared. You can follow our guide to enjoy any botanical garden in the world. While you’re getting ready for your visit, don’t forget to download the PlantSnap app so that you can easily identify plants that you find during your visit.