All of the small towns listed below are surrounded by brilliant naturescapes, undulating hills, rivers running through, dramatic ridges and more. But sometimes visitors who really enjoy the fresh air coming off of fresh flora prefer to do so colorfully, amidst seasonal blooms local and exotic, in admiration of the tender caregivers and botanists who work behind the scenes. From California to Massachusetts, New York to Arkansas, every big city needs ‘em, and all small towns are blessed with the space to cultivate them. Check out these cool small town botanical gardens.
This Arkansas town’s name really gives the game away. Hot Springs is known as "America’s oldest resort" and "the spa city," and it has been the site of settlement and pilgrimage since Native tribes first discovered the healing properties of the thermal springs deep in the Ouachita Mountain valleys here. While there’s much to do out in the parks, lakes and mountains in the area, the main draw for visitors is just the opportunity to relax, which can easily be accomplished during a trip to the Garvan Woodland Gardens. Jutting out into Lake Hamilton, these large botanical gardens offer visitors a unique glimpse into the flora and fauna of Hot Springs. With clusters of pine forest rubbing up against well-cultivated flower beds awash with color, the pleasant walkways and trails that meander their way through the trees here are the perfect place to while away your time and relax.
Humble as it may look from the bright ornamental lights and action of the city of government, Vienna is actually a treasure trove of eccentric restaurants, boutique shops, upscale shopping complexes and expansive parks both wild and groomed. One such foliaged expanse is Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, guaranteed to be an enjoyable afternoon, whether visitors are looking for a family bonding excursion or just a serene walkabout of taking photos. Spanning over 95 acres and made up of ornamental garden displays, trails and green space dotted with over 20 varieties of cherry trees and exotic flowers, the Meadowlark is a botanical paradise. The Visitor’s Center is a great resource for information about nature conservation and plant diversity, and their Korean Bell Garden is a beautiful stretch of exotic Korean trees, replicas of Korean monuments and statues, and an elegant waterway.
Fort Bragg has a long and storied past, but it has re-emerged as a lovely seaside vacation getaway. Three hours north of San Francisco, it’s certainly off the beaten path – but those are the best kind of escapes. Resplendent in glittering glass beaches, expansive coastal views, great local food and wine and the sprawling botanical garden make Fort Bragg real gem. A place that encapsulates this sense is the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, where visitors can relax while strolling around green pathways overlooking the ocean amidst beds of rhododendrons, camellias and lilies. No matter the season there will always be something blooming on their 47 acres of gardens. The gardens are a great place for fans of flowers and birdwatchers – they are now home to over 150 species of birds. At the botanical gardens, one never knows what colors they’ll spot!
Situated by the Delaware River and cut through by the Delaware Canal, New Hope is a small, pretty village in the heart of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. A large draw for visitors is that New Hope has perfected the art of balance: there’s a vibrant culinary scene, a well-reputed arts and culture community with annual festivals, and tons of galleries and antique shops. Pervasive through the village, however, is the rich history of this 18th century settlement which lends itself well to ghost stories and village lore. All of this is set against the backdrop of the gorgeous Delaware Valley, bursting with nature reserves, state parks, and mountains. The Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is a great place to explore: this beautiful 134-acre nature reserve situated in the heart of the Delaware valley encompasses woodland and meadows, ponds and creeks, and a fabulous variety of flora and fauna. Many hiking trails run through the preserve. Visitors can learn about the diverse species of flowers and birds with the help of field guides and experts, or simply wander aimlessly, enjoying the color and tranquility.
Cold Spring, New York, is only an hour away from New York City, but it couldn’t be more different in atmosphere – rather than the rush of traffic and pulsating modernity, Cold Spring has winding hiking trails in state parks, farms, and a sense of good old-fashioned home comforts. Real nature explorers can tackle the Hudson Highlands State Park, but visitors in favor of a more leisurely stroll among the peaceful blooms of rhododendrons, dahlias, lilies in the pond, and an ever-changing array of other luscious flowers at Stonecrop Gardens. The gardens feature a floating conservatory, cobblestone trails, bridges and pavilions. The perfect place to switch off one’s cell phone and just relax, Stonecrop Gardens is a beautiful expanse of horticultural paradise.
"City" is a nebulous term when it refers to a population that last clocked in at 221 at the 2010 census, but Sierra City gets a lot of action. Its craggy mountains, endless natural gardens, the winding Yuba River and a history deeply entrenched in the California Gold Rush, offer plenty of things to do in Sierra City. It’s a town for adventure, and those who are fortunate to pass by it are explorers in their own right, many of them having made the stop along the arduous Pacific Crest Trail that passes through most of California’s Sierra Nevada region. A real burst of colorful flora can be found at Big Springs Gardens – an attraction that truly keeps growing. It’s a seven-acre groomed garden with a Spirit Pond, surrounded by 23 acres of wild gardens and hiking trails that lead to a waterfall on Highway 48. On the grounds are a dining area that offers weekend barbecues under tall pine trees. This is a place to find endless beautiful blooms, both natural and planted, a serene site for personal reflection, and a challenging hike for an after-lunch adventure.
"The best of America, the best of New England," is how the American artist Norman Rockwell characterized the small town of Stockbridge. Sequestered in a green valley, surrounded by the rolling Berkshire Hills, Stockbridge is both a gateway to the great Massachusetts outdoors and one of the region’s cultural hubs. And if Stockbridge is the best of New England, than certainly the Berkshire Botanical Garden covers the best blooms of New England. A herb garden, water garden, vegetable garden, patches of perennials and small clusters of trees make this garden a colorful and varied space to spend some time. It is run with a strong community ethic, and workshops are held year round to cultivate a sense of the pleasures of gardening. Each October the garden hosts a Harvest Festival, celebrating the earth’s bounty with music, crafts, artisan stalls and a range of activities for kids, making it a perfect stop on a family visit to Stockbridge.