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This time of year, your idea of communing with nature might mean watching “Planet Earth” on Netflix while you snuggle under a blanket. But at these botanical gardens, a breath of fresh air is always in season.

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Norfolk Botanical Garden. Credit m01229/Flickr.

Norfolk Botanical Garden | Credit m01229/Flickr CC

Norfolk Botanical Garden: Norfolk, VA
With 12 miles of walking paths, a library filled with horticulture books and a year-round conifer garden, there’s plenty to explore anytime. In winter, check out the holly sculpture garden and then huddle up in the Tropical Display House with its palms and birds of paradise. Then when the weather warms up, bring the kids to the garden’s World Plaza, a splash pad that sneaks in lessons about the Earth’s oceans and other waterways.

Desert Botanical Garden. Credit Martin Ely/Flickr.

Desert Botanical Garden | Credit Martin Ely/Flickr CC

Desert Botanical Garden: Phoenix, AZ
Of course there are cacti. But you’ll also find wildflowers, butterflies and other colorful features that prove just how gorgeous a desert garden can be. Periodic exhibitions enhance the natural landscape, while special events like Music in the Garden, Dogs’ Day and Agave on the Rocks (margaritas are involved) leave no room for tumbleweeds.

Chicago Botanic Garden. Credit H. Michael Miley/Flickr.

Chicago Botanic Garden | Credit H. Michael Miley/Flickr CC

Chicago Botanic Garden: Chicago, IL
This serene spot just north of the Windy City feels a bit gentler when you observe snow falling on evergreens, red berries peeking through, and yellow willow branches standing out. Attend an indoor orchid show, take a calming Tai Chi class or enroll your kids in a cooking class, and spring will be here before you know it.

Dallas Arboretum. Credit Rodney/Flickr.

Dallas Arboretum | Credit Rodney/Flickr CC

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden: Dallas, TX
For many gardens, spring and summer are prime time. But this show-stopping destination was named one of “the 16 Most Beautiful Public Gardens to Visit in the Fall,” by House Beautiful. Mild Texas temperatures, vibrant blooms, an annual 10k race and gourds in every configuration imaginable make this spot a perfect autumn destination. Rounding out the year are signature events like the Dallas Arboretum Food and Wine Festival in March, and the Cool Thursdays Spring/Summer Concert Series.

United States Botanic Garden | Credit Wikimedia Commons

United States Botanic Garden: Washington, DC
Regardless of your politics, there’s one thing in DC we can all get behind: this national treasure that showcases the diversity of America’s plant life. From the indoor gardens and galleries perfect for a winter visit to the outdoor garden within view of the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. Botanic Garden will make you feel proud to be an American. Be sure to check out the First Ladies Water Garden, which salutes the contributions of FLOTUSes past and present.


Bok Tower Gardens. Credit Neil Thompson/Flickr.

Bok Tower Gardens | Credit Neil Thompson/Flickr CC

Bok Tower Gardens: Lake Wales, FL
It’s a garden, it’s a historic landmark… it’s a great way to escape the hubbub of Central Florida’s more chaotic attractions. This sprawling property is prime territory for photography, birdwatching, geocaching, hiking or just enjoying a picnic on the lawn during a bell tower concert. Bring swimsuits and let the kids splash in Hammock Hallow Children’s Garden, or carve out some grown-up time when you sign up for a yoga, painting or cooking class in the new outdoor kitchen.

New York Botanical Garden. Credit Wiki Commons.

New York Botanical Garden |  Credit Wiki Commons

New York Botanical Garden: Bronx, NY
Nothing against Central Park, but this 250-acre self described “urban oasis” deserves its day in the sun. From conifers and berries in winter to roses and lotuses in summertime, a little R&R away from city life is always in bloom. Indoor and outdoor art exhibitions, children’s programming and other special events give visitors to the Big Apple a reason to come back throughout the year.

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Tagged: Florida, Midwest, New York

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Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.

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