Must-See Gardens Across the US: The Midwest

Reader Contribution by Bryan Traficante

Make sure to check out Part 1 (The Southeast) Part 2 (The Northeast) of this 5-part series at the bottom of this article.

 Instead of pulling over to see the world’s 5th most genuine alien space ship during your vacation, try something a little more worthwhile. This could be your only vacation of the year, so “fill your eyes with wonder” as the travel bloggers say and visit some unforgettable places. All over the U.S., there are publicly and privately funded, breathtaking gardens that can redefine your definition of horticulture. From pristine botanical memorials to fascinating plant sculptures, you will find your imagination running wild with your own backyard botanical ideas.

Plus, these gardens are prime for great pictures that are guaranteed to make your Instagram pop and may even inspire you to start a succulent garden, raised garden, its close relative—square foot garden, or ‘living’ sculpture garden of your own! So, if you are journeying through the northeastern U.S., carve out some time to visit one or more of these amazing garden experiences.

South Dakota

MrCrory Gardens – Brookings, South Dakota

Featuring over 70 acres of gardens, displays, an arboretum, and activities, the McCrory Gardens is a must-do if you are in South Dakota. They are operated and maintained by South Dakota State University and offer guests a chance to discover beautiful gardens, trees, and dazzling displays. Along with rose gardens, hummingbird gardens, and a maze, they also feature a raised bed sensory garden. It appeals to all five senses, making it a wonderful garden for kids and those exploring sensory integration.

Their President’s Garden is a favorite spot for weddings, meetings, and other events, overlooking their many flora offerings. Recently, they developed an app that helps guests traverse the park while further educating them on the plant-life.


Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden – Des Moines, Iowa

This horticultural wonder is progressive, beautiful, and dedicated to education and inspiration. The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden features art and sculptures, rose and water gardens, and a huge conservatory. Standing at 80 feet tall and 150 feet wide, the conservatory is made of Plexiglas and aluminum that houses a tropical atmosphere.

They recently had a first, for all of Iowa at these gardens – flowering an Amorphophallus titanium. Better known as a corpse flower, it emits a rotten stench when it blooms… which surprisingly attracts people instead of turning them away… Most likely due to its rarity. In addition, the garden plays host to exhibits, concerts, fundraisers, weddings, meetings, and learning workshops.


Matthaei Botanical Gardens – University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Eleven outdoor garden spaces featuring bonsai, native and medicinal plants, perennials, and more blooming seasonally from spring to first frost. Take a walk along nearly three miles of trails and natural areas. Or visit the year-round indoor conservatory filled with plants from around the world. Begin your exploration at the visitor center, where you’ll find visitor guides, restrooms, water and snacks and the Garden Store. 


Chicago Botanic Garden – Glencoe, Illinois

Over 40 years old and an example of a successful private-public partnership, the Chicago Botanic Garden offers a variety of horticultural experiences and learning opportunities to its visitors. They can enjoy 27 gardens and 4 natural areas including: a well-known Bonsai garden, a model railroad, greenhouses, aquatic gardens, a science center, and waterfall gardens. For visitors who are hungry for more information, they can use a free mobile app that features and interactive map and walking tours of the botanic gardens.

For visitors with an even larger appetite for education, the Chicago Botanic Garden offers adult workshops, school programs, graduate internships, and a specialized horticultural therapy program. If you’re just a tourist trying to enjoy the scenery, they have thought of you too. Flower shows are a frequent occurrence, and dining options are available as well.


Cleveland Botanical Garden – Cleveland, Ohio

The Cleveland Botanical Garden transports guests to exotic places thanks to its 10 acres of gardens and 18,000-square-foot Glasshouse. Founded in 1930, this garden is visited by 150,000 guests annually who look forward to its unique offerings. Along with Children’s, Japanese, Rose and Herb gardens, guests can enjoy one of the extra opportunities to celebrate seasons such as Orchid Mania, the Annual Egg Hunt, Gourmets in the Garden, RIPE!, and more.

The Glasshouse is comprised of 3,400 pieces of glass, 738,000 pounds of steels, and 20 tons of soil—an impressive structure. Inside, it houses the Costa Rican rainforest and the spiny desert of Madagascar for guests to wonder and behold. Of course the garden also features workshops, classes, and hosts private events.


So, if traveling the Midwest U.S. definitely add these amazing stops to your itinerary for some added tranquility and exploration!

Also, if you’re traveling to the Southeast or the Northeast, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this 5-part series!

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