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I get the impression that not a lot of people visit botanical gardens. They’re not as popular as amusement parks or museums. Let me just say that this is a huge mistake. Some of the best places I’ve visited have been botanical gardens. And the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis is one of the best. It is the oldest botanical garden in the US, founded in 1859, and a National Historic Landmark. The park is filled with large, mature trees and plantings.It’s a gorgeous place to spend a day. It’s also in a part of the country that you might not think of as a top tourist destination. There’s no Yellowstone Park in Missouri. There’s no Niagara Falls or Plymouth Rock. While St. Louis has a fair number of tourist attractions, Missouri and her surrounding states are not usually the top destinations on a traveler’s bucket list. So why was I even in Missouri in the first place? Because I was driving across the country and St. Louis happened to be in my way. A day’s drive from Cleveland, it was a convenient place to stop for the night. And a visit to the botanical garden made for a good “rest day” while on the road.
It was a rare 100 degree day when we arrived. I was determined not to let the heat spoil my visit. Thankfully, there was lots of shade and some air conditioned buildings.. We paid $4 each for a trolley tour which is a nice way to start a visit because it gives you an overview of the entire park. Three conservatories feature different plant environments. Founder Henry Shaw’s 1849 country home is open for viewing and is surrounded by more beautiful plantings. Cannas grew in tall masses. Water lilies filled a pool accented with beautiful glass baubles. We climbed a small tower that overlooked a hedge maze. We walked through a Japanese garden where people were feeding koi and ducks.
The Sassafrass Cafe was a good place for a quick and delicious lunch. We ordered the half sandwich with salad (or soup) and it was just the right amount and very good. About 8 bucks each wasn’t too pricey.
And the gift shop was like, WOW, what a great gift shop! It was huge and filled with all of the garden themed items you could wish for. Bird houses, garden tools, seeds, bonsai trees, air plants in ceramic hangers, books, tote bags, stuffed animals, jewelry, t-shirts, hats…. The gift shop alone would make a great shopping destination even if you didn’t want to visit the gardens. But you do want to visit the gardens.
It’s easy to spend a half day walking the walks and wandering the conservatories or even a whole day if you want to see it all at once. Take a camera. You’ll see lots of ideas that you’ll want to recreate in your own yard.