Do you have a fond love of nature? Do you appreciate floral beauty when you see it? Unfortunately my answer to both of these questions was no until recently. After visiting the stunning Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, my whole opinion on this type of attraction changed dramatically. Heading to the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, I was ready to experience more and really enhance my desire to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere in nature’s paradise.
Philosophy of Nature’s Beauty
Before considering the beauty presented within botanical gardens, let’s take a moment to reflect on the inherent beauty that surrounds us on a daily basis. Albert Einstein said it best when he stated,
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
The philosophy of appreciating nature’s finest species is something that I probably failed to understand, and for the most part took for granted. Take a moment to look out of the nearest window and I bet you can see some form of ‘nature’ around you. Whether you are in a rural setting with natural bliss surrounding you, or perhaps a lone tree or flower arrangement if you are in the hustle and bustle of city life.
Either way, there is something beautiful about nature and how it can inspire us to have a more positive outlook on life. Exploring the Missouri Botanical Garden certainly had this effect, especially after experiencing an abundance of variety around the 79 acres.
Let’s start out with some of the basic facts about the Missouri Botanical Garden that immediately will sway your opinion that this is a great spot for all the family to explore without breaking the bank. At only $8 for adults and FREE for children under the age of 12, this is awesome value and you could quite easily spend a full day here!
Cheap entertainment for sure, especially when you throw in the awesome Lantern Festival that was taking place during our visit, but more about that later.
Located conveniently at 4344 Shaw Boulevard and easily accessible from the downtown district of St. Louis, these botanical gardens are just waiting for you to explore. Public transportation is available with bus routes stopping close to the gardens.
Of course driving to the gardens may be your preferred option and with ample free parking available on the grounds, this is certainly a great choice. Approaching here I did notice A LOT of bicycle lanes in close proximity so perhaps this would be a great way to access this attraction, plus there is even a bike rack located in the visitor center parking lot.
Missouri Botanical Garden Key Attractions
With 79 acres of natural beauty to explore, you could be excused for feeling a little daunted by the prospect of walking around this landscape. However, depending on the amount of time you have to spend at the botanical gardens, hopefully the following guide will give you a few important attractions not to be missed. Beyond that…it’s entirely up to you and I recommend just enjoying the gorgeous scenery and ambience that you will be part of!
It’s worth noting that the Missouri Botanical Garden focuses on a global concept with their ideology of a ‘Garden for the World’. You quickly notice this as you explore the grounds of the botanical garden, with distinctive areas from all around the world providing seasonal beauty and emphasizing their desire to express an international plant diversity.
The visitor guide provides a map of the grounds and highlights the tram path which is another option should you prefer not to walk the whole route. For a small surcharge, you can quickly access various parts of the global gardens. However, we opted to walk and in my opinion this is where you really experience the true beauty that the gardens possess.
The Climatron is a popular attraction, not only because of the cool design of this dome-shaped structure, but also because of the amazing plethora of plant varieties and landscaping that has been added to the interior. A number of waterfalls and other water features have been added to the tropical rain forest theme and it really does work!
The temperature is controlled throughout the day at a high of 85 degrees, while it is reduced to a cooler temperature during the night. There are more than 2,800 plants inside the Climatron and over 1,400 various tropical species are present.
Undoubtedly the most iconic landmark throughout the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Climatron is a MUST-SEE experience! We spent quite a bit of time just wandering through the self-guided tour, taking in the gorgeous colors and relaxing to the soothing sound of the water.
Close your eyes and you would certainly imagine yourself in another setting than a geodesic dome that is being used as a conservatory.
One of the many ‘formal’ gardens on display, Boxwood Garden is a real gem worth exploring. As you approach this royal like garden, you are presented with an immaculate array of color flowers and a maze of perfectly manicured edges that encourage you to stroll through the maze and investigate other hidden treasures.
The entrance to Boxwood Garden is a relatively new brick courtyard featuring an iconic fountain that represents the beauty and formality of this part of the botanical gardens.
Two large circular windows in the brickwork offer a perfect spot to capture a memorable image as you gaze through, either taking in the beautiful floral arrangements or perhaps the gazebo that catches your eye towards the back of the garden.
Japan is one of the most culturally diverse nations and this is certainly reflected in the 14 acre Japanese garden. Depicting centuries of history and heritage associated with the Land of the Rising Sun, Missouri Botanical Garden does a great job at interpreting this landscape through floral varieties, water features (including a gorgeous lake) and intricately designed bridges that offer relaxing havens for a stroll around the lake.
The Buddhist inspired Seiwa-en is the name given to this Japanese strolling garden. It was no surprise to see a wedding party preparing to use this location with the lake providing a perfect backdrop for the special couple. We walked around the outside of the lake taking in the beautiful scenery and on several occasions sat down on the numerous benches scattered on the edge of the lake.
Two islands (Tortoise and Crane Island) that are inaccessible to visitors are located in the heart of the lake offering a haven for wildlife to inhabit themselves among this landscape. There are two other islands, Paradise and Nakajima (Teahouse) that offer another distinctive representation of Japan’s iconic geography and cultural ideals.
Another intriguing feature at the Japanese Garden is the Koi Fish Feeding Bridge. These Japanese fish are always waiting for a feeding opportunity and visitors can certainly take a moment to throw in some feed, while enjoying the habits of the koi fish scrambling for every piece of food available.
Tower Grove House
Historians will also find a plethora of attractions and hidden gems throughout Missouri Botanical Garden. Dating back to 1859, this is the nation’s oldest botanical garden and also home to Henry Shaw’s country residence – Tower Grove House.
This historic mansion has been preserved with much of the original decor and self-guided tours throughout the house are available.
From exploring the garden tools in the basement to Shaw’s very own bedroom, Tower Grove House still plays an integral part in the makeup of Missouri Botanical Gardens. This house overlooks Shaw’s mausoleum which offers yet more stunning floral displays.
Chinese Lantern Festival
In 2012, the Missouri Botanical Garden introduced an amazing Chinese lantern exhibit that truly reflected their position in illustrating their global diversity. This illuminated trail of lanterns that were positioned strategically throughout the gardens was such a huge success that the Garden decided to recreate this event in 2015.
Did you know that China was home to approximately 10 percent of the plant species in the world? However, many of these species are under threat, much like animals from extinction! Missouri Botanical Garden is just one of many botanical gardens worldwide that is helping preserve these diverse species.
We were incredibly fortunate to visit the Garden while this event was taking place, though of course our visit was during the day and the Chinese Lantern Festival really comes to life at night. Admission to this magical festival ranges from $22-$26 depending on what time of the season you visit for adults and cheaper rates are of course available for concessions.
There are numerous oversized structures in place around the Garden, each representing something very unique about Chinese culture. The majority of these installations are made from porcelain which on its own is an extremely cool piece of artistic design when you see representations of Chinese iconography made from plates and cups!
From the celebration of the Chinese New Year (Year of the Sheep in 2015!) to the porcelain elephant masterpiece when you first enter the Garden, this truly is a charming reflection on Chinese culture. My only regret is that we didn’t get to experience this at night, but hopefully we will have the opportunity to return to St. Louis before the festival ends.
Nature surrounds us everywhere but all too often I am sure we are culprits of taking this for granted and not doing enough to support the natural landscapes where we live. I also think that living a fast-paced lifestyle which I am sure many of us do, leaves us with very little time to enjoy the relaxation and appreciation that nature offers us.
However, the moment you step into a botanical garden, I am a firm believer that all of this changes. Our visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden was yet another example of a gorgeous landscape that offers that all important ‘relaxation time’ away from the hectic lifestyle we live on a daily basis.
From the deep cultural iconography offered through the various sculptures and of course the Chinese Lantern Festival, to the history of the grounds where Henry Shaw resided, this botanical gardens in St. Louis is definitely high value for money.
Disclaimer – We would like to thank Explore St. Louis for providing us with 2 complimentary tickets for our visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden. These are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.