Spend a day exploring historic buildings and an indoor rainforest at the oldest botanical garden in the U.S.
The Missouri Botanical Garden was founded by botanist Henry Shaw in 1859, making it the oldest botanical garden in the U.S. The 79-acre (32-hectare) garden west of downtown is a National Historic Landmark.
Visit Shaw’s country residence, Tower Grove House, which was built in 1849 and later restored with many of Shaw’s belongings intact. Explore the surrounding Victorian Garden, filled with flowers and plants. The grounds also include a small labyrinth, herb garden and conservatory. Shaw is buried in a mausoleum near the house.
The Seiwa-en Japanese Garden sits on 14 acres (5.6 hectares) north of Tower Grove House. The focus here is the large lake, dotted with four islands. Use the footbridge to get to one of them. Nearby, walk through the English Woodland Garden, which is planted with bluebells and dogwoods. The Bavaria Garden displays flora and fauna native to Germany.
The award-winning Climatron dome conservatory near the entrance to the garden houses a tropical rainforest. Wander through the dense foliage and search for fish in the indoor river aquarium. Families should visit the seasonal Children’s Garden west of the conservatory. April through October kids can work in the garden, which grows vegetables and flowers.
A narrated 30-minute tram tour also operates only from April through October. This relaxing and informative ride is free with garden admission.
Events are held on the grounds throughout the year. (See the website for a current schedule.) The Orchid Show runs February through March and features 800 exotic plants. Come in May for the Chinese Culture festival, and the Japanese Festival, held on the Labor Day weekend. Outdoor concerts are held on Wednesday evenings May through July.
The Missouri Botanical Garden is open daily except Christmas Day. There’s a small admission fee that goes towards maintaining the grounds. Parking is free and several bus routes stop here.