Good news, fans of the outdoors! There is still plenty of time to enjoy the season and enjoy outdoor gardens and spaces and still plenty of awesome ideas for adventures. The best part is you do not have to travel far to become absorbed in these exciting outdoor places and spaces! And there are SO many to choose from!
Fun fact for all garden enthusiasts: the greater Philadelphia area is considered America’s Garden Capital boasting access to 30 gardens and arboretums within 30 miles of the city. Visit favorites like Longwood Gardens or discover new lush vistas like Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in Bucks County. Become a frequent visitor to the area gardens with the America’s Garden Capital Passport, an exclusive guide to keep track of all 38 gardens located within America’s Garden Capital. It is the perfect keepsake to document your touring experiences.
Pick your favorite – or choose several – and plan ahead for another exciting family adventure. Remember, you don’t have to go far but do take the entire family for more memory-making!
Grounds for Sculpture, Trenton, NJ
Join the over three million guests who have visited Grounds for Sculpture since its opening in 1992. You’ll be amazed as you explore the unique grounds which provide a combination of gardens and artwork spread over 42-acres containing nearly 300 contemporary sculptures. Children will have room to roam while parents enjoy the cultural experience. In less than an hour’s drive, your family can enjoy this outdoor site located on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds.
While your family is busy enjoying the horticultural highlights and garden features, do not be surprised when you stumble upon some very cool sculptures, perfect for photo-ops. Timed entry tickets must be purchased in advance.
Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA
No list of outdoor garden spaces would be complete without including beloved and beautiful Longwood Gardens. Its spectacular seasonal offerings keep visitors coming back all year to experience the 1,077 acres that make up this intriguing landscape consisting of gardens, woods, and meadows. Currently, they are featuring “Gardens by Day, Light by Night” which highlights Light: Installations by Bruce Munro on Thursday-Sunday evenings through October. This illumination presentation is spread throughout the grounds.
If you have not visited Longwood during this calendar year, book your tickets today. Check the website ahead of your visit for ticket information because Longwood is the place to be during the summer season.
Morris Arboretum, Chestnut Hill, PA
This is a garden that never sleeps! Twelve months a year the Morris Arboretum has something magical blooming on its 92 acres sitting right next to the city limits of Philadelphia. Designated as the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, this Victorian designed garden is featuring the Summer of Swings this season, a delight for both children and their parents. Experience the gardens like never before while perched on one of 10 swings strategically placed throughout the landscape. Each swing provides its own view – and its own fun!
The Summer of Swings is available now through September 5. Check the website to purchase tickets and for hours of operation.
Rose Tree Park, Media, PA
This delightful park nestled in Delaware County is the perfect spot for the entire family to blow off some steam! There is plenty of space to run, jump, walk a dog, or simply stroll through the walkways. Rose Tree Park is situated on 120 acres in Upper Providence Township and is popular year round but especially in the summer for its free Summer Concert Series running Thursday-Sunday for nine weeks and the Community Garden which offers $30 leased plots to Delaware County residents. Every day is the perfect day to enjoy this pristine park.
John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Audubon, PA
The John James Audubon Center is not just for bird watching; there are opportunities for hiking, learning, and interacting with the Resident Birds, including several owls who serve as ambassadors to the facility. Explore over 200 acres at the Mill Grove estate, John Audubon’s home when he first arrived from France. There are five miles of marked trails that traverse along the Perkiomen Creek in Montgomery County. Don’t forget your binoculars as there are more than 175 species of birds to spy.
The Center, which is open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 am-4pm, is complimentary to visitors, but you can also tour the Historic House and the Museum for a nominal admission. Online learning about John Audubon’s beloved birds is also available.
Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens, Devon, PA
Another wonderful outdoor garden practically in our backyards is the peaceful Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens. Open year-round and offering foliage for each season, this 48-acre gem comprised of gardens and woodlands provides 1.2 miles of trails to explore. Ongoing summer programs include: Walkabout Wednesdays and Art & Mindfulness Workshops. Check the newsletter for more August activities.
It won’t take your family long to fall in love with this botanical garden. Admission is free but gifts are accepted to ensure the lasting beauty of the Arboretum.
Tyler Arboretum, Media, PA
The history is rich and the landscape massive on the 650 protected acres of Tyler Arboretum, the agricultural gem of Delaware County. The mystique of the gardens is subject to the changing seasons, offering something new each time your family visits. One of the oldest public gardens in the United States, this Arboretum boasts several state-champion trees which majestically tower over 17 miles of hiking trails. The calendar of events is extensive this summer including Weekly Bird Walks, Weekend Warm-up Hikes, various levels of yoga, and even circuit training, to name a few. It is a delightful outing for the entire family!
Stoneleigh, a Natural Garden, Villanova, PA
Stoneleigh sits in the heart of the Main Line, now designated as a Natural Land preserve. Newer to the collection of gardens in the area, Stoneleigh was donated by the Haas family in 2016 so that is will remain undeveloped and pristine. With more than a mile of porous-paved walking paths, the gardens are accessible to everyone. The grounds are open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm with occasional Friday evening hours. Admission is free and special events such as Trees to See Walk, Insect Safari for Kids, and daily volunteer opportunities for gardening are available throughout the summer.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Philadelphia, PA
This magical garden must be seen to be fully appreciated and understood. The inspiration of one man and his wife, Isaiah and Julia Zagar, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) is a hidden treasure in South Philly just waiting for you and your family to discover. The space consists of two indoor galleries and a bi-level outdoor sculpture garden showcasing unique mosaics made of handmade tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels, and mirrors. Several times a week, a Morning Magic Tour and/or a Guided Site Tour is offered as well as a monthly PECO Family Jams event. Book tickets in advance online for this colorful outing.
With the added inspiration of being immersed in America’s Garden Capital, delve into your latest adventure. But more importantly, get outdoors and enjoy while summer is still “on.” There is no better time to explore fragrant floral gardens so close to home.
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Photo of Stoneleigh Pergola by Sam Nestory, courtesy of Stoneleigh a natural garden.
First published in November 2020, updated March 2021 and July 2022.