Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
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With over 1,200 different plants, flowers and trees, this Botanical Garden in Des Moines’ East Village is a treasure trove for flora lovers; perfect to visit and learn a thing or two whilst escaping the concrete jungle for an afternoon.
The garden is open year-round from 9 AM to 5 PM, with the exception of public holidays (you can see their holiday closings here). It costs up to $10 for adults to enter, with varying lower concession entry fees for military, seniors, and kiddos (although under 3 get in free). There is plenty of free parking, and the the wide, flat footpaths, and elevators to reach some viewpoints means that pretty much anyone can enjoy the colorful serenity of these gardens. It can get crowded on the weekends, so I’d suggest going during a weekday mornings to have the peace of the gardens mostly to yourself.
They have a huge variety of gardens representing different climates that can be slowly explore throughout a long morning. Some of the featured orchards are a year-round indoor tropical garden (perfect for winter visit as they keep it above 64 degrees F year-round), an outdoor conifer gravel garden, a massive rose plantation, and one of the world’s biggest water gardens – which is over half an acre large! There are water features linking each garden, including a main made waterfall framed by the breathtaking outdoor gardens. As a major botany nerd and with my camera in hand, it took me at least 3 hours to check everything out, but I could have easily spent all day if I read ever placard of information throughout the gardens.
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One of the best ways to explore the garden is signing up to the tour on a weekend morning. With an expert guide, I found my brain stimulated as well as my feet, as I learned way more than I could possibly need about some very interesting flora. They also host a ton of other events throughout the week, details of which can be seen on their website. The curious kiddos will also be delighted to hear they have scavenger hunts and other excellent activities to help them explore the park and develop an interest in the natural world. The only downside I could find in the gardens is the ban on outside food and drink, but they do have a cafe – and if you were planning on an all day outing, you could always keep a packed lunch in the car.
The bottom line is that the Greater Des Monies Botanical Garden offers an easy half-day escape from the city as well as an intriguing educational experience. I was surprised that it was much bigger than I was expecting, and the variety of unusual flowers and other botanicals was truly captivating.