Stop and smell the roses, no seriously, get outside for some vital vitamin D while enjoying the floral fragrant of the garden. Nature is inspiring and recharging, and visiting a garden is one of the most available and accessible ways to get immersed in it. America is full of gardens, locally, regionally, and internationally known. Here’s a look at some of the grandest gardens in America.

One of the best locations to maintain a lush garden year-round is the state of Florida—no surprise there. Florida has a number of impressive gardens, and one of them is the Naples Botanical Garden with a whooping one-hundred and seventy acres filled with ADA accessible paths and access into the “Birding Tower.” The state of Hawaii also has the perfect climate for consistently happy plants, though much more remote than Florida. If you happen to find yourself in Wahiaia, Hawaii, visit the Pineapple Garden, if only for the food alone. A pineapple-shaped labyrinth is displayed in the center and has firm gravel pathways, but if the maze is too much, then see it from afar on the train. The “family cab” on the Pineapple Express can accommodate one wheelchair, scooter, or power wheelchair; pre-boarding is at area P1, and though advanced notice is appreciated it’s not required.   

In the Northeast, bask in the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts. The garden has a convenient accessible drop-off area and about fifteen handicapped parking spots (half van accessible). For those seeking a low sensory, less crowded environment, doors open a half hour early on Wednesday mornings from 9:30am-10am. Spring 2022, Tower Hill Botanic Garden completes its wheelchair access expansion that includes several areas. Currently, there is about a mile of paved pathways, along with a garden designed specifically for visually impaired and mobility challenged guests. This “Garden Within Reach” uses universal design principals, the garden contains a tactile planter, tactile fountain, raised beds, movable beds, and a display of accessible gardening tools. Furthermore, Tower Hill Botanic Garden has partnered with the nonprofit organization, HMEA’s Autism Resource Central, to host “Sensory-Friendly Evenings.”

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia has detailed accessibility information on their website about the makeup and length of pathways, free admission for personal care attendants, low-sensory areas, and more, as well as a statement of support for inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility. Botanica, the twenty-acre gardens in Wichita, Kansas, has approximately two-miles of connecting paved pathways along with a fully accessible sensory garden. Find about seven handicapped parking spots in the north lot and another eight in the south lot, and of these, about half are van accessible. The Anderson Japanese Garden is an attraction to see when visiting Rockford, Illinois. About 70% of the 1.5 miles of pathways are barrier-free, and a beach area has also been made accessible for wheelchairs; all three bathrooms have accessible facilities.

The Holden Forests & Gardens in Cleveland, Ohio are two related properties offering guests unique experiences to be immersed in the world of plants. Both properties have accessible parking and bathrooms as well as paved pathways that meander around various garden collections. Additionally, if looking for assistance getting around, both locations have three ECVs available for a rental fee. Among the 3,500 acres of woodlands at the Holden Arboretum, visitors can get a one-of-a-kind forest view on the “Canopy Walk,” which uses four connecting, barrier-free pathways suspended in the air through treetops with protective side-rail guards. The first viewing platform is plenty wide for both manual and power wheelchairs, but the walkway itself is twenty-four inches wide, so if a manual wheelchair is narrow enough it will be able to navigate across the bridges; power chairs are not advised to cross bridges due to unknown weight limitations. Uniquely at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, visitors can explore the impressively large glass greenhouse featuring rare and exotic plants, and an elevator takes visitors to a butterfly garden on the second floor.

On America’s West Coast, check out the infamous Portland, Oregon International Rose Garden and then the Portland Japanese Garden across the street. Both gardens are located in Washington Park and have easy access to public transportation, which is recommended as parking is extremely limited. A lot but not all of the gardens are accessible to wheelchairs, either by design or steepness, but both gardens are committed to creating more accessibility for all now and for future generations.

Further south in California, visitors at the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park may conveniently use wayfinding signage that marks the accessible route with the ISA symbol; view the map to see the different areas and location of the two specific accessible restrooms. The biggest challenge to visiting the SF Botanical Garden is finding parking, since the garden is located in Golden Gate Park, handicapped spots are limited and get taken quick, so plan to come early. Uniquely, there are about one hundred magnolia trees that bloom for the first three months of the year. Finally, in Southern California, not far from Los Angeles, paved pathways loop around various garden types but also historic mansion buildings at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden. I found only one incline really steep, while I was visiting with my manual wheelchair, which was by the cacti and succulent garden but, if possible, go see it because it’s one of the oldest collections in the world.

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