Tennessee is home to some of the best botanical gardens and arboretums in the United States. These lush repositories of local, imported, and rare plants range from public university research facilities to private gardens into which visitors are welcomed, and today we’re sharing the details on them all.

We all know that spending time in nature benefits both our physical and mental well-being. In our time in the great outdoors, we experience a boost in our immune system functioning, our heart health improves incrementally, our blood pressure reduces, and our levels of vitamin D rise when we are exposed to sunlight.

Spending time in green spaces is also calming, reducing our levels of stress and anxiety. Interacting with the world’s natural beauty also increases our feelings of happiness and induces a sense of relaxation. Our cognitive functioning improves, our attention span increases and our creative abilities are temporarily expanded.

Finally, we know that physical activity has numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, weight management, and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

This year, why not reap both cultural and personal benefits by taking in the resplendent beauty found in Tennessee’s botanical gardens and arboretums? Wherever you’re located within the state, one of the following stunning spots is likely not too far from you.

Cheekwood Estate and Gardens
1200 Forrest Park Dr | Nashville

Nashville’s Cheekwood Estate and Gardens is a nationally famous destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike. Visitors are invited to wander the 55-acre estate and take a walk through the woods, wander the Japanese gardens, and explore native plant gardens as well.

The entirety of the grounds is impeccably maintained, which makes Cheekwood a popular destination year-round. The on-site picnic areas and restaurant are perfect for those who wish to enjoy lunch or dinner here, which we do recommend given that visitors are advised to schedule no less than four hours to fully explore the grounds.

Cheekwood invites photography and encourages families to bring their children along. Their well-marked paths are easy to navigate and are fully accessible for visitors who have mobility challenges.

Deerwood Arboretum
320 Deerwood Ln | Brentwood

Deerwood is a hidden gem located in Brentwood, Tennessee, bordering the Little Harpeth River. This arboretum’s wide variety of trees are each labeled and most are native to Tennessee, making this spot a great destination for families on educational outings and individual nature-lovers alike.

The one-mile walking trail features stunning views of the river, benches, and a picnic pavilion.  The Nature Center Complex offers an outdoor classroom, so be sure to stop by if you’re visiting to learn more about the natural bounty hosted within the arboretum.

Cyclists are welcome on the arboretum’s bike paths, runners are encouraged to jog on dedicated trails, and all visitors must see the wildflower meadow and multiple ponds. Deerwood is beautifully maintained and rarely overcrowded; stop by to rest, learn, or take your daily exercise here in one of Tennessee’s unsurpassed natural landscapes.

Hope Botanical Garden
16 Ford Rd | Leoma

Leoma’s Hope Botanical Garden is a non-profit organization which owns and operates four acres of land, all of which was donated by charitable supporters. The gardens are under ongoing development but have been open to the public for a full year thus far. Home to topiaries, a hedge maze, water features, a dedicated kids’ space, floral displays, and eight unique gardens, this volunteer-run location is a true gem.

Stop by the koi pond in the water garden, then follow the stream along its path through reflecting pools in the Japanese garden. Cross the arched footbridge into the maze garden, visit the children’s garden, and view both native and exotic plants all along the ¾ mile garden walk.

Knoxville Botanical Garden
2743 Wimpole Ave B| Knoxville 

Knoxville Botanical Garden is a gorgeous natural getaway located close to downtown. The scenery is perfectly curated and includes a wide range of plants, picnic tables with stunning views of the mountain range, multiple themed areas, and no end of photo opportunities.

In late winter and early spring, drifts of hellebores are in full bloom. Further on in the year, visitors will see riotous blossoming peonies and our famous dogwood trees from the many trails that meander through the grounds. Visit the beehives, bamboo forest, and handcrafted stone walls that protect delicate plant species.

Stop by the charming visitor's center for information about the botanical gardens as well as restroom access. Near the entrance, there are several inviting picnic tables, from which you’ll see the mist-draped mountains off in the distance. If you are in or near Knoxville, we encourage you to pack a lunch and wander through this gorgeous natural landscape to recharge!

UT Arboretum
901 S Illinois Ave | Oak Ridge

The University of Tennessee’s Arboretum is a research and educational facility that is open to the public throughout the year. It spans an incredible 250 acres and has over 2,500 native and exotic woody plant specimens representing 800 species, varieties, and cultivars. Visitors are invited to explore four nature trails complete with interpretive signs, packed with plants from Tennessee and throughout the world.

In addition to the garden’s dedication to public education, the facility serves as an outdoor classroom for students at UT. This abundant natural laboratory is used to research insect and disease control, plant uses, and natural resource and land management.

Dogs are not permitted. Visitors can choose from easy, flat nature trails or medium difficulty trails ideal for a good burn workout. While there is a bit of a range in trail grading, none of them are unusually challenging. If you’re here on a hot day, stop by the air-conditioned auditorium! Speakers and vendors may be there, including those selling plants and locally-produced honey.

Memphis Botanic Garden
750 Cherry Rd | Memphis

The Memphis Botanic Garden sprawls over 96 acres and boasts an incredible 23 specialty gardens. While this spectacular destination is gorgeous year-round, we especially recommend visiting in March when the daffodils, cherry trees, tulips, and redbuds are all in bloom.

The garden is a great destination for families, with swings and playgrounds for children and a cafe inside the visitor's center. Visitors can also pack a picnic lunch and relax in any of the numerous seating areas around the gardens.

Additionally, there are dedicated features for children, among which is My Big Backyard, an educational program just for younger learners. Educational programs for both children and adults are available as well, so check the calendar frequently to catch these seasonal courses.

Throughout the year, the garden hosts community events such as the Daffodil Dash Race, the Family Egg Hunt, Mother’s Day Jazz Brunch, and many more. The garden also holds a plant sale and concert series to support its many educational and horticultural programs.

UT Gardens
Multiple Locations | TN

The State Botanical Garden of Tennessee, known as UT Gardens, has locations in Knoxville, Jackson, and Crossville. The gardens showcase the latest research and education in horticulture and provide visitors of all ages with green spaces in which they can learn, play, explore, and relax.

UT Gardens have been recognized as being among the best gardens in the state. They are resplendent with a variety of annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, and vegetable gardens. Numerous themed displays pepper the grounds, and visitors are encouraged to wander through the myriad distinct areas of the gardens.

Shaded relaxation and picnicking spots pepper the landscape, making this collection of gardens an ideal place to spend an entire day outdoors. The gardens are also dog friendly. Dogs must remain leashed at all times, of course, but being able to bring your canine companion along for your outdoor adventure is always a plus!

At various times throughout the year, UT Gardens hosts plant sales to support their ongoing research and educational goals. The knowledgeable staff will be available to answer your gardening and horticultural questions!

Please note that not all areas within UT Gardens are accessible to visitors who have mobility challenges. To avoid being ticketed or towed, please park in a designated UT Garden visitor’s space.

Baxter Gardens
3901 Sam Cooper Ln | Knoxville

Baxter Gardens is one of only two of our recommended destinations that is a private residence. Located in Knoxville, this home opens its gardens to the public only during April as part of the Dogwood Arts Festival.The gardens were constructed in 1992 and are inspired by English gardens, with an emphasis on designing in harmony with the site's topography.

Baxter Gardens has received recognition from multiple garden publications, including Southern Living and Garden Design, and has had thousands of visitors over the years.

However, the popularity of the gardens has led to challenges in protecting them from damage caused by heavy foot traffic. In 2021, crowds reached 25,000, and visitors coming for photographs and recreation caused damage to the gardens. As a result, since April 2022, staged photography is not permitted under any circumstances.

Visitors are required to stay on the pathways. No climbing is permitted on rocks or sculptures, so while children are always welcome, parents must watch them carefully to protect the nearby plants.

Savage Gardens
235 Savage Garden Rd | Lake City

Savage Gardens, located near Norris in Lake City, is also a privately owned property that is open to the public during the spring.The Dew family, owners of the property, graciously invite visitors to explore the gardens, all of which are nestled within fantastic natural limestone formations.

The stunning flowers on display include trillium, shooting stars, phacelia, spring beauties, hepatica, wild geranium, little brown jugs, various violets, and many more.While the trail is wild and involves areas of strenuous uphill hiking, wildflower enthusiasts who embrace a bit of a challenge will find the effort well worth making.

Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center
400 Garden Rd | Chattanooga

Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center is a 300-acre public park, nature center, and wildlands located just 10 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. The facility offers various outdoor exploration options, both on-site and off, with outreach programs offered to 16 counties.

Visitors can engage with the native animal area and come face-to-face with critically endangered red wolves, a bobcat, sandhill cranes, an American Bald Eagle, and more! Explore the three-mile gravel loop to see mature hardwood forests, wildflower meadows, and wetlands habitats. Trails here connect to National Park lands, ultimately leading to the top of Lookout Mountain.

This all-in-one garden, nature center, wildlife encounter, and community outreach program is entirely unique within Tennessee, and is a must-see anytime you’re near Chattanooga.

The Takeaway 

Tennessee’s natural landscapes, rich biodiversity, and community dedication to the preservation and promotion of each come together to make our state a truly gorgeous place to explore. This year, we urge you to set aside time to visit one or more of our incredible gardens and arboretums.

Bring your phone’s camera, a picnic lunch, sunscreen, and your sense of wonder, and you’re sure to have a memorable, wonderful experience.

Posted by Parks Real Estate on


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