Join AAA
Join AAA
linkedin image
Travel Inspiration | Road Trip | Northeast States
Explore the Best Gardens in Southern New England with This Road Trip


This 250-mile road trip from Boston to Stamford, Connecticut, heads west and then south, hugging Route 95 along the southern New England shoreline. From spectacular spring and summer flowers to vibrant fall foliage to conservatories filled with orchids in winter, these gardens offer something beautiful in every season. This route includes two optional side trips, one to see New England’s largest indoor garden and the other to smell the roses.

Lilac Sunday visitors at Arnold Arboretum of Harvard UniversityLilac Sunday visitors at Arnold Arboretum; Photo courtesy of Jon Hetman/Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University


617-524-1718 |

If you think lilacs are always lilac, you’ll be amazed by Arnold Arboretum’s collection, the largest in New England, where the fragrant flowers bloom in white, violet, blue, pink, magenta and purple. Founded by Harvard University in 1872 and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, this tranquil, sprawling preserve is a favorite of Bostonians.

In spring, flowering cherry, crabapple and rhododendron complement the signature lilacs. Summer highlights include 5 acres of roses and camellia-like stewartia. In fall, maple, birch and hickory trees display their colorful foliage, and winter is a good time to appreciate the conifers.

The Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection, which can be viewed in an outdoor pavilion from May to October, holds some of the oldest specimens in North America, including five large compact hinoki cypress, each between 150 and 275 years old. Free guided tours are offered throughout the year.

conservatory at New England Botanic Garden at Tower HillConservatory at New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill; Photo courtesy of New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill

508-869-6111 |

Set atop 600-foot Tower Hill, with expansive views of the Wachusett Reservoir, the New England Botanic Garden offers a variety of experiences, including formal display gardens, hiking trails, a universally accessible garden and two conservatories. The Court: A Garden Within Reach, a sensory garden with raised beds and planters, allows people with limited mobility to enjoy the many fragrant and tactile plants. A tiered fountain and grasses add sound. The Ramble, designed for families and children, includes interactive play features and a pond of seasonal aquatic plants.

In winter, visitors can escape the cold in the garden’s two conservatories: the Orangerie and the Limonaia, with plants such as citrus, palms, agaves, camellias and orchids. The annual orchid exhibition, held from early February to mid-March, showcases more than 2,000 orchids, including dendrobium, oncidium, phalaenopsis and paphiopedilum.

An on-site cafe, the Farmer and the Fork, is open daily for lunch and known for its creative sandwiches. Blueberry grilled cheese, anyone?


401-680-7263 |

As you enter the Ocean State, a good first stop is the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center in Providence—especially if the weather is less than ideal. The Botanical Center boasts 15,000 square feet of indoor greenhouse display gardens, the largest in New England, filled with majestic palms, ferns, fountains and waterfalls, as well as a koi pond.

Late summer Rose Garden and Moon Gate at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and ArboretumLate summer gardens at Blithewold; Photo courtesy of Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum

401-253-2707 |

At Blithewold, it’s all (or mostly) about the daffodils—some 100,000 of them in 80 varieties, painting the grounds yellow from April through mid-May. During Daffodil Days in April, you can take advantage of special programs, a daffodil show and afternoon tea.

Blithewold is also the home of nine Rhode Island state “champion trees”—that is, the largest known tree of a particular species. The arboretum’s collection of mature trees of many varieties provides an opportunity for visitors to see just how tall a tree can get. Look up, up, up at 12 sequoias, the largest 100 feet tall with a 27-foot circumference.

The property’s shoreline is 1,400 feet long, which allows views of Bristol Harbor and Narragansett Bay from nearly anywhere on the 33-acre site. Visitors may also tour the 45-room mansion, originally built in 1894 and rebuilt after a 1906 fire.


860-231-9443 |

If you love roses, take a short detour off Route 95 to West Hartford to visit Elizabeth Park. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Elizabeth Park was the first municipal rose garden in the US and is the third-largest rose garden in the country today. While peak rose season is mid-June to early July, many of the species bloom into October.

Heron in fall at Bartlett Arboretum and GardensA heron visits Bartlett Arboretum; Photo courtesy of Sue Cohen/Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens

203-322-6971 |

In addition to 13 garden collections, you’ll find red maple wetlands with boardwalks, woodland walking trails and an unusual horticultural memorial at Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens.

The newest garden is the Sensory Garden, where you can smell the roses, hear bamboo snapping in the wind, and taste sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes and basil. The wildflower garden displays plants that provide sustenance and habitat for native insects, bees, butterflies, birds and animals. In recent years, the arboretum has amassed more than 40 cultivars of magnolias to replace an original garden that was damaged in 1979. There are also gardens devoted to herbs, shade-loving plants, rhododendrons, fruits and vegetables, perennials, conifers and more, along with 10 walking trails on this 93-acre site.

A recent addition is the powerful 9/11 Memorial “Survivor Tree” Archway. This metal and bamboo structure supports a canopy made by trees grown from cuttings of a tree that was found alive in the rubble during recovery efforts at the World Trade Center.

For a list of public gardens and arboretums near you, visit the American Public Gardens Association.

AAA Trip Tik map image
Are you inspired to set out on this garden-themed road trip? We’ve mapped it out for you with a AAA TripTik.

A: Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University—Boston, Massachusetts
New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill—Boylston, Massachusetts
Roger Williams Park Botanical Center—Providence, Rhode Island
Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum—Bristol, Rhode Island
Elizabeth Park—West Hartford, Connecticut
Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens—Stamford, Connecticut