Some of the most beautiful gardens on the planet are the front yards or back yards of classic and historic US hotels.
They include gardens featured in films such as Citizen Kane and some designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., one of the designers of New York’s Central Park.
From fields of tulips containing more than 16,000 bulbs to massive cacti that have been growing since the 1920s, from grand estate size formal gardens to informal fields of seasonal colors and intimate herb gardens. there’s a colorful array of flora and fauna blooming at the iconic hotel members of the Historic Hotels of America.
Spring is a great reason to visit one or more of these gardens. Here’s where to smell the roses, coast-to-coast.
The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Springs, Colorado
The gardens at this historic resort (pictured above) were built in 1918, when the hotel founder asked the Olmsted Brothers, John Charles and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., – who helped design New York City’s Central Park – to design the grounds to be as artistic, memorable, and unique as the resort.
Using primarily native grasses, flowers, and trees, these legendary landscape artists designed elaborate gardens and walkways.
The resort’s historian has records of original plantings which included over 800 varieties of plants in the front gardens alone. Many of the trees and landscaping reflect what was planted decades ago, still flourishing today.
Antrim 1844 (1844) Taneytown, Maryland
The breathtaking formal gardens surround the estate’s elegantly appointed mansion, and contain thousands of flowers, trees and shrubs.
With carefully placed walkways accentuated by twin bronze fountains, the formal gardens are surrounded by more than 50 varieties of English Tea Roses, which reach a height of up to five feet.
The gardens were brought back to life by new owners in the early 1990s, in part based upon the original design of the original owner.
An herb garden is located beside the hotel’s original ice house, providing the seasonings for the restaurant’s incredible cuisine.
French Lick Springs Hotel (1845) French Lick, Indiana
The formal gardens of French Lick Springs Hotel were originally constructed in a Japanese style and have remained as such through the decades.
Traditional Japanese gardens are a small representation of a peaceful landscape, punctuated with a tranquil water feature.
Take a tour of the West Baden formal garden and greenhouse with the resort’s resident gardening expert.
Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa (1847) Point Clear, Alabama
Located along Mobile Bay and 171 years old, the Grand Hotel is an iconic, historic hotel in Point Clear, Alabama.
More than 70 massive live oak trees dripping in Spanish moss are featured throughout the resort’s lush landscape surrounded by acres of brilliant Southern azaleas, roses, camellias, colorful annuals and lush vegetation. The Grand oaks are legendary.
From a secret garden for customized meals for couples to the chef’s garden with more than 70 kinds of edible plants, the Grand’s 550 pristine acres feature a stunning selection of color.
The live oaks and fresh mint are the most beloved garden elements by Grand guests and are critical to the resort’s Southern charm.
In addition to oaks, fresh mint has been grown for decades at the Grand Hotel and is the signature ingredient for the resort’s famous mint juleps.
Nottoway Plantation and Resort (1859) White Castle, Louisiana
There are 16 impressive and stately live oaks that are registered with the National Live Oak Society and remain a cherished element of this resort, which is nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Many of the trees are as old as 150 years.
The grounds also are planted with more than 100 varieties of roses, and a working vegetable garden and herb garden used by the kitchen to complement dishes with fresh ingredients.
Mohonk Mountain House (1869) New Paltz, New York
The gardens at Mohonk reflect the influence of the French, Italian, and mostly English style of landscaping of the turn of the 19th century.
Mohonk’s founder, Albert Smiley was the original designer of the show gardens. Each year, more than 1,000 flats of seasonal flowers are planted throughout the grounds.
One of the outstanding features of the grounds is the combination of sweeping lawns and open vistas with stately trees as focal points, surrounded by spectacular rocky cliffs, overlooking a sparkling glacial lake.
Shaded paths invite guests beyond the formal area and into the rose, herb, and cutting gardens, dotted with cedar pergolas, arbors, benches, and summerhouses handcrafted by Mohonk’s rustic carpenters over the past century.
There’s also a Children’s Garden for guests of all ages to touch, smell, taste, and learn about various plants.
New Paltz is just 90 miles from New York City, in the Hudson Valley, and an easy and popular weekend escape.
Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan
The grounds include more than 25 separate planted gardens that account for nearly two acres of maintained garden beds.
The hotel’s front porch is the world’s longest and completely lined from one end to the other with the hotel’s signature Americana Red Geranium, totaling 1,375 geraniums in 147 planting boxes. The hotel uses more than 2,500 geraniums throughout the grounds.
More than 150 varieties of flowers can be found here each season, spread throughout more than 40 separate ornamental planting areas.
Each season’s garden bed plant material alone consists of more than 50,000 annuals, as well as the 60,000 flower bulbs that are planted each fall. In addition, flower boxes and pots include more than 150 combination baskets, and well over 5,000 annual flowers.
The most memorable aspect of the gardens at Grand Hotel include the roadside triangle gardens on the east side of the hotel.
These gardens are filled with more than 16,000 tulip bulbs that burst forth each spring with radiant colors to signify the start of another magical gardening season on Mackinac Island.
Guided garden tours are led by some of the most experienced garden and grounds staff members three times a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
For you trivia experts, the movies Somewhere in Time and This Time For Keeps were both filmed around Grand Hotel and offer glimpses of the gardens and grounds.
Jekyll Island Club Resort (1887) Jekyll Island, Georgia
The Sunken Garden is one of the most notable gardens here, and was a part of Crane Cottage’s original floor plan designed by David Adler and Henry Dangler in 1916, originally anchored with boxed oranges trees that the resort replicated in the late 2000s.
The most memorable space in the garden are the lush trellises, which are beautiful year-round, but May through July are the optimal months for visiting.
In July, the orange and yellow lantana bushes are in full bloom, attracting dozens of monarch butterflies to the edge of the garden.
Airlie (1892) Warrenton, Virginia
The formal gardens here have largely remained unaltered since their initial plantings more than 100 years ago.
In addition to the boxwood hedges, original fixtures include an Italian-made bird basin, bird house, a sun dial, and more than 100 varieties of flowers and special ornamental plantings.
Located on a secluded corner of Airlie’s front lawn is the Peterson Butterfly Garden.
With the organic air of a cottage garden, the quiet babbling of a small stream, natural stone fences, and tranquil surroundings, it is designed to attract butterflies. Produce, flowers, and herbs in the four acre organic garden have been cultivated for more than 20 years.
This garden provides a variety of herbs and cut flowers for the restaurants located at Airlie. In addition to providing all the vegetables for the restaurant, much of the excess produce is donated to the local community.
The American Club (1918) Kohler, Wisconsin
The gardens in Kohler were planted in 1913 when Walter J. Kohler, Sr., traveled to Europe to study garden cities. He worked with the Olmsted Brothers, whose landscape firm had designed Central Park in New York City, to plan the green spaces that beautify the Village of Kohler and Kohler Co. campus – a 50-year master plan.
A second 50-year plan of growth, under guidelines established by The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, was completed in 1977. This plan actively called for continued community development in the Village of Kohler. In 1981, following the renovation of The American Club – once home to immigrant workers, turned into a luxury hotel, the gardens developed further.
More than 7,500 annuals are planted on the hotel grounds each year, and all of them are grown on site by the gardening staff, which changes them twice a year to offer returning guests a new seasonal explosion of color.
There are a variety of gardens on site, including The Wisconsin Room Courtyard, with a dramatic grand cedar arbor covered in decorative vines which cast twinkling shadows on the bluestone terrace and its surrounding perennials.
Another notable feature is the Fountain Courtyard, which adjoins The Greenhouse, a charming antique solarium from Chorley, Lancashire, in the north of England. There are arbors on each side of the courtyard covered in wild grape vines.
Oheka Castle (1919) Huntington, New York
This historic castle features French inspired formal gardens with fountains, 10 reflecting pools, classic statuary, and tree-lined paths of London Planes, designed by the world-renowned Olmsted Brothers.
Original gardens back in the 1920s also included English style walking gardens designed by prominent landscape designer, Beatrix Ferrand.
Hollywood has used the backdrop of Oheka’s gardens in the classic movie, Citizen Kane, as well as being featured in a popular Taylor Swift music video and on the television series, Royal Pains.
Ojai Valley Inn (1923) Ojai, California
Margaret Sears, celebrated landscape architect created the original gardens for Ojai Valley Inn, dating back to the 1930s. Sears also was responsible for the landscaping in the classic movie, Gone with the Wind. In 2008, her grandson expanded the original design, adding six gardens.
The expansion included a tropical oasis and an organic vegetable garden for the Chef whose restaurant overlooks the restored native creek-side habitat. One of the most noted herbs at the Inn is the lavender found throughout the resort, and perfuming the air.
To learn more about Historic Hotels of America’s most magnificent gardens, go to HistoricHotels.org/Gardens.
This was published originally in 2018 and updated each spring, including for 2023.
All photos via Historic Hotels of America or directly from the hotels.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter, and author of guidebooks and smartphone apps – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter currently serves as President of the International Motor Press Assn. (IMPA) and is a former Board Member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW)
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