We’re fortunate to have access to several gorgeous gardens in Raleigh that are home to lovely flowers, plants, ponds, grass picnic areas and landscaped grounds.
If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that one of the reasons we love living in Raleigh is the abundant nature, greenery, lakes and outdoor activities the city has to offer. And just like experiencing our wonderful parks in Raleigh, one of the popular things to do in Raleigh is to explore these gardens at different times of the year.
If you love gardens too, here are the top Raleigh gardens on offer worth jumping in the car for, or, if you live close enough, strolling to!
Raleigh Rose Garden
Tucked away off Hillsborough Street near the main campus of NC State University, Raleigh Rose Garden is a gem. Open to the public from dawn to dusk, 7 days a week, it was dedicated in 1951 and is 1 of 3 accredited rose gardens in North Carolina.
The grounds include 60 rose beds surrounded by an arboretum of evergreen and deciduous trees. The roses are typically in bloom between Mother’s Day and mid-November.
Hot Tip: Grab a coffee to go from one of our favorite coffee shops in Raleigh, Jubala Coffee on nearby Hillsborough St and check it out. See our video of the Rose Garden here.
JC Raulston Arboretum At NC State
This nationally acclaimed arboretum and botanical garden administered by North Carolina State University has one of the largest and most diverse collections of landscape plants in the Southeast.
At the JC Raulston Arboretum you can stroll through 10 acres of gardens with 5,000 plants collected from all over the world on display.
It is open daily to the public without charge and is located in west Raleigh near the NC State Fairgrounds, two miles west of the NC State University’s main campus.
Video: JC Raulston Arboretum
WRAL Azalea Gardens
Situated conveniently behind the WRAL television studios and between the Main and Centennial campuses of North Carolina State University, the gardens offer tranquility and beauty in the heart of the city.
Capitol Broadcasting Company founder A. J. Fletcher created the WRAL Azalea Gardens as a service to the community and were opened to the public in 1959, and surround the television studios on Western Boulevard.
The 1.5 acre gardens have expanded in size and plant varieties over the years, and winding paths, shaded benches and manicured lawns are a feature.
Free and open to the public, they are open year round from dawn until dusk.
You can bring a picnic basket with food and drink to enjoy at one of the benches or spread out on the grass. No grilling is allowed due to fire hazard concerns.
Weddings are hosted in the Gardens on weekends from April through mid-September. Check here for availability.
Juniper Level Botanic Garden
Established in 1988 and a true hidden-gem in Wake County, Juniper Level Botanic Garden is a 28-acre education, research and display garden with over 23,000 unique plants from around the world, plus two gorgeous waterfalls.
A stunningly beautiful garden if you love plants, from local to the exotic, and from different countries. Even our kids enjoyed this garden, and they are hard to impress sometimes!
NOTE: this is the private garden of Tony and Anita Avent and is only open to the public 8 weekends per year; two weekends each in winter, spring, summer and fall – try to go during a different season! During these open days, no visit requests are needed. See dates here.
No matter the time of year though, these are one of the most beautiful gardens in Raleigh and you’ll enjoy a lovely stroll through the garden.Viewings at other times by scheduled weekday appointment only – see request form.
Video: Juniper Level Botanic Gardens
Sunflowers at Dorothea Dix Park
The 5-acre Sunflower Field at Dorothea Dix Park offers stunning foreground views of the beautiful downtown Raleigh skyline – afternoon/sunset is the optimal time as the sun will be shining on the fields and the skyline behind them.
There are walking paths between the sunflowers, and ample space for you to spread out a picnic blanket and enjoy the sunflowers at sunset. There’s also a cool hammock area set up in the pine forest on the edge of the sunflower field.
You’ll see hundreds of bees and the odd butterfly (the bees won’t harm you but be careful). Raleigh is a member of Bee City USA and celebrates National Pollinator Week in June.
These sunflowers are planted each year as the city harvests the sunflowers to produce gallons of biodiesel for tractors, trailers and farm equipment.
NOTE: peak bloom is typically in mid-July, and they are likely to stay in bloom for approximately two to three weeks (through the end of July)
- Location: Hunt Drive near the former soccer fields and the historic cemetery in Dix Park
Wildflowers (and Sunflowers) at NC Museum of Art
The sunflowers and wildflowers at North Carolina Museum of Art also feature a magnificent background of artwork and sculptures.
This 2.5-acre sunflower field was first planted in 2018. It is located near the intersection of the Blue Loop and Meadow trails. You will see it as soon as you walk into the Museum grounds from the car park.
I love this sunflower field because of the colorful cosmos and zinnias wildflowers sharing the fields with the sunflowers. It adds a perfect artistic flair.
There is also plenty of space in the museum grounds to enjoy a picnic while visiting the sunflowers or trails you can enjoy on a short hike.
NOTE: this is also a seasonal garden, check their website before you visit.
- Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh
- Website: https://ncartmuseum.org/series/city-of-sunflowers/
Video: Sunflower fields at Dorothea Dix & NC Museum of Art
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
No, Duke Gardens is obviously not in Raleigh, but considering they are recognized as one of the premier public gardens in the USA, I think the 30-minute drive to Durham is more than worth it so I’m adding them to this list.
If you love gardens, you’ll be blown away by the 55-acres of beautiful landscaped gardens over four themed sections including a large central terraced garden, wooded areas, fountains, artistic sculptures, gazebos, pathways, bridges, grassy areas, and more than 2,500 colorful plant species (local and exotic).
Included in the 55 acres of landscaped and wooded areas are 5 miles of allées, walks, and pathways throughout the gardens.
Over 600,000 visitors per year from around the world visit Sarah P. Duke Gardens which is open 365 days of the year from 8 a.m. to dusk with free admission.
Video: Sarah P Duke Gardens, Durham
Now it’s your turn? What are your favorite gardens in Raleigh, or within a short drive? Share in the comments below!