7 Places To Explore At The New Jersey Botanical Garden (2024)

By Ali Marshall on Places To Go

Looking for a place to take in beautiful flowers and spend time outdoors? Then, a visit to the New Jersey Botanical Garden in Ringwood, NJ, should be on your list of things to do. With blossoming trees and wildflower gardens, recently restored historical buildings, and stunning reflection pools nestled among the willowy trees, it’s easy to see why this 96-acre former estate is the official botanical garden of NJ. And there’s a lot your family will love here—kids will have a ball learning about plants, smelling exotic blooms, going on a nature discovery walk, and learning about this garden’s unique and storied history. Read on for 7 things to do and what to know before you visit. (featured photo credit: New Jersey Botanical Garden)

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The 1920s Skylands Manor House is made with stone quarried from the property. Photo Credit: New Jersey Botanical Garden

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Explore the 100-year-old Skylands Manor House

The centerpiece of NJ Botanical Garden is the posh Skylands Manor House, designed in the mid-1920s by distinguished American architect John Russel Pope (he also designed the Jefferson Memorial in DC). When Clarence McKenzie Lewis, an investment banker and trustee of the New York Botanical Gardens, purchased the property in 1922, he had the vision to create a botanical showplace in NJ. He promptly tore down the existing structure and built the Tutor Revival-style mansion with stone quarried from the property. The Manor House remains today and looks centuries-old from the exterior. Inside, the fireplaces, antique paneling, and stained glass give the Manor House its distinct historical style, and to see them firsthand, hop on a 45-minute guided tour led by a docent on select Sunday afternoons from May through October (there are additional fees for the tours).

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The lily pads are a showstopper at the Azalea Gardens. Photo Credit: New Jersey Botanical Garden

Find your reflection at the pool of the Azalea Garden

In spring, make sure you stop by the Azalea Garden, where azaleas and rhododendrons bloom, framing the large reflecting pool filled with gorgeous, pink-flowering lotus and lily pads. You’ll also spot the double-flowering dogwood at the same time, while in autumn, the Japanese maple is not to be missed. Your kids will love to see their mirrored image in the water below as they view the lily pads and lotus in the reflecting pool.

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Lilacs in full bloom at the NJ Botanical Garden. Photo Credit: New Jersey Botanical Garden

Take in the aromas of the Lilac Garden in spring

This specialty garden hosts over one hundred varieties of lilacs, and most types possess the most beautiful, sweet aroma you can smell as you enter the park. The oldest varieties date to 1923, when Mr. Lewis, the founder, procured them. To get the best photos for the ‘gram, plan to visit the Lilac Garden in mid-May and June to capture these Syringa (lilac’s genus name) in full bloom. And here’s a fun lilac fact to pass on to the kids—lilacs belong to the olive family and are native to Europe and Asia, where they grow into large shrubs and trees.

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How adorable is this stepping stone bridge at the Bog Pond in the Wildflower Garden? Photo Credit: New Jersey Botanical Garden

Visit the Bog Pond at the Wildflower Garden

Surrounding the “Bog Pond,” the Wildflower Garden—with its winding wooded trails and stepping stone bridges—is a picturesque spot. Your little ones will love testing their balance as they jump onto the stepping stones in this shade garden. You’ll see spring ephemerals, Japanese primrose, and flame azaleas in this garden, and if you’re looking for insta-worthy photos, make it a point to go on a sunny day in April and May, which are prime months for the best and most beautiful blooms.

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The rock garden surrounding the Octagonal Pool was designed to be easily maintained. Photo Credit: New Jersey Botanical Garden

Take some photos at the Octagonal Garden

Located off the Manor House, this restored garden boasts a large octagonal fountain in its center filled with white lotus and lily pads, surrounded by rock walls and a plethora of collected plants from the founder, Clarence Lewis. Lewis purchased the Skylands property in 1922 and made it his mission to create a botanical showplace, commissioning prominent landscape architects to develop it. In this garden, you will see a creeping evergreen from Spain, monkshood from the Pyrenees, and yellow-flowered Friogonum flavum from the western United States’ mountains. The Octagonal Garden is part of the more extensive Italianate Gardens filled with other flowers like magnolia, azalea, and peony. You may even spot a bride or two since this is one of the most popular spots for wedding photos in NJ.

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Crab Apple Allée is a must-see spot. Photo Credit: New Jersey Botanical Garden

Go on a scavenger hunt at the Crab Apple Allée

This part of the garden is one of the NJ Botanical Garden’s most spectacular attractions. In early May, a half-mile of Crab Apple Trees burst into full pink glory, but it’s worth seeing any time. This area is great for running around, bringing a picnic blanket, and having a snack while enjoying the scenery. And there are plenty of fun games to do, too—plan a scavenger hunt and see if kids can find the statues of the four continents at the end of the Allée. Or challenge them to find the missing planet signs for NJBG’s Solar System walk. After they complete the task, kids can redeem a prize at the Carriage House gift shop on Sundays. (Hint: the walk is along the eastern edge of the meadow, and it stretches the entire length of the Allée).

Take a guided hike through the woodlands

On the third Sunday of each month, you can bring the whole fam to learn about the plants, geology, and animals unique to the gardens. Join up with a knowledgeable NJBG docent on an easy, kid-friendly hike on the trails in the woodlands, and see the notable parts you might miss if you were on your own. The walk is open to all ages but can be long, so a hiking carrier is a good idea for little ones who tire easily. And good to note—this event is free, but donations are always appreciated.

New Jersey Botanical Garden
26 Morris Road
Ringwood, NJ 07456

For more information about the New Jersey Botanical Garden, check out their website,FacebookandInstagram.

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7 Places To Explore At The New Jersey Botanical Garden (2024)
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