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Our Top 5 Picks For Best Gardens In Phoenix

Our Top 5 Picks for Best Gardens in Phoenix

How we picked

Variety of Activities

To make the most out of your visit, we assessed the place based on the workshops, tours, attractions, facilities, and the corresponding event packages.


The ambiance should be peaceful and allows individuals to appreciate and connect with the natural landscape and exhibits. We also evaluated the cleanliness and upkeep of the garden as a whole.


We checked if they’re open for all ages, specifically for families and pets. We also measured the ease of movement within the garden through directional cues, pathways, and rest areas or seating. 

Admission Fees

We took note of the rates and the inclusions for available packages and whether or not they would fit all kinds of budgets. Discounts for online purchases and senior/military/children are also a plus.


We chose options that are available all year round over those that are seasonal to meet different schedules. Their location is also an important consideration.

1. The Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix 

The Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix's Homepage

Features: stroll garden, tea house & garden, stone garden, courtyard garden, koi pond with waterfall, 50 varieties of plants, 


Location: 1125 N. 3rd Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85003

Contact Details: (602) 274-8700

Visiting Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Google reviews score4.5/5
Facebook reviews score4.6/5
TripAdvisor reviews score4/5
Total reviews4.5/5
Score consistency4/5
Variety of Activities4.75/5
→Events Facilities4/5
→Workshops & Tours4.5/5
Admission Fees(a higher score means better value)4/5


  • Wheelchair-accessible, including paths and restrooms
  • Features an authentic Japanese tea house and landscapes
  • Offers a peaceful and impactful atmosphere
  • Clean and well-maintained 
  • Supports cross-cultural ties with Himeji, Japan


  • Not enough seating areas
  • Events on the same day limits access to certain areas
  • Pets and outside food and drinks not allowed 

The RoHoEn, or better known as the Japanese Friendship Garden is a joint effort between the City of Phoenix and representatives from Himeji, Japan. The name takes after the type of birds representing each city, a heron and a phoenix, respectively.

Mr. Nozomu Okita designed the garden as close to a traditional Japanese garden as possible, with a team from their city that oversaw every phase of the project. It may be out of context but the garden offers a unique kind of oasis from our experience. 

Visiting the place felt like being transported to Japan itself, which is perfect if you’re looking for a break from the usual desert flora and fauna.

Compared to other gardens in the valley, some might consider the 3.5-acre destination as small and there’s not much to see. However, it’s not about the size as much as it is about immersing yourself in the surrounding landscape.

The shapes and textures from the shrubs and stone are tied seamlessly together by the calm water features, which we thought were captivating and delightful to the senses.

Our only gripe is that there are not enough seating areas for visitors to rest and take all the sights in. Sitting on the grass areas is also strictly prohibited, but understandably so to maintain the environment.

We also heard from some visitors who felt they didn’t get what they paid for especially when an event was scheduled on the same day. Fortunately, they’ve learned from this and closed general admission during these circumstances.

Other than that, we think it’s worth pausing and appreciating its features. They could really grow on you.

2. Desert Botanical Garden 

Desert Botanical Garden's Homepage

Features: garden trails, dining, garden shop, Cohn Family Butterfly Pavilion, Schilling Library, direct access to Papago Park, 50,000+ plant displays


Location: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

Contact Details: (480) 941-1225

Visiting Hours

  • Daily: 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Sundays & Wednesdays: 7:00 AM access for members
Google reviews score4.7/5
Facebook reviews score4.8/5
Facebook reviews score4.5/5
Total reviews5/5
Score consistency4.5/5
Variety of Activities5/5
→Events Facilities5/5
→Workshops & Tours5/5
Admission Fees(a higher score means better value)4/5


  • Well-lit during the night
  • Offers a wide variety of workshops and tours for all ages
  • Stunning views and extensive varieties of desert plants
  • Designated UNESCO World Heritage site 
  • Conveniently located in Downtown Phoenix
  • Known for its community and research initiatives


  • Tends to be crowded during special exhibits and events
  • Overpriced admission fees for some
  • Fees may change 

It’s not going to be a list of the best gardens in Phoenix without the world-famous Desert Botanical Garden. The 140-acre expanse is tucked within Papago Park, one of the valley’s Points of Pride and must-see destinations.

It’s no wonder why thousands of visitors–locals and tourists alike–flock here every year. The garden is conveniently neighbored by hotspots for most outdoor recreational activities in the desert state like hiking, golfing, fishing, and sightseeing.

Trailing back, the garden is home to the largest collection of plants from the desert biome. It has approximately 50,000 plants of different species, 519 of which are rare and endangered.

Fortunately, the dedicated volunteers and staff are committed to their preservation and cultivation through research and partner initiatives. The local community can also support the cause through membership packages and participating in their events.

Speaking of, the membership terms can be renewed annually or bi-annually and come in varying levels. 

They’re also playfully named after succulents and cacti, but we’re partial to the Cholla Club membership. For $119, you can have unlimited access for two and a scooter rental every visit for a whole year.

If you’re not up to it, they host free admissions every second Tuesday of the month. Just be ready to bump shoulders with more people than usual, especially during the spring and fall concerts and Las Noches de las Luminarias.

The entrance fees are also expected to hike up prior notice, which could be a little too expensive for some.

Still, this doesn’t take anyway from the idyllic scenery and sunbaked terrain. There are also five thematic trails to choose from that evoked a thirst for adventure (and water) for us.

3. Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center

Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center's Homepage

Features: bird habitat, interactive exhibits, interpretive loop trail, 16-mile trail, facility rentals


Location: 3131 South Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85040

Contact Details: (602) 468-6470

Visiting Hours

  • Tuesday – Friday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Saturday: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Google reviews score4.5/5
Facebook reviews score4.7/5
Yelp reviews score4.5/5
Total reviews3/5
Score consistency5/5
Variety of Activities5/5
→Events Facilities5/5
→Workshops & Tours5/5
Admission Fees (a higher score means better value)5/5


  • Activities and programs are available for everyone
  • Focuses on conservation and educating the local community
  • Award-winning nature center
  • Hosts events such as exhibits, weddings, and corporate gatherings


  • Lack of security features
  • Needs improvement on maintenance (ie. littering and trash collection)

Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center serves as the launchpad if you will, to an expansive riparian zone. We know, the name could be quite a mouthful.

The zone in question is the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area which sprawls along the historic Salt River, just a few miles south of Downtown Phoenix. 

The 600-acre habitat is home to over 200 species of birds, paved and natural trails, and lush wetlands. Although it’s not exactly a garden, we included it in this list for what it stands for and everything it has to offer.

We’re fans of the center’s ongoing efforts of restoring what once was a dumpsite into a thriving oasis for all flora, fauna, and humankind to partake in. 

Walking along the 10-mile trail, we noticed that elevation changes are minimal and can be enjoyed by all age groups.

The nature center itself offers a wide array of educational, recreational, and volunteer-based activities for all ages as well. Visitors can enjoy thematic and interpretive hikes, bird-watching, biking, and art sessions, among other things.

This hits two birds with one stone (pardon the metaphor) for us. Visitors can actively participate in an array of programs, and have fun while they’re at it while protecting the nature reserve and its endangered wildlife.

However, it seems it’s accessible to a fault. You may observe homeless people loitering on the sidelines and a scatter of garbage here and there, which could indicate a lack of security.

Still, the nature park offers a lot to see and still has more potential. We think through time and more comprehensive initiatives–and community efforts on our part–it can be restored to its original state.

4. Queen Creek Botanical Garden 

Queen Creek Botanical Garden's Homepage

Features: watermill, themed gardens, demonstration gardens, fruit orchard, Pecan Lake, barn, dining


Location: 25002 S. 206th Street Queen Creek, AZ 85142

Contact Details: (480) 987-2442

Visiting Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Google reviews score4.5/5
Facebook reviews score5/5
Yelp reviews score4/5
Total reviews3/5
Score consistency3.5/5
Variety of Activities4/5
→Events Facilities4/5
→Workshops & Tours4/5
Admission Fees(a higher score means better value)4.5/5


  • Popular wedding venue for its quiet location and scenic views
  • Offers child-friendly activities
  • Genuine and hospitable attendants
  • Features the only functioning industrial era water mill in the Southwest
  • Promotes sustainable and local food production


  • A little far from most of Phoenix
  • Smaller area compared to others
  • Pets aren’t allowed

The Queen Creek Botanical Garden is a trailblazing conservatory that was launched only in 2020 by owners Lonnie McCleve and Justin Rohner. The garden is situated within an upscale neighborhood known for its grove of pecan trees it was named after.

 The 3-acre estate stands out to us for two main things. 

First, they claim to be the only all-edible botanical garden in Phoenix with a few curated flowering plants. One of their goals is to advance sustainable and ethical methods of food production and consequently, food security.

Notably, Rohner is the founder of the Agriscaping Movement that is built on these principles. With these in mind, the goal is to educate locals about incorporating edible food gardens in their backyards.

Visitors can try their demonstration garden to learn the ropes regarding this, and we heard their tour guides are more than willing to show you around. They’re especially great with children with hands-on activities with plants and interacting with animals.

Second, the garden is home to the only functioning water mill in the Southwest. This was apparently originally built in the industrial revolution era and also features a stone gristmill and a pecan cracker/shelling machine.

With a bucolic air to it, the garden makes for a perfect venue for outdoor weddings. Plus, the Pecan Lake and San Tan Mountains as backdrop, although far from Central Phoenix, look straight out of a painting.

For some, the garden itself is quite small and can be circled around in a matter of minutes. We think it’s worth touring with one of their guides to appreciate it more, but like everything else, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

5. Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Boyce Thompson Arboretum's Homepage

Services: theme gardens, trails, exhibits, demonstration gardens


Address: 37615 E. Arboretum Way Superior, Arizona 85173

Contact Details: (520) 689-2723

Visiting Hours

  • Daily: 6:00 AM – 3:00 PM (May through September)
  • Daily: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (October through April)
Google reviews score4.9/5
Facebook reviews score4.8/5
Facebook reviews score5/5
Total reviews4.5/5
Score consistency5/5
Variety of Activities4.75/5
→Events Facilities4.5/5
→Workshops & Tours4/5
Admission Fees(a higher score means better value)5/5


  • Dedicated to conserving and protecting the desert biome
  • Offers stunning outdoor venues for special events
  • Ideal for both light and steep hikes
  • Lots of things to see at every corner (3,900 taxa and 19,000 plants)
  • Open for all, including pets
  • Recognized as one of the top destinations in the whole state


  • Farther compared to other local gardens
  • Some wild animals, like snakes – may not be for everyone

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum lies on the outskirts of Southeast Phoenix, a few miles from Queen Creek. It’s also home to the largest and longest-running botanical garden in the whole state within nearly 350 acres of upland.

Although there’s quite a drive between you and the lush and scenic tract of Sonoran Desert land, we think it’s worth it for everything it has to offer. Moreover, it’s the best option for being away from the humdrum of a busy city and being one with nature.

First, the garden is brimming with a wide variety of both desert flora and fauna accessible to the general public.  With each visit, you’ll also help in the conservation and cultivation of its biodiversity.

Through an unpaved five-mile trail, visitors are taken on an impactful journey through the “living museum”, which consists of different thematic gardens. There’s always something to see at every glance, which will keep you on your toes.

We were also impressed to see that each of the twelve gardens features plants from deserts around the world. Some hail as far as the Middle East, Africa, Arabian Peninsula, and Australia.

Along the stretch, visitors can also appreciate up-close and personal views of the rocky formation of the Magma Ridge and the Ayer Lake. There are some more steep areas for hiking, plus there are restrooms and gazebos scattered all over the trail.

Apart from these, they’re equipped to host outdoor weddings and events at one of their gardens, which is great. For the nature lovers out there, hope you’re taking notes.

Overall, we think the arboretum should be on every local’s list of top destinations to go to around the state. 

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