Everyone really must visit the city's prettiest 79 acres: Missouri Botanical Garden.
The brilliantly landscaped Missouri Botanical Garden began life as the country estate of Henry Shaw, who came to St. Louis in 1819 from Sheffield, England, and made a fortune selling hardware, tools and cutlery to pioneers passing through on the way west, which explains why some St. Louisans still refer to the institution as “Shaw’s Garden.” In 1851, Shaw built Tower Grove House and began developing the surrounding estate into what would become Missouri Botanical Garden, which he opened to the public in 1859. Today, visitors enter the garden through the Ridgway Visitor Center, which houses exhibition galleries, Shoenberg Theater, Sassafras Café and the exceptional Garden Gate Shop, easily the best selection of garden-related books, gifts and accessories in the city. The garden’s individual attractions are so numerous, we lack the space to describe them all, but a stroll through the glorious, 14-acre Japanese Garden can at least take you past the Climatron (the garden’s geodesic-domed tropical conservatory), the adjacent Shoenberg Temperate House (home to a beautiful Moorish walled garden), the kid-friendly Doris I Schnuck Children’s Garden, the enchanting Chinese Garden and the William T. Kem- per Center for Home Gardening. If you take the alternate route back from the Japanese Garden, you’ll pass through the English Woodland Garden on your way to Tower Grove House (open for tours), Herb Garden, Observatory, Maze, Daylily Garden, Iris Garden, Gladney Rose Garden and the charming Linnean House (at 135, the oldest continuously operating display greenhouse in the U.S.). There’s more, but you should discover that for yourself. www.missouribotanicalgarden.org.