Peak Tulip: Garvan Gardens is an Arkansas wonder

HOT SPRINGS – The drive is absolutely worth it.

Yes, there’s beautiful flowers in North Little Rock at the Old Mill and there’s some pretty great tulips downtown but there’s just something about Garvan Gardens that seems otherworldly.

Photos by Gwen Green

The Hot Springs botanical garden is operated by the University of Arkansas and covers roughly 210 acres along Lake Hamilton.

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Named by national publications as among the best places to visit, Garvan Gardens has always attracted a crowd.

That was certainly the case on a recent visit as we were lucky, and early enough, to score a spot in the main parking lot. That isn’t always the case for some as the crowds have been overwhelming enough to the point that the parking lot was closed and people were turned away.

It is extremely handy to check the Garvan Gardens Facebook page as they provide regular updates on parking, and, for example, today is a cash only day because the credit and debit machines are down.

Today is also the last day admission is $15. No fooling, it goes up to $20 a person on Friday, April Fool’s Day.

Dogs are also charged a $5 admission fee.

The gardens open at 10 a.m. daily and close at 6 p.m.

Best tip is to go during the week if you’re able. If going on Saturday or Sunday, be in the vicinity between 9:30 and 9:45 a.m. so you can park and stand in line. There’s three lines for admission – one for paying cash, one for credit/debit cards and another for those who are members as they’re allowed entry for free. Memberships start at $65 and are probably worth it if you visit the gardens regularly.

For the real garden enthusiast, it is worth noting that the Garvan Gardens also “participates in the AHS Reciprocal Garden admission program.” So, essentially, if you live elsewhere and are a member of a botanical garden that participates, you can also get in Garvan Gardens.

And, if you’re one of those people and are reading this, please give us a shout. We’d like to know more for a future story.

Once you get aside, the trails are mostly paved and relatively flat. They’re an easy walk. For those with mobility issues, the gardens also offer golf cart tours for a charge. 

The gardens have also opened up additional trails, that were once service roads, to some of the different attractions, like the especially impressive children’s area with what’s possibly the best tree house that’s not in a tree, you’ll ever see.

For more information on the gardens, go to garvangardens.org.