Guide to the Denver Botanic Gardens

Guide to the Denver Botanic Gardens

Despite some allergies, our family loves the outdoors and beautiful gardens. We would love nothing more than to have our own special flower gardens. There has been some success, but we must admit that we don’t have the greenest of thumbs. We do, however, enjoy visiting botanic gardens, and the Denver Botanic Gardens, with multiple locations, help us smell the roses, and lilies, and daffodils, and even the stinky corpse flower.

Denver Botanic Gardens Tropical Tree
This tropical tree reminds up of something from a Dr. Seuss book

Denver Botanic Gardens at York Street

The cornerstone site for Denver Botanic Gardens is the downtown York Street location. The 24-acre gardens has everything from native plants to tropical specimens found in the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory.

Denver Botanic Gardens Conservatory
Conservatory at Denver Botanic Gardens

In the conservatory you find the Corpse Flower, affectionately called Little Stinker. The flower, which measures 5 feet, blooms for one to two days, emitting a terrible smell that attracts the carrion beetle, the primary pollinator. Little Stinker bloomed in August 2018, and blooms occur once every 7-10 years. The Corpse Flower is quiet a draw for the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Insider Tip: All three locations have Free Admission Days. Check the calendar for those free days.

York Street has a Japanese Tea Garden, Bonsai Garden, English Rose Garden and a rock alpine garden, and a steppe garden. We enjoy strolling through each garden, admiring the flora and the landscaping of each garden. It makes us wish we had more time and resources (and a larger back yard) to create such captivating landscapes.

Denver Botanic Garden Water Lily
Water lily at the Japanese Tea Garden

The Science Pyramid is an interactive digital gallery where you learn about ecology and plants in Colorado and around the world. We like to spend some time here during each visit to learn about sustainable living.

Next to the pyramid is a large play area with a steep grassy embankment. The kids love rolling down the hills, etching green grass stains on their clothing. Whenever we have visited, there has been someone with a bottle of bubbles. Every kid — and some adults — get a kick out of chasing and popping the bubbles.

Denver Botanic Gardens Blooms
Blooms at York Street

We love all of the animals we get to see roaming the gardens. Of course we see butterflies and bees, but we have seen rabbits and ducks, too. We had the privilege to see ducklings learning life skills from their mother during one visit.

Denver Botanic Gardens Duck family
Mom and duckling at Denver Botanic Gardens

Chatfield Farm

Chatfield Farms is located in Littleton, near Chatfield State Park. The 700-acre grounds have a working farm, lavender garden, native specimens garden, and the Hildebrand Ranch.

Chatfield Farms features an annual pumpkin patch, haunted corn maze, lavender festival, and an indoor tour of theย  Butterflies of Chatfield. You can visit any season of the year and see different blooms and harvests.

Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms
Spring flower blooms at Chatfield Farms

While the York Street locations has more structured gardens, the gardens at Chatfield are more natural and free-flowing. The Farm is special because you are able to walk among the barns, silos, a farmhouse, and a schoolhouse while admiring the flora and fauna. A gently flowing creek runs through the premises.

Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms
On a stroll through Chatfield Farms you see many flower displays

You can picnic at a lake, or near the Wedding Chapel. Volunteers are always at work planting and harvesting the farms’ goods.ย  Walking though the site feels like taking a step back in time to the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Denver Botanic Gardens Red Barn
The paths at Chatfield lead around barns and silos

Denver Botanic Gardens Silo

Hildebrand Ranch

A enjoyable stop at Chatfield is at the Hildebrand Ranch, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. You can see the farm equipment used on the ranch. You can see the cutting flower garden and herb garden near the ranch house. In the barns, you can catch a glimpse of (and maybe pet) a pony or a goat.

Denver Botanic Gardens Windmill
Windmills and farm equipment at Hildebrand Ranch, part of Chatfield Farms

We really enjoy touring the ranch house, which is still set up to represent life in the early 1900s.

Denver Botanic Gardens Hildebrand Swing
The porch swing overlooks the herb garden at Hildebrand Ranch House

Inside the ranch house, docents describe life in the early 1900s. The home is set up with artifacts from that era, including fireplace and stove, kitchen cookware, dining room plates and silverware, and a sewing room with an authentic Singer sewing machine. It’s fun to see the magazines from the period and the family pictures hanging from the wall, illustrating a simpler era before the digital age.

There was a lot of hard work involved in maintaining a ranch, but it seems more idyllic and rewarding than our hurried pace today.

Denver Botanic Gardens Mason Jars
Mason jars in the Hildebrand Ranch pantry

Plains Conservation Center

We are fans of theย Little House on the Prairie book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The author tells the stories of her childhood, growing up in the plains of Kansas and South Dakota.

When we toured the Plains Conservation Center in Aurora, Colorado, we remembered the books and the adventures of the Ingalls Family.

The 1,100 acre Plains Conservation Center is located on the eastern edge of Denver metro area. The Center aims to teach an appreciation of the prairie ecosystem through various education programs.

Denver Botanic Gardens Pronghorn
Where the deer and the pronghorn play … on the Plains Conservation Center

Unlike the other two sites, Plains has no real structured gardens. The grassy fields grow naturally, although domesticated sheep and donkeys, and other wildlife like pronghorn help tend the grasses.

The highlight of Center is a wagon ride through the grasslands where you can spot prairie dogs. pronghorn, red-tailed hawk, coyotes, and bald eagles. When we toured, the bald eagles were nesting, so that area was closed off to foot and vehicle traffic. Still, we could see the nests from a distance.

The wagon ride takes about 40-minutes. We saw a lot of wildlife, although the wagons were always moving, making picture taking extremely difficult. We learned fun facts during our ride. For example, we discovered that the pronghorn (North America’s fastest land animal) is so speedy because a North American Cheetah used to prey on the beast. We also learned that the red-tail hawk screech is used as the “voice” of a bald eagle in television and movies since the eagle’s call sounds more like a turkey. These are important factoids for a 10-year-old boy.

Denver Botanic Gardens Plains Tepees
Tepees on the site.

The Plains Conservation Center also has a set of tepees and area where you learn about the Native American plains tribes that called Colorado home.


Since the Denver Botanic Gardens has a number of locations and sites, you are able to learn about a great number of ecosystems with visits. In addition to the three sites in this article, there also is the Mount Goliath location in the Rocky Mountains highlighting alpine plants and centuries-old bristlecone pines; and the 16th Street Mall Garden Block, an urban public space garden in the center of Denver’s premier shopping district. With so many sites and so many specimens, the Denver Botanic Gardens should have something that every family can appreciate.

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Do you like to walk through botanic gardens? What is your favorite garden? Please leave a comment. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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20 thoughts on “Guide to the Denver Botanic Gardens”

  • I love beautiful gardens too and fight allergies. Usually my two meds I take make it alright, but sometimes especially in the spring, not so much. Your photos are beautiful and I especially love the tropical tree because of its hot pink flowers (fave color)! Those York Street blooms are gorgeous. I love seeing so many beautiful flower photos!! Also being from the south, love those aqua mason jars! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I love to explore botanical gardens as well. I can’t believe I missed this opportunity when I was in Denver. I fight the allergies as well, but I just pop an allergy pill and hope for the best! I recently found out that the United States features stand-alone rose gardens across the country as well.

  • Wow! This looks idyllic! What wonderful photos. I confess I know nothing about the prairie ecosystem so would be very interested to find out more. I will have to add this to my never ending ultimate US road trip list when I get around to visiting the other side of the pond ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I have to admit I never thought of visiting Botanic Gardens. But after seeing you r pictures I can definitely see the appeal. Thanks for sharing. So interesting that there are man different Garden spots to visit too. I always just imagines the Botanical gardens as just being in one place. Shows what I know! Great Share. Thanks again!

  • Next time I am in Denver, I need to visit this area. I especially would love to tour the ranch house. I love walking through historic homes and viewing all the artifacts from that area. It really helps me envision what life was like during that time.

  • I love the way that is park has incorporated native American history into a botanical garden. The stinky flower sounds like a fun experience haha, one day I will head here when I am near Denver. Great post!

  • I love the title of this article ๐Ÿคฃ Colorado is so beautiful and I can only imagine how many gorgeous sights are available at the Botanic Gardens! That porch swing looks like an absolutely perfect spot to relax, take a deep breath and take it all in ๐Ÿ™‚ Great tips here, thanks!

  • I love gardens, given that we have 9-5 office jobs and are tied down to computers and AC, I specially prefer spending time in the midst of nature. The pictures are lovely and those flowers look so colorful and fresh. I’ll certainly visit this botanical park if I ever happen to come to Denver. We recently went to see a flower that blooms once in every twelve years. We have written about it as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

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