There are several must-see landmarks in the booming Texas town of San Antonio. Every tourist tops their list with the Alamo and the Riverwalk, but I contend that the San Antonio Botanical Garden (and the SAS shoe factory) should be next in line for the top tourism destinations!

San Antonio Botanical Garden display beds

The display beds change with the season. The mixture of flowers and these colorful rows of winter veggies is something anyone could adapt to their own landscape.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

San Antonio Botanical Garden Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden may be small, but every element holds deep meaning in context to the garden.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

San Antonio Botanical Garden glass pyramids

The towering glass pyramids are an architectural marvel to enjoy before you even step inside this unique conservatory to take in the plant collections!

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

San Antonio Botanical Garden desert display

Collections, like this one found in the desert pavilion, are a hallmark signature of botanical gardens.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Blooming banana

You may have seen a banana tree before, but have you ever seen it in bloom?

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Whether you’re a garden enthusiast or not, this botanical wonder offers something for everyone, and it’s small enough to cover in 2-3 hours. (And if you plan your visit around mealtime, you can enjoy the delicacies served at the onsite Carriage House Bistro.)

Lest I get carried away with food, I’ll get back to the gardens. There are four primary areas to enjoy: the Formal Gardens, the Lucile Halsell Conservatory, the Texas Native Trails and Watersaver Lane.

Formal Gardens

Several display gardens greet visitors as they pass through the garden entry. The Sensory Garden boasts plants that appeal to the five senses year-round, and it’s designed for maximum accessibility. The Japanese Garden, Kumamoto En, was a gift from San Antonio’s sister city, Kumamoto, Japan. The traditional Japanese setting uses plants, water, rocks and other elements of nature as symbolic features to define this culturally unique garden space. Other display beds in the Formal Garden area change with the season. In March, for example, we were treated to beds with colorful, leafy vegetables interplanted with cheery flowers. While the cabbage had bolted and flowered (and was no longer an appetizing edible), it remained a garden accent.

Lucile Halsell Conservatory

This isn’t your average conservatory – it’s an architectural landmark! The glass pyramids have a futuristic look enhanced by contemporary garden sculpture in the courtyards between the five detached glasshouses. When we visited, there was an orchid exhibit, a desert pavilion, a tropical oasis, a fern grotto and in the tallest structure – towering over the entire garden – was the palm and cycad pavilion. Whatever your interest, the conservatory is guaranteed to offer a plant exhibit to excite you. We saw gorgeously mysterious orchid blooms, a banana tree in flower and interesting prickly cacti, and we enjoyed a lovely walk-beneath waterfall feature designed to keep the humidity high in the fern grotto.

Texas Native Trails

Billed as a “walk across Texas,” this 11-acre garden invites visitors to stroll through three distinct ecological regions that make up the diverse Texas landscape. The Hill Country trail features plants that thrive in rocky alkaline soils. In stark contrast, acid-loving woodland plants can be found along the East Texas Pineywoods trail. And perhaps most familiar to what many imagine the Texan terrain to be, the South Texas trail includes dryland trees, shrubs and cacti. A neat part of these trails was the fact that pioneer dwellings native to each regional representation are incorporated for an integrated learning experience.

Watersaver Lane

The botanical garden has partnered with the San Antonio Water System to demonstrate the various landscape styles commonly found across the country in its Watersaver Lane display. Six small “homes,” nearly identical in shape and size anchor each area. The front lawn of each home is representative of a different design style, and signage helps visitors recognize the defining elements of each. The featured landscapes were: Wildscape, Spanish Courtyard, Cottage Garden, Manicured Xeriscape, Traditional American Lawn and Texas Hill Country Landscape. Of course, in keeping with the watersaver theme, the information provided touches on the irrigation and maintenance requirements for each design. This side-by-side comparison is a great way for folks to find their own water wise landscape style!

Of course, our last stop of the day was the Garden Gate Gift Shop. In addition to quirky garden-inspired gifts, the shop offers several shelves of great gardening books, a display case with unique jewelry, and some sensible clothing and hat options to keep the scorching gardening sun at bay.

The 33 acres that make up the San Antonio Botanical Garden are 33 acres of true Texan terrain that shouldn’t be missed! But don’t take my word for it – go see for yourself!