If your family needs an escape from winter in New England, you don’t have to travel far – or at all. We’ve found five fabulous indoor garden spaces in the city of Boston and beyond, just a short trip away. From the tropics to the desert, featuring local and exotic plants and animals, these places offer a warm, green respite from the frigid temperatures and leafless trees of winter in Massachusetts. Read on for gardens where you’ll find butterflies, birds of paradise, or fountains – and feel like you’re a world away.
Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, Boston
The plant-lined Evans Way Park lobby entrance of the new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a wonderful start, but the main attraction is the European courtyard, which truly transports visitors to another time and place. The courtyard can be seen from many of the museum’s rooms, which are packed with art from all over the world. If you’re seeking more green for your garden fix, be sure to check out the Chinese Loggia.
Location: 280 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115
Hours: Wednesday-Monday 11 am-5 pm, Thursday until 9 pm, Closed Tuesday
Cost: Adults $$; Free for visitors under 18, members, all named “Isabella”, and U.S. military and families.
Tropical Forest at Franklin Park Zoo, Boston
Go on a tropical adventure without leaving Boston: Just head to Franklin Park Zoo’s Tropical Forest. It’s warm and humid and full of plant life (and animals, of course). It’s the perfect antidote to winter’s leafless trees and dry air.
Location: One Franklin Park Road, Dorchester, MA 02121
Hours: Winter (October 1- March 31) 10 am-4 pm daily
Cost: $$; Children under 2 and Members Free.
Margaret C. Ferguson Greenhouses at Wellesley College, Wellesley
The Margaret C. Ferguson Greenhouses feature the most diverse collection of plants under glass in the greater Boston area, with sixteen interconnected greenhouses. Take a vacation to a desert climate or the tropics without leaving Massachusetts. Other highlights, especially for the kids, are the sensory plant collection and carnivorous plant collection. Call ahead to be sure you'll be able to see all the greenhouse areas.
Location: Route 16 entrance is at 727 Washington St, Wellesley, MA 02481. The Wellesley College Botanic Gardens' Visitor Center is adjacent to the Science Center and greenhouses. All visitors to the Wellesley College Botanic Gardens should park in Wellesley College's Gray Lot. For visitors with a handicap plate or placard: one handicap space is available right in front of the Visitor Center.
Hours: Ferguson Greenhouses are open from 8 am to 4 pm every day of the year, and the Visitor Center is open daily during the academic year from 10 am to 4 pm.
Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston
Tower Hill Botanic Garden has plenty to offer visitors during winter months: You’ll want to visit The Orangerie, an 18th century style greenhouse, and The Limonaia, which feature winter blooming, temperate and subtropical plants from October through May. If you’re up for an outdoor adventure: Visit the Winter Garden, a showcase for plants that are at their best during the winter months, featuring twin bronze turtle fountains in the center of the courtyard. You can also strap on your snow shoes or skis and explore the Garden’s trails.
Location: 11 French Drive, Boylston, Massachusetts 01505
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 9am to 5pm. The Garden is Closed Mondays except on holidays.
Cost: $-$$; Free for Members and children under 6
The Butterfly Place, Westford
Open February 14 – October 31
The Butterfly Place, a family-owned business, shows the love by opening for the season on Valentine’s Day. In the butterfly flight area, which is kept at temperatures of 80-85 degrees, you can see New England butterflies and tropical species from all over the world, flying freely in a natural habitat. You may also encounter koi fish and quail birds, and there is a staff member always available to answer questions at the “show and tell bench”. There are also exhibits where you can see eggs, caterpillars, cocoons and chrysalides. If your young biologist doesn’t want to leave, you may want to visit the gift shop and pick up a Take home a Butterfly Hatching Kit so that you can hatch and release your own live butterfly together.
Location: 120 Tyngsboro Road, Westford, MA 01886
: February 14th - March 31st: 10 am – 4 pm, April 1st - August 31st: 10 am – 5 pm, September 1st - October 31st: 10 am – 4 pm. In the event of inclement weather, they may be closed. Check their Facebook page
for last-minute updates.
Cost: $-$$; free for ages 2 and under
Photo: The Limonaia at Tower Hill Botanic Garden
Originally published Feb 2013; updated Jan 2014