If you’ve ever seen the Lord of the Rings movies, you’re familiar with the gorgeous rolling foliage of JRR Tolkien’s fantasy world. Finding that sort of lush scenery in the real world seems impossible, but if you’re near enough for a stroll in Asheville, North Carolina, you’re in for a surprise. Asheville Botanical Garden offers lush scenery, beautiful well-manicured paths and, if you’ve got the imagination, a step into a beautiful green fantasy world.

A well-maintained rustic pathway arches and winds its way through beautiful trees, full shrubs, and fragrant gardens. At every curve, new pops of color or a new set of comfortable benches come into view. Even in the heat of summer, respite is offered in the shade of mature trees and a cooling breeze carried off of babbling brooks just off the path. Whether you’re into meditating, photography, or just want to stretch your legs, this is an excellent way to while away an afternoon.

A half-mile loop with various side trails allows for a stroll of the leisurely sort and a perfect place to picnic on one of the lawns just off the paths. Take a blanket, a book and a picnic basket and enjoy the lovely setting with someone special. You can, of course, take it a little faster and jog the loop as a few of the runners I encountered were doing or be more purposeful in your pursuit of nature by taking up photography, setting up a paint easel, or bird watching. All are encouraged by the botanical gardens.

Best part about this nature escape? It’s free. So even if you work in and around Asheville, popping in on your lunch break is a definite possibility and one that won’t cost you a cent. At your next special event, consider booking the gardens or renting out one of the many indoor or outdoor facilities to make your event a beautiful affair. So long as they’re not rented out, the gazebos and rustic buildings are available for exploration, so do so at your leisure.

The botanical gardens is a nonprofit entity but they do take donations if you’re inclined to contribute to keeping the park as beautiful as it in its current state. If that doesn’t appeal, picking up little souvenirs at the gift shop for loved ones also contributes to the betterment of the park.

The Botanical Gardens at Asheville

151 W .T. Weaver Blvd, Asheville, NC 28804