A Local’s Guide to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

minnesota landscpae arboretum

About the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is home to more than 160 acres of display gardens, trees, and permanent art.

There are 21 model landscapes and display gardens, 44 collections of trees and plants, including roses, iris, and peonies, and our personal favorite, more than 200 works of indoor and outdoor art in their collection.


3675 Arboretum Drive
Chaska MN 55318

The Arboretum is located about 20 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis.

To arrive via car from downtown:

  • travel west on Interstate 394 West to I-494 South
  • Exit on Minnesota Highway 5 and travel another 15 minutes/15 miles to Arboretum Drive
  • Turn left on Arboretum Drive and continue to the gatehouse.

History of the Arb

arboretum grounds

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum rests on the original tribal lands of the Dakota people. It was first settled by farmsteading immigrant families, and was eventually purchased in 1958 for a display garden.

The project initially began as a partnership between the Men’s Garden Club of Minneapolis and the Minnesota State Horticulture Society. The group took on 160 acres of the University of Minnesota Fruit Breeding Program west of the Twin Cities, and the gardens were born.

Since its humble beginnings as a plant breeding program, the Arboretum has introduced 162 new varieties of plants, including 29 apples. These days, more than 5,000 different species of plants grow in the 1,200 acres of public gardens.

Today, the Arb is dedicated to environmental conservation and building community around the natural world. As part of the University of Minnesota system, they also participate in cutting-edge horticultural research and education.

Annually, more than 388,000 visitors stop in, and more than 29,000 households have memberships.

Hours and Opening

Visitor Center and building hours for the Arb change seasonally.

But usually, the gatehouse and grounds are generally open to visitors from 8 AM to 8 PM. (The buildings typically open one hour later and close one hour earlier than the gatehouse.)

The Cost

All individuals must have a reserved ticket online to enter the Arboretum. Visitors ages 16 and up are $15, while children and members enter for free.

The Arboretum is a 501(c)3 non-profit and relies on entrance fees as its primary funding source for the maintenance of the gardens and programming. It may feel weird to pay to see a garden, but once you experience the size and scope of the Arb, you quickly understand how much it costs to maintain!

What to Expect on A Visit to the MN Landscape Arboretum

review - minnesota landscape aboretum gardens

There’s no one way to visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and plenty of ways you can mix and match the activities for a fun day of exploring.

Here are some things you’ll want to make sure to see:

The Plant Collections & Display Gardens

plant displays

It’s a botanical garden, so of course, you’ll want to see the plants! What’s great about the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is the massive variety of gardens and plant collections you’ll find (more than 5,000 species). It’s known as one of the premier public gardens in the United States for a reason!

Some highlights you won’t want to miss:  the rain garden area. The Maze Garden. Fern Walk. Japanese and Chinese-inspired gardens and the Sensory Garden.

One of the things we love about the Arb the most is that they label nearly every single plant you can access from the trails or garden spaces. So if you’re interested in a specific plant for your own yard or garden, it’s easy to find its name and then research how you can bring it home to your garden space.

named plants

Three-Mile Drive

three mile walk

On a first visit, you’ll want to be sure to walk or drive along Three-Mile Drive. The route winds through the entire Arboretum, with trails and parking areas for visitors to hop out and see the various collections at the Arb.

If you enjoy biking, Three-Mile Drive is also open to bicycles and e-bikes.

Stop at the visitor’s center, grab a map, and follow the guide to what you’ll see along the way.

Harrison Sculpture Garden

Harrison Sculpture Garden

Over the years, the Landscape Arboretum has acquired an extensive collection of outdoor sculpture art. It now sits in a 3-acre area known as the Harrison Sculpture Garden that can be found along Three-Mile Drive.

Stop here and walk through the grove of Kentucky Coffee Trees up to the highest point in the Arboretum to catch a view of the surrounding landscape.

sculpture gardens minnesota landscape aboretum
(Looking for more sculpture gardens? Check out local’s guide to the Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens or even the underrated Big Stone Mini Golf Course.)

Farm at the Arboretum

Farming has been a legacy in Minnesota for generations, yet many families and new Minnesotans don’t have a connection to growing vegetables, fruit, and agricultural products.

In 2019, the University of Minnesota purchased and restored a working farm, barn, and garden area to the public to educate visitors on all that farming offers families in the Upper Midwest.

The Apple House

As mentioned above, much of the Arboretum landscape started from the University of Minnesota fruit breeding program. During the fall, the Arboretum opens the historic Apple House, located not far from the park’s main entrance.

Visitors can sample some of the 20+ apple varieties developed right here in the gardens (including the world-famous Honeycrisp, Zestar, and First Kiss) and also learn about some of the new apples still in development.


Sometimes it’s frustrating to tour a botanical garden and have no idea what you’re looking at. If you’re interested in a guided tour of the Arb (including someone to tell you the difference between one of the hundreds of different trees and shrubs on the grounds), check out the narrated tram tour that runs during the summer.

Same-day tickets can be purchased for $6 at the information desk for this 65-minute tour of the entire grounds, display gardens, and the Farm at the Arb.

What Else to See at the Arb

Eatery at the Arboretum

Landscape Arboretum Visitors Center, Library

While it’s a-okay to bring your own food and beverages onto the Arb grounds, it’s also possible to have a chef-curated, fresh meal at the Eatery.

Located on the upper floor of the Visitor’s Center, you’ll find a bakery and lunch menu of seasonal and locally-grown choices.

It’s the kind of place you’ll find regulars enjoying a cup of coffee and pastry in the mornings. And with large airy windows and high ceilings, it’s a favorite place to study and write in the winter.

The Garden & Gift Shop

Gift Shop

It’s weird to put a gift shop on the list of things to see, but if you’re at all interested in local art, jewelry, and handmade goods, you’ll want to check out the store.

Geared toward the natural world and amateur horticulturalists, we always enjoy wandering the one-of-a-kind collection here.

It also hosts the largest selection of horticultural books for sale in the Upper Midwest–a perk if you’re shopping for a green thumb.

Andersen Horticultural Library

It’s no secret we love libraries. Especially ones that make you feel at home as soon as you walk in. The Andersen Horticultural Library at the Arb is open to the public during regular hours and is just as gorgeous as the gardens outside.

You’ll find some unique books on plants and natural history, along with custom-built furnishings and bookcases.

There’s also a nature-themed storytime held on the last Friday of the month.

Bee & Pollinator Center

During the summer months of May-October, the Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center is open seven days per week for visitors to come and experience the world-renowned bee and pollinator research conducted by University of Minnesota scientists.

Kids and families can enjoy displays about honey bees, Monarch butterflies, and how to grow pollinator habitats in their home gardens.

Special Events

One of our favorite things about the Arboretum is how hard staff and board have worked to make it ‘more than a garden.’ As a result, you’ll find a full calendar of special events on most days of the year.

Whether it’s a landscape tour, yoga class, firefly viewing night programs, biking and running events, or live music on the Ordway stage, we always find something unique or different about the experience.

Like a trip to the Minnesota State Fair, for us, a trip to the Arboretum is always a mix of stopping at our favorite places, checking out what’s new, and stumbling upon the unexpected.

Some FAQ’s

Can I reserve arboretum tickets in advance?

Yes. Since the pandemic, all tickets to the Arboretum must be reserved online in advance.

However, there are plenty of time slots for the daily timed reservations, including slots every 30 minutes from open to close.

Can I host an event or get together with a group?

The Arb has a variety of different formal meeting spaces to rent, as well as plenty of picnic tables and open spaces to plan a casual get-together.

Groups of 10 or more get a discount on admission, so it’s worth calling ahead if you’re planning a larger group get-together.

Are dogs allowed?

Service dogs are always welcome, but to bring your pet to the on-leash dog commons area of the Arb, you must purchase an annual family membership with a dog-added stamp.

Memberships for dogs start at $110.

When is the best time of year to visit?

The Arboretum showcases the best of all four seasons in Minnesota, so there’s really not a wrong time of year to visit.

  • During the spring and summer, the gardens are in full bloom, and The Arb hosts tons of special events to celebrate the beauty.
  • Visitors can check out the Apple House during the fall and taste some of the U of M’s signature cold-hearty apples.
  • The Arb slows down in the winter but remains open for winter hiking, holiday concerts, and nightly light shows.

What is the parking situation like?

Parking at the Arb is free. There are several large lots available near the main visitor’s center, as well as smaller parking lots along Three Mile Drive for stopping to get out and view plants.

Since the pandemic and timed entrance tickets, plenty of parking is available throughout the gardens.

What else is there to do in the area?

The Arboretum is located near the Twin Cities communities of Chaska, Chanhassen, and Lake Minnetonka. Driving from Minneapolis or St. Paul can be a hike out there, so planning other activities in the area can sometimes help make the drive more worth it.

Some local recommendations of other attractions in the area:  Paisley Park, Chanhassen Dinner Theater, and a Lake Minnetonka boat tour.

All in all, is the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum worth a visit?

minnesota arboretum

If you enjoy the outdoors, are interested in nature and art, or generally just like to take in a piece of Minnesota history, then yes. The Landscape Arboretum is worth a visit.

If wandering the gardens feels a little slow-paced, check out one of their summer events, take a Yoga in the Gardens class, or catch some live music on the Ordway stage.

The Arboretum has worked hard in the past several years to become so much more than a garden–visit and see for yourself!

Share on

Don't miss out

on awesome updates around the Twin Cities.
About the Author
More like this