6 reasons Atlanta adores its botanical gardens

Atlanta Botanical Garden

1345 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. 404-876-5859

1911 Sweetbay Drive, Gainesville. 404-888-4760

Everyone loves a gorgeous hometown tourist attraction and the year-round charms of the Atlanta Botanical Garden make any time of year the right time for a visit.

But Atlanta's affection for the ABG is more permanent than a blooming spring flower and stronger than nostalgia for a landmark.

Here are just six of the reasons for the ATL's abiding love affair with the Atlanta Botanical Garden:

They delight your date. The gardens are renowned as a romantic setting for a stroll, particularly 40 feet in the air on the Canopy Walk. Fine dining ABG-style is another beloved date night option. Longleaf is the name of the Garden's attractive, two-level dining facility. You can have a fancy sit down dinner with your sweetie, just be sure and make a reservation. And when dates go well, the ABG is right there to take couples to the next level, providing umpteen great date plans. A $99 "dual" membership fee allows two adults free unlimited admission for a year and reciprocal privileges at more than 300 gardens, arboreta and you know, "plant places."

They elevate the efforts of Atlanta's gardeners. The ABG doesn't stop at encouraging people to look at beautiful plants. It also educates and embraces local gardeners and beauty and bounty are the results. The Edible Garden and Outdoor Kitchen exhibit is one example: a feast for the eyes that demonstrates how fruits and vegetables make beautiful landscape plants. There are gardening, art, cooking and photgraphy classes. There are clases for kids and clases for adults. And you don't even have to visit the gardens to benefit from the Plant Hotline. Just call 404-888-GROW (4769) or email planthotline@atlantabg.org with your plant questions and a Master Gardener will answer your call or email.

Credit: All photos contributed by Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Credit: All photos contributed by Atlanta Botanical Gardens

They give nature nerds the added bonus of animal time. Of course, diehard green thumbs would love the flowers and gardens, from orchids and roses to jack-in-the-pulpit and everything in between. But the wild kingdom that is ABG also includes displays of animals cohabiting with plant collections. Within the lobby of the Fuqua Conservatory rests a living collection of poison arrow frogs in a naturalistic setting, for example. The exhibit is part of the ABG's frog conservation program and many of its species have formed viable populations right there at the Tropical Rotunda before Atlanta's wondering eyes. Other animal-lover bait at the gardens: yellow saffron finches that fly about the canopy and tropical wood turtles and tortoises in a terrestrial habitat.

They cater to frugal families. One of the most-admiring subgroups of ABG fans are homeschoolers and other young families. The family membership bargain is one of the draws, starting at $109 for unlimited free admission for a year. That's a whole lot of visits to enjoy the Lou Glenn Children's Garden offerings, including a carnivorous plants exhibit, and climbing nets and slides and bridges to play on. Another mommy-or-daddy-and-me offering that's made lots of friends for the ABG is Garden Playtime  from 10:00 a.m.-noon Tuesdays, March to October. It's geared toward children ages 6 months to 5 years.

It's the perfect place for photos. Special events like the over-the-top "Scarecrows in the Garden" and the everyday Canopy Walk and Rose Gardens are just a few of the fine spots for a selfie or dress-up photo shoot. The great news: garden guests are welcome to take photos and videos throughout the Atlanta Botanical Garden for both private use and sharing on social media. It's just the sale or commercial use of those photos that are strictly prohibited.

Weddings are wonderful here. Maybe it’s all those couples who had first dates at the AGB, but a lot of folks feel like their wedding wouldn’t be right anywhere else. Several of the high points at the gardens, like the Sourwood Terrace or the Alston Overlook, are dreamy places to take vows. Add to that the people who fantasize about marrying beneath the rose arbor with 21 varieties making their way up chain swags, and the gardens have a deserved reputation as a wedding wonderland.