Lilacs, tulips, redbuds and more, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum houses priceless plant collections, catching the eyes of botany enthusiasts across the nation.
It reopened for drive-through viewing in May, just in time to be nominated for USA Today’s 10Best Readers' Choice botanical garden contest.
This is the Arboretum’s fourth nomination in four years, winning the contest in 2017 and 2019. Voting takes place via USA Today's 10Best Facebook page, and anyone in the U.S. can vote. “10Best.com provides original, unbiased and experiential travel content of top attractions,” said Lydia Schrandt, USA Today’s senior photo editor.
USA Today runs the travel site, 10Best, which showcases the “best” places to visit around the country. To find locations, USA Today hosts a series of “10Best” contests. A panel of experts comes together and choose the top 20 venues within one category. The public then votes for the top ten.
“The people who win in the end get the bragging rights,” said Susie Hopper, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s public relations specialist. “We're a nonprofit, and anything positive that helps us make new friends and bring in new visitors is a tremendous plus.”
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has maintained its spot as one of the top apple breeding centers in the world. The invention of the Honeycrisp apple is attributed to the Arboretum.
“We are not only an amazing set of gardens in natural areas, but we're also a prestigious research program,” Hopper said.
Being attached to the University of Minnesota helps contribute to the number of votes that come in. During previous nominations, Goldy Gopher’s social media and other university organizations, such as groups in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, have encouraged students to cast their votes for the Arboretum.
The Arboretum currently has thirty thousand active members. University of Minnesota students are able to gain free memberships with the Arboretum by registering with their student email.
The Arboretum has been busy, despite the coronavirus, but sickness prevention is still persistent in the garden’s plans to stay open. “While you want what’s best for the Arboretum, you know a contest is not the top priority,” said Hopper.
Along with masks being required, walking paths through the Arboretum are currently unidirectional to keep each visitor group at a safe distance. “They had signs for every turn and every garden — if I started walking the wrong way, I’d notice and turn around,” said Kara Condon, a fourth-year student at the University.
Preparing for phase three of the Arboretum's coronavirus protocol is in the works. The majority of gardens and 16 miles of trails that can accommodate COVID-19 walking regulations will open. All parking lots, the visitor center and Red Barn will reopen. Bikers will be able to again ride on the garden’s three-mile drive.
“This is a great place for students to come out and recharge,” said Hopper.
The winner of USA Today’s 10Best Readers Choice botanical garden contest will be announced on July 17.