What if you could find a place that offers the restorative effects of nature year-round, even during the solitude of winter and the fever of summer? At Garvan Woodland Gardens, you don’t have to wait until the moderate spring or fall months to enjoy the outdoors. While its official description is “botanical garden,” it’s much more than that.

Named one of the top five gardens in the country, the 210-acre woodland fantasy on a Lake Hamilton peninsula is open all year except January, a month devoted to restoring and revitalizing.

Nestled in the Ouachita Mountains with lake waters lapping at its shores, the botanical retreat showcases the essence of nature — towering pines, lush plantings, waterfalls and cool lake breezes that trace the 4.5 miles of wooded shoreline.

Philanthropist Verna Cook Garvan began the gardens as a personal project several decades ago, before donating them to the University of Arkansas School of Architecture as a tribute to natural preservation. Formally opened in 2002, Garvan Woodland Gardens continues to follow Verna Garvan’s dreams as well as the plans laid out by UA researchers.

One of the highlights of the gardens is the architecture, inspired by renowned architect and Arkansas native E. Fay Jones who believed architecture should reflect and fit within the natural beauty surrounding it. Jones designed the Garvan Pavilion, which serves as the center of activity for the gardens. His influence is seen in other structures in the gardens, such as the Anthony Chapel.

Special events are scheduled throughout the year, including Daffodil Days and Tulip Extravaganza in springtime, and Fall Flower Days in October, which celebrates a rainbow of 8,000 chrysanthemums in bloom. Don’t miss the popular Holiday Lights at Garvan Woodland Gardens, which illuminates the area’s winter beauty with 2 million Christmas lghts during much of November and all of December.