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Known for Gardens

Savannah, Georgia

Nearly three centuries ago, Savannah’s squares were utilitarian centers of daily life: Residents collected water, kept livestock and baked bread in communal ovens. Today, Savannah’s 22 historic squares are lush green spaces shaded by Spanish-moss-draped live oaks and dotted with fountains, sculptures and monuments — and still bustling with people reading on benches, strumming on guitars and painting en plein air.

“We basically consider them the heart and soul of the city,” said Mindy Shea, director of tour, travel and international sales for Visit Savannah.

When founder James Oglethorpe laid out Savannah in 1733, he followed a Roman Grid pattern with a central plaza every few blocks. Of the original 24 squares, 22 remain, one of which was reclaimed when the parking garage that covered it was demolished. Ellis Square reopened in 2010 and works well for groups because it’s the most modern, Shea said, with plenty of places to sit, a splash fountain for kids, bike rentals and a life-size chess set. Wright Square is home to the Tomochichi monument and was the city’s “hanging square” — be on the lookout for the ghost of Alice Riley. Chippewa Square may look familiar because it was where Tom Hanks sat on a bench throughout “Forrest Gump.”

Trolley and carriage tours give groups an overview of the squares; walking or Segway tours feature fewer squares but delve into more detail.

Victoria, British Columbia

The capital city of British Columbia almost couldn’t help itself. With its Mediterranean climate — dry summers and warm winters — Victoria is “a great place to grow things, so gardeners flock here,” said Karen Elgersma, manager of media relations for Tourism Victoria.

Victoria is called the City of Gardens and received the award for International Garden Destination of the Year in 2015. The city showcases its gardens and shows off its gardening culture at every turn, but several gardens are must-see sites.

Butchart Gardens had an unlikely beginning as a limestone quarry. But when the quarry was spent, Jennie Butchart filled it with soil and transformed it into gardens. Today, it is a year-round destination with flowers and fireworks in the summer, harvest and foliage in the fall, the 12 Days of Christmas in winter — think holiday-themed sculptures made out of plants — and cherry blossoms, daffodils and tulips in spring.

“Every month and every season has its own personality,” Elgersma said.

The Gardens at Horticulture Centre of the Pacific (HCP) are “a gardener’s garden,” she said. The center has a host of gardens, including Japanese, Mediterranean and bonsai gardens but is famous for the Doris Page Winter Garden. Groups can take guided tours, workshops and hands-on classes, or enjoy produce from HCP’s farm and veggie gardens during a meal at Charlotte and The Quail cafe.

Gahanna, Ohio

The story goes that in the early ’70s, a local developer said Gahanna would never be known for much other than its housing developments. Resident Bunnie Geroux thought otherwise. She and a local gardening club worked to have state lawmakers designate Gahanna the Herb Capital of Ohio in 1972.

The Herbal Trail was launched to mark the 40th anniversary of the designation, and it showcases 45 local gardens, farms, restaurants, spas and shops. In the Creekside District, guests can explore herbal plantings, historical markers and the Sunrise Garden, which showcases different herbs, said Mary Szymkowiak, communications and tourism manager for the
Gahanna Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Geroux Gardens is a one-acre site with themed gardens, among them the Medicinal Garden, the Culinary Garden and the Biblical Garden. A guide, typically the director of the Ohio Herb Education Center, will lead group tours and explain how different herbs “were used then and cool ways to use them now,” such as in cocktails and herbal butters, she said.

The Ohio Herb Education Center offers workshops on herbal vinegars and salad dressings, or ways to preserve the harvest. The CVB also works with several local farms to provide tours, classes and hands-on experiences. Jorgensen Farms grows mint for Jeni’s Backyard Mint Ice Cream, as well as produce and herbs for Columbus’ top chefs. Groups can tour the strawberry fields, or pick flowers during a field-to-vase flower class.