Bellingrath Gardens and Home, created by Mr. And Mrs. Walter Bellingrath, first opened to the community in 1932, when Mr. Bellingrath placed an ad in the paper inviting anyone to come and see the spring gardens for free. Due to the overwhelming response, in 1934 the Bellingraths decided to open their gardens to the public all year round. The Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Alabama is now an icon for the Gulf Coast region, displaying thousands of exquisite flowers and plants. The beautiful gardens have made it an ideal venue for community occasions, including special events, birthdays, and weddings.

There is always something in bloom throughout the year at Bellingrath Gardens. In the springtime, stunning azaleas are everywhere, while beautiful hydrangeas, roses, and tropical plants take over in the summer. In the fall, visitors won't want to miss the amazing cascading chrysanthemums. Winter brings more than 400 varieties of camellias, a flower that Walter Bellingrath called the "aristocrat of Bellingrath Gardens" as well as the state flower of Alabama.

In January, guests can see camellias, pansies, winter berries, and violas. February brings tulips, hyacinths, and Taiwan cherries. Over 250,000 vibrant azaleas appear throughout the gardens' 65 acres in March, along with petunias, hydrangeas, daisies, and Easter lilies. Bellingrath's award-winning rose garden is the highlight of April, while June brings gardenias, crepe myrtle, southern magnolia, and tropical hibiscus. In November, visitors can view hundreds of colorful, 4-foot-long cascades of chrysanthemums throughout the gardens in the country's largest outdoor chrysanthemum display.

The Bellingrath Home, constructed in 1935, spans 10,500 square feet and comprises 15 rooms. Designed by George Rogers, the home's exterior includes handmade brick recovered from Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont's 1852 birthplace in Mobile. The result was called an "English Renaissance" by Rogers. Rogers wanted visitors to not think of the house as a mansion, but as a home, and therefore it was designed to give the impression of being a more modest residence. The architect wanted it to be reflective of the region's architectural heritage as well.

Today, the Bellingrath Home looks as it did during the time the Bellingraths lived there, and is now open to the public for tours. The couple's complete collection of original furnishings is on display throughout the house. Visitors can see the bathrooms of 1935, considered "ultra modern" for their time, as well as view the butler's pantry, filled with a collection of china, crystal, and silver, and the kitchen with its original German silver sinks and countertops.

In 1967, the open garages of the Bellingrath Home were enclosed and renovated into a visitors lounge and the Delchamps Gallery of Boehm Porcelain. The fine collection of porcelain sculptures were created by Edward Boehm, and is the biggest display in the country of its kind. Less than 10 years into his artist career, Boehm's work had already been noted by Eisenhower, and soon Boehm's porcelain sculptures were sent as gifts from the president to dignitaries of other countries.

12401 Bellingrath Gardens Road, Theodore, AL 36582, Phone: 251-973-2217

More Alabama things to do

More vacation ideas: Honeymoon, Fairbanks, Castles in Germany, Romantic weekend getaways in Washington, Key Largo, Hershey

More last minute travel: Charleston WV, Things to Do in Pensacola, Things to Do in Baton Rouge, Encinitas, Colorado Springs