On April 7, 1932, Walter and Bessie Bellingrath invited the public to peruse their private gardens for an afternoon. They expected only a handful of garden aficionados, but instead more than 5,000 locals flocked to see the Bellingrath's azaleas. The crowds were so massive that the Mobile police were called in to direct traffic. Two years later, the couple officially opened Bellingrath Gardens as a year-round attraction.
These days, new flower varieties are always blooming across the gardens' 65 acres, from chrysanthemums each autumn to more than 2,000 roses in the summer. Besides the flowers, the property hosts a 1,600-foot boardwalk winding through a bayou preserve and a riverfront grotto perched beside a waterfall. After exploring the grounds, stop into the 10,500-square-foot Bellingrath home, which still contains Mrs. Bellingrath's china collection and the basement hole Mr. Bellingrath dug to China.