The WRAL Azalea Gardens have been open since the 1950s, when a thousand colorful azalea bushes were planted outside the WRAL studio.
In the decades since then, WRAL’s gardens have become a popular springtime destination near downtown Raleigh, with thousands of visitors coming for picnics and walks, to snap prom or quinceañera photos, or even to celebrate a wedding.
The azalea gardens are even bigger than many realize, with meandering trails, hide-away benches, lunch tables and hidden artwork and sculptures scattered among the maze of flowers and trees.
So if you want to visit the WRAL Azalea Gardens this season, here’s everything you need to know – how to visit, where to park, how to book a wedding venue, the history and more.
History of the WRAL Azalea Gardens in Raleigh
Throughout the decades, the blooming of the WRAL Azalea Gardens have been a symbol of the return of spring. Bursting with southern flowers – dogwoods, magnolia, hydrangeas and, of course, azaleas – it’s a sanctuary of life in the middle of a busy city.
In 1959, three years after WRAL went on the air, the iconic azalea gardens opened to the public.
A.J. Fletcher, founder of Capitol Broadcasting, oversaw the planting of 1,000 azaleas.
“It was simply my way of paying tribute to beauty for beauty’s sake,” said Fletcher, who had a genuine passion for azaleas, taking great joy in finding new varieties to display for the community.
Unfortunately, three days before the slated dedication of the thousand delicate blossoms, Raleigh experienced “three straight nights of cold,” according to the history of the gardens. When CBC Corporate Secretary Scottie Stephenson arrived to work in the morning, she saw Fletcher running around in the cold weather, bathing the azaleas in warm water to keep them alive.
When asked why he went to such lengths to create the gardens, Fletcher said, “I did it because I knew it would be beautiful.”
Visiting the WRAL Azalea Gardens
On any given day, you never know who you’ll see in the gardens. Sometimes you’ll run into a beaming couple getting married. Other times, you may see the Easter Bunny himself hopping through the trees.
Where can I find WRAL Azalea Gardens?
The WRAL Azalea Gardens are located behind the WRAL-TV 5 Studios at the intersection of Western Boulevard and Avent Ferry Road, just across the street from North Carolina State University, and can also be accessed from Centennial Parkway.
The physical address is 2619 Western Blvd.
What time do the gardens open and close?
The WRAL Azalea Gardens are open seven days a week, from dawn until dusk.
Is parking easily available?
Plenty of free parking is available directly across from the garden entrance.
Are the gardens accessible?
Some paths are paved and wheelchair accessible.
There are public restrooms available just inside the building at WRAL Studios. Follow the signs for the garden restroom.
What kind of flowers and plants are in the WRAL Azalea Gardens?
Plant and flower lovers will find a large variety of colorful blooms, especially in the springtime. Azaleas are, of course, a primary plant. However, you’ll also find:
- Succulents, including a century-plant
- And many more
- Pink flowering Dogwood
- California Coast Redwood
- Long-leaf Pine
- Ginko Biloba
- Butterfly Japanese Maple
- Red select Japanese Maple
- and more
There are also vines, such as the Firecracker, Variegated Tree Ivy and Variegated Confederate Jasmine.
Click here for a full list of plant, tree, shrub, vine and flower varieties.
Raleigh wedding venue: Planning a wedding at the WRAL Azalea Gardens
Are you looking for a beautiful and natural outdoor wedding venue in Raleigh?
Weddings are hosted in the WRAL Azalea Gardens on weekends from April through mid-September.
Reservations may be made for either a 2:00 p.m. or a 5:00 p.m. ceremony.
Click here to check the availability of the venue and learn more details.
Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Heather Leah for this Capcom story.