Shangri La Today
After decades of solitude, the Shangri-La of the 1950s began to experience a revitalization with the support of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, a private foundation that was established by Lutcher Stark and his wife, Nelda, in 1961 prior to his death. The board of directors of the Foundation recognized the unique ecosystem and rich educational opportunities of Shangri La and, in 2002, launched a plan to restore it to its original grandeur. Construction began in 2005 and, with its diverse flora and fauna, the new Shangri La, “ now known as Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center,“ is even more impressive than Stark’s original vision. Nestled within 252 acres in the heart of Orange, Texas, Shangri La is an ecological wonderland and living museum for visitors of all ages to explore.
The Orientation Center helps visitors get acquainted with the rich history of Shangri La, from H.J. Lutcher Stark’s original vision to the new Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. This area includes an Exhibit Hall, the Discovery Theater, a Classroom Greenhouse, an interactive Children’s Garden, a Water Demonstration Garden that shows how plants filter pollution from the water, a Cafe, and the Garden Store. The Exhibit Hall allows visitors to explore images and stories of Shangri La’s past and present, and the Discovery Theater offers even more learning opportunities. The resources of the Orientation Center provide a deeper understanding of Shangri La, and it is an area where visitors can begin to relax, meditate, and leave the problems of the world behind them.
A prominent feature of Shangri La is its Botanical Gardens. Utilizing artistic concepts, the Botanical Gardens feature more than 300 species of plants in incredible themed displays that will inspire and amaze. The gardens include five artistic rooms and four Sculpture Gardens. A historic color garden around the reflection pool known as the Pond of the Blue Moon pays tribute to the original Shangri-La, featuring 41 varieties of azaleas, some of which belonged to H.J. Lutcher Stark in his original Shangri-La.
Along with the amazing Botanical Gardens, Shangri La will also include a world-class Nature Center. Visitors will first experience the Nature Center when they explore the Nature Discovery Center, a hands-on exhibit dedicated to Shangri La’s wetland ecosystems. A nearby laboratory allows for visitors to further investigate Shangri La’s wetlands. After a walk along a boardwalk, visitors will board a boat and enter the world of cypress swamps as they travel to one of three Outposts. At these Outposts, visitors will learn about the importance of wetlands, upland forests, and grasslands to both man and wildlife.
We invite you to visit Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center to explore a living paradise and observe how art serves nature and nature serves art. You will depart with an eternal sense of wonder.