It was acquired by the adjacent Adelaide Botanic Garden in 1866, being formerly the venue for the Royal Adelaide Show from 1844 to 1859. The park was the venue for the first Australasian meeting of the Salvation Army in 1880.
The park has been compared to the Hyde Park in London: with its own Speakers' Corner since the 1890s, Botanic Park is a venue for public debate on a wide range of topics. The Speakers' Corner continues, but with less prominence than in times-past. Today, the park is better known as a site for picnics and major events such as WOMADelaide, Gardens Alive and Moonlight Cinema.