Enchanting Botanical Gardens
There is something incredibly enchanting, restful, and tranquil about spending time in a garden. By visiting some of Florida’s unique botanical gardens, you can elevate your vacation experience to a whole new level of relaxation. Connect with nature, learn about new and exotic plants, catch glimpses of wildlife, and perhaps even plan your wedding in these enchanting botanical gardens.
Path to Tranquility
USF Botanical Gardens in Tampa offer a small yet sensually satisfying walk through specially curated blooms and trees that include orchids, begonias, mallows, bromeliads, carnivorous plants, butterfly garden, herb and scent gardens, and much more. The gardens are arranged around a pathway, with sections covering fruit trees and palms from around the world, temperate forest, carnivorous plants, tropical and subtropical trees and shrubs, as well as plant species found in Florida's upland habitats. It is also common to see wildlife and birds in the gardens, and visitors often find a sense of tranquility after their visit.
Learn About Plant Life
The Florida Botanical Gardens offers 100 acres of tropical beauty to inspire and educate visitors with flora and fauna presented in motivational surroundings that promote environmentally friendly ways. The gardens are adjacent to the Heritage Village in Largo, just north of St. Petersburg, and combined the two attractions can provide you with a look into its history, native habitats, and natural plant life. Visit the gardens demonstration areas to enjoy education and relaxation among the blooms. Uniquely, the garden welcomes pets (as long as they’re on a leash) and is a favorite place for families to spend time.
A Living Museum
Sunken Gardens has been a St. Petersburg attraction since 1935, known for its unique settings and even as an amazing wedding venue. As St. Petersburg's oldest living museum, this 100-year-old garden is home to some of the oldest tropical plants in the region. Here you will find delightful little features like cascading waterfalls, colorful flamingo friends, and more amongst 50,000+ tropical plants, and flowers. It’s even more impressive when you realize that some of these plants and trees have been here for over a century! (So they’re not for climbing.) For more insight into this fantastic attraction, consider a docent-led tour of the gardens.
Connect with Nature
Palma Sola Botanical Park in Bradenton is a 10 acre oasis tucked into a quiet Gulf Coast community. This park, which offers free admission to their gardens, aims to connect locals and visitors with nature in creative ways and cultivate interest in landscaping and environmental education. The gardens are situated around three lakes, and you may see some unique wildlife here. They offer a Hidden Garden Nursery in the butterfly gardens, offering modestly priced exotics, bromeliads, succulents and more for you to start or add to your own garden at home. The park offers yoga sessions amongst the blooms, and is also a unique wedding venue.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is an iconic Sarasota attraction located directly on the Sarasota Bayfront, and offers some of the most spectacular and visually stunning garden sections and vistas, which has also made it a popular wedding venue. Selby expertly blends lush botanical blooms with historical charm, and is perfectly landscaped with native foliage including live oaks, banyans, and palms, and featuring foliage-framed glimpses of the bay in the background - so be sure to bring your camera! Especially created for young ones is the Children’s Rainforest Garden, offering a connection to nature through interaction and play. Be sure to visit the garden’s gift shop and plant store to take home a part of this magical experience!
New and Unique
Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens is a 27 acre oasis abutting the Peace River in Punta Gorda. This is a relatively new garden, having just opened in 2017, and is also quite unique in that it offers botanical gardens with world-class sculptures and an art museum, while still preserving the natural environment of the Florida marshlands. Flowering trees and plants will bloom year round amidst sculptures from across the globe, and wildlife enjoys the gardens as much as humans. In addition to the permanent gardens and sculptures, they also offer exhibitions throughout the year to highlight artists.
Naples Botanical Garden spans an astonishing 170 acres, offering collections and habitats representative of the flora and cultures between the 26th latitudes featuring plants from around the world. See Brazilian, Caribbean, Florida, Asian, Water, and Children’s Gardens plus beautifully restored natural habitats, a birding tower, an Orchid Garden, a Butterfly House, and a fantastic new welcome center. Visit the Fogg Café to enjoy chef-prepared dishes and a seasonal menu. The garden hosts events throughout the year, and one of their most popular are the “Dogs in the Garden” days when pet owners and their pooches can walk the grounds together. The garden is also proud to collaborate with the Center For Autism & Related Disabilities (CARD) at the University of South Florida to offer pre-visit tools for individuals with autism spectrum disorder to enjoy the gardens to the fullest.
Small Yet Special
Hollis Garden in Lakeland is a smell yet memorable garden experience, set in a neo-classical architectural environment complete with patterned flower beds, public art, and ornamental fountains. This surprisingly elegant garden covers 1.2 acres within historic Lake Mirror Park, and it includes over 10,000 flowers, ornamental shrubs, and native trees.
Engage with Nature
Mead Botanical Garden is a 47-acre urban oasis located in beautiful Winter Park, just a short drive from Orlando. In addition to being free to the public and open daily (dawn to dusk) the garden also welcomes leashed pets to join their owners in enjoying the tropical blooms. From its beginnings in 1940 to the present, the garden has aimed to encourage everyone to engage with nature with its easy accessibility and community programs that focus on coming together to care for the garden itself. As you walk around the garden, you will feel your senses come alive with sights, sounds, and scents. Walk the hiking trails, see the rushing creek, stroll the boardwalk, listen to the breeze in the tall pine trees, explore the greenhouse, visit the butterfly garden, and see the pond that’s home to turtles, fish and wading birds. The garden also offers several beautiful rental spaces for gatherings and weddings.
Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales is a remarkable experience that intertwines the whimsy of the past with lively tropical blooms and peaceful oak trees. Many an artist has found inspiration here, and visitors often remark on the gardens’ spiritually enriching powers. Each day the majestic Singing Tower offers a concert of bells, ringing across all parts of the gardens from Hammock Hollow to the Pollinator Garden. In addition to plant life, you can enjoy a tour of the historic estate buildings on the property. You could visit the gardens throughout the year and find something new to see or explore each time. Have an ice cream cone at the Blue Palmetto café, or enjoy a picnic on the lawns.
Harry P. Leu Gardens are a botanical gem that sits just minutes from downtown Orlando. Its 50 acres are separated into sections that help visitors become inspired to appreciate plant life with its blooms that remain vibrant year-round. The garden and historical home were donated to the City of Orlando in 1961 by Mr. Harry P. Leu and his wife, Mary Jane. Enjoy both exotic and familiar plants like azaleas, vines, bromeliads and tropical philodendrons, as well as the classic roses and camellias. Stroll under the awe-inspiring branches of camphor trees, elms and oaks. Use your smartphone’s QR reader to scan the codes on the plant signs to learn even more about a particular plant. You can also visit the Leu House Museum, a permanent art collection at the Garden House Welcome Center, a gift shop, and even a library. leugardens.org
THE ATLANTIC COAST
Passport to Japan
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach lets you take a trip to Japan - without ever leaving Florida! Explore contemporary Japanese culture, art, and cuisine set amongst 16 acres of traditional Japanese gardens inspired by (but not replicas of) the historical periods and styles of Japanese gardening. This is a place for deep contemplation and the chance for enlightenment about one’s own interpretations of life, as there is no single way to interpret the gardens so as to encourage your own personal journey. The six distinct gardens have been meticulously designed and cared for, and yet you will feel a sense of ease and peace amongst the blooms; a chance to meditate. The garden’s events range from classes to cultural demos, to festivals and children’s activities. Be sure to stop by the Cornell Cafe for a quick bite from their Pan-Asian inspired menu.
THE FLORIDA KEYS
Introduction to Plants
Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort in Key Largo are a unique treat that offers both resort guests and visitors the chance to be introduced to, indulge in, and appreciate beautiful tropical plants and trees, featuring over 250 documented tropical species. While the gardens are packed with many genera and species, they are quite compact and therefore an excellent introduction to understanding the importance of the tropical plant universe.
Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden focuses on cultivating and maintaining native plants and species in a natural conservation habitat, and is one of the few frost-free botanical gardens in the continental U.S. This unique tropical environment with ample rain allows most trees to retain their leaves in the dry season. The garden is home to many endangered plant species, and educates visitors on the importance of plant conservation and biodiversity. The garden has two of the last remaining freshwater ponds in the Florida Keys, and is a major migratory stopping point for neotropical birds from South America, as well as being home to many rare birds in the Keys. Bring some of this tropical beauty home with you thanks to the garden’s native plant nursery.