Florida Gardens to Visit With Kids
The Sunshine State has a perfect balance of cloudless days and rainfall—providing the perfect environment for an array of lush foliage and big, bold, colorful blooms. Because of this, Florida has many botanical gardens that capture the hearts of their visitors. While some children are naturally excited by a botanical experience, others aren’t so confident that it will be a f un time. They may have no interest in vegetation and no natural inclination toward the outdoors. In this case, do a little research on the plants you will be seeing so that you can create excitement by sharing some fascinating facts about each garden you visit.
The Florida gardens listed here open up the large world of plants to kids, providing them with a colorful way to connect with nature. Each of these fantastic gardens is within an easy drive, so you can start arranging your own family garden adventures today.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
900 S. Palm Avenue, Sarasota 941-366-5731; selby.org Selby Gardens is focused on the research and conservation of epiphytes. It has the world’s largest collection. Its 15 acres are filled with several beautiful gardens, greenhouses, a tropical conservatory and an interactive children’s rainforest full of waterfalls, bridges and huts with games.
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park
3540 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee 850-487-4556; floridastateparks.org/park/Maclay-Gardens This historic site and botanical gardens occupy 1,176 acres of Florida state parkland. Unlike the other gardens listed here, Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park has numerous activities to create a full family day; you can hike, bike, picnic and even swim.
Bok Tower Gardens
1151 Tower Blvd., Lake Wales 863-676-1408; boktowergardens.org This 250-acre contemplative garden is home to the 205-foot-tall Singing Tower, which provides daily carillon concerts. Bok Tower Gardens also offers the Pine Ridge Nature Trail, a three-quartermile-long path through a longleaf pine forest; Pinewood Estate, a Mediterranean-style mansion built in the 1930s; and the most magical children’s garden, Hammock Hollow, where families can explore nature and art in a tactile and meaningful way.
Edison & Ford Winter Estates
2350 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers 239-334-7419; edisonfordwinterestates.org If you enjoy sharing history with your kids, as well as enjoying its aesthetic beauty, Edison & Ford Winter Estates is a must-see. Families can stroll back in time through the estates’ 20 acres of gardens, featuring more than 1,700 plants, representing some 400 species from six continents.
Naples Botanical Garden
4820 Bayshore Drive, Naples 239-643-7275; naplesgarden.org Naples Botanical Garden consists of 170 acres of cultivated gardens and preserved land, representing seven distinct natural habitats and ecosystems, and featuring more than 1,000 species. The Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children’s Garden is an interactive world of flowers, vegetables, butterflies and native landscapes. The Wild Florida Loop Trail wanders through the native ecosystems, treating your kids to various activities such as creating a masterpiece with sidewalk chalk, climbing to the top of a treehouse, and exploring the river of grass from, as its website says, “a spider’s perspective.”
Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens
4000 Morikami Park Road, Delray Beach 561-495-0233; morikami.org These authentic Japanese gardens transport visitors to the land that inspired them, while never leaving South Florida. The Rojien: Garden of the Drops of Dew actually consists of six distinct spaces inspired by historic Japanese gardens. Morikami also has a bonsai exhibit and museum collections on its campus that provide an authentic look into Japanese history and culture.
3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek 954-977-4434; butterflyworld.com This is the largest butterfly park in the world, where kids will love being surrounded by more than 20,000 live butterflies.
3750 S. Flamingo Road, Davie 954-473-2955; flamingogardens.org Flamingo Gardens is a 60-acre, not-for-profit wildlife sanctuary, aviary and botanical garden. One of the oldest gardens and attractions in South Florida, it is home to the largest collection of Florida Champion Trees, certified by the Florida Forestry Service as the largest of their species. The property’s Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary provides a permanent home to injured wildlife and houses the largest collection of Florida’s native animals. Fun and informative daily programs feature the animals.
Vizcaya Museum & Garden
An 3251 S. Miami Avenue, Miami 305-250-9133; vizcaya.org These European-inspired gardens are among the most elaborate in the United States and are especially appealing to kids who love history. Reminiscent of gardens created in 17th- and 18th-century Italy and France, the Vizcaya landscape is arranged as a series of rooms, with art collections placed throughout the grounds. After exploring the gardens, you can take in the grandeur of the lavish Italian villa-inspired residence on the shoreline of Biscayne Bay.
Mandy Carter is a local mom with a passion for family travel, a popular travel blogger including her own blog acupful.com and is the managing editor for TOTI Media.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens brings the glories of French and Italian landscapes to Miami.
Clockwise from top left: Up close with the residents of Flamingo Gardens in Coconut Creek; exploring Hammock Hollow, a children’s garden at Bok Tower in Lake Wales; the main building at Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach.