I am not a big fan of theme parks. They are too crowded, too plastic and too fake. I am always looking for a better alternative for my kids. I really enjoy smaller more natural “Off the beaten path” places with soul. I can relax, enjoy the walk, and I don’t need to worry about losing sight of my kids in the crowds. I really enjoy letting them go to explore on their own. It was easy to find places like this when I lived in Northern California, but since I moved to Miami, it’s been very hard to find other alternatives to expensive Magic Kingdom – Legoland – Wet n Wild kind of theme parks.
Until I found a gem: Flamingo Gardens in Broward County, near Ft. Lauderdale.
Flamingo Gardens is a true urban oasis. The minute you walk in, you can smell, breathe and feel the rainforest surrounding you. It is perfect for families, kids and adults. You can take a stroll in the shade under the green canopy, surrounded by multicolored butterflies, with the background music of birds singing. Once you are done with all of that sunbathing in Miami Beach, and all the noisy glamorous busy nightlife, this is the place to come and escape from it all. I heard once that Nature is the only true medicine, and indeed it is. It relaxes kids, it calms people, it cures illnesses, and de-stresses. If this is what you are looking for to compensate for that busy crazy Miami city life, you have found the perfect decompressing place. And it’s only about a 40-minute drive from Miami.
Flamingo Gardens is a 60-acre, not-for-profit wildlife sanctuary, aviary, zoo and botanical garden located just west of Fort Lauderdale. The interesting thing about it is that it used to be the weekend home of Floyd and Jane Wray, a pretty adventurous couple who came to South Florida in 1925 and were deeply intrigued with the horticultural possibilities of the subtropical locale. They purchased 320 acres of land at 50 cents an acre around and including Long Key in the Everglades. At the beginning they used the land to plant orange groves, but later in 1927, Floyd Wray incorporated Flamingo Groves, beginning what was to become one of the first botanical gardens and tourist attractions in South Florida. It always fascinates me how these people were true explorers, riding their horses all the way from their Hollywood, FL home in order to get to their weekend home in Davie (about 10 miles). Since there were no roads back then, I can only imagine the ride. Bugs, heat, humidity, alligators, swamps, snakes!
Flamingo Gardens is home to the largest collection of Florida native wildlife including alligators, bobcats, eagles, otters, panthers, peacock, and of course, flamingos. It is also one of the oldest botanical gardens in South Florida featuring 20 “Champion” trees, the largest trees of their species, including the largest tree in Florida. Specialized gardens, including a Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden, Croton Garden, and Bromeliad Garden dot the main Arboretum. The centerpiece of the gardens is a natural hammock of 200 year-old Live Oaks dripping with species orchids and epiphytes. I highly recommend their narrated tram tours that will take you around the 60 acres in less than 35 minutes. They also offer amazing special events throughout the year. This is definitely the place to come if you are looking for an alternative to that same old pumpkin patch.
The original Wray house is very well-preserved, with its original furniture and decorations. It will take you back in time, and you will even forget for a while that you are in hectic South Florida.
$18 Age 12+, $10 Ages 4-11, Ages 3 and under are free.
Members admitted free.
Narrated Tram Tours are additional. $4 Adults, $3 Children 4-11.
Children 3 and under, and Members of Flamingo Gardens ride free.
Flamingo Gardens is open 7 days a week 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Ticket Booth closes at 4:00pm. Closed Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day
WILDLIFE ENCOUNTER SHOWS
12:30, 1:30, and 2:30 weather permitting
WRAY HOME MUSEUM
Guided Tours from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
NARRATED TRAM TOUR
11:00, Noon, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00
For more info go to www.flamingogardens.org
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