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Pinecrest Gardens

Pinecrest Gardens

I honestly can't believe that I haven't written about Pinecrest Gardens before! I was there many times when it was Parrot Jungle (founded in 1936!), and the gardens themselves were just as interesting as the birds. Parrot Jungle (now Jungle Island) moved to an Watson Island on the MacArthur Causeway in 2002, leaving the historic gardens behind. The property was soon purchased by the Village of Pinecrest, and turned into a public park.

The grounds of Pinecrest Gardens are truly amazing, with varied and beautiful plants all around the nature paths carved through the original coral. Solution holes filled with water and fish are scattered throughout the park. The trees and plants are native and astounding. There are still remnants of the old Parrot Jungle, and that's part of the fun, trying to remember what animals and birds were housed where. Also, there are now signs at some chosen sites, with QR codes to scan for an audio description of the area.

Originally, admission to the gardens was free of charge, and there were no amenities aside from restrooms. Now, there is a splash park for the kids, a petting zoo (wasn't real impressed with the condition of the animals, sadly), and snack stands. I'll be honest, I preferred it when it was still just a plain botanic garden, but I do understand the need to attract guests. A visit won't take a full day, but it's definitely worth a stop if you're in the area - we went after visiting Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. There was a farmer's market happening in the parking lot on the day we visited - it's a weekly Sunday event - and there are other events and entertainment throughout the year.

Pinecrest Gardens is open from 10AM to 5PM Monday through Friday, and 9AM to 5PM on weekends, with hours extended until 6PM during the spring and summer. General admission is $5, seniors get in for $3, and members of the military visit free.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

2016 Update

It's been at least 15 years since I was last at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and the majesty and beauty of the place have only grown. Their dedication to conservation of native plant species is evident in the thriving gardens spread through the park. There's even an active butterfly garden - one that is well-maintained and actually features scores of native butterflies. A large enclosure holds even more of the brightly-colored winged creatures, but these are non-native, and accidental release is carefully avoided. I really enjoy the parts of the grounds around the lakes - the less-manicured walking paths winding through different sections, each representing a distinct Florida habitat.

We had lunch at the Glasshouse Café, a concession-style walk-up window with both outdoor tables and a lovely indoor seating room with a view of the butterfly garden. The menu was impressive, with an array of salads, sandwiches, and other snacks, and included at least two vegetarian options. (There is another café, but we only needed one lunch each!) The gift shop is enormous, with all sorts of floral knick-knacks and an extensive book section - we found a great new book on edible gardening in Florida!

There are guided walking tours as well as a tram tour, but we preferred to just wing it and explore on our own.

Admission fees have gone up since we last visited, but it's well worth the extra cost for what easily could be 4-5 hours of viewing and activity. Prices are as follow:

Adults: $25
Seniors (65 and over): $18
Children 6-17: $12
Children 5 and under: Free

Individual Annual Memberships can also be purchased for $95.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is open from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM every day except December 25th, and there are also special nighttime events.

Original Article

To walk into Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is to step into Paradise. You'd never imagine this could be found so close to a large city! Open to the public in 1938, the gardens sit on 83 acres of land just outside of Miami. The breathtaking array of collections includes palms, tropical fruits, and rare and endangered plants, including the infamous Titan Arum, well-known for it's great size and powerful stench. Various tropical habitats are featured in the variety of displays. Snacks and lunches are offered at the cafe. The garden offers year-round tram tours as well as seasonal walking tours, and the garden is fully accessible to those with disabilities. Admission is $15, while discounted fees are available for seniors and groups.

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