On January 2nd of this year, we made our second trip to this fairly new theme park in Winter Haven, FL. This time I discovered what used to draw people here in the first place… the original “Cypress Gardens.” Opened in 1936, this 30-acre botanical garden was Florida’s first commercial theme park. It is now nestled inside this plastic-piece haven, but still provides a beautiful oasis filled with tropical flowers, incredible trees & peaceful streams.
The centerpiece of this magical area is a gigantic Banyan Tree. I’m guessing it spreads out over at least a 50-foot span (if not more), with new roots dropping everywhere to form multiple limbs all around. Stand underneath it, in the very center, and look up to see a miraculous web of uninterrupted growth.
The park is bordered on one whole side by Lake Eloise (where the famous water-skiing shows were featured in Cyprus Gardens’ heyday) and where most of the Legoland shows still take place. It’s a beautiful backdrop for the foliage & wildlife that now reside in this section of the garden.
Along the winding paths in this botanical paradise, there are streams & small waterfalls where we saw plenty of birds and fish… we even heard mention of a gator sighting!
And the flowers were amazing… I was totally fascinated by this “Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow” plant. I had never seen, nor heard of this beautiful flowering bush and was immediately fascinated by it. A native of Brazil, the “Brunfelsia” has lush green foliage, accented by clusters of small flowers that change colors in a 3-day cycle. It first blooms in a purple or violet shade, the next day, that same flower changes to a pale lavender and finally on the 3rd day, the flower turns completely white. With hundreds of blooms on a single plant, it’s absolutely gorgeous!
It was hard not to take a picture of everything I passed… here are a few of my favorites:
Now don’t get me wrong, Legoland itself is still a worthy destination for the whole family (and my son’s favorite park). It has a nice assortment of rides, including a few good coasters (“Project X” is a must do) and plenty of Lego stores, shows and decent places to eat. My son could have spent most of the day in the “Build & Test” section of the Imagination Zone where you can build & race your own Lego vehicles, but he also loved the rides, the mini village and the 4-D movies.
Located just 45 minutes south of Orlando, Legoland provides an easy escape from the mad rush of Disney and easily entertains a wide range of ages. Big news at the park this year is the opening on May 15th of their very own 152-room, Lego-themed hotel. Not sure you’d need to stay more than one day, but the hotel itself looks like it will provide plenty of its own additional entertainment.
In our 2 visits here, we still haven’t ventured into the Legoland Water Park – guess that will be on the list for next time!
Love the roller coaster pic! Following your travels and seeing sun and palm trees helps get me through the single digit temps and mass amounts of snow!!!
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