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!