Marie Selby Botanical Gardens#5 in Best Things To Do in Sarasota
Once the home and grounds of amateur gardener Marie Selby, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1975 after the death of its namesake. The garden, which specializes in epiphytes (or plants that grow on other plant species) features thousands of varieties in its outdoor gardens and more than 20,000 plants spread throughout its eight greenhouses. Flora found on-site include ferns, bamboo, banyan trees and orchids.
Most travelers appreciated the tranquil atmosphere and scenic views of Sarasota Bay, though a few prior visitors said the attraction's grounds were beautiful but left something to be desired. If you're traveling with children, check out the property's kid-friendly areas like the Butterfly Garden and the Children's Rainforest Garden, where plants sit alongside swinging rope bridges, a field research station and caves. Other noteworthy spots include the Epiphyte Garden (which has a koi pond), the Banyan Grove and the mangrove-lined boardwalk.
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are situated about a mile southwest of the city center and are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, excluding Christmas Day. Standard tickets cost $20 per adult and $10 for children ages 4 to 17; admission includes access to all of the attraction's outdoor gardens, plus a conservatory, restrooms, a cafe, a tea room and a gift shop. Or, for an extra $5, travelers can purchase an All Access Pass, which also covers entry into the Museum of Botany & the Arts in the National Register of Historic Places-listed Christy Payne Mansion. Kids 3 and younger can visit for free. Bike racks and limited parking are also available, or travelers can take the No. 4 or 5 SCAT bus to one of several stops within walking distance. Visit the property's official website for more information.
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#1 Myakka River State Park
Considered one of Florida's oldest and largest state parks, Myakka River State Park stretches across 58 square miles of wetlands, hammocks, pinelands and prairies. The area also features a river and two lakes, making it a prime place to enjoy water activities like canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Or, visitors can tour the lakes via one of the attraction's airboats, which are the largest in the world. Land-based tours are offered seasonally as well.
Though some travelers caution that finding the park's entrance and parking near the lake's main activities can be a bit of a challenge, many agree that this scenic spot is a must-visit for nature lovers. All sorts of animals – including alligators, roseate spoonbills and armadillos – are known to frequent the area. What's more, the park offers nearly 40 miles of hiking trails – including one walkway suspended 25 feet above the ground – and several biking paths.
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