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Miami’s sun, sand, and surf are enough to lure countless travelers each year, but then you add in fun colorful art deco buildings and an equally vibrant nightlife and you have the perfect getaway destination.
Miami’s art deco and gorgeous sunsets aren’t the only colorful things in Miami though. Scattered around the city are lush subtropical gardens that are as colorful as the many characters that you’ll encounter on South Beach.
You’ll find beautiful green spaces nearly everywhere in Miami, so after you’ve had enough tanning and partying on the beach and need to nurse that sunburn or hangover, check out these stunning gardens around the city that will provide you with the perfect detox.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
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Escape to Europe by checking out Miami's most prominent gardens. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens was the winter retreat for industrial executive James Deering in the early 1900s and is where he entertained his friends from all around the world.
Modeled after French and Italian gardens of the 17th and 18th centuries, the gardens were designed by a Colombian landscape artist named Diego Suarez. Suarez created a labyrinth of tropical plants, fountains, pools, and fine sculptures.
Native forest and mangroves surround and accentuate the property even more, as they add to the mix of exotic and native flora found in the gardens. The grand villa which can also be toured is filled with antiques scattered throughout dozens of rooms.
The villa and gardens collectively cover roughly 50 acres and overlook beautiful Biscayne Bay. Once you’ve finished exploring Vizcaya, I encourage you to check out the estate of James Deering’s half-brother Charles which is just a 30-minute-drive.
Aptly named the Deering Estate, it is home to one of the largest virgin coastal tropical hardwood hammocks in the country and attracts a great variety of Florida’s native birdlife. You can enjoy both hiking trails and kayaking during your visit.
The Kampong, National Tropical Botanical Garden
Located in Coconut Grove, The Kapong Botanic Garden belongs to the network of five botanical gardens which make up the National Tropical Botanical Garden. It is the only member of the gardens located on mainland U.S, the other four in Hawaii.
The gardens and estate were the home of American botanist David Fairchild who worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was responsible for introducing tens of thousands of exotic plants into the U.S. and many of the plants he collected during his world travels can be found within his gardens, originating from tropical destinations throughout Southeast Asia, South and Central America, and the Caribbean.
The garden is known for its many different fruit trees which include avocados, pomelos, jackfruit, and around 60 different varieties of mangoes. The gardens are also home to bamboo, royal palms, cycads, and many different orchids.
Visitors can currently enjoy self-guided tours of the gardens but you must plan and pay in advance as only advance reservations are accepted. Visitation is allowed from Wednesday to Friday for visits up to two hours. They also run free yoga events at various times.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
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David Fairchild may have lived in his own tropical garden, but there’s another nearby garden that is actually named after him.
Located in Coral Gables, and referred to as mainland America’s only tropical rainforest Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a collection of rare tropical plants that include giant African baobab trees, rare petticoat palms, ferns, cycads, loads of fruit trees, bromeliads, and the world’s largest collection of tropical bamboo.
The property covers over 80 acres, and a great way to introduce yourself to the gardens is by taking the free 45-minute tram tour which is led by a knowledgeable guide who will narrate your journey and explain the history of the garden’s many plants.
You'll also want to make your way to the Wings of the Tropics exhibition where you can surround yourself in exotic butterflies from the Amazon and beyond. Species include shimmering blue morphos and captivating owl butterflies. You may even get to see some butterflies emerging from their chrysalises.
Other highlights include the garden’s 16,500 square foot conservatory, extensive palm collection, many pools and water features, succulent garden, cannonball trees with their aromatic pink blossoms, and the introduced African Red-headed agama lizards that roam the gardens.
Miami Beach Botanical Garden
Just a short walk from the sands of South Beach is a green tropical oasis called the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. The complimentary gardens (donations welcomed) are open Tuesday to Sunday and were somewhat recently renovated in 2011.
The gardens feature beautiful lawns to relax on, a Japanese garden, fountains, and a natural wetland area filled with red mangroves and pond apple trees. The ponds are stocked with koi and attract birds like white ibis and egrets as well as dragonflies, and turtles.
The garden’s native plants lure in beautiful zebra longwing and atala butterflies while the ylang-ylang and frangipani blossoms provide a pleasant scent as you roam around.
The roughly 2.5 acre gardens are also home to many epiphytic orchids, some varieties of which can be purchased from the gift/garden shop which also offers up botanically inspired t-shirts, hats, jewelry, and other items.
The gardens also host regular art classes, yoga sessions, and various workshops. Some workshops even incorporate fresh produce that is grown in the gardens such as Brazilian cherries, macadamia nuts, starfruit, pineapples, and pomegranates.
A great garden for families with small children is Pinecrest Gardens which is open daily. While it may be home to many native and exotic plants, it is the many attractions geared towards kids which make these gardens great for families.
Kids can enjoy feeding koi that live in the garden’s ponds, get up close and personal with other animals in the petting zoo, or simply cool off in the Splash and Play water playground. There are plenty of kid-friendly paths to explore and shady picnic areas to enjoy some lunch.
The gardens also host regular events that include outdoor concerts in the Banyan Bowl amphitheatre as well as outdoor family movie nights. They used to be the location of the Parrot Jungle eco-adventure park which has since relocated to nearby Watson Island and renamed Jungle Island.
While the Pinecrest Gardens may not have macaws, flamingoes, orangutans, and sloths like Jungle Island does, the gardens do offer a beautiful lake which is home to gorgeous mute swans and lazy iguanas.
The gardens also offer up a nice slice of native cypress slough and tropical hardwood hammock to explore.
In addition to the gardens I have mentioned above, the Miami area is also home to numerous other small gardens and parks including the Bonsai Garden of Miami, Gifford Arboretum, and Montgomery Botanical Center.
Miami’s gardens are sadly often overlooked when it comes to the city’s attractions but are just another reason to visit Southern Florida. I hope they inspire you to get out and see a more natural and calming side of Miami.