It’s not often that you’re able to find a serene escape in the midst of a city. For South Florida, Flamingo Gardens has been this for almost a century. Flamingo Gardens started as a citrus orchard, founded by the Wray family in 1927. The grove used to be a chain of islands surrounded by the everglades. It was a 2000-acre research botanical garden that obtained plants from around the world through a program with the Federal Department of Agriculture.
Today, one of Flamingo Gardens’ most unique attributes is its Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary, which holds the largest collection of Florida native species. The sanctuary provides a safe home to animals who are permanently injured or cannot be released into the wild. Most of the animals have been imprinted with humans, meaning they see humans as a source of food rather than a threat.
“So, we give them a home here,” explained Keith M. Clark, Executive Director of Flamingo Gardens. Its botanical gardens are equally distinguished for their display of more than 3,000 tropical, subtropical, and native Florida species of plants.
Since its inception, Flamingo Gardens has been interacting with its surrounding community. In the early 20th century, the Wray family would host annual barbecues, and today this legacy has continued through events such as the Bonsai Festival and Flamingo Fest. Its most popular event tends to be the annual Orchid Festival. However, it hosts uniquely delightful events all year. In the summer, it hosts up to 30,000 school children in summer programs. The fall brings harvest festivals with different costume themes and the winter brings the annual Garden of Lights showcase.
Unfortunately, most special events have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, families looking for a safe outing should consider Flamingo Gardens as an ideal outdoors option
Flamingo Gardens has committed to following all CDC guidelines and allows only 100 visitors per hour, meaning its 60-plus acres of land are only at 12% capacity. While animal-encounter shows are temporarily cancelled, the botanical garden and Wray Home Museum remain open.
Make no mistake, the pandemic has not stopped Flamingo Gardens from providing valuable education and entertainment for its community. It has continued hosting virtual field trips, through ZOOM calls, which are free and open to all. It has also created a virtual scavenger hunt on its YouTube channel. For more information visit www.flamingogardens.org
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