There are many things to do in the Tampa and St. Petersburg area, and when visiting nearby, you can be easily overwhelmed with the choices. One place that makes for a nice, relaxing time together with your family, that can be overlooked, is the historic Sunken Gardens.
Taking your Family to Historic Sunken Gardens St Petersburg Florida
Historic Sunken Gardens is very close to downtown St. Pete, and is nestled in on the main highway, where you wouldn’t expect it, nearby to some nice restaurants like Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian restaurant, so when you see the nostalgic, retro sign there, it can take you a little by surprise. You can generally find a deal on the Sunken Gardens on Groupon so make sure to check before stopping by!
I would advise, if you can go when it is a cooler month and not summer time, to do that, but any time of the year you will find it to be a refreshing place to visit, and it gives you a peaceful feeling to stroll through it, unlike many touristy type places.
The first thing you may notice as you begin your tour is the sheer size of the trees and plants. This garden has been there for 100 years, and it is obvious by the size of the oak trees alone. They are amazing, and some of them have branches that span so far up and out that you have trouble actually following them to the end. Many of them have other plants actually growing off of them as well, like tropical plants and bougainvillea.
When you go in and purchase your tickets, it is a very laid back vibe, and they will give you a sticker to say you’re all paid, and a map to help lead you through the gardens, and then send you on your way. There is no certain time you have to be anywhere or rushed feeling to see the next thing unless you put that on yourself. Now, your kids may try to do that, but that really can’t be helped!
There are some beautiful birds here and there as you follow the path around. A few of the larger parrots will copy you as you sway back and forth and even mimic a tune if you repeat it to them. They are lovely birds and quite large, too.
There are some huge patches of bamboo plants that are as tall as the oaks, several tropical plants with vibrant colors all over the place, and they do put annual type plants in some of the more trimmed and “kept” looking areas of the garden.
They have a wedding gazebo area that is so pretty and has a great span of lush lawn out in front of it for wedding guests.
There is a small Japanese-style bridge and pond with Koi fish and beautiful flamingoes there also. They are fascinating to watch for sure.
The path that you follow around is very well done. The path is numbered, and so you can see on the map what type of main plants are there as you reach the numbers, but it is not just a one-way type of path. You can skip numbers or go different directions, which is nice if there are many other people there, that way you aren’t all piled up as you go through, waiting on the people in front of you to finish viewing something.
There are two specific areas that, for our family, are the best ones. One is just about at the end, and it’s a huge, huge, wall that is covered in bougainvillea plants that have been there for so long. The blooms are gorgeous, and they just hang over the walls and rocks so beautifully. There are some large trumpet vines in that area too as well as some huge cacti.
In the middle to end section is a butterfly garden. It seemed to me at first, to not be anything different or more impressive than other similar gardens I’ve seen. It has pentas, and some of the more typical butterfly attracting plants and there isn’t a massive amount of them, but if you sit there still for a minute, there is quite a large volume of butterflies around. This makes people happy. They have some benches there, and we just sat for about 15 or 20 minutes, watching them. Several were chasing each other over and over, and I mean, about 5 or 6 of them at once, not just 2. There were plenty of caterpillars on the plants when you looked closely, and it was really great to see them just be out and fluttering around so happily in a natural environment and not inside a screened area to trap them inside for our viewing pleasure.
If you are doing homeschooling and are studying plants or butterflies, this is a great place to go and do some observing, sketching, and learning hands-on.
The Gardens does have a membership that is very reasonable, and along with it comes free entry to many places, like national parks and museums. Also some discounts on many places as well. They aren’t all just there in that area either, so it really is worth the membership if you would visit more than once in a year.
One other thing worth mentioning for families is that the building Sunken Gardens is in, is shared with Great Explorations Hands- on museum. This used to be in downtown St. Pete and is now here. There is also a café and other places to eat right across the street, so you can easily park your car there at Sunken, and spend the day doing both places without having to move the car at all.
They do have a nice gift shop with cold drinks and some souvenir type items, as well as some unique handmade things, but other than that, there is not food or anything that is directly from Sunken Gardens themselves. You have to go to the café next door or somewhere else for more than a soda or water.
Here is the website to see more information, and read up on its history if you would like to. It is very interesting!