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Posts tagged ‘sightseeing’

Preening Peacocks

One of the oldest botanical gardens in South Florida, Flamingo Gardens today is a not-for-profit facility with more than 3000 tropical and sub-tropical species of plants and trees. The lush Wray Botanical Collection features 21 of the largest trees of their species in Florida (and in many cases, the United States) — “Champion Trees” — as well as a unique hammock of 200-year-old live oak trees, and several specialized gardens. Within Flamingo Gardens’ 60 acres also resides an Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary, aviary,  and Bird of Prey Center, which are home to the largest collection of Florida native wildlife in the state — offering permanently injured and non-releasable animals special care and a home. (Be sure to read their stories!)

Free-roaming peacocks and iguanas also stroll the grounds (as do TNR’d kitties — yay!), although we missed the iguanas on our initial visit. But to see the peacocks in all their glory, roosting in the centuries-old live oaks… Beyond lovely. The colors of the birds, joined with the ornate oaks and tropical foliage, was ethereal.  A fairy world. Another thanks to the Wrays, and to all those who continue to protect and preserve the land and creatures of the Everglades….

For more on Flamingo Gardens and its mission to “depict and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of South Florida and the Everglades,” visit their website!

Contact Information:

3750 S. Flamingo Rd.
Davie, FL 33330
Phone: 954-473-2955

For More Information:

Preening Peacock, Flamingo Gardens, Davie, Florida

Tropical Flora & Champion Trees at Flamingo Gardens

One of the oldest botanical gardens in South Florida, Flamingo Gardens today is a not-for-profit facility with more than 3000 tropical and sub-tropical species of plants and trees. Within its 60 acres also resides an Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary and aviary, which is home to the largest collection of Florida native wildlife in the state.

Sausage Tree

Within the gardens, over 60 commercial and ornamental types of citrus remain from the original groves, including oranges, limes, and grapefruits. The Tropical Plant House features orchids, calatheas, and other plants; specialized gardens include the Croton Garden, the Butterfly Garden, the Hummingbird Garden, the Bromeliad Garden, the Flowering Tree Walk, the Amaryllis Garden, the Reflection Pool and Garden, and the Fragrance Garden. Some unusual flora can be found within the collection as well — such as the sausage trees, with their dangling fruit and a dynamite tree, with pods that explode and send seeds flying.

The Wray Botanical Collection at Flamingo Gardens also includes 21 of the largest trees of their species in Florida — “Champion Trees” — and a unique hammock of 200-year-old live oak trees. In most cases, these trees are also the largest in the continental United States, due to the location’s ideal tropical growing conditions for their species — star fruit, wampi, pink trumpet…. While walking through these beautiful giants, it’s mind-boggling and heartbreaking to think that without the efforts of the Wrays — who simply didn’t allow these trees to be logged like so many others, and fought for the land’s protection — this jungle growth, some of the last in South Florida, now represents the oldest in the state. A narrated tram tour (which we didn’t take) leads visitors through some of this last natural South Florida growth, located in the back 50 acres of Flamingo Gardens. But you can certainly stroll through the centuries-old live oaks and enjoy the towering Champion Trees on your own….

Champion Tree

For more information on Flamingo Gardens, its Wildlife Sanctuary, or its history, check out my last post or their website!

From the website:

Flamingo Garden’s mission is to depict and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of South Florida and the Everglades in our botanical gardens and wildlife sanctuary:

* by providing a repository for endangered plant and wildlife species and a living library of specific taxa available for research and education.
* by inspiring an appreciation for the beauty and diversity of tropical and subtropical plants from around the world that can be grown in our area.
* by guiding the public in environmentally responsible and aesthetic horticultural practices.
* by encouraging environmental awareness and Everglades preservation to visiting tourists, residents, and school children.

Contact Information:

3750 S. Flamingo Rd.
Davie, FL 33330
Phone: 954-473-2955

Hours & Pricing:

$9.00 child (ages 4-11) / $15.00 seniors, students and military / $18.00 adult
(Check online for coupons!)

Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. / Closed Monday (June 1 – Oct. 31)
Open Year-Round

For More Information:

Flamingo Gardens: Botanical Gardens & Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary

Truth be told, I was hesitant to visit South Florida’s Flamingo Gardens. I hadn’t visited a zoo-like environment in nearly 34 years, when a piddling 7-year-old-me had to be dragged in hysterics from the Honolulu City Zoo. Since then, I haven’t entered another — and the only sanctuaries I visit are carefully researched. So when friends suggested Flamingo Gardens after being pleasantly surprised by the facility, I researched the place in my typically type-A spastic nature: Was the native wildlife truly injured/non-releasable, blah blah blah? But it wasn’t just me with doubts: On entirely separate occasions, acquaintances expressed concerns about the location — fears that it was a tourist trap for visiting snowbirds, and consequently hosting less-than-stellar conditions for animals. In hindsight, I’m wondering why others had the same worries… Was it poor marketing? Would a tagline help? Was the signage scaring people off? Or were we all simply misinformed, over-reactive idiots?

Whatever the reason, it’s a dayum shame. My/our crazy conservationist fears were completely unfounded.

South Florida Flora

One of the oldest botanical gardens in South Florida, Flamingo Gardens today is a not-for-profit facility with more than 3000 tropical and sub-tropical species of plants and trees. Within its 60 acres also resides an Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary and aviary, which is home to the largest collection of Florida native wildlife in the state. The Wray Botanical Collection at Flamingo Gardens includes 21 of the largest trees of their species — “Champion Trees” — and a unique hammock of 200-year-old live oak trees. While walking through these beautiful giants, it’s mind-boggling and heartbreaking to think that without the efforts of the Wrays — who simply didn’t allow these trees to be logged like so many others, and fought for the land’s protection — this jungle growth, some of the last in South Florida, now represents the oldest in the state. A narrated tram tour (which we didn’t take) leads visitors through some of this last natural South Florida growth, located in the back 50 acres of Flamingo Gardens. More on these most amazing gardens and champion trees…

South Florida Fauna

Within the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary, aviary, and Bird of Prey Center, permanently injured and non-releasable wildlife are given special care and a home. Read about their stories — so many people, nearly all in fact, just strolled right by the detailed plaques that explained how and why these animals came to be at the sanctuary. Infuriating. Eight-three species of Florida native birds and animals, including alligators, panthers, bobcats, otters, eagles, free-roaming peacocks, and of course the namesake flamingos reside at the sanctuary. A half-acre free-flight aviary is home to more than 250 birds representing 45 species — in the last 20 years, these birds have produced over 2000 offspring which have been released into the wild. Five native Florida ecosystems are exhibited at the aviary: coastal prairie, mangrove swamp, cypress forest, sub-tropical hardwood hammock, and sawgrass prairie. A daily Wildlife Encounter show offers live presentations of Florida native wildlife from sanctuary, including birds of prey, mammals, and reptiles, elucidating their relationships to humans and the environment.

History

Barred Owl

Arriving to Florida in 1925, Floyd and Jane Wray were quickly intrigued with the horticultural possibilities of their new subtropical home. They purchased 320 acres of land on Long Key in the Everglades, and incorporated Flamingo Groves on January 2, 1927. Orange trees were planted — and by 1939 2,000 acres were covered in citrus groves. But earlier, in 1928, the Wrays envisioned a botanical showcase of subtropical flora, and began a project that was to become one of the first botanical gardens and tourist attractions in South Florida. The gardens received foreign plants and seeds from the federal government for test planting in a subtropical growing climate — rare tropical fruit and flowering trees were displayed so that visitors could experience South Florida’s beauty and diversity.

In 1969, Jane Wray — herself a musician, teacher, and poet who loved the gardens — established the Floyd L. Wray Memorial Foundation in honor of her late husband, to preserve the property and protect the history of the Everglades. The name changed to Flamingo Gardens, the botanical gardens were expanded, and the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary was added in 1990. The Bird of Prey Center and the free-flight aviary were built in the early 1990s. The 1933 Wrays’  home — now the Historic Wray Home — is registered as a historic site and has been restored as a museum providing a glimpse of life in the 1930s. Unfortunately (or fortunately — it provides an excuse for a return trip!), we missed this while we rambled amid the gardens and animals.

Visit!

Long story, short…. GO! Visit this amazing place, walk among the centuries-old trees, say hello to the rescued animals, and learn of their stories. We were able to visit on a comparatively quiet weekday, and it was amazing to chat with the animals’ overseers. It’s heartbreaking — but at least these animals’ stories ended well. With as many sanctuaries and animal rescues as I’ve visited, one can only wonder how de-clawing exotic cats is still permitted when it causes extreme pain and lameness; or the horrific “legal” state minimum enclosure requirements for bears, big cats, and other wild animals (envision a tiny jail cell); or why people would even *want* to shoot endangered, majestic birds of prey. It’s appalling. So I’m only sorry that I — as well as others, obviously — remained in the dark as long as I did regarding this facility’s nature and mission. If you visit, be sure to check their calendar for upcoming special events (for instance, they’re having an Earth Day event, including a benefit flea market on April 21…. FUN!). And give the parrots some loving attention on the way out; several — the Cockatoo and the African Grey (at least, at that moment) were especially anxious for one-one-one time, having obviously been accustomed to it in their pasts.

From the website:

Flamingo Garden’s mission is to depict and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of South Florida and the Everglades in our botanical gardens and wildlife sanctuary:

* by providing a repository for endangered plant and wildlife species and a living library of specific taxa available for research and education.
* by inspiring an appreciation for the beauty and diversity of tropical and subtropical plants from around the world that can be grown in our area.
* by guiding the public in environmentally responsible and aesthetic horticultural practices.
* by encouraging environmental awareness and Everglades preservation to visiting tourists, residents, and school children.

Contact Information:

3750 S. Flamingo Rd.
Davie, FL 33330
Phone: 954-473-2955

Hours & Pricing:

$9.00 child (ages 4-11) / $15.00 seniors, students and military / $18.00 adult
(Check online for coupons!)

Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. / Closed Monday (June 1 – Oct. 31)
Open Year-Round

For More Information:

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Lake Worth’s Street Painting Festival: Cloudy Skies & Brilliant Streets

This year, the 18th annual Lake Worth Street Painting Festival was hosted on a cloudy weekend — but despite the constant threat of rain (and downpours to the north), Lake Worth’s vibrantly-colored streets were spared, save for a brief chilly rain on Saturday. Each February, over 400 artists from as far away as California and New York — even the United Kingdom — transform the streets into original art and masterpiece reproductions with just chalk and the pavement as their canvas. This year, more than 200 street paintings were created by 600 featured and amateur artists, covering more area than any other festival of its kind in the U.S.

As always, the crowds on Sunday were fierce, to view the fully emerged art and colorful concrete, as well as the street performers, musical entertainment, Food Courts, and Lake Worth’s shopping — fabulous consignment and antique shops line the streets. The artists are always lovely and open, despite the frantic schedule to complete their artwork during the two-day festival; there’s a friendly and communal atmosphere among them, as they participate and visibly enjoy the process and performance of street painting.

The Lake Worth festival began in 1994 by a small group of local residents, who wanted to revitalize their city — it is now touted as the country’s largest annual Street Painting Festival, attracting well over 100,000 visitors each year. Street painting however, can be traced to 16th-century Italy. Itinerant Renaissance artists, hoping to advertize their works and attract critical attention and crowds, used chalk and the streets as their makeshift canvas.

For More Information:

Feathers, Fur & St. Francis at the Ancient Spanish Monastery

During our recent visit to the most sublime historic site, the Ancient Spanish Monastery — also known as the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, or the Spanish Monastery — we encountered an unexpected amount of wildlife in this tiny sanctuary, tucked away in North Miami Beach’s expanse of concrete. A significant cultural and religious monument, the Ancient Spanish Monastery remains one of the most important monasteries in North America, and the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere. It’s more than a tourist attraction or a premier wedding venue; this historic site includes peaceful gardens, a setting to meditate and worship, and an opportunity to enjoy Romanesque architecture from the twelfth century — offering you the chance to feel the medieval stones beneath your hands, truly a unique experience in south Florida, let alone the United States. Amidst the 870-year-old architecture (1133-1144) and winding gardens, we startled a hawk at the fountain; being in the middle of our annual South Florida winter drought, animals vie for water wherever they may find it. And the kitties! It seems as though — at least, to a casual observer — that the monastery is doing a superb job with TNR (trap-neuter-release) to control feline overpopulation, especially in (but by no means limited to) city centers. Most everyone knows how useful a few kitties can be to control rodent populations…. So kudos! And another thanks to publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who bought and shipped the abandoned Cloisters and monastery from Spain stone-by-stone (despite the fact that it was intended for his private California estate of San Simeon). Without the whims and extravagances of these fabulously wealthy magnates, we wouldn’t now have this serene and lovely spot to enjoy.

St. Francis watches over the critters in the gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery in Miami

A resident kitty relaxes and tries to hide in the gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery

A resident kitty in the gardens of the Ancient Spanish Monastery

For More Information:

Miami’s Own Ancient Spanish Monastery

An absolute must for anyone interested with sightseeing historic sites in North Miami Beach includes the Ancient Spanish Monastery, a significant cultural and religious monument we’ve had the fortune to visit a few times. At nearly 870 years old, the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, or the Spanish Monastery, remains one of the most important monasteries in North America, and the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere. It’s more than a tourist attraction or a premier wedding venue; this historic site includes peaceful gardens, a setting to meditate and worship, and an opportunity to enjoy Romanesque architecture from the twelfth century, offering you the chance to feel the medieval stones beneath your hands — truly a unique experience in south Florida, let alone the United States.

History

Built in the province of Segovia, Spain, from 1133-1144, the monastery was originally dedicated in honor of the Blessed Mother and named the “Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels.” It was quickly renamed in honor of the famous Cisterian monk Bernard of Clairvaux upon its canonization. For nearly 700 years, Cisterian monks occupied the monastery, until the Cloisters were seized, sold, and converted into a granary and stable in the mid-1830s, to help feed troops fighting Spain’s revolution.

In 1925, publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst purchased the Cloisters and the monastery’s out-buildings — he had been searching Europe for unique art and architecture to adorn San Simeon, his California estate. Upon finding the abandoned monastery, he dismantled it, and shipped the buildings stone-by-stone to America (nearly 36,000 stones in total), packed in protective hay in more than 11,000 numbered wooden crates. Ah, the whims of these exceptionally wealthy magnates — thank goodness for their crazy escapades, because they’re now being enjoyed by all, ironically. Unfortunately, hoof-and-mouth disease had spread in Segovia, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fearing contagion, quarantined the sprawling shipment upon its arrival to the U.S., and burned the protective hay. During the re-packing process, however, the stones were misplaced in the previously numbered crates, and Hearst’s financial problems compounded the situation. For the next 26 years, they sat untouched in a Brooklyn warehouse — until they were purchased in 1952 for $19,000 by W. Edgemon and R. Moss. It cost $80,000 to transport the stones to Florida, and another 19 months and $1.5 million to re-erect the monastery. Today, some unmatched stones remain in a back lot; others were used in the construction of the present Church’s Parish Hall.

Museum & Exhibits

Although there is no museum in the strict sense, the monastery hosts a permanent exhibit of objects celebrating the history of this important cultural and religious landmark, including:

  • Markings of the freemasons who built the monastery
  • Life-sized statue of Spanish King Alfonso VII
  • Stained-glass windows
  • Medieval French altar
  • 16th century Spanish hearse
  • Chapter house
  • Historic coat of arms of patron families

Contact Information:

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church
16711 West Dixie Highway
North Miami Beach, FL 33160
(305) 945-1461

Hours & Pricing:

Monday – Saturday, 10 AM – 4 PM (closed due to special events)
Adults: $8 / Children: $4 (5 and under are free)

For More Information:

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