Green space in sunny St. Petersburg is abundant, but the intimate Sunken Gardens are something truly special, and a demonstration of craftsmanship. This is not your usual city park: Over 500,000 tropical plants and flowers fill this exotic attraction that is almost hidden behind vine-covered walls.
Created in the early 1900s by a plumber called George Turner, the Sunken Gardens are now maintained by the city. Turner drained a lake and planted seeds on the rich soil. When the garden became big, he started charging people to admire his handiwork, and later generations kept the gardens alive as a botanical park.
Making your way around, it’s hard to know where to look. The place is packed with orchids, pink bougainvillea, royal palms, fruit trees and cacti, among other species. Follow the designated paths around the 4-acre (1.6-hectare) grounds and discover themed gardens, including Japanese and butterfly sections.
In the water you’ll spot various fish, while dragonflies flit around the ponds, waterfalls and fountains. Chilean flamingos are the most popular residents, and lend themselves beautifully for colorful photos, so keep your camera ready.
Families will find the Sunken Gardens a great place to visit, especially since children enter for half price. Combine your visit with a trip to nearby Great Explorations Children's Museum, where the kids can try out all the exhibits and run around freely after the more restricted walk in the manicured gardens.
The Sunken Gardens also host a wide range of events, and yoga classes are held daily. Try hoop dancing or join horticultural programs such as caring for bonsai trees, or participate in a photography workshop. Check the gardens’ official website for details on times and prices associated with each activity.
The gardens are located just north of downtown St. Pete. The gardens open daily except Sunday mornings, and parking is free. You can bring a picnic, but you can only smoke in designated areas.