Most notable for its collection of more than 6,000 orchids, Marie Selby Gardens are a must-see for those who love tropical plants, especially epiphtyes. Delight in the sensory experience of the “rainforest under glass” and the many specialized gardens, ranging from succulents and cycads to a banyan grove, mangrove walkway, and tropical fruit and medicinal gardens.
Fees: $19 adults, $6 ages 4-11
Open: 10-5 daily; gates close at 3 on major holidays
Trails provide opportunities to discover niche gardens as you wander beneath tall stands of bamboo, past regal collections of palms, and under the most sizable Bo tree in Florida. The views of Sarasota Bay are some of the best in the city.
At the north end of the gardens, the former Christy Payne Mansion houses a classy gift shop and ongoing displays of botanical art. A smaller structure nearby is dedicated to environmental education for children. The new Children’s Garden is a delightful playground of swinging bridges and platforms amid massive ficus trees.
With more than 92,000 epiphytes in their herbarium collections, this is one of the world’s destinations for research on orchids and bromeliads. Many of the plants showcased in the Tropical Display House were collected during expeditions to rainforests in South and Central America and are part of a conservation effort to ensure the continuation of species.