Florida Botanical Gardens | My Family Travels
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 I’m a planner. So, normally I would say that a great vacation is one where everything goes according to plan. I like knowing that I will be in a certain spot, at a certain time, on a certain day. But, as I found out through my vacation two years ago, sometimes the unexpected things turn out to be the most fun.

Two years ago, my family and I, like hundreds of thousands of other people, decided to go to baseball spring training in Tampa Bay Florida for our big, annual vacation. We went to a number of games: Yankees, Nationals, Phillies, and more.  While all of these games were fun to watch, I think the high point of the vacation was totally separate from spring training. It was the unexpected activity.

One day, between games and travel, we had a couple of hours to fill. It was a beautiful Floridian day, so we decided that we wanted to do something outside. My mom suggested that we go to some garden called the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo, Florida. I wasn’t too thrilled with the prospect of spending hours wandering around a garden but, seeing as I had no other option, I went along with it. 

As it turned out, it wasn’t just the little garden that I was imagining. The garden was a lovely, miniature, natural refuge, filled with exotic flowers and animals. Shortly before the vacation, I had bought a new digital camera. I had enjoyed taking pictures at the baseball games; but when I saw the garden, I knew that I would have even more fun taking pictures there.

While I was at the Botanical Gardens, I saw all sorts of flowers and trees and animals that I never would have seen where I live in Virginia. I saw alligators and banana trees, flowers and herbs, pineapples and cute little green geckos, turtles and egrets, topiary gardens and beautiful flowering lily-pads, a cactus garden and palm trees. If all of that wasn’t enough, there were two additional sections of the park—the Gulf Coast Museum of Art and the Heritage Village—which were also extremely interesting. I took hundreds of pictures that day and, although I took many others at the baseball games, none of them compared with the photos I took at the Florida Botanical Gardens.

Since that vacation, my interest in photography has grown even more. I have now taken classes in photography, bought a new SLR camera, and taken many thousands of photos. While I was already somewhat interested in photography at the time of my vacation two years ago, I think that going on the vacation and going to the Botanical Gardens in particular, launched my serious interest in photography.

The Botanical Gardens is a delight to many tourists but unknown to many more. In a state like Florida, the beaches and resorts often hide some of the true, unexpected gems of the state.  For more information go to www.flbg.org. One other plus—it’s free!

Who would have thought that a leisurely stroll through a garden could be the highlight of our vacation? Thanks Mom!

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