Sarasota with Kids!
The Sarasota Jungle Gardens, the brainchild of David Breen Lindsay, who bought a swampy banana grove back in the 1930s, is surprisingly close to downtown Sarasota and packs a lot to see and learn within 10 acres of lush tropical gardens.
The winding garden paths breeze past native and exotic plants, reptiles of all sizes (yes, there are alligators), parrots, birds of prey, small mammals, a petting zoo, and free-roaming peacocks and flamingoes!
The alligators are not free-roaming, though!
Admission includes several educational and interactive shows that last about 20 minutes. After the show, you may have a chance to get up close and personal with the animals you learn about during the presentation.
It’s easy to make an afternoon of the gardens. Take your time to enjoy the exhibits, playground, air-conditioned café, and lush landscape with places to enjoy outdoor eating. The size is perfect for revisiting any park area you can’t get enough of.
Educational and Entertainment: Animal Shows at the Park
Be sure to catch one of several presentations given by the knowledgeable staff. Then, stick around after the show to interact with the animals. This is a more intimate experience than a large theme park and the kiddos love it! In fact, they may work up an appetite that can be tamed in the cafe’ or with your own treats.
There are two ways to enjoy lunch at the gardens. Enjoy your own food at the picnic tables outside the park or order from the café and eat either inside the park or out. In other words, no outside food is allowed inside!
Yes, You Can Feed the Animals (watch your fingers!)
Want to feed the animals? You can do that! Animal-appropriate morsels can be purchased where you buy your tickets or at dispensers by the animal exhibits. They prefer you feed the animals at the petting zoo outside the gates. Why? Well, as I found out, bringing out a baggie of treats will cause a minor stampede (my apologies to the little girl in the pink dress who got bumped!) No children were harmed; however, it was a sight to see!
The flamingoes, however, will eat right out of your hands as they roam freely around the beautiful water feature. I found it funny that they posted signs telling guests not to swim in the water. I would never have thought to do that, but I imagine someone has, hence the warning.
That would have been fun to see!
Garden Enthusiasts Will Love the Variety of Exotic and Local Plants and Palms
Don’t have kiddos? That’s ok! Garden enthusiasts will love this old Florida landmark too. The paths are wide and well-kept so bring your strollers, wheelchairs (available for rent in the gift shop), and good walking shoes. But, keep your pets at home (sorry, Molly). Service animals only (I’m sure you can understand why!).
If you’re in Sarasota for an extended time or a Sarasota local, they offer a zoo camp designed for kids between 6 and 11 years old. Each week of camp has a theme, and there are various dates available in March, June, and July. Go here for the latest details about Kids Camp in Sarasota
Winding Paths Pass Exotic and Native Animals…and Goats!
The Gardens are open 363 days a year from 10am – 5pm, and just like many outdoor Florida activities, visiting anytime from October thru May will give you the best weather. Kids under three years old are free to enter (with a big person), and as of this writing, entry prices for children ages 4-12 are $14.99 each, and adults are $21.99.
Resource / When you Go:
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
3701 Bay Shore Road
Sarasota, FL 34234
Sarasota Free Gardens
Sarasota Garden Club
1131 Boulevard of the Arts
More Sarasota Free Gardens?
1131 Boulevard of the Arts
Local things to do in Florida: Sarasota Jungle Gardens