Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wandering Leu Gardens

I realized today that I still have a few posts about my December trip to Orlando sitting in my draft folder that I never finished! This is one of 'em. (This post is super photo heavy, so if you're reading on my home page you'll have to click to read more!)

One thing that I'd love to do a lot of once I move home is blog about the non-theme park parts of Orlando. Most people automatically think of the whole city as Disney/Universal/Sea World, but that's such a small part of what we are.

I had a free afternoon to kill and was staying with a friend who lives within walking distance of the botanical coolness that is Leu Gardens, so I decided to head over since I'd never been. When I pulled up their site for info, I was bummed to see that I had missed their monthly day of free admission (first Monday of each month) by ONE DAY. That meant paying the full $10 admission fee. Ouch. However, the gardens span 50 acres, so at least I was buying several hours of entertainment! (Just a note - the gardens are a good 40-ish minute drive north of Disney, so this probably isn't a trip most visitors make unless they have a car.)

Given that I visited in early winter, there wasn't much in bloom. Still, since I was coming from freezing cold grey-brown winter blahs back in Missouri, it was nice just to wander around in green and sunshine for a while!

This tree hates you and wants to cause you pain. No tree hugging here.

I loved the little houses they provided for butterflies to hatch in. Above is a Monarch, before and (the shell of) after.

I also learned that Zebra Longwings are TOTALLY FRICKIN' TERRIFYING-LOOKING. OMG. I obviously had to Google them to see what they look like in their other life stages. Caterpillar? Kinda creepy, but cool. Butterfly? Totally pretty. THIS STAGE? NOT AT ALL CUTE. It's like a metaphor for how scary and ugly transformation can be, I guess.

There was a great little overlook where you could see parts of downtown Orlando. There was also a giant turtle in the water! This is the best photo I got of him peeking out:

Just in case you're having trouble making his shape out, I outlined his important turtle features below:

This place really is huge - I spent almost 3 hours walking around! I love how this photo makes it look like this path goes on forever.

I actually leaned down to sniff this flower in the rose garden. Luckily, I saw that it was occupied at the last second!

While wandering, I spotted the usual expected wildlife - birds, butterflies, squirrels, etc., as well as the above large turtle in the water. What I wasn't expecting was the snake that I spotted wrapped around a tropical tree trunk! Sadly, he slithered off as I was trying to get a photo. I think snakes are awesome, but I realized that I do like them a bit more when they're on a tree trunk where I can see them than when they've just slithered off into the bushes near my feet and I'm not so sure where they are. Eep.

Leu Gardens gets my thumbs-up. I feel like the $10 admission is a bit steep, so I'd suggest trying to catch their free day if you can. However, as you can tell from some of the photos above, the place was pretty deserted on the day I went. You might find the peacefulness worth the price, since I'm sure the free day is much more crowded.

They give you a map when you purchase your ticket but despite the fact that I usually have an impeccable sense of direction, I still ended up turned around a lot. Too many winding paths that criss-cross each other and circle back around. It's a sort of fun kind of getting lost, though, except for when you're all hot and tired and want to get back to the entrance. That said, wear super-comfortable shoes and bring some water! There are water fountains here and there, but I was super happy to have a bottle with me!


Tammy Woodall said...

Leu Gardens is very pretty. I like all the different pictures of Flora you took. I agree, I think $10 admission fee is a bit steep. Thanks for the mini-tour through pictures.

Jordan James said...

Beautiful photos! I would love to go there! :)

Rachel said...

I laughed at the part about not hugging the spiky tree! I've only been to Orlando once on vacation, I feel like you would need a LOT of time to do everything that there is to do there!

Daidri Smythe said...

I bet most people traveling to Orlando do miss beautiful places like this because they are focused on seeing Disney World. Great pics, especially of the butterflies.

Barbara A Mizzoni Young said...

I live only 90 minutes away and have yet to visit the gardens. After seeing your lovely photos I know I will make time soon to visit.
Visiting from SITS Sharefest.
Barbara @

1froglegs said...

Those are a lot better than the dirt pile of disappointment that we grow in our garden.