While others are visiting museums and art galleries full of inanimate objects, why not visit Sarasota’s very own “living museum.”
One of many unique attractions in the Sarasota area, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is home to about 5,000 species of plants – and you can see them all in just one afternoon.
Recognized worldwide as a hub for scientific research, these botanical gardens are currently number one in the world for its collection of epiphytes, non-parasitic plants that grow on other plants, and bromeliads, a bright pinky-red flower that grows in the tropical and subtropical Americas.
The Botanical Gardens
Selby Botanical Gardens has plenty of attractions to keep you busy for an afternoon of horticultural exploration. Selby is home to a number of different gardens, each as interesting as the next.
Head to the Conservatory for plants of all shapes and colors, like intense orchids and bromeliads and meat-eating pitcher plants.
Listen to the soft gurgling of the waterfall in the Epiphyte Garden as you get an up-close view of Spanish Moss, among other epiphytes. Watch the bright orange koi swim by as you breathe in the sweet aromas of the epiphytes.
For a few peaceful moments, spend some time among the forest of slim bamboo shoots, which can grow up to 40 inches per day during growth spurts. Bamboo is the tallest member of the grass family.
Other Exhibits at the Gardens
Some of the other exhibits include the Bromeliad, Butterfly, and Bamboo gardens, the Mangroves and Baywalk, and the Banyan Grove.
The Children’s Rainforest, one of the newer attractions, is an elevated tree-top garden that allows families to get a bird’s eye view. This garden features a waterfall, swinging bridges, a research station, an epiphyte canyon, and caves. Take out your magnifying glass and get your explorer’s hat on, kids.
Cameras, as well as painting, sketching, or anything else creative, are welcome. WiFi is available in a number of locations.
The Garden Shop
Before you head back to your Peppertree Bay vacation rental on Siesta Key, pick up a gift for family and friends who couldn’t make it. The Garden Shop, the botanical garden’s gift shop, sells all things plant-inspired, from toys to apparel to candles to live houseplants.
Plant and garden accessories include mats, furniture, stands, art, and planters. They also offer flower arrangements for special events. Give an orchid, and the receiver can watch it bloom again and again.
Programs & Events
If an afternoon wasn’t enough, don’t worry. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens offers regular education programs for both adults and children.
For adults, dance, yoga, photography, and watercolor classes are among the activities of the botanical garden. For the kids, they run a day camp in the summer.
Dining at the Gardens
Before the afternoon is over, be sure to grab a bite at The Selby House Café. The garden’s on-site café offers fresh and healthy lunch options and ready-made snacks to enjoy when you take a break from exploring the gardens.
Sandwiches, wraps, soups, and salads are among the meal items. Strong lattes, crisp beer, and great wine are also served at the café.
Food is prepared by Michael’s On East, an upscale restaurant and piano bar about a mile from the gardens. Of course, there are other restaurants to choose if you don’t want to eat while you’re here.
Location & Hours
The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are located at 811 S. Palm Avenue, Sarasota, FL – less than a 15-minute drive from vacation rentals on Siesta Key.
It is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission for adults is $20 and for youth aged 4 to 17 and member guests $10. Members and children 3 and under get in free.
Parking is free, but limited, and can be accessed from Palm Avenue or Orange Avenue. There is plenty of additional municipal street parking nearby, as well. Bike racks are available outside the Welcome Center.