New Life Cypress Gardens
What’s a garden writer doing at Legoland? Here are the top ten reasons.
This park in Florida is brand new. It just opened in Oct 2011 and it is on the site of the former Cypress Gardens. I wanted to see just how much they had retained and improved one of central Florida’s original theme parks. The other nine reasons are all grandchildren who would be Legoland’s primary market. ( Full disclosure here, they gave me a couple of media passes to come for a day.) We came to check out the gardens and finally did so, after several hours of being fascinated with the new attractions.
From a Garden to a Playground. Integrating a very child intensive park into, what, was for years, a quiet contemplative place, has been a major challenge and they have done a remarkably good job. You catch glimpses of the old gardens where they have carefully designed and built the new, managing to retain some of the large old specimen trees. The sight of many large Palms that have obviously been recently transplanted is indicative of Legoland’s attempts to integrate their extensive development into some of the original park’s feel. It would be unfair to comment on much of the extensive new smaller plantings when they are so obviously new and need a little time to fully create the attempted atmosphere but they do show great promise. I’ll have to come back in a year or so with some grandchildren.
Lego Can Build Anything! Totally throwing away any pretence at garden writing, will allow me to point out how utterly fascinated we were with the main feature of the park, the magnificent Lego buildings. Actually there was much more than buildings. Cars, planes, a space shuttle, boats, bridges and people are just a sample of the amazing list of things that have been built from many thousands of little Lego blocks. A few of the exhibits gave some indication of the quantity of blocks required and it would have been interesting to see more of this detail but this is a minor criticism. Most of the children and all of their parents were simply fascinated with the extent and detail of these models. All of them were replicas of real buildings and cities which you could study for hours or until the kids wanted to move on to the rides that were available. The whole park, including the rides, are aimed at a younger demographic than most of Florida’s attractions. We even managed to get the Assistant Gardener onto a roller coaster.
Pirates Waterskiing! Cypress Gardens was famous for its waterski show and it is still there but the stars are now pirates and a princess with water cannons for the kids to operate at appropriate times. Very well done. We watched another show that was centred on fire safety but done with acrobats and comedians to be quite entertaining to all ages. There was, of course, several opportunities to purchase Lego sets in each area of the park. A variety of food was available, at somewhat reasonable prices, throughout the park but strangely their best restaurant was right at the entrance. Nobody wants to eat on the way in and their 5:00 pm closing time, precluded anyone eating near the end of the day. I suspect that they plan to extend their hours after they have been open for a while longer.
Real Gardens! After we had worked our way through the models and onto a few rides, we eventually made our way to the one large, retained section of the former Cypress Gardens. It had limited appeal to the target demographic but the accompanying grandparents and parents found it to be a delightful, cool and calm refuge. It is a densely planted, mature display of tropical and semi tropical plants, many of which we use as common houseplants. In their mature form they are not always recognizable and some more effort at labelling would make this dedicated gardener happy. In particular, some information about the gigantic Banyan Tree would probably be appreciated by anyone who encountered this living giant and wondered just what it was. A wonderful example of just what some species of Ficus can do if left to their own devices. Legoland is doing a credible job of maintaining and rebuilding this delightful section of the garden.
Important Details! We had a great day here, mostly as grandparents imagining how much fun we could have bringing some of our many little ones here. At $75 for adults and $65 under 13 and over 65, Legoland is reasonably good value when compared to other area attractions and what I will pay for a lift pass at my ski resort when I get back home.
We repaired to Harry’s Old Place, a nearby, local restaurant that I had visited before. What it lacks in decor and ambience it makes up for, with some of the best sea food we have ever eaten. Try the grouper in a paper bag.
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