Stop and smell the flowers at these Florida family-friendly garden settings

Special Correspondent

Adults ---- going all the way back to Adam and Eve ---- have a soft spot for gardens, with their gifts of flowers and fragrances. Kids, well, maybe not so much generally. But if the garden settings have family--friendly features and activities ---- as when they throw in such attractions as butterflies, bird feedings and character topiaries, it's a whole other matter: children wind up enjoying themselves as much, or more than adults.

Here, arranged alphabetically, are some Florida garden settings that will have kids wanting to stop and smell the flowers too.

Discovery Cove, Orlando ---- In a lush green setting with a multitude of palms and other tropical trees and plants, is this park's Explorer's Aviary. An oasis filled with birdsong, this is a free--flight aviary where hundreds of birds -- from tiny, jewel--colored beauties to exotic fowl that stand four feet tall -- fine feathered friends have plenty of branches and greenery on which to perch.

Adults and children can hand--feed exotic birds from Florida, Central and South America and other points of the planet with tiny bowls of chopped fruit and other treats (perhaps even a live worm!) supplied by attendants. Big favorites with all ages are friendly guira cuckoos from Central and South America and Florida. These friendly birds perch on visitors' shoulders -- and sometimes on their heads -- and often stay on people for more than a half hour, chirping happily all the while to the delight of kids.

Among other favorite Florida birds at the aviary are showy roseate spoonbills -- kids love their spoon--like beaks. Other Discovery Cove attractions include a tropical river, pool and The Grand Reef with stingrays and other marine creatures, and a lagoon where visitors may opt to swim with dolphins. Visit

Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista ---- Always a beautiful garden filled with trees and flowers, Epcot is at its floral best during its annual International Flower & Garden Festival presented by HGTV. A spring special event (this year, its 19th edition, blooming from March 7 to May 20) it has plenty for all ages to enjoy.

Among family--friendly features some 100 topiaries (more than 75 of Disney characters so chances are good that kids will become more interested in plants and flowers when they are in the shape of Mickey Mouse and other of their favorite characters). The festival also offers a colorful array of flowers, gardens, live music and special presentations.

Among attractions popular with kids are a butterfly garden and such themed gardens as the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden and the fragrance garden in the French pavilion that illustrates the relationship between flowers and fragrances. Other activities good for families include the Bee Scavenger Hunt. Visit

Key West Butterfly And Nature Conservatory ---- Under a glass dome, butterflies, representing 50 to 60 species from farms in the Americas, Africa and Southeast Asia inhabit a garden overflowing with some 3,500 tropical plants. The butterflies -- more than 1,000 of them -- pause here and there to drink nectar from a profusion of flowers. Birds chirp and sing, a waterfall babbles, soothing New Age music is piped in, and small turtles sometimes cross the paths.

Among the species of butterflies that can be seen are iridescent Blue Morphos from the Amazon region; Scarlet Mormons from Indonesia and the Philippines-- that love the color red, and sometimes do a dance around visitors' red shirts or shorts -- landing on them to see if the clothes are edible (butterflies have chemo--receptors (taste buds) on their feet (so they can taste food with their feet as well as with their mouths), Kids will likely also be taken with the Owl Butterflies from Costa Rica -- as they look very much like its namesake, with a big, owl--like "eye" decorating each of its wings. They often perch on leafy branches as if posing for pictures.

Opened on Southern Duval Street in 2003, the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory is a 13,000 square feet facility consisting of a 5,000 square feet greenhouse (which is temperature--controlled at 85 degrees with 80 percent humidity -- just as the butterflies like it), plus a learning center (with educational displays and a 15--minute film about butterflies). Visitors may also have the opportunity to witness the miracle of metamorphosis in an area of the greenhouse as a butterfly or moth emerges from the pupa or cocoon stage into its adult stage.

People who wear bright colors, perfume or scented lotion may enjoy closer encounters with the butterflies as they are more likely to land on them to investigate. Visit

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