Some Unusual Places in
Greater Miami
(Part 2 of 2)
(Miami, Miami Beach and Coral Gables)

by Anna Collins
photos by Anna Collins
unless specified

In Part 2 of this two Part visit to Greater Miami, we'll visit a garden paradise, shop at a unique store that has survived for three decades and dine at a charismatic ocean front restaurant.

Fairchild Tropical Garden

If you've ever wondered if paradise exists on earth, it does. And it's name is Fairchild Tropical Garden.

Named after David Fairchild, one of the world's foremost plant explorers, this 83-acre botanical garden, with eleven lakes, is located in Coral Gables, Florida. Open to the public in 1938, this beautiful sanctuary was the dream of Robert Montgomery, a successful businessman with a passion for nature and plant collecting. Together with the help of his friend, David Fairchild, he created the one place in the continental U.S. where tropical plants could flourish and grow year round.

The Garden was designed by William Lyman Phillips, a popular landscape architect during the 1930's. Indeed, Fairchild has the feel of a garden you might see in an elegant vintage movie, what with its vistas, lakes and wide sweeping lawns, it's reminiscent of a time when nature and beauty were held in the highest esteem and people took their time and enjoyed life.

One of the many wonderful things about Fairchild is that you can wander freely about the property. You're welcome to bring a book and blanket and stretch out on one of the lush green lawns or you can go on a photo shoot and capture the many species of plants and palms on film. There's also a guided tour from a tram (take it!) free with your price of admission. The tour guide will explain the different areas of Fairchild and the types of plants you'll see along the way. It's a great way to get acquainted with your surroundings, and then you can venture off on your own to your favorite spots.

Fairchild is full of rare palms, cycads and exotic plants. There's a magnificent Endangered Species Garden where you can see several species of palms, shrubs, small trees and herbs, which, had it not been for places like Fairchild, might have already disappeared from the earth. Many small animals that are indigenous to the tropical climate like ducks, lizards, turtles and alligators and can be seen wandering the premises. It's best if you don't feed them, however.

Some of the other collections and special places to visit are the Bamboo Collection, a garden of more than 20 species of bamboo; The Mayan Fruit Garden, a fruit and vegetable garden employing age old planting methods from theYucatan peninsula of Mexico; the Mongomery Palmetum, a collection of some 900 palms, many of which are endangered; and the Chachi House, an authentic rainforest dwelling built by Chachi people who come from the rainforest of northern Ecuador. In addition to the above, there are several other special areas you will want to visit, including a rainforest. You can find them by picking up a free guide and map at the Garden's front entrance.

And as far as gift shops go, you're very likely to find the best one you've ever been in, right here! I am a gift shop enthusiast. This gift shop gets a two thumbs up and a click of the heels. Filled with unusual gifts, jewelry, lamps, books on plants and educational items, you'll be browsing for a while, so give yourself time to take it all in.

Fairchild Tropical Garden also offers a variety of adult education classes ranging from learning watercolors to making sushi. There's an art camp for kids, too, where children practice on site observational drawing. Many botanical events and festivals are scheduled throughout the year as well.

On one of my visits, I was lucky enough to catch the Chihuly exhibit, which displayed a variety of glass sculptures mixed in with the lanscape of the gardens. View the Photo Essay.

During my own visit here, I was awestruck and profoundly inspired by the beauty that surrounded me. Fairchild Tropical Garden is a one-of-a-kind experience that brings the magnificent splendor of nature and God to one joyous place.

10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL. Tel: 305/667-1651. Website: