Featured, Going Solo, Green Spaces, Photo Essay

Palm Peeping: The Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden and Key Biscayne


I’m not going to beat around the bush–this winter sucked.  This winter sucked long and this winter sucked hard.  And I got off easy–for one, I live in Pennsylvania (not, say, Chicago).  And two, I managed to escape the northeast almost weekly.

Even so, this winter sucked. Polar vortexes aside–it is my sincere belief that I do not belong in Pennsylvania.  All of my favorite places–New Orleans, South Texas, Miami, and Southern California–have several things in common:  warmth, sunshine, and palm trees.  Oh and amazing food.  But also palm trees.

I love palm trees.  I love them.  I can’t explain why.  It’s not like I live in a tree-less wasteland, a la the beginning of The Lorax.  Pennsylvania is very leafy.  And I’m a sucker for the autumn colors of New England, conveniently located just up any number of traffic-laden roads from my home in eastern PA.  But there’s just something about a palm tree that puts a smile on my face.  It is entirely possible that that ‘something’ is that big, bright, yellow thing typically peeking out from behind said palm tree.  They call it ‘the sun’.  Those of us in the northeast haven’t seen it in a while, but we still believe it exists, and that it will return some day.  You know, like Santa Claus.

Given my tendencies towards palm-o-philia (ok, I don’t like to touch them, I just like to look at them–what’s the word for that?) as soon as I heard about Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, I knew I had to visit.  They have over four hundred different species of palm tree growing on the 83-acre estate.  FOUR HUNDRED!  So I went.  And I spent far, far too long walking around oogling the palm trees (I swear I didn’t touch any of them.)







As I walked–and oogled and snapped photos–a peculiar thing began to happen.  Standing outside on a February day, I began…to sweat. It was glorious. So I did what any northeastern girl would do in the greater Miami area on a hot afternoon–I hightailed it to a beach.  Where I found…MORE PALM TREES!

I’d heard great things about Key Biscayne–which is located just over a short causeway from Coral Gables, where you will find Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden–but no one told me about the palm trees.  They are on the beach.  You know, like in every beach movie that ever was?  Actual on-the-beach palm tress.  Lots of them.  There are coconuts in the sand. Let me repeat that–there are coconuts in the sand.


I live in Pennsylvania why, exactly?

I had a near-perfect day split between Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens and the beach on Key Biscayne.  And so should you.  Here’s how:

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens


Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens is located at 10901 Old Cutler Road in Coral Gables, Florida.  The awesomeness begins before you even arrive, as arriving requires driving through an unbelievably upscale Coral Gables neighborhood.  I may have stopped in the street to take photos of people’s houses.  Arrive early in the morning, but be sure to have breakfast first–I did not, and was forced to have a very scenic yet very dry, bland, and overpriced turkey sandwich along the banks of the lake on the grounds.  Begin with a tram tour, which is included in the price and will give you a great overview of the gardens.  Then wander around after and enjoy the scenery on your own.  And no matter what, visit the butterfly gardens.  Do you know what makes any day better?  Being surrounded by butterflies.

Crandon Park Beach, Key Biscayne


Key Biscayne is not a part of ‘the Keys’–which begin with Key Largo, significantly south of Miami.  Key Biscayne is an island, connected by a causeway like all of the other islands in the greater Miami area, due east of Coral Gables and directly south of South Beach.

To get to Crandon Park Beach, simply cross the causeway and drive until the road divides.  You will begin to see signs on your left for beaches–first the south beach (again, not South Beach) then the north beach.  I missed the first sign and ended up parking at the north end of the beach.  It was $5 to park my car and gain access to the beach.  There were restrooms with a large changing room and outdoor showers, a huge expanse of picnic area with charcoal grills, and a giant swath of palm-tree studded beach.  There were maybe twenty people there, sprawled out under the shade of the palm fronds, on a sunny Friday afternoon.  It was the best $5 I spent all week.

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