Cypress Gardens, Gem of Florida
I hear Legoland kept some of the best parts, particularly the botanical gardens. I don't know.
Maybe if I have kids and start bringing in more money I'll take them there and see about all that. Some things, though... some things will be lost forever.
Most of my life, I thought Cypress Gardens was a spot only around for the elderly residents of the area, and I was only a young adult, certainly not fitting that bill. Then my mom's friend took her one day and I felt left out, so I talked to the family and suggested we take a family trip there. We were all glad we did.
My parents weren't much for rides, but there weren't many rides at the time, anyway. I enjoyed the beauty and serenity, as did my parents and the other adults. The kids (my nieces and nephew) were little enough to enjoy the kiddie rides, which were all they had. We all had a really great time and hoped to go back.
Not long after, we heard the place was closing down. On the last day they were to be open, my parents and I went down. It was pretty crowded, but a lady handed us two tickets she couldn't use.
I explored the gardens for hours while my parents watched the lake and relaxed. I even got porcelain fairy dolls at a greatly reduced price. It was a wonderful day, but I was still sad they were closing and hoped it wouldn't be forever...
...And it wasn't! They re-opened some time later and I hoped to get to go, but things in my family were going kind of crazy, so I doubted I'd get the chance.
I'd pretty much forgotten that hope when things calmed down and my (now ex) sister-in-law said that my
niece's guy friend wanted her and her sister to keep him company when he went to the revamped park, but she refused to let the girls go without an adult escort so she asked me to be that escort.
I agreed and got the money for a year pass, set us up with transportation, etc. I was so amazed to see the changes! The parking lot had moved! The entrance! And it was amazing inside! They had kept all the things that had made it great before and added things that made it even better and attractive to the teen audience that suddenly began frequenting the place.
We began going once pretty much every week, usually on the quietest days, for the next few years, every year getting a year pass.
I was thrilled when they started doing Phobia and would go every Thursday in October, until they stopped keeping the attraction open on Thursdays, which was annoying. It was an awesome Halloween attraction, and no extra charges to go in like other parks.
I saw the decline before most others did. The teens, who once seemed to love the place, stopped coming. Things weren't being kept up as well as they had been. They stopped keeping all the shops open. Sometimes half the restaurants seemed to be closed or cutting corners.
It made me so sad to see the decline. I wasn't surprised when the place finally closed down-- it surprised me that it became Legoland, but not that it closed.
The questions pass through my head every now and then: Is the Florida pool still there? Does the oriental garden still feel the same? Whatever happened to the Fountain Lady? What will happen to the gardens if Legoland doesn't survive?
Time, a force that the gardens have withstood for generations, will tell...
by Shelia (Ellis) Wade
Hi Mike, I am from Indiana, but my Dad (who passed away last Nov.) lived in Florida from 1966 until 2013.
He was head of Security at Cypress Gardens for 30 years. I spent many wonderful days at the Gardens.
It was bought out several times over the years, but when the owners of Busch Gardens had it and closed it for a few years before another amusement company from Georgia bought it, was not near as nice, but it still was beautiful.
Now it is Legoland and I hope to bring our Grandaughter down to it next year.
Cypress Gardens was beautiful and it was so much a part of my adult years, I hope there is still the old part of the Gardens is still there.
Shelia (Ellis) Wade, Columbus, Indiana
NOTE FROM FLORIDA BACKROADS TRAVEL: Shelia, thanks for sharing the memories of Cypress Gardens. I'm sorry to hear that your dad passed away. He must have been full of great stories about the glory days of Cypress Gardens.
I haven't been to Legoland yet, but I hear they've preserved a lot of the old Gardens charm.