Cypress Gardens, Gem of Florida

by Tish
(Auburndale, FL)

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...

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Nov 06, 2016
Cypress Gardens is Alive and Well.
by: Cindy L Abel

Nestled among the Lego sculptures and rides at Legoland Florida, remain several of the original landmarks that made up the historic Cypress Gardens. While is sat for several years closed, unattended and overgrown, Cypress Gardens today is as beautiful and serene as it ever was. Standing tall in the middle of the original gardens remains the majestic Banyan tree. Untouched from the storms that have passed through over the years, it is as magnificent now as it was then. With its wide spread canopy and the intertwining roots reaching down from its branches, firmly planting itself into the ground below, this tree is still an amazing sight to see.

The gardens that surround the great Banyan tree are still as beautiful today as they were back in their hay day. There you will still find the famous Gazebo that was the location of many weddings throughout the years, the Oriental garden with its large Buda statue at the edge of the Coy pond, still watching over things and the famous Florida shaped pool that was once the location of movies including one starring Esther Williams.

Although you won't find any of the Southern Belles strolling around the gardens today, there is one at the entrance of the gardens available for photos. She is made out of Lego bricks but still beautiful.

Other landmarks you will recognize nestled inside Legoland include the Southern Mansion that like the Florida shaped pool has also served as a back drop for several movies including Moon over Miami. It is as glorious today as it ever was back then with its beautiful lawn reaching down to Lake Eloise. The Island in the Sky is up and running as well still taking guests up for a birds eye view of the surrounding areas. The Crossroads area, although it has had a Lego makeover, still has the quaint shops, the carousel and the theater that, at one time, housed the Ice show.

If you stroll along Crossroads towards the gardens, just past Legoland's mini city, you will still pass by the big waterfall with its stream trickling down to Lake Eloise, just before you reach the original ski stadiums that now showcase Legoland's new ski show.

So you see, despite the fact that Legoland has moved in, they have done a great job preserving the original Cypress Gardens that we all hold dear to our hearts. So whether or not you are ever able to visit Legoland, rest assured, Cypress Gardens is definitely alive and well and as beautiful as ever.

Sep 10, 2016
Tony the Tiger
by: Cara

My sister and I were 10 and 11 when we drove down from Atlanta with our parents. I loved all the ladies in beautiful Antebellum gowns, the well manicured grounds and, of course, the ski show. I remember waiting for that to begin, sitting in the stands and a Tom Jones recording was playing What's New Pussycat and a Tony the Tiger character was dancing around. It was a warm winter's day and now a warm memory!

Apr 29, 2016
Lady killed
by: Bernie

I went to Cypress Gardens when I was 9 or 10 and with my 4 brothers and sisters, mom and dad. They used to do a water skiing stunt where 15 girls would do a pyramid and be pulled behind a boat. There was a point where they had to go under an old brick bridge and one of the women on the bottom row hit the bridge and was killed. We were there the week after that and they weren't going to do that stunt anymore, but they did it with 12 women. (Four on the bottom row instead of five). I remember my dad was afraid that all us kids would witness something bad, but it was a great day.

Dec 31, 2015
Memories of Cypress Gardens
by: Lucy

I remember first going to Cypress Gardens in the early 1970's with my grandmother, mother and brother. I remember being bored out of my mind (my grandmother loved it) and thinking that it was for old folks. The only thing that I liked was the ski show.

I didn't go to Cypress gardens again until 2002. As a adult, I became interested in looking at flower gardens and gardens. I went on Good Friday of that year. Enjoyed it and went back during the Christmas season. Went back a couple of times before it closed.

Was very sad to see it go, glad they didn't take out the garden part.

Sep 22, 2014
Cypress Gardens
by: Julie Brown

Thanks for the story Tish! We visited there when I was little and I loved it! I got to relive those memories with your detailed story of the Park. I hope someone will let us know how it fairs today.

Sep 22, 2014
What Is Left of Cypress Gardens
by: Florida Backroads Travel

Tish: we are like you, wondering what Legoland has preserved of the old Cypress Gardens. Thanks for your comments, and please update us if you get a chance to revisit the place.

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Cypress Gardens

by Shelia (Ellis) Wade
(Columbus, IN)

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.

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Mar 06, 2014
Cypress Gardens
by: Shelia (Ellis) Wade

So good hearing others comments about Cypress Gardens, since it is so near and dear to my heart.

My Dad loved working there for 29 years and I and my family have so many great memories about the beautiful Cypress Gardens.

Mar 06, 2014
Visiting Cypress Gardens as a child and an adult
by: Lucy, Central Florida area

The first time I visited Cypress Gardens was in 1969 or 1970 with my grandmother, mother,brother and one of my grandmother's friends. I was bored to tears at the time and the only thing that I enjoyed was the ski show.

Fast forward about 34 years and it was a different story. I went to Cypress Gardens twice in 2002. Once on Good Friday and once during Christmas. I enjoyed seeing the flowers, the plants and seeing the ski shows.

On Good Friday I saw the crown of thorns and it invoked an emotional response in me. One woman looked at me like I was nuts.

When I went during the Christmas season, it was unusually warm the day I went. It was a balmy December day and evening as I went on a boat ride on the lake. I had dinner there and enjoyed the organ music. So sad that it's gone.

Oct 02, 2013
tommy bartletts cypress gardens
by: tom h

I was 11 I think when visiting. I remember all the ladies in hoop dresses in the mossy treed groomed gardens. And the ski show was awesome.

Bartlett was of Wisconsin fame and his ski shows were in Minocqua, Wisconsin. The skiiers were called the Minaquanauts.

My dad took films from the special bleachers for camera buffs. We watched Santa ski right up on the beach!

I also remember the Singing Tower, Tower in the orange groves, Silver Springs Glassbottom boat tours, Ringling House And Field of circus wagons and paraphernalia, a tunnel under a canal in Fort Lauderdale, the St Augustine fort, 7mile bridge, Hurricane Donna? After the hurricane, Key West and Eisenhowers vacation home, Cape Canaveral.

What an awesome trip in a 1960 Ford station wagon with dad, pregnant mom, a sister and a brother, and maternal grandma.


Tom, thanks for sharing these great memories. You certainly saw a lot on one trip. You mention Tommy Bartlett at Cypress Gardens. That attraction was run by Dick Pope, but Tommy is in the water ski hall of fame there. Tommy's Florida attraction was Tommy Bartlett's Deer Ranch up in Silver Springs near Ocala. Also, do you remember where President Eisenhower's home was. President Truman had a winter home in Key West, Nixon had one on Key Biscayne, but I don't know where Ike spent the winters.

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