Sarasota's favorite family attraction

The gardens started in the 1930s has grown to accommodate thousands

Jungle Gardens in Sarasota
Sarasota Jungle Gardens - The entrance is on Bay Shore Road near Myrtle Street and Tamiami Trail.

Since the 1930s this attraction has been visited by such notorieties as Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. And through this time the Sarasota Jungle Gardens has grown to become Sarasota’s favorite family attraction. It is more than a zoo, here visitors interact with the animals and stroll through the many plants through pavered walkways on this 10-acre jungle. Indigenous and transplanted plants from around the world line the walkways easily accessible to all, young and old. Over 3,000 varieties of plants are on display as you stroll along. In current years many of the transplants were replaced with Florida plants to help survive the climate we all know as paradise.

The animal kingdom is plentiful and on safari display too. Some of these animals are free to be fed by hand. One of the most popular spots is the feeding pond where a gathering of flamingos, ibis and gulls gather for daily treats. The birds will literally peck pellets of food from your hand. If you are skirmish at first, watch others as they hold the food in front of the birds and notice they are gently pecking at their lunch.

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo
Frosty - This Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo born in 1936 continues to entertain the public daily at the gardens.

There are famed animals as well. An 83-year-old Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo with the name of Frosty has been a starlit of fame over the years. Acquired from the Folsom State Prison of California in 1971, Frosty was trained by inmates as a hire-wire unicycle entertainer. The program was a learning experience for inmates as they were taught patience, responsibility and care for others. Frosty performed his tricks at events and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show.

Other birds perform at daily presentations in the outdoor pavilion. They sing, talk to the crowd, imitate other animal calls and two brother parrots even compete with a race to be the first to put rings on two separate rods. The Jungle Bird Show begins at noon each day as the birds demonstrate their intelligence in each performance.

The main shows continue in the pavilion with the Wildlife Wonder at 1 PM, a lineup of local and exotic animals exhibited on stage as a strong lesson in conservation. Two times a day at 11 AM and 3 PM the Reptile Encounter feature snakes to alligators, live on stage to excite and educate visitors of all ages. After each show guests are encouraged to interact with the characters, close-up animal encounters and further discussions with human performers. The pavilion has around 100 seats with plenty of standing room.

Jungle Gardens in Sarasota
Otto the Opossum - Guests are invited to interact with the animals and ask questions after each demonstration

Demonstrations throughout the park educate and entertain. There is plenty to see as you venture past many of the exhibits in the gardens. Spend some time at the Butterfly Gardens, see some large and small crocodiles and alligators, catch a red-tailed hawk as the first in the Birds of Prey exhibit, allow your youngsters to feed the goats and pigs in the Petting Zoo, but always allow some extra time to spend in the Flamingo Feeding Area. A special area has been set aside as a playground for children.

David Breed Lindsay first purchased the parcel of land in what is now the Bayou Oaks and Sapphire Shores area of Sarasota. He and Pearson Conrad were the original architects for streams and pathways through a uninhabited swamp land of banana groves. They built a lake where the flamingos and swans have their habitat. They began charging a minimal amount to visit the gardens in 1936 and by the beginning of 1939 the gardens were fully open to the public.

Koi pond
Swimming pool or Koi Pond? - It has been both.

Admission was collected by the home that was built on the grounds as a succession of owners added their own touches to the gardens over the years. A swimming pool was built next to the house. The original home now serves as the Flamingo Café, the garden’s grill and oasis where you can purchase refreshments and take a restroom break. The swimming pool is now an attractive koi pond with water lilies.

The daughter of Chicago businessman Arthur C. Allyn currently operates the jungle gardens. It is said that Allyn, the former president of the Chicago White Sox, had more passion for butterflies than baseball, so he sold the team to his brother in 1969 and moved to Sarasota where he purchased the gardens two years later. He may have developed his love for Sarasota after purchasing a motel here as spring training accommodations for his players. Dorothy Allyn Tinney is actively involved in the daily operations of the organization.

Getting involved in Sarasota Jungle Gardens is easy with multiple options

The gardens have many ways to get involved. The park is open daily 10 AM to 5 PM, but closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Individual daily rates start at $17.99 for an adult pass to free for children three and under. There are student and senior discounts, and group rates for 10 or more visitors. Visit the Sarasota Jungle Gardens website for daily rates, annual passes and rentals on wheelchairs and strollers.

Kids Park
Children's play area - Kids love the jungle gardens

Their adopt-an-animal program shares the love between you and your favorite animal. There is a wide range of animals to adopt and are offered at five different levels, from the Zoo Friend at $50 to the Kingdom Keeper at $1,000. They make great gifts and serve to continue the educational programs at the gardens.

The Sarasota Jungle Gardens is also a great place for birthday parties. With each theme the birthday guest chooses the favorite animal from the list, either be it an alligator, flamingo, parrot or tortoise. The party receives an up-close encounter with the animal of choice. Each party girl or boy receives more favors and treats in the reserved picnic area, and the guest of honor receives free admission, T-shirt and sport bottle.

Zoo Camp is a great adventure with weekly themes presenting wildlife in their habitats, conservation orientation and even one to explore our oceans. Their school break fun is coordinated with the school calendars of Manatee and Sarasota counties. It may be the first stage of zookeeper training at two levels for beginners, ages 6-13 and a Junior Counselor program for ages 14 and 15 year-olds.

Jungle Gardens Gift shop
What to find in the gift shop? - Flamingos, of course

The Sarasota Jungle Gardens is located at 3701 Bay Shore Road, just south of SRQ airport. At the intersection of Myrtle Street and North Tamiami Trail is a sign at the CVS directing you to the gardens, just a short couple of blocks off the trail.

If you are visiting the gardens and fall in love with Sarasota as Arthur Allyn did, please take notice of my new listing last week at 2165 Gulf of Mexico Dr, #123. It is a rarely available, direct 3BR/3BA Gulf-front residence at Villa di Lancia on Longboat Key. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

Address List Price Media Slideshow
2165 Gulf of Mexico Dr, #123 $1,495,000 Video Photo Slideshow


Call us at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing