Florida's Best Botanical Gardens

Reconnect with nature at one of Florida's many gorgeous, expansive botanical gardens.

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Legoland Florida
Legoland Florida

Legoland Florida

In between time on the lake, head to the world’s largest Legoland park, right in Winter Haven, FL. Spanning 145 acres, Legoland Florida is home to more than 50 rides, a waterpark and botanical garden. Another big draw is Safari Trek, where kids take a jeep ride to explore the wilds of Africa in the form of life-like LEGO animals. 960 1280

Legoland  

Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve

Just outside of Winter Haven, explore more wildlife photo ops, but this time for real. Circle B Bar Reserve in nearby Lakeland, FL, was named by USA TODAY as one of the top places in America to see wildlife. Take in the vastness of the reserve’s 1,267 acres, home to wildlife such as bobcats, snakes and alligators, which you can spot in the reserve’s Lake Hancock. 960 1280

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Waterskiing

Waterskiing

Since the 1930s, Winter Haven has grown into a waterskiing mecca. Learn the sport, in all its pulsating variations, like barefoot skiing, at one of the local schools. Then try your luck out on Winter Haven’s famous Chain of Lakes, the series of lakes that extends across this stretch of Central Florida. 960 1280

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Flyboarding

Flyboarding

Blastoff! For a hot, new -- and extreme -- watersport, try your luck at flyboarding. Suit up with a flyboard, an air-powered jet pack that was invented in spring 2011 by watercraft rider Franky Zapata. Local watersports schools such as Absolute Aqua Sports should have you flying high in under 10 minutes, following your lesson. 960 1280

Visit Central Florida  

Bok Tower

Bok Tower

Spread across 250 acres, Bok Tower Gardens was commissioned in 1921 by Edward Bok, a Dutch immigrant-turned-editor of Ladies Home Journal. At the center of the spacious, 250-acre botanical gardens is this 60-bell carillon. Towering 205 feet high, Bok Tower overlooks a long reflecting pond, with lily pads and koi fish offering great photo ops. 960 1280

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Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding

SUP’s up in Winter Haven. Go stand-up paddleboarding on Winter Haven’s Chain of Lakes. Local watersports companies like Paddleboard Winter Haven offer 2 hours of SUP time, starting at Lake Summit, and passing through a canal into Lake Eloise, one of the larger lakes in Polk County, where Winter Haven is located. 960 1280

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Airboat Nature Tour

Airboat Nature Tour

In nearby Lake Wales, FL, take an airboat nature tour. Hop aboard a 6-person airboat, and get ready for a tour through Central Florida’s swamps and marshes, home to birds like egrets, cranes and hawks … and some very large alligators. 960 1280

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Chalet Suzanne's Famous Moon Soup

Chalet Suzanne's Famous Moon Soup

In between lake-hopping, stop by Chalet Suzanne restaurant, in nearby Lake Wales, FL, for a 5-course meal. The restaurant’s signature romaine soup has been a tradition for over 50 years. It was made famous by astronaut James Irwin, who chose the soup for his menu in space. 960 1280

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Camp Mack’s River Resort

Camp Mack’s River Resort

Before heading out on the water, use Camp Mack’s River Resort as your headquarters. Located on a quiet stretch of the Kissimmee River, the resort is a great launching point for fishing excursions, with crappies, bluegills, shell crackers and Florida largemouth bass among the prized catches of the day. 960 1280

Visit Central Florida  

Westgate River Ranch

Westgate River Ranch

Break up the lakeside pace with a trip to Westgate River Ranch. This dude ranch, roughly 45 minutes from Legoland, offers the chance to find your inner cowboy: Enjoy a rodeo show, go glamping and when the water calls you back, take a swamp buggy ride. 960 1280

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Chain of Lakes

Chain of Lakes

Take a boat ride through Winter Haven’s Chain of Lakes -- so named because of its many connecting lakes. In all, this “chain” of 9 lakes spans 6,000 acres, with plenty of lakeside areas available for onboarding; 22 boat ramps, 30 waterfront parks and 14 public docks are available to boaters. 960 1280

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Water Ski Hall of Fame

Water Ski Hall of Fame

Ever wondered who the ‘Father of Waterskiing’ is? Find out at the Water Ski Hall of Fame. Established in 1982, the museum’s mission is to honor the pioneering skiers who put the sport on the map. As for the founding father, since you’re dying to know, it’s Ralph Samuelson, of Lake Pepin, MN! 960 1280

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Bass Fishing Capital of the World

Bass Fishing Capital of the World

Reel in the catch of a lifetime in the ‘Bass Fishing Capital of the World.’ Winter Haven is home to dozens of lakes, connected by navigable canals, where largemouth bass, well into the 10-lbs. range, swim. 960 1280

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Photos

Everglades

Everglades

Florida Everglades
Encroaching development is just one of many threats to the Everglades, the largest subtropical wilderness in the US. Since 1900 the Everglades have been cut in half, and 14 species of animals that call its cypress swamps, mangroves and sawgrass home are now on the brink of extinction.
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Venice

Venice

Venice, Italy
The 118 small islands that make up the city of Venice have been sinking for centuries, but rising sea levels have caused many to wonder how much longer the Floating City will stay afloat.
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Tuvalu

Tuvalu

Tuvalu
The tiny Polynesian nation of Tuvalu, located halfway between Australia and Hawaii, could be completely swallowed by the Pacific Ocean if sea levels continue to rise. The highest point of the 9-island country (encompassing only 10 square miles) is only about 15 feet above sea level, and even a rise of a few inches could have devastating consequences for the tiny nation.
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Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa
A change in rainfall patterns and an increase in land use have caused the Sahara desert to gradually advance southward. If the growth continues, it could drastically change the landscape of Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Timbuktu

Timbuktu

Timbuktu, Mali
The 3 mosques of Timbuktu in Mali, built during a golden age between the 14th and 16th centuries, are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Their walls are mainly built of mud, and any increase in temperature or rainfall could spell disaster for these incredible pieces of history.
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European Alps

European Alps

European Alps
Ever dream of skiing the high peaks and endless runs of the European Alps? Well, ski bunny, you better book your flight and hop on the gondola sooner rather than later. Because the Alps are at a lower altitude than many other mountain ranges, they are much more susceptible to the potential effects of global warming, and temperatures in the region are increasing at more than twice the global average. Some predictions give the glaciers only until 2050 before they disappear.
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Patagonia

Patagonia

Patagonia, Argentina
The pristine landscape of Patagonia in Argentina could look drastically different to future visitors. The awe-inspiring glaciers have already begun to shrink because of increases in temperatures and decreases in precipitation.
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French Vineyards

French Vineyards

French Vineyards
Better start stocking up on French wine. Temperature increases in traditional winemaking regions of France, such as Bordeaux, have caused winemakers to worry. Grapes are hyper-sensitive to climate change, and any increase in temperature could be detrimental to the vines … eliminating the production of varieties that have been a mainstay of the region for centuries.
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Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Mount Kilimanjaro could look drastically different in our lifetime. The snow is rapidly melting, and scientists predict that it will only be white-capped for another 15 years.
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Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska The state of Alaska currently has more than 100,000 glaciers, but 95% of them are shrinking. The global rise in temperature is happening much faster at higher latitudes, and Alaska’s annual average temperature is increasing twice as fast as the rest of the US. As Glacier Bay gets warmer, snowy winter scenes like this one will be harder to come by. 960 1280

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Tikal

Tikal

Tikal, Guatemala
The structures of Tikal, one of the largest archaeological sites of the Mayan civilization, are mostly made of soft limestone -- soft enough to erode when subjected to rain and wind. Tourists aren’t helping, either; many have been known to leave with small stone “souvenirs.”
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Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
The Monteverde cloud forest in the mountains of Costa Rica has become a major ecotourism destination because of its incredible biodiversity. Global warming, however, has scientists worried. Many have warned there will be a decline in the low-level clouds that this lush ecosystem is famous for, with the resulting rise in temperatures threatening many plants and animals.
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Maldives

Maldives

Maldives
Located southwest of India, this archipelago of 1,190 tiny islands and atolls is the lowest-lying country in the world, making it particularly susceptible to a rise in sea levels. Roughly 80% of the country is less than 4 feet above sea level, and many inhabitants live along the coast. If sea levels continue to rise, the Republic of Maldives will be the first nation to disappear into the ocean.
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Zahara de la Sierra

Zahara de la Sierra

Zahara de la Sierra, Spain
This small town in the hills of Andalusia is famous for its green mountains, pastures and olive groves. The temperature in Andalusia, however, is expected to increase along with the average annual rainfall, which would wipe out the orchards and lush countryside.
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Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park has already undergone a significant transformation. The Montana landscape was once home to 150 monstrous glaciers; now there are only 27. Some scientists predict that they will be gone by 2030.
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Trey Ratcliff through Flickr Creative Commons  

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The world’s biggest structure made by living organisms, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. But the survival of the reef is threatened by rising ocean temperatures and mass coral bleaching, and it could be completely gone in our lifetime.
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