Homeschool Field Trip: Sunken Gardens in St Petersburg, Florida (free printables)

Sunken Gardens road sign

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Sunken Gardens doesn’t look like much from the side of the road. But the inside? A magical, colorful, family friendly attraction that’s not to be missed on your next visit to St Petersburg, Florida.

My family and I recently stopped by Sunken Gardens on our way to our cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas sailing from Tampa. In fact, we visited Sunken Gardens the day after exploring the natural springs of Silver Springs in Ocala, Florida! In an effort to discovered the natural, and sometimes hidden, beauty of Florida, I had planned our itinerary to include a visit to this 100-year old garden.

One of the last remaining roadside attractions in Florida, I honestly didn’t have high expectations for our family visit. As an “out-of-stater,” it seemed to be difficult to figure out exactly what Sunken Gardens was. They do have a fairly active Facebook Page, but it doesn’t look like they have a dedicated website (it’s listed as a page on the City of St. Pete website?) and, for some reason, that seemed strange to me.

We had considered quite a few other Tampa-area attractions for our visit, but, after finding a deal on Groupon for Sunken Gardens, I figured “what the heck, let’s give it a try!” What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good deal and the thought of seeing pretty flowers.

You guys…I’m so glad we decided to take a chance on visiting Sunken Gardens.

Spoiler Alert – I have a free set of botanical garden printables that would go along wonderfully with your visit to Sunken Gardens!

lizard at Sunken Gardens
Keep an eye out for lizards at Sunken Gardens!

Why Visit Sunken Gardens?

Back before Florida was full of tourists and theme parks (don’t get me wrong, I love the theme parks!), there was plenty of land up for grabs. In the early 1900s, a young family man purchased about 4 acres of land and got started turning St Petersburg’s oldest living museum into the gorgeous botanical wonder it is today.

If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is!

As homeschooling parents, we’re always on the search for experiences that are meaningful, memorable, and fun. We have the unique opportunity to allow our kids to take advantage of learning experiences outside of four walls and, sometimes, even outside of our home state! In our experience, taking a visit to Sunken Gardens with kids proved to be a great way to provide an immersive botanical experience that fits all the “experience criteria.”

chinese lantern flower at sunken gardens
These Chinese Lantern flowers were absolutely gorgeous in person!

Why? Here are some three great reasons to visit Sunken Gardens:

  • it’s an opportunity to experience Florida history
  • it’s a real-life example of how hard work can result in something beautiful!
  • it’s a great way to literally stop & smell the roses

How about a bonus reason? Now, I’m not a human thermometer or anything, but I swear, it felt like 20 degrees cooler inside Sunken Gardens than outside. I’m all for Florida experiences that don’t leave me dripping in sweat!

In front of the Sunken Gardens sign

Preparing for Sunken Gardens

Before visiting Sunken Gardens, I totally suggest doing the following:

  • wear comfortable shoes
    • You’ll be walking the entire time, so leave the dressy heels and the shoes that cause blisters at home. Instead, wear comfortable sneakers or sandals.
  • pack a meal
    • Outside food is allowed inside Sunken Gardens so, if you’re visiting during a meal-time (who am I kidding…kids are always hungry), consider packing or picking up a meal before. We brought a soft cooler with Wawa hoagies & plastic-bottled soft drinks inside. There are a few picnic tables available, but also plenty of garden seating options.
  • put sunscreen on
    • It may seem nice & shady while you’re walking around the gardens, but there’s also plenty of opportunities to sunburn…especially in Florida!
  • bring a refillable water bottle
    • Stay hydrated! There’s a filtered water bottle filler in the enclosed entrance of Sunken Gardens by the restrooms.
philodendron plant at sunken gardens
This philodendron was huge and so beautiful!

Our Experience

When we visited the Sunken Gardens, we ended up arriving around noon and stayed until about 2pm. This left us plenty of time for lunch and strolling through the gardens.

The entry building is a few steps away from free parking (I always get nervous about parking situations for some reason, so I hope mentioning this helps to calm your anxieties!). While redeeming our Groupon passes, and paying for admission for the kids, I noticed a sign by the register about purchasing fish food. I am certainly not one to turn down an opportunity to feed animals, so I bought the boys each a bag of food to feed the fish on property. I wish I had taken a photo of the sign to share the exact price, but just know it seemed reasonable – a few bucks.

yellow walking iris flower at sunken gardens
Gorgeous Yellow Walking Iris Flowers

Worth noting: the entry register is the only location within the park selling fish food so, if you want some, buy it there!

While at the register, we also got a map of the grounds. This really came in handy for our visit! Each section is labeled with a number, so we could make sure we followed the sequence and saw all of the gardens. The map was also helpful in figuring out where to feed the fish since there are two sections with fish, but only one meant for feeding them.

Flamingos at Sunken Garden

After checking in and using the restrooms, we headed out into the gardens. Right away, we noticed the variety of flowers and greens were mesmerizing! There were so many vivid colors, so many textures – it was all beautiful. In addition to enjoying all the different plants, my boys also enjoyed spotting lizards throughout the attraction. They could often be found sunning themselves on foliage signs or rocks. So cute!

You know what else we saw? Birds! There were a few birds in large enclosures, but we especially enjoyed seeing a flamboyance of flamingos.

Did you know that “flamboyance” is the word to describe a group of flamingos? How fun is that?!

root structure of a palm tree at Sunken Gardens
Check out the roots on this palm tree!

Right by the flamingo section is a small building featuring photos, videos, newspaper clippings, and such telling the story of Sunken Gardens. Not only is there air conditioning inside, but we also found the history to be super interesting! During your visit to Sunken Gardens, definitely take some time to visit this section of the gardens.

While we all enjoyed seeing the variety of plants, I think it’s safe to say the highlight of our visit was when the boys got to feed the fish. I think the fish would agree, too. The boys did their best to make the bag of food last, but those fish were bottomless pits!

standing on the bridge to feed fish at sunken gardens

The boys enjoyed seeing the variety of plants more than I thought they would. Knowing that I love plants, they kept pointing out new-to-them varieties, various colors, and such to me. In the desert area, my youngest thought the giant agave plant was especially cool. It was almost as tall as he was!

After walking through the gardens for about an hour, we found a place to have lunch. Unfortunately, all of the picnic tables & chairs were in use, so we ended up having our meal while sitting on a curb near the gift shop.

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Following lunch, we walked through the gardens a bit more before deciding we were ready to leave to start the next adventure (dinner & some sightseeing in Clearwater!). We walked through the gift shop, in hopes of finding some fun souvenirs (we like to get a magnet from each adventure). I love getting shirts from places we visit, but ended up “only” getting a magnet from Sunken Gardens because, like Silver Springs, items in the gift shop were quite pricey!

child standing next to a large agave plant at sunken gardens
Isn’t that a giant agave plant?!

Learning about Botanical Gardens

Now, I created this resource after our visit to Sunken Gardens (face:palm), but I’ll definitely make sure to have my boys do it before our next visit to a botanical garden (we really want to visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden!). If you want to include some paper/pencil activities for your kids, go ahead and grab our free Botanical Garden printables!

This packet was created with upper-elementary age kids in mind, but could be beneficial for levels above and below that. It includes activities meant to be done before, during, and after your visit to a botanical garden:

  • list of 20 botanical garden-themed vocabulary words (do this BEFORE)
  • word search (BEFORE)
  • scavenger hunt (DURING)
  • 5 writing prompts, one of each theme: Descriptive Writing, Narrative Writing, Persuasive Writing, Research & Informational Writing, and Reflective Writing (AFTER)
.

Sunken Gardens with Kids

Even if your kids have never been to a botanical garden before, definitely consider bringing them along for a visit to the Sunken Gardens! They’ll be able to see and learn so much…and there’s so much beauty in the world to discover!

My family and I had a great time walking through the paths of Sunken Gardens in St Petersburg. Being able to see flowers in bloom, especially in February, definitely made us happy and made us look forward to starting our own flower and vegetable gardens in our new-to-us home here in Georgia.

I’d love to read about your favorite memories made while visiting Sunken Gardens! Leave a comment below!

Until next time, stay safe and enjoy quality time with your family,

- Elizabeth (and the kids. and the husband. even the dog.)
That Homeschool Family in Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.

Elizabeth Dukart is a proud Georgia-based born and raised Jersey Girl, wife, and mom of 2 human boys & 1 canine boy.

Created in 2021, Elizabeth owns and publishes That Homeschool Family: a free resource for homeschooling parents and beyond! A seasoned blogger, Elizabeth previously published a popular location-specific family resource blog, but decided to “Pivot!” her blogging focus after she started homeschooling her two boys in 2020. In addition to this blog, you can follow Elizabeth’s homeschooling and family adventures on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. She can also be found in her Facebook Group: That Homeschool Family Hangout.

When she’s not busy taking over the world or homeschooling, Elizabeth can be found listening to music (especially The Beatles & Harry Styles!), being silly with her boys, watching movies with family, shopping, or traveling!

Have a question or want to work with Elizabeth? Send her an email!

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