Dick Pope Sr. was a man with a vision. Where others saw swampland, he imagined a tropical wonderland unparalleled as a showcase of the world’s natural beauty.
On a marshy tract of land adjacent to Polk County’s placid Lake Eloise, he created Cypress Gardens, a color-saturated paradise of exotic flowers, plants and trees Pope imported from globe-trotting travels with his wife, Julie.
Dedicated by Florida’s governor in January 1935, the gardens formally opened Jan. 2, 1936, with visitors paying 25 cents apiece to tour its winding, cypress-block pathways. Over the years that followed, Cypress Gardens drew millions of visitors to Florida for its tranquil splendor and dazzling water ski shows, among them movie stars, TV legends, beauty queens, royalty and world-class athletes.
Today, eight decades later, kids will delight in discovering the historic botanical gardens’ many charms around every tree-shaded corner, from the famous gazebo to the mammoth banyan tree. All beautifully preserved and maintained by the talented horticulturalists of LEGOLAND® Florida Resort for the enjoyment of children for generations to come.
Here are a few scenes captured during a recent visit on a quiet afternoon: