Flamingo Gardens
So many South Floridians are scared to venture west. University Boulevard may as well be the Everglades to them, and names like Nob Hill and Hiatus sound like faraway, mythical realms. When out-of-town visitors come calling, by all means take them to the beach. But then take them to a place where some wild things roam. Precariously poised at the very edge of civilization, the 60-acre botanical garden gives guests an eye-popping extravaganza of bromeliads, African violets, calatheas, and orchids — often for sale. If flowers aren't your thing, Flamingo Gardens has critters too. Not just wading birds and their precocious chicks but also bald eagles, bobcats, gators, butterflies, hummingbirds, and otters. This is also your only sure-fire opportunity to spot the elusive Florida panther, where the endangered cats slink around behind a glass enclosure, safe from the speeding vehicles that have decimated their numbers. It's kinda touristy and contrived, but it's completely free of silicone and coconut-flavored rum, which, by our yardstick, is certainly in its favor.

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