While Orlando typically inspires images of amusement parks, the city is also home to sites that are completely separate from the manufactured worlds of Disney and Universal—such as the Harry P. Leu Gardens. The urban oasis teems with tropical plants like azaleas and palms, and includes an historic home once inhabited by the Leu family. With more than 2,000 camellia plants and 230-plus cultivars, its impressive collection ranks among the largest in the United States.
Leu Gardens is a botanical garden tucked away in downtown Orlando, yet a quiet retreat from the bustle. Visitors can meander under the shade of palms, bamboo, oaks, and elms. Every season showcases different blooming flowers and plants, including bromeliads, orchids, camellias, and roses. The butterfly garden is my favorite. Date Night is on the first Friday of the month, from August through November. Pack a picnic, some wine, and a blanket to enjoy with a movie in the garden. Don’t forget the popcorn!