Matheson Hammock Park, Coral Gables, FL

A few years back I had an assignment from Dade Heritage Trust to write an article about the area’s Heritage Parks. There are seven. In spite of the decades I had lived here, having visited most of them, I did not know their backstories or that we even had designated Heritage Parks. It was an exciting discovery.

Now I have delved a bit deeper into the details of each site and put together a driving tour so anyone, visitor or local, can easily find these very special parks. You can get to my tour of Miami-Dade County’s 7 Heritage Parks just by clicking the tour name. Even if you can’t visit in person, this virtual tour will take you from Miami Beach’s Haulover Beach Park to Greynolds Park in North Miami Beach, out to Key Biscayne and the expansive Crandon Park, to Coral Gables and Matheson Hammock Park, Miami’s Deering Estate, farther south to the Fruit & Spice Park in Redland and, finally to Homestead’s Bayfront Park.

If you are not familiar with Clio Tours you should check out this great resource for history and culture. You can find all sorts of walking, driving, and biking tours on this free site. It is supported through a foundation and has a lot of academic input, but also thrives on community participation. I have done my entries in the name of a preservation group close to my heart – The (Miami) Villagers.

Merry Christmas!

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens Winter Walk of Lights, Northern, Virginia.

Our little, youngest Baby J sends good tidings to all! Hope Santa is good to you.

We will be visiting our daughter and her family this Christmas and I miss putting up a large fresh, fully decorated tree. I’ve made do with a much smaller artificial tree and a few special selections. I did a version of this post a couple of years ago and felt it was a good fit for Tina’s Lens-Artists Challenge #178 – You Choose. Seeing even a few of my “ornaments” always makes me smile.

When I travel, I’m not much of a shopper, preferring to spend as much time as possible exploring.  What I bring back from travel is memories, and I record those with my pictures, photo books, and blog posts. But on each trip, in every location, I do buy at least one thing, something to hang on our Christmas tree. I prefer it not be an actual ornament and try to find something specific to the place or experience. Once back home, I write the year and location on each. It may not be the most beautiful tree, but it is uniquely ours. Decorating our tree is a trip all its own . . . down memory lane.

Can you match the location with the ornament? Alaska & Hawaii, Amazon, Australia, Barcelona, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Galapagos, India, Kentucky, Nepal, Netherlands, Salzburg, Santiago de Compostela, Tangiers, Turkey, USA/ Maine & Oregon coast.

Anyone in the Miami area over the holiday season should be sure to visit the Night Garden at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. A wonderful venue for kids, it’s equally magical for adults who still believe in fairytales. Fairchild at night is always a wonderful experience. There is something really special about a lush, tropical jungle at night, particularly one as perfect and diverse as this one.

The wise old Talking Tree was an instant hit when the Night Garden made its first appearance a few years ago. He’s still there, engaging with the kids (or anyone who wishes to ask a question) and captivating everyone who stops to visit. Lights of all styles show off the Garden’s beauty and sounds of the night with hints of something not-quite-real are softly heard throughout.

Among my favorite additions this year, are the seven fairy sculptures hidden throughout the Garden. When you find one and use a special app on your phone, an animated fairy appears and flies around on your phone’s screen. The app was a little unresponsive, but I eventually got it to work. The delicate, lovely fairy statuettes are appropriately representative of gardenesque imagery such as the Sun, Holly, Ivy, Dahlia, Rose, and more.

Kids and adults were enjoying the interactive light button kiosks, adding even more special effects throughout the garden, and there were a number of activities geared specifically for children. For the thirsty or hungry, no worries. Bars are scattered throughout and food trucks feature: pizza & Italian fare, ice cream, arepas, and Peruvian sandwiches. My Peruvian chicken sandwich was a bit pricy but tasty, and my husband enjoyed his baked ziti.

The Fairy Fog Bubbles greeted those arriving at the Night Garden. Here they are in action.

Try to capture a Fairy Fog Bubble and it turns to smoke. Such a spellbinding feature and a great way to enter the Night Garden. Keep going and you will be dazzled by more, including a tropical snow shower. Coupled with the beautiful weather we’ve been having in Miami, a trip to Fairchild’s Night Garden is a much-needed escape into another world.

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