I went to Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, FL on their last day of existence in their current form. After, I ate at the Ruby Tuesdays right outside of the park, but I will get to that. First, I'm going to post some random pictures from Cypress Gardens in it's current state with an occasional comment. To start, here's the front entrance to the park. Cypress Garden's last day was the busiest I've ever seen the place. It took about twenty minutes of sitting in traffic on this road to finally enter the parking lot due to the crowds.
After entering the park, I first headed towards Cypress Garden's zoo and saw giant rodents, miniature deer with tusks, an albino blind wallaby, lemurs, and all sorts of other animals.
After the seeing the animals I walked through the Santa's of The World exhibit and saw mannequins dressed up as variations of Santa Claus.
After I saw the Santas, I decided to go on a ride on the park's observation tower type ride that is currently called The Sunshine Sky Adventure. Formerly, it was known as the Island in the Sky, but whatever it's called, it's a very cool ride that was one of the park's original attractions. The only problem was that it wasn't open. It actually looked like it was sort of in a state of disrepair from the angles I saw the ride from and would take some work to get it in working order again. I don't see it up for sale with the rest of Cypress Garden's rides though.
Since the ride was closed, I headed towards the Wings of Wonder Butterfly exhibit. I guess all of the butterflies must have died because instead of butterflies, they put a few parrots in here instead.
In some of the gardens right outside of the former butterfly exhibit, I did come across a wild butterfly that sat there while I took pictures of it, along with a sad looking vegetable garden and some lion statues.
I wandered through more of the gardens in the park, like the topiary garden. I kind of wonder if this part of the park will still be here when Cypress Gardens reopens next year. I kind of get the feeling it won't be (if the park reopens at all).
There's the park's big waterfall nearby the topiarys. I remember all of the plants around here being much more lush on my last visit to Cypress Gardens.
The water ski show was up next. They no longer had an ice skating show, so Cypress Gardens was down to only one 'big' show. I actually didn't watch the whole thing, but I did stay for the best part, which was the hang glider. During this show, I guess the employees all wanted to get one last flight in, so there were multiple gliders flying at once. It was cool.
After the ski show, I continued through the rest of the botanical gardens in the park. This is actually one of the coolest parts of the park in my opinion, with all sorts of unusual plants in a jungle like environment. That baynon tree is very impressive. Rumor is that this part of Cypress Gardens is staying, but I hope they at least bring back the boat ride through the canals when (or if) they reopen.
After I finished up viewing plants, I took one last look at the rides at Cypress Gardens. It seems every single one of these rides are up for sale and a parking lot will be built in their place once they are gone. They are mostly carnival rides and small (and painful) roller coasters which really won't be missed, but my personal opinion is that Cypress Gardens should keep the two wooden roller coasters. The Triple Hurricane is small, but it really is a fun ride. It was the only roller coaster that I enjoyed riding before the park bought the Starliner.
The Starliner is Cypress Gardens newest roller coaster, and it is something they should definitely keep. It was built in 1963 at Miracle Strip in Panama City, FL. When Miracle Strip closed in 2004, Cypress Gardens bought the ride and rebuilt it in it's current location. It finally reopened in 2007, and less than a year later, it's up for sale again.
Going for a ride on the Starliner was one of the reasons to visit Cypress Gardens one last time. Apparently, I wasn't alone because I rode at the end of the day when the line was shortest and the wait was still over an hour. I overheard the ride attendants talking that people flew in from places as far north as Massachusetts to get a ride on the Starliner before it was sold or demolished. The Starliner is definitely a draw, and since it is the first roller coaster built in Florida, and Cypress Gardens likes to advertise they are Florida's First Theme Park, the two seem like a perfect match for each other. Cypress Gardens wants to build a parking lot here, but I think they should definitely consider building the parking lot around the Starliner.
I found this video of the Starliner on Youtube from Theme Park Review:
After riding the Starliner, it was 5:00 and Cypress Gardens was closed for the day, at least until next year or possibly forever. I made my way to the parking lot where I sat in traffic for over an hour trying to leave due to the huge crowds that Cypress Gardens had on their last day.
I stopped at the Ruby Tuesdays right outside of the park to get dinner once I finally left the parking lot.
I ordered something called New Orleans Seafood. It consisted of tilapia and shrimp, served with rice and broccoli. I don't really get where the New Orleans name came from since the food didn't taste very Cajun, but it was still tasty. I had the salad bar along with the seafood.
After dinner was done, I headed home and took one last look at the Starliner...