Are the Sarasota Jungle Gardens Worth Visiting? + Full Review

Rachel HannahJune 23, 2023

The Sarasota Jungle Gardens are self-proclaimed as Sarasota’s favorite family attraction but if you clicked on this guide then you probably wondering, if the Sarasota Jungle Gardens are actually worth visiting. This is the exact same question that I had before going so I decided to go so I could answer all of the questions you might have if you are considering a visit!

Below you’ll find out all about prices, what animals you’ll find, exhibits inside the gardens, food options, parking, how much time you’ll need, and at the end my thoughts from my experience and whether or not I recommend visiting the Sarasota Jungle Gardens.

How the Sarasota Jungle Gardens Became Famous

a few flamingos roam by water at sarasota junlge gardens

The Sarasota Jungle Gardens have been family owned and operated since the early 1930s. It was started by a local man and his friend who turned the 10 acres of land into a botanical garden with thousands of different plants, trees, and flowers, from all around the world.

At first, it was free for the public but as the foot traffic increased they began to charge 10 cents to enter. In 1939 it officially became a Sarasota attraction and locals and tourists alike had so much excitement to visit the gardens.

After changing ownership several times throughout the years it has remained in operation by the Allyn family line since 1971. If you’ve ever seen pictures, ads, or articles about Sarasota, photos of the jungle gardens are sure to be featured!

Animals at the Sarasota Jungle Gardens

portait of peacock
head of a flamingo

So what animals do the Sarasota Jungle Gardens have to offer visitors? On top of the 10 acres of jungle landscaping the gardens also have over 200 different types of both native and exotic animals.

Some of the most interesting include parrots, macaws, cockatoos, zoo animals like lemurs and African porcupines to replites such as crocodiles, snakes, and lizards. There is also a petting zoo and free-roaming flamingos which is arguably the most unique and famous thing about the park!

Can You Feed Flamingos at the Sarasota Jungle Gardens?

hand feeding flamingo at sarasota jungle gardens
Flamingos sleep standing up!

Ok, great so there are flamingos roaming freely inside the garden but can you actually feed them?

Yes! It is possible to watch as the flamingos eat straight from your hand. It was a very cool experience to see them up close but unfortunately, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

Before I went, I was imagining that there would be a wide open space for flamingos to go about their business. While the flamingos technically do have their own designated area it is rather small and right off one of the walking paths that leads through the park. It felt very touristy and not natural at all.

The other con is that you have to pay an additional $3.50 USD for flamingo food and when you get to the flamingos you’ll notice they already have food troths out. In my experience, this combined with the fact that plenty of other people have already been feeding them resulted in flamingos who weren’t overly interested in eating from my hand.

For a better chance at feeding the flamingos, I’d recommend coming early in the day when they will be more hungry!

Live Shows at Sarasota Jungle Gardens

parrots performing a talent show at the sarasota jungle gardens
PC: Sarasota Jungle Gardens

On top of walking through the jungle gardens and seeing the different animals in their exhibits, there are also several animal shows that take place daily. All of them are included in the price of admission and you can find a little bit more about each of them below.

Jungle Bird Show – Watch how intelligent exotic jungle birds are at this talent show. It happens at 12 pm daily.

Wildlife Wonder Show – Be entertained while watching and learning about Learn about red-tailed hawks, kookaburras, owls, skunks, hissing cockroaches and so many more. This show takes place at 11 am and 1 pm daily.

Reptile Show –  From snakes to alligators you will learn all about these mysterious creatures. The show runs daily at 3 pm.

Note: A Meet the Keeper Presentation will be available to you after each and every show.

Sarasota Jungle Gardens Animal Encounters and Interactions

a lemur sitting on a persons arm at the sarasota jungle gardens
PC: Sarasota Jungle Gardens

If you want to make your visit even more special you can do this by booking either an animal encounter or interaction.

Encounters allow you to hold either a parrot or an alligator and take as many pictures as you’d like! The parrot encounter costs $5 USD and happens at 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 2:30 pm daily in the Bird Interaction/Pose area.

The interactions are where you’ll get to go inside the enclosure of either the Red and White Ruffed Lemurs, Aldabra Giant Tortoise, or Reeve’s Muntjac Deer. Lemurs cost $50 USD and happen at 10:15 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:00 pm, whereas the tortoise and deer only cost $35 USD.

I didn’t do any of these encounters or interactions but I could see them being interesting for both kids and adults. You can book them online or pay in person.

Map of Sarasota Jungle Gardens

map of the sarasota jungle gardens
PC: Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Facilities at the Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Sarasota Jungle Gardens Sign
PC: Sarasota Jungle Gardens

One of the perks of visiting the Sarasota Jungle Gardens is that their facilities have everything you would need no matter how long your visit is. There is free on-site parking and paved brick paths that are stroller and wheelchair accessible. If you get hungry you can head to the Flamingo Cafe for simple menu items like salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, or hot dogs.

Value for the Admission Price

The price of admission is a big factor when deciding if the Sarasota Jungle Gardens are worth visiting. You can expect to pay $25 USD for adults and $15 USD for children. Kids 3 and under are free.

Tickets can be purchased here online or in person.

I think determining the value of money really depends on the dynamic of your group. As a couple in our 20s we really only enjoy seeing the flamingos up close but the rest of the gardens, animals, and experiences didn’t interest us very much. We spent maybe only an hour at the park.

However, if you’re a family with young kids this could be a full-day outing where it would feel more worth the price of admission.

The price can add up though if you have a lot of kids. buy animal food, or add on any of the animal encounters or experiences. Plus, you might have to spend more on overpriced food at the Flamingo Cafe.

My Review of the Sarasota Jungle Garden

girl in purple dress standing next to flamingos
flamingo following people of sarasota jungle gardens path
It was so funny watching this flamingo follow us around!

In this review, I don’t want to tear the Sarasota Jungle Gardens to shreds, as I know I am not in the typical target demographic which is families with kids but here’s what I’ll say.

It was really neat to see flamingos up close and have them eat from my hand (it felt so weird!). One of the flamingos also decided to follow us around the nature trails for the majority of our visit which was pretty funny.

Outside of this, I personally didn’t find the gardens overly enjoyable or worth the price. The look of the gardens didn’t wow me and it felt too much like a zoo and less like a natural garden. The groups of people (especially kids) didn’t help in the ambiance department.

Overall, I’m glad I went once for the flamingos but I wouldn’t go back.

Verdict: Are the Sarasota Jungle Gardens Worth Visiting?

If you have young kids, are someone who enjoys going to zoos, has time to kill, or are willing to pay to see and feed the flamingos then I believe that the Sarasota Jungle Gardens are worth visiting!

Otherwise, this would not be my first choice of things to do in Sarasota.

Final Word on Visiting the Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this guide! As you can see the Sarasota Jungle Gardens aren’t for everyone but I hope I’ve been able to help you decide if the Sarasota Jungle Gardens are worth visiting!

If you’re traveling around the area be sure to check out some more of my guides for more ideas!

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