Forgive me but I don’t like yoga and chanting just isn’t my “thang.” When I want to chill, there is one place, in particular, that I like to go. It’s tucked just a few miles from Old Town Key West yet far away from the maddening crowds of Duval Street.

That’s where you’ll find the historical Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden: the only frost-free sub-tropical native botanical garden in the continental United States. This lush, 15-acre “living museum” is not only one of my favorite respites, it’s also home to many threatened and endangered species, beautiful flora and fauna, a native plant nursery and two one-acre butterfly habitats with over 23 discovered species.

Part arboretum and botanical garden, part wildlife refuge and education center, the Garden is a zen-like retreat where I can meander through a lush canopy of tropical trees and literally commune with nature in my own personal way.

Because two of the last remaining freshwater ponds in the Florida Keys are also located here, the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden is a major migratory stop for South American neotropical birds. I often come across herons, white-crowned pigeons, egrets, and many other water birds who gather in the Garden’s two wetland habitats nesting among dozens of freshwater turtles.

In addition to eight self-guided and cell phone tours, the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden also offers dozens of special events, classes, and workshops, as well as a fascinating speaker series.

Oh, and get this: On the third Saturday of every month, you can even purchase native, rare and endangered plants from 9am until noon in the Garden’s nursery.

Discover this special piece of paradise for yourself at 5210 College Rd, Stock Island/Key West. It’s open daily from 10am – 4pm. Info: 305-296-1504; Look forward to seeing you there!

Garden visitors