I start this blog by admitting that I am an unabashed boomer [note to my grown children: roll eyes now]. I am 66, but I feel like 46. I like music, art, coffee, and draft beer. My kids are terrific, but somehow lack the critical boomer gene, borne from my growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. The kids skipped a genetic generation. I wish them well on their journey.
My latest voyage on Florida’s Space Coast includes the Florida Tech Botanical Gardens, which is around the corner from Downtown Melbourne. All are boomer magnets.
The amazing Florida Tech Botanical Gardens
I’ve come to understand that a Florida promotional photo without a palm tree in Florida is not really a promotional photo. It is Batman without Robin. The Roadrunner without the Wiley Coyote. Palm trees are the currency of the realm in Florida.
The 15-acre Florida Tech Botanical Gardens is one of the Space Coast’s best kept secrets. It’s hardly a tourist attraction, but a terrific place to begin understanding the dramatic history of this part of Florida. There are no admission fees, wandering docents, vending machines, colorful signs, people dressed as rodents, or even an available map. It’s very hard to find -- even with Google Maps.
Here are directions (with friendly advice from campus security) based loosely on the Google Maps search result for Florida Tech Botanical Gardens:
- First, go on a weekend when the students, faculty and staff are gone.
- Get yourself on South Babcock Street at Florida Tech and pull into Parking Lot 16. The threatening sign on the street says “Reserved Lot,” but campus security says there are eight spaces with red lines near the center of the lot by the pedestrian bridge that are reserved for Botanical Garden visitors.
- If these red-lined Lot 16 spaces are full, navigate to Lot 1 across campus on Country Club Road. These are reserved as well, but campus security tells me that there are available spots on the street. Put a sign in your window: “Visiting Botanical Gardens. Other lot full!”
There is a site map on the Botanical Garden website. Be sure to download these maps to your smartphone.
Walk across the covered pedestrian bridge. It’s not hard to imagine yourself in the late 19th century making your way on foot through the dense palms and naturally damp mangled vegetation looking for a potential homesite.
Then, at the end of the pedestrian bridge walk to the right. You’ll be at the entrance to the botanical gardens. Without all the advanced tourist attraction trappings to attract and distract visitors [including maps] you’ll have time to take a close look at a huge variety of palms, plants and groundcovers.
It’s noon now (or cocktail hour, depending on when you toured the botanical garden). Let’s head to Downtown Melbourne. It’s just a short hop away.
Exciting Downtown Melbourne
Small, stuffy, boring provincial downtown areas today are turning themselves from blah to exciting. Downtown Melbourne is no exception. We owe this to smart people that ask, “How do we attract those impatient young Millennials and GenZ professionals looking for coffee, beer, music, and something to eat?”
The end-product of this newly urbanized young thinking is that boomers like us finally have a place to go. These are young-looking places that look modern, fun, and Millennial/GenZ’rs enjoy (but love our dollars and bigger tips, too).
The youthful build-out of the downtown area isn’t complete, but well on its way. There are plenty of places to eat, drink, buy nice art, or pick up knick-knacks for the folks back home. Parking is plentiful since they added the big parking garage on Strawbridge Avenue, which parallels the historic district main street called East New Haven Avenue. Most of the newer restaurant and bar action is on the east end of downtown, but there are great walkable restaurants, and interesting shops and galleries further west on East New Haven.
Nighttime is busy on weekends with serious bar hopping, carousing, and street festivals, but there’s a nice southern ease to the area during the weekday and weekend days. Come for lunch and a stroll, or, come at 4 p.m. for a beer and stay for dinner and some fun. If you’re brave enough, come at 10 p.m.
We’ll be heading west for an adventure that zips across the water.