10 Florida Souvenirs You Won’t Forget
By Jodi Mailander Farrell
The only good thing about leaving Florida is that you can take a piece of it with you.
From urban to rural, beach to swamp, theme park to state park, the state’s ultimate takeaways deliver warmth long after memories of the sunshine have faded.
Here are 10 Florida souvenirs you should take home with you:
1. An original, hand printed Clyde Butcher photograph
Internationally recognized, Butcher is considered Florida’s finest landscape photographer. He’s been preserving the Everglades and other untouched areas of the state on film for more than 50 years, using large-format view cameras and hand processing his images in his darkroom on silver gelatin fiber-base paper in limited editions.
The photos are selenium toned, then mounted and matted to current archival standards. Butcher’s photos can be purchased at three galleries around the state: Big Cypress Gallery, 52388 Tamiami Trail, in Ochopee (47 miles east of Naples and 36 miles west of Miami, about a half-mile east of the Big Cypress National Preserve Oasis Visitor Center); the Venice Gallery & Studio, 237 Warfield Ave., in Venice; or the Coconut Grove Gallery, 2994 McFarlane Rd., in Miami.
Depending on subject and size, prices range $375-$23,000.
2. Mouse Ears from Walt Disney World
Hey there, hi there, ho there, everybody’s an honorary member of The Mickey Mouse Club when they don a Mickey Mouse Ear Hat or Minnie Mouse Ears Headband.
The iconic, must-wear attire at Disney World near Orlando can be bought throughout the Magic Kingdom, 1180 Seven Seas Dr., Lake Buena Vista. Get the ears monogrammed or embroidered with your name at the Art of Disney store in Downtown Disney, Le Chapeau on Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios at Edith & Adrian's Head to Toe shop or at Mouse Gear in Epcot. It's one of the most recognized Florida souvenirs you can buy.
3. Blue Angel Survival Bracelet from Pensacola
Save lives with the flick of the wrist. What better way to remember the Blue Angels air show or practice session you caught on your vacation in the world-famous U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron’s home town?
In an emergency, the bracelet can be used for a lashing, tourniquet, shoelace, snare, tying splint, or, if you tease out the threads, even a fishing line and sewing thread. Find it at the National Aviation Museum, 1750 Radford Blvd., Pensacola.
4. Sponges from Tarpon Springs
A thriving sponge diving industry in the early 1900s built Tarpon Springs’ Greek community. Today, the city north of Tampa has the highest percentage of Greek Americans in the United States.
The historic, working sponge docks downtown, surrounded by Greek restaurants and bakeries, are still a major draw. Pick out your own locally-harvested loofah and natural sea sponges at one of the many shops, including the family-owned Tarpon Sponge Company, 735 Dodecanese Blvd., Suite 57.
5. Paella Pan from Tampa
Named an All-American Icon by Nation's Restaurant News, Columbia also offers live flamenco dancing and jazz music. Take home a taste of Florida’s oldest restaurant with a traditional paella pan stuffed with house dressing, signature sangria mix, picante sauce, seasonings, recipes and a hand-painted Spanish ceramic bell, sold at the restaurant and online.
6. Seashells from Sanibel
One of the top shelling destinations in the world, Sanibel Island offers free Florida souvenirs daily. All you have to do is the Sanibel Stoop to scoop them up.
Shelling on Sanibel is special largely because of the partial, east-west orientation of the island, which creates a long south-facing beach that slopes gently into the Gulf of Mexico. Shells roll gently onto the shores instead of rolling right past the island.
Take note: The taking of any seashells that contain live animals – including starfish and sand dollars – is strictly prohibited.
Don’t want to wake up before dawn to join the serious shellers? Sleep in then visit Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road. The museum’s store has shell jewelry, books, home décor and other shell-themed souvenirs.
Cost: $2-$200. (But the shells on the beach are free.)
7. Fountain of Youth Water from St. Augustine
Ponce de Leon came searching for the Fountain of Youth in Florida about 500 years ago. You, too, can take a sip of history. Your search will be successful if you explore the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, 11 Magnolia Ave., north of the Mission Nombre de Dios, in St. Augustine.
The souvenir bottle of spring water from the Floridan aquifer is probably the best deal you can find when it comes to eternal youth.
8. Astronaut Helmet from Kennedy Space Center
Don’t let gravity rob you of youthful joy. For kids and the young rocket scientist lurking in all of us, this authentic toy astronaut helmet is equipped with real sounds and buttons.
Pick one up after inspecting Shuttle Atlantis, riding the Shuttle Launch Experience and taking a bus tour to see an actual Saturn V moon rocket at the John F. Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center, State Road 405, Titusville, an hour from Orlando near Cape Canaveral.
9. Oranges. Of course.
Hale Indian River Groves, just north of Vero Beach, has been around since 1947. Its handpicked fruits – sweet navel oranges, ruby red grapefruit, Florida tangelos – are harvested at peak ripeness and never stored or warehoused, promising grove-to-table freshness.
A classic citrus gift box runs $29.98-$34.98.
Here's a longer list of orange groves where you can get your dose of Vitamin C.
10. Guayabera from Miami
Legend has it that the first guayaberas were white linen shirts created in Cuba at the beginning of the 18th century with four large pockets for carrying cigars, writing instruments, handkerchiefs and guayabas (guava fruits).
Worn by Ernest Hemingway, President Reagan, Sylvester Stallone, Andy Garcia and Alonzo Mourning, among others, it’s the cool, comfortable shirt of choice in Miami. Dubbed “The King of Guayaberas,” Ramon Puig is the master. Visit his La Casa De Las Guayaberas at 5840 SW 8th St., in Miami or shop online for men’s shirts and women’s dresses.