Once you've experienced Florida's theme parks, big cities and beaches, try one or all of these off-the-beaten-path, historical, cultural, outdoorsy, and just plain weird roadside attractions.
The Gibson Inn and Avenue Sea
51 Ave. C
(850) 653-2191, https://www.gibsoninn.com/
A beautiful, fully restored Victorian inn with all the charm of its era. Built in 1907, this historic inn features the award- winning Avenue Sea restaurant. Learn more about the inn and restaurant, as well as the surrounding areas, in this video about the Forgotten Coast of Florida.
World’s Smallest Police Station
US Highway 98
Plagued by decades of prank phone calls—the dial was finally removed from the phone—the World’s Smallest Police Station in Carrabelle has been housed in a phone booth since the 1960s. This off-beat landmark has been featured on “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” and “The Today Show,” but is no longer in use today.
Dwarf Cypress Forest at Tate’s Hell State Forest
Off coastal Hwy 98 about 5 miles west of Carrabelle (5.5 miles into Tate’s Hell State Forest on forest roads)
(850) 697-3734, www.fl- dof.com/state_forests/tates_hell.html
A 19th century legend has it that local farmer Cebe Tate went in search of a panther that was killing his livestock. After wandering the forest for seven days and nights, Tate stumbled into a clearing near Carrabelle and proclaimed, “My name is Cebe Tate, and I just came from Hell!” Today, the cypress trees at Tate’s Hell may be under 18 feet tall, but they are fully grown—and over 150 years old—at their diminutive stature.
Fort Walton Beach
Indian Temple Mound Museum at The Heritage Park & Cultural Center
139 Miracle Strip Parkway SE
(850) 833-9595, www.destin- fwb.com
The Indian Temple Mound Museum in Fort Walton Beach reflects 12,000 years of spiritual, technological and artistic achievements of Florida's native peoples. The Indian mound itself measures 17 feet tall and 223 feet across its base. Excavations have unearthed artifacts about the area's native inhabitants.
Florida Caverns State Park
3345 Caverns Road
(850) 482-9598, www.floridastateparks.org/park/Florida-Caverns
Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna is one of the few state parks in the U.S. with dry (air-filled) caves and is the only Florida state park to offer cave tours to the public. The cave has dazzling formations of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies. Native Americans used the caverns for shelter for thousands of years.
8974 Tomahawk Landing Road
(850) 623-6197, www.adventuresunlimited.com
Canoeing, tubing or kayaking . . . the way around here is on the water. Adventures Unlimited in Milton hosts daytime excursions, overnight trips and fishing groups in Blackwater River State Forest. But if you simply must use a different mode of transportation, you could give a shot at the largest and highest adventure ropes course on the Gulf Coast.
Air Force Armament Museum
Elgin Air Force Base
Outside the main gates of Eglin AFB on Highway 85 and State Road 189
(850) 651-1808, www.afarmamentmuseum.com
Who says you can’t have fun for free? The Air Force Armament Museum houses Air Force aviation warfare armament from the early days of World War I right through to today’s high-tech planes and bombs – and it won’t cost you a dime. Bonus cool quotient: a vintage military aircraft including the fastest plane ever built, the SR-71 Blackbird.
Panama City Beach
Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant
5551 N. Lagoon Drive
(850) 234-2225 or (888) US-TOP-50, www.captanderson.com
Follow the local tradition: Dine early at Capt. Anderson’s so you can watch the local fishing fleets unload their fresh, daily catch. This should give you a hint as to why this Panama City Beach eatery was voted the No. 1 Seafood Restaurant by “Southern Living” readers. At Capt. Anderson’s Marina, you can also catch a boat for a dolphin cruise or a charter for a day of fishing.
National Naval Aviation Museum
1750 Radford Blvd.
(850) 452-3604 or (850) 452-3606, www.naval-air.org and www.blueangels.navy.mil
A quintessential Pensacola experience, the National Naval Aviation Museum is the third- largest aviation museum in the world. Marvel at the 150 vintage aircraft, including the first plane to cross the Atlantic and the first to land on the South Pole. All Navy, Marine and Coast Guard aviators start their training in Pensacola, giving it the nickname “Cradle of Naval Aviation.” On most Tuesdays and Wednesday from March through November, look to the sky above Pensacola to see the Blue Angels training and performing awe-inspiring aerial maneuvers—a mere 18 inches apart.
Note: The National Naval Aviation Museum is open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. to current Department of Defense (DoD) ID cardholders. Access to NAS Pensacola is limited to current Department of Defense (DoD) ID card holders (active-duty service members, retirees, and their families) and Veterans who possess a Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC) from the Department of Veterans Affairs that displays the Veteran’s eligibility status. DoD ID card holders can escort guests as part of the Trusted Traveler Program, but must remain with their guests at all times. Unless sponsored through the Trusted Traveler program, no civilians will be granted access onto the base until further notice, and thus will not be able to access the National Naval Aviation Museum. Call 850-452-8450 for answers to your questions about visiting the museum and attending Blue Angels practice air shows.
The USS Oriskany
(315) 736-7529 or (800) 874-1234, www.floridapanhandledivetrail.com/oriskany.html
Twenty-four miles southeast of Pensacola Pass, the USS Oriskany is the latest "must dive" and the world's largest artificial reef (experienced divers only). The retired 911-foot aircraft carrier sits upright at 212 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Divers from around the world have returned from the depths singing the praises of the "Mighty O," and CNN dubbed the wreck "The Great Carrier Reef." Contact various charters for diving.
University of West Florida Archaeology Institute
Bldg. 89, 11000 University Parkway
(850) 474-3015, www.uwf.edu/archaeology
The University of West Florida Archaeology Institute presents artifacts from colonial, Early American, Victorian and Prehistoric Native American eras. Among the artifacts on display are a 300-year-old cannon from Presidio Santa Maria de Galve and the 450-year-old anchor from the Emmanuel Point shipwreck.
Santa Rosa Beach
Coastal dune lakes
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and all along the South Walton area beaches
(850) 267-0299, www.floridastateparks.org/topsailhill and www.visitsouthwalton.com
Yes, these natural formations are exceedingly gorgeous—but you should also note that they’re exceedingly rare. In fact, these coastal dune lakes are so rare they are considered globally imperiled. You’ll find these lakes in only four other places in the world: New Zealand, Australia, Africa and the U.S. Pacific Northwestern. South Walton County has 15 coastal dune lakes, the largest concentration in the world. Bring or rent a kayak and a camera.
The possum monument
State Highway 77, Washington County Chamber of Commerce
(850) 638-4157, www.washcomall.com
This may well be Florida’s most quirky roadside attraction: the possum monument. This unusual monument pays tribute to the lowly possum (or opossum, as Northerners seem to prefer). The inscription on the monument says it all: “Erected in grateful recognition of the role the North American possum, a magnificent survivor of the marsupial family pre-dating the ages of the mastodon and the dinosaur has played in furnishing both food and fur for the early settlers and their successors. Their presence here has provided a source of nutritious and flavorful food in normal times and has been important aid to human survival in times of distress and critical need.” Come in August to attend the festival in honor of this marsupial.
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Wakulla Springs State Park
550 Wakulla Park Drive
(850) 224-5950, www.floridastateparks.org/park/Wakulla-Springs
Site of one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, Wakulla Springs State Park offers daily guided riverboat tours in a glass-bottom boat (when the water is clear). Jumping from a two-tier tower into the cool spring water is a popular activity. A nature trail offers a leisurely walk along the wooded areas of the park. The Lodge was built in 1937 by financier Edward Ball and is open year round.
Home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and The Yearling Restaurant
18700 County Road 325 South and 14531 County Road 325 E
(352) 466-3672 and (352) 466-3999, www.floridastateparks.org/park/Marjorie-Kinnan-Rawlings
In the 1930s, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived and worked in the tiny community of Cross Creek. Her Cracker-style home and farm, where she lived for 25 years and wrote “The Yearling,” has been restored and preserved as a state park. After you’ve explored the Rawlings homestead, drive up the road to The Yearling Restaurant. With a screen door that mostly works and tin roof that pings when it rains, the restaurant features some good ole cracker cookin’: fried gator, fried okra, grits, greens and biscuits. Legendary blues artist Willie Green regularly provides the music.
Fanning Springs State Park and Huckleberry’s Bar-B-Que
18020 US Highway 19 NW and 16300 US Highway 19
(352) 463-3420 and (352) 463-0355, www.floridastateparks.org/park/Fanning-Springs
Located on the Suwannee River, this inviting source of cool, clear water has attracted people for thousands of years. Fanning Springs produces an average of 65 million gallons of water daily, making it one of Florida’s 33 first magnitude springs. Across the street is Huckleberry’s Bar-B-Que. Friendly folks and great ‘que makes this a perennial favorite.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
(386) 497-2511, www.floridastateparks.org/park/Ichetucknee-Springs
If you want to go where the locals go, you'll head over to Ichetucknee Springs. Tubing the Ichetucknee is a rite of passage for many Floridians. Float down the crystalline Ichetucknee River in an innertube through shaded hammocks and Florida wildlife. You can dive, snorkel or swim at one of the springs, but tubing the river is the best way to go.
Butterfly Rainforest at Florida Museum of Natural History
SW 34th Street at Hull Road
(352) 846-2000, www.flmnh.ufl.edu/butterflies
Hundreds of exotic, vibrant butterflies flutter all around you in this screened vivarium housing subtropical and tropical plants and trees. There are live butterfly releases on Saturdays and Sundays. The Butterfly Rainforest is a unique detour if you’re in town for an event or a campus tour.
177 S. Range Street
(850) 973-3282, www.elmerslibrary.com
With thousands of books and numerous microfiche and microfilm records, Elmer’s Genealogy Library is an extensive resource for anyone researching their family tree. Librarians provide one-on-one help with your project. They love to research!
The South’s most haunted town
(850) 997-5552, www.monticellojeffersonfl.com
Monticello is a beautiful small town in North Central Florida with loads of Southern charm by day... and ghostly spirits by night. Designated “The South’s Most Haunted Town” in October 2003 by ABC News, Monticello is still surrounded by the haunted hype. In fact, the Denham House was named one of the top places to get in bed with a ghost by “USA Today.” Ghost tours are provided throughout the month of October (contact 850-508-8109 or visit www.bigbendghosttrackers.homestead.com).
Monticello Opera House
125 West Washington St.
(850) 997-4242, www.monticellofloridaoperahouse.com
Constructed in 1890, The Monticello Opera House narrowly escaped the wrecking ball in the 1970s and now serves as a center of community art and culture. Along with a colorful (and haunted) history, the opera house has modern-day activities including operas, a community chorus and a theatre group.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
US Highway 98
(850) 925-6121, www.fws.gov/saintmarks
One of the first and largest National Wildlife Refuges, St. Marks is home to Florida’s second-oldest lighthouse and the gateway to the Northwest section of the Great Florida Birding Trail. In the fall and early winter, clouds of Monarch butterflies stop in the area during their migration to Mexico. An annual festival in October marks this natural event and offers fun and educational activities for visitors.
Scalloping at Steinhatchee Landing Resort
203 Ryland Circle
(800) 584-1709 or (352) 498-3513, www.steinhatcheelanding.com
The Florida bay scallop, a popular catch in summer months, is found in seagrass beds along the state’s west and northwest coasts. With access to a boat and some basic snorkeling equipment, you can jump right in and look forward to a plate of tasty, just-caught scallops on your plate. After savoring these bivalves, retreat to your luxurious cottage at Steinhatchee Landing Resort, a not-so-average resort with a petting zoo, kayaking and canoeing. It was even the one-time summer vacation home of President Jimmy Carter.
Miller’s Suwannee Houseboats
90 SE 910 Ave.
(352) 542-7349, www.suwanneehouseboats.com
The Suwannee River is one of the wildest, most unspoiled rivers in America. Taking a houseboat up the Suwannee really is getting away from it all. Fish, dive, explore or relax with just the sounds of nature. Visitors can access several state parks right from the convenience of their houseboats.
Mission San Luis
2021 Mission Road
(850) 487-3711, www.missionsanluis.org
Visit the only reconstructed Spanish mission site in Florida. Meet the people of San Luis going about the tasks that sustained life in this 17th century Western capital of Spanish Florida. On site, you’ll also want to visit the Spanish fort and the Franciscan Mission Church. Then, check out the Apalachee Indian Council House, which could hold up to 3,000 people and is the largest-known historic-era Indian building in the Southeast U.S. Learn more about history in Tallahassee and get a view of the Mission in this informative video about the area.
White Water paddling and rafting
Big Shoals State Park, County Road 135
(386) 397-4331, www.floridastateparks.org/park/Big-Shoals
Big Shoals State Park is home to the only Class III white water rapids in Florida on the famed Suwannee River. Twenty-eight miles of wooded trails offer hiking, biking and horseback riding opportunities if you're not looking to take a plunge in the rapids. White water rapids depend on seasons and recent rainfalls; call the park before visiting to find out the latest conditions.
Fernandina Beach and horseback riding on the beach
Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island State Park, A1A North just 8 miles south of Fernandina Beach
(800) 226-3542 and (904) 251-2320, www.ameliaisland.org and www.floridastateparks.org/park/Amelia-Island
Fernandina Beach is the only city in the United States to have been under the domain of eight different national flags. Amelia Island, a scant 13 miles long and two miles wide, is a charming seaport village characterized by stately Victorian-era architecture and a history that rivals any in the country. At Amelia Island State Park, you will find one of the few locations in Florida offering horseback riding on the beach. Take a 45-minute riding tour along this northeast Atlantic shoreline to get a glimpse of this stunning Florida seaside.
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
829 Riverside Ave.
(904) 356-6857, www.cummer.org
What began as a 60-piece collection in 1961 has evolved into the largest fine arts collection in Northeast Florida. More than 2.5 acres of historic gardens, the first of which was planted on the original residence in 1903, blossom along the St. Johns River.
Kingsley Plantation National Historic Site
At the northern tip of Fort George Island, east of Jacksonville off A1A
(904) 2513537, www.nps.gov/timu/historyculture
For 6,000 years, humans have made Fort George Island in present-day Jacksonville their home. Still visible today are giant mounds of oyster shells left by the Timucua Indians and their ancestors. The Kingsley Plantation sits on the northern end of the island, overlooking the Fort George River. Built in 1798 by the slaves of John McQueen, the house is the oldest planter’s residence still standing in Florida. The semi-circle of 25 tabby cabins (originally 32) just south of the house provides one of the most intact examples of slave life in the state.
209 Reid Street
If you like old-time diners with old-time prices, Angel’s is it. Opened in 1932, this is the oldest diner in Florida. Picture the 1950s decor with Coca Cola memorabilia, old 45s on the walls, stools with red vinyl seats and black-and-white tiled flooring, all housed in a converted railroad train car. Catch the curb service and have your food delivered to your car. Don’t leave without trying their signature drink, the pusalow—chocolate milk mixed with vanilla syrup and poured over ice.
9600 Ocean Shore Boulevard
(904) 471-1111 or (888) 279-9194, www.marineland.net
It’s a land of “firsts” at Marineland. Visit the world’s first oceanarium where Nellie, the oldest dolphin in human care, resides. Arthur McBride, the original curator of Marineland, was the first to hypothesize that dolphins use echolocation. Other fun facts: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ husband, Charles Rawlings, ran the rocking boat bar and restaurant, The Porpoise, where Ernest Hemingway was known to frequent and was the inspiration of the novel “The Old Man and the Sea.”
Fort Mosé Historic State Park
15 Saratoga Boulevard
(904) 823-2232, www.floridastateparks.org/park/Fort-Mose
In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida chartered Fort Mosé as a settlement for freed African Americans who fled slavery in the British Carolinas. Here is the site of the first recorded birth of a black child in Florida. It is the earliest known legally sanctioned free black community in the present United States. A boardwalk and visitors center guide visitors through this historic American site.
St. Augustine Lighthouse
81 Lighthouse Ave.
(904) 829-0745, www.staugustinelighthouse.com
The St. Augustine Lighthouse, with its distinctive black-and- white spiral and red top, is one of the most recognizable lighthouses in the country. At 165 feet tall, there are 219 steps to the observation deck. Can you count all 1.2 million bricks that make up this historic structure?
World Golf Hall of Fame of Fame
One World Golf Place and 455 South Legacy Trail
(904) 940-4123 or (800) WGVGOLF and (904) 940-3673, www.wgv.com/hof/hof.php
If you enjoy learning all about your favorite golfers, this is the spot for you. Enjoy memorabilia, historic artifacts and exhibits. After exploring the Hall of Fame, head over to the Murray Bros. Caddyshack Restaurant, owned by Bill Murray and his five brothers, where your personal “caddie” will make sure you “eat, drink and be Murray.”
Swim with manatees
Crystal River and Homosassa Springs
(352) 628-9305 or (800) 587-6667, http://visitcitrus.com/play-here/water-lovers-activities/meet-a-manatee. Crystal River is the only place in the U.S. where you can legally swim with and touch wild manatees. The best time to go is in the winter, when these "sea cows" come searching for warm waters. Watch a video on swimming with the manatees. In Homosassa Springs, you can stay dry while observing manatees through their famous “fishbowl.”
Florida Craftsmen Gallery
501 Central Ave.
(727) 821-7391, www.floridacraftsmen.net
Florida’s only statewide non-profit organization representing thousands of Florida’s established and emerging fine craft artists, the Gallery also acts as a retail outlet for member artists’ fine crafts.
Florida Holocaust Museum
55 Fifth Street South
(727) 820-0100, www.flhm2.org
The Florida Holocaust Museum is the result of St. Petersburg businessman and philanthropist, Walter P. Loebenberg’s remarkable journey and vision. He escaped Nazi Germany in 1939 and served in the United States Army during WWII. One of the largest Holocaust museums in the country, the museum houses an actual Auschwitz rail car.
Salvador Dali Museum
1000 3rd Street South
(727) 823-3767, www.salvadordalimuseum.org
The Salvador Dali Museum is home to the most comprehensive private collection of surrealist painter Salvador Dali’s works in the world. This remarkable museum is conveniently located in downtown St. Petersburg, making it a must-see while in the area. Watch VISIT FLORIDA’s video about the museum to get a preview of the works.
358 22nd Ave. South
(727) 823-1594, https://thechattaway.com/
According to countless locals and visitors, this quirky and quintessential St. Pete eatery serves the best burgers and fried chicken in town. Feel free to bring Fido—Chattaway is dog -friendly.
Weddings on Water
The Pier at the end of Second Ave. N.E.
(727) 483-9020, www.weddingsonwater.com
Sure, you could take a cruise on your honeymoon, but why not just get married on the water? Weddings on Water is America’s first floating wedding chapel. The Floating Chapel combines the traditional appeal of a church setting with the unexpected—and totally romantic—place at the famous St. Petersburg Pier.
TECO Line Streetcar System
Downtown, Channelside and Ybor City
(813) 254-HART (4278), www.tecolinestreetcar.org
Electric streetcars are back in Tampa, serving downtown, Channelside (a popular shopping, dining and entertainment area) and Ybor City. These street lines date back to the late 1800s, when workers took the streetcar downtown and to the cigar factories of west Tampa. The system is thankfully upgraded with air conditioning to keep riders cool.
Channelside Entertainment Complex
Channelside entertains with casual and elegant dining, nightclubs, shopping, art galleries, an IMAX Theater and more. Take a peek at Channelside and the surrounding areas in this VISIT FLORIDA Family Travel Expert video.
Dive with the sharks at The Florida Aquarium
701 Channelside Drive
(813) 273-4000, www.flaquarium.org
Don’t worry—you won’t contend with Jaws here. But “Dive with the Sharks” at the Florida Aquarium provides certified SCUBA divers, age 15 and older, the chance to come face-to-face with live ones.
2009 N. Angel Oliva Sr. Street
(813) 241-8838, www.ybor.org and (813) 247-1434, www.ybormuseum.org
The Visitor Center in Centro Ybor is a great first stop to plan your exploration of Ybor City. The Ybor City State Museum tells the story of the immigrants’ life and Ybor’s cigar-making history. Covering nearly one-half of a city block, the museum includes restored cigar workers’ houses and a garden.
2117 E. 7th Ave.
(813) 248-4961, www.columbiarestaurant.com
Florida’s oldest restaurant is named after the ballad “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean.” First opened on 7th Ave. in 1905, today the Columbia continues to be run by the fourth generation of its founder, Casimiro Hernandez Sr. Tampa’s palace of Spanish cuisine is the largest Spanish restaurant in the nation, seating over 1,200 diners. A true Tampa tradition with flamenco shows nightly.
Big Cat Rescue
12802 Easy Street
(813) 920-4130, www.bigcatrescue.org
Big Cat Rescue is a 45-acre wildlife sanctuary and home to 140 wild cats representing 16 species. All in one place, you can see lions, tigers, Geoffrey cats, servals, caracals, snow leopards, bobcats, lynx and more. These big cats were rescued from near death in some cases. Here’s your chance to see them up close. Bring a camera.
324 E. Pine Street
(727) 938-3711, www.tarponsprings.com
Immerse yourself in the Greek culture and traditions of Tarpon Springs, home to the largest Greek population per capita in the U.S. Some of the original shops and restaurants remain today, owned by the same families that started them in the 1920s.
510 Dodecanese Blvd.
(727) 943-2164, www.spongeorama.com
Boasting the world’s largest selection of natural sea sponges, this is the place to learn about the history of Tarpon Springs, the sponge docks and the sponge industry. Cruises down the Anclote River to the Gulf of Mexico are offered or you can use Tarpon Springs as a base for deep-sea fishing.
4241 Sky Dive Lane
(813) 783-9399 or (800) 888-JUMP, www.skydivecity.com
Believe it or not, there are 14 skydiving locations in Florida and Skydive City is the Sunshine State's #1 drop zone. Skydive City is a USPA affiliated drop zone. The staff all has various USPA, CSPA and BPA Instructional ratings. Take the opportunity to jump tandem, work with coaches to improve your skills, or learn something new, like free flying.
America’s first land bridge
Crosses Interstate 75 south of Ocala, between Exit 67 (CR 484) and Exit 68 (SR 200). (Drivers are advised to not stop along the Interstate except for an emergency.)
(352) 236-7143, www.floridagreenwaysandtrails.com
America’s first land bridge connects the east and west sides of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, a 110 -mile conservation and recreation corridor that stretches across the state. This 52-foot-wide, 200-foot-long structure allows hikers, cyclists, equestrians and wildlife to safely cross Interstate 75. Access to the Cross Florida Greenway Land Bridge for hiking or biking (no motorized vehicles) is via the Land Bridge Trailhead.
President’s Hall of Fame
123 North US 27
(352) 394-2836, www.presidentshallof fame.com
Presidents Hall of Fame is a classic Florida attraction. Life- size wax statues of the presidents and an extensive collection of political artifacts are only part of the fun. The museum is home to a miniature White House replicated in exact detail.
Monument of States
300 E. Monument Ave.
Dedicated in 1943, downtown Kissimmee’s Monument of States is a 40-foot-tall pyramid constructed of various stones, fossils and other rocky materials gathered from all 50 states and more than 20 countries. During the early days of WWII, Dr. Charles Bressler-Pettis wrote letters to every governor and to president Franklin D. Roosevelt to request contributions of local rocks. The donations arrived in a variety of formats, including native granite, quartz, boulders, fossils, blocks from old buildings and even a human skull.
Ron’s Tackle Box and Angler’s Antique Gallery
380 S. Lake Shore Way
Fishing fanatics: Not only will you find everything you need for a day of fishing, but you’ll be wowed by the collection of thousands of old fishing lures and paraphernalia.
Murals in the Caladium Capital of the World
Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce, 18 N. Oak Street
(863) 465-4331, www.lpfla.com
More than 40 murals, many with sound, are located throughout downtown Lake Placid. Search for them all and find hidden images painted within them. Lake Placid is also the Caladium Capital of the World. When in leaf during summer/fall, the fields have been compared to the tulip fields in Holland for their beauty.
Circa 1876 Cow Camp at Lake Kissimmee State Park
14248 Camp Mack Road
(863) 696-1112, www.floridastateparks.org/park/Lake-Kissimmee
Visit a Florida cow camp from the year 1876, where you’ll find a cow hunter who is more than willing to talk about his life and times in a living history demonstration. View Florida scrub cattle, originally brought here by the Spanish in the 1500s. Re-enactments held on Saturdays and Sundays from Oct. 1 through May 1 or by appointment the rest of the year.
Bok Tower Gardens
1151 Tower Blvd.
(863) 676-1408, www.boksanctuary.org
The 205-foot Gothic and Art Deco Carillon Tower isn’t the only spectacle at this sanctuary. Concerts from the 60-bell carillon housed by the tower fill the air daily as you meander the garden designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. There is an on-site café and the historic Pinewood Estate is available to tour.
North Wales Drive
Go ahead, defy the laws of gravity. At Spook Hill, you can experience the optical illusion of the family car rolling uphill while in neutral.
Largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture
111 Lake Hollingsworth Drive
(863) 680-4597, www.flsouthern.edu
Florida Southern College is home to the largest single- site collection of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings in the world. Visit the “Child of the Sun” Visitors Center, featuring drawings, photographs and furniture. Self-guided walking tours also available. The college is located on Lake Hollingsworth (also on the Great Florida Birding Trail).
400 N. Church Ave.
(863) 425-2823, www.mulberryphosphatemuseum.org/
Located in the “Phosphate Capital of the World,” this museum includes fossil exhibits and showcases the history of phosphate mining in Florida.
4533 Solomon Road
(863) 494-6077, www.solomonscastle.com
Howard Solomon’s castle, gardens, art gallery and Boat in the Moat Restaurant are in the middle of nowhere—okay, about an hour east of Bradenton. Among Solomon’s quirky collections? A gun that shoots toilet plungers and a car with a V-8 engine that utilizes—you guessed it—the vegetable drink cans. Try for a personal tour by Howard or Peggy, his wife. Stay at their seven-room bed & breakfast. Closed in July, August and September.
Reptile World Serpentarium
5705 East Irlo Bronson Hwy.
(407) 892-6905, www.theotherorlando.com/contents/chapters/15/repti le.html
Reptile World is more than snake displays. It is a working farm providing venom for use worldwide in medicine and herpetological research. You can watch while staff milk venomous snakes to harvest their valuable venom.
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
445 North Park Ave.
(407) 645-5311, www.morsemuseum.org
The Morse Museum in Winter Park houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The extensive collection of Morse’s Tiffany holdings range from his famed leaded-glass windows to examples of his pottery, jewelry, mosaics, watercolors, lamps, furniture and scores of his Favrile blown glass.
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Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp
Andrew Davis Building, 1112 Stevens Street
(386) 228-2880, www.cassadaga.org
The town of Cassadaga started from the founding of the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association by a trance medium, George P. Colby, from Pike, New York. His spirit guide instructed him to establish a spiritualist community in the south. The word "Cassadaga" is a Seneca Indian term meaning "rocks beneath the water." The camp was chartered on December 18, 1894, chosen for its unique energy level. Stop by during a typically lively weekend for a psychic reading from one of the town's mediums.
The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill & Griddle House at DeLeon Springs State Park
601 Ponce DeLeon Blvd.
(386) 736-7529, www.floridastateparks.org/park/De-Leon-Springs
The Old Spanish Sugar Mill is a unique restaurant located within DeLeon Springs State Park. The remains of the only water-powered sugar mill in Florida, built in 1831, offers grill-your-own pancakes made from grain stone-ground on site with French buhr millstones. Each table is equipped with a griddle where you can pour and flip your own pancakes. Located alongside beautiful DeLeon Springs – great for swimming.
Blowing Rocks Preserve
574 South Beach Road
(561) 744-6668, www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/s tates/florida/preserves/art5522
Located on Jupiter Island, Blowing Rocks is so named because of the way, during extreme high tides and after winter storms, the seas crash against the Anastasia limestone and force plumes of saltwater through holes in the rocks up to 50 feet in the sky. This preserve has several different habitats including beach dunes, coastal strands and mangrove wetlands.
Lightsey’s Seafood House
10430 Highway 78 West
Offering fresh catfish, cooter (freshwater turtle), frogs’ legs, and gator along the banks of Lake Okeechobee. Diners can enjoy the aquariums throughout the restaurant as they wait for their belly-busting meal.
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse
4931 South Peninsula Drive
(386) 761-1821, www.ponceinlet.org
The tallest lighthouse in Florida and one of the tallest in the nation, the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is a cardio-worthy 203 steps to the top. This light station still has all of its original buildings intact, including three keepers’ dwellings, woodshed, oil storage house and pump. An on-site museum houses one of the finest collections of restored Fresnel lenses in the world.
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
Located in the Indian River Lagoon between Sebastian and Wabasso on the east coast of central Florida
(772) 562-3909 x 275, www.fws.gov/pelicanisland
In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island as the first National Wildlife Refuge in the United States. More than 30 species of birds use the 5,400+ acres on Pelican Island as a rookery, roost, feeding ground or loafing area. Humans cannot go on the island, but it is viewable by boat, kayak or from the Centennial Trail. The trail offers a wonderful view of the island along with hiking, bird watching, wildlife observation and photography.
The Elliott Museum and House of Refuge
301 SE Macarthur Blvd.
(772) 225-1875, www.elliottmuseumfl.org
This house of refuge, built in 1876, is the only one remaining of 10 commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as havens for shipwrecked sailors and travelers along the barren east coast of Florida. It also served as a lookout for enemy submarines in WWI. Saved by the Historical Society of Martin County in 1955, it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and provides a look at life as the area entered the 20th century.
Various outfitters for kayaking on www.space-coast.com
Flicks and waves of blue-green light look like flying embers from an undersea fire, but they are naturally occurring bioluminescent organisms concentrated in the lagoon waters of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Everything underwater – sea grass, fish and even your hand – takes on a ghostly glowing dimension. Kayaking is the preferred way to experience this wizardry with tours offered summer to early fall through a number of area outfitters.
Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant
1475 Garden Street
(321) 268-5000, www.dixiecrossroads.com
While in Titusville, visit the locally owned and operated “Home of Rock Shrimp,” the shrimp that tastes like lobster. Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant serves shrimp caught by their own fleet of commercial shrimp boats. Be sure to take a picture with the shrimp statue in front of the restaurant.
McKee Botanical Garden
350 US Highway 1
(772) 794-0601, www.mckeegarden.org
McKee Botanical Garden is an 18-acre subtropical jungle hammock featuring the Bamboo Pavilion, the first permitted, structurally engineered bamboo structure in the United States with a roof thatched by Seminole Indians. The Royal Palm Grove was created to resemble the original 1937 garden.
Desert Inn Restaurant
5540 South Kenansville Road
(407) 436-1054, www.desertinnrestaurant.com
The Desert Inn Motel & Restaurant became part of history during the late 1880s when it was a mid-way stop for cowmen along the Cross Florida Cattle Trail. A throwback to the early pioneer days in Florida, this is a must-see quirky roadside attraction. After visiting the museum, enjoy a gatorburger, turtle burger or more familiar hamburger. And don’t forget to snap a photo of the giant Yeehaw sign along the road.
Paddling for sharks’ teeth on the Peace River
2816 NW County Road 661
(800) 268-0083 or (863) 494-1215, www.canoeoutpost.com
Voted the best river/lake for canoeing in Florida twelve years in a row, the Peace River is rife with sharks’ teeth. Go for a half-day, a full day or more and see how good you get at spotting those shark teeth.
7205 Linger Lodge Road
(941) 755-2757, www.lingerlodgeresort.com
Declared “one of the top five weirdest restaurants in the country” by Al Roker, this funky restaurant is located in a mobile home park. The fish camp atmosphere includes decorating with stuffed—as in, by a taxidermist—animals everywhere. Brave a bite from dishes such as Snake ‘n Bake or Swirl of Squirrel from the “Road Grill Menu,” or more traditional dishes from the regular menu.
Everglades Lounge at The Clewiston Inn
108 Royal Palm Ave.
(863) 983-8151 or (800) 749-4466, www.clewistoninn.com
Belly up to The Everglades Lounge inside historic Clewiston Inn. The bar has a unique wrap-around mural of the Florida Everglades, which you’ll promptly ignore when you make a few new best friends. The inn itself offers a ghost tour; you just might glimpse the property’s friendly female ghost.
109 Central Ave.
(863) 983-7979, www.clewistonchamber.com
Tour a sugar cane farm and to chop and chew some fresh sugar cane. The excursion includes the Clewiston sugar mill, the sugar refinery and citrus juice plant, and a tour of the renovated Clewiston Museum.
Ghost orchids at Fakahatchee Strand State Park
137 Coastline Drive
(239) 695-4593, www.floridastateparks.org/park/Fakahatchee-Strand
Fakahatchee Strand is the location of the ghost orchid poaching depicted in the best-selling book and subsequent movie “The Orchid Thief.” The deepest strand swamp in the Everglades creates a unique micro-climate that supports the rare Ghost orchid. Ranger-guided swamp walks are offered between November and April at this park also known as “The Amazon of North America.” For swamp walks, be prepared to wade in cool water up to your waist for half a day, learning about and enjoying the flora and fauna of the Fakahatchee Strand. Immerse yourself in Old Florida – literally.
Big Cypress Seminole Reservation
(863) 902-1113, www.seminoletribe.com/museum
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki (meaning “a place to learn”) is home to the nation’s largest display of the life and culture of the unconquered Florida Seminoles. Through exhibits, artifacts and displays, visitors learn about this important aspect of Florida’s history and culture. The “Living Exhibit” demonstrates how the Seminoles lived in south Florida during the late 1800s.
Stay the night in a chickee hut
I-75 Exit #49 then drive north 19 miles to park entrance
(863) 983-6101 or (800) 949-6101, www.billieswamp.com/
Billie Swamp Safari offers packages that include an overnight stay in a native chickee hut, day and evening swamp tours and old-time campfire stories about the history and legends of the unconquered Seminoles.
901 Copeland Ave.
(239) 695-4700 or (877) 694-4700, www.cityseafood1.com
This seafood processing plant, retail market and restaurant is open during crab season (between October and May) each year. Fresh stone crab claws are brought in each afternoon and served for dockside dining or takeout, along with other local seafood specialties.
Historic Smallwood Store
State Road 29 in Everglades National Park
(239) 695-2989, www.smallwoodstore.com
Consider it the wild West of Florida. This trading post was opened in 1906 by one of the first settlers of the Everglades. Now serving as a museum, it contains some of the original remaining stock, furs, hides and equipment to provide a look at how settlers lived in this remote outpost.
Rod & Gun Club
200 Riverside Drive
(239) 695-2101, www.evergladesrodandgun.com
The Storter family home became the Rod & Gun Club in 1925, an historic gathering place for hunting and fishing enthusiasts – many of them famous, including Ernest Hemingway and Dwight D. Eisenhower. It is now a restaurant that overlooks the Baron River.
Pie At Flora & Ella’s
250 W. Hickpoochee Ave.
This LaBelle institution offers good, old-fashioned grub, but is best known for its sky-high pies.
Canopy Walk at Myakka River State Park
13208 State Road 72
(941) 361-6511, www.floridastateparks.org/park/Myakka-River
You might not be able to walk on water, but you can walk atop a canopy of trees - okay, sort of - at Myakka River State Park. The Myakka Canopy Walk allows visitors to view the treetops of the prairie hammock by ascending a 74-foot tower and crossing an 84-foot suspension bridge. The Myakka River, designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic River, flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands.
The Crowley Museum & Nature Center
16405 Myakka Road
(941) 322-1000, www.crowleymuseumnaturectr.org
The Crowley Museum and Nature Center sits on 190 acres of native land adjacent to the Myakka River. Visitors can enjoy nature trails, a boardwalk and an observation tower. The pioneer history area includes a museum with artifacts from the late 1870s to the early 1900s, a working blacksmith shop, a working sugar cane mill, and a restored 1892 Cracker house.
Herrmann’s Original Royal Lipizzans
32755 Singletary Road
(941) 322-1501, https://www.facebook.com/HerrmannsRoyalLipizzanStallions
With the assistance of Colonel Hermann and his father, General George Patton saved this rare breed of horses from the Russian advances of WWII, a story recounted in the 1963 Walt Disney movie “Miracle of the White Stallions.” Now, you can see the original white Lipizzans of Austria perform the rare and beautiful “Airs Above Ground.” These horses are known for their distinctive leaping and “flying.”
Big Cypress Gallery
52388 Tamiami Trail
(239) 695-2428, www.clydebutcher.com
Halfway between Naples and Miami on the Tamiami Trail is the home, gallery and studio of famed black-and-white nature photographer, Clyde Butcher. The studio features his signature large-format, stunning photographs of the Everglades and other natural environments.
The Nation’s Smallest Post Office
US Highway 41
The smallest Post Office in the United States, measuring 7x8 feet with the roof peak at 10 feeat, is located in Ochopee. The building, once a tool shed, was converted into the post office after a fire in 1953 destroyed the original Ochopee Post Office. The town itself is reported to have a population of 11.
Gator hatching and night tours at Gatorama
6180 US Highway 27
(863) 675-0623, www.gatorama.com
Save a few bucks on the big theme parks and discover this vintage Florida roadside attraction, where visitors get up-close and personal with gators. Be prepared for the unexpected; from hands-on gator egg hatching to a night tour where alligator eyes shine through the darkness. Gatorama also is the perfect place to purchase all things ‘gator: wallets, belts, hides and more.
Cabbage Key Inn
13810 Waterfront Drive
(239) 283-2278, www.cabbagekey.com
Cabbage Key is accessible only by boat, helicopter or seaplane (regularly scheduled boats run everyday from Pine Island, Captiva Island and Punta Gorda). Here, they do things "the Cabbage Key way", an island style reminiscent of the nearly extinct Old Florida. Nightlife is entertainment in the famous Dollar Bill Bar.
Pineland-Randell Research Center
13810 Waterfront Drive
(239) 283-2062, www.flmnh.ufl.edu/rrc
Visitors to the Randell Research Center can tour the Calusa Heritage Trail, a 3,700-foot interpretive walkway that winds through the mounds, canals and other features of the Pineland archaeological site. Museum-quality interpretive signs along the improved trail provide detailed information regarding the Calusa Indians. The trail also features observation platforms atop the site’s tallest shell mound.
Babcock Wilderness Tours at Babcock Ranch
8000 State Road 31
(800) 500-5583, www.babcockwilderness.com
Panthers and cattle and turkeys – if you want to experience such motley wildlife, Babcock Wilderness Tours is for you. You can see dozens of wild alligators, white-tailed deer and even a wild turkey or two. Your excursion will carry you through unspoiled pinewoods, fresh water marsh and sections of the Cypress Telegraph Swamp on swamp buggies. A professional tour guide shares inside knowledge on the ranch, wildlife and area history.
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Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road
(305) 667-1651, www.fairchildgarden.org
A tropical fruit pavilion, butterfly garden and “rainforest” are just a few of the lush landmarks at Farichild Tropical Botanical Garden. Rare tropical plants including palms, cycads, flowering trees and vines bloom around the 83 acres of the gardens. Fairchild Tropical Gardens offers a variety of programs in environmental education, conservation and horticulture, and is an international leader in tropical plant research. Recent additions include a Chihuly glass collection.
Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens and The American Orchid Society Visitors Center & Botanical Garden
4000 Morikami Park Road and 16700 AOS Lane
(561) 495-0233, www.morikami.org and (561) 404-2000, www.aos.org
The largest Japanese garden outside of Japan, the Morikami Garden and Museum honors the Yamoto Colony, a Japanese farming community of 100 years ago. The gardens feature six different time periods and Japanese styles. The Bonsai Collection includes more than 50 trees from six inches to more than four feet. Here you can also experience an authentic Japanese tea ceremony once monthly. Nearby, The American Orchid Society features a three-acre botanical orchid garden filled with thousands of native and exotic orchids.
Spady Cultural Heritage Museum
170 NW Fifth Ave.
(561) 279-8883, www.spadymuseum.com
The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum is dedicated to discovering, collecting and sharing the African American history and heritage of Florida. Located in the former home of the late Solomon D. Spady, the most prominent African American educator and community leader in Delray Beach from 1922 to 1957, it is the only African American cultural heritage museum of its kind in Palm Beach County.
The Blue Anchor Pub
804 E. Atlantic Ave.
(561) 272-7272, www.theblueanchor.com
Walk through the eight-foot tall English oak doors of the Blue Anchor Pub and you'll take a step back to 19th century London. When the pub was torn down after 150 years in use, it was shipped piece by piece and rebuilt in Delray Beach. A couple of Jack the Ripper's victims are said to have spent their last night alive drinking with a gentleman at The Blue Anchor in 1888, and the pub is reported to be haunted by various spirits.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
900 N. Birch Road
(954) 563-5393, www.bonnethouse.org
The Bonnet House estate is the legacy of Frederic Clay Bonnet, who built the house in 1920 to promote stylish living in Southern Florida. This 35-acre site includes the main house where you will see murals on the ceilings, faux marble on the walls and floors, and the courtyard with carousel animals. Catch a glimpse of playful monkeys, majestic swans, wading birds, foxes and the occasional manatee.
Fort Lauderdale Kite Surfing Co.
993 E. Oakland Park Blvd.
(954) 410-5419, www.fortlauderdalekitesurfing.com
Kite surfing combines kite flying, wakeboarding and windsurfing for a great new version of fun in the sun – perfect with Fort Lauderdale’s calmer waves and tropical breezes. The Fort Lauderdale Kite Surfing School offers year-round classes for those looking for a new thrill.
901 S. Federal Highway
(954) 454-7000 or (800) 771-TURF, www.gulfstreampark.com
This south Florida landmark opened in 1939 and is most famous for its signature thoroughbred race for three-year-olds, the $1 million Florida Derby. This event is hailed as the nation’s foremost prep for the Kentucky Derby. In its 57-year history, 38 three-year-olds from the Florida Derby have gone on to win 51 Triple Crown events, including 20 Kentucky Derby winners – most recently the beloved Barbaro. Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino also provides casino action and fine dining.
Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park
751 Sheridan St.
An 88-acre wildlife sanctuary where nature-lovers can fish, bike, hike and kayak through more than 1,500 acres of mangrove forests and marshes. Fees vary. Rentals daily.
Hollywood Beach Broadwalk
Named one of America’s top ten nostalgic promenades by USA Today, the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk is more than 2 miles long, featuring miles of car free enjoyment and bricklined pedestrian promenade that combines dramatic coastal views of award-winning Blue Wave beaches. Walkers, runners, bicyclists and rollerbladers set their own pace on this path, which is bordered by seven miles of Hollywood’s famous coastline, vocational apartments and resorts, charming shops, cafés and places to eat facing the ocean.
300 Connecticut St.
The magical fountain beckons a group of giggling children into its cool burst of heat-beating spray. Nearby, families watch from the shaded seats surrounding the plaza. The completely re-imagined Charnow Park along the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk includes four picnic pavilions, two new play areas for children of all ages. A Community Center provides a centralized recreational location near the historic paddleball courts. While the new Garfield Street parking garage will provide ample space with easy access to the beach.
801 Johnson St.
23-acre waterfront park, featuring biking, observation tower, full-moon kayaking tours, boat launch, eco-walk nature trail, picnic tables, freshwater fishing. Three rental pavilions available.
Stan Goldman Memorial Park
800 Knights Road
Two rinks for skating and roller hockey. 12-acre passive park with linear trail, bicycle trail, pavilions, freshwater fishing and playground.
West Lake Park Canoe Marina
751 Sheridan St.
Scenic beachfront parks and trails. Picnic areas, barbecues, biking and walking trails, or watching turtles nest.
Art & Culture Center of Hollywood
1650 Harrison St.
The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood is a vibrant, regionally distinct, contemporary visual and performing arts organization offering visual art exhibitions, theatre, music and dance performances. The Center is committed to creating opportunities for all people to experience the visual and performing arts.
Visual Arts Pavilion at the ArtsPark
1 Young Circle
South Florida’s most unique arts and entertainment attraction is now offering glass blowing and metal working classes and demonstrations for people of all ages. If you ever had the desire to create new skills or advance your efforts in these areas, classes are available at all levels from beginner to advanced. The Metalwork Studio offers Metalsmith classes taught by a metalsmith artist and jewelry designer. The Fine Art Studio offers a variety of workshops and classes for both children and adults, ranging from sculpture to environmental art. Classes are designed with all skill levels in mind.
Historic Redland Tropical Trail
Check out the hip, undiscovered side of Miami on the Historic Redland Tropical Trail. This agriculture area has some of the coolest offbeat attractions in the area.
28655 S. Dixie Highway, (305) 248-6345, www.coralcastle.com.
More than 1,100 tons of coral were hand carved and sculpted by Edward Leedskainin as a tribute to his lost love.
Robert is Here Fruit Stand
19200 SW 344th Street, (305) 246-1592, www.robertishere.com.
A local institution featuring exotic fruits with names like Monstera Deliciosa, Carambola, Mamey, Lychee, and Atemoya.
14805 SW 216 Street, (305) 235-1611, www.monkeyjungle.com.
Home to nearly 400 primates, representing 30 different species, this is the place “where humans are caged and the monkeys run wild.”
Key West Cemetery
701 Pauline St, http://www.friendsofthekeywestcemetery.com/
Former Key West residents determined to have the last quirky word can be found in this historic cemetery. With epitaphs like “I Told You I was Sick,” “Devoted Fan of Julio Iglesias” and others, the cemetery is as Key West as you can get—in a cemetery, of course. Moved to higher ground after the 1847 hurricane disinterred bodies from the first burial ground near the Southernmost Point, the whitewashed above-ground tombs and statues are fascinating and funny.
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I send as many people there as I can. That’s because I figure any beach bunny who visits Sanibel and Captiva Islands is going to be twirling...