Nov 8, Florida Fish Camps: Old Florida Getweays

Nov 8, Florida Fish Camps: Old Florida Getweays

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Florida fish camps are great places to experience authentic Old Florida. They are sometimes overlooked as lodging choices, but many of them do have guest rooms or cabins. 

This makes them great places to get away for a few days or weeks and experience natural Florida.  Fish camps are typically family owned and give you an experience of being part of the family with all of the benefits of local knowledge.

There are fish camps in all eight geographic regions of Florida with a wide variety of fishing and lodging choices.

Palm Gardens, Dead River, Tavares

Quite often, fishing is optional at a fish camp.  Even if you don’t fish, you can chill out, rent boats and explore the area on the water or on the back roads in a true Old Florida getaway.

Florida was first settled along its Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and not long after the settlers began to arrive and set up communities on the state’s many rivers and lakes. Florida fish camps are quite often representative of that kind of Old Florida.

Most of them do not have lodging accommodations, and when they do they are often spartan and not plush by most standards.  

Rooms at fish camps are usually quite a bit cheaper than their fancier counterparts among the chain motels and hotels on the busier highways.

Cabin at Florida fish campCabin at a Florida Fish Camp

If you choose a fish camp without lodging, they are still great places for day trips to launch your own boat or rent one of theirs.  Many fish camps also offer fishing guides and conduct ecotours along the water bodies they inhabit.

Waterfront property in Florida is ever increasing in value and this puts the pressure on fish camps.  Many have sold out in recent years and what remains in their place is not Old Florida, but New Florida with its high rise condominiums and waterfront restaurants.

Many waterfront restaurants in Florida carry the moniker “fish camp” and we list them from time to time anyway.  Just be advised they may not be the real deal.

Waterfront at a Florida Fish CampWaterfront at a Florida Fish Camp

Enjoy a Florida fish camp and Mom & Pop motel while you still can.  Here’s a list of some of them across Florida.


NORTHWEST FLORIDA FISH CAMPS

Northwest Florida fish camps are located on the bayous and bays that indent the well known Gulf coast. Lesser known waterways also boast some fantastic fishing and camping opportunities.  The Escambia River, for example, is Florida’s fourth largest river and its headwaters include creeks, streams and marshes that extend northward into Alabama and offer some of the finest fishing in the State.

Northwest Florida extends all the way from Perdido Key and Pensacola on the west to Apalachicola and Carrabelle on the east.

Bay City Lodge
1000 Bay City Road
Apalachicola, Florida 32329
Tel: 850-653-9294

Bay City Lodge offers full service fish camp facilities on the Apalachicola River just north of downtown Apalachicola.  It’s a great place to stay not just for fishing, but for visiting the historic town.

The lodge store has everything you need for fishing including bait, tackle and fishermen’s clothing.  You can even get your fish cleaned by the resort staff.  The lodge has dry boat storage, launching ramps and outboard motor sales and service

The lodge property is really a resort with a large restaurant on the property as well as fully furnished motel units and cabins.  Jimmy Mosconis has owned and operated the resort for 40 years and treats all guests like members of the family.


Becks Fish Camp and Wildlife Refuge
2020 Becks Lake Road
Cantonment, Florida 32533
Tel: 850-375-0383

Becks Fish Camp and Wildlife Refuge is a privately owned fish camp and wildlife refuge north of Pensacola in the Escambia River watershed.  Many people consider Becks Lake to be the best fishing spot in Northwest Florida.

You can even catch your share of fish just sitting on the bank with your fishing pole and leaving your boat at home.  But if you bring your boat, they have a launching ramp for you.

This fish camp has RV and primitive camping sites and your fee includes bank fishing, picnicking and hiking.  They have access to more than 35,000 acres of fishing and nature spots for you to enjoy.

The camp is nestled among ancient live oaks festooned with Spanish Moss, and is located on bayous and streams full of bass, bream, crappie, bluegill and shellcracker.


Tharp’s Camp Cedar
4405 Huckleberry Lane
Panama City, Florida 32409
Tel: 850-265-2330

Tharp’s is located on Deer Point Lake seven miles north of Panama City. This lake is a 5,000 acre impoundment fed by freshwater streams that flow in from the north, and it is the source of Panama City’s drinking water.

Deer Point Lake is known for abundant shellcracker during the spring season, along with bream and bass.

Tharp’s has RV lots for rent and sometimes a mobile home or two.  The marina has a bait shop and a boat launching ramp.  Although there isn’t much in the way of facilities, it’s definitely a glimpse into Old Florida.

Other Northwest Florida Fish Camps

Hoppes Fishing Camp, Escambia County
Jim’s Fish Camp, Pace
Memories Fishing Camp, Escambia County
Ruby’s Fish Camp, Beulah
Smith’s Fish Camp, Pensacola


NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA FISH CAMPS

North Central Florida fish camps are located on the rivers that empty into the shallow Gulf waters along the Big Bend area of Florida.  There are also camps on many of the lakes that dot the landscape over this large region that borders Georgia.  Fantastic fishing and camping can be had at these fish camps, and some of them have decent lodging.

Shell Island Fish Camp & Marina
440 Shell Island Road
St. Marks, FL 32355
850-925-6226

Shell Island Fish Camp is a family owned and operated slice of Old Florida located on the Wakulla River 18 miles south of Tallahassee, Florida. It is in the fishing village of St. Marks.

Shell Island is noted for great fishing including speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, blue fish, cobia, rock bass, red fish, and more. Non-fishing guests will also enjoy the laid back atmosphere.


Whippoorwill Sportsmanʹs Lodge
3129 Cookʹs Landing Road
Quincy, Florida
850‑875‑2605

This secluded camp is on the north shore of Lake Talquin, a large lake managed by the State of Florida and known for its fine fishing. Speckled perch and bass are favorite catches in this lake.

Whipporwill is at the end of a secluded road, and even though you will only be 30 minutes by car west of Tallahassee, you will feel like you are in Old Florida. Most of the shoreline of the lake is in a natural forest setting.

The lodge has several modern cottages and cabins along with some RV sites. The Whip Waterfront Pub and Grub bar and grill is on the property so you donʹt even have to leave if you donʹt want to. Nearby Lake Talquin State Forest has a lot of things to do if you donʹt feel like fishing: hiking, horseback riding, cycling and lots of nature trails.

Other North Central Florida Fish Camps

Chattahoochee RV Campground, Chattahoochee
Magnolia Plantation Inn, Gainesville
McIntosh Fish Camp, McIntosh
Twin Lakes Fish Camp, Cross Creek
Waccassa Fishing Club, Gulf Hammock (Private)


NORTHEAST FLORIDA FISH CAMPS

Northeast Florida fish camps are located along the Intracoastal Waterway and rivers of this northernmost region of the state.  The majestic St. Johns River flows north through this part of the state on its way to the ocean and offers some of the finest bass fishing in Florida.  Some of the camps have good lodging and others are great places to launch your boat or rent one of theirs and have a great day on the water.

STEGBONE’S FISH CAMP
144. N. Fish Camp Road
Satsuma, Florida 32189
386-467-2464

Here is the motto from the home page of Stegbone’s Fish Camp:

Ever wonder where that place went where your Grandfather first took you fishing; that place where life-long memories were made? The place where you fished during the day and told stories about the day’s catch over a camp fire? Join us for new memories on the St. Johns River in Welaka, Florida.

Stegbone’s Fish Camp is a natural spot tucked along the banks of the St. John’s River between Satsuma and Welaka. It’s a quiet part of Old Florida with several neat cottages available for daily or weekly rentals. It has been around under several different owners and names since 1946.

It is secluded, yet close enough to Palatka, St. Augustine and Daytona for easy day trips.


Welaka Lodge & Resort
1001 Front Street
Welaka, FL 32193
386‑467‑7171

As fish camps go, this fish camp, lodge and RV park is a Ritz Carlton. You also have to love a place whose home page quotes Florida literary icon Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings:

If I could have, to hold forever, one brief place and time of beauty, I think I might choose the night on that high lonely bank above the St. Johns river.

Welaka is about 40 miles southwest of St Augustine, and about the same distance northwest of Daytona Beach. It is close enough for comfortable day trips, but far enough away from the maddening crowds.

This resort caters to fishing enthusiasts and their families, and it is on a magnificent stretch of the majestic St Johns River in the village of Welaka. The resort boasts a swimming pool and a variety of cottages of varying sizes perfect for a couples getaway or a larger family. Most of the cottages are fully equipped with kitchens and are set up so you can live there for long periods of time.

You may just want to do that once youʹve tried this place with its great views of the largest river in Florida.

Other Northeast Florida Fish Camps

Browns Creek Fish Camp, Jacksonville
Bull Creek Fish Camp, Bunnell (Crescent Lake)
Clark’s Fish Camp, Jacksonville
Georgia Boy’s Fish Camp, Satsuma
Georgetown Marina and Lodge, Welaka


CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA FISH CAMPS

Central East Florida Fish Camps are located along the Intracoastal Waterway in this region of the state, as well as on the St. Johns River.  There are also some interesting Old Florida camps on the several lakes that dot this area. This region of the state includes the northeastern shoreline of Lake Okeechobee with its multitude of fish camps.

Highland Park Fish Camp and Campground
2640 West Highland Park Road
DeLand, Florida 32720
386-734-2334

This small resort, RV park and fish camp has been under the same family ownership and management since 1962.  It’s located on Norris Dead River, a backwater of the St. Johns River.  They rent boats, have fishing guides, and it’s one of the quietest little places in Central Florida.  They even have a nice small pond stocked with bass for the kids to catch and release.

This fish camp is located 4.5 miles northwest of DeLand.  It’s close enough to all of the Central Florida attractions like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Daytona Beach and so forth;  but it is definitely Old Florida is its ambiance.  The camp only has three cabins, so make sure you have a reservation before showing up.  They also have 55 full hookup RV sites.


Honest John’s Fish Camp
750 Old Florida Trail
Melbourne Beach, Florida 32951
Tel: 321-727-2923

This small fish camp has been in the same family for more than 100 years.  It was originally the family homestead, and is a genuine slice of Old Florida.

There are no lodging facilities but it is a great place to fish or just soak up the authentic pioneer surroundings.

More at Honest John’s Fish Camp

Other Central East Florida Fish Camps

Camp Holly, Melbourne
Lone Cabbage Fish Camp, Cocoa
Parramore’s Fantastic Fish Camp, Astor


CENTRAL FLORIDA FISH CAMPS

Central Florida fish camps are usually on the lakes and rivers that are the most prominent features of this land locked region of the state.  There are literally hundreds if not thousands of lakes ranging from small ponds to major chains of lakes like the Harris Chain in Lake County and the Winter Haven chain of lakes.  Many of the lakes in Central Florida are spring fed and most of them are loaded with fish.

Some fish camps have lodging, others are just great places to launch your boat or rent one of theirs and get out on the water.

Palm Gardens Restaurant and Marina
1661 Palm Garden Street
Tavares, Florida 
Tel: 352-343-2024

Palm Gardens is on the Dead River that connects Lake Harris to Lake Eustis in Tavares.  It is a fish camp, a marina and has a small restaurant.  It has an Old Florida atmosphere that is becoming increasingly rare in Central Florida.

As the name implies, there are plenty of tall palms on the property and a nice deck with shady umbrellas to sit and enjoy a meal or a beer and watch the boat traffic go slowly by on the river.

Palm Gardens has RV lots for rent, an adjacent public boat ramp, bait and tackle for sale and they rent boats.  They also sell fuel and have a store with plenty of beer, soft drinks, bottled water and various snacks.

The restaurant has quite a local following with their Wednesday “Steak Nights” and they also serve breakfast and lunch.  On hot days you can dine inside in their air conditioned Riverview Room.

Other Central Florida Fish Camps

Bert’s Hideaway Resort, Lake Wales
Blue Creek South Moon Fishing Camp, Astor
Camp Mack River Resort, Lake Wales
Cherry Pocket Restaurant,Motel,RV – Lake Wales
Cypress Isle RV Park & Marina, Lake Placid
Grape Hammock Fish Camp, Lake Wales
Henderson’s Fish Camp, Lake Placid
Jennings Resort, Lake Wales
Lake Istokpoga Marina & RV Park, Lake Placid
McIntosh Fish Camp, McIntosh
Mill Dam Lake Resort, Silver Springs
Mossy Cove Fish Camp, Lorida
Neibert’s Fishing Resort, Sebring
Nelson’s Outdoor Resort, Umatilla
PanaVista Lodge, Lake Panasoffkee
Pine Island Fish Camp, Lady Lake
Pratt’s Resort on Lake June, Lake Placid
South Shore Fish Camp, Citra
Tracy’s Point Fishing Lodge, Lake Panasoffkee
Trails End Fishing Resort, Lorida


CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA FISH CAMPS

Central West Florida fish camps are on the estuaries along the Gulf Coast, and on the rivers and lakes that are all over the region.  Many of these camps offer lodging, and others just offer you a great place to launch your boat or rent one of theirs and get out on the water.

There are literally hundreds of lakes in Central West Florida ranging in size from small ponds to major chains like Tsala Apopka at Floral City and Inverness, and Lake Panasoffkee near the town of the same name.  The Withlacoochee River is the main stream flowing through this part of Florida. Many of the lakes in Central West Florida are spring fed and most of them are loaded with fish.  Some fish camps have lodging, others are just great places to launch your boat or rent one of theirs and get out on the water.

Other Central West Florida Fish Camps

Homosassa River Retreat,  Homosassa
Mary’s Fish Camp, Bayport
Moonrise Resort, Floral City
Watson’s Fish Camp, Hernando


SOUTHWEST FLORIDA FISH CAMPS

Southwest Florida fish camps are becoming scarce because of the rising value of waterfront property.  Many rustic little camps that existed no more than ten years ago are now just footnotes in history, replaced by high rise condominiums and waterfront restaurants.  There are still a few in the boonies of Collier and Charlotte Counties, and in the fishing village of Everglades City.

Other Southwest Florida Fish Camps

Glades Haven Cozy Cabins, Everglades City
Peace River Mobile Home RV Park & Fish Camp, Punta Gorda
Roland Martin Marina and Resort, Clewiston
Little Big Man’s Marina, Moore Haven
Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp, Moore Haven


SOUTHEAST FLORIDA FISH CAMPS

Southeast Florida fish camps are on Lake Okeechobee and at various spots in the Florida Keys.  The ever increasing value of waterfront property in this Gold Coast area of Florida has turned many old fish camps into high rise condominiums or trendy waterfront restaurants.  A few still remain, and some of them offer rustic lodging in the authentic Old Florida style.  Others are great places to fish. There is something for everybody in Southeast Florida.

Other Southwest Florida Fish Camps

Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge, Big Pine Key
Dolphin Marina and Cottages, Little Torch Key
J&S Fish Camp, Okeechobee
Macks Fish Camp, Krome Avenue in Miami
Old Wooden Bridge Fishing Camp, Big Pine Key
Slim’s Fish Camp, Belle Glade


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Nov 7, Florida Culture is a Diverse Mix of Old and New

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Florida culture is continually evolving and – like most moving targets – is difficult to hit with an all inclusive definition.  The population has grown from less than 2 million just before World War II to more than 20 million in 2017.

Florida Culture:  Authors, Books, Theater, History, Art, Music, and Seafood Festivals

The components of Florida culture that Florida Backroads Travel features are:

To a foreign visitor, Florida culture is similar to the other states in the United States of America, but there are some some important differences.  

For one thing, there are many cultural differences between the various regions of Florida.  There is no one culture that defines the entire state.

The cultures of the northern counties, for example, are closely aligned with those of the bordering states of Alabama and Georgia.  

They have not experienced as much population growth as many of the more southern Florida counties, and have been able to hang onto their culture.

Florida was one of the states of The Confederate States of America, and has been influenced by Southern culture for generations.

The dominant culture in the panhandle, north Florida and the cattle and agricultural areas in the Florida heartland is largely Southern.

Florida also belonged to Spain for hundreds of years, and that influence is still seen in its architecture, history, music and food, with Cuban, Puerto Rican and Central American cultures having contributed much to Florida culture.

The culture of southeast Florida has been influenced by immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America.  Florida is in some ways similar to the “melting pot” that the United States used to be a few generations ago.

Many cities in southeastern Florida – such as Miami – are very Latin in character, with strong pockets influenced by New England, especially New York.

All of this adds up to a tremendous variety in festivals, theater, cuisine, art, and music.



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Nov 7, Lost Attractions: A Look Back at Florida History

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There are many tourist attractions that are fondly remembered even though they finally failed and closed their doors.  

Quite often they were the victims of the phenomenal success of Walt Disney World and other major theme parks that opened in the 1970s and later.

Here are some of these attractions from the pages of Florida history.

NORTHWEST

BLOUNTSTOWN
Western Daze Putt-Around

FORT WALTON BEACH
Funway Amusement Park

PANAMA CITY BEACH
Castle Dracula
Jungleland Zoo
Long Beach Deer Ranch

Magic World
Miracle Strip Amusement Park
The Ocean Opry
Petticoat Junction/Old Laredo
Snake-a-Torium
Toombstone Territory
Top O’ the Strip Observation Tower

NORTH CENTRAL

BUSHNELL
Rainforest Art Garden and
Dinosaur Jungle

CHIEFLAND
Dogland

DUNELLON
Rainbow Springs (Now a Florida
State Park)

GAINESVILLE
Fred Bear Museum

LAWTEY
Florida Reptile Land

MCINTOSH
Bird Island Cruise

TALLAHASSEE
Garden of Mystery

WAKULLA SPRINGS
Wakulla Springs (now Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park)

NORTHEAST

BUNNELL
Marco Polo Park

FERNANDINA BEACH
Peppermint Land

JACKSONVILLE
Dixieland Park
Florida Ostrich Farm
Griffen Amusement Park
Oriental Gardens
Riverview Amusement Park

ORMOND BEACH
Parrot Paradise

PALM COAST
Animal Land

ST. AUGUSTINE
Casper’s Ostrich & Alligator Farm
Cross and Sword
Gator Land (not the one in Kissimmee)
Mystery House
Tragedy In The US Museum

CENTRAL EAST

DAYTONA BEACH
Atomic Tunnel
Forest Amusement Park
Klassix Auto Museum
Jungle Gardens
Sea Zoo

PALM BAY
Indian Springs Museum

PORT ORANGE
Bongoland

VERO BEACH
McKee Jungle Gardens(Part of it is now a park)

TITUSVILLE
Tropical Wonderland  
Marine Life Park

CENTRAL

DUNDEE
USA of Yesterday Americana-Museum

HAINES CITY
Boardwalk & Baseball
Circus World
House of Mystery

KISSIMMEE
Haunted Mansion (not the one at Walt Disney World)
Indian World Museum and Trading Post
Jungleland Zoo
Splendid China

LAKE BUENA VISTA
Discovery Island
River Country

LAKE WALES
Black Hills Passion Play
Masterpiece Gardens
St. Anne Shrine, Grotto of Lourdes

LONGWOOD
Sanlando Springs

OCALA
Birds of Prey
Black’s Haunted House
Ocala Caverns

ORLANDO
Florida Festival
Guinness World Records Experience
Hard Rock Vault
King Henry’s Feast
Mystery Fun House
Stars Hall Of Fame
Terror on Church Street
Skull Kingdom
Wings and Wheels Museum

PALMDALE
Cypress Knee Museum

SILVER SPRINGS
Carriage Cavalcade
Early American Museum
Paradise Park
Silver Springs (now a Florida State Park)
Prince of Peace Memorial
Ross Allen’s Reptile Institute
Tommy Bartlett’s International Deer Ranch
Six Gun Territory

WINTER HAVEN
Cypress Gardens
Jungleland
Weapons of the World

ZELLWOOD
Zellwood Corn Festival

CENTRAL WEST

BROOKSVILLE
Fort Dodge
Lewis Plantation

CLEARWATER
Kapok Tree Inn

CLEARWATER BEACH
Sea-Orama

DUNEDIN Hobby House Museum & Eden Gardens

HERNANDO
Ted Williams Museum and Hitters
Hall of Fame

HOMOSASSA
Homosassa Springs(Now a state park)

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH
Tiki Gardens

LAND O’ LAKES
Dupree Gardens

OSPREY
Floridaland

RUSKIN
Voice in the Wind

SARASOTA
Circus Hall Of Fame
Museum of the Cross
Sunshine Springs & Gardens
Texas Jim’s Sarasota Reptile Farm and Zoo

SPRING HILL
Foxbower Wildlife Exhibit (AKA Dinosaur Wildlife)

ST. PETERSBURG
Caswell Orchid Gardens
Criswell’s Money Museum
Florida Wild Animal & Reptile Ranch
Fountain of Youth
Gresh Wood Parade
HMS Bounty
Moses Tabernacle In The Wilderness
St. Petersburg Alligator Farm
Sunken Gardens (Operated now as a city botanical park)
The Peacock Farm
Webb’s City

ST. PETERSBURG BEACH
Aquatarium
Shark World
Tussaud’s London Wax Museum

TAMPA
Fairyland Park
Fun Forest
Rattlesnake Farm
Supertest Amusement Park
Treasureland

SOUTHWEST

CAPE CORAL
Cape Coral Gardens
Waltzing Waters Aquarama

FORT MYERS
Fantasy Isles
Florida Marine Museum
Fort Myers Tropical Gardens
Honey Bee Observatory

NAPLES
Collier Automobile Museum *
The Teddy Bear Museum of Naples

SAN CARLOS PARK
Rainbow Palace Waltzing Waters

* Reopened as Rev Institute

SOUTHEAST

BOCA RATON
Africa U.S.A.
Ancient America
International Museum of Cartoon Art

BOYNTON BEACH
Waite Bird Farm
Lewis Bird Farm

DANIA
Dania Chimp Farm
Pirates World
Wyldewood Bird Farm

DANIA BEACH
Graves Museum of Archaeology

DAVIE
Pioneer City

FORT LAUDERDALE
Atlantis the Water Kingdom (6 Flags Atlantis)
New River Tunnel Radio Station
Ocean World

HOLLYWOOD
Six Flags Atlantis

HOMESTEAD
Orchid Jungle

HYPOLUXO
James Melton Autorama

KEY BISCAYNE
Crandon Park Zoo

KEY WEST
Ripley’s Odditorium

LAKE WORTH
Alligator & Ostrich Farm
Lake Worth Aquarium

LANTANA
Ostrich and Alligator Farm and Zoo

MIAMI
Bryce’s Kiddie Park
Coppinger’s Pirate’s Cove
Donnin’s Arms Museum
Famous Trees
Funland Park
Lost Lake
Miami Aquarium & Marine Museum
Miami Marine Stadium
Miami Rare Bird Farm
Miami Serpentarium
Miami Wax Museum
Musa Isle Indian Village
North Miami Zoo Garden
Parrot Jungle
Planet Ocean
Policemen’s Park
Tropical Hobbyland

MIAMI BEACH
Fun Fair

NORTH MIAMI
Anirama
Aquafair
Holbrook Antique Arms & Gun Museum

NORTH MIAMI BEACH
Old West Kiddie Park

POMPANO BEACH
Storyland
World of Miniature Horses

RIVIERA BEACH
Bazaar Trylon Observation Tower

SUNRISE
The Upside-Down House

WEST PALM BEACH
Alligator Joe’s


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Nov 7, Florida End Of Road Towns: Where Characters Love To Gather

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Florida end of road towns such as Key West and Cedar Key seem to attract the nonconformist.

Maybe it’s because once you get there you have no place else to go except the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. 

That place is literally the end of the road.

There is no way out except back in the direction you came.

People tend to learn to get along when they can’t avoid each other.

Florida has at least 24 end of the road towns.  Some of these towns are shown on the map above.

Key West, of course, is the quintessential end of the road town, not just in Florida but maybe in the entire United States.  But there are others that are fun to visit and that have a taste of that offbeat nonconformist ambiance.  Each of these towns offers a unique Florida backroads travel adventure.

ALLIGATOR POINT

This small settlement is on St. James Island on Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” south of Bald Point State Park. There is a marina and the area is famous for its clam harvesting.  The “End of the World” restaurant is at the marina.

ANNA MARIA ISLAND

Until 1921, the island was accessible only by boat.  In that year, a bridge was built from Cortez out to the island.  It is still Old Florida, more quiet and laid back than most beach towns.  Good restaurants, great beach.

Old city dock on Anna Maria IslandAnna Maria Island Town Dock.

BOCA GRANDE

At one time this village on the southern end of Gasparilla Island was at the end of the railroad.  Now it is at the end of the road. In the old days, fancy trains delivered the rich and famous to the elegant Gasparilla Inn.

Boca Grande Florida Direction SignDowntown Boca Grande

CEDAR KEY

This island village was at the western end of Florida’s first railroad.  The train connected Fernandina on the Atlantic to Cedar Key on the Gulf.  Still a quaint and quiet place to visit and has a few good seafood restaurants. Lots of peace and quiet.

EVERGLADES CITY & CHOKOLOSKEE 

Barron Collier made Everglades City the capitol of his newly created Collier County.  It is still a quiet laid back place and provides access to Everglades National Park and the fishing village of Chokoloskee Island.  Chokoloskee is the real end of the road town.

FERNANDINA BEACH

On the north end of Amelia Island, this small town is as far northeast as you can go in Florida. It is not quite an end of road town because you can enter and leave in two directions;  but it still has the end of road feel that it originally had.  Visit the Palace Saloon

FLAMINGO

Not much to see any more, but no Florida backroads adventurer will want to miss seeing it.  One time it was one of the roughest outlaw towns in Florida, full of poachers and drug runners.  Today it is a ghost town at the end of a quiet road through the Everglades.

FORT DESOTO

This Pinellas County park has some of the best sand beaches in the world, and is just south of the busy Tampa/St Pete metro area. It’s a great place to camp for the night and sit around the fire.

GOODLAND

This is an end of the road fishing village just east of Marco Island.  It is the home to Stan’s Idle Hour, one of southwest Florida’s favorite weekend hangouts.

HORSESHOE BEACH

This tiny town on the Gulf of Mexico is 19 miles west of Cross City on County Road 351.  Population is 169.  The town has a marina and a couple of restaurants.

KEY BISCAYNE

This is the place that rich people live to get that end of the road ambience.  It is a quiet residential community in the shadow of busy Miami.  A few good restaurants and a pleasant oasis.

KEY WEST

The ultimate end of the road town.  Odd characters, Sloppy Joe’s, memories of Hemingway, sunset performances at Mallory Square, goofy parades, quaint cottages, a perpetual holiday feel. A very expensive place to live full time and not so cheap for a night or two either.

Ernest Hemingway by Yousuf Karsh, 1957Ernest Hemingway by Yousuf Karsh, 1957

MARCO ISLAND

Marco is the modern island development created by the Mackle brothers,  who also developed Key Biscayne.  It is connected to Goodland, a true Old Florida fishing village noted for Stan’s Idle Hour, an end of the road kind of tiki bar and dining establishment.

MAYPORT

This fishing village is at the end of the road north of Jacksonville on the St. Johns River.  There is a ferry you can take across the river, but the road definitely ends.

OZELLO

A small community in the marshes of Florida’s Gulf coast between Crystal River and Homosassa.  Some folks who live there don’t want to be on this list;  other travelers want to know about it.

PASS A GRILLE BEACH

The elegant Don Cesar Hotel anchors this historic little town on the end of the barrier island in the St Pete metro area.  Lots of good little restaurants and bars squeezed between the Gulf and the bay.

PINE ISLAND 

Bokeelia, Pineland, and St. James City are the towns on this island.  The sparsely populated island is connected to the mainland through the artsy village of Matlacha by way of Cape Coral across the Caloosahatchee River from Fort Myers.  

PONCE INLET

This village is on the end of the road that runs south from the Daytona Beaches to Ponce Inlet.  A wonderful old lighthouse and a couple of restaurants are the centerpieces of the quiet village.

SANIBEL/CAPTIVA ISLANDS

These islands were finally connected to the mainland by a bridge in 1963.  Go all the way to the end of the road.  Captiva is a truly laid back end of the road Florida village.

STEINHATCHEE

Stein rhymes with mean in this case, but it is a pleasant little village on the Steinhatchee River just upstream from the Gulf of Mexico.  Nice place to stay a few days and have some local seafood and enjoy the Old Florida feel.

ST. GEORGE ISLAND

This beautiful barrier island is on the Gulf of Mexico connected to the mainland by a bridge from Eastpoint near Apalachicola.  The island offers plenty of lodging and dining opportunities.

ST MARKS

One of Florida’s oldest villages, it is located on the end of the road about 20 miles south of Tallahassee.  One of the state’s first seaports, it’s a sleepy little place these days.

SUWANNEE

It’s located on the mouth of the Suwannee River about 23 miles south of Old Town.  A fishing town, it’s quiet and laid back.

YANKEETOWN

Almost at the end of the road on the Withlachoochee River.  Try the Isaac Walton Lodge and its attached restaurant.

https://www.florida-backroads-travel.com/florida-end-of-road-towns.html


Nov 6, Florida Theater: On the Back Roads and in the Towns

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One of the many things that make Florida a fun place to live are its community theaters. 

 It’s fun to watch locals assume roles in your favorite plays, and to catch an occasional performance by nationally known actors and musicians.

As you enjoy Florida day trips, one of the things you can do is check out the performance schedules for theaters in the town you are visiting.  You will have a lot of fun watching the action.

Here is a list of links to community theaters with links from all geographic regions of Florida.

https://www.florida-backroads-travel.com/florida-theater.html


Nov 6, Florida Tales Around the Sunshine State

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Florida tales are stories and fragments submitted to our website by visitors or written by Florida Backroads Travel.  

Some are written by the website author, but many are from people who just yearned to tell us interesting stories from their lives.

Most of these stories don’t quite fit into the formal categories we’ve established for Florida-Backroads-Travel.com.

For example, there is a story about a large ghost horse reportedly seen by motorists many times near Osteen.  It just doesn’t quite fit to put a story like that in an article about Osteen, so we’ve put it here.

The titles of these Florida Tales are presented below as links.

Click on a link and enjoy a story.

A Land Remembered.
Patrick Smith tells the story in this novel of a Florida pioneer family.  It is one of the most popular Florida historical novels.

The Travis McGee Series
These mystery novels by John D. MacDonald will give you an appreciation of the Florida of the 1960s through 1980s and how it has changed.

Alas Babylon.
Pat Frank wrote this bestseller in the cold war of the 1950s about a nuclear war.  It features a setting resembling Mount Dora, Florida.

Alas Babylon is an Apocalyptic Novel by Pat Frank

Naked Came the Manatee. 
A funny parody written by Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, Elmore Leonard and 10 other Florida authors.

The Day I Chased Away the Highwaymen
An engineer who is not an expert on art chases away some Florida painters who were destined to be famous.

What Is a Florida Cracker?
We’ve heard the term.  This story tells us how the name may have come about and what a Florida Cracker is all about.

Tales of Old Tampa Stadium.  A Floridian remembers a football game from 1969:  Boston Patriots vs Miami Dolphins.

Unity Community Archway  The citizens of Mount Dora built a memorial to one of its favorite women.

Winter Beach, Florida
A grand dream is now little more than a place name on the map near Vero and a few memories of a time that was.

Lake Apopka Loop Trail
This nice walking and cycling trail is in a nature preserve on the north side of Lake Apopka.

Florida By Bicycle
Some ideas about how to maximize the pleasure of your Florida vacation by having a bicycle.

La Chua Trail and Paynes Prairie
A quiet walk along the wilderness of Paynes Prairie south of Gainesville to see wild horses and more.

Mount Zion Church, Mount Dora
Dedicated local volunteers have stepped forward to try to preserve this old church on the verge of crumbling.

Vernon, Florida:  The Movie
A documentary film maker changed his mind about the movie he wanted to make about this small panhandle town.

Eglin Air Force Base
A family story that involves the aviator the base was named for.

Green Florida Pioneers
Some early Floridians powered their homes with artesian wells and used solar heating for their hot water.

Boulogne, Florida:  The Town That Lived on Speeders
The northeast Florida town that lived on speeders.

The Galvanized Yankee from Florida
A Confederate soldier tells his story of how he ended up in an Old Soldiers Home in Illinois.

The Fort Gates Ferry in 1941

Crossing the St Johns River on the Fort Gates Ferry
Florida’s oldest ferry carries two cars at a time across the river from the Ocala National Forest to a rural part of Florida.

Jackie Gleason’s Final Resting Place
The legendary entertainer put Florida on the map when he moved his TV show to Miami Beach.

Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort
The famous actress and her husband, Ralph Evinrude, were often in attendance at her Jensen Beach resort.

Frederick Delius House
The famous composer’s house is preserved on the campus of Jacksonville University.

DeBary Florida and Ox Fibre Brush Company
An old abandoned factory where brooms and history were made from the lowly palmetto.

My Mount Dora Getaway
A fan extols the pleasures of staying at the historic Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora.

Walt Disney has Florida Roots

Walt Disney’s Roots Are In Paisley, Florida.
His pioneer maternal grandparents rest side by side in an old cemetery in this Central Florida place.

Welaka, Florida on the Peaceful St. Johns River
This little Old Florida riverside town is great for fishing and just laying back and relaxing.

The Old Wabasso Swing Bridge Goes To Disney World
When the State decided to replace an old swing bridge near Vero Beach, Disney decided to buy it and move it to Walt Disney World.

Gator, Glidden Chemical Co. & Jacksonville 1962
Gator was an old black laborer who wanted to retire but couldn’t prove to Social Security what year he had been born.  His friends helped him.

Ziba King, Fort Ogden and Arcadia Cattle Baron 
When Ziba King died in 1901 he owned 50,000 head of cattle worth $500,000. This represented 10 percent of all the cattle in Florida. 

Pier 66, Where Are You?  It Was Our Favorite Watering Hole
This revolving lounge on the top of the Pier 66 Hotel in Fort Lauderdale was a favorite local hangout for years.  Then management made it more exclusive.

Florida Universities:  Something for Everybody.
The Sunshine State has hundreds of universities, colleges, and technical and trade schools.  You can get a good education in Florida.

Giant Horse Not the one from Osteen

Sanford and Osteen:  A Florida Ghost Story
A blacksmith named Sligh Ernest owned a horse which stood twenty-two hands high and weighed 3,200 pounds. When the horse died, it had to be hauled by a tractor to its burial pit beside Celery Avenue.

The Beeline Ferry From Bradenton to St. Petersburg
In the old days before the first Sunshine Skyway bridge was built, it was a 69 mile trip from Manatee to Pinellas County. The ferry shortened the trip to 22 miles and took one hour.

Rainbow Springs: Lost Florida Tourist Attraction
This tourist attraction was just north of Dunnellon and at one time it was quite a popular tourist attraction. It was not as big as Silver Springs further up north in Ocala, but it did pretty good. 

Lewis Plantation and Turpentine Still
This old time Florida tourist attraction defied all probabilities of succeeding. It was on U.S. 41 about two miles south of Brooksville.

Hitler’s Yacht was in Jacksonville
A sailing yacht spends some of its final days in a shipyard on the Trout River in Jacksonville before sinking to a watery grave in Miami Beach.

The Darker Side of Jim Crow Florida
Gus was one of the best men I ever knew. He worked for me on one of the soil testing drill rigs that I ran out of Tampa shortly after I graduated from the University of Florida in 1966.

Flavet Villages at the University of Florida
It probably would have been too expensive for me to go the University of Florida in the 1960s had it not been for the existence of married student housing known as Flavet Villages.

Wood and Swink General Store is a Historic Treasure

Evinston, Florida and the Wood and Swink Store
This old Florida village is a short hop from Cross Creek, and is worth a trip just to visit the Wood and Swink Store and post office.  It’s on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Kenansville and Henry Flagler’s Divorce
This spot on US-441 is halfway between Yeehaw Junction and Holopaw. Travelers whiz through without knowing the history of the place. It’s name ties into the history of one of Florida’s iconic developers, Henry Morrison Flagler. 

Mathers Bridge Restaurant Remembered, Merritt Island
The Mathers Bridge Restaurant was near the south end of Merritt Island at the west end of the Mathers Bridge that connects the island to Indian Harbour Beach.  It was destroyed for economic reasons in 1992.

Hurricane Charley Changed Punta Gorda
This 2004 storm did so much damage it changed the face of the town like nothing else could have.

The Lonely Port Charlotte Knight
A homemade statue by the side of the road is pop art.

Homosassa River

Homosassa:  Lost in Time
This quiet place on the river is Old Florida serenity at its best.

Yeehaw Junction
This crossroads place with the funny name is well known by many Floridians and tourists.

Hastings, Florida.  A Long Way From Iwo Jima
A Navy veteran comes home after World War Two and tries to make a living in the potato business.

Lake Wales and Small Town Hotels
Many old Florida towns still have grand old hotels from the 1920s land boom.  Some are crumbling, some are restored.

Old Venus, a Florida Ghost Town
This historic old place is not much more than ruins off US-27 south of Lake Placid and north of Palmdale.

Deleon Springs
This small place north of DeLand is home to a state park and was once home to a famous Florida spa.

Espanola, Florida and the Old Brick Road
This old brick road runs for 9 bumpy miles in Flagler County.  It is part of the Dixie Highway built in 1915.

Nature Spot near Howey in the Hills
This quiet marina is part of nearby Mission Inn and has some nice walks through the natural wetlands next to the marina.



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Nov 6, Florida Historic Hotels: National Register of Historic Places

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Most Florida historic hotels, with some exceptions,  were built in the boom days of the early to mid 1920s.

Many of them were masterpieces of architecture of that golden era;  many of them also deteriorated over the years as more modern motels and hotels popped up all over Florida.

Thanks to good old capitalism and the huge population explosion in Florida from the 1950s until now, many of these grand old ladies have been renovated and can stand up to any luxury hotel or motel in the state.

Florida Historic Hotels are on the National Register

You can’t go wrong staying at one of these great old places.  All of them are on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.


BILTMORE HOTEL, Coral Gables.

This masterpiece was built in 1926 as the centerpiece of George Merrick’s magnificent new town of Coral Gables.  It has been totally renovated and is once again the centerpiece of this beautiful city.


BREAKERS HOTEL, Palm Beach.

Henry Flagler built the hotel in 1896 to accomodate travelers on his new Florida East Coast Railway.  It has been rebuilt and restored over the years and is a magnificent luxury hotel.


CASA MARINA HOTEL, Jacksonville Beach.

This small elegant hotel and restaurant is on the Atlantic ocean and was built in 1925.  It has 23 bedrooms and parlor suites.


CASA MONICA HOTEL, St. Augustine

This is a beautifully renovated luxury hotel originally built in 1888.  It is one of the hotels listed in the National Trust Historic Hotels of America.  It is located in the heart of downtown St. Augustine, which is a historic district all by itself.  The hotel was originally known as the Cordova.  It served as a town hall for a while, was shut down, but now it is a gem among Florida historic hotels.


CADILLAC HOTEL, Miami Beach

This hotel has been beautifully renovated and is now a Courtyard (Marriott Miami Beach Oceanfront Hotel).  One of our favorite Florida historic hotels.


THE CHESTERFIELD, Palm Beach

This luxury hotel is just north of the famous Worth Avenue and its fabulous shops.  It is a short walk from the beaches.

The Chesterfield is a local architectural icon and has existed over the years under several different names.  Today it is an example of English charm and upscale service in one of Florida’s wealthiest towns. 


DESERT INN, Yeehaw Junction

This is probably the most modest hotel on this list.  Yeehaw Junction is an exit on the Florida Turnpike.  There are a few modest rooms on the second floor and a restaurant with good chili and beer on the ground floor.  Check it out before you go;  sometimes it’s not open.


DON CESAR HOTEL, St Pete Beach.

This large 277 room hotel was built in 1928 on the Gulf of Mexico in the Pass-A-Grille area south of St Petersburg Beach.  It is operated by Loews Hotels.   One of the most magnificent of Florida historic hotels.


DRIFTWOOD INN, Vero Beach

This legendary resort was started by Waldo Sexton in the 1930s.  He got the place started with driftwood he found on the beach, and over the years he just kept adding to the buildings.  It’s modern these days, but the old beachy seaside charm is still strong.


CLEWISTON INN, Clewiston

Rebuilt in 1938 and owned by U.S. Sugar Corporation for many years, the hotel is under new management and is doing well.  Great Friday night fish fries;  close to Lake Okeechobee.



FLORIDA HOUSE INN, Fernandina Beach. 

This 17 room inn is in the heart of Fernandina’s historic district.  It was built in 1857 and claims to be the oldest continuously operating inn in Florida.


FLORIDAN HOTEL, Tampa.

This hotel was built in 1926, and was carefully restored and reopened in 2012. 


FONTAINEBLEAU, Miami Beach

Architect Morris Lapidus designed this modernistic hotel and it was built in 1954 and is still considered an architectural wonder.  It is on prime Miami Beach oceanfront, and has the complete range of spa and luxury facilities.  It has been featured in countless movies, and is arguably the most famous of Florida historic hotels.


GASPARILLA INN, Boca Grande

Boca Grande was once a favorite hideaway for the rich and famous in the days when the megawealthy traveled in their own railroad cars.  The Gasparilla Inn dates back to those days;  it originally opened in 1913.  In addition to being a favorite vacation place for former President George H.W. Bush, other famous guests have included Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison and Katharine Hepburn.


GULF STREAM HOTEL, Lake Worth

This historic hotel was opened in 1923.  It is not directly on the ocean, but it’s a short walk away.  It is in the process of being renovated (as of November 2016) and will hopefully be reopened soon.  It is close to shopping, entertainment and golf.


ISLAND HOTEL, Cedar Key

This ancient inn was opened in 1859 during the heyday of Cedar Key.  Things are quieter today, but there is still plenty of good dining and shopping in town, and you are very close to good seafood.  The Island Hotel has only 10 rooms, so it’s really more of a bed and breakfast than a hotel.  The restaurant is on the ground floor.


THE HOTEL JACARANDA, Avon Park

The hotel opened in 1926 and is one of the oldest continuously operating hotels in Florida.  It is in downtown Avon Park on The Mall.  Some of its famous guests include Babe Ruth, Clark Gable, George Burns and Gracie Allen.  


KENILWORTH LODGE, Sebring

This resort was built in 1916 and has been well maintained over the years.  There is a huge swimming pool and a golf course.  Sebring is a nice small city with a lot to do. (Note:  we checked on 11/14/16 and this hotel has been condemned by the city fire department.  We don’t know when or if it will reopen.)


LAKESIDE INN, Mount Dora

This historic hotel has been in business since 1883.  It is on the east shore of Lake Dora with a fantastic view of sunsets.  New owners, Jim and Alexandra Gunderson, have been steadily renovating rooms and are dedicated to preserving this oldest continuously operating example of all Florida historic hotels.


OCEAN SPRAY HOTEL, Miami Beach

This renovated art deco botique hotel is on Collins Avenue in the heart of South Beach.  It was originally built in 1937.  It’s close to the beach and everything else.


SEMINOLE INN, Indiantown

This small historic hotel was built in 1927 by railroad man S. Davies Warfield.  He was one of the early pioneering developers in this part of Florida.  His niece was Wallis Warfield who helped him host parties.  She married well a couple of times and became famous as the Duchess of Windsor.


TARPON LODGE AND RESTAURANT, Pineland

Many years ago this inn was known as Pine-Aire Lodge.  It is on the west side of Pine Island.  In addition to the first class lodging, the restaurant is also great.


TWEEN WATERS INN, Captiva

This beautiful inn between the bay and the gulf was established in 1931 with a single building.  It has expanded over the years with modern rooms, but there are still many historic structures on the resort property.


VINOY PARK HOTEL, St. Petersburg. 

The magnificent Vinoy was built in 1925.  It fell on hard times but has been lovingly restored.  It is now operated as the Marriott Renaissance Resort and Golf Club.  It is in the heart of vibrant downtown St. Petersburg, close to the museums, theaters, restaurants and marinas that make this a great town to visit.


THE TERRACE HOTEL, Lakeland

This hotel was built in 1924 and restored to a luxury hotel in 1998.  It has 73 guest rooms and 15 suites.  The hotel has a commanding view of Lake Mirror, a gem of a lake in downtown Lakeland.


These hotels are but a few of the 1,700 properties structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Florida.

FLORIDA SMALL INNS – Statewide

Although not on the National Register of Historic Places, there are many smaller mom and pop motels, lodges, and inns that are vintage Old Florida but have been renovated and offer modern amenities.



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Oct 26, Villages Florida Day Trips & One Tank Trips 100 Miles Or Less

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The Villages Florida day trips and one tank trips described here on Florida Backroads Travel are all within 100 miles of  the popular central Florida community.  

The Villages is located in the central part of the state, not far south of Ocala.

We calculate that most cars can go at least 250 miles on one tank of gas, and smaller compact cars can do even better than that.

These round trips can be made from The Villages with gallons to spare for wandering around a bit on the back roads.

Unfortunately, however, most of these trips are not within golf cart range:)

These day trips and things to do are all within 100 miles of The Villages.  The map below shows you some of the major towns and places within this radius.

Places to see within 100 miles of The Villages, Florida.Places to see within 100 miles of The Villages, Florida.

The Villages Florida Day Trips

Bronson is a small town northeast of Gainesville that is notable for the gravesite of the great rock and roll icon, Bo Diddley.

Cassadaga is a spiritualist community near DeLand where you can get your fortune told by one of the resident mediums or spiritualists.

Citrus Tower is an old Florida attraction in Clermont where you can take an elevator to the top and see where all the citrus groves used to be.

Cross Creek is between Gainesville and Ocala and was the home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling, Cross Creek, South Moon Under and other classics.  Her home is now a state park that you can visit.

Crystal River attracts manatees in the colder weather.  There are numerous business set up to allow people to see the manatees and even swim with them.

Daytona Beach has hard sand beaches that you can drive your car on, the International Speedway, and many other attractions.

John B. Stetson Home, DeLand, FloridaJohn B. Stetson Home, DeLand, Florida

DeLand is the home of Stetson University and has a fine downtown with many murals, good shopping and dining places.

Eustis is on the lake of the same name and has a nice downtown with parks, shopping and restaurants.

Evinston is near Cross Creek south of Gainesville and is home to the old Wood & Swink general store on the National Register of Historic Places.

Flagler Beachfront Winery is in Flagler Beach, north of Daytona.  Watch wine being made and enjoy tasting it while soaking up the ocean breeze.

Fort Gates FerryFort Gates Ferry

Fort Gates Ferry is a historic ride across the St Johns River between the Ocala National Forest and Fruitland.

Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida and its many art galleries, museums, a vibrant downtown area with good shopping and dining.  This can be one of the best of The Villages Florida day trips.

Gatorland is one of the oldest Florida tourist attractions.  It is between Orlando and Kissimmee and has some of the neatest alligators in Florida.

Ginnie Springs is a park with great opportunities for swimming, camping, canoeing and enjoying nature.

Hutchinson Farm Winery is a small family owned vineyard and winery south of Apopka.  Nice selection of red, white and blended wines.  Tastings, tours.

Great Outdoors, High Springs, FloridaGreat Outdoors Restaurant, High Springs, Florida

High Springs is a typical little Florida town with a fixed up downtown that has several neat antique shops and at least one very good restaurant.

Lakeland has a beautiful downtown and Florida Southern College has the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings in the world.

Lakeridge Winery near Clermont is one of Florida’s largest wineries.  You will enjoy watching the wine making process and sampling their wares.

Leu Gardens in Orlando is one of the country’s foremost botanical gardens.  If it grows in Florida, it is probably here.  Self guided tours or formal tours.

Marineland is on Highway A1A just south of St. Augustine.  Founded in 1938, it was once the most popular tourist attraction in Florida.

Micanopy is a small Old Florida place with some nice antique shops and restaurants.

McIntosh is near Micanopy and is a fine example of Old Florida homes.  It’s just fun to wander around the quiet streets.

Mill Creek Farm is a retirement home for horses.  Admission is a couple of carrots.

Mount Dora has a New England look.  It is on the east end of Lake Dora and has many fine shopping, dining and lodging opportunities.  Only 45 minutes from Orlando.  It is one of the favorites of the Villages Florida day trips.  Here is a list of restaurants in the Mount Dora area.

New Smyrna Beach has some of the nicest sandy beaches in Florida and a bit of history that influenced St. Augustine.

Horse Statue at Ocala City HallHorse Statue at Ocala City Hall

Ocala is in the heart of Florida’s thoroughbred horse raising and training country with plenty of rolling hills and lush oak forests.

Orlando is where the big tourist attractions are like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, but it also has plenty of other quieter places to visit.

Orlando Tree Tour is a self guided tour of some of the oldest and largest trees in Florida.  You will see many magnificent oaks.

Princess Place Preserve is an old hunting lodge near Palm Coast.  It is open to the public and is a nice glimpse into the Old Florida of yesteryear.  Free.

St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States.  Much to do and even more to see.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm has more than just the famous reptile it is named for.  Crocodiles, birds and a host of other animals.  It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tangled Oaks Vineyard is a family owned winery between Palatka and Gainesville on State Road 100.  Tours and tastings, nice wines.

Tavares is known as the seaplane city.  People fly in for events and weekends;  it is on the west end of Lake Dora not far from Mount Dora and Eustis.

Webster flea markets are the biggest in Florida, but only open on Mondays.

Weeki Wachee Springs MermaidsWeeki Wachee Springs Mermaids

Weeki Wachee Springs is one of the oldest Florida tourist attractions;  you will enjoy the shows with the beautiful young mermaids performing in the clear spring waters.

Whispering Oaks Winery offers tours and entertainment;  they specialize in blueberry wine and are only a few miles west of The Villages.

Winter Park is just north of Orlando.  In addition to a wonderful boat tour of the chain of lakes, it has some of the finest shopping and dining in the state.

THEME BASED FLORIDA DAY TRIPS

If you are interested in particular themes, there are many places to  enjoy in and out of the 100 mile radius.  Examples of themes are “beaches”, “seashells“, “zoos” “historic buildings“, “rockets“, “lighthouses“, and at least 20 others.  Click below to learn more.

250 FLORIDA DAY TRIPS BY THEME



There are interesting back road maps you can use to explore this part of Florida from your base in The Villages.  Here they are:


Clicking on the covers takes you to Amazon.com where you can preview or buy two soft cover books with destinations not covered on this website.


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Oct 26, 300 Florida Attractions You Can Afford

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Florida tourist attractions are just about everywhere you travel in the state.  

Nobody knows for sure how many of these attractions exist in the State of Florida.

I would guess at least one thousand, maybe more.

The early tourist attractions were located close to the main highways, and survived by snagging vacationing northern tourists on their way around the Sunshine State.

Florida Tourist Attractions Coral CastleCoral Castle, A Monument To Romantic Love

They also had a steady flow of Florida families that carried them through the slow season in the summer months when school was out.

There is no way anyone could see all of these Florida tourist attractions in a lifetime. In my long life in Florida, many tourist attractions have thrived, faded and disappeared.

Many of these lost attractions were gone before I could see them even once or twice.

Ever heard of Circus World, Splendid China, Masterpiece Theater, Rainbow Springs, Marco Polo Park and Six Gun Territory?

They were all famous Florida tourist attractions in their heyday, and now they are all gone. They were once one of the Florida things to do when visiting the state.

The coming of the Interstate Highways, Walt Disney World and Universal Studios was just too much for many of these old Florida tourist attractions to survive.

My Favorite Florida Tourist Attractions

My favorite Florida attractions include small amusement parks, zoos, museums, state parks and oddities. I’ve also thrown in a few of the big ones like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Seaworld for good measure.

  • Florida Festivals 
    There are numerous Florida events that take place on an annual schedule. In addition to Florida’s many art and music festivals, there are great boating and sporting events, and fun festivals that don’t quite fit into any neat category.
  • Florida Heritage Sites.
    These are 1,300 historic and culturally significant sites scattered all over the state. There is something for everyone on this list at Florida Backroads Travel.com.
  • Florida Museum of Natural History,
    University of Florida Cultural Plaza, SW 34th Street and Hull Road, PO Box 112710, Gainesville, Florida 32611-2710. Tel:352-846-2000.
  • Fort Gates Ferry,
    229 Fort Gates Ferry Rd, Crescent City, Florida 32112. Tel:386-467-2411.
  • Fruit And Spice Park,
    24801 SW 187 Avenue, Homestead, Florida 33031. Tel: 305-247-5727.
  • Gatorland,
    14501 South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, Florida 32837. 1-800-393-5297.
  • Ginnie Springs Outdoors,
    7300 N.E. Ginnie Springs Road, High Springs, FL 32643. Tel:386-454-7188.
  • Hemingway Home,
    907 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040. Tel: 305-294-1136.
  • Jacksonville Zoo,
    370 Zoo Parkway, Jacksonville, FL 32218. Tel: 904-757-4463.
  • Jungle Island,
    1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami, Florida 33132. Tel:305-400-7000.
  • Jungle Queen Riverboat,
    801 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316. Tel:954-462-5596.
  • Key West Aquarium,
    1 Whitehead Street (Mallory Square), Key West, Florida 33040. Tel: 305-296-2051.
  • Leu Gardens,
    1920 North Forest Avenue, Orlando, FL 32803. Tel: 407-246-2620.
  • Lighthouses,
    Florida has many that can be visited by car.
  • Lion Country Safari,
  • 2003 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee, FL 33470. Tel: 561-793-1084.
  • Marineland Florida,
    9600 Oceanshore Blvd., St. Augustine, Florida 32080. Tel:904-471-1111.
  • Miami Marine Stadium,
    Rickenbacker Causeway, Virginia Key, Miami, Florida.
  • Warm Mineral Springs,
  • 12200 San Servando Avenue
    North Port, Florida 34287. Tel: 941-426-1692
  • Webster Flea Markets,
    516 NW Third Street, Webster, Florida 33596.  Tel: 352-793-9877
  • Weeki Wachee Springs,
    6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee, Florida 34646. Tel:352-592-5656.
  • Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour,
    312 East Morse Blvd, Winter Park, Florida 32789
    Tel: 407-644-4056
  • The following admission fees for the Florida tourist attractions featured on Florida Backroads Travel are updated annually.  They are provided to help you plan your Florida family vacation.

    Some attractions have other ticket combinations available for special events and groups. You should call the attraction for current information.

    ADMISSION FEES



Florida Tourist Attractions Weeki Wachee SpringsMermaids at Weeki Wachee Sprngs, Florida

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Nov 5, Prius Camping in Florida. Love That Air Conditioning.

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Camping in a Prius is okay when you are traveling light and are all alone or have a small partner.  

It worked for me for a couple of years.  I used my 2008 model to range all over the State of Florida gathering information and taking photographs for Florida Backroads Travel.

Even though I’m 6’5 and 230 lbs it seemed possible to make a little camper out of my Prius.  I achieved it for a total expense of $77, not including sheets and pillows.

2008 Toyota Prius2008 Toyota Prius

First, I did a lot of measuring. I decided that the best way for me to sleep would be in conventional bed mode. Measurements showed I could slide the front seats forward and fold the rear seats down and end up with a pretty good sized space.

The Prius measures about 80 inches from the rear deck at the bottom of the closed hatch to the back of the front seats. Since I am 77 inches, this was encouraging.  Maybe camping in a Prius was possible after all.

One problem, however, is that the center console sticks back into the rear seating area and reduces the available space. The top of the console is about 21″ high above the floor.

Another problem is that there is 18 inches between the flattened rear seat back and the front seat back that has to be bridged.

2008 Toyota Prius with hatch open and seats in normal positionPrius with hatch open and seats in normal position

I measured the well behind each front seat when they were extended forward and decided I could fit a box in each well that would be about 21 inches high, 18 inches deep, and 13 inches wide. I could then place these boxes in the wells, span them with a board of some kind, and put an air mattress on the resulting 36″ by 80″ rectangular area.

I couldn’t find a single box that fit the bill, so I bought 6 smaller boxes at Bed Bath and Beyond for a bit less than $10 each. Each box is 11-7/8″ wide x 17-7/16 long x 7-1/8″ high and contains a drawer. Three boxes fit in the well behind each front seat. During my Florida camping in a Prius travel mode, they fit in the luggage area behind the rear seats and contained underwear, socks, shirts, pants, coffee maker, air mattress, pump, cereal and coffee.

Since most of my camping was in Florida and not too far from my home, these six boxes provided plenty of room for what I needed.

Prius rear cargo area with 6 storage boxes and a folded cardboard box.Boxes and cardboard in cargo area for traveling mode.

I bought a cardboard box from Home Depot for $2 that when folded measures 42 x 18 x 1 inches. This spans over the boxes and provides support for the air mattress.  Walmart sold me the air mattress for $15. The mattress is 75″ long x 39′ wide x 8″ thick.

Rear passenger seats with headrests removed tilted all the way forward.Rear passenger seats, headrests removed & tilted forward. Front seats pushed forward all the way.

When sleeping in the Prius, I typically kept the car running in Park with the air conditioning/heater set at about 78 degrees.

I estimated this overnight battery and engine use only ate up about 0.4 of a gallon, just about a dollar in terms of today’s gas prices. The air conditioning made camping viable even in the hot humid Florida summers.

Boxes behind each front passenger seat to bridge the gap.Boxes in the 18 inch space between the seats.

The air conditioning/heater runs on the car battery. When the battery gets low, the gas engine kicks in.

I set the parking brake when sleeping because when the gas engine kicks in it lurches the car forward a tiny bit unless the brake is set. It takes a little time to get used to the lurching.

Cardboard on top of boxes to smooth things out.Cardboard on top of boxes to smooth things out.

Florida camping in a Prius reminds me of my days living in tight quarters aboard my boats, or my days in the Navy aboard a destroyer.

A lot of my Florida traveling is solo, so I have to caution that Prius camping may not work as well for couples as it did for me.  Maybe a small couple could pull it off.  Like Mr. and Mrs. Tom Thumb.

I usually stayed at Florida State Parks, camping in tent sites that have electricity and water. I needed that for blowing up the mattress at night, plugging in my laptop, and heating coffee and cereal in the morning.

39 inch wide air mattress with pump39 inch wide air mattress with pump

Florida campsites cost between $10 and $50 per night, but with my senior discount it cost me about half that. This is a whole lot less than all but the cheapest Florida motels.

Unlike a big RV, Prius camping can use a tent site. In Florida State Parks, camping in these sites is fun because they are usually surrounded by palmettos and other vegetation and are very private.

Air mattress in sleeping positionAir mattress in sleeping position

The restroom/shower facilities at Florida State Parks are usually clean and comfortable.

My Prius also offers additional privacy by having tinted windows as an optional extra. 

Front seats moved all the way forwardFront seats moved all the way forward

Conclusions About Camping In A Prius

Camping in a Prius is not too bad, but I’d prefer a thinner mattress, maybe a dense foam one that could be rolled up when not in use.  The 8″ thick air mattress I use makes it a bit tougher to climb up in and go to bed.

I still haven’t tried sleeping with Mrs. Tom Thumb. Rosie O’Donnell is definitely out of the question.

Other people have tried camping in their Prius.  Click here for the Prius Chat Forum.




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Oct 26, Florida Day Trips to Great Beaches and Shelling

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Florida has one of the longest saltwater shorelines in the United States. 

 The Environmental Protection Agency says the state has 570 beaches with a total beach length of 902 miles. 

We don’t know who can challenge that number, but it doesn’t really matter.

Whatever kind of beach you are looking for, Florida probably has it.

From just sunbathing, beach combing, long walks, treasure hunting, or searching for unique sea shells – you can find it here.


DAY TRIP 1

Anna Maria Island
5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, FL 34217. Tel: 941-778-1541
https://www.annamariaislandchamber.org/

Anna Maria Island’s beaches are great for walking and sunbathing.  The beaches on the Gulf of Mexico are powdery white sand, soft on your feet.  The sand is composed of very fine quartz crystals and this keeps it from getting to hot to lie or walk on.  The surf is rarely too rough, but just wavy enough for a boogie board or to enjoy splashing around in the shallow water.  Another plus of these beaches is that they are not lined with high rise condos like many other Florida beaches.


DAY TRIP 2

Bailey-Matthew National Shell Museum
3075 Sanibel Captiva Rd, Sanibel, FL 33957.  Tel:239-395-2233
https://www.shellmuseum.org/

My grandmother loved to collect shells.  She died too soon to experience this museum which was founded in 1995. The museum operates as a reference center for scientists and amateur collectors. Shells from all over the world are on display; many of them are from Sanibel and Captiva.  The museum also has a memorial garden dedicated to actor Raymond Burr, who owned an island in Fiji and helped raise funds to build the museum.  Scientists lead daily hour-long beach walks to teach you about local shells.


DAY TRIP 3

Caladesi Island
Offshore Island. Tel: 727-469-5918
floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/caladesi-island-state-park/

Caladesi is one of the few remaining untouched islands on the Florida Gulf coast.  It is accessible only by private boat or the Caladesi Island Ferry except by walking from Clearwater Beach.  The ferry dock is on Honeymoon Island, connected by causeway to the town of Dunedin.  The island’s 3 miles of unspoiled pristine white sand beaches make it perfect for swimming, sun bathing, shelling, boating, fishing and snorkeling.  You can also enjoy a 3-mile long nature trail and a marina with a concession stand.


DAY TRIP 4

Destin Sand Castle Lessons
Beach Sand Sculptures, LLC,
P.O. Box 32459, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459.  Tel: 303-681-2631
https://beachsandsculptures.com/

Most people have tried to build a sand castle at least once in their lives.  These lessons take this skill to a whole new level.  The beautiful sand beaches around Destin have attracted businesses that will teach you how to build your ultimate sand castle.  You can either have a sand sculpture expert build one for you or learn how to build one yourself.  The operation is all along the Gulf Coast from Destin east along Highway 30A to Seaside and Inlet Beach.  The website will give you further details.


DAY TRIP 5

Fort Desoto Park
3500 Pinellas Bayway South
Tierra Verde, FL 33715.  Tel: 727-582-2267
http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm

Fort De Soto Park is the largest park in the Pinellas County park system with 1,136 acres comprised of 5 interconnected islands.   The park is reached from the mainland by County Road 679.  The islands that make up the park are among the most natural environment in Florida.  The park has 3 miles of some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the United States.  Things to do include visiting the historic fort, camping, swimming, nature trail hiking, kayaking, biking, and fishing from a park pier. 


DAY TRIP 6

Little Talbot Island State Park
12157 Heckscher Dr., Jacksonville, FL 32226.  Tel: 904-251-2320
floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/little-talbot-island-state-park  

This park is north of Jacksonville on one of the few remaining barrier islands on Florida’s east coast.  You will enjoy nature at its finest, with maritime forests, desert like sand dunes, and pristine salt marshes.  The streams on the west side of the park as well as the Atlantic surf provide great opportunities for beach combing and fishing.  Catches include bluefish, striped bass, redfish, flounder, mullet, and sheepshead.  There is also a campground in the park.  


DAY TRIP 7

Tigertail Beach
430 Hernando Dr., Marco Island, FL 34145. Tel: 239-252-4000
https://www.colliercountyfl.gov/your-government/divisions-f-r/parks-and-recreation/beaches-and-boats/marco-island-beaches

Marco Island is highly developed, but Tigertail Beach is a tranquil wild beach in the middle of it all.  The developed part of the beach park has a parking lot, changing rooms, and a snack bar.  The park faces a shallow salt water lagoon.  You can either use this beach, or you can wade across the lagoon.  Sometimes the water is waist-deep and more, but once you have crossed you will find a three mile long beach made of soft white sand.  Most of the beach is wild and all of it is totally undeveloped.


DAY TRIP 8

Sanibel and Captiva Islands
1159 Causeway Rd., Sanibel Island, FL 33957.  Tel: 239-472-1080
https://sanibel-captiva.org/  

My grandmother lived in Venice and but loved to travel to Sanibel Island for the magnificent shells she would find on the beach. She spent many joyous hours in the “Sanibel Stoop”, the bent over posture assumed by shell seekers.  There are other things to do on Sanibel, of course, including biking, fishing, bird watching, boating, golfing, and snorkeling.  But shelling remains a popular activity for thousands of visitors.  Travel & Leisure magazine ranked Sanibel Island No. 1 of the best shelling beaches in the United States.


DAY TRIP 9

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
7525 W. Hwy 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459. Tel: 850-267-8330
www.floridastateparks.org/park/Topsail-Hill   

When you are offshore in a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, the beaches in this park resemble the sails of ancient sailing ships.  The tall white sand dunes stretch for 3 miles and are made of pristine white quartz sand.  Some of the majestic dunes are more than 25 feet tall.  The beaches are among the best in Florida for swimming, fishing, sunbathing, or just beachcombing.  The adjacent park is also a bird watching and hiking paradise.  Fishing is allowed from the shorelines of three coastal dune lakes. 


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Oct 27, Melbourne Beach: Gateway to a Beach and Fishing Paradise

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Melbourne Beach is a quiet bedroom community of about 3,000 people on the barrier island across the Indian River Lagoon from the larger city of Melbourne.  It is Brevard County’s oldest beach community.

Most histories place the founding of the village as 1883 when a Civil War Union veteran, Major Cyrus E. Graves, began buying land for $1.25 per acre and started raising pineapples.

Melbourne Beach Pier in 1938 re Florida State Archives

In the early days, Melbourne Beach was the only access to the Atlantic Ocean beach for many miles north and south.  The barrier island was virtually a jungle back then.  A ferry brought passengers over from Melbourne where they landed at the Melbourne Beach Pier.  A narrow gauge railroad with a push car took passengers from the pier down Ocean Avenue to the ocean.  There was a bathhouse near where the current day Sand on the Beach Restaurant stands.

Melbourne Beach Pier in 2014

A causeway was built across the Indian River Lagoon in 1921.  It connected Melbourne Beach to Melbourne by way of the town of Indialantic.  Ferry traffic began to decline, but the town began to grow slowly as a result of the better connection to the mainland.  One of the first buildings erected in the town was the Community Chapel.  Built in 1892, it still stands and conducts church services, weddings and other events. Another original old building the Villa Marine, still stands at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Riverside Drive.  It was built in 1912 as a hotel and is used today as a dentist’s office.

Melbourne Beach Community Chapel

The space program at Cape Canaveral and Banana River Naval Air Station (now Patrick Air Force Base) to the north contributed to the the residential development in Melbourne Beach.  Today the village is largely residential with a few businesses along Ocean Avenue and State Road A1A. It is truly a walkable little town that takes great pride in its history.  The Melbourne Beach Pier was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.  The town has also preserved many of its original old houses and buildings.

Replica of Original Melbourne Beach Post Office

The village has numerous access points to the beautiful sand beaches.  Melbourne Beach is also the main access point for the long stretch of beach along State Road A1A all the way down to Sebastian Inlet.  The barrier island has many parks and beach access points between Melbourne Beach and the inlet.

Atlantic Ocean at Melbourne Beach

RESTAURANT OF THE MONTH

Djon’s Steak and Lobster House
522 Ocean Avenue
Melbourne Beach, Florida 32951
Tel: 321-722-2737
djons.com

Dijon’s Steak and Lobster House, Melbourne Beach

Djon’s is a fine dining establishment named after its owner, Djon Papej. It is not your typical beach establishment;  you will be okay wearing slacks or shorts and a polo shirt, but leave your flip-flops and tee shirt at home.  This place warrants your dressing up a bit;  you won’t be disappointed.  I lived for many years near this restaurant.  In the old days it was known as Poor Richard’s.  The newer Djon’s has kept up the quaint ambience and improved everything from top to bottom.

Locals and tourists enjoy the daily happy hour from 5pm to 7pm with $5 cocktails and $6 martinis.  The happy hour menu is good enough that you can dine on the offerings from this event alone.  Filet tips, sesame tuna, garlic shrimp, calamari and many other tantalizing treats.

Dijon’s Steak and Lobster House, Melbourne Beach

The restaurant is in a historic early building, with both inside and outside dining.  The upper dining deck has a great view of the Indian River Lagoon.  Your dining experience will begin with any of a large variety of appetizers.  Calamari, crab and lobster cake, escargot, baked brie, King Crab spring rolls, Oysters Rockefeller and many other treats.  The salads are great.  Choose from asparagus salad, the house salad, Caesar, wedge or roasted beet salad.

Entrees include either a 6 ounce or 8 ounce filet mignon (my favorite), Prime Angus New York Strip, a 22 ounce Delmonico, veal, lamb, burgers, crusted chicken and roasted duck.  The seafood menu offers live Maine lobster, sea bass, yellow fin ahi tuna, scallops, cedar planked salmon, crab crusted grouper, roasted lobster tail and several other lobster dishes.

Djon’s has a full service bar and a large selection of beer and wine.  It is a perfect place to cap off a day of fun in the sun and surf of Melbourne Beach. 

Use the Google Map below to plan your route to Melbourne Beach.  Bring your beach clothes and a semi-dressy outfit to enjoy the restaurant we will tell you about.


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Upcoming Events

  1. 2018 Fall Family Festival

    October 12 @ 3:00 pm - November 14 @ 1:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  3. NOVEMBERFEST 2018

    November 14 @ 4:00 pm - November 18 @ 8:00 pm UTC+0
  4. SpaKitty Dinner

    November 14 @ 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC+0
  5. The Festival of Trees

    November 15 @ 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC+0
  6. FIU’s 32nd Festival of the Trees

    November 15 @ 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  7. School Day at the 2018 Florida Tiny House MUSIC Festival

    November 16 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm UTC+0
  8. 10th Annual OrlandoJobs.com Job Fair and Career Expo

    November 16 @ 11:00 am - 3:00 pm UTC+0
  9. Florida Tiny House Music Festival (3rd Annual)

    November 16 @ 12:00 pm - November 18 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  10. Orlando Balloon Glow

    November 16 @ 5:00 pm - November 18 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0

Join our Fun Network

  1. 2018 Fall Family Festival

    October 12 @ 3:00 pm - November 14 @ 1:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  3. NOVEMBERFEST 2018

    November 14 @ 4:00 pm - November 18 @ 8:00 pm UTC+0
  4. SpaKitty Dinner

    November 14 @ 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC+0
  5. The Festival of Trees

    November 15 @ 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC+0
  6. FIU’s 32nd Festival of the Trees

    November 15 @ 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  7. School Day at the 2018 Florida Tiny House MUSIC Festival

    November 16 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm UTC+0
  8. 10th Annual OrlandoJobs.com Job Fair and Career Expo

    November 16 @ 11:00 am - 3:00 pm UTC+0
  9. Florida Tiny House Music Festival (3rd Annual)

    November 16 @ 12:00 pm - November 18 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  10. Orlando Balloon Glow

    November 16 @ 5:00 pm - November 18 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0