It seemed like a great idea at the time: a Florida investment condo was rented out to pay for itself when you were not in residence, yet could host the entire fam when it was time to escape winter up North. Worked like a champ for years until the kids balked at coming along citing the lack of things to do and the high cost of popular entertainment venues. In this article we cover a wide range of attractions around the state that are relatively inexpensive (gotta love Groupon!) and fun for all.
Your kids were all caught up in the magic of Disney world when they were little, but now that they can drive, what’s to do beyond Cinderella’s castle? Most visitors do not realize it, but there are several separate Disney attractions in Orlando. Their entrance fees can vary by day, how far in advance you book, if you have a season pass, etc. Prices can climb steeply to as much as $250 a day per person, however. So for seasonal locals to score the lowest rates, revisiting venues like Animal Kingdom, the Magic Kingdom, and Epcot might have to wait until your tribe opts to hold a reunion. There’s bargains in numbers!
Don’t forget Universal Studios! It’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter which resembles Diagon Alley, the Incredible Hulk Coaster with its throbbing soundtrack, along with the heart-stopping 85-foot drop on the Jurassic Park River Adventure are not to be missed and a one-day pass may be had for under $125/per person. Again this is the average charge, and discounts and promos may make admission even more affordable.
Even when it is hot outside, Orlando’s Chocolate Museum is open for business. And the aroma is divine! Learn about chocolate’s history, view extraordinary artworks crafted entirely from chocolate, watch it being made, and finally, finally, sample some of the world’s finest chocolates!
When you were a kid, did you ever scour your box of crayons looking for that one color that just didn’t exist? Now you can make your own crayon and name it after yourself! For kids, and the kid in all of us, plan to visit the Crayola museum, also in Orlando (no worries, we’ll get you outta Dodge for the next few). Visitors can also star in their unique coloring page, proving it is never too late to have a happy childhood!
For those traveling without children who have an interest in vanished America, a visit to the Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida, will amaze. The museum houses the largest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany including artifacts salvaged from Laurelton Hall, his lost moorish-style mansion that once stood on Long Island, New York’s fabled Gold Coast. Intricate jewelry and decorative arts such as art glass lamps and stained-glass windows are truly breathtaking. Many of the lavish rooms from Laurelton Hall have been re-created so that visitors can personally experience what it must have been like to be a guest at one of Tiffany’s over-the-top soirees!
Remember your excitement when you heard that the circus was in town? Well, now when you are in town, you can visit the circus! Just as the circus has three rings of entertainment, Sarasota boasts not one but three Ringling Brothers Circus Museums. From the ornate and brightly painted, hand-carved horse-drawn circus wagons to the naive paintings of circus oddities that hung around the midway, you can smell the greasepaint and the peanuts roasting. Now that Ringling Brothers has disbanded, these museums are the only place on earth where visitors can relive the glory days of the “Greatest Show on Earth”.
Southward, ho! When in Key West be sure to sample conch and to visit the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum and Hemingway’s House. Mel was the world famous treasure hunter who spent 16 years searching for and finally locating the wreck of the Spanish galleon, the Atocha, to date the biggest treasure discovery in the United States. Come see the home of the Old Man of the Sea himself, Ernest Hemingway’s beloved home. It was here that he penned some of his most famous works including “To Have and Have Not”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”. No visit is complete without a tour of the grounds where some 50 polydactyl cats (extra fore toes) currently reside, all descendants of Hemingway’s original clowder.
Ponce de Leon may have been the first non-native visitor, but when he arrived seeking the fountain of youth chances are he was observed by the Seminoles. Now centuries later, and at numerous locations around the state, visitors can escape the ‘plastic world’ and live for a time in ‘native Florida’. At the eight reservations entertainment and attractions are varied and definitely not the same old, same old.There are rodeos to attend, a mine to explore, an RV resort, a swamp safari, and yes, although not for the faint of heart, you can try your luck at alligator wrestling.
In the 1950s, no trip to Florida was complete without a visit to Weeki Wachee: the City of Live Mermaids. Suffice it to say the show still exists; think of it as synchronized swimming only underwater while you dine. No really! While on the subject of underwater oddities, the Neptune Society, offers cremation services unlike any other has created an underwater city for its inhabitants. Cremains are sculpted into concrete-like sculptures and added to an underwater urban environment 40 feet down off the coast of Key Biscayne. This complete city has buildings, gates, streets, monuments, and is very popular with divers and boaters in the region. No less exotic, folks from colder climates are often shocked to see a manatee for the first time. These warm-water dwellers seldom venture out into the Atlantic and are about 10 feet long. Manatees often weigh up to 1,000-lbs, and are butt-ugly, but adorable. These gentle creatures are a protected species, although it is possible to don a wetsuit and join them in a pool at several locations on the west coast.
For those jaded from too many visits to see The Mouse, get to know all the varied and very exotic attractions that call Florida home. In fact, we found so many that additional and intriguing options that some of these will likely become the topic of a future article. We invite you to visit these attractions as well as to share some of your own discoveries. Happy venturing in the Sunshine State!
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