Jump to content
BigTom

Other attractions

Recommended Posts

I know this board is mainly about Fort camping, but there is a lot of other things to do in Florida besides the Mouse, Harry Potter, Legoland and the beach. We have a lot of history in this state that is sometimes overlooked by theme parks. When visiting our state, check around and there may be something interesting close by. Check out Lighthouses, if you have never been in one, there are several that have been restored and made in museums you can go in and see how they were built and maned. How about a deep sea fishing trip, a tour on a glass bottom boat, or an air boat in the everglades. May a resort dive, (a short class and a shallow dive with scuba tanks). A lot of history, Oldest town, Saint Augustine, is very interesting and you will learn a lot of history on a tour.

    Maybe a week in the Keys, you can rent a house for about the same as a week at Fort Wilderness and stay on a tropical island and still be in the USA. Take a charter boat if you enjoy fishing and enjoy fresh seafood, it tastes different from what you get from the stores. A visit to Fort Jefferson on Dry Tortugas is unforgettable and worth the trip. Pigeon Key give a look into how the oversea highway was built.

    There is a lot to do and see, we have had Indian battles and civil war battles, dinasour bone museums, rail road and ship yards. You can find shark teeth and on beaches and Manatees in the wild, natural springs with glass bottom boats, and many other things that are interesting besides theme parks. Plus most of the people are friendly and are willing to share their knowledge about where they live if you just ask where there is something interesting to see or do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Love the Keys!  We stayed a week once about 20 mins north of Key West and it was such a fun trip.  We'd go out exploring every day - beach, Key West, all kinds of fun stuff -  and every night on the way back to our room we'd stop at the fish market around the corner and pick up a big bag of delicious fresh shrimp and stone crab - for a boatload less than any restaurant or super market around here would charge for it.

This was before dogs so our next trip that way will probably be with the camper, but there are some great campgrounds in the Keys as well.  As you said, it's like being on a tropical island ... that you can drive to.  :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great post, Big Tom. I agree that all the things and places on your list are worth a visit. I especially agree with taking time to visit a natural spring. There are many to choose from, and the best/biggest ones are typically State Parks with camping facilities. Rainbow Springs,  Silver Springs, Homosassa Springs and Weeki Wachee are all former roadside attractions that are now State Parks.  All are worth a visit.

TCD 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
34 minutes ago, Beckers said:

Stupid question. I see people tubing in springs (or something) what about alligators???

Exactly. 

Guests swam in Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon at WDW for over 20 years before those beaches were closed. Thousands of guests for more than two decades.  How many of them were eaten by alligators?

Thousands of people tube every day in Florida's rivers. No alligator bites. 

The risk is too minuscule to quantify. 

TCD 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Tri-Circle-D said:

Great post, Big Tom. I agree that all the things and places on your list are worth a visit. I especially agree with taking time to visit a natural spring. There are many to choose from, and the best/biggest ones are typically State Parks with camping facilities. Rainbow Springs,  Silver Springs, Homosassa Springs and Weeki Wachee are all former roadside attractions that are now State Parks.  All are worth a visit.

TCD 

Kelly Park/Rock Springs run isn't too far from WDW and there is a campground attached.

I had huge otters swim past me while tubing.

Another interesting place, within a decent park.

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill is a unique restaurant located inside De Leon Springs State Park. Opened in 1961 by Peter and Marjorie Schwarze, we have been serving in the same unusual style ever since. Each of our tables are equipped with a griddle and we bring you pitchers of homemade pancake batters (both a stone-ground mixture of five different flours and an unbleached white flour) you pour them on and flip them over right at your table. You may order blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, pecans, chocolate chips, apples or apple sauce to create whatever sort of pancakes you choose. We have sausage, bacon, ham, eggs, homemade breads and an assortment of other treats to accompany your  pancakes.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most states have hidden gems that get overlooked because of a few major attractions.

Luckily Google has made it a lot easier to track down these off the beaten path wonders.

But yes, the Mouse and their competition overshadow the real FL.  At least Legoland kept the Cypress Gardens garden section.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Tri-Circle-D said:

Exactly. 

Guests swam in Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon at WDW for over 20 years before those beaches were closed. Thousands of guests for more than two decades.  How many of them were eaten by alligators?

Thousands of people tube every day in Florida's rivers. No alligator bites. 

The risk is too minuscule to quantify. 

TCD 

 

6 hours ago, Beckers said:

Stupid question. I see people tubing in springs (or something) what about alligators???

We have tubed at ichetucknee springs many times and have never see a gator. Gators tend to stay away from people unless the have been fed or are protecting their nests or young. 

 

This is a horrible example to make but, a small child at night or even a lone person splashing around in the water looks a lot like a bird or other prey to an alligator. Where as a group of people, boats, rafts, lots of noise does not. 

 

I think the biggest problem we have with alligators is people feeding them. They then associate people with food. I actually sat on one of the Disney launches one day and listened to a family from up North talk about how they had been feeding a gator everyday at WL and how much the gator liked breakfast sandwiches. 

 

So far I have made it 36 years swimming in some very questionable water without being eaten by anything. Infact I'm much more scared of getting bit by a snake while swimming or on land than I ever have been about Gators. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Cortezcapt (Derek) said:

 

We have tubed at ichetucknee springs many times and have never see a gator. Gators tend to stay away from people unless the have been fed or are protecting their nests or young. 

 

This is a horrible example to make but, a small child at night or even a lone person splashing around in the water looks a lot like a bird or other prey to an alligator. Where as a group of people, boats, rafts, lots of noise does not. 

 

I think the biggest problem we have with alligators is people feeding them. They then associate people with food. I actually sat on one of the Disney launches one day and listened to a family from up North talk about how they had been feeding a gator everyday at WL and how much the gator liked breakfast sandwiches. 

 

So far I have made it 36 years swimming in some very questionable water without being eaten by anything. Infact I'm much more scared of getting bit by a snake while swimming or on land than I ever have been about Gators. 

Gators do most of their feeding after dark and are wary of humans. I have been swimming in all kind of water in Florida for over 70 years and never been approached by a gator. Splashing in shallow water like that child in WDW at dusk is just calling a gator to come to supper, but you don't even see many during the day light hours, which is why most visitors to Fla will only see one. Go out late at night and you will be surprised by how many are swimming around.

  By to what I mentioned to start with, vacation are a good time to teach your children a little history about the places they visit.( I know you will have to research a little before hand, but you might learn a little to) For instance the Seminole wars were the longest lasting and the most costly both in lives and money of all the Indian wars. And you thought the West was wild. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I keep thinking I might do a trip report, but with no time and no photo posting service, I'm not sure that's ever going to happen. But my husband and I took a Spring Break trip and visited several "other Florida attractions" in early April.   I was going to call my trip report  "Dolphins and Mermaids and Florida History, Oh My."   We visited the following places:

Weeki Wachee State Park

Indian Rocks Beach to see the sunset (2x)

Clearwater Marine Aquarium + Dolphin Adventure Tour

beach town driving tour from Clearwater Beach to Pass-A-Grille Beach 

Ringling Museum in Sarasota

DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton (it was closed since after 5 pm but could still visit the grounds)

SS American Victory, Tampa

Henry B. Plant Museum at University of Tampa

Ybor City Historic District, Tampa

I enjoyed and would recommend all of them, especially if one is interested in dolphins, mermaids, beach towns and Florida history. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Seals said:

I keep thinking I might do a trip report, but with no time and no photo posting service, I'm not sure that's ever going to happen. But my husband and I took a Spring Break trip and visited several "other Florida attractions" in early April.   I was going to call my trip report  "Dolphins and Mermaids and Florida History, Oh My."   We visited the following places:

Weeki Wachee State Park

Indian Rocks Beach to see the sunset (2x)

Clearwater Marine Aquarium + Dolphin Adventure Tour

beach town driving tour from Clearwater Beach to Pass-A-Grille Beach 

Ringling Museum in Sarasota

DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton (it was closed since after 5 pm but could still visit the grounds)

SS American Victory, Tampa

Henry B. Plant Museum at University of Tampa

Ybor City Historic District, Tampa

I enjoyed and would recommend all of them, especially if one is interested in dolphins, mermaids, beach towns and Florida history. 

Did you do the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee?

Been to Clearwater aquarium.  Did you go to their building in downtown?

Did you go to Anna Marie Island.  When the weather is good, the water is a beautiful aquamarine color and crystal clear.

Desoto is where we purchased our senior passes.  There isn't a lot to see there, but the path thru the woods is interesting.

We been in Tampa for 40 years and haven't been to the Plant Museum.  Have been to UT for a lot of functions.

Tampa finally got their act together and have a semi-decent riverwalk.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/30/2018 at 3:32 PM, Travisma said:

Did you do the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee?

Been to Clearwater aquarium.  Did you go to their building in downtown?

Did you go to Anna Marie Island.  When the weather is good, the water is a beautiful aquamarine color and crystal clear.

Desoto is where we purchased our senior passes.  There isn't a lot to see there, but the path thru the woods is interesting.

We been in Tampa for 40 years and haven't been to the Plant Museum.  Have been to UT for a lot of functions.

Tampa finally got their act together and have a semi-decent riverwalk.

We did both mermaid shows. We went to the main? aquarium at Clearwater Beach. Is there another one downtown? We ate at a seafood resaturant in Cortez, drove across a bridge to Bradenton Beach, drove north and then across the next bridge. That's Anna Maria Island right? but we didn't stop. I liked that area though. I (half) jokingly said I'd found my retirement location.  I was quite full from dinner so we didn't walk on the path at Desoto but it looked pretty. It was very peaceful there. 

I still want to do a trip report. I'm going to try to figure out the photo thing. I closed my Photobucket account when they changed their rules, but didn't they change it back to free again? I also need to figure out how to get my photos back from the icloud.  The ones on my phone are lower resolution versions. My older son is home from college now so maybe he can help me. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also in Bradenton just s few blocks from DeSoto is Robinson Preserve there are nice walking paths and a observation tower. You can bring your own kayaks or rent them on Manatee Ave on the way to the beach and kayak back through the mangroves.

In Cortez is the Florida Maritime museum on 119th street it's small but worth checking out if you're in the area, gives a good idea what life was like in a small fishing village from when the first settlers came down from the Carolinas thru to the present day. Captain Kim is also worth checking out for boat/eco tours around Cortez. Tide Tables and Star fish Company are the restaurants I'd most recommend, both are very laid back/come as you are type places run by locals who were born and raised in Cortez. Star is located in part of a old fish house and located next door to a working fish house. Tide Tables is located right on the intercoastal waterway and actually occupies the building we ran our party fishing boats out of for 25 years before moving to the north side of the bridge and later getting out of the business. If you like to fish check out Captain Sam with Legend Fishing Charters.

On Bradenton beach Gulf Drive Cafe is a great place to have some food and/or drinks and enjoy the sunset or watch the kids play on the beach and in the water.

In Bradenton is the South Florida museum and Bishop planetarium. Formally the home of Snooty the Manatee. Nice little museum and planetarium. 

Also in Bradenton is Manatee Village Historic Park. Another nice little museum that is free. If you go here and they have any sugarcane syrup I definitely recommend buying some and not just because my cousin makes it. He grows harvests and processes all of his own cane and boils it down over a old fashioned boiler to produce the syrup.

In Palmetto is Gamble Plantation the only surviving plantation house in South Florida. The grounds are nice for a picnic and the tours give a good history of the area from that time. 

If you're not into the museum's and history Anna Maria Island ( which encompasses the cities of Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, and Anna Maria Island) offers beautiful beaches, shopping, jetski and boat rentals all in a laid back atmosphere. There is a free trolley that runs the length of the island. Coquina beach offers a lot of shaded parking with picnic areas, restrooms, and RV parking (day use only) with a trolley stop close by. 

If you're coming to the area for more than a day there are a good amount of campgrounds/RV parks in the area and lots of hotels and rentals. Just remember the closer to the beach the more you pay and in the winter plan far ahead as most campgrounds fill up with snowbirds and the prices go up. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Cortezcapt (Derek) said:

Also in Bradenton just s few blocks from DeSoto is Robinson Preserve there are nice walking paths and a observation tower. You can bring your own kayaks or rent them on Manatee Ave on the way to the beach and kayak back through the mangroves.

In Cortez is the Florida Maritime museum on 119th street it's small but worth checking out if you're in the area, gives a good idea what life was like in a small fishing village from when the first settlers came down from the Carolinas thru to the present day. Captain Kim is also worth checking out for boat/eco tours around Cortez. Tide Tables and Star fish Company are the restaurants I'd most recommend, both are very laid back/come as you are type places run by locals who were born and raised in Cortez. Star is located in part of a old fish house and located next door to a working fish house. Tide Tables is located right on the intercoastal waterway and actually occupies the building we ran our party fishing boats out of for 25 years before moving to the north side of the bridge and later getting out of the business. If you like to fish check out Captain Sam with Legend Fishing Charters.

On Bradenton beach Gulf Drive Cafe is a great place to have some food and/or drinks and enjoy the sunset or watch the kids play on the beach and in the water.

In Bradenton is the South Florida museum and Bishop planetarium. Formally the home of Snooty the Manatee. Nice little museum and planetarium. 

Also in Bradenton is Manatee Village Historic Park. Another nice little museum that is free. If you go here and they have any sugarcane syrup I definitely recommend buying some and not just because my cousin makes it. He grows harvests and processes all of his own cane and boils it down over a old fashioned boiler to produce the syrup.

In Palmetto is Gamble Plantation the only surviving plantation house in South Florida. The grounds are nice for a picnic and the tours give a good history of the area from that time. 

If you're not into the museum's and history Anna Maria Island ( which encompasses the cities of Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, and Anna Maria Island) offers beautiful beaches, shopping, jetski and boat rentals all in a laid back atmosphere. There is a free trolley that runs the length of the island. Coquina beach offers a lot of shaded parking with picnic areas, restrooms, and RV parking (day use only) with a trolley stop close by. 

If you're coming to the area for more than a day there are a good amount of campgrounds/RV parks in the area and lots of hotels and rentals. Just remember the closer to the beach the more you pay and in the winter plan far ahead as most campgrounds fill up with snowbirds and the prices go up. 

This what I was thinking about when starting this post, just around here are a lot of small attractions that are not worth a full vacation, but are a good way to fill in days on a trip to break up the days. Just around here, and this is not considered a tourist area, we have Bok Tower in Lake Wales, Soloman's Castle in Zolfo Springs, Royal Lippizan Stallion ranch in Myakka City, Manatee viewing area in Sun City, air boat rides on Kissimmee River, you can take swamp buggy rides, and a lot of small towns give history tours and have history museums, Bartow used the old County Court House to house a museum. If interested in buildings, Florida Southern College has a large assortment on Frank LLoyd Wright designed building and offer a tour of them. A lot to see and do in central Florida and not in the center of the tourist areas, So not as crowded and expensive as other areas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/1/2018 at 9:07 AM, Seals said:

We did both mermaid shows. We went to the main? aquarium at Clearwater Beach. Is there another one downtown? We ate at a seafood resaturant in Cortez, drove across a bridge to Bradenton Beach, drove north and then across the next bridge. That's Anna Maria Island right? but we didn't stop. I liked that area though. I (half) jokingly said I'd found my retirement location.  I was quite full from dinner so we didn't walk on the path at Desoto but it looked pretty. It was very peaceful there. 

I still want to do a trip report. I'm going to try to figure out the photo thing. I closed my Photobucket account when they changed their rules, but didn't they change it back to free again? I also need to figure out how to get my photos back from the icloud.  The ones on my phone are lower resolution versions. My older son is home from college now so maybe he can help me. 

The other downtown building had different exhibits and things to do.  Had a lot about the movies.  I just looked at their website and it doesn't mention anything about it, so it might be closed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Cortezcapt (Derek) said:

Tide Tables and Star fish Company are the restaurants I'd most recommend, both are very laid back/come as you are type places run by locals who were born and raised in Cortez. Star is located in part of a old fish house and located next door to a working fish house. Tide Tables is located right on the intercoastal waterway and actually occupies the building we ran our party fishing boats out of for 25 years before moving to the north side of the bridge and later getting out of the business. If you like to fish check out Captain Sam with Legend Fishing Charters.

We ate at Starfish Company.  Food was excellent, staff was friendly and eating right on the water and watching the birds and boats was perfect. I love places like that.    I'd like to explore that whole area more some time. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/7/2018 at 11:16 AM, Seals said:

We ate at Starfish Company.  Food was excellent, staff was friendly and eating right on the water and watching the birds and boats was perfect. I love places like that.    I'd like to explore that whole area more some time. 

It is a great area although I might be a little biased having been born and raised there. I will admit the whole area has become much more touristy and built up compared to what it used to be, but still retains some of it's old Florida charm.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Cortezcapt (Derek) said:

It is a great area although I might be a little biased having been born and raised there. I will admit the whole area has become much more touristy and built up compared to what it used to be, but still retains some of it's old Florida charm.

Sounds like Tarpon Springs.

Used to see the sponge boats come in and off load their harvest, sort the sponges and sell then right off the docks.

Last time we went it was all shops and restaurants, didn't see a single boat except for sightseeing tours.

Pinellas County does have a "trolley" that goes between I think Clearwater to Tarpon, with stops at other small communities in between.  It's reasonably priced and it you can park at Dunedin for free and catch it there.

Also during the winter months The TECO power plant at Big Bend in Apollo Beach has tons of Manatees in the warm waters of their outflow canal.  Quite a sight to see.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a link to a lighthouse road trip to all the lighthouses in the State of Florida.  There is also one that will take you up the east coast of the US.  (I will have to go and find that one)  I have heard that is wonderful.  I have been to the St. Augustine and Jupiter ones.  They are quite the awesomeness.

http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/florida/lighthouse-road-trip-fl/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×