Published on June 14th, 2013 | by Kelsey Arnold0
Tourism Before the Mouse Came to Town
Believe it or not, Florida was a popular tourist attraction long before Mickey hit the scene and several corporate attractions followed. Many of the same things that brought travelers to the “Sunshine State” are still around today, and I’ve made it my mission to travel throughout Florida in search of them.
Coral Castle – Miami, FL
While the creator of this peculiar dwelling isn’t around anymore, the spirit and enthusiasm of Ed Leedskalnin can still be felt within the coquina walls.
Ed allegedly began the project in 1923 as a gesture of affection towards his unrequited love, and spent the next 28 years carving a “castle” from coquina rock with nothing but homemade tools.
As you enter the gates to explore the stone home complete with beds, bath tubs, and tables; a hand carved sign reading “You will be seeing unusual accomplishment” greets you…and he wasn’t kidding.
Admittedly, I was a little creeped out by the life-size cardboard cutouts of Ed tucked into dark corners. Yet, it just shows how people are still trying to figure out how this tiny 100 pound man moved the massive blocks on his own.
Develop your own theory by experiencing this wonder for yourself.
$15, open 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sun. – Thur., 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Fri. – Sat.[nggallery id=134]
The Devil’s Millhopper isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds, in fact it is quite beautiful.
This limestone sinkhole has been bringing visitors to Florida since the 1880s. In addition to the sinkhole, the park also offers nature trails in the surrounding area.
A wooden staircase allows explorers to visit the 120 foot cavity in the earth safely for stunning views of nature at its finest. Of course, a trip for me wouldn’t be complete without some incredible photo opps, which this isn’t lacking.
The site is a registered National Natural Landmark and is the definition of “Old Florida”. Visiting the millhopper is like taking a step back in time, 236 steps to the bottom to be exact.
$5, open everyday 8 a.m. – sunset[nggallery id=133]
The first time I spotted this landmark, I was on my way to Spook Hill in Lake Wales and saw the tower peeking over the hills in the distance.
I returned several months later, and took the long drive through the acres of orange groves surrounding the gardens. As the sea of oranges parted and I caught my first glimpse of the bell tower, I knew I would love this place.
The nearly 85 year old structure sings out to guests with a unique carillon instrument composed of 60 cast bronze bells ranging in size and tone – one of only four in Florida. Click here to listen to the carillon.
While enjoying the beautiful music, travelers can meander through the 130 acres of various landscapes ranging from tropical to ornate, even an area designated for endangered plants and species.
$12, open 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. everyday[nggallery id=132]