Most tourists seem to gravitate toward crowded, expensive theme parks or hot, crowded beaches, but if you’re looking to get off the beaten path when you travel to Florida, you should consider the history and some of the more cultural offerings. of the Sunshine State. From North Florida with the southern hospitality of the Panhandle to the exciting cultural influences in the lower end of the state, a Florida vacation offers endless possibilities for unusual places to visit.
Every coast, in fact, from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Gulf Coast included, exudes history related not only to America, but also to the world. From the Keys to Tallahassee, the importance of Florida’s dynamic history and the history of the state is immediately apparent, and locals look forward to sharing their myriad cultural assets with you.
Where to go and what to do during your Florida vacation:
Tropical Treasures in the Keys
Key West, slightly off the coast of Florida and connected by a bridge, is a continuously sunny destination that has fascinated everyone from President Harry Truman and Tennessee Williams to Ernest Hemingway and the US Navy. The famous author Hemingway, after a vacation in Florida, subsequently decided to live in Key West, and his house has now been turned into a museum with the descendants of his polydactyl cat still roaming the grounds.
With the proximity of the ocean, locals and tourists alike enjoy activities that incorporate the blue water of the sea, including ship salvage and diving for ancient sunken treasures. Many US Presidents, including Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt, reinforced local lore and Florida history by calling Key West home in the winter months at the Southernmost House Grand Hotel and Museum.
Early Industrialists in Fort Myers
Both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford decided to call Fort Myers home in the winter months after vacationing in Florida. Edison’s home, called “Seminole Lodge,” has been accurately renovated to reflect the time period in which it was built and resided, and includes one of the first modern swimming pools in Florida history and his laboratory as he would have Dyed. being a good example of one of the best historical places in Florida.
Adjacent to Edison’s elegantly designed house is “The Mangoes”, Henry Ford’s newly renovated winter home. After a vacation in Florida, Ford decided that Fort Myers would be better than the cold of Michigan. A garage filled with restored vintage Ford automobiles completes the serene setting. Both historic homes have lush gardens along the Caloosahatchee River.
The contrasts of Palm Beach
From industrial influences to charming gardens, Palm Beach is a sunlit city of contrasts. Henry Flagler linked Florida’s cities after realizing that a sophisticated transportation system could help revitalize the state and bring more vacationing tourists to Florida. Beginning in the late 1880s, Flagler began buying railroads, combining the routes and laying more tracks along the shorelines and eventually in between. The Henry Flagler Museum, housed in his grand winter home called “Whitehall,” heralds his accomplishments and his idea of bringing the first for-profit vacationers to the state, a first in Florida history.
Located just outside the city limits in Delray Beach, the vast and serene Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens bring Japan to the Florida coast. Exhibits include galleries highlighting ancient and modern Japanese art and culture, tea ceremonies, festival celebrations, tasting events, and special exhibits in the gardens. While on vacation in Florida, the Morikami is a must see.
Family Fun in Sunny Sarasota
Sarasota is another hotbed of historic places in Florida. The city has a detailed cultural history complete with Native American and Spanish influences. Highlighting 5,000 years of Florida history, Historic Spanish Point features prehistoric Indian mounds, living history reenactments, archeological tours, a butterfly garden and pioneer-era buildings. Cruises on historically inspired vessels sail the Sarasota Bay for an entertaining end to your Florida vacation.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Ringling Museum of the American Circus focus on the home of the museum’s namesakes who designed their massive mansion to mimic European architecture, a fine example of one of Florida’s most elaborate historic sites . Ca d’Zan, completed in 1926, saw the largest and most expensive parties of the early 20th century in Sarasota. The Art Museum, from the Ringling Collection, showcases old and new art from America, Europe and Asia. The circus museum, which opened to the public in 1948 and has since become a popular stop during Florida vacations, has a large collection of flyers, posters, costumes and props from the early days of the circus. Also on the grounds is a miniature circus built by Howard Tibbals, who was integral to the design of the small circus stage that is now a part of Florida history.
Military origins in Pensacola
Home of the Blue Angels, Pensacola, a must-see on a Florida vacation, is proud to be the home of naval aviation. More than 150 restored Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aircraft are on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, where visitors can experience the flight simulator or learn more about naval aviation in Florida history and the rest of the world at the Memorial Theatre. . In addition, the museum features an IMAX screen, a restoration hangar tour, cabin coaches, and Blue Angels events on select days.
Nearby is the historic Fort Pickens, which was built in 1834 and was used well into the 1940s. Significant in Florida history, the Fort had been influential during the Civil War and by the mid-1880s , the famous Apache warrior, Geronimo, was imprisoned at the Fort, where he became a sideshow for tourists on vacation in Florida. A Visitor Center displays memorabilia, art, and books that enhance the history of the Fort.
The beautiful Gulf of the Panhandle
Surprisingly, Apalachicola, the secluded and charming Gulf Coast town steeped in Florida history, offers plenty of options for things to see and do. The Camp Gordon Johnston Museum offers a glimpse into the lives of World War II soldiers and their intensive training. Opened in 1942, the camp, a permanent reminder of the military’s impact on Florida history, trained America’s amphibious soldiers before they left for war, and remnants of the training camp and camp still survive. . Exhibits include photographs, items, and trinkets from the camp’s heyday.
In the center of the city, the historic Old Town has more than 900 buildings, built in the early 19th century, listed on the National Register. Walking tours allow visitors to explore each site in depth and include an old cotton warehouse, three parks, and rows of oak and magnolia trees. A Visitor Center offers maps, ideas, and directions for experiencing historic downtown Apalachicola during your Florida vacation.
History from coast to coast
When vacationing in Florida, the Sunshine State offers much more than beautiful beaches and warm weather. From coast to coast, Florida and the history of its people and culture still influence its society and lifestyle. You don’t have to worry about endless options on where to go or what to do – if you’re looking for history of any kind, Florida has it!