Schools Open At Tallahassee’s Leon High for the 183th Year

School has started in Florida this week floridatraveler old Leon Academy


Public schools started this week across Florida and it is unlikely few people knew that this is the 183rd year of Florida’s oldest continuous school.  Leon High school is the 21st oldest K-12 educational institution in the United States.

Leon started as Leon Academy (see drawing above) in 1831, some 14 years before Florida obtained statehood. Growth for education was so slow that it was not until 1913 when newly named Leon High got a new structure.  The present building  at 550 West Tennessee Street was built in the 1930’s by the Works Project ADministration (WPA) for a whopping $500,000.

Critics at the time contended the school with its three stories of brick in a Mission Revival style was too expensive and too large, and the building was too far outside the center of town to grow.  They were wrong on both counts.

While Tallahassee now has seven public high schools, Leon is the old symbol, with a huge alumni list that includes Governors (LeRoy Collins) to entertainers (Faye Dunaway) to authors (Jeff Shaara).   . Leon was rated the 110th best high school in the nation by Newsweek several years ago.  


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Despite Moving the Lion King Still Roars Loud and Clear

floridatraveler lion king the chief

While vacationing in Orlando last week, I dropped by to see the status of my favorite live Walt Disney World show – the Lion King.  The popular show was moved to make room for the construction of Avatar, WDW’s gigantic attraction which will make Animal Kingdom a night park in 2016..

I am happy to report that that Lion King’s new habitat, just across the river from the new project, is a larger square structure with the performances still encircled by audience.  There isn’t a bad seat in the house and Disney was able to maintain the tremendous singing professional cast, the Olympic caliber acrobats, and skilled dancers and stunt performers.

Lion King is the best live show at WDW, but the amazing Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review at the Pioneer Hall at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground just celebrated its 40th year (1974) of production.  The show has the same corny script all these years and won’t change.  

Why should they? With 35,000 performances to ten million guests, Hoop Dee Doo is perhaps the longest major professional show in the history of American musicals.  Despite, shows three times a night seven days a week, WDW visitors must reserve seats weeks in advance.

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The Schooner Freedom Is A Trip Back to the Civil War

The Schooner Freedom Is A Trip Back to the Civil War.

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The Schooner Freedom Is A Trip Back to the Civil War

florida traveler Schooner-Freedom


There are a lot of ships in Florida offering a cruise from the largest fleet of luxury ocean liners to replicas of pirate ships, but in Saint Augustine, visitors can take a relaxing day or romantic sunset cruise on the Schooner Freedom, an unusual boat.

The Schooner Freedom is an authentic replica of a nineteenth century blockade-runner.  150 years ago during the American Civil War era dozens of such boats sailed from hidden Florida ports and sheltered bays to Cuba and the Bahamas, carrying Florida goods and bringing back supplies to keep the Confederacy going.

People willing to risk sailing one of these personal double-masted, gaft-rigged, topsail schooners were exempt from Civil War service.  Their owners were controversial for the successful ones became quite rich (Remember Rhett Butler at the start of Gone With the WInd?) until  their boats were captured or sunk by the Union navy.

There are a lot of sailed craft powered by motors in Florida, but the staff and crew of the Schooner Freedom hate the hum of the engine so most nights as you watch the sunset over Saint Augustine and you can pretend you are back in the 1860’s.



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Florida’s Most Forgotten International Airport Is Booming

floridatraveler Sanford Airport


If you saw the 1992 film Passenger 57 starring Orlando’s Wesley Snipes, you probably view the Orlando-Sanford International Airport in Sanford as a backwater country airport.  You would be very wrong.

The Airport, owned by the international firm of ADC & HAS, is, due to flight training, one of the 30 busiest airports in the world in total flight operations each year.  While it handles all of Allegiant Air’s flights into Central Florida, the airport is primarily the landing point for dozens of charter flights from Europe headed to Walt Disney World.

In the busy winter and summer travel months destinations and flights are added.  Arkefly goes to Amsterdam.  Thompson AIrlines operates charters to London and Birmingham.  Starting in October, Jetairfly will deliver passengers from Brussels.  Monarch flies to Glasgow and Manchester.

I was impressed to see SSTAIR flights arriving from Rio and Sao Paulo, Brazil.  More interesting to me was the fact I could take an Icelandair  plane to Rekjavik and than hop over to Paris, Frankfort, and Amsterdam.

The Airport hardly resembles its original role as a Naval Air Station and a Master Jet Training Base.  While you’ll land further away from Disney, you will be closer to the beaches of Daytona and Saint Augustine.



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Florida’s Most Expensive Thrill Ride Costs $4,950 plus tax

floridatraveler ZERO-G

Summertime across the USA is the time people hit the thrill rides at amusement parks and beaches.  Florida has its share of traditional fun rides, but there is one experience offered in three locations that might be the the most expensive thrill ride in Florida.

Since 2004 ZERO-G has been flying customers in specially modified Boeing 727s to 34,000 feet at a 45 degree angle (1.8 Gs) and pushing over to produce 20 to 30 seconds of zero gravity.  Gently pulling out so people can stabilize on the aircraft floor, the pilots repeat the parabolic arcs 12 to 15 more times.

Flights can be booked (406-546-9345) for Space Coast Regional Airport (TIX) and Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL) .  The firm also offers a Non-Flyer Guest Package for people who just want to watch their friends and family members do pre and post flight activities.

Besides the flight and special training, customers get their own ZERO-G flight suit, merchandise, a certificate of weightless completion, and photos and video of your experience.

If you own a business, you might want to spend $165,000 to take 35 employees or participates on a private charter ZERO-G Experience, taking off at Cape Kennedy Space Center.


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Florida Island Vacations Only Via A Ferry Boat

Florida Island Vacations Only Via A Ferry Boat.

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