Florida Keys Open For Business With Some Repairs Ongoing

No area was hit harder by Hurricane Irma than the Lower Florida Keys as the Category 4-5 storm ripped across the low-lying Keys between Marathon and Key West.    Potential visitors around the world saw on news reports waves of sea water float knee deep on the major commercial roads of Key West.  TV reporters stood outside the remains of trailer camps and boat marinas.

While early reports stated 25% of the homes in the Keys were destroyed and 65% sustained damage (which could be minor), by mid-October nearly all the major island resorts had reopened and newer houses, many on higher elevations and concrete buildings did a good job.  The most obvious impact to visitors driving to the Keys is a heavy loss of vegetation and damage to coastal properties such a docks and marinas and waterfront older wooden structures.

floridatraveler IRMA Key West wreck

Despite a Lot of Pics Like This the Keys are Not Puerto Rico or Virgins

Since clearing US1 was first priority many side streets and certainly unoccupied rural roadways still have debris.  All 42 bridges of the Overseas Highway passed the safety test and just two 300-yard strips of highway had to be replaced on the main road.

FLORIDATRAVELER KEYS key largo marriott

Big Resorts Like Key Largo Marriott Reopened Quickly

Luxury resorts and urban hotels suffered little or no serious hurricane damage and have opened, offering a lot of post-Irma prices that go to the end of the year.  The one resort we saw that wasn’t fully operational was the wonderful Hawk’s Cay Resort which sits on a small island with causeway.  The big marina was still undergoing repairs, but the other facilities are fully operating.

People may be wondering about the islands tourist attractions – both natural and man-made.  John Pennekamp State Park is operating its glass-bottom boats and other tours, but with the waterfront destruction, there are no scuba and marina facilities.  Bahia Honda State Park is open only for day visitors.  People will need to go online for the reopening of the dolphin shows in the Keys.  The highway signs are still standing, but there are trees to be cleared and buildings to repair.

floridatraveler IRMA Capt.-Tony's-Saloon-

Key West Landmarks Clean Up and Go

Key West visitors will not notice much damage to the Hemingway House or Sloppy Joe’s or Captain Tony’s Saloon.  The latter two places like a lot of Key West’s commercial structures gets flooded by storms almost every year today and have to go into a thorough cleaning.  I must admit the smell of alcohol is so strong that I would not notice the salt water intrusion into Key West bars and nightclubs.  In thirty years some of Key West’s streets might look like Venetian canals and the regulars will still arrive.

The one literary landmark that was destroyed was poet and children writer Shel Silverstein’s 1901 cottage at 618 William Street took a direct hit from a huige ficus tree and was leveled to the ground.

Waterfront and small island landmarks like Islamorada’s Robbies and The Moorings (once home for Netflix’s Bloodline TV show) were still undergoing restoration since their marina’s took a direct hit.  Key Largo’s Alabama Jack’s, which always looked like a collapsing crab shack, was still operating.

floridatraveler irma desaltination Stock Island RO

Stock Island & Marathon Desalination Plants Show Future

Sad to say, the famous wooden 1829 Bat Tower on Sugarloaf Key fell down and reconstruction is probably doubtful since not even the bats wanted to stay there.

Key Deer

I’m sure people are worried about the unique wildlife on the Florida Keys.  The Keys Deer Refuge is closed to visitors as are all state refuges in the Keys.  The key deer are being feed and helped by park rangers as a restoration of essential vegetation and protection takes place.   And an inventory in Key West shows that Hemingway’s infamous cat population found shelter during Irma.   The Conchs have a history of being survivors…. even the animals.


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The Shortcut Road: Jacksonville to Ocala: US301

My family started coming to Florida from New England during the Christmas holiday in the late 1950’s – before the Interstate Highway system was completed.  Our “short-cut route” to get from the East Coast of Florida to the West Coast was taking US 301 from the Jacksonville area to Ocala.

The road back then was not the divided four-lane highway it is today.  And it also had one of AAA’s most notorious and infamous locations – the largest and most active speed trap in the United States.  Still my father cut across on US301 with me reading the AAA map as if the car was a B52 bomber trying to avoid flak over Nazi Germany.  We never got a ticket, but my father’s hair started to fall out the next day.

“Look out – on the next curve you have to go from 60 mph to 20 mph in fifty yards and there is usually a police car hiding behind the large billboards.”  The billboards got such negative reviews from Florida visitors, eventually the advertisers pulled out.

BANNER daytona beach in 1960s

Dad never wanted to go down the East Coast in the 1960’s

            In 2007 the hamlet of Lawrey (population 700) wrote 9,000 traffic violations on their tiny strip of the highway. That world has now changed in 2014 when a corruption scandal gave the State of Florida the moxie to disband the Waldo Police force and place the road under the control of the Alachua County Sheriff.  Later that year the town of Hampton was dis-incorporated.

The big town of this section of US301 is Starke and if it is lunch time instead of visiting all the national fast food joints along the route, you should turn west or east of Call Street for some real home cooking from the locals.  I suggest the Call Street Café (111 West Call) or Tony and Al’s Deli (200 East Call).

floridatraveler Starke CALL ST CAFE

Call Street Cafe Is Certainly Small Town Florida

One of the reason for all the food places is the nearby Camp Blanding, the primary military reservation and training base for the Florida Army National Guard, the non-flying units of the Florida Air National Guard, and all the Army ROTC units in Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico.  On the 30,000 acre facility, East on FL16 is the Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park, filled with military hardware and the history of the Camp which opened in 1940.


  As a historian, I have to promote the fact you can go in the “rural, backdoor” to Florida’s most beloved literary attraction – the country home of author Marjorie Kennan Rawlings.   Her Cross Creek residence looks as it was when she wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek.  With its barn, livestock, lake, and gardens, it is a nice place for a picnic or a lawn for the kids to burn some calories.

floridatraveler US301 sleeping porch old car

On hot nights Rawlings slept on the porch near her old car.

Another landmark not far off US301 if you check the GPS or road map is one of Central Florida’s oldest towns – Micanopy.   There is nothing new here which is why the place was chosen for the film Doc Hollywood.  The gift shops are antiques and the restaurant is rural casual at its best.

Floridatraveler US301 Micanopy

Only Thing Not Old In Micanopy Are The Automobiles

US301 misses Gainesville with its masses of university students, but if it is the weekend, you will catch a lot of traffic going to the Waldo Flea Market.  One of the largest rural flea markets in Florida, there is a lot of grocery items as well as Floridana stuff that I find fun to see.   South of Alachua County is Marion County, often neglected by tourists despite the fact that the famous Silver Springs, the largest artesian spring in the world and Florida’s oldest tourist attraction (1878) is now operating as a State Park.  It is less commercial and crowded but the wonderful glass-bottom boats are still cruising the Silver River.

floridatraveler US301 silversps

I-75 is just ten miles west of US301 as both head southward toward Tampa so pick one to get back on the Interstate dragstrip.



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Halloween Special: Florida’s Most Haunted House Awaits

As a historian I sit quietly while scores of television shows and movies and books describe flying saucers and uprisings from demons and zombies and witches and of course the Great Yeti hanging out at Disney Animal Kingdom when he isn’t roaming Big Cypress Swamp.  But even I can experience the unexplainable and that is probably why I will always accept an invitation to ghost tours and big castles said to be haunted.

Since the age of a city seems to have an impact on the number of ghostly palaces and events, it is not shocking that America’s oldest continuous city – Saint Augustine – has more ghost excursions and landmarks than any other Florida city.  Almost every old building and bed and breakfast has its story with the St. Francis Inn being my choice of creepy accommodations.

floridatraveler BOO may_stringer_house_

But I have to concede that my weirdest experience came in the May-Springer House, better known to some as the Hernando County Heritage Museum.  Rising out of a small rise in the town filled with hills and history (Brooksville), the big house at 601 Museum Court, is used on ghost tours and as a Halloween house, but it is at least in the daytime a wonderful archive of the turbulent community history from the Civil War to the Cold War.  Over 10,000 artifacts are organized and placed in various themed rooms.

The original four room square house was constructed in 1855 by builder John L. May for his wife Marena and their two daughters Matilda and Annie.  May died of tuberculous before the Civil War started, but Marena stayed in the house and eventually wed local Confederate hero Frank Saxon.  In 1869 Marena died while giving birth of a daughter Jessie May.  She died of unknown causes at age three and it is this small child that is the explanation for this article.

floridatraveler BOO May-Stringer_House

As a Museum It Is Open Only In The Day Light

It is also a little gruesome to discover that John May, Marena, the infant son of Frank and Marena, and Jessie are all buried in the back of the property. Saxon sold the house to Dr. Sheldon Stringer who added ten rooms not just for his wife and three kids, but also to add a doctor’s office and turn the attic into a sanatorium for victims of smallpox and yellow fever.  No one has records of how many people died on the property, but the downstairs room has an operating table and some ugly equipment, while the attic is a dark and dank unfinished place, not exactly where you want to be a patient. A man shot during the turmoil of Reconstruction died on the front porch before he could ring the doctor’s bell.

After many owners and a slow decline the “mansion” was obtained in 1980 by The Hernando Historical Museum Association, who began a slow process of trying to restore and preserve the structure, while accepting unique historical artifacts, including Civil War weapons and flags.  The group has recorded since then dozens of strange events – not just sounds and shadows in the night, but ancient equipment starting up.  A local police officer told me the house is an enormous pain in the neck.  All the activity, of course, attracted a lot of ghost hunting TV people, but not a lot of financial contributions.

The last time my wife, my sister-in-law, and I toured the House, our guide was a high school student volunteer doing just her third tour. When we got to the bedroom which was Jessie May’s room where one may wonder if she died there, I noticed some activities that escaped explanation. There is a small closet behind the creepy crib with the Victorian doll said to be owned by the three year old.  I must admit that the doll makes Chucky look like an angel.


Photo Taken By Florida Ghost Team: The Baby Doll

 With the guide looking the other way, I watched the closet door open two inches as if someone was hiding there.  I took a step toward the crib and the closet door closed to within one-half inch.  I looked for loose, old floor boards, but the wood planks went in the wrong direction.  As the group went to the far side of the bedroom to examine some items on a tall bureau, the closet door returned to the two-inch mode.  As we piled into the hallway to visit the third floor attic, the closet door closed.

But I didn’t really leave the room; I stayed at the doorway and watched the closet door open again ever so slightly.  I quickly went to the door, opened it to see only an empty closet.  I saw no wires or electronic devices.  When I mentioned this to the oldest volunteer, she said that at least a few times a month visitors mention that experience.

What my wife noticed was the ceiling paint was pealing and the wallpaper didn’t match.  I had to write a large check so Jessie Mae’s bedroom can be restored.  I just hope that Jessie Mae doesn’t track me down in Tampa to thank me.


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Back Road Travels: Lake Wales – The Gem of Rustic US-60

Most people going from Tampa Bay to the lower Florida East Coast will take I-4 and the Florida Turnpike although there is I-75 down the West Coast to Alligator Alley.  If you want a more rural route with small towns and different scenery, you can take US60 on the east side of Tampa.

US-60 ends up in Vero Beach but hits the Florida Turnpike at Yeehaw Junction.  There is the phosphate fields of Polk County and the museum at Mulberry plus the historic town of Bartow, where the University of Florida was once housed.  The gem town on the route, however, is Lake Wales with its hills.

LAKE WALES was first surveyed in 1852, but development didn’t really grow until the railroad system began to reach the area by the 1890’s.  Developers discovered the possibilities of lumber operations and citrus production on the fertile ridge of Central Florida,  Lake Wales was close to the end of the Central Highlands of Florida.  Iron Mountain, topped by Bok Tower, is the highest point in peninsular Florida at 289 feet.

floridatraveler BOK TOWER lake wales

Bok Tower and Gardens

Lake Wales’ major tourist attraction is the beautiful gardens of BOK TOWER AND GARDENS, which are particularly a nice visit for Tampa Bay, Sarasota, and Orlando residents this time of year.  There is a restaurant.  Sad to sad to say the famous Chalet Suzanne is gone since 2014.  But SPOOK HILL, with it’s going up hill backwards illusion is still around (look at a GPS) at North Wales Drive, south of FL 17 (Burns Avenue).

floridatraveler SPOOK HILL

Here is a video of the illusion:

When the Atlantic Coastline Railroad reached Babson Park in 1911, C. V. Tillman, B. K. Bullard, E. C. Stuart, and C. L. Johnson formed the Lake Wales Land Company. Seeking Northern residents they hired engineer A. C. Nydeggar to plat a city that was a gem in small town planning.  In 1930 the famous Olmstead brothers landscaped the city of Lake Wales and neighboring Bok Tower with its Mountain Lake resort.

It is appropriate that Park Avenue is Lake Wale’s Main Street started by the ten-story DIXIE-WALESBILT HOTEL (115 North First Street).  Built in the Bust year of 1826, the Grand hotel has seen many lives with a retirement residence being the latest.

floridatraveler DIXIE HOTEl lake wales

At the start of Park Avenue is the town symbol, the 1921 TOWN CLOCK, which once stood by the railroad tracks to welcome visitor.  Now it marks the Town Square.

Nearby at 4 West Park Avenue is the UNITED STATES POST OFFICE (1940), a WPA project with the era’s popular Art Deco design.

Downtown Lake Wales is compact and small, but that has helped preserve its architectural heritage.  At 229 East Park Avenue is the lovely 1924 RODESBILT ARCADE designed by Jesse T. Rhodes in a Mediterranean Revival style.  If you think the arched entranceway is going to reveal a gorgeous interior and ceiling, you are correct.

floridatraveler ARCADE BUILDING lake walesThe Wonderful Arcade in Lake Wales

Next door is the two-story 1920 J. Y. RHODES BUILDING (255 East Park Avenue) and the LAKE WALES PHARMACY (245 East Park Avenue) started by pioneer T. J. Parker.   Lake Wales hasn’t allowed ugly modern buildings break up the downtown profile.

Across the street was one of the centers of Land Boom activity: the 1919 WESTERN UNION BUILDING (340 East Park Avenue).  At 250 East Park Avenue is the 1915 LAKE WALES STATE BANK, a Greek Revival brick structure with powerful Tuscan columns.

On the next commercial street Stuart Avenue are two of Lake Wales most attractive structures: the 1926 two-story GIBSON & LILLY BUILDING with its iron posted Mediterranean style, and the SCENIC THEATER (254 East Stuart Avenue) whose 400-seat capacity in 1920 showed the builders hoped for a high society community.

floridatraveler THE DEPOT Lake-Wales

The Old Depot Has A Nice Museum

Nearby is the block-long two-story 1919 BULLARD BUILDING that at one time housed a drug store, barber shop, post office, and meat market at once.

OTHER BUILDINGS:  Driving along the Scenic Highway (ALT US 27), you will locate other spots but you should go first to the Depot Museum at the 1928 ATLANTIC COAST LINE DEPOT (325 South Scenic Highway), one mile north of downtown.  The Depot has a historic guided tour map of Lake Wales and lots of interesting artifacts.

LAKE WALES ART CENTER (1099 Hesperides Road) was the Church of the Holy Spirit, a Spanish Colonial masterpiece with a bell tower.  Located on the crest of a hill, the views of the region are beautiful.

floridtraveler LAKE WALES Casa_de_Josefina

Casa de Josefina

The most spectacular house is two miles northeat on Lake Amoret: the 1923 mansion of realtor I. A. Yarnell known as CASA DE JOSEFINA.  The 25-room estate looks more Moorish than Mediterranean and has an exotic parapet.


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Florida’s Fall Food Festivals Start The Season

I did my annual pilgrimage to Walt Disney World’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival.  It seemed a little calm after Irma, but a visitor can pile up a huge food and beverage bill shelling out almost ten dollars a booth.  I often wonder what Walt Disney would think about all the food and drinking clubs that visit this festival.

You don’t have to go to Orlando to enjoy some weekend activities related to Florida food and entertainment. There are lots of fun alternatives this fall for Florida residents and visitors and with the weather slowly getting cooler and the big winter crowds not here, it is a great time for a weekend trip.  Here are some of the better events.

Naples’ Stone Crab Festival – Naples, FL – Oct 27 to Oct 29, 2017
A weekend of food and fun with activities both on land and in & around the water starring the stone crab.  Despite the damage in Naples by Irma, one of Southwest Florida’s favorite food festivals is still on the books.

floridatraveler STONE CRABS naples

Floridians Just Love Them Stone Crabs

The opening of the stone crab season is something that Floridians who love seafood crave all year.  This big charity raising event features over twenty of the top restaurants in Naples, lots of bands, special hotel rates, and fun for the entire family.

Micanopy Fall Festival – Micanopy, FL – Oct 28 to Oct 29, 2017

One of Florida’s oldest and most unique towns is Micanopy where the film Doc Hollywood was filmed.  This is small town Florida at its best for the historic old downtown stores seems the perfect place for an old-fashioned arts and crafts festival under the oak trees.


There’s lots of good time music, regional foods, an old-fashioned auction, buggy rides, and strict rules that only original arts and crafts are on sale.

Cooter Festival – Inverness, FL – Oct 27 to Oct 29, 2017
I may have a bias for small town showcases which bring out the best of a community and this three day music festival with entertainment, carnival rides and vendors makes that category.

floridatraveler COOTER FEST

Liberty Park alongside Lake Henderson will be packed with 100+ vendors, fireworks, lot of food and kids events, and a long list of bands. And the festival has no admission charge.  By the way, a cooter is a turtle (or is it a tortoise?)

Native Rhythms Festival – Melbourne, FL – Nov 10 to Nov 12, 2017
For something very different, there is this three and a half day festival during Native American Heritage Month  which honors the culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas through native music.

floridatraveler Native-Rhythms-Festival-Flyer

Located at Wickham Park the festival has its food and arts and crafts, but showcases some 16 flute maker vendors and jewelry vendors.  The Native American flute is the festival focus and visitors have been amazed ever since this festival started.

Downtown Festival & Art Show – Gainesville, FL – Nov 11 to Nov 12, 2017
This is a monster of a festival visited by over 100,000 people who fill the streets of historic downtown Gainesville from City Hall to the Hippodrome State Theatre.


Art Not Football Packs In This Gainesville Crowd

This is a major celebration of art and creativity with live music, performing arts and a diverse selection of drink and food. Four stages for music and over 240 selected artists make this a big family event.

Miami Harvest Festival – Miami, FL – Nov 18 to Nov 19, 2017

In its 43rd year is this large, urban arts and crafts and music festival that starts the Miami tourist season.  This festival has an admission charge for it had many indoor facilities, but is oriented for kids with free petting zoo, railroad and pony rides, and lots of games.

floridatraveler MIAMI ART FEST.jpg

Will be featuring all the major Florida winter festivals and events, including some that are not well advertised.  MCL




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Marco Island and Goodland Have Survived The Wrath of Hurricane Irma

Hurrican Irma arrived at mainland Florida at the island community of Marco Island and a fishing village of GoodlandWhile there was extensive damage, particularly to the coastal facilities it looks like most of the area will soon be ready for the great influx of winter tourists and snowbirds.

Floridatraveler marco_aerial

As An Island Filled With Waterways, Marco Island Survived Irma

MARCO ISLAND , the site of a famous archaeological expedition in 1895, is a six by four mile island at the southwest corner of Florida. It has seen a lot of storm but taking a direct hit by Irma tested the endurance of the area.

Fishing and farming dominated Marco Island life even after 1870 when Captain W. T. Collier and his son William D. Collier of Tennessee arrived in their schooner Robert E. Lee.

FLORIDATRAVELER -marco-island-20170914

Downed Vegetation and Flooding Were The Main Problems

In 1922 New York advertising executive Barron Collier (no relation) brought his Fort Myers to Southern Railroad to Marco Island and a few hotels were built.  It was not until after World War II when developers like the Mackle Brothers turned most of the pristine tropical island into an upscale retirement community and resort, with a maze of canals and roadways. There is little of the wilderness left on Marco Island although the island is still surrounded by the hundreds of virgin islands great for exploring, fishing, and boating.

WHERE TO START: One usually enters Marco Island from the north and in winter there are ninety minute trolley tours will give newcomers a good look at the developments. Sadly there is little of physical buildings of historic note to see the local historical group does a good job of erecting historic signs, but this makes a tour even more disturbing to a historian like myself.

If you drive west on Capri Boulevard to the (1) ISLES OF CAPRI, you’ll see the remains of a quaint fishing village which most of the area resembled prior to the 1950’s.

On the island, at 1102 North Collier is the (2) MARCO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE , which has brochures and often a historic display.

The north end of Marco Island contains the last remnants of the fishing community, including (3) MARCO ISLAND CEMETERY where the graves of pioneers like the first Colliers reside. I like the tropical remains of the northern tip of Marcos Island more than the crowded beachfront.

The SNOOK INN has survived and will open to the thrill of winter visitors.  They might see that the docks required repair.  In fact, boats and docks seem to be the most damaged items on the island.

floridatraveler SNOOK INN

Marco Island Landmarks Like the Snook Inn Are Being Repaired

The Northern tip also contains the (4) W. D.COLLIER HOUSE, on North Bald Eagle, not far from the site of Olde Marco Ferry Landing, which brought in visitors from 1920 to 1938. The Village School (1889) was located at this spot. At 100 Palm Street is the (5) OLDE MARCO INN(1883), a restaurant occupying part of W. D. Collier’s Inn and Victorian sections converted inbto suites with complete kitchens.

floridatraveler OLDE MARCO INN front

Marco Island’s historic Olde Marco Inn

Return to Collier Drive, head west to the Gulf of Mexico. A good diversion is (6) TIGERTAIL BEACH, off Seaview Circle. It is the only large public beach on Marco Island, but it is lovely tropical setting.

Traveling south on Collier, you will pass condominiums and large resort hotels. Except for extensive damage to vetegation, they seem in good shape. At the tip of Collier is (7) POINT MARCOwith a good view of the thousands of coastal islands stretching into the Everglades.

Drive east on Winterberry and then right on Inlet Drive. On your left is the (9) SITE OF THE CAXAMBAS CLAM FACTORY (1904), off Osceola Court and (10) INDIAN HILL CALUSA MOUND. Not much of the fifty foot site where the Cazambras School survived huricanessurvived civilization.

floridatraveler STANS temp closed

Goodland’s Stan’s Idle Hour Will Be Ready For The Winter

Returning to Barfield Road you’ll pass the (12) SITE OF THE PINEAPPLE PLANTATION and if you continue westward, you’d reach (13) GOODLANDa small fishing town with a good mix of old buildings and seafood restaurants which I’m sure people feared might be destroyed.

Goodland took the most direct hit of Irma and the storm damaged the popular waterfront.  STAN’S IDLE HOUSE survived and is being reopened although the fish house looks in worse shape.  People around here have lived with many a bad storm and will rebuilt the fishing industry.

Closed thanks to Irma repairs is the LITTLE BAR & RESTAURANT whose main dining room is the interior of the Star of the Everglades, a boat used in movies and by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower to tour the Everglades.

Going northward on Barfield Drive, it is heavily residential with (14) THE ESTATES, rows of large mansions off the road. Off Inlet Drive is the (15) GEORGE YOKE ESTATE, an early estate whose stone fence angered the neighborhood. Before you return to FL 951, you’ll pass the Marcos Island Golf and Country Club with its (16) ISLAND CLUB.

By November most of Marco island and Goodland will be ready for the prime winter season.


Posted in attractions, conservation, dining, environment, florida history, florida vacations, Historic Buildings, Historic Hotels & Inns, Hurricanes, marco island, mcbobleonard, museums, Recreational Experiences, Restaurants, small towns, travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida Food Truck Movement Rolls On

As our society becomes more mobile with cell phones and robotics and nanotechnology more and more people on the move to work or recreation stop to eat at fast, efficient food trucks.   In Florida the food truck revolution has not declined; it has matured.

With the beach months of tourism slowing, food trucks are less seen around parks and beaches, but they will show up in mass at Florida’s major events and are regular fixtures wherever large gatherings of people are found.  Even Disney has theme food trucks at their huge shopping community Disney Springs.

floridatraveler TAMPA FOOD TRUCK RALLY huge

Food Trucks Pour Into Downtown Tampa

The State of Florida licenses two types of outside restaurants: the good old hot dog cart that still is found in city parks at lunch time and the MFDV (Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicles).  The latter have to have full dish-washing capacity, a commissary or water/sewerage system, and refrigeration while the former must just meet refrigeration, power (often LP-gas tank), and plumbing rules.

floridatraveler TAMPA FOOD TRUCK SHOW

Tampa Truck Rally Attracts People

MFDVs have become high tech vehicles operating complete bakeries and restaurant services.  Still, since MFDVs are far cheaper than starting a regular restaurant, they have become a great opportunity for people who cater to niche audiences and offer an incredible diversity of ethnic and trend foods.  And if the location doesn’t attract enough business, you can more in elsewhere.

Food trucks develop a following and since some have a change of location, most have Facebook and Twitter accounts or rely on mega-search websites like roaminghunger.com or mobile-cruise.com to help diners find their location.  The major food trucks in big cities in Florida are featured in all these search sites.  You can even look up food truck reviews on Yelp.

floridatraveler SMOKE SHACK tampa on gandy

Open For Business On Tampa’s Gandy Blvd.

I first became a food truck fan in Tampa with the old Taco Bus and the original site just off I-275 on Hillsborough Avenue is still the place to drop in for good Mexican dishes and Horchata drinks.    If you love burgers track down the Burger Culture Truck.   I found a food truck at the cell phone lot at Tampa International Airport.

In Tampa, look for: Hott Mess (hot dogs); Los Comparres (Mexican), South Pacific Grill (Asian Fusian), The Smoke Shack (BBQ).


Food Trucks At Disney Springs (AllEars Photo)

Orlando claims over 200 food trucks most located in the vicinity of the 70 million tourists that hit Central Florida and the theme parks.  Some of the best trucks to track down are: Kona Dog (Hawaiian), La Empanada (Cuban), Treehouse Truck (burgers and famous), and Arepas El Cocao (Latin Ameriucan).

Miami, with its great international atmosphere, has been able to educate hungry travelers with the favorite dishes of Latin America and the Caribbean.  Food trucks dot the routes to the beaches, but also serve downtown Miami and even Miami Beach visitors.


The Purple People Eatery has been a legendary food truck.  Other trucks to find include:  Cilantra 17 Gastro Truck (Peruvian, Puerto Rican), El Toro Loco (Brazilian), and Che Milanesa (Argentine).

When a food truck gets super-popular, they often add bricj and mortar buildings which has happened to some of Miami’s favorite cheese food trucks like Ms. Cheezious and Hispanic eateries on wheels.


A Food Truck In Jacksonville

You will find food trucks in all large Florida cities.  The Aviator, a Jacksonville food truck, won the Travel Channel food truck contest.


Posted in adventure vacation, art, attractions, beer, business, dining, disney springs, Florida Food, florida history, Florida parks, florida vacations, food, mcbobleonard, Restaurants, travel, Walt Disney World | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment