Small Town Series: This article is part of one of the series that this website will feature as Florida slowly unwraps from the effects of the virus. This article features small towns most visitors to Florida might not normally put on their travel lists.

FLORIDATRAVELER seaside-banner

It’s been over two decades since Jim Carrey escaped from the TV-studio bubble in The Truman Show (1998) and many people now don’t realize that the town on the scenic ocean was not a movie set, but a real Florida village. While its main shops are presently closed due to the virus, they will soon reopen.

Businessman Robert Davis took the eight beachfront acres in Seagrove Beach off US98 that his granddad Alabama store owner J. S. Smolian purchased in 1946 and bought more acreage.  Davis loved his youth there and wanted to resurrect his fond memories.


But Davis’ idea for a unified village with over 200 wood frame cottages was not typical in 1980, for Davis loved New Urbanist architecture and recruited Luxembourg urban designer Leon Krier to make his idea a reality.  They then hired Miami architects Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Syberk to establish a Southern vernacular design that fit the rural location.

I once owned a condo in downtown Celebration so I realize while some people will love a town without front lawns and perfectly designed walking paths, others will find the conformity or uniformity scary.  It is this division of feeling that made Seaside the ideal spot for The Truman Show about a man born into an artificial glass-domed town where everyone and everything was a daily television set.

FLORIDATRAVELER seaside-odessa pavilion

Seaside is a real town with real people.  You will be thrilled or maybe chilled when you visit.   The location in Florida’s Panhandle means that Seaside would be unlikely to attract industry. In fact, most residents need to drive down the highway for most of their shopping, despite the quaint downtown surrounding the VILLAGE GREEN, site of the Post Office just off FL30A. Seaside fills up in winter with Northern renters and in summer with Southern beach-goers so that the small all-year population truly does know each other.

FLORIDATRAVELER great southern cafe

Davis warned his critics that Seaside was “an idealized vision of a town” and that it was going to remain “a holiday town.” Still, you might think you are in the movie The Truman Show when you see that despite amazing architecture the white fences and common lettering system gives the village a conforming feel despite houses showing Victorian, New Classical, and other designs..

 TOURING SEASIDE can be done on foot since the original village contains just eighty compressed acres, but if you want to drive most of the residential streets using the map, it is best to park at the Village Green or the COTTAGE RENTAL AGENCY and visit the interesting shops, the Playhouse, the Great Southern Cafe (good food), and the Seaside Chapel.

FLORIDATRAVELER seaside-chapel

Most people will next want to walk over FL30A to the many beach pavilions, the most photographed features of Seaside, and in keeping with protecting the sand dunes and sea grapes. Each of these walkways is delightful – the wave-shaped Natchez Street Pavilion, the stick shack Odessa Street Pavilion, the latticework East Ruskin Street Pavilion, and the key Tupelo Street Pavilion.

WARNINGIt is nice to eat beachside, but the food at the beach didn’t match the cafes at the Village Green.

TUPELO STREET was the first Seaside street and it features some of the most notable cottages, including the GIANT’S ROOST AND TOWER at 109 Tupelo, where renters can get a bird’s eye-view of all the village, and the one-story per floor LEON KRIER COTTAGE, at 115 Rupelo. Krier came from Europe so maybe he wanted a townhouse. Notice all the narrow footpaths that connect each street. Walkers can get around faster than people in automobiles.

FLORIDATRAVELER seaside-nesbitt cottage

Another interesting street is RUSKIN STREET with the wildly skeletal ROGER’S LIGHTHOUSE located at 110 Ruskin, the work of Victoria Casasco. Three doors down is Walther Chatham’s futuristic Cracker dogtrot style cottage with two peaked roofs. SEASIDE AVENUE is the village’s widest esplanade with many two-story houses that serve as large family rentals. At 204 Seaside is the large two-story clapboard double porch vernacular with widow’s walk built by founder Robert Davis

Floridatraveler seaside chapel


For people who are still looking for “motion picture shots,” you will notice that the town grocery was used as a meeting spot in the film, and Truman’s home is located at 31 Natchez Street.  The bubble may be gone, but the uniqueness of Seaside is still there.

#seaside  #Trumanshow  #movies  #florida


Posted in florida history | Leave a comment

My Favorite Weirdest Attractions in Florida

With the virus limiting travel and tourism in Florida, I am writing articles oriented toward the entire state summarizing some past content and painting a wide picture.  As a history teacher, it irritates me how much of the History Channel and even the Travel Channel is dedicated to UFOs, ghosts, and Big Foot.

But I must admit that people are greatly fascinated by these topics so I am featuring “my favorite weirdest attractions” in Florida.  They have to be for real and they have to have value as a location to visit.

CORAL CASTLE (Homestead)

Coral Castle has confused and fascinated engineers and scientists from around the world for decades.  The site, just off US1, is a gigantic limestone structure constructed by one 120-pound, heart-broken Latvian immigrant without the help of machinery or other people.

floridatraveler CORAL CASTLE

Giant one-ton doors rotate at the touch of a finger.  The huge picnic table is shaped like Florida.  An observatory that must weight three tons pints directly to various stars as an observatory.  Even more amazing, Edward Leedskalnin (1887-1951) secretly moved the entire site when threatened by road construction.  All he ever told people is that he learned the use of levers from the Egyptians.

CASSADEGA (Volusia County)

A few miles off the Lake Helen exit on I-4 is a small, unincorporated village known to some travelers as “the Psychic Capital of the World.”  It is not a sideshow operation, but the center of the Southern Spiritualist Association.  The meeting hall, the church, and most of the Victorian houses belong to spiritualists who believe you can talk to the dead and learn about life.

floridatraveler CASSADEGA HOTEL

The village started way back in 1875 by New Yorker George P. Colby, who believed that a Florida winter site would be important to his fellow spiritualists.  There is a hotel, often in winter housing believers from around the globe. Walking around the compact community is an experience even if you don’t want to meet a medium.


Most people will find a scenic Florida state park with campgrounds and canoe/kayak rentals on a river not to be the likely site for an unusual Utopian community.  In the 1870’s Cyrus Teed, known as “Koresh” to his followers, came to isolated Estero to start a colony known as Koreshan Unity.  Some eleven historic buildings remain from a settlement that contained miles of roadways lined with bamboo trees.

FLORIDATRAVELER Koreshan_SHS_planetary_court02

The village produced electricity in a region which had none. The most fascinating structure is the large meetinghouse where Koresh taught his followers that we live inside the world.  In winter there is actually a small restaurant serving food from the Koreshan Unity bakery cookbook.


Some people would get upset if I didn’t include this Florida icon of a museum on US 41 in the Upper Everglades, dedicated to Florida’s version of Big Foot.  The exhibits and evidence might not convince you of the creature, but you’ll like the friendly and informative staff.


Not far away, if you look on the south side of the highway, you’ll see the Ochopee Post Office, the smallest in the United States.

floridatraveler SMALLEST POST OFFICE


It may be appropriate for a state like Florida surrounded by oceans that the most visited celebrity grave is that of a dolphin.  Located at MM 59 on the Gulf side of US1’s island hopping trip to Key West is the Dolphin Research Center.  Obviously closed as an attraction at the present time, the center is more concerned with living mammals than dead ones.



But on the property, complete with a statue, is Flipper (1964-1972), star of the 1960’s television show and movie.  Flipper was really Mitzi and she got the featured part for she could do for things than her standbys.


I know what you are thinking.  This is one of the Ancient City’s typical tourist traps with lots of weird and ugly exhibits, much of which has nothing to do with Florida.  So I am going to tell you what the Ripley people don’t tell you in full detail.

The building was constructed in 1887 as Warden Castle, the winter home of Bill Warden, John D. Rockefeller’s financier.  It was vacant during the Depression until 1941 when Ocala hotel man Norton Baskin turned it into a luxury hotel.  He designed the penthouse into an apartment for his wife famed author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  Baskin thought her relationship to the hotel would help promote the place.

floridatraveler RIPLEY MUSEUM

Rawlings hated the place for she wanted privacy and half the town could tell if she was staying there. She took her Pulitzer Prize money and bought a nice beach house at Crescent Beach.  She really got pissed off when her hubby put a mutual female friend in the penthouse when she was away and town folk felt Baskin was having an affair.

floridatraveler MARGORIE RAWLINGS

Baskin promised his wife never again to put someone in the penthouse, but on April 23, 1944, with her husband serving in the military, Rawlings violated her own ruling by letting a friend stay in the penthouse.  With Rawlings at Crescent Beach, a fire started on the third floor of the hotel and two women were killed, one of them her friend trapped in the penthouse bathroom.

Today Ripley has a “Finding Mr. X Tour” for the second woman who died was not fully identified and a strange man in Room 13 took off after the fire.  Workers at the museum complain about seeing a female ghost and if that is so, it is probably the woman in the penthouse.  Or maybe it is the ghost of Rawlings cursed by her decision.

#florida  #weird   #attractions











Posted in florida history | Leave a comment


With so many Florida attractions, restaurants, and resorts still closed due to the virus, I want to feature some things that the virus can not drastically change.  And that is Florida – the Natural Place.


It was a Saint Petersburg newspaper reporter in the 1890s that started the notion that Florida was “the Sunshine State.”  Compared to the place where winter tourists were coming, Florida might have seemed “sunny.”  In reality, there are six or seven states with more sunshine annually than us.


               Fort Jefferson in Florida has also never seen a freezing day.

But the truth is you don’t go to Florida because there is a sun.  You go because it is nice are warm in February when Chicago is under a blizzard of snow.  Denver gets more sun than Miami, but would you wear a bathing suit outside in Colorado in January?

Florida should advertise itself as “The Warm State.”


The virus has actually caused thousands of Florida snowbirds to stay in Florida rather than to return to New York and New Jersey.  Many are wondering if what will be worst: summer in Florida or disease in New York City.

FLORIDATRAVELEr florida is hot and humid

          I will not lie: Florida temperatures rise over ninety across the state in the summer and the humidity is high.  My Tampa has an average humidity of 87% vs San Diego at 76% and Honolulu at 71%. Key West is the only city in the continental United States that has never had a freezing temperature.

On June 29, 1931, Monticello hit 109 degrees F and on February 13, 1899, Tallahassee dropped to -2 degrees F. These hottest and coldest spots are just 24 miles apart!   Going north in Florida does not mean cooler temperatures in July.


Look in an almanac and you read that Georgia (57,906 square miles) is the largest state east of the Mississippi River.  Florida not only trails Georgia, but it is also smaller than Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  But wait! If you count all the lakes in those states, you will note that at 65,755 square miles, Florida is the LARGEST state east of the Great River.

I contend that since Floridians live on boats and houseboats on our lakes, the lakes are indeed part of Florida counties.

Florida’s long thin “Biblical seven” shape also desperately hides its true size.  To drive from Pensacola to Key West, it takes 12.5 hours and 832 miles of roadway.  New York to Chicago is 802 miles and Cincinnati to New Orleans is 805 miles.


Look at the map and notice that if you drive due north from Pensacola, you’ll hit Chicago and Miami on Florida’s East Coast is as far west as Pittsburgh.    Florida is very south also.  Jacksonville, Florida’s most Northern large city, is further south than San Diego, California’s most Southern city.


          Ironically the most Western and most Southern American state is Hawaii.   Florida does have something that only the Northwestern Hawaiian chain of the island has.  Florida has Marquesas Keys, the only known atoll in the Atlantic Ocean.


Florida is the only state located on two huge bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.  Only Alaska has more coast than our 1,350 miles.  The peninsula emerged out of the ocean and is slowly going back as oceans arise.  I don’t worry for I live at a staggering 12-feet above sea level and my science friends say Florida will not drown in a Hollywood movie-style tidal wave.  But we will start to look like Holland, only with Pina Coladas, not tulips.


          This photograph should upset people in Florida: when the Everglades starts to become a saltwater marsh, some one million freshwater alligators will be heading northward for one of Florida’s 30,000 lakes or three million swimming pools.


Despite some earthquakes south of Puerto Rico, Florida is not very near any active fault lines.  But if you live in some counties in Central Florida, it is wise to look into “catastrophic ground cover collapse insurance.  That is a polite way of saying “sinkhole protection.”  Despite serious attempts by the construction industry to avoid dangerous limestone real estate, Florida gets 400 new sinkholes every year.


          In 1981, a 300-foot wide, 100-foot deep sinkhole appeared in upper-income Winter Park and consumed one house, six automobiles, and a swimming pool.  At least we Floridians have a warning of the gradual nature of most sinkholes.  Only four people are known to have died in sinkholes in the last fifty years.

Keep Safe.           #florida  #nature   #sinkholes   #water



Posted in florida history | Leave a comment


With most of Florida’s tourist attractions, top restaurants, and resorts closed or operating on a limited basis, I thought I would contribute a story on one of Florida’s favorite topics: TREASURE.   In this case, it isn’t pirate gold, but Confederate gold coins.

As a historian and college professor, I get several emails and letters every year from people who wishfully hope I have some lost diary or letter that might provide evidence where there is treasure such as “the Confederate treasury that fled Richmond before that city fell.”

floridatraveler CONFEDERATE GOLD

Most scholars question whether the treasury was that extensive, but I can assure you some of it got to Florida and some of that gold might still be buried on the roadway between Archer and Waldo, Florida.

Here is a story based upon these facts:

It is APRIL 1, 1865, and the Confederacy is collapsing.  In Florida, locals get a real jolt. Governor JOHN MILTON, worn down by the stress of his office and depressed with the inevitable collapse of Richmond, goes to his Marianna plantation Sylvania and fires a bullet into his skull.  Ironically, Tallahassee is the only Rebel capital east of the Mississippi River that the Union forces do not invade.

Floridatraveler JOHN MILTON

APRIL 2, 1865:  Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet flee Richmond by train. What is left of the Confederate Treasury and funds in the banks of Richmond are placed in a second train in boxcars that contain four Conestoga wagons and nine large buckboards.   Important Confederate documents are also in the cargo.


APRIL 3, 1865:  Richmond falls and Grant begins his chase of Lee south of the Rebel Capital.  Although some Confederate officials are still talking about starting a new Rebel government in Texas, Cuba, or even the Bahamas, their plans will soon be ruined.  The gold train could not reach the Deep South with General Sherman’s forces controlling the rail routes.

APRIL 9, 1865Robert E. Lee surrenders the Confederate Army to U.S. Grant.  The cause seems lost except to a few militants.  In Washington, Georgia, the Richmond bank money is placed in a local bank to return to Virginia.  Rebel funds are divided into various wagons and soldiers are paid.  Then the wagons go in different directions.

floridatraveler LEE & GRANT

MAY 10, 1865:  Confederate President Jefferson Davis is captured outside Irwinville, Georgia. The 4th Michigan Cavalry claim Davis’s party has only a few dollars.

May 15, 1865:  A small wagon train secretly enters Florida along a backwoods trail.  Ten Rebel soldiers, two civilian scouts, and five black laborers travel at night to avoid Union forces that guard the Florida roads.

May 22, 1865:   The wagons reach their destination: Cotton Wood, the plantation of former United States Senator DAVID LEVY YULEE, the railroad pioneer who built a railroad route from Fernandina to Cedar Key and right past Yulee’s Archer, Florida, farm.


The Senator is away but Mrs. Levy tells them the sad news that President Davis has been captured.  The soldiers hide the wagon and give Mrs. Yulee chests and bags containing not just Rebel records, but some of Davis’ personal belongings.

That night, almost alongside the railroad, the ten Confederates decide to divide up the money they have, giving each soldier 400 gold sovereigns (worth $1,940 in 1865) plus $55 in travel expenses.  They give another $975 in gold to each of the civilians and the five black servants.

MAY 23, 1865:   The next morning Senator Yulee arrives and advises the men to seek paroles, surrender, and go home to their families in Virginia.  The men leave immediately.

floridatraveler DAVID LEVY

Records show that the ten soldiers surrendered at Waldo and Baldwin, and no mention of Confederate gold was made.  It may be assumed that the men may have buried the gold along the rail route, knowing they would be searched if captured.

May 24, 1865:  Senator Yulee took the Davis trunks to the Waldo railroad depot where Union forces seized them.  Hours later Captain O. E. Bryant and Union cavalry arrived at Cotton Wood to take the wagons.  They found no gold but Mrs. Yulee presented Bryant with Jefferson Davis’ French musket.

The Confederate gold may not have reached the Bahamas, but one key Rebel leader did escape via Florida.  

MAY 25, 1865: Confederate Secretary of State JUDAH PHILLIP BENJAMIN reached the sugar plantation of Robert Gamble on the banks of the Manatee River. 

floridatraveler GAMBLE MANSION

Many tales stated he was dressed as a woman (sic); the reality was that Benjamin, born in the Dutch Virgin Islands, pretended he was a lost French newsman.

Judah Philip Benjamin Painting; Judah Philip Benjamin Art Print for sale

Judah Philip Benjamin Painting; Judah Philip Benjamin Art Print for sale

A few days later, pretending to be a French cook, the Gambles got him on a boat leaving Sarasota Bay. Benjamin moved to London and served as a lawyer.

#florida  #treasure  #gold  #civil war





Posted in florida history | Leave a comment


A recent article that Tom Hanks might play the role of Colonel Tom Parker in a planned new Warner Brothers movie about the life of Elvis Presley attracted my attention.  I don’t know if the screenplay will feature Parker since no one was proposed for the Elvis role. I suspect this movie will be a backstage expose of the two men.

Floridatraveler ELVIS pic of Colonel Tom Parker

Florida and Elvis and the Colonel go hand in hand.  Yes, I know Elvis was raised in Tupelo, Mississippi, moved to Memphis as a teen, and showed up at Sam Philips’ Sun Records.

Elvis went on a Florida tour on May 7, 1955, with his guitarist Scotty Moore serving as manager and big brother.  The King of Rock got $50 to warm up Hank Snow and was just a red-sequined “Special Added Attraction” for what was mainly a country music tour, the most common show in the South.

The next day (May 8, 1955) Elvis was performing at Tampa’s Homer Hesterly Armory, the first of nine shows he would do in the Big Guava in the first fifteen months of his career.  By mid-1956, Elvis did 41 Florida shows. Young women immediately went wild and from the start experienced entertainers did not want the young singer to open their show.  Faron Young told Elvis it was dirty to shake his hips. 

FLORIDATRAVELER Fort Hesterly Armory-006

I never saw Elvis at Fort Hesterly since I moved to Florida in 1961, but I saw Elvis at the late Curtis Hixon Auditorium.  There was even a song about Elvis not liking Tampa, but he kept showing up with Tampa shows possibly because of the Colonel.

Colonel Parker was really “Andres van Kuijk” and he never became a U.S. citizen. The Colonel listing was also fake, a title he got from political friends and not military service.  Parker was once Tampa’s dogcatcher and he once lived above the Humane Society at 3607 North Armenia Avenue. He was a carnival announcer and then a Florida promoter, which is how he got became part of the Elvis story.

FLORIDARAVELER elvis Adams City Hatters

Parker was prematurely bald and that is how I met the Colonel.  When in town Parker got his famous fedoras from Joe Adams, Tampa’s mad hatter, and a downtown icon. It was clear from the start that Parker was a wheeler-dealer and disliked by many locals as a con man.  Parker loved to talk about Elvis to anyone who was in the store.

FLORIDARAVELER elvis and the colonel

Elvis was always “my boy.”  Parker kept saying this line. Parker hated airplanes so Elvis turned down huge sums of money to perform in Europe and Japan.  Parker had been kicked out of the Army so he hated Elvis’ military tour in Germany, where Parker lost influence. Elvis was committed to ten movies, each of which had to have a new album of songs of varying degrees of quality.

By the summer of 1956, Elvis had made 41 Florida concerts from Miami to Jacksonville.  Elvis’ July 30-31, 1955, show at Hesterly was the Parker’s first Elvis performance and Parker actually paid the Tampa Sertoma Club to get Elvis on a country show headed by TV star Andy Griffith.  A huge billboard showed Elvis in tiny letters.

FLORIDATRAVELER Elvis in Tampa and the photo albums

But that didn’t bother the Colonel.   He had hired the best photographer in Tampa, William Robertson, to capture the performance in front of a huge crowd, many of them older people.  These photos would be used on Elvis record covers for many years.  The Colonel also helped Elvis get a fancy convertible as part of the image.

FLORIDATRAVELER elvis the tonsil album

Elvis’ first hit also has Florida routes.  A Jacksonville fan Mae Axton wrote the music for friend Tommy Durden, a local guitarist, who wrote a song.  The tune was “Heartbreak Hotel.   And with a touch-up job to make the song more edgy, it became the song that launched Elvis into 1956 stardom.


Posted in florida history | Leave a comment

Will The Virus Ruin Walt Disney World’s 50th Birthday Party?

The family entertainment center of the world is completely closed down.  International Drive is more deserted than on the last hurricane attack.  Since 9.8% of Florida workers are in the travel and vacation industry, the economy, particularly in Central Florida, is in bad shape.

No one is certain how long and how hard the virus will be in Florida, since only Southeast Florida (Miami/Fort Lauderdale) is now in a hot spot category  I live in Tampa and there is a huge mansion going up in the lot next to my house.  Construction is not part of the Florida lockdown, but it seems workers are intentionally moving slowly as if this may be their last contract for many weeks and Disney construction is nil due to the volume of workers.

This brings up the main point of this article.  How will the virus shape all the plans for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021? 

A month ago my Disney contacts told me that it “would depend upon how fast the virus declines to bring back the tourists and the revenue.”      The present statements indicate that Disney’s priorities will be based upon how far along each project is.  With the rainy season about to arrive in a few weeks, enclosed projects will not miss work time due to weather.

HERE IS DISNEY’S GOOD LUCK CHARM:  WDW actually opened on October 1, 1971, so Disney can use the one-by-one opening of new rides and attractions during 2021 as the magic official day.  Disney World hits 50 on October 1, 2021.

Here is the probable situation of what will be ready and what may not.

TRON LIGHTCYCLE RUN at Magic Kingdom next to Space Mountain is a towering skeleton and if the ride resembles the Asian ride (here is a Attractions 360 You Tube link) there is a lot of outside exposure to the ride.  The good news, however, is that the ride duplicates the popular rides in China and Japan and one assumes that will speed up interior work.  Expected Opening: Late Fall 2020.


Just a side note: when Tron is about to open the Disney Railroad Train will again be able to circle the Magic Kingdom.  The GRAND FLORIDIAN WALKWAY to Magic Kingdom seemed just a few weeks away when the park closed.  The pedestrian bridge is complete and the sidewalk is ready for concrete.

There is huge construction projects at Epcot.  The EPCOT ENTRANCE is now filled with the green of garden and sadly my family’s Leave A Legacy monument has been removed.  For people wondering if there will be any lawsuits, I can tell you that the Disney guarantee was the Legacy would last at least 10 years (sic). Since the last monument sales were in 2007, the contract is up.

The biggest ride building is GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY– Cosmic Rewind Roller Coaster. It has nothing to do with the ride in California and is incredibly high tech with the cars interaction with the ride.  The exterior of the building is almost complete so the high priority interior work will be a first agenda item.

FLORIDATRAVELER Guardians of the Galaxy

The ride will change traffic patterns at Epcot when it opens.   Even still, EXPECTED OPENING: Summer 2021.

Not very promising is the remake of FUTURE WORLD.  Innoventions West is gone and the Easy side is vacant.  The maze of construction walls will remain up for a long time and the Festival Center and Moana attraction is something to consider in 2022.

The unique SPACE 220 RESTAURANT next to Test Track was delayed twice and was planned for late February 2020.  The Patina Restaurant people who run the Italian restaurants at Epcot were still hiring people when the park was closed.   EXPECTED OPENING: Early Fall 2020

FLORIDAYTRAVELER Space 220 restaurant

The new Epcot nighttime show of DISNEY HARMONIOUS was also on the verge of replacing the popular fill-in show of EPCOT FOREVER. Since no new buildings are part of the show, it is a matter of completing electrical sites and more.   EXPECTED OPENING: Early Fall 2020.

REMY’S RATATOUILLE ADVENTURE in the France Pavilion is an enclosed building and I am told it is very similar to the fun ride at Disney Europe (see Attrations 360 YOU TUDE video).  With the delightful Beauty and the Beast movie already open, the French will be the big competitor for the Norway Pavilion with the Frozen ride.

FLORIDA TRAVELER ratouille ride paris

This is a priority attraction ride near the completed Epcot gondola station.  Prepare to shrink yourself into a mouse with an EXPECTED OPENING:  Fall 2020.

Disney’s Hollywood Studio has had a huge last two years with the completion of Toy Story and Star Wars, and finally just a few weeks before the virus closing, MICKEY & MINNIE’S RUNAWAY RAILWAY, an important family attraction.

Some other construction plans at Hollywood Studios will not be so fortunate.  The Old Hollywood Studio entrance was being redesigned and the must-do new entrance will be completed as the parks reopen.

As much as Disney hopes to have the STAR WARS GALACTIC STARCRUISER hotel ready for opening day in October of 2021, it will be a close call.  I am told Disney does not want to open the high priced hotel without all its features.   SEE OCTOBER 1, 2021.

#wdw  #virus   #orlando


Posted in florida history | Leave a comment

Favorite Florida Food Facts 2020 Style

via Favorite Florida Food Facts 2020 Style

Posted in florida history | Leave a comment

Favorite Florida Food Facts 2020 Style

One of the important Florida economic institutions that are in limbo during this Coronavirus Pandemic is the restaurant industry.

While you can pick up and have delivery of most comfort foods from the large restaurant chains, the stand-alone family restaurants that are most famous for unique Florida favorites are often closed.  So I thought it might be time to honor Florida food so much we appreciate it when it is unavailable.

What foods and drinks remind you of Florida?

ORANGE JUICE is more than Florida’s official beverage.  The Spanish brought it to Florida in the 1500s although commercial production did not boom until railroads in the 1870s could ship oranges to the North.

FLORIDATRAVELER food box-of-oranges-postcard

90% of Florida’s oranges are grown for juice while California specializes in the hard skin oranges.  One of the reasons for this was World War II and the development of frozen concentrated orange juice by a one-time high school science teacher and football coach Cedric Donald Atkins.

KEY LIME PIE is usually an untruth.  After several freezes and a plague very few real key lime trees exist.  This is probably why Floridians state that key lime pies taste best in the Florida Keys where the real limes exist.


Those large green limes are really Persian limes and even more horribly supermarkets are filled with bitter Mexican green limes. The tiny, seedy, yellowish real Key Limes are rare and prized by tree owners who hide them from neighbors.

FLORIDA STONE CRABS are famous around the world and the last time I looked at Joe’s Stone Crabs on Miami Beach had delivery and take out.

FLORIDARAVELER food Joes Stone Crabs

This is the second most profitable family restaurant in the USA, taking in $37,243,159 in the trade or an average check of $80.

APALACHICOLA OYSTERS are struggling to survive due to pollution coming down the Apalachicola River from Alabama and Georgia. The industry is developing new hatcheries and methods and my wife and I support the industry.

Do you know that an oyster will actually clean 50 to 75 gallons of water every day? 

CUBAN SANDWICH is not like Havana imports like Fritas, Cafeato, and Mojito.  The Cuban sandwich was invented in Tampa’s Ybor City in 1915, and actually reflects Cigar City’s “mixto” heritage. Notice the Genoa salami, Italian pork, Spanish ham, and the German mustard.


I oppose those Cuban restaurants that are using mayonnaise and other foreign ingredients.  At least you can still take out Cubans in Florida.

GROUPER SANDWICHES are the food of choice if you are taking in the beach volleyball courts or piers anywhere along the Florida Gulf Coast.  Unfortunately, my excursions to Frenchy’s will have to wait until the virus is quelled.

FLORIDATRAVELER food -Grouper-Sandwich

Some people like the grouper blackened and that is OK.  Mahi-mahi, once called dolphin or dolphinfish, is the second choice.  While on the topic those weird creatures on Disney’s Dolphin Resort are the fish and not the mammal-like Flipper or Winter.

SMOKED MULLET is probably an acquired taste and most people find it extra work to scrape the meat off the fish bones.  It is a distinctive Florida experience.

GATOR BITES might not replace Chicken Nuggets, but I’ll challenge people to go blindfolded and see if they can taste the difference. Half of my friend Northern transplants couldn’t tell the difference.


With 1.5 million gators sharing Florida’s real estate, I wish more people would try our big reptiles.

FLORIDA SPINEY LOBSTERS are the same as the Bahamian variety, often called in Nassau crayfish.  For scuba divers, it is one of the most popular sports with a July two day season and an eight-month August to March season.  Don’t ask me to explain these rules.  I do know that you can catch six more lobsters in the Gulf than in the over-fished Florida Keys and Miami areas.


COMMERCIAL FOODS:  I guess I should furnish this food excursion with a few man-made examples.  A few blocks down the street from my home on Henderson Boulevard is the first Outback Steakhouse. You mention what food icon came from here and you will be shocked to know how many people will say: “Blooming Onion.”


Tim Gannon, one of Outback’s founders, got the idea from a New Orleans restaurant back in 1988.  He turned it into a full family appetizer for a few individuals who will tackle a full one.  In the last three years, over 40 million Blooming Onions have been consumed, making it to my Florida Food List.





Posted in florida history | 1 Comment

Florida Might Be Closed, But I Am Back and Open

floridatraveler manatees crystal river west indian manateesI have returned at a strange time.  Most of Florida’s attractions and resorts are closed so to fully benefit from my articles you might have to wait until that sunny day when things return to normalcy.

Still, if you enjoy living in Florida, visiting Florida, or seeing Florida, this blog will have a lot of entertaining as well as educational features.

Since my last blog, I have added the title “Emeritus” to my career as a historian and traveler.   Since all of my four classes are now online and we are prisoners to our homes, I am really tied down to my desk. Therefore, you will find more frequent and diverse information at this site.

I am mainly a “Florida specialist” and this blog will contain excerpts and even chapters from my books and materials past and present. This year I will be publishing an Insiders Guide to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios which will contain lots of material that will both save you money and time at Florida’s biggest attractions, but also reveals insights to make your vacation better.

Thanks to the wonder of ebooks and quicker self-publishing options, I will put out a Guide to Florida Extreme Sports and Adventures as well as new editions of some of my travel books produced for tour groups, but now designed for Florida travelers.

If there are Florida topics you would like me to include in this blog, please email me at


Posted in florida history | Leave a comment

Florida’s Little Rivers Pack A Tourist Punch

Florida has 11,000 miles of rivers and most Floridians will remember that the 310-mile St. Johns River flows very slowly northward just a few miles from the Atlantic before reaching the ocean. People recognize the Suwannee River, with its 206 miles in Florida and 32 miles in Georgia from a song written by a man who never visited Florida..

Yet many of Florida’s smallest rivers provide locals and visitors the most recreational fun. I am not going to include the many springs that flow just a few hundred yards into a major stream. These are my “favorite little Florida rivers.”

The Braden River is a 21-mile (34 km) waterway and the largest tributary of the Manatee River. The lower river is navigable by canoe and kayak and despite its almost urban location, the river is home to abundant wildlife.

FLORIDATRAVELER linger lodge pier

At the Linger Lodge

Linger Lodge is a place to rent boats, park your RV, and eat old Florida style in a place that Forbes Magazine called one of the most unique dining spots in the nation. Some would call the rustic location and menu of gators, frog legs, and local seafood a little weird. The food is great, but service depends of how busy they get. I don’t fish or camp, but I vouch it is a neat place for nature photography.

Over in urban Palm Beach County the 17 mile Loxahatchee River a great place to fish, canoe, kayak, and enjoy natural Florida. The North Fork goes to Jonathan Dickinson State Park, my choice as the best all-around Florida facility.


This is near Palm Beach?

You can not only rent canoes and kayaks, you can hike up Hobe Mountain. This park is the largest in Southeast Florida and has cabins, RV sites, horseback riding, mountain bike trails, and primitive camping. And just across A1A is the Atlantic with swimming, surfing, and boating.

The Estero River is just six miles long but it makes an exciting trip location. Enter Koreshan State Park to see the many surviving buildings of a 19th century utopian community who believed people lived inside the globe.

FLORIDATRAVELER Koreshan_SHS_planetary_court02

The Planetarium at Koreshan Utopian Community

Besides the usual camping and hiking facilities, experienced paddlers will want to go charter down the river to Estero Bay to Mound Key, site of the largest Calusa Indian village, the one that Ponce de Leon probably saw on his second voyage.

Up by Saint Augustine is Pellicer Creek, an eleven-mile coastal river and one of the favorite state designated canoe trail. The best place to get a canoe or kayak is at Faver-Dykes State Park.

FLORIDATRAVELER faver dykes st pk

The creek is just two to six feet deep and it is a lovely route, where the sighting of bald eagles and river otters are a regular observation.

Most everyone in Florida knows that the place to canoe or snorkel next to manatees is the very clear Crystal River, a seven-mile excursion into the Gulf of Mexico. It is best to have an experienced guide to paddle into the complex of mangroves and that form the wide ocean delta.

FLORIDATRAVELER at crystal river

A resident of Crystal River and Kings Bay

The town of Crystal River has several waterside motels and restaurants with the Plantation Inn the largest and most famous. The resort has a 27-hole championship golf course and four on site restaurants. This means some family members can be swimming with manatees in the spring while others fish or golf.

The eight-mile Homosassa River is just twenty miles to the south on US19 and there is the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park with its underwater observatory where you can watch both freshwater and saltwater fishes. There will be manatees here also as well as a boat tour along this tropical river.

FLORIDATRAVELER Homosassa_Springs_State_Park_underwater observatory_obs01

The Underwater Observatory at Homosassa Springs

If you like a little history you might like the eleven-mile Wakulla River, which starts at the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, where they filmed the Creature of the Black Lagoon. The inn here is the largest such property on any Florida park.


Traffic on the Wakulla River

The Wakulla flows into the St. Marks River three miles north of the Gulf of Mexico where St. Marks Lighthouse is the landmark. Up the St. Marks is San Marcos de Aplachee State Park where old Spanish and Confederate fortifications can be found.

Posted in florida history | Leave a comment