Ona, FL

This Quirky Florida Castle Built on Swamp Land is Also an Art Museum

L. Cane

Florida's most famous attractions are arguably its theme parks and its beaches, but Florida is also home to a few unique attractions that aren't always in the guidebooks but still may be worth a look. Solomon's Castle is one example.

What is Solomon's Castle? What's Inside?: Howard Solomon was an extremely prolific sculptor and artist. In 1972, he purchased 40 acres of swamp land and began to build what would become his castle, where he would raise his family and exhibit his art. This undertaking took him seven years to complete. He approached the castle in the same way he approached his art - he used upcycled materials to create something beautiful.

Howard became known as the "Davinci of Debris" because he used "found objects" or junk in his creations, and the castle itself is no exception. The exterior of the building is wrapped in metal printing plates salvaged from a newspaper business, and Howard himself created 90 stained glass windows to give this castle a mix of both traditional and nontraditional materials.

The structure is 12,000 square feet and is filled with Howard's art. You arguably don't need to be an art lover to appreciate the skill and perseverance that went into this undertaking. The art was composed pusing many different skills such as welding, painting, and woodworking. Howard used upcycled materials such as beer cans, seashells, oil drums, and sheet metal in his creations. You'll find humor throughout the castle and the art. Many pieces are themed around puns.

Here is a video where you can see Howard, the castle, and some of his upcycled art.

Although the family lives in the castle, it also houses Howard's workshop, the art galleries, an exhibition room, a restaurant, bed and breakfast rooms, and a gift shop. Admission for a tour is $25 for most (veterans and seniors receive a $2 discount) and $12 for children. However, just viewing the grounds is free, as is parking.

Where is Ona, Florida?: The actual address of the castle is 4533 Solomon Rd, Ona, FL 33865. However, if you read the reviews of this experience on TripAdvisor, you'll see that some reviewers say that it is in the middle of nowhere or in a tiny town. The castle is located in central Florida and is within a relatively short driving distance of the major cities of Tampa, Sarasota, Bradenton, and Orlando.

Solomon's Castle may not be your traditional Florida attraction, but it's unique and quirky. It may be a nice way to break up a vacation or a fun day trip. TripAdvisor's reviewers have given it nearly five stars. The Google reviews are also quite high. The attraction is only open on Tuesday through Sunday and it is closed in August and September.

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