Places to Experience "Old Florida" in Old Fashioned Ways

L. Cane

Most of us are aware that Florida is growing rapidly. That growth means there is regular development and the building of newer attractions. Many of these attractions feature the latest technologies so that visitors can have a fun experience. There's often an app, a virtual reality experience, or a simulator in some of these new attractions.

And while those attractions may be a perfect fit for some visitors, some people would rather experience Florida as it used to be, with what some might call traditional or "old school" experiences. Such experiences allow many people to experience fond memories from childhood or even to make new memories.

Here are some suggestions for "old school" ways to experience "old Florida."

Take a Glass Bottom Boat Tour of Silver Springs: This tour has welcomed visitors to see the underwater sea life in the springs since the late 1800s, and not much has changed. The 30-minute tour is $12, and you'll see an abundance of fish, Native American artifacts, and movie props (as movies have been shot at the springs.) When you're done with your boat tour, there are plenty of other things to do at the park, such as visiting a replica pioneer settlement, wildlife viewing and birding, paddling of all kinds, and hiking. There are also concessions and a restaurant. Admission to the park is $2. It is located at 5656 E Silver Springs Boulevard.

Visit McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach: The McKee Botanical Gardens were originally a roadside attraction that opened in 1931 and was known as McKee Jungle Gardens. Admission was twenty-five cents. Between that day and this, the Gardens have undergone some changes in ownership. They sat abandoned for 25 years, and locals were able to save parts of the gardens from development. Today, the Gardens are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and you can see orchids, waterlilies, and exotic plants from all over the world. The gardens are located at 350 US Highway 1, in Vero Beach.

Visit Everglades National Park in Homestead, Miami, or Flamingo: This park will give you a glimpse of how Florida looked a very long time ago. The alligators look prehistoric against the backdrop of cypress forests, mangrove swamps, and sawgrass prairies. The park is a UNESCO world heritage site and is the 3rd largest national park in the United States. It is recommended that one visits in the spring, if possible, as the summer months can be quite humid, and the animals become more active in spring. You can catch an alligator wrestling show or even take an airboat tour. The address for the Flamingo Visitors center is 1 Flamingo Lodge Highway, in Flamingo.

Go Tubing or Kayaking at Ichetucknee River State Park in Fort White: No fancy water slides are needed to entertain you here. The beauty of this attraction is that, if you want, you can do nothing but sit in a tube and float down the river. If you want to be more proactive, you can kayak. The park also has nature trails, and it's a haven for wildlife such as otters, turtles, beavers, gar, wild turkeys, and wood ducks. The address is 12087 S.W. U.S. Highway 27 in Fort White.

Visit Bok Tower in Polk County: Close to Lake Wales is this beautiful tower complex that also includes a garden and bird sanctuary. Built in 1929, the tower is over 200 feet tall and made of coquina stone from St. Augustine. Inside the tower are bronze bells, and there are concerts each day. The tower and gardens can make for a relaxing day, and it is located at 1151 Tower Boulevard in Lake Wales. Below is a video from Bok Tower highlighting what you might see on a visit.

See Mermaids at Weeki Wachee State Park: Florida's mermaids have been performing here since 1947. Yes, the performers do perform the entire show underwater. (They have special breathing apparatuses that allow them to safely do so.) After you've seen the show, you can experience the park's water features, take in a reptile show, or take a boat tour. Check out the park's schedule here. The park is located at 6131 Commercial Way in Weeki Wachee.

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