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Florida Historic Sites – History and Culture in the Sunshine State

Florida Historic Sites – History and Culture in the Sunshine State

Most tourists seem to gravitate toward crowded, expensive theme parks or teeming hot beaches, but if you’re looking to get off the beaten path when traveling to Florida, consider the history and some of the Sunshine State’s more cultural offerings. From northern Florida with the southern hospitality of the Panhandle to the exciting cultural influences of the downstate, a Florida vacation offers endless opportunities for unusual places to visit.

Every coast, in fact, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, including the Gulf Coast, exudes a history not only associated with America, but globally. From the Keys to Tallahassee, the importance of Florida’s dynamic history and the state’s history is immediately apparent, and locals look forward to sharing the myriad cultural assets with you.

Where to go and what to do on your Florida vacation:

Tropical Treasures in the Keys

Key West, just off the coast of Florida and connected by a bridge, is a perennially sunny destination that has charmed everyone from President Harry Truman and Tennessee Williams to Ernest Hemingway and the U.S. Navy. Famed writer Hemingway, after vacationing in Florida, subsequently decided to live in Key West and his home is now a museum, with descendants of his polydactyl cat still roaming the grounds.

With its close proximity to the ocean, locals and tourists enjoy activities that involve the blue water of the sea, including ship salvage and diving for ancient sunken treasures. Many U.S. presidents, including Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt, have enhanced Florida’s local lore and history by calling Key West home during the winter months at the Southernmost House Grand Hotel and Museum.

The early industrialists in Fort Myers

Both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford decided to call Fort Myers home during the winter months after vacationing in Florida. Edison’s home, called “Seminole Lodge,” has been meticulously renovated to reflect the time period in which it was built and in which he lived, and includes one of the first modern swimming pools in Florida history and his laboratory, just as he would have it, remaining a fine example of one of Florida’s finest historic sites.

Adjacent to Edison’s exquisitely designed home is “The Mangoes,” Henry Ford’s recently renovated winter home. After vacationing in Florida, Ford decided Fort Myers would be better than the Michigan cold. A garage full of restored antique Fords adds to the relaxed atmosphere. Both historic homes have lush gardens along the Caloosahatchee River.

The contrasts of Palm Beach

From industrial influences to charming gardens, Palm Beach is a sun-drenched city of contrasts. Henry Flagler connected Florida’s cities after realizing that a complex transportation system could help revitalize the state and bring more vacationers to Florida. Beginning in the late 1880s, Flagler began buying railroads, combining routes and installing more tracks up and down the coast and eventually between them. The Henry Flagler Museum, located in his grand winter home called Whitehall, heralds his accomplishments and his idea of ​​bringing the first tourists to the state for profit, for the first time in Florida history.

Located just outside the city limits in Delray Beach, the spacious and peaceful Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens bring Japan to the Florida coast. Exhibits include galleries highlighting ancient and modern Japanese art and culture, tea ceremonies, festival celebrations, tasting events and special exhibitions in the gardens. While on your vacation in Florida, Morikami is a must see.

Family Fun in Sunny Sarasota

Sarasota is another hotbed of historic sites in Florida. The city has a detailed cultural history full of Native American and Spanish influences. Historic Spanish Point, highlighting 5,000 years of Florida history, features prehistoric Indian mounds, living history shows, archeology tours, a butterfly garden and pioneer-era buildings. Cruises on historically inspired ships sail Sarasota Bay for a fun finale to your Florida vacation.

The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art and the Ringling Museum of American Circus center around the home of the museum’s namesakes, who designed their sprawling mansion to mimic European architecture, a fine example of one of Florida’s most complex historic sites. Ca d’Zan, completed in 1926, saw the largest and most expensive parties of the early 20th century in Sarasota. The Museum of Art from the Ringling Collection displays both old and new American, European and Asian works of art. The Circus Museum, which opened to the public in 1948 and has since become a popular vacation stop in Florida, has a large collection of flyers, posters, costumes and props from the early days of the circus. Also on the grounds is a miniature circus built by Howard Tibbals, who was integral in designing the miniature circus set that is now part of Florida history.

Military background in Pensacola

Home of the Blue Angels, Pensacola, a Florida vacation must-see, is proud to be the home of Naval Aviation. More than 150 restored aircraft from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard are on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, where visitors can enjoy the flight simulator or learn more about naval aviation in the history of Florida and the rest of the world in the Memorial Theater. In addition, the museum features an IMAX screen, a tour of the restoration hangar, cockpit simulators and Blue Angels events on select days.

Nearby is the historic Fort Pickens, which was built in 1834 and was in use until the 1940s. The fort, important in Florida history, was influential during the Civil War, and in the mid-1880s, the famous Apache warrior, Geronimo, was imprisoned in the fort, where it became a sideshow for tourists vacationing in Florida. A visitor center displays memorabilia, art and books enhancing the fort’s history.

The Magnificent Bay of the Panhandle

Surprisingly, Apalachicola, the secluded, charming Gulf Coast town steeped in Florida history, offers plenty to see and do. The Camp Gordon Johnston Museum gives an insight into the lives of World War II soldiers and their intensive training. Opened in 1942, the camp, a constant reminder of the military’s influence on Florida history, trained American amphibious soldiers before they left for war, and remnants of the training grounds and camp still survive. Exhibits include photos, articles and trinkets from the camp’s heyday.

In the center of the city, the historic old quarter has over 900 buildings built as early as the early 1800s, which are listed in the National Register. Walking tours allow visitors to explore each site in depth and include an old cotton warehouse, three parks, and rows of live oak and magnolia trees. The Visitor Center provides maps, ideas and directions for experiencing historic downtown Apalachicola while on your Florida vacation.

History from coast to coast

When vacationing in Florida, the Sunshine State offers much more than beautiful beaches and warm weather. From coast to coast, Florida and the history of its people and culture still influence its society and way of life. You don’t have to worry about endless choices of where to go or what to do – if you’re looking for any kind of history, Florida has it!

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