I seem to be in a minority among my friends, but I happen to love Florida and wish I had time to go there more often. One of my favorite things to do when I am traveling there is to haunt the back roads looking for signs of "Old Florida." There is precious little of it left, but finding it is a blast.
Back in the 40's and 50's, when Florida was first being discovered by the rest of the country, it led the world with wild, outlandish (some might say garish) and curious tourist attractions. After all, if you were going to lure tourists down to see alligator wrestling on your gator farm, you might as well stick a giant alligator on your front lawn and make your entrance from a 30' high gator jaw. And if you were going to sell them oranges, why not sell them from an orange-shaped roadside stand? (I found this one near Ocala, by the way.)
As a somewhat sad side note, I recently heard that the famous (and oh so beautifully tacky!) Cypress Gardens has, at long last, been sold and is now a more modern amusement park. Cypress Gardens was the quintessential Old Florida amusement park and was filled with Southern Belles in full belle dress wandering the grounds, water ski shows performed to Elvis' songs and beautiful footpaths decorated with thousands of twinkle lights at dusk. It's gone now and I'm so glad that I went out of my way to visit it while it was still there.
While Florida is probably unique in its volume of old touristy icons, almost every community in this country has some interesting reminders of a more innocent time. Search them out with your camera because they are disappearing fast and once they're gone, they're gone. We'll likely not see a rebirth of giant alligator heads in Florida--and isn't that a shame?
2 weeks ago