Did you discuss you upcoming Florida vacation with friends? Did someone suggest Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, as the educational vacation just right for the children? The Shuttle Launch Experience open to visitors is a simulation of the pre-launch events, complete with light and sound effects. The IMAX Space Films and the educational tours offered here are enriching experiences.
Or are you planning an adventurous vacation in Florida? One of the many snorkeling and scuba diving in the Key Islands should be to your liking. A visit to Ocala National Forest offers the best hiking trails and sightings of some rare wildlife species. The easygoing charm of Fort Lauderdale and the history of St Augustine are what make them popular among tourists.
Or perhaps a family vacation in one of the many theme parks of Orlando more to your liking? A visit to Sea World or Wet N’ Wild is ideal for the exciting splashes and thrilling rides that your family shall cherish for a lifetime. Universal Studios Theme Park has much to offer, not the least of which is a glimpse into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A trip to Hogsmeade, exploration of the Hogwarts Castle and its many mysteries, a flight of the Hippogriff in the Forbidden Forests, a Dragon Challenge reminiscent of the Triwizard Cup, and a real wand shop where the wand chooses the wizard – a fantasy world made real.
South Beach is the ideal vacation spot for honeymooners and those who appreciate a swinging nightlife. Pristine beaches, quaint bistro and cafes, and sleepy jaunts that spring to life at the set of the sun – just some of the many delights that Miami has to offer. The romantic beauty of 1000 Islands is just the right setting for a break from the exasperating lack of solitude of city life.
We at MapsofWorld bring to you 15 unique experiences you shall want to take back or suggest to friends when they visit Florida. Each of these showcases a regional specialty and is bound to make your vacation in Florida an educational experience and a fun trip.
15 unique places to visit in Florida
St. Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal Church, North Miami
The Ancient Monastery of North Miami Beach was originally constructed in the Spanish town of Sacramenia in Segovia almost 900 years ago. The original construction is believed to have taken place between 1133 and 1141. One of the oldest buildings in the Western Hemisphere, the original monastery was purchased in the year 1925 by William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate. He dismantled the monastery and shipped it to the USA with an intention of rebuilding it. Raymond Moss and William Edgemon bought the consignment and reconstructed the buildings at its current location in North Miami. The church still holds services and hosts weddings.
World Chess Hall of Fame, Miami
Founded in 1984, the World Chess Hall of Fame is a museum dedicated to chess and chess players of the world. Built by Steven Doyle, former president of the United States Chess Federation, the museum is run by the United Chess Trust. Dedications to Bobby Fischer, Samuel Reshevsky, Frank Marshall, and Paul Morphy are among the noted displays here. The World Chess Hall of Fame moved to Miami after being located in Washington DC from 1992 to 2001.
Coral Castle Museum, Homestead
1,100 tons of coral were carved into the Coral Castle of Homestead by Edward Leedskalnin between the years 1923 and 1951. Adding to the mystery of this castle-museum is the fact that Edward worked single-handedly and secretly to fashion out this castle. He did not, however, divulge the secret behind his technique. The many amazing features of the museum include a nine -ton gate that opens up at the touch of a finger and stone furniture. Edward’s claims, that he used the same technique that Egyptians had applied to the making of the pyramids, only serves to enhance the mystique of this unique museum.
Big Cat Rescue, Tampa
Big Cat Rescue in North Tampa is a non-profit, educational rescue and sanctuary. The sanctuary houses over 100 big cats including bobcats, tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, and lynx. Big Cat Rescue is the largest sanctuary of its kind in the world. The sanctuary was set up in 1992 by Carole Baskin and her late husband. The big cats rescued by the volunteers here include abused and abandoned pets, abandoned circus animals, or animals rescued from fur traders. Being a non-profit entity, the sanctuary is financed by donations of individuals and corporations and by conducting educational tours.
Butterfly World, Coconut Creek
Butterfly World is the result of Roland Boender’s efforts starting 1968. He started to study and rear butterflies to pursue his love for them. In 1984 he set up MetaScience Co. to rear thousands of pupa on a weekly basis and in 1988 opened Butterfly World as a public attraction, a research center and as a rearing facility. Boender partnered with Clive Farrell, leading butterfly researcher from Britain, to open up Butterfly World. The aviary is home to over 150 species of butterfly. Essentially an outdoor park, Butterfly World also hosts a bird aviary and outdoor cafes.
Alligator Capital, Gatorland
Florida is home to thousands of alligators. It is only befitting that Gatorland theme park and wildlife preserve be nicknames Alligator Capital of the World. Spread over 110 acres Gatorland is home to many replies including alligators and crocodiles. The educational tours here take you through the aviary, the in-house zoo, the breeding marshes, the observatory tower, and the gift shop. The Gator Gully Splash Park is the best place for kids to get wet and have fun. Alligator wrestling shows are a much-in-demand attraction of Alligator Capital.The rare displays here include the white leucistic alligators, the giant reptiles that are believed to bring good luck.
Dinosaur World, Plant City
Dinosaur World in Plant City is the world’s largest dinosaur attraction and outdoor museum themed on these ancient creatures. While the park features a boneyard, a museum, reconstructed caves, and fossil digs, the greatest attraction of the Dinosaur World is the display of over 150 life size dinosaur replicas. Different species of dinosaurs are featured here and the souvenir shop is a hit with most tourists.
Mulberry Phosphate Museum, Mulberry
Polk County, Florida is known for the copious quantities of phosphate and citrus fruits available here. Mulberry in Polk County is often referred to as the Phosphate Capital of the World. Befittingly, the Mulberry Phosphate Museum is a dedication to this rich mineral deposit and its unique uses. The museum not only showcases the phosphate industry and its history in the county but also houses a number of phosphate fossils and plant and animal remains over the ages. A trip to this unique museum of Florida is certainly a very educational experience.
Potter’s Wax Museum, St Augustine
Potter’s Wax Museum is the first wax museum of USA. Over 160 wax figurines are on display in this museum. Established in 1948, the wax museum not only displays busts and wax sculptures of many celebrities including actors, actresses, musicians, sportspersons, politicians, historic persona and also a number of popular fictional characters. Located on King Street, St Augustine, the Potter’s Wax Museum is a favorite with budding wax sculptors as their tour includes a visit to the wax studio and theater.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium, St Augustine
The Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium, St Augustine, is the oldest odditorium and was opened in 1950. The museum, originally called ‘The Castle’. The Ghost Train services offered by this odditorium include a tour of the haunted sites of St Augustine, complete with spine-chilling tales and investigation trips. The Castle itself is purported to be haunted. The display here includes a number of ritual devices from cultures across the world including a mummified cat and tools of pagan worship and witchcraft. A genetically mutated two headed rabbit, a scary tunnel known as the vortex, a display of masks and a gift shop for souvenirs are the popular attractions of this Odditorium.
Solomon’s Castle, Ona
Solomon’s Castle is the home of the internationally renowned sculptor, Howard Solomon. Built to represent a Spanish Galleon, the castle is unique in many respects. It showcases the sculptor’s sense of humor and comes complete with a Boat in the Moat restaurant. The castle has many unique stain-glass windows that open up a fascinating world of imaginative representation. The objects on display here are bizarre as well and are an outcome of the sculptor’s experiments with science. Objects on display here include a gun that shoots toilet plungers and ‘a car with a V8 engine’ which has a power plant made of cans.
Spook Hill, Lake Wales
One may wonder what prompted Spook Hill Elementary School to adopt Casper, the Friendly Ghost as its school mascot. Spook Hill in Lake Wales is where it may seem that a car left out of gear is actually rolling uphill!!! It is a magnetic hill or a gravity hill. And the car rolling is indeed an optical illusion. With a lot of media attention, including the Wall Street Journal and the CBS Morning News in 1990, Spook Hill has become one of the offbeat tourist attractions of Florida. And yes, when at Spook Hill do visit the famous Bok Tower.
Christ of the Deep, Key Largo
Christ of the Deep is a nine feet tall statue of Jesus. The statue represents ‘peace to the human race’ and was placed beneath the ocean. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, designated ‘America’s First Undersea Park’ in Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary provides the settings for this symbol of serenity and love. Professor Guido Galletti cast this statue, commissioned by Egidio Cressi who donated it to The Underwater Society of America. The statue was displayed in many parts of south Florida in 1964 before being placed at its underwater abode in the spring of 1965.
Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Key Largo
Named after Jules Verne, Jules’ Undersea Lodge is an underwater research habitat and provides a two bedroom lodging facility to divers. The lodge comes completely equipped with all amenities of a modern hotel room including DVD/VCR, air-conditioning, hot bath, and a music system. USA’s only underwater hotel, Jules’ Underwater Lodge was set up by Ian Koblick and Dr. Neil Monney. The lodge is the perfect setting for couples who love diving to exchange vows and the lodge gift shop features specialty black pearl rings to make the occasion just perfect.
World’s Largest Mc Donald’s, Orlando
You need your daily fix of Mc Donald’s? Welcome to Orlando – To the World’s Largest Entertainment McDonald’s & PlayPlace. This sprawling 25,000 square feet play area enclosure has some unique play attractions such as a club tree house, over 100 arcade gaming machines, tube maze and a colorfully done up toddler’s area. The menu at this McDonald’s is as unique as the play experience. The party platters are favorites with families that host birthday parties at this PlayPlace. Touted as the second best Mc Donald’s to play in by Travel Channel, the restaurant has become quite an attraction in itself.
Walt Disney World
We came back. We heard you grumbling. Talk of Florida Travel and no mention of Walt Disney World? Well-nigh impossible. The Walt Disney World Resort is a sprawling recreational resort that is spread over 30,080 acres. Popularly known as Disney World, the resort was Walt Disney’s dream for tourists in search of a family vacation. The enclosure has four theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While Magic Kingdom was originally designed to resemble Disneyland in California, the idea behind creating Disney World was to bring together the theme parks, water parks, theme hotels, health spas, fitness centers, camping grounds, and a host of entertainment options.
Disney World is the largest recreational resort in the world and records the greatest footfall among all the recreational resorts of the world. The resort complex is located about 21 miles southwest of Orlando city and is part of both Orange County and Osceola County. Walt Disney was prompted to build Disney World in Florida, having been impressed by the excellent road connectivity of nearby Orlando City. He bought over 27,400 acres of land using a number of dummy corporations to avoid land speculation.
Cinderella’s Castle is at the center of Magic Kingdom as serves as the icon for this theme park. The six “lands” or areas of the Magic Kingdom cover over 46 attractions. The Main Street at Magic Kingdom is lined with a number of shops straight out of the fairy tales. These shops sell souvenirs and confectionaries. A number of restaurants and funny shops line the avenue. Adventureland is famous for its two rides Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean, Liberty Square for the Haunted Mansion and the Hall of Presidents. Fantasyland has a number of attractions such as The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and Mad Tea Party.
EPCOT, Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is represented by Spaceship Earth. Future World and World Showcase are the two sections of Epcot, Walt Disney’s dream city of the future. The Tree of Life is the icon of Disney’s Animal Kingdom the animal theme park at Walt Disney World. The Oasis, Discovery Island, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia, and DinoLand are the different attractions of Disney’s Animal Kingdom that are themed at animal conservation. Disney’s Hollywood Studios is represented by The Sorcerer’s Hat. Hollywood Boulevard, Echo Lake, Streets of America, animation Courtyard, Pixar Place, and Sunset Boulevard are the themed areas at Disney Hollywood Studios. These are themed on the various motion pictures featuring Disney characters.
Two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are part of the Walt Disney World resort. Over 33 resorts and hotels to choose from and a number of other attractions including parks and golf courses make Walt Disney World a complete fantasy vacation destination. A perfect blend of entertainment and luxury was envisaged by Walt Disney and a bit of madness is added to it by our own imaginations.