McKee Botanical Garden





McKee Botanical Garden situated on eighteen acres listed on the National Register of Historic Places located at 350 US Highway 1 in Vero Beach. Walk across the Historic Stone Bridge to the trails, wooden bridges, paths, ponds and streams that surround the garden. Stand at a bridge, look down at a stream and admire the many different varieties of Waterlilies and Aquatics that inhabit them. Trees, vines, shrubs and herbaceous plants provide a canopy throughout the garden. Relax on a bench and enjoy the serenity and calming sounds of a waterfall. Take shelter from the sun under a thatched roof rain shelter.A film and poster displays about the early years inside the Hall of Giants. Arthur G. McKee and Waldo Sexton, both industrialists had a vision to open an attraction that gave people an opportunity to see the many different plant species from around the world as well as the many wild animals that made up the jungle gardens. McKee Jungle Gardens an eighty-acre tourist attraction opened in the early 1930s. Due to low attendance, the park closed in 1976. The garden opened in 2001 after a fundraising campaign to buy the land and restore the garden to its former beauty.

A temporary exhibition through April 29th of this year includes twenty-four African Animal Sculptures created by the Art Collective in Nairobi, Kenya. African artists trained in all forms of art by Moses Ochieng. Animals throughout the garden described in detail through interpretive exhibits.





Edible fruit from Brazil, tropical plants from Asia, a Dragon Tree that originates from India whose root looks like a Dragon’s tail. Royal Palms native to Florida, Cuba and Honduras. The palms grow to one hundred feet and are the tallest in the world.

Stickwork Sculpture named The “Royals” by Patrick Dougherty a world-renowned artist who takes trees and twigs and transforms them into art. The “Tower” a prism made of clear glass bulbs and rods by Hans Godo Fräbel, a glass sculptor. I’ve named a few but over ten permanent landscapes are in the garden.

I highly recommend visiting the garden. McKee Botanical Garden is the first garden that I’ve visited and written about that has traveling exhibits. Admission prices and hours of operation on the website.


Casa Feliz Historic House Museum

Casa Feliz Historic House Museum built in the style of a 100-year old Spanish farmhouse. Casa Feliz means “Happy House” listed on the National Register of Historic Places at 656 N. Park Avenue in Winter Park. Original roof tiles built by hand in Spain and recycled bricks bought from the Armory in downtown Orlando built in the mid-1880s.

Robert Bruce Barbour a manufacturer from Massachusetts who spent winters in Winter Park hired James Gamble Rogers, II a Winter Park Architect to design Casa Feliz. My museum guide gave me a detailed history of the rooms. The library, formerly the maid’s quarters. Photographs throughout the room of James Barber’s projects and family photographs. A carriage house and in the dining room an English Antique table 7 feet long made of walnut or mahogany. The kitchen and butler’s pantry remodeled to look like it did when the Barbour family lived in the house.

Every weekend the house rents space for weddings. Walk up the spiral staircase to the upstairs bedrooms. Mrs. Barbour’s bedroom is now the groom’s room. The bathroom design is Art Moderne popular in the 1930s and 1940s the original design when Mrs. Barbour lived in the house and still exists today. The room is dedicated to the Harper family who were involved in the Casa Feliz Foundation that was instrumental in moving the home from Lake Osceola to its present location.

The bride’s room formerly Mr. Barbour’s room. Used by brides to get ready for their wedding. The bathroom is not part of the original design. I opened the French doors and looked down into the courtyard that bridal parties use to take many photographs.

I recommend touring the house, a look inside the architectural design of a Spanish farmhouse. Hours of operation and venue contact information located on the website. After the tour, stay for Music at the Casa.

Audubon Center for Birds of Prey

Overlooking Lake Sybelia Audubon Center for Birds of Prey located at 1101 Audubon Way in Maitland. While walking along the pathway, stop and see the many magnificent species of different birds of prey and read the signs about the different birds and their migratory patterns. Afterwards, relax under a gazebo, listen to the sounds of nature, and appreciate the stillness of the surroundings.





A chance to see a Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon up close. Garden birds act as ambassadors in schools and civic organizations. Step inside the house and watch a 12-minute film about the rehabilitation center. From baby owls in incubators to young birds that require assistance in feeding. An American Kestrel one of the smallest falcons and an Eastern Screech Owl inhabit the porch. In the wild, the screech owls sing to each other to keep in touch with other family members.

I recommend the center, its quite an educational experience on rehabbing birds of prey. Hours and admission fees on the website.

Orlando Loch Haven Park

Orlando Loch Haven Park located at 777 E. Princeton Street in Orlando. What is now 2.6 miles of urban trail formerly the Dinky train line that began service in the late 1880s. The Orlando-Winter Park Railroad owned the 6-mile train line that ran from Orlando to Winter Park eventually extended service to Oviedo and by the late 1960s service ended.

Whether its a 0.5-mile, 1.25-mile, or a 1.3-mile urban trail all lead to different areas in Orlando all part of the former Dinky Line. Lake Formosa an historic neighborhood established in the early part of the 20th century to Virginia Drive or Magnolia Avenue in downtown Orlando.




Paul Marco

Albert Paley

Bob Van Breda






Relax in a lounge chair under a thatched hut, a lounge chair by the lake or on a garden bench under a trestle overlooking the lake. Stroll around the manicured lawn admiring the many sculptures that are part of the collection of the Mennello Museum of American Art and some gifted to the city of Orlando. Sculptures made of welded steel, welded metal, bronze and fiberglass with steel.

I recommend the park a relaxing way to spend a couple of hours. Afterwards, visit a museum or science center.

Rotary Park





Meet the resident owls at Rotary Park located at 1899 S. Courtney Boulevard in Merritt Island. Boots, a 5-year-old Great Horned Owl who is not able to fly because of a mangled wing. Dora, a 7-1/2 year old Eastern Screech Owl that doesn’t fly because of a permanent wing injury. An in-depth article of Dora located on the front of her cage.

Listen to the sounds of rustling leaves as you walk along the quarter-mile boardwalk while admiring the variety of native Florida Plants. The Shiny Lyonia, Myrsine and Southern Red Cedar all evergreens. Some evergreens can grow up to 40 feet. The Muscadine Grape native to Florida grows on the trail. Pest tolerant that require little or no pesticides. Stop and read the interpretive signs about owls and their habitat.

Step inside the nature center for a look into the different species of Sea Turtles and Gopher Tortoises. Inside the aquarium, the Corn Snake likes to hide underneath the carpet for warmth. A diorama of animals some native to Florida. An exhibit on how to build a nest box for the five species of Florida Owls. An exhibit of artifacts on the eight vanished Florida native tribes.

An educational area for children that include an assortment of books on American Wildlife, tropical rainforests and puzzles. Special programs for children include exploring the outdoors visiting wildlife habitats and various ecosystems. Bring a picnic lunch and sit under a pavilion. Free admission, donations accepted. Hours of operation on the website.


Erna Nixon Park





Erna Nixon Park located at 1200 Evans Road in Melbourne. Named after Erna Nixon who was instrumental in preserving over fifty-three acres of land for future generations. Stand alongside the Butterfly Garden and see if you can spot a butterfly warming himself or herself on a rock or relax on a bench under a trestle.

DSCN0985Although a small nature center different species of turtles, an Albino Red Snake inhabit the aquariums. Small animals and different species of birds mounted on the walls. A mounted Red Tailed Hawk a federal protected bird found in Florida, throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada. Cuban Brown Anole an invasive lizard found in the Bahamas and the United States first sold as pets.


Stroll along the three-quarter mile boardwalk that twists and turns. Tablets throughout the hammock and pine flatwoods help you to become familiar with the different palms, shrubs, small and large trees, and river grass. Sit under a gazebo and listen to the sounds of birds while feeling the breeze.

PavilionI recommend the park; the highlight of the park is the boardwalk. Have a picnic lunch in the pavilion. Free entrance to the park, donations accepted. Hours of operation on the website.

Orange County Regional History Center

Before entering the history center stand outside and admire the classical-revival architecture formerly the home of the Orange County Courthouse. Orange County Regional History Center located at 65 E. Central Boulevard in downtown Orlando.

101Take an audio tour or walk throughout the museum and admire the many photographs and collectables of the many different people and their accomplishments. The St. Johns and Archaic people consisted of small tribes that lived thousands of years before the French and Spanish arrived in Florida. The Timucuans an early native people dwelled in Central and Northeast Florida. They built canoes, hunted and fished. The dioramas portray the Native Americans in their natural environment.

014024An exhibit displaying Jewish life in Orange County and surrounding communities that began 150 years ago. People in horse drawn carts arrived in downtown Orlando to shop in the dry goods store operated by immigrants from Europe. The oldest operating hardware store today opened in the mid-1880s in Kissimmee. Jacob Cohen an early settler helped write the first charter for Orlando in 1875. Photographs of a Purple Heart recipient from WWII and soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War. Commander Bernard Brender brought the Naval Training Center to Orlando in 1968.

A name known to the people of Orlando, Dr. Philip P. Phillips, a medical doctor moved to Orlando, bought citrus groves and owned two citrus packinghouses. He sold his assets and started a foundation, which is still in operation today.

075-1A history of African Americans during the Spanish and British Occupation, during slavery and after the emancipation. Washington Shores a black community, and the town of Eatonville, established in the 1880s still in existence today. A famous resident, Zora Neal Hurston, author and anthropologist lived in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. In January of each year, a festival honors her works.

084Some of the artwork exhibited from the Highwaymen African American landscape artists from Ft. Pierce who rode the highways selling their paintings.

Steamboats a popular mode of travel in the early part of the nineteenth century. Small towns boomed after the railroad came in the mid-1860s. After Henry Ford invented the Model T people hit the road. “Tin Can” tourists a name given to people who traveled to Florida in their cars, sometimes slept in tents and ate out of tin cans. Cabins for rent on a twenty-acre site owned by Henry Hand for people who didn’t like to sleep in tents.

The effect on Central Florida in wartime, NASA and astronaut memorabilia. A look inside the courtroom that is part of the museum tour. Stop inside the gift shop, books on beach camping and Florida, Arrowheads and Tektites. I recommend the museum, so much central Florida history to absorb. Admission prices and hours of operation on the website.


Museum of Winter Haven History

Early 20th century time clock

Museum of Winter Haven History formerly the home of the Woman’s Club listed in the National Register of Historic Places at 660 Pope Avenue in Winter Haven. Winter Haven, the early years depicted in photographs throughout the museum. Cabinets filled with memorabilia throughout the museum donated by the citizens of Winter Haven.

Winter Haven founded in 1890 elected Willie Smith their first mayor in 1911. The Eycleshimer, Inman and Harris families early settlers to Winter Haven. Envisioning a winter resort Peter Eycleshimer credited for naming Winter Haven. F.A.K. Harris and his wife Adele opened the first mercantile store. Frederick and Florence Inman opened the Florence Villas Hotel. Dan Laramore an early African American resident to Winter Haven became wealthy by acquiring orange groves and land.





Tourists would stay at the Florence Villa, Haven or Lake Region Hotel then board a steam-powered boat for a tour on one of the Chain of Lakes.

Cypress Gardens founded by Dick Pope in 1936, made famous by their ski shows, Southern Belles and Botanical Gardens. A room dedicated to Cypress Gardens mementoes. The Botanical Gardens all that remain of Cypress Gardens encompass 30 acres given to the people of Polk County to enjoy.

The docents longtime residents brought the history of Winter Haven to life with their stories. Admission is free, donations accepted. Hours of operation on the website.

Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science

American Mastodon

Sabertooth Cat






Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science located at 2201 Michigan Avenue in Cocoa. Exhibits throughout the museum portray different periods in Brevard County history beginning with the Paleo Hunters who lived during Florida’s Ice Age from 9,000 – 12,000 years ago. They used spears made of stone to hunt Mammoths and Mastodons. An exhibit of the tools on display. The Mastodon roamed in Florida between 10,000 – 12,000 years ago. The diet of the Mastodons consisted mainly of coniferous plants but the Mammoths ate plants but mostly grass. The Sabertooth Cat became extinct 11,500 years ago. The canine teeth shaped like a blade measured up to 7 inches.





The Taylor and Burnham families’ early settlers to Brevard County. Albert Taylor founded a bank and served as Cocoa’s second mayor. Grace Taylor taught herself braille and was the first braille transcriber in Brevard County. Captain Burnham an early settler from Vermont moved his family to Cape Canaveral in the early 1850s to live and work as a lighthouse keeper. The original lighthouse a 60-foot structure built in 1847. Construction of the 151-foot lighthouse started before the civil war but stopped during the war. Construction completed in the late 1860s.

Surfing has been popular on the Space Coast for one-hundred years. A map of all the surfing spots in Florida, the origins of surfing and a chronological account of the history of surfing.

A replica of a general store that sold everything from dry goods to horseshoes, coffee and perfumes. Early settlers to Brevard County worked in the turpentine, citrus, and tourism industry. They homesteaded and started their own orange groves. A Skeeter Beater made from hearts of cabbage used to swat the many mosquitos that the early settlers endured.

Steamships a popular mode of travel since the late 1820s. Passengers would board the steamships from Jacksonville to Titusville and dock at Titusville Landing or continue to Rockledge and dock at Rockledge Landing. Horses and wagons would take the guests to their hotels. After the railroad came in the mid-1880s, the train would take them directly to the hotel.

The Hubble Space Telescope launched in orbit on April 24, 1990 by the Space Shuttle Discovery. Atlantis the fifth and last orbiter to service the telescope in 2009. Posters along the wall describe in detail the Hubble’s features. The telescope named after Edwin Powell Hubble an astronomer who made important discoveries in astronomy.

Stop by the gift shop and browse the books on Florida History, Matted Hubble Prints, replicas of space shuttles and the usual items in a gift shop. I highly recommend the museum the docents at the museum made our visit more enjoyable. A butterfly garden and eight trails to explore all under 1 mile each. Call the museum before heading out, the trails closed because of Hurricane Irma.

O’Leno State Park

Drive down the road under a canopy of trees stopping for Gopher Tortoises at the crossing on the way to O’Leno State Park located at 410 SE O’Leno Park Road in High Springs. The site originally a town named Leno established in the mid-1860s. The town prospered until the railroad went around the town. By the 1890s, it became a ghost town.

Library and Museum

Step inside the museum and read about the early years of the men in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The location originally purchased as a forestry training camp. In the early 1930s, the camp became a state park one of the original nine parks built by the CCC.

Nature Center

A small nature center that houses the King and Red Snakes, both non-venomous and the Loggerhead Musk Turtle. Two Gopher Tortoises eyeing each other in the turtle pen. A Mounted Florida Bobcat, Barred Owl and an Armadillo. The Florida Bobcat remains elusive, the Barred Owl found during twilight hours. While hiking in the woods you might come across an Armadillo.





Relax along the river’s edge and admire the Magnolia and Cypress Trees. Walk along the boardwalk to the suspension bridge stopping in the middle of the bridge to take photos looking out at the Santa Fe River. The bridge built by the men of the CCC. Hike on one of the many trails through pine forests and hardwood hammocks.

Have a picnic or a barbecue. A playground for children and a designated swimming area. I recommend the park, a lot to see and do. Fees and hours of operation on the website.