Orlando Wetlands Park a 1600-acre park located at 25155 Wheeler Road in Christmas. Take a tram tour with a park volunteer who points out different species of birds, numerous trees and aquatic plants. The Sabal Palm, Florida’s state tree produces berries that birds eat. The Bulrush and Cattail plants both aquatic plants can grow up to ten feet tall in shallow water. Over seventeen hundred alligators inhabit the park. Sometimes the eyes and snouts of alligators is all you can see the rest lies hidden just beneath the water. Listen to the grunting sounds of the pig frog.
Stop by the interpretative exhibits area and pick up a map and guide. Read about the different plants, mammals, fish and birds in the wetlands and a history of the early pioneers in the town of Christmas. While hiking in the wetlands you might come upon these different species.
Stroll along the dirt path in the wildlife garden and enjoy the different native plants that attract the many species of birds and butterflies.
Inside the educational building resides an alligator, a Striped Mud Turtle and a Florida Softshell Turtle. The alligator is on loan from the alligator farm. When he gets too big for the aquarium, he goes back to the alligator farm. Descriptions of the turtles, their diet and habitat found next to their aquariums. Private owners donated the mounted animals on display. Other items on display in the center. Birdhouses, books, t-shirts and postcards for sale.
I recommend the park; the park volunteers are very knowledgeable. Free entrance to the park, donations accepted. Hours of operation on the website.
Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum located at 4155 W. Vine St. in Kissimmee. Listen to the crying sounds of the Limpkin bird while learning about the native people that survived living in the cypress swamp. Coacoochee a Seminole Warrior fought in the Seminole Wars. From early hunting tools to the River otter, Raccoon, Alligator and the Panther an endangered species all found in the swamp.
Early settlers to Florida included the Cadman family from England who built a citrus packinghouse and Hamilton Disston a wealthy tycoon from Philadelphia who bought four million acres of land in Florida and built a sugar plantation. The Shakers, a religious community owned a commercial fishing and pineapple farm.Trains came to Kissimmee in the early 1880s. The rails eventually extended to Tampa. People would ride the train from Sanford to Kissimmee then stay at a downtown hotel. They would board the Steamer Lillie to take day trips or 4-day trips along the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.
“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. An exhibit on display until October of this year show cooking utensils, bedrolls and other items necessary for traveling on the road. Trailer Topics, a magazine geared for people who owned trailers and a model of an early Airstream on display.
A replica of the 3,700-pound bronze sculpture on display at the Osceola County Courthouse that celebrates Osceola County’s Centennial.
Different species of mammals and reptiles found in the hammock. The Red Shouldered Hawk and the Yellow-bellied sapsucker a few of the birds found in hardwood and cypress trees. The Whopping Crane, an endangered bird, Osprey, a hawk and a Bald Eagle all popular with bird watchers. A replica of a Bald Eagle nest on display.
I walked around the museum and was in awe of the dioramas that are on display. The workmanship that went into building them is phenomenal. Stop inside the gift shop that is a replica of a steamship. Children’s books and books on the first one-hundred years. Jars of raw natural honey from the honey farm, coffee mugs and other items sold in the gift shop. Free entrance to the museum, donations accepted.
Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center located on the grounds of the MANN-WAGNON MEMORIAL PARK on 1101 East River Cove Street in Tampa. Sulphur Springs a community established in the late 1800s. The museum exhibit depicts the history of Sulphur Springs from the tourists who visited to the people who lived in the community.
People came from around the country for the therapeutic health benefits of the natural springs. Activities for the tourists who visited Sulphur Springs included a community pool that people watched competitive swimming and a Toboggan Slide. Reproductions of postcards of the era shown along the wall. The locals as well as the tourists would shop at the Arcade a Mediterranean style building. The Water Tower built in the late 1920s provided water for the increasing number of tourists who came to Sulphur Springs. In the late 1980s, the tower designated an historic landmark but no longer in use.
Urchins, Conchs, Sponges and other forms of sea life displayed in the aquarium exhibit. Walk through the museum and read the Poster Exhibits about Coral Reefs. “Coral Reefs are in Danger” and the eight ways to solve the problem. “Coral Reefs Nurseries of the Sea” show different species found in the reefs. The age, length and how food and shelter provide for the different fish species indicated in “Coral Reefs Are Amazing.”
A shark exhibit will dispel any misconceptions that people have about sharks. Seven species of sharks and 3 kinds of Hammerheads found in Tampa Bay.
Bring a picnic lunch and sit under a pavilion or under a garden trestle, relax while looking out at the Hillsborough River. Learn about the different sea creatures and other exhibits at the museum. Free admission to the museum, donations accepted.
Groveland Historical Museum established in 2007 located at 243 S. Lake Avenue in Groveland. Our museum guides born and raised in Groveland would point to the photographs and articles throughout the museum that tell a story of early Taylorville, Groveland Commerce and Groveland Early Leaders.
Groveland originally named Taylorville after the Taylor brothers who built a turpentine still. The Taylor brothers, Edge Family who built a mercantile, a lumber mill, and the Arnold family who purchased the lumber mill from the Edge family all early pioneers to Groveland.
Groveland High School built in 1937 by the Work Progress Administration (WPA) during the depression. Famous graduates from Groveland High School included Edmond “Darrell” Cashwell a scientist with the Manhattan Project, Austin “Red” Robbins a professional basketball player who played with 5 professional basketball teams and Derrick Graham, a football player who played with the National Football League. A coach and teacher at Groveland High School played professional baseball with the minor leagues during the summer months.
The bank closed in Groveland during the depression. Our guide told us that Mr. Edge had a safe in his mercantile store and during the depression; people would bring envelopes with money for him to put in his safe.
As the story goes, while living in the old west, George McClellan Myers won a horse race against Apache Chief Geronimo. He was town marshal in Groveland in the 1920s and 30s. Police Chief Tommy Merrill who retired in 2012 after 43 years of service was the longest running police chief in the United States.
I recommend the museum a lot of history for a small town. Free admission to the museum, donations accepted. Hours of operation on the website.
After visiting the museum, walk across the street to the park. Enjoy a picnic lunch in a gazebo while looking out at the lake.
Rent a canoe, kayak or a tube; swim in the springs on the Rainbow River in Rainbow Springs formerly a tourist attraction from the 1930s to the 1970s located at 19158 SW 81st Place in Dunnellon. Rainbow Springs designated a registered natural landmark exemplifying the natural history of the United States.
Walk along the path to the end of the boardwalk and admire the beauty of the river. Stand on a boardwalk and listen to the rippling sounds of the water in the creek below or sit on a bench and listen to the sounds of the waterfalls while enjoying the lush surroundings. The rock formation and the water recirculated to create Rainbow Falls came from the river.
Stop and read the interpretive exhibit about the creation of the gardens. Lilies, Azaleas, Camellias and other native plants make up the gardens. Native plants used to create the Butterfly Garden. Golden Rod a yellow flowering plant that provides nectar for 9 species of butterflies. Fire Bush a shrub that attracts the Zebra Longwing and Gulf Fritillary Butterflies. Sand Cordgrass grows 3 to 4 feet tall and considered drought tolerant.
Three trails to explore each under two miles in length. Have a picnic on one of the tables at the Visitor Center. I recommend the park, many activities to discover. Hours of operation and fees on the website.
Polk County Historical Museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places located at 100 East Main Street in Bartow. Polk County named after James Polk the eleventh president of the United States. The third courthouse built on this site served the county from 1908 until 1987. After a period of restoration, the museum opened in the late 1990s.
Permanent and temporary exhibits throughout the museum. Jacob Summerlin an early pioneer donated land to the development of downtown Bartow. Eight industries supported the early settlers of Polk County. Photographs and labels chronicles the history of the first European families and the first African American families.
People boarded the Atlantic Coastline Railroad in Polk County to Lake Alfred, Florence Villa, Eagle Lake and Bartow. Five railroads served Polk County from the mid-1880s to the mid-1990s when they merged with other railroads. A map of the route and memorabilia from the Atlantic Coastline Railroad.
The citrus industry in Polk County from crates to packinghouses to shipping. The history of baseball in Polk County. First came the tin can tourists people who lived out of their vehicle for months eating canned food. Built in the late 1920s, the first tin can trailer called an Airstream contained a stove and an ice chest. A map and other gear for the road exhibited.
A children’s gallery, a natural beauty exhibit featuring local photographers and a gallery dedicated to Women in Fashion from the early twentieth century. A room dedicated to the men and women from Polk County who served in the armed services in WWII. So much to see a return visit is recommended. Admission is free, hours of operation on the website.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places the Marion County Museum of History and Archaeology located at 307 SE 26th Terrace in Ocala. Formerly a detention center for delinquent girls Marion County purchased the building in the mid-1980s for use as a historical museum.
Thousands of years of history from the Paleo-Indians to the present. The Corsiglia Collection, an exhibit that include shell artifacts to the Henderson Collection that include bone artifacts.
Different rooms depict a timeline of events in Marion County history. The Spanish Conquis-tadors and the contact between Native Americans. An exhibit during the Colonial Period display a map of Marion County and a copy of the Treaty of Payne’s Landing with the United States Government and the Seminole Indians in 1832. The Civil War Period that details the war effort.
Hubbard Hart operated the steamboats in the late 19th and early 20th century. A map of the Ocklawaha River shows the routes the steamboats took. The route took passengers from Palatka to Silver Springs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, President Ulysses S. Grant, and Thomas Edison some of the famous passengers.
Photographs of Ocala from the late 19th century and a map of Marion County in the early 1890s. Since the mid-1800s, Silver Springs has been a tourist destination. Early pictures of Silver Springs line the walls.
The New Deal Programs during the Great Depression benefitted Marion County that show photographs of the Cross Florida Ship Canal.
Turn the postcard stand for Old Ocala reproduction postcards. Books on Silver Springs underwater photography prints, autographed books, and posters for sale. Artwork that line the walls for sale that benefit the museum. Admission prices and hours of operation on the website.
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park located at 4140 Suncoast Boulevard in Homosassa. Dr. Ray White, marine veterinarian instrumental in establishing the wildlife park for injured and rehab-ilitated Manatees.
Board the tram from the visitor center to the wildlife park or take a pontoon boat and cruise along the river watching an alligator bask in the sun and enjoying the scenery along the way. Inside the visitor center, a photography exhibit from the 1800s an early history of Homosassa Springs to the 2000s a new century begins.
Step down to the underwater observatory and view some of the twelve different species of fish that inhabit Homosassa River. Walk around the outside of the observatory and watch some of the birds that inhabit the park. From November through March, the Manatees arrive for the warmer waters. Stand at the river overlook and try to spot them.
Barred and Great Horned Owls, Crested Caracara a threatened species, and Large Wading Birds can be found throughout the Wildlife Walk. Educational programs and Wildlife Encounters. Walk the 1.2-mile Pepper Creek Trail. Entrance fees and hours of operation on the website.
Welcome to Dickson Azalea Park located at 100 Rosearden Drive in Orlando. Walk down one of the stairways that connects the trail circling the park. Cross one of several bridges to the other side of the park, stop and admire the foliage at the creek below. Pink and Red Azaleas in bloom, ferns and Sabal Palms surround the park.
Sit on a bench underneath a tree and read a book, meditate, listen to the birds sing while relaxing and enjoying the surroundings. I recommend the park; the best time to go is February and March when the Azaleas are in bloom.
Riverwalk Family Park located at 5355 US Highway 1 in Rockledge. The nature center, nature themed playground, and boardwalk comprise the park. Bring a picnic lunch and eat at one of the picnic tables.
Aquarium tanks throughout the nature center house a Diamondback Terrapin that swims in the ocean and walks on land. A touch tank, and a quarantine tank that holds small turtles. An Oyster Toadfish, a Banded Tulip Snail in one tank and Crabs in another. The bones of a Bottlenose Dolphin and the West Indian Manatee in the display case.
Join in the fun with your children in the Nature Themed Playground equipped with different activity zones. Explore an Aqua Zone, Organic Engineering, and Play Art.
Walk along the boardwalk to the Indian River Lagoon and admire the native plants of Riverwalk Park. Sit on a bench, relax, and listen to the songbirds. Stop at each plaque and read a description of the different birds found in the lagoon. Feel the breeze as you reach the lagoon, stop and watch the waves as they break on the shore. Watch a speedboat racing across the lagoon or a sailboat slowing sailing across the lagoon. I recommend the park admission is free. An informative and relaxing way to spend the day.