Here are 10 Florida attractions that aren’t Disney World but are, nevertheless, worthwhile:
1. In 2010 the Historical Museum of Southern Florida changed its name to HistoryMiami. It’s now a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate. At 101 West Flagler downtown, this fine museum celebrates Miami’s history as a unique crossroads, definitely the case, with great temporary shows like the current “Tropical Dreams” and “Road Trip!” A notable place for Mapheads.
2. “Clearwater Beach’s well-deserved reputation as one of America’s finest beaches has lured countless families and couples to its broad, sandy shores and beachfront hotels,” raves Jennifer Plum Auvil of the Travel Channel as she lists Florida’s Top 10 Beaches. I agree. Spread along a narrow, 3-mile stretch of the Pinellas Peninsula on the Gulf Coast, Clearwater Beach visitors enjoy the calm, blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
3. The Southern Most Point Monument. In Key West, this is maybe kind of hokey, but a must-stop for people who like places like Four Corners, the top of the Empire State Building, etc.
4. The Ringling Estate in Sarasota that I wrote about yesterday. It’s a must-see for those who like Hearst’s Castle, etc.
5. Also in Palm Beach, The Flagler Museum at the intersection of Coconut Row and Whitehall Way is actually Whitehall, Henry Flagler’s summer home. An opulent southern style-mansion amid palm trees outside, it’s all Gilded Age indulgence rivaling any European castle inside.
6. The Norton Museum of Art. See the #19 (of 25) entry about Ralph & Elizabeth Norton for details. At 1451 South Olive Avenue, downtown Palm Beach, its current exhibit until June 9, 2013, is 39 celeb-worshiping images by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz.
7. St. Augustine. One page-one website about this historic town is called “11 Tips on avoiding Saint Augustine Tourist Traps.” Beware. Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is about as old as a European community gets in the U.S. Roanoke Island’s doomed Lost Colony arrived in what is now North Carolina in 1587. It’s possible to focus on St. Augustine’s historical impact with visits to Fort Matanzas National Monument, the González-Alvarez House, etc.
8. City Place. One of our country’s forward-thinking mixed use, all-purpose–be entertained, shop, dine out, live there–communities, 12-year-old City Place is worth a stroll at 700 South Rosemary Avenue in West Palm Beach. Dancing fountains! Over 100 stores and restaurants! Normally the kind of attraction I try to avoid, City Place actually works. The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is within walking distance.
9. The Little White House. Harry Truman was the main Chief Executive to use Florida’s only presidential site. You hear a lot more about Camp David today, but the likes of Bill Clinton found his way to 111 Front Street, Key West, for r&r too. Tours are available about every 20 minutes. The photo above is from their Gallery.
10. The Everglades Parkway. This straight-as-a-knife-blade, cross-state highway (I-75) is also known as Alligator Alley. Don’t expect to see Florida panthers & probably not alligators either on its 84 mile length because, like in Banff National Park, bridges are designed to let wildlife pass safely and unseen. Built in 1969, this is a fast way to get a brief view of The Everglades–no towns, a rest-stop half way across–for those more interested in Miami than swamps.
Other famous Floridians who should have but didn’t make the final cut: Johnny Depp, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, L1l’ Wayne (I was surprised by how many rap artists are from Florida), Pat Boone, and Mickey Rourke.
Floridians who seem to have a bright future: Marco Rubio, Megan Fox, Maya Rudolph, Tim Tebow, and Fabiano Caruana, the youngest U.S. chess grandmaster born in Miami, 1992.