One of the things we love most about Florida is that it’s full of surprises. No matter how well you think you know our state, there is always a new place or interesting fact to discover. Here are just a few of our weird and wonderful state’s secrets:
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. The Florida House is the only embassy for a state in Washington, D.C.
It was founded in 1973 as an education center, as well as a meeting place for Floridians in Washington, D.C.
2. Coral Castle in Homestead was built by one small man, using only basic tools. He claimed to know ancient secrets that helped him move the multi-ton stones.
Edward Leedskalnin was only five feet tall and around 100 pounds. He claimed to have built the castle for an unrequited love. Ed lived alone in his creation and gave tours until his death.
3. Florida has its own version of Bigfoot called the Skunk Ape.
The Skunk Ape Research Headquarters in Ochopee started as the office of Jack Shealy's Trail Lakes campground. Later, his brother Dave, took up the search for the elusive beast, and it became the unique attraction/research center.
4. This Florida state park was once home to a unique community.
The Koreshan Unity was a religious and scientific community that settled in Estero, FL, in 1894. They held the belief that the Earth was hollow and humanity lived on the inside of its shell. When the celibate community finally came to an end in the '60s, the last of the followers donated the well preserved buildings to create this park. Tours, wildlife viewing, canoeing, and camping are available at what is now called the Koreshan State Historic Site.
5. There is an Amish/Mennonite community in Florida, and it's different from all others.
The Pinecraft Amish ride bikes instead of buggies, and the homes in this community near Sarasota have electricity because they're intended for vacationers and retirees.
6. A fallout shelter was built for President John F. Kennedy in Florida during the Cold War.
This bunker was designed to keep the president safe underground on Peanut Island near the Kennedy family home in Palm Beach.
7. The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, located in Delray Beach, is the only museum in the country dedicated purely to the living culture of Japan.
Most people have no idea that a beacon of Japanese culture can be found right here in Florida. Visitors to this museum in Delray Beach can peruse exhibits on Japanese art and customs, sample Japanese food, and stroll through historical gardens with an impressive bonzai collection.
8. There is a secret abandoned water park at Walt Disney World.
River Country was the first water park at Walt Disney World, made to look like an old-timey swimming hole, and also one of only two Disney parks to close, ever.For some reason Disney World left the park abandoned, but never demolished it. You can still see glimpses of this abandoned park when visiting the Magic Kingdom today.
9. Florida was once home to the fifth oldest tree in the world.
The Senator was located in Big Tree Park in Longwood. It was the biggest and oldest Bald Cypress in the world. A woman accidentally burned it down in 2012 after crawling inside it to smoke meth. It was 3,500 years old and 125 feet tall.
10. The unofficial psychic capital of the world is a little town in Volusia County.
Cassadaga is called the unofficial psychic capital of the world because there are so many psychics who reside there. If you have any burning questions, a trip to Cassadaga could be the perfect way to find an answer.
11. Stephen Foster, who wrote our state song, never visited Florida or even saw the Suwannee River.
There has been a lot of controversy about the song, and Florida held a contest to find a new one. They ended up not going through with the change completely, and now we have both a state song and a state anthem.
12. There is a medieval monastery in North Miami Beach.
This 12th-century structure was purchased by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in the '20s, but his plans were sidetracked by shipping complications. It was finally purchased again in the '60s and reassembled here in Florida.
13. In South Florida, there is an underwater cemetery serving as an artificial reef.
Neptune Memorial Reef is the brainchild of artist Kim Brandell and is located three miles off the coast of Key Biscayne. Ashes are cast into memorials that make up a 16-acre artificial reef divers are encouraged to explore.
Do you know any other little known facts or unique places in Florida? We would love to hear about them!