When most people think of what hidden gems Florida has, they picture white-sand beaches, Mickey Mouse, and retirement communities. But there is so much more to the Sunshine State than that!
From charming small towns to majestic state parks, there are plenty of hidden gems in Florida that are worth exploring.
Here are 10 Hidden Gems Florida has that we absolutely love!
1. Child of the Sun’s Campus at Florida Southern College
Florida Southern College is home to the stunning child of the sun campus, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
It’s one of Wright’s most recognizable works and has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.
The buildings are full of Wright art and the campus features tours of Wright’s works.
If you’re in the area, be sure to check out Child of the Sun’s Campus.
The campus includes 18 structures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, including two chapels, a circular library, seminar buildings, and an excellently preserved Usonian home.
These structures serve as a collection of Wright’s philosophy and lay the foundation for the Usonian movement.
His statement is simple but powerful. Whether you’re an avid fan of Wright’s work or not, the campus is a must-see!
The campus also contains the world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.
This collection is housed at Florida Southern College on the shores of Lake Hollingsworth. Wright was born in 1867 and died in 1959. It includes the world’s first planetarium and theater-in-the-round, among other landmarks.
Wright’s original plan included 18 buildings; only 13 have been completed.
The campus is also home to one of Wright’s most ambitious restoration efforts.
2. Fantasy of Flight
Polk City, Florida
If you’re in the area and are considering a trip to the Florida Panhandle, you should consider visiting Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.
The attraction’s main building was closed after Hurricane Andrew destroyed its Miami location.
But the reopened museum was much larger than it is today. And while it’s currently closed, its museum building, known as Museum Light, has an impressive array of airplanes. Currently, there’s an act three in the works.
The museum’s air-related exhibits change periodically, so visiting at different times will always be a unique experience.
The aircraft and exhibits change from time to time, so you should always check before you visit!
They have provided information on the area, hours, and admission costs. They have also answered questions that I had about the museum.
We have since been visiting the museum and we’re excited to share it with you!
The Fantasy of Flight facility is comprised of the main building and two hangars, a long runway, and a decommissioned cockpit.
The attraction also owns a portion of a lake near the airport so that seaplanes can land on water.
In late 2011, they started construction on a second building across the street, which would double their storage capacity.
Originally, the plan was to open these buildings on a limited basis, but it has since expanded to include the third hangar. Visitors can also tour the decommissioned cockpits of various aircraft, and zip lines across the street.
3. Big Bend Power Plant Manatee Viewing Area
Apollo Beach, Florida
Manatees travel to Apollo Beach every year when Tampa Bay’s temperature drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit during winter.
They go there to take in the heat from the wastewater channel of the power plant and then they gather in an area designated for tourists.
The observation platforms allow you to see the mangroves. You can see many sea creatures and birds here, including cranes and pelicans as well as stingrays and stingrays.
The special butterfly garden attracts additional visitors.
You can see the Power Station and its four smokestacks from the canal.
This striking industrial site provides a fascinating counterpoint to the manatees who gather around it.
To provide protection for endangered manatees, the federal and state governments have designated Big Bend’s discharge channel as a “manatee sanctuary” in order to protect them.
Manatee viewing center guests have free parking and admission. All donations are welcome, according to the website.
These funds go directly towards educational exhibits and publications which will educate more people about manatees as well as other animals and plants that share its habitat.
The popularity of “American Horror Story: Freak Show”, has brought back interest in circus folk, and the carnie lifestyle.
This is a dangerous view.
Yes, the Lobster Family scandal was a source of inspiration. Grady Stiles (aka Lobster Boy) had ectrodactyly.
This is when the fingers and toes of the patient fuse together, creating claw-like appendages.
He was an abusive alcoholic and killed his daughter’s fiancée the night before their wedding. Stiles’ second wife, and his son, hired a sideshow performer to then shoot Stiles to the death.
Gibsonton, Hillsborough County has been the focus of much attention because of this infamy. Since the Great Depression, it has been the traditional wintering spot for circus performers.
Locals call it Gibtown. It was once home to human oddities. Local zoning laws allowed elephants and tigers to be kept in front yards.
Residents are now more inclined than ever to fire breathe and swallow swords than people with disabilities. In your yard, you’ll see smaller exotic animals and more disused carnival rides.
Showtown U.S.A. has plenty of things to offer.
International Independent Showmen’s Association is made up of more than 4,500 members of the outdoor amusement industry.
It has a beautiful museum that focuses exclusively on the traveling show. Yet another hidden gem Florida has!
5. Jack Browns Seaplane Base
Winter Haven, Florida
If you want to experience the freedom of flying a seaplane, you may want to visit the Jack Browns Seaplane Base in Winter Haven, Florida.
The base was founded by Jon Brown, who flew the first seaplane with his father when he was six years old. Later, he worked as a line boy for rides, and at the age of fourteen, he began taking flying lessons.
He eventually earned his seaplane rating and a pilot’s license and opened Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base.
In 1975, Jack Brown passed away. Jon Brown continued his father’s business, maintaining a welcoming and encouraging attitude. This base is home to extensive flight training.
In addition to flight training, it is the busiest seaplane base in the world, second only to Lake Union in Seattle. The base runs 27 flights per day and has about ten thousand passengers each year.
While he may not have been able to see it all, his sons are still working on the base.
The base is located near over 100 lakes in an area of 5 square miles, making it a prime location for seaplane training.
Brown’s is popular year-round, but the busiest months are January through May.
During this time, students can view rocket launches and the second-stage separation of booster rockets.
Aside from flying a seaplane, students can experience the Southern hospitality that Browns is known for.
6. Pioneer Florida Museum & Village
Dade City, Florida
Pioneer Florida Museum – This historic landmark is a great way to learn about the early days of Florida.
Its unique setting and collection of antiques will enchant you. It is also a fun place to visit with children, as the Museum has hands-on activities and a Facebook page dedicated to past events.
There are also many vendors and volunteers dressed in period costumes, which add to the fun.
The mission of the Pioneer Florida Museum & Village is to educate the public on the history of the state prior to the Civil War.
The museum encourages school tours for Florida history classes.
It welcomes groups from other museums and schoolchildren. It also holds several community events throughout the year.
It features several historic buildings, including an 1860 one-room schoolhouse, an outhouse, a train station, and an 1896 depot with a 1913 Porter steam engine. There’s also a gift shop, and you can purchase local honey and pure cane syrup.
It is a fun, educational way to learn more about the area’s history.
7. Tampa Theatre
A historic landmark is the Tampa Theatre, an iconic U.S. theater in Downtown Tampa. John Eberson designed it as a theatre-style movie palace. It was opened on October 15, 1926.
The historic Tampa Theatre shows classic films and performs unique plays. It seats more than 1,400 people.
It features documentaries as well as independent and foreign films.
It is Tampa’s only non-profit movie palace. Members, donors, corporate sponsors, ticket sales, and ticket and concessions sales pay for the operating costs. It has been used as a backdrop for movies, music videos, local programming, and other media.
The Tampa Theatre is one of the most well-preserved examples in America of elaborate “movie palaces”, which were very popular in the early 1900s.
Except for the red neon sign, the Theatre’s exterior looks very ordinary.
The courtyard inside is a beautiful Mediterranean setting, with garden flowers and statuary.
As visitors enter, the night sky twinkles.
The Tampa Theatre was constructed in 1926. It was almost saved from destruction in 1976.
Some of the most well-known events include film festivals, concerts by international artists, first-run movie screenings, and WineFest. Visit their website for more information.
8. Wonder House
It’s a great place to visit if you are interested in vintage postcards.
You can also see the Wonder House in person if you’d like to know more about it.
Before you go to the Wonder House, know that it used to be a beautiful home but fell into disrepair.
However, it was saved by a young couple, who fell in love with the home after seeing it on the popular Netflix show Amazing Interiors.
They worked tirelessly to restore the home and were successful when they finally got a zoning variance from the city of Bartow.
They can now open the Wonder House to paying guests on weekends!
Conrad Schuck, the man who created the Wonder House, built the home during the depression.
He was a stone dealer by profession and decided to use concrete over stone to create the home.
The house was reinforced with steel rails and was designed to be an attraction. It was so popular, in fact, that S
9. Mickey Pylon
Walt Disney World Resort – Celebration, Florida
The well-known landmark Mickey Pylon can be found in Celebration Florida is another hidden gem Florida has!
It is a master-planned community that is located outside Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando-Kissimmee Metropolitan Statistical Area.
This community was developed by the Walt Disney Company and is directly connected with the parks.
Nearby Osceola Substation is the Mickey Pylon, a 32m tall tubular double dead-end powerline tower with tubular double-dead ends.
There are two 230V circuits. The one that runs north over Gaylord Palms Resort via Intercession City Power Plant is the southerly circuit, while the other runs southward from Pearce Road Substation.
Mickey Pylon is a 21.3m tall tubular pole. Attached to the head is a 9.1m diameter circular ring weighing 13.608 tonnes.
This ring is surrounded by two elliptical rings with an axis length of 5.5m and 6.1m and a combined weight of 2.495 tons.
All rings are made from galvanized steel tubes having a cross-section of 0.305 MX 0.5008m. They were made by Bend-Tec in Duluth Minnesota.
Fiber-optic cables can be attached to the rings to lighten the structure at night. These cables feed a laser from the ground through a telecommunications-grade fiber inside the pole.
Safety Harbor, Florida
If you’re interested in sculpture gardens, Whimzeyland is the right place for you.
Whimzeyland, also known as the Bowling Ball House, is a sculpture garden created by two local artists. It can be found in the front yard of the couple and is open to all.
They have brought back unique items and pieces from all parts of the globe, and they have traveled the world.
It has been a labor of love for many decades.
They are known for their bowling balls.
They are decorated by artists from all corners of the world and there are many.
The gardens are free to the public, but the couple requests that you respect their property. The private residence is closed to the public.
If you’re looking for unique attractions and Hidden Gems Florida has, be sure to check out the Wonder House in Bartow, Mickey Pylon in Celebration, and Whimzeyland in Safety Harbor.
Each one has its own story and is worth a visit if you’re interested in learning more about the state’s history and culture.
Whether you’re looking for a unique place to stay or just want to explore something new, these hidden gems are sure to impress.
And, they’re all definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in the area!
And who knows?
You might just find your new favorite spot in Florida.