We can spot ‘em from a mile away. You can tell who they are by their oversized floppy sunhats, Hawaiian-print shirts, and the Visitor’s Center Welcome Guide clutched in their fists: tourists. While they may smell strongly of sunblock and speak with funny Midwestern accents, the fact is, tourists are our bread and butter. However, while they’re all flocking to the beaches or up to Orlando to see The Mouse, we’re over here keeping our best tourist destinations to ourselves.
Yep, that’s right. Not all tourist traps have to be totally lame. In fact, some of them can be downright fun. These are the top three must-see tourist traps that may be somewhat off the beaten path, but are absolutely worth the day trip to go see. As a Florida driver, you have to luxury of living a short ride away from some of the most exotic sites in the US. Next time you’re itching to go for a short drive in the flattest of states, explore one of these cool retreats.
1) Monkey Jungle. I’m sure I don’t have to ask you twice. Do you want to see a monkey? Do you want to see… many monkeys? Monkey Jungle is a wildlife park based in Miami, and they brag on their website that they are the place where “Where Humans Are Caged and Monkeys Run Wild!” Established over 80 years ago, this park is not only fun, but also educational. They pride themselves on conservation, too, making this a fun and ethically-sound adventure that seriously cannot be missed.
2) Coral Castle. After being jilted a mere one day before he was supposed to get married, Latvian immigrant Edward Leedskalnin decided to build a huge castle as a tribute to his lost love. A man who was small in stature but big in personality, this artist and engineer dedicated the rest of his life to building a massive oolite limestone castle. He wound up using over a thousand tons of coral rock to build his castle, but didn’t use a single bit of modern technology to create it. Today, this castle stands in Miami and is worth spending a day exploring and soaking up its quirky history.
3) The Everglades. Okay, this one is kinda cheating. Of course, everyone has heard of the Everglades. This 1.5-million-acre wildlife preserve wasn’t exactly set up by the locals to lure you in, but nevertheless, you really gotta see it to believe it. Even if you’ve lived in south Florida your entire life, you still need to spend a day enjoying the Everglades. Scope out the gators on an airboat or stroll along the Anhinga Trail to see if you can get a glimpse of these formidable apex predators. Either way, this will be an adventure you won’t soon forget.
There’s more to Florida than just theme parks and waterslides. To really get to know the area better, sometimes you have to go off the beaten path. Keep an open mind, talk to the old timers to see what they recommend, and you’ll be sure to make enough happy memories to last you a lifetime!
Before you take that trip down I-95, get your HOV sticker so you don’t have to wait in that nasty traffic. Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles qualify – call to find out if your vehicle makes the cut and you won’t need an extra passenger to HOV.
Photo credit: Sebastian Voortman (main), Tina Nord (editorial 1), Element5 Digital (editorial 2)