Florida’s Most Unusual Tourist Attractions: A Guide to Quirky Adventures
Florida is known for its many beautiful beaches, theme parks, and natural attractions, but it also offers some very unusual and offbeat tourist attractions. Florida is a state that offers an eclectic mix of history and culture.
Florida has been home to pirates, its rivers are filled with fossils of prehistoric mammals like mammoths, it’s been home to many escaped exotic pets over the years including chimpanzees, iguanas, and giant pythons which have now established themselves here.
Travel beyond the main tourist trail and come see the weird and wacky side of the Sunshine State with these strange yet intriguing destinations.
Wizard of Oz Museum, Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral is famous for its rocket launches and of course being the busiest cruise port in the world, where some of the largest cruise ships in the world dock such as those operated by Royal Caribbean International. The next time you book a Port Canaveral cruise, be sure to save enough time to check out one of the Space Coast’s newest quirky attractions.
Situated just five minutes from the cruise terminals is the Wizard of Oz Museum which is home to thousands of artifacts that relate to the much beloved film. While there may be no place like home, traveling to Florida to see this fun and immersive museum will surely bring back good memories as you surround yourself with movie props, life-size characters that include the witch’s winged monkeys, and unique immersive experiences.
See the first published copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book that has been signed by the author, the movie script, and costumes. Kids can enjoy a scavenger hunt and toy room.
Less than 2 years old, the museum utilizes technology to recreate digital landscapes from the film, allowing you to transport yourself into Dorothy’s world. You will even get to feel as though you are in a tornado as digital cows, tractors, and other debris swirl around you.
They even incorporate a bit of outer space into the digital viewing experience to highlight Cape Canaveral’s history of space exploration and recently added an additional Vincent van Gogh experience which although may not really have anything to do with the film but is still a delight to see as a bonus.
Skunk Ape Research Headquarters, Florida
If you’ve never heard of a skunk ape, head deep into the remote swamps of the Everglades to the very peculiar Skunk Ape Research Headquarters. The headquarters are actually easy to visit as they are located on the Tamiami Trail which tourists often drive along heading between Miami and Florida’ Gulf Coast.
So what exactly is a Skunk Ape? Well, it’s basically Florida’s version of Bigfoot and Dave Shealy who runs the research facility claims they exist and roam the swamps of Southern Florida. Looking like a giant orangutan, you can observe a range of evidence that Shealy has collected over the years such as photos and plaster castings of footprints to decide for yourself whether he is simply just a bit crazy or if there may be truth to the legend.
While you aren’t guaranteed to see a real live skunk ape, you can pose for a photo with a sculpture of one of them and purchase a range of Skunk Ape merchandise. There are also real life animals to spend time with such as alligators, parrots, turtles, and giant pythons you may be able to hold.
Coral Castle, Homestead
You won’t find too many castles in America, but there is a rather unique one in Homestead that was built by one man using just hand tools. The castle is the work of Edward Leedskalnin and he began building his castle over 100 years ago.
A secretive man, nobody really knows how he managed to quarry and transport the massive blocks of coral to create his castle and intricately carved sculptures that adorn the property. The sculpture garden is said to be made up of over 1,000 tons of coral rock and includes things like outdoor benches, a sundial, abstract sculptures, and a giant revolving gate that weighs 9 tons.
Some call Coral Castle America’s version of Stonehenge which similarly has mystery and legends around how it was created. Edward simply stated he used secrets that the Ancient Egyptians used when building the Great Pyramids to build his own castle.
Visitors are welcome to see the impressive work of art for themselves and marvel at how a single man originally from Latvia was able to achieve such a feat without using modern machinery. You can book a guided tour or simply enjoy a self-guided experience and there is an onsite museum that showcases some of Leedskalnin’s tools, personal belongings, and photographs.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park, Gainesville
Not all bizarre attractions are man-made. Gainesville is home to a fascinating natural attraction known as the Devil’s Millhopper. Situated within a state park, this giant 120-foot deep sinkhole formed over millions of years and has now created a unique microclimate that resembles a cool rainforest.
The site attracts a range of rare wildlife and plant species and you can descend into the sinkhole yourself thanks to a staircase made up of well over 200 steps that leads you to the bottom of the sinkhole.
Guided walks are offered on the weekends but you can easily visit the site yourself with help from interpretive signs along the well-maintained boardwalks and staircases which provide information about the sinkhole’s formation, area’s geological history, and wildlife. They even host yoga classes on certain days within the park.
The visitor center provides additional insights into the geological processes and the natural history of the region. They display various artifacts from the sinkhole that have been recovered such as fossil shark teeth from giants like megalodon, fossil shells, and spear tip points from Florida Indians that once lived here.
Spook Hill, Lake Wales
Spook Hill has intrigued visitors for decades. What makes Spook Hill unique is a gravity-defying phenomenon which is actually simply an optical illusion that makes it appear as if vehicles roll uphill when they are actually going downhill.
You can see the phenomenon for yourself as there is a designated spot where you are instructed to park your vehicle and put it in neutral. As you release the brakes, you’ll simply watch in awe as your car seemingly rolls uphill and defy the laws of gravity.
In reality, it again is simply just an illusion that tricks the human brain into perceiving uphill motion instead of downhill. That hasn’t stopped legends being created about the place such as that its magic was created after an Indian chief battled an alligator.
Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer in the legend that supernatural forces or some sort of Earth magnetism is at work, a visit to Spook Hill and its famous gravity or magnetic hill is sure to leave you with an entertaining experience. Be sure to bring a camera to film the experience to prove you aren’t just seeing things and to astonish your friends and family.
Ernest Hemingway Museum, Key West
If you find yourself in the Florida Keys, be sure to make a stop at the home of one of America’s finest writers. Ernest Hemingway’s Key West home has been converted into a public museum which helps to preserve his legacy.
The Spanish Colonial-style mansion housed the famous writer during a period when he wrote some of his greatest works such as “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”
The house itself is filled with Hemingway’s personal belongings, including furniture, artwork, and hunting trophies, along with his typewriter. One of the highlights of the museum is getting to step inside Hemingway’s writing studio in which he wrote many of his literary masterpieces.
Now you may be asking what is so unusual about visiting the home of a distinguished writer. Well, in addition to the house and its exhibits, you will also encounter dozens of cats roaming around the home and property. These aren’t just normal cats, rather they are special cats with six toes, known as polydactyl cats.
Hemingway was a lover of cats, and the cats you can visit today are in fact descendants of Hemingway’s original pets. It all started with a six-toed cat that Hemingway was giving by a friend who was a ship captain.
Hindu Temple, Tampa
You’d be forgiven if you thought you were in India when you come across the Hindu Temple located in Tampa. Inspired by the Dravidian style of South Indian temples, it is one of the largest temples in the states and looks rather out of place in Florida.
The temple’s exterior is adorned with intricate carvings and colorful sculptures depicting various deities and mythological scenes from Hindu scriptures. Inside the temple, you’ll find idols of various Hindu deities, including Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna, Lord Ganesha, and Goddess Lakshmi.
The temple features separate shrines dedicated to other deities, such as Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga, and Lord Ayyappa. These shrines provide devotees with the opportunity to offer prayers and perform rituals.
Visitors are welcome to the temple and free tours are offered which can last up to a few hours in length. You’ll learn a great deal about the Hindu religion and may even be able to catch a worship session. Simply give them a call to ask about tour times and maybe choose to go on a weekend when they often serve authentic Indian treats. You are free to take photos anywhere outside of the prayer room.
The temple organizes religious ceremonies, spiritual discourses, and cultural events throughout the year, including festivals like Diwali, Holi, and Navaratri. These celebrations showcase traditional music, dance performances, and the heritage of Florida’s Hindu community.
The temple also hosts a variety of classes and educational programs for children and adults, teaching Hindu scriptures, languages like Sanskrit, and various cultural practices. The aim is to preserve and pass on Hindu traditions, values, and knowledge to anyone that wishes to embrace it.