September, 2011


September, 2011

Northwest Florida

  Morrison Springs

Do you remember that old swimming hole? Such places are the lore of childhood for many of us. Passage of time tends to enhance cherished recollections, but regardless of how enchanted your memories are, they’re unlikely to match the reality of Morrison Springs.


The Springs have been favored by residents of Walton County forever. “It’s just always been here,” one local said. But, in 2004 the state purchased the 161-acre park, then leased it back to the county to maintain. And, in 2008 a $1 million renovation project added boardwalks, a diving platform, outdoor showers, a boat ramp and parking. Word has gotten around, and now the enticement extends throughout the Panhandle.


Even in view of all the improvements, the highlight is still the 250-foot diameter spring pool that produces an estimated 48 million gallons of crystal clear water each day. Three cavities allow water to surface from the underground aquifer.  The deepest of these cavities is approximately 300 foot in depth, eventually terminating in an underground chamber of unknown dimensions.

As you might guess the water temperature is…well, cold. (67 to 70 degrees year round) However, when ambient temperatures approach triple digits, it only requires a minute to acclimate, and then it becomes refreshing—-partially due to the purity and lack of swimming pool chemicals.

Of course the clarity of the water, in any event, has been a drawing card for divers even more than recreational swimmers. For decades prior to the state acquiring the property, the springs—-popular for depth and the three underwater caves for exploration—were used as a privately run dive facility.

Divers are still welcome, but possibly the greatest magnetism of Morrison Springs is that these extraordinary offering of nature are as they always were: free.
From I-10:  Take Exit 96 and exit onto Highway 81 South.  Go about 6 miles.  Turn left onto Highway 181-A.  Drive for 1.5 miles and turn right onto Morrison Springs Road and follow to its end.
Morrison Springs is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Call 850-892-8108 for more information.

Pensacola Seafood Festival

The 34th annual Pensacola Seafood Festival, presented by Florida Blue, will be held Friday, September 23through Sunday, September 25 in the historic Seville Square area in downtown Pensacola.

Treat your taste buds to a variety of dishes from 17 selected food vendors. Enjoy favorite foods such as grilled conch, seafood gumbo, soft shell crab, coconut shrimp, and crab cakes. The Pensacola Seafood Festival is one of the largest arts and crafts fairs in Northwest Florida, and over 130 vendors will be displaying their unique wares in Pelican Park (Seville Square).

Bartram Park will feature the entertainment stage: Friday, 5 - 6:30 p.m. – The Reunion Band; 7 - 9 p.m. – Breakfast Club; and 9:30 - 11 p.m. – drivin’ n’ cryin.’ On Saturday, 5 - 6:30 p.m. – Katie Rogers; 7 – 9 p.m. – Adam Holt Band; and 9:30 - 11 p.m. – Emerson Drive.  On Sunday favorite local bands will perform.

The Pensacola Seafood Festival offers cooking demonstrations, a 5K run/walk, Gulf-to-table venue with local seafood vendors, a cost-friendly children’s area, and other activities located in Bartram Park.

Admission to the Festival is free. Admission to Bartram Park is $5 after 5 p.m. For more information call 850-433-6512 or go to www.fiestaoffiveflags.org.

Northeast Florida

John F. Kennedy Space Center

It’s sad that our manned space program has ended. After years of endeavor we have a space station floating somewhere through the interstellar, now accessible only by piggybacking the Russians 200 miles out. But this is not the time to erase from our memories the accomplishments that brought us this far.

And, there is no better way to recognize our triumphs than to visit the John F. Kennedy Space Center where more than 8,000 men and women have pushed the limits of scientific knowledge.  At the Space Center, only 45 minutes from Orlando, there exists a more extraordinary tale of adventure than presented by any fantasy theme park. This is the real thing—America's gateway to the universe and NASA's launch headquarters.

The Space Center has been home of the Shuttle program and one of the only places in the world where humans have launched into space – the singular place where humans have left to go to the Moon. Today it is transforming into a twenty-first century launch facility. Unmanned rockets, whose payloads have included communication satellites, rovers bound for Mars and interplanetary explorers, are launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

More than a few legendary astronauts have walked through these halls and into the pages of history. The Apollo Program eventually put 12 Americans on the moon, and a six-member crew, currently occupying the International Space Station, conducts technical and medical research.

As you might guess, there is a visitors complex at the Space Center. Tours depart every 15 minutes giving an up-close look into this astounding program. Guided tours feature multimedia displays and hands-on exhibits, IMAX films shown on screens that are five stories tall feature realistic, 3-D special effects; spacecraft and artifacts, encounters with astronauts and behind-the-scene tours. You get the unique chance to see up-close–-NASA’s launch and landing facilities, experience interactive simulators, enjoy live shows and have amazing encounters with massive rockets. Plus, you can even schedule lunch with an astronaut. Limited seating allows time for individual photos and the opportunity to take questions from participants.

Most people stand in awe at the sight of the 363-foot-long Saturn V moon rocket. It’s the most powerful rocket ever built and one of only three in existence. In addition, the dramatic multi-media shows provide an inspirational look into America’s quest for the moon. You can relive the historic launch of Apollo 8 at the Firing Room Theater, and at the Lunar Theater you get a rare look at the harrowing final moments before man landed on the moon. In the Apollo Treasures Gallery you can stroll through the collection of space suits and gear used by the astronauts.

The Discover KSC: Then & Now tours, available with an upgrade, are guided by space program experts and take you deeper into the operation of the space center. Highlights of the tour, for most visitors, are in the A/B Camera Stop, where guests can view Launch Pads and the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, snapping photos that capture lasting memories.

In the two giant IMAX theaters, dramatic footage shot by NASA astronauts during actual missions will make you feel like you’re floating alongside them. The main show, Explorers Wanted, runs twice an hour, transforming the exhibit into a live theater environment.

For those who want to put themselves through the paces that separate NASA's best from the rest, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, along with astronaut artifacts and tributes to heroes, features an interactive simulator and hands-on activities that allow you to examine the planets and moons of our solar system as though you are in space. Another is the G-Force Trainer, which simulates the pressure of four times that of gravity, and a space shuttle landing simulation.

Next to the Space Shuttle Explorer is the Mission Status Center, where visitors receive live briefings on NASA launch and space flight activity. The Shuttle Launch Experience is an incredible journey of launching into space aboard the space shuttle. Guest “crew members” strap in for this all-too-real simulation, which immerses visitors in the sights, sounds and feeling of a space shuttle launch. The five–minute one-of-a-kind experience in the custom-designed crew cabin culminates with a breath-taking view of the earth from space.

Aside from fixing the accomplishments of the past decades in our minds, this is also an ideal time for review from another standpoint. Although it’s the ending of an era, it’s a time when details are clear—before history is rewritten or partially forgotten, and before the past can be confused with the events of a new era that is surely coming.

After this astronomical experience you might like to take some "space" memorabilia home: Perhaps some freeze-dried space food or an actual Gibeon meteorite! The Official Complex Space Shop is the world's largest store devoted entirely to space with NASA gifts and collectibles. With more than 3,000 space-related items you will no doubt find something that will remind you of a great day at the Space Center.

Guests have the opportunity to meet with a real Astronaut every day of the year in a half-hour interactive Q&A-oriented program. Check the website for appearances.

Admission (plus tax) is $43 for adults, and $33 for kids (ages 3-11). Admission includes the KSC tour and all Visitor Complex exhibits, shows and movies, plus the Shuttle Launch Experience® and admission to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®. Current operating hours are from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tours begin at 10 a.m. and depart continuously every 15 minutes. The last tour departs at 3:45 p.m. Each bus tour runs approximately 2.5 hours. The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® is open from 12 to 7 p.m. Call 877-313-2610 or go to www.kennedyspacecenter.com.


Central Florida

Orlando - Harry P. Leu Gardens

Travel to the heart of Orlando on the shores of Lake Rowena and discover Harry P. Leu Gardens. Mr. Leu was a local industrial-supplies magnate and amateur botanist who left his home and 50 acres to the city in 1961. Today you can enjoy a self-guided, self-paced tour on paved walkways through these southern-styled gardens.

Wheelchairs are provided for free. And signs throughout provide the full scientific name for the thousands of species represented.

The Leu’s love of Camellias (240 varieties) make this one of the largest documented collection of camellias in North America--where they bloom under Southern oaks dripping with Spanish moss in the North and South woods.

But there’s so much more: three acres of idea gardens for weekend projects; the largest formal rose garden in Florida (at its best from April-October); a two-acre tropical stream garden of native plants and vines; and a vegetable and herb garden. The native wetland garden near the lake is home to swamp hibiscus, lizard’s tail, loblolly, and dwarf wax myrtle, all under the shade of cypress trees. In addition there are palm, bamboo and cycad gardens, and a butterfly garden where more than one hundred different plants attract butterflies twelve months a year.  Again, labels tell you which are larval and which are nectar plants.

Another must-see is the 50-foot floral clock (its mechanism was purchased in Scotland) that sits on a sloping hill. Later, benches and a gazebo at the peaceful water’s edge beckon you to relax and watch the wading birds.

Garden House Welcome Center houses a horticultural library (open to visitors) and spacious meeting rooms. And from the terrace at the back of the building there’s a stunning view of the lake. Frequent arts and crafts exhibits and musical events are held here. The Garden Gift Shop is located on the ground floor and is accessible to the public without entry into the gardens.

The restored Leu home dates from the 1880s and is on the National Register of Historic Places. They purchased the house and 40 acres for $40,000 in 1936, completely renovating it. Every half hour from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., except in July when it is closed, volunteers conduct tours through the Leu House Museum. It’s recounts the building’s evolution, through several changes of ownership, from humble farm house to rich man’s estate, spiced with tales of a sheriff gunned down in the line of duty and home to the first actress to own a production company.

Leu Gardens in Orlando is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Christmas day. Last Garden admission at 4:00 pm. Admission is $7 for adults and $2 for children (K-12).  Free admission (excluding tour groups) on the first Monday of every month 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Go to www.leugardens.org or call 407-246-2620 for more information.

Lakeland - The Polk Museum of Art

Mark Twain made the keen-eyed declaration about how much more intelligent his father had become in the intervening years of his own maturing.

It’s sort of that way with museums. I used to hate them.  When my parents drug me through those gloomy dens of curious novelties everything was old, stodgy and monotonous—really boring. I mean, you couldn’t swim in them, and you didn’t dare hit a baseball down one of those galleries.


But, obviously, curators of museums in recent years have become a lot smarter about presenting interesting exhibits, because now they’re one of my favorite places to hang out. And, a visit to the Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland handily reinforced that affinity.

The inviting and breezy mood is induced, at least in part, by the well-dispersed exhibits.  Some museums are displayed so densely that the result can only be a confused and inadequate appraisal. At the PMoA there is a smorgasbord of rarities, but they’re easy to sift through.
Trustees and staff of this modest-sized museum decided that it could best serve public interest by concentrating on four collection areas: Modern and Contemporary Art (with Cuban-American, Latino, African-American, and Asian American artists represented); Pre-Columbian Art (artifacts of Latin American culture in ceramics, textiles, stone, and precious metals). Of particular significance in the Asian Art collection are a portfolio of rare 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints and a group of 48 ceramic objects. There is also a collection from the Korean Silla period of ceramic and metal objects that date from AD 300-900.

Always popular and easily relatable are the Decorative Arts. This portion of the collection focuses on European ceramics from the 15th to the 19th century, English silver,18th and 19th Century American silver.  Especially memorable are the collections of Italian majolica from the 15th and 16th Centuries, and French faience from the 17th and 18th Centuries.

The two-story museum contains eight galleries and a sculpture garden.  In addition, touring exhibitions offer a diverse array of options from both national and regional artists. Upcoming shows span an interesting range from primitive to technically modern:

The (Lost) Art of Drawing  will be displayed until November 13. Drawing is still a fundamental basis for fine arts and has been reformed to relate more to preliminary sketches and digital design.  This exhibition demonstrates how drawing remains an important component of the creative process.

“En Plein” Sight is an exhibition of paintings by Lilian Garcia-Roig that runs through December 10. Garcia-Roig is a native Cuban and currently a professor of art at Florida State University.  Her work transcends the typical definition of a landscape painter.

Jessica Lange: In Mexico is a  photographic display running until December 10. And, yes it’s that Jessica Lange—the same one who was carried up the side of a tall New York building by an oversized ape—now she’s spending full time grounded on the other side of the camera. Through Lange’s photography (all black and white), we witness a fusion of intimacy and curiosity. Combined with the artistic expression on the far side of the lens, it implies an experience that should have any photography lovers tingling with excitement.

The Polk Museum of Art is located at 800 East Palmetto Street in Lakeland. Admission- $5; Seniors (age 62+)-$4; Students (K-12, and college/vocational with valid ID) and children-FREE. Admission is free for everyone on Saturdays from 10-noon. Call 863-699-7743 or go to www.PolkMuseumofArt.org.

Southwest Florida

Gulfport - Eleventh Annual GeckoFest

On September 3 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. celebrate the Eleventh Annual GeckoFest at 3007 Beach Blvd S. in Gulfport. This free event is like Mardi Gras meets the Renaissance. Besides strolling street performers, there will be 200 arts, craft, and food vendors. Live bands will play from noon until 10 p.m.: Joel & Dakota, The Paul Anthony Band, Cannon Quinn, Gabe Whitney, Ave. 43, Gypsy Train, Tropical Disturbance, and Urban Gypsies of FL. Bring your dancing shoes and beach chairs!

Join the o-FISH-al GECKO Goddess and the Gecko Governor when the parade starts at 6 p.m. There will be adult’s and children’s costume contests and a hat contest immediately following the parade. Costume categories this year will include best Lizard of Oz, best decorated Umbrella and best Hat.

For more information, please visit www.Gulfportma.com, www.geckofest.com or call 727-322-5217.

    Manatee Village Historical Park

Manatee Village Historical Park is a treasure of salvaged remnants of Old Florida life—a park/museum that is often overlooked, probably due to its nondescript facade. It’s not exactly hidden, but rather camouflaged. If it weren’t for the old steam locomotive sitting out front, this preservation of curiosities would easily blend with the commercial and residential properties surrounding it. Even then, Old Cabbage Head, as the ancient choo-choo is called, appears more ornamental than a suggestion of what lies behind. 

But don’t be fooled. This small park that comprises little more than a square block of Bradenton’s east side bears investigating. It’s crammed full of fascinating vestiges of an earlier culture. This is a specific representation of Florida at an age further back than any of us can remember, but recent enough to be relevant. And, speaking of relevance—admission is free.

Wiggins Store anchors the park much as it moored commercial trade in the village of Manatee when it was built in 1903.  The ground floor of this two-story brick building (the only historical structure originally erected on the park site) is preserved as a turn-of-the century general store, and a modern gift shop—some of the more interesting among the unique items are the chronicles of pioneer life in our state.

The top floor will be opened on September 10 as an exhibit of women’s fashions corresponding to the times, and a display of one of the overnight rooms provided by the store. It was a time when customers came great distances and needed accommodations before returning home. It’s surprising to some that in a period when much of the country was moving into the modern era, Florida, particularly the southern segment, was still in the pioneering stage.

There are fifteen structures of interest in the park—some moved only a few blocks and others from far-flung locations, but all symbolic of the same epoch. They’re arranged like a small village, neatly maintained and connected by brick walks.

The Stephens house, for example, came from Castalia, that was once in Manatee County, but now lies in Hardee County. In its “Cracker Gothic style,” the house is elevated off the ground to dissipate heat, with high ceilings and a straight-through hallway oriented toward the prevailing breeze. Houses then were commonly built in the shade, which by nature’s design also exists in the park—possibly its most outstanding feature.
It’s difficult to be disengaged from the antiquity on the grounds, but looking up you will see that the leafy screening is due to some of the most majestic foliage growing any where in this state. There is a canopy created by several gigantic Live Oaks, some of which have aged for two centuries, thrusting their branches almost from park border to border. You have to stand back on the perimeter to take in the enormity and beauty of these trees.  Swathed top to bottom in Spanish moss and resurrection fern, they are magnificent.

But compelling too, are the other displays. One of the more popular is Bat Fogarty’s boat works.  His shop is just as he left it on the day he died in 1944 after 60 years of boat building on the nearby Manatee River. The Fogarty clan was recognized as builders and sailors for nearly a hundred years prior to Captain Bat’s passing, and wisely did not disturb his in-process trade.  There are half-finished models, wooden patterns, molds and tools. A central overhead power shaft operated via belts, the floor machinery—forerunners to modern power equipment.

Stills were common at the beginning of the last century, but usually associated with moonshine, not boat building.  However, turpentine stills, such as the one displayed, were abundant in the dense pinewood forests of Florida. They provided the pine tar and oil of turpentine used for calking and sealing that kept boats—as well as the entire industry—afloat in the nineteenth century.

The blacksmith shop, although not connected to a personal history like Bat's Boat Works, represents another industry needed in pioneer life--with all the tongs and bellows, and a mere lighting of a fire in the forge makes it as operational in shaping metal as it once was.

But it’s not all reflective of industry.  Representation of nineteenth and early twentieth century culture is not just physical structures, but the social order that provided foundations for religion, knowledge and the rule of law, allowing communities of groundbreakers to function and grow.

The Old Meeting House, a church built in 1887 symbolizes the tenacity of forerunners: yellow fever broke out in the middle of construction, decimating the flock, including their pastor. Donated by the Manatee United Methodist Church, it was moved a short distance, where as a place of worship it still hosts weddings, baptisms and other religious events.

And, there is the 1860 building where justice was dispensed.  It was Manatee County’s first Courthouse. Not only is it the oldest building on the site, but the most ancient courthouse in the state. Over the years it was used as a residence, church, and social hall. Spittoons are conveniently located, and the furnishings appear authentic, although they are hand-crafted reproductions. The small size will astound you—surely inadequate for the egos that use the system today.

The Bunker Hill School cannot go unmentioned. The one-teacher, one-room school was built in 1908 in northeast Manatee County and could house a couple dozen students through the eighth grade. In 1929 it was acquired by a teacher and moved near Duette where for 60 years it served as the teacher’s home, and later his daughter’s. Blackboards, we all remember, but enameled lunch pails that look like cooking pots—really from the far past.

Of course there are other features like a bunkhouse, a barn, a smokehouse, and even an outhouse that many will find interesting. There are also picnic benches where you can linger as long as you like. Everything is self-explanatory with placards relating a history more inclusive than indicated by a casual drive by.  And did I mention that it’s free?  

The Manatee Village Historical Park is located at 1404 Manatee Ave. in east Bradenton. It’s open Mon.-Fri. 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m; and the same time on second and fourth Saturdays. Closed Sundays and major holidays. For more information, call 941-741-4075 or go to http://www.manateeclerk.com/historical/manateevillage.aspx.

Emerson Point Preserve

The sites around the state of Florida that we write about all have features intended to entice visitors.  We point out special attributes, but attempt not to mislead by elevating characteristics to be more appealing than they in fact are.
Emerson Point, a 365-acre, state-owned, county-managed preserve on Snead Island meets the criteria, but not for the usual reasons. In spite of being located on the western point of the island, surrounded by waves and gentle whiffs of sea air, this sanctuary is more suited to botanical and anthropological studies than beach bunny volleyball.

To begin with you’re not likely to come upon it by happenstance. It’s not obscured by design, but you have to be looking, because the route swerves off the beaten path—which explains why there are never many people there. Of course, many will consider it a bonus not to be crowded. Still, there is a certain feeling of comfort in having an assemblage of other people who value the same choice that you’ve made. So, if you’re looking to join the throngs for uninhibited holiday-like excitement, this isn’t the place.

It is, however, the place for nature lovers. Shortly upon entering the preserve there is a 25-foot observation tower augmented by construction atop a mound that provides a great overview of the dense ecosystems and adjacent water. But even from the amplified height, the thick tropical hammocks hide the intricacies of trails and boardwalks that expose the preserves’ most intriguing resources.

There are about six miles of biking and hiking trails that meander through salt marshes, mangrove swamps and underwater grass flats. There is evidence of human habitation on this land that goes back for thousands of years. As late as the 1960’s it was still occupied by several families, yet at present it is among the most undisturbed of natural beauty to be found along Florida’s coast.

As you walk through the coastal strands and upland wooded areas you will encounter gumbo limbo trees, live oaks, strangler figs and wild coffee. A sharp eye will spot fox, raccoon, gopher tortoises and nearly every species of birds recorded in the state.

The southern coastline is defined by the Manatee River where it empties into Lower Tampa Bay, and the ever-present breeze that sweeps along the water is felt when you saunter onto the boardwalk extending above the current. The cooling wafts were probably one of the reasons for the  prehistoric habitat, evidenced by shell middens (mounds), and the Portavant Temple Mound.  This 1200 year old Indian mound is the largest in southwest Florida.

Possibly, one of the most captivating communes with nature is the kayak or canoe passage that twists through mangrove tunnels eventually casting you north onto Terra Ceia Bay. There is also fishing along the perimeter, and you can swim off the point, but what passes for a sandy shore would hardly register among sunbathers used to the finer beaches of our state.

Picnic facilities are provided at three locations, but port-a-potties make do for restrooms. Bring along whatever you plan to use because there are no concessions or rentals of equipment.

Emerson Point Preserve, as you may surmise, has a special kind of lure for the discriminating observer. It’s a primitive kind of attraction that is not for everyone—but for those particular people satisfied by coziness with the great outdoors it has everything necessary for producing absolute bliss.

Take 301/10th St. West from exit 224 off I-75. Cross the DeSoto bridge to Snead Island, make an immediate right on Tarpon Ave, and then a left on 17th Street which ends at the Preserve. Admission is free and hours are sunrise to sunset. Call 941-721-6885 or go to  www.mymanatee.org 

 Southeast Florida

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is located at 907 Whitehead Street, nestled in the heart of Old Town Key West. Hemingway was born in 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, and died in 1961, at the age of 61 in Ketchum, Idaho.  During those years he learned to live life to its fullest: he hunted big game in Africa, fished for giant Marlin in the Gulf Stream, skied the Alps, covered wars as a correspondent, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Nobel Prize for Literature, and was married four times.

This Key West house was built in 1851 by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker, and became Hemingway's home in 1931, where he lived and wrote for more than ten years. His personal touches abound--many of the unique furnishings are European antiques collected during their stay on the continent. The trophy mounts and skins were souvenirs of Hemingway's African safaris and numerous hunting expeditions out west. The author's presence can still be felt in his studio where he produced some of his most well-known works. The 40-50 descendants of Hemingway's cats, including many extra-toed (polydactyl) are a visible and living link.

Joe Russell (also known as Sloppy Joe), was one of "The Key West Mob". Everyone in the "Mob" had a nickname, and this was the time Hemingway became known as "Papa.”  The town was filled with interesting people from the well-to-do, to the down-on-their-luck fishermen and wreckers. Hemingway used most of these people as characters in his novel To Have and Have Not--which is about Key West during the Depression, and in his succeeding works.


Photos in the Hemingway Home show Papa from cradle to grave. He’s skiing in Schruns, Austria, posing with a large Marlin caught in Cuba, in another he’s pounding away on his portable typewriter, and there’s one photo of a young Hemingway in his WWI Red Cross Uniform. Memorabilia abounds: A plain white cupboard is a manuscript chest where he kept his stories on which he was working. There are first editions of his books, souvenirs from Papa's childhood trips to Walloon Lake in Northern Michigan, and a story about his first extra-toed cat, a gift from Papa's friend Stanley Dexter, a salvage captain from Massachusetts whom he met at Sloppy Joe's Bar. 

You’ll note that the ceiling of the bathroom is rather low. It’s because there is a rain cistern on the roof that provided water for indoor plumbing; this house was one of the few in town to have had running water at the time. The concrete patio actually covers the main rain cistern for drinking water, where there are numerous cat and raccoon paw prints. 

A brick walkway is made up of bricks shipped from Baltimore to pave Key West’s streets. Papa bought enough in 1935 to build a privacy wall around the property.

The building where Papa had his studio was originally a carriage house. Today a stairway has been erected from the patio on the ground floor for tourists to gain access to his second floor writing studio, but originally he had a gate cut into the house's veranda railing and ran a catwalk over the Gallery to his studio.  He was a morning writer and thus could get out of bed and walk directly over to the studio.  The Gallery and catwalk blew down in a storm in 1948, but the studio remains as Papa used it -- his Royal typewriter and Cuban cigar-maker's chair, the mementoes he collected -- all are still in place.  In this studio he worked on Death in the Afternoon, Green Hills of Africa, To Have and Have Not, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and many of his most-famous short stories, such as The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber.

The pool at the Hemingway House was the first residential swimming pool built in Key West and at 60 feet long is still the largest.  Papa himself planned the pool, but his job as a war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War interrupted his plans and it was his wife Pauline who supervised construction during the winter of '37 - '38.

There must have been a few cost overruns, because when Papa returned he was astounded at the final cost of $20,000.  At that point he took a penny out of his pocket, gave it to her, and said, "Well, you might as well take my last cent."  Today that penny is preserved under glass.
Also here is probably the most famous specially-built cat drinking fountain in the world--for Papa’s pets.  The top is an old Spanish olive jar that was brought from Cuba.  The trough at the base of the olive jar came from his pal Joe Russell's joint, "Sloppy Joe's."  It was actually one of the bar's urinals, but Papa’s wife Pauline added the decorative tile to disguise it.

Upon Papa's death in 1961, his estate sold the house to Mrs. Bernice Dickson, a local Key West businesswoman.  She lived in the main house until she opened it as a museum in 1964, when she moved into the carriage house.  The home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968 and remains the property of Mrs. Dickson's family.

The Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West is open 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is ($12.50-adults; $6-Child) Call 305-294-1136 or go to www.hemingwayhome.com; and open upon request for evening events call (305)587-4282 or go to hemingwayhomeweddings.com.

Pennekamp Park Boat Tour

The Florida Keys Reef Tract is the only living coral barrier reef in North America and the third largest coral barrier reef in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Meso-American Reef in Belize).

This reef runs 221 miles down the southeastern coast of Florida, paralleling the Florida Keys from Key Biscayne down to the Dry Tortugas, 70 miles west of Key West—from 1-8 miles offshore. This fantastic richness of underwater life is just a half-hour boat ride away.

Coral reefs are special because of the community of organisms that build it. Corals are animals (in the group that includes jellyfish and sea anemones). Since hard corals have a skeleton that is literally rock, it’s their growth that forms the structure of the reef. Each coral head is really a colony of thousands of individual animals called coral polyps, which look like upside-down jellyfish. And coral takes a variety of forms, from the hard branches of Elkhorn coral to the soft leaf-like structures of sea fans.

There are 80 species of coral here that create a home for 260 species of tropical fish. Coral reefs only make up 0.5 percent of the world’s oceans, and the Florida Keys Reef Tract is a dream location for underwater photographers.

Visitors come to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo to snorkel or scuba dive and they are ensured every opportunity possible to experience the park’s coral reef system. (There is even a wheelchair-friendly snorkeling vessel named The Encounter which features wheelchair tie-downs as well as an oversized marine restroom.) However, if you prefer to stay dry, you can experience this underwater world in style and comfort by climbing aboard the glass-bottom boat, Spirit of Pennekamp. This 65-feet high-speed catamaran’s itinerary includes a number of shallow reefs teeming with wildlife.

The tour, lasting 2 ½ hours, departs three times daily, at 9:15 am, 12:15, and 3pm. Tickets are $24 for adults and $17 for children under 12. Minimum passenger requirements apply. Call 305-451-6300 or go to www.pennekamppark.com.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

The first undersea park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo encompasses about 70 nautical square miles. While some might enjoy the view of the reef from a glass-bottom boat tour, you can also get a closer look by scuba diving or snorkeling.

Cannon Beach has a swimming area with grass beds and ledges that hold interesting marine life. It’s the primary snorkeling beach where you can explore artifacts from an early Spanish shipwreck approximately 100 feet offshore.

Young children can enjoy a playground (swings, a slide and climbing tower) on the main road, just before Far Beach-–where its palm trees create a relaxing place to swim or sunbathe. Wheelchair accessibility to the water is enhanced by a Mobi-Mat across the sandy beach.

The Park’s deepwater boat ramp can handle boats up to 36 feet in length. And if you don’t bring your own, they can be rented for four and eight-hour intervals. Fishing is permitted in designated areas, but be sure you have your required license.

There are 47 campsites for both tent and RVs (maximum length 45 ft.) with water, electricity and sewer hookup, picnic table, grill, dump station, toilets, hot showers, and coin-operated washers and dryers. A separate group camping area for organized youth and adult groups is also available.

The food counter and snack bar has breakfast and lunch items, and a well- stocked gift shop carries not only souvenirs, but snorkeling and beach gear or necessities you may have forgotten.

Designated areas for picnicking are located throughout the park, with large and small pavilions for use on a first-come, first-served basis. Restrooms are next to the main concession building, the dive shop and at Far Beach. Public, outdoor, cold-water showers are also provided.

There are 2.5 miles of marked mangrove wilderness trails. These and the crystal clear waters surrounding them provide habitat for a wide variety of birds and marine life. You can rent canoes and one or two-person kayaks or bring your own and launch on the main road over the bridge. Wildlife viewing is possible in all areas, especially at the beaches, canoe trails or nature trails.

The Mangrove Trail is a looped boardwalk to view the estuaries. The Wild Tamarind Trail loops through the park’s tropical hardwood hammock. The Grove Trail also winds through this hardwood hammock, but terminates at the Grove. This area has been replanted with tropical fruit trees, as originally planted by early pioneers in Key Largo. Ranger-led nature walks for organized groups on these trails must be arranged in advance.

One highlight is the Visitor Center’s 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium. There are six additional 100-200-gallon aquariums showing some of the park’s different marine inhabitants. Natural history exhibits interpret the different biological communities. And in the theatre, nature videos relating to the park and surrounding area are shown.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is located at Mile Marker 102.5 Overseas Highway in Key Largo. Hours are 8 a.m. to sunset daily. Admission is $8* per vehicle (limit 2-8 people per vehicle). $2* pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass. $4* single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle. *Plus $.50 per person Monroe County Surcharge. Call 305-451-1202 or go to www.FloridaStateParks.org for more information.


Publisher: Lisa Loucks-Christenson (800) 928-2372 toll free . Email: Lisa@Flatrips.com

©2010-2019 by Lisa Loucks-Christenson All Rights Reserved. 

FlaTrips.com is an imprint of Loucks-Christenson Media All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole is prohibited without the publisher's permission. We provide numerous links to other websites for readers' convenience. We accept no responsibility for the content nor your experience with these sites. Call ahead to venues to ensure data on this website hasn't changed.