Take Your Pick
Buena Vista, FL
Holding up the Big Epcot Ball
Walt Disney World - The following attractions and thrill rides are Socko favorites. At Magic Kingdom the never-know-which-way-you're-going-to-go rollercoaster Space Mountain is great. At MGM Studios be sure to ride the Tower of Terror - it's scary fun. At Animal Kingdom the rollercoaster Kilimanjaro is the bomb and has a surprise - and don't miss the Lion King Show. I love the food at Epcot, the German food especially, and suggest going during the Taste of Epcot to find your favorite. And at every park go to the 3-D and 4-D shows, they are always fantastic.
Coral Gables, FL
The Biltmore Hotel
Biltmore Hotel and Venetian Pool - Two things not to miss while in Coral Gables are the Biltmore Hotel and the Venetian Pool. The Biltmore Hotel which in the 1920s and 1930s served Presidents, Dukes, movie stars and gangsters, is still a great place to stay. The structure contains the largest hotel pool in the USA, along with a spa and luxury accommodations. The other attraction of Coral Gables is its Venetian Pool. Built in 1924, this one-of-a-kind public pool is fed by an underground artesian well and features stucco towers, a Spanish fountain and a grand waterfall.
Daytona Beach, FL
Spring Break Destination
Daytona Beach - Always on the list of top 10 Spring Break destinations, Daytona Beach's 23 miles of sparkling white sand welcomes over 200,000 college students annually. The ocean is just out the back door of most hotels which also host pool deck parties and concerts. Of course Spring Break is dwarfed by Daytona Bike Week. This 10 day event pulls in nearly 500,000 rough and tumble motorcyclists from around the nation for a little fun of their own. Any time is a great time to visit and what makes Daytona Beach unique is that motorists can drive on the beach (one of only a few in Florida).
Daytonal Beach, FL
The First and Best Race
Daytona 500 - NASCAR, which was formed in 1948, was born from the Daytona road and beach racing that began here in 1935. The present day Daytona 500, the first race of the Sprint Cup year, kicks off the series with a roar. Hundreds of thousands of race fans pile into the stands on this, the final day of Speedweek. The race is often called the "Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing" because the large winnings and huge crowds. The track also holds other NASCAR races throughout the year. Be sure to drop by the Daytona 500 Experience to get an inside look at the cars, drivers and memorable moments in racing.
Destin, FL
A Day at the Beach
Gulf Islands National Seashore - The Gulf Islands National Seashore is the nation's largest National Seashore and protects portions of the Florida and Mississippi coast, several barrier islands and all of the wildlife that calls these areas home. The seashore also protects several forts, Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens, and Fort McRee which are all located in Florida. Fort Massachusetts is off the coast of Mississippi on West Ship Island and can be reached by ferry (see Mississippi for details).
Fernandina Beach, FL
Spirits of Amelia Island
Amelia Island Museum of History - Located in the former Nassau County Jail, the Amelia Island Museum of History highlights the 4,000 year history of the island. Exhibits in the museum include Footprints in Time (a complete Fernandina Beach timeline), the impact of the Civil War, a Timucuan Village (the island's first inhabitants), and an original Jail Cell. Self-guided and guided tours are available of the museum as well as the town. The Fernandina Beach Pub Crawl and the Ghost Walking tour introduce the two different types of local spirits.
Fort Myers, FL
Thomas Edison and Henry Ford
Edison and Ford Winter Estates - Great friends, Thomas Edison (1847-1931) and Henry Ford (1863-1947) owned homes next to each other on the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Meyers. On the Edison and Ford Winter Estates are the two homes frozen in time, Edison's Botanic Research Laboratory with the great inventor's original equipment, a 15,000 square foot museum filled with inventions and a Botanical Garden holding over 1,000 exotic plants. Edison spent most of his time in the laboratory searching for a viable and inexpensive way to produce rubber. He never succeeded.
Homestead, FL
Gator in the Sun
Everglades National Park - Hundreds of different species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles call the 1.5 million acre Everglades National Park home. The park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the USA and encompasses roughly 25% of the Everglades. Endangered species such as the Florida panther, manatee, and logger-head turtle can be seen here, but the biggest draw are the enormous prehistoric alligators. It is not uncommon to find a 15 foot, 1,000 lb alligator sunning himself under a Royal Palm. Activities in the park include hiking, camping, canoeing, and biking. Ranger led guided-tours are very informative and so are the narrated boat tours.
Jacksonville, FL
Home of Native Floridians
Fort Caroline National Memorial - The Fort Caroline National Memorial contains an area once inhabited by the Timucuan Indians "Native Floridians", the restored French Fort Caroline, and the Ribault Monument. Before the Europeans landed in the New World, northern Florida was occupied by the Timucuan Indians - their population is said to have numbered in the hundreds of thousands. By the early 1800s the people were completely wiped out by disease and war. Fort Caroline (originally Fort de la Caroline) was the first French foothold in America and the Ribault Monument honors the leader of the 1562 expedition, Jean Ribault (1520-1565).
Jupiter, FL
Inside the Burt Reynolds Museum
Burt Reynolds Museum - Burt Reynolds has his roots in Florida, he grew up in West Palm Beach and played halfback for FSU (Tallahassee) in college. We also know him as Paul Crewe in "The Longest Yard", Bandit in "Smokey and the Bandit" and Lewis Medlock in "Deliverance". Jupiter honors the mustached actor with over 50 years of acting experience with his own Burt Reynolds Museum. Inside are hundreds of photos of him and his famous friends, movie props such as the canoe from the movie "Deliverance", and a case filled with awards.
Key Largo, FL
Take a Cruise on the African Queen
African Queen - The "African Queen" is a 1951 film starring Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) and Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003) based on a novel by C.S. Forester. It is a story of complete opposites who fall in love on their perilous boat ride down an African river. The boat is named the "African Queen" and though it may have sunk in the movie, it still exists in real life. The craft which was built in 1912 is on free public display and you can even book a short cruise on her.
Key West, FL
Socko and Six Toed Cats
Earnest Hemmingway Home and Museum - Famed novelist Earnest Hemmingway (1899-1961), author of "A Farewell to Arms", "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "The Old Man and the Sea", lived in this Spanish colonial house from 1931 to 1940. The 1954 Nobel Prize winner had some of his most productive years in the house. Photos, personal items, and travel mementoes are on display for guests while touring the Earnest Hemmingway Home and Museum. Another attraction of the estate are the more than 60 cats. Said to be descendents of Hemmingway's cat, many of these felines are polydactyl, having as many as six or seven toes.
Key West, FL
Conch Republic Marker
Southern Most Point - Head south on Florida's Highway 1, past Miami, over the keys and bridges and follow the crowd to the Southern Most Point in the Continental USA. What you'll find is a large red, black, yellow and white buoy-like structure letting you know you've arrived. But are you still in the USA? Unbeknownst to our government, Key West seceded from the union in 1982 and calls itself the Conch Republic (it's written right on the marker). Each April the good people of the Conch Republic celebrate with a big party and proclaim, "We seceded where others failed".
Lake Okeechobee, FL
The Big Lake in Florida
Lake Okeechobee - Lake Okeechobee which encompasses over 730 square miles of surface area is by far the largest lake in Florida and one of the top 10 largest lakes in the US. The name Okeechobee means "big lake" in the Seminole Indian language but locals just call it the Big O. The Big O attracts over six million people annually for fishing (primarily large-mouth bass, crappie, and pan fish), picnicking, boating, camping and hiking. A hiking trail completely encircles the lake and is part of the Florida National Scenic Trail which runs roughly 1,400 from Miami to Pensacola.
Lake Wales, FL
60 Bell Carillon Tower
Bok Tower and Gardens - Bok Tower and Gardens is a quiet and relaxing 250 acre garden filled with ferns, magnolias, palm trees and hundreds of other flowers and trees. At the center of this peaceful botanical garden is a 205 foot tall Art Deco tower. This "singing" 60 bell carillon tower puts on a melodious concert twice a day. Tours are also available of the Mediterranean style Pinewood Estate home. This was the winter home of C. Austin Buck, vice-president of Bethlehem Steel Company. After a day at the gardens, take your car over to "Spook Hill", put your car in neutral and see if it defies gravity. Spooky!!!
Live Oak, FL
Way Down Yonder
Suwannee River - "Way down upon the Swanee River, far, far away" are lyrics you can't help but sing when visiting the Suwannee River State Park or just crossing over the river in your car. That's because state signs near the river have a bit of sheet music from the song "Old Folks at Home". The catchy tune is the state song of Florida and was written by Stephen Foster (1826-1864) about his favorite river. The dark waters of the Suwannee River twist 275 miles through Spanish moss draped trees and alligator filled shores. It is great for canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and picnicking.
Miami, FL
Art Deco Neon
Art Deco National Historic District - The Art Deco National Historic District contains the world's largest collection of Art Deco apartments, hotels and office buildings which are all located within one square mile. These pastel and neon lit structures were built in the 1920s and 1930s and combine the popular art movement of the time mixed with a little Miami flair. Walking tours introduce the three main styles, the traditional Art Deco, the Mediterranean Revival and the Miami Modern (MiMo). For fans of the 1983 film "Scarface", you'll recognize the building where Tony Montana was almost cut to pieces with a chainsaw.
Miami, FL
The Only Sock Monkey at Monkey Jungle
Monkey Jungle - Monkey Jungle is the place, "where humans are caged and monkeys run wild". The 30 acre jungle is filled with 400 primates including orangutans, spider monkeys, capuchins, and howler monkeys. People walk through protective cages as the monkeys swing around and look at them. On site is a Wild Monkey Swimming Pool featuring several shows a day and an authentic Amazonian Rain Forest. The best part of the adventure is feeding the Macaques. Small trays hang down from the top of the cage and as soon as a bit of monkey chow hits the bottom of the tin, the little critters hoist it up and eat it. I love monkeys!!!
Miami Beach, FL
Holocaust Memorial
Holocaust Memorial - Created by Kenneth Treister and dedicated in 1990, the 42 foot bronze sculpture depicts an arm of a dying person reaching skyward. On the arm is a tattoo similar to those received in Auschwitz and nearly 100 life-sized men, women and children in poses of deep suffering. The work is entitled, "The Sculpture of Love and Anguish" and is dedicated to the six million Jews who were lost in WWII. The bronze sculpture is surrounded by a lily pond and is reached through a tunnel called the Lonely Walk. Like most atrocities, the holocaust is something you wish never happened and want to forget, but should always be remembered.
Miami Beach, FL
Jess and Me on South Beach
South Beach - South Beach (SoBe) is the perfect place to catch some sun in the middle of January while the rest of the nation is covered under a blanket of snow. Miles of sandy shores lined with colorful umbrellas and lifeguard stations invite the frozen masses to thaw themselves in the warm Florida sunshine. SoBe has some of the best people watching too. During the day the prettiest people hit the beach and then at night they show off their tans in the trendy nightclubs that line Ocean Boulevard.
Orlando, FL
Cinderella Castle at Night
Walt Disney World - Walt Disney World is the number one theme park by attendance (greeting more than 17 million visitors annually) and one of the top three attractions in the nation. The 43 square mile entertainment complex includes the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, Discovery Land, Downtown Disney and Typhoon Lagoon. The park also contains themed hotels, golf courses and our favorite furry friend Mickey Mouse. Even after spending a week in the "Wonderful World of Disney" you won't see everything - and if you do, they will build more by next year.
Orlando, FL
All the Great things in Orlando
Orlando Attractions (non-Disney) - There is life after Disney, a lot of life. Universal Studios and the Islands of Adventure have great thrill rides and fun special effects. Start with Terminator 2:3-D, hit Back to the Future, then climb aboard the Incredible Hulk Coaster. Not too far from Universal Studios are Sea World and Discovery Cove featuring killer whales, dolphin shows, and plenty of family oriented entertainment. And finally for something a little different visit the Holy Land Experience and Gatorland USA.
Panama City Beach, FL
My Favorite Beach
Spring Break - Every year hundreds of thousands of college students spend their annual Spring Break in Florida and one of the most popular places to go is Panama City Beach (PCB). Night clubs feature rock stars, the beaches are full of bikini clad co-eds, and the warm Florida sun warms the soul after a long hard winter. Before, during and after Spring Break PCB is this monkey's favorite beach. As far as you can see in either direction is glistening white sand caressed by the cool blue waves of the Gulf of Mexico. Plus, restaurants and entertainment are only a short walk away on Beach Road.
Ponce Inlet, FL
Florida's Tallest Lighthouse
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse - The Florida coastline has roughly 30 lighthouses dotting her shores, and the tallest of them all is the 175 foot tall Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. First lit in 1887 and originally called the Mosquito Inlet Light, this burnt orange beauty is still an active lighthouse today. The 203 stairs to the top will tax your monkey legs, but the view of Atlantic and Daytona area is worth the climb. In addition to the lighthouse there is a museum in the second keeper's dwelling which features a 20 minute film, the keeper's quarters now housing the Museum of the Sea, and a boat yard.
Sarasota, FL
Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right
Ringling Museum of Art - When you think of the Ringling Brothers, thoughts of circus animals, trapeze acts and cotton candy come to mind, but rarely fine art. The Ringling Museum of Art will change that. The value of the art collection in the museum is ranked in the top 20 in the nation. The 66 acre property is the former estate of John (1866-1936) and Mable (1875-1929) Ringling and features the Ca d' Zan mansion which has 56 rooms filled with art and original furnishings. Also on the property is the Museum of Art exhibiting hundreds of fine European works, the Circus Museum which houses collectable circus items, and the Asolo Theater that holds live performances.
St Augustine, FL
Nation's Oldest House
St Augustine Attractions - St Augustine is the nation's oldest continuously occupied European settlement and one of Florida's most charming small cities. Founded in 1565, the city is now a perfect blend of historic and contemporary attractions. Some of St Augustine's Attractions include the Oldest House and Oldest Wooden School in America, the 1695 Spanish fort Castillo de San Marcos, the Fountain of Youth, the Lightner Museum, the Alligator Farm and Ripley's Believe It or Not. The best way to get around is aboard one of Ripley's Sightseeing Trains which stops at all of the aforementioned locations (plus some) and has an evening "Ghost Train".
St. Augustine, FL
Do I Look Younger?
Fountain of Youth - In 1513, legendary Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon (1474-1521) landed on the beaches of La Florida (which he named) near St Augustine while in search of the Fountain of Youth. The 15 acre Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park with its bubbling natural springs is dedicated to the man in search of vim, vigor and vitality. On the grounds are the Spring House containing the Fountain of Youth (which you can drink from), the First Encounters and Shipwreck Exhibit and the Navigator's Celestial Planetarium.
Tallahassee, FL
The Sunshine Capitol Building
State Capitol Buildings - It's two-for-one day in Tallahassee when visiting the capitol complex. The grounds contain the 1845 Greek Revival "Old Capitol" and the 1977 modern skyscraper "New Capitol". The Old Capitol is restored to its 1902 splendor with historic furniture, photographs and exhibits. Guided tours take visitors through the Governor's office, Supreme Court and Chambers. The 22 story New Capitol features an observation deck over 300 feet in the air that offers one of the best views of the city. To see how the sausage is made, head to the 5th floor Senate and House observation area.
Tampa, FL
Hallowscream Performance
Busch Gardens - Busch Gardens is a combination thrill ride park and 1800s African themed zoo. The 350 acre complex contains a number of excellent roller coasters, namely the Gwazi (a wooden rollercoaster that breaks the 100 mph mark) and this monkey's favorite SkeiKra (a leg-dangling ride that drops passengers straight down towards the ground). I went from sock monkey to howler monkey in no time. The zoo portion of Busch Gardens contains thousands of animals from giraffes and lions to zebras and tigers. Many of the animals appear to roam the freely in the Serengeti Plain while passengers ride past on the railroad.
Tierra Verde, FL
Guns of De Soto Beach
Fort De Soto Beach - A sign at the entrance of Fort De Soto Beach proclaims it to be "America's #1 Beach". The 1,136 acre park with its wind-swept white sand beaches and light blue waters certainly lives up to that billing. The park is a series of five interconnected islands with little development and offers a very relaxing atmosphere. Activities, in addition to sunbathing and swimming include hiking, fishing, biking and picnicking. The beach is named after Fort De Soto, which was an active military fort from 1898 to 1923, and still contains several cannons and block walls.
Titusville, FL
Night Launch
Rocket Launch Viewing - Titusville is perfectly situated across the waterway from the Kennedy Space Center to watch rockets (and formerly the space shuttles) lift off into space. First you see the bright flame of the rockets ignite and a few seconds later you hear and feel the thunderous roar reverberate in your ears and chest. Few things compare to witnessing this event, and it is a true source of nationalist pride. On a lighter note, for fans of the '60s comedy show "I Dream of Jeannie", head to nearby Cocoa Beach to take a photo of you on I Dream of Jeannie Blvd. I wish I had a Jeannie.
Titusville, FL
Open the Pod Bay Doors Socko - Sorry Dave...
Kennedy Space Center - From the moment you walk past the Rocket Garden with its Titan and Atlas rockets and into the heart of the Kennedy Space Center, you are witnessing over 50 years of space exploration. The facility is a perfect blend of history, entertainment and science. Don't miss the Shuttle Launch Experience and the 3-D IMAX films. Buses tours are included with admission and leave every 15 minutes to the Apollo/Saturn V Center and the Shuttle Launch Pad observation tower. The fully narrated tour also drives past the Shuttle Landing Facility, the Vehicle Assembly Building and the NASA Transporters.
Winter Haven, FL
Closed But Legoland is on the Way
Cypress Gardens - It is with great sadness in my little sock monkey heart that I inform you that Cypress Gardens and Splash Island Water Park, which began operations in 1936, is no longer in business. Known for its water-ski shows, roller coasters, waterslides, and botanical gardens the park was once one of Florida's largest tourist attractions. Enormous whimsical topiaries lined the Topiary Trail which led to a cascading waterfall surrounded by flowering tropical plants. The property is projected to be reopened in 2011 as Legoland Florida - one of five Legoland properties around the world.