Florida is filled with history – and many of its historic districts and communities are economic engines of their regions, attracting heritage tourism from all parts of the globe. While MDPL is visiting Tallahassee to advocate for historic preservation along with the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite spots around the state.
Ready to explore? From South to Central and up to North Florida, here are 10 historic places you’ll want to add to your travel wishlist!
1. Lightner Museum, St. Augustine
A historic building and former site of the Alcazar Hotel, the Lightner Museum welcomes you to explore Florida’s rich history.
Learn about St. Augustine in the Gilded Age, while exploring the 1888 Carrère and Hastings Spanish Renaissance Revival style building.
The museum currently offers exhibitions on historic bicycles and some of the earliest promotional photographs of the city.
2. Crandon Park, Key Biscayne
Crandon Park in Key Biscayne was once part of the largest coconut plantation in the U.S., operated by William John Matheson. In 1940, the land was donated to the state to create a public park and build a causeway connecting it to the mainland.
Visit Crandon Park for its serene beaches and unique views of the Miami skyline.
3. Ybor City, Tampa
Founded by cigar manufacturer Vicente Martinez-Ybor, this town is famously known as Cigar City.
Explore the historic heart of the Tampa Bay area, which is filled with cigar factories and charming brick buildings
Ybor City is also known as a bird sanctuary and you’ll often spot chickens roaming around town.
4. The Kampong, Coconut Grove
A hidden gem in Coconut Grove, The Kampong is a 9-acre garden home to many exotic plants, tropical fruit, and flowering trees. It was named after the Javanese word for village. The Kampong was once the estate of Dr. David Fairchild, a botanical explorer who collected exotic plants from the tropics and Southeast Asia.
Explore the rich gardens or take a self-guided tour among the fruits, palms, flowering trees, ficus, aroids, and bamboo.
5. Bok Tower and Gardens, Lake Wales
The majestic Bok Tower and Gardens were established by (and named after) Edward Bok, who was born in the Netherlands and became a successful American editor and author. Located in one of the highest parts of Florida in Lake Wales, it invites visitors to explore its lush gardens and ponds.
For music enthusiasts, come and enjoy the 60-bell carillon. The carillon is played every day at 1 and 3 pm inside the neo-Gothic tower, designed by Milton B. Medary.
6. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami
The former villa of James Deering, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is known as one of the most historic and magical places in Miami. Built between 1914 and 1922, it is located between the Coconut Grove and Brickell neighborhoods.
Explore the gardens and art collection, visit the café, and marvel at the rustic Mediterranean bayside estate.
7. Stiltsville, Biscayne National Park
This collection of wood-stilt houses and shacks dates back to the 1930s. They stand 10 feet above the waters on Biscayne Bay.
You can only access these by the water. Book a tour and learn about the rich history of these houses, which were known for parties, gambling, and alcohol smuggling in their heyday.
The kind of place you’d only find in Florida, many come to Stiltsville to marvel at the houses and their unique history.
8. Coral Castle Museum, Homestead
Located near Homestead, the Coral Castle Museum is made up of giant coral rock carvings. These were all created by hand by Edward Leedskalnin in 1920.
Legend says he built them while nursing a broken heart. Leedskalnin carved over 1000 tons of coral rock to create the Coral Castle. Experience this historic site with a guided tour and marvel at the planets, sundial, and coral furniture, all built by Leedskalnin.
9. Art Deco Historic District, Miami Beach
Home to the endless pastel Art Deco hotels we know and love, the Art Deco Historic District brings life, color, music, and lots of neon to glitzy Miami Beach. The buildings here embody the tropical modernism of the 1920s and 30s, and are preserved thanks to the work of preservationists like Barbara Baer Capitman and the Miami Design Preservation League.
The best way to explore? Book a walking tour at the Art Deco Welcome Center and visit the Art Deco Museum at 1001 Ocean Drive.
10. John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota
Built in 1925 for circus businessman John Ringling and his wife Mable, The Ringling is the official state art museum of Florida. The couple established the art museum to honor their legacy and as a gift to Florida.
Explore the Renaissance-inspired pink complex and its collection of European paintings. Also pay a visit to the Bayfront Gardens and the Circus Museum. Right now, the state art museum has exhibitions on Seminole and Indian art.