Taking a trip through Florida means being able to stop and see some of the less-visited attractions, especially those in its interior. Most travelers head to Miami or some other beach, but those with an interest in off-the-radar attractions have some options to keep busy. From a Christian theme park to a mysterious sinkhole, these sites may not be at the top of conventional lists for things to see and do in Florida, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth visiting.
The Holy Land Experience, Orlando
Orlando is famous around the globe for its theme parks, but while most visitors come to the city for Disney World or Universal Studios, The Holy Land Experience is the park that tops the list of most unique theme park in the area. This Christian inspired theme park recreates the ancient city of Jerusalem, transporting guests back 2,000 years to the time when Jesus lived in the city.
Through interactive exhibits, full-blown theater productions, and hands-on activities geared toward kids, guests can learn about Jesus, the Bible, and Ancient Israel. The plays range from heavy dramas to light-hearted musicals, but all of them include an educational undertone. Smile of a Child is the designated children's area, which includes craft stations, mini-golf, and a rock-climbing wall.
The large-scale replicas of real ancient artifacts and places are some of the highlights of the park, including the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem and the cave where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Whether you're religious or not, you can't deny this is a one-of-a-kind park.
Don Garlits Museum Of Drag Racing, Ocala
Fans of old-fashioned drag racing may be familiar with "Big Daddy," the father of the sport whose real name is Don Garlits. To commemorate the sport and display his collection of vehicles—many of which he used to break records—Garlits opened the Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida. The museum contains nearly 300 cars, from early antiques to modern-day racers.
The "Swamp Rat" design that Garlits' cars are famous for are all on display, with their distinctively long and slender bodies. The museum also houses the Drag Racing Hall of Fame and includes photos and information about all of the inductees. It's a niche museum that appeals to a crowd with a unique passion, but whether you're a lifelong fan of Big Daddy and his cars or just curious about what drag racing is all about, this museum is sure to be an enlightening stop on your trip through Florida.
The Airport Cemetery, Tallahassee
Getting to the Airport Cemetery in Tallahassee, Florida, is half the fun of visiting this bizarre graveyard. The cemetery, which is officially called the New Salem Missionary Baptist Cemetery, is located on grounds that is almost completely enveloped by the Tallahassee Airport.
You can't find it on most maps, but drive south along Springhill Road until you're on the southside of the airport. You'll see a break in the fence and a road that goes toward the airport, with several menacing-looking "Restricted" signs all over the fences (the Restricted signs refer to jumping the fence and trespassing on the runway; the cemetery itself is open to the public).
You'll eventually reach a small area with about 40 graves, some of which are marked with headstones and others just shallow human-sized depressions in the ground. The oldest headstone is from 1922, but newer headstones show burials as recent as 2020. It's an interesting place to visit and the incoming planes that fly directly overhead only add to the peculiarity.
The Devil's Millhopper, Gainesville
While the majority of quirky stops are man-made creations, Devil's Millhopper State Park in Gainesville, Florida, is an unusual natural phenomenon. The park contains a giant sinkhole that drops 120 feet into the Earth. Visitors can climb down a set of stairs into the hole and witness how the climate and ecosystem change right before their eyes.
Like most of northern Florida, Gainesville is hot and muggy, but as you travel deeper into the sinkhole, the air gets noticeably cooler and more refreshing. The limestone walls are covered in lush vegetation that thrives even in the heat of summer, and water runs down them like small jungle waterfalls. As you enter this isolated rain forest, even the types of plants you see are completely different from those on the surface and seem incongruous with the Gainesville flora.
A road trip through Florida includes all types of natural wonders, from the beaches with turquoise water to the unparalleled Everglades National Park. But if you're passing through Gainesville, don't pass up this underrated treasure.
Coral Castle, Homestead
At the southern tip of Florida in the town of Homestead, about 45 minutes south of Miami, sits a structure that's been compared to Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Egypt for its architectural undertaking. The Coral Castle is a collection of giant structures carved from stone, including a castle tower, furniture pieces, monoliths, walls, and more. Despite the name, these carvings aren't actually made of coral, but rather limestone that was formed from coral. While this odd park is impressive in itself, it's the curious story of its creation that draws visitors.
As a young man in Latvia in the early 20th century, Edward Leedskalnin was suddenly rejected by his 16-year-old fiancée. Heartbroken, he emigrated to Florida and began to carve out his "castle" in secrecy to prove what he was capable of. Edward worked completely alone for 28 years to complete his project, and rumors that he used supernatural powers or extraterrestrial assistance only add to the mystery of this bizarre attraction.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Weeki Wachee
The tiny town of Weeki Wachee (population: 12) is about 45 minutes north of Tampa and is home to waterslides and America's largest freshwater cave system, but the most peculiar attraction at this state park is the live mermaid show. Started in 1947 by a former Navy member, mermaid candidates have to undergo rigorous training in order to learn how to hold their breath underwater for extensive periods of time. The park's popularity peaked in the 1960s as a quirky roadside attraction, but visitors still flock to see these "real-life mermaids" in action.
The modern-day show is an adaptation of the "The Little Mermaid," making it especially exciting for kids who are able to see a live version of this classic story. Admission to the mermaid show is included with your ticket to the water park, so you can easily enjoy an entire day in Weeki Wachee with the whole family.
Cape Romano Dome House, Cape Romano
Emerging from the water like buildings from the lost city of Atlantis, you wouldn't expect these aquatic domes south of Naples, Florida, to be the one-time vacation home of a retired oil executive. These otherworldly structures were originally designed in 1981 to be an environmentally-friendly and completely sustainable escape for a successful businessman and his family, and included features like rainwater collection and raised platforms to heat them from underneath.
The executive originally built his dream home on the beach, but as anyone who visits today can see, the domes are now completely surrounded by water. Erosion over the years has flooded the area and made the buildings unlivable, but the abandoned domes are a unique place to visit for anyone in the area. You'll need a boat or kayak to get up close, and the easiest way to visit them is on the Ten Thousand Islands Boat Tour around the Everglades.
Wilzig Erotic Art Museum, Miami
Miami is full of cultural attractions and museums, but the Wilzig Erotic Art Museum, or WEAM, may be one of the most unique. This crowd-pleaser is only open to visitors over the age of 18 and is made up of the personal collection of erotic art collector, Naomi Wilzig. The collection occupies over 12,000 square feet of space and 20 rooms, making it one of the largest art museums of its kind in the world. The oldest pieces date back to pre-Colombian times and stretch to contemporary artists such as Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Robert Maplethorpe, highlighting the evolution of erotica and sex throughout human history.
The museum is located right on Miami Beach in the trendy Art Deco neighborhood, and admission to the WEAM also includes entry into the adjacent George Daniell Museum which showcases work by the eponymous erotic photographer.
Monkey Island, Homosassa
Homosassa includes a wildlife area that's one of the most beautiful places to visit on the Florida coast, filled with alligators, manatees, birds, and other local fauna. But if you want to see something a little more on the exotic side, Monkey Island is a small and man-made piece of land that sits on the river just outside of the Homosassa Riverside Resort, named for the group of spider monkeys that reside there.
The original monkeys were actually brought to the area by a local developer who wanted to build a wildlife center with exotic animals, but the clever monkeys were constantly escaping and stealing from people in the park. Unsure of where else to put them, he added play structures and housing onto the then-empty island and used it as a "detention center" so the monkeys couldn't get away. Since then, new monkeys have been added to the island and it's now a fun spot to see—from afar—when visiting Homosassa.