Small Towns... Big Surprises

Whether you live in Florida, or are a visitor, you may not know that many of Florida's smaller towns are really interesting places. While most lay claim to some pretty notable history, others are home to out-of-the-way-but-worth-the-drive attractions and even more of them actually host some well-attended-but-not-widely-known annual festivals.
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    Water Street Hotel and Marina
    ••• Dock your boat and spend the night at Water Street Hotel and Marina in Apalachicola. © Dawn Henthorn, licensed to

    Whether you go in November for the Florida Seafood Festival or stop at the Old Time Soda Fountain on your way through town, there are plenty of "old Florida" experiences to be had. The town may be small, but you can easily spend a couple of days fishing, biking, hiking or simply soaking in the Gulf breezes and Florida sunshine.



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    The Road to Cassadaga
    ••• ©
    If you're into ghostly gatherings or "reading" retreats, then you'll want to explore this little community yourself. Home to Spiritualists who believe they can communicate with the dearly departed, Cassadaga is historic and unusual, but hardly spooky or scary.
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    Cedar Key, Florida
    ••• Cedar Key, Florida. Compliments of Dawn Henthorn

    Postcard-perfect is how I would describe Cedar Key. This tiny remote island-like fishing community has been "found" by those seeking rest and relaxation "old Florida-style." Now locals complain of being overrun with tourists, but don't let that scare you away... the native's are very friendly.

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    Christmas, Florida Post Office
    ••• Christmas Florida Post Office. © Dawn Henthorn, licensed to

    It's Christmas in July and every other month of the year in this small town... Christmas, Florida. While you may want to wait until late November or early December to plan your visit so you can take advantage of the unique postmark on your holiday mail, you definitely will want to make this a family outing. Why not pack a picnic lunch before you go and enjoy Fort Christmas Historical Park while you're there!

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    Fernandina Beach

    Downtown Fernandina Beach
    ••• Downtown Fernandian Beach. © Amelia Island Tourist Development Council

    Situated on petite Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach is historical, charming and... well, practically postcard perfect from its historic downtown to its beautiful parks and beaches. It's certainly a place where you'll want to spend more than just a day or two, because there seems to be no end to the surprises in this small town.

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    Lake Placid

    ••• Caladiums. © Dawn Henthorn, licensed to

    Can you guess what murals, caladiums and clowns have in common? They all can be found in this small town... Lake Placid. That's not the end to the surprises this little community holds. Find out what connection this town has to a man whose creation is still used in libraries all over the country.

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    Lake Wales

    Passion Play Amphitheatre
    ••• Lakes Wales Passion Play Amphitheatre. Compliments of The Florida State Archives Photographic Collection
    The hills are alive with the sound of music in this small Central Florida town of Lake Wales, where the 60-bell carillon tower "sings" at least twice a day. That isn't the only surprise that this small town has held through the years. Do you recognize this photo?
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    Beach Cottage at Heritage Village in Largo, Florida
    ••• © Dawn Henthorn, licensed to
    Like the picture of this beach cottage implies, Largo is close to some of the Gulf Coast's finest beaches. The while the town isn't necessarily as small, quaint or charming as some of the other small towns we've visited, you'll be surprised at all you can see besides traffic.
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    Mount Dora Trolley Station
    ••• Mount Dora Trolley Station. © Dawn Henthorn, licensed to
    Well known by Central Floridians for its annual Arts Festival that attracts almost 300 artists and thousands of visitors to the town in early February. Just about any weekend of the year you'll find hundreds strolling its quaint downtown in search of antiques or dining in one of the many unique restaurants or tasting wine or taking a train ride... well, the list is almost endless. See for yourself how many big surprises this very small town offers.
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    Dinosaur World
    ••• Dinosaur World. © Dawn Henthorn, licensed to

    What do dinosaurs and strawberries have in common? Not much, unless you are visiting the small Florida town of Plant City.

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    Downtown Sebring, Florida
    ••• Downtown Sebring, Florida. © Dawn Henthorn, licensed to
    Despite modern highway improvements, Sebring's nearly 100-year-old wheel and spoke design still exists today in its unique downtown. However, it was another circle (well, an oval to be exact) that put Sebring on the international map and keeps it there even today.
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    Tarpon Springs

    Dolphin Gift Shop in Tarpon Springs, Florida
    ••• Tarpon Springs' Dolphin Gift Shop. © Dawn Henthorn, licensed to
    Tarpon Springs has a big fat Greek history that includes an Ephiphany Celebration held each January that brings thousands to this Gulf Coast area. Well known as the "Sponge Capital of the World," its sponge dock shopping district has an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, its downtown plenty of antique shops and artists' galleries and an area beach that is one of Florida's best.