Strange Florida is the best Florida. We’ve already covered the bizarre world records held in the Sunshine State, but believe it or not, that’s only scratching the surface of weirdness on display here. In fact, you can’t drive far in this state without some new, eccentric oddity beckoning you off your route and entrancing you with its kooky vibes. Here are some of our favorite weird Florida roadside attractions.
We start with one of the most famous Florida oddities: the Fountain of Youth! You know the story: The waters spewing forth from this landmark are said to grant eternal youth to those who sip from it. Whether or not that’s true (we lean towards no, but, hey, don’t give up on your dreams), this archaeological park is home to several unique exhibits dedicated to topics ranging from blacksmithing to cannon firing. Or you can just go look at the peacocks.
Florida is gator country. No matter where you go – hiking trails, fishing holes, possibly your swimming pool – you’re bound to spot one of these scaly reptiles. You’ll definitely spot more than a few if you happen upon the gator mecca known as Gatorland! The park bills itself as the Alligator Capitol of the World®, a claim that’s hard to argue: dozens upon dozens of alligators, crocodiles, and even extremely rare white leucistic alligators call this park home. If that doesn’t convince you of Gatorland’s reputation, maybe the massive alligator head framing the park entrance will.
Welcome to Gatorland!
Freshwater springs and Florida go together like alligators and Florida, so it makes sense that one of the state’s kitschier attractions is in spring-turned-entertainment venue, Weeki Wachee State Park. More specifically, we’re referring to the live, underwater mermaid performances held here. The world-famous mermaid performers put on a stunning rendition of The Little Mermaid (based on the original fairy tale, not the Disney movie) in the park’s underwater auditorium.
This Florida roadside attraction was originally created as a symbol of national unity after the attacks on Pearl Harbor during WWII. Eye-catching as it is meaningful, the Monument of States was built exclusively by volunteers using stones donated from across the world.
Not many people know who Don Garlits or Dean Moon are or have heard of a “Swamp Rat” car. But if you’re a drag racing junkie, you can’t do much better than Big Daddy Don’s museum. Take your time viewing nearly 300 cars between two buildings. And we mean take your time – the average tour takes two to three hours!
If you’ve ever driven along I-4, chances are you’ve seen The Holy Land Experience towering over the tree line, inviting you with a heap of divine strangeness. In a city known worldwide for its theme park experiences, The Holy Land presents something a little…different. As you might have guessed, the experience here is very heavy on biblical tales and religious subject matter, so your enjoyment mileage will vary. But in terms of pure, unmissable kitsch, The Holy Land Experience ranks among the top of Florida roadside attractions.
If we didn’t have you at “Bongo Land”, this article may not be for you. But if you’re still here, you are in for a treat. Bongo Land was a strange little theme park in the Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens from 1948-1952, and not much of it remains today. Except for a handful of the goofiest concrete dinosaur replicas you’ll ever see. Sure, there’s a human sundial and remnants of a 19th century sugar cane factory elsewhere in the gardens, but you need to see the googly-eyed dinos standing tall as the last vestige of a prehistoric era.
For untold years, the legendary Skunk Ape has allegedly stalked the Florida Everglades, evading human contact at every turn. And for decades, the Official Skunk Ape Headquarters has doubled as an Everglades attraction and research center for a handful of folks dedicated to tracking the elusive beast down.
Towering monkeys with frightening red eyes. A sphinx with a startled expression. An extremely ornate dragon. These colossal statues and more make up some of the obstacles blocking your colorful golf ball from 18 challenging holes at Goofy Golf in Panama City. It’s campy, it’s silly, and even the website is frozen in time in 1998. Goofy Golf is perfect.
At Spook Hill, strange forces manipulate your car, causing it to roll backwards…uphill. Or, it could be an optical illusion produced by the gravity hill which makes the slightly downward slope of Spook Hill appear to be an uphill slope. Whether you buy in to the lighthearted fun surrounding the legend of Spook Hill or not, this famed tourist attraction is free and a lot of fun to try out yourself.