Explore Ocala with Nana & Grandchildren

Explore Ocala with Nana & Grandchildren

I am delighted to present a guest blogger this month – Barbara Fitos, Executive Director of the Community Foundation for Ocala Marion County. Barbara also has another title: she is Nana to four awesome grandchildren. For her blog she shares lively descriptions of the connections between generations and the joy of the Fitos4 having adventures together in Ocala.

By the way, Barbara makes the best cheese grits this side of paradise. Just thought you should know.

Her dream is to someday have a regular column called “Through Barbara’s Eyes”.

And so it begins here. Enjoy

 

SATURDAY MORNING MAGAZINE Guest Blog by Barbara Fitos

Those of us blessed to be grandparents have a special bond …we can share photos and anecdotes endlessly and when a dear friend, colleague or mere acquaintance joyously announces that they are about to become one – we each smile knowingly and say “Just wait!” Perhaps most importantly, we are there to support each other in life’s sorrows – illness, separation or loss. It matters not what we are called – I inherited my dear mother’s “Nana” title – because we carry that name proudly and whether our grands live in close proximity or hundreds of miles away we as grandparents are linked forever to their lives.

My only son Joseph was raised here in Florida and both sets of his grandparents still resided in my hometown in New Jersey.   Thus time spent with them was precious whether here in Florida celebrating Thanksgiving in shorts – something Nana Rose never adjusted to! – or the Christmas holidays in New Jersey seeing snow for the very first time. Memories and legacies abound.   Some of my fondest memories are of Grandpa Fitos taking long afternoon walks around our neighborhood on a very patient journey of discovery with his two year old grandson…and of course, visits to the iconic Silver Springs.

Ocala - pop pop and great grands
Pop Pop and great grands

Grandchildren live just an hour away from Ocala

And now my son has blessed me with four wonderful grandchildren who I affectionately call the “Fitos4” – yes I said “only” and “four”!   Further blessings abound in that they reside only a little over an hour from Ocala.   With four in tow, they are obviously an active and busy family.

As such, memory sharing plays an important role in their family tradition-making. The grands, for example, curiously want to know about Daddy as a little boy – “Nana – did Daddy really do….?” Well…

My dear Mother – their great grandmother “Nana Rose” passed away long before the grands were born. My youngest granddaughter came rushing out to meet me during one Sunday dinner visit with a photograph in hand saying – “Look, Nana, do you know who this is?   Daddy found this picture!” It was a photo of my Mother with my son – so very special making the connection that Nana Rose was indeed my Mother! Three of the four grands were blessed to know my Dad – their “PopPop”.   He spent the last six years of his life here in FL with all of us – a bridge to the generations…grace abounds!

Mamie & Pop, my son’s in-laws and Marah’s extended family, are vital in creating family memories – Thanksgiving dinners, a special Christmas Eve celebration. While they reside here in Ocala they have a beautiful home on Lake Ontario in upstate NY – a summer vacation tradition eagerly awaited each year.

Overnights provide unique opportunities for exploring and creating new experiences (although only two of the four at a time – wisely!). All things in NanaB’s world belong to NanaB – like the lovely little park across the street.   “Nana, let’s go to your park!” Once there, however, the conversation went like this – “Nana, this is a very nice park but it has no swings!” So off we go to explore the park around the corner, complete with swings, slide & monkey bars – better!

Favorite local pastimes in Ocala for Nana and Grandchildren

Favorite local pastimes include visiting Brick City Center for the Arts when dog houses ruled; Downtown Farmers’ Market; Christmas on the Square (carriage rides with “real horses, Nana!”) .

Ocala - downtown square with Christmas lights
Ocala – downtown square with Christmas lights

Future planned outings include the labyrinth at Sholom Park; Silver River State Park; Art Camp at the Appleton Museum; Turkey Trot at the Frank DeLuca YMCA (for my “Runner Girl” – taking after her Mom – an accomplished marathon runner).

And this “library lady” would be totally remiss without mentioning books, books and more books.   Books that I cherished when my son was little to be passed on to another generation…Good Night Moon, Pat the Bunny, Where the Wild Things Are, the Best Christmas Pageant Ever…and discovering new finds on trips to the library and bookstores – the favorite to date “The Day the Crayons Quit” – a read aloud-laugh out loud delight.   And my dear friend and brilliant author, Lucy Beebe Tobias’ “Mary Margaret Manatee” is a must!

Ocala is the horse capital of the world

And, of course, living in the “Horse Capital of the World” grandparents and grands alike must see and visit some of the amazing farms that surround us. The generosity of spirit of owners and breeders is evident in the open farm policy of many who welcome tours and visitors on a regular basis.   The Founding Chairman of our Community Foundation, Frank Hennessey and his lovely wife, artist Carol Hennessey, are the proud owners of Hennessey Arabians .   Foaling season is not to be missed! And the grands have a standing invitation to come and see up close and first hand this amazing breed.

Ocala horse drawn carriage & grandchildren
Ocala horse drawn carriage & grandchildren

Equestrian events abound throughout the year as well. HITS – Horses in the Sunshine – the annual hunter/jumper winter circuit featured the prestigious World Cup in 2015. The famous Live Oak International that for over twenty years has hosted the premier combined driving event brings equestrians from all over the world to Ocala, FL for this four day event in late March. Ocala’s own Florida Horse Park features year round events including polo.   And one unique event perhaps not as well-known is fox hunting. The Perry Plantation in Gainesville, FL is home to Misty Morning Hounds Hunt Club that hosts traditional fox hunts throughout the season (without live foxes – licorice/anise scents are used instead!) complete with traditional attire, the blessing of the hounds and a sumptuous breakfast following the early morning hunt – spectators follow the route in tally-ho wagons.

We as grandparents are privileged to share in the lived lives of our grandchildren and have that rare opportunity to enrich their lives and ours in creating these special memories of beaches and theme parks, sports events, holidays and birthdays… but most especially those unique community places that become the essence of family life…Blessings to all my fellow “G’Mas” and “G’Pas”.

Ocala - sign to Nana

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Florida Art Museums are Cool – Let’s Visit

Florida Art Museums are Cool – Let’s Visit

September in Florida can be cruel. An early morning breeze caresses our cheeks like a lover’s touch and then bam! An hour later the thrill of fall is gone, replaced by yet another hot day and humid night – enough already!

So here is your September survival plan – stay in air conditioning a little longer. But don’t do this at home. Head for your nearest Florida art museum. Seriously. The AC is turned on. Florida art museums have exciting exhibits you don’t want to miss. Gift shops are loaded with temptations. An art museum café is a great place for taking a food break.

Sounds like a plan. I beat the heat and head to St. Petersburg to see the special Escher exhibit (Aug. 22, 2015 through Jan. 3, 2016) at the Dali Museum.

Florida art museum, Dali window view, St. Petersburg
View of St. Pete waterfront from the second floor of the Dali Museum. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

Escher has long fascinated me. His intricate playing with positive and negative space (birds flying one way with the spaces being birds flying the other way) makes the viewer wonder – how many levels of reality are there? Good question.

The Escher exhibit is included in the price of admission to the Dali. I recommend the free audio guides. Museum hours are 10-5 with extended hours on Thursday (10-8). Parking onsite costs $10 for non-members but there are nearby surface lots and street parking too.

Close by on Beach Drive the venerable Museum of Fine Arts has a visiting exhibit called Five Decades of Photography (June 20 through Oct. 4) and another one called 50 Artworks for 50 Years. Notice a lot of “5’s” in the titles? That is because in 2015 MFA celebrates 50 years as a Florida art museum.

See the admission page for fees. MFA is open Monday through Friday from 10-5, Thursday from 10-8 and Sunday from noon -5.

Come back to MFA for a launch party on Oct. 21 when, as part of their anniversary celebration, they will launch a new cookbook called Food and Art, their first new cookbook in 40 years.

Over the Skyway to a Unique Art Museum

Just over the Skyway Bridge in Sarasota is the famed Ringling Museum of Art. Admission prices vary. On Mondays the museum is free while admission is required for other buildings on the grounds such as the circus museum. John and Mable Ringling, of circus fame, traveled widely, collected wildly and brought home every bit of Europe they could carry. The result – an exciting, restless collection of buildings that house in depth collections and changing exhibits.

Florida art museum, statue, Ringling Museum, Sarasota
A statue in the courtyard of the Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

One current exhibit called Back and Forth: Thinking in Paint (Aug. 14-Oct. 25) is a dialog between contemporary painting by the faculty of Florida State University and the Ringling’s permanent collection.

Florida Art Museum Buildings Are Worth Exploring

Buildings housing Florida art museums get a lot of attention. The Dali museum building and grounds, modern and playful in the Dali “look at me” spirit, can be a destination in itself but what’s inside is even better than the outside.

The same is true of the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine. The setting is the former Hotel Alcazar built in 1887 by railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler. It is grand, elegant, meant to be a showpiece. And it works – inside and out.

 

Florida art museum - Lightner Museum, St. Augustine
Lightner Museum, St. Augustine. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

Chicago publisher Otto Lightner bought the building in 1946 to house his extensive collection of 19th century life, often called “The Gilded Age”. Wander all three floors of the old hotel. Rooms are filled with cut glass, Victorian art glass, costumes, furnishings, paintings and my personal favorite – a section with the stained glass work of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Admission prices vary. The Lightner Museum is open every day (but Christmas) fro 9-5. Last admission is at 4 p.m.

Museum Galleries Galore in Gainesville

In Gainesville the Historic Thomas Center occupies a former private residence and hotel built in Mediterranean Revival Style. The popular center has galleries in rooms with high ceilings and lovely light. The current exhibit is Beauty and the Beasts (June 26-September 19). To know more, contact Russell Etling, cultural affairs manager, at 352-393-8532 or visit www.gvlculturalaffairs.org.

The Harn Museum of Art on the University of Florida campus offers rotating exhibits in well-appointed galleries. It is a year for birthdays. The Harn is celebrating its 25th birthday.

Admission is free. Open Tuesday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday, 1 – 5 p.m. Open the second Thursday evening of each month from 6 – 9 p.m. for Museum Nights. The Museum is closed on Mondays and state holidays. The Harn Museum Store is open during museum hours.

Downstairs at the Harn is the Camellia Court Café, a lovely spot for a light lunch or coffee break.

At the other end of the art museum building spectrum, the Morse Museum of American Art in downtown Winter Park occupies a building so bland it could pass for generic office space. Looks are deceiving. The inside is pretty exciting.

Florida Art Museum - Morse Museum of Art, Winter Park
Morse Museum of American Art, Winter Park, Florida. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

The collection of work by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) includes jewelry, paintings, pottery, leaded glass lamps and windows. There is no other Tiffany collection this comprehensive anywhere.

Best of all (in my humble opinion) is the recreation of his chapel interior for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Admission varies. Museum hours are 9:30–4:00 Tuesday through Saturday (Open until 8:00 p.m. Friday, November through April and 1:00–4:00 Sunday. Closed Monday and most major holidays

Note: During the month of September holders of Sunrail tickets – show your tickets and get free admission.

There is an air-conditioned Florida art museum near you. Here is Artcyclopedia’s list of Florida art museums with both fine art collections and an online presence.

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Florida Beaches are Simply Sublime

Florida Beaches are Simply Sublime

Wahoo! I was just there – Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola – a long ribbon of bright white sandy beach so alluring it had to be singing a siren song:

“Come, sift the sand between your toes. Stay here. Stay here. Forget your worldly cares. Stay . . .”

Floarida beaches - beach sand
Different types of beach sand. Photo by David McRee

And the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico echo the beach promise of sun and fun.

Florida beaches will have their way with you

Yep. Florida beaches can and will have their way with you. The sand sighs as you take off your shoes, sink into the sand and sift sand between your toes. There is the promise of natural detox plus getting gritty and feeling great. All this without even getting wet yet. Just stroll and watch the pelicans skim the water’s surface. Bend down and do the shark tooth shuffle, looking for castoffs from the deep. Inhale. Renew. Revive.

And the sunsets, ah well, line up and enjoy the awesome sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. Here’s a thought – go to the Sandbar Waterfront Restaurant in Anna Maria, take an outside table and have a front row seat for the sunset.

Floarida beaches - sunset
Sunset photo by David McRee

Sunrises over the Atlantic are pretty spectacular too. Once a photographer and I showed up at Anastasia State Park early, before sunrise, to do a newspaper story on a gentleman doing sandcastle building practicing for a national competition. As the sun came up, casting golden light on the water and the beach, his castle grew taller and taller and more amazing. I looked around and thought: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

You are nodding your head. You know what I’m talking about. Still it comes as a nice surprise that others are nodding their heads too. Nine Florida beaches, including Gulf Island National Seashore in Pensacola are among the top 25 beaches in the United States, just named in a Travelers’ Choice 2013 award posted by tripadvisor.

The other beaches are Canaveral National Seashore, Titusville; Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin; Pensacola Beach, Pensacola; Clearwater Beach; St. Andrews State Park, Panama City; Fort DeSoto Park, Terra Verde; Siesta Key Public Beach, Sarasota; Pass-a-Grille, St. Pete Beach.

Florida beaches - Mexico Beach
Mexico Beach in the Panhandle. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

My goodness! The only other state to come close to those numbers is Hawaii. These Travelers Choice awards are like winning the Oscars. Everyone wants to go see the movies that won. Let’s go experience all the beaches that one – a nice spring project for you.

Florida beaches include some friendly for dogs

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Obi, my Welsh corgi, accompanied me to the Panhandle last week. Dogs are not allowed on Pensacola or the Gulf Seashore beaches but we found a small beach on a bayou that did the job. Obi isn’t about to get his paws wet. At Bayview Park dog park in Pensacola he enjoyed running around in the sand with other dogs while one dog got really serious about digging a deep hole at the waterline – all the way to China?

Florida beaches - dog beach
Dogs getting acquainted at Bayview Park, Pensacola. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

Patricia Collier is the keeper of a site for Florida Pets that includes lists of dog-friendly beaches. For example, one of the award-winning beaches, Fort DeSoto Park in Terra Verde has a Paw Playground and beach so if your best friend has four legs and likes water, here you go.

Florida is shaped like an upside down boot dipped in water on three sides with a total of 663 miles of beach and 2,276 statute miles of shoreline. Oh, and in addition, Florida has more than 11,000 miles of rivers, streams and waterways – many of these shorelines sport sandy beaches.

The beach sands are calling. Will you answer the call? I have to go now, the sun is setting on Lido Beach and I don’t want to miss it.

Florida beaches - Lido Beach sunset
Lido Beach sunset, Sarasota. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias

In my Florida travels I meet fantastic people who are travel writers, residents, newcomers, guides and entrepreneurs, all are digging into the Florida places they love and finding treasures worth keeping.

In his own words, here is David McRee whom I got to know when he served as Beaches Expert for VISIT FLORIDA the same time I served as Authentic Florida Expert. David loves Florida beaches and he is the real deal, he grew up near Florida beaches. Be sure to check out his beach blog. You will like it.

The continental United States has thousands of miles of beaches along its coastal states, but it is Florida’s beaches that reach into the warm waters of the Caribbean.

I started enjoying those beaches with my family before I could even walk. More than fifty years later those are still some of the fondest memories I have: Daddy teaching me to dog paddle, Mama trying to keep me covered with Sea & Ski suntan lotion, and me trying to eat an icy-cold banana popsicle from the beach snack bar before it melts under the hot July sun.

At the beach our senses are awakened. We inhale salty air mixed with coconut oil fragrance and we smell burgers cooking on the grill; we hear the laughing of gulls and the steady roar of the ocean; and we feel the salt from the sea drying to a crust on our skin under the summer sun.

In nature, the most vibrant places are often found at an edge, where forest meets field, where cold meets warm, where east meets west. The beach is the edge where the salt water wilderness meets the familiar.

The beach inspires wonder and invites contemplation. The stark simplicity of water, sand, and sky helps remove us from overwhelming busyness and technological distraction of modern life. We can hear ourselves think again.

Florida beaches - seashells
Seashells on the beach. Photo by David McRee

During my childhood years, my home beach was on Anna Maria Island, a seven-mile strip of white sand and tall Australian pines, with communities where the locals outnumbered the tourists for most of the year.

It was later in life that I discovered the curious variety of beaches in Florida. We have the most famous shelling beaches in the world: Sanibel and Captiva. We have some of the most important nesting beaches for Loggerhead sea turtles in the world on Brevard County’s Atlantic coast beaches.

Florida beaches - beach
Beach photo by David McRee

We have everything from crowded resort beaches with amenities that could challenge Disney World (Panama City Beach and Clearwater Beach) to quiet natural beaches on islands that can only be reached by boat (Anclote Key and Cayo Costa).

We have some of the purest white-quartz beaches in the world. But which is the whitest? It could be Siesta Key beach, or it could be one of the beaches in the western Florida panhandle, like those on Santa Rosa Island. You’ll just have to visit them all to decide for yourself.

But don’t think you have to have a beach with white quartz sand. How about looking for fossilized shark teeth on the dark gray sands of Venice? To really appreciate the beauty of Florida beach sand, dig your toes into the brown-orange sands of Ormond Beach or the biogenic sands of the Florida Keys, made up not of minerals and shell fragments, but of tiny bits of coral and forams–shells of tiny single-cell marine organisms.

Just because you’ve seen one Florida beach doesn’t mean you’ve seen them all. Explore. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.

David McRee writes about Florida beaches and islands at BlogTheBeach.com

Floarida beaches - Beach scene
Beach scene. Photo by David McRee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Picking blueberries in June

Picking blueberries in June

Yumm. June is here and that means the time has arrived to get it in gear and get out the buckets. They won’t be empty for long. This is the season to pick blueberries.

Picking Blueberries and the month of June go together

picking blueberries
Perfect ripe juicy blueberries

What is it about these small, juicy purple morsels? One is not enough. Blueberries are both addictive and good for you, a perfect combination. Eating one blueberry leads to another to another and before long you have a purple face. The whole experience of devouring blueberries is rather like a chocolate binge but without the guilt. One cup of blueberries has 80 calories. What is not to like?

For my family and friends the taste of blueberries becomes extra sweet because we have a yearly ritual of gathering together to go on an adventure and pick blueberries. Somehow when you pick them yourself it improves the flavor.

To find a blueberry farm near you check out http://www.pickyourown.org This Web site lists all kinds of produce places to go in a number of states. Especially across Central Florida the list of blueberry farms is long. The ones that are organic have the word “organic” highlighted in green. We’ve picked organic blueberries at farms in both Marion and Alachua counties.

Picking blueberries is a prime time family affair and so is growing them. B&G Blueberries off County Road 315 past Silver Springs is a perfect example. “B” stands for Bill Hall and “G” stands for Gail Hall.

Picking blueberries at B&G Blueberries is a family project

Here is what Bill said about how it all began:
“I started u-picking Rabbit Eye blueberries in 1983. At that time my two sons Danny and Jason were 12 and 7 and they assisted my mother Margaret Hall keeping the patch open Mon-Friday and Gail, Danny, Jason and I worked it on Saturday. My mother required the boys to pick 10 lbs. per day during the season.
Today their wives and six children are paid helpers on days we U-Pick. This year we spent a lot of time cross training the four older ones. There are six different jobs they do when we are open for u-pick. The six grand kids are ages 8 to 15. I always list them and their parents on the card we send to our customers.”

And here are their names – The Halls, Bill, Gail, Danny, Dorothy, Justin Micah, Rebekah, Ben, Jason, Robin, Savannah and EmmaLee. To get directions call (352) 236-4410 or Email: WDH47@embarqmail.com

Their picking dates in June are June 12, 18, 19, 25,26 and t hen July 3,5,10. Price is $2.50 per pound.

Close to Fort McCoy is the Bay Lake Blueberry Farm owned by Mike & Gail Waldron. This is a certified organic U pick and that means no pesticides! Good for your tummy, good for Mother Earth. The day we were there the Waldron’s daughters were helping customers carry their blueberries to the car and Gail’s mother in law was in charge of the cash register. Truly a family affair. Phone: 352-546-3834. Address: 20525 Highway 315, Ft. McCoy, Fl. and E mail: gwaldron1219@aol.com

In addition to picking blueberries Bay Lake has blueberry plants for sale along with local produce. We like to do this U pick early in the morning, then all go out for breakfast together. It is the food, fellowship and fun thing in action.

Live in Marion County? For more on picking blueberries in Marion County see the blog by Lucy Beebe Tobias and Sandra Friend entitled Ocala Adventures.

Now let’s get down to some specifics. Be an early riser for blueberry picking, so much easier in the cool of the day. Call ahead and find out when they open. Have the address and a map or use a GPS. Many farms are off the beaten path.

When you are there the farm supplies buckets for picking usually with rope so it can go around your waist and you have two hands free. Bring your own buckets in case you need them to put the berries in for the trip home.

picking blueberries - fill the bucket
filling a bucket with blueberries

Wear closed toed shoes for walking down the rows. A hat highly advised and bring water. Carry cash, this is not a credit card transaction. Most farms will have other things too – blueberry plants for sale, local produce and more.

Picking blueberries - sugar hill blueberries, belleview
Weighing in U-pick organic blueberries at Sugar Hill Blueberries in Belleview

This is a great inter-generational adventure. Various sizes of children work well with finding blueberries at different parts of the bushes (that can grow five six feet tall). Little ones pick the bottom, taller ones get the middle and adults find the ones on top.

Go for the fully ripe deep purple berries. Taste one before you start on a bush. If you like the flavor, that bush is for you. Pick them off one at a time. Don’t strip off unripe berries. It doesn’t take long to fill up a gallon bucket.

At home lay out paper towels and spread out the berries. Pick out any unripe ones. DO NOT wash them as they become mushy.

picking blueberries - drying blueberries
Drying blueberries on paper towels. Do not wash them, this is getting rid of natural moisture.

When any natural moisture has dried, bag them up a cup or two at a time and freeze. Set aside a good amount for yummy eating right now – straight, on cereal, in muffins, pie and even ice cream.

Here is Bill Hall’s favorite recipe for blueberry ice cream (one gallon)
2 pints blueberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
About ½ gallon whole milk
Take two pints blueberries, place in saucepan and cover with water. Add one cup of sugar and boil for five minutes. Let stand on stove until completely cooled. Strain directly into the churn cylinder. Pour remaining peels and liquid into blender. Blend then pour into churn cylinder. Add condensed milk and one tablespoon vanilla flavoring. Finish filling churn cylinder with whole milk. Sir and churn.

Ah, going to pick blueberries satisfies the prime ingredients for a good time – food, fellowship and fun. Grab your buckets and go!

Lucy Beebe Tobias is an author and writer. Her Web site is: http:www.LucyTobias.com

 

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[mappress]

Accept the Florida Lighthouses Challenge

Accept the Florida Lighthouses Challenge

Are you up for the challenge?

April 24-25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the Forgotten Coast Lighthouse Challenge. Visit Cape San Blas Lighthouse, Cape St. George Light, Crooked River Lighthouse and St. Mark’s Lighthouse. Tickets are $10 per person (over the age of 10) or $25 per family up to five people. All the lighthouses have tickets available. Receive a souvenir at each location and a special something if you climb or visit all four lighthouses.

Visit Lighthouses on the Forgotten Coast

Crooked River Lighthouse
Crooked River Lighthouse, Forgotten Coast

Can’t remember where the Forgotten Coast is? Easy. Drop straight down south from Tallahassee until you run into the Gulf of Mexico. The coastline from Mexico Beach to Carrabelle is Florida’s Forgotten Coast.

St. Marks Lighthouse
St. Marks Lighthouse, Forgotten Coast

Lighthouses are welcome sights for mariners, beacons in the night and day that make the difference between traveling safely or meeting an untimely demise. Did you know every lighthouse has its own color code pattern? By day a mariner can see the colors, look on his chart and know that location. The St. Augustine Lighthouse for example is painted in curving black and white stripes.

St. Augustine Lighthouse
St. Augustine Lighthouse

These tall structures, with spiraling stairs that make a gym Stairmaster look tame, are just plain cool. Climbing them is a challenge. Puff, take a break at landings, keep going, make it to the top and see an amazing 360 view.

Climbing Ponce de Leon Lighthouse stairs
Climbing Ponce de Leon Lighthouse stairs

Here is a link to a Visit Florida video I did on climbing Ponce de Leon Lighthouse, Florida’s tallest lighthouse with 203 steps (one way). Make it back down and you are ready to buy the t-shirt!

lighthousses - t shirt

The lights that pierce the darkness are creations of beauty. The Ponce de Leon Lighthouse has a museum with lighthouse keeper lore and examples of these Fresnel lights.

Lighthouses have history and height, both are a delight

lighthouses - Fresnel lens
Fresnel lens

Many lighthouses are still active but now they are automated. The lighthouse keepers and their families are gone. When you visit a lighthouse gift shop look for a map you can buy called “Florida Lighthouses Illustrated Map & Guide. It is also available online at Bella Terra Maps. Price is $6.95 folded and $12.95 laminated. Keep this as a guide to your lighthouse adventures.

With three sides of Florida surrounded by water we have an abundance of lighthouses. There is even one inland. Mt. Dora has a working lighthouse. Built in 1988 standing 35 feet tall the blue pulsing light guides boaters on Lake Dora after dark.

The Florida Lighthouse Association helps preserve the historic lighthouses along Florida’s 1200-mile coastline and keep the magic of these tall towers alive. There is a state license plate available for purchase to help generate funds for restoring our lighthouses.

This group is gearing up for a change of ownership at one lighthouse. On April 21 at a 1 p.m. ceremony the Sanibel Lighthouse will pass hands from the Bureau of Land Management into ownership by the City of Sanibel.

Whether answering the lighthouse challenge or going to the lighthouse nearest you – Combine visiting lighthouses with sampling local seafood and you have the perfect recipe for a day trip.

©2010 Lucy Beebe Tobias, all rights reserved.

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