Thursday, January 30, 2014

General James A. Van Fleet State Trail

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   Smooth, flat, shady – this paved trail runs for 29 miles through rural central Florida. We only went a few miles but even in that short distance we spotted a herd of deer. Farther north the trail traverses through wetlands and a wildlife preserve.

  The parking lot at the south end is large enough for any RV. The handicapped spaces are paved and connect directly to the trail.  Trail
28.18006, -81.82782
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                      florida1

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Central Florida Zoological Park & Botanical Gardens

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  This is a small zoo with few large animals. Some of the enclosures are outdated and not roomy enough for the animals. The gardens are naturally growing Florida plants and trees so it’s not an actual planned botanical garden. It’s easy to miss sections - be sure to check the map.

  The main paths and boardwalks are in good condition. There’s a sandy section in between the boardwalk from the caimans to the nature trail boardwalk.The caiman boardwalk has a drop off at the end which has been painted with a yellow stripe when it could be easily fixed which is puzzling. Most of the animals can be viewed from a wheelchair.
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  The parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Zoo  28.82597, -81.31582
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Monday, January 27, 2014

United States Astronaut Hall of Fame

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   The Hall of Fame is just a small part of this museum. The main exhibits focus on the history of space exploration starting with the 1960s race between the US and the Soviet Union to be first in any new endeavor and covering events from each year up to the present time with the cooperation of both countries in crewing the International Space Station.  Don’t visit this museum without also visiting the Kennedy Space Center. A ticket for the Space Center is good for admission to the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame ticket by itself is $27.00 – too much for a fairly small museum.

   Most of the museum is accessible but there are four or five interactive exhibits that are not.

   Long bus/RV spaces are located near the rear of the parking lot. Museum
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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Kennedy Space Center

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  Admission to the Space Center is expensive at $50.00 per person plus a parking fee but it’s a full day of very varied activities – a bus tour of the launching sites, two IMAX movies, a live slide show by a retired astronaut, a simulated shuttle launch ride, and many exhibits inside and outside of rockets, space suits and other equipment. Included in the price is admission to the Astronaut Hall of Fame  which must be used within seven days of your visit to the Space Center. Plan on spending the entire day at the center. We spent six hours and didn’t see it all.
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  The grounds of the center are accessible. The IMAX theaters are accessible with a choice of seating on the lowest level or up one level by using a lift. Other theaters have seating in the first level only which is a little too close. The buses all have wheelchair lifts. Visitors who need to use the lift are given a yellow wristband and are loaded, along with their party, before the other passengers. The simulated shuttle ride is accessible if you are able to transfer. Visit this building even if you don’t go on the shuttle ride because it also houses an actual shuttle that flew in space 33 times. We missed all of this because of the poorly designed visitor guide that contains little information about the exhibits.

  Parking for RVs is very close to the entrance.  Center
28.52138, -80.68209
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florida1

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bok Tower Gardens

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   Bok Tower Gardens was created by Edward Bok, a wealthy Philadelphian and editor of Ladies’ Home Journal, and his wife, Mary, as a public garden. The center piece of the garden is a 205’ tower which houses a 60 bell carillon. Recorded concerts of carillon bells are broadcast from the towers at 1:00 and 3:00 with short recordings marking each hour and half hour. Most of the color in the gardens comes from camellias and azaleas so time your trip for the blooming season. The site also includes Pinewood Estate, a mansion built in the early 1930s for Charles Austin Buck, a Bethlehem Steel vice president. We didn’t tour the mansion.

  The main path which leads to the reflection pool and a view of the tower is paved but very steep. The other paths are covered in heavy mulch which is hard to push through. It’s possible to tour the gardens but most wheelchair users will needed to have an energetic helper. Mobility carts can be rented at the gift shop.The gift shop and visitor center, which has a short film and an exhibit area with information about Edward Bok and the gardens, are both accessible.

  The parking lot has long spaces for RVs and buses.  Gardens
27.93678, -81.5756 
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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park

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   In the 1830s Bulow Plantation, with 300 slaves tending the sugar, cotton, rice and indigo fields, was the most prosperous plantation in eastern Florida. The Second Seminole War put an end to it all, leaving the plantation in ruins.

   Located on the site are the ruins of the sugar mill, a partial foundation of the house, interpretive signs, an outdoor interpretive center and trails.

  The paths around the ruins of the mill are paved and accessible but the short ramp up from the mill parking lot is steep and crumbling. The short trail through the woods which goes from the first parking lot to the mill parking lot is hard packed dirt with a layer of pine needles and is fairly easy to push along. The interpretive signs have push button activated descriptive recordings of everything included on the signs.The restrooms aren’t accessible but they did post a sign on the building touting the state parks commitment to providing accessible facilities!
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  The road to the mill ruins is a 1/2 mile long, narrow unpaved lane, with short, narrow pullouts to allow oncoming traffic to pass. I don’t recommend taking a motorhome down it although we did. The parking areas are large enough for RVs. There’s a small lot at the entrance to the lane so parking there and walking in is an option. Park
29.40651, -81.12334
   055085
   florida1

Friday, January 17, 2014

Dunlawton Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens

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  Dunlawton was one of the many large sugar plantations that dotted the Florida coast in the early 1800s. Most were destroyed in the Second Seminole War of 1835. Parts and pieces were later carted off to be used for other purposes leaving the mills in varying degrees of ruin. Unlike most Dunlawton was rebuilt in 1846 and used until the end of the Civil War. The huge metal kettles and the cane crusher engine are still on the site.

  The mill ruins are not the only attraction. In the 1950s a amusement park with a zoo operated on the site for a brief  period of time. Big concrete dinosaurs constructed for the park are still standing and are in amazing good condition.
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  An accessible boardwalk with ramps overlooks the ruins. The main paths through the gardens are hard packed sand and fairly easy to roll along.

The parking lot, located on the opposite side of the street, is large enough for RVs.
Garden
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       florida1

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ormond Memorial Art Museum & Gardens

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  Both the museum and the gardens are tiny so don’t go out of your way to visit. The Casements, John D. Rockefeller's winter home, is within walking distance so both can be visited on the same trip.

  The museum is accessible. The garden paths are smooth concrete. A few areas have steps and are not accessible.

  An indented section along Halifax Drive is long enough for RVs. There’s also a parking lot for the museum just a little bit south on Halifax and another lot at The Casements.  Museum
29.28959, -81.04498
florida1

Daytona Flea & Farmers Market

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  80% of the stuff in this flea market is new, the same things that show up at other flea markets. They must all order out of Flea-Markets-R-Us. ;-D  There’s also a large produce section, lots of used books, a plant nursery, a new and used tire store, and a dent removal shop.

   The aisles are smooth concrete. Most of the paths in between the buildings are hard parked sand.

  Follow the signs for RV parking. There’s no easy way for wheelchair users to get into the flea market area from the RV parking lot.  Passage is blocked by low barriers so it might be easier to park at the far end of the car lot.  Flea Market
29.16321, -81.08371
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Halifax Historical Society

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   Residents of Daytona Beach have contributed treasures and artifacts to fill this little museum with snippets of history. The museum is housed in the beautiful 1910 Merchants Bank building which features stain glass windows and huge murals along one wall.

   The accessible entrance is at the rear of the building. Follow the sidewalk to the right (north) until you come to a passageway. Follow that to the rear of the building. Be patient after ringing the bell because it may take awhile for the museum staff to get to the door. The first floor is accessible. The second floor is accessed by stairs only.

   The only parking is along the street in short pull-in spaces but the library and City Island Park, just across the Halifax River, has a very large lot. It’s an easy walk/roll to the museum. For a longer stroll-three miles round trip- follow the wide, flat, paved trail that meanders through Riverfront Park.  Museum
29.20877, -81.01777
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           florida1

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Museum of Arts and Science

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  Early American art and furniture, Cuban art and history, Chinese art, Coca Cola memorabilia, decorative art, a planetarium, a children's museum and several changing exhibits galleries – this museum has a little bit of everything and something for everyone to enjoy but unfortunately the giant sloth gallery is the only place where photography is permitted. A short nature trail winds through the forest outside the museum. An unusual feature are the boxes located along the trail with recordings powered by hand crank.
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   Everything is accessible.

  The parking lot is small. Large RVs have to be parked lengthwise and may not fit if the museum is busy. A new art museum is under construction on the adjoining property and should provide more parking.  Museum
29.19512, -81.037
florida1

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fort Matanzas National Monument

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  The fort was built in 1742  to guard the Matanzas Inlet and protect St. Augustine from the British but it saw little action. It’s so small that it was manned by just four infantrymen, two gunners and one officer. Mantanzas, which means means slaughters, was bestowed on the area in 1564 after two French ships, carrying soldiers who were coming to provide aid to the Huguenot settlement at Fort Caroline, shipwrecked on the beach.The  French soldiers surrendered to the Spanish from St. Augustine who killed almost 250 of them.

   The fort is on an island. The park service runs a free ferry to it eight times a day in good weather. The visitor center has a film but no exhibits. A 1/2 mile boardwalk nature trail starts at the parking lot.

  The visitor center is accessible. Neither the boat or the fort are accessible due to steps. It’s possible to see the fort from the boat dock near the visitor center. The boardwalk is accessible but it goes over the dune so it has an up and down hill.

   The parking area is large enough for RVs parked parallel to the road but watch for low hanging branches.  Fort
29.7163, -81.23413
        046047
        florida1

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Faver-Dykes State Park

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  The location of this small park, at the end of a 1 1/2 mile sandy road and a good distance from the Florida coast, makes it quiet and not super crowded so it’s possible to get a site during the week without reservations. All of the sites might be reserved on the weekends though. Campers without reservations must pay day by day.  Water, electric, dump station and lots of vegetation between the sites.

  The two accessible sites have large concrete parking pads which extend under the picnic tables. The tables have long overhangs. A concrete path leads to the restrooms.

Some of the sites are large enough for 35’ RVs but they’re all back in and maneuvering room is tight. Campground

florida1

Saturday, January 11, 2014

St. Augustine Walking Tour


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  St Augustine is a wonderful city for just strolling around and absorbing the atmosphere.The city is laid out in a grid and the entire historic area covers less than one square mile so it’s easy to walk everywhere. The flat terrain, good sidewalks and curb cuts make for easy wheelchair pushing. Start at the Visitor Information Center where you can pick up  maps and brochures. While you’re there check out the exhibit area which is like a mini-museum with changing displays. There is also a great place to park your car in the garage located behind the center or your RV in the lot which is behind the garage.

  St Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in the US. It was founded in September 1565 by Pedro Menéndez but due to attacks by English privateers, who burnt and plundered the town, the oldest existing buildings are from the early 1700s. There are two distinct eras represented – the Spanish settlement era of the 1700s and the resort era started by Henry Flagler. If you have time take a day to just walk around and decide what you want to see. There’s a lot to do in St. Augustine.
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  We visited some of the early historic sites - Mission Nombre de Dios Museum, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, and Fort Mose Historic State Park – and two of the Flagler era buildings that are now museums - Villa Zorayda Museum, and the Lightner Museum. We also visited a couple of the churches that Henry Flagler built and toured the lobby of the Ponce de León Hotel, now Flagler College. The attractions are a mix of historical sites and more touristy offerings such as Ripley's Believe It Or Not. It’s hard to decide what to see - what’s worthwhile and what’s a tacky tourist attraction (which can be a lot of fun! ). I couldn’t find a non-commercial attraction site but this one is fairly good - http://www.augustine.com/vacation/cat/attractions 
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