Monday, February 28, 2011

Museum of Florida History

    We like to visit state capitols and go to the museum for an overview of the state’s history. This is a pretty good one but strangely it doesn’t have a single exhibit about anything that happened after WWII and a lot has happened in Florida since WWII ! The exhibits that they do have are excellent though.

The museum is handicapped accessible. The top floor of the riverboat exhibit has a narrow staircase. There’s a book with photographs and information if you can’t get up there to see the exhibit. The Grandma’s Attic , a dress up and play area for children, has a small elevator that the staff will operate for you if you want to visit the attic.

  RVs may be parked in the Civic Center lot, a little west, at the corner of South Macomb Street and West Pensacola Street. The walk from the parking lot to the museum is a long uphill with uneven and steep curb cuts. Almost every wheelchair user will need help. There’s a good drop off spot right in front of the museum if you want to avoid the push up the hill. Florida Museum
30.43803, -84.28504

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chiefland Flea Market

  A traditional flea market with most of the vendors selling used items plus a small fruit and vegetable stand and discount groceries. Booths that might be of interest to RVers include the Book Nook – a large selection of used paperback and hardback books in good condition and by popular authors- , a RV parts dealer who has many small items and trim pieces, and a booth with well organized shelves of used DVDs and VCR tapes.

  Everything is accessible with paved, wide aisles. The flea market includes a small section outside which also has paved paths. There are a few ramps, not too steep.

  There’s plenty of parking for RVs. The parking lot is sandy. Some spots are a little soft so park close to the front entrance. Flea Market
29.49025, -82.86455

Forest Capital State Museum

   There are two things to see at this small state park – a forestry museum and a “cracker” homestead. The museum has displays about the plants and animals of Florida’s forests and the products that are produced from the trees. The homestead has a 1863 “dog trot” house with furnishings, outbuildings and farm equipment typical of the time.

  The museum is handicapped accessible but the homestead is not. The homestead is located behind the museum with a pine mulch path connecting the two. The mulch is soft making rolling along difficult. The homestead yard is loose sand, very hard to roll along. There isn’t a ramp up to the house’s porch.

  RVs can be parked sideways across the parking spaces. Forest Museum
30.08027, -83.56889

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Yulee Sugar Mill State Historic Site Park

    This is just a quick stop if you happen to be in the area. There’s a short paved trail around the ruins with descriptive signs. It’s all accessible. Parking is across the street and large enough for RVs. Sugar Mill Ruins
28.78387, -82.60705

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chassahowitzka River Campground

   This is a small, quiet county campground. It’s heavily wooded but the sites are close together so there’s very little privacy. None of the sites are handicapped accessible. The ground is hard packed sand so rolling around is easy just watch for tree roots. Chassahowitzka River Campground
28.71271, -82.57612

De Soto National Memorial

  Free ebook from Gutenberg - De Soto's Expedition into Florida

 Hernando de Soto and over 600 men landed in Tampa Bay in 1539. The expedition’s purpose was to search for gold and a route to China. They wandered for three years, ranging as far north as North Carolina and as far west as Texas before De Soto died of a fever. The remaining men, about half of the original group,  gave up the search and eventually made it to Mexico City.

  The park has a visitor’s center with a very good , short movie of the expedition. There are a few palm buildings and demonstrations on the grounds.  There’s a 3/4 mile loop nature trail with historic signs; life size figures of Indians and Spaniards; and nice views of the bay.  The site is pretty much accessible with paved paths but there are a few steep, sandy areas. The trail is good . hard packed sand and crushed shell but the path down to it is a little steep. There’s also a steep ramp off of a section of broadwalk.

   Parking is limited and may be full on weekends. RVs should be parked parallel to the road and watch for low hanging branches.  De Soto Memorial
27.52224, -82.64469

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sarasota Classic Car Museum

    The cars in this small museum have been impeccably restored.  It features automobiles owned by the Ringlings and the Beatles plus some one of a kind owner built and manufacturer concept cars.  The museum is all handicapped accessible.

   The parking lot is large enough for any RV.  Sarasota Classic Car Museum
27.38205, -82.55594

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

  Don’t miss this one! John Ringling, along with four of his brothers, started the Ringling Brother’s Circus in 1884. The money that he made with the circus was invested in railroads, oil and 30 other enterprises which made even more money. He and his wife, Mable, bought property in Sarasota, Florida and in the 1920s built a Venetian mansion to house their antiques and a large museum to house their art collection.
  On this one property there are two circus museums, the art museum, the mansion and the gardens between the mansion and museum. Everything is accessible. The paths are paved. All of the buildings have good ramps. The rose garden paths are hard packed crushed shell and easy to roll along. If you want to see them take one of the shell paths leading to them. The paved paths have a curb that is several inches higher than the garden shell paths. The mansion has one step so if can’t navigate that you’ll be shown the way to the kitchen entrance and you can start the self guided tour from there. The mansion also has an elevator to access the upper floors but those floors are only opened to people who book an guided tour which is $5.00 or $20.00 extra depending on the tour.

   Parking for RVs is marked along the far side of the lot. Ringling Museum
27.38144, -82.55963

Monday, February 21, 2011

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

    Do not try to park your RV in the garden parking lot. It looks like it’s big enough but we almost got stuck because of  low hanging branches at the exit. Instead turn north off of US 41 onto South Palm Ave. There’s enough room to park on the street, then you just have to cross 41 to get to the gardens.You may have to go to the light to cross because of the amount of traffic.

   The most interesting part of these gardens is the greenhouse with orchids and other air plants but it also has a several trails that wander through various groupings of plants and trees. The trails are mainly smooth concrete and easy to roll along. The cactus garden paths are loose stone - very hard to roll through but you can see most of it from the paved path. There are a few steep ramps, one down to a boardwalk view point and a couple in the Christy Payne Mansion where there is a small art exhibit.  Shelby Gardens 
27.32726, -82.54013                    

Sunday, February 20, 2011

South Florida Museum

   Admission to both the museum and the aquarium are free with a ASTC pass. The planetarium is $4.00 extra. The museum has excellent exhibits, fossils of early Florida mammals, life size scenes of Indian village life, city streets and a one room country house. There are also numerous collections displayed in the Visible Storage section. The aquarium is basically just a large tank for the manatees. There are a few small tanks with live sea creatures and also panoramas exhibits of ocean life.

   We didn’t go to the planetarium. The museum and aquarium are very accessible. All of the exhibits in the museum are easily viewed.There are two railed sections overlooking the aquarium. People in wheelchairs have to use the upper section but the view is good.

  The first floor of the museum has an outside area that is patterned after a Spanish village plaza with a chapel, house and fountain. The plaza is accessible but not the buildings because of steps with no ramps.

  The parking lot is large enough for RVs. South Florida Museum
27.49823, -82.57157

Bradenton Riverwalk

  The walkway is about 2 miles roundtrip along the Manatee River. It passes by a marina, Rossi Park and condominiums. The path is smooth brick with some sections of boardwalk. Parking is available near the South Florida Museum. The section of sidewalk leading to the walkway is a little steep. Rossi Park
27.49932, -82.57142

E. G. Simmons Park

    Most of the sites in this small county campground have access to the water. None of them are handicapped accessible but the ground is hard enough so rolling around is fairly easily. There’s not a lot of room between the sites and little vegetation. They don’t take reservations and the campground fills on the weekends. E.G.Simmons Park
27.74613, -82.47058

Hydro Harvest Farms

   This doesn’t really fit in with all of the other gardens but it seems like the best category for it. All of the plants are grown hydroponically. There is a lot space between the rows and the ground is covered with landscaping cloth so I could easily roll along and pick strawberries. Other spring crops are lettuce , onions and herbs.  You Pick Farm
27.72017, -82.42042
These look better than they taste. I think we picked them a little early.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

USF Botanical Gardens

009 002
  Do not visit the gardens with a RV. The branches on the trees in the entryway hang too low and there’s very little parking. The garden is not very accessible. There’s a large hump of dirt at the path to the office, the garden paths are mulch or grass, soft and uneven. They have an all terrain wheelchair, free for visitors to use.

   I don’t recommend this garden for visitors in wheelchairs. For everyone else, it’s fine if you’re in the area, but not worth going out of your way to visit. Gardens
28.05784, -82.42427


Lithia Springs Park Campground

  There aren’t any handicapped sites in this small campground but most of the sites are large and level. The ground is hard packed sand and shell so it’s very easy to roll around. The power and water hookups are easy to reach. No long overhangs on the tables.

  The sites have a lot of vegetation and are pretty private and quiet. No reservations –first come/first serve – which is good for people like us who don’t like to plan far ahead. 
27.86487, -82.2276

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tampa - Lowry Park Zoo

  Most of the paths in this zoo have an up or downhill slope. They’re in good condition but you’ll get a workout if you’re pushing yourself. About half of the exhibits are a little hard to see because of railings and fences that obstruct the view. Everything else is accessible.

  RVs will fit in the parking lot, parked sideways across the grassy spaces.

  This zoo is half price with a pass. Most of the attractions that I’ve posted about have been free if we could use one of our museum passes but some, like the Tampa zoo and also the aquarium, are half price. It’s always a good idea to check the reciprocal pass website so that you know what to expect. Tampa Zoo
28.01243, -82.47007

Monday, February 14, 2011

Florida State Fair

  Greasy food, midway games, trill rides, 4H animals, and blue ribbon prizes – it’s all here plus a little more. This is a big fair!

  Wheeling around is pretty easy because everything is paved even the paths through the animal stalls. Don’t miss Cracker Country, a living history village, located on the fairgrounds property and opened to all ticketholders. There are thirteen buildings–five have ramps. Many of the activities, such as candle making and blacksmithing, are easily viewed. The grounds have short grass and are hard enough so that rolling around is easy. Florida Fair
27.98936, -82.37085

Florida Aquarium

   This is a pretty cool aquarium with large tanks and a huge variety of fish and other water creatures. It’s half price with the pass rather than free. Go early so that you don’t miss the shows. It also has a large play area for small children.

  It’s very accessible. Take the elevator to the second floor and follow the signs. The path winds slowly downhill through the exhibits until you end up back where you started.

  The museum is located by the cruise ship terminal – follow signs for parking. It’s confusing but it gets you there. Parking is $6.00 for cars , $10.00 for RVs. Follow the sidewalk to the aquarium entrance. Aquarium
27.94459, -82.44569

Tampa Museum of Art

   This museum is much smaller than it looks with about six rooms of artwork.The collection ranges from Greek and Roman ceramic vases to modern photorealistic paintings. It’s all accessible but one section with a few sculptures is out on a balcony, accessed by a revolving door that is too small for wheelchairs. The guards will open standard doors to allow entry.

  There’s a parking garage but if you take your RV, visit on the weekend and park in the public lot across the street - $5.00 for one space.

  The museum entrance is a little hard to find because there aren’t any signs on the street and it sits back behind the children’s museum. From the parking lot –cross the street (good curb cuts and one set of street car tracks, level with the pavement ) and go south until you see the park, enter the park and go past the children's museum to the art museum.  Museum of Art
27.94942, -82.46261

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tampa Bay History Center

  This museum gives a quick history of Tampa, with the most focus on the Seminole Indians, Ybor City and Florida cowboys. It’s only two years old and very state of the art.

  Most of it is accessible starting with push button doors and a low ticket counter. There’s a small theater in the Seminole Indian exhibit with wheelchair seating at the ends of the first row so viewing isn’t the best. The Ybor City section has a few exhibits with push buttons that are hard to reach.

  Parking is very close at the St. Pete Times Forum East Lot but they do not allow oversized vehicles. We parked in a lot a few blocks northwest on the corner of S. Florida Ave. and E. Brorein St. ($7.00).  History Center
27.94247, -82.4499

Friday, February 11, 2011

Museum of Science and Industry ,Tampa

  We haven’t been going to science museums in Florida because most of them are geared towards young children but this one has two floors of exhibits aimed at middle schoolers and teenagers so there’s plenty to hold an adult’s attention.  The  main exhibits are “The Amazing You” about human development from conception to death and Disasterville about natural disasters.

  Follow the signs to the parking lot and go to the farther lot where the buses park. There’s a lot of room for RVs. It looks like you’re driving into a garage but you’re actually just passing under part of the buildings. It’s a bit of a trek to the entrance doors. The doors have push buttons and the ticket counters are low. Almost all of the exhibits are accessible and most of the interactive ones have lightweight, movable chairs.  Science Museum
28.0535, -82.40411