Little Pieces of History In Florida and Georgia

The Small Museums of Florida and Georgia

The CCC Museum

There was a time when small roadside attractions where the highlight of family road-trips. While they have been overshadowed by the mega-parks and major resorts, there are still a number of roadside gems that should be sought out – little pieces of history encased in small museums. If you take the time, you will discover these surprises everywhere.

Military Sea Service Museum collection

Discoveries we have made in Florida and Georgia include:

  • The Rural Telephone Museum

    The Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie, Georgia, is home to the largest collection of antique telephones and telephone memorabilia in the world. As a bonus, this museum is a stop on the SAM Short Line excursion train out of Cordele – a great day trip!

  • Railway Museum Winter Garden

    The Central Florida Railway Historical Society Museum is a beautiful collection of railroad memorabilia displayed in a train depot in downtown Winter Garden, FL.

  • The Florida Air Museum

    Located in Lakeland, Florida off I-4, The Florida Air Museum displays a wide variety of vintage aircraft, ultralights, experimental homebuilts, air racers, military, aerobatic and factory-built aircraft from all eras.

  • The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum offers an interesting and educational museum experience that transports you and your family back in time over 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, to the height of the Golden Age of Piracy.
  • The National Civil War Naval Museum

    National Civil War Naval Museum located in Columbus, GA. Tells the stories of the navies of the Civil War, connecting people with the past; giving them a better sense of place and time.

On a recent drive we decided to take a look at south-central Florida and visited a few small towns like Sebring, Lake Wales, Lake Placid and Clewiston. Planning the trip we researched a couple of stops that seemed worthy of a visit.

In Sebring, home of the the famous race course where the first 12 Hours of Sebring was held on March 15, 1952, we found our first museum of the trip.

The Military Sea Services Museum – an admittance free museum that has collected seagoing artifacts, stories, books and photographs relating to the time spent at sea by our military. In the collection are a large number of custom ship models, uniforms, weapons and some real finds like a commemorative brass plate cast for the WWII Japanese surrender on the battleship Missouri. The building sits in the middle of a WWII military training airfield.

Cyprus swamp trail at Highlands Hammock State Park
CCC Museum near Sebring

Another stop in Sebring was planned as a visit to Highlands Hammock State Park. Established in 1931 and developed later by Florida’s Civilian Conservation Corps, the park features a lush and incredibly diverse 9,000 acre refuge for endangered animals and ancient flora. While the park is a great place for hiking, it is also home to the Florida CCC Museum. Chock full of memorabilia and AV displays, it is a remarkable place to learn about the Civilian Conservation Core, the New Deal program that gave hundreds of thousands of young American men an opportunity for paid work and training during the Great Depression.

UDT – Seals Museum

While on the subject of Florida small museums, there is one that I have been visiting for years. Located on the southern end of North Hutchinson Island at Ft. Pierce is The National UDT And Seal Museum. It was located at Ft. Pierce because that was the site of the original WWII training facility for Underwater Demolition Teams. It was originally named the UDT Museum but was later updated to include Seals.

 

The Seal teams have overshadowed UDT in recent years but Seals are a progression from the UDT units that were active in WWII up to the early 1970’s and they share the same training program (Buds for Basic Underwater Demolition School). Stop by and learn something about Seals, their training, missions and their predecessor’s, the Underwater Demolition Teams..

UDT prided themselves as the first on the beach in a landing assault

 

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Memorial Day and Pointe du Hoc

June 6th 2019 the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

A Day at Pointe du Hoc

At 7:10 am on the morning of June 6th 1944 at a point of land where the rolling farmland of western France drops ninety feet down vertical cliffs to meet the sea, in the words of one Army Ranger “All hell broke loose.”

Three hours before that, on a troopship offshore hidden in the fog and smokescreen laid down by the armada, the PA system announced, “Rangers, man your craft.” Of the three hundred Rangers that boarded those boats to attack those cliffs and capture its gun emplacements later that morning only ninety would still be standing.

The cliffs of Pointe du Hoc

At Pointe du Hoc, at that moment the World War II invasion of Normandy began.

Visiting today it is almost impossible to comprehend how anyone could scale those cliffs under enemy fire and succeed.

Spend a moment visiting this land, set aside to the memory of those brave men and reflect on just what Memorial Day represents.

Pointe du Hoc occupied the high ground overlooking beaches to the east and was covered in fortified cannon emplacements. It was thought that if the cannons were not taken out of commission they would have prevented a successful landing on the beach below.

The Battle Of Point Du Hoc

The 90 foot cliffs scaled by the American Rangers.

 

Looking down at the landing beach.
The German gun emplacements.
Pointe du Hoc is still covered by the craters of the Allied barrage.

 

The German gun emplacements.

The German gun emplacements.
Seventy years later Pointe du Hoc still shows scars from that day.

The countryside behind Pointe du Hoc.

Going Wild In Florida

A Short Story

Florida is all about the water, Sun and beaches and if you visit you should take the time to get up close to some of our wildlife. From Manatees in the clear springs, birdwatching up the Indian River or the island of Captiva and alligators almost anywhere. The options are varied and there are a number of guides ready to introduce you to airboat rides, party boat fishing offshore, inter-coastal cruising, and snorkeling adventures.

Allow us to introduce you to some of the locals:

A Great White Egret
Brown Pelican
Frigate Birds are the pirates of the sky
An anhingas dries in the Sun

While the Double-crested Cormorant does often nest in colonies, we’ve never seen such a large group in one place before. The video below was taken on the Indian River in eastern, central Florida and it appeared as if a large shoal of fish had attracted the attention of a number of Cormorants along with some Brown Pelicans. What first caught our attention was a large area of frothing white water near the far bank. By the time we got near the feeding was breaking up but still an interesting sight.

 

 

 

 

Keep your eyes open – the wild side is everywhere in Florida.

Dolphins are found everywhere from the surf in Naples to up the Indian River

Two Walt Disney World Resorts and a Cablecar

Walt Disney World has a huge range of resorts with rates from about $100 up to near $1,000. But they all have the advantage of being inside the “World” and all have been touched by that famous Disney magic. At the economical end of the spectrum are two that are about to gain some additional popularity. Disney’s Art of Animation and Pop Century Resort.

Pop Century Resort

Art of Animation is one of the newer additions to the Disney World moderate cost level resorts. Built in 2012 it includes family suites that represent an excellent value if you’re traveling with a whole family. The resort celebrates the artistry of favorite Disney and Disney•Pixar films from the rooms to the grounds and public buildings. It features three pools and a walking and riding trail around the lake along with a huge food court, bars and a game room.

Art of Animation
Art of Animation

Art of Animation also has standard hotel rooms along with family suites. The family suites at Art of Animation are a good choice for larger families and include 1 Queen Bed and 1 Double-Size Table Bed and 1 Double-Size Sleeper Sofa. Prices range from $160 for a standard room to $350+ for a family suite.

Art of Animation

Next door to Art of Animation is Pop Century Resort based on the fads of the 1950s through the 1980s. Yo-yos and Play-Doh, Rubik’s Cube and rollerblades, this resort is dedicated to the fashions, phrases, toys and dances that defined America in those times. It is one of Disney’s more economical properties with room rates running from $110 through $140.

Cablecar test run
Art of Animation Cablecar Station

The Art of Animation and Pop Century Resorts are a good distance from all four Disney World theme and water parks and Disney Springs, they just don’t have a park within walking distance. Buses have been the only free method of transportation available to get to the parks from these resorts. But that is going to be changing. Walt Disney World will soon begin operating a new sky-car system that will connect three moderately priced resorts to Epcot and Disney Studios.

The cablecars themselves will each be able to carry ten passengers and will be running only a couple of minutes apart. The three resorts on the system include Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach. Not only will it relieve congestion on the roads and reduce the number of buses (and fuel) it will also provide a fun experience for guests that should increase the appeal of these moderately priced resorts.

Walt Disney World Insiders – We Have Some Advice

LOOKING FOR AN INSIDE TRACK ON WHAT TO EXPECT INSIDE WALT DISNEY WORLD?

Welcome to everything Disney, Walt Disney World that is. Below are links to in-depth articles on where to stay, how to get ready for a visit, where to eat and additional things to do.

We first visited WDW forty years ago and now live less than twenty miles away. Over the years we have seen a lot of changes and we’ve learned a few things. Let us share our ideas and information on Walt Disney World.

 

 

 

The Happiest Place On Earth!  Without question, WDW is the most visited vacation destination in the world, paying host to forty million visitors a year. Adding to that the city of Orlando also features Universal Studios, Sea World and over a dozen additional major tourist attractions. All this adds up to a must-do vacation destination for a lot of families the world over.

Far and away the star of the Orlando attractions is Walt Disney World and an experience not to be missed.

10 Things To Consider Before You Visit WDW. If you are planning a visit in the future we have some advice to help make the most of your vacation.

First and very important is to start making reservations as far in advance as possible. Decide if you will stay inside the “World” or at one of the seemingly thousand of additional resorts outside of the property. Restaurants and special events are in high demand and the sooner you start making reservations the better your chances of getting what you want. You will also want to start making “Fast Pass” selections to get you onto rides faster.

Where To Stay. Our recommendation is to stay inside the “World”. While it is true you can save money and often get more for your money staying off property, you will miss staying in the heart of the excitement. Often staying inside WDW can add hours of time to your park visits. First, you are already nearby when the parks open and in addition each day  a different park has early or late extra hours for WDW resort guests only. Usually the gates open an hour early or are extended by an hour.

A World of Foods To Experience. There was a time when a visit to WDW meant a day or two of fast food. No more! Walt Disney World has more restaurants, snack bars, cafes and lounges, food trucks and dinner shows than can be counted. While we would never characterize food at WDW as a bargain it is also remarkably varied and extremely good. Several are rated on the best in America list. Get an early start on where you plan to eat.

Dozens of food choices at Disney Springs

Special Events and More. Maybe you are planning your first trip to WDW but the people at Disney World have additional plans for you. You can think of it as them just wanting to make your visit extra special but actually they really want you to come back over and over again. These offerings include Christmas parties, Food and Wine Festivals, Flower and Garden Shows, behind the scenes tours, special park events and hours, marathons…  Find out all that’s going on.

The Liberty Belle Riverboat in The Magic Kingdom

Getting Around WDW. One of the things we like about Walt Disney World is the adventure of just getting around the “World”. From boats and ferries to monorails and soon to open sky cars getting there is all part of the fun.

Magic Bands and Fast Pass. When it started you could only get a Magic Band if you where a Disney hotel guest and to make Fast Pass reservations you had to have a hotel reservation too. Things have changed. Now if you have purchased park tickets and created a My Disney account (anyone can register for free), you can now make Fast Pass reservations before you travel to WDW.

The Disney Vacation Club. Over twenty-five years ago Disney began a time share program with the opening of the Old Key West Resort. In the beginning it was structured very much like other time shares but soon it was restructured into something uniquely Disney and may represent one of the few true values in timeshare.

A boat from Epcot to The Boardwalk resorts

A Brief History of Disney World. Just under fifty years ago Walt Disney opened a vacation and entertainment complex on the west side of Orlando, Florida. Not wanting to repeat the mistake of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, where the park was sited on a piece of land surrounded by property owned by a multitude of other interests. This time they secretly began buying massive tracks of land just west of the city ending up with about thirty-nine square miles of what used to be swamp and orange groves.

When Walt Disney World opened it comprised two theme parks and three resort hotels that included The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, The Contemporary and Polynesian resorts and a property on the golf course appropriately named The Golf Resort (now called Shades of Green for exclusive use of active military)  along with a shopping and private hotel areas.

Big Thunder Mountain in The Magic Kingdom
Pirates of the Caribbean at The Magic Kingdom

Today WDW includes four theme parks, The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Studios and Animal Kingdom along with two water parks. There are now four golf courses, Thirty four Disney owned resort hotels (soon to add four more) five separate time-share resorts (Disney Vacation Club resorts [DVC]) and expanded shopping and entertainment district. There is also a sports complex and a campground (which was part of the original “World”.

In addition there are major additions and upgrades being made to several parks, upgrades to WDW transportation network and a Star Wars Experience hotel to open soon. The people at Disney are hard at work trying to get you to visit more often…

 

REVIEWS AND WORTHWHILE LINKS

CURRENT REVIEWS

GOOD LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION

  • Walt Disney World home page HERE
  • Calendar of WDW special events HERE
  • Dining Guide to WDW HERE
  • The Disney Food Blog HERE
  • My Disney Experience HERE

The Cruise Port of Bar Harbor Maine

Visiting The Cruise Port of Bar Harbor, Maine

A favorite stop for New England and Canada Maritime cruises, Bar Harbor has a lot to offer. The town itself and waterfront are the major attraction with a number of shops and great restaurants to visit.

The Town Pier in Bar Harbor

Where Your Ship Docks

Bar Harbor is a tender port and the boats will tie up at the Town Pier. From there it is only a short walk into the center of town and there are a number of excursion and whale watching boats available right at the pier.

Because it is tidal New England the tides can rise over a large range sometimes making a it a climb up from the tenders dock.

 

 

Downtown Bar Harbor

Transportation

The best way to get around Bar Harbor is The Island Explorer, a free town shuttle bus that even offers free transportation to Acadia National Park and up Cadillac Mountain. The downtown area is also an easy walk with lots to see.

Currency

You’re in the United States and the U.S. Dollar is the local currency. Most credit cards are welcome and there are a number of ATM machines in town.

Attractions

This area is where the fall foliage starts to change color first in the Eastern United States and fall leaf change cruises are popular. Bar Harbor also offers a number of whale watching excursions and the town sits on the edge of Acadia National Park. A trip up Cadillac Mountain is a popular excursion. The top of the mountain is the first spot touched by the rays of the rising Sun in the United States each day and the Park Service offers a number of programs for visitors.

Good Links for Additional Information

Free Shuttle Website

The Official Bar Harbor Website

Acadia National Park Website

Visiting Cadillac Mountain Website

The Port of San Diego

Port of Call San Diego in Southern California

What’s not to like with a near perfect year-round temperature, 70 miles of coastline and beaches, a major U.S. Naval Base, an interesting historic area and world famous Balboa Park that features 17 museums, numerous galleries and performing arts venues including the incredible San Diego Zoo. It isn’t hard to fall in love with San Diego.

Popular with cruise lines for trips up the coast, over to Hawaii and south through the Panama Canal this is a world class port of call.

Where Your Ship Docks

Most cruise ships will dock right downtown at the B Street Cruise Pier. The pier features a cruise terminal with public facilities. Across the street from the pier are a number of good hotels and just another block up is a rapid rail stop. A little over a half mile south of the terminal is Seaport Village with an interesting collection of shops and restaurants also on the water. The aircraft carrier Midway Museum is also nearby along with a number of other historic ship exhibits.

Transportation

San Diego has an economical public transportation system featuring a light rail system that includes over fifty area stops. Just two blocks from the pier is a light rail stop where you can catch a trolly down to Old Town for a fare of $2.50. You can purchase one to 30-day passes for the transit system right from your smartphone and use them immediately using the Compass-Cloud app.

Old Town San Diego

Currency

The U.S. Dollar is the accepted currency with credit and debit cards welcome almost everywhere. Changing foreign currency can be a challenge with facilities available mostly at the airport.

The Del Coronado Hotel

Attractions

As already mentioned, San Diego has a lot to offer. There is a good hop-on hop-off bus that travels all around the city and out to Coronado. Coronado sits right in the middle of the harbor and often is referred to as an island but actually is attached at the southern end to the mainland. It is also home to a Naval Air Station, a Naval Amphibious Base and is home to the Navy SEALS. If you want to rub shoulders with a SEAL stop in at Mc P’s Pub, a local hangout founded by an ex-SEAL more than a few years ago. It’s not far from the “The Del” (Del Coronado Hotel) a famous hotel on Coronado beach.

The San Diego waterfront
The USS Midway Museum

If you are catching a cruise from San Diego we recommend allowing a couple of days to this beautiful city. Balboa Park is worth a whole day itself and try and fit in a trip to Old Town. For good food try the Little Italy neighborhood or head down to the waterfront for seafood.