5 Quirky Places to Visit in South FloridaLooking for something a little out of the ordinary, such as touring a Japanese garden in of all places, South Florida or walking on the floor of a coral reef? Listed below are five of the best, slightly quirky destinations that South Florida has to enjoy. All are unique to the area. Enjoy!
Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
Descendants of Hemingway's famous six-toed cats still roam around this historic home where the volatile writing genius lived for ten years. It was here that he was the most prolific and where he wrote, Old Man and the Sea. All the guides are well versed with the history of Hemingway and his four wives and children. The two-story home is surrounded by lush tropical gardens that are fun to see. When you're done, you're in Key West so I suggest exploring the rest of the island. It really doesn't get better.
Gianni's at The Villa
Live like the late fashion magnate, Gianni Versace, once did in his home in South Beach on Ocean Avenue in Miami - at least for an evening. The late designer's home is now an upscale Mediterranean restaurant. Rooms in the sprawling mansion are available to rent for special occasions. I was lucky enough to write an article for a magazine about Versace's unique villa and toured it. Do not miss the magnificent pool, which has real gold in the tile and the observatory. Only those with dinner reservations or holding an event are allowed inside Gianni's.
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum
Climb to the very top of this lighthouse that was built in 1860 and take in the panoramic views. Follow the brick walkways that will take you to the 1892 Tindall Pioneer Homestead, the 100-year-old Pennock Plantation Bell and native plants and habitats. There's also the Keeper's Deck and workshop under a historic ficus tree. Afterward enjoy the gift shop and Lighthouse Fudge. The Lighthouse is used for fundraisers and parties and oozes with history. The guides entertain you with endless, fascinating, true stories.
Walk while wearing a state-of-the art dive helmet that will allow you to breathe freely among the sting rays and other creatures that live in a 300,000 tropical reef at the Seaquarium. You can watch the trainers feed the fish up close and personal along with the other marine life that lives that calls the reef home. If you'd rather stay on top of the water, swim with the dolphins or the seals. Another fabulous experience is the chance to work alongside a trainer. This is a great place and while expensive, definitely worth the splurge.
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
In 1903, a small community of Japanese farmers migrated from Japan and started the Yamato Colony. Today, there are Zen gardens, a museum, a restaurant and gift store honoring these immigrants who lost everything in WWII when their property was confiscated by the government. The museum also holds festivals throughout the year. My favorite is the Festival of Lights in the fall. At the end of the night, lanterns with lit candles float on the lake in memory of deceased family members. It is a beautiful sight. The festivals are always sold out so make online reservations early if you plan to attend one.
Mary Yuhas is a freelance writer and author and has lived in South Florida for the past fifteen years. She's written for USA Today among other publications.