Great Places to Learn About History In Florida

03/31/2010  |  KELLI ROBINSON
historic places

Once considered to be home to the “Fountain of Youth” by many, Florida has been the site of several historical events and home to many historical figures. From its residents to its culture, Florida offers many opportunities for visitors to the Sunshine State to learn about American history. The following are just a few of the many attractions and activities in Florida that will take any person on a journey through the past.

North Florida

Florida’s culture and heritage come to life in a verdant natural environment at the Tallahassee Museum located in the Sunshine State’s capitol city. Visitors can experience a world of flora, fauna and people as they existed in decades gone by. The Museum was founded over 50 years ago to encourage people through the years to care for their natural world and value the role of history in their lives. The Museum’s other historical structures include the 19th century Bellevue plantation house, former home of Princess Murat, which is on the National Register of Historic Places; the 1897 one-room Concord schoolhouse; the 1937 Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, built by a congregation founded in 1850; a 1924 Seaboard Air Line caboose; and a 1919 Model T that still runs like a top.

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Known to some as the “Isle of Eight Flags,” Amelia Island was named after Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II. The island’s charming Victorian historic district blends past, present and future. Bricked walkways lined with gas lantern replicas light the way from downtown to the marina, giving visitors the feeling they’re back in a simpler time. Downtown Fernandina Beach has more than 450 ornate Victorian structures, and provides a picturesque view of its multi-colored brick, a building dating from the 1870s.The Kelly Seashore Ranch allows you to take the reins in your own hands, while enjoying the island’s pristine white sand and ocean beauty by horseback.

For visitor information and online planning, visit

The National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola is a military and aerospace museum that opened in 1962. The museum features more than 4,000 uniforms, flight gear, weaponry, medals and decorations. Guests can marvel at the sight of more than 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Aviation. Or, hop in the 15-passenger Motion-Based Flight Simulator and fly an F/A-18 mission in Desert Storm. Visitors are welcome to join any of the four tours offered, tour the museum themselves, or choose the guided tours that are led by retired military volunteers. The Flight Line Trolley Tour allows for an up close look at 50 aircrafts displayed on the flight line behind their restoration hangar.

For more information call 850-452-3604 or visit

Central Florida

Eatonville, Fla., located right outside of Orlando, is home to the legendary writer Zora Neale Hurston and one of the few African American Communities established in the 1880s still in existence today. The Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts and Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community is a 20-acre historic district that includes buildings constructed between 1882 and 1946. Visitors can obtain information on the community and displays the works of artists of African descent. Eatonville’s Zora Neale Hurston Trail correlates 16 historic sites and 10 markers with Hurston’s writings. A walking/driving tour brochure is available at the Museum.

Call 407-647-3307 for more information.

As the founder of the Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls in 1904, now called Bethune-Cookman University, Mary McLeod Bethune left behind a historic legacy in central Florida. Tourists to the Daytona Beach area can visit the Mary McLeod Bethune Home and Gravesite. Laid to rest in a grave behind her home, currently located on the University’s campus, visitors can tour Bethune’s home and the surrounding grounds, while exploring her legacy through the numerous plaques, artifacts and photographs displayed throughout the dwelling. The home still retains all of the original furniture and even a portion of Bethune’s wardrobe. The Bethune Foundation and gravesite is open for tours year round.

Call 386-481-2121 or 386-481-2122 for tour times and information.

South Florida

Adopted as the winter White House for the 33rd President, Harry Truman’s “Little White House” in Key West is history within itself. Built in 1890, the house was originally a two-family dwelling for the base commandant and paymaster 1918. Inventor Thomas Edison lived in the house for six months while inventing 41 new weapons; there were also several military meetings held in the home’s foyer. Guests can participate in a guided tour of the house, which still contains original furnishings, while learning about the politics of the Cold War and the Naval History of Key West. Visitors can also view of the Botanical Gardens, a sprawling acre of tropical foliage and trees surrounded by the home’s original 1890 wrought iron fence.

Call 305-294-9911 or visit for more information.

Built as the winter residence of American industrialist James Deering in 1916, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens takes the visitor into a luxurious moment in time where beauty and arts intersect. With 34 decorated rooms containing 15th through 19th century antique furnishings and art objects, visitors are welcomed to experience Vizcaya’s main house on their own, or on a guided tour. The museum features expansive gardens that combine elements of Renaissance Italian and French designs.

Visit for more information.

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