Roadside stands like the one pictured above are fairly common along freeway exits in Florida. This outdoor display invites travelers to pick up a bag of oranges for loved ones up north who may be digging out from a snowstorm. Today people can buy citrus at any grocery store year round, so purchasing oranges may no longer be a novelty. This business expanded it’s inventory by selling Georgia pecans, citrus wine, gator jerky, and fireworks. I admire the creativity of Florida entrepreneurs who work hard to keep their businesses alive.
Tourism has a long history in Florida. I’m amazed so many of the older attractions are still open. Today most tourists spend their entire vacations at Disney or Universal Studios. They miss out on the unique attractions which preserve Florida’s past.
The Citrus Tower in Clermont opened in 1956 as a tribute to Central Florida’s citrus industry. Did you know Central Florida once had a booming citrus industry? No one would know it today. Neighborhoods and roads have replaced miles of fragrant orange groves.
The tower is located on one of the highest hills in central Florida, a whopping 128 feet above sea level. The structure rises 226 feet and was constructed of concrete and reinforced steel to withstand hurricane force winds. I entered the elevator for the scary ride up twenty-two stories in total darkness with no air conditioning. Who needs the Tower of Terror?
When the door opened I stepped out onto a glass enclosed observation deck and walked around. I could see the rolling hills, spring-fed lakes, roads, and parking lots, but no orange groves.
I wish I could have been here in the old days when citrus was king.
This is an artist’s view of the land surrounding the Citrus Tower during the 1950’s. The hard freezes of the 1980’s killed the orange trees. Growers sold their land in the Clermont area to real estate developers. I enjoyed reading the historical information outside the gift shop located in the base of the tower. Back in the day, the attraction included a restaurant. A menu from the past was posted in a display case. I couldn’t believe the price of a sizzling T-bone steak with onion rings was $3.50.
The Citrus Tower offers a light show during the Christmas season and is open evenings in December. The view from the observation tower is reported to be spectacular at night. Click on the above link for more information and reviews.
If you visit the Citrus Tower be sure to see the President’s Hall of Fame next door. Ronald Reagan described this museum as a national treasure for over forty years. The Hall of Fame features one of a kind presidential memorabilia.
Here’s an interesting photo spot. Where did they get that idea?
Stay tuned for more lonely Florida attractions next week. A side of Florida few people see, and more should.