We agree, this has been a year to remember. That is why we decided to do a review of our travels in 2020. In looking back over the past 12 months it’s hard to believe how many places we managed to visit in Florida.
Our travels in 2020 began with a revisit to the Sarasota Farmer’s Market. One of the oldest – and at the time one of the largest – in the state, we always had a great time there. There always was lots of our favorite produce and specialty products. And for our taste, people-watching was unprecedented.
A target of opportunity was our January stop at Webb’s Candy Factory in Polk County. The decades-old operation has grown into a must-stop tourist attraction. Plus, we were treated to a backstage tour by a fourth-generation Webb. And we treated ourselves some goat milk fudge while we were there (how could we not?).
One of our funnest stops ever was at Solomon’s Castle. In addition to the pun-filled art displays in their “time castle,” they had a great little restaurant called “The Boat in the Moat.” Additionally, we took advantage of their wonderful little gift shop.
The first month of the year also gave us the chance to visit Florida’s first state park. Highlands Hammock is a sprawling facility with a campground, museum, play area, picnic facilities and several different trails. We decided to traverse the boardwalk – which took us over wetlands full of flora and fauna only found in the Sunshine State.
During our travels in 2020, we enjoyed lunch at the Runway Cafe in the Sebring Regional Airport. This was a double treat for us. There was plenty of air traffic at the airfield, with pilots coming in for lunch, then taking off again. My wife referred to it as “the floor show,” which came at no additional cost.
Things began to slow down in the second month of 2020. Nevertheless, we were blessed to do some traveling. For instance, a trip out of state gave us an opportunity to come back into Florida and be greeted like a tourist.
We stopped at the Welcome Center on I-95 and took a leisurely stroll around the place. It has a wealth of information on things to see and do in Florida. And like many of the visitors, we left with an armload of booklets and brochures of things we plan to do in the upcoming months.
While on a February visit to Sarasota, we went to Bob’s Train. What a delightful stop. The antique railway coach was full of circus memorabilia and creative inventions of owner Robert “Bob” Horne. He holds court during dinner, spinning wonderful tales of his involvement with the circus. Doolittle’s Raiders and the American space program.
A February trip to the Lakeland Linder Airport brought us to the Florida Air Museum. We found it on the campus of the Sun ‘N Fun Expo. There were exhibits inside and out with all manner of airplanes, aviators and aircraft-related items. It was easy for us to take a leisurely stroll around the area and be thoroughly informed and entertained.
As part of our travels in 2020, we took a run over to the SunCoast, which brought us to Reddington Beach and the Sweet Sage Cafe. They have a unique menu and an equally unique boutique on the property.
We also hit some spots in central Florida. Our visits at the Wild Turkey Tavern in Avon Park have always proved to be tasty and fun. Their brand of cracker cookin’ is designed to please. Recently they added breakfasts to their ever-expanding menu.
As we all remember, things began to tighten up in March. Nevertheless, we were able to squeeze in at least a couple of trips before things around Florida and around the country were locked down.
The Snowbird Nationals at the Avon Park Mowerplex is one of our must-stops of the season. Racing lawn mowers in all classes thrill young and old alike. And we love the crowds, which are fun and just great people to be around. Of course, the on track action is our favorite part.
While in Lakeland, we toured Lake Mirror Park. this many-faceted location is the Home of Hollis Gardens. We also found a lovely little bistro there to enjoy both lunch and the day. It was one of our most relaxing experiences.
It was then that everything was buttoned up due to the coronavirus. This is where the our travels for 2020 slowed to a crawl. We took the weeks at the end of March and into April to look back and look forward to our trips. We also did a piece on how we sanitize our hotel room – even before the corona hit. Additionally, we wrote about great travel preparation opportunities during the down time.
How appropriate it was that Tourism Week began May as things in Florida began to re-open slowly bur surely. From here on out, our travels for 2020 began to pick up speed.
We took a trip to Vero Beach in May where we stayed at the Sea Spray Inn and enjoyed the Atlantic Ocean as well as a number of the restaurants and attractions in the area.
Later, we went to the Gulf of Mexico and stayed at the Bentley Boutique Hotel. They have great accommodations with easy access to Nokomis, Venice and even Englewood. There, we made a stop at Made in the Shade – the quintessential ice cream shop.
SpaceX began the month of June with the first American-based, manned rocket launch in two decades. That called for a road trip. We headed over to Melbourne to get an eye witness view of the launch. From the beach, through the bright sun, we could see the rocket carrying the astronauts to the international space station. It was a sight to behold.
While we were at Melbourne, we discovered one of the best Italian restaurants ever. Pane y Vino is both a restaurant and a deli with some of the most delicioso menu items and ingredients we’ve ever enjoyed.
We continued traveling in June with a run down to one of our favorites – Fort Meyers Beach. There we discovered a new little retro property known as The Flamingo Inn.
Owners have done quite a bit to upgrade the rooms at the Flamingo Inn. It is a bit away – but that gives the property practically a private beach within easy walking distance.
It was at the end of June that Florida re-opened with a bang. That’s when our pent-up travel desires really kicked in. During the first six months of the year, we learned the Mental Health Benefits of travel, and the site topped 200,000 views.
For us, it was the best of times and the worst of times – and that’s only the first part. Stay tuned, part two of our travels for 2020 here at Florida Fun Travel is on the way.