The Citrus Tower was built during a time when roadside attractions were very popular. Before the Turnpike and the days of Disney World, Highway 27 was the main thoroughfare for locals and visitors alike to visit these unique attractions. Read below to learn about these Old Florida attractions.
Silver Springs has been a natural landmark since the 1870s and is considered Florida’s first tourist attraction. This state park was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971 and is best known for their glass-bottom boat tours. Not a fan of snorkeling? These guided boat tours are an alternative way to view aquatic life in the crystal springs. In addition to the boat rides, Silver Springs offers a wide collection of natural habitats and eco-tourism activities. Enjoy this Old Florida attraction 365 days a year from 8 am-Sunset.
Cypress Gardens is another Old Florida attraction that many hold near and dear to their hearts. Considered Florida’s first commercial tourist attraction, Cypress Gardens opened its doors on January 2, 1936. What originally began as a botanical garden by Dick Pope Sr. and his wife Julie, slowly turned into one of the largest attractions in Florida and featured water ski shows, southern belles, and beautiful gardens. Cypress Gardens became known as the “Water Ski Capital of the World” due to the 50 world records that were broken. Many celebrities and dignitaries visited, including Elvis, and WWII soldiers would visit and learn how to ski for entertainment. After many years of changing hands, and enduring the disasters of 9/11 and the 2014 hurricanes, Cypress Gardens was eventually bought by Merlin Entertainments and became the home of Legoland.
Along came the Citrus Tower in 1956! Nestled between the aforementioned attractions, the tower could only add to the activities along Highway 27. Lake County’s citrus industry was booming, and local investors believed the natural and man-made beauty of the area would attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, and they were correct! The tower saw up to 500,000 visitors a year in the 60s. Visitors ascended via an Otis elevator and arrived to a 360-degree panoramic observation deck. The surrounding orange groves as far as the eye could see resulted in magnificent views. For the grand opening on July 14, 1956, representatives from Silver Springs and Cypress Gardens attended and they used water from the springs to christen the tower on this historic day.
Picture 1: Unknown
Picture 2:Aerial view of Silver Springs – Silver Springs, Florida . 195-. Black & white photoprint. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 28 Jul. 2019.<https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/117168>.
Picture 3:Seeing Silver Springs in glass bottom boats – Ocala, Florida. 19–. Color postcard. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 28 Jul. 2019.<https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/161179>.
Picture 4: Man points to a sign advertising Cypress Gardens – Cypress Gardens, Florida. 195-. Black & white photonegative. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 28 Jul. 2019.<https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/149488>.
Picture 5: Azalea-time in Florida Cypress Gardens. 1946. Color postcard. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 28 Jul. 2019.<https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/158295>.
Picture 6,7,8: Citrus Tower personal archive.