Posts Tagged With: attraction

Naples Depot Museum

Naples Depot Museum


The history of Naples and the railway industry in Florida is in full display at the Naples Depot Museum in downtown Naples, Florida. Train enthusiasts and history buffs alike will enjoy the interactive exhibits and artifacts at this small, but entertaining museum.

Interior          Interior

The museum is set inside the restored Seaboard Air Line Railway passenger station which originally opened in 1927. But more than just trains are showcased here. The museum tells the story of Naples and Southwest Florida and “how trade and travel transformed Naples from a small village of 300 into the Gulf Coast resort city it is now.”

Interior          Interior

The museum is free, but donations are welcomed. On Saturdays, kids can ride the miniature train around the property.

Kid's train          Interior train car

The Naples Depot Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of a group of five museums in Southwest Florida. The others are the Collier County Museum in Naples, the Marco Island Historical Museum on Marco Island, the Museum of the Everglades in Everglades City and the Immokalee Pioneer Museum in Immokalee.

Dates of Visit:  January 2013

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Historic Tower of London

Tower of London


There are over 900 years of history surrounding the Tower of London. That’s much too much to write about here. So, I’m not going to go into every detail. But I wanted to write about The Tower of London because it is a must-see if you ever get a chance to visit England’s capital city.

Over those hundreds of years, the Tower served as a royal palace, prison, armory, treasury, the home to the Royal Mint and the Crown Jewels, and even a zoo. Today it’s one of London’s most popular tourist attractions.

Tower of London         Tower of London

Construction started on The White Tower, the huge building in the middle of the site, in 1066 by William the Conqueror. Throughout the years, the fortress was expanded. Other towers, barracks and halls were built by the reigning kings.

One of the best ways to tour the site is guided by one of the famous Yeoman Warders, or Beefeaters. They’re not just tour guides, they’re Tower of London historians and can answer pretty much any question you have about the site. Yeoman Warders have been a part of the Tower since around 1509 and were originally royal bodyguards.

Yeoman Warder          Tower of London

The Crown Jewels of the UK are housed in the Waterloo Barracks building. Though photographs are prohibited, the crown jewels are definitely worth seeing in person.

Waterloo Barracks          Model

Fans of military history will enjoy seeing the various suits of armor worn by kings throughout the centuries. And you can see what life was like living at the Tower in the Medieval Palace, residence for many of the kings and queens of England.

Armor          Armor

In addition to being the famous site of various executions, including those of Henry the VIII’s wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, the Tower of London is also home to a small flock of ravens. Legend has it that Charles II said that if the ravens ever left the Tower, the monarchy would fall. The ravens are still there and so is the UK.

Raven          Tower of London

Even if you aren’t a history buff, The Tower of London is one of the iconic landmarks in the city and worth taking a look at.

Dates of Visit:  May 2005 

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Ca’ d’Zan: An Italian Mansion in Sarasota

Ca' d'Zan exterior


A few months ago, a TV station in Tampa aired a story about the Ca’ d’Zan mansion in Sarasota. I remembered that I had been there several years ago and found all the photos I had taken. So, I thought I’d write about this amazing home built for John and Mable Ringling of Ringling Bros. Circus fame.

The Ringlings loved the city of Venice, Italy and wanted their winter home to reflect the beauty and grandeur of the Venetian Gothic architecture they admired. They commissioned architect Dwight James Baum to design the house. It was completed at the end of 1925 at a cost of $1.5 million.

Interior Ca' d'Zan          Interior Ca' d'Zan

Interior Ca' d'Zan          Interior Ca' d'Zan

Ca’ d’Zan, which means “House of John” in Venetian, has 41 rooms filled with art and original furnishings, about 95% of them are original pieces purchased by Mable. There are 15 bathrooms in this five story, 36,000 square foot residence. The mansion overlooks Sarasota Bay, a location that the Ringlings chose because it reminded them of the Grand Canal of Venice.

Interior Ca' d'Zan          Interior Ca' d'Zan

After completing the Ca’ d’Zan mansion, Ringling commissioned the building of an art museum on the property to house his personal art collection. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the official state art museum of Florida. It opened in October of 1931.

Ext Museum          Museum

Museum          Museum

The 21 galleries contain more than 10,000 objects including sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, tapestries and paintings, some by world-renowned artists Rubens, El Greco, Titian, van Dyck and Tintoretto. The museum emulates the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Italy.

Museum          Museum

Dates of Visit:  June 2003

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The Architecture of EPCOT

Japanese Torii


For those of you who have been following my blog for the past year, (Wow! A year already. Thank you to everyone!) you know that my favorite Walt Disney World theme park is EPCOT. And my favorite part of EPCOT is World Showcase. I’ve always loved to travel and around World Showcase you can visit 10 foreign countries all in one afternoon.

To pay tribute to those countries around the lagoon and to give you a taste of what those countries are really like, the Disney Imagineers did a beautiful job of recreating the architecture of each country when they designed the different pavilions. I’ve gathered some photos from both EPCOT and the countries to give you a comparison. EPCOT photos on the left, real places on the right.

Canada is patterned after a 19th century French chateau in Quebec City.

Canada Pavilion            Canada Quebec City

The toy store in the United Kingdom pavilion is designed to look like Hampton Court Castle.

UK Toy Store    Hampton Court Castle

And, of course, there’s Paris, France’s iconic Eiffel Tower.

France Pavilion  Eiffel Tower

Morocco features a replica of the Koutoubia Minaret in Marrakesh.

Morocco pavilion            Minaret in Marrakesh

Japan’s pagoda is representative of many pagodas of the Far East.

Japan Pavilion           Pagoda in Japan

The US pavilion’s colonial-style was inspired by Independence Hall, Boston’s Old State House, Jefferson’s Monticello and Colonial Williamsburg.

American Adventure      Independence Hall

Italy looks just like the Doges Palace in St. Mark’s Square in Venice.

Italy Pavilion     Italy Doges Palace

Germany’s architecture pays homage to the German town square, or Platz, from the 16th century.

Germany Pavilion   German village

The centerpiece of China is the Temple of Heaven. The original is in Beijing.

China pavilion            Temple of Heaven Beijing

Norway harkens back to the days of Vikings and includes a Stave Church.

Norway pavilion            Stave Church

And Mexico was designed to look like the Aztec Temple of Quetzalcoatl.

Mexico pavilion            Aztec temple

I’m sure a lot of people don’t really consider the architecture of the theme parks, but when these buildings were designed, as with all the buildings at Walt Disney World, a lot of thought was put into them to make them as realistic as possible, giving park guests a truly immersive experience.

Dates of Visit:  Various

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The New Fantasyland

Prince Eric's Castle


I know that this is old news. So many people have already posted about the opening of the new Fantasyland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. But I wanted to wait a while before heading over to check it out, wait for the crowds to die down a bit.

The Magic Kingdom has been open for 41 years (Wow!) and this is the largest expansion it has ever undergone. Fantasyland will now be twice its original size, now 21 acres. It was built on the site of the original 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction.

The new Fantasyland is opening in stages. This first stage includes the Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus.

In the Enchanted Forest, you’ll be immersed in the worlds of the Disney films Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. The centerpiece of the Enchanted Forest is the Beast’s Castle, high atop the mountain. Gaston’s Tavern, Bonjour Village Gifts and the Be Our Guest Restaurant are also in the Beauty and the Beast area.

Beast's Castle          Be Our Guest Restaurant

The Be Our Guest Restaurant has three unique dining rooms, all featuring themes from Beauty and the Beast. This restaurant serves French-inspired cuisine, like salad Nicoise, croque monsieur and French onion soup. It is also the first restaurant in the Magic Kingdom to serve alcohol.

Attractions within the Enchanted Forest are Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, where you board giant clamshells and ride through Ariel’s world; Ariel’s Grotto, where you can meet all the characters from The Little Mermaid; and Enchanted Tales with Belle, a doorway into the story of Belle and the Beast.

Ariel's Grotto          Gaston's Tavern

Storybook Circus is now where you can find The Barnstormer roller coaster and the new and improved Dumbo ride. There are actually two Dumbo rides now, one that goes clockwise and the other counter-clockwise.

Mine train artwork

The next stage of the new Fantasyland, opening in 2013, will include Princess Fairytale Hall where you’ll be able to meet all the Disney princesses. And then, in 2014, you can experience the thrills of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a roller coaster that swings side-to-side while the train is in motion.

Dates of Visit:  December 2012

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Happy 30th Anniversary, EPCOT


I’ve posted before that my favorite of the four Walt Disney World theme parks is EPCOT. There are lots of reasons, but mostly because you can travel around the world, visiting 11 countries all in one day. When EPCOT first opened 30 years ago, I never thought I’d still be visiting the park today, having just as much fun there as I did the very first time I went.

Back in 1982, before EPCOT even opened, you could take the monorail from the Magic Kingdom to EPCOT’s construction site to get a sneak peak of what was to come. At that time, it was the largest construction project on the face of the Earth. Back then, the park gave out a full color artist’s rendering book with artwork depicting each pavilion and attraction. I still have that book and have included photos from it here.



It’s very cool to look at it and see how the park turned out. It’s pretty much as the Imagineers envisioned. Although, some attractions never made it past the “coming soon” stage like World Showcase pavilions for Israel, Africa and Spain. (Africa is represented by a refreshment station, but is of course a huge part of Animal Kingdom now.)

EPCOT is an acronym for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.” Although it’s not called that anymore, it describes Walt Disney’s original vision for the site that is now the entire Walt Disney World Resort. He envisioned a community of the future, even before the Magic Kingdom was built. But after his death, the company decided to take another direction and give EPCOT a feeling more like a World’s Fair.

So, here we are approaching October 1, 2012, when EPCOT will celebrate its 30th anniversary. I do admit that some of the attractions are a bit outdated, but they are refurbishing and reimagining new attractions all the time and I’m sure will continue to do so.

Card Walker, the CEO of Walt Disney World at the time of EPCOT’s opening, said at the park’s dedication, “May EPCOT Center entertain, inform, inspire and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere in the world.”

I hope EPCOT has done that at least a little bit. To me, it’s more than a theme park. It’s an opportunity to learn about different cultures through the people, the music, the food; to look at the future and see something positive. Okay, that may sound corny. But for sure, I always have a fun time when I visit EPCOT.

Happy Anniversary!

Dates of Visit:  Various from 1982 until present

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Get Back to Nature at the North Carolina Arboretum


Describing the North Carolina Arboretum in words is not an easy task. So, I’ll just let my pictures tell you all about it. I will include a few words, though.

The North Carolina Arboretum, just south of downtown Asheville, is a 434-acre public garden near the Blue Ridge Parkway.



There are 65 acres of lush cultivated gardens, 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, ever changing indoor and outdoor exhibits, a fabulous Bonsai collection, and the incredible quilt garden (which was being replanted on our last visit, but was beautiful in 2009).


The Arboretum is open daily, weather permitting, except for December 25th. There is no per person admission fee, but they have a parking fee of $8.00 per vehicle. Visit the first Tuesday of the month and parking is free.



You can grab a light bite at The Savory Thyme Café Tuesdays through Sundays. And if you’re looking for a location for your “green” wedding, the North Carolina Arboretum is the perfect place.


It’s a beautiful way to spend a quiet day getting back to nature. I recommend it.

Dates of Visit:  May 2009, May 2012

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Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

I just got back from a trip to North Carolina and I’ve got about 18 more posts to write about that. But, I figured I’d mix it up a bit and include a few posts about some places I’ve been other than North Carolina. We’ll be back there next week.


Let’s venture down to the Southernmost tip of Florida to Key West and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

This colonial southern mansion style house was originally built in 1851 by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker, using his profits from salvaging sunken ships — of which there were many off the coast of Key West at the time. Hemingway and second wife, Pauline, received the house as a wedding gift from Pauline’s Uncle Gus in 1931.


It was the first house on the island with indoor plumbing and an upstairs bathroom with running water. The swimming pool on the property was the first pool on the island. It is said that Pauline, as a gift to her husband, had the pool built while he was off reporting on the Spanish Civil War. She supposedly spent $20,000 to have the pool constructed. Upon his return, Hemingway was not pleased with how much money she spent and is said to have yelled, “You might as well have my last cent.” This penny is embedded in concrete near the pool.

It is reported that the Pulitzer Prize-winning author spent the happiest years of his life in Key West. They were certainly very prolific years. Hemingway wrote many of his famous works in Key West including For Whom the Bell Tolls, Death in the Afternoon, To Have and Have Not, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Not only did the famous Ernest Hemingway live here, but so did his famous six-toed cat, Snowball. It is said that Hemingway was given the white cat by a ship’s captain and some of the 40 to 50 cats that still live on the property are descendents of Snowball. Hemingway named these polydactyl, or extra toed cats, after celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso, Mark Twain, and Charlie Chaplin. This tradition continues today.



The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is open from 9am to 5pm, 365 days a year. The admission fee includes a 30 minute guided tour or you can just wander around the grounds.

Dates of Visit:  July 2003

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The London Eye Through the Camera’s Eye


On a visit to London in 2005, I had the opportunity to take a ride on the London Eye. It’s quite an amazing structure and offers a fabulous view of the city of London.



This giant Ferris Wheel was built on the South Bank of the River Thames in 1999. At that time, it was the tallest Ferris Wheel in the world, standing 443 feet tall. It is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, welcoming 3.5 million visitors each year.


There are 32 air-conditioned oval passenger capsules around the wheel, each holding 25 people. The wheel rotates at 10 inches per second, or about 0.6 of a mile per hour. One revolution takes about 30 minutes. It rotates slowly enough for passengers to walk on and off without it having to stop.



The London Eye has had many names over the years: The Millennium Wheel, the British Airways London Eye, the Merlin Entertainment London Eye, and now the EDF Energy London Eye.

Dates of Visit:  May 2005

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