2 Places I Want You To Go If You Visit Florida

I drove around Florida this weekend finding awesome stuff so you don't have to.
Publish date:
October 11, 2014

As I mentioned last weekend, Ed and I took a little road trip around Florida. We spent a whole bunch of time in the car and had a fantastic little journey.

The best thing about the trip was, obviously, that Ed and I like being in the car together. If you enjoy someone's company, a shared road trip is a pleasure. But the second best thing was seeing some pretty fantastic Florida spots -- if you ever come to Florida, consider get away from the theme parks and checking out some new places.

Place 1: The Dali Museum

The Dali Museum, in St. Petersburg, Florida is the most comprehensive Dali museum in the world. I know that seems random -- why Florida, right?

There's a whole history of the Dali museum coming to St. Pete, and it involves a couple named Reynolds and Eleanor Morse and their expansive collection of Dali works. You can read a little bit about it on the museum's history page. But it's also in St. Pete because the city approached the Morses about moving their collection.

That seems to have worked out -- the Dali Museum is phenomenal. The Hallucinogenic Toreador is my own personal favorite Dali painting and the chance to see it in person is glorious. It's a massive work -- it's about 13 feet tall by almost 10 feet wide.

The masterworks are a huge draw themselves, of course. But the Dali Museum permanent exhibit is arranged chronologically so you can see how Dali's approach to art developed through the years. And there's a free docent-led tour that is included with the price of admission.

There's also the temporary exhibits. We saw Master of Illusion, which included not only the work Lincoln in Dalivision but also a matching digital work that allowed gallery goers to have a photo of their own face taken to be incorporated into the work. When no one was getting their picture taken, previous photos were rotated so the work was always changing.

In November, I have to go back. Because the new exhibit is going to be Picasso/Dali, Dali/Picasso. PICASSO, y'all. It's going to put works by the two artists side by side in an examination of their treatment of similar themes and events. I can't wait.

While you're at the Dali Museum, I do recommend taking a few moments in the cafe. The "small plate" I got was kind of shockingly delicious -- and I paired it with a lovely Spanish red wine.

That means I was a little drunk by the time we hit the Avant Garden to walk the labyrinth but it was basically magical. The museum is on the water and there's usually a gorgeous breeze. You'll love it here.

As long as we were there, we snuck in dinner with Claire and her husband. And her dog Angie.

Angie does not love selfies.

If you're in the area, and you're into B&Bs, I'll also recommend the Dickens House -- it's a really beautiful Arts and Crafts style bed and breakfast, which was a new experience for me, because I usually go for the Victorian B&Bs.

Also, the owner's name is Ed. I'm biased towards Eds and when we were looking for a place to stay, I took the shared name as a sign. That was the right thing to do -- Ed was welcoming and gracious and our room was not only comfortable but just plain delightful.

And breakfast was magnificent.

Place 2: The Coral Castle

We drove down Alligator Alley to Homestead, Florida and spotted not one single alligator. That was our only disappointment.

The Coral Castle is a weird little attraction that's about 4 and a half hours worth of driving from St. Pete. But it was the kind of day that absolutely necessitated rolling down the windows and turning up the stereo so the drive was half the fun.

It also took us a little longer than planned, in part because we stopped to eat tacos. If you're in South Florida and you don't eat tacos, you're missing out. We hit the Taqueria San Julian 2, in Naples. The food didn't last long enough for picture taking -- their various salsas make me want to live in Naples.

The guy who built the Coral Castle -- his name was also Ed. So you see why we had to go there -- especially since the Coral Castle is a monument to love. Unrequited and kind of creepy love, at least from a modern perspective, but love and so we smooched a lot while we rushed through the tour. (We got there closer to closing than planned.)

It's actually a smaller museum type thing than I expected -- but that seems unfair since the Ed who built it carved it all in the middle of the night by himself from the coral that is about two inches under the St. Augustine grass that grows all around.

One of the neat things is how accessible everything is. At the Dali Museum, it's all paintings behind glass but at the Coral Castle, as long as you aren't climbing on the high walls, you're more than welcome to walk around and sit on the various carved coral pieces. There are reclined chairs and a table in the shape of Florida.

There's also a cooker, made from an old differential, where Ed cooked hot dogs. (Not my Ed. The guy who lived there.) He slept on a plank suspended from the ceiling of a seriously monastic cell above his workshop. Because he was avoiding scorpions.

The theme parks in Florida are pretty great from a tourist perspective -- I keep flirting with the idea of a Disney annual pass myself. But getting away from the usual attractions can mean finding stuff you never expected.

Have you been to either of these spots? How do you feel about Dali anyway?