The decades after World War II were a golden age for roadside attractions in the Sunshine State. The advent of the family automobile put Florida’s exotic flora and fauna within easy reach for millions of curious Americans.
Entrepreneurs were happy to meet that demand, setting up for-profit nature parks around four of Florida’s most splendid natural springs—at Silver Springs, Homosassa, Rainbow Springs, and Weeki Wachee.
To distinguish themselves in a crowded field, these roadside operators upped the ante on weird, sweetening nature’s majesty with theme park fantasy in the form of hippos, macaques, and mermaids, oh my!
Though these gimmicky roadside parks ultimately fell out of favor as commercial ventures, this truly wooly and weird chapter in Florida’s history lives on, fully-integrated by popular demand into the state park system. Lovingly documented across more than 135 full-color photographs, Nature’s Own Attraction: A History of Florida’s Roadside Springs presents a living history of Florida’s bygone roadside era—a special kind of man-made Florida wildness vying for attention alongside the native, natural Florida wilderness that we all know and love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Thomas Kenning is an author, educator, and adventurer. He has written extensively about Washington, DC for his own blogs and on a freelance basis. Mr. Kenning is the creator of the award-winning Openendedsocialstudies.org, a library of free lesson plans and travel writing designed to foster a sense of wonder about the world and our place in it. When he is not travelling to some far-flung corner of the Earth, he resides with his wife and daughter (a DC native!), planning his next improbable adventure and trying to leave the planet a little bit nicer than he found it.