I'm pretty much constantly thinking about possible road trips. Sometimes this seems at odds with my personality—a homebody at heart who doesn't like change, craves routine and gets dreadfully car sick—but there is just so much to see in this country and world, and I want to see as much of it as I can.
We're currently in Peru (hopefully by now!) for the next week and then we're off to Colombia for a few days, but I realized I still had a few random photos to share from our last trip (Florida)—and I really just wanted an excuse to share my photos of a gift shop that is topped with an enormous wizard head.
The highlight of The Ringling (for me, anyway) was definitely the World's Largest Miniature Circus, but the entire place is beautiful. The Ringling comprises several buildings including Ca'd'Zan, the 36,000-sq-foot house of John and Mable Ringling. The waterfront house was completed in 1926, cost $1.5 million, and was bequeathed to the state of Florida when John died in 1936 (Mable lived here just three years before she died).
The grounds are worth a visit alone, and include an incredible rose garden and banyan trees, which I still can't really believe are real. The grounds are also the final resting place of John, his sister and his wife, who were all reinterred here in 1991. John was the last of the Ringling Brothers to die, and despite once being one of the wealthiest men in the world, he died with just $311 to his name.
The Ringling is also the home of an enormous museum of art, as well as the circus museum. I was most excited about seeing the circus museum, but we didn't realize until we left that we had missed half of it. There are two buildings, one of which houses the miniature circus along with other circus memorabilia, and one that has larger pieces like John Ringling's personal train car. I still feel dumb that we somehow missed that building entirely, but a day in which I see any "world's largest" thing is always a success.
On our way to Orlando—before Gatorland, Orange World and Twistee Treats—we stopped at Tampa Electric's manatee viewing center. When Tampa Bay reaches 68 degrees or colder, manatees come into the power station's discharge canal, where clean, warm saltwater flows back to the bay. Today, the canal is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary, with a series of viewing platforms and docks that you can access for free. It was a bit too warm already when we went, and we ended up seeing just one manatee—and from far away—but they had a good gift shop, a squished penny machine and (my first) Mold-a-Rama machine. We might not have seen many real, live manatees, but the place has fake ones in spades—and remember if you do see a real one, it is against the law to harass, molest, disturb or pursue a manatee.
This somehow wasn't already on my list, but we drove right by it on our way to Gatorland and obviously had to stop (it's just half a mile from Orange World). The inside of this shop was unremarkable, but I just love everything about the huge wizard and the generic "GIFT SHOP" signage. I've since found that we missed a few more of these in the area—at least one more with a wizard theme, and one with a giant mermaid—but now I have something to look forward to on return trips.
5401 Bay Shore Rd,
Sarasota, FL 34243
Open daily, 10am-5pm, Thursdays until 8pm
Manatee Viewing Center
6990 Dickman Rd
Apollo Beach, FL 33572
Open daily, 10am-5pm, Nov. 1 through April 15
Goodie's Gift Shop
5229 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy
Kissimmee, FL 34746