An Illustrated Guide To Weirdly Wonderful Florida

Jan 27, 2012
Originally published on May 23, 2012 11:05 am

Reporter's Notebook: NPR photographer Becky Lettenberger just got back from the Sunshine State. She and reporter Liz Halloran talked with Floridians about the issues of this election season — and, between conversations, soaked up the sun and scenes of that quirky state.

I stuck out in Florida.

First of all, I'm not remotely tan. Second, I spent five days with NPR reporter Liz Halloran driving up and down Interstate 4 lugging around a Polaroid camera. And third, I pronounced everything wrong.

Some things I learned, and tips for travel if you're ever in central Florida:

Kissimee is pronounced "Kiss-simm-ee" not "Kiss-a-me." On Thursdays, there is a wonderful little farmers market in town. Be sure to stop by and meet Robert Couturier, who owns Souza's Grove. He took over the family business after his grandfather passed away — despite being so allergic to orange blossoms that he has to wear a respirator in the orchards! Buy a Honeybell, the most amazing of oranges. It was so juicy I basically had to drink it — and later arrived to the Orlando airport as sticky as a 2-year-old post-Popsicle.

If you find yourself heading to Tampa, be sure to visit Dinosaur World. I sincerely delighted in the towering Tyrannosaurus rexes hunting ferociously within earshot of the interstate. Once you're in Tampa, stop by Mama's Southern Soul Food on MLK Boulevard; I regret not trying the cracklin' cornbread.

Get back on I-4 and head straight past Orlando to DeLand (pronounced Dee-land). The quaint town on the way to Daytona Beach hosts food festivals and classic car shows off the cobblestone main street.

Grab your Mickey and Minnie souvenirs in Orlando and ride the zip line at Gatorland. If you're afraid of getting old (which I definitely am, especially considering today is my birthday), visit the folks at Solivita, an active adult community where wild birds roam, golf carts rule and getting old doesn't seem so bad.

This was merely a snapshot of Florida, and I left knowing there are many more stories and quirky roadside attractions than we could ever cram into our quick trip. Besides the beautiful weather, we met some truly wonderful people. They have some gloomy outlooks for the future of our country, but they welcomed us warmly and I hope to return, especially for a Honeybell.

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