Miami summer is hot, going to get hotter. It’s even worse up north. You need a brain boost. I have the coolest idea for a few days respite - Field Trip.
I am an intrepid poker around-er into enclaves, and discovered some truly world class exhibitions and sights only a half day drive from us. It’s off season, so finding accommodation should be reasonable. Four days (three if doing a marathon) of pleasant meandering can be enough to complete this cultural triad of mostly air conditioned exploration.
Step one: Dredge about in the back of your closet for the cooler, stuff it with lots of your specially infused iced tea to insure a perky and chatty trip, add a few favorite snacks, some comfy shoes, toss in car and off you go.
First stop: The Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida (242 miles) has “the world’s most comprehensive collection by Louis Comfort Tiffany”, including the chapel interior Tiffany designed for the 1893 World’s Fair Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It’s exquisite. Founded by Jeanette Genius McKean in 1942, The Morse Museum was named for her grandfather, Chicago industrialist Charles Hosmer Morse. Its collections were built over a half-century by Mrs. McKean and her husband, Hugh F. McKean, the Museum’s director until his death in 1995. A new museum wing offers a first time glimpse of the collection from Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Long Island home, Laurelton Hall, including the restored Daffodil Terrace. Current Special exhibits include Watercolors by Otto Heinigke who was a principal in the important Brooklyn stained glass firm of Heningke and Bowen, Roseville Pottery and American Arts and Crafts furnishings and decorative art.
It’s a four hour trip so if you leave Miami by 8:00am you can be in the cute little old town of Winter Park for lunch before hitting the museum. Granted it’s been tarted up over the years for the Orlando tourist trade but it still is a bit of old Florida, tchotchke laden or not.
Spend the night in the this area and come morning leisurely head off an hour down the road to Lakeland and Florida Southern College, located 60 miles southwest of Winter Park. Lakeland is a lovely old Florida town oozing southern charm. Well, most of it oozes. First settled in 1870, it housed over 9,000 troops during the Spanish-American War(1898). You might be surprised to hear that there are numerous lakes in Lakeland (38 named).
But the most shockingly interesting fact is the architecture at Lakeland’s Florida Southern College campus. This Methodist institution has the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright designed structures anywhere in the world. If you are an architectural aficionado you must put down your coffee cup right this minute and plan the trip. In the National Register of Historic Places, these ten buildings (plus two other structures) are quietly and spectacularly peppered over the languid Central Florida campus. You may want to linger as The Fountainhead, gimlets, square-shouldered jackets and Cadillac tail fins waft through your memory bank.
A Methodist minister himself, Wright personally supervised the first project, the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel in 1938. Buildings continued to be erected into the ’50’s.
Cantilevered covered walkways meander from building to building giving students a break from the relentless Florida sun, taking your eye seamlessly from foreground to background. In 2007 his unique 1948 Water Dome was successfully resurrected. A large circular pool ringed with water jets constructs a dome of water over the pool. Apparently it never functioned as planned until technology caught up with Wright’s 45 foot vision.
Interesting story: Ludd M. Spivey, President of FSC (1925 -’57) wanted to conceive a “college of tomorrow” during the Depression. He approached Frank Lloyd Wright who was captivated by the idea of Organic Architecture to synergistically unite structure with environment. One hand shake later the Methodist campus sprang into action in 1938. This occurred at the apex of Wright’s career.
Sufficiently saturated with architectural bliss, it is only a little over an hour (61 miles) to St Petersburg, Florida and the Dali Museum. You will need an overnight here. Cram the Dali into late afternoon or do it the next day, depending on how intrepid/zippy you are at touring.
The Dali Museum touts itself as “ the world's most comprehensive collection of works by the late Spanish surrealist”. The new museum building opened at 11:11 am on 1/11/11, and combines “the rational with the fantastical” It consist of a simple rectangle with 18-inch thick hurricane-proof walls out of which erupts a large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the "enigma." The enigma, which is made up of 1062 triangular pieces of glass, stands 75 feet at its tallest point, a twenty-first century homage to the dome that adorns Dalí's museum in Spain. Inside, the Dalí houses another unique architectural feature - a helical staircase - recalling Salvador Dalí's obsession with spirals and the double helical shape of the DNA molecule.
Pick up a few surreal presents at the extensive gift shop; perhaps a Dali collage travel tumbler for your trip home. You know you need it.
It’s 268 miles and 4.5 hours to buzz on home from St Pete, so crank up the caffeine and get on back to the homestead. Or if time and the relationship with your traveling companion is not on overload, check out the many fascinating and to be blunt, weird, places to visit in Florida. Taking back roads can be its own reward.
Sanity hint: Make sure you check out which days/times museums are open to visitors. Let’s not recreate the Griswolds' vacation debacles.
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
445 North Park Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789 | (407) 645-5311
Florida Southern University
111Lake Hollingsworth Drive
Lakeland, FL 33801-5698
The Dali Museum
One Dali Blvd
St. Petersburg, FL USA 33701