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A New Guide to Old Florida Attractions Paperback – May 1, 2016
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"Alderson surveys defunct attractions before devoting most of the book to places that still exist. He writes about springs-oriented attractions that have been rescued through state acquisition, such as Silver Springs, and perennially popular reptile outposts, such as Gatorland in Orlando. Bok Tower Gardens receives an eight-page spread stocked with color photos, and an image of attraction's 'singing tower' appears on the book's cover."
from a full-length article about the book by Gary White in the Lakeland Ledger, 7/26/16
"In this gloriously illustrated book, with many of its 132 color photographs taken by the author, novelty and nostalgia blend and complement one another. Doug Alderson provides a feast of adventures for the Florida tourist and the longtime resident who has not yet ventured forth to the distant corners and remote inland crossroads of this varied and sizable state. ... This book is just plain fun, let alone highly informative. It's worth the price just for the photographs and the author's exuberance." --Phil Jason, Florida Weekly, 9/15-21/16
"Douglas Alderson's A New Guide is a love letter in the form of a tourism pamphlet, amplified to book length and filled with 20th century attraction history. ... The pictures Alderson includes--century-spanning postcards, brochures, and photographs--only amplify the nostalgic effect, drawing a direct line between the naturalism and wonder of Florida's tourism past and his hope for a return to form in Florida's tourism future."
"As a whole, A New Guide to Old Florida Attractions is a smashing success. It comes across as a significant source of historical data as well as a guide for interesting places to visit. It should be of interest to those looking to read about Florida's formative years, and those looking for new adventures today." --judge for Royal Palm Literary Award where the book received a first place award for travel book and in the top five for book of the year. Another judge concluded: "What a fun book! A history lesson and a bucket list, rolled into one!"
From the Author
In the days before mega-theme parks and interstate travel, my two brothers and I would pick up stacks of brochures at visitor centers and motels and beg my parents to visit places like Silver Springs, Six Gun Territory and Cypress Gardens. However, Mom and Dad generally opted for the more educational attractions such as The Ringling Museum, Edison's Winter Home and Marineland.
One afternoon, driving south on U.S. 19 on our way to see relatives, Dad pulled the old Rambler station wagon into the parking lot of Weeki Wachee Springs. Weeki Wachee! Just the quirky name elicited excitement. Being eleven, the idea of seeing beautiful mermaids performing in a clear Florida spring was high on my wish list.
In the parking lot, we cruised along a line of concrete statues showing topless mermaids. Then, my parents squinted to see the admission price at the entrance gate. They didn't park the car. We soon pulled back onto U.S. 19 and continued south.
It wasn't until 2010, 42 years later, that I saw my first mermaid show. I quietly laughed the entire time. The mermaid show was hugely entertaining, campy, Old Florida, and I admired the stamina and athleticism of the mermaid performers. A mermaid performer once said that to dive into the strong current of the spring was like trying to swim up a waterfall. It took fortitude, and the performers had to smile and make it look effortless while performing an elaborate underwater ballet. What stole the show during my visit was a small slider turtle doing back flips as if to imitate the mermaids. After all, this was the turtle's spring; the mermaids came much later in the historical timeline of such things. Some shows are interrupted by a visiting manatee.
That visit helped to stimulate my interest in the Old Florida attractions. I began researching their history, collecting vintage brochures and postcards, and visiting the ones still open to visitors. Highlights of my visits included a behind-the-scenes look at the famous Bok Tower near Lake Wales, the lesser known Solomon's Castle east of Bradenton, and Florida's classic alligator attractions.