In Which Hitty sees Star Wars, Pirates, Times Square and Las Vegas in One Day


Just in case you think I have discovered a new way of travel or have learned to teleport myself, let me explain that you can see all this and much more at Legoland, the oldest and the newest theme park in Florida

Logoland Florida is the former Cypress Gardens and is located on Lake Eloise in Winter Haven, Florida.

Cypress Gardens opened in 1936 and was Florida's first theme park.  The botanical gardens and water shows made it world famous.  Esther Williams, actor and competitive swimmer, starred in movies and TV specials filmed at Cypress Gardens.  So many groundbreaking stunts and world records were broken there that Cypress Gardens was billed as the "Water Ski Capitol" of the world.

Competition for attendance became critical when Disney World opened in 1971.  Founders Dick and Julie Pope retired in 1980 and ownership passed to their son.  Cypress Gardens closed in 2009 and the park re-opened as Legoland Florida in 2011.


Legoland features the original botanical gardens, water shows, a water park, rides, shopping and Miniland USA. Forget the roller coasters----the miniature replicas of cities and landmarks----made completely of legos---was my favorite part of the park.


The Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee with other cities in the background


News conference on the capitol building steps!


Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright





The Fort at St Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously operated European settlement and port in the United States.  It is a very popular tourist attraction and a beautiful old city.


Miami Beach


The Space Shuttle






On to New York


Times Square and the Statue of Liberty



On to the West Coast


The Golden Gate Bridge


The Hollywood Bowl and on the set of Star Wars (below)



We brought home souvenirs.  Watch where you step!




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Hitty Visits the Seminole Tribe in the Big Cypress

I have been such a homebody recently that I was excited to be included in a day trip to the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation and the Billie Swamp Safari with my adopted human, Shirley,and her visitors from "up North"

The Seminlole people are descendants of the Creek people.   It was a diverse tribe that spoke seven languages. In the 1700's, the Seminole Nation drew the attention of their white neighbors because of their vast land holdings and cattle herds.  Conflicts over land and cattle started sixty years of war against the Creek people. The Seminole Tribe is the only Native American Tribe that did not sign a peace treaty with the US government.

Spaniards called the indigenous people Cimarrones (free people) and by the mid 1800's all native Florida people were called "Seminoles"

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is a self-governing people.  Their constitution formed the Tribal Council which is the governing body that oversees the administration of  business ventures, police and fire departments, utilities, human resources and education.  Over one million dollars is spent by the Seminole Tribe on education each year in the form of scholarships and the operation of schools.  You can learn more about the culture and history of the Seminoles on their website http://www.semtribe.com/

One of the first things we did after our arrival was take an air boat ride in the Everglades. This is me with our  pilot, Mike, who grew up on the reservation.


It was the first time I have been in the Everglades on an air boat.  The views were spectacular!


Guiding our boat around an alligator in the water.  There was another one sunning on a log




Another Air Boat that passed us.  After the air boat ride we took the nature trail.  More beautiful scenery.


The trees and the water were covered with tiny green plants


A Swamp Buggy


Our driver Isaiah.  On a previous trip, not us, the swamp buggy jumped out of gear after hitting a bump and Isaiah had to crawl underneath and fix it.  You can find a video of it on YouTube.  There are alligators in that water!


This is IGon the Alligator.  He is about sixty years old and was blinded in a fight with another alligator....his eyes are gone.


The sleeping hut of a Seminole Camp


The cooking hut of a Seminole Camp.  In modern times, we might call, text or leave a note if we have to go out for awhile and want to let our family members know.  The Seminoles had their own unique message system.  If the camp had to be evacuated in an emergency or for some other reason, the last one to leave would place a log at the edge of the fire pit pointing in the direction that they went.

For lunch, we ate gator tail, frog legs and catfish along with Indian Tacos made with fry bread.  Pretty good. The restaurant had their own brand of water


Some animals we saw included some very large turtles, a raccoon in a coconut palm and a Florida Panther





Shirley's grandson holding a baby alligator


If you are a nature lover, who enjoys "roughing it" you can spend the night or a few days in this Chickee on the water.  It sleeps two and costs $60 per night at this writing.



View from the deck


For more information about the Billie Swamp Safari visit http://www.billieswamp.com/



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