Ask anyone who’s not from Florida to describe the state in one word and you’ll probably get some similar answers: sunny, warm, happy, beaches…maybe something about alligators or the amount of retirees would make it’s way in there, but my point is that Florida is generally a happy place. It’s home to Disney World, “the happiest place on Earth,” after all.
Florida is also home to a startling number of creepy, abandoned places antithetical to the ebullient, care-free vibes of Disney World. There are abandoned places all over the country but Florida, in particular, is a hotspot for them. If you’re driven by a curious, adventurous spirit and the thought of empty, decaying structures doesn’t scare you, then you may want to check out one of these four places during your next visit to Florida for an unconventional travel experience.
- River Country Water Park
Disney is not very forthcoming about its abandoned water park, River Country, and for good reason: the park, which was themed to look like a natural swimming hole, opened to visitors in 1976 and was once a thriving attraction for guests of the Walt Disney World Resort. The park closed after 25 years of operation, however, due to safety concerns surrounding a deadly amoeba found in the natural water and a new Florida law requiring that the water supply for all pools be potable, as well as competition from Disney’s other two waterparks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, which were much larger. Now, the park remains as a decaying ghost town overtaken by weeds and moss. A photographer, Seph Lawless, who captured images of the abandoned park, feels that Disney should restore the area. “No corporation should be powerful enough to hide the truth and not clean up their mess,” he said.
- Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park
While this famous military fort, built after the War of 1812 to defend America’s coastlines, remains open to the public for guided tours as part of Dry Tortugas National Park, it ceased operating as a fortress in 1888 when it was decided that the upkeep was too expensive for the facility to continue operating as a defensive fortification. It was turned into a bird sanctuary in 1908, devoid of prisoners or soldiers for more than a hundred years.
- Stiltsville, Miami-Dade
Stiltsville, in Miami-Dade country, is exactly what it sounds like: a mini town on stilts off the coast. A man by the name of Eddie Walker constructed the buildings during the prohibition era to conduct bootlegging operations. Other stories say the buildings were already there when Walker moved his business there, but his motivation is that the area was outside the territory of United States jurisdiction. Today, the stilted buildings make up a certifiable ghost town maintained by the Stiltsville Trust.
- Kerr City
Established in 1884, Kerr City was once a small functioning village, but crop-destroying weather in 1894 and 1895 left the town all but abandoned. As of 2013, only one resident remained and the town is rumoured to be haunted.