Then and Now: Florida Roadside Attractions

Writer and history consultant Sylvia Gurinsky presents a “guided tour” to vanished Miami places called “Once There Was A Place” with historic footage from the Wolfson Archives. Gurinsky will present this event free of charge at the Miami Center for Architecture & Design (MCAD) 100 NE 1st Ave, Miami, FL 33132  at 7:00 PM on September 9. In honor of “Once There Was A Place,” we visit several some of Florida’s retro roadside attractions.

 

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Planet Ocean, photo Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

Planet Ocean was an 80,000 square foot, interactive oceanographic museum located across the street from the Miami Seaquarium on Virginia Key. The museum included multiple interactive oceanography exhibits, displays of deep-sea submersibles, multi-media presentations, and a real iceberg that museum visitors could touch. Planet Ocean opened in the mid-seventies then closed in 1991, and is now part of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

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 Six Flags Atlantis, photo Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

Six Flags Atlantis, also known as “Atlantis the Water Kingdom,” was a water park located at the intersection of I-95 and Stirling Road in Hollywood, Florida. The park was originally built by developer John L.A. Bond. In 1983, Bond suffered financial hardships and sold his unfinished waterpark to Six Flags theme park. The park sat partially completed for several months before Six Flags opened it in 1982 as “Six Flags Atlantis.” The park featured a seven-story slide tower, a lake with water-skiing shows, a wave pool, video arcades, and a small midway. Six Flags sold the park in the summer of 1988, and it was reopened by the new owners under it’s original name “Atlantis, The Water Kingdom”. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused extensive damage to waterpark, and the owners never re-opened the park. Today most of the area is now occupied by the retail shopping area Oakwood Plaza.

 

 

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 Weekie Wachee Springs, photo Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

Weeki Wachee Springs is a natural spring park located in Weeki Wachee on the west coast of Florida, and is famous for its aquatic performances by “mermaids.” Performers wearing fish-tail costumes are observed by audiences in an aquarium-like setting. In 1947, stunt swimmer and attraction promoter Newt Perry created the show based on underwater hose breathing techniques he developed. Soon after, a theater was carved out of the lime rock in the spring and viewing windows were installed below the surface of the water, allowing visitors to watch the mermaids perform in the spring. In 1982, an addition to the springs named Buccaneer Bay was added. This new part of the park features water slides, a lazy river, and a white sand beach for visitors. Today, Mermaid shows still attract tourists to Weeki Wachee Springs. The park is now owned by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and is also is a member of the Florida State Park System.

“Once There Was A Place” will occur at the Miami Center for Architecture and Design (MCAD), 100 NE 1st Avenue, Miami, FL 33132 on Wednesday, September 9 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. This event is open to the public and presented free of charge. For more information about “Once There Was A Place…” please contact the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives at 305-237-7731 or info@wolfsonarchives.org.

 

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