1920 – 1946: Florida’s Discovery by the Average American (The Rise of Tin Can Tourism)

The years between the wars saw a general expansion in every area of Florida tourism. In a way, this was a time when mom & pop attractions began to develop in earnest as the early “tin can tourists” motored into the state staying in some of the country’s first trailer parks and motels (motor hotels). Little published information was available about Florida attractions because most of the advertising budget of each attraction was spent on billboards and making the attraction’s facade irresistible to passing motorists. Some families headed to the Sunshine State with only expectations of seeing beaches, alligators and oranges.

Probably the biggest event of the era was the creation of Edward Bok’s garden and singing tower. An immigrant from the Netherlands, Bok hired a nationally recognized landscape designer and a northern architect to make an attraction for the masses that was equal to any in the US.

While the millionaire Bok was doing great things in the center of the state, another immigrant Edward, the Latvian Edward Leedskalnin quietly began to construct his own remarkable monument south of Miami.

Florida was still a quiet place with the smallest population of any state in the South, but it’s reputation as a vacation destination was growing.


Henry Flagler Monument built


Dade Battlefield Historic State Park established

Edward W. Bok commissions landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to design Bok Tower Gardens


Hialeah Raceway opens for greyhound racing

Florida Southern College moves to Lakeland


Sanford Memorial Zoo (Central Florida Zoo) established with the donation of animals from the Sanford Fire Department

Edward Leedskalnin begins constructing the Coral Castle – he welcomes visitors throughout his years of work

Orchid Jungle opens


Fort Marion National Monument established

Fort Matanzas National Monument established


Wakulla Springs opens

Jacksonville Zoo moves to its current site


Webb’s City store founded


Gamble Plantation Historic State Park opened

Big Tree Park containing the Senator opens

St. Augustine’s Bridge of Lions opens

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (The Ringling) opens


McKee Botanical Garden opens

Following Henry Nehrling’s death, Palm Cottage Gardens closes

Following Henry Nehrling’s death, the H. Nehrling’s Tropical Garden and Arboretum falls into disuse

Ross Allen’s Reptile Institute opens

Bok Tower Gardens opens


Osceola National Forest established

Highlands Hammock State Park opens


Hialeah Raceway opens for horse racing


Monkey Jungle opens

Ravine Gardens opens

Flamingo Gardens opens

Florida participates in the Worlds Fair in Chicago, IL


Key West Aquarium opens


Florida Park Service created

The state purchases Fort Clinch

Fort Foster State Historic Site opens

Hillsborough River State Park opens

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park opens

Sunken Gardens opens

Torreya State Park opens

Fort Jefferson National Monument established


Apalachicola National Forest established

Cypress Gardens opens

Dead Lakes State Recreation Area opens

Parrot Jungle opens


Wakulla Springs Lodge opens

Oriental Gardens opens


Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour opens

Marine Studios (later Marineland) opens

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden opens

Fort Clinch State Park opens

Florida Southern College begins construction of the first of its Frank Lloyd Wright buildings


Clyde Beatty’s Jungle Zoo opens

Addison Blockhouse Historic State Park opens

Gulfstream park opens

Florida has a building and large display at the New York Worlds Fair


Dupree Gardens opens

Mead Botanical Gardens opens

Choctawhatchee National Forest is transferred to the War Department for military use

O’Leno State Park opens

Sarasota Jungle Gardens opens


Hugh Taylor Birch State Park opens

Norton Museum of Art opens

Myakka River State Park opens


Florida Caverns State Park opens

The Beal-Maltbe Shell Museum formed at Rollins College

Fort Marion restored to its original Spanish name: Castillo de San Marcos


Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park opens

Tomoka State Park opens

Clyde Beatty’s Jungle Zoo closes