1960 – 1971: Florida’s Tourism Comes of Age (A Change is Gonna Come)

Even though the number of visitors to Florida continued to increase in the 1960s and the economy stayed strong, Florida’s Golden Age of Tourism began to fade away. It’s an oversimplification, but the cause of the slow decline of most of Florida’s tourist attractions was the establishment of the Interstate Highway System.

Starting in 1958 with the construction of the first parts of Interstate 4, by 1970 most of the primary highways were complete. I-75 and I-95 funneled motorists quickly and efficiently into the state and to the large cities such as Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami. The old roads that carried the original Tin Can Tourists were suddenly obsolete, yet these were the very roads that many attractions were on. Major attractions such as Cypress Gardens, Silver Springs, Weeki Wachee and Wakulla Springs found themselves miles away from the majority of travelers.

This was a time of increasing advertising budgets, attractions being purchased by much larger companies and a decline in attendance at many classic attractions. To survive, the owners had to adjust and adapt. Rides were added. Nearby attractions banded together. New and different shows and activities were offered. Still, other attractions were doing well and new ones were even opening.

In actuality, this wasn’t a bad time for Florida tourism – really there hasn’t been an extended period in Florida history where the tourism industry as a whole was affected significantly (other than the Great Depression). Attractions had to learn that putting a sign on the road was no longer enough to make money.

1960

Henry Morrison Flagler Museum opens

Aquafair closes

Cedar Key Museum State Park opens

Hontoon Island State Park opens

Audubon House opens

House of Presidents Wax Museum (eventually renamed Presidents Hall of Fame) opens

Bazaar International and the Trylon Tower opens

Trapper Nelson’s Zoo and Jungle Gardens is closed by the State of Florida

Lake Placid Tower is constructed

1961

Bahia Honda State Park opens

Harry P. Leu Gardens deeded to the city of Orlando and opens to the public

Elliott Museum opens

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach opens

Africa USA closes

James Melton Autorama closes

1962

National Naval Aviation Museum opens

Falling Waters State Park opens

Tallahassee Museum opens

1963

Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory opens

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park opens

Miracle Strip Amusement Park opens

Six Gun Territory opens

St. George Island State Park opens

Tussaud’s London Wax Museum opens

Cape Canaveral Air Force Base opens

1964

Aquatarium opens

Cape Coral Gardens opens

Floridaland opens

Safety Village opens

San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park opens

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park opens

Kennedy Space Center allows drive-through visitors on its property

The Sunshine State Parkway (Florida’s Turnpike) competed

Florida has a building and large display at the New York World’s Fair

Musa Isle closes

Hemingway House opens

Storyland USA closes

1965

Sarasota Reptile Farm closes

The Cross and Sword first performed in St. Augustine

Crystal River Archaeological State Park opens

St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park opens

Ocean World opens

1966

Caladesi Island State Park opens

Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park opens

Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park opens

Bishop Planetarium opens at the South Florida Museum

Pioneer City opens

Kennedy Space Center develops bus tours

Top O’ the Strip Observation Tower opens

1967

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park opens

Blackwater River State Park opens

Forest Capital Museum State Park opens

Lion Country Safari opens

Pirates World opens

Horns’ Cars of Yesterday sold and becomes Bellm’s Cars of Yesterday

T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park opens

1968

Eden Gardens State Park opens

Grayton Beach State Park opens

Lake Griffin State Park opens

Biscayne National Monument established

Pioneer City closes

Flagler College is founded and established in the former Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine

Spongeorama opens

1969

Paradise Park closes

Caribbean Gardens becomes a zoo with the addition of animals from “Jungle” Larry Tetzlaff

Long Key State Park opens

Wekiwa Springs State Park opens

Apollo 11 (first manned lunar landing) launches from Kennedy Space Center

1970

Lake Manatee State Park opens

Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site opens

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park opens

Mound Key Archaeological State Park opens

Ochlockonee River State Park opens

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park opens

Sebastian Inlet State Park opens

Ravine Gardens becomes Ravine Gardens State Park

Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo opens

McLarty Treasure Museum opens

Cape Coral Gardens closes