Why We Love Batshit Crazy Florida
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because drag queen bingo, haunted hills and worm grunting festivals.
By Barbara Fletcher
Don’t get us wrong. We love the Sunshine State. With its sunny beaches, top-notch amusement and theme parks, vibrant nightlife and friendly folks — not to mention that you can wear flip-flops and shorts for 10 months of the year — it’s a pretty nice place to live and visit.
But Florida also has a freaky side. And if you know where to look, you can experience all manners of the weird and wonderful. Such as? Strange-sounding animal festivals and curious historical homes, mythological (or are they?) beasts in the Everglades and a carnivalesque grocery store. For those who like to be spooked, there’s a haunted hill. And for those who want more from their 0-69? We say sexy drag queen bingo.
We’ve rounded up some of the best ways to enjoy batshit crazy Florida. Only here you’ll find:
Legends loom large along Florida’s Tamiami Trail. No surprise that it’s home to one of the most bizarre “research” stations you can imagine. The Skunk Ape Headquarters is a bizarre place dedicated to a hairy apelike thing — just don’t call it Bigfoot — alleged to roam the Everglades. Run by a man who claims to have seen one of the hairy manlike beasts as a child, the HQ also offers up a gift shop and a weird petting zoo.
Florida has more than its fair share of notable critters and beasts, and these creatures are properly celebrated (although sometimes by eating them) in festivals throughout the year. Enjoy the spoils of frog gigging (eating frog legs) or sample fine possum cuisine. And WTF is worm gruntin’, you might ask? You’ll have to visit Sopchoppy to find out.
Fake orgasms, muumuus and killer makeup: This is not your grandma’s bingo. If you thought that bingo in the Sunshine State was the fodder of nursing home and VFW event calendars only, think again. Drag queens across Florida are putting the laughs and raunchy good times into the otherwise staid game of chance and numbers, giving a whole new meaning to “0-69.”
Behind the shiny beachfront high-rises, poured concrete and strip mall–meets–strip bar sprawl, Florida’s backroads hide some historical gems, where the state’s past is preserved on the walls — and sometimes even in the food. From a hotel made from driftwood to a frog-leg eatery nestled in taxidermy to a rustic old gun club frequented by U.S. presidents and famous musicians, these old-school haunts make a trip off the highway worth the diversion.
Robert is Here is unlike any fruit stand you’ve seen before. Selling exotic local fruits you won’t find in Florida grocery stores (soursop, anyone?) and whipping up milkshakes so popular they sometimes need to be preordered, this place is a must-see stop on a trip into the Everglades. The best part is the origin of its name: a 1950s marketing move born of desperation that spawned an empire.
Take your car to the designated line on Spook Hill in Lake Wales and prepare yourself for a weird experience. A gravity illusion — which is attributed to an alleged Native American legend — makes your car appear to roll uphill. Or maybe the hill is just haunted? The town gets in on the act, celebrating the spooky experience. Even the nearby elementary school has Casper the Friendly Ghost as its mascot.
More ways to experience Crazy Florida
- The Creepy “Timeout dolls” in Fort Myers’s Classic Car Shows — Check out a vintage car show and see if you can spot one of these disturbing, faceless toddler-size dolls.
- Magical Ways to Live Like A Local In Miami — From mermaid shows to sandbar parties, here are five curious options for partying like the city’s residents.
- Make Your Love Last Forever With a Special Tree — Go on a treasure hunt in St. Augustine to scout out a magical Florida “love tree,” a species steeped in myth and big promises.
- Hunt Pythons on the Government’s Dime — A program run by the South Florida Water Management District pays people to shoot the invasive snakes. But why?