FLORIDA STORIES: A FREE Walking App Featuring Historic Tours of 20 Florida Communities!
The Florida Humanities Council created The Florida Stories audio tour app for use on your phone or mobile device. It gives you walking tours of Florida’s most fascinating communities. All you have to do is download the info from the community you plan to visit and Voila … it’s truly like having your own private tour guide! Audio narration with synchronized photos lead you step-by-step with a bundled package of history, new and old pictures, maps, key architectural landmarks and tales of historical characters who have contributed to the town’s heritage. Once downloaded, you don’t need to worry about expensive roaming charges because you won’t need an internet connection for it to work.
In Florida, there are so many communities to explore that have fascinating historical and cultural backgrounds. Consider walking through Cuban history in Tampa’s Ybor City, or learning more about the Greek community of Tarpon Springs, or discovering hidden gems in the towns of Deland or Lake Wales. The unique backgrounds of each community are described ranging from topics such as early indigenous tribes to pioneer settlers and 20th century visionaries. You’ll discover how various forces shaped the communities – the citrus industry, sponges, seafood, history, cigars, railroads, speculation and even tourism.
Travel through Key West, Fernandina Beach, Fort Pierce and Bartow. Even if you can’t get there immediately, you can still download the stories and listen or watch the show. The engaging storyteller shares stories of what makes each community so completely different from the others.
If you think history is boring, then you haven’t listened to these engaging Florida Stories.
A Story, Town by Town
To help you get an idea of what you can expect, here is an overview of some of the Florida Stories:
Sponge Diver, Tarpon Springs
Hear Greek music in the background as the storyteller tells of the Tarpon Springs Greek settlement from the early days of the sponge industry, as you walk along the sponge docks, through the sponge exchange and past an old sponge packinghouse. Visit Greek restaurants, coffee houses, markets, shrines, churches and reminders of the town’s past and present.
Cuban Cigar Worker in Ybor City, photo, WEDU
Stroll the Cuban district of Tampa’s Ybor City and follow the Jose Marti Trail. Marti was a political activist who promoted Cuban independence from Spain at the turn of the twentieth century. His visits to Ybor City to share his vision with Cuban cigar factory workers were a driving force in United States involvement. Enjoy the sounds of the Spanish guitar and follow the trail to historical landmarks including cigar factories, restaurants, clubs and theatres.
Fernandina Beach, historic train depot, photo, Amelia Island Museum of History
In Fernandina Beach you’ll learn about Amelia Island’s early indigenous Timucuan inhabitants, and the island’s reputation as a smuggler pirate haven. Find that this area is the birthplace of the modern shrimp industry, walk past the historic train depot, enjoy a drink at the Palace Saloon (the oldest continually operated saloon in Florida), and admire the period homes, old churches and the beloved Florida House Inn.
Demand was founded as “the Athens of Florida”, photo, West Volusia Historical Society
In Central Florida’s Deland, you’ll take in southern charm and find out why this community embraces its alluring history. Learn the story of its founder, Henry Deland, who was inspired to create the “Athens of Florida.” Take in the highlights of Stetson University and walk through historic downtown past colorful murals, the courthouse and theatre.
Ernest Hemingway on his boat, the Pilar, photo Ida Wood Barron Collection
Everyone loves Key West. But do you know Key West’s historical past? The Key West Florida story begins with the Customs House, once the center of the ship-wrecking and salvage business. Then travel to Ernest Hemingway’s iconic watering hole, the legendary Sloppy Joes. Follow the stories behind the Key West homes, mansions, school houses and churches and learn about the town’s colorful and multicultural past.
First United Methodist Church of Bartow, photo, Jayme Jamison, Polk County Historical Assoc.
And don’t miss Polk County’s Bartow and Lake Wales – two Central Florida historic gems. Bartow prides its preservation efforts as it refurbishes rather than creates new construction. Nearby is Lake Wales, famous for Bok Tower Gardens and a town where Pioneer Day is celebrated annually by thousands. Both communities take pride in their pioneer settlements. Admire Bartow’s gracious historic homes, bungalows and churches including a relatively unchanged downtown. In Lake Wales visit an old railroad depot, historic downtown’s Park Avenue, the 1927 Dixie Walesbilt Hotel, and the B.K. Bullard Building, a one-stop architectural shopping gem.
A.E. Backus, photo, St. Lucie County Regional History Center
Walk through the historic downtown of Fort Pierce, known as the Sunrise City on Florida’s east coast, where the Atlantic Ocean inspired many local artists including author and folklorist Nora Neal Hurston. Long ago, Fort Pierce was an untamed frontier of cattle drives, timber harvesting, and pineapple farms, and where Indian River citrus is still prized. The Flagler railroad took goods to market and promoted the town’s growth. Visit the home of artist A.E. Backus who inspired a group of African-American artists now known as the Florida Highwaymen. These artists were known for painting mostly landscapes that documented the area’s beauty and selling their works along roadsides from their cars, the only “gallery” available to them in the racially segregated South. Visit key historical landmarks including the 1923 Sunrise Theatre and walk along the quaint award-winning Main Street.
Remember, this is just a glimpse. The Florida Humanities Council currently has 20 tours in the Florida Stories project, with more coming soon. So, be sure to keep the app updated.
Walking tours currently available for download:
- Apalachicola – The Hill
- Boca Grande
- Eau Gallie
- Fernandina Beach
- Fort Lauderdale
- Fort Pierce
- Fort Pierce – Lincoln Park
- Key West
- Lake Wales
- Ormond Beach
- Safety Harbor
- St. Andrews
- St. Petersburg
- Tarpon Springs
- Virginia Key Beach
- Ybor City
Coming soon: Phillippi Estate Park, New Smyrna Beach, Bradenton (Old Manatee), and many more.
Downloading Florida Stories
Not sure how to download an app? Follow these steps:
Tap the App Store Icon on your device to open the store.
Search for Florida Stories and click the install button.
Once installed click the Discover Tab to find the Walk: for example, the Tarpon Springs tour.
Tap the FREE button to download and install the Walk: for example, the Tarpon Spring tour.
Tap the Play Store Icon on your device to open the store.
Search for Florida Stories and click the install button.
Once installed click the Discover Tab to find the Walk: for example, Tarpon Springs tour.
Tap the FREE button to download and install the Walk: for example, Tarpon Springs tour.
Questions? Contact Lisa Lennox at the Florida Humanities Council at firstname.lastname@example.org