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historical vacations

Our Picks: Historical Vacations Without the Dust

Shipwrecks that make millionaires? Circus performers of the South? There’s some unexpected history to plan an OPAL Collection vacation around.


Photo © Circus Sarasota

Ring Masters [Sarasota, FL]

The Ringling Bros. summons childhood memories of popcorn under the big top. A stop in Sarasota on any of your historical vacations more than makes that memory a reality where getting to know how the circus got its original flair is just a trip to The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art. With exhibits like 1,800 behind-the-scenes photographs by twentieth-century photographer Frederick W. Glasier, you’ll get a glimpse behind the curtain of Sarasota’s colorful past. Then, make a point to stop by the elaborate Ca’ d’Zan (House of John) to see just how the owners lived as some of the richest Americans of their time.

Where to Stay Lido Beach Resort

Pirate’s Bounty [Key West, FL]

By the late 1800s, shipwrecks dotted Key West’s coast, inadvertently making it the wealthiest city in the United States because shipwrecks just off the shoreline were quickly pillaged by locals. At the time, more than 100 ships a day could be seen sailing by the shore, and it wasn’t uncommon to have at least one shipwreck per week along Florida’s reefs. Climb the 65-foot-tall tower at the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum to gain the same vantage as early “wreckers” scouting for downed ships to pillage.

Where to Stay The Laureate Key West | Sunset Key Cottages

The Life of a Lighthouse Keeper [Camden/Rockport/Rockland, ME]

The brick Grindle Point Lighthouse is just a 20-minute ferry from Lincolnville Beach on the mainland. Built in 1874 to guide sailors through Gilkey Harbor, the lighthouse has worked on one of the most active harbors on the coast of Maine. Inside, find the 39-foot-tall tower littered with artifacts (donated by Lincolnville residents over the years) that relate mostly to the town’s rich seafaring history, like portraits of original keepers and their original furnishings. The connected keeper’s house has also been transformed into a museum, displaying photographs of the lighthouse and its keepers over the years.

Where to Stay Samoset Resort

On the Rail [North Palm Beach, FL]

Many don’t know that Jupiter once ran quite the railroad monopoly within the area. With the seven-and-a-half-mile-long Lake Worth Railway that connects the town to Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, it once boasted one of the priciest passages in all of Florida, at 10 cents per mile. There were no turning tracks, so anyone heading home from Juno rode north in reverse. In Sawfish Bay Park off Old Dixie Highway, see the remaining depot that once helped Jupiter state its claim in railway lore. The 1915 depot is one of 65 that once served Florida’s FEC (Florida East Coast) system.

Where to Stay Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa

Mohicans by Boat [Lake George, NY]

The two-hour theater performance with The Last of the Mohicans Outdoor Drama sets sail on the southern half of Lake George and acts like a cocktail party with some unexpected guests. You become part of the action as you mingle with Alice, Cora, Hawkeye, and other characters from James Fenimore Cooper’s famous novel aboard the aptly named Mohican. A musket-firing demonstration, Native American songs, and actors in eighteenth-century garb make this exponentially better than the CliffNotes you read in high school.

Where to Stay The Sagamore Resort

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