Merchants along the highway discovered a long time ago that one way to get speeding motorists to stop was to erect something large, bright and eye-catching in front of their businesses. Immediately coming to mind are the roadside icons along Route 66 like the recently restored Twin Arrows in Arizona. That tradition continues along US 192 in Kissimmee with several eye-catching roadside icons.
The Paradise Inn in Kissimmee is a family owned and operated hotel offering comfortable hospitality at a price you can afford and giant red, white and blue roadside missiles. The missiles, (or maybe they're external fuel tanks from airplanes), lead your eye to the sign and I have to wonder what missiles have to do with paradise?
Further up 192 a giant Shell World sign, at least 60 feet high, frames an enormous conch shell. While not as large as the shell at the Shell Factory near Ft. Myers, it appears to be in much better shape. And once you pull in the parking lot the real eye candy is apparent. First, there's an old VW bug entirely encrusted with shells. While in need of some repairs, it exhibits the same kind of creative entrepenurialistic folk artisanship that has created so many of our country's roadside treasures. Closer to the entrance is an entire golf cart encased in shells, including the golf bag and clubs. Tacki-licious! Because I was there before it opened, I couldn't go inside and I missed out on 12,000 square feet of "the most whimsical seashell creatures" from the sea. Apparently they also have a Seashell Museum, which I will have to experience on another visit.
Continuing up the road one cannot miss another gift shop with a giant wizard on top of the facade. This gift shop was open and it has the usual Florida tourist trinkets that can be found throughout the state, so if you need to get your fix of beach towels and tee shirts made in China, this place is an option.
A gift shop further up the road is a gift shop selling slightly more unique items. Orange World is a roadside icon difficult to miss; it is the world's largest orange (according to the owners.) At 92' wide, 60' high, 35,000 lbs, this family-owned gift shop has been pulling them in for more than 40 years. It is one of the finest examples of mimetic architecture in the state.
At the entrance you are offered free samples of fresh Florida citrus and encouraged to take some home at a reasonable price. Inside, amid some of the usual tourist stuff, are several rows of items unique to Central Florida including the candies and preserves of Davidson of Dundee. In addition to shipping citrus, the Davidson folks manufacture all natural citrus candies, coconut patties, citrus marmalades, citrus jellies butters and orange blossom honeys. Craving Tangelo butter? They have it! The 32-year old business located in nearby Polk County, offers free tours, with lots of free samples, so expect another post on the subject in the future.