Hit the Road

The Citrus Tower & Presidents Hall of Fame in Clermont, Florida

A lot of us grew up taking road trips, especially during the summer. I spent most of my childhood summers and holidays traveling across the country in the car. After starting my own family, we continued the tradition of the family road trip, and in fact, my husband, Scott, our daughter, Avery, and I just returned from a trip to visit family in Texas.

Nowadays, with the hustle and bustle of busy modern life, the days of hopping in the car just to see what you could find seem to be long gone. It’s no secret that Florida’s history is deeply rooted in tourism and in the heyday of road travel, many Floridians made their attempt to capitalize on the market with roadside attractions dotting the map beckoning for motorists to stop and explore.

Clermont is one such spot on the map that made its mark with well-known tourism stops that still stand today. The city’s history was firmly planted in the citrus industry from its founding back in 1884 through much of the 20th century when the county was mostly sprawling orange and citrus groves. Construction on a 226-foot-tall observation tower overlooking the groves began in 1955 and what was once one of Central Florida’s most famous landmarks opened to the public in 1956. 

For several years after opening, the Florida Citrus Tower drew half a million visitors each year, as it was strategically placed on the highway. After the Florida Turnpike was extended north, surpassing much of Central Florida, the tower began to lose steam as a tourism hub. 

Today, the tower still stands as it was, even getting back to its original white and orange citrusy paint scheme in 2015, and is open for visitors. 

The view it offers now, however, is a stark contrast to what it was built to tower above. Gone are the days of rolling citrus groves, and instead the landscape is dotted with parking lots and buildings. One way to put Florida’s ever-changing scenery and out-of-control growth into perspective is to get a bird’s eye view. That’s not to say it isn’t worth a ride to the top. 

To this day, the tower remains the highest observation point in Florida and is one of the state’s first attractions. The lobby features the history of the area and the tower itself. A coffee shop offers drinks that you can bring to the top with you and relax at tables on the observation deck. Once at the top, you are welcome to stay as long as you’d like. The tower is also open for rocket launches for an epic view. Unlike many tourist attractions, they don’t hike up the admission price for this special viewing either!

Adjacent to the Citrus Tower, quite literally in its shadow, is another classic roadside attraction, the Presidents Hall of Fame. This homage to American history is also one of Florida’s oldest standing roadside attractions. What started as a simple wax museum dubbed the “House of Presidents” in the 1960s, has grown over time to house thousands of historical items and replicas detailing the history of the American presidency. 

Although it’s on the smaller side, this scaled down “White House” is packed to the gills with history. The wax figures of all past and present presidents, as well as several first ladies, are still around, cranking up the creep factor and feeling of constantly being watched. 

I kept finding myself peeking over my shoulder feeling like someone was watching me, only to find JFK staring at me from a rocking chair or FDR peering through a window. All kidding (or creeping) aside, if you’re a history buff, it’s easy to get lost in the countless items detailing everyday presidential life. 

It’s clear the main reason for the Hall of Fame these days is to house the massive miniature of the White House (I know, that’s kind of like a jumbo shrimp, right?). The sprawling 1/12 scale replica of the presidential palace takes up most of the main room, and it’s just as easy to get lost in the tiny details of it as well. 

This one-of-a-kind house is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest dollhouse and has traversed the globe, including all 50 states, Great Britain and Japan. It’s taken up residence in the Smithsonian and even the actual White House itself. The backside of the structure offers a detailed, true to life, look into each room, including the Lincoln Bedroom and Oval Office. 

While this attraction may be aging, it doesn’t lack in fun photo ops – perfect for your Insta!

You can take a call in the Oval Office or hold a press conference at the presidential podium. Out front, you are greeted by miniatures of Mt. Rushmore (toddler shown for scale), the Statue of Liberty and the Lincoln Memorial.

If you can’t make it cross-country this summer, you can always head to Clermont for a miniature tour of the U.S.! 

Admission and Hours:

The Citrus Tower

141 N. Hwy. 27, Clermont 34711

(352) 394-4061

CitrusTower.com

Hours: Mon – Sat: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Admission: Adults – $10; Children – $6 (discounts for seniors, military, large groups, first responders)

Presidents Hall of Fame

123 N. Hwy 27, Clermont 34711

(352) 394-2836

ThePresidentsHallOfFame.com

Hours: Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sun: 12 – 4 p.m.

Admission: Adults – $15; Children (6-12) – $8

Kelsey Walters biography

Leave a Reply