We discovered a small town gem of a place…right in our own backyard

Editor’s notes: Rorie and Bart love #smalltowns. That’s obvious. But they especially love discovering awesome places when they’re only a stone’s throw (well maybe a 1 or 2 hour drive) from their home. They’ve reported on “Backyard Gems” before, spotlighting places like Micanopy, FL (http://bit.ly/2tCji5o) and Collinsville, CT (http://bit.ly/2tF06DO).

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We recently navigated our way to the town of Dunedin (pronounced DONE-EE-DIN) in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. Bart’s father “Buddy” often mentioned the place when reminiscing about his time in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He trained near Dunedin as a rear tail gunner on a night fighter before being deployed to the Philippines.

Today the town is said to offer some of the best dining in the Tampa Bay area, hosts the minor league Dunedin Blue Jays baseball team, and has art, culture and – according to some locals – the #1 Beach in America!  Your DSTA Tour guides focused on Dunedin’s quaint downtown village. What fun!

A patriotic archway “announces” the town’s retail district – The Shops on Broadway.  

Shops on Broadway

Colorful signs and sidewalk “ornaments” put a smile on our faces.

colorful chairBloomin Bikes

The sweet tooth among us made a beeline for this charming sugar mecca. Check out some of its old school confections.

Sweet treatsOld school candy

To Rorie’s defense, she did take a pass on Sweet Treats’ Sky Bars, Charleston Chews, ice cream and other goodies that were calling her. But, that’s only because she knew what was waiting for her just a few blocks down the street…lunch.

olde-bay-cafe

View from our counter seat

The Olde Bay Cafe is attached to the Dunedin Fish Market. Their seafood is fresh and just plain good. The views from our bar stools were spectacular. It was a hot day so we ate inside. In cooler weather the outside deck is where you want to be.

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Our Dunedin explorations – and chow down lunch – were terrific. But the day wasn’t over….Here’s where things got even more fun.

Normally we start our #smalltown “tours” with a specific destination in mind. But, invariably, we discover random, really cool places that weren’t on our radar. And that’s what happened in nearby Largo, Florida.

Thanks to some good road signage, we noticed a sign that caught our attention.

Botanical garden

The screeching sound you may have heard was Bart making a sudden U-turn to get back to the entrance of The Florida Botanical Gardens. Oh my, what  wonderful discovery.

After parking (the place was deserted because of the heat), we headed out to explore the park. The first thing we noticed was this rather amusing sign.

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Needless to say, we had no intention of either feeding or molesting a gator. Whaaaat?

The Gardens are a maze of beautiful walkways.

Walkway

It’s also an extraordinary venue for weddings.

Wedding

There are plantings of every kind imaginable around the grounds. They’re stunning.

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Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but our ability to capture the amazing beauty of the Gardens was extremely limited. All we can say is, if you’re ever in this area, put The Florida Botanical Gardens on your bucket list!

And while you’re there you MUST take in Heritage Village. It’s literally right next door to The Gardens. This 21-acre living history museum features 31 structures, some from the mid-to-late 19th century. It averages 4 1/2 stars on #TripAdvisor for a good reason.

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This wonderful recreation of a #smalltown village includes a school, church, railroad depot, sponge warehouse and general store as well as a variety of historic homes.

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We will be back to spend more time exploring the sights and smells of the village of Dunedin, The Florida Botanical Gardens and Heritage Village. Maybe we’ll see you there!

 

2 thoughts on “We discovered a small town gem of a place…right in our own backyard

  1. I completely missed this town when I’ve been in the Tampa area. Sounds like the pace has some character

  2. Great pictures, Bart and Rorie. I like the connection to the WWII memories of your dad, It looks like a strolling place with too many temptations for the this time I’ll lose the damned weight crowd.

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