In the early decades of the 20th century the majority of tourists coming to Florida were well-heeled members of America's elite classes seeking to escape the brutal northern winters. The deplorable condition of Florida's road system meant that long-distance travel was practical only via railroad. The interior of Florida remained largely unaffected by tourism as the railroads bypassed most of the state and funneled tourists directly to opulent resorts in the coastal cities of St. Augustine, Miami, and Tampa. All this would change in the years following World War II, when ownership of an automobile had become commonplace and the recently established custom of the two-week vacation meant that a new type of tourist was interested in visiting Florida.1 Middle-class Americans now had the opportunity to come to Florida, and the state embarked on a road-building boom in hope of encouraging tourism, which was rapidly evolving into a vital piece of Florida's economy. As tourists were liberated from the pre-planned routes laid down by the railroad, thousands of restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions sprang up alongside the newly constructed highways to service the automobile travelers. For many the journey by car was an enjoyable part of their vacation experience. Driving along the back roads of America harkened to an element of wanderlust that let them seek out experiences in new environments.2
"Gatorland: Survival of the Fittest among Florida's Mid-Tier Tourist Attractions,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 87:
4, Article 5.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol87/iss4/5