Among the many reasons to drive the Sunshine State, one is that there are many fine antique shops and malls to be seen. If you are fond of vintage shopping in all of its forms, then you will want to point your hood in the direction of these neighborhoods for unique an distinctive discoveries.
Given its spelling, you will be tempted to say “My Canopy” but the correct pronunciation is “Mick-An-Oh-Pea” – offers you the best possible look at Old Florida in an ongoing living form. It is known as “The Town that Time Forgot” with a population of only 600. Named for Seminole Chief Micanopy (1780-1849), it is the oldest inland town in Florida and has a charter from the King of Spain in 1817. When you exit Interstate 75, you will be tempted to stop immediately at Smiley’s Antique Mall, but we suggest you drive into the sleepy Spanish moss draped town itself, first, and find a spot to park along Cholokka Boulevard, Micanopy’s main street and former Indian trading path. From your car, you can leisurely stroll to any and all of the antiques shops in town. Among the half dozen antiques shops that dot the town are Leonardo’s, Delectable Collectibles, The Lost Ark and Roberts Antiques. A visit to Micanopy is not complete without a lunch stop at the Old Florida Café, where the tables are all filled with displays of memories of old Florida, from post cards to souvenirs, and the food is good and plentiful. Then you are ready to head back to the interstate, but stop for a nice long indoors browse to your hearts content at Smiley’s Antique Mall, where there are 25,000 square feet of treasures to explore. The mall has been pleasing shoppers along the I-75 corridor for twenty years. If you are looking for it you will find it here. If you have time to linger in the area, be sure to see nearby Cross Creek, the homestead of Marjorie Kinnan Rawings, which is now a museum.
Mount Dora & Renningers
You can see these both in a day if you plan what day to visit. Renningers is the sister antiques mall to the one in Pennsylvania, and is open on weekends, with a big flea market on Saturdays as well. We like the field beyond the flea market on Saturdays in the fall-to-spring season when more stand holders are there. We never go home without something that we “needed”. Renningers plans “Extravaganza” days when throngs of dealers from all over the south and east converge for an eye-popping display of every kind of item you would wish form claw foot bathtubs to rare jewelry. We found our dining room chandelier there one year, at the February Extravaganza. The city of Mount Dora is charming and old fashioned with its railroad that comes right into Downtown, the Lakeside Inn whose “new” wing was dedicated in 1928 by President Coolidge, and the views of Lake Eustis. There is always something exciting going on, from arts and crafts festivals to the annual boat show, and is perfect for strolling and browsing. Visitors to Mount Dora also like to go home with a tee shirt that boasts “I Climbed Mt Dora” which is a tongue in cheek reference to the fact that in very flat Florida, there is a bit of a grade to this charming town, but not much. While in the area you may wish to take a tour on the Harris Chain of Lakes which includes the Dead River.
Webster West Side
If you do only one antiquing event in Florida this is the one for you. Webster West Side is open every Monday during the year. There is a permanent area under rows of shed-roof pavilions. and there are some stands toward the east side of the complex that are also the home of more permanent dealers. We find we like starting at the far west end, since there, you can park for less (two bucks in the high season and free in the hot weather) and then work your way eastward and northward. The rows of stand holders offer mostly vintage finds, but you will also discover some fun new items like that stylus you need for your I-Pad. Many of the sellers are retirees or snowbirds who enjoy a day at Webster to make some deals and converse with the shoppers. Yes, your dog is welcome if well behaved and on a leash. Around eleven fifteen, the nice lady in the office tells you over the P.A. system all of your many choices for lunch, and they range from secret recipe sausage sandwiches to kumquat iced cream. You did not know that you were hungry until she outlines your choices. For Webster, the Mondays of the three day weekend holidays are the best—with an abundance of stands and a very colorful crowd of shoppers. In the summer, the crowds in the field thin out and that means free parking. If you have time swing on up to Lake City or down to Lakeland for the many shops there, to round out your sleuthing.
The Barn at Lake Alfred
Since 1969, from October through May, Tuesday through Saturday, antiques hunters have been heading to rural Lake Alfred for a day of discovery. Ednamay Wales and her family have made The Barn a top notch antique center in Florida. The Barn (Antiques), the Stable (decorating items), and the Backyard Gift Shop (garden ornaments and furniture); all have themed items for your consideration. There are new items that work well for those who enjoy an eclectic home environment. We found some great crystal sconces the last time we were in Lake Alfred and longed to bring home a wonderful walnut dining table, but alas, had no room for it at our house. When you are ready, they have a great lunch spot, called The Back Porch Tea Room with delicious soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts from the Wales Family cookbook. Children can enjoy at “Teddy Bear Picnic” as well. Dine out doors if the weather permits. The sleepy town of Lake Alfred, just four miles away, has a nice collection of antiques shops for you to visit as well.
Fort Pierce is the place for the Treasure Coast Antique Mall – housed in a big old somewhat spooky looking and probably haunted Spanish revival mansion set high on a hill. There are so many stories about this place, it is worth seeing just to savor them. We like the one about it belonging to film star Gloria Swanson, where she would hideaway from Hollywood and the adoring fans (rumor has it with Joe Kennedy). There are whispered tales of it being a center of German espionage during the war. Who knows, it may be true. What you can be sure of are 40 vendors stands of over 6000 square feet of antiques in an ever-changing array of clocks, crocks, china and cabinets—and that’s just for the first look-see. Special items you are likely to discover include Floridiana, nautical collectibles and Highwayman Paintings, for which Fort Pierce the center. In fact, a brilliant feature of the mall is a 30 foot long mural of tropical Florida by famous artist A. E. “Beanie” Backus, who inspired the group of Fort Pierce artists known collectively as The Highwaymen. It will inspire you to see the A. E. Backus Museum while in the area, as well as other fine Fort Pierce features, among them: Heathcote Botanical Gardens and the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum.
Tallahassee, the lovely old Florida city that is the state capital, is also great stop for antiquing, with a proliferation of malls and free standing shops just waiting for you. Even their names are tempting: Good Finds, Killearn Antiques Mall, Out of the Attic, Belton Place Antique Shop, Remember When, Miss Mandy’s, and that is just scratching the surface. Killearn’s has a bit of everything, from first edition books to wonderful framed art pieces—something to please any antiquary’s heart. As one Killearn’s shopper noted, “It’s easy to lose a few hours of your life in here, there are treasures to be found for any type of person.” While in T-town you might want to stroll along Park Avenue to admire the fine old buildings and to dine in one of the delightful restaurants there. Last time we were in town we went to The Avenue, and had a lovely meal in a beautifully designed setting. Try their Vidalia Onion Soup!
On West Navy Avenue between Westerly Heights and Edgewater is Pensacola’s Antiques Row, a cluster of antiques shops you might want to consider if you are driving in West Florida. Blue Moon Antiques, Oooodles, Antiques and More, Time And Time Again, 850 Pickers, Vieux Carre, are among the interesting places to visit. The Blue Moon is in a small strip mall and has a big 1930s style blue moon on the side of the building, so it is easy for you to spot. It is huge and well organized. Vintage clothes and jewelry, and Fenton glass, were among the finds during a recent visit. Ooodles has silver and china among other treasures. Antiques and More is a huge yellow building with a wide range of dealer stands, everything from junque to treasures. It is considered by many to be one of the antique hot spots on the Gulf Coast. While in Pensacola be sure to go out to the Naval Air Station and tour the National Naval Aviation Museum, one of the finest collections of planes in the world, and see the lighthouse and old fort ruins, as well.
We also enjoy poking about Antiques Row in Orlando along North Orange Avenue, the shops in Melbourne and Titusville and would urge a drive to Arcadia in DeSoto County, which was voted the best antiquing town in Florida by the “Florida Monthly” magazine.