Admit it. If you're visiting in Florida, you want to stop someplace and see an alligator up close and personal. You want to buy at least one orange.
You want to see if there is a little souvenir that you can take back home that will remind you of your trip - the kind of souvenir that shows you went someplace other than Disneyworld - something like a flamingo or a sand dollar or some orange blossom honey.
You want to find a place that is kid-friendly where the youngsters can run off some energy while you cool off with a cone of ice cream (24 flavors to choose from).
If any of that appeals, it's time to turn the tires toward Boyett's Grove, a place that offers all of that - and more.
Tucked down in a corner of Hernando County between Brooksville and I-75, Boyett's is billed as a Citrus Attraction, but citrus is only part of the appeal of this place that's a true old-Florida style gift shop with a whole lot more.
During the citrus season, guests can watch fruit as it is washed, waxed, polished, sorted and packed in a style used a half-century ago.
Out back, paved paths wander by homes of monkeys and turtles, alligators and pigs, deer and raccoons. There are plenty of non-native species around, too, like a 3,000 pound great white shark (which just happens to be stuffed) and African tortoise (which just happen to be real). Huge fish tanks (13,000 gallons) hold all kinds of creatures of the sea. Colorful parrots squawk and preen. The paths are shaded by huge elephant ears, and fruit trees like loquat, guava, banana, orange and grapefruit are all along the paths that go to different parts of a big "village" complete with rustic signs that tell of "events" in the village.
In front of the pig's pen, for example, a sign notes that "Every Saturday night is Hog calling."
Just opened is a huge dinosaur cave where replicas of the world's favorite extinct species await children's visits.
This place that begs tourists to "Come monkey around with us!" started out as a family business where tourists were invited to walk through the orange grove. When a severe freeze in the 1960's killed much of the grove, Florida natives Katherine and James Oleson tried alternative ways of keeping the business open. "It has just evolved into what we are today," said Katherine.
And that evolution is to a hodge-podge of everything that a Florida tourist really wants to experience. A place that is just plain fun to spend time in. Call 800-780-2296 for more information. Better yet, go for a visit on any day of the week.
(This portion reprinted from an article by Sandra S. Koonce, Editor, in "Nature Coastlines", July 2005)
4355 Spring Lake Hwy Brooksville, FL 34601-8005, US