Harold and I are on a mission to visit all the area attractions. We've lived in Lake Wales for seven years now and have just never gotten to Florida's Natural Visitor Center. Of course, thisis from someone who was almost 40 years old before I made it to the observation deck of the Empire State building. Doesn't sound like a big deal until you realize I grew up 40 minutes by train away from NYC and used to spend weekends there like it was my backyard from the time I was 14 years old (Greenwich Village was an absolute Mecca for teenagers in the 60's!)
Anyway, back to the Grove house. We had heard from neighbors that our house was shown in the video so we really wanted to go to see that. We had also heard mixed reviews about the place and wanted to see for ourselves so we could give an informed opinion to guests. (we are serious about this B&B!)
First a warning- if you are expecting either a high tech attraction or a plant tour, you'll be disappointed. No tour, no special effects. Definitely an old Florida experience. Has the feel of one of those visitor's center you would see when entering a State. Great gift shop that is all about citrus and Florida's Natural. There was also a fantastic selection of Christmas ornaments, although I'm not sure if that's a seasonal thing or always there. I really should have asked, but I'm still getting used to this reviewing/blogging about attractions thing.
The hostesses were genuinely nice and when we walked in one told us the movie had just started if we were interested. We went back to the little theater and really enjoyed the comfortable seating and the movie. It showed panoramic views of the local citrus industry and fun historic shots of picking, processing and citrus workers. It was (of course) educational and showed the full cycle of what goes on in the plant across the street. So in the end it was a full blown tour, just without the walking.
We went back out and went through the exhibits. They do have video presentations at different stations that go deeper into production and historical facts. Florida's Natural is a leader in environmentally sound practices and they detail that well at one of the stations. The only down side is the exhibits are wide open and if more than one video is running the noise is terribly distracting.
Because we didn't see our house in the first movie we thought maybe it was in the first few seconds that we missed. We asked when the movie would run again and the woman smiled and said, "right now!" She then walked us in and restarted it for us. After watching the part we missed the first time and realizing our house was not in the movie we left the theater. Harold then asked if there was any place that Lake Wales homes were on video. They took us to the exhibit that focused on historic Lake Wales and sure enough there was Three Oaks in a video narrated by our friend Mimi Hardman, the founder of the Lake Wales Historic Society. (I'll fill you in on Mimi and Historic Lake Wales when I go to the Depot Museum)
Overall, the center was really interesting and well worth the stop. I would recommend it to adults and older children. I classify exhibit/ museum visitors in 2 groups - perusers (me) and cruisers (Harold). If you're a peruser (someone who reads all the exhibits and listens to all the videos), it could be up to a 2 hour visit. A cruiser would do it in less than 1 hour.
Ratings: (1 to 5)
Peruser: 3 oaks
Cruiser: 4 oaks