Florida generally gives about as much regard to its history as its people do to common sense. That said, though the state has bulldozed much of its past for condos, some of the grandest structures ever built in America still remain there. Even before the advent of air conditioning, Florida was a popular winter retreat for wealthy northerners, particularly during the period between the Civil War and the Great Depression, much of which is known as the “Gilded Age.”
During this time, grand palaces throughout the Sunshine State popped up, from luxury hotels along the beaches to mansions on sprawling orange groves. A handful are still in operation, like the Biltmore, Breakers, and Boca Raton Resort hotels. But most are now museums or parks that give you a glimpse into the early days of Florida luxury. Visiting them is as much a lesson in Florida history as it is a study of century-old opulence. And all are worth a visit when your sunburn is too bad for another beach day.