Florida: Monroe County

Monroe County (pop.73,090) is one of 17 Monroe counties, all named for James Monroe (1758-1831), fifth president of the U.S.

Although 87% of the county’s land is on the mainland (in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve), more than 99% of the population lives on the Florida Keys.

The two parts don’t touch.

The county seat of Monroe County is the city of Key West (pop. 24,649), located at the southern end of U.S. Highway 1 (which begins in Maine) and  near the western end of the 1,700-island archipelago known as the Florida Keys.

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum was the author’s home from 1931-39. It is known for its six- and seven-toed cats, descendants of Hemingway’s cats.

The house stayed in the family for many years.

The Harry S. Truman Little White House is also in Key West. President Truman made 11 visits as president, between 1946 and 1953.

East of Key West, Sugarloaf Key has a historic bat tower, built in 1929 to control mosquitoes. The bats flew away soon after they were installed, and the mosquitoes apparently remained.

One of three still standing in the U.S.

Farther east, at Big Pine Key, is the Bahia Honda Bridge. It was replaced in 1980, and part of it is now open to pedestrians.

Old bridge on left, new bridge on right

The city of Marathon (pop. 8,310), on seven different islands, has the grave of Flipper – bottlenose dolphin star of the 1960s TV of the same name.

Her real name was Mitzi.

The island of Key Largo, 33 miles long, is near the eastern end of the keys. Humphrey Bogart starred in the 1948 film “Key Largo” and in the 1951 film “African Queen,” which had nothing to do with Key Largo.

But the actual boat is docked in Key Largo.

NEXT STATE: INDIANA

Florida: Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade County (pop. 2,496,435) is Florida’s largest county by population, and the seventh-largest county in the U.S. It’s the most southeasterly county on the U.S. mainland.

Dade County was created in 1836 and named for Major Francis L. Dade, a soldier who died in the Second Seminole War in 1835. Voters changed the name to Miami-Dade in 1997.

The courthouse was built in 1926.

The county seat of Miami-Dade County is the city of Miami (pop. 400,769), second-largest city in Florida (after Jacksonville).

Downtown Miami skyline

The MLB Miami Marlins and NBA Miami Heat play in Miami; the NFL Miami Dolphins play in nearby Miami Gardens.

Marlins Park was built on the site of the former Orange Bowl.

Metrorail (1984) is a rapid-transit system with two lines, covering 24 miles and connecting downtown with the airport and suburban areas.

Downtown also has a free, 4-mile people mover.

Actor-comedian Jackie Gleason (1916-1987) lived and worked in the Miami area for many years. He is buried at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Miami, with the inscription “And away we go” on the tomb.

“The Honeymooners”

The separate city of Miami Beach (pop. 87,779) is on barrier islands, across Biscayne Bay from Miami.

Miami Beach is known for having the most extensive collection of 1920s and ’30s Art Deco architecture in the world.

There’s an annual Art Deco Weekend.

The nearby community of Opa-Locka, established in 1926, has the world’s largest collection of Moorish Revival architecture.

City Hall (1926)

The city of Coral Gables (pop. 46,994), home of the University of Miami, is known for its Mediterranean Revival architecture.

City Hall (1928)

The headquarters of Burger King is located in an unincorporated area of Miami-Dade County.

Founded in 1954 in Miami

Everglades National Park is in the western part of Miami-Dade County. The Ernest Coe Visitor Center is west of the city of Homestead (“Gateway to the Everglades”).

NEXT: MONROE COUNTY

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Florida: Broward County

Broward County (pop. 1,748,066), south of Palm Beach County, is Florida’s second-largest county in population, and the 17th-largest county in the U.S.

Almost all of the population lives in the eastern part of the county; the western part is in the Everglades Wildlife Management Area, which serves as a protective buffer to Everglades National Park, to the south.

Hunting is allowed.

The county was named for Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, governor of Florida from 1905 to 1909. As governor, he worked to drain the Everglades for agricultural use.

The county seat of Broward County is the city of Fort Lauderdale (pop. 165,521), home of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Port Everglades is the home of more cruise ships than any other port and is the busiest container port in Florida.

It once hosted 15 cruise ships on the same day.

The former Yankee Clipper Hotel in Fort Lauderdale – built in 1956 to resemble a cruise ship – is now part of the B Ocean Resort.

The Wreck Bar inside the B Ocean Resort is known for its windows into the hotel pool and its weekend mermaid shows.

Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

North of Fort Lauderdale, the city of Pompano Beach (pop. 99,845) is the home of the Festival Flea Market Mall, known as the largest indoor flea market in the U.S.

More than 500 stores

Pompano Park is a harness racing track and casino.

South of Fort Lauderdale, in Hallondale Beach (pop. 37,113), Gulfstream Park is a horse racing track that dates from 1944. Nearby is a new, 110-foot bronze statue of Pegasus killing a dragon – second-largest statue in the U.S.

#1 is the Statue of Liberty.

The NHL Florida Panthers play at the BB&T Center (previously the National Car Rental Center, 1998) in the city of Sunrise (pop. 84,439), west of Fort Lauderdale.

Also previously the Office Depot Center

Nearby, the city of Coconut Creek (pop. 53,072) is the home of Butterfly World, the largest butterfly park in the world.

It opened in 1988.

NEXT: MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

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Florida: Palm Beach County

Palm Beach County has Florida’s third-largest population, 1,320,134 in 2010, up from 348,753 in 1970. It stretches from Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Ocean.

Most of the population is along the ocean.

One of Florida’s wealthiest counties, it has communities named Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, South Palm Beach, Royal Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, and Palm Springs.

The Breakers hotel (1925), Palm Beach

The county seat, and largest city, is West Palm Beach (pop. 99,919). It’s the oldest municipality in the South Florida metropolitan area – incorporated in 1894, two years before Miami.

The old courthouse (1916) is now a history museum.

West Palm Beach is on the 71-mile Tri-Rail commuter rail system, which runs south to Miami. It opened in 1989.

Tri-Rail and Amtrak station (1925)

On Peanut Island in West Palm Beach, tours are now available of President John F. Kennedy’s once-secret bomb shelter – located near the Kennedy family’s “Winter White House” in Palm Beach.

It could have sheltered 30 people for a month.

The town of Palm Beach (pop. 8,426) is on a barrier island, across the Intracoastal Waterway from West Palm Beach.

Palm Beach at right, West Palm Beach at left

The Flagler Museum is a 55-room mansion in Palm Beach, built by Henry Flagler in 1901 and now open to the public.

Flagler was the “Father of Palm Beach.”

The city of Boca Raton (pop. 85,196) – which does not allow billboards along its roads – is the home of Florida Atlantic University, a public university founded in 1961.

About 30,000 students

The Palm Beach Gardens branch of Nova Southeastern University has an 18-foot Mako shark statue bursting out of the plaza.

The school’s teams are known as the Sharks.

The town of Jupiter (pop. 55,434) is the spring training home of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals. Both teams play at Roger Dean Stadium (1998).

Four minor league teams also play there.

NEXT: BROWARD COUNTY

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Florida: Hendry County

Hendry County (pop. 39,140) is north of Collier County. Its northeastern corner touches Lake Okeechobee.

Hendry County’s economy is based on agriculture – mainly sugar cane and oranges. The only cities are Clewiston, in the northeastern corner, and LaBelle, in the northwestern corner.

Florida’s #1 producer of oranges

The county seat is LaBelle (pop. 4,655), on the Caloosahatchee River.

Hendry County Courthouse (1926)

La Belle has an annual Swamp Cabbage Festival, now in its 50th year. The swamp cabbage, also known as the cabbage palm or palmetto, is Florida’s state tree.

Clewiston (pop 7,151) is the county’s largest city. The headquarters of US Sugar Company, the largest producer of sugar cane in the U.S., is in Clewiston.

The Clewiston Sugar Festival takes place in April.

The Billie Swamp Safari is an attraction on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation.

Swamp rides

Harlem, a census-designated place adjacent to Clewiston, was established by itinerant black workers in the sugar-cane fields. Its 2010 population of 2,658 was 96% African-American.

NEXT: PALM BEACH COUNTY

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