Sunday, May 24, 2015

Solomon's Castle in Hardee County, Florida

I recently saw Solomon's Castle on a [short] list of castles to visit in Florida. We woke up one free day and said, "What do you want to do today?" Having just visited Cedar Key and Crystal River, I was still in the adventurous mood. I suggested a day trip of Solomon's Castle and Bradenton beach. Zane was down, so off we went! 

From our house in north Brandon (or west Tampa), it took about and hour and fifteen minutes to drive there. We drove through some beautiful Florida countryside! Lots of semi trucks and farms. We even passed a 6ft alligator road kill, which I was really tempted to photograph, but it was pretty gruesome. 

So the short story is that this man, Howard Solomon, is an artist and an upcycler. He works with basically any medium. He created a castle out of his home and opened it to the public for tours and events. 

He sculpted this horse from left-over cement from a different project. He makes cool things from the materials that he already has, which is something I like to do, so I was totally into it! 

He has lots of rebar sculptures, including this cute fence made of soldiers. Behind the fence, you can see a massive mural on the side of his house/castle. 

We went into the lobby, where there's also a gift shop. We chose not to do the tour because they only accepted cash, and we didn't have cash. But it gives us a reason to come back. We actually ran into old friends (totally random!) who did the tour and said it was pretty cool.

He even does mosaics. 

There was a pretty nature trail that we walked along around the backside of the castle. It started with a cute covered bridge. 

Then moved to a more open area where metal "Trail" signs directed us where to go. 

We crossed through a beautiful field. It was pretty hot in the sun, but it was really nice to be out in the peaceful Florida nature. 

I loved this little chair out by the creek and would love to sit and reflect for an hour or so.

The trail ended with a skinny boardwalk back to the castle. Somewhere along the way I lost my sunglasses, which was a bummer. 

After the trail we took a lunch break at the on-sight restaurant, which is in a giant ship (and not cash only). There we ate a really yummy lunch. Zane got a reuben sandwich, and I had the taco salad. We were both very happy with the food, and the portions were big! Also the service was very good and hospitable. We had a hard time figuring out seating with a baby and toddler, and ended up changing tables, but they were so helpful the whole time. 

Solomon did all the stained glass windows and made all the little wooden sugar boats too! 

Here's a view of the backside of the ship from the patio dining area. It was a bit hot to eat outside that day. They recently added a lighthouse dining room behind the back patio which was so cute! It would be perfect for a private event. It wasn't as "themed" as the ship. 

After lunch we walked up to the other part of the property where Solomon built his own replica of the Alamo. I think it's on the backside of one of his workshops. There's also a beautiful house up there with a lovely garden. 

On our way back down we stopped into the restaurant to meet Howard Solomon himself. 

We got a fan photo. I was actually a little star struck, haha, after seeing all his work. It's definitely not mainstream, but I love that he works in every medium and makes art out of the materials he has, and he's made a little business from it all. 

He was so humble! Instead of talking up himself and his accomplishments, he showed us a newspaper article about the fifth anniversary of the local school that his granddaughter started.

It was a great little day trip and worth the drive if you're looking for something totally different to do! After the castle, we drove straight west to Bradenton and hit up the beach in the afternoon to make a full day of it. We were all exhausted at the end of the day, but what a great family adventure!
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