Long before the Mouse moved to Orlando in 1971, tourists filled the open roads of Florida as they visited its historical landmarks, beautiful landscapes, small animal zoos, alligator farms, natural springs, orange groves, Seminole Indian villages, and other roadside attractions.  One of those roadside attractions was  the  226-foot-tall (69 m) Florida Citrus Tower in that sat along US Route 27 in the midst acres and acres of orange groves surrounding  the city of Clermont.  And before a certain cartoon rodent made Orlando his home, it was one of the most famous tourist stops in the area.

Detail of travel brochure circa 1970s

The Tower’s History

The tower was the brainchild of by A.W. Thacker and Jack Toole, two land developers from Pittsburgh who wanted to showcase the miles and miles of citrus trees that made up the central Florida landscape back then. (Incidentally, Mr. Toole would also develop the nearby The Presidents Hall of Fame Museum in 1962.)

Along with other men from Florida, Michigan and even one expat from Sweden, Thacker and Toole group formed the Florida Towers Corporation. Soon after, construction of the tower began in 1955 on one of highest hills of Florida’s central ridge region. It was completed at height of 226 feet above the ground using 5 million pounds (2,300 t) of concrete and 149,000 pounds (68 t) of reinforcing steel.

Officially opened to the public on July 14, 1956, The Florida Citrus Tower would draw up to half a million visitors a year who made the tower a must-see on their family road trips in the decade following its construction. This is mainly due to its prime location on US 27 between two other popular Florida roadside attractions – Cypress Gardens and Silver Springs. These were simpler times before the big theme parks came in. Eisenhower was president and just starting his Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 that would eventually lead to the interstate highway in Florida.  

Detail travel brochure circa 1960s

And that’s what happened eight years later in 1964, when the Florida Turnpike would be extended north making it easier for both locals and tourists alike to get to all points south and back, thus only quickly passing through central Florida. The deep freezes of the 1980s killed nearly all of Lake County’s citrus groves, only adding insult to injury. As a result, the Florida Citrus Tower has since been sold many times over the years.

The Attraction Today

At the base of the tower, you’ll find ROOM: Valencia which includes a banquet facility, a small gift shop with postcards and tower souvenirs, and a museum on the tower’s history with pictures that show you how the area used to look at one time. From here you catch the elevator to the top of the tower.

Once you’ve arrived at the un-air-conditioned, glass- enclosed observation deck you’ve reached the highest elevation of any building in Florida. You’ll also have a full 360° view of the surrounding lakes and countryside surrounding Clermont, where on a clear day, you can probably see between 30 and 40 miles in every direction.

Postcard view from the top of the Florida Citrus Tower circa 1960s

What you won’t see however, are the miles and miles of orange groves that used to be here. In their place are shopping malls and residential areas that took their place. Nevertheless, even with Orlando over there in the distance, it’s still a beautiful view and you’re supporting one of the few remaining roadside attractions in America.

Oh, and don’t forget that there’s also a coin drop at the top where you can listen as your spare change falls to the bottom of the tower.

The Florida Citrus Tower is open every day except Sundays, Thanksgiving and Christmas from 7:00AM to 7:00PM. Admission to the top of the tower is $10.00 for adults and $6.00 for children.

As always, COVID-19 restrictions may apply, so contact The Florida Citrus Tower at the following:

Telephone: 352-394-4061

Email: info@citrustower.com

On your way there and back, don’t forget to add a Stuckey’s stop to your road trip itineraries for some on the road snacks like our world famous Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll, Pecan Divinity Bars, or Pecan pralines. And who could leave Florida without getting a couple of rubber alligators to take home as souvenirs? And there’s always our Stuckey’s memorabilia like our t-shirts, and caps  that are the perfect gear this time of year for touring Florida or just lounging around inside the house all day road tripping your way down the information superhighway.

Not a Stuckey’s location near you? No problem, just head over to our website to order all of your Stuckey’s merchandise and we’ll send it to your door just in time for your next adventure. Remember, some of the best road trips in the USA start in Florida, so before you go, make sure you have all the supplies you need by making a Stuckey’s stop before you go or by visiting us at www.stuckeys.com today!

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!