Let’s get this out of the way: Solomon’s Castle is in the middle of nowhere, Florida.
Located about 47 miles (75km) east of Sarasota or 39 miles (61km) north of Punta Gorda, you’ll need to make a special effort to reach this very special place. It’s presented as Howard Solomon’s ‘dream turned reality’, and his castle is the story of a inventive, brilliant man. Sadly, he passed away in August 2016, leaving this creative and colorful destination for his family to run. By all indications, they’ll be keeping up the good work for decades to come.
Tours start when there enough people to form a group, so have a seat or meander around the front yard a bit, your call. Look for the heart over a cannon, seen just outside the main gate.
Once the tour starts, you’ll quickly learn Howard Solomon liked to recycle everything. In that spirit, you’ll notice the ticket you’ll be given has been used more than a few times. Howard moved here in 1972, and promptly discovered he moved onto a swamp. Undeterred, he began collecting some of the materials used in the making of his castle – the aluminum presses from the local newspaper. “He used to tell me he lived in a time capsule,” our guide said. The 12,000 square foot structure isn’t completely open to the public, but it doesn’t need to be — there’s that much on display.
The man had a quirky sense of humor. One standout piece is called “The Tortoise and the Hare”, featuring the shell of a tortoise and the brown hair on the bottom… you get it…
The guide’s rapid-fire litany of descriptions, groan-worthy puns, and dad jokes is nearly non-stop – this is both a compliment and a thing I’d have changed. I love puns and jokes as much as the next guy… but I also love story and expanded descriptions. There’s simply so much going on in each room that trying to cover each and every piece that way is out of the question. There isn’t a lot of signage either, so you’ll want to ask a question about a piece you’re curious about.
What Mr. Solomon called his ‘hernia gun’ – this steampunk-ish gun supposedly weighs 70 pounds and would likely give you a hernia if you tried lifting it. Nearby is what’s described as the world’s only square gun, and the world’s only square bullet.
Be sure to look up, down, and all around — from the iconic Waldo character to mashed-up animals made of metal, there’s lots to see.
The highlight for some will be the stained glass – some 90 pieces can be seen, one through most every window of the house. From the outside, look for the nine planets, nursery rhymes, and zodiac symbols among others.
“We’ve never lost a ship!” the claim goes – seeing as how the moat is essentially a swamp, there’s probably not enough water on which to lose a ship. It’s a replica of a Portuguese galleon, and it holds the on-site restaurant run by the family. Pass through it to reach some of the wooded areas and a souvenir shop:
If you hoped to leave with some of the punny wordplay you saw inside, you’re in luck.
The official guided tour ends here, but people are free to meander the property as they like. There are some trails amongst the woods, and presumably some more of Solomon’s genius on display. If you’re fascinated by the place, you can stay in the castle’s Blue Moon Room – a 500 square foot efficient apartment that sleeps two.
I would’ve loved to meet this guy in person, and envy those that have. Sometimes the best way to remember someone is to laugh and enjoy their quirky, punny creations. If you’re driving from Fort Myers or Cape Coral to Sarasota or Tampa, it’s definitely worth the detour. As a daytrip from any of those cities, it’s a worthwhile excursion.
Directions and details
Solomon’s Castle is located at 44533 Solomon Rd., Ona, FL, 33865 (GPS: 27.373151, -81.977257). Plug the name into Google Maps and you’ll be good to go – be sure to turn on turn-by-turn directions (these are cached locally, meaning you’ll still get directions after you lose signal!)
Open 11:00am-4:00pm Tuesdays-Sundays (closed Mondays and from July to September) – tours start when a small group or more are ready to go. Admission is $12.50, cash only (there’s an ATM on site). For more details, call 863-494-6077 or visit solomoncastle.com.
If you liked this destination, I’ve recently released a book entitled ‘What the Florida’ which covers over 90 of Florida’s quirky, bizarre, and unique attractions. Learn more about What the Florida.