What exactly has Mr. Solomon been up to these last 35 years? Building a castle for his artworks in the middle of a central Florida swamp, of course. Solomon is a perfect example of an "outsider artist" - a self-trained spirit who works according to his own schedule and his own rules. And he's built a bizarre and fascinating home.
In some ways, this makes a very interesting contrast to the Ringling mansion and museum in nearby Sarasota!
Okay, so Solomon's Castle is not your conventional Florida tourist trap. But I would still say that it isn't completely different from Cinderella's Castle in Orlando. Both places are representations of one man's dream. Both places reflect the optimism and self-reliant cockiness that undergirds the American mentality. And they stand in ironical relationship with the European culture that they both usurp.
Okay, there are differences too. Solomon's Castle is about 97% less commercial than that Disney place. No costumed products showing the "guests" around, no amusement park rides. Just one man's creativity and humor on display here, the work of singular ingenuity skill and vision - but far from the mainstream. If you like quirky, if you are anti-mainstream, if I-4 disturbs you, then visit this place. It's the antidote for cynicism!
Solomon's Castle is open from October until June, Tuesday through Sunday, 11 to 4. There is an on-site restaurant that is worth visiting: the Boat in the Moat.
Mr. Solomon created his own on-site restaurant and bar, in an ark-like structure all set to go to sea. This may be one of the more unusual restaurants you'll find in central Florida.
My father and I had a nice lunch here on our visit to the Castle. The menu ranges from soups and salads and sandwiches to a few more substantial entrees.
There was a folk guitarist/singer playing during our meal - he was really quite good. Playing for tips. I liked how his yorkshire terrier listened to him at his feet!
After meeting the late treasure hunter, Mel Fisher, he wanted to build a Spanish galleon. He figured if those people could build one without power tools, he should be able to with them. Here is his results, a two thirds scale pine and cypress galleon. This has become his restaurant. It also has a very nice patio area for eating and he is in the process of building a Lighthouse for the safety of the Boat -In-The-Moat.
Favorite Dish: After spending an hour or so driving here, a couple more hours touring the grounds and the castle, food and drinks become a requirement. The Boat in the Moat now has a captive audience because there is no other restaurant for miles around. That doesn't make them a tourist clip joint. Instead they give you very satisfactory food for the price and excellent service.
A limited menu but with enough of a selection that its not just fast food.Both inside and outside dining.
Favorite Dish: Taco chicken salad and it was very large and delicious
Because Solomon's Castle is a little-known destination off the beaten track, AND because it serves a good lunch, AND because of the general interest of the place, it makes a popular destination for organized day trips by car clubs and bike clubs and motorcycle clubs. If you go on a weekend, don't be surprised to see a fairly large group of people having fun!
Be care not to get to close to the resident alligator that is near the Boat in the moat. You have to visit the castle to find out if this is a living alligator or one made by Howard Solomon.