Is there anything better than summer in Florida? School’s out and it’s vacation time! Floridians are fortunate to have many destinations within the state for fun day trips. The natural landscape of Florida lends itself to recreation and beauty like no other state. The obvious, such as the beautiful beaches and theme parks, are certainly always options for summer fun but there are many other destinations that might interest you and your family of which you may not be aware.
Florida is abundant in its natural springs. According to VisitFlorida.com, “….these springs range from tiny trickles known only to deep backwoods explorers to mammoth gushers like Wakulla, Manatee and Silver Springs, known as “first magnitude” because they discharge more than 65 million of gallons of water per day.” The natural beauty of the springs is unique and provides a great day trip within a reasonable driving distance. A trip to the springs means you’ll probably see many different plant and wildlife including manatees, otters, and loggerhead musk turtles. Lush plant life along the waterways are a treat to see as you canoe, tube, kayak or swim.
In sharp contrast to Florida’s natural springs, day trips can also be made to attractions such as the Kennedy Space Center to learn and experience where history was and continues to be made. Likewise, the Daytona International Speedway provides opportunities for tours and thrill rides. For a slower pace, a visit to the laid-back town of Cedar Key on the Gulf is great for fishing and great food.
- John F. Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, Florida
In 1961, NASA requested appropriations for land purchases on Merritt Island to support the Apollo Lunar Landing Program. This land would eventually become the Kennedy Space Center. Since 1968, it has been NASA’s primary launch center of human spaceflight. A visitor center opened in 1965 and is currently open daily to visitors and features attractions
such as the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, a space center bus tour, and the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
- Ichetucknee Springs, Ft. White, Florida
In 1972, the US Department of the Interior declared the springs a national natural landmark. Known as Florida’s lazy river, Ichetucknee Springs is a six mile river and is fed by nine springs. It is open year round for visitors to experience the natural beauty of its blue-green waterways. The water is a pleasant 72 degrees and is perfect
for paddling, tubing, swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving. There is both a short tubing run lasting about 1 1⁄2 hours and a long run that lasts about 3 hours.
- Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
The history of Daytona International Speedway began in 1953 when Bill France, Sr. realized the days of racing on the beach were numbered due to a rapidly growing population and huge race crowds. The first Daytona 500 took place in 1959 in front of a crowd of over 41,000 spectators. The speedway now has approximately 101,500 permanent seats along with 60 luxury suites with trackside views, 40 escalators, and 17 elevators. In addition to the annual Daytona 500, there are also numerous large events throughout the year. Get up-close and behind the scenes with daily tours year-round.
- Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Weeki Wachee, Florida
Known as the City of Live Mermaids, Weeki Wachee is one of the deepest, naturally formed underwater caverns in the U.S. It has been entertaining audiences since 1947 when an 18-seat underwater theater was built into the limestone so viewers could look right into the natural beauty of the ancient spring. The “mermaids” were trained to swim with hidden air hoses to appear as though they were thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus. The spring is so deep that the bottom has never been found. The park features 12,000 acres including cool, clear waters, slides, diving platforms, kayak rentals, paddling adventures and a river boat cruise. Everyday there is a live mermaid show. The park also features Buccaneer Bay which is Florida’s only spring-fed waterpark with swimming and a sandy white beach area.
- Cedar Key, Florida
The tiny enclave of Cedar Key is a quaint, old-fashioned, vacation spot offering love- ly beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Enjoy productive fishing opportunities and the lush natural preserves on your visit. Cedar Key is known for a surprising number of excellent restaurants to explore for fresh seafood.
- Silver Springs State Park, Silver Springs, Florida
Florida’s Original Tourist Attraction, Silver Springs began to attract tourists from the North via steamboats up the Silver River in the years right after the American Civil War. Entrepreneurs took notice and by 1924, Col. W.M. Davidson and Carl Ray had acquired rights to the springs and soon perfected a gasoline-powered version of the Glass Bottom Boat. This attraction started what became Florida’s first bona fide attraction. Current activities include the glass bottom boat tours, canoeing and kayaking, camping, hiking, and more.