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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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A Very Florida STATE-cation

Ideas to spark an outdoor adventure for your family’s best summer ever in Florida!

So what if it’s hot outside? We’re Floridians! Here is our roundup of some of the wildest adventures we can seek out with our families in the beautiful outdoor playground that is our state!

FLOAT DOWN A NATURAL FLORIDA SPRING IN A TUBE

From relaxing on the beach to snorkeling with manatees and learning to surf, there’s no shortage of aquatic adventures in the Sunshine State. But for something a bit more unique, head to one of Florida’s many crystal-clear cold springs with your favorite inner tube.

Florida has one of the highest concentrations of natural springs in the entire world, so make sure to visit as many of them as you can. If it’s a day spent relaxing in a tube you’re after, then head to tubing hotspots in central Florida like Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Rainbow River State Park or Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park.

Another unique natural springs experience is going for a family swim at Buccaneer Bay at Weeki Wachee Springs. It’s Florida’s only natural water park with waterslides and more!


SEARCH FOR TREASURES AT THE SHARK TOOTH CAPITAL OF THE WORLD

Did you know Venice is the Shark Tooth Capital of the World? FossilGuy.com informs us that this distinction was millions of years in the making, but in the short version, you can thank rising and falling sea levels, the earth’s movement, erosion and the Peace River Formation flowing right into the area with fossilized treasures.

Venice’s beaches range from north at Casey Key south to Manasota. For the best luck, try Caspersen Beach, the Venice Pier and Manasota Beach. In addition to a keen eye, you’ll also need some tools of the trade like a Shark Tooth Sifter that you can rent or buy. Just make sure the opening of the sifter is no more than a quarter of an inch.

For a deeper dive into Florida fossil exploration, check out one of the cool inland tours along the Peace River such as Paleo Discoveries and Fossil Recovery Exploration.

And for an air-conditioned fossil experience, check out Tusk to Tails: A Fossil History of Florida at the Tampa Bay History Center!


DISCOVER UNIQUE GARDENS + PARKS

One major perk of Florida living is that we can explore an abundance of outdoor spaces nearly all year long.

In Central Florida, head to Paynes Prairie Preserve where you can traverse diverse ecosystems and encounter alligators and wild bison all within one park. For a breakfast date with a nature twist, visit DeLeon Springs State Park where you can make your own pancakes at an outdoor eatery before hitting the hiking trails. Gorgeous Bok Tower Gardens serves up serious secret garden vibes and you could easily spend the day exploring and playing in the Children’s Garden and the iconic Singing Tower, which comes alive with the sound of carillon bells daily. Lastly, Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park offers the chance for primitive camping inside of a certified Dark Sky park, so come prepared to enjoy a serious show from the night sky.

Here at home, follow in the footsteps of generations since the 1930s when you visit St. Pete’s Sunken Gardens.  Get up close and personal with the resident flamingos as you make your way through the gorgeous gardens in a drained lake bed. Sarasota Jungle Gardens is also worth the drive with its animal attractions and flamingo feeding.

If you’re headed to Florida’s Panhandle, make time to stop at two notable Florida State Parks. Marianna is home to Florida Caverns State Park, where you can go underground to explore a limestone cave system—an oddity in Florida for sure! You can also see Florida’s tallest waterfall at Falling Waters State Park.


WATCH A ROCKET LAUNCH FROM THE BEACH

Rocket launches are now a monthly occurrence thanks to United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Space X missions launching regularly from Kennedy Space Center. A little preplanning is worth the reward of a prime viewing spot. While the Kennedy Space Center typically hosts ticketed events with access to some of the best viewing locations, you can also check out a local spot nearby that won’t cost a dime. Jetty Park and the Cocoa Beach Pier are two excellent options.

You can find a comprehensive list of upcoming launches and more rocket launch viewing locations at spacecoastlaunches.com. The Visit Space Coast website is also an excellent resource for things to do in the area, places to stay, where to eat and more.

For an out-of-this-world experience, consider booking a bioluminescent kayaking tour while on the Space Coast. It’s magical to float under the stars while admiring the bioluminescent organisms known as dinoflagellates that are sparkling in the water. There are several kayak tours to try like A Day Away Kayak Tours and Get Up and Go Kayaking.


GET WILD IN FLORIDA

ZooTampa and Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay are always at the top of our list for up close and personal encounters with animals like giraffes and penguins, but there are other cool destinations to add to your summer bucket list too.

Located right across the street from Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay, Adventure Island® is Tampa’s island paradise, featuring a combination of exhilarating water rides and tropical, tranquil surroundings. A tropical island vibe atmosphere awaits, with adventurous water slides including Solar Vortex, Vanish Point™, Caribbean Corkscrew® and Colossal Curl™, cascading waterfalls, a 17,000-square-foot wave pool, children’s water playground called Fabian’s Funport® and other family attractions. Guests can dig their toes into the sand or relax in lounge chairs or a private cabana.

Florida
Adventure Island Tampa Bay

It doesn’t get more Florida than Gatorland! The alligator capital of the world is located in the Orlando area and is home to a wide variety of critters including tortoises, birds, wild cats and more. Of course, you’ll probably be going to see the gators, so why not book a ride on the ‘Screamin’ Gator Zipline’ and soar above 130 alligators beneath!

Other cool adventures include boarding a safari vehicle to drive through Giraffe Ranch in Dade City or Safari Wilderness in Davenport. Wild Florida in Kenansville, south of Orlando, allows you an option to drive through their park in your own vehicle.


ENJOY THE LATE SUMMER NIGHTS

Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay brings back Summer Nights, May 28-Sept. 6. For over 100 nights, guests can stay late and safely enjoy world-class coasters, electrifying entertainment throughout the park and more during extended hours beginning May 28.

On weekends and select dates, guests can look to the sky to for the NEW “Spark! A Nighttime Spectacular” featuring an explosive array of fireworks and surprising NEW effects. Amidst an open-air block party atmosphere, park guests will also enjoy the safe return of live indoor shows, including the fan-favorite Turn it Up! Ice skating show and all-new Cirque: Electric.

Florida
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

ONLY PARADISE WILL DO

Good things come to those who wait—and you’ve waited long enough. Reward yourself and your family with a visit to Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades, where you’ll discover everything you need for an unforgettable summer getaway.

Wake up to a walk on soft, white sand beaches. Spend the day playing in sparkling Gulf waters. Wow your tastebuds in our many award-winning restaurants. And end the day with a spectacular sunset show.

So plan your visit now—because when it’s time to make up for all the laughs and splashes you’ve been missing, only Paradise will do! Find more information at paradisecoast.com.

photo provided by Paradise

Feature image by Stephanie Patterson

Originally published in June 2021

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