Vacation time is undoubtedly one of the best times of the year, but flights across the country or world are not always budget friendly. Day trips and road trips are often the best way to travel while on a budget and in Florida, there is just so much to do. While many may think the Sunshine State only offers beautiful beaches and a few of the most famous theme parks in the world, there are plenty of other interesting, exciting, and educational activities within Old Florida that may be simply unexpected. Less than a day’s drive from Tampa, South Florida, Jacksonville and even Atlanta, you can get to Old Florida and experience the state’s past.
Throughout Old Florida, you will find gorgeous wildlife, rich history and plenty of educational experiences. Here are few great highlights of Old Florida towns and attractions.
This theme park in the Orlando area maintains 110-acres of wildlife preserve that exhibits alligators, crocodiles, wild cats, birds, snakes, tortoises and other critters. Founded by Owen Godwin in 1949 and still family owned today, Gatorland still has its Old Florida charm while offering present-day adventure. Here you can zip line 65 feet high over alligators and crocodiles at 30 miles per hour. During adventure hour, visitors can safely come within a few feet of some of the park’s alligators. Throughout the day, shows and exhibits are all available where you can truly receive an exciting educational experience!
St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States and still maintains that authentic Old Florida feel today. With over 450 years of history, you can visit places such as Castillo de San Marcos or simply enjoy the fun dining and shopping areas. The attractions below are just a fraction of what you can do and see in St. Augustine!
Silver Springs State Park, Florida’s first tourist attraction, has had visitors in awe since the 1870s! See the crystal clear springs up close on a glass bottom boat tour. You can also get in tune with the surrounding wildlife by paddle boat, kayak, or canoe. There is a variety of dining available throughout the park that includes wraps, burgers and hot dogs, as well as vegetarian and vegan options.
Weeki Wachee Springs has been a family favorite destination since 1947. Home to famous “live mermaids,” Weeki Wachee’s most popular show includes an amazing underwater rendition of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” The mermaids also accept and reply to Tail Mail from children under 17 asking mermaid or sea related questions in order to promote education! In Weeki Wachee, visitors can also get a chance to learn and see some of the wildlife native to Florida on one of the wildlife animal encounter shows. Kayaking, paddle boarding and boating are also offered.
Established in 1927, Flamingo Gardens is one of the longest standing botanical gardens in the southern portion of Florida. The 60 acre Botanical Gardens and Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary has over 3000 species of native plants and trees and homes one of the largest collections of native wildlife. Flamingo gardens boasts plenty of attractions that include:
Lion Country Safari
Florida’s only drive-through safari park in Loxahatchee houses over 900 animals including lions, rhino, chimpanzees, zebra and giraffe. Lion Country Safari allows visitors to drive through four miles of the preserve but also has Safari World amusement park that maintains animal encounters, exhibits and family-friendly attractions. Opened in 1967, the park was originally created by South African and British entrepreneurs that wanted to bring an African game park to the United States. Today the park is highly rated and participates in many education and conservation efforts.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
The Fort Walton Beach-based aquarium has been enjoyed by millions since 1955. The park was created as a way to bring tourism to the area while also allowing scientific research to be conducted. Today you can still personally encounter dolphins, stingrays, penguins, turtles, sea lions, and even gators! Although Gulfarium will bring you many great memories, the park also participates in many conservation efforts including Okaloosa Island Clean-ups and The Gulfarium C.A.R.E. center that rescues and rehabilitates marine animals.
The amount of activities and attractions Florida has to offer is simply endless. That Old Florida feel is still alive and easily accessible if you just know where to look. Animal encounters, boat rides and native wildlife are just waiting for you to come and enjoy. All you have to do is get in your vehicle and go!