Did you know there are ONLY 14 full weekends this summer? The lazy days kick off June 21 and run through September 23, 2019. I know there is a bit of an adventurer in all my readers. Because of that, I am challenging my Florida readers to do something different this summer. Not sure what to do? To help you along, following are 14 ways to explore and love Florida this summer.
Take a Walk on the Mild Side
Guided walking tours are offered throughout the state and range from historical to haunted and culinary to cultural. And, they can be offered during the day or night. Or, walk with mindfulness around one or more of Florida’s labyrinths. Or, check out the Florida Humanities Council’s Florida Stories smartphone app. More than 2 dozen cities are loaded including Boca Grande, Key West, and New Smyrna Beach. Learn more www.floridahumanities.org.
Float Down a River
Floating down a river is a great way to cool off this summer and several state parks are perfect for that. And, you can rent a tube onsite rather than bringing your own. Perfect parks for river floats include Blackwater River State Park in Milton, Ichetucknee Springs State Park in Fort White, and Rainbow River State Park in Dunnellon. Find a tube-worthy park at www.floridastateparks.org.
Have a Close Encounter with a Gator
Alligators are synonymous with Florida and there are plenty of opportunities in controlled settings (not the canal behind your home) to learn about them. One of these experiences takes place at Gatorama in Palmdale during the Hatching Festival. Learn about alligators then hold an egg and hatch a gator in the palm of your hands. The festival is typically about two weeks the end of August. Visit www.hatchingfestival.com or call (863)-675-0623 to secure your spot to hatch an alligator.
Ride Off into a Beach Sunset by Horseback in Cape San Blas
A handful of Florida beaches permit horseback riding with Cape San Blas being one. Several operators offer horseback riding on the beach throughout the day but a sunset ride with an ever-changing sky is magical. Hurricane Michael threw the Port St. Joe area one heck of a punch last year, but several businesses are open and ready to welcome visitors. Visit www.visitgulf.com to find horseback riding vendors along with places to stay and dine.
Get High. Legally.
Sky’s the limit in Florida when it comes to aerial adventures. Ride a hot air balloon, skydive, swing from a trapeze, strap on a water jetpack, or parasail. Recently, I gave tandem hang gliding a try and looking down gave me a new appreciation for the Sunshine State.
Taste Backyard Florida
Noshing on fresh seafood or a tart key lime pie are certainly tasting Florida. But, try something different and learn about the edible plants in your backyard and Deane Jordan, aka Green Deane, is the guy to teach you. He travels throughout the state offering classes, including in Charlotte and Sarasota Counties. Learn which plants ease pain, can be dried and used as a culinary spice, or which green leaf is a natural alternative to the little blue pill. With more than 62,000 subscribers and more than 4.3 million views, he hosts the most watched foraging channel on YouTube. Visit www.eattheweeds.com for his class schedule, resource of edible plants, and recipes.
Meet a Rocket Man or Woman
A trip to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex inspires visitors of all ages. It tells the history of the space race and the hurdles, tragedy, and triumphs to reach the moon, the International Space Station, and eventually, Mars. Everyday, an astronaut is on site. Guests can interact during scheduled appearances including lunch with an astronaut. Visit www.kennedyspacecenter.com.
Stop and Smell the Flowers
The Sunshine State is perfect for botanicals and gardens are sprinkled across the state. They can serve as inspiration for your home’s landscaping or an escape to a wonderland. Find them in urban areas, like Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, or in smaller cities in towns as Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs and Sarasota’s Selby Botanical Gardens.
Meet a Teen Entrepreneur
The state is full of energetic and creative entrepreneurs of all ages. Sage Offutt founded Sage Paddle Company in Navarre Beach in 2013. She was 11 years old. Within 17 days of receiving a $5,000 loan from her father, she repaid him by purchasing and renting six standup paddle boards. Since then, she has expanded her fleet of paddle boards and added kayaks, beach cruiser bicycles, and scooters. Read about Sage and her business at www.sagepaddleco.com
Soak in a Spring
Florida is home to more than 1,000 freshwater springs including more than 30 first-magnitude springs. It’s believed to be the highest concentration of springs in the world. Warm Mineral Springs in North Port is believed to be the world’s largest spring and the state’s southernmost major springs. Locate a springs on www.floridadep.gov/springs.
Road Trip Through the Keys
The Overseas Highway, from Miami to Key West, is one of the state’s prettiest drives. Enjoy stunning hues of aqua while crossing over bridges. Activities include s along the way to Key West range from snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo to feeding the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina of Islamorada to visiting the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. A must, although touristy, is watching the sunset from Key West’s Mallory Square. www.fla-keys.com
Dive for Blue Eyes
Bay scallops have between 20 and 60 vibrant blue eyes and are a sweet treat from the sea. They seem like a lot of work to gather and prepare but well-worth the experience. Hiring a guide makes the trip more efficient and pay the extra money to have someone shell your haul. Bay scallops can only be harvested between Gulf and Pasco Counties during specific times of the summer. Search MyFWC.com for the specific season for each area and regulations.
Watch Government Mermaids Perform
Florida is the only state with mermaids on the government payroll. Head to Weekie Wachee Springs State Park, “the only city of live mermaids,” to catch an underwater performance. Plan your visit with www.weekiwachee.com.
Take Fido on a Dogcation
Does your fur-child need a vacation like you? Load up the pack and head out for a dogcation in one of Florida’s pet-friendly destinations. My perfect pooch-friendly picks are St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, and Flagler Beach for their dog-friendly beaches, accommodations, dining, and activities, such as slurping up water from the Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth. www.bringfido.com will have the scoop.
Need more inspiration to love Florida this summer? Visit www.visitflorida.com. #LoveFL
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