FAMILY FRIENDLY FLORIDA, Top spots for all ages

Every tourist town in Florida has already anticipated the needs of every age demographic in your family. With increasing skill and refinement, nearly every Florida museum, zoo, attraction, restaurant and hotel aims to please traveling families of all stripes.

Your only real trouble is deciding what to do. Florida offers so much for kids and families that planning can be tough.

While Orlando often grabs the spotlight with its big-name theme parks, families looking for a broader range of experiences will do well to head to Florida’s Gulf Coast, where you’ll find fewer crowds, some of the USA’s best beaches, and wildlife that’s free to see and abundant.

Beaches

The prototypical Florida family beach is fronted by or near very active, crowded commercial centers with lots of water sports and activities, tourist shops, grocery stores and midrange eats and sleeps. The beaches listed here are popular destinations with all ages.

  • Naples – Upscale downtown bustles each evening; soothing beach scene.
  • Bowditch Point – At the northern end of Fort Myers Beach, close to urban amenities (and restrooms), but with plenty of wild beauty.
  • Sanibel Island – Bike, kayak and shell the days away; undeveloped beaches, great restaurants.
  • Siesta Key – Powdery white sand, plenty of activities, lively village scene at night.boat-water
  • St Pete Beach – Activity-filled social epicenter of Tampa Bay area beachgoing.
  • Panama City Beach – Crazy seaside amusements and carnival atmosphere.
  • Destin & Fort Walton Beach – For quieter getaways amid unforgettable beauty.
  • Pensacola Beach – Great mix of unspoiled strands and low-key tourist center.

Zoos & Attractions

Up-close animal encounters have long been a Florida tourist staple, and the state has some of the best zoos and aquariums in the country. Florida’s native wildlife is truly stunning, and it’s easy to see. Gulf Coast cities also have an high number of top-quality hands-on children’s museums.

Aquariums

  • Mote Marine Laboratory – Center for shark study; visit sharks, manatees, dolphins and sea turtles up close.ar-140909267
  • Florida Aquarium – In Tampa; another stellar aquarium, excellent re-created swamp, swim programs and sealife tours.
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium – Intimate rehabilitation center with marvelous animal presentations.

Nature Centers

Getting Into Nature

Don’t overlook unpackaged nature. Florida is exceedingly flat, so rivers and trails are frequently ideal for short legs and little arms. Raised boardwalks through alligator-filled swamps make perfect pint-size adventures. Placid rivers and intercoastal bays are custom-made for first-time paddlers, adult or child. Book a sealife cruise, a manatee swim or nesting-sea-turtle watch.

  • Everglades National Park – Bike or take a tram tour along Shark Valley’s paved road, or short boardwalk trails around the Royal Palm Visitor Center. Visit Everglades City and Flamingo centers for family-friendly kayaking.
  • Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary – West of Naples; maybe the most diverse and rewarding swampy boardwalk trail.
  • Lee County Manatee Park – In Fort Myers; easy way to see wintering manatees.
  • Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve – In Fort Myers; another ideal, shady boardwalk trail often packed with wildlife.
  • Myakka River State Park – Tram tours, short hikes for birds and alligators; don’t miss fun Canopy Trail. Airboat tours and kayaking among hundreds of alligators.
  • Weeki Wachee Springs – Watch the mermaid show, then canoe the crystal-clear fish-and-manatee-filled river.
  • St George Island State Park – Near Apalachicola; seabirds and loggerhead turtle nesting.

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TOP PLACES FOR SNORKELERS IN FLORIDA

With warm, calm waters, snorkeling is one of the most popular activities found in Florida. The diverse and pristine waters in Florida allow beginners and experts alike to explore diverse marine life right from the beach. Grab your mask and fin and dive into one of these must-see snorkel spots in Florida.

  1. Pigeon Key, Florida Keys

    Take a trip down memory lane with this historical snorkeling spot, where you can find remnants of the old Seven Mile Bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  2. Point-of-Rocks, Siesta Key

    Located on a barrier island, these limestone formations will bring you face to face with corals filled with medium sized fish, hermit crabs, crustaceans, and red boring sponge.dsc02432

  3. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, North Palm Beach

    An area known for regularly spotting underwater creatures such as stingrays and sea turtles, it is worth taking the trip to explore the large rock formations and worm rock reef.073011 SPT Snorkel 4.jpg

  4. Peanut Island, Riviera Beach

    Explore through one of the best easy-access snorkeling in South Florida at this man-made island full of colorful fish and exotic underwater life.DCIM100MEDIA

  5. Sebastian Inlet State Park, Melbourne Beach

    For a chance to see larger sized fish and the possibility of a dolphin or manatee, explore the rock-lined inlet and sheltered lagoon of Sebastian Inlet State Park.xkidsmanatee-pagespeed-ic-yoas5g5ncs

  6. Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key

    You will find a plethora of colorful and exotic corals, tropical fish, crustaceans and living sponges among the shallow seas of not to be missed Bahia Honda State Park.maxresdefault4

  7. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo

    Popular for good reason, hop on one of the trips offered and you will find an underwater statue and vibrant marine life with lobsters, eels, and tropical fish.snorkelers_8399

  8. John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, Dania Beach

    Grab your mask and fins for a day of fun at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach where you will find underwater beauty on a rock reef parallel to the shore.maxresdefault5

  9. Venice Beach

    One of Florida’s rare gems, Venice Beach is home to the largest fossilized shark teeth found scattered in its shallow waters, allowing snorkelers to bring home a truly unique souvenir.fort-lauderdale-snorkeling-tour-snorkel-south-florida-pompano-beach-equipments2

  10. Coral Cove Park, Jupiter

    Geological and natural limestone formations make Coral Cove Park an ideal place to snorkel, as they attract all types of unique and interesting fish.maxresdefault6

  11. Bathtub Reef Park, Hutchinson Island

    An ideal snorkeling spot for children, this “honeycomb” worm reef blocks the surf and allows snorkelers of all ages to examine the vibrant sea creatures in the lagoon.swimming-and-snorkeling-with-the-manatees-crystal-river-united-states2b1152_12848561276-tpfil02aw-5805

  12. Fort Pickens, Pensacola Beach

    Located on a small jetty on the bay side of the island you will find both marine life and unique underwater treasures, such as rock pilings and an old shipwreck.snorkeling-03

  13. Destin Inlet Jetty, East Jetty

    Known for emerald green waters, Destin is also popular with snorkelers for its shallow clear waters and incredible fish that surround the area.user_2488

 

What did you think about these place? Have you ever been to one? Let me know i the comments. Be sure to like and share this post with your friends! Have a SoFlo day

TOP 10 PLACES TO GO KAYAKING THIS SUMMER

Truly a paddler’s paradise, Florida has diverse ecosystems and pristine waters that nature lovers can appreciate. Spot abundant wildlife in the lush landscapes as you float through miles of pristine beauty in one of Florida’s most picturesque places to go kayaking.

  1. Rainbow River, Dunnellon

    Florida’s fourth largest spring is not only impressive, but kayak lovers will be enthusiastic about its crystal clear waters and abundant wildlife. Float through moss-draped cypress trees and soak in the views of stunning aquatic vegetations and limestone formations.maxresdefault1

  2. Weeki Wachee Springs, Weeki Wachee

    With some of the clearest waters in Florida, Weeki Wachee is a fantastic place to cruise in a kayak. Paddle through miles of crystal clear waters and you might even spot a manatee or an otter.weeki-wachee_contest_lisa-tighe_weeki-wachee-springs-state-park

  3. Juniper Run, Ocala National Forest

    For a pleasant day of paddling, explore Juniper Run’s narrow and winding waterways with crystal clear waters. With a lush landscape of palms, cypress, and southern hardwoods you can spot diverse wildlife in the Ocala National Forest.salt-springs-kayaking-e1380351965113

  4. Wekiwa Springs, Apopka

    For pristine natural beauty, there is no better way to experience Wekiwa Springs than cruising through it on a kayak. Breeze through the laid-back currents and soak in the stunning views of centuries-old trees and fields of lily pads.bartlettimage-2902

  5. Santa Fe River

    Scenic and laid back, Santa Fe has clear waters and plentiful opportunities to spot the abundant wildlife. For the truly adventurous, join a “full moon paddle” they host once a month for a chance to go night paddling.maxresdefault2

  6. Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Fort White

    With crystal clear waters spanning over six miles, it is easy to understand why Ichetucknee is one of the most famous areas to paddle in North Florida. Enjoy a scenic view of rock formations, wetland plants, and lush cypress forest.one

  7. Silver Springs State Park, Silver Springs

    If you’re looking for wildlife viewing on your kayak excursion, Silver Springs State Park is your best bet. Here you can regularly spot a variety of tropical birds, alligators, turtles, deer, otter and even a few rhesus monkeys.maxresdefault3

  8. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo

    Relaxing and laid back, John Pennekamp is great for its variety of thick mangroves and open channels. Spot colorful fish and turtles as you paddle through the first undersea state park in the US.63592-key-largo

  9. Cedar Key

    One of most secluded and top-notch paddling spots, Cedar Key has it all. In the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, you are spoiled for choice of stunning landscapes with pristine islands, saltwater marshes, and winding channels.fixedw_large_4x

  10. Little Manatee River, Wimauma

    Truly one of Florida’s unspoiled river gems, Little Manatee River is a designated “outstanding Florida water” area with sand pine and oxbow wetlands. Escape from it all in this swampy spot perfect for nature lovers looking for peace and quiet.9-24_tripstart_1

 

Be sure to leave in the comment section what you thought of this 10 places and share your kayaking experiences. Remember to like and share with your friends! Have a SoFlo day

UNIQUE FLORIDIAN SPOTS, An Absolute Must-See!

Even if you’re from the Sunshine State, there’s no way you’ve seen all of these places yet. Here in Florida, we know how to bring the weird. Each of these attractions located throughout the Sunshine State deserve a visit, at the very least so you can take an awesome picture to show your friends.

  1. The Sunken Christ:

    Only 25 feet off the coast of Key Largo, Florida lies a giant 9 ton sunken statue of Jesus Christ with outstretched arms.

    There’s a reason this statue might look familiar…there are also sunken statues made with the same mold in Italy and Grenada, all made of bronze and roughly 9 feet in height.

    FrinkChristStatue web

    Christ of the Abyss Statue, Key Largo, Florida Keys, model Cody Wagner and Katherine Wieland snorkeling around the Christ Statue.

  2. A Police Station With A Napoleon Complex

    Not much larger than a phone booth, Carrabelle is home to the world’s smallest police station. It once had a dial used for making calls. However this was removed after tourists used this line to make unauthorized long-distance calls home for free.w6g4tt5rwqnhefsk5ddh.jpg

  3. Solomon’s Castle in Ona

    Sprawling over 12,000 square feet, Solomon’s Castle in Ona is certainly an impressive sight to be seen.

    Built by Howard Solomon over many years, the entire exterior is covered with shiny aluminum plating. Just don’t visit during a lightning storm or you might be in for quite the shock.20160109SolomonsCastle-3-Edit-2.jpg

  4. Spook Hill in Lake Wales

    A trip to Spook Hill in Lake Wales is sure to have you leaving baffled. Visitors are instructed to park at a certain spot, take their car out of gear, and then wait while their car “magically” rolls uphill seemingly breaking every law of physics.9d7b1b40da8985863daead0850444893.jpg

  5. Coral Castle in Homestead, FL

    Coral Castle is another castle in Florida built by a single man. In this case, a lovelorn Latvian, Edward Leedskalnin, sourced every stone himself, and built his own complex complete with stone chairs, tables, throne, a tub, and his own home, where he lived and gave tours until he died. This is a definite must-see if you’re ever near the southern tip of Florida.AdobeStock_71201529.jpeg

  6. Goofy Golf in Panama City Beach

    This golf course is perfect for anyone who loves kitschy vintage fun. Goofy Golf’s creative owner built everything from giant monkeys to monsters and aliens, and they have remained mostly unchanged since their creation in 1959. It’s lots of fun for the whole family.

  7. Wolf’s Museum of Mystery in St. Augustine

    Slightly disturbing and extremely interesting, the Wolf’s Museum Of Mystery is a one of a kind gallery in St. Augustine sure to send chills down your spine. A private, relatively new museum of oddities, but unlike Ripley’s, everything from the stillborn elephant to a human brain encased in resin is for sale in this retail museum.wolfs-alien.jpg

  8. Smallest Post Office in the US in Ochopee

    This farm shed was turned into an emergency post office when the official one burned down in 1953, and the town just kept it that way. It’s not even big enough for a bathroom, but you can buy novelty postcards from the post office and have them sent for you at the same time.AdobeStock_1326541.jpeg

  9. Key West Cemetery

    This cemetery really brings humor to a dark subject. Visitors can spot several unique epitaphs such as “I Told You I Was Sick” and “Devoted Fan of Singer Julio Iglesias.”050.jpg

  10. Skunk Ape Research Headquarters in Ochopee

    This started as the office of Jack Shealy’s Trail Lakes campground, until his brother, Dave, took up the search for an elusive Florida version of Bigfoot called the Skunk Ape. Fun exhibits and a petting zoo make this a must-see even for the non-believers.

10 Florida Themeparkless Road Trips

In Florida, it’s hard not to run into something interesting to see by just heading out in any given direction. Here we have 10 of probably hundreds of possibilities for Florida road trips that do not include theme parks.

  1. Gulfside Highway 19– Homosassa, Florida

    On the west coast, start at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to see West Indian Manatees, black bears, bobcats and gators. Continue north to the city of Crystal River to swim with Manatees or just have lunch. End the day in Cedar Key, an island known far and wide for seafood. Better yet, do it this month and check out the 43rd Annual Cedar Key Seafood Festival, Saturday Oct 20, and Sunday, Oct 21, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.AdobeStock_85112773.jpeg

  2. Pensacola In the Panhandle– Pensacola

    Up north, the 11-mile Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway lets travelers drive atop the unique bluffs, which provide scenic views of Escambia Bay and are the highest point along the entire coastline of Florida. Part of the National Scenic Byways Program, the Gulf Breeze Zoo covers 50 acres and has over 900 animals throughout a botanical garden with more than 100 unique species of botanical plants and flowers.Two_macaws_-Gulf_Breeze_Zoo,_Gulf_Breeze,_Florida,_USA-8a.jpg

  3. Tamiami Trail -Tampa

    Explore the natural splendor of the Everglades between Tampa with Miami with a drive across the Tamiami Trail, a highway time machine of sorts that passes through a primeval forest with toothy animals as well as canyons of strip-malls and heart-stopping traffic. The 275-mile trail is part of highway US 41, and connects Tampa with Miami.EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK.jpg

  4. Florida Natural’s Grove House- Lake Wales

    A visit to the Sunshine State wouldn’t be complete without a taste of Florida’s Natural brand orange juice. The company’s Lake Wales grove in central Florida offers a private glimpse of its juice making and provides a history lesson for the kids in the guise of a fun stop.

  5. Black Bear Scenic Byway

    The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway goes through one of Florida’s most distinctive ecosystems, known as the Big Scrub. The 60-mile corridor along SR 40 serves as the backbone for a network of scenic roads and interpretive trails that include the Ocala National Forest, Lake George State Forest, Heart Island Conservation Area and Tiger Bay State Forest. The Florida black bear is at its highest population density here, so look out for them!37972807

  6. Indian River Lagoon Scenic Highway- Merritt Island

    Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Highway is an estuary that provides habitat to more species than anywhere in North America. The 166-mile loop along Florida’s Space Coast starts at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and draws history buffs, bird watchers, anglers, surfers, swimmers, boaters and vacationersAdobeStock_85938232.jpeg

  7. Old Florida Heritage Highway– Gainesville

    The Old Florida Heritage Highway goes along countryside, lakes, wetlands, prairies and rural homesteads. Scenic U.S. 441 takes travelers back in time as a good example of one of the more well preserved sections of the Florida Highway as it was before the interstates came along.AdobeStock_35467671.jpeg

  8. The Florida Keys– Key West

    The 113-mile (181-kilometer) drive on Highway 1 from mainland Florida to Key West has route-tidal flats and teal waters dotted by distant islands as you drive over the ocean. Highway 1’s concrete stretches across with the Atlantic spreading out to the left, the Gulf to the right.AdobeStock_14763784.jpeg

  9. Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail– Ormond Beach

    The Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail is a loop of roadways with quick access to the Atlantic Ocean and North Peninsula along with several state and public parks. Museums and historic public buildings and homes can be found in Tomoka State Park. Recreational opportunities include parks and trails offering boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, bicycling or just a walk on the beach.ormond

  10. A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway- St Augustine

    A drive up or down A1A takes travelers between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway on a narrow barrier island with breath-taking views. Along the way, see a variety of wildlife including 50 endangered species. Stop in St. Augustine, the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the United States.25553064943_7b204db15e_b

 

Have you been or want to visit any of these places? Let me know in the comments. Make sure to like and share. Have SoFlo day!

Stunning Florida Towns You Have To Visit

It seems that whenever we think of Florida and travel, beaches and theme parks come to mind. True, there are a bunch of them in the sunshine state. Also true is that Florida offers one of the best places for a good road trip in the country. Year-round mild weather and a well-kept highway system can take travelers to an interesting variety of places at a leisurely pace. Here I will be listing 11 small Florida towns you need to visit.

 

1.Sanibel Island:

You won’t find many buildings that are taller than a palm tree on Sanibel Island, and that’s because the city has taken careful measures to preserve the natural beauty of the area. The town is markedly devoid of fast food restaurants, which were banned, and even stoplights. So get ready to step into a world that feels totally removed from the norm.

2. Tarpon Springs:

Tarpon Springs is a riverfront town with a historic downtown district and brick streets. It’s also heavily influenced by Greek culture — the Greeks began to immigrate there in the 1880s when they were hired to harvest sponges — and as you walk down the main drag you’ll find authentic foods, like moussaka and baklava.

3. Santa Rosa Beach:

Santa Rosa Beach is all white sugar sand and nestled along a 26-mile stretch of Florida’s Emerald Coast. It’s home to a unique artist colony, as well as the Point Washington State Forest, a 15,000-acre preserve, making this town one of those rare places where you can go from luxury to the rugged outdoors easily.

4. Delray Beach:

Delray Beach was named the Most Fun Small Town in America in 2012 by USA Today, which probably has something to do with the busy downtown area. You can sip wine as you roam through a gallery art walk, or snorkel through a sunken steamship during the day. Some of the activities include walking across the three-mile boardwalk on the Wakodahatchee Wetlands to try and spot alligators and identify the more than 140 different species of birds.

5. Destin:

Most people go to Destin for the unbelievable beaches, and it’s easy to see why: They’re quite perfect. Plus, there’s a fun (and free!) boardwalk to stroll on. If you’re looking for loads of outdoor action, Destin is a great spot to visit. Take a professional sand sculpting class from the masters, and wade around Crab Island, which is a part of the beach where the water is waist deep and floating vendors (think ice cream and sandwiches) cater to your every whim.jqg_1430181339

6. St. Augustine:

St. Augustine is America’s oldest city. It was founded by the Spanish and settled in 1565, and because of that it has a lot of history to explore. Make sure to see the Castillo, Fort Matanzas, the city gate, and the oldest wooden schoolhouse in America.

7. Fort Myers:

Certain areas of Fort Myers are more bustling than others, but the historic district is quaint and lined with hip bars, galleries, and plenty of trendy restaurants. The real highlight, though, are the winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, both of which are still intact and worth a trip.

8. Clearwater Beach:

Clearwater Beach is almost entirely made for visitors: There are boats that will take you on fishing excursions, dolphin sighting adventures, and you can rent your own jet ski or parasail to explore the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Memo’s pirate cruise is ridiculous, in that you are on a giant pirate ship, but also insanely fun if you just want to have a silly beach cruise. If you tire of the beach, drive 30 minutes to St. Petersburg and check out the stunning Salvador Dali museum.

9. Apalachicola:

For pre-Civil War era architecture and some of the friendliest locals you’ll ever meet, Apalachicola is a hidden gem along the Florida coast. Take a river cruise with Captain Gill and hear all about the natural surroundings of Apalachicola, and don’t miss the Chestnut Street Cemetery where the oldest tombstone dates back to 1831.

10. Amelia Island:

Nestled on the east coast of Florida, close to Jacksonville, is Amelia Island. It’s all Spanish moss and southern charm in the small shrimping village with quaint B&Bs and absolutely adorable eateries. Fernandina Beach is a sea turtle sanctuary, so check out the nests (but don’t touch!) and you might just see some little guys hatching. And don’t forget to visit Fort Clinch, where you can explore the 19th century military structure, go camping, or get your hike on.

 

Don’t forget to let me know what you think about this list in the comment section below and if you have been to any of these places, what did you think about them? Be sure to like and share. Have a SoFlo day!

DOG FRIENDLY FLORIDA, Where to go?

Admit it, if us lovers of these four-legged creatures could take them everywhere we go with no exceptions we would. With miles of sandy beaches, endless winter sunshine and a laid-back vibe, there’s no reason to leave your furry friend behind when you vacation in Florida. From lodging that offers special pet beds, to beaches with off-leash play, to theme parks with nearby kennels, many places around the state accommodate visitors with pets. Many Florida state parks also allow leashed dogs. The options are infinite and here I will be listing the top destinations for you and your friendly companion.

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  1. Dog Beach and Paw Playground at Fort De Soto State Park. In 2010, Southern Living magazine named this spot in Pinellas County on Florida’s West Coast one of the top five dog beaches in the South. You only need to set one paw onto the sugary sand to know why: it’s a gorgeous and peaceful place. The Gulf of Mexico is usually warm and calm, and dogs of all sizes love to play in the soft surf. Dogs can run on the beach and swim off-leash, then enjoy a large, adjacent fenced-in grassy dog park area. There are water fountains, waste bags and a place to wash salt out of dog fur. Admission to the park area is $5.
  2. Dinosaur World in Plant City. Who loves dinosaurs? Dogs, that’s who. Located halfway between Tampa and Disney, Dinosaur World is a park featuring 150 giant dinosaur statues and trails winding tohrough the lush Florida landscape. Leashed dogs are welcome on the trails and it’s a great opportunity to snap a photo of your pooch with a giant Stegosaurus. Tickets are $14.95, dogs are free; open daily.
  3. Dog Wood Park, Jacksonville. This 25-acre, privately owned park is heaven for dogs. It’s all off-leash and entirely fenced in, from the pond to the grassy knoll to the trails. A separate small area nearby has chairs where owners can sip coffee and chat. There are two ponds, Lake Bow Wow for the big dogs and Lake Fifi for little ones, plus doggie sand piles, shady areas and tires for dogs to climb on. Day visits are $11, including tax. Additional services, like use of the park’s indoor dog wash area, are extra.
  4. The Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine. Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Avilesdiscovered this spring in 1565 and the Timucua Indians lived here for 4,000 years before that. You and your dog can sniff around and drink from the fountain. Tickets are $12.
  5. Downtown Naples. A great place to stroll with your pet while embracing tropical Florida, downtown Naples has lots of outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants where you can dine al fresco with your dog. Several stores – Diva Doghouse, For Footed Friends, Pucci & Catana and Fergie’s Closet Doggie Boutique – specialize in upscale pet accessories, clothing and food.
  6. Lincoln Road, Miami. Located on South Beach, this pedestrian-friendly shopping area is the place to watch all of the beautiful people and their designer dogs. Outdoor restaurants and tropical drinks abound.
  7. Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound. This sprawling park on Florida’s East Coast, north of tony Palm Beach, offers miles of trails that showcase how Florida looked before development. Dogs must be leashed. Admission is $6 per vehicle
  8. Panama City Beach dog playground. This Florida Panhandle spring break favorite offers 400 feet of beachfront for leashed dogs and the new Panama City BeachConservation Park with 12 trails (dogs must be leashed there).dogpark_9921_jk_hr_c65f18d5-4769-476b-835e-baff3e1eb46a
  9. Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway, Tallahassee. This park in the state’s capitol is popular with local dog owners because of its beautiful trails and secluded grassy areas.

 

CAMP UNDER THE STARS: Top Beach Camping Spots in Florida

Why just go to the beach during the day? If you have ever wondered what it feels to camp away from the crowds, car beeping, and the city lights and just relax under a sky full of stars you are in luck. Florida is one of the state with award winning beaches and boasts over 900 campgrounds with more than 100,000 campsites. From primitive tent camping to hotel-quality cabins and sites, this floridian coastlines have something to offer for every single kind of liking. Here I will be listing a few of the top beach campsites in Florida for all the nature lovers out there.

SOUTH FLORIDA AND THE KEYS:

  1. Bahia Honda State Park: This is spot is considered one of the most scenic parks in Florida. Featuring award winning beach and historic bridge, Bahia Honda State Park at mile marker 37 in the Florida Keys has become a favorite destination for visitors to this island paradise. If you are looking for a place to camp, snorkel and relax with your family this is the place for you.lifeline-of-key-west
  2. Long Key State ParkThis campground offers 60 campsites right on the Atlantic Ocean, both for tents and RV’s. The island and beach are narrow, but the water is absolutely gorgeous. The offshore coral reefs block the open ocean swells, resulting in calm, shallow water where youalmost-around-the-east-end-of-the-island
  3. Curry Hammock State ParkCurry Hammock State Park is the largest uninhabited parcel of land between Key Largo and Big Pine Key. The shallow, protected waters of Curry Hammock State Park make an ideal place to kayak and paddleboard, with a beautiful mangrove creek and miles of pristine coastline. The 1,200-foot, sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing, launching a kayak or building sandcastles.5766276701_8dff5f0d60_b
  4. Biscayne National ParkYou can discover this undeveloped, scenic group of islands close to the booming city of Miami. Although most of the park is underwater, there are two islands of note – Elliot Key and Boca Chita Key – where camping is permitted. There are no cars, roads or bridges to these islands, so you’ll either need your own boat or you’ll have to arrange transportation. 

    Camping on these sub-tropical islands is for experienced campers. Mosquitoes and no-see-ums can sometimes be an issue, especially during the summer months. The beaches are small and tend to be rocky, but if you want to get away from it all in a beautiful place, especially if you like fishing and snorkeling.

 

CENTRAL AND NORTHERN ATLANTIC COAST:

  1. Sebastian Inlet State ParkKnown as a surfing mecca, Sebastian Inlet has a campsite that spans both sides of the inlet where you can watch the pros catch some of the best waves in the state. The park’s campground is an easy walking distance to the beach, close enough to participate in one of the many activities offered in the area such as canoeing, kayaking, or fishing.central-florida-east-coast-surf-tour
  2. Fort Clinch State ParkLocated north of Fernandina Beach on Florida’s Amelia Island, Fort Clinch State Park has 68 campsites with a campground that overlooks the beach. This northernmost barrier island has 3 miles of beach, ½ mile of fishing pier, and 6 miles of wildlife trails, giving campers plenty of activities to fulfill their day.fort-clinch-state-park-pier
  3. Anastasia Island State ParkAnastasia Island State Park offers 139 full-service campsites located within a gorgeous maritime hammock only a short walk away from its 4 miles of white sandy Gulf beaches. Nature lovers will keep busy with the world class bird watching, hiking, and swimming through the diverse ecosystems.img_7427
  4. Little Talbot Island State ParkBeach campers are sure to be impressed with Little Talbot Island State Park, one of Florida’s most scenic and undeveloped barrier islands in the Northeast. Situated in a shady maritime hammock forest, the short ½ mile walk to the campground is worth being able to explore 5 miles of pristine beach and undisturbed salt marshes.BigTalbotSunrise032504-A22

 

CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST GULF COAST:

  1. Fort De Soto County ParkCertainly the most family friendly campground on the list, Fort De Soto County Park has 238 noteworthy campsites stacked with amenities such as picnic tables, grills, electricity, and modern restrooms. Grab the kids and explore the 7 miles of waterfront recreation with by canoeing, biking, or hiking the nature trails that are suitable for campers of all ages.de-soto-251
  2. Cayo Costa Island State ParkConsistently referred to as the Gulf Coast paradise, Cayo Costa Island State Park offers adventure and complete isolation with 9 miles of pristine beach surrounded by Gulf water on all sides only accessible by boat or ferry. Right behind a set of small dunes you’ll find a camping area, centrally located as you roam around the 2,426 acres of spectacular nature.camp-site

 

NORTHWEST FLORIDA:

  1. St. George Island State ParkLocated on the east end of the barrier island that wraps around Apalachicola Bay you will find 9 miles of pristine white sandy beaches at this state park, ideal for all types of outdoor activities such as camping. St. George boasts 60 campsites that are nestled near a canopy of pines and rolling dunes less than a quarter mile from the beach.st-george-island_contest_dirk-den-boef_st-george-island-state-park
  2. Grayton Beach State ParkLocated between Panama City Beach and Destin sits Grayton Beach State Park, one of Florida’s most scenic beaches. If you set up camp at one of their private campsites overlooking the lake, you’ll be able to explore the emerald green waters and breathtaking nature trails before catching one of their famous sunsets.grayton-beach-140
  3. St. Andrews State ParkWater sports enthusiasts will rejoice at the amount of water-related activities at St. Andrews State Park, where you can swim, snorkel, dive, kayak, and go canoeing. Set up camp at one of the 176 campsites for a chance to explore the pristine beach and emerald green waters.image040
  4. Fort Pickens at Gulf Islands National SeashoreFort Pickens is located in Florida’s protected Gulf Islands National Seashore and holds 200 campsites on the west end of Santa Rosa Island. Camping here gives you access to blue-green waters, white sandy beaches, and historical forts that date back to the early 1800’s.fort-pickens-beach
  5. St. Joseph Peninsula State ParkHome to the beloved Loggerhead turtles, camp at one of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park’s 119 campsites for access to both the Gulf and St. Joseph Bay waters on a kayak or canoe. Those looking for ultimate relaxation will find their stress easily melt away on the most pristine snow-white sand and tranquil aqua-blue waters found in Florida.st_joseph_peninsula_fl_sp_beach_north01

 

REMEMBER! Making reservations is a must. During the slower times of the year (winter in northwest Florida, and summer in the rest of the state), you may be able to get by without reservations on weekdays, but it’s better not to take the chance.

Florida State Parks have a reservation system set up through Reserve America. It’s a lot like making a hotel reservation. Just click and book. You can also go directly to the Reserve America website.

Let me know what you think about this list and what you would  like to see next!

ORLANDO: Trip Alternatives

Orlando is a city in Florida with a population of 255,483 and it is commonly known for its amusement parks and also for its large shopping malls and outlets. Even though this city receives an average of 62 million visitors annually for being the “The Theme Park Capital of the World” it is also known by other as “The City Beautiful”, and not for any reason. Orlando is a city that can offer pricey entertainment, roller coasters and fun nightlife but at the same time you will be able to find beautiful outdoor activities for you, your family and friends that may not even cost you a thing. Here I will be listing some of the best activities for those who are trying to escape the amusement park crowds and are looking for an alternative.

  1. Lake Eola Park: This is a park located in the heart of the city and it features a Chinese pagoda, a Confederate States of America monument, and a playground.  With a 80-foot (24-meter) lake in the center of the park, here you can enjoy a relaxing evening walking on the beautiful pathways, renting swan-shaped paddle boats, feeding the live swans, seeing a concert or a play in the Walt Disney Amphitheater, and enjoying the view of Orlando’s skyline. Lastly another activity this location is well known for is the Sunday Farmers Market Lake-Eolaos-crowded-lake-eola
  2. Harry P. Leu Gardens: Explore an amazing 50-acre botanical oasis minutes from Downtown Orlando. With3 miles of walkways visitors can see rose gardens, a butterfly garden, and old oak trees, among other attractions in order to achieve this location’s main goal, help others understand and appreciate plants. The Leu House Museum located in the heart of the gardens reveals turn-of-the century living for the families who once called this home.22724-harry-p-leu-gardens
  3. Wekiwa Springs State ParkLocated at the headwaters of the Wekiva River, the beautiful vistas within this park offer a glimpse of what Central Florida looked like when Timucuan Indians fished and hunted these lands. Some of the activities this location has to offer include canoeing and kayaking, bicycling, snorkeling, camping, fishing, equestrian trails, and much more.

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  4. Orlando Wetlands Park: With more than 20 miles of roads and woodland trails visitors can lead their way through marshes and hardwood hammocks along scenic lakes. Because vehicles are restricted on the park’s berm roads, visitors to the Orlando Wetlands Park walk, bicycle, or ride their own horse. Another popular method of getting around are the tram tours provided by volunteers on Fridays, Saturdays, and specially designated dates. This park showcases a large number of species like wood storks, white ibis, black-crowned night herons, and other wading birds are common during the cooler months. Bald eagles, limpkins, and red-shouldered hawks, black vultures, and turkey vultures are year round residents in the Orlando Wetlands Park. Raccoons, river otters, white-tailed deer and bobcats can be seen along the roads and hiking trails.img_1330hdrorlando_wetlands_photo_by_ashley_belanger_3
  5. Kelly Park: Kelly Park features a free-flowing natural spring (68 degrees year round) perfect for tubing and enjoying nature, it also has a full-service concession, picnic pavilions and playground. BEWARE! due to the popularity of this spot it is normal to service a high volume of visitors during the summer months and on holidays, but don’t worry it will never be over crowded once you are inside.imgp1744gators-florida-alligator-kelly-park-alligator-springs

Let me know what you think about my top 5 nature spots in Orlando in the comment section below. Feel free to add any suggestions for the rest of the nature lovers and adventure seekers.

EFÍMERO, a short story

For a class project we were asked to write a short story under 20 minutes based on a picture of our liking in order to exercise our writing skills and boost our creativity. I’ve always felt a little vulnerable and scared to translate my feeling s into words, and even more when others read it. For this assignment I chose to write about a picture one of my best friends took during one of our many adventures and the story my mind went with I then realized was completely linked to something someone once told me, one of those people that you cross paths with and you never expect that are going to mean something to your life. Hope you enjoy and be sure to let me know what you think on the comment section below.

 

EFÍMERO

A Short Story by Isabel Acevedo

Vieja story

Photo by Camila Rivero Pooley

Every time she heard the creak of the door and a cold breeze sneaked into the house there was still a little hope inside of her that it was him coming back, her love, her one and only; but that never happened. Three years have passed, but for her, life passes in lapses of thirty minutes and then it all goes back to the beginning, to the moment her beloved one  the last words she would ever hear come out of his mouth – “Ya vuelvo cielo, voy a ver a mis chiquitas” (I will be right back my sky, I am going to check on the little ones). With an accent that only she, Doña Maria, and a few from their family could understand. For her it was only another of his many trips to the garden to check on his flowers, something that in her head will always remain the same.

On the evening of May 10 of 2013 Don Ricardo was pronounced dead on an ambulance on the way to the small town’s hospital after suffering a stroke. It was a shock for the whole family; they were not ready for this. It was a day like any other, or so she thought. The old couple woke up, had one of their typical breakfast discussions about whatever crossed their minds that day, and after a call to their oldest grandson Doña Maria parted her way to her favorite chair and Don Ricardo went to the backyard.

This time it was different, he did not go there just to look at the flowers he planted, he went there to make a bouquet for his soul mate. That day was the couple’s 50th anniversary and she, like many other times, was not even aware of the date. He gathered as many flowers as he could, the ones that smelled the sweetest, the ones that looked the brightest and on is way back it all ended, unannounced Don Ricardo left and she, Doña Maria, will never know. No matter how many days have passed, and no matter how many times his son reminds her of their loss, for her, every thirty minutes it all goes back to being that evening of May 10 of 2013.