Five Vacations To Take in Florida That Don’t Involve Disney World
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Contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot to do in Florida that doesn’t involve Disney World or partying on South Beach. The state is home to hundreds of miles of beaches, national parks, gorgeous landmarks, and arguably some of the best weather in the United States. A visit to the Sunshine State can be full of surprises and adventure that you and your family will never forget.
Here are five vacation ideas that are a little bit off the beaten path when visiting Florida:
Plan a Trip to One of Florida’s Many Natural Springs
Florida might be wholly surrounded by water, but inland lies some of the most amazing natural springs in the country. Did you know there are more than 700 springs located in central Florida and all the way up to the peninsula? These are possible because Florida has a natural underground aquifer that causes roughly 800 billion gallons of water to flow through limestone to bubble up to form springs.
Some of the prettiest and most popular springs are:
- Ginnie Springs: Home to some of the clearest water in Florida, this spring is ideal for kayaking, canoeing, or even just floating on an inner tube. There’s also a fully loaded campground for those who want to make a weekend of it.
- Devil’s Den: Just north of Ocala, this underground cavelike spring (entered by going down a long wooden staircase) is great for divers and snorkelers. You can rent cabins or camp onsite with use of grills and picnic tables.
- Crystal River: Only accessible by boat (but there’s plenty that will take you there), this is considered a “water lover’s paradise” as it's made up of more than 40 springs that connect to each other. Of them, some of the most popular are Three Sisters and Kings Spring.
Visit a Quiet Beach Town on the Gulf Coast
Looking for a chill, relaxing beach getaway? Head to the Gulf Coast and check out Sanibel and Captiva. These neighboring islands are just off the coast of Fort Myers and offer pretty beaches with a quiet casual atmosphere. There’s plenty of hotels, timeshares, and cute cottages to stay in along the 15 miles of white sand beaches. It’s a perfect vacation for those who love to be outside with 25 miles of bike paths, tons of shells along the sand, and lots of animals to watch including over 250 kinds of birds and fish. Bailey’s General Store is a one-stop shop for all of your snack and grocery needs, while Doc Ford’s, Matzaluna, The Bubble Room, and The Island Cow are cozy spots for those who have no interest in cooking while on vacation.
Tap Into Your Spiritual Side With a Visit to the Psychic Capital of the World
Everyone knows about Salem and its spiritual history, but many people don’t realize that there’s a quiet little town in central Florida that’s known as the psychic capital of the world — Cassadega. It’s not spooky or haunted; rather, it’s filled with mediums, healers, and fortune tellers who are ready and willing to share their gifts with those who come to visit. Folklore says that the tiny town lies on an energy vortex that connects the spirit world with the material world.
Here you can book readings, take seminars, and take tours of the historic town. There’s only one hotel and true restaurant in the area, but Lake Helen, another quaint small town, is just a five-minute drive. Note: There’s not much for children to do in this town, so maybe have them sit out this trip.
Spend the Weekend on the Water in the Florida Keys
Just a mere 45 minutes south of Miami, you’ll find the beginning of The Florida Keys, a collection of nearly 1,700 islands — though only about 43 of them are easy to reach and inhabited. These islands are called “keys,” as it’s derived from the Spanish word “cayo,” which means small island. From Key Largo to Key West is a 113-mile drive with the islands being connected by 42 bridges, providing a scenic drive like no other. Along the way you’ll find tons of restaurants, resorts, and water activities. From charting fishing boats to parasailing, snorkeling, diving, and more, it’s a water lover’s paradise. Notable activities include feeding the tarpons at Robbie’s Islamorada, grabbing a drink at Postcard Inn’s Holiday Isle Tiki Bar (home to the Rum Runner), and devouring key lime pie from Kermit’s in Key West. Love sea animals? Stop into the Theater of the Sea for a chance to see dolphins, sea lions, turtles, fish and even sharks.
Tour Your Way Through the Museums of Sarasota
Known for being home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, Sarasota is also home to some really cool museums. It was the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus, and now visitors may enter the massive historic home (known as the Ca’ d’Zan mansion, which cost $1.5 million to construct in 1924) as well as have access to the 66-acre Ringling Museum Complex that houses State Art Museum of Florida, Circus Museum, and Bayfront Gardens. Sarasota is also home to the Classic Car Museum, The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, and The Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy. With so many museums to choose from, Sarasota is a great vacation for those who are looking to keep their minds active and learn new things.