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Great news, summer is back in Florida! One benefit of the scorching heat is finding fun new places to cool off, and Florida has no shortage of exciting activities. Ditch the boring community pool and make the most of your summer this year at one of these unique spots you can only find in the Sunshine State.
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Local divers have known about Ginnie Springs for years, as it’s considered a paradise for open water and cave divers who want to explore 30,000 feet of passageway in the Devil’s Eye/Ear system. While it’s famed as a cave diving spot, Ginnie Springs is also the perfect spot for an outdoor adventure with some of the clearest springs in the state. From tubing to snorkeling, this picturesque spring produces nearly 80 million gallons of water daily and is the ideal place to spend a sunny afternoon canoeing up a river, exploring scenic nature trails, and setting up a picnic.
Sanibel Island is the “Seashell Capital of the World”, offering visitors a chance to collect colorful treasures that have washed up on the shore. People travel from across the globe to scour the beaches each morning for unique pieces, showcasing the famous bent-at-the-waist “Sanibel Stoop”. See if you can find pastel coquinas, conch shells, lightning whelk shells, or sand dollar shells, with low tide typically the perfect time to hunt. When you visit this top destination for shelling, be sure to bring a bucket or net bag to save your favorite discoveries. Aside from its shell reputation, the area’s small-town charm and the laid-back setting is the perfect getaway for nature lovers.
Grab your mask, snorkel, and tube and float through Ichetucknee Springs State Park in Fort White. Considered the best place to go tubing in Florida, this top-rated natural spring boasts six miles of cool, crystalline Ichetucknee River spring-fed waters. Experiencing the park’s canopy of shaded hammocks is a delightful way to escape Florida’s summertime heat. It also offers access to hiking, wildlife viewing, and picnicking, with the chance to spot white-tailed deer, otters, and great blue herons.
A fantastic beach area for surfers of all ages, Panama City Beach is an ideal spot for the entire family to get in on the adventure. Here you’ll find both adults and kids alike enjoying the laid-back surf. If you prefer to observe, you can throw out a towel on the soft sands and watch the pros out on the waves.
The Ocala National Forest is a hiker’s dream with its 360,000 acres of scenic hiking trails. Known as the world’s largest sand pine scrub forest, it’s dotted with pine forests, gum swamps, and cypress trees. Discover over 100 miles of natural habitats, and if you need to cool off, visit one of the crystal-clear natural springs. Juniper Springs, Alexander Springs, and Silver Glen Springs boast emerald waters that are great for swimming.
Tucked away in Williston just 30 minutes outside of Gainesville, Devil’s Den is one of the most unique diving spots in Florida. A 60-foot prehistoric spring, this underground geological wonder, and must-see attraction is truly a sight to behold. You’ll be greeted with an exposed cave-like den with a 120-foot diameter with stalactites, ancient rock formations, and fossil beds. Perfect for one of Florida’s hot summer days, visitors can explore 33 million-year-old fossil beds and refresh in the year-round 72-degree water. A hotspot for cave divers and snorkelers alike, an exploration of this cave is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Get up close and personal with manatees at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River. While it’s the largest winter refuge for West Indian manatees on the Gulf Coast, it’s still possible to spot manatees throughout the year. The 57-acre oasis is known for its unspoiled and undeveloped spring habitat. In the summer months, you might find them floating in 72-degree waters, but there are strict rules on how to interact, called “Manatee Manners”. It is also possible to swim, kayak, and canoe with the manatees on a guided tour.
Located in Coconut Creek, Butterfly World is home to more than 20,000 beautiful winged creatures. One of the top family activities in South Florida, kids will love getting lost in the maze of aviaries and gardens that cover the nearly 10 acres of land. Discover over 50 species of multicolored butterflies surrounded by a lush canopy of exotic plants and flowers. You can spot lorikeets in the 30-foot Tropical Rainforest Aviary, admire cascading waterfalls, then climb atop the observation tower for a birds-eye view of the lush landscapes.
One of the best dessert spots in Florida, Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor in Dania Beach is like a childhood dream come true. The vintage 1950s-style restaurant has been operating for more than 60 years in the Sunshine State, beloved for its crazy portions of delicious ice cream. Nothing beats a hot summer day than its frozen treats, which include 45 unique flavors, from a Chocolate-Peanut Gargantuan to a Fudge-ana goblet and old-fashioned banana splits. If you’re really hungry, share the iconic Kitchen Sink with four of your dessert-loving friends.
Located in Davie, Flamingo Gardens is home to Florida’s postcard-image hot pink flamingos. Offering more than just an iconic slice of the Sunshine State, the 60-acre not-for-profit wildlife sanctuary and wildlife garden also features a 25,000-square-foot free-flight aviary and some of the last naturally occurring jungle in South Florida. You can even see 150-year-old live oak trees, best seen from the narrated tram tour.
One of the most culturally rich attractions in Florida, Delray Beach’s Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens is a must-see for outdoor lovers. Its tranquil landscapes take inspiration from authentic Japanese gardens, including a zen-like ambiance and beautifully manicured spaces. You can the family can spend an afternoon exploring the Japanese art displays, join a tea ceremony or stroll the picturesque pathways past the collection of bonsai trees and hidden waterfall.
Looking for something adventurous to do? You can get a spectacular bird’s eye view of the Florida Keys on a seaplane, where you’ll have the chance to take in picture-perfect views of its 1,700 islands surrounded by crystal clear waters. While many prefer to go underwater to see colorful marine life, those looking to experience something new can soar above stingrays, sea turtles, and sharks in the waters below.
Amelia Island showcases Florida’s history and heritage, boasting 13 beautiful miles of shoreline. A romantic getaway, Amelia Island features one of the only beaches where you can enjoy horseback riding along the coast. Wake up early for this memorable excursion, where you can ride side-by-side as you savor the golden beach landscapes highlighted by the glowing array of colors. Afterward, hop on the Amelia Island Trolley for a tour of the area or stroll the beach for colorful seashell treasures or pearly white shark teeth.
Ready to catch your dinner? Fishing enthusiasts claim Key Largo is not only the most beautiful place to fish in Florida but also the best. An exciting destination for anglers, this sunny spot offers a colorful variety of fish to reel in, including bonefish, tarpon, and snook. You’re spoiled for choice in not only its idyllic surroundings but the number of expansive flats and mangrove forests to choose from, including reef and offshore fishing. Hire a charter for deep-sea fishing or venture out on your own for a tranquil day out on the water.
The entire family will enjoy a day of exploring the colorful Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables. Offering education through its collection of eye-catching tropical plants, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens has been delighting visitors with its colorful displays since 1938. Considered a treasured garden sanctuary in the Sunshine State, this 83-acre oasis boasts scenic tram rides, while its hummingbird exhibit and the world’s greatest living collection of palms and cycads are a must-see.
A top swimming hole in Florida, the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables isn’t like your usual public swimming spot, as this historic haven is the largest freshwater swimming pool in the United States. Dating back to 1923, its spring-fed waters will cool you off, while kids will enjoy exploring the cascading waterfalls and cave-like grottos. Perfect for a hot summer day, this National Register of Historic Places landmark also has picnic tables where you can set up an outdoor lunch.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path activity, consider adding a climb through air-filled caves at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna to your itinerary. One of the most unique state parks in Florida, it boasts caves loaded with limestone stalagmites and stalactites rising and dripping from its ceilings, which took millions of years to form. While its fascinating caves are the main attraction, you can also go fishing at Blue Hole spring for bass, catfish, sunfish, and mullet or hike the scenic nature trails to see beautiful rocky bluffs that tower above the river.
Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee offers one of the best animal encounters in Florida, as its bucket list-worthy drive-through safari boasts more than 900 animals on its property. You can your entire family can take the four-mile drive through the amusement park and get a peek at a range of exotic creatures, including large herds of waterbuck, zebras, and rhinos. Keep your eyes peeled for lions, chimps, and giraffes roaming the area.