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This Small Florida County is the “Springs Capital of the United States”

Lake City is an under-the-radar destination that has been getting a lot of attention lately, located in Columbia County, Florida, between Tallahassee and Jacksonville. This part of North Florida is known as the “springs capital of the U.S.” because of the crystal-clear springs that create the perfect vacation spot.

To experience Lake City, Florida for yourself, here’s what you need to know and some top things to see and do during your visit.

Beautiful blue headspring of Ichetucknee
Credit: Beautiful blue headspring of Ichetucknee by Columbia County TDC

Lake City has a fascinating history and was frequented by big names like Johnny Cash and Al Capone back in the day. Today, Lake City is known as a top outdoor adventure destination, largely because of the iconic Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

This 2,669-acre park is a great place for tubing when the weather’s warm and where various wildlife species thrive, including beavers, otters, and softshell turtles. There are eight major springs here that join the six-mile Ichetucknee River, and the upper part of the park is a National Natural Landmark, perfect for kayaking and canoeing during the cooler months.

Kayakers experiencing Ichetucknee
Credit: Kayakers experiencing Ichetucknee by Columbia County TDC

This entire region of Columbia County, Florida has a diverse ecosystem with more than 350 miles of rivers, 1,500 miles of trails, nine state parks, waterfalls, and aquatic caves. Some of the many ways you can get active and explore the area are hiking, kayaking, tubing, paddleboarding, cave diving, spring hopping, and birdwatching.

Other top attractions to visit in the Lake City area are Big Shoals State Park, O’Leno State Park Bridge, Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park, and Stephen Foster State Park. Lake City offers a taste of the mountains without ever having to leave Florida, especially the gorgeous (and still relatively secret) falls at Big Shoals State Park, which offers large whitewater rapids and the only Class 3 rapids in Florida.

Learn about local history at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park
Credit: Learn about local history at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park by Columbia County TDC

You’ll be among tall pine forests and in a subtropical paradise but also close to a historic downtown area and arts and cultural opportunities in a lively community. Since it’s located just near the southern border of Georgia and is a gateway to Florida, you’ll find plenty of southern hospitality and natural beauty here. The county has some fun music festivals, sporting events, boutique shopping, historical sites, and eclectic dining spots to check out.

History and natural beauty at Stephen Foster State Park
Credit: History and natural beauty at Stephen Foster State Park by Columbia County TDC

The Blanche is a historic hotel restored to its original glory and a historic landmark in downtown Lake City. The hotel has a breathtaking lobby filled with light, a majestic grand staircase, a stunning crystal chandelier, and cozy seating areas for guests to relax. Many other accommodation options are also available in Lake City at familiar chain hotels to help you feel right at home.

Scenery around O'Leno State Park Bridge
Credit: Scenery around O'Leno State Park Bridge by Columbia County TDC

You’ll find a wonderful mix of southern-style restaurants, international cuisine, and craft breweries to enjoy when you visit Lake City for a weekend getaway or a more extended vacation. There are also many local events to check out in this region that are scheduled throughout the year, including movie and food truck nights, growers’ and makers’ markets, concerts, and craft beer and wine events. It’s a year-round destination that you don’t want to miss out on!

Lake City, Florida Information
Columbia County Official Website
City of Lake City, FL Website

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