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Nature's Theme Parks

Discover another world... discover the "real" Florida!

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My family and I have discovered something different to do on weekends — something that you may want to try on vacation. Not far from the glitzy world of theme parks and other tourist attractions, yet far enough... there is a different "world" — a glimpse of Florida before it was swallowed by commercialism and urban sprawl. I like to call them "nature's theme parks." This is where my family and I have discovered you can have fun without spending a lot of money, and you just might learn something too along the way. Welcome to our discovery — Florida's State Park System.

It is no wonder that Florida's State Parks were named America's Best State Park System and winner of the National Gold Medal State Park Award. In fact, it is the nation's first two-time winner — first awarded in 1999 and again in 2005. That's quite an accomplishment for a system that includes 161 parks covering 700,000 acres.

Don't be fooled into thinking that Florida's State Parks are all trees, nature trails and wildlife. While a good number of the parks feature landscapes of natural native trees and plants, along with rivers, lakes and springs (and, yes, nature trails and wildlife), many also reveal an interesting glimpse into the people, places and events that have shaped this great state. Whether the park encompasses a historic site, equestrian trails, a wildlife preserve, a waterway or a beach... each of Florida's State Parks is unique, with some parks located in the most unlikely places. More than one park is only accessible by boat. One park has a unique underwater observatory, while another is the nation's first underwater park. There is a park with a museum that is situated in a downtown historic district. One has the distinction of being the longest fishing pier in the world, while another is the only park to offer cave tours. And, that is just the beginning of the diversity found in Florida's State Park System.

Florida's State Parks offer hundreds of programs and so many activities that can be enjoyed — reenactments, museum tours, musical celebrations, nature hikes, treasure hunts, lighthouse explorations, bird watching, hiking, animal tracking, beach walks, canoeing, camping, shelling, swimming, fishing, boat rides and so much more!

Best of all, whether you plan on spending just a weekend or your entire vacation, Florida's State Parks offer you an affordable alternative to the hustle and bustle of crowded and expensive theme parks. Discover along with us a whole new world of wonder — a world of nature and exploration.

Details

  • Admission: Each of Florida's State Parks has a separate admission policy. Fees are very reasonable and affordable. The Florida State Park Annual Pass is an excellent deal. It provides for admission to more than 100 of Florida's State Parks, except Homosassa Springs and Skyway Fishing Pier (where they allow a 33% discount). Call 352-628-1002 or visit FloridaStateParks.org for more information.

  • Accessibility: While you should always check with the individual park before your visit, Florida's State Parks pride themselves in being accessible to all visitors. It is their goal that everyone be able to participate in and enjoy recreational activities as part of their park experience. Service animals are allowed in all areas of Florida's State Parks.

  • Pets: Well behaved pets are welcome in designated areas at all Florida State Parks. Pets must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet at all times and owners must pick up after their pets. Pets are permitted in designated camping areas with certain restrictions. Check with the individual park before making reservations.

  • Camping: More than 50 of Florida's State Parks offer campgrounds. There is a variety of camping options, including full-hookup, primitive tent camping and cabins. Full-facility campgrounds include water, electricity and a grill and picnic table at each campsite, along with centrally located restrooms, showers and dump stations.

    Overnight camping fees range from $10 to $50 and cabins (4 to 6 people per cabin) run $20 to $120. Camping discounts of 50% are available to Florida residents, age 65 and older or 100% disabled. Reservations for campsites and cabins may be made up to 11 months in advance by calling Reserve America at 800-326-3521 or 866-I-CAMPFL or by visiting ReserveAmerica.com. Those needing TDD service may all 888-433-0287.

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