Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Classic Floridiana

This weekend I had the opportunity to check out some uniquely Floridian places.  Step back into pre-Disney times for some classic (but quality) tourist traps.

Gatorland  Founded in 1949, Gatorland continues to be a family-owned business.  Compared to the prices of most tourist destinations, the $23 you'll spend here are well worth it.  Aside from hundreds of gators, visitors can enjoy crocodiles from around the world, exotic birds (native and not), snakes, and turtles.  Don't miss the feeding shows and gator wrestling; kids will love the water park on hot days and the petting zoo.  Apart from the wrestling, my favorite part was the swamp walk, an educational walk on a deck between untamed swampland and majestic cypress trees.

Kelly Park Rock Springs  Right next to Wekiva Springs north of Orlando is Kelly Park, featuring beautiful Rock Springs.  Rent an inner tube at Rock Springs Bar & Grill just outside the park entrance ($3-5) or bring your own and jump into the crystal clear water gushing out of rocky cave.  Let the slow current take you to the end of the park (30 - 45 minute) or stop midway at the swimming hole.  Includes places for camping, picnicking, and grilling.  Prices are $3 for a car of two or $5 for three or more people per car.  Tip: It can get crowded, but I went on a Sunday in October and very few people were there.

Showcase of Citrus  West of Orlando is the Showcase of Citrus, a collection of family owned and operated groves where you can pick your own fruit since 1961.  Although off-season times offer a smaller selection of fruit, you can choose from as many as 25 varieties of citrus during late Winter / early Spring.  It's free to get in, and prior to picking, a friendly staff member lets you try samples of in-season fruit.  Prices are about $1/lb. or you can fill up a bag with as much as you can fit for $10.  I haven't tried the eco-tour, but going there to pick fruit and walk around the groves was worth it for me.

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