Mermaids and Manatees--Florida State Parks

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Growing up in Florida, my favorite place in the world was not Disney World (it ranks fourth, Playalinda beach is second and rifle shooting in the woods is third) but rather an underground, underwater secret place. My close-to-home-but-oh-so-faraway special place was the home of mermaids. Yes real mermaids swim at the Weeki Wachee Springs, now a Florida State Park. Their ability to swim for extended periods while holding their breath with such grace was short of miraculous to an eight-year old in braids.

This was the advantage of growing up in a humble city such as Titusville. My parents took us on road trips to discover and appreciate nature and our backyard. It was also wallet-friendly to a family, a mother, that was always clipping coupons. We had a comfortable upbringing and one that included learning through family Florida road trips. Now in Miami, I am still surrounded by mother nature's diversity, and regulary catch my breath when spotting a manatee in my backyard (a marina steps away from my door) or from the balcony of my office overlooking Biscayne Bay. It's a temptation to jump in my car and drive away for the weekend. I want more!

This year, Florida state parks celebrate their 75th anniversary with 25 signature events the rest of the year. Florida parks offer diverse natural backdrops and recreational activities. From beaches, to springs, underground caverns, and nature trails families can enjoy swimming, horsebacking riding, hiking, canoeing, and fishing. And I've done it all and long to return to repeat it all again and discover new ones. For example at Paynes Prairie (in northern Florida) you can glimpse bisons running along with wildhorses--descendants of an equestrian line brought to Florida by the Conquistadors.

For a list of events from now until December, and to learn more about these backyard treasures, CLICK HERE. Now is the time to visit Florida with low humidity and no mosquitoes. If the Indians could not defeat the US Army in some of these historic landmark parks, the mosquitoes did!

Coming up:

March 13-14: Azalea Festival at Ravine Gardens State Park, Palatka.

March 19-20: Wakulla Wildlife Festival at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, Wakulla Springs.

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