From the moment you step off the plane, you are drenched with sweat that seems to be pouring out of you from places you didn’t even know could sweat. What should you do? Where should you go? You aren’t that run-of-the-mill person who likes to do what everyone else is doing, and neither should your vacation be! While ordinary people are at Harry Potter World, or taking selfies in front of a Disney castle, or paying $400 to swim with a dolphin, YOU will be swimming with manatees and checking out the places that reflect Florida for its natural beauty, not its man-made attractions… (Ok, some man-made attractions).
Here is what we did during two action-packed days in the Land of Flowers:
Blue Spring National Park
This is a beautiful park where you can rent snorkels, tubes, kayaks, and (I believe) scuba gear. During winter, this place is a natural habitat for manatees. We spent a couple of hours here, just swimming around, looking into the spring, enjoying the atmosphere. I would recommend getting here earlier in the day, as early as possible actually, because as the day went on, yucky teenage jerk bags showed up and started playing football across the spring and using foul language and just being all around dirtbags, which took away from the experience. Other than that, I could’ve spent all day here. The water is very clear, great temperature, awesome scenery.
Big Toho Airboat Rides
There are numerous airboat rides throughout the state, but if you want an experience with someone who has been doing this job for years and is a member of a founding family of Florida, then this company is right for you. We had a great, inexpensive ride, saw baby alligators, and the entrance to the Everglades known as “The Shingles.” Not only was the ride smooth, thrilling, and beautiful, but our guide was knowledgeable and hilarious. Check Groupon to see if they have any specials going on.
American Pro Diving
How many people do you know who have gone swimming with dolphins? I know two, and they are intolerable, judgmental, all around yucky people. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who spends hundreds of dollars to swim with dolphins is snoody and gross, but I mean, maybe there could be a connection somewhere. Now let me ask you this: how many people do you know who have gone swimming with manatees? That’s what I thought.
Thanks to Groupon again, we found a hidden gem that is easy to miss. We woke up early on Saturday morning, drove a convertible VW bug for two hours, got in some wetsuits, and swam with a manatee. I must admit, he wasn’t as lively as I had hoped, but it was amazing to see one of these animals up close and in their natural element. I didn’t get to swim with a baby… but I saw a baby and it was the cutest thing that ever happened to me in my whole life.
American Pro Diving also offers other tours with scuba and/or snorkel. Check them out:
On the way back from American Pro Diving, it would behoove you to make a pit stop at Joe’s Deli… ‘cause, why not? We were looking for a place to eat some gator tail, and then we were planning to just settle for Burger King, when we stumbled upon a cute little sandwich shop. Although it is a small place, it is not small in taste. Not only is the food awesome, (try the seafood salad), but the business itself is family owned and operated, which is hard to find nowadays. The restaurant is located near Cooter Lake. Cooter Lake. I mean, come on, if that’s not exciting, then I just don’t know what is.
Don’t settle for Bahama Breeze, (which is delicious, but is pretty much just Jamacian Applebees). Go to a place that makes food because they love it and they care about the quality.
Well, it’s a beach. There are restaurants and bars and shops. The thing that makes this place worthwhile is the temperature of the water. We got there at 10:00 p.m. and jumped right in there, fully clothed and comfortable; it was like a jacuzzi. I didn’t even know that the ocean could be so warm. The great news about night swims is that no one is going to bug you because they are all at the bars. I only saw people here because they were playing Pokemon Go.
Super cute place. Swan boat rentals, fountain that really reminds me of “Married With Children,” restaurant, geese, statue of a woman. I would advise heading over here on a weekend evening if you really want to have an experience and do some people watching. We were here on Saturday, early evening, and there was a church group singing in the little amphitheater. The man who was singing with the group was phenomenal and actually brought me to tears a bit, but I cry a lot. Overall, a cool place to take a walk. Lots of people playing Pokemon Go. Like everybody except for me.
We stopped by Pulse and read the biographies of the people who lost their lives there. It was incredibly touching and humbling. For a lot of people, we don’t see these attacks for what they are because they are becoming more and more common. But there are real people involved- with real lives- real families- real potential and spirits that someone stole for no reason. If you are in the area, you should go by this site to help bring in some real humanity and perspective on something that may usually be too obscure of a concept to fully understand.
The Holy Land Experience
Ok, so I found this while I was driving, but I wasn’t able to visit it because I was attending a conference and the hours conflicted. This place is basically like a giant castle with displays of Bible stories, etc., and from what I saw on the website, they have Jesus walking down the street with the cross as a show, which is like, daaaaaaaang. I wish I could’ve seen that. Have you seen that? SHARE SOME PICTURES IN THE COMMENT SECTION IF YOU HAVE!
I’m sure we did some other things, but those were definitely the highlights. We didn’t do what everyone else was doing. We didn’t waste our time sweating our buns off waiting in lines. We didn’t fall into the tourist traps. We did do some touristy things, but we didn’t pay crazy cash for them and we didn’t go home with an extra suitcase loaded with Donald Ducks. We came home with memories from putting 997 miles on a rental car, a thirst for more water activities, and pictures of us in places that our theme park-hopping counterparts didn’t even think to see. I mean… what’s the point of going to Universal Studios anyway? They got rid of the Jaws ride. Come on, bro.
Ashley and Cecilia work hard, play hard, write stuff, read stuff... because they don't know what else to do with their lives.
I- We should buy something superficial
II- Buy odd clothing
I- An Unusual Social Event
I- We should go somewhere with dangerous animals
I- Somewhere with strange food
When we get ten total votes, the item with the highest number of votes will be our next expedition.
(One vote per reader, per category).