Summer is here, the grandkids or kids are out of school, and it’s time for fun.
But with a slow economy and high fuel prices, some folks are reluctant to dip into their resources. Your best option is to rediscover your own backyard and consider a local trip.
There is no better time than now for you to get out and indulge in all the pleasures Florida has to offer. Those who vacation regionally can treat themselves to some of the finest budget-conscious alternatives for Florida recreation – and discover a side of Florida that even long-time residents may never have seen.
Dubbed as the oldest city in America or “Ancient City,” St. Augustine was discovered by Spanish admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles in September 1565. The area was part of the Spanish empire until 1763, but its narrow cobblestone streets, churches, museums, forts and national monuments have left traces of Spanish influence behind.
Explore historic attractions, such as the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest European fort in the U.S. and Fort Matanzas National Monument, a watchtower completed in 1742 to guard Spanish settlers. The city's center is home to the oldest Catholic parish in the U.S.—Cathedral-Basilica. St. Augustine also boasts a number of unspoiled beaches, including St. Augustine Beach, Fort Matanzas Beach, South Ponte Vedra Beach and Vilano Beach.
Longwood, Florida is home to Spring Hammock Preserve, where a mammoth ancient cypress tree resides. The oldest in Central Florida, nicknamed the “Senator,” the tree is over 118 feet tall, with a diameter of 18 feet and is believed to be approximately 3,500 years old.
The 1,500-acre property boasts plenty of 50+-friendly activities such as hiking and photographing nature trails; picnicking facilities that include canopies, tables, shelters and grills for public use and even camping for those looking for adventure. Dozens of rare and endangered species call the area home, which allows park-goers the opportunity to get a glimpse of these wild animals in their natural habitat.
Another unique city that calls this region home is the town of Sanford, Fla. A portion of its historic residential area is reminiscent of a time when Florida was under British rule and Victorian-style influence on building structures dominated the South. This simple, yet unique style of architecture was known for utilizing flamboyant colors and elements that evoke fantasy.
The Bradlee-McIntyre House was built 1885 for prominent Boston architect Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee and his family. It is one of the few surviving Victorian-style cottages in the entire state of Florida and is kept preserved by the Central Florida Society for Historical Preservation in efforts to conserve and maintain the area’s rich culture and tradition.
South Florida is nationally renowned for its miles of crystal-clear, pristine beaches. The region is home to the first underwater park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This Key Largo gem covers over 75 square miles and allows for fishing, snorkeling, boating, camping and canoeing.
The park also provides exclusive access to the only living coral reef system in the continental U.S. and draws thousands from all over the world each year. These shallow-water reefs are flooded with active, vibrant colored sea life and provide an up-close encounter with over 600 fish varieties as well as lobsters, shrimp, turtles and the occasional shark.
Break Away, Enjoy and Save
Nothing beats being out in the open and enjoying an area’s natural beauty, while maintaining a budget-conscious lifestyle. The absence of the hustle and bustle of everyday life is the perfect remedy to one’s desire for a break from it all, which is essential for the enjoyment of your golden years.