Eight Places in Florida to Visit on Earth Day Ranked by Outdoorsiness
The sun sets over Key Largo, Florida.
Wikimedia Commons, via Veryhuman
Between Passover, Easter, and 4/20, it's been a mad rush of holidays in the past week. First people were getting cabin fever in their parents' houses, subsisting off of matzo and trying to think if the adage about never forgetting how to ride a bike applied to driving a car. Then mass amounts of the population were gorging themselves on chocolate and deviled eggs after being forced into awkward socialization with church members they see but once a year. Finally, after all the claustrophobia and agoraphobia went away, paranoia set in. Take a holiday from the holidays. Put down the hash pipe. Get in your car and enjoy living in one hell of a state. There are options for even the most prissy of you Floridians as well as the most hardened Survivor Man acolytes.
That said, all of these places are awesome. The ranking is all in good fun. Florida has one of the most beautiful ecosystems in the country. It's your duty to enjoy it on Earth Day, or at least before things heat up in May and our mosquito overlords begin their blood-sucking reign of terror once more. You'll regret it if you don't.
Wikimedia Commons, via Juliancolton
8. Hollywood Beach Terrified by most nature but still feeling a bit appreciative that we haven't yet paved over 100 percent of the Earth? Heading to the family-friendly paradise of Hollywood Beach might be your safest bet. Even if you're wary of water, you can pretend you're enjoying it by biking/rollerblading/Razor-scootering down the Boardwalk and side-glancing at the churning oceanic abyss as you do it. It will stare back at you, but don't freak out. You can always go hide inside of Le Tub and grab a burger.
7. Oleta River State Park Got a bike? Possess a healthy degree of fear regarding South Florida drivers? If so, this is the park for you. Ride along Biscayne Bay without fear of being plowed over by someone who thinks this area needs to live up to its reputation as the model for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Leave your Huffy at home for ten miles' worth of intermediate-level mountain biking, or bring whatever you've got rotting in your garage to enjoy three miles of paved trail.
Wikimedia Commons, via Tetraminoe
6. Blue Spring State Park Deciding where to put the largest spring on the St. Johns was a tough choice. Blue Spring is dope, sure, but you can also experience it from the safety of your own home. If you really have some kind of aversion to the outdoors or are the real-life equivalent of Bubble Boy, you can check out Manatee TV, which the park's website deems "a way to safely view the world of the manatee." Hmmm. Unfortunately, visitors aren't allowed to swim alongside those same sea cows from December to March, lest they damage their massive but apparently delicate porcelain bodies. But Earth Day is high time to enjoy this beautiful Orange City attraction, which is essentially closed for a good third of the year.
5. Everglades State Park -- Flamingo Camp Ground This is camping without really camping. It's possible to spend the night without even getting dirty. More like being at a music festival than anything else, this place is essentially a tent city sent up on a flat field. It overlooks a beautiful waterscape, sure, but what fun is camping if you aren't expected to pee outside? Make sure that if this is your choice of an outdoor excursion, you get there early enough to hit some trails. If not, you might be better off staying at home.
Wikimedia Commons, via Ebyabe
4. Ichetucknee Springs State Park Grab an inner tube and spend the day floating down the Ichetucknee River near Gainesville. If you start near the north entrance, it'll take about three hours for you to float down the entire length of the oak-shaded waterway. In North Florida, the perennial debate is between Ichetucknee and Ginnie Springs. If you want to deal with frat boys floating kegs down the river and hear lots of screaming, the latter is your better bet. But of course you don't -- it's Earth Day, asshole. Chucking cans of Natty into the water defeats the whole point. Head to Ichetucknee, grab a burger from Bev's on the way back through High Springs, and call it a day well spent.
Wikimedia Commons, via Fredlyfish4
3. John Pennekamp State Park It's an underwater park. We're not sure what else we need to say here. You can have an experience curated for you on a glass-bottomed boat or private snorkeling charter OR you can choose to meander through the mangroves yourself, find a secluded spot, and get set seeing barracuda and hogfish for your damned self. Make sure you get there early, though, so you can enjoy a Bud Heavy and a couple of conch fitters on the way back at Alabama Jack's -- the only bar in the world that closes at 7 p.m.
2. Everglades City Ah, the gateway to the 10,000 islands. This badass destination is where you can do it all: kayaking, tarpon fishing, and ghost-orchid-hunting à la The Orchid Thief. A spot for true adventure seekers, Everglades City has both fresh and saltwater and is teeming with wildlife. It's smacked between the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico, so it's pretty much like getting double the bang for your buck.
1. Dry Tortugas National Park Getting here takes true dedication. No one has ever woken up hungover at 11 a.m. and decided to jump on a seaplane to almost-Cuba. You don't just go there on a whim because your buddy calls you in the morning looking for something to do. It's 70 miles off the coast of Key West and is also accessible by boat. It's known as a great place to snorkel or to gawk at birds, and the fact that it's so remote makes for a great sunset. Not that we know for sure. Although it's on our bucket lists, we are far too lazy to have pulled this one off yet. Let us know how it goes if you check it out, and remember that one classic Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about "pics or it didn't happen."
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