Here’s some bargain entertainment: Florida State parks within an hour of Orlando. For varying rates – but no more than $6 – a family of eight can spend the day in an environment barely impacted by man in a hundred years and unchanged by nature in thousands. When you exit, you don’t have to walk through a gift shop. And how often do you read the words “bargain” and “Orlando” in the same sentence?
Visiting Disney is not “seeing Florida.” Viewing gators at a miniature golf course is not “nature.” A line of palm trees in front of The Contemporary Resort is not native flora or fauna. A state park day breaks the theme park marathon – four-mile hikes on asphalt and family conversations about the wait time to ride Harry Potter.
A comprehensive list of The Sunshine State’s parks is not included here – Florida already maintains a state park website that’s consumer-friendly, all-inclusive, and regularly updated. Here’s a crib sheep of quick info and links to the main items:
• Florida state parks are open 8 a.m. to sundown 365 days a year. Park office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
• Many parks have camping facilities, but the state lists 43 other activities, such as boating, hiking, museums, picnics, scuba diving/snorkeling, weddings, cabins, fishing, pets, playgrounds, tubing, wildlife viewing, restaurants, and swimming. A webpage allows visitors to click on an activity to see which state parks offer each service. Find it at: http://www.floridastateparks.org/thingstodo/activities.cfm
• A separate page covers the Central Florida area – parks within an hour of Orlando. Click on parks outlined on the map to get more info, including a short overview, location, hours of operation, fees for admission, camping, and a list of activities. The map is at: http://www.floridastateparks.org/findapark/district-central.cfm
• For a general guide to Florida’s state parks, go to: http://www.floridastateparks.org/resources/statewide.cfm
• Sample of state park fees close to Orlando: Admission: free to $6; camping: $5 (no services) to $24; cabins: $95 plus tax.