We’re continuing our Florida road trips series this week. Entering the Sunshine State, you’ll find some of the best things to do in north Florida. We hope you have your summer tires on in the sunshine state. The weather may be hot, but so are the stops.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
In Gainesville, you can encounter a whole lot more than just gators that play football. Although, if you’re up for it, the University of Florida is quite a place to see a football game with some of the most passionate fans in the nation. But if gators aren’t your thing, maybe the devil is? The Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park has 120-ft sinkhole with rainforest-like vegetation leading down to a serene pond. The name came from it’s hopper-like shape and the animal fossils at the bottom led to the ominous conclusion that they had fallen down the sinkhole to meet the devil. Currently, there is access for visitors along 236 wooden steps for you to observe this unique ecosystem.
Waldo Farmer’s & Flea Market
On the way to Jacksonville from Gainesville on Route 301, stop at Waldo Farmer’s & Flea Market. Al and Anne Killian adopted the idea in 1975 after going on a road trip of their own. The market is family-run and has been operating for over 40 years. Each weekend around 900 vendors sell and trade goods with nearly 40,000 visitors every weekend! With that much stuff, you’re destined to find something unique and antique. If the vintage goods don’t tickle your fancy, you might find fresh produce, ice cream churned from a tractor engine, or boiled peanuts to nosh. Look for the big horse on the sign!
Fountain of Youth
Many Spanish explorers made the voyage to Florida, which was named by Juan Ponce de León in 1513. He famously was searching for the Fountain of Youth, although no one can actually confirm this. Despite not knowing exactly what Ponce de León was searching for, it is a remarkable piece of history where you can take a tour of the original site first explored and settled by Spanish conquistadores. Since Ponce de León isn’t around today, I’m guessing these waters have no ability to restore one’s vitality. But take a tour and visit the First Mission Church of Nombre de Dios, observe historically accurate Native American Timucuan structures, or even get married at the new 3,000 square foot pavilion!
Ray Charles Statue
I know you hear Ray Charles and figure he has Georgia on his mind, but Ray Charles was raised in Greenville, Florida until the age of seven. Affectionately known as “R.C.” to those in Greenville, Ray Charles eventually went to St. Augustine to attend the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. The Ray Charles statue, which was unveiled in 2006, has R.C. in his famous pose playing the piano with his legs flailing and dancing. The state provided money and the sculptors created the statue free of charge to honor their local musical hero. Nearby is his childhood home, which was renamed Ray Charles Avenue in his honor and is open as a museum attraction where you can get a tour of the inside.
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
The largest magnetic research facility in the world is in Tallahassee, housing the most powerful magnets in the world! Scientists from all over the world utilize this laboratory for research on magnetic fields and their application for materials to develop new technology, life sciences to help treat myriad of disease, and creating, storing, and conserving energy. Tours at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory headquarters are free and open to the general public. There you can ask questions and learn about the current research being conducted. But maybe don’t park too close since the magnets housed in there are a million times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field!
Check back to see what places we’ll visit next! You can always search “Road Trip Destinations Series” in the search bar at the top of the blog to see what other states we’ve visited.