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Silver Springs

Added: Aug 15, 2020
Category: Roadside Attractions

It's no coincidence that some of Florida's oldest theme parks lie in the center of the state, as this was once the primary route to Southern Florida from the north. Before Interstates, most visitors drove down Highway 27, which stretches from Georgia to Miami. But there was one attraction northeast of Ocala that pulled them slightly off the beaten path.

When I reach Silver Springs Nature Park, I find the water a blue hue unlike any natural color I've seen. I would think it had been dyed if not for the expansiveness of it. Its sheerness gives me the feeling of looking down into a giant fish bowl. The 137-year-old park and its waters are truly one of America's great natural wonders.

Although the park has added zoo animals and the glass-bottom boats remain the premier attraction. The boats have been upgraded since the park originally opened, but the vessels still have an old-fashioned feel, friendly captains and a clear view of the deep lagoon's bottom and all the fish and crustaceans that swim in between.

The boat captain tells us that the seven large springs release 550 million gallons of water a day.

It's chilling to see a natural wonder that remains a mystery, but not as chilling as the water. The springs stay 72 degrees Fahrenheit year 'round.

Back on land, the park's museum is almost as captivating as the blue waters. Filmmakers discovered the springs as an ideal underwater movie set. Photos from early Tarzan movies to James Bond films fill the room. I am surprised by the number of celebrities who have visited these waters. But then again, how can anyone miss them?

Spring-fed waters are also home to other old Florida theme parks. Manatees are the attraction at Ellie Schiller HOMOSASSA SPRINGS WILDLIFE STATE PARK. It is one of the few places to see manatees year 'round. Plus, an underwater observatory allows you to get within inches of the sea cows without getting wet. About 20 miles south of Homosassa Springs on U.S. Hwy. 19, Weeki Wachee Springs has Florida's only "live mermaid" show. These mythological maidens, half fish, half woman, perform shows daily.

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