From Pensacola Beach to Key West, it would takes about 12.5 hours to drive from one end of Florida to the other. So to say the Sunshine State isn’t all the same is an understatement. It’s a very diverse state and there are a lot of rules that apply to every location. Except for these things not to do when visiting Florida.
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Don’t Swim In Lakes Or Canals
Many visitors from the north think that a lake is a great place to cool off or let their dogs. Don’t. Because alligators. Alligators live in many bodies of waters in Florida. Some like springs where people can and do swim are monitored, usually by the state. And springs are crystal clear so you can see around you. Florida lakes are shallow and murky, which is precisely the hunting ground that alligators enjoy. The lakes, natural and manmade, are not monitored unless there’s an issue. So you don’t know what’s out there.
There has been a slight uptick in alligator attacks recently, but that’s because more people are moving to the state, which means more interaction with the reptiles and people, not because alligators love attacking humans. Also, do not let your pets play near lakes because alligators like to feed on small animals. All that said, it’s not uncommon to see locals water skiing and doing standup paddleboard on lakes. Being aware of your surroundings is critical (and probably not falling off!) Oh, and you should also never swim in any body of water in Florida at dawn or dusk. That’s when alligators and sharks tend to feed.
Don’t Kill The Lizards
Since we’re talking about reptiles – don’t be afraid of lizards! Sometimes visitors to Florida freak out when they see one on the patio. Lizards are a big part of the Florida lifestyle. They’re all over the place, and while they can seem creepy most of them are a vital part of the Florida eco-system (some, like iguanas, are an invasive species). We recently visited New York, and there were house flies, both indoors and outdoors. We couldn’t figure out why we don’t see house flies where we live in Florida. Then we remembered – “lizards!”. So thanks to the lizards for entertaining our cat and eating all those flies and other pesky bugs.
Don’t Be Vain
Wear a hat! Sure it might mess up your hair. But Ft. Myers, on average, has 114 days of temperatures over 85, and Orlando has 106. Some parts of the state don’t have many trees, making it even harder to find a little shade. So bring along a hat to help you avoid a bad sunburn on your face or heat stroke. For those who need to be stylish, there are many options out there for packable travel hats. For everyone else,, lucky you – they sell baseball caps at every beach store in the state.
Don’t Forget the H2O
Don’t forget to drink a LOT of water. It’s hot here. And humid. That heat and humidity can be shocking to people who are visiting. It can also hit people visiting Florida in dangerous ways. So drink more than your usual amounts of water while you’re here. The easiest thing to do is to bring a reusable water bottle for each family member when you come down. All the amusement parks and state parks have water fountains for you to fill up.
Don’t Forget Sunscreen
This is big one, especially for those of you who might not be used to being in such intense sunlight No matter your skin type or color, you need to wear sunscreen and reapply it regularly all over your face and body. Even people with a lot of melanin in their skin can get a sunburn and even get skin cancer. Did you know that skin cancer is what killed Bob Marley? And you can even get a sunburn when it’s cloudy out. No one should take a chance, so put it on and make sure you’re using reef safe sunscreen, to protect the ocean and springs.
Not protecting your body and skin can lead to sun poisoning, so a combo of the hat, lots of water and sunscreen will help minimize your chances of spending your Florida vacation stuck inside due to sunburn or, even worse, in the hospital.
Don’t Skip The Breweries
Don’t miss the local breweries when you’re visiting Florida. There are more than 200 micro-breweries throughout the state. That’s a lot of local beer businesses giving you, literally, the local flavor of where you are -something we love to do when we go to a new city to find a craft brewery.
Why? Because not only will you meet local people who can give you great hints of things to do in the area but also because craft breweries are generally family and pet friendly. They’ve become a bit like the corner store was 100 years ago. Even if you don’t like beer, most craft breweries have seltzers on top along with wine and soda choices.
Don’t Think Florida Is Just Amusement Parks
Florida is not only about mouse ears and wizard wands. If you’re a book lover, visit the homes of Zora Neele Hurston, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings or Ernest Hemingway. If you’re a camping and outdoor lover, visit one of the 175 Florida State Parks. Enjoy shopping or eating – there are local restaurants and stores in every corner of the state. Music? Theater? Art? Sports? Historical sites? Whatever you want to do, Florida has it. Except for snow skiing. So even though we love our amusement parks, there’s more to Florida than Mickey.
Don’t Bother or Touch The Manatees
If you see a manatee out in the wild, don’t play with it, tease it with a water hose (they seem to like spinning in them), touch it or try to ride it. You will go to jail. If it’s always been your dream to see manatees in Florida, there are plenty of places to do that. There’s even a place in Florida that’s the only location in the United States where it’s legal to swim with the manatees.But you still can’t touch them.
We know – they’re adorable and slow, and you could catch up to one if you tried. However, manatees, being slow swimmers, get injured and sometimes killed by boats, making them a threatened species. There are plenty of opportunities to observe them in the wild or while being rehabilitated so you can enjoy them without putting them in danger.
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