Let’s face it: a trip to Florida is incomplete without going to Disney. While it sure is fun to go to Orlando theme parks, it can be expensive.
Apart from paying the entrance fee, you also need to shoulder parking, food, and some souvenir shopping.
That being said, you need not rack some serious credit card debt whenever you’re in the Sunshine State. All you just need to do is visit these 4 places: 3 state parks and 1 national monument.
Let’s check them out.
1. Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Located in Fort White, Florida, this 2,669-acre state park offers a variety of activities at just $6 per vehicle. Here, kids – and kids at heart – can go swimming, snorkeling, tubing, paddling, diving, canoeing, and a whole lot more.
Should you want to stay dry on this trip (though it’s hard to), you can always take any of the park’s trails. You can hike or bike your way together with your furry little companion (pets are happily allowed at the park).
At Ichetucknee, you will also see unique flora – such as that of saw palmetto, longlife pines, and the turkey oak, to name a few. As for the wildlife, you just might see turtles, fox squirrels, manatees, and the American Kestrel.
With a choice of 8 crystal-clear springs, a day isn’t enough to explore this park.
2. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Of the many state parks in Florida, one that you shouldn’t miss is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. As the first undersea park in the US, it covers 70 nautical miles of clear waters, bright coral reefs, and exotic marine animals.
For only $8 a vehicle, you can enjoy a variety of park activities, including swimming, kayaking, and canoeing. Fishing is also available in select areas.
You also have the option to participate 2.5-hour glass-bottom boat tour, which costs $24 for adults and $17 for kids.
As for ‘dry’ activities, you may hike your way through any of the park’s short trails – or just go picnicking with family and friends. Full-facility campsites are also available if you want to spend the night in the park.
Tip: Don’t forget to drop by the Visitor Center, where you can marvel at a magnificent 30,000-gallon seawater aquarium!
3. Rainbow Springs State Park
Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one of Florida’s historical parks. It has been inhabited as early as 10,000 years ago – as evidenced by mastodon fossils found in the site. The ancient Native Indians also took comfort in the springs, which they frequented for centuries.
And while modern improvements have taken place in the park, it continues to provide the same fun (and cheap) experience that many Floridians (and visitors too) have learned to love.
Here, you can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, paddling, tubing, and fishing in the cool, clear springs. If you like to commune with nature, you can always go birding, hiking, and camping in the park premises.
While entrance to the park is free, it will cost you $2 to enter the beautiful springs. You will also need to pay $2 per head if you wish to access any of the park’s 4 pavilions.
4. Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Although Florida is famous for its sun and sand, there are many cheap things you can do in the state without getting wet. One of these is paying a visit to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine.
The Spanish built the Castillo to protect Florida and the Atlantic trade route. Constructed 400+ years ago, it stands as the oldest masonry fort in the continental US.
While the main activity here is exploring the fortress, there are several other things you can do. For one, you can spot the International Space Station passing by from way up high.
Tip: Make sure to check the NASA schedule for this!
While the Castillo entrance fee is a wee bit costlier than most (it costs $17 a pop), it does offer access to the area for a full 7 days.
Disney what? With these 4 affordable things to do in Florida, you no longer need to visit expensive theme parks!
Image by Joël de Vriend