Before I moved to Florida it meant only two things to me: beaches and theme parks. While we have both in abundance here they don’t make my list of things I will miss when I’m gone. To be fair, I have had some good times on beaches, but given a choice I’ll head to the mountains. I even have some pleasant memories from theme parks. [You haven't seen "It's a Small World" until you've seen it with a five-year-old.] By and large though they mean paying lots of money to be in big crowds — two things I detest.
After I moved to Florida I learned that there is a whole other world away from beaches and theme parks [and usually, but not always, away from crowds]. This other world includes natural springs, rivers, and hiking trails. For example, Wekiwa Springs State Park is just a few miles north of Orlando and has a gorgeous swimming area at the springs. There are miles of hiking trails and canoeing on the Wekiva River. Outside the park, the adjacent Rock Springs provides a wonderful canoeing experience too.
A little further north is Blue Spring State Park, best known as a Manatee refuge. The waterways are closed to swimmers and boaters from mid-November through March each year as the Manatees winter in the 73°F water.
There are something in the neighborhood of 150 state parks and historic sites that run the gamut from springs and rivers to beaches to coral reef. [John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the first undersea park in the U.S.] And we have a few national parks and preserves too. I’ve barely scratched the surface in exploring all these places and when I come back to visit these are what I’ll be looking for.