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Florida Fun Facts

Florida fun facts cover a wide variety of information. For example, in what year did Walt Disney World open its doors to visitors? What is one of the deepest natual springs in the world? How many islands are in the Florida Keys? And who in the world is Benjamin Green?

Florida is more than just a great vacation spot. It's filled with odd facts and fun happenings.

From people to places to names to watery delights, here's a list of things that you didn't know that you didn't know!  

  • When did Walt Disney World open to the public? Disney World (along with the world's most famouse mouse, Mickey) opened its doors to visitors on October 1, 1971. At the time, it was just the Magic Kingdom; the other theme parks (EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom) came later.
  • Who is Benjamin Green & what was his claim to fame? Benjamin Green was the Miami Beach, Florida pharmacist who invented "suntan cream" in 1944.
  • Where did Ray Charles begin his musical career? He began in Tampa, Florida, playing dance-hall jobs.
  • What makes the John G. Riley house famous? Located in Tallahassee, it is the only known house belonging to a former slave, that still remains standing.
  • Did you know that the phrase "cool as a cucumber" originated in Florida?
  • Looking for sun? Try Clearwater, Florida which claims to average 361 days of sunshine per year.
  • The oldest continually inhabited city in the USA is....St. Augustine, Florida, founded in 1565.
  • Gatorade was developed in Gainesville, Florida, originally for the University of Florida "Gators" football team.
  • Eagles like Florida! We have the largest breeding population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states.
  • So exactly where is the Shark Tooth Capital of the World? Reputedly it is Venice, Florida.
  • Fore! We have more golf courses in Florida than in any other state in the USA. Last count was 1,370 and I'll bet more have sprung up since that number was tabulated.
  • Going along with the golf theme, Naples, Florida is supposed to have the highest ratio of golf courses to people in the state. And Palm Beach County has the most courses of any county in the state.
  • Flying high! The first commercial airline flight in history took place in Florida, between Tampa and St. Petersburg, in 1914.
  • Florida's capitol, Tallahassee, was the only southern capitol east of the Mississippi that stayed in southern hands for the whole Civil War.

Interesting Place Names In Florida

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We have a lot of cities and rivers here in Florida that are derived from Native American and/or Spanish terms. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Altamonte (as in Altamonte Springs) means "high hill". Remember, "high" is relative in Florida -- we're a pretty flat state.
  • Apalachicola means "those people living on the other shore". Well, the Apalachicola River is pretty wide....
  • Boca Ciega (as in Boca Ciega Bay) translates to "blind mouth".
  • Boca Raton roughly translates to "rat's mouth" (hmmm). The name refers to some hidden rocks near to shore.
  • Caloosahatchee means "river of the Calusa" which is a Native American tribe.
  • Canaveral (as in Cape Canaveral) means "place of reeds or cane". If you've ever been in the Cape back country, you can appreciate the name.
  • Chattahoochee is roughly translated as "marked rock". It's the name of both a river and a city.
  • Hialeah means "pretty prairie".
  • Homosassa means "place where the wild peppers grow".
  • Islamorada means "purple island".
  • Kissimmee means "heaven's place". By the way, the name is pronounced Ki-SIM-mee, not "KISS-i-mee".
  • Loxahatchee means "river of turtles".
  • Miami means (variously) "all beavers", "all friends", "cry of the crane" and "people who live on the peninsula" and "very large". The name sure does get around! In this case, it's thought to derive from Mayaimi, referring to the very large nearby Lake Okeechobee.
  • Ocala means "heavily clouded".
  • Palata is derived from "ferry, ford or crossing" since it was a major trading post on the St. John's River.
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    Panasoffkee is translated as "deep valley".
  • Punta Gorda means "fat point", referring to some land jutting out into the bay.
  • Steinhatchee translates to "dead man's creek". Don't guess I'm going to be moving there anytime soon....
  • Tallahassee -- there are divided views on this one, but after some research I'm going to have to go with the translation of the Muskogee Indian word meaning "old town".
  • Wauchula is interesting, roughly meaning "cow house" -- a barn maybe.  Of course there is always the fact that COW stands for County of Wauchula...could it be that's what got it all started?
  • Weeki Wachee (as in Weeki Wachee Springs) means "little spring".
  • Wewahitchka probably means "water eyes".

By the Shore (or River, or Spring....)

Florida has an amazing amount of shoreline -- more than any other state except Alaska! Tidal shoreline, that is, which doesn't necessarily mean beach (sorry about that). Want some more watery facts?

  • Go here, go there, but no matter where you are in Florida, you've never more than 65 miles from the ocean (as the crow flies.
  • Key West's coral reef is the third largest in the world, and is also the largest in North America.
  • Speaking of the Florida Keys, there are more than (count 'em) 800! Many are teeny-tiny, and they stretch for 180 miles into the ocean.
  • The loggerhead turtles call Florida "home" -- more than 80% of the US population nests on our beaches.
  • You know that Florida has miles and miles of beaches - want to know how many? Try roughly 1,100 miles of sand and surf.
  • The deepest natural spring in the whole world is Wakulla Springs in the Florida Panhandle.
  • The St. John's River in northeast Florida is one of the few rivers in the world that flows north instead of south.
  • And although this is only kind of "water-y", the longest fishing pier in the world is in Tampa Bay. It is a portion of the old (original) collapsed Sunshine Skyway bridge.

Florida -- The Big Land

OK, what are some of the "big" things you might not know about Florida?

  • Palm Beach County is Florida's largest county, at 2,578 square miles -- bigger than Rhode Island or Delaware!
  • Jacksonville is Florida's largest city (in square miles).  It pretty much takes up all of Duval county!
  • What's Florida's population?  Well, as of the 2000 census, we were at 15,982,378 people.  Last I (unofficially) heard, it was around 17 million.  We're 4th in population, after California, Texas and New York.

Attraction Fun

Yes, Florida has a ton of attractions (as if you didn't already know).  But what are some of the things you might not have known about these places to have fun?

  • What makes Disney's Animal Kingdom opening day different from the other Disney parks?  The actual date!  The other three Disney theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and MGM) all opened on the first day of the their respective months.  Animal Kingdom opened on the 24th!
  • Name three of the Central Florida attractions that pre-date Disney:  Gatorland, Busch Gardens, Cypress Gardens are three that were open before "The Mouse" came to town.
  • What's the oldest attraction in Florida?  My vote is for Marineland, which opened in 1937.
  • What's the highest point in the Disney theme parks?  If you said Cinderella's Castle, you are...wrong!  It's actually Hollywood Studio's Tower of Terror that holds the high spot.

Let's Not Forget Official State...

Were you wondering where the Florida State bird, flower and all those other items?  Here they are!

  • The Mockingbird is the Florida state bird.  Now we who live here in Florida say it's really the mosquito...
  • And what about the official Florida state flower?  It's the orange blossom. And although we don't have an official state perfume, my vote is for the orange blossom's -- heavenly!
  • And do you know what the Florida state tree is?  It's the sabal palmetto, also known as a cabbage palmetto.
  • Do you know what "Old Folks at Home" is?  It's the official Florida state song.  Not familiar with it?  Sure you are -- it's more commonly known as "Suwannee River".
  • And finally -- Florida was admitted as a state on March 3, 1845.  We were the 27th state to enter the union.

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