Disclosure: A featured post with a difference! I am a huge fan of roller coasters and having been fortunate enough to go to Florida several times, I can honestly say the parks there have some of the best roller coasters – somewhere for kids and adults alike!
Florida’s most unusual theme parks
Florida is unequalled in its sheer variety of different theme parks, a world away from the region of mangrove swamps and subtropical, mosquito-plagued flatlands that it historically was. Florida has risen out of the primeval mud to become one of America’s most-visited states. With car hire in Florida so competitively priced and with such superb roads to drive on, this is probably the most convenient way of getting around the state’s great parks and other attractions. Although the majority of tourists head to the Sunshine State for the likes of Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando, there are other theme parks that are not quite so well known and which offer different though equally enjoyable types of experiences here.
Visitors enter this bizarre theme park through a pair of huge, gaping alligator jaws which lets them know that they’re entering a prehistoric-themed, Jurassic Park style zone in no uncertain terms. Anyone who loves or is just fascinated by these awesome survivors from the Age of Dinosaurs, and for which Florida is renowned, are in for a real treat here. The park has been open since 1949 and is one of the biggest reptile reserves in the world. It sprawls over 100 acres and is home to literally thousands of wild and semi-tame alligators and crocodiles. There’s also the inevitable family fun for those who don’t wish to get too close to reptilian teeth.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
This is a zoological garden with a difference as it specialises in walking safaris and close encounters with over 2000 species of rare or endangered animals and thousands of rare plants. There’s also a strong educational flavour, so visitors get to learn all about things such as Asian bamboo forests and explore exotic blooms in the River of Colour Gardens. There are savannah blooms, giraffes, elephants, apes, birds and wild cats in the African River Aviary and the whole park is designed to be as close to the animals’ natural habitats as possible.
For those who have had enough of the bigger SeaWorld Orlando, this sister park offers a more intimate experience with marine animals by touching and feeding the likes of rays and bottle nosed dolphins and snorkelling alongside exotic fish species. There’s also a sheltered Serenity Bay area and sandy beaches to relax on, with all the atmosphere of a secluded Caribbean island and not so much of the hectic hustle and bustle of the major and more popular theme parks.
Busch Gardens is located in Tampa Bay, well away from the other parks, most of which are in the Orlando area. It’s actually the best park for water-themed rides, but its main emphasis is on African wildlife. Its 335 acres contain a combined amusement and theme park that is made up of several semi-independent themed sectors. These are based on countries in Africa, so there are the Congo, Morocco, Timbuktu and many other areas, replicating the real thing. The park contains almost 3000 different animal species and also has some of the hairiest rides in the States. Busch Gardens makes a more subdued and intelligent alternative to the main theme parks in Florida, and a place to get away from some of the madness.