Travel Guide to Florida

2017 Travel Guide to Florida

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14 2017 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA F lorida has exerted a magnetic pull on visitors for the past 500 years— beginning with Juan Ponce de León. St. Augustine, where he landed in 1513, educates visitors and residents alike through attractions, museums and festivals where re-enactors dress in historic garb and tell tales. In this charming town, it's not unusual to have breakfast in a café seated next to a "pirate." Ponce de León named what he saw "La Florida," or "place of flowers," because of the lush landscape. Indeed, Florida has 300 native plants, ranging from the thorny sweet acacia to the wild azalea. The state lists an additional 1,300-plus introduced exotics, many of them considered invasive. Others are housed in botanical gardens, such as the renowned Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden and the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens. A BOUNTIFUL LAND Ironically, the state flower, the orange blossom, is considered an exotic, albeit one that became extremely important to the region's economy. Native to Southeast Asia, the orange tree is an evergreen shrub brought to the colony of St. Augustine in 1565. The orange and its aromatic blossom, which connotes fertility and good fortune, quickly became representative of the area. Many towns such as Davie have Orange Blossom Festivals. Today, Florida is the largest producer of oranges in the US, as well as the honey made by the bees that sip pollen from the fragrant blossoms. In fact, Florida depends on export crops as diverse as sugar cane and tomatoes to survive, while still leaving plenty of sweet corn and green beans available for passersby to purchase. Visitors are often amazed to find farm stands and U-pick farms offering everything from boiled peanuts and blueber- FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: LEVRANII/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM; BRIAN LASENBY/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM; ROMRODPHOTO/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM YOUR ADVENTURE STARTS HERE BY JEN KARETNICK W E LCOM E TO F LO R I DA Florida is easy to explore by vehicle. Bring your own, or if you're at least 25, rent one. Visitors ages 16 and up holding licenses from other states or countries may drive in Florida. Cash is no longer accepted on some Florida toll roads. Purchase a SunPass Mini Sticker transponder at one of the more than 3,100 retail locations for US$4.99 plus tax. A minimum opening balance of US$10 is required. Most rental cars come with a SunPass. Drivers and front-seat passen- gers must wear seat belts. All children under 18 are required to wear seat belts, regardless of where they are sitting. Children, three and younger, must be secured in a federally approved child-restraint seat in the back seat; children, ages four and five, also must be in the back seat and secured by a child- restraint seat or a safety belt. Florida has strict drunk driving laws and texting while driving is illegal. Pedestrians always have the right of way at crosswalks. And remember, hot pavement acts like ice when rain first hits it, so be cautious driving during rain showers. RULES OF THE ROAD

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