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December
18

Never let it be said Florida's east coast doesn't know how to celebrate Christmas. That goes double for Space Coast and Treasure Coast. The two coastal regions love the holidays, and you can see how seriously they take it when you visit these Christmas light displays in Space Coast and Treasure Coast.

PSL in Lights

Port St. Lucie's fourth-annual holiday lights contest returns in 2019. Through January 5, residents are encouraged to dress up their home in its finest Christmas decorations and enter the running to be named the city's most festive house. But if you want to just enjoy the over-the-top decorations, the city makes it easy; all the participating homes are compiled into a map, making it easy to plan your very own Christmas light tour.

Holiday Lights Spectacular in Fort Pierce

Fort Pierce goes all-out for the holidays with several celebrations, including an annual Christmas parade and a lighting ceremony for the city's beautiful Christmas tree. For our money, though, the standout attraction is the Holiday Lights Spectacular in Marina Square. The Dancing Palms are the centerpiece here; more than 100,000 Christmas lights strung around the palm trees flash in symphony with Christmas hits, creating a magical experience.

Wamsley Christmas Light Show

You may have seen this Palm Bay attraction on the news before, but you won't understand the magic until you've seen it in person. For the eighth year, the Wamsley Christmas Light Show offers one of the best Christmas light displays in Florida. You'll be treated to a stunning show of lights, decorations, and more, all synchronized to Christmas tunes pumped into your car stereo. It's a unique show you don't want to miss!

Garden of Lights

Every Friday and Saturday through the end of the year, Fort Pierce residents can see the Heathcote Botanical Gardens in an entirely new light – literally. The gardens become reformed into a dazzling holiday light festival, as sparkling blue rivers give way to kaleidoscopes of colorful flower beds, potting benches, and more. Visitors also enjoy refreshments, entertainment, and special appearances from Santa himself.

Space Coast Lightfest

The Space Coast Lightfest returns to Melbourne bigger, better, and brighter than before. As one of the best Christmas light displays in Space Coast, this attraction transports you to a winter wonderland as you drive through a sprawling, mile-long display of shimmering lights and animated displays. By the time you reach the climax – a 200-ft. tunnel exploding with festive light – you'll be overcome with holiday joy.    

October
30

Every year around the end of October/beginning of November, thousands of college football fans descend upon Jacksonville, FL for the showdown between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs. If you're not a football fan, this is at best a minor inconvenience and at worst a weekend-destroying excuse to stay inside. But if you refuse to let a football game neutralize your weekend, follow this guide for non-football things to do in Jacksonville, FL.

Go See Real Gators at the Jacksonville Zoo

Despite their nickname, the closest thing to real alligators the Florida Gators travel with are made of fabric and wear sweaters. For the real thing, head to the Jacksonville Zoo! In addition to spying these armor-plated beasts, you can feed giraffes, stare at lions in awe, and share the sidewalk with exotic birds. The Jacksonville Zoo is a must-stop.

Explore Fine Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Some argue that football is an art form. They may be right, but if you're craving a more classic art experience, check out Jacksonville's Museum of Contemporary Art. Exhibitions regularly rotate, so you're sure to fall in love with new pieces with every visit.

Play Mini-Golf at Adventure Landing

Is mini-golf a sport? Does it matter? Not when it's this much fun. Both Adventure Landing locations offer challenging courses full of hazards and obstacles to overcome. And if you get tired of your golf ball bouncing off wooden blocks, you can race go-karts, play arcade games, or hit the batting cages.

Satisfy Your Need for Speed at the Autobahn Motor Speedway

The closest you can get to Germany's famous Autobahn highway without leaving Jacksonville is the indoor go-kart course named in its honor. Rip asphalt at speeds up to 50 MPH across multiple tracks for some of the best competitive racing this side of Daytona.

Embrace Tranquility at the Cummer Museum

The Cummer Museum is home to a curated selection of art spanning centuries, a collection that's easily worth a visit on its own. But the gardens make their own argument for star of the show. After sustaining significant damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017, the gardens were reopened earlier in 2019 with restored versions of its historic garden stylings from the early 20th century.

Get in Touch with Nature at the Jacksonville Arboretum

A little more than a half dozen trails await eager hikers at the Jacksonville Arboretum. Each trail is a little different in both scenery and difficulty, making it easy to select a trail that's not too taxing for the younger members of your family.

Hang Out in One of Jacksonville's Many Parks

Jacksonville has the largest urban park system in the nation, so you've got lots of options for where to spend your Saturday far away from TIAA Bank Field. There's gorgeous Memorial Park in Riverside and beachside destinations like Jarboe Park and Hanna Park. Or you can visit a 250-year-old oak tree at Jesse Ball duPont Park. If Jacksonville's park system were an iceberg, this list would be just the tip.

Devour a Steak Dinner at Cowford Chophouse

Instead of dining on overpriced stadium fare, you could feast on steak at Jacksonville's own Cowford Chophouse. Whether you're craving a rich filet mignon or the mighty 40 oz. porterhouse, all your steak dreams will be realized at Cowford.

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth at Sweet Pete's

Would you honestly choose a football game over a trip to a real-life version of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory? We didn't think so. Step inside Sweet Pete's and be transported to a fantastical world of candy, chocolate, and confections that taste too good to be true. The catch is there is no catch; feast to your sweet tooth's content.

October
23

Any city that's been around for as long as St. Augustine is bound to have its share of spooky corners to explore. That holds true for the country's oldest city; there's so much frightful fun to have here come October! Check out these Halloween attractions in St. Augustine, FL for a terrifyingly good time.

Dark of the Moon Tour

St. Augustine's famous red-tipped lighthouse is one of the city's most popular landmarks. It's also notoriously haunted, having been featured on CNN, Fox News, and even TAPS Ghost Hunters. Discover the lighthouse's paranormal residents on the Dark of the Moon Tour or interact with them on one of the more exclusive Investigation Only tour.

Dead Walk

Want to discover what still lurks in the darkest and most forgotten parts of St. Augustine? Then grab your K2 Electromagnetic field monitors, steel your nerves, and secure your spot on the 90-minute Dead Walk tour.

Creatures of the Night

For one of the more family friendly Halloween attractions in St. Augustine, FL, check out Creatures of the Night at the Alligator Farm. Kids will love costuming up and hunting down collectible creature cards throughout the zoo, while the whole family can enjoy the hands-on interactions with the park's creepiest critters.

Ghostly Experience Nightly Tour

But if ghost tours are exactly what you're after, why not go for the oldest and best? You'll tip-toe through haunted back alleys guided only by the soft glow of lantern light as you learn about the city's gruesome past and the ghosts it left behind on this award-winning tour. Keep your eyes peeled for supernatural shadows or strange orbs of light; it's all evidence of the paranormal that many tourgoers have experienced.

September
11

Cooking a new recipe at home is nice, and so is grabbing a bite at your favorite hole-in-the-wall joint. But occasionally, why not live like royalty? And if you happen to be in Central Florida's crown jewel city, you've got bountiful options for fine dining. So the next time you want to dine on something a little more luxurious, try one of these upscale restaurants in Orlando, FL.

Kres Chophouse

Kres boldly proclaims to not be your father's steakhouse. Indeed, don't let its location within a 1930s landmark building fool you into thinking Kres is all old-school. Rather, they blend the past with the present to create a modern dining experience founded on the principles of polished service without pretension. As for the menu, Kres serves up aged in-house steaks, locally sourced seafood, and even unique dishes like elk.

The Palm Restaurant

Nestled within the beating heart of Universal Orlando lies a Hard Rock Hotel, and within that hotel you'll find the colossal dining experience of The Palm. Feast on juicy steaks, flavorful seafood, or Italian specialties like veal martini in an atmosphere that's upscale without the quiet stuffiness you might find at other restaurants.

Highball & Harvest

This eatery set inside the Ritz-Carlton Orlando pays homage to both the classic highball cocktail and the "highball" train conductor signal to depart at full speed. You might wonder what that has to do with a fancy restaurant, but it makes sense; full-speed trains were the primary means of transporting harvests from field to table back in the day, and Highball & Harvest maintains the same farm-to-table philosophy in its unique menu creations to this day. That philosophy yields delicious results, like triple-dipped fried chicken and wood-fired duck breast.

The Boheme

The Boheme promises to put a twist on breakfast, lunch, and dinner with its artful and unexpected culinary experience. Bold, bright colors bring the dining areas to life as much as the innovative dishes on your plate. Try the cast iron waffles for breakfast or a lamb burger dressed with feta and olive tapenade for lunch. The dinner menu features corn-fed beef steaks, fresh Mediterranean salmon, and unique sides like yellow beets and Yukon mash.

Chatham's Place

For more than 30 years, Chatham's Place has aimed to provide diners with more than just a meal, but a magical experience. It starts in the front of the house with impeccable service and continues into the kitchen, where the team of chefs prepare refined dishes made with fresh ingredients – many of which are sourced from the executive chef's personal garden. Entrees like the filet mignon, spicy chicken Louisiana, and Florida black grouper are nothing short of culinary masterpieces.

The Oceanaire

Longing for the best seafood Orlando has to offer? Look no farther than The Oceanaire, an upscale restaurant serving up fresh, sustainably caught fish, oysters, and more from the sea. This isn't your typical seafood restaurant; sure, you can order crab cakes and salmon, but the menu offers so much more. Try the chicken-fried lobster served with cheesy grits or take a bite out of jerk-seasoned Ecuador swordfish served with fried plantains and pineapple salsa. You won't view seafood the same after a trip to The Oceanaire.

Victoria & Albert's

Victoria & Albert's hearkens back to a different era when dining was a sophisticated experience accentuated by exceptional service and palate-pleasing dishes. Whether you choose to dine in The Dining Room, Queen Victoria's Room, or at The Chef's Table, you'll be treated to a truly elegant, intimate experience – and that's to say nothing of the cuisine. Chef Scott Hunnel and his team source global markets every day for each season's unique flavors and ingredients, ensuring dishes like Spanish octopus with Iberico ham and sherry vinaigrette shine with unmistakable yet signature zest.

September
6

Don't listen to the naysayers; gameday in Jacksonville is a special experience. For years, fans of the Teal and Gold have gathered on Thursdays, Sundays, and Mondays to cheer on the Jaguars. And if you've been to an NFL game before, you know it's an all-day event. So whether it's your first time supporting the home team in person or you're a fan of a visiting team, here's your guide to the ultimate Jaguars gameday experience.

The Morning Of

Rise and shine! Kickoff may not be until 1:00 p.m. (for most home games), but gamedays start early here. And since you'll be going all day, you need some fuel to get you going. If you're staying near TIAA Bank Field, you'll have a few tasty breakfast options. The chicken biscuits at Maple Street Biscuit Company are life-changing. Seriously, take one bite of The Squawking Goat – fried chicken breast, fried goat cheese medallion, and house-made pepper jelly on a flaky biscuit – and try not to fall in love. Other nearby breakfast and brunch spots include Metro Diner and First Watch.

To the Stadium

Now that you're fueled up for the big day ahead, it's time to head to the stadium. You'll find an abundance of parking in the lots surrounding the stadium, though many spots here require passes. Venture just a little farther outside those lots and more parking awaits, especially along the St. Johns River banks. Don't want to pay for parking? Many side streets about a mile outside the stadium offer ample free parking for the trade-off of a brief walk to the game. Or you could park on an opposite river bank and pay $10 for a water taxi ride to the stadium. Tailgaters rejoice: you'll have plenty of room to bust out the grills, coolers, tents, chairs, and any other essentials pretty much wherever you park.

Pregame Fun

TIAA Bank Field opens up three hours prior to kickoff for all ticket holders, allowing access to the many fun experiences inside the stadium. There's the Lycamobile Fan Entertainment Zone, which serves as a premiere pregame party area with food, fun, and football activities. You can also check out The Bud Light Zone in the south endzone. This social hotspot opens two hours prior to kickoff and offers food, drinks, and the ultimate place to chill before the game. Need a new Jaguars shirt or looking for a fun souvenir to bring home with you? Visit one of the multiple Jags Pro Shops in the stadium for a huge selection of Jaguars merchandise.

Game Time!

TIAA Bank Field is full of unique ways to watch the hometown team take the field. Upgrade your Jaguars gameday experience with climate-controlled lounges at midfield or take in incredible views of all the action behind the endzone in The Bud Light [Fri]End Zone. If the Jacksonville heat is beating you down, grab a suite ticket or splurge for the NFL's most unique way to watch a football game: poolside in the Axalta Spa Cabana. Whether you're on the sideline or in the nosebleeds, you can watch the on-field action on the massive video screens at each end of the stadium. These behemoths are 62 feet tall and 362 feet wide, providing a canvas of 22,000 square feet to broadcast a live feed of the game, replays, and more.

Post-Game Hangs

After (hopefully) witnessing the Jaguars conquer their opponents, it's time to celebrate! Feel free to stick around your tailgate where post-game parties will continue for a few hours (plus it gives traffic time to die down). Once you're ready to eat, you'll discover tons of great restaurants near the stadium. BBs makes a mean steak, while The Bearded Pig serves up some of the city's finest barbecue. Foodies will love Black Sheep's unique take on Southern classics or the casually upscale menu at Bellwether. The two outdoor patios at Jacksonville Sports Tavern provide a great spot to watch the rest of the afternoon's games and grab a bite to eat. And, in the unfortunate event of a Jags loss, redeem the night with friends and fun at Bold City, Intuition, or Hyperion. Now go out and have the ultimate Jaguars gameday experience this season!

August
21

233 days. That's how long it's been since the Florida Gators last played football. After an agonizingly long offseason, the Gators will finally don the orange and blue this Saturday for the first time in 2019. If you're a member of Gator Nation, this day couldn't have come soon enough. After all, Florida football isn't just a fun hobby – it's a way of life. If you subscribe to that idea, then you'll likely feel a deep connection with these seven things only true Florida Gators fans will understand.

Orange & Blue

They're more than just school colors – they're your very lifeblood. Bright, snappy, and vibrant, orange and blue perfectly capture the spirit of UF as well as the Gators' standout reputation on the field. Saturdays during football season see the entire town of Gainesville awash in orange and blue. The colors are even part of a call-and-response chant in the stadium on gamedays!

The Holy Trinity of Quarterbacks

Steve Spurrier. Danny Wuerffel. Tim Tebow. These guys are Gators legends. Each quarterback won the Heisman Trophy, college football's most coveted individual award, and two of them (Wuerffel and Tebow) led the Gators to a National Championship. Spurrier, meanwhile, cemented his own UF legacy by becoming the program's head coach and introducing an explosive offense that would dominate the SEC in the '90s (it was Spurrier at the helm when Wuerffel and the Gators won their first National Championship in 1996). You can find bronze statues of each icon standing outside the west side of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Gamedays in The Swamp

Plenty of teams boast strong homefield advantage, but none can quite match Florida's. The Gators call Ben Hill Griffin Stadium home, or more intimidatingly: The Swamp. Pre-game festivities in the stadium are electric, amping up the home crowd with intensity until the team storms the field, heralded by the legendary call of "Heeeeeeeeeeeere come the Gators!" Between the deafening crowd and the oppressive heat, opposing teams rarely get comfortable. The hype video that plays before games puts it best: It's the Swamp, where only Gators get out alive.

Two Bits

Remember those pre-game festivities we talked about last paragraph? Two Bits is one of the most beloved. Way back in 1949, George E. Edmondson, Jr. spontaneously kicked off the chant to fire up the limp crowd. The team won and fans were so in love with the chant, Edmondson continued leading it during every game. Soon after, Edmondson would be asked by the university to lead the cheer from the field prior to kickoff. It's a simple chant: "Two bits! Four bits! Six bits! A dollar! All for the Gators, stand up and holler!" but it's mighty effective in pumping up the home crowd.

We are the Boys from Old Florida

Between the third and fourth quarter of every Florida home game, fans interlock their arms, sway back and forth, and sing this classic pep tune. The lyrics celebrate the camaraderie and unifying power of not just the Gator Nation, but the state of Florida itself. Even if you don't know the words, it's easy to sway and enjoy the tradition all the same!

The Gator Walk

Roughly two and a half hours before kickoff of every home game, fans can travel to the north end of the stadium to cheer on the team and coaches as they disembark from their buses and head to the locker room. It's an exciting pre-game tradition that you should experience at least once.

The Chomp

The Chomp is a great celebration move, to be sure. But it's also a unifying force, a communicative symbol that immediately says "We are the same," to other fans. The Chomp is simple: hold your arms in front of you, right over left, lock them at the elbows, and bring your hands together in a vertical clapping motion – just like the jaws of an alligator.

August
14

Strange Florida is the best Florida. We've already covered the bizarre world records held in the Sunshine State, but believe it or not, that's only scratching the surface of weirdness on display here. In fact, you can't drive far in this state without some new, eccentric oddity beckoning you off your route and entrancing you with its kooky vibes. Here are some of our favorite weird Florida roadside attractions.

Fountain of Youth| St. Augustine

We start with one of the most famous Florida oddities: the Fountain of Youth! You know the story: The waters spewing forth from this landmark are said to grant eternal youth to those who sip from it. Whether or not that's true (we lean towards no, but, hey, don't give up on your dreams), this archaeological park is home to several unique exhibits dedicated to topics ranging from blacksmithing to cannon firing. Or you can just go look at the peacocks.

Gatorland | Orlando

Florida is gator country. No matter where you go – hiking trails, fishing holes, possibly your swimming pool – you're bound to spot one of these scaly reptiles. You'll definitely spot more than a few if you happen upon the gator mecca known as Gatorland! The park bills itself as the Alligator Capitol of the World®, a claim that's hard to argue: dozens upon dozens of alligators, crocodiles, and even extremely rare white leucistic alligators call this park home. If that doesn't convince you of Gatorland's reputation, maybe the massive alligator head framing the park entrance will. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"]Florida roadside attractions Welcome to Gatorland![/caption]

Weeki Wachee | Spring Hill

Freshwater springs and Florida go together like alligators and Florida, so it makes sense that one of the state's kitschier attractions is in spring-turned-entertainment venue, Weeki Wachee State Park. More specifically, we're referring to the live, underwater mermaid performances held here. The world-famous mermaid performers put on a stunning rendition of The Little Mermaid (based on the original fairy tale, not the Disney movie) in the park's underwater auditorium.

Monument of States | Kissimmee

This Florida roadside attraction was originally created as a symbol of national unity after the attacks on Pearl Harbor during WWII. Eye-catching as it is meaningful, the Monument of States was built exclusively by volunteers using stones donated from across the world.

Big Daddy Don Garlits Drag Racing Museum | Ocala

Not many people know who Don Garlits or Dean Moon are or have heard of a "Swamp Rat" car. But if you're a drag racing junkie, you can't do much better than Big Daddy Don's museum. Take your time viewing nearly 300 cars between two buildings. And we mean take your time – the average tour takes two to three hours!

The Holy Land Experience | Orlando

If you've ever driven along I-4, chances are you've seen The Holy Land Experience towering over the tree line, inviting you with a heap of divine strangeness. In a city known worldwide for its theme park experiences, The Holy Land presents something a little…different. As you might have guessed, the experience here is very heavy on biblical tales and religious subject matter, so your enjoyment mileage will vary. But in terms of pure, unmissable kitsch, The Holy Land Experience ranks among the top of Florida roadside attractions.

Ruins of Bongo Land | Port Orange

If we didn't have you at "Bongo Land", this article may not be for you. But if you're still here, you are in for a treat. Bongo Land was a strange little theme park in the Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens from 1948-1952, and not much of it remains today. Except for a handful of the goofiest concrete dinosaur replicas you'll ever see. Sure, there's a human sundial and remnants of a 19th century sugar cane factory elsewhere in the gardens, but you need to see the googly-eyed dinos standing tall as the last vestige of a prehistoric era.

Official Skunk Ape Headquarters | Ochopee

For untold years, the legendary Skunk Ape has allegedly stalked the Florida Everglades, evading human contact at every turn. And for decades, the Official Skunk Ape Headquarters has doubled as an Everglades attraction and research center for a handful of folks dedicated to tracking the elusive beast down.

Goofy Golf | Panama City

Towering monkeys with frightening red eyes. A sphinx with a startled expression. An extremely ornate dragon. These colossal statues and more make up some of the obstacles blocking your colorful golf ball from 18 challenging holes at Goofy Golf in Panama City. It's campy, it's silly, and even the website is frozen in time in 1998. Goofy Golf is perfect.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Florida roadside attractions Goofy Golf[/caption]

Spook Hill | Lake Wales

At Spook Hill, strange forces manipulate your car, causing it to roll backwards…uphill. Or, it could be an optical illusion produced by the gravity hill which makes the slightly downward slope of Spook Hill appear to be an uphill slope. Whether you buy in to the lighthearted fun surrounding the legend of Spook Hill or not, this famed tourist attraction is free and a lot of fun to try out yourself.

August
12

Go just about anywhere in Vero Beach and you're guaranteed to spot a Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or other coffee juggernaut. They dot city streets worldwide, and it's no surprise why: they make a good cup o' joe. But what if we told you there was a much greater coffee world to explore out there, one filled with small-batch brews and rich, aromatic flavors? Indeed, there's a lot of small cafes brewing up delicious stuff just waiting to be discovered. Try one of these local coffee shops in Vero Beach, FL and expand both your mind and mug.

Brooklyn Water Bagel

Visit the coffee station at Brooklyn Water Bagel and you'll be treated to a selection of artisan brews featuring light, medium, dark, and decaf blends. Then there's their signature Iced Coffee Cubsta® - grounds brewed specifically to be frozen and served over ice cubes made of coffee. This chilly caffeine cup will give you the boost you need, especially on hot summer days.

Grind & Grape

Grind & Grape sets itself apart in many ways. For one, it's a coffee shop by day and a bar with live music by night. The bright lights and seasonal cocktails certainly attract a lively nightlife crowd, but you'd be missing out if you only visited Grind & Grape after hours. Grab a mug of their seasonal or custom house brew with flavors ranging from vanilla and cinnamon to toasted marshmallow and salted caramel.

Rio Coco Beans

This local beanery has two locations in Vero Beach, but its origins are international. The original Rio Coco Café opened in Utila Honduras, an island 18 miles off the coast of Honduras proper. During a trip to Nicaragua in the early 2000s, the founders – Michael and Laura – of Rio Coco met missionaries who grew coffee beans and sold them to companies in the US. Years later, Michael and Laura had the idea to sell coffee themselves to fund their project to build schools for indigenous peoples in Nicaragua and Honduras. They brought the specialty blends stateside in 2011 when the first Rio Coco Café in Vero Beach opened. To this day, they continue to sell bold, flavorful coffee out of their two Vero Beach locations alongside a menu of healthy dishes, tea, and more.

Cravings

Cravings is a gourmet bakery, sandwich, and ice cream café serving up hot cups o' joe all day, every day. They brew eight different roasts daily in addition to espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, Americanos, and mochas. You can even order iced versions of any of those drinks. Cravings also serves cold brew coffee.

July
31

When you think of Gainesville, FL, the first association you probably make is the University of Florida. It makes sense – UF is one of the nation's top public universities, and it just so happens to reside in a pretty small town.

If there's a second association you'd make, though, it should be Gainesville's abundant natural beauty and life. From dense blankets of maples, palms, and oak trees to the miles of swamp and marshlands in and around the city, Gainesville is rich with picturesque Floridian beauty. Even better is how easily accessible it all is! No matter where you are, you'll always be close to some of the state's finest trails and parks. Pack your comfy shoes and immerse yourself in nature with these amazing hiking trails in Gainesville, FL.

La Chua Trail

The La Chua Trail winds through Paynes Prairie, one of Florida's most diverse nature preserves. Often associated with the vast, interminable plains of the west, wild horses and bison roam freely through Paynes Prairie, and the La Chua Trail offers countless opportunities to spot these animals in their natural habitat.

That's not all; along the boardwalk trail and especially on the dike to the watchtower at the end, you'll spot anywhere from one to two dozen alligators sunbathing or floating in the water. If you're spooked by the idea of being so close to gators without any barriers – no fences here, and it's not uncommon to see gators on the actual hiking trail! – La Chua Trail might seem intimidating. Conquer that fear, however, and you'll be treated to an amazing hiking experience.

hiking trails in Gainesville, FL Sunbathing gators at La Chua Trail | Photo: Arkon Soikaew

Sweetwater Wetlands Park

Much like La Chua Trail, Sweetwater Wetlands Park is another great trail for wildlife watchers. Alligators roam freely here, as do the many snakes that make up the area's healthy reptile population. Various birds take up residence in Sweetwater, like coots and limpkins. Sweetwater offers up to 3.5 miles of hiking along various trails, with offshoot paths occurring frequently throughout the area.

Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail

The Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail tells a story as you walk it. Stretched out across 16 miles with passages through Paynes Prairie and many other points of interest, this winding trail reveals old railbeds transformed by time into verdant leisurely trails. As you hike past landmarks like concrete mileage and whistle markers, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the history permeating the area.

Mill Creek Preserve West

Driving along the curtains of pine forests of Mill Creek Preserve is one thing; hiking through them is another experience altogether. Trek through the southernmost American beech forest and marvel at the ancient trees whose limbs have outstretched over the landscape for untold time. Two trails comprise nearly five miles of hiking, giving you the freedom to choose the route that suits you.

Devil's Millhopper

Given its petrifying name, you might think this trail would be a Herculean trial. In fact, the name belongs to the park's defining feature: a 120-foot deep and 500-foot wide sinkhole. The trail here pushes through dense forests of trees before opening up to a set of staircases which spiral down into the sinkhole. The journey ends at an observation deck overlooking the bottom of the sinkhole.

hiking trails in Gainesville, FL The view from the bottom of Devil's Millhopper

Watermelon Pond

Hiking through the wide-open prairies of Watermelon Pond lends a sense of liberating solitude and tranquility that's hard to find. It's one of the drier hikes in the area (an unfortunate side effect of continued development), though you'll be treated to a string of panoramic views of the seemingly boundless prairielands.

July
24

There are so many ways to manage one's nutrition – calories in/calories out, macros, keto and low-carb, just to name a few – it can be confusing to figure out which one works best for you. But no matter your dieting style, there's one universal truth they all share: eating out is hard on a diet. Thankfully, a growing number of restaurants offering more nutritionally sound menus is making it easier. Here are some of the best healthy places to eat in Orange Park, FL.

Clean Eatz

Clean Eatz takes its mission to be the first step in leading you to a healthy lifestyle seriously. Its menu is full of forward-thinking options for the nutritionally conscious, including customizable protein and veggie bowls, superfood salads, wraps, and a range of non-beef burger options. Trying to pack on muscle? Check out their protein-dense specialties and smoothies made with protein powder.

The Urban Bean Coffeehouse Café

As its name illustrates, The Urban Bean offers a wide menu full of coffee, superfood smoothies, iced teas, and botanicals. The Urban Bean takes the same healthy, handmade approach to its food. Lighter breakfast options include steel-cut oatmeal bowls, yogurt pots, and power bowls with egg whites. For lunch and beyond, The Urban Bean offers an extensive salad menu, delicious flatbreads, and a selection of vegan and vegetarian options.

Metro Diner

One of Jacksonville's local treasures, Metro Diner is known for its hearty portions of classics and its inimitable chicken and waffles. That doesn't mean they don't cater to those seeking lighter fare! Opt for the yogurt with granola or classic oatmeal for a healthy breakfast or try an avocado veggie wrap (sans the dressing) for a light lunch.

Planet Smoothie

With a huge array of flavors and nutritional add-ins, Planet Smoothie is great for a midday snack that's heavy on nutrition and light on calories – especially if you order from their Planet Lite menu, which features many sub-300 calorie items. Fitness lovers can get some extra fuel for their workouts with the shop's protein, superfood, and energy subcategories.

Jeremiah's Italian Ice

Jeremiah's Italian Ice ensures you can still treat yourself with something sweet without worrying about obliterating your diet. Many of their flavorful 10-oz. Italian ice treats pack under 300 calories. And if you go for the sugar-free kind, you're looking at roughly half the calories for the same quantity.

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