All Photos/Text by Kelsey Walters
By now we have all heard the reccomendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and the Florida Department of Health to help tamper the spread of coronavirus COVID-19. These include self-isolation and social distancing.
What is Social Distancing?
Social distancing refers to the act of making a conscious effort to avoid and reduce human-to-human contact by keeping a reasonable distance away from other people in public at all times, typically at least six feet.
With extended Spring Breaks across the state, as well as some businesses closing to allow employees to self-isolate and prevent the spread of the virus, we are all probably wondering what to do with ourselves during this time.
The CDC recommends opening windows and keeping an flow of fresh air throughout your home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Getting out in fresh air and sunshine is also a good idea, and a great way to keep from going stir crazy.
The following spots throughout Florida are all outdoors and allow a reasonable distance between others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As with anything these days, if you plan on visiting one of these locations, please check ahead of time on their website or Facebook page to ensure they are open.
*Pricing and hours may be subject to change without notice
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Open 8 a.m. – sundown
$6 per vehicle
The sleepy little town of Micanopy, located just south of Gainesville, is home to an array of antique stores and quaint cafes…as well as a herd of wild bison. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is a 21,000-acre savanna that is at the heart of the area’s Paynes Prairie Basin and home to over 300 species of wildlife, the most notable being the wild horses and bison.
Dudley Farm Historic State Park
Wed – Sun: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; closed Mon – Tue
$5 per vehicle (cash only, honor system)
Before Walt Disney settled into Central Florida and made it one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, Florida had a lengthy history of war, exploration and the pioneer spirit. Way back in the history books in 1859, a large plot of land was purchased by Phillip Benjamin Dudley Sr. in Newberry, just west of Gainesville. He made the farm his family’s home and today, you can visit the working farm much like it was all those years ago.
Obloy Family Ranch
Mon – Sat: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; closed Sunday
Adults: $15; Kids 3 – 12: $9; Kids 2 and under: Free (cash only, ATM available)
Your admission includes a group guided tour that starts with a tractor ride to the stables and pens, and a stop at each of the animals where you will learn their names, personalities and some of their backstories.
Harry P. Leu Gardens
Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
$10 per adult, $5 per child 4-17, kids 3 and under free
Harry P. Leu Gardens in the heart of nearby Orlando has more than 50 acres of impeccably manicured gardens to explore. (Please note this post was originally published in September, and events are not being held at this time)
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
352-628-5343 – FloridaStateParks.org
Open daily, year-round from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Adults – $13 – Children ages 6 – 12 – $5 (under 5 – free)
*Effective Wednesday, June 10, 2020: Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is open with limited hours. The Wildlife Walk and above deck area of the Underwater Observatory are available. The Visitor Center, trams, boats, Reptile House, Discovery Center, and below deck of the Underwater Observatory are closed. Scheduled manatee feedings are at 11 am, 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm. Restroom availability may be limited. The Wildside Café and West Entrance gift shop are open with limited capacity. All other park facilities are closed. Visitors are expected to maintain distances of at least six feet apart and limit group size to 50 or fewer people.
One spring in particular is home to the sea cows year-round, and offers an incredible up-close and personal view of Florida’s favorite pudgy mascot. Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park has been a hot tourist attraction since the 1880s thanks to the cool waters offering an escape from the sweltering temperatures. In the 1940s, a floating iron tank with small windows was installed to get an underwater view while staying dry, and the park really took off from there.
Lion Country Safari
**UPDATE: Drive Through ONLY open during COVID-19 precautions
2003 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee, FL 33470
Open daily at 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Last admission is at 4:30 p.m.
Reduced admission during special COVID-19 precautions – $15 per person, plus tax. Includes drive-through admission only and no other discounts apply.
Lion Country Safari isn’t your everyday zoo. If you’re looking for a great place to spend the day with endless activities, this is the place for you. Every kid and adult is guaranteed to have a blast, because it offers something for everyone.
Salt Springs @ Fort McCoy
Camping and canoe rentals available – call ahead, this may be subject to change during COVID-19 precautions
Summer has officially arrived in Florida and there are really only two ways to cool off – stay in the air conditioning, or head out to the water.
Seeing as Florida is nearly completely surrounded by the stuff, it isn’t hard to do and there is no shortage of fresh water either. If you want a cool, refreshing day, but still want a little salt in your hair for the true beach vibe, then Salt Springs is the place for you.
Juniper Springs Recreation Area
Day Use Fee: $5.50/person
Canoe/Kayak rental available
Juniper Springs was a perfect place for us to go for a sunny afternoon together. With a relatively short drive to the Silver Springs area, about an hour and a half north of Orlando, we packed a lunch and hit the road.
Monday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Gatorland, in the heart of Orlando, was established in 1949 by Owen Godwin, and is certainly nothing new. At the time of its inception, “The Florida Wildlife Institute” was nothing more than a $300 investment allowing a close-up view of wildlife in its native habitat – essentially a cleared out pit left after Godwin supplied dirt for the new highway.
Gatorland is one of the only places where you can not only see alligators, crocodiles and other absolutely terrifying species up-close and personal, but you can watch them in a completely native habitat.