This post has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #BecauseICan #BecauseFlavorYourLife #CollectiveBias
People think of castles, mouse ears, and roller coasters when they think of the Orlando area, and I get it. But there is so much more in Central Florida beyond the theme parks! I’m a huge Disney fan, but I’m also a Florida fan. From beaches to breweries to one-of-a-kind restaurants and museums, you could stay for months and have something new to do every day. Living in Florida makes the weekend lifestyle that much more entertaining. We’re always finding new things to do, favorite spots for fun, and plenty of ways to stay cool. With summer just flying by, my hubby and I recently took advantage of the hot weather and headed to Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
About Blue Spring State Park
Blue Spring is the largest spring in the St. Johns River, discharging 104 million gallons of water every day. With an entrance fee of just $6 per car, Blue Spring State Park is probably the most affordable day of fun for families and couples in the Central Florida area. The park offers canoe/kayak rentals, boat tours, tubing, snorkeling, and more. In the winter months, it’s next to impossible to not spot one of the 200+ manatees that call it “home”, but it’s a little rarer in the summer. The water at Blue Spring stays a crisp and refreshing 72 degrees Fahrenheit year round. So while it might not be your first choice in the winter months, you’ll be craving the cool water in the summer months. It’s the perfect combination of adventure and relaxation.
How to Have the Perfect Day at Blue Spring State Park
Pack a Picnic
One of the best parts about Blue Spring is that you get to bring your own food and drinks! Talk about saving some moolah for a Sunday Funday! The park features dozens of picnic tables and bbq pits, perfect for a shaded lunch. So before heading to the Spring, we made a quick stop at our second home, Target, to pick up some essentials for the day. Along with the snacks, fruit, pretzels, and ice (don’t forget the ice), we snagged a pack of the attractive and sleek Diet Coke® cans to bring with us. While there are several new and bold flavors including Diet Coke® Feisty Cherry, Diet Coke® Ginger Lime, Diet Coke® Twisted Mango, and Diet Coke® Zesty Blood Orange, I’m an original Diet Coke® girl. After all, who doesn’t crave the iconic and refreshing taste of a Diet Coke during a Sunday Funday adventure?!
Even better, you can stock up on Diet Coke for end-of-summer fun with two Diet Coke (8pk/12oz Sleek Cans) for $6 at Target, now through September 3!
Snorkel gear if you have it (it’s also available for rent)
Tube, if you have it
Bug spray/essential oils
Reusable water bottle
Waterproof case for your phone if you want it in the water (I always put my iPhone X in the water though)
Change of clothes
My number one tip in the summertime is to arrive early! Blue Spring State Park opens every day at 8:00am, but often reaches capacity on the weekends in the summer. On our particular Sunday Funday, we got there just after 9:00am and it was already packed. The first parking area was completely full, but we headed to the second area that is a short walk from the snorkel and tube rentals. When we left a little after 1:00, there were cars waiting in line to get in as others were leaving.
Explore the Park & Stay Cool
We immediately unpacked the car and grabbed a picnic table under a big oak tree. The first thing I did was pop open a Diet Coke in the sunny, 90-degree weather. The brand new slender look of the Diet Coke might be different, but it’s the same delicious taste I’ve always known. It’s the perfect companion for a hot day, and boy was it needed. I always talk about how hot Florida is in the summer, but that made Diet Coke that much more invigorating as we set out to explore the park.
Blue Spring State Park is known for the 2,600 acres of natural Florida woodland, but the fresh water is the main attraction. Even with the heat and humidity, we appreciated the natural beauty of Florida. The Thursby House, a historic home located in the park by the river, was constructed in 1872 by Louis P. Thursby and still stands today. Visitors are welcome to do a self-guided tour through the home.
We chose to dig into our snacks before heading into the water. The larger parking area [follow signs for the canoe rentals] featured a large playground, restrooms, and kayak rentals. The first area is where you can rent tubes, snorkels, fins, and masks. A small refreshment store offers food like hot dogs and ice cream, but bring your own picnic for the full experience!
If you don’t want to grill out, pack up a salad, some cheese and crackers, and fresh watermelon for a tasty lunch with a Diet Coke. Feeling a boost of energy, you’ll be ready for swimming and tubing.
Swimming, Snorkeling, & Tubing
The kayak and canoe rentals look like a good time, but after breaking a sweat just walking from the car to a picnic table, we needed to be in the water. Tube rentals are $5 for the first hour and $1.50 for every hour after that, but you can also bring your own! They’ll even fill up your tube with air if you can’t fit it in the car filled up with everything. They do charge a minimum of 50 cents to fill it up with air.
After a short walk down a boardwalk through the woodlands, you’ll enter the water in the main swimming/tubing area. It’s only about 1/8 of a mile, but it takes around 15-20 minutes to float along. The cool water is clear and beautiful, home to thousands of fish. I always think about how 72 degrees sounds so chilly, but on a hot August day, it feels absolutely amazing!
Lockers are available to rent! I repeat: lockers are available to rent. I don’t know why I didn’t see this before going, but we spent a solid 15 minutes stressing about leaving behind our keys and towels. As we went to rent the tubes, we saw that they had lockers and could stop worrying about our personal items being left out in the open.
At the end of the day, you can indulge in some ice cream or get a souvenir from the gift shop. We stayed at Blue Spring State Park for about 4 hours and it was a wonderful, relaxing, fun-filled day. If you’re visiting the Central Florida area, do something different just because you can! It might not feature parades, shows, and wild rides, but Blue Spring State Park is perfect for breaking away from the chaos of the theme parks.
Save this for your Central Florida adventures!