Going Beyond the Theme Parks in Central Florida: Blue Spring State Park

Tubing at Blue Spring State Park, Diet Coke Adventures, Central Florida Fun

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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.

Snorkeling, Blue Spring State Park, Central Florida, Things to Do

 

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!

Diet Coke at Target, Diet Coke new flavors, Original Diet Coke

Also Pack:

  • Swimsuits

  • Towels

  • 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

  • Cash

Arrive Early

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, Diet Coke, Central Florida things to do

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.

Blue Spring State Park, Diet Coke, Explore Florida

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.

Blue Spring State Park, Picnic in Florida, things to do in Central Florida, explore with a Diet Coke

 

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.

Blue Spring State Park, Tubing, things to do near Orlando

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.

RELATED: 7 Fun Things to Do in Islamorada, Florida

Save this for your Central Florida adventures!

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