Midterms are over. Projects have been turned in. It’s time to kick back and enjoy a week of pure stress-free bliss. If you’re tired of the crowds running amok down at Daytona or New Smyrna Beach, there’s no need to stay cooped up in your room binge-watching Netflix. Here are 10 of the most unique places you can visit in Florida to make the most of your week-long vacation.
1. Seacrest Wolf Preserve
3449 Bonnett Pond Rd, Chipley, FL 32428 | 850-773-2897
At this wildlife preserve you don’t just get to see the animals, you become a part of their pack. When you take a tour at Seacrest, you actually get to meet the furry predators that call this place home. Wolf ambassadors greet you at the start of your day, and after a few back scratches and maybe even a slobbery kiss, you join these wild animals on a tour of their forest habitat before ending the day belting your heart out with a group howl.
2. Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp
1112 Stevens Street, Cassadaga, FL 32706 | 386-228-2880
If you’re a fan of all things creepy and spooky, Cassadaga is a town calling your name, probably from the other side of a ghostly veil. The area is known for its psychics, mediums and spiritualists, and it isn’t hard to find a place where you can have your fortune told, your palm read or spirit cleansed. At night you can even take a photography tour of the town’s “energy hot spots” where a wandering spirit might just materialize long enough for you to snap a selfie.
3. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
102601 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037 | 305-451-6300
At the first undersea park in the United States, there might not be any slides or swings, but what it lacks in playground equipment it makes up for in natural wonders. Guests can see the coral reefs brimming with ocean life either on a glass-bottom boat ride or through various snorkel and scuba diving tours. But one of the most popular sights isn’t the fish, but a man who lives at the bottom of this reef — the famous Christ of the Deep statue.
4. Florida Caverns State Park
3345 Caverns Rd, Marianna, FL 32446 | 850-482-9598
Instead of taking off and flying to a tropical destination this week, why not turn around and go the opposite direction — into Florida’s underground caverns. At this state park you can take a guided tour of one of the states only dry caves. Duck and weave your way through limestone stalactites and stalagmites and search the walls for ancient fossils, all illuminated in soft red and blue light. It’ll certainly give you another way of looking at Florida, or at least one 25 feet below the one you’re use to seeing.
5. St. Augustine
10 S Castillo Drive, St Augustine, FL 32084 | 904-825-1000
St. Augustine is a town entrenched in Florida’s history. Get in touch with the past this spring break by visiting the nation’s oldest city, where you can take a trolley tour around town to see the sights, stroll along the rocky, limestone walls of the Castillo de San Marcos or take a sip from the mythical Fountain of Youth. Stay until after the sun sets to complete the history lesson with a little something strange in this neighborhood — ghost busting.
6. Weeki Wachee Springs
6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606 | 352-592-5656
What sets Weeki Wachee a part from other spring break destinations is not its natural spring water attractions or its river cruise boat; it’s the half-fish, half-human inhabitants that put on show every day that this place special. That’s right, you can see mermaids dance and twirl in these waters. Every day, these mythical beings tell the story of The Little Mermaid for packed audiences, proving that you don’t silly things like oxygen or legs to put on a good show.
7. Monkey Jungle
14805 SW 216 St., Miami , FL 33170 | 305-235-1611
It might be tempting to check out those white sandy beaches down in Miami, but if you decide to skip the tropical tourist trap, Monkey Jungle will not disappoint. This park is basically reverse zoo — the humans are caged and the monkeys run free. Navigate a 30-acre semi-natural rainforest habitat in a series of tunnel cages while overhead howlers, capuchins and spider monkeys swing from one leafy branch to another.
8. Theater of the Sea
84721 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036| 305-664-2431
At Theater of the Sea, you can have that seaside escape with a lot of cuddly added bonuses. General admission to the park gets you into wildlife shows, a boat tour and access to a lagoon-side beach, but it’s the add-ons that will really make this a memorable trip. If you have a few extra bucks to spare, dive into the homes of some of the ocean’s cutest, and most dangerous, inhabitants as you swim and interact with dolphins, sea lions, sharks, sea turtles and stingrays.
9. Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
4000 Morikami Park Rd, Delray Beach, FL 33446 | 561-495-0233
You might not have the means to fly to Tokyo for the week, but you can experience the next best thing at the Morikami museum. Immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage of the Japanese by touring six authentic gardens, unwind at a traditional tea ceremony or try on colorful kimonos. Don’t forget to grab some eggrolls from the café for the car ride home.
10. Devil’s Den
5390 NE 180th Ave, Williston, FL 32696 | 352-528-3344
Skip the salty, eye-stinging ocean and dive into one of Florida’s natural, prehistoric underground springs. At the Devil’s Den you can swim in a place where history was made, literally — bones of early man from 7,500 B.C. were found inside the cavern. The water stays 72 degrees year round, making it the perfect place to cool off on a hot day or heat up on a cold one. Here’s a helpful tip: bring your own snorkel gear and you’ll save $10 in rental fees.
Deanna Ferrante is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @deannaferrante or email her at DeannaF@centralfloridafuture.com.