Juan Ponce de Leon was looking for the Fountain of Youth when he discovered Florida. St. Augustine was the first permanent European settlement in the United States. And the beautiful coral island of Key West was once occupied by pirates and wrecked ships. Florida was also a Confederate state, and Tallahassee was the only Confederate state capital that the Union army didn't capture during the Civil War.
There is some confusion as to where Florida got its name. It was either named after its beautiful flowers (Florida means "flowery" in Spanish), or after the Easter day on which it was discovered (the holiday is called "Pascua florida" in Spanish). The state's official nickname is the "Sunshine State." Other nicknames include the "Alligator State," the "Everglades State," and the "Orange State." The abbreviation for Florida is FL.
Florida is a South Atlantic state bordered by Alabama and Georgia to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Straits of Florida to the south, and the Gulf of Mexico to the west. It is the southeastern-most state. Cuba is only about 100 miles away from the southernmost tip of the state's peninsula. An average of over 5,000 people, mostly retirees and Haitian and Cuban refugees, permanently move to the state each week. This population increase of 32 percent between the 1980 and 1990 censuses has made Florida the fourth most populous state; only the smaller states of Nevada and Arizona had a greater percentage of population growth.
Florida is made up mostly of a large peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. The northwest part of the state is a panhandle (a narrow strip of land that sticks out like the handle of a pan). Islands called the Florida Keys extend from Biscayne Bay into the Gulf of Mexico.
If you want to enjoy a tropical climate, then Florida is the place for you; Hawaii and the state's extreme south are the only places in the United States with tropical climates. Everglades National Park, with its rare plants, birds, and animals, is the largest subtropical wilderness in the country. Watch alligators hunt their prey in the Everglades, an area of land and water covered by 10-15 feet of tall saw grass. You can even see long-legged flamingos at the Parrot Jungle and at Hialeah Park racetrack.
Enjoy the year-round warm climate that has helped make Miami, one of the state's largest cities, a tourist's favorite. Ironically, in 1899, the temperature fell to -2 degrees F in Tallahassee, Florida's capital, which is known for its warm weather. Because of the state's warm climate and extremely long coastline, tourism is one of its main sources of income.
In addition to tourism, Florida has many
thriving industries. Delicious oranges and grapefruits are grown in Florida, making it nation's citrus fruits capital.
The state's vast pine forests produce lumber,
turpentine, rosin, and pulpwood. Florida is also the country's leading producer of phosphate rock,
which is used to make fertilizers.
The space industry is also a big part of Florida's culture. The
first commercial space launching industry in the
United States is located in the state. Florida
is a leading missile-testing and launch center.
One can also visit Cape Canaveral, where unmanned rockets
are launched or watch rockets blast off at Kennedy
Forty million tourists visit Florida annually. Some relax in the sunshine at popular resorts like Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, or Palm Beach. Others vacation at Walt Disney World, one of the most popular theme parks in the world, located near Orlando or go to Gainesville, home of the Gators.