Discover Florida's secrets
When most people think of Florida, they think of Orlando and Disney World - and whilst these are perfect destinations for families with young children, Florida also has plenty of other charming attractions for those who would prefer a more relaxed, low-key break away from the bustle of theme parks.
On the south-western coast of Florida, just south of Tampa Bay, is Sarasota. This beautiful city has a rich history dating back to its first exploration by Europeans in the early 16th century. Settlers came in their droves from the late 1840s onwards, perhaps drawn by the climate and the proximity to the sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It was originally called ‘Zara Zote’, a name which is believed to have Native American origins.
One of the great attractions of Sarasota – besides its beaches – is a unique mansion house called Ca' d'Zan, which overlooks Sarasota Bay. Built in the Mediterranean Revival style and completed in 1926, it's a stunning example of early 20th century architecture, and has been described as “the last of the Gilded Age mansions” to be built in America. Having been restored to its former glory in 2002, it's the perfect place to visit on a relaxed day-trip: you can wander around yourself or take advantage of the guided tours on offer.
Fans of spiritualism should visit Cassadaga, one of the South’s oldest spiritualist communities and the subject of many songs, musical albums and films. Visitors can have their fortunes told by local mediums, take guided historic tours of the area or enjoy intriguing night-time 'orb photography' sessions.
Nature lovers should make a beeline for the Everglades, the sub-tropical wetlands in southern Florida. The beautifully lush Everglades have been designated a World Heritage Site, as well as an International Biosphere Reserve, and are home to several rare and endangered species. Take an airboat tour through the water, or stroll across the national park at your leisure, and keep an eye out for armadillos and alligators!
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