By JANET GROENE
In the galaxy of Florida tourism, North Central Florida often goes unnoticed. It has few beaches and no theme parks, yet many visitors are now discovering what nature enthusiasts have long known. Rare natural scenes thrive in the prairies, forests, sweetwater springs, free-flowing rivers and the remote Big Bend area on the Gulf of Mexico.
A Day in...
Lake City/Columbia County

Rise and shine as you greet the morning at Alligator Lake Park, known for its extensive hiking and biking trails teeming with birdwatching and nature encounters. Afterward, it’s time for a stroll through downtown Lake City, filled with eclectic shops, local art and an historic museum. After lunch at the Marion Street Gastro Pub and Deli, dive into Florida’s cool and refreshing spring waters at the world-famous Ichetucknee Springs. Relax a bit before heading back to downtown Lake City for cocktails and dinner.

Gainsville

Kick off your day with a refreshing dive into one of the area’s natural freshwater springs. After working up an appetite, grab lunch at the award-winning Great Outdoors Restaurant in High Springs. Discover the past at the Florida Museum of Natural History before heading out into nature at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park or down a 120-foot sinkhole at Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park. As the sun sets, head into lively downtown Gainesville for dining options like Dragonfly Sushi, The Top, or Emiliano’s Café.

Tallahassee

Take a guided tour of the 1845 Historic Capitol (now a museum) and Museum of Florida History. Breeze through Florida State University and Florida A&M University campuses and Cascades Park. Enjoy lunch outdoors before exploring Mission San Luis, the only re-constructed 17th-century Spanish mission in the southeast. Head to the Tallahassee Museum to zip through treetops and over cypress swamps, tour pioneer buildings and observe native wildlife. Dine at an award-winning restaurant followed by a nightcap at the renowned Bradfordville Blues Club.

Wakulla County

Begin your day wildlife watching at the beautiful St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Then head over to Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park where you can board a Jungle Cruise from Wakulla Springs up the river. Lunchtime is the perfect time to slip into the Edward Ball Dining Room and stop at the Soda Fountain for a root beer float at the world’s longest marble soda fountain. Round out the day with an afternoon kayak trip to explore more of the endless natural resources in the area. End your day at Posey Up the Creek Steam Room & Oyster Bar in Panacea to savor some of the best seafood in Florida.

ANNUAL EVENTS
JANUARY - FEBRUARY
  • Hoggetown Medieval Faire, Gainesville
FEBRUARY
  • Fiddler Crab Festival, Steinhatchee
  • Olustee Festival, Wilson Park, Lake City
FEBRUARY – MAY
  • Southern Shakespeare Festival, Tallahassee
MARCH
  • Hogtown Craft Beer Festival, Gainesville
  • Red Hills International Horse Trials, Tallahassee
  • Sante Fe College Spring Arts Festival, Gainesville
  • Spring Festival, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville
  • Springtime Tallahassee
  • Suwannee Spring Reunion, Live Oak
APRIL
  • Bradford County Strawberry Festival, Starke
  • Cedar Key Arts Festival
  • Down Home Days Festival Parade & Rodeo, Madison
  • Florida State Bluegrass Festival, Perry
  • LeMoyne Chain of Parks Art Festival, Tallahassee
  • Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin’ Festival
  • Tallahassee Jazz and Blues Festival
  • Word of South Festival, Tallahassee
MAY
  • Florida Folk Festival, White Springs
  • Hamilton County Rodeo, Jasper
  • Suwannee River Jam, Live Oak
JUNE
  • Blueberry Festival, Wellborn
  • Florida African Dance Festival, Tallahassee
  • Jefferson County Watermelon Festival, Monticello
  • Wild Blackberry Festival, Jasper
JULY
  • 4th of July fireworks, region wide
SEPTEMBER
  • Smokin’ in the Pines BBQ Festival, Perry
OCTOBER
  • Alligator Warrior Festival, O'Leno State Park
  • Butterfly Fest, Gainesville
  • Florida Bat Festival, Gainesville
  • Florida Forest Festival, Perry
  • Pioneer Day Festival, Mayo
  • Stone Crab Festival, St. Marks
NOVEMBER
  • Bradleys Country Store Old Fashioned Fun Day, Tallahassee
  • Cane Boil and Fiddle Fest, Gainesville
  • Downtown Festival & Art Show, Gainesville
  • Florida Tap Invitational All Florida Beerfest, Tallahassee
  • Micanopy Fall Harvest Festival
DECEMBER
  • Christmas on the Square, Live Oak
  • Festival of Lights, Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
  • Maclay Gardens Camellia Christmas, Tallahassee
  • Market Days, Tallahassee
  • Suwannee Lights, Live Oak