July 20, 2012

Florida – “The Sunshine State”

Florida Map


Just the Facts…


bird – Mockingbird
flower – Orange Blossom 
tree – Cabbage Palmetto
capital – Tallahassee
union – 27th on March 3, 1845
population – about 16 million


The Basics 

Florida is a peninsula in the southern region of America – with the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Gulf of Mexico on the west.  Florida is pretty flat, with miles and miles of beaches.   Florida gets more rain than most places within the US, and is susceptible to severe weather like thunderstorms, lightening strikes, and hurricanes.

Florida was first explored and settled by the Spanish.  Florida was given its name by Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer – “La Florida” is Spanish for “flowery land.”   During the Colonial times, the land that is now Florida changed hands a few times – from Spain to England and back to Spain.  America gained control over parts of Florida through fighting with the Spanish, and finally gained control over the whole area when Spain made a deal with America – America could have Florida if it paid Spain some money and gave up any ownership claims to Texas.


Its Claim to Fame

The Everglades is a huge wetlands area in southern Florida.  For about 50 years (1890-1940) people tried to develop the Everglades into farmland by building canals.  Eventually, the government decided to restore the Everglades to its natural state because of its  environmental importance.  Now, much of it is a protected National Park.   The Everglades are home to many unique trees, plants and wildlife – sawgrass marshes, mangrove forests, cypress swamps, including alligators and manatees.  There is no other place like it in the world!

Visitors!  More people visit Florida each year than any other state.  And, many people come to spend time on the miles and miles of beaches – Florida has the longest ocean coastline of any state in the US.  And, in addition to the amazing beaches, Florida has a LOT of golf courses.


What Makes it Tick

Florida is all about oranges!  Actually, it is citrus in general – oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and clementines.  More oranges are produced in Florida than any other state.  But, interestingly, the orange is not native to Florida.  The orange tree was probably brought to the New World by the Spanish.  Most of Florida’s oranges are made into orange juice.  Did you drink your Florida orange juice this morning?

Shipping is big business in Florida and many American goods are exported to other counties from Florida.  There are 15 deep water ports all together in Florida, and its not just cargo ship that dock in these ports – its also cruise ships!  Have you ever been on a cruise to the Caribbean?  Chances are, you boarded your cruise ship somewhere along the Florida coast.


If You Visited

Disney World!  The Walt Disney World Resort is the most visited amusement park in the whole world!  It is located in Orlando, Florida and is open every single day of the year.  Walt Disney personally selected the site for Disney World and secretly bought all the land.  He also negotiated with the state of Florida so that Disney World could have its own government and not be subject to the rules of any surrounding county or city.   Did you know that most of Disney World is actually sitting on top of an “underground” city with a series of tunnels – that is how staff and supplies move throughout the park.  And, the tunnel system really isn’t underground – it was built as the first floor, then lots of dirt was put on top of it and finally Disney World was built on top of that!

The Kennedy Space Center is home to NASA – it is where most of America’s rockets and space shuttles have been launched into space.  It is located on Merritt Island, just off the east coast of Florida and was named in honor of John F Kennedy, the American President who dreamed of America landing on the moon.  The Kennedy Space Center was the primary launch site for all the space shuttle missions – over 120 launches between 1981 and 2011.   Sometime next year, the space shuttle “Atlantis” will be on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.   Who knows – maybe visitors will get to walk inside Atlantis!

Or, you may visit the Florida Keys – their name comes from the Spanish term “cayo,” which means “little island.”  The Keys are part of a very old and very large coral reef, the tip of the coal reef rises above the water and makes up the islands.  For some time, Key West was the biggest town in Florida and the closest port to Cuba, Bahamas, Louisiana and the Panama Canal.   The Keys were only accessible by water until the Overseas Railway connected the islands to each other and the mainland by a series of railway bridges (these bridges were constructed between 1905-1912).  After a hurricane destroyed some of them in 1935, the railway was converted to a road for cars.   One of the bridges along the Overseas Highway is almost 7 miles long!


Want to Know More? 

Check our Florida state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Florida? Or, maybe you have visited Florida?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Florida?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Florida to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Florida.  Visit these websites to learn more: