Florida: the 27th State ...

Today is Admission Day for Florida, our 27th state, admitted to the Union on March 3rd, 1845.

Florida is located in the southeastern part of the country, with the Atlantic Ocean flanking one side, and the Gulf of Mexico the other. Ponce de Leon named it, and many believe that it was in Florida that he claimed to have found his fountain of youth.

Before the formal declaration of Civil War, Florida seceded from the Union, and became a founding member of the Confederate States of America. Full representation was restored in 1868.

For much of its existence, Florida was the least populated southern state. By the mid-20th century, however, many residents were leaving the frigid weather of the northeastern US, looking for the temperate climes found in Florida. Today, Florida is the second most populated of the southern states (behind Texas), and is the fourth most populated state in the country – quite a turnaround.

The capital city is Tallahassee, the largest city is Jacksonville, and the largest metropolitan area is Miami. Other large cities include: Tampa, St. Petersburg, Hialeah, Orlando, and Ft. Lauderdale.

Tourism is the largest industry in the “Sunshine State,” as Florida is known, in large part due to its warm, tropical weather and hundred of miles of beaches. There are scores of amusement parks, and supporting businesses, including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld and others.

For such a sunny state, however, Florida has its share of extreme and severe weather. Central Florida is known as the lightning capital of the United States, the state has the highest average precipitation of any state in the country, and tornadoes and hurricanes have become an all to frequent occurrence. On a brighter note, however, snow if very, very rare.

Trailing tourism in the state economy is agriculture, mainly citrus fruit (oranges, grapefruit, tangerines), but also sugarcane and celery. Other Florida industries include phosphate mining, and the aerospace industry. Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center (photo of launch pad at right) are both located in Florida.

While rich in many things, Florida has its share of poverty, too. The 2002 Census revealed that Miami was the poorest city in the United States. By the time of the 2004 Census, they had moved up a little, to the third poorest city.

I’ve been to Florida many, many times, primarily visiting the Miami and Orlando area. In fact, I’ll be in Florida again this month, and am looking forward to the respite from the unseasonably cold Seattle weather. Here are a couple of my favorite things to do when I’m in Florida:

• Tours of Kennedy Space Center
• Looking at memorabilia at the Astronaut Hall of Fame

• Shopping at Ron Jon’s Surf Shop

• Wading in the Atlantic Ocean and frolicking on the sand in Cocoa Beach (anyone else out there remember Cocoa Beach from the television show “I Dream of Jeanie?”)

• People watch along Ocean Drive in South Beach

Of course, there are still lots of things left on my list of things that I’d like to do or see:

• Take an airboat ride in the Everglades
• Spend some relaxing time in the Florida Keys

• Visit the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersurg

What are your favorite things to do in Florida?

Photo credit: Launch pad, Miami Beach

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