Step Outside - Florida WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 http://stepoutside.org/ Step Outside - Florida 144 144 http://stepoutside.org/ https://cdnstep-americantownscom.netdna-ssl.com/img/stepoutside_logo.gif Sat, 23 Mar 2019 13:32:57 -0500 9 Best Winter Cabin Camping Spots in Florida Though the weather outside might be far from frightful, there’s still nothing like cozy cabin camping in Florida. Sure, a tent will do the job just fine, but the cabin experience will make your adventure feel more like winter (even if it’s 70 degrees and sunny!). Start your winter getaway at one of these nine best winter cabin camping spots in Florida. 

There’s no better place to camp in the winter in Florida than Otter Springs. Their indoor heated pool makes every stay feel like summer, no matter how cool outside it gets. The park features a natural spring that hovers around 73 degrees year long. If you’re craving an all-natural environment, Otter Springs is sure to spoil you.

Touted as St. Pete’s hidden jewel, this KOA campground leaves you wanting for nothing. Just minutes from white sandy beaches and nestled along the Pinellas Trail, guests can enjoy games like bocce ball, mini golf, and volleyball. They also feature a pool that’s open year-round.

When the stars were bright, campfire was warm, and laughter was loud, those were the most magical of moments // #kamp2k17

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If you want a high chance of seeing wildlife during your stay, you’ll want to book at a cabin at Lake Louisa State Park. This pristine natural area is a hot spot for animals like bald eagle, wading birds, white-tail deer, bobcat, and other amazing wildlife. Their selection of cabins offer beautiful views of Dixie Lake and feature all the comforts of home to make your stay enjoyable.

Camping on the beach… in winter? Yes, please! This fun, decorative camping resort has color-popping cabins mere steps from the water’s edge. On site, you’ll find a fitness center, laundry station, and camp store, with shopping and restaurants just minutes away. The beach is enjoyable in the winter but usually less crowded, which makes it the best time to visit.

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There’s no shortage of things to do within Grayton Beach State Park, even in the winter. This beachfront park offers both freshwater and saltwater fishing, nature trails, hiking and biking trails, and a boat ramp to take your adventures seaward. Their cabins feature gas log fireplaces during the winter to help create the cozy winter camping experience you didn’t think was possible in Florida.

Located on a barrier island, this charming state park is only accessible by boat so you’ll need to pack lightly. On your journey, you may catch signs of wildlife like dolphins, manatees, and birds. Once you arrive on the island, you can relax to the sounds of nature on the trails, on the shoreline, or from inside your rustic cabin.

Made it. Our home for the week. #Cabin5 #cayocostastatepark

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Tucked against the Suwanee River, fans of Fanning Springs love this crystal-clear spring that sets the backdrop for the beautiful park. Manatees tend to make winter appearances at the park, a must see for any animal lover. With your cabin reservation, you can enjoy the sand volleyball court, picnic area, playground, and trail system that shows you the best sights of the park.

Canoeing and river trips don’t stop in Florida when January comes knocking. If you’re looking for a little adventure with your cabin camping, Ocklawaha has it. You can rent a canoe during your stay at one of their luxury log cabins to make your trip even better. Each cabin features all the amenities you need to make you feel right at home, including cable TV, full bathroom, kitchenette, and heating and air. 

The island is only accessible by boat or ferry, but getting there is part of the experience. Once you arrive on the island, you can explore the vestiges of Native American living or learn more at the Visitor’s Center. Your cabin rental includes access to the picnic areas and playground, and you can rent a canoe or boat slip to round out your trip.

Out cabin camping for @iamthewoodhouse bachelor party trip #hontoonisland #indians #haunted #florida

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http://stepoutside.org/article/9-best-winter-cabin-camping-spots-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/9-best-winter-cabin-camping-spots-in-florida Fri, 04 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0600
10 Best Winter Hikes in Florida Florida’s mild winters make it one of the best hiking destinations in the country. You can enjoy the great outdoors without the shivers—and without the sweltering heat of a Florida summer. Some may argue there’s no better time for a hike in Florida than the winter. You be judge—step outside to these 10 best winter hikes in Florida. 

There’s no better place to start the winter hiking season than Seminole Ranch. The Seminole Ranch trail is a smaller segment of the sprawling Florida Trail, spanning just over four miles, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This trail gives you a high chance of spotting area wildlife due to its proximity to the wildlife preserve, including white tail deer, wild turkey, and a variety of birds.

Located in Myakka State Park, winter is prime hiking season for the Myakka River Hiking Trail. Clocking in at almost 39 miles, you’ll need to plan for backcountry camping or end your trip early via the many crisscrossing roads. The trail offers a diverse ecosystem of marshes, pine flatwoods, and prairies, all of which are teeming with wildlife and picture-perfect backdrops.

Acting as the gateway to the Florida Birding Trail in the panhandle region, this national wildlife refuge spans over 70,000 acres with more than 43 miles of wild shoreline. The area features several hiking trails, including a long portion of the famed Florida Trail, where hikers can get clear views of birds, alligators, and other wildlife. If you aren’t looking for a backpack camping hike, stick to one of the shorter trails, like the Levee or Tower Pond trails, each of which is a mile or less.

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Only one of two nature trails in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, the Panther Trail spans 1.3 miles (a whole mile longer than the other trail in the preserve). While most of the refuge is closed to the public, these trails offer your only inside look into the area, with the exception of potential guided tours in the winter. If you want your best chance of seeing panther tracks, deer, or bear, plan your visit for early morning or late afternoon.

The grasslands of the Kissimmee Prairie offer a unique combination of flora and fauna you won’t find anywhere else in Florida. Deer, snakes, and bald eagles are all known to make appearances here. The park offers over 100 miles of dirt roads for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. If you visit in the winter, you can also take advantage of a ranger-led buggy tour that takes you to lesser-seen areas of the preserve.

Florida Trail: Day 13 /Mile 172 of 1100 Am currently working my way North along the Kissimmee River. This was my view all morning, lots of Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) intermingled with Cabbage Palms (Sabal palmetto). Love the festoon of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) which isn't a moss at all, is actually an epiphytic bromeliad (pineapple family). Notice as well the Resurrection Ferns (Pleopeltis polypodioides) on the oak limbs, lots of amazing stuff to see. #bpmag #longdistancehiking #hiking #hikingadventures#hiking #thruhike #camping #backpacking #thruhiking #trail #traillife #wilderness #getoutside #earthpix #earthofficial #nakedplanet #wildernessculture #aroundtheworldpix #optoutside #beautiful #travelawesome #theglobewander #roamtheplanet #bestvacations #wildme #lonelyplanet #AOV #visualscollective #floridatrail #flordia

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A good hike doesn’t have to consume your whole day, and the casual 2.5-mile nature hike at Lower Wekiva River proves it. Just 50 minutes of walking will lead you to wildlife hot spots along the wetlands and blackwater streams. Bears, otters, and alligators call this park home, so you’ll have plenty of company along your hike—even if you don’t realize it!

As the state’s largest backpacking loop, this trail will keep you traveling for over 43 miles if you like. It’s not without its challenges, either: sinkholes, rolling sandhills, and rocky paths make your walk in the woods anything but simple. If you do plan on backpack camping, you’ll need to plan for four days’ worth of supplies, including water since this is considered a “dry” trail. If you’re not up to the four-day challenge, this trail is easily broken up into several enjoyable day hikes.

Located in the Osceola National Forest, this short-and-sweet 1.6-mile trail is one of the best spots for viewing red-cockaded woodpeckers. This section loops with the Florida Trail, giving you a chance to extend your hike as long as you wish.

Starting at Hobe Sound Beach, this 63-mile trail is unique in every way. Each mile offers a new ecosystem of flora and fauna, giving you one of the most diverse hiking experiences in the state. The trail terminates at Lake Okeechobee, with prairies, swamplands, flatwoods, and other scenery making up the middle.

Nestled in the Apalachee Wildlife Management Area, the mild temperatures in the winter make it an ideal time to traverse the nearly-four-mile Garden of Eden Trail. The WMA plays home to whitetail deer, fox squirrels, and gopher tortoises, along with a heaping helping of bird species. The trail itself isn’t for the faint of heart. At some points, you’ll swear you were in the Georgia mountains, so plan accordingly.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-winter-hikes-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-winter-hikes-in-florida Fri, 04 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0600
Best Winter Weekend Getaway in Big Cypress National Park While most people are dreaming of snowy mountain peaks and ice skating for their winter weekend getaways, Florida folks know that basking in the sunshine is the best way to celebrate in winter. Skip the crowded ski slopes and head to Big Cypress National Park, just north of the Everglades in the southern part of the state. This national park spans for nearly 750,000 acres and plays home to alligators, the Florida panther, and many other types of wildlife. Guided tours, hiking, camping, and tons of other outdoor activities await you on this epic outdoor adventure. 

Big Cypress features eight different campgrounds within the park, in addition to backcountry camping. RV and primitive campers are welcome here, with some sites featuring waterfront views and plenty of peace and quiet. Some campgrounds require reservations while others are first come first serve, so make sure you do your homework to get the spot you want. 

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Hiking is a major draw to the park, with miles of designated trails throughout. Going off-trail is also permitted, another reason to visit the park in the winter because of being dry season. If you plan on hiking the backcountry, you’ll need to fill out a waiver before you go. There is not a simpler way of taking in all of the beauty this park has to offer.

The off-roading trail system here is nothing short of remarkable. You can use any of the trails designated for hunting, fishing, frogging, camping, and other nature-based activities. Before you go, you’ll need to grab a permit from the off-road vehicle office. Grab your helmets and hit the trails. Make sure to check out Florida Off-Roading laws and regulations before getting those wheels muddy!

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean all water activities are off limits. Set off on a canoe or kayak and explore the myriad waterways of the park. Winter is synonymous with paddling season here because water levels are lower and you don’t have to worry about bugs. You’ll be able to access areas of the park that just aren’t possible on foot or by car, giving you a chance to experience all the area has to offer.

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No one knows the area like the park’s own rangers, and they offer tons of free activities each day during the winter. You’ll want to book your spot in advance for some activities, such as paddling excursions and hiking expeditions, so check their calendar to see what’s available before you go.

Tucked against the waterfront, this is the place locals hang out (so you know it’s got to be good!). Delicious seafood and an old Florida vibe set the stage for an amazing meal. It’s truly a hidden gem but well worth the hunt.

A cross between an airboat and off-road vehicle, this swamp buggy tour lets you experience the backcountry in a whole new way. They customize every tour so you can get the most for your experience. Tours are kept small (just 2-6 people) and you’ll want to reserve your spot in advance.

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If you’re looking for a cheap activity, this cozy little museum is free and open to the public. The museum itself is steeped in history, having originated as a laundromat in a town that was once only accessible by boat. Today, visitors can expect a rotating selection of exhibits and artifacts dating back up to 2,000 years.

Tucked on the edge of the Everglades lies one of the oldest former stores in Florida. Built in 1906, this trading post served as the only nearby place for trading furs, food, and other goods. The store shuttered in 1982, with many of its original goods remaining inside. The store reopened in 1990 as a museum that visitors can explore today. Also inside is the Tigertail Gift Shop, where you’ll find one-of-a-kind crafts, art, photography, and other odds and ends made by the Seminole Tribe.

The Skunkape Headquarters is one of the most iconic roadside attractions in South Florida. This supposed creature of legend has been featured on travel channels and news outlets alike. You can browse the gift shop and view tons of live animal exhibits (no real skunk apes, though), including giant gators and one of the longest snakes in the world.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/best-winter-weekend-getaway-in-big-cypress-national-park http://stepoutside.org/article/best-winter-weekend-getaway-in-big-cypress-national-park Mon, 26 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0600
SPOTLIGHT: Things to Do in and Around Blue Spring State Park Florida vacations don’t usually come cheap, but they don’t always have to put a dent in your bank account, either. Spending some time in the great outdoors offers an inexpensive getaway every age can enjoy. While others are clamoring over theme parks and busy beaches, you can avoid the crowds (and the costs that come with them) with a trip to Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.

Spanning over 2,600 acres, Blue Spring State Park is home to the largest natural spring on the St Johns River. Tourists and locals alike love gathering here during manatee season (November-March) to watch these amazing animals. During the rest of the year, the park offers swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, boating, and river boat tours. There’s also no shortage of “dry” activities for kids and adults alike, especially since you can camp within the park and not have to leave until your vacation is over.

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Just a seven-minute drive from the park lies Family Fun Town, a high-energy indoor/outdoor fun center that offers activities for every age. Go-karts, mini golf, batting cages, and an arcade will keep you and your family entertained for hours. It’s the perfect spot to remedy “cabin fever” during your stay at Blue Spring State Park, especially on rainy days or during manatee season where watersports are off limits.

Eat in, or take it back to your cabin at Blue Spring State Park—either way, you’ll want to grab a meal from Lelo’s BBQ. This Puerto Rican barbecue joint is serving up authentic flavors you can’t find just anywhere. They feature daily specials as well as menu chock full of chicken, pork, ribs, seafood, soup, and plenty of fixings to complement your meal.

Roasted pork with red beans and yellow rice. Heaven!

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If barbecue isn’t your favorite fare, grab a seat at Fire on the Bayou. This Cajun-focused eatery is dishing out some of the best low country boil and other fiery favorites. They have a large variety of food to choose from, so you’re likely to suit even the pickiest eater in your party.

About a half-hour’s drive south from the state park is Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Visitors can expect to see a giraffe, cheetah, rhino, leopard, llama, tamarin, cougar, and fossa, among other mammals, as well as a host of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Admission to the zoo also grants you access to the lush botanical gardens. A train, carousel, ropes course, splash park, giraffe feeding, and rhino “petting” completes the experience—it’s more than worth the drive.

I got to feed the giraffe 🤓

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Drive 15 minutes north of the state park and experience the Museum of Art in DeLand. This art museum features work from Florida artists and well-known artists, with both permanent and evolving exhibits. The museum now features two galleries in DeLand, each offering a unique experience—you’ll want to visit them both.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-blue-spring-state-park http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-blue-spring-state-park Fri, 02 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Cool Spots for ATV Off-Roading in Florida The further you travel south in the United States, the greater the passion goes for off-roading. In Florida, you’ll find recreation parks and mud bogs designed for the most thrilling off-roading experiences. Discover thousands of acres of land just waiting to be explored on the back of an ATV. Start up your ATV and check out these five awesome off-roading spots in the Sunshine State. 

With “lakes for fishin’, skiin’ and waverunnin’, mud pits for gettin’ dirty, trails for motocrossin’ and hills of dirt and rock to challenge the best off-road vehicles and drivers,” Lazy Springs is an off-roading haven. This spot is well-loved by locals, as it provides ATV areas to tear through the water and get a little muddy. Lazy Springs also has regularly scheduled events so be sure to keep up with their Facebook page!

Croom is an excellent place to find your footing in the world of off-roading. Sitting on 2,600 acres of land, with smooth, well-maintained riding trails, all levels of experience can enjoy this spot. Not only do they offer an excellent space to hone your skills, they’ll actually teach you how to do it, too! Participate in a one-hour, two-hour or three-hour dirt bike or ATV training class with a professional. 

What was once an old logging community is now a thrilling mud bog and ATV area. This 1,100-acre outdoor family fun park offers areas for ATVs and UTVs to blast through the mud or explore the nearby forests. On the premises, you’ll also find RV sites and cabins in case you’re planning to stay the night. You might want to pack a change of clothes, because things can get a little muddy! 

This adventure park is geared toward families. Of the outdoor excitement available at the ranch, you’ll find ATV trails, camping, horse trails, fishing, a swamp buggy area, dirt biking area, mudding, and a whole lot more. The best part about Florida Cracker Ranch is that their ATV area is exciting for both the novice and advanced rider. The area can be rugged, but still accessible to those with less experience. Don’t worry, the trails are marked to indicate the level of difficulty. 

Big Cypress offers big fun as far as off-roading goes. The area is very remote, and is mostly explored by airboat and swamp buggy. Visit the national park website to see a trail map, and make sure to stay within the designated areas during your visit. There are many miles of trails to explore at Big Cypress, which is characterized by vast swamp areas and abundant, diverse wildlife. 

*Note: Age restrictions, special licenses, and other requirements for off highway vehicles vary from state to state. Before heading out on your OHV, please consult your local regulations.

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silentalex88 /Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-cool-spots-for-atv-offroading-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-cool-spots-for-atv-offroading-in-florida Thu, 01 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0500
3 Stunning Foliage Hikes in Florida Florida is renowned worldwide for its beaches and seafood, but there’s plenty of other natural wonders at work here. Take a break from the surf and you’ll find that Florida offers many beautiful forests that, when fall rolls in, are flourishing with brilliant warm colors that signal slightly cooler temperatures ahead. If you can’t make it to the mountains to see the leaves change colors, enjoy fall’s arrival on one of these stunning foliage hikes in Florida. 

This 30-mile network of roadways makes for a stunning fall drive. However, if you prefer to get out and enjoy the reds, oranges, and yellows on foot, make your way to Bulow Creek State Park and hop on one of the nature trails. The Bulow Woods Trail gives you your best chance of soaking in the scenery. At just over 13 miles round-trip, the trail will take you over a bridge, through the live oak hammock, and along some of the most beautiful fall scenery you’d have never known Florida was hiding.

With over 16 miles of challenging trails, the fall colors here make your trek worthwhile. Here you’ll find a landscape that’s more akin to the mountains of North Carolina than Florida flatlands. However, it’s also the perfect terrain for Florida’s native southern sugar maples that turn ablaze with color in late October/early November. You’ll also get breathtaking views of the Apalachicola River from 150-foot bluffs inside the park. 

Aside from playing home to the world’s largest, deepest freshwater spring, this park also provides pristine fall foliage views. There are over 10 miles of trails throughout the park that lead through hardwood hammocks, champion trees, floodplains, and other sights. There’s also plenty of wildlife to see along your journey—alligators, birds, and even the occasional manatee are known to make an appearance within the park.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/3-stunning-foliage-hikes-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/3-stunning-foliage-hikes-in-florida Thu, 01 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0500
ATV Off-Roading Adventure at Lazy Springs Recreation Park Beaches, theme parks, swamplands, seafood—it seems like Florida’s got it all. Though the ATV off-roading scene isn’t quite as popular as its coastal splendor, it should be! Throughout the Sunshine State you’ll find a variety of fun off-roading spots filled with adventure. Of course, no day of off-road exploring is complete without soaking in the best spots of the local area. If you’re looking for an epic day of off-roading in Florida, your adventure begins here. 

Start your engines at Country Roads Cafe, one of the best breakfast spots in town. This homey little downtown diner has all your favorite morning fuel-ups, from eggs and bacon to country fried steak. It’s just like Grandma used to make, loaded with flavor and southern hospitality.

Don’t let the name fool you—you’ll be working plenty hard on your off-roading ride here. This sprawling park has a little something for everyone, including fishing, zip lines, mud pits, obstacle course, motocross, and rocky hills to challenge every rider. If you want to get your days’ worth, you can bring along the tent for an overnight camp. 

Located within the hotel that you will be staying the night in, 1st Street Deli is delicious and open 24 hours! Their hot deli sandwiches will be the perfect thing to quench your hunger after a long day on the trails. Try their Southern fried shrimp po’boy made with fried breaded shrimp on a French baguette with lettuce, tomato, garlic pickles, and remoulade sauce. 

Once you’ve satisfied your appetite, you can relax and unwind after a long day of off-roading. Enjoy a few cocktails in the casino, try your hand at Lady Luck, take a dip in the pool, or enjoy a live show to cap off your adventure. The accommodations here are clean and cozy so you can get a restful night’s sleep after a long day of riding.

Before heading home, be sure to enjoy the surrounding area just a little bit more. The Immokalee Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch is a truly fascinating historical site. Since it was first settled in 1872, the Immokalee community has been home to hunters, trappers, cowmen, missionaries, and many others. This former home of cattleman Robert Roberts is now a sprawling, 13-acre historic site—and is actually the longest-running ranch in South Florida. The exhibits are captivating and on the site, guests will find 15 wonderfully preserved original buildings, illustrating what the lives of cow hunters, ranchers, and pioneer families were like. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/atv-offroading-adventure-at-lazy-springs-recreation-park http://stepoutside.org/article/atv-offroading-adventure-at-lazy-springs-recreation-park Thu, 01 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome RV Campsites in Florida No matter what side of the compass you’re visiting, Florida’s many RV campsites are ready to be your home-on-the-go. Below you’ll find five of the most awesome RV campsites from every corner of the state. Read on for vacation bliss.

Camp Gulf in Destin, Florida, styles themselves as “the destination RV Park of Northwest Florida.” With beaches, fishing, boating, shopping, dining, and more available on-site or within walking distance we’re inclined to agree (joining TravelChannel.com in heaping on praise). The U.S. News & World Report named Camp Gulf one of the Top 11 Family Campgrounds in the U.S. Bring your RV, rent a luxury cabin, or stay on a beach home—the choice is yours, and you can’t make a wrong decision. For a full list of amenities and rates, check the website. 

North Beach Camp Resort is one of the most prominent RV Parks in Northern Florida. The park includes RV setup, tent campground, cabin rentals, swimming, surfing, surf fishing, and more. Rates differ between types of accommodation, with riverfront hook-ups going for slightly more than others. As a two-time TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, you know you’re in good hands at North Beach Camp Resort. 

While technically in Clermont, Florida, the Orlando RV Resort is close enough to Orlando that you won’t notice much of a difference. For a centrally located RV park with incredible amenities, you could hardly do better. Amenities include a clubhouse, shuffleboard, whirlpool, your choice of natural frontage, RV storage, mini golf, boat ramp, tennis court, fishing, biking trails, and much more. Stop by this TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner for a fun-filled family time.

Siesta Bay RV Resort in Fort Myers is part of the greater Sun Resorts corporation. Here, you can always expect high-quality customer service. You’ll enjoy the swimming pool, regularly planned activities, tennis, and more. Check their website for special rates and sales. 

For an all-around excellent RV camping experience, make sure to check out Carrabelle Beach RV Resort. Amenities include horseshoes, fitness equipment, playground, pool, convenience store, and camping in nature. Stop by the nearby attractions, including the St. George Island Lighthouse, Crooked River Lighthouse, Tate’s Hell State Park, St. George Island, and St. Vincent Island, among many more. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-rv-campsites-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-rv-campsites-in-florida Tue, 30 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Perfect Fall Camping Spots in Florida Florida’s summer heat makes it almost unbearable for a night in the great outdoors, but fall can certainly make a campout more tolerable. There’s nothing like a fall evening gathered around the campfire with family and friends sharing stories, roasting marshmallows, and enjoying being in the midst of Mother Nature. If you’re looking for a great spot to camp this fall, look no further than these five perfect fall campsites in Florida. 

Home to Florida’s highest waterfall, Falling Waters is a natural treasure trove just waiting to be discovered. The boardwalk leading to the falls is lined with fern-hidden sinkholes and massive trees. Even the falls drop into a deep sinkhole and its water’s final destination remains a mystery. Campers love coming here because of the area’s prime hiking grounds. Since Florida doesn’t exactly have mountains, the gentle slopes here can sate any hiker’s cravings while taking them on a magical excursion through Mother Nature’s changing seasons. 

If you truly want to get away from it all, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for at Cayo Costa State Park. This primitive little island is only accessible by private boat. Once you make your way there, campers can set up base, then go explore the miles of pristine shoreline, watch for dolphins and manatees, or enjoy a seaside picnic. The island is chock full of crisscrossing nature trails that can show you the best sights and sounds of the island.

You might arrive alone, but you’ll never camp alone at this KOA campground. This is the state’s only campground where you can fall fast asleep listening to the sounds of more than 1,000 animals right outside your accommodations. Visitors can walk next door to the Lion Country Safari and get to see the animals up close, or simply enjoy their serenades as you take in all the campground has to offer. This campground is also a popular spot for Halloween weekenders looking for a fun-filled vacation— costume contests for people and pets, pumpkin carving, and trick-or-treating are just a few of the draws that make this a desirable spot for fall camping.

Whether you prefer backcountry camping or a full-service campground, you can take your pick here. The park offers over 13 miles of hiking trails that lets you take in all the sights and sounds of Florida in the fall. In addition, the area offers a scenic 10-mile paddling trail if you want to bring your kayak or canoe (or rent one at the park). It’s an excellent opportunity to see some of the Sunshine State’s native wildlife up close or through your camera lens. 

If you’re looking to combine your camping experience with prime wildlife viewing, you’ll want to stake out a spot in the Osceola National Forest. Here you can take your pick of RV site, campgrounds, or “dispersed” camping that’s tucked away from the sounds of other campers. Be advised: bears call this forest home, and you should be prepared in case your paths cross. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-perfect-fall-camping-spots-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/5-perfect-fall-camping-spots-in-florida Tue, 30 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Start Your Trek: 7 Unbeatable Hiking Retailers in Florida When it comes to Mother Nature, Florida’s got it all: oceans, lakes, swamps, camping, wildlife, and plenty of hiking trails that take you to see it all. Prepare yourself in the best possible way with a trip to one of Florida’s dedicated hiking retailers. Visiting a specialty hiking shop means you’ll find all the fine details that can make a real difference in your hiking experience. It also means you get the added benefit of shopping with someone with real expertise and knowledge of the area to help you get the most from your purchases. Visit one of these seven awesome hiking stores in Florida, and set your sights on adventure. 

As the leaders in local adventure, the folks at Tampa Bay Outfitters know how to help hikers and adventurers of all sorts get the most from their experience. They carry all the clothing, footwear, sunglasses, and gear you need for a day on the trails, and can help you avoid making a second trip elsewhere. Choose from favorite brands like Patagonia, the North Face, Osprey, and dozens more.

Peter Glenn Ski & Sports features several locations throughout Florida in addition to an online store to help hikers get high-quality gear no matter where they roam. For hikers, they offer poles, boots, and clothing for the whole family, along with sunglasses, gloves, mittens, socks, and other accessories. Stock up on trusted brands like Camelbak, the North Face, and HotHands.

Looks like @peterglennsports is going to stay cozy and warm for the holidays! #winterfjord

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No one knows hikers’ needs like fellow outdoor enthusiasts. That’s why you’ll never want to go anywhere else for your apparel or gear than Trail & Ski. Locally owned and operated, the team here knows the area well and can direct you to the best trails and other outdoor hot spots. In addition, they back up their products with real experience to ensure you get the right stuff the first time. They’re proud to carry favorites like Marmot, Patagonia, and Mountain House for their fellow hikers. 

No matter where you roam, Intracoastal Outfitters can help you get there in the best possible way. You’ll find best in class brands like Keen hiking boots and Chaco wearables to help you get what you need in a single trip. They also specialize in comfort footwear, offering orthopedic inserts, custom fitting, shoe stretching, and other services to help you continue your passion for hiking.

New ENO daypacks. New style. Old school look. Digging these. #eno #outdoorgear #backtoschool #enohammock #pensacolavibes

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Just a stone’s throw from Destin, this local outfitter can meet your hiking needs every bit as much as a big-name store. With a special level of personalized service, you’ll find all your outdoor needs from backpacks, to clothing, to medical kits, to hydration. Brands like Saloman, Life is Good, and Hydro Flask are known to dominate the shelves, along with other top-quality labels for the best possible hiking experience.

Who says a walk in the woods means you have to sacrifice style? Columbia Sportswear knows how to outfit hikers from head to toe in the most fashion-forward way possible. Their stores are dedicated specifically to the Columbia Sportswear brand, offering essentials like jackets, accessories, and clothing for layering. 

When it comes to outdoor quests, no one knows your needs like the North Face. They make clothing and backpacks perfect for whatever weather Mother Nature throws at you, and can help you stay prepared. When you invest in a good jacket and backpack like these the first time, chances are they’ll last you for many years to come. 

Mai getting her new winter coat! #mai #japanesegirl #wintercoat

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http://stepoutside.org/article/start-your-trek-7-unbeatable-hiking-retailers-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/start-your-trek-7-unbeatable-hiking-retailers-in-florida Mon, 29 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Archery Outfitters in Florida Florida has some of the best of everything when it comes to outdoor living, and its supply of archery shops is no exception. Throughout the Sunshine State, bow hunting is essential to the hunting lifestyle, especially since Florida has ample and diverse wildlife. If you’re looking to hone your skills, or you’re picking up a bow for the very first time, you can’t go wrong with a visit to one of these 10 best archery outfitters in Florida. 

Offering some of the best brands in the industry, you won’t find a better shopping experience than at the Deer Camp. Geared specifically toward the Florida hunting lifestyle, the folks here are eager to share their expertise to help you find the best bow and other supplies for your needs. Among their top-quality brands you’ll find familiar names like Mission, Mathews, and PSE among others.

For archers on a budget, you’ll love the low prices at Tallahassee Archery Center. They carry some of the best brands in the industry to complete your experience and guarantee you get the lowest possible price on everything you buy. While you’re there, you can sign up for a professional archery class that will help you hone your skills.

This is Tampa’s largest dealer for Mathews and Hoyt bows, so there’s no doubt you’ll find only the best when you walk into the store. Their customers love the family-style atmosphere at the store, which keeps them coming back. In addition to top-quality gear, you can get your bows serviced and repaired here, too. 

With two locations, Adventures Archery is the first step to an epic archery experience. From a practice range to classes to equipment sales and service, you can get everything you need all under one roof. It also helps that you’ll be dealing with fellow archers who share your passion for the sport.

Britton’s is a small archery shop and enclosed range that caters to archers of all ages. Fans love this place because of the attentiveness to their needs, quality products, and archery classes. Being treated like family is just part of the experience, plus you get the benefit of working with a true professional who knows the sport inside and out.

Featuring the best of guns and bows, this archery pro shop is the complete outdoors outfitter. Compound bows, crossbows, fishing bows, accessories—if you need it, chances are they have it or can get it. They’ve also got a rigging area and archery setup on site to help you get the most from your purchase before you leave the store.

Family time 😍 @gapollonio @nicapollonioo

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If brand matters, you’ll want to make Blessed Archery your first stop. They carry best-in-class brands like Mathews, Hoyt, PSE, Mission, Diamond, and Bowtech. Even better, they keep a huge selection of inventory on hand to help you get what you need when you need it.

The name says it—this place is an archer’s haven. Though small on the outside, there’s lots to be seen on the inside. Bows, targets, custom arrows, and other accessories are all backed by some of the friendliest service in the business.

Though commonly known for hosting concealed carry classes, Mor-Guns’ archery pro shop is not to be overlooked. They feature a variety of archery accessories to keep you stocked, as well as a laid-back attitude that makes shopping a breeze (and less intimidating for newbies). 

This small, family-owned business has passion for archery at its core. They specialize in both new and used bows, handcrafted arrows, and other gear and supplies to ensure you can get everything you need in a single shopping trip.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-archery-outfitters-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-archery-outfitters-in-florida Mon, 29 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Bait and Tackle Shops in Florida If you’re looking for the best fishing in the country, there’s no better place to be than in sunny Florida. Tourists from all over the world flock to the state in droves each year for its fishing opportunities. Of course, to catch the best fish you need the right bait and gear, which can be found at one of these 10 best bait and tackle shops in Florida. 

With three locations (in Fort Pierce, Stuart, and Vero Beach), White’s Tackle happens to be one of the oldest tackle shops in Florida. Having opened in 1925, they’ve built their foundation on knowing what Florida fishermen need to get the best catch possible. As a result, you get the right bait and gear the first time from fellow fishermen who share your passion.

Specializing in both live and artificial bait, you’ll want to come here for firsthand knowledge of fishing in the area. They also carry all the extras you need for a successful day on the water, including beer, ice, sunglasses, sunscreen, snacks, and more. 

This no-frills shop is open bright and early to help you maximize your fishing time. Offering both live and frozen bait, ice, and tackle, you’ll get everything you need in one trip, no matter where you’re planning to fish.

This full-service fishing shop gives you much to look forward to. They offer rod and reel repairs, charters, and the largest inventory of fishing supplies and gear in the area. You’ll never need to make another trip elsewhere.

If your passion for fishing is deeper than your pockets, you can get good quality gear at great prices at Southeastern Fishing Tackle Liquidators. This discount warehouse offers name brands you’re familiar with, such as Shimano and Yeti, usually at lower-than-retail prices. You can also find a quality selection of used equipment to stretch your fishing fund further.

The fish don’t take a day off, so why should you? One of the biggest benefits of shopping here is that they’re open every day of the week, starting bright and early each day. Located in an area that’s prime for trout, redfish, and grouper, you’ll find everything you need to take home some of the best catches in the area.

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No matter what type of bait you’re looking for, Bitter’s has it. They don’t just sell bait—they hone and refine it until you get the perfect fish magnet to suit your needs. Each one is specially crafted for its unique application to give you the best chance of hooking what you came for.

Personalized service, extensive product knowledge, and a huge variety are just a few of the things that set Stuart Angler apart from other area shops. No matter what kind of fishing you plan to do, be it inshore, offshore, or fly fishing, they’ve got an unbeatable selection of tackle and bait to help you reach your fishing goals. They also offer fishing guide services for those who want a little extra expertise along for the ride.

Customers love the quick in-and-out service they get at Perk’s. They carry a wide variety of bait and tackle and some of the best service in the area to help you get on to your next fishing adventure as fast as possible.

They offer one of the largest saltwater fishing product lines in Florida, so there’s no doubt you’ll find what you need for an epic day of fishing. Located in the Florida Keys, this full-service tackle shop is just a stone’s throw from some of the best fishing in Florida.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-bait-and-tackle-shops-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-bait-and-tackle-shops-in-florida Mon, 29 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Best Places to Fish in the East This Fall A smorgasbord of baitfish is served up to striped bass in the fall as they make their way south along the Atlantic coast from Maine to their wintering waters in the mid-Atlantic.

Hot Spots To Fish: Deservedly, Montauk, NY at the eastern end of Long Island is considered a storied mecca for striped bass fishermen. If you’re not going surf fishing on the beach or fishing from a jetty, Gone Fishing Marina (631-668-3232, gonefishingmarina78.com) can set up a charter trip for you. If it’s booked up, try Star Island Yacht Club (631-668-5052, starislandyc.com) or Montauk Marine Basin (631-668-5900, marinebasin.com).

Find the best fishing spots near you:

Down south, talk to the folks at Captain Hogg’s Charter Service (757-876-1590, captainhoggscharters.com) about fishing around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Overdrawn Charters  (252-202-4623, overdrawncharters.com) in Manteo, N.C. can help as well.

Tackle You’ll Need: Stick with 30- to 50-pound braid or monofilament and a 60-pound-test shock leader of fluorocarbon, with saltwater-ready spinning tackle heavy enough to handle 10- to 14-foot rods. Penn, Quantum and Okuma specialize in fairly inexpensive surf-fishing rods, and reels to match. If you have a reel, but no rod yet, the new Black Inshore Rods from Lamiglas are up to the task. The five spinning and five casting models range from a 6-foot, 10-inch light finesse spinning rod to a 7 ½-foot casting rod rated for lures from 3 to 12 ounces in weight.

Quick tip: The most successful anglers are those who spot gulls or other wheeling seabirds feeding on baitfish driven to the top by stripers and who then cast into the melee without dispersing the bass. From a boat, the trick is to approach schools carefully and take advantage of wind or tide to drift to within casting range. The stripers will stay up as long as the baitfish are hemmed against the surface.

 

Best Lures/Baits: The 4 1/2-inch Acme Kastmater XL spoon, the 1 ½-ounce Odin Popper, and the 5-inch pencil popper from Tsunami are popular artificials up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Other popular options include the 6- or 7-inch Savage Gear Sandeel Swimbait, 9-inch Sassy Shad swimbait and the 6-inch Rapala X-Rap SubWalk.

Find the best bait and tackle shops near you:

For anglers who’d rather soak baits from a boat or in the surf, live or cut bait, such as Atlantic menhaden (peanut bunker), herring, porgies, eels, bloodworms, anchovies and mullet, can flip the switch on chaotic striper blitzes.

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Photograph Courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism The classic approach to surf fishing is still a great way to take advantage of the striper run along the Atlantic coast. http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-east-this-fall http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-east-this-fall Thu, 11 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Best Places to Fish in the South This Fall Redfish are starting to move inshore and set up at the mouths of bays, inlets and deltas as their annual spawning run commences. The bottom line for fishermen is outstanding fishing from late September through November in the northern Gulf.

Likewise, bass fishing is starting to pick up again as the weather begins to cool. Huge schools of threadfin shad are starting to filter away from open-water ledges into bays and tributaries where feeding conditions and water temperatures are more optimum.

Bass follow the food, first setting up on ledges at the mouths of inlets and creeks to waylay shad, then migrating back toward shallower water to keep up with their quarry.

Fall Script for Southern Bass

Bass rule in Dixie and cooler weather brings out an army of anglers who go after them. Whether largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass, they’re available in most waters and sometimes all three varieties are present in a fishery, ready to aggravate or gratify those who seek them.

Hot Spots To Fish: When it comes to the South’s best lakes for fall fishing, the big TVA impoundments fit the bill. Because this is bass tournament country, dozens of YouTube videos and Facebook sites of pro anglers offer useful advice on where and how to catch autumn largemouths. Likewise, guide services are plentiful; just Google “fishing guides” for the lake you’re visiting or type in the town nearest the lake you wish to fish on the interactive map on this page.

Tackle You’ll Need: A 7-foot medium/heavy rod such as the St. Croix Premier Cranking, a baitcasting reel like the Abu Garcia Revo Winch and 10- to 14-pound-test monofilament makes a good combination to fish downsized lures.

Quick tip: This is strictly a match-the-hatch deal. Use lures that are about the same size as wandering shad. If young-of-the-year threadfins are on the bass menu, try small swim baits fished on drop-shot rigs.

 

Best Lures/Baits: Shad-colored, shallow- and medium-diving square-billed or coffin-billed crankbaits are autumn standouts. Popular lures include the Strike King 6XD, Bandit 100 or 200, Duo Realis M65, Livetarget Magnum Shad BaitBall Squarebill, Megabass S-Crank, Lucky Craft Squarebill 2.5, Storm Arashi and Rapala Shad Rap.

Fish them around shoreline cover and on the flats between creek drop-offs and the bank. Other fallback baits include spinnerbaits like the Booyah Super Shad, Stanley Vibrashaft and Nichols Pulsator. Good buzzbait options can be found from Lunker Lure, Damiki, Santone and Dirty Jigs.

Rendezvous With Redfish

Along the northern Gulf Coast from Carrabelle, FL, to Grand Isle, LA, the redfish season begins in late September and continues in stages through December. Some anglers fish in the surf with cut bait, while others station themselves on area piers or in boats on relatively shallow flats near channel cuts.

Hot Spots To Fish: For boating anglers, a couple of spots stick out. Pensacola Bay Pass is a must-fish for boaters. Anchor up on the broad flat between old Fort Pickens and the channel, set out lines as the tide changes to incoming, and hang on. Need more help? Redfish University Pensacola Fishing Charters (850-748-4368, redfishuniversity.com) specializes in the big drum.

At Grand Isle, LA, book a trip with Gotta Go Fishing Charters (225-921-3642, gottagofishingcharters.com). The marshes and inshore waters around Venice, LA, are primo redfish haunts as well. Captain Mike Frenette (504-782-0924, laredfish.com or (mike@venicefishing.net) is a top guide here.

Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company 
Louisiana’s coastal waters are ground zero for the hottest autumn redfish action along the northern Gulf Coast. A variety of natural baits and artificials get the job done.

Tackle You’ll Need: “Rat” reds of 3 pounds and up, or real bruisers weighing in excess of 20 pounds require a range of tackle options. Bass fishing tackle – whether spinning or baitcasting – is perfect for handling smaller fish and for casting jigs or swimbaits that weigh less than an ounce. A Shimano Stradic spinning reel and 7-foot medium-action Shimano Compre rod with 14-pound-test monofilament.

For bigger fish, consider a Penn Battle II BTLII5000 with 20-pound-test monofilament or 40-pound-test braid, and a 30-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. A 7-foot medium-heavy spinning rod (such as the Penn Battalion BATIN1220S70) should handle any bait rigs or lures and wear down a bull redfish in short order.

Quick Tip: Incoming tides in late evening or at night are primo times for reds as the fish free-spawn then in the mouths of coastal bays and estuaries. If you can’t fish any other time, make sure you fish the incoming tides.

 

Best Lures/Baits: Redfish aren’t particular about their dietary requirements and will eat anything from blue crabs to halved mullet. Swimming spoons such as the Johnson Sprite (johnsonfishing.com), swimbaits and jigs or even topwater poppers, such as the Heddon Saltwater Spook, will elicit strikes.

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Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company Photo By Garrick Dixon Shallow- to medium-running crankbaits probably account for more bass than any other lure in the fall when the fish are on the prowl for shad in feeder creeks and coves. http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-south-this-fall http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-south-this-fall Thu, 11 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Outdoor Fall Activities in Florida Florida doesn’t get much of a season change when fall arrives, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate! Some activities in Florida are just better when summer’s over, when the heat slightly lessens its grip and you can feel good knowing that Halloween and pumpkin spice everything is on the horizon. If you’re craving some outdoor adventure this fall, make sure these 10 activities make it on your must-do list. 

Acres upon acres of trails beckon drivers of all skill levels to take a ride on the wild side. This off-roading destination features a variety of trails and obstacles to sate your cravings for adventure and give you plenty of reason to return. They’re open every first and third Saturday of the month until dark.

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Off roading works up an appetite, and there’s no better place in town to refuel than at Hog Pound BBQ. This cozy little barbecue nook is dishing out true southern flavors and all the fixins to calm your hangry stomach. Eat in or get it to go so you can get back to the trails.

This exquisite nature preserve has everything to offer the outdoor adventure. For starters, they offer a guided nature walk every Sunday morning starting at 11. They also have several hiking trails and nature exhibits, plus the best fall bird watching in the area (warblers, hawks, and falcons are frequent visitors).

Known for their shared passion of the great outdoors, the Adventure Club of Gainesville features several hiking trips throughout the year in Central Florida. Favorite areas include Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park, Newnan’s Lake, and O’Leno State Park, but they’ve been known venture as far as the Panhandle and host overnight trips. Whether you prefer short jaunts or miles-long day hikes, you’ll want to join this passionate group of hikers this fall.

If you plan on spending some time with the Adventure Club or anywhere on the hiking trails this fall, grab some new gear at Lloyd Clarke Sports. They have tons for the outdoorsman, including apparel, hammocks, poles, backpacks, and hiking boots. You won’t find a better local selection anywhere else.

Ever wanted to see a sea turtle? Coastal Wildlife Club uses volunteers in their Sea Turtle Patrol to walk sections of the beach searching for turtle activity and protect nests. You can become a volunteer with the club and record data on active nests to help protect these amazing creatures.

Another Gulf Coast wonder not to be missed is Stump Pass Beach State Park, where shells and shark teeth abound on the sandy shores. Swimming and sunbathing are year-round activities here, plus there are numerous hiking trails winding their way through natural areas. Stay on land or set off in a kayak to discover local wildlife like egrets, manatees, and gopher tortoises. 

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Fall weather is great for kayaking and canoeing in Florida’s oldest nature preserves. Eco tours offer rare glimpses of Florida wildlife, including gators, ospreys, and bald eagles, along with native flora. Tours usually last two hours and give you a satisfying balance of history and scenery.

A day of exploring outdoors calls for a chance to explore other life’s wonders, too. Take a trip to Olga Mall, where you can fill up on a home-cooked meal and take a gander at a collection of unique oddities and handmade items throughout. It’s like being at Grandma’s house with treasures in every nook and cranny, along with downhome service that makes you feel like family.

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Lake Okeechobee serves as the headwaters of the Everglades and remains one of the most popular fall birdwatching destinations in Florida. Sandpipers are popular denizens around this time, as are long-billed dowitchers, yellowlegs, and the elusive Everglades Snail Kite. The lake is home to an abundance of other wildlife, too.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-fall-activities-in-florida http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-fall-activities-in-florida Wed, 10 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500