Florida is famous for its sandy beaches and warm, sunny weather

November 30, 2012 1:32 am

Florida
Florida is famous for its sandy beaches and warm, sunny weather. Some people say the balmy weather is Florida’s most important resource. It has helped make Florida one of the fastest-growing states in the . Florida’s nickname, the Sunshine State, shows the importance of its climate.
On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state to join the United States. Tallahassee is Florida’s capital, and Jacksonville is the largest city. Miami is the state’s biggest metropolitan area.
Facts About Florida
Capital
Tallahassee
Population
18,300,000 people
Rank among states in population
4th
Major cities
Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Saint Petersburg
Area
65,800 square miles
170,000 square kilometers
Rank among states in area
23rd
Statehood
March 3, 1845, the 27th state
State nickname
The Sunshine State
Name for residents
Floridians
State bird
Mockingbird
State flower
Orange Blossom
State tree
Sabal Palmetto
Abbreviation
FL
PENINSULA AND PANHANDLE
Florida is the nation’s most southeastern state. Most of Florida is a peninsula. A peninsula is a strip of land that juts out into a body of water.
The eastern shores of Florida’s peninsula face the Atlantic Ocean. The Gulf of Mexico is to the west. No place in Florida is very far from the sea. Florida has more coastline than any other state except Alaska.
The northwest part of Florida is called the panhandle. That’s because it looks like the handle of a frying pan. The state’s only hills rise in the panhandle. Florida’s highest hill stands just 345 feet (105 meters). Florida is one of the country’s flattest states.
SUNSHINE STATE
It’s warm and sunny most of the year in Florida. The pleasant climate makes Florida a playground for vacationers. It’s also a popular place to live. Many people from Northern states move to Florida after they retire. Nearly 18 million people live in Florida year-round. Florida is the country’s fourth most populated state.
Settlers from Spain brought citrus fruit trees to Florida in the 1600s. Citrus fruits thrive in all that sunshine. Today, Florida is by far the largest producer of oranges and grapefruits in the United States. That’s the reason for one of Florida’s other nicknames, the Orange State.
Florida’s biggest business is tourism. Theme parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando draw millions of visitors all year long. So do seaside resorts like Palm Beach, Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami Beach. You can go deep-sea fishing, go snorkeling, or just relax on the beach.
FLORIDA KEYS
One of Florida’s most popular vacation spots is the Florida Keys. The keys are a string of tiny, sandy islands that stretch off the coast of southern Florida. A long road connects the main islands, or keys. The bridges linking the keys are miles long in places!
For many years, the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway lived on Key West—one of the larger keys. He wrote about the area in his novel Islands in the Stream. Today, you can visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West.
THE EVERGLADES
Most of southern Florida is covered by the Everglades. The Everglades is a vast marsh south of Lake Okeechobee, a huge freshwater lake. The native Seminole Indians called this area Pay-hai-o-kee, meaning “grassy water.” It’s one of the world’s largest wetlands.
Thousands of tiny islands, called hammocks, dot the Everglades. Trees such as cypress and sabal palms—Florida’s state tree—grow on them. Most of the Everglades is wet and covered in high grass. Eagles, alligators, crocodiles, wading birds, and the rare Florida panther live there. Part of the Everglades forms Everglades National Park, which sees more than 1 million visitors every year.
But the Everglades is in trouble. For years, people drained water from it. Fertilizers used in farming have polluted the Everglades with chemicals. Recently, environmentalists have tried to protect the Everglades and return it to its natural state.
SPANISH EXPLORERS
The first Europeans to reach Florida were from Spain. In 1513, the explorer Juan Ponce de León left Puerto Rico in search of the fountain of youth. This legendary spring supposedly had magical waters that could keep a person young.
Ponce de León didn’t find the fountain of youth. But he did find Florida. In 1565, the Spanish established a settlement on the coast of northeastern Florida that became Saint Augustine. It was the first permanent European settlement in the United States.
THE SEMINOLE PEOPLE
When the Spanish arrived, many Native Americans inhabited Florida. Diseases brought by the Spanish killed many native people. Others died fighting the Spanish. During the 1700s, the Creek people from Georgia moved into Florida along with escaped African slaves. Together, they were called the Seminole people.
The United States fought three wars with the Seminole, the last one ending in 1858. The Seminole fiercely defended their land, but they were finally defeated. The U.S. government moved most of the Seminole to Oklahoma. But some Seminole stayed. Most who did retreated to the Everglades.
Today, the Seminole have five areas called reservations set aside for them in Florida. They farm, hunt, and fish on the reservations. Some still live in traditional houses called chickees. These are houses on stilts with thatched roofs and no walls.
LITTLE HAVANA
Florida belonged to Spain for about 300 years. People who trace their heritage to Spain, called Hispanics, are important to Florida. Hispanic food, music, and art remain popular in Florida, and many people speak Spanish.
One part of Miami is called Little Havana. Many of its people once lived in Havana, Cuba. In 1959, a revolution overthrew Cuba’s government. Many Cubans left their country and settled in Florida, especially around Miami.
CAPE CANAVERAL
When astronauts go into space, they usually go to Florida first. That’s because Florida is home to the John F. Kennedy Space Center. This is the main launch site for the United States space program.
The space center is located on Cape Canaveral, a sliver of land off Florida’s east coast. Every year, visitors come to Cape Canaveral to witness the thunderous launching of satellites, space probes, and space shuttles.
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