Silver Springs State Park
Sunday, May 26, 2019 11:08 AM
The Villages to Silver Springs
26-mi, 1-hr 40-min
Gainesville to Silver Springs
40-mi, 1-hr 5-min
5656 East Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, FL 34488
8:30 AM to sunset 365 days, $2 park admission + $11 for glass bottom boat tour
No charge for parking
The first impression of Silver Springs feels like a YouTube “exploring abandoned theme parks” video. Passing an oversized, tired entry sign, the drive winds through an overgrown field where a water theme park once stood, to acres of unkept parking lots. A few dozen cars cluster near the entry pagoda.
Then it starts to get better. The wide boardwalk leading into the park curves around a large fountain. The scale of everything points to the huge crowds of visitors in pre-Disney Florida, and the architecture is a mash up of Fantasy Island carpenter gothic and 60’s modern. The grounds are neatly trimmed, with unusual plants, but the semicircular mall facing the spring tells a sad story: empty store fronts, a downtrodden museum with one live snake, ancient unlit dioramas and a restaurant/snack bar with a cavernous, mostly empty dining room.
But stepping onto the glass bottom tour boat changes everything. Once aboard, you can’t help but wonder why the crowds are not here now. The springs sparkle with light as you glance across the water, with birds and people in kayaks, to below the surface with fish, swaying plants, boat wrecks and thousands of bits of limestone being hurled upwards like snow as the subterranean water rushes from the aquifer.
Our captain spun the boat slowly around each of the many spring heads, assuring a good view of each one, while telling the history of the springs and the famous movies filmed here. During the half-hour ride we saw alligators, anhingas, turtles and hundreds of fish. And a chat with Jim, one of the volunteer rangers, filled in more details about the spring and its economic impact on the area. Part of our conversation is included in the video below.
We opted out of the walking path to an island inhabited by monkeys, and headed out for lunch at Yummy House, a favorite Chinese restaurant on State Road 200 SW just east of I-75.
The bottom line is that the glass bottom boat ride is worth the trip and could be combined with other activities in the Ocala area, and there are plenty of choices nearby to grab a bite.
Enjoy this video of Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, Florida - a great place to bring the kids or grand children.
Welcome to my blog about nearby adventures that await Villagers ready to venture outside the bubble!
- Greg Madsen