Fun Facts About Florida: What’s Different About The Sunshine State?
Fun facts about Florida are as numerous as oranges in the Sunshine State!
Florida's rich history stretches back thousands of years, with hundreds of interesting tidbits about the state's geography and many vibrant cities. Maybe you want to know about how Miami got its start, or what makes the Everglades so special.
No matter what, there's a huge quantity of fun facts about Florida. It's not all dates and history, either. Read on to find out how Florida became the home of the American space program, and how roller skates changed Miami's economy in the '90s.
Fun Facts About Florida You Probably Didn't Know
You probably know Florida as a warm and sunny peninsula that stretches off the southeastern tip of the United States. It probably makes you think of oranges, beaches, and Disney World.
Yet, have you ever thought about what really makes Florida special?
There are a lot of fun facts about Florida that make it a unique and unusual state. If you thought Florida was all palm trees and retirees, read on!
Fun facts about Florida's history
Florida joined the United States in 1845 as the 27th state, but its history extends far beyond that.
In fact, the area was named more than 300 years before joining the United States.
There are lots of fun facts about Florida, even from before it was part of the United States.
The Seminole and Miccosukee tribes originally lived in Florida
Before European colonists and settlers came to the Americas, Native Americans thrived on the peninsula. They adapted the land to grow corn and other crops, building towns with central plazas and temple mounds.
Native Americans lived in the Florida region for thousands of years before Europeans arrived, and started building permanent settlements around 1,000 years ago. While there were many individual tribes, they all belonged to the Seminole or Miccosukee nations.
These two nations were distinct but shared many beliefs and aspects of their cultural heritage. Today, around 3,000 members of these nations live in Florida.
Europeans first came to Florida in 1513
Spanish explorer and colonist Juan Ponce de Leon was the first European to come to Florida. He arrived on April 2, 1513.
The Spanish named Florida in honor of Spain's Eastertime celebration
Florida roughly translates to "land of flowers" in Spanish. When Spanish colonists arrived, they named the land after their Easter celebration, which was happening as they landed.
Easter in Spain is called "Pascua Florida," or the feast of the flowers.
What you should know about Florida's cities
A lot of fun facts about Florida come from its cities. From the major cultural center of Miami to theme park capital Orlando, Florida is full of distinctive and fun cities.
St. Augustine, Florida, was an early European settlement in the United States
Although Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain in 1513, it would be 1565 before Europeans settled in the future state. This settlement was known as St. Augustine, and still exists today.
Its fortress, Castillo de San Marcos, built in 1586, protected the town from outside threats and is a famous landmark in the city today. It is the oldest city in the United States and home to the Fountain of Youth.
Miami is one of the most diverse cities in the world
A 2004 report from the United Nations Development Programme found that Miami is a haven for expats and immigrants. Of all the cities in the world, Miami had the highest percentage of residents born outside of the country it was located in. Around 59 percent of everyone living in Miami was born outside of the United States.
Miami's demographic makeup is 70 percent Latino, with people coming to the city from countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua, and Honduras.
We bet you didn't know this about Miami
Miami is the only major U.S. city to have been founded by a woman.
Miami officially became a city in 1896, thanks to the effort of a woman from Ohio named Julia Tuttle. Tuttle bought up land in Miami and, using orange flowers, proved that the area could turn a profit for rail developer Henry Flagler.
This forward-thinking move quickly made Miami into a bustling city and set Tuttle's name down in Floridian and American history.
Tallahassee is hot and cold
While Florida has a reputation for hot summers and mild winters, the capital city of Tallahassee has records in both directions!
Tallahassee regularly sees weather above 100 degrees in the summer, one of the only places in the state. Its highest recorded temperature is 105 degrees. On the other end, Tallahassee has the lowest recorded temperature in the entire state.
In February of 1899, an Arctic outbreak set record lows across the country, including dropping Tallahassee down to a frigid -2 degrees Fahrenheit. It's the only negative temperature ever recorded in Florida.
Unique facts about Florida geography
Florida is known for being a low-lying, swampy state. It's also the most prominent peninsula in the United States, instantly recognizable on any map or image. In fact, its distinctive shape gives it the longest coastline of any contiguous state. However, Florida's unique geography makes it superlative in more ways than one.
Florida has the lowest high point of any state in the country
Every state has its own highest point within its borders. Some are among the tallest mountains on the entire continent! But Florida... well, it's not one of these.
Florida's high point, Britton Hill, tops out at a breathtaking 345 feet. It is the lowest high point in the entire country.
The Everglades have a lot of these trees
Mangrove swamps have intricate root systems, which remove salt from seawater and provide rich environments for other organisms to live in. With such an enormous effect on biodiversity, it's no wonder we've tried to protect these unique trees.
The Everglades National Park is the largest collection of mangroves in the entire western hemisphere.
Lake Okeechobee is really, really big
It may be surprising in a state so well-known for its saltwater, but Florida has a high number of lakes as well. The largest of these is Lake Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee is the third largest freshwater lake that is entirely within the United States. That means out of the Great Lakes, only Lake Michigan beats Okeechobee.
Florida is a triple bonus when it comes to launching rockets
Everyone knows Cape Canaveral is NASA's location of choice for launching rockets into space. As it turns out, three major reasons make it such a good choice.
For one, it's close to the equator. The farther you get from the center of a spinning object, the more momentum you have. When you launch a rocket from a place close to the equator, you have all of Earth's momentum helping propel the rocket into space.
It's also close to the ocean, which is important for safe splashdowns. Since Earth turns west to east, the rocket will also launch east. In Florida's case, that's into the ocean, rather than over people who live nearby.
Lastly, when NASA was looking for a place to put a space center, this part of Florida was especially cheap! It was a combination of geography and a good price that made Cape Canaveral perfect.
You're always near a beach in Florida
No matter where you are in Florida, you are never more than 60 miles away from a beach.
That's great news considering Florida is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, including Siesta Key and Clearwater Beach. Both of those beaches have been given the titles of "Number One Beach in America" more than once.
Crazy things you didn't know about Florida
Of course, Florida has a reputation for being a bit... wild. Many fun facts about Florida defy a category or fill a unique space that is all their own.
South Florida has both of these critters
People often confuse crocodiles and alligators. While related, these two aquatic reptiles generally live in very different parts of the world. In much of the South, you can find American alligators in swamps and ponds.
In Florida, you can also find the American and Nile crocodiles. The American crocodile is native to Florida, according to the National Park Service. The Nile crocodile is not.
The southern end of Florida is unique because it blends the ecosystems of both of these animals. As a result of this blending, alligators and crocodiles live together in Florida and nowhere else in the world.
Sarasota is home to a special resort
The Amish people are known for swearing off modern technology in all its forms. They hold to a much simpler lifestyle than most Americans do. But what is simpler than kicking back by the beach and enjoying the sand?
Sarasota, Florida, has made itself into an Amish paradise through the Pinecraft neighborhood. Once a popular location for camping in the 1920s, Amish and Mennonite families now frequent this Gulf Coast resort town looking for a low-tech getaway.
Jacksonville is huge
When you think about large cities you probably think of New York City, Houston, Miami, and others. Jacksonville is probably not on your mind at all.
It should be.
Jacksonville is actually the largest city, in terms of area, in the United States at 840 square miles.
Learning More Fun Facts About Florida
Florida is a big state, and it has a long history even since the first Europeans arrived. Miami has a rich cultural tapestry and is one of the most diverse in the world. Orlando gathers visitors from across the world, and Florida, on the whole, attracts more than 100 million tourists every year.
These fun facts about Florida don't even touch the smaller, stranger things to learn about all over Florida. If you want to know more, maybe you can be one of the millions who visit!