Food Traveler Magazine Winter 2016 - Page 59

If you are looking less for nature, and more for an adrenaline rush, then you will have to head over to WonderWorks, an all-encompassing center for scientific exhibits, rides, coasters, and even laser tag! Take a ride on the Wonder Coaster, a virtual reality cyber-ride that tosses and turns you through your choice of adventure. VIP tickets are less than $40; WonderWorks is an inexpensive way to have fun with the whole family. Reaching more for a combination of nature’s beauty and a heart-racing activity? Swim with dolphins! Panama City Beach is known to have some of the highest concentrations of bottlenose dolphins on the coasts of Florida. Bottlenose dolphins live in groups of 10 or more in their community, called pods, and are consistently seen along the shores of Panama. They have the second largest encephalization (closest relation in size of brain mass to body mass), compared to humans, which explains the deeply-rooted history of dolphins’ intelligence levels. Swim with these beautiful animals by participating in the famous Dolphin Tour. There are a wide range of tours to choose from, depending on what kind of package you are looking for, and even some available on Shell Island. Get up close and personal with these animals and you will see why they are so popular among Floridians. Wakulla Springs A highly recommended pastime in Florida is visiting one of the many springs this state has to offer. There are over 30 first-magnitude springs statewide, and more than 150 second-magnitude springs to follow. One of the larger springs worth visiting is Wakulla Springs, in Wakulla County, Florida. Make your way to the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park in Crawfordville, where you will find one of the largest springs in the world. Pushing out nearly 300 million gallons of water a day, the pool is 315 feet in diameter and the vent alone is an estimated 82 feet wide. The vent leads out to a major network of caves and this area is one of the most explored aquatic cave systems in the world. Wakulla Springs is all freshwater, and features a plethora of nature trails for taking beautiful fall and winter walks. When the water is clear, there are tours available to take on glass-bottom boats, a favorite activity for locals. Along the trails and during the tours, be on the lookout for alligators, turtles, deer, and manatees. Extend your trip by making a reservation at the Wakulla Springs Lodge. Nicknamed “North Florida’s Castle,” the lodge features 27 rooms and rich history within the park, as its location is in the center of Wakulla Springs. Fine dining with a full-service menu is available at the lodge, where the chef is serving up everything from southern fried chicken to bacon-wrapped quail and crab cake dinners. FoodTraveler l Winter 2016 57