Viva Florida 500
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VISIT FLORIDA Viva 500 Media Site
Tallahassee, Fla. -- In 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed in Florida -- America's first tourist. In 2013, "Viva Florida 500" will celebrate that meeting of Old and New worlds by showcasing Florida's native heritage and 500 years of influence by peoples from Spain, France, Great Britain, Africa and the Caribbean. The paradise that Ponce named La Florida, land of flowers, today is the world's preeminent tourist destination. Experience Viva Florida 500 by exploring this cradle of history.
Drive the Spanish Heritage Trail. Dive on historic shipwrecks.
See priceless Spanish art by Picasso and Dali. Tour a splendid Spanish basilica and a humble mission village.
Visit Florida cities, orange groves and cattle ranches with indelible European roots.
Taste the flavors of Florida's diverse heritage in its seafood-rich cuisine and bask in the real fountains of youth.
Juan Ponce de Leon, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, Hernando de Soto, Tristan de Luna, Jean Ribault . . . Masterful re-enactors bring to life these adventurers and the settlers who followed them. See living history in St. Augustine, the oldest European-settled city in America, and at living-history sites such as Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, Florida's capital.
St. Augustine authorities have invited Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia to dedicate the bells of the St. Augustine Cathedral Basilica in the spring of 2013. Gov. Rick Scott traveled to Spain to invite the Royal Family to a Viva Florida 500 Anniversary Gala. Details are pending.
Florida's native Americans
The Florida Native American Heritage Trail honors cultures at least 12,000 years old. The trail includes 24 significant Seminole sites, including Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in the tribe's Big Cypress community, and Miccosukee Indian Village within the Sunshine State's most famous natural feature, the Florida Everglades.
Rooted in Europe
Florida's signature oranges were first planted by Spanish settlers. The state's cattle, horses and pigs descend from Spanish livestock. Pick citrus in working groves, get your cowboy on at a cattle ranch, and sample settler life at Florida's Agricultural Museum.
Land of many cultures
While Florida's heritage is decidely Spanish, it is diverse. Greek immigrants built Tarpon Springs sponge industry, which at one time outranked citrus as Florida's main export. In the late 1800s, Cuban, Italian and Spanish cigar makers moved to Tampa's Ybor City and that flavor endures today. Amelia Island, just north of Jacksonville, may be the only American city to have existed under eight flags.
The Canaveral National Seashore is 24 miles of secluded beaches. The Timucuan Indians lived here for centuries. The Spanish, French and British newcomers stepped ashore on beaches much like this one. Every year, Florida wins multiple spots on any list of best beaches.
From Spain to space
Tall ships set sail for Florida from Spain and Puerto Rico to salute the voyagers who bridged the Old and New worlds. St. Augustine's Maritime Festival in November will be one of many around the state. Expedition 500 will lead paddling journeys to circumnavigate the state. Divers will explore historic shipwrecks off Florida's two coasts. And Kennedy Space Center will tell Florida's story of space exploration.
Pensacola's celebrity chefs present history on a platter with foods and wines from the City of Five Flags, site of Florida's first settlement attempt. St. Augustine's Spanish Wine and Food Festival will raise a toast to Old Spain. The Miami Wine and Food Festival is an international draw.
Back to nature
From Spanish settlers to American land merchants, Jack E. Davis wrote that many have hesitated before the vast Everglades. Explore the "River of Grass" on foot, by kayak or by airboat, led by park rangers and Seminole guides. The Everglades is one of the natural wonders of Florida, home of tropical birds, panthers and manatees. The Florida Keys are home to the third-largest coral reef in the world.
Bask in the fountains of youth
The legend lives on in Florida's 700 natural springs, which rank among the world's greatest wonders, and with luxurious spas, health resorts and yoga retreats.
Rev up at racing icons
From dirt ovals to superspeedways, everyone races in Florida - NASCAR, Indy cars, motorcycles, dragsters. Patrick Dempsey will drive Viva Florida's "500" car in the 2013 24 Hours of LeMans.
Media assistance from VISIT FLORIDA
VISIT FLORIDA Viva 500 Media Site
presents Florida heritage trails, travel planning tools for today's explorers, blogs in English and in Spanish by Viva Florida Insider Patricia Pena, and stories and videos about Viva Florida events and destinations.
VISIT FLORIDA media professionals are available to work with producers and reporters to identify experts and venues, and to supply video, photos and more information. Contact Laura Cassels (850) 205-3839 lcassels@VISITFLORIDA.org or Pam Forrester (850) 205-3827 pforrester@VISITFLORIDA.org.