If you are planning a vacation at Disney World or Orlando, it is helpful if you expand your horizons a bit and explore some of the many attractions that are within a short drive of Orlando. One of these nearby places of interest is Silver Springs, Florida where you can see wildlife and enjoy rides in a park set up at the site of one of the largest artesian spring formations in the world, producing nearly 550 million gallons of crystal-clear water daily.
Since the mid 19th century the beauty of Silver Springs has attracted visitors, and glass-bottom boat rides were set up to serve the curious tourists in 1870. Today the headwaters of the Silver River have been transformed into a huge nature park with rides and exhibits.
The most attractive feature of the park, the one which has been attracting tourists for more than 100 years is the chance to ride through crystal clear waters of the Silver River in glass bottom boats. The boats are manned by licensed captains and tour the seven major spring formations at the headwaters of the river.
There are two popular river cruises that you can choose from. The "Fort King River Cruise" carries you through Silver Springs' 10,000 year history. Interactive exhibits and displays include a working archaeological dig site, Seminole Indian village, the 1830s Fort King Army stockade, a late 1880s riverboat dock and train depot, and an authentic Florida pioneer "Cracker" homestead.
"The Lost River Voyage" transports guests back in time to wild Florida as it was thousands of years ago-untouched and untamed. Riverbanks are lined with towering bald cypress trees, some more than 500 years old. See alligators, turtles, heron, osprey, and other wildlife basking and feeding in their natural habitat.
Some of the other popular attractions at the park are as follows:
"Wings of the Springs" is presented at the outdoor Silver River Showcase Theater. This is a dramatic free flight show featuring a diverse collection of birds. The presentation showcases parrots of the tropical rainforest, comical ducks and chickens, and the magnificent raptors (including hawks, eagles, owls, falcons and vultures). The show is both educational and entertaing and there is a surprise ending!
"Reptiles of the World Show" features reptile handlers that give an exciting and educational presentation on alligators, crocodiles, turtles and dispels some of the myths about these fascinating cold-blooded animals.
"Non-Venomous Snake Show" offers guests the opportunity to view, touch and learn about the many different species of snakes in the world, and the important role they play in controlling rodents and other pests.
"Creature Feature" showcases some of the scariest creatures of the night. This program features Egyptian fruit bats, tarantulas, Emperor scorpions, giant toads and praying mantis, and a "creature cam" allows guests a close-up view on overhead monitors.
Alligator and crocodile feedings are presented daily at 2:30 p.m. (during warm summer months).Reptile keepers conduct the feedings that provide guests with the chance to witness the feeding habits of various species while learning more about these ancient creatures.
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