With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, the Sunshine State of Florida is the southeasternmost state in the nation.
In addition to its Latin-American culture and notable arts scene, the city of Miami is also known for its nightlife, particularly in upscale South Beach. Disney World is one of Orlando’s most famous attractions.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT FLORIDA
- Capital City: Tallahassee
- Largest City: Jacksonville
- Nickname: The Sunshine State
- Statehood: March 3, 1845; 27th state
- Population (as of 2020): 21,538,187
- Abbreviation: FL
- State bird: mockingbird
- State flower: orange blossom
- Total Size Of The State: 65,758 sq mi (170,312 km2)
Over 12,000 years ago, the first people settled in Florida. Their primary source of food was hunting and gathering wild plants. Several Native American tribes, including the Timucua, Apalachee, Calusa, and Creek, lived in the area over the centuries.
In 1513, Spanish conquistador Ponce de León sailed to Florida in search of gold and silver. Despite not finding it, he discovered fertile farmland and a lot of coastlines perfect for shipping. As a result, the British, French, and Spanish attempted to establish settlements in Florida.
The British took control of Florida from Spain in 1763 in exchange for the land that is now Havana, Cuba. Two decades later, Spain retook control as part of the peace treaty that ended the Revolutionary War. Eventually, new settlers flooded in, and in 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United States in exchange for Texas. In 1845, Florida became the 27th state.
Florida is still home to Native Americans known as Seminoles. Their ancestors came from a combination of tribes who fled the conflict with Europeans and other tribes in the 1700s.
Why Does It Have That Name?
Florida’s original Spanish name is La Florida, which means “place of flowers.” Some historians think Ponce de León chose the name to honor the flowers he saw growing there or as a homage to Spain’s Easter celebration, Pascua Florida, or “Feast of Flowers.”
Geographic Features and Landforms
Florida is surrounded almost entirely by water because it is a peninsula. Georgia is located in the northeast, and Alabama is in the northwest of the state. You can swim in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s west coast.
The Marianna lowlands are dotted with caves and sinkholes, but the northern “upland” region is hilly. Sandy beaches, coral reefs, and islands dot the coastal plains. With over 1.5 million acres of marshland, the
Everglades National Park in the south offers canoeing through swamps and wildlife. Located off the southernmost tip of the state are the Florida Keys, a group of about 1,700 tiny islands known as an archipelago.
Are you interested in island hopping? Not a problem. Causeways and 42 bridges connect the various keys.
The Natural World
Among Florida’s wildlife are armadillos, black bears, and the Florida panther; reptiles such as alligators, crocodiles, and snakes; sea life such as manatees, sea turtles, dolphins, and whales; and birds such as owls, cranes, and Florida’s state bird, the mockingbird.
In addition, there are more than 300 species of native trees in the state, ranging from apple and cherry trees in the north to mangrove forests in the swamps. A common sight in marshes is tall sawgrass, though Florida’s most famous plant is the orange tree, whose blossom is the state flower.
Ponce de León is widely believed to have been the first to plant orange seeds in Florida. New railroads enabled growers to ship oranges across the country three centuries later. As a result, this state produces most of the orange juice sold in the country today.
Florida is also known for its sugarcane, fish, petroleum, and phosphate (used for fertilizer).
Some Fun Facts About Florida
Florida can be an excellent vacation destination thanks to its 663-mile coastline and Disney World. More than 62,000 people a day visit the 40-square-mile park in Orlando, which employs more than 60,000 people.
There are times when the state can take you out of this world… literally! For example, a rocket launch can be seen from Cape Canaveral, where rockets have taken off since 1950.
There’s more to Florida than just a great tourist destination. So many people have made Florida their home:
- Ernest Hemingway made Key West his home.
- Zora Neale Hurston, a member of the Harlem Renaissance, author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, and collector and publisher of African-American and Afro-Caribbean folklore, lived here.
- Also born in Florida are singer Ariana Grande and former Attorney General Janet Reno.
The state is home 2 NBA teams; the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic.