15 Things You Might Not Know About Florida

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1. The first Thanksgiving might have actually been celebrated in Florida, not Plymouth. In The Cross in the Sand, historian Michael Gannon argues that a Spanish explorer celebrated a version of Thanksgiving with Timacua Indians in 1565—56 years before the first feast at Plymouth. Guests reportedly dined on bean soup.

2. In 1998, Florida passed a law requiring daycare centers to play at least one hour of classical music every day. The bill stemmed from the 1990s hype surrounding the "Mozart effect"—the belief that listening to Mozart would boost children’s intelligence. While one 1993 study seemed to support this hypothesis, more recent findings show that merely listening to Mozart's music produces no such cognitive enhancements.

3. The Florida Department of Transportation has a fleet of service patrollers known as “Road Rangers” that will bring you gas if you run out.

4. In 1929, the Florida Keys built a 30-foot-tall bat tower to control mosquitoes. But even though architects doused the building with pheromone-infused guano as bait, not a single bat ever moved in. In fact, scientific records suggest that bats didn’t begin to inhabit the island until 1996.

5. Florida has the most golf courses of any state—more than 1,250.

6. Under the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is illegal to molest, harass, disturb, or hug a manatee. In fact, a Florida father was once arrested after posting Facebook pictures of himself and his daughters playing with a manatee.

7. In 1996, Miami installed the first ATM designed specifically for Rollerbladers.

8. Venice, Florida, is known as the shark tooth capital of the world. The city’s beaches are loaded with shark teeth, and collecting them has been a popular pastime of visitors and residents for decades.

9. In the mid-1800s, Florida tried to give away its swampland to anyone who promised to drain it or fill it. By 1883, the government had given away deeds to 17.5 million acres of wetland property—even though it only owned 14.7 million acres.

10. While the Florida Everglades is often described as a swamp or a wetland, it is actually a slow-moving river.

11. Once a year, the city of Tampa is overtaken and captured by pirates. It’s all part of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, an annual celebration to commemorate the legend of José Gaspar, a pirate who supposedly operated in Southwestern Florida.

12. The oldest building in Florida is located in Miami Beach. The Cloisters of the Monastery of St. Bernard were built in Segovia, Spain in 1141 (700 years before any buildings were constructed in South Florida). In 1925, publisher William Randolph Hearst bought the building and shipped the pieces to Florida. After languishing in a warehouse for a few decades, the building was re-assembled at its present site in 1954.

13. There is no place in Florida that is more than 60 miles from a body of salt water.

14. Every year, thousands of people descend on Perdido Key, Florida, to toss mullets across the state line into Alabama. Sadly, mullets are a type of fish, not hair.

15. Gatorade was named for the mascot of the University of Florida, where the drink was invented.

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October 5, 2014 - 1:43pm
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