Silver Springs in Ocala is one of Florida's oldest and most unique theme parks. It is devoted not to thrill rides but to the thrill of discovering Florida's wild and natural beauty. Located about an hour's drive north of Orlando, it features glass-bottomed boat rides, native-Florida wild animal exhibits, educational shows, a safari jeep ride and more. (Be sure to watch the video at the end of the article.)
Silver Springs features three glass-bottomed boat rides, a jeep safari, and an 80 feet tall merry-go-round of sorts. The glass-bottomed boat rides are what made Silver Springs famous. The main cruise takes you out over the seven springs that make up Silver Springs. Some of these springs are so deep that it gives you the sensation of being very high up as you peer down through the glass bottom boat.
Another cruise named the Fort King River Cruise takes you back in time through Florida’s history. On shore you’ll see recreations of a Seminole Indian village, an early fort, trading post, settler’s homestead, archaeological dig and more.
The final cruise named the Lost River Voyage takes you to the parks wildlife rehabilitation center where you’ll meet the injured animals the park cares for and the biologists who look after them.
The Wilderness Trail Jeep ride is a safari ride through the park’s exotic animal collection. The driver slows down to let you get a good look at the animals before speeding off to the next exhibit. It is by far the most thrilling ride in the park but still perfectly fun for kids.
The Lighthouse Ride is a merry-go-round of sorts which takes you up 80 feet and gives you a bird’s eye view of the park as it circles around.
Silver Springs features several wildlife shows such as “Wings of the Springs” bird show where wild birds fly directly over the heads of the spectators. Other shows include “Reptiles of the World Show” and “Non-Venomous Snake Show” featuring show-and-tell educational demonstrations of snakes and alligators. Speaking of alligators be sure not to miss feeding time at the Big Gator Lagoon. Watching huge alligators fight for raw chicken scraps is quite the site to behold.
“Spirit of the Swamp” features wildlife exhibits including “Big Gator Lagoon” featuring dozens of 11-13 feet long alligators, “Ross Allen Island” featuring a collection of Florida-native snakes, turtles, spiders, otters and other animals, and “Panther Prowl” featuring the western Cougar which is a very close relative of Florida’s endangered panther.
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