Editors in-state spring break spots

With less than two weeks to spring break, students may already be eagerly making plans on how to celebrate their time off.

Yet not everyone can make the trip to Miami, Mexico or off the continent – and some may not want to.

If you still want to travel, but remain close to campus, here are six nearby in-state options chosen by Oracle editors.

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

The siren call of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park’s mythical mermaids and Florida folklore has long mesmerized tourists traveling down Interstate 75 near Spring Hill.

Weeki Wachee not only offers one of the smallest cities in the nation – boasting a population of nine including the mayor, according to its website – but also contains the springs and Buccaneer Bay water park.

The famed tourist destination has enchanted visitors with underwater ballets, riverboat tours and wildlife shows since 1947. The springs also served as a backdrop for Elvis Presley’s film “Follow That Dream” and Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s reality series “The Simple Life 2.”

If the combination of kitsch and Florida heat gets to be too much, the springs are the deepest in the U.S. – the bottom has yet to be found – and stay a constant 72 degrees for any weary swimmers.

– Anastasia Dawson, Editor in Chief

Bay Area Renaissance Festival

Now offering eight weekends of medieval entertainment, the 2011 Bay Area Renaissance Festival at MOSI’s fairgrounds coincides with spring break and St. Patrick’s Day.

The festival is directly across from campus and only costs $18 to take in shows, jousting and, of course, alcohol. The most elaborate show – human combat chess – even offers audience participation.

During the break, the festival also celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with highland games and other Celtic fare on March 12 and 13. March 17 is the St. Patrick’s Day Party, with the first green beer free.

The festival may be an offbeat attraction, but it should provide plenty of action and spectacle to spice up spring break.

– Emily Handy, Managing Editor

Egmont Key

For those who want an exotic escape but don’t have the means to travel around the globe, instead consider a trip to local attraction Egmont Key.

Located southwest of Fort DeSoto Beach at the mouth of Tampa Bay, Egmont Key requires a boat ride to reach the remnants of Fort Dade, a lighthouse that has stood since 1858, and its wildlife reserves.

Visitors can also enjoy the beaches, hiking, nature trails and picnicking spots.

The park is open from 8 a.m. to sundown and ferry rides are available from Fort DeSoto Beach.

– Brittany Cerny, News Editor

St. Augustine

Students looking to leave Tampa without straying too far may want to turn their eyes about three hours north to the beach city of St. Augustine.

One of the area’s biggest and brightest draws for spring break – the three-day indie and punk music festival Harvest of Hope Fest – has sadly been cancelled this year. But there’s still plenty to see.

St. Augustine Beach on Anastasia Island offers some great sun-speckled scenery with cerulean waters and warm sands.

The town’s historic downtown houses tons of landmarks like Lightner Museum and the Fountain of Youth that display St. Augustine’s Spanish heritage as the country’s oldest European-established colony.

– Jimmy Geurts, Montage Editor

Ginnie Springs

Students seeking an aquatic adventure without the inevitable crowds at Florida’s most popular beaches, head inland for some refreshing fun at Ginnie Springs.

Located near Gainesville, the privately owned campground boasts seven crystal-clear freshwater springs with a year-round temperature of 72 degrees.

Snorkel in any one of the springs for a glimpse of Florida’s underwater flora and fauna, or tube down the Santa Fe River to warm up in the sun.

More adventurous travelers with scuba licenses can explore Ginnie Cavern or the Devil Spring underwater cave system. Ginnie Springs offers a four-day scuba certification course, so students without training can spend spring break learning to dive while camping on more than 200 acres of woods.

The campground also offers a full-service dive center where campers can rent tubes, kayaks and canoes.

– Brendan Collett, Scene & Heard Editor

Ft. Lauderdale

Whether it’s sunshine, surf or shopping, Ft. Lauderdale has it all for spring break.

By avoiding the heavy crowds found further south in Miami, one can enjoy everything Ft. Lauderdale has to offer.

For shopping enthusiasts, the area is home to Sawgrass Mills Mall – the sixth largest mall in the U.S. Later you can head down to Las Olas Boulevard to enjoy the restaurants, bars, stores and clubs.

End your day by relaxing on the beach and watch as the Oasis of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, sets sail from Port Everglades. If you’re in the water, you may even feel a slight tug as the Oasis pulls you closer out to sea.

– Michael Manganello, Sports Editor