Before Disney World and Universal Studios, there was Silver Springs, one of Central Florida's "original" theme parks. The park is built around the basin of the Silver River, off Interstate 75 near Ocala and has been operating in one form or another since the 1870s. It has also served as the filming location for numerous television programs and movies over its long history, including the original six Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller.
The park's true claim to fame is the World-Famous Glass Bottom Boat Ride, which has been navigating the Silver River since the 19th century. Back then, the boats were rowed by park employees as visitors looked below the surface of the water and into the depths. By the early 1930s, scientists and entrepenuers came together to further establish Silver Springs as a wild natural attraction. This included the introduction of a colony of rhesus monkeys to the park area and the conversion of the glass bottom rowboats to motorized vessels. By 1950, the park was welcoming over 800,000 guests a year and in 1972 the United States Department of the Interior had designated Silver Springs as a registered Natural Landmark.
Today the park is home to over a dozen rides, including the Lost River Voyage, Jeep Safari and of course, the Glass Bottom Boat Ride. A multi-million dollar expansion project in the late 1990s brought more new features to the park, including the Twister Flume Ride and the World of Bears. The summer of 2004 saw the addition of the 80-foot Lighthouse Ride, as well as the Fort King River Cruise and the Fantastic Fountains Water Show.
Silver Springs is a welcome escape from the ordinary. For a wild adventure into the natural world, there is no better option in the Orlando area.
Silver Springs is located at 5656 Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala, Fl. For more information, call (352) 236-2121.
Attractions Glass Bottom Boats - Take a leisurely ride down the Silver River and behold what lives under the surface. Surely a boat ride like no other.Fort King River Cruise - Travel through 10,000 years of Florida history in around a half hour. Exhibits include a Seminole Village, the Fort King Army Stockade and a movie set representing the many films shot at Silver Springs.Lost River Voyage - Untamed jungles await those who dare enter. See Florida's wildlife as it was thousands of years ago and learn what Silver Springs is doing to help keep the land pristine.Jeep Safari - Ride through forests and swamps in a zebra-striped Jeep. Beware the live alligators!World of Bears - The largest bear exhibit in the U.S., World of Bears features a variety of species living in a naturalistic setting.Panther Prowl - Get an up-close look at one of America's rarest and most fascinating species, the Florida Panther.Big Gator Lagoon - View some of Florida's largest alligators from an elevated boardwalk. Watch as they swim, bask and feed right before your eyes.Alligator and Crocodile Encounter - Another opportunity to view Florida's famous alligators, along with their many crocodilian relatives.Sobek - Meet Sobek, a 16 foot, 2000 pound crocodile who greets guests at Silver Springs.Kids Ahoy! Playland - A perfect place for young explorers, little ones can enjoy a ferris wheel, cargo net climb and other great kids activities!Doolittle's Petting Zoo - Become friends with adorable animals at the Silver Springs petting zoo. A variety of species await you.Botanical Gardens - Get lost among acres and acres of exotic plants and trees. Vibrant colors and cool breezes welcome you to the Botanical GardensReptiles of the World - Learn all about our cold-blooded neighbors through live demonstrations and educational presentations.Creature Feature Show - Discover some of the strangest and scariest creatures on Earth, including scorpions, spiders and hissing cockroaches.Florida Natives - Get to know some of Florida's native species at this education exhibit designed to teach guests about the animals that are indigenous to this area.Birds of Prey - Check out a number of the most exciting creatures in the sky during this wild free-flight demonstration.Birds of the Rainforest - This is a great introduction to exotic birds from all over the world. This demonstration showcases the brilliant colors and entertaining talents of the some of the most interesting birds around. Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times