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Silver Springs, FL

Silver Springs, next to the Ocala National Forest, is the home of Silver Springs Theme Park where numerous commercials and movies have been shot due to its crystal clear 99% pure spring water. The Tarzan series of movies with Johnny Weismuller, Sea Hunt with Lloyd Bridges, Legend with Tom Cruise, one of the 007 James Bond movies, the commercial of a family living and eating underwater, etc. were filmed there. It is also an animal rehab and sanctuary as well as an excellent concert venue. The glass bottom boats and concerts are what  brought me to stay for 5 weeks at Wilderness RV Park nearby.

Glass bottom boatsLighthouse rideConcert stage

Wilderness RV Park has been very nice with all the amenities including a pool, hot tub, exercise room, laundry, propane, a lodge and meeting hall for nightly activities, lots of planned activities, river access with kayak and canoe rentals, etc. The sites are wide open so no issue with my satellite TV though they do also provide cable TV free. My site was level on grass while some sites have a concrete pad. I highly recommend using a water filter on the incoming line. The water is loaded with both sulfur and chlorine so it smells pretty bad.

I had no problem finding things to do and entertainment in camp. I got on a treadmill for the first time and found I can actually do it despite my health issues and with no pain whatsoever. It is wonderful to do at night wih a TV available to watch while working out and a chair to sit in afterward to cool down and get over the dizziness it causes. There is also a sauna and shower provided while the bathhouse is right next door. The pool is unheated at this time but some folks still refresh in it on hot days. I gave the hot tub a whirl. I managed get in on a group campfire, a spaghetti dinner, Mardi Gras parade, a Space Shuttle launch, a corned beef and cabbage dinner for St. Patrick’s Day,  several games of cards with very nice folks, wii bowling, and gator races (no kidding!). I loved game night with the bowling and races. I lost 75 cents betting  on the gators but I also won twice and I ate at least that much in free nachos with tons of cheese and piquante sauce along with lime punch.

Gator racingMardi Gras

Silver Springs Theme Park has 3 different boat rides and I just had to ride the glass bottom boats . The fishes and turtles nature danced underneath them for us and the guides were fun folks who gave us the history of the area and made a point of spotting animals for us. I enjoyed seeing the 3 greek statues left behind under the water from a movie shoot. The wild monkeys on the shore were great. We even got to see an alligator working on downing a lunch of a huge black fish.

Fishes under the boatUnderwater statues

I checked out the animal shows and displays afterward. At the small zoo, I got a huge surprise seeing a male llama working very hard on top of a female who seemed rather apathetic about his attentions. The most fun was watching the embarrased parents trying not to explain what was going on as children asked what they were doing and if the male was sick. LOL! Ah nature. I can also report that giraffes stink… bad. The jeep ride was pretty good and the bears were fascinating. One bear was playing in the pool with a plastic can. I also saw some otters playing, a white alligator, flamingos and lots of other birds, ponies, a donkey, and more.

Llama loveOtter playAlligator communeFlamingos

Giraffes

The concerts were excellent and well worth going there. I had purchased a season pass for only $50 which included free parking, all the concerts, and admission to both the theme park and WildWaters water park there which unfortunately does not open until April darn it. The concerts are loads of fun on Saturdays. While they don’t start until 3pm, folks show up early in the day, stake out a spot on the lawn in front of the southern mansion themed pavilion with their chairs, then wander off to enjoy the rest of the park, get some food which is decent, or even play cards together. There is a pre-show band that plays around noon and draws part of the crowd back to the pavilion for a bit. The band is usually one of the locals. It’s a great day in the sunshine with plenty of shade provided by oak trees dangling spanish moss. There are no bad seats though having setup my chair in the direct sun one time, I will never do that again. It got way too hot and I only survived it by grabbing the kerchief I carry, dousing it in the water provided outside the petting zoo, then hanging out under the arbor as long as possible before showtime. I saw 4 concerts while there with Mark Chestnutt, George Jones, Kansas, and John Michael Montgomery. Every one was wonderful! Kansas was particularly exceptional with their highly complicated music that sounds like a full orchestra, the extra set they came back on stage to throw in at the end when we couldn’t stop applauding, and of course they played their signature song “Dust in the Wind”.

Mark Chestnutt in concertGeorge Jones in concertKansas in concertJohn Michael Montgomery in concert

My only gripe was with the audience. Frisbees, beach balls, tshirts, hats, etc were thrown out into the audience at the beginning of the show. The balls were meant to be batted around over our heads for fun all during the concert but instead, people just kept them at every concert. What a waste of some real fun.

TIP1: Not only is there parking up front, there is also parking to the left front of the main lot with a separate entrance that is closer than the front entrance to the stage.

TIP2: An absolute must if you plan on going more than one day is to purchase their large $6 souvenir drink container. Refills are only $1 and you can keep bringing it back all season.

More fun to be had in the area, particularly on a hot day, is to visit one of the many parks with springs for swimming. I would like to have gone to Juniper Springs but it is currently closed for renovation. I did stop by to take a look. I went on to Silver Springs Glen. It cost a $1 to get in and I was certainly not alone. It was quite popular that day. The water was 70-72 degrees which feels cold but gets better after you are in for a minute or two. With picnics, sun bathing, and swimming with the fishes, a good time was had by all. 😀

Silver Springs Glen

Another day I went to Rainbow Springs, another popular swimming hole. I just went to look at the waterfalls and gardens. The azaleas were in full bloom and beautiful. It used to be a theme park similar to Silver Springs with glass bottom boats also but closed when attendance fell until the state took it over as a state park. It looks like a great place for kayaking or canoeing with rentals available. Be sure to bring water in a thermos or canteen rather than a plastic bottle if going out on the river. As with all the local rivers and springs, no disposable packaging of any kind is allowed out on the water.

Rainbow SpringsAzaleas bloomingWaterfallCanoeing and Kayaking

Another day I got in some geocaching. There are 2 caches on the nature trail next to the Visitor’s Center in Silver Springs and another behind a barbecue place near the campground. All nice big fat containers! My favorite was Elvenwood near the trail. You have to leave the trail and look for an opening in the woods. There you will find a little elf village. To claim the find, you have to find the log book in one of the tiny buildings and you have to add to the village. I created a runway with a control tower and added a frog to the campsite scene. What’s camping without some wild life?

On the last Saturday night before leaving, I discovered a couple I had met at the KOA in Herkimer, NY were campground hosts at a park nearby. I gave them a call and we got together for hamburgers and a campfire. We got some catching up done. Very nice couple and happy kayakers.

Now I know you are all thinking that I had way too much fun while in the area. I did take a day to clean out the rain gutters on my trailer. Surprise! Trailers have gutters too. I replaced 4 of the gutter spouts at the top of the trailer. I did a bunch of other maintenance too that day. I took my previously shredded tire to a dealer and got it replaced. After one of the concerts, I had also found another tire flat. Thank goodness I carry tire goop with me, just in case. Without a spare tire yet, I had no choice but to use it and my air compressor I also carry. I had a faulty valve stem replaced on it and the last old tire on the car while at the tire dealer. At the same time, the car had started to get noisy up front so I had them check that out and they found a bad front bearing wobbling like crazy. It was a very expensive and stressful time.

For lots more pics click here.





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