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  • Tourists flock to Florida for its 500th birthday


    Florida is celebrating its 500th anniversary this year, and while the Sunshine State has long been a staple of United States travel, it may see an even greater influx of people heading south to mark the occasion. If you're among those who have plans to visit Florida for the celebration, there are a large number of destinations you should hit, but a few in particular stand out from the rest.

    One of the most anticipated events of the coming year is the arrival of El Galeón, a majestic replica of a 16th-century Spanish vessel much like the one Juan Ponce de Leon took during his first voyage to Florida. The 170-foot ship left Puerto Rico in early April and will make several stops throughout Florida including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Cape Canaveral and St. Augustine. State officials expect such attractions could shift the perceptions of what Florida has to offer.

    "By offering visitors a whole new reason to explore the Sunshine State in 2013 with events such as the upcoming arrival of El Galeón, we are continuing to increase the economic impact of travelers to Florida," said Will Seccombe, president and CEO of Visit Florida.

    El Galeón will only be in Florida for a short time, but there are other landmarks, particularly in the state's oldest cities. St. Augustine, for instance, is home to many buildings that date back to the earliest days of Florida, including the Castillo de San Marcos. The structure is considered to be the oldest masonry fort in North America and dates as far back as the late 17th century. Other historical highlights of the city include Fort Mose Historic State Park and the stunning Trinity Church of St. Augustine.

    Of course, there are other historical sites located outside of St. Augustine, many of which have more contemporary significance. For starters, Ernest Hemingway fans may want to make their way to his famous residence, which is located in Key West. Hemingway moved into the home in 1931, and aside from being a unique piece of architecture, it also offers some insight into the life of this literary legend.

    Florida is often only recognized for its beaches, warm weather and amusement parks, but by celebrating its 500th birthday, you can see it has much more to offer.

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