Located just outside of the city of Ocala lies a beautiful place to take the family. Silver Springs State Park is a must see for all first time visitors to the area. Silver Springs has a little bit of everything to entertain the entire family. The park is set up to be like a nature zoo, featuring a lot of natural occuring wildlife and also some more exotic species that are not native to the state. The animal attractions feature everything from birds to 'gators.
The Park has come down a lot on their prices in recent times; our visit was over a year ago. The current adult ticket price is $29.99 but they run some promotions like buy one adult ticket and get another for free. A childrens ticket into the park is $24.99 unless they are under the age of three, in that case they enter for no cost. The benefit to having to pay this much for your entrance, most of their attractions are included in the ticket price. There are some small side attractions that will cost you a little bit more but nothing in the park is too expensive.
The popular attraction is the glass bottom boat rides; this is free with your admission to the park. You can expect to have to wait in line for a boat but the wait is worth it. The ride takes you down the Silver River in a, well, boat with a glass bottom. The bottom of the boat allows guests to see the wildlife that lives in the almost pure waters of the river. You can see everything from fish to 'gators swimming in the water. Don't worry, you are completely safe with the guidance of your captain who is completely certified to operate the boat. The river tour takes you through recreations of historical sites that once lined the river banks.The tour also takes you through an active archaeological dig.
Some other popular attractions include the animal feedings. For a small fee (it was $1.00 a bag) you can buy pellets of dried meat to throw to the alligators. The 'gators are in a glass enclosed lake and visitors can take the opportunity to throw the pellets of food into them. Watch the 'gators resort to their natural feeding habits and fight over the food being thrown. They do get quite aggressive but the most dominant always win. There is an attraction that allows you to hand feed a giraffe! They give you a stack of crackers (I am not sure of the price) and you break them up and let the giraffes eat them from the palm of your hand! The giraffes are very friendly and love to eat what you have to offer. You can also pet them as they eat. Be careful though, these guys will nibble at you trying to get you to feed them more.
For your smaller children there is a play place you can turn them loose in so they can run off some of their energy. You can also rent a stroller at the entrance to the park so you don't have to carry your child(ren) around when they start getting tired. There is a lot of walking in the park so I recommend getting a stroller for the little ones just in case.
The park also offers a small food court to suit your dining needs. We ordered a pizza and it was delicious! There are also gift shops to purchase your souvenirs before you leave. Keep track of time though, the shops close before the park does. There is a lot of sigh seeing to do and it is not easy to get done in one day. If you have the time on your vacation, or live in the area, take two days to explore so you don't miss anything.