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IT'S WHERE ONE FINDS THE REAL FLORIDA

It's as peaceful as a hammock in the breeze in Lake County, where vacationers come to relax, unwind and forget about deadlines, debts, and what’s for dinner. IT'S WIDE-OPEN SPACES Within the county's boundaries are more than 1,000 pristine lakes, plus conservation areas, state parks, wildlife preserves and nature trails. No traffic jams, no major cities, no loud noise and no waiting in line. Just a few quiet towns scattered among Florida’s rolling hills offering lots of hometown charm and service with a smile. Things here are still done the old-fashioned way.

IT'S INDIVIDUALIZED

In Lake County, "canned" experiences are not the norm. Instead, visitors can pick and choose myriad activities and mix and match them to create an individualized, custom-made vacation. Tailor made to be fun, relaxing, educational or challenging, vacations in Lake County are as diverse as they come. No limits, no gimmicks, no unexpected surprises and no fine print.

IT'S OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Lake County is popular among out-of-town visitors who step off the well-worn road to Central Florida for a day of rest and relaxation; for Florida residents who turn away from the bustle of the city and re-discover their own backyard; for families and couples of all ages who desire a fun, outdoor vacation; and for athletes who travel from around the world to train or to compete in professional sporting events.

IT'S NATURALLY CHARMING

Florida is not just about theme parks, and nowhere is that more evident than in Lake County, where the local attractions -- such as a ranch featuring an antique horse-drawn carriage museum and a petting zoo featuring endangered species -- are a part of the area’s natural charm. Many destinations have jumped on the “eco-tourism” bandwagon and added nature-based activities, but in Lake County, things pretty much operate the same today as they did yesterday.

The county offers hours of outdoor fun in the middle of a little slice of heaven on earth. It has lots to offer visitors who want to experience unspoiled land and water of rare beauty of the "real Florida."

IT'S ABOUT WILDLIFE

In addition to its wildlife refuges, Lake County has acres of land preserved in national parks, national forests, state parks and private ranches.

With its warm weather and location on waterways and on the eastern migration path, Lake County is one of the best spots in the state for bird watching. The protected bald eagle, osprey and other wading birds make their home in the natural wetland habitat of pinelands, cabbage palms and cypress swamps at Trout Lake, a 230-acre wildlife preserve established in 1988 by the Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society Inc.

The Florida Green Swamp, made up of hardwood forest, marsh, hammock, flatwoods and black water streams, is a great place to view marsh rabbits, red foxes, pocket gophers and river otters. Running next to and through the grassy prairies, sand pines and flatwoods of the 70,000-acre Ocala National Forest is the Florida National Scenic Trail and the Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail. Winding through the Longleaf Pine-Wiregrass ecosystem, the trails offer excellent opportunities to view sensitive, rare and endangered species. Deer and black bears frequent the area.

IT'S ABOUT CONSERVATION

Emeralda Marsh supports a diverse population of migrating and wintering birds, thousands of ring-necked ducks and wintering Eastern Greater Sandhill cranes. The marsh is home to endangered species such as the bald eagle, wood stork and snowy egret. Seasonal waterfowl hunting, fishing, hiking, canoeing, bicycling, horseback riding, boating and bird-watching are visitors’ favored activities.

Once a farming area, Lake Harris is a natural community that maintains a diverse population of wildlife in its natural habitat. Well known for its excellent sport fishing, it is home to a great number of waterfowl, wading birds and alligators.

IT'S ABOUT NATURE

A day in one of Lake County’s state parks offers the opportunity to experience the "real Florida" and its natural assets.

Lakes and springs form the focal point of the state park recreational areas in Lake County, where land has been preserved in its natural state. Plant and animal life are protected, and hunting and timber removal are not permitted.

Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont, Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland Park and Rock Springs Run State Reserve in Mt. Plymouth each offer a variety of fun and educational activities from birdwatching and camping to hiking and boating. It seems that Lake County has a park on nearly every corner and certainly has a park on every lake. Recreational parks are great for family picnics, nature walks, challenging sports, and playful activities.

County parks -- including Astor Recreation Park, Lake Jem Park, Lake Mack Park, Marsh Park, McTureous Memorial Park, Sorrento Park and Summerall Park -- offer softball fields, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, picnic areas with barbecue grills and boat ramps, as do city parks -- such as Cadwell Park, Donnelly Park, Golbert Park, Herlong Park, Lake David Park, Singletary Park, Venetian Gardens, Clermont’s Waterfront Park, Wooten Park and Hickory Point, a water authority park.

Lake County is an off-the-beaten-path destination less than one hour from Central Florida’s famous attractions -- but light-years away. Quaint inns, graceful rolling hills, clean lakes, preservation areas and a family friendly atmosphere attract visitors looking for Florida the way it used to be, and the way it is today in Lake County.

For a free Lake County vacation guide, visitors can call (800) 430-LAKE.

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