Florida, "the Sunshine State", is located on a large peninsula at the southern tip of the United States' East Coast, approximately 1,650 km (1,025 miles) south of New York. The flat and sandy peninsula is approx. 165 km (102 miles) wide and 660 km (410 miles) long. The name of "Florida" is derived from the Spanish and means "filled with flowers." The capital of the popular holiday destination is Tallahassee. A typical attribute of Florida is the fascinating tropical quality of life: the azure Atlantic on the one side of the peninsula and the turquoise Gulf of Mexico on the other, and the sun that never seems to stop shining in the sky. And then, of course, the sugar-white beaches with their tall palm trees, but also enchanted bayous and mangroves and bubbling, crystal-clear springs. With some careful planning, you can even swim with the manatees. And then the smell of saltwater and seaweed on the Keys, and that of candied almonds and cotton candy in the parks of Orlando. The restaurants and clubs in the lively cities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami offer refreshing cocktails and fresh sea food. An insider's tip are the inland villages and towns, overgrown with Spanish moss, where history has preserved as in a time capsule. Archeological findings seem to lead to the conclusion that Florida had been inhabited thousands of years before it was discovered by European explorers. In 1513, Florida was discovered by Juan Ponce de Leon and claimed as Spanish territory. In 1763 the Spanish had to cede their claim to the British after seven years of war. During the American War of Independence that Spain fought on the side of the French against the British, it regained control over West Florida in 1781. In the Peace of Paris 1783, all of Florida was given to Spain again. 16 years later, Spain ceded Florida to the US, and on March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state of the United States of America. Today, it is one of the best-known states of the U.S.
Florida is the favorite refuge for millions of people from the cold Northern States and Canada's provinces. It is also a popular holiday destination for people from other countries. Many families come to Florida during summer vacation, defying the tropical heat to visit Disney World. Early spring is a good time to visit the subtropical state, when it is still warm, but not intolerably hot. Experienced tourists try to avoid Florida during the late summer months and early fall, since that is the time for storms and hurricanes, which can quickly spoil any well-planned vacation time.
Florida's biggest attraction is the wide range of family activities the state has to offer, mostly around Disney World near Orlando. The second biggest attraction are the sandy beaches and the warm sea at the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Also the Latin-American atmosphere of Miami attracts many tourists. The high number of Hispanics have created a South American and Caribbean subculture in the U.S. The Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the East Coast aren't far from Orlando. A little further north is the historic city of Saint Augustine, one of the oldest colonies in America.