There are so many wonderful things about the State of Florida and many of them are just plain free! On this site, I'll be exploring the free side of Florida as well as low cost options for your weekends or vacation. But because I don't want to steer you wrong, I'll post after I visit these places myself. Have a great time on the site and on your own adventures!

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DeSoto National Memorial, Bradenton, FL

Located on the West coast, just south of the Tampa area, is DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton. This National Park System park is totally free to visit and is in a stunningly beautiful location. To arrive by car (I say that because the visitor can actually arrive by boat as well, but more on that later), one must drive through what seems like an unlikely location for such a nationally historic point - it's at the end of a pretty neighborhood with nice houses and manicured lawns. The Memorial itself is pretty nice, with great... I want to say 'hosts' because they were all so friendly.

The history described at this site is very interesting, if not horrific. It seems Hernando DeSoto was sent here by Charles I, the ruler of the Spanish Empire at the time, to explore la Florida as no one else had. There had been other expeditions in the region, but none had succeeded, hence he was sent with an army of 600. Sounds neat, right? Well, it turns out they were the death nail for many, many tribal natives who had lived in the southeast region of what was to become the United States. Through disease and just plain cruelty and murder, they cleared many areas of these natives before finally failing in their quest to find gold and treasures, suffering numerous deaths themselves, and ultimately going home empty handed. So even though he may not have been the sweetest guy on Earth, the 22-minute film shown in the theater of the Memorial is rather fascinating nonetheless. The theater is inside the visitor center, where there is also a very small section housing some artifacts as well as another room filled with books for purchase.

Separately from the visitor center, taking a walk through the beautifully gnarled Gumbo Limbo trees brings one to an area where there are real demonstrations of chain mail making, archery, general living in the time of DeSoto, and factual tales narrated by the guides.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, guests can arrive either by car or boat - although there is no dock to tether to. Boats much be beached on the sandy waterfront. Really, though, this is not a bad way to arrive because that puts you right there at the trails and boardwalks that meander through the mangroves, adding bits of historical fact here and there. Keep in mind, if you choose to wander through the what seems like many acres of mangroves, that these plants to like very wet ground, so try to avoid this exploration at dusk when mosquitoes will be at their worst.

I definitely recommend a visit to the DeSoto National Memorial. Even though it's probably not the spot where his expedition landed in Florida (according to the Memorial itself), it is definitely full of interesting information and is located in a breathtaking locale.

For more information on the DeSoto National Memorial, please either click the name or go here:

Ckick HERE for a map.

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