Visitors to Central Florida have been heeding this advice for around a hundred years, so Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park was a must-see on Linda's itinerary.
It didn't disappoint!
Here I saw so many animals, birds and mammals that I've never seen before, though the prize for the prettiest has to go to the American Flamingos, who entertained us with synchronized wing flapping, squawking, and running to and fro en masse, as if heeding a secret signal.
Those funky flamingos went camera-shy just as I was taking Linda's photo, which is ironic since she's their biggest fan! Seriously, who wouldn't love designs with these gaudy beauties on a quilt, a mug, paper clips, clothes, or in your garden?
There were pelicans, ducks and other kinds of bird life.
A cheeky otter showed off for us, while the fox relaxed in the shade and the snakes (thankfully) stayed behind glass while glaring at us disapprovingly.
There was even an American eagle, displaying his very own patriotic flag.
The bobcat paced his enclosure, looking sleek and dangerous.
And there were plenty of these mean old alligators!
All the animals in the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park are native to the Florida region, with one exception, Lou the hippopotamus. 58 years old Lou is a former movie star. He needed a place to live out his retirement and the Park was granted special permission to house him.
Like so many human retirees he enjoys the Florida warmth and spends his days enjoying the sun, occasionally slipping gracefully into the water for a dip. He doesn't sign autographs, but if you stand in a particular spot to take a photo of old Lou he might shower you with a different sort of gift, one requiring you to have your clothes dry cleaned!
The most popular attractions at Homosassa are the manatees, huge marine mammals that take shelter from the cold ocean waters during winter, and gather in the Sprngs. If I was asked to describe one I think I'd say a manatee looks part-sea lion, part-whale, part seal, and part-trunkless elephant, with a little bit of mermaid thrown in. They're sometimes called sea-cows.
These pictures give you a little idea and, as you can see, people can even pay to go swimming with wild manatees.
Better still, one of the recreation centers in The Villages has this beautiful manatee mural on the wall.
Here's a familiar looking manatee!
We took a boat for the return trip to the park entrance, through a stunningly beautiful waterway.
These people were on a boat traveling in the opposite direction.
Waldo the alligator, sunning himself on a pontoon, bade us a fond farewell.
He was smiling anyway, even if he might have been thinking we'd make a tasty dinner.