Florida, state in the southeastern United States, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, which is an arm of the ocean. Florida, sometimes called the Peninsula State, consists of a large low-lying peninsula and, in the northwest, a strip of land known as the panhandle. It is a region of low, rolling hills, vast swamps and marshes, numerous lakes, and extensive forests. Superimposed on this varied pattern of physical features are the farmlands, urban areas, transportation routes, and other cultural features that have transformed Florida from largely a wilderness area into one of the fastest-growing states in the Union. Florida entered the Union on March 3, 1845, as the 27th state. Beginning in the late 1800s development schemes brought a tide of new arrivals to the state, and the story of Florida since has been one of nearly continuous growth.
From 1950 to 1970 Florida’s population experienced a phenomenal increase of 145 percent. Between 1970 and 1980 the population increased by another 43.4 percent, and by 32.7 percent between 1980 and 1990. Much of this increase was attributed to the large influx of people from elsewhere rather than natural increase. Many were people who had retired. Many were refugees from Cuba. Others came to work in the state’s new and expanding industries and to share in its general economic growth.
Tourism has been Florida’s major source of income for many years. Although it initially attracted visitors from the Northeastern states during the winter months, it is now a year-round vacationland visited by tourists from every state, Latin America, and also from Canada and other foreign countries. The state’s tourist attractions range from the vast expanse of the Everglades in the south to the historic cities of Saint Augustine and Pensacola in the north.
The most popular attractions are the theme parks around Orlando and the many resort cities that rim the coast. Their importance is reflected in the distribution of the state’s inhabitants, most of whom live in cities along the coast or in a corridor stretching between Tampa and Daytona Beach and including Orlando. While Jacksonville on the northern Atlantic shore is the state’s largest city in population, the state’s largest metropolitan area centers on Miami, near the southern tip of the state. Tallahassee, in the panhandle, is Florida’s capital. The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León called the region La Florida, roughly translated as Land of the Flowers, when he visited it in 1513. It is thought that he chose this name because he was impressed by the many colorful flowers of the region and because he sighted it on Easter, which is called Pascua Florida in Spanish. The state’s official nickname, the Sunshine State, reflects the economic importance of its climate, which has been called its most important natural resource. Among the other nicknames, all unofficial, are the Everglade State and the Orange State, for its most renowned crop. Encarta © "United States" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
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