Wikijunior:North America/United States/Florida
Florida is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States, bordering Alabama to the northwest and Georgia to the northeast. Much of the land mass of the state is a large peninsula with the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Most of Florida has a humid subtropical climate; southern Florida has a tropical climate. Florida is the fourth most populous state in the U.S. The state capital is Tallahassee and the largest city is Jacksonville.
Research indicates that Florida had been inhabited thousands of years before the Europeans settled there by different Native American tribes. Florida was given its name by the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León.
Over the following century, both the Spanish and French built settlements in Florida, with different degrees of success. In 1559, Spanish Pensacola was established by Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano as the first European settlement in the continental United States, but it had become abandoned by 1561 and would not be reinhabited until the 1690s. French Huguenots founded Fort Caroline in modern-day Jacksonville in 1564, but the fort was conquered by forces from the new Spanish colony of St. Augustine the following year.
Much of the state of Florida is located on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Straits of Florida. It extends to the northwest into a panhandle, extending along the northern Gulf of Mexico. It is bordered on the north by the states of Georgia and Alabama, and on the west, at the end of the panhandle, by Alabama. It is near several Caribbean countries, particularly the Bahamas and Cuba.
Florida's nickname is the "Sunshine State", but severe weather occurs often in the state. Central Florida is known as the lightning capital of the United States, as more lightning strikes occur there than anywhere else in the country. Florida has the highest average precipitation of any state, in large part because afternoon thunderstorms are common in most of the state from late spring until early autumn.
As of 2008, Florida's population was estimated to be 18,328,340. As of 2000, 77 percent of Florida residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a first language, while 16 percent spoke Spanish.
Florida is mostly Protestant, but Roman Catholicism is the single largest denomination in the state. There is also a sizable Jewish community, located mainly in South Florida; no other Southern state has such a large Jewish population.
Florida receives a lot of tourism throughout the year. The Walt Disney World Resort is the largest vacation resort in the world, made up of four theme parks and more than 20 hotels in Lake Buena Vista, Florida; it, and Universal Orlando Resort, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, and other major parks drive state tourism. Many beach towns are also popular tourist destinations, especially during the winter months.