Best described as a musical park, Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park is a popular spot for day use, as well as RV camping, tucked away in north Florida. Located in the tiny town of White Springs, this interesting state park is dedicated to the musical legacy of iconic American songwriter Stephen Foster.
Born in 1826 in Pittsburgh this composer had over written 200 songs by the time he passed away at the age of 37. Though he never visited Florida he made the Suwannee River famous by composing "Old Folks At Home." This particular song was a hit and in 1935 it was recognized as Florida’s state official song. Other popular songs from the legend include "My Old Kentucky Home," "Beautiful Dreamer," "Oh Sussana," "Camptown Races," and "Jeannie with the Golden Hair." In 1950 the 247-acre Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park was created to commemorate Foster's legendary musical contributions.
Sitting on the western banks of Susquehanna River once you park your camper you will discover the fun that emanates from this place is heavenly. Dotted with series of activities, history buffs and music-loving guests will love every minute spent inside the park. Not far from the entrance guests can visit the arts and craft village and the two-story gift shop for some souvenirs. Here visitors get a chance to observe live demonstration from local artisans who showcase their skills. From blacksmithing, beading to pottery making visitors can learn various crafts. Kids will love observing wood and leather works, quilting, and stain glass making. There is a also wide range of gifts you can buy including musical instruments such as drums, shakers, and a variety of handmade crafts.
RV campers can also get out an enjoy the great Flordia outdoors. Fishing, horseback riding, and hiking are some of the popular summer activities. Anglers can catch largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish.
The park is easily accessible by driving off of US Highway 41. RV campers will have no issues getting here. Once inside the park, you will appreciate that all internal roads are paved and in excellent condition and easy to access via any type of vehicle. There is no RV driving restrictions within the park and big trailers can easily navigate the roads. Larger rigs should do just fine since the maximum vehicle length is 100 feet. Keep in mind that after storms some sections of the park may experience flooding. Most of the trails are multi-use and wide enough to get along.
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park is a pet-friendly campground with 45 campsites suitable for RVs, tents, and trailers. Campsites are a mix of pull- through and back-in sites equipped with water and electric hookups. The surrounding oak trees provide shade to the campsites. Campers will have access to amenities such as picnic tables, a fire ring, laundry facilities, and restrooms. The campground has no sewer connection but a dump station is available. Campsites are open for reservation up to 11 months in advance. The campground can accommodate a vehicle of maximum 100 feet in length. Pets on a leash are welcome in specific campsites but are not permitted in cabins.
These fascinating buildings preserve the admirable works of Stephen Foster. Built in 1950 this museum has 10 original dioramas of some of Stephen's most famous songs. In addition, there are artifacts display including Stephen's desk, old pianos, and keyboards. Some of the songs have an animation which is fun for kids. Built in 1957 the 200-foot high Carillion Tower/Bell Tower is home to a 97-bell Carillion system that plays different tunes of Stephen’s songs throughout the day.
Besides being a haven for music lovers, this state park is a great escape for nature loving RVers too. The park’s trails pass through river bluffs, limestone outcroppings, pines, rock formations, and swamps, giving visitors diverse views of park scenery. The Florida Trail, which is designated as a hike-only, route passes through the park. If walking through the forested trails doesn’t interest you then you will love the fact that the park’s trails are multi-use including the eight-mile Foster’s Hammock Loop Trail and the four-mile Carter Camp Trail. So guests can traverse the landscape by mountain biking and horse riding. It is mandatory that cyclists below 16 years of age should wear bicycle helmets and horseback riders should have proof of a negative Coggins test. RVers can either bring bicycles in their camper or rent at the gift shop.
If you are into cultural activities and special events you will be happy to know that there is always something new to be discovered in this park every single day. The most popular is the Florida Folk Festival that is hosted annually dating back to 1953. Other regular events held throughout the year include a quilt show, antique tractor show, and an engine show. Many musical concerts and weekend retreats are part of the park’s entertainment and fun. The Festival of Lights held in December is a must-attend function. During this period millions of lights are displayed in the park's craft square area and lining the oak trees. As an added bonus attendees are offered freebies including hot cocoa, popcorns, and marshmallows. To avoid congestion at the entrance it is recommended that guests should camp in the park. For kids, there are hay rides, sack race, and coloring activities.
There are many animals to be spotted in the park either by hiking or water access. Some commonly sighted wildlife includes deer and wood ducks. In Suwannee River, canoeists can view alligators, turtles, and different fish species wading on the water.
Due to the presence of alligators in Suwannee river swimming is not allowed. However, water levels permitting, RV guests can canoe along the river either for fun or to fish. This is a great way to explore the aquatic animals and plant life on the river banks.
There are many day use areas nestled in the surrounding pines and oaks. There are designated picnic sites adjacent to the museum, Bell Tower and at the playground. They are fitted with picnic tables. For group picnic, there is a 10-table picnic pavilion that can be rented near the craft square.