When Juan Ponce de Leon searched for riches in Florida, he unknowingly helped turn the Sunshine State into the first travel destination in the United States.
In April 1513, the Spanish monarchy contracted the explorer to find another island off of Cuba that was rumored to have great riches. Instead he landed in Florida and named it "La Florida," after the "feast of the flowers" during Spain's Easter celebrations.
Five centuries later, the state is celebrating its Spanish heritage with a series of events throughout 2013.
"It was always seen as an exotic place," historian Dr. J Michael Francis said of Florida. "That's something that Florida tourism continues to market on some level."
Although Florida's history dates back more than 12,000 years with Native Americans, the statewide campaign "Viva Florida 500" will highlight the start of a new era with de Leon's adventurous voyage to the New World.