There are many reasons why Florida draws over 100 million tourists every year. If you want a relaxing beach vacation, you can find it in Florida. You can also experience a bustling beach vacation surrounded by parties and revelry. The state also is the theme park capital of the country; you can ride rollercoasters and enjoy shows for weeks on end. The state is also an ecological paradise where you can go to enjoy nature. There is so much to do in Florida that choosing your activities just might be the most challenging part of your vacation. Here are 22 ideas to get you started.
More than anything else, Florida is known for its beaches. The state is blessed with over 1,200 miles of coastline, which is the most in the contiguous United States. The Atlantic Ocean side and Gulf of Mexico side feature entirely different types of beaches with unique characteristics. You can walk on the white sand of the Gulf beaches or jump in the surf at the beaches facing the Atlantic Ocean. Florida has beaches that are quiet and relaxed as well as ones with hustle and bustle. With so many choices, it is easy to find a beach that suits you. Florida experiences beach weather for most of the year.
2. The Keys
When you explore the Florida Keys, you experience perhaps one of the most unusual and exciting locales that you can reach by car. According to Key West Scuba Diving, “as the southernmost inhabited island in the Keys, Key West enjoys the advantage of relative remoteness along with proximity to the deep, open waters of both the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. The sea is rich with both migratory and resident fish species, and the island affords easy access to many types of reef diving, several well-known large shipwrecks, numerous smaller sunken vessels and aircraft, and great training opportunities for new divers.”
3. The Wizarding World
Wizarding World is a Harry Potter-themed area at Universal Islands of Adventure. Those who are enamored with the franchise can come here and lose themselves in all things Harry Potter for a day. There are rides and roller coasters with the Harry Potter theme as well as a replica of the village of Hogsmeade. According to The Blonde Abroad, “the food and restaurants in The Wizarding World are astounding. The Leaky Cauldron has incredible and high quality food, as they make their own bread daily, and even import food from the UK for authenticity. Florean’s Ice-Cream Parlour is a great place to get tasty and memorable desserts.” If you have read the books and seen the movies, Wizarding World is a place where you will love interacting with the world of Harry Potter. You can also find Harry Potter-centric shops and eateries in this area of the park. This is one of the many areas at Universal, which features numerous trendsetting roller coasters.
4. The Everglades
In the center of the state lies the massive swamp called the Everglades. Visitors can take any one of a number of airboat tours to experience the unique ecology of the Everglades. While on these boats, you can see the alligators on the banks of the water catching some sun. Visitors can also hike on trails or through the swamp in designated areas. According to Panda Trot, “in addition to a boat tour, you can also experience the Everglades on a tram or guided kayak tour to see it from an entirely different perspective.”
5. Daytona 500
Daytona International Speedway is home to some of the most exciting stock car racing around. NASCAR season kicks off with the Daytona 500 every February. Countless racing fans flock to the superspeedway to see cars speeding around the track at 200 miles per hour while trying to avoid the big crash. The track is a living cathedral to stock-car-racing history with 60 years of racing at this location. The track was recently renovated to upgrade the fan experience. If you’ll be in Florida in July, check out the NASCAR race at Daytona that draws fans to the track.
6. The Space Coast
You can experience all things outer space in this area of Florida. For years, space shuttles launched from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. Space Coast is one of the few places in the world where you can go to see rocket launches in person. Kennedy Space Center is open to the public and has a visitor center with exhibits. You can also enjoy the Shuttle Launch Experience and 3D space films. The American Space Museum and Space Walk of Fame is another site to visit if you want to further your astronomy experience. The area is also popular with boaters and water adventurers. According to Authentic Florida, “although this area is known for their space exhibits and museums, there are many outdoors things to do like guided kayak rides, and airboat rides.”
7. South Beach
Miami Beach is known for its Art Deco buildings and nightlife that goes around the clock. There is always something going on in South Beach. Even if you are not one for the party scene, the people watching in South Beach is among the best around. You never quite know who you will see shopping or eating in any one of the restaurants in the area. Miami Beach features many eateries from celebrity chefs that make for a diverse cuisine selection. The neighborhood features distinctive boutique hotels as well as large resort hotels all along the beach. South Beach is a mix of colors, sights and sounds that will keep your senses sharp.
8. Spring Training
Major league baseball kicks into gear in Florida every year, starting in February. When the Boys of Summer start playing in the winter, it is a draw for baseball fans hoping to escape the cold and get an early look at their team. The Grapefruit League is gaining in popularity every year, and spring-training baseball tickets are not always easy to get. Fans flock to the opportunity to see their favorite teams play in a relaxed and intimate setting. Spring training lasts for approximately six weeks into late March. Fans like to go to see teams in different cities to experience as many venues as possible. The venues in which the teams play are used year-round for minor league teams that play in the Florida State League.
9. Disney World
The flagship family attraction in the entire state, Disney World has been entertaining generations of guests since it opened in 1971. The park has steadily expanded in its nearly 50 years of existence. Now, there are four theme parks and two water parks. You can spend an entire week at Disney World and never need to leave the park’s property since there is so much to experience. Over 20 million visitors each year experience the parks, making it the most visited theme park in the entire world. The park is not just for kids; even grownups enjoy what Disney World has to offer.
10. Deep Sea Fishing
Offshore fishing is spectacular on both coasts. Charter boats in Florida are plentiful and can provide you with any one of a number of adventures. You can chase the big one and marlins are there to be caught offshore. Trips can be as short as a few hours or as long an entire day. You can charter your own boat or go out on a boat with others. Fishing from the shore is also a popular pastime for those who want to follow their own pace. If you don’t want to go that far out, Florida’s many lakes also offer enjoyable fishing.
In addition to the ones in the Everglades, there is also a diverse offering of ecotours throughout the state. Around the Miami area, you can kayak through mangroves near Miami Beach. Florida is also rich in state parks that offer a different type of experience. In the north of the state, there are ecotours in the St. Augustine area with boating and sailing expeditions. The ample shoreline allows those who enjoy kayaking to have plenty of opportunities to kayak in different environments. Kayaking along the shoreline allows you to explore the shoreline from the water.
Manatees are giant sea cows, and Florida is one of the few places in the world where you can see them in their natural habitat. Visitors have the rare opportunity to swim with the manatees in the Crystal River. There, you can have an up-close and personal encounter with the gentle giants in the water. You can snorkel in the water to get a good view of the animals. Sometimes, the manatee will be friendly and come up to you! In addition, there are boat tours that allow you to watch these animals in their habitat.
13. Zoo Miami
Zoo Miami is one of the most famous zoos in the country. The zoo has over 3,000 animals and 100 exhibits. Zoo Miami has an Everglades exhibit that features wildlife that’s native to the swampland. In addition, there is an Asian exhibit with dozens of animals. There, you can find black-necked storks as Zoo Miami is one of only two zoos in the country with that animal. Guests can also get very close to an Indian rhinoceros. The zoo has a large Australian exhibit featuring animals from Oceania. Zoo Miami is located next to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, so it’s possible to experience both attractions on the same day.
14. Biscayne Bay
Biscayne Bay is a boating paradise located in the middle of Miami. One of the favorite pastimes here is to go on a boat ride to see the mansions of the wealthy and celebrities that dot the shoreline. Millionaire’s Row features countless breathtaking mansions that you can view from the water. When out on the bay, you can get a great view of Miami from the water. Biscayne Bay also features museums, such as the Miami Seaquarium and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. If you like to golf, you can tee off at one of the numerous championship golf courses near the water, like the spectacular Crandon Park Golf Course.
Orlando is home to one of the foremost aquatic parks in the world. SeaWorld consists of three parks and hotels. Visitors can switch off between marine shows and exhibits and the park’s five roller coasters. The park is divided into several “seas” where guests can have unique experiences. Shows feature dolphins, sea lions and human acrobats. The park hosts nearly 4 million visitors each year, making it one of the most visited amusement parks in the country. There is a neighboring park where guests can swim with fishes and dolphins. According to Reserve Direct, “if you want to go here, you need to reserve your tickets in advance. Not only will this save you money, but you will also be able to get your tickets at will call and immediately enter the park. No waiting in line! You should also plan your day around feedings and shows, since those are set and you’ll definitely want to check them out.”
16. Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens has a location in Tampa that is known for its roller coasters. The park has an African theme, featuring exotic animals. There are coasters at the park and Busch Gardens is always trying to push the envelope with new thrill rides. There is also a Sesame Street area that will thrill your little ones. Adventure Island is a water park that is located next door to the park, so you can easily spend several days at Busch Gardens an extended trip. Bird enthusiasts can also enjoy an aviary that features over 500 tropical birds.
17. St. Augustine
Lest anyone think that Florida is all fun and no history, St. Augustine gives tourists a glimpse of the old Spanish way of life. The city was founded in 1565 by early Spanish settlers, and it was designated as the first capital of Florida nearly 200 years ago. Many key moments in the history of the state have a linkage with St. Augustine. Visitors to the city can view historic museums and lighthouses. One of the most famous attractions in the city is the Fountain of Youth, where tourists can see the archaeological site and taste the water from the world-renowned spring so dear to Ponce de Leon. There are many places to stay in St. Augustine!
18. Lion Country Safari
Lion Country was the first cageless zoo in the United States; guests can drive through the zoo in their car. In the process, you can get up close and personal with numerous exotic animals. The animals in the safari are spread out over 600 acres. There are over 1,000 animals in the safari that is divided into seven sections. There is also an adjoining amusement park that you can enjoy after the safari. For a unique experience, you can feed giraffes, and Lion Country has one of the largest chimpanzee exhibits where you’ll get a real sense of how these amazing animals live.
19. The Dali Museum
Salvadore Dali was a prolific and world-renowned artist. The second largest collection of his work is located at this museum in St. Petersburg. The museum contains 96 oil paintings, 100 watercolors and drawings and over 1,300 graphics. All things Dali can be found under this museum’s roof. The museum itself is part of the attraction; it is a $20 million facility with a large glass entryway. The museum is an architectural marvel that’s designed to be both appealing and hurricane-resistant. The predecessor to the museum was opened in a ceremony presided over by Dali himself.
Florida is home to sports teams in every major league. The state has three football teams, two baseball teams, two basketball teams, two hockey teams and a soccer team (with a team in Miami on the way). Florida also has top-notch college sports with a stirring rivalry between the University of Florida and Florida State. The Florida sports scene always has something going on at every time of year. Marlins Park in Miami is a modern masterpiece and the first of its kind among baseball stadiums. The Marlins have won two World Series in their history. Hard Rock Stadium outside of Miami has hosted numerous Super Bowls and just recently underwent a large-scale renovation.
21. Iconic Florida Foods
There are certain foods that Florida does best. Make sure to have a slice of Key lime pie while you’re there; this famous dessert originated in the Florida Keys. Outside of Cuba, you’d be hard-pressed to find Cuban sandwiches as authentic as the ones served up in Florida. Conch fritters are the perfect tropical appetizer to start your meal, and local stone crab is an out-of-this-world delicacy when it’s enjoyed in season in Florida. Don’t forget to try alligator meat. After all, what trip to the Sunshine State would be complete without some fried gator bites?
22. Spring Break
Florida is the destination for college students in March. The beaches at the Panhandle and in Daytona are popular destinations for revelry. Florida has been a popular spring break destination for close to a century. Nearly every part of the state draws college students. The two biggest locations for spring breakers are Panama City Beach and Daytona. Spring break in Florida can last as long as six weeks, starting in late February and stretching into early April. If you want to cut loose, Florida offers an exciting experience during this party season.
These are 22 of the top things to do in Florida. However, this list barely scratches the surface of everything that you can see and do in Florida. What’s more, there are vacations at nearly every price range to fit a variety of budgets. Florida is a place that you can return to many times in your life and still not have every experience possible in the state.