Florida, the southeastern most state in the US, is certainly not a dull place. It is one of the largest states in the US and is home to a wide variety of ethnicities and cultures. Situated between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, Florida is famed for its amusement parks and offers the largest selection of zoos, aquariums, theme parks and other family attractions found in any of the US states.
Florida also has an abundance of museums, art galleries, restaurants of all kinds and historical sights to offer visitors but despite all of its man-made wonders, Florida is also a spectacular place for nature lovers. The immense subtropical wilderness of the Everglades and the many barrier reefs are perfect for wildlife lovers. The swamplands offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to get close to a wild gator and the many beaches provide a chance of witnessing a nesting sea turtle. Here is our varied list of the best things to do in Florida:
1. Everglades National Park
Created in 1947 after petitioning environmentalists managed to convince the government that the area was something special, the Everglades is the second largest national park in the country, smaller only than Yellowstone.
It consists of 1.5 million acres of subtropical marshes and swamp. The river here flows from Lake Okeechobee and provides the prefect environment for wildlife such as otters, turtles, crocodiles and even panthers. The wet ecosystem in the park makes it great for wildlife spotting boat trips.
2. Walt Disney World
Walt Disney world is the most popular of all of Florida’s tourist attractions.
The giant amusement park offers a sample of the Disney magic that is adored worldwide.
Walt Disney World has something to offer adults as well as children and families.
Thrill rides such as the legendary Space mountain keep things interesting for grown-ups while kids have the chance to meet all their favourite Disney characters.
The interesting (and free) Fastpass Plus system allows guests to skip the queues on certain rides, which can be selected up to 30 days in advance.
3. Universal Studios
Universal Studios in Orlando is a working film and tv studio as well as being one of the most popular amusement parks in the United States.
Commonly referred to as Universal Orlando, the park offers a wide range of rides and experiences influenced and themed based on the films released by Universal.
As well as a wide range of rides for all levels of adventurousness, the park hosts a huge selection of live entertainment, shopping and restaurants.
4. Kennedy Space Centre
The 140,000 acre Kennedy Space Centre has been the site for many of the most important space shuttle launches in American history.
Guests are offered a chance to save their legs by taking a bus around the vast complex and visiting various displays and exhibitions in the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Centre.
The site is still one of the most important in the US and tickets are available for the viewing of certain rocket launches.
5. Busch Gardens Tampa
One of the most popular attractions in the Tampa area, Busch Gardens is a safari park offering visitors a chance to get up close and personal with a wide selection of exciting species.
The park is also home to some of the most renowned thrill rides in the US including SheiKra, a floorless roller-coaster with a 200 foot vertical drop.
6. Miami Beach
Miami Beach is located on an island linked to mainland Florida by a series of bridges and is a must visit spot for any visitors to Miami.
The beach is famous for its picture perfect golden sand and art deco beachside buildings.
Running along the beach on Ocean Drive is a wide choice of restaurants and hotels which prove very popular with visitors.
7. Dry Tortugas National Park
Inaccessible by car, most visitors reach the island via a boat from Key West.
Dry Tortugas is home to the impressive and imposing structure of Fort Jefferson, which was built in the 1800s by the US Government.
The spectacular reef islands found within the park make it a great place for snorkeling and spending time on the beach.
9. Daytona 500
The Daytona 500 race is legendary and is widely regarded as one of the most important in the Nascar cup series.
The race is held at Daytona National Speedway and marks the start of racing season in February.
Prior to the building of the Speedway in 1959, races were traditionally held on the sand of Daytona Beach.
10. Duval Street in Key West
Best known for its Caribbean charm and wonderfully restored old buildings, Duval Street is located at the end of the chain of Key West islands.
A simple walk down the street is free and a satisfying and memorable experience.
The atmosphere is always buzzing at the many restaurants and bars that line the street and there are also many interesting shops to be found on the street.
11. Salvador Dali Museum
Located in St Petersburg, the Salvador Dali museum is housed in a suitably odd looking building that somewhat resembles a glass sphere partially protruding from a box.
The museum offers a fascinating collection of Dali’s work as well as a look at his life and is a great attraction for everyone, even those without a keen interest in art and sculpture.
12. St Augustine’s Historic District
St Augustine’s District is one of the oldest settlements in Florida and is therefore a great place to see some beautiful architecture and interesting historic sites.
The district is home to the oldest masonry fort in North America, the Castillo de San Marcos and the 19th century Flagler College.
The site, which was built in the 17th century, is well preserved and for those with no interest in history, there are also fantastic views of the coast to be enjoyed.
13. International Drive
This 11-mile drive, also known as I-Drive (Orlando) is the city’s main tourist strip.
Along the thoroughfare, visitors will find attractions such as restaurants, bars, live entertainment, shopping, golf, helicopter tours and a wax work museum to name only a few.
The activities on offer on the International Drive are so varied that it is safe to say there is something for everyone.
14. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Housed in the stunning former estate of wealthy businessman James Deering, the Vizcaya Museum is home to over 2,500 pieces of art and ten acres of formal gardens.
The museum attracts over 200,000 visitors a year and has served as a diplomatic seat throughout the past playing host to visitors such as the King of Spain and Queen of Great Britain.
Despite the large number of guests each year, the villa and gardens retain a large number of their original features.
15. Coral Castle
This stone sculpture was built by one man, Edward Leedskalnin, between 1923 and 1951.
The impressive feat saw Edward carving and shifting over 1,100 tonnes of stone single-handedly.
Built during the night and under cover of darkness, to this day nobody knows how the castle was created and Ed’s methods are still debated by scientists and architects.
The castle is open everyday and the mystery surrounding the sculpture certainly makes it worth a visit.
16. Museum of Science and Discovery
Located in Fort Lauderdale, the museum is one of the largest in Florida and has the most annual visitors of any state in the US. The museum hosts exhibitions relevant to Florida such as how hurricanes work and information about the Everglades National Park.
There are also nine cockpit simulators, allowing guests to test their flying abilities.
17. The Southernmost Point Buoy
This concrete anchored buoy, situated in Key West marks the extreme south point of the United States.
It is a simple monument but offers great opportunities for photographs and views of the sea.
The monument also states that it is 90 miles to the island of Cuba of from the buoy.
18. Amelia Island
Amelia Island is one of a chain of barrier islands stretching along the east coast of the United States known as the Sea Islands. It is about 4 miles wide at its widest point and 13 miles long.
Easy to get to but hard to forget, Amelia Island has been recognized as one of the top 25 islands in the world for its natural beauty.
Various outdoor activities, spas, dining and hotels accompany the islands 13 miles of unspoiled beaches.
19. Fort Pickens
This hexagonal military fort situated on Pensacola Bay is the largest of four built to defend the bay and its naval yard.
It is the only fort in the Southern US that was not occupied by Confederate Forces during the Civil War.
The base was in use until 1947 and is now fully accessible to the public with scheduled tours taking place throughout the year.
All of the four forts can be visited and the Gulf Islands national park also has ample opportunities for camping.
20. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
If you are looking for something different to do in Florida, this 83 acre certainly transports travelers away from the metropolis of Miami.
Created in 1936 by Robert H. Montgomery, the gardens host a wide variety of flora and fauna including a new exhibition on rare butterflies of Central and South America.
The garden also offers educational programmes for all ages and is home to a number of art exhibitions throughout the year.
21. Legoland Florida
The second largest Legoland theme park in the world, second only to Windsor in the UK can be found in Winter Haven, Flordia.
Covering a massive 145 acres, the park is a Lego fan’s dream with over 50 Lego themed rides and a number of shows and other attractions.
There is also a Lego hotel on site with rooms including pirate, medieval and wizard Lego themes.
22. Discovery Cove
Discovery Cove Orlando allows visitors to swim with dolphins, snorkel with manta ray and even walk along the “sea” floor and get up close and personal with a range of marine critters.
The park offers a truly unique opportunity to see these animals from a unique perspective.
As well as seawater creatures, there is also a large freshwater lagoon where guests can view a family of otters and feed tropical birds.
Not all of the amusement parks in Florida are home to gigantic thrill rides and super laser and firework shows.
Gatorland provides its thrills in a much more natural way; with hundreds of crocodiles and alligators.
This park takes things back to basics with feeding shows without special effects and plenty of audience participation.
Gatorland is a refreshing change to the other amusement parks in Florida, allowing the reptiles to do the impressing, which in turn results in a very reasonable entry fee.
24. Wekiwa Springs State Park
This 7000-acre state park is located about 20 minutes drive from Orlando.
Paddling the Wekiwa river and taking a dip in the icy watering hole are both very satisfying experiences on a hot Florida day.
Primitive riverside camping is available and should be booked well in advance.
There are also oppurtunities for kayaking and canoeing within the park as well as guided tours lasting for about three hours.
This upside down building in Orlando is hard to miss. Inside the building is a mix between a children’s museum, amusement arcade and a theme park.
The cool attractions include sitting inside a hurricane simulator, lying on a bed of nails and stomping on aliens invading earth.
This crazy (and rather unique) “museum” is found on the International Drive and, although certainly aimed at children, adults will find plenty to keep them entertained and amused.