60 Things To Do & Places To Visit In Florida

By: Author Jerric Chong

Posted on Published: August 29, 2020  - Last updated: October 15, 2023

things to do in Florida

Florida, the Sunshine State, is a delightful haven for tourism.

Beaches, museums, art features, and cultural flair, often all close to each other, make Florida a vacation location unlike any other!

But with so many fun choices, you might struggle to choose where to go.

To help you decide what sites are must-visit vacation spots for you, here is a travel guide of the 60 top things to do and places to visit in Florida!

Table of Contents

1. Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos

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Castillo de San Marcos is an extremely historic location, found along the shore of Florida in St. Augustine .

The gray structure rises into the sky, made from stonewalls famous for being “unbreakable”.

Holes of different sizes punctuate the walls, showing off all the battles and wars that the fort proudly stood against as it served the land that would become Florida.

This fortress of sorts was built in the 17th century by Spaniards who needed to keep their trading activities well-protected.

The walls remained strong against British siege for even two months straight, and many cannonballs remain lodged in the stonewall to this day. But how are the walls so strong?

Well, according to the material engineering students who uncovered the secrets of Castillo de San Marcos, the walls are made from a sedimentary rock type named coquina that doesn’t crack.

This is because it is composed of dead marine organism shells that have fluid particles, meaning it almost behaves more like foam than stone.

It was the best material the Spaniards could have chosen – and now, this gem of a fort is one of the state’s many points of interest, providing gorgeous views of the city and bay.

Address:  1 S Castillo Dr, St. Augustine, FL 32084, United States

2. St. Augustine

St. Augustine

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It’s impossible not to acknowledge the wonderful St. Augustine, which is undoubtedly one of the most enticing cities to visit in the state of Florida.

It’s the oldest city in America, which is why it’s one of the most-visited destinations for those who love immersing themselves in history and fascinating architecture.

The city is located along the northeastern side of Florida and is packed with buildings and structures that date back to Spanish colonial times.

You’ve already read about the incredible Castillo de San Marcos, but there are plenty of other things to check out, such as the many stretches of beautiful beach, Anastasia State Park, quirky eateries, and quaint roads.

3. Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens

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Busch Gardens is a marvel full of safari action suitable for the whole family.

Located in the Tampa, Florida area, it’s home to over 300 different animal species (and over 12,000 individual animals) that are sure to excite and amaze.

Not much for animals?

Don’t worry; there’s a reason that Busch Gardens is ranked among the top 10 amusement parks in all of America, according to readers of USA Today!

A delightful roller coaster – floorless and extremely thrilling with shocking drops, angles, and speeds, is just one of its many draws.

Address:  10165 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612, United States

If you’re going to spend more time in Tampa, be sure to check out some fun things to do in Tampa !

4. Gatorland


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One of the top things to do in Florida for natural excitement is Gatorland , home to hundreds of alligators, crocodiles, and similar reptiles.

It’s one of the best ways to get back to the roots of good, old-fashioned enjoyment; feeding shows with room for audience participation, interesting tours, and a low price result in a kind of amusement park one may often forget exists in Florida.

Once you’re done with Orlando’s Gatorland, more adventurous tourists can attempt to check out the Gatorland in South Bay – now abandoned with only one building remaining.

It’s certainly fascinating to wander around and reminisce in the eerie, forgotten structure that still stands as a reminder of what once was.

Address:  14501 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837, United States

5. Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

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If you seek to go sightseeing while in Florida, an absolute must-see spot is the Everglades National Park .

Covering a whopping 1.5 million acres, this subtropical wetlands sits in the southernmost part of Florida.

The wild area has earned a spot on the list of International Biosphere Reserve – and it’s also a World Heritage Site!

Everglades National Park was set up as a result of environmentalists who petitioned the government to preserve its nature.

It was formed in 1947 and is now, behind Yellowstone, America’s second-largest national park.

Primarily, it consists of swamp and subtropical marsh, with river, mangroves, and flatwoods that all act as habitats for hundreds of animal species, including endangered or threatened ones.

If you’re lucky, you might see some of them, such as the state panther, the manatee, the leatherback turtle, and the American crocodile.

Given its large size, most choose to check out only fractions of the Everglades National Park.

A simple walk works wonders, but guided boat tours, tram rides, and hiking tours are also great ways to get a feel of the park and experience its joys.

Address: 40001 State Road 9336, Florida City, FL 33034, United States

6. Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

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The Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the best and most beautiful places in Florida to visit.

It spans across the Las Tortugas islands, so named by its “discoverer” Juan Ponce de Leon after the turtles he consumed to survive while he journeyed throughout the tumultuous waters of the world.

Since its discovery in 1513, the islands have grown.

Originally consisting mainly of coral, sea turtles, and saltwater, the Dry Tortugas soon became a common spot for explorers and merchants alike, which unintentionally caused it to host a good many shipwrecks as it earned the nickname “ship trap”.

It then became home to forts protecting the land, then as a prison, then as a coaling station, then again as a location during the war, and, finally, a national park.

The Dry Tortugas is now a large national park, and they’re so remote that they can only be visited via seaplane or boat.

This has made them one of the county’s least visited parks both in Florida and across the nation.

Address: Key West, FL 33040, United States

7. Legoland


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Coming to Florida with kids who seek fun and exciting activities?

Legoland is an easy bet for one of the best things to do in Florida with children!

It’s the brand’s second-largest theme park, encompassing an impressive 145 acres of land and hosting more than 50 different rides – all Lego-themed!

A wide range of different attractions makes Legoland a real treat.

A water park, tours, rides, places to build Lego creations, shows, life-sized Lego mascots, and everything else you’d need to make any Lego fanatic jump for joy are found all throughout.

There is also a botanical garden and a hotel. The latter had themed Lego rooms, such as wizard, pirate, medieval, and more!

Address:  1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884, United States

8. Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove is one of the most delightful tourist attractions for marine animal-lovers in Florida.

The attraction sits in Orlando and is famous for allowing guests to get up close and personal with intelligent, sweet bottlenose dolphins!

You’ll get to talk to, touch, play with, and overall enjoy the company of these lovely mammals.

Apart from dolphins, many other marine creatures are available to befriend, including manta rays.

Apart from that, Discovery Cove has a one-of-a-kind feature where you get to essentially walk “underwater” along the ocean floor with the aid of a dive helmet.

You’ll also get to visit a freshwater lagoon that houses tropical birds (eager to be fed by questions) and otters.

It’s undoubtedly the loveliest way to learn about sea creatures in Florida.

Address:  6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, FL 32821, United States

If you want to see more of this beautiful city in Florida, here are some of the best things to do in Orlando !

9. Venetian Pool

Venetian Pool

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The Venetian Pool is among the most famous and best places to see in the state of Florida because it’s America’s biggest freshwater swimming pool.

Located in Coral Gables of Florida, it is a very unique water feature that offers fun and relaxation to visitors.

The pool, now on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in an abandoned quarry for coral rocks back in 1924, designed to mimic the appearance of a Mediterranean-style Venetian grotto.

Natural grotto caves add to the overall aesthetic.

Perhaps the Venetian Pool’s most iconic feature is its stunningly crystal clear blue freshwater, always clean and clear.

The secret?

A natural system for filtration.

Originally, the water had to be drained out and replaced daily with artesian spring water, but after backlash from water conservationists, this filtration system allows pool water to be drained out and then back into an aquifer.

This basically means the filtration system cleans the pool and replaces it with its own clean remnants every day – though the traditional method of refilling water is still used in springtime and summer.

Because this means the pool stands empty sometimes, it is often used for events, like concerts.

Address: 2701 De Soto Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33134, United States

10. Salvador Dali Museum

Salvador Dali Museum

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Whoever said old art is just for adults hasn’t seen much of Salvador Dali’s work.

The Salvador Dali Museum is the planet’s second-largest Dali artwork collection and lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, by the lovely waterfront.

The building carries Dali’s artistic spirits, with skylights in bubble-like shapes, waxed mustache decor, melting clocks, spindly sculptures, geometric windows, and wrap-around wall lights.

Originally, the Dali Museum’s contents were part of a collection owned by Reynolds and Eleanor Morse in their Cleveland hometown.

In 1982, the collection was moved to its current location in Florida, though only as a warehouse at first.

In 2011, it became an expanded museum and now it houses all sorts of oddities and wonders in more than 2,000 pieces!

All sorts of intriguing works are on display, including surreal paintings and seven masterworks, such as The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and The Hallucinogenic Toreador.

There are also films, photographs, and visiting collections from similar icons of the art world.

The Salvador Dali Museum, Florida is open daily and its special events make it a treat to go almost all the time, and even going this weekend is likely to net you something interesting!

Address:  1 Dali Blvd, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, United States

11. Daytona 500

Daytona 500

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The Daytona 500 race is the pinnacle of Nascar sportsmanship, often considered the most important of its events.

At the Daytona National Speedway in Florida, this race is held each February as a herald of the racing season.

Originally, before the Speedway’s creation in 1959, these races were held at Daytona Beach.

As per its name, the Daytona 500 spans 500 miles, and its tickets can be quite pricey.

However, the fun adrenaline of the race often makes the Daytona International Speedway one of the go-to places of interest in the state of Florida during the start of the racing season.

Even if you can’t watch a race, you can still go to the speedway; there are events in summer, music festivals at certain times of the year, and tours held regardless of the season!

Address: 1801 W International Speedway Blvd, Daytona Beach, FL 32114, United States

12. Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

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The Kennedy Space Center , close to Orlando, is a gem of NASA and one of the best activities for space-lovers in Florida who are seeking educational and exciting stuff to do.

The space center is home to all sorts of machinery and items relating to space exploration, from rocket launchers to historic memorabilia.

The Kennedy Space Center spans 140,000 acres and has served as a launch site for some of the country’s most important space shuttle missions.

Exhibits and showcases give you special insight into the world of NASA and two IMAX theaters play all sorts of fascinating and fun films related to space travel and discovery.

If you’re interested, you can opt for a bus tour of the spaceport that shows you the center grounds.

There are many different kinds of tours available, arranged chronologically so you can get a comprehensive look at the history of NASA, its stories, and its goals for the future.

It’s truly out of this world; by the time you’re done, you won’t even feel like you’re in Florida anymore!

Address: Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32899, United States

13. Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

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Given the rich background of journalist and novelist Ernest Hemingway, it’s no surprise that the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum is one of the many famous places loved by tourists in Florida.

Though the prolific man lived in many locations over his life, this home in particular has a good deal of importance to it.

Located in Key West, Florida on Whitehead street, this house was moved to by Hemingway in the mid-1920s as he moved from Paris to America at the advice of a friend and soon-to-be-legendary author John Dos Passos.

It was a gift by one of his uncles, evidently above what Hemingway could have been able to afford on his own; opulent Spanish-style architecture and luxurious fixings make the house, now, a treat for its design as much as its history.

In this house, Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms and parts of other great novels like Green Hills of Africa , Death in the Afternoon , and For Whom the Bell Tolls .

He also got the nickname Papa while living in this house and gained the inspiration for To Have and Have Not .

Now, visitors to the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum get to view over 20 years of memorabilia dating to Hemingway’s time in the home, from his typewriter to his hunting trophies – and more than 50 cats, most of which have extra toes!

Supposedly, these are almost all descended from a six-toed cat that Hemingway owned.

Address:  907 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040, United States

14. Miami Beach

Miami Beach

Few would visit Florida without taking a trip to one of its top beaches, Miami Beach.

It’s a haven for tourism, culture, and even authentic local experiences.

From families to models and from celebrities to critics, it seems like anyone who is (and isn’t) anyone goes here.

The beach is family-friendly, lined with affordable eateries, and very close by to all sorts of attractions like museums, theaters, and galleries.

Soak up the sun and surf, fish on piers, try some watersports, or do all of the above!

It’s quintessential Florida in a nutshell.

Want to take part in one of the most fun things to do in Florida without dealing with excessive crowds?

Head south to South Beach or South Pointe Park to find a more curated scene with different kinds of people.

Spending more time in Miami? Check out some of the best things to do in Miami !

15. Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale is located along Florida’s southeastern coast and is often considered a must-do for tourists who love picturesque experiences, lovely beaches, and the ability to wander!

It’s one of the best ways to get an authentic taste of Florida, with beaches, sun, relaxation, shopping, and more – and it’s called the Venice of America, and you can’t go wrong with that!

Fort Lauderdale packed with great places to check out, including the Strip (a promenade full of boutiques, restaurants, hotels, shops, and bars), the 1901 Stranahan House (the oldest building that remains standing in the city), and attractions like Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and the Swimming Hall of Fame.

That’s not all! If you’re spending more time here, be sure to check out some of the fun things to do in Fort Lauderdale !

16. Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens

The Bok Tower Gardens are among the most beautiful places in Florida for sightseeing and architecture.

It was built for Edward W. Bok and Mary Louise Curtis Bok by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr, completed in 1926 after five years of work.

The couples wanted to create a bird sanctuary after visiting Lake Wales Ridge in the winter.

Bok essentially gifted the Bok Tower Gardens to Florida and its people and it’s full of fun and beautiful vacation spots to find and marvel at.

This includes the Iron Mountain (one of the state’s highest points), a 205-foot singing tower of Art Deco, and neo-gothic style (marked by a brass door; you need to pay to enter), and of course a carillon – one of the finest in the world.

There is also a carillon library packed with photographs, books, scores, recordings, and articles about the instrument.

The carillon is played twice daily at one and three in the afternoon respectively.

Address:  1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, FL 33853, United States

17. Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach

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Panama City Beach is one of the best places to visit in Florida if you’re seeking a vibrant coastal town that shows off the liveliest parts of Florida’s coast.

It’s full of stretches of beach, vibrant nightlife, and options for all ages.

There’s no shortage of things to do at Panama City Beach.

There’s Shipwreck Island Waterpark (with waterslides and pools), Gulf World Marine Park (where you can swim with marine life), Lake Powell, Camp Helen State Park, Russell-Fields Pier, and even the Gulf of Mexico itself.

A mix of wildlife paradise and nightlife haven, you’re sure to find something to love in this little town!

Address: 7940 Front Beach Rd, Panama City Beach, FL 32407, United States

18. Neptune Memorial Reef

Neptune Memorial Reef

Neptune Memorial Reef

A mix of mystery, fun, adventure, and the somber eclipse Neptune Memorial Reef , a “lost city” 40 feet beneath sea level.

It was originally called the Atlantis Memorial Reef that serves as an artificial reef for marine life and an underwater cemetery.

Its current name is earned from its sponsor, a cremation company called the Neptune Society.

Located a short distance from Miami’s Key Biscayne, the Neptune Memorial Reef opened its gates in 2007.

Designed by local artist Kim Brandell, it spans 16 acres and was specifically designed to be a hospital home for coral and marine life.

Divers can check out the place and swim through the park to observe the many memorials.

The Neptune Memorial Reef holds cremated remains that have been cast into memorials of concrete, arranged throughout the memorial park.

A mix of steel and bronze accents add flair and enchanting touches to the concrete.

One famous person laid to rest here is Bert Kilbride, who was once the world’s oldest scuba diver.

As far as Florida attractions go, it’s one of a kind!

Address: 3.25 miles offshore, Key Biscayne, FL 33149, United States

19. Clearwater


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There is no shortage of things to see in Clearwater , noted for housing a 3-mile expanse of one of the best beach stretches in Florida.

It’s among the favorite tourist attractions for beachgoers and divers, especially given its narrow but long-reaching barrier reef.

Hotels, eateries, and resorts line the sands, and its small-town aesthetic makes it a great, quieter vacation location in Florida.

Apart from heading to the beach, while in Clearwater, Florida, you can visit the Moccasin Lake Nature Park (full of boardwalk trails), Pier 60 (a great place to watch street performances and the sunset), the Bright House Field (where spring training is held for the baseball team of the Phillies), or the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (which is home to the dolphins that starred in the Dolphin Tale films).

20. Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World is the epitome of bucket list spots in Florida, full of excitement and fun that brings anyone’s inner child out to play.

It’s such a popular spot that it’s widely considered a staple for what to do in Florida.

You’ll get to experience all the magic, whimsy, and charm of Disney up close and personal at Walt Disney World, situated in Orlando, Florida.

The amusement park is packed with rides of all sorts, delicious Disney-themed treats, great souvenir shopping, and more!

You’ll also get to take pictures with awesome character actors.

If you’re going this weekend, consider a Fastpass that lets you skip some of the very long lines.

Address: World Drive, Orlando, FL 32830, United States

21. Fort Pickens

Fort Pickens

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Fort Pickens sits at the far end of all the beach and coast stretches in Florida.

As a military fort that dates back to the Civil War and early 19th century times, it’s one of the points of interest in the state known for its historical value.

The fort was finished in 1834, built as a result of remaining fears because of the War of 1812.

Its original function was to protect Pensacola Bay as the region moved on past the wars of yesterday to the hope of tomorrow.

It was mainly built by slave labor in difficult and inhumane conditions, and its engineer would eventually join the Confederacy.

Ironically, during the Civil War, this fort never left union control despite being attacked by its own engineer and many other Confederate forces!

After the Civil War, Fort Pickens would serve as an Indian Wars prison, even housing Geronimo.

Now, though, the fort rests in peaceful times in this corner of Florida.

Its remains are a national park and allow you to look through prisoner cells, officer quarters, gunrooms, mine chambers, exercise spaces, and cannons.

Address:  1400 Fort Pickens Rd, Pensacola Beach, FL 32561, United States

22. Key West

Key West

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It’s impossible not to think of Key West as one of the main cities to visit in Florida.

It’s actually the most western inhabited island in all of the United States.

As part of the Florida Keys, Key West is fun, vibrant, culturally rich, and packed with activities.

Streets are lined with bars, eateries, and stores that all give you more of a taste of Cuba than the state you’re in due to how near it is to the border.

While here, be sure to check out Duval Street (colorful and loved by tourists for its old buildings and Caribbean heritage), Mallory Square (a lovely spot full of street performers and great sunset views), the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory (for free-flying butterflies and exotic flowers), and the Key West lighthouse (that rises 65 feet into the air and provides great ocean views).

If you’re going to spend more time in Key West, don’t forget to check out some of the best Key West attractions !

23. Universal Studios

Universal Studios

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To talk about Florida and its tourist draws without mentioning Universal Studios is almost a crime!

Just like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios is a staple for pop culture-lovers.

Witness all your favorite moments from the entertainment world come to life right here in Florida!

To save money, it’s advisable that you purchase a multiday ticket in advance and plan your trip accordingly.

Universal Studios is often very crowded and busy, so you might also want the Universal Express Pass option on top of that, which lets you skip the line.

If you come back often, you can even get a season pass for super special treatment.

Address:  6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, United States

24. John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

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The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art has a rather fun history and a tale that is more than worth it to explore.

John Ringling, a circus magnate, and entrepreneur, and his wife Mabel spent much of their fortune on this huge mansion that housed their art collection.

The Venetian-styled building in Sarasota is nothing short of beautiful and its contents were left to Florida when they passed away.

For a long time, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art was sorely neglected.

At long last, though, the Florida State University received the rights to manage the museum by the state in the year 2000.

They raised funds to put in a Visitor’s Center and turn the estate into a lavish museum that focused not just on the art collection of the Ringlings, but also on artifacts pertaining to the life and times of the circus tycoon.

They also added a lovely rose garden to the grounds.

The art collection showcased here is rather eclectic, as it was the Ringlings’ own personal collection.

From Cypriot works to Old Masters, they are all displayed in this wonderfully restored structure.

At the circus museum, you can view a bit of an oxymoron – the planet’s largest circus miniature!

Address:  5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243, United States

Before you venture out, here’s what to do in Sarasota for a memorable vacation!

25. Delray Beach

Delray Beach

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Delray Beach isn’t actually a beach; rather, it’s a small coastal town situated in Miami.

It was founded by Seminoles and is the most peaceful little spot you’ll probably be able to find in that part of Florida.

After all, there’s a reason it’s called the Village by the Sea!

Delray Beach has a very bohemian feel to it and has a lot of energy in its streets, but it’s low-key and relaxing, leaving behind luxury for simplicity and charm.

If you walk through Atlantic Avenue, you’ll appreciate the delightful lights, and all throughout the town, quaint eateries, local shops, and quirky galleries await.

Bright beach stretching two miles, blissfully free from overcrowded stress, is another big draw.

Though it may not be as exciting as the rest of the state, Delray Beach is a must-see for anyone tired of the glam and glitz of Miami.

It’s got the greatest options for kicking back and relaxing!

26. Manatee Springs State Park

Manatee Springs State Park

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Manatee Springs is one of the most beautiful places in the state of Florida, located on the northwestern side.

It was named by William Bartram, a naturalist, in the 18th century after something surprisingly morbid for a place so gorgeous – after the carcass of a manatee, washed up along the Suwannee River.

Since its slightly sad beginnings, Manatee Springs has become a state park, and it continues to live up to its name in a much more positive way.

The springs stay at an even and warm temperature of 72º F throughout the entire year, so manatees swim up into the park for a spot of good temperature in the winter.

Speckled perch, alligators, and large-mouth bass also come here during the time.

Watching the activities of these animals is fun and thrilling, and if you go kayaking in the park, these animals often swim up to you and ask for pets!

You might even spot baby manatees, as the warm waters make for a great manatee nursery!

Address:  11650 NW 115 St, Chiefland, FL 32626, United States

27. Siesta Key

Siesta Key

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Siesta Key is probably most known for being a star of certain reality TV shows on MTV, but those shows painted an incorrect picture; in reality, Siesta Key is one of the best places to visit in Florida!

The island houses 8 miles of heavenly white sands and blue surf, and it was clearly chosen for a show centering on privilege and wealth simply because of its beauty and opulence.

A more low-key part of the island, and part of the reason it’s one of Florida’s coolest tourist attractions, is Siesta Key Village.

It’s like a blast from the past here and you’ll feel like you walked into a 1950s set!

Seafood eateries selling fresh catches daily, homemade ice cream parlors, and small cafes all make for a quaint and rustic experience.

The island may be small, but what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in flavor!

28. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens were once the estate (and villa) of the famous socialite and industrial executive James Deering – who was also a conservationist.

Originally, it covered 180 acres of land and was designed to conserve native forest and mangrove swamps.

Situated on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, it’s a great spot for sightseeing and relaxation and is one of the Florida attractions that is sure to satisfy nature-lovers.

The main building was constructed between the years 1914 and 1916 and was used by Deering as a winter home upon completion.

Meanwhile, the rest of the home continued being built for seven more years until Deering passed away at sea.

His nieces then inherited the property, and they both decided to sell off parts of the estate in order to pay for the maintenance required on the rest of it.

Twenty years later, Miami’s Mercy Hospital and the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Augustine had a lot of the land donated to them.

Then, fifty acres surrounding the main building were purchased by the Miami-Dade County and restoration efforts led to the estate becoming a National Historic Landmark.

Now, it’s a mix of fun and picturesque with Italian Renaissance gardens, native woodland, and historic outbuildings that all make a tourist location and a host for ceremonies.

Address:  3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129, United States


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Destin is one of the top Florida’s places to see, and that’s partly due to its nickname: the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.

Situated on the Florida Panhandle, it’s famous for gorgeous beaches, great fishing, and excellent golfing opportunities.

It was once a fishing town, but a connecting bridge caused its population to grow, and it is now home to at least 13,000 residents.

Need some ideas for ways to fill your time here?

Go to the Big Kahuna water park, walk on Destin Harbor Boardwalk, enrich yourself at the Destin History and Fishing Museum, immerse yourself in history at Fort Walton Mound, or get close to nature at Henderson Beach State Park.

If you’re going to be spending more time here, don’t forget to check out some incredible things to do in Destin, Florida !

30. Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

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The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a fantastic and fun way for butterfly-lovers to get some excitement.

Hundreds upon hundreds of butterflies and moths enjoy a natural habitat of beautiful flowers.

There are also flamingos and other exotic birds from outside of Florida to gaze upon!

Head to the conservatory’s learning center to learn about metamorphosis and the life cycles of moths and butterflies, as well as how they eat, reproduce, and move.

There is also the Wings of Imagination art gallery that allows you to view vibrant technicolor renditions of butterfly-themed art.

So the next time you’re in Key West, Florida, be sure to drop by!

Address:  1316 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040, United States

31. Devil’s Den

Devil's Den


Still asking about what to visit while in Florida?

The state is home to plenty of other sites of wonder and awe – like the Devil’s Den !

Located near Williston, Devil’s Den is an underground river that now has a cave entrance to the surface, thanks to the collapse of its roof.

In other words, this is a rare opportunity for visitors to go scuba-diving in a subterranean river.

The waters stay a balmy 72 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, so you’re reassured of a comfortable diving experience no matter the season.

It makes for a wonderful sight on cold winter mornings, where visitors can see the steam rising up from the river’s cave chimney!

Visitors will have to be serious divers and snorkelers, however.

Devil’s Den is a private scuba diving training and recreational facility that does not allow casual visitors, swimmers, pets, and children under the age of 6.

You – or a guardian, should you be under 18 – will also have to sign an insurance liability waiver upon entering the property as well.

Address:  5390 NE 180 Ave, Williston, FL 32696, United States

32. Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island

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Florida is home to all sorts of postcard-worthy beaches that are perfect for all sorts of fun activities.

Anna Maria Island, however, may just take the cake.

Located south of St. Petersburg, Florida, this island is seven miles long and full of scenic charm.

Visitors asking about what to see here will find that there’s plenty in the form of beautiful sunsets and untouched nature.

If you’re not enjoying a sunset with a grouper sandwich from a lounge chair on the docks, you ought to be snorkeling through Egmont Key or joining a kayaking tour.

Interested in marine biology?

The island is home to all sorts of stingrays, dolphins, and even manatees.

Additionally, history buffs will also find plenty to marvel at as well!

From abandoned shipwrecks to historic Spanish-American sea forts, there’s plenty to see and do on this quiet little island.

33. Coral Castle

Coral Castle

BorisVetshev / Shutterstock

Looking for a castle?

You don’t have to fly all the way to Europe for one.

Located in Florida is perhaps one of the most unorthodox locales on the list of famous places the state has to offer.

Originally named Rock Gate Park by its builder, the strange and wondrous castle is usually known these days as Coral Castle .

After he was jilted by his partner the day before their wedding, Latvian Ed Leedskalnin boarded one of the many ships to the US, where he eventually settled in Florida.

He evidently never got over his lost love, however, and tapped into his stonemason heritage to build Coral Castle.

Despite his height and weight of 5 feet and 100 pounds, Leedskalnin managed to cut, shape, and move blocks of Oolitic Limestone that weighed over 30 tons and were often over 25 feet tall – all for the construction of his monument of love.

The completed castle contains incredible things like a stone rocking chair and a 9-ton gate that, astonishingly, only needs a light touch to spin open.

Due to his secretive working habits, some have speculated that Leedskalnin may have used magic to build his castle.

Of course, the most reliable way to find out the truth is to check out the castle yourself!

Address:  28655 S Dixie Hwy, Homestead, FL 33033, United States

34. Amelia Island

Amelia Island

Madison Y Photo / Shutterstock

The world is full of beautiful places – and Florida is home to some of them.

At the top of the list is Amelia Island, a hidden gem squirreled away into one of the chains of barrier islands that dot the East Coast.

Once home to roaming pirates, Amelia Island’s beaches are now better known for its idyllic scenery, quiet charm, and its shrimp industry.

Hop on over to enjoy nature at its most serene, or check out one of the many outdoor activities the island has to offer!

Want to experience more thrill? Located about 40 miles from Amelia Island, here are some Jacksonville attractions to not miss!

35. Fort Myers

Fort Myers

Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

War has left its mark on Florida, in a way that cannot be ignored or denied.

So it’s only natural that some of the best tourist attractions in the state include leftovers of that era of blood.

These days, however, visiting them is less of a depressing reminder.

Instead, it’s actually one of the many fun things to do in Florida!

Originally a fort constructed on the banks of Caloosahatchee River, Fort Myers these days is a modern commercial center with easy access to Florida’s famous beaches.

Once you’re done snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, or just plain relaxing, it’s a quick jaunt to the Imaginarium Science Center – an aquarium that doubles as a hands-on science museum!

Don’t worry if you’re a history or nature buff, either.

The city still has plenty to offer in those spots!

Try checking out the historic homes and buildings on the grounds, or one of the many wildlife and nature preserves in the general vicinity!

36. Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island

Nagel Photography / Shutterstock

One of the best things to do in Florida is to simply just lie down on a beach and enjoy the quiet sights and sounds of nature.

Sure, it might not sound super fun or exciting, but sometimes that’s just really all you need.

And Sanibel Island is more than capable of filling that need to do absolutely nothing!

Don’t want to lounge on a beach all day?

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of other things to do still.

You can try swimming, boating, and snorkeling in the pristine waters around the island, or consider combing the beaches for the abundant amount of seashells that wash up onto the beach.

Additionally, half of Sanibel Island is home to a massive mangrove forest, which houses some 245 different bird species – along with all sorts of animals, reptiles, and sea creatures native to the lands and seas of Florida!

37. Southernmost Point Buoy

Southernmost Point Buoy

Dennis Kartenkaemper / Shutterstock

Looking for the southernmost point of the United States?

This massive concrete monument claims to mark the exact point!

In reality, this isn’t actually the case – Hawaii is actually located further south.

It’s still one of the many major Florida attractions the state has to offer, however, since it still works as a marker for the southernmost point of the continental US.

Located in Key West, Florida, the monument is surrounded by all sorts of themed hotels, inns, shops, bars, and gift shops that have sprung up to serve the tourism boom.

So despite it simply being a marker for a physical location, the space surrounding the monument is bustling with all sorts of activities!

It’s a good idea to go there first thing in the morning before the crowds start coming in.

Grab yourself a cup of Cuban coffee, then drive on down to check out the fascinating sight yourself!

Address:  Whitehead St &, South St, Key West, FL 33040, United States

38. Mount Dora

Mount Dora

Jillian Cain Photography / Shutterstock

Don’t let its small size and quaint atmosphere fool you – Mount Dora is still jammed packed with all sorts of fun things to see and do.

Located near Orlando, the town is full of Old Florida charm – from its vintage clapboard houses to its antique handmade shops.

If you’re someone who loves exploring, this small town is for you.

Art, wine, spices, and knick-knacks line the streets here, and the shops are full of fascinating antiques.

It also happens to be close to other wonderful attractions – like some of the greatest natural swimming holes in Florida!

39. Seaside


Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

If you’ve ever been a fan of The Truman Show, you may already have a point on your bucket list dedicated to visiting this locale in Florida.

Located between the well-known party towns of Destin and Panama City, Seaside is a quaint and idyllic town that genuinely is just as cozy as it appears in the movie.

Visitors dropping by this tranquil little town will find it to be a wonderful respite after traveling through the busier parts of Florida.

Here, you can enjoy the sight of pastel-colored homes lined up behind white picket fences, and a gorgeous example of the many beaches the state is famous for.

Seaside is also home to an annual concert that draws in some of the best musical artists from across the country.

If you’ve missed the date, however, not to worry – there’s still plenty of local shops and restaurants to visit, and even a fantastic farmer’s market!

40. Apalachicola


Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock

For those hunting down the “Old South” charm and history, one of the many points of interest the Florida Panhandle has to offer in that regard is Apalachicola.

And it’s not too hard to see why that’s the case!

Crammed full of preserved, historic homes and oak-lined streets, this small fishing village allows visitors to step back in time to see how beautiful Florida was when it was still overwhelmed with nature and greenery.

Additionally, visitors here will also get an opportunity to see and experience how the timber, oyster, and fishing industries are like on a ground level.

If you’re just looking for a quick retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life, Apalachicola has got you covered too.

The town is surrounded by half a million acres of forest, and as such will envelop you in the tranquil peace nature has to offer!

Want to experience more thrill? Located about 199 miles from Apalachicola, here’s what to do in Pensacola ! 

41. St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

Noah Densmore / Shutterstock

One of the best cities to visit in Florida is – hands down – St. Petersburg .

Thanks to its location on a peninsula, this modern city is lined with beautiful beaches from all sides.

So if you’re someone who loves kayaking, hiking, or camping on the beach, St. Petersburg – nicknamed “Sunshine City” – is the best place to be!

If the beaches are too full of beach-goers for your liking, however, don’t worry.

St. Petersburg is also home to fishing charters.

Hop down to the docks to watch fishermen at work, or to the nearby Locale Market for fresh seafood and local delights!

The city is also home to several world-class museums and sees all sorts of cultural, musical, and food-based events all year round.

Assuming you miss seeing any of these events, there’s still plenty of restaurants and pubs to comb through, a lively nightlife to check out!

42. Florida Museum of Natural History

Florida Museum of Natural History

Kyle S Lo / Shutterstock

Of all the fun and unique tourist spots to visit in Florida, the last thing you’d expect to see on the list is a stuffy museum.

After all, what exciting activities could there be in such a place?

The Florida Museum of Natural History , however, may just change your mind.

Home to all sorts of incredible exhibits, the museum is a marvel to look at no matter what time of the year.

Drop by to check out all sorts of fossils, or even the butterfly rainforest exhibit!

Address:  3215 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611, United States

Want to explore Gainesville more? Here’s what to do in Gainesville !

43. International Drive

International Drive

NavinTar / Shutterstock

You might not have expected a driving down a thoroughfare to be one of the top cool things to do in Florida, but the International Drive is an exception to the rule.

Also known as the I-Drive, it serves as an 11 miles-long tourist strip full of all sorts of attractions.

It is essentially a theme park you can walk through!

Here, visitors can find all sorts of entertainment.

You can find mini-golf fields, live shows, an incredible assortment of dining options, and various shops.

The I-Drive is also home to a go-kart track, a museum, all kinds of amusement rides, escape rooms, and even an option to go on a helicopter ride!

Additionally, kids and adults alike will also find the waxwork museum and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! exhibition to be fascinating to visit.

All in all, the I-Drive is guaranteed to be a wonderful experience for friends and families visiting Florida!

Address: International Dr, Orlando, FL, United States


ESB Professional / Shutterstock

Looking for fun on the coastline of Florida?

Then one of your must-see destinations is Naples !

With its gorgeous white beaches that stretch out for miles, Naples has rightfully earned its spot as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Florida.

Not a fan of sand?

The 1888 Naples Pier has got your back.

This iconic pier is a lively place, full of people fishing or keeping an eye out for the local marine life.

If you’re struggling to see anything but still want to check out the local wildlife, Naples Zoo may be the solution for you.

Located at the Caribbean Gardens, visitors can watch animals flocking onto various small islands dotting an artificial lake.

This is perfect for any nature lovers who are interested in checking out the regional wildlife making their homes here.

Additionally, there’s plenty of history and culture to be found here too!

45. Pirate & Treasure Museum

Pirate & Treasure Museum

EQRoy / Shutterstock

Ever had some pirate-themed vacation ideas you wanted to try out?

Florida is perfect for this goal, thanks to the St. Augustine’s Pirate and Treasure Museum .

Founded by Pat Croce, this museum features 48 different exhibits and one of the largest collections of authentic pirate artifacts in the world.

Some of the incredible things on display in this museum include the likes of Blackbeard’s blunderbuss and some of the original gold pieces retrieved from his ship.

The museum also has informative exhibits about the life of various buccaneers and the treasures and weapons they had collected during their life while raiding the coast of Florida.

The museum is also home to a treasure hunt that will certainly keep your kids entertained from room to room – though if you’d like, you can tap into your inner child and try hunting down said treasure yourself too!

Address:  12 S Castillo Dr, St. Augustine, FL 32084, United States

46. WonderWorks


WonderWorks is known to be one of the best places to visit in Florida if you have kids, and it’s easy to see why.

This fun theme park is one-of-a-kind and can be found nowhere else save in Florida.

And it’s easy to spot too – it looks like a building that has been uprooted and deposited upside-down!

Children will find this educational theme park to be an exciting and thrilling experience.

The themed exhibits combine science shows with hands-on exhibits and physical challenge zones, allowing children to run through the place and bodily learn about the science and the world around them – all while having a blast!

The museum is located on the famous International Drive – so if you’re already there, visiting it is just one of the many things you can do while exploring the entertainment and theme park strip!

Address:  9067 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819, United States

47. Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Holly Guerrio / Shutterstock

While the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens are now one of the best Florida attractions the state has to offer, it didn’t have the most straightforward history.

It was established in 1906 by George Morikami, a 19-year-old who was one of the many Japanese farmers hoping to cultivate pineapples in South Florida.

After his death, the nearby city of Delray Beach became a sister city to Miyazu in Morikami’s honor, and his farmland transformed into a tranquil Japanese oasis.

Full of manicured gardens and informative exhibits, the gardens will certainly soothe the minds and souls of all who visit!

Address:  4000 Morikami Park Rd, Delray Beach, FL 33446, United States

48. Naval Aviation Museum

Naval Aviation Museum

Steven Frame / Shutterstock

In need of informative entertainment for the aviation buff in your life?

Perhaps the Naval Aviation Museum is just what you need.

Located in Pensacola, this museum is one of the best places to go to if you’re looking for a fun way to learn more about naval aviation – both its history and its present.

Here, visitors get to explore the inside guts of various airplanes and experience what it’s like to be inside each and every single one of the 150 aircrafts they have on display – including helicopters and biplanes!

Additionally, the museum is home to a flight simulator that allows visitors of all ages to try being a naval pilot exploring the skylines of Florida.

The museum has a wide-screen theatre that screens all sorts of aviation films, which is great for those who have an interest in film as well.

Otherwise, there’s plenty of exhibits that chronicle the history of various branches of military aviation as well!

Address:  1750 Radford Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32508, United States

49. Seacrest Wolf Preserve

Seacrest Wolf Preserve

Elina Litovkina / Shutterstock

Lovers of wolves take note – while Florida has all sorts of fascinating locales, this may just be one of the many cool places you will have to visit.

Founded in 1999 by a husband and wife duo, the Seacrest Wolf Preserve is the only one of its kind in the entirety of Florida.

The preserve is predominantly home to timber wolves and arctic wolves, who were originally bred as captive animals and therefore cannot be returned to the wild.

Here in Florida, they are cared for alongside all sorts of other animals, and are part of the outreach to educate the public about healthy wild wolf populations in a fun and engaging manner!

So if you’re looking for a nice and educational experience for yourself and your loved ones, the Seacrest Wolf Preserve is the perfect place for you!

Address:  3449 Bonnett Pond Rd, Chipley, FL 32428, United States

50. Florida Caverns State Park

Florida Caverns State Park

IrinaK / Shutterstock

The Florida Caverns State Park is an incredible option for where to visit if you like nature and geology.

It offers one of the most unorthodox kinds of nature tours in the state: a delve into a limestone cave network in Marianna.

These caverns are subterranean and rich with flowstones, stalagmites, and stalactites.

There’s a surreal sort of aura about them that makes them feel almost like works of art – impressive, considering the caves originally began their formation a whopping 38 million years ago!

In fact, the caves all began life underwater.

Sediments, coral, and more hardened into limestone with the drop of water levels.

Those who choose this state park in what to do will be able to spot things like remains and fossils in the walls, such as shark teeth, fish vertebrae, and even a nautilus or two.

For more ways to pass the time after exploration, check out the state park’s nine-hole golf course!

Address:  3345 Caverns Rd, Marianna, FL 32446, United States

If you’ve got more time, don’t forget to check out some fun things to do in Tallahassee , located about 70 miles from Florida Caverns State Park!

51. Cassadaga


PauloAlmeidaPhotography / Shutterstock

Cassadaga isn’t one of the more conventional tourist places to travel for visitors to Florida, but for those who like the wacky or strange, it’s a fun stop.

It is a spiritualist camp founded by George Colby, a medium, in 1875, with the aid of Lily Dale, New York spiritualist community members.

It began its life as part of the homestead grant land given to Colby.

At first, Cassadaga only spanned 35 acres, but now, it reaches 57 acres, with a total of 55 homes set up within.

Residents are typically mediums, psychics, or similar spiritualists who provide palm reading, seances, and more from within their homes.

The atmosphere is very much a departure from typical Florida and it’s an intriguing place, no matter which way you look at it.

While is Cassadaga, try to attend a Sunday Service, which is preceded by a healing service, or check out their bookstore to learn more about their beliefs.

Though it’s quite outlandish, Cassadaga is worth the visit, as it’s officially on the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic District.

52. Sunken Gardens

Sunken Gardens

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

The Sunken Gardens only exist in Florida now because of the actions of one man named George Turner, Sr., a local plumber.

He purchased the land that would become this garden in 1903 along the outskirts of St. Petersburg, Florida.

On the land was a lake spanning four acres, and Turner, as a gardener, wanted to access the fertile soil at the 15-foot-deep base of the lake for his garden activities.

He used his knowledge as a plumber to drain the lake and then, once he completed this task, set about creating a garden that would soon be one of the state’s most popular places.

In the humidity and fertility, Turner planted citrus trees and vegetables.

In the years that followed, he would add all sorts of tropical plants, useful walkways, and even tropical birds.

He funded all of this through purchases made by residents who paid for his fruit and vegetables.

Likely seeing a lucrative opportunity, the family of Turners bought the Sanitary Public Market building next door and converted it into the World’s Largest Gift Shop, among other things.

After interest dropped and the gardens became neglected, they were saved as a historic landmark by the town of St. Petersburg – and that’s how they got where they are today!

If you visit, make sure to stop by the Cactus Garden, the butterfly courtyard, and the flamingo flock.

You’ll love the lush greenery and tropical vibes that speak so truly of Florida’s nature!

Address:  1825 4th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33704, United States

53. Stetson Mansion

Stetson Mansion

Ebyabe / CC BY-SA

Stetson Mansion is among the best opulent destinations in Florida.

It’s often referred to as the grandest, biggest, and most historic house of its kind built in the state prior to the 20th century.

Going on a tour of the mansion and learning of its history is one of the fun things to do in Florida.

You’ll learn about John B. Stetson, the hat mogul who lived here, and how Thomas Edison installed the very first kind of electricity here for Stetson!

Address:  1031 Camphor Ln, DeLand, FL 32720, United States

54. Bulow Plantation Ruins

Bulow Plantation Ruins

Richard345 / Shutterstock

The Bulow Plantation Ruins were created by Charles Wilhelm Bulow, who purchased a shocking 9,000 acres of land here to form his estate, named Bulow Ville – or, now, Bulow Plantation.

The ruins are now a part of Florida State Parks, having come a long way since its 19th-century origins.

Bulow used the land to grow indigo, sugarcane, rice, and cotton.

Everything about the location and land was convenient for his cause.

He used 300 slaves to clear the forested portion that encircled the plantation, but he died two years later and was succeeded by his 16-year-old son.

The Florida Wars raged not long after and the local militia removed Bulow from the property so they could use its strength as an operational base.

Unfortunately, they were attacked and the plantation was burned down after just 15 years of life.

If you’re into site seeing the eerie, visiting the few remnants of the Bulow Plantation is a fun endeavor and a surefire must do.

Address: 3501 Old Kings Road, Flagler Beach, FL 32136, United States

55. Warm Mineral Springs

Warm Mineral Springs

Warm Mineral Springs

The Warm Mineral Springs are located in Florida’s North Port within a sinkhole left behind by a subterranean cavern collapse that occurred more than 30,000 years prior.

A vent 200 feet below surface level is the water source, with over 20 million gallons of water – warm and mineralized – pumped out from it daily.

The geothermal water enjoys a heat of about 97 degrees, cooled to 85 degrees, and makes for a good place to add to vacation ideas in Florida.

There’s also something eerie to add to the top of this list of uniqueness – the artifacts and bones of seven individuals and a 10,000-year-old log were found by William Royal, an archeologist, in the 1950s.

The Warm Mineral Springs are not a health spa of sorts, with many rushing to bathe in the “healing” mineral waters.

The natural spa facility allows you to relax in the water as long as you respect its archeological cruciality.

Address:  12200 San Servando Ave, North Port, FL 34287, United States

56. Spook Hill

Spook Hill

Inspired By Maps / Shutterstock

Looking for unique things to do while in Florida?

Check out Spook Hill in Lake Wales, which has proudly earned its unusual name thanks to the many legends that surround it.

Spook Hill is also called “gravity hill” or “magnetic hill” because any cars placed in neutral here will give off the appearance of going uphill.

Some legends state that the hill is haunted and responsible for the anti-gravity nature of the Florida hill.

Check it for yourself for the fun of it and see what you think!

Address: N. Wales Dr., Lake Wales, FL 33853, United States

57. Ellaville


Don Barrett / flickr

Ellaville is a town that dates back to the civil war era, and it did very well in this spot up until about the 19th century.

It was founded by businessman George Drew, who would go onto become the first post-Reconstruction Florida governor.

It was named after his African-American servant Ella.

The construction of a sawmill in Ellaville in this part of Florida drew people into the town as it employed over 500 workers.

Eventually, a dock, station, schools, churches, lodge, and more were built in the booming town that would one day become one of many Florida attractions.

Unfortunately, after finding political success, Drew sold much of his shares in local companies and left Ellaville.

The mill burned down in 1898, and rebuilding took up pinewood resources needed for harvest.

Flooding, the Great Depression, and the eventual post office closure led to the town’s demise.

If you head to Ellaville now, you’ll see that little of it is left standing, but strangely, some once-abandoned homes are occupied again.

It’s worth the treat of walking through the town if you like abandoned places and history!

Address: Madison, FL 32340, United States

58. Ancient Spanish Monastery

Ancient Spanish Monastery

Mariusz Lopusiewicz / Shutterstock

The Ancient Spanish Monastery of Florida doesn’t really have an official name, but it’s one of the state’s definitely tourist draw sites because of the three Spanish cloisters that make it up.

These cloisters were built between 1133 and 1141 AD and served as a Cistercian monastery’s structure for 700 years until the 1830s when the cloisters were seized in the First Carlist War.

The cloisters were then turned into a grainery.

Eventually, Florida was sold by Spain to America in 1819, and a man named William Randolph Hearst took great interest in the cloisters and purchased them in 1925.

He then took them apart stone by stone into 11,000 boxes to ship them to his California home, but the boxes were all quarantined and the stones messed up in the process of checking them.

After Heart’s passing, the cloisters were finally reconstructed in Florida with the goal of becoming a fun tourist hotspot.

After 19 months of hard work determining what stones went where, labor paid off, and now this monastery is one of the places to go for history lovers!

Address:  16711 W Dixie Hwy, North Miami Beach, FL 33160, United States

59. The Kampong

The Kampong

The Kampong

Known to be one of the best vacation spots in the world , The Kampong is technically one of five gardens that make up a huge national botanical garden, but this garden is the only one located in Florida while the rest reside in Hawaii.

The Kampong is a tropical garden that benefits greatly from the monsoon climate of Miami, allowing for a laboratory of horticulture and lush nature.

The Kampong can be found in Coconut Grove and is one of the best places in Florida to get your fill of a natural paradise.

Originally, it was an estate that belonged to the famous plant explorer Dr. David Fairchild.

Fairchild brought over 200,000 different kinds of exotic plants, and he named the grounds after a Javanese word, borrowed from the English word “compound”, that means an enclosed village.

If you add visiting the Kampong to your list of what to do, you’ll stroll through thick foliage and meticulously planted cultivars for all kinds of tropical flora, like carambola, avocados, bananas, mangos, and more.

It’s a great and fun way to experience a world that simultaneously feels integral to and completely separate from Florida, all at once!

Address:  4013 Douglas Rd, Miami, FL 33133, United States

60. Castle Otttis

Castle Otttis

MarkWalters at English Wikipedia / Public domain

Castle Otttis is one of the most interesting places to explore in Florida – and that mysterious air of it is even more intensified by the fact that only private tours can be arranged on the privately-owned property.

The castle, inspired by millennia-old Irish castles, was designed with the intention of being open to the elements as a “landscape sculpture” by builders Ottis Sadler and Rusty Ickes.

The castle, which is intentionally spelled with three “t”s, rises over 50 feet into the air.

Its creators’ goal was to make artwork invoking a mix of Christian and Irish influences and they completed it themselves, never intending for it to become a business or residence of any kind.

The exterior boasts a 7 million pound split face facade with 88 openings, ramparts, and reinforced steel rods.

The interior, which took three years to finish, boasts southern heart-pine and cypress wood creations – staircases, pews, a bishop’s chair, a pulpit, a choir loft, and an altar.

Castle Otttis sits in St. Augustine, Florida, just along the shoreline and is officially American Institute of Architects recognized.

Events are often held here, and though it’s not a conventional fun type of location, it’s still worth a sightseeing visit for the sheer magnitude of the effort and artistic inspiration involved.

Address:  103 3rd St, St. Augustine, FL 32084, United States

Start Planning Your Trip To Florida

Apart from being one of the most beautiful states , Florida is such an interesting place, offering some of the best bucket list-worthy attractions you’ll find in the country.

No matter what you’re interested in, there’s no shortage of fun vacation spots for adults, for children, and for families.

With such a vibrant community, there’s also something to enjoy in Florida, whether you plan a trip for tomorrow, this weekend, this week, or beyond.

Hopefully, this list of the best things to do in Florida has helped you figure out which of its many locations is at the top of your to-visit plans!

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30 fun things to do in florida (beyond the theme parks).

There's much to discover other than amusement parks in the Sunshine State.

Top Things to Do in Florida

Two people in a canoe surrounded by mist at Everglades National Park.

Getty Images

When planning a Florida vacation, Walt Disney World and beautiful beaches may be the first things that come to mind. But there's so much more to see and do in the Sunshine State. You'll find beautiful natural wonders with crystal-clear waters fed by springs, culturally rich cities, historical attractions reminiscent of Old Florida, exciting festivals and events, impressive museums, and more.

If you're looking for new places to visit and fun things to do for adults – or the entire family – check out these top things to do across the state for your next Florida vacation.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: Merritt Island

Apollo Saturn V Center, Moonscape, at Kennedy Space Center.

Courtesy of Kennedy Space Center

The Kennedy Space Center features five Mission Zones across 144,000 acres with attractions, interactive exhibits and 3D simulators related to space exploration and the history of humanity's journey into space. One of the best ways to explore this expansive complex is with an 11-hour small-group VIP experience. Guided by a space expert, you'll be treated to a behind-the-scenes tour by bus highlighting the iconic attractions, transportation to and from your hotel, and other perks.

Travelers rave about their visit to the Kennedy Space Center , saying you don't have to be a space enthusiast to enjoy the visit. For the thrill of a lifetime, plan your trip around one of the scheduled launches to see space exploration come to life before your eyes.

Address: Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32953

Visit the sponge docks at Tarpon Springs

Boat decorated with sponges docked at the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Known as the "Sponge Capital of the World," Tarpon Springs has a rich Greek heritage and a unique history. The saltwater fishing village is best known for its natural sea sponges, which were harvested by divers from the Gulf of Mexico beginning in the late 1880s. More than 500 Greek divers with 50 boats worked in the industry by 1905.

While in town, visit the original sponge docks along the Anclote River and grab a traditional Greek lunch at one of the restaurants on the docks, such as Mykonos. For dessert, Hellas Bakery & Restaurant offers a tempting selection of Greek pastries like baklava, kataifi and kourabiedes. Don't forget to take home a local sponge as a souvenir from your visit, as the industry still exists today in Tarpon Springs.

Address: 735 Dodecanese Blvd., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689

Hop on a glass-bottom boat in Silver Springs State Park

Glass-bottom boat at Silver Springs.

The historic glass-bottom boat tours on the Silver River in central Florida have attracted travelers since the 1870s. Visitors come to see the crystal-clear waters fed by springs and local marine life, as well as Spanish and Native American artifacts. You'll even catch a glimpse of old Hollywood underwater movie props at the park. There are two tour options that are offered throughout the day, year-round: a 30-minute boat ride or a 90-minute extended excursion.

Recent tourgoers enjoyed the boat ride and Silver Springs State Park, calling it a great choice for a local Florida experience. They also mention that the tours sell out, so it's advisable to purchase tickets in advance. Viator offers glass-bottom kayak tours at Silver Springs for the more adventurous explorer.

Wynwood Walls Museum: Miami

Entrance gate for The Wynwwod Walls, the colorfully painted walls in Miami, Florida.

Patrick Farrell | Courtesy of Visit Florida

Wynwood Walls is an acclaimed street art museum and urban revitalization project located in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami . The installation opened in 2009 and is continually evolving, with 35,000 square feet of walls and more than 100 featured artists from 21 countries. Explore the open-air museum's murals, street art galleries, sculptures and retail shops on your own with a general admission ticket. You can also opt for a small-group guided golf cart tour that's highly rated on Viator.

Visitors enjoy the art displays and are impressed by the quality of the exhibits, with some saying they make return trips every time they're in Miami. After spending time at the Wynwood Walls and nearby Museum of Graffiti – two of the top museums in Miami – check out some of the local eateries, bars, boutiques and events in the neighborhood.

Address: 2516 NW Second Ave., Miami, FL 33127

Explore Winter Park

Scenic view of Winter Park, chain of lakes.

Situated a few miles north of Orlando, Winter Park feels worlds away from the bustling city. Take a walk along the tree-lined Park Avenue district with its popular restaurants and boutiques. You'll also find two impressive museums in town: the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art and the Rollins Museum of Art.

There are abundant parks and green spaces for outdoor adventure – and be sure not to miss the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour. The hourlong narrated excursion traverses three lakes in Winter Park's chain of lakes, offering opportunities to see local wildlife – including alligators basking in the sunshine – plus views of the impressive estates built along the shoreline.

The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art: Sarasota

Two people looking at a large piece of art at The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

Courtesy of The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art

The Ringling museum complex in Sarasota showcases the legacy of circus owner and art collector John Ringling and his wife, Mable. The Ringling was named the official State Art Museum of Florida in 1980 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Plan an entire day to see the extensive collection of art at the museum and to visit Ca' d'Zan , the Mediterranean Revival mansion that was the winter residence of the Ringlings.

Children of all ages will delight in the interactive exhibits at the Circus Museum – and don't miss The Greatest Show on Earth Gallery. The new exhibit explores the history of the museum and circus through multisensory experiences, costumes, artifacts and media coverage. You can also stroll the beautiful Bayfront Gardens and visit the Historic Asolo Theater, the Education Center, the Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion and more. Travelers call The Ringling a must-see when visiting Sarasota ; they praise the museum, artwork, grounds and overall experience.

Address: 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, FL 34243

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Tampa

Group of roller coasters at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

If you're a thrill-seeker looking for heart-pumping rides and nonstop entertainment outside of Orlando, then plan a trip to Busch Gardens . Roller coaster fans will have plenty of exciting twists, drops and high-speed turns at the park, especially on the new Serengeti Flyer. The 135-foot-tall coaster is billed as the tallest and fastest ride of its kind in the world, reaching speeds of up to 68 mph and boasting multiple negative-G moments during the hair-raising ride.

For the less adventurous, head to the 65-acre Serengeti Plain for an open-air off-road tour. The 30-minute excursion offers up-close safari encounters with African wildlife , including zebras, giraffes, rhinos and antelopes. There are also plenty of activities at this Tampa attraction to keep children busy with rides, tours and activities designed for younger kids. Recent travelers like the theme park concept with the safari tours and comment that the grounds are well maintained.

Address: 10165 McKinley Drive, Tampa, FL 33612

Hit the beach at Siesta Key

Coast Guard Beach house and beach, Siesta Key, Florida.

The 8-mile-long barrier island of Siesta Key is famous for its powdery white sand beaches and sparkling turquoise waters along the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors to the beach call it one of the prettiest beaches in the U.S., saying they also enjoy the incredibly soft quartz sand that doesn't get too hot – even in the Florida sun. While on the island, take a ride on the complimentary Siesta Key Breeze Trolley for an overview of the area. Then, head over to Ocean Boulevard in Siesta Key Village to check out the local shopping, dining and entertainment scene.

Meet a manatee in Crystal River Preserve State Park

Manatees swimming at Homosassa Springs, Florida.

Located in what's known as the "Manatee Capital of the World," Crystal River sits on Kings Bay. The bay's crystal-clear waters, the second largest springs group in Florida, are a first-magnitude spring system fed by more than 70 springs. If you visit in the winter, you can see as many as 500 to 1,000 manatees enjoying the spring-fed waters (averaging 72 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit year-round), whereas about 100 manatees reside there in the summer.

For a one-of-a-kind experience, book a manatee tour with Crystal River Watersports to swim and snorkel with one of these gentle giants. They also offer half-day excursions where you'll swim with the manatees and then take a course to transform into a mermaid. But if you don't want to get wet, opt for a two-hour, clear bottom kayak ecotour to view the gentle giants from above.

Address: 3266 N. Sailboat Ave., Crystal River, FL 34428

Ichetucknee Springs State Park: Fort White

Kayaking the Ichetucknee River, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Florida.

Situated about 80 miles southwest of Jacksonville in Fort White, this nearly 2,700-acre state park is a haven for wildlife, including beavers, softshell turtles, wood ducks, limpkins and other species. You'll also find eight major springs that form the 6-mile-long Ichetucknee River, including one that's designated a National Natural Landmark. Travelers rave about the natural beauty and their experiences at the park. Aside from walks along the three nature trails and geo-seeking, activities here include canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, swimming or tubing on the pristine river. The state park is also part of the Great Florida Birding Trail.

Gatorland: Orlando

A large American alligator in the water in Orlando, Florida.

Alligators are one of Florida's most notorious residents, and this educational park is one of the top things to do in Orlando with kids . Whether you're fascinated by or terrified of these predators, you can see more than 2,000 American alligators of all ages and sizes – at a distance – at "The Alligator Capital of the World," Gatorland. The park even has rare leucistic white alligators.

There are plenty of other thrilling things to do at the 110-acre wildlife preserve and theme park, including the 1,200-foot-high Screamin' Gator Zip Line and the Stompin' Gator Off-Road Adventure in the swamp on a monster vehicle. If you dare, reserve a spot for the behind-the-scenes tour during Adventure Hour, where you'll be up close and personal with (and even able to feed) hundreds of hungry alligators. Reviewers say they enjoyed the shows, activities and seeing all the gators, and some even wished they had planned to spend more time at the preserve and park.

Address: 14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument: St. Augustine

Aerial of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida.

Castillo de San Marcos was built by Spanish colonists in the late 1600s to defend their settlement of Florida and the Atlantic trade route. The well-preserved structure is the oldest masonry fortification in the continental U.S., and it was designated as a national monument in 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge. You'll find park rangers and volunteers in period dress stationed throughout Castillo de San Marcos to answer questions while you explore on your own. They'll also elaborate on the experiences of colonists who lived at the fort hundreds of years ago. Musket and cannon demonstrations take place at scheduled times on most weekends.

Be sure to download the official Castillo park app for a self-guided tour and other information to help you make the most of your visit. Recent travelers find the fort to be well preserved and say they enjoy the exhibits, presentations and beautiful views of Matanzas Bay.

Address: 11 S. Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, FL 32084

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Vizcaya Museum & Gardens: Miami

Wide shot of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens with city in background.

Robin Hill | Courtesy of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

This 45,225-square-foot Mediterranean-style mansion – situated on Biscayne Bay in the Coconut Grove area of Miami – is home to an impressive collection of artwork, sculptures and priceless antiques. Retired millionaire and bachelor James Deering began building the property in 1914 but died in 1925. His family members looked after the home and property and worked to make it accessible to the public; Vizcaya opened as a museum in 1953.

Today, visitors can tour 34 decorated rooms (out of 54 rooms total) of the Main House, covering approximately 38,000 square feet. You can also stroll through the European-inspired gardens that are regarded as some of the most elaborately designed gardens in the U.S. Travelers say the home and gardens are stunning and advise visitors to plan to stay at least a few hours at the property. You can do a guided tour for a small fee or download the complimentary audio tour on their app, which is included with admission and covers a lot of interesting information about the estate and the family.

Address: 3251 S. Miami Ave., Miami, FL 33129

Visit South Walton's unique neighborhoods

Aerial of South Walton with parking lot for beach in the foreground.

South Walton's 26 miles of white sand beaches and 16 neighborhoods are nestled along the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Panhandle. For outdoor enthusiasts, the area is also home to four state parks, 200 miles of hiking and biking trails, and an astounding 15 coastal dune lakes – a rare geographical feature only found in a few places in the world. Divers will want to explore Morrison Springs, one of the most popular diving spots in the region. These natural springs produce about 48 million gallons of cool water every day from cavities located 300 feet below the surface.

South Walton Beaches also hosts several annual events, including wine, food and fine arts festivals in the spring. While there, be sure to check out Santa Rosa Beach and one of the oldest South Walton neighborhoods, Grayton Beach. Spend an afternoon strolling the colorful streets of the Seaside neighborhood, where you can peruse the boutiques, art galleries and a local bookstore. At the end of the day, you can catch the sunset over the Gulf from the rooftop deck at the beachfront restaurant Bud & Alley's.

Everglades National Park

Sunset in the Everglades with reflections in the water.

Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. and is considered an international treasure. The park has the distinction of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance – and it's protected under the Cartagena Treaty. The National Park Service recommends visiting in the dry season, between November and April. The winter months in Everglades National Park also afford optimal opportunities to see wildlife, including endangered and rare species like Florida panthers, manatees and American crocodiles.

For the best experience, take a tour of the Everglades . Options include ranger-guided tours, airboat excursions, narrated tram or boat tours by one of the approved operators, and guided tours by kayak or canoe. There are also tours for anglers and photographers, as well as ecotours.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium: Clearwater

Rex and Rudy dolphins at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Courtesy of Clearwater Marine Aquarium

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a unique nonprofit marine rescue center and one of the top aquariums in the U.S. The facility engages in research, education, rehabilitation and release programs. Two beloved dolphins at Clearwater even garnered the attention of filmmakers: "Dolphin Tale" and "Dolphin Tale 2" share the emotional stories of Winter and Hope.

Other than dolphins, visitors to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium will find rescued sea turtles, stingrays, river otters, nurse sharks, octopuses and other marine life here. You'll learn more about ongoing rescue and rehabilitation efforts and even meet some of the rescued animals through the aquarium's animal care experiences. Reviewers say the facility is beautiful, offers a unique experience, and has a dedicated and knowledgeable staff. To see the local marine life in their natural habitat, book one of the aquarium's guided eco-boat tours on Clearwater Bay.

Address: 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, FL 33767

Daytona International Speedway: Daytona Beach

Jimmie Johnson drives during the NASCAR Project 56 Test at Daytona International Speedway on January 31, 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

A trip to Daytona International Speedway is a must-do for NASCAR enthusiasts when visiting Florida. This speedway in Daytona Beach offers an hourlong speedway tour and a 2.5-hour VIP tour. The VIP experience is available once a day on most weekdays and includes an exclusive visit to the NASCAR Archives & Research Center and the Press Box. You can also plan to attend one of the races at Daytona International Speedway , including the best-known event: the Daytona 500. Visitors say it's an incredible experience to go out on the track, and many rave about the quality of the tours and the museum.

Address: 1801 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL 32114

McKee Botanical Garden: Vero Beach

Cycas Siamensis at Mckee Botanical Gardens in Vero Beach, Indian River County, Florida.

The history of this property dates back to 1922, when two land developers purchased an 80-acre tract to grow citrus. However, after some consideration, they decided not to disturb the land's natural beauty and instead hired a landscape architect from the celebrated firm of Frederick Law Olmsted to design the gardens. By the 1940s, more than 100,000 tourists were visiting McKee Jungle Gardens each year to see the impressive collection of water lilies, orchids, and other ornamental and exotic plants from around the world.

Today, guests can wander through the now 18-acre jungle in Vero Beach that's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The gardens are also regarded as a preservation project of national significance by the Garden Conservancy. If you have kids in tow on your visit, don't miss the Children's Garden at the property. Travelers enjoy the serenity of the gardens and comment that it's a beautiful place for photography.

Address: 350 U.S. Route 1, Vero Beach, FL 32962

World Equestrian Center: Ocala

Horse statue, flags and front of the World Equestrian Center.

Courtesy of MAVEN photo + film for the World Equestrian Center

The World Equestrian Center is the largest equestrian complex in the U.S., with state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor facilities that host many equestrian events and other recreational activities throughout the year. Dog lovers can attend canine events and trials here, such as the national specialty or rally and agility dog shows. You'll also find live music at the Yellow Pony Pub & Garden, Stirrups Wine Series evenings and Kentucky Derby hat parties on the calendar.

If you're looking for a wedding venue, you can get married in the on-site chapel and then have the reception in a beautiful setting under the majestic oak trees in the garden. For an extended visit to experience all this impressive facility has to offer, plan to stay a few days at The Equestrian Hotel, a luxury resort on the grounds. If you're traveling with your best furry friend, reserve a room at the newest upscale (and pet-friendly) property at the equestrian center: The Riding Academy Hotel.

Address: 1750 NW 80th Ave., Ocala, FL 34482

Gulf Islands National Seashore

A colorful sunset over the seaoats and dunes on Fort Pickens Beach in the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida.

Situated along the sparkling emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Islands National Seashore includes coastal regions in both Florida and Mississippi. There are six areas in Florida to explore: Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens, Naval Live Oaks, Okaloosa, Perdido Key and Santa Rosa. History buffs will appreciate the fortifications, exhibits and visitor centers at the two fort areas.

At Naval Live Oaks Area, you can hike 7-plus miles of trails and then have a picnic along the bay. Beach lovers will enjoy spending the day at Perdido Key Area , considered one of the most beautiful beach destinations in the U.S. You can even go backcountry camping by boat at Perdido Key. After the sun goes down, be sure to look up at the sky, as this national seashore is an excellent place for stargazing.

The Hemingway Home and Museum: Key West

Exterior and grounds of the Hemingway Home and Museum.

Rob-O'Neal | Courtesy of Hemingway Home and Museum

The legendary author Ernest M. Hemingway first visited Key West in April 1928. During this trip to the Florida Keys, he finished his novel "A Farewell to Arms." He and his second wife, Pauline, fell in love with the island, and after two seasons Pauline's uncle bought a home for them on Whitehead Street. The Spanish Colonial home, built in 1851, was in disrepair when it was purchased and went through a significant restoration project in the 1930s.

Today, Hemingway's home is a National Historic Landmark. Many of Hemingway's personal artifacts remain in the house. According to tourgoers, you can even see quite a few six-toed cats wandering the property, just like the six-toed tomcat that belonged to Hemingway. Guided 20- to 30-minute tours are available daily.

Address: 907 Whitehead St., Key West, FL 33040

South Beach: Miami Beach

Walkway and palm trees in South Beach, Miami Beach.

South Beach is one of three neighborhoods located on the 9-mile-long barrier island of Miami Beach . The area runs from South Pointe Park up to 23rd Street along the Atlantic Ocean and is best known for its colorful art deco buildings lining famed Ocean Drive. You won't want to miss Lincoln Road, a popular mile-long pedestrian area with boutiques, restaurants and street performers.

South Beach is also home to The Wolfsonian: This museum houses one of the most extensive American university art collections of decorative arts, design and propaganda pieces from 1850 to 1950. Before leaving town, head to Lummus Park, a beachfront park where you'll have some of the best people-watching in South Beach.

Great Wolf Lodge South Florida: Naples

Rendering of Adventure Park in Great Wolf Lodge.

Courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge

This Southern Florida resort town, situated on the Gulf of Mexico, is now home to the newest Great Wolf Lodge, set to open in September 2024. This location will become the 21st resort for the brand in North America. The expansive property in Naples features 500 family-friendly suite accommodations and 100,000 square feet of indoor water fun where kids of all ages can play come rain or shine. The property's themed suites are fun for kids, offering cabin or cave themes with bunk beds. For larger and multigenerational families, there are also themed premium suites that sleep up to 14 people.

After spending the day zipping down waterslides, catching the waves at Slap Tail Pond or floating down the Crooked Creek lazy river, check out the on-site dining options at this indoor water park resort . Families can choose between outdoor-themed meals at Fireside, pizza and pasta at Hungry as a Wolf, or casual family-style dining at Timbers Table & Kitchen. There's also adult-focused fun, too, with signature cocktails and craft beer at The Outpost.

Address: 3900 City Gate Blvd. N., Naples, FL 34117

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

Boat at dock at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park in Florida.

Located approximately 15 miles south of Tallahassee , Wakulla Springs takes guests back to Old Florida and affords opportunities to see deer, alligators, manatees and turtles in the wild. The 6,000-acre wildlife sanctuary has thousands of years of history; it boasts one of the world's deepest and largest freshwater springs as well as an ancient cypress swamp. This setting was the perfect backdrop for filming "Tarzan's Secret Treasure" (1941) and "Creature From the Black Lagoon" (1954).

Take the 45- to 55-minute ranger-led glass-bottom boat tour on the Wakulla River for incredible wildlife-viewing opportunities. The spring-fed water is remarkably clear, which helped a mastodon skeleton be discovered within its depths. The ancient fossil is now on display at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.

Address: 465 Wakulla Park Drive, Wakulla Springs, FL 32327

Palace Saloon: Amelia Island

Exterior of Palace Saloon.

Dawna Moore | Courtesy of AmeliaIsland.com

Grab a seat and tip back a cold one at the oldest continuously operating bar in the state: the Palace Saloon. Located on Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island , the historic building was originally designed as a haberdashery in 1878. When it was purchased in 1903, the new owner enlisted the assistance of his friend – the founder of Anheuser-Busch, Adolphus Bush – to create an upscale "gentleman's establishment." The bar was so exclusive that it even attracted the wealthy Carnegie and Rockefeller families who vacationed on Georgia's nearby Cumberland Island during that time.

Local lore claims the Palace Saloon was the last bar to close in Florida during Prohibition; it survived by selling special wines, ice cream, Texaco gasoline, 3% near-beer and cigars. Today, the interior retains much of its original charm, although the clientele has changed. When in town, stop by the saloon's new outdoor space, The Shipyard, and order a famous Pirates Punch.

Address: 117 Centre St., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

The Dalí Museum: St. Petersburg

Visitors looking at artwork at the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Courtesy of 2023 – Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL

The Dalí Museum highlights the life and work of the innovative artist Salvador Dalí. The design of the building, by architect Yann Weymouth of HOK, is the perfect introduction to the eccentric pieces of art inside. Hurricane-proof glass sections that are 18 inches thick create a 75-foot-tall geodesic bubble known as the Enigma in the center of the building, resembling the one at Dalí’s museum in Spain.

Visitors can view the permanent collections at The Dalí , which include prints, paintings, objects, photographs and works on paper. You'll also find rotating exhibits from other artists, special events and classes. Reviewers comment that the exterior is as much a work of art as the collections inside and call the experience informative. After your visit, have dinner and watch the sunset at one of the restaurants on nearby St. Pete Pier.

Address: 1 Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg, FL 33701

John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park: Key Largo

Bronze Christ Statue at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park in Florida.

John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park encompasses 70 nautical square miles, and it was the first undersea park in the U.S. You can take a glass-bottom boat tour to view the coral reefs and marine life from above, though scuba divers and snorkelers may want a closer look at the underwater habitats that are part of the Florida Keys ecosystem. In addition to colorful sponges and different species of fish, you may also see crabs, lobsters, dolphins, sea turtles and manatees.

If you want to visit the famous 9-foot-tall bronze statue known as Christ of the Abyss located off the coast, you'll need to take a dive or snorkel tour with a company like Silent World Dive Center in Key Largo . If seeing the statue is not on your underwater bucket list, book a 3.5-hour snorkeling tour on Viator that includes two different reefs in the Florida Keys, such as Grecian Rocks or John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park . Plan to camp overnight in the park for an extended stay to enjoy more water-based activities like kayaking and canoeing.

Go scalloping in Pasco County

Two scallops on a grill.

There are several places to snorkel or dive for scallops in the Sunshine State, including on Florida's Sports Coast in Pasco County, situated along the Gulf of Mexico. The bay scallops found in these shallow waters are smaller than sea scallops. Their shells have 20 pairs of bright blue eyes that alert them to light and the presence of predators, including scallop hunters. You may even see them "swim" backward to escape by quickly opening and closing their shells.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee has recently approved an extension of scalloping season in the county, which will now run from July 10 through Aug. 18. For the best scalloping experience, book a trip with a local guide or charter company that will know the top places to harvest the bivalve mollusks.

If you're going to explore more of the area during your visit, reserve a room at The Hacienda in New Port Richey for a step back into Old Florida. The historic property opened in 1927 as one of Florida's famed pink hotels, attracting celebrities and dignitaries in the town that was known back then as "Hollywood East."

Come for Gasparilla Season in Tampa Bay

Pirate ship at sunset for Gasparilla Season in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Courtesy of Visit Tampa Bay

This two-month event features a massive pirate festival, named for the (likely fictitious) pirate José Gaspar of local legend. The Gasparilla Pirate Fest has been thrilling attendees since its inception in 1904. The swashbuckling fun and plundering kicks off at the end of January with what's billed as the third-largest parade in the country. The 4.5-mile route features hundreds of elaborate floats with treasures to pillage, all led by the captain of Ye Mystic Krewe and his pirates.

Gasparilla Season also features an outdoor music festival, a children's parade followed by a fireworks display, a film fest, an arts fest and much more. Even college football teams and their fans get in on the fun during the Gasparilla Bowl in December. If you're ready for a yo-ho-ho good time, bring your hearties and scallywags to Tampa Bay during Gasparilla Season.

Lion Country Safari: Loxahatchee

Zebras on the road at Lion Country Safari.

Courtesy of Lion Country Safari

Lion Country Safari is a 320-acre family-friendly attraction in a rural part of Palm Beach County less than 20 miles from West Palm Beach . The drive-thru concept opened in 1967 as one of the first cageless zoos in the U.S., with free-roaming lions and other animals offering a big game experience close to home. The year-round tropical climate in Florida is ideal for the large herds of animals originating from six continents, including lions, giraffes, wildebeests, zebras, rhinos and chimpanzees. The safari is also involved in conservation efforts and breeding programs for threatened species.

You'll find seven main habitats across 4 miles of Lion Country Safari . There's also a 55-acre adventure park with rides, a petting zoo, animal encounters, a water park, paddleboats and other attractions. You can even take an escorted VIP tour with an expert guide that includes two up-close experiences with some of the animals. Travelers say they enjoy getting close to the animals and that it's a great way to spend a day. Take your safari adventure up a notch by spending the night listening to the sounds of wildlife with an overnight stay at the on-site campground.

Address: 2003 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee, FL 33470

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Gwen Pratesi is an avid traveler who lives in Florida. She has traveled throughout the state in search of the best vacation experiences, from romantic beach getaways to exciting outdoor adventures for families. She used extensive research and her personal experience to write this article. Pratesi covers the travel and culinary industries for major publications, including U.S. News & World Report.

You might also be interested in:

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Bogie Bacalls - Lookout Room at Bungalows Key Largo.

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From floating in crystal-clear springs to photographing Miami icons, here are the best experiences in Florida © Erin Westgate / Getty Images

There's much more to Florida than world-class amusement parks (though it boasts some of the best ).

With an incredible blend of experiences that combine a rich, multi-cultural history, diverse cities and natural wonderlands, your must-see list will quickly become a mile long.

Whether savoring Haitian cuisine within the borders of Little Haiti in Miami or submerging yourself into the waters of a crystal-clear spring, Florida  will have you planning your next trip before you even leave. Here are 14 of our favorite things to do when you get there.

Local Flavor: These are the best places to eat and drink in Miami

Diagon Alley in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando.

1. Spend a day at one of the many amusement parks

We figured we'd kick off this article with one of the best things Florida is known for – world-class amusement parks that promise endless excitement and unforgettable memories for people of all ages.

Everyone's heard of Disney , but with dozens of theme parks scattered around the state from Tampa to the theme park hub Orlando , there are lots to choose from, and you can't come to Florida without experiencing at least one!

Here's how to plan the ultimate weekend in Tampa

Immerse yourself in the magic of Hollywood as you embark on movie-themed, thrill-seeking rides at Universal Studios . The park is set to open its DreamWorks-themed area this summer, where guests will be able to explore attractions from the animation studio's most famous franchises like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda.

Inspire your little builder at Legoland , with its martial arts-themed area called Ninjago, plus a set of painstakingly recreated American cities in Miniland USA and a space to build your own block masterpiece. If you're traveling with little ones who are avid Peppa Pig fans, they'll squeal at the chance to run through the newly opened Peppa Pig Theme Park .

Planning tip: Check out the "Offers" page on the websites of the theme parks you visit instead of purchasing your tickets at face value. There are often promotions and discounted rates available if you extend your days at the park, which could work in your favor and help save some cash.

Add these theme parks to your Florida itinerary

2. Get a taste of Japanese culture at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Keen on experiencing a taste of Japan without the 10+ hour flight from Florida? The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach makes it possible by bringing Japan to South Florida.

Built to preserve Japanese culture in Florida and build cultural understanding between Japan and the US, the site contains a museum and garden that vividly showcases aspects of Japan's culture. Stroll through 16 acres of land outdoors, including a series of Japanese-inspired gardens, a bonsai collection and lakes filled with koi fish and other structures.

The museum houses over 7000 Japanese art objects and artifacts, each telling a unique story of the country's rich culture. Hungry? Swing by the on-site cafe – the Pan-Asian menu allows visitors to indulge in tasty Japanese treats.

Planning tip: On select Saturdays, Morikami demonstrates a traditional Japanese tea ceremony inside the on-site Seishin-an tea house. Consider planning your visit around one of the days when a cultural demonstration will happen.

A young boy holding on tight on an airboat in the Florida Everglades

3. Skim through the waters of the Everglades on an airboat

When many people think of Florida, the Everglades are one of the first things that come to mind. A vast expanse of shimmering wetlands and lush marshes, the Everglades is a source of unique wildlife and natural preservation.

As the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, the national park is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, providing habitat for various threatened and endangered species.

One of the best ways to explore the Everglades is onboard an airboat. Companies like Everglades Safari Park make it possible to easily spot alligators, turtles, birds, and many other animals that call the area home.

Looking for more great experiences? Here are our top picks in Everglades National Park

4. Embark on a safari from the comfort of your car

Your vehicle becomes a vessel of exploration at the Lion Country Safari , where you can enjoy wildlife sightings as you journey through their naturalistic habitats.

Located in West Palm Beach , Lion Country Safari allows you to drive through a 4-mile safari inhabited by herds of animals. Giraffes, alpacas, lions, zebras, and ostriches are just a few of the many animals you can expect to see roaming the land.

Beyond the drive-through adventure, the park's walking areas provide up-close encounters with animals like goats in the petting zoo area. You can even opt for a complimentary pontoon boat ride for closer views of birds and primates.

5. Have dinner on a gondola in Fort Lauderdale

Unique dining experiences are scattered throughout Florida, and now you can create more memories with a gondola dinner in the state's southern region. Run by Riverfront Gondola Tours , for 90 minutes, you and up to five guests will travel through the canals of Fort Lauderdale while enjoying your company and the views of the city.

With the option of ordering from Casa Sensei , a nearby waterfront restaurant, you can enjoy a fusion of Japanese and Latin cuisine on your ride until you return to the dock.

Two women crossing the street in Miami while laughing

6. Explore popular cultural neighborhoods in Miami

Home to a plethora of unique cultures, each neighborhood in Miami pulsates with its unique rhythm, offering an immersive experience into the heart of different cultures.

In Little Havana, the air is infused with soulful melodies of salsa music, while the historic landmarks tell tales of Cuban heritage. The markets, dance studios, spiritual businesses, and statues of prominent leaders like Touissant Louverture in Little Haiti form a community that proudly highlights Haitian culture.

Stop by the Historic Overtown, one of Miami's oldest neighborhoods that served as a cultural hub for Black artists during segregation. Learn more about each neighborhood and what you can do there in our insider's guide – your next trip will be an enriching journey where you'll leave with a broadened perspective and celebrate the global cultures woven into the city's identity.

Planning tip: For a more knowledgeable tour with personal insight and the opportunity to ask questions about some of the businesses and infrastructure of the different neighborhoods, we recommend booking a tour with reputable companies like Tap Tap Tours , who can explain the history and significance of each community.

Staying for the weekend?  Save this ultimate weekend itinerary for Miami's South Beach

7. Cruise on Biscayne Beach at high speeds with Thriller Miami

Miami is known for being a city with high energy, and there is perhaps no better experience to match that intensity than the Thriller Miami Speedboat . Setting sail from the docks at the Bayside Marketplace , the speedboat takes riders on a 45-minute sightseeing tour at speeds up to 40 mph.

Take in the Biscayne Bay, the City of Miami Beach, Fisher Island and finish with a tour of the Mansions on Star Island, where you'll see the homes of celebrities like Will Smith. You'll experience lots of drops, twists, and turns in between on this ride and may even get a little wet.

Planning tip : Aim to get a seat toward the front or middle of the boat to avoid getting completely soaked. The last few rows on the boat are known to leave riders more drenched than they probably planned to be.

Put in some towel time at these Florida beache s

Manatees underwater , swimming close to the surface in the hot springs sanctuary from Crystal River

8. Spot manatees through a clear kayak in Crystal River

Manatee season in Florida runs from November to April and is the perfect time to see these majestic animals as they migrate to Florida's warm waters in the winter. While you could see manatees from an observation deck at facilities like the Manatee Lagoon , Get Up and Go Kayaking brings you straight to the water for an up-close yet respectful and ethical encounter.

On a two-hour nature tour inside a transparent kayak, you'll get to paddle your way to see manatees from a different perspective.

9. Stay in a colorful tiny home in Matlacha

Matlacha is a quaint, artsy town in Florida with a strong fishing community whose bright colorful shops can't be missed. Within Matlacha, a tiny 5-home village awaits you for a unique stay in Florida.

For about $150 a night, the homes include a full kitchenette and access to community amenities like a BBQ grill, dock, deck, and kayak launch. A stay in one of the tiny homes also gives you the chance to explore the town and visit one of the local art galleries or even go on a fishing tour .

10. Learn about Florida's Black History

Florida's Black history encompasses stories of triumph over adversity, resilience, and remarkable contributions. Thankfully, many historical sites in Florida are still in place or have been established to visit. The Mary McLeod Bethune Home in Daytona Beach is a testament to the life and legacy of educator, activist, and founder of Bethune­-Cookman University, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.

In New Smyrna Beach, the Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum houses and displays exhibits that reflect the history of race relations in Florida throughout the twentieth century. As you trace sites like these, you gain insights into various Black communities in the state and their invaluable contributions to modern-day Florida.

Saturn 5 rocket at Kennedy Space Center, Florida

11. Immerse yourself in space exploration at the Kennedy Space Center

The Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island is a space lover's dream. As you step onto the facility's grounds, you'll find yourself engulfed in the world of innovative technology and exploration.

Organized into Mission Zones, where the attractions and tours are run by chronological era, the center truly takes you through a journey of the work that has been done in the industry and what is to come. If you're lucky, you may visit during a live rocket launch and get to sit front row as yet another spacecraft launches into the air.

12. Recharge in the waters of Ginnie Springs

Nestled in the natural splendor of High Springs, Ginnie Springs emerges as a destination whose crystal-clear waters provide the perfect day trip or weekend escape. Whether you're in the mood to go tubing in the calming waters, snorkeling in the river where catfish and other critters lie, or exploring underwater caves, Ginnie Springs is truly a Florida gem.

Planning tip: As you can imagine, many people aim to experience these clear waters, so crowding is often an issue at Ginnie. To combat this, consider visiting on a weekday and avoid holidays.

13. Paint the walls at Miami's outdoor street art museum

Composed of walls elaborately painted by worldwide artists, Wynwood Walls has become a "must-see" stop when in Miami. Held primarily outdoors, the museum is an artistic oasis, with every corner unveiling creative, colorful pieces of large murals that tell their own unique story.

One of the most exciting parts of visiting Wynwood Walls is the "Street Art Experience," where you're given bottles of spray paint to contribute a piece of your artistry to the walls. The vibrancy of this museum encapsulates Miami's artistic soul, extending the spirit of creativity with you as you continue your journey through Florida.

Planning tip: If you are a student, don't forget to bring your student ID card to receive 50% off the admission fee!

Keep planning your trip to Florida

  • Find out the 11 things you need to know before you visit
  • Don't know where to start? These are our 9 favorite places in the Sunshine State
  • Keep the kids entertained with our guide to visiting with tiny travelers in tow
  • Stretch those cents and find out how to visit on a budget

This article was first published Sep 25, 2021 and updated Apr 3, 2024.

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Florida bucket list: 65 fun things to do, places to visit from the Keys to the Panhandle

Our picks include world-famous attractions and hidden treasures, with destinations spanning from the panhandle to central florida and key west..

top 100 places to visit in florida

Summer is the perfect time to explore Florida and to help we have updated our annual bucket list of the best things to do and places to visit in the Sunshine State. The travel experts at Tripadvisor recently unveiled the winners of their 2023 Travelers' Choice Best of the Best "Things to Do" Awards , and you'll find the top picks from Florida on our list as well, plus many more fun options.

Our picks include world-famous attractions and hidden treasures, with destinations spanning from the Panhandle to Central Florida and Key West. From charming beach towns along the Atlantic coastline to those nestled along the Gulf of Mexico, there is something for everyone. Our bucket list of 65 essential things to do and places to visit features contributions from USA TODAY Network staff members based in communities throughout Florida. So go ahead and enjoy exploring the Sunshine State!

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  • Play in the sugary soft sand at Siesta Beach, recently ranked the second best beach in the U.S. by Tripadvisor, and among the most popular attractions in Sarasota County .

Bucket list: Discover Sarasota's 100 best restaurants, fun things to do, places to visit

2. Bring the kids, bring the dog, bring an appetite, then sit back and enjoy the music at  Boxi Park , an Orlando-area eating and entertainment venue on Lake Nona built from shipping containers.

3. Canoe or kayak down the  Great Calusa Blueway .

4. Dine on authentic Spanish and Cuban cuisine at  Columbia, the oldest restaurant in Florida . Then explore surrounding Ybor City, the historic cigar manufacturing neighborhood that has been home in recent decades to many of Tampa’s top restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

5. Dinner and a show don't get much better than in  downtown Sarasota , which is home to a vibrant restaurant scene and theater district with nearby luxury hotels including a Ritz-Carlton and Art Ovation.

6. Drive through  Lion Country Safari , a four-mile preserve in Loxahatchee that’s roaming with some of the nation's largest wild herds (think rhinos, giraffes and zebras). There’s an adventure park onsite as well, offering children’s rides, water slides, animal feeding and a safari tour boat.

7. Eat, drink and play on the 26-acre  St. Pete Pier . It's equipped with everything from a splash pad and nature walk to waterfront restaurants such as Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille , which is named after the main character in over 20 novels by bestselling Sanibel Island author Randy Wayne White.

8. Sip Florida's best beer at Hell 'n Blazes in downtown Melbourne. The brewery's Huggins Hefeweizen was named the best beer in Florida in 2023. If that leaves you wanting more, traverse the Space Coast Beer Trail and visit all the breweries on the Launches and Lagers list to earn your very own mission patch.

9. Enjoy a fantastic meal in a setting you’re unlikely to find anywhere else when you visit the iconic  McGuire's Irish Pub  in downtown Pensacola. With more than $1 million stapled to the ceilings and walls throughout the original 1927 old firehouse filled with themed rooms, no two visits will be the same. You can also get the same great food at their newest location in Destin.

10. Even if you’re one of those classy folks who eschew theme parks, it’s hard to resist the allure of  Walt Disney World : traipsing around the World Showcase at Epcot, shopping and dining at Disney Springs, meeting the Na’vi in Pandora at Animal Kingdom, stepping into the movies at Hollywood Studios and ending your night under the fireworks at Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.

11. Experience Florida culture with a  swamp buggy race  in Naples.

12. While in Naples, visit the Revs Institute ― one of the 10 best auto museums in the world.

13. Explore the mangroves with an  airboat ride  out of Everglades City.

14. Feed the giant, snappy tarpon at  Robbie’s,  an Islamorada marina that features a restaurant and funky artisan marketplace. They’ll cook your catch here and delight you with island-y merch. 

15. Find your particular brand of fun along the 2.5-mile  Tampa Riverwalk . It's dotted with restaurants, bars and hotels plus an aquarium, hockey arena, performing arts center, children’s museum and a public waterfront park.

16. Float down the  Ichetucknee River  on a tube, kayak or canoe, where the crystal-clear water is 72 degrees, regardless of the weather.

17. The Brevard Zoo consistently lands on lists Best Zoos in the United States . The rest of the country has realized what we've known all along. Take the Treetop Trek and zipline over monkeys and other critters. Kayak by past giraffes, rhinos and lemurs in Expedition Africa, or just wander the trails and discover what (or who) is waiting around the corner.

18. Get lost in the lush wonderland that’s the  Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden  in southern Coral Gables. More than a stretch of manicured greens and lakes, this is an 83-acre garden that has only diversified in flora since its founding in 1938. 

19. Get your prehistoric reptile fix and see all the gators, from babies to 14-footers, including the blue-eyed, white leucistic alligators at  Gatorland  in Orlando.

20. Go shelling on  Sanibel Island .

21. Go to the  St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge . Gateway to the Panhandle Section of the Great Florida Birding Trail, it's where you can see as many as 250 different species throughout the year.

22. Grab a rumrunner to go from  The Jetty Lounge  – with a floater on top if you're feeling adventurous – and take a walk among the fishermen along the South Jetty. Watch the waves crash inside the Fort Pierce Inlet and possibly catch a glimpse of curious manatees or dolphins.

23. Grab unexpected views of Miami and Biscayne Bay from the eastern steps at the  Pérez Art Museum Miami  downtown. Sure, you can take in the same view from the terrace at Verde, the PAMM’s waterfront eatery. But you can also buy a cortadito at the Verde café stand and find a quiet space on the steps. Look all around. You’ll feel as if you’re viewing the metropolis from the deck of a boat. 

24. If you’re coming to Pensacola, and you should, you’ve got to do it on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when you can almost always watch a free  Blue Angels  practice show from June to October as they perform their mind-blowing maneuvers from NAS Pensacola.

25. Just about any Saturday, a parking lot under the bridge that carries I-95 over the St. Johns River in Jacksonville becomes the  Riverside Arts Market , where visitors can buy original arts and crafts, locally grown produce and the best kettle corn in the state.

26. Look a reticulated giraffe in the eye from the elevated platform at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’  Savanna Blooms Overlook . 

Jacksonville bucket list: 25 things to see, places to go on Florida's First Coast

27. Meet Superman, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Swift, Shaq and Jimmy Fallon – or at least take a picture with them – at  Madame Tussauds,  “the world’s greatest wax museum,” in Orlando.

28. No trip to St. Augustine is complete without a walk down  St. George Street , which is lined with shops and restaurants and sunburned tourists.

29. On a clear day, take in the view from the 22nd floor observation deck of the  Florida Capitol .

30. Pack your skateboard, bicycle, running shoes, volleyball, dog and/or child and spend the day or several nights at  Bradenton Riverwalk , which also includes a splash park and playground along with restaurants, bars and a couple of waterfront hotels.

31. Regardless if you’re interested in viewing 16th European paintings in its Museum of Art, exploring the first-of-its-kind Circus Museum or simply relaxing on the Ca' d'Zan terrace overlooking Sarasota Bay, there are lots of fun and educational activities at  The Ringling, which was founded by Florida’s famed circus magnate John Ringling in 1927. He also established the nearby shopping and dining destination St. Armands Circle. 

32. Road trip to Key West and have your photo taken at the Mile Marker 0 sign before having a few drinks at the nearby  Green Parrot Bar .

33. Savor super fresh seafood while dining on the docks of  Star Fish Company  in the historic commercial fishing village of Cortez, which is located on north Sarasota Bay in Manatee County by Anna Maria Island. 

34. See a sunset at the  Naples Pier  – and clap with the crowd when the sun goes down.

35. Swim with the manatees in Crystal River, which recently made Tripadvisor's list of Top 10 Experiences in the U.S.

36. Shop, sip, eat, repeat, then check out the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by  Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Morse Museum  in Winter Park.

37. Sip a frothy milkshake at the vintage  Robert Is Here  fruit stand in Homestead, a favorite stop for travelers headed south to the Florida Keys. Your options are deliciously tropical: guava, mamey, mango, papaya and others. Founded in 1959, the place is thoroughly Old Florida.

38. Spend the day window shopping or a night of eating and bar hopping in Panama City's historic  St. Andrews , which includes the St. Andrews Marina and is regularly the site of music events, farmer's markets and more.

39. Have a drink and listen to live music at St. Pete Beach landmark Jimmy B’s, one of our favorite beach bars in Florida .

40. Spend quality time in each of the three adorable cities found on charming Anna Maria Island, which stretches for seven miles off the coast of Manatee County just south of Tampa Bay and includes many of our favorite restaurants .

41. Stay the afternoon or perhaps a few nights on Charlotte Harbor at  Fishermen’s Village , which offers restaurants, a resort and marina on the site of a pier that held fish houses.

42. Take an off-road safari among African wildlife in the heart of Tampa via  Busch Gardens ’ amusement and animal park, which also includes thrill rides such as Tigris, which opened in 2019 as the tallest launch coaster in Florida.

43. Take in glorious views of the iconic red  Jupiter Lighthouse  and inlet waters from any of the restaurants and bars perched on the shore across the waterway. Terrific options include the laid-back Square Grouper Tiki Bar (which also has a Fort Pierce location), the fancier eateries at the Charlie and Joe’s at Love Street complex and the beloved Jetty’s and U-Tiki Beach restaurants. 

44. Venture to the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach . Whitehall, a 75-room, 100,000-square-foot Gilded Age mansion was built by Henry Flagler as a wedding gift for his wife, Mary Lily Kenan Flagler.

Bucket list: 55 fun things to do in Palm Beach County

45. There are lots of places to go ziplining in Florida, but  Crocodile Crossing , the course that runs over the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, may be the only one where visitors glide over a pit of hungry gators.

46. Tour the  Edison & Ford Winter Estates  in Fort Myers.

47. Visit  Wakulla Springs State Park  located south of Tallahassee, home of the world’s largest and deepest freshwater springs, and take a boat ride to watch for manatees, birds, alligators and more. 

48. Walk the grounds of Tallahassee's  Mission San Luis de Apalachee , a reconstructed Spanish Franciscan mission, to see what life was like in the 17th century.

49. Walk the wilds of Central Florida and get up close with nature at the  Circle B Bar Reserve , a 1,200-acre nature park nationally renowned for its alligator activity. 

50. Wander through the  Norton Museum of Art , a work of art itself after a $100 million makeover in 2019. You’ll be welcomed by an 85-year-old banyan tree and a giant, pop-art typewriter eraser (by artist Claes Oldenburg). Inside the West Palm Beach institution, find world-class displays and walk below an Insta-worthy Persian Sea Life Ceiling. That's 600-pieces of underwater life recreated in Chihuly glass.

51. Watch the manatees at  Blue Spring State Park  in Orange City, about 30 minutes west of Daytona Beach in Volusia County. When temps dip in January, it’s prime time for manatees at the park, an occasion celebrated at the annual Blue Spring Manatee Festival on Jan. 22 and 23 at nearby Valentine Park.  

52. Watch the water of the  Indian River Lagoon  explode with bioluminescent light during a stand-up paddle board or kayak adventure on a moonless summer night, with tours leaving from Titusville and Merritt Island.

53. Witness history in the making by viewing a rocket launch from the beach, anywhere from Indialantic to the Canaveral National Seashore, then spend an afternoon at  Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex .

54. You can't be in Gainesville and miss a football game and some tailgating in "The Swamp," the University of Florida's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium home to the  Florida Gators  and almost 90,000 roaring fans.

55. You don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to fall in love with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at  Universal Studios  and Islands of Adventure; and while at Islands of Adventure, don’t miss Jurassic World and the thrilling VelociCoaster.

56. Stop in Tallahassee during football season to catch a Florida State University Seminoles game and don’t miss the kickoff with Osceola riding out on Renegade to plant the spear on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium.

57. Late in the summer, the water in the rivers and ocean along the Space Coast sparks with light. It's a magical experience when viewed from a paddle board or kayak. Check out the "Things to Do" section at visitspacecoast.com for links to multiple companies that offer guided tours.

58. Commune with the astronauts at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Merritt Island. The interactive children's area, the iMax movies, the bus tours and Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex all are amazing. And if the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit is guaranteed to move you to tears.

Brevard Bucket List: 35 things to do on the Space Coast this summer or anytime

59. Visit “The World’s Most Famous Beach” in Daytona Beach where you can swim, fish and even drive along 23 miles of coastline.

60. During the summer, take in a Minor League Baseball game and watch the Tortugas take the field at Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach.61. While the Daytona 500 takes place once a year, the Daytona International Speedway is open year-round with guided tours and a museum paying tribute to the history of racing. It's a must-see for any race fan.

62. If you've ever dreamed of swimming with the dolphins, check out Marineland Dolphin Adventure in St. Augustine where you can interact with marine life one-on-one.

63. Also, consider swimming with the dolphins at The Dolphin Research Center "dolphinarium" on Grassy Key.

64. Take the Little Havana food and walking tour in Miami , which recently topped Tripadvisor's list of best Food & Culinary Experiences.

65. Catch a sunrise on an Atlantic beach and a sunset on a Gulf Coast beach on the same day. End that day with dinner and drinks at one of these waterfront restaurants .

Wade Tatangelo  is Ticket Editor for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and Florida Regional Dining and Entertainment Editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Support local journalism by  subscribing .​​​​​​

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13 Best Places to Visit in Florida on Your Next Trip

The sunshine state has plenty to offer in addition to sand and surf..

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Propeller plane by the shoreline of a beach

The Florida Keys are one of many places worth checking out in the Sunshine State.

Photo by Rose Marie Cromwell

Working in Florida’s restaurants for more than 15 years (and at one point owning one myself), I’ve had a front seat view to everything from supper clubs seeded by farm shares to public houses sourcing from local makers. The burgeoning food scene is reflective of a state that’s equally diverse: Mermaids ( modern ones on Scuba ) and manatees swim the waters in Central Florida, the “nation’s oldest city” offers a look into the history of the northeast region, and fishing villages lost in time can be found along the Northwest Panhandle.

From the Sunshine State’s 1,350 miles of coastline to the vibrant art scenes of its cities, here are the 13 best places to visit in Florida.

Bright yellow wall with pastel-colored patterns on top.

Some of Miami’s most interesting areas are in the Art Deco Historic District.

Photo courtesy of GMCVB

  • Location: South Florida
  • Come for: inclusive initiatives and public art

South Beach holds the crown for exciting nightlife, but don’t count out the fine dining scene— Michelin-starred restaurants dot Miami ’s art deco landscape. With Cuba only 90 miles away, Calle Ocho in the heart of “Little Havana” serves up mouthwatering croquetas and salsa music in the city where bars close at 5 a.m. Public installations abound in once blighted neighborhoods, transformed in 2013 into hubs of local art and design like the Wynwood and Design District.

Exploring Miami’s glitzy bars, iconic boardwalk, and world-class beach is easy thanks to its inclusivity efforts. Accessible mats are available at more than 20 locations along Ocean Drive, and beach wheelchairs with big, nubby tires can be checked out at a number of locations along the route year-round.

Where to stay

  • Book now: The Betsy

Located in the heart of South Beach, this 1940s art deco property exudes elegance throughout its 130 rooms and suites, two pools, 25,000 square feet of public space, and a library (in case you forgot your book). The Betsy also plays host to a curated selection of public art during Miami’s Art Basel .

Key lime pie vendors, street carts, and quirky boutiques line Duval Street, the main thoroughfare in Key West.

Key lime pie vendors, street carts, and quirky boutiques line Duval Street, the main thoroughfare in Key West.

Photo by xbrchx/Shutterstock

2. Key West

  • Location: Florida Keys
  • Come for: six-toed cats and laid-back island lifestyle

Known as the place to gather for sunsets, Key West has shipwreck and maritime museums worth checking out (in addition to mouthwatering conch fritters). Mallory Square’s cobblestones fill with street performers doing magic, telling fortunes, and busking as the sun descends over the water. Tucked behind the main street, Hemingway’s six-toed cats rule his legendary house, and local musicians gather at hidden venues like General Horseplay to jam.

Just over the Seven-Mile Bridge from Marathon, Key West’s mangroves hold secret paths for kayakers, and ghostly shipwrecks rest 145 feet below the surface (try diving with Captain’s Corner ). After a day of snorkeling with the fish, order a Rum Runner cocktail and toast another day in paradise.

  • Book now: Southernmost Beach Resort

With a prime location at the end of Duval Street and a stone’s throw from the Southernmost Point, this boutique resort features three pools and the best sunset view around. The rooms feature rattan furniture, wide-planked driftwood floors, and roomy balconies to make a cozy retreat.

Golf course neighborhood in the daytime

With more than 80 championship courses designed by legends like Arnold Palmer (yes, the person associated with the famous drink), there’s plenty of fairway to get in the swing.

Photo by Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock

  • Location: Southwest Florida
  • Come for: world-class golf courses and 100+ art galleries and museums

With over 100 galleries and museums featuring everything from Seminole and Calusa history to automobiles, Naples has plenty for art enthusiasts. Don’t miss a show at the performance venue Artis-Naples , affectionately known as the Phil by locals.

Shelling is spectacular along Naples’s pearly white coast, but for some true Florida wildlife, visit the Conservancy of Southwest Florida , a nature center with a wildlife hospital that treats injured and orphaned native animals.

  • Book now: Inn on Fifth

Located steps from Fifth Avenue’s palm-fringed streets and high-end boutiques, the ritzy Inn on Fifth offers lavish Club Level Suites, two restaurants, a full-service spa, and a rooftop pool and bar where you can take in Naples Bay.

Colorful buildings line a street in the daytime.

If Palm Beach’s elegant buildings don’t capture you, hit Worth Avenue—shopping here is akin to an Olympic sport.

Photo by Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

4. Palm Beach

  • Location: Southeastern Florida
  • Come for: beautiful architecture and celebrity spotting

Movie stars, finance tycoons, and even royalty have graced the barrier island located on the southeastern side of the state. Chocked full of Mediterranean revival and Venetian-inspired architecture, Palm Beach captures a Gilded Age feel in historic landmarks like the Flagler Museum .

For innovative programming and community engagement opportunities like opera workshops open to the public, visit the Society of the Four Arts along the Intracoastal Waterway. Its 10-acre campus includes performance hall, art gallery, education center, libraries, and sculpture gardens.

  • Book now: The Colony

This pink-hued charmer has offered chic accommodations for guests like Judy Garland and John Lennon since 1947. Only feet from the sand, the vintage Floridian decor coupled with amenities like beach cruisers, beach butlers, golf, tennis, boating, babysitting services, and pet services make this a getaway the place to be seen.

Wooded bridge leading to a bridge in the daytime.

When snorkeling at St. Pete Beach, be on the lookout for octopuses, bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, crabs, shrimp, and snapper.

Photo by mariakray/Shutterstock

5. St. Petersburg

  • Location: Pinellas Peninsula on Tampa Bay
  • Come for: thriving arts community and international food scene

The city’s heart has a network of neighborhoods with eye-catching murals and walkable streets. Some of the best opportunities to see art are at the Dalí Museum , home to more than 2,400 pieces by surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, the Museum of Fine Arts ’s Monet collection, and the Morean Arts Center , which houses a Chihuly Collection of 18 glass sculptures.

St. Petersburg city is also a short bridge ride away from St. Pete Beach, a barrier island that is great for a relaxing day on the sand or a day of snorkeling (check out Island Ferry Eco Tours ).

  • Book now: The Don CeSar

The name of this 1928-opened hotel comes from the William Vincent Wallace opera Maritana, and remnants of the musical masterpiece can be found throughout the grand halls and rooms of the Don CeSar. Elegant dining and imbibing options reside on-site and a full-service spa offers relaxation to weary travelers.

Outdoor stairs leading to a sign in the daytime.

Digging into the Crystal River Archeological State Park is one of the city’s outdoor adventures.

Photo by Sunshower Shots/Shutterstock

6. Crystal River

  • Location: Western Central Florida
  • Come for: manatees and mermaids

Sure, Florida beaches are beautiful, but locals know the state’s magic lies in the more than 1,000 natural springs found around the state—and many can be found in Crystal River. The city hosts a tapestry of state parks, and national wildlife refuges that make excellent spots for bird watching.

For more nature, Crystal River is a short drive to Weeki Wachee State Park , an attraction that’s home to the state’s deepest freshwater cave system. The live mermaid shows are the main draw—they perform a version of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid submerged in the 400-foot amphitheater.

  • Book now: Plantation on Crystal River

This lodge lies surrounded by the natural springs of King’s Bay and more than 25,000 acres of lakes and rivers, wildlife refuges, and state parks. The nature lover’s sanctuary has a full-service marina, 18-hole golf course, and restaurants offering “cook your catch” options.

People walking along a brick-lined path surrounded by shops in the daytime.

The Florida city of Seaside is a Highway 30A stop that was featured on The Truman Show .

Photo by Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

7. Highway 30A

  • Location: Northwestern Coast
  • Come for: rare coastal dune lakes and underwater museums

This brief 24-mile stretch of scenic byway hugging the Gulf Coast hides a haven of singing bartenders and eclectic festivals like Crafted and Digital Graffiti . One stop worth taking on a 30A roadtrip is the Underwater Art Museum in Grayton Beach—the museum offers a one-of-a-kind dive experience where those willing to brave the depths can swim among sculptures that are chosen and sunk each year.

Another noteworthy feature of 30A’s sliver of the Emerald Coast: Here you can see coastal dune lakes (rare ecological wonders found only in a few spots around the world).

  • Book now: Hibiscus Coffee & Guest House

This old Florida rooming house in Grayton Beach feels like a step back in time. The 13 rooms each feature their vintage Floridian personality with framed old maps and model ships transformed into lamps. The stay is wheelchair accessible and includes breakfast. Don’t miss yoga or open-mic storyteller nights in its “Backyard of Love.”

Bird's eye view of a seaside town in the daytime.

Apalachicola’s historic buildings house buzzy breweries and restaurants dedicated to Florida seafood.

Photo by Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock

8. Apalachicola

  • Come for: oysters and old fishing village vibes

Swathes of untouched coastline and shacks serving addictive smoked fish dip can be found along Franklin County. One of its cities, Apalachicola, is a working fishing village where you can glimpse fishermen and oyster farmers on the docks.

The welcoming port town located at the mouth of the Apalachicola River has been recognized as a “ distinctive destination ” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation because of its character and dedication to historic preservation, among other reasons.

  • Book now: The Gibson Inn

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 1907 landmark turned modern boutique hotel features elegant wraparound porches and chic guest rooms.

People on a swan-shaped boat in a lake with skyscrapers in the background

Lake Eola, in the heart of downtown, is known for its photogenic swans and tiered fountain.

Photo by Derek Oladokun II

  • Location: Central Florida
  • Come for: theme parks and huge network of lakes

Can you talk about Florida without mentioning Disney ? The House of Mouse has been an Orlando destination since 1971. Days can be spent riding the barrels in Frontier Land at Walt Disney World , but there’s also wizarding with Harry Potter at Universal Studios and communing with orcas at Seaworld —the theme park game is strong in this city.

Beyond the glitzy entertainment at the theme parks, Orlando has more than 100 lakes—check out Lake Apopka, which covers 30,000 acres, for a peaceful respite.

  • Book now: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Inspired by a traditional African kraal, the lodge exudes safari with its panoramic views of four lush savannas populated with over 30 species of African wildlife and African art at every turn. Plus, you never have to get in your car; complimentary buses and shuttles will whisk you around the park.

Horse-drawn carriage on a street near buildings

The blacksmith shops and stately forts of St. Augustine whisper history.

Photo by Glenn Hastings/Stacey Sather

10. St. Augustine

  • Location: Northeast Atlantic Coast
  • Come for: historic sites and ghost tours

Known as the “nation’s oldest city,” with roots back to 1565 when it was settled by Europeans, St. Augustine offers plenty of tours that take you back in time: Hop on an Old Town Trolley Tour to hit more than 100 points of interest, including Ponce de León’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park where you can take a sip of the legendary immortality-imbuing water.

Located along the northeast coast, St. Augustine has a pedestrian-only thoroughfare and wonders like the Castillo de San Marcos , a Spanish stone fortress dating back to the 1600s, designated a national monument. Get lost on St. George Street—antiques and funky boutiques await.

  • Book now: The Collector Luxury Inn and Gardens

Situated downtown, this luxury inn features nine historic buildings and 30 guest rooms that incorporate the history and architecture of the property’s 18th-century construction. The courtyard, bricked paths lined with statues, and amphitheater create a multisensory retreat steps from the bustle of the city’s attractions.

Two people walking with a horse on the beach at sunset.

Amelia Island State Park plays host to 200 acres of beaches, salt marshes, and coastal maritime forests.

Photo by Peter W. Cross and Patrick Farrell.

11. Amelia Island

  • Location: Barrier island on Northern Atlantic coast
  • Come for: uncrowded beaches and horseback riding on the sand

With 13 miles of unspoiled beaches and Spanish-moss-draped oak trees, this barrier island feels more like a lost-in-time Southern retreat than its palm-lined brethren further south. The quartz-filled sand beaches are framed by 40-feet-tall sand dunes— horseback riding along the dunes offers another vantage point of the natural paradise.

Beyond the beaches and coastal recreation, Amelia Island is also home to the oldest lighthouse in Florida (first lit by whale oil in 1838) and Florida’s oldest bar, the Palace Saloon .

  • Book now: The Amelia Schoolhouse Inn

Located right in downtown Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, the Amelia Schoolhouse Inn served as a school from 1886 until the late 20th century. The boutique hotel has kept historical features like original windows and heart pine floors, but coupled with modern amenities like on-site mini golf and an upscale bar, the Principal’s Office.

Patrons dine al fresco next to Airstream food trucks under palm trees in downtown Pensacola

Pensacola’s downtown is home to fermentation bars, buzzy restaurants, and community gathering spaces.

Photo by Leigh Trail/Shutterstock

12. Pensacola

  • Location: Northwest Florida
  • Come for: historic downtown and exceptional scuba diving

Pensacola’s Historic Downtown packs in a bevy of museums and places dedicated to art. Opened in 1925, you can catch a show at the Saenger Theatre or pop into Electric Serenade for a private karaoke party. If you’re looking for adventure, book a dive trip to the USS Oriskany (a sunken aircraft carrier that’s now the largest artificial reef in the world).

Over the bridge, the federally protected Gulf Islands National Seashore is home to osprey and great blue herons, dolphins, sea turtles, and stingrays. Don’t miss the Futuro House (otherwise known as the “UFO House”), another iconic Florida roadside attraction that’s been around since the 1960s.

  • Book now: Lily Hall

Walking distance to Pensacola’s vibrant downtown, this boutique hotel nods to the city’s history and artists with its record players and custom vinyl collections in every room. In addition, the stay has a wood-fire restaurant and secret speakeasy in the basement where Sunday school classes were once held.

Blue skies are reflected in the still waters of the everglades while tourists take airboat rides to visit alligators in the wild.

Coined the “River of Grass” by conservationist and author Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the 1.5 million acres of wetlands houses species like American crocodiles.

Photo by allouphoto/Shutterstock

13. Everglades National Park

  • Location: Southern tip of Florida mainland
  • Come for: spotting endangered species and outdoor recreation

It’s hard to believe Miami’s glittering boundaries are an hour from the coastal mangroves and murky swamps of Everglades National Park . Trails for biking, hiking, and bird-watching snake through the Everglades, but going by water is the best way to experience this park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and International Biosphere Reserve. Take a guided airboat with Gator Park or kayak tour to learn more about the delicate ecosystems and abundant wildlife in the park.

  • Book now: Flamingo Campgrounds

Camping (or glamping) immerses you in the serenity of this wild landscape. Located at the Homestead park entrance, you can access this unplugged escape with 274 tent sites, 65 RV sites, and glamping Eco-Tents. Houseboat rentals are also available from Flamingo Marina, where up to six guests can sleep on Whitewater Bay surrounded by croaking frogs and singing cicadas.

The Santiago Calatrava-designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge spans Dallas’ Trinity River.

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The 14 Most Beautiful Places In Florida, According To A Native Floridian

top 100 places to visit in florida

Thomas De Wever/Getty Images

It’s not hard to find beauty in the Sunshine State. Yes, there are the beaches , of course. With two coasts, there’s a picturesque stretch of sand for everyone. But Florida also has botanical gardens, historic hotels, nature preserves, incredible architecture, and so much more. Every time I visit my home state I find something new to marvel at and appreciate.

This list covers a handful of these places, but each one is uniquely beautiful and worth a visit. If you’re looking for wild and untouched landscapes, head to Everglades National Park or Caladesi Island. For nature that is more landscaped, visit Leu Gardens, a tropical paradise in Orlando. The Morikami Museum and the Ponce de Leon Hotel will delight art and history buffs. And if you just want to sink your toes in the sand and soak up some sunshine, I’ve got a suggestion for that too.

Park Avenue, Winter Park

With its blend of historic buildings, charming boutiques, sidewalk cafes, and gorgeous landscaping, Winter Park is the kind of place that’s instantly charming. The city’s main (cobblestone) street, Park Avenue, is one of the most pleasant places to spend an afternoon. The main business district is home to more than 140 businesses like long-time breakfast spot The Briarpatch , independent shops like Writers Block Bookstore , and big-name retailers like Lilly Pulitzer. Not to mention the fountains, rose bushes, and colorful planters in Central Park, just across the street.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo

America’s first underwater state park opened in 1963 in Key Largo and is still a haven for snorkelers and scuba divers. The area is home to miles of protected coral reefs, mangrove swamps, seagrass beds, and a multitude of sea life. While much of the park’s beauty is found under the water’s surface, you can take a glass bottomed boat tour to see the reef’s colorful inhabitants. 

The Don CeSar, St. Petersburg

Courtesy of Loews Don CeSar Hotel

In 2023, our readers voted the Don CeSar the best historic hotel in Florida , and it’s easy to see why. The ornate, flamingo-hued building is as stunning inside as it is viewed from the sandy shores of St. Petersburg beach, where it has resided since 1928. The Don Cesar was redesigned in 2021, but its opulent look nods to the hotel’s history, from the Art Deco-inspired geometric tile floor to the rich green hues and gold accents in the Lobby Bar.

Everglades National Park, Everglades City

Getty Images

Experience Florida’s wild, untamed beauty at the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Once you’re inside, you’ll find something to marvel at no matter where you look—massive cypress trees, colorful waterbirds, breathtaking views of the wetlands, and maybe even a panther or two. You could visit the 1.5 million acre park hundreds of times and never have the exact same Everglades experience twice, but you’re guaranteed to see something that will take your breath away.

Morikami Museum And Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach

Since 1977, Floridians have visited this tranquil museum to be instantly transported to Japan. The Morikami is a center for Japanese culture and art where visitors can stroll through gardens, partake in a tea ceremony, and explore exhibits ranging from sculptures made with washi (Japanese paper) to woodblock prints. The grounds, 16 acres surrounding the two museum buildings and a 200-acre park, are the most beautiful part of this place. You’ll find shady nature trails, koi-filled lakes, forests, and six distinct landscapes inspired by significant gardens in Japan.

The Gasparilla Inn & Club, Boca Grande

This famous Florida inn has been welcoming guests for more than 100 years. And while the property has been updated many times since then, it still retains its colorful, old Florida charm. Whimsical details like hand painted walls and chandeliers that look like jellyfish are combined with a palette of pale pastel colors; bright, natural light; and ocean views. It’s a little slice of paradise.

Worth Avenue Alleyways, Palm Beach

anouchka/Getty Images

Known as Florida’s Rodeo Drive, Worth Avenue is home to the most high-end designer stores, fancy cars, and even fancier people. While this over-the-top luxury can be dazzling, the most beautiful spots in Palm Beach are the side streets and alleyways off of Worth Avenue. Venture away from the main street and you’ll be rewarded with bouganvillea-filled courtyards, hidden stores, fountains, stunning tile and mosaic work, and secluded benches where you can sit and almost convince yourself you’re in a European village. 

Leu Gardens, Orlando

Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In the heart of Orlando, far from the theme parks and the city traffic, is a lush, tropical wonderland. No matter the time of year, you’ll be amazed by the variety and beauty of Leu Gardens . The property is packed with foliage thanks to its original owners, Harry and Mary Jane Leu, who collected plants and seeds from their travels. In addition to tropical varieties of all kinds (bromeliads, hibiscus, bananas, bird-of-paradise), Leu is home to one of the state’s largest formal rose gardens, a tropical steam garden (similar to a rainforest), a collection of fruit trees, a camellia collection, and so much more. Whether you’re a plant expert or a total novice, you’ll be captivated by this place.

Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin

This island off of the Gulf coast near Clearwater is only accessible by boat, but it’s worth the trip to experience its untouched splendor. You can kayak through mangrove forests, look for shells along the white sand shoreline, walk along a wooded nature trail, or float the day away in turquoise waters you’d easily mistake for the Caribbean . 

Ann Norton Sculpture Garden, West Palm Beach

Ann Norton Sculpture Garden

Located across the street from the Lake Worth Lagoon, this small sculpture garden feels like a private, leafy oasis. The two-acre property, which also includes a home and studio, is the former residence of sculptor Ann Weaver Norton. Now it is place where people can encounter her work (more than 100 pieces) as well as work by other artists. The jungle-like garden, Norton’s collection of 250 rare plants, including palms, orchids, and other native plants, is beautiful itself, and Norton’s massive sculptures (in stone, wood, and bronze) look right at home among the vegetation. 

Flagler College, St. Augustine

Florida’s Ancient City is filled with photogenic places, but this small private college is one of the best. Unlike most universities, Flagler College is housed in a hotel. But not just any hotel—the Ponce de Leon, Henry Flagler’s opulent Spanish Revival-style hotel. The building dates back to 1888 and has been impeccably preserved so that its gilded glamor is just as breathtaking today. Tours of the hotel are available, and allow visitors to marvel at the 80-plus Tiffany-designed stained glass windows, murals by George Maynard, and the massive dining hall with its domed ceiling, and more architectural wonders.

Anna Maria Island

Picking the best beach in Florida is like finding the perfect seashell—there are just too many to choose from. But Anna Maria Island consistently ranks at the top, according to our readers and editors. The island is made up of three charming towns: Anna Maria in the north, Holmes Beach in the middle, and Bradenton Beach in the south. Each area has its own beach, and they are equally lovely, with soft, white sand and blue-green water and less crowds than more well-known beaches on the west coast.

The Colony Hotel, Palm Beach

Carmel Brantley; Styling by Page Mullins

Perhaps no hotel embodies its locale more than this Palm Beach gem . The pink-and-white building (nicknamed the “pink paradise”) with its lush, tropical grounds and preppy-meets-Old Florida decor is sophisticated but never stuffy. And The Colony’s sunny poolside cafe, Swifty’s, is one of the prettiest (and most popular) spots in town to have lunch. One look at the ruffled patio umbrellas, rattan furniture, and abundant greenery and you’ll see why.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami

Formerly a vacation home built in 1916, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is one of the most scenic places in South Florida, and perhaps the state. The historic Mediterranean-style house is filled with art and antiques (including ancient Roman sculptures, one of the largest collections of Italian furniture in the U.S., and tapestries from the Renaissance). Outside, you can spend hours exploring European-style gardens in distinct styles (like a maze garden and a fountain garden). Tropical plants and sculptures are interspersed throughout the property, which runs along Biscayne Bay. It’s a truly transporting place.

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caladessi island off the west coast of florida

15 Best Things To Do On The West Coast Of Florida (+ Hidden Gems!)

May 12, 2022 //  by  Florida Trippers

If you are looking for a list of the best things to do on the West Coast of Florida, we have you covered! Check out our list of the best cities and activities to do on the west coast. 

For those looking to explore the west coast of Florida, we have put together the best stops for those looking to road trip, or just take day trips from popular west coast cities like Naples, Tampa, and Pensacola.

From visiting offshore islands, breathtaking beaches along the Gulf coast, State parks, Florida springs, and historical sights there is so much to do!

Make sure to check out our master post on the Best Time To Visit Florida including a breakdown by month, weather, events, and more!

a girl in red swimsuit standing on a fort in florida on the gulf coast

15 Best Things To Do On The West Coast Of Florida (+ hidden gems!)

Beer can island.

Located in Sarasota area of Longboat Key , Beer Can Island is not only one of our favorite  hidden gems in Florida , it is one of the best things to do on the west coast of Florida! . It is actually one of our favorite  Things To Do In Sarasota  so you really must visit. If you are looking to experience a magical island oasis, head to Beer Island ( also known as  Greer Island ), not to be confused with Beer Island in Tampa. As one of our favorite spots, we have put together this  post for tips when visiting  as visitors often find the location a bit tricky to find! 

For visitors you will walk along the sand path for 5-8 minutes before the path starts to open up and you will see more dead driftwood and trees. You will be awarded with gorgeous driftwood trees jetting up out of the beach and ocean, making it a picture perfect background.

Almost like escaping to a deserted island with its crystal clear water and lack of crowds as with other  nearby beaches ! Please be respectful as this island is beautiful but has a fragile ecosystem so make sure to not litter or destroy the mangroves or driftwood trees.

a girl in a white swimsuit among the driftwood trees in the ocean at beer can island on the west coast of Florida

Rainbow River State Park

Rainbow River State Park is one of the best places to visit on the west coast of Florida for those seeking a serene outdoor oasis featuring 10,000 year old sapphire-blue waters, ornamental gardens, waterfalls, and mossy covered trees. Best of all there is something to do here for everyone, whether looking to tube, kayak, and  swim in the spring  that stays a constant 72 degrees, hike the 2.5 mile path to explore waterfalls, or simply have a picnic in the park. 

Open daily from 8 am till sunset 365 day a year, admission is $2 per person. The State Park is located in the central west coast area of Florida, the nearest town is Dunnellon, and can be easily reached from Ocala, Orlando, Tampa and Naples. The entry fee does not cover water activities or the 4 mile spring run.  Tubing  is $20 a person and includes the 2 hour trek down the river, and your tram ticket back to the parking lot! 

Likewise you can rent a kayak for 1 hour for $16 ($50 daily) and canoes are $22 for an hour ($60 daily). The State Park is open for tubing April through September. Rainbow Springs hosts the Florida Manatee Festival, one of the best  festivals in Florida  dedicated to the  beautiful wild manatee s ! And the Jazz Up Dunnellon, a  music festival  in October.

For those looking to  camp on the Florida west coast , Rainbow Springs State Park’s campground is located along the river and visitors can reserve a spot at either an RV or a tent site. Campsites include free admission to the head springs and tubing area!

A girl in a dress standing by a wooden fence surrounded by trees near the Rainbow springs

Marco Island Dome Houses

For one of the  more unique things to do on the Florida gulf coast head to Marco Island  and check out the Florida Dome Homes (Cape Romano Dome House). The houses are located about 300 feet offshore from Cape Romano Island, just south of Marco Island the homes are only accessible by boat or jet ski. 

Built by Bob Lee a millionaire seeking the seclusion of living an island life on the ocean, these 6 unusual-looking domes on slits over the water now act as shelter to preserve bird and aquatic life off the Gulf Coast. Don’t forget to check out the best things to do in Naples while you are here!

However, after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 the homes have not been inhabited and the dome structures have begun eroding back into the ocean, creating an artificial reef. Further hurricanes have continued to sink the homes making it one of the more unique reefs in Florida. Divers are in awe of the diverse aquatic life that have made the reef home. This is truly one of the best things to do in Southwest Florida!

The 6 dome homes off the coast of Marco Island are one fo the more interesting things to do on the west coast of Florida

Crab Island

 Found in northwestern panhandle town of  Destin , a visit to  Crab Island  one of the natural wonders that makes Florida so quintessentially Florida!

Crab Island, Florida is one of the most famous Florida west coast attractions. If you’ve ever vacationed in the area it is one of the most popular summer destinations and has been features on HGTV, Good Morning America, in various travel magazines and publications across the globe.

Crab Island is not an actual island, it was manmade by the Army Corps and has eroded overtime to become a sandbar. You can rent a boat, or take a charted boat out and anchor at the sandbar for a fun day of relaxing at the enormous sandbar just off the coast. Or try the Crab Island Company offers a Shuttle Boat, or a wildly popular Adventure Tour.

The best time to visit for the best weather is from spring to fall, and it is a popular destination for snowbirds,  spring breakers  and families as well!  While it is often considered a party destination during spring break times, there are floating food vendors during busy times.

Boats surrounded at the sandbar of the Crab Island

Ringling Museum

If looking for what to do in Florida west coast for museum and architecture lovers try a visit to the Ringling Museum. This historical site in Florida is located in  Sarasota !

Visitors flock to the 36,000-square-ft Ca’ d’Zan winter residence of John and Mable Ringling. The Renaissance inspired pink 66 acre estate complex with a courtyard and  garden area showcased by flowers, fountains, and bronze and stone casts of iconic sculptures like Michaelangelo’s David. We highly recommend taking one of the 90 minute tours of the gardens that are offered weekdays at varying times, as the garden and buildings make for a    beautiful backdrop for Instagram photos. 

Built in 1930’s, today it houses 21 galleries housing masterworks from across Europe. The  Ringling Museum of Art  houses the collection of circus co-founder John and his wife Mable Ringling favorite artists from the Roman, Greek, Medieval, and Renaissance periods.

The entrance fee of $25 for adults at this state run museum. Reduced entrance rates are offered on Thursdays between 5 PM – 8 PM. Just an hour from Tampa by car, making it a must-visit on Florida west coast road trip  day trip from Tampa.  

Make sure to save time to visit the Ringling Circus Museum that showcases memorbelia and artifacts from various era’s of the circus. It also features the train carriage that the Ringling’s travelled across America in. 

woman standing in front of the ringling museum in sarasota wearing a blue dress

Myakka River State Park

For those looking to explore state parks in Florida, the historic Myakka River State Park is one of the  Florida west coast destinations , you must visit! It is actually the only River that has been given the status of a State Park. And trust us the   Myakka River  is a breathtaking destination!

Over the 58 square miles of the park, the Myakka River travels through various ecosystems including wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands. Visitors can expect to see a variety of Florida Wildlife including white-tailed deer, osprey and of course alligators on their  walk through the canopy ! The Myakka River is one of the  best places to see wild alligators in Florida .

Climb up 76 foot observation point, and walk through the towering hammock canopy to see vultures on the tops of live oak and palms. On the Birdwalk, you can see some of the rarest birds in Florida. The best time to see the most wildlife is when the water levels in the floodplain are low, usually around January through March.

Myakka State Park is one of the best things to do on the west coast of Florida

Ford and Edison Winter Estate

Just three hours away from   Orlando , you will find what believe is one of the best places to visit on the west coast of Florida, the Ford and Edison Winter Estates . The Ford And Edison Winter Estate served as the winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, two of the most well known inventors of all time.

Just think of how many inventions that we use daily were thought of here! We think there is something truly special about that, especially for those fascinated by history, invention, and science.

Once inside take one of the offered tours of the estate and the gorgeous botanical gardens! Where you will even get tot visit the laboratory used by Edison and Ford for inventions like Botanic Research. Inside the homes you will catch a glimpse inside the lives of the two men with model cars and electric experiments, as well as innovation gallery.

Explore the 20 acer botanical gardens with 1,700 plants from six continents including a rare plant Moonlight garden. Tickets are $25 for adults, with self-guided tours offered from 9 am to 4:30 pm. And the historian group tour is only $30. Trust us this is one of the things to do in the west coast of Florida that is worth the visit!

The laboratory at the ford and Edison estate

Boat Tour in Naples

If you are looking for Florida west coast getaways, why not head to Naples! Florida’s West Coast beaches are beautiful, but why not try something more exciting – a boat tour! There is a variety of tours offered, and we have an entire post of different boat tours in Naples.

This  tour  is one of the most fun Naples boat tours, exploring the Ten Thousand Island, one of Florida’s top natural attractions!  It is a chain of islands and mangrove off the coast of southwest Florida, between Cape Romano and the mouth of the Lostmans River.

The tour departs  Marco Island , about fifteen minutes south of Naples, with a max of 12 guests. Then you’ll head to a small barrier island only accessible by boat on tour lasting about 3 hours.

The captain will point out sea life while giving interesting facts on the local history and ecology. While on the island, you’ll be able to swim, go  snorkeling , or shelling.

Book Now :  Ten Thousand Islands Boat Tour

The islands at then thousand islands near Naples

Wakulla Springs

No trip to Florida is complete without a visit to a spring. Visiting the springs are one of the great outdoor things to do on the west coast of Florida, regardless of time of year as they stay a constant 68-72 degrees year round. As it is a State Park entry fee is $6 per car, park opens at 8 am and swimming area at 9 am.

For those in North Florida looking for things to do on the west coast of Florida, Wakulla Springs should be at the top of your list! Wakulla springs are located near Tallahassee, within the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, a 6000 acre park.

 The Wakulla Springs are the World’s Largest Natural Spring, meaning this magical oasis provides space to relax, play, and explore. There are two level wooden swimming platforms to jump off, a large roped off swimming area, and a few sunbathing platforms for everyone to enjoy.

For those who dive, you can see remains of Mastodones at 120 feet, the first of which was discovered in 1850’s in what is known as the bone cave. Plus you can camp here!

top 100 places to visit in florida

Pensacola Beach

Located in the northwestern part of Florida, this panhandle beach stretch along the Gulf of Mexico and like all Gulf beaches  are known for warm water. With almost 20 miles of sugar-white sand and gorgeous blue water, Pensacola Beach is one of the best beaches on the west side of Florida.

Beaches on the west coast of Florida are some of the most  beautiful beaches in the state . Stroll the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk where you can shop, eat, and listen to live music. Pensacola beach is one of the great Panhandle beach towns on the west coast of Florida to visit with families and couples alike.

There is also a pier at Pensacola Beach where you can rent fishing gear from the bait and tackle shop. And once you’ve explored the beach and boardwalk, the whole area of Pensacola has lots of  fun things to do !

An arial view with a giant Pensacola Beach water tower with the beach in the background

Lovers Key State Beach

This state park lives up to its name by being one of the best west coast Florida beaches . Just minutes from Fort Myers,  Lovers Key State Park  is best known for its perfect scenery and photographic backdrop. It’s also a popular  honeymoon  and  romantic getaway  destination.

With its serene, turquoise blue waters, it’s not hard to understand how this beach became known for love and romance. In fact, the beach was supposed to be sold for beach-front real estate but instead was donated to the state of Florida to be admired and enjoyed by all.

While one of the best things to do on the west coast of Florida lie back, relax, and spend time with those you love on the beautiful Gulf waters or at Lovers Key State Park. Plus the park also has lagoons and canals to explore, where you can spot wildlife.

The park offers all the amenities needed for a relaxing experience including parking, trams to the beach, and elevated boardwalks. In addition, beach wheelchairs can be rented for free to ensure every guest is able to experience the beauty of the beach. There are also restrooms and a picnic pavilion.

A couple walking on a beach at sunset time with driftwood jutting out of the sand

Caladesi Island State Park

Those who love the outdoors and are looking for what to do in Florida west coast, why not take a trip to Caladesi Island State Park ? This beautiful barrier island paradise has remained largely undeveloped, making it one of the best beaches in Florida for those who prefer a quiet, peaceful beach trip where you can disconnect. Plus it is just a quick trip from Clearwater.

Visitors to Caladesi Island State Park can bring their fishing gear, pack a picnic to enjoy at any of the pavilions or for those with kids enjoy the playground. For those wanting to be more adventurous, the tranquil  hiking trails  and paths along the dunes can be so relaxing as well.

For water lovers  kayak  through the mangroves on the island or try camping on a boat! The marina is equipped with electrical service and water hookups as well as a grill for a completely different  camping  experience.

If you’re up for a bit of a walk, Caladesi Island State Park is also accessible by foot from Clearwater Beach if you are willing to walk six miles.However, the easiest way to get here is via the Caladesi Ferry .

An Ariel view of Caladesi island where you can see the sandy beach and the turquoise waters of the gulf Coast

Three Sisters Springs

Just about 90 minutes north of  Tampa Bay , Three Sisters Springs is actually part of a large network of about 40 natural springs called Crystal River , and perfect for those on a Florida west coast road trip .

Three Sister Springs  originates in King’s Bay before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Only accessible by boat, these springs are one of the best outdoor things to do on the Florida west coast.

At Three Sister Springs you can swim with manatees or snorkel the crystal clear water . January, one of the  best times to see manatees as they migrate from rivers to natural springs to keep warm during the winter months.

Another option for those who don’t want to swim in the chilly water why not rent a glass-bottom boat or kayak to get an amazing view of the springs without getting wet!

three sisters spring where people are snorkeling to see manatees

Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Ichetucknee Springs is another of the Florida springs that is located in Fort White, Florida. Ichetucknee Springs State Park is located to the south of US Highway 27, admission to the state park is $6 per vehicle.

You will find crystal-clear waters of one of Florida’s natural lazy rivers where you will can either paddle or tube down the 72 degree water from this first magnitude spring. Ichetucknee Springs often can get overwhelmed with visitors during the summer. For example, on memorial day, this park can draw up to 10,000 people to the park! 

If you are a diver and are certified, head to the Blue Hole Springs. This cave has more than 600 feet to explore and is a larger part of the first-magnitude springs in North Florida.

a girl in a red dress infant of the springs

Fort De Soto

Fort De Soto Park , is truly one of the best west coast Florida playgrounds! Consisting of five offshore islands that are the perfect blend of natural coastal beaches with a unique history including a fort and more! Best of all it just minutes from Saint Petersburg one of the best cities on the west coast of Florida.

You can explore the over 7 miles of waterfront, camp at on of the 238 campsites , hike or bike over seven miles of paved trails, swim and relax on the beach, or explore the historic fort dating back to the Civil War! Making it one of the best small beach towns on the west coast of Florida!

At sunset see the boardwalk and the fort ruins at fort de soto


18 Best Places to Visit in Florida

Written by Michael Law and Lura Seavey Updated Sep 26, 2022

At least a dozen images spring to mind at the mention of Florida, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States . For many, it is Orlando's world-famous theme parks at Disney World and Universal, while others may think of the nearly endless number of championship golf courses that are scattered throughout the Sunshine State.

Waterbugs and sun-worshippers have hundreds of beaches to choose from, and retail connoisseurs will find luxury stores and quirky boutiques in abundance in each city. If your trip is based around a beach vacation or specific activity, you may want to consider the climate and best time of year to visit Florida .

Beyond the entertainment and recreation, Florida has a rich historic and cultural past featuring peaceful natives, Spanish conquistadors, swashbuckling pirates, and generations of Caribbean influences that make it an incredibly interesting and diverse place to visit.

Florida is also home to some of the most unique and special natural places, including Everglades National Park and the scores of barrier islands with precious ocean ecosystems.

Plan your adventures in the Sunshine State with our list of the best places to visit in Florida.

3. Key West

6. st. petersburg & st. pete beach, 7. marco island, 8. fort myers and fort myers beach, 9. sanibel island, 10. clearwater, 11. anna maria island, 13. panama city beach, 14. st. augustine, 15. pensacola, 16. west palm beach, 17. daytona, 18. tallahassee.


Located in southern Florida, Miami is one of the state's hippest and most popular cities . Miami and nearby Miami Beach showcase the old and new side of Florida. The thriving modern city center stands in contrast to the much more laid-back atmosphere of Miami Beach.

South Beach is the most exciting of Miami's beaches , known for its Art Deco District and ultra-trendy pedestrian mall that stretches out parallel to the beach, full of water-facing outdoor restaurants, entertainment, and plenty of things to do. It's also a popular honeymoon destination in Florida .

Downtown Miami's Flagler Street has a good number of historic attractions, while the Brickell neighborhood and the Design District are home to a plethora of high-end stores and posh eateries. Caribbean influences are found in Miami's lively ethnic neighborhoods of Little Haiti and Little Havana , and the Overtown neighborhood is known for its rich African-American history and hearty soul food.

The Vizcaya museum and historic homes made of coral rock are found in Coconut Grove, an area where peacocks strut unfenced among numerous street entertainers and sidewalk cafes.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Miami


At the heart of Florida's tourist industry is the city of Orlando, home to internationally known theme parks like Walt Disney World , Universal Studios , and SeaWorld . These have expanded over the years to include large themed water parks, like Discovery Cove, Typhoon Lagoon, and Volcano Bay.

Families descend on the amusement parks in large numbers during school holidays, but the city is a popular destination year-round. This constant influx of tourists has brought a full range of recreational activities and services to the Orlando area, from championship golf courses and chic spas to restaurants and huge shopping centers.

Orlando isn't all about family time, it's also about getting dressed up and heading out for a fine meal. The city also has four one-star MICHELIN-rated restaurants that are sure to please the most discerning of palates.

Other nearby attractions can be a refreshing change of pace and are easily visited on day trips from Orlando . Some of these include the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral and seeing the manatees on the Crystal River.

  • Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Orlando

Aerial view of Key West

Historic Key West, at the far southern tip of the continental USA , has a distinctly island feel, with old architecture and a slow pace. This picturesque and laid-back city is famed for having been home to several well-known authors, including Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams, and Ernest Hemingway.

Its location has led to a rich cultural mix that includes influences from many Caribbean islands, which have brought a relaxed attitude, interesting architecture, and culinary variety to the region. Key West is also a popular cruise ship port, full of entertainment options and things to do.

Duval Street is the main tourist area, home to boutiques, souvenir shops, restaurants, and even some historic homes. Some of the city's top attractions include a shipwreck museum that explains the area's long history of salvaging, and the Key West Aquarium . Those interested in ocean ecology will want to visit Dry Tortugas National Park , which consists of seven reef islands that form an archipelago.

Although the Florida Keys aren't known for their beaches, Key West has a number of beaches . These can be a nice break from sightseeing.

Key West's casual atmosphere and the fact that it's a small city with many things to do makes it a great destination for solo travelers . Getting around is easy, and people are friendly. It's one of the best places in the US for people traveling alone .

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Key West, FL

Beach in Naples

The southernmost city along Florida's Gulf Coast is Naples, an upscale area with a quaint city center and lovely stretch of beach. A mix of elegant houses, a few luxury resorts, and condo towers line the ocean, but the downtown has maintained a small-town feel.

Naples' Third St. South and 5th Avenue South are home to its trendiest restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques.

The beaches in and around Naples are some of the best in the entire state. The warm, shallow waters here are generally calm with small waves, making them ideal for swimming and playing. The white sand is soft and perfect for laying out on your towel and soaking up some of that famous Florida sunshine while you gaze out over the Gulf of Mexico.

A visit to Naples Pier , the city's most beloved historic landmark, is a must for tourists and the perfect place for spotting dolphins without getting on a boat. Despite its reputation as a high-end golf resort town, Naples has several historic attractions, as well as unique nature parks.

The historic Smallwood Store trading post is now a museum that remembers the days of fur trading, and the Museum of the Everglades explores 2,000 years of the region's history back to the Calusa Indians. Both properties are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Gulf Coast Everglades Visitor Center is the park's only admission-free center, and visitors can take a boat tour or rent a canoe or kayak to explore the mangrove estuaries and see the region's amazing wildlife.

Other nearby parks are the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary , known for its ancient cypress forest, and Fakahatchee Strand State Park , home to the ghost orchid and other rare and endangered plants and animals.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Naples

Henry B. Plant Museum in Tampa

The city of Tampa sits on an inlet on Florida's west coast, just across the bay from St. Petersburg. Tampa is especially popular with families, who come to enjoy its many wildlife-filled attractions. Busch Gardens is the best-known, a giant amusement park combined with a zoo that has endless things to see and do.

Animal-lovers can also visit the Tampa Zoo at Lowry Park ; the Florida Aquarium ; and the TECO Manatee Viewing Center, located in Apollo Beach south of Tampa.

Families with younger kids will love the Glazer Children's Museum , which focuses on learning through creative play, and the whole family will enjoy the Museum of Science and Industry , where you can explore the world of technology with hands-on exhibits.

Tampa's Ybor City is one of its most historic areas and the center of the city's Latin community, where a meal at the famous Columbia Restaurant is a must. The Columbia is the oldest restaurant in the state of Florida; it opened its doors way back in 1905.

The lively and funky Sparkman Wharf is well worth checking out in the afternoon and evening. Here, you'll find unique and interesting restaurants housed in shipping containers, along with more traditional establishments. From here, you can walk along the Tampa Riverwalk enjoying the waterfront until you eventually end up at the fun and vibrant Armature Works area.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Tampa

St. Pete Beach

Across the bay from Tampa is neighboring St. Petersburg. Visitors, particularly travelers from northern states, come here to escape cold winters and enjoy the oceanfront beaches and mild climate.

Some unique areas to explore include the St. Petersburg Pier , the dockside shops and restaurants of Johns Pass, the quaint atmosphere of historic Pass-a-Grille, and the soft sand of Indian Rocks Beach .

St. Petersburg has many cultural tourist attractions, including several theaters and prominent art museums, like the Dali Museum and the Morean Art Center.

One of the most popular things to do when visiting St. Petersburg is taking boat tours that range from dolphin-spotting and eco-tours to recreational cruises. Nature lovers will appreciate the abundance of peaceful spots, like Caladesi Island State Park, which has remained undeveloped thanks to its offshore location and is full of beaches and nature trails.

St. Pete Beach is a fun and funky beach area with miles and miles of soft sand, just perfect for lazing about in the sun, splashing in the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, or settling in under your umbrella with the latest paperback thriller.

Located just offshore from St. Petersburg, this area is a mix of condos, hotels, and private homes. It's a popular spot that draws in beach lovers from all across the United States. All these people in a positive state of mind give the town a lively feel.

The beach is ideal for those who love beach walking; there's more beach here than you'll have legs to walk.

Marco Island

If you are looking for some of Florida's most consistently warm weather, even in the darkest days of February, head straight to Marco Island. Located near the southern tip of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, this resort island is almost always warm, while places like Fort Myers or Orlando are shivering.

Fine weather is not the only draw. The incredible beach is another. Stretching for roughly four miles, this long, exceptionally wide beach is one of the best in southern Florida. Accommodation options here are extensive, ranging from first-class resorts through to small hotels catering to boaters.

Fort Myers Beach fishing pier

Downtown Fort Myers, also known as the River District, is full of things to do, from plentiful shopping options to a wide variety of dining choices, as well as sightseeing in this historic area.

Families will enjoy the IMAG History & Science Center , which includes dozens of hands-on exhibits; exciting wildlife interactions, including the chance to touch an alligator; and even the opportunity to see the original fort at Fort Myers in a 3D virtual reality experience.

Fort Myers Beach is on the shores of Estero island, separated from the mainland by a narrow inland waterway and connected by bridges. The expansive beach is known for being an ideal place to see dolphins playing in the water and is full of top-notch resorts that are popular with families, couples, and celebrities.

Fort Myers also attracts many New England baseball fans, who come to watch Red Sox spring training games and hope for chance sightings of their favorite sports heroes around town.

  • Read More: Top Attractions & Things to Do in Fort Myers

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island sits off the west coast of Florida as an important barrier island, connected to Fort Myers by a causeway. Sanibel is best known for its high-end resorts, which are popular with families, celebrities, and couples. Beyond each resort's generous amenities, tourists will find no lack of things to do, from ocean adventures to leisurely shopping at Sanibel's numerous boutiques and galleries.

One of the most appealing aspects of Sanibel and Captiva is the dedication to conservation, a mission that has resulted in the protected status of half of the island's land and the establishment of organizations like the Sanibel Sea School and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

Many resorts also have their own programs led by naturalists to educate tourists about the delicate ecosystem and amazing wildlife. Some of the island's most treasured wildlife includes the loggerhead sea turtle, which nests on the pristine beaches; manatee and dolphins, which play in the water nearby; and hundreds of bird species, including the bald eagle.

Clearwater Beach

One of Florida's longtime favorite beach destinations , Clearwater has been attracting beachgoers for generations. Located offshore from the main city is a three-mile stretch of soft white sand, lapped by the clear, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

A wide variety of accommodation is on offer at the beach, from fantastic resorts right through to smaller, cozy hotels and inns. This makes Clearwater's beach area a lively spot, with an abundance of great restaurants and excellent people watching. One of the best places to practice this pastime is by taking a stroll out on Clearwater's famous fishing pier while the sun is setting.

Anna Maria Island

Just offshore from Bradenton, Anna Maria Island is a wonderful slice of "Old Florida." Strict building regulations have ensured that many of the original homes and hotels remain while new towers and huge developments have been blocked. However, that said, Anna Maria Island does have some vacation resorts, many that will take good care of you without beating up on your pocketbook.

The far-sighted vision of the town planners has ensured that Anna Maria Island has a relaxed vibe not found in many other parts of Florida. This coupled with seven miles of incredible beaches makes Anna Maria Island a must visit for beach enthusiasts.

Caspersen Beach, Venice

Venice, often overlooked as a destination in Florida, is a place where you'll find lots of things to do without the crowds of other Gulf side destinations. This small city has a delightful downtown that is very walkable, with a wide variety of shops selling everything from dresses right through to bathing suits. Also located here are several small and funky restaurants and bakeries, all ideal places to grab a spot on a patio and watch the world go by.

A short drive from downtown are Venice's famous beaches. Condos and homes line the waterfront near town, but a short distance south is the Venice Fishing Pier and the iconic Sharky's on the Pier restaurant. Those interested in searching for shark's teeth should head a bit farther south to Caspersen Beach and keep their eyes peeled on the sand as they stroll the shoreline.

Panama City Beach

One of the most popular places to visit in Florida's Panhandle region is Panama City Beach. Famed for its blindingly white sand and emerald waters, Panama City Beach is the easiest place to get to if you are traveling from the north. The beaches here are fantastic and busy during the summer season.

The city boasts quite affordable waterfront accommodation compared to destinations farther south. Off the beach, the fun at Panama City Beach doesn't stop. Other things to do in Panama City Beach include visiting the giant Skywheel, Pier Park, and Gulf World Marine Park. More kitschy attractions include Ripley's Believe it or Not and Wonderworks.

For something a bit more natural, head to Panama City Beach Conservation Park or St. Andrews State Park and Shell Island.

St. Augustine

St. Augustine is often referred to as the oldest city in the USA . Pedro Menéndez de Avilés landed here on September 8, 1565 and claimed the territory in the name of King Philip II of Spain. Colonial architecture and old homes line the streets of the historic center, which has become a popular tourist attraction.

The Colonial Quarter is a living history museum that introduces visitors to life in St. Augustine from the 1500s through the 1700s, including the construction of the replica of a 16th-century boat and a working blacksmith shop.

St. Augustine is proud to be home to several of Florida's most significant historic attractions, including the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum , Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park , and the Castillo de San Marcos . Mariners can learn more and admire exhibits at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum.

  • Top Attractions & Places to Visit in St. Augustine, FL
  • Fishing in St. Augustine: Things to Know


The port of Pensacola, situated on the best and largest natural harbor in Florida, is the economic center of the western edge of the Panhandle. Its history goes back more than 460 years, and the carefully restored Historic Village contains buildings of the Spanish, French, and British colonial periods.

Features of interest in the surrounding area are the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum ; Fort Pickens (1834) at the west end of Santa Rosa Island; Pensacola Beach , with its expanses of sugar-white sand; and Perdido Key, with its mix of busy beaches and wide-open natural areas. Visitors will find that Pensacola has less of the Floridian resort-town atmosphere and more of the down-home influences of the deep south.

Here, you will find plenty of grits, a slight Southern drawl, and a slower pace. Despite its smaller size, Pensacola is home to plenty of things to do , including family activities, museums, and several performing arts companies. Couple this with a lively and charming downtown complete with shaded sidewalks, inviting patios, and interesting shopping not found in other northwest Florida cities, and it's no surprise Pensacola is popular with visitors from across the United States and around the world.

Read More: Best Beaches in Pensacola

West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach on Lake Worth, inland from Palm Beach, has a number of interesting museums and many trendy and fine dining restaurants. As the city's name suggests, it is often defined by its amazing miles of soft, sandy beaches, and many tourists come primarily to soak up the sun and enjoy the water.

West Palm Beach is also home to plenty of other attractions, many of them family-friendly animal encounters. The Cox Science Center and Aquarium is popular for its numerous exhibits and underwater residents, and the Manatee Lagoon gives visitors the chance to see these gentle giants up-close and free of charge.

Sea creatures don't get all the attention, though - the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society is home to 700 animals from habitats around the world, and Lion Country Safari gives visitors an opportunity to ride through the park to see some amazing African animals, as well as interact at the petting zoo and giraffe feeding station, and cool off in the water playground.

Read More: Top Attractions & Things to Do in West Palm Beach


Daytona's main claim to fame is the Daytona 500 Nascar Race held here each February, but the beaches also draw visitors year-round. Daytona Beach, once known as a spring break hot spot, has become more of a family-oriented destination that also attracts seniors.

Daytona's beaches stretch along 23 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline and feature an activity-filled boardwalk that is home to amusement rides, games, restaurants, special events, and a long pier.

Cultural attractions include the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art , which houses the largest collection of Florida art in the world, and the Stetson mansion . Visitors can also admire Florida's tallest lighthouse, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse , which reaches 175 feet tall.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Attractions in Daytona Beach, FL

Historic Capitol Museum, Tallahassee

Florida's capital city, Tallahassee may not be on most people's radar as a place to visit when in the northern part of the state. However, it's definitely worth a stop for its fine collection of museums, interesting attractions, and history.

Most of the things to do in Tallahassee are located downtown near the State Capitol building, so park the car and walk around this pleasant area. Top sights include the Historic Capitol Museum, the new Capitol Building (especially the incredible views from the 22nd floor), and the Museum of Florida History.

Just back from downtown is the sprawling campus of Florida State University, and in front of downtown is the delightful Cascades Park. A bit of a drive from downtown but not far from Interstate 10 is the famous Tallahassee Automobile Museum with over 160 rare and classic cars on display (along with many other eclectic items).

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St Augustine Attractions

Fun for all ages — and all interests, too..

The Ancient City boasts attractions such as military forts, stately castles, and Gilded-Age hotels. Explore a spiraling lighthouse, scenic nature trails, and tranquil beaches. Listen to city sounds from horse hooves on brick-paved streets to the roar of cannon fire. Dive into fascinating museums, take scary ghost tours, or participate in historical reenactments. Whatever you discover, timeless stories of other eras are sure to unfold while experiencing the oldest city in the United States.

Black Raven Adventures

Black Raven Adventures

This pirate-ish ship with a bar, stage, and pirate crew, provides entertaining cruises.

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Featured Attractions

The Lightner Museum is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel in St. Augustine.

Lightner Museum

(904) 824-2874

75 King Street

Two dolphin jumping at sunrise

Marineland Dolphin Adventure

(407) 563-4701

9600 Oceanshore Blvd

Old Town Trolley Tours offers a convenient way to get around town and learn all about St. Augustine's amazing history.

Old Town Trolley Tours

(904) 335-3155

167 San Marco Avenue

Things to Do Categories

The Lightner Museum is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel in St. Augustine.

75 King Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Enjoy an immersive experience of art and history in an iconic St. Augustine building.

Entrance to the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine. Parking is free with your tour.

Fountain of Youth Archaeology Park

(904) 829-3168

11 Magnolia Avenue, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Experience edu-taining history at this important archaeological site.

Four of the participating attractions for the St. Augustine Tour Pass.

St. Augustine TourPass

(843) 410-2577

Visitors to St. Augustine can purchase one, two, and three-day passes for area attractions.

The whole family will enjoy interacting with their favorite movie stars at Potter's Wax Museum.

Potter's Wax Museum

(904) 829-9056

31 Orange Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Take selfies with famous people from yesterday and today at this museum.

Exterior of the San Sebastian Winery

San Sebastian Winery

(904) 826-1594

157 King Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Come by for a wine tasting and a behind-the-scenes tour of how wine is made.

Scenic Cruise boat in St. Augustine, FL

Scenic Cruise of St. Augustine

(904) 824-1806

111 Avenida Menendez, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Tour the local waterways aboard St. Augustine's original sightseeing cruise vessel.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse from the sky, looking toward Salt Run

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

(904) 829-0745

100 Red Cox Road, St. Augustine, FL 32080

Visitors tour the grounds and climb 219 steps to the top for breathtaking views.

Escape U in St. Augustine

Escape U - Adventure Games & Escape Rooms

(904) 687-0022

525 FL-16, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Escape U offers 3 different St. Augustine-themed escape rooms with puzzles, excellent set design, and an exciting, historically accurate story.

Medieval Torture Museum

Medieval Torture Museum

(904) 373-7777

100 St. George Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

This museum showcases the darker sides of human history.

The entrance of Whetstone Chocolates on King Street

Whetstone Chocolates

(904) 217-0275

149 King Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Offering a wide variety of fresh and delicious chocolates, and 45-minute tasting tours.

The statue of Henry Flagler, located outside the main entrance of Flagler College in St. Augustine.

Historic Tours of Flagler College

(904) 823-3378

74 King Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Flagler College is closed to tours during the summer of 2024, due to renovations.

St. Augustine's Villa Zorayda Museum is built to one-tenth the scale of a portion of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain.

Villa Zorayda Museum

(904) 829-9887

83 King Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

This museum was once a private home and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A large coquina house with a white fence extending into the foreground, the house sits on Aviles Street in St. Augustine, Florida

Ximenez-Fatio House Museum

(904) 829-3575

20 Aviles Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Built on America's oldest platted street, interpreting life during the 1800s.

Two patrons and a server at City Gate Spirits, sitting and standing at the end of the tasting bar, with lights and detailed ceiling above them

City Gate Spirits Distillery

(904) 454-8006

11 St. George Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Bringing a unique approach to spirit production and offering free tastings.

A magician in front of a velvet curtain, performs magic with the aide of a woman from the audience

Magic Hideaway

(904) 826-6763

95 Cordova Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Experience jaw-dropping magic and mind reading at the Casa Monica Resort and Spa.

A close-up photo of a tiger at a wild animal reserve

St. Augustine Wild Reserve

(904) 940-0664

5190 Farm Creek Road, St. Augustine, FL 32092

A rare opportunity to see lions, and tigers, and bears - oh my.

The front entrance of Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditorium shows the Moorish architecture, and archways

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum

(904) 824-1606

19 San Marco Avenue, St. Augustine, FL 32084

A one-of-a-kind experience with artifacts from around the world.

The interior of St. Augustine Distillery, in sepia tones, with light shining through a large window and showing the 500-gallon containers for brewing

St. Augustine Distillery

(904) 825-4962

112 Riberia Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Explore the distillery and historic property, and sample the award-winning spirits.

See musket firing demonstrations at the Colonial Quarter.

Colonial Quarter

(904) 342-2857

14 S Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Experience three centuries of St. Augustine's vivid history through interactive activities.

The Pirate and Treasure Museum is situated on the bayfront in historic St. Augustine, Fl.

Pirate & Treasure Museum

(904) 819-1444

12 S Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Offering interactive exhibits that transport visitors to the time of plundering pirates and swashbuckling adventures. 

The Oldest Wooden School House is located in the heart of downtown St. Augustine.

Oldest Wooden School House

(904) 824-0192

14 St. George Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Tour the property that includes replica displays, a museum, and a garden.

Treasure from the sea can be found at the Shipwreck Museum in St. Augustine.

St. Augustine Shipwreck Museum

(904) 217-0655

46 Charlotte Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Learn about lost treasure, and how explorers use technology to reach the deep.

The Red Train from Ripley's parked in their loading area at Ripley's Odditorium in St. Augustine

Ripley's Red Train Tours

Tour the nation's oldest city and learn all about its fascinating history on Ripley's Red Train.

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Colonial Quarter - Living History Museum

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Valid for parties of 6 or fewer. Use this code: VSACB24

Save 15% when Purchased Online

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum logo

Advance purchase online required. Use code: VISIT15

An aerial shot of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida

Castillo de San Marcos

(904) 829-6506

1 South Castillo Dr.

St. Augustine's crown jewel and the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.

The ACCORD Civil Rights Museum sign and Freedom Trail marker

ACCORD Civil Rights Museum & Freedom Trail

(904) 347-1382

79 Bridge Street

A must-visit museum to learn about St. Augustine's impact on the Civil Rights Movement.

The exterior of the Ancient City Baptist Church

Ancient City Baptist Church

(904) 829-3476

27 Sevilla Street

A historic church originally constructed in 1895.

Aviles Street

Aviles Street

2 Aviles Street

Aviles Street is the nation's oldest street and the heart of St. Augustine's artist district.

The bookstore at the Best Richardson African Diaspora and Cultural Museum

Best Richardson Bookstore & Museum

(904) 217-8255

83 Washington Street

This African-American owned bookstore focuses on the literature of the African diaspora.

Black Raven Adventures

(904) 826-0444

111 Avenida Menendez

Bridge of Lions

Bridge of Lions

20 Bridge of Lions

Connecting downtown to Anastasia Island and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The nave of the Cathedral Basilica looking towards the altar

Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine

(904) 824-2806

38 Cathedral Pl.

Visit and worship with the oldest Catholic Parish in the United States.

Earlier visitors entered St. Augustine through this City Gate.

St. George Street

Take an iconic selfie with this historical landmark.

Two patrons and a server at City Gate Spirits, sitting and standing at the end of the tasting bar, with lights and detailed ceiling above them

11 St. George Street

The Classic Car Museum on U.S. 1, as seen from overhead during a car show

Classic Car Museum of St. Augustine

(904) 806-4625

4730 Dixie Highway

Shift gears into a world of vintage charm and timeless design.

See musket firing demonstrations at the Colonial Quarter.

14 S Castillo Drive

The exterior of the Disease Vector Education Center with a giant mosquito made of rust-colored metal

Disease Vector Education Center

(904) 257-9880

120 EOC Drive

Learn about mosquitoes and how to reduce their numbers in this engaging attraction.

Father O'Reilly House Museum

Father O'Reilly House Museum

(904) 826-0750

32 Aviles Street

One of the oldest structures in town, situated in the oldest continuously settled neighborhood.

Front of the white synagogue from Cordova street, with palm trees and rosemary bushes on either side of the stairs leading to the front door.

First Congregation Sons of Israel

(904) 829-9532

161 Cordova Street

The Sons of Israel Congregation moved into their new synagogue in 1924.

The outside of the First United Methodist Church

First United Methodist Church

(904) 829-3459

118 King Street

A fixture on King Street since 1911.

The Henry Flagler statue stands in front of the college's gates

Flagler College

(904) 819-6400

74 King St.

A unique combination of the past and present, and an architectural icon.

The Florida Agricultural Museum offers a look at rural Florida in the 19th and early 20th centuries near St. Augustine, FL.

Florida Agricultural Museum

(386) 446-7630

7900 Old Kings Road

See and experience a Florida farm at this living history museum in Flagler County.

Experience St. Augustine from above with First City Helicopters

Fly Heli — St. Augustine

(904) 824-5506

4900 US Highway 1, North

Take a helicopter tour over the city, beaches, and rivers for thrilling views.

The historic Fort Matanzas stands guard at the southern waterway approach to St. Augustine

Fort Matanzas

(904) 471-0116

8635 A1A S.

This National Monument's history is connected with the founding of St. Augustine.

Historic reenactors marching on the Fort Mose grounds

(904) 823-2232

15 Fort Mose Trail

A National Historic Landmark & a precursor site of the National Underground Railroad Network.

Entrance to the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine. Parking is free with your tour.

11 Magnolia Avenue

Governor's House Cultural Center & Museum

Governor's House Cultural Center & Museum

(904) 825-5034

48 King Street

This historic structure houses a free museum and public restrooms.

The exterior of the Grace United Methodist Church

Grace United Methodist Church

(904) 829-8272

8 Carrera St.

A historic church commissioned by Henry Flagler in 1887, near Flagler College.

Maritime hammock at the GTMNERR

The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve

(904) 380-8600

505 Guana River Rd.

Hike, bike, and enjoy nature at this natural reserve.

An iron gate marks the entrance to St. Augustine's historic Huguenot Cemetery

Huguenot Cemetery

10 ½ South Castillo Drive

Located outside just outside the city gate, the Huguenot Cemetery was established in 1821 to serve the entire population, regardless of faith.

A shark on a big movie screen with a theater full of moviegoers

Imax Theater

(904) 940-4133

One World Golf Place

This theater has the largest screen in North Florida.

The center of the space includes the statue of Queen Isabella of Castile

Hispanic Garden

A Spanish-style garden dedicated in 1965 as part of St. Augustine's formal 400th anniversary.

Visitors looking at historical documents at the Karpeles Museum

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

(407) 376-7705

106 St. George Street

Learn about the past through historic collections and featured exhibits.

The Lightner Museum is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel in St. Augustine.

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20 Hidden Gem Attractions in Florida That Won't Be Too Crowded

Florida's hidden gems include a beer trail, a manatee sanctuary, and caverns.

Elizabeth Rhodes is a special projects editor at Travel + Leisure , covering everything from luxury hotels to theme parks to must-pack travel products. Originally from South Carolina, Elizabeth moved to New York City from London, where she started her career as a travel blogger and writer.

top 100 places to visit in florida

Courtesy of Visit Florida

With stunning beaches, vibrant cities, and some of the world's most-visited theme parks , the Sunshine State is one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. When you think about Florida attractions, theme park resorts like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando likely come to mind, as well as other places like the Kennedy Space Center and South Beach in Miami .

If you've been to any of Florida's hot spots , you know just how busy they can be. Here, we've rounded up 20 hidden gem attractions to visit in Florida without the crowds. Get ready to see manatees and alligators in their natural habitats, hike along stunning nature trails, admire Florida's highest waterfall, visit beautiful caverns, and explore one of the country's least-visited national parks. You'll be surprised to see just how many incredible attractions are often overlooked by the average tourist.

1. Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Wolfgang Poelzer / Getty Images

About an hour north of Tampa, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is home to one of the best natural springs in Florida and a great place to spot native flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for whooping cranes, endangered Florida panthers, black bears, bobcats, alligators, and red wolves within the park's 210 acres. You can learn about the magnificent manatees that live here year-round by catching an educational program at the Fish Bowl Underwater Observatory. Afterward, go for a stroll along the 1.1-mile elevated boardwalk trail, take a boat tour, or give birding a try on the 0.75-mile Pepper Creek Trail.

2. Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Sixteen acres of Japanese gardens are Delray Beach's best hidden gem. This beautiful and serene spot features a world-class bonsai collection, trails, ponds filled with koi, and picnic areas, so you can immerse yourself in nature. You can also learn all about Japanese culture through the clubs and workshops, which include lessons in Japanese ink painting, traditional Japanese music, and more.

3. Dry Tortugas National Park

One of the nation's least-visited national parks , Dry Tortugas National Park is well worth visiting if you're traveling to the Florida Keys. Although Dry Tortugas isn't a secret to locals or national park lovers, its remote location means you can explore Fort Jefferson, snorkel among the coral reefs, or dive to a shipwreck without the crowds you might find on the Sunshine State's other popular beaches. It is, after all, only accessible by boat or seaplane. 

4. Devil’s Den Spring

Located in Levy County, Devil's Den Spring is a prehistoric natural spring inside a cave that offers diving and snorkeling in crystal clear, 72-degree waters all year long. Fossils dating back to the Pleistocene Age were found at this incredible site, which got its name from early settlers who thought the steam emanating from the underground space looked like smoke rising from hell.

5. Florida Caverns State Park

Courtesy of Florida State Parks

Did you know that you can take a cave tour in Florida? At Florida Caverns State Park , you can see the stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, and draperies hiding below the surface in Jackson County in the Panhandle. The park also offers trails, swimming, and other activities.

6. Venetian Pool

This Coral Gables gem isn't your average public pool. The Venetian Pool was carved out of a coral rock quarry in the 1920s, and today, it's the largest freshwater pool in the United States (it's emptied and refilled each day). Swimmers can splash in waterfalls and grottos, while palm trees and porticos make this a scenic place to spend a day in the water.

7. Wacissa Springs County Park

Florida Fish and Wildlife / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

With more than a dozen crystal-clear springs to choose from, this park is a dream for swimmers, snorkelers, and boaters. Wacissa Springs County Park is also an ideal place for wildlife viewing and fishing. If you want to spend some time soaking up the great outdoors, you can camp at the Goose Pasture Group Campground for up to 10 days.

8. Southwest Florida Ale Trail

Courtesy of Riptide Brewing Company

Oregon and Vermont receive a lot of praise as the country's best destinations for beer lovers, but did you know that there's a brewery trail in Florida? The Southwest Florida Ale Trail connects 18 breweries across four Florida counties, and even offers a passport you can have stamped at the participating locations to win prizes. Many of them are just a short distance from the coast, too, making for a great day of beach and beer.

9. Ravine Gardens State Park

Patrick Baehl de Lescure / Getty Images

This unique park in Palatka offers 60 acres of nature to explore. Suspension bridges cross the park's ravines over 30 feet above the ground, and there's a 1.8-mile loop that you can drive, bike, or walk to soak in the incredible views. If you're an avid hiker, you might prefer the moderately difficult trails that go down into the park's ravines.

10. Florida Historic Golf Trail

iShootPhotosLLC / Getty Images

Florida is known around the world as a major golf destination , and the Florida Historic Golf Trail combines great golf courses with sports history. The trail provides a mix of famous spots created by renowned golf course architects along with some lesser-known public links.

11. Rainbow Springs State Park

 CampPhoto / Getty Images 

Located about a 90-minute drive from Tampa or Orlando, Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon has been a popular spot for rest and relaxation for more than 10,000 years. Long before it was a modern-day tourist attraction, Florida's Indigenous Timucua people visited the springs, leaving stone tools, arrowheads, and other relics behind. Today, the 72-degree springs are a great place to take a dip. Expect a calm, beautiful oasis of clear water to swim, snorkel, paddle, and float in all year long. There's also a section dedicated to tubing. Plan your visit for a weekday if you can, as the park will close to the public once it reaches capacity, which it sometimes does during summer weekends and holidays, when Florida's temperatures soar.

12. Myakka River State Park

Stephanie Starr / EyeEm / Getty Images

Myakka River State Park , located on Florida's west coast about 30 minutes from Sarasota, is one of the best places to visit in the state if you want to view alligators in the wild. Check the website to see if boat tours are running (they sometimes stop if water levels are too low), as that's the best way to see them up close. Otherwise, there are tram tours to take you around the park, and you can view the river from a number of hiking trails and lookout points, such as The Birdwalk . Nearby, the Myakka Canopy Walkway , a 100-foot-long treetop trail that's 25 feet above the ground, and its 74-foot observation tower provide epic wetlands views from above.

13. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge

On the opposite coast near Vero Beach, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is a nature lover's dream, with impressive mangrove and salt marsh habitats you can view from one of two three-mile loop trails or the 500-foot accessible observation tower. Opened in 1903 as the country's first-ever national wildlife refuge, the park is home to more than 130 species of birds, including brown pelicans, yellow-crowned night herons, great egrets, ospreys, snowy egrets, and bald eagles, among others. At 5,445 acres, there's more than enough space for everyone to enjoy the peace and quiet natural Florida provides.

14. Kampong National Tropical Botanical Garden

If you're seeking some respite from the South Florida crowds, head to The Kampong National Tropical Botanical Garden in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood. At this former estate of botanical enthusiast Dr. David Fairchild, you'll find Kampong Planting Heritage collections that hail from all over Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and other tropical places. Experience the vivid colors and heady scents on a self-guided stroll, or take a guided tour if you want to learn more about the diverse plants in this beautiful place.

15. Dinosaur World

Dinosaur World

For a quirky and low-key alternative to the other big Florida theme parks, head to Dinosaur World in Plant City, just a 20-minute drive from downtown Tampa or an hour's drive along I-4 from Orlando. Dinosaur lovers of all ages will appreciate the life-size models of a triceratops, stegosaurus, and T. Rex, among other species. You'll also be able to dig for replicas of fossils, explore the park's many boardwalk nature trails, and check out the museum and its life-like animatronic dinosaurs. With two playgrounds, this dog-friendly attraction makes a great pit stop during a Florida road trip, or a fun day trip for the whole family.

16. Caladesi Island State Park

Just north of Clearwater Beach in the Tampa Bay Area, Caladesi Island State Park is accessible by private boat or via a 20-minute ferry ride from Honeymoon Island State Park . Whether you plan to rent kayaks and paddle through the mangrove forest, hike along the island's nature trails, have a seaside picnic, or relax with a good book on a blanket, you can expect to do so in solitude. Keep an eye out for ospreys, egrets, blue herons, bald eagles, dolphins, and manatees, which all call the area home.

17. Bean Point

TriggerPhoto / Getty Images

Bean Point , a remote beach area on the northern tip of Anna Maria Island, is known for its soft white sands and epic views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as much as its blissful lack of crowds. One reason for this is the presence of strong currents that make it unsafe for swimming — you won't find a parking lot or restroom facilities here either. But if you're looking for a peaceful spot to lounge near the waves or settle in with a picnic and a great beach read, this is it.

18. Blowing Rocks Preserve

Julie Culy / EyeEm / Getty Images

On the southeastern coast about 30 minutes from West Palm Beach, Blowing Rocks Preserve is one of the best places in Florida to see green, leatherback, and loggerhead sea turtles in their natural habitat. Since the 1980s, it's been where biologists and other scientists have come to assist baby sea turtles each year as they embark on their journey from the nest to the ocean. The preserve gets its name from the "blowing rocks," a natural phenomenon that occurs when the waves are especially rough (during storms or high tide, for example) and the water is pushed up through the limestone with such force it erupts like a geyser, sometimes as high as 50 feet!

19. Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge

PhotoviewPlus / Getty Images

Down by the Everglades on the Naples side, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful place to get away from it all, especially if you're into birding, kayaking, wildlife photography, or fishing (only permitted at certain times of the year). The refuge is made up of vast mangrove forests, brackish marshlands, and tons of tiny islands, making it an ideal place to spot some of the many animals that live here, including more than 200 species of birds and fish, American alligators and crocodiles, Florida panthers, manatees, river otters, and bottle-nosed dolphins.

20. Falling Waters State Park

FallingWaters_08 / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Located on Florida's panhandle about an hour from Tallahassee, Falling Waters State Park is home to Florida’s highest waterfall. The Falling Waters Sink is actually a 100-foot-deep sinkhole with a 74-foot stream that drops into it, forming the waterfall. While the force of the waterfall varies with the amount of rainfall the area receives, it's still an impressive sight year-round, with the water seemingly disappearing into the cave system that lies beneath it. Use the boardwalk trails to reach the viewing points — the upper section is drier, while the lower one lets you have a closer look for the price of a light spray of water.

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top 100 places to visit in florida

These Are the 4 Best Places to Live in Florida

F lorida isn't just one of the most meme-able states in America. It's also one of the most livable places. And after the pandemic made working from home a possibility for more people, they began moving to Florida in droves.

Who wouldn't want to live with nonexistent winters, great food and gorgeous beaches? Of course, this has meant that popular spots like Miami and Tampa have seen some dramatic jumps in housing prices.

But don't worry. There are still some places where you can live your dreams of tropical days eating Cuban sandwiches without going broke. These are the four best places to live in Florida, and they rank among the places to live in the U.S.

How the Ranking Was Determined

We have based the livability ranking on the U.S. News and World Report's Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2023-2024 . The annual ranking takes into account numerous factors to come up with a list of 150 cities. According to the report, "a place had to have good value, be a desirable place to live, have a strong job market and a high quality of life" to make the cut.

After analyzing the report, we've taken the four Florida cities that made it into the top 30 of U.S. cities overall. We considered the report's ranking and scores for the cities and also added our own editorial input, based on the experience of our staff writer (me), who lives in the state.

Take it from a local and consider moving to these awesome places in Florida.

1. Sarasota

Population: 824,160 (metro population)

U.S. News ranking: 5 (out of 30)

Value: 6.1*

Quality of life: 7.0

Overall score: 6.8

*Value, quality of life, and overall score are from the U.S. News and World's Report rankings , based on their analysis of public data and user opinions.

Bottom Line: Sarasota

Sarasota comes in at number five in the overall list of livable cities. We aren't surprised to see it do so well, especially because we lived there for almost half a decade and are well-acquainted with its charms. 

The city is known to the outside world as a sleepy town where retired northerners come to spend the winter. And the stereotype is definitely true. Snowbirds flock here when the weather gets cold. What doesn't get advertised as much, however, is that Sarasota is also a college town, with New College of Florida, the Ringling College of Art and Design, and another four secondary education institutions. 

Both snowbirds and college students love cultural events, so Sarasota has a constant roster of plays, concerts, art shows, plays and performances happening. You will also be able to visit institutions like the Ringling Museum, which has an impressive art collection that spans from ancient times to the current century and includes works by Peter Paul Reubens and Marcel Duchamp.

In terms of food, you can expect both variety and quality. From Peruvian to Thai to American to Spanish, you'll find it all Downtown, on Main Street or Saint Armand's, along with boutique shops and bars. 

Of course, the real reason to move to Sarasota is the beach. Siesta Key constantly ranks amongst the most beautiful in the country. The flour-like sand is so soft that you'll have the urge to eat it and the water in the Gulf of Mexico is clear and warm. At sunset, groups of dolphins often come close to the shore and bioluminescence happens seasonally. 

As someone who lived there for a long time, Sarasota deserves to be in the top 10 best cities in the U.S.

Population: 372,797 (metro population)

U.S. News ranking: 6 (out of 30)

Quality of life: 7.1

Overall score: 6.6

Bottom Line: Naples

About two hours south of Sarasota, you'll find Naples, which ranks at number 6 on the overall list. 

Another town in the Gulf of Mexico, Naples is pricey —  unless you're bringing in a considerable amount of money home, you won't be able to buy a home right on the beach. But condos are attainable, and it is entirely possible to find a decent-ish value on homes that are a 10-15 minute drive to the beach. And we definitely prefer that to living in a shoebox in New York City.

We'll let you in on a Florida secret: Naples is where people from Miami go on vacation. The city doesn't have as much to do as Sarasota, but it is a perfect midway point between Tampa and Miami, which is what draws so many business people to it — either permanently or as a place to spend long workcations. It is also smaller and quieter, which is why people from the big cities come here for vacation. 

If you make the move to Naples, you can expect summers to be extremely busy with tourists and winters to be filled with snowbirds. But the latter stay for enough months to actually contribute to the community. In the offseasons, however, you can enjoy a taste of Florida like it used to be before everyone realized it's an awesome place to live.

3. Melbourne

Population: 601,573 (metro population) 

U.S. News ranking: 15 (out of 30)

Quality of life: 6.8

Bottom Line: Melbourne

Many people have never heard of Melbourne, which is surprising given its proximity to one of Florida's darlings, Orlando. 

One of the major appeals of Melbourne is that it's only an hour away from Mickey's backyard. And if you move to Florida, that means that you get the discounted resident prices for many of the theme parks like Islands of Adventure (where you'll find Harry Potter World) and Disneyland.

But Melbourne — which ranks No. 15 overall — has charms of its own outside of its connection to theme parks. The biggest one is, again, the beach. Located on Florida's Space Coast and Cape Canaveral, you will be able to see space shuttle launches or take your kids to the educational Kennedy Space Station.

Better yet, the city has managed to keep its market from skyrocketing. That doesn't mean it's necessarily cheap, but it's reasonable for real estate next to the beach. There is also proximity to nature, including several state parks and lakes. This combines to earn Melbourne a solid 7 in quality of life.

4. Jacksonville

Population: 1,581,680

U.S. News ranking: 16 (out of 30)

Bottom Line: Jacksonville

Coming in at No.16, Jacksonville is far from the messy stereotype movies would have you believe. OK, yes, there are a lot of drunk people who come to party at the beach, which sometimes makes this city seem like it's trying to imitate its cooler older cousin, Miami. 

But those are things residents don't usually deal with since they don't go to the tourist beaches anyways. And what movies don't typically show are the numerous trails and kayaking routes that residents enjoy quite frequently. Plus, it's right on the border with Georgia, so if you ever feel like leaving on a road trip, you won't have to drive eight hours before crossing a state line. 

The main downside to Jacksonville is that winters do get colder than in the rest of the state. Though we're saying that from a South Florida perspective — if you enjoy cooler temperatures, then this is a definite plus. 

Another downside is that the business and job markets aren't as developed as in other places in Florida. But that is rapidly changing as more companies look to relocate to the Sunshine State for its tax laws.

Right now, the real estate market is still reasonable and affordable. But if Jacksonville follows the path of other Florida cities, it won't stay that way for long. And that's just another reason to consider moving here sooner rather than later.

These Are the 4 Best Places to Live in Florida

What is the best place to work? Here's a list of the 10 best Florida-based employers

Florida cities have topped three “best places for jobs” lists since April.

First, a suburb of Orlando took third place on CareerMinds.com’s list of the top 10 cities for those looking for a career change . A month later, in May, three Florida cities ranked on WalletHub’s list of the top 10 U.S. cities for starting a career.

And earlier this month, WalletHub released another rankings list of the best places for summer jobs in 2024, ranking three Florida cities in the top 10. 

Based on these lists, jobs are plentiful in the Sunshine State. But what Florida-based companies are the best employers?

A more recent list from U.S. News and World Report ranked the best Florida-based companies to work for. Here’s the list.

What is the best place to work in Florida?

With Florida being a hotspot for domestic tourists, it probably isn’t very surprising that four of the 10 best companies to work for in Florida are in the hotels, restaurants, travel and leisure industries.

Here are the 10 best Florida-based companies to work for, according to U.S. News and World Report’s rankings list:

  • Carnival (Miami) - Best in hotels, restaurants and leisure, ranked in top quality of pay, best companies in the south.
  • Darden (Orlando) - Darden is a family of restaurants that Includes Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Yard House, Eddie V’s, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen and Seasons 52. Darden is ranked among the best companies in the south on U.S. News’s list.
  • FIS (Fidelity National Information Services in Jacksonville) - FIS is based in Jacksonville and employs more than 55,000 people in almost 60 countries. FIS is a globally respected technology provider for capital markets, retail banking and merchant industries.
  • L3Harris (Melbourne) - L3Harris is a defense and aerospace technology manufacturing company that provides tech for air, land, sea, space and cyber domains. L3Harris ranked in top quality of pay, best in manufacturing and among the best companies in the south.
  • MarineMax (Clearwater) - MarineMax is a recreational boat and yacht retailer, receiving best in retail and best companies in the south recognitions on U.S. News’s list.
  • PetMeds (Delray Beach) - PetMeds is an online pet pharmacy and is ranked among the best companies in the south and the best in personal care, drug and grocery stores. PetMeds also received recognition for having a top work environment.
  • Roper Technologies (Sarasota) - Roper is an IT, software and services company that provides tech for niche industries. Roper’s products include Application management software, sensor networks, campus card and cashless systems, laboratory information management solutions, network software and technology-enabled products. Roper is ranked among the best in IT, software and services and the best companies in the south.
  • SBA Communications Corporation (Boca Raton) - SBA is a real estate investment trust that owns and operates wireless communications infrastructure. SBA controls assets like towers, buildings, rooftops, antenna systems and other tools to support wireless carriers and digital service providers. SBA ranked among the best companies in the south and received recognition for top quality of pay.
  • Spirit Airlines (Dania Beach) - Spirit Airlines also received recognition for top quality of pay and ranked among the best companies in the south.
  • Travel + Leisure Co. (Orlando) - Travel + Leisure Co. owns Margaritaville resorts, Wyndham resorts, Sports Illustrated resorts and more. Travel +Leisure Co. received recognition for being among the best in hotels, restaurant and leisure and also ranked among the best companies in the south.

What is a normal salary in Florida?

Depending on where you live in the state and what job you have , living in Florida can be affordable. 

First-time home buyers may want to choose a different state to settle down on a budget and prices for things like groceries and insurance in Florida are some of the highest in the nation , but it isn’t all bad news.

To make ends meet in Florida, you typically don’t have to make more than the national average salary (around $59,000).

According to BankRate and MIT’s living wage calculator , a single adult with no children would need to earn a minimum of $36,848 to make ends meet in Florida. Cost of living is subjective to where you’re located in the state, though. 

For example, residents in some metropolitan areas across southeast Florida need to make $100,000 each year in order to avoid being rent burdened.

More From Forbes

Top 5 u.s. cities for summer vacations—according to a 2024 report.

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Seattle, Washington

Looking to plan a last-minute summer vacation? Kayak released its annual summer travel report , and, for it, the travel company mined its search data to find out which U.S. destinations are trending among travelers this summer. A surprise, cooler-weather destination emerged as this summer’s most-searched destination: Seattle.

“Perhaps some travelers are unfazed by a bit of wet weather when it comes with a side of gorgeous scenery,” the report says.

The list also includes popular summer vacation mainstays, places like Orlando, a theme park capital, and the pool-spa-culinary playground that’s Las Vegas.

Ahead, the top five U.S. summer vacation spots for summer 2024, according to Kayak’s travel report, and a look at what's new in these trending destinations.

No. 1: Seattle, Washington

Pike Place Market in Seattle

For those looking for a reprieve from the heat, summer highs hover around the low 70s in Seattle, this year’s most searched summer vacation destination on Kayak.

The city has many must-sees, from the Space Needle and Pike Place Market to the color-saturated Chihuly Garden and Glass.

Best High-Yield Savings Accounts Of 2024

Best 5% interest savings accounts of 2024, what’s new in seattle, washington.

Seattle is also celebrating its 50th year of Pride this June, with professional athletes Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe serving as grand marshals for the annual Seattle Pride Parade on June 30.

Stay at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel , a luxury hotel on the National Register of Historic Places that’s celebrating 100 years this year and where you can turn back time in the Founders Club, a speakeasy-style bar with caviar bumps and classic cocktails.

No. 2: Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada and the Sphere

Las Vegas is sizzling hot in the summertime, but thankfully there’s plenty of glistening pools, water misters in cabanas, frozen cocktails, and spas to keep you cool as a cucumber.

What’s new in Las Vegas, Nevada?

The beauty of Vegas is you can come back every summer and be greeted by a bevy of new restaurants and entertainment options. Some highlights this year include the opening of Fontainbleau Las Vegas on the Strip (the spa has a snow shower to keep you cool) and Durango Casino & Resort in the Las Vegas Valley, plus shows at The Sphere.

For high rollers, Aqua Seafood & Caviar Restaurant at Resorts World Las Vegas is Michelin-starred chef Shaun Hergatt’s latest concepts and menu highlights include reserve caviar, king crab legs, and antipasti. Bruno Mars’ Pinky Ring cocktail bar and jazz lounge opened in Bellagio and Mariah Carey has a residency at Park MGM through Aug. 10, 2024.

No. 3: Orlando, Florida

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 31: Lasers light up the sky above Cinderella's Castle during the daily Happily ... [+] Ever After light and fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World on May 31, 2024, in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

You could also enjoy two destinations on this list on one trip: The Brightline high-speed rail service now connects Orlando to Miami (ranked No. 9).

What’s new in Orlando, Florida?

For those coming for the magic, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens at Disney World on June 28, 2024, replacing the controversial Splash Mountain .

Over at Universal Studios Florida, go bananas with the Minions at Illumination’s Minion Land , which opened last August. Next up, DreamWorks Animations’ Themed Land will bring animated characters from movies like “Shrek,” “Trolls” and “Kung Fu Panda” to life in interactive play spaces.

Culinary enthusiasts will want to grab one of the 10 seats at the new Natsu Omakase counter. For fun outside the theme parks, Caribe Royale Resort Orlando debuted its Stadium Club, a next-level sports bar with sports simulators.

No. 4: Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii

What would “the best places to visit in the summer list” be without a beach destination? Honolulu is a popular connecting destination for the Hawaiian islands, but is also a sought-after summer stay in and of itself, with outstanding beaches and luxury shopping.

What’s new in Honolulu, Hawaii?

In time for summer travel, the 179-room Romer House Waikīkī made its debut as O’ahu's first adults-only hotel with The Backyard Pool & Bar that serves poolside Japanese-Hawaiian dishes.

The Twin Fin Hotel also recently launched a new experiential surf school led by nine-time Pipeline champion Jamie O’Brien.

No. 5: New York, New York

New York, New York

You could make plenty of repeat visits to New York City, and still have lots remaining on your must-do and must-see list, from a Broadway show to a visit to the Met to watching the Yankees play and see the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks.

What’s new in New York City?

To sprinkle in some new things, check out the new Museum of Food in Drink in Brooklyn, or try some new restaurants like ribeye steak tacos and a cornhusk meringue sundae at Esse Taco in Williamsburg or an 8-course Korean tasting menu with natural wine pairings at Beut.

The newest stay in New York City is the 69-room Warren Street Hotel, where the decor matches the creative energy of the Tribeca neighborhood. The hotel was recently awarded a Michelin key.

Brittany Anas

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From bus services to buffets, best wallet-friendly travel ideas

10Best Editors

June 26, 2024 // By 10Best Editors

By 10Best Editors June 26, 2024

Travel doesn't have to be expensive. Some of the best attractions in the United States are completely free, and it's possible to find an inexpensive hotel room while still staying in style. Rental car? Skip it by visiting a walkable city.

To find the best wallet-friendly options, a panel of travel experts and USA TODAY 10Best editors selected their top picks in five budget travel categories, then readers voted for their favorites over four weeks — and the results are in.

Click on each category below to see the full winners list:

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Best Budget-Friendly Hotel Brand: Motel 6

Enjoy quality accommodations at an affordable price at Motel 6

Well-loved and easily recognized by those traveling the roadways of the United States, Motel 6 has made a name for itself by being clean, friendly, dependable, and most importantly, affordable. Expanded cable TV and pet-friendly rooms make this hotel a good choice for those looking to stay within their budget. Free coffee in the mornings makes getting up and going a pleasure.

Full list of winners: Best Budget-Friendly Hotel Brand »

Best Buffet Restaurant: Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, Pennsylvania

Dig in at the impressive Shady Maple Smorgasbord

Shady Maple Smorgasbord, claiming to be "the largest buffet in America," serves delectable Pennsylvania Dutch dishes in East Earl, Pennsylvania. The well-prepared comfort food is offered on a 200-foot-long smorgasbord, and the space is designed to offer a cafeteria-style ambiance. A gift shop is open to visitors, and their birthday specials are popular.

Full list of winners: Best Buffet Restaurant »

Best Bus Service: Yankee Line

Yankee Line ranks No.1 for offering the best bus service in the country

In operation for more than 45 years, Yankee Line serves the Northeast, from Boston to New York City. In addition, the company offers charter services for corporate events, school trips, and much more. Their fleet of custom-built coaches features free Wi-Fi, an onboard restroom, and power outlets.

Full list of winners: Best Bus Service »

Best Free Attraction: Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida

See sea turtles or other marine line up-close at Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Situated in Juno Beach, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center is focused on ocean and sea turtle conservation, and it’s free and open to the public each day. Since the goal is to rescue and return wildlife to their natural habitats, there may not be any resident sea turtles when people visit. However, there are always plenty of other sea creatures to observe, and volunteers are helpful and willing to answer questions from visitors.

Full list of winners: Best Free Attraction »

Most Walkable City to Visit: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is declared the most walkable city to visit in the U.S. for second year in a row

Philadelphia is beloved for its cultural and historical attractions, and its walkability is appreciated by residents and visitors. Tourists would likely most enjoy strolling Center City — home to the historic Old City and gorgeous Rittenhouse Square neighborhoods.

Full list of winners: Most Walkable City to Visit »

Congratulations to all these winners! Remember to visit 10best.usatoday.com daily to vote in more Readers' Choice Awards.

'Once-in-a-lifetime event:' Best places to see rare nova explosion from Florida

Nova event should happen by september, astronomers said.

top 100 places to visit in florida

You may get to see a new — and temporary — star in the sky this year.

A massive explosion 3,000 lightyears away known as a nova event that happens more or less every 80 years will be bright enough to be visible with the naked eye, NASA said .

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event that will create a lot of new astronomers out there, giving young people a cosmic event they can observe for themselves, ask their own questions, and collect their own data,” said Dr. Rebekah Hounsell, an assistant research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland who specializes in nova events. “It’ll fuel the next generation of scientists.”

Here's what will happen and how to watch.

What is the Nova Event?

The star system T Coronae Borealis — nicknamed the "Blaze Star" and called T CrB by astronomers — is a binary system, which means it has two stars instead of just one like ours. The red giant star and white dwarf star in T CrB are orbiting each other.

The two stars are close enough that the old red giant star is slowly being stripped of its hydrogen by the gravity of the denser white dwarf, an Earth-sized chunk of dead star, NASA said. When enough material has built up on the white dwarf to raise its temperature and mass to a tipping point, it erupts in what's being called the Nova Event, also called a recurrent or repeating nova.

"The hydrogen from the red giant accretes on the surface of the white dwarf, causing a buildup of pressure and heat," NASA said. "Eventually, it triggers a thermonuclear explosion big enough to blast away that accreted material."

What's the difference between a nova explosion and a supernova?

Supernovas are a one-time deal. Stars go supernova, "a final, titanic explosion" according to NASA, at the end of their life when their mass is about eight times that of our sun and their cores collapse.

Repeating or recurrent novas are caused by other reasons and can erupt more frequently. The one from T CrB is a surface explosion when the built-up matter is flung into space , leaving the star intact. There are 10 known recurrent novas in the Milky Way galaxy, according to physicist Jordi José and astrophysicist Margarita Hernanz.

When is the Nova Event happening?

Good question. Astronomers have no way of knowing precisely and it could be years.

But astronomers say the stars are behaving similarly to the way they did in the time leading up to the last explosion seen in 1946, so it should happen sometime between now and September.

“Recurrent novae are unpredictable and contrarian,” said Dr. Koji Mukai, a fellow astrophysics researcher at NASA Goddard. “When you think there can’t possibly be a reason they follow a certain set pattern, they do – and as soon as you start to rely on them repeating the same pattern, they deviate from it completely. We’ll see how T CrB behaves.”

When it does happen, it will be quick. NASA said that at peak brightness, the nova should be visible to the naked eye for several days and just over a week with binoculars before it dims again.

How can I find the Nova Event at T Coronae Borealis?

T Coronae Borealis is in the Corona Borealis or “Northern Crown” constellation, a horseshoe-shaped curve of stars west of the Hercules constellation.

To find it after sunset, locate the two brightest stars in the Northern Hemisphere, Arcturus and Vega, and track a straight line between them to find the Northern Crown. When it happens, the nova will be visible in that region.

If you have night sky tracking apps on your phone, search for Corona Borealis.

Where are the best places to watch the Nova Event in Florida?

With a clear sky — we know, we know — you should be able to see the initial explosion from your front yard. But the farther away from light pollution you can get, the better. If you can, go to a rural or empty area with as little light as possible or head to the beach away from hotels and condos and find a spot with a clear, unclouded view of the night sky.

If you really want a good look, consider heading to a state park, local campground or astronomy location for nice, inky-black skies. Here are some popular one for stargazers:

  • Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park : Recognized as Florida's first Dark Sky Park and possibly the darkest spot in Florida.
  • Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida: The second official Dark Sky Park with 729,000 acres of rugged, untouched Florida wilderness.
  • Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park : Far from major city lights, the park even has  an observation platform built by volunteers just for watching the skies.
  • Chiefland Astronomy Village , about an hour west of Gainesville: Run by non-professional stargazers but open to the public with showers, a clubhouse, restrooms, a picnic area, electricity, and 360 degrees of horizon with nothing in the way.
  • Sebastian Inlet State Park : An amazing panoramic view of the sky over the Atlantic.
  • Fakahatchee Strand Preserve : Hard to get much darker than the Everglades at night.
  • Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve : Over 5,000 acres in the Florida Keys with a nearly unbroken horizon for a panoramic view.
  • Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park : Waccasassa Bay, in the town of Inglis, is only accessible by boat but it sets the stage for a spectacular view with the horizon broken only by tree islands of red cedar, cabbage palm and live oak.
  • Fox Observatory in Markham Park in the city of Sunrise: An observatory open to the public every Saturday night, rain or shine.
  • Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys: One of the best places to see stars in Florida and one of the only places in the U.S. where you can see the Southern Cross constellation

Julia Gomez, USA TODAY and Iris Seaton, Asheville Citizen Times/USA TODAY Network contributed to this story.


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