Known as “The Sunshine State”, Florida is heavily focused on the tourist trade. The beaches are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florida, along with some of the world’s best known theme parks, including Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld. However some of the state’s best secrets are in secluded locations away from tourist areas and well worth seeing. Regardless of preference Florida has something to offer for any kind of traveler.
1. Walt Disney World
Florida’s hottest attraction, and not just for kids and families any more, is Walt Disney World in Orlando. The magic of Disney has not worn off over the decades as millions of visitors flock here each year to enjoy the Magic Kingdom and the many other attractions of this mega amusement park.
2. Universal Studios
Universal Studios in Orlando is often much more than what most people are expecting. This huge theme park and working film and TV production studio offers all kinds of rides and experiences based on well known movies and shows. There are rides to entertain all ages. In addition there are hotels, restaurants, excellent shows, live music and more.
3. Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park is the second largest in the country after Yellowstone and the largest subtropical wilderness in the continental U.S. It is a 1.5 million-acre tract of marshy land and swamp and an important and fragile ecosystem that supports alligators, American crocodiles, Florida panthers, deer, turtles, egrets, manatees, river otters and many other species.
The whole area is composed of a wide, shallow river that flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Bay of Florida. The bottom of this river is porous limestone over top of a bedrock base called the Tamiami Formation. It catches rainfall and acts as southern Florida’s main water reservoir.
The park was created in 1947 after environmentalists finally convinced the government that the Everglades were vitally important to the balance of nature.
4. Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral
The Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Station, located near Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic Coast, is a 140,000 acre complex which has been the site of many space shuttle launches. Visitors can take a bus tour to see this large facility and explore the displays at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
5. Daytona 500
The Daytona 500 Nascar race is one of the most famous and considered the most important in the Cup series, kicking off the racing season in February. It is held in Daytona Beach at the Daytona International Speedway where it draws huge crowds every year. The Speedway was built in 1959 to move auto racing off the beach. Previously, races and land-speed competitions were held on the hard-packed sand of Daytona Beach.
6. SeaWorld Orlando
Much like Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando has long been an important part of family vacations to Florida. This huge amusement park features to dolphin and whale shows, opportunities to experience close up encounters with marine life and see a wide variety of species in the various tanks, and also offers thrill rides for all ages.
7. Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens is one of the most popular attractions in the Tampa area. This African theme park allows visitors to go on safaris and see all kinds of exotic animals as they roam through natural environments. Rides and other amusements are also a big part of the experience.
8. Miami Beach
Miami Beach, including both the town and the actual beach, is the main attraction for most tourists heading to Miami. Located on an island connected to the mainland by bridges, Miami Beach features an historic Art Deco District and a wide swath of sand stretching along the oceanfront. The Art Deco buildings along Ocean Drive contain hotels and restaurants with nice views over the beach.
9. Dry Tortugas National Park
The beautiful reef islands that make up Dry Tortugas National Park are not accessible by car. Most people visit as a day trip from Key West. The Park is home to Fort Jefferson, an impressive complex built by the US Government in the 1800s. Visitors can tour the fort and then spend some time on the beaches, snorkeling, or enjoying a picnic.
10. Duval Street in Key West
Most people touring the Keys make Key West their main destination due to its location at the end of the chain of islands. And fortunately, a leisurely stroll along Duval Street in Key West is one of the highlights of the Florida Keys. Shops and restaurants with outdoor patios, many in beautifully restored old buildings, line the street. There is always a lively vibe, regardless of the time of year, but even more so on days when cruise ships come to port.
Key West has a distinctly Caribbean flare, making it unique from other destinations around the state. In addition to Duval Street, there are lovely residential areas for walking and a number of interesting attractions, including the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and the Southernmost Point in the continental USA.
11. St Augustine’s Historic District and the Castillo de San Marcos
Known for being one of the oldest settlements in Florida, St Augustine’s historical sites and beautiful old architecture definitely make it worth a visit. At the top of the list of things to see is the late 19th century Flagler College, one of the most photographed buildings in the city. It was originally built as a hotel by railroad magnate Henry Flagler. Also not to be missed is the Castillo de San Marcos, famous for being the “oldest masonry fort in North America,” according to the National Parks Service. Built in the 17th century, it is remarkably well preserved and an impressive site, even for those with little interest in history. The view over the coast is also quite spectacular.
12. Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg
The Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg is housed in a unique modern building designed to match the creativity of the artist himself. Curving glass appears to envelope the otherwise box-like structure, giving the building a very striking appearance. Inside, the museum showcases pieces from throughout Dali’s career, providing a complete overview of his development as an artist. Even those with little knowledge of art will find this museum interesting and thought provoking.