Florida is considered one of the most exciting holiday destinations in the US. And for a good reason! Just think about its lovely mild weather, beautiful sand beaches and friendly atmosphere everywhere you go – all this is simply bound to charm everyone. Many visitors choose to return and explore the state anew every summer. Here are top 15 spots you simply must see while you’re in Florida.
1. Walt Disney World
Yes, there will be mile-long queues, some strange food and lots of overpriced merchandising, but this place is too lovely to be passed on. There’s something magical about Disney World, no matter what’s your age. It might be about the ever-present kids delighting and smiling who create this cheerful atmosphere. Needless to say, Disney World is a classic Florida experience and you cannot leave the state without having a brief adventure or at least one ride somewhere in this fascinating alternative reality.
2. Apalachicola National Forest
The largest of Florida’s three national forests, Apalachicola National Forest occupies as many as 938 square miles of the Panhandle. It stretches from west of Tallahassee to the Apalachicola River, offering a lot of space for visitors to enjoy this beautiful natural setting. If your favorite holiday activity is hiking, biking or any other sports, this will be just perfect. Its cypress hammocks, swamps and dunes make the Apalachicola forest a stunning backdrop to any kind of outdoors adventure.
3. Ft. Lauderdale
Nicknamed the Venice of America or the Yachting Capital of the World, Ft. Lauerdale is a top destination if boating is your passion. The city has been hosting Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show for a half century now. It’s easily the largest such event in the world. But this spot is not just about boats. Every March, you’ll see thousands spring breakers flocking into the city for a dose of hedonistic fun on its 23 miles of fantastic beaches. Snorkelers and divers will be happy as well, admiring more than 75 artificial reefs.
4. St. Augustine
St Augustine is a special place. It’s in fact the oldest European settlement in the US which was founded by the Spanish in 1565. History buffs will be delighted to visit the city, take a walk along its cobbled roads and have a quick lunch at one of its many charming cafes. Visitors interested in its rich history can spend hours learning about it at a wide selection of museums. Needless to say, the Historic District will take your breath away.
5. The Everglades
The Everglades is much more than swamp buggies and airboats. It’s a perfect area for biking. You can also rent a canoe or kayak and have a try at the waters yourself. You’ll find it very easy to get lost in the beauty of this delicate local ecosystem. You might even spot an alligator’s back appearing out of the water – if you do, don’t panic and remember that this is their home.
6. Key West
If you grow bored of mainland Florida and feel like spicing things up a little, head to Key West. This is where you’ll find lots of people adopting an exciting devil-may-care attitude and partying away all nights and days. There’s always a party going on at Key West. Its motto is ‘One Human Family’ which emphasizes the city’s tolerance to all kinds of humanity. Everyone here loves each other – and they all love to party.
7. Amelia Island
Recognized for its Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island is a delightful shrimping village made up of no more than 50 blocks of historic buildings which house charming cafes and delicious eateries. It’s nothing else than a perfect moss-draped southern fantasy. Amelia Island caters to everyone’s preferences – whether you like to stay in a swanky resort or a unique B&B, you’ll have many options to choose from.
8. South Beach
Called endearingly SoBe by the locals, South Beach is known as the perfect place for people who want to relax and have lots of fun. South Beach is famous for its vibrant nightlife and many of its clubs operate until dawn. But South Beach is not only about fun – it’s also an excellent spot to explore the culture of Florida. You’ll find here the Miami City Ballet, the Holocaust Memorial of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, the New World Symphony or the lush Miami Beach Botanical Garden. Interested in architecture? Have a look at the famous Art Deco District, which houses more than 800 pastel-colored art deco style structures.
What used to be a small citrus town known for the delicious Florida oranges, Miami is today a real pan-American mosaic and the most Latin city in the world located north of Mexico. Visiting the city, you’ll find a fascinating mix of Cuban, Haitian and Colombian cultures – all of which are posed against the pastel backdrop of Miami’s art deco architecture. The city is surrounded by turquoise waters of Biscayne Bay, which offers lots of opportunities for deep relaxation and fun.
This is just the right spot if you’ve always wanted to run away and join the circus. John Ringling of the Ringling Brothers established Sarasota as the winter home for his circus and his legacy continues to live here in the walls of the Ringling Museum Complex. The structure features his former home, a fine art museum, and an fascinating circus museum. The entire Sarasota is simply obsessed with circus – you can send your children to circus classes or attend one of the many shows which are always available in town.
11. Busch Gardens Tampa
A great spot for all animal lovers, Busch Gardens offer a look at safari wildlife without the high price of a plane ticket to Africa. With sightings of over 2,700 animals, the 335-acre zoological-themed park is a perfect spot to see elephants, kangaroos, cheetahs, meerkats, hyenas, hippos and lemurs. Busch Gardens also include a water park called Adventure Island with the twisting Aruba Tuba, the 700-foot-long Key West Rapids or the 55-foot-drop Riptide providing some truly exciting rides. Visitors should note that the water park closes from November through February.
12. Caladesi Island State Park
Located right in the heart of the Tampa Bay area, Caladesi Island State Park is one of the best natural beaches you’ll ever see. You can reach it by canoe or a ferry from nearby Honeymoon Island, which is also worth a visit. You’ll find here a number of fantastic nature trails and a picturesque palm-lined beach stretching over 3 miles of its coast. If you’d like to have a lazy picnicking and swimming day, this is the perfect spot.
13. Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island is a stunning barrier island which offers one of the most picturesque beaches in Florida. You can search for beautiful seashells when walking along its white sands, spot herons or alligators at the nearby JN ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge, or have a delicious seafood lunch at one of quaint beach-shacks. Sports are also an option – the entire island is a great place for walking and biking.
14. Biscayne National Park
An extraordinary protected reserve, Biscayne National Park offers sights you won’t spot anywhere else. You can take a ride in an amazing glass-bottom canoe, snorkel, see some fascinating underwater videos and explore one of its many indoor exhibits. Biscayne National Park is the best spot for an educational adventure among the state’s local flora and fauna.
15. Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Studios is known for excellent movies and entertainment, but this place is simply beyond words. You’ll find some stunning themed rides, fun attractions, as well as lots of shops and restaurants. To top it all, Universal Studios Orlando features a resort with three hotels and 60 shopping areas! It’s an incredible world and a must-see on your visit to Florida.
If you’ve always wanted to see why people love Florida so much, book a ticket and you’ll get a chance to explore all that the state has to offer.
Carol Williams comes from Florida and works for a local business called Honeybells which is part of Florida Fruit Shippers. She combines her love for Florida with her interest in traveling and her passion for writing.