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TOP THINGS TO DO IN FLORIDA

by Pankaj Upreti
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THINGS TO DO IN FLORIDA

The southernmost state, Florida, is a place that has a lot of popular vacation destinations/cities. Famously known as “the sunshine state of the USA”, Florida is home to the most thrilling state and amusement parks, beaches, etc. True to its nickname, Florida has a lot of popularity as a winter traveler’s one of the favorite vacay destinations in winters. It is also the boating and fishing capital of the world.

The above points are just a preface for the greatness of the state that is Florida. Read ahead to find out more things to do in Florida on your next trip to the state.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR’S COMPLEX

Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex in Florida
Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit | Photo Credit – Todd Van Hoosear

This museum is NASA’s visitor center. Kennedy Space Center documents the history and future of space exploration. It features spacecraft, shuttles and rocket exhibits, a Hall of Fame of astronauts called the Space Mirrors, and various other artifacts dedicated to space sciences. It is a full-day experience where you can spend hours.

Apollo and Saturn V center has a piece of rock from the moon, a replica moon rover, and other objects and displays related to the Apollo program.

It also has two IMAX theaters where they screen informative movies and documentaries for the visitors. Another popular attraction of the space center is the launching simulator. 

Services like bus tours and guided tours are provided by the center.

DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida USA
Dry Tortugas National Park | Photo Credit – Thomas

The Dry Tortugas national park has an archipelago of 7 islands in the Gulf of Mexico, near Key West in Florida. It is one of the most remote national parks that has almost 100 square miles of open water. The attractions of the national park include a 19th-century American fort, ancient coral reefs, extensive sea life, shipwrecks, abandoned the United States air force tower, etc. It is one of the top things to do in Florida.

The Garden Key island is home to 19th century Fort Jefferson and also a lot of beaches. Loggerhead Key island features a lighthouse, an abundance of sea turtles. And the Windjammer Wreck. The Windjammer wreck is remains of a ship from 1875 which is a popular site among divers. Island Bush Key is breeding and nesting ground of numerous sea birds. Marquesas Key island is an uninhabited island that is famous for sport fishing. 

The activities here include snorkeling, diving, bird watching, wildlife photography, kayaking, fishing, canoeing, ferry rides, etc. It also has camping sites and yacht services, if you want to stay here. Enjoy observing tropical, subtropical, and migratory birds including sooty tern, brown noddy, etc., aquatic vegetation, and coral reefs here.

KEY WEST BUTTERFLY AND NATURE CONSERVATORY

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory | Photo Credit – Elizabeth Nicodemus

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a unique place where visitors can see more than 50 species of butterfly. It also has a butterfly-friendly environment that includes trees, plants, waterfalls, etc. Several birds also flock here. 

The observatory also allows visitors to experience various life stages, anatomy, and physiology of butterflies at its learning center. 

There’s also a gift shop from where you can buy souvenirs related to butterflies and nature.

THE DALI MUSEUM

Salvador Dali Museum | Photo Credit – CityofStPete

The Dali Museum is dedicated to Salvador Dali, the great Spanish surrealist painter, in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is an art museum that houses one of the largest collections of Dali’s works. Even the architecture of the museum is surrealistically inspired. It has a large glass entryway. 

The museum hosts a lot of programs for families, art critics, and lovers. These programs include fundraisers, performances, workshops, talks, screenings, food and drink events, etc. The events also allow the guests to make their own Dali inspired artwork. Other weekly events like poetry performances, coffee with curator, discussions, etc keep happening here. Go through their calendar before planning your visit to this attraction.

The museum also hosts many moving exhibitions of several other artists, details of which can be found on their website below. One such popular exhibition was the Van Gogh Museum. Currently, the Dali museum is hosting a virtual exhibition dedicated to Diego and Freida.

There’s also a Spanish restaurant and a gift store in the museum.

Guided public tours and personnel tours in one’s language of choice are also provided here. Due to the 2020 Covid 19 pandemic, virtual museum tours are also offered on their website.

DAYTONA BEACH

Daytona Beach | Photo Credit – driver Photographer

This Daytona Beach is a city on Florida’s Atlantic coast. It is a central city of the Fun Coast region of Florida. Popular among racing enthusiasts as the “center of racing” in the world, it is the home of NASCAR. It hosts February’s iconic Daytona 500 NASCAR race. Daytona Beach has been known for its beach in history. The hard-packed sand of the beach allows it to become a mecca for motorsports in designated areas.

Daytona Beach Road Course, now Daytona International Speedway, hosted races for over 50 years. Daytona Beach Bandshell is the place where you can enjoy free summer night concerts. Right next to the beach is Daytona Lagoon water park that offers go-karts, laser tag, and waterslides. 

It is also home to historical sites like Main Street Pier, Oceanfront Boardwalk, and Clocktower in Oceanfront Park, etc. So, this shall also make a fun trip for history lovers.

ST. AUGUSTINE

St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine | Photo Credit – Larry Yeiser

It is one of the oldest cities founded by the Spanish in the United States. Situated on the northeast coast of Florida, St. Augustine is an idyllic place with Spanish old-world charm and colonial architecture. It is known for offering a romantic ambiance on historic cobbled streets and a panoramic pristine bay. You might stumble upon some interesting stories and historical tidbits while roaming on these streets.

There are also some popular sandy and tranquil Atlantic Ocean beaches like St. Augustine Beach and Crescent Beach. A protected wildlife sanctuary, Anastasia State Park, is another popular attraction of this place. Nature lovers must visit St. Augustine Wild Reserve. St Augustine Wild Reserve is home to rescued exotic animals that can be seen while enjoying a guided tour here.

The Castillo de San Marcos is the most popular historic place with stunning views of the St. Augustine Inlet. History lovers can make a day by visiting this 17th-century Spanish stone fortress. 

St. George street is a place for art lovers where they can enjoy the art galleries. Guests will also find quaint shops and restaurants here.

SEAWORLD ORLANDO

SeaWorld Orlando is one of the most fun things to do in Orlando, Florida
SeaWorld Orlando | Photo Credit – Jeremy Thompson

Famous marine theme zoological park, SeaWorld Orlando is one of the most fun things to do in Orlando, Florida. It is famous for allowing visitors to experience marine life in naturalistic tanks. It has four exhibits named on 4 different seas. 

The main entrance of the park is called the Port of Entry. It has a freshwater marina & a Shamu-themed lighthouse. There are many other exhibits highlighting various features of a marine ecosystem. SeaWorld Orlando hosts many live shows including the iconic orca whale show, and rides for all ages. The park is also dotted with many dining places and gift shops. 

Right next to SeaWorld Orlando is Discovery Cove and Aquatica. Discovery Cove provides an opportunity for swimming and playing with bottlenose dolphins. It also has a coral reef where you can swim with a variety of fish and other marine animals. The Tropical River allows guests to float from one attraction to another and passes many of the park’s most popular areas.

These two attractions form SeaWorld Parks and Resorts Orlando. It is an entertainment complex consisting of three parks and many hotels. Children of age 2 years or below have free admission to SeaWorld.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA

Universal Studios, Florida
Universal Studios, Florida | Photo Credit – Disney, Indiana

Any travel guide to Florida is incomplete without mentioning its top attraction Universal Studios Florida. This theme park and production studio is one part of Universal Orlando Resort located in Orlando. This place is world-famous for offering rides and attractions based on famous high fantasy entertainment movies and TV series like Harry Potter. The themed exhibits and attractions of the park are around a central lagoon. 

An important trivia for Harry Potter fans is that the Escape from Gringotts is voted as the best Harry Potter world in Orlando.

The rides offered here shall give a time of life to any Cinephiles. Costumed characters from various TV series and movies roam around in the park for visitors to interact with. The production studio has been used to film many movies, television shows, music videos, and events. Visitors must visit this place with their families and kids to have an eventful day.

VIZCAYA MUSEUM OF ARTS AND GARDENS

It is located on Biscayne Bay in the present day Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida.
VIZCAYA MUSEUM | Photo Credit – Chris Foster

The Vizcaya Museum of Arts and Gardens, also known as Villa Vizcaya, was the private estate of businessman James Deering. It is located on Biscayne Bay in the present day Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida. The villa has Mediterranean Revival and Renaissance architectural styles with some Baroque elements. It has more than 70 rooms. There are many guided tours offered here. Visitors will get to see antiques, art, and furnishings from the 15th to the 19th century. 

The gardens around the villa are beautiful Italian Renaissance formal gardens with manicured bushes and flowers. It also has native forests that are worth exploring. 

Vizcaya Museum of Arts and Gardens is a must-visit Florida attraction. It also offers rentals for hosting personal and public events.

BUSCH GARDEN TAMPA

Busch Garden | Photo Credit – Jeremy Thompson

The Busch Gardens Tampa is located in the city of Tampa, Florida. It is a 335-acre African-themed animal theme park. The park is popular as the home to world-famous roller coasters and thrill rides including SheiKra, Tigris, Falcon’s Fury, and the upcoming Iron Gwazi and Zadra. It also features a replica steam engine called the Serengeti Express. The train traverses through the whole park stopping at several of the areas. Skyride is an aerial tram. There are several food-drinks options and shopping options throughout the park. 

Busch Gardens also has many themed exhibits dedicated to various regions of Africa. 

Busch Gardens is also home to the largest animal zoo. It has more than 200 animals that can be observed closely like Asian elephants, alligators, cheetahs etc. Edge of Africa is a walkthrough where visitors can see African animals in real life. Bird Gardens has 500 tropical birds. The butterfly garden has a butterfly-friendly ambiance with these colorful creatures flying in it.

THE RINGLING

John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is located in Sarasota, Florida.
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art | Photo Credit – Aleksandr Kriuchkov

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is located in Sarasota, Florida. It is a state art museum that was established in 1927. 

The museum is home to 21 art galleries that have over 10,000 pieces. Guided tours of the museum, the Ringling’s mansion called Ca d’Zan, and the world’s first circus museum are offered here. The circus museum also displays a live small-scale circus. There is also the Ringling art library, Tibbals learning center, historic Asolo Theater, FSU Center for the Performing Arts, and rose gardens here. The gardens can be used for weddings and private events.

BONNET HOUSE

The Bonnet House is a historic home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens | Photo Credit – VisitFloridaLive

The Bonnet House is a historic home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Located at 900 Birch Road, it has a place on the National Register of Historic Places. The house is open to the public for touring. The estate is 35.4 acres and has a main house, an art studio, a music studio, a guest house, and even 100 ft. of the beach. The architecture is of vernacular style. 

Bonnet house boasts five different ecosystems within the property including primary and secondary dunes, mangrove wetlands, freshwater slough, and maritime forest.

KEY WEST AQUARIUM

It is a public aquarium in Key West, Florida.
KEY WEST AQUARIUM | Photo Credit – dcwriterdawn

It is a public aquarium in Key West, Florida, and also one of the oldest aquariums in Florida. The aquarium features exhibits dedicated to alligators, Atlantic shore fish, jellyfish, sharks, sea turtles, stingray, and a touch tank. Moray eels, barracuda, grouper, tropical fish, conch, sea cucumber can be enjoyed up close and personal at the touch tank under the supervision of expert guides. It is a must-visit spot for families with water-loving kids.

CALADESI ISLAND STATE PARK

Caladesi Island State Park is a state park in Florida.
Caladesi Island State Park | Photo Credit – Pinellas County

The Caladesi Island State Park is a state park in Florida. As the name suggests, it is located on Caladesi Island in the Gulf of Mexico. Accessible only by waterways from Honeymoon Island. The park offers a three-mile nature trail, a marina, picnic pavilions, bathhouses, a park concession stand, and a beach.

It is popular for hosting top water activities such as fishing and shelling; boating, canoeing, snorkeling, kayaking; hiking; picnicking; swimming. Bird watching and wildlife photography are also popular among the guests here.

Caladesi Beach has been voted as one of the best beaches in the country in yesteryear.

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK

Everglades National Park is a wetland national preserve. It is located on the southern tip of Florida. The national park features coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes, and pine Flatwoods. It is home to hundreds of animal species.

Visitors can see animals like leatherback turtles, Florida panthers, West Indian manatees, American crocodiles, etc. It is also home to a diverse range of flora. The Everglades are best explored under any guided tours that are available here.

MAGIC KINGDOM THEME PARKS

The magic kingdom | Photo Credit – chris czlapka

In Bay Lake, Florida, Magic Kingdom Theme Parks is a theme park. It is a part of Walt Disney World Resort. The park is represented by the beautiful and detailed Cinderella Castle. The area has 6 themed sub-parks including Tomorrowland, Enchanted Forest, Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Liberty Square. 

The Walt Disney World Railroad circles around the entire 1.5-mile perimeter of the park. It stops at Main Street, U.S.A., Frontierland, and Fantasyland. It is one of the tops must things to do in Florida. 

Visit their website to know more about the events and festivals being hosted here at the time of your visit. Plan your visit in such a way that you can experience the iconic firework show here.

BIOLUMINESCENT KAYAKING

The Indian River Lagoon, Cocoa Beach, and Merritt Island are home to spectacular bioluminescent bays and beaches. Bioluminescent bays are full of glowing algae. It is one of the most fun things to do in Florida. The best way to experience this phenomenon is not by seeing its pictures, but by going into the bioluminescent water bodies.

Many companies offer services like sunset kayak tours, clear kayak tours, bioluminescent paddleboard tours, bioluminescent family rafting tours, and more. Make sure you indulge in one of the best things that you can experience while in Florida.

HAUNTED HOUSES

If you happen to be in the Sunshine State during spooky holidays of Halloween, make sure you spend some time doing some of the spookiest things like exploring haunted houses. These haunted houses have many stories to tell when you go to explore them.

Many haunted house walks and tours are hosted here in the month of October. Visit the link below to get a map of the placements of spookiest places and ghost theme parks in Florida.

SARASOTA OPERA

SARASOTA OPERA | Photo Credit – Florida Grand Opera

It is the historic performance arts capital of Florida. The historic theater was restored in 2008. After its restoration, it has been hosting critically acclaimed opera and symphony performances, classical ballet, music concerts, film festivals, and stand-up comedy performances. More about the scheduled performances can be found on their annual calendar on its website.

SWIMMING WITH MANATEES

Florida is home to these cute giants called manatees. So, one of the most unique things to do in Florida is to get up close and personal with manatees. Swimmers can add to their experience by swimming with these gentle giants, Florida Manatees. Nature Coast Manatee Tours offers this opportunity in Crystal River.  You can have close encounters with manatees even in Busch Gardens in Tampa.

AIRBOATS

One of the most popular ways to explore the wilderness of Everglades in Florida is to do it by an airboat tour. Airboats can take you to some of the most off-beaten but worth exploring places where no other transport can move.

Check the website below to get a list of some of the best airboating opportunities in Florida.

ROCKET LAUNCH

The only place in the world where you can watch rocket launch in real time. If weather is in favor, a launch can be seen from over 150 miles away. Kennedy Space Center hosts many visitors throughout the year to watch their world renowned fascinating rocket launch.

Also, rockets (carrying satellites) are launched almost every month. The schedule of the launches and other launch related events can be found in their annual calendar.

DESTIN SEAFOOD FESTIVAL

The Destin Seafood Festival spans the entire month of October. If you’re a seafood enthusiast, this festival is a must-visit for you if you want your taste buds to thank you. From incredible live music to talented artists, to delicious, local seafood, Destin Seafood Festival has it all. There are stalls of popular seafood joints and even street food vendors. 

The festival is part of Destin Fishing Rodeo. You can experience fishing in the world’s luckiest village here.

Please also read about free things to do in Harrisburg, PA.


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