Florida is one of the most popular holiday states in the US, and for good reason. Here gorgeous beaches, balmy weather, and a cool holiday vibe entice people from all walks of life to enjoy the fun in the sun. Yet, Florida has so much more to offer than sand, salt, and sea breezes.
It boasts some of the most beautiful wetland reserves anywhere in the world home to hundreds of birds and exotic animals. The underwater life is just as abundant, the marine life hosted by the glorious coral reef below dips and weaves through the rocks and weeds.
Then there’s the architecture. Here, ancient citadels and Spanish monasteries bear proud witness to citizens long gone, and in Miami, the highest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world.
Come with me and I’ll take you on a voyage of discovery as we find 10 cool things to do in Florida.
1. Commune with Nature at the Everglades National Park
If you’re into alligators, manatees, birdlife, and miles and miles of beautiful wetlands, you can’t overlook the Everglades.
Everglades is the largest tropical wilderness in the US, spanning 2,400 square miles. Here, you’ll see nature in all her glory but you must plan ahead to enjoy the best that the park has to offer.
The Everglades is best explored from the water so hire a kayak or canoe and paddle your way through the Everglade canals, mangrove tunnels, and islands. Alternatively, zip through the waterways and enjoy the wind in your hair as you enjoy a guided tour of the Everglade forests and bays. There are plenty of cruises and boat trips on offer.
Stand-up paddleboarding is another great way to visit the wild habitats at the water’s edge. Creep up on a crocodile, paddle amongst the wading birds, and just enjoy the peace and quiet as the water gently laps your paddle.
Stay the night and camp out under the stars at one of two back-country camping sites. Plan your trip to the Everglades between December and April when the weather is most pleasant.
If you love nature, you are spoiled for choice in Florida. There are some really beautiful state parks you can explore. Some offer beautiful hiking tracks and some you can also camp and do lots of activities. Check out my 10 favorite state parks in Florida.
2. Explore Art Deco at Miami Beach
Miami Beach has miles of stunning beaches. Sun-bleached golden sands touched by warm, blue water draws people in their thousands, but it is the center of town that is most extraordinary. With more than 800 Art Deco buildings Miami Beach has the highest concentration of such buildings anywhere on earth.
These lovely pastel-hued buildings line the streets of South Beach, lending the area a certain glamor and style that gives Miami its unique feel. After the second world war, Art Deco became less popular. It was replaced by MiMo, Miami Modern. By 1976, Miami’s beautiful buildings built during the 1920s and 1930s, were under threat so the Miami Design Preservation League stepped in.
The colorful Art Deco buildings with their fountains, curves, and geometric lines are now the pride of the city. Take a walking tour of the glam spots of the early to mid-twentieth century and take a step back in time. At night when the neon lights go on you’d swear you were in the movies.
The palm-lined streets and pavement cafes, portholes, and eyebrow windows lend this part of the world a feel all of its own.
3. Find Your Inner Child in Disneyland
Harness your inner child with a visit to the original Disney World. A visit to Disneyland is more than just a day trip. It has four theme parks, a delight for the whole family. So, pick up your multi-day tickets and take a trip to the magic land of Disney.
You’ll meet all your favorite Disney characters in the Magic Kingdom. Choose your adventure from exhilarating roller coaster rides to adventures with pirates on the high seas. Visit Cinderella’s Castle or get a bird’s eye view of London with Peter Pan.
Epcot takes a more educational approach. Here you can discover a world of science and technology at Future World. Experience 4D adventures, take a NASA simulator into space, or travel to destinations around the globe. Discover the culture, cuisine, and architecture of places as far afield as Mexico, China, Morocco, and Japan.
Save some time for the Disney Water Parks. Cool off on the slides and flumes and spend some time exploring the many sea creatures in the park. Then there’s Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s filled with Disney characters and real-life versions, including some of the world’s most endangered animals. Enjoy interactive trips on safaris and more.
4. Take a Seaplane to Dry Tortugas National Park
Looking for something entirely different? Located just 70 miles off the coast of Key West lies the world-renowned and distinctive Dry Tortugas National Park. This truly amazing park sees fewer than 80,000 tourists every year, mostly due to the effort needed to get there. The only way to get to this destination is by boat or seaplane.
The national park has seven islands, home to a wide range of animals and tropical birds. The coral reefs that surround the islands are the best preserved of Florida’s reefs. They are alive with abundant marine life, making this a perfect place to dive or snorkel.
The largest masonry building in the Western Hemisphere, Fort Frederick, stands in the center of the park. Construction of the citadel began in 1846. It was initially used to fight piracy. It also played a vital role in the Civil War as a garrison. Book a guided tour, and discover its fascinating history.
You can book a camping spot on the island and stay over, but you will have to take all your provisions as there are no shops in the park. The ferry to the island leaves from Key West at 7 am and returns at 5.30 pm.
5. Chill at Rainbow Springs State Park
Beautiful natural springs meander and flow across the state of Florida and there is nothing like cooling off in the clear blue, green water of the springs on a hot summer day.
Boasting balmy temperatures of 72° F, spring waters are great for tubing, swimming, and snorkeling. Just an hour and a half from Orlando, Rainbow Springs State Park is the perfect place to chill out and enjoy the wildlife.
Tubing down the waters is quite possibly the most popular of the park activities. It’s good for a lazy couple of hours of quiet reflection. You can also rent kayaks or take a cruise on a glass-bottomed boat to gaze through the crystal-clear water at what lurks below. If you’d prefer a walk, take an easy hike up to the waterfall.
6. Outdoor Fun in Sarasota
Sarasota, like most of Florida, has plenty of soft sun-drenched beaches, inviting visitors to enjoy the warm blue waters. When it comes to fun activities, watersports top the list. From surfing to canoeing, windsurfing, and sailing, almost every sport associated with the beach is up for grabs.
Environmental parks and reserves add to the outdoor fun. Charter a boat, take to the golf course or try kayaking through the wetlands in the Myakka River State Park. Look out you could run into an armadillo or alligator along the way.
Amble through the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Located on the city’s waterfront the 45- acre botanical gardens offer lovely views in a tranquil setting.
On the cultural front, Sarasota doesn’t disappoint. You’ll find something to suit your tastes at one of the many museums, art galleries, and theaters in the city.
At night, Sarasota comes alive with cocktails at sunset. Waterfront bars and restaurants invite patrons to sit down and enjoy a drink or savor the good food as live music drifts on the evening breeze.
7. Party in Key Largo
The first of the Florida Keys, home to the world’s biggest artificial reef, Key Largo claims to be the Dive Capital of the world. As you would expect, much of the outdoor activity is centered around the beach and the surrounding warm waters.
Join the biggest outdoor ocean party on the Islamorada sandbar. Paddle out into the ocean and join the hundreds of boats that head that way every day. Set up a table and chairs on the sandbar and let your hair down.
For divers Key Largo is Paradise. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park hosts one of the last remaining coral reefs in the country. This and the wreck of the USS Spiegel Grove make for a fascinating underwater adventure. If you’re not into diving but would love to get a peek at the abundant sea life, consider a cruise in a glass-bottomed boat.
8. Amelia Island | an Island Getaway
If you’re in the market for an island getaway, you can’t do much better than Amelia Island. Conde Nast named it one of the world’s top island getaways.
It has everything that you could ask for on an island holiday. From museums and art galleries to pristine beaches, boutique shopping, outdoor sporting activities, and evening entertainment you are spoilt for choice.
Explore the island on foot, horseback, or bike. You can also take to the water in a kayak and explore the other islands.
Amelia Island has more than a hundred restaurants serving a wide range of delicious dishes that speak to the long history of the island.
Take a trolley tour of the historic district. It boasts over 300 Victorian homes and the oldest pub in Florida.
The museum located in the country jail is well worth a visit. Still, my favorite is the Fernandinho Beach Pinball Museum, a colorful look back at gaming life before computers. You can play a game on the machines and even take home a prize if you get the highest score.
9. Discover History in St Augustine
Otherwise known as the Ancient City, St Augustine, founded by Spanish explorers in 1565, is the country’s oldest continuously occupied European city.
Along with plenty of beautiful beaches, St Augustine also has a wealth of unexpected treasures. It is home to the oldest wax museum in the US. The museum features a few hundred wax sculptures of famous people including politicians, celebrities, and sports stars.
The Alligator Park has the only full collection of living crocodilian species anywhere in the world. The park started in 1893, is one of the country’s oldest zoos. Take a zipline over the lagoon and enjoy encounters with an astonishing assortment of birds as you peer down at the resting crocs.
Explore the St Augustine historic district by bike or on foot. The 144 historical blocks include quaint cafes and bars that line cobblestoned streets.
Many of the Spanish Colonial structures hark back to the 1700s. St George Street, a pedestrian walkway contains the Old City Gates and the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in the Country.
If you’re here for the history, plan some time at the oldest masonry fort in the country. It was built by the Spanish in 1695. Take a guided tour and discover its history of siege and war.
10. A Fishing Trip in St Petersburg
Renowned for its beautiful beaches and stunning marina St Petersburg boasts the longest fishing pier in the world. Artificial reefs under the pier ensure regular catches of snook, mackerel, sea bass, and grouper.
The city boasts one of the country’s best beaches, St Pete’s. Hike the beach wilderness that is the 1,000-acre Fort de Soto Beach Park. It includes five interconnected islands. Explore the lay of the land as you kayak through the mangroves and discover some of the more than 300 species of birds that live in the park.
St Petersburg also boasts the biggest Salvador Dali collection outside of Spain with 2,000 magnificent works housed at the Salvador Dali Museum. If you’re into art, lookout for some of the great street art for which the city is well-known.
The 100-year-old sunken gardens boast over 50,000 plants. Take a stroll on the paths that wind past waterfalls and tranquil waters where the flamingos come to rest. The four-acre complex is considered the oldest living museum in St Petersburg.
So Much to Do, So Little Time
Waste no time. In my view, all of these exciting destinations are worth a visit so it’s time to start planning your Florida holiday now.
About the author
Lorena from TravelCroc has written this article for us. Lorena and her husband love traveling to new cities and exploring nature. They share some of their adventures on their TravelCroc blog.