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The Sunshine State
Florida, the southeasternmost state in the US, is known as the Sunshine State for its warm, sunny climate and sandy beaches. It’s a popular tourist destination that attracts millions of visitors every year who come to enjoy its many attractions, from theme parks to natural wonders, historic landmarks to vibrant nightlife.
One of the top attractions in Florida is Walt Disney World, a massive theme park that’s home to several different parks, including the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. Other popular theme parks include Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Busch Gardens. For sports fans, there’s the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as the NBA’s Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.
While Florida’s main attractions are well-known, there are also many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. One such place is Dry Tortugas National Park, a remote group of islands and coral reefs that can only be reached by boat or seaplane. Another hidden gem is the town of Cedar Key, a quiet fishing village on the Gulf Coast that’s known for its fresh seafood and laid-back atmosphere.
Florida’s food scene is diverse and delicious, with influences from the Caribbean, Latin America, and the American South. Some must-try dishes include Key lime pie, Cuban sandwiches, conch fritters, and blackened grouper. For a unique dining experience, head to The Bubble Room on Captiva Island, a whimsical restaurant decorated with vintage toys and Christmas decorations.
Visiting Florida on a budget is possible with a little planning. Consider visiting in the off-season, when prices are lower and crowds are thinner. Many attractions offer discounts for Florida residents, military personnel, and AAA members. You can also save money on food by cooking your own meals or eating at local diners and delis instead of fancy restaurants.
Florida’s warm climate and natural beauty make it the perfect destination for outdoor adventures. From kayaking in the Everglades to hiking in the Apalachicola National Forest, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy. For a unique experience, try swimming with manatees in Crystal River or taking an airboat ride through the swamps.
Florida is home to many historic landmarks that offer a glimpse into the state’s rich history. Some must-see sites include St. Augustine, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the US; the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West; and the Kennedy Space Center, where you can learn about the history of space exploration.
Florida is a great destination for families, with plenty of activities that both kids and adults will enjoy. In addition to the theme parks, there are also zoos, aquariums, and museums that are perfect for kids. Some family-friendly activities include visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter the dolphin from the movie Dolphin Tale; exploring the Children’s Museum of Naples; and taking a pirate cruise in Tampa Bay.
If you’re looking for something a little different, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path experiences to be had in Florida. For example, you can visit the Coral Castle in Homestead, a mysterious structure made entirely of coral rock that was built by a single man; take a ghost tour in St. Augustine, one of the most haunted cities in the US; or explore the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters in Ochopee, where researchers study the legendary Florida Bigfoot.
Florida is home to many natural wonders, from the pristine beaches of the Gulf Coast to the crystal-clear springs of the Ocala National Forest. Some must-see natural wonders include the Everglades, a vast wetland that’s home to alligators, panthers, and manatees; the Florida Keys, a chain of islands that are home to some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world; and the Devil’s Den, a prehistoric spring that’s popular with scuba divers.
Florida is famous for its vibrant nightlife, with hotspots like Miami, Key West, and Orlando offering a range of bars, clubs, and restaurants. Some must-visit nightlife destinations include South Beach, a strip of beachfront bars and clubs in Miami; Duval Street, a lively street in Key West that’s home to many bars and restaurants; and Church Street Station, a historic train depot in Orlando that’s now home to several bars and clubs.
For a taste of local flavor, be sure to visit one of Florida’s many local markets. Some of the best include the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market, a weekly market that’s home to over 200 vendors selling everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts; the GreenMarket at the Palm Beaches, a year-round market that’s held on Saturdays and features local produce, baked goods, and more; and the Winter Park Farmers’ Market, a popular market that’s held every Saturday in a historic train depot.
Beaches and Mountains
While Florida is known for its beaches, it also has some surprising mountain ranges, like the Apalachicola Mountains in the Panhandle and the Lake Wales Ridge in central Florida. Some of the best beaches in Florida include Clearwater Beach, Siesta Key Beach, and South Beach. For a unique beach experience, head to the Canaveral National Seashore, a 24-mile stretch of undeveloped beach on Florida’s east coast.
Florida is a melting pot of cultures, with influences from all over the world. To immerse yourself in Florida’s diverse culture, consider visiting the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami, where you can enjoy traditional Cuban food and music; the Ybor City neighborhood in Tampa, which was once home to a thriving cigar industry; or the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, the former winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
Art and Music Scene
Florida has a thriving art and music scene, with many museums, galleries, and music venues to explore. Some must-visit destinations include the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, and the Hard Rock Live in Orlando, a popular music venue that’s hosted everyone from Elvis to Lady Gaga.
One of the best ways to explore Florida’s cities is on foot. Many cities offer walking tours that take you through historic neighborhoods, past famous landmarks, and into hidden corners that you might not discover on your own. Some popular walking tours include the St. Augustine Ghost Tour, the Art Deco Walking Tour in Miami Beach, and the Historic Pensacola Village Walking Tour.
Florida is home to many architectural marvels, from the grand hotels of Miami Beach to the Art Deco buildings of South Beach. Some must-see buildings include the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, a grand hotel that was once a playground for the rich and famous; the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, a stunning Italian Renaissance-style villa that’s surrounded by beautiful gardens; and the Henry B. Plant Museum in Tampa, a historic hotel that’s now a museum.
Florida is rich in history, with many sites that offer a glimpse into the state’s past. Some must-see historical sites include Fort Matanzas National Monument, a historic fort that was built by the Spanish in the 18th century; the De Soto National Memorial, a park that commemorates the landing of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1539; and the Fort Jefferson National Monument, a massive fort that was built on an island in the Gulf of Mexico in the 19th century.
Florida is a great destination for biking, with many scenic routes to explore. Some popular biking routes include the Pinellas Trail, a 47-mile trail that runs from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs; the Legacy Trail, a 12.5-mile trail that runs from Sarasota to Venice; and the Withlacoochee State Trail, a 46-mile trail that runs from Citrus Springs to Trilby.
Florida is a popular destination for wellness retreats, with many spas, yoga studios, and wellness centers to choose from. Some of the best wellness retreats in Florida include the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, which offers holistic health programs; the Canyon Ranch in Miami Beach, which offers spa treatments and fitness classes; and the Amrit Ocean Resort and Spa in Singer Island, which offers yoga, meditation, and other wellness programs.
With so much to see and do in Florida, it’s no wonder that it’s such a popular destination. Whether you’re looking for theme parks, natural wonders, historic landmarks, or cultural experiences, you’re sure to find something that interests you in the Sunshine State.