People from all over the world flock to the state of Florida to experience the magic of Walt Disney World or to party in Miami. And many don’t realize that Florida also boasts 3 beautiful National Parks, over 1,300 miles of coastline, and dozens of protected wildlife preserves making it a paradise for visitors who want to experience nature.
We have compiled the top 55 places to visit in Florida based on our experience and the experiences of some of our favorite travel bloggers. Whether you’re looking to surf in Jacksonville, kayak through the Everglades, or scuba dive in the Florida Keys, there are adventures to be had in every corner of the sunshine state.
Read on to discover the best things to see and do while vacationing in Florida. Enjoy!
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- The 55 Top Things To See and Do in Florida
- 1. Watch an NFL Game in a Swimming Pool
- 2. Sample Craft Beer in Jacksonville
- 3. Learn to Surf at Neptune Beach
- 4. See a Show at the Flora-Bama
- 5. Relax on the Beaches of Destin and Okaloosa Island
- 6. Visit St. Andrews State Park in Panama City
- 7. Visit Apalachicola in Florida’s Forgotten Coast
- 8. Go Birdwatching in St. Marks Wildlife Refuge
- 9. Camp at Ginnie Springs
- 10. Explore the History of St. Augustine
- 11. Spend a Day on Historic Daytona Beach
- 12. Tailgate at the DAYTONA 500
- 13. Kayak with Monkeys in Silver Springs
- 14. Paddle down Rock Springs Run
- 15. Hang with the Locals on Wekiva Island
- 16. Swim with Manatees in Crystal River
- 17. See the Weeki Wachee Mermaids
- 18. Experience the Magic of Walt Disney World
- 19. Ride the Hogwarts Express at Universal Studios
- 20. Get Inspired at Legoland
- 21. Explore Space at Kennedy Space Center
- 22. Kayak with Bioluminescent Alge
- 23. Get Your Adrenaline Fix at Busch Gardens
- 24. Shop for Sponges in Tarpon Springs
- 25. Dip into the Gulf of Mexico at Clearwater Beach
- 26. Sail Away on Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise
- 27. Party at the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa
- 28. Get Weird at The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg
- 29. Bask in the Beauty of Siesta Key
- 30. Kayak through Florida’s Mangroves
- 31. Visit the Ringling Museum in Sarasota
- 32. Catch MLB Spring Training
- 33. Enjoy the Sanibel and Captiva Islands
- 34. Be Transported to the Mediterranean in Naples
- 35. See Baby Sea Turtles Hatch in Ft. Lauderdale
- 36. Hit South Beach in Miami
- 37. Spend a Night in one of Miami’s Art Deco Hotels
- 38. Wynwood Walls
- 39. Immerse Yourself in Little Havana
- 40. See the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
- 41. Go Fishing
- 42. Take a Miami Vice-Style Speedboat Ride
- 43. Try to Solve the Mystery of the Coral Castle
- 44. Ride an Air Boat through the Everglades
- 45. Hunt for Florida’s Elusive Skunk Ape
- 46. Go Slough Slogging in Everglades National Park
- 47. Go Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park
- 48. Try the Conch Fritters at Alabama Jack’s
- 49. Go Scuba Diving in Key Largo
- 50. Eat Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys
- 51. Visit Ernest Hemingway’s House
- 52. Snap a Picture of Robert the Doll
- 53. Visit the Southernmost Point in the Continental US
- 54. Bar Crawl on Duval Street
- 55. Spend a Night in Dry Tortugas National Park
The 55 Top Things To See and Do in Florida
1. Watch an NFL Game in a Swimming Pool
Most people associate football with fall weather and cool temperatures, but not in the Sunshine State. In Florida, you can expect warm sunny weather even in January. Perhaps that’s why the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to put not just one, but two swimming pools in their football stadium.
Both swimming pools are located on a private party deck, and renting one of the adjoining cabanas will run you about $12,500 USD. So you’ll just need to round up 50 of your closest friends and convince them each to pay just $250 for an unforgettable afternoon.
The ticket price really isn’t such a bad deal when you consider that it includes entrance to an NFL Football game, access to a heated pool, and all the food and alcohol you can drink. Plus the party deck is open for two hours before kick-off and two hours after the game ends!
2. Sample Craft Beer in Jacksonville
Craft culture has taken Florida by storm, and nowhere exemplifies this more than the city of Jacksonville where you can get craft coffee, craft spirits, craft beer – craft everything!
Jacksonville, or “Jax” as the locals lovingly call it, leads the craft beer scene with an enormous selection of craft brews and taprooms. You can sample Jacksonville’s local beers in restaurants and bars all over the city, but no doubt the best place to enjoy a pint is in the brewery itself.
A few taprooms and breweries to try in Jacksonville include:
- Aardwolf Brewing Company: For great for stouts and sours
- Intuition Ale Works: Try their IPAs and pale ales
- Bold City Brewery: Have a pint of the amber ale and whatever is on nitro
- Wicked Barley Brewing Company: Known for ciders and mead
- Green Room Brewing: Don’t miss their cult classic, Count Shakula Stout
And new breweries are popping up every year – three in 2019 alone!
If you want to get a wide sample of all the local offerings, visit a bottle shop like Alewife or Beer:30. Here you can drink the most popular beers from Jacksonville and all over Florida. They have rotating lists of microbrews, seasonals, and special edition beers, so every visit means new beers to try.
3. Learn to Surf at Neptune Beach
Once you’re done visiting the urban areas of Jacksonville, why not catch some waves at the beach?
Jacksonville’s beaches offer prime surfing all year round with soft, sandy bottoms so you can take a tumble in the water without fear of catching yourself on the reef. The beaches are also long so you can have all the space you need whether you’re a beginner or an expert.
If you’re new to surfing, there are several surf schools near Neptune Beach, just a short drive from the city center. One surf school you can try is Jax Surf and Paddle which has great instructors and is only a few minutes away from Neptune beach. After some surf instruction and a few stumbles, you’ll be standing up catching your first Florida waves!
4. See a Show at the Flora-Bama
Often referred to as America’s “Last Great Roadhouse”, this legendary honkytonk has been serving booze since 1964. The Flora-Bama gets its name from its location directly on top of the Florida-Alabama state line, and if you’re a Jimmy Buffett fan then you’ll be excited to know that his song “Bama Breeze” is an homage to this very bar.
With 5 stages and live music 365 days a year, you don’t have to worry about coming to the Flora-Bama on a wrong night. If you really want to experience the Flora-Bama at its best, plan on attending the annual Interstate Mullet Toss. Participants stand in Florida and throw a Mullet fish as far as they can across the state line into Alabama. It may sound strange, but it’s a great excuse for a wild weekend-long party that you won’t soon forget.
If you only visit one bar in Florida, make the Flora-Bama your stop!
5. Relax on the Beaches of Destin and Okaloosa Island
There’s no better way to spend a day in Florida than sitting on the beautiful, powdery, white sandy beaches of Destin and Okaloosa Island. Lie back and watch the mesmerizing emerald green waves breaking on the shore. Life in the Florida Panhandle is a little slower paced, making this a perfect place to relax.
When you’re ready for a break from the beach, head to the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk or Destin Harborwalk for food and drinks at one of the many restaurants. The Okaloosa Island Boardwalk features five restaurants and direct beach access.
Walk next door and visit the Okaloosa Island Pier which extends almost 1/4 of a mile. The Destin HarborWalk Village on the other side of the bridge has breathtaking views of the Destin Pass, great entertainment, and some of the best restaurants around. If you’re craving a little more excitement, check out the jet ski or boat rentals.
End your day with a sunset cruise – if you’re lucky you might even see some dolphins!
6. Visit St. Andrews State Park in Panama City
When trying to decide what to do in Florida, and more specifically Panama City Beach (PCB for short), who wouldn’t want to visit a place called Shell Island? Or watch surfers catch some waves? Or rent a pontoon boat and explore beautiful turquoise waters? At St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, you can do all of that and more!
Perfectly situated between St. Andrews Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, St. Andrews State Park has something for everyone. Whether you want to surf, build sandcastles, relax on the beach, enjoy nature trails, or explore the bay by boat or kayak, it’s a peaceful escape from the more crowded Florida beaches.
If you’re looking for the perfect beach day and some of the most beautiful ocean views in the gulf, you can’t beat the brilliant blue water and white sandy beaches found at St. Andrews. It is one of the best-hidden gems in the Sunshine state!
7. Visit Apalachicola in Florida’s Forgotten Coast
Occassionally lost in all the glitz and glamour of modern-day Miami and upscale communities like Palm Beach is the unique charm and down-home atmosphere of Old Florida. “Forgotten Florida“, also known as Florida’s “Forgotten Coast“, is a relatively undiscovered treasure plucked from the 19th century along with its neighbor across a causeway, St. George Island.
You’ll delight in consuming fresh oysters or a famous crabcake sandwich from any number of restaurants served by boats on their daily prowl from Apalachicola’s harbor. Afterward, take a stroll through the pretty little downtown area with its shady residential streets. The village is the kind of place where you imagine yourself on your front porch, cooling off under a languid ceiling fan with an ice-cold lemonade or sweet tea.
If the beach is more your vibe, sandy St. George Island’s miles of protected shoreline and its sizable wildlife refuge will soothe with rhythmic surf, birdsong, and sun.
And if you’re really looking to escape, consider a visit to Apalachicola in the shoulder or off-season when you’ll have this magical place pretty much all to yourself.
8. Go Birdwatching in St. Marks Wildlife Refuge
Just down the road from Apalachicola is the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. This 80,000-acre wildlife refuge is one of the oldest in the country and is home to over 250 species of birds.
The visitor’s center has informational exhibits about local flora and fauna, and it’s also the starting point of the Plum Orchard Pond Trail. This short walk won’t take you more than 30-minutes but you’re bound to encounter a variety of wildlife including alligators, turtles, snakes, owls, and eagles!
You also should plan to visit the St. Marks Lighthouse. It is the second oldest lighthouse in Florida and is open for guided tours on Tuesdays from 11:00am-2:00pm and the first weekend of the month from 10:00am-4:00pm. The lighthouse is just a 20-minute drive from the visitors center, but you’ll want to drive carefully and keep an eye out for turtles and alligators crossing the road!
9. Camp at Ginnie Springs
Welcome to paradise! Ginnie Springs is a privately owned and managed nature park that consists of 7 natural springs feeding into the nearby Santa Fe River. Rent an innertube or bring your own and float in the crystal clear spring water with a cold beer in hand. Or for a real adventure try scuba diving through the cave systems that run under Ginnie Springs.
The best way to experience Ginnie springs is by camping in the 200 acres of woods surrounding the springs. Many of the sites are riverfront or provide direct access to one of the freshwater springs. You’ll have everything you need at Ginnie Springs including a hot shower, laundry facilities, a general store, and even wifi. You’ll never want to leave this little gem of Florida!
10. Explore the History of St. Augustine
Florida has many great cities and places to visit, but if you are looking for history then St. Augustine is the perfect city for you.
Founded in 1565 on the northeastern coast of Florida, St. Augustine is considered the oldest city in the United States. The cobblestone streets, Spanish colonial architecture, and historic, quaint downtown will sweep you back in time. Here you’ll find the oldest masonry fort in the country, Castillo San Marcos, as well as the oldest wooden schoolhouse, the Pirate and Treasure Museum, and the Fountain of Youth archeological park.
For lodging in St. Augustine there are plenty of bed and breakfasts and inns that radiate charm and hospitality. And when it comes down to food, there is no shortage of great restaurants. The cuisine in St Augustine is a mix of Spanish, Caribbean, and Southern influence. Try Mojo Old City BBQ, The Floridian, or Columbia Restaurant.
St. Augustine also makes for a perfect weekend getaway as the city is small enough to be explored within a couple of days. If you want a one-of-a-kind experience that mixes colonial style with old-world Florida, then St. Augustine is the best place to visit.
11. Spend a Day on Historic Daytona Beach
Located on Florida’s Atlantic coast, Daytona Beach is known for its expansive shoreline (23 miles long and 500 feet wide at low tide) and its unique, hard-packed white sand.
The smooth, hard-packed sand made Daytona Beach a mecca for motorsports in the early 1900s. Car races took place directly on the beach for over 50 years, and Daytona Beach even became known as “The World’s Most Famous Beach.” While Daytona Beach is still known as the World Center of Racing, the beach tracks were replaced by the Daytona International Speedway in 1959, which is now home to the famous DAYTONA 500.
There are still select sections of Daytona Beach where driving on the beach is allowed, and it’s one of the most popular and iconic activities visitors have come to enjoy on Daytona Beach. Other activities include visiting the boardwalk and pier, or renting surfboards, bodyboards, bicycles or scooters.
Spending even just 1 day on Daytona Beach offers endless hours of fun and is one of the best things to do in Florida!
12. Tailgate at the DAYTONA 500
The DAYTONA 500, held every year in mid-February at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, is an incredible event to behold. It’s not just another race, it’s the most important race in NASCAR with the largest prize purse and is often referred to as the “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing”.
Watching the stock cars make 200 laps (500 total miles) around the Daytona International Speedway is fun, but the real reason for attending is the massive tailgate that goes on just outside of the racetrack which might just be the biggest party in the state of Florida!
13. Kayak with Monkeys in Silver Springs
Florida’s unique Spanish history, tropical climate, and karst topology draw millions of visitors every year. And there’s one five-mile stretch on the Silver River near Ocala where you can experience all of these in a single afternoon.
Silver Springs is a massive freshwater springhead, pumping over 500 million gallons of clear spring water out daily. Glass-bottom boat tours have been operating in Silver Springs since 1878. You’ll enjoy the clear water of the spring run where you can see shipwrecks, including a Spanish rowboat and statues from the I Spy TV show. You might even spot a manatee or alligator in these waters.
But for a real adventure, rent a kayak or canoe so you can explore at your own pace and venture about four miles further downriver where you’ll find another “only in Florida” attraction – wild monkeys!
Unfortunately, Silver Spring’s monkeys are not native to Florida. They were introduced as part of a jungle cruise attraction in the 1930s but they are the largest and most accessible wild monkey population in the US.
The put-in and take-out areas are clearly marked on the Silver Springs kayak trail, along with an optional 1-mile paddle up the Fort King Waterway. It’s an easy kayak with mild current and the park arranges your shuttle back upriver. If you like water, exploration, and wildlife, you’ll love kayaking at Silver Springs.
14. Paddle down Rock Springs Run
Looking for a different Florida experience aside from the theme parks and attractions? Explore wild Florida with a trip to one of the most beautiful natural springs in the state, Rock Springs.
Located in Apopka, just 45 minutes northwest of Orlando, Rock Springs is a crystal clear lazy river that cuts through the dense Florida jungle. The spring water remains 73 degrees year-round which makes it the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day!
Visitors can go tubing along the spring run at Kelly Park or launch a kayak from King’s Landing to experience the Emerald Cut (pictured above). If you are really up for an adventure you could paddle the 8 miles along Rock Springs Run to Wekiva Island for some local food and drinks at the Tooting Otter.
This beautiful freshwater spring is a hidden gem of Florida and definitely deserves a visit during your next trip to the Sunshine State.
15. Hang with the Locals on Wekiva Island
Wekiva Island is an easily accessible destination just 30 minutes north of Orlando, but well off the tourist track. Sitting on the spring-fed Wekiva River, the island is well-known among the locals as a place to party, escape the crowds near the theme parks, and to connect with the quickly-disappearing “real Florida”.
The “Tooting Otter Craft Beer, Wine Bar & General Store” on Wekiva Island offers an excellent selection of craft beer and mixed drinks, a tasty restaurant, and outdoor activities like volleyball, swimming, and canoe and kayak rentals. Paddle down the secluded rivers that meander through the Wekiva Springs State Park, where it is common to spot wildlife like river otters, turtles, manatees, and alligators swimming in the crystal-clear water.
If that sounds too adventurous, you can always grab a cold drink, kick back in a riverside cabana, and watch the boaters float by. There is a nominal $2 fee to enter the island during peak season.
16. Swim with Manatees in Crystal River
Crystal River sits on the western coast of Florida and is where you’ll find the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge which is an important resting area for manatees. The freshwater springs in Crystal River remain at a consistently warm 72 degrees all year round. This means that as ocean temperatures fall in the winter, the oddly cute sea animals can retreat to the warm waters.
If you just want to see manatees, head to Three Sisters Springs where a boardwalk allows you to peer down through the clear water and spot manatees. If you’re visiting Florida in the winter you’ll likely see hundreds of manatees packed around these springs, but even if you’re there in the hot summer months you might spot a couple of manatees that have decided to stay all year.
The best way to experience Crystal Springs, and one of the most unique things to do in Florida, is to book onto one of the many boat excursions that allow you to swim and snorkel with the manatees. The boat will take you to popular manatee feeding areas and let you loose with snorkel gear.
You’re technically not allowed to approach the manatees, but these gentle giants are quite friendly. If you’re lucky one of the curious manatees will swim right up to you hoping for a belly scratch.
17. See the Weeki Wachee Mermaids
The Weeki Wachee Mermaid show is probably the weirdest thing you’ll encounter during your trip to Florida. You’ll see real-life mermaids (or at least ladies dressed up in mermaid costumes) performing underwater for a 400 seat auditorium submerged underwater.
This mermaid show is certainly something you won’t see elsewhere in the USA and, surprisingly, it has been going strong for over 6 decades. If you’re traveling through Florida with kids then they’ll love this take on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.
The mermaids perform every day of the year at 11:00am, 1:30pm, and 3:00pm. This is a little slice of Americana that you’re definitely not going to want to miss during your Florida vacation!
18. Experience the Magic of Walt Disney World
Although it may sound cliche, visiting Disney World truly is one of the best things to do in Florida! If you hate crowds, just make sure you choose the best time to go to Disney for a more enjoyable experience.
One of the most common misconceptions is that Disney is only fun with a family or children. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Disney World is incredibly fun as an adult. From drinking around the world in Epcot, riding crazy roller coasters, staying out late at jazz clubs, and then brunching it up the next day, there is truly something for everyone when you visit Disney during your time in Florida!
If you want to visit Disney but don’t want to pay, you can always head to Disney Springs for free and walk around and enjoy the Disney magic without even having to pay for parking!
19. Ride the Hogwarts Express at Universal Studios
If you love Harry Potter and thrill rides, Universal Studios should be high on your list for places to visit in Florida. The Universal Studios Orlando Resort includes 3 theme parks, with a new park in development, multiple resort hotels, and a city walk district for shopping and entertainment.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure was rated the best theme park in the world by TripAdvisor and includes lands dedicated to Jurassic Park, Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, Marvel Comics, and more.
Universal Studios Florida is right next door and includes sections dedicated to The Simpsons, Transformers, cartoons like Minions, and even more Harry Potter. And if you have time for three days at the parks you can also enjoy the water park, Universal’s Volcano Bay.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll find it a breath-taking experience to enter into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, enjoy some butterbeer, check out the amazing detail that went into creating the areas, and ride the Hogwarts Express between parks!
Universal Studios Resort is full of attractions for everyone in the family and they are always expanding, giving you something new to experience with every trip.
20. Get Inspired at Legoland
Legoland is yet another theme park not to be missed while visiting Florida. It is first and foremost a celebration of ingenuity, creativity and engineering skills. The park is full of huge jaw-dropping creations such as scenes from famous US cities, book characters, even a gigantic head of Albert Einstein, all made from Lego blocks!
Even if giant Lego structures aren’t your thing, Legoland has amusement rides that both kids and adults will enjoy, a botanical garden, and an impressive water ski show in Pirate’s Cove.
For die-hard Lego fans, there is Imagination Zone with several areas for actually building things with Legos – from simple designs to Lego robotics. And for families traveling to Florida with small children, Duplo Valley is an area designated for the youngest visitors.
Pro Tip: If you are visiting in hot months, don’t miss Legoland Water Park.
21. Explore Space at Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral was the launch location for rockets to the moon in the 1960s, through to the space shuttle launches, and now for private space companies like SpaceX. For anyone interested in space, it is definitely worth a visit!
The two biggest attractions at the Kennedy Space Center are a Saturn V rocket which is truly humungous, and the Space Shuttle Atlantis. The Atlantis exhibition begins with some history and archive footage, which is followed by a stunning reveal of the shuttle itself.
The tour out to the launch area will take you past the enormous building where the shuttles were once prepared for launch, and get you close to one or two other launchpads. The guided bus tour also provides a lot of information about the activities and history of the complex.
Alongside the bigger exhibits are a myriad of other space artifacts including spacesuits, a camera used on the Apollo program, and even moon rock that you can touch. On a more somber note, there are pieces of the shuttles Challenger and Columbia shown as a memorial to their tragic loss.
Pro Tip: Make sure to buy your ticket in advance for Kennedy Space Center so you can skip the ticket line when you arrive in Cape Canaveral.
22. Kayak with Bioluminescent Alge
On the eastern coast of Florida, in Titusville, is one of the most incredible natural phenomena you’ll find in the state of Florida. In the summer months, dinoflagellates inundate the Indian River. Dinoflagellates are single-cell bioluminescent organisms that glow when disturbed.
Imagine that you’re settled in a kayak, with only glow sticks around your neck so other kayakers and larger boats know you’re there. Every time your paddle enters the water, a vortex of little glowing “stars” dance around the paddle. The same glowing sparks gently flow around your kayak. Dipping your fingers in the water makes you feel like a princess in a Disney movie.
You hear splashing, so you look to your right, and you see a dolphin swimming along under the water. It jumps out of the water, and you lose it in the darkness, but as soon as it’s back in the water it is glowing again. The experience is incredibly unique, and it’s the only case of reliable bioluminescence in the continental United States.
The best time to visit is June through August, with a new moon. The less ambient light there is, the better you’ll be able to see the bioluminescence!
23. Get Your Adrenaline Fix at Busch Gardens
If you haven’t already gotten your fill of amusement parks in Orlando, then head down the road to Busch Gardens in Tampa.
Not only is this African-themed park full of physics-bending thrill rides, but it’s also home to over 2,700 animals spread over 335 acres, making it one of America’s largest zoos. Some of the best rides include the Tigress which launches riders 150 feet skyward in a catapult style roller coaster and the Cheetah Hunt which is the longest thrill ride in the park.
And as a bonus, a portion of the money you spend in the park goes to a good cause. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has donated over $1.7 million to animal rescue, research, and conservation organizations since its creation in 2003.
Pro Tip: Make sure you buy your tickets for Busch Gardens at least 3 days in advance and you’ll be able to save ~15%!
24. Shop for Sponges in Tarpon Springs
Not many visitors to Florida know of Tarpon Springs and its historic sponge docks, but this unique attraction is located just 30 miles northeast of Tampa.
In the old days, Tarpon Springs flourished due to the presence of the sponge industry. The natural sponges which grew abundantly in the waters near Tarpon Springs were harvested and many Greeks immigrated to the city as sponge divers. As a result, the city has a strong Greek heritage which can be seen in many Greek eateries on Dodecanese Blvd and the celebration of Greek festivals like Ephiphany.
The best thing to do in Tarpon Springs is to board a sponge diving cruise departing from the historic sponge docks. Other great things to do in Tarpon Springs include shopping for sponges, antiques, and artisan goods like olive oil, cheese, and handmade soap. Tarpon Springs truly is one of Florida’s last hidden gems.
25. Dip into the Gulf of Mexico at Clearwater Beach
Venture just a half-hour outside of Tampa and you’ll find the pretty blue water and soft, powdery white sand of Clearwater Beach. You typically have to travel somewhere like the Caribbean islands to find water this blue, but not on Florida’s Gulf Coast!
In addition to being beautiful, the water at Clearwater Beach is also incredibly warm, shallow, and calm, making it the perfect location to enjoy a swim in the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re lucky you might even get to swim with manatees as they sometimes venture near the beach – that’s just how magical Clearwater Beach is!
Opt for a stay in one of the Clearwater Beach hotels near Pier 60 so you can enjoy a spectacular sunset. The evening sunsets over the pier are so breathtaking that an entire festival was created just to honor them.
The Sunsets at Pier 60 Festival happens daily beginning two hours before sunset and continuing for two full hours after the last light has flickered away from the sky. It’s completely free to attend and is something you definitely won’t want to miss!
26. Sail Away on Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise
Nothing shouts Florida adventure more than a Pirate Cruise for the whole family! Sunny skies, beautiful blue waters, dolphin sightings and plenty of pirate fun for everyone.
If you plan to visit Tampa, St. Petersburg or Clearwater, then don’t miss your chance to enjoy a two-hour cruise complete with treasure hunts, face painting, water fights, pirate stories, and games with Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise. While the kids are having a blast, the adults can enjoy complimentary drinks and a third deck that is adults-only. Everyone will enjoy the beautiful scenery, dolphin watching, the tropical breezes, and pirate dance parties.
Memo’s is celebrating over 40 years entertaining it’s guests, so you’ll be in great hands with a friendly crew and a beautiful pirate ship that is sure to impress. Traveling as a couple? Check out Memo’s sunset cruises where the atmosphere is all about adult pirate fun!
27. Party at the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa
Arrrr you ready for some more swashbuckling pirate craziness? Then make sure your visit coincides with the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival. Named after the legendary pirate, Jose Gaspar, this wild pirate-themed Mardi Gras celebration kicks off when 750 pirates invade Tampa on the pirate ship “Jose Gasparilla”.
The pirate invasion is followed by a 4-mile long “Parade of Pirates” that is attended by over 300,000 spectators making it the 3rd largest parade in the country. Pirates riding parade floats throw beads and pirate treasure into the expectant crowd making it quite reminiscent of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Gasparilla season runs for almost 2 months in Tampa and is full of parades, live music, art festivals, and fun activities for kids and adults alike. Make sure you check the City of Tampa’s official site as the exact dates change every year. If this festival doesn’t make you want to start planning your trip to Florida immediately, then you deserve to be keelhauled!
28. Get Weird at The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg
If you’re a fan of the surrealist artist Salvidor Dalí, you’ll be thrilled to discover that you don’t have to go all the way to Europe to see his artwork. The Dalí in St. Petersburg celebrates the life of this renowned artist with over 2,400 of his works including oil paintings, original drawings, illustrations, sculpture, manuscripts and more!
The Dalí Museum is open daily from 10:00am until 5:30pm and tickets are $25. On Thursday the museum stays open until 8:00pm and you can buy a ticket for just $12 after 5:00pm!
29. Bask in the Beauty of Siesta Key
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Florida, you absolutely can’t miss the beach on Siesta Key. Siesta Beach has consistently been ranked as one of the best beaches in the United States. And with Siesta Beach’s white quartz sand and bright blue water, it’s no surprise that this Florida beach has received so many accolades.
In addition to the beautiful beach itself, Siesta Beach has some of the best amenities of any beach in the USA. From a full-service cafe to volleyball nets and plenty of other facilities, everything you need is right there. And if you’re visiting Siesta Key in Sarasota with kids, the playgrounds at Siesta Beach are top-notch.
The sunsets at Siesta Beach are also stunning. One “can’t miss” event is the drum circle that takes place prior to sunset on Sunday evenings. It’s well known as one of the best things to do in Florida all year-round.
Lastly, the village of Siesta Key offers a free trolley between Siesta Beach and the nearby city of Sarasota, which is full of great restaurants and shops. The convenience factor alone makes Siesta Key worth the visit on your next trip to Florida.
30. Kayak through Florida’s Mangroves
If you want nature experiences during your Florida beach holiday, then a kayaking trip through Sarasota’s seaside mangroves is a perfect adventure for any Florida itinerary. There are plenty of tour operators who offer these excursions, so you can choose the perfect one for your level of fitness and experience.
Tours start from easy to reach locations within the city of Sarasota itself. Kayak tours generally last a few hours and begin in the open water, moving into the maze-like mangrove forests.
During our tour, we started in the bay and saw a school of dolphins right off the bat. Seeing them swim so close in the water is truly awesome. Then we headed into the mangroves which were fascinating and almost reminded us of the Everglades. While you don’t need any kayaking experience to navigate them, it would be difficult not to run into low-hanging logs and roots on either side of the narrow waterways as a beginner.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see any manatees as we wove through the intricate paths of the mangroves. But we did come away with a nice tan, an arm workout, and a deep appreciation for the complex, beautiful ecosystems right next to Sarasota’s beaches.
31. Visit the Ringling Museum in Sarasota
The Ringling Museum is the legacy of John and Mabel Ringling, who brought the circus to Sarasota, and is a must-see when visiting the city. In this interactive circus museum you can see an intricate 44,000-piece Howard Bros. miniature circus model, you can practice walking on a tight wire, and see artifacts from the glory days of the American circus.
You can also tour the personal home of John and Mable Ringling, known as the Ca’ d’Zan. This Venetian Gothic-style mansion might make you think you’re in Italy for a moment. The Museum of Art has an impressive collection that was started with John Ringling’s personal art collection, and the museum’s courtyard is a great spot to relax and enjoy the view.
After exploring the different museums, have lunch and then explore the Bayfront Gardens as the Ringling sits on 66 acres full of beautiful walking trails. Between the incredible exhibits, gorgeous architecture, and beautiful grounds you could easily spend an entire day at The Ringling!
32. Catch MLB Spring Training
Let’s play ball! Florida is home to the Major League Baseball’s The Grapefruit League. The league plays almost every day during Spring Training, from late February until late March. What could be more exciting than checking out MLB Spring games in beautiful Florida?
There are a ton of teams that you can see on either coast of Florida. On the Atlantic side alone, there are 5 different teams between Port St. Lucie and West Palm Beach. The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals play in West Palm Beach, the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals play in Jupiter, and the NY Mets play in Port St. Lucie.
On the West side of Florida, you can see a bunch of teams all up and down the coast beginning in Dunedin all the way to Ft. Myers. Florida isn’t that wide, so you could just drive across the state and catch all of the teams if you’re feeling ambitious.
For baseball fans, this Florida activity is a home-run. Warm weather, beautiful palm trees, and beaches plus fantastic MLB baseball? It doesn’t get much better!
33. Enjoy the Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Located 20 miles off the coast of Fort Myers, the islands of Sanibel and Captiva offer a laidback taste of Florida as it was 50 years ago. There’s no bright neon lights, fast food restaurants (except for a Dairy Queen that was built before 1974), or even stoplights.
These beautiful barrier islands were created by nature to protect the mainland from tropical storms. Their gorgeous beaches rank among the world’s finest, and they’re lined with millions of seashells. In fact, collecting seashells is so popular that the best waist posture associated with this activity has become affectionately known as the “Sanibel stoop”.
There are countless other things to do on Sanibel Island. Start by hiking, biking or driving through the 5,200-acre J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Here you can see wildlife ranging from raccoons and alligators to an incredible assortment of birds that include herons, egrets, osprey, and roseate spoonbills. You should also consider taking a kayaking tour in Tarpon Bay, which was voted one of the Top 10 Places in America to paddle by Canoe & Kayak magazine.
From learning about marine conservation at Sanibel Sea School and mollusks at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum to fishing for tarpon and Sea Trout just offshore, these quiet islands offer a surprising array of tourist attractions and activities.
34. Be Transported to the Mediterranean in Naples
If sun, sand, and a tropical state of mind are what you’re looking for on your Florida vacation, then the Mediterranean town of Naples in Southwest Florida is where you should head. Consistently ranked among the most beautiful places in Florida, Naples has a lot going for it — like the miles of gorgeous white sand beaches skirting the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The world-class restaurants, fabulous shopping, and endless water sports and activities like boating and kayaking make it perfect for families. Its close proximity to the Florida Everglades makes it a premier year-round location for outdoor and nature lovers too.
There are so many things to do in Naples Florida any time of year, though one of the favorite things for locals and visitors alike is also one of the simplest, and least expensive. Head to the famous Naples Pier for sunset, which is a daily cause for celebration. It’s the perfect laidback island vibe in the continental USA!
35. See Baby Sea Turtles Hatch in Ft. Lauderdale
By Ashley from Wild Hearted
There are seven different species of sea turtles and five of them can be found off the coasts of Florida, with three of them regularly nesting on the beaches of Florida. If it’s your life goal to see baby sea turtles hatch, make your way to Ft. Lauderdale in Florida and take a tour with Sea Turtle Oversight Protection.
Not only is this experience life-changing and possibly tear-inducing, but it’s for good and much-needed cause. All sea turtles are considered endangered and it is estimated that only 1 in 1,000 babies reach adulthood. There are a lot of natural predators, but even more manmade threats including bright lights near the beaches and plastic pollution in the oceans.
Taking a tour will not only change the way you think and act but will give you the once in a lifetime opportunity to see baby sea turtles hatch. You may even see a mom laying her eggs if you’re lucky!
36. Hit South Beach in Miami
People from all over the world flock to Miami’s famous South Beach in search of sun, sand, and good times! Located on the southern tip of Miami Beach, South Beach is known for its wealthy, beautiful residents and its never-ending stream of visitors who come to lounge on the beach before getting wild in the evening.
In the Art Deco neighborhood of South Beach, you’ll see luxury vehicles roll past the high-end shops and resorts of Ocean Drive. At night you’ll find glitzy nightclubs and posh restaurants featuring celebrity chefs. The beach itself, in the words of Will Smith in his song Miami, has “water so clear, you can see to the bottom” and is also known for its brightly colored lifeguard stands.
On a morning stroll, you’ll notice a lot of early risers working out and running along the beach. The gentle waves are perfect for stand-up paddleboarding or wading to cool off from the hot sun. The beach is especially inviting in summer when temperatures in Miami can soar above 90 degrees!
No matter what the occasion, South Beach is hands down the ideal destination in Florida for those seeking nightlife in a luxury beach setting.
37. Spend a Night in one of Miami’s Art Deco Hotels
And while you’re in South Beach, don’t forget to check out the architecture. Miami’s Art Deco District, also known as the Miami Beach Architectural District, has the highest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world.
Wandering through South Beach will transport you back in time to the 1930s and 40s when many of these historic buildings were originally constructed. And you’ll probably recognize many of South Beaches’ most iconic buildings from the movies and TV. The Park Central Hotel features prominently on the TV show Miami Vice and the facade of The Carlyle was used in the movie The Birdcage.
But for a true bucket list experience, make sure you spend a night at one of South Beaches’ famous Art Deco Hotels. Here are our top 3 picks:
- Hotel Breakwater: Probably the most popular Art Deco hotel on South Beach, the Breakwater is the perfect mix of historic architecture and modern amenities.
- Cardoza South Beach: One of South Beaches’ most iconic Art Deco hotels, the Cardoza has just gone through a $15 Million renovation, reopening its doors in May 2019.
- The Marlin Hotel: This hip Art Deco hotel also houses a recording studio. Musicians such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani, and Mariah Carey have spent time at The Marlin Hotel recording and producing music.
38. Wynwood Walls
By Gina from One Day in a City
When you first arrive at the Wynwood Walls in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, it appears that Miami’s graffiti artists have run rampant. However, make no mistake, the graffiti you’re seeing is art.
The Wynwood Walls were conceived in 2009 as a way to transform the many windowless warehouse buildings located in Wynwood and increase pedestrian traffic in the area. In addition to the massive murals, the area inside the walls was also revitalized with boulders and trees to create a park-like atmosphere.
The project has been an overwhelming success with 50 artists from more than two dozen different countries that have contributed to the Wynwood Walls. And now even more artwork can be seen throughout the streets of Wynwood as more buildings have been transformed into artistic pops of colors, making this neighborhood a must-see during a day in Miami.
39. Immerse Yourself in Little Havana
One of the most unique experiences you can have in Florida is immersing yourself in Cuban culture. In the heart of Miami is the neighborhood of Little Havana, an area that has become a vibrant community and home to many Cubans who have immigrated to the United States.
Walk down 8th Street, or “Calle Ocho”, and you’ll pass colorful murals, paintings, and tile work representing the many facets of Cuban culture. You’ll see Domino Park, a small nook of the neighborhood where elderly locals gather to face each other in competitive games of dominos in the warm Florida sunshine. The sidewalks even feature the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame, a collection of bronze stars in the pavement (similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame) honoring celebrities of Cuban descent.
As you’re exploring Little Havana, make sure you save time to grab a bite to eat. Try an iconic pressed Cuban sandwich, fried sweet plantains, or ropa vieja which is a fantastic dish of shredded steak and vegetables. And for dessert sample some Cuban pastries along with a cup of cafe con leche.
If you want to feel like you’ve flown all the way to Cuba without leaving Florida, make sure you head to Little Havana, Miami!
40. See the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
After you’ve partied on South Beach, seen the Wynwood Walls, and explored little Havana, head to Villa Vizcaya to soak in the beauty of its unique architecture and gardens.
Completed in 1923, Villa Vizcaya was a private mansion that belonged to the wealthy businessman and socialite, James Deering. Once he finished building Villa Vizcaya, James began opening its gardens to the public on Sundays. He would simply stand on the balcony of his Villa observing who came somewhat reminiscent of James Gatsby from The Great Gatsby.
The site is now a museum that showcases a peculiar mix of Mediterranean Revival and Baroque architectural style based on the Veneto and Tuscan Renaissance model. The site also includes an extensive Italian renaissance garden with a native woodland landscape and a historic village outbuildings compound.
The Stone Barge Mermaid Statue is the most eye-catching piece in the museum collection. Shaped like a boat overlooking the Biscayne Bay and beyond, this gigantic aquatic sculpture never served any practical purpose. It is simply an impressive example of the former owner’s wealth and appreciation of beauty.
41. Go Fishing
Have more time for another adventure in Miami? Then how about a fishing charter? It’s fun to get out on the ocean for a few hours, and there’s nothing quite as exciting as feeling that tug on your line and reeling it in.
One of the best places to charter a fishing boat is out of Haulover Park Marina. The marina is close to South Beach, downtown Miami, Sunny Isle, and Aventura. You can choose from 4-hour half-day charters or 8-hour full-day trips. You can even take overnight fishing trips to Bimini if you have time. The fishing grounds are just offshore so you’ll be fishing in the Gulfstream within 15 minutes of leaving the dock.
You don’t need any equipment, it’s all provided by the boat and the captain and crew will help make it a safe, fun, and memorable experience. Fishing trips can also be customized for all levels of experience, and all ages.
42. Take a Miami Vice-Style Speedboat Ride
If you have ever dreamed of being in a Miami Vice-style high-speed boat chase, then this is your opportunity to get your adrenaline fix. Thriller Miami Speedboat Adventures offers a 45-minute sightseeing tour of Miami aboard one of their high-speed catamarans.
43. Try to Solve the Mystery of the Coral Castle
Often called “Florida’s Stonehenge”, Coral Castle was made from 1,100 tons of oolitic limestone. Much of the castle and the objects it contains are made from stone blocks weighing an average of 15 tons each, with the largest block weighing over 30 tons. No mortar was used to fasten the limestone blocks together. Instead, the structure is simply held together by the weight of the blocks and the precision of their carving.
No one is quite sure how Ed managed to build his castle, or why he built it for that matter. He worked by himself at night and when questioned about how he was moving the heavy stones he would just reply “it’s not difficult if you know how”. Perhaps Ed used supernatural powers or perhaps he just used levers and pulleys – no one ever saw him work so it remains a mystery to this day.
44. Ride an Air Boat through the Everglades
You really can’t come to Florida and not take an airboat ride through the everglades. These unique watercraft have a broad flat bottom and a massive fan mounted on the back that allows them to navigate the shallow waterways of southern Florida’s “river of grass”. Your local boat captain will point out birds, snakes, and alligators during your journey.
The best place to take an airboat ride is in Big Cyprus National Preserve, about half-way between Miami and Naples. It’s best to book your airboat tour online in advance so you know exactly when and where to meet your airboat captain. Plus many of the tour companies provide pickup service in Miami in case you don’t have your own form of transportation.
45. Hunt for Florida’s Elusive Skunk Ape
Did you know that Florida has its own version of Bigfoot known locally as the Skunk Ape?
For a truly bizarre encounter stop by the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters in Ochopee, Florida. Dave Shealy, the “Lead Researcher” at the Skunk Ape Headquarters, has been hunting the Skunk Ape for over 30 years of his life.
When he isn’t perched on his tree stand in the everglades, Dave runs this combination research center, campground, zoo, and gift shop. Stopping by probably won’t increase your odds of spotting the elusive skunk ape, but you will be able to pick up some official Skunk Ape Headquarter’s merchandise for all of your friends back home.
46. Go Slough Slogging in Everglades National Park
There are lots of ways to experience Everglades National Park – airboat rides, hiking, kayaking, and birdwatch just to name a few. But the most adventurous might be one of the ranger-led slough slogs.
You’ll join a National Park Ranger and hike straight into the marshy Everglades and through one of the park’s Cyprus domes. Walking in water up to your knees in Southern Florida probably sounds like a recipe for an alligator attack, but this is a perfectly safe activity and truly one of the coolest things you can do in Florida.
If you want to join a slough slog you’ll need to sign up in advance at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center or by calling 305-242-7700. Group sizes are limited to 12 people so make sure you plan ahead.
47. Go Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park is known as one of the best snorkeling destinations in the United States. Located just south of Miami, this unusual National Park covers mostly ocean and has a relatively small land area that’s actually above the water.
It’s a popular spot for boaters and kayakers hoping to see manatees, but diving and snorkeling are the two most popular draws in the park. There are several shipwrecks that can be visited independently or as part of a tour and plenty of coral reefs that are perfect for a snorkel trip.
I went out on a boat with the park’s official tour provider and had a phenomenal experience at a spot called Anniversary Key. The water was a perfect depth for me to dive down to see the coral up close and there were hundreds of brightly colored fish darting around.
Admission to Biscayne National Park is free, so be sure to check it out when you’re in South Florida!
48. Try the Conch Fritters at Alabama Jack’s
Getting to Key West from Miami is easy – it’s a straight shot down US Highway 1. But for those in the know, the best way to get there is via a detour down the lonely, remote Card Sound Road. That’s because this rambling route to the Florida Keys allows them to stop at Alabama Jacks, a southern Florida institution. The conch fritters here are renowned as being some of the best in the USA, but the real draw is the local, downhome Florida atmosphere
This ramshackle open-air bar was built on 2 floating barges in the middle of a mangrove forest where you’ll spot the occasional alligator. There is no way you’ll miss Alabama Jack’s as it’s basically the only thing on Card Sound Road, plus it’s bound to have at least a dozen Harley Davidson motorcycles parked out front. While many people refer to Alabama Jack’s as a biker bar, it welcomes locals, tourists, families, retirees, and bikers alike.
To really experience this Southern Florida institution at it’s finest, stop by between 2:00 and 5:00pm on Saturdays to see the house band, “The Card Sound Machine”, play their weekly set. This same band has been playing at Alabama Jack’s for the last 30 years.
49. Go Scuba Diving in Key Largo
Key Largo is the most northern island in the Florida Key’s chain and boasts sandy beaches, beautiful sunsets, and an abundance of marine life. This 33-mile-long island, also known as the dive capital of America, has unbeatable scuba diving spots that are well worth a visit underwater.
The tropical climate provides great diving conditions and crystal clear waters year-round. Schools of parrotfish, snapper, yellowtail, and snook are just a few examples of popular marine life residing off the shore.
There are plenty of diving companies located on the island that offer various excursions to different nearby dive sights. A few popular dive locations include John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the wreck of USCGC Duane, and Spiegel Grove.
Don’t worry if you aren’t PADI certified as most dive companies on the island offer lessons to become certified which is so worth it. If you’ve always wanted to scuba dive, Key Largo is an excellent location to get started.
50. Eat Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys
Key Lime pie is practically synonymous with the Florida Keys. This sweet, tart dessert is on the menu of just about every restaurant on the islands and you can’t visit southern Florida without trying a slice.
Who makes the best key lime pie in the Florida Keys is a debate that will never be settled, but make sure you try out a couple of these local favorites while you’re in the Keys:
- The Fish House on Key Largo
- Green Turtle Inn on Islamorada
- Blue Heaven on Key West
- Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe
- Key West Key Lime Pie Company
51. Visit Ernest Hemingway’s House
One of America’s greatest authors, Ernest Hemingway, was a staple of the community of Key West in the 1930s. He was known for fishing in the Carribean, frequenting the local bar, Sloppy Joes, and working on several of his novels and short stories, most notably A Farewell to Arms.
You can now visit the house in Key West where Hemingway lived and wrote for 10 years. During a visit to the property, you’ll hear tales of Hemingway’s life in Key West, see his study where he worked on so many of his famous manuscripts, and meet its resident population of 40+ six-toed (polydactyl) cats, affectionately known as the “Hemingway Cats”.
52. Snap a Picture of Robert the Doll
Some say the fun never stops on Key West. Others say there is a spiritual power trapped on this small island. You see, the dead can’t cross the water, and the island of Key West has a dark and haunted past.
One of the most unusual things you can do when you visit Key West is to meet Robert the Doll, who lives at the Fort East Martello Museum. According to legend, this wooden doll was given to a young Robert Eugene Otto by one of his parent’s disgruntled servants who cursed it with voodoo and black magic. Robert brought terror and misfortune to his original owner and to many others who have crossed his path since.
Robert has one rule, which is you may not take his picture without first asking for permission. Apology letters adorn the wall surrounding his glass enclosure from visitors who took his photo without permission. These unlucky photographers bore his curse, facing one catastrophe after another until there was nothing left to do but beg for forgiveness.
Snap a photo of Robert so you can show your friends back home, but don’t even think about not asking his permission first!
53. Visit the Southernmost Point in the Continental US
For many visitors to the Florida Keys, one of the things they most look forward to is visiting the most southern point in the continental United States. The city of Key West decided to erect a 12-foot-tall painted concrete “buoy” on this spot in 1983 making it a truly iconic photo location.
Keep in mind that the Southernmost Point Buoy is one of the most popular tourist sights in Key West and there is likely to be a line of visitors waiting to take their picture in front of it. If you want to get a photo of yourself without waiting in a long line then head here first thing in the morning.
54. Bar Crawl on Duval Street
Stretching just over a mile from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, Duval Street is known as the place to party in Key West. In fact, locals have even given the name “Duval Crawl” to the act of bar hopping around the 40+ bars on Duval Street.
While we don’t recommend trying to consume an alcoholic beverage at all 40+ bars in one night, we do recommend a wild night out in Key West for your Florida bucket list. While partying in Miami is all about glitz and glamour, the bar scene in Key West is a much more laidback island vibe. You’ll find that many of the bars in Key West have live music and most on Duval Street don’t close until 4:00 in the morning.
A few of Duval Street’s best bars include Sloppy Joe’s (Ernest Hemingway’s favorite hangout), Flying Monkeys (know for it’s frozen daiquiris), and the aptly-named Smallest Bar in Key West. You should also pop over to Whitehead Street to have a drink at The Green Parrot.
55. Spend a Night in Dry Tortugas National Park
One of the least visited parks in the United States National Park System, Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles off the southern tip of Florida and is mostly open water with just 7 small islands. The park is only accessible by boat or seaplane, but there is a daily ferry that runs between Dry Tortugas National Park and Key West.
There are plenty of great reasons to visit Dry Tortugas National Park including white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and beautiful coral reefs. Plus the largest island is home to the historic Fort Jefferson, a massive fortress that was built during the 19th century to protect the shipping channel between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
And spending a night on the remote Dry Tortugas is a dream come true for those that love adventure. Imagine sleeping under the starry skies on a remote desert island in the Carribean! There are only 8 campsites in the National Park so to secure one you’ll need to begin planning months in advance.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Florida? Let us know in the comments below!
Planning a trip to Florida? Check out our favorite books and resources about the Sunshine State!