First of all, Florida is one large state! If you are returning from Europe, it’s sheer size can be something of astonishment and indeed tours from places like say Key West (down South) to Orlando (which is kinda in the middle), can take roughly 7 hours to drive – if you do the drive non-stop.
The other side of this huge size though is that there’s so a lot to see and do in Florida and indeed, you can easily spend a week or two delving into this US city and still left with half of the sights – which is enough reason to return! And not to forget how awesome weather usually is around these parts too…
On your first trip to Florida, take one of those rides in Orlando, go searching for alligators in the Everglades, drink cocktails till dusk on the beach in Miami… and again in Key West, go tubing down the river in Ichetucknee (with wild manatees…and a few snakes and turtles), explore beach cities like Pensacola and so much more.
In a nutshell, you will know first-hand how much fun a holiday in Florida can be and with that being said, we’ve got 7 places you have to visit when you’re in Florida!
Have a fun-filled day in Orlando’s theme parks
This is a wonderful place to start because we can guess that, you’ve traveled all the way to the state of Florida just for its popular theme parks. Plus, let’s face it – some of the cheapest flight deals are direct to Orlando so if you’re a budget traveler, you’re bound to arrive here anyway and you might as well enjoy the most of it.
For what it’s worth, theme parks might seem to you like things you’re more likely to do with a family but we assure you, this is so far from just family place. It is AMAZING!!! So much fun! FYI – queue jumps are worth a shot – try to ride every single ride and the early admission means that you will have such an amazing run at the Harry Potter World sans queues!
There are a lot of great parks in Orlando, with Disney World being the most popular and you could easily spend the whole week in Orlando and still not see all of the theme parks there.
Dine in Tampa (and party in Ybor City)
One of the nearest major cities to Orlando in Tampa. Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa has a wonderful downtown area (and a great mall if you wanna grab some gifts for family), professional football and hockey games from the Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Lightning (seeing one of these matches is an experience in and of itself) and the river walk by the side of the Hillsborough River is worth it if you’re staying overnight in the city.
For a perfect treat though, move over to the historic Ybor City, just northeast of the downtown area, for some of the top tours and nightlife. Ybor City was built in the 1880s by Cuban, Spanish, and Italian immigrants who made and worked in the many cigar factories of the area. Today, it holds some of the most interesting venues and a tour here is a great way to spend a night in Tampa!
Explore a piece of US history in St. Augustine
Much popular as the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine on Florida’s Atlantic Coast is a diamond of the city and absolutely worth visiting. Spanish colonial architecture makes up the buildings along the city’s attractive streets, making it a very unique (and perhaps slightly European) feel. Be sure to check out the shops in the old downtown area, and for some extra incredible history, check out the 17th century Spanish stone fortress, called Castillo de San Marcos.
Search for alligators in The Everglades
Everglades National Park in South Florida is undoubtedly the place to go to see the wild side of the state. Home to panthers, alligators, snakes, birds, and perhaps even a not so famous Skunk Ape, this unique protection area is not to be missed. The Everglades are accessible from both Naples on the West coast and the Miami area on the East coast.
Suffice it to say, it’s quite easy to visit when you’re in Miami (another place you’re very likely to visit) and it’s definitely worth the trip.
For a unique experience, take an airboat ride through the swamps and see how many alligators you can grab a look– quick tip, do not forget to bring plenty of bug spray, as the mosquitos can be merciless.
See a different side of Florida in Tallahassee
Question anyone what the state capital of Florida is, and they’ll straightaway say it’s Orlando. Wrong! The capital city for Florida is Tallahassee, situated in the panhandle area of the state. With its rolling hills and beautiful forests, the area circling Tallahassee looks and feels quite different from the rest of the state. For an essence of true Southern history, visit the Goodwood Museum and Gardens, the place of a former cotton and corn plantation. Or perhaps head over to a reconstructed 17th-century Spanish mission, called Mission San Luis.
For outdoor adventures, the closest Apalachicola National Forest and Tate’s Hell State Forest offer a variety of hiking trails and ponds for fishing. If you feel like taking a drive, move out west of the city and search for the caves near Marianna at Florida Caverns State Park for a very unique natural experience in Florida.
Longer than the distance of 120 miles (193 km) off the coast of South Florida, the Keys are a tropical wonder! The dusk here is legendary – especially when you are enjoying a cocktail in hand.. and maybe even a Key Lime pie in the other. When you’re here, you have to move down to the beach, go snorkeling or maybe even scuba diving and if you are not a diving person, get a boat and head out fishing.
Key West is arguably the most popular area of the Keys, with a lot of things to see and do. Ernest Hemingway’s home is situated here, including a museum about it, and the city’s popular Duval Street is known for its bars and shops.
Go tubing down the Ichetucknee River
This is among those random experiences that can sometimes even astonish residents of Florida.
Perched at a 2-hour drive north of Orlando, Ichetucknee Springs State Park (where the river is) is a National Park and an amazing way to explore the more natural side of Florida. You can set up barbecues here (the picnic tables come equipped for barbecuing), go hiking, canoeing, scuba diving and one of our loved activity, tubing down the river.
Tubes are very cheap, like $5 to rent ($10 if you wanna go real fancy) and you can take them from one of the many shops on the drive over to the park. The best part is that you have to flow down the current of the river so you need to put in zero effort and quite literally just go with the flow.
You will get to see so many amazing wild animals although the most wonderful of the lot had to be the manatees.