Things To Do In Florida: Plan Your Trip to the Sunshine State

A typical beautiful Florida beach with palm trees

Today we’re going to look into the top things to do in Florida – including some of the best activities for kids and adults.

Florida is everyone’s dream playground. Located between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida has more than its fair share of wonderful things to do and see. It has the Everglades, a 1.5-million-acre wetland teeming with wildlife. It has parks, museums, fantastic restaurants, great hotels, and, of course, Disney World!

With 360 miles of coastline, 189 official beaches, and a mild, year-round tropical climate, the Sunshine State certainly lives up to its name. So, once you’ve chosen the best time to visit Florida, what are the most exciting things to see and do?

This is a guest post is part of our series Discover the USA – contributed by Lorena from Travel Croc

Best things to see and do in Florida

To see what Florida offers, you need to make a serious list and stick to it. If you are travelling with kids, let them make their own list too.

Combine the lists, make sure you do not travel during the hurricane season, install tracking devices on kids, so you do not lose them (just kidding) and have fun. It is impossible not to in Florida.

So, here are our picks for the top things to do in Florida:

Walt Disney World, Orlando

You will not get an argument from anyone: Disney World is the best theme park in the world. It is the home of all fairy tales, and they all come true. It does not matter how old you are; Disney World is a blast.

Orlando, Florida. January 11, 2019 Entrance Arch of Walt Disney Theme Parks at Lake Buena Vista area
Image Credit: Shutterstock @ VIAVAL TOURS

Disney World is massive. It spreads over 27,000 acres. It has four theme parks, two water parks, 31 resort hotels and so much more. You can get photos with any of your favorite Disney characters, take endless scary rides, eat in hundreds of restaurants and much more.

They say that a week is not enough for everything you can do at Disney World, so to save time (but not money), stay in one of the resort hotels – or at the very least one of the nearby resort hotels that offer a shuttle.

Universal Studios, Orlando

Orlando Universal Studios is another theme park that will most likely show up on your kids’ list of things to do in Florida.

CityWalk Univeral Orlando theme park

The best part about Universal Studios is learning about the magic that goes into making movies. You can visit the fun movie sets of your favorite movies, such as the Dr. Seuss carousel, E.T. Adventure or the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

If scary rides are your goal, Universal Orlando has bigger coasters and thrills than Disney World and more of them!

You can learn more about all the theme parks in Orlando here – plus, we share some of our favorite non-theme park things to do in Orlando.

Kennedy Space Center, Titusville

Kennedy Space Center nicely combines fun and learning. It is one of 10 NASA field centers and a real functioning spaceport.  Both you and the kids can learn about space exploration and space race and what it means to be an astronaut.

Kennedy Space Center

The best part is trying the space shuttle simulator, which is probably your closest chance of being in space. You will get to see exactly what astronauts felt while training for their space trips.

If you are lucky, you might even catch a real launch.

Biscayne National Park, Miami

Since Florida is surrounded by water on three sides and has some amazing national parks. it makes sense to learn a bit about what lives in those waters. Located near downtown Miami, Biscayne National Park showcases and protects native coral reefs and the lush coastal environment.

There is a lot to do, from trying snorkeling and diving among the reefs to some of the best mangrove kayaking and canoeing in Florida. Take a guided boat tour, learn stand-up paddleboarding, or explore some fascinating trails.

This wonderful park will show you a bit of everything that Florida nature offers without actually going through the wilderness. Bring a bug spray.

Everglades National Park, Everglades

If Biscayne Park gave you a taste of Florida nature, the Everglades Park is nature at its most spectacular.

The Everglades is 1.5 million acres of wetland, covering a big chunk of Florida. It is home to hundreds of species, many of them rare and endangered.

Swamp and grass. Water and tree. Everglades National Park. Florida. USA.

There is a lot to do, including paddling through the waterways, hoping to spot panthers, or exploring the Anhinga Trail to see herons, turtles and alligators.

You can do it on your own, or take a tour. Tours are more comfortable and take away the responsibility of planning from you.

The park’s best views are from the observation tower at Shark Valley. There are miles of trails through the park, so you can bike, hike or even camp in the park.

The Florida Keys, Key West, and the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

If you manage to go all the way to the tip of Florida to the Florida Keys, you will visit the true subtropical paradise with unique culture, spectacular reefs, great snorkeling, and wonderful beaches.

Key West is a destination in itself, a quirky, artsy town with its colorful houses, street performers, narrow streets, and galleries.

A beautiful quiet beach on the Florida Keys

Do not miss the Key West Conservatory with hundreds of colorful butterfly species and whole flocks of exotic birds, including pink flamingos, all thriving among fragrant flowering bushes and trees.

In the Learning Center, you can witness the whole metamorphosis process butterflies go through and learn what they eat and how and where they migrate.

Purchasing a butterfly ring would be the perfect complement to your Key West trip.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm, St. Augustine

While the chance of seeing alligators while exploring the Everglades is pretty scary, there is nothing as thrilling to the kids as seeing them safely close up and personal.

For that, you have to take an off-the-beaten-track visit to the Alligator Farm, one of the most fascinating places to visit in St. Augustine.

On this farm, you can see five species of crocodiles, the only place in the world where all of them live. You can watch them swim, eat in the swamp or mostly sleep. 

It is a great place to learn about the life of these strange animals, their habitat and what threatens them.

Spend some time exploring St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, famous for its picturesque Spanish colonial architecture.

Pier 60 Sunset Celebration, Clearwater Beach

Visiting Clearwater Beach is the best way to spend a relaxing day on the beach. And what a beach it is! It is considered one of Florida’s most beautiful. It is three miles long, a huge wide expanse of fine soft sand. 

There are plenty of activities in Clearwater, on the sand and in the water, but you can also just frolic in the water, splash around, take long walks or sit in the shade and watch the crystal clear water.

Sunset over pier 60 clearwater

In the evening, the whole town congregates on the pier to watch another spectacular sunset. There are musicians, street performers, ice cream vendors, and plenty of people having fun.

Top Tip – You can reach Clearwater from Orlando in just 2 hours! This makes it a very popular beach location in Florida for those looking for a break from the theme park madness!

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo

The Florida Keys are all about water activities. John Pennekamp Park at Key Largo is a special treat for nature lovers. It combines mangrove swamps, tropical forests, coral reefs, beaches, and plenty of activities.

You can explore mangroves from a kayak or canoe, take a glass-bottom boat to see the reefs without getting wet or try scuba diving and see them close and personal. There is also a huge saltwater aquarium in the Visitors Center.

South Beach, Miami Beach

Visiting South Beach in Miami Beach is a must mostly because it plays a role in so many movies and it is a colorful and lively part of Florida life.

The beaches are fantastic but most people come to watch other people, hoping to spot a celebrity. Kids might find this boring, but there are plenty of nice restaurants to make them happy.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge, St. Petersburg

If you are driving to St. Petersburg, you will have a chance to see this four-mile-long engineering marvel. The bridge is suspended on cables and looks like floating in the air.

Aerial view of Sunshine Skyway, Tampa Bay Florida, USA. Big steel cable suspension bridge.

It spans Lower Tampa Bay and links St. Petersburg and Terra Ceia. Enjoy the fresh sea breeze and the spectacular view of the ocean.

Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, Jacksonville

If you get tired of the beaches, Jacksonville Zoo is well worth a visit. Covering 122 acres,  the zoo is home to more than 2,000 animals and 1,000 plant species in its collection.

Animals live in natural-looking large habitats and not in cages, providing a great way to learn about the natural way the animals live.

When to go to Florida

Florida’s climate makes it wonderful to visit any time of the year, except between June and November, the official hurricane season. The water is warm and the sun is shining. But, if you want to combine good weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices, visit Florida in the spring or fall.

You will probably be tempted to escape cold winter in your part of the country, like so many other people, especially during school holidays. If you do, be prepared to face the crowds wherever you go, especially in theme parks.

Also, try to stay away during Spring and Easter breaks when Florida is overtaken by partying students.

Over to You – Put Florida on Your List

There are so many things to do in Florida you may need more than one trip.

While you might be tempted to spend as much time as you can on the beach under a nice umbrella, kids need more action, so try to combine the two.

Add to that some nice beach shack meals or delicious ice cream from one of many street vendors, and you will make the whole family happy.

Meet the Blogger

Lorena - guest blogger from Travel Croc

This post was contributed by Lorena Maia from the TravelCroc blog. Lorena was born in Brazil, currently lives in Australia, and has traveled to all continents. She loves sharing her travel experiences on her blog.

If you’d like to learn more about guest blogging opportunities on the Globetrotters blog, head over to our work with us page to learn more.

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