Each year, over 1 million people visit Florida. After living in Florida for 2 years, it’s easy for me to see why people love the sunshine state. With over 1,000 miles of coastline, beautiful white sand beaches, a tropical climate, Disney World, and some of the best gulf courses in the country, Florida has something for everyone.
I have truly fallen for this state and have loved getting know what life is like as a Florida local. Here are my 10 favorite experiences that I think everyone should have in Florida.
10 Amazing Experiences to have in Florida
Florida has over 1,300(!!) miles of coastline. This isn’t just any ole coastline either. Beautiful blue water and plush, soft sand is a staple for nearly every Florida beach. I’m partial to the Gulf side of the state, but the Atlantic side is equally as beautiful and popular with locals and visitors alike. I’m telling you, no trip to Florida is complete without soaking in some sun on a beautiful beach. Clearwater Beach, Siesta Key Beach, South Beach, and St. Pete Beach are among some of the most popular. Don’t forget about the Panhandle! The beaches of Pensacola, Panama City, 30A, and Destin are equally as stunning! The photo below was taken in the small little 30A town of Rosemary Beach. Major heart eyes!
Visit Walt Disney World
You knew this was going to be included right? Walt Disney World is the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an attendance of over 52 million people annually. The Disney property covers 27,258 acres (43 sq mi) housing twenty-seven themed resort hotels, nine non–Disney hotels, four theme parks, two water parks, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues. Disney has something for everyone. I went for the first time when I was 10 years old and I was all about the Magic Kingdom and meeting Mickey and Minnie. Now at 25 years old, posting up in Epcot and drinking my way “around the world” is my kind of fun.
Swim or Kayak with Manatees
This might be my absolute favorite Florida experience of all. Manatees are extremely protected in Florida, and you can only legally swim with them in one place in Florida: Crystal River. If swimming with a 1200 lb. gentle giant isn’t your thing, make your way to Weeki Wachee. Spend an afternoon kayaking down the Weeki Wachee River and theres a good chance you’ll spot a manatee or two. Manatees are mammals and need to stay in warm water to maintain their body temperature. In the winter months, the ocean water temperature dips and the manatees head inland to seek the warm water of Florida’s many natural hot springs, where the water stays a toasty 72 degrees all year round. This means the best time to spot manatees is during the winter months. I can’t say enough about how cool my two manatee experiences have been.
Get out on the Water
Not surprisingly, so many things to do in Florida involve the ocean. If you’re up for more than just laying on the beach catching rays, there’s so many water-sports you can do in Florida. Among the most popular are: boating, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, riding horses on the beach, the list goes on and on. If you’re looking to get your adrenaline going try parasailing, windsurfing, or jet-skiing.
Visit the Everglades
Most U.S. National Parks feature and preserve geographic features, but Everglades National Park was the first park created to protect an ecosystem. The Everglades covers 1.5 million acres and occupies nearly all of Southern Florida. Florida is the only state in the lower 48 states to have a tropical climate. Because of this climate, the Everglades only has two seasons: dry season, which runs November to March, and wet season, which runs April to November. The park is most famously known for spotting huge Florida Alligators, but it is also home to hundreds of bird and fish species, reptiles of many kinds, and mammals, like manatees and the Florida Panther.
Related: Air Boat Ride Through the Everglades
Go Amusement Park Crazy
Disney World gets a ton of attention in Florida, but there are so many other great parks that you will also love. Traveling with kids? Check out Legoland. Looking for some water fun? Check out Adventure Island or Wet ‘n Wild. Need an adrenaline rush? Spend the day riding roller coasters at Busch Gardens. Are you a Harry Potter fanatic? Drink butter beer at Universal Studios.
Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center has been NASA’s primary launch center since 1968. Some of the USA’s most famous operations were carried out from the Kennedy Space Center, including the Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle Program. The Kennedy Space Center is an awesome place to visit at any time of the year and is sure to please visitors of all ages. If you happen to be visiting around the time of a launch you can watch the rocket launch live and in-person! How cool is that?! Check out their launch alert to see when the next launch is taking place!
Spot some Dolphins
Dolphins love the Florida coast. If you wanted to get out on the water to spot some dolphins there are tour companies galore all over Florida that offer dolphin cruises. If a tour isn’t something you’re interested in you can still spot these cute guys nearly everywhere. I’ve been kayaking and seen them. I’ve been eating dinner oceanside and seen them. Heck, I’ve even been driving over the Suncoast Bridge and seen them jumping out of the water playfully. They are literally everywhere in Florida.
Visit one of the many hot springs
Florida is home to hundreds of hot springs. A hot spring is a spring produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater that rises from the Earth’s crust. Water in these hot springs is not only warm, but it’s a beautiful turquoise color and nearly crystal clear. Hot springs often have a very high mineral content, and are said to have healing powers for those with illness and disabilities. Whether that’s true or not has yet to be proven, but regardless these springs are stunning and worth a visit. To find a spring near you click here.
Explore the Art Scene
Several cities in Florida have an amazing art scene. Miami has its famous Wynwood Arts District. St. Petersburg has the Chihuly Collection and The Salvador Dali Museum. Not to mention there are tons of boutiques featuring paintings, pottery, and handcrafted clothing from people right here in Florida. If stage art is more your thing, have no fear! Broadway plays come to Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville several times a year.
Eat some local seafood
One of the best things about Florida is eating seafood that was just caught hours (or even minutes!) ago. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, I can truly appreciate the freshness of Florida seafood. There are tons of fish that are local to Florida including: conch, crab, lobster, flounder, grouper, scallops, and mahi mahi among many others. When in doubt always ask about the “catch of the day”.
Related: Food Guide to Florida’s Gulf Coast
Explore the islands
Florida has several amazing islands. The most popular islands in the state are, of course, the Florida Keys, which are loved by locals and tourists alike, and are known for their Caribbean Island flare and laid back Jimmy Buffet vibes. Some other beautiful islands worth exploring: Sanibel Island, the shelling capitol of the world; Captiva Island, slightly more relaxed than Sanibel but equally as beautiful. Marco Island, home to luxury hotels, pristine golf courses, and of course, beautiful white sand beaches.
BONUS: Pick your own Florida Oranges
Florida produces 79% of all oranges harvested in the United States. Throughout the entire state there are about 569,000 acres of citrus groves and more than 74 million citrus trees. There are several U-pick citrus farms in Florida. Click here to find one close to you!