Home to many state parks, amusement parks, beautiful beaches, caves, and numerous other attractions, it is easy to see why Florida is a popular vacation destination. The Sunshine State offers a plethora of options regardless of the type of traveler you are. Family-friendly activities abound, whether visiting one of Florida’s museums or making wonderful memories on the state’s beaches and train rides. Here are the best things to do in Florida.
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Dry Tortugas National Park is 100 square miles of open water which includes seven small islands. It is one of the more remote parks managed by the National Park Service and lies 70 miles west of Key West. There is no fresh water on the islands, which is why they are called the “Dry” Tortugas. The islands are home to the impressive Fort Jefferson, which is one of the largest 19th century American forts. Visitors can choose to spend the night either in the island’s campgrounds or aboard a chartered yacht. The Dry Tortugas are a prime destination for snorkeling and diving due to the crystal clear water. It is one of the top Florida attractions.
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2.Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
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The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a butterfly park that is home to more than 50 different species of butterfly. The butterflies live in a climate-controlled habitat that includes butterfly-friendly flowers, plants, waterfalls, and trees. There are several birds that live in the conservatory as well. There is a learning center which allows visitors to see several live caterpillars at different stages of their lives. The center teaches visitors about butterfly life cycles, different types of butterflies, and butterfly anatomy and physiology. The center has a gift shop which sells many items related to nature and butterflies. Browse Best Key West Attractions
1316 Duval Street, Key West, FL 33040, Phone: 305-296-2988
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3.Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
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The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are beautiful botanical gardens located on the grounds of Marie and William Selby’s former home in gorgeous Sarasota Bay. Strolling through the expertly designed gardens is the perfect way to escape from the hustle and bustle outside the park. The Marie Selby Gardens is the only of its type in the world as it is dedicated to the study and display of epiphytes, especially orchids, attracting scholars from all over the world. Several options for dining are located in the park, including a cafe and a tea room. The gardens host many events throughout the year and it is a very popular wedding venue. Browse Best Things to Do in Sarasota
900 S. Palm Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236, Phone: 941-366-5731
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4.Busch Gardens Tampa
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Busch Gardens Tampa is an African-themed amusement park in Tampa. The park has several themed areas which are each named after a different part of Africa. A replica steam engine, the Serengeti Express, makes stops at several of the areas and the Skyride, an aerial tram, makes stops at three others. The park is famous for its rollercoasters, which are located throughout the different park areas along with food and beverage options and shopping. Additionally, Busch Gardens also has many animal exhibits where visitors can view exciting animals up-close, such as Asian elephants, alligators, cheetahs, and more. Things to Do in Tampa
10165 N McKinley Drive, Tampa, Florida 33612, Phone: 888-800-5447
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5.Lion Country Safari
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Lion Country Safari is Florida’s only drive-through safari park, where about 1,000 animals live in a cageless environment, free to roam and enjoy 600 acres of open space. Located in Loxahatchee near West Palm Beach, this unique park was established in 1967 and is said to be the first “cageless zoo” in the US. At Lion Country Safari, humans visit the park in enclosed vehicles and observe animals from six continents, including giraffes, lions, zebras, rhinos, and ostriches. After visiting the 4-mile-long drive-through safari park, the guests can explore Safari World Amusement Park, with five rides, animal feeding, the Safari Splash water sprayground, food concessions, shopping, and more.
2003 Lion Country Safari Rd, Loxahatchee, FL 33470, 561-793-1084
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6.Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
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The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the visitor center for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The center has a museum with exhibits, including historic space vehicles and various artifacts from the history of space travel. The complex features an IMAX movie theater and a launch simulator. There are also several options for bus tours of the Kennedy spaceport. The space center has a special memorial called the Space Mirror, which honors astronauts who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The Apollo/Saturn V Center can be visited by bus from the visitors’ center and includes exhibits related to the Apollo program, including a piece of moon rock and the replica of a lunar rover.
SR 405, Titusville, FL 32899, Phone: 321-452-2121
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7.Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
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The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is the former estate of farm machinery tycoon James Deering from the Deering McCormick-International Harvester company. It is located on Biscayne Bay in Miami. The architecture of the home is influenced by the Mediterranean Revival and Renaissance styles with some Baroque elements. The home has more than 70 rooms and is furnished with many European antiques, art, and furnishings from the 15th to the 19th century. Several tour options are available for visitors to see the home and grounds. The gardens surrounding the home have an area comprising Italian Renaissance formal gardens and the several acres of native forest can be explored by guests. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is one of the top Florida attractions. Next read: 10 Best Beaches in Miami, Florida
3251 S. Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129, Phone: 305-250-9133
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The Ringling Museum of Art is an art museum located and includes the former mansion home of John and Mable Ringling, the namesakes and founding members of the Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus. The museum includes 21 art galleries housing more than 10,000 pieces and is the state museum of Florida. The museum can be combined with tours of Ca d’Zan, the Ringling’s mansion, as well as the world’s first circus museum, which includes a small-scale circus. The grounds also feature a library, education center, and gardens and can be used for weddings and private events.
5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, FL 34243, Phone: 941-359-5700
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Sarasota Opera is Sarasota, Florida’s premiere opera organization and venue, originally founded in 1960 as the Asolo Opera Guild in order to present performances by the Turnau Opera at Sarasota’s Asolo Theater. Since 1973, the company has mounted its own annual performances, which have been held at the National Register of Historic Places-listed A.B. Edwards Theater building since 1984. The theater, which was fully restored to its historic glory in 2008, showcases a full season lineup of opera performances, along with classical ballet and symphony performances, popular music concerts, film festivals, and stand-up comedy performances. Opera performances blend familiar favorites from renowned composers such as Verdi with modern and lesser-known works, with English translations offered at all performances. Some lesser-known performances also offer pre-performance lectures on works.
61 N Pineapple Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236, Phone: 941-328-1300
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10.Universal Studios Florida
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Universal Studios Florida is an amusement park located in Orlando and one part of Universal Orlando Resort. The park features rides and attractions based on the movie and television industry. The center of the park is a large lagoon which is surrounded by six themed areas. Visitors to the park can experience elements from a variety of films in each of the areas. The rides use special effects to really bring the films to life while costumed characters roam the grounds for visitors to interact with. Additionally, Universal Studios is also a fully-functioning production studio that has been used to film many movies, television shows, music videos, and events. Things to do in Orlando
6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, Phone: 407-363-8000
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SeaWorld Orlando is a theme park and marine attraction in Orlando. The park features opportunities to view marine wildlife in naturalistic tanks and habitats. Keeping with the ocean theme, SeaWorld is divided into different areas called “seas.” Port of Entry is the name of the park’s main entrance and features a freshwater marina and a Shamu-themed lighthouse. The other areas of the park highlight different aspects of the ocean. There are many live shows at SeaWorld, including the iconic orca whale show. There are rides for all ages, as well as dining options and gift shops throughout the park.
7007 Sea World Drive, Orlando, FL 32821, Phone: 888-800-5447
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12.Rookery Bay Reserve
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Rookery Bay Reserve is a lovely 110,000-acre coastal reserve along Naples’ Ten Thousand Islands, preserving one of North America’s few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuary habitats. The reserve was originally established in 1980 after grassroots conservation efforts in the area following a proposed 10-mile loop road that would have cut around Rookery Bay. Today, the reserve is home to the 16,500-square-foot Environmental Learning Center, which showcases a two-story visitor center, classroom and laboratory space, an auditorium, and a 2,300-gallon aquarium. Visitors can also explore the center’s nature store and several art galleries, with a picnic area offered onsite for families to enjoy lunches. The reserve’s Coastal Training Program works to create environmentally-friendly solutions for for the Southwest Florida region, partnering with regional universities and organizations.
300 Tower Road, Naples, Florida 34113, Phone: 239-530-5940
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13.The Dali Museum
© The Dali Museum
The Dali Museum is an art museum in St. Petersburg. The museum is dedicated to the work of surrealist artist Salvador Dali and houses the world’s second largest collection of his work. Visitors are free to explore the museum on their own, however the Dali also offers a variety of tour options to provide everyone with the best possible visit. There are guided public tours which visit the galleries and can include an architectural component about the building. Private tours in a variety of languages can be reserved as well. The Dali Museum also features a museum store and a restaurant serving Spanish-inspired cuisine. Things to Do in St. Petersburg
1 Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg, FL 33701, Phone: 727-823-3767
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14.Castillo de San Marcos
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The Castillo de San Marcos is a masonry fort built in the 17th century and located on the shore of Matanzas Bay in Saint Augustine. The site has been preserved as a national monument by the National Park Service and is dedicated to conserving the fort and the history and culture associated with it. The park is outdoors and has a park history available in English as well as tour brochures that are available in several languages so that visitors can do self-guided tours. Re-enactments occur throughout the year and allow visitors to experience what it was like to be a soldier there centuries ago.
1 South Castillo Drive, Saint Augustine, FL 32084, Phone: 904-829-6506
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15.St Augustine Wild Reserve
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The St. Augustine Wild Reserve is a rescue center for exotic animals. Most of these animals have come to the center because people bought them as pets and then ended up not wanting them or not being able to care for their needs as wild animals. Some of the animals have been rescued from abusive homes. The reserve also conducts many community education events to help educate the public about owning exotic animals. The reserve offers tours by appointment only. Visitors will be taken on a 2-hour tour of the center by a professional who can provide information about each of the animals. On the tour, guests can get an up-close look at the reserve’s tigers, bears, cougars, leopards, wolves, and much more.
5190 Farm Creek Road, Saint Augustine, FL 32092, Phone: 904-940-0664
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16.National Naval Aviation Museum
© National Naval Aviation Museum
The National Naval Aviation Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of United States Naval Aviation. The Pensacola-based museum is home to more than 150 restored aircraft from the United States Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. Many historically significant and one-of-a-kind aircraft are on display at the museum and it is also home to the Blue Angels, the Navy’s aerobatic flying team. Visitors can watch the Blue Angels practice as well as meet some of the pilots and get their autographs. The museum store offers aviation-themed gifts, books, and souvenirs. The Space Mirror Memorial is dedicated to the memory of astronauts who died during their service. Next read: Solomon’s Castle, Things to Do in Pensacola
1750 Radford Blvd., NAS Pensacola, FL 32508, Phone: 800-327-5002
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17.Legoland Florida Resort
© Legoland Florida Resort
LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is a theme park located in Winter Haven. The park is designed for children under the age of 12 and includes many rides, shows, and attractions. The park is built on the site of a former botanical garden and has retained much of the original garden, so the grounds are very beautiful. The park features a water park and a factory tour attraction where inquisitive guests can learn about how Lego bricks are made. It is possible to purchase is a variety of VIP experiences which give children a bit of something special at the park – whether it be reserved seating at attractions or breakfast with their favorite Lego character. One thing is sure, Legoland is sure to inspire creativity and fun in children of all ages.
1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884, Phone: 877-350-5346
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18.The Turtle Hospital
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The Turtle Hospital is a rehabilitation and preservation organization devoted to saving endangered sea turtles. The non-profit facility based in Marathon strives to rehabilitate injured sea turtles and return them to the wild and also serves as an advocate for the species. The hospital participates in several educational and research projects to educate the public and help turtles. They also advocate for legislation to help make the oceans safer and cleaner for turtles. The hospital has an education center and gift shops that are open to the public. Guests can tour the facility with guides and reservations are recommended.
2396 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL 33050, Phone: 305-743-2552
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19.Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
© Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is home to the world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass and other art anywhere in the world. The museum also features a large number of American art pottery pieces and some fine-art paintings from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Visitors have a couple of tour options to choose from, including a cell phone audio tour which can be downloaded onto your phone. The museum hosts gallery shops, private events, films, and lectures. The museum shop offers jewelry, art glass, ceramics, gifts, and souvenirs inspired by the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany.
445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789, Phone: 407-645-5311
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20.Naples Botanical Garden
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The Naples Botanical Garden is a botanical garden containing 170 acres of beautifully curated gardens and preserved land. The gardens represent seven distinctly different ecosystems with more than 1000 different plant species. There are several garden areas, including a kid-friendly area called the Smith Garden Area. Several water features and ponds dot the landscape and there are beautiful trails that take visitors from one area to the other. A shop and cafe are available for your convenience and comfort. The botanical garden has seasonal exhibitions and celebrations, concerts, impressive flower shows, and family-friendly events. The garden is a popular wedding venue and can be rented for private events. Things to Do in Naples
4820 Bayshore Drive, Naples, FL 34112, Phone: 239-433-1874
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21.Florida Museum of Natural History
© Florida Museum of Natural History
The Florida Museum of Natural History, located on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, is the official natural history museum of the state of Florida. The museum focuses on the state of Florida as well as on the Caribbean and Latin America, exhibiting display plants, animals, and cultural artifacts from Florida and often featuring traveling exhibits. There are hands-on learning activities for kids and adults alike to gain a deeper understanding of the history of Florida and its surrounding area. The museum features a gift shop and sells butterfly-friendly plants near the entrance for visitors who would like to attract butterflies to their own property. Things to Do in Gainesville
3215 Hull Road, Gainesville, FL 32611, Phone: 352-846-2000
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22.Universal’s Islands of Adventure
© Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Universal’s Islands of Adventureis a theme park in Orlando and is part of the larger Universal Orlando Resort. The park’s central theme takes visitors on an journey of adventure through the eight different islands. The park is set up in a hub-and-spoke arrangement with the “Port of Entry” at the center of the park. The “Port” doesn’t have any rides but has shops and restaurants and can be used to connect to the seven other islands, where the rides are located. The park features attractions that are based on a variety of movies, not only on those produced by Universal.
6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, Phone: 407-224-4233
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Discovery Cove is a theme park and marine attraction located in Orlando and is operated by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment. The park offers visitors the opportunity to visit and interact with a wide range of marine wildlife. One of the most popular attractions is the Dolphin Swim, where park guests can swim and play with bottlenose dolphins. Discovery Cove also has a coral reef where visitors can swim with a variety of fish and other marine animals. The Tropical River allows guests to float from one attraction to another and passes many of the park’s most popular areas.
6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, FL 32821, Phone: 877-557-7404
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24.Magic Kingdom Park
© Magic Kingdom Park
The Magic Kingdom is a theme park at Walt Disney World Resort and is one of many theme parks in the Orlando area. The centerpiece and icon of the park is Cinderella’s Castle. The park is set up like a wheel with spokes, with the center of the wheel being right in front of the castle. A narrow gauge steam engine called the Walt Disney World Railroad transports passengers around the park perimeter and stops at three of the lands – Main Street, U.S.A., Frontierland, and Fantasyland. Magic Kingdom Park offers a variety of food and beverage options, live shows, and opportunities to interact with characters from your favorite Disney productions.
1180 Seven Seas Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, Phone: 407-939-5277
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25.Navy Seal Museum
© Navy Seal Museum
The National Navy SEAL Museum and Memorial is dedicated to preserving and displaying the history of the United States Navy SEALs. The historic location of the museum, on the Ft. Pierce beaches, is the same place that the Naval Combat Demolition Units and Underwater Demolition Teams trained for D-Day. These two units later became the Navy SEALs. Visitors can learn about the history of the Navy SEALs program, including the predecessors to the SEALs program. Exhibits include modern and outmoded equipment from Navy SEAL teams as well as other rare artifacts from famous SEAL missions. The centerpiece of the museum is the SEAL Memorial, which honors fallen Navy SEALs.
3300 N. Highway A1A, North Hutchinson Island, Ft. Pierce, FL 34949, Phone: 772-595-5845
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25 Best Things to Do in Florida
- Dry Tortugas National Park, Photo: Courtesy of bennymarty – Fotolia.com
- Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, Photo: Courtesy of osterr – Fotolia.com
- Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of steffstarr – Fotolia.com
- Busch Gardens Tampa, Photo: Courtesy of Peter – Fotolia.com
- Lion Country Safari, Photo: Courtesy of Henryk – Fotolia.com
- Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Photo: Courtesy of Irina Schmidt – Fotolia.com
- Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of Ana- Fotolia.com
- The Ringling, Photo: Courtesy of Maria – Fotolia.com
- Sarasota Opera, Photo: Hanoi Photography/stock.adobe.com
- Universal Studios Florida, Photo: Courtesy of John Gaffen – Fotolia.com
- SeaWorld Orlando, Photo: Courtesy of MARK BOND – Fotolia.com
- Rookery Bay Reserve, Photo: Harry Collins/stock.adobe.com
- The Dali Museum, Photo: The Dali Museum
- Castillo de San Marcos, Photo: Courtesy of Henryk Sadura – Fotolia.com
- St Augustine Wild Reserve, Photo: Courtesy of kwadrat70 – Fotolia.com
- National Naval Aviation Museum, Photo: National Naval Aviation Museum
- Legoland Florida Resort, Photo: Legoland Florida Resort
- The Turtle Hospital, Photo: Courtesy of Vladlens Studios – Fotolia.com
- Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Photo: Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
- Naples Botanical Garden, Photo: Courtesy of Charles – Fotolia.com
- Florida Museum of Natural History, Photo: Florida Museum of Natural History
- Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Photo: Universal’s Islands of Adventure
- Discovery Cove, Photo: Courtesy of Island Jammer Photos – Fotolia.com
- Magic Kingdom Park, Photo: Magic Kingdom Park
- Navy Seal Museum, Photo: Navy Seal Museum
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of CathySalustri – Fotolia.com
Ca d’Zan Mansion
Ca d’Zan Mansion is the former winter home of John Ringling, who was a circus owner and the developer behind the Ringling Brothers circus. The home overlooks Sarasota Bay and is built in the Mediterranean Revival style. It is intricately designed both inside and out and features impressive furnishings. Visitors can tour the mansion to get a glimpse into the Ringlings’ lifestyle as well as the unique furnishings and decor of the home. Several tour options are available to accommodate any groups. The home may be visited as a standalone attraction or in combination with the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, which is located in the grounds.
5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, FL 34243, Phone: 941-359-5700
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is the former home of American novelist Ernest Hemingway and is located in Key West. One of the most modern homes of its time on Key West, the home remains one of the largest on the islands. Visitors can tour the impressive home and discover many details of Hemingway’s life. A number of cats inhabit the grounds as a homage to Hemingway, who was very fond of felines. Some are even 6-toed descendants of the cats that Hemingway himself owned. The home is surrounded by beautiful gardens which visitors are free to wander through and enjoy.
907 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040, Phone: 305-294-1136
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has areas at two Orlando-based theme parks – Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. The park features rides and attractions based on the Harry Potter movies and even includes a replica of the Hogwarts Express, which is also a train that visitors can use to get to the park. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has five rides, including the Dragon Challenge, which is a roller coaster with two intertwining tracks. There is also a replica of Hogwarts Castle on site where visitors can tour and interact with the characters and props from the movies. The park features shops and restaurants selling Harry Potter-themed souvenirs and refreshments.
6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819, Phone: 407-363-8000