It’s old news that Florida is the place to go for sunshine and summer themed vacations. Of course there are the infamous theme parks, but it is famous the world over for the tranquil beaches and white sand. It has a little bit of everything for many different travel styles. You could go with your family and find an affordable vacation that would make every member of the group smile; or, take your best gal friends for a girl’s weekend to escape February weather wherever you call home. With over 55,000 seniors moving to the state every year it’s also a perfect spot for retirees to flock to.
Before you get the impression that it is nothing but bikinis and rum cocktails, keep in mind there are check out Miami and Key West offering up their unique culture with funky history and notable architecture. Whether you are into natural parks and eco-tourism or a foodie on the hunt for the perfect sandwich you can find it in the Sunshine State.
Let’s talk about the famous theme parks that have put Orlando on the map. Did you know it’s more than just Mickey Mouse? Not to knock the original purveyor of childhood happiness that now boasts four separate parks in the area, each with their own theme and flavor, but today there are options. For the magic lovers at heart there is the Universal’s Islands of Adventure with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter within it.
There are also water parks run by both Disney (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon) and Universal (Volcano Bay) to keep you cool and still deliver thrills.
Busch Gardens, Legoland, and SeaWorld Florida provide other options to experience new imaginary worlds and excitement.
What’s that you say? There are museums in Florida? Why yes. They are truly originals as you might expect. In fact The Ringling (outside Sarasota) is a circus museum based on John Ringling, of Ringling Brother’s fame, collection. Included on the grounds are botanic gardens, an art museum and a historic mansion.
Head down to Ft. Myers for a little practical history and discover Thomas Edison’s winter estate and lab. The historic home shows life as it was when the Edison family lived there and the lab gives insight into the genius inventor himself.
If the urban and hip is more your scene you can’t go wrong with Miami. With the country’s third tallest skyline and roughly half a million people calling it home there is a lot to do in this world-class city. But it may be the cultural uniqueness that will really stand out for a traveler when they head down to Little Havana and taste a Cuban Sandwich or dig into a Key Lime Pie for dessert. Miami became a landing place for the United States’ Cuban population during the second half of the 20th century and still retains a lot of the Latin flavor that makes a trip there unforgettable.
Head down to Key West across 42 bridges, spanning 113 miles, and you’ll find the southern most town in the continental United States. With it’s winsome architecture it’s sure to win you over like it did Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffet back in the day. Go shopping in Mallory Square and take a tour of the Hemingway Museum to get in touch with the legendary author.
Nature Preserves and Parks
Florida is unique in the United States with a semi tropical climate and birds and sealife that aren’t found anywhere else. You can explore for yourself in the twelve National Parks and monuments that are maintained on a national level, with many more state and regional parks to look into when you need a bit more.
Two of the most popular destinations are Everglades National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park. Dry Tortugas is known for it’s 100 square miles of coral reef and the Everglades are a vital geographic buffer between the Peninsula and the Atlantic Ocean and home and breeding ground to animals, birds, and plants.
Water, More Water, and Watersports
Now that we’ve established that there is much to do in Florida that doesn’t include watersports, lets get to the nitty gritty and talk about how to spend those precious hours in the sun getting wet and letting loose in the waves. There are lots of activities to choose from, so let’s dive in, shall we?
Tubing – Grab an innertube, kick back and relax in Ichetucknee Springs State Park. With six miles of wetlands you can enjoy nature at a leisurely pace by doing nothing more than floating.
Paddleboarding – If you are looking for a bit more exertion than the inner tube you will find it anywhere you want to put in a paddleboard. But, Key West has lots of quiet inlets and even more wildlife to explore. See if you can spot manatees, jellyfish, crabs or stingrays among other animals swimming below. Fancy yoga? Yoga is also a challenging exercise on a SUP. You can check this blog from Gilisports to for more info about yoga paddleboards.
Snorkeling – John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in the Keys has 178 square miles of coral reelfs to explore and dive in. You can see multitudes of sea life and even an underwater statue of Jesus.
Hop back up to the peninsula and explore Homosassa Bay, only an hour from Tampa, to hunt scallops while snorkeling. Scalloping season is July 1st through September 25th and you can join all the other adventurous seafood lovers who will be collecting their dinner to eat fresh from the best scalloping grounds in the state.
Kayaking – Up in the center of Florida just east of Ocala is the Ocala National Forest. Between the town and the Park lies the Fort King Waterway. Here you’ll find fantastic kayaking opportunities with gentle waters and plenty of animals and birds to spot.
Diving – Just north of Ocala, along I-75, is a scuba diving destination with 30,000 feet of cave passages to explore. Fed by seven natural springs Ginnie Springs is the place to learn cave diving or expand your skills if you are experienced.
Looking at a map Florida may look funny hanging off the continent and we all have heard the occasional story coming out of the news about wild antics from the humans that call it home. But, you can be sure that life is never dull and there is something to keep everyone interested in the Sunshine State.