The 20 Best Things to Do in Florida - Hand Picked Local Experiences

23+ Fun Things to Do in Florida – Hand Picked Local Experiences

by Shira Weitz - updated August 19, 2020

When I ask most people if they’ve ever been to Florida, typically the answer is that they have been to Orlando once with their family when they were a kid. As a native Floridian, this would always drive me mad because Florida boasts one of the most fun, unique and beautiful ecosystems in the United States, and the state is totally underrated as a travel destination.

Okay, maybe I’m biased, but you will be too once you discover the natural wonders that Florida has to offer.

Here are some options for how you can make the most of your trip to my beloved Sunshine State, and yes… I included theme parks, too. Keep scrolling to find information about the best things to do in Florida.

Obviously. They’re amazing.

1. I’m going to Miami (no… really)

Visit Miami
Party in the city, where the heat is on.

As Will Smith once said, “Party in the city, where the heat is on.” He was not wrong.

Miami is certainly a city that suits those seeking an energetic atmosphere with stellar nightclubs, dance spots and raves to boot.

However, that’s not all Miami is made of.

The thriving Latina population makes Miami a vibrant cultural hub, teeming with authentic Cuban (and Caribbean, and Haitian, etc. etc.,) restaurants.  

Let it be known that Miami has a flourishing art scene- not only does Miami host the international art festival Art Basil, but it celebrates artists year round with neighborhoods like Wynwood, where huge, colorful murals are painted on walls, making dining at the trendy restaurants, and hopping between happening bars an experience you don’t want to miss.

I could go on, as Miami has an array of historical landmarks, prosperous gardens & parks, and notable architecture… not to mention, shopping… but, you know… there’s so much else to cover!

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2. Waste away in Margaritaville

Waste away in Margaritaville
Try the so called Cheeseburger in Paradise in Key West

The string of islands off the southern coast of Florida encompasses the best parts of a true Caribbean vacation.

A lot of people don’t know that “wasting away again in Margaritaville” is referring to a real, specific place in Key West, where the cheeseburgers are actually consumed in paradise… and it’s definitely, always 5 o’clock somewhere.

A visit to Pigeon Key adds education to the fun with three daily historical tours around the island, where kids and parents can safely snorkel and learn about the local wildlife. 

Speaking of snorkeling, The Keys are definitely the place to hop on a rental boat, suit up and soak in the colorful coral reefs that sparkle with sea life.

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3. Don’t get lost in the Everglades

Don’t get lost in the Everglades
Catch Florida’s wildlife in the wild National Park.

This National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the country.

It’s swampy grasslands are unlike anywhere else you’ve ever been.

It’s one of the best fun opportunities to catch Florida’s wildlife in the wild! (And yes, this definitely includes Florida Gators).

In the Everglades national park, you can canoe, kayak, take an airboat ride, or go fishing in the mangroves to get an up close view of the terrain.

Visit Miccosukee Village and get a glimpse of Indian life that predated Columbus, which has been preserved through their museum.

Watch in amazement as an alligator-wrestling match takes place, a centuries-old tradition of the Miccosukee’s that is sure to shock.

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4. Relax at The Gulf Coast

Relax at The Gulf Coast
Try and experience the sailboat and parasail on colorful sunset in Gulf Coast Beaches Florida.

Just as the waters are calmer on the west coast, so too is the lifestyle.

The beaches here are the perfect place for sunset junkies to get their fix.

From Sarasota to Clearwater, the calm, shallow waters are perfect for thrill seekers who are looking for year-round swimming and bottlenose dolphins sightings that are a regular phenomenon.

Lacking big surf, the west coast is also optimal for taking the plunge with the little ones.

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5. Visit Theme Parks in Orlando

Visit Theme Parks in Orlando
Bond with your kids at one of the famous theme parks - Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

See??? I told you I’d include Orlando.

Not because I have to, but because I want to!

The theme parks are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to immersive activities in Orlando.

Yes, it holds the big ones, like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Seaworld, Discovery Cove, Icon Park, Busch Gardens, Magic Kingdom, etc., and visiting one or all of them makes for an unforgettable experience at any age.

Who doesn’t know the enchanting story of Harry Potter?

Why not enter the two lands of groundbreaking thrills and magical fun in Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. Two Lands. One Unforgettable Experience.

Firstly, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.

Find the wizarding world’s most famous establishments as you walk through the streets of London, and enter Diagon Alley.

Dine at the Leaky Cauldron, choose a wizard at Ollivanders wand shop, and get ready to travel deep below Gringotts bank for a multi-dimensional thrill ride.

And Secondly, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. 

Explore the corridors and classrooms of Hogwarts Express. Take off with Harry Potter and his friends to soar above the castle on a journey like no other.

Go far beyond the school grounds with Hagrid to brave the wilds of the Forbidden Forest on an all-new thrilling roller coaster.

Your Orlando vacation isn’t complete until you’ve seen it from 400 feet!

Visit Icon Park and experience the Orlando Eye, not your average Ferris wheel that the operators call an “observation wheel,” towers an impressive 400 feet tall that gives you a view of Orlando like no other.

For those who want more out of their trip, Orlando also offers a variety of live music shows, musical theater, comedy shows, magic shows, and has mind-boggling museums and riveting escape rooms.

For those who want more out of their trip, Orlando also offers a variety of live music shows, musical theater, comedy shows, magic shows, and has mind-boggling museums and riveting escape rooms.

Orlando is a must-do for the adventurers at heart.

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6. Live in Luxury on Palm Beach

Live in Luxury on Palm Beach
Treat yourself and hang out in the Palm beach

If you’re looking to #treatyourself, then Palm Beach Island is where you want to head.

You can opt for extensive luxury and indulge in a room at The Breakers, or if you’re more into faux lux then you can stay in West Palm Beach, just on the opposite side of the intercostal, and hop over the bridge at your leisure.

Hang out on the beach, shop the strips of designer stores, take a stroll in The Four Arts Botanical Garden, eat the best seafood in town, and sip cocktails underneath the shade of the palms.

Take a bike ride on the Island, intercostal side, and check out the pastel mansions that line the water.

For those on a budget- check out The Goodwill on the island for discounted gems!

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7. Go to (not the planet) Jupiter

Go to Jupiter, Florida
Rest and Relax by the Jupiter Lighthouse.

A lesser-known gem of south Florida, Jupiter is a small beach town with no shortage of stunning spots to revel in.

Comprised of endless stretches of beach, less populated than the shorelines of Miami, Jupiter is the perfect place for ultimate relaxation.

You can do as the locals do and buy a cooler with everything you need so you can stay all day and bask in the sun.

You can climb the Jupiter Lighthouse for the perfect view of the waterways and Atlantic, or you can listen to some reggae bands play at a tropical watering hole, like Guanabanas; or, devour mouthwatering seafood, like a sweet-potato crusted catch-of-the-day at Little Moir’s Food Shack.

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8. Kick back in Crystal River

Kick back in Crystal River
Beat the heat and swim in Crystal River

About 90-minutes west of Orlando is a wonderful collection of springs that lead to the Gulf and make up Crystal River.

The warmth from the springs creates the perfect environment for manatees to hang out in, and yes, you can swim with them year round.

The clear water and wooded surroundings make you feel like you’ve stumbled upon an oasis, and it’s definitely worth camping out for at least a night or two.

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9. Get up close and personal with the Wildlife

Get up close and personal with the Wildlife
Feed giraffes in the Miami Metro Zoo

If there’s one thing Florida has no shortage of, it’s wildlife.

Whether it’s swimming with manatees, or running from an alligator, Florida’s abundance of critters are wild to observe.

You can opt for a tamer environment, like the Miami Metro Zoo, or head to a wildlife preserve.

You can go for a turtle walk on the beach in Jupiter, or a petting zoo in Orlando. You can swim with dolphins, either on a tour or by chance.

No matter what experience you choose, you’ll feel a connection with nature that will inspire you for a lifetime.

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10. We got water sports!

Try watersports in Florida
Have fun in jet ski at Gulf Florida Beaches.

Surfing? Check.

Waterskiing? Check.

Kiteboarding? Check.

Parasailing? Check.

Jet skiing? Check.

Bodyboarding? Check.

Kayaking? Check.

Paddle Boarding? Check.

You get the idea… Most coastal cities in Florida, and even the lakes, rivers and parks, offer a variety of fun ways to get your feet wet.

You don’t need a snow capped mountain, expensive equipment and years of training to indulge in the various water activities of Florida.

There’s an abundance of thrilling water sports for the more advanced adventurers, as well as for those who like to keep it mild.

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11. Eat. Seafood.

Eat Seafood in Florida
Find yourself a fishing charter to catch your own dinner

In Florida, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in a city or a small coastal town… if you have your heart set on it, you’re going to find fresh seafood and it probably won’t be too hard.

This is great because few things in life complement a beach beverage better than, say, a fresh-caught grouper sandwich, or an order of crab cakes.

Better yet, find yourself a fishing charter to catch your own dinner- a truly local experience!

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12. Visit A Lighthouse

Visit A Lighthouse
Get a deeper sense of local history of Fort Jefferson, Tortugas.

No matter where in Florida you head to, visiting a lighthouse is a great way to get a deeper sense of local history, and see your destination from new heights.

Typically, there’s an array of activities to entertain you when you visit the grounds of a Florida lighthouse, like climbing the stairs for a beautiful view, checking out a museum, or simply picnicking on the grounds.

I can guarantee you that the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson will make an appearance near the top of the list of “must-see” sites.

And no one can deny that it’s included in the top attractions and things to do in Florida.

Located off Key West (you have to take a ferry) is the lighthouse on Dry Tortugas National Park.

The history here is rich, involving a fight to replace the flawed lighthouse since its construction in the 1800’s so that sailors could find their way safely back to the harbor.

The open waters surrounding the land are filled with shallow coral reefs attractions so you can cool off in an exciting way.

Jupiter Lighthouse is another special one, which is easier to access either by car or by boat, kayak or paddleboard, etc. below the towering red structure is a huge Banyan tree that provides shade for those coming and going.

The views from above and below are equally as breathtaking, and the museum is filled with the history of those that resided in the town before the settlers took over.

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13. Stay cool with a local brew

Stay cool with a local brew
Try delicious local brew in Florida

This may come as a shock to you, but Floridians love to drink beer.

Turns out, the carbonated, cold beverage tends to complement the warm climate and crystal clear blue water quite well.

It’s because of this that Florida has some amazing breweries up and down the coast, so if you’re the kind of person who likes to kick it with a cold one, then checking out the local breweries is a must.

From Cigar City Brewery in Tampa to M.I.A. in Miami, to a plethora of breweries in Orlando, hunker down and find your new favorite brew.

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14. Did I mention beaches yet?

Have Fun in the Beach
Take a dip and watch your toes wiggle underneath the water.

This might seem obvious, but for some reason I don’t feel like people outside of Florida truly grasp the beauty of Florida beaches.

With a taste for the tropics, I’ve traveled near and far, including to some world famous beaches like Miami beach, and I’m never too sad to come back home.

With endless stretches of white and pink sand, and the warm blue waves lapping the shoreline, Florida beaches are a wonderful place to take a dip and watch your toes wiggle underneath the water.

To get there, all you have to do is walk passed the shrubbery, take a left at the palm tree, and navigate your way through (what I call) fairyland sea grapes, and voila! Welcome to paradise. 

If you are lucky you will be surprised to learn that more than 100,000 threatened and endangered sea turtles nest on Florida beaches every summer.

It occurs in Florida from March through October of each year.

Getting a chance to watch Florida sea turtles in action is for sure an addition to your memorable experience and things to do in florida.

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15. Hop on board a ship

Hop on board a ship
Go for a short cruise vacation from your vacation.

With several cruises leaving from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale every week, it makes hopping on board pretty appealing.

You can opt for a 2-day cruise to the Bahamas for a short vacation from your vacation, or a longer stint of time if you have it to kill.

You can also opt out of the bigger boats and find local charters that will take you fishing, snorkeling and beyond.

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16. Catch a space launch at Kennedy Space Center

Catch a space launch at Kennedy Space Center
Explore rocket ships and get in-depth knowledge about what it takes to become an astronaut.

Kennedy Space Center is an inspirational park that has a gateway to space, where you can explore rocket ships and get in-depth knowledge about what it takes to become an astronaut.

With lots of attractions, such as tours to historical launch sites and 3D presentations of views from the Hubble Space Telescope, KSC is the perfect place for a day of educational fun.

Also, space ice cream. 

Make sure you look up the next space launch before you go, because you will not want to miss the once in a lifetime opportunity of witnessing a launch from the ground up.

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17. Stay cool at a waterpark

Stay cool at a waterpark
Spend a hot day cooling down at a water park in Florida.

The best way to stay cool in Florida is to stay wet, and we have the waterparks to prove it.

Boasting wave pools for surfing, giant water slides and the laziest of rivers, picking a water park near your destination guarantees a fun filled adventure every time.

Try Rapids Water Park in Riviera if you’re in the southeast area, or Adventure Island if you’re staying near Tampa.

For those venturing to the Panhandle, check out Big Kahunas Water and Adventure Park, and, while there are plenty of water parks to choose from in the Orlando area, Volcano Bay is definitely one of the cool-est.

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18. Jump out of a plane

Jump out of a plane
Experience your Tandem Skydive over the Florida Coastline.

Maybe this isn’t totally specific to Florida, but if you’re going to take the dive (literally) why wouldn’t you want to do it overlooking sparkling blue waters?

My first skydiving experience was unforgettable, at Skydive Sebastian.

The instructors are helpful and kind, and make you feel totally safe before you intentionally fall head first out of an open plane door!

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19. Visit the Panhandle

Visit the Panhandle
Take a stroll around the beautiful vacation homes in the North Florida panhandle coastal community.

Nearest its neighboring states of Alabama and Georgia; Florida’s panhandle is rife with southern culture, old-Florida architecture, art, parks and (surprise surprise) beautiful beaches.

Take a drive down Scenic 30-A, an 18.5 mile stretch of coastline road where you’ll pass uniquely designed houses that compliment each of the differing beach town’s styles.

State parks are perfect for stretching your legs on the drive.

Keep an eye out for the magnolia blooms in the summer, and sand pine that grows exclusively in the region.

Take a stroll around downtown Pensacola, an urban district covering 44 blocks.

The area is filled with great restaurants and bars, and hosts many exciting events year round.

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20. Connect with nature

Connect with nature
Experience kayaking on a very calm nature park in Florida.

Of all the wonders and adventures that Florida is full of, the most unique is its numerous state parks.

Let the wilderness surround you as you drink in the swampy greenery, and observe wildlife in its natural habitat.

Whether it’s a park on the beach, like Sebastian Inlet State Park, on the ocean, like John Pennykamp Coral Reef State Park, on a spring, like Ichetucknee Springs State Park, or in a swampland, like the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, allow Florida to connect you to nature in new and exciting ways.

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21. Plan your perfect get-away in Daytona Beach, Florida

Plan your perfect get-away in Daytona Beach
Visit Daytona beach where the sounds of the waves are intermingled with the laughter of children.

Daytona Beach is famous for its Speedway, its colorful history, its world-class resorts and amenities, and a calendar full of great events and festivals. 

Tip for you is you should come during the Daytona 500.

Witness the annual U.S. stock-car race that is the most prestigious event in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) season.

It became one of the best-attended and highest-rated sporting events in the United States.

The moment you enter Daytona International Speedway, you’ll know you’re on hallowed ground. Remember you can even get a taste of the thrill of race car driving in a bunch of interactive racetrack experiences and tours.

Sounds exciting isn’t it?

You can come here not only during Daytona 500 but also spring family beach break – or any time at all.

Exciting things always seem to be happening here.

Daytona delivers, with everything from great adventure and water sports stores to malls like the Tanger Outlet Shops, which boasts over 75 shops and restaurants.

Daytona Beach is widely recognized as one of the best beaches in Florida, if not one of the best in the entire United States. 

Golf is one of the more active things to do here, and you can play it all year long.

The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse is still Florida’s tallest at 175 feet, and the Stetson Mansion.

It was built by the man who gave us the Stetson hat and remained an international-visitor magnet.

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22. Discover where America Begins

Discover where America Begins
Visit Castillo de San Marcos, the fort that is a lasting landmark of seventeenth-century St. Augustine.

Site of the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, the Castillo de San Marcos.

It is a large Spanish stone fortress built to protect and defend Spain’s claims in the New World.

It’s a National Monument, at over 315 years old, and the park has an area of about 25 acres. It’s the oldest structure in St. Augustine.

It’s also one of the main attractions that visitors must see when they visit St. Augustine.

Construction began on the Castillo de San Marcos in 1672 and lasted 23 years, until 1695.

The fort is a bastioned structure of coquina, a shell stone with walls 33 feet high and 12 feet thick, surrounded by a moat but now it is dry.

The coquina was impenetrable, impossible for the enemy to get through, and was fire resistant.

At Castillo, you have plenty of things to do and see, from the numerous rooms that once housed soldiers and prisoners that were used during the Revolutionary War, to the large interior courtyard and gun deck which offers the best view of the city. 

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23. Get awe-inspired with the historic beauty and serenity of Bok Tower Gardens Florida

Get awe-inspired with the historic beauty and serenity of Bok Tower Gardens
Be ready to get amazed by the home of enchanting plants.

Bok Tower Gardens is a “must-see Florida attraction”, a national historic landmark, featuring two hiking trails, 50 acres of gardens, the 20-room Pinewood Estate, and the 205-foot art deco and neo-Gothic Singing Tower carillon.

It is centrally located between Tampa and Orlando among rolling hills of citrus!

Bok Tower Gardens is a breathtaking gem that has been enchanting for tourists for over 80 years.

One of the greatest works of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. who is known for not settling for anything less than amazing when he created this masterpiece. 

Surely you will enjoy the unparalleled opportunities for artistic, cultural, personal, and spiritual enrichment during your tour with the lush landscapes of the Olmsted gardens and hear the serenity sound of the Singing Tower carillon.

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24. Discover the legendary artworks of Salvador Dali

Discover the legendary artworks of Salvador Dali
Visit the museum that houses the largest collection of Dali works outside of Europe.

The Dali Museum is located in the heart of picturesque downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.

It is home to an exceptional collection of over 2,400 Salvador Dali pieces of art spread along 20,000 square feet of gallery space.

The vast collection includes paintings representing the life experiences Dalí went through, from his early years, through the famous surrealist years, to his later masterworks. 

This iconic museum is the perfect starting point to explore the rest of the city.   

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What are your thoughts about Florida? Do you have any questions or anything cool still to add on? We love to discuss travel so go ahead and fire away, there are no wrong comments!

Related read: The Coolest Things to Do in Miami in 2020

Also, please let us know how your trip went and what was the most exciting part about it.

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