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

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

by Shira Weitz - updated July 9, 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 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.

20 Hand Picked Things to Do in Florida

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! 

More Info (click to show for all)

2. Waste away in Margaritaville

Waste away in Margaritaville
Try the so called Cheeseburger in Paradise

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.

More Info (click to show all)

3. Don’t get lost in the Everglades

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

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

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

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

In the Everglades, you can canoe, kayak, take an airboat, 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.

More Info (click to show all)

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.

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 year-round swimming, and dolphin sightings are a regular phenomenon.

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

More Info (click to show all)

5. Visit Theme Parks in Orlando

Visit Theme Parks in Orlando
Bond with your kids at Universal Studio 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 Disney World, Universal Studios, Seaworld, Magic Kingdom, etc., and visiting one or all of them makes for an unforgettable experience at any age.

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.

More Info (click to show all)

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!

More Info (click to show all)

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.

More Info (click to show all)

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.

More Info (click to show all)

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.

More Info (click to show all)

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.

More Info (click to show all)

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!

More Info (click to show all)

12. Visit A Lighthouse

Visit A Lighthouse
Visit the historical military fortress and get a deeper sense of local history

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.

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 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.

More Info (click to show all)

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.

More Info (click to show all)

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, 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. 

More Info (click to show all)

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.

More Info (click to show all)

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.

More Info (click to show all)

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.

More Info (click to show all)

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!

More Info (click to show all)

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.

More Info (click to show all)

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.

More Info (click to show all)

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.

Enjoyed this post? Pin it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *