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What to see in Florida: A Travel Guide

A Vacation Guide to The Best Attractions - Get Out of The Cold!

A Florida Everglades Sunrise

top-100-fun-things-to-do-and-see-in-florida-plus-a-brief-history-of-the-state
top-100-fun-things-to-do-and-see-in-florida-plus-a-brief-history-of-the-state

Brief Florida History

Florida was discovered by the Spaniard, Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513. He was in search of "The Fountain of Youth", and mineral springs (believed to keep a person young) are all over the Sunshine State. Florida came under British rule in 1763, and was owned again by the Spanish in 1783 until it became a state in 1855, the 27th state in the Union.

  • The state song is ‘Suwannee River’
  • The state flower is the Orange Blossom
  • The state bird is the Mocking Bird
  • The state animal is the Florida Panther

Native American Tribes were the Seminole Tribe mostly consisting of the Creek tribe from Georgia. However, the primary Native American tribe in South Florida is theMiccosukee Tribe who also originated from the Creeks of Georgia, and became their own tribe in the Everglades of Florida long before Columbus arrived in America. Ironically, the state of Florida possesses more cattle than in any other state in the union. In fact, the term 'Cowboy' originally came from this state.

Many northerners retire in Florida primarily for the weather. The tropical climate seems to be helpful for the ailments of the aging. At this time in history, the Hispanic and Caribbean cultures are abundant and wide spread among the entire state.

This state is known for its orange groves, orange juice, sugar cane, and fishing and seafood industries. It is also home to an abundance of universities and community colleges. The climate is that of a tropical island with winter temperatures only dropping to about 55 degrees, respectively. Although the summers are warm, they rarely reach the triple digits. The humidity wreaks havoc on a great hair doo, however.

Florida is a peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. This state has 1,197 Statute Miles of coastline to enjoy. From the amazing dolphins playing in the Atlantic Ocean to the beautiful emerald colored water of the Gulf of Mexico, there are literally thousands of things to see and do. Florida offers sightseeing of properties belonging to the rich and famous, exciting theme parks, professional sports venues, water adventures, sky diving and parasailing, rodeos and state fairs, home style southern cooking, swamp creatures and rare wildlife to watch, and serene, relaxing vacation spots for tanning, reading, and spa pampering. C'mon down!

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The Best of Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, and The Space Coast

top-100-fun-things-to-do-and-see-in-florida-plus-a-brief-history-of-the-state
top-100-fun-things-to-do-and-see-in-florida-plus-a-brief-history-of-the-state

Northeast Florida Travel Guide

Shopping and Night Life: Avenues Mall and San Marcos in Jacksonville are among some of the best places to shop. Jacksonville also has some great nightlife. Don't miss the Murray Hill Theater for concerts, shows, and poetry readings. Eclipse is the place to go for the late night hardy parties. Daytona Beach is a tourist haven with shops and restaurants up and down Hwy US-1 (The first US Highway built from Maine to Key West). If you'd like, take a drive in your own vehicle ON the sandy beach itself!

Water Activities: The thrill of parasailing over the Atlantic coast is something to try...if you dare! Kayaking is available, as well as paddle boat rental.

Wild Life: The rare sight of a Bald Eagle is highly possible on Cape Canaveral since they are a protected species and nests are plenty in the area. If you are visiting between May and October, you may see the Sea Turtle lay her eggs on the beach, or the hatchlings work their way back to the water. IT IS ILLEGAL TO SHINE LIGHTS OR DISTURB THE NEST IN ANY WAY.

History: NASA and Cape Kennedy (AKA Cape Canaveral) is the home of the U.S. Space Program. The Apollo series and more recent Space Shuttle program call this site home. Visit the Space Park and learn how the Mission Control room operates. You may also take a short trip to one of the launch pads. St. Augustine, the oldest city in America, has much to see too.

Sports: Twice a year, Daytona International Speedway holds NASCAR races which prove to be quite an experience. Jacksonville Jaguars Professional Football games are riddled throughout the fall and winter seasons. There are many beautiful golf courses and tennis courts in this area. Sky diving trips are available in several places along the coast.

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The Best of the Orlando Area South to Lake Okeechobee

top-100-fun-things-to-do-and-see-in-florida-plus-a-brief-history-of-the-state
top-100-fun-things-to-do-and-see-in-florida-plus-a-brief-history-of-the-state

Central Florida Theme Parks and More

Shopping and Night Life: The Millennia Mall, Downtown Church Street, Downtown Disney, and many Exquisite Restaurants are in abundance in Orlando. It is the home of University of Central Florida, so be prepared to be surrounded by youthful and fun college kids and all the theater and sports provided by UCF.

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Theme Parks: Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, MGM Studios, and The Holy Land Experience are great fun! Meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and all of the princesses at a Disney parade or show. There are also several museums scattered about O-town and the surrounding area.

Water Activities: Since Central Florida is riddled with springs and lakes, there is plenty of fishing, boating, and swimming available to out of state visitors. Water parks are always open and prove to be great fun for the entire family.

History: Lake Okeechobee is the largest fresh water lake in the state of Florida. It is also the 7th largest fresh water lake in the country! The Dyke surrounding the Lake holds a tragic story that should be remembered by all. In 1926 the Great Miami Hurricane hit the lake killing 300 people. In 1928 another hurricane struck the lake and surrounding areas and more than 1800 people were killed. Both times, the water surge flooded the surrounding migrant neighborhoods causing all the death and destruction. The Dyke was then built by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the communities surrounding the Lake, and to date has done its job protecting lives.

Sports: Disney Golf Courses and Tennis Courts are located all over the central part of the state. There are literally hundreds of sporting activities to choose from. Of course, if you find a way, be sure to watch the Orlando Magic professional basketball team play. This activity is guaranteed to be an exciting time. Don't forget to stop by the Lake (Okeechobee) for some horseback riding!

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The Best of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and The Palm Beaches

Cruise Ship

Cruise Ship

Go Heat!  Miami Heat Arena

Go Heat! Miami Heat Arena

This is what you will see at Lion Country Safari!

This is what you will see at Lion Country Safari!

Southeast Florida Family Enjoyment

Shopping and Night Life: The Greater Miami Area offers Bayside, Coconut Grove, and Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall, among many others, for a wonderful shopping experience. Worth Avenue in Palm Beach is well known for its international, exquisite products. The Fort Lauderdale Strip and City Place (in West Palm Beach) are great places to shop and go clubbing as well. If Theatre is your thing, be sure to check out the Kravis Center of Performing Arts.

Theme Parks: Lion Country Safari is an open wildlife refuge where YOU are in the cage of your vehicle, and the animals run wild. You can experience a Giraffe sticking his long purple tongue into your car window for a snack, or drive along with the running Gazelles. In this area there are go-cart tracks and arcades galore. If your timing is right, you may catch a state fair or local carnival. The Palm Beach Science Planetarium and Palm Beach Zoo are also great all day events to plan for. There are many boat, walking, trolley, and segway tours around the homes of the rich and famous.

Water Activities: The beaches are beautiful and warm. There are plenty of opportunities for boating, snorkeling, and fishing. Because there are several ports in the area, Cruises of any time frame are offered. Don't forget to spend a day at one of the area's fun water parks! Deep sea fishing trips are available all along the coast. How about catching your own supper?

History: Henry Flagler built a railroad all the way down the eastern coast. There is a wonderful Museum in his honor that has displays of old South Florida history. The famous Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach is always an elegant place to be. It has been entertaining the rich and famous since the early 1920's. Be sure to visit the Seminole and Miccosukee Reservations and Casinos. The Native American heritage, stories and art make for a fascinating adventure back in time.

Sports: If you are a sports fan, South Florida has many games to see. Miami Heat is a great Basketball team. Miami Dolphins Football games are played throughout football season. A Miami Marlins Baseball game is an All American thing to do; or catch Florida Panthers Hockey game for excitement. Many Beautiful golf courses and tennis courts cover the area, and believe it or not, ice skating rinks are available if the Florida heat is getting to you.

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The Best of the Everglades and The Florida Keys

top-100-fun-things-to-do-and-see-in-florida-plus-a-brief-history-of-the-state
Islamorada, Florida Keys

Islamorada, Florida Keys

top-100-fun-things-to-do-and-see-in-florida-plus-a-brief-history-of-the-state

The Southernmost Area Attractions

Shopping and Night Life: Duval Street in Key West is the place to be for shopping during the day, and owns a kicking nightlife of clubs and bars. Islamorada has a quaint Tiki Hut, complete with dance floor, to get your groove on after a day of deep sea fishing. Key Largo, as most of the Keys, has Mom and Pop Shops for souvenirs and Florida history. For the wild ones, Key West Fantasy Fest held in October each year is quite a sight to take in. Mardi Gras is also celebrated in February on Fat Tuesday.

Water Activities: Bright Aqua Colored Seas are perfect for snorkeling and parasailing. Coral reefs and sunken ships in the Florida Straits hold an abundance of treasure; even if it's just a treasured memory. Swim with the dolphins and other South Florida sea life, and enjoy basking in the shallow, warm sandbars.

Wild Life: The Sawgrass Recreation Park has lots to offer the brave ones who would enjoy a tour of the Florida Everglades and lessons about its wildlife. From the American Alligator to the Wild Flamingo you will enjoy a plethora of wildlife in the southern most part of the United States. Sea life can be viewed on snorkeling and fishing tours in the Florida Keys.

History: Be sure to stop by the Key West Aquarium, the Truman Little White House, Mel Fisher's Maritime Museum, and the Hemmingway home while you're in town. The Conch Train will be happy to take you around the island.

Sports: Sky diving adventures, golf courses and tennis courts are all over the southern most part of the state. Fly, swim, play, and see some of the most beautiful sights in this area.

Baby Gator taking a ride

Baby Gator taking a ride

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The Best of Naples, Fort Myers, and Tampa Bay

SHARK!

SHARK!

top-100-fun-things-to-do-and-see-in-florida-plus-a-brief-history-of-the-state

Make the Most of Florida's West Coast

Shopping and Night Life: For dancing all night long, go to Ybor City! It is chock full of jazz clubs, techno clubs, martini bars, live music, and restaurants galore! There are great shopping venues up and down the west coast from modern day malls to mom and pop shops by the shore.

Theme Parks: Take an African Safari in Busch Gardens, Tampa. You wouldn't want to miss Escape Zone Skate and Fun Center in Fort Myers! It's fun for the whole family. The Zoo at Caribbean Gardens in Naples is a sure hit for the family! You are sure to enjoy the animals and nature gardens.

Water Activities: In addition to the beautiful, white, sandy Gulf beaches, Sun Splash Family Water Park is a great way to cool off from the Florida heat. There are snorkeling and fishing trips available as well. Marco Island offers parasailing and dolphin encounters!

History: Ybor City is a historic area near Tampa, primarily populated by the Cuban, Spanish, and Italian immigrants. It is well known for its cigar making quality. All of Florida coastlines have pirate history. However, be sure to see the Pirate Museum in Tampa Bay. There is a reason why they named their football team mascot the Buccaneer.

Sports: Tampa Bay Lightning (hockey), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (football), Tampa Bay Devil Rays (baseball) and many beautiful golf courses and tennis courts are available for a sporting great time.

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The Best of Pensacola, Panama City, and Tallahassee

The Florida Panhandle Top Vacation Spots

Shopping and Night Life: Exquisite restaurants on the beautiful gulf coast are abundant. Enjoy some of the best seafood here in the Florida panhandle. Because Tallahassee is a college town, nightlife is available including many clubs for dancing.

Water Activities: The Florida Panhandle is known for the most beautiful beaches in the state. Again, the area is full of things to do like snorkeling, fishing, boating, and parasailing.

Wild Life: The Gulf Breeze Zoo holds over 900 animals to see. Rent a canoe or kayak and enjoy the natural wildlife the Panhandle has to offer. In the gulf, you will see the dolphins play and sea birds soar.

History: Tallahassee, the State Capitol was established as Leon County Seat, and the Florida Territory's Capitol in 1824 located between St. Augustine and Pensacola. At the time, South and Central Florida had very little established with the exception of the Native American population.

Sports: Along with plenty of swimming, golf and tennis, Pensacola is the home of the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels. Be sure to catch an air show while you are here. There are go-cart tracks, skate parks, and put-put golf for the family to enjoy as well.

More Beautiful Florida Wildlife

Owl

Owl

Swallow Tail Kite

Swallow Tail Kite

Rosy Spoonbills

Rosy Spoonbills

Armadillo

Armadillo

Baby Wild Boar

Baby Wild Boar

Timber Rattle Snake

Timber Rattle Snake

American Alligator

American Alligator

Box Turtle

Box Turtle

Thank you for your interest in my home state. I hope you enjoy Florida many times over, exploring different activities with each visit.

"Be kind to one another" ~ Ellen

God Bless You ~ Margaret Sullivan

Comments

Tom Hardy on June 05, 2013:

Okay so my friends and I just graduated this year and we want to go to Key West and just soak up the sun! We have to rent a house for the week but are vacation rental expensive down there right now? (Home, boat, wave runner, ect) I am just wondering. http://www.key-west-florida-accommodations.com was a possible place I was looking but I just want some insight from a native to there.

Dee on November 13, 2012:

Great place for vacation, especially goint to West Palm Beach or Palm Beach area. A good guide to use before you go is http://www.pbvacation.com/ but there are many others like http://www.cityplace.org/ or http://www.plalmbeachf.com/. Anyway, winter season is coming and what is a better place than go to the good old Florida.

Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on August 14, 2012:

It's great to hear that you enjoyed yourself, Melovy! I was born in Florida, you know? Thanks so much for you sweet comment.

Yvonne Spence from UK on August 14, 2012:

We've visited Florida several times - and not just to do Disney. I loved Key West, Miami Beach and quite a few other spots. The first time I saw a dolphin up close was off the end of the pier on either Naples or Venice (can't remember which now.) I'm sure that we'll be back again, and will refer to your hub before we come.

Love the animal photos.

Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on August 06, 2012:

I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for commenting.

Ann Leung from San Jose, California on August 06, 2012:

We took our kids to Walt Disney World in Florida last Spring Break. The kids enjoyed the water parks very much. Too bad we didn't have enough time to see those beautiful beaches. Your hub is a wonderful guide for our next visit in Florida. Thank you for sharing such an informative hub. Voted up and useful.

Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on May 16, 2012:

I'll add the American Alligator to my list of topics!

Lisa McKnight from London on May 16, 2012:

Thanks for reassuring me about the alligators! I don't mind wild animals anyways I think we should give them their room to live with us on this planet, and not take away their habitat so much. After all, we are one world. I'd love to know more about alligators though, future writing topic? Thanks for this hub once again Margie, it is fantastic.

Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on May 15, 2012:

We welcome you whenever you're ready to come! The gator was actually out in the Glades area. My husband used to work by airboat all over the Everglades. That is where I got most of the pictures. Now he is either on an airboat or out it the woods of South Carolina everyday.

No worries, alligators inland and sharks in the ocean aren't interested in humans for meals. Accidents do happen, but they are very, very rare.

Lisa McKnight from London on May 15, 2012:

Thanks for the hard work that has gone into this. As a UK reader I'm bookmarking this for when I come to Florida. There is so much to do and see, much more than Disney which is what it is known for. I'm a bit worried about the alligator tho! Where was that exactly ...

Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on May 14, 2012:

Thank you for your input, tipstoretirearly! I cannot begin to scratch the surface of what's available to visitors to Florida!

Thank you for the comment!

tipstoretireearly from New York on May 14, 2012:

Florida has lots to offer. The beaches in Sarasota county are wonderful, including Siesta Key, Lido Key and Venice.

Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on May 14, 2012:

Thank you summerberrie! I didn't realize how much there was to do!

Thanks for commenting.

summerberrie on May 14, 2012:

Great informative and beautiful hub! I would love to see one of those swallow tail kites- like Nare Anthony says looks like you put in lots of work and the formatting is great.

Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on May 13, 2012:

Thank you, Nare! I was afraid it may be too long. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Nare Gevorgyan on May 13, 2012:

Excellent Mmargie! You have done and enormous work. I like the photos very much and the formatting too, and the info...absolutely!

Mmargie1966 (author) from Gainesville, GA on May 13, 2012:

Thank you, teaches! I loved writing about my home state. I'm glad you enjoyed it too.

Thanks for commenting.

Dianna Mendez on May 13, 2012:

Living in Florida offers many wonderful attractions and endless family activities. I just found out the state bird was the mocking bird this week. We have one that is hanging around our back yard, and his song changes almost every day as well. Good coverage on Florida's highlights. Voted up.

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