Top 12 Florida Destinations for an Unforgettable Visit

2023-07-02 00:10:01 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

Whether you're planning a long adventure or just a quick getaway, Florida's vastness and abundant variety guarantee an array of remarkable experiences. With countless attractions spread throughout the state, it can be a daunting task to narrow down the must-visit destinations, particularly if time is a constraint.

In order to ease your decision-making process, I am thrilled to present my personal selection of the most captivating and finest places in Florida. These gems promise to enhance your journey through the Sunshine State.

Now, let's address the first and foremost aspect: Florida's sheer magnitude. Covering its vast expanse can be quite the expedition, even for the most intrepid travelers. Honestly, you could spend weeks gallivanting around and still not scratch the surface of Florida's top-tier attractions. Nevertheless, I find this irresistible allure reason enough to keep returning, each time with renewed enthusiasm.

Now, let's dive into the magnificent ensemble of Florida's best kept secrets, waiting to be discovered and embraced.

Upon venturing to destinations such as Clearwater, St Petes, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale (as well as the Florida Keys, Pensacola, and Orlando), I have come to realize that Florida offers much more than just its delightful sunshine.

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It is a state bursting with delectable culinary scenes, a fusion of cultures, and an abundance of natural beauty that should not be overlooked.

Peruse the following list of top-notch Florida locales for your upcoming excursion and revel in the most extraordinary experiences.

1.) Orlando

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Undoubtedly, Orlando is one of the most renowned places to visit in Florida, particularly if you adore the excitement and enchantment of theme parks.

Despite some of the theme parks in Orlando appearing to be tailor-made for families, rest assured that they are suitable for individuals of all ages.

Throughout the years, I have personally embarked on adventures to numerous theme parks in Orlando, with one of my personal favorites being Islands of Adventure at Universal. This particular park boasts a plethora of "grown-up" rides that encompass a fine balance between terror and sheer enjoyment.

That being said, a trip to Disney is an absolute must while in Orlando. The nostalgic atmosphere, combined with new attractions and parks, is truly otherworldly. Be sure not to miss the parades and fireworks that grace the night sky. Undoubtedly, this destination ranks among the very best in Florida, especially for those in search of amusement.

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If you happen to be seeking accommodation near Disney's Hollywood Studios, I recommend checking out the Waldorf Astoria, which is conveniently situated nearby. It serves as a veritable sanctuary following a long day spent exploring the parks.

There are an abundance of remarkable parks in Orlando, and the most renowned of them all is Disney World. It is entirely possible to spend an entire week in Orlando and still not have the opportunity to explore all of the captivating theme parks it has to offer.

2.) Explore St. Petersburg

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One of the nearest and most exceptional coastal destinations close to Orlando is the city known as St. Petersburg, or affectionately nicknamed St Pete.

Situated on the enchanting Gulf of Mexico, St Pete boasts a splendid downtown area and breathtaking beaches that are certainly worth a visit for an extended weekend.

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What's even better is that St Pete is a hotbed for food enthusiasts, brimming with various gems such as cozy hideaways, lively bars, and restaurants serving an array of delectable cuisines, ranging from tantalizing Cuban delicacies to mouthwatering Mexican dishes. You will undoubtedly leave with your stomach satisfied.

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Among our personal favorites is Trophy Fish, a vibrant establishment featuring live musical performances, the freshest seafood imaginable, and the most exquisite cocktails. It promises an experience filled with endless enjoyment.

And of course, while you're there, don't miss the chance to explore the iconic 'Pink Palace.' The Don CeSar, a hotel situated right on the stretch of pristine beachfront, holds a rich history and was once a cherished destination for the iconic Marilyn Monroe herself.

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We had an amazing time staying at this location, especially because there are so many activities right on your doorstep.

For more information on how to spend a weekend in St. Petersburg, check out this article on the beautifully colorful city.

3.) Discover Fort Lauderdale

If you're looking for a relaxing vacation in Florida, Fort Lauderdale is the place to go, just a 30-minute drive from Miami. But don't worry, there are also plenty of party spots and cool bars if that's more your scene.

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While you're here, make sure to take a stroll along Las Olas Boulevard and indulge in some delicious Italian food at Louie Bossi's. And after soaking up the sun on the beaches, don't miss out on the art murals in nearby Hollywood and a visit to Bonnet House.

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For more information on the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale, check out this article.

4.) Discover St. Augustine

St. Augustine, known as the oldest city in the United States, is a true gem on Florida's Atlantic Coast and definitely one of the top destinations to visit in the state.

The Spanish colonial architecture lining the streets of this city is absolutely stunning and adds a unique charm that sets it apart from other cities in Florida.

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And if you find yourself with an appetite, make sure to check out Woodpeckers Backyard Barbeque for some mouthwatering ribs.

For more information on the best things to do in St. Augustine, check out this article.

When you arrive here, make sure to explore the charming downtown area for some delightful surprises. Oh, and for a fascinating glimpse into history, do not miss the magnificent Spanish stone fortress from the 17th century, famously known as Castillo de San Marcos.

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For more information on the top hotels in St. Augustine, check out this link.

6.) Discover the Everglades

The Everglades is undeniably one of the most extraordinary destinations in Florida for wildlife enthusiasts and a truly exceptional national park in the United States.

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Home to remarkable creatures like panthers, alligators, snakes, and birds, this exceptional conservation area should not be overlooked, even if you are visiting bustling cities such as Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

For an unparalleled experience, embark on an exhilarating airboat excursion through the swamps, where you can test your skills at spotting alligators (we managed to find just a couple).

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However, do remember to bring an ample supply of mosquito repellent, as these pesky insects can be relentless. I personally ended up with 20 bites!

For more information on the best places to explore in the Everglades, click here.

7.) Venture to Tallahassee

Tallahassee, the capital city of Florida, tends to be overshadowed by its larger counterparts. Situated in the panhandle region of the state, Tallahassee boasts a picturesque landscape of rolling hills and beautiful forests that sets it apart from the rest of Florida. To immerse yourself in genuine Southern history, a visit to the Goodwood Museum and Gardens is a must. This historic site was once a thriving cotton and corn plantation. Alternatively, you can explore the reconstructed Spanish mission called Mission San Luis, which transports you back to the 17th century.

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For those seeking outdoor adventures, the nearby Apalachicola National Forest and Tate's Hell State Forest provide ample opportunities for hiking and fishing.

If exertion is not your preference, take a leisurely drive towards the west of the city to discover the caves near Marianna at Florida Caverns State Park. It offers a unique natural experience that differentiates itself from the typical Florida scenery.

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When in Tallahassee, don't miss out on exploring the breathtaking Florida Keys. Stretching for approximately 120 miles (193 km) along the southern coast, the Florida Keys are a tropical paradise known for their legendary sunsets. Indulge in the bliss of watching the sun go down while sipping a cocktail or enjoying a delectable Key Lime pie. Additionally, be sure to make the most of the beach by going snorkeling or scuba diving. Fishing enthusiasts can also venture out into the waters with a boat.

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Among the various areas in the Florida Keys, Key West stands out as the most renowned. It offers a plethora of captivating attractions and activities. Ernest Hemingway's former residence, which now serves as a museum, is a notable highlight. You can also explore the vibrant Duval Street, famous for its lively bars and charming shops.

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We made the journey here straight from Miami and arrived just in the nick of time to witness the breathtaking sunset before venturing into town. Let me tell you, it's an absolutely marvelous place to visit.

However, I must warn you that it is considerably warmer and more humid than most parts of Florida, which took us all by surprise. So, it's crucial to come prepared.

Without a doubt, it's one of the finest destinations in Florida, just off the mainland itself.

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For further information, you can find some incredible suggestions on what to do in the Florida Keys.

8.) Experience Tubing on the Ichetucknee River

This is undoubtedly one of the hidden gems that even locals in Florida sometimes overlook. Whenever I mention it to someone from Florida, their puzzled expression leads me to believe it's due to my pronunciation, until I jot it down and confirm that they truly have no clue where this place is.

Situated a two-hour drive north of Orlando, Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a mesmerizing National Park that offers a fantastic opportunity to explore the more natural side of Florida.

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You can arrange delightful barbecues here, as the picnic tables are fully equipped. Furthermore, you can partake in activities such as hiking, canoeing, scuba diving, and our personal favorite, tubing down the river. Plus, upon arrival, you can conveniently rent tubes from one of the numerous small shops.

The beauty of it all is that the river's current effortlessly carries you along, requiring zero effort as you simply go with the flow.

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During our visit (as aforementioned), we had the pleasure of encountering a wide array of magnificent wildlife. Among them, the manatees stole the show. It truly is an unrivaled destination in Florida for exploration.

9.) Embark on a Journey to the Kennedy Space Centre

Situated on Merritt Island in the Cape Canaveral region, NASA's Kennedy Space Centre is a mere 90-minute drive (or thereabouts) from Orlando.

Welcome to a hub of all space-related activities, making it an exceptional destination in Florida for NASA, space, and rocket enthusiasts.

Once you arrive, prepare to embark on a simulated space shuttle launch experience at the Visitor Center. This immersive encounter allows you to feel the thrill of taking off into space.

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Additionally, delve into the history of the Apollo era at the Centre's Apollo/Saturn V Centre. Gain insights into the significant events that occurred during this period.

10.) Explore Spectacular Beaches

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Florida boasts a multitude of breathtaking beaches, widely regarded as some of the finest in the United States.

In fact, no matter your location in Florida, you are never more than 75 miles away from a beach, and the majority are simply awe-inspiring. For crystal-clear, turquoise waters, make your way to Clearwater Beach on the Gulf Coast (near St Pete).

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If you find yourself in the southern region, don't miss the opportunity to visit Miami's South Beach, offering the ultimate beach-goer experience within the city limits.

For a distinctive beach encounter, venture to Venice Beach in the Venice and Sarasota areas, where you can stumble upon fossilized shark teeth washing up on the shore.

Learn more: Discovering the Best Beach at Clearwater Beach

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11.) Uncover Dry Tortugas National Park

If you seek a contrasting side of Florida, make your way to Dry Tortugas National Park. This destination stands apart from other prominent locations in Florida and is undoubtedly worth exploring if you find yourself in the vicinity.

An essential attraction not to be overlooked is Fort Jefferson, a site brimming with rich historical significance. However, do not disregard the utterly pristine shoreline upon your arrival. It serves as an incredible location to indulge in the activity of snorkeling and witness some of the most remarkable coral reefs. Just be sure to keep a keen eye out for the resident turtles.

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Please take note that Dry Tortugas National Park is situated on a cluster of islands in close proximity to Key West, approximately 68 miles away. Therefore, accessing the park necessitates transportation via seaplane (or ferry). This excursion cannot be undertaken by conventional car means.

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Delve into the realm of Miami, an obvious and highly recommended destination in the state of Florida, particularly if you are seeking an enjoyable and vibrant city to explore. 🙂

Miami exudes a contagious and lively atmosphere, alongside boasting several extraordinary neighborhoods that are worth discovering. Upon your arrival, make it a priority to experience the marvel of the art walls at Wynwood, immerse yourself in the wonders of the Vizcaya Museum, and visit the enchanting Design District.

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Additionally, if you are in search of some captivating live music venues, venture over to Little Havana. There, you will find an authentic taste of Cuba, making it one of the best places in Florida to visit.

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Do not miss checking out the top attractions in the Florida Keys.

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