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Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
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The 24 best things to do in Florida

Explore theme parks, scenic swamplands, and big city energy with our list of the best things to do in Florida

Megan duBois
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Megan duBois
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Florida is known for its abundance of theme parks and sandy shorelines. And while the Sunshine State is proud of these things—who wouldn’t be—the other best things to do in Florida are worthy of their moment in the sun, too. The state has some of the best art museums in the country, over 1,000 golf courses (some of which are used by the PGA), and outdoor adventures galore in Florida's national parks.

As you cruise up and down the coast, you’ll find an endless supply of scenic places to get out and stretch your legs while you enjoy some of the best restaurants in the state, local beaches, and hidden gem attractions. And, as you make your way throughout Florida, you won’t miss the state’s range of personalities; north of Orlando, there’s a sense of southern hospitality that’s hard to miss in cities like Jacksonville, while south of Orlando, a wider range of cultures highlight the state’s diverse population in cities like Miami (and that’s not even including Key West, a place with a culture of its own).

Already visited the state’s bucket list beaches? You haven't even seen the half of it. Here are the best things to do in Florida.

Best things to do in Florida, ranked

Walt Disney World is one of the most visited places on earth, and no trip to Florida is complete without experiencing Magic Kingdom Park. Home to a variety of attractions that have become theme park icons (like the Haunted Mansion, The Jungle Cruise, and Space Mountain) the park is buzzing with excitement this year as Walt Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary. Visit while the festivities are still in motion (our guide to Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary will help lead the way) and let your inner-kid shine (or your actual kids, for that matter).

St. Augustine Ghost Tours
Photograph: Provided by FloridasHistoricCoast.com

2. St. Augustine Ghost Tours

St. Augustine is the oldest city in the nation—considering its age, it’s no surprise that it's also one of the most haunted places in Florida. What’s that mean? Well, ghost tours, of course. Hop on board a trolly in the early evening and get ready to travel past some of the spookiest places in the city like the St. Augustine Lighthouse, cemeteries from the 1800s, and an old schoolhouse.

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If you’ve already seen EPCOT, look again: EPCOT is in the midst of a multi-year transformation that will bring more Disney characters into the park. This started with the newest attraction, in the France pavilion, called Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. There’s also a new restaurant, Space 220, which you might call out of this world (it’s designed to make guests feel like they’re dining 220 miles above the earth in a space station). Coming soon to EPCOT is a new roller coaster themed after Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy, and a walkthrough attraction themed after the popular Disney movie Moana.

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you can live out your Star Wars dreams by piloting the Millennium Falcon at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, or you can take a ride on Slinky Dog’s back in Toy Story Land. You can even drop 13 stories in an elevator on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, if you’re so inclined. For a more casual afternoon, consider grabbing a margarita flight at The Hollywood Brown Derby and checking out a live reproduction of the classic Disney animated film Beauty and the Beast, which is just down the street from the Brown Derby.

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The Florida Everglades is a unique environment where you can see a plethora of native wildlife like panthers, alligators, and snakes. One way to really explore the Everglades is to hop on an airboat ride and travel through the swamps with an expert captain. There aren’t many other places in the United States where you can even take an airboat ride, which makes this a particularly unique Florida activity—the boats go fast, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for exciting wildlife.

Round out your Walt Disney World adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. While most people think this park is just a zoo, that’s only half the story—you can also take a ride through an authentic African safari, or another ride that summits “Mount Everest” on a rollercoaster. Better yet, get a flashback to the age of dinosaurs on a time rover. While at the park you can also learn about conservation and what Disney is doing to help rehabilitate species and their natural environment.

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The city of Jacksonville is a hub for craft breweries, and one way to experience the best of them is the Jax Ale Trail. The self-guided trail will take you to all corners of the city as you taste award-winning beer and even a few tasty bites of food at local hot spots. Each of the breweries has a small booklet that you can take on your journey—at each participating brewery, you'll get a new stamp, and when the booklet is full you can turn it in with Visit Jacksonville for a prize.

Universal Studios Florida is home to Diagon Alley, part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here, you'll find Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, a story coaster that allows riders to get face-to-face with villains from the Harry Potter franchise and a large, fire-breathing dragon. Universal Studios Florida is also where you’ll find classic Universal attractions like E.T. Adventure, Men in Black: Alien Attack, and Revenge of the Mummy.

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Are you a space fanatic? Spend the day at NASA and Kennedy Space Center. The complex takes visitors past some of the launchpads where space shuttles lifted off into space. You can also get up close to things like the Space Shuttle Atlantis, see some modern rockets, and learn about NASA’s next big mission to explore Mars.

Adults and those traveling with kids of all ages will enjoy Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. Here you can explore several themed lands based on popular movies and series like Jurassic Park, Marvel, Dr. Seuss, and of course, even more Harry Potter. The most recent attraction to open at Islands of Adventure is Jurassic World Velocicoaster, which whisks riders on a whirlwind of twists, turns, and inversions as they try to escape velociraptors.

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If you’re looking for a day filled with adventure and aquatic animals, head to SeaWorld Orlando. The exciting theme park has plenty of thrilling roller coasters along with ample opportunity for adorable animal encounters. While at the park, explore animal exhibits with penguins, sea lions, and dolphins. The best part about SeaWorld compared to the other Orlando theme parks is that you really just need one day to do everything, which allows you to do more of the “local” activities in the city.

Right next door to SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive park that allows you to enjoy sunny Florida days with plenty of food, drinks, and animal encounters. The highlight of a day at Discovery Cove is swimming with dolphins and learning about their natural behaviors from the expert trainers that work at the park. After taking a swim with the magnificent creatures, grab a float and take a trip (or two) around a lazy river, or go snorkeling with giant rays.

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13. Mallory Square, Key West

Key West is the place defined to sit back and relax. There are ample spaces to do this in Key West, but none are more famous than Mallory Square. Each night, the square fills with tourists and locals who are ready to celebrate the evening sunset with a cold drink in hand. These sunset parties are the perfect time for people to take in the beauty of nature as the sun goes down over the glittering waters of the Florida Keys—before they head to the iconic beach bars in hopes of living out their Jimmy Buffett dreams.

Are you an art lover heading to the Sunshine State? Make sure you stop at The Dalí museum in Tampa. The institution is home to one of the largest collections of Salvador Dalí collections in the world. Throughout the year, the museum also puts on special exhibits and activities, while the stunning architecture—complete with winding staircases and mirrored exterior glass—makes it worth a visit all on its own.

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If you’re traveling to Tampa and looking for something the entire family can do together, look no further than The Florida Aquarium. Here, adults and kids can learn about sea life and ocean conservation, and they’ll also have the opportunity to get up close to marine life. One of our favorite exhibits is Stingray Beach, where visitors can watch and touch beautiful rays as they glide in the water—roll up your sleeves, put your hands into the tank, and feel their velvet soft wingtips.

Wynwood Art District
Photograph: Shutterstock

16. Wynwood Art District

One of Miami’s hippest neighborhoods, Wynwood, is certainly one of Florida’s brightest hubs for art and culture. The district is known for its colorful murals that grace the outside of large buildings, most often known as the Wynwood Walls. The outdoor museum showcases work from some of the world’s most prolific street artists. Around the area, you’ll also find smaller art galleries, craft breweries, boutiques, bistros, and bars to enjoy after the sun goes down.

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In the heart of Delray Beach, Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is a stunning oasis where you can learn about Japanese culture while sitting in a tranquil, relaxing space. Before heading out to the gardens, visit the museum and immerse yourself in the culture of Japan; the museum has an abundance of Japanese artifacts and plays host to a variety of exhibitions each year. Next, step out to the gardens where you can soak in the sounds of rippling waters, singing birds, and nature.

If you’re traveling with smaller kids, a stop at LEGOLAND Florida is hard to skip. The adorable theme park features plenty of attractions that kids of all ages can ride, not to mention a fun water park for a break from the Florida heat. And, coming soon to LEGOLAND, you’ll find a brand-new Peppa Pig Theme Park that’s based on the popular kid’s TV show Peppa Pig. After a day riding attractions and spotting favorite LEGO characters, relax at one of the three LEGOLAND Florida resorts—they’re all family-friendly and LEGO-themed (of course).

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Manatees, a native Florida species (you might know them as sea cows or dugongs), are large creatures that often migrate to warmer Florida springs in the cooler months—it’s a great time to hop in the water, or on a paddleboard, to get a closer view. At Crystal River, you can learn about the gentle giants before swimming alongside them in a guided excursion.

One theme park that often gets left out of the conversation is Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. The thrilling theme park is home to some of the fastest roller coasters in the state. The park also goes all out for the holidays, with themed events for Halloween and Christmas. Opening early next year is a brand-new hybrid coaster, Iron Gwazi, which will be the tallest, fastest, and steepest of its kind in the world.

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Located in Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park is a popular place for locals and tourists to enjoy a day in the sun. The park is one of the best snorkeling and diving locations in the world, with crystal clear waters that allow you to see schools of fish and other marine life up close. The only way to get to the national park is by boat, but it’s a worthy afternoon trip if you’re already in Key West.

Key West has plenty of historic sites, but none are more famous than the Hemingway Home and Museum. Here, you’ll see how the prolific author and writer Ernest Hemingway lived and worked on a daily basis. As you tour the house you’ll see some of Hemingway’s personal objects that have been preserved, and on the grounds of the home you might encounter some of the infamous five-toed cats that are direct descendants of the ones that belonged to Hemingway himself.

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Enjoy an NFL Game
Photograph: Ryan Ketterman

23. Enjoy an NFL Game

Football fans can rally for one of three NFL teams that call Florida home: the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Miami Dolphins. Part of the fun of traveling to Florida for an NFL game is the game-day experience; the warmer weather makes it perfect for tailgating before a game, and the stadiums here are top-notch (one even has pools, and another has a full-size pirate ship inside). Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Florida has some of the top players in the NFL, like first-round draft pick Trevor Lawrence and NFL MVP Tom Brady.

24. Head to a College Football Game

In Florida, football doesn’t stop with the NFL. There’s nothing Florida does better than Saturday afternoon college football games. All around the state you’ll see fans donning their team colors and hosting lavish parties with friends and family to watch the game—sure, you might even hear them screaming out their team's rally cry in the grocery store when they see another fan. A few of the most talked-about teams in the state are the Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, and Miami Hurricanes. But no matter who you choose to cheer for, you’re guaranteed a good time.

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