The first humans settled in Florida nearly 14,000 years ago, and even back then, the area was known for its lush tropics and beautiful weather. Throughout history, Florida has offered a unique culture built on exploring stunning wildlife, enjoying fresh seafood and viewing all three sides of the peninsula and coastlines.
Over the years, Florida gained the nickname “The Sunshine State” due to its sunny weather. The state has an average of 300 days of sunshine per year. This is one of the reasons Florida is such a popular tourist destination, especially in the winter. Snowbirds fly south for the winter looking to escape the snow and extreme cold.
Florida is a prime vacation destination, bringing thousands of tourists each year. With 8,000 miles (12,900 km) of shoreline, it’s no surprise that people visit to spend their days relaxing at the beach. On top of sunshine, sand, and crystal clear ocean waters, Florida has diverse cityscapes, museums, theme parks and other activities worth exploring. From the bustling city of Miami to the quiet towns on the Panhandle, Florida has something for everyone. When it comes to choosing the best place, there’s no wrong answer.
Whether you want to spend the day riding rollercoasters, play a round of golf on a championship course, learn the history of the Spanish ruling of the state, or make friends with a manatee, Florida has it all. Here are the top 20 cities to explore in Florida. Keep reading for the perfect guide to planning your next vacation.
- Cities in Florida
- 20 Best Florida Cities To Visit
Cities in Florida
20 Best Florida Cities To Visit
Jacksonville is one of Florida’s most northern metropolis cities.
It’s also the largest city by landmass in America! Jacksonville is 33 miles (53 km) south of Amelia Island and 40 miles (64 km) north of St. Augustine.
You will commonly hear the city referred to as “Jax,” “First Coast,” “River City,” and “Duval” by the locals.
This sprawling city has a ton to offer; you can spend the day on the beach or exploring hipster coffee shops and antique malls on the Westside.
There are also plenty of museums to wander through, such as the Cummer Museum of Art And Gardens, the Museum of Science and History, and the Museum Of Contemporary Art.
Tampa is quickly becoming one of Florida’s most exciting cities to visit.
It is about 85 miles (186 km) southwest of Orlando and 281 miles (452 km) northwest of Miami.
The city offers many activities to participate in, including viewing over 20,000 aquatic animals at The Florida Aquarium, riding the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, or gambling at the slot machines and poker tables at The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa.
Historic Ybor City offers a bustling downtown area with boutiques and dining options.
If you want to get beachy, Tampa is just 30 minutes from another destination on our list, Clearwater Beach!
3- St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg is part of the Tampa Bay area, just a 27-minute drive from downtown Tampa.
Although it borders Tampa, it still has its own fun activities to explore.
You can catch a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game at Tropicana Field, see flamingos at the Sunken Garden, or escape the bustling city at one of the nature preserves.
Because the city sits right on the gulf coast, it is a popular destination for boating, fishing, swimming and kayaking.
The best beaches in the area are St. Pete Beach, Upham Beach Park, Treasure Island Beach, and Madeira Beach.
When you think of Florida, you might think of one of the top theme park hubs in the nation.
Orlando is the home to some of the most popular theme parks, such as Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, Aquatica and Discovery Cove.
Visitors come from all over the country and even the world to experience the excitement and fun of adrenaline-pumping rollercoasters, friendly character meet and greets, sweet treats and magical fun.
This is the main reason that Orlando is the top tourist destination in Florida.
On top of world-class amusement parks, visitors of Orlando can also shop at huge outlet malls, dine at some of the most delicious restaurants, and stroll through eclectic art galleries in the beautiful downtown.
Tallahassee is the state capital of Florida, so there are tons of historical sites and exhibits to dive deep into Florida’s history.
The name “Tallahassee” comes from the Seminole Indians’ language, which translates to “old fields,” or “old town.”
Some of the most popular attractions in Tallahassee are Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lewis Spring House, Lichgate On High Road, and The Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail.
Tallahassee is the spot to be whether you are interested in viewing famous architectural pieces, having a simple picnic in a scenic park, or biking and hiking through Florida’s fantastic nature trails.
- 20 Landmarks In Florida
- 20 Landmarks In Miami
- 20 Things To Do In Miami At Night
- 20 Florida Keys Beaches
- 20 Ways To Spend Christmas In Florida
- 11 Florida National Parks
- 20 Things To Do In Fort Myers
- Swimming With Manatees In Florida
- 20 Things To Do In Ruskin
- 20 Day Trips From Miami
- 20 Day Trips From Orlando
- 20 Museums in Florida
- 20 Things To Do in Tampa
- 20 Things To Do In Cocoa Beach
- 20 State Parks in Florida
- 20 Places For The Best Snorkeling In Florida
- 20 Florida Keys State Parks
- 20 Things To Do In Treasure Island, Florida
- 20 Things To Do In Cape Canaveral
- 20 Places To Go Glamping In Florida
- 20 Things To Do In Jacksonville
- 20 Florida Islands
- 20 Things To Do In Cape Coral
- 20 Things To Do In Tallahassee
- 20 Things To Do In Anna Maria Island
- 20 Things To Do In Port St Lucie
- 20 Things To Do In St Augustine At Night
- 20 Things To Do In Gainesville
- 20 Cities in Florida
- 20 Orlando Museums
- 20 Things To Do In Clewiston, Florida
- 20 Things To Do In St Petersburg
- 20 Things To Do In Sarasota
- 20 Things To Do In Neptune Beach
6- Port St. Lucie
Port St. Lucie is a big city that offers a small-town feel.
This charming area on the east coast of Florida is known for its lush natural beauty, premier golf courses, and access to some of Florida’s best beaches.
Residents and visitors of Port St. Lucie rave about the state parks and preserves.
If you enjoy nature, stop at St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park, Oak Hammock Park, Hillmoor Lake Park, or Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens.
Port St. Lucie is truly one of the best-kept secrets in Florida.
7- Daytona Beach
This might just be one of the most popular beaches in the world, known for spring breakers and bike week and hosting the Daytona 500.
These events are some of the city’s most exciting experiences.
The Daytona International Speedway hosts the Daytona 500 in February, Bike Week takes place during March, and Spring Break is anywhere from March to April.
If you are not visiting during these events, you can still have a great time in the city, soaking in the rays at the beach or strolling the shops on the boardwalk.
Fun Fact: did you know Gainesville is the home of the world’s first sports drink – Gatorade? This is because Gainesville houses the University of Florida, whose mascot is the Gators.
Although Gainesville is considered a college town, plenty of great visitor activities remain.
You can find Lake Alice, a performing arts centre, and a natural history museum on the university campus.
These are open to the public and worth checking out.
When you venture off campus, you can find Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Kika Silva Pla Planetarium, and interactive exhibits at the Cade Museum For Creativity And Invention, perfect for letting children’s imaginations run wild.
9- West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach is north of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale and just west of Palm Beach.
In this area, you will find a bustling art community which can be seen through the Norton Museum of Art and its sculpture garden or at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.
You will also find eclectic festivals along Clemantis street, known for its vibrant nightlife, shopping and dining.
If you want a more family-friendly atmosphere, you can check out nearby Rapids Waterpark, Palm Beach Zoo, or the Manatee Lagoon.
Miami is one of Florida’s busiest, most flashy cities.
It is known for its fantastic nightlife, with plenty of neon-lit, ever-packed clubs pumping loud music and fruity cocktails.
This Florida city has no shortage of fancy cars or large mansions.
Before hitting the clubs, have dinner at one of Florida’s best restaurants, such as Casa Tua or Cecconi’s.
You might be surprised to learn that Miami also offers fun for the kiddos.
It’s home to exciting museums such as Wynwood, The Unicorn Factory, and the Museum of Discovery and Science. Additionally, Miami Beach is just across the bridge if you’re looking for a day of fun in the sun.
11- Panama City Beach
You may have heard of Panama City Beach, or “PCB,” as the destination for college-aged spring breakers.
While the city still has plenty of bars, nightclubs, and live music venues for adult entertainment, there are also many other exciting things to explore.
27 miles (43 km) of shoreline give Panama City Beach the well-deserved title of Top 3 Beaches in the United States from Trip Advisor.
If you are looking for more family-fun excitement, there are plenty of attractions, including Shipwreck Island Waterpark, Zoo World, Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise and
Jeep Beach Jam (a jeep-themed festival that boasts off-roading, obstacle courses and jeep vendors).
12- Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale is a city on Florida’s southeastern coast, known for its boating canals.
These many waterway canals have earned the city the nickname “Venice of America.”
Fun Fact: Fort Lauderdale has over 156 miles (251 km) of waterways!
The city is located just north of Miami.
Like Naples, Fort Lauderdale caters to a more laid-back, adult atmosphere.
You can easily find sleepy jazz music playing through one of the many lounges or cocktail bars.
Plenty of shops and dining are also on Las Olas Boulevard or in The Galleria Mall.
Fort Lauderdale Beach offers a great vibe and boardwalk to stroll, but there are over seven miles (11 km) of shoreline in the area, including Las Olas Beach, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, and Lago Mar Beach, so you’re sure to find a beach that suits your style.
13- Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach has been repeatedly named America’s #1 Beach, for good reason.
Known for its namesake, Clearwater Beach has gorgeous clear blue waters and soft sands.
It’s the perfect place to kick back and connect with nature, whether kayaking through mangroves, taking in the views on a sightseeing tour, or learning about sea turtles and dolphins at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Other fun activities include hiking, biking or walking one of the nature trails in the nearby state parks or visiting Pier 60, which hosts a nightly festival with various street performers and vendors.
Clearwater Beach is about 20 miles (32 km) north of St. Petersburg and 20 miles (32 km) west of Tampa.
14- Boca Raton
Boca Raton, or “Boca” as the locals call it, is a city within Florida’s Palm Beaches 27 miles (43 km) south of our #7 spot on this list, West Palm Beach, making it easy to explore both cities in one trip.
This city is best known for its warm sandy beaches, popular dining options, and shopping.
For the best Boca experience, visit Mizner Park. The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is a great way to experience nature in the area.
This 20-acre (8 ha) protected barrier island offers views of the Atlantic Ocean, snorkelling at Red Reef, and a closer look at sea turtle rehabilitation.
Sarasota borders the Gulf of Mexico, just about 60 miles (95 km) south of Tampa.
It’s near some of Florida’s most famous beaches, such as Siesta Key, Lido Key, Longboat Key and Casey Key.
These spots offer sugary-soft white sand beaches and water so clear you can see the fish swimming at your feet.
When you’re done soaking in the sun, you can watch a shark feeding at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, gaze at the art at the Ringling Brothers Museum or stop to smell the flowers at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Naples is playfully called “the Palm Beach of the West Coast.”
This is because it gives a laid-back, luxury vibe. Located on Paradise Coast, about 40 miles (64 km) south of Fort Myers, Naples is one of the last cities you will see before hitting the Everglades.
The romantic city is the perfect destination for a couple’s getaway, filled with upscale eateries and art galleries along 5th Street South.
Stay at one of the elegant beach resorts with sugar sand beaches to spend the day relaxing in a private cabana.
If you want to view the stunning city from a distance, hop on a sunset boat cruise and sail the night away.
17- Key Largo
Ever listened to the Beach Boys’ hit song, “Kokomo”? The lyrics don’t include Key Largo for nothing!
This little slice of paradise that has even the most famous celebrities bragging is another gem located in the Florida Keys, just 16 miles (25 km) off the coast of Florida.
Key Largo is the largest of the Florida Keys and is known heavily for its involvement in scuba diving, giving it the nickname “Dive Capital of the World.”
Here, you will find the only living coral reef in the continental U.S., the country’s first undersea park (John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park), and the only underwater hotel in the world.
Destin is in northwest Florida, in an area that is considered the Panhandle.
This area is a top destination for many celebrities, and it is easy to see why.
You’ll most likely find these stars on 30A, a scenic highway that runs along the beach filled with homes, shops and restaurants.
Along the Emerald Coast, the beaches are filled with thick, soft sand that sinks as you step in.
Glistening waters kiss the beach, the water is so warm you might even think you’re in a pool.
In addition to beautiful beaches, Destin offers an outlet mall, water parks, and outdoor adventures at Henderson State Park.
19- Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach is the place to be if you are interested in surfing.
The city is home to legendary Ron Jon Surf Shop’s flagship store and Florida Surf Museum.
If you want to experience the waves, the beach is famous for its killer waves.
Cocoa Beach is also minutes from the Kennedy Space Center. Visitors can get an up-close look at NASA’s shuttles and launch pads here.
Whether you’re drawn to the ocean or the stars in space, you’ll find some unforgettable experiences in Cocoa Beach.
20- St. Augustine
This historic city is charming in every way.
Known as the Ancient City because it is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement, founded by Spaniards in 1565, St. Augustine is 40 miles (64 km) south of Jacksonville.
The city’s history is truly brought to life with cobblestone pathways, horse-drawn carriages, and museums such as the old schoolhouse, St. Augustine Lighthouse, and Castillo de San Marcos.
St. George Street and the surrounding alleyways contain some of the cutest shops, restaurants, and dessert spots.
Have a delicious dinner in a historic two-story home at Harry’s Seafood, and then stop at Custeau’s Waffle and Milkshake Bar for a sweet treat.
For more incredible cities around the world, read:
- 20 Best Cities at Night
- 20 Best Cities in Mexico
- 20 Best Cities in Greece
- 20 Best Cities in Poland
- 20 Best Cities in Spain
- 20 Best Cities in Portugal
- 20 Best Cities in Ohio
- 20 Best Cities in Missouri
- 20 Best Cities in Indiana
- 20 Best Cities in Texas
- 20 Best Cities in Florida
- 20 Best Cities in Iowa
- 20 Best Cities in Illinois
- 20 Best Cities in Wyoming
- 20 Best Cities in Tennessee
- 20 Best Cities in Nevada
- 20 Best Cities in Alabama
- 20 Best Cities in Oklahoma
- 20 Best Cities in Idaho
- 20 Best Cities in New Mexico
- 20 Best Cities in Georgia
- 20 Best Cities in North Carolina
- 20 Best Cities in Vietnam
- 20 Best Danube River Cities
- 10 Best Party Cities in Canada
- 10 Best Cities in Canada For Kids
- 20 Best Cities in Hawaii
- 20 Best Cities in Romania
- 20 Best Cities in Finland
- 20 Best Cities in France
- 20 Best Cities in Taiwan
- 20 Best Cities in Turkey
- 20 Best Cities in Scotland
- 20 Best Cities in New York
- 20 Best Cities in England
- 20 Best Cities in Switzerland
- 20 Best Cities in New Zealand
- 20 Best Cities in Iceland
- 20 Best Cities in Netherlands
- 20 Best Cities in Belgium
- 20 Best Cities in Jordan
- 20 Best Cities in Italy
- 20 Best Cities in Ireland
- 20 Best Cities in Germany
- 20 Best Cities in Brazil