There’s so much to see and do in America’s Sunshine State that it can be hard to know where to start. What is Florida known for? Well, most people know Florida for its warm weather and amazing Disney Parks – and rightly so. Florida is the theme park capital of the world! However, this southern US state has so much more to offer, thanks to its gorgeous sunny location near the Caribbean. Florida’s climate means it also grows delicious fruit and veg, particularly citrus fruits, and is home to spectacular beaches, the likes of which you can find in Miami or the Florida Keys.
For nature lovers, the lush green Everglades are full of outdoor activities and are home to Florida’s most formidable residents, alligators as well as the friendly local manatees. Its proximity to the Caribbean, particularly Cuba, means there’s a big Cuban and Hispanic influence, so you can get delicious food and go to some wild parties in places like Little Havana. For those visiting Florida with boys who prefer to see some cool attractions, the Kennedy Space Centre, home of NASA, and NASCAR racing will satisfy their need for thrills.
What Is Florida Known For
Florida is well known for its fantastic beaches, with more than 1,200 miles of coastline and virtually year-round warm weather, golden sands and clear waters.
Although the most famous are on the East Coast, the West Coast boasts plenty more with fewer crowds.
South Beach, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale Beach are popular with locals and tourists alike, but it’s worth hunting around for hidden coves with fewer people.
If you’re visiting Orlando for theme parks, you can be at a beach in under two hours – Florida has a long slim shape, which means no matter where you are, there will be a stunning beach somewhere close by!
The beaches are also great for a variety of activities and watersports, which we’ll dive into later, but do watch out for Florida’s infamous resident sharks.
2- The Florida Keys
If you’re not entirely satisfied by the fantastic beaches on Florida’s mainland, then maybe the cluster of islands off the south coast, known as the Florida Keys, will tempt you.
The Keys are a real-life paradise, drawing holidaymakers from around the world with their sparkling waters, soft white sand and tropical vibes.
Key West is probably the one most people have heard of, but there are actually more than 1,700 islands spanning the Lower Keys, plus Marathon, Islamorada and Key Largo.
All of them have luxe resorts, restaurants, bars, tours and a plethora of activities to offer – most people enjoy relaxing on the beach, watersports like diving or deep-sea fishing, or having some cocktails by the ocean.
There are also towns, state parks, coral reefs and many historic sights to discover.
3- Theme Parks
Let’s be honest, Disney World is probably the first thing you think of in Florida.
Walt Disney World’s huge theme parks are what draw millions upon millions of visitors to the state each year, despite their being Disney Parks in other countries, Florida is seen as ‘the original’.
Made up of Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, plus two waterparks, there’s an endless stream of rides, shows, restaurants, shops and events to experience.
Elsewhere, Universal Orlando comes in a close second to Disney, featuring rides and attractions from major movies and shows like Harry Potter, E.T. and The Simpsons.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s also Seaworld, Legoland, Busch Gardens and Silver Springs State Park.
If you want to maximise seeing a theme park, aim for getting park passes, for example, Disney’s 7- or 14-Day Pass, so you really have time to experience the magic.
4- The Everglades
The Everglades is what many people would call a swamp, but it isn’t the Shrek-like landscape you may imagine.
Filled with lush flora and fauna, the Everglades are home to amazing wildlife, such as alligators, bears, panthers, manatees and hundreds of bird species.
Everglades National Park covers a huge 3 million acres in the south of Florida, where the humidity and plants are perfect for these animals.
It’s the only ecosystem of its kind in the world, and there are so many activities on offer here, from boat trips and hiking trails to bird and wildlife watching and more.
It’s one of the most popular things to do in Florida and makes for a fun day out – just don’t go swimming as the alligators mostly live here!
5- Kennedy Space Centre
The whole stretch of land near Cape Canaveral is known locally as the Space Coast, named after the 1960s space programme, the Kennedy Space Centre and numerous other fascinating space-related attractions in the area.
The KSC is NASA’s main launch site for manned rockets, and although they don’t happen every day, seeing one is an unforgettable experience.
The KSC doesn’t just launch rockets, however, but also houses hundreds of them, along with space suits and other memorabilia, plus displays from the Apollo missions, so that visitors can learn all about the fascinating world of space travel.
There are also fun shuttles and simulator experiences, and you often have the chance to meet a real astronaut at the museum.
The Space Coast is great to visit, as it’s also home to excellent beaches, activities like spotting manatees and beautiful boat cruises.
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Florida’s most famous wildlife might be alligators, but you probably wouldn’t want to swim with them!
On the other hand, manatees, also known as ‘sea cows’ are gentle giants that gently cruise the waters in Florida’s swamps and springs and are completely harmless, meaning spotting them or swimming with them is an amazing experience.
Crystal River and Lee County Manatee Park are some of the most popular places in Florida to see and swim with manatees, where you can do boat cruises or go snorkelling.
Note that manatees are almost everywhere between April and October, after which it gets colder for them, so head to Florida’s springs to spot some.
7- Sports And Watersports
With its huge coastline, numerous lakes, rivers and springs, it’s unsurprising that Florida is super popular for all kinds of watersports.
There’s quite literally everything here, from parasailing, kayaking, snorkelling and diving to cruises, catamaran rides, sailing and fishing.
Boat cruises are very popular, particularly sunset and dolphin-watching cruises, while in the Keys, fishing is the biggest sport.
In fact, Islamorada is known as the sport-fishing capital of the world, and hundreds of people enjoy heading out here to try and catch fish like mahi-mahi, tuna and marlin.
Daytona Beach, like a few others along the coast, is also loved by surfers, as with nothing but the Atlantic Ocean ahead, the waves here can be epic and many kite- and windsurfers also get in on the action.
If you’re keen to try any of these, there are hundreds of rental shops along every beach for renting gear or taking lessons – getting out on the water is a must-do while in Florida!
On the flip side to Florida’s great Sunshine State reputation is a whole different kind of weather.
Between June and November is Florida’s hurricane season, which may seem like most of the year, but don’t worry, there aren’t constant hurricanes during this period.
However, when one does come, it’s taken seriously by locals, as they’ve been known to uproot trees and destroy houses, depending on their strength.
Floridians prepare for hurricanes well ahead of time by stockpiling supplies and doing other prep, so if you happen to be caught in Florida when a hurricane is due, make sure to stock up on some food, water and other useful things at a supermarket.
Staying away from beaches and water is the number one rule, Don’t panic too much, however, as hurricane warnings normally come a few weeks in advance, and most of the time are fairly weak.
We’ve already mentioned these terrifying reptiles in relation to the Everglades, but be prepared to se gators roaming around all sorts of places in Florida, from canals to golf courses.
More than a million of them live in the state, and they can live in pretty much any type of water- they’re regularly found in swimming pools, which almost everyone in Florida has!
Although you’ll likely want to avoid them day to day, seeing them up close while you’re there can be a fun experience that you can enjoy on an airboat tour through the Everglades, at Hillsborough River State Park or a wildlife refuge.
The alligators in Florida aren’t babies – males can be up to 15ft and females around 9ft, and seeing them snap their jaws shut around a chunk of meat on a tour can be exciting but scary!
10- Being the ‘Sunshine State’
We’ve touched on Florida’s sunny climes already, but there’s a good reason the state’s weather has become its famous tagline.
Florida has, on average, between 200-300 days of sunshine per year, depending on where you go and this warm weather is thanks to Florida’s location on the Tropic of Cancer and the equator, meaning temperatures stay high and fairly humid for most of the year.
In Tampa Bay, the city of St. Petersburg is nicknamed Sunshine City, and still holds the title for the city with the most consecutive days of sunshine – a huge 768 days! This warm climate, with blue skies, sunshine and the state’s famous beaches, clear waters, theme parks and other attractions, make it a haven for people looking for a tropical winter escape, and in Florida, you can still hang out in a dress or swimsuit even in winter!
11- Citrus Fruit
Famous explorer Ponce de Leon supposedly brought citrus fruits to Florida in the 1500s, and thanks to the state’s warmth, the fruits have thrived ever since.
Oranges are the most famous fruit grown here, and they come into season during the winter, with many companies holding huge picking events and markets so that you can choose some juicy fruits to take home.
Unsurprisingly, Florida is one of the largest producers of orange juice in the world, but oranges aren’t the only things grown here – grapefruits, limes, tangerines, watermelons, bananas, and a whole host of vegetables also grow in abundance in Florida.
You’ll find citrus fruits used in loads of dishes, spot oranges in everything from county names to number plates and enjoy some of the freshest fruits and veggies in America.
Miami is a famous location unto itself – the beach and party capital of Florida; it has endlessly fun things to see and do, especially if you’re looking for a great night out on the town.
Miami has 663 miles of beaches, packed with bars, restaurants and clubs that go all night and into the morning, making it famous for having some of the best nightlife in America.
There’s also a huge population of people from the Caribbean and Latin America, so expect great food and live music everywhere you go.
In Little Havana, local spots serve a variety of delicious dishes, the most famous of which is the Cuban Sandwich, made with ham, pork, cheese, pickles and mustard served on a sweet Cuban-style bread.
Miami is also one of the most lavish places in Florida, as seen by the hordes of rich and famous who like to holiday here – the waterfront is normally home to hundreds of sleek yachts, and the mansions are what dreams are made of.
Yes, it’s a strange one, but Florida tops the list as the most popular place to retire to, with a huge population of over 65s.
Who can blame them when most come here to live out their days in the sunshine or on the beach?
There are also lots of invigorating outdoor activities that are great for the older generation, plus no state income tax, a lower cost of living and lots of healthcare plans for elderly residents.
There are so many retirement villages across the state, especially in Sarasota, Orlando, Fort Myers and Tampa Bay, that offer amazing adventures for older people wanting to settle down in the area.
Even for tourists visiting from overseas, you’ll notice many older visitors who have a second home, which are very affordable, allowing them to visit year after year and enjoy everything Florida has to offer.
Florida is the birthplace of NASCAR, the hub of which is in the famous Daytona Beach area.
Also known as the ‘Birthplace of Speed’, NASCAR is the USA’s most popular racing series and is ongoing to this day.
Thousands of racing fans head to the Daytona International Speedway each year to watch the Daytona 500, although dozens of other races and motorsport events are held here yearly.
If you’re keen to try and see the Daytona 500 for yourself, it normally kicks off in February each year and begins the racing season.
Although there isn’t a Daytona 500 museum, the next best thing in the area is the Motorsports Hall of Fame, where you can learn about the history of the sport and see original memorabilia – it’s the best place to go for any racing fans and aficionados!
The Fountain of Youth / St.
If you’re into myths and legends, you may have heard that the Fountain of Youth is in St Augustine, Florida (or perhaps you’ve watched the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie!).
It’s said that explorer Ponce de Leon discovered waters here that offered eternal youth, although he died at age 61, so take this with a pinch of salt.
Either way, the beautiful city of St Augustine is the oldest city in the USA and has a few fun things to do in this vein.
You can visit the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, believed to be the site where Ponce de Leon first landed.
The city is also home to some stunning historical buildings, including some of the oldest in North America, such as the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine and the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse.
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