Things to see and do in Florida
Florida Amusement Parks
Florida’s theme parks include Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld Orlando, along with dozens of smaller attractions and water parks. By far the most famous is the Walt Disney World Resort which covers 30,080 acres and is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks and Resorts division. The park contains four theme parks, two water parks, twenty-four themed resorts, two spas and fitness centers, five golf courses, and other recreational and entertainment venues. The Universal Orlando Resort, commonly known as Universal Orlando, is the second-largest resort in Greater Orlando after Walt Disney World. The SeaWorld in Orlando features several roller coaster rides like Kraken and Manta. It is also home to the original Journey to Atlantis Water Coaster.
SeaWorld in Orlando opened on December 15, 1973, and on the first day it welcomed more than 5,300 visitors. The park offers three roller coaster rides: Manta, a coaster which is designed to simulate manta rays movements; Kraken, a floorless coaster based on the mythical sea creature; and Shamu Express, a coaster ride located in Shamu’s Happy Harbor. Besides, the park is also home to the original Journey to Atlantis Water Coaster. Visitors can also enjoy some night programs such as SeaWorld After Dark featuring the fireworks show Reflections, a sea lions show Sea Lions Tonite, and Shamu show Shamu Rocks, which premiered April 22, 2011.
Universal Orlando consists of two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, a night-time entertainment complex by the name of Universal CityWalk, and three Loews Hotels (Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort). The park brings you face to face with the biggest characters in movies, TV and pop culture. The Islands of Adventure is considered to be “the most high-tech theme park in the world.” Here you can defy gravity, battle comic book heroes, ride the white water rapids, and experience the world’s first inverted, dual roller coaster.
Walt Disney World
The Walt Disney World Resort, also referred to as Walt Disney World is the world’s most-visited entertainment resort. Spread across 30,080 acres, the theme park is owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company through its Parks and Resorts division. The resort opened on October 1, 1971 with the Magic Kingdom as its only theme park. Today it is home to four theme parks, two water parks, twenty-four themed resorts, fitness centres, five golf courses and two spas. There are eight more theme resorts that are located on site but they are not owned by the Walt Disney Company. Magic Kingdom is the most popular theme park and draws more visitors each year than any other theme park in the country.
Wet ‘n’ Wild
Wet ‘n’ Wild is by far the most exciting water park in Orlando. The park is open year-round and the pools are heated seasonally. Wet ‘n’ Wild is located in Orlando’s International Drive area near other theme parks, hotels and attractions. The park is also within a short drive from Walt Disney World Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, and Universal Orlando. Visitors can enjoy an exciting collection of world-class rides and signature slides. Wet ‘n’ Wild also hosts the BLACK HOLE: The Next Generation, which allows visitors to experience an explosion of pulsating lights, dynamic effects and cosmic energy. A Lazy River trip takes you down a gently moving stream past replicas of old Florida boat docks, rustic billboards and enchanting waterfalls.
Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Straits and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida is home to several prominent beaches. In fact, tourism is the main economy of Florida and while the theme parks are a major draw, the beaches too are an irresistible magnet. One of the most famous beaches is the Clearwater beach that spreads along a 3-mile stretch of the Pinellas Peninsula on the Gulf Coast. Naples Beach has rolling waves on one side and the gleaming mansions that make up Millionaires’ Row on the other. Daytona Beach is a perfect destination for a family-friendly holiday. Fort Lauderdale features a two-mile beautiful stretch with a promenade with bars, restaurants and shops. Palm Beach is without doubt, the crown jewel of Florida.
Miami Beach is a coastal resort city in Florida. Apart from the sun, sand and sea, the city has much to offer its visitors. Each December, Miami Beach hosts the Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the largest art shows in the United States. The exhibition sites are located in the Art Deco District which is noted for its concentration of over 800 Art Deco buildings all within one square mile while other events are held throughout the greater Miami metropolitan area. Miami Beach also houses the New World Symphony which was established in 1987.
Bowman’s Beach is a tranquil beach on Sanibel Island. A private trail leads up to the beach. Bowman’s beach is perfect for lovers, honeymooners and even for families who want to spend quality time together away from boardwalks, ice cream shops, and high energy volleyball games. Although the beach is secluded and private it has some facilities to speak of including bathrooms, picnic tables, showers, barbeque grills and bicycle racks for those who come out biking to the beach. It is never overcrowded and is perfect for those who wish to enjoy the calm waters of the Gulf.
Located at the mouth of New River, Fort Lauderdale stretches along the Atlantic Ocean about 25 miles away from Miami. The city has over six miles of beaches for those who love the sun, sand and sea. The beaches are great for swimming and other activities such as boating and every other conceivable type of water sports. The main beach features a two-mile beautiful stretch that features a promenade with bars, restaurants and shops. While in Fort Lauderdale you can enjoy a 30-minutes boat ride across the Everglades, a swamp region that is counted amongst the most beautiful natural areas in the USA.
The vibrant city of Daytona Beach is located in East Central Florida. The hard packed sands of the beach have made the city a mecca for motor sports and earned it the reputation of being the ‘World Centre of Racing.’ The Daytona Beach Road Course had witnessed races for more than 50 years. This course was later replaced by the Daytona International Speedway. The city also hosts the NASCAR and the Grand American Road Racing Association. The beach city is a perfect destination for a family holiday. Apart from the beach and the race course other attractions include Adventure Landing Waterpark and historical sites such as the Main Street Pier, the Oceanfront Boardwalk, and the Clocktower in Oceanfront Park.
West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach is considered to be the jewel of Florida and attracts the rich and famous from across the world. With sunny skies, perfect year round weather and endless opportunities for great outdoor activities amidst spectacular natural surroundings, the city offers the ideal setting for a memorable holiday. Once you have had your fill of the beach, you can test your skills at golf at the world-class golf courses. West Palm Beach is also a perfect destination to view some endangered species like the Southern White rhinoceros wander freely in their natural habitat at the world famous Lion Country Safari. Other attractions include a bunker built for President John F. Kennedy during the Cold War at Peanut Island. The island also offers plenty of opportunities for hiking and biking.
Clearwater Beach has been voted among the ‘most beautiful beaches in the world’ by USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Dr. Beach and FamilyTravelForum.com. The pristine natural beauty is well complimented by the equally spectacular sunsets witnessed over the Gulf of Mexico. Apart from soaking up the sun and swimming, you can also enjoy a range of water sports. You can watch the adorable dolphins the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Pier 60 or hike in the Moccasin Lake Park. This vibrant city attracts visitors the year round.
Kennedy Space Center
No visit to Florida can be considered complete without visiting the John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The centre has been used as a launch site for space vehicles since 1968. Located on Merritt Island, the center is north-northwest of Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic Ocean between Miami and Jacksonville on Florida’s Space Coast. It is also conveniently located east of many theme parks in Orlando. This NASA’s launch headquarters is the only place on the planet where you can tour launch areas, meet veteran astronauts, see giant rockets, train in spaceflight simulators, and even view a launch.
The Everglades are a natural region of subtropical wetlands in the southern part of Florida. The Everglades National Park protects an unparalleled landscape filled with a wide range of flora and fauna. Spread across 1.5 million acres, the park is a natural habitat for numerous endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther. Several airboat, camping, hiking, and boating tours are available to explore the park. All tours are narrated by professional guides and so you can get a greater insight about the unique wetlands and its native inhabitants. Camping opportunities are available for both the frontcountry and backcountry. Several land trails offer visitors opportunities for leisurely walks, extended hikes and bicycle treks.
Key West is an island paradise with many tropical island resorts which are mostly filled during the season from January through June. The island paradise is a hotbed for several water sports, the most popular of which is snorkelling. Just a few miles off the coast of Key West, there lies one of the largest stretches of coral reef in the continental United States. The stretch is home to hundreds of species, both plants and animals. Other popular activities include sunset cruises, parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, water trampoline and much more. Several glass-bottom boat tours are available that allow you to see the colourful marine life from close quarters.
The State Parks in Florida are more than just trees – they consist of unique swamp lands, rare animals, historic forts, underground caves and some of the world’s best beaches. The state consists of 160 parks spanning 700,000 acres and 100 miles of sandy white beach. These parks are a perfect venue for a range of activities such as swimming and diving in Florida’s rivers and springs, birding and fishing, and hiking and riding on natural scenic trails. Other activities are also held the year-round such as battle reenactments and Native American festivals that celebrate Florida’s history. Several art shows, museums and lighthouses showcase the cultural heritage of the state.
Golfing in Florida
With over 1000 golf courses, many of which feature in the list of America’s best, Florida is the world leader in terms of golf courses. These golf courses are well complimented by the remarkable weather which has earned Florida the epithet of ‘The Sunshine State.’ While golf and sun are consistent throughout the state, the different regions offer a distinctive experience. The beaches around Miami, the prestigious communities of Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and the charming coastline around Jacksonville are a major draw for the visitors looking for championship courses and world-class resorts. The Gulf coast around Tampa is also emerging as a major golfing destination.
Fishing and boating in Florida
Surrounded by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and part of the Caribbean Sea, Florida is a unique boating destination. From salt marshes to mangroves, fish to swimming scallops, Florida is the “Fishing Capital of the World.” The state’s freshwater fisheries encompass 3 million acres of lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and approximately 12,000 miles of fishable rivers, streams and canals. Fishing in Florida is a year-round activity and there are no closed seasons. The recreational fishery resources in these waters attract more than 1.4 million anglers annually. Boating also has plenty of appeal. Florida has over 1,350 miles of coastline and 4,500 square miles of inland waterways, making it an ideal destination for boaters.