The Sunshine State offers incredible weather year-round. With blue skies, beautiful beaches, delicious seafood and plenty of day trip adventures, Florida is a perpetual vacation. Here are a few reasons to visit the sunny state now (or anytime really).
Claiming to be the oldest city in the U.S., St. Augustine is known for its Spanish-style architecture, quaint cafés, and even its ghost stories. The 17th-century Spanish stone fortress known as the Castillo de San Marcos is a must-see, as is the infamous spring water at Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. (No, a sip of it won’t make you immortal).
Cape Canaveral is home to America’s first space station! The Kennedy Space Center launched operations for Apollo, Sky Lab and other space shuttle programs since its opening in the ’60s. The station still launches rockets, and facilities are open for tours.
One of the top U.S. destinations, Orlando is famous for its theme parks. Universal Orlando Resort™ comprises the Islands of Adventures and Universal Studios, where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter takes you through the Hogwarts Castle and Diagon Alley. SeaWorld has some of the most unique experiences for animal lovers, such as watching waddling penguins, exploring a dolphin nursery and a glass tunnel in a shark aquarium. Less we forget, Disney World! Who wouldn’t want to live in the happiest place on earth?
Much like the heat of this tropical state, parties here never stop. Miami Beach is known for its dazzling nightclubs such as LIV, Clubspace, Story, and E11EVEN, which runs 24/7 and is complete with sexy strippers—the party goes on while most are having breakfast. Long after the theme parks close, the nightlife in Orlando is pulsating with dance clubs, high-end bars and lounges in Disney’s Pleasure Island, Universal Studios CityWalk and Downtown Orlando’s Orange Avenue.
The Florida peninsula is rich with wildlife. The sawgrass marshes and mangrove forests of the Everglades National Park are home to 350 bird species, 27 different kinds of snakes, fresh and saltwater fish, the bottlenose dolphin, alligators, crocodiles and the Florida panther. Bird-watching is possible in over 500 locations all over the state, and tens of millions of monarch butterflies fill the Florida sky all along their migration route from Canada to Mexico. Visitors can easily spot manatees, the gentle sea cows native to Florida, in shallow slow-moving waters (such as your neighborhood canal); they migrate each winter in large numbers where they join at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.
The Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg houses one of the largest collections of the famous surrealist painter’s work. The selection of 96 oil paintings, drawings, fine prints, and objects boasts a stunning look into Dalí’s avant-garde style.
The beaches—all along the peninsula are miles of soft white sand and teal blue warm waters that promise a relaxing retreat, complete with a dreamy Florida sunset. Daytona Beach is a hotbed for spring breakers, while Fort Myers Beach along the west coast promises a calmer, tranquil spot for vacationing. Sanibel Island and Captiva Island are known for fishing and spotting dolphins, while Naples along the Gulf of Mexico boasts extravagant golf courses and ritzy restaurants to satisfy the palate.
Las Vegas may hold a full-house hand when it comes to gambling, but you can still get lucky at one of these major casinos. The Miccosukee Resort & Gaming in the outskirts of Miami offers a 32-table room for high-stakes poker, and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood has a lavish grand room for poker and 2,000 slot machines. The hotel’s interior is a rock fan’s sanctuary as rock-and-roll memorabilia cover the walls, including guitars signed by Elvis Presley and Metallica plus a display of costumes from Madonna to Beyoncé. The locale also boasts a bustling nightlife with plenty of entertainment, including karaoke bars and a plethora of restaurants.
Key West is home to one of America’s most beloved writers. The famed Ernest Hemingway and his wife Pauline settled in this two-story Spanish colonial house from 1931–1939. The charming home has since become a museum, which gives guests a look into the late author’s life and a tour of his possessions, including his writing desk and typewriter, mounted trophies from his gaming adventures, and lavish green gardens, complete with his infamously expensive pool. The grounds are also home to about 40–50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats.
Native American Reservations Deep in the Everglades, through the marshes and sawgrass prairies, the Seminole Tribe of Florida at Big Cypress Reservation offers an educational tour about the tribe’s indigenous culture. Discover 30,000 artifacts at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, and stroll along the boardwalk into the tribe’s village where Seminoles practice bead work and basket-weaving techniques. The reservation has a campground for RVs, tent sites, and cabins to stay in and get acquainted with the Native Americans’ way of life.
The legendary Joe’s Stone Crab restaurant has been serving delicious stone crabs fished from the Gulf Coast since 1921. Boiled and then served cold, claws come in four sizes—medium, large, jumbo and colossal! Pick up claws by the pincher end and peel away the broken shell to expose the savory lump of meat. Crabs are actually not killed in the process, limbs are cut off, and then the live animals are thrown back into the ocean where they will (hopefully) grow their claws back.
Tampa crafts some of the best cigars in the world. Dubbed the “Cigar City,” Tampa got its nickname after the famous Cuban cigar manufacturer Vicente Martinez Ybor moved to Tampa and built the largest factory of cigars. The neighborhood of Ybor City is named after him and is now a historic landmark.
Indulging in a little shopping spree never hurt anybody. Shopping malls in Florida are made for tourists and locals alike with stores for every budget. Luxury boutiques at Bal Harbour Shops carry big brand names such as Cartier and Chanel, and outlet malls are nearly in every major Florida city, including Orlando, Miramar, and Sunrise, where Sawgrass Mills is a popular destination.
Should boredom ever kick in, just browse through the local news. All sorts of bizarre incidents happen in Florida, such as the cannibal attack of 2012 (a man gnawed at a man’s facial flesh before being shot); the woman twerking on a moving vehicle riding on the highway; and most recently, a man drank five gallons of vodka and lived to tell the tale. Florida is full of wild and unpredictable daily events, making it a truly entertaining place.
These recommendations were updated on January 25, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.