The U.S. is filled to the brim with tourist spots and travel destinations for backpackers like us. If you ask a person which states are the best to visit, you’ll get regular answers like New York, California, and Nevada. Another state that people commonly suggest visiting is the Sunshine State, also known as Florida.
Florida is the southernmost contiguous state in the U.S. and it is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, northwest by Alabama, north by Georgia and east by the Atlantic Ocean. As one of the top states for travelers, Florida is home to many popular cities such as Orlando, Miami, and more. If you are planning to visit this state, then you must be prepared to go all out so that you can get the most of your time in the Sunshine State. Before we get to the areas that you should be visiting, let’s first take a look at some important things you should know before visiting Florida.
- 1 Getting To Florida
- 2 Getting Around Florida
- 3 Budget For Florida
- 4 Best Time To Visit Florida
- 5 Top-Rated and Most-Visited Places to Visit in Florida
- 6 Hidden Places to Visit in Florida
Getting To Florida
As it is one of the top tourist destinations in the U.S. getting to Florida is fairly easy even if you are coming from other parts of the world. There are numerous international airports that hold flights from morning till night so you are sure to find a flight that suits your needs. Here are some of the airports you should book to.
- Daytona Beach International Airport – It is a county-owned airport located three miles southwest of the acclaimed Daytona Beach and it is conveniently located near the Daytona International Speedway. It has flights coming to and from major cities in the U.S. as well as in other parts of the world. The airlines it serves are Delta Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Sunwing Airlines and Sun Country Airlines.
- Miami International Airport – Perhaps the best airport for you if you are coming from other parts of the world is the Miami International Airport. It is located in the Miami-Dade Country and is 8 miles-northwest of Downtown Miami. It is the major airport in South Florida and it has flights coming to and from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and more. It serves over 20 major airlines including Austrian Airlines, Choice Airways, British Airlines, Delta Airlines, and more.
- Palm Beach International Airport – It is a public airport located west of West Palm Beach. It is the major airport for the beaches in the area and it is the ideal airport if you are hoping to enjoy Florida’s shores. Although its flights are limited, it does serve major airlines such as Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and United Airlines.
These are just some of the major airports serving Florida. Other airports include: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Jacksonville International Airport, Key West International Airport, Orlando Melbourne International Airport, and Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.
Getting Around Florida
Getting around Florida is relatively easy as well. The entire state is well-developed so it is not easy to get lost in its well-paved roads. We advise renting a car upon your arrival. Almost all of the international airports have rent-a-car services nearby so you can book a car right before you arrive. Major rental car services like Alamo, Budget and Hertz are available in the state.
There are also an extensive selection of public transportation options in Florida’s cities and counties as well. If you are near the coastal area, we suggest renting a bike to get around. The flat topography of South Florida is perfect for breezy biking trips.
If biking around isn’t for you, you can also try out other public transportation options. The most common of course is taxis which is available almost everywhere. This could set you back several dollars though. Luckily, there are Greyhound buses and an Amtrak train service available in the major cities as well.
Budget For Florida
This is where you’ll be having trouble. Florida, especially around the coastal area can be a bit expensive. It will even be a more expensive trip if you are considering traveling around the entire state. Generally, you are looking at around $150 a day, which includes all the travel basics such as food, transportation fee, and accommodation.
There are ways to save though. For transportation, you may want to opt for car rental services as these could only cost you around $10 per day. If you include the gas, you’re looking at at least $15 per day. For accommodation, we recommend booking hostels or possibly BnB’s. Generally, you may want to avoid shore side rooms if you are near the beaches as these will cost more. With food, you’ll have no problem finding cheap but filling grub even in the major cities.
You might also be spending cash on attractions. Particularly, you could be spending a lot on Disneyworld in Orlando. While expensive, you should at least try a day tour in this popular hotspot. Just be sure to eat a lot before going inside as food can be relatively expensive.
Best Time To Visit Florida
As the name suggests, the Sunshine State gets a lot of sunny days all year round. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any rainy seasons though. In the southern region, hurricanes are very common and this is something that you may want to avoid if you are planning a trip to this wonderful state.
Regardless of what region you are planning to visit, you may want to avoid the state during the months of July to August as these are the wettest months in Florida. The best time to visit would be from October to January as the weather is just perfect and rain is rare. The problem with these months is that room prices are at their highest. You may want to book the room ahead if you are looking to save money.
Florida is one of the places in the world that is filled to the brim with the finest tourist destinations. Whether you want to relax, be thrilled, bond with your friends or family, there are a lot of activities and places to visit in Florida regardless of what type of activity or experience you are looking for. With thousands of things to do and places to visit in Florida, it can be quite a bit overwhelming, though. But don’t give up just yet. Here’s a rundown of them so you won’t miss the must-visit tourist spots and must-try activities in the Sunshine State.
Top-Rated and Most-Visited Places to Visit in Florida
If it is your first time in Florida, you need to visit these places first as these are the most-recommended tourist spots around the Sunshine State.
1Walt Disney World
Any trip to Florida won’t be complete if you haven’t been to the Disney World. Florida is known for this and it would be a waste if you pass on this theme park. With its name, at first glance, you might think that it’s mostly for kids only. But don’t pass on it just yet as there are activities for you too. There are also parades and shows throughout the attractions and we’re sure you’ll love them too. It’s one of the top tourist attractions, though, making it one of the best places to visit in Florida so be sure to plan your visit and arrive early if you want to somehow avoid the crowds.
Also one of the top-rated places to visit in Florida is Universal Studios. Like the Walt Disney World, it is also a resort and has the best rides to talk big of. However, like the Walt Disney World, Universal Studios is often flocked with hundreds of visitors every day too. So be prepared for the crowd. You can skip the long lines, though, if you will purchase the Universal Express Pass. Learn more about it as well as the other deals that Universal Studios offer here.
Speaking of theme parks, you’ll also find the Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida worth-visiting. But this one’s a bit different than what Universal Studios and Walt Disney World offer. This is because aside from the rides that it offers, the Busch Gardens also has a water park. And unlike your usual theme park, the Busch Gardens also offers its visitors a closer look at safari wildlife without even going to Africa with the 2,700 animals that it houses in its more than 330-acre space. Among these animals are cheetahs, elephants, hippos, hyenas, meerkats, lemurs, and kangaroos.
If you’re into history and architecture, St. Augustine is one of the top places to visit in Florida too. Nicknamed as the “Ancient City,” this place is totally filled will totally take you back in time with its museums and fascinating historical architectural structures. Some of the highlights in St. Augustine, Florida is the Ft. Matanzas National Monument and the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the whole country. Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, and the Hotel Ponce de Leon (once known as a regal hotel but eventually became a part of Flagler College) are also a must-visit.
Aside from Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, Florida is also known for its Miami Beach. It has a wide stretch of golden sand lining the Atlantic and its waters are just right to keep you cool on a hot day. It is also one of the best places to visit in Florida that you shouldn’t miss, especially if you want to get a good tan, relax, and enjoy a nice view of the ocean all at the same time. Aside from the beach itself, Miami Beach also talks big about its Art Deco Historic District that is filled with beautifully restored buildings from the 1930s and early 1940s that you won’t find anywhere else.
6Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach isn’t just a place for sunbathing but it is also popular because of the Daytona International Speedway where hundreds of tourists and locals alike flock the place to witness the Daytona 500 race, the most famous event in the NASCAR Cup Series, every year. Feel the rush as you watch the actual race or just take a tour to explore the Speedway, regardless of what you activity you opt for, one thing is for sure and that is Daytona Beach also counts as one of the top places to visit in Florida because of this exciting event.
7Edison and Ford Winter Estates
Yes, you read it right. THE Thomas Edison, the American inventor, and Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, have mansions that are viewable by the public and it’s definitely one of the top places to visit in Florida too. You can tour around the parts of their house to see a glimpse of their life. See artifacts and even where they conducted experiments and whatnot inside their house. The best part of it is that, of course, it is perfect for people of all ages.
8Salvador Dali Museum
Salvador Dali Museum, as its name somehow suggests, is filled with artifacts and other stuff that features pieces of Salvador Dali’s career that even those who have not much knowledge of art will find it thought-provoking and interesting. But aside from the displays that it has, it is also worth talking about because of its exteriors. Its curving glass that seems to envelope its box-like structure is so fascinating that you can enjoy its exteriors alone.
Hidden Places to Visit in Florida
If you’re after relaxation or if you’ve been to Florida countless of times already and are looking for something new aside from its most-visited tourist attractions, here are the hidden gems in Florida that you can visit. Most items on this list include beaches so get ready to bring your sunscreens.
Formed by a hurricane in 1921, Caladesi Island is one of the hidden places to visit in Florida that you should add to your itinerary if you want a quieter place to enjoy your vacation. It is located on an island by the same name and you can only get to it by hopping aboard a passenger ferry or rent your own private boat. Or if you’re in the Clearwater Beach, you can just take a walk all the way to the Caladesi Island as it is connected to the mainland. Once you’re here, you can get to enjoy a gorgeous beach that talks big about its 3-mile nature trail concession stands and pavilions, and marina. It’s truly a unique beauty created from a storm.
10Santa Rosa Beach
Santa Rosa Beach is one of the quietest places to visit in Florida. It is an unincorporated community and is truly one of the genuine hidden gems in the Sunshine State. It is not crowded with tourists and you will definitely fall in love with its blue waters and white sand beaches. There are beach houses, beachfront cottages, and historic landmarks. You can also find some of the best restaurants here as well. And the best part of it is that it has one of the friendliest beach communities that will give you a warm welcome. You might even not want to return to your home town.
Gasparilla Island is also of from the ne of the best hidden places to visit in Florida. It is separated from the Mainland so you’ll definitely get some peace and quiet here. Make sure to bring sunscreen and sunglasses as this place has a lot to offer that are most fun to do when the sun is out. You can swim, fish, and snorkel all day. You can also study the nature of the island as well. If you happen to visit here during winter, don’t worry as you will still enjoy this place. Gasparilla Island also offers activities even in winter.
The Pine Island is also something that you should add on your list of places to visit in Florida. This place offers a more laid-back and quiet atmosphere as you enjoy nature more. It is a must-visit if you prefer to just relax all day. There are some activities available for you to do as well. Like the Gasparilla Island, Pine Island also boasts of its aquatic reserves so you can enjoy snorkeling and other activities, especially if you are a nature enthusiast. It’s the perfect place to take a break from the bustling city.
13Weeki Wachee Springs
Weeki Wachee Springs is known as one of Florida’s gems because of its national aquarium and waterpark. It has a beach for you to relax as well. But what makes it even more interesting are its mermaids – not the real ones, though, if there are any. Rather, performers on a mermaid costume and kids will surely love them. Its natural attractions will interest you too. Plus, Weeki Wachee Springs offers boat tours. There are kayaks up for rent too.
14Crystal River State Park
At first glance, you might see the Crystal River State Park as a mere state park but this place alone has a lot of attractions and activities to offer compared to other places to visit in Florida. This is because it park runs 20 miles along the Gulf Coast. It is so big that it was even divided into sub-tropical and temperate zones that can talk big of numerous islands, backwaters, forests, and inlets that are perfect if you want to explore the rural side of Florida. You can hike, bike, visit its snake exhibits, aquariums, and go bird watching.
15Swap Shop Flea Market
If you will head to Fort Lauderdale, you can to shop in its unique and large flea market. The Swap Shop Flea Market stretches more than 180,000 square feet with approximately 2,000 vendors selling bargain items. There are also some restaurants around that serve nothing but good food. As you shop, kids (or even kids at heart) can also enjoy some amusement park rides that the place has.
16Café La Buca
Cafe La Buca offers homey atmosphere that makes you feel as if you’ve entered your grandmother’s house. This hole in the wall tucked right next to a barber shop serves authentic Italian cuisine as well as pastas and entrees that are inspired by its owner’s home country. Its menu frequently changes, though, so it’s not certain what kind of menu items are waiting for you. Even so, one thing’s for sure: nothing in its menu will disappoint you. And the best part of it is that you’re welcome to bring your favorite bottle of wine inside without having to pay for a corkage fee.
17Secret Woods Nature Center
If you’re looking for true hidden places to visit in Florida, the Secret Woods Nature Center is one of the places to go to. As its name suggests, you will not get to spot it right away as it is tucked under a canopy of mangroves. It’s easy to miss but you’re lucky if you find it as this place will let you enjoy a 50-acre lush greenery and lets you see its diverse wildlife. Apart from that, you can also learn more about the Southeast Florida habitats; just stop at the nature center.
At first look, you might just pass on it because of the unique limestone structures it displays. But don’t pass on it just yet as this is also one of the best places to visit in Florida. These structures are, apparently, made from coral. But aside from that, what makes it worth-visiting too is the story how this attraction was made.
You see, these structures weigh tons. And no one knows how it was exactly made. But legends say that its creator, Edward Leedskalnin, allowed no one to watch him work on these structures because he learned how to manipulate magnetic fields after magnets reportedly helped him heal from tuberculosis. Even on the day he died, his construction techniques were never revealed.