Sun-filled days spent on sandy beaches beside stunning blue waters sounds like a relaxing way to spend a vacation. You'll find plenty of this in the Sunshine State, but there's so much more to explore than beaches. From world-famous theme parks to hidden gems off the beaten track, Florida is a fabulous vacation destination that offers a treasure trove of fun and fascinating things to do, whether you're looking for some thrills or a few chills.

01Visit the Mouse

Mickey Mouse in front of Cinderella's castle at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

A Florida vacation, especially with family in tow, isn't complete without a visit to the mouse's house. Walt Disney World has been captivating children and adults for decades. As the heart of Disney World, The Magic Kingdom is the most popular theme park in the world, and EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios are bursting with even fun. Over time, Disney World has expanded to include hundreds of rides, attractions, and live shows that truly offer something for the entire family.

02Embrace your inner speed demon

NASCAR pit crew quickly works on a race car to get it back on the track fast. John Harrelson / Getty Images

Feel the vibration as race cars whiz by at nearly 200 miles per hour at the Daytona 500 International Speedway. Even better, zip up a fireproof suit and get ready to tackle one of the most iconic racetracks as a participant in the NASCAR Rookie Driving Experience. You'll step onto Pit Row to climb into a real-life race car with permission to drive 150 miles per hour and sound advice not to hit anything. It's the thrill of a lifetime for adrenaline junkies and NASCAR fanatics alike.

03Get sucked into the show

Universal Studios Florida on the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Gustavo Caballero / Getty Images

Hang on tight for one jaw-dropping adventure after another at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando. You'll be sucked into some of your favorite movies and television series where you're the star of the show. Hang out with your favorite characters as you wander their worlds and witness them perform death-defying stunts that make you glad it's all make-believe. Unlike Universal Studios Hollywood, Orlando's family theme park destination offers way more thrill-seeking roller coasters, two Harry Potter Wizarding Worlds connected by the Hogwarts Express train, and Universal's Islands of Adventure with even more rides and kid-friendly attractions.

04Explore the mysterious everglades

Wildlife enjoying their home in the Florida Everglades. Tim Graham / Getty Images

Get close to nature in the watery mazes of the Florida Everglades, where you'll discover the only place on earth where alligators and crocodiles coexist in the wild. Set among 1.5 million acres, the wonderous wetlands of the Everglades touts hundreds of species of birds and endangered animals like the Florida panther and leatherback turtle. Everglades National Park is also the largest subtropical wilderness in the country with mysterious swamps, old-growth cypress, and a sea of saw grass that provides plenty to explore for the most ardent nature lover.

05Live the wildlife

Peacock standing on a fence, Busch Gardens, Florida, USA.
Stephen Barnes / Getty Images

Busch Gardens isn't just a zoo—it's also a wildlife adventure that awaits you in Tampa Bay. Watch in awe as 200 animal species roam a 65-acre natural habitat and the Park's man-made Serengeti Plain. You'll see endangered species, exotic species, and species you've never even heard of in one of the largest public animal exhibitions in the country. Busch Gardens also boasts some of the best roller coasters in Florida for thrilling rides you won't want to miss, including the Iron Gwazi, which is considered the fastest, steepest hybrid roller coaster in the world.

06Search for treasure

No Fishing sign and a pirate ship in back AlanFalcony / Getty Images

If finding buried treasure is the thrill you seek, the McLarty Treasure Museum offers fascinating facts about a lost pirate booty found in Florida waters. The treasure comes from a fleet of 11 Spanish galleon ships, which were loaded with silver, gold, and other valuables when they sank during a hurricane in 1715. Divers have been salvaging the bounty from the shipwrecked vessels ever since. Newly found treasures are continually added to the exhibits at the museum, and locals agree there's likely more just waiting to be unearthed.

07Reach for the stars

Space shuttle lifts off from a launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center are synonymous with America's space program, the historic space flight, and the moon landing of Apollo 11. Take a tour of the Space Center, walk among the giant rockets from some of NASA's historic space programs, and test your deep space exploration skills as a recruit in the Journey to Mars. Embrace your dream of soaring into space by training like an astronaut in high-tech simulators or blast off in a simulation that gives you the sensation you're truly being launched into space.

08Catch a free concert

Close up of a DJ playing music on the beach party.
skynesher / Getty Images

The Daytona Beach Boardwalk really heats up on Friday and Saturday nights with free concerts in a historic coquina bandshell. From May to September, this top-rated tourist attraction in Florida features tribute bands performing songs made famous by popular artists, followed by fireworks shows on Saturdays. Rock out on the beach with lineups that hit a variety of music genres from country to rock, jazz to pop, and everything in between.

09Migrate with monarchs

Swarm of Monarch butterflies taking a break on their annual migration to warmer climates. George Rose / Getty Images

The majestic Monarch butterflies can't survive cold winters, so they fly to warmer climates every winter. Florida offers an ideal resting and refueling place for butterflies whose migration routes are genetically ingrained. Visit Amelia Island State Park in Jacksonville from early to mid-October and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge near Tallahassee from early October to mid-November to witness first-hand the swarms of orange and black wings. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of monarchs may be seen on a given day feeding on plants bearing the all-important nectar they need to complete their arduous journey.

10Life's a beach

Beautiful sandy beach with palm trees along the shoreline of Florida. Tim Graham / Getty Images

Visiting the Sunshine State should always include some sand, surf, and fun in the sun. Surrounded by the stunning waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida boasts a seemingly endless coastline that beckons with pretty palm-lined stretches of white sand beaches. Search for seashells on Sanibel Island near Fort Myers, find fossilized shark's teeth at Venice Beach, or book a deep-sea fishing trip or sunset cruise at Lido Key. Embrace nature at Sebastian Inlet State Park south of Melbourne Beach, where you'll find an impressive array of bird species, sea turtle nesting sites and manatees and dolphins swimming among the waves.