Ever since Ponce de Leon's first visit to the land he named La Florida in 1513, people have visited this East Coast state in search of experiences not found in other states. Florida has an incredible number of historical, natural, and man-made wonders to help visitors thrill and destress on vacation.
From the Georgia border to the southern-most tip of the Florida panhandle, and around the Gulf Coast to Alabama, the soft sand beaches have long attracted visitors to this state. With an estimated 1,200 miles of coastline, of which 825 miles are beaches, Florida is the place to be for folks who love dipping their toes in the water. Only in this state can tourists swim in both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico in one day. Florida beaches are second to none for sports, fishing, and world-class tanning opportunities.
Thanks to its size and location, Florida cuisine varies widely by region. If you start on the Atlantic coast and follow the beaches around the peninsula, you'll find plenty of great things to eat. Seafood is plentiful, naturally, but the Cuban-influenced cafes in the Miami area couldn't be more different than the down-home barbecue joints in Pensacola. Florida's diverse population means you'll find excellent restaurants serving authentic food from around the world.
Everglades is larger than any other national park except Yellowstone. Its 1.5 million acres consist of subtropical swamp and marshland. Lake Okeechobee feeds the Everglades, giving resident wildlife a protected home with access to everything they need. Airboat tours of the swamps include sightings of alligators, otters, turtles, and the occasional panther. Fried "gator bites," gar, turtles, and crayfish are on the menu at almost any restaurant you visit near the park.
If you time your trip well, you can watch a rocket launch at this historic landmark of scientific achievement. The first space flights and trips to the moon launched from here. The site was originally named Canaveral Space Centre but was changed to honor JFK after his assassination. Visitors are ferried around the expansive 140,000-acre site by bus and can view various displays at the visitor's center.
This is the most famous beach in Florida, if not the world. The peninsula is home to several beaches, interspersed between and around the sprawling hotels and developments. Art deco buildings, awesome Cuban cafes, fine restaurants, and nightclubs line Ocean Drive. All this, plus the excitement of South Beach, make it a must-see spot.
Life is abundant below the mainland thanks to the string of islands called the Keys. When you head out on your requisite journey to Key West, take the time to enjoy the others, as well. You'll find beaches, state parks, and cafes all along U.S. Route 1, which runs from Maine to Key West. The Seven Mile Bridge is an incredible feat of engineering linking the Keys and clearing the way to the most popular of the islands.
This is the southern-most spot in the U.S., made famous by author and adventurer Papa Joe Hemingway. Take a tour to see his home and hang out at the same bars. Key West has several beautiful beaches waiting for you and a robust nightlife. Mallory Square or Sunset Pier attracts a crowd every evening, to listen to buskers performing while awaiting the sun's disappearance over the gulf. It is a tradition to applaud after this breathtaking natural performance.
Since you're already on Key West and you don't mind commuting by boat, check out this island. The federal government built Fort Jefferson on Dry Tortugas in the 1800s. The reef islands are spectacular for snorkeling and underwater exploration. The isolated beaches are great for sunbathing away from the crowds.
The Daytona 500 kicks off the NASCAR racing season every February. The races were originally held on a sandy course in Daytona Beach until the speedway was built in 1959. Now, it's home to a full slate of the best local and national competitions. Bring your earplugs; it can get pretty loud.
Don't miss the outstanding architecture and historical sites in one of the oldest settlements in the state. Three points of interest are the 19th century Flagler College, the Castillo de San Marcos, and the oldest masonry fort in North America. Even if someone in your crew doesn't like history, the views from the coast are worth the trip by themselves.
Also called I-Drive, Orlando's main tourist strip is home to a myriad of places to tour, including nightclubs, cafes, shopping, live entertainment venues, golf courses, and helicopter tours. I-Drive offers so much that there is something for everyone. If you're already in Orlando visiting the amusement parks, take the time to cruise this bustling street.
Pensacola is home to the hexagonal Fort Pickens, one of four forts built to protect the naval outpost and the bay. The Confederate army occupied every fort in the south during the Civil War — except this one. It was operational until 1947 and now hosts guided tours for visitors.
If you have an open mind and a burning curiosity, check out the topless beaches and adults-only nightclubs in the Miami/Miami Beach area. There are many places to get a topless tan and plenty of nightclubs featuring male or female dancers for people of all inclinations. If this is your kind of action, Miami has it in abundance.
Nothing like a ghost story to scare up some publicity and attract the curious. Spook Hill is known for being an anti-gravity location where cars seem to roll uphill when placed in neutral. Legend says an Indian chief fought an alligator to the death. Depending on the version you hear, either the chief or the gator haunts the hill. In reality, it's a cool optical illusion.