Florida is the sunshine state, located at the southern tip of the USA. Florida is a mix of southern hospitality and Caribbean flair. Besides the well known beach culture, Florida offers a wide variety of activities and locations for any type of traveler. We were lucky enough to travel through St Petersburg, Sarasota, Tampa, Orlando, Sebring, Key West, Key Largo, & Miami but we know there is so much more to Florida than these stops! So we’ve been collecting suggestions to bring you a Florida bucket list for every type of traveler — all the great places in one place for you to enjoy.
For The Beach Goer
Cocoa Beach, Clearwater Beach, Sanibel Island, Miami Beach, Daytona Beach, West Palm Beach or Siesta Keys are some of the most sought after beaches in the world, and naturally the most popular beaches to visit in Florida. Although these beaches are beautiful, they also bring large crowds who are also seeking a perfect beach getaway. If you don’t mind viewing the ocean with a few other beach goers, these spots are great to get a little R&R. If you’re looking for a beach off the beaten path we recommend checking out St Pete Beach, Delray Beach, Pass-A-Grille Beach, or Atlantic Beach. Generally, beaches on the western half of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico have warmer water than on the eastern Atlantic side so if you like to swim, we recommend checking out the Gulf beaches.
For Outdoorsy Folk
On the Water– If you’re interested in sailing, snorkeling, or scuba diving, check out the Florida Keys because they offer some of the best in the world. For snorkeling, check out this article that highlights all the best spots to snorkel close to shore. If you’re interested in scuba diving, we’ve heard great reviews about Key Largo. There is a sunken statue of Jesus you can scuba around at the bottom of the reef. There are sunken ships and great reefs in Key West as well, but the prices on tours are generally cheeper in Key Largo. A ton of companies offer tours, just do your research to find out which best fits your needs.
For jet skiing, tubing, and parasailing West Palm Beach is filled with options to check out. Of course, all of these can be found on most beaches in Florida!
Kayaking & Paddle boarding – Kayaking and paddle boarding in Key West was one of our favorite activities, particularly because Jessi could paddle, and Valerie could fish (some of our favorite all time activities). The mangrove trees are some of the best to paddle around, and the water is calm and gorgeous.
Fishing- Anywhere. A Florida fishing license is pretty cheap and you can fish a huge variety of fish on shore or by boat for the highly sought after swordfish or grouper. From shore we caught mangrove snapper, grunt, and barracuda- all delicious and fun fish to catch.
Hiking- Here in Florida it’s all about the water sports but you can find a few good hikes as well at Florida Caverns State Park (a cave hike), Fire Prairie Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve or Snake Bight Trail, Everglades National Park. Just don’t expect many steep inclines because the sunshine state is relatively flat.
Cycling- Florida, with out a doubt, has some of the most maintained, long-range biking trails we’ve seen. In California or Colorado you’ll often find a dedicated bike lane on a lot of road ways, but rarely do you have an entire trail dedicated to your cycling pleasure. In St Petersburg Florida, the Pinellas Trail is an old railroad turned into a paved walkway/cycling route with over 38 miles of routes to explore. These types of public paths can be found in a variety of places in Florida and it’s wonderful.
Everglades National Park – The Everglades National Park is a 1.5 million acre wilderness reserve, and is the largest national park east of the Mississippi and 3rd in the country behind Yellowstone and Death Valley. The majority of it is wetlands, swamps, and rivers, so while there are some hiking trails, there are tons of alligators, so many people enjoy exploring it via boat tours.
Skydiving– Florida’s West Coast is filled with skydiving options to get that perfect beach view as you sail through the atmosphere. Sky Dive Space Center is famous for offering the highest sky dive in the world offering a 18,000 foot jump (most are 15,000 feet) and Miami Sky Diving Center is another popular destination for the adrenaline junky. Valerie has sky dived over San Francisco, California and in Australia but hopes to one day hit that 18,000 mark with Jessi.
For Theme Park Goers
If you love theme parks, Florida is your best destination in the world. Located in the northern / central region of the state, Orlando is the Mecca of theme parks.
Disney World – While Disney has a number of parks around the globe, the Orlando Disney World is the largest, and top rated park in the world. Disney World is on of those place you have to go to understand. Valerie, being from the midwest, their family went to Disney World on multiple occasions as a family. Going back as an adult was so much fun to go on rides from the 90’s. Flying through the sky with Peter Pan or spinning around in a tea cup never stops being fun. Disney parks in Orlando include:
- Magic Kingdom – This is the Disney park that brings back childhood memories, filled with princess castles, cartoon rides, and all classic Disney characters.
- Animal Kingdom – Animal Kingdom is a mix of Disney rides, plus exotic zoo. We hear its about a half- day event, so can be a good experience when linked with other parks.
- Hollywood Studios – This is more of Disney’s counterpart to Universal Studios, more rides focused on the many live-action Disney produced movies. More great restaurants and imaginative sets to explore.
- Epcot Park – Epcot has great dining, and is a mini tour of the world, exploration of science, and a culinary masterpiece with foods and “cities” from around the globe.
- Disney Springs – We stumbled into Disney Springs in search of a movie theater – its actually a very imaginative village / mall area just outside the park . It has gift shops, activities, restaurants, movies, and fantastic Cirque du Solei, and it’s complete free to go to.
Universal Studios– On the other hand, we went to Universal Studios for the first time this year and had a blast. And, knowing there would be crowds, we went in with a strategy. Hit the most popular attractions in the back of the park in the and go to the front of the park in the evening- best idea ever! There was limited crowds at both Harry Potter Worlds and we drank butter beer to our hearts content. We also splurged and got the Express Pass and what a difference it made the day. We were able to see both parks, ride everything we wanted, and feel like we got our money’s worth because we went on all the rides.
Cirque du Soleil – We were lucky enough to meet Clare, a Cirque de Soleil athlete, during our travels and were blown away by her performance in La Nouba. We were lucky enough to see them practice before the show and go behind the scenes after the show. The best part though wasn’t their extraordinary talent, it was their unbelievable kindness and hospitality to these two travelers. And although the show we saw in Orlando will be changing soon, this was a once in a lifetime expereince.
For the Foodies
Some people travel to shop, to drink, or to lounge but we travel primarily to try new foods. It’s our thing. Now, there are so many good food options in Florida and we’re not sure where to begin so we will just list off our absolutely favorite spots after spending 2 months in Florida.
Noble Crust– Blueberry and lemon ricotta pancakes. Need we say more? Expect a wait for this hot brunch spot and come hungry because this place is delicious.
Bodega– Ever had cuban food? This outdoor, hole in the wall (literally) is a must try. We’ve been here a ton of times and still go back for more.
La V– Hands down, best lavender boba tea we’ve ever had. And if you’re ok with soup on a hot day, their pho is delicious!
Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill – we have a hunch that there is more amazing food in Miami, than we have a lifetime to enjoy. But when we searched for a brunch place open a 10:30 on a Sunday, surprisingly few were open, so we stumbled into Sugarcane Grill. This place was probably one of our top 10 culinary experience this year.
We go into all our favorite food stops in our Best of Key West post if you’re traveling through.
Owen’s Fishcamp – Live music, great food, and long lines, this place is a must go if you’re in the Sarasota area.
For the architecture CONNOISSEUR
Each neighborhood in Miami is a little slice of architectural details you can’t find in most place sin the USA. From Little Havana, to Little Haiti, you can find a slice of Caribbean architecture and flare. Head over to Wynwood Walls to see how to turn walls into art. Then for your love of 1920’s check out Art Deco District in Miami Beach to experience a town straight from the Jetsons. Or if you’re into a more modern looks, Edgewood is has a sleek and modern design to enjoy.
St Augustine is the oldest town in the USA, colonized by the Spanish. It’s rare to find architecture in the USA dating before the early 1900’s but this town dates all the way back to 1565. Hosting statues, cannons, cathedrals, and government housing, if you’re interested in older architecture, St Augustine is the place to visit.
For the Art Lover
St Petersburg is one of our favorite towns in Florida because it’s not very touristy. Located just outside of Tampa, it’s surrounded by beautiful beaches, excellent food choices, and a one of a kind art tour. St Petersburg hosts 7 different art districts and art tours located in a variety of places including people’s homes, art galleries, or just the good ol’ fashion wall art. Whatever you’re into, you can find it in St Petersburg.
Miami- Oh have we mentions how much we fell in love with Miami? We had never heard of the Wynwood Walls but we were blown away by the scale of art that was offered in this location. The graffiti filled walls were absolutely stunning and every portion of this district has paint covering it. From the paint dripped sidewalks to the endless amounts of graffiti, this place is a one of a kind gem located in a beautiful city.
For the repeat traveler
Florida is one of those places we plan to visit again and again and possibly live in one day. We love the warm weather, great food, friendly people, and overall positive vibe in the towns we visited. Now, keep in mind, not all towns in Florida are treated equal, but the good ones are amazing.
Happy and safe travels everyone!