Few destinations in the USA are more iconic than Florida. Known worldwide as the Sunshine State, Florida is one of the most popular US states for foreign visitors & domestic travelers alike.
For family travelers, Florida is almost a rite of passage. There’s hardly a kid on the planet who hasn’t dreamed of visiting the world-famous Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. The family-friendly resort is one of the world’s most visited theme parks. And with good reason: Visiting is a blast for kids and parents alike!
Besides the theme parks in Orlando, travelers flock to Florida to enjoy its sunny white-sand beaches. Every year spring-breakers and snowbirds descend upon its Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico shores to escape their cooler northern winters. Cities like Miami, Key West, and Fort Lauderdale take the brunt of the traffic. But no matter where you find yourself in the Sunshine State, a beautiful palm-shaded sandy beach is never far away.
Not sure where to go in Florida? Get some trip ideas with this quick & easy Florida travel guide.
Where to go in Florida
Launching a Florida road trip? Start with Orlando. Located in Central Florida, Orlando is famous for its extensive menu of theme parks.
The famous attraction in Orlando, of course, is Walt Disney World. To explore all the nooks & crannies of Disney World—from Magic Kingdom to Epcot—you’ll need to carve out several days.
Film & TV buffs will also want to save a day or two to check out Universal Orlando Resort. Home to Universal Studios Florida and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando Resort is a must-see for families passing through.
Besides its theme parks, Orlando is a surprisingly great place to hang out. The city is peppered with beautiful lakes and verdant parks. In Downtown Orlando, you’ll enjoy superb local & international cuisine in trendy restaurants and laid-back drinks in cool cocktail bars. It offers the perfect counterweight to the city’s family-friendly attractions.
If you’ve got an extra day in Orlando, head east to the Kennedy Space Center. The attraction sits on beautiful Merritt Island along the Space Coast at Cape Canaveral. Checking out NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is one of the most unique experiences in the USA.
Ready to plan your trip to Orlando? Get started with these resources…
Next to Orlando, no destination in Florida attracts traveler attention like Miami. Good or bad? Well, we’ll leave that up to you to decide.
For many, Miami is most famous for the spring break crowds that descend upon Miami Beach every year. (Even recklessly during a global pandemic it would seem.) Of course, there’s more to Miami than drunken college kids on a week-long spring break bender would appreciate.
Visit outside the chaotic high season; you’ll get a better sense of why so many visitors endear Miami. The South Beach area is justifiably famous for its 1920s & 1930s Art Deco architecture. In fact, it’s one of the largest collections of the architectural style in the world.
In areas like South Beach, Little Havana, and Wynwood, you’ll also enjoy a fantastic assemblage of cool restaurants. The culinary scene of Miami draws heavily upon Cuban and Latin American flavors. But, in the end, Miami’s cuisine is all to its own. Your tastebuds will never get bored in this popular South Florida city.
Ready to plan your trip to Miami? Get started with these resources…
The southernmost point in the continental US, Key West often feels more like a Caribbean outpost than an American city. Key West charms its guests with its undeniable tropical island vibe.
In Key West’s lovely historic district, pastel-colored colonial homes brush up beside shady palms. One of its historic homes even hosted literary giant Ernest Hemingway during his most prolific years. (And if Papa is okay with Key West, so are we.)
Within the district’s meandering blocks, centered on Duval Street, an impressive collection of laid-back restaurants & cocktail bars awaits. For a bout of relaxation (without spending your time trapped within the walls of a resort) Key West is a gem.
Aside from its historic sites and urban charms, Key West is also famous for its seaside pleasures. Hit the shores at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, home to one of the best beaches in the Florida Keys. Settle down for a sunrise over the Atlantic or a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Both will leave you spellbound.
Ready to plan your trip to Key West? Get started with these resources…
Located just 35 minutes north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale often gets overlooked on first-time Florida travel itineraries. But the city’s got plenty of charms of its own to keep travelers occupied.
Fort Lauderdale is famous for the 165 miles of canals drifting inland from its world-class marina. As you’d imagine, the city’s boating scene attracts a well-to-do crowd.
The city’s luxury focus is reflected along Las Olas Blvd, one of Fort Lauderdale’s main thoroughfares. Along the strip, you’ll delight in fine dining restaurants and sip drinks at classy wine & cocktail bars.
Outside the urban core, you’ll get to enjoy quieter moments, too. Hit up the hiking trails & biking routes of Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area. At the park, you’ll sweep past picturesque mangroves and lagoons. It’s the perfect counterweight to the ordinary buzz of Florida’s southeastern coast.
On Florida’s Gulf Coast, no destination charms more than Naples. Located in southwestern Florida, Naples is one of the Sunshine State’s most romantic destinations. It’s the main urban center of the coastal area known as the Paradise Coast.
Visiting Naples, you’ll enjoy its cultured approach—especially if you’re coming from other no-holds-barred spring break destinations in Florida. You’ll love strolling hand-in-hand with your partner over its white sands after a delightful meal by the seaside.
Not far from Naples, you can also explore Florida’s wilderness. Take a dip in the waters of Marco Island, Naples’s off-shore neighbor. Marco Island offers some of the best scuba diving & snorkeling around the Paradise Coast.
Like nearby Orlando, much of the reputation of Tampa hinges on its family-friendly attractions. The city is, after all, home to ultra-popular Busch Gardens and Adventure Island.
But there’s far more to Tampa these days than its main kid-friendly points of interest let on. The city’s worked hard to flush away its grittier reputation. Along the revitalized Tampa Riverwalk, you’ll breeze past unique art & architecture, including the Florida Aquarium.
For a dash of evening excitement, head over to the Ybor City entertainment district. The National Historic Landmark District is jam-packed with trendy restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
Ready to plan your trip to Tampa? Get started with these resources…
Thought Florida was only about beaches and theme parks? Add the historic city of St. Augustine to your Southeast USA itinerary to change your mind. Founded in 1595 by the Spanish, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. And, as you roam around, you’ll see that the city wears its long rich history on its sleeve.
St. Augustine’s National Historic Landmark District is one of the finest of its kind in the US. It teems with handsome Spanish colonial architecture hiding interesting historic sites, museums, galleries, and cafés.
The city’s most famous single attraction, Castillo de San Marcos, checks the boxes for both military history buffs & photographers. Take a self-guided tour of the fortress to learn more about its history. At the same time, be sure to enjoy the dramatic views over Matanzas Bay.
Ready to plan your trip to St. Augustine? Get started with these resources…
Wedged between Florida’s Gulf Coast and Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg is one of the Sunshine State’s biggest surprises. As locals would all it, St. Pete is most famous for its sunny weather. Its nickname “Sunshine City” has done much to attract retirees and spring-breakers in equal fervor.
But there’s more to St. Petersburg than its pleasurable climate. In recent years, St. Pete has established itself as an arts & culture powerhouse. First-rate cultural attractions like Dalí Museum and Museum of Fine Arts call the Central Florida city home.
In the revitalized historic district, you’ll munch food at hip restaurants & bistros and sip wine to bay views at classy wine bars & cocktail bars. St. Pete is well worth the short detour from the Tampa-Orlando theme park bubble on your Florida travel plan.
Ready to plan your trip to St. Petersburg? Get started with these resources…
Panama City Beach
Let’s not confuse Florida’s Panama City Beach with the (much bigger) eponymous Central American capital. Located on the Florida Panhandle, Panama City Beach attracts with its sandy shores. Everyone from families to retirees to college kids needing a “study break” flocks to the beautiful beaches here.
Beyond its seafront, there’s, truthfully, little to see & do in Panama City Beach. But if the sea is what you’re after (along with a rash of raucous dive bars) then Panama City Beach might just land in your travel plans.
Everglades National Park
Want to venture beyond Florida’s beach towns and theme parks? Set your GPS to Everglades National Park. Covering the southwestern tip of the peninsula, The Everglades is one of Florida’s most interesting natural destinations.
The national park sprawls out over 1.5 million acres of wetlands. The UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve is the most important subtropical habitat in the USA.
Most visitors experience Everglades National Park on a day trip from Miami. The park’s most accessible section is Shark Valley off of the Tamiami Trail (SR 90) between Miami and Everglades City.
Rounding out Tampa Bay’s urban trifecta, the city of Clearwater gets a little less attention than neighboring Tampa or St. Pete. And while the city itself is perhaps the least interesting of the trio, there’s a handful of attractions worth your while.
Most travelers beeline for Clearwater Beach. Located on a barrier island west of downtown, the white-sand beach is among West Central Florida’s best. The beachside strip is jammed with superb seafood restaurants, cafes, and bars with lovely Gulf of Mexico views.
While visiting Clearwater, be sure to head over to Pier 60. Clearwater Beach’s most popular hangout, Pier 60 is famed for its nightly sunset celebration. Settle in for an evening of entertainment as the fiery Florida sun dips below the Gulf.
Ready to plan your trip to Clearwater? Get started with these resources…
Although it’s Florida’s biggest city by area and population, Jacksonville gets far less attention among travelers than the state’s other major cities. It’s shame. If it were located outside the Sunshine State, historic & cultured “Jax” would likely get more love from visitors.
Jacksonville’s glitzy corporate façade detracts from its historical underpinnings. The area was North America’s first permanent year-round Native American settlement. In the 16th-century, it was the site of one of the United States’ first French colonies, Fort Caroline.
While history isn’t front and center in Jacksonville, astute travelers should have no problem coaxing it out either. Wander through the historic Riverside and Avondale neighborhoods to catch a glimpse of Jacksonville in the 19th- and early-20th centuries. Elsewhere in Jax, you’ll also find a host of museums, art galleries, and historic sites like the Kingsley Plantation.
Once you’ve soaked in Jax’s history & culture, head 30 minutes outside the city center to soak up the sun at Jacksonville Beaches. Nicknamed “The Beaches,” the laid-back string of communities along Florida’s First Coast are the perfect antidote to Jax’s big-city vibe.
A long-time favorite for spring breakers, Fort Myers offers far more than its reputation hints. Fort Myers is famed for its beach, located on Estero Island along the Gulf Coast south of the city. During its wildest weeks, the island’s small beach town, Fort Myers Beach, swells to unmanageable levels.
Throughout the rest of the year, however, Fort Myers is surprisingly pleasant and family-friendly. The 7-mile Fort Myers Beach offers a gentle surf. It’s often voted as one of the safest Gulf Coast beaches in Florida. Families will also find plenty to love on the lazy beaches of nearby Sanibel Island.
Outside of its famous beaches, Fort Myers is home to one of Southwest Florida’s finest culinary scenes. Park yourself in downtown Fort Myers, Cape Coral, or Bonita Springs down the coast to dig in. Save time to check out the popular Fort Myers Brewing Company to sample brews from the city’s burgeoning craft beer scene.
We can’t decide whether Daytona Beach is more famous for NASCAR or spring break hijinks. Either way, this coastal city in Northeast Florida is a perennial favorite with travelers.
Before spring breakers swoop in, February brings the world to Daytona Beach for the Daytona 500. Taking place at the Daytona International Speedway, the 500-mile race is the most important & prestigious race on the NASCAR circuit. If you can brave the 200,000-strong crowd, it’s a lively pilgrimage that’s a must of any serious racing fans.
More destinations in Florida
- Bonita Springs
- Cocoa Beach
- Sanibel Island
- West Palm Beach
- Delray Beach
- Biscayne National Park
- Boca Raton
- Tarpon Springs
- Amelia Island
- Fernandina Beach
When to visit Florida
The best time to visit Florida is between November and May. Although the months between November and January are the coolest in the year, it’s still warmer than most destinations in North America. For a combination of great weather and thinner crowds, visit between April and May.
Hurricane season in Florida runs between June to November. If you decide to travel during these months, keep an eye on the current weather conditions. In general, the summer is not one of the better times of the year to travel to Florida. The heat & humidity can often be oppressive and unpleasant. It’s also the wettest time of the year in Florida.