There are so many cool things to do in Florida from beaches to theme parks to clear water springs. For years we’ve explored the state, but we’re finally bringing it all together for you here with our list of must-do Florida experiences. There is no shortage of activities in Florida that promise a lifetime of memories!
Featured Hidden Gem
If you’re ready to visit a place that has a lot to do without the crowds, then Clay County, FL is for you!
Located a short drive from Jacksonville and St. Augustine in northeast Florida, Clay County has it all. Museums, annual events, outdoor activities, and even a rally race car track can be found here!
Things to Do
How fast can you go? The FIRM – Florida International Rally and Motorsport Park – offers open track days, where you can bring your car (or use one of theirs!) and speed around the track, testing your skills along the way. The park has a 420-acre off-road playground, and a 1.6-mile racetrack, for guaranteed fun for both novices and expert drivers.
If you’re ready for an outdoor adventure, Clay County is the place for you! You’ll find hiking trails, equestrian trails, mountain biking trails, kayaking, canoeing, and SUP rentals too! Outdoor activities abound at Camp Chowenwaw, Gold Head State Park, Jennings State Forest, and John P. Hall Nature Preserve.
Ready to take in the views and relax on the water? Take a kayak, canoe, or SUP onto the St. John’s River using one of Clay County’s 11 public boat ramps. Get an early start, and you can take in the sunrise!
Camp Chowenwaw offers overnight accommodations that are so unique, I think it’s an adventure in itself! After a day of hiking and swimming at the camp – stay overnight in one of their 4-person treehouses! The nine treehouses offer bunk beds, and an experience you won’t soon forget.
For the history buff in your group, Clay County offers two military museums. Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park offers a collection of weapons, a refurbished WWII barracks, photo exhibits, and other artifacts. After checking out the museum, head to the Memorial Park where you’ll find monuments and a memorabilia exhibition.
The Military Museum of North Florida is located in Reynolds Industrial Park – a former Naval Air Station. Here you’ll find equipment and photos from major conflicts, and examples of vehicles from the Korean era through Vietnam.
Plan your visit for the last Saturday in February and see why the Scottish Highland Games and Festival is a big hit every year! Bringing a “Wee bit o’ Scotland” to northeast Florida, this festival offers athletics, music, food, and entertainment. I mean, there’s a fiddle competition! Need I say more?
Another popular event you’ll want to attend is the Clay County Agricultural Fair! This event has been going strong since the 1970s. Held in April, this huge, 10-day event brings in 100,000 visitors! You’ll find fair rides, agricultural shows and competitions, entertainment, vendor booths, and food.
Clay County is home to many vintage and antique shops, so it’s the perfect place to spend the day looking for treasure!
You’ll also find many independent, locally owned shops here such as The Chocolate Shoe, Sweetwood Books, and Yum! A Southern Market.
The best part about Clay County? They have so many amazing coffee shops, they’ve created an entire itinerary for you! Take a look at their list and see why a weekend coffee shop tour should be in your future.
We’re starting in the Panhandle and we’re making our way down the peninsula…Did we name your favorite? Leave a comment is we missed something special in the Sunshine State!
RV on the Beach in Destin
The best RV campsite in Florida is just outside Destin at Miramar Beach at Camp Gulf. There are a number of campsites here (plus cabins and such) but the premium row of beach camping options allows you to pull your wheels right on the sugar white sand. These premier sites are 20 ft wide and suitable for all size rigs, and come equipped with water & electric only.
Catch a Wave at Ron Jon Surf Lessons
Ron Jon’s Surf School located in Cocoa Beach is Florida’s longest running and most famous surf school. Take lessons from instructors who are current and former U.S. national surfing team members and east coast champions in a private or group setting. It’s great for the family!
Explore Shell Island
Find natural sand beaches where Panama City Beach‘s St Andrew’s Bay meets the Gulf, at the barrier peninsula the locals call Shell Island. We recommend using the Shell Island Shuttle to get there, or renting one of their double decker pontoons boats – with slides! You can also snorkel, kayak, or rent bikes to explore St. Andrews State Park, which is on the island.
Splash in the Surf at Gulf islands National Seashore
Head west from PCB, south of Pensacola to the National Seashore. Biking, boating, camping on the beach, or catching the Blue Angels in a flyover…there is so much to do here without the crowds of the larger nearby cities. Check the calendar for Ranger-led programing during your visit.
Bask in a 30A Beach Bonfire
End your perfect day of fun in the sun with a relaxing beach bonfire on South Walton Beach! Relax by the fire, listen to the waves crash on the beach, roast a marshmallow or three, and enjoy the company of your favorite people. We think Shoreline Beach Service is the best resource — they will do all the work for you, while you sit back, relax, and enjoy!
Sample a S’mores Burger
While you’re in the Panhandle, head to Midtown Caboose for a S’mores Burger. But that’s not all – how about a Spicy Shrimp Philly or Mac Fredo — grilled or fried chicken, homemade Alfredo sauce, then topped with bacon and mac & cheese. What?? Thanks to Walking on Travels for turning us onto this and several other great eats in Tallahassee.
Snap a Photo with a Seacrest Wolf
Even before Game of Thrones, I was a wolf fan. They are smart, loyal, and depend on their instincts for survival. Did you know you can walk in the wild with Gray, Arctic and British Columbian wolves?
Saturday Wolf Encounter Tours with Seacrest Wolf Preserve lasts about 4 hours – and you can also preserve your memories of the adventure by preceding the tour with a photo op! Can’t get enough of the wolves? You can camp here, too (not with the wolves, silly!)
Watch the Blue Angels Soar
You don’t have to wait for an Air Show to see the Blue Angels when you head to Pensacola. Several times a month you can see them flying in the sky practicing for their next show, and many of those practices end with a Q&A and autograph session at the National Naval Aviation Museum.
Go Glamping at Grayton
Spend a weekend in a luxury tent near the water at Grayton Beach State Park with Fancy Camps. Their pre-set spots are generally booked, but if you have a site reserved, they can prep an entire setup for you (and this way, you get a spot on the water!) Your setup also includes a queen bed, linens, interior lights and outdoor string lights, a heating/cooling unit, and more. With the kids? Ask for the Little Camper Setups!
Unforgettable Fun in North Florida
Schedule a Reading at Cassadaga
Cassadaga is often dubbed the Psychic Capital of the World, and you can visit! Take a class or workshop, get a tour, or schedule a reading or healing with a Certified Medium or Healer. If none of those sound appealing, you are free to roam the grounds that Spiritualist George Colby claimed in 1875. Believers, skeptics and the curious are all welcome.
Climb to the Moon at Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach is worth of a visit, regardless, but we love the lighthouse adventure here! Lighthouse Point Park has great views of the water near the jetty, or climb the Ponce Inlet lighthouse — the tallest lighthouse in Florida!
If it’s a full moon during your visit, then head back that night for the Climb to the Moon event. You’ll climb all 203 steps at dusk to watch the sun set on the horizon. Then… wait for it…stay atop the lighthouse with a cocktail while the moon fills the sky in all its glory!
Stay in one of the Most Unique Treehouses in the US
This amazing treehouse has a tree trunk elevator, private shower, air-conditioning, and a real toilet! The living area is a yurt, perched 15 ft off the ground, between two oak trees. You’ve got vista-views on the upper deck….grilling opportunities and a fireplace on the yurt-level deck…and a hot tub plus outdoor shower on the ground level. Sit around the firepit, serve up drinks from the tiki hut, or roam the 5-acre property on a golf cart they provide for you.
Swim with Dolphins at the Dolphin Resource Center
Back in the 1940s Milton Santini and his wife cared for dolphins in the Gulf. During this period, Milton broke his back during this time, and worked on gaining muscle strength my playing “catch” with his favorite dolphin Mitzi. Mitzi and several of the other dolphins that lived here went on to star in the original Flipper movie in 1963.
Today you can visit this permanent home for dolphins and sea lions who cannot be released back into the wild. Talk with trainers, see live presentations, cool off at the spray ground…or level up and enjoy one of their special interactive programs.
Soar From the Sky at SkyDive DeLand
Around the country, when people are serious about sky diving, they come to SkyDive DeLand. It’s home to countless legendary National and World Champions and record holders, and offers tandem and educational drops everyday for newbies, too. We recommend a tandem jump, with the video package, of course, to commemorate the experience.
If jumping isn’t your thing, do what we did when we visited with kids too young to jump…grab a drink and snacks at the full-service restaurant. You can sit outside and watch parachuters dropping about every 15-20 minutes. It’s fantastic! And there is a playground for the kids to watch from as you’re enjoying your cocktail.
Ride Horses on the Beach at Amelia Island
Saddle up! Let Amelia Island Horseback Riding take you out on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The staff is great at matching you up with a horse that fits your personality – either as a couple or with the family (kids as young as 6 yo can ride.) Our pick is the sunrise ride, with spectacular photos and cooler weather. And bring your camera so your guide can snap some shots.
Snorkel Devil’s Den
Devil’s Den is a private underground spring inside a dry cave. It’s been home to many extinct animal fossils dating back to the Pleistocene Age (now at a nearby museum.) You can dive or snorkel in these year-round 72-degree crystal clear water, with ancient stalactite formations and fossil beds dating back 33 million years!
Catch Mother Nature’s Light Show in DeLand
Blue Spring State Park saw about 15 manatee each winter when it was established in 1972, but with the efforts made here to protect the sea cow, there were upward of 480 recorded recently. Hike, kayak, canoe, or take a guided riverboat cruise.
But one of the most exciting times of the year is March, or as the locals call it – Firefly Season. Each night of the month, after sunset, the woods along the Blue Spring are lit up by thousands of fireflies, and the park remains open one hour after sunset for people to enjoy them.
Take in St Augustine’s Stronghold
Castillo de San Marcos sits in the Historic District of St Augustine, a monumental National Park. Castillo is one of only two fortifications in the world built built of a limestone called coquina (the other is also in the same region), a porous material that surprised everyone!
When that first cannon ball hit the walls – there was very little impact! Turns out that all those pores create air pockets that make the fort exceptionally strong. Instead of shattering the walls, any cannon balls fired at the fort burrowed their way into the rock and stuck there… like a bb fired into a Styrofoam cup. On top of that, it was fire-proof!
And with that, Castillo became of the country’s few forts that remained impenetrable!
Make a Splash at Bob’s River Place
Bob’s River Place is a privately-owned swimming hole located on the Suwannee River in Branford. Described as “Swiss Family Robinson meets Wild Adventure”, you’ll find tree houses, rope swings, water slides, floating rafts, splash pads, jumping platforms, log rolling, and so much more!
It’s so amazing, you’ll want to spend the day; no worries because there are picnic tables and grills, too. No concessions, so pack all your snacks.
Fish in Old Fashioned Florida Style
Highland Park Fish Camp is the epitome of Old Florida. Sitting on a logging canal just off St John’s River, you’ll find it unmatched for largemouth bass and panfish. Come alone or bring the family. You’ll find a campground, cabins, guides and boat rentals for your adventure.
Central Florida Excitement
Experience Rodeo Glamping
Westgate River Ranch is an authentic guest ranch where you can experience the Old Florida cowboy lifestyle. Come as a day visitor if you wish, but the real fun is staying overnight a glamping tent or premium teepee. Here you can go horseback riding, take swamp buggy rides, and watch the longest running championship rodeo in the USA.
Walk the Plank at Legoland
There are dozens of theme parks in Florida, but Legoland is our favorite for young kids – especially the water park. Read our post here about picking the Legoland Hotel or the Legoland Bech Retreat. But our pick? Save your pennies for the Pirate Island Hotel opening.
Experience unique pirate adventures with immersive themed rooms, a resort pool (with a massive deck for the pirates’ sake, of course) and interactive entertainment. Opens Spring 2020.
Take in Frank Lloyd Wright at Night
Florida Southern College is the largest single site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. You are welcome to explore on your own or take a guided tour. We like the Behind the Scenes tour that takes you to spaces not included on any of the other tours, including the interior of the only planetarium designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
For the ultimate adventure, schedule the Wright After Dark Tour. There is nothing like the Frank Lloyd Wright structures lit and whining under the moon.
Feed the Lemurs with Love
Head to Lakeland’s Safari Wilderness Ranch to explore this safari via driver-guides who tour you through large herds of exotic game on 260+ acres of pristine wilderness in a customized safari vehicle. If your looking for something a little more adventurous, then explore the property on camelback!
But our friends at We 3 Travel said their special moment at the ranch was feeding the lemurs. You’ll be given grapes to break apart and offer them.
“The babies, not quite up on their table manners, were eager to lick up every sticky drop. You just can’t beat it.”
Delight in the Dali Museum
Located in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, The Dali Museum houses the largest collection of works by Salvador Dali outside of Spain – and the building’s architecture is just as appealing as the works it holds. Even the inside features a helical staircase, paying homage to his obsession with spirals and the double helical shape.
Bring on the Butterbeer
Since 1997, Harry Potter has been winning hearts and minds, so it just makes since that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios would make our list! Ride all the rides (including the new Enchanted Motorbike), choose a wand (or rather, have a wand choose you,) and catch a show But whatever you do, don’t leave without a butterbeer.
Converse with an Astronaut
Any visit in the vicinity of Merritt Island requires a visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex . Tour the Astronaut Hall of Fame, take a bus tour and visit the Apollo/Saturn V Center, or Journey to Mars. But if you really want to shoot for the moon, sign up for one of their add-ons and meet an astronaut.
Options include the Dine with an Astronaut storytelling session, or a small group half-day guided tour with a real live astronaut! If you can’t fork over the extra coin, there are still options for you included with the general ticket, like daily Astronaut Encounter presentations and afternoon Astronaut of the Day autograph session.
Travel to a Land Far Far Away
I’ll just be honest – our family are not “traditional” Disney Nerds. If you asked my kids to name an old-school Disney movie, I’m not sure they could do it. But with the addition of Marvel and Star Wars…our passion for Disney has grown tremendously. One of our favorite vacation experiences was take the Star Wars VIP Tour at Walt Disney World.
As of this writing, the new “Star Wars Land” experience just opened in California and it looks unbelievable. The Florida land will open in early Fall of this year, and we’ll keep you posted.
Hunt Fossils at Peace River
Wallaby Ranch in Davenport, outside Orlando, is the first and largest aerotow hang gliding flight park in the world. What is “aerotow”?? It’s hang gliding with a twist – instead of launching from an elevated location you get towed up to altitude by a plane. You’ll soar over natural Florida woodlands, which is home to many different species of wildlife –deer, migrating birds, various reptiles and amphibians. You might even be lucky enough to spot the very rare and endangered Florida Panther.
Savor the Serengeti at Busch Gardens
Sure – you can head to Busch Gardens for the roller coasters – and we don’t blame you (Discount tickets here.) But their award-winning Serengeti Safari has our heart!
Grab a spot on a spacious open-air touring vehicle and trek across the wide and wild African Plain. It’s a great way to get photos – and we love feeding the giraffes!
Pedal to the Metal on a Catamaran
Take a tour of the Florida waters as you drive a Catamaran in Martin County– guided by naturalists who can tell you all about the flora and fauna of the region. You can take an affordable 60 min, 90 min or 2.5 hour eco tour, or a 3.5 hr twilight coastal tour.
These boats are just spectacular and SAFE. It’s not physically possible for them to flip! Yet, because of the design, they offer the maneuverability of an airboat – and they are just so much fun!
Snorkel for Scallops
Bay scallops are smaller than the sea scallops you usually see on the menu at a restaurant, but they are sweeter and delicious…and you can hunt for them in Crystal River during scallop season. What do you need? 3-6 ft of water, some snorkel gear, and a bag to hold the treasure!
Indulge in a Food Tour in Ybor City
I have fond memories of Ybor City, as it is where I went to middle school…but they’ve kicked things up a notch or two in the last decade, and now it is a foodie’s heaven!
We love the original tour with Ybor City Food Tours. You’ll be introduced to the city in such a way that the experience alone will leave you knowing why it was placed in the National Historic Registry. Food, culture, and more…right at your fingertips, including a stop at The Columbian Restaurant that was established in 1905 and is still in existence today.
Behold the Bioluminescence via Kayak
Imagine this: It’s night time…you’re in a clear kayak on the Indian River…then you see it. The water light up as luminous sea life surrounds your kayak. Glowing plankton or bioluminescent Comb Jellies light up the water, and it’s spectacular.
You can see the spectacle best on a New Moon, especially July – September. New Moon rides book fast, so schedule something early. We recommend riding with BKAdventures.
Blow Glass Like Chihully
The Chihully Collection at Morean Art Center in Tampa Bay is the first installation of Chihuly art in a building designed specifically for that purpose. Each space was designed individually to complement each installation.
On the first and second Saturday of each month you can take a glass molding class in the Morean Glass Studio & Hot Shop for a fee. What an inspirational setting in which to learn!
Go Spring Tubing Near Orlando
We loved hanging out with Crazy Family Adventure on a wild spring ride at Kelly Rock Springs Park near Orlando. You’ll grab a tube at Rock Springs Bar & Grill, then drive around the block to get to the park. The water is comfortable, and clear – just spectacular!
Drop your tube, jump in, and ride the current like a lazy river through the mangroves. When you’re done, either play at the beach, have a picnic, or walk around and go again! Our kids went over and over and over!
Adventure in South Florida
Cruise Lake Boca
“Lake Boca” is what the locals call the expanse of water near the Boca Inlet that runs into the Gulf Stream. It’s exceptionally beautiful when the sun sets – and stands out as it is lined with multi-million dollar homes and luxury hotels. It makes for the ideal cruising spot, and it also great for kayaking and paddleboarding.
Swim Like it’s 1945!
There is not a better pool in Miami Beach than that at The Raleigh Hotel. But guess what? You don’t have to be an overnight guest to enjoy it. Day passes are available for this stunning Art Deco designed oasis that was the backdrop for Esther Williams’s films in the 1940’s and 50’s. Passes start at $25 per day.
Wander Wynwood Walls
Wynwood Walls in Miami is the perfect “museum” for the incredible art form of street graffiti. What began as a few commissioned murals to beautify the industrial area has morphed into an outdoor street art park, featuring more than 40 murals.
It’s worth touring on your own, for sure – but to get the best experience, take an officially sanctioned tour to learn about the ever-changing murals by some of history’s most legendary graffiti writers and iconic street artists.
Feast at Mai Kai Restaurant
Known for their Polynesian floor show, Chinese eats and killer cocktails, Mai Kai Restaurant is a South Florida icon. It was named “best tiki bar in the world” and is the last remaining restaurant to carry on the traditions of service and serving the original drink recipes of Don the Beachcomber, the grandfather of Tiki.
Take a Dip in a Spring
The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables is the only swimming pool on the National Register of Historic Places, with swaying palm trees, coral rock formations, whimsical waterfalls and interesting caves to explore. It’s large enough to hold over 800K gallons of fresh water from an underground aquifer, and it draws water from artesian wells in the summer. This water oasis has been the perfect place to cool off and go for a swim since 1924.
Taste Your Way Through Little Havana
If you do nothing else when in the Miami area, we recommend taking a tour of Little Havana. You can do it yourself, for sure, but with Miami Culinary Tours you’ll get the inside scoop on the art, history, culture and food. Seriously, this was my favorite adventure in Miami – I could not love it more.
Practice the Art of Tea
The Morikami Museum and Botanical Gardens is Delray Beach is a must at any time, but we recommend you plan your adventure for a select Saturday in the month (see website for details.) There is nothing as special as attending a Japanese Tea Ceremony. Tickets are only sold at the garden, and it is first come, first serve.
For the ultimate experience, take a workshop here also. The Tea Ceremony workshop is often sold out immediately, but there are also classes for basket making, calligraphy, sushi making, taiko, block print and more.
Florida Keys Escapes
Camp at Dry Tortugas
Dry Tortugas is consistently named the “must-do” experience of the Florida Keys…but you can take it to the next level by camping on this island. Star gazing without light pollution, snorkeling, and sensational sunsets on the beaches of the Fort make this unmatched.
Snorkel the Only North American Reef
The Florida Keys Reef system is North America’s only living coral barrier reef. It covers 221 miles along Florida’s southeast coast from Key Biscayne to the Dry Tortugas. The reef is protected as an underwater state park known as the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first of its kind in North America.
We recommend heading out to the reef with Fury. We loved our Sunset Cruise with them – they are so fun! Snorkel the reef (see lemon sharks!) then head back with music playing and a few cocktails….then just before you pull into shore, stop in the water and watch the sun fall below the horizon. Beautiful.
Help Save the Sea Turtles
Turtles from all over the Keys and even mainland Florida are brought to the Marathon Turtle Hospital for rehab and surgery. You can even watch a surgery being performed, so check with the Turtle Hospital for their surgery schedule.
The hospital used to be a hotel property with a private boat dock in back. When the hospital took over, they closed up the dock and turned it into a natural habitat for rehabbing turtles. The pool is fed naturally from the ocean and rises with the tides. This is the final stage for turtles getting ready to be reintroduced to the wild.
Marathon allows Fido on the beaches, but please be sure to use a leash to protect the baby turtles!
Feed the Tarpon (Then Feed Yourself)
Robbie’s was voted one of the best places for tourists to visit – and I have to admit that we loved it. Kids and adults will love feeding the HUGE Tarpon fish here. You can explore our variety of watersport activities and shops on property; it felt like a community art festival. After that, grab a bite and do not miss the loaded Trailer Trash Bloody Mary while you are hanging out on the deck.
Discover Jesus at John Pennecamp
Regardless of your religious affiliation (or lack thereof) you can find Jesus at John Pennecamp State Park. It was the first underwater park in the US, and the primary attraction here is the reef and marine life it houses.
One of the most famous sites in the Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the underwater Christ of the Abyss statue, located near North Dry Rocks. The 8-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ weighs 4,000 lbs and is nearly 25 feet deep. This isn’t the original, though. The current status was placed there in 1965, but remains a popular site for scuba divers and snorkelers.
Snuggle With a 6-toed Cat
The stories about the 6-toed cats are roaming Hemingway House are true! Descendants of Hemingway’s original 6-toed feline roam the property (there is even a cemetery for those who have passed.) Some are shy, but others will take all the affection you can offer.
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Disclosure: Thank you to Clay County for sponsoring this post. 365 Atlanta Traveler is a Visit Florida Digital Marketing Program Partner. Opinions here are all our own.
After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.
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