The One-Stop Guide to Holidaying in Florida

Anyone going to the United States of America for a vacation never forgets to include the Sunshine State in their itinerary. The subtropical climate, vibrant cities, world-class theme parks, beautiful beaches, and the wilderness of the Everglades National Park with its exotic animals and boggy marshes all rolled into one makes this state the number one destination for people looking to soak up some sun and adrenaline spiking adventure.

Be it a romantic getaway or a family trip, Florida should definitely feature in your American vacation. Even with all those other attractions, Florida's biggest crowd puller and the best vacation destination is of course, Disney World! However, for those of you who might want to explore something other than Disney World, these other destinations in the Sunshine State are equally fascinating and draw millions of visitors each year. Read on ahead to find all those can't-miss places in Florida.

Beach lovers heaven!

For a state that draws millions of tourists through the year, the beaches which almost completely surround the entire state are beautiful, clear blue with pristine white sands. Clearwater Beach on the Gulf of Mexico coast is one of the most famous beaches, with exclusive beach-front hotels and parasailing activities and the main attraction is that it is among the best places in America for dolphin spotting. Siesta Key in the vibrant resort of Sarasota is another famous beach that is unspoilt and is a favourite haunt of honeymooning couples and shell collectors. South Beach in Miami which happens to be a man-made beach that is adjacent to some the best nightlife venues you’ll find in Florida and is perfect to do some celebrity spotting too.

Also Read : Is renting a beach house or condo cheaper than staying in a hotel?

Top-notch theme parks

The most famous attraction in Florida that attracts people of all ages and types is none other than the Walt Disney World Resort. Spread out on more than 27,000 acres it attracts approximately 52 million visitors each year to enjoy this world of fantasy with the infamous and iconic Cinderella Castle, overlooking the Magic Kingdom Park and other beautiful attractions; making it the most popular vacation destination in the world. Speaking of theme parks, we already know Florida does them in style with the stellar example of Walt Disney World Resort; but that’s not the end, you can feast your eyes on other remarkable attractions such as SeaWorld in Orlando, and the Orlando Universal Studios which help in highlighting Florida's reputation as the theme park capital of the world.

Snorkeler’s Paradise

The coast of Florida with its warm and clean sea water has some very exotic and beautiful Marine scenery, peppered with wonderful and rare aquatic animals. This alone makes it one among America's favourite destination for snorkeling enthusiasts. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Florida is undoubtedly one of the best destinations there is to go snorkeling. Another famous destination is Cannon beach underneath whose waters you can see some beautiful coral reefs, exotic ray-finned fish and adding to all those attractions is the remains of an old Spanish ship that was shipwrecked ages ago.

Marvellous museums

Florida is a state that has had an impressive past, and it showcases all those memories in the splendidly kept museums. To check out some Prehistoric fossils and marine life head to the South Florida Museum where they also exhibit the impressive Montague Tallant Prehistoric collection along with artefacts that depicts the state’s colonial past, a state-of-the-art Planetarium that has an interactive astronomy program and even a special aquarium which has the world's oldest manatee living in it!

And another Museum that you should not miss is the Florida Natural History Museum which houses one of the largest natural history exhibition in America. There are millions of artefacts and specimens on display which emphasizes the history of Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Now that we have piqued your interest with why you have to visit Florida let's look at where all you can visit while vacationing in Florida. Sure, Florida is a big state with a lot of attractions to offer, but the list below includes the definite-must visit kind of places and also as a bonus we've included the best vacation rentals to stay at when you visit each of these places.

Disney World

Obviously Disney World is at the top of our list and why not? We cannot resist the fairy tale and the fantasy and we're very sure that you cannot too! Not many can resist the lure of this magical and wondrous place where you can exchange your mundane life for a few days in magical castles among fairy tale princesses. While a visit to Disney world is a dream you need to save quite a lot and for quite some time, because it can be quite expensive but you can check Disney World Hotel resort accommodations which can accommodate every kind of budget including value, moderate and deluxe and they offer a wide range of ticket choices to choose from too.

Also Read : 5 Luxury Holidays on a Budget

Orlando

Of course, the magical and wonderful Disney World is the most popular destination in Orlando, Florida. But there's more to Orlando than just Disney World. Orlando is a fun destination with plenty of options for both the budget travelers as well as the big spenders. On the note of theme parks, Universal Orlando with its own hotels and theme parks and the nearby SeaWorld Orlando with the popular International drive area which is home 200 hotels and 150 fantastic restaurants are worthy destinations too.

Not only that within just a few miles of these major theme parks you'll find several other resorts involving dinner and theatre experiences along with some Golf themed resorts as well and plenty more attractions that will make for a thoroughly enjoyable vacation.

St. Augustine

Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, the city of Saint Augustine, for over 200 years served as the capital of Spanish Florida. At present the city is the oldest continuously occupied European established settlement in the continental United States. St. Augustine has a distinct historical character which has made the city a major tourist attraction in Florida, since the late 19th century. The city still retains its quaint old-world charm in its historical monuments and other unique attractions along with beaches and modern trappings such as world class shopping and bustling nightlife. The city of St. Augustine makes for an ideal holiday spot for romantic couples, families or even the soul searcher and whatever your heart is seeking, romance or excitement you will find it in St. Augustine!

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The Keys

Florida's Keys, a string of islands that are bound together by the Overseas Highway is an exotic destination that draws millions of visitors to its shores, and especially for sport fishing and diving enthusiasts the Keys is considered to be their mecca. Home to some rare kinds of marine life, you can go snorkeling, scuba diving to explore this underwater beauty. Each of the islands have their own aura shaped by their history, and visitors can revel in the endless entertainment on offer or just take a leaf out of their book and enjoy the laid back attitude of the locals.

Bahia Honda State Park is a secluded beach that offers great views; you can sit around and sunbathe and appreciate the beauty of your surroundings as you acquire a golden tan or go snorkeling to check out the natural beauty that exists underwater. If you’re in the mood escape the city life, go camping in Dry Tortugas National Park which is only accessible by boat; set up a tent and go check out some wildlife. And finally, because a trip to the Keys isn’t complete without a visit to Key West, you need to go to this laid back city with gorgeous colonial mansions, great music, and fantastic nightlife.One thing you absolutely must do while in the Keys is try the infamous Key lime pie made with the Key limes grown in the region, and the bountiful and delicious seafood that is part of the cuisine.

Amelia Island

Amelia Island, Florida's southernmost barrier Island was named after Princess Amelia of Great Britain. Amelia Island’s history is as rich as it's natural beauty. The islands which is said to have flown eight different flags over it during colonial times (French, Spanish, British, Floridian/ Patriot, Green Cross, Mexican, Confederate and United States) is now made up of beautiful sandy beaches, restaurants with magnificent food, shopping, Golf and tennis. You'll find all that your heart desires in Amelia Island. From pricey all inclusive resorts to quaint cottages with unparalleled views of the ocean, seaside villas and hotels; you'll find everything here and for all kinds of budgets too.

Miami

For a thousand years Miami was home to the indigenous native American tribes called the Tequestas until it came under Colonial rule. Now it is a major port city on the Atlantic coast of South Florida, and metro area is the eighth most populous and fourth largest urban area in the US and it is also nicknamed the “Capital of Latin America”. Miami’s buildings built in the Art Deco style, South Beach nightclubs, and vibrant Little Havana are well renowned across the world, you shouldn’t miss a tour to check out the Art Deco buildings that are scattered throughout the city distinguishable by their bright colors and architecture or the well-known Design District that is peppered with myriad galleries and shops.

The close proximity to Cuba and its Cuban population lend a certain Cuban air to the atmosphere, and you cannot leave without having a teeny taste of Cuban life, head to the Little Havana neighborhood for a and a traditional ham sandwich followed by a strong Cuban coffee, and finally kick back with a cigar and spend a leisurely afternoon chatting up the people. As the sun sets South Beach comes alive, with the countless dance clubs, lounges, and beach bars opening their doors wide open and offering some world class entertainment.

While the movies show Miami as a tropical paradise filled with beaches, swaying palm trees, sand and surf; Miami also happens to be one of the world's leading centres of fashion, entertainment, the arts, culture, commerce, finance and international trade while doing justice to its fun-in-the-sun facade too! With its perfect weather, cutting edge urban chic, beautiful beaches and sizzling nightlife speckled with celebs Miami is a class apart from other American cities. This is one vacation you that will be hard to beat or forget!

Daytona Beach

51 miles Northeast of Orlando lies the Halifax area or simply Daytona, of the infamous Daytona Beach. Daytona City which is also dubbed the “Fun Coast” isis also the headquarters for Nascar. The clean white sandy beaches with blue green waters is irresistible, and has a whole host of fun activities and attractions which draws in people of all ages, most especially those on a spring break.

Panama City Beach

Another spring break hot spot, Panama City Beach along the Gulf of Mexico coast, isn't just for teenagers out for wild parties and outrageous fun, but also for families looking for a fun Beach vacation. With beautiful beaches filled with distinctive sugar-white sand and blue waters stretching to the horizon, it lives up to its slogan “The World's Most Beautiful Beaches”.

Also Read : Best Beaches in South Goa

Sanibel Island

Sanibel is a city in Florida's Lee County on Sanibel islands, which is a barrier Island. The island known for its beautiful beaches, ridden with shells, and wildlife refuges, make up for more than half of the island. The wildlife refuges were set up in an effort to preserve the Island's natural ecology, and is home to many indigenous, migratory and endangered species of animals and birds. The largest of the wildlife refuges is called J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, through which visitors can explore the natural habitat of these animals by biking, walking, driving or kayaking. The island also has a variety of museums and theaters along with the Sanibel historical village.

Tampa Bay

The tri city area consisting of Tampa, clearwater and St.Petersburg is also known as Tampa Bay, which is a big natural harbour and estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico on the west central coast of Florida. The gentle surf of the Gulf of Mexico, and it's white sandy beaches is an inviting treat to those who want to spend a few hours on the beach. Tampa is a busy cruise port and though it didn't have a pretty beach like Clearwater Beach, it still has attractions like Busch Gardens, The Florida Aquarium and the Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Everglades

The Everglades of Florida are truly unlike anything you’ve experienced in your life, and a trip to the Everglades is a must. A scenic drive through this vast national park will make you throw our worries to the wind, go hiking on the Pine Island Trails, or the Shark Valley Trails to spot flora and fauna indigenous to the area and just spend some time with nature. If exerting yourself isn’t really your thing, then just opt for the boat trip as most of the Everglades is accessible by water. Book one of the organized boat tours which will take you around sightseeing in the Everglades, or you could charter a boat for a fishing trip, or go kayaking on the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway. Be sure to spot a crocodile or two, because what’s a trip to the Everglades without this to remember your vacation.

Vacation Rentals

Now that you know where to go in Florida, you’ll need to plan on staying at these places or at least a few of these places. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of vacation rentals ranging from budget friendly, to luxurious where you can stay and enjoy your vacation to the fullest.

Also Read : Best Vacation Rentals in Maui

1. Florida Sun Luxury Resort, Orlando

Located in a gated resort that is just 1 mile away from the Disney theme park, Florida Sun Luxury resort lives up to its name in luxury. Featuring a huge resort pool, club house, park, and playgrounds and has 3 bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen with all appliances, cookware and utensils, central air and heat, iron and ironing board and a full size washer and dryer too. And you get all this at a price of 96$ average per night.

2. Runaway Bay Condo, Anna Maria Island

Voted as 'Best Resort' by Bradenton Herald, this gorgeous vacation resort stands on very beautiful grounds between the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay. The condo has two bedrooms and 2 bathrooms along with a large heated pool, tennis court, exercise room, sauna, shuffleboard, and a private fishing pier on the bay. The condo is just a few steps away from the beach, so all you have to do is book yourself into this condo, sit back and enjoy the view! The condo is priced at 98$ average per night.

3.The Grand DoubleTree Miami

Located on Biscayne Bay next to Sea Isle Marina, which is home to the Miami International Boat Show, this luxury waterfront condo is absolutely perfect. You can go on scenic charter cruises and the apartment's proximity to downtown Miami and South Beach, means that your entertainment is taken care of without having to travel too far. You have an array of dining options, courtesy of the property which includes fresh seafood at Casablanca on the Bay, Chinese cuisine at Tony Chan's Water club.

This condo offers a premium Bay view and it's equipped with an upgraded full-sized kitchen, services and world class amenities designed to ensure you have a perfect vacation in your home away from home for just 120$ average per night.

4.Tarpon Cove at Ocean Pointe Resort, Keys

This beautifully furnished 2 bedroom apartment with 2 bathrooms is located on a private 65 acre tropical resort. Equipped with an olympic size pool, wading pool, hot tub, a poolside bar and plenty of chaise lounges, beautiful marina, boat ramp, fishing pier, tennis courts, tiki huts, waterfront cafe', ping pong, kayak rental; pretty much everything you could want out of your vacation rental home! You'll also have a fully equipped kitchen if you feel like cooking. But mostly you must go here for the beautiful oceanfront views that you can wake up to.

5.Avery ' s Beach Bungalow, St. Augustine

When you need a home away from home when you’re on vacation, look no further than Avery’s beach bungalow which is a beautiful home with 2 bedrooms that offers all the trappings of modern life while still retaining its quaint charm. At just a few steps from the house is the beach with semi-private access and if you’re not in the mood for sun, sand and surf yet, you can indulge in their gorgeous pool. The house is equally close to downtown as it is to the Atlantic ocean, so you can have your fill of shopping, dining out and entertainment too.

Florida is one state that has it all, beautiful beaches, theme parks, vibrant city life and a rich culture. Planning your stay and touring through Florida is easy as pie; what's difficult is to forget how good a vacation it was, and planning another one to beat it. Go ahead and enjoy your holiday to the fullest on this slice of paradise called the “Sunshine State”.

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