It’s no secret that Florida is one of the top holiday destinations in the world, thanks to the year-round warm climate, family-friendly activities and welcoming locals. However, how do you narrow your Sunshine State holiday to just one place?
Florida is packed with things to do, so it all depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re a Disney lover this is the most magical place on Earth to visit in Orlando, and for those who want all the relaxation of a beach holiday, there’s plenty of those to choose from. However, beaches and Walt Disney World aren’t the only strings to Florida’s bow.
For nature lovers
The Everglades National Park, which spans 1.5 million acres of southern Florida, is one of the biggest national parks in the US. Home to a unique eco-system not found anywhere else on the planet, there is indigenous flora and fauna to be seen all over the park, and it is a haven for wildlife spotting year round too. If you’re a keen twitcher, bring your binoculars as there are over 350 different species of bird in the Everglades, such as the great blue heron, snowy egret, osprey and the roseate spoonbill. Typically, the drier winter season is the best for spotting wading birds feeding in the shallows and on mud flats, as the tides are lower during this time of the year. Don’t forget to look out for the alligators and crocodiles basking in the sun - just don’t get too close!
The Everglades isn’t just a place for appreciating the wildlife though, it is a fantastic destination for getting active. Cycling, walking and kayaking are all popular activities to enjoy, giving you a great opportunity to get around and explore this vast park. For those who want to kick things up a notch, how about trying an airboat ride? Speed over the waters for an exhilarating jaunt with an experienced tour guide, who will tell you all about the fascinating park and the animals which live there. There are many different tours to choose from, but the best ones are those which are combined with an animal demonstration or talk at the end, especially if it means getting a closer look at one of the resident gators.
For thrill seekers
If there’s one thing Florida has in abundance, it’s thrills. Florida is the theme park capital of the world, playing host to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, Legoland and several water parks - there’s also an exhilarating rollercoaster and a movie-themed ride. The great thing about the theme parks here is that even if being shot up in the air upside down at 60mph isn’t for you, there’s plenty of other things to do in the parks. There are shops, spectacular shows, characters to meet, gentler rides to enjoy, immersive experiences and so much more.
For those who love the thrill of the rides and the experience of being a part of the Disney magic, no two visits to Disney and Universal Studios will be the same, as they are constantly growing and evolving. This year, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, encompassing 14 acres, while Lands includes the village of Black Spire Outpost and the wild frontier planet of Batuu, featuring attractions, shops, restaurants, and lots of entertainment.
Epcot is also getting a facelift in places, and there will be a new spectacular evening fireworks show which is set to replace the epic, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, later this year.
For those who prefer a different sort of magic, head to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Let the wand choose the wizard in Ollivander’s Wand Emporium, try a tankard of butterbeer in The Leaky Cauldron and, if you’re brave enough, take a ride on Escape From Gringotts. You can also take the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmede where you can stock up on all your favourite magical treats in Honeydukes - it really is a magical experience like no other.
For the beachy keen
Florida has more than 1,800 miles of coastline, more than any other state in the US, so you will never be short of a stretch of sand to unfurl your towel on and relax. If you’re looking for your beach to come with a bit of something extra, then Daytona Beach should be top of your list.
For those who love nothing more than kicking back on holiday, there are 23 miles of golden sand at Daytona bathed in the warm Floridian sunshine. But, if slow days aren’t really for you, Daytona has plenty to keep you busy.
Daytona Beach Boardwalk & Pier fringes the beach and is packed with things to do for when you’ve had your fill of sand in your toes. You’ll find shops, restaurants, bars, arcades, rides and lots of entertainment for the whole family, so there’s plenty to keep everyone occupied well into the evening.
Daytona is also home to NASCAR and the Daytona International Speedway, where you can watch a race, tour the Speedway, visit the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and soak up the exciting atmosphere among the racing fans. It’s brilliant fun for all the family.
It is also known as the Festival Capital of Florida, so check to see what’s on before you arrive so you don’t miss out on any of the fun. It’s around an hour and a half drive from Orlando too, so a day trip to see Mickey and friends can be done if you want to combine the best of both worlds.
For keeping it calm
There is definitely a slower side to Florida that should be explored - it’s not all about the big mouse and fun parades. The Florida Keys really is the place to go if you want to get away from it all and the quicker you can get onto island time, the better.
The Florida Keys is a 113-mile stretch of islands which you can explore at your leisure and makes for an epic road trip with some stunning scenery. The Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight's Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys and from experience, this is a drive you won’t want to miss.
Each Key has something different to offer. Key Largo, the northernmost island, is all about the underwater world, being home to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park - the first underwater park in the US. The self-proclaimed Dive Capital of the World has so much to see under the waves, and make sure you get a one-of-a-kind selfie with the Christ of the Abyss underwater statue!
Right at the bottom of the chain of islands is Key West, which is a gorgeous place to wander around with its Colonial-style homes, tree-lined streets and friendly locals. Literature lovers must visit Ernest Hemingway’s house to see where he penned his masterpieces and as an added bonus, if you’re a cat lover, there’s over forty of them living there - many are descendants of Hemingway’s own little cat.
If you really want to tick something off the travel bucket list, head down to the Southernmost Point in the Continental United States and have your picture taken next to the famous buoy. You’ll queue for a bit and it is a pretty ‘touristy’ thing to do, but you are on holiday after all. And, you can reward yourself with a slice of the delicious key lime pie from the Key West Key Lime Pie Company afterwards, which will be well worth it.
As dusk falls in Key West in Mallory Square, the party starts. The streets fill with performers, entertainers and craft sellers, while locals and holidaymakers alike spill onto the square to have fun and party. It’s a fantastic atmosphere and will make for a night to remember.
This has only just scratched the surface when it comes to holidays in the Sunshine State, which is why holidaymakers go back year after year to experience everything it has to offer.
Wherever you choose to make your base for your next Florida holiday, click on the RCI Resort Directory below to select your accommodation. There are 128 resorts in the Orlando area alone, so you will be spoilt for choice!
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For more ideas and guides on what to do in Florida, visit our Holiday Ideas page.