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Best places to visit in florida in 2024.

With more than 8,000 miles of shoreline, the Sunshine State is prime vacation territory. But with so many diverse destinations in Florida, it can be hard to pick which place is right for your next getaway. That's why U.S. News considered factors like the number of attractions, availability of accommodations and the opinions of everyday travelers to pick the best places to visit in Florida. Vote for your favorite spots below to help determine next year's list.

Clearwater Beach

St. augustine, anna maria island, dry tortugas national park, marco island, amelia island, sanibel island, miami beach, everglades national park, st. petersburg, fl, fort lauderdale, cocoa beach.

best tourist city florida

This picturesque barrier island off the coast of Sarasota is a prime vacation spot for relaxation-seeking travelers. Spend your getaway lounging on Siesta Beach, often considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world , and enjoy powdery white sands and a bevy of family-friendly amenities including beach volleyball, a playground and concession stands. Or, head to quieter Turtle Beach for shelling and kayaking. In the evening, catch some live music in Siesta Key Village.

best tourist city florida

Clearwater Beach's beautiful white sand , crystal clear water and small-town vibe make it an ideal destination for a family vacation on the Gulf Coast. Spend the day getting a snapshot of the city during a Segway tour or visit Caladesi Island State Park (only accessible by boat) for its untouched natural splendor. Also save time for a visit to one of the area's biggest attractions, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where the dolphins that inspired the "Dolphin Tale" movies were rehabilitated. Later, head to Pier 60 to catch a sunset, purchase locally made crafts and watch various street performances.

best tourist city florida

History buffs should make a beeline for St. Augustine. Founded by the Spaniards in 1565, this town in northern Florida is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the U.S., earning it the nickname the Ancient City. Constructed from local coquina, a unique type of stone made from compressed shells and limestone, St. Augustine's structures and monuments (including the buildings lining pedestrian-friendly St. George Street and the imposing Castillo de San Marcos National Monument) act as a living guide to history. When it's time to relax after taking in the sights, head to Anastasia State Park for its unspoiled beaches and sand dunes.

best tourist city florida

This tranquil barrier island located roughly 35 miles south of St. Petersburg is the perfect place to recharge your batteries. Kick back on gorgeous white sand shorelines like Bean Point and Coquina Beach, then grab a bite to eat along Pine Avenue, the island's historic main street. And if you're traveling with children, Mote's Marine Science Education & Outreach Center features several kid-friendly programs worth checking out. Meanwhile, history enthusiasts should pencil in time for a tour of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum.

best tourist city florida

Made up of six islands in the Florida Keys – Plantation Key, Windley Key, Indian Key, Lignumvitae Key and Upper and Lower Matecumbe Keys – Islamorada boasts tranquil parks, colorful coral reefs and art galleries. Thanks to its position between the Florida Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, this laid-back coastal village is a renowned sport fishing destination, bringing in species like sailfish, marlin, mahi-mahi, tuna and tarpon. But if you don't feel like casting a line, you can check out the History of Diving Museum or put a dent in your wallet at the shops in Rain Barrel Village. 

best tourist city florida

Sitting about 70 miles off the coast of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park is known for its premier snorkeling and wildlife-viewing opportunities. Home to nearly 300 species of birds, five types of sea turtles and about 30 species of coral, this remote seven-island park in the Gulf of Mexico is a popular Florida day trip destination for nature lovers. Plus, travelers can go on a self-guided tour of the 19th-century coastal fortress Fort Jefferson, located on Garden Key. Keep in mind, Dry Tortugas National Park can only be reached by boat or seaplane, and an entrance fee is required.

best tourist city florida

The elegant and romantic city of Naples is all about luxury and relaxation. This spot on Florida's Paradise Coast is known for its gorgeous sugar-white sand beaches and incredible golf courses. High-end shops and gourmet restaurants abound, especially along Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South. Plus, flora and fauna lovers have access to all kinds of nature-focused attractions here, such as the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, the Naples Botanical Garden and Clam Pass Park. Those who appreciate art won't want to miss The Baker Museum or one of the city's many art galleries.

best tourist city florida

Known as the Diving Capital of the World, Key Largo offers access to the only living coral reef in the continental U.S., the country's first undersea park (John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park) and the only underwater hotel in the world solely accessible by scuba diving. The largest island in the Florida Keys is also a prime spot for other aquatic activities, including snorkeling, deep-sea fishing and glass-bottom boating. When you're ready to trade your sea legs for solid ground, grab a bite to eat and a rum runner cocktail at one of Key Largo's laid-back eateries.

best tourist city florida

World-famous attractions such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Florida make Orlando a year-round tourist destination, but there are many attractions and activities outside of the theme parks . Travelers can shop till they drop at outlet malls, hit the links at one of the area's many golf courses, and get up close and personal with dolphins and stingrays at Discovery Cove. Those without little ones can explore Orlando's revitalized nightlife and restaurant scenes in the downtown area.

best tourist city florida

Travel to this island in the Florida Keys to relax at a beachside resort and see the southernmost point in the continental United States. Key West is known for its free-spirited locals, colorful conch-style homes and coral reefs ripe for snorkeling and scuba diving. Between boat tours and margaritas, bibliophiles will enjoy visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where they can learn more about the famous writer and see descendants of his six-toed cat, Snow White. Or, head to Key West's main drag, Duval Street, for its cafes, shops and nightlife.

best tourist city florida

The largest of Southwest Florida's Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island is a haven for water sports like boating, fishing and kayaking. Its sunny skies and white sand beaches invite visitors to sunbathe, swim and search for seashells. Those who want a break from the sand can learn about the island's ties to the ancient Calusa Native Americans at the Marco Island Historical Museum or look for manatees, sea turtles and other wild animals in Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

best tourist city florida

Located about 30 miles northeast of Jacksonville, Amelia Island's historical charm and 13 miles of uncrowded beaches make it a top vacation destination. Stroll through Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, where pirates used to roam and the modern shrimping industry was born. For some fun yet relaxing activities, go horseback riding by the water or play a round of golf on one of the island's highly regarded courses.

best tourist city florida

This spot along the Florida Panhandle's Emerald Coast is a home away from home for thousands of summer vacationers. Its unique, postcard-worthy white sands made from Appalachian quartz and its clear, bright blue-green water help Destin stand out from other Florida beaches. The nearby Henderson Beach State Park is a must-visit shoreline, with its 30-foot white sand dunes. And Destin's manicured golf courses, optimal fishing conditions and shop- and restaurant-lined boardwalk continue to attract travelers year after year.

best tourist city florida

Relaxation is a given on Sanibel Island. Severely impacted by Hurricane Ian in 2022, Sanibel Island continues to recover but is once again welcoming tourists. Your first stop here will no doubt be the beach – Bowman's Beach offers prime shelling opportunities and Captiva Island is an excellent place for water sports like snorkeling and kayaking – but it would be a shame to visit the area without also exploring its many art galleries, bike trails and shops. Plus, you'll want to save time for activities like birding and fishing in the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Just plan ahead; lodging options remain limited.

best tourist city florida

Few places in the world compare to colorful, vibrant Miami Beach. From the one-of-a-kind art deco architecture along Ocean Drive to the scantily clad beachgoers on South Beach, this Miami offshoot attracts everyone from relaxed retirees to night owls. But you'll want to bring along your credit card because those fashionable dance clubs and chic, trendy restaurants don't come cheap. To save some money, consider buying a Go Miami card before your trip to access to some of the area's museums and tours for a fraction of the price.

best tourist city florida

Florida is almost as famous for its alligators as it is for its beaches and theme parks, and one of the best places to see them is in Everglades National Park. As the largest subtropical wilderness in the country, the park is the world's only environment where alligators and crocodiles coexist. It's also home to rare species like manatees and panthers. The Everglades offers several hiking trails and guided tours for navigating its vast 1.5 million acres. Be sure to visit between November and April (the park's dry season) to enjoy lower temperatures, fewer mosquitos and increased chances of spotting wildlife.

best tourist city florida

Holding the Guinness World Record for most consecutive days of sunshine, St. Petersburg appeals to all types of travelers. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy St. Pete Beach and the 7 miles of waterfront parks. Away from the shore, downtown St. Petersburg offers plenty of attractions, including a museum dedicated to the works of Salvador Dalí and the Sunken Gardens, the city's oldest living museum. The city also hosts one of the largest Pride events in the U.S. every summer and is home to a large LGBTQ+ community.

best tourist city florida

If you're looking for sun, sand and superb shopping, Fort Lauderdale is the place to go. Fort Lauderdale features palm-tree-lined beaches, and its 165 miles of waterways and canals have earned it the nickname the Venice of America. Those looking to partake in some retail therapy will find plenty of shops and restaurants on Las Olas Boulevard and in Galleria Fort Lauderdale and Sawgrass Mills, the largest outlet mall in the country. When you're not exercising your wallet or lounging on beautiful Las Olas Beach, don't forget to check out the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

best tourist city florida

Much like its sunny neighbor, St. Petersburg, Tampa attracts visitors with its balmy weather and outdoor pursuits. But as the third largest city in Florida, Tampa also offers a little more action. Visitors can stroll along the lively Tampa Riverwalk to get a glimpse of public art and dazzling light displays, or visit one of the area's museums, such as the Tampa Bay History Center. Those bringing kids along can also explore Glazer Children's Museum or The Florida Aquarium (with a stop at Sparkman Wharf for lunch), or tire them out with some thrills at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

best tourist city florida

Cocoa Beach appeals to everyone from space enthusiasts to surfers. The nearby Kennedy Space Center offers a firsthand look at NASA's shuttles and launch pads. In the northern part of Cocoa Beach, visitors will find one of the best places in Florida to surf and the flagship Ron Jon Surf Shop, the largest surf shop in the world. Here, you'll also find the Florida Surf Museum, where you can learn more about the history of Florida surfing. Vacationers can also sign up for bioluminescent kayaking tours of the area's waterways or play beach volleyball next to the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier.

Vote to Add these Destinations to the Rankings

best tourist city florida

Fort Walton Beach

best tourist city florida

St. George Island

best tourist city florida

Panama City Beach

best tourist city florida

West Palm Beach

best tourist city florida

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9 of the best places to go in Florida

David Gibb

Oct 20, 2023 • 6 min read

best tourist city florida

From top beach destinations to cities packed with art, culture and nightlife, here are the best places to visit in Florida © John Coletti / Getty Images

Choosing the best places to visit in Florida is like a florist painstakingly selecting the most perfect flowers for a wedding bouquet.

That’s because all of Florida is equally beautiful in different ways. From sunny, white sand beaches , groves filled with colorful orange trees, and untamed subtropical mangrove forests, to theme parks packed with excited kids, and bustling space centers, this peninsular paradise is one gigantic fantasyland.

Whether you’re slipping away on a romantic sojourn, or busily making family memories, here's a list of the places you simply shouldn’t miss.

1. Miami, the "Magic City"

Best for parties and robust nightlife

With pastel-colored art deco buildings trimming sparkling azure waters,  Miami screams tropics. One of America’s most-visited cities, this bustling metropolis scores big with urban see-and-be-seen types. Crowd-lovers bask in  South Beach’s iconic energy, slathering on sunscreen to soak up scorching rays, and indulging in the best people-watching opportunities the planet offers. And, for those who energize after dark, Miami’s packed, world-renowned clubs epitomize wicked all-nighters. Miami scores big with foodies too, who savor its tasty cuisines enhanced with strong Cuban and Caribbean flavors.

Detour: A world apart, yet only 50 miles away, the Everglades offer a very different kind of wildness. Airboat, camp or take scenic drives to see gators and other exotic wildlife.

2. Vero Beach

Best for calm, romantic getaways

For a more sedate experience, visit the skyscraper-less beach of this under-the-radar jewel, just 150 miles north of Miami. There’s little in the way of nightlife, but many find it a delightful reprieve. Embrace each new day with meditative yoga, digging your toes into warm sand, as the sun rises over the ocean at popstar Gloria Estefan’s  Costa d’Este resort (non-guests welcome). Grab an award-winning burger at  Casey’s Place , a throwback to outdoor burger shacks of the 1970s, and learn the juicy history of Florida oranges at the tiny  Indian River Citrus Museum .

Detour: Visit  A.E. Backus Museum and Florida Highwaymen Museum in nearby Fort Pierce and become instant fans of this famous Florida landscape artist and the talented African-American painters he inspired.

A water ride splashes down on a sunny day

Best for family activities

A place where dreams come true,  Orlando ’s a cosmopolitan city sprinkled with pixie dust. Sure, there’s serious business going on here, but you wouldn’t know it basking inside a sun-kissed  swan paddleboat on Lake Eola , surrounded by towering skyscrapers in the heart of downtown. The ultimate in family fun, Orlando offers  Disney parks ,  Universal ,  Gatorland , and other nearby attractions that keep kids awake weeks before arriving. There’s also  gator golf , a  chocolate museum , a  star-car museum , and, for when you really need a break from all the crowds and chaos (and you will!),  Leu Gardens , a tranquil 50-acre botanical paradise.

Detour: See what it’s like to be an astronaut at  Kennedy Space Center , less than an hour’s drive away.

4. St Augustine

Best for history and stunning architecture

Step back in time by wandering ancient cobblestone streets in St Augustine , America’s oldest city. Settled by Spaniards in 1565, the facades of Old Town buildings reflect the Spanish-Colonial and Spanish Renaissance Revival eras. Its main thoroughfare, St George Street, is packed with charming boutiques, tacky souvenir shops, and restaurants overlooking the glimmering waters of the Matanzas River. If museums, galleries, and churches are up your alley, there are plenty of those nearby as well.

Palm trees line a beach staffed with a small wooden lifeguard shelter on stilts

5. Fort Lauderdale

Best for tantalizing beaches and boating

Blessed with an impressive stretch of white-sand beaches and seemingly endless canals,  Fort Lauderdale is heralded as the yachting capital of the world and “The Venice of America”. Its  annual boat show , held in October, is the world’s largest in-water boating show. Stroll the famous  Riverwalk , stop for a beer at the legendary  Elbo Room , watch mermaids perform at  America’s only underwater burlesque show , or shop and dine along famous  Las Olas Boulevard .

Detour: Take a narrated  water taxi tour to Hollywood Beach’s lively  Broadwalk , passing mansions of the rich and famous along your journey. Buy an express pass or a hop-on, hop-off day pass with eleven scenic stops to enjoy.

6. West Palm Beach

Best for shopping and bargain hunting

WPB’s palm-lined boulevards welcome visitors to some of Florida’s best shopping. At the heart of it all is  The Square , a 72-acre shopping, dining, and entertainment complex featuring brand-name retailers and specialty boutiques. Fill your bags, then relax by the central fountain to enjoy free classic rock and country music concerts. Don’t miss the spectacular  GreenMarket , a downtown farmers market with more than 110 vendors, every Saturday morning (October to April). Sixty additional flea market booths, leading up Clematis Street, certify it as a bargain hunter’s Shangri-La.

Detour: Hop on a 10-minute  ferry to nearby  Peanut Island , a snorkeler’s paradise, where crystal-clear waters create the world’s biggest aquarium. It’s so captivating, JFK kept a secret bunker here!

Cyclists peddle along a quiet palm-lined street of low-rise shops

7. Key West

Best for barhopping and snorkeling

Rows of pastel yellow, pink, and green conch island homes with gingerbread trim complement  Key West ’s crystal-clear turquoise waters, transporting you to a world immune from daily problems. It’s no wonder world traveler and celebrated author, Ernest Hemingway chose this Caribbean-style jewel to settle on during the 1930s (don’t miss the  museum  about his life). Laid-back by day, a festive party vibe dominates at night (some dive bars along Duval Street get rowdy, so avoid staying in Old Town if you want to sleep!)

Foodies take note:  Key Lime Pie Co  bakes up some of the country’s best, and  Conch Republic Seafood Company serves killer conch fritters, another Key West delicacy.

Detour: Hop aboard a  ferry  or  seaplane  to the secluded island paradise of  Dry Tortugas National Park  to enjoy some of the world’s greatest snorkeling in shallow  Florida Reef .

8. Fort Myers, "the City of Palms"

Best for local arts and fishing

Despite the devastation wrought upon  Fort Myers Beach ’s seven miles of stunning coastline by Hurricane Ian in 2022, the recovery is well underway – with  Margaritaville Beach Resort leading the pack. Sadly, gone will be its signature cottage-y feel with quaint pubs and boardwalk taco stands as its blank canvas gets repainted a glossy chic.

But that doesn’t detract from the other riches this beautiful Gulf Coast area boasts. The bricked, palm-lined boulevards of downtown Fort Myers’s  River District , enhanced with colorful murals and artistic sculptures, are dotted with bistros, cafes, galleries, museums, and theaters. Deep sea anglers reel in massive tarpon and swordfish nearby, while paddleboarders love navigating the Gulf Coast’s calm, clear waters.

Detours:  Nearby  Sanibel Island  boasts a motherlode of almost 400 species of shells.  Bonita Springs is a quiet enclave of cafes, microbreweries, and Benson’s, a grocery store concealing a 1930s speakeasy in the back. Also, don’t miss  Wonder Gardens , a lush botanical garden and animal rescue facility that first opened in 1936, and is still a throwback to "Old Florida". (Fun fact: While attending a weight detox program at the town’s exquisite  Shangri-La Springs , actor Jackie Gleason reputedly was caught sneaking out to buy hotdogs from what’s now a Circle K, across the street.)

9. Pensacola

Best place to learn to surf

With emerald-green waters kissing 18 miles of powdery, sugar-white sand, Pensacola’s spacious beaches are heaven to those seeking a secluded getaway. The unspoiled terrain of  Gulf Islands National Seashore , America’s largest stretch of protected coastline, extends from both sides of  Pensacola Beach , a haven for water sports enthusiasts. Its warm waters and gentle summer waves make it perfect for people learning to surf. The city itself feels like a cross between an urban hub and a chill beach town, with award-winning eateries and chic boutiques. The  Seville Quarter is packed with busy bars and trendy restaurants, and Seville Square hosts many unique music, food, and art festivals throughout the year.

Detour: Dolphins regularly swarm the warm coastal waters off nearby Destin. Several local boat tour operators offer guided excursions to observe these splendid creatures from a safe distance within their natural environment.

This article was first published March 2018 and updated October 2023

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19 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Florida

Written by Lana Law Updated Apr 25, 2022

Beaches, amusement parks, national parks, and an array of unique tourist attractions make Florida one of the most visited states in America. Families flock to Orlando to thrill the kids with visits to the theme parks, while sunseekers head to the coastal cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and a string of cities along the southern Gulf Coast.

In summer, visitors from around Florida and surrounding states often escape the heat and head to the cooling breezes and brilliant white-sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle.

If you're looking for a taste of island life there is nothing quite like the Florida Keys , where life runs at a slower pace. Places like Key West and its cast of characters, seem a world away from the mainland.

Spread across the state are a long list of must-see sights and things to do, from the Kennedy Space Center right through to the Dayton 500. This is a state that lends itself to return visits, and you can plan your next trip with our list of the top tourist attractions in Florida.

1. Walt Disney World

2. kennedy space center, 3. universal studios, 4. miami beach and the art deco historic district, 5. everglades national park, 6. daytona 500 international speedway, 7. seaworld orlando, 8. busch gardens tampa, 9. manatee viewing, 10. dry tortugas national park, 11. duval street in key west, 12. st. augustine's historic district and the castillo de san marcos national monument, 13. edison and ford winter estates, 14. the ringling, 15. salvador dalí museum in st. petersburg, 16. beaches of naples, 17. the great florida birding and wildlife trail, 18. pensacola beach and the gulf island national seashore, 19. weeki wachee spring and live mermaids show.

Walt Disney World

For the ultimate amusement park experience, there's no place quite like Disney World in Orlando. The magic of Disney has not worn off over the decades as millions of visitors come here each year to enjoy the Magic Kingdom and the many other attractions of this mega amusement park.

The number of things to do and see here has grown over the years and now includes an extensive list that reaches far beyond the traditional theme parks. If you're looking for more ideas, consider checking out the water parks of Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, the exotic animals of Animal Kingdom Park, or Disney Hollywood Studios.

You'll also find exceptional dining experiences, shopping areas, and shows, some of which are target to adults only.

Official site:

Kennedy Space Center

The Kennedy Space Center is one of Florida's most exciting, fascinating, and educational attractions. Located on Florida's Space Coast, this huge complex is where space exploration has made history. Today, you can see rockets and the Space Shuttle Atlantis, meet an astronaut, and learn about missions to space.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is divided into mission zones, each of which features interesting displays and interactive exhibits focused on specific themes. Displays are designed with all ages in mind, making this an engaging experience for adults or families.

The Behind the Gates Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour takes you to restricted areas for a look at historic launch sites and other facilities with limited access to the public. This is included with your daily admission. Each area takes time to see, and you should expect to spend a full day at the Kennedy Space Center.

Many people visit the Space Center on day trips from Orlando , which is about an hour away if you don't hit traffic, but if you want to stay closer to get an early start at the Space Center, you can find quality chain hotels in Titusville.

Official site:

Universal Studios

Universal Studios in Orlando is a fantastic experience, and for many visitors, it often tops a visit to Walt Disney World. This huge amusement park offers all kinds of fantastic rides and recreated sets based on popular movies and shows. It's one of the best places to visit for families traveling with older children or teenagers.

Unbelievable 3D- and 4D-simulator rides; thrill rides; and wet and wild rides at the newest theme park, Universal's Volcano Bay , are some of the highlights. You can also find tamer rides for younger children to enjoy.

One of the most popular and impressive attractions is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter , where you can board the Hogwarts Express, wander through Hogsmeade Village, or, of course, hop on the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride.

Official site:

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Orlando

Art Deco buildings in Miami Beach

Although time spent lounging on the beach on a hot day is a must, Miami Beach is about much more than just the glorious, wide stretch of golden sand that lines the Atlantic. One of the things that makes Miami Beach so unique among Florida's beach destinations is the Art Deco Historic District. Beautifully restored buildings, mainly from the 1930s and early 1940s, reflect the city's vibrant history and create an ambience like you won't find in other cities.

Today, many of these buildings are high-end hotels, condominiums, and restaurants. Along Ocean Drive , the legendary oceanfront street overlooking South Beach, you'll find several outstanding Art Deco buildings, including the Hotel Breakwater South Beach, The Carlyle, and the Park Central Hotel (now part of the new Celino Hotel complex).

Collins Avenue is another street in the area worth strolling along, with more classic buildings. The Delano South Beach and the National Hotel Miami Beach, an adults only resort, are both standout Art Deco properties along Collins Avenue.

  • Best Beaches in Miami
  • Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Miami

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park protects 1.5 million acres of marsh and swamp, an important and fragile ecosystem that supports alligators, American crocodiles, Florida panthers, deer, turtles, egrets, manatees, river otters, and many other species. It is one of the largest parks in the country and offers a unique opportunity to see some of these creatures in the wild.

The entire area is a wide, shallow river that flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Bay of Florida. The bottom of this river is porous limestone over the top of a bedrock base called the Tamiami Formation. It catches rainfall and acts as southern Florida's main water reservoir.

Airboat rides are the best way to see the Everglades and catch a glimpse of alligators and other wildlife. Half-day tours from Miami will take you from your hotel to the Everglades.

Official site:

Daytona 500 International Speedway

The Daytona 500 race is one of the most famous and most important in the NASCAR Cup Series, kicking off the racing season each February. It is held in Daytona Beach at the Daytona International Speedway, and it attracts huge crowds every year.

The Speedway was built in 1959 to move auto racing off the beach. Previously, races and land-speed competitions were held on the hard-packed sand of Daytona Beach. If you can't make the race itself, you can still take a tour to explore the Speedway.

Official site:

  • Read More: Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Daytona Beach, FL

SeaWorld Orlando

Much like Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando is a mega amusement park that has long been an important part of family vacations to Florida. The complex features its classic dolphin and whale shows, as well as acts featuring a cast of unexpected characters, from cats and ducks to otters and sea lions.

Other highlights include the Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin display and a host of other aquarium exhibits offering opportunities to see all kinds of marine life. Thrill rides, like the high-speed Mako roller coaster, which reaches speeds of up to 73 miles per hour, and the Journey to Atlantis water coaster ride are also a big part of the SeaWorld experience.

Meerkat at Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Tampa area. This African theme park is home to all kinds of exotic animals and proudly claims to be one of the largest zoos in North America.

You can see lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, and much more. Safari style tours in open-air vehicles offer an opportunity to see some animals, like giraffes, zebras, rhinos, and ostrich roaming freely.

Other tours take you behind the scenes and offer a chance for close-up encounters with penguins, or a closer look at tigers and elephants. Live animal shows, featuring an unusual combination of characters, are another popular family activity.

Beyond the animal encounters, Busch Gardens also features all kinds of thrill rides, both wet and dry. While the wild and fast roller coasters get most of the attention, you can find rides for smaller children.

Official site:

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Tampa

Manatees in a spring in Florida

These gentle, slow-moving giant sea creatures were once supposedly mistaken for mermaids by Christopher Columbus on his famous voyage to the Americas. When you see them up close in person, you may wonder if old Christopher had been at sea for just a bit too long.

Manatee viewing is a great family outing between November and mid-April, and fortunately Florida has several good spots to see these creatures. One of the most popular (and free) places to see manatees is at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach . As the waters in the surrounding bays cool with the winter weather, the manatees come into the lagoon by the plant to luxuriate in the warm water used to cool the power plant.

Another great spot for those with a bit more of a taste for adventure is Crystal River . Here, you can actually get in the water and swim with the manatees as they enjoy the warm-water springs.

Over on the West Coast in Riviera Beach, another good spot is the Manatee Lagoon and FPL Eco-Discovery Center . The viewing platforms are an ideal spot to see the manatees enjoying the warm waters below. In addition, it's a great place to educate the kids on not only manatees, but the wider Florida ecosystem.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is home to the impressive Fort Jefferson , built by the US Government in the 1800s. Although this is the key attraction of the park, the beautiful reef islands, seven in total, that make up the Dry Tortugas are themselves worth the trip. You can tour the fort and spend the rest of the day enjoying the soft-sand beaches and snorkeling in the clear, shallow waters.

Located 70 miles west of Key West, these islands are not accessible by car. Catamaran boat trips from Key West bring visitors here for a full day, some of which includes a tour of the fort, time for beaching and snorkeling, and breakfast and lunch.

You can also camp here and, once the tourists have left for the day, you can have your own desert island experience. Access is via private boat or the public ferry that carries a maximum of 10 campers.

Official site:

  • Read More: Top-Rated Beaches in Key West

Duval Street in Key West

Most people touring the Keys make Key West their main destination due to its location at the end of the chain of islands. And fortunately, a leisurely stroll along Duval Street in Key West is one of the highlights of the Florida Keys. Shops and restaurants with outdoor patios, many in beautifully restored old buildings, line the street. There is always a lively vibe, regardless of the time of year, but even more so on days when cruise ships come to port.

Key West has a distinctly Caribbean flare, making it unique from other destinations around the state. In addition to Duval Street, there are lovely residential areas for walking and a number of interesting attractions, including the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and the Southernmost Point in the continental USA .

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Key West, FL

Castillo de San Marcos

Known for being one of the oldest settlements in Florida, although Pensacola would beg to differ, St. Augustine's historical sites and charming old architecture definitely make it worth a visit. At the top of the list of things to see is the late 19th-century Flagler College , one of the most photographed buildings in the city. It was originally built as a hotel by railroad magnate Henry Flagler.

Also not to be missed is the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument , famous for being the "oldest masonry fort in North America," according to the National Parks Service. Built in the 17th century, it is remarkably well preserved and an impressive sight, even for those with little interest in history. The view over the coast is also quite spectacular.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in St. Augustine, FL

Laboratory in Edison and Ford Winter Estates

These adjacent, oceanfront mansions in Fort Myers offer a glimpse into the lives and livelihoods of inventor, Thomas Edison, and the founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford. You can tour the homes and outbuildings, see where Edison conducted experiments, wander through the palm-lined grounds, and learn about Edison's famous botanical experiments. Once you reach the seashore, you'll quickly understand why these two men chose to spend winters here instead of up north.

The Edison Botanical Research Lab , one of the most impressive portions of the tour, is a designated National Historic Chemical Landmark.

Address: 2350 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, Florida

Official site:

Ca' d'Zan Mansion

This outstanding, Venetian-inspired property, built mainly in the mid-1920s, consists of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Circus Museum, the Ca' d'Zan, and gardens.

The Circus Museum celebrates the history of this unique form of performance. It displays all kinds of circus costumes, props, posters, and other memorabilia, and features exhibits on the history of the famous Ringling Bros. One of the highlights is a massive scale model of the circus as it approaches, sets up, and leaves a location.

The Ca' d'Zan was the residence of John and Mable Ringling. Their inspiration for this waterfront Venetian-style mansion came from their travels in Europe and the great palaces of Venice. The 36,000-square-foot home was completed in 1926 and is an architectural masterpiece in southern Florida.

A visit to the art museum, housed in a stunning pink palace, is almost jarring after you view all the relatively low-brow circus memorabilia. It showcases the Ringling's extensive art collection, which includes classic pieces by Velazquez, El Greco, Van Dyke, Veronese, and Rubens. It may seem to the casual visitor like John and Mabel Ringling were trying to overcompensate for their humble beginnings by collecting and showcasing these pieces.

Address: 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, Florida

Official site:

Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg

The Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg is located on the city's impressive waterfront and housed in a unique modern building designed to match the creativity of the artist himself. Curving glass appears to envelope the otherwise box-like structure, giving the building a very striking appearance.

Inside, the museum showcases pieces from throughout Dalí's career, providing a complete overview of his development as an artist. Even those with little knowledge of his mind-bending art will find this museum interesting and thought provoking.

Address: One Dalí Blvd, St. Petersburg, Florida

Official site:

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in St. Petersburg

Beach near the Naples Pier

The beaches on Florida's Gulf Coast are some of the best in the entire United States. Unlike their counterparts on the Atlantic Ocean, the water here is warm, generally calm, and often shallow. Beach resorts along this section make popular holiday destinations.

Of all the beach areas up and down this coast, some of the finest are located in Naples. Powdery sand, crystal-clear waters, and lots of room to set up your umbrella and chair are what you can expect. One of the liveliest areas is right near the historic Naples Pier, where you'll find volleyball courts and the greatest concentration of sunseekers.

Naples' beaches have a laid-back atmosphere and are rarely crowded outside of holidays. You can access the main stretches of beach from town, or for a more natural experience, visit one of the state or local parks up and down the coast. Just back from the beach area is the delightful city of Naples , with exceptional dining and high-end shopping.

Great blue heron photographed on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail

Florida's unique ecosystems, with the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, The Everglades, and the swamps and bayous of its northern portion, attract a wide assortment of birds. One of the best ways to check off species on your bird "to see" list is to follow the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

Starting in Pensacola, and winding its way all across the state, the trail lists 510 birding hot spots, divided into four regions: East, Panhandle, South, and West. Many of the sites are located in state, county, local, or national parks and are always identified with a distinctive brown sign with a bird flying through a stylized O.

Official site:

Pensacola Beach

One of Florida's hidden gems, Pensacola Beach and the Gulf Island National Seashore are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the state. Blindingly white soft, squeaky sand is lapped by the green-blue crystalline waters of the Gulf of Mexico. You may bring a bestseller to read under your umbrella, but chances are you'll just end up gazing out at the amazing view.

Unlike beaches along Florida's East Coast, the beaches here are protected in many areas by the Gulf Island National Seashore Park. As a result, they have limited development, allowing for you to experience the seashore in its natural environment.

That isn't to say they are all natural. Pensacola Beach is one of the Panhandle's top beach destinations for its fun vibe, great restaurants, and affordable accommodations. While you are visiting, if you hear a roar in the sky, it's the Navy's Blue Angels aerial acrobatic team performing death-defying maneuvers.

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Pensacola

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Florida wouldn't be Florida without its weird and wonderful assortment of tourist attractions. Ask yourself, where else in the world can you go and see a live mermaid swimming in a freshwater spring?

Although it may seem a bit over the top, the show is actually quite entertaining and well worth a visit. Mermaids have been performing here for over 60 years, and a trip to Weeki Wachee is almost a rite of passage for many tourists. Grab one of the 400 seats in the underwater theater, and settle in for a show unlike anything you've ever seen.

The mermaid show is actually located in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park . Other things to do include slipping and sliding on the waterslides at Buccaneer Bay, or taking a river boat tour.

Official site:

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10 Top Tourist Attractions in Florida

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Known as “The Sunshine State”, Florida is heavily focused on the tourist trade. The beaches are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florida , along with some of the world’s best known theme parks, including Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld.

However some of the state’s best secrets are in secluded locations away from tourist areas and well worth seeing. Regardless of preference Florida has something to offer for any kind of traveler.

10. Amelia Island [SEE MAP]

Amelia Island

Amelia Island is one of the southernmost of the Sea Islands, a chain of barrier islands that stretches from South Carolina to Florida. Amelia Island is home to Fernandina Beach, a charming shrimping village with 50 blocks of historic buildings, delightful eateries, and unique B&Bs and six golf courses.

9. Castillo de San Marcos [SEE MAP]

Castillo de San Marcos

Located in the city of St. Augustine , The Castillo de San Marcos site is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. Given the fine state of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument it’s difficult to believe that the fortress was built in the late 1600s.

Its longevity is due to its design: a diamond-shaped rampart at each corner maximized firepower, and 14 feet thick walls reduced its vulnerability to attack. St Augustine itself is a small jewel of a city known as the oldest European settlement in the United States, full of romantic ambiance and old world charm.

8. Universal Orlando Resort [SEE MAP]

Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resort is the top ranked challenger to Disney, as the largest of the Universal Studios Theme Parks. The resort consists of two theme parks: The original Universal Studios Florida and the second theme park, Islands of Adventure. Other attractions include a nightclub and restaurant complex, CityWalk, and three resort hotels.

The Universal Studios Florida opened in 1990 as a theme park that lets visitors “Ride the Movies.” The themes of Universal Studio’s are targeted at making guests feel like they are in a movie set with rides, shows, and attractions inspired by popular film, television, and music productions.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure is a theme park composed of 7 distinct “islands” that are themed to various forms of adventures. Visitors start off in the Port of Entry and make their way through the various islands.

7. Fort Lauderdale Beach [SEE MAP]

Fort Lauderdale Beach

Located on the Atlantic coast, Fort Lauderdale is known as the “Venice of America” due to its expansive and intricate canal system. The city is most famous for its beaches and boats. Once a major spring break destination it is now a stylish and sophisticated city.

Central along the beach strip is Fort Lauderdale Beach, with its crisp, new, wavy-walked promenade separating the beach from the low-rise lodgings, restaurants, and beach shops.

6. Kennedy Space Center [SEE MAP]

Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center has been the launch site for every US human space flight since 1968 and currently operates as a launch site for unmanned rockets. It is also one of Florida’s tourist attractions and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers museums, movies, a rocket garden and bus tours of important shuttle preparation and launch facilities.

Before a rocket launch, the Visitor Complex also sells “launch passes” but keep in mind that for safety reasons, the closest approach available is at least 4 miles away, and often much further.

5. Walt Disney World [SEE MAP]

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World, located in Lake Buena Vista near Orlando , is the flagship of Disney’s worldwide theme park empire and the most popular tourist attraction in Florida. It is also by far, the world’s largest and most-visited theme park resort. The centerpieces of Walt Disney World are the four theme parks: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Some visitors describe it as a place of fun, magic and fantasy while others complain of crowds, artifice, and unrelenting tackiness.

Walt Disney World, located in Lake Buena Vista near Orlando, is the flagship of Disney’s worldwide theme park empire and the most popular tourist attraction in Florida. It is also by far, the world’s largest and most-visited theme park resort. The centerpieces of Walt Disney World are the four theme parks: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom, is the first-built of the four theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort. Opened in 1971, its layout and attractions are similar to Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, and is dedicated to fairy tales and Disney characters. In 2012, the park hosted over 17 million visitors, making it the most visited theme park in the world.

Epcot is more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom park. It is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely technological innovation and international culture, and is often referred to as a “Permanent World’s Fair.” Disney’s Hollywood Studios is dedicated to show business, drawing inspiration from the heyday of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s.

4. Key West [SEE MAP]

Key West

Key West is known as the southernmost city in the continental United States and is located closer to Havana than to Miami. For many years, Key West was the largest town in Florida, and it grew prosperous from the valuables of shipwrecks. Improved navigation led to fewer shipwrecks, and Key West went into a decline in the late 19th century.

Although Key West today has been heavily restored and revitalized for the one million tourists that visit the island each year, the town has retained some of its sense of individualism and isolation, somewhat detached from the rest of Florida. Tourist attractions on Key West include Ernest Hemingway’s former home, the Southernmost Point, the lighthouse and several drinking establishments.

3. Everglades [SEE MAP]


To the uninitiated, the Everglades might appear as a big swamp but it is actually a vast, shallow, slow moving river of grass that extends from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. During the dry season it dries up except for the deeper places.

It is an incredibly unique ecosystem, a subtropical wilderness that supports creatures such as alligators, bottlenose dolphins, manatees and bald eagles. And amid the mangroves, cypress, hardwood hammocks and miles of grass, there are endless opportunities in the everglades for hiking, bicycling, canoing, kayaking, boating, camping and fishing.

2. South Beach [SEE MAP]

South Beach

Before Miami Vice, South Beach was a place where crime kept residents indoors at night and hotels stood mostly vacant. In the late 1980s helped by the TV show’s popularity a renaissance began in South Beach, with an influx of fashion industry professionals moving into the area.

Today South Beach is the most popular and richest area of Miami Beach and one of the top tourist attractions in Florida. The area is known for its hip clubs and wild nightlife as well as its famous art deco design.

See also: Where to Stay in Miami

1. Overseas Highway [SEE MAP]

#1 of Tourist Attractions In Florida

The Overseas Highway, also known as U.S. Highway 1, connects the Florida Keys with the mainland. It stretches 127.5 miles (205.2 km) into the Gulf of Mexico, from Key Largo , Islamadora, Marathon, Lower Keys and finally to Key West , the most distant and most famous island. Much of the highway uses a route that was originally a railroad, originally built by the Overseas Railroad that was finished in 1912, but was pretty much destroyed by a major hurricane in 1935.

The present highway opened in 1938, with one bridge that is almost seven miles long. The Seven Mile Bridge has been featured in films such as True Lies, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Mission Impossible III.

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Reader interactions.

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January 18, 2021 at 9:51 am

Cant believe Destin or Navarre was not mentioned anywhere on these lists! The most beautiful beaches and great little towns in Florida!

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November 13, 2016 at 2:50 pm

Have never been to Florida but ll like to have a glimpse of the ‘Disney world ‘,the Miami Beach and many interesting tourist attractions centres in the Sunshine State.

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March 15, 2015 at 1:00 pm

I just wanted to let you know that Trip Advisor, the largest travel site in the world, has named Stetson Mansion as Florida’s Most Popular Tourist Attraction. Stetson Mansion is Florida’s first luxury estate and is the largest, grandest and most historic estate built before the 20th century in the state of Florida.

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December 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm

i am suprised that the west coast of Florida ,especially the area from Caladesi allthe way down to Siesta key was not mentioned. 5 of Dr. Beaches regular top ten are located there. And only 1 hr from Mickey mouse ‘s house!!

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October 6, 2013 at 9:09 am

i want to go to florida!! i love all of these places cant wait to go to orlando resort

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July 25, 2012 at 11:25 pm

I loved this. I really quite fancy going to Amelia Island now. I have been to most of the other places and I loved Key West and the Everglades

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Florida Trippers

Learn how to easily plan your dream trip to Florida!

The quaint skyline of a small town in Florida is reflected in the water.

21 Cutest Small Towns In Florida

February 8, 2021 //  by  Florida Trippers

You’ve been to Tampa, Orlando, and even the State Capitol, but how many of these small towns in Florida have you visited? We bet there are a few towns here that even the locals haven’t heard of before!

Thanks to Florida’s location in the country, it has one of the most diverse populations of all the states. The Sunshine State’s sunny skies, clear waters, and warm weather draw in people from all walks of life. Many tourists eventually make Florida their permanent home.

When you’re tired of the hustle and bustle of big cities, there are a lot of places where you can recharge their batteries. Many small towns in Florida are quaint, homey, and welcoming.

Keep in mind that small doesn’t mean dull. Many of these small towns in Florida are beloved for their niche communities. You can find fishing havens, thrift shop meccas, and even Scottish villages!

We guarantee that a trip to each of these small towns in Florida will provide you with unique memories from a new adventure. So whether you’re in need of an escape or just looking for something new, check out the best small towns in Florida!

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If so, we would love to keep in touch! We enjoy seeing photos and comments about your experiences in Florida! You can follow us on Instagram and we will repost your photos on our feed and comment too! Just tag us at @floridatrippers and hashtag #floridatrippers. We can’t wait to see your travels!

Downtown Quincy, just to the north of Tallahassee in Florida's panhandle.

St. Augustine

A visit to the nation’s oldest city has lots to offer! Founded in 1565 it wasn’t until Henry Flagler transformed the city into a bustling hub in the late 1800s with his railroad.

One of the most romantic cities in Florida, St. Augustine offers something for everyone. Between castles , beaches, museums , national parks , ghost tours, distilleries, restaurants , and wineries there is a ton of things to do in Saint Augustine .

If you head just to the north, you’ll find a great beach for surfing at Jacksonville Beach. Head to the shoreline to see the St. Augustine Lighthouse , featured many times in television and film.

Plan your trip well, and you can even get spooky as fall in Florida approaches! With a reputation as one of the most haunted towns, you can take ghost tours in St. Augustine that will chill you to your core! Where To Stay in St, Augustine : Sandy Feet Retreat : Check Rates on VRBO

A fountain glistens with blue-green waters in St. Augustine, one of the cutest small towns in Florida.

Safety Harbor

On the west shore of Tampa Bay, you’ll find a small community in Pinellas County tucked away. Less than 5,000 people live here, and the town is only five square miles.

The downtown stretch of Main Street is lined with trees, family restaurants , small shops, and boutiques. This small-town feel is absent in the heavily urbanized Pinellas County, making Safety Harbor a cultural gem.

Main Street dead-ends into the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa , which offers affordable treatments using Florida’s natural springs for the family. The town is so charming, Lifetime even filmed one of their movies in Safety Harbor!

Make sure to visit Whimzeyland, a small home that uses bowling balls, mosaics, and glass bottles to create a place where color explodes non-stop. This is a private residence, and while visitors are welcome to explore the grounds, please be respectful.

Where To Stay in Saftey Harbor : Casa La Cala: Check Rates on VRBO

Victoria sits in a vibrant yellow skirt on the blindingly colorful decorations of Whimseyland in Safety Harbor.

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs , Florida is one of Tampa Bay’s best-kept secrets and cutest small towns in Florida. Rich in history, Greek culture, great food, and natural beauty, this little coastal town is a great destination for the whole family.

Due to the abundance of Greek Immigrants brought by the sponging industry, a large number of the residents in Tarpon Springs come from greek heritage. Depending on when you visit you may find yourself walking through a massive Greek festival or in the middle of the Epiphany, a traditional Greek celebration out on the bayou. 

The Sponge Dock in Tarpon Springs is a must-visit. Here you will find the largest variety of natural sponges, so fresh you can still smell the salt and sea all over them. 

In addition to great antiquing, vintage shops, specialty markets, and boutiques, you can visit the Safford House Museum. Filled with original furnishings and old Safford family possessions, it remains a prime example of late 19th century Victorian architecture.

Where To Stay in Tarpon Springs : Waterfront Home: Check Rates on VRBO

Bunches of sea sponges are piled on the shores of Tarpon Springs, one of the best small towns in Florida.

Just a 30-minute drive from  Tampa  and an hour away from  Orlando , a trip to Dade City is a perfect  day trip  or quiet  weekend getaway . One of the best small towns in Florida, you’ll always find something to do in Dade City .

Dade City is a quiet town full of history, native Florida wildlife , and culture. The rolling hills and pasture lands provide a beautiful backdrop for a dense suburban lifestyle in Pasco County.

Downtown is full of incredible antiquing and thrifting, perfect for a leisurely stroll. Because there are plenty of mom and pop diners and cafes to choose from, you’ll always have a good homecooked meal. Life is so quiet here, motorists actually slow down for pedestrians!

Dade City is full of rich Florida history. Reenactment festivals depict battles from the Second Seminole War and the Civil War. Settled in the early 1900s by railroad workers, you can learn about Pioneer Life at the Pioneer Village and the Dade City Heritage Museum.

Where To Stay in Dade City : Tiki Paradise: Check Rates on VRBO

A small house sits in the Pioneer Village in Dade City, one of the cutest towns in Florida.

Winter Park

The next time you’re near Orlando , don’t hesitate to visit Winter Park. Originally a resort for business magnates, don’t let its now-sleepy facade fool you. Winter Park is one of the best small towns in Florida.

The main drag, Park Avenue is lined with civic buildings, retail, art galleries, and a private liberal arts college, Rollins College. There’s also museums, a park, a train station, a golf course country club, a historic cemetery, and a beach and boat launch!

Peacocks often roam around in neighborhoods, especially throughout the community of Windsong. You can find them in the beautiful, lush parks. Former President Chester A. Arthur even called Winter Park “the prettiest place in Florida [he had] seen.”

Plan your visit and you can be in Winter Park for their annual Sidewalk Art Festival ! Thousands of people travel from all over the world to apply to compete, and only 225 are selected per year. With that many applicants, you know you’re going to see some amazing chalk art!

Where To Stay in Winter Park : Casa Aloma: Check Rates on VRBO

Downtown Winter Park, a quaint Florida town just north of Orlando.

Just a 35-minute drive northwest of Orlando , Mount Dora is a sleepy town known for its antique shops and the  best festivals in Florida . Small enough to explore in a day, but interesting enough to lure visitors back, this is a great place to explore on a date night .

As you walk through Mount Dora, you’ll notice the historic buildings downtown dotted with palm trees on the streets. Filled with boutique shops, walking tours, and art galleries, there is so much to explore.

The highlight of the town is Renninger’s Vintage Antique Center & Farmer’s Flea Market. Over 117 acres of scenic, rolling land are filled with vendor booths selling everything from produce, meats, cheeses, and a variety crafts.

On the second Friday of every month, catch the Mount Dora Art Splash. Walk through an outdoor art gallery, where the quirkiness of the town really shines. The shops stay open late and there is live music to enjoy!

The crown jewel of the town is Lake Dora. 6 miles long and a third of a mile wide, enjoy the sunset on the Palm Island Park Boardwalk. Take a tour of the 35-foot tall working lighthouse! There are not many freshwater lighthouses in the state, so take advantage!

Mount Dora is said to be magical, and once you visit, you’ll understand why. Extend your stay with a  charming Airbnb  and take in the small town in all of its allure.

Where To Stay in Mount Dora : The Carlton: Check Rates on VRBO

Downtown Mount Dora, full of quaint and plentiful boutiques and thrift stores.

Adjacent to Cape Coral , you can find one of the most quaint small towns in Florida! Pronounced “mat-la-SHAY,” Matlacha means “big warrior” in Seminole!

A quirky, historic fishing village, Matlacha feels like Key West , minus the crowds. The colorful charm and laidback vibe capture the essence of turn-of-the-century Florida. On a walking tour, you’ll see pink palm trees, dolphins painted with polka dots, and one-of-a-kind homes painted in neon colors.

When you visit Matlacha Pass, you’ll always see an angler reeling in a big catch! Known as the “World’s Fishing-est Bridge,” a tidal current runs beneath that sweeps in snook, redfish, and tarpon.

After, you have to pass by the “Doll Lady’s” House. She decorates her front yard with her collection of “junktiques.” You’ll be charmed by hobby horses and rag dolls sitting in salvaged garden chairs.

Matlacha Village is also home to renowned international artist Leoma Lovegrove. Her eclectic, colorful artistic medium has influenced the entire village. In her gallery, you’ll find her vibrant paintings displayed throughout a whimsical garden.

Where To Stay in Matlacha : Waterfront Getaway: Check Rates on VRBO

One of Matlacha's trademark neon colored houses that make the town one of the best in Florida.

Not only is Webster one of the best small towns in Florida, it’s also one of the best places to live in Florida! In Sumter County, the town boasts a population of only 726 residents!

Locals enjoy an atmosphere that is equal part suburban communities and rural Old Florida charm. With great public schools and affordable housing, many retirees and snow birds have made Webster their permanent home.

Webster is a haven for shopaholics with an enormous 35 acres of weekly open-air markets. A haven for thrifters, the town attracts more than 50,000 people every Monday to stroll the streets to attend its popular markets.

At the Webster Swap-O-Rama, you’ll find over 2,000 spaces and 1,500 local vendors selling a variety of goods at this combination flea market and farmers market. Then cross the street to Webster WestSide to comb through the 500 antique and collectible dealers.

Where To Stay in Webster : Lakehouse Getaway: Check Rates on VRBO

Traders line up with tables and tents in Webster, ready for the Swap-O-Rama.


Apalachicola’s name derives from Hitochi Native American words meaning “on the other side,” and “people.” But locals will tell you it means “land of the friendly people.” One of the cutest small towns in Florida, one step into Apalachicola and you’ll understand why.

The welcoming port town radiates hometown charm, friendly neighbors, and rich maritime history. You’ll find bustling seafood houses, weather-worn fishing boats, and impressive historical buildings.

Walkthrough the town’s many parks and nature trails before taking a self-guided walking tour through the Historic District. Under the shade of lofty oak trees, you’ll see the regal homes of past sea captains and river pilots.

The 900 homes you can see date back to the 1830s and are a perfect example of Victorian architecture. You can learn more about the picturesque homes and the town’s diverse and colorful history on the city’s self-guided walking tour!

When you need to escape to the great outdoors, the Apalachicola River and Bay boast freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities. If you’re not much of an angler, you can explore the calm waterways by kayak , riverboat, or sailboat!

Where To Stay in Apalachicola : Rivers Edge West: Check Rates on VRBO

Two chairs sit in the sea landscape of Apalachicola, one of the best small towns in Florida.

Mexico Beach

Mexico Beach, a seaside community, is so tiny that it has no traffic lights. There are no big chain restaurants, everything is family-owned. One of the most quaint small towns in Florida, Mexico Beach is the perfect place to relax in quiet seclusion!

With only 1,000 residents, Mexico Beach encompasses five grand miles of pristine white-sand beaches along the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico! With such a beautiful coastline, the opportunities for water sports and activities are endless.

From the beaches, you can enjoy easy access to artificial reefs and the historic shipwreck of the Vamar. Simply swim out to enjoy the best snorkeling in Florida!

If you’re a fisherman or an angler visiting, you don’t even need to own a boat! There are many fishing charters available that will take you to spots popular with Spanish mackerel and kingfish! Spear fishermen can also enjoy their sport right on the shore!

If you bring your pup along, you can head over to St. Joe’s Beach. You don’t have to feel guilty about leaving your pet behind on a fun beach day, because Mexico City has their own dog beach !

Where To Stay in Mexico Beach : Beach Walk Bungalow: Check Rates on VRBO

A dog sits on the dog beach in Mexico Beach, one of the cutest small towns in Florida.

Normally, most people don’t associate Florida with Scotland. In Dunedin, one of the oldest towns on the West Coast of Florida, you’ll change your tune forever!

Famous for its quaint and walkable downtown and annual Scottish celebrations, Dunedin is one of the most quaint small towns in Florida. Its residents protect the wooded and subtropical lands, recently winning a hard-fought battle against developers.

The charming and active downtown boasts beautiful parks, history, culture, and educational opportunities. You won’t find big chain food joints here, either. The Dunedin restaurant scene boasts pubs, seafood joints, and even fine dining establishments along the four miles of picturesque waterfront.

Just off the coast of Dunedin are Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands. Both absolute treasures renowned for their unspoiled beauty, make sure to look out for the hidden shell trees, where locals hang shells on branches and make wishes.

Check out our full guide for exploring Honeymoon Island !

Where To Stay in Dunedin : Beautiful Condo: Check Rates on VRBO

A Scotsman statue playing the bagpipes welcomes guests into the city of Dunedin, one of the cutest small towns in Florida.

Sometimes the best small towns in Florida also happen to be beach towns as well! That’s the case for Islamorada, found in the always beautiful Florida Keys.

Islamorada or “purple island” is located in the Florida Keys! Located 15 minutes from the local airport or just 1.5-hour drive south from Miami.

Spanning 7 miles long, Islamorada is the best small beach town in Florida if you’re looking to fish. The sports fish capital of the world, you have angling opportunities on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. You can find over 500 species of fish here. Peak season is in December through May! 

No trip to Islamorada is complete without a stop at Robbie’s Marina found at MM 77. You can feed tarpon for $2.25 per person, or for the more adventurous you can rent a kayak to visit Indian Key State Park. 

While at Robbie’s try the Hogfish Sandwich at the Hungry Tarpon. Or Chef Michael’s for a more upscale dining experience.  

Theater of the Sea is a great place to get up close to dolphins, sea lions, or take a glass-bottom boat ride. For those looking for an all-inclusive resort, the Cheeca Lodge will provide you with an upscale all-inclusive getaway! 

Located in the 6-block cultural downtown, you will find tons of art galleries. Plan your trip correctly and you can experience Art Walk, one of the best festivals in Florida! 

Where To Stay in Islamorada : Luxurious Home: Check Rates on VRBO

An aerial drone captures the blue-green waters and docks of Islamorada, one of the cutest small towns in the Florida Keys.

DeFuniak Springs

In 2019, named DeFuniak Springs as the best of all the small towns in Florida. Home to just over 5,000 people, you can find DeFuniak Springs in the panhandle.

DeFuniak Springs holds a notable place in Florida’s history. Here, you can find a resort and campus built during the Victorian Era. Marketed to the nation as “The Education Resort of the South,” the campus was once gated and very exclusive.

A tour of Downtown will guide you through some of DeFuniak Spring’s most historic sites. Make sure to stop and see the Train Depot, the old Tented Classrooms, Hotel Chautauqua, and the Wooden Sidewalks.

Come during Christmastime to see the grounds as more than 6 million lights adorn the Victorian structures. A stroll while gazing at the lights twinkling in the spring-fed lake is the perfect way to celebrate Christmas in Florida .

If you’re tired of reading wine labels, then visit Chautauqua Winery! They’ll help you take the guesswork out of picking your new favorite wine with all-day tastings and tours through the vineyards.

Where To Stay in DeFuniak Springs : Secluded Waterfront Home: Check Rates on VRBO

The historical town library of DeFuniak Springs.

Nestled in the heart of the Apalachicola National Forest, you can find one of the most unique small towns in Florida. Sopchoppy will be your gateway into rural Florida.

Less than 500 people call Sopchoppy home. 45 minutes from Tallahassee, Sopchoppy is not just a fun word to say. It’s also known as the Worm Gruntin’ Capital of the World.

Every April, on the second Saturday of the month, people come from all over Florida, Georgia, and Alabama congregate. During a special festival, grunters use a specialized technique to draw earthworms up to the ground’s surface to use as fishing bait.

Use those worms and head over to the Ochlockonee River State Park for a grand day of boating and fishing. Sopchoppy is actually one of the best places to go camping in Florida !

Where To Stay in Sopchoppy : Beachfront Home: Check Rates on VRBO

A tree provides shade near the river in Sopchoppy, Florida.

Along the Atlantic Coast of Florida, you can find the Sailfish Capital of the World. To the north of Palm Beach and south of Vero Beach , you’ll find Stuart , one of the cutest small towns in Florida.

Famed for its historic and pedestrian-friendly downtown, you shouldn’t miss the Stuart Green Market. A small farmers market, you can find it every Sunday from 9 AM – 1 PM just near City Hall.

For nature lovers, head over to Seabranch Preserve State Park. Perfect for birding, you can also enjoy nature trails and even a butterfly garden! Then head over to St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park to observe sea turtles nesting.

History buffs will enjoy the House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar. A restored home, it was once used as a haven for shipwrecked sailors dating back to the early 1900s. You can also find restored homes and furniture of early pioneers at the Stuart Heritage Museum!

Where To Stay in Stuart : Private Oceanfront Condo: Check Rates on VRBO

Stuart, one of the best small towns in Florida, at sunset.

White Springs

There are many tourist attractions in Florida, but did you know the town of White Springs was Florida’s first? One of the most quaint small towns in Florida, White Springs offers a quintessential look into Old Florida.

Home of the annual Florida Folk Festival, White Springs is a tourist destination famous for its historic charm, antiquing and water activities on the Suwannee River. The river cuts right through the town, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

The proximity of the river affords many opportunities for kayaking in Florida ! Don’t be afraid to bring your rods and lures along. Fishermen can enjoy catching red-bellies, brim, mullet, and catfish.

For the more adventurous, there are many natural springs that spawn off of the Suwannee River. Grab a mask and some fins and enjoy snorkeling with the manatees . Divers will love the many water caves to explore.

Where To Stay in White Springs: Hidden Creek Cabin: Check Rates on VRBO

Canoes and backpacking gear sit ready on the shores of Stephen Foster Folk Culture State Park in White Springs, one of the cutest small towns in Florida.

Just an hour southwest of Gainesville , you’ll find the tiny enclave known as Cedar Key. One of the most quaint small towns in Florida, it offers beautiful beaches, fishing opportunities, and old-fashioned, traditional Florida beauty.

With very few traffic lights, you’ll stop and wave at locals as they pass you on the sidewalk. The local police ride around on spiffy golf carts. The houses and shops sit on stilts over the Gulf of Mexico.

Over the tiny keys that make up Cedar Key, you can easily find a tasty clam chowder with a cold brew to wash it down. Your backdrop? The natural beauty of the tranquil village and the almost forgotten natural Florida beauty.

Cedar Key remains a haven for artists, writers, and a special breed of tourists who seek out unspoiled environments. Join the thousand of visitors who make their way to Cedar Key for their local festivals.

The Old Florida Celebration of the Arts in April celebrates local artists, old and new. The Fourth of July party takes fireworks to a new level with the bursts reflecting in the ocean water. With no high-rises, Cedar Key is perfect for The Stargazing Party in February!

Where To Stay in Cedar Key : Aqua Vista: Check Rates on VRBO

Fishing, bait, and tackle shops hover over the water on stilts in Cedar Key, Florida.

Micanopy holds the title of the oldest inland town in Florida. It means “head chief,” a title bestowed upon the leader of the Alachua Seminoles. Micanopy, “the town that time forgot,” is one of the best small towns in Florida.

Ancient oaks draped with Spanish moss line Micanopy’s narrow streets. The shade is welcomed by the numerous historic homes and old cracker houses that create the picturesque warmth of the town.

Once occupied by the Alachua Seminoles, you can often see excavators and preservation initiatives searching for artifacts in residents’ yards. You can learn more the Alachua Seminoles at the Micanopy Native American Heritage Preserve, which protects a Native American mound.

The town is so appealing, many films and television shows have been shot on location here, including Doc Hollywood, Cross Creek, and Top Gear! Shooting locations include the Herlong Mansion Bed & Breakfast, a Greek revival mansion.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park protects a massive natural basin in the “great Alachua Savannah.” Here, bison and wild horses roam free in the state’s largest grassland at 22,000 acres. At times, the fields are covered in wildflowers.

Where To Stay in Micanopy : Treetop Artists Retreat: Check Rates on VRBO

An old baptist church sits between oak and palm trees in Micanopy, one of the best small towns in Florida.

Lake Placid

Arguably the prettiest of the small towns in Florida, Lake Placid has two nicknames. “Town of Murals” and “The Caladium Capital of the World.” Well, three titles if you count Reader’s Digest dubbing it “America’s Most Interesting Town.”

Lake Placid earned its “Town of Murals” nickname because of the 49 murals that adorn commercial buildings. They tell the story and history of Lake Placid and its people.

It is also “the Caladium Capital of the World” because 70 – 80% of the world’s caladium (or the colorful Heart of Jesus plant) is grown here. The Caladium Festival each summer features a massive car and motorcycle show!

Lake Placid’s other attractions include 27 freshwater lakes, Toby’s Clown School, and the Saturday Morning Market. Catch it on the second Saturday of each month from October through March.

The town is not without its festivals, either. Catch the annual Grape Stomp at Henscratch Farms Vineyard & Winery in August. And in February, you can attend the Arts & Crafts Country Fair!

Where To Stay in Lake Placid : Lake View Cottage: Check Rates on VRBO

The sun sets over the still waters of Lake Placid, Florida.

Known as “The Historic Town at the End of the Road,” you’ll dead-end into St. Marks at the end of Woodville Highway, or State Road 363. One of the cutest small towns in Florida, St. Marks is one of the oldest settlements in North America and is believed to be the third oldest in the new world.

With a population of less than 300, its historical significance in Florida remains unparalleled. Just 20 miles south of Tallahassee, St. Marks was one of the most important early ports in Florida.

While it is small, St. Marks makes up for its size with a bounty of natural attractions. Visit the archeological displays at San Marcos de Apalache Historic Park. Walk the salt marshes at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuse and take a selfie in front of the St. Marks Lighthouse!

Wakulla Springs with its wonderful swimming holes is right down the road. You can charter a fishing boat with a crew or on your own at Shields Marina!

Where To Stay in St. Marks : Waterfront Home: Check Rates on VRBO

Dusk captures the magnificent colors of the grass surrounding the lighthouse at St. Marks, one of the cutest small towns in Florida.


The gateway to Florida’s Nature Coast, Steinhatchee remains one of the most charming fishing towns in Florida. With only 1,000 residents, Steinhatchee provides the perfect backdrop for your laid-back beach vacation.

The atmosphere in Steinhatchee is warmed by quaint landscapes of Victorian homes. Towering live oaks provide shade with Spanish moss draped over their branches.

Nature lovers will appreciate miles and miles of quiet, unspoiled country roads. You can also find miles of white sand beaches. With no noisy crowded beach resorts, the shoreline remains unspoiled and cozy.

Surrounded by gardens and lush foot trails, Steinhatchee is often referred to as “Florida’s Best Kept Secret.” Shhh, we won’t tell if you don’t!

Where To Stay in Steinhatchee : Romantic Angels Attic: Check Rates on VRBO

The sun sets over the shores of Steinhatchee, Florida.

The Crazy Tourist

Home » Travel Guides » United States » Florida (FL) » 15 Best Things to Do in Florida City (FL)

15 Best Things to Do in Florida City (FL)

I doubt there are many places on planet Earth that feel quite like Florida city. This is the southernmost city in the United States, not on an island. 

Florida City is the final stop before US 1 takes to the water and visits the Keys. By the highway are shopping centers, charming roadside attractions, eateries, and plenty of lodging.

The feeling that you’re at the very edge of civilization is even stronger because this is also the southern gateway to the Everglades, while Biscayne National Park can be accessed to the east.

It’s the kind of spot where you can do an airboat tour, followed by some outlet shopping, and an afternoon of snorkeling.

1. Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park Airboat Tour

Driving west on the Ingraham Highway, you’ll come across an understated sign announcing your entrance to the Everglades National Park. 

I’m not sure anyone can pass this point and not feel a little thrill. You’re now in the largest tropical wilderness, and the third largest national park in the contiguous United States. 

The next stop is the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, which I’ll come to a little later in this list. From here you can continue driving to the far southern tip of Florida at Flamingo.

More local, the trailhead for the Pinelands area is about 15 minutes by road from Florida City, and has a vast, undisturbed slash pine environment to be explored. 

Open from November to the end of April, the Lone Key Pine Campground here is run by Flamingo Adventures. Another local stop, ideal for anyone pushed for time, is the Royal Palm Information Station and Bookstore, offering enlightening ranger-led walks and talks.

2. Florida Keys Outlet Marketplace

Florida Keys Outlet Marketplace

This outlet mall is an opportunity for travelers to the Keys and Everglades to grab some bargains.

A typical open-air center, the Florida Keys Outlet Mall has Mediterranean Revival architecture, little formal gardens, and swaying palms.

In this setting you can browse more than 50 individual outlets selling everything from housewares and kids’ stuff, clothes, and accessories. 

A few of the brands I saw were Nike, Under Armor, Guess, Converse, Skechers, Puma, Levi’s, American Eagle, and Crocs. The dining selection was a little limited when I came, but there’s a lot of options up and down US 1.

3. Florida Pioneer Museum

Not to be confused with the similarly named museum in Dade City, this museum tells the story of the people who settled South Dade at the turn of the 20th century. 

The building itself is testament to this history. This is a cottage built in 1904 by the Florida East Coast Railway during its expansion south to Key West. It was home to the station agent, and was turned into a museum in 1962.

The interior is furnished as it would have been in the early 20th century. Among the objects on show are tools such as kitchen equipment, agricultural tools, early telephones, and an Edison phonograph.

I was especially absorbed by the display of Native American artifacts, while there are also compelling exhibits for the railroad.

4. Downtown Homestead

You could ride or walk the South Dade Trail, and get to a vibrant old downtown in a matter of minutes. Homestead’s central business district was first developed in the 1920s, and had recently been given a facelift when I took a look.

What I found was an attractive Historic District, with shopping, dining, walkability, and a smattering of historic buildings. A cornerstone is the beautiful Seminole Theater. This venue dates to 1921, but was given a Streamline Moderne design in the late 1930s. 

The building is now a performing arts hub, in the heart of downtown. There’s outdoor entertainment at the picturesque Losner Park here, as well as movies at the ten-screen ShowBiz Cinemas multiplex.

5. Robert is Here

Robert is Here

Moments west in Homestead, this family-owned fruit stand has been on the map since 1960. Over time the business has evolved into a full-fledged attraction, where families can stretch their legs. 

Robert is Here still sells a variety of produce, along with specialty items like honey, guac, BBQ sauce, and salsas. 

For me, the milkshake/smoothie counter would be worth the stop alone. These are made on the spot and are free of any kind of artificial flavors or coloring.  

There’s a petting zoo too, with cows, goats, chickens, and tortoises, and you can purchase feed for these tame animals.

6. Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

Accessed a few miles east of Florida City, Biscayne National Park is one of South Florida’s great natural properties, made up almost entirely of ocean and barrier reefs.

Much of the mainland shoreline is a maze of inlets and mangrove forests that are vital to protecting the coast from erosion. They’re home to a fantastic variety of animal species as well, and can be explored in the company of expert naturalists.

Due to its aquatic nature, the park is best experienced on a guided visit, whether you’re paddling, fishing, snorkeling, or diving. There’s a massive choice of options available, departing from Homestead Marina.

7. Homestead-Miami Speedway

Homestead-Miami Speedway

Though not quite as famous as Daytona Speedway, this 1.5-mile oval is still a famed NASCAR Cup Series stop. Race fans from all over the country head here for October’s Dixie Vodka 400. 

It’s the culmination of NASCAR Weekend, and is preceded on the Saturday by decisive NASCAR Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series events. 

If you can snag a ticket, this is a truly remarkable racing experience, but there’s almost always something happening at Homestead Miami-Speedway. When I went to press there were nearly 300 days of events and activities. 

Another reason to come is to take the wheel on a NASCAR Racing Experience, or enjoy high-speed action on a smaller scale at the AMR Motorplex karting facility.

8. Fruit & Spice Park

Devoted to agricultural cultivars, this botanical garden is the only one of its kind in the United States. 

On nearly 40 acres the Fruit & Spice Park grows more than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. 

One of many things I adore about this place is that you can try the park’s produce. Picking from the trees is not allowed, but you’re free to try anything that has recently fallen. 

For instance, at the peak of mango season, around July, the ground is littered with perfect rip fruit. My tip is to bring a knife and paper towels. 

You can take part in a range of guided tours, while there’s also a shop selling tropical snacks, plant seeds, and items for the home.

9. Everglades Alligator Farm

South of Florida City at the entrance to the national park, there’s an attraction dating back more than 40 years. 

Everglades Alligator Farm specializes in airboat rides in the Everglades, while keeping some 2,000 alligators. This is touted as South Florida’s oldest and largest alligator farm. One detail I like is that they don’t kill or sell alligators for meat.

There are shows throughout the day, showing off alligator handling skills. I also took part in an on-site tour, feeding gators and holding a three-footer.

Airboat rides are available with a package ticket, and you’ll get to zoom through the sawgrass for around half an hour. You can also opt for an extended private tour, and these are recommended for large groups.

10. Homestead Bayfront Park

In Florida City you’re minutes from not one but two national parks. A short drive east will bring you to the shores of Biscayne Bay.

Homestead Bayfront Park is next to the park headquarters, and the marina here is the springboard for diving expeditions and eco-cruises.

As well as being a gateway, the park is a stunning hangout. There’s a man-made atoll pool on the bay, and refreshed by the tides. Traced by a white sandy beach, this is a pocket-sized piece of tropical paradise.

Head for the Dante Fascell Visitor Center to plan your adventure, while the La Playa Grill is a lively beachside seafood spot.

11. Everglades Outpost

This non-profit wildlife sanctuary takes in injured and sick animals to rehabilitate them and return them back to the wild. Meanwhile, animals that can’t be released—including a lot of exotic species—are given homes here. 

So visiting the Everglades Outpost you’ll see animal conservation in action, while getting a rare up-close look at South Florida’s most famous species.

You can visit for a guided tour, meeting a few of the animals, and finding out about stories and needs. I saw a panther, a zebra, parrots, a camel, a lemur, and several wolves. 

There are also public demonstrations, where you might get to feed alligators or hold non-venomous snakes.

12. Exit One Taproom

The continental United States’ southernmost taproom is in Florida City, and opened for business in 2018.

The first thing I noticed about Exit One Taproom was the mind-boggling choice, with 50 bottled and canned craft beers, and another 19 on tap.

These come from mostly local, small-batch breweries. The aim of Exit One Taproom is to celebrate these unique beers, and share their stories with guests.

Exit One Taproom is affiliated with the local Prison Pals brewery, based in Oakland Park, FL. A few of the beers on draft during my visit were King and Queen (IPAs), Verano (Pink Lager), a choice of Sours, and Mothers Milk Imperial Stout, which I loved. 

There are plenty of board games in the taproom, as well as a pool tables, while food trucks show up most nights.

13. Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center

An excellent first port of call in the Everglades, this visitor center is 15 minutes from Florida, at the Homestead entrance to the national park.

Open 365 days a year, this is where you can attune yourself to the Everglades, and everything they offer. The center has educational displays about the national park’s many habitats, as well as educational films, brochures, and a lot more.

Best of all are the park rangers, happy to share information, from directions to the safest way to spot alligators. 

You can also pick up important supplies—I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure you have insect repellent, and this is available here.

14. The Coral Castle Museum

Coral Castle Museum

Another essential attraction in nearby Homestead is a mysterious ensemble of carvings made by one local man, the Latvian-American, Edward Leedskalnin (1887-1951).

Some of the coral blocks used to construct the castle weigh multiple tons. So nobody’s quite sure how the man moved them, especially since he is thought to have worked alone.

Of course, in these circumstances it’s common for people to claim he had divine or extraterrestrial help. Still, I can’t deny that it’s an amazing place that’s worthy of a few hours of your time.

A standout feature is the perfectly balanced revolving gate, weighing nine tons, but turning with a light push.

15. Mayor Roscoe Warren Municipal Park

The largest public park in the area is this pleasing green space a couple of minutes away in Homestead. 

Mayor Roscoe Warren Municipal Park is a well-appointed active space, with amenities for volleyball, basketball, and soccer. 

Perhaps most impressive is the children’s playground, which is unusually large. Meanwhile, weaving throughout the grounds is a paved trail, with a series of exercise stations. 

I saw at least half a dozen picnic shelters here, as well as grills for cookouts. Also special was the dog park, which had agility equipment and was divided between larger and smaller dogs.

15 Best Things to Do in Florida City (FL):

  • Everglades National Park
  • Florida Keys Outlet Marketplace
  • Florida Pioneer Museum
  • Downtown Homestead
  • Robert is Here
  • Biscayne National Park
  • Homestead-Miami Speedway
  • Fruit & Spice Park
  • Everglades Alligator Farm
  • Homestead Bayfront Park
  • Everglades Outpost
  • Exit One Taproom
  • Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
  • The Coral Castle Museum
  • Mayor Roscoe Warren Municipal Park

Things to Do in Florida City, FL - Florida City Attractions

Things to do in florida city, explore popular experiences, tours in and around florida city.

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Florida Everglades Airboat Tour and Wild Florida Admission with Optional Lunch

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Everglades National Park Self Guided Driving Audio Tour

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Small Group Boat, Kayak and Walking Guided Eco Tour in Everglades National Park

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Everglades & Miami city tour with experienced guide in small group

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All Inclusive Miami Pass with Airport Transfer

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Everglades Tour with professional Tourguide inclusive pickup

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Best of Miami Small Group Tour With Everglades Airboat Ride

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Everglades Immersion Tour: The Ultimate Everglades Adventure

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Everglades National Park Small Group Guided Boating & Walking Tour Expedition

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Biscayne National Park By Boat With Island Visit and Park History

Tours & sightseeing.

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Top Attractions in Florida City

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Water Tours

Nature and wildlife tours.

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Ports of Call Tours

Special offers, cultural & theme tours, what travelers are saying.

Aaron G

  • Everglades National Park
  • Tropical Everglades Visitor Association
  • Florida Pioneer Museum
  • Florida Keys Outlet Marketplace
  • Drive with Action
  • Long Key State Park
  • 30a Dusk Till Dawn
  • Everglades Airboat Safari
  • Everglade National Park and Airboat Tour From North Miami Beach
  • Everglades National Park & Airboat tour From Fontainebleau Hotel
  • Everglades National Park and Airboat Tour from Surfside
  • Everglades National Park & Airboat tour with Roundtrip Transfer

Florida City Attractions Information

Mexico under caution warning from U.S. for spring break. 5 Florida beach towns to go to instead

Fort lauderdale, panama city and daytona beach not the only florida spring break destinations.

best tourist city florida

College students and families planning a spring break in Mexico may want to reconsider, according to an advisory issued by the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico.

The advisory , posted Monday, says that while many thousands of people travel through Mexico safely, Mexico-bound visitors should be aware of high levels of crime (particularly in the downtown areas of popular spring break destinations Cancún. , Playa Del Carmen and Tulum), sexual assault, counterfeit or ineffective prescription drugs, unregulated alcohol, high-priced hospitals and strict laws against drunk and disorderly behavior, possession of drugs, guns or ammunition, along with natural dangers such as dangerous beaches without lifeguards or warnings.

Well, if you're looking for a new spring break vacation location, the party did start in Florida.

Ever since a New York university swim coach took his team down to Florida one spring for some early training in the 1930s, the idea of spending a week or two in the warm has been a powerful motivator, building up to hundreds of thousands of bathing-suit-clad students bringing their volleyballs and fake IDs to Fort Lauderdale, Panama City Beach and Daytona Beach in the 1980s. Crackdowns on public behavior and stricter alcohol laws calmed the parties down a bit, and famed party town Miami Beach is pushing back hard against spring break this year.

But Florida still remains a top destination for people wanting a break from the cold, with March temps projected in the 70s.

If you're avoiding Mexico this year and don't want to bother with a passport, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach and Panama City Beach are still top places to relax, unwind and enjoy yourself. But the Sunshine State has other locations to consider besides those annual favorites.

1. TripAdvisor names Siesta Beach one of the best in the world

If you want the best, head to the west. Siesta Beach in Siesta Key, west of Sarasota on the state's west coast, regularly makes TripAdvisor's list of best beaches based on user reviews. Currently listed at No. 2 in the United States and No. 9 worldwide , the site praises the snow-white sand and small-town feel.

"Whether you want to relax or fill your day with activities, Siesta Beach delivers," Tripadvisor said on its website.

"Kick back on the white sand, go swimming in the clear water, play some outdoor sports, or simply admire the sunset — it's up to you. The family-friendly beach is easy to get to via public transportation, offers wheelchair access, and has plenty of parking, restrooms, and a small concession stand. There are a variety of shops and lively restaurants nearby, too."

Siesta Key, on the brilliant green waters of the Gulf of Mexico, is close to lots of restaurants and bars, a thriving arts community, and one of the largest state parks in Florida, Myakka River State Park.

Take that, Hawaii! : This Florida beach tops Dr. Beach's Top 10 list for 2023

2. Delray Beach a small-town spot with plenty of attraction

Delray Beach , a 15-square-mile city in Palm Beach County, was awarded the prestigious international Blue Flag designation last year, one of only two in the entire U.S., after meeting 33 stringent environmental, educational, safety and accessibility criteria. 

But what visitors will probably be interested in is the vibrant downtown area, huge number of unique restaurants, and, of course, the 7,000 feet of beach with a mile of it blessedly free from looming high-rise condos. Surf, sail, or just hit the water at the beach that "Travel Holiday" magazine named the best public beach in the Southeast for swimming. Or, for some less crowded sand time, head to nearby Atlantic Dunes Park, which features 450 feet of guarded beach.

When the sun goes down or you've just had enough for one day, Delray's Atlantic Avenue is a 20-minute walk from the shore with a staggering assortment of restaurants, bars, art galleries, clothing boutiques and antique stores. A few miles away, Delray Marketplace offers even more. Delray is also convenient to several other excellent beaches and attractions.

3. New Smyrna Beach is Daytona without the crowds, mostly

Daytona Beach is famed for its 26 miles of hard-packed beach and its worldwide tradition of unbridled spring break madness, but if you want a somewhat calmer version just head a bit south to New Smyrna Beach.

Students (and their families) congregate at the beach and hit the charming shops and restaurants on Flagler Avenue for a relaxing week of sand and surf, within easy driving distance of Daytona Beach, Orlando and Cocoa Beach.

However, keep in mind that the city imposed a youth curfew last year to cut down on disruptions, trash and drunk driving so it's likely there'll be one again this year.

4. Key West is still a party town

There's an amazing laid-back party scene year-round in Key West, so why not have your spring break there? The southernmost tip of the continental U.S. is just four miles long by one mile wide so once you get there transportation isn't a problem and live music and great food is never very far away.

Plus Key West may have the most activities to do when you're not actually lying on the beach. Swim, dive down to the coral reefs, fish, take one of the many boat tours or sunset sails, jetski, visit some astounding art galleries, watch the performers at the sunset celebration at Mallory Square, visit Ernest Hemingway's house and pet the descendants of his six-toed cats, eat at some fantastic restaurants, or just cruise Duval Street for colorful nightlife.

If Key West gets too crowded there are wonderful beaches and places to visit on the other Keys, and Key Largo is the diving capital of Florida.

5. Naples is a great family Florida spring break vacation place

Naples in Southwest Florida on the Gulf Coast doesn't get the spring break crowds that nearby Fort Myers does, which may make it more attractive to visitors seeking a more peaceful destination. TripAdvisor calls it a "polished, culture-packed city fringed by blue bays and sugar-sand beaches."

Packed with upscale shopping, parks, art festivals and museums, Naples also boasts nine miles of pristine beaches where you can enjoy the sun, watch for dolphins from Naples Pier (which shoots out 1,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico) and get extremely fresh seafood at one of the many beachside restaurants .

But really, there are dozens of Florida beachside cities and towns that make great spring break destinations.

Check out the place named best beach town in the nation , or this one Reader's Digest included in their " 15 Best Beaches in Florida Locals Want to Keep Secret " list, or the other beaches TripAdvisor named the best , or the places Florida students go , or the Florida shores that Dr. Beach recommends , or the list of "hottest" spring break beaches .

Florida has 825 miles of sandy beaches. If you want a beach holiday, it's hard to miss here.

Bahama, Jamaica also under travel advisories

The U.S. Department of State issued a travel advisory for Mexico last year, with various levels of travel warnings including a   Level 2 advisory for Cancún for violent crime. Travel advisories have been issued for the Bahamas and Jamaica as well.

The State Dept. has listed 20 locations around the world under Level 3 advisories, meaning visitors should avoid them and reconsider, and 21 Level 4 places they say Americans should not go to at all.

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Florida’s New ‘It’ City Has an Over-the-top Pirate Festival, Beautiful Parks, and Michelin-starred Dining

Here's what you need to know before visiting Tampa, Florida — including the best things to see, eat, and do.

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  • Best Hotels and Resorts

Best Things to Do

  • Best Restaurants

Best Time to Visit

How to get there.

  • Neighborhoods to Visit

How to Get Around

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Miami is always going to be Miami. But when it comes to the places everyone is talking about in Florida, it’s impossible to ignore Tampa. The Tampa Bay area has grown rapidly in recent years, with new residents attracted to the region's endless opportunities to get outside and a booming food scene constantly that's leveling up. 

“Tampa has always been an appealing destination,” says Emmy Award nominee Java Ingram , who co-hosts the popular local morning show, Great Day Live. “It’s a city cloaked in sunshine, sandwiched by water, with a rich history, cultural diversity, and a stone’s throw away from award-winning beaches.” 

With warm weather and hundreds of sunny days per year, the Gulf Coast city beckons for a winter warm-up as much as a summertime beach escape (spots like Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach are around 40 minutes away) where you can look forward to big-city museums, fine dining, and festivals galore. 

The city’s marquee festival happens every January, when the Gasparilla Pirate Fest — said to be one of the largest parades in the country — involves celebrations both on the water of Hillsborough Bay and along Bayshore Boulevard, a waterfront promenade that gets taken over by floats and bead throwing. 

The multi-day Gasparilla Music Festival draws big-name bands to a downtown riverfront park in February, and there are tons of food festivals throughout the year, too, including the Cuban Sandwich Festival in historic Ybor City every May. 

The city is best explored by neighborhood-hopping, says Shawna Wiggs, managing editor of several of the city’s premier lifestyle magazines, including Tampa Magazine . 

For the trendiest part of town, she points visitors to Water Street Tampa , a growing wellness district in the heart of downtown that’s been completely reimagined in recent years. “Here you'll find places to eat, stay, and play in an atmosphere that gives off a big-city vibe,” Wiggs says. 

Hit South Tampa and neighborhoods like Hyde Park for a totally different feel. “This is the residential neighborhood you'll never want to leave. Strategically located in close proximity to downtown, you'll find the tree-lined streets of historic neighborhoods, the hottest restaurants in town, and numerous parks and recreation areas like Bayshore Boulevard, known for its scenic waterfront walking and biking paths,” says Wiggs.

Below, find everything you need to know before visiting Tampa.

Top 5 Can’t Miss

  • Grab an amazing steak and seafood dinner with some of the best people-watching in town from the streetside patio at Meat Market in Hyde Park. 
  • Stroll, bike, or jog while scouting for dolphins and rays along Bayshore Boulevard or the Tampa Riverwalk. 
  • Go restaurant and bar-hopping in the new Water Street Tampa district, starting with The Tampa Edition’s great venues like its rooftop pool bar and lobby bar.
  • Play pirate and catch beads during January’s annual Gasparilla Pirate Fest. 
  • Neighborhood-hop in Hyde Park Village, Water Street Tampa, and Ybor City. 

Best Hotels and Resorts 

The tampa edition.

Ian Schrager’s Tampa Edition sits at the heart of Water Street Tampa and has the city’s most beautiful rooftop pool (draped with bougainvillea) as well as the Michelin-starred Mediterranean restaurant, Lilac , helmed by Chef John Fraser, tucked just off its lobby. 

Palihouse Hyde Park Village 

New in 2023, this hotel opened along the historic and tree-lined streets of Hyde Park Village, one of Tampa’s toniest and most pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. The 36 rooms at Palihouse Hyde Park Village have SMEG mini-fridges and a lovely mid-century aesthetic. Public spaces, including a jewel box of a bar, are decorated with vintage Hermes scarves and other treasures.  

James Jackman

JW Marriott Water Street Tampa

Come for Tampa’s best spa and highest rooftop bar, Beacon , which crowns the 27th floor of the JW Marriott Water Street Tampa with 360-degree views of downtown, Hillsborough River, and Hillsborough Bay. 

Le Méridien Tampa

Housed in a former downtown courthouse, the 130-room  Le Méridien Tampa feels like a modern urban hideaway and sits just a few blocks from the Tampa Riverwalk and its lovely museums, parks, and riverfront path. 

Hotel Haya 

Roosters roam the streets around stylish Hotel Haya in the historic Ybor City neighborhood. Come for the courtyard pool and the great Cuban sandwiches and cortados at Havana-inspired cafe, Cafe Quiquiriqui . 

TriggerPhoto/Getty Images

Tampa Riverwalk 

Stretching over 2.5 miles to the city's most gorgeous food hall at  Armature Works (a former street car warehouse), the Tampa Riverwalk makes for a delightful destination to stroll, jog, rollerblade, or bike. Along the way, stop at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to check out a pop-up event or let the kids run on the playground, pop into the Tampa Museum of Art for the latest exhibition, or rent a paddleboard from Urban Kai to tool around the Hillsborough River. Hop just across the river for great restaurants like Oxford Exchange . 

Bayshore Boulevard

Tampa’s great year-round weather is one of its major draws, and the city gets its exercise in the fresh air along 4.5-mile-long Bayshore Boulevard . The waterfront park is lined by some of Tampa’s most exquisite homes, and it's said to be one of the longest continuous sidewalks in the country. Follow it all the way south to oak-filled Ballast Point Park , where you can stroll the pier or grab an ice cream.  

Tampa Electric's Manatee Viewing Center

From November to mid-April every year, you have a good chance of seeing many, many manatees where they converge at the warm water outflow at Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center , about a 20-minute drive from downtown Tampa. Particularly during cold spells (when temperatures dip into the 70s and below in this part of Florida), you’re likely to see scores of the gentle marine mammals below you while strolling the boardwalks. 

The Florida Aquarium 

In downtown Tampa’s Channel District, The Florida Aquarium has interesting exhibits showcasing Florida’s most iconic natural environments and denizens, including alligators, river otters, and wetlands birds like roseate spoonbills. There's also a touch tank with cownose rays that kids love. 

Wat Mongkolratanaram

A riverfront Thai temple might be the last thing you’d ever expect to find in Tampa. But visiting this beautiful place of worship and its gorgeous orchid-filled grounds just east of downtown for the weekly Sunday market is a cherished weekend ritual. Grab a picnic table under the towering oak trees, let the kids run around, and enjoy the serene vibes, spectacular setting, and delicious eats. 

Best Restaurants 

Hidden away near Armature Works, come to Kōsen for an exquisite omakase experience helmed by Chef Wei Chen, who honed his talents at New York City’s three-Michelin-star restaurant, Masa. It’s a pure pleasure to sit at the 12-seat counter and try things like Hokkaido uni and toro from Tokyo’s Toyosu Market while watching Chen’s impressive knife skills. Be sure to book far in advance as this spot fills up in a hurry. 

Michelin-starred Italian hot spot Rocca never disappoints, particularly when you kick off your meal with the house-made mozzarella that’s hand-pulled table side. “I will never turn down dinner at Rocca, but after earning its first Michelin star, a reservation is hard to get,” says Wiggs. “If you aren't planning in advance, I recommend going when the restaurant first opens and snagging a seat at the bar.” Wiggs loves to order the dirty martini with grilled olives and whatever crudo is on offer. “You can't go wrong with any of their pastas,” she adds. “The spaghetti al limone and rigatoni all'amatriciana are outstanding.”

Courtesy of Meat Market

Meat Market  

Right in the heart of Hyde Park Village, Meat Market’s indoor and outdoor tables are packed every night of the week. “For a more glamorous take on the traditional steakhouse, there's no better stop than Meat Market,” says Wiggs. The sea bass with truffle mash and wild mushrooms is always a winner, and if you’re into all things wagyu, you won’t be disappointed here — the ribeye is as buttery as meat gets. 

For one of Tampa’s best brunches, head to this West Tampa Greek spot. ”The food, ambiance, and staff are incredible at Psomi ,” says Ingram. “On any given Saturday, you will find me ordering the lamb burger – it’s packed with flavor and good to the last bite. If I still have room left after the burger, I’m ordering the saganaki or the spanakopita.” 

Sunda New Asian 

Tampa’s up-and-coming Midtown neighborhood has some great new restaurants, too, including Sunda New Asian . “The owner, Billy Dec, has family from both the Philippines and Tampa, which is why he opened a location here,” explains Ingram. “The restaurant is gorgeous from a design perspective and the menu has dishes that represent several Asian cuisines. I love the bulgogi roti tacos, the yellowtail jalapeño sashimi, and the lobster wagyu sushi.” 

Tampa is a year-round destination. Visit during the winter months, from December through March, for the best chance at seeing manatees in larger numbers when they converge in warm waters at nearby springs and the electric plant. The annual Gasparilla Pirate Fest takes place in late January and is a big draw for what’s essentially a massive alfresco party, but note hotel prices surge over this weekend and the crowds tend to be on the rowdier side (think Mardi Gras in miniature). 

Michela Sieman/Travel + Leisure

Travelers can fly into Tampa International Airport or St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport . Flying into Orlando International Airport , about 90 minutes away by car, is also an option, with more international and domestic connections. 

Neighborhoods to Visit 

Peter Titmuss/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Tampa earned its nickname, Cigar City, in this historic district settled by Cubans and other immigrant groups — many of whom worked in the cigar factories — in the 19th century. “From roaming roosters to cigar factories, Ybor City is a must when visiting Tampa,” Ingram says.  “Entertainment, food, and history are all up for grabs in this historic neighborhood.  I love attending events at The Cuban Club.” She recommends a stroll along 7th Avenue to enjoy Spanish and Cuban fare at Florida’s oldest restaurant, Columbia , open since 1905 in the neighborhood. “I also recommend a tour of J.C. Newman Cigar Company, one of the last operational cigar factories in the United States,” Ingram says. 

Water Street Tampa

These days, all things downtown revolve around Water Street Tampa, a 55-acre project developed by Strategic Property Partners bustling with great restaurants like gastropub The Pearl , brunch and date night hot spot Boulon Brasserie , and Lona by Chef Richard Sandoval (the latter skews deliciously Oaxacan and has downtown’s best happy hour margaritas). Stroll to the waterfront and spots like Sparkman Wharf , with a lively beer garden and pop-up restaurants from some of Tampa’s best chefs inside shipping containers.  Don’t miss sampling the guava pastelito ice cream at Chill Bros ., an ice creamery where everything is made in-house. 

Hyde Park Village

This upscale neighborhood full of Florida craftsman houses is located just south of downtown, steps from Bayshore Boulevard. “Hyde Park has stunning architecture and great shopping, restaurants, and views,” says Ingram. “It’s home to some of my favorite spots including On Swann and Timpano restaurants." Ingram says to stop by Sunni Spencer  boutique for "Après-Sea" pool and beachwear, and then catch a film at Cinebistro , a movie theater where you can dine on bistro eats while watching the latest releases. Ro Hyde Park is hard to top for an elevated Japanese and sushi restaurant in the neighborhood.  And ask someone how to find the hidden-away new speakeasy, Jekyll.

Seminole Heights

The historic neighborhood of Seminole Heights, located just north of downtown, is home to a young, creative scene, as well as some of the city’s best bars and restaurants, including spots like Rooster and The Till , helmed by lauded Tampa chef, Ferrell Alvarez, hip shuffleboard bar Shuffle , and breweries like Common Dialect Beerworks .  

Tampa’s neighboring city across the bay is always worthy of a visit, too. It's home to the great new St. Pete Pier — with a tiki bar, pirate-themed playground, and onsite environmental center — as well as The Dali , which houses the largest collection of works by surrealist painter Salvador Dali outside of his native Spain. The bar at Allelo is beyond beautiful — backed by a mural of Florida birds, some extinct and others still among us — and the charcuterie and mezze platters are an absolute delight. 

You’re best off picking up a rental car to explore Tampa at your leisure. You can also get by using the Coast Bike Share program, Pirate Water Taxi , and Teco StreetCar to explore the areas around Water Street Tampa, the Tampa Riverwalk, and Ybor City. The Cross Bay Ferry connects downtown Tampa with downtown St. Pete.

Aerial view of Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

  • 6 Top-Ranked Towns In Florida's Emerald Coast For Retirees

With year-round sunshine and no state income tax, it is unsurprising that many consider Florida one of the country's best places to retire. In 2022, around 12% of all US retirees relocating from their home state chose to start their next chapter in this  Sunshine State , and its reputation as a retirement haven only continues to grow. 

If you are looking to embrace that quintessential Florida beach lifestyle, the  Emerald Coast  cannot be recommended enough. Gaining its nickname from the turquoise waters in the  Gulf of Mexico , this ethereal  Florida Panhandle  region has some of the state's best coastal communities for retirees. With a spectrum of prices, a range of amenities, an assortment of top-rated hospitals, and a spirited coastal culture, these top-rated Emerald Coast towns will make your retirement years some of your best years yet.

The spectacular beach in Navarre, Florida.

If you are searching for a serene Emerald Coast town to savor your golden years,  Navarre  is your ticket to tranquility. With white sugar shores and Caribbean blue waves, Navarre Beach is the town's symbolic center, nicknamed "Florida's most relaxing place." The beach culture is especially popular with retirees looking to unwind, whether that means keeping active with a seaside stroll, casting a line on the 1,500-foot Navarre Beach Fishing Pier, or sampling endless waterfront dining options at places like Andy D's Beachside Restaurant. 

With around 38% of Navarre's 38,000 locals being 45 and older, you will find that fellow retirees flock here for a reason–and it is not just the fact that Navarre's cost of living is 5% below the national average. Winters are short and mild, and there are tons of family-friendly attractions in town for when the grandkids visit, like the nearby Gulf Breeze Zoo or Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center. It is also worth noting that while Navarre does not have a hospital, there are several health clinics in town and seven hospitals within a 20-mile drive, such as the award-winning Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.

Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

If you would prefer even closer access to hospitals like the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, why not retire right in the same town? While the overall cost of living is a bit higher in this Florida Panhandle community, the average house in  Fort Walton Beach  is 4.7% less expensive compared to the national average. Even so, for some retirees, the hospital access is worth the investment, saving them the hassle of travel. 

With this peace of mind, it is easy to focus your energy on finding bliss in this seaside town. Like Navarre, Fort Walton Beach has a thriving retiree population doing just that, with 39% of its population 45 and older. Explore your adventurous side and take a scuba diving class with Fort Walton Beach Scuba, or re-embrace your inner child at attractions like the Emerald Coast Science Center or Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. For seafood lovers, this fishing town is also home to an impressive range of world-class dining options. Places like Angler's Beachside Grill promise fresh local seafood with views of the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico.

Aerial view of Destin, Florida.

Just under 20 minutes from Fort Walton,  Destin  is the perfect town for retirees looking to stay active in their community. With the local population tripling in the summertime, this bustling tourist town is a great option if you love meeting new people and trying new things. Retirees can embrace adventure at Henderson Beach State Park, where the serene trails are a great way to get exercise and reconnect with nature. Bask in the 30-foot sand dunes and embrace the glow of the gulf, where dolphins can often be spotted from shore. For a guaranteed marine mammal sighting, there are also tons of dolphin cruises in Destin, like the Gulf of Mexico Dolphin Cruise with Viator. But for those who would prefer to stay on land, the ocean can still be enjoyed from any of Destin's 12 beach access points. From March to October, 7 miles of these shores are patrolled by lifeguards, making Destin's beaches some of the safest in the state. On the topic of health and safety, Destin also comes with the advantage of having the HCA Florida Destin Emergency right in town. 

It is worth noting that all of these glorious features come with a bit of a price. Destin is one of the more expensive Florida Panhandle communities, with the cost of living being slightly higher than the average Florida town. But if a social beach town lifestyle is what you are after, you may find the cost of living well worth the price, especially since Destin is one of the top-ranked towns in Florida for active retirees hoping to get the most out of their retirement.

Panama City Beach

Beach Scene in Panama City Beach, Florida.

For a more affordable retirement option,  Panama City Beach  is a highly sought-after Emerald Coast town with a nearly 5% lower cost of living score than the US average. Not to be mistaken for  Panama City –another Florida town 20 minutes away–Panama City Beach is known for its stunning 27 miles of pristine shore, which can be accessed from dozens of public entry points. Camp Helen State Park is one of the more popular places to spend your time beachcombing and enjoying the Gulf of Mexico, while others prefer the park for Lake Powell, Florida's largest coastal dune lake.

Of the 15,300 adults who currently live in Panama City Beach as of 2024, around 3,240 are seniors. Thanks to this thriving community, there are a variety of top-notch retirement communities and assisted living facilities to choose between, like Seagrass Village Independent Living or The Blake. If you would prefer a bit more independence but still want to meet like-minded people, the Panama City Beach Senior Center is a great place to mingle with fellow retirees and take part in the year-round activities and festivities for just $ 50 USD a year. From line dancing to yoga classes, the center is a great place to stay in shape, or there is always the fun of challenging yourself with a new skill in one of their classes, like ukulele or wood carving.

Bluewater Bay Marina, Niceville Florida

Cradling the gorgeous Choctawhatchee Bay, Niceville is another top-ranked town beloved by retirees looking for natural beauty and a sense of community. The Niceville Senior Center is one of the main hubs in town for socializing, exercising, or taking a class. For $ 80 USD a year, all programs, courses, and social events are right at your fingertips, with anything from craft groups to Zumba fitness classes. In terms of other expenses, Nicevill's cost of living is just above the national average, so while it is more expensive than certain Florida communities, it is certainly not the highest. Plus, the great thing about Niceville is there are tons of affordable and free activities out in nature to keep you busy, like the free Turkey Creek Nature Trail or Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, which costs just $ 5 USD per vehicle.

Grayton Beach

Aerial view of Grayton, Florida.

For the more introverted nature lover, the small and secluded village of  Grayton Beach is an adorable gateway  to Florida's great outdoors. With a median age of 46.7, the town is definitely popular with people nearing retirement along with those already in their golden years, but with just over 18,000 residents, this is the perfect community for those craving an easygoing and slow-paced small-town atmosphere. 

Settled right along the Gulf of Mexico, you can probably guess that the beaches here are a thing of beauty. Not to mention, residents have the luxury of first-hand access to Grayton Beach State Park, "a nationally ranked nature wonderland with something for everyone." Between the postcard beaches, shimmering Western Lake, and 4 miles of scenic hiking paths, this 2,000-acre park will keep you busy for years to come. And if you want to mix things up, around 10 minutes from town, Eden Gardens State Park is home to a historic homestead with serene gardens perfect for strolls and waterside picnics on the Tucker Bayou.

Final Thoughts

While each of these Emerald Coast towns has something that sets it apart and makes it unique, what you will find in each one is natural splendor and a thriving community of retirees. Whether you are hoping to keep busy and meet tons of fellow seniors in bustling tourist towns like Destin or would prefer a more laid-back and private coastal lifestyle in villages like Grayton Beach, the Emerald Coast has your retirement dreams covered. 

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Tampa Free Press

Best Places To Live In Florida In 2024

F lorida, also known as the Sunshine State, offers a diverse range of cities and towns for residents to call home. From stunning beaches to vibrant art scenes, there is something for everyone in this beautiful state.

US News & World Report ranked the Florida cities based on data from sources including the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor, and U.S. News' own internal resources.

Sarasota, FL

#1 in Best Places to Live in Florida

Sarasota, located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, is a city with a distinct vibe that sets it apart from other coastal cities in the state. One of the main draws of Sarasota is its vibrant arts scene, which includes world-class museums, galleries, and theaters. The city also boasts beautiful beaches, excellent schools, and a strong sense of community. With its year-round warm climate, Sarasota is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for boating, fishing, and golfing. The median home price in Sarasota is $350,000, making it an attractive option for those looking to settle down in a thriving city.

#2 in Best Places to Live in Florida

Nestled between the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico, Naples is a picturesque coastal city known for its natural beauty and upscale lifestyle. The city offers pristine beaches, world-class golf courses, and a vibrant downtown area filled with art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants.

Naples is also home to a thriving arts and cultural scene, with events such as the Naples Winter Wine Festival attracting visitors from around the world. The median home price in Naples is $450,000, reflecting the city's reputation as a high-end destination.

Melbourne, FL

#3 in Best Places to Live in Florida

Melbourne, located on the Space Coast of Florida, is a popular destination for families, professionals, and retirees. The city offers a high quality of life, with a low crime rate, excellent schools, and a range of outdoor activities.

Melbourne is known for its beautiful beaches, which attract surfers, sunbathers, and nature lovers alike. The city also has a strong sense of community, with regular festivals, farmers markets, and cultural events. The median home price in Melbourne is $300,000, making it an affordable option for those seeking a laid-back coastal lifestyle.

Jacksonville, FL

#4 in Best Places to Live in Florida

As the largest metro area by land mass in the continental U.S., Jacksonville offers a unique blend of urban amenities and natural beauty. The city boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene, with numerous museums, galleries, and theaters.

Jacksonville is also home to a diverse range of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character. From historic districts to beachfront communities, there is a neighborhood to suit every taste and lifestyle. The median home price in Jacksonville is $250,000, making it an affordable option for those looking to buy a home in a thriving city.

#5 in Best Places to Live in Florida

Located on Florida's Gulf Coast, Tampa offers residents a mix of laid-back beach lifestyle and the amenities of a large metropolitan area. The city is known for its vibrant cultural scene, with attractions such as the Tampa Museum of Art and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

Tampa is also home to professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. With its warm climate and proximity to beautiful beaches, Tampa offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. The median home price in Tampa is $300,000, making it an affordable option for those seeking a vibrant urban lifestyle.

Pensacola, FL

#6 in Best Places to Live in Florida

Pensacola, located in the westernmost part of Florida, is known for its white sand beaches, breathtaking sunsets, and emerald green waters. The city has a rich history, with attractions such as the Pensacola Naval Air Station and the Historic Pensacola Village. Pensacola also offers a vibrant arts and culture scene, with numerous galleries, theaters, and music venues.

With its strong sense of community and affordable housing options, Pensacola is an attractive destination for families and retirees alike. The median home price in Pensacola is $200,000, making it an affordable option for those looking to live near the beach.

Daytona Beach, FL

#7 in Best Places to Live in Florida

Daytona Beach, located on Florida's east coast, is known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant tourism industry. The city is famous for its annual Daytona 500 NASCAR race and its wide range of water sports and outdoor activities.

Daytona Beach also offers a lively downtown area, with shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The city's affordable housing options and strong sense of community make it an attractive destination for families and young professionals. The median home price in Daytona Beach is $200,000, making it an affordable option for those seeking a beachside lifestyle.

Orlando, FL

#8 in Best Places to Live in Florida

When people think of Orlando, they often associate it with its world-famous theme parks. However, the city has much more to offer than just Disney World and Universal Studios. Downtown Orlando is a vibrant urban center, with a thriving arts and culture scene, numerous restaurants, and a lively nightlife.

Orlando is also home to a diverse range of neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm. From historic districts to modern suburbs, there is a neighborhood to suit every taste and lifestyle. The median home price in Orlando is $300,000, making it an affordable option for those looking for a mix of urban amenities and family-friendly neighborhoods.

Tallahassee, FL

#9 in Best Places to Live in Florida

Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, offers a different vibe compared to other cities in the state. Known for its beautiful parks, historic landmarks, and vibrant college town atmosphere, Tallahassee attracts residents from all walks of life. The city is home to Florida State University and Florida A&M University, which contribute to its youthful energy and cultural diversity.

Tallahassee also offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking, and bird-watching. The median home price in Tallahassee is $200,000, making it an affordable option for those seeking a unique blend of urban and natural attractions.

Port St. Lucie, FL

#10 in Best Places to Live in Florida

Port St. Lucie is nestled along Florida's Treasure Coast, offering residents a peaceful and relaxed lifestyle. The city is known for its beautiful beaches, golf courses, and nature preserves. Port St. Lucie also offers a range of recreational activities, including boating, fishing, and hiking.

With its affordable housing options and strong sense of community, Port St. Lucie is a popular destination for families and retirees. The median home price in Port St. Lucie is $250,000, making it an affordable option for those seeking a laid-back coastal lifestyle.

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Beach Entrance (File)


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  12. 12 Best Places to Visit in Florida

    The main draw, however, has to be the luxurious beaches nearby. Siesta Key, rated the #1 beach in the nation, is famous for its cool quartz sand. Factor in delicious local eateries, and it's clear why Sarasota is a must-visit Florida destination. Credit: Looking down the coast on Pensacola Beach by

  13. 19 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Florida

    Best Beaches in Miami. Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Miami. 5. Everglades National Park. Everglades National Park. Everglades National Park protects 1.5 million acres of marsh and swamp, an important and fragile ecosystem that supports alligators, American crocodiles, Florida panthers, deer, turtles, egrets, manatees, river otters, and many ...

  14. The Top Cities for Tourism in Florida

    Orlando. Orlando is home to Walt Disney World, making it Florida's No. 1 city for tourism. Join Mickey Mouse and friends at the world-famous Magic Kingdom, or venture into Epcot Center.

  15. 25 Best Places To Visit in Florida

    13. Naples. Naples is one of the best towns to visit in Florida. This city is known for its natural beauty and some popular places to visit include Naples Pier Beach, Vanderbilt Beach, and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. In addition to its natural beauty, Naples is also renowned for its golf courses.

  16. The 10 Best Small Towns in Florida

    Mount Dora. JillianCain / Getty Images. Housing a population of approximately 16,000, Mount Dora is a relatively small central Florida destination with big-time charm, especially in its quaint ...

  17. 17 Best Places to Visit in Florida (+ Unique Vacation Spots)

    Stroll Down Tampa Riverwalk. If you are in the Tampa Bay area, you are already at one of the best places to visit in Florida! But very specifically, we want to mention the Tampa Riverwalk. This beautiful 2.6 mile pedestrian walkway starts downtown near Channelside and goes up to the Waterworks Park in Tampa Heights.

  18. 10 Top Tourist Attractions in Florida (+Map)

    5. Walt Disney World [SEE MAP] Etrusia UK / Flickr. Walt Disney World, located in Lake Buena Vista near Orlando, is the flagship of Disney's worldwide theme park empire and the most popular tourist attraction in Florida. It is also by far, the world's largest and most-visited theme park resort. The centerpieces of Walt Disney World are the ...

  19. 15 Most Beautiful Towns in Florida

    Santa Rosa Beach. Best Places to Stay. Founded in 1910, Santa Rosa Beach is a small community located in Walton County on Florida's stunning Emerald Coast. Named one of Travel + Leisure's Top 5 Favorite Towns in America, the biggest draw to this family-friendly destination is the sugar-white sandy beaches lined with sparkling turquoise waters.

  20. 36 Things To Do In Florida In 2023: FL Bucket List

    This Florida city is home to top theme parks such as Disney World, Universal Studios, and Legoland. These are some of the most fun things to do in Orlando with kids! Even if theme parks are not your scene, there are great museums, world-class dining, rooftop bars, relaxing spas, sporting events, and more.

  21. 21 Cutest Small Towns In Florida

    Dade City. Just a 30-minute drive from Tampa and an hour away from Orlando, a trip to Dade City is a perfect day trip or quiet weekend getaway.One of the best small towns in Florida, you'll always find something to do in Dade City.. Dade City is a quiet town full of history, native Florida wildlife, and culture.The rolling hills and pasture lands provide a beautiful backdrop for a dense ...

  22. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Florida

    2024. 11. Hollywood Beach. 6,909. Beaches. Spanning between Dania Beach and Golden Beach, this strip is quieter and often more pocket friendly than the neighboring Miami Beach. Let the locals skate and cycle past as you stroll along the boardwalk promenade in search of that perfect spot to bask in the Florida sun.

  23. 15 Best Things to Do in Florida City (FL)

    9. Everglades Alligator Farm. South of Florida City at the entrance to the national park, there's an attraction dating back more than 40 years. Everglades Alligator Farm specializes in airboat rides in the Everglades, while keeping some 2,000 alligators.

  24. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Florida City (Updated 2024)

    See full details. 9. Lotus Asian Spa. Spas. Lotus Asian Spa, is an Asian Massage Oasis that is dedicated and designed to help you reduce stress, relieve chronic pain, and increase the quality of your life! We specialize in multiple, customized treatments to meet the needs of a wide variety of clients in a comfortable down-to-earth setting!

  25. Spring break in Florida: 5 great beach towns you haven't considered

    If you want the best, head to the west. Siesta Beach in Siesta Key, west of Sarasota on the state's west coast, regularly makes TripAdvisor's list of best beaches based on user reviews. Currently ...

  26. Guide to Visiting Tampa, According to Locals

    This Florida City Is the Best Place to Retire in the U.S., According to a New Study ... The Best Times to Visit the Florida Keys for Great Weather, Low Prices, and Fewer Crowds — According to a ...

  27. 6 Top-Ranked Towns In Florida's Emerald Coast For Retirees

    Not to be mistaken for Panama City-another Florida town 20 minutes away-Panama City Beach is known for its stunning 27 miles of pristine shore, which can be accessed from dozens of public entry points. Camp Helen State Park is one of the more popular places to spend your time beachcombing and enjoying the Gulf of Mexico, while others prefer ...

  28. Best Places To Live In Florida In 2024

    Naples, FL #2 in Best Places to Live in Florida. Nestled between the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico, Naples is a picturesque coastal city known for its natural beauty and upscale lifestyle.