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Things to Do in Florida

There’s more to this panhandle U.S. state than just Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. An airboat experience in the Everglades showcases one of the world’s largest wetlands, the powdery sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico offer the perfect getaway, and a walking tour of Miami’s vibrant food scene lets travelers in on some of the eclectic elements that make up Florida’s spirit. From Kennedy Space Center to the string of islands that make up the Florida Keys to, yes, Orlando’s ubiquitous theme parks, the Sunshine State mixes outdoor adventure, diverse culture, and family fun to form an all-in-one destination that delights all ages.
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Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
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If you've ever dreamt of swimming with manatees in their natural habitat, Florida’s Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is where to go. Established in 1983, the 177-acre (71-hectare) refuge is home to America’s largest concentration of the 1,000-pound gentle giants. West Indian Manatees flock to the more than 70 turquoise-colored springs in Crystal River for warmth during winter. With hundreds of manatees in a small area, sightings are frequent.

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The Ringling
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The once winter estate of wealthy circus magnate John Ringling and his wife Mable is today a museum complex showcasing Ringling’s vast private art collection alongside the state of Florida’s art collection. There’s also a circus museum, the Ringling Bayfront Gardens, the historic Asolo Theater and Ca'd'Zan, the Ringling’s opulent Prohibition-era mansion, built in the in the Venetian Gothic style, complete with ceiling frescos and abundant marble.

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Fort Lauderdale Beachfront
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Thanks to more than 23 miles (37 kilometers) of pristine sand, visitors to the Fort Lauderdale beachfront are spoiled for choice when it comes to water sports and sunbathing spots. Spend the day swimming, windsurfing, deep-sea fishing, or more—or stay on land playing volleyball, jogging, or just kicking back in a lounge chair.

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Fountain of Youth
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Your quest for the Fountain of Youth is over once you’ve visited this park in St. Augustine, Florida. This site where Spanish explorer Ponce de León came in search of the elusive fountain in the 16th century, founding the oldest European settlement in the US. Sip the legendary waters while you learn about the area’s indigenous history.

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ZooTampa at Lowry Park
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Home to a vast array of animals ranging from native Florida species to African wildlife, ZooTampa at Lowry Park is a must see for all animal and nature lovers. Rated the No. 1 zoo in the United States by Parents Magazine and the No. 1 child-friendly zoo in the US by Child Magazine, the Lowry Park Zoo is an ideal place for families with kids.

The zoo features numerous exhibits including several hands on attractions. Kids and adults alike can share in the experience of petting sting rays, feeding giraffes, or riding a camel. The zoo also recently expanded to include several kids' rides including a merry-go-round.

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The Florida Aquarium
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Just a short drive from downtown Tampa, The Florida Aquarium houses more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals within a 200,000-square-foot (18,500-square-meter) facility in Tampa Bay. The entire family will enjoy this aquarium, which offers specialty tours, dolphin cruises, an outside water adventure zone, and on-site bar and grill.

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Clematis Street
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Clematis Street is right at the historic heart of West Palm Beach and is home to some of the area’s best restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Busy by day and perhaps even busier by night, the colorful district is home to twelve historic landmarks that tell the story of the area. Detailed architecture represents centuries of eclectic styles, while the many fountains and gardens (along with oceanfront location) make this an especially scenic spot.

Boutiques line the street, which is full of antique shops, restaurants, art galleries, and cafes (Antique Row features 40 specialty shops alone.) Boats dock at the floating pier at the water’s edge, and year-round water sports and activities can be launched from nearby. By night there are often live music performances or music booming from one of many nightclubs. The area is known for its nightlife particularly on Thursday nights, when it transforms into a lively street party called ‘Clematis By Night.’ The event also hosts weekly free concerts on the waterfront.

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Sand Key Park
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Beach-loving families (and anyone else looking for accessible white sands with great wildlife-watching opportunities) can find it at Clearwater’s Sand Key Park. Situated on the northern end of the barrier island Sand Key, this small park boasts ample amenities, including a playground, bathrooms, and lifeguards during the summer season. On the Gulf of Mexico side, visitors can find a wide, welcoming white sand beach where sea turtles sometimes lay their eggs. The park also includes a salt marsh where birdwatchers can spot herons, roseate spoonbills and great horned owls, among many other bird species. Beach loungers and water sports fans can find equipment rentals on-site—everything from cabanas and beach umbrellas to kayaks and bicycles.

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Mallory Square
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Overflowing with Key West quirkiness, Mallory Square draws a crowd at sunset thanks to its many restaurants, street performers, and daily Sunset Celebration. During the day, visitors come for some of Key West’s best shopping and to admire the open-air sculpture garden, which pays tribute to famous local residents.

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Bayside Marketplace
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Bayside Marketplace, a vibrant waterfront mall in downtown Miami—and the city’s most-visited attraction—sits above Biscayne Bay and features many shopping, dining, and entertainment options. The open-air market has more than 100 shops ranging from apparel to bath products to electronics, and often live performers are on hand to keep shoppers entertained.

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More Things to Do in Florida

Salvador Dalí Museum

Salvador Dalí Museum

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The extensive Salvador Dali Museum is home to the largest collection of works by the famous Spanish surrealist outside of Europe. Visitors to the St. Petersburg highlight can view key works from every stage of Dali’s career as well as exceptional pieces from every medium of his artistic endeavors—oil paintings, original drawings, prints, sculptures, and photos—along with manuscripts and an extensive archive of documents.

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Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

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The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, situated on the breezy shores of the bay, are an ideal destination for gardeners, nature lovers, and travelers looking for a calm, nature-focused outing in Sarasota. Stroll through the gardens, visit the conservatory, and browse the Museum of Botany and Arts at this 15-acre oasis.

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Intracoastal Waterway Fort Lauderdale

Intracoastal Waterway Fort Lauderdale

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Stretching 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) between the United States' Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Fort Lauderdale's Intracoastal Waterway provides easy access to maritime activities and on-shore attractions along the 300 miles (483 kilometers) of inland canals that wind through south Florida's unmistakable sky-high resorts and Everglades ecosystem.

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Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale

Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale

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Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale is a linear public park located by the New River in the historic downtown district of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Its tropical landscaping and winding pathways link some of the city’s best attractions.

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St. Augustine Old Jail

St. Augustine Old Jail

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Don’t let the friendly pink stucco exterior fool you. Although this building might look like an old-fashioned luxury resort, it was actually one of the most feared places in all of St. Augustine—the St. Johns County Jail. Built in 1891, the jail housed prisoners until 1953, when it opened to the public for tours.

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South Beach

South Beach

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Miami's South Beach neighborhood features 10 miles (16 km) of beaches with a buzzing, carnival-like atmosphere. With a trendy Caribbean-chic café culture and an impossibly hip and sexy nightlife scene, the area is a non-stop people-watching mecca.

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Oldest Store Museum

Oldest Store Museum

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The Oldest Store Museum in St Augustine, Florida, is an interactive way to learn more about the history of the area. The Oldest Store Museum is set up to reflect a store during the year 1900.

Tour guides and other staff workers for the Oldest Store Museum will be dressed in colonial attire and they stay in character as someone who lived over a century ago in order to teach visitors about life in St Augustine during colonial times in an entertaining and engaging way.

Inside the store are over 100,000 items you may have found during the start of the 1900s. These items are marked with what they would have sold for in 1900 and you may find yourself shocked at how much prices have inflated over the centuries. You’ll also have fun perusing the items, which include worm syrup, old farm equipment, corsets and much more.

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St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum

St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum

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Located at the nation’s oldest port, the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum offers visitors a chance to step back in time by exploring the active lighthouse and various educational exhibits. The black-and-white striped, red-topped lighthouse, built in 1874, welcomes guests to climb up for sweeping views of the Florida coast.

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Lightner Museum

Lightner Museum

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Housed in a gorgeous former hotel built in 1887 in the Spanish Renaissance style, the exterior of the Lightner Museum is reason enough to visit. The real treats though are the various antiquities located on the inside of this three story museum.

The first floor houses a Victorian village, with shop fronts offering Victorian era wares. Take a look at the Victorian Science and Industry Room and its eclectic array of artifacts including model steam engines, stuffed birds, a small Egyptian mummy, and a shrunken head. The second floor contains samples of cut glass, Victorian art glass and stained glass work. The third floor, housed in the ball room's upper balcony, exhibits paintings, sculpture, and furniture from the time period. Overall, the museum's careful attention to details and rustic recreation of the time period make it a fun place to visit.

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Las Olas Beach

Las Olas Beach

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With soft, white sand and clean, calm waters ideal for families and people who like to wade and relax in the ocean, Las Olas Beach is the quintessential Fort Lauderdale beach. The beach offers great sunbathing, and you can also rent beach umbrellas and chairs.

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Flagler College

Flagler College

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With its red-tiled roofs and wide landscaped lawns, the campus of Flager College features some of the most beautiful Spanish Renaissance architecture in the country. It is routinely named one of the most beautiful universities in the United States, which makes sense given that it was converted into a school from a former resort.

The Ponce de Leon luxury hotel (now the college) was first built in 1888. Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was one of the first buildings to granted electricity by General Electric. Often sunny, Flagler College is also a remarkably pleasant place to stroll through. Its brick archways, gleaming fountains, and tall palm trees are reminiscent of southern Spain.

Luxurious details such as Tiffany stained glass windows and painted murals now adorn campus facilities such as dining halls, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful to behold. Don’t miss the original lobby complete with an elegant 68-foot domed ceiling.

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Shark Valley

Shark Valley

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Situated in heart of what many call the “true Everglades”—a river of grass that stretches 100 miles (161 kilometers) from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico—Shark Valley is part of a freshwater ecosystem with incredible biodiversity. It’s one of the best places in Everglades National Park to spot alligators, birds, and other wildlife.

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Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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More than just an aquarium, Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a marine life rescue and rehabilitation center. Set on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the center gained fame when it rescued Winter, a baby dolphin that later starred in theDolphin Tale movies. You can visit Winter and other dolphins, sharks, stingrays, and such at the aquarium.

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Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum

Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum

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The Key West Lighthouse is one of the island's oldest structures. It was first built in 1825 to help ships navigate the dangerous reefs of the Lower Keys. The lighthouse that stands today dates back to 1847, and the 92-foot (28-meter) building offers some of the best views in town, as well as a maritime museum in the keeper’s house.

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