Which Florida city should you visit?

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Florida is best known for a few things: Walt Disney Word, beaches, golf and sunshine being the first that come to mind, but there’s so much more to the Sunshine State. So much so that, unless you’ve got a specific idea in mind, planning a Florida vacation can leave you wondering just which part of the state to spend your time in. The answer depends on what you want to be doing, who you’re traveling with and how active (or relaxing) you want your vacation to be. Every town or city in Florida offers something different, so, with that in mind, we’re breaking down what each destination has to offer in terms of attractions and worthwhile things to see and do.

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Miami

Which Florida town should you visit?
Art deco South Beach, courtesy Visit Florida

From the glitz and glam of South Beach, to the Instagram-worthy architecture of the Art Deco District, to the cool combination of design, art and fashion of the Design District, Miami has a lot to offer. If you want to be on the move for most of your vacation, this is the destination for you. Beach-hop, explore Miami’s diverse neighborhoods, shop and experience the city’s legendary nightlife. Grab a self-guided audio tour of the Art Deco District from the area’s welcome centre to explore the 800 buildings dating from the 1920s to the 1940s, wander through Little Havana and make sure to check out the 70-some galleries, bars and eclectic shops in Wynwood.

Fort Lauderdale

Which Florida town should you visit?
Fort Lauderdale, courtesy Visit Florida

If you’re in the mood to spend some quality time on the sand, Fort Lauderdale is an excellent choice. There are several beautiful beaches to choose from here, including nearly four miles of publicly accessible coastline at Fort Lauderdale Beach. Or you can spread out your beach towel on Deerfield Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Pompano Beach and Hollywood Beach. Anyone looking for a break from the beach can head to Sawgrass Recreation Park for an exhilarating airboat ride through the Everglades, which are just a short drive from downtown Fort Lauderdale. If shopping, arts and culture pique your interest, Las Olas Boulevard is home to 12 international art galleries, 75 stores, and three museums, and, when you need to refuel, there are 30 restaurants to choose from.

Tampa

Which Florida town should you visit?
Ybor City, courtesy Visit Florida

Diverse Tampa is an ideal Florida escape for anyone in the mood for history, culture and craft beer. Beer fans will enjoy the fact that Tampa is an emerging craft beer destination with many places to sidle up to the bar for a pint. Start at Cigar City Brewing for a tour and a tasting. There are several beers brewed year round like Florida Cracker (a Belgian-style wheat beer) and Jai Alai (an IPA), but there are also seasonal brews to sample, some with unique flavours like Seasonal Sneak (a chocolate pumpkin ale) and Strawberry Shortcake (a strawberry lager). Next, make your way to Ybor City for a dose of history (and, if you want, more beer). Ybor City is a historic district in Tampa that has also been designated a National Historic Landmark District (one of only two in Florida). Explore on your own or take a tour. If you do want to stop for a beer while in Ybor City, make your way to Tampa Bay Brewing Company, the first licensed brew pub in the state.

Orlando

Which Florida town should you visit?
Incredible Hulk Coaster/Universal Resort-Islands of Adventure, courtesy Visit Florida

Traveling with kids? Just feel like acting like a kid? Orlando is filled with opportunities for fun and excitement in the form of theme parks.  Some of your best bets for fun, rides, games and more include Epcot, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, LEGOLAND Florida, Universal Studios Florida, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Islands of Adventure, where you’ll find the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Jurassic Park River Adventure.

Key West

Which Florida town should you visit?
Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park, courtesy Visit Florida

A visit to Key West offers a lot for the adventurous traveler, including the chance to scuba dive or take a ride on a seaplane. But the southernmost point of the United States also boasts beaches, historic sites, great nightlife and more. Some must-dos include watching the sun go down amid the carnival-like atmosphere at Mallory Square, exploring the Earnest Hemingway Home and Museum (and maybe spotting a few of the legendary six-toed cats), sampling a slice of key lime pie, and visiting Dry Tortugas National Park, where you’ll find historic Fort Jefferson and crystal clear water perfect for snorkelling. The remote park can only be accessed by boat or seaplane, making it even more of an exciting draw.

Jacksonville

Which Florida town should you visit?
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, courtesy Visit Florida

Beaches, art, culture and outdoor adventure are the name of the game in Jacksonville, a city good for vacationers looking for a little bit of everything on their next trip to Florida. Pay a visit to the Cummer Museum for its impressive art collection and 2.5 acres of historic gardens. Next, stop by the Museum of Contemporary Art or the Museum of Science and History, depending on where your interests lie. Jacksonville has over 35 kilometres of beaches, and even the more popular waterfront areas — like Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach — are often uncrowded. From May to September you can take the Beach Trolley between beaches.

Tallahassee

Which Florida town should you visit?
Paul Clark, Wakulla Springs State Park via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Wakulla Springs are one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world – and you can find them in Tallahassee at Wakulla Springs State Park, which is also ideal for bird watching and wildlife viewing. So if it’s swimming and communing with nature you crave, this is a top spot to do it.

Fun fact: The springs were the on-location filming spot in the early 1940s “Tarzan” movies. Continue your outdoor adventures in Leon Sinks Geological Area — with over seven kilometres of trails, each leading to sinkholes of varying sizes — or paddle the Lafayette Passage Padding Trail. History buffs will want to check out Mission San Luis, the only reconstructed Spanish Mission in Florida.

Naples

Which Florida town should you visit?
Naples art galleries, courtesy Visit Florida

Whether you want to hike the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, wander the Naples Botanical Gardens, hang out on pretty Naples Pier spotting dolphins, or hop on a boat to Keewadin Island to do some shelling, there’s plenty on offer in Naples. There are several beaches in Naples for anyone interested in some sand and sunshine, as well as the chance to explore art galleries and do some shopping in the historic downtown area, in particular Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South. Naples is also a good destination for foodies, who will want to check out the fresh-caught seafood at Old Naples Pier, and the wide variety of eateries in the downtown area.

Sarasota

Which Florida town should you visit?
Canoeing/Myakka River State Park, courtesy Visit Florida

Sarasota is another great Florida destination for beach lovers, with several stretches of white sand to choose from. After a few days of sunbathing and swimming, head to Marie Selby Gardens on Sarasota Bay. Nature-lovers can explore the variety of garden areas including the fern garden, bamboo garden, banyan grove, bromeliad garden and children’s rainforest garden just to name a few. Active travelers should make their way to Myakka State Park, one of the oldest and largest state parks. Here you have access to hiking trails, boat tours on Myakka River, canoe and kayak rentals to explore the river on your own and the chance to do some birding and wildlife viewing.

Have a favorite Florida vacation spot? Let us know in the comments.

Featured image: istockphoto/franckreporter

Which Florida city should you visit? was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Jessica Padykula
Author: Jessica Padykula (91 posts)

Jessica Padykula is a Toronto-based writer and editor who regularly covers travel and lifestyle trends. When she’s not writing or researching a story she can be found planning trips to places near and far in a never-ending quest to travel the world.