Places Where Floridians Vacation in Florida: Top In-State Getaways

Florida offers a diverse palette of vacation spots that cater not only to visitors from beyond its borders but also to its very own residents. Often known for its beautiful beaches and lively tourist districts, Florida presents a range of destinations from the tranquil and pristine beaches of the Gulf Coast to the culture-infused streets of Miami Beach. Each location boasts its unique characteristics, whether it’s the historical charm of St. Augustine, the luxurious atmosphere of Palm Beach, or the natural wonders of the Everglades.

Floridians enjoy a variety of activities when vacationing in their home state. Some may seek the thrills of theme parks in Orlando, while others prefer the laid-back ambiance of places like Sanibel Island or the scenic views at Anna Maria Island. Nature enthusiasts might explore the Florida Caverns, the only air-filled caves in the state open for public tours, or venture into the underwater world of the Dry Tortugas National Park.

Vacationing in Florida allows residents to embrace the rich tapestry of their state’s offerings. Whether it is the vibrant arts scene in downtown St. Petersburg, the antique-filled Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in South Florida, or the sun-kissed shores of Siesta Key, the state holds an allure for Floridians looking to escape the routine without crossing state lines.

Top Cities and Beaches for Vacationers

Florida enchants visitors with a variety of vibrant cities and pristine beaches, each offering unique experiences. From the urban allure of Miami to the serene Gulf Coast shores, vacationers are spoiled for choice.

Miami and South Beach

Miami beckons with its dynamic cityscape and iconic South Beach, known for its art deco architecture, lively nightlife, and celebrity-spotting opportunities. The aquamarine waters and powdery sands make it an idyllic escape for those seeking both culture and relaxation.

Orlando and Theme Parks

Orlando is synonymous with family-friendly adventure. Home to renowned theme parks such as Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando delivers an unforgettable experience for theme park enthusiasts and captures the imagination of visitors of all ages.

Tampa Bay Area

The Tampa Bay Area combines urban sophistication with laid-back beach life. Sites like Busch Gardens offer thrilling rides, while nearby Clearwater Beach shines with soft, white sands and crystal-clear waters, perfect for a day under the Florida sun.

Destin and the Gulf Coast

Destin is part of Florida’s famous Emerald Coast, known for its stunning, emerald-hued waters and sugar-white beaches. The Gulf Coast is a haven for fishing, boating, and some of the best seafood in the region, particularly in areas such as Sanibel Island and Naples.

Key West and the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands connected by the scenic Overseas Highway. Key West, the southernmost point of the continental US, offers a laid-back island atmosphere, historical landmarks, and spectacular snorkeling and diving spots.

Each of these destinations presents visitors with their own unique slice of Florida’s diverse vacation experience. Whether one prefers the electricity of city life, the thrill of theme parks, or the serenity of coastal retreats, Florida’s top cities and beaches cater to every traveler’s wish list.

Family-Friendly Attractions

Florida is a treasure trove of destinations perfect for families seeking adventure, education, and the magic of theme parks. Whether it’s the fantasy lands of Orlando or the natural wonder of the Everglades, there’s something to captivate the hearts of both kids and adults alike.

Disney World and Universal Studios

At the epicenter of Florida’s family attractions lie Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. Disney World enchants with its four distinct parks, including the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, each offering an array of rides and experiences tailored to various ages. Universal Orlando draws families with its thrilling rides and the enchantment of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, providing an immersive experience into cinematic worlds.

Kennedy Space Center

For families with a passion for space and science, the Kennedy Space Center is a must-visit. Located on Florida’s Space Coast, this interactive science hub offers the unique opportunity to learn about NASA’s space missions, see real rockets, and potentially witness a live launch. The center makes education engaging with hands-on exhibits and encounters with astronauts.

Everglades National Park

The Everglades National Park presents an entirely different but equally fascinating experience. As a sprawling subtropical wilderness, it offers families the chance to explore a myriad of ecosystems via airboat tours. Spot alligators, a variety of birds, and other wildlife in their natural habitat, while learning about the importance of this unique environment in Florida’s ecosystem.

  • Activities in Everglades National Park:
    • Airboat tours
    • Ranger-led programs
    • Wildlife viewing

By combining the allure of theme parks with the educational experiences of space exploration and natural discovery, Florida offers a diverse array of family-friendly attractions that create memorable vacations for families.

Outdoor Adventures and Natural Wonders

Florida isn’t just a haven for vacationers seeking sunshine; it’s also an adventure-rich destination for Floridians themselves, offering an array of immersive outdoor experiences. From the maze of waterways and wildlife in Everglades National Park to the vibrant underwater worlds of the Florida Keys, the state is a playground for nature lovers and thrill-seekers alike.

Central Florida’s Lakes and Springs

Central Florida is dotted with freshwater lakes and springs that beckon visitors with their crystalline waters and abundant fish populations. Lake Okeechobee, renowned for bass fishing, provides ample opportunities for anglers to test their skills. Nearby, the intricate lacework of springs, such as Silver Springs, delivers a serene setting for kayaking, revealing the flourishing underwater life and habitats. Camping sites near these lakes and springs allow visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the region.

  • Silver Springs: Kayaking | Wildlife Viewing
  • Lake Okeechobee: Fishing | Boating

Snorkeling and Diving in the Keys

The Florida Keys are synonymous with world-class snorkeling and diving, attracting enthusiasts eager to explore the United States’ only living coral barrier reef. Destinations such as John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo offer guided snorkeling tours, while the clear waters of Dry Tortugas National Park provide diving opportunities that feature historic shipwrecks and vibrant marine ecosystems.

  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: Snorkeling | Glass Bottom Boat Tours
  • Dry Tortugas National Park: Diving | Exploring Fort Jefferson

Everglades Wildlife and Kayaking

Everglades National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, extends over 1.5 million acres, forming the largest tropical wilderness of any kind in the U.S. It’s a biodiverse sanctuary where visitors can encounter manatees, alligators, and a plethora of bird species.

Kayaking through the mangrove tunnels or taking part in a guided tram tour sheds light on the park’s ecological importance. A network of nature trails offers glimpses into various ecosystems, from sprawling wetlands to dense mangroves.

  • Nature Trails: Hiking | Bird Watching
  • Kayaking Routes: Mangrove Tunnels | Flamingo Paddles

Cultural Experiences and Historical Sites

Florida is not just about beaches and theme parks; it’s a treasure trove of museums, historical landmarks, and architectural marvels. Floridians take pride in exploring their state’s rich cultural heritage and often vacation in locales steeped in history and arts.

Museums and Art Galleries

Florida’s museums offer a diverse range of art and historical artifacts that reflect the state’s multicultural background. The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami showcases early 20th-century opulence with its extensive Italian Renaissance gardens. Art aficionados frequently visit art galleries across Florida, noting particularly the dynamic cultural scene within cities such as St. Petersburg and Sarasota.

  • Popular Museums:
    • Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
    • The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg
    • Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota

Historic St. Augustine and Pensacola

St. Augustine is renowned as the nation’s oldest city, with Castillo de San Marcos being a highlight for history buffs. This centuries-old fortification provides insights into colonial America. Pensacola, on the other hand, boasts its own historical charm with sites like Historic Pensacola Village, showcasing life in Florida from the 15th century onwards.

  • Key Historic Sites:
    • Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine
    • Historic Pensacola Village, Pensacola

Architectural Wonders

Architecture in Florida tells the story of eras gone by, with structures like Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. The iconic Singing Tower, a 205-foot Gothic and art deco bell tower, stands as a testament to creativity and craftsmanship. Shoppers and architecture enthusiasts enjoy areas like Coral Gables for its Mediterranean Revival style buildings.

  • Notable Architectural Sites:
    • Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales
    • Coral Gables, Miami

Florida’s culture and history are best experienced through its preserved sites and contributions to the arts, making it a state with much more to offer beyond the typical vacation expectations.

Recreational Activities and Nightlife

Florida offers a wealth of recreational activities ranging from golfing and boating to lively nightlife options. With a reputation for excellent cuisine and abundant water sports, visitors and residents alike enjoy the diverse offerings of the Sunshine State.

Golfing and Boating Destinations

Florida’s courses and marinas are a haven for golfing and boating enthusiasts. In West Palm Beach, visitors can enjoy world-class golfing with perfectly manicured greens and fairways. Jupiter stands out with its luxurious boat charters, providing an ideal way to explore Florida’s waterways. For a more relaxed boating experience, the calm waters of Boca Raton are perfect for leisurely sails or yacht outings.

Nightclubs and Dining in Miami

Miami’s nightlife scene is electric, boasting an array of nightclubs that cater to a variety of tastes and styles. South Beach is the heartbeat of Miami’s nightlife, with its trendy clubs and bars. For foodies, Miami is a melting pot of cuisines, from authentic Cuban dishes to contemporary American. The city’s breweries also offer a taste of local craft beer for those who appreciate fine brews.

  • Nightlife Highlights:
    • LIV: a high-energy nightclub known for its celebrity sightings and top DJs.
    • E11even Miami: a 24/7 entertainment complex blending nightlife and shows.
  • Cuisine Selections:
    • Versailles Restaurant: iconic Cuban eatery in Little Havana.
    • Joe’s Stone Crab: famous for its seafood and historic dining experience.

Fishing and Water Sports

Fishing is a celebrated pastime in Florida’s coastal towns with deep-sea, pier, and fly-fishing excursions available. The Sunshine State’s beaches also offer prime conditions for water sports such as surfing and paddleboarding. Destin is popular for its fishing charters, while the East Coast waves in places like Cocoa Beach provide excellent surfing opportunities.

  • Fishing Spots:
    • Destin Charter Boats: known for abundant catches and experienced captains.
    • Jupiter Inlet: prized for its access to diverse fish species.
  • Water Sport Venues:
    • Cocoa Beach: holds a reputation for having some of the best surf in Florida.
    • Key West: where water sport rentals and tours are abundant, from jet skiing to parasailing.

Accommodations and Travel Tips

Finding the perfect place to stay and navigating through Florida’s diverse regions are key to a memorable vacation experience. Whether seeking the luxury of Palm Beach or the serene beauty of the Florida Keys, careful planning ensures an enjoyable stay.

Choosing the Right Hotels and Resorts

  • Florida Keys: Opt for waterfront resorts in Key Largo with private balconies for ocean views, emphasizing the area’s tropical ambiance.
  • Palm Beach: In Palm Beach, upscale hotels like The Breakers offer lavish accommodations, aligning with the city’s opulent reputation.
  • Fort Myers & Delray Beach: Family-friendly accommodations, such as the Pink Shell Beach Resort in Fort Myers, or Delray Beach’s homier options, provide both luxury and comfort.
  • St. Petersburg: The Don Cesar stands out as an iconic, pink-hued hotel offering a taste of old-world grandeur coupled with modern amenities.
  • Winter Park & Mount Dora: Charming boutique hotels in Winter Park and bed-and-breakfasts in Mount Dora cater to those seeking a quaint and quieter atmosphere.

Getting Around Florida

  • Public Transportation: Cities like Fort Lauderdale, the “Venice of America,” have extensive canal systems where water taxis are a scenic mode of transport.
  • Car Rental: For regions without robust public transport, renting a car is advisable, especially when visiting places like Homestead or exploring the Space Coast’s attractions near Cape Canaveral.
  • Cycling and Walking: Cities such as Winter Park offer picturesque canopies ideal for cycling or walking tours to explore local shops and cafes at a leisurely pace.

Best Times to Visit

  • High Season (December-April): Expect higher prices and book accommodations in advance, especially in hotspots like Jupiter and Key Largo, known for their winter appeal.
  • Low Season (June-September): This is the time for deals in places like the marine aquarium-rich town of Venice or the less crowded beaches of Delray.
  • Shoulder Season (May, October-November): Pleasant weather and moderate tourism make the shoulder season ideal for visiting outdoor attractions like the Canyons Zip Line in the Ocala area.

By considering these accommodations options and travel tips, visitors can enjoy Florida’s offerings tailored to their preferences and interests.

Jerry Joyce

Jerry Joyce has been a Florida resident since 1988 and has lived in a variety of places in the South Florida area. Jerry is an avid boater & water sports enthusiast, beach aficionado, a lover of great food, muscle car fan and a theme park annual passholder for many years. Some of his favorite places in Florida include the Florida Keys, Walt Disney World, Cedar Key, the Loxahatchee River, St. Augustine and Ten Thousand islands.

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