Aerial view of Fort Jefferson, one of the best attractions in the state of Florida

33 Best Things to Do in Florida in 2021 (By Locals!)

One of the best things about Florida is the endless number of tourist attractions, theme parks, water activities, and outdoor adventures. There is a good reason Florida is one of the two most visited states in the entire country!

As two Florida locals who love exploring this state, it was quite the challenge to narrow this list down to our 33 favorite activities in the state. 

We feel confident that we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best things to do in Florida. We’ve done our best to include a good mix of the many different types of travel experiences available in the Sunshine State. Whether you’re looking for adventure, just a relaxing Florida beach, or something between, we’ve got 33 epic things for everyone to enjoy.

👉 Jump to: Best Things | South Florida | Central Florida | North Florida | Fun & Unique

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support my work by purchasing through the affiliate links on this page, which may earn a commission for this site. Thank you!

Best Things to Do in Florida

 Explore Wildlife in Everglades National Park

View of the author kayaking in Everglades National Park

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | Entrance: Varies by Visitor Center | 👉 Find an Everglades Tour

You’ll come for the alligators but stay for all the rest Everglades National Park has to offer. Obviously, an airboat ride is a must, but how about cycling to an abandoned fire tower, like the one in Shark Valley? Or a dolphin cruise at Gulf Coast Visitor Center? Maybe a backcountry paddle to camping platforms near Flamingo Visitor Center? At the very least, a tropical hammock hike at Royal Palm should do the trick! Who knows, you might just catch a glimpse of the elusive Florida panther. 

But one thing’s for certain, there’s plenty of fun things to do in Florida’s largest national park for your entire family!

🛏️  Pro Tip: I recommend staying in Fort Lauderdale. Many of the visitor centers of the park are within striking distance and private airboat tours will even pick you up right from Fort Lauderdale!

Snorkel Coral Reefs in Key Largo 

View of coral reefs under Key Largo
The underwater view at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse the Best Snorkel Tours in Key Largo

Tucked between the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay is the first island of the Florida Keys: Key Largo. And what few people realize is Key Largo (and South Florida in general) is home to the only natural coral reef found in the continental United States

Nature lovers splash into the crystal blue waters to view marine wildlife as they snorkel the pristine coral reefs. It’s a magical experience and one of the top things to do in Florida if you’re visiting the Sunshine State.

🎣 Looking to cast a line instead? Head slightly south in the Florida Keys to Islamorada, the sport fishing capital of the world.

Live it Up in Miami Beach 

View of a man hanging in Miami Beach
Just hanging in South Beach 

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | 👉 Taste of South Beach Food tour

Sure, the nightlife in South Beach certainly lives up to the hype as one of the top destination in Florida for partiers. But Miami Beach is more than just a party – it’s an immersive cultural experience.

The Art Deco District on Ocean Drive in South Beach is on the National Register of Historic Places; the bars & restaurants serve foods hailing from all over the world and let’s not forget about the beautiful beaches that stretch for miles. These days, it’s easy to live it up in Miami Beach whether you’re looking to party or not!

📚 Related Reading: Miami Beach is great – but so is Fort Lauderdale just to the north. Bookmark our article, 33 Top Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale, to plan your future travels!

Make Magic at Walt Disney World 

View of the Magic Kingdom entrance in Walt Disney World
The Walt Disney World Railroad at the Magic Kingdom entrance (photo: VIAVAL / Depositphotos)

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Phone: (407) 939-5277 | Website

For families, there is no argument that Walt Disney World is one of the top things to do in Florida. Between the four theme parks, two water parks, and many hotels, there are lots of activities to keep the whole family entertained. If visiting a theme park isn’t your thing, Disney also has relaxing spas and delicious restaurants to enjoy. 

Thrill-seekers and families with older kids will also enjoy the theme parks at Universal Studios. It is only 15 minutes away from Walt Disney World. 

📚 Related Reading: Check out my list of the best things to do in Greater Orlando to discover other Orlando area attractions and amusement parks. 

Discover Outer Space at Kennedy Space Center

View of the rocket garden and some tall palm trees in Kennedy Space Center
The Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Phone: (855) 433-4210 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: starting at $57 for adults | 👉 Browse Space Center Tours

Visiting Kennedy Space Center allows you to live out the dream of being an astronaut. You can see the space shuttle Atlantis, meet an astronaut, and watch a space movie in the IMAX movie theater. 

The Visitor Complex offers so many different experiences and attractions that I recommend spending a full day there. For true space travel enthusiasts, consider booking one of the add-on enhancements, such as the Special Interest Bus Tour or the Astronaut Training Experience. 

South Florida

👉 Jump to: Best Things | South Florida | Central Florida | North Florida | Fun & Unique

Stroll Duval Street in Key West 

View of people walking in Duval Street
Duval Street is the epicenter of activity in Key West (photo: romrodinka / Depositphotos)

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Top Tours in Key West

Consistently ranked as one of the best things to do in Florida, Key West has maintained its charm over the years despite the influx of visitors. Duval Street, in particular, is one of the more delightful strips in the Sunshine State with plenty of gift shops, bars & restaurants, breweries, nightclubs, and museums. 

Other activities in Key West include visiting Fort Zachary Taylor, partying on Duval Street no matter the time of day, snapping a picture at the southernmost point, and visiting the six-toed cats at the Hemingway House.

Find Relaxation at Naples Botanical Garden

View of a flower arch in Naples Botanical Garden

📍 Map It: 4820 Bayshore Dr, Naples, FL 34112 | Phone: (239) 643-7275 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 2 pm daily | Entrance: $20 adults, $10 children 4 – 17, free 3 and under under 13

Peace and tranquility overtake you as you stroll through the 170 acres of Naples Botanical Gardens. Featuring thousands of plants from all over the world, the aroma and ambiance will send you into a perpetual state of relaxation before heading to the beach for an epic Naples’ sunset.

Experience Opulence at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens 

View of the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens from the outside

📍 Address: 3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129 | Phone: 305-250-9133 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 4: 30 pm daily, Thurs – Mon | Entrance: $25 adults, $10 for 12 and under

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a national historic landmark and one of the more enchanting things to do in Florida. Built in 1912, the opulent mansion was once the home of businessman James Deering of the Deering McCormick-International Harvester fortune.

But the real beauty of Vizcaya is the surroundings. A conservationist, Deering built his villa directly on Florida’s second-largest national park, Biscayne Bay. The backdrop is one of lush greenery, beaming sunrises, and turquoise waters.

💸 Want to do more for less? The Miami Go Pass includes options for admission into Vizcaya Museum along with many other Southern Florida attractions.  

Set Sail to Dry Tortugas National Park 

Aerial view of Fort Jefferson in the middle of the ocean

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Phone: 305-242-7700 | Website | 👉 Sail to Dry Tortugas National Park

After your snapshot at the southernmost point in Key West, head to the docks and hop aboard a vessel bound for one of the coolest national parks in the US: Dry Tortugas National Park.

Situated 70 miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas is home to Fort Jefferson, a Civil War-era military structure with a dark history only accessible by boat. Because of its remoteness, Dry Tortugas National Park has maintained an incredible underwater landscape with some of the healthiest coral reefs in the western hemisphere.

Go Shelling on Sanibel Island 

View of sea shells in the sand of Sanibel Island

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | 👉 Book a Great Hotel on Sanibel Island

Sea shelling by the seashore is one of the most popular things to do in Florida for anyone who visits. The best shelling destination? Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida is one of them. It’s not uncommon to find whole conch shells, sand dollars, and other pristine souvenirs from the ocean.

Roost with the Locals at Rookery Bay

View of a blue heron on a branch

📍 Map It: 300 Tower Rd, Naples, FL 34113 | Phone: 239-530-5940 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 4 pm daily, Closed Sundays | Entrance: $8 adults, $5 children 6 to 12, free 5 and under

As the name suggests, Rookery Bay is a fantastic destination for birders and nature lovers. It’s common to see birds of prey like osprey, bald eagles, and hawks; coastal water birds like herons, anhingas, and ibises; and beach-nesting birds like black skimmers and Least Terns.

For those not entirely interested in the birds, the nature center offers kayak and boat tours where you can learn about the importance of estuary environments, spot manatees, dolphins, alligators, and even some crocodiles.

Depart on a Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach

View of a giraffe in Lion Country Safari

📍 Address: 2003 Lion Country Safari Rd, Loxahatchee, FL 33470 | Phone: 561-793-1084 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 4:30 pm daily | Entrance: $29 – $35

A trip to the zoo pales in comparison after departing on a drive through Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach. The whole family will be elated as you motor through the winding roads spotting lions, rhinos, antelope, tropical birds, and zebra. Just keep your windows up, or don’t, as the giraffes like to see what snacks you’re hiding in your car.

Float in the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables

Aerial view of Venetian Pool in Coral Gables and different trees that surrounds it
(photo: jovannig / Depositphotos )

📍 Address: 2701 De Soto Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33134 | Phone: 305-460-5306 | Website | Hours: Varies by Season, call for hours | Entrance: $21 adults, $16 under 13

Carved into the ancient coral bedrock of Florida, the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables is an aquatic facility like no other. Much of the fossilized coral excavated was used for the surrounding structures and the 820,000 gallons of water in the pool are directly sourced from the underlying Aquifer. In the spring and summer seasons, the pool is drained and filled every day with fresh, naturally sourced water!

Tour the Wynwood Walls in Miami

View of the entrance to Wynwood Walls
(photo: susanavalera.gmail.com / Depositphotos)

📍 Map It: 2520 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33127 | Phone: 305-531-4411 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 9 pm daily | Entrance: $10 adults, free 12 and under | 👉 Search the Best Wynwood Art Tours

A once forgotten corner of Miami is now a thriving entertainment district filled with newly developed breweries, coffee shops, bars, nightclubs, and magnificent street art

The Wynwood Walls, in particular, is the finest collection of art in the neighborhood with its vibrancy perfectly encapsulating the cultural influences of Miami. Touring the walls will take you along beautifully painted alleyways, gardens, and galleries.

👉 Want Even More South Florida Activities? Check out Andrew’s complete list of the best things to do in South Florida.

Central Florida

👉 Jump to: Best Things | South Florida | Central Florida | North Florida | Fun & Unique

Go Wild at Busch Gardens 

View of the author holding a baby and a cheetah on their background
Marsden and Katie meeting one of the cheetahs 

📍 Map It: 10165 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612 | Phone: (813) 884-4386 | Website | Hours: vary by season | Entrance: starting at $90 for adults 

Busch Gardens is a fun theme park that blends thrilling roller coasters and wild animals. When you add in all the food and drink options, they’ve made my perfect destination. There are more than enough activities and attractions to fill an entire day, so plan to spend an entire day at the theme park. 

🛎️ Need a Hotel? The Hampton Inn & Suites is located right across the street from the Busch Gardens amusement park. 

Speed Through Daytona Beach 

View of a pier from afar and the sunrise in Daytona Beach
Sunrise over the Main Street Pier at Daytona Beach 

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Daytona Beach Activities 

Daytona Beach is synonymous with spring break in Florida and for good reason. This is one of the few beaches where you can actually drive your car through the sand and park with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. Also, NASCAR fans will love visiting the Daytona International Speedway.

📚 Related Reading: Daytona Beach is one of my favorite day trips near Orlando, but check out my complete post for more of my favorite Orlando-area excursions!

Get Surreal at The Dali Museum

View of The Dali Museum and a line of palm trees across it
(photo: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock)

📍 Map It: 1 Dali Blvd, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 | Phone: (727) 823-3767 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 6 pm Friday-Wednesday, 10 am – 8 pm Thursday | Entrance: $25 adults, $18 ages 13-17, $10 ages 6-12

Step right into a surrealist painting when you visit the Salvador Dali Museum. In addition to the works by its namesake, the Salvador Dali Museum also features exhibits from other surrealist artists and photographers. The Dali uses technology, like augmented reality and artificial intelligence, to enhance the art and offer unique experiences for the visitors. 

👉 Pro Tip: Complete your day in St. Pete by heading up the road to get some sunshine and explore the Sunken Gardens. 

Tour the Indian River Oyster Company by Kayak

View of oyster beds on a mangrove trees on Indian River Lagoon
Oysters growing in the Indian River Lagoon 

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Phone: (386) 402-0492 | Website | Tours: starting at $25

The BYOK (bring your own kayak) tour at the IROC oyster farm is a hidden treasure that locals love. This special experience takes place on select dates in the Indian River Lagoon in New Smyrna Beach. In addition to the paddle through the lagoon, where you can see dolphins and manatees, you get to support a local business and try some tasty oysters straight from the water. 

👉 Pro Tip: While the tour is usually BYOK, they do offer kayak rentals for an additional fee. Just request a rental when you make your reservation. 

Walk the Plank at Gasparilla Pirate Festival 

View of people watching the Pirate Festival
Crowds cheer on the Pirate Invasion (photo: Yes I Shoot models / Shutterstock)

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | Admission: Free event 

Every year, there is a pirate invasion in Tampa Bay! The Gasparilla Pirate Festival has been taking place on the last Saturday of January for more than a century. 

The event begins on the water, where the pirates and hundreds of boats “capture” the city from the mayor. The victory is then celebrated with a pirate parade where Mardi Gras-style beads are thrown out into the crowd. 

The weekend before Gasparilla, a children’s event is held that is alcohol-free and features a spectacular fireworks show. 

Support Conservation at MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

View of the MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium sign at the entrance
(photo: Paulleon / Shutterstock)

📍 Map It: 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, FL 34236 | Phone: 941-388-4441 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: $24 adults, $18 children 3 to 12, free under 2

MOTE Marine Lab in Sarasota is amongst the most impressive aquariums and one of the best things to do in Florida. With touch-tanks, interactive exhibits, and one massive aquarium, the entire family will find something to their liking. And the best part is all proceeds directly fund marine conservation efforts throughout the Sunshine State!

Dive for Scallops in Homosassa

View of a fresh caught scallops
Fresh bay scallops 

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Homosassa Tours

Scallop season in Homosassa and the surrounding area is from July 1 – September 24. You can book a tour or rent a boat to go scalloping. The local guide or rental company can advise you on where to head to find the best catch.

The fun begins when you anchor by the seagrass beds. After a deep breath, you’re on an underwater scavenger hunt through the grass. 

There are lots of locations along the gulf coast where you can go scalloping, but I always recommend Homosassa because it has a real Florida feel and fewer tourists! 

👉 Pro Tip: Before you head out, know the regulations around how many scallops you can harvest and purchase your saltwater fishing license. When in the water, you are required to post a dive flag, even if you are just snorkeling or free-diving. 

Walk the Tightrope at The Ringling 

View of the sculptures in John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art from the outside
Sculptures in the Museum of Art courtyard 

📍 Map It: 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34243 | Phone: (941) 359-5700 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: $25 adults, $5 ages 6-17 | 👉 Nearby Hotels

The Ringling is a compound of museums located at the old winter home of the circus magnate. This beautiful property includes the Ringling Museum of Art, the Circus Museum, and expansive botanical gardens along Sarasota Bay. For an added fee, you can tour ​​Ca’ d’Zan, the Venetian mansion that the Ringlings called home. 

👉 Pro Tip: It would be a shame to be in Sarasota without visiting one of the breathtaking beaches. Luckily, Anna Maria Island, Siesta Key, and Lido Key are all a short drive from The Ringling Museum. 

Walk the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs

View of sea sponges hanging on a net
Natural sea sponges drying in the sun 

📍 Map It: 735 Dodecanese Blvd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689 | Website

One of the most interesting things to do in Florida is exploring the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs. Located just 30 minutes north of Clearwater Beach, this area was settled by Greek immigrants who made a living diving for sea sponges. 

The community celebrates its Greek heritage with delectable cuisine, historical education centers, and plenty of sponge boats to see. Don’t miss Spongeorama, a shop with shells, sponges, and bath products.

North Florida

👉 Jump to: Best Things | South Florida | Central Florida | North Florida | Fun & Unique

Discover the History of St. Augustine

Aerial view of St. Augustine from a drone shot
Aerial view of the historic district 

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Local Tours

St. Augustine is not only the oldest city in Florida, but it is also the oldest city in the United States. The main attraction is exploring the historical locations, like the oldest wooden schoolhouse and the old jail.

Once in the city, it is hard to miss the oldest masonry fort in the county, the Castillo de San Marcos. There are free tours and programs to teach you what life was like around this national monument in the 1700s. 

🚗 How to Get Around: The Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour takes the stress out of transportation and allows you to explore all the sites at your leisure. 

Go Underground at Florida Caverns State Park 

View of formation inside a cave in Caverns State Park
Formation inside the cavern

📍 Map It: 3345 Caverns Rd, Marianna, FL 32446 | Phone: (850) 482-1228 | Website | Hours: 8 am – sundown daily | Entrance: $5 per vehicle | 👉 Browse Nearby Hotels

Florida Caverns Park has some of the only caves in Florida that can be explored. The park is located in Marianna in the Florida panhandle (approximately 1 hour from Panama City). Get there early to reserve your spot in one of the tours of the limestone caves. 

The caves are the main attraction, but you can also enjoy kayaking, swimming, and hiking in the park.

Watch the Bats Emerge at UF’s Bat Houses

View of flying bats during sunset

📍 Map It: Museum Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611 | Website | Hours: 6 pm – 9 pm daily

On calm, warm evenings, an estimated half of a million bats emerge at twilight from the University of Florida’s bat houses. The emergence lasts for 15 – 20 minutes as the bats blanket the evening sky while swooping amongst viewers to capture nearby insects. Plan your viewing for the spring or summer seasons, when days are increasing in length and the air is consistently warm.

Swim the Springs in Ocala National Forest

View of Silver Glen Springs in Ocala National Forest
Silver Glen Springs

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | Hours: 8 am – 8 pm daily | Entrance: $7-10 per person | 👉 Browse Nearby Hotels 

The Ocala National Forest covers over 600 square miles of protected wilderness and has many hiking trails and recreation areas. However, I think the best way to enjoy the area is by taking a dip in one of the natural springs, especially on a hot Florida day. 

Alexander Springs, Silver Glen Springs, Juniper Springs, and Salt Springs all offer cool and refreshing swimming areas where the fresh spring water flows up from the aquifer. A day at the springs is a Florida classic. 

Float Down the Ichetucknee River

View of Ichetucknee River and a staircase
Headsprings of the Ichetucknee River

📍 Map It: 12087 Southwest, US-27, Fort White, FL 32038 | Phone: (386) 497-4690 | Website | Hours: 8 am – sunset daily | Entrance: $6 per vehicle 

Ichetucknee is a group of springs that feed into a small river. Since the 72-degree water is always flowing from the headspring, you can hop in a tube and enjoy the natural lazy river. 

Since there are multiple entrances and take-out points, you can decide how long you want your float to be. Starting at the North Entrance and exiting at the South Take Out will give you the longest trip: over 3.5 hours. 

👉 Pro Tip: If you rent your tubes from an outside vendor, get a double tube for each person. Especially for larger adults, this gives you more options than just squeezing into a single tube for the entire float. 

Fun & Unique

👉 Jump to: Best Things | South Florida | Central Florida | North Florida | Fun & Unique

Meet Mermaids in Weeki Wachee

View of tourist having a boat ride in Weeki Wachee
(photo: The Courage to Travel / ShutterstocK)

📍 Map It: 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606 | Phone: (352) 610-5660 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 5:30 pm daily | Entrance: $13 adults, $8 ages 6-12 

Weeki Wachee is yet another natural Florida spring, but this one is a little different. This is one of the coolest things to do in Florida because you can see a live mermaid show! Kids love to watch the mermaids swim around and take photos.

Another reason why Weeki Wachee is a great destination for families is the water park. The entire can enjoy the slides and rides. Weeki Wachee also offers traditional recreation activities at the springs, like kayak rentals, hiking, and swimming. 

Descend the Surface at Devil’s Den

View of wooden stairs down to Devil's Den

📍 Map It: 5390 NE 180th Ave, Williston, FL 32696 | Phone: 352-528-3344 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm Mon – Thurs, 8 am – 5 pm Fri – Sun | Entrance: $15 per person, price increases depending on activity

Reminiscent of the cenotes in Mexico, Devil’s Den near Gainesville is a Mecca for inland scuba diving and snorkeling in Florida. The scene is otherworldly as you swim around the underground spring with stalactites dangling above your head like icicles. Take a deep breath and plunge below the surface to catch a glimpse of an ancient coral reef embedded with fossils from a storied past.

👉Pro Tip: Devil’s Den can get overcrowded, so we recommend visiting during the offseason or the middle of the week, if possible.

Hunt for Fossils in the Peace River

View of shark's teeth and shells on a hand
Shark teeth are the most common fossil found

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website

With its unique geological history and high concentrations of phosphate, south-central Florida is home to the most peculiar fossil hunting in the world. 

As you paddle the Peace River near the town of Arcadia, you’ll hop out of your canoe/kayak to sift through the sand and discover lost fragments of ancient animals. Common fossils discovered along the Peace River are shark teeth, stingray jaws & barbed tails, manatee & dugong ribs, and even mastodon tusks.

Watch a Rocket Launch 

View of a rocket launch from space
Sitting on the beach while watching a rocket launch is an unforgettable experience

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Local Hotels 

You can visit all the top Florida attractions and amusement parks, but I would bet that watching a rocket launch would be the coolest part of your vacation. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is unlike anything else. 

Kennedy Space Center offers packages for certain launches, but you can view the launch from any of the surrounding areas. I recommend going to Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral for a great view from the beach. 

👉 Pro Tip: The launch schedule is always tentative and dependent on weather. If you are traveling to the area specifically to see a launch, I recommend booking a few extra days after the scheduled date, just in case there is a delay. 

Swim With Manatees in Crystal River

View of a diver filming a manatees under the sea
Manatees are enormous but extremely friendly

📍 Map It: Google Maps | Website | 👉 Snorkel With Manatees in Crystal River

Every winter, ocean temperatures plummet, rendering the water too cold for manatees. To escape the cold, these large mammals migrate up into Crystal River, a natural spring-fed oasis continuously emitting water at 72°F.  Finding the temperature just right, manatees huddle around the source of the spring by the hundreds. It’s the perfect opportunity to experience one of the coolest things to do in Florida: snorkeling with manatees!

***

Have you done any of these activities or should we add something to the list? 

Scroll down and let us know in the comments what your favorite things to do in Florida are!

Editor’s Note: Travel Lemming Florida correspondent Andrew Bloem contributed to this article.

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