15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Florida

Written by Lana Law
Nov 17, 2020

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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 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.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World
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: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/

Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Orlando

2. Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center
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. Some good options include the Hampton Inn, Fairfield Marriott, and the Holiday Inn, all conveniently located off Interstate 95, just 15 to 20 minutes from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Official site: https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/

3. Universal Studios

Universal Studios
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 a ride.

Official site: https://www.universalorlando.com/

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Orlando: Best Areas & Hotels

4. Miami Beach and the Art Deco Historic District

Miami Beach and the Art Deco Historic District
Miami Beach and the Art Deco Historic District

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 are both standout Art Deco properties along Collins Avenue.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Miami

5. Everglades National Park

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 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 for a 30-minute airboat ride and an alligator and wildlife education program. You'll also have time to walk along a walking trail.

If you want to combine an airboat tour with some sightseeing, consider the Miami Combo Tour: City Sightseeing, Biscayne Bay Cruise, and Everglades Airboat Ride. This is a full-day tour that covers it all.

Official site: http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Everglades National Park

6. Daytona 500 International Speedway

Daytona 500 International Speedway
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: http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

Accommodation: Best Hotels in Daytona Beach

7. SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld Orlando
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.

Official site: http://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-orlando

Accommodation: Where to Stay near SeaWorld

8. Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens Tampa | Roller Coaster Philosophy / photo modified

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: https://buschgardens.com/

Accommodation: Best Hotels in Tampa

9. Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park
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, 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: http://www.nps.gov/drto/index.htm

Accommodation: Best Hotels in Key West

10. Duval Street in Key West

Duval Street 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.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Key West

11. St. Augustine's Historic District and the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Castillo de San Marcos
Castillo de San Marcos

Known for being one of the oldest settlements in Florida, 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.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in St. Augustine

12. Edison and Ford Winter Estates

Laboratory in Edison and Ford Winter Estates
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.

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: http://www.edisonfordwinterestates.org

13. The Ringling

Ca' d'Zan Mansion
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 art museum, housed in a stunning pink palace, is the true centerpiece, showcasing the Ringling's extensive art collection, which includes pieces by Velazquez, El Greco, Van Dyke, Veronese, and Rubens, among others.

Added much later, the Circus Museum came about in the late 1940s to celebrate 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.

The Ca' d'Zan was the residence of John and Mable Ringling. Their inspiration for this 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.

Address: 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, Florida

Official site: https://www.ringling.org/history-ca-dzan

14. Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg

Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg
Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg | Robert Neff / photo modified

The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg is 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 Dali's career, providing a complete overview of his development as an artist. Even those with little knowledge of art will find this museum interesting and thought provoking.

Address: One Dali Blvd, St. Petersburg, Florida

Official site: https://thedali.org/

Accommodation: Best Hotels in St. Petersburg

15. Beaches of Naples

Beach near the Naples Pier
Beach near the Naples Pier | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

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.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Naples

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