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Things to Do & Must-See Attractions 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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Mallory Square
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Few things are as beautiful as a Florida sunset, so while you are in Key West, be sure to celebrate the sunset in true Key West style - at Mallory Square. Every night, starting two hours before the sunset, the square hosts its "Sunset Celebration." Arts and crafts exhibitors, street performers and food carts descend on the square providing you with fun entertainment to enjoy in the last daylight hours.

During the daytime, Mallory Square offers numerous attractions at its many restaurants and shops. While you are there, you should also check out the famous Key West Historic Memorial Sculpture Garden. Open since 1997, the garden contains 36 bronze busts of the men and women who have had the greatest impact on Key West. The most famous of these are renowned writer Ernest Hemingway and President Harry S. Truman.

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Fort Zachary Taylor
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Popular for both its military history and current recreational opportunities, Fort Zachary Taylor is also the location of one of Key West’s favorites beaches. Spanning 54 acres, Fort Zachary Taylor is worth a visit both for its colorful past and its attractive present. Construction on Fort Taylor was begun in 1845 and the Fort hosted active duty squadrons until 1947. During the period of the Civil War, Fort Zachary Taylor remained one of only three fortresses in Florida to remain under Federal control; it’s now recognized as a National Historic Landmark and contains the largest cache of Civil War-era seacoast cannons in the U.S. Fort Taylor was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1973. Tours are conducted daily and pamphlets for self-guided tours are available as well. Today, Fort Zachary Taylor is best known for its outdoor activities and is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.

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Bayside Marketplace
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A vibrant waterfront mall in downtown Miami, Bayside Marketplace wraps along the Biscayne Bay and features shops, restaurants and entertainment options. Shops in the mall offer everything from apparel to bath products to technology and more. For example, while Digital World sells a range of electronics, Emilio Robba is where you can get contemporary housewares. Some other stores include D’Nature Cosmetics, Gabriela Jewelry, Magic Hut, Mad About Soccer and Splash Perfumes. The mall also caters to a wide range of budgets, and has many souvenir and knick knack stalls. Bayside Marketplace is a good place to begin a night out, as there are a wide assortment of restaurants and bars. You can choose from chains like Hooters and Chilis or local eateries such as Largo Seafood & Grill and Off the Hookah. At times, especially on weekends, the atmosphere gets very energetic with dancing and live music. Additionally, visitors can book a range of tours from this area.
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Miami Seaquarium
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The Miami Seaquarium is a 38 acre (15 hectare) marine park that excels in preserving, protecting and educating visitors about aquatic creatures. There are dozens of shows and exhibits including a tropical reef; the Shark Channel, with feeding presentations; and Discovery Bay, a natural mangrove habitat that serves as a refuge for rehabilitating rescued sea turtles.

Check out the Pacific white-sided dolphins or the West Indian manatees being nursed back to health. Frequent shows include dazzling performances from the Seaquarium’s finest residents, including a massive killer whale, dolphins, and sea lions. Dolphin Harbor is an especially fun venue for watching marine mammals play and show off; it also offers the popular Dolphin Encounter, which allows visitors to touch and swim with dolphins in the Flipper Lagoon.

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Little Havana
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A vibrant Hispanic culture permeates everything in Little Havana - colorful murals, monuments to heroes past and present, elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, and cigar rollers deeply at work amidst Little Havana’s ever-present aroma of Cuban coffee. These scenes of daily Little Havana life play out amidst a backdrop of Little Havana’s pulsating music, vibrant storefronts, unique art galleries and quaint restaurants.

The neighborhood’s colorful spirit unfolds on Calle Ocho, Little Havana’s bustling main street, packed with shops and restaurants. Farther down Calle Ocho, between SW 15th and 17th avenues, the Arts District contains a string of studios and galleries that showcase some of the best Latin American art in the country. Nearby, the Bay of Pigs Museum & Library enshrines the crew of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. The two blocks SW 13th street, south of Calle Ocho, contain a series of monuments of Cuban patriots and freedom fighters.

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Fort Lauderdale Beachfront
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Featuring over 23 miles (37 kilometers) of pristine beach, visitors will have plenty of opportunities to swim and sunbathe. The Fort Lauderdale beachfront offers a wide number of experiences, like wind surfing, jet skiing, boating, snorkeling, deep sea fishing and scuba diving. If you’d rather stay on land, jogging, cycling, rollerblading and beach sports like volleyball and Frisbee are worthwhile beachfront options.

Spend some time in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, known for its scuba diving offerings and pier where you can watch fishermen reeling in fresh catch. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is another top experience when exploring Fort Lauderdale’s beachfront, and can be accessed via the pedestrian tunnel under A1A. This park has a tropical-feel and offers chances to kayak, fish and cycle. And of course, visiting the beaches themselves is a must, like the family-friendly Deerfield Beach, trendy Fort Lauderdale Beach and adventure-focused Hallandale Beach.

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Wynwood
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Known as a trendy arts district, Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood is one of best inner-city escapes to be had while visiting the Magic City. With more than 70 arts galleries, a slew of hip coffee shops and dozens of niche museums and artistic collections, walking through “the Wyn” will give you a good understanding of why this little alcove is called Miami’s heart and soul.

Also famous for its Wynwood Walls, the streets of the Wyn are lined with murals created by some of Miami’s famous artists. It’s a source of pride for the neighborhood, as it successfully blends work from the up-and-coming artists with that of those who are already established in the field. And when night falls, the area comes alive with fun-seekers out to grab a bite to eat at one of the many hip eateries and bars. A trip to the Wynwood neighborhood is a sure-fire way to see what makes Miami magical.

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More Things to Do in Florida

Fountain of Youth

Fountain of Youth

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For thousands of years, people have journeyed the earth in search of a so called "Fountain of Youth," hoping that a single sip from the spring will restore them to full health and vitality.

According to legend, the famous Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon came to Florida in the 16th century in search of this miraculous fountain. He claimed the land for the Spanish crown, and soon afterward, another explorer arrived and founded St. Augustine- the oldest continuously occupied European settlement within the continental United States. It wasn't until 1901 that an enterprising woman bought an estate in St. Augustine and began to charge people to drink from the fountain located on the property. She claimed that it was Ponce de Leon's fountain of youth, and patrons immediately began flocking to the site. Whether or not you believe in the legend, it can't hurt to to see what happens if you take a sip from the fountain.
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Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove

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Coconut Grove is a bayside village in Miami, recognized as the oldest modern continuously inhabited neighborhood in the city. Originally settled in the 1800s, Coconut Grove is sometimes referred to as “Bohemia on the Bay.” Complete with a pedestrian-friendly village center where visitors can wander galleries, go shopping or enjoy lunch at a quaint sidewalk café. There are some recognizable chain restaurants and open-air malls but also college bars, as students from nearby Florida International University and the University of Miami flock to the area, especially as the sun goes down. Known locally as “the Grove,” its bay-front location also showcases a number of various parks.

Village West, a noted sub-area, is the modern-day historic home of Bahamian and African-American descendants of Coconut Grove’s earliest settlers. There is evidence that settlers from the Bahamas came via Key West in order to work at the Peacock Inn.

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Intracoastal Waterway Fort Lauderdale

Intracoastal Waterway Fort Lauderdale

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Touring the Intracoastal Waterway, you’ll understand why Fort Lauderdale is nicknamed the “Venice of America.” Made up of beautiful canals lined with palm trees, restaurants, hotels and attractions, the Intracoastal Waterway is both a means for transportation and an experience in itself.

Stretching 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) between the United States’ Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the main purpose of the Intracoastal Waterway is to provide a navigable route for ships that doesn’t present many hazards. Sightseeing from the Intracoastal Waterway is a special experience, as it allows you to take in Fort Lauderdale’s resort-like skyline, high-end real estate, yachts and attractions like Hollywood and the Las Olas Riverfront complex in a relaxing manner. For those who enjoy wildlife viewing, it’s not uncommon to also see manatees.

The Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale can also be enjoyed on land, mainly from one of the city’s waterfront restaurants.

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Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

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There are very few places in the world where you can spend quality time watching manatees, one of the most unusual marine mammals. With their large fin-like tails, they are though to be the inspiration for mythological mermaids. And Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge along Florida’s Gulf Coast is arguably the best spot in the world to see them. This 46-acre refuge was created to protect the manatees that congregate here in large numbers during the winter months. The unique location is home to a network of underground springs that coalesce into the headwaters of the Crystal River. A collection of nine islands offers vital resting areas for these slow moving animals, which can get hurt or stressed by motorboats.

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Sawgrass Recreation Park

Sawgrass Recreation Park

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A marshy expanse of humid swamps, the majority of the 1.5 million acres that make up the Florida Everglades are inaccessible wilderness. With a visit to Sawgrass Recreation Park, however, guests are able to ride on a high-speed airboat and navigate the same marshes where Seminole Indians once roamed and endangered animals still call home.

Located only 30 minutes outside the urban streets of downtown Ft. Lauderdale, the Sawgrass Recreation Park not only provides thrilling rides over the glassy waters of the Everglades, but also gives visitors the chance to spot alligators living in the wild and other marshland animals such as slithery pythons, black leopards, and the endangered Florida panther.

Morning hours are best during the summer months as afternoons in the Everglades are prone to wind and thunderstorms, although those looking for a unique thrill can take part in the night time alligator viewing sessions which depart into the marshes various nights per week.

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Southernmost Point of the Continental USA

Southernmost Point of the Continental USA

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The ultimate reminder of Key West's prime location and ideal climate, this monument is supposedly the southernmost point in the continental U.S. Built to resemble a buoy, this Southernmost Point is really better suited as a photo op than an actual marker. Its location is not in fact the southernmost point in the continental U.S., but that fact is merely a technicality. No one at home will know this when they are jealously drooling over pictures of you enjoying the tropical weather that treats those who journey close to the equator! Snag a photo in front of the buoy to commemorate your trip and you will be certain to sigh over pictures from that day for years to come.
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SeaWorld® Orlando

SeaWorld® Orlando

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A fantastic blend of marine animals and thrill rides, SeaWorld is home to both Shamu the killer whale and Kraken, the floorless coaster. Journey to Atlantis brings both concepts together: it's an oceanic water-coaster with a 60 foot (18 meter) vertical drop. Little ones can ride a dolphin on the Sea Carousel, twist around on Jazzy Jellies, or ride the Shamu Express. Away from the rides, its beautifully landscaped grounds include a 17 acre (6.9 hectare) lagoon, flamingo and pelican ponds, and a lush tropical rainforest. SeaWorld also offers interactive programs, including the Sharks Deep Dive, which gives guests a chance to have limited, hands-off contact with more than 50 sharks. SeaWorld also provides opportunities to feed stingrays, sea lions, and other critters. Shows are equally spectacular.
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Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

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Miami is often called the Magic City, and if it truly is, this opulent Italian Renaissance-style villa, the housing equivalent to a Fabergé egg, is its most fairy-tale residence. Built for industrialist James Deering in 1916, Vizcaya Palace brims with 15th to 19th century furniture, tapestries, paintings and decorative arts.

The poetic seaside grounds, which front Biscayne Bay, are full of splendid gardens (including a secret garden), beautiful fountains, sculptures, elegant pools, a charming Florentine gazebo, canals running everywhere and lots of trails. The landscape and architecture were influenced by Veneto and Tuscan Italian Renaissance models and designed in the Mediterranean Revival architecture style. Nearly 200,000 people visit Vizcaya each year including some of the world's leading dignitaries such as President Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Queen Elizabeth of England and King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain.

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International Drive

International Drive

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One of the most exciting and flashy strips in America, I-Drive is packed with restaurants, hotels, shopping, and dinner theaters. And if that’s not enough, six of the world’s greatest theme parks make their home on I-Drive: SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Wet 'n' Wild, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Aquatica.

I-Drive winds past Big Sand Lake, and part of the road is lined with palm trees and a pleasant walking district. Also here is Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Skyventure. Head to Pointe Orlando or Prime Outlets International for mega-mall shopping, or browse the quirky independent shops on Antique Row.

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Everglades Holiday Park

Everglades Holiday Park

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Nicknamed the "Gateway to the Everglades," this 29 acre (.12 sq. km) park has been entertaining and educating visitors for more than 30 years. Most famous for its guided airboat rides, as well as being the home to the Animal Planet’s Gator Boys show, Everglades Holiday Park is a classic—if a bit kitschy—introduction to the Everglades and its wild inhabitants. With covered airboats, the ride into the Everglades is a bit more civilized and finding alligators is almost guaranteed, as the guides know their scaly neighbors by sight. The gator “wrestling” show by the Gator Boys is a crowd favorite; those who like to walk on the wild side can even get their picture taken holding a live gator.

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Jungle Queen Riverboat

Jungle Queen Riverboat

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Voyage the waterways of Fort Lauderdale's New River on the Jungle Queen Riverboat and stop at a Native American village and experience a stunning tropical island environment complete with extraordinay plants and birds and tussling alligators. For more than 50 years, visitors have traveled on this dignified riverboat to be entertained by the crew and sights of Fort Lauderdale. The Jungle Queen Riverboat Company owns several boats and offers two distinct tours.

The Sightseeing Cruise lasts about 3 hours, and will take you up the New River, including a stopover at the "Jungle Queen Indian Village." The Bar-B-Que and Shrimp Dinner Cruise lasts roughly 4 hours, and also includes a trip up the New River. There is an island stopover for an all-you-can-eat shrimp and ribs dinner and a live variety show amid tropical foliage.

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