There's much more to Florida than world-class amusement parks (though it boasts some of the best).

With an incredible blend of experiences that combine a rich, multi-cultural history, diverse cities and natural wonderlands, your must-see list will quickly become a mile long.

Whether savoring Haitian cuisine within the borders of Little Haiti in Miami or submerging yourself into the waters of a crystal-clear spring, Florida will have you planning your next trip before you even leave. Here are 14 of our favorite things to do when you get there.

Local Flavor: These are the best places to eat and drink in Miami

Diagon Alley in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando.
Head to Universal Studios to explore its movie-themed worlds © NavinTar / Shutterstock

1. Spend a day at one of the many amusement parks

We figured we'd kick off this article with one of the best things Florida is known for – world-class amusement parks that promise endless excitement and unforgettable memories for people of all ages.

Everyone's heard of Disney, but with dozens of theme parks scattered around the state from Tampa to the theme park hub Orlando, there are lots to choose from, and you can't come to Florida without experiencing at least one!

Here's how to plan the ultimate weekend in Tampa

Immerse yourself in the magic of Hollywood as you embark on movie-themed, thrill-seeking rides at Universal Studios. The park is set to open its DreamWorks-themed area this summer, where guests will be able to explore attractions from the animation studio's most famous franchises like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda.

Inspire your little builder at Legoland, with its martial arts-themed area called Ninjago, plus a set of painstakingly recreated American cities in Miniland USA and a space to build your own block masterpiece. If you're traveling with little ones who are avid Peppa Pig fans, they'll squeal at the chance to run through the newly opened Peppa Pig Theme Park.

Planning tip: Check out the "Offers" page on the websites of the theme parks you visit instead of purchasing your tickets at face value. There are often promotions and discounted rates available if you extend your days at the park, which could work in your favor and help save some cash.

Add these theme parks to your Florida itinerary

2. Get a taste of Japanese culture at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Keen on experiencing a taste of Japan without the 10+ hour flight from Florida? The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach makes it possible by bringing Japan to South Florida.

Built to preserve Japanese culture in Florida and build cultural understanding between Japan and the US, the site contains a museum and garden that vividly showcases aspects of Japan's culture. Stroll through 16 acres of land outdoors, including a series of Japanese-inspired gardens, a bonsai collection and lakes filled with koi fish and other structures.

The museum houses over 7000 Japanese art objects and artifacts, each telling a unique story of the country's rich culture. Hungry? Swing by the on-site cafe – the Pan-Asian menu allows visitors to indulge in tasty Japanese treats.

Planning tip: On select Saturdays, Morikami demonstrates a traditional Japanese tea ceremony inside the on-site Seishin-an tea house. Consider planning your visit around one of the days when a cultural demonstration will happen.

A young boy holding on tight on an airboat in the Florida Everglades
Hold on tight as you explore the Everglades on an airboat © Getty Images

3. Skim through the waters of the Everglades on an airboat

When many people think of Florida, the Everglades are one of the first things that come to mind. A vast expanse of shimmering wetlands and lush marshes, the Everglades is a source of unique wildlife and natural preservation.

As the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, the national park is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, providing habitat for various threatened and endangered species.

One of the best ways to explore the Everglades is onboard an airboat. Companies like Everglades Safari Park make it possible to easily spot alligators, turtles, birds, and many other animals that call the area home.

Looking for more great experiences? Here are our top picks in Everglades National Park

4. Embark on a safari from the comfort of your car

Your vehicle becomes a vessel of exploration at the Lion Country Safari, where you can enjoy wildlife sightings as you journey through their naturalistic habitats.

Located in West Palm Beach, Lion Country Safari allows you to drive through a 4-mile safari inhabited by herds of animals. Giraffes, alpacas, lions, zebras, and ostriches are just a few of the many animals you can expect to see roaming the land.

Beyond the drive-through adventure, the park's walking areas provide up-close encounters with animals like goats in the petting zoo area. You can even opt for a complimentary pontoon boat ride for closer views of birds and primates.

5. Have dinner on a gondola in Fort Lauderdale

Unique dining experiences are scattered throughout Florida, and now you can create more memories with a gondola dinner in the state's southern region. Run by Riverfront Gondola Tours, for 90 minutes, you and up to five guests will travel through the canals of Fort Lauderdale while enjoying your company and the views of the city.

With the option of ordering from Casa Sensei, a nearby waterfront restaurant, you can enjoy a fusion of Japanese and Latin cuisine on your ride until you return to the dock.

Two women crossing the street in Miami while laughing
Explore Miami's neighborhoods to understand all the cultures that make the city great © Westend61 / Getty Images

6. Explore popular cultural neighborhoods in Miami

Home to a plethora of unique cultures, each neighborhood in Miami pulsates with its unique rhythm, offering an immersive experience into the heart of different cultures.

In Little Havana, the air is infused with soulful melodies of salsa music, while the historic landmarks tell tales of Cuban heritage. The markets, dance studios, spiritual businesses, and statues of prominent leaders like Touissant Louverture in Little Haiti form a community that proudly highlights Haitian culture.

Stop by the Historic Overtown, one of Miami's oldest neighborhoods that served as a cultural hub for Black artists during segregation. Learn more about each neighborhood and what you can do there in our insider's guide – your next trip will be an enriching journey where you'll leave with a broadened perspective and celebrate the global cultures woven into the city's identity.

Planning tip: For a more knowledgeable tour with personal insight and the opportunity to ask questions about some of the businesses and infrastructure of the different neighborhoods, we recommend booking a tour with reputable companies like Tap Tap Tours, who can explain the history and significance of each community.

Staying for the weekend? Save this ultimate weekend itinerary for Miami's South Beach

7. Cruise on Biscayne Beach at high speeds with Thriller Miami

Miami is known for being a city with high energy, and there is perhaps no better experience to match that intensity than the Thriller Miami Speedboat. Setting sail from the docks at the Bayside Marketplace, the speedboat takes riders on a 45-minute sightseeing tour at speeds up to 40 mph.

Take in the Biscayne Bay, the City of Miami Beach, Fisher Island and finish with a tour of the Mansions on Star Island, where you'll see the homes of celebrities like Will Smith. You'll experience lots of drops, twists, and turns in between on this ride and may even get a little wet.

Planning tip: Aim to get a seat toward the front or middle of the boat to avoid getting completely soaked. The last few rows on the boat are known to leave riders more drenched than they probably planned to be.

Put in some towel time at these Florida beaches

Manatees underwater , swimming close to the surface in the hot springs sanctuary from Crystal River
Get up close with manatees in Crystal River (but no touching, please!) © THIERRY EIDENWEIL / Getty Images

8. Spot manatees through a clear kayak in Crystal River

Manatee season in Florida runs from November to April and is the perfect time to see these majestic animals as they migrate to Florida's warm waters in the winter. While you could see manatees from an observation deck at facilities like the Manatee Lagoon, Get Up and Go Kayaking brings you straight to the water for an up-close yet respectful and ethical encounter.

On a two-hour nature tour inside a transparent kayak, you'll get to paddle your way to see manatees from a different perspective.

9. Stay in a colorful tiny home in Matlacha

Matlacha is a quaint, artsy town in Florida with a strong fishing community whose bright colorful shops can't be missed. Within Matlacha, a tiny 5-home village awaits you for a unique stay in Florida.

For about $150 a night, the homes include a full kitchenette and access to community amenities like a BBQ grill, dock, deck, and kayak launch. A stay in one of the tiny homes also gives you the chance to explore the town and visit one of the local art galleries or even go on a fishing tour.

10. Learn about Florida's Black History

Florida's Black history encompasses stories of triumph over adversity, resilience, and remarkable contributions. Thankfully, many historical sites in Florida are still in place or have been established to visit. The Mary McLeod Bethune Home in Daytona Beach is a testament to the life and legacy of educator, activist, and founder of Bethune­-Cookman University, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.

In New Smyrna Beach, the Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum houses and displays exhibits that reflect the history of race relations in Florida throughout the twentieth century. As you trace sites like these, you gain insights into various Black communities in the state and their invaluable contributions to modern-day Florida.

Saturn 5 rocket at Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Learn about space travel at the Kennedy Space Center © Robert Hoetink / Shutterstock

11. Immerse yourself in space exploration at the Kennedy Space Center

The Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island is a space lover's dream. As you step onto the facility's grounds, you'll find yourself engulfed in the world of innovative technology and exploration.

Organized into Mission Zones, where the attractions and tours are run by chronological era, the center truly takes you through a journey of the work that has been done in the industry and what is to come. If you're lucky, you may visit during a live rocket launch and get to sit front row as yet another spacecraft launches into the air.

12. Recharge in the waters of Ginnie Springs

Nestled in the natural splendor of High Springs, Ginnie Springs emerges as a destination whose crystal-clear waters provide the perfect day trip or weekend escape. Whether you're in the mood to go tubing in the calming waters, snorkeling in the river where catfish and other critters lie, or exploring underwater caves, Ginnie Springs is truly a Florida gem.

Planning tip: As you can imagine, many people aim to experience these clear waters, so crowding is often an issue at Ginnie. To combat this, consider visiting on a weekday and avoid holidays.

13. Paint the walls at Miami's outdoor street art museum

Composed of walls elaborately painted by worldwide artists, Wynwood Walls has become a "must-see" stop when in Miami. Held primarily outdoors, the museum is an artistic oasis, with every corner unveiling creative, colorful pieces of large murals that tell their own unique story.

One of the most exciting parts of visiting Wynwood Walls is the "Street Art Experience," where you're given bottles of spray paint to contribute a piece of your artistry to the walls. The vibrancy of this museum encapsulates Miami's artistic soul, extending the spirit of creativity with you as you continue your journey through Florida.

Planning tip: If you are a student, don't forget to bring your student ID card to receive 50% off the admission fee!

Keep planning your trip to Florida

This article was first published Sep 25, 2021 and updated Apr 3, 2024.

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