The Top 20 Must-See Places in Florida

The State Seal of Florida

The State Seal of Florida

The Flowery Land

Florida's name comes from the Spanish word for "flowery." Spanish explorer Ponce de León named the region La Florida, which means "flowery land"—and for good reason, too. Florida has some incredible flora, perhaps some of the most diverse and beautiful flora in the world.

In addition to the plants, Florida is gifted with fine beaches, a warm climate, and a variety of animal species. The natural beauty of Florida has drawn people from around the world and made the state a classic travel destination. As a result, Florida boasts many of the country's greatest and most popular attractions and resorts, including Disney World, Universal Studios Orlando, and Sea World.

Whether you are interested in the cities or the reserves, the theme parks, or the national parks, this top 20 guide will help you to identify the places you want to visit on your next trip to the great state of Florida.

Florida Sights

There are less than 100 Florida Panthers remaining in the world.

There are less than 100 Florida Panthers remaining in the world.

A map of the Everglades.

A map of the Everglades.

The Florida Mall

The Florida Mall

Guns at Fort Clinch

Guns at Fort Clinch

Your Most Amazing Trip to Florida

20. Billie Swamp Safari

Step on to the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation with 2,200 acres of diverse Everglades wetlands and exotic animals. The area has many airboat trails that allow guests to enjoy tours through the swamp and experience a true swamp safari.

19. Fort Myers Tanger Outlet Center

An outdoor shopping center with over 40 retailers from the Nike Factory Store to the Sunglass Hut to Calvin Kleen, Tanger Outlets have it all.

18. Fort Clinch State Park

Explore an old fort used in Seminal Wars and the American Civil War. Located in the very northeastern corner of Florida. Features some family recreation activities, living history and military re-enactments, and the possibility to see a dolphin or manatee.

17. Butterfly World

Butterfly World is exactly what it sounds like, the world's largest butterfly house. Located just ten miles north of Ft Lauderdale and right off the Florida Turnpike, it is easy to access and relatively affordable. Visit their website to get their full story of their history, sign up for a free subscription, learn about children's activities, and much more!

16. The Florida Mall

The very large Florida Mall contains seven anchor stores and 250 retail venues. The Mall is located close to much of the action in Orlando and is worth a visit if you are in the area.

15. Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is a barrier island located on the Gulf Coast of Florida near Fort Myers. The island holds the City of Sanibel with a relatively small population of roughly 6,000. The island is also home to the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the Sanibel Lighthouse, Sanibel Historical Village, and many popular beaches. The beaches at Sanibel are well known for their seashells, as many get washed up on shore.

14. The Mall at Millenia

Perhaps Florida's most glamorous mall featuring Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's, and Macy's as Anchor stores. With three stories of shopping at your finger tips, Orlando's first Apple Store, and many premium retailers, this is the place to be if you like upscale shopping.

13. Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

A fantastic zoo with animals from around the world!

12. Daytona Lagoon Waterpark and Family Fun Center

A year-round family entertainment center with everything from mini golf to laser tag to go-karts not to mention a full waterpark with seven different attractions.

11. Adventure Island - Busch Gardens Waterpark

Located in Tampa Bay, Adventure Island has some of the best water rides in the state. Rip Tide, for example, features a 55-foot drop and allows four people to ride at once, each in their own lane. Imagine the racing fun for a family of four!

Mangrove trees in the Everglades help prevent the shore from erosion.

Mangrove trees in the Everglades help prevent the shore from erosion.

Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, one of the two theme parks in Universal Studios Orlando.

Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, one of the two theme parks in Universal Studios Orlando.

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.

10. Cocoa Beach

Known as one of the best beaches in the State and not far from Orlando. Check it out!

9. Biscayne National Park

Have you ever seen a coral reef? Explored history underwater? Biscayne National Park is one of the country's most unusual protected reserves featuring sights you won't see anywhere else. Take a ride in a glass-bottom canoe, go snorkeling, see underwater videos, and explore indoor exhibits. These are some of the activities you can do while visiting Biscayne National Park. The "Plan your Visit" tab on the park's website will help you explore the opportunities available for your time at Biscayne.

8. Caladesi Island State Park

Located on Florida's west coast, the park allows for boating, fishing, hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, swimming, and more. Amenities at the park include showers, concessions, picnic areas, and a playground. Also known as a great spot for weddings!

7. St. Augustine

St. Augustine is the oldest European established city in the United States. Is was founded in 1565 by the Spanish explorer, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. From the Lighthouse to The Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine is packed with history, excitement, and family fun.

6. Universal Studios Orlando

The company that makes some of America's best movies and entertainment also has some of the best-themed rides, attractions, shopping, and dining. Universal Studios Orlando features two theme parks, a resort with three on-site hotels, 60 different places to shop, and over 50 restaurants. It's not cheap, but it is an incredible little world.

5. Sea World Orlando

Sea World is another classic Florida destination. It is a theme park that actually has an incredible theme! From the famous Shamu Stadium to the Sky Tower, to the Manta roller coaster, it's all a family fun blast!

4. The Florida Keys and Surrounding State Parks

If can make it all the way south, don't miss going all the way down to the Florida Keys. There are several state parks and many great beaches in the area.

Which is your favorite?

Kennedy Space Center

The Vehicle Assembly Building, an iconic image at the Kennedy Space Center. This is where they assemble spacecraft.

The Vehicle Assembly Building, an iconic image at the Kennedy Space Center. This is where they assemble spacecraft.

3. Disney World

Disney World Disney World is the classic Florida destination. It's the place where dreams come true!

2. Everglades National Park

Unlike the Universal Studios and the Disney Worlds, the Everglades offer a unique sense of hinterland, even in a state that is home to over 19 million people. According to the National Park service, it is the United States' largest subtropical wilderness. It is the third largest national park in the 48 states, covering over 1.5 million acres. The park is internationally recognized for providing habitat to many threatened species and its unique wetland nature. The Everglades might not be for everyone, but it is one of the most incredible parks in the world. There are a lot of outdoor activities available at the park, but it is wise to plan in advance to make the most of your time. The official park website has a lot more details on things to do, directions, hours, fees, and general information.

1. The Kennedy Space Center

Visit the site NASA uses at the launching pad for every US space flight dating back to 1968. The center is located on Merritt Island, which geographically positioned about halfway between Jacksonville and Miami. Experience some of man's greatest engineering work here at the center where spacecraft are not only launched, but built. Tours of the center are offered and can include visiting the Launch Center or Launch Pad 39-A. If you are in the area, you don't want to miss this incredible Florida attraction!

Explore more!

Thanks for reading. Best wishes on your future travels. Enjoy Florida!


Liz Westwood from UK on July 17, 2018:

This gives a good overview with some good illustrations to someone like me, who has yet to visit Florida.

Jason Matthews (author) from North Carolina on May 19, 2018:

@Linda Jones, thanks for letting us know about the artesian springs.

@Emmy K, your feedback is much appreciated!

Emmy K on May 15, 2018:

You guys spelled

"Gulf coast" "Golf Coast"

Just trying to help.

Linda Jones on May 08, 2018:

Don’t forget to visit beautiful natural Florida artisian springs. Clear, gorgeous Florida vegetation...many in a in a park environment, 72 degree water year round! Blue Springs, Alexander Springs, Ponce de Leon, Wakulla, Rock Springs, just to name a few of the many!!! Refreshing and relaxing way to see Florida other than hot, sandy beaches!

Jason Matthews (author) from North Carolina on February 21, 2017:

Thanks to all for reading and for taking the time to share your comments and suggestions!

@Adam, I am sorry that you are not pleased with my selections. The list is compiled with many different types of travelers in mind. Some travelers really enjoy shopping, but I know that's not for everyone. Thanks again for reading and sharing your opinion!

Adam Macer on February 16, 2017:

2 of your 20 are shopping malls?.. I'll find wisdom elsewhere thanks..

albert on March 12, 2016:

Florida offers a lot of most beautiful and alluring destination to have fun for visitors but I have a good experience of Biscayne National Park because I have been there after my New york to Niagara falls bus tours about more than three times in my life. Every time had lots of fun there. I will love to be there again in future.

Kim Power Barnes from St. John's, Newfoundland on February 09, 2016:

We've been to Florida 10 times so far, (and counting) and just love it! We've seen most of the 'must sees' on your list and I'd add Key West, Siesta Key Beach and Johns Pass Village and Boardwalk to that list. So many things to see and do in Florida and, if you just want to sit back and watch the sunset into the sea, that's all good too! Cheers!

albert on January 24, 2016:

I appreciate your effort and I would like to say that your shared all destinations are the best for visit. I also visited both these places like Cocoa Beach and Disney World before going to enjoy my Niagara Falls bus tours but I really like all of them.

Robilo2 on February 07, 2015:

We have been to: The Florida Mall, St. Augustine, Universal Studios, Sea World, Disney, and Kennedy Space Center !

anghela on May 24, 2014:

perfect for my project

Agnes on December 22, 2012:

I love Florida, especially the less busy parts. I avoid crowds, I like St. Augustine though (it gets busy in the season), I always come back there!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on November 03, 2012:

Hi Jason. Great list for anyone making a trip to Florida. I've made many trips to Florida over the years but still have a number of places on your list to visit. Great job, will have to bookmark for my next trip.

Don Simkovich from Pasadena, CA on September 21, 2012:

The Florida Keys would be intriguing to see. This gives a different perspective to Florida. I remember taking a cruise along the canals of Ft Lauderdale and seeing the iguanas along the way.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on August 31, 2012:

I spent seven winter's in Leesburg, Fl. I would love to see the sites you mentioned, esp. the mall at millenia. Thank you..Enjoyed..

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