Florida has many interesting attractions. It is the second most visited state in the United States ranking just behind California. Approximately six million tourist come to Florida each year and can choose to see a wide variety of attractions. If you are coming to Florida, here are 15 you will not want to miss.
1. Sea World Orlando
Sea World Orlando is a combination of theme park and marine-life based zoological park. The park contains eight different areas called seas. Designed to look like Key West, Florida, the Sea of Shadows area contains the Dolphin Theater. The animals in this region, including southern stingrays and loggerhead sea turtles, all reside in shallow water. Also, located in the Sea of Shadows, is the Mantra Rollercoaster that takes riders in the prone position up to 56 miles per hour above the park. The Sea of Legends contains the Kraken floorless rollercoaster. The fastest rollercoaster at Sea World Orlando, it reaches speeds up to 65 miles per hour and features three subterranean dives. Antarica comes to Florida in the unique Sea of Ice exhibit where guests journey on the largest ride at the park. Once the ride is finished, guests emerge into an area filled with over 200 penguins and very few boundaries. Other areas of the park include the Mediterranean Sea of Delight area, the Sea of Mystery shark area, and the Sea of Fun children’s area. The most visited part of the park is the Sea of Power area where visitors enjoy Sea World Orlando’s iconic killer whale shows.
If you are visiting Sea World Orlando, then:
- Take in as many interactive experiences as you can afford for an experience you will not forget
- Start your visit to the dolphin feeding tank and work around the park from there
- Play in the water areas as the park can be very hot
- Sit in the soak zone during the killer whale show
- Buy the unlimited food and drink passes so that you can snack throughout the day
2. Magic Kingdom
A trip to Magic Kingdom is the chance to visit six themed lands spread across 107 acres. It is an experience that is enjoyed by almost 19 million visitors each year. After visitors buy their tickets, they enter Main Street U.S.A. which resembles 20th century small-town America. Main Street is the location of the iconic Cinderella Castle, and home to many businesses selling souvenirs. Other themed lands include Adventureland resembling foreign countries, Frontier land resembling an American old west community, Liberty Square resembling an American Revolutionary community, Fantasyland resembling a medieval fair, and Tomorrowland resembling an intergalactic city. Fantasyland in particular caters to young children who often enjoy riding Dumbo the Flying Elephant. A popular attraction at the park is the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which allows riders to stay out of the sun during the entire que and ride. If you would enjoy meeting a favorite children’s character, then make sure to go to the Main Street Town Square Theater where this experience is guaranteed. For older children and adults, a favorite ride is Splash Mountain with its 52-foot 45-degree drop near the end. If you are hot, then try to sit near the front where you will likely get wet. The Main Street Electrical Parade led by Tinkerbell occurs each night so make sure to get in place early to watch this lighted parade.
Check out these tips:
- Get the Fastpass for the most popular rides. It can be obtained online up to 30 days before your visit.
- If you need to make the most of your day, eat and watch the night parade at the same time from the porch at Tony’s Town Square Porch
- Skip the Extra Magic Hours. While you will have shorter lines early, the park fills up faster later meaning long lines
- If you are using the shuttle to get to a Walt Disney Resort, then linger in the park after the fireworks show. The buses run for two hours.
- The best time to visit Magic Kingdom is between September and November but avoid holidays.
3. Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center is located Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge. At the center, visitors can view a number of rockets and shuttles including Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Saturn V Rocket. Visitors can participate in a half-day astronaut training experience allowing them to experience some of the training that astronauts go through. Additionally, at the center, visitors can have lunch with a veteran astronaut learning their thoughts on the current space situation and their thoughts on their journey into space. Visitors can also watch two IMAX movies exploring the history of man in space. Children will enjoy playing in the Journey to Mars exhibit area that allows them to explore a trip to the red planet by climbing, jumping, and doing other physical activities. Visitors can also visit the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Memorial.
Tips for Visiting:
- Summer and early fall often have late afternoon showers. Since much of the park is outdoors, visitors should plan accordingly.
- Pay for the bus tour as you get much closer to the exhibits than on the free bus
- The center opens at 9 AM. Especially during the summer, many tours fill up quickly.
- Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge where the center is located has miles of hiking trails
4. Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park covers 1.5 million acres and there is plenty to do at the park. Stroll down the Anhinga Trail to visit alligators, turtles, and many birds including herons while a climb up the 65 foot high Shark Valley Observation Tower brings visitors eye-to-eye with animals living in the top of the trees. Nine-Mile Pond is a great place to canoe in an old growth Mangrove Forest or plan a longer canoe and camping trip on the Wilderness Waterway. This park features a 43 mile bike ride along primitive trails. The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is a great place to get more information about the park, and visitors can tour the small art gallery featuring art inspired by the Everglades. Take the two-hour tram tour to see many of the many sites in the park and hear about the history of the park.
Tips for your visit:
- Go on the usually free ranger programs that are extremely informative
- Take a boat tour with a naturalist
- Explore the park at night for amazing night sky views
- Wear old shoes and long pants so you can go on a Slough Slog swamp tour
- September and October are wet months with frequent late afternoon rains
5. Busch Gardens Tampa
Reaching speeds up to 60 miles an hour, Cheetah Hunt, an Intiman launched steel roller coaster, is just one of the exciting rides that visitors find at Busch Gardens Tampa. Visitors also can ride the 3,185 foot long SheiKra dive rollercoaster, but the real stars of the show at Busch Gardens Tampa are the 2,700 animals that are spread across the 335 acre park. No trip to Busch Gardens Tampa would be complete without taking in a show or two. One of the most exciting tours is Opening Night Critters that features rescued domestic and exotic animals including horses and kangaroos. Visitors can get even closer to many of the animals by taking one of the park’s tours. The best tour is the five-hour guided park adventure tour that allows visitors priority seating at all shows, front of the line access to all rides, and many behind-the-scene experiences.
- Visit the animals in the morning and evening when they are most active
- After seeing the animals, go to the back of the park and work your way forward to beat the crowds
- If you don’t want to be wet all day and want to ride the exciting Taganyika Tidal Wave with its 55-foot drop
- Enjoy a southern cooked meal at Crown Colony House where kids eat free
Epcot contains 11 huts each with corporate sponsorship that celebrates human achievement. One of these huts is Spaceship Earth is the most recognized theme park attraction in the world. Inside the hut, travelers are taken through a 15-minute dark ride and then as they emerge into the light are shown how communication has been key to the advancement of society. The glass pyramid, called Imagination, is another iconic theme park symbol with ImageWorks is a creative playground of the future. The second part of Epcot contains 11 pavilions dedicated to countries around the world. Each pavilion is constructed to resemble a building in the country that it represents. As much as possible, each pavilion is manned by residents of the country that they represent. This area of the park also contains an African restaurant despite Africa not having one of the huts. Over 11 million people visit Epcot each year.
When visiting Epcot:
- Epcot covers twice as much area as Magic Kingdom. Therefore, you need to get an early start
- Participate in the Meet the Character programs around the different world pavilions
- School-age children will enjoy the interactive Agent P secret agent program that can be obtained at my locations
- Make advance dining reservations up to six months in advance
7. Islands of Adventure
Islands of Adventure is owned by Universal Studios. The park has several different areas including Marvel Super Hero Island which features buildings built with exaggerated lines and angles and covered with color-changing paint to resemble books from the popular comic books. Toon Lagoon is an area filled with water-based rides along with Popeye’s Ship filled with three-levels of interactive fun. The largest rides in the park are found in Jurassic Park that also contains discovery-based exhibits. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, covering 20 acres, is filled with rides, shops, and exhibits related to the popular book series. The Lost Continent is Islands of Adventure’s show area. Seuss Land is filled with rides for children.
When visiting, follow these tips:
- Participate in the child swap program- One adult stays with young children while the other adult rides with older children, and then the adult that waited gets immediate access to the ride
- Consider splitting up groups to take advantage of the single rider program that will get you on popular rides much faster
- If you have young children, then consider adjusting bedtime. Seuss Land is less busy during afternoon nap times and after many toddlers have gone to bed
The 110 acre theme park and wildlife preserve called Gatorland is a great place to learn more about alligators and crocodiles including the rare leucism alligators that are totally white except for their eyes. Visitors can zip line along a 1,200 foot course high above alligator pools. They can also watch people wrestle alligators and participate in alligator feedings. The park also features a narrow-gauge railway that riders can ride around the park to see the more remote areas. The park offers several special tours including one that allows visitors to get within feet of the alligator breeding pool without any physical barriers in place. Visitors can also explore the park at night and feed the alligators hot dogs. The Up Close Encounter show allows visitors to see animals from around the world at an exciting educational show.
Here are some tips so you will enjoy your time at Gatorland more:
- During the first half of the year, bird enthusiasts and photographers can enter the park early to capture better photos on select days of the week
- For an additional fee, visitors can participate in a special trainer program to experience behind-the-scene feedings and other parts of the operation
- Close to the Orlando Airport for those looking for something fun to do before a late flight
9. Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrates great movie and television history. Almost as soon as visitors enter the park, they are whisked away to Hollywood Boulevard for an 18 minute tour highlighting Hollywood’s greatest stars which is a great opportunities for photos. The 135 acre park also features the Academy of Television Arts and Science Hall of Fame. Visitors who love Pixar films will want to head to Pixar Place to view some of the sound stages from many of these productions. Another popular place in this theme park is Sunset Boulevard where visitors can watch an extreme stunt show. Other areas in the park include Streets of America, Commissary Lane, Mickey Avenue and Animation Courtyard.
Keep these tips in mind when visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
- Look for opportunities to get involved with street-side shows featuring some favorite Hollywood characters
- Children are chosen on a first come first serve basis early in the morning to participate in the Jedi Training Academy proving that they are a real Jedi
- If you are celebrating a special occasion, then get a special button for the event from Customer Service. You are more likely to get special privileges throughout the park.
- The park hosts frequent special events which can be a great time to visit especially for more mature visitors
10. Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The largest property owned by Disney is Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This park covers over 500 acres divided into seven theme areas and has over 1,700 animals. The park works with researchers to educate people about many endangered animal species. Visitors visiting the Africa area board an open-sided safari vehicle where they are taken to view large animals that live on the African plains. At the Rafki’s Planet Watch guests can ride a narrow gauge railroad. A great place to be on a hot Florida afternoon is the Asia area where visitors can enjoy the large river rapids ride. The unique DinoLand U.S.A. area pays tribute to America’s historical iconic roadside attractions. This area contains the DINOSAUR ride along with a fun midway. Almost 11 million people visit this theme park each year.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time:
- Explore the Africa area as early in the day as possible as the animals will be easier to spot
- Look at the flags on the employee’s nametags as they show what languages the employee speaks. Many are bilingual.
- Tusker House Restaurant is a popular place for breakfast and characters are usually there
11. Jungle Island
Jungle Island invites visitors to explore animals from around the world. The Main Encounter area features the habitats of Peru with many free-flying birds on display. At the Orangutan School, visitors can learn just how smart these animals really are, while at Kangaroo Konnection, visitors can cuddle with baby kangaroos. Laugh at the antics of the Penguins at the Penguin Exhibit. When the day warms up, then head to Parrot Cove, Miami’s only private beach. It is a tropical paradise where visitors can wade in the bay to cool off. Many things at this beach, including chairs and umbrellas, come at an additional rental fee. While at the park, visitors can attend three exciting shows featuring animals from around the world. No artificial fertilizers or pesticides are used anywhere in the park making it one of very few sustainable zoos in the world. Many green events are hosted by this facility that regularly buys carbon credits.
In order to make the most of your time, follow these tips:
- Bring plenty of quarters so that you can feed the birds throughout the park
- Only 60 people per hour can be in the beach area so arrive early
- Bring hand sanitizer as you will constantly be interacting with animals and may want something to eat
12. Legoland Florida
If you have children between the ages of 2 and 12, then Legoland Florida needs to be on the agenda, because this entire park is geared towards them. This park nestled on 150 acres along the shores of Lake Eloise features 50 rides that children will adore. The park also features many stage shows geared for children at the LEGO City Stage, Ski Stadium, Heartlake Hall and Wells Fargo Fun Down 4D Theater. The facility contains a waterpark geared for all members of the family. A popular attraction at the water park is the friend’s tube ride where two riders can go down the water slide together. The facility also has its own hotel with many things in the hotel shaped like Legos. The facility has 12 souvenir shops featuring the latest Lego merchandise. Child-friendly dining facilities are located throughout the park offering gluten-free and vegetarian options.
Enjoy your visit even more by following these tips:
- Bring your least favorite minifigures to trade with park employees
- Keep an eye on the weather. Frequent short rain showers occur often in Florida so save an indoor activity for then.
- While it can be a bit pricey, the make your own minifigure shop is a great way to enjoy part of your day
13. Discovery Cove
There is so much to do at Discovery Cove that you may never want to leave. Start your day with a Dolphin Swim Experience where you can take a 30 minute swim with a dolphin and then hold on to their dorsal fin as they tow you back to shore. At the Explorers Aviary you can interact with over 100 songbirds, some of which will land right on your hand. At the Fresh Water Oasis, you can wade, wander and float your way through this tropical rainforest. The fun never ends at Seaventure where you can touch sharks at this unique underwater adventure very similar to SCUBA diving without needing any certification. Families can relax Folat a private cabana when not busy exploring the park.
Keep these tips in mind when visiting:
- Many experiences at this park come at an additional cost
- Visitors can sign up for experiences at this park an hour before the park’s actual opening time
- Do not wear jewelry as you will be asked to take it off in many areas of the park
- Visit the aviary first when the birds are hungry
- You must wear a facility provided vest or wetsuit while you are in the park
14. Lowry Park Zoo
The 56 acre Lowry Park Zoo contains over 1,000 animals divided into eight areas. The Primate World is highly regarded around the world as being one of the best designed zoo displays in the world. Animals normally found only in Australia live in the Wallaroo Station. Visitors can get eye-to-eye with giraffes at the Safari Africa and Hurt Forest exhibit where it is sometimes possible to feed the elephants. The Asian Garden and Sulawest Aviary welcomes visitors to see animals normally only seen in Asia. Harkening visitors to learn more about animals that live in Florida are the Florida Broadwalk exhibit and the Florida Marine and Aquatic Center. Each day, visitors can attend several shows at the zoo which vary by the day. Additionally, at various times, zookeepers give visitor talks and answer visitor’s questions. In order to learn about these special events, make sure to get a zoo map when you arrive at the zoo.
Follow these tips to have more fun on your trip to the zoo:
- This zoo offers children’s playground equipment spread throughout it
- This zoo has been voted one of the most child friendly in the United States
- Look for the free parking. It is not a long walk and will save you cash for other things
15. Zoo Miami
Zoo Miami offers visitors several chances to interact with animals. Visitors can feed the giraffes, birds and even the rhinoceros. Visitors can also ride the camels. There is no doubt that Miami can be very hot, but the park takes care of that by offering guests several water play areas where everyone can get soaking wet. The 1.5 acre Playworld Playground is divided into two age appropriate playgrounds so everyone can find something fun to do including climbing on a 40-foot long dinosaur skeleton. In addition to protecting many endangered animals, the zoo also is home to several endangered plants including different species of bamboo. There are many reasons to visit Zoo Miami, but the most important is to see the 3,000 animals that live in over 100 exhibits. A favorite of many people, the stamang can swing up to 10 feet in a single swing.
Make the most of your day at the zoo by following these tips:
- The monorail runs around the perimeter of the zoo and is a great way to get an overview of the zoo.
- The 30 minute Safari Tram Tour allows you to visit the remote areas without having to do a lot of walking
- Wear comfortable zoos because you will be doing a lot of walking
* 1984 BA Elementary Education/ Special Education Univeristy of Northern Iowa
* 2002 Started writing own blog
* 2012 Started writing professionally.