Believe it or not, there is plenty to do in Florida that isn’t related to roller coasters and cartoon characters. Theme parks might be a top reason why Florida is such a popular tourist destination, but they aren’t the only reason. The fact is that there is so much to see, do, and explore in Florida that you could live there for years and not get it all done. If you’re visiting for a short trip or an extended holiday, then you’re going to need to plan your itinerary well. If you want to get the best of Florida while skipping the theme parks, here’s where you need to go.
Bok Tower Gardens
If you’re not afraid of heights then Bok Tower is a must-visit. Officially confirmed as a National Historic Landmark, Bok Tower Gardens is the kind of place where you can aimlessly wander around for hours and never get bored. The location looks like it’s straight out of a Hollywood film, with its incredible 250-acre gardens and the tower that is the centerpiece. At 205 feet tall, the tower is a spectacular sight, and the fact that the park was originally created as a bird sanctuary means that there’s plenty of wildlife to see.
Gulf Breeze Zoo
One place you definitely don’t want to miss is Gulf Breeze Zoo. This is a real treat for anyone who likes to get up close and personal with a wide range of beautiful animals. Orangutans, giraffes, gorillas, and much more call Gulf Breeze home, and it’s easy to fall in love with all of the animals. Not only can you participate in a giraffe feeding session, but you might even spot the two baby giraffes that were born in 2019! It’s never a bad time to visit the zoo, as there are always new and exciting events and conservation efforts taking place throughout the year.
Described as a hobby gone wild, Butterfly World is a gorgeous place to while away several hours. Most Floridians have visited here, and it’s the natural conclusion to a trip to Coconut Creek. It’s the biggest butterfly park in the world, and visitors can expect to see around 5000 live butterflies as they stroll through the grounds. There’s a conservation element as well, with visitors encouraged to take part in the campaigns that are intended to save and protect the plants that the butterflies of the world need to survive.
The Castillo de San Marcos
St Augustine is Florida’s most historic city, and the Castillo de San Marcos is officially confirmed as the oldest masonry fort in the U.S. Built by Spaniards to help in the fight against the English, it’s been the home for a variety of nationalities in its long history. Now, it belongs to the state of Florida and should be on the agenda for holidaying history buffs. Even if you’re not obsessive about history, the views from the walls of the fort are simply stunning and some of the best in the world.
If you want to get a taste of American nostalgia, then an evening visit to a drive-in theater is highly recommended. The night air in Florida is warm enough to relax in, and you can usually get into the drive in for about $5 per car. The weather in Florida is pretty good all year round, so drive-ins aren’t limited by the time of year that you visit. Grab your popcorn and get a real taste of American entertainment.
The Hemingway Home
Ernest Hemingway is widely considered as one of the most important American writers of his generation and beyond. No visit to Florida is complete without a trip to see where he lived and wrote for over a decade. Head to Old Town in Key West and take an hour or two to explore the environment where some of the finest works of literature were conceived and brought to life. The house has been turned into a museum and whether you’re a fan of his work or not, it’s a great place to find out more about his crazy life. You’ll probably trip over at least one of the forty cats that live there too.
Tour the Everglades
You’ll need to keep your wits about you, but if you’re after a little adrenaline in your holiday then a tour of the Everglades is a must. There are plenty of tour companies to choose from, and you can even choose from kayak tours, airboats, or walks (although you’re going to get very, very wet). The potential dangers are there for sure, but if you want to take the risk and get the chance to see the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators live in the same place then you have to experience the Everglades.
The Dali Museum
If you’d like a taste of the surreal on your Florida adventure, then you have to visit the Dali Museum. An homage to the master of the surreal, visitors can explore some of the best examples of the work created by Salvador Dali. Sketches, paintings, sculptures, and rare photographs are all on display, and even the building itself is a testament to the power of the surreal. With a touch of the fantastical in everything that he touched, the Dali Museum is not something you should miss.
No matter what time of year you plan to visit Florida, there’s plenty to do beyond wearing mouse ears and avoiding the large hordes of people racing to get their theme park fast passes. If the idea of a theme park turns you right off, then take a look at some of the alternative activities in Florida. You might be surprised by just how much there is to do.