I can still remember our first trip to Florida. We arrived in Jacksonville Beach at sunset and walked out to the beach. The water was warm and the clouds were golden and pink. I didn’t know until then that Florida was what was missing from our lives. And from then we’ve been sure to always have a Florida vacation on the books, and now we live here. There are so many things to do in Florida, and it’s not just beaches.
Since that day we’ve been back countless times, with and without the kids. We’ve really gotten to dig into the nature and the towns, and we know the side of Florida you DON’T see in crazy news stories. Below you’ll find our guides to our favorite destinations around the state, from National Parks to county parks, finding the best Florida beaches, from favorite kayaking destinations to favorite places to eat.
And you can’t forget Disney World and Universal Orlando. We’ve got that covered too! Florida is special in so many ways. If you have questions or need help with planning your Florida vacation, send us a note!
NORTH FLORIDA Things to DO
We love the North Florida coast for its unassuming persona, which is why we live here. While the Atlantic Coast of North Florida has become more popular through the pandemic due it its less crowded beaches and ample things to do while social distancing, it’s still pretty off the radar for many outside of FL and Georgia.
Jacksonville is a big city, but its neighborhoods are friendly and fun. Jacksonville Beach has an awesome vibe of a surf town that isn’t quite discovered. Also, one of the coolest vintage hotels we’ve gotten to stay at is located there RIGHT ON THE BEACH: the Casa Marina Hotel.
Exploring SAINT AUGUSTINE: America’s Oldest City
We won’t lie and tell you that we’re in love with every corner of Florida, even though we really do love a lot of it. We will tell you though that our favorite city is Saint Augustine, which is why we live here! It’s called the Ancient City, and is the only city in the USA with city gates (Charleston still has a tiny bit of wall left). The old town area is great to explore on foot and the historic sites, dating as far back as 1565, are fascinating.
And the food and beaches of Saint Augustine are just what you’d hope for: seafood, spice and perfect sand. Be sure to check out our complete guide to Saint Augustine, including podcasts, dining guide, history, hotels and more.
DAYTONA BEACH: Things To Do Beyond the Beach
It’s so funny to hear people talk about Daytona Beach, Florida. Everyone’s always like “I was there for spring break in college.” Or they say “Daytona Beach is NOT a place for families.” And then I’m like, “Are you kidding me? Daytona Beach with kids is amazing!”
We’ve got a great guide to make a trip to Daytona Beach really fun and interesting. There’s the beach, but there’s so much more, including kayaking, biking, tropical springs and great food. Also, Daytona Beach is very near NASA and the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, which is the home of the best bioluminescence we’ve ever experienced. Kayaking in Florida is one of the best things to do already, and then add glow in the dark water with splashing dolphins around you…
FLORIDA KEYS Things To Do and See
The Florida Keys really are as beautiful and magical as you expect them to be. The Florida Keys road trip is one of the most epic and fun family trips you can plan. Whether you want to relax on a quiet island away from the bustle of Miami or if you want to enjoy kayaking in the Florida Keys, there’s something for every type of traveler.
Our family loves food so seeking out every version of key lime pie in the Florida Keys is a favorite activity (and now we make our own key lime pies!). And murals. We love to look for murals when we travel, and the Keys are loaded with public art! If you need help planning a Florida Keys vacation, we’ve got the info for you!
Also, one of the most beautiful places we’ve EVER been is in the Keys: Dry Tortugas National Park. Between exploring the old Fort Jefferson and snorkeling around the crumbling moat wall, there are unique and wonderful things to do at this awesome, remote National Park.
And coming soon: Top Places to Snorkel in the Florida Keys…
FLORIDA’S GULF COAST
Being an enormous peninsula, Florida is lucky enough to have two coasts. Florida’s Gulf Coast is a totally different world than the Atlantic Coast. The Gulf Coast is all about relaxing on the beaches, small Florida towns begging for you to walk through the streets, and a bunch of Florida’s freshwater springs just off the coast.
With airports in Tampa (TPA), Fort Myers (RSW), St Pete-Clearwater (PIE) and Pensacola (PNS) you have lots of flight options to get to the Florida Gulf Coast, including direct flights from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
FLORIDA NATIONAL PARKS not to Miss
Many things make Florida special, and its collection of National Parks really add to that. We’ve gotten to visit almost all of them and will eventually cross them all off our list. We’ve created guides for each of them that we’ve visited and can’t wait to complete the rest! There are truly unique, truly Florida things to do in each of these beautiful National Park sites.
The Spanish forts in Saint Augustine, both Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas, are beautiful preservations of history. As you head south, both Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park are just the coolest examples of Florida’s swap habitats. And Biscayne National Park… despite being 95% underwater it’s gorgeous and interesting. And like we said, Dry Tortugas National Park is just a big WOW. You have to check them all out!
Favorite FLORIDA STATE PARKS
We are such suckers for camping and hiking. Camping is available around Florida, but not too much hiking. That’s okay though, because there’s plenty else to do, including swimming, bird watching, and even paddleboarding with wildlife.
If you ever wanted to to have a day relaxing on the beach AND photographing wildlife, Florida’s county and state parks are the place for it! We have many more blog posts in the works as we continue to explore Florida and find even more things to do, but for now, these are the top picks for exciting Florida adventures.
Florida Theme Parks – Most Popular Things To Do in Florida
Many people’s first trip to Florida is for visiting theme parks. Yes, Disney World is one of the most fun things to do in Florida, but there are more cool parks and attractions than just Disney. Theme parks are important to understand before you start booking a trip to Florida, so take some time to get a handle of what it’s like to visit the many parks and how to plan your trip to Orlando or Tampa.
Since we’ve spent a lot of time “researching” the parks, we’ have a good handle on them in comparison. The best things to do in the Orlando theme parks vary by visitor age and interest, so take a gander and see what’s right for you.
WALT DISNEY WORLD Tips and Tricks
Clearly our love of Florida lies in the incredible natural wonders and history found throughout the state. But how could we make a guide to the state without getting into the world famous theme parks. Walt Disney World is HUGE! Yes, there are four parks, Disney Springs, countless resort hotels and so much more.
We’ve laid our our best tips, travel plans, and favorites all around Walt Disney World, and our goal with sharing is to prepare somebody for their first visit. Disney World is a lot to take in and our guides are here to make it less complicated and stress free.
UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT: Wizarding World of Harry Potter and More
It’s been said that there are two types of people: Disney or Universal people. Well, we’re both in our household, but Universal is amazing and we all love it! Between unique and fun hotels, everything Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, we can’t NOT love it!
Since a lot of people think that Universal Studios (both Florida and California) are for bigger kids and adults, we’ve really focused on showing the family friendly side of Universal, meaning actually finding the fun and sometimes hidden activities for small kids. We’ve even made an ideal 2 day Universal Orlando itinerary to make it easy. If you have any questions about any of it, we were officially a part of the Universal Blog Squad so have tons more info and insight than what we’ve shared on the blog.
We have even more in the works, including visiting Busch Gardens, weekend plans for Tampa Bay, Legoland Florida and tons more kayaking and SUP adventures to share. There are endless things to do in Florida, so read up and plan a visit to the Sunshine State!
If you have any questions or need help planning anything, please let us know. We’re happy to help and make sure that you’re trip to Florida is amazing!