Discovering Florida beyond the theme parks

Whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple, or as a family holiday with the grandchildren, you’ll find plenty of fun in Florida beyond the theme parks. We asked a native Floridian what she recommends.

With more than 8,000 miles of shoreline, Florida, also known as the Sunshine State, is a prime holiday destination all year round. The climate is warm and sunny, which is why so many Americans retire to Florida!

Let’s see what you could be getting up to:

Central Florida: Orlando
Orlando is a destination filled with unique experiences for every visitor. It is the theme park capital of the world, with Disney and Universal both having huge parks. But if thrill-seeking isn’t your style, there’s a lot more for you to discover, including dining, shopping, and ecotourism. 

The arts come alive in Orlando! You’ll find Broadway-quality shows, ballet, interesting collections, and travelling exhibits, at venues like Orlando Museum of Art and Cornell Fine Arts Museum.

With its unique Historic Preservation Districts (which have walking tours), Orlando offers a mix of traditional and contemporary artistry and culture for you to explore. Even better, many of these options are entirely free. 

The Central Florida region has many lakes for recreational fun, and is a haven for anglers and boaters. 

You can choose from a wide range of accommodation, from luxury Disney Park resorts to condominiums rented by their owners. There is something for everyone’s taste and budget.

Southeast Florida: Miami
Southeast Florida is the most culturally rich and ethnically diverse part of Florida. From the distinctive cultural scene found in Little Havana—Miami’s Cuban district—to the plush hotels of Miami Beach and the historic hideaways of Coral Gables, there’s a wide variety of experiences to be had.

Dance a little salsa along Miami’s Bayfront, spend a few days shopping in the modern sprawling malls, and visit the quiet family-owned shops of Coconut Grove and many other corners of the region. Or catch a game at one of Miami’s major sporting venues, where you can enjoy American football (the Miami Dolphins), hockey (the Florida Panthers), or baseball (the Miami Marlins). Golf, tennis, or even deep-sea fishing adventures are also plentiful.

Miami is also known for being the restaurant mecca of Florida—fresh seafood specialities are abundant. Miami’s Metrorail system is a 25-mile track that provides easily accessible and convenient transport to most major attractions. 

The area encompasses several popular neighbouring cities, including Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, West Palm Beach, and Boca Raton. These cities all lie along the east coast of Florida, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades, so there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Northeast Florida: Jacksonville
Looking for a holiday that’s both fun and relaxing, while also being one of the best value destinations in the world? Jacksonville has 22 miles of beaches, extensive parks, world-class fishing, historic neighbourhoods, creative coastal cuisine, and delicious craft beer!

Located in the northeastern corner of Florida, Lonely Planet ranked Jacksonville on its list of the world’s “10 Best Value Destinations for 2018“.

Jacksonville’s various districts include thriving history, arts and cultural community showcases, museums, boutique galleries, and performing art centres. Outside of Jacksonville, there are several quaint towns to visit. These include St. Augustine, the oldest city in the U.S. which dates back to 1565, and Fernandina Beach, one of Florida’s many lovely beach towns. 

Which will you choose?
Florida is a melting pot of history, beautiful beaches, and extraordinary arts and culture. So when Europe goes cooler in the autumn, warm up with a visit to Florida—you’re sure to have an amazing experience in this magnificent part of the United States!