Things to Do in Florida
There are very few places in the world where you can spend quality time watching manatees, one of the most unusual marine mammals. With their large fin-like tails, they are though to be the inspiration for mythological mermaids. And Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge along Florida’s Gulf Coast is arguably the best spot in the world to see them. This 46-acre refuge was created to protect the manatees that congregate here in large numbers during the winter months. The unique location is home to a network of underground springs that coalesce into the headwaters of the Crystal River. A collection of nine islands offers vital resting areas for these slow moving animals, which can get hurt or stressed by motorboats.
Featuring over 23 miles (37 kilometers) of pristine beach, visitors will have plenty of opportunities to swim and sunbathe. The Fort Lauderdale beachfront offers a wide number of experiences, like wind surfing, jet skiing, boating, snorkeling, deep sea fishing and scuba diving. If you’d rather stay on land, jogging, cycling, rollerblading and beach sports like volleyball and Frisbee are worthwhile beachfront options.
Spend some time in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, known for its scuba diving offerings and pier where you can watch fishermen reeling in fresh catch. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is another top experience when exploring Fort Lauderdale’s beachfront, and can be accessed via the pedestrian tunnel under A1A. This park has a tropical-feel and offers chances to kayak, fish and cycle. And of course, visiting the beaches themselves is a must, like the family-friendly Deerfield Beach, trendy Fort Lauderdale Beach and adventure-focused Hallandale Beach.
Home to a vast array of animals ranging from native Florida species to African wildlife, the Lowry Park Zoo is a must see for all animal and nature lovers. Rated the number one zoo in the U.S. by Parent's Magazine, and the number one child friendly zoo in the U.S. by Child Magazine, the Lowry Park Zoo is an ideal place for family's with young children.
The zoo features numerous exhibits including several hands on attractions. Children and adults alike can share in the experience of petting sting rays, feeding giraffes, or riding a camel. The zoo also recently expanded to include several children's rides including a merry-go-round.
Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk is located in the historic downtown district by the New River. Experience Florida's most beautiful mile, showcasing rich tropical landscape and winding walkways linking downtown Fort Lauderdale's best attractions on the Riverwalk. Take a river bus along the canals and see elaborate homes and yachts if it suits your fancy.
The Riverwalk is composed of a park and a collection of shops, restaurants, clubs bars, and a movie theatre. It also includes important Fort Lauderdale attractions, such as the Broward Center for Performing Arts, the Museum of Discovery and Science, the Florida Grand Opera, Old Fort Lauderdale. The Riverwalk is a lovely place to go for stroll, grab a bite to eat, enjoy outdoor entertainment, or revel in Fort Lauderdale’s exciting nightlife.
Clematis Street is right at the historic heart of West Palm Beach and is home to some of the area’s best restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Busy by day and perhaps even busier by night, the colorful district is home to twelve historic landmarks that tell the story of the area. Detailed architecture represents centuries of eclectic styles, while the many fountains and gardens (along with oceanfront location) make this an especially scenic spot. Boutiques line the street, which is full of antique shops, restaurants, art galleries, and cafes (Antique Row features 40 specialty shops alone.) Boats dock at the floating pier at the water’s edge, and year-round water sports and activities can be launched from nearby. By night there are often live music performances or music booming from one of many nightclubs. The area is known for its nightlife particularly on Thursday nights, when it transforms into a lively street party called ‘Clematis By Night.’
Touring the Intracoastal Waterway, you’ll understand why Fort Lauderdale is nicknamed the “Venice of America.” Made up of beautiful canals lined with palm trees, restaurants, hotels and attractions, the Intracoastal Waterway is both a means for transportation and an experience in itself.
Stretching 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) between the United States’ Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the main purpose of the Intracoastal Waterway is to provide a navigable route for ships that doesn’t present many hazards. Sightseeing from the Intracoastal Waterway is a special experience, as it allows you to take in Fort Lauderdale’s resort-like skyline, high-end real estate, yachts and attractions like Hollywood and the Las Olas Riverfront complex in a relaxing manner. For those who enjoy wildlife viewing, it’s not uncommon to also see manatees.
The Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale can also be enjoyed on land, mainly from one of the city’s waterfront restaurants.
More Things to Do in Florida
Few things are as beautiful as a Florida sunset, so while you are in Key West, be sure to celebrate the sunset in true Key West style - at Mallory Square. Every night, starting two hours before the sunset, the square hosts its "Sunset Celebration." Arts and crafts exhibitors, street performers and food carts descend on the square providing you with fun entertainment to enjoy in the last daylight hours.
During the daytime, Mallory Square offers numerous attractions at its many restaurants and shops. While you are there, you should also check out the famous Key West Historic Memorial Sculpture Garden. Open since 1997, the garden contains 36 bronze busts of the men and women who have had the greatest impact on Key West. The most famous of these are renowned writer Ernest Hemingway and President Harry S. Truman.
The perfect place to take the entire family for an afternoon, the Florida Aquarium offers exciting views of nature within the comfort of an air-conditioned building. Home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals, the aquarium offers 200,000 square feet (23,000 square meters) worth of fun and adventure.
If walking around the expansive building and enjoying the amazing wildlife wasn’t enough, the aquarium also has additional opportunities for more in depth exploration. Some of these family friendly attractions include a Swim with the Fishes Tour, Penguins: Backstage Pass opportunity, and a Wild Dolphin Ecotour.
If you ever want to head outside, the 2-acre "Explore a Shore" water adventure zone provides opportunities for the kids to cool off with water games while parents can relax under the shade of the Tampa Tribune Cantina bar and grill.
Housed in a gorgeous former hotel built in 1887 in the Spanish Renaissance style, the exterior of the Lightner Museum is reason enough to visit. The real treats though are the various antiquities located on the inside of this three story museum.
The first floor houses a Victorian village, with shop fronts offering Victorian era wares. Take a look at the Victorian Science and Industry Room and its eclectic array of artifacts including model steam engines, stuffed birds, a small Egyptian mummy, and a shrunken head. The second floor contains samples of cut glass, Victorian art glass and stained glass work. The third floor, housed in the ball room's upper balcony, exhibits paintings, sculpture, and furniture from the time period. Overall, the museum's careful attention to details and rustic recreation of the time period make it a fun place to visit.
For thousands of years, people have journeyed the earth in search of a so called "Fountain of Youth," hoping that a single sip from the spring will restore them to full health and vitality.According to legend, the famous Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon came to Florida in the 16th century in search of this miraculous fountain. He claimed the land for the Spanish crown, and soon afterward, another explorer arrived and founded St. Augustine- the oldest continuously occupied European settlement within the continental United States. It wasn't until 1901 that an enterprising woman bought an estate in St. Augustine and began to charge people to drink from the fountain located on the property. She claimed that it was Ponce de Leon's fountain of youth, and patrons immediately began flocking to the site. Whether or not you believe in the legend, it can't hurt to to see what happens if you take a sip from the fountain.
The Ten Thousand Islands are a chain of islands and mangrove islets that stretch from Everglades City to Flamingo at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. The northern area is part of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge; the southern part lies in the Everglades National Park. Ten Thousand Islands is a misnomer—the islands actually only number in the hundreds—but semantics aside, the area embodies the serenity and complexity of the Everglades. The islands are mostly uninhabited now, but evidence of Native American inhabitants can be found underwater and on some of the islands.
The best way to see the area is by boat, either on a guided tour or by canoe. There are guided eco tours led by naturalists or you can rent a kayak or a canoe and strike out on your own. The 99-mile (159 km) long Wilderness Waterway is the longest canoe trail in the area, but there are shorter trails near Flamingo if you’re looking for an easier paddle.
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