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Things to Do in Florida - page 2

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Shark Valley
6 Tours and Activities

Located in heart of what many call the ‘true Everglades,’ a river of grass that stretches 100 miles (161 km) from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico, Shark Valley is part of a unique freshwater ecosystem that is home to a wide variety of wildlife. There are several ways to explore this area, either on your own or with a guided tour.

The Tram Road, a 15-mile (24 km) round-trip, is flat and paved, perfect for walking or bicycling; it’s possible you’ll see alligators, deer, turtles and several types of birds while traversing this road. The Bobcat Boardwalk, which meanders through the tropical hardwood forest, is accessible from the Tram Road, as is the Otter Cave Hammock Trail. An observation tower, located halfway along the Tram Road, provides an aerial perspective to the sawgrass marsh. Bicycling the loop is another popular option, which takes between two to three hours; bikes are available for rental from the visitor center if you don’t have your own.

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Sunshine Skyway Bridge
9 Tours and Activities

This iconic Florida bridge is a testament to humankind’s architectural prowess and mother nature’s sheer beauty. Officially known as the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge (named after the former Florida governor), it was built in 1954 and spans Tampa Bay with a 1,500-foot cable-stayed main span. The bridge’s height, expansive views of the surrounding bay and modern design landed it the No. 3 spot on the Travel Channel’s list of top bridges in the world. Those traveling to Tampa shouldn’t miss the chance to be impressed by this architectural wonder and the amazing views of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico it provides.

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Clearwater Marine Aquarium
3 Tours and Activities

Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) was opened in 1972 as a marine biology learning center in Clearwater, Florida, about 40 minutes from both Tampa and St. Petersburg. Over the years, it has grown and expanded into a center for public education and animal care (their motto is "rescue, rehab, release") while retaining its focus on marine research.

CMA is perhaps most famous for one of its residents, a dolphin named Winter who, at three months old, got tangled in a crab trap line and was unable to escape. She was rescued and brought to CMA for rehabilitation, but her injuries were so serious that her tail had to be amputated, along with two vertebrae. The story has a happy ending, though. Through collaboration with a human prosthetics company, a marine veterinarian and the folks at CMA, Winter now has a prosthetic tail and she’s doing well. The film Dolphin Tale (2011) was based on Winter’s story; she still lives at CMA and can be visited at Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure.

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Miami Seaquarium
4 Tours and Activities

The Miami Seaquarium is a 38 acre (15 hectare) marine park that excels in preserving, protecting and educating visitors about aquatic creatures. There are dozens of shows and exhibits including a tropical reef; the Shark Channel, with feeding presentations; and Discovery Bay, a natural mangrove habitat that serves as a refuge for rehabilitating rescued sea turtles.

Check out the Pacific white-sided dolphins or the West Indian manatees being nursed back to health. Frequent shows include dazzling performances from the Seaquarium’s finest residents, including a massive killer whale, dolphins, and sea lions. Dolphin Harbor is an especially fun venue for watching marine mammals play and show off; it also offers the popular Dolphin Encounter, which allows visitors to touch and swim with dolphins in the Flipper Lagoon.

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Key West Cruise Port
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19 Tours and Activities

Key West is both a city and an island that is part of the Florida Keys and considered to be the southernmost city in the continental United States. With a laidback and slightly offbeat vibe, numerous famous writers, artists and musicians have called it home over the years. Cruise ships have been stopping at Key West since 1969 and today it welcomes nearly half a million cruise passengers every year.

Your ship will likely dock at either Mallory Square or the Truman Annex, both of which are just a few blocks from Duval Street in central Key West. If your ship docks further out at the Navy Mole, near Fort Zachary Taylor. In that case, trolleys are available to shuttle you into the Old Town.

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Fort De Soto Park
4 Tours and Activities

Located off the coast of St. Petersburg, Fort De Soto Park is not your average ‘park.’ It’s actually 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys) and is the largest park in the Pinellas County park system. With seven miles of waterfront, including almost three miles of beautiful, white sand beaches, Fort De Soto is a popular destination for both visitors and guests to the St. Petersburg area.

There’s plenty to do in Fort De Soto Park. History buffs can explore the historic fort while cyclists and walkers can enjoy seven miles of paved trails that run through the park. For nature lovers, it’s worth noting that the park is the start of the Great Florida Birding Trail (328 species of birds have been documented over 60 years and new species are being added every year) and offers the one of the greatest diversities of bird, sea life, plant and wild life in Florida. The beach is also a nesting ground for the loggerhead sea turtle between April and September.

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Jungle Queen Riverboat
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2 Tours and Activities

Voyage the waterways of Fort Lauderdale's New River on the Jungle Queen Riverboat and stop at a Native American village and experience a stunning tropical island environment complete with extraordinay plants and birds and tussling alligators. For more than 50 years, visitors have traveled on this dignified riverboat to be entertained by the crew and sights of Fort Lauderdale. The Jungle Queen Riverboat Company owns several boats and offers two distinct tours.

The Sightseeing Cruise lasts about 3 hours, and will take you up the New River, including a stopover at the "Jungle Queen Indian Village." The Bar-B-Que and Shrimp Dinner Cruise lasts roughly 4 hours, and also includes a trip up the New River. There is an island stopover for an all-you-can-eat shrimp and ribs dinner and a live variety show amid tropical foliage.

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More Things to Do in Florida

Downtown Tampa

Downtown Tampa

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3 Tours and Activities

The central business district of this popular Florida destination is known by both travelers and locals as Downtown Tampa. This part of the city is ripe with a diverse arts and culture scene, as well as lively night life, dozens of museums and a handful of historic performances spaces.  Visitors can spend the afternoon exploring the impressive Florida Aquarium or the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. The Glazer Children’s Museum, next to the Tampa Museum of Art, offers up plenty of interactive fun for the family set, and a stroll along the scenic river walk showcases striking views of the Tampa city skyline. Travelers who prefer an evening out on the town will find what they’re after in the Uptown District, where some of the city’s best restaurants and bars are located, while those in search of an urban escape can enjoy the outdoors in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

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Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum

Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum

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10 Tours and Activities

The Key West Lighthouse is one of the island's oldest relics, as it was first built in 1825 to help ships navigating the dangerous reefs of the lower keys. The lighthouse had a rather rough history, as it was often destroyed and damaged throughout the years and had to be replaced and restored. The one that stands there today was completed in 1849, but has undergone several additions throughout the years. It now stands at about 100 feet (30.5 m) above sea level. As the 15th oldest surviving lighthouse in the U.S., its proud history makes it well worth seeing. Climb up the 88 steps of the circular iron stairway to access a lookout area with spectacular views of the ocean and Keys.

One of the most interesting aspects about lighthouses are the stories of the keepers who lived there. The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum is no exception. Visit the newly restored keeper's home and learn about the perilious job that cost some keepers their lives.

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Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

5 Tours and Activities

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve—commonly just called Rookery Bay Reserve—is a mangrove estuary in Naples, Florida. It is an important ecological area as it is one of the last undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America. Rookery Bay Reserve covers 110,000 acres and is home to over 150 wildlife species. People are able to visit certain sections of Rookery Bay Reserve on guided tours.

During a boat tour, you’ll board a six-person boat that takes you slowly through the reserve. Your guide will point out animal species you come across, which may include birds, deer, raccoons, tortoises and even bottle-nosed dolphins. Another way to tour the reserve is on a guided kayak excursion where you’ll be taken through backwater bays within the mangrove forest. Just like with the boat tour you’ll get the chance to learn about the animals and vegetation you see from a knowledgeable guide.

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Polynesian Fire

Polynesian Fire

1 Tour and Activity
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Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

16 Tours and Activities
One of Key West's most famous residents, Ernest Hemingway, called the island his home from 1931 to 1939. Nestled among towering palm trees, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is a popular destination that allows you to see where the iconic American author lived and worked. Walk along the narrow pathway through the luscious gardens, overflowing with tropical plants, or look at the round wooden desk where Hemingway typed out his famous works on an old typewriter. The Hemingway house offers an unparalleled glimpse into the life of one of the most complex thinkers in American history. The house is also famous for the sixty cats that roam the grounds. About half of these cats are polydactyl, meaning they have extra toes. Some of the cats are supposedly descendants of Hemingway's own six-toed cat, though this a much a disputed fact.
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Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach

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30 Tours and Activities

Clearwater Beach is a silky white-sand oasis along the warm, calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. More low key than its southern neighbor, the bustling St. Pete’s Beach, Clearwater Beach hosts plenty of spots for kayaking, shelling, and biking. Families especially like its gentle surf, which is perfect for swimming and water sports.

Restaurants, shops, and hotels line Mandalay Ave., which runs parallel to the beach. At about 1 mi (1.5 km) long, the strip is easy to stroll. Day visitors should head to Sand Key Beach & Park, a wide beach for swimming and watching dolphins leap out of the sea. For non-beach activities, watch sea otters at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or watch jugglers and magicians perform at Pier 60.

You can also get out on the water on dolphin-watching cruises or even take a pirate cruise. To get an overview of the area, jump on the Jolley Trolley, which travels around Clearwater Beach and up to Sand Key.

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Fort Zachary Taylor

Fort Zachary Taylor

12 Tours and Activities

Popular for both its military history and current recreational opportunities, Fort Zachary Taylor is also the location of one of Key West’s favorites beaches. Spanning 54 acres, Fort Zachary Taylor is worth a visit both for its colorful past and its attractive present. Construction on Fort Taylor was begun in 1845 and the Fort hosted active duty squadrons until 1947. During the period of the Civil War, Fort Zachary Taylor remained one of only three fortresses in Florida to remain under Federal control; it’s now recognized as a National Historic Landmark and contains the largest cache of Civil War-era seacoast cannons in the U.S. Fort Taylor was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1973. Tours are conducted daily and pamphlets for self-guided tours are available as well. Today, Fort Zachary Taylor is best known for its outdoor activities and is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.

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Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

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22 Tours and Activities
You don’t have to be a space junkie to enjoy NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the only spot in the United States from which humans have been hurled into space. The plethora of hands-on exhibits, IMAX movies, and sheer magnitude of the shuttles will surely impress the most passive fan. One of the highlights is the Shuttle Launch Simulator, where budding astronauts are strapped into a cockpit and given high-fidelity ride, which creates the impression of an actual lift-off.
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Southernmost Point of the Continental USA

Southernmost Point of the Continental USA

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23 Tours and Activities
The ultimate reminder of Key West's prime location and ideal climate, this monument is supposedly the southernmost point in the continental U.S. Built to resemble a buoy, this Southernmost Point is really better suited as a photo op than an actual marker. Its location is not in fact the southernmost point in the continental U.S., but that fact is merely a technicality. No one at home will know this when they are jealously drooling over pictures of you enjoying the tropical weather that treats those who journey close to the equator! Snag a photo in front of the buoy to commemorate your trip and you will be certain to sigh over pictures from that day for years to come.
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Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

1 Tour and Activity
Universal Orlando's Harry Potter attraction is spread across two parks at the resort: Diagon Alley on the Universal Studios Florida side and Hogsmeade at Universal's Islands of Adventure. The two are connected by Hogwarts Express train, and each features shops, dining, and attractions inspired by the young wizard.
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Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers Beach

4 Tours and Activities
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Edison and Ford Winter Estates

Edison and Ford Winter Estates

3 Tours and Activities

Step back into old Florida and explore the prestigious estates of two of America’s most prominent men. The Edison and Ford Winter Estates are registered as national historic sites for the 20 acres of beautiful landscaped lawns and early Florida era buildings that tell the stories of not just the life and times of these inventors but about early Florida as well. Walk the award-winning Moonlight Garden or use the grounds to picnic or enjoy breeze form the cove. Also on site are the Edison Botanic Research Lab and the Edison Ford Museum. More than just a walk through museums, a visit to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates is an opportunity to enjoy the park-like environment.

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Las Olas Beach

Las Olas Beach

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8 Tours and Activities

For a top Fort Lauderdale beach experience head to Las Olas Beach. The sand is soft and white and the water is clean and calm, making it a great beach for families. In fact, even the most apprehensive swimmers appreciate this attraction’s warm translucent waves. Visitors to the beach enjoy sunbathing, swimming and body boarding. Don’t worry if you don’t have beach chairs or umbrellas, as they are available to rent for a fee (about $20 for an umbrella and $12 for a chair per day).

Because of Las Olas Beach’s popularity those who want a quieter experience should go earlier in the morning, while those craving something more lively should go in the afternoon and early evening. On the weekends the beach can get wild, especially as there are many bars around.

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Potter's Wax Museum

Potter's Wax Museum

5 Tours and Activities
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