The aptly named 'Sunshine State' of Florida is as far south as the mainland United States reaches. The long and lanky state is home to a number of popular tourist hotspots, including beach city Miami, theme park capital Orlando, party town Tampa and the so called 'Venice of America', Fort Lauderdale. Florida is an eclectic mix of cultures from the luxuriously slow drawl in the north (neighbouring Alabama and Georgia) to the Latin American influence on the south. Florida is blessed with ideal beach weather most of the year – luckily there are plenty of white, sandy stretches of coastline, perfect for taking advantage of the sunshine!
It's no easy feat narrowing down your list of things to do in Florida. Whether you're travelling with kids in tow or are simply young at heart, Florida's theme parks are a must. Meet your favourite cartoon characters at Disney World, immerse yourself in the world of cinema at Universal Studios or take a seat in the splash zone at SeaWorld. See the men and women who took one giant leap for mankind at the Cape Canaveral Kennedy Space Centre where you can even watch a rocket launch, propelling full-throttle into the cosmos. Also boasting impressive speed are the stock car races at the Daytona International Speedway and the airboats that jet across the swamps of the 'gator-filled Everglades National Park.
Where to Eat and Drink
Citrus fruit is a big player in Florida's economy, so grab an orange and boost your Vitamin C intake. Restaurants in Florida love a hearty serving of seafood (particularly stone crab and grouper) caught in the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic Ocean. Being so close to Cuba, you will find cuisine in Miami and Tampa often inspired by Cuban and Caribbean flavours. If you're visiting the Florida Keys, just south of the mainland, grab a slice of Key lime pie. It's no coincidence that they have the same name – the Keys are the birthplace of the dessert classic, made exclusively on Key limes, with each restaurant offering a new take on the dish.
Where to Stay
Where to stay in Florida, you ask? Where to start more like. If you're chasing a sun-soaked beach getaway, you'll be spoiled for choice. If you've always wanted to learn how to surf, book your stay at Cocoa Beach on the northeast coast, scour the coral reef at Fort Lauderdale, go for a dip at Siesta Key, Sarasota, or book in a colourful island escape at Key West. In the major cities, Florida hotels often come in resort form, catering to the influx of visitors who journey south for the warmer weather. You won't have any problem finding a comfortable budget stay, a family-friendly apartment or a luxury suite in places like Orlando, Tampa, Miami or the state capital Tallahassee.
If you're up for some serious shopping in Florida, make sure you've booked extra baggage. Orlando and Miami are home to a number of expansive outlet malls, so popular there are even guided shopping tours for the most serious of bargain hunters. Slip on your comfortable walking shoes and visit Premium Outlets Orlando for heavily-discounted designer labels like Nike, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Armani, Hugo Boss and much, much more. If mega malls aren't your thing, there are no limit of retailers lining the streets of major cities and beachside towns. Visit the Daytona Flea and Farmers Market, City Place in West Palm Beach or Miami's Collins Avenue for an al fresco shopping trip.
Florida Like a Local
Florida is a favourite holiday destination for Americans who want to treat the kids to a whirlwind adventure with Mickey and the crew, before retiring to the coast for some well deserved R&R. If you've got your own set of wheels, no part of the state is more than 90 minutes away from the ocean. Floridians wholeheartedly embrace the outdoors from the pinelands of the north to the wetlands of the south, with more than 7,000 lakes and 35 rivers throughout the state. Book your flights to Florida to soak up the history at America's oldest town St Augustine, dance the night away at a glamorous rooftop party in Miami or make lasting family memories at Orlando's amusement parks.