When you think of Florida, you probably think of incredible adventure at your favourite theme parks, the incredible local cuisine, world-class hospitality, and the always sunny days relaxing on the beach. But have you been to every. single. theme park? All 825 miles of beaches? Seen all the wildlife there is to see? Experienced all the things that make Florida unique and wonderful? There is enough to see in Florida for many trips – so much more than you could possibly imagine. You could come twenty times and never do the same things or visit the same beaches twice – unless you fall in love with them.
There is so much more to Florida than what you think you already know. Comfortable, familiar, and fun, Canadians can feel like they are at a sunnier version of home, and one in ten Canadians visit Florida each year and they can’t all be wrong.
So, start planning your next vacation. From theme parks to beaches to its quirky charm, here is the ultimate Insider’s Guide to Florida for Canadians.
Theme Parks for days
Florida might be best-known as the theme park capital of the world. Fairy-tales, witchcraft and wizardry, rollercoasters, waterslides, eco adventures and seeing wildlife – there is something for everyone at every age. Choose one and visit multiple days on your trip or pack in multiple theme parks for a wild adventure. Whatever you decide, here are some of the best-known theme parks that help to define the ultimate Florida experience.
A classic favourite – with some cool new attractions – Walt Disney World was built to delight fans of all ages. From the Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista theme park, you can travel around the world at Epcot and take home an extra appreciation of cultural foods and beverages. You can even travel out of this world and leave the icy Canadian winter behind you at Disney’s new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. A visit to the new Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios puts you inside your favourite classic and up close and personal with some of your favourite characters. If you are looking for a true escape from the everyday, take a safari or visit Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. At Magic Kingdom, your best fairy-tale friends are waiting to say hello and to take that perfect Instagram snap. You can even visit Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon or Disney’s Blizzard Beach – the Disney waterparks – for surfing, waterslides, and delicious beachy snacks. If you are feeling home-sick, Blizzard Beach is the perfect spot because it’s designed to look like you are in a ski resort – just much warmer. So, it’s better than the real snow at home. Or you can do it all over multiple days! Remember that after the sun sets, Disney After Hours creates a whole new experience where the villains take centre stage and the light shows take your imagination to wild places. And you can even live out your basketball dreams at the NBA Experience at Disney Springs.
Universal Studios Orlando packs lot of thrills into one park. From your first steps into Jurassic Park at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, aqua coasters, river rides, and perfect waves at Universal’s Volcano Bay, have a minion dance party after your trip through Minion Mayhem, check out the Blue Man Group at Universal Citywalk, or enter the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter where all of your wizardry dreams will come true. And let’s not forget spotting all your favourite characters wandering the park.
If you love roller coasters, animal encounters, and live entertainment, Busch Gardens in Tampa is worth checking out. Experience the best collection of roller coasters in Florida, discover and encounter more than 200 species of animals, and see world-class entertainment with multiple options for the whole family. Busch Gardens is all about creating unique memories for thrill seekers and families alike.
LEGO has taken the world by storm and LEGOLAND in Winter Haven promises to deliver an unforgettable experience. Sure, the shopping is great because you can get any kind of LEGO you can imagine, but there are also over 50 different rides and attractions at LEGOLAND – and it’s all built with kids in mind. Fight against LEGO pirates in Pirates Cove, conquer the dragon coaster in LEGO Kingdoms, find hidden treasure in Land of Adventure, experience a roller coaster that uses VR in LEGO Technic, and so much more. With a number of seasonal events throughout the year, be sure to check out what’s happening before you go so you don’t miss any of this AWESOME experience.
Beaches to dream about
A secluded oasis, a family-friendly retreat, a dog-friendly day out, even TripAdvisors #1 beach in America! It doesn’t matter where you are in Florida, visit some of the world’s best beaches – each with their own special vibe. You can even find the occasional “au natural” beach for those that are a little more adventurous and – free.
Looking for something fun for the entire family? A local favorite is Fort De Soto Park North Beach, located just south of St. Petersburg. From shell collecting on the beach to swimming in the shallow waters near the sandbar to exploring historical Fort De Soto Batteries in the park, there is no shortage of things to do for the whole family.
Clearwater Beach is more than just a beach. With jet skiing, parasailing, a nightly festival on Pier 60, an aquarium with a celebrity dolphin (for real!) – it’s a family getaway that is sure to excite. And with enough activities in the area to keep everyone busy, you can spend your whole vacation at your hotel and in the surrounding area without getting bored (or asking for screen time)!
For those searching for a bit more adventure or simply to get lost in the sunshine state’s aquatic splendor, enjoy experiencing some of the Florida’s best snorkeling and diving at Blue Heron Bridge in West Palm Beach. Swimming with sea turtles in the morning, explore underwater wrecks in the afternoon and wrap up your day with an intimate picnic along the scenic shores of Palm Beach County.
If you’re looking for something a little less crowded, take a tip from locals and try beaching during the week. Dry Tortugas National Park is one of Florida’s hidden gems, located 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico and accessible only by ferry or seaplane. It is perhaps best known for historic Fort Jefferson. Built in 1861, it is the largest brick built fort in the western hemisphere and was meant to protect the area during the Civil War.
Further north, Caladesi Island State Park offers some of the most pristine white sands in the United States and sits on an untouched island only accessible by boat. Tap into your inner explorer on 650 upland acres and 1800 wetland acres of undeveloped areas. Imagine yourself canoeing, kayaking through the mangrove forest, fishing, and swimming on beautiful beaches that are away from the hustle and bustle of it all.
Quirky & kitschy for a unique experience
Apart from the incredible theme parks and beaches, Florida has a unique, quirky charm with unexpected fun in every nook and cranny. Add a little flavour to your vacation and check out any number of these attractions that you’ll only find in Florida.
- Coral Castle Museum: A mystery that is still unsolved to this day, one man carved a castle and sculptures out of 1100 tons of coral stone – and did it alone, in secret from 1923 to 1951. Can you figure out how he did it?
- World Erotic Art Museum: A collection of over 4000 pieces of erotic art – all collected by one woman. There is no other collection of fine art that documents the cultural history of sexuality from 300 BCE to today.
- Robert the Doll: Visit the 111-year old doll at Fort East Martello Museum (which is a must see!), but you should know that he’s haunted and his antics have been known to destroy lives. His story is fascinating – and he has many fans who write to him and follow him on social media.
- The Bubble Room Restaurant: The Bubble Room Restaurant is three floors of Florida Kitsch – with antiques and toys dating back to the 30s, delicious food, and entertainment. It has been described as Hollywood, Christmas, and a toy store all rolled into one.
- Weeki Wachee: A Live Mermaid Show that you can watch in an underwater theatre? Yes, please. The City of Live Mermaids was most popular in the 50s and 60s – and mermaids from all over the world are still vying to get in. Fun fact: the bottom of the spring has never been found.
- Neptune Memorial Reef: This city for the dead is 40 feet below the ocean’s surface. Designed to create an environment for fish and coral, this underwater cemetery will eventually cover 16 acres and is a unique place to go scuba diving.
This only scratches the surface of what Florida has to offer. To make each trip easy, there is a Hilton Hotel 10 minutes away from wherever you are. So, while you may have different experiences every time you visit, you know that you can always rely on a great place to stay.