12 Unexpected Florida Destinations

When Florida is mentioned, typically beaches come to mind. Crystal blue water, ideal temperatures and powdery white sand are what gave the state its nickname, the Sunshine State. Occupying the southernmost point of the country, there’s more to Florida than just a place to get tan. From swamps and marshes filled with alligators, to celebrity-filled beachfront hotels, classic boardwalks and quirky festivals, this state offers many unexpected finds, as well as endless natural beauty.
By: Jennifer Frazier
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Sunset Celebration in Key West

A Key West sunset is more of an experience than just an attraction. From watching a cat jump through fire and having your fortune told to seeing a tightrope juggler and hearing a musician, the daily Mallory Square sunset celebration is a visitor must. Photo by Bob Krist courtesy of Florida Keys News Bureau.

Blast Off in Merritt Island

Although visitors can no longer see an actual NASA shuttle launch, there are still more than a few reasons a visit here is out of this world. At the new $100 million Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, just outside Cape Canaveral, get nose-to-nose with the real space-flown orbiter Atlantis, "be an astronaut" in a high-tech simulator and visit the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The Happiest Place on Earth in Lake Buena Vista

Make your trip to Florida magical with a visit to the always-classic Walt Disney World Resort. Don’t miss the new fireworks spectacular called "Wishes," which takes place around Cinderella’s Castle and is narrated by Jiminy Cricket. Photo by Kent Phillips, courtesy of Disney.

Underwater Exploration in Key Largo

The 120-mile Florida Keys island chain is home to North America’s only living coral barrier reef. One of the best dive locations is the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Key Largo, where divers can explore shipwrecks, underwater statues and an abundance of sea life. Photo by Bob Care, courtesy of Florida Keys News Bureau.

Under the Boardwalk in Hollywood

Sandwiched between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, the quaint town of Hollywood is the ideal spot for visitors. Named one of America's Best Beach Boardwalks by Travel + Leisure Magazine, and designated "Florida’s Best Beach Boardwalk" in 2013 by USA Today, this brick-paved thoroughfare attracts joggers, roller-bladers and visitors who want to experience classic Florida. Photo courtesy of Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency.

Honky-Tonk on the Border in Pensacola

This beachfront dive’s name was given rather obviously, as it literally straddles the Florida-Alabama line. Known for its annual mullet toss and rowdy music concerts (Kenny Chesney is a regular performer), visitors anywhere near the area must stop at the Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar, if nothing else than to experience firsthand this famous legend. Photo courtesy of Flora-Bama.

Architectural Splendor by the Beach in Seaside

Seaside has a style that’s instantly recognizable, as well as unforgettable. This planned community in the Florida panhandle first became famous as the backdrop to the movie The Truman Show but has maintained that status for its adorable town center and idyllic beach community. Photo courtesy of VISIT FLORIDA.

A Hidden Escape in Jupiter Island

Celebrities love Jupiter Island for its affluent properties and hidden-gem personality. There are only around 815 residents and one post office, but it’s anything but sleepy and dull. Visitors will fall in love with this relatively unknown town’s natural beauty, including magical, tree-lined roads and breathtaking beaches. Photo by Peter W. Cross, courtesy of VISIT FLORIDA.

Roll With It in Miami

Known for its sultry beaches, steamy weather and hot bodies, Miami has earned a distinct reputation as a place to party. However, there’s another side to Miami that absolutely shines – the cultural side known as Little Havana, a small Cuban neighborhood named after Havana, the capital and largest city in Cuba. Grab a steaming cup of con leche, root for locals as they battle it out in a chess match and watch an expert roll a cigar at one of the many cigar shops. Photo courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Start Your Engines in Daytona

No appreciation for speed? Daytona might not be your place. This beach city, located about an hour northeast of Orlando, has historically been known for its hard-packed sandy beaches, which allow motorized vehicles to drive adjacent to the ocean. It’s also famous for another reason. It’s home of the Daytona International Speedway and the Daytona 500. Photo courtesy of VISIT FLORIDA.

Uniquely Modern Art in Miami

Miami is a magnet to artists. Experience this creative side firsthand in the avant-garde, contemporary gallery, the Rubell Family Collection, housed in the artsy design district. Located in a former DEA warehouse and owned by the Rubell family, former Miami Beach hotel barons, this 45,000-square-foot-space will dazzle with its constantly rotating and evolving collection, including the Rubell Family Collection Lightness of Being. Photo courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

A Tiffany Treasure in Winter Park

Since Winter Park is a suburb of Orlando, visitors may think a visit should only include an amusement park and a character with big mouse ears. While that should be on the agenda, don’t overlook The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, a not-well-known gem that houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of Tiffany stained glass windows and jewelry, as well as a chapel interior from 1893. Photo courtesy of The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art.

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