There are a million increcible things to do in Florida, from some of the best theme parks to some of the best state parks in the country. They’re all great, but many of them are very well known and popular with both residents and tourists. We wanted to highlight a few must-see places you might not have heard of before.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park, Gainesville
It sounds a little creepy, but there's really nothing devilish about this park in Gainesville. A dozen springs run down the limestone walls to the pond at the bottom of this massive sinkhole. It measures 500 feet wide and 120 feet deep, with a boardwalk winding down to an observation deck for visitors.
2. Coral Castle, Homestead
This impressive outdoor castle is sometimes called Florida's Stonehenge. These multi-ton monoliths were sourced, carved and placed by a single person -- a small Latvian man who claimed to know mysterious secrets that helped him achieve this incredible feat.
3. Tarpon Springs
One of Florida's most charming small towns, Tarpon Springs has the highest percentage of Greek-Americans in the country. This town is like a little slice of Greece in Florida, with authentic Greek food and shops, and a long tradition of sponge diving.
4. Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales
One of the most enchanting spots in the state is this Singing Tower and its surrounding gardens and bird sanctuary. It sits atop Iron Mountain, one of the highest points in Florida. This National Historic Landmark is the perfect peaceful oasis for a day trip.
5. Columbia Restaurant, Ybor City
Florida's oldest restuarant can be found in Tampa's historic Ybor City neighborhood. Not only does it have roots going back to 1905, over the years it has grown into one of the largest Spanish restaurants in the world. Columbia also serves Cuban specialties and features flamenco dancers almost every day of the week. There are now several locations throughout Florida, but this is the original.
6. Cayo Costa State Park
If you want to escape the crowds and visit a natural beach that feels like a private island, you will love Cayo Costa. This island is the real deal, a glimpse of Florida as it appeared long before modern times. It can only be reached by boat or ferry, so it's never crowded. This is an unspoiled coastal wilderness, so this is not your typical beach, but it's the perfect place to unwind in solitude.
7. West Martello Tower, Key West
In this garden in Key West, the plants are taking over a Civil War-era fortification. The brick pathways and unique architecture of the structure make a fascinating and romantic backdrop for this tropical oasis.
8. Seacrest Wolf Preserve, Chipley
This non-profit preserve in Northwest Florida is one of the only places where visitors can come in contact with gray wolves and other wild animals like arctic foxes.
9. Wat Mongkolrata Temple, Tampa
If you love Thai food, there's a truly amazing place in Tampa that you must visit. The Wat Mongkolrata Temple is the closest you can get to Thailand without a plane ticket. Check out the Sunday market for delicious and authentic Thai specialties. Grab a plate and enjoy your meal picnic-style on the river.
10. Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach
This museum shares Japanese art and culture, with exhibits, festivals and an on-site restaurant. A stroll through these serene gardens will melt away all of your stress.
11. Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg
At times, living in Florida can be a surreal experience, so maybe it's appropriate that the largest collection of this surrealist painter's work outside of Europe can be found in this museum in St. Petersburg. Whether you're an art buff or completely new to the art world, this is one museum that is anything but boring.
12. Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon
This park has a long history as a site for phosphate mining and many years as a private attraction before it became a state park. Popular activities include camping, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and tubing. The scenery is enhanced with several man-made waterfalls.
13. Dudley Farm Historic Site Park, Gainesville
This real working farm shows the evolution of farming over 100 years, from the mid 19th to the mid 20th centuries. The farm features 18 historic buildings, including a farmhouse, which still has its original furnishings. Staff dressed in period clothing bring history to life, performing daily duties and running various events throughout the year. Visiting hours for the farmstead are 9:00 to 4:00 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.