Believe it or not, there are many enjoyable activities within the huge state’s borders that don’t have anything to do with Disney or beaches. Florida gets downplayed more than almost any other state in terms of its entertainment options. People know of the worlds of wonder that open within Disney’s walls. As for its beaches, visitors flock to Florida’s coastal towns flushed with hopes of catching a pristine sunrise or smearing layers of tanning oil beneath the summer sun.
Undoubtedly, you should visit the beach while you’re in Florida. The shores of this state are unlike any other beaches in the world. And if you get the chance, do go to Disney at least once in your lifetime. The park has some incredible entertainment and truly magical menus at its restaurants.
But those aren’t the only things that make a visit to Florida worthwhile. The state's scenery cannot be beat! Elaborate gardens, impressive mansions, and a variety of other parks perfect for thrill seekers are within its beach-lined borders. Venture further than the shoreline to find these worthwhile scenes and attractions.
Art Basel is an international art fair with three shows annually. They are located in Basel, Switzerland; Miami Beach, Florida; and Hong Kong. So unless you’re traveling internationally, Florida is your best bet for attending this iconic art event. The fair showcases art from emerging contemporary artists, attracting a large international audience. In 2017, over 200 galleries were on display with artworks by over 4,000 artists, including paintings, sculptures, installations, photography, film, video, and digital art. You can be sure the art will be influential and powerful — nothing like this pineapple someone left behind and people mistook for a display.
Bok Tower Gardens
A National Historic Landmark, Bok Tower Gardens is a sight worth traveling for. The site looks like it’s straight out of a movie, consisting of a lush, 250-acre garden and a 205-foot tall tower with carillon bells. The gorgeous gardens were started when Edward W. Bok, editor of the popular women’s magazine Ladies’ Home Journal, and his wife, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who later founded the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, were spending the winter in Florida and decided to create a bird sanctuary. They chose an unusually elevated area of the flat state, a hill that rises 298 feet above sea level. Now, the tower stretches high above its level surroundings.
There are two locations for Busch Gardens in the United States: one in Williamsburg, Virginia, and the other in Tampa. Owned and operated by SeaWorld, Busch Gardens features thrilling roller coasters, safaris, and other animal exhibits. Busch Gardens is home to more than 12,000 animals from 300 different species, outdoing some zoos. For thrill-seekers, the famous Sheikra roller coaster will not disappoint. The ride drops passengers face-down at an alarming 90-degree angle, plummeting directly towards the earth at shocking speed.
Every South Floridian has fond, magical memories of visiting Butterfly World as a child. The center, self-described as “the result of one man’s hobby gone wild,” is located inside is located in Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek. The facility houses around 5,000 live butterflies, all of which roam free inside their vast greenhouse. Currently, it is known for being the biggest butterfly park in the world and often runs campaigns to save various plant species that butterflies need to survive.
Ca’ d'Zan Mansion
Ca' d'Zan is a Mediterranean Revival residence in Sarasota and the former winter home of American circus owner John Ringling and his wife Mable. The house is enormous and stunning, reminiscent of Venetian architecture. A tour of the residence can give you a glimpse into the private lives of one of the world’s weirdest couples, featuring spectacular views and game rooms that once hosted historic gatherings between Ringling and his well-heeled friends. Beside the residence itself is the Circus Museum and an art gallery housing works from the Ringlings’ collection.
Castillo de San Marcos
The Castillo de San Marcos, located on the shore of Florida’s most historic city, St. Augustine, is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. The monument was constructed by the Spaniards during colonial conflicts with the English, and it withstood two sieges and changed hands several times before Spain ultimately ceded Florida to the United States in 1821. The stones that make up the structure are composed of tiny fossilized shells, and the soft rock actually made the fort more resistant to attack by absorbing the impact of cannonballs. Even if you’re not a history buff, the historic structure is a sight worth seeing, as it overlooks a wide expanse of stunning open ocean.
Club Med is a famous all-inclusive resort with multiple Caribbean locations. One of them is in Sandpiper Bay, about two hours north of Miami. The resort is home to an extensive sport facility, which features opportunities to kayak, go boating, play sports with other visitors, participate in scenic yoga, and more. The location is deemed perfect for families seeking adventure and indulgence.
Coconut Grove Arts Festival
Held annually in February, the Coconut Grove Arts Festival is three-day outdoor event, celebrating fine arts, live performances, and local food and drink. The festival grounds stretch an entire mile down Biscayne Bay and feature more than 360 internationally recognized and jury-selected artists. Visitors can stroll through the quaint seaside streets and discover visual art, performances, and tasteful cuisine amongst the avenues.
The Daytona 500 is a 500-mile-long motor race held annually by NASCAR at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach. While the race only takes place once per year in February — and race tickets are very expensive — the track is available for viewing, visiting, and tailgating all year round. You can participate in a tour of the speedway, attend a smaller-scale event or race, or get tickets to a country music festival held in the stadium.