Florida Travel Blog - Destinations in Florida

Florida Travel Blog 

Travel destinations, beaches and attractions and things to do in Florida. Documented by RESIDENTS of Florida.

11 Best Places in Florida to Visit

Top Vacation Spots in Florida For Families

Disney World - places in Florida to visit
Everyone knows about Disney World, but there are many more places in Florida to visit that are just as captivating.

We don’t like “best”, “top ten” or “most popular” lists. These terms are subjective as to rank or, in many cases, posted according to advertising revenue – not good for visitors trying to find the best places in Florida to visit.

We are residents of Florida and realize that what may be best for one person may be the worst for the next!

Florida Travel Blog attempts to give you places we enjoy for different reasons. You may want a sunny beach, a beach chair and a big bottle of sunscreen.

The next traveler may want cultural destinations. The next visitor wants the top vacation spots in Florida for families. That’s why we give you the facts – you choose your best places in Florida to visit!

Below is our list with the reasons, attractions, basic surroundings and methods for review. We also include $ signs from one to five – five being the most expensive.

The ratings are based on the cost of hotels, food and neighboring attractions. Budgets vary and so do costs at different places in Florida to visit.

Our list of 10 places in Florida to visit takes us from the far reaches of the panhandle to the southernmost point in the country. Enjoy the tour in alphabetical order! 

Amelia Island, Florida -The Most Fought Over Island in the Country 

There are tens of thousands of islands in the world. But few were –
  • once ruled by a pirate
  • occupied by seven nations at different times
  • defended to protect a whole river basin
  • built by various cultures.
Fort Clinch, Amelia Island - places in Florida to visit
Fort Clinch protected a large river basin.

Amelia Island is unique. The Spanish influences are most prevalent, but French, British, and American settlers left their mark on the architecture.

We like visiting Amelia Island because –

  • there are miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches and breezes.
  • attractions like Fort Clinch, Maritime Museum and Amelia Island State Park where you can walk or drive on the beach.
  • Fernandina Beach is the largest town on the island and offers quaint antique shops, restaurants and the oldest bar in Florida.

Many Resorts and Hotels on the Island

There are numerous resorts on the east side of the island. A couple have a golf course and all have beach access. 

In Fernandina Beach, a reasonably priced Hampton Inn is close to the historic downtown area and within walking distance to the shops. Resorts like the Omni and the Ritz-Carlton are beautiful and expensive, but many of their amenities may be worth the expense. Several bed and breakfast locations dot the island. Our choices are the Hampton Inn for budget and The Omni for luxury.

Spending a few days on Amelia Island should be high on your list of the best places in Florida to visit.

things you need when flying

$$$ Food Resorts $$$$

Destin, Florida – Jewel of the Panhandle

The Florida panhandle protrudes westward from north Florida. Rt 98 transverses the panhandle offering a spectacular drive along the northern Gulf. 

The route going from east to west takes you through places like Panacea, Carrabelle, Apalachicola, Panama City Beach, Destin, and finally, Pensacola. 

While there are some great destinations along this scenic road, the star of the trip is Destin, Florida.

Destin Florida Boshamps - Destin places in Florida to visit
Boshamps is one of the best seafood restaurants in Florida.
At one time, Destin was a small town with a big fishing habit. In fact, The Destin History & Fishing Museum chronicles much of the early days in Destin. Fishing is still a major economic contributor, but tourism has overtaken the marine industry. 

The area east and west of Destin is called the Emerald Coast of Florida. Over 4.5 million people visit the Emerald Coast annually and 80% of them go to Destin.
We like Destin because of:
  •  the wide range of activities available
  • the location that allows easy day trips from Destin,
  • the superior selection of great hotels
  • moderate year-round temperatures, 
  • some of the best seafood restaurants in the state of Florida.

Yet the best of Destin can be found in a quarter-mile stretch of Destin Harbor in an area called Haborwalk Village.

Harborwalk has a boardwalk beginning at the Emerald Hotel and going east along the harbor.
Strolling the walkway, you will see boutique shops, a zip line, numerous restaurants, charter fishing boats, jet ski rentals, floating tiki bar rentals, parasail boats and tour boats.
All of this fun and the occasional festival keep people from Alabama and Georgia returning to their favorite place in Florida to visit.

One thing we look forward to when visiting Destin is Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House. This is one of the best seafood restaurants in Florida! They have fresh

Harborwalk at Destin places to visit in Florida
HarborWalk has charter boats and many more water sports activities.

seafood served with a twist on many old classics. Try their “Putin’ on the Grits” appetizer and “Snapper Destin” for dinner. Delicious!

All the major hotels have properties in Destin. However, The Emerald Grande is at the west end of Harborwalk.
It is expensive for Destin, but on the other hand, you won’t need to travel to get to the major attractions around Harborwalk Village.
Destin is high on our family’s list of places in Florida to visit.
Food $$$ Hotels $$$

Jupiter, Florida – Home of the Stars

Jupiter Florida lighthouse
A must-visit is the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum.

On Florida’s east coast, north of Miami and south of the space coast is a growing city along the Atlantic Ocean. That city, Jupiter, is the town of superstars. 

We can’t find any other places in Florida to visit that has more famous names that were born in Jupiter or have resided there.

People like Burt Reynolds, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Michael Jordan and Alan Jackson. Dozens more actors, sports figures and musicians have called Jupiter home. 

In fact, one sport for tourists is star watching. Tourists go to beaches, restaurants and places where the stars are known to frequent. That is not why we like Jupiter.

We like Jupiter because –

  • the city is clean and fresh.
  • the location has both Intracoastal activities and oceanfront beaches.
  • the homes and condos along A1A are magnificent and worth a drive.
  • within a few miles are many attractions from the Everglades to famed locations around the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area.
  • for east coast beaches, they have some of the best.
    Riverwalk Jupiter Florida
    Riverwalk in Jupiter will give you a glimpse of both Intracoastal areas and Ocean views.

Jupiter has a famed lighthouse that has been protecting mariners since 1856. The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum provide visitors with the challenges of keeping a lighthouse operating for over a century and a half. This attraction and the Riverwalk along the Intracoastal are two of our favorite things to do in Jupiter.

Jupiter is fortunate with a vibrant restaurant scene. Several eateries are owned by the stars living in the area. One of our favorites is right on the inlet. The Square Grouper has stunning views, great food and a quirky atmosphere welcoming to everyone.

Hotels and Yachts Line the Waterfront in Jupiter

There are lots of hotels in Jupiter. Our preference would be something on the water. Along the Intracoastal are several hotels that have views of the yachts cruising up and down the waterway. We could suggest the Wyndham Grand Jupiter or the less expensive Jupiter Waterfront Inn. Both also offer a place to dock your boat and views of the Intracoastal. All the major brands have hotels throughout the Jupiter area for less than $200 per night.

If you are looking for something different in places to stay in Florida, Jupiter may be the place for you. This is also one of the top vacation spots in Florida for families.

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Key West – The International Destination – Our Favorite for Craziness

We have watched cruise ships unload thousands of passengers on the docks of Key West. Those ships were from all over the world. The passengers would go home and extoll the adventures they had on this island.

Over the last two decades, Key West has grown an international reputation as compelling as the British Virgin Islands and American Caribbean holdings.

Sloppy Joe's Key West famous places in Florida to visit.
Sloppy Joe’s Key West may be the icon destination and top of the list of things to do in Key West

We must be honest and let our readers know that Key West is our favorite road trip in Florida!

We have written extensively about this island and all of the Florida Keys. This may not be the destination you want for a very young family, but it certainly can provide plenty of entertainment for adults of all ages.

First-time Key West visitors will most certainly choose from places like Hemingway’s Home, Sloppy Joe’s, Irish Kevin’s, Mallory Square, and Mel Fisher’s Atocha Treasure. All of these are classic Key West.

No self-respecting tourist can refuse to go to this list of attractions or they may become an outcast by their friends after returning home.

History Makes Key West One of the Best Places in Florida to Visit

The “real” Key West is much more complex than the most popular bars, attractions and restaurants.

For instance, why would one man risk his entire vast fortune to bring a railroad to Key West? Find out how a band of Union soldiers held Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West despite Florida’s secession and Confederate alignment.

Did you know that Key West was once the richest city per capita in the country? At one time Key West’s largest industry was known around the world as the largest city in Florida. Did you know that just a few miles offshore is a prison that was built in the 1850s that was called an “historic engineering marvel”?

Fort Jefferson Key West Dry Tortugas
The must-see Fort Jefferson off Key West in the Dry Tortugas.

As you can see, Key West is far more than the “biggest party in the world” as one writer stated. The influences of the Calusa Indians, the Spanish and Caribbean immigrants are still evident today in the architecture, food and culture of Key West.

Key West has some of the most famous places in Florida to visit – places like the Hemingway House,  the First Flight, Key West Lighthouse and, the most famous cemetery in the state!

To see more of the real Key West try visiting Fort Jefferson, the Key West Cemetery, the Museum of Art & History, Fort Zachary Taylor and much more detail in Key West and the Florida Keys.

Key West is more than one of the top 3 best places in Florida to visit. This city must be on your bucket list of places in the United States to visit and one of top vacation spots in Florida for families.

Food $$$  Hotels $$$$ Attractions $$$

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Naples – Marco Island – The Everglades

The three locations suggested in this post are inextricably linked because of their proximity and relationships. Each has its own characteristics, but are related to the extent you normally wouldn’t visit one without the other. You can stay in Naples or Marco Island, but a long weekend or extended vacation would be enhanced by visiting the other two.

Naples – The city is located in Collier County, Florida ranked as one of the wealthiest counties in Florida.

Located on the Tamiami Trail (Rt. 41), Naples is known for its beaches, elegant shopping, exquisite restaurants, and waterfront resorts. It is also known as the winter haven for some of the richest families in the country.

Naples Pier Florida
Naples Florida – Not Just for the Rich

Naples’ Gulf shoreline is dotted with swank resorts and aging, but expensive condos. A trip through Port Royal, an exclusive neighborhood of Naples, will give you a glimpse of wealth and elegance. The 400-plus homes in Port Royal radiate the economic position of the county.

We like to stay at a hotel on the river called the Bayfront Inn. It is located within walking distance of Tin City and one of our favorite waterfront restaurants called Riverwalk. The Bayfront is also one of the places a family can stay at relatively reasonable rates.

One must see the upscale (or must spend in!) shops on 5th Avenue. Within walking distance of the Bayfront, you will find some of the most exclusive shopping in Florida.

Both sides of the street are lined with posh shops and fine-dining restaurants. So if a $660 pair of shoes or a $25,000 necklace interests you, the shops on 5th will put a dent in your budget. Window shopping is free.

Marco Island – Just a few miles south of Naples is Marco Island. The island was once home to Calusa Indians. Today the condominiums, resorts and upscale homes line the waterfront where the Calusa lived and foraged for fish and oysters.

Marco Island Florida
Wide beaches along the Gulf at Marco Island.

The wide beach in front of the major hotels offers enticing sunbathing, beach games and strolling the Gulf shoreline. 

The Marriott Marco Island Resort is our favorite with Kane’s Tiki Bar on the beach. This resort has several restaurants, shops, a spa and everything you need for an extended stay.

They are proud of their facility and Marriott gets about $1500 a night during the season. Off-season is half that. A little research and you can find some lower-priced options.

Marco Island has many year-round residents who enjoy the shops, restaurants and watersports. Fishing around Marco Island, both offshore and inshore, is excellent. 

One of the resident’s favorites for eating and entertainment is the Snook Inn. When Happy Hour and good entertainment start at 2 in the afternoon, it explains their local popularity.

Marco can be a fun diversion to the rest of the world. This exclusive island is devoid of Walmarts, Costcos and supersized malls. But Marco still has some great small shops and restaurants that serve everything from fresh local fish to prime steaks.

Everglades City marker
Everglades City – a glimpse into the past.

The Everglades – It would be unthinkable for a traveler to spend a few days in this part of Florida and not visit the Everglades. This river of grass and swamps offer some of the most unique features mother nature has to offer.

From, either Marco Island or Naples take a day trip along Rt. 41. You will find numerous airboat tours offered. These tours are great fun for the entire family and you get an education about the Everglades and the creatures that live there.

Smallwood store one of 10 places in Florida to visit.
This historic little store was a trading point for Indians, swamp people and residents. Owned by Ted Smallwood a century ago.

You can also visit Everglades City and Chokoloskee. History has forgotten what these little fishing villages have meant to Florida’s development. What hasn’t been forgotten are the traditions and struggles of living off the grid.

Not much has changed in the last 150 years. Lots of history and charm, but don’t expect a McDonald’s or Dairy Queen along the way. These towns may be an eye-opener for today’s children and a few adults too!

As you can see staying in either Marco Island or Naples offers a lot to a vacationing family.

Marco Hotels $$$ Naples Hotels $$ Food $$ Attractions $$

Orlando Florida – The Most Visited Vacation Destination in Florida

Orlando, Florida, is indeed one of the most visited destinations in the state, and for good reason. Over 58 million people choose Orlando for their vacation destination in Florida. 
Here’s why:
  • Theme Parks: Orlando is famously
    10 best places in florida to visit orlando
    Walt Disney World and the guy in the picture created a monster attraction the world comes to see!
    known as the “Theme Park Capital of the World.” It’s home to Walt Disney World Resort, which includes Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Additionally, Universal Orlando Resort features Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and the Volcano Bay water park. These theme parks attract millions of visitors each year, offering entertainment, rides, shows, and attractions for people of all ages.
  • Variety of Attractions: Beyond the major theme parks, Orlando boasts a wide array of other attractions. These include SeaWorld Orlando, LEGOLAND Florida Resort, Gatorland, Madame Tussauds Orlando, SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, and many more. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re interested in marine life, science, history, or thrill rides.
  • Weather: Florida’s mild and sunny climate makes it an attractive destination year-round. Orlando enjoys warm temperatures even in the winter months, making it a popular escape for those seeking respite from colder climates.
  • Shopping and Dining: Orlando offers diverse shopping experiences, from upscale malls like The Mall at Millenia to outlet centers like Orlando International Premium Outlets and Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets. The dining scene is equally varied, with restaurants catering to all tastes and budgets, from international cuisine to classic American fare.
  • Convention and Conference Destination: Orlando is a major hub for conventions and conferences, thanks to its world-class convention center—the Orange County Convention Center. This draws in business travelers and attendees from around the globe, contributing to the city’s bustling atmosphere.
  • Proximity to Other Attractions: Orlando’s central location in Florida makes it a convenient base for exploring other parts of the state. Visitors can easily take day trips to nearby destinations such as Tampa Bay, Daytona Beach, Kennedy Space Center, and the Everglades.
Overall, Orlando’s combination of world-renowned theme parks, diverse attractions, favorable weather, and convenience make it a top choice for tourists from all over the world.
Orlando Related Content
Hotels$$$$    Attractions$$$$    Dining$$$   

Sarasota, Florida – Beaches, Culture, Shopping and more Beaches….

South of Tampa and North of Ft. Myers is the rarely touted community of Sarasota, Florida.
 While you don’t see this city of about 60,000 people on many “best” lists, we think Sarasota deserves a lot of respect for its diverse amenities.
Siesta Key Beach - places in Florida to visit
Siesta Key Beach is always ranked high on the best beaches in Florida list.
There is no place in Florida to visit that has more beaches than Sarasota. Within a few miles, you will find  Siesta Key Beach, Longboat Key Beach, Lido Beach, Coquina Key Beach and a half dozen more!
Your Florida vacation could be at a different white sandy beach every day of the week!
If you want to add some more cultured activities, Sarasota has them. The Ringling Museum of Art is excellent. If that is not enough, Sarasota has the Sarasota Orchestra, a theatre troupe, ballet and opera. Beaches and cultured society, are all in this beach town.
Marina Jack's Sarasota
Marina Jack’s in downtown Sarasota.
Want to skip the arts? Restaurants, beach bars and water activities might be your choices.
For good food with a view of Sarasota Bay, you might try Marina Jacks right in the heart of the city. 
If beach bars are your thing, the Ritz-Carlton Tiki Bar on Lido Key may be the fanciest tiki you have ever been to. If you want something more relaxed, try 
 Better yet, find your own with a quick Google search. There are dozens around Sarasota.
If you are not convinced of the attraction to Sarasota, then maybe an afternoon of shopping and dining on Lido Key at St. Armands Circle will change your mind. Siesta Key is across Sarasota Bay accessed from downtown. At St. Armands Circle
Ringling's Museum of Art, Sarasota
Ringling’s Museum of Art, Sarasota
you will find what they call “Distinctive Shopping”. This fancy term means there is high-end retail as well as the normal beach shops.
On Siesta Key you will find some excellent restaurants like Speaks Clam Bar (one of our favorites),  The Hub Baja Grill, The Crab & Fin, plus the Daiquiri Deck has some unique cocktails between shops.
All things considered, Sarasota should be on your list of places in Florida to visit. Sarasota is also one of the top vacation spots in Florida for families.
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St. Augustine, Florida – Most Historical City in America

The Oldest House is a view of living in the 18th century.
The Oldest House is a view of living in the 18th century.

We grew up reading about Christopher Columbus, Plymouth Rock and the fleet Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Nice story and some of it is certainly true.

Today, there is an argument, and limited evidence, that some Irish monks, Vikings or Chinese explorers beat Columbus by hundreds of years.

Notwithstanding the history related by contrarians, we do know the Spanish settled much of America before the pilgrims could get a solid foothold.

By 1513 the Spanish had explored what is today Florida, Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean. By 1565 Spain had a formidable presence in what is known today as St. Augustine, Florida. 

That is 45 years before the story we learned about the Mayflower and Pilgrims that arrived in 1620.

St. Augustine was, at various times, occupied by the Spanish, the French, the British, the Spanish again, and finally, we Americans took over. By the way, there is little known about the Timucuan Indians who occupied the area well before anyone crossed an Ocean in search of a new world.

In 1672 the Spanish built a fort called Castillo de San Marcos, which still stands today guarding the harbor at St. Augustine. The fort is a major attraction to visitors.

History Makes St. Augustine One of the Best Places in Florida to Visit

The Spanish fort built in 1572.
Fort Castillo de San Marco


History was kind to St. Augustine by salvaging many different cultures’ structures, customs and homes. Even street names are the same as they were a couple hundred years ago. Narrow streets make driving difficult in old parts of the city, but horse-drawn carriages easily traverse the city showing visitors historic landmarks.

Places to visit include the Lightner Museum, Oldest Store Museum, and our favorite, the Oldest House Museum which shows how people lived in the 18th century. These and a plethora of other historical locations will keep you engulfed in the history of our country.

One of the main retail streets is St. George Street. This narrow walkway, formerly a street, was turned into a shopping and dining district. Unique retailers and funky restaurants line both sides of the street.

One of our favorite restaurants is the Prohibition Kitchen. The crafty homemade food offerings make the menu unique. Don’t forget one of their luscious milkshakes (with or without bourbon!). 

St. Augustine Prohibition Shake
A guest trying the Prohibition Kitchen’s famous shakes

For a more formal dining experience, the Old City House Inn and Restaurant is an old stable that has been converted into a fine dining Inn. A newcomer to the restaurant scene is Sainte George Restaurant. We had an excellent experience at this Euro-American restaurant.

Hotels in St. Augustine are comparatively inexpensive along hotel row on Avenida Menendez Street. Hilton, Best Western and other chains have hotels in St. Augustine. Plenty of Bed & Breakfast operations are found in Old Town.

Our favorite hotel is the Casa Monica, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. This downtown hotel is a throwback to the days when all hotels were in the downtown retail area. The Casa Monica is within walking distance of most historical sites.

We like St. Augustine. The restaurants are good, the history is everywhere and the prices are some of the most reasonable in all the places in Florida to visit we list. ST. Augustine is one of the  top vacation spots in Florida for families who want to teach children about our rich history.

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Tampa, Florida – Sports, Culture, and Location

What if you could find the perfect Florida vacation destination that

  • was an hour from Disney World?
    Tampa Riverwalk
    Tampa Riverwalk has 2.6 miles of safe walking along Hillsborough River.
  • was 45 minutes from the number one beach in Florida?
  • was 20 minutes from a highly rated water park called Busch Gardens?
  • has one of the best marine aquariums in the state?
  • had three professional sports teams within 45 minutes?
  • had headline entertainment venues?
  • was one hour from Universal Studios and Hogwarts School of Magic?
  • had a riverside walking path that was 2.6 miles long with water taxis, boat rentals, tour boats, bars, fine restaurants and shopping along the way?
  • is a major cruise ship port located near The Florida Aquarium?

Sounds like a heck of a lot of choices for one destination, but Tampa, Florida is the only place in Florida where we could suggest all of these activities and attractions nearby within minutes.

Riverwalk Tampa
Nightlife in Tampa revolves around Riverwalk.

Add a culturally rich environment with opera, art galleries, and theatre performances makes Tampa your next vacation destination.

For the younger members of your family, Disney World and Universal Studios are an hour away in Orlando.

Kids and adults may enjoy a football game with The Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing. Or hockey with two-time Stanley Cup winners and 2022’s runner-up Tampa Lightning. 

Just 30 minutes across the bay is the young exciting Tampa Bay Rays. In the spring, the New York Yankees have their training facility in Tampa and the Toronto Blue Jays have their spring training 45 minutes across the bay in Dunedin, Florida.

Rays Buccaneers Lightning logos
Tampa has started calling the area “Champa” Bay because of the number of championships won by professional sports teams.

Downtown Tampa Full of Attractions

Downtown Tampa features Riverwalk. Along the Riverwalk is The Florida Aquarium, one of our favorite attractions, and the Tampa Bay History Center

You can stay at a hotel a mile or two up the Hillsborough River and take a water taxi to the Aquarium, History Center or the dining & entertainment complex the Sparkman Wharf.

Clearwater Beach is 45 minutes away from Tampa. Clearwater Beach has been ranked as number one in Florida and in the top ten in the country. White powdery sand will greet you on a three-mile-long popular beach.

Downtown Tampa is safe, active and full of hotels and restaurants. American Social is a popular eatery a couple blocks off Riverwalk.

A few minutes away from downtown is one of the most decorated steakhouses in the country, Berns Steak House. A few blocks northeast of downtown Tampa is the neighborhood of Ybor City featuring one of the oldest restaurants in Florida called The Columbia.

Busch Gardens Tampa
Kids will love Busch Gardens and the cost is half of Disney World.

Our favorite hotel is the Marriot Water Street. Close by are branded hotels by Embassy Suites, Hilton and a second Marriott. All are a block or two off Riverwalk.

Clearly, not all Florida vacation destinations are created equal. Tampa, Florida is an excellent way to cram in dozens of activities in a short period of time.

Hotels $$$ Food $$ Attractions $$

The Florida Keys – Top Vacation Spots in Florida for Families

places in Florida to visit Florida Keys Map
Map of the Florida Keys Islands.

It would be easy for people to think the Florida Keys should be part of a Key West vacation we included earlier. That would be a mistake.

The reasons we should not include the Florida Keys with Key West are:

  • There is 120 miles of islands protruding from Florida’s mainland. That is more than the distance from Orlando to Tampa.
  • Key West is significantly different than the other islands.
  • The Florida Keys have as much historical significance as Key West.
  • There are dozens of attractions scattered throughout the islands that equal things to do in Key West.
  • Some of the most beautiful resorts in Florida are in the Keys.
  • Some of the best family resorts in Florida are in the Keys.

While Key West has the fame, the Florida Keys have a more relaxed atmosphere perfect for family fun and adventure. From Caribbean-style colorful reefs to world-class beaches, the Florida Keys deserve their own family vacation.

The Islands of the Florida Keys

places in Florida to visit Robbies
Hand feeding tarpon at Robbie’s in Islamorada.

There are more than 40 islands linked by bridges in the Keys. Several hundred more islands are within sight of land. The largest and most popular Keys are:

These four major Keys are well-known tourist destinations. Each has different attractions and amenities. Key Largo is the largest island and is known for the amazing reefs just offshore. Divers come from around the world to view the underwater wonders.

Islamorada is known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World”. This island is known for its inshore flats fishing and record-holding fishing grounds offshore.

Marathon is mostly known for its numerous resorts, good-sized airport and the halfway to Key West designation.

Big Pine Key is known for the unique species Key Deer, found only around Big Pine Key. Nearby is the No Name Pub which has certainly become a big name for tourists visiting the area.

Attractions in the Florida Keys

places in Florida to visit Big Pine Key Deer
We found these Key Deer behind a store in Big Pine Key. They are the size of a large dog. Friendly animals.

As you travel along US Highway 1, the only major road from Key Largo to Key West, there are many things to see and do. The most popular are:

  • John Pennekamp State Park – Key Largo – unique because much of the park is underwater.
  • Robbie’s – Islamorada – this is a must-stop for a family. Hand feed big tarpon off Robbie’s pier.
  • Theater of the Sea – Islamorada – fun place to learn about the creature of the sea.
  • The Turtle Hospital – Marathon – rescuing and rehabilitating sea turtles.
  • The Dolphin Research Center – north of Marathon – great place to learn about dolphins and see them in action (kids love it!).
  • The Seven Mile Bridge – as you exit Marathon – one of the most magnificent seven miles in the world.
  • Bahia Honda State Park – Big Pine Key – this one-of-a-kind state park has shallow water beaches on both sides of the island – affordable family adventure.

These attractions and many more can be found on the 133 Fun Mile Markers of the Florida Keys.

One of our family’s favorite resorts is Hawks Cay on Duck Key (just outside Marathon). There are daily activities for the kids and plenty of places to retreat for the adults!

Few places in the world can offer a vacation full of fun and adventure for the whole family like the Florida Keys. Should you choose this vacation, find more about The Ultimate Vacation in the Florida Keys.

The Villages – The Playground for the Over 55 Crowd

You won’t find The Villages on most travel blogs or fancy travel brochures. Apparently, all travelers are supposed to fit in a notch that excludes the over 55 generations.

Villages Lighthouse
One of the many sights on Lake Sumter at the Villages.

The Villages bill themselves as “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown”. We believe it and have experienced it. You have over 130,000 residents who, for the most part, are committed to living the rest of their lives having fun and enjoying the gift of life.

Here are some facts about this community near the middle of the state.

  • The Villages are the fastest-growing community in Florida.
  • Encompassing parts of three different Florida counties, the Villages occupy over 31 square miles and growing.
  • The Villages has 50-plus golf courses.
  • The Villages has the lowest crime rate in Florida with virtually no violent crime.
  • The Villages are one hour from Orlando (Disney and Universal), 1.5 hours from Tampa, 2.5 hours from Jacksonville, one hour from Crystal River and the Gulf Coast, and under two hours to Daytona Beach and the Atlantic coast.

Just as an indicator of what Villagers are interested in, they just opened their 100th recreation center! We don’t want to bore you, but activities in the Villages include everything from crafting to polo at The Villages Polo Club. Each day the Villages Daily Sun publishes the activities scheduled for the day. That list is from 50-75 different scheduled events.

car show Villages
One of the many events at the Villages. Spanish Springs old car show.

The preferred mode of travel in the Villages is by golf cart. It seems there are more carts than cars. They buzz from village to village in customized carts with everything from air conditioning to computer screens.

So, what is there to do in the Villages? If golf and the other 50 activities don’t interest you, there is shopping in the three main parts of the Villages.

In the north, there is Spanish Springs Square. Four miles south is Lake Sumter Square and 6 miles south of that is Brownwood Square. Each square has its own identity.

Spanish Springs’ buildings have Hispanic influences. The square has a dozen restaurants of different types. Our favorite there is Americana.

Shopping includes Talbotts, Chico’s, Kilwin’s, an art store and several more. Spanish Springs also has a bowling alley that is fronted by a restaurant, named McCall’s where you can eat and watch bowling.

Nightly entertainment starts at 5 PM in the middle of the square.

Villages rowing activity
Rowing is one of the daily activities at the Villages.

Down the road, Lake Sumter Landing has a lakefront theme with a walkway along the lake. The square’s shops include ladies’ boutiques, a cooking store, a wine shop, a Hallmark store, and a Hanes store among others. Lake Sumter is our favorite square. We like a hotel on the lake called The Waterfront Inn that has reasonable rates.

Our most frequented restaurant is called Red Sauce where you will find excellent Italian food and pizza. City Fire and the Lighthouse are two other places we enjoy. Lake Sumter Square is larger than Spanish Springs and draws a huge crowd when nightly entertainment starts at 5 PM.

You don’t have to wait until 5 for entertainment. Most days, Cody’s and RJ Gator’s start their entertainers at 2 PM.

Creek villages
There are many hiking paths in the Villages. This is a creek formed from a spring at the Villages along a trail.

Heading south to Brownwood Paddock Square you will pass several of the many recreation centers and golf courses. Upon arrival, you see a Western country theme that prevails throughout the square. On the square is a Tommy Bahama Outlet store and an unusual decorative store called the Rustic Rose that women love.

A City Fire restaurant is also located here, but Blue Fin on the square is our choice. Brownwood also has nightly bands.

Note that a new hotel opened about a mile from the square called Brownwood Hotel & Spa. We haven’t stayed there, but it is nicely done and has a Wolfgang Puck restaurant that is excellent.

Sign Vlillages
The Villages purchased hundreds of thousands of acres to build on. Some of the acreage had historical buildings on them. The Villages note people and buildings where they stood with signs like these.

Entertainment is prominent is the Villages. The Sharon L. Morse Center in Spanish Springs and Savanah Center near Lake Sumter have hosted people like George Thoroughgood, The Beach Boys, the Philadelphia Harmonica Orchestra, Paul Anka and many theatrical shows.

There are two aspects of the Villages that words can’t describe.

One is the beauty that engulfs each roadway, building and green space. The oversized roads are decorated and manicured to entice guests. Rarely do you see litter, trash or fallen branches. Flowers and trees line all of the main roads.  It’s attractive!

The second thing that’s difficult to put into words is the atmosphere. Friendly people having a great time isn’t sufficient. People get along. Smiles on faces. No fear on the streets. You won’t be mugged and your car won’t be stolen.

The newspaper prints more positive news than human horror stories. Their Villages-owned radio station plays music you remember, not music you regret. You just can’t imagine a place like this can exist in today’s world.

A final attractive feature of the Villages is the location. It’s easy to get to places like Silver Springs, a famous Florida State Park. The Orlando attractions are just an hour away. The horse farms of Ocala are worth a drive on Rt. 301. This is a perfect place to visit in Florida where you can take a different road trip each day and come back for the entertainment and food each evening.

Hotels $$ Food $$ Attractions $

Note: If you want to see live action at the Villages here is a link to cameras at all three squares. Our experience with the cameras is most of them work some of the time and some of them work most of the time!!!!

Our Newest Place in Florida to Visit for Vacation

We try to add new places that we find that are out of the ordinary places to visit in Florida. One of our newest additions is Cape San Blas Florida. This beach location is in the panhandle of Florida well before the busy Destin coast.

This is a place for total relaxation on a less crowded beach.

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