What are the best things to do in Florida? Here are some of my favourites.
We have been to Florida 10 times – maybe more, who knows? There are a few good reasons to visit Florida for us Europeans and to be honest, I never have a list of ‘things to do in Florida’ as our trips normally flow so well. But let’s try and do this, shall we?
And a word of warning – this list does not include Orlando and its multiple theme parks (because I have not been) and it really is based on my very personal interests, so please bear that in mind. There are countless of other resources on the internet which will list other things to do – but here are my favourite things to do in Florida.
1. Go To The Beach
Soft white sand? Check. Beautiful warm turquoise water? Check. Sun loungers at the beach? Mostly check. With 1200 miles (about 1931 km) of coastline, the Sunshine State’s beaches are some of the best you can find in the USA, for just about anyone.
There are family-friendly beaches, dog-friendly beaches, beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, and beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. I also appreciate how they like to lie down in sun loungers when enjoying the fabulous weather.
Whether you stay nearer to Miami or hop on to the Gulf Keys, you will not be disappointed. Longboat Key in Sarasota is not to be missed. It is a small piece of paradise that is only 15 minutes from downtown Sarasota and is simply beautiful. It is obvious why Siesta Key Beach is considered one of the best beaches in the USA, yet be prepared to rent chairs, not loungers while exploring this stretch of sand.
2. Eat Some Crab & Delicious Seafood
The big pink crab legs are from Alaska, the lobster from Maine but everything else on this photo comes from Florida and they quite like to eat their seafood au natural (like most of Europeans).
They tend to eat just the crab legs of their stone crabs, and they are delicious!
Stone crabs are a Florida delicacy and as such there are strict harvesting regulations to preserve the population and only the claws are allowed to be consumed. Only one claw is removed per crab before they are set free again. They are really really good.
We love Billy’s Stone Crab in Hollywood, Florida (and do not be put off by their not so modern website). Diners can enjoy postcard-perfect sunset views and watch the boats drift by.
Coming from a country with cold water, seafood tastes a bit different here (I prefer cold water and also the variety we get in Northern Europe), but I appreciate what Florida brings to the table in this dimension.
3. Listen to Some Latin Music
One of the things I love the most about the Miami Area is how Latin and diverse it is. South Florida is home to many immigrants from pretty much every South American country and that reflects wonderfully in its culture.
We always enjoy strolling past little Havana in Miami, but you don’t actually have to dig that deep to find a place. From the Cuban conga and rumba, the Haitian kompa, the Caribbean zouk, the Brazilian samba, to the Dominican merengue, the Miami music scene is a hub of diverse Latin musical genres with exploring.
I obviously do not remember when was the last time we went dancing, but just by turning on the radio when we drive, we get a little thrill.
Living in England, I realise I miss ‘that part of my life’. The music, the food and the liveliness of people – being Portuguese we are not Hispanic but there is certainly a Latin flare in our lives and when we go to Miami, I get a little bit of it back. (one of those things I don’t think about every day but I notice when it happens again).
4. Eat Wonderful Latin-Inspired Food
Ceviche from Peru? Fabulous steaks from Uruguay and Argentina. Brazilian steak houses, Cuban sandwiches… I could go on and on and on and on. This alone makes me want to book the next flight to Miami. And obviously, let’s not forget about the ‘world-famous’ key lime pie, which can be truly amazing.
As stated earlier – I love the Latin-American influence you will find in Miami (and nowhere else in the USA). That obviously is not just about the music – it obviously transpires to food and drink and it is one of my favourite things about going to Miami. Eating interesting food is definitely one of the best things to do in Florida without a doubt.
You can read about a recent trip to the Miami Area and you can notice how varied the food we had was.
5. Enjoy a Wellness Break (Miami-style)
I love Reformer Pilates and recently discovered a luxury hotel near Miami where I can enjoy 10 classes a day (if I wanted to), go to the beach and then hop on to dinner in town. This may be the best recipe for a wellness holiday (for me) and you can’t find this combination anywhere else in the world – believe me, I have been looking.
On previous trips, I managed to get the hotel, but I couldn’t get the fitness part right – so discovering The Carillion Hotel & Spa was pretty important. The unique combination of everything I listed earlier makes me want to get on a plane tomorrow. (and that is how exactly I went last time).
6. Get On a Boat
A sunset cruise. A deep-sea fishing trip. A half-day on a yacht for some serious sunbathing and champagne.
With miles of coastline and easy access to the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, lakes and rivers, Florida was made for boating, some might say.
One of the best ways to enjoy Florida is by boat – and it won’t be difficult to rent one wherever you may be. There are plenty of charter companies who can help you organise one – by the hour, half-day or whole day.
There are also sunset cruises and other group boats that can be easily booked via an experience website.
Visit Florida also rounded up a number of local companies who can help you find the right boating experience. Please note that I have not used any companies myself, so this is not a personal recommendation.
7. Go for a drive
People don’t normally associate Florida with road trips (California coined that pretty well) – but it is a great way to explore the sunshine state. On a recent trip, we started in Miami, then went on to Naples and finally Sarasota over 10 days. This allowed us to have a complete change of scenery and actually see completely different parts of Florida, which we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Florida is roughly half the size of Italy (for an idea of scale) – and none of us would think of ‘doing Italy’ over a week or so – or even a couple of months, so my suggestion is to break down where you would like to go and attempt to not see everything on the same trip.
From my personal experience, I try to not have stops shorter than 2 nights, but 3 nights seem to be the sweet spot for us, so we get to really enjoy where we chose to stop.
Renting a car is the way to go, of course.
8. Get Artistic
What’s the difference between Art Basel and Miami Art Week?
Art Basel in Miami Beach
The main art event in Florida, with 268 of the world’s top galleries showcasing modern, contemporary and cutting-edge work from more than 4,000 artists is held each December. It is a sister fair to Art Basel, held each June in Switzerland, and is considered North America’s most comprehensive contemporary art fair attracting thousands of artists, art dealers and collectors every year.
Miami Art Week
Began in 2001 when the European Art Basel made Miami its U.S. home for five days in early December. Now it has grown to involve almost two dozen art fairs, exhibits all around town and events, lectures and panels. Art Basel is the cornerstone but only part of Miami Art Week.
9. Shop til you drop
When you go to Florida, either take some empty suitcases or plan to buy new ones. Shopping is a great way to take a break from the beach and you are spoiled for choice. From outlet shopping at The Colonnades at Sawgrass Mills to the very best of the very best at Bal Harbour Shops, you will not be leaving empty-handed. Bar Harbour Shops although compact, is full with the very best money can buy. The Colonnades at Sawgrass Mills is home to Florida’s most unique designer outlets. It is quite large in comparison to Bar Harbour Shops, and the luxury brands are concentrated to the same place.
Aventura Mall is also a great option for mainstream shopping (and designer brands too) and almost next door you will find Gulfstream in Hallandale, probably the only place in America where you can find Crate & Barrel, The Container Store, Pottery Barn, West Elm and Williams Sonoma across the road from each other. Do not send help.
10. Try some Zumba
Zumba and Miami go hand in hand. Despite being invented in Colombia, it is a Miami-based company that brought it to the world in its current format. Ironically I first tried it in California, but have enjoyed many classes now in Miami (and it did feel different as the instructors were Latin). I use the Mindbody app to find local studios and we try and book a couple of classes on each trip.
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Check out my other Things to Do in Florida posts below:
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