Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, quiet island escape or a luxurious getaway, Florida offers an array of exciting destinations to add to your 2018 travel bucket list. From supporting the cultural attractions in Sarasota to learning about the eco-philosophy of Anna Maria Island, these sun-drenched Florida cities are ripe for discovery. Ranging from buzzworthy travel hotspots to completely under-the-radar coastal towns, these are some of the best places to visit in Florida in 2018.
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It might be the most obvious addition to any list of must-see Florida cities, but 2018 brings even more family-friendly rides to Orlando’s already long lineup of theme park attractions. It’s a great year for theme park enthusiasts, as the new Toy Story Land is a much-anticipated addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a 450-foot high-flying swing is debuting on International Drive, while Fast & Furious: Supercharged is a high-speed ride coming to Universal Studios in 2018.
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys took a hit after hurricane Irma in 2017, which means they’ll need the support of tourism more than ever in the coming year. We don’t think we’ll need to pull your arm too hard to consider making your way towards the idyllic string of coral islands that dot its emerald waters, as the area’s natural beauty speaks for itself. Spend your days diving into a stunning underwater world of colorful marine life, exploring the only living coral barrier reef in the United States, and soaking up the stunning sunset views with a refreshing cocktail in hand.
Everglades National Park
For the chance to see nine unique ecosystems, make sure to include a visit to the subtropical wilderness of the Everglades on your 2018 calendar. A World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, the wetlands here are home to several unique species of birds, reptiles and fish, and it consistently ranks as one of the top national parks in the United States. Go on a kayaking excursion, walk the Anhinga Trail or peddle through Shark Valley, while those looking for an overnight excursion can camp overnight.
While many luxury travelers head to Miami or Palm Beach, Naples should be high on your 2018 list if you’re looking for a bit of pampering. This charming resort town has a vibrant cultural scene, a huge selection of eclectic restaurants and historic streets lined with designer boutiques, all surrounded by a picturesque backdrop of tropical landscapes. Adding to its allure, the sun-drenched Marco Island is only a short drive away, where you can spend an afternoon swimming, dolphin watching and collecting seashells.
St. George Island
Perfect for a romantic getaway or a trip with the kids, St. George Island is a nostalgic seaside retreat that will appeal to all ages. Boasting 28 miles of snow-white beaches and clear Gulf waters, fill up your itinerary with biking, hiking, snorkeling and birdwatching excursions. Head here in 2018 to find a secluded spot on its picturesque shoreline, as its lack of chain restaurants and high-rise hotels makes it one of the last preserved barrier islands in Florida.
A hub of fascinating cultural attractions, Sarasota is a sophisticated city with a mix of natural wonders and world-class museums. Admire clown memorabilia at The Ringling and the exquisite Mediterranean Revival residence Ca’ d’Zan, smell the orchids at Marie Selby Botanical Garden and visit the touch pools at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. Dig your toes in the award-winning white quartz sand at nearby Siesta Key, where you can soak up the views of one of the best beaches in the United States.
Anna Maria Island
Home to the greenest main street in America, Anna Maria Island is a hidden gem with a laid-back Old Florida charm and collection of locally owned restaurants. Speeds never exceed 35 mph on this tiny island, recognized by the United Nations in 2014 for their part is sustainable tourism. From its energy efficient buildings to its crushed seashell sidewalks, visit this area for a guilt-free vacation of farm-to-table dining, sailboating, and a chance to spot dolphins, manatees and turtles in its waterways.
Often overlooked by big city rivals Orlando and Miami, Tampa can hold its own with its abundance of attractions that appeal to both kids and adults alike. From admiring the eight “Masterworks” in the Salvador Dali Museum to waterslides at Adventure Island and viewing Florida’s gentle giants at the Manatee Viewing Center, you can easily fill up an itinerary of unique experiences. For an adult’s only night out, sample beers at Cigar City Brewing, then head to the Hard Rock Casino to try your luck on the slot machines.
Nestled in Florida’s northwest region, Destin is the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” While not much of a village anymore, its legendary sugar-white beaches, succulent seafood restaurants and an array of sought-after deep-sea fishing excursions make it the jewel of the Emerald Coast. Take the kids to this peninsular paradise and go on a Buccaneer Pirate Cruise, learn about marine life at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park and indulge in the family-friendly fun at Village of Baytowne Wharf.
A small coastal town with idyllic landscapes and a quaint collection of attractions, Vero Beach is a haven for sun-worshippers looking for laid-back sophistication. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, you’ll find miles of uncrowded beaches, championship golf courses and a vibrant arts and culture scene with galleries, museums and theatres to explore. Take a sunset cruise on the Indian River Lagoon, kayak through a biologically diverse estuary, or visit Vero Beach Museum of Art to admire over 880 works of art.
One of Florida’s most charming small-town gems, Micanopy is a place for visitors to experience a slice of Old Florida with a mix of welcoming locals, quaint shops and natural wonders. Nicknamed the “Little Town That Time Forgot”, it’s Florida’s self-proclaimed antique’s capital where you can spend hours searching for unique treasures. Take a day trip to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park to see wild bison and horses roaming its lands from a 50-foot observation tower, or head to Pearl Country Store for delicious barbecue.