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18 Things to Do in Florida the Locals Don’t Tell You About

With its sun-kissed beaches to thrilling theme parks, Florida is famous for its array of world-renowned attractions. There are some attractions, however, that don’t get the attention they deserve in the Sunshine State. Have you ever zip-lined over alligators? Or sat in the pilot seat of a motorcycle aircraft flying over the beach? From underrated attractions to some of our best-kept secrets, read on to discover a few things you didn’t know you could do in Florida.

Go on a Zipline Adventure at Alligator Farm Zoological Park  St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park Alligator Farm
Credit: St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park Alligator Farm by alligatorfarm.com

Go on a Zipline Adventure at Alligator Farm Zoological Park

What Is It? A perfect destination for thrill-seekers, the Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine is where you can zipline over a pit of alligators and crocodiles. 

Why Do It? Get a bird’s eye view of these fierce creatures, while those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground can enjoy the lemur, komodo dragons, and toucan exhibits. 

Good to Know: Open since 1893, this historic attraction offers an interesting and educational look at Florida’s most dangerous animals.

Cool Off at a Florida Spring Ichetucknee

Cool Off at a Florida Spring

What Is It? While most visitors flock to the Sunshine State to bask on its white-sand beaches, Florida is also home to a long list of natural springs, many of which are hidden gems.

Why Do It? The state has more than 700 springs to explore, and while some are more popular than others, they all boast crystal-clear waters for cooling off on a warm day. Head to the Panhandle to visit Ponce de Leon Springs State Park or bring the kids to Madison Blue Spring State Park. North Florida’s Ichetucknee Springs is popular with tubing, while Devil’s Den is a unique diving spot. In Central Florida, Blue Spring State Park is beloved for its manatee sightings. There’s even a spring in South Florida that is the state’s only natural warm spring.

Good to Know: For a list of swimming holes near you, check out our Florida springs complete guide. It highlights all of the best-kept secrets, separated by region.

Experience the Wonder of a Bioluminescent Kayaking Tour Bioluminescent Kayak Tour
Credit: Bioluminescent Kayak Tour by Bioluminescent Kayak Tour

Experience the Wonder of a Bioluminescent Kayaking Tour

What Is It? Nature enthusiasts that aren’t afraid of the dark should definitely take a bioluminescent kayaking tour of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge or Indian River Lagoon. 

Why Do It? An otherworldly experience, you’ll be mesmerized by the blue-green lights and the tiny splash of fireworks in the water as you’re surrounded by the dark night sky filled with stars.

Good to Know: It’s a unique experience, with only six other places in the world to see this phenomenon.

Travel the World at Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens
Credit: Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens by morikami.org

Travel the World at Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens

What Is It? One of the most culturally rich attractions in Delray Beach, Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens will make you feel like you’ve traveled halfway around the world. 

Why Do It? Taking inspiration from authentic Japanese gardens, here you’ll find a zen-like quality with its serene landscapes and beautifully manicured gardens. 

Good to Know: Explore the museum’s fascinating galleries with Japanese art, experience an authentic tea ceremony, then walk through the gardens to see a beautiful bonsai collection.

Meet an Arctic wolf at Seacrest Wolf Preserve Seacrest Wolf Preserve, Chipley
Credit: Seacrest Wolf Preserve, Chipley by Seacrest Wolf Preserve

Meet an Arctic wolf at Seacrest Wolf Preserve

What Is It? An attraction you wouldn’t think even existed, the Seacrest Wolf Preserve in Chipley is in a category of its own. 

Why Do It? Located an hour outside of Panama City, this attraction provides a humane sanctuary for displaced captive wolves on a 400-acre farm. 

Good to Know: Here you can have the rare chance to get up close and personal with Gray, Arctic, and British Columbian wolves, take a walking tour throughout the large natural habitats and get plenty of photo opportunities.

See Seasonal Blooms at Bok Tower Gardens Bok Tower Gardens
Credit: Bok Tower Gardens by boktowergardens.org

See Seasonal Blooms at Bok Tower Gardens

What Is It? Set amongst the rolling hills of citrus trees in Lake Wales, Bok Tower Gardens is a 250-acre National Historic Landmark and one of the most beautiful gardens in Florida.

Why Do It? This local favorite not only has beautifully landscaped gardens but also boasts a 205-foot Singing Tower carillon and a Mediterranean-style estate. Snap a photo of the Singing Tower with its 15-foot moat, koi pond, and a reflection pool, then hear daily concerts at the 60-bell carillon. You’ll find romantic recesses, peaceful resting spots, and exploration-worthy trails amongst the lush foliage. Along the way, admire over 150 varieties of camellias, hundreds of azaleas, orchids, irises, and other flowering plants that give off wonderfully intoxicating scents.

Good to Know: Make sure to also explore the 20-room Pinewood Estate mansion, which was built in the 1930s and is open for tours.

Explore the African Wildlife at Safari Wilderness Ranch Safari Wilderness Ranch, Lakeland
Credit: Safari Wilderness Ranch, Lakeland by safariwilderness.com

Explore the African Wildlife at Safari Wilderness Ranch

What Is It? Perfect for those looking for a blend of ranch, safari, and theme park action, visit the 870 square miles of dramatic landscapes at the Safari Wilderness Ranch in Lakeland. 

Why Do It? Here you’ll find hundreds of animals roaming the vast open spaces and be able to admire the beautiful backdrop of leafy bay trees and cypress domes. 

Good to Know: Whether you go on a Vehicle, Kayak or Camel Safari with an experienced guide or go on a Llama Trek, you’re sure to spot unique African wildlife such as red lechwe, sitatunga, and springboks.

Go Swimming at the Venetian Pool The Venetian Pool
Credit: The Venetian Pool by socialBedia via Flickr

Go Swimming at the Venetian Pool

What Is It? One of the best swimming holes in Florida, the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables isn’t like your usual public swimming hole, as this historic haven is the largest freshwater swimming pool in the United States.

Why Do It? Dating back to 1923, its spring-fed waters will cool you off, while kids will enjoy exploring the cascading waterfalls and cave-like grottos. The pool holds an unimaginable 820,000 gallons of crystal clear fresh water that is pumped in from artesian wells daily. It also features two large historic lookout towers, with a view of the City Beautiful. It’s a scenic setting, with its beauty further accentuated by its loggias, porticos, palm trees, and signature bridge.

Good to Know: Perfect for a hot summer day, this National Register of Historic Places landmark also has picnic tables where you can set up an outdoor lunch.

Get Up Close to Wildlife at Lion Country Safari Lion Country Safari
Credit: Lion Country Safari by Lion Country Safari

Get Up Close to Wildlife at Lion Country Safari

What Is It? Just 30 minutes outside of West Palm Beach, Lion Country Safari is a unique animal excursion in Florida.

Why Do It? It’s the only drive-through safari in the state, home to more than 900 animals on its expansive property. For a peek at large herds of waterbuck, orucks, and rhinos, visitors can take a 5 mile drive through this amusement park and see if you can spot the lion prides, chimps, and giraffes meandering through the grassy expanse. You can also get out and stretch your legs, as there is a walk-through portion of the park called Safari World, where you can catch a glimpse of colorful birds and fish.

Good to Know: Kids will love the variety of rides and water sprayground at Lion Country Safari. In addition, animal lovers can sign up for personalized programs with a guided walking tour and various photo opportunities.

Make your Own Wine at The Gilded Grape Winery The Gilded Grape Winery
Credit: The Gilded Grape Winery by The Gilded Grape Winery

Make your Own Wine at The Gilded Grape Winery

What Is It? Have you ever made your own wine? Well at The Gilded Grape Winery in Port Charlotte you can, allowing you to create a high-quality bottle of wine that you can take home in two months. 

Why Do It? One of the most unique wineries in the Sunshine State, here you’ll have a long list of grapes and exotic fruits to choose from to create the varieties, including French Merlot and California White Zinfandel.

Good to Know: If you like fruity concoctions, try the Peach Perfection and Seville Orange Sangria.

Soak in the Serene Setting of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Credit: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens by vizcaya.org

Soak in the Serene Setting of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

What Is It? Located in Miami, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a waterfront property that is internationally recognized for both its rich history and nature preservation.

Why Do It? Step inside and explore the architecturally rich mansion grounds or take a romantic stroll through the lush manicured gardens to find a picture-perfect display of 2,000 orchids. You can see the 10 acres of spectacular Italianate gardens and the first floor of the Main House of the striking Gilded Age estate on Biscayne Bay. It’s a delight for your senses and a hidden cultural gem in Miami, featuring a mangrove shoreline and rock hammock.

Good to Know: It’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Miami, where you can take the beautiful natural landscapes of this attraction for a day of peace and quiet.

See Florida's Bright Pink Beauties at Flamingo Gardens Flamingo Gardens, Davie
Credit: Flamingo Gardens, Davie by Flamingo Gardens

See Florida's Bright Pink Beauties at Flamingo Gardens

What Is It? A 60-acre oasis in Davie, Flamingo Gardens offers the chance to snap the perfect keepsake souvenir photo of Florida’s bright pink flamingos. 

Why Do It? Home to 83 types of birds and a 25,000 square foot free-flight aviary, here you can also see black bears, river otters, and bobcats, nestled in some of the last naturally occurring jungle in South Florida.

Good to Know: Open since 1927, this iconic attraction is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Florida. 

Go Back in Time at Dinosaur World Dinosaur World, Plant City
Credit: Dinosaur World, Plant City by Dinosaur World

Go Back in Time at Dinosaur World

What Is It? Old Florida entertainment at its finest, Dinosaur World in Plant City will have you feeling like you’re in a sci-fi movie, with 200 life-size dinosaurs set in a natural setting. 

Why Do It? You’ll find dino-themed playgrounds, a museum with authentic fossils, and a boardwalk that winds through lush, native vegetation surrounded by centuries-old oak trees.

Good to Know: Kids will get a kick out of the details of these larger-than-life creatures, with plenty of interactive exhibits to capture their imagination.

Explore Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park Paynes Prairie
Credit: Paynes Prairie by floridastateparks.org

Explore Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

What Is It? One of Florida’s best-kept secrets for nature lovers, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park features untouched wilderness that spans 20,000 acres of diverse ecosystems, home to roaming wild horses and bison.

Why Do It? Paynes Prarie Preserve is so special that it’s one of 18 Florida National Natural Landmarks. A big, open prairie with beautiful vistas, it’s filled with forest trails, scenic lake areas, and wetlands. This area is ideal for a day of horseback riding and hiking through the scenic forest, while the park’s full-facility campsites are a great way to get off the grid for a few days. Tons of wildlife can be found in the northern end of the park at the famous La Chua Trail, where a boardwalk snakes past the Alachua Sink filled with alligators piled in a heap in the marshy areas.

Good to Know: Located just a short drive from Gainesville in Micanopy, the park’s history dates back to 10,000 B.C. with the inclusion of an Indian occupation many centuries ago.

Get Off The Grid at Cayo Costa State Park Cayo Costa State Park
Credit: Cayo Costa State Park by floridastateparks.org

Get Off The Grid at Cayo Costa State Park

What Is It? You can get off the grid at Cayo Costa State Park, which is a remote barrier island with nine miles of unspoiled white sand beach.

Why Do It? Take an excursion from nearby Pine Island or Punta Gorda to this slice of paradise, which retains its natural wilderness and sense of remoteness with pine forests, oak-palm hammocks, and mangrove swamps. It’s the perfect day trip for nature enthusiasts seeking an afternoon of solitude, where its shoreline is piled with seashells and offers plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, including manatees, dolphins, and osprey. You can also spend an afternoon swimming in the calm waters, set up a picnic in the shade, or cast a line for a quiet day of fishing.

Good to Know: Dating back 4,000 years, the 2,436-acre park offers a ferry service that runs to the island from several mainland locations.

*Due to Hurricane Ian, the park is currently closed.

Marvel at Devil’s Millhopper Devil's Millhopper
Credit: Devil's Millhopper by floridastateparks.org

Marvel at Devil’s Millhopper

What Is It? If you want to get off the beaten path, Devil’s Millhopper in Gainesville is one of the most unique state parks in the United States.

Why Do It? This stunning geological park and National Natural Landmark contains a 120 foot deep, 500 foot wide, and 10,000-year-old limestone sinkhole known as “Devil’s Millhopper.” You can explore the 71-acre park along its boardwalk, which features steps that lead you down to an observation deck where you can marvel at the half-mile, bowl-shaped cavity. Take in the surroundings of the rainforest filled with towering live oaks, where if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of small waterfalls stemming from the springs that feed the pond at the bottom of the sinkhole.

Good to Know: In addition to the main attraction, there are a ton of activities and things to do in the surrounding area. Stroll around the half-mile trail around the sinkhole, view the interpretive displays at the visitor center, bike along Milhopper Road, or have a picnic in the park.

Go Behind-the-Scenes at Tabanero Cigars Tabanero Cigars, Tampa
Credit: Tabanero Cigars, Tampa by Tabanero Cigars

Go Behind-the-Scenes at Tabanero Cigars

What Is It? Tabanero Cigars not only offers quality cigars, but they give visitors behind the scenes insight into the cigar-making industry.

Why Do It? Take a tour of this facility and see passionate Cuban-born artisans at work rolling cigars, take a walk through the humidor and learn about the aging process, and learn how to cut, punch, light the cigars the correct way.

Good to Know: This attraction is located in the heart of Ybor City just outside of Tampa’s city center.

Visit the World's Largest Occupied Bat House The University of Florida Bat Barn
Credit: The University of Florida Bat Barn by LaggedOnUser via Flickr

Visit the World's Largest Occupied Bat House

What Is It? Home to one of the country’s top natural history museums, the University of Florida campus has one of the state’s best-kept secrets, one of the world’s largest occupied bat houses. 

Why Do It? Located at the Florida Museum, here you can see Brazilian free-tailed bats, Southeastern bats, and Evening bats. 

Good to Know: Emerging after sunset, you can watch as these bats swoop in to feed on insects, certainly a thrill for any animal lover.

Soar Over Clearwater Beach at Sky Surfing Aviation Sky Surfing Aviation
Credit: Sky Surfing Aviation by Sky Surfing Aviation

Soar Over Clearwater Beach at Sky Surfing Aviation

What Is It? Sky Surfing Aviation in Florida allows you to reach new heights as you soar over the award-winning Clearwater Beach. 

Why Do It? A hands-on flight that puts you in the pilot seat, work with an FAA Certified Flight Instructor as you get an up-close look at some of Florida’s most picturesque landscapes, offering a view most visitors never get to see.

Good to Know: It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for adventurous travelers.

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