The Ultimate Travel Bucket List: Top Florida Experiences

Florida Travel Bucket List

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Florida is a major tourist destination. Between the beaches, theme parks, and places to visit, there are several top Florida experiences not to miss.

We’ve compiled an ultimate travel bucket list so you don’t miss a beat on your next visit to the Sunshine Sate. We’ll start with North Florida and move down the state to uncover a variety of top Florida experiences.

The Panhandle

The northernmost bit of Florida has tons to see and do and is home to the Florida state capital of Tallahassee. Here are our choices for Panhandle attractions you won’t want to miss.

Ichetucknee Springs

Tucked away in Fort White, Florida, Ichetucknee Springs is not to be missed for both adventure seekers and relaxation getaways. This culmination of eight pristine sparkling rivers offers swimming, rafting, kayaking, hiking, and more. It’s also a treasure of wildlife with everything beavers to wild turkeys roaming through the forest surrounding the springs.

Learn more here.

Florida’s Forgotten Coast

200 miles of coastline in little known Franklin County, Florida make up the pristine and secluded paradise known as the Forgotten Coast.

With 5 islands and over 90 historic sites this is a place no one should miss. From fishing, to shopping, to museums, sunbathing, and more there is truly something for everyone. Click here to learn more about this unique area.

Stinky’s Fish Camp

The pride of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida Stinky’s Fish Camp has amazing seafood and wine you’ll be coming back for agin and again. They feature unique chef driven recipes utilizing the abundant fresh seafood that Florida is known for.

Known fir the best food on 30A, don’t miss the oyster log where you can try all the oyters ALL the ways, the catfish meuniere an elevated take on a low-country classic, and the gulf-to-table seafood basket featuring the fresh catch of the day.

Click here to check out their ever-changing menu and learn more about this awesome restaurant.

Explore Scenic Highway 30A on the Florida Panhandle

Northeast Florida

North Florida (AKA The First Coast) is not always the first place people think of when they come to visit our beautiful state but, it has a ton of value to offer. There is so much diversity in the cities here that it’s like you’re visiting different states with each one.

Here are our top picks in North Florida.

The Hidden Getaway of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach

Amelia Island is a treasure trove of Florida history and heritage while also boasting 13 miles of beautiful shoreline and beach views.

The downtown of Amelia Island has charming cobbled streets and an old-time feel as you wind through the avenues and shops. Noted for its Victorian Era architecture, this little town will have you swooning for times gone by.

Make sure to check out the oldest saloon in Florida to grab a drink while you’re here at the Palace Saloon and then don’t miss the Trolley Tour to get the full story on the history of the area.

A Comprehensive LGBTQ Travel Guide To Amelia Island

Visit the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine

One of the oldest forts in the country, the Castillo de San Marcos allowed the Spanish to keep watch over their newly claimed territory of Florida in the time of Christopher Columbus. Made entirely of coquina, a building material made of broken seashells, it’s a sight to behold.

Tour the entire fort and watch demonstrations of historical activities like how they made steel ball bearings for musket bullets out of molten steel and the barracks they kept their prisoners in.

While you’re in St. Augustine don’t miss the oldest wooden schoolhouse and the unending charm of the city surrounding the fort. There is a ton to do for both young and old.

Gay Florida Road Trip Guide: St. Augustine

Explore the Mysterious Sinkhole at the Devil’s Millhopper

Devil’s Millhopper is home to a national natural landmark and one of the most unique geologic structures you’ll come across.

Travel to Gainesville to experience this 71-acre park that gives you unprecedented views of the limestone sinkhole that’s 10,000 years old, 120-feet deep, and 500-feet wide. The historic limestone bowl is situated in a beautiful miniature rainforest with huge live oaks and other plant life.

Washington Oaks State Park is Home to Florida’s Most Famous Shorelines

Pet friendly and gorgeous, Washington Oaks State Park has something for every outdoor enthusiast. 

From hiking to biking, swimming, and fishing there is plenty to do. Bird watchers get a special treat as the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail runs right through the park.

The Mala Compra hiking loop is a half-mile loop that explores the ecozone between the coastal maritime hammock, comprised of tons of native Florida landscape, and the estuarine tidal marsh along the Matanzas River.

The Central East Coast

Encompassing world-famous Daytona Beach all the way down the shore to Port t. Lucie, the Central East Coast has some of the most varied attractions of the whole state.

From outdoor adventures to sports, to beaches, you won’t be disappointed. Here are our favorite top Florida experiences in this region.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex

For space enthusiasts, kids, and adults alike the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Cape Canaveral is the place for you. Explore exhibits of moon rocks, space dust, and the actual machinery that’s been in outer space.

Taste astronaut food and learn more about the history of the space program. A fantastic and educational day for sure.

Daytona Beach and the Daytona International Speedway

Whenever you think about Daytona the first thing to come to mind is NASCAR. Daytona Beach is home to the Daytona International Speedway and the site of the annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Race.

This famous racetrack brings thousands of visitors to Daytona year after year. In addition to the racetrack, Daytona Beach is world-famous and the home to beautiful seas and huge festivals. Bike week draws motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the country year after year in March. Then Biketoberfest kicks off in October for another round of bikes and fun.

Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach

While you can find Ron Jon stores all over the eastern US the location in Cocoa Beach is actually the largest surf shop in the world. They have everything beach related from surfboards to swimsuits, sunscreen to floats, you’ll find it all.

Brevard Zoo

This gorgeous treasure of an animal park is the only zoo in the country that offers onsite kayak tours. The zoo has over 880 animals in the park and offers a number of close encounters.

For an extra special experience, you can book a private guided safari or night hike through the zoo. You’ll get up close to the animals and have the park all to yourself.

Gay Florida Space Coast Road Trip Guide

Central Florida

Central Florida is more than just home to that famous mouse Walt thought up. With a rich landscape of dining scenes, small neighborhoods each with their own charm, and tons of fun amazing things to do, Central Florida is a place to visit. Check out these top Florida experiences in Central Florida.

Park Avenue in Winter Park

For a beautiful day and some wonderful shopping and eats, check out Park Avenue in Winter Park, Fl.

About 10 minutes outside Downtown Orlando, Winter Park is a historic little town and you’ll be taken with the cute small-town charm and sophisticated and posh shops that line the cobblestone street.

With a fun mix of shops from antique and vintage books to Restoration Hardware and tiny clothing boutiques, there is something for everyone.

East End Market

Located in North Orlando, the East End Market is a collective of food vendors who have all come together under one roof.

Similar to a food court without the mall, the stalls offer unique and homemade eats and treats. Get everything from breakfast to dessert in this lovely little food hall.

An LGBTQ+ Travel Guide To Orlando

The Silver Springs Glass Bottom Boats

Florida is famous for its springs. Silver Springs offers you a special glimpse into the ecology of the waterways of Florida with its glass-bottom boat tours.

See fish, manatee, and more on these lovely little guided tour cruises of the springs.

Lake Eola Farmer’s Market

Orlando is known for all things tourist but they also have amazing local farmers. Every Sunday there is a huge farmer’s market around Lake Eola in beautiful downtown Orlando.

Support local farms and gather delicious fresh produce, raw honey, and more at the market.

Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp

For the adventurous and those who like things a little paranormal, take a visit to the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp. It’s the largest psychic community in the world.

They have the highest number of not only psychics but clairvoyants and mediums as well. Some believe that Cassadaga if the center of spiritual energy where the divine and the Earth commune. Visitors can meditate and get a psychic reading along with purchasing some amazing and powerful gemstones.

It’s a convenient trip located in Lake Helen, Florida right off I-4.

Make sure to check out our hidden and secret destinations in Florida, too! 

Travel Like a Local: Hidden and Secret Destinations in Florida

Tampa | St. Petersburg

Tampa is not just Busch Gardens anymore. With a booming foodie scene and a resurgence of their downtown areas, Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg should be on your list to explore. Ready for our top Florida experiences? See below.

Tampa Riverwalk

Take a stroll down the beautiful waterfront on this 2.6-mile long trail. All along the trail you can enjoy art pieces and the views and have easy access to a plethora of restaurants and other attractions.

Armature Works

This public market is a 22,000 square foot industrial market. It has been turned into the go-to place for everything foodie in Tampa.

Enjoy an exquisite meal at Steelbach a southern-inspired kitchen and chophouse which is the brainchild of executive chef Nathan Hardin, the previous Chef de Cuisine of Harvest and Highball at the Ritz Carlton Orlando.

They serve some of the best steaks you’ll ever eat out of their 1000 degree oak and mesquite open fire grill.

Along with fine dining, there are also tons of smaller food stalls serving everything from barbeque to pho and everything in between. Come hungry and leave happy.

Big Cat Rescue

Come see the place recently made famous by the Netflix series “Tiger King”. Here, owner Carole Baskins created a sanctuary for big cats that were previously mistreated and kept in less than ideal situations.

The 67-acre property houses more than 100 animals and over 14 different species. They offer night and feeding tours to get a chance to see the cats in action. They also offer regular admission where you can tour the grounds yourself.

Grand Central and EDGE District in St. Petersburg

These are the ultimate gayborhoods in the area and have a ton of amazing local restaurants, bars, and other fun shops and activities.

Check out Punky’s Bar and Grill, the Lucky Star Lounge, and for some live music head to Enigma, St. Pete. Stay a night at the historic Hollander Hotel to experience all the St. Pete nightlife and have a comfortable place to sleep it off.

Visit Gay Tampa: Florida Travel Guide

Southwest Florida

Southwest Florida has a lot to offer from Fort Myers, Sanibel, Naples, Cape Coral, and more. Here are the top picks for our must-see places in Southwest Florida.

The Edison and Ford Estates

Located on land along the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers, Thomas Edison constructed this winter home and named it the Seminole Lodge. He and his wife wintered here until he passed away in 1931.

Henry Ford and his family were dear friends of the Edison’s so they purchased the adjacent property and built their own winter bungalow and named it The Mangoes.

Today, these homes have been turned into museums and feature over 20 acres of botanical gardens and all the history of the Edison and Ford families.

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

This lovely Fort Myers dinner theatre has an award-winning buffet and Broadway musicals with a live orchestra. They offer full bar service and a packed buffet, including a salad bar and dessert.

If eating while watching isn’t your thing they also offer “Show Only” seats for those who don’t want dinner.

The Mound House

Another one for history buffs, the Mound House is the oldest standing structure on Estero Island in Fort Myers Beach.

It was built in 1921 and has been converted into a museum showing off Calusa artifacts and exhibits.

Naples Botanical Garden

This garden is a tropical paradise filled with wonders from Florida, Brazil, Asia, and the Caribbean along with a full Water Garden with lilies, papyrus, and lotus flowers. It also offers a 90-acre preserve when hundreds of animals and native plants live.

The massive 170-acre garden offers educational, interactive, and entertaining programs and is suited for the whole family.

Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

This nationally accredited zoo is much more than a simple walkthrough.

You can take a guided tour trough the monkeys, lemurs, and apes. You can see zookeeper talks to learn more about the animals and watch wildlife shows in their open-air theatre.

They do alligator feedings and have all different sorts of animals. Hand feed a giraffe and even see the elusive African Honey Badger.

Herrmann’s Royal Lipizzan Stallions

These stallions of Austria are truly a sight to behold. They are the rarest and aristocratic breed of horse in the world.

Watch these beautiful animals move with sophisticated grace and perform classic equestrian moves. You can see it all at their winter training home in Myakka City, Florida.

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

The Mote is not your everyday aquarium. It offers touch pools, a 135,000-gallon shark habitat, and over 100 species of marine life. They also have an Immersion Cinema with a 40-foot wide screen and interactive console so you can control the movie.

They are also home to the goliath grouper which is the biggest grouper species in the world. They offer breakfast with the sharks, kayak trips, and more.

The Ringling Museum of Art

This museum was built by John Ringling to house his personal art collection. You’ll find works by Rubens, van Dyck, Gainsborough, and other European, Asian, and American old masters.

With free admission on Mondays, you’ll also be able to tour the Ringling’s grounds and gardens where John and his wife Mable lived. This is one art museum that’s for the kids as they offer a playground featuring a three-story playhouse and a water park. 

Southeast Florida

With places like Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Florida’s most gay neighborhood, Wilton Manors, Southeast Florida has plenty to offer. Here are the top Florida experiences you may not have tried on your previous visits to Southeast Florida.

The Stranahan House

Nestled in among the large buildings of downtown Fort Lauderdale, The Stranahan House is the city’s oldest surviving structure.

The house was built in 1901 by the founding father of Fort Lauderdale, Frank Stranahan.

The home is open daily for guided house tours in the afternoon at 1, 2, and 3:00 PM.

Las Olas Boulevard

Known as Florida’s most architecturally unique and eclectic shopping experience, Las Olas Boulevard offers something for everyone.

Walk along the boulevard and weave in and out of cool breezeways. There are over 30 dining options, 10 major art galleries, 2 world-class museums, and over 65 unique shops offering everything from knick-knacks to high-fashion.

The YARD Wilton Manors

This is an awesome entertainment spot. They have live music, dining, special events, even craft shows, and more.

It’s home to a variety of different artists and shops and has a vibrant colorful ambiance. Stay all day exploring everything.

The World AIDS Museum

With a mission to eliminate the stigma around HIV/AIDS, the World AIDS Museum, in Wilton Manors, does just that through education, cultural programming, and artistic expression.

The museum came about because Pozitive Attitudes, a support group for people infected or affected by the virus, had an idea. The facilitator, Steve Stagon, started creating historical HIV/AIDS exhibits to show at the Pride Center. 

These became so popular that the museum grew out of that effort and the World AIDS Museum was founded in 2011.

Wynwood Walls

This free art exhibition showcases the talent of mural and graffiti artists from all over the country. From this exhibit, an entire movement was started and murals started overtaking all of Wynwood.

Each year a select group of artists is invited to create new works for the Wynwood Walls. Recently they’ve added a garden and green space. It’s now a world-renowned open-air “museum of the streets” and it’s not to be missed on your visit to Miami.

Learn more about mural art all over Florida in this blog here.

Little Havana

Step into a glimpse of Cuba in Little Havana. Enjoy a cigar, have an amazing meal, and stroll along the streets to take in the culture.

Check out the Fiesta Supermarket for some great produce and listen to live music all over the area. Enjoy a mojito while you’re here.

The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys is a true paradise. Made up of many small islands there is plenty to do and explore. Here are our suggested top Florida experiences in the Florida Keys.

Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary

If you like birds this Key Largo sanctuary is incredible. They take donations only for admission and you’ll want to spend a few hours touring the sanctuary.

You’ll see how they help wounded birds along with the owls, pelicans, hawks, and more that live there. 

Jules Undersea Lounge

If you can SCUBA then this is for you. Book a night at this Key Largo lounge and dive down to spend the night under the sea. With huge windows to watch the sea life swim by this is a once in a lifetime experience that should not be missed.

The only way to access the site is by doing a 21-foot scuba dive. The lounge is decked out in all the modern amenities and is super relaxing. Great place to forget about the world for a while.

Rain Barrels Artisan Village

Located on Islamorada, this unique shopping experience greets you with a 40-foot long lobster statue known as Betsy.

The artisans of the village sell their wares here. Everything from sculptures to jewelry is available and all made by hand.

Florida Keys Brewing Company

Islamorada is also home to the famous Florida Keys Brewing Company. The beer garden has over 20 of their own beers on tap plus other goodies like home-brewed kombucha and mead.

The best way to try them all is with their beer sampler plate.

Drive the Seven-Mile Bridge

Connecting the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys, this is one of the longest bridges in the entire world. It’s worth renting a car and doing a road trip from Key Largo to Key West just to take in the breathtaking water views along the 7-mile stretch.

The Ernest Hemingway House

It’s no secret that Ernest Hemingway and his wife were completely in love with the Florida Keys. He finished A Farewell to Arms in the Keys and decided that he would make it his permanent home.

This charming house is now a museum in Key West. It has an eclectic collection of furniture and quite a lot of cats. You can see where Hemingway penned the classics here in his Keys home.

Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden

This is a unique little sanctuary for parrots in Key West is run by a lovely and utterly devoted woman. She does parrot 101 at 10 AM every day and then you’re free to wander and watch the birds, play musical instruments, picnic, or create your own art.

Duval Street and Old Key West

These are amazing streets to stroll and take in the high energy of Key West. There are tons of restaurants, bars, and clubs and you can have a great time anywhere on the strip.

While you’re here check out the Key West Haunted Pub Crawl for a spooky paranormal way to get buzzed and see the sights. By the end, you’ll know why Key West is known as Bone Island and have toured a repurposed morgue!

Southernmost Point

And don’t forget to stop at the Southernmost point to have your photo taken. The Southernmost Point is an anchored concrete buoy in Key West, Florida, marking the southernmost point in the continental United States. It’s a famous spot for Key West kisses!

We Hope You’ve Compiled An Epic Florida Bucket List

So, now you know all of our top recommended Florida experiences to explore up and down the entire state of Florida. The next time you’re planning a trip, remember that Florida isn’t just Mickey Mouse – it’s a true paradise with amazing food, culture, and fun.

**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida and beyond, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

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june, 2024

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