Top 7 must-see places in Florida you should visit
By Julieth Mojica
Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine
The oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, the Castillo de San Marcos is a large Spanish stone fortress built to protect and defend Spain’s claims in the New World. It’s a National Monument and, at over 315 years old, it’s the oldest structure in St. Augustine. It’s also one of the main attractions visitors to St. Augustine come to see.
There’s plenty of things to do at the Castillo, from the numerous rooms that once housed soldiers and prisoners, to the large interior courtyard and gun deck which offers a great view of the city. Regular daily programs and ranger-led tours are free with admission, as are cannon firings and weaponry demonstrations, which are offered (weather and staffing permitting) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The Castillo is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Dali Museum, St. Petersburg
Mr. and Mrs. Morse first became fascinated with Dali’s work in 1942 at a retrospective show of Dali’s paintings at the Cleveland Museum of Art. They bought their first Dali painting in 1943 and later met Dali and his wife, Gala, the same year in New York City. That kicked off a life-long friendship with many visits to Dali in Spain and 40 years of collecting Dali’s work. By the time they were finished, the Morses had amassed one of the largest retrospective collections of a single artist in the world!! Over 2000 pieces, with works from 1917-1970. (Dali’s art from age 13- 66 !)
So, in 1979 they began a nationwide search for a museum to which they could donate the entire collection. They had some strict stipulations which made finding a compatible museum difficult. They insisted that none of the pieces could be sold or separated. And thus the Dali Museum was born in St Pete, opening in 1982.
The Everglades, Homestead
The Everglades is a World Heritage Site and is very different from most other places on this list. It is also the largest subtropical zone in the United States. The Everglades are a natural paradise. It is made up of mangroves, pine flatwoods and sawgrass marshes. These habitats are home to hundreds of species, some of which are in danger of extinction, such as the manatee.
One of the best ways to experience the Everglades is to hike one of the many boardwalk trails. You can also hop on a boat and take a tour of the many swamps and swamps. You may even see an alligator if you’re lucky!
Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers
Before bridges connected Estero Island to the mainland, Fort Myers Beach was seven miles of coastline known for shallow water and little else. Safe beaches remain, joined now by family-friendly resorts, Gulf-side seafood restaurants and energetic nightlife.
Fort Myers Beach sits on Estero Island, a seven-mile coastline that has captivated the imaginations of visitors from near and far. Add family-friendly resorts, quaint cottages, Old Florida charm, fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico and the annual Shrimp Festival, and it’s a beach vacation paradise.
Explore truly wild surroundings at Lovers Key State Park with a refreshing beach day, bike ride or hike. Try fishing in quiet waterways or kayaking alongside gentle manatees. Drive up Estero Island and across to San Carlos Island for a closer look at the boats of the local Shrimp Fleet. For lunch, stop at Smokin’ Oyster Brewery, and relish the mouthwatering seafood and intriguing memorabilia.
History and Art at Sarasota’s Ringling, Sarasota
In planning a visit to The Ringling, it’s important to know what’s there. And that’s a lot. Spread over about 70 acres along Sarasota Bay, the Ringling is a complex of two museums, an historic mansion, gardens and a performing arts complex with two stages. To say that The Ringling is all things to all people might not be an overstatement. A visit to the complex starts at the visitor center, which includes an information desk, a gift shop, Muse restaurant and the Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion. A limited number of wheelchairs are available to borrow at the visitors center.
The Ringling brings together Florida history and world-class contemporary and classic art in a way that can be enjoyed by people of differing physical abilities. And the grounds dotted with Florida plants and trees strongly evoke a sense of place.
Butterfly World, Coconut Creek
Butterfly World is the result of one man’s hobby gone wild.
Born of Dutch immigrants, Ronald Boender grew up in Illinois and had always had a fascination with butterflies, beginning with the cabbage whites, black swallowtails and silk moths he found while growing up on his father’s farm.
When he learned there was a market for “farmed” butterflies for sale to Universities and Zoos, Boender established MetaScience Co., a commercial butterfly farm, in 1984. The staff at MetaScience produced up to 1000 butterfly pupa per week, and established methods of butterfly rearing that are still in use at Butterfly World.
Lion Country Safari, Loxahatchee
Lion Country Safari opened in the summer of 1967 in rural Western Palm Beach County with dozens of free-roaming lions and a few other species. The drive-through safari park is believed to be the first cageless zoo in the country, introducing a new concept in zoology and bringing the experience of an African game park – then and now, an expensive and time-consuming trip – to families who would otherwise not be able to experience an African safari. South Florida’s Western Palm Beach County proved to be an ideal location for the park due to its year-round tropical climate, plentiful land, a growing population and tourists who visit from all over the world.
Lion Country Safari, West Palm Beach is a leader in Palm Beach County’s tourism industry, offering a unique and affordable opportunity to enjoy the largest drive-through safari in Florida. The park is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and has also been recognized as one of the top three zoos in America by USA Travel Guide, one of the ten best safari parks by USA Today, and Palm Beach County’s Top Local Attraction. The 320-acre attraction offers the drive-through safari, walk-through adventure park and award-winning KOA campground.
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