13 Best Cities to Visit in Florida
Millions of tourists visit the US state of Florida each year, and with an abundance of activities and its world famous sunshine, it’s not hard to see why. Indeed, the towns of “The Sunshine State” offer stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, rich cultural attractions and exceptional restaurants for a vacation haven like no other. This article takes a look at 13 of the best cities to visit in Florida.
The city of Sarasota is located on the southwest coast of Florida and is full of exceptional artistic and cultural venues and events. From the Sarasota Film Festival to the Chalk Festival, this city of 54,000 is also packed with galleries, museums, shopping malls and fine dining for the solo tourist or the whole family. Sarasota also has some great beaches, including the ever-popular Siesta Key Beach, just outside the city limits.
The state’s third most populous city, Tampa, is often overlooked, but its 384,000 residents would certainly say their city shouldn’t be dismissed. A sprawling metropolis, Tampa is a quaint city with beautiful views of Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River and stunning rows of trees and plants. Full of great museums (the Tampa Museum of Art and the Tampa Bay History Center, to name a few), the Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Zoo, and numerous parks and beaches, tourists to Tampa will not will never meet a moment of boredom. At the end of the day, why not head to historic Ybor City for exciting restaurants, bars and trolley rides!
Home to Universal Studios Resort as well as Walt Disney World, Orlando is by far the most well-known tourist destination in all of Florida, with millions of tourists arriving each year. Yet aside from these major attractions, Orlando has plenty of other great reasons to want to visit. A bustling art scene, numerous galleries, museums and, of course, an assortment of restaurants to suit all tastes can all be found in this city of 307,000. If one is looking for a quiet moment after a day at a theme park, several beautiful gardens and parks are also great places to seek out in Orlando, where the scorching sun, beautiful palm trees and Florida sky can all be appreciated.
Just a 30-minute drive south of Orlando, Kissimmee is primarily a stopover for those on their way to Orlando and its theme parks. But even on its own, this city of just under 80,000 people has plenty of reasons to want to stay. Some of the area’s beautiful natural parks, golf courses, and the Loop outdoor shopping and entertainment complex provide respite from Orlando’s bustling atmosphere. For outdoor enthusiasts, a stop at Twin Oaks Conservation Area is a great place for hiking, biking, and great sunsets.
Named after the Russian city of the same name, St. Petersburg is located in Pinellas County, on the edge of the Tampa Bay Peninsula. Nicknamed “Sunshine City of Florida”, St. Pete, as it is colloquially known, averages 360 days of sunshine per year. Visitors and locals enjoy its moderate temperatures in the 20s and its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. In town, tourists will find an assortment of charming shops, galleries, restaurants, and sailing and swimming opportunities. For true art connoisseurs, a stroll through the main historic center will charm with its street art murals, while a visit to the Salvador Dali Museum is sure to impress.
A popular spring break destination, Pensacola is the westernmost city in the panhandle of Florida. Close to the border with the American state of Alabama, this city of 54,000 inhabitants has a unique southern charm and was the first Spanish settlement in the region in the 16th century. Located in Pensacola Bay, visitors can enjoy great beaches, warm summers, and an assortment of seafood restaurants that specialize in a variety of cooking techniques. For art and history lovers, a trip to the Pensacola Art Museum, the historic Saenger Theater (built in 1925 in a Spanish Baroque style) or the National Naval Aviation Museum will surely enrich your vacation.
Located on the Atlantic coast of Florida and approximately 40 km north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale is the county seat of Broward County. With beautiful beaches and peaceful waterways, Fort Lauderdale has been dubbed the “Venice of America” and has nearly 265 km of inland waterways that cross the entire city! Home to the Port Everglades seaport (the third largest cruise port in the world), around 4 million tourists pass through it each year. Visitors can also go sailing in town, with over 100 marinas, while a stroll down Las Olas Boulevard is packed with galleries, restaurants, bars, boutiques and even bridal shops.
A major center for culture, finance, the arts, and international business, Miami is a hot, engaging, and fun city that any visitor to Florida should not miss. Home to the largest Hispanic population in the United States and the Port of Miami (the busiest cruise port in the world), Miami has a rich cultural scene, matched only by its beautiful beaches and sunshine. With a landscape filled with palm trees, iconic historic buildings, modern skyscrapers, and numerous museums, fine restaurants, and shops, the city of Miami is a veritable hub of past and present. Or, for an outdoor-only vacation, visitors can simply laze on the beaches or make a stopover at the Oleta River National Park.
Despite being the state capital, Tallahassee is often overlooked in assessments of major Florida cities. Considered a college and government town that is home to Florida A&M University, Florida State University, and other major government buildings, Tallahassee may not have all the glitz of places like Miami or Orlando, but it’s nonetheless a charming town. Close to the border with the US state of Georgia, there’s a laid-back, deep Southern feel to the town; With a wide array of museums, galleries, restaurants, and festivals year-round, visitors who aren’t students or government employees will still have plenty to enjoy in Florida’s beautiful capital.
The nation’s largest city by land area, Jacksonville, with a population of just under a million, spans a wide expanse that crosses three rivers, including the 500 km long St. Johns River . Named for seventh President Andrew Jackson, Jacksonville enjoys a warm summer and beautiful natural landmarks. visit the Timucuan Nature Reserve and its 46,000 acres of wetlands and waterways or the scenic and charming walks of Hanna Park, among many others. In the historic downtown, tourists can stroll through neighborhoods like Five Points and San Marco or visit one of the great stores, restaurants, and splendid galleries and theaters.
Named after the city in southern Italy, Naples presents itself as the “Golf Capital of the World”. Indeed, in addition to its world-class golf courses, this coastal Florida metropolis is famous for its laid-back atmosphere, scorching sunshine and luxurious neighborhoods. A popular destination for retirees, Naples is packed with fine dining, luxury hotels, pristine white-sand beaches, and plenty of shopping and annual festivals. Nature-minded tourists also won’t want to miss the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary or the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge for very rare and unique views of the endangered Florida panther.
St. Augustine is the oldest inhabited European settlement in North America. Linked to the Spanish colonial era, visiting this city of 14,000 inhabitants is entering a living museum. First-hand experiences with history are never lacking here, with the opportunity to visit several historical places. Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum is located on San Marco Avenue, while the Pirate & Treasure Museum houses an extensive collection of authentic pirate artifacts.
Located just 80 km north of Miami, Boca Raton occupies an area known as the Palm Beaches, a 75 km stretch of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. Originally a Spanish colonial settlement, Boca Raton was designed to be a premier resort town in the 20th century and today is well known for its stunning beaches and beautiful parks. Visitors continue to marvel at the city’s unique architectural structures, including Old City Hall and the ever-popular Mizner Park. Tourists can enjoy a good collection of upscale restaurants, boutiques and unique luxury apartments along a palm-lined boulevard. Meanwhile, a stopover at the Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex will provide anyone of any age with a truly special encounter with Florida nature in all its glory.
Florida’s nickname “The State of the Sun” is not only for its famously warm weather and bright sunshine, but for being a light of great culture, art and cuisine. Visiting this southern state is indeed a must for anyone traveling to the United States, and its cities are the rightful gem of this highly diverse playground. From beaches to museums and from fine dining to sailing, Florida cities have everything a vacationer could hope for.