Florida's known as the Sunshine State for good reason, but there's more to it than many realize. Those who take the time to explore its expanse will find somewhere beyond the beaches and amusement parks lies a whole other world just waiting for discovery. From the wineries of Central Florida to the heavily forested areas around Ocala, the state is home to many wonders visitors often overlook.
The main attractions in Florida are well known the world over. It is such a popular tourist destination, in fact, that state income taxes are not incurred by residents. The tourism dollars take care of the need. The allure of this state is so strong, that on any given day at any one of its theme parks or beaches, visitors are likely to see tour groups from almost every country and region imaginable.
Tourists are drawn in both by the major sites and some of the lesser known ones, as well. They include:
Amusement parks: With Orlando serving as the home region for such parks as Disney World, Sea World, Universal and more, this city packs in crowds 365 days a year. Other amusement parks that rank high with visitors include Busch Gardens - the Budweiser founding family's Florida playground - Cypress Gardens and Adventure Island.
Beaches: From world famous Daytona and Fort Lauderdale to the lesser-traveled Clearwater Beach, Sanibel and St. Pete Beach, Florida is home to hundreds of miles of coastline. The beaches of the Panhandle's Destin are also a major draw, offering silky, soft powder sand like no where else in the state.
Water sports: Florida is famous for its surfing, fishing, and scuba diving opportunities. From inland areas and underwater caves to the reefs in the Keys and beyond, there is much to explore on and in the water.
Everglades: This sea of water and grass is home to some of Florida's most unusual inhabitants. Visitors who take airboat rides through the Everglades are likely to see a variety of birds, fish and an occasional alligator and even an American crocodile if they are very lucky.
Major cities, regions: Many visitors who make Florida their vacation spot of choice do so to visit a few major cities. From the hustle and bustle of Miami to the laidback lifestyle of the Keys, some areas are simply synonymous with Florida. Other major cities and regions that rank high on visitors' must-stop lists include Orlando/Kissimmee/St. Cloud, St. Augustine, Tampa/St. Petersburg and Sarasota.
Beyond the typical draws of Florida, adventurous visitors often make stops in:
Tarpon Springs: This city along Florida's west coast grew up as a Greek fishing village. Today Tarpon Springs remains steeped in Greek tradition, with its world-famous sponge docks still in operation. Shops, restaurants and famous Greek bakeries are major points of interest here as are arts festivals and Greek Orthodox Church observances, such as Epiphany.
Ybor City: This region of Tampa is Florida's answer to New Orleans. The home of Tampa's earliest cigar factories, Ybor City offers a bustling nightlife with a Cuban and Italian flair. Restaurants, shops, bakeries and plenty of nightclubs all call this area home. It is also the home of several annual festivals.
Cassadaga: This little town in Central Florida is also known as "Psychic Central" to some. It is home to a spiritualist camp that was founded in the late 1800s. Palm readers, psychics and spiritualists still make the camp home.
Offering blue skies, beaches and plenty of things to see and do, Florida is a destination that will not disappoint. From the history of St. Augustine - America's oldest city - to the amusement parks of Orlando, there is truly no shortage of things to do within the Sunshine State.
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