Visiting the United States? There are 50 states to see.
Florida is Disney World and Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, for sure. But here you also can touch moon rocks at Kennedy Space Center, zipline over wetlands, and watch the manatees — also known as sea cows — swim in the state’s warm waters.
Florida, often called the Sunshine State, is the most southeastern part of the United States and has the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. The state’s hundreds of kilometers of beaches attract surfers and sunbathers.
The state got its name from Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, who landed on Florida’s east coast in 1513. He called the area “La Florida,” Spanish for “flowery.”
Legend has it that Ponce de León was searching for riches and the “fountain of youth,” a spring of water that he believed would give people eternal life and health. He never found it, but he — and the explorers who followed him — left behind their imprint. When you visit, explore St. Augustine’s Spanish architecture and the Castillo de San Marcos, the only surviving 17th-century fort in North America.
The Orlando area is famed for its theme parks. Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort hosted 19 million visitors in a recent year, more than any other theme park in the world. Disney’s other three theme parks there — Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios — all made the Top 10 list of the world’s most popular theme parks.
At nearby Universal Orlando Resort, visitors can ride on a dragon-themed rollercoaster and sample the nonalcoholic “Butterbeer” at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, swing above the streets with Spider-Man, or help Shrek save Princess Fiona in Shrek 4-D.
Miami is known for its Latin flavor and its nightlife, especially the upscale South Beach neighborhood. Explore the Art Deco District in Miami Beach, with its pastel-colored buildings from the 1930s.
Wildlife enthusiasts can kayak or take a boat tour of Everglades National Park, which provides an important habitat for endangered and threatened species, including the manatee, the American crocodile and the elusive Florida panther.
Florida hosts 15 Major League Baseball teams each February and March as they get ready for the new season. More than 25 million baseball fans have attended spring training games in Florida since 2000.
Auto racing, a sport particularly popular in the South, is likewise popular with tourists. You can tour the Daytona International Speedway, where you can ride in a two-seat, authentic NASCAR stock car driven by a professional instructor for a simulated three-lap NASCAR qualifying run at speeds exceeding 260 kph.
For relaxation and some literary inspiration, venture to Key West, part of the Florida Keys island chain and the state’s southernmost point, lying a mere 145 kilometers north of Cuba. Gingerbread mansions and tin-roofed conch houses here were once home to American writer Ernest Hemingway, playwright Tennessee Williams, poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Frost, and popular singer Jimmy Buffett. Key West’s coral reefs also make diving and snorkeling popular here.