Central Florida is a favorite destination for snowbirds lured to the beaches, theme parks, NASCAR races, natural springs, golf courses and the NASA facilities that put a man on the moon. Daytona Beach is known for its wide beaches, spring break and auto-racing spectaculars. It's home to the world-famous Daytona 500. Farther inland, Orlando is the theme park capital of the world and Disney World is its acknowledged leader with four theme parks—Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom—and two water parks. Other major entertainment parks include Universal Orlando Resort, Sea World Orlando, Discovery Cove, Gatorland, Legoland Florida, Fantasy of Flight and Holy Land Experience. Even the resorts, stores and shopping centers take on the guise of a theme park.
St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied city in America, shares the north Florida coastline with Jacksonville and Amelia Island. Its narrow cobblestone streets and European architecture make St. Augustine one of the most charming places in Florida. For historic sites and attractions, visit Old Town. The heart of big-city Jacksonville resides downtown, along the St. Johns River. Jacksonville Landing and Southbank Riverwalk line opposite sides of the river with shops, restaurants and parks. This region also encompasses an alluring and wild part of Florida that borders the Gulf of Mexico. Crystal River affords an opportunity to observe and interact with manatees in their natural environment. Numerous springs with underground caverns and crystal clear waters are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The Florida Panhandle is the northwestern region of the state, and those who enjoy the white-sand beaches of this region have called it the Emerald Coast. Laid back and friendly, Florida's northwest coast is home to some of the best beaches in the world. You'll find powder white sand, emerald-green waters and pristine coastal dune lakes just waiting to be discovered. Many of the towns preserve a distinctly Southern feel, while others offer modern amenities for visitors. Popular destinations include Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, DeFuniak Springs, Gulf Breeze, Navarre Beach, Fort Walton Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, Grayton Beach, Panama City Beach, Destin and Seaside. Seaside is known for its pastel-colored beach bungalows built in the old Florida tradition and for its beautifully landscaped walkways and public areas.
Popular snowbird destinations here include Naples, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Bradenton, Punta Gorda, Tampa and Homestead. Spanning the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, the Everglades is a huge subtropical wilderness of saw grass marshes, mangrove forests and hardwood hammocks dominated by wetlands. Everglades National Park can be explored by airboat, canoe, kayak, tram tours and hiking. Farther south, the Florida Keys are a string of coral islands strung 160 miles into the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Vistas of the Keys are dominated by emerald-green lagoons, deep-blue seas, swaying palms and olive-green mangroves. The Florida Keys are best known for diving, fishing and sunset celebrations, including daily festivities at Key West’s Mallory Square.