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9 Bucket List Things to Do in Florida

From viewing a space shuttle launch to swimming with manatees, here are 9 once-in-a-lifetime experiences you can only have in the Sunshine State.

By Kari Kynard Ridge on May 26, 2016

Florida Places to See
Cape Canaveral / Courtesy of Reinhard Link under a CC 4.0 license.

Long known as a vacationer’s paradise, Florida offers a great mix of natural wonders, as well as man-made attractions, like a certain magic kingdom. The nine included on this list, though, are so incredible that they should be added to your personal bucket list – or the catalog of all the stuff you want to experience before you kick the bucket. As you accomplish each feat, you check-off your list and move on to the next item.

So, here we go: The nine bucket list things to do in Florida.

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1. Explore the Everglades

The largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. is home to many rare and endangered species like the manatee, American alligator, the Florida panther, and lots of bird species. Join an Everglades National Park ranger for a guided tour, walk along trails, or head out in a kayak, canoe or motorboat on the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway for a chance to experience one of Florida’s few remaining natural places.

2. Grab sand from the Florida Keys

This string of tropical islands on the southernmost tip of Florida (and of the U.S.) is known for its laid-back “island time” lifestyle, great snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing. Check out several islands or stick with Key West and its thriving arts scene and the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum.

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3. Catch a foul ball at MLB Spring Training

Fifteen professional baseball teams spend the month of March at Grapefruit League spring training sites throughout Florida. You can come to cheer on your hometown team, or make an adventure out of visiting all 15 camps in one season, such as the New York Yankees in Tampa, the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland and the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota.

4. Ride the biggest rides

For many people, a trip to Florida means a visit to a theme park. It’s a big world outside Disney’s Magic Kingdom and, these days there are many attractions to choose from. Epcot, SeaWorld Orlando, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Kennedy Space Center, Universal Orlando, LEGOLAND Florida and Busch Gardens-Tampa are among many parks and attractions that allow you to temporarily enter another world.

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5. Take in the Daytona 500

Every February, thousands of race fans flock to Daytona to watch their favorite drivers start their engines for the annual Daytona 500 race. It’s held in the world’s first motorsports stadium, and you can make a weekend out of the event by staying overnight with camping options.

6. Pick your own cirtus fruit

Nothing says Florida like a drive past citrus groves when thousands of trees are in blossom and your entire vehicle fills with the heady, sweet air. The state has many farms that offer tours, samples and U-pick such as Showcase of Citrus in Clermont where you can tour the 2,500-acre estate aboard the world’s largest 4×4 vehicle.

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7. Swim with manatees

There are several tours in Crystal River and in other parts of the state that provide everything you need to swim or snorkel with these aquatic, mostly-plant-eating mammals known as “gentle giants.” There’s no experience like an up-close encounter with West Indian Manatees, which were once at risk of extinction and are known for their curious and slow-moving nature.

8. Go spelunking

The Florida Caverns State Park just outside Marianna offers public tours featuring a rare air-filled cavern and dazzling rock formations. These guided tours are considered to be moderately strenuous, giving you a greater sense of accomplishment when you check off “Florida Spelunking” from your list.

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9. Take in some of the best sunsets in the world

When you’ve traveled all over the state, checking off your bucket list, be sure to stop at one of Florida’s dozens of awesome sandy beaches. There’s no better way to end a day and finish your list than to sit by the ocean with a cool beverage, watching another amazing sunset.

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