The "Sunshine State" Florida is famous for its heavenly beaches, plenty of sunshine, and fantastic theme parks. It is also why it is one of the most popular vacation spots — in the USA and worldwide.
With its tropical climate, unique landscape (above and below the water), and spectacular wildlife, Florida attracts not only tourists. The southern paradise is also very popular with US immigrants and the so-called "snowbirds" (American retirees on winter escape).
|Population:||Approx. 21 million|
|Location:||Southeast of the USA|
|Nickname:||The Sunshine State|
|State animal:||Florida Panther|
|Time zone:||UTC -5 hours|
Along with Texas and Hawaii, Florida is one of the southernmost corners of the USA and almost completely surrounded by water. No wonder that out of the 170,304 km² total area, about 20 % consists of liquid. The wettest of all southern states borders Georgia and Alabama at its northern end (called the Florida Panhandle).
The Florida Keys, a chain of islands in the south, also belongs to the state. Its location between the Atlantic Ocean on the west side and the Gulf of Mexico on the southern tip of Florida makes for lively weather conditions with many storms.
Florida's population of over 21 million includes many Native Americans as well as US immigrants from neighboring Cuba, Haiti, and other Caribbean countries. If you live in Florida and don't speak Spanish, you're not always going to have an easy time.
Everyone knows Miami. But did you know that the capital of Florida is actually Tallahassee? Other important cities in the Sunshine State include Tampa, Jacksonville, and Gainesville.
With its 198,000 inhabitants, the capital Tallahassee is almost tiny. Florida consists of 67 counties, including Palm Beach County, with its posh but only 8,900-person city of Palm Beach.
Almost the entire state of Florida has a tropical climate - only in the northwest are subtropical regions. Together with Arizona and Texas, the Sunshine State is one of the warmest of all US states.
The average maximum temperatures in July are between 32°C and 35°C. In the north, low temperatures between 4°C and 7°C can occur during the colder months of December and January.
You will rarely see snow in Florida. But there are 300 sunny days a year, a lot of fog, and - thanks to the tropical alternation between rainy and dry season - a lot of thunderstorms and tropical storms. The rainy season lasts from May to October and ensures that the Sunshine State, along with Washington, is one of the rainiest regions in the USA.
Between marshland, mangrove forests, coral reefs, and beautiful beaches, you will meet alligators, flamingos, manatees, and the beautiful but endangered Florida panther.
If you don't fancy extreme weather with humid heat around 40°C or hurricanes and tornadoes, it's best to visit Florida in spring between March and May.
Until mid-May, a day at the white dream beach with pleasant water temperatures between 21°C and 24°C is the most beautiful. A paddle tour in the Keys or a ride on a hovercraft in the Everglades is also the most fun in spring when it is very unlikely to rain or storm.
With bright spring weather, not only water sports and hiking are a dream in Florida, but also day trips to nearby theme parks. You can choose from Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, or SeaWorld Orlando, for example.
Flight times to Florida vary, of course, depending on the departure point, the number of stopovers, and your exact destination. The most important airports in Florida include:
According to travel search engine Kayak, February is the cheapest month for flights to Florida.
If you are not a US citizen or Green Card holder, you will need a US visa or ESTA for your trip to Florida.
With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!
Once you have landed in Florida, you will need a transfer to your accommodation or your first activity in the Sunshine State. Your options are numerous:
At every airport in Florida, you will find a cab stand. Before your trip, you can use a cab calculator (e.g., via smartphone app) to find out how much your ride will cost.
Shuttles will take you from the airport to the first stop on your Florida trip at reasonable prices. Look for the Metrorail station on the airport grounds or ask your hosts at your accommodation which service they recommend. In Miami, for example, you can choose between the "Airport Flyer" and the "Supershuttle".
Once you land in Miami, you can easily get around using buses, commuter trains, and the MIA Mover (which takes you from A to B within the airport area).
As a cheap alternative to cabs, Uber is very popular in the US. For longer distances, however, you should rather rely on Greyhound, AMTRAK, or Flixbus.
The most convenient option - especially for sightseeing tours in Florida - is often a rental car. To save some money, ask your airline for a combination fare (e.g., "Fly & Ride"). We recommend that you bring an international driver's license in addition to your regular driver's license.
Attention: The parking fees in Florida are sometimes costly! You will also have to pay tolls on many roads.
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Florida inspires beach and water fans, families, and night owls alike. Away from the major cities and amusement parks, it is mainly the natural wonders that enchant 35 million visitors every year.
The swampy Everglades, with its exotic (and sometimes sharp-toothed) wildlife, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you'll encounter both alligators and crocodiles. So you better don't put your hand in the water during a ride on the hovercraft!
Only a few kilometers south of Miami, more than 200 islands invite you to dive and snorkel. At the far end is Dry Tortugas National Park. The most important part of this natural wonder is underwater, but here you will also find Garden Key Island, a former prison island. You can explore the fortress "Fort Jefferson" during a walk.
In addition to the shallow coastline, Biscayne National Park south of Miami is also home to part of the Florida Reef - the third largest coral reef system in the world. Stretching 270 kilometers from Florida's southeast coast to well beyond the Keys, the reef also encompasses the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Tortugas Ecological Reserve, and Dry Tortugas National Park. Don't forget your snorkel - there's plenty to see!
80 miles north of Tampa, turquoise waters glisten between dense green forests and invite you to take a paddle. Don't be alarmed if you suddenly find yourself looking into the eyes of a cuddly manatee while swimming. You can meet the peaceful sea cows in many places in Florida. Crystal River is the only place in North America where it's legal to swim with wild manatees under supervision.
A humid neighbor to the Everglades is the lovely wetlands of Big Cypress National Preserve. In the more than 729,000 hectares of tropical flora and fauna, you'll also meet - if you're lucky - the rare Florida panther.
The following places in Florida are a must-see and should definitely be on your travel list:
Quite a lot of Florida tourists are attracted to the Sunshine State every year because of the high density of amusement parks. Adventurers big and small love the following amusement parks the most:
Walt Disney World Orlando is the largest theme park in the world! Discover endless worlds of fantasy, sensational parades, spectacular hotels, and the enchanting fairy-tale castle in the center of the park.
The theme parks Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure represent the Universal Orlando Resort.
Here you will find the largest active movie studio outside of Hollywood, as well as a gigantic selection of attractions and shows based around the best cinema and TV adventures from all decades.
SeaWorld in Orlando is an exciting combination of amusement park and zoo. Here you can enjoy wild rides, relax in the water park or visit exciting animal shows. You will see penguins, dolphins, manatees, rays, seals, and sharks!
The Busch Gardens amusement park in Tampa is a safari park with many animals and rides. You'll meet more than 2,700 animals and walk and ride through different themed countries like Congo, Timbuktu, Egypt, or Morocco. Get up close and personal with giraffes, elephants, and zebras!
Outside of the wild, beautiful nature, Florida has quite a few cities that are worth seeing! Here are the top city highlights for your Florida city break:
If you've only known Miami from movies and TV, get ready for a 360-degree experience of blazing sun, Spanish chatter, a strong ocean breeze with a hint of coconut, the smell of cigars, and Cuban sounds.
These are the places you should see in Miami:
Orlando is the No. 1 tourist metropolis in the USA, primarily because of its theme parks. But the city is also known for its theater and music scene. Nature lovers like to go on a swamp safari around Orlando.
These are the places you should see in Orlando:
Jacksonville is known for gorgeous beaches, enchanting parks, gigantic golf courses, and a historic neighborhood. Moreover, Jax, as the locals call their beloved city, has a great music history: Elvis Presley used to hang out here conspicuously often.
These are the places you should see in Jacksonville:
Tampa is known as a city of culture and museums but is also home to Busch Gardens, one of the most popular theme parks in Florida. Many visitors depart from here for one-day boat trips for whale watching or to Clearwater Beach.
These are the places you should see in Tampa:
The most relaxing part of your Florida vacation is a day at one of the countless dream beaches. Whether it's swimming, surfing, scuba diving, or snorkeling, there's something to do for every water rat in Florida.
Must-see: these beaches are most popular with Florida travelers:
Are you a real explorer, and can you keep a secret? Then take a trip to Florida's hidden beaches:
No one will believe you if you don't take pictures! To share your stunning Florida vacation with your friends and family. Here are our top 5 Instagram hot spots in Florida:
Those who have enjoyed the sun and nature during the day can later plunge into the nightlife of Miami, Key West, or Orlando full of energy. From techno clubs to Cuban beach bars, Florida has it all.
Like Chicago, Florida has a thriving stand-up comedy scene. You can find good clubs all over the state - from the big theater stage in Clearwater to the small stand-up comedy bar in Tampa.
Especially famous are the Improv in Orlando, Coconuts Comedy Club in St. Pete Beach, the Bonkerz in Daytona Beach, the Off the Hook Comedy Club in Naples, or the Sak Comedy Lab in Orlando.
If you're in the mood for a spontaneous comedy night, it's best to ask a local for current recommendations. They usually have the best insider tips!
Together with Key West, Miami is the wildest party metropolis in Florida. Treat yourself to a drink in one of the countless bars or dance until dawn in a salsa lounge.
The district "Little Havana" is perfect for a party night with Cuban rum and Latin American sounds.
Key West is perhaps the craziest part of Florida and is located at the very end of the island chain "Florida Keys" in the Gulf of Mexico. The island is, so to speak, the Las Vegas of Florida - only it is by far more beautiful.
Most people come here to party. Key West and the people here are so colorful and diverse that all you have to do as a visitor is sit back and relax. The action happens all by itself.
On the famous Duval Street, you'll find one bar after another and countless restaurants and art galleries. Just sit down at a sidewalk café and watch hippies, punks, bikers, colorful cabs, and rainbow tourists from all corners of the world.
From Key West, you can also take a wonderful trip to the reef once you've slept off your hangover.
Florida combines culinary influences from all over the world. Above all, however, Cuban and Caribbean cuisine is represented here. That is why the locals affectionately call their cooking "Floribbean."
You should try these dishes on your Florida vacation:
For the most insane Florida vacationers, some places have a dish called "Gator Tail" on the menu. Yes, it's exactly that: crocodile meat.
Do you want to impress your (future) travel companion with your knowledge about Florida? Here are some facts they probably haven't heard of yet:
Oh, it's so beautiful here in Florida! It's only understandable if you want to stay right here after your vacation. In fact, it's not that difficult to settle down in Florida. We'll tell you how to do it.
The chances of finding a job in Florida are good because, unlike some other places, the Sunshine State has come through the Corona pandemic relatively unscathed.
In Florida, of course, everyone who knows about tourism, gastronomy, shipping, fishing, and water sports is sought after. Due to the age structure in Florida (many Americans and immigrants spend their retirement here), we should also mention doctors and nurses.
There is also an increased demand for aerospace experts thanks to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Like everywhere else in the USA, logistics and trade specialists, lawyers, programmers (developers), and financial experts are also wanted.
Incidentally, Florida is also considered a paradise for start-ups.
According to the Cost of Living Index, the living expenses in Florida are slightly above the American average but vary greatly from region to region.
In Miami and Orlando, for example, you have to expect a much higher cost of living than in Crystal River.
Rent prices, public transportation ticket prices, and health care costs generally match the level of salaries and "popularity" of the city you live in.
Only the prices of groceries and other utility purchases are about the same everywhere in Florida, making them higher than the American average. The sales tax in Florida is 6%.
With a Green Card, you can live and work in the Sunshine State of Florida indefinitely. Getting a work permit for the USA any other way is not so easy. That's why we recommend you try your luck in the Green Card Lottery. Sign up today!