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Best “Out of the Box” Things to Do in Florida – Not Theme Parks!

There are so many unique things to do in Florida besides theme parks like Disney and Universal.  For decades the splendors of “real Florida” have been one of the best kept secrets of locals.  But we’re a friendly bunch, so we’ll share – here are our best “out of the box” things to do in Florida for your vacation.  From the wild, to the weird, to the wonderful – you’ll love these Florida adventures!

Go on a Bioluminescence Tour Near Orlando at Space Coast

In the past few years Florida bioluminescence has become world famous.  Puerto Rico used to be the best place to see bioluminescence, but in recent years Florida has taken the #1 place with the most abundant bioluminescence at all times of the year. 

Courtesy of BK Adventure in Titusville

When to go:  This tour is done all year long, but the magic is really out of this world from late June to mid-September, with July and August seeing sold out tours every night of the week. 

How to do it: Book a Bioluminescence Tour here. BK Adventure is Florida’s top bioluminescence tour company. They have a bigger variety of tours, and times than any other company.  But in the summer, you still want to book early as tours tend to sell out.  Check their website, or call 407-519-8711

Snorkel with Jesus near Key Largo

Visiting the Florida Keys is a “must do” attraction if you visit or live in the Sunshine State. Make your first stop on the overseas highway a visit to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. From there, you can take a snorkel trip to the famous underwater monument (weather permitting), or make arrangements for scuba diving.   Snorkeling will give you a good top down view, as the statue is submerge in about 10 feet of water.

Image Courtesy of Visit Florida

When to go: This is a year ‘round attraction, but to avoid crowds but still get beautiful weather, try going in spring, April – May.  After summer break, September – October can also be really warm and great for snorkeling, but remember, that’s hurricane season, so weather can be unpredictable.

How to do it: Go on to the John Pennekamp State Park website, and book your tour.  You can also walk-up and book. However, tours will likely sell out in high seasons (spring break and summer). 

Stay in an Underwater Hotel

While your visiting the Christ of the Abyss attraction in Key Largo, you might as well keep with the underwater theme and stay 20,000 leagues under the sea (or just 2 fathoms) at the Jules Verne Underwater Lodge.  Not for the claustrophobic, this 2 bedroom lodge was once a former research lab.  This will truly be a unique experience that not many get to do!

Photo credit Jules Undersea Lodge

When to go:  This underwater attraction which features a diving center, is only open Wednesday thru Saturday.  Like all Florida attractions, the school breaks will be the busiest times, so plan a different time if you want to avoid that.  With over 300 days of sunshine in Florida, you really can’t go wrong.

How to do it:  This is a very limited attraction, and there is no online booking portal.  You can call the Jules’ Undersea Lodge Wed. – Sat. from 8am to 3pm to book your stay: 305-451-2353

Be a Paranormal Photographer on an Orb Photography Tour in Cassadaga

Surprisingly, more Florida Man stories do not come out of Cassadaga, Florida’s center for all things weird and unusual. Cassadaga, Florida was founded in 1875 by a spiritual named George P. Colby. Today it is known as the “Psychic Capital of the World.” This is NOT your typical ghost tour. Your guide trains you how to capture spirit on camera before you go out on the town. So, get ready to capture some spooky orbs, apparitions, or other phenomena on this two-hour walking tour through this Victorian era town. This tour gets great reviews on Tripadvisor and it’s safe to say there is no other-worldly place in the world like Cassadaga, Florida!  Let the ghost hunting begin!

Photo Credit: Tripadvisor Review of Tour

When to go:  Saturday evenings at 7pm. Because of the popularity of this tour, Fridays may also be available soon, so check for that.  Halloween week, of course, is very busy.  So, you chose.  Let the spirits guide you to the best time of year for you to converse with the other side!

How to do it: For best results, photography tour instructor Dawn Nedly recommends a regular point and shoot style camera over a mobile phone camera. Go on the Cassadaga.org website and click on the “Encounter Spirit Night Tour – Book Now.” If the force is with you, you’ll be all set!  If not, call their friendly staff at the book store to arrange a tour: 386-228-2880

Go Cave Exploring at Florida Caverns State Park

It seems almost impossible that in a state where you can’t dig more than 2 feet without hitting water, in Florida we have some of the only air-filled caverns in the US that you can explore.  Indeed, like they were out of a movie to the center of the earth, these caves have stalagmites, stalactites, and other limestone formations.  There is also a camping area in this state park along with hiking trails and wildlife viewing.  Located in central north Florida near Marianna, it’s well worth the visit!

Photo credit: Florida Caverns State Park

When to go: tours are available Friday – Monday only (so, no tours on Tue, Wed, or Thu). Tickets are on a first come, first serve basis the day of tour so go early as they sell out.  Park opens at 8am. Campgrounds will re-open as of April 2021.

How to do it: Get all the information you need on caves and camping at Florida Caverns State Park, or call (850) 482-9598

Countdown to a Rocket Launch! – Space X and The Space Coast

best things to do in Florida
Photo Credit: Christine Markham. Location: Sandpoint Park, Titusville

Space launches a rocket almost every week these days, so if you are staying on the Space Coast (Brevard County Florida from Titusville to Melbourne), there is a good chance you will Space X launches rockets nearly once a week these days, so if you care stay on the Space Coast (Brevard County in east central Florida), there’s a good chance you’ll see one.  The night launches are particularly spectacular, and it is worth going to Titusville, Port Canaveral or Cocoa to get a good view.  Kennedy Space Center also has a summer camp for kids, called Space Camp. But you can’t call these campers Space Cadets, that’s reserved for the recruits if the newly formed U.S. Space Force whose headquarters are of course, on the Space Coast at Cape Canaveral!

See a Snake get Milked at Reptile World Serpentarium near Orlando

Interesting fact, this small reptile sanctuary just 25 miles east of Walt Disney World in Saint Cloud provides most of the anti-venin that is supplied to hospitals in North America.  Watch as the Reptile World herpetologists “milk” the snake venom of a giant King Cobra.  When the show is over, you can see the collection of snakes, reptiles and exotic birds.  This is a must-see for anyone interested in reptiles, and our unique Florida creatures.

When to go – Reptile World is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Venom shows are at 12pm and 3pm.

How to do it – Go onto the Reptile World website http://www.reptileworldserpentarium.com/contactus.html for more information and directions.  Tickets are purchased upon entry to the gift shop.  You can walk around the exhibit before and after the venom show.

Instagram a Sunset Tour with Manatees and Dolphins photobombing near Titusville

Photo Courtesy of BK Adventure

One of the most Instagrammed moments in Florida is SUNSET! With water on all sides, and all around, the magical moment explodes with color everywhere in the state. The only thing that might make it better is if unicorns jumped out of the clouds. Or if dolphins jumped out of the waves… WAIT, THEY DO! Yes, you can see the splendors of sunset amongst frolicking dolphins and manatees every evening at the Indian River Lagoon. The sunset tour with BK Adventure also features bioluminescence after dark. This makes a super romantic date – so keep it in mind!

When to go – Sunset tour happen every evening starting about an hour before the sun goes down, so times vary throughout the year.  Any time of the year is good for this tour.

How to do it –  Go to BK Adventure website and click on the Sunset Tour. You can book online instantly. Tours sell out in high season, so book early.  Show up about 15-30 minutes before tour departure. Tours are on a wildlife preserve, so plan travel ahead of time.  Call 407-519-8711 for information.

Snorkel, Kayak, and Camp at Peanut Island near Palm Beach

This lagoon was a local secret for decades, but is gaining in popularity thanks to location check-ins on social media.  Yep, it’s a picture perfect lagoon with lots of things to do. Lately it’s known for it’s lively weekend party atmosphere.  But just grab a snorkel and find some tranquility underwater as you swim with color fish, and even some manatees (please be mindful it is against the law to approach a manatee, you must observe them from afar only). You can even tent camp on the beach or one of the many island sites! Rent a kayak or snorkel set or just laze on the sand bars… the Palm Beach Lagoon is pure Florida bliss!

Photo Credit: Get Wet Water Sports

When to go – Pick any day! This is a Palm Beach County park, and is open most days. Local permitted tour operators even have moonlight paddling tours that extend past the normal park hours.

How to do it – Check out a local outfitter like Get Wet Water Sports that will help you get out to the island. Bring your own camping gear if you plan to stay overnight. There are restrooms, but no food services on the island.