No matter if you're going east or west, north or south, Florida has amazing locations that will mesmerize you. At this point, you've probably checked all your local spots and crossed off your bucket list. However, many cities nearby offer one-of-a-kind experiences not even advertised to tourists.
These are your off-the-beaten-path destinations that offer great food, unique experiences, and unusual activities. If you're looking to expand your horizons and explore more than your neighborhood has to offer, rent a car and drive to these wonderful destinations.
Enjoy Nights of Lights in Saint Augustine
Where: Plaza de la Constitucion, St. Augustine
Experience true holiday magic in St. Augustine and show bae the spirit of Christmas. This is the perfect location to go out for a night stroll while enjoying the glow of tiny white lights. The lights are shining until February 3rd and you can hop in a Trolley Bus to enjoy the lights. This event has been listed as top ten holiday light displays in the world by National Geographic. Also, it's a fun and cheap way to get into the holiday spirit.
Where: 1 Dali Blvd, St. Petersburg
This museum is one of the best-kept secrets in Florida. Here you can see the entire collection of Salvador Dali which features over 2,000 works from his artistic career. You'll see 96 oil paintings, drawings, book illustrations, prints, books, sculptures, manuscript, and an extensive archive of documents. If you have a fascination with the artistic world, here you'll find new inspiration.
Where: 1949 1st Ave S Unit A, St. Petersburg
For the environmental friendly bae, take her to wild roots and help her choose her favorite cacti. Make a trip to this shop to choose houseplants and handmade goods for your living room. This place also offers classes you can take with bae such as macrame wreath workshop for the holidays. If she's a lover of everything vintage and vegan she'll love this local spot in St. Petersburg.
Top Golf Orlando
Where: 9295 Universal Blvd, Orlando
Get a night workout at this entertainment venue in Orlando. For a last-minute trip, come and enjoy wings, beer, and golf. Challenge bae on a game and show off your skills. The place also offers private events for larger parties but you can rent a bay for $50 an hour for six players. Even if you're not a fan of the sport, this is a great way to discover if you're good at it.
The Baker Museum
Where: 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd, Naples
This museum is located in Naples, FL and features unique exhibitions such as Phillip Haas "The Four Seasons" and Isabelle de Borchgrave "Fashioning Art from Paper." The museum houses one of the best art collections in Florida and many of the sculptures make a great backdrop for your Instagram posts. Admission is only $10 per person and $5 for students with a valid I.D.
Deck the Chairs
Where: 1st St N & 1st Ave N, Jacksonville Beach
This is considered one of the best light displays in Florida. So make it a weekend trip and explore the magical lights with your girlfriend. Deck the Chairs is a family-friendly event in the Jax area and is a great way to spend the holiday season. The place hosts live music and other activities for children.
RP's Fine Food & Drink
Where: 1183 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville Beach
For good seafood and conch fritters, make a stop at this restaurant in Jacksonville. RP's menu features local produce, hand-ground beef, and the freshest fish. They get their produce from Atlantic Beach Urban Farms that makes each dish exceptional. The casual atmosphere and outstanding service will make you want to come back again.
Where: 11 North Third Street
This is one of the cleanest beaches in the state. Sunsets at Jacksonville Beach are marvelous and the white sand turns it into a total paradise. The beach has great nearby restaurants and a boardwalk for those who want to come on their bikes. Pack your suntan lotion and enjoy a wonderful weekend at this tropical haven.
North Beaches Art Walk
Where: 200 First Street, Neptune Beach
This art walk is a monthly event hosted on the third Thursday from 5-9p.m. The event features many local visual artists and live performances. When you combine an art event at a beach location, it turns into a relaxing environment. You'll see the work of over 55 participating artists at Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach Town Centers.
Tin City in Naples
Where: 1200 5th Ave S, Naples
This quaint location features casual and fine dining in a maritime setting. The place also has more than 40 eclectic stores and a boardwalk that runs beside the water for a perfect romantic date. The tin-top buildings and the vintage atmosphere is home to other local boutiques.
Crystal River National Wildlife Refugee
Where: 1502 SE Kings Bay Dr, Crystal River
Swim with the manatees at this wildlife sanctuary. If you're looking for a real adventure, this is the place to be like Little Mermaid and connect with nature. There are few places in Florida where you're allowed to engage with the manatees up close. This place is unique and specially established for the protection of the manatees.
Where: 5145 Harvey Tew Road, Plant City
Live your own Jurassic World adventure at this park in Plant City, FL. This place features life-sized dinosaurs sculptures created by Christer Svensson. You can bring your own snacks and enjoy the natural setting at this location. The park is surrounded by oak trees and other dinosaurs that you won't expect. But don't worry, they won't bite.
The Ringling in Sarasota
Where: 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota
This state of the art museum is located in Sarasota and has 21 galleries of American art, Asian art, contemporary art, European paintings, and ancient artifacts from Cyprus. This is a surreal place for art lovers that will take them back to the 1920s. There are over 10,000 objects including decorative arts, drawings, European paintings, photographs, and sculptures. You can spend an entire day here and not get bored. Even the architecture is art in itself.
Ca d'Zan Mansion
Where: 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota
This Venetian Gothic mansion was home of the American circus owner, John Ringling and his wife Mable. The place was built between 1924 and 1926, and it features five stories high in 36,000 square feet. Not only this is the best location for your engagement photos, is the most beautiful background for any occasion. This house is inspired in Mediterranean Revival and shows the influence of the Doge's Palace in Venice. You can take a tour of the mansion and get inspired in your next home.
Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Where: 3701 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota
Flamingle with the flamingoes at this bird sanctuary. This is a fun trip to make if you're looking for a wildlife adventure. You can feed the flamingoes and interact with other animals such as miniature pigs and goats. You'll feel exotic and like a Caribbean Queen after you visit this park. It's one of the few places in Florida where you'll see the flamingoes roaming freely.
Sarasota Classic Car Museum
Where: 5500 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
The perfect museum for the car aficionado. The 60,000 square foot facility houses over 100 vintage and rare cars that are vintage, one-of-a-kind, exotic, and owned by famous people. The collection rotates on a regular basis. Some of the cars were owned by John Ringling and John Lennon. Expect high-end luxury cars such as Rolls Royce cars, Ferrari, and Alfa Romeo.
Ponce de Leon Lighthouse
Where: 4931 S Peninsula Dr, Ponce Inlet
For another spontaneous trip, head to Daytona Beach and explore this Lighthouse Museum in the town of Ponce Inlet. You can get a tour of the lighthouse and admission just costs $6.95 for adults. If you're interested in Florida, maritime and local history, you'll love this place. The view from top is totally worth it and you know how it feels to live in a lighthouse.
Where: Central Sarasota Pkwy, Sarasota
Bring bae for a morning workout at this paved bicycle trail. The trail is 10.8 miles long and is considered one of the best biking trails in Florida. It runs from Sarasota south to Venice and is the perfect trail to take pictures along the way. Florida might be an all-flat state but it has great trails to keep you rolling. The trail begins in the north near Palmer Ranch and runs through Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey where it connects with other trails in the park.
Ripley's Believe It or Not in Panama City
Where: 9907 Front Beach Rd, Panama City Beach
Explore oddities and weird things at the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum. This is always a great day trip idea if you're looking for something fun and different. The museum features a 7D theatre that comes with seat belts, health warnings, and moving seats for its interactive films. Every corner of this museum is exhilarating and you'll also find a mirror maze and laser course where you can slide. This museum is for the people with an adventurous spirit.
Where: St. Andrews State Park
No trip is complete without visiting Shell Island. Take a relaxing trip with your girlfriend out on the Gulf waters and discover sea urchins, dolphins, and shells. The island offers snorkeling tours and dolphin tours. But you can also explore the island on your own and take a quick nap on the white sand. This is the perfect place to take a tan and enjoy the crystal waters. The island is located by Panama City and is a 7-mile long natural paradise.