It's time that Florida got an image makeover. People only associate Florida with Disney World, Universal Studios, and weird things. The last thing, well, that might be justified. 

But there's so much to do in Florida beyond roller coasters and Mickey Mouse. And fall is the perfect time to go out and explore everything that this beautiful state has to offer.

Why fly somewhere when you can grab your besties and get in a car? These trips are perfect for a big group, you and your S/O, or you alone. After all, you are your own best company!

Tampa is your starting point, but your destination is 100% up to you. If you want to take advantage of Florida's beautiful blue waters, we've got you covered. Interested in exploring some castles? Yeah, Florida's got those too! Whatever you choose, make sure you've created a bomb Spotify playlist, you bring along the best snacks, and you're ready for an adventure. 

Honeymoon Island State Park

Time from Tampa: 1 hour

Where: Dunedin

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The nicer, less crowded version of Clearwater Beach. Head here if you really want the experience of getting away from it all. You've got beautiful stretches of beaches. If you drive to the end to North Beach, the sand is much nicer there and it's in a more secluded area. You've also got access to some great hiking trails so take advanage of that too if you want to go bird watching!

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Time from Tampa: 1 hour

Where: Spring Hill

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Live your best mermaid life. If you've been dreaming about becoming a mermaid all your life, you can live vicariously through these women. They put on a live performance three times a day doing choreographed routines. It's a nice break from swimming and canoeing during the day!

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Gypsy Gold Horse Farm

Time from Tampa: 1.5 hours

Where: Ocala

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These gentle animals are waiting for you! Every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, you can take a 2 hour tour of this 40-acre farm. The owners will tell you the colorful history of the majestic Gypsy Vanner horses. And who doesn't want to get up close to these beautiful creatures? 

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Manatee Springs State Park

Time from Tampa: 2.5 hours

Where: Chiefland

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Meet you down by the boardwalk. At this state park, you can walk the 800 foot boardwalk that takes you through the cypress forest. The best part? The boardwalk takes you right to the water. There are steps that lead down into the springs so jump in and cool off! 

Bubble Room

Time from Tampa: 3 hours

Where: Captiva

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Ready for some sensory overload? You are going to have to take some time to let your eyes adjust to the brightly colored exterior of this restaurant. How can you not instantly feel happier and trippier because of this place? Step inside and you'll be greeted with bubble lights and bartenders who only want to make the best drink possible for you. Make sure to order their famous Pink Flamingo drink!

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Babcock Ranch Preserve

Time from Tampa: 2 hours

Where: Punta Gorda

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A different way to spend time in nature. It's not exactly Jurassic Park, but you will get to see various animals up close during a 90-minute guided tour. You can see wild turkeys, wild hogs, gators, and even cougars! So get that selfie stick ready to take some photos for Instagram Stories. 

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Devil's Den

Time from Tampa: 2 hours

Where: Williston

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This historic spring is to die for. Just look at the color of that water! It's hard to believe that that shade of blue even exists in the world. But you can have access to this if you are a strong swimmer who want to scuba dive or snorkel here. Entering the cave can be a eerie experience, but once you get in the water it's magical. Have fun spotting all the bright fish and make sure to take photos!

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Kelly Park Rock Springs

Time from Tampa: 2 hours

Where: Apopka

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Come where the water is always 70 degrees. The activities here are endless. You can tube down the lazy river, rent a clear kayak to see everything below you, or just starfish on the water with friends. The water always feels refreshing when it's hot and humid so head here for some fun!

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Bok Tower Gardens

Time from Tampa: 1.5 hours

Where: Lake Wales

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Seek some peace and quiet here. This contemplative garden is the perfect spot for spending some quality time with yourself or with a partner. You can walk around the garden to see the Singing Tower with its ringing bells, take a hike on the Pine Ridge Trail, or set up shop on the grass for a picnic. You can also never go wrong with bringing a comfy blanket and a good book to read while you enjoy the sunshine and the view.

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Swimming with Manatees Tour

Time from Tampa: 1.5 hours

Where: Crystal River

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Um, do you really need that much convincing?! Swim with these giant sea cows when you take a tour with a company. Everything is included and the employees will tell you exactly what to do so you can swim with these animals and not hurt them! They are very curious and gentle. Apparently, you just need to stay still in the water and they will come right up to you!

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The Ancient Spanish Monastery 

Time from Tampa: 4 hours

Where: North Miami Beach

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Can't make it to Spain? No worries. Come to Miami and you can explore this beautiful monastery. You can look around the place yourself or you can join in on a free guided tour on the weekends. Be prepared to spend a lot of time here you will want to take photos of every single corner of this place. 

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Venetian Pool

Time from Tampa: 4 hours

Where: Coral Gables

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This former rock quarry has been turned into paradise. It's a public pool, but feels and looks like way more than that. It's a tropical oasis that's glamorous with its palm trees and secret caves. It's where you go when you don't necessarily want to be swimming with fish or other sea life. Head to the bar for some drinks, hang out by the waterfall, lay out in the sun, or catch up with friends while enjoying the refreshing and cool water.

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The Love Trees

Time from Tampa: 3 hours

Where: St. Augustine 

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Come to St. Augustine to reaffirm your love for your partner. All around the city, there are love trees — two separate species of trees that become entertwined with each other. Is that not the most romantic thing ever? So drag your loved one around the city to find them! You can find a list of them here so go take really adorable couple photos.

Sunken Gardens

Time from Tampa: 40 minutes

Where: St. Petersburg

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Hanging out with flamingos is not a bad plan. The Sunken Gardens are over 100 years old and is home to some of the oldest tropical plants in this region. It's an outdoor and living museum for you to walk around. You will see exotic plants and waterfalls as you walk along the paths. 

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Monkey Jungle

Time from Tampa: 4 hours

Where: Miami

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It's always time for some monkeying around. This wildlife park has over 4,000 primates roaming around. You can get very close to them. Maybe a little too close for comfort, but they are so cute. After you spend the whole day there, the Monkey Jungle's tagline will ring true: "Where humans are caged and monkeys run wild."

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Universal Studios

Time from Tampa: 2 hours

Where: Orlando

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Don't write this option off! Theme parks are always fun to go to no matter what time of year it is. If you want to avoid the children and the hoards of tourists, go on a rainy day and go at night! It won't be as busy and you'll still get to go on all the rides and drink Butterbeer. 

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Walt Disney World

Time from Tampa: 1.5 hours

Where: Orlando

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It's still the most magical place on earth. If you've been to Disney World a million times, why not try attending one of their special events? They have Dapper Days, special Halloween events, and the whole park transforms during the holiday season. But if you're looking for something to do after work, head here to get on some rides right before the park closes or catch the famous fireworks show! Disney doesn't have to always be a full day affair and rubbing sweaty shoulders with people in line for rides. 

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Lake Eola Park

Time from Tampa: Orlando

Where: 1.5 hours

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There's more to Orlando than theme parks! This park offers stunning views of the city. There are plenty of shady areas for you to sit so you won't bake under the Florida sun. So bring along a picnic and some friends! You can sit and play board games or just catch up with each other while swans walk around near you. Be careful of them because they can get very aggressive! Or show them who's boss by renting those swan paddle boats. They aren't the only ones who can be on the water!

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Orlando Cat Café

Time from Tampa: 1 hour

Where: Orlando

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Looking for some furry and cute company? Grab a cup of coffee and a pastry before spending time playing with adoptable cats and kittens! And if you do fall in love with a cat, well, you might just go home with a new family member in the car.

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Solomon's Castle

Time from Tampa: 1.5 hours

Where: Ona

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A new Disney princess could call this home. This castle is made entirely of aluminum so you'll see it glistening in the sun as you drive up to it. You can take an hour long tour and get to see the collection of art inside made from recycled items. 

Tip: This place only accepts cash so make sure you have enough to pay $10 per person.

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The Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park

Time from Tampa: 2 hours

Where: Gainesville

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Go chase some waterfalls! The Devil's Millhopper is actually a sink hole. So you can take the trail that loops around the sinkhole or you can take the wooden steps down into the abyss. Pay attention to the waterfalls on the trails and you'll even notice that you can feel the chanes in climate as you climb up and down the stairs. Weird, right?

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The Salvador Dali Museum

Time from Tampa: 45 minutes

Where: St. Petersburg

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It's about to get surreal up in here. This museum houses the biggest collection of Dali's work outside of Europe. So go if you're looking to feel cultured on the weekend. Of course, you can always just hang out outside the museum! It's located right on the waterfront and the building is built to look like a glass dome. Nobody will ever snitch on you if you only take pictures of the outside for Instagram and leave. How would anyone know that you didn't engage in art history debates?

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Pirate and Treasure Museum

Time from Tampa: 3 hours

Where: St Augustine

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You'll want to explore this museum for sure. Here, you can find a safe space for you to tell all the cringey and bad pirate jokes you can think of. Pirate puns? Bring them on. The museum holds artifacts from over 300 years ago at the height of piracy. And if one of your friends is being annoying, just make them walk the plank! Easy as that.

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Kissimmee Lakefront Park

Time from Tampa: 1.5 hours

Where: Kissimmee

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You could easily spend the whole day here. This waterfront park has walking paths, a fishing pier, several picnic pavillions, and a grassy area perfect for yoga or for looking out on to the water. If you can, take the trail that leads to the small lighthouse. It'll give you up close views of Lake Toho.

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