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The Outsider's Guide to Visiting Florida

Updated on April 16, 2013
St. Augustine Lighthouse
St. Augustine Lighthouse

Geographically, the West Coast has Hawaii, while the East Coast has Florida, for tropical-ness. Half of America goes to Florida, while the other half, Hawaii.

Florida offers more for your money, more attractions and still has the tropical beauty that Hawaii has, plus, it is not an island that one can drive around in a few hours.

However, the most frustrating thing about Florida are its too numerous highway tolls. If you are from west of the Mississippi, these are alien things that suck too much money. There are some 20 of them, most charge $1.50 to $3.50 just to use a portion of the road, while SR 91 charges $18 for it! Many times, only a portion of the road is toll. Insane!

Visitors unaccustomed to road tolls fight this crazy ripoff. The only way around it is to buy a SunPass online for $5, register it and load it with money so as you drive by the toll, the Pass is read and the amount deducted. Failing to pay is worse because the you pay the toll plus processing fees turning a $2 toll into a $5.00. Be sure to ask about the toll policy with any rental cars.

The next thing visitors face is what to see or do. Universally, it is beach, amusement ride parks, water parks, local sites. One thing everyone really should see and visit are travelling on Hwy 1 to Key West, an amazing highway traversing an ocean for miles and miles until you reach the end of America at Key West - 90 miles from Cuba. From Orlando, it is a 5 1\2 hour drive, from Miami, maybe an hour. Simply awesome. Don't forget to stop at some nice beaches. The Everglades National Park is full of nature and mosquitoes if you go from May- Sept. I mean swarms of them. Camping there becomes intolerable. If you need to go there, either be well stocked with bug repellent or go during winter months.

Most people visiting Florida go to Orlando, land of the theme parks; Miami, for the beach and babes and skyrises; or Tampa on the Gulf of Mexico side, for the beach and some great theme parks. Disney offers several theme parks in Orlando, while Universal Studios has their own there also. Most of the Disney water parks Blizzard, Typhoon, Aquatica are $52-55 person. They each have 5-6 cool rides. But, the best park of all is Busch Gardens in Tampa. At $85 a person, it offers way better rides for teens and a wild animal park with African species. It is a perfect marriage. Better yet, many times you also get second day FREE plus all you can eat! It takes about 6-7 hrs. to see it all. If you start early, you can then head to Clearwater Beach, the gem along the Gulf of Mexico with its white sand. Universal studios has their 4-6 rides revolving the movies- Jurassic Park, Jaws, Harry Potter etc. The rides are okay, more for age 12 and under or adults who like a non-event ride. But look, if you real thrills, go elsewhere.

Two smaller parks in Orlando offer some of the best rides to teens for fright: The water park, Wet n'Wild. They have some of the freakiest rides costing $45. The best, by far, go-cart track is at Fun Park and for $35 it offers some a great roller coaster and the best go-cart track with multi-levels to race around. It is Orlando's "little" secret. It is totally a blast.

If you want to see alligators but want more, visit St. Augustine's, Gatorfarm. Why? To use their ziplines that take you above them. They have two: a 45 min course and 1.5 hr. course for $30+. Once done, you can see them up close at the best tropical zoo in Florida filled with all sorts of birds, animals. Then, when you are done, hit the beautiful beaches just down the road or go to Daytona or Cocoa beach. Also, climb the towering St. Augustine lighthouse with its spiral staircase. It is very close Gatorfarm.

I will say that the rides at Disney or Universal Studios are good, but they are for the more tame thrill seeker and for the money, actually offer less, I think.

Lastly, summer months tend to be showery, humid and mosquitoes. Winter months are pretty much the opposite.


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    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 4 years ago from Pune, India

      Thank you for sharing this information..