It's no mystery how The Sunshine State got its nickname—a steady shower of sunlight washes over its golden-sand beaches, quiet mangroves, and colorful houses throughout the year. But there's more to do in Florida than lie back and catch rays by the shore.
Head south until you can't head south anymore and you'll be standing in Everglades National Park, the country's only sub-tropical wilderness. Here visitors kayak and canoe through water trails such as the Mud Lake Loop, known for its exceptional bird watching. Estimates put the region's alligator population in the hundreds of thousands, so there's a good chance visitors will encounter one in the wild even if they're just hiking the trails. However, a safer bet (in more ways than one) is to drop into Everglades Alligator Farm, where groups take airboat tours of the area before stopping to watch the frenzied alligator feeding show.
In the constellation of theme parks that lights up the city of Orlando, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is the brightest star. Every feature of the 142-acre park is designed to instill a sense of wonder, none more so than the 18-tower, 189-foot Cinderella Castle, which looks even taller due to clever use of forced perspective. Meeting Mickey is a thrill for kids, but for a real rush you're better off at Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure. Riders who brave the Incredible Hulk Coaster burst from a dead stop to 40 mph in two seconds, then twist around a "zero g" roll that makes them feel weightless.
As a melting pot of Caribbean, Hispanic, and Western cultures, Florida boasts a culinary culture as diverse as its peoples. In rural north Florida, residents like to munch on spicy Cajun peanuts, and in Miami's Little Haiti, crispy pork griots are a common dish. At inland Florida restaurants, diners can sample gator tails and frog legs served with crispy hush puppies.