If you want to visit Florida, skip the theme parks and go here instead.
Florida is a state known for its tourism. It's got Disney, Universal Studios, Miami, Orlando, and the Florida Keys, all places where you can either catch some rays down at the beach or visit a corporate park...you know, the usual...
But beyond just theme parks and big-named attractions, Florida also has a ton of really cool off-the-beaten-path adventures that are out there awaiting your arrival right now. Take it from me, a Florida native. There's a slew of exciting sites, complete with unique histories, things that make the state a gem for travelers from out of state.
Seriously, would you rather go to Disneyland again or go visit an underwater city of the dead, not unlike the Atlantis of the ancient myths? Or how about a small town tucked away in the woods that's the nation's capital of psychic mediums and witchcraft, a place that some locals venture to at night because they believe it's haunted?
Skip the travel companies and take it from a local that there are many more awesome places to Florida besides the parks as mentioned above.
Here are five unique places worth writing home about (and posting the awesome pictures you take on Instagram).
1. Salvador Dalí Museum
First off, we have the Salvador Dalí Museum, located in St. Petersburg, Florida. St. Petersburg is a city known to us locals as a bit of a party city. Located on a peninsula off of Tampa Bay, the city has plenty to do, and you, like us, probably won't ever find yourself bored traveling there.
There's the Castle, in nearby Ybor City, officially called Castle Ybor, and it's a world-famous Goth club for those who'd like to dance the night away draped in black with pumping music. There's the Fort de Soto Park, a stretch of wilderness that spans over 1,000 miles, with beautiful serene beaches in St. Petersburg itself.
But most of all, you really should check out the Salvador Dalí Museum. With tons of art and stunning architecture, the building is like taking a step into the mind of the famed artist. Advanced purchase tickets are required, so make sure you grab your tickets before you go, but ultimately, the museum will knock your socks off if you're an art buff.
2. Neptune Memorial Reef
If you're really feeling adventurous, you could always visit the Neptune Memorial Reef, which is basically like an entire city underwater. Like the supposed Lost City of Atlantis, this is an underground city of sorts. Also like Atlantis, it's populated with tons of dead people. With more people being cremated than ever before, it's become a place where scattered ashes are strewn as a memorial.
Unlike Atlantis, however, it actually exists.
Neptune Memorial Reef is free and open to visitors, but of course, you'll need scuba gear, and you'll have to be willing to dive into the clear blue water of the ocean. But you might just get to swim around with dolphins if you do. Only certified divers can dive at this location, so make sure you have that in order before you go there, but one thing is for sure, those who see the city from the bottom of the ocean will have some remarkable stories to tell.
The spot is located 3.5 miles off of Key Biscayne, near Miami, Florida, which means if you can travel there, you'll have access to beaches and a slew of fascinating stuff that the city of Miami has to offer, all within a short travel distance.
3. The Dry Tortugas in Key West
Okay, I'll just come out heavy-handed and say that that, while remote, the Dry Tortugas offer a lot of exciting stuff to do. First off, there's Fort Jefferson, which was acquired way back when Florida was purchased from Spain, and it's one of the largest old military forts we have. It's not used anymore, though when the British Empire bought it along with the whole state, they intended to use it as a military outpost to counter the piracy which was rampant in those days.
It's located 70 miles west of Key West, in the middle of the ocean, so you have to get there either by seaplane or by boat. There's a ferry that you can take to get there also, in case you have neither of those things.
Key West is also a bit of a party island with a reputation here in Florida, it's a place people go to spend time with family or drink until the sun comes up over the glorious beaches that are virtually unmatched anywhere in the world. You can visit Key West, take the ferry from Key West over to the Dry Tortugas, and even scuba dive or swim in the crystal clear water while you're there.
Literary fans can even check out the Earnest Hemmingway Museum while you're in Key West, a place that was once the home of the famed author since the 1920s.
4. Torture Museum in St. Augustine
St. Augustine is a really fascinating city. It's got it all. It's got great beaches, it's got the big old forts left over from the days when Florida was a Spanish, and later British, territory; the Castillo de San Marcos and Castle Otttis. It's got the oldest house in America, the oldest schoolhouse in America, and you can even catch dolphins down at the river.
St. Augustine is the oldest European city in America, with plenty to do and plenty to see. There are fun attractions, and the centuries-old military forts are quite the sights to behold. It was founded on September 8th of 1565, and much of the architecture from that era are still standing. The city gates are still standing, but those date to a later period than 1565, as they were rebuilt in 1808. The city has a ton of history.
But what really stands out in St. Augustine is the torture museum. Yes, an actual torture museum. Of course, the gore and bodies are fake, but the devices are real and belong to a private collector. It's like walking into a horror movie. It has an audio guide that you can listen to on your smartphone that will tell you creepy stories and lead you through the museum.
It's called the Medieval Torture Museum and it's open to the public. I highly recommend this travel destination for those into the macabre.
5. Cassadaga, Florida
If you're looking for something out of the way, you might check out Cassadaga, Florida, a small town tucked away in the thick woods of Volusia County, it's far away from everything. While Cassadaga is rich in history, there isn't a whole lot to do, but it's definitely a creepy place.
Let's start with the fact that it's the world capital of psychic mediums. You know, the kind who contact the dead, speak to your relatives who've passed on into the next world, and all that jazz?
The city was founded by a spiritualist named George P. Colby all the way back in 1894, and to this day, not much has changed. It's about an hour north of Orlando, Florida, so it's a quick drive away if you're headed to Orlando and wanted to make a day out of it. You'll get to see a lot of trees, swampland, and an old, old city that's supposedly got some spooky stuff going on within the city limits.
The cemetery is supposedly haunted and it's a place adventurous teenagers frequent in order to spook themselves into a little delight. There's a graveside chair in the cemetery known as "the Devil's Chair," which is a common American urban legend. The Cassadaga iteration of the legend states that if you leave a beer on the chair, it will be drunk by morning. How perfectly Florida is that?