Florida is the most south-eastern state in the United States of America. Known as "The Sunshine State", it became a popular winter destination for the well-to-do from colder climates over a century ago, and has gained ever greater popularity since. Its roots in agriculture are still present, with oranges being a chief export. The capital of Florida is Tallahassee, located in the eastern portion of the Florida Panhandle.
The beaches are among the most popular attractions, along with some of the world's best known theme parks, including Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and SeaWorld. However some of Florida's best-kept secrets are in secluded locations away from tourist areas, but well worth seeing. Florida has something to offer for any kind of traveler.
Florida Panhandle Cities include the State Capital of Tallahassee, Destin, Pensacola, and Panama City Beach.
North Florida The most culturally "Southern" part of Florida, anchored by the vibrant, cosmopolitan city of Jacksonville. Historic St. Augustine and the college town of Gainesville are other destinations.
Central Florida Theme park capital of the world, hosting Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal Studios Florida, Kennedy Space Center, Cypress Gardens, Daytona International Speedway, and Gatorland.
South Florida Home to the beaches of Miami, the swamps of the Everglades, and the beauty of the Florida Keys.
Florida is the most southern of all U.S. states other than Hawaii and is a unique blend of societies. The northern part of the state is part of the cultural region of The South, where you will find traditional southern cooking, entertainment, dialect, and lifestyles, much as you would expect to find just north in Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas. Generally, the more south you go in the state, the more unlike the South it seems; you should not expect to experience 'southern' culture everywhere, although southern culture can be found in every region of the state, it is not always the most prominent. Cities such as Tampa and Orlando offer the feel of many different cultures. There are a lot of southerners in these areas, as well as people who are not from the state (midwest, northeast), whereas Miami is unique in seeming like a cross between an American metropolis and a major Latin American city (like Caracas, Rio, or Sao Paulo). There are some Seminole Indian reserves and villages throughout southern Florida (namely in the Everglades) and their indigenous culture can be experienced by visiting a gift shop and browsing arts and crafts. The southernmost Florida Keys offer yet another flavor, full of the slow paced and casual atmosphere of true beach life. All in all, Florida is its own region of the United States in its own right.
The Florida State Fair held every February near Tampa is the best event to attend to sense the varying cultures. The fairgrounds are host to a "cracker" village similar to the villages that were found in rural Florida in the 19th century. It hosts an exposition of counties, where each Florida county has a display and a representative to answer questions. In addition, the fair has animal displays and shows, an exhibition dedicated to citrus, various dance & cheerleading competitions, and a large selection of rides and games. A few weeks later, nearby Plant City host the Strawberry Festival, usually the last few days of February and first week of March. Plant City is the "Strawberry Capital of the US" and almost every food vendor at the festival offers several dishes featuring strawberries.
Driving near Plant City in February and March, one can find many roadside vendors offering flats(~$10-12) and half-flats(~$5-8) of strawberries. Another common dish found at roadside vendors in north and central Florida is boiled peanuts-a southern dish usually found in "regular" and "cajun" flavors, which taste nothing like roasted peanut. Florida's Natural, a company that sells fruit juice, has a great roadside "welcome center" along US 27 in Lake Wales that includes a display and video on the history of citrus growing in Florida and offers samples of several flavors of juice.
Florida's coastline is world class, with several gorgeous beaches, bays, and estuaries lying on the coast. The Floridian landscape is flat, with many lakes and wetlands throughout most parts of the state. The only exception is parts of the center in Highlands, Polk, Lake, and a few other counties where rolling hills are common. The highest point in the state is 345ft (105m) and Sugarloaf Mountain in Lake County is the highest point on the peninsula at 312ft (95m). Florida's cities tend to be big, sprawling, and well developed. For such a highly populated area there are fortunately still several areas of wilderness left (although they are often found sitting right next to a large city). Many rural parts of the state grow citrus and sugar cane, but farmland tends to be far out from the usual tourist areas. The Florida Panhandle and North Florida is mostly farmland and pine trees, but as you travel south, you'll see more wetlands and urbanization. The Florida Keys, a small chain of subtropical islands, have their own unique geography, surrounded by the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Hurricane Frances makes landfall on the morning of September 5, 2004 near Stuart. Its impact, however, was felt throughout central Florida and most of Florida's east coast.
Florida is known around the world for its balmy weather. The climate varies from humid subtropical (like the rest of the southern states) in the north (from Pensacola down to Tampa) to tropical in the south (from Fort Myers to Key West). The state's generally mild winters have made it a haven for retirees year-round and temporary residents during the winter known as "snowbirds". Summers can be long and hot, with the interior being a few degrees warmer than the immediate coast. Coastal areas also experience gentle breezes during the summer, and the beach is usually the coolest, least humid place to be. During the winter, coastal areas are warmer, slightly, than inland areas. The Atlantic side of Florida is noted for milder, more moderate weather, as opposed to the Gulf side, which is drier and cooler during winter, and hotter and muggier in summer, than the Atlantic coast.
While coastal breezes are a welcome relief from the scorching temperatures, they are also the cause of the most notorious Florida weather feature: thunderstorms. While the storms are often brief, they are common, and anyone visiting Florida during the rainy season (mid-June to September) should plan a few activities indoors in the afternoon as a backup plan. Florida's thunderstorms occur everyday during the rainy season and typically form 20-30mi inland and either move toward the center of the state or toward the coast. While most simply cool the air bringing a welcome relief to stifling temperatures, these storms produce considerable amounts of dangerous lightning and sometimes hail, high winds (50mph+), and tornadoes. See the "stay safe" section for thunderstorm safety. Many attractions such as Disney World have multiple attractions available even during downpours. It is common to be in a rain shower yet be in the sun at the same time. It is also an interesting contradiction that rain can be occurring just a few miles inland from the coast, while those at the beach experience a beautiful day. Cold weather occasionally affects Florida, even as far south as Miami and the Keys. Mainland South Florida has recorded frosts and even snow flurries before that damage tropical plants and kill many animals, such as non-native iguanas, pythons and tegu lizards. The Florida Keys, due to being surrounded by water, have never had frost or snow flurries, but still do get chilly weather for a few days every winter. Water temperatures can also become chilly-even in South Florida-in winter.
Average Annual Temperatures:
93 °F degrees (26.9 °C) (North Florida)
90 °F degrees (28.2 °C) (South Florida)
53.0 °F degrees (11.7 °C) (North Florida)
70 °F degrees (20.3 °C) (South Florida)
The above temperatures are average temperatures throughout the day. During the summer, high temperatures on the peninsula are usually around 90 on the coast and mid 90s inland...with lows ranging from around 80 on the coast to mid 70s inland. During the winter, temperatures are much more variable. It is best to consult the individual city page for temperatures during the winter. The spring is the driest time of the year, which can lead to wildfires nearly every May and early June.
The six-month hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 and Floridians have learned to be ready when a storm threatens the area. If you plan on visiting during the summer, stay abreast of the news and weather advisories. Information is available from the National Hurricane Center .
English is the official language of the state. However, Spanish is the native language of approximately 20% of Florida residents. In some parts of South Florida, Spanish is the preferred language in everyday activities. Miami is most notable, where nearly 80% of residents do not speak English as a native language and 30% do not speak any English. Tampa also has a sizable Spanish speaking population, and areas where it is almost exclusively spoken.
Orlando International Airport - your choice airport for Disney World or the other attractions in Central Florida. Located south of Downtown Orlando, this airport offers car rentals and free shuttles to Disney World for visitors.
Tampa International Airport-serves the Gulf Coast, namely the Tampa Bay area. Has a direct flight operated by British Airways to/from London Gatwick. Also international flights to Canada, Mexico, and the Cayman Islands. Rated #1 US Airport overall.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport - the fourth largest airport in Florida and another valid option with many domestic low fare carriers.
Other large airports can be found in: Jacksonville, Pensacola,Fort Myers, Tallahassee, St.Petersburg/Clearwater, West Palm Beach, Sarasota, Key West, Gainesville, Melbourne, and Sanford. Be aware that there are many more airports throughout Florida that may get you closer to your ultimate destination; watch out for these smaller airports while researching your destination.
Amtrak Silver Star and Silver Meteor(Trains 91-92 and 97-98 respectively) - both routes begin in New York City and end in Miami. While the two routes are slightly different, within the borders of the state of Florida, the routes are exactly the same. This option can get you from most East Coast cities to Miami, or many Florida cities in between.
Three Interstate highways connect Florida with adjacent states
Interstate 95 enters Florida from Georgia just north of Jacksonville and parallels the Atlantic coast (never more than 25 miles) until its southern terminus south of the Miami CBD. Interstate 95 provides the most convenient route for persons from the Atlantic Coast, New England, and the Canadian maritime provinces. Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, and the Miami-Ft.Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area are all serviced by I-95, with access to Orlando provided via I-4
Interstate 75 also enters Florida from Georgia and passes through the center of the state until the Tampa Bay area, after which it follows 10-20mi inland from the Gulf of Mexico until Naples, after which it heads due east to Ft.Lauderdale. Interstate 75 is most convenient for travelers arriving from Atlanta and the Midwest.
Interstate 10 enters Florida from Alabama near Pensacola and passes through the center of the Panhandle and through northern Florida until its terminus in Jacksonville. Interstate 10 is most convenient for travelers from Louisiana, Texas, and areas further west.
Additional major highways entering Florida include,
US 1 enters Florida north of Jacksonville and snakes along the east coast between Interstate 95 and the Intercoastal Waterway/Atlantic Ocean. Unlike I-95, US 1 continues past Miami and is routed over a series of bridges connecting the Florida Keys to its terminus at Key West.
US 231 enters Florida from Alabama (where it connects with Interstate 65 in Montgomery) and crosses the Panhandle north-south to its southern terminus at Panama City. US 231 provides convenient access to the Panhandle from the Midwest (via I-65).
US 98 enters Florida near Pensacola and remains close to the Gulf of Mexico coast until the base of the Florida peninsula("Big Bend" area). Unlike I-10 to the north ,which runs through the interior of the peninsula and away from the coast, US 98 provides convenient access to the coast and this section is very scenic. After the Panhandle, US 98 runs diagonally across the peninsula to West Palm Beach, running through primarily rural areas.
US 27 enters Florida from western Georgia, provides access to the state capital, Tallahassee, before routing through mostly rural areas of the peninsula. Between the Florida Turnpike and Miami, US 27 is a primary trucking route through the center of the state and, while two or three lane and having high speed limits, this route can be a hassle dealing with trucks and large volumes of traffic through this section.
US 301 enters Florida just north of Jacksonville and was once the main route from the Northeast to Florida. It is a very scenic alternative to I-95 with a lot less traffic. Exiting at Santee, SC motorists can follow US 301 through SC and Georgia (past the first welcome center opened in 1962) and connect to I-95 in Jacksonville for East Coast destinations or join I-75 at Ocala for Tampa and Gulf Coast destinations.
Bus service is provided by Greyhound and RedCoach that connect the major cities in Florida. There are a number of local and regional Public Transportation organizations that offer inter-city bus services throughout the state.
Car rental agencies abound in Florida and many are available at every major airport. Orlando, in particular, known as the "Car Rental Capital of the World". With Florida being the most visited state in the US, car rental rates here are among (if not the) lowest rates in the country.
Florida's major highways include:
Interstate 4 crosses diagonally from Tampa, heads east through Plant City & Lakeland, then heads northeast past Kissimmee, Walt Disney World, Orlando, and ends at Interstate 95 near Daytona Beach. Interstate 4 is the most traversed highway in Florida and due to the large volume of traffic, high speeds (70 outside of urban areas), construction (which is almost complete), and large number of tourists it is the most dangerous highway in the state, in terms of the number of accidents.
Interstate 95 enters Florida from Georgia north of Jacksonville and travels near the Atlantic coast (never more than 20mi or so), past St.Augustine, Daytona Beach, Cape Canaveral, Vero Beach, West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and ends at US 1 just south of downtown Miami.
Interstate 10 enters Florida from Alabama near Pensacola and travels across the Panhandle, past Tallahassee,and through north Florida to its terminus in Jacksonville.
Florida's Turnpike is a toll road that runs from Interstate 75 south of Ocala, through Orlando, West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and ending south of Miami. It provides the easiest access to Orlando and southeast Florida for persons entering the state via I-75 or I-10.
Interstate 275 is a secondary interstate that runs from I-75 north of Bradenton, past downtown St. Petersburg & downtown Tampa, before rejoining I-75 north of the Tampa area. Interstate 275 crosses the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, 5.5mi (8.8km) long and with a 193ft(58.8m) clearance, across the mouth of Tampa Bay and later across the Howard Frankland Bridge over Old Tampa Bay. Note: Interstate 75 does not provide access to these areas, it passes through rural/suburban areas 10 miles (at closest) from Tampa. I-4 approaches Tampa from the east, but ends at I-275 just before downtown.
offers daily service and docks in the Historic Seaport district of Key West. The ferry ride takes approximately 3.5 hours and the Ft. Myers Beach vessels have a capacity exceeding 300 passengers and amenities aboard include; out-door sundecks, flat-screen TV's, galley service and a full bar.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex - America's space port for the manned missions to the moon and the Space Shuttle, in Cape Canaveral. The visitors complex contains spacecraft displays, two IMAX movies, the Astronaut's Hall of Fame, displays/exhibits chronicling the history and future of space exploration/travel, a new Space Shuttle Launch Experience, and more. 
Space Shuttle Launch-Florida is the only place in the world where one can watch the launch of a manned space vehicle launch, as Russia & China launch their space craft in remote, restricted areas. On clear days, a launch can be seen well from over 150mi(250km) away. However, seeing a launch from Titusville is worth attending, especially for international tourists. Furthermore, rockets (carrying satellite)s are launched almost every month. You can check the launch schedule online .
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse in Ponce Inlet
St. Augustine, founded by the Spanish in 1565, is the United State's oldest continually settled city. It contains a large fort, a museum concerning the city's history, and plenty of nearby shops.
Gatorland - Full of Florida's most unique animal, in Orlando.
Florida Lighthouses are numerous, historic, and beautiful, take some time to visit these iconic images of the coast.
Spring Training Baseball occurs throughout the state in March and offers the ability to watch your favorite players for discount prices (front row tickets can be purchased as low as $15-20) and in smaller, more intimate venues.
Salvador Dali Museum,, in downtown St. Petersburg, is the largest collection of Dali artwork outside of Europe.
Sunshine Skyway Bridge is part of Interstate 275 crossing the mouth of Tampa Bay. It is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world and an engineering masterpiece. Furthermore, two long fishing piers beside the bridge, the approaches of the previous bridge, are renowned among local fishermen and provide a less expensive alternative for saltwater fishing.
Holocaust museum,, located in downtown St. Petersburg. The Holocaust museum is one of the largest in the US and exhibits a box car used by Nazis to transport prisoners to concentration camps like Auschwitz or Treblinka.
Daytona International Speedway, located 1.5 miles off the Daytona Beach exit (261) on I-95. Home of the number one event in stock car racing - the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Daytona 500 (February) and other events throughout the year.
Ybor City, . Ybor City is one of the largest party districts in the country. Countless bars, restaurants, clubs, and cigar stores are located within this district near downtown Tampa. Has a very historic feel, with a combination of Latin and Italian influence. edit
Visit Everglades National Park, a place like no other on earth, and take an airboat ride through the swamps. A drive across the Everglades on US 41 is a great way to get a sense of the size and scenery of the Everglades. Stop at Shark Valley and Everglades City for great attractions and scenery.
Take a dip in Florida's Largest Lake, Lake Okeechobee! Wade in the shallow waters, and enjoy the beautiful southern Florida landscape and wildlife.
Visit some of the more than 150 Florida State Parks. Two-time winner of the National Recreation and Park Association's Gold Medal award for state park systems. 
Visit the Seminole or Miccosukee Indian reservations throughout the state. Here you can find out about their history and culture, eat their food, and then gamble in the casinos on their land. 
Go diving-Florida coastlines offer many coral reefs, sunken vessels, and a diverse array of sea life.
Go hiking or backpacking-Florida has many state and national parks/forests that have nature trails suitable for hiking and camping.
Florida National Scenic Trail is a network of 1400 miles of hiking trails throughout the state. The most popular section of the trail is the 110-mile loop encircling Lake Okeechobee.
Go Fishing - Florida has some of the best fishing action in the world (both salt and freshwater). Several large and tough fighting species such as Sailfish, Tarpon, and Largemouth Bass can be found lurking in Florida water throughout the state. Info about charters and fishing locations can be found here 
Florida cuisine has come under many influences and its styles vary across the state from north to south. Early Spanish and African and Southern cuisine has been influenced by Cuban and other Caribbean cultures, as well as "snowbirds" escaping from the Northern US winters. Northern Florida has a more Southern style; the south a more Caribbean one. Being on a peninsula, Florida's chefs have always had access to fresh seafood and the long growing season provides for fresh native vegetables.
Citrus is a main export, and the tourist is apt to see many roadside stands offering free samples of orange juice and fruits to be shipped or carried home. Florida also grows grapefruit, avocado, mango, papaya, passion fruit, kumquat, coconut and other tropical fruits. These often provide the base for sauces and marinades or are used in marmalades, soups, or desserts. Welcome centers located on I-10, I-75, and I-95 as you enter Florida offer free samples of orange juice to all visitors, a tradition that goes back decades.
Strawberries are another popular fruit in Florida. Plant City, off I-4 east of Tampa, is the center of Florida strawberry growing, where during the peak season (Feb-Mar) many roadside vendors offer flats(16 pints/12 lbs) and half-flats of strawberries for a small fraction of grocery store prices. Since most are owned by the individual farmers, often the fruit sold was harvested that morning or the day before. Fresh Florida strawberries are a treat no tourist should miss, at least if you visit while in season.
Grouper is a very popular seafood caught in Florida's coastal waters. Fresh grouper is offered in many coastal cities, where many local restaurants buy it straight from fishermen. In recent years, state inspectors have cracked down to insure that all restaurants offering "grouper" are in fact serving grouper, and not another less expensive white fish. Snapper, Snook, Tarpon, Marlin, & shark are other Florida fish that you can find at coastal restaurants, although they are not nearly as ubiquitous as grouper.
Southern food is available throughout most of north and central Florida. Barbeque is popular throughout the state, with many small "barbeque shacks" to choose from. Any platter costing over $10 ($15 for ribs), should be avoided as less expensive restaurants are almost always best. Sweet tea is common throughout the state, although unlike most areas in the south you have a choice between sweet and unsweet. Boiled peanuts can be found at roadside vendor in this area also, certainly worth trying. Dishes such as grits, okra, gravy 'n biscuits, and collard greens can also be found in buffets and restaurants throughout the region.
Cuban food is common in the Miami and Tampa areas. The most common dishes are Cuban sandwiches, desserts, & black beans and rice.
Local specialties, not readily available in many other locales, include alligator. It is healthy and most say it tastes like chicken. It is often prepared like chicken too. Key lime pie, found elsewhere now, is a Florida Keys invention, made from the local key limes.
Alcoholic beverages abound throughout the state. However, five rural counties in the northern third of the state are "dry counties", and no alcohol is sold in them. Liquor stores are often built into strip malls, supermarkets, and pharmacies, and most grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores sell beer and wine. Bars and clubs are popular throughout the state. Miami Beach is well known for a variety of themed and upscale bars with innovative mixed drinks.
Like every other U.S. state, the purchase and possession age for alcohol is 21 and is fairly well enforced. Underage drinking "stings" are frequent in most tourist areas.
Most goods for sale in the state are subject to sales tax. In most of the state the rate is 7%, but varies from 6%-7.5% (6% state sales tax and up to 1.5% local sales tax). This rate is almost never listed on the advertised/displayed prices.
Florida is increasingly becoming a major destination for shopping. The Orlando and Miami areas are home to a plethora of shopping malls, including many "outlet" malls which are home to shops selling brand-name products for discounted prices and retail shops of name brands which typically are sold through retail companies (Nike, Sony, Tommy Hilfiger, North Face, etc). There are also a large number of stores selling souvenirs, although most are not locally produced. The Orlando/Kissimmee region, especially, has a much larger amount of retail stores than typical of US cities. While traditionally these shops catered largely to American families of vacation, these shopping destinations are now serving foreign shoppers. Europeans and recently Brazilians flock to these shopping centers to buy products significantly cheaper than at home and it's not uncommon at some shopping centers in Orlando to encounter tourists from around the globe (especially on weekdays, when most Americans are working). In the last few years, Brazil has become the largest source of international visitors to the state, with many coming on shopping group tours, sometimes wearing matching shirts. Some major shopping centers in Orlando and Miami areas now offer services in Portuguese.
Extreme Temperatures Never leave children or pets in a parked car for any length of time! Due to high temperature for most of the year, the interior of a parked car can easily heat to lethal temperatures in a short amount of time. During the summer, the interior of a parked car can reach 130-170ºF (55-75ºC) in just 15 minutes, regardless of the color of the exterior or interior, nor whether the windows are open a small amount. You not only risk their lives, but it is illegal and the consequences could be thousands in fines and even imprisonment.
Florida has a high occurrence of hurricanes. You might want to check the Hurricane safety page if you are visiting Florida during Hurricane Season (June 1-November 30).
Watch where and when you swim. While the beaches are great they often harbor rip currents, bacteria, and jellyfish. Always check with the lifeguard stand before heading in if no one is in the water or the waves are rough. Volusia County is known for a high number of shark attacks, so be careful when surfing. Even so, the number of attacks are less than 50, with a fatal attack every 2-3 years, amongst millions of visitors and residents who swim in the ocean. Swimming near dusk and dawn is most hazardous. Never swim in the lakes or rivers unless signs tell you swimming is safe. In Florida, stagnant and slow moving freshwater often has alligators (as well as poisonous snakes). While they rarely attack humans, it's best not to take your chances.
Florida has varying crime intensity from city to city. In certain parts of large cities it may not be safe to walk alone or even in small groups at night. These are the exceptions however and most of Florida is safe enough for visitors. Touristy areas rarely have violent crimes, but theft is an occasional occurrence. If the area doesn't feel safe then it probably isn't.
Only central Africa experiences more lightning than Florida. The afternoon thunderstorms in Florida produce frequent lightning, which kills many people each year and injures many more. Stay indoors during a thunderstorm and never seek shelter under a tree. Most casualties occur on golf courses, but lightning strikes everywhere. If you must go outdoors, try to stay away from tall objects such as trees. Occasionally, summer thunderstorms will bring hail, high winds, and tornadoes. While historic numbers of tornadoes in Florida are somewhat high, the overwhelming majority occur during hurricanes (Jeanne alone spawned over 200 tornadoes in Florida) and the rest during winter cold fronts and summer thunderstorms; however, 99% of them are weak (F-0/F-1). Thus, while statistics may suggest otherwise, tornadoes are not a big hazard in Florida.
Please note that this list does not include honorary consulates. Always call ahead to determine if the consulate offers the services you require such as passports, visas and other official documents as these services are increasingly being centralized at other locations. Some websites are available only in Spanish. If a country isn't shown here, it will be represented by an Embassy in Washington DC.
Mississippi - A short trip west out of the Panhandle and across Alabama brings you to Mississippi, which offers casino gaming in Biloxi and Gulfport.
Caribbean - The islands of the Caribbean are accessible by boat and plane from Florida and offer a variety of both relaxing and adventure travel amidst a tropical paradise. For those interested in visiting the Bahamas, many owners of small boats will make the day-long trip to the Bahamas and several small airlines offer fares to the Bahamas for under $70 each way.
This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!