Skip the Clubs. Head to Florida's National Parks Instead.
Ah, Florida. That weird, mysterious state where alligators run wild and the people run wilder — it's not an exaggeration. Take it from a local.
We have a city that should really be part of Latin America, Disney World, key lime pie and, of course, the infamous Florida Man.
But if you want to see the state as few outsiders know it, look to our nature. With ecosystems that exist nowhere else, some of the largest coral reefs in the world and unique species, the three national parks in Florida are our state treasures.
Here's what you can do in each of them.
Biscayne National Park
Size: 270.3 square miles
Annual visitors: 708,522*
Best gateway town: Miami
*Visitor numbers are from 2019, since they provide a more accurate picture of travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Experience: Biscayne
When people think of Miami they think of parties, beaches and city vibes. But right in Florida's most sprawling metropolis, you'll also find the incredible Biscayne National Park.
The vast majority of the park is underwater, making it a perfect spot for snorkeling, scuba diving or swimming. You don't even have to leave Miami to get here, just hop on a boat tour or rent a boat. Outside the water, there are pretty lighthouses, short walking trails and camping grounds.
Take a break from the partying and come enjoy nature.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Size: 100 square miles
Annual visitors: 79,200
Best gateway town: Key West
The Experience: Dry Tortugas
Fewer than 80,000 people visit Dry Tortugas every year. This is partly because many people remain unaware of its existence. But you can also blame its inaccessibility. The only ways to get to this park are by boat and seaplane. In either case, it'll cost upward of $200.
If you don't mind shelling out the cash, the experience is worth it. Like Biscayne, Dry Tortugas is mostly underwater. On dry land, you'll find the ruins of the Spanish Fort Jefferson, whose pink hue contrasts beautifully with the light blue sea around it.
Providing premium access to the Florida Keys coral reef — one of the largest in the world — try to camp the night out so you can spend more time in the water. And while we hope more people add Dry Tortugas to their bucket list, its remoteness will likely keep it within the least visited national parks in the U.S.
Everglades National Park
Size: 7,800 square miles
Annual visitors: 1.12 million
Best gateway town: Miami
The Experience: Everglades
Despite neglecting Biscayne, Miami visitors make it a point to go to the Everglades. This endemic ecosystem is extremely fragile and houses numerous species like deer, Florida panthers, American crocodiles, and, of course, alligators.
For years, the Everglades were considered a useless swamp, but we are now much wiser and can appreciate the peaceful stillness of this slow-moving river. The gigantic park covers south Florida from coast to coast, and is one of the largest in the entire country.
Airboat rides are one of the best ways to see the park, though it's also possible to kayak and hike around it. Brave souls can also join swamp walks, where you'll wade in the water.
And, yes, there is always a chance of encountering an alligator.