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What’s the best attraction in Florida? Vote for your favorite in Reader’s Choice Awards

Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 10:29 am



Carriages on King St

By Peter Covino
A&E Editor
Whether you are a visitor, part-time resident or full-blown Floridian, everyone has got a favorite attraction in the Sunshine State.
Is it the land of Mickey and the Magic Kingdom or Discovery Cove at SeaWorld or maybe you prefer the real Florida and the parks such as Everglades National Park or Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park?
You can vote and root for your favorite attraction at the 10 Best USA Today Travel Readers’ Choice Awards.
You many not be able to vote for your absolute favorite if that happens to be LEGOLAND or Silver Springs or even Gatorland. Lots of Florida favorites aren’t among the nominees selected by a panel of experts gathered by USA Today, but then, everyone has got their own opinion.
Also among the notable missing are EPCOT, the Universal theme parks  and Busch Gardens.
Here is the list, in alphabetical order, of the 20 best attractions in the state, according to the expert panel. You can vote every day, once a day, for your favorite at
Arts Deco District South Beach — Designated a U.S. Historic District in 1979, the South Beach neighborhood  contains 960 historic buildings. It’s a mix of old hotels, boutiques, galleries and stores.
Beaches of Daytona Beach — “The World’s Most Famous Beach” is renowned for the miles of hard-packed beach that you can drive on.
Beaches of South Beach Miami —This list likes beaches a lot, but Florida is a peninsula. With lots of neighborhoods and beaches and parks, it is another one of the nation’s favorite playgrounds.
Blue Springs State Park —One of the most popular state parks in Florida and it isn’t all about the many manatees that make the park their winter home. There also is kayaking, diving, fishing, hiking, swimming and more. The water also is a constant 72 degrees year round.
Castillo de San Marcos St. Augustine — Seems like this was partially covered by the city itself, but this is the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S. with construction beginning in 1672 and it is a national monument.
City Pier Anna Maria Island —The historic pier is full of old Florida charm and offers great views of the bay and great fishing. Fishing is free and there is a restaurant and bait shop.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium  — The non-profit marine aquarium rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured marine animals.  The aquarium’s best known resident is Winter, a bottlenose dolphin (featured in the film Dolphin Tale) who lost her tail and was fitted with a prosthetic tail at the aquarium.
Discovery Cove —The SeaWorld theme park mimics a real cove where guests can swim and interact with marine animals, most notably dolphins. Admission to the park includes all you can eat and drink at the restaurants and snack bars.
Everglades Holiday Park  Broward County — The “Gateway to the Everglades” the park offers airboat rides, boat ramps, boat rentals, fishing wildlife viewing and more. The park is also the home of the Gator Boys from Animal Planet.
Everglades National Park — If you ever have  made the trek to South Florida, chances are you drove through a portion of the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. It’s the third largest national park in “the lower 48” and is visited by an average of one million people each year.
Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park — This is one attraction, simply because of its location, you may never have been to. Located some 70 miles west of Key West (accessible only by seaplane or boat), the park is a tropical paradise, but most noted for Fort Jefferson, the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. The fortification began construction in 1847 and is composed of more than 16 million bricks.
Kennedy Space Center — The space center, long a favorite of visitors going back to the early days of the manned space program, gets top-attraction status with the many new additions in recent years, particularly the stunning setting for the retired Space Shuttle Atlantis.
Magic Kingdom — Does anyone visit Central Florida and NOT go to the Magic Kingdom? An estimated 17.5 million people visited the Magic Kingdom in 2012 and that makes it the most visited theme park in the world.
Mallory Square Sunset Celebration at Key West — Each day as the sun goes down, hundreds to tourists gather to watch the sunset at the square on the waterfront in Key West’s Historic Old Town. The celebration includes arts and crafts exhibitors and stuff to eat and drink.
Salvador Dali Museum —This is one of those museums you just don’t expect to find at its location. The Dali museum in St. Petersburg, houses the largest collection of work by the artist, outside of Europe. Most of it is from the comprehensive collection of Dali enthusiasts A. Reynolds and Eleanor R. Morse. They purchased Dali’s artwork for 40 years  and opened a museum in their native Ohio. Eventually the collection was housed in a marine warehouse in downtown St. Petersburg and an all-new museum opened in 2011.
Seashells of Sanibel Island — An attraction without a hefty admission cost, but bring lots of sunscreen. The island is known for its abundance of shells from the sea. Supposedly, because the island lies east and west rather than north and south, the Sanibel beaches catch many more shells than the typical beach. Low tide and after a storm early in the morning are the best times to gather shells.
Southernmost Point Key West — Not sure how this rates as an attraction, considering how far you have to drive, but it does make a nice photo to email to friends or post on your favorite social network platform.  A large painted buoy marks the spot at the corner of South Street and Whitehead Street. The concrete buoy was erected in 1983. And technically, this is not Florida’s official southernmost point. It’s on Ballast Key, a privately owned island south and west of Key West.
St. Augustine Historic District — A Florida favorite for 500 years, the historic district features the old fort, museums, brick streets, horse-drawn carriages and lots of history.
The Ringling Sarasota — The state art museum of Florida. It features an art museum, historic mansion, circus museum, historic theater, conservation laboratory and research library. The Ringling is home to dozens of events yearly.
Worth Avenue Palm Beach —The “Rodeo Drive” Florida, the upscale shopping district stretches for four blocks and includes smaller alleyways known as Vias. Worth Avenue underwent a $15.8 million improvement project  in 2010. Worth Avenue is home to some 250 high-end shops, boutiques, restaurants and art galleries.
You can vote for your favorite nominee daily until Dec. 23, at noon.
The winner of the Best Florida Attraction contest will be announced at noon on Dec. 25. USA Today and 10Best will promote the contest winner.