Skip These Florida Tourist Traps (And Where To Visit Instead), According To Travelers

The Sunshine State is a mecca of tourism in more than just one city. According to Visit Florida, the state's tourism department, over 137 million travelers visited the state in 2022. Popular attractions like South Beach in Miami or Walt Disney World in Orlando need no assistance drawing visitors in. However, travelers seeking authentic Floridian experiences may not know what their options are beyond the popular experiences that, more often than not, have turned into tourist traps.

We won't just leave you hanging by sharing with you what to pass over on your next trip to Florida. In addition to our "skips," we include recommendations on what to do in place of those tourist traps. By combining our own experiences, researching expert commentary online, and reading traveler comments, we've narrowed down our list of the most common tourist traps in Florida. You can read more about our methodology at the end of this article. Here are a few places you should make every effort to avoid in Florida and where you should consider going instead.

Skip water parks, visit Florida's natural springs

While the allure of slides and wave pools is undeniable, theme park water parks across the U.S. are similar enough to one another that their cost often outweighs their benefits. Water parks are pricey, especially if you don't qualify for discounted tickets. The regularly priced entrance fee for Disney's Typhoon Lagoon is $74, and Universal Orlando's Volcano Bay entrance fee is $70. Themed water parks can also have restrictions on what you can bring into them. Not only will you have paid for an expensive ticket, but you'll also be expected to purchase food, drinks, and possibly even a towel if you forgot yours.

Instead, visit Florida's natural springs and rivers for a refreshing and budget-friendly alternative. Many of these locations are in Florida state parks that charge one fee per vehicle, not per person, and those fees can be as small as $6. These natural wonders offer a serene escape with the flexibility to bring your own floaties and picnic, not to mention the support you'll be providing to national and local park services.

Skip the aquariums, visit Crystal River

Aquarium visits can quickly add up, especially with added costs for animal interactions. Like themed water parks, aquariums are typically the same across the U.S., so unless you can find a discount for admission, your budget will thank you for skipping them. Crowded venues can detract from the experience, and some aquariums do not follow humane practices when it comes to their animals. A recent Tripadvisor review of Gulf World Marine Park said, "Although the dolphin show is nice everything else is outdated and lame. Even the playground is a waste of space."

As an alternative, visit and swim with manatees in Crystal River. This unique experience allows you to see these gentle giants in their natural habitat, and in many cases, the cost for the experience helps support conservation efforts. You can even add a Florida Everglades airboat tour to your swim with the manatees and knock out two activities at once.

Skip South Beach, visit North Miami Beach

Will Smith famously rapped about partying "all night on the beach till the break of dawn" in his hit song "Miami," and travelers know those lyrics about one of the world's most famous beaches aren't far from the truth. Known for its vibrant party scene, South Beach can sometimes become overwhelming. It's not only one of the most expensive places to vacation, but also one of the more crowded beaches in Florida. In addition to the high prices and crowds, South Beach is known for its aggressive street vendors and performers who push travelers into paying for things they may not want.

Enjoy the same scenery as South Beach without all the hoopla at North Miami Beach and Miami Beach. These beaches are near a more residential part of Miami and thus provide a laid-back atmosphere. They are also a lot less crowded, and dining options are more affordable.

Skip alligator farms, visit Lake Jesup

With Florida's abundance of alligators in the wild, paying to see them in captivity is unnecessary. One such place that rated poorly on multiple travel articles we researched was Gatorland. "There were hundreds of gators crammed into a tiny little space. The Jumparoo show was probably the worst part, forcing those poor gators to jump for tiny meat scraps," one Tripadvisor reviewer wrote. While some reviewers left more positive comments, the issue of paying to see alligators in captivity remains. Even after paying to enter, visitors will still have to pay for extras such as photos or food to feed the gators.

Visit nearby Lake Jesup to see gators in the wild instead. The alligators can be seen at Lake Jesup without paying any fees, but there are also affordable airboat tours and wildlife expeditions. These tours offer a more authentic and ethical viewing experience.

Skip Ripley's Believe It or Not!, visit the Orlando Science Center

This chain attraction can be found in multiple states and might not offer as much educational value as expected. Ripley's Believe It or Not! began as a cartoon strip in 1918 by Robert Ripley who was drawing for The New York Globe at the time. Though Ripley passed away before the formation of the company bearing his name, its commitment to highlighting strange and unusual things in our world lives on. With global communication at high rates of speed thanks to the internet, the Ripley's Believe It or Not! museums are not as fascinating as they once were. Many of the items in each museum location are replicas of items once owned by Robert Ripley, so visitors are not even seeing the real versions of these oddities. 

Visit the Orlando Science Center instead, where engaging hands-on exhibits and demonstrations await. If you are a member of your local science center, admission to other science centers is often offered at a lower cost or potentially for free.

Skip Siesta Key Beach, visit Venice Beach

Located in the Sarasota area, Siesta Key Beach is a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy the Florida sunshine. However, its popularity has led to crowded shores and inflated prices at restaurants, bars, and nearby lodging. The main attraction here is the sand — many Tripadvisor reviewers describe it as "powdery white" or "soft and cool," which is appealing when temperatures rise and just walking on beach sand can hurt. A review from October of 2023 said, "This beach is beautiful...but way too crowded."

If you're concerned about the crowds, head a few miles down the road to Venice Beach for a change of pace. Thirty minutes south of Siesta Key Beach, Venice Beach offers free parking, dog-friendly areas, and a unique opportunity to hunt for shark teeth. In fact, this beach is so full of shark teeth that it has been dubbed the "Shark Tooth Capital of the World."

Skip Destin Beach, visit Santa Rosa Beach

Another victim of its success, Destin Beach has grown to be known as a haven for the rowdy spring break crowd. In recent years, Destin has begun to feel overcrowded and commercialized. Shopping, dining, and beautiful beaches are the perfect draw for tourists, and crowds flock to the panhandle beach every summer. As with most other locations on this list, businesses in Destin know when tourists will be coming, and prices rise accordingly.

To get the most bang for your buck, keep driving down the road to Santa Rosa Beach. Just over 30 minutes east of Destin, Santa Rosa Beach will give you that quieter beach day you've been looking for. Not only is it quieter, but the beach has access to four beautiful state parks, like Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and Grayton Beach State Park, and there is less pressure to participate in all the activities around the area. 

Skip Florida's orange groves, visit the strawberry fields

Oranges are the fruit most commonly associated with Florida, but they aren't the only fruit the state has to offer. While its orange groves are iconic, some of the tours can be underwhelming. A Tripadvisor user recently shared their thoughts from a visit in January of 2024. "The truck ride was a SHORT 45 minutes and does not encompass the 2500 acres of the property like they make it seem when you read about it. There is little to do after you complete the truck ride. I would say it is not worth the 40 dollars we paid to take the short monster truck ride," they wrote.

Another sweet way to experience Florida would be to attend the Florida Strawberry Festival. The festival began in 1930 and is now considered one of the top festivals in North America. It starts in February and lasts for several weeks, so there are plenty of opportunities to visit on a less crowded date. Not only can you pick your own strawberries, but the festival has classic carnival rides, concerts, and all kinds of strawberry-focused foods to try.

Skip the Daytona 500, visit the Grand Prix in St. Pete

Nascar's premier racing event, the Daytona 500, occurs annually in Daytona Beach. While you may be tempted to attend this iconic American car race, our advice is to skip it. The event brings high crowds and high prices for everything from restaurants to shops to hotels. Because of Daytona's policy of allowing cars on the beach, there is really no escape from the crowds either. If you want to enjoy Daytona Beach, don't go when the Daytona 500 crowds are in town.  

If you simply must see a professional car race, give the Grand Prix in St. Petersburg a try. Amy Daire from Business Insider wrote, "The Grand Prix, while more expensive to attend, is in downtown St. Pete, and set against the water with beautiful views. Plus, if you can snag a spot in one of the hotels or condos that overlook the race course, there's no reason to splurge on tickets."

Skip Panama City Beach, visit Mexico Beach

Panama City Beach, or PCB for short, is another beach with a reputation for rowdy, spring break crowds. When crowds aren't the problem, one Tripadvisor reviewer said access to the beach was still an issue. "The beach is beautiful. But access to the beach could be better. Unless you are staying in a hotel on the beach, you have to find access points and parking," they wrote. Other reviewers mentioned in June reviews, which is during peak season for many beach towns, that double red flags flew for long enough that it made their vacations unenjoyable. A double red flag indicates that the beach is closed to the public, which can certainly ruin a beach-focused trip.

Avoid the crush and crowds by traveling down Highway 98 just a little further until you come upon Mexico Beach, Florida. This small town is free of high-rise condos, chain restaurants, and boisterous crowds. We have visited Mexico Beach multiple times over the years, and the residents are always welcoming and friendly. It truly feels like an untouched piece of paradise.

Skip Duval Street in Key West, visit Bahama Village

As the main artery of Key West, Duval Street is the go-to for many travelers who plan a visit to Key West. Because of its popularity, Duval Street can get crowded and its shops and wares become less authentic each year. Although it currently has a 4.5 out of 5 rating on Tripadvisor, many of the most recent reviews compared it to a "mini Bourbon Street, but less rowdy." One visitor shared that the street was, "Nothing special, but it's something to do when not on a beach."

If you're looking for a more authentic taste of Caribbean culture and cuisine, head over to Bahama Village. This area of town offers a more relaxed and enriching experience. It covers 12 blocks and includes a village market where you can shop for local merchandise, dining options with authentic Caribbean foods, and island music like reggae, calypso, and "junkanoo," which has distinctive, rhythmic drum beats. 

Skip Medieval Times, cisit Orlando Shakes

Medieval Times is the same, no matter where you see it. One of the most popular dinner show experiences, Medieval Times involves a tournament between "knights" who are cheered on by audience members who feasts on a four-course meal during all of the action. While most reviews of the show are positive, it does cost quite a bit for a family to attend the festivities. Adult admission is around $68, while children 12 and under can get in at just under $41. For a family of two adults and two children, that cost is over $200.

For a little more culture and theatrical endeavors, plan an evening at one of Orlando's finest performing arts venues. Orlando Shakes was founded by University of Central Florida Professor Stuart Omans in 1989. In cooperation with the university, the theater company produces "classic, contemporary, and children's plays, while showcasing William Shakespeare's legacy as the cornerstone of the company." Not only will you be supporting a local theater company, but your show ticket also helps support their mission of education and service to Central Florida schools.

Skip Florida malls, visit flea markets and antique centers

Malls offer a uniform shopping experience nationwide. Considering the ease of online shopping, many malls no longer hold the appeal they once did. In major cities like Orlando, Tampa, and Miami, malls are overcrowded with locals and tourists alike and many even charge for parking spots close to their buildings. While indoor malls may be a pleasant escape from the heat and humidity, there is not much difference between your local mall and the ones in Florida. Some malls may even charge a slightly higher price for the same items you could find at home just because they are in a mall in a tourist destination.

Instead, we found an incredible shopping spot just north of Orlando in the Mount Dora area. Renninger's Florida Twin Markets is a combination of an outdoor flea and farmer's market and an indoor antique center. It's a unique shopping adventure with treasures from bygone eras and fun booths to explore. Plan ahead for your visit, as the flea and farmer's market is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, and the antique center is only open Friday through Sunday.

Skip Ocean Drive in Miami, visit Sunset Harbor

Ocean Drive is the place to be when visiting Miami. Harry Stewart, a contributing writer for, wrote, "Ocean Drive is famous for its eclectic ensemble of art deco architecture. Development boomed here during the height of the movement (the 1920s and 1930s), and many of the original buildings remain proudly on display." Visitors flock to this area for the beautifully preserved buildings and architecture as much as they do the club scene. 

If you'd rather go somewhere without exorbitant cover charges or wall-to-wall people, head over to Sunset Harbor on the bay side of Miami. This area has become known for its trendy yet quieter alternative to the Ocean Drive club scene. That isn't to say you can't find fun nightlife — it just may be more laid back and less expensive than its counterparts over in South Beach. Sunset Harbor is also a great place to enjoy a South Florida sunset away from the crowds and other tourists.


By choosing these alternatives, travelers can enjoy a more authentic, enjoyable, and often more affordable Floridian experience. Our recommendations came from a collaboration of our own experiences, expert writer commentary, as well as traveler reviews on Tripadvisor.