Fill up on classic Florida fare from the theme parks to the coast on this itinerary. It doesn't matter if you're looking for relaxing beaches, nightlife, family fun, or outdoor adventures; you'll find it all in Florida. Known for its abundant sunshine and world-famous attractions, the state is notable for its plethora of tasty culinary options. On this road trip, tempt your palate with flavors ranging from the familiar city of Orlando to the Cuban flavors of Miami.
Orlando: Theme Parks and Casual Dining
Land at Orlando Sandford Airport (MCO) and rent a car. Orlando is known for its theme parks that some wait a lifetime to visit: Walt Disney World Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, LEGOLAND Florida, and Universal Orlando Resort.
Fuel up for your theme park adventures at Universal CityWalk's Hot Dog Hall of Fame, serving hot dog variations ranging from New York-style sauerkraut hot dogs to American hot dog poppyseed buns. Chicago, not forgetting the midwestern ones with German sausages. Off the beaten path, P&D Soul Food Kitchen has comfort food, including baked chicken, fried pork chops, and southern sides (mac and cheese and collard greens). Don't forget to order a slice of homemade cake for dessert. Grilled cheese sandwiches and burgers are next level at Toasted, nearby, in Winter Park. The menu features a twist, like a melted cheese sandwich with pulled pork and a turkey burger topped with pickled Vietnamese carrots.
Take a side trip to Gatorland to see hundreds of alligators, including rare white alligators, or drive to Blue Springs State Park to see manatees swimming in the springs. Ready to keep moving? Space Coast in Florida is your next stop.
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Space Coast: Where space exploration began
After the hustle and bustle of the theme parks, you might be surprised to find that the beach is just 45 minutes east of Orlando. Space Coast, Florida, was where the Apollo 11 mission launched Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong to the moon from the Kennedy Space Center. You can see the actual Saturn V rocket, the space shuttle Atlantis, and the US Astronaut Hall of Fame at this visitor complex. A bus tour drops you near the launch site.
Nearby, you can explore laid-back, lively beaches like Canaveral National Seashore, where you can take a guided canoe tour of the Mosquito Lagoon, spot loggerhead sea turtles nesting in the sand, and even see a rocket launch (check the launch schedule). The area's must-see restaurant is Dixie Crossroads in Titusville, a local favorite known for its wild ocean and rock shrimp, which look like tiny lobsters. A little further south, Cocoa Beach is the perfect place to relax in a beachfront hotel before continuing your journey south to Fort Lauderdale.
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Fort Lauderdale: The mecca of restaurants by the sea
The Intracoastal Waterway, a 3,000-mile waterway that runs the entire East Coast, will accompany you on your drive to Fort Lauderdale. Have your swimsuit ready because the beaches here are truly beautiful, starting with the iconic white "wave wall" where Las Olas Boulevard meets the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy the beach, and then walk the 17 blocks of downtown Las Olas, filled with shops, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. From Las Olas, you can also hop on a water taxi to explore the city's extensive network of waterways. One of the highlights is seeing the giant mansions and yachts on Millionaires' Row. The water taxi has many stops in the city to visit shops, restaurants, and find entertainment options.
You cannot miss dinner on the coast, from elegant beachfront restaurants to hidden gems in marinas. If you're a fan of seafood, Rustic Inn Crabhouse will satisfy your craving for oysters, clams, lobster, fish, and of course, crabs. The house specialty is the garlic crabs, brimming with delicious flavor. Spend the night in Fort Lauderdale, then end your road trip in Miami.
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Miami: The taste of Cuban culture
You can practically smell the lattes and cupcakes when you walk into Miami, 45 minutes south. Miami is one of those destinations you have to visit at least once in your life. From the nightclubs of South Beach to the trendy shops of the Design District and the colorful graffiti in Wynwood, there's nowhere quite like it.
Most notable, especially for first-time visitors, is the Cuban culture steeped in the language, music, art, and food. Visit Little Havana for Cuban coffee, then watch locals play dominoes at Maximo Gomez Park (Parque Máximo Gómez). At El Palacio de Los Jugos, accompany a pressed sandwich with a refreshing fruit juice.
Facing Key Biscayne Bay (Bay Biscay) is South Beach. The main street provides ocean views and is lined with historic art deco buildings, sidewalk cafes, and bars. Try authentic Caribbean dishes like Akra (mango fritters) and grey (fried chunks of pork) at Tap Tap Haitian Restaurant or sit down to homemade Cuban food at Puerto Sagua Restaurant. There are also breakfasts and strong Cuban coffee if you need something to wake you up after a night out.
Related: Orlando to Miami Airport Car Service
Miami International Airport (MIA) and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) have convenient locations for you to catch your flight home.