Florida is famed for its beaches, theme parks, sunny weather and delicious seafood, but as much as you think you know about the Sunshine State, there's just as much that you don't. Here are 13 easy-to-make mistakes (that are just as easy to avoid) when visiting Florida. However, the biggest mistake would be to not go at all.
1. ONLY COMING TO VISIT THE BEACHES IN FLORIDA
We can't fault you for immediately thinking of beautiful beaches when someone says Florida - a state with 825 miles of coastline. In fact, Florida consistently ranks high on lists for both the country's and the world's best beaches. Plus, the variety is practically unparalleled. You've got the fine, white sands of the Emerald Coast up in the Panhandle, natural beaches with swaying tall grass and vegetation in places like Fort De Soto off the Gulf Coast, and trendy, hip stretches like in Miami Beach. That being said, there's so much more to the Sunshine State than just lounging on the beach with a drink in hand (though that does sound pretty perfect). You'll also find great shopping (especially if you like outlet malls), a unique art scene, menus with fresh-caught seafood, tons of wildlife and nature activities, some of the world's best theme parks, and some seriously great Old Florida history. It would be a shame to skip it all and just lie on the beach.
2. FEEDING THE SEAGULLS IN FLORIDA
That said, if you do decide to stay on the beach the whole time (no judgement here), there is one colossal mistake to avoid: Don't feed the seagulls. It may seem cute at the time, but they are just playing coy. Once you offer up any food, you can expect the entire flock and all of their closest friends to swoop in. And if you don't deliver, well, you've seen that movie "The Birds." Long story short: Keep your food to yourself or you'll end up spending your relaxing day at the beach (or meal at the beachside restaurant) fending off greedy beaks and maybe even some bird droppings.
3. GETTING HANDSY WITH THE WILDLIFE IN FLORIDA
You should also just generally stay away from the wildlife in Florida, and never touch, pet or pick up any animals. While several of the wild animals in Florida are harmless, many are quite dangerous. In the Floridian swamps and forests, you'll likely come across alligators, rattlesnakes or even panthers. Unlike some countries, the wildlife in Florida often comes into the city. It's not uncommon for alligators to waltz right onto a golf course or lounge in the shallow waters in the pond behind someone's house. Rattlesnakes often lurk in people's backyards and cottonmouths (another venomous snake) are common in the rivers. If you come across some of the state's famed wildlife, play it cool, back away slowly and let it be. A cool selfie is not worth your life.
4. ASSUMING ALL THE THEME PARKS ARE IN ORLANDO
Sure, the Orlando area is full of fun theme parks, including Disney World (comprised of The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom) as well as Universal Studios, Universal's Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld and Legoland. But you can also find great amusement parks in other spots. Visit Tampa's animal-themed Busch Gardens and Adventure Island water park; hit up Jungle Island, a local favorite in Miami; or enjoy the carnival-like experience at Uncle Bernie's Amusement Park in Fort Lauderdale. If you're looking for something mythical, check out the mermaids in Weeki Wachee.
5. THINKING ORLANDO IS ONLY GOOD FOR THEME PARKS