Florida

The Sunshine State


Florida is a place where you are never too far from one of the many beaches that line the coast of the state. Other popular attractions and sights in Florida include world-famous amusement parks like Disney, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, historical St. Augustine, the Everglades and the Florida Keys. The nickname, “the Sunshine State,” is slightly misleading, as Florida is also home to extreme weather events. Hurricanes have caused some serious damage to Florida, so visitors should listen to warnings and take precautions during hurricane season in August through to October.

The cultural heritage of Florida varies as you move around the state. In Miami, thriving Latin communities and continuing immigration influence the cuisine, art, music and lifestyle of this vibrant city. Northern Florida and parts of central Florida fit in with the Deep South, while the Florida Keys take a more laid-back approach to life. No matter what the location is, international visitors will find places to explore, friendly people to meet and—hopefully—sunshine to enjoy it all in. Find out more below or go to visitflorida.com.


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Jump to: Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions | Arts & Culture | Sports & Recreation | Outdoor Activities | Food | Local Festivals | Housing Resources | Transportation | Health & Safety | Help Your Community

Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami, Florida

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami, Florida. Photo via Pixabay.

Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.

Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton

Learn about Native American culture at the Seminole Okalee Indian Village in Hollywood, located 15 minutes from Fort Lauderdale. Visitors can see wildlife shows, alligator wrestling and get a glimpse into traditional village life.

Stonewall National Museum and Archives in Fort Lauderdale focuses on LBGT history in America through its exhibitions, archives and public programs.

Miami

HistoryMiami is a museum and cultural institution that focuses on the history of Miami through exhibitions, tours, educational programs, collections and publications across multiple locations.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a beautiful facility on the water in Miami that was once the estate of James Deering. The grounds are now home to public gardens and art collections in the villa.

Ghost tours at Deering Estate are a fun and spooky activity held from October to May on the third Thursday of the month.

Orlando

Orlando is home to many world-famous amusement parks, including Disney, Universal Studios and SeaWorld.

The Kennedy Space Center is the site of NASA rocket launches and a visitor complex where visitors can meet astornauts, try out a flight simulator, take a tour of working flight areas, and learn more about space exploration.

Pensacola/Fort Walton Beach

The Air Force Armament Museum on Eglin Air Force Base has many aircraft, bombs, missiles and rockets on display from World War II to today.

Visit the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach for animal encounters like penguins, turtles, harbor seals, sea lions, stingrays and dolphins.

Sanibel/North Naples

Manatee Park is a popular tourist destination and a place to see Florida manatees during winter months and to learn more about this native animal. A butterfly garden is also on the grounds of the park.

The Southwest Florida Museum of History in Fort Meyers looks at the history of Florida, including the lives of Paleo Indians to the early settlers of Florida.

Florida Tour Companies

Big Bus Tours offer open-top bus tours of major Miami attractions like South Beach, downtown Miami, Little Havana, the Art Deco District and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

Gray Lines Miami offers multiple tours of the city of Miami, including walking tours, food and culture tours, sightseeing trips, as well as tours from Miami to Key West.

Bike and Roll has bike and Segway tours in Miami as well as hourly, daily and weekly bike and roller blade rentals.

Duck Tours are fun and unique trips that let visitors see cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale from both land and water on the amphibious Duck boats.

Swim with dolphins in South Florida using Dolphin World tours. Swim locations include Miami, Key West, Key Largo, Orlando and St. Augustine. Visitors can also be picked up in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale for the Miami swim experience.

To see the famous Everglades National Park, try Everglades Tours at the Sawgrass Recreation Park near Fort Lauderdale. This tour company provides airboat tours during the day and at night and also has a wildlife exhibit with animals like the endangered Florida panther, a black leopard, armadillo, wolves and others.

Florida Tourism Websites

Arts & Culture

The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to experience the U.S. and its culture. Here are some examples of arts and cultural activities in Florida.

Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton

Broward Center for the Performing Arts has year-round performances, including dance, opera, theater, ballet and pop music.

In Fort Lauderdale, the Museum of Art houses a permanent collection of artwork along with changing exhibitions from American and international artists.

Boca Raton’s Mizner Park outdoor amphitheatre is the place to go for live music, community events and concerts.

For live classical music, educational programs and events, visit the Boca Raton Symphonia website.

Browse a full calendar of art and cultural events in Broward County and the Fort Lauderdale area.

Miami

Free monthly arts and cultural events are held on the last Friday of the month in Little Havana. Viernes Culturales, or Cultural Fridays, include an arts gallery walk, dancing and tango lessons, live music, food, street performers and a free tour of Little Havana.

South Beach’s famous Art Deco Historic District is a popular spot to see the many types of Miami architectural styles. Visit the Miami Design Preservation League for tour information, including guided and self-guided tours. Cultural exchange visitors may also enjoy Art Deco Weekend in January. See the MDPL website for more information.

The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is one of the largest performing arts centers in the United States. The Arsht Center is the home to a range of art and cultural events, including live concerts, classical music, dance, musicals and much more. The Arsht Center is also the home base for the New World Symphony, Miami City Ballet and Florida Grand Opera.

The Miramar Cultural Center/Arts Park is home to a theater, art galleries, rehearsal halls, a botanical garden and more.

La Rosa Flamenco Theatre puts on professional performances and also offers dance classes in Miami.

Other performing arts venues in Miami include:

Find a complete list of theaters in Miami here.

Browse a guide to dance, music, film, theater and art venues and events in Miami.

Pensacola/Fort Walton Beach

Gallery Night is a free community event that allows visitors to explore the local art, music and cuisine of downtown Pensacola. Visit the Gallery Night website for schedules and locations.

The Pensacola Museum of Art displays artwork in both its permanent collection and visiting exhibitions, and hosts educational and cultural events for the Pensacola area.

Other performing arts spaces include:

Sanibel/North Naples

Big Arts is the center of arts and culture in the Sanibel/Captiva area. The Big Arts has music, dance, lectures and now professional theater productions at the Herb Strauss Theater.

Florida Repertory Theater in Fort Meyers offers plays and performing arts events year round.

Sports & Recreation

Daytona 500

Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo by Tim Hipps.

Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.

College Sports

University of Miami Hurricanes is well known for its college football team, but it also has many other sports teams, including basketball, baseball and soccer. See schedules, buy tickets and learn more about University of Miami college sports.

Participants interested in college sports can also find a complete list of Florida college sports teams here.

Professional Sports

Many professional sports teams play in Miami and throughout Florida. Tickets and schedule information can be found on the websites below. Tickets are also sold on websites like StubHub, Ticketmaster and Ticket Exchange By Ticketmaster to buy or sell tickets from season ticket holders and fans.

American Football

Baseball

Basketball

Hockey

NASCAR

The Daytona International Speedway is home to one of the most prestigious races in NASCAR, the Daytona 500. Racing fans can also tour the track and behind-the-scenes areas throughout the year.

Outdoor Activities

Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island, Florida. Photo via Pixabay.

The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States. Florida is known for its beaches and summer fun, but there are many outdoor activities for winter months too.

Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton is located on a protected barrier island and provides shelter to rare and endangered animals while also educating the public about the conservation of Florida’s many habitats. Nature trails, a butterfly garden, a sea turtle rehabilitation area and sea tanks are found throughout the center in indoor and outdoor facilities.

Visitors may want to try fishing off the coast of Fort Lauderdale or in inland waters. Deep-sea fishing trips, half day, full day and night trips are available from multiple fishing charter companies.

Miami

Get active with a free outdoor yoga class at Bayfront Park in Miami on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Tina Hills Pavilion. Don't forget your yoga mat!

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is home to activities like swimming, kayaking, fishing, biking and guided tours of the historic lighthouse build in 1825.

Everglades National Park, at almost 1.5 million acres in size, is a habitat for wildlife like manatees, crocodile and the Florida panther. Visitors will enjoy outdoor adventures throughout the park, like camping, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, birdwatching and boating.

Pensacola/Fort Walton Beach

Outdoor ice skating is a favorite community activity at The Village of Baytowne Wharf. The rink is open to the public from November until the end of January.

Visit Henderson State Beach Park in Destin for camping, biking, paddling, fishing and nature trails in this state park along the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico.

Sanibel/North Naples

J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is the place to go for birdwatching, walking trails, bike trails, kayaking and canoeing.

Sanibel and Fort Meyers, on the east coast of Florida, is home to beautiful beaches and 50 miles of coastline available to the public.

Food

One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.

In Florida, the Cuban, Latin American, Caribbean and Asian populations of southern Florida have a strong influence over the cuisine of Miami and its surrounding areas, while North Florida is influenced by Creole, Cajun and Deep South cuisine. Cultural exchange participants will find many opportunities to try these types of cuisines and other local foods during their time in Florida, through local restaurants, food festivals, farmers’ markets and home-cooked meals.

Farmers’ Markets

Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton Food Events

Miami Food Events

Sanibel/North Naples Food Events

Everglades Seafood Festival, held in February in Everglades City, located about 40 miles south of Naples.

Local Festivals

For a unique and local perspective on American cultural, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.

Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton

The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival is held in October/November. For those who can’t make it to the main festival, a year-round arthouse hosts film events throughout Florida on a regular basis.

The Festival of the Arts in Boca Raton is a multi-day cultural festival with classical music, jazz, art, film and literature events held in March.

Miami

In February, the Coconut Grove Arts Festival attracts approximately 120,000 visitors for fine art exhibitions, food tastings and live entertainment in Coconut Grove near Miami.

Carnaval Miami, which includes other festivals like Calle Ocho in Little Havana, is held in early March and celebrates Cuban and Caribbean culture in a huge street festival that includes music, art, food and dancing.

Art Basel is an art festival held in Miami Beach each December. Over 250 galleries from around the world attend the festival to display artwork from more than 2,000 artists. Events, lectures and films are also held throughout the festival.

The Miami International Film Festival in March shows international and American independent films, short films and documentaries.

Visitors can also find a list of Miami film festivals here on the Miami tourism website.

Pensacola/Fort Walton Beach

The Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire in March brings medieval dress, jousting, live entertainers and other related activities to northern Florida.

The Pensacola Interstate Fair in October is a large community event with exhibitions, live entertainment, carnival rides, food and more.

Sanibel/North Naples

Sanibel Music Festival brings classical music to Sanibel Island in March.

The Sanibel Masters Art Festival has art, gourmet food and live music and entertainment over two days in November.

Naples Snowfest is a family celebration of winter in Florida and includes sledding hills, an ice skating rink, carnival rides, live entertainment. Collier County Parks and Recreation even creates over 70 tons of snow for the event!

Housing Resources

Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.

It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.

General Housing Information

Florida Housing Resources

Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for Florida participants include:

Transportation

Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options. Visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in your local community.

Florida Transportation - Statewide

Greyhound buses, Megabus and Amtrak trains transport passengers throughout the state of Florida. There is no service to areas like Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach.

Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton

Broward County Transit serves the Fort Lauderdale region.

Palm Tran is the public transportation system for Palm Beach County, including Boca Raton.

Tri-Rail is a commuter rail service in South Florida running from Miami to West Palm Beach.

Water Taxi, Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood routes.

Miami

Miami-Dade Transit, including the Metrobus, Metrorail and Metromover.

South Beach Local is a cheap shuttle bus that runs every 12 to 20 minutes and stops at popular attractions in South Beach.

Pensacola/Fort Walton Beach

Pensacola and the surrounding area is served by Escambia County Area Transit.

Fort Walton Beach is served by Okaloosa County Transit.

Sanibel/North Naples

Use Lee Tran for buses and trams in the Sanibel region of Lee County.

Collier Area Transit (CAT) serves Naples and the surrounding areas of Collier County. See the system map here and find out route and fare information for CAT buses.

Health & Safety

Participants in Florida can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:

Emergency Management Agencies

FEMA

Weather Information

Help Your Community

Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.

VolunteerMatch, Idealist and Serve.gov are three general volunteer websites that match local organizations with volunteers in their communities.

Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton

The Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce lists multiple organizations looking for volunteers.

In the Fort Lauderdale area, volunteer opportunities can be found at the Broward County website, including positions working with animals, parks and recreation, libraries and the elderly.

Miama Area

Opportunities with animal services, homelessness, environmental management and more. Visit I Am Involved to find organizations offering volunteer opportunities in the Miami-Dade area.

The Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces department also lists volunteer opportunities on their website.

Pensacola/Fort Walton Beach

Short-term volunteering opportunities for groups are listed at the Visit Pensacola voluntourism page, including environmental, cultural and community programs.

Sanibel/Naples

Volunteer at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation to help with environmental and wildlife conservation in Sanibel.

Music lovers may wish to help out at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation