With spring break in the rearview mirror, summer vacations are top of mind. But you don’t need to wait that long to plan your next getaway. Here are two routes for the ultimate Florida road trip that can include both beach stops and museum visits.
The West Coast Crawl
Florida’s Gulf Coast is home to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches with its crystal clear water and sugar white sand. The stretch of I-75 south from Tampa to Fort Myers is also dotted with many museums to add an educational element to your weekend getaway.
First, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg features a collection of more than 2,100 works by Salvador Dali that represent each moment of his career housed in a building as unique as his art. The museum hosts events for all ages, from story time and activities for kids to yoga mornings and wine nights for adults. The Dali Museum Avant-garden features local vegetation, a grotto and a Mathematical Garden for students, among other elements.
Next, stop in Sarasota to visit The Ringling. While this museum offers a look at The Greatest Show on Earth through a series of artifacts, guests can also explore modern works of art and collections from a variety of cultures. The John and Mable Ringling collection provide a glimpse into the private lives of the famous circus owner/operator and his family.
Then, get to know more about two other famous names at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. Visitors can tour Thomas Edison and Henry Ford’s winter homes as well as Edison’s Botanic Research Laboratory. The property boasts 20 acres of botanical gardens, nine historic buildings and the Edison Ford Museum, which features a collection of inventions, artifacts and special exhibits.
Tip! Less than 10 miles before you exit I-4 for I-75, make a pit stop at exit 17 to visit Dinosaur World. There, you can explore a prehistoric museum filled with fossils and animatronics, participate in interactive shows, play at the dinosaur-themed playground and more. It’s an exciting way to start your west coast crawl.
The East Coast Crawl
Orlando residents are used to taking day trips to Cocoa Beach to play in the waves and soak up some sun. Go a step further and go on a museum crawl up the east coast.
As you travel north on I-95, the first stop is the Daytona International Speedway. This popular racing site hosts three tours that are filled on a first-come, first-served basis: Speedway, All-Access and VIP. Each tour includes access to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, which showcases displays for sports cars, motorcycles, drag racing, powerboating and more. For those looking for more of a thrill, there are a variety of driving experiences available as well.
Next up is the nation’s oldest city: St. Augustine. With so much history, just taking a walk around town is like exploring a museum. Flagler College, formerly Hotel Ponce de Leon, hosts a 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. tour daily, which explores the property’s past through its architecture. Then, discover the city’s maritime history (and maybe meet some ghosts) at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Ghost tours are held at the lighthouse every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The last stop is the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville. Take a docent-led tour to discover the 5,000 pieces of art that are housed in the museum, spanning from 2100 B.C. through the 21st century. The gardens were severely damaged during Hurricane Irma, so only the upper tier of each of the three gardens is open as the staff works to reconstruct them to what they were before the storm.
Tip! While you can take I-4 east to I-95, consider starting off on SR-528 to Cocoa Beach instead to launch into your east coast crawl with a stop at Kennedy Space Center. A daily admission ticket includes a bus tour of the facility as well as access to a variety of attractions, shows and exhibits. There are also many special tours and experiences that can be added on for an extra fee.