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Florida
Florida is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with visitors heading to ‘The Sunshine State’ in search of fun, sun and thrills. Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom Park and Busch Gardens are just a few of the man-made attractions for which the state is famed. Orlando is the face of Florida that most people recognise, with its enormous number of theme parks, movie studios, water parks and entertainment facilities.
But there is more to Florida than Mickey Mouse and white-knuckle rides. Winding waterways, freshwater lakes, hills, forests, exciting cities, 13,560km (8,426 miles) of coast, countless bays, inlets and islands, and a legendary climate make this one of the most popular states in the USA.
Florida is divided into eight geographical regions: Northwest; North Central; Northeast; Central West; Central; Central East; Southwest; and Southeast Florida & the Keys. Situated on the southeastern tip, Miami and Miami Beach have long been a haunt of the rich and famous, and star-spotting is a popular pastime here. Palm Beach scores equally highly in the glamour stakes. Fort Lauderdale is a popular spot for families, offering a wide assortment of sports and recreational activities. To the south, the Florida Keys offers a tropical climate, beautiful beaches and clear blue waters.
The capital of Florida, Tallahassee, is geographically closer to Atlanta than Miami and is strictly Southern in tone. It was chosen as the state capital in 1823, as a compromise between Pensacola and St Augustine, which had both been vying for the honour. Today, it is often described as ‘The Other Florida’ with its rolling hills, oak forests, cool climate and distinctly Southern feel.
Tampa and St Petersburg are the main cities in the Central West region. Sarasota is the cultural capital of the region, thanks to John Ringling and his wife who amassed an impressive art collection, which is today displayed in their restored mansion. The southwestern region is home to Naples, a popular seaside retreat. Just off the mainland, Marco Island stands as a model of ecological preservation.
In the northeastern corner of Florida stands Jacksonville, named after General Andrew Jackson. Nearby St Augustine is known as ‘America’s Oldest City’ and is home to more than 60 historic sites. Amelia Island, often called the ‘Isle of Eight Flags’, is the only site in the country to have been governed by eight different countries during its history. At its heart lies Fernandina Beach, the nation’s second-oldest city. Daytona is located in the slender Central East region. The beach is the city’s main attraction, with a 510m (1,700ft) boardwalk brimming with amusements, rides and snack bars.