Last Updated: 14th Nov 2013

<p>Palm trees, a thousand miles of beautiful sand and surf, hard bodies and Mickey Mouse &#8211; Must be Florida!</p> <p>Though this state, which has the fourth largest population in the US with over 15 million citizens, is well known for its great weather and most excellent entertainment venues.</p> <p>Florida is also filled with well-hidden secrets all of which are best shared with a good friend, a great lover, or the entire family! As the southernmost state in the continental US, golf courses, tennis courts and water sports abound in this sub-tropical environment, which also boasts some of the most popular beaches in America, such as Miami and Daytona, as well as outstanding natural landmarks such as the Everglades that you won’t see anywhere else on the planet.</p> <p>Everything from its people, its landscape and its history makes this Sunshine State a marvel of wonders.</p> <h2>Brief History</h2> <p>Until the mid-1500&#8217;s, when the first European explorers crossed the vast Atlantic Ocean, looking for great riches and glory for the crown, the various tribes of native Indians of North America lived unfettered off the fat of the land.</p> <p>For the next 200 years the Spanish battled the French over claims on the land, with the spoils going to the Spanish, who over the following 200 years, battled with the Seminole, Cherokee and Ocala native American tribes for control. In that time, Spanish influence permeated the New World (as far west as <a href="/contikipedia/articles/california">California</a>) and to this day that influence is still felt throughout the state in everything from architecture and city names, to cuisine and lifestyle.</p> <h2>Highlights</h2> <p>Florida has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to high-class cosmopolitan cities, amusement parks, professional sports teams, natural beauty and remarkable weather&#8230;.Oh, and it&#8217;s the only place in the western hemisphere from where space shuttles are launched!</p> <p>Visitors to DisneyWorld, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure would swear that a week in these amusement parks just isn’t enough.</p> <p>A long drive through the Everglades, a large expanse of marshy wetlands filled with the imposing presence of alligators, takes you to where the beautiful, rich and famous love to play: Ft. Lauderdale and Miami/South Beach. With 3 <span class="caps">NFL</span> football teams (Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars), 2 <span class="caps">NBA</span> basketball teams (Orlando Magic, Miami Heat) and 2 <span class="caps">MLB</span> baseball teams (Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Florida Marlins), Florida has no lack of opportunity to see the sporting event of your choice.</p> <p>Given the location geographically of this state, which is almost completely surrounded by water (the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Atlantic to the east) hurricane season has certainly posed some challenges to the visitors and the citizens of Florida throughout the generations, but the more than 300 days of annual sunshine and year-round warm temperatures have kept folks coming back decade after decade.</p> <h2>Places Contiki Visits in Florida</h2> <ul> <li><a href="/contikipedia/articles/pensacola">Pensacola</a></li> <li><a href="/contikipedia/articles/st-augustine">St Augustine</a></li> <li><a href="/contikipedia/articles/orlando">Orlando</a></li> </ul>