10 Biggest Tourist Traps in Florida (And Where To Go Instead)

Escape the crowds and explore the authentic Florida destinations locals cherish.

summer tropical palms miami florida
Updated May 28, 2024
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Learning to budget a vacation and avoid expensive tourist traps properly is one of the simplest ways to step up your travel game.

Yet, those vacation bills can add up if you plan to travel to Florida to escape the cold this winter (or to embrace the heat this summer).

To keep you on budget, here are 10 of the worst and most expensive tourist traps in Florida and where you should go instead to save some cash and avoid big crowds.

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Blizzard Beach

Courtesy of Disney Girl at Blizzard Beach

Blizzard Beach is a Disney water park, and like all things Disney, it comes with a hefty price tag.

Visitors can expect to pay $74 per adult and $68 per child (under age nine) just to spend the day in the park.

Where to go instead: Wekiwa Springs State Park

Courtesy of Florida State Parks People at Wekiwa Springs State Park

At Wekiwa Springs State Park, just minutes from downtown Orlando, visitors can swim, snorkel, or simply relax among natural beauty.

Instead of spending hundreds taking a whole family to a water park, you'll pay just $6 per vehicle.

Discovery Cove

Courtesy of Discovery Cove A family with a dolphin

There's plenty to do at Discovery Cove, from swimming with dolphins to snorkeling among beautiful tropical fish and then kicking back on beautiful beaches.

Unfortunately, one day at the resort can get quite pricey (starting at $149 per person, which doesn't include swimming with dolphins). And it's pretty crowded.

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Where to go instead: Crystal River

Phil Lowe/Adobe A lake in Florida

Crystal River tends to run cheaper and offers guests the opportunity to swim with manatees (from $64), explore beautiful lakes and rivers, fish, enjoy incredible food, and more.

It’s a great option that can be just as fun for those trying to conserve cash on vacation.

South Beach

sborisov/Adobe A lifeguard stand

Many people who visit Miami head straight for South Beach. It has a reputation for attracting revelers of all sorts — and with that popularity comes big crowds and hefty prices.

Where to go instead: North Beach

BEKIR/Adobe north miami beach

In North Beach, a Miami Beach neighborhood, visitors can enjoy stunning architecture and beautiful, relaxing beaches without running into big crowds or paying $30 for one cocktail.

Gatorland

Courtesy of Gatorland Gatorland in Florida

Gatorland has all sorts of alligators and crocodiles, from adorable babies to 14-foot beasts. There’s plenty to do at the park, from checking out an animal show to visiting the petting zoo.

However, Florida is full of gators, and you shouldn’t need to pay Gatorland’s admission price, which starts at $31.99 for adults to see them.

Where to go instead: The Everglades

allouphoto/Adobe Florida Everglades airboat rides and alligators

Visitors can check out alligators in their natural habitat by visiting the famed Everglades National Park.

While there is a fee to enter the park, it’s $20 per person or $35 per carload, which is cheaper than your standard gator park (plus, there are fewer gimmicks to waste money on inside).

Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Courtesy of Ripley's Believe It or Not Visitors at Ripley's Believe It or Not

Ripley’s has three locations around Florida — Orlando, St. Augustine, and Panama City Beach.

While it may make for a fun excursion for those who enjoy odd tales and exhibits, tickets to visit the “odditorium” are $27.99, and adding any extras can raise that price significantly.

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Where to go instead: Orlando Science Center

SNEHIT PHOTO/Adobe Orlando Science Center

Tickets for Orlando Science Center are a bit cheaper, and as an interactive museum with many fascinating exhibits, labs, and workshops, it can be a much more hands-on experience.

Siesta Key Beach

Solarisys/Adobe siesta key beach

Siesta Key is a beautiful Sarasota beach, and there’s plenty to do in nearby Siesta Key Village, but that reputation tends to bring large crowds — and with the crowds comes price hikes for food, shops, and more.

Where to go instead: Venice Beach

volgariver/Adobe Venice Beach, Florida

You'll likely find fewer crowds at Venice Beach, just south of Sarasota

Visitors can enjoy a beautiful shoreline, concessions, volleyball courts, free parking, and pretty much everything you need for an ideal, relaxing beach day.

Medieval Times

Courtesy of Medieval Times A match at Medieval Times

Sure, there’s no place like Medieval Times, with its knight battles, feasts, and competitive fun.

However, the price of admission for adults is nearly $70 (and $40 for kids), and that’s before you add extras like a souvenir or a beer.

Where to go instead: Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Courtesy of Orlando Shakes orlando shakespeare theater

At Orlando Shakespeare Theater, you can likely see a show for about half the price, and with a stacked lineup of plays and performances, there's a little something for everyone at the theater.

Miami’s Ocean Drive

Jose Luis Stephens/Adobe A view of Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive is the spot to see and be seen in Miami. It's lively and packed, with tourists looking to eat, drink, and party.

Unfortunately, you'll most likely have to shell out a whole lot of cash to do any of that.

Where to go instead: Sunset Harbour

CascadeCreatives/Adobe A picture of Miami

Perhaps lesser known than Ocean Drive, quieter but just as fun, is Sunset Harbour. This trendy spot is known for its unique shops, delightful restaurants, and stunning views.

Versailles

Courtesy of Versailles Restaurant A Cuban restaurant

For many visiting Miami, scoring top-notch Cuban food is part of the itinerary.

This Miami staple has been around for five decades and tends to attract many hungry tourists.

Where to go instead: Rio Cristal

Courtesy of Rio Cristal Inside Rio Cristal

For excellent and authentic Cuban eats, experts claim Rio Cristal is the place to go.

With a cheap menu featuring all your classic Cuban dishes, from the empanadas down to the flan, Rio Cristal is a local favorite.

Duval Street

allouphoto/Adobe Duval Street

Many Key West tourists head right to Duval Street, and while there's undoubtedly a reason for that, any high-traffic tourist area will come with gimmicks and overpriced goods and services.

Where to go instead: Bahama Village

Dietmar/Adobe Bahama Village in Key West, Florida

Visitors can get a taste of Caribbean cooking and culture in historic Bahama Village, which stretches about 12 blocks and includes a market with many restaurants, bars, and shops.

Bottom line

Srdjan/Adobe three happy friends shopping online

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.