Here's your essential guide to getting the best out of a holiday in Florida.

Fast facts

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Location nickname: The Sunshine State

Don't miss: Kennedy Space Center

Best avoid: Show and dinner combinations - often dubious quality and poor value.

Don't miss: Five Guys Burgers and Fries - no more, no less

Best avoid: Theme park food - overpriced and underwhelming

1 Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice

Within easy reach of Tampa this stretch of the Gulf Coast is ideal for relaxed fly-drive exploration.  Highlights include Florida's largest community of working artists, endless white sand voted the USA's best, and a chance to comb the beach for disturbingly large incisors at the 'shark tooth capital of the world.'

2 Daytona International Speedway

Four hundred and eighty acres of motorsport complex centred on a banked two and half mile oval track, site of the famous Daytona 500 NASCAR event.  Join the grandstand crowd, take a tour behind the scenes or drive the track and scare yourself witless in a 600 horsepower racer. There's even a new day-long Race Camp for kids aged 6 to 12.

3 Diagon Alley

Universal Studio's new Harry Potter experience offers prankster kit from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes… and redress courtesy of Borgin and Burke's Dark Arts emporium.  Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream conjures classic frozen flavours whilst The Leaky Caldron serves a magical a pint of Butterbeer.  Afterwards take the Hogwart's Express to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade.

4 Downtown Disney

Close to Orlando's Walt Disney World it's strange to recommend a shopping mall.  However, good eateries including House of Blues featuring live music, Cirque de Soleil's alternative circus performance at La Nouba, together with cafes and bars make a relaxed venue for an evening stroll after a hard day's holiday.

5 Florida Keys

An island chain including Key Largo and Key West that extends from state's southern tip, The Keys offer a natural tropical playground amongst warm waters and wildlife-rich coral reefs.  Activities range from sailing, diving, dolphin encounters and fishing to just lying on a beach and sipping a cocktail.

6 Kennedy Space Center

Forty five years since Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface a hiatus in space exploration has nurtured an internet conspiracy generation that doubts it ever happened.  Set the record straight with an eight-hour visit that charts the 'space race' from John F Kennedy's nation-challenging speech to 'one small step…' and beyond.

7 Miami

The city is Florida's foremost cultural melting pot and artistic centre.  From Ocean Drive take a walking tour of the 1930's Art Deco district, then head to Little Havana and Calle Ocho for Latin rhythms and cigars.  Nightlife too is exceptional - take in South Beach's thumping LIV or go downtown to Grand Central for live music or top DJs.

8 Saint Augustine

Founded in 1565 and capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years, this is the oldest continually occupied settlement anywhere in the mainland US.  Fought over by Spanish, French and English 'the ancient city' has quaint cobblestone streets, emphatic fortified structures and an unexpected atmosphere of colonial conquest.

9 Seven Dwarfs Train

Walt Disney World's latest attraction opened earlier this summer in the Magic Kingdom.  Hurtling high through the open air before plunging deep into a diamond mine this new ride mixes the thrills of a rollercoaster with state-of-the-art Snow White animatronics.  Heigh-Ho…

10 Wild Florida Airboat

Skimming over the swamps of Central Florida's Everglades whilst sitting in front of an aero-engine delivering full throttle to an enclosed fan blade, you're going to eat a few flies - chew well.  Realm of alligators, bald eagles and men in check shirts playing the banjo, this is Mickey-free antidote to funfair and fantasy.

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