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Florida State Spotlight

There’s much more to Florida than beaches and Mickey Mouse. A trip along the state’s Interstate 4 corridor, which stretches from Tampa Bay on the Gulf Coast to Daytona Beach on the Atlantic Coast, offers a wide range of exciting experiences for travel groups.

It’s difficult to cover all of Florida’s highlights in any one trip, but the area of central Florida connected by this corridor boasts some of the state’s most famous attractions. And because these destinations are located along the narrow middle of the state, it takes very little time to travel from one place to the next, allowing groups to maximize their enjoyment and minimize time on the road.

In Tampa, visitors get a look at the region’s Cuban cultural heritage. Orlando beckons with numerous high-profile attractions, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal theme parks and the Exotic Driving Experience.

A short detour off Interstate 4 takes travelers to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, America’s headquarters for space lovers. And Daytona Beach offers opportunities for beachfront relaxation and historic exploration.


Cuban Culture

Miami may be considered Florida’s capital of Cuban culture, but travelers will find a strong and vibrant Cuban community in Tampa as well. A number of sites around the city highlight this colorful culture and its impact on the area.

The Tampa Bay History Center tells the story of Tampa’s history and development, paying special attention to the cigar industry that attracted large groups of Cuban workers in the early 1900s. Exhibits include a re-created 1920s cigar store complete with authentic period cigars and accouterments. The museum also has an outpost of the Columbia Restaurant, the city’s most famous Cuban culinary establishment.

Travelers can dine at the original Columbia Restaurant and have a variety of other Cuban experiences in Ybor City, a Tampa neighborhood connected to downtown by trolley. The district was once the capital of the area’s cigar-making industry and now serves as a culinary and nightlife hub.


Modern Magic

Orlando has long been known for its numerous theme parks, but recent developments at Universal Orlando have brought throngs of movie and literature fans to visit. Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter invites guests to step into the world of the books and films that have dominated pop culture during the past decade.

Each of the two Universal parks has a Harry Potter attraction. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade opened at Islands of Adventure several years ago and proved instantly popular. Last summer, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley opened at Universal Studios, and a train experience called Hogwarts Express was created to connect the Harry Potter-themed sections of the two parks.

In both parks, guests walk through streets and alleys that have been perfectly re-created from scenes in the Harry Potter films and go on thrill rides that replicate action sequences from the books.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.