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updated 8/27/2010 2:12:07 PM ET 2010-08-27T18:12:07

Sure, everyone knows Florida is the home of the world's most famous rodent, but there's much more to this state than mouse ears and theme parks. There is a reason why Florida is, year after year, one of the most visited places in the United States. It's home to historic villages, multicultural cities, secluded nature trails and some 825 miles of white sand beaches — so no matter what kind of traveler you are, Florida has a destination for you.

We've picked six great places to have fun in the Sunshine State for six different types of travelers, including seniors, foodies and beach bums. Read on to see which destination in Florida is right for you.

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Editor's Note: As of this writing (July 2010), none of the destinations listed below have been affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and most of Florida's beaches are still clean and open to the public. For updates on the trajectory of the spill and any potential impact on Florida's coastline, see VisitFlorida.com.

For history buffs: St. Augustine
It isn't surprising that the oldest permanent settlement in the United States would be chock-full of history. The city of St. Augustine is captivating from the get-go — its narrow cobblestone streets and European architecture make it one of the most charming places in Florida. The Old Town is where you'll find many of the historic sites and attractions, such as Castillo de San Marcos (which dates back to the late 1600's) and Old St. Augustine Village, a group of restored period buildings.

Also worth a stroll is the campus of Flagler College, home to the circa-1888 Hotel Ponce de Leon. Built by wealthy industrialist Henry Flagler as a luxury resort, it's now a National Historic Landmark and the centerpiece of Flagler's attractive campus. For outdoor activities, head to Anastasia State Park with its opportunities for swimming, beachcombing, hiking, biking and boating.

For beach bums: St. Petersburg/Clearwater
The 35-mile St. Petersburg/Clearwater coast is bordered by a series of barrier islands that boast some of the softest, whitest sand in the state. Beachcombers will find colorful shells, pebbles and sand dollars on all of the area beaches, and Florida's plentiful sunshine makes tanning a breeze. (Don't forget the sunscreen!) Some of the beaches are more built up than others — like Clearwater Beach, a popular spring break destination, and St. Pete Beach, crowned by the signature bright-pink Don Cesar Hotel overlooking the Gulf. Both Clearwater and St. Petersburg offer plenty of restaurants and shops to keep you entertained if you need a break from baking on the sand.

More secluded beach towns include the former fishing village of Pass-a-Grille (local laws prevent high-rise buildings, so the town consists of small, well-kept houses and a quiet, serene beach) and Caladesi Island, an unspoiled retreat that can only be reached by ferry. One word of advice: Don't leave the beach too early — nearly every night, on nearly every beach, you can catch a spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.

For foodies: Miami
With its melting pot of cultures and its proximity to the sea, it's no surprise that Miami is home to Florida's most varied and exciting culinary scene. Eat your way through the city with Miami Culinary Tours; the company offers two food tours, one focusing on the creative fusion cuisine of South Beach and the other on authentic Cuban dishes along the famous Calle Ocho. In addition to food and drink tastings, the tours also offer up delicious morsels of info about the history of each neighborhood.

In between indulgent lunches and sunset seafood dinners, there's plenty more to see in Miami. Worth a look are the exclusive neighborhoods of Coral Gables and Coconut Grove, with their upscale boutiques and historic buildings, and the beaches and natural attractions of Key Biscayne are just a short car ride away. For more sightseeing ideas, see our three-day Miami guides for seniors, couples and families.

For seniors: Amelia Island
Taking a trip to Amelia Island — in the northeastern-most part of the state — is in many ways like taking a step back in time. Though thoroughly modern, the island has escaped much of the commercialization that plagues other parts of Florida. Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island's city, is a celebration of the Victorian era and boasts restored mansions and manicured lawns along Centre Street, the main drag. Take a walking tour of the area (offered by the Amelia Island Museum of History) and you'll find out how it has been influenced by being under the rule of eight different flags — the most of any place in the United States.

Besides history lessons and walking tours, seniors can go to the beach, enjoy a round of golf (there are several courses on the island) or take a leisurely river cruise along the island's scenic waterways; sightings of dolphins, manatees and alligators are not uncommon.

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For families: Tampa
We know it can sometimes be tough to satisfy every member of your family — your oldest might be a science geek while the youngest craves adventure and the middle child prefers to just chill out on the beach. Luckily, the Tampa area is a crowd pleaser sure to suit even the pickiest of kids. Start with a trip to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, where the whole family can scream themselves hoarse on the roller coasters and then take a safari on the Serengeti Plain.

Satisfy your natural curiosity at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), full of hands-on educational displays, or at the Florida Aquarium with its comprehensive collection of sea critters. And when you're ready for a break, head for the coast — Tampa is the gateway to a number of gorgeous white sand beaches. We love Clearwater Beach, where you can swim, build sandcastles, go fishing, run around a covered playground at Pier 60 Park and even catch a pirate cruise. For more family-friendly ideas, see Taking the Kids: Three Days in Tampa.

For romantics: Fort Myers/Sanibel
What's more romantic then strolling hand in hand down white sand beaches and watching some of the country's most spectacular sunsets? The Fort Myers and Sanibel beaches in Lee County, Fla., offer one opportunity after another to explore perfect stretches of sand with the one you love. If all this romance weren't enough, the area beaches and towns have been developed with little disruption to the natural environment. Twin islands Sanibel and Captiva are a great example of this and are often recognized as among the best beaches in the country, particularly for shelling.

But if you're looking for love and shells don't rev your engine, head to — where else? — Lovers Key. This relatively secluded beach (home to a resort and a state park) offers not only astonishing beauty but also a wealth of attractions for active couples, including hiking and biking trails, kayaking, and wildlife watching; keep an eye out for snowy egrets and colorful roseate spoonbills.

Photos: Miami: Sunshine statement

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  1. Tower to the people

    Lifeguard towers on Miami Beach are colorful and easy to distinguish. Lifeguards care over swimmers who play nearby, and the towers make a great meeting place when surrounded by an endless area of sand, surf and beach umbrellas. (Richard Cummins / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Hot spot

    Thousands of people descended on Miami Beach for Super Bowl XLIV between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. The city hosted a number of private and public events ahead of the big game. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Wet and wild

    Jet skis cruise along Biscayne Bay near Miami Beach Marina. Tourists visiting the Bay can enjoy a number of recreational activities, including snorkeling, sailing, kayaking and more. (Richard I'anson / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Life's a beach

    South Beach, also nicknamed "The American Riviera," is well-known for celebrities, chic lifestyles and, of course, beaches. The man-made beach runs along the Atlantic Ocean for miles. (Richard I'anson / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Savoring history

    The Art Deco district of South Beach is a hot spot for celebrities and is home to eccentric residents. The district has more than 800 buildings, built in the '30s and '40s, that are architecturally protected, helping its image as a chic, popular destination. (Randy Faris / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ear to the ground

    Caribbean Flamingos -- this one eats from a pond at the Metro Zoo in Miami -- gets their color from the carotene in its diet. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Dolphins walk, whales fly

    The Miami Seaquarium is a popular attraction that features eight marine animal shows. General admission tickets cost $37.95, and kids between the ages of three and nine get in for $27.95 (plus 7 percent sales tax). (Jon Davison / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Luxe lodgings

    The Biltmore Hotel of Coral Gables "has been a favorite of world leaders, celebrities and sports stars since its opening in the 1920s," its Web site boasts. The resort features 275 rooms, including 130 suites, a spa and fitness center. (The Biltmore) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pretty in pink

    Classic buildings aren't the only thing visitors to Miami Beach will find. Vintage cars are often spotted in the Art Deco district. The annual Art Deco Weekend hosts a classic car fest where proud owners can show off their treasures. (Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Colorful celebration

    A dancer wears a costume as she participates in the Miami Carnival. The carnival has been an annual event since 1984. It has grown from a small neighborhood festival to an international event bringing live bands and calypsonians from the islands. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Collins mix

    The renovated Delano Hotel (left), National Hotel (center) and the Sagamore Hotel line up Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. The city has a concentration of over 800 Art Deco buildings all within one square mile. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Double-tall MOCA

    Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art "is internationally recognized as a force in defining new trends and directions in contemporary art," its Web site says. Admission is $5 per person, $3 for students and seniors. MOCA Members and kids under 12 can enter for free. (MOCA Miami) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Bass appeal

    The Bass Museum of Art was established 47 years ago ater Miami Beach accepted the art collection of John and Johanna Bass, and agreed it would maintain the works and make it available to the public. (Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Different strokes

    A visitor looks at "Thinking" during Art Basel Miami Beach back in 2008. "Art Basel Miami Beach is the most important art show in the United States, a cultural and social highlight for the Americas," the event's Web site boasts. This year's event takes place Dec. 2-5. (Juan Castro / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Reflective moment

    Artist Jude Papaloko is reflected in a mirror on a painted wall in his gallery, the Jakmel Gallery, in Miami. (Lynne Sladky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Feeling the groove

    Club patrons enjoy themselves on the dance floor at Mansion nightclub in Miami Beach, Fla. Once thought of as a place to visit Grandma in January, Miami's reputation as a party city has grown since the days of "Miami Vice," through the birth of the Art Deco fashion district in the early 1990s and the more recent explosion of the South Beach club scene. (David Adame / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Port of call

    Frequent cruisers can be forgiven for seeing Biscayne Bay and Miami simply as a departure point. However, the area offers a wealth of activities and events that can satisfy tourists with a variety of different interests. (Jeff Greenberg / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Can I get a refill?

    The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Miami, started out as a quarry pit and was transformed in 1924 into the Venetian Casino. Now, more than 100,000 people visit Venetian Pool each year. During summer months, the pool is drained nightly and replentished from a subterranean aquifer. (Richard Cummins / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Year of the crab

    Plates full of cracked stone crab claws are ready to be served at Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach. Joe Weiss opened a lunch counter in 1913, and the eatery has been serving the public for 97 consecutive seasons. (Wilfredo Lee / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Feeling the beat

    A crowd dances to the rythmic sound of congas at a local latin club in Calle Ocho (8th street), the main street of the Little Havana district of Miami. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Home field

    Miami's Sun Life Stadium hosted Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010. The New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts by a final score of 31-17. (Dave Cross / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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