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Located just about equidistant from both, you will find the aquatic park SeaWorld, with fantastic animal shows, a handful of rides and animal-interaction programs. Also nearby is its water-park sister, Aquatica, and the worlds-away Discovery Cove, where a limited number of guests enjoy a day of lounging on a private beach, swimming with the dolphins and floating along the lazy river through the bird aviary. On top of these biggies, there is Old Florida's Cypress Gardens, just south of town, kitschy Gatorland and lesser attractions sprinkled throughout the city.

5. Space Coast

The space shuttle is to the Space Coast what pastel hotels are to South Beach. You will be amazed, amused (and exhausted?) by the celestial themes swirling in every gas station, roadside café and hotel lobby within a meteorite's throw. C'mon, even the area code is 321! Not surprisingly, the Kennedy Space Center is both the largest attraction in the area (occupying more than 140,000 acres) and the biggest (more than 1.5 million visitors spin the turnstiles annually).

In contrast to the high-tech buildings and bad space puns, however, the area also boasts some of Florida's most deliciously undeveloped areas. The Space Center only uses about 10,000 acres for its purposes. The rest of the area is set aside as a federally protected wildlife refuge, so do not be surprised to see sunning alligators, soaring birds (including bald eagles) and rooting wild pigs, giving new meaning to the term "government pork".

Along the coast, you can find some of Florida's finest sea turtle observation programs and among the most pristine beaches in the state. For adventure-holics, the waves from Sebastian Inlet to Cocoa Beach offer the state's gnarliest surfing, and just west of the barrier island the lagoon is dotted with quiet, undeveloped islands, perfect for wiling away warm summer days.

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© 2011 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘Lonely Planet's top five day trips from Miami’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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