The other evening, I was out with a group of women in New York City. When the conversation turned to winter plans, almost a third of the group was headed to Florida — including me! Ah Florida, it’s the kind of place Americans totally take for granted. Almost everyone has some kind of Florida memory, whether it was annual trips to visit Snowbird grandparents, that special trip to Disney World or a wild college spring break.
I’m looking forward to my Christmastime trip to Florida, but I’ll confess that I always feel that Florida is just not exciting or exotic a destination. So then I have to remind myself that everything is relative… For me, Florida is not so exotic as I’ve been there maybe 40 times and I only live 1,000 miles away. But for someone coming from Europe or Britain, Florida would be very exotic! And there’s so much to see and do in a relatively small distance.
Here’s five reasons why you should go to Florida this year:
1. Siesta Key Beach: Dr. Beach has rated Siesta Key Beach #1 for the past several years. With its calm turquoise water and white talcum powder sand, this Gulf Coast beach could easily be mistaken for a Caribbean beach — and one of the better ones at that. This fabulous Gulf Coast beach was totally unharmed by the catastrophic BP oil leak. Lucky for me, Siesta Key Beach is a short drive from where I always stay in Sarasota.
2. Miami: Why didn’t I put Miami first? That’s because Miami is just so obvious… Miami is a constantly evolving city and it’s just getting better. It went from being a retirement home to the crazy South Beach scene of the mid-80s through 90s to the cool international arts and culinary scene that it is today. I was lucky enough to go during Design Miami Art Basel and I would highly recommend that you go then if you get the chance. It’s when the city is at its artsiest and most international, and it’s really an amazing experience.
3. Key West: If there’s one place in Florida that feel exotic even to an American who visits several times a year, it’s Key West. It has a really fun vacation vibe, kind of like being in Mexico. I had a blast listening to the cover bands at Ernest Hemingway’s hangout Sloppy Joe’s. The sunsets are unforgettable, as is the Key Lime pie. Plus, there’s a really well-preserved historic district. The Southernmost Point of the US, Key West likes to remind you that it’s only 90 miles from Cuba.
4. Disney World: Sure, there a lot of theme parks around the globe but there can only be one Disney World. If you can only do one park, you do Magic Kingdom (where you can dine with princesses) and if you can do two (and have older children) then you have to do Epcot. People talk about conquering Disney, Disney strategies and Disney survival. Disney is Florida’s Mt. Everest or Macchu Pichu. Only more complicated.
5. Everglades: I haven’t actually been to Everglades National Park, but I really want to ride one of those airboats around the swamps and see the birds and alligators. I thought that I was doing Everglades light by taking an airboat ride in Myakka River State Park (which is near Sarasota where I usually go). I was looking forward to being scared by seeing the hundreds of alligators that live in Myakka Lake, but I went on an unseasonably cold day so all the alligators were allegedly hiding underwater to stay warm. I need to go to the Everglades for a much richer wildlife viewing experience!
What are your favorite things to do in Florida?