Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know…?
- There are more than 800 Florida Keys; the skinny 30-mile Key Largo is the largest.
- Lakeland’s name is a natural: There are 19 lakes within the city limits.
- St. Augustine is North America’s oldest continuously occupied city, from 1565.
- In Florida, one is never more than 60 miles from a beach.
- Only 30 to 50 Florida panthers still live in the wild.
Of beaches and breezes
Florida’s appeal hinges on the fact that no matter what a visitor wants to do, it can be done in an atmosphere of warm weather, balmy breezes, beautiful tropical scenery and southern hospitality. Even on a tight budget, this kind of environment makes it easy to shake off worldly cares. Understandably, winter is the peak season, but the state draws tourists around the calendar.
Although Ponce de Leon failed to find the fountain of youth in Florida, that hasn’t stopped flocks of travelers from seeking their own version of it in this tropical destination.
When not highlighting Miami’s attractions or the Orlando theme parks, visitors most often single out for praise the Florida Keys, that group of islands trailing off the bottom of the peninsula, of which Key Largo and Key West are the best known.
Judging from traveler comments about the Sunshine State, it’s fair to compare the Keys, in particular, to Hawaii. Both have warm climates and a casual atmosphere. They are both places for comfortable clothes, outdoor fun, warm water, music and exotic food.
Other areas that receive positive comments are St. Augustine to the north, where tourists can take a carriage tour through the historic town, and Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, on the west side of the Florida peninsula, where guests get their sun on the Gulf of Mexico and the shopping is good.
Venturous types are likely to participate more vigorously in activities like scuba diving and deep-sea fishing. They may design their own expeditions to less-developed areas. For those travelers who love golf, the state is a paradise of public courses and luxurious resorts.
Visitors eat well, too, no matter how cautious or daring their taste buds. Options include exotic seafood not available elsewhere, and Cuban dishes, too.
It is worth noting that Florida, like Hawaii, faces sensitive conflicts between development and conservation of valuable wilderness areas. Florida’s manatees and other marine species have come close to disappearing, and land that was once home to rare plants and animals, or was once agriculturally productive, awaits construction of hotels and shopping centers.
Things to do for Venturers
- Take to the air. At Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, you can ride in a 1929 New Standard D-25 or 1942 open cockpit Boeing Stearman PT-17 bi-plane, October through May.
- Or, go to Skydive City in Zephyrhills to experience a parachute jump. You can make a tandem jump with an instructor or take lessons and learn to jump solo.
- Be an astronaut for a day by booking the full-day Astronaut Training Experience offered at the Kennedy Space Center. Each day, visitors have a chance to meet a member of NASA’s Astronaut Corps.
- If you have what it takes, grow your beard and compete in the annual Papa Look-Alike Contest which celebrates the life and works of Ernest Hemingway, in Key West, of course.
- Swim with manatees in Crystal River. This is the only place in North America where it is legal to have a supervised swim with these gentle creatures, but be aware this is somewhat controversial. The private Save the Manatee Club offers Do Not Disturb kayak tours to see the manatees.
- Ride on down to Leesburg for the annual Bikefest, a motorcycle-only event featuring live bands and a custom-bike motor show. Or, schedule your riding for the Daytona Bike Week, a 10-day riding festival that dates from 1937.
Things to do for Centrics
- Go jogging in three seasons; forget it in summer unless you do it very early in the day.
- Enjoy bird-watching and take advantage of the Great Florida Birding Trail, a program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The 2,000-mile route has more than 400 locations selected for excellent birding opportunities.
- At Fort Pierce, kayak by the light of the moon.
- Visit St. Augustine’s Colonial Spanish Quarter, where costumed actors (recalling c.1740) demonstrate old skills and crafts.
- Visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, where the elite six-aircraft Blue Angels squadron practices. The public can attend practices, for free, most Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m. April through December, but call to confirm: (850) 452-2583.
- Go fishing, then ask the chef at your hotel to prepare and serve your catch at dinner.
Things to do for Authentics
- Visit the Ringling Museum in Bradenton on the Gulf Coast.
- Entertain your kids, or yourself, and schedule your Florida visit to coincide with a pirate festival. The Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival is an old and annual event in Fort Walton Beach, whereas the Pirate Festival in Tampa is part of a larger Gasparilla Extravaganza.
- Community theaters are popular and numerous in Florida. Take in a show or two.
- Play golf. Florida has more golf courses than any state in the U.S., nearly 1,400; Florida’s Palm Beach County has more than 10% of those, 160, more than any other county.
- Watch spring training professional baseball games.
- Eat great seafood; make that stone crabs if they are in the season.
For more information, consult Visit Florida at www.visitflorida.com