The Sunshine State, home of The Mouse, South Beach, Jimmy Buffet, and NASCAR auto racing. This is a state that has built its entire identity around tourism. Why should you come here? Because it is the one place everyone else has visited as well.
That may not sound like much of a reason to travel to anywhere, but if you can’t swap stories about the lines at Disney World, the mosquitoes in the Everglades, the cold spring water at Ichetucknee, or the superiority of the white sand beaches of the Panhandle, well, I’m sorry my friend, but you’re just out of the loop.
With 16 million citizens and 170,000 square kilometers of land, Florida is as large and as varied as a medium-sized country, and as such can’t be seen in a weekend. It has been said that to truly understand a culture (and Florida has several), one must spend months immersed in it. With Florida this is a dangerous proposition. Many people who come to visit end up staying for the rest of their lives-which can make a person a little crazy.
Florida, of course, is known for many things: the Everglades; the sun, sand, and surf that make up Florida’s 1500 kilometers of beaches; the Florida Keys; South Beach, the trendiest place in the world at the moment; and, oh yes, Disney World. But there is much more.
Florida’s western Panhandle is home to some of the finest beaches in the United States. The only elevation to speak of in the entire state is here, as are the state’s only caverns and some of the best canoeing around. The north central area of the state is home to the state’s capital, Tallahassee, with a number of fine museums, as well as to the famous Suwannee River. Opportunities for fishing, cave diving, and indoctrination in Southern small-town culture abound.
Northeast Florida is home to the state’s largest city, Jacksonville, to the oldest continuously inhabited city in America, St. Augustine, and boasts the headquarters of the Professional Golf Association. Golf, fishing, history, and the oldest marine park in the country, Marineland, make Northeast Florida well worth a visit.
Further south you’ll come to world-famous Daytona Beach, as well as the site of the American space agency, NASA, in Brevard County--well worth seeing. Central Florida is dominated by Orlando and its well know coterie of theme parks, including Disney World, EPCOT Center, MGM Studios, Universal Studios, Sea World, and more tourist attractions than you can shake a stick at. But don’t miss the charming small citrus towns south of Orlando or the lake towns to the north. To the west lie Tampa and St Petersburg, beautiful cities with beaches to match. Tampa boasts a Busch Gardens theme park, but the real attraction here is the Gulf of Mexico, who’s calm green waters and white sandy beaches are suitable for sunning year-round.
South Florida is worth visiting there is still an unparalleled experience. Although Fort Lauderdale is no longer a Spring Break haven, and Miami has seen its share of urban troubles, as any large metro area would, but the beaches, the people, the Everglades, and the experience of it all is not to be missed. And of course no one has truly seen Florida who has not taken the long journey down U.S. 1 through the keys to Key West, the ultimate vacationer’s paradise, where it’s as easy to fill your day with activity as it is to do nothing at all.