Florida Holiday Guide
Despite its ‘sunshine state’ nickname, a holiday in Florida is so much more than theme parks and beautiful beaches, with a rich cultural scene, excellent cuisine and unspoiled wildernesses.
Florida Villa Holiday Guide
While the state is deservedly known for its excellent theme parks and beaches, a Florida holiday offers so much more, with a thriving arts scene, stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife, and cultural influences ranging from the Deep South to the Caribbean. Florida’s Panhandle has all the charm of the Southern states, with beautiful beaches, and is home to state capital Tallahassee. A trip to Florida isn’t complete without a visit to Walt Disney World, the fairy tale jewel in Orlando’s crown, while along the Gulf Coast, our luxury villas to rent in Florida are based near chilled out towns and incredible white sand beaches. Miami and Palm Beach offer exclusive glamour, while Key West is an unconventional tropical island with an independent spirit
Sightseeing in Florida
The first thing one probably thinks of when it comes to Florida is the theme parks, and there’s a world of magic to explore in Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. A selection of our villas in Florida are conveniently located for both parks. Elsewhere, soak up the Deep South vibe and wander the museums of the capital Tallahassee or admire amazing Art Deco Miami. In Key West, make sure you don’t overlook its literary history in the rush to the beach and be sure to visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and the Tennessee Williams Exhibit. On the Gulf Coast, seaside towns are home to a surprising amount of interesting museums
History in Florida
Florida was the first part of the USA to be settled by Europeans, originally the Spanish and French, until Spain traded it to Britain in return for Cuba in 1763. After the American Revolution it became Spanish territory once more, until it was ceded to the USA in 1821. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the USA, while Amelia Island’s interesting history goes back 4000 years to the Timucuan Indians and eight flags have flown over the island since. More about this fascinating past can be learnt at the Amelia Island Museum of History.
Towns and Cities in Florida
State capital Tallahassee in the north has all the Southern charm of neighbouring Georgia and Alabama, while Miami is the glamorous, Art Deco party town with 12 miles of beaches and Florida’s hottest nightlife. Orlando is famous for its theme parks but also has a thriving downtown arts scene. Tampa has family attractions and the best bars and night clubs in south west Florida, while neighbouring St. Petersburg and Clearwater have family-friendly beaches and the crowds to match. The Gulf Coast towns of Sarasota, Venice and Naples offer laidback sophistication, culture and dazzling white sands. Fort Lauderdale has shed its spring break reputation to develop a sophisticated cultural and social scene, while Daytona Beach is a haven for race car and motorcycle fans.
Eating and drinking in Florida
Unsurprisingly, seafood is very much on the menu throughout Florida. Grouper, stone crab and rock shrimp are particular specialities, but you’ll also find a variety of fish, oysters, scallops, lobster and clams on offer. In north Florida there are influences from the Deep South, with southern style barbecue, fried green tomatoes and cornbread, and grits and biscuits with gravy on the breakfast menu. Miami is developing a sophisticated culinary scene, with influences from the Caribbean, most notably the large Cubanimmigrant population – a Cuban sandwich is a must-try lunch. Cuban cocktails the mojito and the Cuba libre are also popular. In the Florida Keysfried conch is a delicacy, while key lime pie is the favoured dessert. The usual American chain restaurants are of course ubiquitous.
Florida Nightlife and entertainment
Miami is deservedly famous for its nightlife, and with trendy cocktail bars and big name DJs playing the clubs, you won’t find a hotter scene in Florida. Most of the action is centred around South Beach. Tampa’s Ybor City has the coolest bars and clubs on Florida’s east coast, while St. Petersburg and Clearwater are the places for a spring break party. The theme parks in Orlandoprovide all day entertainment, with Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk carrying on the fun into the evening. For a more low-key vibe, try relaxed sunset drinks in Venice or Sarasota.
Shopping in Florida
Shopping malls can be found in and around the larger towns and cities such as Sarasota, Tampa, Orlando and Miami, from upscale malls with the famous department stores and designer labels, to outlet malls where you’ll find big names at discounted prices. In Orlando, both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort have shopping and entertainment complexes where you can pick up themed souvenirs from mouse ears to homeware, while chic coastal towns such as Sarasota, Venice, Naples and Palm Beach are home to speciality shops and high-end boutiques. Many towns and cities including Sarasota and Orlando host weekly farmers markets where you can browse not only fresh produce but also jewellery and arts and crafts.
Arts and culture in Florida
Gulf Coast towns including Sarasota, Venice and Naples have a thriving arts scene and an excellent selection of galleries and museums, notably the Ringling Museum, the State Art Museum of Florida, originally the home and art collection of John Ringling who founded the Ringling Brothers’ Circus. The complex is comprised of a museum of art, the circus museum, Ca’ D’Zan Mansion, the historic Asolo Theatre, and education centre, and the pretty Bayfront Gardens. The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg is deservedly well-renowned, while architecture fans will fall in love at first sight with Miami.
Nature in Florida
Nature is abundant in Florida, whether on land or sea. Take a boat trip off the Gulf Coast and spot the playful local bottlenose dolphins and friendly manatees as well as a variety of sea birds, or snorkel or dive with the turtles in Biscayne National Park, part of the third biggest reef in the world, just a short distance from Miami. Back on dry land, Florida has numerous national parks to explore, with hiking and biking trails and the chance to encounter the local wildlife. The large areas of wetlands in Florida mean there are also plenty of opportunities for kayaking and canoeing. For a real adventure, take a trip to the Everglades, where you could spot alligators, manatees, and the rare Florida panther.