10 Great Reasons to Visit Florida
Florida is one of my favorite places. Here, Adriano Comegna shares the reasons he thinks the Sunshine State is worth a visit.
1. Florida enjoys 3,200 hours of sunshine a year. Orange juice is the Official State Beverage and over two million alligators patrol the state’s waterways. It is a playground for the super-rich and a hideaway for eccentrics. From the beginning of June to the end of November it’s hurricane season. And, of course, it is the theme park capital of the world.
2. Standards of service are universally excellent. In Florida, as in the rest of the US, servers are paid half the minimum wage, the balance being made up by tips. 15%-20% is customary to the extent that it can be taken as an insult if a tip is not forthcoming. Obviously if service is bad, complain. Service matters here – people are proud of what they do and, if you accept this cultural difference and budget accordingly, you will be guaranteed a smashing time.
3. A local delicacy well worth seeking out is the stone crab. The only part that’s eaten is the claw, which with a blindfold and mayo, is as close as you’ll get to lobster without actually eating lobster. Stone crab fishermen remove the biggest claw from stone crabs before dropping them back in the sea. The crab can still defend itself and within 18 months has grown a new claw.
4. Florida is known as the sunshine state. Those 3,200 hours a year help produce mangoes, papaya, guava, passion fruit and citrus of every description. Breakfast can seem like the best meal of the day. If options allow, choose the buffet.
5. Sited as far south as feasible, in order to benefit from the ‘slingshot’ effect of the spinning earth, the Kennedy Space Center saw the last shuttle roll to a halt on July 21st 2011. It remains a monument to the first space age. Attractions include the Saturn V rocket, the launch simulation room at the Apollo Centre, the Rocket Garden and tours of the launch pads.
6. The Florida Keys are closer to Cuba than the US and have a charm and laid-back intensity all of their own. The writer Ernest Hemingway loved it here and, on wilder nights, would referee boxing matches in a local restaurant.
7. The Art Deco architecture of South Miami is famous worldwide and is a magnet for photographers. Sign up for one of the gossipy walking tours and discover niches and corners usually undiscovered by tourists.
8.Founded by conquistador Leon in 1509, St Augustine is the oldest settlement on the US mainland. Cobbled streets, Spanish renaissance architecture and a sprinkling of galleries and antique shops make for a quaint break from the bustle and shine of 21st century Florida.
9. No visit to Florida would be complete without a visit to a theme park. The choice is staggering, the theme park business having been almost invented here. Disney of course is king, with all things mouse and Pixar celebrated here. Usually the ride is constructed after a hit movie. Not so with ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ at Disneyland. Expect a soaking. [Ed: check out Orlando Airport Parking if you're planning a visit to a Florida theme park.]
10. The Everglades are a primeval landscape of mangroves and alligators. Take an airboat tour to glimpse wildlife and enjoy a landscape that hasn’t changed since the last ice age. Complete your journey in Miami with a spicy Cuban style dinner. The food here seldom disappoints. Enjoy.
Adriano Comegna writes on behalf of Thomson holidays, a leading travel operator specialising in Florida holidays.