Looking to book an upcoming escape from falling temperatures? Head to Florida!
Florida has long been known as a retirement or “snowbird” state due to its great weather, low turnover, and tax-friendliness—there is no state income tax. However, Florida is also a great state to road trip through. Besides its desirable weather, the ”Sunshine State” has a ridiculous amount of attractions and things to do—so many that you might reconsider why you’ve been living life elsewhere.
Take the wonderful world of Walt Disney, for instance, or the Wynwood district in Miami. What about the very tip of the United States, known as the Florida Keys? They’re so picturesque they could be mistaken for snapshots from Tahiti. There is a lot to explore in this state, so we arranged a list of four cities you should visit in Florida, what to do, and where to stay and eat. After enjoying these attractions, you may be tempted to become a resident.
Jacksonville, Fla. is one of those places that has so much to offer you may see little need to travel outside city limits. With flight options straight into Jacksonville International Airport, the city is less congested than perhaps Miami or Fort Lauderdale and a superb place to start your journey. As one of the first major cities you will come across when traveling through Northeast Florida, “Jax” is also the twelfth most populous city in the United States, with lots of restaurants, beaches, art, and culture to indulge in.
Lodging: When choosing where to stay, consider One Ocean Resort & Spa for its immediate proximity to the beach, full-service, in-house spa, and nearby city fun that includes restaurants, yoga studios, and shopping galore.
Dine: For a quick breakfast bite, try Homespun Kitchen smoothies, teas, and breakfast burritos. If you’re looking for delectable cuisine (who isn’t?), visit North Beach Fish Camp, a casual beach pub, for lunch or dinner.
Attractions: Be sure to stroll through the Jacksonville Arboretum & Botanical Gardens during the day. Heralded for its holiday shows,
Florida is known for its beaches, and if you’re looking to do a beach day, expand your horizons and book a session at Jacksonville Surf & Paddle. With wetsuits provided, you can learn how to surf or stand-up paddleboard while swimming with the Aurelia Aurita jellyfish, and maybe even see some other vibrant fins.
For picturesque optics, explore Boneyard Beach at Big Talbot Island State Park to see the giant driftwood. Climb it, have a picnic, take pictures, what have you; the three miles of shoreline showcase the wild coastal ecosystems of Florida.
Find a favorite new hobby kayaking with Kayak Amelia. While crossing the Nassau Sound Bridge, you will witness the most stunning panorama of precious marsh habitat that makes you want to stop mid-bridge and get a better glance. Luckily for you, you can book a three-hour kayaking tour through the marsh that reveals more magnificence than bridge viewers witness.
New Smyrna Beach
Any town with the word “beach” in its name immediately serves wavy vibes, and New Smyrna Beach, set just below the more popular Daytona Beach, lacks no ripples. As one of the finest surf towns in America, NSB provides super laid-back luxury with eclectic shopping in the center of the town with 17 miles of beach, the freshest seafood one can dream of, and art exhibitions you will want to visit every season.
Lodging: The Springhill Suites is a Marriott Bonvoy hotel, so be sure to rack up points when staying at the hotel partner. As one of the most welcoming venues on the beach, you will have direct access to not only a hotel pool but to miles of white sand beach.
Dine: For brunch, Outriggers Tiki Bar & Grille is a top-tier selection. Located on the marina with a row of yachts as your view while you relish a fresh poke bowl, will set your day off to a joyful start.
For an indoor alternative, check out the Corkscrew Bar & Grille, which opens at 11:30 am so you can hop directly into the afternoon lunch crowd. You’ll be reminiscing about the conch fritters for weeks.
At dinner, it is imperative to try out Third Wave Cafe & Wine Bar for its inventive takes on hummus. The Wagyu Short Rib Hummus is the dish to taste.
Attractions: Getting into the arts and culture side of town, tour The Hub on Canal for the most exemplary showcase of local artists’ artwork to shop and experience.
Smyrna Dunes Park is the ideal setting for a scenic afternoon, with an elevated boardwalk that expands to over two miles of beach, dunes, sky, and an exquisite ecosystem on site. It is one of the most pleasant yet relaxing excursions one can try.
It is likely that when you think of Florida, you think of Orlando, and for good reason. With an international airport and the home of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Cinderella, what else do you need in life besides a little bibbidi-bobbidi-boo? But no, seriously—do you know what else there is to experience in Orlando besides the obvious? So much more!
Lodging: If you’re looking to get out of the cartoon character bubble, we suggest lodging at Caribe Royale Resort. With a pick from hotel rooms, suites and villas, on-site fine dining, buffets, bar restaurants, and a sprawling pool with multiple jacuzzis. It is an all-in-one choice.
Dine: For daytime, stop at The Hammered Lamb, a locally owned neighborhood pub nestled in the Ivanhoe Village Main Street District of Orlando for their famed quesadillas. Head right around the corner to Ivanhoe Brewing for the most satisfactory lager in town. Relish in a fun new culinary experience brought to you by locally owned businesses including Foxtail Coffee Co., Bagel Bruno, Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream, and The Ravenous Pig Brewing at Milkhouse Orlando. But fair warning: if you get a taste of how delicious the entire menu at Cicchetti Kitchen is, you may revisit the spot just about every other day.
Fun fact: did you know Walt Disney World is not actually in Orlando? Yeah, we didn’t either—it is considered Kissimmee, Florida Osceola County—but you learn something new every day! Kissimmee has been on the rise, intentionally isolating itself from Orlando with its own Floridian experiences to offer! Here are a few:
Lodging: Enjoy a stay at the Gaylord Palms Resort for the ultimate wildlife experience! We are talking about a resort water park, indoor garden atrium, cobblestone streets, indoor alligator pond, a world-class spa, and seven on-property restaurants. Need we even explore outside of this resort?
Dine: Since the outside is so alive in Kissimmee with all of the Disney attractions, we suggest staying inside for dinner. A formal option is David’s Club, Omni Resort at ChampionsGate. The new restaurant has uniquely paired fine dining with a bar-centric vibe, boasting a 90-inch video wall for sports while the dining on the other side of the venue is upper echelon chic.
Attractions: If you’re staying in Kissimmee, of course, you should go to Walt Disney World. That’s it, that’s the bottom line. Delight your inner child by experiencing Star Wars Galaxy Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or spoil yourself with a Dole Whip in the Adventureland Magic Kingdom.
If you want to explore Kissimmee, try a bike ride at Celebration Bike Rental, famous for its nostalgic hometown flavor. Originally dreamed up as a utopian city called “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow,” or E.P.C.O.T., the Celebration neighborhood was the original concept for what would eventually become known as Disney’s EPCOT theme park. However, once development started, it was ultimately decided to also create the Celebration community, owned and controlled by Disney’s governmental arm. Reminiscent of a too-good-to-be-true town, it’s often compared to movies like “The Stepford Wives” and “The Truman Show,” Celebration features uniform home designs as well as a nature reserve with a median income of $83,228 and a median property value of $401,600, according to the 2017 U.S Census.
Florida is also very much renowned for its amphibians, so be sure to experience a fun airboat ride and gator park tour at Wild Florida, where you can safely spot dozens of gators and other wildlife in the area swamps. If you opt for kayaking with The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek, you will run into dozens upon dozens of turtles, with even more gators on site.
Noel Cymone Walker is an NYC-based writer specializing in beauty, fashion, music, travel, and cultural anthropology. She has written and produced visuals for several notable publications such as The Recording Academy/The Grammys, The Fader, Billboard, OkayPlayer, Marie Claire, Glamour, Allure, Essence, Ebony, and more.
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