Donna S. Vieira

Travel Guide to Florida - - EDITOR’S MESSAGE -

Ac­cord­ing to Tri­pAd­vi­sor, Florida is the state with the most things to see and do. Add in hun­dreds of miles of beaches and the Ever­glades, and it’s easy to see why the Sun­shine State con­tin­ues to draw vis­i­tors to its sandy shores year-round. Ev­ery year in­tro­duces new at­trac­tions, mu­se­ums and ex­pe­ri­ences—es­pe­cially in the Or­lando area, the na­tion’s top des­ti­na­tion for fun and ad­ven­ture. While Dis­ney, SeaWorld and other amuse­ment parks through­out Florida de­liver end­less ex­cite­ment, stay­ing at a re­sort hotel can be ex­pen­sive. It’s im­por­tant to find ways to save money. One solution is to book a va­ca­tion rental, com­plete with full kitchen, din­ing room, out­door pa­tio and grill and plenty of space for your fam­ily to en­joy. It also en­cour­ages you to ex­plore the sur­round­ing area in new and ex­cit­ing ways.

We’re all fa­mil­iar with Florida’s long list of award-win­ning beaches, theme parks and golf cour­ses, but the Sun­shine State has so much more to of­fer those who are will­ing to ex­pand their bound­aries and chal­lenge com­mon-held be­liefs about this state.

There are 67 coun­ties to ex­plore in Florida and each one of­fers ad­ven­tures and op­por­tu­ni­ties that can­not be ex­pe­ri­enced else­where in the state. As you travel through­out the penin­sula, you’ll soon re­al­ize each county has its own artis­tic and cul­tural soul, of­ten sum­ma­rized in de­scrip­tive monikers, such as the Emer­ald Coast, the For­got­ten Coast, the Par­adise Coast, the His­toric Coast, the Space Coast, the Cul­tural Coast, the Trea­sure Coast, the Mana­tee Cap­i­tal of the World and oth­ers.

I en­cour­age you to seek out and truly ex­pe­ri­ence the “other side” of Florida. Stroll through lo­cal farm­ers’ mar­kets and talk to the ven­dors. Take in a col­lege or pro­fes­sional sport­ing event. Swim with the man­a­tees—an ex­pe­ri­ence you’ll never for­get. Pad­dle through man­groves or along rivers in Florida’s state parks, na­tional forests and pre­serves. Hike or cy­cle along count­less trails. At­tend a stage per­for­mance, out­door con­cert or fes­ti­val. Go deep-sea fish­ing. Visit art gal­leries and mu­se­ums. Sam­ple lo­cal craft beers and wines. Tour Na­tive Amer­i­can sites to learn more about their his­tory, cul­ture and tra­di­tions. Book an air­boat ex­cur­sion through the Ever­glades. Go horse­back rid­ing along a beach. Drive the back­roads, stop­ping in at small towns along the way. Chal­lenge your taste buds with ’ga­tor nuggets and conchin­spired dishes.

If you do, I promise you a richer Florida ex­pe­ri­ence and a deep de­sire to re­turn and em­bark on new dis­cov­er­ies. There’s no end to what you’ll find.

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