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The Florida Enigma

The Florida Enigma

I have a long history with the state of Florida. Much longer than you might imagine, even if you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning.

I moved there in 2003 after graduating high school, somewhat out of desperation. Though I’d been admitted to my dream school (NYU), I didn’t get enough financial aid to afford it; a no-name private school in Tampa promised a much more affordable (and warmer) ticket out of the Midwest, albeit not nearly as chic or cosmopolitan of one.

I mention this because I want you to know that when I answer the question “is Florida worth visiting?”, I’m not just responding through the lens of a tourism professional, and certainly not in the context of the modern political climate. This question has literally defined my adult life; continue reading and you won’t have to let it ruin yours.

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How—and Why—Florida Became a Joke

Even if you think Florida beaches are awesome—and they are—the reality is that Florida has not had great press for a very long time. It started in the 2010s with various “Florida man” stories about unfortunate men (and women) in Florida doing crazy things…because Florida. Then, once a certain governor took office, it became about personal and political attacks against him and his supporters.

The good news is that if you look at Florida primarily from a travel and tourism perspective, much of this controversy fades away. Browsing cruises from Tampa sailing to the sunny Caribbean, for instance, doesn’t require you to make inferences about the intelligence or character of Florida residents, and certainly not to invoke politics.

My Favorite Places to Visit in Florida


It might sound cliché to say it, but there really is no place in Florida like Miami Beach. From days in perfect Caribbean waters getting bronze and beautiful, to watching the neon lights on Collins Avenue light up as the sun sets, leaving palm trees as silhouettes, Miami is unforgettable.

The rest of South Florida

Which is not to say the rest of southern Florida is chopped liver—I’d argue that it’s a big part of what makes Florida worth visiting. And not just flamboyant Fort Lauderdale right to the north of Miami, or glamorous Palm Beach even further north. I also like the counties above those, especially St. Lucie.


OK, so Orlando as a city is not fantastic, at least not in my opinion. However, it is home to arguably the best collection of theme parks in the world, and to the largest of Disney’s global parks. Moreover, it isn’t far from Cape Canaveral, if you think you might want to see a rocket launch.

Southwest Florida

To certain observers, the sleepy southwestern beaches near Fort Myers might not seem like they could be part of what makes Florida worth visiting. But whether you’re collecting shells on Sanibel Island, or dining al fresco in Naples or Venice, Florida’s bottom, right quadrant punches above its weight.

Tampa and vicinity

I lived in Tampa during college, so admittedly lacked the income to enjoy its many urban charms. However, from destinations in the city like Davis Island and Bayshore Boulevard, to at beaches like popular Clearwater or slightly off-the-radar Siesta Key in Sarasota, the beauty of the Tampa Bay area is impossible to deny.

How Many Days in Florida is Enough?

Florida is bigger than it looks, and it takes longer to move around the state than you might expect. While you could conceivably fly to Florida for the weekend if you want to stay in a single city or region, covering a notable amount of ground during your trip will require a stay of at least 7-10 days. Or, a commitment to the possibility of coming back multiple times.

Indeed, it’s so easy to access the Sunshine State from virtually everywhere in the US that the topic of how many days in Florida rarely relates to one trip. Why not come back once a year for a few years, each time focusing on a different region? Within half a decade, you can explore central Florida, southwest Florida and south Florida, and maybe even the Panhandle or other places as well.


Other FAQ About Visiting Florida

Should tourists go to Florida?

Tourists should absolutely go to Florida if something in the state interests them. I think political protests of travel destinations are both counter-productive and ignorant; the idea that you would somehow be unsafe in one of America’s top tourist destinations is so ridiculous I almost don’t want to comment on it.

What is the nicest place in Florida to vacation?

There’s no single nicest place in Florida to vacation. However, if you’re looking for great beaches (but slightly more/better culture than the Panhandle), I’d suggest the West Coast south of about Sarasota, all the way down to Sanibel Island.

Is it worth going to Florida for a week?

It’s absolutely worth going to Florida for a week, particularly if you have an appetite for exploration. Pair a weekend to Miami with a road trip to the Florida Keys, a few days at Orlando’s theme parks with a beach excursion in the Tampa area, or go off the beaten path in the Everglades or in Crystal River with the manatees. 

The Bottom Line

Is Florida worth visiting? Yes, though different travelers will come here for different reasons. The more specific your intention, the more you will enjoy the Sunshine State. If you cringe at the idea of setting food in Florida but just want to party under palm trees, a weekend in Miami Beach won’t be too mortifying. Likewise, the beaches of Florida’s Gulf and west coasts are pristine enough that this fact should outweigh any reservations you have about the society that awaits you on land. Whether or not you decide to visit Florida, I do hope you’ll hire me as your Travel Coach, so that I can plan your next trip.


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