Florida is a bouquet of contrasts. Back in 1960, Connie Francis introduced Ft. Lauderdale - and spring break -- to the world when she sang that Florida beaches were "Where The Boys Are." Making the Ft. Lauderdale hotels a popular lodging option next to the beaches. Today, Florida beaches are also where the supermodels and megastars are.
Where, but in Florida, can you see both the Jurassic-era reptiles of the Everglades and the sci-fi futurism of Epcot Center? Once the home to The Old Man and the Sea author Ernest Hemingway, Key West now harbors the world's most glamorous yachts and cruise ships.
Florida architecture ranges from Key West Conch to Miami Art Deco and Orlando Postmodern. But perhaps Florida's greatest contrast is with the rest of America in winter: despite the impact of hurricanes like Wilma, the "Sunshine State" averages 300 full days of sunshine a year.
Fun in the Sun
All that sunshine makes Florida beaches the place to be. From the Atlantic, to the Gulf, to Caribbean Key West, no other state offers more walks along the sand at sunset or sunrise. The shell-strewn beaches of Captiva and Sanibel islands are beachcombers' heaven. Or perhaps you'd rather spy for diamonds and pearls among the bikinied glitterati on Naples Beach along Millionaire's Row. Miami's clothing-optional Haulover Beach also frequently rates as one of the top - or, if you prefer, topless - Florida beaches.
An active Florida vacation might include swimming with Crystal River manatees, jet-boating in the Everglades, or casting for wahoo off Key Largo. Or simply sit back and root for your favorite among Florida's nine major league sports teams or eighteen MLB teams who visit for Spring Training.
Each year millions make their dream of a Florida vacation come true, whether it is to push the family-fun envelope in Orlando, or to savor la vida loca in Miami.
Orlando is home to America's greatest theme park resorts, and can turn a family Florida vacation into a trip around the world: take a savanna safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom; linger at a Parisian café in Epcot, or get splashed by a whale at Sea World. Add the movie magic of Universal and MGM, mix in the g-force thrills of Busch Gardens, and you get family memories to last a lifetime.
Miami is a world unto itself. Miami's South Beach is home to the übermodel fashion scene and ultra-exclusive nightclubs-within-nightclubs where the in-crowd parties all night and all day. But whether it's the scent of fine cigar tobacco along Calle Ocho in Little Havana, or a hint of Chanel wafting amid the elaborately expensive Bal Harbour Shops, a Florida vacation in Miami can literally take your breath away.
Since Ponce de León landed in 1513, Florida has been claimed by five nations, and fiercely defended by Oceola and the Seminoles. But it took rocket science, air conditioning, and a little "Magic" to turn it into the mega-destination of today. Isn't it time you staked a claim in your own Florida vacation?