Your Florida vacation
The Sunshine State is about more than Mickey Mouse. The world outside the Magic Kingdom casts its own spells with candy-colored Art Deco hotels, pearly white beaches, and a wide variety of flora and fauna.
With highlights ranging from the manmade (Walt Disney World) to the all-natural (Everglades National Park), Florida can do no wrong as a destination spot. Its miles of coastline, endless summers and affordable, kid-friendly hotels, mean that it's bound to be on your list of vacation spots at least once. Let Orbitz help you plan your trip, starting with the best time to go, the top 10 attractions and insider tips on all things related to Florida travel.
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Flights to Florida
|Detroit||Orlando||Wed, Jan 8 - Tue, Jan 14||$148|
|Atlanta||Miami||Wed, Jan 15 - Tue, Jan 21||$180|
|Dallas||Tampa||Wed, Feb 12 - Wed, Feb 19||$118|
|Atlanta||Fort Lauderdale||Sun, Jan 12 - Sat, Jan 18||$128|
|Detroit||Fort Myers||Sun, Jan 12 - Wed, Jan 15||$158|
|Hartford||West Palm Beach||Wed, Jan 8 - Wed, Jan 15||$149|
|New York||Jacksonville||Thu, Jan 9 - Fri, Jan 10||$179|
|Tampa||Key West||Tue, Jan 21 - Thu, Jan 23||$238|
|Washington DC||Pensacola||Mon, Jan 13 - Thu, Jan 16||$237|
|Newark||Sarasota||Sat, Jan 11 - Thu, Jan 16||$160|
|Baltimore||Daytona Beach||Fri, Jan 31 - Tue, Feb 4||$228|
|Minneapolis||Valparaiso||Sun, Feb 2 - Sun, Feb 9||$200|
Best time to take a vacation to Florida
To a Floridian, cold is any temperature that dips below 70 degrees. Accustomed to two climates -- hot and hotter -- the locals don't waste the sunshine, but those not familiar with the humidity and tropical temps should stay away during certain times of the year.
Weather-wise, the mildest seasons are fall, winter and early spring. However, with those cooler temps come the crowds, especially in cities such as Miami and Orlando, a huge draw for spring breakers and snow birds. Summer is a staple for families en route to the theme parks.
Hurricane season officially covers the period between June and November, but the state has seen storms hit outside these months.
Insider tips for Florida travel
Some Florida beaches outlaw public drinking; an exception is Madeira Beach. You can thank me when you're sipping a bottle of Corona in your bikini.
Blue Spring State Park
Even in 'winter time' the water temperature is still in the 70s in Blue Spring State Park, also a designated wildlife refuge for manatees.
This might just be Florida's most quirky bar: ICEBAR Orlando. Nowhere else in Florida will you get to don a thermal cape just to drink vodka -- chilled, of course -- in a setting where even the bar stools are made out of ice.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Want to skip Disney World this year? Plan a trip to Ichetucknee Springs State Park, which is best explored by inner tube.
Pelican Hotel on Ocean Drive
For an offbeat, but still highly stylized, South Beach experience, check in at the Pelican Hotel on Ocean Drive. Created by Diesel Jeans, the hotel boasts theme rooms that will truly get you excited about what's behind the door. Executive Zebra, anyone?
Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World, a collection of parks that include the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney's Animal Kingdom Park, Disney's Blizzard Beach, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, is the template that all other theme parks attempt to duplicate. Behind those iron gates are dreams come to life and memories to be relived: that first picture of Cinderella's Castle, donning a pair of embroidered Mickey ears, parading with kids on your shoulders along a Main Street studded by ice cream parlors and trinket shops. This, indeed, is a magical kingdom.
Everglades National Park
Equal parts fantastic and creepy (in the good way), the third-largest national park in the United States blows the mind with 1.5 million acres of waterways, mangroves, endangered species, flora and fauna. The 100-mile wildlife habitat beckons adventurers to go on nature walks, canoe rides and wet hikes through the precious ecosystem. It's chock full of wonderment from start to finish, especially upon that first sighting of an American Alligator.
Orlando wouldn't be Orlando without theme parks, and this one certainly keeps fueling the fantasy. At Universal Studios, which covers Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure, kids of all ages feed their adrenaline rush aboard rides such as the Men in Black: Alien Attack, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman and Shrek 4:D. Skip the soda and sweets; if this place doesn't leave you buzzed, then maybe you need to meet Harry Potter.
Daytona International Speedway
There's a reason why Daytona International Speedway's grandstands are packed to the hilt with more than 150,000 fans. Everyone is an adrenaline junkie. Race cars of every make -- stock cars, go-karts and more -- zoom by, fueling a love for an all-American past time. If you'd rather be behind the wheel, try the Daytona 500 Experience, an interactive simulator that brings to life the bumpy, jarring ride. Is the game too wimpy for you? Book an actual ride during the three-lap Richard Petty Driving Experience to call yourself a speed demon.
The Panhandle, almost a country of its own, is a loose term applying to the Northwestern region of Florida. Its proximity to Alabama dashes Southern flavor on the landscape and the residents, from live oaks to twangs. While South Florida heats up come fall and winter, the opposite rings true for the Panhandle, which draws more tourists during summer. Immaculate condo hotels and less-crowded beaches have made it popular with the stroller set.
Siesta Key Beach
Dr. Beach, the foremost expert on beaches in the United States, chose Siesta Key Beach as his No. 1 pick for the Top 10 beaches for 2011. We can't argue with him. With heavenly, pure white sand and turquoise waters as far as the eyes can see, Siesta Key Beach will remain a perennial favorite for those hunting for that perfect sunset or seashell.
The eye candy comes in all colors here, an area known to the rest of the world as America's Riviera. This is where the moneyed, hard-bodied and couture-bedecked come out to play. What other zip code -- besides Hollywood, of course -- counts so many celebrities as residents? A typical day in SoBe might start with brunch at a cafe on Ocean Drive, watching models in Lummus Park and lining up to get into the hottest club to see the latest and greatest European DJ. Perhaps the most fun, though, is hotel hopping in this historic Art Deco District. Like a true singleton, you'll never be happy flirting with just one.
It's fitting that there's only one road into the Keys: Highway 1. After combing miles of crystal sand and diving into reef-rich azure waters, who would be in a rush to leave? Home to Jimmy Buffet and Ernest Hemingway, the Keys consist of more than 400 islands filled with cute bungalows and beach bars. Begin your aquatic journey during a snorkeling trip off Key Largo, and don't forget to round out your trip with a picture by the Southernmost Point in the continental U.S.
Tampa doesn't really need a downtown: It has Ybor City. While the former checks out at 5 p.m., Ybor is just getting started, amping up with a global soundtrack of hip-hop clubs, reggae, Top 40, blues and indie music. Along La Setima, or 7th Avenue, visitors also get a taste of Tampa's immigrant past. Stroll by restaurants and brick buildings that once employed cigar workers. In the Centro Ybor section, catch a movie or improv show or, browse the shop before your authentic Cuban meal at Columbia Restaurant.
Thank Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles for landing on the shores of this Northeast Florida town, also called the Old City. Remnants of the conquistadors linger everywhere, including the most famous fort in Florida: the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the United States. Notably, the city is also where Ponce de Leon is said to have stumbled upon the Fountain of Youth. Want a drop? Visit the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park to sip from the legendary spring, then find a mirror and watch for signs that it worked.