There's more than beautifully sunny skies in "The Sunshine State" to recommend a vacation in Florida. You can visit little towns like Apalachicola or a multicultural megalopolis like Miami. You can devour fresh seafood and then work it off bicycling, golfing, or swimming. In St. Augustine, 17th-century history comes alive, while you can make a stop in the Space Age at Cape Canaveral. Florida maintains thousands of acres of wilderness, from Clam Pass County Park in downtown Naples to Everglades National Park, spanning the state's southern tip.
Capital Tallahassee blends modernity with the Old South. Orlando draws families with its theme parks: Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld. The Gulf Coast seaport of Tampa marks one of the state's growing commercial centers. At Florida's southern tip, Miami draws vacationers with its spicy mix of Latin American and Caribbean culture and steamy nightlife.
Lay of the Land
Miles of golden-sand beaches and seaside cottages invite leisurely drives along the Gulf Coast of Florida's Panhandle. In central Florida, you'll find acres of citrus groves. Alligator Alley crosses southern Florida from Naples to Weston, leading cars and bikes past the sawgrass, cypress, and gumbo-limbo trees of the Everglades.
Eating & Drinking
Drink freshly squeezed juice or stop at roadside stands for a bag of tangerines. Florida cuisine can mean many things, but we suppose "Floribbean," the fusion of Caribbean and Latin flavors with the local Florida flavors (indigenous fruits and veggies like avocado, star fruit, coconut, Key lime, kumquat, and passion fruit; and fresh seafood like spiny lobster and stone crabs), says it best.
Family-friendly beaches await visitors in the Panhandle, where long, sun-kissed days include swimming and building sandcastles. Beachcombers collect seashells on Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Drive Florida's surf-sprayed A1A expressway along the Atlantic coast, past lighthouses and bikini beaches from Daytona all the way to Miami. Palm trees and fruity cocktails keep the locals cool and relaxed in the southern islands of the Florida Keys.
Hanging in There
After a few rocky years, Florida is bouncing back to normalcy. Florida is never actually "normal," per se, which makes it all that much more fun. Though not entirely recovered from the recession that hit the state almost harder than a category 5 hurricane, Florida has shown signs of rebound -- even in the most daunting of times, that is, until 2010's epic BP disaster, in which for most of the spring and summer, crude challenged Hawaiian Tropic as the state's unofficial oil.