The more north you go, the more south you get.
Once you leave Miami and South Florida’s heavy Latin influence, you’ll traverse northward through the swamplands of the Florida interior and begin making your way up towards the Georgia border. Soon the accents take on more of a southernly drawl. The signs for barbecue increase. Sports cars are replaced by pickup trucks. Yachts for fishing boats. Chanel for camouflage. And if you venture on over to the Florida panhandle, you’ll quickly realize why the call it the “Redneck Riviera”.
Mosquitos get stuck in your sweat.
Visit Florida any time other than winter and two things are guaranteed: humidity and bugs. And often times they’re both simultaneously occurring. Summertime is the worst for both. So if you’re not on the beach using the salt air as mosquito repellant, be sure to seek out air-conditioning. Because unlike some other states, every building, home and store in Florida has A/C.
There are no mountains…or even hills.
As you begin your final descent and start gazing out the plane’s window, one thing is remarkably clear: Florida is flat as a board. Sure there are sand dunes, high-rise building, bridges and the occasional small hill, but for the most part the entire Sunshine State is at sea level. Downhill skateboards are virtually useless here.
Theme parks are everywhere.
What started with Cypress Gardens in 1936 was quickly overshadowed with the likes of Disney World, Busch Gardens, Sea World, Universal Studios and Legoland as well as lesser-known oddities like the Alligator Farm, Marineland and Dinosaur World. And nowadays it seems like there’s always some fresh tourist trap springing up or rad new ride at one of the big dog’s sprawling wonderlands.
Golf courses are everywhere.
There’s a special term reserved for people who migrate sound for the winter. In Florida, we call them “snowbirds”. Yet you can’t really blame folks for wanting to escape the throngs of an icy winter for year-round sunshine. And that translates into year-round golfing opportunities. Because of its popularity within the golf community, Florida boasts some of the nation’s best links including the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach which hosts The PLAYERS Championship.
Everything on the menu is fried.
Sure there are a few other options, but I’ve never seen such a diversely deep-fried list that includes: pickles, zucchini, oysters, alligator tail, frog legs and even Thanksgiving turkey. Be sure to save room for desert! ‘Round here, it’s easy to find fried ice cream or sizzled Twinkies. And it’s probably best to plan for a later dinner as most restaurants will likely be swamped with “snowbirds” trying to save a few bucks on the early-bird specials before 6:00pm.
You realize why people vacation here.
All jokes aside, Florida is an amazing place to live. We’ve got theme parks, golf courses, fried food and ice-cold air conditioning! Seriously though, there’s nearly 1200 miles of beautiful coastline and more than 11,000 miles of rivers, streams and waterways statewide. Plus, there’s no state income tax. But for me, most of all, it’s home. And although I live out of state now, whenever I descend into the Floridian flatlands a whirlwind of remarkable memories bubble forth. Memories of running barefoot between the marshes and beach. Memories of never having to wear jeans or a jacket. And, perhaps most importantly, how amazing that initial blast of A/C feels when you first step indoors on a hot summer day.