Sprawling and businesslike, Tampa lacks the iconic downtown skyline and cultural buzz that gives Miami its distinct persona. Therefore, it's surprising to learn that so many new museums, parks and gourmet South Tampa restaurants have popped up recently that the city is dangerously close to becoming stylish.
West Palm Beach
When Henry Flagler decided to develop what is now West Palm Beach, he knew precisely what it would become: a working-class community for the labor force that would support his glittering resort town across the causeway. And so the fraternal twins were born – Palm Beach, considered the fairer of the two, and West Palm Beach, a cooler work-hard-play-hard community.
Florida's gracious state capital, blanketed by moss-draped live oaks and infused with a blend of historic and university cultures, sits inland at the edge of what's known as the Big Bend region – a little-traveled arc of the Florida coastline that curves around the Gulf of Mexico.
Entire vacations can be spent soaking up the sights and pretty beaches of sophisticated Sarasota, but this city took its time to become the culturally rich place it is today. Even after marauding Spanish explorers expelled the native Calusa people from this coastline in the 15th century, the land lay virtually empty.
Known for its wide, hard-packed white sandy beaches, gaudy carnival attractions, and as a mecca for leather-clad bikers, revheads and spring breakers, Daytona Beach is most famous as the birthplace of the ultra-Southern and mega-popular motorsport of NASCAR racing and as home of the Daytona 500.
North Central Florida
Sprinkled between the thoroughbred-horse studs, the sprawling forest of Ocala and the funky college town of Gainesville, you'll discover crystal-clear springs, meandering back roads and small Victorian gingerbread towns reminiscent of a time before the tourism explosion. North Central Florida is more 'Southern' than Florida's South. Go figure!
Nestled inland along the Caloosahatchee River, and separated from Fort Myers Beach by several miles of urban sprawl, the city of Fort Myers is often defined by what it's not: it's not an upscale, arty beach town like Sarasota or Naples, and it's not as urbanely sophisticated as Tampa or St Petersburg.
Universal Orlando Resort
Pedestrian-friendly Universal Orlando Resort offers fantastic rides, excellent children's attractions and entertaining shows. It's comparable to Walt Disney World, but Universal does everything just a bit smarter, funnier, and more smoothly, as well as being smaller and easier to navigate. Instead of the seven dwarfs, there's the Simpsons.