Florida means almost anything: amusement kingdoms, Latin and Caribbean capitals, wild wetlands, artist colonies, and wild surf beaches. This vast, flat peninsula has it all.
Maybe there's no mystery to what makes the Florida peninsula so intoxicating. Beaches as fine and sweet as powdered sugar, warm waters, rustling mangroves: all conspire to melt our workaday selves. We come to Florida to let go – of worries and winter, of inhibitions, even of reality. Some desire a beachside getaway of swimming, seafood and sunsets. Others seek the hedonism of South Beach, spring break or Key West. Some want birding and wildlife spotting, with gators, manatees and the elusive spoonbill. Others will lose themselves within the fantasy realms of Walt Disney World® and Orlando's other theme parks.
Within Florida's semitropical wilderness, alligators prowl the waterways, spoonbills strut through ponds, manatees winter in springs and sea turtles nest in summer. Osprey and eagles, dolphins and tarpon, coral-reef forests, oceans of saw grass: despite the best (or worst!) efforts of 21st-century humans, vast portions of Florida remain untamed. In a nation where natural beauty is often measured by topography, flat Florida is underappreciated by outdoors fanatics, but here you can paddle a kayak over the back of a sleeping Jurassic-era alligator, and meet loggerhead turtles and manatees underwater, eye to eye.
While many know Florida for beaches and theme parks, few understand that this is one of the most populous states in the country, a bellwether for the American experiment. And that experiment – and this state – is more diverse than ever. From rural hunters and trappers in the geographically northern, culturally Southern climes, to Jewish transplants sitting side by side with Latin arrivals from every Spanish-speaking nation in the world, it's hard to beat Florida when it comes to experiencing the human weft and weave at its most colorful and vibrant.
Culture By the Coast
Tan, tropical Florida is smarter and more culturally savvy than its appearance suggests. This state, particularly South Florida, has a reputation for attracting eccentrics and idiosyncratic types from across the US, Latin America and Europe. Many of these folks, and their descendants, have gone on to create or provide patronage for the arts, as evidenced by enormous concert spaces in Miami, a glut of museums on the Gulf Coast, and a long, literary tradition – Florida has produced more than its fair share of great American authors.