At last! We’ve reached 2021, and there is a whole new year to look forward to! You’re probably with us as we wish ‘Good riddance’ to 2020, but there is genuine hope for the months ahead.
And, with that in mind, we’d like to start the year with a fresh, inviting view of our favourite place, and challenge all our followers, customers and would-be Florida holiday-makers to respond to the following question:
What’s the first thing you’ll want to do in the Sunshine State when you can safely return (or visit for the first time)?
It’s a tantalising idea, hey? Having been on hold for US holidays for what seems like eons but is only, roughly, 10 years (*hint* we MAY be exaggerating slightly here), we are desperate to get our ‘Florida fix’ once again and, especially, for our customers to be able to do the same.
So we’re setting up all our social media this month to give YOU the chance to let US know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram exactly what is uppermost in your mind about a trip to Florida, whether it be Disney, Daytona Beach or one of the state’s chic hideaways like Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades, otherwise known as the Paradise Coast.
Knowing the state like we do, we are painfully aware of all the many wonderful vacation opportunities that have slipped away during the course of the past 10 months, from the usual Easter bonanzas to summer on the beaches, the exciting Halloween season – always a major occasion in Florida – and, of course, the Christmas and New Year holidays.
There were a record number of rocket launches – which remain an ultra-thrilling spectacle – at the Kennedy Space Center in 2020, and new developments in places like Tampa and Jacksonville.
The good news is, there is even more in store in the months ahead as the state looks to bounce back to its vibrant best, ready for business once again and eager to welcome back its hundreds of thousands of British visitors.
So, knowing full well what’s on offer – which, in 2021, includes the big 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World in Orlando, and an extra-special round of celebrations – we can certainly imagine there will be a LOT of pent-up demand for the beaches and theme parks, the nightlife and special events, and the many, many attractions that go into making Florida the unique place it is.
And, with all this cornucopia of holiday excitement to explore, WE want to know what YOU will aim to do first!
Here are 10 things that we think will be very high on the list of priorities for our customers in 2021:
1). The theme parks. After being out of bounds to international visitors since mid-March, we suspect the likes of Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens will be VERY appealing as the first stop for many.
2). The Beach. Yes, any beach in the Sunshine State. While Daytona Beach may be the most famous, there are literally hundreds of good choices (like Naples Beach, below), and they currently remain distinctly under-used but open for business. This is the quintessential Florida experience and it simply can’t be beaten.
3). Florida’s state parks. For those who enjoy their nature, and some serious wildlife-watching, there are 175 highly scenic parks, trails and historic sites on the state’s official register, and we know that places like Blue Springs State Park – with its ever-present manatees – are extremely inviting for many of our visitors.
4). The golf course. Oh boy, have the state’s hundreds of courses ever been popular in the pandemic. With outdoor recreation at a premium, golf has provided a great boon for social distancing, and its appeal has never been greater. And, for UK visitors, there is still plenty of room in 2021.
5). The nightlife. There really is nothing like that Latin vibe in Miami (below), the laid-back sounds of Key West, Orlando’s dinner-show scene, or the historic nature of Tampa’s Ybor City district at night to let you know you are somewhere special and exotic, and we’re pretty sure this will be a top priority for many returning guests.
6). Dining al fresco. If you’re anything like us, one of the things that most lets us know we are on holiday is the ability to enjoy mealtimes outdoors. Everywhere in the Sunshine State offers numerous opportunities to make it a Sunshine Plate (like the pavement cafes of Winter Park), and that’s sufficient for us to think it’s just the antidote to 2020.
7). Good beer. Yes, seriously. Florida is now home to more than a hundred specialist craft breweries, all of whom are turning out excellent ales, lagers and other in-house libations. Check out the Daytona Beach Ale Trail for a great representative sample, as well as the chance to enjoy all the seaside charms Daytona Beach can offer. It’s a double-your-fun offer!
8). A taste of Paradise. While much of the state would qualify, only the area of Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades officially qualifies as the Paradise Coast, and we think this will be one of THE most tempting get-away-from-it-all destinations in 2021. Check out their ‘Only Paradise Will Do’ video: https://youtu.be/hh7G7BPtvJ8
9). An American breakfast. Yes, it is ‘a thing,’ and the prospect of a genuine American diner, complete with “eggs over easy” and free coffee refills is definitely another attraction we can think of.
10). A Florida sunset. Here we go with another soothing image to let you know you are truly in the Sunshine State. With the sun setting behind the palm trees and the sky turning a seemingly endless succession of gorgeous pinks and oranges, this is most definitely a ‘Florida’ moment to savour. The Gulf Coast is prime sunset territory and, here, the Paradise Coast features fully 30 miles of evening horizon-watching bliss!
Those are our headline top 10, but there will be others, of course; other family traditions and wish-list moments that we’re absolutely sure visitors will be desperate to repeat in 2021. It may even just be your arrival at the airport, and (at Orlando International) the tram ride from the satellite gate to the main terminal that lets you know you have landed and that excitement awaits.
There’s also that ‘Florida smell’ of the rich, tropical landscape, and the friendly local greeting of “Hi y’all!” that is totally distinctive of this fabulous destination.
But, whatever it is, we want to hear all about it from YOU on our social media. So be sure to check us out on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and tell us what the FIRST thing is that you’ll want to do when you get back to FLORIDA (or arrive for the first time). After all, we are Florida First, and this is part of our DNA.
And so, let’s celebrate 2021…!
Susan & Simon Veness are the UK’s leading experts on Florida, having written about it for more than 25 years and sold more than half a million copies of their books about Orlando, Disney and the Sunshine State.