When you smell that first pumpkin spice latte you know that Fall is here and Winter is close behind. I love the feeling of pulling out all my warm clothes from the back of the closet and getting to wear scarves and soft hats again. But as Fall fades and Winter starts to drag on, it gets all but the most cold-hardy of us thinking about Florida holidays and retiring to the warmer climes.
Rightfully popular for its world-famous attractions and weather, a vacation to Florida can be hard to justify as it can be expensive – but it only has to be as expensive as you want it to be. The Sunshine State has over a thousand miles of coastline, climate from the tropical to temperate, and a rich history dating back to the 16th century, meaning it has a million and one quirky, interesting, and, most importantly, inexpensive things to do. Here are a few of the best:
Visit the Deep(est) South
The southernmost point in the continental United States is commemorated in Key West by a large, landed buoy that also helpfully points out it’s only 90 miles to Cuba. While you’re in the Keys you also can drive across the scenic and famous Seven Mile Bridge, which is the world’s longest fishing pier.
St. Augustine’s Annual Pirate Re-enactments
Yes, you heard that right: pirates running around the streets of St. Augustine, drinking and sword fighting and having a merry bonfire like in ye olden times! Drop by in March for the celebration of Captain Drake’s 1586 raid, June for Captain Searle’s 1668 landing party, or November for the official annual Pirate Gathering.
Manatees at Crystal River
The heart of Florida’s Nature Coast, Crystal River is definitely a must-see for nature lovers. Fed by underground springs that keep the river’s water its eponymous crystal clear and a comfy 72ºF all year, this is the place to winter over if you’re a manatee dodging the cool gulf waters. Diving and snorkelling with the manatees is allowed, plus there’s much more to see nearby in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.
Miami’s Art Deco Splendor
If pirates and manatees aren’t quite your thing (and who could blame you) throw on your strappy heels, grab a floppy sunhat and go be seen out in Miami’s South Beach Art Deco District. Take a stroll along the old wooden boardwalk to admire the beachfront hotels’ fine architecture and get in a good dose of people watching. National Geographic also offers a free guide to a more detailed walking tour. Know what else is free? The sun and nearby sand.