Lonely Planet Florida

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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Florida is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Dance to Caribbean beats in Miami, fulfill your inner child at Walt Disney World, or kayak the Everglades' shallow waterways; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Florida and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Florida Travel Guide:

  • Color maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, culture, art, literature, cinema, music, art-deco architecture, cuisine, landscapes, wildlife.
  • Free, convenient pull-out Miami city map (included in print version), plus over 20 color maps
  • Covers Miami, South Beach, Everglades, Florida Keys, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Orlando, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld, Cape Canaveral, Tampa Bay and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalize your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Florida, our most comprehensive guide to Florida, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

  • Looking for just the highlights? Check out Lonely Planet's Discover Florida, a photo-rich guide to the state's most popular attractions.
  • Looking for a guide focused on Miami? Check out Lonely Planet's Miami & the Keys guide for a comprehensive look at all the city has to offer.
  • Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Eastern USA guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer, or Florida & the South's Best Trips, for amazing road-trip itineraries.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Adam Karlin, Jennifer Denniston, Paula Hardy and Ben Walker.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

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Miami

ePub

Miami is so many things, but to most visitors, it’s mainly glamour, condensed into urban form.

They’re right. The archaic definition of ‘glamour’ is a kind of spell that mystifies a victim. Well, they call Miami the Magic City. And it is mystifying. In its beauty, certainly: the clack of a model’s high heels on Lincoln Rd, the teal sweep of Biscayne Bay, flowing cool into the wide South Florida sky; the blood-orange fire of the sunset, setting the downtown skyline aflame.

Then there’s less-conventional beauty: a poetry slam in a converted warehouse, or a Venezuelan singing Metallica en español in a Coral Gables karaoke bar, or the passing shalom/buenas días traded between Orthodox Jews and Cuban exiles.

Miami is so many things. All glamorous, in every sense of the word. You could spend a fun lifetime trying to escape her spell.

AJan–Mar Warm and dry, with lots of tourists; snowbirds from the northeast and Europeans.

 

Art Deco Miami

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South Beach may be known for celebrity spotting, but the area's original cachet owes less to paparazzi and more to preservation. The art-deco design movement, the architectural and aesthetic backbone of SoBe, is powerfully distinctive and finds expression in soft lines, bright pastels and the integration of neon into structural facades.

In the past, South Beach architects distinguished themselves through decorative finials, parapets and neon signage. Miami Beach deco relies on 'stepped-back' facades that disrupt the harsh, flat Florida light. Cantilevered 'eyebrows' jut out above windows to protect interiors from the sun.

This lovely building, along with the neighboring Carlyle Hotel, was the first to be rescued by the original Miami Beach Preservation League when developers threatened to raze South Beach's deco buildings in the 1980s.

Located at 1250 Ocean Dr, the Carlyle comes with futuristic styling, triple parapets, a Jetsons vibe and some cinematic cachet: The Birdcage was filmed here.

 

The Everglades

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There is no wilderness in America quite like the Everglades. Called the ‘River of Grass’ by its initial Native American inhabitants, this is not just a wetland, or a swamp, or a lake, or a river, or a prairie, or a grassland – it is all of the above, twisted together into a series of soft horizons, long vistas, sunsets that stretch across your entire field of vision and the creeping grin of a large population of dinosaur-era reptiles.

When you watch anhinga flexing their wings before breaking into a corkscrew dive, or the slow, Jurassic flap of a great blue heron gliding over its domain, or the sun kissing miles of unbroken saw grass as it sets behind humps of skeletal cypress domes, you’ll have an idea of what we’re speaking of. In a nation where natural beauty is measured by its capacity for drama, the Everglades subtly, contentedly flows on.

ADec–Mar Dry season: top wildlife viewing along watercourses, but some kayaking will be difficult.

 

Florida Keys & Key West

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If Florida is a state apart from the USA, the Keys are islands apart from Florida – in other words, it's different down here. They march to the beat of their own drum, or Alabama country band, or Jimmy Buffett single, or Bahamanian steel calypso set... This is a place where those who reject everyday life on the mainland escape. What do they find? About 113 mangrove-and-sandbar islands where the white sun melts over tight fists of deep green mangroves; long, gloriously soft mudflats and tidal bars; water as teal as Arizona turquoise; and a bunch of people often like themselves: freaks, geeks and lovable weirdoes all.

Key West is still defined by its motto, which we love – One Human Family – an ideal that equals a tolerant, accepting ethos where anything goes and life is always a party (or at least a hungover day after). The color scheme: watercolor pastels cooled by breezes on a sunset-kissed Bahamian porch. Welcome to the End of the USA.

Have a drink.

ADec–Mar It’s dry, the sun is out, the weather is grand and the lodging is at its most expensive.

 

Southeast Florida

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Zooming north from Miami's tanned and diamond-draped clutches, you'll find an endearing collection of beach towns – some classy, others quirky, all unique. From activity-packed, gay- and family-friendly Fort Lauderdale to quiet, exclusive, semireclusive Palm Beach, laid-back Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and the rugged coast of Jupiter, you'll find more adventure and nightlife than you can handle. This chunk of coast also includes some of Florida's wealthiest enclaves – enjoy gawking at the castle-like beachfront mansions, but don't rear-end that $350,000 Bentley when parallel parking in front of the Gucci store in Palm Beach!

For those looking for a more down-to-earth setting, the region's numerous natural gems – secluded islands, moss-draped mangrove swamps, wild rivers, empty dunes – will surely satisfy your demands for nonmaterial pleasures.

So please, whatever you do, don't skip over this region on your journey from Miami to Disney World.

AMar & Apr Spring break hits, packing beaches with party-happy twentysomethings.

 

Orlando & Walt Disney World

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Play quidditch with Harry Potter, disappear into the Twilight Zone in a haunted elevator, whip through the air on a sea monster. In Orlando, the Theme Park Capital of the World, it's all about adrenaline-fueled fun wrapped up in the mystique of storytelling and fantasy. Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort (including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter), SeaWorld and Discovery Cove cluster within 15 miles of one another, and Legoland is an hour's drive from downtown Orlando. These carefully constructed environments, dripping with illusion and magic, and filled with rides, shows and parades, promise escape from the everyday. Folks flock here by the thousands looking for just that. Sure, Orlando has a quieter side, too, with world-class museums, excellent nature preserves and a burgeoning field-to-fork restaurant scene, but as wonderful as it may be, the city will always lie in the shadow of Cinderella's Castle and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft.

ASep Theme-park crowds thin, accommodations rates drop, summer sizzle fades.

 

The Space Coast

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More than 75 miles of barrier-island Atlantic Coast stretch from Canaveral National Seashore south to Vero Beach, encompassing undeveloped stretches of endless white sand, an entrenched surf culture and pockets of Old Florida.

The Kennedy Space Center and several small museums dedicated to the history, heroes and science of the United States' space program give the Space Coast its name, and the region's tourist hub of Cocoa Beach is the launching point for massive cruise ships. But beyond the 3D space movies, tiki-hut bars and surf shops, the Space Coast offers quintessential Florida wildlife for everyone from grandmas to toddlers. Kayak with manatees, camp on a private island or simply stroll along miles and miles of sandy white beaches – it's easy to find a quiet spot.

AJul Crowds diminish; prices drop; loggerhead sea turtles nest along miles of sandy coastline.

AApr More sunny days than any other month, and most spring-breakers have come and gone.

 

Northeast Florida

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Few regions highlight the diversity of Florida's geography and character as dramatically as the Northeast.

Near the Florida–Georgia border, Amelia Island is a gorgeous Southern belle, resplendent in nature's finest ornamentation. An hour to the south, Jacksonville, Florida's most populous city, is an urban sprawl of high-rises, highways and steel-girded bridges. Jacksonville's mellow beaches offer a refreshingly slower pace to their southern Atlantic counterparts. Incongruous and unique, nearby St Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied city in the US, has something for everyone – history, architecture, culture, a gamut of excellent dining and plenty of kid-friendly tourist schmaltz. The latter edges its way down to Daytona, 'the most famous beach in the world,' a proud party king, ever at the ready to whip off his shirt, down a beer with a shot of tequila and get all revved up for some r-r-r-racing: NASCAR, that is.

For a slower pace, retreat inland for rural tranquillity, quaint antiques villages, pristine springs and miles of clover-green pastures.

 

Tampa Bay & Southwest Florida

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To drive southwest Florida's Gulf Coast is to enter an impressionistic watercolor painting: first, there is the dazzling white quartz sand of its barrier-island beaches, whose turquoise waters darken to silver-mantled indigo as the fiery sun lowers to the horizon. Later, seen from the causeways, those same islands become a phosphorescent smear beneath the inky black night sky.

The Gulf Coast's beauty is its main attraction, but variety is a close second: from Tampa to St Petersburg to Sarasota to Naples, there is urban sophistication and exquisite cuisine. There are secluded islands, family-friendly resorts and Spring Break–style parties.

Here, Salvador Dalí's melting canvases, Ringling's Venetian Gothic palace and Chihuly's tentacled glass sculptures fit perfectly – all are bright, bold, surreal entertainments to match wintering manatees, roseate spoonbills, open-mouthed alligators and the peacock-colored, sequined costumes of twirling trapeze artists.

AMid-Feb–mid-Apr Peak season, ideal weather, high prices. Best for camping, hiking, manatees.

 

The Panhandle

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Take the best bits of the Deep South – friendly ('howdy y'all!') people, a molasses-slow pace, oak-lined roads and fried green tomatoes – then add sugar-white beaches, clear natural springs and bountiful seafood and you're beginning to conjure up the magnificent, diverse and highly underrated Florida Panhandle: so overlooked in the bigger Florida picture that we almost want to keep it to ourselves.

Dig your toes into the endless miles of impossible white sands and azure waters of the Gulf Coast, gallery-hop in pretty Pensacola with its surprising wealth of history and understated class, fish the primeval Steinhatchee, explore the rugged wilderness of St Vincent Island and be sure to bunker down for some slow, balmy nights in charming Apalachicola. Too chilled? Head on over to gaudy Panama City Beach and suck down Jell-O shots with the spring-breakers.

Consider it road-trip heaven.

AMar & Apr Spring-breakers descend upon the gulf to party.

 

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