Experience everything outdoors in Florida, from dining and fitness to nature and shopping.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Nov. 7, 2019): As temperatures start to plummet across the United States, the balmy weather in Florida draws visitors looking for a warm winter escape. Beyond soaking in the sun on Florida’s pristine beaches, visitors flock to the Sunshine State in search of opportunities to enjoy everything outdoors.
Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will find much to appreciate on Florida’s Historic Coast. St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach offer plenty of eco-excursions, whether it’s fishing on or off shore, bird-watching at key stops along the Great Florida Birding Trail, hiking through state parks and coastal areas, searching for wildlife, watching for sea life, biking, surfing, swimming or beachcomber adventures.
Home to more than 700 miles of diverse trails, Tallahassee is known for its unique Florida topography that appeals to those seeking running, hiking, paddling, cycling and equestrian adventures. From black water rivers (home to peaceful manatees) and springs to rugged mountain bike trails (lined with towering live oaks) and forest prairies, Florida’s capital city gives visitors plenty of reasons to leave the city behind. Both novice explorers and experienced outdoor enthusiasts will find the perfect trail—searchable by terrain, activity, skill level, and more—at Trailahassee, a wonderful tool to help plan the perfect outdoor getaway.
Visitors can get back to nature on Florida’s Space Coast as well, where they can view the sparkling underwater “magic” of bioluminescent lagoons as they glide above in a clear-bottomed kayak. Or they can monkey around at the Brevard Zoo – home to more than 900 animals, visitors can feed a giraffe, have a rhino encounter, or take a guided kayak tour around the animal exhibits.
Florida is also for the birds—literally. Located in Northwest Florida, Wakulla County offers the perfect birding opportunity for both novice and experienced birders alike. With over 300 species of migratory and nesting birds, Wakulla County attracts nature-lovers looking to catch a glimpse of the many species flying south to set up their winter homes.
In Central Florida, attractions burst with winter-time activity, beckoning visitors to stay and play. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales will inspire visitors with Olmsted gardens, a majestic bell tower, carillon concerts and the historic Pinewood Mansion. With daily concerts, nature walks, and special events—plus the new Outdoor Kitchen and Children's Garden—Bok Tower Gardens will renew the spirit of winter-weary travelers. Cowboys and cowgirls yearning for some good old-fashioned fun will love Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo, an authentic dude ranch located east of Lake Wales. With horseback riding, Saturday night rodeos, a trap and skeet shooting range, airboat rides and lodging, Westgate offers a family-friendly taste of the West with a Florida twist.
On the Treasure Coast, and more particularly Indian River County, visitors will find a piece of paradise—perhaps that is why National Geographic Traveler added the area to its list of “15 Epic Summer Vacation Spots” this year. But why wait until summer? Situated along the Atlantic Ocean, the communities of Vero Beach, Sebastian and Fellsmere offer plenty for winter visitors. One fun way to tour the area is by conquering the Treasure Coast Wine & Ale Trail. With a dozen trail stops—including breweries, a winery, and a cidery—many venues feature outdoor dining, spacious (and sometimes dog-friendly) patios, and even some family-friendly spots with sand boxes and play areas.
Looking to hit the links? It’s tee time on Amelia Island, a golfer’s paradise in Northeastern Florida, which contains an abundance of golf courses designed by famed and award-winning golf course architects. Named a “Silver Medal Golf Resort” by Golf Magazine, Omni Amelia Island Plantation boasts 36 championship holes. Oak Marsh, designed by Pete Dye, offers challenges for novice and professional golfers alike. Omni guests also have access to Long Point, an exclusive member’s course designed by Tom Fazio, offering 18 holes among primal marshlands and the towering sand dunes of the Atlantic. The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Golf Academy offers students individualized one-on-one and take-home video instruction. Also offered is The Golf Club of Amelia Island which features an 18-hole championship course located next to Summer Beach Resort and The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. Designed by Mark McCumber and Gene Littler, the course takes full advantage of the natural terrain offering spectacular views. Amelia River is an 18-hole, 6,823-yard Tom Jackson design and is renowned as one of the area’s best conditioned courses with incredibly smooth TifEagle greens, sculpted around a forest of majestic Live Oaks, and Sabal Palms. The 27-hole Fernandina Beach Golf Club is considered one of the finest public courses in the Southeast.
Whether visitors are embarking on some early holiday shopping, searching for the latest Black Friday deals, or staying up to date on haute couture, The Palm Beaches is the ultimate destination for retail therapy. With plenty of walkable shopping destinations (many with al fresco dining options), visitors can get their retail fix in The Palm Beaches. Visitors looking for a luxury shopping destination can head to Town Center at Boca Raton, which features a mix of 220 upscale and elite specialty shops along with mall favorites and department stores like Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Worth Drive, the East Coast’s version of Rodeo Drive, is where shoppers will find a luxury shopping mecca, home to several upscale brands and one-of-a-kind boutiques set against the backdrop of palm-tree-lined streets. Head to Downtown Delray for charming streetscapes filled with eclectic shops, local artisans, and fantastic eateries—all with a small-town ambiance. While there, visitors won’t want to miss Pineapple Grove, a colorful arts district with a quirky vibe and plenty of shopping and dining opportunities.
On Florida’s West Coast, visitors can soak in the “Old Florida” ambiance that still thrives on 16 miles of sugar white beaches, with options for swimming, snorkeling or searching for seashells. In particular, check out Anna Maria Island’s Coquina Beach, recently named one of the world’s top island beaches for perfect sand by Conde Nast Traveler readers.
Northwest Florida’s warm weather and thinner crowds also draw visitors looking for roomy stretches of beaches and brisk water activities. While Pensacola Beach and Perdido Beach are popular year-round, crowds are much thinner in the winter, making these beaches the perfect sandy destination for walking, jogging, or bike-riding along the shores. While winter water temperatures dip in the Gulf Coast, the clearer waters make it easier to see marine life while paddle boarding or kayaking in the surrounding waterways.
About VISIT FLORIDA
As the Sunshine State’s No. 1 industry, tourism was responsible for welcoming 124.7 million visitors in 2018. Based on the latest economic impact study, Florida visitors contributed $85.9 billion to Florida's economy and supported 1.5 million Florida jobs in 2017. According to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, for every $1 the state invests in VISIT FLORIDA, the official tourism marketing corporation for the State of Florida, $2.15 in tax revenue is generated. VISIT FLORIDA promotes tourism to Florida through sales, advertising, promotions, public relations and visitor services programs. As a public/private partnership, VISIT FLORIDA serves more than 13,000 tourism industry businesses, including major strategic alliance partnerships with Busch Gardens Tampa, Disney Destinations, The Hertz Corporation, Hilton, LEGOLAND Florida Resort, SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando, Simon Shopping Destinations and Universal Orlando Resort. To learn more about VISIT FLORIDA, please go to VISITFLORIDA.org or follow us on our industry social media channels: Facebook and Twitter @FloridaTourism.