Florida is front-and-center as Americans start planning getaways in 2023
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (December 1, 2022): With National Plan for Vacation Day coming up on January 31, VISIT FLORIDA wants Americans to put into action what everyone already knows – Florida is the nation’s vacation destination. Prepare visitors to plan a trip to Florida by highlighting some of its lesser-known attractions and celebrate what’s new and upcoming in 2023.
These ideas are just the start, starting from the north and heading south along both coasts.
Jacksonville wants visitors to consider a stroll through the Jax Ale Trail. The city’s growing craft beer scene provides a trail where visitors can get a passport stamped at each local brewery for free beer gear. And it’s not just beer! Visitors to Jacksonville can pop into any of its local shrimp joints that make it popular. In fact, with so many options, the city developed the Mayport Shrimp Passport to guide travelers along a savory tour. In between beer and shrimp, travelers can talk about their putting form when Jacksonville hosts The PLAYERS Stadium Course, ranked as the second best golf course in Florida by Golf Digest Magazine.
In Jacksonville’s suburbs, Ponte Vedra Beach Resorts, which includes Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and its charming sister property The Lodge & Club, offer endless opportunities for fun and sun, including surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, beach bikes, beach games and more. Ponte Vedra Beach Resorts is a top destination for culinary enthusiasts thanks to world-class culinary and beverage programs across both resorts, alongside unique offerings such as private wine tastings and cocktail classes, a brand-new in-room Romance Dining Package at The Lodge & Club and Ponte Vedra Inn & Club’s notable Chef’s Table experience at signature fine-dining restaurant: Seahorse Grille.
THE PALM COAST
With 19 miles of cinnamon-colored beaches and plenty of sunny days, the Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches invite visitors for a bit of adventure beyond the sand. Touch, swim and splash with bottlenose dolphins at Marineland Dolphin Adventure. Choose from a variety of encounters, from the “Meet-N-Greet,” where kiddos as young as five can touch a dolphin to the “Royal Swim,” a thrilling adventure that includes a dorsal tow, handshakes and hugs. The “Trainer for A Day” program allows a hands-on, behind-the-scenes look. Discover the beauty of turtle care and rehabilitation and even meet a few current patients with a group tour at the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Laboratory. Each tour is guided by a sea turtle biologist and lasts approximately 1 1/2 hours. On land, saddle up for a bucket-list adventure with Equestrian Adventures of Florida. Enjoy a leisurely horseback ride along the cinnamon-colored sand, led by experienced guide, Jennifer Miko.
Plan on skipping the saltwater in Lake County, west of Orlando, where more than 1,000 freshwater lakes await. Visitors can enjoy Cat boat tours and seaplane tours alongside other water sports. Scuba diving at Alexander Springs is popular, where the water is always 72 degrees. Lake County is home to some popular fishing and bird watching spots, as well. For accommodations, The Lakeside Inn, located in Mount Dora alongside Lake Dora, is Florida's most historic inn. For camping enthusiasts, check out Lake Louisa State Park, which offers glamping experiences, along with kayak tours and horseback riding tours
For a more small-town feel, head to Mount Dora, filled with quaint bed and breakfasts like the Grandview Bed & Breakfast and the Mount Dora Historic Inn. The downtown is lined with antique shops like Vintage Antique Mall, great restaurants, such as The Goblin Market and Pisces Rising, and galleries including Mount Dora Center for the Arts.
Ocala/Marion County provides a unique mix of outdoor adventure and more domesticated experiences. Above all, Ocala/Marion County is home to more horses than anywhere else in the country, known as Horse Capital of the World®. Visitors can experience the horses on Farm Tours of Ocala or take a carriage ride on and around Kimberden Farm with Horse Country Carriage Tours.
Prefer to hit the paths on two wheels instead of on horseback? Part of the Cross Florida Greenway and internationally recognized, the Santos Trail offers 80 miles of twisting tracks that range in challenge from Bunny to Speedway for avid cyclists. Adrenaline seekers travel for a ride on the Vortex trail that winds through challenging technical features.
For wilder travelers, the Ocala National Forest boasts approximately 387,000 acres of varied terrain, from highlands to coastal lowlands. The forest is also home to the state’s largest populations of Florida black bears and scrub jays. With 600 lakes, rivers and springs, Ocala/Marion County provides kayaking, tubing, hiking and lounging in Ocala National Forest, Rainbow Springs State Park, Silver Springs State Park, the Rainbow River, Juniper Run and Silver Glen Springs, among others. The destination is also home to Florida’s longest, fastest and highest zip lines over water. The Canyons Zip Line and Adventure Park also offers horseback riding, gem mining and kayaking.
Orlando is full of news for travelers to use in their 2023 planning. For amusement park fans, TRON Lightcycle / Run, scheduled to open at Magic Kingdom Park in spring 2023, will be one of the fastest coasters at any Disney theme park in the world. Universal Orlando Resort will open Universal’s Great Movie Escape at Universal City Walk in 2023, the park’s first-ever escape room experience. At SeaWorld, Pipeline: The Surf Coaster, is the park’s seventh roller coaster and will debut in the spring of 2023. LEGOLAND Florida will open its newest attraction – Pirate River Quest – in early 2023, as well.
Orlando Fringe will open “Fringe ArtSpace,” a year-round performing arts venue in downtown Orlando. With two performing theater spaces, the venue’s programming will feature a mix of traditionally programmed theater and concerts as well as a studio series of pop-up events like workshops, classes, readings, performances and artistic explorations.
Orlando’s dining scene has also become widely recognized, with Orlando named the No. 2 Best Foodie City in America by WalletHub. MICHELIN recognized 33 Orlando restaurants – including four starred venues, seven Bib Gourmands and 22 Recommended – thus confirming that Orlando has an exceptional culinary community.
The Bradenton area, along the Gulf Coast, is home to unencumbered beach views, historic fishing villages and a thriving agricultural and culinary scene. Bradenton's Bishop Museum of Science and Nature is home to The Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat and is currently home to three manatees: Janus, Iclyn and Aria. Avid fishers and history lovers alike will love Cortez Historic Fishing Village, Florida’s oldest active fishing village, which connects the state's historic past with current sustainable fishing practices. Cortez is also home to the Florida Maritime Museum and delicious local fish restaurants like Tide Tables and the Star Fish Company.
Beyond the water, the Village of the Arts is a live-work community within walking distance of downtown that features colorful historic bungalows with restaurants, art studios, boutiques and galleries. For a hands-on experience, head to the Shiny Fish Emporium on Anna Maria Island, where visitors can paint their own sand dollars. The Bradenton area is known for their Floribbean cuisine, a fresh take on ingredients from Florida and the Caribbean. Visitors can even fish right off the pier and eat what they catch at Anna Maria Island’s Rod and Reel Pier.
From airboats on the water to Highlands Hammock State Park, Sebring delivers unbeatable outdoor experiences with more than 100 freshwater lakes. There’s more than adventure; visit Sugar Sand Distillery, where 10 acres of sugarcane provide the base for its locally-made spirits. Visitors can also sample the craft brews at Turn 2 Brewery and Wet Dog Brewing to unwind after a day outdoors. Just be sure to hit the Sebring International Raceway first before having a drink!
Martin County offers adventure options from hydrofoiling in the Atlantic Ocean to diving historic shipwrecks. Expert guides from companies like The Fighting Lady Sportfishing Charters, Chaos Fishing Adventures, and Lady Stuart I Deep Sea Fishing will even take visitors deep sea fishing. Dive off the beaches with local diving experts, such as Kirk’s Dive & Surf, Stuart Scuba or Deep Six Dive & Watersports, to embrace the coral reefs, diverse marine life and the history of the region’s shipwrecks.
Outdoorsy travelers will appreciate Jonathan Dickinson State Park, where ranger-guided tours of the 1930’s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson are available year-round. There’s also hiking at the county’s largest regional park, Halpatiokee Regional Park, which offers two full-facility campgrounds and a primitive campground. On the water, Next Level Watersports teaches visitors how to ride the one and only LIFT eFoil, essentially a hybrid between surfing and hoverboarding.
Take a slower approach by paddling over to the St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park, located just off the coast of Port Salerno. The secluded barrier island is only accessible by boat, kayak or paddleboard, but it’s well worth the trip. Rent gear from Native Water Sports or Stuart Paddle Tours and spend an exciting afternoon exploring the island’s mangrove forests and live oak hammocks while spotting dolphins, manatees and rare birds.
Martin County boasts a wide variety of local stables offering horseback riding lessons and experiences for adventure-seekers of all ages. Contact operators like Choyce Equitours to set up a private or group horseback riding tour. You can also visit Standing Oak Farms or Treasure Coast Stables to brush up on your equestrian skills or to develop new ones.
THE PALM BEACHES
The Palm Beaches, a collection of 39 vibrant cities and towns that make up Palm Beach County, is a thriving destination of culture and spectacular natural beauty. It’s a place to dine out as much as a place to soak up sun and culture. Visitors can try the new Bar 25 at Delray Beach to sample its modern American cuisine and inventive craft cocktails. Blackbird is a new modern Asian restaurant that boasts two vibe-led cocktail bars, including an alfresco setting on the second floor with expansive, southwesterly vistas. Ela Curry Kitchen showcases refined and culturally-focused cuisine from across India in a dynamic selection of street food and fresh, daring Thali-style dishes.
For something sweet, The Salty Donut at The Square in West Palm Beach specializes in chef-made, small-batch, craft donuts that rotate based on seasonality alongside artisanal coffee. These new foodie haunts join local favorites like Café Boulud, Seafood Bar and Pistache that make the Palm Beaches a fan favorite for dining out. With its new Margaritaville at Sea cruise option to the Bahamas and the soon-to-be opened Rapids Waterpark: New Dueling Water Coaster Ride, 2023 is the year to see what The Palm Beaches are all about.
ABOUT VISIT FLORIDA
VISIT FLORIDA is the Sunshine State’s official tourism marketing corporation and travel planning resource for visitors across the globe. As Florida’s No. 1 industry, tourism was responsible for welcoming over 122 million visitors in 2021, an increase of 54 percent from 2020. VISIT FLORIDA promotes tourism through sales, advertising, promotions, public relations and visitor services programs, and serves more than 13,000 travel industry partners throughout the state. To learn more about VISIT FLORIDA, follow @FloridaTourism on Facebook and Twitter, or go to visitflorida.org. For inspiration in the Sunshine State follow @VISITFLORIDA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit www.visitflorida.com. For media resources, visit www.visitfloridamedia.com.