A Villa Rental Holiday in Florida,
The “Sunshine State”
Orlando and The Theme Parks
When most people think of Florida, the first thing that comes to mind is Disney World, so it is only fitting that this is where we should start this flying tour of the opportunities on offer in The “Sunshine State”.
Let’s begin with a safari ride through the 500 acre themed Animal Kingdom, the largest Disney Theme Park in the world that is dedicated to animal conservation. Enjoy being transported through Africa and Asia before coming face to face with a Yeti on the Everest Expedition rollercoaster. Take a breather at the Rainforest Cafe for lunch and get wet on the Kali River Rapids before sitting back and enjoying The Festival of The Lion King!
Although it is not part of the Disney family, Orlando’s SeaWorld is just as much of an institution. The “Orca show” is a must-see, as is “Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island”, fronted by two incredible Californian sea lions.
Everyone has their favourite rides after a trip to Florida, but for me nothing can beat the experience of sailing weightlessly through the sky in graceful arcs inspired by the manta ray on the aptly titled Manta, or the excitement of the fear-inducing, floorless, Kraken.
If you’ve chosen to stay in a villa rental in Florida you’ll be ideally positioned to get to all these attractions. Many of the holiday villas on Villaseek are within five to 10 minutes’ drive of the main parks. And it’s not just Disney World: Universal and Hollywood Studios also have much to offer. Try the “Tower of Terror” if you’re brave enough — it’s billed as the ultimate “drop tower thrill ride”
But it’s the Magic Kingdom, the enchanted world of princes and princesses, where you’ll find one of the world’s most famous couples, Mickey and Minnie Mouse — so that’s a must if you’re planning a family holiday to Florida and have young children in tow! After watching the parade, there are lunching opportunities with Winnie the Pooh and his friends…and you can even visit Mickey and Minnie in their home, before ending the day with Disney’s legendary fireworks display. Watch out for Tinker Bell’s daring arrival at the end…
If you’re staying in a Florida villa rental in order to be close to the theme parks, then do make time to head south along the Eastern Seaboard. Here you’ll find some fabulous beaches, with clear water, year round sunshine and soft, golden sands.
The whole coast is lined with exquisite beaches but to whet your appetite, why not consider Palm Beach, the easternmost town in Florida, located on a barrier island just over 2 1/2 hours south of the theme parks. It’s dubbed the “Gold Coast”. We’ll leave it up to you to decide whether it coined this name due to the opulence on show as you wander along the high class boutiques, dine in the fine restaurants and marvel at the mansions, or the beautiful golden beaches that line the shore.
Just a thirty minute drive further south along the coast will bring you to Delray Beach. This seaside village was established as an agricultural community in 1895 and has now become a popular destination for families attracted to the two mile long sandy beach, perfect for sandcastle building, sunbathing and swimming. For the sports enthusiast a holiday staying in a villa in this part of Florida could be combined with taking in the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships, an ATP World Tour event hosted here every year.
Another route to The Everglades and Florida Keys from the theme parks would be to cross the state and travel down the the western Gulf Coast.
The winner of Florida’s best beach town, as voted for by USA Today readers in January 2013, is Clearwater Beach just west of Tampa. A visit here can offer far more than just stunning beaches though. Clearwater Beach is home to Winter, the bottlenose dolphin featured in the movie Dolphin Tale who lives at the Marine Aquarium and the internationally renowned Clearwater Jazz Festival. The major league baseball team The Philadelphia Phillies have been holding their spring training games at Bright House Field since 1948 and National Superboat Championships and the Ironman are also hosted here.
Siesta Key is a barrier island just off the enticingly named Treasure Coast and minutes west of Sarasota. Dedicated to the arts, Sarasota is home to a range of operas, ballets, museums and galleries and the thriving arts community continues in Siesta Village where you’ll find artisans and writers hanging out at the funky beach bars and cafes. After delving into the culture, soak your toes in the crystal clear waters and bask on the white sandy beaches or take a trek through Myakka River State Park.
Local folklore suggests Captiva Island was so named because of the pirate captain Jose Gaspar who brought his female prisoners here. Before the arrival of the pirates though, it was home to the Calusa Indians. The name means “fierce people”. They were no more welcoming than the pirates and attacked any explorers who tried to enter their territory but died out due to slavery and disease. You’ll find today’s locals far more receptive however and Captiva Island can offer a laid-back holiday destination that is refreshingly free from fast food drive throughs, traffic lights, or any buildings taller than a palm tree.
Just a few paces north of The Everglades is Naples with over ten miles of beaches, friendly parks, world class shopping and dining and over 80 championship golf courses. The options are endless here so why not simply start your stay in this area by relaxing on the family friendly beach from which you can admire the mansions of millionaire’s row in one direction and the endless ocean in the other while you plot your next move.
Miami, The Florida Keys and The Everglades
With a tropical monsoon climate, visits to Miami should consider the hurricane season which runs from the start of June until the end of November. The winter, however, brings warm, dry weather which, combined with a stunning coastline, including the well known South Beach, can make Miami a good base from which to enjoy a villa holiday in South Florida. In addition to the classic images of beautiful celebrities tanning on golden beaches, Miami is bursting with art galleries and museums, restaurants and a bustling nightlife.
Mention The Everglades to the less informed tourist and the images that spring to mind are swamps and alligators. For the more adventurous however, what awaits you is Northern America’s only subtropical preserve, a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. There are alligators here and it’s the only place in the world where they live side by side with crocodiles, but these amazing creatures also share their home with an array of wildlife including the Florida panther, West Indian manatee and bottlenose dolphin. Whether your holiday involves hiking, biking, boating or just admiring the wilderness and wildlife, The Everglades is not to be missed!
Around 15 miles south of Florida and spanning 126 miles south-southwest and then westward towards Cuba, The Florida Keys are a coral archipelago with an enviable tropical climate. Explore the islands via causeways and bridges, taking in the beautiful views along the way. Choose from fishing, snorkelling or diving in the crystal clear waters and hunt for unique gifts in local galleries and museums. Then, as the sun goes down, marvel over arguably one of the best sunsets in the world, while enjoying the fresh seafood and famous Key Lime Pie.
Although we’ve barely touched the surface of what Florida has available, hopefully we’ve given a taster of the kind of variety that a villa holiday in the Sunshine State can offer. For more about the Florida theme parks, take a look at our in-depth article on the main Villaseek site. But if you’re tempted by all those beaches, the wilderness and the wildlife, then it really is possible to combine the best bits of the Florida experience – to see how, read “A tale of two holidays“.
Have any tips of your own? Do let us know in the comments…
Florida: Latest news from the Villaseek Blog
Brits just can’t get enough of the sunshine state of Florida, with Orlando the particular holiday favourite for this summer according to recent analysis.
The metasearch website momondo.co.uk analyses its UK flight search data from the last three months, for travel during the UK holiday period and a departure date between June and August 2014 and came up with Brits’ top summer destinations.
Orlando was the clear winner, proving the theme-park capital and family-friendly atmosphere is something that keeps it at the top of our summer holiday list.
The website also studied the most popular places in the world according to data from 20 of the UK’s biggest airports to create each airport’s “Top 5” summer destinations. Orlando appeared in seven out of 20 of these airport lists.
Other firm favourites were Spanish destinations of Alicante and Malaga, coming in third and fourth respectively on overall most-searched destinations for summer 2014. Both also appeared in the top five for 13 out of 20 UK airport lists.
“It’s encouraging to see Orlando in favour with Brits this year as a popular place to visit over the summer holidays, with its excellent activities and parks for the whole family. And long-haul destination New York was also popular this summer too – at a time when the climate is warm.
“It seems the traditional Spanish summer break though will always appeal to Brits, with short-haul flights and a practical sun guarantee. It is interesting to see Turkey hot on the heels of Spain however, with Dalaman coming in fifth most-popular destination overall. Sizzling hot weather and great deals on this up and coming destination no doubt will be drawing the crowds in this year,” says Julie Pedersen, Spokesperson for momondo.
OVERALL TOP 10 MOST-SEARCHED SUMMER DESTINATIONS FOR BRITS
2) New York
8) Palma de Mallorca
9) Los Angeles