As the world is rapidly changing and many are relocating to the state of Florida, I’ve been thinking about what it means to me to be a Floridian. I first realized how unique and special my home state was when, at 7 years old, I moved in the height of winter to Boston. Everything felt different there, from the blanket of white snow covering the ground to the chilly waters of the Northern beaches.
In Florida, I had become accustomed to barefoot cartwheels in the backyard all year long. My siblings and I must have looked funny on our adventures as we explored the neighborhood with zinc-painted faces. One of our favorite forms of entertainment consisted of a generous squirt of Palmolive soap, a garden hose, and the terrazzo terrace- an instant slip and slide! Sometimes, my family of 5 would pile into our gigantic El Dorado and in 45 minutes be in Key Largo where we had a cool little rental spot. This bungalow was complete with a diving board right into the ocean! My mom, an avid windsurfer, taught me that a good dose of “Vitamin Sea” kept the doctor away. On the days when we would drive our car onto Daytona Beach, our swimsuits didn’t stay dry long as we made sandcastles and rode the waves until sundown.
Now people aren’t just wintering here. Some of the transplants do take a minute to adjust to our summers with the abundant thunderstorms and humidity, but I suppose it’s all worth the tradeoff for our little slice of paradise. Here, nature and activities are boundless- a defining feature of the "Florida Lifestyle". This isn’t a sleepy state if you ask me. You can bike Shark Valley for 14 miles while watching the gators sunbathe only a few feet away. And if you’re craving culture, the nearby Clyde Butcher exhibit at Big Cypress Gallery has stunning black and white photographs of the Everglades, a treasured habitat unique to Florida that is also known as “The River of Grass.”
I prefer to indulge in our state’s hidden gems like a lazy tube ride down a natural spring rather than waiting in line at Disney World. I have to admit though, I do love the trappings of civilization like architecture, dining, and shopping and Florida has no shortage of these options. West Palm Beach is the home of the Anthony’s headquarters- they have been busy keeping ladies comfortable and sharp in quintessential resort attire for our sun-drenched state. The stunning Breakers Hotel on Palm Beach Island where I stayed during my honeymoon is still breathtaking. Worth Ave on the island is a quaint street with some of the best stores in the world. Towns like St. Petersburg showcase treasures like the Dalí and Chihuly museums and more. From Tallahassee (my birthplace) to Key West and in between, Florida is chock-full of interesting places to go!
I feel fortunate to have had the pleasure to raise my son here in Florida and to expose him to some of the 175 state parks available to us. The ease of wearing flip flops and a t-shirt along with sunscreen allows my outdoor adventures to continue (recalling the white zinc-covered days, I consider transparent sunblock to be a modern luxury). Today, I love visiting beautiful lighthouses throughout the state, climbing to the tops, and imagining the boats finding their way back home through the shallow waters at night.
A lifetime of experiences here has shaped my character, like my taste for Cuban food from Calle Ocho in Miami's Little Havana. The unmistakable charms Florida possesses continue to draw millions. My roots are here and so are my son’s. He is studying environmental science in Gainesville, where within ½ an hour he can be at Paynes Prairie, the only place in our state where you can find wild bison and horses. He told me he’d like to be a steward to the Florida parks he grew up with so that one day he can share them with his children. Here's to future generations of Floridians!
I'd love to hear all about your Florida lifestyle as well as your favorite locales in our state. Are there any hidden gems that you love to visit? Let me know in the comments below!