Hold on to your seats everybody! With wanderers coming back to Florida, planning their escape from it, and feeling nostalgic about the constant sunshine, Unexpected Wanderlust is proud to continue: Florida Week!!
For our last segment, we’ll explore the topic you’ve all been waiting for: Cities!
Let’s start with the obvious: What is the BEST Florida city?
Hamilton: St. Petersburg. Museums and art and some diversity, oh my!
Lucia: Miami! We have the beach (though not the best in Florida), we have the party scene, we’ve got a growing art scene, we got people from all over Central and South America (70% Hispanic!) which means we also have great food, the sun is always shining, and “winter” is the three days it gets below 70 F, we have the Everglades. Should I go on?
Stuart: Hmmm… I really have enjoyed my time in the Tampa Bay Area (Tampa-Saint Petersburg). Ybor City, the Tampa Bay Rays, minor league baseball, nice malls, Starbucks everywhere. I’ve only started liking baseball in the past five years, so it’s nice to be in a place where the sport abounds.
And the WORST?
Hamilton: Sarasota. I have a love/hate relationship with this city. There are good things about it, but if you are there for too long, daily life seems monotonous after a while. It becomes a stifling bubble with the homogeneous population coupled with limited options for those not in retirement.
Lucia: Miami! (you love it and you hate it). It’s one of the most superficial cities in the States, the fitness craze is way too extreme, everyone sucks at driving, you see people who look like barbies and not in a good way, people are r-u-de, and it’s expensive.
Stuart: Orlando. I mean, I like amenities of Orlando, but the traffic is awful. Like, extremely terrible. If you are going to drive through Orlando, good luck. It does not get better until you reach toll roads. Disney and Universal are fun, but all the tourists clog everything up.
What is the best city to party?
Hamilton: Tampa! Whenever I wanted to escape the 9pm closing time of the entire city of Sarasota, I headed to Ybor in Tampa with my friends. Ybor, a cultural and vintage district by day and club district by night, offers a variety of nightlife opportunities. From Goth to Hip-Hop to LGBTQ clubs and more, you can find a club that fits you with pretty cheap cover charges.
Lucia: Hate to say it again but, Miami. Ultra, South Beach, high-end clubs, we got it all.
Stuart: Tampa… though I’ve never partied in Miami. Ybor City is a lot of fun on the weekends and I like how accessible it is for parking and lodging. One time, my buddy came down to visit from the Midwest, and we went to a Rays game. We didn’t want the night to end so we went to Ybor City. Ended up getting a room in a hotel to crash in the wee moments of the morning.
Best Florida city for a family vacation?
Hamilton: As non-Florida natives, Orlando was my family’s vacation spot of choice. To this day, when we discuss going to Florida as a family, it’s always Orlando. The magic of Disney just hasn’t gone away yet.
Lucia: Sarasota. It has something for everyone, museums, beach, historical gardens, etc. And it’s always warm and sunny. Also, you could profit from the surroundings and go to St. Pete or Tampa, where you can go to Busch Gardens or Ybor city.
Stuart: Like when I was a child or when I have a family? Haha. Orlando was fun when I was younger. But I didn’t have to drive. I’d go back if I were a child. As a full adult, I probably would go somewhere near Tampa Bay. Maybe Sarasota-Bradenton or Clearwater-Saint Petersburg.
Most overrated city?
Hamilton: Daytona Beach. I don’t understand why people flock there for spring break each year. I guess it’s amazing if you love NASCAR.
Lucia: Tallahassee…besides a few government buildings it’s charm escaped me…
Stuart: Miami. I think there are a lot of great people and cultures in Miami to explore. But the sprawl makes me feel like it is overvalued. And driving. It’s so difficult of an experience.
Most underrated city?
Hamilton: St. Augustine, the oldest occupied (well, by Europeans) city in America. It’s the sort of place where the air is thick with more than just the humidity of Florida. You can feel the ghosts of the past lingering in the historic architecture dripping with Spanish moss. Being in St. Augustine is like stepping into another era, and I’m surprised that I don’t hear about people visiting it more often.
Lucia: Deltona. It’s a town no one has heard of and there is not much to see, but there’s this gorgeous river you can swim in during the summer that is incredible. One of my best summer memories.
Stuart: Ruskin. Oh Ruskin. Unfortunately, most of my experience in Florida is around the Tampa Bay Metropolitan area (I have been to other major cities in Florida like Miami and Orlando but not extensively). A small town around the Tampa Bay is Ruskin, Florida which offers one of the few remaining drive-in movie theatres. $6 per person for 2 movies. It’s a great deal. Get a group of friends, stop at the local Hardees (because apparently, that’s a thing to do), bring bug spray or mosquito coils (or both), and enjoy a few films on a big screen! (It’s cash only, so beware; there is an ATM at the Hardees/gas station combo store).
*EMEFE @ the HuB in Sarasota (Spring 2013)
What is the best city to get your culture fill?
Hamilton: Sarasota has museums, several theaters, and quite a few landmarks. It was the home of the Ringling Bros. and former artist colonies, after all. It’s not the kind of culture that pops out at you immediately, but just taking a little time to explore the city, it becomes apparent.
Lucia: If you’re looking for a world-class museum go to St. Petersburg (or St. Pete as we Floridians call it). It has one of the best Dalí collections in the world and also a pretty hip alternative art scene.
Stuart: Sarasota. Pretty much ditto to everything Hamilton said. I love theatre, and I am very happy that the FSU Asolo Conservatory program is in Sarasota, providing some great theatrical works for the community. Also, apparently Sarasota is a location where a musical in development might debut before transferring to Broadway (eg. Bonnie & Clyde).
Best city to satisfy the culinary connoisseur inside?
Hamilton: Miami, see more about this in our earlier Florida food post.
Lucia: Mmm this is a toughie… I’d say Miami again because it has a lot of diversity but it also lacks a variety of things like Indian and Thai food. Sarasota is more limited in the quantity of restaurants available but it has lots of variety from all over the world.
Stuart: Disney? Epcot brings together the foods (and drinks) of the world. … … …
Where to spend your honeymoon?
Hamilton: Captiva Island. I’ve only been there once, but I remember it being very serene.
Lucia: The Keys. They are absolutely gorgeous and you can get away from the crazy tourists. If not, I’d say Marco Island.
Stuart: To be honest, I am not going to spend my honeymoon in Florida. But South Florida is where it is. If you are looking for a quality place for a getaway (whether your honeymoon or vacation), focus your search on South Florida. The weather is nice. The beaches are lovely. And the sun is radiant.
Best city to retire? We love you snowbirds!
Hamilton: Sarasota! I’ve never been anywhere that feels more geared towards senior citizens.
Lucia: Sarasota of course! It is retirement heaven. And the senior citizens are more involved than in any other city I’ve lived in.
Stuart: I think north of Tampa, there is literally a city where people drive only golf carts. This may be a myth. But I wouldn’t doubt it.