When it comes to visiting a place like Florida, it might be in your best interest to know where the locals go. Since Florida relies on tourists, there are many places that are overlooked when it comes to visiting. Touristy destinations usually only want one thing from you: your money! Clever tourists look for the locals.
Why Look for the Florida Locals?
Tourists often seek out local experiences for a variety of reasons:
1. Authentic Experience: Eating, shopping, or visiting places where locals frequent offers a genuine and authentic experience of a place. It allows tourists to get a real feel for the culture, traditions, and everyday life of the destination, which is often not available in the main tourist hubs.
2. Better Value for Money: Tourist-centric places can sometimes be more expensive. Local spots might offer better deals, quality products, and genuine crafts, giving tourists more bang for their buck.
3. Unique Finds and Discoveries: Venturing to local haunts can lead tourists to discover hidden gems not found in guidebooks or popular travel websites. This can be in the form of unique food items, artisan crafts, or off-the-beaten-path attractions.
4. Less Crowded: Popular tourist attractions can sometimes be overcrowded, leading to long wait times and a less than pleasant experience. Local spots are less likely to be crowded, allowing for a more relaxed and enjoyable experience.
5. Direct Economic Benefit: Supporting local businesses directly benefits the community. Money spent in local establishments is more likely to stay in the community, supporting the local economy and the people who live there.
6. Richer Stories and Conversations: Interacting with locals at their favorite spots can lead to meaningful conversations, personal stories, and insider tips that enrich the travel experience.
7. Experimentation and Adventure: Trying local foods, visiting local attractions, or shopping in local markets can be an adventure. It allows tourists to step out of their comfort zone, try new things, and create memorable experiences.
8. Greater Cultural Understanding: Engaging with the local community and participating in local customs and traditions fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of the culture.
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Where are the Florida Locals?
Here are some of the places where you’ll find us locals:
1. Enchanting Springs and Natural Parks
Ginnie Springs: Located in High Springs, this is a paradise for those who love freshwater activities. Crystal clear waters offer an ideal setting for tubing, snorkeling, and diving. Moreover, the underwater cave system here is among the best in the world, drawing divers from all over.
Ocala National Forest: Spanning over 600 square miles, it’s a haven for hikers, campers, and nature enthusiasts. The forest houses several natural springs, including Juniper Springs and Alexander Springs, where locals escape the hustle and bustle.
2. Pristine Lesser-Known Beaches
Blowing Rocks Preserve: On Jupiter Island, this natural preserve boasts a shoreline of limestone formations, a rarity in Florida. During high tide, waves crashing against the rocks create spectacular plumes of ocean spray.
Caladesi Island State Park: Accessible only by boat, this island offers an untouched beach experience. With white sand and turquoise waters, it’s a favorite for those in-the-know.
3. Cultural Hubs and Historical Sites
Ybor City: Situated in Tampa, it’s the historic and cultural heart of the city. Known for its Cuban influence, you can find hand-rolled cigars, authentic Cuban food, and vibrant nightlife here.
St. Augustine: As the oldest city in the U.S., St. Augustine is rich in history. Wander through its cobblestone streets, visit the Castillo de San Marcos, or take a sip from the Fountain of Youth.
4. Authentic Culinary Experiences
Joe’s Stone Crab: In Miami since 1913, this establishment serves some of the best stone crab claws, a must-try delicacy when in Florida.
Cuban Sandwiches in Little Havana: Miami’s Little Havana offers a range of authentic Cuban eateries, where you can enjoy the classic Cuban sandwich, a perfect blend of ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. There are many restaurants where you’ll find these sandwiches and the locals.
5. Charming Small Towns
Matlacha: An artist’s enclave located on Pine Island, it’s filled with brightly colored art galleries, shops, and seafood restaurants. It’s a treat for those who appreciate art and culture.
Safety Harbor: Nestled by the western shore of Tampa Bay, it’s renowned for the Safety Harbor Spa and Resort. The town’s Main Street is dotted with unique boutiques, eateries, and hosts frequent art festivals.
6. Florida’s Scenic Byways
The A1A Coastal Byway: Stretching from Fernandina Beach to Flagler Beach, this drive offers breathtaking ocean views, beach access points, and charming coastal towns. Since many open areas have now become cluttered with condos, there are a number of places along this scenic and iconic highway where there are no views of the ocean.
Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway: Connecting Tampa to Miami, this route takes you through the heart of the Everglades, showcasing Florida’s unique wetlands and wildlife.
While you’ll find the locals shopping in the malls and markets, most of the time, we avoid the touristy things for the less crowded and coveted places. If you go find a restaurant with a crowded parking lot, look at the tags. If they’re Florida plates, then come in and dine with the locals.
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