Relax and Stay Awhile
At the close of 2019, having welcomed 131 million visitors — the most ever in a single year — Florida had reason to be optimistic about 2020 … until COVID-19 reared its ugly head, bringing both domestic and international travel to a screeching halt. At year’s end, Florida’s visitor tally bottomed out at 87 million, a 34% decline.
Interest in Florida, however, never waned; it simply spun off in new directions. People weren’t so much planning vacations to Florida; they were moving in. Between April 2020 and April 2021, Florida welcomed close to 330,000 new resident arrivals, a trend that is expected to continue into 2025 at an average rate of 845 new residents daily.
If this quasi-peculiar behavior has you thinking — “Why Florida?” “Why now?” — here’s a mere glimpse of the lifestyle we have to offer:
Give it up Massachusetts and Virginia! Florida is where the U.S. officially began with the founding of St. Augustine in 1565. Check it out — there’s lots to see and do in this well-preserved, centuries-old town.
Florida celebrates art every which way: eclectic galleries in Miami Beach, Bradenton, Naples and Key West; original works by Salvador Dali in St. Petersburg and Louis Comfort Tiffany in Winter Park; the Ringling’s fine art and circus memorabilia on display in Sarasota; and the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.
Tons of fun
Some of the world’s most visited theme parks — Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa and LEGOLAND Florida — took a hiatus at the height of the pandemic but they’ve roared back since, along with the Kennedy Space Center Complex; NASCAR; more than a dozen zoos; at least two dozen aquariums and a turtle hospital; USTA’s National Training Center in Orlando; PGA golf tournaments and 1,250+ golf courses to play; plus a full complement of pro sports franchises including these champs: MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays, (awarded the 2020 American League pennant); NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Super Bowl LV winners, 2021); and NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning (back-to-back Stanley Cup winners, 2020 and 2021).
Natural beauty abounds in Florida…and thank goodness. Our theme parks, museums, theaters, zoos and sports venues may have been shuttered at the height of the pandemic, but since you can’t close a door on the ocean or shutter a forest, there was still plenty to see and do: the Western Hemisphere’s only natural coral reef; the Everglades; Lake Okeechobee; dozens of rivers with tongue-twisting names; and interesting natives — eagles and egrets, black bears, panthers, alligators, manatees, Key deer, dolphins and sea turtles. And now that the quarantine’s been lifted, you can celebrate a Key West sunset … socially distanced, of course.
Almost Unchanging Forecast
Florida’s nickname is “The Sunshine State” for a reason. Coastal cities here average 240 sunny days per year, and the state’s average annual temperature is 75 degrees F (24 degrees C). Best of all, no matter where you settle, a sandy beach and saltwater are never more than 90 minutes away.