Brochure images of
tanning flesh and Mickey Mouse give an inaccurate and incomplete picture of FLORIDA
Although the aptly nicknamed "Sunshine State" is indeed devoted to the tourist trade, it's also among the least-understood
parts of the US. Away from its overexposed resorts lie forests and rivers,
deserted strands filled with wildlife, vibrant cities and primeval swamps.
In many respects Florida is still evolving.
Seven hundred people a day move to the state, now the fourth most populous in
the nation. Changing demographics are eroding the traditional Deep South
conservatism: the new Floridians tend to be a younger, more energetic breed,
while Spanish-speaking enclaves provide close ties to Latin America and the
Caribbean - links as influential in creating wealth as the recent arrival of the
movie industry in central Florida, fresh from Hollywood.
The essential stop is cosmopolitan,
, from where a simple journey south
brings you to the Florida Keys
, a hundred-mile
string of islands known for sports fishing, coral-reef diving, and the sultry
town of Key West
, legendary for its sunsets and
anything-goes attitude. North from Miami, much of the east coast
is disappointingly urbanized, albeit with
miles of unbroken beaches flowing alongside. The residential stranglehold is
lessened further north, where communities such as Daytona Beach
have become subservient to the local
sands. Farther along, historical St Augustine
as the longest continuous settlement in the US.
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In central Florida
the terrain turns green, though it's no rural idyll:
this is where you'll find Orlando
, one of the world's leading tourist destinations. From here
it's just a skip north to the forests of the Panhandle
, Florida's link with the Deep South, or to
the towns and beaches of the west coast
. To the
south, and also easily accessible from Miami, stretches the Everglades
, a swampy sawgrass plain filled with
camera-friendly (but otherwise unfriendly) alligators.
In at least one way it makes little
difference when you visit
: warm sunshine and blue
skies are almost always a fact of life. Florida does, however, split into two climatic zones
: subtropical in the south and warm
temperate in the north. Orlando and points south have very mild winters (October
to April), with warm temperatures and low humidity. This is the peak tourist
season, when prices are at their highest. The southern summer (May to
September), on the other hand, brings high humidity and afternoon storms - the
rewards for braving the mugginess are lower prices and fewer tourists. Winter is
the off-peak period north of Orlando; while snow has been known to fall in the
Panhandle, daytime temperatures are generally comfortably warm.
northern Florida summer, the crowds arrive, and the days - and the nights - get
hot and sticky. Also, there is a potentially ominous time of the year - the " hurricane season
" - June to November.
Finally, although Florida has struggled with its
reputation for crimes
against (and even murders of)
tourists, the state's been very successful in reducing such attacks. It's
definitely no longer the den of "Miami Vice" it once was, but, as when visiting
all big cities, it pays to be wary.
Florida has a semi-tropical climate. It becomes
oppressively hot and humid during the months of June through August. Expect
temperatures to exceed 90 degrees F (32 C) and humidity to hover near 100
percent. The most pleasant weather is usually found during winter months between
December and March when temperatures are more likely around 75 degrees (25 C)
and the humidity becomes bearable.
It rains nearly every day in
most months (perhaps less during the winter), but the showers are generally
short and the sun usually quickly reappears. Hurricane season lasts from August
through late October. During these months, fierce tropical storms can bring
dangerously high winds and inundating rainfalls.
Florida is the sunshine state and also the Thunderstorm
and Lightning State. Due to the abundance of warm moist air from the Gulf of
Mexico and the hot tropical sun, conditions are perfect for the formation of
thunderstorms. Every year, many injuries and fatalities are caused by lightning
strikes on Florida golf courses and beaches.
Nature has not endowed Florida with many mountains,
rolling hills or panoramic vistas, as its terrain is rather flat. But it has
gorgeous white sand beaches and blue lagoons lined with palm trees and tropical
An archipelago of thousands of small islands, known as
"the keys" stretch along coral reefs over 150 miles below the southern tip of
Florida. It is possible to drive "over the ocean" on 42 bridges and causeways
connecting the keys until you reach Key West 119 mile out on the Gulf of Mexico.
Over 1000 square miles of swampy grassland, known as the
Everglades, cover the lower tip of the peninsula. It is teeming with tropical
birds, animals and fishes.
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English is the official language of
USA. But the theme parks draw thousands of international visitors
each year, and now Disney is making it easier for international visitors to Walt
Disney World to enjoy popular theme park attractions.
Disney has combined cutting-edge wireless technology
with the guest service standards that have become a Disney hallmark to launch a
service providing synchronized narration in five languages for popular theme
park attractions. The program debuted with the opening of "Walt Disney: One
Man's Dream" at the Disney-MGM Studios.
Free to all guests, the service uses a personal
translation unit that automatically receives creative narration via headphones
in five languages -- French, German, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish --
providing a more satisfying, personal experience for guests with limited English
fluency. Infrared signals throughout the attraction trigger synchronized digital
audio in each translation unit.
Guest Relations locations in each theme park offer 500
translation units for 13 narrative attractions at the Walt Disney World
The Eastern Time Zone Is:
GMT - 5h during Standard Time
GMT -4h during Daylight Saving Time
The Central Time Zone Is:
GMT - 6h during Standard Time
GMT - 5h during Daylight Saving Time
FLORIDA SAFETY TIPS
The beaches are beautiful and the weather is perfect, but South Florida has its own unique
hazards, all related to the sweltering weather. Sunburn, mosquitoes and sea lice
are all avoidable or at least treatable if you know what to look for. Below are
ways to recognize and prevent these common ailments.
Traveling is meant to provide pleasure but at times it could also lead to problems to the traveler.
Discussed below are some travel safety tips that could come in handy to the lone traveler.
As a rule of the thumb always make sure to travel
light. This could save you from a heap load of troubles in the first place
Never carry too much loose cash and never stack all
cash at one place. Carry credit cards and travelers cheques
Make sure to take a travel insurance before you start
Have a check list of all items you are carrying and
keep it with you
Always have a handy first aid box readily available
packed in an accessible place
Do proper research of the travel destination and carry
necessary medications and lotions
Always make sure to use licensed travel agents and
Never go for activity related sports without proper
Always carry a travel map wherever you go
So no matter where you are planning to
travel, make sure to follow these handy travel safety tips. And as a final word
always remember, its better safe than sorry!
The first European sighting
of Florida, just six years
after Christopher Columbus reached the New World, is believed to have been made
by John and Sebastian Cabot in 1498, when they spotted what is now Cape Florida,
on Key Biscayne in Miami. At the time, the area's 100,000 inhabitants formed
several distinct tribes
: the Timucua across
northern Florida, the Calusa around the southwest and Lake Okeechobee, the
Apalachee in the Panhandle and the Tequesta along the southeast coast.
In 1513, a Spaniard, Juan Ponce de Leon
, sighted land during Pascua Florida
, the Festival of the Flowers, and named
what he saw La Florida
- or "Land of Flowers." Eight
years later he returned with a mandate from the Spanish king to conquer and
colonize the territory, the first of several Spanish incursions prompted by
rumors of gold hidden in the north of the region. When it became clear that
Florida did not harbor stunning riches, interest waned; but the arrival of
French Huguenots in 1562 forced the Spanish into a more determined effort at
settlement. Three years later, Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded St Augustine
- the longest continuous site of European
habitation on the continent. In 1586 St Augustine was razed by a British naval
bombardment led by Francis Drake. The ensuing bloody confrontation for control
of North America was eventually settled when the British captured the crucial
Spanish possession of Havana, and Spain willingly parted with Florida to get it
back. By this time, indigenous Floridians had been largely wiped out by disease.
Florida's Native American population now largely comprised disparate tribes
arriving from the west, collectively known as the Seminoles
, who were generally left undisturbed in the
Following American independence, when Florida was returned to Spain, the US began to think in terms
of controlling the state. In 1814 a US general, Andrew Jackson, marched south,
killing hundreds of Indians and triggering the First
- on the pretext of subduing the Seminole but with the actual
intention of taking the region. Spain formally ceded
Florida to the US
in 1819, with Jackson sworn in as Florida's first American
governor and Tallahassee selected as the new administrative center. Eleven years
later, the Act of Indian Removal
decreed that all
Native Americans in the eastern US should be transferred to reservations in the
Midwest. Most Seminole were determined to stay and the Second Seminole War
broke out, with the Indians
steadily driven south, away from the fertile lands of central Florida and into
the Everglades, where they eventually agreed to remain.
Florida became a state
on March 3, 1845, coinciding with the
prosperity brought by the railroads. As a member of the Confederacy during the
, Florida's primary contribution was the
provision of food - a foretaste of its postwar economic role after being
readmitted to the Union. As northern speculators began to invest in Florida, the
country's newspapers extolled the curative virtues of its climate. These early
efforts to promote Florida as a tourist destination
brought in the wintering rich: Henry Flagler opened luxury resorts on the
northeast coast and extended his Florida East Coast Railroad south, giving birth
to communities such as Palm Beach. Henry Plant connected his own railroad to
Tampa, turning it into a thriving port city. Florida's climate enabled citrus
fruits to be grown during the winter and sold to the cooler north, and the state
became a major beef producer. After World War I, it seemed that everyone in
America wanted a piece of Florida, and chartered trains brought in thousands of
eager buyers. But most deals were on paper only, and in 1926 the banks began to
default. The Wall Street Crash
then made paupers of
the millionaires whose investments had helped shape the state.
What saved Florida was
World War II
. Thousands of troops arrived to guard
the coastline, empty tourist hotels provided ready-made barracks, and - most
importantly - the soldiers got a taste of Florida that would entice many of them
to return. In the mid-Sixties, the state government bent over backward to help
the Disney Corporation turn a sizable slice of central Florida into Walt Disney World
, the biggest theme park ever known.
Its enormous commercial success helped solidify Florida's place in the
international tourist market: directly or indirectly, tourism makes up 20
percent of the total state economy.
Behind the optimistic
facade, however, lie many problems
. There's a
broadening gap between the relative liberalism of the big cities and the
arch-conservatism of the rural Bible Belt: while Miami promotes its
multicultural makeup, the Ku Klux Klan holds picnics in the Panhandle. Gun laws
remain notoriously lax, and the multimillion-dollar drug
shows few signs of abating - at least a quarter of the cocaine
entering the US is said to arrive via Florida. Racial
continue, too, with tension on several fronts: between
Anglo-Americans and nouveau riche Cubans, blacks and whites, blacks and
Hispanics, police and the inner-city poor. However, increased protection of the
state's natural resources
has been a more positive
feature of the last decade and impressive amounts of land are under state
control - overall, wildlife is less threatened now than at any time since white
settlers first arrived.
The 2000 presidential
election fiasco brought unwelcome attention to the state. Both Gov. George Bush
of Texas (Republican) and Vice President Al Gore (Democrat) needed Florida's 25
electoral votes to win. Bush led by a few hundred votes on the morning after the
election in unofficial returns. For five weeks top lawyers on both slides
slugged it out in the courts. Disputes raged over such issues as whether ballots
with "hanging chads" (partially punched out holes) should be counted.
Ultimately, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that effectively halted the
recounts, and Bush won the state by 537 votes out of some six million cast
Best Of Florida
Ocean Drive, Miami
South Beach's finest Art Deco showpiece with
cosmopolitan cafes, flashy vintage cars and wannabe models.
Mangrove Mama's , Sugarloaf Key
Quintessential Florida Keys food joint, serving
super-fresh conch fritters and Key Lime pie.
Little Havana, Miami
Lunch on Cuban specialties and cafe con leche in this Hispanic enclave.
Funky, anything-goes town, which feels like it's
at the end of the world.
Sixteenth century Spanish town packed with
historic interest and a handful of lovely beaches.
Walt Disney World, Orlando
Pure entertainment, planned down to the last detail, yet irresistible all the same.
Everglades National Park
Bike or hike through the vast sawgrass plains of
the legendary Everglades, or canoe through alligator-filled mangrove swamps.
Florida is surprisingly compact, and easy to get around by car: crossing between the east
and west coasts takes a couple of hours, and one of the longest trips - between
the western extremity of the Panhandle and Miami - can be done in a day. Public transportation
, on the other hand, requires
adroit advance planning. Greyhound buses link all major towns and cities, with
both Miami and Orlando well served; but many rural areas and some of the most
enjoyable sections of the coast are not covered.
were built to service boomtowns in the
Twenties, and consequently some rural nooks are well-linked. Amtrak runs west
via New Orleans all the way to LA,
while connections with New York are good. However, in some areas Amtrak buses
have replaced the trains; these can be very expensive, so check in advance.
Passengers with cars can use the daily Auto Train
from Lorton, Virginia (just south of Washington, DC), to Sanford, north of
Orlando. The southeast coast boasts an elevated TriRail
system that ferries commuters between Miami,
Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Palm Beach.
Although inadvisable in the cities, cycling
is a great way to see large parts of Florida -
miles of cycle paths follow the coast, and long-distance bike trails cross the
state's interior. Forget hitching
: always dangerous
(especially for women), it's illegal in Miami (where you'd be lucky to live to
regret it) and on the outskirts of many other cities.
If you are in desperate need of a great vacation
come and visit Florida. Florida has it all, great weather, beautiful beaches and
super fun family and honeymoon resorts. It is our favourite place in the world, there is so much to see and do and it is for all ages.
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