Florida in Winter: 5 Things Not to Miss

Key West, Florida

Growing up in Florida, winter was nothing special. It was that season when the weather wasn’t blindingly hot–but was never really that cold, either. I can count on one hand the Christmases I remember spending in anything heavier than a long-sleeve shirt. (Most of the time, I was out playing in shorts and a t-shirt on Christmas day.)

Now that I’ve moved to North Carolina, where the winters are arguably still mild (we rarely get snow), I desperately miss winters in Florida. People from “up North” laugh at how cold I think it gets up here. But remember, for almost my entire childhood, “cold” meant “uh oh, better bring the spider plants into the garage tonight–it might frost.” I still remember the first time I saw ice on my car up here. I had no idea what it was.

Florida in winter is magic. The air is salty and cool and perfect. The citrus is fresh and beautiful. The skies are blue and sunny.

Here are the five things I miss most about winters in Florida. If you’re taking a vacation to the Sunshine State this winter, have a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice for me…

1. Speaking of which, #1 goes to “Drink freshly squeezed orange juice.” Get yourself some just-out-of-the-orange juice and bask in the taste of pure sunshine. Honestly, I love this stuff so much that I actually think you ought to get out to Walmart, buy a cheap juicer, head to a local citrus stand, buy a bag of fruit, and then go back to the hotel and make it yourself. Crazy, yes, but trust me–there is nothing like it. No juice tastes as good. In fact, it’s not even a question of quality–no juice tastes like this. The stuff you buy in the store? I refuse to recognize that as orange juice. And citrus is in season in the winter, so take advantage of the freshness.

Florida oranges

2. Get yourself on to Disney. Yeah, yeah, yeah, as a true Floridian (well, fine, I’m a transplant, but more than twenty years in the state makes me practically a native by Florida standards), I’m probably revoking my resident status by recommending Disney (we are, as a rule, supposed to disdain the parks), but listen: Disney is cool. Disney makes you feel like a kid. Unless you’re a real Scrooge (in which case, stay home). The parks are a lot of fun, and winter is a great time to visit. There are days when it might be a little chilly (check the weather and dress in layers), but you have not known true misery until you’ve visited a Disney park in the summer. Trust me: no cold is too cold to make winter worse than summer.

Epcot, Disney, Orlando

Here we are at Epcot two Christmases ago. (I’m a dork, so Epcot is my favorite park. And Epcot at Christmas? Perfection!)

You can see by mid-afternoon, I had to take off the sweater, though:

Epcot, Disney, Orlando

3. Stroll the beaches. Wherever you vacation in Florida, you’re not too far from a beach. Take advantage of this. (And do bring a jacket: because even on warmer days, the wind can be pretty strong.)

Florida beaches

4. Eat Cuban food. Okay, I’m cheating. You can do this year-round in Florida. BUT STILL. Cuban sandwiches. Black beans and rice. Fried plantains. Ropa Vieja. What are you waiting for oh my gosh.

Cuban Coffee Queen in Key West, Florida

Here’s Jesse and his sister Becki at our favorite little stand in Key West, Cuban Coffee Queen. Get the Cuban mix and a cafe con leche.

5. And, because #4 got me thinking about food, and because if you know me, you know I love to eat, let’s end this list with eating fresh seafood. Find yourself a restaurant that serves up fresh, local seafood, and prepare for bliss. If the place has got waterfront seating, even better. Because eating outside in January in a light jacket while the rest of the country is buried under two feet of snow is just delightful.

Florida boats

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