Sunshine State Snowbirding Vibe

Our friends and us sometimes debate the “vibe” of snowbirding in Florida versus Arizona. I would guess that about 2/3rds of our friends opt for Florida and 1/3 opt for Arizona. We were undecided until a few years ago when my wife noted that although we’ve been to both many times, when we’ve chosen Florida over Arizona at about a 3:1 ratio for vacations over the years.

Now that we’ve done extended snowbirding trips (30-75 days) in Florida four years in a row, we’ve really gotten into enjoying the unique winter culture of the state. The state has a lot going on January they March.

Here are 8 of the things we really look forward to each winter down in Florida …

🏁 MOTORSPORTS – Florida’s Daytona Speedway bills itself as the “World Center of Racing” and it certainly is in January & February. The global motorsports calendar kicks off with the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with world-class drivers and cars a racing throughout the night. The Daytona 500 is known as the “Great American Race” and jumpstarts the NASCAR season. With these big events going on, there are also car shows, classic car auctions, road rallies, and other activities for “car guys” like me.

🌸 GARDENS & FLOWERS – When we get to Florida in January, the state is a motley mix of brown and green. By Valentine’s Day, the blooms start coming fast & furious. We’ve gone to botanical gardens the last few Valentine’s – Henry Leu Gardens, Bok Tower Gardens, and Sunken Gardens. In addition, Disney kicks off their magnificent EPCOT Flower & Garden Show on 3/1 with incredible plantings & topiaries. We’re going this week!

🎉 FESTIVALS – The New Year kicks off festival season in central Florida. Tampa’s Gasparilla draws 500K people for its Pirate Invasion & Parade. It’s the city’s big answer to New Orlean’s Mardi Gras, with lots of beads & baudiness. Mardi Gras has also migrated from Louisiana, with many parties and festivals timed in February. Our Margaritaville Resort in Orlando hosted a big Mardi Gras street party and Universal Studios puts on a big Mardi Gras parade & food fest from February through April. These are so fun, next year we are going to need to pack our beads!

🎼 CONCERTS – Live music, enjoyed outside, kicks off around the state in February and March. In Central Florida, the State Fair and Strawberry Festival have concerts every night. Last year, we saw The Beach Boys at the Strawberry Fest. Disney & Universal also have concerts for their Art Festival and Mardi Gras events. Universal has had GooGoo Dolls, Maren Morris, Three Doors Down, and Lauren Daigle just in the last couple weeks. In March, Blake Shelton and the Eagles are in Tampa, Jimmy Buffett and Guns & Roses are at the Hard Rock Hollywood FL.

⚾️ GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE – This past weekend kicked off the start of the 2023 MLB spring training schedule. I went to lovely Lakeland to catch the Tigers, who have played in that same city for almost 100 years. I “collect” ballpark experiences and this is the 3rd of 15 Grapefruit League stadiums I’ve gotten to in Florida. Most are in small towns along the gulf coast and a great place for a cold beer & grilled sausage on a sunny afternoon.

🖼️ ART / FOOD MARKETS – The Margaritaville resort we stay at hosts an art fest every Thursday night. They block the streets, have live music on the stage, and people stroll among the booths and outdoor restaurants. We’ve also enjoyed markets in Gulfport (every Tuesday), Lakewood Ranch (Sundays), Celebration (Sundays), and Mount Dora. Disney’s EPCOT has an amazing Art Festival from mid-January through February. The Pavillions in the World Showcase each share art & foods from their home countries.

🚀 SPACE COAST LAUNCHES – Winter is the best time to watch rocket launches from Florida’s Space Coast between Titusville & Cocoa Beach. The Kennedy Space Center complex tour is less busy than in the summer and the earlier winter sunsets mean more dramatic nighttime launches. There are nearly 100 launches this year from KSC – two per week. We’ve watched them take off (and seen the boosters come back) from our beachside condo balconies. Really cool.

⛳️ GOLF – The PGA kicks off their annual season with four tournaments over the space of 5 weeks in Florida – the Honda Classic, Bay Hill/Arnold Palmer, Player’s Championship, and Valspar. Florida also has the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine and 1,250 golf courses – more than any other state (+40% more than 2nd place California). Not ready for 18? Orlando is America’s Miniature Golf Capitol – my wife and I have regular dates on the Disney, Universal, and International Drive mini-courses.

The amazing thing is that these eight activity areas are all uniquely wonderful in the winter. That’s not even getting to the fantastic beaches, bright sunshine, wonderful seafood, amazing theme parks, relaxing boating, extraordinary wildlife, and all the other things that make Florida standout year-round.

We’re unfortunately heading home to Minnesota early this year. Our snowbirding was cut short by a family emergency and we’re heading home a few weeks early. Still, we’ll be looking forward to Florida’s unique “Winter Summerland” again next year.

What unique winter activities do you enjoy where you are this winter?

Images: (c)

2 thoughts on “Sunshine State Snowbirding Vibe

  1. Sounds like you are having better weather in Florida than we are having in California. Lots and lots of rain. Not a good time to travel when everything you like to do happens outdoors. I have been tracking down leaks in my house and will have recreated Noah’s Arc when I am done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, no! Water is just insidious, isn’t it? I mentioned to our longtime handyman that about 80% of the jobs we’ve given him over the years involve water. Siding, ceilings, doors, etc. Always water.


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