T+L traveled from coast to shimmering coast to reveal the best of Florida, old and new.
At first glance, Siesta Beach, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, looks like the standard picture-perfect shore. It has clear blue water, exceptionally white sand, and is so pristine that Dr. Leatherman rated it the number one beach in America. But once you kick off your flip-flops, your feet will experience what makes this beach so unique. The powdery sand is 99.9 percent quartz crystal and so fine and uniform in size that it squeaks when you walk on it. Plus, its composition allows it to stay cool even with the hot summer sun blazing down.
World's Strangest Beaches | Travel + Leisure
Tampa’s warm climate encourages lingering outside for those Gulf of Mexico sunsets. Bayshore Boulevard, with its nearly 4.5-mile sidewalk, has long been the see-and-be-seen waterfront promenade in Tampa. Elsewhere, the nearly complete Tampa Riverwalk—along 2.5 miles of the Hillsborough River—is bringing new life to downtown. A mile away, the Ybor City neighborhood, with its Cuban and Spanish past, is the place to go for lively nighttime cafés and bars.
Love may be blind, but it doesn’t hurt to look, according to T+L readers, who rated Miami residents No. 1 for attractiveness and No. 3 for stylishness. In addition, the city took the top spot for its singles scene and nightclubs, making the Miami one of the hottest metropolises for kindling romance.
This 1940 Midcentury masterpiece is turning heads again in Magic City, thanks to Wyndham’s $90 million renovation. Original details by celebrated Miami Modern architect Morris Lapidus have been respectfully preserved, including the pool’s monumental double-decker diving board, while Art Deco armoires and shiny finishes in the 200 guest rooms channel a bygone era.
Disney’s first five-star resort delivers fairy-tale whimsy while appealing to even the most Mickey Mouse-averse among us. Four Seasons offers the requisite on-site character breakfasts and princess encounters, but not at the expense of grown-up indulgences. There’s a 13,000-square-foot spa, a championship golf course, an adults-only pool, and top-notch steaks and Riojas at the Basque-inspired rooftop restaurant, which has unrivaled views of the park’s nightly firework display.
In any other hotel lobby, you probably wouldn’t be caught dead shooting pool on an all-white billiards table mere steps from the front door. But at the Miami Beach Edition, Ian Schrager and Marriott’s latest love child, showing off is compulsory. Open gathering spaces ripple through the white-and-gold Yabu Pushelberg lobby, a potted-palm-shaded lounge opening to a glassy cocktail bar that gives way to a market-style café. Downstairs there’s a nightclub, a bowling alley, and a pint-size skating rink. Even the round dining room of Jean-Georges’ Matador Room restaurant encourages gawking. If some of the 294 rooms seem simple to the point of afterthought, it’s hardly a deterrent for Miami’s cool crowd, which is flocking to what is hands down the city’s hottest address.
Just south of the South Beach crowds, the tropical-inspired Ritz counts two heated swimming pools, four restaurants, and a wealth of water recreation activities on Biscayne Bay. This is the Miami area’s best full-service resort, complete with tropical gardens, a tennis center, a 20,000-square-foot spa, kids’ programs, and a pristine beach.
The David Rockwell–designed WaterColor Inn & Resort has an enviable setting on nearly 500 acres of white-sand beaches and secluded pine forests. Its 60 cottage-chic rooms are fresh off a renovation; first-floor units have outdoor showers. Guests can rent YOLO Boards, kayaks, and canoes at the BoatHouse to paddle along the nearby coastal dune lake. Beach bonfire services and big-screen movie nights are held after hours.
At Sandpearl Resort’s Camp Ridley, kids can join sand-castle-building contests and stargaze through solar scopes. Beachgoers enjoy 700 feet of Gulf Coast sand, with chair and water sport rentals and daily enrichment programs that range from kayaking to sailing to cooking. Accommodations are sophisticated and sustainable—this is Florida’s first LEED-certified resort—with your choice of citrus-hued rooms or suites with full kitchens and deep soaking tubs.
The Beach Club Resort has a variety of water features—lagoons, lakes, tricked-out swimming pools, and a killer waterslide that starts from the crow’s nest of a ship’s mast—designed to make pint-size visitors squeal with delight. It’s a few minutes’ walk from the Epcot side entrance and has a marina with ferries bound for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After dark, bring the kids down to Crescent Lake Beach for a night of campfire songs, s’mores, and Disney movie screenings under the stars.
Search for pink shells along the beach at this pastel-colored resort near St. Augustine. Then give in to the kids’ eagerness to splash around the 91,000-square-foot water park, with its lazy river, water flume, and multilevel pool complex. Pictured: Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast, Florida.
Think of this as destination spa–lite: the Miami Beach outpost of the venerable Canyon Ranch brand is an all-suite boutique hotel that offers short, targeted wellness programs, plus flexible à la carte options so you can work wellness into your schedule.
Destination Spas to Jump-Start Your Year
Miami, which gets more worldly with each passing year, made our list of places for 2014—and that momentum continues to grow, notably in Mid-Beach. A new batch of luxury hotels is burnishing this corridor just north of South Beach, between 23rd Street and the iconic Fontainebleau.
With Disney World a rite of passage for most families, Orlando is a perennial top destination. In 2015, however, some of the coolest new attractions will lure visitors downtown. In November 2014, the state-of-the-art Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts opened its doors, offering an open-air arts plaza, a 2,700-seat main theater, and a world-class lineup of shows including the Tony Award–winning Pippin and Newsies.
A city this good looking must have attractive residents! Photo courtesy of Instagram's odettehm in Miami.
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Because all the beautiful Floridians are living in Miami and Tampa, Orlando fell to the wayside in this year's survey.
Orlando Fell, Beautiful Floridian, Years Survey
After a down year in 2013, the Florida city is tanned, rested, and suitably blinged-out to recapture the Most Attractive title. Since Miami was also voted the No. 3 city for style and No. 1 for nightclubs—including 24-hour-party options like E11even—looking good at all hours is essential.
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It’s worth the three-minute detour from the Disney property to visit Gaylord Palms, which mounts ICE!, a spectacular over-the-top display that turns 2 million pounds of ice into hand-carved sculptures, walk-through fortresses, a crystalline nativity scene, and slides. In 2014, its master sculptors are crafting their chilly extravaganza along a Nutcracker theme.
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Disney Christmas Travel Tips
America's Best Family Hotels: WaterColor Inn & Resort, Santa Rosa Beach, FL.
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America's Best Family Hotels: WaterColor Inn & Resort, Santa Rosa Beach, FL
You can entertain the whole gang at Reunion, a sprawling resort six miles from Disney World but with its own bona fide attractions, from the on-site water park to the 10 pools. Activities at the kids’ club include scavenger hunts. Did we mention the three Signature golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tom Watson?
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No. 13 LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, Naples, FL The spacious suites at this boutique resort have the added appeal of unobstructed, sweeping water views. Seek out dolphin pods on pedal boats or wave runners, or among the clouds on a parasail over the Gulf of Mexico. Families can also explore the flora and fauna of the surrounding wetlands along the raised boardwalk at nearby Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Parents Love: Drinking wine by the glass while warming up by the beach fire pit. Kids Love: ...
America's Best Family Hotels: LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, Naples, FL.
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Two hours from the crowds of Orlando’s Disney World, Disney's Vero Beach Resort shares its slice of Atlantic coastline with nesting loggerhead sea turtles. And there’s plenty more wildlife to discover at the nearby state park and river preserve. At the resort, you can join a treasure hunt or an alfresco cooking class, or just hang out at the heated, Mickey Mouse–shaped pool. Accommodations range from guest rooms to three-bedroom cottages.
America's Best Family Hotels: Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast, FL.
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South Beach, Miami--home of one of the best beaches on earth. Photo courtesy of life_images13 on Instagram.
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If you can't make it all the way to Portofino, Italy this year, Orlando has an awfully nice copycat. Photo courtesy of melanyc84 on Instagram.
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Best Hotels in Orlando
You + The Beach + A Great Hotel = Happiness. Photo courtesy of Instagram's themodernvoyager in Florida.
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For Lauderdale is becoming one of Florida's new hotspots, and already boasts one of America's best beach hotels. Photo courtesy of dpnieves on Instagram.
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America's Best Beach Hotels
An oldie but a goodie, St. Augustine, FL is one of America's oldest (and most favorite) towns.
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America's Favorite Towns: St. Augustine, FL - T & L
A peaceful, family-oriented place, Santa Rosa Beach is one of America's favorite towns.
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Stars sparkle over Blue Cypress Lake, Fellsmere, Florida. Photo courtesy of paulmarcellini via beautifuldestinations on Instagram.
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Hottest New Beach Hotels: Birchwood Inn, St. Petersburg, Florida.
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Birchwood Inn, St. Petersburg Fl. Canopy Rooftop Lounge has a beautiful view of Tampa Bay
Birchwood Inn, St. Petersburg, FL St. Pete’s new 18-room Spanish Mission boutique hotel—originally built in 1924 but reopened in May 2013 on Northeast Beach Drive—features rare Old Florida touches like large claw-foot tubs, original cedar awnings, and decorative mosaic tiles on the façade, but also offers spectacular views of The Pier and Tampa Bay, a rooftop restaurant where you can munch on tangerine sea scallops and day boat fish tacos. thebirchwood.com
Hottest New Beach Hotels: Birchwood Inn - St. Petersburg, Florida - 18-room Spanish Mission boutique hotel - rooftop restaurant
Hottest New Beach Hotels: James Royal Palm, Miami, Florida.
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The James Hotel Miami
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Hottest New Beach Hotel - James Royal Palm in Miami. Opened November 2012 in South Beach. ASPEN CREEK TRAVEL - firstname.lastname@example.org
America’s Snobbiest Cities: Tampa. Would you have ever expected this one? See what gives Tampa a little air of snobbery.
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America’s Snobbiest Cities: Tampa, Florida Would you have ever expected this one? See what gives Tampa a little air of snobbery.
America’s Snobbiest Cities: Miami. These Floridians are known for their good lucks and their trendsetting styles.
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There's a bunch of hip new hotels in colorful South Beach. Photo courtesy of erinkate25 on Instagram.
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There's a bunch of hip new hotels in colorful South Beach. Photo courtesy of erinkate25 on Instagram. And pinned because it's my photo, picked up by Travel & Leisure magazine) :)
The freshwaters of the Apalachicola River mingle with the warm Gulf to produce some of the finest and plumpest oysters in the country.
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Best Oyster Bars in America: Up the Creek Raw Bar, Apalachicola, FL
Best Oyster Bars in America
Adventure in the Florida Everglades. Photo courtesy of erinkate25 on Instagram.
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Adventure in the Florida Everglades. Photo courtesy of erinkate25 on Instagram. (And because it's my photo, picked up by Travel & Leisure Magazine) :)
World's Greatest Dream Trips
Under the dock in at Deerfield Beach in Florida. Photo courtesy of jenntormo on Instagram.
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Best Beach Weekend Getaways
View from Palm Valley Fish Camp in Florida. Photo courtesy of kellyelena11 on Instagram.
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America's Most Beautiful Lakes
Hang out on a sandbar in #Florida
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What do you need for fun in the sun? Here are 21 of the best beach gadgets and gear: http://tandl.me/1xDAul4 pic.twitter.com/SVqHAj10zC
Hang out on a sandbar in #Florida #PBIsummer
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Places You’d Rather Be: Summer Edition
Planning a trip to #Miami? T+L has the tips on everything to do in this incredible city!
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Looking forward to date nights at The Setai, in Miami Miami Hotel Interior Designs
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Serenity amidst the Latin flavors of Miami Beach. The Setai Hotel is one of our favorite places in Miami.
Modern Hotel Design: The Setai hotel in South Beach
The Setai, Miami Beach (one of my favs!)
Miami- Slide 2 - Slideshows | Travel + Leisure
A series of parking lots, loading docks, and rundown factory buildings were transformed in 2009 into the dazzling Wynwood Walls art project in #Miami
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America's Coolest Street Art: Miami, FL A series of parking lots, loading docks, and rundown factory buildings were transformed in 2009 into the dazzling Wynwood Walls art project. Free to the public, it features works from Futura, Shepard Fairey, Os Gêmeos, Kenny Scharf, and other notable street artists. One of the world’s largest concentrations of commissioned murals, Wynwood Walls is located at NW 25th Street and NW Second Avenue, between Joey’s Italian Café and Wynwood Kitchen & Bar
#StreetArt de famosos grafiteiros internacionais feitas em Miami que transformaram o bairro de Wynwood em pura manifestação de arte contemporânea. #graffiti #modernart
America's Coolest Street Art
When white rhino Kidogo gave birth last October in #Tampa, her calf was given the African name Khari, which can be interpreted to mean “king-like.”
Cute Baby Animals You Have to See This Year
Originally a stand at Chicago’s Green City Market, Floriole is now a buzzy café in Lincoln Park #Florida.
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Floriole Bakery, Chicago Originally a stand at Chicago’s Green City Market, Floriole is now a buzzy café in the Lincoln Park neighborhood...
America's Best Bakeries
Winter Park, Florida also scored in the top 10 for bakeries and ice cream parlors.
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America's Most Romantic Towns: Winter Park, FL
Canals Winter Park, FL
America's Most Romantic Towns
Juvia in #Miami has a menu by chefs from royal culinary houses, and it’s the sleek aesthetic earned this quintessential SoBe spot a James Beard Award.
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Rooftop hot tub - Elle Decor, April 2013
America’s Coolest Rooftop Bars: Juvia, Miami
vertical garden wall
America’s Coolest Rooftop Bars
What could make a five-acre private island in the Florida Keys that’s only accessible by boat or seaplane more exclusive? Your own bamboo outdoor shower.
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Coolest Outdoor Hotel Showers: Little Palm Island Resort
Coolest Outdoor Hotel Showers
EDGE Steak and Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel #Miami serves grilled-to-order meat and ribs alongside a taco station, a raw bar, and a dessert spread of cortadito crème brûlée and rum tres leches cake.
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Best Brunch Buffets in America: EDGE Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons Miami
Best Brunch Buffets in America
Cruising along the #Miami coastline. Photo courtesy of shootershane on Instagram.
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A marvelously quiet day in South Beach, #Miami. Photo courtesy of shootershane on Instagram.
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Beautiful details in #Miami -- also one of the country's best cities for night owls. Photo courtesy of shootershane on Instagram.
Key West Beach
Surf and sky in Key West, #Florida, which has some of the country's best coastal views. Photo courtesy of eachapman4 on Instagram.
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A list of some of America's most beautiful coasts.
Disney World, Orlando
Disney World, looking especially magical. Photo courtesy of xsnapshots88 on Instagram.
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Disney World, Orlando, Florida looking especially magical. Photo courtesy of xsnapshots88 on Instagram.
25 Things You Didn't Know About Disney Parks
Mansion at Tuckahoe
The Mansion at Tuckahoe, built in 1938, is a beautiful wedding location. Photo courtesy of creatricemondial on Instagram.
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The Mansion at Tuckahoe, Florida built in 1938, is a beautiful wedding location. Photo courtesy of creatricemondial on Instagram.
Florida Travel Guide | Travel + Leisure
The Florida Keys does #sunset right. Photo courtesy of fortheloveofsun on Instagram.
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Key Largo, FL, USA
The Florida Keys does #sunset right. Photo courtesy of fortheloveofsun on Instagram.
Nothing beats the #beach. Photo courtesy of fortheloveofsun on Instagram.
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Nothing beats the #beach #travel #AmbassadorTravel
A calm moment in #Miami Beach. Photo courtesy of shootershane on Instagram.