I'm a Florida resident, ask me anything

That’s right, I live in the wonderland of Florida.
(insert sarcasm emoji)

I offer so very little in way of info about Disney World… despite being a Floridian, I haven’t gone much. Like, twice, in my whole live long life.

BUT… I do live in Florida… so maybe I could offer something there as far as insight.

Wanna know where the good beaches are? Curious about Florida Wildlife? Looking for cool places to visit aside of Orlando? Are you wondering if all the bizarre news out of Fla is a fair representation of actual happenings here? (like the time a woman was arrested for assaulting her husband with a half cooked meatloaf) Need to know what the weather is like a certain time of year? Wanna ask me if I have ever survived a hurricane? Do you ever think, “what do the natives feed their families for dinner?”

Well, I might just be able to help with that.

(please prepare yourself for opinionated answers, half truths, embellishments for my own entertainment, and take it all with a grain of fine pure white crystal sand. That being said, if you have a solid inquiry that I can totally help with, I will make it clear when I am giving you my certified professional opinion. Opinions expressed here are not on behalf of the Florida Tourists Association or any of its subsidiaries. )


nothin huh?
no great Florida mysteries I can assist with?

Perhaps that settles it… I truly am little more than dead weight around here. :joy:

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@weeship, I think no questions is a result that it is usually wry slow around here in the weekend and not that there won’t be questions!

Question for you: would you suggest out of state folks buy a sunpass for trips?

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Depending on how frequent your trips down here (though, a one time trip might still be worth it) and how often you expect to pass through tolls… YES.

I am saying this as someone who DOES NOT own a sunpass myself, so I have no reference on the cost…
BUT, despite rarely having to deal with tolls, I have done so enough to know this… SUNPASS IS OF MAJOR CONVENIENCE.

This convenience is of special note when dealing with the Florida turnpike.

Many on/offs through the turnpike no longer have actual toll booths… so depending where you slide in or off, you can just drive through them! That being said, once you have driven through one they take a snap shot of your plate and mail you your toll. As you can imagine, there are additional toll fees for their having to mail it to you. I have literally received toll bills via mail that I had no freaking idea I had even driven through a charge zone.

Once named Sunshine State Parkway, the turnpike of Florida is a north–south toll road that runs through 11 Florida counties spanning 312.522 miles. Basically, there is a good chance when traveling by automobile through Florida that you’ll make its acquaintance.
Traveling from the Florida peninsula all the way south to Miami. Reaching Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach (where it gets a little confusing as it runs along side Interstate 95, at least for me) and of course, through Orlando where it crosses I4.

Here is a link with some more information. They offer a toll calculator tool to figure out the potential sunpass worth to you, and it includes specific areas of your expected travel and how many tolling spots you might deal with along the way.


As you can see, for convenience sake, time, and possibly cost… I say, YES, get the sunpass.

edited: another site of note for tolling in Florida


Looks as though the sunpass “mini” sticker/reader is about 5$ and then you activate it, connect funds, and stick it in your window. done.

I think (but I am not totally certain about this) for those getting rental cars, ask your renter about sunpass… they may offer some arrangement or have access to temporary short term sunpass you can use via them.

Thanks! I am going to bookmark this thread!

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YAY! I might just be useful after all… hopefully I can offer some other insights of note. (or at least entertainment)

One last mention on the sunpass thing… if you are going with a rental, and you do inquire about whether they offer a sunpass for use, make sure to ask about fees associated with that. It used to be that some places charged a daily usage fee (regardless whether you used that sunpass to pay a toll) each day it was in your vehicle. It may be more cost effective to get your own sunpass! You can use one you have purchased in any vehicle… your own, or a rental.


Some Almost Useless Florida Facts:

-despite its regular attendance to basically all fresh water in Florida and sometimes salt, the alligator is NOT our state animal… the winner goes to our protected Florida Panther.
The Florida panther population was saved in part by an action taken in 1995 to create hybrid Texas cougar Florida panthers when scientists released 8 female Texas cougars into the Florida panther population. Apparently this created a tougher Florida Panther that some scientists referred to as the, “Arnold Schwarzeneggers of cougars.” Our panther-cougar numbers have increased significantly since the 1990s.

-pretty much everyone knows (or I assume they do) the official state fruit of Florida is the orange. (though one could argue that it ought to be some nut variety) But, did you know our official state flower is the blossom of said tree? That’s right, the state flower is the orange blossom. I can’t tell you enough how absolutely magnificent they smell! There are many groves across Florida open to visitors and tours, if you come in the spring months, it may be worth it to find one to visit Florida’s most fragrant flower!

-my personal favorite of trees to be seen in Florida is the Banyan tree. These trees are what fairy tale forests are dreamed of. Being it (like most living things in Florida) is not a Florida native, the Banyan tree didn’t win as the state tree of Florida. The banyan is honored in its homelands of Asia, where it is revered as a sacred tree.
The state tree of Florida is actually, well, it is pretty ugly in my opinion. It is a palm variety, the most common in our state (and one of the least attractive as far as palms go) It isn’t that quintessential palm tree you would picture on a sprawling tropical beach somewhere… nope, this one is more like a bush on top of a fat stick. Unlike my pick for state tree, this palm looks more like something that inspired DrSeuss then magical enchanted forest tales. The state tree of Florida is… drumroll… the Sabal palm or Sabal palmetto

isn’t she lovely?

-for all the bird watching to be had in the land of Florida (especially during times of migration) the state bird is the Northern Mocking Bird. Let me tell you something about this tough arse bird… this creature will dive bomb your cats, your dogs, you, other large predatory birds (even hawks and eagles). This bird is NOT afraid. This bird is LOUD and kind of obnoxious at times… though, the breed has nothing on the cries of a crow or seagull, IMO.
Mocking birds, as their name suggests, mock the calls of many other bird species. Though, thinking about it now, I have absolutely no bloody idea why they do this. (might have to explore that)
I have heard calls that are distinctly human whistle sounds coming from this bird. I have enjoyed sitting beneath a tree occupied by this rough-ion mocker and exchanged back and forths testing to see how many calls I could get it to mimic. Did I mention?, they’re loud.

Sooooo… there ya have it. Some almost useless random Florida tidbits for ya!
Let me know if there is something else you wanna know about. lol


I’ve had this too. I’m also a FL resident, but I’m up in Pensacola, and there are virtually no tolls to deal with here.

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Good Morning forum friends!

The sun is shining this slightly cooler Florida morning! While pre-afternoon temps are certain to rise (sauna-esk) I am currently enjoying my morning coffee on what almost, ever so slightly, is a Florida whisper, “hey, I think it might be Fall or something.”

Speaking of morning sun… did you all know that Florida has an average of 230 days of sunshine annually!? in case you didn’t know, there are 365 days in the year, and while my math skills are Florida Public School ready, I can tell you that’s a lot of days out of the year!!
(don’t ask me for percentages, please)

Ponce De Leon stumbled upon our state while searching for the fountain of youth… which is interesting when you think about it, because a lot of people come here to die.
Ahem, I mean RETIRE. To live out the best years of their lives in tropical bliss beach-side.

As you might suspect, Florida, “flora” translates roughly to “flowery” or “flowers”. Apparently, flowers are like retirees (or retirees are like flowers) both seem to benefit from our perpetual sunshine.


Wishing everyone a day filled with sunshine!


I have a question! We are looking to do one beach day but we have no clue which beach to try. :sunglasses: What would you suggest?

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YAY!! a question!!

are you all staying in Orlando? (I am assuming, yes)
are you looking for a more “happening” beach, or something a bit more quiet?
how far are you willing to drive for said beach?

We are staying onsite in Orlando and will be renting a car for the occasion. We would love a quieter beach that is more natural than commercial. We just want to hang out and see the water. :slight_smile: It will be me, my sister and my 7 year old daughter. My daughter has never seen the ocean! We are willing to drive a couple of hours or so if need be.

Awesome!! never seen the ocean huh? She is going to LOVE it!!

The closet beach would probably be Cocoa Beach, which is a great beach, but as you have expressed a desire to forego the more “commercial” and heavily populated water fronts, I would skip that one.
(it is a nice beach though)

The beach I would suggest instead is called New Smyrna Beach (you say it like, SEH-MER-NAH)
This beach is more residential and lesser frequented than Cocoa. The other fantastic thing about this beach is it resides within an Art District community. Should you find yourselves melting away on the beach, and want to head in for ice cream and a stroll there are many terrific art galleries, artisan shops, and restaurants or cafes.
Here is a link to their visitors’ site and you can take a look before you choose

You will be looking at just over an hour for your commute to this area.

Cocoa and Smyrna are both Atlantic side beaches with Atlantic ocean waters. I will tell you this… the beaches on the Atlantic ocean differ from what you will experience on the Gulf side. The Atlantic beaches have rougher water with more waves and windier beaches. They also have rougher sand. Coarser sand aside, you will still find those tropical white sand sprawls at Cocoa or Smyrna, with shell hunting and everything you would expect beach side. When I say, “rougher water”, this isn’t something dangerous per-say, you can still swim and enjoy the surf. I would say that average wave heights on the Atlantic are around thigh to waist high, where the Gulf side under calm weather conditions you are looking at like knee to lower thigh wave heights. The sand at many Gulf beaches is a fine powdery quartz crystal sand, and more so the further south you go along the west coast of Florida.
The other difference in Atlantic beaches vs Gulf of Mexico beaches is the water temperature. The Gulf gets MUCH warmer (like, think bath, 85+ degree F and up) and stay warmer longer into the cold seasons. The Atlantic side can see 80+ temps in the summer months but in colder seasons will drop as low as 60… I don’t believe the gulf beaches water ever gets cooler than 70.

One more important note between Atlantic Beaches vs Gulf Beaches… you know all those fantastic sunset photos that you see? The ones with a huge orange ball sinking into the sea, and spectacular skies of pink, coral, purple, and orange? Yeah, those are Gulf Beach photos. If you want to experience the magnificent sunsets of Florida, you should probably take the longer drive and head west. The sunrises are gorgeous on the Atlantic side (if you wanna get up that early) but I still think, hands down, the sunsets are the not to be missed!

If you think you might be up for more of a trek, and would prefer to see the Gulf side beaches, you can jog (almost, but not really, more like SW) west from Orlando and head to Clearwater Beach. This is a lovely beach, though, fairly popular. For a drive over to Clearwater you should expect something around 1 hour and 45min, depending on traffic.

Finally, and these last 2 are the longest commutes of all… BUT SO WORTH IT, I promise. (money back guarantee… if I was charging for this. lol)

Heading further south, and south west, there are 2 beaches along the western central coast on the Gulf. One can be found on a small residential (though, more and more vacation rentals are showing up out there, much to the dismay of residents) island by the name of Anna Maria Island. This island is its own township, but is in the city of Bradenton and County of Manatee. Holmes Beach of Anna Maria is fine white sand beaches, playgrounds, volley ball, cafe, free trolleys to explore the entire island. Easy to spend an entire day here. This town and island has received travelers assoc awards and recognition for, “one of the best islands”
Going just slightly further south you can make your way to a barrier island chain on the gulf coast in the county of Sarasota, Siesta Key. The “key” is more of a chain or elongated barrier island, but Siesta beach has been globally recognized and voted “BEST BEACH IN AMERICA” several years running.
As you can imagine, this has made the beach more popular and there is higher traffic, but the beach spaces are vast, with many public access locations. Somehow, even though it can get busy, it doesn’t feel like you’re losing out on that tropical escape feel. Just a bit slightly more south of Siesta Key beach is another along the key called, Crescent Beach. Crescent is considerably more “private” beach experience.

(“crowded” is a relative term. Because I live in a tourist state, and actually in a fairly touristy town in a tourist state, my idea of crowded compared to your idea of crowded might be very different)

Anna Maria island will take you about 2 hours to get to.
Siesta Key Beach will take you about 2 hours and 30 mins.


Hope this has been helpful to you!! Have a great time, and DO NOT FORGET YOUR SUNSCREEN… ALWAYS reapply as recommended!! (that’s probably the best advice I have given you this whole LONG reply)

ALL DRIVE TIMES ARE ESTIMATIONS USED WITH THE HELP OF GOOGLE MAPS. reliability may vary. blame google not me for any errors.


one other note… if you choose to visit Clearwater beach, there is an aquarium there, Clearwater Marine Aquarium that is a quick daytime visit (it isn’t a very large aquarium) You could easily visit the aquarium and hit the beach for sunset on the same day. The special thing about this aquarium compared to the many others across Florida, is that this is the home of the famous bottle nose dolphin “Winter” which appeared in the loosely based motion picture on its life story, “Dolphin Tale”.
If your daughter has seen this movie and loved it, she would probably really enjoy seeing the real life Winter and his special tail. :relaxed:

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As far as beaches not too far from Orlando go… for you photographer types, I have a secret location for you!!
It isn’t as much a swimming beach, as the currents aren’t so conducive for such. But, you can certainly wade along its soft quartz sand shores, finding shells, and taking in the spectacular sunsets.
What makes this beach so special for photography? (or even just exploring)
Well, it isn’t a HUGE beach, but it is very private, not widely known about (mainly just to locals) and it offers tangled mangroves, manatee and dolphin sightings, and it has the most amazing drift wood trees lining its shores you have ever seen.

Here are some photos to prove it!


We are staying with my DIL’s for a week over Christmas, about an hour south of Tampa near the coast. If DH & I get the chance of half a day without the kids what would you suggest please? No theme parks as we’ll be coming from a week at WDW.

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Nice Tate!! Sounds like you’ll be in my neck of the woods! :relaxed:
Can you tell me, will you be in Bradenton, Sarasota, Palmetto?
(only if you’re comfortable saying, an hour south of Tampa gives me idea enough, but if you are looking to stay in town, it will help)

Also, a rough outline of what you all think you might be interested in…
we have a selection of amazing museums, restaurants, theaters (both cinema and performance) and even options that sway more nightlife. If you want to travel to Tampa or nearby Ybor City, there are many night entertainment options. Are you thinking a daytime outting, or an evening?

That time of year the weather is much more conducive for outdoor adventures, though sometimes can be pretty chilly (but I live in Florida, so that’s relative) there are many beautiful outdoor quarters if walks or nature are your thing. Downtown shopping (window or otherwise, although, that’s really not my thing) there are a couple of downtown areas I would suggest over others for that specifically.

If you can give me an idea of what you think you would enjoy, what your interests are, and how far you might want to travel, then I can try to not write you a book in reply. lol (I am kinda good at novel length answers)

I don’t mind listing several options in several areas, if you just aren’t sure what you might want to do!


You are making me so jealous with this thread. It’s my fondest dream to relocate to the gulf side of Florida when the kids hit college in 7 years. It might be a winters-only relocation/transition for the first few years.


Add me to the jealous list!! And what beautiful photographs!!

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