How to do Florida: Step 1, get out of your hotel room

By |  February 3, 2017 0 Comments
Blue Spring Boardwalk

Blue Spring Boardwalk

I often hear this complaint when the Golf Industry Show rotation returns to Florida: “There isn’t much to do in Florida.” As a longtime resident, I disagree. And I’m not talking about theme parks. I have nothing against them. In raising three children I’ve spent my fair share of time and money at them.

I’m talking about the great outdoors.

Everyone knows that you can play a lot of golf in and around the conference and show, so there’s that. Within an hour’s drive in any direction you can find quality golf courses at a variety of prices. If you’re planning on doing that, adventure out and away a little bit. You’ll be happy you did. Most superintendents in the state know you are coming and make plans to accommodate extra play. Just call ahead and plan accordingly. Drop me a note and I’ll give you some good ideas on where to play.

How about a day trip, though? Here are some ideas.

Florida has more than 250 state parks, lots of them with trails and no mountains. I suggest any of the parks with springs. Blue Springs State Park just north of Orlando is easy to find and loaded with manatees this time of year. Many of these parks offer kayak or canoe rentals. Outfitters offer the same adventures on several lakes, streams or rivers located just north of Orlando. Many are easy to find and all the gear is right there. One good resource is floridasprings.org.

There are good hiking/biking trails in and around Orlando, too. For example, the West Orange Trail, which gets a top 10 rating from Bike Florida. Old, abandoned railroad tracks have been converted to bike trails. The West Orange Trail has urban and rural settings, and the paths are both paved and natural, so biking is easy and good exercise. And obviously, you can find rentals.

Hiking in Florida is also a big deal. Not as scenic as Montana or the Appalachian Trail, but darn fun. A good resource for this is FloridaHikes.com. One trail near the convention center is the Tibet Butler Preserve. Short and sweet in the Florida woods.

Sport fishing is a big deal in Florida and is one of my passions. You can choose East Coast or West Coast action. GIS ’17 will be in the state’s center, so both coasts are about the same distance away. I would suggest the East Coast. You can reach the Cape Canaveral or Daytona Beach areas in about an hour and be on a drift boat ($) in the Atlantic shortly. Or head a couple hours south to the Ft. Pierce/Stuart area to go sport fishing on a charter boat ($$$). February is always a good time to catch sailfish. Chances are you’ll catch more than one. Plan ahead for this adventure — I highly recommend it.

For more great fishing, you only have to go about 30 minutes to Lake Toho in Kissimmee. Lots of guides here will put you onto the best largemouth bass fishing to be found anywhere. This is close by, and again highly recommended.

The more adventurous can always go paddle boarding on either coast. Surfing on Florida’s coasts is quite popular, too. The Atlantic coast in Cocoa Beach is the closest beach to GIS ’17. Water temps in February might be a deterrent — or sharks — but what the heck, you only live once.

Those of you inclined to stay in your hotel room can always check out “How to do Florida” on YouTube. You can experience all the fun us Floridians have without all that extra work.

Start now and plan ahead. Whatever your passion, Florida’s got it. Well, except for snow skiing, but there is Mount Dora. Oh, and crap, I forgot to mention the Keys. That’s another world and another story. #justsaying.

Photo credit: B A Bowen Photography via Foter.com / CC BY

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