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Florida in December 2021

My work will be closed from approximately ten days at the end of December, reopening on the first Monday of the new year. I am thinking of taking a solo trip to Florida. I am a man-solo traveler. My main interests are art museums and if time other museums if they seem appealing enough, some scenery and monuments. I have no interest in going in bodies of water or hanging out on beaches or at swimming pools; of course I will have to sit every so often to avoid walking excessively, and if I just happen to be near a beach, I might see it just to see it, but not to hang out there for huge gobs of time like some people would do. When possible I prefer buying my own food from whatever good grocery stores I can find.

I probably would at least see the Salvador Dali museum in Saint Petersburg, Florida, some part of Everglades national park, Key West for scenery and small museums even though I don't drink alcohol and wouldn't go to a place just for a wild party-like situation; possibly Miami if there is at least one or more art museums and/or specific sites to justify it; and other towns and/or art museums and/or historic sites if time allows.

I haven't fully planed this yet but I want to see what your opinion is about whether this might makes sense rationally and/or logistically. I am thinking that I would fly to Florida and then rent a car at the airport. I own a car and I drive in Metro Detroit but I have never rented a car as part of a trip but doing so would probably be my best option. I would want to logistically plan this well to avoid too much total time doing long-distance driving between towns and sites versus time walking and sight-seeing.

Edit: I have taken 4 solo trips to Europe but I never took a major overnight solo trip in the USA.

Posted by
362 posts

I can give some information on the Tampa Bay area, as I've lived here for 30+ years. The Salvadore Dali Museum is very good, as is the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. They are very close to each other. In St. Pete, there's also the The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, which I enjoyed very much.
Sarasota has the Ringling Museum of Art, which is also quite good. Tampa has its own Museum of Art and also there's the Tampa Bay History Center. Both of these are on either end of the Tampa Riverwalk area.
Driving from St. Pete or Sarasota to Key West would take up a lot of time. I'm sure there are some flights you can consider, but I have no experience with that.
The Everglades are great, but it's a huge area, so you'd need to research exactly what you'd want to do there.
Having a car is definitely the way to go, especially if you want to go to a lot of different places. Perhaps consider flying multi-city: arrive in Tampa and depart from Miami, or vice versa.
Others might have some more info on Miami. Good luck, Florida in December is a great idea!

Posted by
1226 posts

Just remember Florida now has the highest Covid rate in the US (about 5 times the national average). What it will be in December is anyone's guess. We normally go to Florida for a month in the winter but I am not sure about this year.

Posted by
9794 posts

The last week in December is the busiest time of the year in much of south Florida. People off during the holidays, especially those in colder climates, head south that time. Rates for hotels, rent-a cars, and anything else will be high. Everywhere you go will be crowded.

And since the governor refuses to do anyting about Covid--including closures, masks, precautions, etc--people will flock to the state.

If you are truly interested in art museums and want a warmer climate than Detroit, then I would suggest Southern California. In the L.A. area alone you have the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Getty Center, , Huntington Library/Art Museum/Botanical Gardens, The Broad, The Hammer Museum, and the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art. There are also Natural History museums and numerous museums dedicated to the entertainment industry.

You could split the time between the L.A. area and San Francisco. The coastal drive between LA and SF is considered one of the prettiest in the country. Stops between the two could include Hearst Castle and the Monterey Bay Aquarium--one of the best in the world.

California produces more food than any other state so finding good quality food will not be a problem.

Prices won't be low but probably not much more than Florida that time of year.

Posted by
3789 posts

Before buying flights, I suggest you price out rental car costs for your dates. If this summer is any indication, you can easily be looking at cost of $100 to $250 per day. There is also gas costs, and the need to ensure you have adequate insurance coverage including CDW. Many credit cards provide adequate insurance, but as you haven't rented a car before, you may not be aware of the other expenses. Then add in lodging costs. Florida isn't cheap.
It isn't warmer...in fact may be colder, but New York City or Boston are great museum cities that don't need the expense of renting cars.

Posted by
656 posts

Thanks for your imput so far. Unfortunately, you are right that renting a car would be expensive, for example picking up and dropping off a car at Tampa's airport, rough ballpark estimate would be $600 to $700, probably close to $700 with any tax and insurance I would need. The price looks cheap when you see that the costs roughly double if I were to pick a car up in Tampa and drop it off in Miami. So I probably would want to just fly round trip or stick with arriving and leaving from the same airport. My parents took me to New York city when I was 15. I was in Boston for a day and a half, 14 years ago.

Any hotel in the USA is going to be more than any place I would stay in Europe.

I suppose I wouldn't be able to prove that I wouldn't catch the virus in Florida. Yeah, the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas have plenty to do, too. The virus might be circulating for the rest of our lives. Travel is about risk management versus how, as always, my mom will be horrified about my trip, and I will feel like a disobedient, ornery kid for causing her so much traumatic anxiety about my safety (even though I am already 38 and live on my own and work at a normal job, and so on). I got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, I am in average to good health. My great-grandfather with my same last name had a heart attack and died just before he turned 50 (I said he died just before he turned 40, somewhere else, but I checked my family tree again and the dates I have show he was 49 when he died); I figure if I die early it will be a heart attack not the virus.

At least the south west coast area of Florida seems to have enough to occupy me; i requested guide books about Florida from my local public library.

Posted by
7477 posts

Florida hosts several college football Bowl games, so the end of Dec is $$$ wise probably the worst time to go.
Detroit to Orlando is 1200 miles, so you could be there in 2 days. Not having the expense of a rental car could be a huge bonus.
And do not expect bargain airfares.

Posted by
134 posts

This trip could totally work if you want to go! First of all, Florida is a large state and you clearly aren't interested in the areas that will be most packed at that time of year (the theme parks, South Beach in Miami, areas near where football games are happening). You can seek out accommodations away from these hotspots you can find plenty of good deals. Remember as a tourist state there are TONS of hotels in the state! And the weather is probably going to be warm enough (esp since you're from Michigan) to spend some time outside, limiting your greatest exposure to COVID. However, a rental car cost will be your greatest expense.

Sounds like you could fly into Orlando to visit Kennedy Space Center. The manatees come into rivers to seek warm waters at that time of year, there are some sightseeing opportunities between Orlando and the east coast. Then go to Tampa to see the Dali museum. I agree with the previous poster's suggestion to visit the Ringling Bros site in Sarasota (which is also a beautiful area for beaches). Heading south you can visit the shelling beaches of Sanibel and Captiva. Driving across the state you can take a variety of tours in the Everglades (alligators everywhere!). Miami is a huge metro area but I think its amazing Cuban food is a star attraction! A drive down to Key West is fabulous; the 7-mile long bridge is pretty crazy. You could probably stay 2 nights on the East coast, 2 nights on the West coast, 2 nights near Miami and 2 nights in the Keys. It's a heck of a drive back to Orlando or you could leave from Miami. I'm sure there are other museums near the metro areas that you can visit. If you want to drive less then cut out Key West.

Posted by
3525 posts

From one librarian to another and like joe32f said, you could use your own car, make a nice loop to FL and back, see more of our lovely country and still possibly save money over flight and rental car costs.

I know that such a road trip often is daunting to people whose lives have been centered in urban areas. And it would have to be carefully planned around the weather, but it could be a very enlightening, positive and confidence-building experience. Sometimes the journey is as good as the destination.

For those of us who did not grow up in urban areas, especially west of the Mississippi, driving was a way of life from an early age. I got my driver's license at 14 and my first job out of college required that I drive alone around my home state of TX. I was 21. It was 1967. A woman traveling alone was unusual, for work or vacation.

I ignored those who tried to scare me and it was a great confidence-builder, and not just for future driving.

Many years ago, I drove my mother, myself and my dog on a trip from San Antonio to Florida and back. We made a big loop around the peninsula. In fact we were in Sarasota when Mt. St. Helens erupted. Except for Key West and St. Augustine, I don’t much remember being anywhere that avoiding "too much total time doing long-distance driving between towns and sites versus time walking and sight-seeing" was even possible. The scenery we saw was mostly from the car as we drove and primarily Everglades and water/beach based.

The advice Floridians and others familiar with what FL has to offer are giving is what I'd pay the most attention to. Hopefully things have changed in the past 40 years and there will places where you can easily walk from sight to sight. And eat some conch peas and a pressed Cuban sandwich for me. 😉

Posted by
656 posts

Thanks for your input so far.

I doubt I would want to drive much more than 400 miles a day. I am afraid that if I drove to Florida, I would spend so much time in the car that I wouldn't have enough time for museums, sites, and walking past outdoor scenery. From me, approximate driving distances are:
Winter Park, Fl, 1,881 miles
Saint Peterburg, Fl, 1,215 miles,
Miami, 1,399 miles
Key west, FL, is 1,557 miles

A sort of rough ball park cost estimate could be:
Round trip plane ticket: $327-402 + tax - under $450, certainly under $500, as of recent prices
car rental: $700 maybe a little less, for 7 days
hotels: maybe $720-$800 if I get the rooms near the low end of the price range.
= maybe $1870-1950-under $2,000
adding in sites and overestimating, maybe $2,300 or less.
So, yeah, this would be an expensive trip. 2 weeks in Europe has cost me under$2,600-just over $3,100. I will feel guilty about taking this trip and my mom will be mortified. Travel is always more memorable than sitting in my apartment and staying near home.

My rough guess is, I would fly to Miami, right away drive north to Winter Park, then Saint Petersburg and Sarasota, and then back to Miami, seeing Miami last. I'll know more when I see the opinions of the guide book writers. Miami has at least the Bass museum of art and the Vizcaya museum. If I drive to Key West, I might have to skip Winter Park.

Posted by
2788 posts

Have you thought about Washington DC for museums? It wouldn't require a rental car unless you wanted to rent one for the day to drive to Mt Vernon. I assume you've been to Chicago and the Art Institute? Or are you looking for warmer weather?

I'm proud of you for traveling despite your mother's fears, but at some point you're going to have to learn to completely ignore her negative input and not allow her to make you feel needlessly guilty.

Posted by
656 posts

I went to Washinton, D.C., for 6 nights in December 2019.

Warm but not dangerously hot weather is my top reason for looking at whether I can travel to Florida.

As for flying to Orlando: perhaps that is a possibility. But if I fly to Orlando, I tenatively think I would have to drive to Tampa or Saint Petersburg the same day I arrive. I was thinking that a lot of places will be closed on Christmas. But the Everglades is open to visitors on Christmas. Which is why I was thinking of arriving in Miami. I may change my mind. I figure that I am flying round trip, into and out of the same airport. Because it costs about 2x more to drop a rental car off at a different location than where it was picked up. So I figure that right after I get off the plane, I need to pick up the rental car and drive to another city and then see the city I fly into and out of last, sleeping in or close to that city at least one night before the day my plane leaves. But I see that Tampa, Orlando, and Miami all have airports I could fly to from Detroit. Even Key West has an airport I could fly to, except this requires changing planes in Miami.

Edit: tenatively, i was wrong. It costs less than than I thought to drop a car off at a different location than I pick it up at. The most logical and cheapest plan is to fly to Tampa and leave from Key west.

Posted by
24 posts

Hi Mike,
It’s a while since I lived in or visited Florida, but a couple thoughts came to mind when I saw your post.
As I understood your current thinking, you’d be driving a round trip loop from Miami to Orlando (Winter Park) via Key West and the Everglades over 7-10/days. With a few side trips, that would run to about 1,000 miles of driving, some maybe on interstates and some on the Overseas Highway. This is a very flat and low-lying mixture of industrial agriculture and housing sprawl (and swamp) until you get to the OH, which is a strip of concrete atop the sea. As a beach person I loved that part; it sounds like you might not (unless you’re into fishing, which is very big in Islamorada, Key Largo, etc.). You can also fly to Key West and I believe there’s a ferry from Miami to Key West too. I loved Key West, good wandering and eating, still somewhat funky. On a January trip, we took the boat trip to the Dry Tortugas to poke around Fort Jefferson and swim.
Miami has tons of things to do, including museums and galleries, especially keyed to Caribbean and Latin American culture, but it’s no European culture capital. A current guidebook should tell you if there’s enough of what you care about.
St. Pete, Tampa, Orlando, and Cape Canaveral are almost a separate trip - the first two are more or less one big city now, though there are distinct areas, and the other two are only about 100 miles to the east, so easy to drive around them. Sarasota might interest you in this area as well - you can take the Sunshine Skyway bridge or go the long way around a Tampa Bay to get there from St. Pete.
You might even be able to split this trip into two parts, flying between Tampa and Miami or Key West and limiting some of the repetitive driving.

Also, you might consider the Jacksonville - St. Augustine area as an alternative. It has museums and historical sites and is a bit less beachy.
It’s fun to be planning again isn’t it?!

Hi There! I live here and would be glad to answer your questions. I suggest skipping the Everglades and the Keys. I also recommend that you drive down rather than rent a car if you have time. The Keys are a long way down from the Tampa/Sarasota/St. Petersburg area. Keys are best for boating, fishing, scuba diving, etc.. Shark Valley in the Everglades is doable. But, it’s far off your path. Also, the Everglades is a vast marsh like area. Not easy to visit. I can recommend other nature preserves in the middle of the State if that’s your thing. There are some beautiful springs for canoeing/tubing/paddle boarding as well.

Food: you can spend as little or as much as you desire just depending on your tastes and budget. We have grocery stores galore, fast food joints, high end dining, ethnic restaurants. So, about the same as you would spend in Michigan. (I’m from Grand Rapids.)

Hotels: again run the gamut from seedy to high end.

Covid: I live here and am vaccinated. Many of us are vaxed. You are at no greater risk here than anywhere else. You are also welcome to take any precautions that you wish. (Face masks, social distancing, spend time outdoors, get vaccinated.). So, don’t let Covid interfere with your plans.

Keep asking questions and I will be glad to answer them!

Here’s a few sights: St. Augustine - the fort (1/2 a day). Sarasota: Marie Selby Gardens, Mote Aquarium on LongBoat Key, Eat Cuban at the Columbia restaurant on St. Armand circle.

From your post - you may want to focus yourself on Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota/Naples. These are in the same general region. The Audubon Corkscrew Swamp is very close to Ft. Myer’s/Naples. It’s a boardwalk and is great for bird watching.

If you are driving down, there are places you can visit “en route.” Depends on whether you are taking 75, 95, or arriving just West of Tallahassee.

Florida is such a long peninsula that it’s good to focus on a particular region. (The Michigan of the South.)

Posted by
3182 posts

I suggest skipping the Everglades

I second this, it's a nature preserve masquerading as a national park. There's so little to see or experience there.

There may be parts of the Everglades north of the national park that are impressive in some way and convenient to visit, but I don't know them.

Posted by
656 posts

Thanks formyour input so far.

I am thinking that I would rather take a plane to Florida and then limit the amount of driving I do in any day. I don't know exactly what my limit is but certainly not 600 miles in a day and probably not 400 miles in a day. I will fee too stiff and sore if I don't stand and walk enough each day. I want to try dividing my time between museums and parks or outdoor areas. I wouldn't mind seeing the ocean briefly, just to say I saw it. I definitely want to see the Salvadore Dali museum, and it looks like Saint Petersburg and Tampa have art museums, and I'll probably go to the Ringling museum, so you are probably right to say the Tampa Bay-Sarasota area is the region I want to plan to see. I still want to investigate whether this region is enough or whether I could reasonably plan to drive to Miami and/or down to Key West. Or I guess I could acquiesce to skipping Miami or Key West or both and seeing about driving to one or more of the museums in Winter Park.

If I don't ask for more time off work than the ten days my work is closed, I could have up to 8 days in Florida, not that I absolutely have to make my trip the whole ten days.

I had assumed that the Everglades is more special than any park I have seen because it is a national park but maybe I am expecting more than it is. I probably only would want to walk on short trails for a few hours or 1-1/2 to 3 hours but that's just a rough guess.

I noticed that even if the temperature is warm, sunset will be before 6pm, so it won't quite be like summer.

Posted by
5632 posts

On one of my two trips to Florida from California I flew LAX to Orlando. I was visiting friends in Plantation, Florida which was a 3 hour drive from Orlando.

Rented a car and took the interstate South. At one point by the San Sebastián River Preserve which abutted the highway I saw in the distance what looked like a very large log along the roadside. I moved over one lane and as I got closer to the
“log“ I was stunned to see it was a very large and very alive gator. California has a lot of natural wonders but large scale alligators aren’t one of them. It was an “ are you kidding me” travel moment.

Posted by
2627 posts

Keep an eye out for alligators, especially if you are taking a walk near a marshy area.
Exercise some amount of caution in Florida's natural areas, beautiful as they are.

My favorite museum in Florida is the Morse Museum in Winter Park, 445 N Park Ave.
https://www.morsemuseum.org/
From their website,
"The Morse Museum houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933), including the artist and designer’s jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps and windows; his chapel interior from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago; and art and architectural objects from his Long Island country estate, Laurelton Hall. The Museum’s holdings also include American art pottery, late 19th- and early 20th-century American paintings, graphics, and decorative art."

Winter Park is an upscale area of Orlando. There are lots of good restaurants, cafes, and a wine bar near the Morse Museum. The downtown area of Winter Park is very small. The Amtrak station is right in the center of the downtown area of Winter Park, in a small park. This would be a good area for a walk. Be careful not to park in the parking lot designated as Amtrak parking only--they WILL tow you. Parallel park along the street and pay the parking meter.

Posted by
154 posts

Turo is a company where private car owners rent you their vehicle. We're renting a 2018 Passat for about $50 per day in a couple of weeks in Florida, about half the price the usual rental companies.

Posted by
656 posts

I talked to an guy who when to my high school who is now an emergency room doctor. According to him: chances of me having a serious problem if I encounter the virus are low, because I am health and vaccinated; he has not had even one vaccinated person come to his emergency room for covid-19; he thinks the vaccines are effective.

But i wouldn't want to be flippantly dismissive of the pandemic. I know perfectly well that some people - typically older or in poor health, are dying from the virus. Maybe I will still chicken out and stay home. My mom will he horrified or mortified at me for traveling, unless I find a way to not tell her.

Posted by
656 posts

I know I have been persuaded to feel like I should not travel anywhere because travel is supposed to be dangerous because of the pandemic, but if I travel anyway and if I end up mainly or only going to southwest Florida / Tampa-Naples-sarasota, should I stay at just one hotel for my whole trip, or should I switch locations, staying at two or 3 different locations?

Posted by
25746 posts

typically older or in poor health, are dying from the virus.

not just them... mostly younger now in the UK

Posted by
2788 posts

Mostly younger in AL too-UNVACCINATED younger. A lot of what you plan to do is also outside and art museums are not likely to be crowded. You need to go on this trip and have a great time. None of us are getting any younger while we sit around at home-which I did for a year until I was vaccinated. And unlike flights to Europe, you don't have to have a negative Covid test to get on a domestic flight.

Posted by
3 posts

I live in Miami florida and due to the pandemic this year I haven’t traveled anywhere, so mostly I traveled nearby for my vacation.

You should go to Dry Tortugas National Park for sure! I used to live in Key West for over 3 years and for me this is one of the greatest places! There you can also stay overnight with tents (you need to take them with you). There are specially equipped areas for this.
Also, I can recommend Wynwood Walls in Miami. A very unusual place! Lots of graffiti, restaurants, sculptures and other interesting things. This is like a large photo zone.
Also if you are interested in art you can visit the Hemingway house. It's intresting.

I also spent a lot of time on the beach because i was inspired by this website and I love to paint the sea. In addition, the main goal of my trip was to get as much inspiration as possible for the blog. Probably, I liked the canaveral seashore most of all.

Posted by
656 posts

Supposed itinerary:

Saturday, Christmas, most places closed. Fly to Orlando. Pick up rental car. 1st night in Winter Park.

Sunday, 26th: Park and/or walk past various neighborhoods or streets? Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art (open 1-4). 2nd night in Winter Park.

Monday, 27th: Drive to Hillsborough River state park; drive to Tampa bay area. 3rd night, 1st night in Tampa bay area

Tuesday, 28th: Tampa museum of art (open 10-5). If time, Florida museum of photographic art (open 11-6).

Wednesday, 29th: Salvador Dali Museum (open 11-6), St. Petersburg museum of fine arts (open10-5); if time St Pete Pier

Thursday, 30th: possibly Chihuly Collection (open 10-5); Ringling Museum (open 10-8 Thursdays)

Friday, 31st: if not flying home: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens? Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary?

Saturday, 1st: Flights back to Detroit.

Will I be under-occupied on the first Sunday of my trip, because the museums are only open from 1-4pm?

After Winter park, should I only stay at one additional hotel, in the Tampa bay area, for the rest of the trip? Or should I stay at separate hotels in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and/or Sarasota?

Edit: I am trying to avoid repetitive driving by not driving the same route more than once if this is easily possible.

Should I just limit myself to one major park and which place has the most scenic walking trails with the fewest dogs? Hillsborough River State Park, Corkscrew Swamp sanctuary, or somewhere else??

Edit: should I switch to flying to Florida on the Sunder after Christmas, and then I would see the museums in Winter Park on the next day, Monday, and then I would have less chance of being under-occupied?

Posted by
656 posts

How does the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp compare to the six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers? I am trying to decide whether I should go to a park in or near the Everglades area or just skip it.

Posted by
6716 posts

How does the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp compare to the six Mile Cypress
Slough Preserve in Fort Myers?

Both were very nice, but the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp was more expansive, more interesting, and more enjoyable (I spent a lot more time there). They currently require reservations, no walk-ins allowed.

Also, in Winter Park, the Albin Polasek Museum was excellent (http://polasek.org). The boat ride on the lake was also lovely but may be crammed and not a good idea right now. (I don't think going to Florida in general is a good idea, but I'm giving advice here as if there were no Covid)

The Dali Museum was the one truly unique museum I've been to in Florida, I would make the effort to go there (the Tiffany one was closed in Winter Park when I was there). There are others but they just don't compare. Florida doesn't stand out in terms of museums - there are far better places in the US to see world class museums (I would not make a special trip to Florida for any museum other than the Dali Museum, especially at the going car rental rates which, in normal times, are ~ $20/ per day base rates...now inflated to $90/ per day). Florida does stand out in terms of the natural, undeveloped areas, beaches, and sunsets. And Key West, Wynwood Walls (in Miami) and Dry Tortugas NP.

Posted by
182 posts

You could add the Mead Botanical gardens in Winter Park to help round out that day and keep you busy and outdoors. Have you thought about AirBnbs as opposed to hotels? I found them much more affordable when I went to St Petersburg earlier this year. I would personally stay in one place if visiting St Pete, Tampa, and Sarasota in one go.

Posted by
656 posts

Yeah I know I am not supposed to travel far from home and my mom has been persuaded to think nobody should go to places where other people will be nearby. She did show up to my nephew's birthday party. It was outdoors, under a park shelter. She had a mask and gloves on. Nobody else had a mask or gloves on. Yeah she got vaccinated but she has always had other phobias and anxieties and she watches the television news too much.

The pandemic might end suddenly, or the virus and/or variants of it might be circulating for the rest of our lives. My choices are, put off travel indefinitely until the pandemic is over, only go to places that are supposed to have few cases per hundred thousand residents, or assume Florida will be a negligible risk because most healthy vaccinated people don't have a serious problem in case they catch the virus. Yeah I know supposedly the vaccine didn't work for some people.

I haven't used Airbnb yet. So far I have been using booking.com to find hotels or logging places. I understand that Airbnb is where spaces in private residences are advertised.

Edit: I am doing the trip the opposite way I had first thought of. I am starting in Fort Myers and Audubon Corkscrew Swamp, and ending in Winter Park.

Posted by
6716 posts

I am doing the trip the opposite way I had first thought of. I am
starting in Fort Myers and Audubon Corkscrew Swamp, and ending in
Winter Park.

Can you provide a list of all the sites you definitely want to see (the "musts") and the "nice-to-haves"? I am not following your routing logic. What happened to the Dali Museum? That is closer to Tampa, not Fort Myers. Also, you're trying to do too much and be all over the place. Florida is a big state and the driving is not exactly inspiring, it's one ugly strip development after another or flat, boring highways (and there are toll roads in some areas too). Why not just focus on the gulf side this time - say from Tampa to Naples (or Tampa to a part of the Everglades)? Instead of all that backtracking and trying to rope in Winter Park which is far, far away. There is plenty to see just between Tampa and the Everglades (or ending in Naples) without any need to backtrack or going off in another direction. I would save the whole Orlando/ central Florida region for another trip. Unless you really like spending time driving. Days will be shorter in December too.

I have a great travel guide at home published by Moon. It's called "Florida Road Trips". It makes for a good planning guide.

As for saving money, do look into Southwest and even Spirit Airlines (super cheap, I mean $22-50 each way from Detroit to Tampa as long as it's not right around Christmas).

Posted by
656 posts

Supposed itinerary:

Friday, 24th: Fly to Fort Myers. Pick up rental car. Sleep in Fort Myers.

Saturday, 25th: Drive to Audubon Corkscrew Swamp. Sleep in Fort Myers. 2nd night

Sunday, 26th: Edison and Ford estates and gardens (open 9-5:30). Drive to Sarasota. Sleep in Sarasota. 3rd night

Monday, 27th Ringling museum and gardens (open 10-5). Drive to Tampa Bay area. Sleep in Tampa Bay area. 4th night

Tuesday, 28th: Salvador Dali Museum (open 11-6); St. Petersburg museum of fine arts (open 10-5); if extra time, Chihuly collection. Sleep in the Tampa Bay area. 5th night

Wednesday, 29th: Tampa museum of Art (10-5); if time, Florida museum of photographic art (open 12-5). Sleep in Tampa Bay area. 6th night

Thursday, 30th: If not seen yet, Henry B. Plant museum (10-5). Possibly other museum if not seen yet. Drive to Winter park. If time, Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Garden (open 10-4). Sleep in Winter Park. 7th night

Friday, 31th: Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art (open 9:30-4). If time, Rollins museum of Art. Sleep in Winter Park. 8th night

Saturday, 1st: Flights back to Detroit.

Posted by
6716 posts

Since you have nothing listed for your first day, it would be a shame if you missed the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve since it's so close to the RSW (Fort Myers area airport). You could use that day to check it out and hit the store to stock up on supplies if you plan on eating grocery food.

You asked whether to see either the Six Mile Slough Preserve OR the Corkscrew Preserve, but given your itinerary, it seems like you can easily do both.

Do you have ANY flexibility on your travel dates? The flight prices are astronomical around Christmas time (not just to Florida, but especially a warm destination like Florida) and considerably less in the beginning to middle of December. For example, you can get a Southwest flight for $89 each way if you're not tied to those dates and can go earlier in the month. Either way, I would probably get two one-way flights - that way if something gets screwed up, you don't have to redo the entire reservation. That's the way I cut my risk. I even mix and match tickets from different airlines if cheaper.

Posted by
169 posts

Don't know the College Football Bowl schedule for this year end... but there are several in Florida (Orange, Outback, Sugar + 2 or 3 others maybe - they seem to add more each year.).. Check for hotels soon - rates hit the roof in Tampa, Orlando/Winter Park areas those dates (and the Miami/Dade area - but looks like you aren't heading to the East coast)..

Posted by
656 posts

I probably will take the flights that arrive just after sunset. In order to arrive earlier I would have to take flights that leave Detroit before 7am or before 9am. Which would mean waking up at 4am-6am. To me its not worth the approximately hundred dollars I could save by taking earlier flights. The stores will probably be closed when I leave the airport. As for the total cost of flights for both ways: I already have a trip credit of $380.35 from American Airlines. The credit was a side effect of rescheduling my trip to Spain. The new tickets were that much cheaper. But normally, yeah, I guess I don't necessarily have to take American on future trips if another airline has a good flight at a better price.

Edit: I am locked into specific travel dates because my work will be closed December 24th, re-opening the Monday after new years day. I am trying to take this extra trip when my work will be closed anyway, without requesting time off work.

Posted by
3182 posts

Couple notes:

I have twice visited Florida in December (Orlando, Miami) in different years and had chilly weather. Not frosty but not suitable for dawdling outdoors. Just so you know it does happen.

Also adding again to this forum my note that establishing world class art museums required the fat purses of local 19th century barons of industry, which is why the NE and Midwest have such fine art museums, and the rest of the US (with the exception of LA) usually does not have great collections. It’s not their fault, it’s just that into the 20th century the cost of the works got so high.

Posted by
18892 posts

That seems to be true. I've been impressed by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. That would be tobacco money at work. I'm not sure when the tobacco barons started amassing their fortunes.

Posted by
6716 posts

Also adding again to this forum my note that establishing world class
art museums required the fat purses of local 19th century barons of
industry

In Florida you have Charles Morse, John Ringling, and Henry Flagler (who really put Florida on the tourist map generally)...

Posted by
3182 posts

Well, counting Monets and Rembrandt’s is tacky and in the end may not mean that much. Mostly reiterating where a person is most likely to find the better art collections, and to not dismiss all American art museums as unfulfilling when only having seen one or two.

Posted by
3136 posts

I won’t address the issue of “world class,” but St. Petersburg has two art museums that are fun to visit. One is the Dali. I don’t even particularly like his work, but I thought it was an interesting and enjoyable excursion. Also, the cafe serves nice Catalan food.
The second features the glass creations of Dale Chihuly. He’s not nearly as well-known as Dali, but his work is fantastic. The two museums are about a 5 minute w@lk away from each other.