I've just returned from my annual trek to the beach. I love going to Florida. Everyone I tell that to gives me a quizzical look that seems to ask "WHY would you go ALL THE WAY to Florida? Ever hear of HAWAII???" Well yes, I happen to have heard of Hawaii. But guess what...Florida is actually CLOSER to Seattle than Hawaii. It's true. Seattle to Honolulu=2681 miles. Seattle to Sarasota, FL=2576 miles.
So I wonder to myself frequently, why don't more people from Seattle go to Florida? It's closer, as you can see, plus if you stay out of the major metropolitan areas like Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, it can be very beautiful and tranquil. I like Sarasota for a variety of reasons. It's less crowded than the above mentioned cities, it has world famous beaches, fantastic museums, and great restaurants with lots of fresh seafood. I also spent a few years of my childhood there as a bonus. So I know it very well. When we go, we stay on a barrier island called Siesta Key. There's also Longboat Key, but that's a little more upscale for my taste. I like good ol' Siesta Key. We stay in a condo. I've stayed in a bunch of different condos there. Some across the street from the beach, and some directly on the beach. The rates are a better value than Hawaii I've found.
The beach has a lot of significance to me. When I was a kid, my parents would take us to Siesta Beach for the whole day. We'd slather up with "suntan lotion" (sunscreen wasn't invented yet) and spend the whole day raft surfing on the waves, or making sand castles. We'd also dig in the sand to find a small mollusk like shell called a "coquinna." These shells held a living mollusk inside and were GORGEOUS. Every single one had a different color or pattern on it. There were thousands of unique shells to dig for underneath the sand where the waves washed on to the shore. It occupied an 8 year old for hours at a time..trust me. Plus, I love to take nice slow walks on the beach and people watch. I enjoy the feeling of the water as it washes over my feet. I've always left my shoes in the sand near where I park before I start my beach walk. No one has ever touched them. Siesta Beach has been voted frequently as being in the top 10 beaches in the U.S. every year. The sand is literally like powder...and it's really deep too. It feels really good!
When I go to the beach, any stress in my body disappears almost immediately and I get into that "beach frame of mind." Everything moves slower...nobody is in a rush (except those people rushing to get a Saturday morning spot in the beach parking lot). I've also noticed that people are just friendlier there. People actually talk to each other at restaurants. I'm talking about strangers who are maybe seated at the table next to you. It could be something as simple as "hey, have you tried the Red Snapper? It's great today!" OR "We just got here today, can you recommend some fun stuff to do with kids?" It's that laid back feeling that seems to be there wherever you go. It's just a very pleasant place to be for me.
Now don't get me wrong. I love Hawaii...my son and I went there last June. It's beautiful. California is also a great place to vacation (especially Northern California where I used to live). But there's just something about Florida that I love, especially in the Spring months. I DON'T like going to Florida in the summer. It's like being in a steam room...very uncomfortable with the high humidity. I recommend Florida for your next vacation away from Seattle. The best months to go are right now...March through the first part of May. After that, you get that dreaded humidity. Plus, DisneyWorld is just a few hours away if you have kids. Check it out!
[photo courtesy of shazwan's photostream]