There are around 120 million visitors who head here each year, and it’s not just the theme parks and beaches that are the big lure. The nature, wildlife, sports, shopping, dining and small-town charms of places like Stuart, Cedar Key, Crystal River, Sebring, DeLand and Mount Dora are equally popular, providing a fabulously varied menu of holiday fun.
When you then consider there is always something new to keep Florida fresh and inviting, it makes for the ultimate package in visitor allure. And, with that in mind, we thought we’d highlight our Top 10 of new things to look for this year, from Old Town in Kissimmee to surfing in Palm Beach.
Margaritaville Resort Orlando
Anyone driving along Highway 192 in Kissimmee can’t have missed the growth of this astonishing $750million resort-and-entertainment complex taking shape just south of Walt Disney World. Not only does it perfectly capture the laid-back ‘Floribbean’ vibe perfected by singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, but it adds some seriously enticing elements for visitors to this area, whether you stay there or not. Just to start with, there is a glittering 186-room hotel centerpiece, an array of lagoon-style pools, a state-of-the-art Spa and a selection of tropically-styled vacation cottages. Then there’s a full ‘village’ of shopping and dining, as well as a water park that opens this spring. The restaurants alone mark this out as a real cut above the usual tourist territory and we think this will be a HUGE draw along the 192 this year.
Hard Rock Hotel Hollywood
Talking of eye-catching hotels, this will be arguably one of the world’s greatest when it opens this autumn. Why is that, you ask? How about a 450ft tall ‘guitar’ that houses a 638-room addition to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood (between Miami and Fort Lauderdale)? Yes, the whole of this vast tower edifice is shaped like a classic rock guitar, and it will be part of a stunning $1.5BILLION complex of resort, casino and entertainment venue that will literally put the original 12-storey hotel in the shade.
Kelly Slater may not be a name familiar to the majority, but anyone acquainted with surfing will instantly know the 11-time world surfing champion, actor and environmental activist. And Kelly will be debuting his second SurfRanch in the US later this year when the all-new Palm Beach location opens to the public. It will feature 80 acres of man-made surf lagoon, boardwalk, club-house, gift shop and training centre, and it’s sure to be a positive Mecca for surfing fans on this side of the coast.
Trike Tours USA
For those who think Segways are passé, or who might be worried about trying to stay upright on the neat two-wheeled transports, Trike Tours are the newest thing in town. And this Naples-based company really catches our eye for that ‘something different’ factor, combining city tours that highlight the history and charm of Naples and Marco Island in south-west Florida with the all-out fun style of these three-wheeled motorised vehicles. There are two 90-minute routes on offer, and, whether you are 12 or 80, Trike Tours promise that you will be in for a unique experience.
Horse Riding Orlando
Ever since the lovely rural location of Horse World Riding Stables in Kissimmee closed a few years ago, we’ve been on the lookout for another option that gives visitors a chance to experience Florida’s wonderful countryside on horseback without having to drive out of the main tourist areas. Horse Riding Orlando is just that opportunity. Situated in Kissimmee, just south of the executive Gateway Airport, these one-hour trail rides (Mon-Fri only; bookings necessary) are a great new way to enjoy some genuine local style in best equestrian style.
Tampa Food Halls
Travel around south Florida for any length of time and you’re sure to encounter the newest dining phenomenon of Food Halls. These self-contained food-court style venues feature a variety of up-and-coming chefs and foodie experiences, and now you can try them out in Tampa, where two of the newest examples have opened recently. The Hall on Franklin was first, offering an enticing variety of dining opportunities – including trendy poke bowls and their own cocktail mixologist – and was quickly followed by the ambitious Heights Public Market, a huge repurposed warehouse featuring no fewer than 15 restaurants, cafes and bars and some outstanding tastes, from Zukku Sushi to the uber-cool BAR at Armature.
Marineland’s 80th Anniversary
Hands up anyone who knows where the world’s first oceanarium was established. If you said Marineland in Florida, just south of St Augustine, you get a gold star. And, in 2019, this little-known gem on the Atlantic coast celebrates its 80th anniversary of offering dolphin and other marine life programmes that have helped to further valuable research and other environmental studies. With a new museum alongside their existing array of exhibits, tours and conservation lessons, this is definitely the place to get up close and personal with dolphins, sea turtles and tiger sharks!
When it comes to genuinely new experiences in Florida, they don’t come much fresher than this extensive complex of shopping, dining, hotels and entertainment in Daytona Beach. The first stage of One Daytona opened last year, featuring five restaurants and 15 shops as well as a cinema and game centre, and the next phase will make its debut in the spring when The Daytona, a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, opens its doors and adds another high-quality signature restaurant, rooftop terrace bar and car exhibit to this pleasing overall mix.
Old Town, Kissimmee
Regular visitors may raise an eyebrow at seeing this outdoor shopping and dining centre – which opened in 1986 – as one of the state’s ‘new’ features for 2019, but the fact is Old Town has been quietly undergoing a complete renovation under new owners for the past two years, and all their labours will finally come to fruition on April 6 with its grand re-opening. The new vibe is ‘Classic American Fun,’ and there will be a captivating retro look to the refurbished line-up of shops, cafes and entertainment venues.
Kennedy Space Center
We never need any excuse to highlight the home of One Small Step For Man as an essential place to visit, but the KSC will receive another boost this year with a major addition to their essential Rocket Garden exhibit. The United Launch Alliance’s impressive Delta II rocket will get its own special showcase in the garden at the same time as the Center celebrates the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s epic first moon-walk, AND prepares for the first manned launches from Cape Canaveral in more than eight years. It all adds up to a compelling programme of space adventure and exploration in 2019, so be sure to check out ATD’s array of KSC tickets and tours on this link.
Want to know more about all these great upcoming Florida experiences, or would you like to tell us about your own? Head on over to the fab ATD forums!
Liked this post? You may also like...