Florida is fantastic year-round, of course, but some cities are worth a visit in the cooler months.
As the winter approaches here in Florida, two things happen: Temperatures (finally!) begin to cool off around the state, and a lot of popular destinations around the Sunshine State are quieter…until schools are out for the holidays, that is.
In a state as geographically diverse as Florida, average high temperatures in the wintertime can range from the low-60s in the Panhandle to high-70s in South Florida, with lows in the low-40s and high-50s, respectively. These cooler temperatures have Floridians donning their boots and sweaters, and it’s a perfect time to visit different parts of the state with fewer crowds and more time and room to move.
Here, we take a look at a handful of Florida towns that are better in winter.
Not only does this idyllic oceanside town on Florida’s east coast—between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach—have a few miles of uninterrupted beach, but it boasts a vibrant downtown community that extends down Atlantic Avenue and is buzzing from morning ’til night with boutiques, galleries, restaurants, cafés, bars, and even a food hall.
Enjoy the fresh air at outdoor events like Holidays in Downtown Delray November 5 through the end of the year; Country On the Ave Music Festival on November 12; Art In the Garden November 19; Delray Beach Surf Festival November 20; and Beatles On the Beach Festival December 15-18, to name a few. Check out the entire events calendar for more fun in store over the next few months.
The southernmost point of southwest Florida was spared from the wrath of Hurricane Ian for the most part, and is open and welcoming guests. The cooler temperatures at this time of year are perfect for getting out onto the water and exploring the quiet mangroves of the Ten Thousand Islands, or simply taking a walk on the beach and soaking in vitamin D.
Bird watchers will delight in a handful of local spots that are part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, including Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Tigertail Beach, Everglades National Park, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park and Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in nearby Naples, where the Southwest Florida Birding and Wildlife Festival in held in January. About 200 species of birds have been spotted in the area, including wood storks, osprey, piping plover, roseate spoonbills, bald eagles, great blue herons, sanderlings, willets, and more—which will you add to your life list?
Cooler temps bring one of Florida’s most beloved marine mammals back to its natural springs—manatees! Manatees migrate to springs like those in Crystal River from November through March to avoid colder waters in the Gulf of Mexico, to the delight of us all! During this time of the year it’s not unusual to find hundreds of manatees huddling together in the springs, which makes them really easy to spot!
There are a few options when it comes to seeing manatees in the Manatee Capital of The World, including snorkeling, standup paddling and spotting them from the dryness of a fully accessible boardwalk at Three Sisters Springs Refuge, which is part of The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the only refuge in the U.S. dedicated to the preservation and protection of a single species.
A favorite among central Floridians, this charming lakeside town is a terrific respite from the hustle and bustle of the everyday world year-round, and even more so in the wintertime. The arts-filled town is perfect for relaxing, strolling the avenue and popping into shops, galleries, restaurants and cafés as you feel inclined.
There are a host of outdoor events happening in Mount Dora over the next few months, including a Lighted Boat Parade on December 3, the Mount Dora Half Marathon and 5k the weekend of December 17, and the Mount Dora Arts Festival and Mount Dora Jane Austen Fest in February.
The oldest continuously occupied settlement of European and African-American origin in the state, and indeed the entirety of the U.S., is a terrific place to visit in the winter months. The crowds at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and the area’s beaches should be smaller, the shops and galleries should be easier to move about, and the restaurants shouldn’t have as long of wait times as in the summertime.
Not only that, but in the wintertime the city is simply dazzling—more than 3 million lights twinkle during St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights mid-November through January; the Gullah Geechee Heritage Festival celebrating 450 years of West African influences in the community will be held on Dec. 3; and guided bird walks at Anastasia State Park and First Friday Garden Walks at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park happen monthly to get outside and enjoy the weather.
An incredibly popular destination in the summertime, and for good reason, Destin is just as lovely to visit in the winter months. Imagine having the sugar-white sand beaches to yourself for a sunrise walk; go kayaking in Blackwater River State Forest just north of I-10; or make a visit to Henderson Beach State Park and feel like you have the entire place to yourself. Cast a line in the "World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” and you may just catch any one of three types of snapper, triggerfish, or tuna, which are all found in Destin’s waters this time of year.
Join the locals at a variety of events held in the cooler months, including a Lighted Boat Parade, the Pelican Plunge on New Year’s Day, and the Shrimp and Grits Festival in February. Oh, and the cooler temperatures and drier skies also mean spectacular stargazing—simply go outside and look up after the sun sets!
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