Sometimes, winter can get too much to bear. And when that happens, there’s a place not far away that offers the perfect relief: sunshine, fun and relaxation, with fresh orange juice thrown in. It’s called Florida, and this week The Travelling Boomer sets off on a trip to explore and discover it from three different angles. The trip is called the Baby Boomer Road Trip, and it started yesterday.
It’s not a one-man exploration. Travelling with me is my friend and colleague Maarten Heilbron, of the popular Maartech YouTube channel. And we’re discovering Florida by driving across it in a stylish Mustang convertible, with the top down and the radio up (that’s Maarten with the car, below left).
Our Baby Boomer Road Trip will visit three different parts of Florida, each with its own distinctive character and its own attractions. Yesterday, we arrived in St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States. It’s a place with some amazing history — think Ponce de Leon, the Fountain of Youth, and pirates. It’s also a city whose quaint downtown, great food and southern charm attract many thousands of tourists each year — including a lot of boomers.
Next, we head west to Ocala, in Florida’s interior, for a taste of the great outdoors. Ocala is known as Florida’s horse country. Future champion thoroughbreds graze there in green fields, like a little piece of Kentucky. But the region around Ocala is also blessed with great wilderness areas, like Silver Springs State Park, where the movie Tarzan was filmed, and the Ocala National Forest, the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi.
Finally, we’ll end our road trip with a visit to Tampa, one of Florida’s prime spots for fun in the sun. Tampa has been attracting tourists for decades with its fine beaches and laid-back lifestyle. But there’s also Busch Gardens, one of the country’s top aquariums, and some crazy events: we’ll be arriving just in time for the pirate-themed Gasparilla Parade; that’s an event I’m looking forward to.
So far, Florida has given us a warm welcome. We left home in winter, with temperatures around freezing, and arrived in summer, with the thermometer hitting the high 20s Celsius (high 70s Fahrenheit). We checked into two very comfortable rooms at the TRYP Hotel, a short walk from the downtown tourist area. Then we headed out for some dinner and a look at St. Augustine’s famous Nights of Lights.
Eating dinner in a second-floor restaurant, we could look down and see the town square lit up like a fairy land. The lights stretched on down the waterfront, where horse-drawn carriages waited to take visitors for a clip-clop tour of the old city.
Our trip started well, and it promises to be a great adventure. Stay tuned as we go discovering Florida — there’s a lot more to see, and some of it may surprise you.