Florida—affectionately known as the sunshine state—offers a variety of cities and experiences to help fulfill all your vacation dreams. December is a favorite month for snowbirds who seek shelter and want to leave behind the snowy escapades of the North. And it’s no wonder winter is a popular season to visit; temperatures range from the pleasant low 60s to as high as 85 degrees! Check out these three unique cities for the best things to do in Florida during the holidays; they’ll seriously have you considering the snowbird lifestyle.

Welcome to Miami

If nightlight if your scene, head down to Miami and experience the magic of South Beach! But don’t judge a book by its flashy cover. Despite popular opinion, this city is not just about clubs or the sensational beach scene. Explore Miami’s vast food offerings including some of the finest Cuban eats found in the States. And if outdoor activities, like kayaking, golf or tennis, are more your style, head over to Key Biscayne (about a 15 minute drive from South Beach)—for an endless amount of fun in the sun. Want to know more? Check out Hilton Suggests post on Miami, here.

Orlando – Disney Dreams and Foodie Fun

Head a few hours north to central Florida to check out Orlando – home to theme parks like the Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando® Resort, SeaWorld® Orlando and Legoland® Florida. For all these reasons and more, Orlando is truly a mecha for family fun! Theme Parks, shopping and natural attractions are the obvious choices, but if you find yourself in the mood for food, check out Hilton Suggests guide to the lesser known Orlando foodie scene, here.

Tempted by Tampa

Located on the west coast of Florida, Tampa offers a unique small city experience with legendary beaches, like Clearwater, just a few minutes’ drive away. December is an especially fun time to visit with many wonderful holiday festivities in the area. Boat parades decked out in lights, ‘Santa Fest’ with ice-skating, and even “snow” in St. Petersburg – all of these will get you in the holiday spirit! Here are some top picks for making sure you fully enjoy Tampa’s holiday season:

Where to Eat in Tampa – The Classics and Foodie Gems

  • Salt Rock Grill or Prime – Seafood is always a must while visiting Tampa, and no one does it better than these joints!
  • Columbia’s in Ybor – For a true flavor of Tampa one must visit Columbia’s for authentic Cuban food. Columbia’s opened in 1905 and is still owned by the same family 110 years later. Specialties I adore are the ‘1905 Original Salad’ and the yummy pork and rice. No one does it better.
  • Bern’s Steak House – If you’re celebrating a big event, then Bern’s is the place worth splurging. Make sure to save room for a trip to Side Bern’s for dessert! They are world-renowned and a fun place as well.
  • Frenchy’s – This one is for the beachgoer! Settled right on the beach, be sure to try their fabulous ‘She Crab Soup,’ a Midori Margarita, or indulge with a fresh burger.
  • For a tried-and-true seasonal restaurant experience, check out Brio’s. In years past, the center where the restaurant is located even had artificial snow falling—the scene was so magical, it gave me goose bumps!
  • A few other fun spots I’ve gone to in past years for Holiday get together include Bennedetto’sDatz and Texas de Brazil – all three were crowd pleasers!

Where to Stay in Tampa – A Hilton Brand Hotel, of course!

My favorite hotel in downtown Tampa is the Embassy Suites. Why? It is on the trolley line to Ybor, our Entertainment district, yet walking distance to the Forum, called the “Amalie Arena”, or try Channelside where you can shop until you drop. It’s a great place to gather friends and escape the stress of real life. If the beach is more your scene, the Clearwater Hilton is another option just down the road from Tampa. It is within walking distance to the pier which features music and shopping on the weekend – and it’s located on one of Florida’s most beautiful beaches, perfect for walking, playing or simply relaxing.

Where to Play in Tampa – The Outback Bowl

If you happen to be in Tampa on January 1, my family and I love to attend – and highly recommend – the annual ‘Outback Bowl’ at Raymond James Stadium. In advance of the big college football game each year, both teams come together to compete in a game of tug of war on Clearwater beach! It’s a great event for visitors, family and friends, whether you’re a college football or not… come watch to see which team is the strongest and will prevail. Some of the teams from the north will even go in the water, which in January is way too cold for us locals! It is a fun way to end the holiday season with a little tailgating, football and family time.

Want to know more about Florida? Explore Hilton Suggests blog and let us know if you need more local tips or share your ideas for where to explore!

This article was originally published by Hilton Suggests.

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