Visiting Florida? 10 Things You Should Know!

Florida is a very interesting, very funny place. During Christmas the first year after I had moved here, one of our neighbors had flamingos in his yard. Sounds pretty normal, you say. But, did I mention that the flamingos were in the nativity outside? Yes, baby Jesus was a plastic flamingo. Other strange things I’ve seen are people sitting in their fishing boat in the front yard eating and drinking beer. I’ve also seen loads of adorable, fully clothed dogs being strolled around in – yes, you guessed it – strollers. So, Florida is an odd place full of unique people and places. Here’s a list of the top things to know before visiting Florida!

grandma in colorful sombrero hat

Snowbirds Aren’t Birds

That’s right. Snowbirds aren’t birds. In actuality, snowbirds are retirees from up north. You may call them northerners. We call them snowbirds. Snowbirds usually make there arrival late in the fall, usually in October or early November. The snowbirds have a summer home up in the northern states or Canada and keep their winter home where it’s warm, right here in good old Florida. You will hear locals all the time talking about when the “snowbirds” are coming and how traffic will increase. Snowbirds usually start heading home in springtime around Easter. Now you know!

What Exactly is a Lanai?

Glad you asked! A lanai is actually a “Florida Room”, or at least that’s what a good realtor would call it. A lanai is typically an enclosed porch area. It will be covered in a sheer, mesh material to keep out the bugs and other outdoor critters. Having a lanai in Florida is very normal and very typical. Almost every home or condo in Florida has a lanai. There’s no patios here! If you’re visiting Florida or looking for a home here, be sure to look for a home with a lanai.

submarine sub sandwich

Get Yourself a Pub Sub!

In Florida, if someone’s having a birthday party and they ask where the cake came from, they’re not expecting any other answer, except for Publix. This neat and tidy grocery store chain is popular in the southern states, but mostly in Florida. Publix is known for their great customer service and also for their yummy home town foods. Their bakery foods are excellent and it’s not unheard of to bring home some Publix chicken and sweet tea for dinner. And if you’re looking for sub sandwiches when visiting Florida, look no further than a “Pub Sub”!

What is the Tamiami Trail?

This is an easy one. The Tamiami Trail is a highway that leads all the way from Tampa down to Miami, hence the name – Tamiami. If you live anywhere between Central Florida down to Southern Florida, you know what the Tamiami Trail is. Most of the cities in Southwest Florida, including Port Charlotte, are built all along the Tamiami trail, also known as U.S. 41. If you’re ever in doubt about taking the interstate when you’re visiting Florida, the Tamiami Trail can also get you there, but with a few extra stoplights on the way!

Read more about the Tamiami Trail here: That Long Florida Road

Love/Hate Relationship with Lovebugs

Well, it’s mostly a hate relationship with these annoying little critters. Lovebugs are harmless. They don’t bite, they don’t sting, but they’re gross – and they’re all over your car and all around you during spring and again in the fall. Twice a year these pesty little insects fly around. They are black and red and are always connected to their mate, which is why they’re called “love” bugs. They’re constantly together. Be prepared to use bug spray when washing your car. These annoying bugs will hang out a for a few weeks and then mysteriously disappear until the next lovebug season.

Read more about Lovebugs here: Those Pesky Things

It’s Bealls, but is Pronounced Bells

This large, Florida themed department store can be found in two different formats. You will find the original Bealls in malls across Florida. This store carries Florida themed clothing, home decor and much more. You can also find the lesser expensive Bealls outlets around many Florida towns. If someone is talking about going to “Bells”, they’re talking about going to Bealls or Bealls Outlet.

alligator in lake pond in florida

Alligators, Lizards, Armadillos – Oh My!

The outdoor critters here in Florida are so unique compared to what you’ll find up north. When I first arrived, I was super paranoid about the alligators. They are here. You only have to glance outside at the nearest watering hole – a pond or a canal to see a gator. They enjoy sunning themselves on the grassy area next to the water. For the most part, alligators will leave you alone, if you leave them alone. But, I would not ever suggest approaching a gator. Do not feed the gators, either. That’s just dumb! Do not swim in canals or ponds. This isn’t the Midwest! And please, please, keep your pets away from the water! Besides the gators, also expect to see tons of lizards running around, dolphins in the ocean and harbor waters, manatees, and even armadillos! We haven’t even touched on the exotic birds yet! When visiting Florida you will see so much wildlife!

Read more about gators here: Florida Gators

Embrace the Sand

Having sand everywhere is such a real, natural Florida thing. You go to the beach, you get sand on you, in your car, everywhere, including your shower. But if you’re originally from out of state, you may not realize that sand is everywhere. It’s not just at the beach. It’s everywhere you go, everywhere you walk, and is surrounding you always. There is no dirt in Florida – there is only sand. Gardening can be difficult because of the sand. Most gardeners have to purchase their own dirt and often create raised garden beds to make the plants grow. There’s sand everywhere at my daughter’s school. When she comes home I have to dump out her shoes because it seems like she’s practically brought home the entire beach! Embrace the sand! You’re going to have to get used to it!

girls walking by beach ocean palm trees florida

Two Seasons: Wet & Dry

There aren’t four seasons in Florida. Not really. To any Floridian, there are two distinct seasons. We call them either the wet season or the dry season. Some people call them hurricane season and not hurricane season. During the summer when the temps are especially hot, you’ll see rain every single day, usually in the afternoon. Temperatures will be in the mid 90’s, even into October. The humidity usually spikes upwards of 100% almost every day in the peak of summer – in July and August. That’s the reason why it’s hurricane season in the summer – the high humidity. Expect to mow at least once a week in summer, because that’s a heck of a lot of rain. In winter, the rains stop and the lands dry out. You’ll see rain sporadically – maybe once a couple times a month, maybe not. The grass will usually turn yellow from lack of rain and the temps will go down to the 60’s and 70’s.

But Tell me More About the Hurricanes!

Yes, there are hurricanes in Florida. You guessed right! Hurricanes do not hit Florida every year, as some people may think. They do come, though, whenever they feel like it during hurricane season. Our local meteorologists do a great job of monitoring the storm and providing mostly accurate forecasts a week or more out. As someone who’s been living here for 8 years, its smart to tell you to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. Have a hurricane stash of supplies. We buy water and canned foods early in the season, so we’re prepared for if a hurricane comes. Most people from Florida know the drill with hurricanes. We tend to get excited during hurricanes, but that’s only because we’re being prepared. We know all about getting food, water, gas, shutters, batteries, and tarps!

Learn more about hurricane season and prep here: Whoa, It’s Getting Windy

If you’ve made it this far, then you know almost all the things you can know about Florida! You know about the seasonal snowbirds and you know to avoid the lovebugs! Pub Subs must be amazing and that you can expect your house to be covered in sand! Feel a bit more educated and prepared for visiting Florida, this beautiful place that I call home!

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