Road To 50 Part 44: Florida

Surrounded by water, relax or soak in the beaches of a tropical paradise.

Florida is one of America’s closest versions to a tropical paradise. It’s surrounded by water everywhere, with beaches and palm trees aplenty. The Sunshine State is a top family and Spring Break destination with attractions, including: Disney World, SeaWorld, Miami Beach, Daytona Beach, and Panama City Beach. Not to mention the popular presence of other large cities, such as: Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville.

Orlando/Disney World

Disney World
Disney World. UNSPLASH Benjamin Suter

Central Florida’s premier attraction is the iconic Disney World, a quintessential paradise for any kid. In 2004, my family took a trip to Orlando to visit the world-class landmark, this became the earliest vacation I can remember in my life and one of the highlights of my childhood with specific moments lingering in my head.

I do remember witnessing the large white golf ball at the Epcot Center, being confused yet amazed. The baffling part to me was the construction of a ball of that size, wondering if it could crush anything if pried loose.

I also recall taking a small boat ride in what I believe was a Jaws exhibit. A fake great white shark appeared out of the water, catching everyone off guard while sending me into instant panic mode.

The best part was Magic Kingdom with a soaring, gargantuan castle that made me feel like something from TV had come to life. Disney was assuredly a magical place to visit.

In 2004, our trip was unfortunately caught in a hurricane. Before the windy and watery blitz of Hurricane Charlie took place, I noticed the sky turning into a deep dark blue shade as we took shelter in a relative’s house in Orlando. While the hurricane raided Central Florida, I felt like my shield (the house) could’ve faltered and collapsed at any point, I would’ve been swept up in a massive whirlpool. I could hear the vicious 100 mph wind hammering against the house, it was a nerve-racking experience to say the least.

The day after exposed the harsh realities of hurricane aftermath, places took a shellacking with trees and debris scattered all over the streets. Despite watching hurricane news on TV, one cannot feel the nerves and intense pressure that come along with natural disaster until a personal experience has taken place. The ability to deal with annual cavalcades of hurricanes certainly shows the resiliency of Floridians.

Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center. UNSPLASH SpaceX

In the summer of 2009, my family stopped in Central Florida once again, this time to catch a cruise from Port Canaveral. We stopped at the Kennedy Space Center nearby, close to the town of Cape Canaveral. I have had an interest in the solar system and space since I was young, so this visit was especially fascinating. Witnessing the immense size of various spacecraft was astonishing. The technical precision and overall complexity of sending humans into space is simply mind-boggling. The most serene exhibit was the Saturn V Rocket, a large display placed horizontally. The sheer size of it was breathtaking, it might have been the length of a skyscraper. The exhaust pipes, which I presume that’s what they were, looked like massive black holes. This model of the rocket, the Saturn V, was responsible for human moon expeditions. My biggest thought was: how do these machines hold up during a journey to outer space?


Miami Beach. UNSPLASH Denys Kostyuchenko

I had the chance to visit South Florida for the first time in August 2019. All of Florida was humid during the summer, I could feel sizzling heat as I explored the Miami area on a Tuesday afternoon. With a dazzling and chic vibe, the city did not disappointed.

To kick off the one-day pit stop, I took the Island Queen Cruise to behold the Miami skyline and traverse through petite islands in the Biscayne Bay between downtown and Miami Beach, otherwise known as: South Beach.

The cruise was tranquil, it rode alongside various estates and mansions that belonged to 50 Cent and Shaquille O’Neal, just to name a few. It was easy to recognize that the mansions matched their lifestyle, grand and luxurious. There were plenty of million-dollar palaces on the islands, combined with the sun’s reflection on them added an extra layer of elegant luster. They coincided with Miami’s glitzy vibe, lavish, immersed in palm trees and looking extra posh.

Downtown Miami’s Bayside Marketplace was the next stop: a two-floor, large commercial entertainment complex. It was along the bay, but no wind was blocking that midday humidity. The shops were endless, and the pristine Miami skyscrapers towered over the place. Since the complex was outdoors, it presented an ideal nighttime destination, but I got a cool beverage and headed to South Beach.

South Beach and Miami are publicized heavily in the movies for their party reputation, but visiting on a Tuesday made me realize how quiet and peaceful these places could be. As I crossed the I-195 Bridge across the Biscayne Bay into Miami Beach, I saw the iconic “Welcome to Miami Beach” sign swathed in palm trees, I couldn’t have felt more exhilarated. This was a sign that I had seen in media outlets numerous times before, but it felt surreal to finally witness it firsthand.

This area’s most symbolic street is Ocean Drive, the closest to the Atlantic Ocean, and filled with colorful building designs and vintage cars parked on the street that plunged right into the 1900s. Though the humidity was stifling in the afternoon, cruising on Ocean Drive was memorable. On one side, there was a lengthy sidewalk to walk along and relax in the park-like setting. Palm trees were prevalent and a sandy path led to the Atlantic. At the beach, there were parasailers, water skiers, and beachgoers enjoying the afternoon. Skyscrapers, presumably luxury condos or resorts, inhabited the beachside in the distance. The whitish sand also stretched into the distance, lifeguard towers were present close to the water. South Beach’s lifeguard towers are known nationwide for their magnificent designs, I luckily saw one with a blue-yellow infusion and another with a light purple essence. Those were the only one within my eyesight, but many more were present.

On the other side of Ocean Drive was the presence of the uniquely designed buildings. As I walked south along that side, I could see a light blue splash added to a building design, another in a full light-yellow appearance, along with one that was light purple too. The visual presence was eye-catching, and some were shaped like a square, showcasing some of the world’s best architecture. I honestly felt like I went back in time because this striking array of colors was seldom used on places I had seen. My time on Ocean Drive made me feel accomplished in the fact that I saw the Miami that I had pictured in my head. There were palm trees, endless shoreline, and the resplendent one-of-a-kind building designs. It was an unforgettable experience which lived up to all my expectations.

Keep shining strong, Florida.

Rishi Patel


Rishi Patel's passion for writing is almost as great as his passion for traveling. Traveling remains the utmost favorite hobby and pastime for Rishi, which has led him to visit 47 of the 50 U.S. States and he cannot contain his excitement as he tries to reach the milestone of visiting all 50.

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