Beauty, Fashion, Travel, Fitness, Wellness and Lifestyle Blog | Emtalks

Monday, 15 May 2017

A Huge Guide To Visiting Florida; What To Do In Florida, Kissimmee, St. Pete/Clearwater, Wisteria Lane

asos orange beach maxi dress

Hello hello hello! I hope you’re so well! It only feels like yesterday I was writing my Miami guide. After the success of my Barcelona travel guide, my New York travel guide and then, my Miami travel guide, I thought it was only right to write up something similar from my recent trip to Florida. I’ve always thought Florida was only about Disney and that’s why I’ve only ever flown into Miami and spent my time there.  If I’m honest, I had absolutely no idea Florida was home to such wonderful areas, the places I’m going to talk about today. I hopped on a plane with Norwegian air (easily one of the best airlines I’ve ever flown with, no, seriously, more on that in a second) and before I knew it, I had arrived in paradise. Let’s talk about the best things to do in Florida…
premium class with Norwegian
Shop: Trousers and here / T-shirt / Shoes / 

Getting to Florida:

Getting to Florida is very easy and actually, very cheap. A lot of people don’t visit the USA as they think it’s going to cost a lot to get there, but thanks to Norwegian, that’s changed. I’ve flown to Miami before (which is obviously in Florida) but if you’re flying directly to Orlando, I highly recommend Norwegian Air. Take this from someone who does a lot of long haul flights, it was easily one of the smoothest, easiest and most comfortable journeys I've ever had in the air. I learnt about Norwegian recently and actually, they’re trying to make long haul travel more accessible by providing low-cost long-haul flights. When I first heard this, I wondered if they'd be Ryan Air style but as you can see from the image they're actually very premium in style and functionality. I’d say the service is seriously premium and actually, there’s nothing low about them apart from their prices. They’re the only low-cost long-haul airline in the UK flying direct to the U.S. Usually, when a flight is affordable you have to do loads of changes but this is quick, direct and so comfortable. This trip was my first ever flight with them and not only are they ridiculously affordable, but it’s one of the newest and nicest planes I’ve been on. The difference between these new planes (which are a lot more eco friendly and a lot more technically advances) and old planes is ridiculous. = If you have the extra money to spare, I’d highly recommend flying premium. It’s very much like business class, with higher quality food, crazy amounts of leg space and really good service. The seats extend back massively and the comfort is incredible. I had the best sleep of my life! Norwegian Air aim to make travelling internationally more affordable but even though it’s affordable, you wouldn’t know whatsoever, it actually feels like a luxury service and was definitely one of the most comfortable flights I’ve ever been on. As well as comfort, the premium cabin gives you access to airport lounges, fast track security and you get to take two pieces of checked luggage up to 20kg each. It completely took the stress out of traveling and I felt looked after, full and content as soon as I'd checked in. It really is worth the extra money. All premium passengers get get spacious seating with 46 inches of leg room, complimentary drinks and high quality food. No dodgy plane stomach with Norwegian. For me, the most exciting thing is the technology they use to help limit jet lag. Bonus (you can tell I watched all the safety videos before we set off!). Top tip: If theres room, sometimes you can upgrade to premium from £250 per way at check in. This is a new year-round service making the Sunshine State accessible for us all and I'm so happy about it. I'm half tempted to grab all my family and put them on a flight there for some much needed sunshine. I’m currently organising a trip back to the USA and I’m definitely hoping to fly with Norwegian. Visit Norwegian for more information. 

Transport around Florida:

I was told that people don’t really walk around Florida and tend to either get taxis, rental cars or buses. It seems people drive around Florida as it’s so easy to drive around.  We had the loveliest driver for our trip but I’m sure there are so many easy options, whether you rent a car or get a driver. I would recommend renting a car because then you can get around and really explore. Don't worry, there's so many exciting Target stores and CVS Pharmacy's to stop off along the way so you can always stock up on American candy and goodies.

Where’s Best To Stay/Visit In Florida: 

Florida is a big place, I didn't realise until I started exploring it! There are obviously so many incredible areas and places to visit in Florida (unaware to me until a few weeks ago), so I'm going to talk you through my favourites. I'm not going to include Miami because I've already done a full blog post about Miami, if you're interested in what to do in Miami, read about that on my Miami travel guide. 

Kissimmee - Kissimmee is where a lot of people stay when they’re going to Disney. It's full of affordable accommodation, super close to Orlando airport and is known as the gateway to fun. I'd say it's a prime location for families or couples as you can be so adventurous. Enjoy hot air ballooning, air boat rides, kayaking, get close up to alligators and so much more. Find out more about Kissimmee on the Experience Kissimmee website.

Jeeves orlando florida houses
Shop: Skirt / Top

Where to stay in Kissimmee - I'm sure there's lots of accommodation all over Kissimmee but I'd highly recommend renting a beautiful villa. We stayed at the most amazing villa (mansion) which was rented through Jeeves Orlando. I cannot recommend them enough, imagine the most beautiful house you've ever seen, a Kardashian-esque mansion that's for sure. This particular one slept 22 people and came with a pool, cinema room, most beautiful childrens room and more. See the images below but make sure you watch the vlog at the end of this video for a full tour. Jeeves Orlando are seriously luxurious but they actually work out really well priced if you're in a big group. This would have cost around $3000 for a week, for 22 people! I've stayed in European hotels which cost $1000 a night before so this really is good for the high quality and proximity to the parks if you are visiting Disney. You can obviously get smaller houses too but it's my dream to take my whole family here and hire a chef for the week! Click here to see a full tour of our amazing Florida mansion. Find out more about Jeeves Orlando

What To Do In Kissimmee - As mentioned, Kissimmee is the gateway to fun and there are certainly a lot of things to do, besides from Disney. I've never actually visited Disney properly (I am the worst person, I know!) I'm so beyond desperate to visit, however, as well as Disney, there are some amazing things to do here. See my list of things to do in Kissimmee below, obviously there are so many things, but these are some of the best things from my trip. Visit the Experience Kissimmee website for more info. 

Dress Sunglasses from Sunglass Hut

gaylord palms florida
gaylord palms in florida

Gay Lord Palms - Gay Lord Palms is a convention centre about a ten minute drive from our Jeeves Orlando house. It's full of little restaurants and also, a huge hotel. We went there to grab a delicious breakfast buffet at Villa De Flora. It wasn't the best American breakfast I've had but it was still epic. I am such a buffet lover and they had great options. 

celebration florida
Shop my outfit, from LVNDR but sold out, similar here and here

celebration kissimee bohemian hotel

Celebration - I fell madly in love with Celebration, it made me fall in love with Kissimmee and never want to leave. Celebration is the most wonderful, picture perfect place. You could easily spend a whole day here, bobbing in and out of the gorgeous stores and cafes, walking along the water front and then, looking at the pristine houses. I wish we spent a lot longer in Celebration as it really is a perfect little place. It was originally developed by Mr Disney as a place for his staff to live, in more recent years, it's become residential. It's just my favourite place! We had a lovely breakfast here at Columbian Hotel (the most stunning hotel ever and so Instagram worthy) and an even better Columbian lunch at a tapas restaurant called Columbia Restaurant. If you love old school restaurants, with the biggest best cocktail jugs and the best tapas, head here. They make cocktail jugs freshly infront of you and it's so exciting. I'd highly recommend both.

wisteria lane
houses on wisteria lane

houses on wisteria lane
Wisteria Lane - Make sure you head to the real Wisteria Lane, famous from Desperate Housewives. You've never seen such perfect houses, some of them even have Disney on the fences. It's really a beautiful and quaint residential area but worth a stroll around. 

paddlefish Disney springs

disney springs

paddlefish disney springs restaurant
Disney Springs - A very close second place behind Celebration as my favourite place in Florida. This is my closest experience to actual Disney so I was a little excited. Disney Springs is such an exciting little place, again, a short drive from our accommodation and well worth it. It's bustling full of restaurants and shops as well as typically Disney displays (imagine underwater cars and fireworks). It's a truly beautiful place and it really felt so magical. We ate at a place called Paddlefish which will remain one of my favourite restaurants forever. I had the lobster guacamole to start which was definitely the best guacamole I've ever had. For main, I went for the biggest steak on the menu and it was cooked to perfection. In true American style, the portion sizes were crazy but I totally embraced it. I wish I could eat here every single night. I'd go back to Disney Springs just for that guac. Disney Springs is also the home to STK, Sephora and many more of my favourite places. 

Kayaking - One of the loveliest experiences had to be kayaking through the natural beauty of Shingle Creek. Again, somewhere we drove to. You can rent kayaks and do hourly, half day or full day rentals. You can rent a single handed kayak, a canoe or a paddle board. They also do guided paddle boards. You will definitely come pretty close to alligators when doing this, it's surreal but beautiful! Find out more at the paddling centre. 

Tree Climbing At Orlando Tree TrekJust a 5 minute drive from our amazing villa was a tree top adventure. It’s something I’ve done in the Lake District, Mexico, Austria and good old Yorkshire, but it’s a great way to break the ice with a group, be adventurous with the family or just get some fresh air. It’s basically a tree top adventure where you’re strapped in and you climb across obstacle courses in the trees, you can do this for as long as you like but we did it for just over an hour. The heat was crazy so make sure you keep hydrated. It's definitely a good family activity, soar through the sky with Tarzan swings, nets and more and actually, for someone into fitness, I loved the sweat I got on whilst doing it. I know Matt would have loved the 425-foot plunging zip lines! 

Hot Air Ballooning - Sadly we didn't get to do this but if the weather is good, you must do it! We got there, we were ready to ride but the weather was too dangerous. I'm so glad they take safety seriously. If you are in Florida, you must check out Orlando Balloon rides. I can only imagine how amazing the views would have been and what an experience it would have been whilst in Kissimmee. A little birdie told me you can see part of the Disney castle!!! 

everglades in florida

everglades florida

Air Boat Ride - I've always dreamt of gliding through the everglades and with these airboat adventures, you're pretty much doing just that. This airboat river ride takes you along canals to find exotic birds, turtles and alligators in their natural environment. You soar over the swamp and feel like you're flying through the wetlands. It was a cool experience and again, one that a family would love to do. Find out more here

Kissimmee Summary - Kissimmee is a really fun, adventurous place. There's something for everyone, whether it's someone who likes to play golf (apparently the golf courses are amazing) or you're like me and just fancy eating your way around Celebration until you end up on Wisteria Lane dreaming about the houses. You've got Disney for the small kids and the big ones and Disney Springs for gourmet and magical dining experiences. From shopping to tree climbing to soaring through the everglades, there really is something for everyone to enjoy in Kissimmee. We only had two days in Kissimmee and ram packed as much in as possible, next time, I'm going to spend a whole day in Celebration and definitely make it to Walt Disney! I'd highly recommend renting a Jeeves villa, grabbing an American car and exploring Kissimmee! 

Now, onto some more places to visit in Florida! 

clearwater beach
St. Pete/Clearwater - A short car journey from Kissimmee and you'll find the beautiful Clearwater and St. Pete Area. The region is located on the peninsula of Florida's west coast and is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. It's 90 minutes from Disney and has 35 miles of award winning beaches, lots of exotic nature trails, culture and arts as well as so many amazing independent and boutique shops and stores. I had absolutely no expectations and I was so blown away by its beauty. We all gasped when we saw the gorgeous beach. It doesn't have the crazy tourism like Miami, which actually makes it a perfect spot to relax. Clearwater does have a nightlife though too, so if that's your kind of scene, you'll be fine here. 

beaux avenue bikini

Clearwater beach florida

huts on clear water beach
Where To Stay In Clearwater - We stayed at apparently the best hotel in Clearwater, the brand new Wyndham grand. Everyone we spoke to said it was the best and I truly had one of the best nights sleep, ever. I literally sunk into the gorgeous bed and felt like a total princess waking up to these gorgeous beachy views every morning. I could have stayed here for a whole week. The Wyndham Grand is perfectly situated amongst the bars, restaurants and right on the beach. It's so modern with one of the most delicious hotel breakfasts, sea views and a really good gym too. I always judge a hotel by the comfort of the bed, the quality of the breakfast and of course, the gym equipment! The Wyndham grand gets 5 stars from me.

Wyndham grand florida
Wyndham grand hotel

Things To Do In Clearwater - 

Gym kit and here / Sunglasses from Sunglasses Hut

Explore Clearwater beach and relax - Of course, you couldn't go to Clearwater and not enjoy and relax on the gorgeous beach. Whether you grab a bike or some roller blades and skate along it, wander down the pier or just grab a beach chair and enjoy the beach, it's seriously stunning. Make sure you have a stroll as the sun sets too. I seriously fell in love with this beautiful, quaint beach. I couldn't believe how white the sand was, it was almost as if it was imported. Clearwater Beach was awarded number 4 beach to visit and was the only US beach to make it into TripAdvisor's Top 25 Beaches in the world in 2016!

Taste - Have a taste of history and visit Dunedin Brewery. I agree with you and know exactly what you're thinking 'a brewery?!' but yep, I went there and actually enjoyed it. I loved learning about the family who own it and the sons who now look after it. Craft beer is huge in Clearwater and it would be rude not to check out Florida's oldest craft brewery. They even made non-beer lover me a sangria! They hand craft their beer in small batches. It was a nice, different experience. Find out more online here

frenchys Rockaway grill

Eat - There are loads of places to eat in Clearwater but we headed to beach favourite, Frenchy's. The seafood was delicious, I had some amazing, fresh prawns. It's definitely a no frills place, a beach bar with cocktails served in plastic cups, a loud atmosphere and the best sunset views. It's one of those fun places that you just need to check out. It's not the best food I've ever had but it's cheap, cheerful and very American. It's a fun experience. For lunch we ate at Marina Cantina, another fun, bar snack kinda place. I had the best seafood again here, the largest shrimps! They also have a really good happy hour. 

boat tour of clearwater

revolve romper lovers and friends
Shop my playsuit / similar here and here

gulf of Mexico dolphin tour florida

Dolphin Tour - We did a boat tour with The Tropics Boat Tours and I enjoyed it so much! You soak in the sunshine as you aboard a dolphin cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Along with seeing famous millionaires houses in Clearwater, you also get to see dolphins just swimming along in their natural habitat. This area is home to the largest pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (which you'll see in my vlog at the end of this video). It was a little overwhelming seeing them swim right by us. I loved this tour so much. Find out more here. 

Clearwater aquarium
Clearwater Marine Aquarium - This isn't any ordinary aquarium, this is a marine hospital with its main mission to rescue, rehabilitate and release. They also look after famous dolphin Winter, a dolphin who sadly lost a fin. This was a really lovely thing to visit and learn about the animals. Find out more here. 

Summary of Clearwater - I see Clearwater as a smaller version of Miami. You've got a stunning beach which amazing beach beds and surround by amazing bars, but then you've got a fun nightlife too and you do see a lot of young people here. Once you get out into the ocean on a tour, you really experience the beauty of Florida and see Clearwater from a distance. I loved this place so much.

st pete florida

St. Pete - Last but certainly not least, we drove around 30 minutes and ended up in St. Pete. The scenic costal route here is absolutely beautiful if you drive via Gold Boulevard.

the vinoy renaissance florida
Where To Stay In St. Pete -

vinoy renaissance florida

The Vinoy Renaissance - A Marriott property but an absolutely stunning one. It’s pretty old fashioned and definitely oozes old school, Gatsby glamour but my room was large, comfortable and the service was amazing. I love American hospitality and this hotel was a perfect example of amazing service. The hotel is also within walking distance of so many amazing amenities within St. Pete.

the don cesar florida
the don cesar cocktails

Shirt - tied / Shorts (playsuit featured earlier) / Sunglasses from Sunglass Hut / Nails are gel by Pastille beauty 

The Don Cesar - Whilst I didn’t stay here, I did visit for snacks and cocktails and wow, what a place this is. Right on the beach front, I totally see why so many people get married here. It’s a stunning venue, opulent, grand and very instagram worthy. I could have sat here all day and enjoyed cocktails whilst posing by the gorgeous pink walls. It’s known as Florida’s pink palace but the Vinoy is also gorgeous and pink!

locale market st pete

What To Do In St. Pete -

the mill st pete
food at the mill st pete

Eat! - Of course, you’re in America so you’ve got to eat. My first recommendation is The Mill, a stunning steak restaurant. I found the menu quite British, full of meats and pies. I really enjoyed my steak, it was one of the best steaks I’ve had whilst in America and the cocktails were amazing too. Everyone says this is the best restaurant in St. Pete. 

locale market st pete

Day time eating - I’d highly recommend putting some time aside to visit Locale Market. I see this as a fancier version of whole foods, where they sell local, exciting produce and prepare some of it infront of your face. You can buy everything from here and either eat inside or go and eat outside. The variety of food here was amazing and they had so many healthy options too. They also had a pizza oven, life is all about balance.

Shuffleboarding - I’ve never heard of shuffle boarding before and definitely felt like I was on an American movie set whilst partaking in this activity. Founded in 1924, the virsburg Shuffleboard Club is the oldest and largest shuffleboard club in the world. Friday nights are BYOB so of course we went along to see how the locals play.

Beach - I grabbed my pizza from Locale Market and ate it the best way I know how, on the beach. Not as stunning as Clearwater beach (that would be difficult to top) we headed to Fort De Soto Park to explore the park and the beach. It's very busy and very different but definitely worth a visit for some fresh air and greenery. 

st pete murals
murals in st pete

Mural Tour - Downtown St. Pete is known for its urban art scene, there are so many beautiful painted murals. Go for a stroll down central av to see them or do a guided tour if that's more your thing. The story behind the paintings is really interesting as it differs for each mural. 

St. Pete Summary - It's worth visiting St. Pete if you're in the area for the Don Cesar alone, easily the most stunning venue I've seen with the prettiest cocktails too! If urban places and art are your thing then you'll love downtown St. Pete. They also host evenings in the park where they put up a cinema screen which I think is a lovely touch. Clearwater and St. Pete are only short rides away from each other so you could always stay in Clearwater and do a day trip or an afternoon in St. Pete. Just make sure you definitely check out Locale Market, the fresh cheese, pasta and just everything blew me away.

So there we have it, the best way to show you what we got up to though is to make you watch my vlog! Click play below and you can see an exact tour of our gorgeous mansion in Kissimmee and really see just what happened. Please subscribe to me on YouTube here! It would mean the world to me! I'm certainly ready to fly with Norwegian again and head back to Florida, what an incredible place!

Have you visited Florida before? Have you ever visited any of the places I said? Have you flown with Norwegian?

You might also like:

 Barcelona travel guide 

New York travel guide
Miami travel guide 

Lots of love, Em x

* This was a jam-packed itinerary trip with the tourist board but is not sponsored. All thoughts and opinions are my own as always.

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