Sports holidays in Florida
Taking in the local sports activity, whether it’s just watching a game or taking part yourself, is an essential part of any Florida holiday for those who like to be fully engaged in the places they visit. Here in the Sunshine State, that can mean going to an American Football game, or kayaking through the mangrove swamps.
Considering the state is dominated by the sea (not to mention the hundreds of lakes, rivers and canals), watersports are also top of the agenda for many Floridians, hence this is definitely the place to come to try your hand at a wide range of possibilities, from jet-skiing to stand-up paddle-boarding. Just about anywhere along the coast will be able to offer a good variety of activities, while boating of every kind is another major local pastime.
Fishing in Florida
Boating also goes hand in hand with fishing, and this is definitely the state to try out your inner angler, as it is a world-renowned destination for just about every kind of fishing you can think of. The many lakes are home to black bass – which make for great sport and can produce record-breaking specimens – and the rivers to black crappie (locally known as speckled perch) and trout. Kissimmee and Seminole County both offer plenty of fishing trips and tours. Inshore fishing adds the chance to fly-fish for mullet, snook, snapper and redfish, while the main coastal areas all feature practically the ultimate in big-game fishing, heading out into the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico to hunt for sailfish, marlin, tuna grouper, tarpon and bonefish. The Keys have the most variety for deep-sea fishing.
Water sports in Florida
It’s almost impossible to go 10 miles in Florida without coming across some kind of water-borne activity, whether it’s on the seas or a river or lake. This is water-sports territory par excellence.
Kayaking, canoeing and boating are almost universal in both areas, and the ability to rent any kind of boat or paddling contraption go hand in hand with the water. It’s hard to point out specific areas where you might want to give any of them a try, but the St Johns River is hugely popular with kayakers, as is Crystal River, Kissimmee, Weedon Island Preserve, the Daytona Beach area and throughout the Keys.
By the same token, if there is a bit of beach to be found, the chances are there will be somebody offering boating, parasailing, kayaking or jet-skiing (or wave-runners, as they should properly be called). At Clearwater Beach, there are a couple of opportunities to go out in a powerful speedboat to ride the waves at high speed, as well as indulge in several dolphin-watching tours, which are popular along the intracoastal waterway that lines much of the state.
If you want to go sailing, there are marinas all along the Gold Coast that specialise in various types of yachting. Or how about ballooning? Central Florida is great territory for an early-morning balloon ride, and you will find several companies offering this exciting activity, notably Orlando Balloon Rides.
Surfing, Diving & Water-skiing
The Atlantic coast can also be surprisingly good for surfing, with regular events – and lessons – in places like St Augustine, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Cocoa Beach, Sebastian Inlet and Boynton Beach. The Gulf Coast tends to be calmer, and also offers the rare chance to scalloping – diving for scallops – in Homosassa Springs and Crystal River from July to September. Crystal River is also the only place in America where it is legal to swim with manatees, which makes for another amazing opportunity.
Scuba-diving is yet another major activity off both coasts but is particularly prevalent in the Keys, where there are extensive coral and man-made reefs to explore, and the marine life is spectacular. Look out for this opportunity especially at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo.
Water-skiing devotees, and for those keen to learn, will find the Orlando Watersports Complex the perfect place to try their hand, as well as the chance to try wake-boarding and knee-boarding.
Tennis holidays in Florida
Florida is well-known for its golf holidays, but it is also a fantastic destination if you enjoy playing tennis. The Sunshine State is home to the US Lawn Tennis Association and there are a number of places to play tennis.
IMG Tennis Academy, Florida
The famous IMG Tennis Academy has a 55 courts offering you the chance to choose your surface, whether it be hard, clay or indoor. The Academy offers a variety of options for playing tennis, from half-day to single-day options, but the 3-day Core program is a popular option and even incudes in-depth video analysis.
Academia Sanchez Casal, Florida
The Academia Sanchez Casal in Naples is another fantastic facility with a number of courts and programs available.
Hotels to Play Tennis in Florida
There are a number of hotel resorts in Florida with first-class tennis facilities on offer including the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort and The Longboat Key Club in Sarasota.
If you want to play some tennis or seek professional coaching to improve your serve, forehand or backhand, then Florida certainly has you covered.
Biking and hiking in Florida
For the more active, hiking and biking are popular throughout the state, notably in the state parks and in places where the old railroad lines have been converted into bike paths, like the West Orange Trail in Orlando and the Withlacoochee State Trail in rural Citrus County. Equally, ziplines and rope courses are growing in popularity, and there are first-class opportunities at Orlando Tree Trek in Kissimmee and at Forever Florida, south of Kissimmee, which has a fully-fledged zipline park in highly rural country.
American Football in Florida
American football is the biggest sport in the US, and that means the NFL (National Football League). Each of Jacksonville (the Jaguars), Tampa Bay (the Buccaneers) and Miami (the Dolphins) have their own teams, and the season runs from September to the end of December, with pre-season games in August and play-offs in January. There are only eight home games for each team a season, hence tickets can sometimes be hard to come by, but you can look for them online at Ticketmaster.com or StubHub.com. They will vary from just $45-$50 for the cheapest seats to more than $1,000 for the best.
Basketball in Florida
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is also a hot ticket, and the teams in Orlando (the Magic) and Miami (the Heat) are both popular. Both play in state-of-the-art indoor arenas, and the atmosphere is often a cross between a party and a rock concert, with dancers, mascots and regular giveaways between breaks in the action. The season starts in October each year and runs until April, with each team having 41 home fixtures, followed by play-offs for the top 16 teams in the country from mid-April to June. Both teams will sell tickets at their box office on game night, but you can also buy in advance from Ticketmaster and StubHub, with typical prices from as little as $30, rising to as much as $550.
Baseball in Florida
Baseball remains the easiest sport to watch as every team has 81 home games a year and they rarely sell out, except for games with their big rivals, or in the play-offs. The Tampa Bay Rays play at the massive indoor Tropicana Field in St Petersburg while the Miami Marlins are based at the even more impressive Marlins Park, which cost a whopping $634million to build in 2012.
The season runs from the end of March to the end of September, with the play-offs taking place in October, while there is a busy pre-season period (called Spring Training) in February and March. No less than 15 teams choose Florida for their Spring Training base each year, from Kissimmee to Fort Myers, and watching games at this time of year can be a lot of fun as they are more relaxed than during the main season, and tickets are cheaper, too. Again, Ticketmaster and StubHub are the best bets to secure seats in advance, and prices typically range from just $20 to $200 or more for the best regular-season seats, which are behind home base.
Florida Ice Hockey
Both Tampa and Miami also have ice-hockey teams in the NHL, and their season runs from October to early April, again with play-offs through April and May. The Tampa Bay Lightning play in the fabulous Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa, where tickets usually run from $40 to $360. The Florida Panthers play at BB&T Center in the Miami suburb of Sunrise, and their prices typically vary from $28 to $300. You can buy tickets online via Ticketmaster, or at the box office (but call to check availability first).
Soccer in Florida
Orlando City SC
Finally, Florida is now the place for soccer as well. Orlando City joined the MLS (Major League Soccer) in 2015 and their brand-new stadium is great to catch games in downtown Orlando from March to October (with the league’s play-offs lasting until December). Brazil legend Kaka played for the club between 2014-2017, raising the profile of the team internationally. Any knowledgable Premier League fans should recognise the name of Jonathan Spector who began his playing career in England with Manchester United, before moving to West Ham and then Birmingham City in the Championship. The defender moved to Orlando City in 2017 and is a familiar name to a number of English football fans.
Nicknamed The Lions, Orlando City are massively popular in Central Florida and the stadium, locally known as the ‘Purple Palace’ often sells out in advance for their 17 home games each year as it only holds 25,500. If you want to watch Orlando City then make sure to purchase tickets in advance on the Orlando City SC website. Pre-game fun for all home fixtures includes a street party along Church Street, with plenty of games, live music and other activities, while both the Lion’s Pride pub in downtown and the Broken Cauldron brewery are great places to hang out, even if you don’t have tickets!
Miami Join The MLS
If you have been watching the news then you may have seen that Miami will be joining the MLS after their new stadium has been built and other aspects finalised. The club was founded by David Beckham alongside other investors and will expand the opportunity to watch soccer in the Sunshine State.
Play and watch sport in Florida
There is a rich sporting culture in the Sunshine State, so whether you want to watch sport or participate, Florida has plenty of options for you.
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If you would like to find out more about sporting holidays to Florida then please contact contact our team who will be happy to help plan the perfect sports holiday for you.
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