Why: “Fort Myers totally surprised me,” says Caldwell. “While it may be lesser known than some other Florida hotspots like Miami or Tampa, there’s still so much to see and do. Aside from the endless sunshine, beautiful beaches (make sure to visit Sanibel Island) and fresh seafood, it’s the unique selection of activities that stood out to me.”
In Downtown Fort Myers, history meets the modern era. A hidden gem along the Gulf Coast, the area is best known for the pristine beaches and wildlife found along its barrier islands, the downtown River District and brick-paved streets lined with Art Deco buildings that preserve the city’s history, while a mix of galleries, micro-breweries and local eateries offer endless opportunities for visitors to explore.
“Sports enthusiasts can catch a spring training game at JetBlue Park, beer lovers can hit up the variety of local breweries and history buffs can tour Thomas Edison and Henry Ford’s old digs,” says Caldwell. “There’s truly something for everyone.” This is especially a great year for West Coast travelers to visit the destination, as United Airlines has launched nonstop daily flights from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). The new service will be running seasonally through May 5, 2022.
2.Orlando, Florida Chosen By: Laura Begley Bloom, travel expert and author of this column.
Why: It’s a banner year for Orlando, and big credit goes to Walt Disney World Resort. For the past 50 years, The Most Magical Place On Earth has been enchanting generations of travelers with its special brand of happiness. So Disney World’s 50th anniversary event—dubbed “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,”—couldn’t come at a better moment. You’ll find special touches big and small, from 50th anniversary branded Keurig coffee pods in hotel rooms to pop-up parades in the parks to new rides like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (a reimagining of Paris inspired by the film) and a Guardians of the Galaxy coaster coming to Epcot this summer.
In the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle has never been more dazzling, thanks to a 50th anniversary refresh that includes gold bunting and other enhancements inspired by the art of Disney legend Mary Blair. Cinderella Castle is also the backdrop for the new “Disney Enchantment” fireworks and lighting projection show (just one of many new shows in honor of the big celebration).
There are also exciting new restaurants, from La Crêperie de Paris in Epcot to Steakhouse 71, a sophisticated steak spot at the Contemporary Resort (tip: It’s an ideal place to eat, just a short Monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom). On the hotel front, the big news is Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which welcomes guests for immersive, all-inclusive two-night adventures that include secret missions, character bonding and intergalactic cuisine. It’s like being in a galaxy far, far away.
Beyond Disney World, there’s lots of news in Orlando itself, including the world’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park at Legoland, Steinmetz Hall (an acoustically perfect theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts), ette Hotel Orlando (a wellness property with culinary experiences in partnership with Michelin-starred chef Akira Back) and Art² (an urban park featuring a two-story shipping container).
- The Palm Beaches, Florida Chosen By: Jennifer Bradley Franklin, Atlanta-based freelance journalist, editor and author. Follow her on her website or on Instagram: @jenniferbfranklin.
Why: “The Palm Beaches surprised me in the best possible way,” says Franklin. “I’ve had the pleasure of visiting twice in the last year for assignments, once in Palm Beach and once in Boca Raton. Part of the joy of the destination is that each town within The Palm Beaches has its own flavor and personality, and there are plenty of properties that let you tailor your stay however you want. Plus, it’s hard to complain about the tropical weather and seemingly endless miles of beaches to enjoy.”
“If you’re looking for a resort with so much to explore that you’ll never need to venture off-property, it’s hard to do better than The Boca Raton (in Boca Raton, naturally),” says Franklin. Originally built by architecture visionary Addison Misner in 1926, the resort now comprises five distinct hotels totaling more than 1,000 rooms. “Now under new management, the upgrades are evident, from restoring the Cloister back to its original coastal white to bringing on new restaurant partners. Speaking of dining, don’t miss Major Food Group’s The Flamingo Grill (Instagram heaven with waiters in pink dinner jackets and dishes such as Caesar salad and bananas foster prepared tableside) and Sadelle’s, of NYC brunch fame,” says Franklin. Spend the day on the wide beach or in a private cabana in the newly renovated Harborside Pool Club, not to mention miles of golf courses and the 50,000-square-foot Spa Palmera, with 44 treatment rooms designed by Colin Cowie.
“To stay in the thick of things on Palm Beach itself, I wholeheartedly recommend White Elephant Palm Beach,” says Franklin. The new art-filled 13-room, 19-suite Mediterranean revival property was originally the Bradley Park Hotel, built in 1924 but got a top-to-bottom renovation in 2020. “Positioned conveniently downtown, you can be at all of the best Worth Avenue shops in a few minutes. Some of my favorites, aside from every A-list designer you can imagine, include il Sandalo of Capri, Blesk Jewelry and Coastal Girls,” says Franklin. “The hotel will set you up with chairs, umbrellas and towels at the nearby beach, and they’ll even bring you anything you want from the hotel’s menu—the service is to die for.”
Other things not to miss: Have a drink poolside at Swifty’s delightfully retro (and pink!) The Colony hotel, visit the sprawling 75-room Henry Morrison Flagler Museum for a glimpse at the area’s Gilded Age roots and spring for a meal at HMF (named for Flagler) at The Breakers. “You won’t be disappointed,” says Franklin.