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Florida

Mr. Harper's Travel Guide

A family vacation to Florida ranks among the quintessential American travel experiences. Thousands of children’s happiest summer memories are of lazy days at a Florida beach, and for couples, the drive along U.S. 1 through the Florida Keys (ideally in a convertible) is ...

A family vacation to Florida ranks among the quintessential American travel experiences. Thousands of children’s happiest summer memories are of lazy days at a Florida beach, and for couples, the drive along U.S. 1 through the Florida Keys (ideally in a convertible) is unforgettably romantic. Parts of the state have been overbuilt, but in addition to plenty of sensational beaches, Florida retains a certain appealing eccentricity undiminished by resort developments. At its best, Florida feels relaxed and tropical – even exotic – and many visitors understandably adopt a favorite patch as a second home. 

Florida’s northern coast is best in spring and summer, but the southern end of the state tends to be most pleasant in winter. In the center of the state, Orlando’s theme parks remain popular throughout the year (school breaks bring the largest crowds). Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

bird icon Recommended Luxury Hotels in Florida

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.
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Best Restaurants in Florida

Small-plate aficionados will be delighted by the Nuevo Latino flavors at this bright and simple space in South Beach. To begin, an astonishing variety of ceviches might include salmon with white soy sauce, citrus juices, chili-spiced cucumber, tarragon, red onion and crispy garlic. A starter could be the chicharrón plate, featuring crispy rock shrimp coated with rice and corn flour in a sweet-and-spicy sauce with micro cilantro. Among the main courses, you might find filet mignon cut and grilled churrasco style. 

The Sanctuary Hotel 1745 James Avenue Miami Beach $65

For a city beside the sea, Miami has surprisingly few good seafood restaurants. The menu at Mandolin draws on the cuisines of Turkey and Greece. In this pleasant, light-washed space, look for mezzes such as the Greek sampler of tzatziki, eggplant purée and taramasalata, or marinated grilled octopus. The simply delicious mains might include fresh whole fish grilled with olive oil, lemon and oregano; a classic moussaka; or grilled lamb chops with an orzo pilaf.

4312 N.E. Second Avenue Miami $60

A makeover has taken the signature restaurant of The Biltmore in Coral Gables from stuffy to stunning. The seasonal menu is as contemporary as the décor. Look for starters such as king crab with carrots, English peas, cipollini onions and grissini; or sea urchin custard with poached langoustines, golden osetra caviar and a Granny Smith apple gelée. Main courses might include Alaskan black cod poached in coconut milk with a sweet potato degustation and curry; or Japanese Kobe beef tenderloin with a confit of baby potatoes, tomatoes, green asparagus, spring onion and diable sauce. Closed Sunday and Monday.

The Biltmore 1200 Anastasia Avenue Coral Gables Four-course menu, $95; six courses, $115; 11-course chef's menu, $195

This restaurant on Biscayne Bay is the Southern sister of esteemed Il Mulino in New York. Look for classic appetizers such as clams casino and arugula salad. The terrific pastas include a fine spaghetti alla carbonara and fettuccine alla Bolognese. The array of main courses features dishes such as veal saltimbocca, chicken scarpariello and roasted branzino. Service is excellent. Closed Sunday.

335 South Biscayne Boulevard Miami $75

Michael Schwartz’s airy, modern bistro is a Design District favorite. Schwartz cites Alice Waters as an inspiration, and his creative menu emphasizes unpretentious, locally sourced dishes at reasonable prices. It changes frequently, but look for selections such as house-made duck confit with orange marmalade, frisée and spiced pumpkin seeds; stracciatella with heirloom tomatoes, basil and extra-virgin olive oil; and slow-roasted and grilled Harris Ranch beef short rib with roasted cipollini onions, romesco sauce and hazelnuts. 

130 N.E. 40th Street Miami $55
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