Sunshine & Southern Comforts: 11 Reasons Florida + Georgia Is The Ultimate USA Combo Vacay
Instagram-worthy pink sunsets, super yacht spotting, a Justin Bieber hangout and getting your feet tickled by ghosts... fancy it?
If you’re wondering where to go on your summer getaway this year and you can’t decide between a beach holiday, a city break or a cultural, scenic vibe, then huzzah - we're here to inform you it's possible to fit them all into one short (but uh-mazing) trip.
In our quest to discover the perfect holiday, we discovered that Florida and Georgia make a pretty wonderful double-up vacay.
We flew to Fort Lauderdale in Florida and travelled to Atlanta and Savannah in neighbouring state Georgia, finding that in less than a week you can experience the luxury life in the sunshine state AND a labyrinth of southern comforts and culture without a huge trek from one side of America to the other.
Need more convincing? Here are 11 ways you can make the best of your time in Florida and/or Georgia and find out why they’re so great to pair up together.
But first, did you know water yoga is a thing now? Yep, really...
1. Watch the pink sunsets with a cocktail in hand
With palm trees, pink sunsets and 23 miles of sun-kissed beaches, you Instagram lovers are in for a real treat. Sipping on our cocktail at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa (which is actual hotel goals, btw) was seriously improved by Florida’s pink sunsets, which are caused by dust from the Sahara desert. Just think of the photo ops!
Other chilled activities include taking a dip in their refreshing pool, going jet skiing or snorkeling on the private beach or having a lazy day pampering your body and mind in the spa. Life’s a beach in Fort Lauderdale.
2. Do some luxury yacht spotting on a relaxing boat ride
If you fancy pretending you’re a Kardashian while casually sailing past mansions and super yachts for an evening, then take a ride on a water gondola along the meandering canals and waterways in America’s picturesque version of Venice.
Prepare to sip on some vino, experience some laid-back luxury and see why Fort Lauderdale is the yachting capital of the world – you’ll spot all the INSANE mega yachts and dreamy mansions on Millionaire’s Row. We visited during the festive season, so you can only imagine how extra the Christmas decorations were – yep, we’re talking entire mansions covered in dizzyingly decadent décor that even Kris Jenner would be jealous of.
3. Paddleboarding with iguanas and stingrays, oh my!
Florida is sunny for around two-thirds of the year and what better way to spend your sun-filled days than a relaxing paddleboard ride through the mangroves in Dania Beach.
Spot stingrays gliding under your board and mullet fish jumping high out of the water as you paddle past iguanas in the trees (look closely, sometimes they blend in with the mangroves!). Feel free to jump in - there’s no alligators or sharks to be seen!
4. Explore Downtown Hollywood and channel all of your arty vibes
If you fancy checking out some cool af street art, head to the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, which is a collection of local and international artists who have transformed the area with their artistic talents.
Finish with some retail therapy at Las Olas Boulevard, a mile of shops, restaurants and cafes as well as independent boutiques, galleries, and quirky stores. Fort Lauderdale is also a short drive from Palm Beach and Miami if you feel like heading down there for an afternoon.
5. Build up a serious appetite... you’re gonna need it!
It’s near mandatory that you chow down on the local delicacies. Expect to feel VERY full after visiting some of these places:
Fort Lauderdale - GG’s beautiful waterfront bar and grill is known for their fresh seafood and stone crab, as well as breathtaking views of the waterways while luxury yachts cruise by your table. For an evening of dreamy tapas-style Japanese food, head to Kuro in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino where you should expect the unexpected.
Atlanta - Mary Mac’s Tea Room sets the standard for southern cooking and it definitely helps that Justin Bieber is a fan of going to eat there! Prepare to try grits, fried okra, collard greens, sweet tea and sweet potato topped with melted marshmallows, as well as melt-in-the-mouth cinnamon rolls that make us drool even reminiscing about them.
Savannah - Cha Bella sources everything from local farmers and fishermen within a day's driving distance of the restaurant so you can expect a fresh and ever-changing menu. For a classy cocktail spot, head to The Grey which is the former Art Deco Greyhound station and now the chicest spot in town.
6. Whizz through the city on a Segway
Head to Atlanta for big city vibes and southern hospitality, which is less than 2 hours plane journey from Fort Lauderdale. If you haven’t got long to explore a city, one of the easiest ways to whizz through the must-see wonders (quite literally) is on a Segway tour. You’ll explore the city’s main sights as well as the off-the-beaten-path neighbourhoods and suburbs.
End the day by relaxing at the Loews Atlanta Hotel, situated in Midtown (which is Atlanta’s arts district), and request to stay on the highest floors for some breath-taking city sunrise views.
7. The biggest Aquarium in the world? Yes, please!
You’ll be up close and personal with beluga whales, manta rays, dolphins, penguins, sea otters and literally thousands of species at Georgia Aquarium. It’s the only place in the world except Asia to house whale sharks and also offers the only once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dive with them, too. Not to mention the dolphin show that’ll leave you wanting to quit your job and become a dolphin trainer ASAP!
If the ocean isn’t your thing, next-door is the World Of Coca-Cola which lets you taste iconic flavours from around the world while The Center for Civil and Human Rights is moving and powerful must-see experience.
8. Get your feet tickled by ghosts
It's a four-hour drive to Savannah, which in case you didn’t know, is famous for being haunted. Like, super haunted. You’ll definitely hear some stories while you visit, so be prepared! Going on a late night ghost tour will give you the eerie highlights and you can choose to go on a tour by foot, in a real-life hearse or even a haunted pub-crawl so you can quite literally drink spirits with the spirits. SPOOKY.
We obviously had to REALLY test this haunted thing out by staying in The Marshall House, rumoured to be one of the most haunted hotels in America. With its historic décor and charm, we had been told that it was used as a hospital multiple times before it became a hotel and previous guests had experienced everything from little girl ghosts tickling and biting on their feet to a soldier dragging his wooden leg along the hallways at night. Nice.
We all slept soundly though, apart from someone on our trip hearing the taps turn on and off continuously and their makeup bag casually flying across the room. Was it an encounter with a ghost? We're not sure, but it’s enough to spook even the most sceptical of us all!
9. Discover all the enchanting architecture
Take a tour through Savannah’s Black Heritage on the Footprints of Savannah Walking Tour, where a guide will teach you about the important history of slavery in Savannah.
Then take the day to walk around and get lost in one of America’s greenest cities - Savannah is an architectural laboratory of enchanting architecture, 22 beautiful park-like squares with mammoth, moss-draped oak trees, fountains and the quirkiness of an old English town. There are also cool underground antique markets and hipster hangouts to be discovered in one of the most interesting and entrancing places. Don’t forget to snap a selfie at Forsyth park fountain!
10. Head to Tybee Island for ultimate #beachgoals
If you’re a beach bum, make sure you visit Savannah’s quirky beach town, Tybee Island, and head to the pier and pavilion for some sandy views. The candy-coloured cottages and hammocks strung between trees make this place oh so Instagrammable.
Head to CoCo's Sunset Grille while you're there, which is nestled on a marina, so you can watch the boats and spectacular sunsets from the rooftop while you tuck into fresh and local seafood – and by local we mean 20 metres away from the water local!
11. Re-enact scenes from your fave films and TV shows
If you’re a total film geek, get ready to be in your element, as Georgia is now known as a top-filming destination. Yep, we’re talking some of your fave movies and TV shows like The Hunger Games films, The Walking Dead, Baby Driver, The Vampire Diaries, Anchorman 2, Forrest Gump and Captain America: Civil War that were filmed there! If you’re lucky, you may spot a scene being filmed around Georgia or you can head on a Film Selfie Spot Tour that’ll take you around 33 of the state’s top film hotspots.
In Savannah, we walked by the place where Forrest Gump’s famous 'life is like a box of chocolates' bench scene was filmed in Chippewa Square. Miley Cyrus’ and Liam Hemsworth’s rom-com movie ‘The Last Song’ was filmed all over Tybee Island and the wedding chapel built for the film is now an actual wedding venue – the couple were actually spotted recently walking the streets of Savannah as Liam is filming for new action movie ‘Killerman’.
MTV Travelled With… Brand USA, and British Airways, who have launched a new service to Fort Lauderdale from Gatwick at least three days a week all year round. For more information, head to VisitTheUSA.co.uk, or www.sunny.org for Fort Lauderdale and www.exploregeorgia.org for Georgia.
MTV Stayed At… Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa; rates start from $209.00 per night (double room). Loews Atlanta Hotel; rates start from $179.00 per night (double room). The Marshall House; rates start from $203.00 per night (double room).