BRADENTON: Pittsburgh Pirates spring training
FUN FACTS: The Village of the Arts is home to more than 30 businesses and a community of artists who live and work together. The restored early 20th century cottages in the area house galleries, studios, cafes, bookstores and eateries.
CLEARWATER: Philadelphia Phillies spring training
IF YOU GO: Come sunset, locals and visitors alike head to Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach for a daily festival that celebrates the end of each day.
DAYTONA BEACH: Daytona Cubs (Chicago Cubs affiliate) Minor League Baseball team
FUN FACTS: Cars are still allowed on many of the beaches surrounding Daytona — as long as they keep their speeds to less than 10 miles per hour.
DUNEDIN: Toronto Blue Jays spring training
FUN FACTS: Sports Illustrated named Auto Exchange Stadium one of the top five places to see a spring training game. Dunedin’s popular Honeymoon Island was known as Hog Island until a developer built 50 honeymoon bungalows there in 1939.
FORT MYERS: Boston Red Sox & Minnesota Twins spring training
FUN FACTS: One of the first to be captivated by Fort Myers’ natural charms was Thomas Edison, who happened upon the small village while traveling Florida’s Gulf Coast. He soon relocated there and became a major proponent of the area. Among the still-visible contributions he made: the royal palms that line McGregor Boulevard and give the City of Palms its nickname.
JACKSONVILLE: Jacksonville Suns (Miami Marlins affiliate) Minor League Baseball team
FUN FACTS: A national park known as the Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve is home to the Fort Caroline National Memorial, a replica of a 16th-century French fort that was lost to time and fading memory. The actual location of the fort is a historical mystery, but a smaller replica at this site honors the soldiers who once defended French interests in northeast Florida.
JUPITER: St. Louis Cardinals & Miami Marlins spring training
FUN FACTS: The Jupiter Lighthouse is constructed of brick and was first illuminated in 1860. Until the early 1900s, children were commonly transported to school via a boat that would deliver them to the town dock. Lighthouse Park sits on land that was once part of Fort Jupiter, a military outpost during the Seminole Indian Wars.
KISSIMMEE: Houston Astros spring training
FUN FACTS: The city is home to a quirky landmark, the Monument of States, comprised of minerals from each state and many nations. The monument began as a symbol of American unity in the days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The population of Kissimmee doubled in the 1970s after the debut of nearby Walt Disney World in 1971. The population then doubled again in the 1980s.
LAKE BUENA VISTA: Atlanta Braves spring training
FUN FACTS: Think the Disney theme parks are in Orlando? Think again. Lake Buena Vista is their home. Before his death in 1966, Walt Disney had envisioned EPCOT as a futuristic city — but while EPCOT opened as another Disney theme park in 1982, just a handful of people actually live in Lake Buena Vista.
LAKELAND: Detroit Tigers spring training
FUN FACTS: Also known as “Tiger Town,” Joker Marchant Stadium is named after Lakeland’s late parks and recreation director and has been the spring home of the Detroit Tigers since 1953. Lakeland is also home to Florida Southern College, which boasts the world’s largest one-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.
MELBOURNE: Washington Nationals spring training
FUN FACTS: Located in Brevard County, one of many counties formed from a large part of Florida originally known as Mosquito County. Humankind’s first trip to the moon started at nearby Kennedy Space Center, which also launched every space shuttle from 1981 until shuttle program’s retirement in 2011.
MIAMI: Home of Miami Marlins
FUN FACTS: Miami doesn’t have a founding father, but a founding mother. The city’s development was spurred by Julia Tuttle, a widow from Cleveland who bought hundreds of acres in what would become downtown Miami, then convinced a railroad tycoon to extend his line here. Despite Miami’s reputation as an urban mecca, this city is bordered two famous national parks: the Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park, where you can board a glass-bottom boat for a unique view of the Biscayne Bay. Miami is a true international city, with residents hailing from more than 121 countries and speaking 68 languages.
PENSACOLA: Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Cincinnati Reds affiliate) Minor League Baseball team, Southern League (AA)
FUN FACTS: Pensacola is known for its white sugar sand, comprised of nearly 100 percent quartz. The Flora-Bama Lounge & Package on Perdido Key in Pensacola hosts the annual Mullet Toss, where thousands of Floridians stand on the Florida side of the state line and throw dead fish into Alabama.
PORT CHARLOTTE: Tampa Bay Rays spring training
FUN FACTS: This area hosts the annual Snowbird Baseball Classic, where more than 20 NCAA Division II and III and several Division I schools come together to play ball each spring. Charlotte County has contended for top placement in many magazine lists, from MONEY magazine’s “Best Places to Live in the South” and “Best Places to Retire” to CNN’s Best Places to Retire and SAIL magazine’s top 10 places to sail in the U.S.
PORT ST. LUCIE: New York Mets spring training
FUN FACTS: Pineapple farming was once St. Lucie County’s largest agricultural industry. The nearby National Navy SEAL Museum & Memorial in Fort Pierce honors the elite Navy unit and is located where the Navy Frogmen trained during World War II.
SARASOTA: Baltimore Orioles spring training
FUN FACTS: Sarasota’s famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge, a cable-stayed concrete bridge with vibrant yellow support cables, allows motorists an unobstructed view of Tampa Bay during the 4.1-mile drive over the water. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the state art museum of Florida and is named after a former Sarasota resident whose name remains a fixture in the circus industry.
ST. PETERSBURG: Home of Tampa Bay Rays
FUN FACTS: Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most consecutive days of sunshine — 768. The city is the birthplace of commercial aviation, thanks to pilot Tony Jannus, who flew paid passengers from nearby Tampa across Tampa Bay and into St. Petersburg in 1914. That same year, the St. Louis Browns trained here during unfavorable weather back home, making St. Pete the original spring training city.
TAMPA: New York Yankees spring training
FUN FACTS: The city’s Ybor City neighborhood was once known as the Cigar Capital of the World, producing an estimated 700 million cigars per year at some 200 factories. Bayshore Boulevard, a long, continuous sidewalk that fronts Tampa Bay and some of the city’s most beautiful homes, is a favorite spot for runners, strollers and inline skaters.