How Florida Won Over This Cynical Traveller

14/05/2013 10:15 BST | Updated 12/07/2013 10:12 BST

Travellers heading to Florida know that it is the kind of place where you can either turn your nose up at the commercialism and OTT nature of the tourism, or just delve into it head first and enjoy it. Whether you're a kid travelling with your parents, a backpacker travelling with friends, a young couple or an elderly couple, Florida has something to sink your teeth into, and that isn't just a reference to the ridiculous sized portions on offer at the restaurants.

The truth is though, if you really want to find it, you can find some culture, quiet escapes and pretty awesome day trips as well as theme parks and chaos. The great thing about having so much competition in the tourist stakes is that it often drives the prices down, so if you keep your eyes open you can find some great deals.

The Ultimate Cynic...

My friend and I were taking a five week road trip from New York to Miami and back, and I have to admit that I was not looking forward to Miami or Florida in general. This was mainly because I have no tolerance to heat whatsoever (so visiting a place with tropical storms and 98% humidity at 38 degrees was a really good idea) and I pictured the area as the kind of place only a child or a stereotypical British tourist could possibly enjoy.

I moaned all the way from North and South Carolina - which I loved - to Miami about how I was going to have to deal with humidity, Mickey Mouse and my ever-expanding waistline all at the same time. It seemed that the further south we went, the bigger the food portions were getting, and the tighter my shorts were getting as I was having a daily Man v Food battle. On this trip, food was definitely winning...

Hello, Miami

When we arrived in Miami, the weather was absolutely insane. We checked into our hostel and went straight to Miami Beach, and the weather went from hot and sunny to cloudy to thunder and lightning and back to hot and sunny again in a heartbeat. It was like The Day After Tomorrow without the terrible acting... and the whole end-of-the-world bits... But it was pretty crazy nonetheless.

We broke up the bouts of weird weather with a few Bulldogs - which consists of 2 bottles of Corona in a giant margarita - and suffice to say, it was an acquired taste. But the chilled out Miami vibe was starting to make an impression on me. What didn't make an impression on me was the ridiculous amount of body beautiful guys walking around. I had to suck my gut in a little bit, but I was fooling no one...

Surrounded By Alligators

We used Miami as a base to take the Dodge that we'd hired and drive out into the Everglades to check out some wildlife. We drove out to the Everglades Alligator Park and took airboat tours out into the local waters. Two Japanese tourists were absolutely terrified as we slowly pulled up alongside a few alligators whose eyes were peeping out of the water at us. The Japanese guys were thinking that they might attack. The alligators were hoping we'd bugger off so that they could get some peace and quiet. It was pretty cool to have our boat surrounded by alligators. I was tempted to have an Ace Ventura-style wrestle with one, but decided against it.

Orlando

My friend had started to notice that I seemed to be enjoying myself, and that I wasn't moaning about the commercialism and the weather quite as much as I was before the alligators and the many, many Bulldogs we'd consumed. I just laughed and said: "Wait until we get to Orlando..."

The main strip in Orlando is insane. There seems to nothing but restaurants and hotels, and it took us absolutely ages to find somewhere to stay and fill our fat cheap tourist faces. When we finally did, it cost us about $10 each to absolutely destroy ourselves in true Man v Food style. I was proud (and disgusted) with myself, before realising that the next day we would be hitting the theme parks. Maybe filling my face was a bad idea after all...

As I mentioned before, the competition in Florida is so immense that we found great deals for food, drink, accommodation and fun. We thought that we were being undercharged sometimes because it was so cheap. How do these places make any profit? It beats me, but thanks for the burger. It was quickly dawning on me that Florida was rubbing off on me and I had become a full-on British tourist, or maybe just less of a boring cynic? The jury was still out...

My friend and I got some pretty amazing deals via some theme park coupons we picked up online. Again, we were expecting the theme parks to be the most expensive part of the trip, and that the cheap food and accommodation was all a ploy to bankrupt us on fast rides. But we picked up 2-4-1 Wet 'n' Wild tickets using the coupons and had an insane day on the slides. We were screaming and giggling like a bunch of five year old girls. I'm pretty sure we were having more fun than the kids, although when I went head-first down the Black Hole I almost had a heart attack. I felt a little older in that moment.

When we left Miami to take the long drive back up to New York, my friend and I were laughing our heads off as we recounted memories of the ultimate American tourist destination. I quickly realised that it had won me over with sheer enthusiasm, and I wondered if I was becoming less cynical in my old age. Then I remembered the Black Hole incident and swore never to go on a water slide ever again for as long as I live.