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photo of sunset from car on bridge overlooking lake with crochet hanging plant on mirror
photo of sunset from car on bridge overlooking lake with crochet hanging plant on mirror
Photo by Madeline Schmidt

How I Spent Winter Break in Florida as a Student From Texas

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

Regardless of my desire to visit my hometown in Texas this winter break, I chose to stay in Florida. My mom’s side of the family is from Mount Dora, Florida, a small town about 45 minutes north of Orlando. Growing up, we would take any chance to drive the entire 14 hours to see my grandparents. It felt like a vacation, but slowly, the numerous trips and countless hours spent here have made Florida feel more like a second home than a fun trip.

Especially now, since I’ve been at Florida State, I’ve realized that the Sunshine State is becoming even more comforting and familiar than my hometown. Because of the new relationships I’ve made throughout FSU, I have had more opportunities to explore the state and different cities outside my extended family’s hometown. Finding hidden gems throughout cities is so special to me, and I wanted to recap a few of the cities I visited and the memories I made during break!

mount dora

Before getting into the other main cities of Florida, I recommend taking a short day or weekend visit to the place where a lot of my extended family is from. Mount Dora is a smaller town between Ocala and Orlando full of the cutest streets and food. The city lies between many larger central Florida lakes, where you can often rent boats or go on ferry and seaplane rides. The array of food here varies from Cuban to sushi to Mexican, and I’ve always enjoyed any place we’ve gone.

I may be slightly biased as I’ve grown up visiting here for the majority of my life, but the winter scene never disappoints. The city decorates every square inch of downtown for the holidays. Walking around after dark and seeing the effort that goes into the light show is heartwarming, as everyone’s spirits are often very high and cheerful. I love visiting Mount Dora and spending time with family and loved ones in this small town, and I’d consider stopping by sometime.


Orlando is one of the major cities in Florida. While you may think I went to Universal or Disney World (the most obvious choices), that was not the case. Instead, I visited one of my friends who lives there, and she showed me all these little, tucked-away places I would never think of visiting. We went to multiple vintage, thrift, and crystal shops throughout the city. Every store was full of items we wanted to take home. This trip had me wishing I had already owned a house where I could put all the vintage furniture, dishes, and little gadgets we found but couldn’t buy.

We additionally went to a “classic” pizza restaurant called Lazy Moon, where the slices were the size of our heads. She showed me spots that were more personable to her, making Orlando seem more homey than it appears to be as someone from Houston, where metropolitan cities are often somewhat overwhelming. I highly recommend looking into the smaller, less chaotic parts of Orlando. This trip will surely be worth your time.


Lastly, I went down to Tampa to celebrate the holiday season with my girlfriend and numerous friends, which was so worth it. Most of my closest friends from FSU are also from the Tampa area, and letting them take me around town to their favorite spots was such a pure moment. I love traveling to my friend’s hometowns to see how they grew up and what they were surrounded by. I truly cherished the time I spent being introduced to old friends and family and learning more about the lives of those I care about most.

Tampa reminds me a lot of home. The mixture of the metropolitan city and the surrounding suburbs brings back very familiar feelings of when I was in Texas over the summer. Trying new Italian, sushi, and açai places has always been my favorite, as Houston is a food city. I’m looking forward to returning to Tampa in the spring, but I’m also so grateful for the time I spent there over break.

Texas is a whole other world compared to these cities. I never realized what my friends meant when they said it felt like I was not real and I simply could not be from Texas. However, spending time with the people I’ve met so recently in a place that is very special to them was such a bittersweet opportunity I will never forget. I feel like the people definitely make the place.

Spending my winter break in a small, nostalgic town with family and visiting my people in their hometown, some of whom I only met a few months ago, made for such a wholesome winter break. I feel even more connected to the relationships I have now and myself as I spend another year in the state I often call my second home. I cannot wait to get the chance to go back and continue to explore what the rest of Florida has to offer.

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Hey yall! I am a second-year undergraduate student and member of the Her Campus at Florida State chapter. I am an out-of-state student majoring in environmental science, and have always had a passion for writing. Within HerCampus, I am part of the social media team for Instagram, an academic intern, and staff writer. My work often varies from campus advice and environmental current events to lifestyle articles based around healthy habits and some of my other passions such as thrifting, being outdoors, and attending concerts. Beyond Her Campus, I am involved in my sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, as a Social Media Chair and Line Dance member. I additionally fundraise for Dance Marathon at FSU and am a member of both the Environmental Service Program and Maji Project.