When it comes to sports of any sorts, Florida covers all the bases. Visitors can thrill to slam dunks and fancy ball handling in Orlando, follow the hockey puck or pigskin in Tampa, and cheer for home runs and strike outs in Miami. They can battle a Marlin in the Atlantic or cheer for them on the baseball diamond. Fish for bass on Lake Okeechobee. Dive the Keys and ski the Gulf. Drive on over a thousand golf courses and serve on courts of clay, grass or asphalt.
WATER SPORTS:Water, water everywhere - that is arguably one of the best ways to describe Florida. With 30,000 lakes and 166 rivers, the Sunshine State is a haven for sailing, canoeing, water skiing, diving, snorkeling and tubing. Meanwhile, bodies of water such as Lake Okeechobee, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic offer some of the best fishing in the world. Popular freshwater species include bass, catfish and bluegill, while offshore or deep-sea quarry include sailfish, grouper, snapper and dolphin-the fish, often called Mahi-Mahi, not the mammal.
GOLF:There is a certain golf course in Central Florida that looks more like it belongs in Scotland. Ponte Vedra Beach is known as the “Pebble Beach of the East” for its many championship layouts. And Southern Florida is one of the top ten regions in the country best supplied with public golf courses. Such is the importance of golf in the Sunshine State. The fact is, Florida has more golf courses than any other state in the U.S. Golfers can test their skills on courses ranging from Scottish-style links to flat and hilly layouts. They can also watch the pros tee it up at many PGA, Senior PGA and LPGA events across the state.
TENNIS:Florida has more than 7700 tennis facilities, including clay, grass and hard courts. The ATP Tour Headquarters is located in Florida, and clients can catch their favorite players in action at one of the many professional events.
BASEBALL:Home runs, stolen bases and squeeze plays are nothing new to the Sunshine State. Baseball spring training has been around in Florida for more than 100 years. Today, the state is the spring training home of 20 of the 28 Major League teams. The Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and Yankees, and Chicago White Sox are just a few of the teams involved in Grapefruit League action through early April.
FOOTBALL:Forget orange juice. Forget sunshine. Florida is football country - a hotbed of professional and collegiate action. Next fall, the NFL Miami Dolphins will enter their seventh season at their new home at Joe Robbie Stadium, site of the 1995 Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offer gridiron excitement with an eight-game home schedule at Tampa Stadium, the site of two Super Bowls in the last 10 years. Three Division One collegiate teams call Florida home. The University of Miami Hurricanes, the University of Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles battle on the gridiron in games touting national championship implications. And come bowl time, Florida has five of the very best: Miami's Federal Express Orange Bowl, the Carquest Auto Parts Bowl in Fort Lauderdale, the CompUSA Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Tampa's Outback Bowl and the Toyota Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.
BASKETBALL:The season is long - each team plays 82 regular season games - but the NBA action is never boring. Ever since the league expanded to Florida years ago, sell-out crowds have packed the Miami and Orlando arenas to see high-flying excitement above the rim. Florida has two of the NBA's best young teams in the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, both of which play 41-game home schedules through early spring.
HOCKEY:Lightning has struck Florida, and it skates. The National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning - yes, hockey in Florida - is now in its first season of NHL competition, playing in front of sell-out crowds at the Expo Hall inside the Florida State Fairgrounds.
RACING:The thunder sometimes heard around Florida does not always mean bad weather. In many cases, it is just the sound of a stock car circling a speedway at 200 mph or a dragster roaring down the track at close to 300 mph. Florida is home to some of the biggest racing events on the automobile and motorcycle racing circuits, including the Daytona 500, Camel Motorcycle Week - also at Daytona, the Grand Prix of Miami and the Gatornationals, the largest drag racing event on the Atlantic Seaboard. Also providing speed thrills are thoroughbred, greyhound, harness and quarter horse racing, as well as jai-alai, one of the world's fastest indoor sports.