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Tourist Season Redux

Carl Hiassen’s first solo novel was “Tourist Season” written in 1986. Things have changed since then so I’ll try to update you.

We have three seasons here in Sarasota: Canadian Season (Nov-May), Snowbird Season (Oct-Easter) and Tourist Season (Jan 1-Dec 31).

The Canadians (Canadiennes for the Quebecoise) have a six month limit before they have to be back on Canadian soil or turn into pumpkins. They’re here to shop, play golf and defrost. Snowbirds arrive from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin and points north to overrun the Publix on Longboat Key, taking care to record their six months and a day in Florida to preserve their tax-friendly Florida residency. Tourists can be found at any time, primarily on Siesta Key which is about to break off the mainland and fall into the ocean.

On a typical June day, it is relatively easy to tell the tourists from the locals. Canadians and Snowbirds have gone back to their respective lairs, enjoying a late season blizzard or early season heat wave. Locals are the ones wearing long sleeve sun shirts, zinc oxide and wide brimmed hats, sitting under beach umbrellas with a family sized Yeti full of beer. The locals have also set up a portable 32” TV and generator to watch the game du jour.

Tourists are the other people. They include the women from the Slavic countries who are changing into their bathing suits on the beach. Unfortunately, these bathing suits are often thong bikinis which look cute on 6 year olds, outstanding on supermodels and a serious error in judgement on everyone else.

Tourists are the ones heading into the surf with boogie boards when the red and purple flags are flying. They often swim a little too close to the pretty turquoise balloons (Man O’War) and can then be identified by the screams. Tourists send their children off in search of seashells, which usually requires them to hitchhike to Sanibel since seashells haven’t been seen around Sarasota since 1962. The reason for this lack of seashells was explained to me by a busboy on Eleuthera during a family Christmas trip: when the earth tilts, all the shells roll deep into the ocean.

As you might expect, Tiki bars are prime tourist gathering spots. They’re only outnumbered by business travelers who somehow convinced their board of directors to meet at the Ritz Carlton for an executive committee meeting on expense reduction. Who else could afford to pay $25 for “rum” umbrella drinks in plastic cups served on a sticky surfaced bar by Wonderbra clad high school seniors (yeah, in Florida it’s 21 to drink alcohol, 18 to be a bartender).

Another way to locate tourists is to listen for the music. If you wear hearing aids, you might want to turn them off before nearing a confirmed VRBO/AIRB&B zone. If the music is Sinatra, the tourist family has turned their hearing aids off as well. If there are small children, We Don’t Talk About Bruno will be playing on an endless loop. If the tourists are in their twenties, you will have a chance to learn some new words and have some old ones pounded into your brain.

One of the big reasons tourists love Florida is that since our Governor outlawed Covid, they don’t have to wear a mask or social distance, and if they happen to have the sniffles, Ivermectin is readily available for both them and their dog.

But no matter their peculiarities, we welcome our relatively well-behaved tourists and their dollars to Florida. As long as they don’t behave like those people on a “normal tourist visit” to our US Capitol on January 6, 2021 (per Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-GA).

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