Florida's Readers' Choice Awards

You know and love your state. Here's a look at some of your local favorites, taken from this year's Readers' Choice results.
Annette Thompson

The very idea of traveling to Florida sends me into ecstasy. As we look at the results of this year's Southern Living Readers' Choice votes, I'd say you agree with me. Florida is for winners.

Small Cities, Small Towns
Many of you cast votes for Key West, a favorite of mine. I don't need an excuse to drive the Overseas Highway from Miami to simply catch a sunset at Mallory Square. Voter Heather Souther of Brandon cites the perfect day here. She would awake to a cup of coffee from Baby's, snorkel the Western Sambo protected reef, shop Duval Street ("while drinking Rum Runners"), watch sunset at the square, dine at Rusty Anchor, and pick up a Key lime pie from the Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory on the way back to the hotel.

St. Augustine also bubbled up near the top of your votes. It would get mine too--I remember it well from my college days at nearby Stetson as a peaceful, refined alternative to the more popular beach scenes. Sandy Newman of Green Cove Springs claims it as her favorite place in the state. She especially likes strolling St. George Street shops, dining at Scarlett O'Hara's, and joining in the ghost walks at night.

Sunshine Tastes
When it comes to barbecue, you have more favorites than there are folks waiting in line to ride Space Mountain at Disney World. I want to visit some of your top vote-getters: Bubbalou's in Orlando, Hickory Hollow in Ellenton, and Hungry Harry's in Land O' Lakes.

You and I agree wholeheartedly, though, when it comes to a splurge restaurant. Bern's Steak House in Tampa is our place. Reader Karen Dodd of St. Pete goes for the service and the food--she rates both five stars. Kim Duncan of Clearwater loves the "over-the-top decor" and believes "it would be wrong to redecorate." She goes on to say that she and her husband "always order the largest porterhouse we can get and share it" so they can enjoy Bern's leftovers at home the next day.

One reason Tampa voter Linda Wickersham returns to Bern's is for the last course. "The desserts are decadent, and my husband loves to sip a port while we listen to the music." It's a fantastic evening for all.

Meanwhile, thank you for your votes. Do plan to enter our contest again. Here's to 2008.