One might think that Bostonians don’t like to venture very far when they go on vacation. In fact, many of the popular vacation destinations like Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard are so close that many New Englanders don’t feel the need to travel very far at all. With this in mind, Boston might seem isolated from the rest of America, tucked away in its own little corner in the Northeast.
I’ve seen that Boston has a big influence outside of the New England bubble, though. One area with a distinct Bostonian flavor includes Fort Myers & Sanibel Island, Fla.-otherwise known as Boston South.
Florida’s Boston influence is rooted with the Red Sox. JetBlue Park at Fenway South, the site of the Red Sox’s Spring Training complex, opened in March 2012, taking over the previous City of Palms Park in Ft. Myers. The new complex offers fans a quainter version of Fenway Park-the outfield is an exact copy of Fenway, and it even contains a Green Monster. The stadium’s mix of the old Fenway charm and Floridian sunshine is one of the main things that lures Bostonians to southwest Florida to escape the New England snow storms each spring.
Besides the Red Sox, what else makes Bostonians feel at home in Florida?
One easy answer: Dunkin’ Donuts. Florida currently has more than 660 Dunkin’ stores statewide. It seems that with the southern migration of many Bostonians, their love of Dunkin’ has followed. Dunkin’ CFE Grant Benson explained this rationale to Bloomberg in 2011: “The Sunshine State is a priority growth market for Dunkin’ Donuts.”
According to a 2013 survey statistics on Florida tourism by Skift, Florida was ranked as the number one major destination that Bostonians journeyed to via air travel. Last week, I was part of this migration toward warm weather. Along with numerous students leaving the campus of Boston College to hit the beaches of Florida, I hopped off of the airplane and soaked up the powerful rays of the Floridian sunshine.
What really surprised me-besides the beaches and spectacular weather-was the number of Bostonians I saw throughout southwest Florida. These were not just BC and other college students. Instead, the group ranged from senior citizen snow birds to parents with young children-all proudly sporting Boston Strong t-shirts, Patriots gear, Bruins wear, and Red Sox hats.
I didn’t just see them. I heard them. They were at the golf course, speaking with their unmistakable Boston accents.
Besides struggling on the golf course, the Bostonians were scattered all over the beach. With cans of Sam Adams and lacrosse sticks in their hands, they casually tossed a ball around, exerting a dominating presence on a beach that was crowded with seagulls and grandparents.
Another notable Boston influence in Florida was the restaurants. Boston’s passion for prime seafood has also moved south, and Floridians are taking advantage of it. The most crowded restaurant in Ft. Myers last Friday was The Clam Bake. People lined up outside the door in order to get a taste of fresh New England seafood. Their famous cup of chowdah is just one more element of the Northeast that has acclimated to Floridian culture.
Despite all the similarities, there is one important difference that brings people south: the weather. The temperature in Boston is cold and blustery, while the temperature in Florida is 75 degrees and sunny almost everyday. The allure of a warm climate in March might be the catalyst that drives New Englanders down to the Sunshine State.
In Boston South, many people may not know your name, but you will feel right at home. If you stop and think about it, you will realize that Boston’s culture expands far beyond New England. Bostonians are proud of their heritage, and they carry these aspects with them across the country.