It's right around this time of year - when the temperature is in the low 80s, the rain starts to fall with clockwork regularity and hornets have yet to form basketball-sized hives from hell - that we think Florida is actually kinda awesome. Soon summer will come, and we'll feel like ants burning alive under a magnifying glass, and we'll be busy dodging the wrath of God-flung hurricanes - then we'll remember that Florida's a huge asshole. But for now, breathe deep the ether (or down a half-dozen beers) and enjoy these bars that remind you that Florida can be a rather nice place to live (or, at least, to have a beer).
Jonny Rotton's Bar Out Back
2485 N.W. US Highway 17/92, Sanford,
Nothing says Florida more than this Sanford biker bar. It's a metal-roofed building reminiscent of a dirtbag motel, right on Lake Monroe. The menu includes traditional Floridian fuel like catfish, steamed oysters and (of course) gator tail. Throw in regular motorcycle-ride nights and a “Hooray, bin Laden's dead!” party, and that's pretty much the Sunshine State in a nutshell. Bonus: The website logo for this bar is a couple of pigs humpin'.
1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland,
With its gorgeous horseshoe-shaped wooden bar, movie-themed mixed drinks and upscale bar food, Eden Bar is the kind of place you could find just about anywhere. But what makes it so distinctly Florida is its relationship to the inimitable Enzian movie theater, which hosts outdoor movie screenings on the lawn under the Florida moonlight, the jungly foliage that makes the bar feel semi-tropical and the one-of-a-kind pastel-hued lunacy of the Bill Plympton mural along the wall.
1014 Miami Springs Road, Longwood,
Tell me that there is a nightlife experience more Floridian than drinking a beer while dipping your feet in the Wekiva River, and I'll crack you over the head with a plastic flamingo. During the day you can rent canoes and cabanas and drink cheap beer, or volunteer your time diving into the muck to help clean up the river. Musicians and bonfires often appear just in time for sunset, but this bar is at its best when the cicadas and frogs play the soundtrack to a relaxing evening with friends.
Lazy Gator Bar at Black Hammock Adventures
2356 Black Hammock Fish Camp Road, Oviedo, 407-365-1244; theblackhammock.com
Snuggled up to shore of Lake Jesup, Black Hammock is one of the only places where you can go on an airboat ride, hold a ball python named Squishy and then get plastered on bucket specials. You're probably going to want to do those things in that order so that you don't puke up Kalik beer all over the lake or get your drunken hand swallowed by a snake (though, if you did do any of those things, that would be quintessentially Florida).