For the first time in my adult life, I left Washington, DC for the Fourth of July holiday. Apparently this is a very popular move: locals usually prefer to escape the concrete jungle in favor of sunny shores, winding rivers, or, well, anywhere but here. Not me. Party hopping around the nation's capital before settling in at a secret spot away from all of the tourists to watch fireworks on the National Mall makes this one of my favorite days of the year.

However, driven by both a desire to visit family and check out what everyone...

For the first time in my adult life, I left Washington, DC for the Fourth of July holiday. Apparently this is a very popular move: locals usually prefer to escape the concrete jungle in favor of sunny shores, winding rivers, or, well, anywhere but here. Not me. Party hopping around the nation’s capital before settling in at a secret spot away from all of the tourists to watch fireworks on the National Mall makes this one of my favorite days of the year.

However, driven by both a desire to visit family and check out what everyone was raving about in our July magazine, this year I hopped on a southbound plane to the Sunshine State. The weekend took me from Tampa to Sarasota to Naples, experiencing all of the weird and wonderful that Florida has to offer.

Before I get into the good stuff, let me just say that Florida has the most horrific drivers I have ever seen — and I grew up in Maryland. Florida drivers love to park themselves in the left lane going exactly the speed limit and slam on their brakes on the interstate for no apparent reason. Despite the glacial pace at which they move, they seem intent on cutting across four lanes of traffic at the last second so they don’t miss their exit. I kept wondering why there were so many blown tires on the side of the road — do Florida drivers just run their cars into the ground, maintenance be damned? Or are they a warning to out-of-staters? Here’s what will happen to you if you bring your liberal politics down here! The homeless who encamp in tent cities in DC and San Francisco would have a field day with all of the random pieces of furniture that appear at nearly every mile marker.

If you can get past the octogenarian autobahn, you’ll find that Floridians seem really happy. Everyone has a smile on their face and strangers will tell you their life stories completely unprompted (this can be annoying or charming depending on how hungover you are from the previous day’s bottomless mimosa boat cruise). Shockingly, I didn’t encounter a single person who was worried they’d be thrown in the gulag if they uttered the word “gay.” California Governor Gavin Newsom bought Independence Day ad space on Fox News in Florida to tell residents that their freedom was being taken away. They should move to his state where they “still believe in freedom,” he argued. The Floridians I asked about the ad laughed at its delusion.

The best part of spending the Fourth of July in Florida, though, was the unmatched patriotism. There were a few protests planned around the state to complain about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade — how can we celebrate freedom when women don’t have rights?! — but even liberal Orlando was forced to apologize when it suggested Independence Day celebrations might not be appropriate this year.

“The City of Orlando sincerely regrets the negative impact our words have had on some in our community… We value the freedoms we have in this country and are thankful to the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for those,” the apology read.

At a public golf course in Naples, the usual pin flag on the ninth hole was replaced with an American flag. Off to the side of the green, the course put in a flag holder so that golfers wouldn’t have to drop the flagstick on the ground. Cart girls and bartenders wore American flag-patterned golf skirts and passed out red, white, and blue cupcakes. Downtown, residents and tourists alike donned patriotic clothing for the holiday. A local French restaurant had two drink specials to celebrate America — I opted for the old fashioned that came with a bourbon-soaked cherry dipped in white chocolate and rolled in blue sprinkles. After sunset, we all crowded on the beach to catch the fireworks off the pier.

Unfortunately, the inevitable Florida hangover hits when you have to return home. Mine started at the airport the next day, where I was subjected to TSA molestation because the body scanner couldn’t tell the difference between a dress with a ruffle at the hem and a bomb designed to take down the entire aircraft. Then, when I crawled into bed at night, the dozens of mosquito bites I got around my ankles and feet started to itch and swell. You know what they say — freedom isn’t free!