These Are All of the Presidents Who Have Vacationed in Florida, Including Donald Trump
It’s relatively unusual for a president to spend as much time at one of his own properties as Donald Trump spends at Mar-a-Lago. (Though it isn’t entirely unprecedented for a commander-in-chief to have a “winter White House.”) But Donald Trump is far from the only president to enjoy vacationing in Florida.
Each state has its pros and cons, of course. But Florida is often cited as the most hated state. But that hasn’t stopped Donald Trump from making frequent getaways to the sunshine state. And it certainly didn’t keep these other presidents from making it their favorite vacation destination.
1. Warren G. Harding
- 29th president of the United States
- Favorite Florida destination: Saint Augustine and Hollywood
Warren G. Harding, one of the presidents known for a particularly corrupt Cabinet, often took vacations to Saint Augustine or Hollywood, Florida, according to The Sun-Sentinel. In Hollywood, he would stay at a hotel on Young Circle. And in Saint Augustine, he visited the Castillo de San Marcos and stayed at the Ponce de Leon Hotel, now a part of Flagler College.
The Sun-Sentinel reports that Harding almost moved into a winter White House of his own on Bird Key, near Sarasota. John Ringling, the man behind the circus empire, “had arranged for a mansion to be renovated with electric lighting and acetylene gas, lavish furnishings for that time.” It took three years to complete the project, but Harding never got to move in. He died of a heart attack at a San Francisco hotel.
Next: This president enjoyed a trip to Miami even though he almost got shot.
2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
- 32nd president of the United States
- Favorite Florida destination: Fort Lauderdale and Miami
The Sun-Sentinel reports that Franklin D. Roosevelt “came within a hair of being assassinated in South Florida.” He was almost shot in Miami. As the publication explains, Roosevelt went fishing in Fort Lauderdale and Miami before his inauguration. Then he gave a speech at Bayfront Park in Miami.
A would-be assassin, armed with a .32-caliber pistol, began firing at Roosevelt during the speech. Although he missed Roosevelt, he shot five other people, including one who later died of his wounds. But despite the shooting, Roosevelt still enjoyed his vacation to Florida. At the time, Roosevelt reportedly said, “I only have one complaint: I gained a lot of weight, and I have to knock it off before my inauguration.”
Next: This president loved vacationing in Key West.
3. Harry S. Truman
- 33rd president of the United States
- Favorite Florida destination: Key West
The Sun-Sentinel reports that after ordering atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 and overseeing post-war construction, Truman felt physically exhausted. His doctor prescribed a warm vacation. So in 1946, Truman began staying at a former Naval officer residence in Key West. He quickly fell in love with Florida and ended up taking 11 working vacations to Key West.
According to Time, records show that Truman enjoyed swimming and deep-sea fishing in Florida. But he also did a lot of presidential business on those vacations. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Harry S. Truman created the U.S. Department of Defense while “hanging out” in Key West. He also met with high-ranking officials. Truman’s “Little White House” was later used by six other presidents as a retreat and summit location. Today, it serves as a museum.
Next: This president also took vacations to Key West.
4. Dwight D. Eisenhower
- 34th president of the United States
- Favorite Florida destination: Key West
Dwight D. Eisenhower numbers among the presidents who have visited Truman’s Little White House over the years. Eisenhower reportedly visited the residence twice: once for meetings in 1955, and a second time to recover from a heart attack in 1956.
Visit Florida reports that Eisenhower “wrote a state-of-the-union address from the dining room table” at Truman’s Little White House in Key West. Eisenhower is known to have made visits to other parts of Florida, too. He stayed at Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key, and also at the Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora.
Next: This president vacationed at a mansion in Palm Beach.
5. John F. Kennedy
- 35th president of the United States
- Favorite Florida destination: Palm Beach
The Sun-Sentinel notes that John F. Kennedy and his family loved to vacation at a historic mansion on North Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach. He made some history-altering decisions while vacationing in Florida. Kennedy reportedly strategized as to how the United States should deal with the Soviet nuclear threat while he kicked back in Palm Beach.
Additionally, Kennedy carries the dubious distinction of being one of two presidents almost assassinated in Florida. Shortly after he was elected, Kennedy was walking around Palm Beach with his wife and children. A man driving a Buick — and carrying 10 sticks of dynamite — began to follow them. He planned to blow up the car and kill the president-elect, but decided not to do it when he saw Mrs. Kennedy and the children.
Next: This president loved trips to Key Biscayne.
6. Richard Nixon
- 37th president of the United States
- Favorite Florida destination: Key Biscayne
The Sun-Sentinel reports that, as a native Californian, Richard Nixon was right at home vacationing in Florida. He reportedly “loved the warmth and ambiance.” Nixon dined at Joe’s Stone Crabs and drank at local taverns. Before he won the 1968 election, Nixon purchased a home on Key Biscayne. And he visited it frequently while in office. (Nixon was also criticized for using $400,000 in federal funds to build a helicopter pad near his winter White House.)
Nixon reportedly preferred not to conduct presidential business in Key Biscayne. But he still changed history while vacationing in Florida. The publication reports that Nixon and his advisors “reportedly hatched the Watergate scheme while staying in Key Biscayne.” As the resulting scandal escalated, Nixon spent more and more time in Florida.
Next: This president has taken many vacations to the Florida Keys.
7. Jimmy Carter
- 39th president of the United States
- Favorite Florida destination: The Keys
The Sun-Sentinel reports that Jimmy Carter numbers among the presidents who have spent time at Truman’s Little White House. And while Carter tended to vacation in his home state of Georgia during his presidency, he has made a tradition of vacationing in Florida in recent years.
In 1996, the Carters had a New Year’s Eve dinner at Truman’s Little White House in Key West. They returned to Key West for a visit in December 2007, during a cruise stopover. During a 2010 vacation to the Florida Keys, Carter and his wife participated in the release of a loggerhead turtle into the Atlantic Ocean. The Carters also interacted with dolphins in the Keys. In 2011, Carter went fishing in the Keys. And on a family vacation in the area in 2017, Carter helped with another sea turtle release.
Next: This president loves Islamorada.
8. George H.W. Bush
- 41st president of the United States
- Favorite Florida destination: Islamorada
The Sun-Sentinel reports that George H.W. Bush has quite a long history with the state of Florida. During World War II, an 18-year-old Bush learned how to fly torpedo bombers at the Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale. He became the youngest Naval aviator of that time.
And later, in the 1970s, Bush made many visits to the Cheeca Lodge on Islamorada in the Florida Keys. There, he did a lot of bone fishing. And after he had concluded his term as 41st president, Bush cofounded the George Bush Cheeca Lodge Bonefish Tournament to raise money for charity.
Next: Donald Trump takes plenty of vacations to Florida, too.
9. Donald Trump
- 45th president of the United States
- Favorite Florida destination: Palm Beach
Most Americans know that Donald Trump was a part-time resident of Palm Beach, Florida, when he was elected president. And he continues to spend a lot of time at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in the coastal, South Florida town. Vanity Fair reports that the Palm Beach estate was built by breakfast-cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post in the 1920s.
Before her death in 1972, Post left Mar-a-Lago to the U.S. government as a presidential retreat. Carter’s administration, looking at the tax burden and maintenance costs, gave it back to the Post Foundation in 1981. The foundation wanted to sell it for $20 million, but eventually sold it to Trump for less than $8 million, when he bought the beachfront lot in front of the resort and threatened to block the view.
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