What’s the Deal with Places to Stay in Sanford FL?

We all know that Downtown Sanford makes an awesome weekend trip for anyone with an interest in, oh, I don’t know, boating, history, architecture, fine arts, folk arts, theatre, music, dance, food, cocktails, beer, zoos…the list goes on. Downtown also has the benefit of being a crossroads for just about any type of transportation into Central Florida: planes, trains, automobiles and boats. Add to that friendly, down-to-earth locals and the Florida weather all non-natives crave and you’ve got yourself a seriously well rounded small town destination.

I know from working on First Street that we get all kinds of visitors from all over to our little historic district, from Ohio to Iceland. Most all of them have the same thing to say about Downtown Sanford: they love being here, transportation was a breeze, everything is so charming…but the hotel options are a real bummer.

For those unfamiliar with the area, finding the right spot to lay your head at night can be a major hurdle to fully enjoying our downtown. While it would be great to have a nice hotel within walking distance of First Street and Sanford Ave (and while that may happen at some point), there’s no ignoring that we already have a huge influx of first time visitors searching for a spot to stay. Unfortunately, most of our easily accessible, Google-worthy hotels are located on the west side, which means that a number of visitors who came here because they were attracted to our downtown will actually have to drive out of it and into Mall-Land to stay overnight. Who knows whether they will end up back here the next day or eschew the drive in favor of the corporate playground right outside their doors?

So where can people stay in Sanford to experience the best of Sanford? Visitors are always asking me this. “Hey, we just drove in from Clearwater. Is there a good place to stay near this area?” So, I did a little research. As it turns out, there are a number of cool downtown-oriented place to stay, all owned by people who will appreciate their visitors more and know more about Sanford than than a hotel chain will.

1) On the Water: Floating Bungalow

Have you seen this beauty? Sanford365 got the skinny (Read: Floating Bungalows – A Whole New Lifestyle Made in Sanford) on these awesome house-boats last summer when the first one was built and christened at the Port of Sanford. Cynthia and Warren build these boats for those seeking to live a simpler, tinier life on the water, and (lucky for all of us!) rent them out for vacationers. The Floating Bungalow is just a zip down Seminole Blvd from Downtown, and perfect for those who want to wake up on the water. The inside of this tiny house is furnished simply but beautifully, with a washer and dryer and complete kitchen, including a 5-burner gas range(!). This place is nicer, more unique, and has a much better view than most apartments, much less stodgy hotel rooms. The hosts will even let you take their kayaks out for a spin!

Price: $159 per night. That’s right, for approximately $60 more than a standard chain hotel elsewhere in Sanford, you get a completely private house-boat on the water. 

My favorite part: It’s a tiny house! On a boat! Guys, that’s really cool!


2) A Historic Home: Higgins House

You’ve probably driven past the Higgins House so many times that it seems old hat, but this gorgeous Queen Anne Victorian house still plays host to the most history-minded visitors to Sanford. With three well-appointed, historically furnished rooms, the shortest walk to downtown, and the amazing hospitality of its owners, Mike and Patty, the Higgins House is ideal for travelers and residents who want a super personal Sanford experience. Every guest is greeted at check in with what the inn-keepers delightfully refer to as “an afternoon nosh”, and of course, a fresh breakfast that could include anything from mini frittatas and french toast to quiche and belgian waffles. Every room includes its own private bath, along with a clawfoot soaking tub (!), luxury goose-down comforters, and natural light streaming through the windows.

Price: $150 per night. Again, a gorgeous room with personal concierge service and luxury amenities for under $200.

My favorite part: The afternoon nosh. They list cheese, crackers, pate, and wine. I wish I could live there.


3) Lodgings for a Family: Uptown Retreat

If there are more than two of ya, you’ll find a cozy stay in this little wonder! Through different means of creative sleeping arrangements (including beds that slide out drawer-style), Barbara and Peter have outfitted this unique upstairs space to sleep 5-6 people. The home itself, built in 1938, is full of classic details, including hardwood floors and trim. With home-cooked breakfast, lounge chairs by the pool, a grill, bicycles available for riding into town, plenty of advice on local activities, and time spent chatting with your hosts, a stay here is more like a stay with family. Ideal for a couple with children or a group of friends exploring downtown’s growing beer scene.

Price: $101 per night, including the cleaning fee (and around $75 for two people). A hotel suite for a group of five would be at least this much, and would not include the homey, grand-parent-y atmosphere.

My favorite part: They’ll let you use their downstairs piano and guitar if you know how to play! I totally don’t, but it kinda makes me wanna learn.

4) Economy for a Couple: Uptown Studio

For a simple, quality stay with cool hosts on a budget, you can’t beat Wendy and Stefan’s detached studio on 18th. This treasure is tucked in a quiet pocket of Uptown, where the hosts offer a crisp, clean studio with a kitchen, flat-screen, and queen sized bed. Bikes are provided if guests want to cruise the neighborhood or go down to the commercial district for dinner and drinks. One of the nicest things is that Wendy and Stefan are regulars in the downtown hotspots, meaning that your hosts will be able to guide you to your “type of place”, whether that’s early morning coffee at Rabbitfoot, day-drinking at Buster’s, or an evening of craft cocktails at the Imperial (which is their favorite!). They are also animal lovers, and allow guests to arrange to bring pets!

Price: $68 per night. You saw it here first: a clean, safe, comfy place to stay with personable hosts, all the usual hotel amenities, and access to all of downtown’s charms for less than an average hotel room. Beat that!

My favorite part: Some reviewers mentioned hanging out on the patio, drinking wine with Wendy and Stefan…can’t get that in a hotel!

Of course, it’s never as simple as “these places exist, everyone from out of town will magically start using them over hotel chains”. Are these options perfect for every daytripper who got distracted by all of our downtown’s beer and decided to stay overnight unplanned? Not necessarily. However, the more we support the owners in their efforts, the more we brag about them to Auto-Train riders we meet downtown who come down every year, the more we convince our in-laws that they will really be more comfortable staying in a floating bungalow instead our living rooms, then the more availability the owners will be able to offer, the more reviews they will have online, the more confidence they will have to promote their lodgings as a premiere place to stay in Sanford. Until we have a proper hotel, we must normalize these hotel-alternatives for ourselves and visitors. In other cities in the US, gems like these are destinations within themselves, and people scout them out before traveling to their chosen cities, and sometimes even adjust their itinerary around them in order to get a true authentic experience. As a town that prides itself on being genuine, shouldn’t we encourage people to experience Sanford from one of these singular perspectives?

Also…anyone feeling like a Sanford staycation?