Wesley Chapel’s Andy and Shannon Herbon love exploring Florida — then sharing those experiences with anybody who’ll listen.
As often as they can, the Herbons and their two young children venture across the state to visit theme parks and state parks, beaches, springs and waterfalls, hidden gems and other attractions.
From the Florida Panhandle, to St. Augustine, to Miami — they’ll go just about anywhere to seek out fun, meaningful adventures.
“We live in paradise, so take advantage of it,” Shannon said.
The married couple’s interest in traveling the state recently sparked the idea to create a Florida tourism-themed podcast called, “Sunshine State of Mind,” that focuses on activities, events and destinations around the state.
The free, weekly podcast launched in April and has 18 episodes to date.
“We’d always be doing stuff on the weekends and friends would ask us for tips…and we kind of got to be real pros at what do around Florida, and we said, ‘Well, why don’t we do a podcast about this?’” Andy explained.
The couple got the extra motivation they needed to start recording as Shannon was wrapping up her master’s degree in digital media this spring from University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
She figured a podcast would make for the perfect thesis project.
They’ve been recording ever since, making it a regular part of their weekly routine, from their home studio. “After you do it, it kind of gives you a little buzz, like, ‘Yeah, that was fun,’” Andy said of podcasting.
In each episode, which run about 40 minutes, Shannon and Andy discuss, review and debate destinations and tourism news throughout the state.
Podcast topics have included “Our Summer 2018 Bucket List,” “Ten Amazing Places Floridians Don’t Want You to Know About,” “Ten Tips for Saving Money at Walt Disney World,” and “Florida Tourist Trap Alternatives.”
Said Andy, “People love lists. It’s a way to break it down easy – easy to digest.”
Other episodes have been reviews of entertainment venues such as TopGolf, Legoland Florida and other spots along the Interstate 4 corridor.
Yet, the podcasters don’t just focus on major tourist attractions such as Disney World, Busch Gardens or Universal Studios, nor the state’s collection of well-known beaches.
They also like to dive deep into lesser-known locales, such as Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Micanopy, known for its bison and wild horses; Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, a contemplative garden and bird sanctuary; and, Devil’s Den Spring in Williston, where divers, swimmers and snorkelers travel in an underground spring inside a dry cave.
Locally, they’ll share tips and ideas about some of their regular adventure staples like Hillsborough River State Park and Lettuce Lake Park.
Sometimes the banter comically spreads to other Florida-related topics, such as to whether the state truly can be considered part of the South.
Andy and Shannon happen to be at opposite ends of that debate.
“It’s the south, geographically, but culturally it’s not the South,” says Andy, who moved to Tampa from Chicago in 2001.
Shannon quickly counters, as a sixth generation Floridian born in Tampa and raised in Land O’ Lakes: “My argument is that just because all of the northerners came and invaded doesn’t mean that those of us from Florida aren’t Southern.”
This podcast is picking up listeners
Lighthearted quibbles aside, “Sunshine State of Mind” has steadily grown in popularity.
After telling several friends and family members about the podcast, word-of-mouth eventually spread to complete strangers, many who’ve come to use it as a resource for upcoming vacations to Florida.
The podcast has a 5-star peer review rating (the highest possible rating) on iTunes among 34 reviewers.
Each episode has averaged anywhere between 150 to 200 downloads, Shannon said.
The most popular episode is “Ten Tips for Saving Money at Walt Disney World” with more than 300 downloads, closely followed by “Our Summer of 2018 Bucket List.”
Also, the podcast’s official Twitter page has nearly 3,000 followers and YouTube page has more than 1,400 subscribers.
“It’s been a lot more successful off the beginning than we thought,” Andy said, noting the number of listeners increases each week.
Shannon added: “Every once in a while when we do hear from strangers it’s like, ‘Wow, people are actually listening! What a thought?’ It’s kind of surreal because it’s only been a couple of months.”
Living in a subtropical state where others vacation is something the Herbons try not to take for granted, especially Andy, who came from the cold Midwest.
He explained: “Up there you’re stuck indoors six months out of the year and you really can’t do anything, and here, the festival season is great here during the winter time; there’s just so much to do all the time.”
Added Shannon: “(Andy) kind of opened my eyes to, ‘Wow, we really do have amazing things here,’ because to him, it was all new…”
They try to instill the same mindset into their kids, who are ages 10 and 11.
Said Shannon, “We don’t want them indoors, on their screens all day. We want them outdoors, experiencing Florida, having fun and being active…”
For families looking to get their kids out of the house this summer, Andy and Shannon highly recommend a visit to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, in Spring Hill.
The park, which opened in 1947, is renowned for its live mermaid shows, river boat cruises, animal shows and Florida’s only spring-fed water park, Buccaneer Bay.
“I feel like it’s so underrated,” Andy said of Weeki Wachee.
“It’s such a great park,” Shannon added. “It’s very ‘Old Florida’, like ‘Old Florida’ nostalgia. They have the waterpark, which is included with the admission, and you can swim in a spring; it’s beautiful.”
For information on Sunshine State of Mind, visit SunshineStatePodcast.com or email the Herbons at
Published July 11, 2018