2011 Travel Guide to FLORIDA
A high quality, perfect-bound magazine, The Travel Guide to Florida is published annually and is a roadmap to the Sunshine State and its abundant merits as a vacation destination. Aimed at both the American domestic market and Canada, it is filled from cover to cover with stimulating and informative feature stories written by some of the top travel writers in the United States and Canada. Created to inspire and guide travelers, it covers each of Florida’s eight distinctive regions together with a selection of special features on topics such as family vacations, golf, spa life, beaches, art and culture, eco-tourism, water sports and theme parks. All stories are supported by high-quality, eye-catching photography. A section with useful information including comprehensive charts, maps and fundamental travel information makes it easy for readers to access useful resources for planning a rewarding Florida vacation.
$5.95 FAVORITE DRIVES CULTURAL & HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS DELIGHTS SECRETS REGIONAL CULINARY BEST-KEPT FAMILY PLAYGROUNDS ECO ADVENTURES D I S P L AY U N T I L O C T O B E R 3 1 , 2 0 1 1 FROM NORTH TO SOUTH The Vacation You've Needed. The Adventure You've Wanted. Experience an Orlando vacation packed full of adventure at Universal Orlando� Resort. Play, scream and laugh with the biggest characters in movies, TV and pop culture at two immersive theme parks--Universal Studios� and Universal's Islands of Adventure�. Swing high above the city streets with Spider-ManTM, save the day with Shrek�, and explore all new magic and excitement in The Wizarding World of Harry PotterTM. Plus, you can relax at one of three AAA Four Diamond Award� on-site hotels: � The luxurious Loews Portofino Bay Hotel � The electrifying Hard Rock Hotel� � The exotic Loews Royal Pacific Resort As an on-site hotel guest, you'll also enjoy exclusive benefits, including skipping the regular theme park lines* for free! THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTERTM Visit UniversalOrlando.com or Contact Your Preferred Travel Professional BE EXTRAORDINARY MARVEL SUPER HERO ISLAND� HARD ROCK HOTEL� SHREK 4-DTM HARRY POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and � Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights � JKR. (s11) *Not valid at Harry Potter and the Forbidden JourneyTM and other select attractions. On-site hotel privileges good for hotel stay as indicated on the room key card. Only good for the number of guests staying in the room. Paid theme park admission required. Express ride access available during normal theme park operating hours only. Not valid for separately ticketed special events. Additional restrictions may apply and benefits are subject to change without notice. Shrek 4-D TM & � 2011 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C. Marvel Super Hero character names and likenesses: TM & � 2011 Marvel � 2011 Universal Studios. Hard Rock Hotel � Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc. Universal elements and all related indicia TM & � 2011 Universal Studios. � 2011 Universal Orlando. All rights reserved. 247951/0111/AW IN EVERY SEASON, A REASON... Whether it's the collections of old and the grandeur of Ca' d'Zan, the joyous miniatures of the Circus Museum, the intimacy of performance at the Historic Asolo Theater or the quiet grace of the banyan trees and gardens, a visit to the Ringling inspires, entertains and enriches. It speaks to our spirit, giving Join us. In every season, there is a reason to be a part of the art of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Winter Highlights (January�March, 2011) Special Exhibition: Gardens in Perpetual Bloom January 29� April 24, 2011 in the Searing Wing Over 100 prints trace the appreciation depiction, from of monks and princes to the era of the gardening enthusiast. This exhibition is developed by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Buff, or Humes Blush Camellia/MyrtleLeaved Camellia, from Monograph on the Genus Camellia (London: J&A Arch, 1819) by Samuel Curtis, design by Clara Maria Pope, etching by Weddell. Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Bequest of Katharine Lane Weems, 1989.656a. Spring Highlights (April�June, 2011) Special Exhibition: Beyond Bling: Voices of Hip-Hop in Art An exhibition at the Museum, and theater and dance performances at the Historic Asolo Theater celebrate the culture and its undeniable mark on society at large. Exhibition dates: May 21-August 15, 2011. Theater performances include Dance: RHPM, May 19�21, 2011 and Theater: The Word Begins, May 26�28, 2011. SOFIA MALDONADO Beyonc� from Concrete Jungle Divas, 2010 36 x 84 inches Year Round at the Museum Art after 5 -- Every Thursday, 5�8 PM Enjoy an after hours evening in the Museum of Art and Circus Museum. Gallery Walk & Talk, Film and Performance programming varies seasonally. Discounted Admission: $10 adults, $5 children 6-17. Family Days -- Every Saturday, 1�4 PM Family-friendly activities designed for children permanent collection and special exhibitions in the Museum of Art, Circus Museum and Ca' d'Zan. Programming varies seasonally. Open Daily 10 AM � 5 PM, Thursdays until 8 PM 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, FL 941.359.5700 | Ringling.org EXPERIENCE ACQUALINA, THE ONLY AAA FIVE DIAMOND RESORT ON MIAMI BEACH 17875 COLLINS AVENUE, SUNNY ISLES BEACH, FL 33160 TELEPHONE: 305.918.8000 WWW.ACQUALINA.COM �GREATER MIAMI CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU Whether it's Botero, Lichtenstein or an emerging artist, you can enjoy our hundreds of art galleries, museums, and outdoor sculpture gardens. Bring an easel and paint, draw or just go out and search for models. Miami's the city that inspires you to do the things you couldn't � or wouldn't � do anywhere else. For your chance to win a free trip to discover Miami, come express yourself at MiamiExpressYourself.com. Count the movies. Not the hours. Touch-screen TV at your seat. Everything we do is designed to make your trip as easy and comfortable as possible. Touch-screen TVs at every seat are available on all Air Canada-operated aircraft, except on certain Boeing 767s, and on select aircraft operated by Jazz. Much more than a beach. But wow, what a beach. There's no end to the great fun you can have at Daytona Beach. Enjoy golf, fishing, shopping, restaurants, water parks, go-carts, miniature golf, historical tours, festivals and beautiful weather. And when you need to relax from all that fun and excitement, remember, we also have 23 miles of the best beaches anywhere. Visit us at DaytonaBeach.com or call 800.873.7125 CANAD A www.canadatravelguides.ca 2 0 1 1 T R AV E L G U I D E T O ORDER YOUR COPY OF THE 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO CANADA. This beautiful reference guide will be 198 pages of detailed information on travel within Canada's provinces and territories. SATISFACTION GUARANTEED OR YOUR MONEY BACK! Please Mail this order form to: 3 Bluffwood Dr., Toronto, ON M2H 3L4 Canada OR fax to: 416-497-0871 OR call 1-888-700-4464 Name City Phone State/Province E-mail (optional) Address Zip/Postal Code Please send me one copy of The 2011 Travel Guide To Canada Cheque enclosed - Payable to Globelite Travel Marketing Inc. Please charge my Visa Mastercard American Express Card Number Name on Card Expiry Date Signature Cost per copy is $8.95 including taxes, postage and handling. U.S.A. residents please add $4.00 additional postage cost ($12 .95). beinspired There's a great Minto community in Florida just for you! PARADISE FOUND New Courtyard Villas, Terrace Homes, Town Villas and Club Villas from the $250's SOUTH FLORIDA'S BEST SELLING NEW COMMUNITY! New Courtyard Homes from the Low $200's in a Vibrant Gated Community YOU'VE GOTTA SEE THIS! 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Sensational New, Ready-To-Move-In Villas from the $600's-$1 million 11215 SW Springtree Terrace, Port St. Lucie, FL 33323 888.485.6624 4510 El Mar Dr., Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, FL 33308 888.735.3890 2606 Bellarosa Circle, Royal Palm Beach, FL 33411 866.415.8028 Models Open Daily: Mon-Sat 10-6, Sun 12-6 � Brokers Welcome | On-Site Mortgage Counseling VISIT ALL OUR GREAT FLORIDA MINTO COMMUNITIES: East Coast Cascada at Monterra in Cooper City � Artesia in Sunrise � Villas By The Sea in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Olympia in Wellington � Portosol in Royal Palm Beach � TownPark at Tradition in Port St. Lucie West Coast Hazeltine at Country Club East in Lakewood Ranch � Florida's New Sun City Center in Sun City Parkside at FishHawk Ranch in Tampa � Harbour Isle on Anna Maria Sound in Bradenton www.mintofla.com Minto Creates Better Places To Inspire Life. Prices and availability subject to change without notice. Oral representations cannot be relied upon as correctly stating the representations of the developer. For correct representations, make reference to the purchase agreement and homeowner documents, including the documents required by section 718.503, Florida Statutes, to be furnished by a developer to a buyer or lessee in condominium communities. Not an offer where prohibited by state statutes. CGC 059780, CGC 1516596, CGC 1518693, CGC 1505726. 2/2011. FLORIDA Fast www.floridatravelguide.travel The 2011 Travel Guide to Florida is published by GlobElite Travel Marketing Inc., a leading lifestyle media company and publisher of The Travel Guides to Canada, The Travel Guide to California, and Dreamscapes Travel and Lifestyle Magazine. Joseph P. Turkel, President and Group Publisher Maggie Woodburn, Vice President Valerie Saunders, Vice President Judi Scharf, Vice President PUBLISHER Maggie Woodburn EDITORS Donna Carter Donna S. Vieira EXECUTIVE EDITOR Judi Scharf COPY EDITOR Anne Champagne WRITERS Donna Carter Sandra Friend Janet Groene Josie Gulliksen Barb and Ron Kroll Rochelle Lash Wendy Lindsay Susan MacCallum-Whitcomb Kristen Manieri Josephine Matyas Kate Pocock Chelle Koster Walton Isobel Warren Kathy Wolf Fred. W. Wright Jr. ART DIRECTOR Mark Tzerelshtein CIRCULATION MANAGER Julia Wall DIRECTOR OF FINANCE Gloria Mungo PRESIDENT & GROUP PUBLISHER Joseph P. Turkel ACCOUNT MANAGERS Maggie Woodburn, Publisher Heather Lee Beasley Christa Collins Barbara Curley Ray Perks Lisa May Turner 2 0 11 T R AV E L G U I D E T O FACTS BY DONNA CARTER lorida has been among the world's top vacation venues for so long it's hard to remember a time when it wasn't. Over the years its abundance of sun, sea, sand and balmy weather has served as a foundation for the growth and development of one of the most multidimensional playgrounds on the planet. Moreover, beyond its vast tapestry of attractions, beaches and family-oriented theme parks, there is a great deal more to know about this 22nd largest of the 50 United States. To present at least part of the Sunshine State's bigger picture, here is a "did you know" compendium of facts, figures, trivia and useful knowledge. Estimated population according to a 2009 census is 18,537,969. The state covers a total area of 58,560 square miles and measures 447 miles from north to south and 361 miles east to west. Florida has 1,800 miles of coastline including 1,200 miles of sand beaches. More than 11,000 miles of rivers, streams and waterways flow throughout the state, with the north-flowing St. Johns River being the longest river in Florida. Tallahassee is the state capital. The Sunshine State shares its northern border with Georgia and Alabama, and its western border with Alabama. The 10 largest cities are Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Hialeah, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tallahassee, Hollywood and Pembroke Pines. The Florida peninsula is warmed by surrounding tropical and subtropical waters with trade winds providing cooling breezes. No city in Florida is more than 75 miles from either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. State flower is the orange blossom, state bird is the mockingbird and the state tree is the sabal or cabbage palm (Arecaceae Sabal palmetto). Orlando attracts more visitors than any other amusement park destination in the United States. Lying between French Reef and the Dixie Shoals off the Florida Keys, the Benwood is one of the most-dived shallow shipwreck sites in the world. The state has more than 370,000 hotel rooms. The largest freshwater lake in the state is Lake Okeechobee. At least six million people camp in Florida each year. F FLORIDA OFFICE: 1277B High Point Blvd. W. Delray Beach, Florida 33445 Tel: 561-637-0712 Fax: 561-637-6662 email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.floridatravelguide.travel CORPORATE OFFICE: GlobElite Travel Marketing Inc. 3 Bluffwood Drive Toronto, Ontario M2H 3L4 Tel: 416-497-5353, 1-888-700-4464 Fax: 416-497-0871 email: email@example.com www.floridatravelguide.travel No part of this publication can be reproduced or duplicated without the written permission of GlobElite Travel Marketing Inc. The opinions in this magazine are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of GlobElite Travel Marketing Inc. Publications Mail Agreement 40047932. Contents � copyright 2011. Printed in Canada. There are more than 1,400 golf courses, more than any other US state. Florida has a Rails-to-Trails program providing a network of trails in various parts of the state using former rail lines for walking, cycling and horseback riding. 8 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA AL AB CONECUH 29 DALE E A R LY 19 BAKER 65 ESCAMBIA G E N E VA BALDWIN COVINGTON 84 MILLER R. nt Fli MITCHELL 75 COLQUITT BERRIEN 82 221 PIERCE WAY N E G LY N N 17 Satilla R. AT K I N S O N 84 COOK LANIER WARE BRANTLEY HOUSTON CAMDEN 31 ESCAMBIA OKALOOSA S A N TA R O S A Graceville 331 WA LT O N HOLMES i 90 D E C AT U R JACKSON SEMINOLE GRADY 319 THOMAS 95 BROOKS CLINCH L. Seminole Marianna 441 84 LOWNDES ECHOLS CHARLETON 27 St M Cumberland Island NS arys R. 29 Milton 10 WASHINGTON 1 NASSAU i 17 i A R. 10 GADSDEN LEON 19 221 90 Madison 41 iJasper H A M I LT O N Fernandina Beach A T L A N T I C O C E A N Warrington Pensacola 98 B AY 231 CALHOUN i JEFFERSON 301 D U VA L ICOL Tallahassee WAKULLA MADISON SUWANNEE White Springs COLUMBIA Jacksonville 10 BAKER Jacksonville Beach ACH 129 98 TAY L O R APAL 90 41 UNION Panama City LIBERTY Perry Bellair 95 1 27 NORTHWEST NORTHEAST St. Augustine 319 ST JOSEPH BAY GULF FRANKLIN L A FAY E T T E BRADFORD 98 Apalachicola Apalachee Bay 19 Cross City High Springs GILCHRIST Starke C L AY S T. J O H N S Alachua ALACHUA 27 NORTH CENTRAL Fanning Springs Gainesville PUTNAM Palatka FLAGLER DIXIE Suw annee R. Palm Coast Flagler Beach 27A LEVY Williston MARION 17 L. George Ormond Beach Ocala 41 Daytona Beach 92 Waccasassa Bay Inglis Citrus Springs De Land 75 LAKE VOLUSIA New Smyrna Beach Deltona 95 Sanford SEMINOLE Leesburg CITRUS SUMTER 441 Winter Garden 301 CENTRAL Titusville 19 98 Winter Park 27 Brooksville HERNANDO Orlando ORANGE Cocoa Cocoa Beach St J 192 ohn sR New Port Richey PA S C O Polk City Land O Lakes Kissimmee 17 OSCEOLA CENTRAL WEST Tarpon Springs 4 Plant City 275 98 92 Melbourne . B R E VA R D Clearwater PINELLAS Largo St. Petersburg TAMPA BAY Tampa HILLSBOROUGH Haines City Winter Haven Bartow POLK Frostproof 17 Avon Park 1 CENTRAL EAST Sebastian INDIAN RIVER Apollo Beach 41 301 Wauchula M A N AT E E HARDEE Vero Beach 95 Bradenton Sarasota Sarasota Springs 75 OKEECHOBEE 441 98 27 S T. L U C I E Fort Pierce Port St. Lucie Jensen Beach Stuart Okeechobee S A R A S O TA HIGHLANDS DE SOTO G U L F O F M E X I C O Venice Englewood 98 GLADES MARTIN 41 1 Jupiter Port Charlotte CHARLOTTE Indiantown Lake Okeechobee Gasparilla Island Charlotte Harbor 27 HENDRY LEE North Palm Beach West Palm Beach Belle Glade PA L M B E A C H Fort Myers Cape Coral Sanibel Immokalee 441 Lake Worth Delray Beach Boca Raton 95 SOUTH WEST Golden Gate Naples COLLIER 75 41 Pompano Beach Ft Lauderdale BROWARD Big Cypress National Preserve Hollywood Miami Beach Miami Kendall SOUTH EAST Hialeah MONROE Homestead Everglades National Park 1 Key Largo DADE FLORIDA BAY Big Pine Key 1 Marathon Key West MAP OF FLORIDA 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 9 EDITORS' MESSAGES W elcome to the 2011 Travel Guide to Florida. From cover to cover its pages are filled with engaging things to see and do, places to visit and useful information to help facilitate your travel experience. I've been vacationing in Florida for more than three decades and year after year my passion for the place has grown exponentially. In fact, from the first time I set foot on Sunshine State soil, I knew it was the beginning of a long and rewarding relationship. Now, as editor of the 2011 Travel Guide to Florida, I have the great pleasure of sharing my enthusiasm. The guide covers all eight regions of the state from the southern Florida Keys north to Georgia and west to Alabama. Within the borders of this sunbathed landscape are the features and attributes that make Florida one of the most popular vacation venues on the planet. As home to Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Tampa, together with other exciting theme parks, Florida's global reputation as "the theme park capital of the world" is entirely justified, however, the state is anything but one-dimensional. In fact its diverse attractions include such places as historic St. Augustine, America's oldest, continuously-occupied European settlement where its charming Old City section is one of the most visited sites in the state. Race fans around the globe are familiar with the Daytona International Speedway, one of the most famous racetracks in the world where car and motorcycle racing is unsurpassed. The highlight of Florida's famous Space Coast is the Kennedy Space Center where outof-this-world attractions thrill adults and children alike. An entirely different character exists in the cosmopolitan city of Miami, home to the largest collection of art deco architecture on the planet and a favorite playground of the rich and famous. At Miami's back door are the Florida Everglades, one of the most important natural wetland regions on Earth. Off the southern tip of peninsular Florida are the famous Florida Keys, a chain of islands so beautiful they take your breath away. On the Gulf coast, the sophisticated city of Sarasota brims with attractions such as the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, a legacy of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus magnate, John Ringling. Other Gulf Coast attractions are the sister islands of Sanibel and Captiva, home to some of the world's best shelling. The places I've mentioned are merely the thin edge of the wedge of what Florida has to offer. As you read through the guide you will see that it's not just coastal cities and highprofile attractions that make the Sunshine State special. It's small towns, magnificent beaches, outstanding golf, hidden gems and much, much more. It's yours to discover and enjoy. Donna Carter Editor 10 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA T he Sunshine State has long been a favorite vacation spot for Americans and Canadians seeking respite from the cold northern winters and for young families in search of the entertainment and theme parks for which Florida is so well known. And while I had vis- ited the state on several occasions and figured I knew it well, nothing quite prepared me for all I was about to discover as we gathered information for this guide. It's been an eye-opening and mind-boggling experience. We've enjoyed putting this guide together for you and it has certainly introduced me to new paths of discovery I never knew existed and can't wait to visit. Personally, I love uncovering off-the-beaten-path locations and, wherever you may roam in the state of Florida, surprises await. For instance, Orlando may be world-renowned for its theme parks, but have you ever heard about or visited the quaint nearby city of Winter Park, a historic resort destination that was popular with wealthy New England industrialists before the turn of the 20th century? This unique little enclave continues to attract thousands of visitors to annual festivals that include the Bach Festival, the Sidewalk Art Festival and the Winter Park Concours d'Elegance. It remains one of my favorite spots in Florida. Even the busy metropolitan cities have their special neighborhoods. Little Havana and Bal Harbour are two you shouldn't pass up when in the Miami area; Ybor is definitely worth investigating if you find yourself in Tampa; and St. Armands Circle in Sarasota retains a good bit of circus magnate John Ringling's razzle-dazzle. An estimated 80.3 million people visited Florida in 2009 and the vast majority opted to fly in. However one of my most memorable trips through Florida involved a drive from the Georgia border down to Fort Myers, then through the Everglades to Miami. We took our time as we scooted along back roads and explored the countryside, stopping on a whim to tour some of the smaller towns and rural areas rarely frequented by tourists. Townspeople were anxious to offer guidance and assistance in any way they could and eagerly shared tips on what treasures and secret spots their communities harbored. Our guide contains a few best drive options we think you might enjoy. Even in the larger cities we continued to experience a warmhearted welcome and, perhaps, this generosity of spirit is the real reason why visitors return to Florida year after year. If the great outdoors and communing with Mother Nature is your idea of a great vacation, there are 160 state parks and more than one million acres of state forests between Pensacola and Key West just waiting to welcome you. Regardless of what Floridian experience you choose, there is no doubt in my mind you will return home with warm, lasting memories, great stories to share with friends and family, and a deep desire to return to the beloved Sunshine State. Donna S. Vieira Editor 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 11 TABLE OF CONTENTS 34 50 GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND INFORMATION 14 18 22 History: Florida Background and History Welcome to Florida: Florida Has It All! Travelers' Tips for Florida FLORIDA VACATION THEMES 26 Architecture and Gardens: Splendid Sights in the Sunshine State 30 Arts and Culture: A Feast of Cultural Entertainment 34 Beaches: Down by the Seashore Florida's Best-Kept Secrets Regional Cuisine and Dining: Noshing Around the Sunshine State 46 50 54 58 Ecotourism: Leaving a Small Footprint Hiking Trails: Great Hiking in Florida Campgrounds: The Great Outdoors Family Vacations: The Ultimate Family Playground 62 66 70 72 76 80 12 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 70 36 42 Theme Parks: Fun for All Road Trips: Great Florida Road Trips Golf: Gold Medal Golf Spas: Heavenly Spas Shopping: A Shopper's Paradise Water Sports: Water World 82 FLORIDA REGIONS, COUNTIES AND ATTRACTIONS 82 88 94 96 Southeast Florida: A Region of Contrasts Southwest Florida: Delightfully Different Hendry County: A Call Back to Nature Central East Florida: Racing, Rockets, Beaches & More 102 Central Florida: More than Theme Parks 108 Universal Orlando� Resort: A World of Enchantment 112 Central West Florida: Enjoy, Explore, Discover 120 Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort: A Four-Diamond Eco-conscious Property 122 Northeast Florida: A "Got Everything" Playground 126 North Central Florida: Second Nature 129 Wakulla County: A Natural Place to Be 130 Northwest Florida: Explore Hidden Treasures 96 FLORIDA STATEWIDE INFORMATION 134 Florida Time Zones 134 Annual Florida Festivals 135 Average Monthly Temperatures and Precipitation 136 Tourism Information Sources 136 Florida's Public Holidays 137 Florida Associations and Useful Groups for Travelers 137 Cruise Lines Sailing from Florida Ports 137 Cruise Headquarters, USA 138 Florida State Parks, Forests & Regional Recreation Spaces 141 National Parks, Memorials, Monuments and Preserves 141 Major Hotel Chains in Florida 142 Mileage Chart Between Key Florida Cities 143 Car and RV Rental Companies in Florida 143 Florida Bus Tour Operators 144 Major International Airports in Florida 144 Airline Service to Florida from Canada and the USA 102 COVER: Florida beach/Michael Melford 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 13 HISTORY FORT JEFFERSON � VISIT FLORIDA� AND HISTORY BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS Florida Background FOOTSTEPS OF HISTORY What better way to truly appreciate a region than through the history of its people? In Florida, the side roads and small towns are a treasure trove full of opportunities to celebrate and learn about the personalities and events that shaped the state. FLORIDA'S FIRST RESIDENTS Florida's first inhabitants were prehistoric hunters and gatherers who thrived on the peninsula's abundant fish, shellfish and wildlife. Eventually these nomads settled and developed complex social cultures; the 14 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA remains of their cultures have been unearthed and studied throughout the state. Contact with the early Spanish conquistadors proved to be deadly for these early native peoples-- their numbers were decimated by disease, warfare and social disintegration. Dotted across Florida are archaeological sites that preserve and interpret the cultural history of the ancient inhabitants: � The Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, near Tampa, explores how the area's earliest inhabitants used and impacted the coastal islands. � Accessible only by boat, the Mound Key Archaeological State Park in southwest Florida is known for its complex of shell mounds (some rising 30 feet). The site is believed to have been the ceremonial center of the great Calusa Indian nation. � Near Jacksonville, the Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center (a National Park Service site) has displays on the early native inhabitants of the area. CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS FORT SHOW � VISIT FLORIDA� FROM EUROPEAN EXPLORERS TO TOURISM When Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon planted a foot on the shoreline of what is now northeast Florida, he opened the floodgates for the explorers, missionaries and treasureseekers that followed. For the next three centuries, the Spanish, British and French warred over these lands, lured at first by tales of gold and silver, later by the riches of the cotton and tobacco trade. Forts and communities flip-flopped back and forth between European powers, but it was the Spanish that left the deepest imprints on the area in their feverish construction of fortified garrisons and Roman Catholic missions. Eventually Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1821 as part of settling a border dispute between the two countries. Through the period of great unrest and conflict that marked the American Civil War, Florida joined the southern states to form the Confederate States of America. There were never any decisive battles fought on Florida soil. After the War, the federal government FORT CAROLINE � VISIT FLORIDA� enacted an ambitious period of rebuilding known as The Reconstruction. Eventually, this opened up many parts of the state for development--a strong part of which was tourism. Today you can explore Florida's historic sites that stand as testament to the period of extensive exploration and conflict: � The romantic city of St. Augustine is considered the first permanent European settlement in the nation. It's known for narrow, winding streets and well-preserved buildings. At the Colonial Spanish Quarter living history museum, structures and reenactors model life in the 18th century. Built to protect the Spanish Empire, the city's intimidating Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest standing European fortification in the continental US. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 15 HISTORY � The reconstructed fort and exhibits at Pensacola's Presidio Santa Mar�a de Galve mark the area's first successful Spanish settlement. � In Tallahassee, Mission San Luis is the remnant of a late 17th-century colonial Spanish mission. Today it is a living history and archaeological site. � Fort Clinch, garrisoned during both the Civil War and the Spanish American War, is considered one of the best-preserved 19th-century forts in the country. � Fort Caroline--founded by a group of Huguenots--was the first permanent French colony in North America. � At the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Fort Pickens National Park preserves the massive, red brick fort that once imprisoned Geronimo in the 1880s. AH-TAH-THI-KI MUSEUM � VISIT FLORIDA� SEMINOLE PEOPLE In the mid-1700s, the Creek Indians moved southward into Florida, eventually becoming known as the Seminole Tribe. The group-- known for its vibrant spirit--was pushed deep into the Everglades during the federal government's attempts to mass relocate Native Americans during the 19th century. Some band members were captured and forced westward to Oklahoma; others escaped into southern Florida's "river of grass" where they created a life for themselves hunting, fishing, trapping and trading. The Seminole Tribe has reinvented itself in a most 21st-century manner. They paved the way into native-operated games of chance with the establishment of casinos, most notably the very successful Hard Rock brand in both Tampa and Hollywood. They are also involved in the cattle and citrus industries. It is the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation in the Everglades that is at the heart of the Seminole Nation. Its Smithsonian affiliate Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum (which means "a place to learn") is a living village of early Seminole culture. Storytelling and heritage AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE CELEBRATION � VISIT FLORIDA� displays tell of a determined people who 16 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA traveled the waterways of the Everglades in their long, shallow-draft canoes. Modern-day visitors can tour the museum and explore the swamplands on wildlife expeditions with Billie Swamp Safari (located on the Reservation property) in airboats and swamp buggies, or book an overnight stay in a traditional chickee hut made of cypress poles. CENTRO YBOR/TAMPA � VISIT FLORIDA� AFRICAN-AMERICANS After the South was defeated in the Civil War, many of the plantation slaves were declared free, although in reality there was no smooth transition. Early slaves escaped to parts of Florida and found their freedom by forging an alliance with the Seminole Indians. But it wasn't until the middle of the 20th century that there were significant gains in ending racial discrimination in schools and other institutions. lent than the Cuban community. The district known as Little Havana along 8th Street comes alive with the sounds of salsa, the smell of strong Cuban coffee and the lively conversations in Spanish. In all parts of the state, history and culture are still vibrant on the well-preserved downtown streets: HENRY FORD ESTATE � VISIT FLORIDA� � In Tampa, the Ybor City neighborhood ries for African-American culture. � In Delray Beach, the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum honors African-Americans who settled the town in the late 1800s. � Martin Luther King Jr. stayed in St. Augustine, in the historic AfricanAmerican neighborhood of Lincolnville. once bustled with cigar factories where Spanish and Cuban immigrants rolled millions of cigars each year. The main thoroughfare, 7th Avenue, has been recognized as one of the "10 Great Streets in America" and was once home to Tampa's Latin Quarter. � In pretty Apalachicola, the buildings that were once cotton and sponge warehouses are now home to unique shops, galleries and antique stores. � Villages like Milton, Punta Gorda, Havana and the old tobacco town of High Springs all have historic districts that have seen new life with shops and galleries. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 17 The Florida Black Heritage Trail makes it easy to find the sites, buildings and other points of interest in African-American history: � Historic Eatonville (near Orlando) is the first incorporated town founded by and for African-Americans after the Emancipation Proclamation. Called "the town that freedom built," Eatonville is known for its preserved historic district and for its annual Zora! Festival to honor local writer, folklorist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. � The African-American Research Library and Cultural Center and the Old Dillard Museum in Fort Lauderdale are reposito- MAIN STREET HISTORY Many people have called Florida home and their cultural marks have been left on the streets, in the architecture and in the dishes served by local restaurants. Miami has been a magnet for immigrants from the Caribbean and South America, but none is more preva- WELCOME TO FLORIDA! has it all! BY ISOBEL WARREN miles of sunbathed coastline, oodles of golf courses, festivals, exciting nightlife and family theme parks are just the tip of the Sunshine State's attractions. There are charming small towns, vibrant cities, unspoiled wilderness areas, awesome fishing, abundant water sports and the mind-boggling majesty of the Florida Everglades. Add diving, snorkeling, copious spas, hiking, biking, plus hotels and resorts to suit all tastes and budgets, and the sum total amounts to a remarkable vacation destination. 18 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA Florida "S omething for everyone" is a time- In addition to countless man-made attrib- worn phrase but applied to Florida it's entirely accurate. Miles and utes and enormous natural blessings, scores of historical venues also contribute to Florida's multifaceted appeal. Who could have guessed that the 1513 landfall by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon on the state's northeast coast at what is now the city of St. Augustine would ultimately result in a modern-day attraction? His mission back then was to search for a legendary fountain of youth, which he believed he found at a freshwater spring just north of what is presently the town center. Of course, it was not a fountain of youth--a fact that seems to matter little to today's tourists who flock to MIAMI � DREAMSTIME the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park to sip the same waters that Ponce de Leon erroneously counted upon to give him eternal youth (fountainofyouthflorida.com). Among other features that help make Florida a place that "has it all" is Daytona Beach, an oceanfront community an hour south of St. Augustine. Here, the city is distinguished by its magnificent sand beach, affordable accommodation and bargain golf. It's also home to the world-famous Daytona International Speedway where an annual series of high-profile races such as the Daytona 500 attracts hundreds of thousands of avid fans. Just as many visitors arrive for Bike Week in March and Biketoberfest in October, events that feature motorcycle shows, races and live concerts (daytonabeach.com). Continuing south to a stretch of Atlantic shoreline known as the Space Coast, one of the most captivating spots for visitors of all ages is the Kennedy Space Center where people can tour NASA's rocket launch area, meet veteran astronauts, see giant rockets and take the controls in space flight simulators. The complex also includes the US Astronaut Hall of Fame containing the world's largest collection of memorabilia associated with those who first ventured into space (kennedyspacecenter.com). West of the Space Coast, Orlando continues to be the center of the universe for theme park lovers. Here, the big three--Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando� and SeaWorld--have helped make this central Florida city the top family-vacation destination on the planet. Among the city's newest additions is Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a 20-acre attraction inspired by the popular witchcraft and wizardry books written by British author J.K. Rowling. While entire Florida vacations are sometimes built around Orlando's theme park giants, the city offers many layers of entertainment from museums to golf, spas, shopping, water parks and vibrant nightlife (orlandoinfo.com). Back on the Atlantic coast, pretty Fort Lauderdale (sunny.org) is nicknamed the "Venice of America" for its miles of inland waterways where there's everything from gondola rides to kayak tours and sightseeing KENNEDY SPACE CENTER � VISIT FLORIDA� 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 19 WELCOME TO FLORIDA! Marco Island and Naples, upscale communities known for posh hotels, restaurants and championship golf (paradisecoast.com). Other cities along the state's west coast include Fort Myers, once the winter hangout of inventor Thomas Edison, where visitors can tour his former home and laboratory plus observe some of his famous inventions. Offshore from Fort Myers are Sanibel and Captiva islands, widely known as two of the best shell-gathering locations in the state (fortmyers-sanibel.com). Farther up the coastline is the sophisticated city of Sarasota where chief attractions include the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and a fascinating Circus Museum--both inspired by the former circus magnate John Ringling (sarasotafl.org). Above Sarasota, Tampa Bay is home to three vibrant communities--St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater. These bustling cities offer every kind of Florida entertainment imaginable from golf to nightlife, museums, water sports and beaches. The area also has a JET SKI FLORIDA ADVENTURE � VISIT FLORIDA� history of attracting baseball fans since several major and minor league teams hold their spring training here (visittampabay.com). From Tampa Bay the coastline begins swinging northwest into an area often referred to as "the original Florida." This region embodies quaint small towns, quiet beach communities and a vast protected wilderness of unspoiled beauty. Also, an abundance of freshwater springs are some of the deepest in the world and provide remarkable snorkeling and scuba diving. Numerous rivers, especially the mighty Suwannee (inspiration for the Stephen Foster song, Old Folks at Home) CEDAR KEY � VISIT FLORIDA� cruises. Beyond its golden sand beach and scenic boardwalk, both natural and artificial reefs make the waters here one of the top scuba and dive sites in the state. South of Fort Lauderdale, Miami continues to be one of Florida's highest-octane hot spots. Dazzling nightlife, luxurious hotels, fascinating ethnic neighborhoods, glitzy restaurants and the trendy South Beach area give the city its star-powered style (miamiandbeaches.com). Below Miami are the fabulous Florida Keys--a string of about 1,700 islands and coral reefs where the surrounding waters are a sport-fishing paradise. This is where Ernest Hemingway regularly fished and wrote his famous novel, Old Man and the Sea. Scuba diving, waterfront bars, charming resorts, sailing and historic towns attract a variety of visitors from families to fishermen and folks who want to enjoy the laid-back, relaxed atmosphere of the Keys (fla-keys.com). Above the Keys, a large portion of southern Florida is dominated by Everglades National Park, where its "river of grass" 20 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA weave across country providing canoe routes, boating and fishing. Finally, the extreme northwest region of the state has some of the widest beaches in Florida and its waterfront cities of Pensacola, Panama City Beach, Destin and Fort Walton Beach have long been popular with families and adults wanting to maximize their vacation dollars yet still have all the sun, fun and entertainment offered in other parts of Florida (visitflorida.com). covers 1.5 million acres making it the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Here, airboat and swamp buggy tours are a good way for visitors to see an awesome assortment of birds and wildlife ranging from bald eagles to alligators. There's also the chance of seeing one of a hundred remaining Florida panthers (everglades.national-park.com). West of the Everglades, among the southernmost attractions on the Gulf Coast are Explore the crystal clear Atlantic Ocean or visit unique galleries and boutiques on Atlantic Avenue by day; enjoy a night of dining and entertainment at any of Delray Beach's award winning caf�s or restaurants. When you stay in "Florida's Village by the Sea," at one of the grand hotels or a quaint seaside inn, you will instantly feel the warm and friendly atmosphere that makes downtown Delray Beach such a joy to visit. Come "downtown" and meet the beautiful people, shopkeepers and the entire community known as a Sociable City. Downtown Delray Beach, Florida We're just what you need.TM ... style without attitude and poised to become a national destination � The New York Times DowntownDelrayBeach.com DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY City of Delray Beach, Florida TRAVELERS' TIPS KAYAKING FAMILY � SEMINOLE COUNTY Travelers' Tips BY KATHY WOLF FOR FLORIDA F lorida, the Sunshine State, is big-- 58,560 square miles, or a 14-hour drive from sultry Key West to breezy Pensacola. More than half of Florida's population of 18 million lives south of Orlando. To the north and west, rural countryside with small towns is the norm. In addition to VISIT FLORIDA� (visitflorida.com), the state's official tourism bureau, most of the 67 counties have their own tourism websites. WEATHER Florida's temperate weather makes it a top vacation destination. Spring and summer are prime time in the north, while South Florida offers its best in fall and winter. Mild winters can be punctuated with freezing temperatures, down to 20 F. Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures between 80 F and 95 F and evenings in the 70s. Afternoon thundershowers may occasionally bring lightning strikes. Hurricane season runs June 1�November 30. Tune into weather forecasts and be aware of hurricane evacuation routes. 22 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA FLORIDA WATER PARK � VISIT FLORIDA� WATER SKIING � VISIT FLORIDA� for all children under five years. Headlights are required from dusk to dawn and during inclement weather. Florida has strict drunk driving laws with zero tolerance for drivers under the age of 21. Pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks. Florida's heat brings dangers. Never leave children or pets in a car, even with the windows slightly open, as the interior temperature of a car can rise to 120 F in minutes. Hot pavement acts like ice when rain first hits it, so be cautious driving during rain showers. Florida has 657 miles of toll roads, bridges and causeways, more than any other state. Florida's Turnpike is the longest, at 312 miles, connecting Interstate 75 south of Ocala with Orlando, West Palm Beach and Miami and ending at the gateway to the Florida Keys. Alligator Alley (also known as Everglades Parkway) between Naples and Miami is a toll road. Toll roads also surround Orlando. The SunPass prepaid toll program covers most toll roads and bridges in Florida. Available for $5 at most grocery stores, the SunPass Mini transponder can save drivers up to 25% off tolls. Other major highways, such as Interstate 10 from Jacksonville to Pensacola, Interstate 95 from Jacksonville to Miami and Interstate 75 from Georgia to Naples are free. US 441 and US 27 provide rural alternatives to Florida's Turnpike. GETTING AROUND Major international airports are in Miami (MIA), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), West Palm Beach (PBI), Orlando (MCO), Tampa (TPA) and Jacksonville (JAX). Visitors to Northwest Florida can fly into Pensacola (PNS) or the new Northwest Florida Beaches Airport (ECP), and those headed to the Keys save time flying directly to Key West (EYW). The Overseas Highway (US 1) connects the Florida Keys and is a nationally recognized Scenic Highway. AMTRAK provides rail service (amtrak.com). The Silver Service/Palmetto connects Jacksonville and Orlando, ending in either Tampa or Miami with many stops along the way. Greyhound bus service links many Florida cities (greyhound.com). In Orlando, LYNX Many gas stations charge five to 10 cents more a gallon for using a credit or debit card. Proximity to major highways does not guarantee the best price, as fuel taxes may vary greatly between counties. (golynx.com) covers the region. The Metrobus (miamidade.gov/transit) services more than 90 routes in and around Miami. DRIVING Florida is best toured by car. Car rental agencies are plentiful, with major companies serving both major airports and small towns. Visitors ages 16 and up holding licenses from other countries may drive in Florida. Before getting behind the wheel, drivers should review the rules of the road from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (flhsmv.gov). Drivers and front-seat passengers must wear seat belts. A child restraint is required HEALTH Nothing dampens a holiday more than a cold or sudden illness. Pain and cold medications are readily available at any local store. Prescription drugs can only be filled at pharmacies, some of which are open 24 hours. To avoid an unnecessary doctor visit, make sure to fill prescriptions before traveling and always carry them in their original containers. Travel insurance is recommended. For emergency assistance anywhere, dial 911. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 23 TRAVELERS' TIPS DIVING KEY LARGO � VISIT FLORIDA� January (Martin Luther King Day), third Monday in February (Presidents' Day), last Monday in May (Memorial Day), July 4 (Independence Day), first Monday in September (Labor Day), second Monday in October (Columbus Day), November 11 (Veterans' Day), fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving), and December 25 (Christmas). Many companies close during "the holidays" from December 24�January 1. BANKING AND TAXES Most banks are open Monday�Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM. TD Bank, with nearly 100 locations in Florida, is open seven days a week. ROMANTIC DINING � VISIT FLORIDA� ATMs (automated teller machines) can be found at banks, grocery and convenience stores and at some attractions. A transaction fee of $2�4 is assessed. Many stores will allow debit card users to obtain "cash back" up to $50 above their purchase with no transaction fee. Florida's base sales tax on purchases is 6%, with counties adding up to another 1.5% discretionary tax. SECURITY It is prudent to always lock car doors, even while driving, and secure belongings out of sight. Never leave a bag or parcel unattended. Keep valuables in the hotel safe along with copies of important documents, such as your passport. Florida is home to dangerous animals, most notably the American alligator, seen sunning along waterways. Never approach or feed an alligator--feeding one carries a fine of $500 and may cost you an arm or a leg. TIPPING Tipping is the norm in America, with those working in dining establishments expected to earn up to 25% of their income through tips. Add 15�20% to the bill as a tip for wait staff and bartenders; airport shuttle drivers, valets and bellhops, $2 per person; maid service, $1�2 per night; tour guides, $2�10 per person, depending on length and complexity of the chain restaurants while business casual and resort wear are appropriate in upscale establishments. Smoking is not permitted inside Florida restaurants or bars that serve food, however smokers can enjoy the outdoor patio. Restaurants are air conditioned and can be quite chilly. tour; and fishing guides, 10�15% of the cost of the trip. If you see a tip jar, throw a few coins in--it's always appreciated. ACCOMMODATION AND DINING Accommodation in Florida ranges from quaint lodges to luxurious resorts. For top-notch small properties, visit superiorsmalllodging.com. Most properties charge an additional county "tourist development tax" on room or holiday rental rates. Hotels and resorts, particularly in Orlando and South Florida, also add an additional 5 to 20% as an "amenities fee." Ask beforehand, since these fees are not always disclosed in the published or stated price. Florida offers culinary experiences with cultural diversity, from Southern comfort food like fried chicken and collard greens to mojitos and Jamaican jerk chicken. Dining is casual, with T-shirts and shorts the norm at 24 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA EVERGLADES No trip to Florida would be complete without a visit to the Everglades National Park (nps.gov/ever), with its majestic and unique landscapes spanning 2,358 square miles. Dedicated on December 6, 1947 by President Harry S. Truman, it can be explored by car, tram, foot, canoe or on an exhilarating airboat tour across sweeping swamps and marshes. HOLIDAYS Even during federal holidays, many attractions are open. Banks and government offices, including the post office, are closed on January 1 (New Year's Day), third Monday in GOLF / SPA / TENNIS / FITNESS / FINE DINING 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables Miami, Florida 33134 ARCHITECTURE AND GARDENS HOTEL ART DECO ARCHITECTURE/SOUTH BEACH, MIAMI � RJ LERICH/SHUTTERSTOCK Splendid Sights SUNSHINE STATE BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN IN THE Sunshine State, especially when it comes to historic architecture and lush tropical gardens. Landmark buildings from 1920s art deco to modern structures dot the state. For those who prefer a little color with their outdoor exploring, gardens are the perfect way to enjoy native flora and fauna. 26 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA F lorida is more than just beaches and sunshine. There are incredible sightseeing opportunities throughout the SOUTHEAST Starting at the southernmost tip of the state in the Florida Keys up to West Palm Beach, there is plenty of each to explore. Conch architecture, evident by tin roofs, wood-frame structures, wraparound verandahs and porches with intricate woodcarvings, is evident during any stroll around the Key West area. A great way to take it all in and learn about the history is on a biking or walking tour. Many of these houses feature lovely flora and fauna; however, to truly appreciate the beauty of Key West foliage requires a visit to the Key West Garden Club and the Joe Allen Garden Center at West Martello Tower. Here, brick pathways lined with exotic trees and plants including bromeliads and orchids lead to breezy gazebos and arched courtyards (keywestgardenclub.com). Admiring the wealth of vibrant bougainvilleas, especially around Islamorada, is another must during the drive through the Keys. WATER STAIRWAY IN VIZCAYA � ISAME/DREAMSTIME EDISON GUEST HOUSE & HOME� LEE COUNTY VISITOR & CONVENTION BUREAU Although Miami's South Beach is known mainly for beaches and a thriving nightlife, the art deco architecture plays a close second to why this area is world-renowned. Tours with the Miami Design Preservation League, the spearheading organization for the architecture's revival, are the best way to see it all (mdpl.org). Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on posh South Miami Avenue is a 10-acre National Historic Landmark featuring a 34-room home surrounded by formal gardens and a rockland hammock (vizcayamuseum.org). There are also the Cloisters of the Ancient Spanish Monastery, a phenomenal stone structure with impressive gardens, arched open-air hallways and massive wooden door entranceways (spanishmonastery.com). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 27 ARCHITECTURE AND GARDENS Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fort Lauderdale's Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is a 35-acre site with a quaint, bright yellow structure and represents five distinct ecosystems including a couple of dunes, the Atlantic Ocean, a freshwater slough, mangrove wetland and maritime forest. The Desert Garden blooms with a hibiscus garden, arid plantings and one of the largest collections of orchids in the Southeastern US (bonnet house.org). And the Historic Stranahan House Museum is typical of the Florida vernacular style. It was restored to its original 1913 configuration and during its history served as a bank, trading post, post office and town hall (stranahanhouse.org). Finally, travel to Japan in Florida with a visit to the 16-acre Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens where a world-class bonsai display is complemented by contemporary Asian art and six diverse, flowing gardens that lend an element of tranquility and calm (morikami.org). The impeccably landscaped 14-acre Mounts Botanical Garden features more than 2,000 species of tropical and subtropical native and exotic species and is the area's oldest and largest garden of its kind (mounts.org). EAST TERRACE OF VIZCAYA � ELENA KOUZMINA/DREAMSTIME THE BOK TOWER IN HISTORIC BOK SANCTUARY IN LAKE WALES � NICK SAUM/DREAMSTIME WEST COAST The Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers are the centerpieces of historic structures in this quiet town on Florida's West Coast. The stately homes of these two innovators and the surrounding gardens with more than a thousand varieties of imported plants, including a banyan tree and an African sausage tree, make up the 15,000-square-foot museum. The grand pool is a beauty (efwefla.org). Farther up the coast in Sarasota are Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota Jungle Gardens and the Sarasota School of Architecture featuring the creations of master architect Gene Leedy. The 35-year-old Selby Gardens are a 14-acre wonder nestled amongst 12 buildings along a brick-laid path, and feature seven greenhouses that house thousands of colorful and exotic plants. Hibiscus, tropical fruits, ferns, bonsais, cacti and succulents and 28 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA Rudolph, Mark Hampton, Victor Lundy and Gene Leedy. Their designs are pure regional southern architecture where the use of patios, verandahs, modular construction and raised floors allowed for greater ventilation while the flat-roofed buildings created a minimalist look (sarasotaarchitecturalfoundation.org). National Register of Historic Places. Lloyd Wright came to FSC with the intention of creating an architectural wonder in a campus setting in an effort to contribute his concept of unifying organic architecture. Light-filled, flat-roofed modern structures with plenty of breezeways, his signature style, fill the college campus (franklloydwrightatfsc.com). CENTRAL/CENTRAL WEST Orlando and Lakeland, neighboring Central Florida areas, boast a variety of gardens and an impressive collection of works by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the fathers of Florida architecture. Orlando's Harry P. Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical park, boasts the third largest camellia collection in America and includes the Leu House Museum, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The herb and vegetable garden, palm, bamboo and cycad gardens and the state's largest formal rose garden are an added bonus (leugardens.org). Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales features Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr.-designed gardens, a 205-foot tower and a majestic 60bell carillon. In flat Florida the gardens are adjacent to Florida's Lake Wales Ridge, which at 298 feet above sea level, is one of the state's highest hills. The gardens feature a reflecting pool and, on the grounds, there is the threequarter-mile Pine Ridge Trail in the Pine Ridge Nature Preserve. The eight-acre, 20bromeliads all share space here along with bamboo and banyan groves (selby.org). The 70-year-old Sarasota Jungle Gardens have the distinction as one of the oldest continuously running attractions in the state. Over the years, the 10-acre lush property has become home to a koi pond, open lagoons, a tiki garden and an area called Gardens of Christ. A massive collection of trees and cacti includes the rare Australian nut tree, a bunya bunya tree, strangler figs, royal palms, red maples, bald cypress and Florida's largest-known Norfolk Island pine (sarasotajunglegardens.com). The Sarasota School of Architecture is the ultimate representation of works by master Florida architects Ralph Twitchell, Paul room Mediterranean Revival mansion known as Pinewood Estate is another centerpiece (boktowergardens.org). Located on Mirror Lake, Hollis Garden in Lakeland is a 1.2-acre botanical garden with a lovely gazebo structure surrounded by covered and open-air walkways and winding garden paths filled with flowering plants, ornamental shrubs and historic trees (lakelandgov.net/parkrec/parks/Hollis Garden.html). Florida Southern College, also in Lakeland, boasts the largest single-site collection--10 buildings and two additional structures within the campus--of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world, the most likely reason why the college is on the NORTHEAST St. Augustine, the state's oldest city, is so filled with historic architecture that, merely walking through its heart, it's evident Spanish architecture from the conquistador days is prevalent everywhere. Narrow brick-paved streets weave through a multitude of historic buildings. The Oldest Wooden School House, Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum, Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monument are just some examples. And the most recognizable gardens are housed at the Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth Park, a 15-acre park where landscaped gardens, living history exhibits and a spring house pay homage to founding Spanish colonists, Timucua Indians and Ponce de Leon's famed fountain of youth (floridas historiccoast.com). North of St. Augustine is Jacksonville's Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, located on the historic St. Johns River and featuring rare horticultural specimens shaded by a canopy of mature live oak trees and a wealth of sculptures, arbors, fountains and reflecting pools (cummer.org). NORTH CENTRAL In Florida's capital of Tallahassee, two gardens shouldn't be missed. Surrounded by heirloom roses and daffodils planted in bulb lawns, the Goodwood Museum & Gardens features an 1830s estate with some of the oldest frescoed ceilings in Florida (goodwoodmuseum.org). The Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park was planted in 1923 and now displays more than 200 floral varieties including azalea and camellia plants along a brick walkway, in a secret garden and in a walled garden (floridastateparks.org/maclaygardens). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 29 ARTS AND CULTURE CULTURAL ENTERTAINMENT BY ISOBEL WARREN mind-boggling feast of cultural entertainment that runs the gamut from symphonies to opera, dance, theater, museums and plenty of surprises. A Feast of n a state best known for sun, sand and theme parks, Florida's treasure trove of things to see and do also serves up a I MUSEUMS GALORE Among a statewide multitude of museums, the northeast city of St. Augustine has one of the most unique. An entire Old City section is a living history museum where ancient cobblestone streets are lined with centuries-old buildings and costumed interpreters replicate life and culture as it was in the 1740s. Cornerstone of the historic area is the Castillo de San Marcos, a massive fortress that bears the distinction of being the oldest 17th-century stone fort in the United States. It features a variety of exhibits, historical weapon demonstrations and military re-enactments performed in period costume. Lying just beyond the Old City area is the more contemporary Lightner Museum where priceless art, glass and furniture are combined with Native American artifacts, rare mechanized musical instruments and a small Egyptian mummy (floridashistoriccoast.com). On the west coast, the pride of Sarasota is The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art built in 1931 by circus impresario John Ringling. A fabulous sculpture garden and 21 galleries contain a vast collection of art by 30 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA masters such as Rubens, El Greco and Gainsborough. Also on the property is Ringling's former mansion where narrated tours describe the life of John Ringling and his passion for art collecting--an obsession that eventually left him bankrupt. Steps from the mansion, the family-friendly Circus Museum traces the history of the Ringling family circus, John Ringling as circus king, and the famous circus movie, The Greatest RINGLING MUSEUM OF ART � VISIT FLORIDA� (morsemuseum.org). The most fascinating exhibit is a stunning chapel interior Tiffany created for the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. The Morse, however, is just one of many museums scattered across the greater Orlando area with several of them offering free admission (orlandoinfo.com). In Daytona Beach, the Museum of Arts & Sciences is one of the best mid-size museums in Florida. Its special features include the largest collection of Cuban art outside of Cuba, an impressive assemblage of American art, extensive Coca-Cola memorabilia and the enormous skeleton of a 130,000-year-old giant ground sloth (moas.org). One of the state's newest and most exciting openings is the Dal� Museum in West Coast St. Petersburg where a 2,140-piece collection of Salvador Dal� works is the largest outside of Spain (salvadordalimuseum.org). MUSIC IS IN THE AIR The state's music and performing arts scene is just as plentiful as its inventory of museums and the options are extensive. Among them, The Florida Theatre in Jacksonville is a grand old lady that dates back to the 1920s era of decadence. Elvis performed there in 1956 and today the theater continues to feature film, musical acts and ballet (floridatheatre.com). Built in 1936, the art deco-style Martin Theatre in Panama City also has a colorful history. In the early years it hosted a string of movie celebrities including actor Clark Gable. Today the renovated theater features a roster of theatrical and live musical performances (martintheatre.com). Once host to Vaudeville and silent film, the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Miami now presents everything from film to ballet and various musical presentations (gusman center.org). The Enzian Theater near Orlando (enzian.org) is the site of the anShow on Earth, filmed in Sarasota in 1952. The museum is filled with related memorabilia as well as the world's largest model of a circus in miniature featuring tiny replicas of animals and performers (ringling.org). Although it's the theme-park capital of the world, Orlando is not without museums. Among them is the Morse Museum, containing the world's largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany stained-glass artistry nual Florida Film Festival and Daytona Beach's Peabody Auditorium plays host to renowned performing arts groups including the London Symphony Orchestra (peabodyauditorium.org). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 31 ARTS AND CULTURE TAMPA THEATRE � VISIT FLORIDA� ORLANDO OPERA � VISIT FLORIDA� Overall, there are literally hundreds of statewide theaters and playhouses offering entertainment for every cultural taste (visit florida.com). mile-long boardwalk through the cypress swamp where there are 67 varieties of flora and fauna. Another Seminole initiative is the Billie Swamp Safari featuring swamp buggy and ecotours through a 2,200-acre wetland wilderness (swampsafari.com). For an authentic cultural experience, visitors can stay overnight in traditional thatched-roof huts. Also one of the state's unique cultural attractions is the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in the heart of Key West, the largest city in south Florida's string of sand keys (hemingwayhome.com). Here, visitors can view the place where the renowned author penned some of his greatest novels. The house contains Hemingway's original furnishings including a 17th-century Spanish chest the author's wife, Pauline, used as her writing desk. The property is also home to more than 60 cats that are descendants of those he kept while living there. OUT OF THE ORDINARY The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum at the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation west of Fort Lauderdale is as much a Native historical site as it is a museum (ahtahthiki.com). The Seminoles are part of Florida's very early history and the museum presents a comprehensive illustration of the tribe's past and culture. Here in the heart of Florida's untamed Everglades, four main galleries explore various aspects of Seminole life and traditions through hands-on displays and artifacts such as clothing, dolls, baskets and tools. There's also a living village where tribal elders fashion wood carvings, beaded jewelry and grass baskets. In addition, the museum site includes a 32 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA COMING SOON In 2012, The Miami Art Museum is scheduled to open in an impressive new home. When it makes its debut, it will be part of a larger cultural destination--the new 29-acre Museum Park on Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami. The park complex will also be the future home of the Miami Science Museum and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida (miamiartmuseum.org/museum_park.asp). BEACHES Down by the BY SANDRA FRIEND SEASHORE W ith 1,800 miles of coastline, experience everything it has to offer including its spectacular beaches--one of them clothing-optional (miamiandbeaches.com). Florida is one of the world's top destinations for beach lovers. Not surprisingly, it was sunbathed beaches and a year-round, subtropical climate that first attracted tourists to the state now known as one CLEARWATER BEACH � VISIT FLORIDA� ISLAND TIME The Sunshine State has scores of coastal islands with magnificent beaches, among which with a "no-rush, no-hurry" character, are the Florida Keys. Defined by endless sand, this series of connected islands, which extends like a string of pearls off the state's southern tip, can easily inspire visitors to feel like they have arrived in the Caribbean by car as they drive south from Key Largo on the Overseas Highway. In the Keys, a slower pace of life is earnestly embraced and among its best beaches are those found in the Bahia Honda State Park (floridastateparks.org). Here, waves wash onto the longest sweep of natural sand in the Florida Keys. of the most popular vacation spots in the world. Today, this balmy holiday haven is dotted with vibrant cities, charming small towns, a plethora of attractions and, last but not least, some of the best beaches on the planet. There is everything from long stretches of sandy shoreline where serenity reigns, to high-activity beaches, shelling beaches and even a beach on which people can drive cars. PUTTIN' ON THE GLITZ Miami's hip and trendy South Beach area is the Sunshine State's epicenter of glitz, glamor and high-octane entertainment. With a global reputation for glorious weather, beautiful people, world-class dining and one of the hottest club scenes in the country, South Beach consistently attracts the rich and famous and hordes of vacationers wanting to 34 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA SHELLING Most of Florida's barrier islands lie parallel to the coast, however one exception is Sanibel Island (sanibel-captiva.org). Its unique east-west orientation causes seashells to perpetually wash up on shore, sometimes as thick as leaves on a forest floor. Shelling here is so popular that the name "Sanibel stoop" has been applied to the posture of people who comb the island's beaches in a bent-over position in search of special shells. Considered one of the best shelling destinations in the world, Sanibel Island is also home to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, which contains the largest collection of shells in North America (shellmuseum.org). PANAMA CITY BEACH � VISIT FLORIDA� Vacationers can ramp up the fun with guided horseback rides on the beach at Amelia Island State Park (florida stateparks.org). Among the litany of other good choices for family beach fun is the Fort De Soto Park at St. Petersburg (fortdesoto.com). Here, there are five interconnected islands with three miles of unfettered beaches and a fort that's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are also nature trails, fishing piers and a canoe route. WHERE THE RUBBER HITS THE SAND The Daytona Beach area is one of the few places in Florida where people can drive vehicles on the beaches, a tradition dating back to the days when the wide, hard-packed sand from Ormond Beach south to Daytona Beach and onward to Ponce Inlet served as the state's first racetrack. Racing eventually moved inland to the now famous Daytona International Speedway (daytonainternationalspeedway.com) but leisurely beach driving at 10 mph in dedicated lanes is a practice that has endured. Thirteen auto ramps between Ormond Beach and Ponce Inlet provide beach access points. BACK TO NATURE Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is a protected environment where green turtles and loggerhead sea turtles nest along a 20-mile strip of beach on Florida's Atlantic coast south of Melbourne (fws.gov/archiecarr). This is the most significant nesting spot for loggerhead sea turtles in the western hemisphere and it's also a minor nesting area for leatherback turtles, one of the world's largest and rarest sea turtles. Between 15,000 and 20,000 turtles return annually to nest on the DOWN-HOME CHARM With a history that dates back nearly 500 years, Florida has a number of beach communities with deep roots including New Smyrna Beach founded in 1768 as a seaside plantation on the Atlantic coast (nsbfla.com). This pleasant, laidback town has 13 miles of pristine, white sand beaches that are among the community's chief attractions. On the West Coast, the town of Dunedin has a Scottish settlement history that dates back to 1899. This pretty waterfront village known for steadfastly preserving its ethnic roots is also a doorway to two of Florida's best beach destinations: Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island (floridastateparks.org). FAMILY ON THE BEACH � VISIT FLORIDA� beach where they were hatched. Volunteers provide guided walks for people wanting to observe the ritual. ON THE ROCKS Often overlooked but fascinating are Florida's rocky shores, places where swimming may be limited but exploring sea caves and splashing in tidal pools provides a different kind of experience. Among the best-known spots is Blowing Rocks Preserve located on Jupiter Island where Atlantic waves shoot through the tops of sea caves at high tide (floridian nature.com/BlowingRocksPreserve.htm). In Washington Oaks Gardens State Park north of the Palm Coast, an ocean-sculpted ribbon of shell-studded limestone at Coquina Beach is dotted with tide pools and at Big Talbot Island State Park east of Jacksonville, its "black rock" shoreline is unlike any other in northeast Florida (floridastateparks.org). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 35 FAMILY FUN On the upper northeast coast, Amelia Island is a perennial family favorite where there are great beaches, family-friendly resorts and charming oceanfront rental cottages (ameliaisland.com). BEST-KEPT SECRETS Florida's BEST-KEPT SECRETS BY KRISTEN MANIERI BIKES PARKED AT THE PIER ON ANNA MARIA ISLAND � BRADENTON AREA CVB This quick-reference guide lists some of the unique experiences the Sunshine State has to offer visitors. E South very destination offers out-of-the-or- dinary adventures for all ages and interests and Florida is no exception. BRADENTON/ANNA MARIA ISLAND/LONGBOAT KEY Run your hands across sea urchins and calico crabs in the Intertidal Touch Tank at the Florida Museum (southflorida museum.org) where area celebrity and the nation's oldest manatee, Snooty, can be observed in person or online via the "Snooty Cam." Meander through a whimsical collection of galleries, studios, boutiques and caf�s housed in colorful cottages at the Village of the Arts (villageofthearts.com) in downtown Bradenton where one-of-a-kind finds from purses made entirely of recycled pop can tabs to handmade ukuleles turn typical shoppers into happy treasure hunters. Close the day Anna Maria Island-style at the Sun House Restaurant (thesunhouserestaurant.com) where every night diners serenade the sunset singing You Are My Sunshine and then down a complimentary "green flash" shooter. 36 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA DAYTONA BEACH AREA Visit one of the few museums in the country solely dedicated to photography. The Southeast Museum of Photography (smponline.org) presents six exhibition seasons annually and admission is always free. Thirty miles west of Daytona, float through de Leon Springs State Park on the Fountain of Youth Boat Tour (foytours.net), a narrated, eco-history tour onboard the MV Acuera that docks nearby the Old Spanish Sugar Mill, a do-it-yourself pancake joint with griddles at each table. Or travel to Cassadaga in Volusia County (cassadaga.org), a 116-year-old spiritualist camp offering palm readings, psychic healings and ghost tours. Honest John's Fish Camp (honestjohnsfish camp.com) in South Melbourne Beach where fishermen can rent aluminum boats or kayaks and cruise out onto the Indian River Lagoon where fish like seatrout and redfish bite year-round. Drink in the best views of the Space Coast on a scenic flight inside an authentic 1940 fully restored Waco UPF-7 open cockpit biplane at Florida Biplanes located on Merritt Island (floridabiplanes.com). worry about finding a parking spot. Be sure to check out the new Village at Gulfstream Park (thevillageatgulfstreampark.com), a luxurious al fresco shopping and dining destination where visitors can shop 'til they drop at stores like Crate and Barrel and Rock & Roll Religion, eat at gourmet caf�s, and sample a brew from the world's largest collection of draft beer at the newly opened Yard House. FLORIDA KEYS The unforgettable turquoise water that hugs the highway en route to Key West is a spectacular sight to behold from the Overseas Highway, but views are actually best from a kayak (kayakfloridakeys.com). Paddle these tranquil waters by day or, if the timing is right, opt for a full-moon tour, which gives explorers a double feature--the sunset and the full moon. Turtle lovers will want to visit Marathon's Turtle Hospital (turtlehospital.org), a one-ofa-kind facility that gives guests the opportunity to feed sea turtles and learn about turtle conservation efforts. They even have their own ambulance. Dive into Key West's rowdy nightlife on the "Duval Crawl" (keywestwalking tours.com), a 2.5-hour guided pub tour through downtown Key West offering a beer or signature cocktail at each bar. FORT LAUDERDALE Experience one of Earth's most unusual zoos, Butterfly World (butterflyworld.com), a 10acre sanctuary wholly devoted to the study, care and display of more than 10,000 butterflies, many of which fly freely in picturesque garden aviaries. Traverse Fort Lauderdale by water taxi (watertaxi.com), a trip that not only offers glimpses of the waterfront mega mansions, but promises to deliver passengers to some of the area's best restaurants without FORT MYERS/SANIBEL Lounge with the locals at Captiva Island's Mucky Duck (muckyduck.com), a hangout loved for its seafood, blueberry sour cream pie and the area's best sunset views. Take a trip to Matlacha on Pine Island (floridascreative coast.com), a bygone fishing village now home to quaint galleries and restaurants. This tiny slice of Old Florida is home to a thriving artist community as well as Bert's Bar & Grill (bertsbar.us), a dive bar with a more than SPACE COAST BEACHES � SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM FLORIDA'S SPACE COAST With guided kayaking tours down the Nyami Nyami River, the Brevard Zoo (brevardzoo.org) in Melbourne gives guests a river's-edge vantage point of the zoo's Expedition Africa animals. For just $6, guests can paddle their way past giraffes, rhinos and gazelles. Try your angler skills at KEY LARGO SUNSET � THE MONROE COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 37 BEST-KEPT SECRETS 70-year-old history and what many consider the best pizza around. Finally, escape to an island paradise only accessible by boat or ferry. Cayo Costa (floridastateparks.org /cayocosta), a pristine barrier island with nine miles of sugary beach, is the ideal getaway for a day of snorkeling. Experience a rustic overnight stay in one of the island's one-room cabins--they don't come with running water or electricity but the view of the stars at night is spectacular. FANTASY SURF ACTION � KISSIMMEE CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU JACKSONVILLE Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the brewing process (including a sampling directly from a finishing tank) on the new Budweiser Beermaster Tour (budweiser tours.com), an enlightening experience that's sure to turn the typical hoser into an ale aficionado. Hand-pull your very own candy at Sweet Pete's (sweetpete.net), historic Springfield's new all-natural candy shop. Visit the quaint San Marco district, home to the Peterbrooke Chocolatier Production Center (peterbrooke.com), which gives chocolate lovers insights into the world of chocolate making during public tours. Finally, open Saturdays from March until December, the new Riverside Arts Market (river sideartsmarket.com) stocks a kaleidoscope of finds from original art to farm-fresh produce at its location under the Fuller Warren Bridge. KISSIMMEE Learn to hang ten at Fantasy Surf, a new 14,000-square-foot indoor surf experience (ultimateindoorwave.com). Bodyboard, kneeboard or stand as 15,000 gallons of water rush through the surf simulator at 30 mph creating the perfect continuous wave. Grab a MATLACHA ON PINE ISLAND � LEE COUNTY VISITOR & CONVENTION BUREAU cool treat at Pure Magic Ice Cream, a modern 38 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA CORAL GABLES IN MIAMI � GREATER MIAMI CVB Miami courtesy of GoCar Tours (gocar tours.com). These GPS-guided, storytelling cars allow day-trippers to traverse the city's best sites at their own pace and convenience. Be sure to take a drive over to Coral Gables (coralgablesvenetianpool.com), the meticparlor featuring ice cream created in seconds with a vanilla base that's flash frozen with liquid nitrogen. Be sure to visit Florida EcoSafaris (floridaecosafaris.com) at Forever Florida for nature tours on horseback through a 4,700acre working cattle ranch and nature preserve. For thrill seekers, the ranch recently added a zip-line safari, which takes guests on a soaring treetop tour 55 feet above the ground. ulously planned luxury community that's home to the Venetian Pool, an 820,000-gallon spring-fed swimming pool built in 1923 and still used today. truffle-creating classes. Kids will adore the Children's Garden at Naples Botanical Garden (naplesgarden.org), an interactive learning environment filled with flowers, butterflies, tree houses and babbling streams. ORLANDO Skip the life-threatening thrill of an ocean shark dive and opt instead for SeaWorld's tamer version (seaworld.com). Sharks Deep Dive lets shark enthusiasts venture into a 700,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, home to 24 curious sharks. No dive experience is necessary thanks to the Sea Trek helmet, which is used instead of typical scuba gear. International HeliTours (inter nationalhelitours.com) provides an unmatched vantage point from which to view Epcot's spectacular nightly fireworks show. Watch the show from above as fireworks explode below. Curb any American Idol urges at Rising Star, Universal CityWalk's karaoke bar where budding singers flaunt their talent with the help of a live band and backup singers (universalorlando.com/Nightlife /rising_star_karoke.aspx). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 39 NAPLES Join a photography tour of the legendary Everglades National Park, a 1.5-million-acre area teeming with wildlife and unspoiled vistas. Everglades Area Tours (everglades areatours.com) offers this and dozens of other unique expeditions including bicycle tours, overnight camping trips and sunset sea kayak paddles. Visit the new chocolate salon created by internationally recognized chocolate artisan Norman Love (normanloveconfections.com) at Parkshore Plaza. Love shows he doesn't mind sharing his secrets by allowing budding chocolatiers to take his baking, fondue-making and MIAMI Wander through Miami's chic style and design hub, the Miami Design District (miamidesigndistrict.net), packed with furniture and accessory shops and studios promising to give serious home decorators a glimpse at the next hottest design trends. Visitors will also find eclectic clothing shops, art galleries and a handful of fabulous restaurants. Get a private, self-navigated tour of BEST-KEPT SECRETS SNORKELING IN ST. ANDREWS STATE PARK � PANAMA CITY BEACH CVB PANAMA CITY BEACH Visit St. Andrews State Park (florida stateparks.org/standrews), characterized by its rolling white sand dunes. Outdoor enthusiasts can find hiking along scenic trails, camping facilities, unparalleled fishing, kayaking, cycling, diving and more. Experience Miracle Strip at Pier Park (miracle-strip.com), which includes original balloon race rides and other kid-friendly experiences from the former iconic Miracle Strip Amusement Park; parents and grandparents can relax in the shaded pavilion area in the middle of the amusement park. Canoe along Econfina Creek and explore the personality of this ever-changing waterway complete with tight curves and fast water chutes (canoeeconfinacreek.net). PENSACOLA The Gulf Islands National Seashore boasts the country's longest continuous stretch of protected beach in Northwest Florida, and in addition to its breathtaking views, offers adventurous ranger-led outings, barrier island walks and tours of historic Fort Pickens--a massive Civil War brick fortress that will whisk you back 150 years in time (nps.gov/guis/florida.htm). Carve out an hour or two on a Tuesday or Wednesday BLUE ANGELS � THE BLUE ANGELS/US NAVY PALM BEACHES AND BOCA RATON Experience Florida's only drive-through safari, Lion Country Safari (lioncountry safari.com), where you can view more than 900 animals in seven themed areas, ride a camel, feed a giraffe or chill out in a mini water park. Visit the Flagler Museum (flaglermuseum.us), Henry Flagler's 1902 estate in Palm Beach, for guided tours and the legendary Gilded Age-style lunch featuring gourmet tea sandwiches and traditional scones served on exquisite Whitehall CollectionTM china. Catch a polo match at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (inter nationalpoloclub.com) where the US Open Polo Championship is played each year. 40 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA morning and visit the home of the worldfamous Blue Angels as they practise awe-inspiring aerial maneuvers in the skies (blueangels.navy.mil). Reserve a day for the Blackwater River State Forest, a pristine area of trees and streams perfect for tubing, canoeing, kayaking and camping out while enjoying nothing but pure nature (fl-dof.com /state_forests/blackwater_river.html). ST. PETERSBURG/ CLEARWATER Have a blast while breaking a serious sweat during a stand-up paddling boot camp session (standupfitnessinc.com), which combines the tranquility of paddling, the thrill of surfing and the excitement of sailing, all into one glorious exercise regimen. Kayak the Mangrove Tunnels at Caladesi Island's stunning state park (floridastateparks.org /caladesiisland), voted America's No. 1 beach More history can be experienced at the 52-acre Tallahassee Museum (tallahassee museum.org), which features an 1880s working farmstead, educational exhibits and classes, plus wildlife exhibits showcasing Florida panthers and other endangered animals. Car lovers will lose track of time in the Tallahassee Automobile Museum (tacm.com), which boasts more than 130 rare automobiles like a 1936 DeSoto and a 1955 T-Bird Convertible. SARASOTA Experience the Fountain of Youth at Warm Mineral Springs (warmmineralsprings.com), a naturally formed mineral spring with a yearround temperature of 87 F. Leave feeling entirely rejuvenated after a float in the mineral-infused waters, a restorative yoga class, and a massage at the on-site spa. Explore the Myakka River State Park (myakkariver.org) amongst the treetops on the Myakka Canopy Walkway built 25 feet above the ground and extending 85 feet across the tree canopy. Run away with the circus, if only for a day, at The Circus Museum (ringling.org), boasting a world-renowned collection of memorabilia from more than 100 years of Ringling history. Be sure to check out the world's largest miniature circus, a replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919 to 1938. MISSION SAN LUIS � TALLAHASSEE VISITOR INFORMATION CENTER ST. AUGUSTINE St. Augustine's Pirate & Treasure Museum (thepiratemuseum.com) contains one of the world's largest collections of authentic pirate artifacts--including an actual pirate flag and treasure chest. Far from your typical museum, this total immersion into the history of piracy also gives a nod to modern-day Hollywood pirates like Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow. Set aside an afternoon for the Florida Seafood Crabbing tour (904-814-0159). Board the 25-foot Sea Hawk Cruiser and venture out to sea where you'll pull crab pots and carefully remove a single claw from the legal-sized stone crabs before placing them back into the water where they can grow a replacement. Finish the day at the seaside with a romantic horseback ride along the sandy coast (countrycarriages.net). in 2008. Don't leave out exploring the charm of America's "Most Walkable Small City," downtown Dunedin (dunedin-fl.com). Shop, walk or bike thorough this quaint town lined with galleries, boutiques and restaurants. If you need a break, head to the St. Petersburg Museum of History and rent your own Segway (gyroglides.com) as you cruise the sights, sounds and photo ops of the beautiful waterfront of downtown St. Petersburg. TAMPA BAY Experience close encounters with the world's most mesmerizing mammals at Big Cat Rescue (bigcatrescue.org), a 45-acre wildlife sanctuary that's home to 140 cats ranging from 750-pound tigers to 13-pound bobcats. Check out the interactive Keeper Tour, which offers the chance to prepare food and work side by side with handlers during a training session. Join the crew on Captain Gus' commercial crab boat where amateur crabbers will pull and bait crab traps, then clean, steam and eat their catch of Tampa Bay's stone and blue crabs (crabbyadventures.com). Casually glide through downtown Tampa with Magic Carpet Glide Segway Tours (magiccarpet glide.com) offering views of the Channelside entertainment district, the Tampa Riverwalk Project and the Hillsborough River. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 41 TALLAHASSEE See history reborn at Mission San Luis (missionsanluis.org) where costumed re-enactments, hands-on exhibits, re-created period buildings and archaeological excavations take visitors back in time at the only reconstructed Spanish mission in Florida. REGIONAL CUISINE AND DINING Noshing Around BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN THE SUNSHINE STATE G rabbing a bite to eat around southernmost Key West is too many to mention but there are several standouts. At the Fish House (fishhouse.com) in Key Largo, they'll cook the catch and sell the freshest just-caught fish in their market. On their menu, the matecumbe fish, a house specialty, is tops. Marathon's Keys Fisheries (keys fisheries.com) is the best place to have fresh and hot stone crabs caught straight from their crab traps. In Key West, the oceanfront Historic Seaport features great places like the Half Shell Raw Bar (halfshellrawbar.com) and Turtle Kraals (turtlekraals.com). Miami is known as a mecca for fantastic restaurants that offer both ultra-elegant and simple ambience and food. Downtown Miami's Tobacco Road (tobacco-road.com) appropriately called road burgers are juicy; their signature Caesar salad with or without grilled chicken is great; and their specials of the day are always worth a try. Most places around the trendy Miami Design District make the grade but tops is Michael's Genuine Food and Drink (michaelsgenuine.com) for the ever-evolving menu of fresh items including dishes made with locally caught seafood and creative items like pizza topped with Spanish items such as chorizo sausage and manchego cheese. Fort Lauderdale's got it all when it comes to dining with great burger places, retro Florida is a culinary experience like no other with unique dining estab- lishments, some fancy and others casual. However those highlighted here share one thing: they offer an experience in taste and flavor not to be missed. SOUTHEAST One thing the Florida Keys are known for is the vast amount of restaurants that will cook a customer's catch. After all, fishing is practically a national pastime there and the ocean offers a bounty of good eats. The number of great spots from northernmost Key Largo to 42 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA DINING IN FORT LAUDERDALE � VISIT FLORIDA� thatched roof since 1956. Cantonese and American dishes, many featuring tropical fruits and including seafood and steaks, are the main draw on the menu (maikai.com). At Le Tub Saloon in Hollywood, the question posed is "Can you pass the Le Tub test?" The challenge is to eat their juicy, thick and delicious burger in one bite (theletub.com). The decor is quirky with claw-footed bathtubs and hand-painted sinks. It's been featured in GQ Magazine and on the Oprah Winfrey Show. In Delray Beach, one of Miami's best known chefs, Allen Susser, serves up pork belly sliders, duck confit pot pie and grilled cheese and beet salads in his homey uptown restaurant Taste Gastropub (tastegastro pub.com). In Palm Beach's luxurious boutique Chesterfield Hotel, the "New American" gourmet cuisine menu at their Leopard Lounge and Restaurant features such classics as Kobe beef mini burgers, lobster salad, rack of lamb and New York strip (chesterfieldpb.com). SEAFOOD BUFFET � VISIT FLORIDA� restaurants and the newest concept of dark dining. At Market 17, there's a farm-to-table organic food approach with careful attention paid to serving food free of hormones, pesticides, chemicals and raised from sustainable sources--in other words, clean, fresh-tasting food. More than 350 wines are available here to pair with the food thanks to seasoned sommeliers. They also offer a Dining in the Dark experience, a concept developed in Europe where diners' senses are heightened by dining blindfolded (market17.net). Also in Fort Lauderdale, people have been flocking to the Mai-Kai restaurant to watch Polynesian dancers and dine among tiki torches under a 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 43 REGIONAL CUISINE AND DINING SOUTHWEST Sign of the Mermaid on upscale seaside Anna Maria Island has a quaint atmosphere and a varied menu with Gulf Coast fish gumbo, Florida lobster tail with drawn butter, stuffed salmon, scallops and softshell blue crab (signofthemermaidonline.com). In the Sarasota area, Owen's Fish Camp has a low country boil dish, along with several selections such as Naked Fish, several baskets like fish 'n chips and fried oyster or shrimp, and fish tacos with green salsa and spicy Baja sauce (owensfishcamp.com). For great burgers try El Cap, a small dive burger bar and for great hot dogs (Travel Channel's Man v. Food went here), the Old Salty Dog is a must (theoldsaltydog.com). Brimming with island flair and a massive collection of very entertaining memorabilia, the Bubble Room on Captiva Island offers a diverse menu that includes its popular RESTAURANT CLOSE TO THE SHIP IN KEY WEST � WORACHATSODSRI/DREAMSTIME Chophouse serves seasonally inspired dishes using organic or natural foods and grass-fed beef. The jumbo lump crab salad with avocado salsa, cucumber wrap and free-hand vegetarian entr�e are perfect examples of their fresh items (martinischophouse.com). CENTRAL Route 46 Entertainment District in Seminole County is an area devoted to four different types of dining: barbecue at The Smokehouse; classic cuisine at Monroe's; casual bar food at the Garage Bar, which actually looks like a working garage; and The Saloon for classic generous portions and famous homemade cakes. Bubble scouts dressed in khaki uniforms covered in buttons serve up good food and nostalgia. Tropical drinks, local seafood, choice cuts of prime rib, pork and poultry are on the menu. The zany decor for which this establishment is famous includes memorabilia from the 1930s, '40s and '50s. A seven-foot Mickey Mouse is from a 1930s Disney parade float. A Santa workshop is from a Macy's Department Store window. And this is only the beginning (bubbleroomrestaurant.com). 44 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA CENTRAL EAST Daytona Beach is famous for the Daytona 500 and a beach on which people can drive so there are plenty of good restaurants to feed these folks. Housed in a historic building, Ormond Beach's Rose Villa (established in 1901) opened in June 2010 and quickly became a favorite. It boasts a fine dining menu with escargot, classic roasted chicken, chateaubriand for two and veal tenderloin (rosevillaormond.com). For a more contemporary dining experience, trendy Martini's martinis and fine dining (route-46.com). CENTRAL WEST Tampa's best spot worth a definite try is Bern's Steakhouse, a classic and one of the top-rated restaurants in the country, serving stellar lamb, beef, veal, pork, poultry and shellfish. However, most people come here for the steak and the incredible classic sides of locally grown charcoal-grilled or steamed vegetables, French onion soup au gratin and steak house salad (bernssteakhouse.com). TROPICAL LUNCH ON A SANDY BEACH � DENNIS SABO/DREAMSTIME food for three decades. Aside from oysters topped every which way, a southern favorite like fried okra and adventurous appetizers like gator, rabbit and frogs' legs, they also stuff and charbroil a variety of fish, offer platters and baskets and serve up meat for nonseafood lovers (clarksfishcamp.com). In Cocoa Beach it's easy to grab a bite but not get bitten at the Shark Pit, located inside the Cocoa Beach Surf Company. The draw here is dining alongside a tank full of real circling sharks. There is good food here such as pork chops and mahi mahi for entr�es, tons of brick-oven pizzas topped with buffalo chicken wings, shrimp scampi and barbecue pulled pork (cocoabeachsurfcompany.com). COLUMBIA RESTAURANT ON SAND KEY � VISIT FLORIDA� NORTH CENTRAL A trio of restaurants in Tallahassee makes the "best" list. Avenue Eat & Drink with its trendy Southern fusion menu features fried quail with sausage and oyster cream and braised boneless short ribs with mashed parsnip potatoes and a rosemary Cabernet reduction (avenueeatanddrink.com). Cypress Restaurant has an extensive wine list and tasty dishes like bacon-wrapped sea scallops, smoked shrimp pachanga, a sugarcane-mopped 16-oz rib eye and the cypress shrimp and grits (cypress restaurant.com). The locally owned Kool Beanz Caf� is colorful and casual with a modern American menu inspired by the kitchen staff's worldwide travels. The choices are endless, especially since it's a daily changing menu but some examples include shrimp and mussel creole stew, sea scallop stir-fry and Indian-inspired garam masalarubbed salmon (kool-beanz.com). NORTHWEST Located on Grand Lagoon, the Boatyard Restaurant in Panama City Beach offers a superb view as well as their fish tacos, fresh shucked oysters and made-to-order sushi prepared by the sushi chef (boatyardclub.com). The Gulf Coast's classic dishes are served up with flair at Captain Anderson's Restaurant & Waterfront Market where diners enjoy grilled bay shrimp, fried stuffed deviled NORTHEAST Santa Maria Restaurant is a waterfront classic in St. Augustine where it's as much fun to dine on great food as it is to feed the fish from the table. The menu includes such items as fried catfish; blackened, broiled or fried fish sandwich; clam strips; or non-seafood items like rib eye, blackened chicken and burgers (santamariarestaurant.com). In the historic district, the quaint Prince of Wales Restaurant serves up English-style beef burgers, beef and Guinness pie, bangers 'n mash and cottage pie (theprinceofwalesstaugustine.com). Jacksonville's longstanding Clark's Fish Camp Seafood Restaurant, known as "The People's Place," has been cranking out great TROPICAL COCKTAIL � DUC MINH TANG/DREAMSTIME crab or a broiled seafood platter--just a few of the offerings on a huge menu--while watching fishing fleets unload their catch (captandersons.com). Pensacola's McGuire's Irish Pub is located in the city's original 1927 firehouse and at last count had $700,000 worth of single bills signed by patrons and dotting the restaurant's interior. Aside from their USDA prime steaks like New York strip, bone-in rib eye and filet mignon, the Food Network featured their $100 burger with caviar and champagne as well as the garbage burger with wasabi, peanut butter and ice cream to name a few of the ingredients--even the menu calls it disgusting (mcguiresirishpub.com). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 45 ECOTOURISM LOVERS KEY � VISIT FLORIDA� BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS tourism F or the growing number of environ- mentally aware travelers, Florida offers an exceptional wealth of ecoopportunities. The state's abundant options for responsible, naturebased vacations are supported by a host of assets including protected wetlands, hundreds of rivers and lakes for paddling, vast forest preserves for hiking and biking, wildlife sanctuaries, and some of the best birdwatching in the nation. Here is a sample of the state's innumerable ecoadventure choices. 46 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA MUST SEE, MUST DO Known as "the river of grass," the Florida Everglades is the only subtropical wilderness preserve in North America and the most visited ecotourism destination in the state. Covering more than a million acres and much of Florida's southern region, this vast wetland is home to 300 varieties of birds, 25 varieties of orchids and 36 threatened or endangered animal species including the American alligator and the Florida panther. Within this massive watershed, the Everglades National Park contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere (nps.gov/ever). Both inside and beyond the park, ecotourism activities include hiking, birding, wildlife viewing, boat tours, kayaking and canoeing. OUTDOOR RECREATION � VISIT FLORIDA� FANTASY ISLANDS The sweeping arc of narrow islands, reefs and turquoise bays extending off the southern tip of the state make up the famous Florida Keys, connected by a highway that runs south for 125 miles from Key Largo to Key West. Coastal waters and a living coral reef (the only one in the continental US) are protected under the NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, a safe haven for 55 types of coral and more than 600 species of fish (florida keys.noaa.gov). Beaches in the Keys are phenomenal and arguably the best of the best is at the Bahia Honda State Park offering the longest sweep of natural sand in the islands. Activities here (and throughout the Keys) include awesome snorkeling, diving, kayaking and canoeing (bahiahondapark.com). Ecotourists interested in the rescue and rehabilitation of injured turtles can visit The Turtle Hospital in the "heart of the Keys" city of Marathon (turtlehospital.org). Here, guided tours give a behind-the-scenes look at treatments such as flipper amputation and the repair of damaged shells. Marathon is also home to the Dolphin Research Center, a study and education facility where one of the highlights is the chance to swim with dolphins (dolphins.org). A truly rare experience is a day trip to the Dry Tortugas. Accessible only by boat or plane (but still part of the Keys), this isolated cluster of islands is part of the National Park System (nps.gov/drto/index.htm). Here, coral reefs and seagrass flats are home to the loggerhead, green, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley and leatherback sea turtles. SNOWY EGRET � VISIT FLORIDA� CAVES AND CAVERNS The Florida Caverns State Park at Marianna, a town in Northwest Florida, is the only state park to offer cave tours to the public (floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns). Featuring dazzling formations of limestone stalactites and stalagmites, the caves are the highlight of the park where tours last about 45 minutes and patrons require moderate agility. Also on site are several miles of nature trails punctuated by floodplains, sinkholes and rivers. There is also a family camping area. bird population, it was created to protect the pristine habitat that is home to alligators, snakes, marsh rabbits and more than 220 species of birds (fws.gov/dingdarling). The Refuge features a four-mile Wildlife Drive and a canoe trail where paddlers are treated to sightings of various bird species such as the roseate spoonbill, plus a wildlife cornucopia that includes dolphins, manatees and alligators. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 47 WILDLIFE SANCTUARY The renowned J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on the West Coast island of Sanibel is among the best-known protected preserves in Florida. Part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the US and world famous for its spectacular migratory ECOTOURISM SCUBA DIVING � VISIT FLORIDA� MANATEES, DOLPHINS AND SEA TURTLES The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail is a 190-mile well-marked canoe and kayak trail that meanders through coastal waters and inland tributaries of southwest Florida's Lee County (calusablueway.com). Manatees weighing more than a thousand pounds, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, alligators and sea turtles can all be spotted along the trail that is suitable for everyone from novice to experienced paddlers. More than 20 outfitters along the route rent kayaks and canoes and can provide guided tours of varying length. distinct environments: marsh, cypress forest, wet prairie and a pine upland. The preserve is home to at least 200 species of birds, including barred owls, red-shouldered hawks and rare wood storks as well as varied wildlife from reptiles to mammals. Corkscrew is part of the longer Great Florida Birding Trail (floridabirdingtrail.com). area rich with wading and water birds, native plants and wildlife such as the gopher tortoise. Bordered by urban development, the 8,700acre Brooker Creek Preserve has all-natural hiking trails and elevated boardwalks that wind through cypress swamps and towering oak forests (brookercreekpreserve.org). VOLUNTEER VACATIONS URBAN OPTIONS There are pockets of protected wilderness even among busy tourist venues such as the Gulf Coast city of Clearwater whose holiday hot spot neighbors are Tampa and St. Petersburg. Here, a popular kayak trail winds through the mangroves of Caladesi Island State Park, an undisturbed barrier island accessible by ferry (floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland). On the banks of Old Tampa Bay, Weedon Island Preserve is a lush mosaic of mangrove swamps, intertidal flats and pine forests (weedonislandpreserve.org). Two paddling trails head into the aquatic ecosystems of the A growing trend among visitors to Florida is planning a trip that includes volunteering at a beach cleanup to keep the Sunshine State's legendary sand shoreline beautiful and safe for wildlife. Every September, for instance, the Ocean Conservancy (oceanconservancy.org) spearheads a volunteer initiative to remove trash from beaches and waterways around the world, including several Florida sites. Also, the Surfrider Foundation (an international group dedicated to preserving the world's beaches and oceans) has numerous chapters in Florida that regularly host volunteer beach cleanups (surfrider.org/chapters). FOR BIRDERS On the southwest coast at Naples, the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a protected watershed and old-growth cypress forest owned by the National Audubon Society (corkscrew.audubon.org). Corkscrew's rare habitat is a hot spot for birders and can be explored along a boardwalk trail through four 48 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA HIKING TRAILS S and dunes, tropical forests brimming bloom, and palm-lined with orchids, rugged cliffs where trilliums corridors in deep shade--they're all a part of the amazing diversity one finds when hiking Florida's trails. Hiking in Florida is unlike the rest of the continental United States. With a state so vast, the botanical diversity is immense and immersive. There are no mountains in Florida, but that doesn't mean hiking isn't a challenge. The sheer variety of habitats means constantly adapting to a new environment and changes in the footpath. Hikers, and especially backpackers, must be prepared for the elements--always carrying rain gear and enough water, plus warm clothing and the proper gear for coping with sudden freezing weather in winter. Hiking season runs from October through April, with February celebrated as Florida Hiking Trails Month, peak season for backpacking. Trails range from easy urban boardwalks through natural areas to difficult wades through Amazon-like cypress strands. Guided tours are popular in southernmost Florida, where splashing through the terrain is a given. In the north and northwest, restored longleaf pine forests in Florida's National Forests provide a sense of perspective. Great Hiking IN FLORIDA BY SANDRA FRIEND THE FLORIDA TRAIL Home of one of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States, Florida provides a particularly unique experience for backpackers. The Florida Trail (floridatrail.org) is more than half the length of the Appalachian Trail, running 1,400 miles from Big Cypress National Preserve between Miami and Naples to the soft white sands of Pensacola Beach. Marked along its length with orange blazes, it connects wilderness areas and public lands through the center of the Florida peninsula before turning west to work its way across vast pine forests and deep ravines before becoming footprints in the sand along the only National Scenic Trail to include a walk on the beach. WATERFALLS ON FALLING CREEK � WILLIAM SILVER/SHUTTERSTOCK Most backpackers tackle a segment at a 50 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA WOODEN WALKWAY THROUGH THE MANGROVE FOREST AT PENNEKAMP STATE PARK ON KEY LARGO � LUMINOUSLENS/SHUTTERSTOCK time rather than the whole trail, which takes nearly three months to complete. The trail plunges right into some of the most varied terrain in Florida, from nearly 50 miles of swamp walking through Big Cypress to clambering in and out of deep side channels along the Suwannee River, plus the infamous Bradwell Bay, a wet forest in the heart of a wilderness near Tallahassee, best not to be tackled alone. With nearly 150 trailheads within an hour of major urban centers, the Florida Trail serves as a destination for day hikers, too. Since the trail is linear, day hiking involves shuttling between two cars or retracing your route. NORTHWEST FLORIDA Near Pensacola, Blackwater River State Forest (fl-dof.com/state_forests/black water_river.html) is a multi-sport outdoor playground, with a diverse array of hiking adventures for the entire family. At each of its recreation areas, such as Bear Lake and Karick Lake, day hikes of varying lengths circle the lakes. Running like a ribbon down the middle of Florida's largest state forest are ANHINGA WITH OPEN BEAK CATCHING FISH � MLORENZ/SHUTTERSTOCK 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 51 HIKING TRAILS OBSERVATION TRAIL IN THE EVERGLADES � HOLGER W./SHUTTERSTOCK three major backpacking trails--Sweetwater, Jackson Red Ground and Juniper Creek-- which together form a 43-mile portion of the Florida Trail, providing three to four days of backpacking through hilly terrain where the forests burst into bloom each spring, with pink mountain laurel dancing in the breeze along the banks of Juniper Creek. Access points are at Deaton Bridge, Red Rocks Road, Karick Lake and Hurricane Lake. Florida's most rugged trails are found along the Apalachicola River, west of Tallahassee. Angus Gholson Nature Park (floridahikes.com/angusgholson) in Chattahoochee may be for day hikers, but it's 52 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA a real scramble through some of the prettiest spring wildflowers ever to be seen. South of Interstate 10, Torreya State Park (florida stateparks.org/torreya) is a major destination for weekend warriors, with two loops totaling 11.5 miles of trails that climb in and out of deep ravines and follow the spines of ridges with scenic views. At the Garden of Eden, named for its botanical diversity, the nearly four-mile trail packs a punch in elevation changes with a payoff of a view across the Apalachicola River Valley. NORTH FLORIDA Hiking along the Suwannee River means mile after mile of scenic views and tough terrain along the waterway that Stephen Foster made famous. The Florida Trail follows it for more than 50 miles, with its most spectacular segments through Suwannee River State Park (florida stateparks.org/suwanneeriver), Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park (florida stateparks.org/stephenfoster), and Big Shoals State Park (floridastateparks.org/bigshoals). Waterfalls and Florida's only Class III whitewater are part of the mix. Spanning North and Central Florida, the Ocala National Forest (fs.usda.gov/ocala) attracts hikers from around the world. Containing nearly 100 miles of the Florida Trail, it's especially popular with backpackers. For day hikers and families, there are many other hikes to explore, including the Yearling Trail (floridahikes.com/yearling); a visit to the remains of the pioneer settlement that inspired Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; and the Juniper Springs Nature connecting Trail two (floridahikes.com/junipersprings), an accessible boardwalk spectacular springs. where caracara and sandhill cranes dance. The two loop trails provide a weekend's worth of backpacking with wildlife sightings galore. Birding is also the reason to hike the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (fws.gov/merrittisland), where a walk on the breezy levees of the Cruickshank Trail will help fill out one's wish list. Wildlife, including more alligators than can be counted, is around every corner at Circle B Bar Reserve (swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation /areas/circlebbarreserve.html), a conservation and education center outside Lakeland with a Nature Discovery Center that the children will love. SOUTH FLORIDA Swing from the trees on Florida's only canopy walk at Myakka River State Park (florida stateparks.org/myakkariver), where the park's nature trails are complemented with a 39-mile loop for backpackers into the open prairies of the backcountry. For immersion into the heart of Florida's most ancient forests, Highlands Hammock State Park (florida stateparks.org/highlandshammock) offers trails for day hikers past thousand-year-old trees and over blackwater swamps. Immersion is the best way to experience the Big Cypress National Preserve (nps.gov/bicy) on foot, and it's best to go with a guide. For more than a decade, neophytes ready to dip shoe in swamp have flocked to Clyde Butcher's Gallery (clyde butcher.com) for the annual Muck-About, and now that life-changing experience of wading through a tropical forest is available every weekend on Big Cypress Swamp Walks (evergladesswampwalks.com). To savor the same beauty without wet feet, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (corkscrew.audubon.org) is the best boardwalk trail in Florida, meandering two miles through a virgin cypress strand festooned with bromeliads and orchids. Giant ferns and pond apples make for a primordial feel inside the shade of Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve (leeparks.org/sixmile), where the boardwalk trail is just off Interstate 75 in Fort Myers. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 53 CENTRAL FLORIDA Withlacoochee State Forest (fl-dof.com /state_forests/withlacoochee.html) is one FLAGLER'S RAILROAD BRIDGE AT BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK � LOULOU PHOTOS/SHUTTERSTOCK of Florida's largest, and it's full of hiking trails to explore, including a 43-mile loop for backpackers, the Citrus Hiking Trail (floridahikes.com/citrus). Along its length there are caves, sinkholes and the remains of ghost towns. Play Lawrence of Arabia on the shifting sands of desert-like Catfish Creek Preserve State Park (floridastateparks.org/catfish creek), where the hiking trail system is on ancient dunes as white and soft as fallen snow, and the views are spectacular. The Lake Wales Ridge is a serious destination for hikers, with dozens of trails sprinkled through Lake Wales Ridge State Forest (fl-dof.com /state_forests/lake_wales_ridge.html) and surrounding natural lands. At Lake Kissimmee State Park (florida stateparks.org/lakekissimmee), shady stands of live oaks give way to open prairies CAMPGROUNDS The Great BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN OUTDOORS FLORIDA BIRDS � VISIT FLORIDA� B ecoming one with nature and taking in Beach, bring a mountain bike along with the camping equipment and check out the challenging terrain while enjoying a 1,200-foot sandy beach and tranquil waters that are ideal for canoeing and kayaking (florida stateparks.org/oletariver). The Oleta River runs through nearby Greynolds Park, an outstanding camping site with eight natural wood and stone cabins, bunk beds, full kitchen, fireplace and canoe launch. The intact hardwood hammock and mangrove forest is considered one of the last well-protected natural areas in these parts (miamidade.gov /parks/Parks/camp_greynolds.asp). the beauty of the outdoors is easy in the Sunshine State. Whether it's camping with or without electricity, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, or swimming in springs and through caverns, adventurous types will not be disappointed. Plenty of sites throughout Florida offer an incredible multitude of options. SOUTHEAST Whether in the northern part of Miami-Dade County or farther south in the Keys, stellar campgrounds offer unique experiences. At Oleta River State Park in North Miami 54 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA CAMPING AT THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL � VISIT FLORIDA� some more remote than others. Almost 70 miles west of Key West and completely surrounded by water, Fort Jefferson & Dry Tortugas National Park is a primitive camping site accessible only by boat or seaplane and therefore requires campers to bring everything they need along with them. It's worth it though simply for the view and the massive structure that sits on the site (nps.gov/drto). A little north on Big Pine Key, Bahia Honda State Park with several A couple of campgrounds in Broward County that stand out include C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines with lakeside campsites; fishing from piers, the shore or a rented boat; and biking and jogging trails (broward.org/Parks/CBSmithPark). The sprawling 666-acre Markham Park in the City of Sunrise is perched at the edge of Everglades Conservation Area and has a three-acre dog park, a series of interlocking lakes for fishing and boating and 86 sites for RV and tent camping CANOEING AT HILLSBOROUGH RIVER STATE PARK � VISIT FLORIDA� Farther south, the 270-acre Larry and Penny Thompson Park welcomes campers with woodland, bridle trails, hiking paths, a freshwater lake featuring a beach and waterslide, and full electrical hookup for RV s (miamidade.gov/parks/Parks/larry_penny.asp). A bit smaller at 65 acres, the A.D. Barnes Park features The Sense of Wonder Nature Center and Trail, a bird and wild animal sanctuary, a fishing lake and a splash park playground f o r k i d s (miamidade.gov/parks/parks /ad_barnes.asp). Even farther south in the Florida Keys, there are several premier camping sites, white sandy beaches is consistently ranked among the top 10 on "Best Beach" lists. Here, campers can enjoy excellent snorkeling, sunbathing as well as nature trails, a nature center and full facilities. The view from the Old Bahia Honda Bridge is priceless (floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda). A little farther north in Marathon is Curry Hammock State Park with a 28-site campground, which offers kayaking through the tranquil mangroves, a 1.5-mile walking trail and biking along the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (florida stateparks.org/curryhammock). (sunrisefl.gov/2park_markham.html). Peanut Island Campground in West Palm Beach County is a tropical-island campground located on the Intracoastal Waterway with 20 campsites, an observation deck, a reef habitat for snorkeling, chickee huts, a fishing pier and a swimming lagoon (pbcgov.com/parks/peanutisland /campground.htm). And one of the area's best-known attractions, Lion Country Safari, features an award-winning KOA campground with tent sites, cabins, RV hookups and a camp store (lioncountry safari.com/koa_overview.html). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 55 CAMPGROUNDS SOUTHWEST Over in Sarasota at Turtle Beach Park the campground has 40 sites for tents and RVs on 2,600 feet of beachfront, a kayak and canoe launch area, fishing, free Wi-Fi as well as nearby shopping facilities (scgov.net With 58 /TurtleBeachCampground). private boat ramp, and canoe and banana bike rentals. The 355-acre spring-fed lake is great for canoeing and the Kamp K9 Pet Playground and General Store with countrystyle gift items are added bonuses (orlandokoa.com). Nearby Lake Kissimmee State Park in Lake Wales features Florida's third largest lake, 13 miles of hiking and equestrian trails, incredible evening stargazing, cowboy heritage demonstrations and both full-facility and primitive camping. Canoeing, kayaking, fishing and viewing wildlife inhabitants such as white-tailed deer, bald eagles, bobcats and sandhill cranes are popular activities here (floridastateparks.org/lakekissimmee). Southport RV Park Campground & Marina located on West Lake Toho is a 25acre wooded lakeside park with tent accommodation, airboat rides, wildlife viewing and fishing (southportpark.com). CAMPING AT CITRUS COUNTY � VISIT FLORIDA� square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands, Myakka River State Park offers both primitive and full-facility camping as well as lodging in five palm-log cabins, two lakes perfect for boating, freshwater fishing, canoeing and kayaking plus hiking along scenic trails (floridastateparks.org/myakkariver). The largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, Fort De Soto Park consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands. Featuring one of the state's top-rated beaches, the park's 236 campsites accommodate tents, vans and pop-up campers with water and electrical hookup along with a camp store. Nature trails, snorkeling and fishing round out the experience (pinellascounty.org/park/05_Ft_DeSoto.htm). CAMPING AT COLLIER COUNTY � VISIT FLORIDA� CENTRAL EAST In the Ormond Beach area is the pet-friendly Seaside Park Campground with 45 RV sites. Adjacent to the Coral Sands Resort, it has the distinction of being the only oceanfront resort with a campground on the East Coast, complete with water and sewer hookup and amp service. Campers can also enjoy all the amenities at the resort (daytonabeach.com /hotels.cfm/mode/details/id/721). CENTRAL It turns out Walt Disney World Resort is more than just about attractions. The Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground has more than 750 acres of woodlands filled with lush pine and cypress trees, four different types of campsites, along with cabins and a Meadow Recreation Area featuring a nightly marshmallow roast, trails, swimming and outdoor games (disneyworld.disney.go.com /resorts/campsites-at-fort-wilderness-resort). Orlando S.E./Lake Whippoorwill KOA has 112 sites including lake-view RV sites, a 56 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA CENTRAL WEST The 6,260-acre Alafia River State Park near Lithia has a full-facility campground for both primitive and RV camping, as well as equestrian-friendly campsites. The park is also home to 17 miles of bike trails, ranging from beginner to advanced; canoeing, kayaking and fishing are popular activities as well. The abundance of wildlife found along Alafia's trails will delight any birdwatcher or nature enthusiast (florida stateparks.org/alafiariver). Opened in 1938, Hillsborough River State Park is one of Florida's first state parks. The park offers full-facility camping as well as a primitive campsite accessible via a foot trail. Hikers can explore more than seven miles of nature trails and the Hillsborough River provides opportunities for fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Amenities include a caf�, which serves breakfast and lunch daily and sells camping and picnic supplies as well as souvenirs (floridastateparks.org/hillsboroughriver). EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK � VISIT FLORIDA� NORTHWEST Featuring what is considered one of the best preserved forts of the 19th century, Fort Clinch State Park has ideal camping with campfire circles, six miles of nature trails tailored for walkers and cyclists, surf and pier fishing and fantastic wildlife and observation spots (floridastateparks.org/fortclinch). St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach is located on the peninsula in a 1,260acre area with more than 1.5 miles of beach on the Gulf of Mexico and Grand Lagoon allowing for camping along the shore and plenty of fishing, kayaking and off-road cycling (floridastateparks.org/StAndrews). Fort Pickens, the largest of four forts in NORTHEAST Jetty Park in Port Canaveral on Florida's Space Coast has 150 campsites, a 4.5-acre beach, a 1,200-foot fishing pier and a perfect spot for surfers and cruise ship enthusiasts (portcanaveral.com/recreation/beaches.php). A few campgrounds top the best in St. Augustine. The 30-acre wooded North Beach Camp Resort spans a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the North River. Here, 134 sites have full hookup pull-through sites to tent campsites, with cabin accommodation also available. The resort features a swimming pool, bathhouse and laundry facilities, a convenience store and two family restaurants within easy walking distance (north beachcamp.com). The 18.5-acre full-service Ocean Grove RV Resort has a kids' pool, Jacuzzi, pool, cable TV, kids' play area, boat ramp and fishing pier. Bicycle, canoe and kayak rentals are also available (ocean groveresort.com). Anastasia State Park on what's considered Florida's Historic Coast covers 1,600 acres with 139 campsites for RVs and tents, self-guided nature trails, cycling and ancient sand dunes (floridastateparks.org/anastasia). In Jacksonville, the top campground is at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, an oceanfront park along the Timucuan Trail with sandy beaches, freshwater lakes, natural dunes and nature trails and even a surfing spot known as "the poles." Hang ten here, canoe or kayak (http://bit.ly/jaxhanna). Pensacola, has a campground in Gulf Islands National Seashore Park. Campers can swim at the area's famed sugar-white beaches plus enjoy walking trails and historic Fort Pickens. Migrating birds, bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles are the stars in these waters (nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fortpickens.htm). Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna is one of very few parks with dry air-filled caves, which make for a unique experience. Formations of limestone stalactites and stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies are visible here. Horseback riding is also popular as well as the other camping amenities however the caves are the main draw (florida stateparks.org/floridacaverns). Nestled near Panama City, St. George Island State Park is a 2,023-acre park flanked by Apalachicola Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other making it the perfect spot for fishing, shelling and viewing shorebirds like black skimmers and willets. Primitive and full-facility camping are both available (floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 57 NORTH CENTRAL Tallahassee's numerous campgrounds are among the best. Apalachicola National Forest features 85 miles of hiking trails while Munson Hills welcomes mountain bikers and horseback riders (stateparks.com /apalachicola.html). And at Ochlockonee River State Park brackish, tidal surge and fresh water converge making it an ideal place for fresh and saltwater fishing. Full-facility camping is available here with campfire circles and hiking and nature trails that are home to diverse wildlife (floridastateparks.org /ochlockoneeriver). FAMILY VACATIONS FAMILY ON THE BEACH � VISIT FLORIDA� The Ultimate BY KATE POCOCK FAMILY PLAYGROUND N ot surprisingly, family vacations in attractions, fishing and oodles of interactive museums and the sum total is the ideal vacation destination for children and adults alike. Florida very often include a visit to one or more of the state's world-famous theme parks whose latest exciting attractions include the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando � SAND AND SEA Miles and miles of sunbathed beaches provide hours of no-cost family fun. With no rip tides and a shoreline that gently slopes into warm, emerald-green waters, Fort Myers Beach is ideal for young swimmers. The beaches at Sanibel Island are among the best on the planet for shell collecting (fortmyers -sanibel.com) and Sebastian Inlet State Park's shoreline is a great place for kite flying and surfboarding (floridastateparks.org). Wanna-be surfers can take lessons at Cocoa Beach (cocoabeach.com) and youngsters can build sand castles at Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota (sarasotafl.org) where its stretch of Resort (universalorlando.com) and the new Sesame Street Safari of Fun at Busch Gardens Tampa (buschgardens.com). However, while the big-name parks are a huge and important attraction, the Sunshine State overall is a multifaceted, action-packed playground with endless family entertainment. Equally abundant are family-friendly eateries and a variety of places to stay ranging from mom-and-pop motels to beachfront resorts, upmarket hotels and everything in between. Add perpetual sunshine, water sports, superb golf, a litany of spa options, historical 58 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA shoreline boasts some of the finest, whitest sand in the world. Off the upper northeast coast, Amelia Island is a place where families can ramp up the fun with guided horseback rides on the beach--one of the few places in America where this sport is allowed (ameliaisland.com). ADVENTURE LANDING/JACKSONVILLE BEACH � VISIT FLORIDA� SKY HIGH Forty-five minutes east of Orlando on Florida's famous Space Coast, The Kennedy Space Center (kennedyspacecenter.com) is the only place on Earth where kids can tour launch areas, meet a veteran astronaut for lunch, observe giant rockets, train in space-flight simulators and even view an actual launch (spacecoastlaunches.com). The center also features a recently redeveloped Children's Play Dome, an area where junior astronauts can "lift-off," climb a moon-rock wall, crawl through tunnels and slide to the "surface of the moon." In addition, adults and children alike will be entertained by the story of the Hubble Space Telescope documented in the THE FLORIDA AQUARIUM/TAMPA BAY � VISIT FLORIDA� new IMAX film, Hubble 3D, narrated by actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. Nearby the Kennedy Space Center, families with teens can literally take to the skies at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum in the C-47 Tico Belle, a Second World War aircraft used in the Normandy Invasion (vacwarbirds.org). The flight lets passengers imagine what it must have been like flying in the pre-dawn hours of June 6, 1944, toward the beaches of Normandy as part of the largest aerial invasion the world has ever seen. About halfway between Tampa and Orlando, vintage aircraft are also a huge attraction at Fantasy of Flight (fantasyofflight.com). The facility features a comprehensive museum containing more than 40 rare and vintage aircraft, flight simulators and guided tours. Replicating the earlier days of flying, family members can book 15- or 30-minute sightseeing flights in a vintage biplane. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 59 FAMILY VACATIONS BIKING IN PARK � VISIT FLORIDA� ECO ADVENTURES At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium visitors can observe the role the facility is playing in the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals and reptiles such as dolphins and sea turtles. Among its top attractions is Winter, the world's only bionic dolphin who lost her tail in a crab trap, was rescued and ultimately fitted with a prosthetic to which she has completely adapted (cmaquarium.org). Winter is featured in several shows daily, together with other dolphin shows, shark-feeding demonstrations and education sessions focused on a variety of marine life such as stingrays, otters and sea turtles. At Tampa's Florida Aquarium (ranked among the top 10 in North America), children ages six and up can swim with tropical fish and certified scuba divers 15 years and older can cavort with the big fish in Shark Bay (flaquarium.org). The facility also offers Wild Dolphin Ecotours on Tampa Bay where there are more than 500 bottlenose dolphins and it's also among the best places in Florida to view endangered manatees. 60 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA BEACH HORSEBACK RIDING � VISIT FLORIDA� At Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, voted top US zoo by Parents magazine, a new African penguin exhibit is a rare and exciting attraction (lowryparkzoo.com). The zoo also offers sleepovers that include nighttime animalspotting safaris. At Orlando's Discovery Cove (a sister park of Busch Gardens), a new and thrilling addition called The Grand Reef will be introduced in June 2011. It will feature opportunities for kids to swim with stingrays and, separated by glass, they can also swim alongside whitetip reef sharks (discoverycove.com). Across the entire state there are endless opportunities for families to kayak and canoe Florida's beautiful waterways. With more than 11,000 miles of rivers and streams--including the water routes found within the famous Florida Everglades--the Sunshine State is a destination tailor-made for family paddling. An abundance of outfitters provide equipment and guided tours led by expert paddlers and naturalists. APPLIED SCIENCE Florida has an impressive selection of handson science centers where engaging displays and interactive exhibits provide hours of fun. Young explorers can take a simulated ride to Mars at Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Discovery and Science (mods.org) and they can travel back in time and walk with dinosaurs in the newly opened, high-tech Bryan Gooding Planetarium at the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville (themosh.org). They can also gaze at a mammoth prehistoric skeleton of a giant ground sloth at the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach (moas.org). St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, families can search for a genuine 17th-century treasure chest--the only authentic one in the world. Museum visitors can also set off with a treasure map to find Captain Jack Sparrow's sword featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie or hunt for rare books about rogues of the seas (thepiratemuseum.com). WHAT'S NEW Yo ho ho! Everybody loves a pirate tale. At the SATURN V IN NASA MUSEUM IN ORLANDO � ENIKO BALOGH/SHUTTERSTOCK ART AND ENTERTAINMENT The Gulf Coast city of St. Petersburg is the proud home of The Dal� Museum containing the world's most comprehensive collection of the late Spanish surrealist's works (salvadordalimuseum.org). While his art is wide-ranging, not surprisingly it's his representations of melting clocks and floating roses that tickle the fancy of most kids. This museum opened in a new location in January 2011 and features several programs geared specifically to children. Among the most popular is Breakfast with Dal�, in which children from five to 10 years old, accompanied by an adult, tour the artworks of particular interest to children. This docent-led program is followed by a buffet breakfast. On Saturdays, all ages are invited to "dilly dally with Dal�" in a variety of creative family programs. FAMILY-FRIENDLY SLEEPOVERS Statewide opportunities for interesting sleepovers range from a night in an authentic chickee hut on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (seminoletribe.com) to the Holiday Inn Resort in Panama City Beach where Splash the Dolphin serves bedtime milk and cookies (hipcbeach.com). At Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, guest rooms overlook a wildlife preserve (disneyworld.com) and the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island is consistently ranked among the nation's top family resorts (southseas.com). With $140 million spent on renovations, together with activities for all ages including golf, tennis, windsurfing, a sailing school, nature center and off-site outings, this is a resort that has all the bases covered for family fun and enjoyment. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 61 THEME PARKS DISCOVERY COVE/ORLANDO � VISIT FLORIDA� variety of theme parks (visitflorida.com /theme_parks). Spread across the entire state, F rom water parks and thrill rides to wildlife encounters and live entertainment, Florida offers a mind-boggling BY BARB AND RON KROLL each of them is family friendly and among the scores of options there is something for everybody from youngsters to adults. WET 'N WILD/ORLANDO � VISIT FLORIDA� THE WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT Twenty miles southwest of Orlando, Walt Disney World Resort has four theme parks, two water parks, three full-service spas, five golf courses, a wedding pavilion, a sports complex, an entertainment-dining-shopping complex, and more than 20 on-property resort hotels (disneyworld.com). Activities at the four theme parks include everything from a Magic Kingdom jungle cruise to an undersea voyage in Future World, dining on Moroccan cuisine in World Showcase, riding through movie scenes in Disney's Hollywood Studios and photographing giraffes on a Disney's Animal Kingdom safari. There are also annual events such as the Atlanta Braves' Spring Training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in March (espnwwos.com) and the September Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. 62 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA Golf at the Walt Disney World Resort can be a family affair (disneygolf.com). In addition to four 18-hole championship golf courses there is also a nine-hole, family-play course and all five are certified National Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries. A sand trap on the championship Magnolia Course is shaped like Mickey's head, and a similar image of the world's most famous mouse appears on the practise green at Disney's Osprey Ridge Golf Course. The choice of on-property accommodation is extensive and ranges from upscale hotels to value-priced, themed resorts particularly popular with families. Unique options include the Treehouse Villas at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge overlooking an African wildlife preserve. Also, there is no need to leave the family pet at home. Fido is welcome at the Walt Disney World Resort's Best Friends Pet Care, a new luxury pet resort featuring covered outdoor runs, play areas, a grooming salon and gourmet treats. DISNEY'S MAGIC KINGDOM � URMOMENTS/SHUTTERSTOCK UNIVERSAL ORLANDO� RESORT Universal Orlando� Resort has two theme parks, more than 50 great restaurants, a shopping and nighttime entertainment complex and three family-friendly hotels (universal orlando.com). The resort's Universal Studios Florida theme park has more than 25 rides based on movie and TV themes, including Shrek 4-D, The Simpsons Ride and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit--Orlando's highest roller coaster that climbs to 167 feet in 16.5 seconds and reaches speeds of 65 mph. Another spine-tingling ride is Revenge of the Mummies where roller-coaster riders are chased by swarms of scarab beetles and an army of warrior mummies. Fans of the Jaws movie can relive its thrills on a boat tour that encounters a killer shark but, since Universal Studios is a land of fantasy, passengers escape the realisticlooking, three-ton fish made of steel, fiberglass and latex. At Universal's Islands of Adventure, the new and popular attraction that opened in June 2010 is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (universalorlando.com/harrypotter). Based on the wildly successful novels written by British author J.K. Rowling, the attraction is located on a 20-acre island containing book-related locations such as the Forbidden Forest, Hogsmeade Village and the iconic Hogwarts Castle. Of the three main rides, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the signature attraction. Located inside Hogwarts Castle, the ride involves spinning, twisting and sudden drops, plus encounters with imaginary creatures from the books such as venom-spitting spiders, a scary skeleton and a fire-breathing dragon. Located on a separate nearby property, Universal's Wet 'n Wild water park features 30 acres of action-packed waterslides, rides, flumes and surf pools (wetnwildorlando.com). There are low-impact water features just for kids, together with Lazy River tube rides and a variety of super slides that make people feel like they are riding a cyclone. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 63 THEME PARKS RISING OUT OF THE MIST � CARY KALSCHEUER/SHUTTERSTOCK Part of the park's educational and animal interactive program features behind-thescenes tours where visitors can learn about rescued manatees and swim with highly sociable beluga whales. For the ultimate thrill, adventuresome types can don a breathing helmet and go underwater to view swimming sharks from the safety of a metal cage. At SeaWorld's Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive park, families can snorkel with stingrays, feed tropical birds and swim with dolphins (discoverycove.com). Aquatica, SeaWorld's South Pacific-themed water park features wave pools, a tube slide into a dolphin pool, river tubing, waterslides and sandy beaches. On Omaka Rocka, Aquatica's high-speed tube slide, riders plummet almost vertically through water funnels and half-pipes (aquaticabyseaworld.com). BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY A combination amusement and wildlife park, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay features more than 2,000 animals, along with thrill rides, live entertainment and themed restaurants (buschgardens.com). Here, park visitors get up-close encounters with exotic animals such as Bengal tigers, hippos, lions, hyenas and orangutans. There are also a variety of thrilling rides including a whitewater rafting expedition, an off-road jeep adventure through the wilds of Africa and a water-soaked THE FLORIDA AQUARIUM/TAMPA BAY � VISIT FLORIDA� SEAWORLD ORLANDO SeaWorld Orlando combines entertainment and marine life education with theatrical shows and thrilling rides (seaworld orlando.com). In addition to a variety of animal encounters, SeaWorld features several exciting whale, sea lion and dolphin shows. One of the most thrilling experiences on the property is Journey to Atlantis, a watercoaster ride that includes wet plunges, waterfall encounters and cruising through dark, watery passageways. 64 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA SKYVENTURE/ORLANDO � VISIT FLORIDA� BLUE MAN GROUP/UNIVERSAL � VISIT FLORIDA� MARINE AND WILDLIFE PARKS Included among Florida's many marine and wildlife parks is St. Augustine's Marineland where visitors can swim with dolphins and join a Trainer-For-A-Day program (marineland.net). The Miami Seaquarium likewise features dolphin interactions and exciting shows where performing whales fly through the air and dolphins walk on water (miamiseaquarium.com). The line between theme parks and zoos blurs at Florida attractions such as Butterfly World log flume ride. The ultimate thrill ride is the park's SheiKra, a roller coaster that climbs 200 feet, reaches speeds of more than 70 mph and plunges 90 degrees straight down. One of the all-time favorite rides at Busch Gardens is the legendary Gwazi, one of the largest and fastest wooden roller coasters on the planet, achieving speeds of 100 mph. A variety of shows include a musical featuring Elmo and his friends from Sesame Street and a rock music show that highlights hit tunes from the '50s and '60s. Popular with youngsters is the park's African-themed playland with rides, shows, as well as meet-and-greets and dining with the characters. (butterflyworld.com), Monkey Jungle (monkeyjungle.com), Jungle Island (jungleisland.com), Everglades Alligator Farm (everglades.com) and Lion Country Safari (lioncountrysafari.com). Touted as the "Alligator Capital of the World," Gatorland is a protected habitat that combines an alligator and crocodile preserve with an aviary and petting zoo (gatorland.com). Reptile shows feature gator wrestling and, slated to open sometime in 2011, a new Screamin' Gator Zip-line attraction will offer a high-flying adventure that involves a swamp nature walk and five zipline rides strung above giant alligators and crocodiles. The 110-acre theme park also includes the Gator Gully Splash Park. At Weeki Wachee Springs, near Spring Hill, there are live "mermaid" and animal shows, riverboat cruises, flume rides and canoeing and kayaking (weekiwachee.com). Wakulla Springs, near Tallahassee, features wildlife viewing, riverboat tours, nature walks and a historic lodge (florida stateparks.org/wakullasprings). At Ocala's Silver Springs Nature Park, there are glassbottom boat tours, wildlife exhibits, tram rides through the forest, bird shows and botanical gardens (silversprings.com). DIVERSE THEMES LEGOLAND Florida is scheduled to open in fall 2011 near Winter Haven on the property that was formerly Cypress Gardens. This new, much-anticipated attraction is geared toward families and features 50 rides, live entertainment and thousands of LEGO models. This is the second LEGOLAND in North America and will be the largest in the world (legoland.com). At the Kennedy Space Center aspiring astronauts and people intrigued by outer space travel can observe massive rockets, tour NASA's launch sites, blast off in flight simulators and meet a real live astronaut (kennedyspacecenter.com). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 65 ROAD TRIPS Great Florida both--we love the end goal, but getting there is just as much fun. Routes crisscross Florida--perfect for vacationers on the hunt for a little adventure and a lot of relaxation, served up with a splash of sunshine. Florida is home to pristine beaches on both the Atlantic and Gulf waters, inland landscapes ranging from wetlands to orange groves, and some of the most scenic drives in the USA. Exploring them couldn't be simpler: unfold a road map, pack a cooler with snacks, gas up the car and hit the highway. 66 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA ROAD TRIPS BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS F or some, the classic road trip is all about the destination. For others, it's the journey that matters. For most, it's ROUTE 1: THE GULF COAST, CLEARWATER BEACH TO CAPTIVA ISLAND THE NUMBERS: 160 miles; driving time 3.5 hours BEST FOR: Laid-back sun and sand worshippers and arts aficionados. DID YOU KNOW: Shellers on Captiva and Sanibel Islands comb the beaches, bent over in the Captiva Crouch or the Sanibel Stoop. The journey along the Gulf Coast starts at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (cmaquarium.org), dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of sea turtles, otters, sharks, stingrays and bottle-nosed dolphins. Play on Clearwater's famous beaches until evening, then head off to Pier 60 for family entertainment, including arts and crafts vendors, buskers, live bands, movies, shops and restaurants (sunsetsatpier60.com). The communities along this coastal drive are known for more than their sparkling white beaches. They're also home to some of Florida's finest artisan enclaves and museums. St. Petersburg's Central Avenue is lined with dozens of studios and galleries while the new Salvador Dal� Museum in St. Pete's (salvadordalimuseum.org) showcases the work of the late surrealist painter. Close by, Bradenton's Village of the Arts (villageofthearts.com) CLEARWATER BEACH AT SUNSET � SAYRAN/DREAMSTIME is home to Florida's largest arts community. Known as the state's cultural capital, Sarasota boasts a film festival, ballet, orchestra, opera, theaters, galleries and the Ringling Museum of Art, revered by circus, art and history fans (ringling.org). There's even art on the beach at the Siesta Key Crystal Classic master sandsculpting competition (crystalsand.org). At the tip of the route, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel Island connects travelers to the ocean through displays of rare, unusual and beautiful shells, including the gigantic horse conch shell--the largest of its kind on record! (shellmuseum.org). For baseball fans, spring is the time to visit for the pre-season Florida Grapefruit League. Thousands of visitors converge on the state, gloves and autograph books in hand, to watch more than a half-dozen major league teams at spring-training camps along the Gulf Coast driving route. ROUTE TIP: Follow the scenic routes-- from Daytona to Orlando follow US Highway 92; south of Orlando stay on picturesque Ridge Scenic Highway (State Road 17) past orange groves and small towns. Anyone who likes to tinker with an engine knows about Daytona, the spot where NASCAR racing was born and still reigns supreme (daytonainternationalspeedway.com). Highway 92 leads to Kissimmee, just minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort and the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway (disney world.disney.go.com). Adults can take the wheel or ride shotgun with a professional driver at speeds of up to 120 mph around the mile-long racetrack. This route ends at North America's oldest permanent racetrack at the Sebring International Raceway in the historic lakeside town of Sebring (sebringraceway.com). Billed as one of the most spectator-friendly tracks in the world, Sebring is home to the 12 Hours of Sebring classic endurance race, a 3.7-mile, 17-turn race circuit, part of the American Le Mans series. The historic Sebring facility is home to vintage racecar displays and to the Skip Barber Racing School. ROUTE 2: DAYTONA TO SEBRING THE NUMBERS: 154 miles; driving time 3.5 hours BEST FOR: Motorsport fans. 3M FORD NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES DAYTONA 500 � WALTER ARCE/DREAMSTIME ROUTE 3: FLORIDA KEYS ALONG THE OVERSEAS HIGHWAY THE NUMBERS: 98 miles; driving time 2 hours BEST FOR: Water babies who live in shorts and flip flops. NAVIGATING TIP: Locals mark businesses and attractions along the one main road (Highway 1) by referring to the Mile Marker (MM). Scenic Highway 1 through the Florida Keys was named one of the best US Road Trips by National Geographic. The string of islands, reefs and turquoise bays is a delight for those who love to play in the water, nosh on fresh seafood and explore a little maritime history. At the north end of the route, Key Largo and Islamorada seem miles away from the busy Florida mainland. Both are known for 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 67 ROAD TRIPS PANAMA CITY BEACH � MICHAEL WOOD/DREAMSTIME shrimp, crab cakes and conch fritters are among the specialties. At the end of the country's "longest deadend road" sits free-wheeling Key West, once home to sea captains, Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffett. The people here have smiles on their faces. And why not? They're surrounded by pristine waters dotted with coral reefs, and a town that defines "relaxed lifestyle." Celebrating the sunset is a nightly ritual for locals, visitors, buskers and musicians. ROUTE 4: FLORIDA PANHANDLE FROM PENSACOLA TO APALACHICOLA THE NUMBERS: 170 miles; driving time 4 hours BEST FOR: The original Florida in a picturesque natural setting. NAVIGATING TIP: Stay on State Roads 30 and 30A, a designated Scenic Highway. The Panhandle of Florida, also known as the "forgotten coast," is low-key--dunes, white sand beaches and emerald-green waters, some of the state's most pristine state parks and pretty small towns. Just outside Pensacola, miles of unspoiled, white beaches are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a network FLORIDA KEYS FISHING BOAT WATERWAY � LUNAMARINA/DREAMSTIME boat rentals, charter fishing, snorkeling and dive excursions. Islamorada is considered a world-class destination for sport fishing--anglers come to hook tarpon and kingfish, and to work the flats for bonefish. At the nearby Theater of the Sea, a marine animal park, you can swim with the dolphins, sea lions and stingrays in the natural saltwater lagoons (theaterofthesea.com). Marathon--"the heart of the Keys"--has its roots as a fishing village. Fresh seafood still dominates the takeout menu at Keys Fisheries (keysfisheries.com) where peel and eat 68 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA of protected barrier islands. Florida's Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach is a marine aquarium with daily sea lion and dolphin shows (gulfarium.com). This marks the start of the famous Beaches of South Walton, home to popular communities like Seaside, Dune Allen Beach and Santa Rosa Beach. This is the spot to try YOLO boarding, the newest paddleboarding sport that's a cross between surfing and kayaking. Anglers head for Destin, "the world's luckiest fishing village," in hopes of hooking grouper, wahoo and mackerel. On dry land, displays of equipment and fishing lore at the Destin History & Fishing Museum even include an original Penn Reel that once belonged to Ernest Hemingway (destin historyandfishingmuseum.org). In Panama City Beach, Pier Park provides a break from the beach with unique stops for shopping and entertainment (panamacity beachonline.com/pierpark). This beautiful oceanfront drive ends at Apalachicola, a Victorian town with seafaring roots that is considered Florida's oyster capital (apalachicolabay.org). Turn off the engine, park the car and enjoy these delectable treats on the half-shell, fried, grilled, stewed and, of course, raw. Bon app�tit! DRIVING TO MIAMI OR THE FLORIDA KEYS? MIAMI WATERFRONT � SHUTTERSTOCK As of mid-February 2011, all tolls are collected electronically on the southern 47 miles of Florida's Turnpike between Exit 47 and Exit 1 in Miami-Dade County. Motorists can use either the SunPass or TOLL-BY-PLATE system and no longer have to stop to pay tolls. SunPass is Florida's prepaid electronic toll collection system, which utilizes small credit card-size electronic devices called SunPass transponders, which attach to the inside of car windshields. When a SunPass-equipped vehicle goes through a toll location, the transponder sends a signal and the toll is deducted from the customer's account. SunPass customers pay the lowest rates, generally saving 25% on tolls. The SunPass Mini transponder costs $4.99, which is reimbursable as a toll credit when registering the SunPass account. It is available at Publix, CVS/pharmacy, Navarro Discount Pharmacies, Sedano's Supermarkets, all AAA locations in Florida, all Turnpike service plaza gift shops and gas stations, online at sunpass.com or at 1-888-TOLL-FLA (865-5352). TOLL-BY-PLATE is a collection method whereby a photo of a vehicle's license plate is taken as it travels under overhead tolling equipment and a bill for any tolls incurred over a 30-day period, plus a $2.50 administrative charge, is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. Travelers also have the option of establishing a prepaid TOLL-BY-PLATE account by calling 1-888-TAG-TOLL and providing a credit or debit card number to avoid the administrative charge. For those traveling in a rental vehicle, there is an easy and convenient way to pay tolls without stopping. Most rental car companies have programs that allow their customers to charge the tolls to the credit card being used to rent the vehicle. Motorists should check with their rental car company for details or at sunpass.com/rentalcar. Florida's Turnpike Enterprise oversees a 460-mile system of limited-access toll highways. For now, travelers can still pay cash on all other segments of Florida's Turnpike, from its northern point at I-75 in Wildwood to its junction with I-95 in north Miami-Dade. Eventually the entire Turnpike system of roadways will go allelectronic. It is anticipated the next phase, from the Golden Glades interchange in northern Miami-Dade County to the I-595 interchange in Broward County, will be ready in 2014. MAP OF TURNPIKE � FLORIDA'S TURNPIKE ENTERPRISE 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 69 GOLF Gold Medal BY DONNA CARTER W GOLF ith more than 1,400 courses, located at World Golf Village in historic St. are celebrated through historic artifacts, personal memorabilia and interactive exhibits. The Village also has two championship golf courses plus golf-themed restaurants, a PGA TOUR academy and several vacation hotels both on the property and nearby (world golfhalloffame.org). Also unique to Florida is the international headquarters for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) at Daytona Beach. On site are two signature golf courses open to the public as well as the LPGA Golf Academy. December is a good time to be a spectator here when the world's best female golfers Florida is among the most popular golf destinations in the Augustine. Here, the sport's greatest golfers gather for their annual LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament (lpga.com). world. Its assets include quality layouts, variety and affordability, in addition to year-round balmy weather and a multitude of value-added entertainment options. For casual and die-hard golfers alike, there is truly something for everyone: resort courses, championship links, oceanfront layouts, municipal tracks and executive nines. FASHIONED FOR FAME The words "trophy courses" are music to the ears of golfers devoted to playing tracks with global reputations for superior quality and challenge. With no shortage of stellar links, Florida is a prime destination for discriminating golfers as well as those wanting to establish bragging rights. Among the state's top-rated tracks is TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach where its Stadium Course is world-renowned and its par-3 island green is among the most famous holes in the realm of golf (tpc.com/sawgrass). ONLY IN FLORIDA The Sunshine State is home to two important golf complexes that exist nowhere else on the planet. First is the World Golf Hall of Fame 70 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 2011 Another of the brightest stars on the Florida golf scene is the Trump International Golf Club at West Palm Beach (trumpinter nationalpalmbeaches.com). Built by "the Donald," the course envisioned by the megamillionaire was to be exceptional in every way. Not surprisingly, it is. Other high-profile clubs include the Innisbrook Golf Resort near Tarpon Springs where there are four outstanding championship tracks (innisbrookgolfresort.com), and the PGA National at Palm Beach Gardens where its five courses have hosted most of the world's top-ranking players (pgaresort.com). Also in the "trophy course" category is the Tibur�n Golf Club at Naples where two superb, links-style layouts weave through acres of native Florida foliage (tiburongcnaples.com). Palm Coast south of St. Augustine. Attached to the upscale Hammock Beach Resort, this award-winning, dune-fringed masterpiece stretches alongside the Atlantic boasting several oceanfront holes that are among the prettiest in Florida (hammockbeach.com). Moreover, it doesn't get any better than the stunningly beautiful Ocean Links course on Amelia Island, one of three championship tracks belonging to the Amelia Island Plantation. Five of its holes wind along coastal dunes where views of the ocean and shoreline are memorable (aipfl.com). It's not just coastal Florida where water is part of the game experience. The state has more than 7,700 lakes larger than 10 acres, hence visiting golfers can expect to find an abundance of tracks featuring plenty of the wet stuff. VALUE GOLF While Florida boasts scores of high-end links, there are hundreds more offering excellent golf and modest greens fees. In fact, it's hard to beat the Sunshine State when it comes to affordability. At Daytona Beach, for instance, there are more than 20 quality courses (some designed by legendary architects) with almost all of them playing for $35 or under. Even the city's two LPGA championship courses can be played for less than $100 (golfdaytonabeach.com). BLUE MONSTER GOLF COURSE AT DORAL GOLF RESORT IN MIAMI � DORAL GOLF RESORT AND SPA TEACHING ACADEMIES The Sunshine State is an ideal place for golfers to hone their skills or even learn to play the game from scratch. One of the bestknown names in the business of golf instruction is David Leadbetter who has 28 teaching academies around the globe, three of which are in Florida. His world headquarters is located at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, where the academy lies alongside two Greg Norman-designed courses. The other two teaching facilities are located in West Coast Naples and Palm Beach Gardens in the east (davidleadbetter.com). Famous name recognition brings plenty of golfers seeking instruction to the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy at the Saddlebrook Resort, Tampa. Here, teaching programs are tailored for players from beginner to professional. In addition to the academy, the resort also includes two premier courses both designed by Palmer himself (saddlebrook.com). Overall, there is an extensive inventory of teaching facilities spread across the state with almost all of them attached to golf courses. Some feature big names such as the Palmer and Leadbetter academies, but the great majority are led by lesser-known yet entirely qualified teaching pros. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 71 In northwest Florida, the Emerald Coast cities of Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Panama City Beach have long been known for value golf. In Florida's inland regions there are likewise oodles of courses ranging from mid-tier to championship-caliber where greens fees are exceptionally reasonable. Indeed, modest golf rates can be found throughout the state where visiting golfers can easily find great places to play that are long on value and short on cost. Not to be overlooked from a value point of view are stay/play packages, which drive costs even lower. Also in the mix is the famous Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami where five championship courses include the legendary Great White and TPC Blue Monster. There are few golfers who haven't heard of this challenging duo where multiple tee box placements make it playable for all skill levels. Doral resort packages can be tailored to include golf and spa, plus accommodation at the on-site Marriott Hotel (doralresort.com). Likewise in the Miami area, the luxury Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort has two championship courses--one of them featuring a spectacular island green and a towering waterfall--the stuff trophy tracks are made of (fairmont.com/turnberryisle). OCEANSIDE LINKS With water on three sides, Florida's coastline and offshore islands provide breathtaking settings for a host of courses. Among them is the Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course on the S PA S FLORIDA BEACH VACATION HOTEL � CONDOR 36/SHUTTERSTOCK SPAS BY ROCHELLE LASH Heavenly F lorida is a natural fit for the flourishing world of spa life. The state's hundreds of destination and day spas--including some of the world's most illustrious brands-- embrace all aspects of wellness at a variety of price points. Treatments run the gamut from body and skin care to fitness, weight loss, massage therapies, medical advice and spiritual awakening. Moreover, there are regimens that are primarily about looking good. In fact, plenty of spas are ready to buff and beautify parties of girlfriends, the golf set, sun worshippers and Florida's A-list of celebrity visitors and international jetsetters. With the Sunshine State's laid-back, warm-weather vibe, visitors mellow out just being there, hence unwinding at a spa is an added bonus (visitflorida.com/spas). CHEECA LODGE & SPA/ISLAMORADA, FLORIDA KEYS � CHEECA LODGE & SPA FLAVORS OF FLORIDA Florida's spirit of living outdoors has been shaped by brilliant sunshine, magnificent beaches, sparkling waters and lush forests. Locals and visitors alike pursue active living with a cornucopia of choices such as aquafitness, yoga on the beach at sunrise or sexy salsa classes at sunset. The state's most evocative images come alive in a diverse variety of spa treatments. Think of Florida and you are inclined to picture endless waters, blossoming orange groves, white sand beaches and fragrant tropical flowers. Spas utilize these bountiful resources in treatments that have a distinctive Florida flavor. Imagine a citrus body scrub 72 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA tingling with essences of key lime, lemon and orange. Aromatherapy, embodying the pungent essences of hibiscus and eucalyptus, relaxes and rejuvenates. Florida's abundant fruits such as pomegranate, coconut and mango are essentials for restorative facials and apr�s-sun care. In Florida, weight watching means dining on creative spa cuisines featuring delectable, contemporary dishes of freshly caught seafood and luscious tropical produce. Here, gourmet food means local treats such as Florida stone crabs, red snapper, Gulf shrimp and Apalachicola oysters. Spas originated with the healing powers of water and the Atlantic Ocean conveniently yields sea salts and minerals used in massage oils, detoxifying steam rooms and hydrotherapy baths for soaking away tension. BEACH MASSAGE � MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL/ MIAMI SPAS ON EVERY COAST Spa life is flourishing in every region of Florida. The legendary Golden Door at the Naples Grande Beach Resort (naples granderesort.com) is where the southern Gulf Coast meets a Japanese Zen ambience, heightened by mesmerizing waterfalls and a meditation labyrinth. At the WaterColor Inn & Resort (watercolorresort.com), on a magnificent stretch of white sand in the northern Gulf, you can sample an all-Florida pineapple-papaya skin moisturizer. The Ocean Waters Spa in Daytona Beach (ocean watersspa.com) synthesizes Atlantic salts and lavender for its aromatherapy glow. Psst! Did we mention the secluded, romantic SpaTerre on Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys (littlepalmisland.com), which offers a unique "cougar-to-kitten" sensuality treatment? Among a wealth of spas in the Gulf Coast city of Clearwater Beach, the spa at the waterfront Sandpearl Resort (sandpearl.com) focuses on relaxation, renewal and restorative wellness. Neighboring community Tampa is equally well-endowed where its exotic full-service Spa Jardin (spajardin.com) has been voted "Best of the Bay" for nine years running. Florida's Gold Coast, a shimmering Atlantic oceanfront strip of sand and sun, is home to one of the highest concentrations of luxury spas in the world. The classic resort hotels in the posh communities of Miami Beach, Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale all have major new spas with world-class exercise specialists and aestheticians. The sunset-pink Spa Palazzo at the Boca Raton Resort & Club (bocaresort.com) is an opulent fountain of youth with manicured gardens, waterfall whirlpools, Moorish baths and a signature facial that uses Sevruga caviar. At Bliss Fort Lauderdale in the W Hotel (blissworld.com), the time-tested trademark treatment is their carrot and sesame body buff. MARVELLOUS MIAMI The landmark grandes dames hotels of Miami 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 73 S PA S SERENITY ROOM � MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL/ MIAMI POOL AT HYATT REGENCY CLEARWATER BEACH RESORT � HYATT REGENCY CLEARWATER BEACH RESORT Beach are adding extensive luxury spas. In winter 2011, the Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach (edenrocmiami.com) will be opening a dazzling ELLE Spa as part of a major restoration. And at the Fontainebleau, sublime hydro and thermal therapies include a soothing water massage with seaweed extract (fontainebleau.com). Miami's sexy South Beach--the epicenter of cool--attracts the young and gorgeous to fashionable boutique spas like The Setai, a haven of Asian serenity offering Balinese massages, a Himalayan body polish and Ayurvedic facials (setai.com). Also within the city's fabulous selection of upmarket spas, the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is among the ultimate getaways (mandarin oriental.com/miami/spa). Swathed in exotic natural textures such as bamboo, rice paper and linen, the Mandarin offers outdoor massages on the beach and holistic treatments that blend ancient wisdom from around the world. Sanibel Island, Naples and Tampa, the warm, relatively tranquil Gulf of Mexico waters are ideal for parasailing, dolphin-watching, charter fishing--and spa life. Indulging in manicures, pedicures and massages with your preteen is the rage at the Aquag�ne Spa at the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa, a wonderful playground for grown-ups and kids on an island near Fort Myers (pinkshell.com). Moreover, even Mickey Mouse is wild about spas. The Disney Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Orlando, a deluxe getaway for adults and a fantasyland for children, offers an irresistible roster of family spa treatments such as the Gentleman's Facial and the Mother-to-Be Massage (http://disneyworld .disney.go.com/spa/grand-floridian-spa). In addition, guests aged four to 12 years old can have My First Spa Experience, which combines facials, manis, pedis and fun tips on healthy living for princesses-to-be. MEDICAL WELLNESS Florida is home to two world-class spas that integrate health and wellness with spa therapies. At the Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach (canyonranchmiamibeach.com) and the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami (pritikin.com), guests are in the capable hands of nutritionists, exercise physiologists, life coaches and doctors. These exceptional centers not only pamper clients with fine cuisine and indulgent spa life, they also help improve their guests' lifestyles and wellness through better habits, weight loss and fitness. FAMILY-FRIENDLY Family life is paramount at many of Florida's resorts and creative spas have tailored their services to match their young clientele. In the Gulf Coast communities of Fort Myers, 74 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA SHOPPING BAYSIDE MARKETPLACE/MIAMI � VISIT FLORIDA� PARADISE BY WENDY LINDSAY 76 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA A Shopper's T he truth about shopping in the rants overlook the pretty Charlotte Harbor Yacht Basin (fishville.com). With a million square feet of shopping and restaurants, Pier Park has put the city on the map as the area's prime venue to shop 'til you drop. Pier Park's open-air complex is designed around pretty, pedestrian-only streets where stores are painted in Florida pastels. They include upscale department stores, specialty shops, fashion boutiques and popular restaurants such as Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville (margaritaville.com). Sunshine State is this: there is a lot of it and a lot of variety. There is also something for everybody from souvenirs to couture fashions. If vacationers are unable to find what they want in Florida stores, then whatever is being sought does not exist. SHELL WORLD The Shell Factory and Nature Park in North Fort Myers boasts one of the world's largest collections of shells, sponges, coral and sea life specimens. A vast inventory of shell novelties includes shell jewelry, shell picture frames and shell candles, together with Southwest Florida's largest stock of pearls. The Shell Factory is also a family entertainment destination with arcade games, bumper boats, miniature golf and wildlife exhibits featuring big cats and alligators (shellfactory.com). WATERFRONT SHOPPING In Naples, shoppers can arrive by boat, car or trolley at historic Tin City, a waterfront enclave of interesting shops and restaurants. The eclectic assortment is housed in tin-roofed buildings used in the 1920s by the local fishing industry. With more than 50 shops, vendors offer everything from antiques to funky mood rings, shell souvenirs, perfumes, trendy fashions and Florida fruit wines (tin-city.com). Also in Naples, the Village on Venetian Bay boasts more than 40 shops and restaurants overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and Venetian Bay. The mix of merchandise offered ranges from quirky souvenirs to designer clothes and fine jewelry. Wine tastings, fashion shows, jazz concerts and popular gondola rides are all part of the shopping experience (venetianvillage.com). About 25 minutes from St. Petersburg, John's Pass Village & Boardwalk in Madeira Beach has more than 100 shops and plenty of restaurants. A long-standing tourist attraction, shoppers here can buy anything from T-shirts to trinkets (johnspass.com). Also among waterfront shopping options is the Fishermen's Village in Punta Gorda where modern shops, boutiques and restau- UPSCALE SHOPPING Palm Beach is Florida's legendary playground of the rich and famous and home to a large inventory of shops selling luxury goods. Traditionally, the historic Breakers Hotel is the place to stay and Worth Avenue is the place to shop (worth-avenue.com). With a history dating back to the 1920s, it was here that Tiffany, Chanel, Cartier and other upmarket retailers first opened in Florida. THE MALL AT MILLENIA � VISIT FLORIDA� WHAT'S NEW Pier Park at Panama City Beach in Northwest Florida is the state's newest shopping and entertainment destination (panamacitybeachonline.com/PierPark). SHOPPING MALL AT MIAMI'S WATERFRONT � IVAN CHOLAKOV/SHUTTERSTOCK Today, many of the stores have Mediterraneanstyle facades and there are shops tucked away in small hidden courtyards that help give the place a romantic European ambience. Miami's Bal Harbour Shops have the largest collection of exclusive, high-fashion stores outside of Paris and New York. Here, at least a hundred world-class fashion and jewelry stores surround an open-air atrium filled with tropical trees, flower gardens and fountains. The selection of stores includes all 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 77 SHOPPING MARKET � VISIT FLORIDA� ORLANDO PREMIUM OUTLETS � VISIT FLORIDA� the usual suspects: Bulgari, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton and Prada (balharbourshops.com). Naples likewise has a reputation for posh stores and upscale shopping. Featuring Mediterranean Revival buildings, Fifth Avenue South (fifthavenuesouth.com) and Third Street South (thirdstreetsouth.com) both have an eclectic mix of galleries and exclusive shops selling one-of-a-kind jewelry and fashions. Featuring Spanish-style architecture, Waterside Shops is a semi-enclosed mall that houses the city's largest collection of luxury-brand retailers such as Gucci, Burberry, Cartier and Tiffany & Co. Anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and the Apple Store, the mall has more than 60 shops and restaurants (watersideshops.com). Aventura Mall near Fort Lauderdale houses 300 stores including name-brand retailers such as Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, Bloomingdale's, Calvin Klein and Burberry (aventuramall.com). vided into a number of mall areas. Known for discount prices on name-brand goods, stores feature everything from family fashions to jewelry, luggage, toys, home goods and health and beauty items. A gigantic food court and movie theaters add further appeal (sawgrassmills.com). Orlando Premium Outlets mall on Vineland Avenue has more than 150 stores where name-brand goods sell far below their regular retail price. Many Orlando vacationers make this mall a must-visit venue. Also in Orlando, Premium Outlet mall on International Drive has 180 luxury-brand retailers who also sell at deep-discount prices. Other Premium Outlet malls in Florida are in St. Augustine, Naples and Ellenton (premiumoutlets.com). Miromar Outlets in Naples has been voted Southwest Florida's top factory outlet center for the past 11 years. Featuring a park-like setting, an artificial lake and water skiing shows, shoppers here can look for bargains at 140 designer and brand-name stores (miromaroutlets.com). Flamingo Island Flea Market in Bonita Springs has more than 600 concessions, which sell everything from new goods to antiques and unexpected treasures (flamingo island.com). Fleamasters Fleamarket in Fort Myers features more than 900 stalls offering everything imaginable from cowboy boots to fishing equipment, clothing, sunglasses, household goods and T-shirts (fleamall.com). Daytona Flea and Farmers Market is among the largest in the state (daytona fleamarket.com). With 1,000 booths it offers all the typical flea market stuff and, since "speed city" is the North American epicenter of car and motorcycle racing, there is also a good selection of motorcycle gear and racing accoutrements. West of Daytona, the town of DeLand also has an enormous flea market held weekly at the Volusia County Fairgrounds. Unlike a lot of contemporary flea markets, vendors here typically sell more antiques and collectibles than new goods. DEEP-DISCOUNT SHOPPING Sawgrass Mills Mall west of Fort Lauderdale is the mother of all outlet centers. With more than 400 retailers it ranks as the largest of its kind in Florida. This is a shopping venue so large it's di78 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA FLEA MARKETS Bargain hunters can have a heyday at Florida's scores of flea markets that often unfold over several acres and are typically open Friday through Sunday. Hundreds of destinations. One stop. No bag limit here! Sawgrass Mills has always been the vacation place to shop with more stores, more brands, more values, and more fun. Plus, right now you'll find more of everything you want for much less. You are now cleared for take off. Visit Simon Guest Services with this ad for a FREE Coupon Book. Off 595 W at Flamingo. 15 miles from Ft. Lauderdale Int'l. Airport and 30 miles from Miami Int'l. Airport. 954-846-2350 WATER SPORTS SCUBA DIVERS EXPLORE CORAL REEF � RICHARD CAREY/DREAMSTIME Water WORLD BY SUSAN MACCALLUM-WHITCOMB S urrounded by water on three sides, to- able and bait, tackle and fishing licenses are usually included. On the southwest coast, Boca Grande is touted as the "Tarpon Capital of the World," and it's said that more sailfish and marlin are caught in the upper Gulf Coast waters off Destin than anywhere on the planet. In the upper Keys, Islamorada is dubbed the "Sport Fishing Capital of the World" where its warm offshore waters are known for trophy-size marlin, tuna, barracuda, wahoo and sailfish. has more than 2,500 miles of "water paths" that crisscross the state from top to bottom (floridapaddlingtrails.com). gether with an abundance of inland lakes, rivers and streams, Florida is a natural for water-based activities. With endless sunshine and water everywhere the Sunshine State is awash in options. SCUBA DIVING Florida's underwater world is just as exciting as its land-based attractions. The Central North Region boasts an extensive network of underwater grottos and springs making it a magnet for cave divers (floridacaves.com). Among the area's top dive sites are the Devil's Den and the Blue Grotto near Williston. Devil's Den features icicle-like stalactites, elaborate rock formations and fossil beds that are millions of years old, and the Blue Grotto is one of the deepest caverns in the state. Also in the region, Peacock Springs State Park has two major springs and six sinkholes embodying more than 33,000 feet of underwater passages--one of the longest cave systems in the continental US. One of the most famous and most visited dive sites on Earth is located off John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park at Key Largo (pennekamppark.com). Here, a 4,000-lb bronze statue of Jesus Christ stands upright on FISHING Florida is a prime destination for vacationers hooked on fishing, where record-breaking catches are not unusual and anglers from around the globe are lured by the exceptional variety of fish populating the state's coastal waters and inland lakes. Lake Okeechobee, a body of water so large it's referred to as an inland sea, boasts awesome bass fishing along with Lake Kissimmee where the record catch during a 2001 tournament there weighed in at just over 45 pounds. Also renowned for great bass fishing are Lake Tohopekaliga, Lake George, Lake Istokpoga, Lake Weohyakapka and several others. Opportunities for saltwater fishing are everywhere. Half-day, full-day and even nighttime, deep-sea charters are widely avail80 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA BOATING In general, if it floats you can rent it and this includes everything from a pontoon boat to jet skis. With more registered vessels than any other state, Florida is indeed a boating lover's paradise. It's also a great place to sit back and let somebody else do the driving. Sunset sails, lunch and dinner cruises, glass-bottom boat tours, sightseeing excursions and private charters (with or without a charter captain) are widely available from statewide tour companies, outfitters and marinas. Canoe and kayak paddlers are also well served. Florida a shallow reef in 25 feet of water. Called Christ of the Abyss, it's accessible to divers and snorkelers alike. The statue is one of three that was cast from a mold made by Italian sculptor Guido Galletti. Off Pensacola Beach on the upper Gulf Coast, divers can mix reef diving with wreck diving. Five years ago, the decommissioned aircraft carrier, USS Oriskany, was intentionally sunk 24 miles offshore and the vessel is now an artificial reef teeming with marine life (divemightyo.com). The same intriguing combination draws divers to the Florida Keys, home to the third largest natural reef in the world. Here, amid an awesome sea of coral protected by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (floridakeys.noaa.gov), shipwrecks and scuttled vessels are among the most popular dive sites in the state. Most recently, the warship, USS Vandenberg, was scuttled in 2009 joining other intentionally scuttled vessels and ancient shipwrecks such as a Spanish galleon that went down in 1733. There are nine designated sites on the Keys' Shipwreck Trail where dives range from shallow to 100 feet or more. AIRBOAT RIDE � VISIT FLORIDA� FISHING IN ISLAMORADA � VISIT FLORIDA� Overall, Florida and snorkeling are a perfect match and while the underwater wonders in the Keys are hard to surpass, there are scores of other excellent locations including Red Reef Park at Boca Raton, Coral Cove Park off Jupiter Island and Biscayne National Park at Homestead. Northwest of the Keys, in the Crystal River and Homosassa Springs SNORKELING Some of Florida's best snorkeling is found in the Keys where 55 varieties of coral, 500 species of tropical fish and other colorful sea creatures make the area an underwater wonderland. Among a host of exceptional spots to don a mask and breathing tube is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park where water visibility is crystal clear and the park hosts daily snorkel tours. Also in the Keys, the Bahia Honda State Park (bahiahondapark.com) is another good location where coral and fish are spectacular and shallow waters make it an ideal spot for novice snorkelers. At Key Largo, Sundiver Snorkel Tours (snorkeling isfun.com) offer family excursions to a shallow inner reef where there are abundant tropical fish and multicolored coral. area, outfitters such as Sunshine River Tours (sunshinerivertours.com) and Manatee Tour and Dive (manateetouranddive.com) provide snorkelers with awesome opportunities to swim with manatees. Enjoying the protection provided by the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the largest herd of wintering manatees in the state makes its home in the Crystal River and Homosassa Springs. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 81 SOUTHEAST FLORIDA FLORIDA ISLAND COMMUNITY -- PUBLIC FERRY SERVICE TO MIAMI � FLORIDASTOCK/SHUTTERSTOCK CONTRASTS BY CHELLE KOSTER WALTON south to Miami and the Florida Keys, no area in the state embodies more contrasts. With trendy fashion districts, a refined arts scene, chic beaches and Latin-Caribbean vibes, Miami possesses a tempo all its own. At its backdoor lies the unspoiled wilderness and Native American cultures of the Florida Everglades. Just south of Miami, the Homestead area is all about tropical fruit and vegetable farming and it's also the gateway to the Florida Keys, a long string of islands with a temperament as much Caribbean as American. A big mood swing occurs north of sophisticated Fort Lauderdale with its beautiful beachfront and stylish downtown. From here, big-city frenzy begins to mellow into Deerfield Beach and the affluent community of Boca Raton. At the north end of the region are charming Delray Beach, West Palm Beach and 82 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA A Region of F lorida experiences no greater mood swings and character changes than in its populous Southeast Region. From West Palm Beach finally Palm Beach, historically a playground for the rich and famous. Boca Raton, all the way south to Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach. The region's most celebrated drive is the Overseas Highway, the southern leg of US Highway 1. It picks up in Key Largo and stretches south through the Florida Keys to Key West, the city at the southernmost point in the continental United States. neighbor Fort Lauderdale is mostly about the beach but it too touts an international flavor and a vigorous shopping and entertainment scene. Venetian-like canals honeycomb the city making it fun to take a gondola ride or explore by water taxi (sunny.org). Farther north and quieter than Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach has one of the most charming downtown sections in the southeast (delray beach.com). It has a distinct sense of community with a main street lined with galleries, shops and restaurants. Farther up the coast, Palm Beach has consistently been a playground for the rich and famous and its upmarket hotels, restaurants and exclusive Worth Avenue shopping are a testament to its affluent character. MUST SEE, MUST DO Miami Beach boasts the largest collection of art deco architecture in the world. Concentrated in the South Beach area, about 800 significant buildings represent a period from the 1920s to the 1940s when the city was being promoted and developed as a tropical playground (miamiandbeaches.com). Building after building sprang up in the art deco style, however the area eventually suffered an economic decline and the vibrantly colored stucco hotels, apartment complexes and homes fell into disrepair. Since then, a district-wide rejuvenation program has restored the majority of them and in 1979 Miami Beach's Art Deco Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the area is one of the city's biggest attractions, particularly along Ocean Drive where some of the buildings are now popular restaurants, nightclubs, martini bars and chic hotels. Often frequented by the rich and famous, this is the place in town to see and be seen. CITY LIGHTS As a crossroads between the US and the Caribbean, Miami pulses to the beat of a different drummer (miamiandbeaches.com). Its confluence of cultures adds texture to a city filled with skyscrapers, historic neighborhoods, ethnic enclaves, fine restaurants, sophisticated beach resorts and high fashion. Next-door ROADS CONNECTING FLORIDA KEYS � RICHARD SEMIK/SHUTTERSTOCK RECOMMENDED DRIVES Route A1A provides a beautiful oceanfront drive past the mansions of Palm Beach and the coastal communities of Delray Beach and MIAMI BEACH � R. GINO SANTA MARIA/SHUTTERSTOCK HERITAGE AND CULTURE Miami has changed considerably since wealthy American industrialist Henry Flagler brought his railroad to town in 1896. The first newcomers to the city were warm-weather seekers from the northern states, followed much later by refugees from Cuba who settled in a neighborhood known today as Little Havana. The city's ethnic blend also includes Haitians who populate an area called Little Haiti. Latter-day arrivals from other Caribbean islands as well as South America contribute to the mix of cultures that now defines the city. One of Miami's most important cultural attractions is the Vizcaya Museum and 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 83 SOUTHEAST FLORIDA SPA AND POOL AT DORAL GOLF RESORT & SPA � DORALRESORT.COM Gardens, a grand estate featuring a marvelous Italian-style villa built in the early 1900s by wealthy American industrialist James Deering (miamidade.gov/vizcaya). Surrounded by 10 acres of formal gardens and overlooking Biscayne Bay, the villa is filled with a vast array of art, antique treasures and elaborate furnishings. Miami's other cultural venues include the Bass Museum of Art (bassmuseum.org), one of the area's earliest art deco buildings, which now houses a priceless collection of art, sculptures and tapestries. Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Art (moaflnsu.org) anchors the downtown cultural scene, together with the Broward Center for the Performing Arts (browardcenter.org). Key West brims with art galleries and museums such as the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum where the renowned novelist wrote many of his famous works (hemingwayhome.com). An important historical venue in Palm Beach is the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum (flagler museum.us), a legacy of the "man who built Florida." Completed in 1902, this mansionturned-museum is one of the purest expressions of Florida's Gilded Age. 84 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA FUN FOR FAMILIES In addition to miles of beaches that are often the first choice for family fun, each of the region's coastal cities offers plenty of Fort family-oriented entertainment. FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS Beach resorts that welcome families are found along the region's entire coast as well as inland. One of the best-known inland properties is the Doral Golf Resort & Spa, a member of the Marriott Hotels and Resorts chain, which makes up for not having a beach with its Blue Lagoon Water Park featuring a giant kids' pool and waterslide. Appearances from cartoon characters, SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer, plus arts, crafts and a special fun camp keep youngsters entertained. Adults are equally well served with five world-class golf courses, a large tennis center and one of the top-ranked spas in the state (doralresort.com). Lauderdale's Museum of Discovery and Science (mods.org) is one of the state's best hands-on museums and Miami has several family-friendly venues including the Miami Children's Museum (miamichildrens museum.org) and the Miami Science Museum (miamisci.org). Tapping into the animal kingdom, Jungle Island (jungle island.com) provides people with up-closeand-personal encounters with rare birds, mammals, primates, reptiles and fish. One of its highlights is a show featuring unleashed tigers, leopards, lions and cougars, a performance produced by The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.). Other city attractions include the Miami Seaquarium (miamiseaquarium.com), Zoo Miami (miamimetrozoo.com) and Monkey Jungle (monkeyjungle.com). High on the popularity list with adults and kids alike is a day trip to the Florida Everglades and a visit to the Everglades Alligator Farm (everglades.com). SPORTS SCENE Miami is the region's hub for spectator sports and the city is home to the NFL Miami Dolphins (miamidolphins.com), the NBA Miami Heat (nba.com/heat) and the Florida Marlins major league baseball team (http://florida.marlins.mlb.com). Touted as "the tennis capital of Florida," the Delray Beach Tennis Center has 14 clay courts, seven hard courts and 19 night-lit courts (delraytennis.com). The facility After only one year, we have much to celebrate. Cond� Nast Traveler "2010 Hot List" Travel + Leisure "Best Kept Secret Getaway" Featured on NBC's Today Show The Seagate's private beach club Follow us for special Twitter-only offers Find out what they already know. Visit TheSeagateHotel.com or call 1-877-57-SEAGATE (577-3242). A Seagate Hospitality Group Property 1000 East Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, Florida 33483 Leed and related logo is a trademark owned by the U.S. Green Building Council and is used by permission. SOUTHEAST FLORIDA attracts widespread attention in late February when it hosts the annual International T ennis Championships (yellowtennisball.com). Miami and area boast more than 20 golf courses, some of which are ranked among the top 10 in the world (miamiand beaches.com/visitors/golf.asp) including the Doral Golf Resort & Spa (doral resort.com) and the new Fairmont Turnberry Isle (fairmont.com/turnberryisle). life-sized replicas of more than 200 species of fish and a virtual reality "Catch Gallery," where visitors can attempt to reel in a marlin or a sailfish. This attraction is an angler's mecca and a must-visit venue for Floridabound sport fishermen. Also in Fort Lauderdale, the International Swimming Hall of Fame is a shrine dedicated to the history and recognition of famous swimmers, divers and water polo players (ishof.org). More than 40 exhibits illustrate the history of aquatic sports including artifacts such as the Olympic medals earned by Johnny Weissmuller, the man also remembered for his movie role as Tarzan. LINCOLN ROAD SHOP/MIAMI � DANIEL KORZENIEWSKI/SHUTTERSTOCK SPORTS MUSEUMS The International Game Fish Association's Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach near Fort Lauderdale sets the standard for facilities dedicated to the sport of angling (igfa.org). The facility features interactive fishing-related kiosks, antique rod-and-reel displays, contemporary tackle exhibits, CALLING ALL SHOPAHOLICS The region's shopping options run the gamut from huge flea markets to some of the most AIRBOAT/EVERGLADES � HOLBOX/SHUTTERSTOCK upscale venues in the southern states. Worth Avenue in Palm Beach (worth-avenue.com) is renowned for exclusive stores and luxury brands while Delray Beach's Atlantic Avenue is lined with shops selling a variety of goods for all budgets (downtowndelray beach.com). Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale (lasolasboulevard.com) is home to a fine selection of galleries and fashion boutiques, and Miami's Bal Harbour Shops (balharbourshops.com) boast the most extensive selection of couture clothing outside of Paris and New York. Vacationers looking to score bargains head to Sawgrass Mills, a mammoth outlet mall west of Fort Lauderdale where name-brand goods are sold at discount prices (simon.com). SPA LIFE Although the Southeast Region has a huge inventory of spas, the renowned Doral Golf Resort & Spa (doralresort.com) boasts one of Miami's oldest and most respected. In addition to offering all the typical day spa services, the facility is also home to the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa (pritikin.com), one of the world's pre-eminent wellness centers, which treats a variety of health challenges. 86 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA fla - keys.com ~ 1- 800- FLA-KEYS SOUTHWEST FLORIDA DIFFERENT BY CHELLE KOSTER WALTON Delightfully Southwest Region is the very antithesis of the state's bustling cities and theme park venues. Anchored by the main urban centers of Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples, this coastal area attracts vacationers looking for its warm temperatures, renowned beaches and diverse culture and landscape. A long chain of offshore islands, running from Anna Maria Island off Bradenton to Marco Island south of Naples, is home to some of the region's top beaches. Siesta Key in Sarasota, Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel and Captiva islands are among the major beach destinations while lesser-known spots such as Nokomis Beach, Venice, Port Charlotte, Gasparilla Island, Punta Gorda, Bonita Springs and Vanderbilt Beach also boast unspoiled white sand shorelines. 88 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA D efined by smaller communities, a quiet sophistication and a sprawl of preserved wilderness, Florida's SAILING SARASOTA � VISIT FLORIDA� CONDOS ON THE BAYFRONT IN NAPLES � BETSY VERB/DREAMSTIME MUST SEE, MUST DO The pride of Sarasota is the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, a legacy left by John Ringling, circus magnate famous for his Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (ringling.org). C� d'Zan, Ringling's dream winter home on Sarasota Bay, is the centerpiece of a cultural complex that includes the art museum, two circus museums and lovely gardens. The home is modeled after magnificent mansions in Venice and contains FORT MYERS PIER AT SUNSET � TYPHOONSKI/DREAMSTIME priceless collections of art and furniture revealing the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the rich and famous during the Gilded Age. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art houses Old Masters paintings by worldrenowned artists such as Rubens and van Dyck as well as a vast collection of European, American and Asian artworks. Adjacent to the art museum are the two circus museums that celebrate the history of the American circus with memorabilia and artifacts such as glamorous costumes, barn-size posters, performer highlights, vintage equipment and a circus in miniature. WHAT'S NEW Opening in spring 2011, the Golisano Children's Museum of Naples will be a facility that feeds the natural curiosity of children with hands-on, interactive exhibits (cmon.org). Dolphin Transportation Specialists Inc. have created the Historic Naples Trolley Tour that takes place aboard a classic old-style trolley (dolphinnaples.com). Narrated tours paint a vivid picture of Naples then and now. The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel Island has opened a stateof-the-art, interactive education center (crowclinic.org). The facility provides medical care for more than 4,000 sick and injured animals every year. It also features hands-on exhibits designed to immerse visitors in the world of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 89 SOUTHWEST FLORIDA BILLIE SWAMP SAFARI � VISIT FLORIDA� SARASOTA OPERA HOUSE � SARASOTA OPERA ering. Pick them up directly off Sanibel beaches or visit the island's Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, one of the world's largest storehouses of shells and mollusks (shellmuseum.org). FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS From two Ritz-Carlton properties in Naples and one in Sarasota (ritz-carlton.com) to scores of other hotels, destination resorts and cottages on the beach, families are welcomed by all. Occupying one-third of Captiva Island, South Seas Island Resort is one of the largest FUN FOR FAMILIES The Southwest Region offers a wealth of options for family fun. The Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs has lush botanical gardens, rare Florida panthers, exotic birds and a 1,000-lb alligator said to be the largest in the world (gulfcoastattractions.com /nature/wonder.cfm). The whole family can enjoy the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens where there are two attractions in one: a zoo featuring exotic 90 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA animals and reptiles and a tropical garden founded in 1919 (napleszoo.com). G.WIZ--The Imaginarium Aquarium Science Museum Museum in and Sarasota (gwiz.org) and the Fort Myers Hands-On (imaginariumfortmyers.com) with more than two miles of beach, 465 guest rooms, 19 swimming pools, a mini water park, nine holes of golf, a nature center, a sailing school, and boating and fishing excursions (southseas.com). both offer an exciting blend of mind-stimulating activities and exhibits. A highlight of the Imaginarium aquarium is a touch-tank that lets kids touch a variety of sea creatures. Sanibel Island is the place to go for shell gath- THE NATURE OF THINGS The Florida Everglades National Park is the most visited ecotourism destination in the state and a day trip there is a vacation highlight for adults and children alike. The park's Gulf Reconnect with sand, sea and self. There's still a part of Florida where you can have the beach all to yourself. Where your dream of an island getaway is realized in no less than Ten Thousand Islands. And the weight of the world slips away in a gentle breeze. Discover Florida's Last Paradisesm | www.ParadiseCoast.com/Deals | 1-800-2-escape | +1 239-225-1013 Book now and save with Florida's best getaway deals! All online at www.ParadiseCoast.com/Deals or shoot this tag with your smartphone. Get the free tag reader app at http://gettag.mobi. SOUTHWEST FLORIDA FAMILY FISHING � VISIT FLORIDA� These forays involve observing a variety of sea creatures including dolphins, sea horses, pufferfish and stone crabs while learning about the ecology of the marine environment. Adventures in Paradise near Sanibel Island offers similar marine science tours together with canoe and kayak ecotours (adventure inparadiseinc.com). Everglades National Park also conducts ecotours by boat, kayak and on foot (nps.gov/ever). SPA ESCAPES Coast Visitor Center is located at the lower end of the region in Everglades City. This is a launch point for hiking, birding, kayaking, narrated boat tours and canoe trips into this wondrous wetlands system that is home to wildlife such as the American alligator and the endangered Florida panther (nps.gov/ever). Other nature and wildlife venues include the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve at Naples (rookerybay.org), Sanibel Island's J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge (fws.gov/dingdarling) and Sarasota's Myakka River State Park (florida stateparks.org/myakkariver). Manatees can be viewed at Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium (mote.org) and Bradenton's South Florida Museum & Parker Manatee Aquarium (southfloridamuseum.org). sculpture and other art forms, the Naples Museum of Art has 15 galleries including glass masterpieces by world-renowned American glass artist, Dale Chihuly (thephil.org). Throw a dart at a map of the Southwest Region and it's guaranteed to land on or near a spa. The variety of treatments is endless and includes everything from hot stone massages to Balinese- and Thai-themed treatments. There are sports massages for golfers, revitalizing and wellness therapies and, of course, all the body-beautiful treatments such as manicures, pedicures and facials. SPORTS SCENE Major league baseball's Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays fill stadiums in Fort Myers and Port Charlotte during spring-training season (floridaspring training.com). Sport fishing has attracted visitors to Florida's Southwest Region for decades and today's recreational anglers continue to find it a fisherman's paradise. Deep-sea and inland fishing trips are widely available with companies such as Six Chuter Charters whose guides are experts at making sure vacationers go home with legitimate fish stories (sixchutercharters.com). There are even family-friendly charters offered by outfitters such as Everglades Family Fishing (ever gladesfamilyfishing.com). Golf aficionados can choose from well over 100 courses, ranging from trophy layouts designed by some of the big names in course architecture to pleasant municipal tracks. There are plenty of stay/play packages as well as packages that combine golf and spa. CALLING ALL SHOPAHOLICS The region's engaging mix of shopping options ranges from high-end stores to flea markets and everything in between. Famous for its posh shops, Sarasota's ultimate shopping venue is St. Armands Circle (starmandscircleassoc.com). Downtown Naples has two historic shopping streets, Fifth Avenue South (fifthavenuesouth.com) and Third Street South (third streetsouth.com). Here mostly one-of-akind shops sell a repertoire of goods from European antiques to fine art, designer fashions and custom jewelry. Naples Outlet Center has more than 40 discount shops selling name-brand goods (premium outlets.com) and, at the Naples waterfront, Tin City is a funky shopping venue housed in an old oyster-processing plant (tin-city.com). Shopping in an artist-colony environment is found at Bradenton's Village of the Arts (villageofthearts.com) and Sarasota's Towles Court Arts District (towlescourt.com). Fleamasters, a popular Fort Myers flea market billed as "Southwest Florida's No. 1 Tourist Stop," has more than 900 vendors (fleamall.com). HERITAGE AND CULTURE Tours of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates at Fort Myers pay homage to two of America's most influential inventors, Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford, who lived side-by-side for many winters (efwefla.org). In addition to his home, Edison's estate also includes his laboratory containing various inventions, plus a guest house where the inventor often hosted US presidents, wealthy industrialists and visionaries. Another legacy left by John Ringling is the Sarasota Opera House (sarasotaopera.org). This 1926 Mediterranean Revival-style building is on the National Register of Historic Places (nps.gov/nr) and its year-round productions feature some of the greatest operas ever written. Dedicated to displaying world-class art, 92 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA ECO ADVENTURE The region has numerous ecotourism options, some self-directed and others led by companies, such as Sarasota Bay Explorers (sarasotabayexplorers.com) who work in conjunction with Mote Marine Laboratory to provide interactive marine science trips. Dayton Beach ytona c o O a Orlando Avon Park Avon Park Sebring Sebring Fort P erce Fort Pierce Lake Placid Lake Placid Okeechobee Okeechobee Sewall's Point Se Stuart Stuart Jupiter Island Tequesta Jupiter Mo Moore Haven LaBelle LaBelle Clewiston Fort Lauderdale rd e West lm ch West Palm Beach e ch ate ate ater t Tamp Tam Tamp a S in Pete sburg et Port S Lucie Port Saint Lucie Saint Sa Saraso Palm Beach Gardens Riviera Beach Miami mi West Palm Beach South Bay Lake Worth Boynton Beach Lantana Boynton Beach L Greenacres Delray Beach Delray Beach Boca Raton Ke We HENDRY COUNTY TO NATURE BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN CRESTED CARACARA AT DINNER ISLAND RANCH BIKE RIDERS A Call Back CAPTAIN HENDRY HOUSE N comprised estled quietly in the middle of Laura and Belle, daughters of cattle baron and Civil War hero Captain Francis Asbury Hendry, was established. Farming followed then, in 1920, entrepreneurs developed what is now Clewiston. In the 1930s the Okeechobee Waterway was created and State Road 80 through Clewiston was born. Florida's lower half, between Fort Myers and Palm Beach, is Hendry of Big Cypress Seminole County (visithendrycounty.com), an area Reservation, Clewiston and LaBelle. Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River are at the heart of Hendry making it a prime location for nature-based activities. There's a rich history to Hendry County starting with the Calusa Indians, the first known settlers, who were quickly followed by Seminoles, cattlemen, hunters, trappers and traders. Settlements sprang up in the 1880s and LaBelle, the first river stop, named after 94 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA BIG CYPRESS SEMINOLE RESERVATION This area is proud to be the largest Native American reservation in Florida and is occupied by the largest concentration of unconquered Seminoles, a tribe that never signed a peace treaty with the USA. The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and Billie Swamp Safari are two prime examples of the richness and heritage the tribe preserves. AhTah-Thi-Ki highlights include a Living Village, a raised boardwalk through the cypress swamp, and various exhibitions and collections on display (ahtahthiki.com) while the Swamp Safari offers airboat rides through cypress domes, swamp buggy ecotours through the wetlands, and animal and reptile shows (swampsafari.com). The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (dep.state.fl.us/gwt), a 110-mile trail for hiking, horseback riding and biking, and the Great Florida Birding Trail (floridabirding trail.com) are perfect for adventurous types. The Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest (fl-dof.com/state_forests/okaloacoochee.html) is also located here. FISHING IN HENDRY COUNTY BIG "O" AIRBOAT TOUR line the horizon here. Sugarland Tours takes visitors through the fields (Clewiston.org) and a Sugar Festival is held in April. At the Devil's Garden Bird Park (devilsgardenbirdpark.com) several species of birds flock to the prairies, wetlands and oak hammocks and, in March, the Big "O" Birding Festival (bigobirding festival.com) takes place on the southwest shores of Lake Okeechobee. A Big "O" Airboat T through Lake Okeechobee highlights alliour gators, manatees, pelicans and other wildlife, which inhabit the Everglades (bigofishing.com /airboat.html). For some insight into the history and heritage of Hendry County, visit the Clewiston Museum for a look at how the area developed (clewistonmuseum.org). CLEWISTON A tranquil little town, Clewiston is home to SR 80, charmingly referred to as the "Sweet Route." Situated midway between the Atlantic and the Gulf, it's one of the fishing capitals of the world and the Roland & Mary Ann Martins Marina and Resort (rolandmartinmarina.com) has been the No. 1 Florida bass fishing location since 1981. Sugarcane fields and orange groves LABELLE Small-town charm surrounds LaBelle with attractions, which include the Captain Francis A. Hendry House and the LaBelle Heritage Museum. The Fort Denaud Swing Bridge attracts bikers, fishermen and boating enthusiasts and a visit to the Harold P. Curtis Honey Co. (curtishoney.hypermart.net) shows how the sweet stuff's made. The Barron Park & Historic District is where to find the LaBelle Nature Park project (labelle naturepark.net) and, every February, the Swamp Cabbage Festival and the Annual Ranch Rodeo are events popular with all ages (swampcabbagefestival.org). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 95 CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Racing, Rockets, BY SUSAN MACCALLUM-WHITCOMB BEACHES & MORE I n travel, just like in real estate, location matters and the Central East vacation region that extends 175 miles south from the Daytona Beach area to the Palm Beach County line is irrefutably prime landscape. It is also surprisingly diverse offering everything from high-gear holidays to family-oriented vacations, nature-based adventures and laidback, lazy days on sunbaked beaches. TAKING IT EASY It's no wonder this part of the Sunshine State tempts vacationers who long to simply park themselves on a beach and soak up the sun. Uninterrupted miles of white sand rim the Atlantic Ocean where long stretches are flanked by resort hotels, condos and nearby urban amenities, while others are edged only by grass-tufted dunes. Beyond the shoreline, on-the-water activities include fishing, sailing, kayaking and surfing on some of the eastern seaboard's best breaking waves. 96 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA DAYTONA NASCAR RACE � WALTER ARCE/DREAMSTIME Since humans aren't the only ones attracted to the waterfront, eco opportunities are also widely available. Visitors often witness bottlenose dolphins cavorting just offshore, and from April through October, sea turtles nest on area beaches. The region's sprawling Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge serves as a veritable showcase for critters such as alligators and endangered manatees (fws.gov/merrittisland). Moreover, due to this barrier island's strategic position on the Atlantic Flyway, hundreds of avian species flock there annually making it a hot spot for birdwatchers. family-friendly venue manages to package science and history with Disney-like pizzazz, creating virtual experiences that include taking a walk on the moon, driving across Mars, plus other exciting simulations related to outer space exploration. There are also opportunities to meet real live astronauts and tour the rocket launch area. GET REVVED UP North of the Space Coast (space-coast.com), Ormond Beach is deemed "The Birthplace of Speed" thanks largely to pioneer carmakers Henry Ford and Louis Chevrolet who staged the first automobile races there. Next-door neighbor Daytona Beach is synonymous with the Daytona International Speedway, a worldfamous venue that annually hosts NASCAR's most recognizable race--the Daytona 500 (daytonainternationalspeedway.com). There are also open-air tram tours of the track where the world's greatest race car drivers have competed. FLORIDA'S SPACE COAST Although they could not be more different, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge shares the island with one of Florida's top attractions: NASA's Kennedy Space Center (kennedyspacecenter.com). The aeronautical equipment displayed at its Visitor Complex (ranging from a Saturn V rocket to an Apollo command module) would alone be sufficient reason to visit. However, this SPACE SHUTTLE LIFTOFF FROM THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER � MIKE BROWN/DREAMSTIME MUST SEE, MUST DO Even in a state known for its stunning beaches, Canaveral National Seashore stands out. The pristine 24-mile preserve represents the longest undeveloped expanse on Florida's Atlantic coast (nps.gov/cana). Twelve miles south of Daytona Beach, the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is the tallest in Florida and among the oldest in the country (ponceinlet.org). Many of the more than 100,000 people who visit it each year climb the 203 steps to the top. The lighthouse went out of official service in 1970 and in 1998 it was named a National Historic Landmark. Its surrounding grounds feature nautical displays, a comprehensive museum and several 19th-century buildings including simple dwellings that once housed lighthouse keepers and their families. The Cocoa Beach Pier is a historical landmark and one of the most popular gathering spots on the Space Coast. Perched high above ocean waters, it is home to restaurants, bars, shops and live musical entertainment. Since 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 97 CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA part of the Museum of Arts & Sciences (a Smithsonian affiliate), which also houses a planetarium (moas.org). Cool pools, creative programs and other on-site perks make Disney's Vero Beach Resort (disneyworld.disney.go.com /resorts), the Wyndham Ocean Walk Resort in Daytona Beach (oceanwalk.com) and the Ron Jon Cape Caribe Resort near Cocoa Beach (ronjonresort.com) family attractions in their own right. THE SPORTS SCENE Speed Weeks are the region's signature sporting events. In 2011 the racing extravaganza at Daytona International Speedway begins with the Rolex 24-hour race in January and culminates with the renowned Daytona 500 in February (daytonainternational speedway.com). The Boys of Summer go to bat every spring when Major League Baseball teams arrive for pre-season training. March through early April, visitors can catch the Washington NEW YORK METS AT PORT ST. LUCIE � DEBBY WONG/SHUTTERSTOCK FLORIDA BEACH WALK � VISIT FLORIDA� Nationals at the Space Coast Stadium in Viera and the New York Mets at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie (floridagrape fruitleague.com). Visitors can sometimes get lucky and spot NBA superstar Vince Carter at his new restaurant in Daytona Beach just off LPGA Blvd. It's simply called Vince Carter's and features a main dining room, patio seating, sports grill, a VIP dining area called the Owner's Box, a wine/piano bar and several huge flat-screen televisions. 1962, the pier has been a magnet for celebrities, locals and visitors and it's also the epicenter of Floridian surf culture where there's no better vantage point for watching surfers catch the waves (cocoabeachpier.com). The Port St. Lucie PGA Village is among Florida's top golf destinations. Along with a trio of championship courses designed by Tom Fazio and Pete Dye, it boasts a PGA golf school and the PGA Historical Center museum where the prestigious Ryder Cup is on display (pgavillage.com/stlucie). For culture buffs, the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach (atlantic centerforthearts.org) and the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach (peabody auditorium.org) are among the region's top picks for the visual and performing arts respectively. ECO ADVENTURES The six-day Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival is held in Titusville in late January. It features field trips, seminars and ornithology workshops (spacecoastbirdingandwildlife festival.org). go eye-to-eye with giraffes, kayak near rhinos, hand-feed exotic birds and frolic in the zoo's themed playground (brevardzoo.org). The Charles and Linda Williams Manatees are high on every animalspotter's wish list. The Manatee Observation and Education Center (manateecenter.com) in Fort Pierce and Manatee viewing platform on Merritt Island (fws.gov/merrittisland) provide close-up looks at these gentle giants. FUN FOR FAMILIES: Melbourne's Brevard Zoo is dubbed "the small zoo that does big things." Here, kids can 98 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA Children's Museum in Daytona Beach has engaging, educational, hands-on displays. It's Adventure Kayaking Vero Beach, Florida Always an adventure! Adventure Kayaking is based in Vero Beach, a small coastal town with shorelines on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. Vero Beach truly is where the tropics begin and is perfectly located to take advantage of some of the best flat-water kayaking in the world, along the Indian River Lagoon home to dolphins, manatees and over 360 species of birds. The lagoon also boasts five national wildlife refuges, including the United Teaching and helping the rest of us experience and embrace the beauty and the fragility of our world sets them apart. They have spent hours on the water observing wildlife and continue their own education, all with the goal of giving their clients the best guided trip possible. Combined, Steve & Ronda have been in the kayaking business for 25 years. High quality touring kayaks are used. Tours usually consist of 2 to 12 people, but thanks to the number of guides and kayaks, groups of 40 can be comfortable accommodated. Your tour may be complimented by a wholesome and delicious meal. From morning paddles to multiday kayaking excursions, Adventure Kayaking has just the trip you are looking for. Though their expertise is paddling on the Indian River Lagoon, Adventure Kayaking provides year-round, full-service kayak tours throughout Florida and the Bahamas. Popular destinations outside of the Indian River Lagoon include the Everglades, Blue Cypress Lake, St Sebastian River, and Exumas, Bahamas cluded launch locations, opportunities for varied excursions exist. All of the Adventure Kayaking guides are more than just professional paddlers. They are naturalists who know these waters intimately. They love to share a peaceful paddle and their knowledge of these beautiful locations. For owners/guides Steve and Ronda Cox kayaking is their business, but it is also their passion. They pay attention to detail and have an amazing ability to be in synch 100 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA Inviting crystal clear waters of the Exumas, Bahamas. Dolphin are a common sighting at Round Island Park, Vero Beach FL. Kayak-sailing at sunset on the Indian River Lagoon, Vero Beach FL. Camping in the Exumas, Bahamas. Adventure Kayaking Experienced professionals, dedicated to giving you the best kayaking adventure in Florida or the Bahamas. 772 - 567 - 0522 www.PaddleFlorida.com 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 101 CENTRAL FLORIDA theme parks BY BARB AND RON KROLL More than D Kissimmee ubbed "the vacation capital of the world," there is plenty more to the Central Region than its popular Orlando theme parks. In fact, the cornucopia that exists includes beaches, golf courses, shops, museums, galleries, parks, nature reserves, family-friendly resorts and fishing. Greater Orlando alone, an area encompassing Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake Counties, boasts more than 100 attractions (visitorlando.com). Other venues such as (visitkissimmee.com), Polk County (visitcentralflorida.org) and the city of Ocala (ocalamarion.com) likewise boast a healthy inventory of surprises and attractions. HORSEBACK SAFARI - PINE FLATWOODS � FLORIDA ECOSAFARIS AT FOREVER FLORIDA CITY LIGHTS The theme-park city of Orlando has more than 5,000 restaurants including dinner theaters where entertainment includes everything from buccaneers (piratesdinneradventure.com) to horses (arabian-nights.com), comedy 102 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA (wonderworksonline.com/html), mystery (sleuths.com), jousting and tournaments gangsters (medievaltimes.com) SPECIAL EVENTS 2011 January 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards Winter Music Series (lakeridgewinery.com) Early February Venues across Central Florida ArtsFest 2011 (redchairproject.com) February 5�6 Mount Dora Mount Dora Arts Festival (mountdoracenterforthearts.org) February 18�20 Orlando Museum of Art 29th Annual Antiques Show & Sale (omart.org) March 3�13 Plant City Florida Strawberry Festival (flstrawberryfestival.com) March 5 Lake Wales Lake Wales Mardi Gras (lwmardigras.com) March 18�20 Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival (wpsaf.org) March 19 Downtown Kissimmee Kowtown Festival March 26 Silver River Museum, Ocala Silver River Knap-In and Stone Age Arts Festival (marion.k12.fl.us/district/srm) March 29�April 3 Lakeland SUN 'n FUN International Fly-In & Expo (sun-n-fun.org) May 19�30 Downtown Orlando Orlando International Fringe Festival (orlandofringe.org) February 18�20 and June 4�5 Osceola Heritage Park Silver Spurs Rodeo (silverspursrodeo.com) July 4 Downtown Orlando Fireworks at the Fountain (cityoforlando.net) September 1�30 Participating restaurants Orlando Magical Dining Month (orlandomagicaldining.com) Mid-October Valencia Community College Campus Viva Osceola November 5 Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales Sunset & Symphony (boktowergardens.org/calendar/ sunset-symphony) (alcapones.com). Around town there is also an abundance of lounges, martini bars, dance clubs, sports bars, comedy clubs, wine bars and even an icebar (icebarorlando.com) where its interior is an ice-carved, Arctic-style wonderland. In Kissimmee view classic car shows and cruises on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights in the community's Old Town section, a popular shopping, dining and entertainment complex (old-town.com). The Saturday Nite Cruise of hot rods and antique cars is the largest, weekly car cruise in the country. Kissimmee's Latin Trail of restaurants satisfies appetites for South American, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Spanish cuisines. Nighttime PARK PLAZA GARDENS RESTAURANT IN ORLANDO � VISIT FLORIDA� 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 103 CENTRAL FLORIDA COACH SAFARI - PINE FLATWOODS � FLORIDA ECOSAFARIS (universalorlando.com) and SeaWorld Orlando (seaworldorlando.com). Orlando's Official Visitor Center on International Drive provides free brochures, maps and travel advice. Free Orlando Magicards� offer discounts on accommodation, attractions, dining, nightlife, shopping, golf courses and transportation (visit orlando.com/magicard). Discount tickets for attractions, dinner shows and activities can also be ordered online in advance of a trip (orlandoticketsales.com/oi). HERITAGE & CULTURE The Orlando Museum of Art (omart.org) and the Orange County Regional History Center ZIP-LINE SAFARI � KISSIMMEE CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU (thehistorycenter.org) are highlights of Orlando's eight-mile cultural corridor. entertainment ranges from Auggie's Jammin' Piano Bar at the Gaylord Palms Resort (gaylordhotels.com) to Vintage Vino, a downtown wine, beer and cheese bar (vintage-vino.com). 104 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA MUST SEE, MUST DO No Central Florida visit is complete without experiencing one or more of Orlando's major theme parks: Walt Disney World (disney world.com), Universal Orlando � There is also the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre featuring Broadway shows (broadwayacrossamerica.com/orlando) and international orchestras perform at the Festival of Orchestras in Longwood Resort CENTRAL FLORIDA (festivaloforchestras.org). The Orlando Repertory Theatre specializes in children's performances (orlandorep.com) and the Orlando Philharmonic and Orchestra Ballet (orlandophil.org) young audiences. At Kissimmee's Pioneer Village & Museum, visitors can explore early American homestead life as it was in the late 1800s. Exhibits include an authentic general store, schoolhouse and blacksmith shop (osceolahistory.org). In Lakeland (lakeland chamber.com), the Polk Museum of Art (polkmuseumofart.org) features a sculpture garden and a substantial collection of contemporary, African, American, Asian, European and pre-Columbian art. Ocala Civic Theatre, the second largest theater in Florida, hosts musicals and dramas (ocalacivictheatre.com) while the city's Appleton Museum of Art (appletonmuseum.org) is one of the premier repositories of fine art in the southern states. Polk County, Fantasy of Flight offers aerial displays, hang-glider simulators, biplane rides and tours of the world's largest private collection of aircraft (fantasyofflight.com). (infinitemassage.com) spa services. provides mobile Orlando POOLS AT WALDORF ASTORIA ORLANDO � WALDORF ASTORIA ORLANDO (orlandoballet.org) also have programs for WHAT'S NEW WonderWorks Orlando, a 12-seat 4-D theater, features an extreme-motion ride, a sister attraction to the city's only indoor-ropes course. The big challenge on this three-storey rope-climbing adventure is navigating a variety of obstacles (wonderworksonline.com/html). A new wing at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is expected to be completed by winter 2011 and will feature 11 galleries and 250 objects from the Long Island Estate of Louis Comfort Tiffany (morse museum.org). The museum is already a premier repository for priceless stained-glass Tiffany works as well as other fine art. The Amway Center, a new state-of-the-art concert and special events venue in downtown Orlando, will be home for Orlando Magic basketball, Orlando Predators football and Orlando Titans lacrosse matches (amway center.com). It will also host a variety of bigname performers in the music field. At the Kissimmee Air Museum, Warbird Adventures now offers helicopter flights over Central Florida plus introductory flying lessons (warbirdadventures.com). CALLING ALL SHOPAHOLICS Shop 'til you drop at the Florida Mall (simon.com), Central Florida's largest shopping mall in Orlando, which houses more than 260 shops and restaurants. The Mall at Millenia (mallatmillenia.com) is the place to go for high-end brands such as Cartier, Gucci and Chanel as well as upmarket goods at Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus. The city also has several outlet centers offering discounted prices on designer clothing, shoes and luggage (premiumoutlets.com /orlando; lbvfs.com). FUN FOR FAMILIES Central Florida attractions cover a variety of interests: zip-line safaris (florida ecosafaris.com), miniature golf (hawaiian rumbleorlando.com) and swimming with dolphins and snorkeling with manatees (floridadolphintours.com). At the Orlando Science Center, youngsters can observe stars and examine fossilized dinosaur eggs (osc.org). In Orlando's WonderWorks, hands-on simulators allow children to engineer space shuttle landings and experience at least a hundred other interactive activities (wonderworksonline.com). Families can play cowboy on trail rides near Ocala at Double K Stables (double-k-stables.com) and Makin' Tracks Trail Rides (guidedtrailrides.webs.com). There's also plenty of western fun and adventure at the Westgate River Ranch Resort near Lake Wales (wgriverranch.com). Hot-air ballooning is a popular aerial adventure offered by Orlando Balloon Rides (orlandoballoonrides.com) and Magic Sunrise Ballooning (magicsunriseballooning.com). In 106 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA SPA ESCAPES Orlando's 19 destination spas include The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Orlando, with 40 treatment rooms and a fitness center (ritzcarlton.com /orlando) and The Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain (waldorfastoriaorlando.com/spa andfitness/spa). The Spa at Orlando World Center Marriott Resort has packages for couples (marriottworldcenter.com) and chocolate body scrubs are featured at L'Esprit Day Spa at the DoubleTree Resort Orlando (lespritspa.com). Relax with a facial at The Spa at Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa (buenavistapalace.com). Infinite Massage FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS With 115,000 guest rooms, Orlando has everything from budget lodgings to condos and luxury resorts. Many family resorts offer free shuttles to theme parks, including the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort Lake Buena Vista where kids eat free and there are a variety of suites designed specifically for youngsters (hisunspreelbv.com). Other Orlando resorts are theme parks unto themselves. Nickelodeon Suites Resort has two water parks, live Nickelodeon performances, character breakfasts and a new 4-D theater show (nickhotel.com/ovg). In Kissimmee, Holiday Inn Main Gate East has kids' suites, kids-eat-free dining, as well as a children's theater, pool and playground (holidayinnmge.com). ECOTOURISM Several companies offer guided airboat, swamp-buggy and pontoon boat tours to view alligators, birds and wildlife in Central Florida's wetlands (airboatrides.com; and the bcairboats.com; captfreds.com; alligator coveairboatnaturetours.com) Kissimmee River and Dead River swamps (mildtowildairboattours.com). The tours also include sightings of ospreys, egrets and roseate spoonbills and, because Kissimmee is a reintroduction site for endangered whooping cranes, there's a high chance of spotting North America's tallest flying birds. The largest population of nesting bald eagles in the continental USA is in Osceola County. With its weekend elephant encounters, insect zoo and aerial adventure course, Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is a full-day outing (centralfloridazoo.org). Beautiful gardens plus a nature preserve and a 60-bell carillon draw visitors to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. Time visits to coincide with daily carillon concerts (boktowergardens.org). SPORTS SCENE Families can cycle the West Orange Trail, Orlando's longest paved trail (orlando bikerental.com); amateur and advanced skateboarders can hit the courses at Vans Skatepark (vans.com); and tennis buffs can choose from among 800 city courts. The Central Region also has golf galore. Named the North American Golf Destination of the Year 2010, Orlando alone has more than a hundred golf courses, including world-class venues such as Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club (bayhill.com) and Grand Cypress Golf Club (grand cypress.com). Great golf is also available in Kissimmee, Polk County and Ocala. See NBA basketball in Orlando from October to April (orlandomagic.com), with Detroit Tigers spring training in Lakeland (floridaspringtraining.com/tigers.html) and Houston Astros spring training in February and March at Osceola County Stadium (houstonastros.com). THE GREAT OUTDOORS Polk County, the Bass Capital of the World, has 554 lakes with numerous fish camps and fishing guides (visitcentralflorida.org /do/outdoors/fishing). In addition to fishing, Polk County's Lake Kissimmee State Park offers hiking, equestrian trails, canoeing and camping (floridastateparks.org /lakekissimmee). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 107 UNIVERSAL ORLANDO� RESORT HOGSMEADE � UNIVERSAL ORLANDO� RESORT ENCHANTMENT BY KRISTEN MANIERI coasters and up-close encounters with some of the most beloved characters from television, film and pop culture. Like stepping onto a working movie set, Universal Studios Florida oohs and aahs with rides and experiences designed to immerse guests in their favorite movies and shows such as The Simpsons Ride, which zooms visitors on a madcap journey through Krustyland. Characters like Shrek, Beetlejuice, Jaws, and even Barney come to life through a mix of live action and interactive rides and shows that delight and enchant people of all ages. A World of ot one but two excellent theme � N BUTTERBEER � UNIVERSAL ORLANDO� RESORT climb into Harry's enchanted existence joining thousands of other Muggles keen to experience the long-awaited embodiment of their favorite fictional characters and places. The 20-acre sorcerous space features Hogsmeade's cobblestone streets where frosty mugs of Butterbeer pour by the gallons from the medieval keg flanked by shops and a restaurant peeled right from Potter's pages. Hogwarts Castle towers over the snow-capped roofs beckoning visitors to the attraction's main draw, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. While the site features two roller coasters (Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge), Forbidden Journey is what's really turning heads. This knock-your-socks-off attraction featuring robotic technology and flight simulation uses groundbreaking move- parks at Universal Orlando Resort are packed with pulse-pounding AMAZING ADVENTURES Next door, Universal's Islands of Adventure is a thrill-seeker's paradise thanks to more than a dozen high-speed, high-adrenaline attractions, some paying homage to comic books' infamous super heroes. Even the younger set gets its share of exploits at Seuss Landing, where whimsical tales like The Cat in the Hat leap from the pages. 108 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA Ground-breaking attractions like the hightech 3-D thrill ride The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and the super fast Incredible Hulk Coaster have recently begun to share the stage with popular newcomer The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Unveiled in June 2010, this incredible attraction lets fans finally ment and visual tools to take riders on a free-flight frenzy speeding inside and outside Hogwarts alongside Harry Potter himself. AFTER DARK After a day at these two incredible theme parks, folks who can scrounge up some more energy to tackle Universal's nightlife scene won't regret a single minute. Packed with bars, clubs and lounges, Universal CityWalk is also home to the world-famous Blue Man Group, the zany troop of tricksters who perform nightly in the Sharp AQUOS Theatre. Next door, internationally renowned rock stars regularly take the stage at Hard Rock Live, the concert venue located within the world's largest Hard Rock Caf�. There's no telling what sort of night visitors will end up having thanks to a seemingly endless array of entertainment venues. Check RED COCONUT CLUB � UNIVERSAL ORLANDO� RESORT LOEWS ROYAL PACIFIC RESORT � UNIVERSAL ORLANDO� RESORT rants continues inside Universal's hotels. At the Hard Rock Hotel, diners can choose from laid-back comfort food at The Kitchen or opt for the upscale steakhouse known as The Palm. Bice Ristorante and Mama Della's Ristorante, both at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, take guests on a culinary journey through Italy. At CityWalk, even more choices abound. Ten themed restaurants guarantee there will be something for everyone from sports fans out a live dueling piano show at Pat O'Brien's, hit the dance floor at Red Coconut Club, or karaoke with a live band as backup at CityWalk's Rising Star. One thing for sure, the night will be unforgettable. Lively, bright and colorful, CityWalk lights up like a Vegas strip at night and radiates with an energy that will race through your veins like caffeine. A throwback from the Italian Riviera, the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel exudes Mediterranean luxury thanks to features like the harbor-side piazza where opera singers serenade from the marble balconies every night at sunset. This elegant locale is home to three pools, eight restaurants and the world-class Mandara Spa. Finally, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort embodies island hospitality at this gargantuan 1,000-room refuge boasting a stunning lagoon-style pool with a children's water play area. World-famous dining experiences include the resort's fabulous evening luaus and unforgettable Pan-Asian cuisine at Emeril Lagasse's Tchoup Chop. to reggae lovers. Take in the Forrest Gump memorabilia at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., lazily sip a cocktail and tackle a sky-high plate of nachos at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, or devour a dozen Bloody Mary chicken wings at Pat O'Brien's. At every turn, delicious food in the coolest locales are plentiful. Of course, don't forget about opportunities to dine with favorite characters. Characters breakfasts give guests the chance to have a memorable meal with the likes of Scooby Doo or Things 1 and 2. Afterwards, wander through CityWalk's shops where an eclectic variety of merchandise from Billabong board shorts to stuffed gorillas awaits. And if VIP treatment is preferred, be sure to book a Universal VIP tour. On this guided walking tour, visitors will be personally escorted through one or both parks and given priority ride access plus insider information only VIPs get to know. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 109 SPECTACULAR ACCOMMODATION Universal Orlando's on-site hotels are truly some of the most spectacular and distinctive in the area. Far from a mere place to rest and relax, these palatial resorts are attractions unto themselves boasting legendary spas, pools and restaurants. Rock aficionados flock to the Hard Rock Hotel for a music-themed stay complete with a 12,000-square-foot pool with an underwater sound system, sandy beach and regular "dive-in" poolside movies. ECLECTIC EATERIES AND SHOPS From classy Italian bistros to casual rock 'n' roll eateries, the list of unforgettable restau- dream big � Spacious, two-bedroom, two-bath villas with full kitchens, screened porches and whirlpool baths � An indoor/outdoor pool, including the spectacular new Bluegreen Wakoola Springs 75,000 sq-ft interactive pool area with water slides and cabanas � Fitness Room/Game Room/BBQ grills � On-site food and beverage � Daily planned activities � Minutes to all the attractions including Disney World,� Universal Studios,� and SeaWorld� � Convenient International Drive location in Orlando Call 800.456.0009 or visit bluegreenrentals.com Agency commissions paid promptly The Fountains | 12400 S. International Drive | Orlando, Florida 32821 �2010 Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited. All rights reserved. Bluegreen and the Bluegreen logo are registered trademarks of Bluegreen Corporation and are used under license. All other trademarks/service marks remain the property of their respective owners. RNT.12.10.82 12/10 CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA Enjoy, Explore, TAMPA BAY RAYS � VISIT FLORIDA� DISCOVER BY FRED. W. WRIGHT JR. West Region. Check off endless sunshine and some of the best beaches in the country. Also check off stimulating nightlife, museums, historical sites, family-friendly attractions and superior dining. Likewise, check off vibrant cities, excellent fishing, spectator sports, great golf and unlimited fun on the water. Combined, these items spell the perfect getaway. At the heart of the region that stretches along the Gulf of Mexico's West Coast, about 85 miles west of Orlando, is Tampa Bay, a large body of water whose area cities are Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Together, this tricity group has it all in terms of things to see and do, however, smaller communities such as Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, Crystal River and Zephyrhills also have attractions and characteristics entirely worthy of exploration. 112 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA E ndowed with an outstanding inventory of assets, there is no vacation wish list that can't be fulfilled by Florida's Central MUST SEE, MUST DO Eight miles northeast of downtown Tampa, Busch Gardens, the combination amusement park and zoo, covers 335 acres and features animals from around the world together with some of the most gravity-defying roller-coaster rides in the country (buschgardens.com). A not-to-be-missed feature at the zoo is a pair of rare white Bengal tigers. Adventure Island Water Park, a Busch Gardens sister park, has 30 acres of water-soaked excitement including corkscrew water slides, a giant wave pool, a rambling river for tubing and a splash-attack fun zone (adventureisland.com). YBOR SQUARE � VISIT FLORIDA� HERITAGE AND CULTURE Ybor City, a small Tampa neighborhood situated northeast of downtown, is the nucleus of the city's ethnic roots (ybor.org). Founded in the 1880s by a group of cigar manufacturers and originally populated by Cuban, Spanish and Italian immigrants who worked in the cigar factories, it gained a reputation as the "Cigar Capital of the World." The community's fascinating history is detailed at the Ybor City Museum (ybormuseum.org). Other cultural venues include the cities of Dunedin and Tarpon Springs. Just north of Clearwater, Dunedin steadfastly preserves its Scottish roots that date back to the 1850s (dunedingov.com). The sound of bagpipes can often be heard throughout the city whose name is derived from D�n �ideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Once every year clansmen from far and wide arrive for Dunedin's Highland Games featuring Scottish dancing, caber tossing and bagpipe competitions (dunedinhighlandgames.com). The 2011 Games will be held on April 9 following a Military Tattoo on April 2. North of Dunedin, Tarpon Springs has a spongefishing industry that began in the late 1800s (visitstpeteclearwater.com). Today, the waterfront remains much as it was a hundred years ago and the tradition of sponge harvesting still carries on. Several buildings and the town's Historic District are on the National Register of CLEARWATER'S PIER � VISIT FLORIDA� Historic Places. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 113 CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA ST. PETERSBURG PIER � VISIT FLORIDA� CITY LIGHTS Nightlife in the tricity area is both abundant and eclectic. Hundreds of venues offer everything from comedy clubs to chic martini bars and everything in between. There are scores of sports bars, friendly pubs, dance clubs and dinner cruises on Tampa Bay. Sunsets at Pier 60 Festival is a nightly celebration that takes place at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach (sunsetsat pier60.com). Popular with adults and children alike, it features glass-blowers, face painters, buskers, artisans and plenty of food concessions. Smaller communities also have a lot of nighttime entertainment. Scottish-influenced Dunedin, for example, is a fun-filled place to do a pub-crawl, enjoy a pint and play a game of darts. The waterfront community of Gulfport has beach bars, rooftop restaurants and a dance hall that dates back to the 1930s (mygulfport.us). DOWNTOWN TAMPA � VISIT FLORIDA� FUN FOR FAMILIES One of the highlight attractions at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the world's only bionic dolphin. Winter is a baby bottlenose dolphin that lost her tail in a crab trap. She was rescued and fitted with a prosthetic tail, to which she has completely adapted (cmaquarium.org). At Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry, there are dozens of interactive learning exhibits and an IMAX theater (mosi.org). Not far from the museum, the Lowry Park Zoo has more than 1,700 animals including everything from koalas to elephants, tigers, leopards and rhinos (lowry parkzoo.com). Another Tampa attraction is The Florida Aquarium (flaquarium.org), ranked among the top 10 in the country. Here, hours of amusement can be spent viewing exotic fish, sea horses, manta rays, sharks, turtles, sea otters and a Goliath grouper weighing more than 300 lb. Always popular with families are the region's oodles of beautiful beaches including more than seven miles of impeccable sand beach at Fort De Soto National Park. Made up of five offshore keys, the park also has a fishing pier and an ancient fortress built during the SpanishAmerican War (pinellascounty.org/park). 114 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA PROFESSIONAL SPORTS The Tampa Bay area is a prime venue for professional sports that include the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers (buccaneers.com) and the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning (http://lightning .nhl.com). The Buccaneers play in Raymond James Stadium along with the University of South Florida Bulls, a rising NCAA football team. The Lightning team plays at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team (raysbase ball.com) plays home games at the domed Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. RECOMMENDED DRIVES Head north up Gulf Boulevard from the tip of St. Pete Beach for more than 25 miles past a succession of some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida: Madeira, Redington, Indian Rocks, Belleair, Sand Key and Treasure Island. Dunedin and Largo and certain sections provide stunning views of the Gulf Coast. For a nature-based outing, hike the Brooker Creek Preserve (brookercreek preserve.org). Located just east of Tarpon Springs, the preserve has 8,700 acres of swamps and forest and a first-rate education center. Weedon Island Preserve has miles of mangrove-lined waterways ideal for canoeing where paddlers can choose from two wellmarked trails within the 3,700-acre preserve (weedonislandpreserve.org). WHAT'S NEW The Dal� Museum in St. Petersburg moved to a new and larger home in January 2011 to house the world's most comprehensive collection of works outside of Spain by famous WATERFOWL ISLAND/HOMOSASSA SPRINGS WILDLIFE STATE PARK � MICHAEL WOOD/DREAMSTIME DINING Hundreds of restaurants offer fish caught the same day, however, there is much more to the region's dining options than seafood. There is every ethnic cuisine imaginable and for red meat lovers there is no shortage of good oldfashioned mouth-watering steak. Bern's Steak House in Tampa, for instance, is renowned not only for prime aged steak but also for the largest wine cellar of any restaurant in the world: 90,000 bottles in its cellar and another half million in nearby warehouses CALLING ALL SHOPAHOLICS Shopping in the tricity area is the epitome of diversity. Luxury goods and high-end retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Tiffany & Co. are found at the International Plaza and Bay Street (shopinternationalplaza.com). For casual shopping mixed with fun and entertainment head to John's Pass Village & Boardwalk at Madeira Beach where there are more than 100 interesting shops selling everything from souvenirs to T-shirts, shell goods and one-of-a-kind treasures (johnspass.com). BayWalk shopping and entertainment complex in St. Petersburg has a variety of shops and a 20-screen Muvico Theater (newbaywalk.com). St. Petersburg shopping also includes The Pier, a 1970s-era landmark featuring a collection of casual shops and restaurants as well as an aquarium (stpetepier.com). Cigar aficionados head to the Tampa Sweethearts Cigar Company in Ybor City, a family-owned operation that dates back to 1912 (tampasweetheart.com). Here, Arturo Fuente Jr. sells his famous Dominican handrolled cigars. 116 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA Spanish surrealist, Salvador Dal� (thedali.org). In addition to special exhibits, the museum's permanent collection includes 97 oil paintings, 100 watercolors and 1,300 graphics, photographs, sculptures and objets d'art. The Chihuly Collection opened in July 2010 at 400 Beach Drive on St. Petersburg's waterfront (chihulycollectionstpete.com). It features the glass sculptures of worldrenowned glass artist, Dale Chihuly, whose creations have been exhibited around the globe. Also on site is a must-see Glass Studio & Hot Shop where visitors can observe artists creating magnificent glass pieces. (bernssteakhouse.com). With locations in Ybor City, St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach, the Columbia Restaurant is among the oldest family-owned restaurants in the country. The Gonzmart family has offered the same rare and authentic mix of Spanish and Cuban cuisine since 1905 (columbiarestaurant.com). FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS The Central West Region has numerous properties that put out the welcome mat for families. Among them, The Don CeSar Beach Resort offers poolside Kidbanas and recreation programs tailored to children. St. Pete Beach's only four-diamond beachfront hotel operates on the philosophy that the family that plays together stays together (loewshotels.com). The new Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach features a children's program called Camp Ridley, which offers everything from fun activities to games, crafts, scavenger hunts and even a Kids Night Out that includes pizza and a movie (sandpearlresort.com). THE GREAT OUTDOORS The Central West Region has endless opportunities for outdoor activities both on land and on water. Among them, the Pinellas Trail is one of the best biking trails in the area (pinellascounty.org/trailgd). Extending for 37 miles from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg along an abandoned railroad line, the route passes through the charming communities of 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 117 118 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 119 HYATT REGENCY CLEARWATER BEACH RESORT AND SPA ECO-CONSCIOUS PROPERTY BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN VIEW FROM PRIVATE SUITE PATIO � HYATT REGENCY CLEARWATER BEACH RESORT TWO-BEDROOM SUITE � HYATT REGENCY CLEARWATER BEACH RESORT A Four-Diamond T he allure and elegance of the Hyatt bathtub, a large living area, a dining table for four and granite countertops and updated stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. DINING There definitely are many restaurants in Clearwater however dining on site is just as enticing. The Shor American Seafood Grill specializes in local seafood and features a dramatic show kitchen as its centerpiece. Menu specialties include pan-seared black grouper, surf and turf with filet mignon and Maine lobster, and seafood pasta with clams, mussels and prawns. Mahi mahi, tuna and swordfish are some of the fish selections. The Swim Bar and Grill provides a more casual atmosphere poolside. Regency name is something avid travelers seek when choosing accom- modation and the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa in Florida is no exception, having recently been honored with both AAA Four Diamond and Three Green Key status. The latter was in honor of their Green Key Eco-Rating Program. Exemplary service, luxurious surroundings and attention to detail earned the resort the AAA rating while the Green Key was awarded for creating opportunities to reduce environmental impacts and operating costs through reduced utility consumption, employee training and supply chain management. REST AND RELAXATION Unwinding and decompressing are integral to any vacation and the perfect way to achieve this is with a visit to the spa. Encompassing an area of 7,000 square feet, the Hyatt's Sandava Spa is the answer to any guest's prayer for tranquility. The relaxation room, with its soothing water wall and floor-to-ceiling view of the Intracoastal Waterway, sets the mood. This is where guests await entry into one of eight private luxury spa treatment suites. A wealth of treatment options includes the Endless Wave Massage, Clearwater Beach Wrap and Rejuvenating Citrus Peel. Only environmentally friendly and organic products--such as pure sea algae oil for massages, a marine-infused wrap and lines like Eco-Envy, Osea and YumYum--are used. Healthy treats like freshsqueezed juices, nuts and fruits are served throughout the day and a 24-hour fitness center awaits those seeking a good workout. ACTIVITIES AND NEARBY ATTRACTIONS The name Clearwater didn't happen by chance. The area was named for its abundant fresh springs. Derived from the Native Indian term, Pocotopaug, which means "Clear Water," the beaches around here are stellar and often the main attraction. Three miles of beach run past the Hyatt to where the popular entertainment venue Pier 60 is found. Nearby family attractions include Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Historic Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks and the Salvador Dal� Museum in St. Petersburg. ACCOMMODATION Featuring an inviting West Indies style, the Hyatt houses 250 guestroom suites, each equipped with comfortable Hyatt Grand Beds, 42-inch flat-screen televisions, full kitchens, private balconies and rooftop terraces overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Premium guest quarters feature double vanities, a separate 120 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA experience the new hyatt regency clearwater beach resort & spa. Steps away from the powder white sands of Clearwater Beach, a brand new resort is bringing world-class style and amenities to the west coast of Florida. All guestrooms are suites with fully equipped kitchens featuring granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, private balconies and Gulf of Mexico views. The hotel also offers Sandava Spa, Shor American Seafood Grill, Camp Hyatt, Hyatt StayFitTM Gym, 20 air-conditioned Pool Cabanas and indoor & outdoor meeting space perfect for any business gathering or special event. For reservations, call 727 373 1234 or visit clearwaterbeach.hyatt.com. Hyatt. You're More Than Welcome. 727 373 1234 CLEARWATERBEACH.HYATT.COM HYATT name, design and related marks are trademarks of Hyatt Corporation. �2011 Hyatt Corporation. All rights reserved. NORTHEAST FLORIDA PLAYGROUND BY CHELLE KOSTER WALTON A "Got Everything" B ig-shouldered Jacksonville, Florida's most populated metropolis, throbs at the heart of Northeast Florida. The region's historic towns, important ports, and Atlantic Ocean beaches radiate out from the city that thrives equally on commerce, culture and tourism. The city of St. Augustine, together with Amelia Island and the beaches of Jacksonville (Mayport, Atlantic, Neptune, Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra), are the main centers of tourism. Amelia Island stretches north to the Georgia border and is home to a variety of resorts and the charming Victorian town of Fernandina Beach. South of Amelia Island, the coastal shrimping and shipping town of Mayport segues into a stretch of vacation land from Atlantic Beach to Flagler Beach. Atlantic Beach and Ponte Vedra Beach bookend the more frivolous, playful beaches of Neptune and Jacksonville. South of Ponte Vedra, St. Augustine gives credibility to the region's nickname, The First Coast, with its colonial pedigree and well-preserved architecture. 122 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA JACKSONVILLE WATERFRONT PANORAMA � JON ZANDER/WIKIMEDIA HERITAGE AND CULTURE The Northeast region's enviable shoreline and deepwater ports created an early military heritage with forts reinforcing the stretch from Fort Clinch State Park (florida stateparks.org/fortclinch) on Amelia Island to St. Augustine's mammoth Castillo de San Marcos (nps.gov/casa) together with southlying Fort Matanzas (nps.gov/foma). Fascinating tours of these fortresses are offered daily. At Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Maritime Museum chronicles the region's naval history (jaxmaritimemuseum.org). The railroad was an important driving force behind The First Coast's development and St. Augustine reveres a man named Henry Flagler, who not only brought the railroad to town, but also spearheaded the construction of several beautiful hotels and churches. One former hotel now houses the Lightner Museum (lightnermuseum.org) where its varied accumulation of artifacts includes a remarkable collection of Tiffany glass and Gilded Age treasures. The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens (cummer.org) in Jacksonville's historic district and its downtown Museum of Contemporary Art (mocajacksonville.org) assure the town its place among Florida's cultural destinations. Other assets include Theatre Jacksonville (theatrejax.com) and an abundance of dining options that help conFLAGLER COLLEGE/ST. AUGUSTINE� GOOGLE IMAGES tribute to the city's lively nightlife and arts scene. Next along the continuum, Marineland got its name from the first-ever aquarium attraction that opened there in 1938 and continues to operate to this day. Quiet Palm Coast and Flagler Beach remain Northeast Florida's best-kept secrets. Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum, Florida's Oldest House, Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in America, Old Jail and Old St. Augustine Village (getaway4florida.com/history). CALLING ALL SHOPAHOLICS St. Augustine's historic district is an anti-franchise shopping experience. At the Lightner Museum an antique mall occupies what used to be the circa 1889 Alcazar Hotel's indoor swimming pool, the world's largest at the time. San Marco Avenue at the edge of the colonial district has the largest concentration of antique shops. Some 30 art galleries and studios sell everything from blown-glass items and handthrown pottery to Old Masters paintings, fine contemporary pieces, Latin American graphics and the work of well-respected local artists. For the latest in new goods at discounted prices, St. Augustine's western perimeter is 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 123 RECOMMENDED DRIVES One of America's most treasured drives, seaside Highway A1A is at its most gorgeous along The First Coast. Highlights include the drive south of Amelia Island through Little Talbot Island State Park (florida stateparks.org/littletalbotisland), followed by the Mayport car ferry ride that crosses the St. Johns River and the seven-mile section along Flagler Beach called the Ocean Shore Scenic Highway. MUST SEE, MUST DO Founded in 1565 by the Spanish, St. Augustine's famous Old City is a not-to-bemissed attraction. Here, in the historic district of the nation's oldest city, cobblestone streets are lined with centuries-old buildings interspersed with quaint caf�s, restaurants and shops. Costumed interpreters stroll the avenues bringing history to life in such buildings as the NORTHEAST FLORIDA home to more than 150 outlet stores offering everything from fashions to household products, jewelry, cosmetics, sports equipment and more. FUN FOR FAMILIES Ninety-some miles of First Coast beaches provide days of fun for vacationing families, together with the popular Adventure Landing water park (adventurelanding.com) on Jacksonville Beach and interactive dolphin programs at Marineland (marineland.net). Even off the beach, Jacksonville drums up the family factor with its Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (jacksonvillezoo.org), interactive Kids on Kampus Museum educational of Science park & and playground (904-630-KIDS), and handsHistory NFL JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS � GOOGLE IMAGES (themosh.org). FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS Amelia Island Plantation--one of Florida's first kid-friendly resorts--defines family vacationing in the Northeast (aipfl.com). In addition to programs for every age group, including tough-to-please teens, it offers both junior tennis and golf clinics and camps, and will even teach children how to ride a bike. Amelia Island Plantation pleasures adults with its holistic spa while the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island incorporates the ultimate icon FORT CLINCH � KATHERINE WELLES/DREAMSTIME of seaside relaxation into its zero-gravity hammock treatment (ritzcarlton.com). At kayaking and swimming. The Atlantic coastline is known for thrilling surfing, especially during the winter, and would-be windsurfers can take lessons in the waters at St. Augustine's Anastasia State Park (floridastateparks.org/anastasia). Kiteboarding and stand-up paddling are the latest extreme sports to hit the area, plus Amelia Island is one of the few places in Florida that offers horseback riding in the surf. For the ultimate rush, Adrenaline Alligator Adventures offers visitors the chance to spend a day with one of its licensed trappers capturing nuisance gators alligators.com). (adrenaline One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa at Atlantic Beach, the Seashell Massage is its signature treatment (oneoceanresort.com). SPORTS SCENE The golf resorts of Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Augustine's World Golf Village nail the region's reputation for the woods-and-irons set (florida-golf.org). Football fans can get their fix in Jacksonville, home to the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars (jaguars.com). The city also hosts the Gator Bowl, the annual college football playoff (gatorbowl.com). ECOTOURISM Right whales, manatees, pink roseate spoonbills and loggerhead sea turtles are just some of the wildlife visitors can see in the region. Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is a prime site for spotting whales during the winter months and viewing roped-off turtle nests in summer (floridastateparks.org /washingtonoaks). Kayaking the salt marshes of Amelia Island provides eye-level sightings of a variety of sea birds. THE GREAT OUTDOORS Much of Northeast Florida's outdoor sports scene relates to recreation on, in or near the water. Throughout the region, there are ample opportunities for fishing, boating, 124 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA THE OLD FLORIDA STATE CAPITOL/TALLAHASSEE � STEVEN FRAME/SHUTTERSTOCK Second NATURE BY JANET GROENE T he clock stopped in much of north Florida about 50 years ago, which makes the North Central Region a perfect vaca- tion venue for the unhurried visitor who loves nature and prefers life at a snail's pace. A day's drive north from Miami, pine forests, bubbling springs and scores of rivers distinguish the area from much of the rest of Florida. Songwriter Stephen Foster never saw the region's Suwannee River, yet he made it famous with his unforgettable Old Folks at Home melody. Today, the Suwannee and a network of other rivers are among the state's top places to canoe, kayak and fish. Early settlers in the region arrived by steamboat until a highway and a railroad were built replacing what had previously been an ancient trading route. Fortunes were made in tobacco, railroading and lumber. Grand mansions were built in communities such as Monticello, Quincy, Live Oak and Madison. Wealthy northerners came to "take the waters" at White Springs while Havana thrived as a leading tobacco auction 126 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA town. Fortunes changed, however, when a new interstate highway bypassed the communities and passenger trains stopped serving them. Today, many of these small charming towns welcome visitors to delightful B&Bs, antique stores, down-home cooking and southern hospitality. Sophisticated restaurants, resorts and nightlife are virtually unknown outside of the region's major cities. Tallahassee, the state capital and western bookend of the region, provides hotels, dining, shopping and entertainment. Gainesville is a college town with youthful pizzazz and highbrow polish. Overall, the North Central Region is largely rural, sparsely populated and its greatest assets are exceptional natural blessings that make the area popular for biking, fishing, birdwatching, hiking, camping, kayaking and canoeing. Cave diving in the freshwater springs of the Suwannee River attracts expert scuba spelunkers from around the world. TRI-COLORED HERON WITH EGGS � LORI SHELTON/SHUTTERSTOCK MUST SEE, MUST DO Established in 1633 by Spanish Franciscans, Mission San Luis in Tallahassee was burned to the ground by the Spanish and their NORTH CENTRAL SPECIAL EVENTS 2011 January 9 Stephen Foster State Park, Gainesville March 24�27 Live Oak Suwannee Springfest Music Festival Stephen Foster Day April 2 Tallahassee Springtime Tallahassee Festival April 15�16 Madison Four Freedoms Festival June 3�4 (or 1st Friday & Saturday in June) Wellborn Blueberry Festival Mid-September Gainesville Annual Downtown Latin Festival Late December Waterfronts Statewide Christmas Boat Parades SUWANNEE RIVER STATE PARK � VISIT FLORIDA� 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 127 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA Apalachee allies in 1704 to prevent approaching British troops from taking it over. Now much of the village and a fort have been rebuilt on the historic site in compliance with the original Spanish plans. Buildings include a massive council house replicating the one that would have been used for Apalachee tribal meetings. Interpreters in period costume describe Apalachee life and at various times during the year there are historical re-enactments (missionsanluis.org). MISSION SAN LUIS � TALLAHASSEE VISITOR INFORMATION CENTER HERITAGE AND CULTURE Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park & campground north of Live Oak is one of Florida's largest and best venues for music festivals. Situated on the banks of the Suwannee River, it hosts a variety of festivals featuring bigname stars of country, bluegrass, folk and western music. Covering more than 500 acres, the park has camping, cabins, fishing, birdwatching, canoeing, kayaking and an arts and crafts village (MusicLivesHere.com). CITY LIGHTS Tallahassee has posh hotels and upscale restaurants befitting a state capital. Among them are the Governors Inn (thegovinn.com) and the Hotel Duval (hotelduval.com) with reputations as "in" spots for dining and nightlife. Being a college town, Tallahassee also has an abundance of pubs, clubs and sports bars and West Tennessee Street is where most of the "happening" ones are found. The primary performing arts venue is the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center (tlccc.org), which features Broadway shows and musical performances (visittallahassee.com). fresh fish. One of the resort's most famous guests was former US President Jimmy Carter who praised the place as a superb family getaway (steinhatcheelanding.com). Family vacations in the North Central Region primarily involve nature and the outdoors. Several parks such as the Fanning Springs State Park represent what family holidays here are all about: camping, swimming, fishing, snorkeling, hiking, scuba diving, canoeing and kayaking (floridastateparks.org /fanningsprings). in tiny Greenville, there is a monument to music icon, Ray Charles, who grew up there. THE GREAT OUTDOORS The Suwannee River Wilderness Trail runs about 170 miles from White Springs to the land's-end hamlet of Suwannee where the river enters the Gulf of Mexico. The river weaves through long stretches of wilderness and its banks are lined with towering pines and stately cypress. With adequate supplies and planning, paddlers can camp the entire distance or spend nights in rustic lodges along the way. This is a trail that can be navigated in its entirety or in part (floridastateparks.org/wilderness). The North Central Region is known for some of the best cave-diving sites anywhere. T wo of the most popular are Devil's Den (devilsden.com) and the Blue Grotto (florida caves.com/bgrotto) near Williston. Located in the southwest corner of the region, Devil's Den features stalactites, intricate rock formations and 33-million-year-old fossil beds while the Blue Grotto is one of the deepest caverns in the state. RECOMMENDED DRIVES Driving west from Lake City to Tallahassee, US Route 90 passes by communities frozen in time. Embodying all the quiet grace of yesteryear, towns such as Monticello, with its grand old 1890 opera house, merit exploration. In the similar community of Madison, a walking tour reveals several blocks of homes and buildings whose architecture dates as far back as the 1700s. One of the buildings was actually used as a hospital during the Civil War. Just off the highway FUN FOR FAMILIES Steinhatchee Landing Resort is an idyllic retreat where the Steinhatchee River meets the Gulf of Mexico. This is a laid-back place where families can swim, fish, canoe, kayak and wade in shallow waters to gather scallops. Resort accommodation consists of upscale cottages and nearby there are several casual restaurants whose menus feature plenty of 128 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA WAKULLA SPRINGS LODGE � WAKULLA COUNTY TOURISM DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL WAKULLA COUNTY PLACE TO BE BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN A Natural ocated in the Sunshine State's Panhandle, Wakulla County (visit wakulla.com) is billed as "The L designated as a National Natural Landmark. Among the world's deepest, these freshwater springs are perfect for summertime swimming and viewing abundant wildlife either underwater or along the nature trail (floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings). Manatees, cooters, alligators, squirrels, birds WAKULLA WELCOME CENTER IN PANACEA � WAKULLA COUNTY TOURISM DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL Natural Place to Be in Florida" and with good reason. Hiking and cycling through the area's National Forest, wildlife watching in the Refuge and boat tours through the springs provide a wide variety of activities that make this area a great place for outdoor enthusiasts. and butterflies call the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge home. They inhabit the freshwater and saltwater marshes that make up the Coastal Marsh Belt where marsh grass leads to a coastal beach. The variety of bird species here is quite extensive (fws.gov/saintmarks). TRAILS AND WILDLIFE HISTORIC BUILDINGS San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park is home to the 1679 National Landmark fort, which bears the same name and is the centerpiece of this attraction. The museum features pottery and tools discovered near the fort and visitors can enjoy a self-guided trail through the park (floridastateparks.org/sanmarcos). One of the best views in Wakulla is from the St. Marks Lighthouse, built between 1828 and 1831 and the only Florida lighthouse with wooden stairs. The structure's history is quite dramatic and includes a guard built for extra protection from Indian attacks during the Seminole War; damage from the Civil War as well as from storms and hurricanes; relocation in 1842 to a more secure position; a rebuilt tower and reestablishment of the light (fws.gov/saintmarks). There's no shortage of activities for people who enjoy nature and a good place to start is at the Apalachicola National Forest. Established in 1936, it is the largest National Forest in Florida and, at 564,961 acres, features several long trails including the 4.5-mile Wright Lake Trail, the 5.4-mile Leon Sinks Geological Area Trail and the six-mile Trail of Lakes. At Leon Sinks, there are several wet and dry sinkholes, a natural bridge and a disappearing stream. The rolling terrain on the Munson Hills Off-Road Bicycle Trail is a test for mountain bike enthusiasts (stateparks.com/apalachicola.html). Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park has a charming building known as the park's Lodge. The entire area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and FESTIVALS AND EVENTS April is time for the Sopchoppy Worm-Gruntin' Festival, which features demonstrations, live music, a horseshoe championship and--yes--a worm-eating contest. In May the Panacea Blue Crab Festival brings folks out for a mullet toss, live music, clogger performances and, of course, lots of crab. Anglers will love the Rock-the-Dock Fishing Tournament also held in spring. October events include the St. Marks Stone Crab Festival, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge Monarch Butterfly Festival and the Mighty Mullet Maritime Festival. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 129 NORTHWEST FLORIDA HIDDEN TREASURES BY SANDRA FRIEND broad sand beaches and the emerald-green waters that lap its Gulf Coast shoreline, some of its larger cities have roots dating back to the first settlements along the Gulf of Mexico. Smaller communities--some thoroughly modern and others with laid-back personalities--offer a true sense of place. The great majority of the region sits in a different time zone than the rest of the state and has a long history of being separate from mainstream Florida. Sometimes called "the other Florida," this sweep of land exudes a Deep South flavor and hospitality to match. Located west of peninsular Florida and the state capital of Tallahassee, the region is bordered by the Gulf Coast in the south, Alabama in the 130 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA Explore F or seaside serenity and outdoor recre- ation, there is no finer getaway than Florida's Northwest Region. Known for PANAMA CITY BEACH � MICHAEL WOOD/DREAMSTIME Soar with Florida Zip Line Adventures over forest canopies and clear, sand-bottomed streams while seeing Florida from a whole new perspective. Trips include a combination of zip-lines and sky bridges with three levels of difficulty (floridaziplineadventures.com). CITY LIGHTS For glitzy neon and flashy nightlife, head to the shores of Panama City Beach (visitpanama citybeach.com) where the sound of lapping waves serves as backdrop to music emanating from a variety of nightlife spots. Much like a younger Miami Beach, the condo-lined waterfront is conducive to spending quality time with friends, family and new acquaintances. A compact and easily walkable city, Apalachicola's "foodie" culture is built on its seafaring traditions (apalachicolabay.org). Here, oysters, crab, fish and shrimp have been harvested for generations and the continuous bounty from Apalachicola Bay means good eating at a dozen different dining venues. Apalachicola Bay oysters, for instance, are often ranked among the best in the world by chefs and food lovers alike. AIRSHOW AT PENSACOLA � YUFENG WANG/SHUTTERSTOCK west and Georgia to the north. Contained within this long, narrow corridor are vibrant towns, quaint communities, sprawling beaches, pine forests, bucolic countrysides, rural roads lined with oaks dripping Spanish moss, major rivers such as the Apalachicola, rich coastal estuaries and a host of freshwater springs. WHAT'S NEW Opened in May 2010 near Panama City Beach, the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is the first international airport to be built in the United States in the past 10 years (iflybeaches.com). Poised to be the region's major gateway offering easy and convenient access to the area and its Gulf Coast communities, the airport is currently served by Delta and Southwest Airlines. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 131 NORTHWEST FLORIDA is also home to the National Naval Aviation Museum (navalaviationmuseum.org), a huge attraction for aviation enthusiasts. Venture beneath Florida's surface on the only cave tour in the state at Florida Caverns State Park, a historic landmark and geological wonder (floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns). FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS Scenic highway 30A (30a.com) is the gateway to a string of coastal resort communities, such as Seaside (seasidefl.com), ideal for family getaways WINE TASTING/MEXICO BEACH � VISIT FLORIDA� and the epitome of perfect planning and modern urbanism. Surrounded by nature but with all the amenities of an upscale resort, WaterColor Inn & Resort (watercolorresort.com) is a beachfront gem. Centered around a vibrant shopping and dining complex, Sandestin Resort (sandestin.com) offers not just beach access but also activities on its bayside. THE GREAT OUTDOORS With hundreds of miles of beachfront to choose from, whether the choice is T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula (florida stateparks.org/stjoseph) for its wild shore or popular Pensacola Beach (visitpensacola beach.com), spending lazy days on the Gulf Coast sand is a vacation indulgence. Blackwater River State Forest (fl-dof.com /state_forests/blackwater_river.html) has excellent rivers for canoeing and kayaking tours orchestrated by Adventures Unlimited (adventuresunlimited.com). Slip into a freshwater spring and learn to scuba dive at Vortex Spring dive resort (vortexspring.com) or go for a day-float tubing down a wilderness waterway with Bear Paw Adventures (bearpawescape.com). T.T. WENTWORTH MUSEUM � VISIT FLORIDA� SPECIAL EVENTS Florida's oldest maritime event, the Florida Seafood Festival (floridaseafoodfestival.com) takes over Apalachicola in November. In early March, the Gulf Coast Renaissance Fair in Pensacola is an "eat, drink and be merry" event featuring jousting knights, magicians, falconers, Arabian dancers, jesters and jugglers (gcrf.net). A Northwest Florida favorite is the Sandestin Wine Festival in April. It features more than 600 wine vintages, many of them hard to find, for tasting and purchase (sandestinwinefestival.com). A parade extravaganza on March 5, 2011 marks the end of Pensacola's annual Mardi Gras season that begins in late February. Representing the grandeur of antebellum plantation life, the focal point of the Eden Gardens State Park is the Wesley Mansion, an elegant 1898 plantation house set alongside a bayou amid ornamental gardens and grand oaks. Today the home features the second-largest-known collection of Louis XVI furnishings in America, thanks to New York heiress Lois Maxon who purchased the home in 1963 (floridastateparks.org /edengardens). In a community isolated by the sweep of Apalachicola Bay, exploring the quaint small town of Apalachicola is one of the region's best cultural immersions. Founded in 1831, it is one of America's top National Trust sites whose primary lodgings are all historic properties (apalachicolabay.org). HERITAGE AND CULTURE The Gulf Coast city of Pensacola dates back more than four centuries when Spanish conquistador Don Tristan de Luna landed there in 1559 with a contingent of soldiers, priests and settlers. An important deepwater port during Spanish rule and into the Civil War period, present-day Pensacola boasts a vibrant downtown where various cultures mingled over the centuries to create a unique blend of architecture: Spanish fortresses, French ironwork and British colonial homes are all part of the mix. Historic Pensacola Village and the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum are the best places to learn about the history and culture of Northwest Florida (historicpensacola.org). 132 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA FUN FOR FAMILIES An hour west of Tallahassee, learn how to press sugar cane or shape a horseshoe at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement (ppmuseum.org), a living history complex showcasing Florida's pioneer past. At Panama City Beach, join a pirate crew on the Sea Dragon (pirate cruise.net) or ride a wild slide at Shipwreck Island Waterpark (shipwreckisland.com) where flumes and floats surround a halfmillion-gallon wave pool. MUST SEE, MUST DO Serving as the base of the Blue Angels (blueangels.navy.mil), the US Navy's aerobatic squadron, Pensacola Naval Air Station January 1 - 19�C Escape the traffic and follow the snowbirds that have discovered the quiet alternative-- Just 30 minutes down the road from Panama City, we're close enough to all the big-city amenities you'd need, including world-class healthcare and Tyndall Air Force Base, yet peacefully buffered in our uncrowded paradise. Mexico Beach is a friendly seaside village with white sand beaches, a public fishing pier, affordable rentals, RV parks and snowbird activities. Beachfront townhomes under $1,000 a month! Snowbird rental specials, live beach cam and photos on our web site: www.mexico-beach.com Or, just give us a call in our Welcome Center at 888-723-2546 Destin Panama City Tallahassee Apalachicola Mexico Beach Cape San Blas Snowbird Shrimp Boil Affordable Golf Art & Wine Festival FLORIDA STATEWIDE FAMILY AT PLAY � SEMINOLE COUNTY FLORIDA TIME ZONES While most of Florida is located in the Eastern Time Zone, a small portion of western Florida is in the Central Time Zone. The Apalachicola River is the dividing line between Central Standard Time in the western part of Northwest Florida and Eastern Standard Time in the eastern part. Central Time Zone Eastern Time Zone ANNUAL FLORIDA FESTIVALS With more than 750 annual events happening throughout the Sunshine State, visitors to Florida are never at a loss for things to do and see. Here is a list of the state's largest events, which represents just a smattering of what is planned. For more information on these and other scheduled events, log onto visitflorida.com or the Florida Festival and Events Association website at ffea.com. DATES November 20, 2010�January 31, 2011 November 19, 2011�January 31, 2012 January 14�16, 2011 January 29, 2011 February 10�21, 2011 March 2�May 15, 2011 March 3�13, 2011 March 4�13, 2011 April 2, 2011 April 2�9, 2011 April 27�May 1, 2011 May 26�29, 2011 May 27�29, 2011 June 4�5, 2011 June 25�July 4, 2011 July 8�9, 2011 July 19�24, 2011 September 23�25, 2011 September 30�November 13, 2011 October 13�16, 2011 November 10�13, 2011 December 1�4, 2011 December 3, 2011 December 17, 2011 FESTIVALS Nights of Lights, St. Augustine Art Deco Weekend Festival, Miami Beach Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest, Tampa Florida State Fair, Tampa Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, Orlando Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City Bike Week, Daytona Beach Springtime Festival, Tallahassee Dunedin Highland Games & Festival Sunfest, West Palm Beach Jacksonville Jazz Festival, Jacksonville Florida Folk Festival, White Springs Silver Spurs Rodeo of Champions, Kissimmee Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix Festival, Sarasota Pensacola Beach Air Show, Pensacola Hemingway Days Festival, Key West Pensacola Seafood Festival, Pensacola Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Orlando Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach American Sandsculpting Championship Festival, Fort Myers Beach Art Basel, Miami Beach Winter Festival, Downtown Tallahassee Winterfest Boat Parade, Fort Lauderdale WEBSITES nightsoflights.com mdpl.org gasparillapiratefest.com floridastatefair.com disneyworld.disney.go.com /parks/epcot/special-events flstrawberryfestival.com officialbikeweek.com springtimetallahassee.com dunedinhighlandgames.com sunfest.com jaxjazzfest.com floridafolkfestival.com silverspursrodeo.com suncoastoffshore.org pensacolachamber.com fla-keys.com fiestaoffiveflags.org/seafoodfestival disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot biketoberfest.org sandsculptingfestival.com artbaselmiamibeach.com talgov.com winterfestparade.com Dates and websites were correct at time of printing. Information is subject to change without notice. 134 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA AVERAGE MONTHLY TEMPERATURES (FAHRENHEIT) AND PRECIPITATION (INCHES) IN SELECTED FLORIDA CITIES JAN BOCA RATON min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. 58/76 F 2.78 in 51/72 F 2.94 in 50/72 F 3.17 in 47/68 F 2.75 in 57/75 F 2.22 in 53/74 F 1.84 in 42/64 F 3.31 in 65/75 F 2.01 in 59/75 F 2.01 in 53/75 F 2.01 in 51/71 F 2.33 in 38/61 F 5.74 in 42/59 F 4.65 in 45/64 F 3.16 in 54/69 F 2.76 in 51/72 F 2.94 in 38/62 F 4.77 in 49/70 F 1.99 in 56/74 F 2.80 in FEB 58/77 F 2.76 in 52/73 F 2.66 in 52/73 F 3.14 in 48/69 F 3.11 in 57/76 F 2.93 in 54/75 F 2.23 in 44/67 F 3.93 in 65/75 F 1.80 in 60/76 F 2.08 in 54/76 F 2.17 in 50/71 F 4.00 in 41/65 F 4.71 in 44/63 F 5.36 in 47/67 F 2.88 in 55/71 F 2.87 in 53/74 F 2.66 in 40/66 F 5.52 in 51/71 F 3.08 in 57/75 F 2.69 in MAR 62/80 F 3.00 in 57/77 F 3.36 in 56/77 F 3.85 in 54/74 F 2.90 in 62/79 F 2.76 in 58/80 F 3.07 in 50/74 F 3.68 in 69/78 F 1.71 in 64/79 F 2.39 in 58/79 F 2.08 in 55/77 F 3.24 in 47/70 F 6.22 in 51/69 F 5.66 in 53/72 F 3.87 in 60/75 F 3.29 in 57/77 F 3.36 in 47/73 F 6.21 in 56/76 F 3.01 in 61/79 F 3.66 in APR 66/83 F 3.40 in 59/82 F 1.83 in 61/81 F 1.96 in 58/80 F 2.23 in 65/82 F 3.37 in 62/84 F 1.06 in 56/80 F 2.70 in 72/82 F 1.75 in 68/83 F 3.03 in 62/83 F 1.99 in 61/84 F 1.30 in 53/76 F 3.73 in 58/76 F 3.41 in 58/77 F 2.63 in 64/80 F 1.92 in 60/82 F 1.85 in 52/80 F 3.74 in 60/82 F 1.15 in 65/82 F 2.91 in MAY 71/87 F 5.73 in 66/87 F 2.85 in 67/87 F 3.02 in 65/84 F 3.45 in 70/85 F 6.65 in 67/89 F 3.87 in 63/85 F 3.55 in 76/85 F 3.46 in 72/85 F 6.21 in 67/87 F 4.21 in 67/88 F 3.10 in 61/83 F 3.86 in 65/83 F 4.20 in 65/82 F 3.11 in 71/86 F 2.80 in 65/87 F 2.85 in 61/86 F 4.75 in 67/87 F 3.10 in 70/85 F 6.13 in JUN 74/90 F 7.31 in 71/90 F 7.41 in 72/90 F 5.78 in 71/88 F 5.99 in 73/88 F 9.58 in 73/90 F 9.52 in 70/89 F 5.69 in 78/87 F 5.09 in 75/88 F 9.33 in 71/90 F 8.18 in 71/90 F 7.53 in 68/88 F 6.01 in 72/88 F 6.40 in 71/87 F 5.27 in 75/89 F 6.09 in 74/90 F 7.41 in 68/90 F 6.93 in 73/90 F 5.48 in 73/88 F 8.09 in JUL 75/92 F 5.94 in 72/91 F 8.71 in 74/91 F 7.07 in 72/90 F 5.4 in 75/90 F 6.64 in 74/91 F 8.26 in 72/91 F 5.60 in 80/89 F 3.61 in 77/89 F 5.70 in 73/91 F 7.98 in 73/92 F 7.15 in 71/89 F 8.74 in 74/90 F 7.42 in 73/89 F 4.50 in 76/90 F 6.72 in 73/91 F 8.71 in 71/91 F 8.82 in 74/90 F 6.58 in 74/90 F 6.14 in AUG 75/92 F 6.91 in 73/91 F 9.43 in 73/92 F 8.47 in 73/89 F 6.16 in 75/90 F 6.77 in 75/91 F 9.66 in 72/91 F 7.93 in 79/89 F 5.03 in 77/89 F 7.58 in 73/91 F 8.05 in 73/92 F 7.07 in 71/89 F 7.52 in 74/89 F 7.33 in 72/87 F 5.91 in 77/90 F 8.26 in 73/91 F 9.43 in 71/91 F 7.53 in 74/90 F 7.61 in 75/90 F 6.02 in SEP 74/91 F 7.01 in 72/90 F 7.25 in 72/90 F 7.25 in 72/87 F 6.34 in 74/89 F 7.56 in 74/90 F 7.82 in 70/87 F 7.05 in 78/88 F 5.85 in 76/88 F 7.63 in 73/90 F 8.11 in 73/89 F 6.27 in 67/87 F 6.14 in 70/86 F 5.42 in 71/85 F 6.45 in 75/88 F 7.59 in 72/90 F 7.25 in 68/88 F 5.58 in 73/89 F 5.98 in 74/88 F 8.53 in OCT 71/87 F 5.73 in 65/85 F 2.88 in 65/85 F 3.36 in 65/81 F 4.13 in 70/85 F 6.52 in 68/86 F 2.94 in 60/80 F 2.90 in 75/84 F 4.42 in 72/85 F 5.64 in 68/87 F 3.60 in 66/84 F 2.86 in 55/79 F 3.50 in 60/79 F 4.14 in 64/79 F 4.56 in 70/83 F 2.64 in 65/85 F 2.88 in 56/81 F 2.92 in 65/84 F 2.02 in 71/85 F 6.60 in NOV 66/82 F 4.24 in 59/79 F 2.35 in 58/79 F 2.37 in 56/75 F 2.84 in 65/81 F 3.94 in 61/81 F 1.57 in 51/73 F 2.19 in 71/80 F 2.84 in 67/80 F 2.66 in 62/82 F 1.99 in 57/77 F 1.65 in 47/71 F 4.53 in 51/70 F 3.54 in 56/73 F 2.24 in 63/77 F 2.04 in 59/80 F 2.35 in 46/73 F 3.87 in 57/77 F 1.77 in 64/80 F 4.69 in DEC 61/78 F 2.46 in 53/74 F 2.45 in 52/74 F 2.98 in 50/70 F 2.59 in 60/77 F 2.17 in 55/76 F 1.56 in 44/67 F 2.72 in 67/76 F 2.02 in 62/77 F 1.83 in 56/76 F 1.53 in 52/73 F 2.01 in 40/64 F 4.06 in 44/63 F 4.29 in 49/67 F 2.84 in 56/71 F 2.60 in 53/74 F 2.45 in 41/66 F 5.03 in 51/72 F 2.15 in 59/76 F 2.49 in BRADENTON CLEARWATER DAYTONA BEACH FORT LAUDERDALE FORT MYERS JACKSONVILLE KEY WEST MIAMI NAPLES ORLANDO PANAMA CITY PENSACOLA ST. AUGUSTINE min/max precip. ST. PETERSBURG SARASOTA min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. min/max precip. TALLAHASSEE TAMPA BAY WEST PALM BEACH 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 135 FLORIDA STATEWIDE TOURISM INFORMATION SOURCES IN FLORIDA Florida Welcome Centers, Convention & Visitors Bureaus and Tourism Offices are located throughout Florida and staff is always eager to offer assistance and help visitors make the most of their stay. VISIT FLORIDA: VISITFLORIDA.COM VISIT FLORIDA operates Florida's five Official Florida Welcome Centers at I-10 near Pensacola, US 231 near Campbellton, I-75 at Jennings, I-95 north of Yulee, and at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. When in Florida, drop by for a free glass of Florida orange juice and pick up a free Florida Vacation Guide, a large-print map of Florida and VISIT FLORIDA partner brochures. OTHER FLORIDA TOURISM LOCATIONS LOCATION Boca Raton Bradenton, Anna Maria Island & Longboat Key Clearwater Daytona Beach Delray Beach Dunedin Florida Keys & Key West SANFORD GATE � SEMINOLE COUNTY CARRIAGE RIDE � VISIT FLORIDA� WEBSITES See Palm Beaches & Boca Raton annamariaisland-longboatkey.com See St. Petersburg/Clearwater daytonabeach.com See Palm Beaches & Boca Raton See St. Petersburg/Clearwater fla-keys.com space-coast.com sunny.org fortmyers-sanibel.com keylargo.org keywestchamber.org visitjacksonville.com visitkissimmee.com miamiandbeaches.com paradisecoast.com orlandoinfo.com palmbeachfl.com visitpanamacitybeach.com visitpensacola.com floridashistoriccoast.com visitstpeteclearwater.com sarasotafl.org visittallahassee.com visittampabay.com See St. Petersburg/Clearwater Florida's Space Coast Office of Tourism (Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Titusville) Fort Lauderdale Fort Myers/Sanibel Key Largo Key West Jacksonville Kissimmee Miami Naples Orlando Palm Beaches & Boca Raton Panama City Beach Pensacola St. Augustine St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sarasota Tallahassee Tampa Bay Tarpon Springs SPORT FISHING � VISIT FLORIDA� FLORIDA'S PUBLIC HOLIDAYS January 1, New Year's Day January 17, Martin Luther King Day February 21, Presidents' Day May 30, Memorial Day July 4, Independence Day First Monday in September, Labor Day October 10, Columbus Day (most regions) November 11, Veterans Day 4th Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day 4th Friday in November, Black Friday December 25, Christmas Day 136 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA FLORIDA ASSOCIATIONS AND USEFUL GROUPS FOR TRAVELERS A number of associations offer travel advice and assistance relating to specific needs and interests. ASSOCIATIONS AAA (American Automobile Association) Auto Club South AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) American Association for Nude Recreation American Camp Association CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) Canadian Snowbird Association CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) Florida Amateur Baseball Association Florida Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus Florida Association of Museums Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds Florida Bicycle Association Florida Festival & Events Association Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Florida Gardener Florida Lighthouse Association Florida Professional Paddlesports Association Florida Sports Foundation Florida Trail Association Good Sam Club (The World's Largest RV Owners Community) International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions International Game Fish Association KOA (Kampgrounds of America, Inc.) Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Scooter and Wheelchair rental for adults/kids WEBSITES aaasouth.com aarp.org aanr.com acacamps.org caa.ca snowbirds.org carp.ca floridaamateurbaseball.org http://ym.facvb.org flamuseums.org floridacamping.org floridabicycle.org ffea.com myfwc.com floridagardener.com floridalighthouses.org paddleflausa.com flasports.com floridatrail.org goodsamclub.com iaapa.org igfa.org koa.com pga.com caremedicalequipment.com GOLFERS � SEMINOLE COUNTY FORT LAUDERDALE � VISIT FLORIDA� CRUISE LINES SAILING FROM FLORIDA PORTS Dozens of cruise lines operate from a variety of ports throughout Florida to international destinations. Depending on the time of the year, many offer amazing deals and a broad selection of cruise itineraries. CRUISE SHIP AT THE PORT OF MIAMI � RICHARD PROSS/DREAMSTIME CRUISE LINES American Cruise Lines Azamara Club Cruises Carnival Cruise Lines Celebration Cruise Line Celebrity Cruises Costa Cruises Crystal Cruises Cunard Line Discovery Cruise Line Disney Cruise Line Holland America Line MSC Cruises Norwegian Cruise Line Oceania Cruises Princess Cruises Regent Seven Seas Cruises Royal Caribbean International Silversea Cruises The Yachts of Seabourn WEBSITES americancruiselines.com azamaraclubcruises.com carnival.com bahamascelebration.com celebritycruises.com costacruise.com crystalcruises.com cunard.com discoverycruiseline.com disneycruise.com hollandamerica.com msccruisesusa.com ncl.com oceaniacruises.com princess.com rssc.com royalcaribbean.com silversea.com seabourn.com CRUISE HEADQUARTERS, USA Vacation in Florida or cruise from Florida--or maybe both! Florida has several seaports, which host a number of cruise lines. FLORIDA CRUISE PORTS Jacksonville Port Authority Port Canaveral Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) Port of Key West Port of Miami Port of Palm Beach District Tampa Port Authority WEBSITES jaxport.com portcanaveral.com porteverglades.net keywestcity.com miamidade.gov/portofmiami portofpalmbeach.com tampaport.com 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 137 FLORIDA STATEWIDE CANOES � VISIT FLORIDA� FLORIDA STATE PARKS, FORESTS & REGIONAL RECREATION SPACES The Sunshine State's temperate climate makes it the ideal year-round vacation spot for outdoor enthusiasts. A number of rare ecosystems extend from the state's northern boundaries to its southern tip and beyond. Simply step outside for the fun of it. NORTHWEST FLORIDA Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Bald Point State Park Big Lagoon State Park Blackwater River State Forest Blackwater River State Park Camp Helen State Park Constitution Convention Museum State Park Deer Lake State Park Eden Gardens State Park Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park Falling Waters State Park Florida Caverns State Park Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park Grayton Beach State Park Henderson Beach State Park John Gorrie Museum State Park Oaks by the Bay Orman House Historic State Park Perdido Key State Park Pine Log State Forest Point Washington State Forest Ponce de Leon Springs State Park St. Andrews State Park T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park Tate's Hell State Forest Three Rivers State Park Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Torreya State Park Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park Big Shoals State Park Cedar Key Museum State Park Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve Cofrin Nature Park Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park Dudley Farm Historic State Park Econfina River State Park Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park and Lodge Fanning Springs State Park Florida's Nature & Heritage Tourism Center, Headquarters of the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail Forest Capital Museum State Park Ichetucknee Springs State Park Lafayette Blue Spring State Park Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park Lake Talquin State Forest Lake Talquin State Park Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park Madison Blue Spring Manatee Springs State Park Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park O'Leno State Park Ochlockonee River State Park River Rise Preserve State Park San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park Suwannee River State Park Troy Spring State Park Twin Rivers State Forest Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/apalachicola floridastateparks.org/baldpoint floridastateparks.org/biglagoon fl-dof.com/state_forests/blackwater_river.html floridastateparks.org/blackwaterriver floridastateparks.org/camphelen floridastateparks.org/constitutionconvention floridastateparks.org/deerlake floridastateparks.org/edengardens floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland floridastateparks.org/fallingwaters floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns floridastateparks.org/rockybayou floridastateparks.org/graytonbeach floridastateparks.org/hendersonbeach floridastateparks.org/johngorriemuseum dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/ormanhouse floridastateparks.org/perdidokey fl-dof.com/state_forests/pine_log.html fl-dof.com/state_forests/point_washington.html floridastateparks.org/poncedeleonsprings floridastateparks.org/standrews floridastateparks.org/stjoseph floridastateparks.org/tarkilnbayou fl-dof.com/state_forests/tates_hell.html floridastateparks.org/threerivers floridastateparks.org/topsailhill floridastateparks.org/torreya floridastateparks.org/yellowriver SILVER RIVER STATE PARK � VISIT FLORIDA� floridastateparks.org/maclaygardens floridastateparks.org/bigshoals floridastateparks.org/cedarkeymuseum floridastateparks.org/cedarkeyscrub dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/devilsmillhopper floridastateparks.org/dudleyfarm floridastateparks.org/econfinariver floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings floridastateparks.org/fanningsprings floridastateparks.org/wilderness floridastateparks.org/forestcapital floridastateparks.org/ichetuckneesprings floridastateparks.org/lafayettebluesprings floridastateparks.org/lakejackson fl-dof.com/state_forests/lake_talquin.html floridastateparks.org/laketalquin floridastateparks.org/letchworth floridastateparks.org/madisonbluespring floridastateparks.org/manateesprings floridastateparks.org/marjoriekinnanrawlings floridastateparks.org/naturalbridge floridastateparks.org/oleno floridastateparks.org/ochlockoneeriver floridastateparks.org/riverrise floridastateparks.org/sanfelascohammock floridastateparks.org/sanmarcos fws.gov/saintmarks floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster floridastateparks.org/suwanneeriver floridastateparks.org/troyspring fl-dof.com/state_forests/twin_rivers.html floridastateparks.org/waccasassabay floridastateparks.org/peacocksprings ST. AUGUSTINE � VISIT FLORIDA� � VISIT FLORIDA� 138 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA CALADESI ISLAND � VISIT FLORIDA� NORTHEAST FLORIDA Amelia Island State Park Anastasia State Park Big Talbot Island State Park Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park Cary State Forest Castaway Island Preserve Dunns Creek State Park Etoniah Creek State Forest Faver-Dykes State Park Fernandina Plaza State Historic Site Fort Clinch State Park Fort George Island Cultural State Park Fort Mose Historic State Park Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve Jennings State Forest Little Talbot Island State Park Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park North Peninsula State Park Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park Ravine Gardens State Park River to Sea Preserve Washington Oaks Gardens State Park Welaka State Forest Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Avalon State Park Blue Spring State Park Bulow Creek State Park De Leon Springs State Park Fort Pierce Inlet State Park Gemini Springs Hontoon Island State Park Jonathan Dickinson State Park Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park Lake George State Forest Lakewood Regional Park Savannas Preserve State Park Seabranch Preserve State Park Sebastian Inlet State Park St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park Tiger Bay State Forest Tomoka State Park CENTRAL FLORIDA Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park Colt Creek State Park Dade Battlefield Historic State Park Goethe State Forest Highlands Hammock State Park Lake Griffin State Park Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park Lake Kissimmee State Park Lake Louisa State Park Lake Wales Ridge State Forest Little Big Econ State Forest Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park Paynes Creek Historic State Park Rainbow Springs State Park Rock Springs Run State Reserve Seminole State Forest Silver River State Park Split Oak Preserve Wekiwa Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/ameliaisland floridastateparks.org/anastasia floridastateparks.org/bigtalbotisland floridastateparks.org/bulowplantation fl-dof.com/state_forests/cary.html dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/dunnscreek fl-dof.com/state_forests/etoniah_creek.html floridastateparks.org/faverdykes recreationparks.net/FL/nassau/fernandina -plaza-historic-state-park-fernandina-beach floridastateparks.org/fortclinch floridastateparks.org/fortgeorgeisland floridastateparks.org/fortmose floridastateparks.org/gamblerogers floridastateparks.org/georgecradybridge floridacoasts.org/gtm fl-dof.com/state_forests/jennings.html floridastateparks.org/littletalbotisland floridastateparks.org/mikeroess floridastateparks.org/northpeninsula floridastateparks.org/olusteebattlefield floridastateparks.org/paynesprairie floridastateparks.org/pumpkinhill floridastateparks.org/ravinegardens dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/washingtonoaks fl-dof.com/state_forests/welaka.html floridastateparks.org/yellowbluff APALACHICOLA NATIONAL PARK � VISIT FLORIDA� floridastateparks.org/avalon floridastateparks.org/bluespring floridastateparks.org/bulowcreek floridastateparks.org/deleonsprings floridastateparks.org/fortpierceinlet dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/hontoonisland floridastateparks.org/jonathandickinson floridastateparks.org/kissimmeeprairie fl-dof.com/state_forests/lake_george.html dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/savannas floridastateparks.org/seabranch floridastateparks.org/sebastianinlet floridastateparks.org/stlucieinlet floridastateparks.org/stsebastianriver fl-dof.com/state_forests/tiger_bay.html floridastateparks.org/tomoka floridastateparks.org/catfishcreek floridastateparks.org/coltcreek floridastateparks.org/dadebattlefield fl-dof.com/state_forests/goethe.html floridastateparks.org/highlandshammock floridastateparks.org/lakegriffin floridastateparks.org/lakejuneinwinter floridastateparks.org/lakekissimmee floridastateparks.org/lakelouisa fl-dof.com/state_forests/lake_wales_ridge.html fl-dof.com/state_forests/little_big_econ.html floridastateparks.org/lowerwekivariver floridastateparks.org/paynescreek floridastateparks.org/rainbowsprings floridastateparks.org/rockspringsrun fl-dof.com/state_forests/seminole.html floridastateparks.org/silverriver dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings SHOPPING � SEMINOLE COUNTY SHUTTLE LAUNCH � VISIT FLORIDA� 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 139 FLORIDA STATEWIDE MANATEE/CRYSTAL RIVER � VISIT FLORIDA� FLORIDA STATE PARKS, FORESTS & REGIONAL RECREATION SPACES CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA Alafia River State Park Anclote Key Preserve State Park Caladesi Island State Park Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park Crystal River Archaeological State Park Crystal River Preserve State Park Egmont Key State Park Fort Cooper State Park Fort Foster State Historic Site Gamble Plantation Historic State Park Hillsborough River State Park Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park Honeymoon Island State Park Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site Little Manatee River State Park North Anclote River Nature Park Skyway Fishing Pier State Park Weeki Wachee Springs State Park Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park Ybor City Museum State Park Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Cayo Costa State Park Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park Collier-Seminole State Park Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park Don Pedro Island State Park Estero Bay Preserve State Park Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park Gasparilla Island State Park Hickey's Creek Mitigation Park Koreshan State Historic Site Lake Manatee State Park Lee County Parks & Recreation Lovers Key State Park Mound Key Archaeological State Park Myakka River State Park Myakka State Forest Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest Oscar Scherer State Park Picayune Strand State Forest Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Stump Pass Beach State Park Sugden Regional Park SOUTHEAST FLORIDA Apoxee Urban Wilderness Park The Barnacle Historic State Park Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park Hugh Taylor Birch State Park John D. MacArthur Beach State Park John U. Lloyd Beach State Park Oleta River State Park Pinecrest Gardens Sawgrass Sanctuary THE FLORIDA KEYS Bahia Honda State Park Curry Hammock State Park Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park Indian Key Historic State Park John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Key Largo Community Park Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park Long Key State Park San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park floridastateparks.org/alafiariver floridastateparks.org/anclotekey floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/crystalriverarchaeological floridastateparks.org/crystalriverpreserve floridastateparks.org/egmontkey floridastateparks.org/fortcooper floridastateparks.org/fortfoster floridastateparks.org/gambleplantation floridastateparks.org/hillsboroughriver floridastateparks.org/homosassasprings floridastateparks.org/honeymoonisland floridastateparks.org/madirabickelmound floridastateparks.org/littlemanateeriver dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/skyway floridastateparks.org/weekiwachee floridastateparks.org/wernerboyce floridastateparks.org/yborcity floridastateparks.org/yuleesugarmill BOUGAINVILLEA � VISIT FLORIDA� floridastateparks.org/cayocosta floridastateparks.org/charlotteharbor floridastateparks.org/collierseminole floridastateparks.org/delnorwiggins floridastateparks.org/donpedroisland floridastateparks.org/esterobay floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand floridastateparks.org/gasparillaisland dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/koreshan floridastateparks.org/lakemanatee leeparks.org floridastateparks.org/loverskey floridastateparks.org/moundkey floridastateparks.org/myakkariver fl-dof.com/state_forests/myakka.html fl-dof.com/state_forests/okaloacoochee.html floridastateparks.org/oscarscherer fl-dof.com/state_forests/picayune_strand.html rookerybay.org floridastateparks.org/stumppass dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks BUTTERYFLY RAINFOREST � VISIT FLORIDA� dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/thebarnacle floridastateparks.org/capeflorida floridastateparks.org/hughtaylorbirch macarthurbeach.org floridastateparks.org/lloydbeach floridastateparks.org/oletariver dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks EVERGLADES � VISIT FLORIDA� floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda floridastateparks.org/curryhammock floridastateparks.org/keylargohammock floridakeys.noaa.gov floridastateparks.org/forttaylor floridastateparks.org/indiankey floridastateparks.org/pennekamp dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/lignumvitaekey floridastateparks.org/longkey floridastateparks.org/sanpedro floridastateparks.org/windleykey 140 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA NATIONAL PARKS, MEMORIALS, MONUMENTS AND PRESERVES Much of Florida's history is captured in its national parks, memorials, monuments and preserves and the National Park Service works hard to preserve it (nps.gov). NORTHWEST FLORIDA Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor (extends from North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida) nps.gov/guge Gulf Islands National Seashore nps.gov/guis NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA No national parks NORTHEAST FLORIDA Castillo de San Marcos National Monument nps.gov/casa Fort Matanzas National Monument nps.gov/foma Timucuan Ecological and Historic National Preserve, includes Theodore Roosevelt Area as well as Fort Caroline National Memorial and Kingsley Plantation nps.gov.foca CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Canaveral National Seashore nps.gov/cana CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA De Soto National Memorial nps.gov.deso SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Big Cypress National Preserve nps.gov.bicy Everglades National Park nps.gov/ever SOUTHEAST & THE FLORIDA KEYS Biscayne National Park nps.gov/bisc Dry Tortugas National Park nps.gov.drto MAJOR HOTEL CHAINS IN FLORIDA No matter where visitors are in Florida, they are sure to find a comfortable, convenient hotel that suits their travel needs and budget. Be sure to check out online reviews submitted by previous guests before making your final selection. HOTEL CHAINS Acqualina Resort & Spa Best Western Cambria Suites Clarion Hotel Comfort Inn Country Inns & Suites Courtyard by Marriott Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts Days Inn Doubletree Guest Suites Econo Lodge Embassy Suites Fairfield Inn & Suites Fairmont Hotels Four Points by Sheraton Four Seasons Hampton Inn Hampton Inn & Suites Hilton Garden Inn Hilton Hotels Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express Homewood Suites by Hilton Howard Johnson Hotels Hyatt Hotels & Resorts InterContinental Hotels & Resorts JC Resorts Knights Inn La Quinta Inns & Suites Le Meridien Loews Hotels & Resorts MainStay Suites Mandarin Oriental Marriott Hotels Quality Inn Quality Suites Ramada Worldwide Red Roof Inn Renaissance Hotels Residence Inn by Marriott The Ritz-Carlton Rodeway Inn Sheraton and Sheraton Suites Sleep Inn Sofitel Hotels SpringHill Suites by Marriott Super 8 Hotels TownePlace Suites by Marriott Travelodge Trump International W Hotels Walt Disney World Resorts Westin Hotels & Resorts Wingate by Wyndham WEBSITES acqualinaresort.com bestwestern.com cambriasuites.com clarionhotel.com comfortinn.com countryinns.com marriott.com ichotelsgroup.com daysinn.com http://doubletree1.hilton.com econolodge.com http://embassysuites1.hilton.com marriott.com fairmont.com fourpoints.com fourseasons.com http://hamptoninn1.hilton.com hamptoninnandsuites.net http://hiltongardeninn1.hilton.com hilton.com holiday-inn.com homewoodsuites.com hojo.com hyatt.com intercontinental.com jcresorts.us knightsinn.com lq.com starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien loewshotels.com mainstaysuites.com mandarinoriental.com marriott.com qualityinn.com qualityinn.com ramada.com redroof.com marriott.com marriott.com ritzcarlton.com rodewayinn.com starwoodhotels.com/sheraton sleepinn.com sofitel.com marriott.com super8.com marriott.com travelodge.com trumpmiami.com starwoodhotels.com/whotels disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts starwoodhotels.com/westin wingatehotels.com 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 141 FLORIDA STATEWIDE MILEAGE CHART BETWEEN KEY FLORIDA CITIES FORT LAUDERDALE WEST PALM BEACH 26 176 214 190 43 123 277 221 150 68 144 166 494 588 241 201 172 402 192 - DAYTONA BEACH ST. PETERSBURG ST. AUGUSTINE JACKSONVILLE TALLAHASSEE 237 - PANAMA CITY CLEARWATER BRADENTON FORT MYERS B0CA RATON PENSACOLA KISSIMMEE KEY WEST SARASOTA ORLANDO NAPLES FROM / TO B0CA RATON BRADENTON CLEARWATER DAYTONA BEACH FORT LAUDERDALE FORT MYERS JACKSONVILLE KEY WEST KISSIMMEE MIAMI NAPLES ORLANDO PANAMA CITY PENSACOLA ST. AUGUSTINE ST. PETERSBURG SARASOTA TALLAHASSEE TAMPA WEST PALM BEACH - 201 239 215 17 45 - 140 302 227 195 353 394 408 178 271 494 367 153 234 383 696 790 458 378 341 604 385 221 175 42 118 191 519 613 266 367 461 211 327 421 185 331 425 53 535 628 282 445 539 252 261 355 38 696 790 458 347 441 117 558 652 307 479 573 286 334 428 100 103 292 386 226 197 427 217 29 19 12 57 275 41 235 22 201 239 45 170 207 82 106 222 119 117 95 71 262 160 106 256 241 54 104 207 153 159 248 124 199 231 206 89 132 318 282 215 170 159 17 158 183 233 138 232 201 442 233 108 70 353 119 207 248 231 - 191 26 140 82 124 206 132 - 139 148 37 302 227 199 89 318 282 - 153 343 317 135 367 153 234 383 216 173 18 107 232 188 211 240 163 191 378 341 604 385 93 118 255 74 195 353 394 408 178 271 494 175 106 95 42 71 191 139 153 148 343 317 222 262 256 26 216 - 246 214 466 247 144 107 387 155 105 130 242 85 342 380 98 330 118 119 160 241 104 37 191 117 106 54 173 107 18 207 153 135 232 188 - 519 367 327 331 535 445 261 613 461 421 425 628 539 355 266 211 185 53 226 29 197 12 19 57 282 252 38 347 558 479 334 441 652 573 428 117 307 286 100 93 246 144 105 103 - 435 473 192 423 196 223 194 176 41 41 249 20 287 54 237 292 386 342 435 196 380 473 223 98 192 194 158 232 108 211 183 201 70 240 118 214 107 130 255 466 387 242 74 247 155 85 144 166 427 275 235 233 442 353 163 217 41 26 22 138 233 119 191 123 277 249 287 20 54 330 423 176 494 588 241 176 214 190 43 150 68 201 172 402 192 LAKE WALK-IN-WATER/POLK COUNTY � VISIT FLORIDA� RINGLING MUSEUM � VISIT FLORIDA� FLORIDA BEACH � VISIT FLORIDA� 142 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA TAMPA MIAMI CAR AND RV RENTAL COMPANIES IN FLORIDA The Sunshine State boasts endless recreation opportunities that range from an idyllic weekend in Key West to the adrenaline rush of Disney World. By renting a car or a recreational vehicle (RV), visitors are free to explore all there is to see and do at a pace that suits them best. FLORIDA BUS TOUR OPERATORS A number of companies provide bus charter and rental services for groups traveling to and within Florida. BUS TOUR OPERATORS A.L.M. Transportation & Tours AMC Transportation American Coach of Orlando American Tours & Travel, Inc. Central Florida Tours Charter Bus America Classic Bus Lines Classic Florida Tours CM Tours & Travel EasyShuttle Empire Coach Line, Inc. Endeavor Bus Lines Greyhound Lines, Inc. Magic Carpet Ride Miami Coach & Tours Miami Jet Tours Need-A-Bus Pegasus Transportation Sawgrass Tours Super Tours Superior Charter Bus USA Bus Charter WEBSITES almtransportation.com amctransportation.com americancoachoforlando.com travelgroups.com centralfloridatours.com charterbusamerica.com classicbuslines.net classicfloridatours.com cmtoursandtravel.net geteasyshuttle.com empirecoachline.com endeavorbuslines.com greyhound.com magiccarpetride.travel miamicoachtours.com miamijettours.com need-a-bus.com pegasusbus.com sawgrasstours.com supertours.com superiorcharterbus.com usabuscharter.com CAR RENTAL COMPANIES ACE Rent A Car Alamo Rent A Car Auto Europe Avis Rent A Car Budget Rent A Car Dollar Rent A Car Economy Car Hire Enterprise Rent-A-Car E-Z Rent-A-Car Florida Sun Car Rental Fox Rent A Car Interamerican Car Rental Hertz Car Rental Honk Worldwide Car Rental National Car Rental Payless Car Rental Thrifty Car Rental U-Save Car & Truck Rental WEBSITES acerentacar.com alamo.com autoeurope.com avis.com budget.com dollar.com economycarhire.com enterprise.com e-zrentacar.com floridasuncarrental.com foxrentacar.com interamerican-car -rental.com hertz.com honkcarrental.com nationalcar.com paylesscar.com thrifty.com usave.com RV RENTAL COMPANIES America's Best Cruising Motorhomes & RVs Camp USA Motorhome Rental Citrus RV Rental Cruise America RV Rental & Sales Palm Beach RV Rental (formerly Easy Rider Motorhome Rental) El Monte RV Florida RV World Florida RV Rentals Giant Recreation World RV Rentals of Orlando, Inc. WEBSITE americasbestrv.com onfreewheels.com citrusrvrental.com cruiseamerica.com palmbeachrvrental.com elmonterv.com floridarvworld.com floridarvrentals.com grwrv.com rvrentalsoforlando.com TOUR BUS AT SEASIDE � JUANJO TUGORES/DREAMSTIME FAMILY ON CASEY KEY BEACH � VISIT FLORIDA� 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 143 FLORIDA STATEWIDE MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS IN FLORIDA With millions of visitors traveling to Florida every year, airports are a crucial part of Florida's transportation system. Following are the major airports located throughout the Sunshine State. CITY SERVED Daytona Beach Fort Lauderdale Fort Myers/ Naples Gainesville Jacksonville Key West Melbourne Miami Orlando Orlando Panama City Beach Pensacola Punta Gorda Sarasota St. Augustine St. Petersburg/Clearwater Tallahassee Tampa Valparaiso West Palm Beach PRIMARY AIRPORTS Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB) Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV) Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) Key West International Airport (EYW) Melbourne International Airport (MLB) Miami International Airport (MIA) Orlando Sanford International (SFB) Orlando International (MCO) Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) Pensacola Regional Airport (PNS) Charlotte County Airport (PGD) Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) Northeast Florida Regional Airport (UST) St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) Tallahassee Regional Airport (TLH) Tampa International Airport (TPA) Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS) Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) WEBSITE flydaytonafirst.com fll.net flylcpa.com gra-gnv.com jia.aero keywestinternationalairport.com mlbair.com miami-airport.com orlandosanfordairport.com orlandoairports.net iflybeaches.com flypensacola.com flypgd.com srq-airport.com flynf.com fly2pie.com tallahasseeregionalairport.com tampaairport.com flyvps.com pbia.org FORT JEFFERSON � HENDRYK SADURA/SHUTTERSTOCK AIRLINE SERVICE TO FLORIDA FROM CANADA AND THE USA Because the Sunshine State is so popular with American and Canadian vacationers, most major airlines--and many smaller ones--offer regular flight service to Florida destinations. AIRLINES Air Canada AirTran Airways American Airlines/American Eagle Continental Airlines Delta Air Lines Direct Air Frontier Airlines Gulfstream International Airlines IBC Airways (VIP private jet charter) JetBlue Airways Miami Air International Southwest Airlines Spirit Airlines Sun Country Airlines Sunwing Airlines United Airlines US Airways Virgin Atlantic Vision Airlines WestJet 144 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA WEBSITES aircanada.com airtran.com aa.com continental.com delta.com visitdirectair.com frontierairlines.com gulfstreamair.com ibcairways.com jetblue.com miamiair.com southwest.com spiritair.com suncountry.com flysunwing.com united.com usairways.com virgin-atlantic.com visionairlines.com westjet.com OUR HOTELS ARE INDEPENDENTLY OWNED AND CONVENIENTLY LOCATED. Now, with BEST WESTERN�, BEST WESTERN PLUS� and BEST WESTERN PREMIER� we've made it easy to find the hotel that's just right for your trip. When you stay with Best Western, you're staying with The World's Largest Hotel Chain�, yet each is independently owned, which means there will always be someone there who cares about you and rewards you for your loyalty. THERE'S ONE RIGHT HERE IN FLORIDA WHERE YOU'LL GET 1,000 BONUS POINTS. Join Best Western Rewards�, our FREE rewards program, and now through December 31, 2011, you can earn 1,000 bonus points for every qualified night you stay at a participating Best Western hotel in Florida for up to 4 nights! Every dollar spent at any Best Western hotel worldwide will earn you points. Points can be redeemed for free room nights�with no blackout dates, airline rewards, merchandise, dining, retail and gift cards. So, stay more�earn more! Join the club today. bestwesternFlorida.com/travel3 | 1.800.WESTERN� Promo code: COOPFLTG3 Other restrictions may apply. Visit www.bestwesternFlorida.com/travel3 for complete terms and conditions. All Best Western Rewards� program rules apply. See www.bestwesternrewards.com for additional program terms. For a list of most current properties, local attractions and events visit bestwesternFlorida.com. Property count may fluctuate throughout year. Each Best Western� branded hotel is independently owned and operated. Best Western and the Best Western marks are service marks or registered service marks of Best Western International, Inc. �2011 Best Western International, Inc. All rights reserved. Hotel photos shown, top to bottom: Dania Beach, Florida; Fort Myers Beach, Florida; Leesburg, Florida.