Florida OFFICIAL TRAVEL GUIDE
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Introduction Published by BMI Publishing Ltd © 2017 Suffolk House, George St, Croydon, Surrey, CR9 1SR, UK T 020 8649 7233 F 020 8649 7234 firstname.lastname@example.org www.bmipublishing.co.uk www.sellingtravel.co.uk Publisher: Sally Parker Commercial Director: David Clare Editorial Director: Steve Hartridge Writer: Trisha Harbord Deputy Editor: Laura Gelder Advertisement Manager: Lisa Merrigan Group Editor: Andy Hoskins Contributing Editor: Julie Baxter Staff Journalists: Ben Coren & Cameron Roberts Creative Director: Matt Bonner Designers: Louisa Horton, Ross Clifford & Monica Notarnicola Junior Designer: Zoë Tarrant Production Manager: Clare Hunter Production Controller: Steve Hunter Managing Director: Martin Steady We are members of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Visit USA Association, LATA, PATA, MENATA, SATOA, the Foreign Airlines Association and the Institute of Travel & Tourism. Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, BMI Publishing cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. ISSN: 2056-9319. Images in this guide are courtesy of Visit Florida unless otherwise stated.
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Florida forever A sunshine destination attracting more than 105 million visitors a year has to be super special – and fabulous Florida is certainly that! Holidaymakers flock to the Sunshine State because it offers everything they could possibly want – gorgeous sugar-white beaches, turquoise waters, wondrous wildlife, captivating culture and attractions galore. And of course, it is home to Orlando, the theme park capital of the world with rides, entertainment, dining and shows to suit every member of the family. But there’s much, much more to this U.S. super-state, whether you want your break to be fast-moving and active or slow-paced and chilled. Spend your holiday canoeing through the Everglades, shopping in an ultra-modern mall, swimming with dolphins, hiking through a national park, touring museums and art galleries or diving to see spectacular marine life before relaxing on one of many stunning beaches. These are just a few of the varied activities on offer for families, couples or groups of friends who choose a holiday in Florida. The choice of accommodation and restaurants for all budgets is wide and varied and travelling around the state, with its superb transport links, couldn’t be easier. This VISIT FLORIDA guide gives you a taster of what to expect. But, don’t just take our word for it – book a holiday to find out From top: Stunning beaches are perfect for for yourself. ● families; the FlowRider at Rapids Waterpark
tep into your Never Ending Story with playful moments that will last forever. ÂŽ
Plan your unforgettable Orlando vacation at VisitOrlando.com
Welcome FANTASTIC FLORIDA Sometimes you really can be spoilt for choice! Picking your perfect holiday to Florida is one of those occasions â€“ confronted by wonderous wildlfe, gin-clear waters, soft-sand beaches and thrills and attractions galore can be overwhelming. But that's where this official VISIT FLORIDA guide comes in! Handily divided by region and theme, it's designed to make planning your holiday as simple as can be. Whether you're a fan of our famous theme parks, want to dine and party in some of the USA's best nightspots, or shop until you drop, this guide will tell you how. Don't miss the handy tips for perfect days out and must-see attractions and turn over to find useful contacts and an all-important map, perfect for plotting your course through the Sunshine State. We guarantee you'll be inspired. And if you can't fit it all in, you're welcome to come back again!
Holiday ideas for Florida
8 NORTH FLORIDA
Cool and laid-back with quaint towns and beaches
24 DRIVE TIME
Take to the open road on a self-drive
Florida opens its welcoming arms to everyone
PORTS & CRUISES
Set sail with Florida's huge range of cruise options
Helpful hints and tips
26 CENTRAL FLORIDA
73 TOUR OPERATORS
42 SOUTH FLORIDA
74 USEFUL CONTACTS
68 SPECIAL NEEDS
76 IBC MAP
Action-packed parks and a world of adventure
Beautiful beaches in 'America's Riviera'
Assistance and accessibility in the Sunshine State
Access a hand-picked list of specialist operators
Tourist offices, attractions, car hire and more
Plot your journey around Florida on this handy state map
Sport & Activities CENTRAL FLORIDA
Arts & culture NORTH FLORIDA
Nature & wildlife SOUTH FLORIDA
Theme Parks & Attractions CENTRAL FLORIDA
Romance SOUTH FLORIDA
Shopping CENTRAL FLORIDA
Arts & culture CENTRAL FLORIDA
Sport & Activities NORTH FLORIDA
Beaches NORTH FLORIDA
Festivals SOUTH FLORIDA
Theme Parks & Attractions SOUTH FLORIDA
Marianna Destin Ft. Walton Beach Okaloosa Island
Panama City Beach Port St. Joe
Amelia Island White Springs Jacksonville Live Oak Ponte Vedra Beach St. Augustine
TURN BACK THE CLOCK AND GET BACK TO NATURE IN CAPTIVATING NORTH FLORIDA
YOU are now entering a world of spectacular sand-dune beaches, fabulous forests and quaint fishing villages. Whether in Northwest Florida or around St Augustine, the oldest town in the U.S., there’s a laid-back feel that has to be experienced to be appreciated. Wonderful wildlife and flora can be found along the walking and biking trails of Apalachicola National Forest and Manatee Springs State Park. For a change of tempo, the state’s capital Tallahassee and the city of Jacksonville have great dining, attractions and shopping. Choose North Florida for a holiday — there’s a warm welcome waiting for you.
Palm Coast Flagler
NATURE & WILDLIFE
Have your cameras at the ready, because the stunning nature and wildlife of North Florida is waiting to be captured on film. Visitors looking to improve their technique for the treats ahead should head to the fiveday Florida Birding and Photo Fest in April at the GTM Research Reserve Environmental Education Center at Ponte Vedra Beach. Expert nature and wildlife photographers are happy to pass on their skills and take visitors on nature tours. There are many ways of discovering more about the beautiful flora and fauna of North Florida. Learn about the different plants on a guided walking tour of the boggy, wetland prairies in Point Washington State Forest at South Walton Center of Northwest College, Santa Rosa Beach. A biologist talks about the historical significance of this ecosystem, helping to identify rare carnivorous native plants. This is
“Learn about the different plants on a walking tour of the boggy, wetland prairies in Point Washington State Forest”
also a good place to find the rare American kestrel and gopher tortoise. Every year, staff at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve monitors more than 200 loggerhead sea turtle nests on St George and St Vincent islands. Visitors can join lectures about their preservation and children will also find it an interesting experience. Sea turtle nesting season runs from May to October. Apalachicola National Forest, spread over 632,835 acres in Northwest Florida, shows off a superb display of plant life amid rivers, lakes and natural springs. The Apalachee Savannas Scenic Byway is also a scenic treasure trail. Head for the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville for an overall experience of spectacular wildlife and plants. Not to be missed is the Butterfly Rainforest, with its hundreds of free-flying butterflies and birds. Pictured, opposite page: Sailing in Destin; This page, from top: Wakulla Springs; Ponte Vedra
MORE WILD FUN… RAVINE Gardens State Park in Palatka bursts into colour in March when 100,000 azalea bushes bloom.
TAKE A BOAT tour from Panama City Beach around uninhabited Shell Island to view dolphins and sea turtles.
RENT A BIKE. Fort Clinch State Park features a six-mile trail that snakes through ancient maritime forest.
WAKULLA Springs State Park boasts one of the world’s deepest natural springs. It was a location for the Tarzan movies.
ALFRED B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee has more than 200 plant varieties plus secret and walled gardens.
view shore birds, including brown pelicans and piping plovers. It is the only state park in Florida that allows visitors to ride horseback along the beach. To get up close and personal to the most exciting creatures in the world, visit Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, thoughtfully laid out over 110 acres and home to gorillas, tigers, elephants and giraffes among 2,000 other animals. Children will also love to see sharks and sea turtles at feeding time in The Gulf World Marine Park at Panama City Beach. The nearby ZooWorld Zoological and Botanical Conservatory is also a big attraction. Nature is calling, so answer the call of the wild for a thrilling experience. Pictured: The beaches of North Florida make for an ideal romantic getaway
Visitors to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge near Tallahassee can also learn about the incredible migration pattern of the monarch butterfly to and from Mexico. The refuge is involved in the recovery of many endangered species, including the red-cockaded woodpecker. One place to spot these beautiful birds is along the Nice Wander Trail in Osceola National Forest, west of Jacksonville, which is crossed by the Great Florida Birding Trail and a stretch of the Florida National Scenic Trail. The 2,000-mile (3,218km) Great Florida Birding Trail connects 515 birding and wildlife viewing sites throughout Florida and there are 85 trail sites in Northwest Florida between Pensacola and Monticello. Amelia Island State Park, 230 acres of unspoiled wilderness, is the perfect spot to
There is nothing more romantic than standing on sugary white sands beside glistening blue waters as the sun streams down. It's no wonder Florida is a top choice for a dream holiday, marriage proposal, wedding or honeymoon. The state offers heterosexual and samesex couples superb choices of destinations, accommodation, activities and a warm welcome wherever they go. Thousands of happy couples travel to Florida every year to get married or renew their vows on one of the gorgeous beaches. That’s only one of the ways to tie the knot. There is a resort or backdrop in the state to suit every couple — from an exotic flower garden to saying ‘I do’ in full scuba gear under the ocean. Any special requests for even the most unusual of weddings can be accommodated in Florida.
MORE ROMANTIC FUN… THE OLD CITY of St Augustine is made to be explored. Hop on a horse-drawn carriage made just for two.
STEINHATCHEE Landing Resort on the Gulf of Mexico has its own chapel – and a Honeymoon Cottage.
SURPRISE your significant other by eating al fresco. Many hotels can provide a private dinner on the beach.
LIKE YOUR date nights to have dancing? The stylish Bradfordville Blues Club in Tallahassee fits the bill.
SAIL AWAY on a romantic sunset cruise. A number of luxury vessels operate from the dock at Destin.
#EmeraldCoasting is your family’s next great
BIG CATCH HOLE IN ONE BEACH STROLL SEAFOOD FESTIVAL ADVENTURE
“Top Beach in the U.S.” USA TODAY “Top Place to Visit” National Geographic “Top 25 Destinations in the U.S.” TripAdvisor +001.850.651.7131 • EmeraldCoastFL.com
Destin Ft. Walton Beach Okaloosa Island
Pictured: The beaches of South Walton includes Grayton Beach, named as one of the top 10 beaches of 2016 by Dr. Beach
And there are lots of companies that can arrange everything for the big day — from flowers and cakes to the marriage license and minister. If organising a DIY wedding, the couple can get a marriage license, valid for 60 days and costing around $93 from a circuit court clerk’s office. Just check out the paperwork needed before leaving home. It is worth considering North Florida for a beach wedding as the coastline is quieter and resort prices can be cheaper. There’s a huge choice, from one of the Northwest Florida resorts in Destin or Panama City, or venues in St Augustine or Ormond Beach on the Atlantic coast. There are lots of stretches of sand perfect for a ceremony in St Augustine, Anastasia
State Park being just one. And there’s a host of activities and historical landmarks in the area, including the oldest fort in America, built in the 1500s, to keep guests busy before and after the wedding. Off the beach, hoteliers have a range of rooms and gardens to cater for any size of wedding party. Unique venues include Marineland Dolphin Adventure near St Augustine and a 1936 glass factory or a horse ranch in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Zoo also hosts weddings and receptions. Or how about Kanapaha Botanical Gardens at Gainesville, for a tranquil ceremony among bamboos, palms and giant water lilies? For a touch of romance don’t miss the gardens’ Moonlight Walk, when the grounds are lit up by spectacular laser lights. On the Gulf coast, there are opportunities to marry at a great variety of venues and a good choice of accommodation for guests — hotels, villas and condominiums. It’s also a fabulous holiday destination for any couple seeking romance with a great selection of watersports, restaurants (don’t forget to try world-famous Apalachicola oysters) and bars. The remote island of St George, 20 minutes from Apalachicola, is where to take your partner to get away from it all. The Henderson Park Inn in Destin was voted the most romantic hotel in North America in About.com’s Reader's Choice contest. The views of the Emerald Coast from its sunset deck are spectacular. Don’t forget that every detail, no matter how small – Champagne, chocolates, flowers, music and more – can all be arranged by your hotel in Florida.
MORE BEACH FUN… SEASIDE, WITH its attractive wooden-turret houses, is where actor Jim Carrey filmed The Truman Show.
PETERS POINT on Fernandina Beach is renowned for being a party spot with lots of young people having fun.
CATCH A passenger ferry from Carrabelle near Tallahassee to visit the unspoiled Dog Island.
ORMOND Beach is a peaceful resort, but it’s only six miles (9km) from the buzz and nightlife of Daytona.
FOR THE BEST clam chowder and a cold beer, head to Cedar Key on the Gulf. The town is famed for its houses on stilts.
The secret is out about North Florida’s beautiful, unspoilt beaches, now that environmental scientist and professor Dr. Stephen Leatherman – AKA Dr. Beach – has named the northwest’s Grayton Beach in his 2016 Top 10 beaches list. It is just one of Northwest Florida’s glorious beaches, which stretch more than 200 miles (322km) from Pensacola to the historic fishing village of Apalachicola. This area of Florida can be easily reached by road but you can fly into regional airports, Pensacola International Airport or Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport – just 10 miles (16km) from the coast. Pensacola Beach actually has 20 beaches and beach parks with a great fishing pier observation post jutting 1,471ft into the Gulf of Mexico. The sands along this coastline are exquisite, shimmering pure quartz whether you stop off at Navarre, Fort Walton, Seaside or
Santa Rosa, where visitors find picnic areas, restrooms and outdoor showers. There’s a beach for everyone in North Florida, whether it’s to swim, snorkel, scuba dive, fish, take a boat trip or simply make castles in the sand. And many are family friendly, with shallow waters perfect for children, lifeguards during the summer season and chairs and umbrellas for hire. Panama City Beach is a favourite with tourists because of the variety of watersports, cluster of wrecks for scuba divers, the waterpark and marine park, seafood restaurants and buzzing nightlife. One of the most uninhabited beaches in Florida can be found on St George Island, accessed by a four-mile bridge from mainland Eastpoint, it boasts large sand dunes. Surf riders should head for the Atlantic Ocean waves found at east coast communities such as Neptune Beach, one of a collection of beaches along 20 miles
CH PANAMA CITY BEA
fun. Plan your White sands. Turquoise waters. And endless FUN. BEACH. escape today. Then see why we’re the REAL.
Don’t forget sunscreen, insect repellent, water and a picnic, as the parks don’t sell food and drink. Amelia Island, a 13-mile (21km) long barrier island, couldn’t be more laid-back and visitors can ride on the sands — either in a vehicle or on horseback. With so much choice, there’s no wonder North Florida beaches are winning accolades!
Pictured: Amelia Island is the only state park in Florida which allows beach horseback riding
(32km) of coastline known as Jacksonville Beach. Fish off the pier, play beach volleyball or listen to live music at Sea Walk Pavilion. St Augustine is a popular tourist spot, being the place where Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon was the first European to set foot on Florida sands in 1513. St Johns County Ocean & Fishing Pier, which includes a four-acre beachfront park, is a highlight and birdwatchers will marvel at the species found in Anastasia State Park. Historians should see soldiers recreate life during the Civil War at Fort Clinch, Fernandina Beach, on Amelia Island, Florida’s northernmost barrier island. Stay for the sunset and watch the shrimp fleet return. Talbot Islands State Parks, between Fernandina on Amelia Island and St Augustine, have 40 miles (65km) of beaches.
North Florida is on parade all year round, with its streets filled with rousing music, zany costumes, arts and crafts, delicious food and much more. A prime example is Springtime Tallahassee Festival, held over two days at the end of March, when more than 200,000 people gather for the grand parade, explore 250 arts, crafts and food stalls, listen to great music and are drawn into fantastic family fun. Music lovers are spoilt for choice all year. The Wanee Music Festival over three days in April attracts thousands to the banks of the Suwannee River for a feast of rock sounds. The streets of Jacksonville are alive with the sound of music in May when the city hosts two great events, Funk Fest and the renowned Jacksonville Jazz Festival. For something a little different head for the three-day music workshop at the Stephen Foster Old-Time Music Weekend at White Springs in September. Visitors can learn the art of banjo, fiddle and guitar or just listen to the experts. A variety of events are held in Pensacola as the city celebrates its founding in 1559 by Spanish Conquistador Don Tristan de Luna. The Fiesta of Five Flags, named after the nations that have ruled the city since
MORE FESTIVAL FUN… THE OLUSTEE Festival in Lake City, and re-enactment of Olustee's Civil War battle, is a big draw in February.
THE FLORIDA Seafood Festival, with food, arts and crafts, takes place in Apalachicola each November.
IT’S CALLED Flagler Restaurant Week, but deals last most of September in the Atlantic town.
SCHOONERS, 'The Last Local Beach Club' at Panama City Beach, hosts Florida's biggest lobster festival each September.
MANY OF North Florida’s festivals are free and even the smallest warmly welcome holidaymakers.
St. Augustine St. Augustine
OUR HISTORY IS NOT T H E S A M E O LD
Like soldiers, we stood guard at Castillo de San Marcos. Like students, we daydreamed in an 18th-century schoolhouse. And like family, we strolled the shores of Ponte Vedra Beach. Through time we traversed. Across ages past. In a place where history is not the same old story.
Pictured: St Augustine is home to a number of festivals throughout the year
its founding, starts in April and includes fun runs, seafood festivals and lots of family fun. Talking of seafood, there are many mouthwatering events in North Florida. The St Augustine Lions Seafood Festival, over three days in March, serves up delights such as award-winning white chowder, Old Bay shrimp, wild Alaskan salmon and speciality Florida dishes. Amelia Island hosts the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival each May to celebrate the shrimp fleet that harvests the bounty of the sea. It may be time to dance off the extra calories so find a Mardi Gras parade for a rich extravaganza of outrageous costumes and inspired floats. Visitors will find everything they want at Pensacola Beach Mardi Gras with events starting in late January.
One event not to miss in November is Tallahassee’s North Florida Fair, 10 days that feature just about everything to keep visitors occupied: circus and magic shows, swine races, family rides, art displays, flower and plant exhibits plus so many other attractions. As you would expect, a fantastic range of food and drink outlets is round every corner. Movie fans will enjoy the St Augustine Film Festival at the end of January when more than 30 independent films are screened at different venues across the city. Classic car fans are in for a treat at the annual three-day Concours d’Elegance in March where the most stylish of unique and rare motor vehicles are on display in the beautiful surroundings of the Golf Club of Amelia Island. If vintage boats, rather than cars, are more appealing, visit the Apalachicola Antique and Classic Boat Show in April – an unusual event with displays that include a canoe dating back to the 1700s. So give the glorious beaches a break for a time in North Florida, festival fun is beckoning!
ARTS & CULTURE
North Florida offers more than pristine beaches and inviting waters; it is also a huge attraction for art and culture lovers. The 12-day Foo Foo Festival in balmy November covers every interest from opera, ballet and art to songwriting and air shows. Foo Foo blends with the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival when America’s best painters, sculptors, photographers and many other craftsmen show off their skills. Pensacola is packed with heritage events all year round, but one thing is guaranteed…none
MORE ARTS FUN... MILLIONS OF lights twinkle in St Augustine between November and January in one of the world’s best displays.
LIVE OAK, Suwannee, is a festive treat. It rings in the Christmas season with 250 arts and crafts vendors.
PLAY WITH digital paint on giant canvasses at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville.
BEAUTIFUL Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville, host the Worldwide Artist Paint Out in September.
SEE VASES carved from wood and hand-made jewellery, soaps and silk scarves at Gadsden Arts Center, Quincy.
of it is dull and the kids will love it as much as mum and dad. Another main attraction in November is the Downtown Festival and Art Show in Gainesville when the streets are filled with exciting and colourful art displays, music and other entertainment. More than 250 of the nation’s most talented artists display their original works at the festival each year, and it is little wonder it is consistently ranked among the best fine art shows in America. Art lovers will enjoy the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, which has a permanent collection of nearly 5,000 objects, including work dating back to 2100BC. Pride of place in the exquisite Cummer Gardens is the Italian Garden. Marble ornaments, a breathtaking display of azaleas
“The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville has a collection of nearly 5,000 objects” and two long reflecting pools are the highlights here. Visitors can stroll around at their leisure or join a guided tour. The Sunshine State’s capital, Tallahassee, is home to the Museum of Florida History, where exhibits and hands-on programmes track 12,000 years of extraordinary events. Tallahassee Museum, set outdoors in 52 acres on the shores of Lake Bradford, highlights Florida’s natural and cultural heritage and is a wonderful choice for a kids’ day out. The Tree to Tree Adventure and new zip line are a great way to explore nature with a bird’s eye view. The capital is also home to the thatchedroof Apalachee Indian Council House, part of The Mission de San Luis, highlighting an era in the 1600s when Native Americans and Spanish settlers worked together. St Augustine is an ideal spot to admire Pictured, above: Downtown Jacksonville; left, The Blue Angels fly over Pensacola Beach
Visit Florida’s 352-543-5111 Cedar Key, Florida
Nature Coast Levy County , Florida
Florida include the Pensacola Symphony, the St Augustine Orchestra, the Tallahassee and Florida State University symphonies, and the Gainesville Chamber Orchestra. Arts from the heart, that’s North Florida.
Pictured: Floridian malls offer something for everyone and feature a wide range of outlets
historic architecture, including Florida’s oldest Spanish Colonial home still standing, which dates back to the 1700s. Historic Pensacola Village is a collection of 28 museums and buildings showing how architectural styles have developed over 450 years. Kids will enjoy the Children’s Museum and listening to history interpreters dressed in period costume. Jacksonville, the largest city by population in Florida, is the proud home of the TimesUnion Center for the Performing Arts, which attracts theatre and music lovers to its three performance halls. The Center is home to the Jacksonville Symphony and Chorus and its varied programme of works has everything from Brahms to Disney’s Broadway hits. Other orchestras performing across North
Cool upscale malls, fascinating craft and flea markets, individual boutiques and discount stores can all be found in North Florida. St Augustine on the Atlantic Coast might be America’s oldest city but it isn’t behind the times when it comes to modern shopping. The area has antique shops, vintage outlets and quirky boutiques selling the work of local artists, as well as malls stocked full of designer clothes and accessories in stores catering for every holidaymaker’s budget. There are more than 160 outlet stores in the area, the two main malls being St Augustine Premium Outlets and St Augustine Outlets. They have hundreds of top brands between them, with savings of up to 65 per cent, and are open up to 12 hours a day. Shopping is an art form for Floridians and a trip to the malls is an experience. Many have fine dining and fast food restaurants, bars, luggage stores, areas for children and cinema complexes. And they can offer discount books for overseas visitors so make sure you drop into the concierge at the start of your day. St Johns Town Center in Jacksonville is another top shopping hotspot in North Florida, an outdoor mall with a variety of low and high-price stores, dining and nightlife. Find vintage treasures and a diverse range of souvenirs in the Five Points and Southside areas of Jacksonville, along with handmade arts and crafts at one of
MORE SHOPPING FUN… TASTE THE wine before you buy on a free hourlong tour at St Sebastian Winery in St Augustine.
FOR QUIRKY jewellery and hand-carved flowers, visit the Farmers’ Market at Hemming Plaza in Jacksonville.
ON AMELIA Island, see fudge being made at Fantastic Fudge in Fernandina, and snap up other goodies.
RAILROAD Square Art Park in Tallahassee’s booming art district is great for antiques, clothing and artisan items.
THE MARKET District in Tallahassee is packed with an eclectic mix of specialilty shops selling goods for all the family.
Explore Gainesville Florida
Historic downtown Gainesville is home to the Hippodrome Theatre, live music venues, great pubs, and everything from sushi to steak. Paddleboarding with DriftSUP
sweetwater branch inn Let Sweetwater Branch Inn be your home while discovering the natural wonders of North Central Florida. Birding, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, bicycling and scuba diving are all part of discovering this beautiful area. Victorian complex nestled in downtown Gainesville. All inclusive excursions/tours available. PROMO CODE: OVERSEAS WEBSITE: www.sweetwaterinn.com
springhill suites This Marriott hotel is a great location to stay while exploring the Gainesville area. Start your day with a free hot breakfast following a restful night in one of our suites. After sightseeing, take a dip in the pool or grab a workout before sampling some delicious local cuisine. Use corporate code “UK8” at www.Marriott.com/GNVSH for a 10% discount.
Make a splash in crystal-clear freshwater springs at nearby Itchetucknee Springs State Park.
doubletree by hilton The DoubleTree by Hilton exudes an upscale, college town vibe reflected in its contemporary design and unique outside courtyard. The atrium lobby houses a posh bar and restaurant serving delicious Florida cuisine with a modern flair, it’s the perfect way to end your day exploring the area. Book online: www.dtgainsville.doubletreebyhilton.com
Find Events and Adventures at
Discover the state’s history and walk through time in the Fossil Hall at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
ideas for presents, such as handmade soaps and natural sponges. It’s not often you find a mall almost sitting on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches! Pier Park, opposite Panama City Beach, has 124 stores and is open every day. It features the first Ron Jon Surf Shop in the area, along with restaurants, bars and an IMAX theatre. Bikers will also love the Harley-Davidson shop and pick up sea- and surf-inspired gifts at Beach House Market. Retail therapy meets the sands in Pensacola Beach. Here beachside shops are very handy for buying sunglasses, bikinis, t-shirts, flipflops and suncream. And there are plenty of souvenir shops too, where kids can happily spend their pocket money. Happiness all round! Pictured: The Grady Market in Apalachicola is a great shop in a historical building
the local farmers’ markets. Drive inland to Gainesville in Alachua County, where the Union Street Station Pedestrian Mall has something for everyone. Every Wednesday, the farmers’ market is in full swing offering locally-grown produce and handcrafted gifts. Alachua, High Springs and Micanopy are the places to find antique shops and flea markets, places where real bargains can be found. Tallahassee is Florida’s capital and there is nothing visitors can’t find. Urban Outfitters in College Town is worth a visit, a great stop for a coffee served from a vintage camper. North Florida’s Gulf Coast also has a varied mix of shops to fill that spare suitcase brought from home. Escape the crowds in the sleepy town of Apalachicola and enjoy the art galleries, vintage treasures and small boutiques – full of
THEME PARKS & ATTRACTIONS
Families flock to Florida every year to enjoy the thrills and spills of the state's world-class theme parks and attractions. And it’s not only Orlando that can provide endless fun for families - North Florida also has great parks and attractions. They may be smaller than those further south but remember, this can mean they are less busy and more enjoyable. Keep your eyes open for activities leaflets and brochures wherever you are staying, for there are often offers and deals available. On the Atlantic coast, St Augustine 3-D World & Fantastic Fountains has movies, motion-simulated rides and more than 1,000 fountain nozzles and 5,000 gallons of water that create a superb water and light show. The original Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is also in the historic town and has 800 odd and curious exhibits, some from Robert Ripley’s
MORE ATTRACTIONS FUN… SPEND A Saturday meeting the furry residents of the Seacrest Wolf Preserve in Washington County.
HANG OUT with the stars – there are more than 170 historical figures at Potter’s Wax Museum in St Augustine.
TAKE OFF IN A simulator and see 150 aircraft and spacecraft at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.
YOU'LL ENJOY a tour of the Whetstone Chocolate Factory St Augustine – all guests receive a free sample!
THE COBRA Adventure Park at Panama City Beach has go-karts, mini golf, extreme rides and an arcade.
private collection. There is a ghost train too. Daredevils can zip wire over crocs at St Augustine Alligator Farm, created in 1893 and the only facility in the world to house all 24 recognised species of crocodilian. Everyone loves dolphins and Marineland Dolphin Adventure, right on the Atlantic Ocean, is a great uncrowded place to get up close to these fascinating creatures. There are plenty more animal species of all shapes and sizes at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Further south it’s worth visiting Kanapaha Botanical Gardens at Gainesville. Gardens galore featuring hummingbirds and butterflies, palms and bamboos, rocks and water, are linked by a peaceful walkway. There are paths and trails throughout North Florida for walking, cycling or even horse riding, for all levels of fitness. Combine an adventure walk with swinging on a zip wire 60ft above the ground at Tree to Tree Adventures at Tallahassee Museum. The museum also houses a farm, plantation and animal exhibits where wildlife such as black bears, Florida panthers and otters live in their natural habitat. To escape the Florida heat, especially in the summer, cool off at Shipwreck Island, a waterpark at Panama City Beach that features
a 66ft long tube ride, aptly named the White Knuckle River. Skull Island is perfect for little ones with plenty of slides and the everpopular tipping bucket. At nearby Destin, there’s more splashing around to be done at Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park, which has more than 40 attractions including tube rides, slides, wave pools and lazy rivers. Energetic families should head for Adventures Unlimited Outdoor Center in Milton near Pensacola, which offers canoeing, kayaking, tubing and camping along Coldwater Creek through Blackwater River State Park. The largest family entertainment centre in Northwest Florida is Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone, just outside Destin. Fun activities include riding a rollercoaster, tackling a ropes course, bungee trampolining and remote control boat battles. Spend another great day out at Gulf Breeze Zoo, Pensacola, home to over 900 different animals including rhinos, hippos, gorillas, zebras and other wildlife from a safari train. To see and learn about dolphins, stingrays, turtles, penguins and more marine life visit Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park at Fort Walton Beach, which has been welcoming holidaymakers for over 60 years.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
Pictured: Get up close and personal with aquatic life at Marineland
Visitors looking for more than sun, sea and sand in North Florida can add sport to the holiday itinerary. There are many activities from diving, biking and hiking to horse riding, fishing and, of course, playing golf on some of the world’s most spectacular courses. Biking is a popular way to explore wild areas and visitors can take it as easy or hard as they wish. For a gentle introduction, try the paved 3.4-mile (5.7km) ride along Blountstown Greenway rail-trail, an ideal activity with children. The rail-trail is part of the Florida National Scenic Trail, which stretches more than 1,000 miles (1,609km) down to the Everglades. A more intrepid adventure is the 520-mile (837km) seven-day ride from Blountstown to the beaches of Port St Joe. If that’s too
Pictured: There are spectacular golf courses to be found in North Florida
ambitious there are plenty of shorter, fullysupported options. Hiking is also a popular way to get up close to North Florida’s amazing nature and there are many planned routes from a morning stroll to longer scenic adventures, such as the Big Oak Trail in Suwannee River country. The woodlands and swamps in the Osceola National Forest, 50 miles (80km) west of Jacksonville, have safe hiking trails, horse riding routes and camping spots. Another exciting way to discover the Suwannee River is by canoe. Short trips are available or there’s a five-day paddling festival in October that includes camping, meals and shuttle transport. Paddling on top of the water is great fun, but diving and snorkeling is also a rewarding way to discover the breathtaking life under
the surface. Divers recognise North Florida as one of the best sites in the world, whether it is under the oceans, springs or caves. Artificial reefs in Pensacola Bay include the World War I battleship USS Massachusetts and the retired aircraft carrier USS Oriskany, which was deliberately sunk in 2006 and is home to weird and wonderful fish. The Oriskany is part of the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail, which includes 12 wrecks along the coast. Back above the surface, anglers can go fishing in deep-sea waters or inland. Tuna, marlin and many other species are found around Destin, home of Florida’s largest charter-boat fleet. North Florida is a must-visit area for golfers. One of the most sought after courses is TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach, home of the annual Players Championship in May. Golf lovers should visit the World Golf Village in St Augustine where they can tour the World Golf Hall of Fame which honours the greatest players. Sports fans wanting to catch some live action can see top-class American football from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Gators American football team, part of the University of Florida in Gainesville, and the Florida State University's Seminoles in Tallahassee are two of the top college sides in the country. The University of North Florida competes in 17 sports including soccer, baseball, tennis and basketball. For something different, Bonifay stages the annual Northwest Florida Championship Rodeo in October, which includes bull riding, barrel racing and cattle roping. North Florida is certainly the home of spills and thrills. •
MORE ACTIVE FUN… GAZE UP IN wonder at the famous Blue Angels aerial acrobatics team at Pensacola Beach Air show in July.
HIRE A ROD and join 20,000 others at the annual Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament in July.
FIVE FLAGS Speedway in Pensacola hosts the Snowball Derby each December – a race with 300 half-mile loops.
SWIM, SURF or bike at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park in Jacksonville. There’s a water playground for little ones.
GOLF CLUBS in St Augustine welcome players of all abilities with special packages. And all equipment can be hired.
DRIVE TO PARADISE EXPERIENCE WHAT FLORIDA HAS TO OFFER WITH HERTZ
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Hit the road Florida offers so much that the more you see, the more you want. And the best way of experiencing the state from coast to coast, city to city and island to island is by car. Across the state there are 1,350 miles of beautiful coastline to explore and stunning countryside, including national parks, forests and lakes. Two-centre breaks are a great way of splitting a holiday and covering a lot of ground. For example, have an energetic week in Orlando in the theme parks and then chill on the beach in Daytona on the Atlantic or Sarasota on the Gulf coast. Hiring a car is easy. There are options to fit all family sizes – including minibuses – and vehicles can be picked up after arrival at an airport or delivered to your hotel. A self-drive trip gives families complete freedom and having their own transport
“Hiring a car is easy – there are options to fit all family sizes”
Pictured, above: Overseas bridge to Destin. Below: See Florida by driving its coastal roads
is needed if they are staying in a villa or an apartment away from the main bus links or theme park pick-up points. Wherever you stay in Florida, you are never more than three hours from a beach. From Orlando, it takes just over an hour to drive east to the Space Coast and about 20 minutes longer to travel west to Tampa. Orlando to Miami is a favourite route — from the theme parks to the city that offers everything. Those beautiful beaches to relax on are all around, but if you want to shop, dine or party through the night, the options are almost limitless. The drive is 240 miles (386km), so with a few stops along the way can easily be done in a day.
GRAB YOUR KEYS...
After a stay in Miami, why not hit the highway again and head into the Florida Keys — it’s 160 miles (257km) from the city to Key West and the drive is like no other. The Overseas Highway is a 113-mile (182km) road with bridges linking the chain of islands, so you – quite literally – drive over the ocean with glistening blue waters beneath you. If there is only time to do a one-way trip, don’t worry, drop off your car and get a plane from Key West back to Miami.
Another option is to drive to the Everglades, only 25 miles (40km) away. Park the car and enjoy the biking and walking trails or see the wildlife, including alligators, from an airboat ride through the mangroves. Go on to beautiful Marco Island, 30 miles (48km) west of Everglades City and linked to the mainland by bridges. It’s the largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands – a chain of islands and mangrove islets off the southwest coast – with gorgeous beaches, watersports galore, restaurants and bars and, if you are lucky, dancing dolphins in the sparkling waters. Going north from Orlando to St Augustine is a 107-mile (172km) journey, head out to Daytona Beach and then drive up to the oldest city in the U.S. Or instead, turn left out of Orlando and explore Crystal River 86 miles (138km) away, before heading north along the coast and through Apalachicola National Forest, Tallahassee. ●
Car hire is a great way to take in the ocean view. Drive the Paradise Road and explore Florida's 1,350 miles of coastline
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Ocala Crystal River Homosassa Spring Hill
Clearwater St. Petersburg
Silver Springs Daytona Beach
Winter Park Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach Kissimmee Orlando
Winter Haven Vero Beach Sebring
HIGH-OCTANE THRILLS OR CHILLING ON THE BEACH â€“ CENTRAL FLORIDA IS FUN FOR ALL THE FAMILY
IT'S no exaggeration to say that Central Florida can give every family the holiday of a lifetime. Orlando is the theme park capital of the world and lives up to its name with amazing high-tech and unique rides and attractions. The list of shows, restaurants, live music venues and shopping opportunities is endless â€“ in Orlando and throughout Central Florida from the Gulf coast to the Atlantic. Both coastlines have glorious beaches with great watersports and activities for all the family. Or go inland to find parks, lakes and forests brimming with wondrous wildlife.
Port St. Lucie
NATURE & WILDLIFE
The 366,000 acres of Ocala National Forest begins its bewitching trail south of Gainesville and has more than 600 lakes, rivers and springs, natural attractions for divers and snorkelers, and many fascinating creatures – including black bears. Visitors are advised to store their food in bear-proof containers, so follow the safety code and Baloo won’t get too close! Ocala National Forest is the world’s largest sand pine scrub forest and is packed with all types of activities for visitors looking to enjoy fascinating natural surroundings. Hikers can just stretch their legs along half-mile boardwalks or join nearly 100 miles (161km) of backpacking along the Florida Trail. Cyclists are well catered for, including a 22-mile (35km) mountain bike trail, and there are also designated horseriding trails, dozens of camping grounds,
“Silver Springs State Park is regarded as one of Florida's most beautiful natural areas”
some with cabins, plus opportunities for fishing, canoeing and water-skiing. Keep your eyes peeled for Florida scrub jays, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and Sherman’s fox squirrels along with alligators, deer and wild boar. Silver Springs State Park, between Orlando and Gainesville, is often called the gateway to Ocala National Forest. It is regarded as one of Florida’s most beautiful natural areas and offers glass bottom boat tours, kayaking, canoeing and bike rentals along with many other outdoor activities. Many people come to Central Florida in the hope of catching a glimpse of the strange but magnificent manatee, or sea cow. These gentle creatures can be viewed Pictured, opposite page: Daytona Beach; This page, from top: Paddleboarding at New Smyrna Beach; Flamingo at Homosassa Springs
MORE WILD FUN… FEED THE giraffes from an open-top vehicle on Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens, Tampa.
VISIT THE Marine Science Center, Daytona Beach, which specialises in nursing sea birds and turtles back to health.
FAMILIES CAN get up close and personal to fascinating sea lions, otters and penguins at SeaWorld Orlando.
MARVEL AT animals outside your bedroom window by staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando.
CALADESI Island, a pristine barrier island on the Gulf coast, is a magnet for terns, ospreys, herons and dolphins.
these magnificent birds. There are also live encounters plus photo opportunities and many activities for children. Look around any part of Central Florida and there will be an exciting adventure on the doorstep. The more active nature lover can take part in fishing activities, diving and snorkeling, canoe and kayak tours, as well as watersports, hiking and cycling. For a different perspective on the beautiful scenery, take to the skies with Orlando Balloon Rides. And visitors just looking for a relaxing holiday can take in many attractions, including Gatorland, a 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve south of Orlando. Creatures include rare “white” alligators, and there’s a free-flight aviary and petting zoo. Pictured, from top: Florida's parks allow visitors to get close to nature; Luxury hotel options will suit couples visiting the state
From the theme parks in Orlando to the golden beaches on the Gulf and Atlantic
at several places, having headed north for warmer climes in the winter months. Crystal River, along the Nature Coast, is one of the few places visitors can swim alongside manatees, but the strict rule is “look, don’t touch” these sensitive beasts. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, two hours drive north of Tampa, has an underwater observatory and education programme about manatees as well as information about other creatures, many of which feature in the park, including black bears, snakes, alligators, birds and plants. Visitors can get up close to birds of prey at Raptorfest, held in February at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St Petersburg. See trained raptors in free flight and learn everything there is to know about
MORE ROMANTIC FUN… SHARE A GLASS of bubbly with a loved one on the 400ft Orlando Eye, a Ferris wheel on International Drive.
ASK YOUR partner to marry you while taking a hot air balloon trip over the Central Florida countryside.
GET LOST FOR a while, just the two of you, in the Cornfield Maze Adventure at Long & Scott Farms in Mount Dora.
PROPOSE TO your partner at Discovery Cove in Orlando, and a dolphin can help with presenting the ring.
DIDN’T BRING a ring? No worries – there is no shortage of jewellers in the upmarket malls and discount outlets.
“The choice of wedding venues is enormous, from stunning beaches and hotels to tropical gardens and theme parks” while watching the sunset on St Pete Beach, swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove, ride a swan boat on Lake Eola or take an airboat ride at Boggy Creek. Being in love means sharing experiences and Central Florida has an abundance of activities. Share a kayak or canoe at Wekiwa Springs State Park, camp at the 245-acre Kelly Park at Rock Springs, stomp grapes and go winetasting at Lakeridge Winery in Clermont or pop the question while on a helicopter ride over the theme park capital of the world.
coasts, couples will find romance all across Central Florida. Getting married can be made so easy with lots of companies available to arrange everything from the service and reception to the flowers and cake. And the choice of venues is enormous from one of the many stunning beaches, luxury hotels, tropical gardens or theme parks. What bride wouldn’t love to arrive for her wedding in Cinderella’s glass coach? Blast off into marriage at the Kennedy Space Center where you can say I do, renew your vows or propose to a loved one in front of space shuttles, satellites and landing pods. Florida is all-inclusive, so gay couples will feel welcome and relaxed whether marrying, honeymooning or simply enjoying a holiday just for two. There’s a romantic spot to be found wherever you are staying. Sip a cocktail
Here on the Gulf coast of Florida, 90 minutes west of Orlando, the action is solar-powered and the possibilities are endless. You’ll always find a warm welcome on America’s Best Beaches.
romantic but malls in Central Florida manage to entice couples with lots of glitzy shops for men and women, selling everything from clothes to electrical goods. And a day’s shopping can end by seeing a movie or tucking into a delicious meal. There’s always that ring to buy too… engagement, wedding or eternity.
Pictured: There is a vast choice of wedding venues including stunning beaches, luxury hotels, theme parks and tropical gardens
And then there are top sunset spots, such as Lighthouse Point Park in Ponce Inlet and St Pete Beach, and the magic of fireworks every night in the theme parks. The breathtaking show Wishes at Magic Kingdom can even be watched from a 52ft yacht that cruises along Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. Sport-loving couples could go to an Orlando Magic basketball game or Daytona Beach for Bike Week or Biketoberfest and animal lovers might like to swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove or with manatees at Crystal River. Love fine dining? Couples will be spoiled for choice, whether wanting a tasting menu at a top-class restaurant, a meal for two on the beach or a private dinner in their hotel room. Shopping may not often be seen as
Take off to Central Florida’s Space Coast for 72 miles (116km) of family-friendly beaches. The sands of the east coast are hugely popular with visitors because they are only an hour from the theme parks in Orlando. The thrills and spills can continue when surfing on the rolling waves of Cocoa Beach or the ride-weary can relax on the secluded natural dunes of Canaveral National Seashore. The beauty of holidaying in Florida is that beaches offer such a variety of activities and facilities. Cocoa Beach is a playground for all the family. There are watersports galore, scuba diving, snorkeling, beach volleyball courts, boat and fishing trips. Supporting all this are facilities including showers, restrooms and picnic tables. If you don’t take your own food, don’t worry; there are hundreds of restaurants to suit all budgets along the Space Coast.
“The sands of the east coast are hugely popular because they are only an hour from the theme parks of Orlando”
MORE BEACH FUN… THE BEACH AT Fort De Soto Park is perfect for children as the natural sandbar acts as a lagoonlike pool.
SAMPLE MORE than 50 types of beer in a beautiful beach setting at St Pete Beach Beer Fest in May.
FAMILIES CAN learn about wading birds, spot dolphins and search for crabs at the Sanibel Sea School.
THE SPARKLING light brown sands of Playalinda Beach offer superb vistas with not a building in sight.
DAYTONA Beach Boardwalk has a renovated pier, a Ferris wheel and old-fashioned arcade games and rides.
THE WALT DISNEY WORLD
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Experience the magic and wonder of the Walt Disney World® Theme Parks and then come home to the wonderful luxuries at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. With newly redesigned guest rooms that feature Westin’s Heavenly® Bed, 17 world-class restaurants and lounges, 5 swimming pools, tennis, jogging trails, two health and fitness centers, and the recently renewed Balinese-inspired Mandara Spa. Not to mention SPECIAL Disney benefits for resort guests including complimentary Disney transportation, on-site Disney character dining, Disney’s Extra Magic Hours, and exclusive Disney Fastpass+ service for resort guests that gives you the ability to reserve access to some of the must-do experiences — attractions, shows, parades, and more up to 60 days in advance! With so much to offer, it’s no surprise that we were voted North America’s Leading Resort. For reservations contact us at 001.800.227.1500 1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd. Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830
Pictured: Loewes Don Cesar hotel offers luxury on St Pete Beach
There’s also a wide choice of accommodation from hotel chains to condominiums and B&Bs to campsites. Daytona Beach, 50 miles (80km) from Orlando, has accommodation right on the Atlantic. Drive onto the hard-packed sands of nearby New Smyrna Beach and get out a picnic when you’ve found the perfect spot. The city is also one of the state’s top surf towns. If getting away from it all at Canaveral National Seashore, take food and drinks too, as there are no shops in the park. Go swimming, fishing or hiking. Satellite Beach, Melbourne and Indialantic are also quiet beaches but
there are still watersports on offer. Central Florida’s west coast, from Crystal River to Longboat Key, rivals the east with a cluster of idyllic, spotless beaches with one featured in Dr Beach’s most recent Top 10. Dr Stephen Leatherman has named Caladesi Island State Park in his list for 2016. He says: “The white beach of crystalline quartz sand is soft and cushy at the water’s edge, inviting one to take a dip in the sparkling clear waters.” Sounds fabulous. But Caladesi, accessed by ferry, is just one of the many paradise hotspots in the St Pete/Clearwater area on the west coast’s sun-drenched peninsula. There are 35 miles (56km) of beaches and the region has an average water temperature of 24C. This is perfect for all-year watersports – swimming, diving, sailing, kayaking and fishing. There are 300 species of fish in the surrounding waters. After a lazy day on the sands or a busy day in Tampa’s theme parks and attractions, head to Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach for the nightly sunset celebration with musicians and dancers. Go north into Pasco County and Hudson Beach is a great spot for chartering a boat for fishing or diving. Or, further down the Gulf coast, you can escape the crowds on Anna Maria Island, 20 minutes from Bradenton. Seven miles (11km) of white sands with just a few beach shops and restaurants and the small town, where no building can be above two storeys, is laid-back. Go fishing off Anna Maria City Pier and then tuck into seafood at one of the diners. Life’s a peach on the beach in Central Florida!
MORE FESTIVAL FUN… THE BAY AREA Renaissance Festival in Tampa recreates a 16th century village over seven weekends in spring.
AMERICANS do Halloween in style, so hit Sarasota Pumpkin Festival for shows, rides and a beer garden.
CELEBRATE the diverse cultures of the Caribbean, including its spicy food, at the Orlando Carnival in May.
SEE KITE demos and competitions and get free lessons at New Smyrna Beach Kite Festival in November.
FLORIDA’S biggest party, Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras, is in spring. Parades and concerts light up the stage.
Twelve days in February are a highlight on the festival calendar in Central Florida. Nearly half a million people are drawn to the Florida State Fair in Tampa to experience thrilling rides, fascinating exhibitions such as needlework, woodcarving and aquaculture, top live bands and delicious food including pizza cones and bacon ice cream! More than 90 years since the first fair, judges are still awarding prizes for the champion bull, best pie and most attractive quilt. Manatee County Fair, over 11 days in January, features livestock shows, thrill rides, top entertainment and much more, including competitions for children. The fair is held in Palmetto, 40 miles south of Tampa. January also plays host to the two-day Florida Manatee Festival in downtown Crystal River. This uniquely local event includes car shows and live viewings of
Pictured: The CountryFlo Music Festival
Bored of the typical Florida theme park experience? Plan your next vacation to sunny Pasco County. There are shopping and outdoor adventures for everyone! Untitled-3 1
Pictured: Crowds take to Main Street in Daytona Beach during the annual Bike Week
the much-loved gentle giant manatees at the nearby Three Sisters Spring. Strawberry lovers should head for the annual 12-day Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City in March, where, as visitors would expect, everything is based on this delicious fruit. The state’s Growers’ Association boast they produce the most delicious strawberries in the world, and no one is arguing! Shortcake and milkshakes are among the super fare up for grabs, plus great music and typical festival entertainment. Music is an important part of festival events and Funk Fest Orlando and the three-day Tampa Bay Blues Festival, both held in April, are big crowd-pullers. Bands appearing at the 2017 Tampa Bay event include blues supergroup
The Rides, featuring Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame. The Daytona Blues Festival is held over three days in October in a beautiful setting near the beach. Other treats include the Big Guava Music Festival in Tampa in May, featuring indie, hip-hop and rock bands. The New Smyrna Jazz Festival attracts artists from all parts of America over four days in September and Clearwater Jazz Holiday in October has featured world-renowned stars over the years. Beer lovers should head for Oktoberfest Tampa, a three-day party in Curtis Hixon Park complete with German cheer and beer, dancing and singing and lots of fun competitions. Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, is home to Wazoo in May, acclaimed as one of the 10 Great Beer Festivals in America. Enjoy 275 beers and other drinks from across the world to musical accompaniment and delicious food. Ten days celebrating African-American history and culture take place at various locations in Tampa in January as the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival attracts top speakers and entertainment. The Lake Mirror Classic Auto Festival in scenic downtown Lakeland is the place to be for motor fans for three days in October when more than 650 vehicles of all vintages are on display. Visitors preferring their fun on two wheels enjoy Daytona Bike Week in March where enthusiasts are invited to Ride the Loop, a varied 34-mile (54km) journey through beautiful Florida countryside. Whenever and wherever visitors arrive in Central Florida, there will be a rousing festival welcome.
MORE ARTS FUN… CELEBRATE Food Tours lets guests taste the fare while learning the history and architecture of Kissimmee.
THE 10-day SunLit Festival over several venues in St Petersburg in the spring is devoted to literary culture.
DAYTONA Beach’s free Bandshell Summer Concert Series features tribute bands each weekend.
THRIFTY ART collectors can buy affordable works, plus enjoy live music, at Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, in November.
THE VILLAGE of the Arts in downtown Bradenton offers art walks, music and food on the first weekend of every month.
“Central Florida Ballet is famed for its imaginative performances, including an aerial production of The Nutcracker each year” ARTS & CULTURE
Visitors looking for something different from thrill rides, character creatures and candyfloss will soon discover that art and culture are an important part of the make-up of Central Florida. What could be more delightful than watching fireworks while listening to beautiful music under the stars? The Brevard Symphony Orchestra performs a concert of patriotic and pop classics at Cocoa Riverfront Park in July.
Even more appealing is that the outdoor concert is free and follows a day of barbecue and fun at the nearby Cocoa Civic Center. Central Florida’s resident professional orchestra, The Orlando Philharmonic, performs a varied selection of 125 works each season and the Florida Orchestra, based in Tampa Bay, stages classical, rock and open-air concerts, catering for all tastes. Ballet is also a highlight. One of the main companies, Central Florida Ballet, based in Orlando, is famous for its imaginative performances, including an aerial production of The Nutcracker performed annually at Orange County Convention Center. Orlando features a 14-day arts festival in May with music, dance, and other arts. This Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival is also a huge attraction for children, including workshops, hands-on art activities and performances by Fringe artists.
Your holiday is a very special time with your family. For the same cost as one cramped hotel room you can have a villa with a master bedroom and separate rooms for the kids to enjoy with plenty of space for everyone. The added convenience of a full kitchen, laundry facilities, 2 or more baths, plus living and dining areas makes our vacation rentals even better! For couples who want some elbow room, for friends who travel together, for extended family or family reunions, All Florida Villas has accommodations to suit a variety of group sizes, personal needs and vacation budgets. All Florida Villas Vacation rentals are located in the heart of the Central Florida attractions district within 15 minutes of Walt Disney World and only 30 minutes from Sea World and Universal Orlando. Family owned and operated for 15 years. We are built on a solid foundation of knowledge and experience. We strive to provide the highest level of customer service and quality of rental properties, which will keep our guests returning year after year.
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Pictured: The striking architecture of The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg houses the largest Dali collection outside Europe
Museums and galleries are waiting to be discovered and street art of all description pops up in the most scenic places. Beautiful Siesta Key Village hosts a craft festival in February that includes a sparkling show of paintings, metalwork, jewellery, glass and sculptures among other crafts. Uptown Art Expo in Altamonte Springs, held on two days in March, presents 150 juried art shows and fine crafts, including artists creating amazing chalk works on the streets. Ocala Arts Festival in October follows a similar theme and, remember, the kids will never be bored at these events, there’s always something to catch their attention. Visitors looking for the work of the Old Masters find their way to the Cornell Fine Arts Museum on the Winter Park
campus of Rollins College in Orlando. More than 5,000 objects, including 500 paintings from the 14th to 21st centuries, are on show, including a recent addition, a late 17th century work by Neapolitan master Francesco Solimena. Prints and drawings by William Hogarth, Andrea Andreani and Baccio Baldini are just one part of a wonderful collection. Think Tiffany and imagine exquisite jewellery. Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the company’s founder, was particularly known for his designs in stained glass and ceramics as well as jewellery and his work is celebrated at The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park. Top venues worth a leisurely visit include the Dali Museum in St Petersburg, housing the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s work outside Europe. Tampa Museum of Art is not just the home of contemporary art, ancient works and fashion exhibits – it is all housed in an award-winning building that architecture enthusiasts will applaud. Ancient or modern, Central Florida is an art in itself!
There’s a lot more to shopping in Central Florida than Mickey Mouse ears and Harry Potter wands – although they are a couple of favourite souvenirs. All the theme parks in Orlando have on-site shops, selling a huge range of fun items from clothing to chocolates and toys to trinkets. An advantage of staying in a park hotel is that all purchases can be sent straight to your room, avoiding carrying bags on the rides! There are more shops, together with
MORE SHOPPING FUN… IT’S A GOOD idea to bring a spare bag from home for your shopping – but cheap luggage is always available.
JOHN’S PASS Village and Boardwalk at Madeira Beach has shops selling everything from jewellery to kites and sweets.
NEW PORT Richey in Pasco County has shops housed in 20th century cottages as well as modern malls.
CHECK YOUR duty-free allowance before leaving home so bargains don’t turn out costing more in taxes.
BE PREPARED, if with children, that when getting off most theme park rides, there is a tempting shop waiting.
restaurants, bars and coffee shops, in the entertainments complexes, CityWalk, Disney’s Boardwalk and the new Disney Springs, which has 50 shops, boutiques and kiosks. To cater for the millions of holidaymakers in Orlando every year, there are magnificent malls to eat up those dollars. The Mall at Millenia features internationally famous brands such as Prada, Gucci and Chanel but there are also labels with price tags for a lower budget. American stores Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s are always good value so be sure to pick up your discount card from the concierge. The Florida Mall, Central Florida’s largest shopping centre, has more than 250 retail, dining and entertainment options attracting 20 million visitors a
“If staying in a hotel, check with reception because the outlets run shuttle buses to help drum up business” year. It even has an on-site hotel. For designer bargains, Premium Outlets on International Drive and Vineland Avenue, with 350 stores between them, offer discounts of up to 65 per cent and are open from 10am for an incredible 13 hours every day apart from Sunday when it’s a mere 11 hours! Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores is another good option for knock-down prices. If staying in a hotel, check with reception because the outlets run shuttle buses to help drum up business. They also offer complimentary wheelchairs and pushchairs to make life easier for families. On the Gulf Coast, International Plaza in Tampa next to the airport is handy for lastminute shopping before flying home. And Ellenton Premium Outlets are just half an Pictured from top: Visitors to Florida are never more than three hours from a beach; Florida has a variety of outlet shopping malls
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there are restaurants for all budgets. Laid-back Old Town Kissimmee has a collection of shops, restaurants and familyfriendly amusements. It’s the place for real bargains too at the flea markets. The seaside towns on both coastlines all have a variety of shops from laid-back surf shops, the most famous being Ron Jon on the Space Coast, to fashion boutiques. The message is, shop ‘til you drop!
THEME PARKS & ATTRACTIONS
Pictured: Walt Disney World's four worldclass parks and are a big hit with families
hour from Sarasota or St Petersburg. But shopping isn’t just about the big malls. Central Florida’s tourist spots all offer individual shops selling handicrafts, antiques, jewellery and ornaments. St Pete and Clearwater showcase national brands but also local goods including artworks in the Central Arts District. Sundial St Pete is another area for a unique collection of shops and, if worn out after a day walking the pavements, enjoy a spa treatment or delicious dinner. Markets are everywhere, selling local and international foods, crafts, antiques and lots more. The Saturday Morning Market on St Pete’s waterfront has 200 vendors. Visitors will never be stuck for somewhere to eat because where there are stores,
Theme parks in Central Florida are the best in the world but never take their top ratings for granted. Every year, they offer something innovative, thrilling and unique so that repeat visitors – and there are millions – always have new attractions to look forward to. Walt Disney World was first to put the entertainment area on the international map and all four Disney parks – Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios – are class acts. At Epcot, Norway’s area was expanded to include the new Frozen attraction, which includes the Frozen Ever After boat ride and meet-and-greet times with Anna and Elsa. Disney’s Animal Kingdom also now offers evening hours for the Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris, Tree of Life projection shows, nighttime entertainment and rides and more. Universal Orlando has just welcomed back the legendary King Kong with the extraordinary experience and ride Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Visitors board a 40ft, 17-ton expedition vehicle and navigate tricky terrain in search of giant Kong. And for 2017, Universal is launching an action-packed ride Fast & Furious:
MORE ATTRACTIONS FUN… LOVE CHOCS? Universal's Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen is a treat.
GREAT Explorations at St Pete includes interactive exhibits, giant tree house and climbing wall.
GATOR SPOT, a new attraction at Fun Spot America on International Drive, is home to more than 100 alligators.
RIPLEY’S Believe It or Not! Odditorium in Orlando is filled with exhibits and curiosities from around the world.
BUY FAST PASS tickets with a set boarding time for the most popular theme parks rides to save queuing.
Supercharged, based on the famous movies, and a hilarious experience called Race through New York starring Jimmy Fallon. Plus their new waterpark Volcano Bay with tubes, slides and raft rides opens its doors. SeaWorld Orlando continues to add rides and experiences. The latest is Mako, a milelong rollercoaster that soars 200ft high (61metres) at speeds of up to 73mph. And from summer 2017, Kraken will become the only virtual reality coaster experience in Florida. Its sister park Busch Gardens Tampa Bay – a fabulous mix of thrill rides, wildlife
“Staying in a park hotel does have its advantages, such as early entry into the parks, but they can be expensive” park and exotic gardens – has also got a new spin coaster, Cobra’s Curse. Younger children will love LEGOLAND Florida Resort which, together with its adjacent waterpark, has 50 rides, shows and attractions. The resort in Winter Haven – 45 minutes from Orlando or Tampa – does offer shuttle services and there is an on-site hotel. Staying in a park hotel does have its advantages such as early entry into the parks but they can be expensive. There is no end to the choice of accommodation – hotels, villas and apartments – to suit all budgets. Over on the Atlantic Coast, Kennedy Space Center gives visitors the chance to blast off into the world of rocket launches, orbits and the life of an astronaut. If daunted by large theme parks, there are individual attractions galore across Central Florida. Ride the 400ft (121m) Orlando Eye observation wheel at the I-Drive 360 complex, which also features a Madame Tussauds and SeaLife Aquarium on site Youngsters can play at being pirates while sailing on Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise
from Clearwater Beach. While there, see Winter the Dolphin, star of the film Dolphin Tale, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. For something entirely different, enter WonderWorks on International Drive, an upside-down house with over 100 interactive exhibits – feel a simulated earthquake, be blown away by hurricane force winds or design and ride your own rollercoaster.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
There is a special sporting buzz about Central Florida, with every activity available to visitors who are looking to take part in the fun or just watch from the stands. Speed fans are drawn to the Daytona 500 every February for one of NASCAR’s most famous racing weekends. FANZONE is a great opportunity for the whole family to look into the team garages, collect autographs and listen in on pre-race tactics. As the name suggests, Daytona 500 is a thrilling 500-mile (805km) race, but is just one event of many at the track during the year. The Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg, part of the IndyCar series in March, is an exciting spectacle following the twists and turns along the waterfront. Also in March, the high-octane Bike
Pictured: Thrilling NASCAR stock car racing at the Daytona International Speedway
Pictured: The Orlando area alone is home to more than 170 golf courses with many designed by some of the world's greatest players
Week is a 10-day party for two-wheel enthusiasts on Daytona Beach. Races, vintage motorbike shows, planned rides, concerts and street festivals make this a must-attend event for 500,000 racing fans every year. Some of the main sporting teams in the country are based in Central Florida. Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a top American football team (the NFL season runs from September to January) and Tampa Bay Rays, based in St Petersburg, play Major League baseball (between April and October). Many major league baseball teams spend the early part of the year training in the warm weather of Central Florida and play in friendly and exhibition games nicknamed the Grapefruit League. Orlando Magic is part of the National
Basketball Association (games take place October-April) and ice hockey fans head for Tampa Bay where the Lightning are in the National Hockey League (the season also runs October-April). Soccer fans don’t have to miss out either as Orlando City competes in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer (season runs March to October). The club includes former Real Madrid star Kaka among its squad. Beach soccer is also a popular sport and more than 100 teams gather at Clearwater Beach in July for a serious series of games that can lead to the national finals. Visitors looking to go head to head with sporting opportunities of Central Florida are in for an exciting experience. Diving and snorkeling sites are beckoning enthusiasts into the clear waters where extraordinary wildlife is waiting to be discovered. The springs of Ocala offer divers of varying experience levels the chance to spot gentle giant manatees. Beginners will also find plenty of opportunities for diving instruction. Above the surface, children can learn to fish in Kidstock seminars at the Fishstock event in May in New Smyrna Beach, when thousands of angling fans are able to take part in events including the Redfish-Trout Challenge and the Striker Offshore Tournament. The Orlando area alone is home to more than 170 golf courses and 20 academies, many designed by the world’s greatest players. Tennis courts abound across the region and, as any visitor would expect, cycling trails and water sports are on the doorstep. Whether it’s watching or participating, sports and activity enthusiasts won’t be disappointed in Central Florida. ●
MORE ACTIVE FUN… NOVICE surfers who want to improve their technique will find schools at Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic coast.
PUT ON YOUR trainers and enter Walt Disney World’s marathon, which passes through all four Orlando parks.
PACK GYM gear as most hotels have fitness centres with the best equipment, saunas and steam rooms.
SWIMMERS who love to be in the ocean can find lots of beaches where lifeguards are on duty during peak hours.
GETTING ON a bike is one of the best ways to see Orlando. There are paved trails within a 30-mile radius of downtown.
LOOKING FOR A BREAK WITH SUBSTANCE AND STYLE? SOUTH FLORIDA JUST CAN'T HELP MAKING YOU FEEL LIKE A MILLION DOLLARS...
SOUTH Florida not only boasts one of the country’s top leisure cities, Miami, it has one of the most beautiful island chains. Buzzing Miami is a dream destination — fabulous beaches, attractions, shopping and restaurants. And it is the gateway to the Florida Keys, the string of peaceful islands linked by bridges to America’s southernmost point, Key West. North of Miami lies the Everglades, a natural paradise packed with wildlife and flora, and seaside resorts on both coastlines. South Florida has as much life to see in the ocean as on land. Get up close to ‘gators, swim with dolphins and see the coral and colourful fish.
Bradenton Sarasota Venice
Lake Okeechobee Palm Beach
Fort Myers Sanibel Island Naples Marco Island Everglades
Boyton Beach Delray Beach Coral Springs Fort Lauderdale Hollywood South Beach
Florida Keys Key West
NATURE & WILDLIFE On land, water and in the air, South Florida is teeming with wildlife and flora of every description. Visitors just need to look around and they will be sure to see something to capture the imagination. A prime example is the JN ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge, more than 6,000 acres along Sanibel Island, where 300 different species of birds make this a paradise for ornithologists. There are points to spot snowy egrets, spoonbills and horseshoe crabs as well as alligators and there are many bike and walking paths and canoe trails in the refuge, which is home to the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in America. The Lower Florida Keys is the unique home of the endangered Key Deer, which inhabit up to 25 islands in the area. The white-tailed Key
“The National Key Deer Refuge offers guided nature walks, birding tours, kayak trips and photography workshops”
Deer, barely one metre tall, is the smallest sub-species of the North American deer and the best place to see them is at the 9,200-acre National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key. Visitors can join four days of educational outdoor adventure and hands-on activities at the second annual Florida Keys Wildlife Refuges Outdoor Fest in March. Events at the National Key Deer Refuge include guided nature walks and birding tours, kayak trips and photography workshops. The Southwest Florida Nature Festival in January offers 40 guided field trips such as birding walks and boat tours to 20 wildlife hotspots, including the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Big Cypress National preserve. Pictured, opposite page: The Seven Mile Bridge. Above: Dolphins live off the Naples coast. Left: The endangered white-tailed Key Deer.
MORE WILD FUN… MARVEL AT rare species of butterflies on the Summer Butterfly Walk at Deering Estate, Miami each June.
RARE PALMS and plants bloom against the historic Martello Tower Fort, home of the Key West Garden Club.
THE BONNET House Orchid, Garden and Gourmet Food Festival includes lectures on orchid care.
THE FAIRCHILD Tropical Botanical Garden, Miami, offers birdwatching tours during October.
EVERY YEAR from May to October loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs along the beaches of Sanibel Island.
“Hop into a sleek convertible, take to the Overseas Highway and feel the wind in your hair”
Pictured: Fisheating Creek at Lake Okeechobee is a great spot for nature lovers to spot the local wildlife.
season is the best time to spot alligators, wading birds and other wildlife along varied walking trails. Lush vegetation and exotic plants are part of the natural make-up of the Everglades so visitors are encouraged to take their time so they miss nothing. Two main campsites are available in the park as well as numerous sites suitable for wilderness camping. The natural wonders of South Florida are waiting for those intrepid explorers!
Field trips include birding walks, buggy rides and boat tours based at Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, Naples. The romantic sounding Lake Okeechobee, a Native American word meaning Big Water, is a huge attraction for nature lovers. In an area of 730 square miles (1,890sq km), visitors will find creatures from birds to bobcats. Sometimes called Florida's inland sea, Lake Okeechobee is home to wild hogs, egrets, osprey and kites. Those who have taken part in the annual Big O hike in November have also spotted alligators and the gentle ‘sea cow’, or manatee. From Clewiston, visitors can access the 110mile (177km) Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, a high dyke that gives an elevated view of the lake and its astonishing bird life. Mention Florida and nature lovers immediately think of the Everglades, an amazing region of tropical wetlands. Everyone has seen pictures of airboats skimming across the water as passengers strain to spot the 'gators. But there are other ways to explore the flora and spot exotic creatures. The 99-mile (159km) Wilderness Waterway in Everglades National Park is used by canoeists and kayakers and the winter dry
ROMANCE Hop into a sleek convertible, take to the Overseas Highway and feel the wind in your hair. For any couple, the road through the Florida Keys provides the perfect romantic
Pictured: Couples can enjoy the perfect romantic getaway in the southern city of Naples.
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Pictured: The Florida Keys Overseas Bike Trail offers stunning views.
backdrop: think stunning scenery and glistening ocean. And the chain of islands has all the fun, adventure and activities to suit everyone, however young or old, and whether getting married, engaged, renewing vows or just taking a holiday of a lifetime. Choosing one of the island beaches to get married can be made easy by letting a wedding holiday company make the arrangements. They will get the license, sort out accommodation for the couple and all the guests if needed and book everything from a minister to the reception. There are so many superb hotels in South Florida, on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, in the playboys’ paradise of Miami and all
through the Keys, that a romantic stay to remember is guaranteed. Rooms with a private pool, secluded within an exotic garden or overlooking a golden beach are all available, together with wood cabins or tents in a national park. And any couple really wanting to go it alone can consider hiring a motorhome and stopping off at fully-equipped campsites along the way. If wanting to tie the knot, renew vows or just pledge your love to someone in an unusual way, then how about swimming down to the 9ft-high (2.7m) shrine of Christ of the Abyss, a bronze statue sunk 25ft (7.6m) off Key Largo. Or enjoy a romantic stay at the island’s Jules’ Undersea Lodge, a hotel 21ft (6m) below the surface of the ocean. Go scuba diving in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, snorkelling or boating together — every watersport is available along the coastline. Couples who want to spot dolphins and manatees should head for the aptly-named Lovers Key State Park near Fort Myers and stay on Marco Island to cuddle up at the nightly sunset celebrations held at restaurant, Quinn’s on the Beach. Hire a tandem bike and cycle along one of the many trails through peaceful and beautiful mangrove forests in the Everglades — home to hundreds of bird and fish species, animals and reptiles. Those couples who prefer an actionpacked wedding, celebration or holiday can’t go wrong in Miami, a city packed with restaurants, bars, nightclubs and live music. Luxury hotels along South Beach can be expensive but even a single night’s stay will likely be worth every penny.
MORE ROMANTIC FUN… TAKE A DINNER cruise at night from Bayside Marketplace and look back on the lights of Miami's skyline.
WANT TO BE alone with your partner? Take a 70-mile (112km) seaplane ride from Key West to remote Dry Tortugas Island.
THE WINTER Sky Party in Big Pine Key, held every February, is famed as the best place to gaze at the stars.
THE 1890s Mary’s Chapel at Spanish Point is a picturesque wedding venue with wooden pews and stained glass.
IMPRESS YOUR other half by renting a Jaguar and driving them to Palm Beach, home of the rich and famous.
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Come off the beach and relax in the hotel gardens on a lounger made for two while sipping an iced cocktail. If on a budget, don’t worry, you don’t have to miss out; stay a few streets away or in downtown Miami in a lower-star hotel or apartment. Less expensive accommodation may also suit wedding guests. February is romance month and July and August are spa months so look out for special offers for couples, including hotel rates, restaurant and spa treatment deals. BEACHES Super South Florida is blessed with beach resorts, not just on the mainland but also on a chain of idyllic coral islands. The Florida Keys stretch 113 miles (182km) from Miami and ends at Florida’s southernmost tip, Key West. Smathers Beach is perfect for a day trip with lots of parking, picnic tables, watersports including jet skis, and volleyball nets. Quieter sands can be found on Fort Zachary Taylor, an 87-acre park — be sure to stay for the sunset. To see massive sand sculptures
Pictured: The beach at Civil War-era Fort Zachary Taylor
created by professionals, the beach at the historic Civil War-era waterfront Casa Marina is the place to be.
MORE BEACH FUN… CLEAN AND safe Hollywood Beach near Fort Lauderdale is regarded as one of the best family beaches in South Florida.
MIAMI’S PARTY centre, South Beach, is within walking distance of the famous Art Deco buildings and clubs.
THE BEACHES between West Palm Beach and Miami Beach are sheltered from Atlantic swells, so are a great family choice.
FIND WINTER on the beaches of South Florida. It can hit 75F here, compared to 55F in the north.
LYNN HALL Memorial Park beach at Fort Myers has a playground, fishing pier and barbecue facilities.
Five waterslides, three pools and The Lazy River. Your destination for aquatic adventures. HYATT REGENCY COCONUT POINT RESORT 5001 Coconut Road, Bonita Springs, FL 34134 For reservations, visit coconutpoint.regency.hyatt.com The HYATT trademark and related marks are trademarks of Hyatt Corporation or its affiliates. ©2016 Hyatt Corporation. All rights reserved.
The Keys’ year-round subtropical weather and beautifully clear waters create a paradise for divers and snorkellers. Key Largo is dubbed the 'dive capital of the world' and all levels of classes and sessions are available. Prefer to stay on top of the water? Then see the wonderful marine life from a glassbottomed boat, or go fishing in Islamorada the 'sport fishing capital of the world' – Bud N’ Mary’s Fishing Marina offers a variety of fishing opportunities. Let’s get back to the mainland, to Sarasota at the top of Central Florida’s Gulf coast. Stunning Siesta Beach was runner-up in the 2016 list of America’s beaches, chosen by “Dr Beach,” Dr Stephen Leatherman, for having “some of the finest, whitest sand in the world with clear warm waters”. Play at being a tooth fairy by hunting for fossilised shark teeth on Venice Beach, and head further south to 12-mile long Sanibel Island to go shelling, where collectors do the aptly-named Sanibel Stoop. There are more than 300 varieties of shells and there’s even a shell fair and show every March. The sunset from Naples Pier is exquisite and close by is Marco Island, the largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, offering boat trips, shelling excursions, canoe trips, fishing, camping, and of course, phenomenal beaches. There are few holidaymakers who haven’t heard of Miami and this buzzing, cosmopolitan resort has to be experienced. South Beach, a magnet for 'beautiful people,' is the city's most famous beach but the sands fringed by Ocean Drive luxury hotels and palm trees are so vast, there is room for everyone. Families wanting to go off the beaten track
will love the tranquil waters of Matheson Hammock Park Beach in Coral Gables or Homestead Bayfront Park Beach, a favourite with locals who enjoy tucking into freshlycaught seafood. Pompano Beach, between Miami and Palm Beach, is a major dive site after the sinking of 324ft Lady Luck, formerly the Newtown Creek, as an artificial reef. The tanker is the centrepiece of the new Shipwreck Park for divers with underwater art exhibitions. The beach, nicknamed 'Heart of the Gold Coast,' has beachside playgrounds, picnic tables and grills. Sunbathe on Palm Beach’s 14 miles
Pictured: Palm Beach is home to many nesting sea turtles.
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“Miami Beach is the venue for Gay Pride, when parties, parades, music and entertainers takes centre stage for three days in April”
Pictured: Big fireworks light up the sky over downtown Miami.
(22km) of sands which, as well as belonging to rich and famous residents, also belong to the resident nesting sea turtles. Martin County is blessed with so many glorious sands including Jensen Beach and Bathtub Reef Beach. Families only have one problem — finding the time to go on as many as possible. FESTIVALS The festival year kicks off in January with 17 days of fantastic fun at the South Florida Fair in West Beach, with top stage shows, concerts, great shopping, delicious food and thrilling rides. Children and adults alike will love the educational and interactive delights in
Yesteryear Village and five stages of continuous entertainment add up to an unforgettable treat. Visitors to vibrant Miami will likely be swept up by festival fever all year round. The spectacular Miami Broward Carnival, held over a weekend in October, is a showcase for steel bands, gorgeous costumes and much more to celebrate Caribbean culture in various venues including the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds. Miami International Jazz Festival is a big draw in Little Havana in May and Miami Salsa Congress over five days in July attracts 500 international performers to Deauville Beach Resort, Miami Beach. Miami Beach is also the venue for Gay Pride, a time when parties, parades, music and entertainers take centre stage in the city for three days in April. The South Beach Comedy Festival in April keeps the fun going and Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition offers nearly 50,000 exhibits, concerts, a circus, strolling entertainment, food, games, rides and much more over nearly three weeks in March-
MORE FESTIVAL FUN… PLAY IT AGAIN! The annual Humphrey Bogart Film Festival takes place in Key Largo in October.
MUSIC IS PIPED underwater to divers and snorkelers at Looe Key Reef on a fun day in July to promote reef protection.
THE KEY Lime Festival held in Key West each July is a celebration of the delicious pie and includes an eating contest!
CAPE CORAL Oktoberfest is a giant, German-themed party held over two weekends. Expect sausage beer and fun!
BAGPIPES and drums are part of the festivities at the Florida Keys Celtic Festival in Marathon in January.
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Pictured: Miami's Little Havana. Opposite: a sticker-covered car in Key West.
April at Fair Expo. Calle Ocho in early March is the finale to Carnival Miami when streets all over the city are filled with musical stages, street performers and lots more, not forgetting food stalls wherever you turn. The finest in modern and contemporary art comes to Miami Beach Convention Center in December each year, with the North America leg of the renowned Art Basel fair. The worldâ€™s leading galleries showcase significant work, including paintings, sculptures, installations and photographs, from the genres biggest names, as well as a new generation of emerging stars. The Key Largo and Islamorada Food and Wine Festival in January consists of 10 days of culinary delights to be savoured. Experts in different foods and wines come together to demonstrate their skills and, of course, visitors get the benefit of tastings in the amazing
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setting of Florida Keys. The Keys are full to the brim with tasty events in January. Others to look out for include the Florida Keys Seafood Festival and Brew On The Bay in Key Largo, which celebrates craft beer. Fort Myers, the winter home of inventor Thomas Edison, stages nine days of celebration in February with the Edison Festival of Light and events include a science fair, classic car show, craft stalls by the dozen, not forgetting the Mutt Strutt for dog lovers! For music fans, the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in March is four days of great entertainment. Another event in March, the Sarasota Jazz Festival, is bound to get those feet tapping. One of the highlights of the year is SunFest in West Palm Beach in May when visitors are treated to rock, blues, pop and folk music from more than 50 top acts.
â€œCalle Ocho in early March is the finale to Carnival Miami when streets all over the city are filled with performersâ€?
Full of natural wonders. Here in Martin County, we know a thing or two about natural beauty. Our warm waters and wave patterns are beloved by surfers, and our soft-sanded beaches are perfect for sunners, swimmers, and snapshots. Prefer something more adventurous? Not only is Martin County the sailfishing capital of the world, but it also plays host to a native coquina reef, perfect for eye-catching snorkeling. And there's no better way to enjoy our breathtaking views than with a morning stroll at sunrise along our beachside boardwalk. It's just one of the many things that make Martin County, Florida naturally quaint.
There are fireworks and lots of fun for kids. Did the Florida Keys really leave the U.S.? Visitors can decide for themselves at the 10day Conch Republic party, a strictly fun time including a sea battle. That's what festivals are all about in South Florida – lots of fun! ARTS & CULTURE Imagine bringing together around 100 principal dancers from more than 20 national and international ballet companies for a unique three-week annual festival. This ambitious project has become a hugely popular reality as the International Ballet Festival of Miami leaps onto the stage at various venues throughout Miami-Dade County in August and September. There is a lot more to enjoy during the festival, including a dance film series, art exhibits inspired by the dances, book presentations, dance workshops and ballet master classes. Dancers are also prominent in a different setting – the circus. The Ringling Arts Festival in Sarasota over four days in October showcases dance, music and theatre presented in intimate performance venues at the stunning John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Expect to be entertained by international artists including amazing acrobats, musicians, comedians and dancers. Sarasota is the circus capital of the world and visitors have the chance to watch top artists perform in a one-ring, fivestar European big top at the Circus Arts Conservatory all year round. The Sailor Circus Academy, part of the Arts Conservatory, is America's oldest youth circus
Pictured: Dancers perform in the centre of a drum circle on Siesta Key Beach.
where students aged eight to 18 learn skills and stage productions. One of the most breathtaking collections of classic art in America is held at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. More than 10,000 objects, including sculpture, prints and photographs, sit alongside paintings by great artists such as Rubens, Gainsborough and Velazquez. Other fine galleries attract visitors across South Florida and Miami has its fair share. The Bass Museum of Art includes a collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Works by Rembrandt and Toulouse-Lautrec are among 3,000 pieces on show. Lowe Art Museum in the University of
MORE ARTS FUN… THE COCONUT Grove Arts Festival plays host to 300 great artists and craftsmen every February.
SHELL OUT! Thousands of unusual shells are for sale at Broward Shell Show in Pompano Beach in January.
CHALK THIS one up! The pavement is the canvas at the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival in February.
HISTORY buffs will love Crane Point Museum in Marathon. It holds a fascinating record of early Keys residents.
THE 10-DAY Festival of the Arts in Boca Raton in March features the finest in dance, music and film and much more.
Miami has amassed 15,000 pieces, including Greco-Roman marble statues, Mayan carvings and modern art. Art and crafts are ingrained in the life of South Florida and fairs can be found at all times of the year. One of the largest celebrations of Art Deco architecture and culture in America takes place in Miami Beach in January with exhibits, lectures, film shows, street theatre and, of course, tasty food. If music be the food of love, as Shakespeare would have us believe, then visitors will love this part of the Sunshine State. South Florida Symphony Orchestra, based in Fort Lauderdale, has a full programme with top guest artists appearing regularly and other
top performers include the Miami Symphony Orchestra, the Sarasota Orchestra and the Key West Symphony Orchestra. Opera enthusiasts are well catered for with companies including Sarasota Opera and Florida Grand Opera, which is based at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, also home to Miami City Ballet. Followers of fashion will be keen to call in at Delray Beach Fashion Week in January, a unique event showcasing in-store designer shows and makeovers. The finale is a fashion show featuring more than 150 looks from 50 different stores. That's South Florida, the height of fashion in every artistic field.
Pictured: The striking Art Deco architecture of Ocean Drive.
SHOPPING Marvellous Miami is the shopping hotspot of South Florida with upmarket malls and outlet stores galore to suit every budget. Bal Harbour Shops, the glitziest indooroutdoor mall, is where to go to buy high-end international goods and spot celebrities. Shopping there is sure to eat up the dollars, but there are still bargains to be had, especially during sale times. These often fall around American holidays such as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in November. It’s at this time that prices on clothes, jewellery, shoes, handbags, electrical goods, beauty products and homeware are all reduced massively, attracting shoppers. Lincoln Road Mall is Miami Beach’s outdoor centre with a huge selection of retailers and restaurants, as is Dolphin Mall, which features more than 240 shops together with an entertainment centre and cinema. For a unique shopping experience, The
MORE SHOPPING FUN… LOVERS OF fine cigars will be spoilt for choice at Cigars in the Keys in Islamorada. It holds 200 brands.
FIND LOTS OF locally-owned boutiques on tree-lined Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, south of Miami.
KIDS WILL love Ringling Museum Store in Sarasota for souvenirs such as clown noses and juggling balls.
GIFT SHOPS IN the Everglades sell everything from rubber snakes to T-shirts in support of conservation.
B&A FLEA Market, every weekend in Stuart, is the Treasure Coast’s largest flea market with 400 vendors.
You’ll be moved, even while standing still.
You may never run out of ways to get out on the water in The Florida Keys. But sometimes, you’ll want to stop and soak up the atmosphere. It’s motion, and emotion, in perfect balance. fla-keys.co.uk 0208 686 2600
“Sawgrass Mills is the largest retail centre in the US, with more than 350 stores offering discounts of up to 60 per cent”
Pictured: Shopping at West Palm Beach is a hub of luxury and exclusive shops attracting wealthy visitors.
Falls in Kendall, South Miami has a path winding through waterfalls, perfect to take a stroll between shops. It's range of mid-range shops is great for all budgets. The small neighbourhood between Midtown and Wynwood is home to the Design District, which is seen as one of Miami’s latest luxury shopping destinations. But for the largest retail centre in the U.S., head to Sunrise 30 miles north of Miami, home to Sawgrass Mills which has more than 350 stores offering discounts of up to 60 per cent. It is open for eleven and a half hours a day, so there is plenty of time to fill those bags. The Mills is just 15 minutes from Fort Lauderdale on the Atlantic coast, making it the perfect option for holidaymakers starting or ending a cruise from the port. Shuttle buses are provided to and from many hotels in both resorts. Shopping in Florida is a favourite pastime so customers are well taken care of. Pushchairs, wheelchairs and lockers are either free or can be hired, and those with special needs are not forgotten. Visitors in search of luxury goods should head for the smart exclusive shops around Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, a region of
the state that attracts many well-heeled and wealthy visitors. But don’t be put off, the strip between South Ocean Boulevard and Coconut Row has more than 200 boutiques ranging from the classy and expensive, like Chanel, to more affordable high-street labels. The Gardens Mall at Palm Beach Gardens invariably has an event going on, which adds something different to anyone’s day out. Town Center in Boca Raton, a seaside resort, features 220 shops including a great line-up of department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Sears, and an Apple store. On the Gulf Coast, Waterside Shops in Naples fits the bill: it’s a pretty outside mall with great restaurants.
Pictured: Palm Beach Outlets features over 100 well-known brand stores.
— PA R A D I S E I S MO R E T H A N J U S T A P L AC E W H E R E FA M I LY C OM E S F I R S T. I T ’ S A F E E L I NG .
Di sc overYou rPa ra d is e. c o m
Coconut Point Mall in Estero, south of Fort Myers, has 140 stores, diners and a 16-screen cinema – end the day by watching a movie. In short, there are malls of all shapes and sizes to suit many tastes, but all tourist hotspots have their own shopping districts with boutiques, homemade crafts, art galleries and distinctive souvenir items. Individual, often family-owned, shops can be found on the Keys selling everything from fishing gear to beach wear and funky art to nautical-themed jewellery. Start making a shopping list! THEME PARKS & ATTRACTIONS With water, water everywhere, there’s no wonder many of South Florida’s major attractions come with an aquatic theme. Besides having the Gulf on one side and Atlantic on the other, there are the Everglades, a series of waterways, and the Florida Keys, a chain of islands from Miami to Key West. Boat trips to see dolphins and other beautiful wildlife are ubiquitous in South Florida and watersports include superb diving and snorkelling opportunities. America’s most southerly national park, Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles (112km) west of Key West, is made up of seven islands surrounded by coral. While there, explore Fort Jefferson, a Civil War-era fortress. Several sunken ships have become fascinating dive sites in waters around Florida so visit Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum to see artifacts from the wreck of Isaac Allerton, which sunk off the island during a hurricane in 1856. See how sick turtles are treated at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon and swim with and feed fish at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters.
Pictured: Have a wild close encounter at Miami's Jungle Island.
You swim with dolphins and watch killer whales at Miami Seaquarium before heading to Zoo Miami to get up close to a range of land animals including elephants, chimps and giraffes. For more animal encounters, take a safari tour at the city’s Jungle Island, open every day, to marvel at animals and birds from lions to llamas and penguins to parrots. At the top of South Florida, in Sarasota, more than 150 animals are housed at Jungle Gardens. There are trails along with shows featuring alligators, snakes and birds of prey. Many holidaymakers prefer to see wildlife in their natural habitat and the Everglades is the perfect place to go wild.
MORE ATTRACTIONS FUN… THE HISTORY OF Diving Museum on Islamorada has exhibits on sunken treasure and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
SANTA’S Enchanted Forest in Miami, open OctoberJanuary, has Christmas displays and a petting zoo.
NAPLES ZOO is a fun family day out, with animal shows, the chance to feed the giraffes and boat trips.
FORT Lauderdale Antique Car Museum has 25 vehicles dating from 1909, including Packard autos.
MARCO ISLAND Museum is built like a Calusa Indian village. It is home to the Key Marco Cat, an archeological find.
Here you can find your own place in the sun. Where palms cast cooling shade on an island beach thatâ€™s gently caressed by warm, soothing waves of the Gulf of Mexico. No miles of condos. No towering hotels. Just cozy places to stay that will give you memories forever. And the serenity youâ€™ve been looking for.
Request our Visitor Guide at BradentonGulfIslands.com/visitor-guide/
If there are younger children in the family, a day trip to Splash Adventure, north of Fort Lauderdale, is an ideal option. There are more water rides at Coconut Cove at nearby Boca Raton, also home to Uncle Bernie’s Amusement Park. Flamingo Gardens, Butterfly World, Boca Raton Children’s Museum, Palm Beach Zoo and Flagler Museum are amongst other popular attractions along the Gold and Treasure Coasts. On the Gulf Coast, the need to cool down might be even greater in the Florida heat, so head for Sun-N-Fun Lagoon in Naples. Have great fun at Miami Children’s Museum while becoming a rock star, hopping on a motorcycle or trying limbo dancing. Let the kids use up their energy in the Kaboom! Peace Playground before enjoying a picnic on the plaza. They can let off steam even more at Ringling
Explore the Magic of Miami Make Trump International Beach Resort your home away from home. Located in Sunny Isles Beach, our resort delights with fine dining, luxe spa services, complimentary children’s activities and stylish guest rooms and suites. Your family will love being just steps from the ocean, which makes for inspiring meetings and corporate retreats, too! Best of all, you’re just minutes from the shopping, attractions and nightlife of Miami Beach and Aventura.
18001 Collins Ave, Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160
Photo courtesy of the Broward County Parks and Recreation Division
Pictured above: Splash Adventures at Quiet Waters. Opposite: Paddleboarding Lake Worth.
Museum in Sarasota, perhaps not in the house but in the gardens, trying to find Mable’s Secret Garden, The Dwarf Garden and the estate’s Millennium Tree Trail. Back to life in the water and The Aquarium at Mote Marine is a great example of the huge amount of conservation work being done in Florida, including treating injured sea creatures so they can be returned to the wild. South Florida is the Key to fantastic fun. SPORTS & ACTIVITIES The astonishing reefs of the Upper Keys just ask to be explored, so why not go on a reef crawl? A four-day event in August brings together divers, snorkellers, kayakers, stand-up paddlers and anglers to get up close to coral, fascinating fish, wrecks and mangroves from Key Largo to Islamorada. As well as being great fun, the event has a serious side too. Morning education
“The astonishing reefs of the Upper Keys just ask to be explored, so why not go on a reef crawl?"
S O M E D AY S A R E F O R S H A R I N G
Real time. Family time. Your time. On the brilliant white-sand beaches of Siesta Key, downtown or off the beaten path, connections here are always strong. VisitSarasota.com
F l o r i d a’s G u l f Co a s t ® LONGBOAT KEY | ST. ARMANDS | LIDO KEY SIESTA KEY | CASEY KEY | VENICE MANASOTA KEY | ENGLEWOOD | NORTH PORT
“There is a sport and activity to capture the imagination of every visitor, including cycling, horse riding, hiking angling, golfing and tennis”
Pictured: There are numerous sailling events in Miami throughout the year including the International Boat Show.
programmes on coral restoration and fish recognition are followed by afternoon activities and tours. From diving and snorkelling to deep sea fishing and angling, there is a water sport to suit everyone in South Florida, including sailing and windsurfing. All types of boats and yachts are available for charter, but if being less hands-on and more of a spectator is the appeal there are several shows and regattas to visit. Key West Sailing Regatta is an international event held in January, attracting more than 100 yachts from 12 countries and 24 states. The latest in powerboats, sailboats and all things nautical are on show at the Progressive Miami International Boat Show in February, with more than 3,000 exhibits, and at Yachts Miami Beach in the same month. Palm Beach International Boat Show takes place in March. Fans of powerboat racing will not want to miss the fast and thrilling Key West World Championship superboats speeding on the waters in November. If relaxing on the sand is more appealing, combine it with a beach yoga class (there’s tuition for beginners and experts). Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, is just one spot offering
classes and another way is while chilling on a paddleboard at Fort Lauderdale. After all that downtime, it’s time to get the adrenalin pumping. Try a skydiving experience with Skydive Palm Beach, Skydive Miami or Miami Skydiving Center. Spectacular views of South Florida are guaranteed, so keep your eyes open! A more gentle way to get a bird's eye view of the area is by hot air balloon and Sunrise Balloons Miami offer trips over the glorious Everglades. There is a sport and activity to capture the imagination of every visitor to Florida, including cycling, horse riding, hiking, angling, golfing and tennis. If watching is more appealing, something different to follow is the three-day annual
Pictured: Get the adrenalin pumping skydiving over Lake Okeechobee.
Here, dining outside is a year-round thing. Your craving is our command at sunny.org
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Homestead Championship Rodeo in January or the Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo in October. South Florida has several teams playing at the top end of their sport. Miami Dolphins are a renowned American football side (September to January), Miami Heat are a basketball team (October-April), Miami Marlins play Major League baseball (AprilOctober) and Florida Panthers are a top ice-hockey side based in Sunrise, Miami (October-April). Top golf events include the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens in February, which attracts some of the world's best players. Speed fans are not forgotten. Thunder By The Bay Motorcycle Festival around Sarasota in January is a showground for new and vintage bikes and the NASCAR Ford championship weekend is the climax of the sport's premier racing series at Homestead Miami Speedway in November. Whether you want to take it fast or slow, South Florida is at your service. ●
Pictured: The Miami Dolphins are a renowned, National Football League (NFL) team based at the Hard Rock Stadium.
MORE ACTIVE FUN… ENJOY a sea view around Key West on guided Jet Ski tour riding on Barefoot Billy’s Yamaha Waverunners.
CURRENT AND former tennis stars play in back-to-back tournaments at the Delray Beach Open in February.
JOIN LOCAL legend Captain Bill Keogh of Big Pine Kayak Adventures for an eco-kayaking tour around the Lower Keys.
WORLD STARS compete in the U.S. Open Polo Championship every April in Palm Beach, Wellington.
SWAMP BUGGY races are held at the Winter Classic at Florida Sports Park, Naples, in January. Things get muddy!
Comfort, Charm & Value!
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Happy to help Florida wants everyone to have fun and the destination gives a warm welcome to visitors with special needs. Holidaying in the Sunshine State is made so easy for people with disabilities. Attractions, hotels, resorts, restaurants, state parks, campsites and even the beaches all provide access and facilities for those requiring additional support. All the theme parks offer special parking facilities and have lifts where needed. The parks’ individual transportation services cater for special needs and some public buses have wheelchair access — look out for the sticker on the window or door. They have special seating in the theatre areas, assisted restrooms and telephones equipped with amplified headsets. Wheelchairs can be rented and a limited number of electric wheelchairs are available too. There is wide access to most attractions so if a guest can transfer to a seat, they can enjoy the ride. At Kennedy Space Center, guides are offered in Braille, large print and audiotape, and American signlanguage interpreters
This page, below: Assistance and accessability are available at all major attractions in the state
are on hand for tours and presentations. Walt Disney World allows guide dogs to ride on some attractions to ensure no-one with disabilities misses out. And Florida state law requires guide dogs be permitted in all establishments.
ACCESS ALL AREAS
First aid and medical staff are based in the major theme parks so help is always available. The park hotels at Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World will make arrangements for any family’s needs. They can organise transfers to and from the airport, guarantee accessible rooms and have special equipment prepared, if booked before the visit, such as hoists or electric beds. Many hotels and self-catering villas throughout Florida offer a similar service. The facilities extend to wheelchair accessibility, including access to pools and restaurants. Even the beaches have wheelchairs designed to roll on the sand, with at least 35 of Florida’s state parks, from Anastasia State Park in North Florida to Bahia Honda State Park in the Keys, offering free beach wheelchairs. There are accessible fishing piers and boat trips so the wonderful local wildlife can be experienced. Help is everywhere; all visitors need to do is ask. ●
FLORIDA’S MOST NATURAL ISLANDS. WORLD-RENOWNED FOR MANY REASONS. T
hink Florida and think blue skies and warm Gulf waters blending together on the horizon. Think perpetual sunshine, natural white-sand beaches and pristine, uninhabited islands. Think of days spent island hopping on a charter cruise, evenings spent wandering unique restaurants and boho galleries. This is Florida how it's meant to be, and thankfully how it remains on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. A few hours from Miami, Orlando and Key West, and easily accessible from Southwest Florida International Airport, is a truly eco-friendly destination. Literally hundreds of islands dot the sun-splashed coastline like tiny jewels – some uninhabited and accessible only by boat or seaplane, others ﬁlled with amusements that eﬀortlessly blend rustic charm with modern comfort and luxury. Each island holds its own personality and oﬀers something unparalleled like shelling, boating and kayaking, while
collectively oﬀering healthy doses of peace and quiet and exceptional sunsets. These phenomenal locales also provide sanctuary to many types of wildlife. Witness dolphins darting in and out of the water alongside your charter boat. Paddle inches from giant Manatees lazily swimming the Great Calusa Blueway. Spy more than 245 species of migratory birds in the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. These experiences are true gifts of nature and human nature coexisting beautifully on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel for the beneﬁt of all. This island sanctuary will also hold your interest away from the water. Art galleries of every colour and variety burst from the seams on Matlacha and Pine Island. The Boca Grande and Sanibel lighthouses are inspirational to visit, as are the winter homes of Thomas Edison and his good friend, automaker Henry Ford. Their estates, ﬁlled with tropical gardens, laboratories and museums, prove the only limit on success is one's imagination. Only one question remains. Where to stay? To experience Florida how it's meant to be, choose from accommodations ranging from hotels and cottages to villas and private homes. Florida's most natural islands are yours. Visit FortMyers-Sanibel.com to start planning your vacation today and view our Lonely Planet guidebook.
Open doors Miami and Fort Lauderdale lead the way in welcoming LGBT couples to Florida, but there are clubs and hotels across the whole state that hang up the rainbow flag. As visitors would expect, there is a buzzing party scene as well as parades, street parties, film and theatre shows – even gay rodeos! One of the largest festivals is Pride Fort Lauderdale, which has moved from the spring to October at Holiday Park and the War Memorial Auditorium. It features concerts, top DJs, dancing and, being Florida, great food. Miami Beach Gay Pride in April is renowned for live bands, more than 125 exhibitors and the Gay Pride Parade, with its many exotic floats. Later in the month, the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival takes place in several venues across the city and AIDS Walk Miami is a popular event.
“Gay Day in the Magic Kingdom began informally in 1991 and now attracts thousands”
Pictured above: The Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade. Below, Ocean drive on Miami Beach
Miami Beach Winter Party Festival in March has been going strong for two decades and attracts more than 13,000 visitors. One of the quickest-growing gay-day events in the world takes place at Walt Disney World, Orlando. Always the first Saturday in June, Gay Day in the Magic Kingdom began informally in 1991 and now attracts thousands of LGBT individuals, family and friends. Tropical Heat in Key West in August is geared to men’s fun events while females have their own Key West Womenfest the following month where guests can join matchmaking activities.
There are many hotels happy to welcome LGBT couples for a holiday break and, of course, there are also numerous self-catering options including villas with pools and condominiums. Visitors wanting to tie the knot while they are enjoying the Florida sunshine will find many suitable locations, including churches, hotels, tropical gardens, historic houses and sugar-white sandy beaches. There are even more ideas in our Romance section. Florida is all-inclusive because the Sunshine State wants to bring a smile to everyone’s faces. ●
Ports & Cruises
More to sea Cruise fans can have the best of both worlds if they choose Florida as a destination. They can enjoy everything the Sunshine State has to offer but also board a ship and sail off to hotspots such as the Bahamas, the Caribbean and South America. The stay-and-cruise option makes a fantastic holiday or honeymoon – spend a week in Orlando having fun in the theme parks, and then board a ship from Jacksonville, Port Canaveral or Tampa. Couples or families staying in South Florida might prefer to take a sailing departing from Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale or Miami. Major holiday and cruise travel agents can help organise the whole package. But it is possible to do a DIY holiday, booking the flight, a hotel or self-catering villa or
This page, from top: Meet Mickey on a Disney cruise; luxury liners offer sailings from Florida
apartment seperately to the cruise. All the big cruise lines, including Carnival, Celebrity, MSC, Royal Caribbean and Cunard, offer sailings from three nights to a week or more on board. And let’s not forget Disney, which has its own fun-packed ships with round-trip sailings from Miami and Port Canaveral — many stopping at Castaway Cay, an exclusive private island in the Bahamas for Mickey and Co.
TIME TO SPLASH OUT
The advantage of Florida’s ports is that there is always something to do or see nearby. All have a shopping mall within easy reach. Port Tampa Bay has Channelside close to the terminals, a complex full of stores and restaurants; St Johns Town Centre at Jacksonville is home to 150 stores; Sawgrass Mills near Fort Lauderdale has 350 outlets; and Miami has a number of malls including Aventura which has more than 300 retailers. All the ports are also close to beautiful beaches so, after dropping off your luggage at the port, spend a few hours topping up your tan before boarding the cruise ship. And many attractions are a quick taxi or shuttle bus ride away. For instance, Port Canaveral is next door to Kennedy Space Center and Tampa has Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium. Miami has Zoo Miami, Jungle Island — the wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary — Miami Seaquarium and the Science and Children’s museums. Cruising from Florida can help keep the holiday budget down, as once on board, all meals, activities and entertainment are almost always included in the price. ●
Florida Fact File HELPFUL HINTS AND TIPS Make your Florida trip seamless with the following tips to know before you go
Apply for an ESTA quickly and easily at: https://esta. cbp.dhs.gov/esta For more information about entry into the U.S., please visit uk.usembassy.gov
Visitors must book their first night’s accommodation before they arrive in the U.S. and provide an accurate address.
Customs Personal exemptions may be brought in free of duty. This includes personal effects, one litre of alcoholic beverage if you are over 21, 200 cigarettes or 100 cigars or three lbs of tobacco
The U.S. uses two-pin plugs so adaptors are required. Electrical goods from the U.S. may not work correctly in the UK.
Money and tipping
All major credit cards are accepted throughout the U.S. Travellers’ cheques in U.S. dollars are recommended. Tipping in the United States is the norm. As a minimum, tip 15% when dining in restaurants or $1 per drink in bars.
A full UK driver’s licence is required to hire a car in the U.S. Drivers must be 21 or over – or 25+ with some companies.
Medical expenses are high in the U.S. so travel insurance with medical cover of at least £2million is recommended.
Florida Fact File TOUR OPERATORS Create your perfect Florida itinerary by booking with these UK operators Attraction Tickets Direct
0800 977 5248 attraction-tickets-direct.co.uk Pre-book with the UK’s No. 1 for Florida theme park tickets and enjoy great deals, discounts and free gifts! Not forgetting great advice from our expert team of 15 year.
Cosmos Tours & Cruises
0871 700 8888 attractionworld.com The award winning leading supplier of Florida theme park tickets and attractions through the UK travel trade. With exclusive tickets and reasons to pre-purchase make sure your customers don’t miss out!
0344 493 0124 ba.com/florida We never forget, your Florida holiday is something you’ll never forget. That’s why we offer a great selection of accommodation, exclusive car hire from Avis, 24hr holiday helpline and low deposits. ATOL protected.
Hayes and Jarvis
0800 668 1365
01403 755 123
Global tour specialists with over 85 years of experience. We have more touring holidays in North America than any other operator, including Florida Keys, the Everglades & Orlando.
Dedicated Florida experts, specialising in villa, townhouse & apartment holidays to Orlando and the Gulf Coast. Our knowledgeable team can tailor make the perfect holiday for you. ATOL Protected.
From romantic beaches to thrilling theme parks, Hayes and Jarvis have been planning dream holidays to Florida for more than 65 years. Speak to our savvy Destination Specialists today and book a holiday worth talking about.
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From Orlando’s magical themeparks to the romantic beaches of the Keys, Florida has something for everyone. And with us, you can tailor-make your perfect holiday.
Travelpack is a one-stop shop for all things Florida, offering the widest range of hotels, condos, homes, attraction tickets, transfers and car-hire at the most competitive price.
OrlandoAttractions.com offers unbeatable deals on Orlando Attraction Tickets, along with all the latest news, videos and information from the worlds most popular family destination!
Florida Fact File USEFUL CONTACTS Make your Florida dreams come true - contact our VISIT FLORIDA (UK) partners Tourist Offices
VISIT FLORIDA® VISITFLORIDA.com 0207 932 2406 visitfloridaUK@visitflorida.org For free vacation guide: firstname.lastname@example.org VISIT FLORIDA @VISITFLORIDA Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel fortmyers-sanibel.com 020 3697 4200 fortmyers@ fourcommunications.com FtMyersSanibel @FtMyersSanibel Bradenton Area CVB bradentongulfislands.com 020 7871 2915 email@example.com VisitBradentonGulfIslands @VisitBradenton Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Daytonabeach.com 020 3044 2763 firstname.lastname@example.org daytonabeach @daytonabeachfun Discover Martin County discovermartincounty.com 0133 070 0101 email@example.com DiscoverMartinCounty @DiscoverMartin Discover the Palm Beaches thepalmbeaches.com 020 7593 1781 firstname.lastname@example.org PalmBeachesFL @PalmBeachesFL Experience Kissimmee experiencekissimmee.com 0203 086 8116 email@example.com experiencekissimmee @Kissimmee Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB sunny.org 020 7593 1700 firstname.lastname@example.org visitlauderdale @visitlauderdale VF
VISIT FLORIDA® strategic partners
Greater Miami CVB miamiandbeaches.com 0208 877 4523 email@example.com visitmiami @MiamiandBeaches
Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades paradisecoast.co.uk 01732 875 722 firstname.lastname@example.org Paradise Coast UK @paradisecoastuk
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex KennedySpaceCenter.com 0203 790 9154 Philip@Ignite-uk.com KennedySpaceCenterVisitorComplex @ExploreSpaceKsc
Panama City Beach Convention & Visitor Bureau visitpanamacitybeach.com 020 7871 2915 email@example.com visitpanamacitybeach @Visit_PCB
LEGOLAND Florida Resort florida.legoland.com LLFinfo@legoland.com LEGOLANDFlorida @Legolandflorida
The Florida Keys & Key West fla-keys.co.uk 020 8686 2600 firstname.lastname@example.org Florida Keys and Key West @theFloridaKeys Visit Orlando visitorlando.com/uk 020 3757 6800 email@example.com visitorlando @VisitOrlando Visit Sarasota County visitsarasota.org 020 7871 2915 firstname.lastname@example.org VisitSarasota @VisitSarasota Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater VisitStPeteClearwater.com 020 8339 6121 email@example.com visitstpeteclearwater @VSPC Visit Tampa Bay visittampabay.com 07557 256 973 firstname.lastname@example.org visittampabay @VisitTampaBay
Florida Attractions Collection attractionscollection.com 020 3044 2761 email@example.com @hatmarketing
SIMON Shopping Destinations® SIMON.com/travel 020 3189 1240 firstname.lastname@example.org Simon Malls @shopsimon
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment seaworldparks.co.uk 01293 785 685 email@example.com Universal Parks & Resorts VF universalorlando.co.uk 020 3618 6364 f: 020 3618 6478 Universal Orlando Resort @UniversalORL Walt Disney World Resort disneyworld.co.uk Walt Disney World @WaltDisneyWorld
Hertz VF hertz.co.uk 08708 448 844 HertzUK @HertzUK
Government Offices U.S. Embassy in London uk.usembassy.gov 0207 499 9000
British Consulate gov.uk/government/world/ organisations/britishconsulate-general-miami 001 305 400 6400
Flying to Florida? in the center of it all is Orlando Melbourne International Land at the airport RightAirport (MLB) – the closest airport to Port Canaveral’s cruises, closest to beaches, 72 miles of sparkling beaches, and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Best of all, it’s just a short drive to Orlando family closest to cruises, theme parks like Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. closest to fun Fly via OrlandoMelbourneInternationalAirport.com
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National numbered A-road
Dual Carriageway junction
Numbered A-Road within a state
Numbered A-road within a county
* Some Florida highways are now cashless and tolls should be pre-paid or paid on completion of the hire. Your car hire company will have full details. Visit www.visitflorida.com/articles/florida-toll-road-changes-what-you-need-to-know or www.floridasturnpike.com
West Palm Beach
7:00 4:00 0:45
2:30 3:15 4:30
6:45 13:00 10:00 7:00 4:15
APPROXIMATE DRIVE TIMES (HOURS)
5:15 13:00 10:00
West Palm Beach
7:15 4:15 1:15
6:30 2:30 2:30
4:00 1:30 2:45 3:00 6:45 9:00 4:15 6:15 3:30
Published on Jul 13, 2017
A sunshine destination attracting more than 105 million visitors a year has to be super special – and fabulous Florida is certainly that! H...