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Florida OFFICIAL TRAVEL GUIDE

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An island’s not deserted when it’s all yours for the day

CAPTIVA ISLAND, FL

Islandology is our way of life. It’s deciding to land on any beach you see. It’s hopping ashore and letting time pass by. It’s looking forward to leaving the world behind. Plan your trip at FortMyers-Sanibel.com

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Introduction Published by BMI Publishing Ltd © 2018 Suffolk House, George St, Croydon, Surrey, CR9 1SR, UK T 020 8649 7233 F 020 8649 7234 enquiries@bmipublishing.co.uk www.bmipublishing.co.uk www.sellingtravel.co.uk Publisher: Sally Parker Commercial Director: David Clare Editorial Director: Steve Hartridge Writers: Simon and Susan Veness Deputy Editor: Laura Gelder Advertisement Manager: Lisa Merrigan Group Editor: Andy Hoskins Staff Journalists: Ben Coren & Jessica Pook Creative Director: Matt Bonner Designer: Ross Clifford 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.

Travel Trade Publication of the Year

The Florida Effect There’s nowhere in the world like Florida. This vast destination of brilliant beaches, amazing wildlife, thrilling theme parks, natural wonders, surprising history, cultural immersion and world-class shopping and dining is a complete one-off in world terms - and there's no denying its appeal is universal. If you’ve been here before, there is always another reason to come back. If you’ve never been, there are any number of attractions guaranteed to excite and enthrall, with a myriad ways to have fun, be entertained or simply kick back and relax. Florida really does have it all. From the far north – and the stunning sands of the Emerald Coast – to the tip of the Florida Keys, the

range of activities is a true invitation to make your visit as action-packed or chilled as you like, along with the chance to sample great food. And did we mention the weather? This IS the Sunshine State after all and the blessing of blue skies and blissful temperatures is pretty much a given, the perfect backdrop to cities like Miami, Orlando, St. Augustine and Tampa, and the almost unbroken stretch of beaches that fringe the coastline. It appeals to all budgets and allcomers, a magnetic pull that brings people back year after year. In fact, you could call it the 'Florida Effect', the desire to live, breathe and recharge on your holiday. It’s all here – just come on in! ●

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Affordable and full of possibilities, Central Florida’s Polk County is the smart place to stay on your Sunshine State holiday. Home to LEGOLAND® Florida Resort, 554 sparkling lakes and less than an hour from Orlando’s biggest attractions, it’s the perfect place to call home base—especially if you’re planning a longer stay. From cozy condos to grand villas, you’ll find thousands of vacation rentals featuring all the comforts of home just minutes from your favorite parks.

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Contents

Welcome FALL IN LOVE WITH FLORIDA Whether you are a new or returning friend of Florida’s, we understand it can be overwhelming trying to get the most out of your trip with so much on offer. That's why we've done the hard work for you and created this handy official Visit Florida guide. Think of us as your trusty travel companion, providing all the tools needed to plan that perfect holiday to Florida - from our legendary theme parks and worldclass shopping to powder-soft beaches and captivating wildlife - just look out for our toothy residents! Don't miss the handy tips included in each section 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. From north to south and everything in-between there's a lot to cover so let's get started!

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LGBTQ

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PORTS & CRUISES

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FACT FILE

Florida opens its welcoming arms to everyone

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NORTH FLORIDA

Cool and laid-back with quaint towns and beaches

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DRIVE TIME

Take to the open road on a self-drive

Set sail with Florida's huge range of cruise option

Helpful hints and tips

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CENTRAL FLORIDA

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TOUR OPERATORS

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SOUTH FLORIDA

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USEFUL CONTACTS

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SPECIAL NEEDS

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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

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Marianna Destin Fort Walton Beach Okaloosa Island

Tallahassee

Panama City Beach

Amelia Island White Springs Jacksonville Live Oak Ponte Vedra Beach St. Augustine

Port St. Joe

Apalachicola

Steinhatchee

North Florida

Gainesville

Palm Coast Flagler

Cedar Key

Get up close and personal with Florida nature

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lorida’s natural aspect can be enjoyed throughout the state, but nowhere is it more concentrated than in this region stretching some 350 miles from Pensacola in the west to gorgeous Amelia Island on the Atlantic coast. Northwest Florida boasts white-sand beaches and glistening waters that earn it the title of the Emerald Coast. Here you’ll find an array of chic resorts, state parks and wildlife experiences as well as capital city Tallahassee, while the journey east reveals hiking, biking and kayaking. The north-east is known for bird-watching as well as the big-city style of Jacksonville and historic hub of St. Augustine, where its 16th century roots are still proudly on display.

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VISITFLORIDA.com

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NATURE AND WILDLIFE

Whether you’re on a fly-drive trip or staying at one of the many charming hot-spots along the way, you can’t go far without running into one of the many state parks or national forests that dot the landscape like natural jewels. Just to start with, Apalachicola National Forest covers 633,000 acres and is a wonderland of pine flatwoods, ancient pond cypress ‘domes’ and wetland plant communities, with the caverns and sinkholes of Leon Sinks providing a fascinating geological counterpoint to the flora and fauna. If time is short, take the Apalachee Savannahs Scenic Byway for a 32-mile cross-section of the area, a sub-tropical landscape of grasslands, pine woodland, wild flowers and unusual wildlife, from rare birds to fox squirrels. The 1812-built Fort Gadsden Historic Site adds further interest.

Pictured, from top: Cedar Key; Splashing around in Suwannee River

GAINESVILLE’S Florida Museum of Natural History offers a full state nature overview.

SUNSET YACHT cruises are one of the signature sea-going attractions at Panama City Beach.

Panama City Beach includes two major opportunities in the shape of Camp Helen and St. Andrews State Parks, each boasting unique ecosystems that reward the casual wanderer, especially on the untouched stretch from Shell Island Beach eastwards, where you can explore miles of coastline in splendid isolation. Take a boat tour or helicopter ride anywhere along the beach and the chances are you will spot Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, stingrays, turtles and even sharks, while the autumn migration of cownose rays is a mindboggling congregation of thousands of these fish. For kids, Gulf World Marine Park is a major draw with its dolphins, sea lions, stingrays, sharks and other sea-life, it also offers a chance to swim with the dolphins. Bird-watchers are spoiled throughout this region as it is the head of the Great Florida Birding Trail and home to a variety of species that flock to the state year-round. Keen twitchers should look out for black skimmers, Florida scrub jays and bald eagles. In places like St. George Island State Park, Fernandina Beach and Ponte Vedra they hold a Birding and Photo Fest each April at the GTM Research Reserve. Most state parks offer excellent hiking trails, but one of the

AMELIA ISLAND is the place to try beach horseriding with Kelly Seahorse Ranch.

WAKULLA SPRINGS State Park natural springs was a location for the popular Tarzan films.

“YOU CAN’T GO FAR WITHOUT RUNNING INTO ONE OF THE STATE PARKS OR NATIONAL FORESTS"

STEP BACK in time by kayaking along the river at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.

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#EmeraldCoasting is your next great

TROPHY FISH SAILING DAY ADVENTURE SEAFOOD FEAST SUNRISE RUN “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

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most scenic in North Florida is the nine-mile Big Oak Trail in Live Oak that parallels the Suwannee and Withlacoochee rivers. Need something longer? Big Oak is on the statewide Florida Trail that runs 1,300 miles from Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola all the way to Big Cypress National Preserve in the Everglades.

ROMANCE

When it comes to that ‘somewhere special’ for couples, North Florida is equally adept at providing a myriad of opportunities with its relaxed, offthe-beaten-track style. Long walks along secluded beaches? Check. Horse-riding in state parks? Check. Fabulous resorts with personal pampering? Check. And memorable dining at intimate restaurants? Double-check. The variety of the region is its strong point here, as it varies from the more rustic elements of places like Live Oak, where the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Camp is a state treasure, to the pure five-star grandeur of the Ritz-Carlton on

ROMANTIC St. Augustine offers horsedrawn carriage rides, cruises and high tea at Café Alcazar.

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Amelia Island, with a spa featuring the Tranquility for Two treatment among several specialities designed for couples relaxation. It’s hard to beat the sheer romance of strolling along the beachfront hand-in-hand, which makes northwest Florida perfect for that special get-away-from-it-all holiday. Choose from any of the seaside resorts from Pensacola Beach to Apalachicola (where the Gibson

“NORTHWEST FLORIDA IS PERFECT FOR THAT SPECIAL GET-AWAYFROM-IT-ALL HOLIDAY”

Pictured: Enjoy spectacular sunrises from horseback on Amelia Island

GET MARRIED in Floridian style in a historic show barn at Santa Fe River Ranch in Alachua.

ENJOY A SPECIAL dinner on the beach at the Henderson Park Inn’s Beach Walk Café in Destin.

LUXURIOUS honeymoon cabins are a signature feature of the Steinhatchee Landing Resort.

THE SPA AT the Omni Amelia Island Plantation has a couples’ relaxation room.

PLAN YOUR ADVENTURE FREE VACATION PLANNER Visit EmeraldCoastFL.com to download your planner today.

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married or renew their vows on one of the many beaches, but there are numerous ways to tie the knot hereabouts, from an exotic flower garden to saying "I do" in full scuba gear under the sea! Special requests are a Floridian forte, and even the most unusual of weddings can be accommodated, everything is possible in the Sunshine State.

BEACHES

Pictured: Pensacola Beach is the place to go for white sand and clear waters

“EVEN THE MOST UNUSUAL OF WEDDINGS CAN BE ACC OMMODATED IN THE SUNSHINE STATE”

FOR BIRDWATCHING try seabirdrich Anastasia State Park by St. Augustine Beach.

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Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places and is just a short drive from St. George Island’s 22 miles of serene sands) and you are on the way to a dreamy date for two. By the same token, Amelia Island is a close rival for that secluded beach vibe and the option of big-resort style or boutique B&B enchantment is a strong characteristic of Fernandina Beach. Go south just a handful of miles and St. Augustine adds a rich element of Spanish heritage to the mix, notably at gracious Casa Monica, which dates back to 1888 and oozes 19th century charm and character. In broader terms – and in keeping with Florida’s international reputation as a top choice for proposals, weddings and honeymoons – the region is perfectly equipped to make that special occasion memorable, for both heterosexual and same-sex couples. Thousands of happy couples get

TWO WELLSERVICED regional airports make Northwest Florida easy to reach.

FOR THE BEST time to visit the Emerald Coast, come in September when the crowds vanish.

Did we mention that this part of Florida is positively packed with beaches – many of them deliciously under-crowded and out of the way? Well let’s just underline that fact. The Emerald Coast features around 100 miles of largely unspoiled seaboard; natural Amelia Island adds another 13 miles in majestic near seclusion; and the shoreline from Jacksonville Beach to St. Augustine Beach is another often-overlooked gem, with 40 miles of sand to enjoy. In fact, there are more than 200 miles of coastline to enjoy in North Florida alone, making for some of the most enjoyable beach retreats in the whole State. Several Panhandle beaches have been named among America’s best by environmental scientist Stephen Leatherman – better known as Dr. Beach in his annual reports – including Grayton Beach just west off the resort community of Seaside, the ‘pastel paradise’ that is a modern curiosity in itself as seen in the film The Truman Show with Jim Carrey. The sands along this coastline are genuinely exquisite, glistening pure quartz for mile after mile,

PANAMA CITY Beach holds Florida’s biggest lobster festival, Schooners, in September.

THE CIVIL WAR era Fort Clinch State Park on Amelia Island features three miles of sandy beach.

VISITFLORIDA.com

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North Florida

and you will usually find picnic areas, restrooms and even outdoor showers, providing maximum convenience for families. Swimming, snorkelling, scubadiving, shelling, shark-tooth hunting and fishing are all popular here, and most are highly family friendly with shallow waters that suit young children. Lifeguards are on duty at peak periods and you will find umbrellas and loungers for hire in the main resort areas. Panama City Beach perfectly sums up the north-west vibe, with its huge variety of watersports, cluster of wrecks for scuba divers, water park and marine park, plus the sheer joy of stepping out of your resort and straight on to the beach. Looking for truly secluded? Head

Pictured: Panama City Beach is a top choice for watersports

for St. George Island, with its fourmile bridge from the mainland, where the dunes, boardwalks and hiking trails are among the most isolated in the region and virtually empty out of the main seasons. Those seeking a more active experience should visit the Atlantic coastline, where surfing and bodyboarding is especially popular at Neptune Beach and Mayport Poles. The shores of Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra and St. Augustine beaches typically get busy at weekends but, like out-of-the-way Amelia Island, they rarely attract crowds during the week and remain blissfully attractive year-round.

FESTIVALS & EVENTS

“THOSE SEEKING A MORE ACTIVE EXPERIENCE

Florida truly loves its festivals and other special events and here in the north you will find a huge array of options year-round, from the glamorous and glittering to the weird and wacky. Start with Tallahassee, where the annual Marathon is not just a sporting event but a chance to celebrate the state’s diversity. The Springtime Festival is a jamboree of family fun that attracts entertainment from all over the country, as well as a parade with more than 50,000 participants! More big-city style is on hand for Jacksonville’s Jazz Festival each May, a four-day extravaganza of music, food and street

SHOULD VISIT THE ATLANTIC COASTLINE, WHERE SURFING IS ESPECIALLY POPULAR”

Visit Florida’s 352-543-5111 Cedar Key, Florida

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Nature Coast Levy County , Florida

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North Florida

Pictured: Jacksonville is the place to be if you're looking for some nightlife

“THE JACKSONVILLE LIGHT PARADE IS A MUST-SEE IN LATE DECEMBER WHEN 100 BOATS CRUISE ALONG THE RIVERFRONT”

THE FLORIDA Seafood Festival, with food, arts and crafts, is held in Apalachicola in November.

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entertainers, while also offering a taste of its increasingly fine shopping opportunities. Equally, the Jacksonville Light Parade is a must-see in late December, when some 100 boats cruise along the spectacular riverfront to kick off the festival holiday season in the north-east. Christmas (like July the 4th and Halloween) is an absolutely key festival time and you will find big, memorable celebrations in some of the smaller towns like Live Oak (Christmas in the Square), Williston (Light Up Williston) and Chiefland (Christmas Festival and Parade), as well as the big cities. Military fans should make a beeline for Pensacola in mid-July when the Beach Air Show attracts visitors from all over the south-east USA for an airborne feast highlighted by the famous Blue Angels acrobatic squadron with their awesome and breathtaking aerial maneuvers.

STEPHEN Foster’s OldTime Music Weekend starts September at Culture Center State Park.

AMELIA ISLAND’S Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival showcases every way to enjoy shrimp.

For a true taste of the all-round festival nature of the region, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park near Live Oak hosts Suwannee River Jam each year, attracting big-name country music performers, along with a series of seasonal concerts and special events that appeal to a family audience, like their Suwannee Lights during December. No event is too small to be celebrated. The Wausau Possum Festival is a classic case in point, where a 5K run, pancake breakfast and gospel music are just the start of a day of classic Floridian entertainment, from horseshoe pitching to greasy pole climbing. Or how about the Down Home Street Festival in Bonifay that celebrates the virtues of smalltown living, or even the Flora-Bama Lounge Mullet Toss in Perdido Key, where the challenge is to heave a mullet into neighbouring Alabama!

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Pictured: The Beach Air Show features the famous Blue Angels

OVER CHRISTMAS, St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights now runs over two months.

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FIND YOUR inner artist at the Paint Out at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville.

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ARTS & CULTURE

While North Florida specialises in the natural and laid back, arts and crafts play a big part in places like Tallahassee, St. Augustine and Jacksonville, while a growing number of special events showcase Floridian artists and their works. The cultural side of the state is also well represented, especially when you explore St. Augustine – founded in 1565 – and its rich history, which can also be explored in the two big university hot-spots of Tallahassee and Gainesville. Jacksonville is one of the fastestgrowing cities in the south-east USA, and that is represented in a blossoming arts scene that includes a thriving theatrical aspect – notably at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts – along with some

“JACKSONVILLE IS ONE OF THE FASTESTGROWING CITIES IN THE SOUTH-EAST Pictured: Tallahassee is North Florida's arts and culture hub

of the finest museums and galleries. Renaissance art forms the cornerstone of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, with more than 5,000 works of

USA, AND THAT IS REPRESENTED IN A BLOSSOMING ARTS SCENE”

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Panama City Beach has so much family fun, heart-pounding action, eco-adventure

MAKE IT MEMORABLE MAKE IT EXHILARATING MAKE IT ROMANTIC MAKE IT Fun MAKE IT YOURs!

and romance, the memories you make here will last a lifetime. Come make Panama City Beach your REAL. FUN. BEACH.

VisitPanamaCityBeach.com

FLORIDA

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“KIDS WILL LOVE THE BUTTERFLY RAINFOREST AT FLORIDA'S MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY”

art, exhibitions and 2.5 acres of historic gardens on the banks of the St. John's River. Then there are the Beaches Museum and History Center, Ritz Theatre and Museum (once known as the ‘Harlem of the South’) and Museum of Science and History. Railroad Square Art Park is at the heart of Tallahassee’s many offerings, along with the excellent Museum of Florida History and outdoor Tallahassee Museum, showcasing the habitats of indigenous wildlife as well as a typical 1880s farmhouse and Jim Gary’s 20th Century Dinosaur Collection. Gainesville’s artistic profile varies from ballet to African art, and railroad history to chamber music, much of which is on display at the university-affiliated Harn Museum of Art, the A. Quinn Jones Museum & Cultural Center and the Archer Railroad Museum. Kids will love the Butterfly Rainforest at Florida's

Photo courtesy of the Florida Museum

North Florida

Pictured: The Butterfly Rainforest at Florida's Museum of Natural History

Museum of Natural History, and the Hippodrome State Theatre has something for everyone. St. Augustine remains the jewel in Florida’s cultural crown, displaying more than 400 years of heritage, from the period masterpiece of Lightner Museum (the former Alcazar Hotel of railroad tycoon Henry Flagler) to the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. If there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss, it's the Castillo de San Marcos, the grand coquina fortress at the heart of St. Augustine is a lasting relic of the Spanish colonial era and central to the city’s charm.

SHOPPING

Pictured: St. Augustine displays over 400 years of Spanish colonial charm

SEE VASES carved from wood and hand-made jewellery at Gadsden Arts Center, Quincy.

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PENSACOLA’S 12-day Foo Foo Festival showcases an array of arts, from music to culinary events.

THE DOWNTOWN Festival and Art Show fills Gainesville with entertainment in November.

Floridians love shopping, and visitors to Florida really feel the benefit as the state’s retail therapy runs the gamut from huge malls to small arts and crafts kiosks, with just about everything in between. In North Florida world-class

TALLAHASSEE, the Apalachee Indian Council House was thatched with over 100,000 palm fronds.

THE TALLAHASSEE Museum now includes the fun Tree to Tree zipline for kids of all ages.

VISITFLORIDA.com

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shopping is definitely on the menu at places like Silver Sands Premium Outlets in Destin and St. John's Town Center in Jacksonville. In fact, Outlet shopping is definitely ‘a thing’ hereabouts. These specialist centres offer a range of big-name designer goods at factory outlet prices and you can usually pick up some major bargains in names such as Adidas, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, and Gap. In addition to the Silver Sands centre (with more than 100 major stores), you’ll find these open-air outlets at St. Augustine (both St. Augustine Outlets and Premium Outlets) and Graceville (Factory Stores of America).The big cities tend to dominate for the designer brands, but you will still find offthe-beaten-track options for arts and crafts in the likes of Alachua, High Springs and Micanopy, where antique shops and flea markets

Pictured: Clermont is home to the world's largest indoor 4x4 adventure

TAKE A FREE tour of St. Augustine Distillery - with tastings - to decide what to buy.

FOR SWEETTOOTHED shoppers head to Fantastic Fudge in Fernandina Beach.

provide small-scale contrast for shoppers who are looking for something with a more personal touch. Farmers markets are also worth visiting and will offer items like hand-made soaps, soy candles, natural sponges, woodwork and jewellery, as well as locally-grown produce and other handicrafts. Places like Gainesville, Tallahassee, Alachua and Panama City Beach are perfect for those special souvenirs. Malls and specialist centres are, of course, an American institution, and you’ll want to sample at least a few on your travels. Oaks Mall (Gainesville), Destin Commons (Destin), Governor’s Square (Tallahassee) and Cordova Mall (Pensacola) are among the cream of the crop. St. John's Town Center is a great modern example of its type: big, glitzy and still developing new angles to its multi-faceted offerings, from updated shops to creative new restaurants that all enhance the retail ambience. The Jacksonville complex now has more than 150 shops, plus no fewer than 27 places to eat, including 15 main restaurants such as The Capital Grille and Cheesecake Factory. Even seaside-flavoured Panama City Beach has its own elaborate shopping lure in the shape of Pier

TALLAHASSEE’S

Market District has a great selection of small-town Florida gifts and souvenirs.

WEBB’S ANTIQUE Mall in Lake City provides endless brica-brac and fun oddities.

“MALLS ARE AN AMERICAN INSTITUTION, AND YOU’LL WANT TO SAMPLE AT LEAST A FEW ON YOUR TRAVELS”

THE BASS Pro Shops in Destin, Tallahassee or Gainesville offer outdoor apparel.

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Park, where Ron Jon’s Surf Shop and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville offer entertainment as well as simple retail pleasures. Well, it is Florida after all!

THEME PARKS & ATTRACTIONS “TRY THE CROCODILE CROSSING ZIPLINE OVER THE RESIDENTS OF THE ST. AUGUSTINE ALLIGATOR FARM”

THE NAVAL Aviation Museum in Pensacola features two flight simulators.

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Florida is excitement central for theme parks, but they’re not all confined to Orlando and its neighbours as North Florida boasts a great array of parks and other funfilled attractions. Just to start with, St. Augustine has a modern line-up of attraction fun to go with its historic aspect, including the original Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum (a bit like the Guinness World Records meets Indiana Jones), Potter’s Wax Museum, the first established wax museum in America and a nightly Ghost Train Adventure for that ultimate thrill. The whole family can also enjoy Marineland Dolphin Adventure, which provides a great insight into

GO-KART FANS should head for Race City in Panama Beach City, for an adrenalin rush.

WHETSTONE Chocolates is a St. Augustine original attraction, and includes tasting tours.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park

Pictured: North Florida's shopping scene ranges from outlets to farmers markets

marine conservation as well as a chance to interact with their Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. Looking for something more daring? Try the Crocodile Crossing Zipline over the residents of the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, created in 1893 and the only facility in the world to house all 24 species of crocodilian. Further up the coast at Jacksonville Beach, Adventure Landing is a full-on amusement park packed with rides, mini-golf, arcade games and the ultimate cool-down opportunity of Shipwreck Island Water Park with its slides, flumes and massive wave pool – always a hit with children and something adults find hard to resist. More water fun is on offer at Panama City Beach, with its own Shipwreck Island and a completely different array of rides and activities, especially for young ‘uns. Back on dry land, Coconut Creek family fun

Pictured: Crocodile Crossing Zipline at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

ANIMAL LOVERS head to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, where 2,000 animals are at home.

GULFARIUM MARINE Adventure Park has been a Fort Walton Beach attraction since 1955.

VISITFLORIDA.com

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Shipwreck Island Waterpark

Willy’s Adventure Zone in Fort Walton Beach. Here, the activities include riding a rollercoaster, tackling a ropes course, a laser maze, bungee trampolining, a 4D film experience, two mini-golf courses and remote control boat battles. Enough to keep even the most active kids happy!

SPORTS & ACTIVITIES

Pictured: Families love the slides and flumes at Shipwreck Island Waterpark

park’s two challenging mini-golf courses and Gran Maze will test both skill and sense of adventure. Nearby Destin has its own take on splashing around, with Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park, which has more than 40 attractions, including tube rides, slides, a wave pool and lazy river, plus a selection especially for the smaller visitors to enjoy. For more natural outdoor entertainment, Adventures Unlimited Outdoor Center in Milton near Pensacola features classic Floridian fun in the form of canoeing, kayaking, tubing, paddle-boarding and ziplines – as well as camping and cabins – along Coldwater Creek through scenic Blackwater River State Park. The largest family entertainment centre in northwest Florida is Wild

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If there is one other activity the state can offer in abundance, it's sport. From diving, biking and hiking to horse riding, fishing and kayaking, there are numerous opportunities to get out and about in style throughout North Florida. Biking is increasingly popular and there are both easy-cycling trails and more testing challenges along the gentle hills and scenic byways. For a mild introduction, the paved four-mile (6.4km) Blountstown Greenway Bike Path is ideal for children. It is part of the Florida National Scenic Trail and is open to hikers and in-line skaters, as well as being fully wheelchair accessible The rivers offer more water activity in the form of canoes, kayaks and tubes to enjoy the cool waters (ideal in summer months when the temperature can reach 33C). Tubing involves the simple art of piloting an inner-tube with the current. It is often described as ‘rump-bumping’ for a good reason in shallow waters!

“BIKING IS INCREASINGLY POPULAR AND THERE ARE BOTH EASY-CYCLING TRAILS AND MORE TESTING CHALLENGES”

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Pictured: Ichetucknee Springs State Park is perfect for tubing on hot summer days

“DIVERS FLOCK TO NORTH FLORIDA FOR BOTH OCEAN AND CAVEDIVING”

THE GREATER Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament draws 20,000plus anglers every July.

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Ichetucknee Springs State Park is an ideal choice as the river flows for six miles (9.6km) through shaded hammocks and wetlands before reaching the Santa Fe River. Divers also flock to North Florida for both ocean and cave-diving as caves form an underground system that occupies virtually the entire northern half of the state. Experience hundreds of square miles of clear water tunnels that provide a unique diving experience without the congestion of boats often found with sea diving. Artificial reefs in Pensacola Bay include the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany, deliberately sunk in 2006 along with over 100 sunken vessels and home to an amazing variety of fish, perfect for all experience levels from beginner to advanced diving. If you prefer to stay on the surface and keep your feet dry, fishing is the thing to do as Destin is home of Florida’s largest charter-boat fleet.

DON’T WORRY if you didn’t bring your golf clubs, every course has equipment for hire.

FOR AMERICAN Football Jacksonville is home of the Jaguars who play from AugDec each year.

The state’s other big sport, of course, is golf and here you can sample world-class opportunities to play that perfect round, with the views to match. Just to start with, the renowned TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach is home to the Players Championship – the fifth ‘Major’ – each May, while the World Golf Village in St. Augustine features the World Golf Hall of Fame. But there are more than 100 other courses open to the public throughout North Florida, from Amelia Island to Pensacola and they host some of the most scenic courses in the state, including the Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort and four links-style courses at sumptuous Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. Come and practice your swing in the peaceful surroundings of North Florida's natural beauty and go home having perfected that hole in one. ●

Pictured: Florida Caverns State Park offers tours of its limestone formations

TALLAHASSEE and Gainesville are home to the Seminoles and Gators American Football teams.

BONIFAY’S Northwest Florida Championship is professional rodeo at its best.

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Drive Time

Hit the road Florida Keys. Take a leisurely ride accross the Overseas Highway and enjoy 113 miles of roadway boasting views of turquoise sea and swaying palms all from the comfort of an air conditioned car.

NORTHERN GEMS

North of Daytona sits Florida’s oldest city, St. Augustine and the “hometown America” of Amelia Island, with horse rides on the beach by day and sunset cruises each evening. The gem of Northwest Florida, Panama City Beach, boasts beaches soft as talcum powder with stunning aquamarine seas. No matter which direction you point your car, the peninsula genuinely has something for everyone, all within a half-day drive from the center of the state. ●

“THE OVERSEAS HIGHWAY BOASTS 113 MILES OF ROAD WITH VIEWS OF TURQUOISE SEA AND SWAYING PALMS”

Bill Serne

The U.S. is definitely geared for driving, with a highway system that practically guarantees you’ll be streaming along with nary a traffic jam in sight. What better way than by car to explore Florida’s 1,260 miles of gorgeous coastline? Many of Orlando’s villas are well off the bus routes, making a hire car a necessity, but the real bonus of your own transport is the chance to venture further afield and enjoy a multi-centre stay. Countless towns with yesteryear charm are dotted throughout the state, and Florida is worldrenowned for its beaches, notably along Clearwater/St. Petersburg on the Gulf Coast, or Daytona Beach on the Atlantic shoreline, all within a one to two-hour drive. Venture south of Clearwater for the Ford and Edison Winter Estates and Cypress wetlands in Fort Myers; the seashell-riddled beaches and wildlife preserves of Sanibel and Marco Island; and luxurious Naples, where the focus is on the finer things in life.

HEADING SOUTH

Cruising south along the Atlantic brings you to the ultra-hot nightlife, dining and fashion shopping in Miami, with the non-stop glamfest of South Beach. Take a gator-spotting spin on an airboat in Everglades National Park, or go full-on sports-enthusiast with fishing, dolphin-watching, boating and kayaking over the reefs of the

Pictured, from top: Classic American car; Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway

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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

Lakeland Tampa

Winter Haven Vero Beach Sebring

Central Florida Excitement Central, and a whole lot more!

Port St. Lucie

T

here simply isn't anywhere on earth to compare with Central Florida and its array of theme parks and high-energy attractions. But this part of the state is also a haven for nature spotting , from manatee-rich Crystal River to the birdwatching paradise of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Airboat rides are a major attraction, as are kayak tours, ATV adventures, fishing and golf. This is also the place to go skydiving, zip-lining or even a hot-air balloon ride. Then there are the beaches – actionpacked on the Atlantic side, while calmer and more familyfriendly on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s all there, so let’s dive straight in!

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NATURE AND WILDLIFE

You don’t have to go far from the main tourist areas to discover the “other” side of Central Florida. Both Osceola and Seminole counties – immediately north and south of Orlando – offer a huge range of natural choices little more than half an hour from the theme parks. Chief among them are airboat rides – flat-bottomed, giant propeller-driven boats that skim over the lakes and marshes in thrilling fashion. Osceola also features Forever Florida, a fabulous collection of experiences, including horse and trail-buggy rides, camping and an exciting series of zip-line adventures. The wildlife doesn’t get much wilder than Gatorland, Orlando’s oldest attraction, which showcases hundreds of these fascinating creatures, as well as offering the Screamin’ Gator zip-line course

Joe Dube

Lucie

Pictured, from top: this page, from top: Fishing on airboats; Homosassa Springs

MARINE LIFE abounds at Fort De Soto Park. Watch for dolphins, sea turtles and stingrays.

DAYTONA Beach’s Marine Science Center works on rehabilitating sea turtles and seabirds.

and the new Stompin’ Gator Offroad Adventure in giant, four-wheeled buggies. Head north for a different natural aspect at Silver Springs State Park with its classic glassbottomed boat ride, then make a beeline for Crystal River. Here you’ll find more manatees than anywhere in the world, and the rare chance to see them up close, explore the crystal-clear waters by kayak and go scalloping in the shallow seas. Nearby is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where you can spot manatees and gators as well as a full array of Florida wildlife, including white-tail deer, river otters, bears, bobcats and snakes. Lake County, just west of Orlando, is another natural highlight, from the epic viewpoint of the Citrus Tower – with its grand 226-foothigh observation deck – to the back-country adventures of Revolution Offroad, with ATV (quad bikes), archery, fishing, clay shooting, amphibious Mucky Duck vehicles and the new Myakka Tour in a 20-seat, six-wheeled truck. To slow things down, try a kayak or canoe river tour. The Paddling Center on Shingle Creek in Kissimmee is a great example, but you can also sample the St. Johns and Wekiva rivers in Seminole County, or the mangrove swamps

THREE SISTERS Springs at Crystal River is a year-round home for the manatee.

MEET A SLOTH or porcupine at Wild Florida’s animal encounters in Osceola County.

“YOU'LL SEE MORE MANATEES AT CRYSTAL RIVER THAN ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD”

FEEDING THE giraffes is one of the great options at Busch Gardens on its Serengeti Safari tour.

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The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.

Central Florida

Pictured: The Ritz-Carlton is one of Central Florida's luxury resorts

“ROMANTIC DINING IS A KEY PART OF MOST AREAS AND THE BEST RESORTS ALL FEATURE HIGHQUALITY SPAS, WITH NOTABLE COUPLES’ TREATMENTS”

PROPOSE at a special ceremony at Discovery Cove and a dolphin will present the ring!

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of Weedon Island Preserve on Tampa Bay and Merritt Island, close to the Kennedy Space Center. Top outfitter Adventures offer a wide range of tours, including a nighttime Bioluminescence Paddles tour in high summer. Merritt Island is another excellent bird-watching centre with over 357 species inhabitating the National Wildlife Refuge, but wherever you go in the region, the nature opportunities are immense.

sophisticated, intimate restaurants. Romantic dining is now a key part of most areas and the best resorts all feature high-quality spas, with notable couples’ treatments. The array of five-star hotels is also a highlight of the accommodation scene, with names such as Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Waldorf Astoria, Le Meridien and Renaissance all offering services especially suited for those travelling without children (and baby-sitting services for those who have children but need a ‘date night’ on holiday!) What could be more romantic than a sunset view for two? This area is packed with opportunities to enjoy the occasion hand-in-hand, especially in Clearwater and St. Pete Beach on the Gulf Coast, where rooftop bars offer grandstand views and it's easy to escape the hustle an bustle of the amusement parks. Don’t overlook the theme parks

ROMANCE

It’s a little-known statistic that as many couples come to Central Florida as families. In fact, the likes of Orlando, Tampa and the coastal resorts have as much to recommend for the grown-up crowd these days as they do for children. The dining and entertainment scene is packed with opportunities for couples – and singles – to enjoy and now even the theme parks offer

THE WHEEL of the CocaCola Orlando Eye includes a Champagne Experience for two.

THE FOUR SEASONS Orlando offers treatments for two in their spa, including spa suites.

Pictured: Enjoy the dizzying views from the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye

THE ULTIMATE Disney wedding experience is arriving in Cinderella’s glass carriage.

FOR A HOTEL that caters to foodies, the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa is a grownup haven.

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Central Florida

here though, Disney’s Magic Kingdom is a prime spot for proposals, as is the IllumiNations show at the popular Epcot park. Weddings (and honeymoons) are definitely a key feature hereabouts, with any number of venues for that special day, from Disney’s spectacular Wedding Pavilion with views of the Magic Kingdom to secluded locations like Cypress Grove in Orlando, Stetson Mansion in DeLand and Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, not forgetting, of course, the fabulous beaches. Then there are individual touches, like balloon rides for that special occasion; carriage rides in the town of Celebration; a swim with the dolphins at Discovery Cove; wine-tasting at Lakeridge Winery in Clermont; a nighttime helicopter

“DISNEY’S MAGIC KINGDOM IS A PRIME SPOT FOR PROPOSALS, AS IS THE Pictured: Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales is a popular location for weddings

ride to watch the Disney fireworks or the joy of sun-loungers for two at a beach resort like the Don CeSar in St. Pete or the Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel & Spa.

ILLUMINATIONS SHOW AT THE EPCOT PARK”

AMERICA’S BEST BEACHES ARE ON FLORIDA’S GULF COAST Just 90 minutes west of Orlando, you’ll find 35 miles of awardwinning beaches, emerald green water and fiery Gulf sunsets. Now add laid back beach towns, Florida’s largest craft beer scene, and the world-famous Dalí Museum. Your best vacation ever is here. florida_Central_V3.indd 23 77838_VSPC_VisitFlorida_InternationalTravelGuide.indd 1

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The grown-up fun never stops here in excitement central, from the new Mango’s nightclub on Orlando’s International Drive to the rapidly growing array of craft breweries. You simply have to see for yourself.

BEACHES

“VISIT DURING THE WEEK IN THE SHOULDER SEASONS (APRIL-MAY AND SEPT.-NOV.) AND YOU MAY HAVE THE BEACHES TO YOURSELF”

Florida’s fantastic beaches grace both sides of the state’s central region. If you’re staying on the coast, a great beach will be right on your doorstep. From Orlando, a coast is barely an hour away. This is, arguably, what makes theme park central the perfect Sunshine State location. You really can ‘have it all’ here. Experience the wonderful contrasts whether you head east or west. The Atlantic coast is an adventurous option, with a great array of watersports, notably surfing and body-boarding. But you can also find parasailing, kayaking, jet-skiing and paddleboarding on offer to keep everyone occupied. The most popular choices are Daytona and Cocoa Beaches, but there are also some excellent hideaways as well as up-andcoming options in the likes of New Smyrna Beach, Ormond Beach, Playalinda Beach, Satellite Beach

Pictured: Surf's up at Smyrna Beach with jet-skiing and parasailing on offer

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Pictured: Daytona Beach is a popular destination on the Atlantic Coast

and Vero Beach. Visit during the week in the shoulder seasons (AprilMay and Sept.-Nov.) and you may have the place to yourself. On the west of the state, with an unbroken 35-mile stretch of beach from Tarpon Springs to Fort De Soto on the southern tip of St. Pete Beach, things are a touch more sedate, with a shallower shoreline and calmer seas that are a degree or two warmer than their eastern counterparts. During the summer months, be sure to do the ‘stingray shuffle’ in the sea – slide your feet through the sand rather than lifting them to avoid treading on an unsuspecting stingray. All beaches are fully familyfriendly with toilets (or restrooms), showers, picnic tables and even volleyball courts in many places. You can even drive on the (hardpacked) sands of New Smyrna and Daytona beaches, while the latter features the must-try seafront restaurant of Racing’s North Turn and its historic connection to beach motor-racing. Fishing is a huge draw on both coasts, both in-shore and deep sea, and there are huge fleets to choose from in Cocoa Beach, Daytona, St. Pete Beach and Port Canaveral.

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FESTIVALS & EVENTS

It’s hard NOT to find a festival or special event on any given month in Central Florida. The small towns specialise in them, the cities embrace them and Disney and Co. have turned them into an art form. Let’s start with the theme parks. Walt Disney World’s Epcot has two major events, the spring Flower & Garden Festival and autumn’s Food & Wine Festival, both feature seminars, demonstrations and tasting sessions to go with a series of kiosks highlighting regional food and drink specialties. For something completely different, the annual Walt Disney World Marathon in January draws thousands of participants and even more spectators for a weekend of special events. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens have their own food & wine festivals, plus extra evening

Pictured: Walt Disney World holds major events throughout the year

DON’T MISS the nightly sunset celebration at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach.

THE FAMOUS Cocoa Beach Pier has undergone renovation to add to its charms.

Pictured: Universal Studios goes all out for its annual Halloween celebrations

entertainment in the summer and Universal Studios has arguably the best Halloween celebration with its massively popular Halloween Horror Nights programme. Every park is extra special for Christmas and New Year. Downtown Orlando plays host to the increasingly popular Florida Film Festival each April, while the ritzy suburb of Winter Park is the home of the Sidewalk Arts Festival spanning three days every March. The quaint lakeside town of Mount Dora comes alive with regular events year-round, with the highlights of February’s Art Festival and Florida’s biggest Sailboat Regatta in April, both of which draw huge attendances. Talking of big crowds, the Florida State Fair in Tampa attracts the biggest over 12 days each February, offering a mind-boggling selection of livestock shows, contests, arts and crafts, food – lots of food –

CANAVERAL National Seashore offers nesting seaturtle walks in June and July by reservation.

TAKE PADDLE boarding lessons at New Smyrna Beach with New Smyrna Stand Up.

“UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HAS ARGUABLY THE BEST HALLOWEEN CELEBRATION WITH ITS HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS PROGRAMME”

CLEARWATER Beach is home to film-star dolphin Winter at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

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“TAMPA IS FAST BECOMING ONE OF AMERICA’S MOST DYNAMIC AND POPULAR CITIES, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO MISS THE GROWING ARTS SCENE HERE”

LOVE STRAWBERRIES?

Head to Plant City in March for their flavour-filled festival.

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Pictured: Tampa has a sophisticated dining and entertainment scene

Pictured: The Dali Theatre and Museum is inspired by the artist Salvador Dali

plus rides and live entertainment. More eclectically, Tampa’s lively Gasparilla Festival – the city’s answer to Mardi Gras – is a celebration of pirates and their era. Hundreds decend in full pirate attire to honour of the legend of Jose Gaspar with a full schedule of entertainment and live bands. The state’s signature wildlife isn’t forgotten either. The annual Manatee Festival in Crystal River in January features live music, wine and beer tastings. Manatees also visit the nearby waters in their greatest numbers at this time of year. It's easy to see them in the clear rivers, especially between November to March. And, if you thought it didn’t snow in Florida, you should visit Snowing Nightly in the town of Celebration in the run-up to Christmas. Named one of America's prettiest towns, Celebration puts on a month of festive fun with carolers, horse

drawn carriage rides and nightly snowfall that's sure to get you in the festive spirit.

TAMPA IS A major centre for craft breweries. Oktoberfest lasts three days here each year.

DAYTONA Beach hosts Biketoberfest every October, with a unique celebration of motorbikes.

ARTS & CULTURE

Not only is Central Florida a wonderful home for the performing arts, the region is fabulously culturally diverse. Tampa is fast becoming one of America’s most dynamic and popular cities, especially with the young, urban crowd, and it’s impossible to miss the growing arts scene here. The Straz Center for the performing arts provides world class entertainment from Broadway shows to spectacular dance performances, and the Smithsonianaffiliated Tampa Bay History Center offers 12,000 years of history. The iconic Henry Plant Museum presents the city’s recent heritage via the story of railroad pioneer Plant. In neighbouring St. Petersburg, you’ll find the internationally

MUSIC IS THE theme of the autumn New Smyrna Jazz Festival. Music and lots of local craft beer.

TAMPA BAY’S Black Heritage Festival celebrates AfricanAmerican culture.

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renowned Dali Museum, with the largest collection of works by the famed artist outside Europe and the Morean Arts Center, with its dazzling Chihuly Collection, a permanent gathering of the unique works of glass pioneer Dale Chihuly. There are no fewer than 12 museums and galleries packed in to St. Petersburg, making this one of Florida’s true cultural gems. For something different, Florida Southern College in Lakeland features the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world, with an education centre and walking tours. In Orlando the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is the latest crown jewel, a modern theatre for Broadway shows and big-name performers. Museums include the

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Courtesy of The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Winter Park, Florida

Central Florida

Pictured: The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

Orange County Regional History Center and Mennello Museum of American Art. In nearby Winter Park, the Morse Museum of American Art houses

“FLORIDA SOUTHERN COLLEGE FEATURES THE LARGEST SINGLE-SITE COLLECTION OF FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT ARCHITECTURE IN THE WORLD”

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Central Florida

the world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s artistry, as well as American art pottery, and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum has a diverse collection of 5,500 works of art on the campus of Rollins College. Kissimmee has its own corner of genuine Floridiana with its clever Pioneer Village that showcases the area’s fascinating 200-year heritage in cattle-farming and history PD, or Pre-Disney. But even the theme parks recognise the rich heritage of the area, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney Presents is a brilliant look at the man and his creative legacy. It's modern culture at its best. “KISSIMMEE SHOWCASES THE AREA’S 200YEAR HERITAGE IN CATTLEFARMING AND HISTORY PREDISNEY”

NEW SMYRNA Beach boasts several dozen art workshops, including Canal Street’s vibrant The Hub.

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SHOPPING

Central Florida is definitely the place for shoppers. Not only are there more malls than you can shake a credit card at, the outlet shopping is truly awesome. Greater Orlando alone boasts 50 shopping centres and you’ll be hard-pressed not to need another suitcase for your purchases when you encounter Orlando Premium Outlets. Two mega complexes can be found on Vineland Avenue and at the top of International Drive, containing more than 340 stores offering the latest apparel, cosmetics, jewellery, luggage and more. High fashion is the name of the game, with brands such as Coach, Aeropostale, Polo Ralph Lauren and L’Occitane, with dozens of new names to explore. Only slightly smaller is Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, a

THE BREVARD Symphony Orchestra performs a free concert with fireworks each July.

YOU DON’T even have to go into the Dali Museum; the building itself is an homage to the artist.

Pictured: It's easy to lose yourself in The Mall at Millenia, Orlando

similar discounted brand-name extravaganza in an open-air setting, while The Loop and Loop West are a short drive farther on, offering another expansive display of shops as well as a 16-screen cinema and half a dozen restaurants. For the indoor mall experience, the outstanding choices are the long-established Florida Mall (250 stores, restaurants and kiosks) and eye-catching Mall at Millenia (150 stores, plus six top-class restaurants), both of which should be on your must-try list. Also with plenty of choice but a tad quieter is the Altamonte Mall, set beside tranquil Cranes Roost Lake. In Tampa, Ellenton Premium Outlets, just south of the city, near Bradenton, offer more opportunities to get your fashionista on, with 130 designer names, while Westshore Plaza is a heady mix of enticing shops (more than 100) and delectable dining, including

THE OCALA Arts Festival is a family-style event that draws up to 25,000 visitors each year.

WILDLY eclectic Gulfport holds its Art Walk on various weekend nights every month.

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Mitchell’s Fish Market and Maggiano’s Little Italy. Hyde Park Village is an interesting combination of retail and restaurants, in a more smallscale setting (don’t miss Sprinkles for scrumptious cupcakes). International Plaza and Bay Street tops the lot with an original setup of three department stores, 200 specialty shops and 28 eateries, including the top-shelf dining of Ocean Prime, Brio Tuscan Grille and Capital Grille. Small-town shopping is the name of the game in Mount Dora and Winter Park, and charming DeLand is top for its superb Main Street of boutiques, galleries and colourful variety of restaurants.

THEME PARKS & ATTRACTIONS This should need absolutely no introduction. Orlando’s theme parks are rightfully world famous

and the only challenge here is to fit everything in! Even given two weeks, you might struggle to do them all justice. Walt Disney World is a great starting point, the development that put Orlando on the map when it opened in 1971. Now it covers 47 square miles and includes four theme parks, two water parks, four golf courses and more than 25 resort hotels. Start with the Magic Kingdom, home of Disney’s classic characters, and continue with futuristic Epcot. Disney’s Hollywood Studios centres around the magic of the movies and includes top rides “CENTRAL FLORIDA IS DEFINITELY THE PLACE FOR SHOPPERS. THE OUTLET SHOPPING

Universal Orlando Resort

IS TRULY

Pictured: Meet the characters that put Florida on the map at Walt Disney World

I-DRIVE 360, the Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and Sea Life are all major attractions.

THE BEST way to enjoy the Kennedy Space Center is with one of the rocket launches held each year.

AWESOME”

Pictured: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will leave you spellbound

DISNEY WILL open the eye-catching new Toy Story Land at its Studios Park in summer 2018.

UNIVERSAL Studios will debut its latest Fast & Furious – Supercharged ride, opening spring 2018.

SEAWORLD’S newest attraction will be white-water river adventure, Infinity Falls, also for 2018.

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“FAMILIES ARE SMITTEN BY LEGOLAND FLORIDA RESORT, THE REGION’S NEWEST BIG ATTRACTION”

WALT DISNEY World has its own shopping and dining centre, Disney Springs, spread over 120 acres.

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Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resort

Central Florida

Pictured: Universal's Volcano Bay water park is the perfect place to cool down

Pictured: Brave Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Universal Orlando Resort

such as: Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Toy Story Midway Mania along with great dining experiences and shows, while Disney’s Animal Kingdom completes the set with some of its most immersive environments, including new Pandora: The World of Avatar. Universal Orlando features the original Universal Studios and newer Islands of Adventure (although both have seen major additions in recent years). Here you’ll encounter the likes of King Kong, Jurassic Park, The Simpsons, Transformers and the two utterly fabulous Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter. Brand new is Universal’s Volcano Bay, an all-new generation of water park that increases the thrill quotient substantially with attractions such as its Krakatau Aqua Coaster. Nearby SeaWorld mixes highpowered thrill-rides and captivating animal exhibits, including dolphins, sea lions, stingrays, turtles and

possibly the best coaster in Florida, the massive, high-speed Mako. Discovery Cove is SeaWorld’s exclusive sister park, where you can swim with the dolphins and dive into a coral reef, while water park Aquatica adds an array of slides and flumes in a South Seas setting. Beyond Orlando, Busch Gardens with its Africa inspired landscape and awesome coasters, is Tampa’s big draw, alongside the Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry. Families are also smitten by LEGOLAND Florida Resort, the region’s newest big attraction, with a full range of Lego rides and excitement. Kennedy Space Center – home of One Small Step For Man, has introduced a new lineup of modern attractions that highlight the ever-growing space programme. If that all sounds big, it’s because it is. The parks are adding new attractions all the time and the

UNIVERSAL Orlando's entertainment district is CityWalk, and includes Hard Rock Live.

MANY ORLANDO hotels run free shopping shuttles. Check at the front desk.

FOR ONE-OFF shopping, Ron Jon Surf Shop at Cocoa Beach is a riot of colour and beachwear.

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Saturday Market is a local institution for entertainment.

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Untitled


NEWLY REDESIGNED

GUEST ROOMS

THE WALT DISNEY WORLD

SWAN AND DOLPHIN

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.

©DISNEY

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

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only way to appreciate it all is to close your eyes and enjoy the ride!

SPORTS & ACTIVITIES

“GOLF IS POSSIBLY THE NUMBER ONE ACTIVITY, WITH SOME BIG NAMES TO WATCH – AT THE ANNUAL ARNOLD

In keeping with the variety, quality and choice elsewhere, the array of sporting activities in the region are equally broad-based and compelling. No one goes home bored or with any energy left! Motor-sport, golf, fishing, parasailing, kayaking, paddleboarding, horseback riding, tennis, surfing and clay shooting are all on offer, along with the big spectator sports of American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey and soccer. You can even try your hand at skydiving in Lake Wales and hang gliding at Wallaby Ranch in Davenport, or the unique indoor skydiving experience of iFly Orlando, where you get to ‘fly’ on vertical columns of air. Golf is possibly the number one

PALMER INVITATIONAL IN ORLANDO AND VALSPAR CHAMPIONSHIP”

Pictured: Watch the world go by with a spot of fishing in Central Florida

BASS FISHING is Central Florida’s big angling option, with most lakes providing some serious sport.

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THE WALT DISNEY World Marathon is configured to pass through all four theme parks.

WAKEBOARDING

and waterskiing are available for all at Orlando Watersports Complex.

Pictured: Central Florida has plenty of courses to practice that swing

activity, with some big names to watch – at the annual Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando and Valspar Championship near Tampa – and designer courses to play. Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and the late, great Palmer himself have all had a hand in many courses and the immaculate nature of the layouts, their challenging nature and first-class facilities are testament to the stars’ input. A fine example is the luxury Streamsong Resort, south of Lakeland, where three fabulous links-style courses are presided over by a stylish hotel with great dining, a blissful spa and other activities, including fishing, clay shooting and archery among others. Petrol-heads will want to make a beeline for the massive Daytona International Speedway, where the greats of NASCAR racing go headto-head every year, and visitors can take tours of the giant facility,

SCALLOPING – snorkeling for scallops in the seagrass – is a great summer activity in Crystal River.

Daven

5 bed

DISNEY’S Typhoon Lagoon offers surfing lessons each morning in the huge wave pool.

Kissim

Only ¾

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including a chance to walk on the banked oval track. Those with a need for speed can take part in the Richard Petty Driving Experience, feel the rush as you zip around the Speedway at up to 170 mph and take the corners like a professional track driver. For the chance to sample pure Americana, we recommend a professional game of baseball. Tampa Bay Rays baseball is on offer at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and Tampa boasts the Buccaneers of American football’s NFL and Tampa Bay Lightning of ice hockey’s NHL. Watch basketball, NBA-style at the Orlando Magic. To see how America does soccer, head to Orlando City Soccer Stadium for the exciting MLS action

“DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY IS WHERE THE GREATS OF Pictured: Daytona International Speedway will get the adrenalin pumping

from March to October. Like the others, it’s a great family experience and the rules should need no explaining to casual viewers and visitors. ●

NASCAR RACING GO HEAD-TOHEAD”

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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.

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South Florida

Discover natural treasures and Florida glitz and glamour

Bradenton Sarasota Venice

Lake Okeechobee Palm Beach

Fort Myers Sanibel Island

Y

ou know you’re in a different part of the world when the homes have their own boat dock stretching out to the canals and waterways. It’s that "welcome to south Florida" moment. The South has its own character and style, going for a glamorous vibe that is most evident in the glitter and glitz of Miami, but also places like Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota and Naples. This is where the beautiful people hang out, with an air of upmarket allure and sophistication, especially in the resorts and restaurants. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that’s all South Florida has to offer. There's still the state’s greatest natural treasure, the Everglades; some of the best beaches; great entertainment, fabulous shopping and the Florida Keys. It invites a laid-back mind-set, ready to embrace the holiday jet-set and casual traveller alike.

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Naples Marco Island Everglades

Boynton Beach Delray Beach Coral Springs Fort Lauderdale Hollywood South Beach

Miami

Florida Keys Key West

VISITFLORIDA.com

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South Florida

Nature aND WIlDlIFe

It’s tempting just to point visitors to the stunning expanse of the Everglades – the ‘River of Grass’ that constitutes one of the rarest ecosystems on earth – and leave it at that, but that would be to ignore any number of other natural gems. The Everglades should be on everyone’s ‘must-see’ list, especially as they can be reached from either coast, from the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas on the east and Naples to the west, both affording easy access to this wildlife and nature wonderland. Airboat rides are an Everglades staple, along with hiking and bird-watching tours, with Shark Valley Tram Tours providing a full overview. The 15-mile paved loop can also be cycled for that real close-up with Florida nature. An essential history and nature experience is offered at the Ah-

Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and neighbouring Billie Swamp Safari, part of the Big Cypress Indian Reservation. Here you’ll learn the story of the native Seminole tribe and their living culture, as well as be immersed in the flora and fauna with expert local guides. North of the Everglades is Lake Okeechobee, Florida’s ‘inland sea,’ boasting more spectacular birdlife and local animals – including wild hogs, bobcats and the inevitable alligators. Free tours of the 400acre Barley Barber Swamp, with its handy and easy access boardwalk, are also offered from Indiantown from October to May.

“airboat rides are an evergLades staPLe, aLong with hiKing and birdwatching tours” Pictured, opposite: Key Largo; This page, from top: Fisheating Creek; Ocean Drive

the NatIONal Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key has the smallest species of American deer.

NaPles hOsts the Southwest Florida Nature Festival each January, with guided field trips.

Pictured: Spot 300 species of birds that live in a national wldlife refuge

MarathON’s Turtle Hospital in the Keys is a non-profit rescue centre for turtles. See them up close.

Get aN eco-lesson with Sunshine Wildlife Tours along the Indian River Lagoon.

the hOBe Sound Nature Center offers night-time turtle walks each year, from May-July.

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South Florida

“south fLorida sPeciaLises in a grown-uP vibe and that means serious romantic overtones”

The coastal areas offer more natural wonders, including the fascinating JN ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, with 300 species of bird spread throughout its 6,000 acres. On the opposite coast, the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center in Stuart showcases the state’s marine life in excellent fashion, especially for children with a true environmental interest. No summary of South Florida would be complete without a look at the Keys and their unique offerings. Start at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo and take in the rare sights of one of the world’s largest coral reefs by glass-bottom boat, snorkelling or scuba-diving; paddle a kayak around the mangroves and marvel at the richness of the sea life, which includes sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays and barracuda.

Pictured: A sunset stroll makes for the perfect romantic setting

taKe the DaIlY seaplane tour from Key West to the remote Dry Tortugas National Park.

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WeDDING venues don’t come more romantic than Historic Spanish Point near Sarasota.

the POWDerfine sands at Siesta Key are truly idyllic. The perfect spot for a romantic stroll.

Pictured: Boating and fishing are popular activities on Lake Okeechobee

The Keys are a complete outdoor playground and, once again, Florida comes out tops for natural experiences and its sheer diversity.

rOMaNce

It isn’t hard to see that much of this region is geared for adults. Children are welcome, and there are plenty of kid-sized attractions, but South Florida specialises in a grownup vibe and that means serious romantic overtones. Many hotels can offer thoughtful touches just for couples, with LaPlaya Beach Resort in Naples, the Coconut Point Hyatt Regency, The Tides in South Beach, Miami, Four Seasons Palm Beach and RitzCarlton Fort Lauderdale all featuring extras like spa treatments, in-room champagne and chocolates. The glamour of hotels like the Setai in Miami, the Biltmore in Coral Gables, the iconic The Breakers in Palm Beach and Naples’

aYurVeDa, yoga and Feng Shui are offered at the Carillon Miami Wellness Resort.

GraB a Glass and toast the sunset at the nightly celebration at Key West’s Mallory Square.

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VISITFLORIDA.com

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Endless Possibilities

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South Florida

“Lovers Key State Park provides the perfect place for a picnic for two with its secluded two-mile-long beach”

Pictured: You don't need to be a surfer to enjoy the swell of the ocean

Pictured: Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is a reccommended cycle route

Bellasera Hotel are ideal for a couples’ getaway, and underline their popularity for weddings and honeymoons. Many opt to get wed on the beach and the addition of one of these resorts makes for a luxurious backdrop. Of course, you don’t need to be newlyweds to enjoy a sunset dinner cruise. The Marina Jack II in Sarasota, the Naples Princess in Naples, Riverfront Gondola Cruises of Fort Lauderdale and Islescapes in Key West all feature contrasting ways to enjoy the view with a good meal, while Miami Sailing offers private yacht charters to suit individual requirements. It doesn’t get much more obvious location-wise for weddings, than Lovers Key State Park near Fort Myers, the perfect place for a picnic

for two on its two-mile-long beach. Spas are another great choice for some alone time with your loved one, notably the Golden Door Spa in Naples, which boasts a private couples villa; Diamante’s Day Spa in Fort Lauderdale, with its Cupid’s Hour experience; and the Unity Massage for two at the Ritz-Carlton Spa on Key Biscayne. And then there’s Miami, ideal for an exciting night out at the many nightclubs and lounges or an intimate dinner produced by one of the area’s master chefs. The hotels are among the best for the grownup crowd, and you’ll be spoilt for choice for that true five-star feel.

Beaches

You know those great beaches we keep talking about? Well, the

Walk on the Wild Side! Airboats Swamp Buggies Animal Encounters and more!

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CHILL OUT IN

CAPTIVA Just Escape...

Unforgettable moments happen everyday at South Seas Island Resort. Whether you’re ready for an epic fishing adventure, a relaxing beach day, or retreating to a romantic private cabana, there’s something for everyone. With plentiful amenities, lush tropical surroundings and unparalleled oceanfront views, why not start packing now? 001.855.557.7747 | SouthSeas.com #SouthSeas

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Welcome to Island Life

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South Florida

Pictured: Many of Fort Lauderdale's beaches are certified Blue Wave Beaches

“sheLLing is PoPuLar on the guLf coast. the sands are ideaL for coLLecting sea-sheLLs, as weLL as fossiL sharK teeth”

FOr a Great beach-wildlife combo, Marco Island features top beaches as well as fab nature tours.

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best ones really are here in the South. Okay, so that’s a massive slander against the North and Central regions, but the simple fact is you just can’t go wrong for a seaside rendezvous anywhere in the Sunshine State. Again, the choice is between the east and west, the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. For the former, you can choose from the stretch of coast from Stuart Beach all the way south to Miami hotspot South Beach itself. For the Gulf, the choice varies from sizzling Sarasota as far as Marco Island, with a series of truly gorgeous sands in between. Then there’s the bonus of the Florida Keys, as they arc for 120 miles (193km) like a series of jewels into the Atlantic, with the addition of smaller, palm-fringed beaches like Sandspur Beach (Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key), and Smathers Beach and Zachary Taylor State Park Beach (both can be

the BOarDWalK along Hollywood Beach is ideal for laid-back shopping.

POMPaNO Beach is a major dive site after the sinking of the 324-ft. Lady Luck.

found on Key West). Shelling is a prime occupation along the Gulf Coast. Unbroken pure white sands are ideal for collecting seashells, as well as fossil shark teeth, which are especially plentiful along Venice Beach – ‘the Shark Tooth Capital of the World’ – and the beaches of Manasota Key and secluded Palm Island can be accessed via the ferry. You won’t find many high-rise resorts along this stretch, especially on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, where things are deliberately kept low-key and tranquil. Here, the vibe is all about true chillout time, and the pulse only quickens as you travel farther south, through Fort Myers Beach and Estero Island to Naples, with its five-star glamerous beach style and sophisticated offerings. On the Atlantic side, things tend to be grander and more glamorous,

Pictured: The Palm Beachs is perfect for shopping, biking and hitting the beach

DON’t MIss the House of Refuge Museum on Stuart Beach to marvel at shipwrecks.

Be sure tO take in the nightly sunset ritual at historic Naples Pier on this gorgeous beach.

VISITFLORIDA.com

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South Florida

notably in Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and then the fashionista destination of Miami, with its vast array of resorts, from the ultra-swanky to the more modest, including the fabulous Art Deco district on South Beach. Here, iconic Ocean Drive with its Art Deco inspired buildings is the epitome of Floridian beach style. A near constant parade of beautiful people (and beautiful cars!), along 1.3 miles (2.1km) of restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs, just yards from the waves but lightyears from the everyday.

FestIVals & eVeNts

Miami maintains a near year-round array of carnivals, celebrations and other events as the epicentre of South Florida’s festival scene and

“iconic ocean drive is the ePitome of fLoridian Pictured: The Art Deco style buildings on Ocean Drive are a top attraction

beach styLe”

you simply can’t go wrong if you are looking for a reason to party at any time of year. It all starts in January with Art Deco Weekend and the chance

S O M E D AY S A R E F O R S H A R I N G

OFFLINE.

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

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South Florida

“miami’s internationaL JaZZ fest is an aPriL highLight”

to celebrate the architectural heritage with tours, lectures, films and music on the beach. It continues in March with the big Latin-influenced Carnaval, and a series of events that culminate in the Calle Ocho street party, and coincides with the Miami International Film Festival. Miami’s International Jazz Fest is an April highlight, along with the International Mango Festival (with the chance to sample everything mango-flavoured), Miami Swim Week and Miami Spice Restaurant Month are summer sensations. The Columbus Day Regatta, DJ frenzy of the III Points Music Festival and Caribbean style of Miami Broward Carnival, all in October, round out a hugely varied array. The Keys are Miami’s festival rival, and there’s a lot to recommend here too. Each of the Key Largo and Islamorada Food and Wine Festival, Florida Keys Seafood Festival and

Pictured: Music and food festivals are a great way to socialise with friendly locals

KeY West is famous for Key Lime Pie, hence their Key Lime Festival from June 30 - July 4.

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FaNcY a lauGh? The South Beach Comedy Fest in the Art Deco district is each April.

DaNce ON over to Miami Beach in July for the Latin sizzle of the 5-day Miami Salsa Congress.

Pictured: The Sunshine State enjoys some dazzling sunsets throughout the year

Key Largo’s Brew On The Bay run in January, while Key West hosts the annual tongue-in-cheek Conch Republic Party in April. Key Largo is the place to go for the popular Humphrey Bogart Film Festival, hosted in October. Events don’t come much bigger hereabouts than the two-week, family-orientated South Florida Fair each January, so head to West Palm Beach for this entertaining array of contests, exhibits, rides and live entertainment on multiple stages. Music events are also a big hit with southern Floridians, and you can sample some of the best at the eclectic four-day Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival at Sunshine Grove in March as well as the wellattended Sarasota Jazz Festival (also in March) and West Palm Beach’s spectacular SunFest each May, a waterfront extravaganza of just about every musical genre you can think of, including jazz,

sOuth FlOrIDa gets back to its roots at the Miami-Dade County Fair March-April.

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BrING YOur appetite to the Stone Crab Festival in Naples in October for a seafood fiesta.

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Since 1926, Presidents and celebrities have gathered at The Biltmore. Today, we are poised to give you the royal treatment. Come and see why The Biltmore has been at the top of worldwide “Best of the Best� lists since 1926. Immerse yourself in luxury and our endless amenities including a Donald Ross 18 Hole golf course, a world renowned spa, one of the largest hotel swimming pools in the continental U.S. and award winning dining options. Book today, online

biltmorehotel.com/vfe or call 001-786-522-0415 or contact your travel specialist.

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Photography by Zachary Balber. Courtesy of the artist and The Bass, Miami Beach.

South Florida

“The Vizcaya Museum and GarDens in Miami are a brilliant tribute to James Deering”

Pictured: The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton is the place to be for live music

Pictured: Miami Beach’s Bass Museum of Art, which re-opened in October 2017

country, blues and rock. And, for the big annual celebration of Fourth of July, look out for impressive seaside fireworks celebrations particularly in Anna Maria Island, Big Pine Key, Boca Raton, Cape Coral (Sarasota) and Fort Myers Beach, as well as Miami Beach, Key Largo, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Ringling estate. If the name doesn’t mean anything to the casual visitor, it’s worth pointing out that impresario John Ringling and his brothers were one of the richest families in the world in the 20th century as the originators of The Greatest Show on Earth. The Ringling Bros. Circus was an entertainment colossus from 1871 to 1956, and John Ringling chose Sarasota as their winter home. Now, The Ringling is a repository of their circus heritage, the fabulous Ca’ d’Zan mansion and gardens, and the Museum of Art, with works by Rubens, Gainsborough and Bernini are among many classical masters. Another Ringling gem is the Historic Asolo Theater, while Sarasota also offers the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the

Arts & Culture

If you think the other regions of Florida have cornered the market for a great cultural experience, in the words of the song...you ain’t seen nothing yet! Not only does the South have its own style and artistry, it boasts several attractions that are worth coming for alone. At the heart of Sarasota is the

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Courtyard by Marriott Fort Lauderdale Beach

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A premiere choice for families, couples, and business travellers, this hotel is just minutes from the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International airport and two miles from Port Everglades. It stands conveniently close to Las Olas Boulevard, with its array of dining, shopping and entertainment venues. Rooms have floor to ceiling windows boasting ocean and Intercostal views, there is free wifi throughout and multiple dining venues on-site ranging from a bistro to the Seabreeze Poolside Bar. Best of all, there’s no resort fee!

Courtyard by Marriott Fort Lauderdale Beach | 440 Seabreeze Boulevard | Fort Lauderdale FL 33316  www.marriott.com/fllco Courtyard_1/4_V1_04.01.2018.indd 6 florida_South_V3.indd 44

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South Florida

Sarasota Opera Company at the 1926-vintage A.B. Edwards Theater. The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami are South Florida’s other treasure, a brilliant tribute to visionary businessman James Deering. The gorgeous 1914 villa and the 50-acre estate are full of European-inspired landscaping and decorative arts, making for a cultural treasure trove. More fabulous art is at Miami Beach’s Bass Museum of Art, which re-opened in October 2017 after a major transformation, and The Lowe Art Museum, at the University of Miami, for world-wide works from Africa to South America and the ancient Mediterranean. Don’t miss Palm Beach’s Flagler Museum, the former 75-room mansion of railroad tycoon Henry

Flagler now pays homage to its owner and his heritage. The south-west has plenty for culture vultures, with Naples boasting several notable museums, including the excellent Baker Museum and the Colisano Children’s Museum, while tiny Everglades City transports visitors back in time at the Museum of the Everglades. Classical music and dance are other key features, with the South Florida Symphony Orchestra performing in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Boca Raton and Key

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Plan your trip at DiscoverMartin.com 04:20 PM

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Pictured: Aventura Mall, is one of America's most visited retail outlets

West, as do Miami City Ballet, while the Florida Grand Opera offers performances in both Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

shOPPING

“miami is Known as a centre of haute couture, and you’LL find the best at the baL harbor shoPs”

FOllOWers of fashion should make a beeline for Delray Beach in January for Fashion Week.

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If you’ve been impressed by the great array of shopping opportunities throughout the rest of Florida, get ready for an absolute extravaganza throughout the South, from local arts and crafts to the best in designer brands, fashion, glitz and glamour. Miami is justifiably known as a centre of haute couture, and you’ll find the best of the best at the Bal Harbor Shops, where the rich and famous splash out on Gucci, Prada and Tiffany and Co, and the glamorous Design District, with its neighbourhood-style shopping and more high-end labels from the likes of celebrity favourites Christian Louboutin and Louis Vuitton. Equally compelling are specialist

VIsIt cOcONut Grove for the Arts Festival and Vizcaya Museum in February.

FOr art WIth a difference, see Lake Worth’s Street Painting Festival each February.

centres like the Shops at Merrick Park – where Pascal Oudin’s Parisian brasserie is also on the menu – and bustling, pedestrian-friendly Lincoln Road, which has progressed from eclectic to fashionista territory in recent years. The malls here are some of the best, notably the Aventura Mall, ranked as one of America’s mostvisited retail choices, and the upmarket mix of the Dadeland Mall, boasting personal shopping and concierge package services. Things get bigger still at Sawgrass Mills to the west of Fort Lauderdale. This massive exercise in bargain shopping is the largest outlet centre in America, featuring 350plus stores, from top fashions to electronics, as well as a 24-screen IMAX cinema and restaurants. The south-east doesn’t have a monopoly on great shopping, though. West Palm Beach can

courtesy of sawgrass mills

dana hoff. aventura mall

South Florida

Pictured: Sawgrass Mills is a shoppers haven, featuring 350-plus stores

eNJOY the Circus Arts Conservatory in Sarasota, home of America’s oldest youth circus.

PereZ art Museum exhibits international art of the 20th and 21st century.

VISITFLORIDA.com

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Jill Bell 5.2.2016

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South Florida

“the Premier attractions further south tend to be marine Life and the wonders of nature”

match Miami in the designer stakes with swanky Worth Avenue, where celebrities rub shoulders with the well-heeled locals in stores such as Chanel, Jimmy Choo and Lilly Pulitzer, and the dining is just as fancy at Bice, Café Boulud and Ta-boo. Over in Naples things are equally distinguished, if more laid back. Here the vibe is fashionconscious more than fashionista, with an array of art galleries, fine apparel and dazzling jewellery stores that still attract the well-todo but with minimum ostentation. Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South are the main avenues of retail finery, each loaded with great window-shopping opportunities. In fact, Port Royal Jewelers is so fancy, you have to ring the bell to gain entry! For slightly more down-to-earth charms, the Village Shops on Venetian Bay and the Waterside

Pictured: CityPlace is West Palm Beach's premier shopping and dining destination

the NaMes may be less obvious but the shopping is still great along Miracle Mile in Coral Gables.

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FOrt lauDerDale’s

Las Olas Boulevard offers a mix of boutiques and restaurants.

reaDY tO trawl for bargains? Stuart’s B&A Flea Market features some 500 vendors.

Pictured: Get up-close and personal to marine giants at Miami Seaquarium

Shops are specialist centres with a good mix of retail and dining.

theMe ParKs & attractIONs

If theme parks are the main event in Central Florida, the premier attractions further south tend to be marine life and the wonders of nature, from dolphins and sea lions to the many alligators that make the Everglades their home. The Miami Seaquarium on Key Biscayne is a fabulous choice, with a world-class array of exhibits, shows and experiences, including a dolphin interaction programme, killer whale show and signature Top Deck Dolphin Show, as well as another 12 attractions and a Pirate Playground for the young ’uns. More animals are centre stage at child-friendly Jungle Island in Miami, an interactive zoological park that features a wide variety of wildlife both local and more exotic, including lions, lemurs and snakes,

sOuth MIaMI’s CocoWalk offers a mix of shopping, bars and live entertainment.

DON’t WOrrY if you forgot your cozzie in the Keys – there are over 100 swimwear shops!

VISITFLORIDA.com

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South Florida

plus the chance to experience the sloths and lemurs up close in personal encounters. Zoo Miami offers more animal action and exhibits in its 750 acres of park and gardens, with a fabulously diverse choice of attractions, notably with a chance to feed the giraffes and camels, take in the daily wildlife show, and cool down in the splash area of the Playzone Playground. Head down into the Keys and you are in prime shipwreck territory. The Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum is a great way to soak up the area’s history, as is the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. More area heritage is on offer at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, a National Historic Landmark, with guided tours every 15 minutes that tell the story of the great author. From Key West you can also take

Pictured: Manatees can be spotted in the southeast from April through to October

cOOl the family down in Naples with a visit to the SunN-Fun Lagoon with its many water features.

learN sOMe fascinating underwater history at the History of Diving Museum on Islamorada.

Pictured: Discover the crystal clear waters of Dry Tortugas National Park

a plane or catamaran tour to Dry Tortugas National Park, home of an amazing Civil War fort – the largest brick-built structure in the western hemisphere – and marvel at the glimmering crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Jungle Gardens in Sarasota is the place to enjoy the gentle attractions of birds, butterflies and the inevitable Florida reptiles in a lush, tropical setting, and the Mote Aquarium continues the wildlife theme with manatees, sharks, sea turtles and more. Also ultra child-friendly is Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Discovery and Science, aimed at the six-16year-old age group, with some imaginative exhibits, games and shows to ensure any visit here is a memorable one. Very much like South Florida as a whole, in fact.

“Zoo miami offers animaL action and eXhibits in its 750 acres of ParK and gardens”

sPOrts & actIVItIes

There are five major sports in

FOr MOtOr enthusiasts the vehicles at the Sarasota Classic Car Museum are a must see.

the GatOr Boys make an appearance at Everglades Holiday Park near Fort Lauderdale.

KIDs caN explore at the Music Maker Studios of Miami’s Children’s Museum.

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South Florida

Pictured: The American Airlines Arena is home to the Miami Heat basketball team

“there are five maJor sPorts in america and miami has them aLL in a sPorting Pantheon for the ages”

catch WOrlDclass tennis

at the Delray Beach, open in February with current and former stars.

America – baseball, American football, ice-hockey, basketball and soccer – and Miami has them all in a sporting pantheon for the ages where you can be sure of being entertained year-round. Baseball runs from April to October and it is well worth catching a game of the Miami Marlins – who play at 37,000-seat Marlins Park – for a true slice of Americana. Games are rarely a sell-out, so you can often pick up

tOP PlaYers compete in the US Open Polo Championship each April in Wellington, Palm Beach.

Nascar’s motor-sport championship in November is held at Homestead Miami.

tickets at short notice. The NFL’s Miami Dolphins are arguably the best-supported team, with the season running from September to December, but only eight home games a year at stateof-the-art Hard Rock Stadium, so book tickets early in advance. When it comes to ice-hockey (the NHL), you should look out for the Florida Panthers. Their BB&T Center in the suburb of Sunrise holds 19,250 and is another fun, familyfriendly experience, watch games from October to April. Possibly the most exciting event is a basketball game, with its all-out entertainment style. The Miami Heat play at the American Airlines Arena from late October to April and the atmosphere around every game is full of all-American razzamatazz. Soccer is now on the menu in the form of FC Miami of the North American Soccer League, playing at Riccardo Silva Stadium, wath them from April to November. There are plenty of activities you can enjoy directly, of course,

lIKe BOatING? February’s Miami International Boat Show will get you in ship shape.

sarasOta’s Ski-A-Rees water-ski team puts on free shows at Mote Marine every week.

MANTA RAY INN www.mantarayinn.com 1715 S. SURF RD, HOLLYWOOD, FL 33019

T: 001 954 921 9666 | F: 001 954 929 8220 | E: INFO@MANTARAYINN.COM

The MANTA RAY INN is a home away from home! With one- and two-bedroom oceanfront apartments, this charming inn offers panoramic views of South Florida's best sandy beach Recommended by Fodor’s - winner of the acclaimed White Glove Award and Number one on TripAdvisor

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South Florida

Pictured: Don't miss the chance to cheer on the NFL’s Miami Dolphins

especially in the Keys. Here, scuba-diving is a prime pastime, with snorkelling and kayaking also popular water activities. And, where there’s a boat, there will be some

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great fishing, with the deep-sea variety on offer coast-wide. Golf remains the No.1 activity, though, and there are several hundred courses throughout the region, highlighted by testing water features, rolling fairways and bunkers – lots of bunkers. A great example is the Ocean Couse at The Breakers in West Palm Beach, Florida’s oldest but still a wonderful contemporary choice. The winter is peak season, but you can often save money by playing after 3pm and, if you like 36-hole days, it can be up to 40 per cent cheaper to replay the same course. It all highlights, yet again, the amazing diversity and excitement on offer throughout Florida. So now you've got all the info, what’s keeping you? ●

“PossibLy the most eXciting event is a basKetbaLL game, with its aLL-out entertainment styLe"

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ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE

DISCOVER ISLANDOLOGY ON THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL I

n Southwest Florida, Islandology is always within reach. It’s our way of life. You won’t find highrises and big crowds, you’ll find endless whitesand beaches, lush wilderness and exotic wildlife. Islandology is about being comfortable with your surroundings and enjoying all the simple pleasures that come with a day at the beach or a night on the town. But before you make the trip to experience it for yourself, here’s more on what it’s all about. Whether it’s chartering a fishing boat, going on a shelling tour or paddleboarding at sunset, life on the water is essential to Islandology. The warm Gulf of Mexico makes for a fun day island hopping or a relaxing day on the beach. Those same waters also

Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach, FL

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bring the perfect souvenirs – seashells. Sanibel Island is known as the shelling capital of the world, thanks to the hundreds of shells that wash ashore every day. Nature is a large part of Islandology, too. Hundreds of uninhabited islands dot our coast, each with their own ecosystems and wildlife just waiting to be explored. The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is home to hundreds of species of exotic birds and sea life, all viewable from the 4-mile Wildlife Drive. Or, try following the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve boardwalk on foot and explore Florida’s wetlands without getting your feet wet. Aside from nature, Southwest Florida has a unique blend of city life and island living that defines Islandology. The Fort Myers’ River District has its thriving arts and entertainment scene with several galleries and theaters downtown. After hours, you’ll find much more than the usual watering hole – laidback bars are serving delectable cuisine and delicious drinks provided by expert mixologists. With so much to do, it’s worth taking the time to stay awhile and do things right. Whether you choose a vacation rental or traditional accommodations such as a hotel or resort, you’ll find a variety of lodging options to suit any budget. And it’s all a short drive from Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). The island of your dreams is here on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, in a destination that is just a short drive from Miami, Orlando and Tampa. To start planning your trip, visit FortMyers-Sanibel.com •

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Special Needs

Access all areas Few places are as geared up for assisting guests with special needs as Florida. International visitors with differing abilities are often taken by surprise at how easy it is to holiday in the Sunshine State. Guests with mobility issues who are travelling by car will find designated parking nearest to most businesses’ entries, reserved for those with a Temporary Disabled Parking Permit, while public transportation includes 'kneeling' buses which lower automatically for hassle-free boarding and exiting. Non-kneeling buses and shuttle vans include special lifts and safety restraints for wheelchairs. Accessible vans and mobility scooters are readily available for those wishing to get around under their own steam and medical equipment such as hospital beds, oxygen and lift chairs can be delivered to your accommodation, often with little or no delivery or pick-up fee.

low-stimulus queuing locations, dietary assistance and accessfriendly restrooms. Seasonal shows often have Sign Language interpreters and each park has a queue-beating system for guests who require additional assistance when touring (check at guest relations when you arrive). Certified guide animals are welcome everywhere and locations such as theme parks, campsites and nature preserves provide 'comfort' areas, so that any break in the fun is a short one. Those seeking sun and sand will find specialised wheelchairs for hire, with giant tyres that make ease of the sand. From mobility-challenged ziplines to adaptive scuba diving, from dolphin interactions to sensory-friendly stage shows, a holiday in Florida turns ‘special needs’ into special memories. ●

“ALL RESORTS AND HOTELS OFFER ROOMS WITH AUDIO AND VISUAL ALERTS AND ACCESSIBLE BATHROOMS”

CATERING TO YOU

All resorts and hotels offer rooms with audio and visual alerts and accessible bathrooms. Some add extra conveniences such as vibrating or hypoallergenic pillows. Pools, hot tubs and public areas can be enjoyed by all. Orlando’s theme parks are experts at accommodating the full gambit of needs, with accessible queues and theatres, assistive listening devices and reflective captioning,

Pictured: Florida's accessible beaches; paddleboarder at Key Biscayne

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LGBTQ

Open doors “WALT DISNEY WORLD BECOMES THE UNOFFICIAL VENUE FOR THE POPULAR GAY DAYS EVENTS IN ORLANDO”

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Florida tourism is steeped in a philosophy of inclusivity and it’s not uncommon to see rainbowhued ‘Orlando United’ T-shirts and banners across the state. Cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Key West can all be seen flying the rainbow flag. Pride Fort Lauderdale’s week-long event in February celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017, attracting tens of thousands of participants. Miami Beach (April), Tampa (March), Tallahassee (April) and Orlando (October) also celebrate Pride weeks in grand fashion. Miami goes one better with the annual Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in April. All-male Tropical Heat in Key West and Key West Womenfest take place in August and September respectively, and Key West’s Fantasy Fest adds a themed cosplay element to its mile-long street parade in October. Jacksonville, two hours north of Orlando, is the setting for River City Pride Parade and River City Block Party, which kick off in late September with live music, drag shows and

Pictured: Florida hosts a variety of LGBTQ events and festivals year-round

cultural performances. The theme parks have their LGBTQ moments, too. Walt Disney World becomes the unofficial venue for the popular Gay Days events in Orlando, which span six days from May 29 – June, 3. Offshoot events geared toward couples are also part of the line-up.

FUN FOR ALL

Family-friendly during the day, funky Hamburger Mary’s in downtown Orlando turns toward the risqué four evenings a week, with Twisted Sisters Bingo, Dining with the Divas, and the hilarious Leigh Shannon’s Cabaret Dinner Show, plus the Broadway Brunch on Sundays. St. Petersburg and Sarasota on the Gulf Coast have strong LGBTQ communities, with restaurants, hotels and churches catering to gay and lesbian visitors, while Ybor City, just outside Tampa, is home to the GaYBOR District Coalition of inclusive galleries, bars, restaurants, shops and hotels. Ready to tie the knot? Many religious and secular venues, bakeries, caterers and accommodation are welcoming and inclusive, making Florida an ideal place to say, “I do!” ●

VISITFLORIDA.com

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Ports & Cruises

Plenty to sea! Florida is a dazzling place for a land stay, but the Sunshine State has an alter ego as the Cruise Capital of the World, with no less than five major ports offering amazing sea-going delights on the most modern ships on the planet. This is the perfect destination to sample a cruise-and-stay option, enjoying a week (or more) at the theme parks and beaches, before heading out for a life on the ocean waves with a voyage to top cruise destinations such as the Caribbean, Mexico or South America. The ports of Miami and Fort Lauderdale serve all of South Florida. Orlando is just an hour from both Port Canaveral and Tampa and Jacksonville’s port is ultraconvenient for the northeast. All have year-round facilities that make for a smooth embarkation, with

Pictured: Florida offers easy access to top cruise destinations; Disney Cruise Line

voyages from three to 14 days. Booking is easy, as most travel agents can add a cruise to any land-based holiday and all the cruise lines have handy websites and call centres dedicated to helping you find the right voyage should you decide to DIY.

TIME TO SPLASH OUT

Choose from 22 cruise lines, from ultra-luxury Seabourn, Silversea and Regent to the resort style of Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines have their own private Caribbean Islands. Parking at the ports is easy, ensuring your getaway is as smooth as the cocktails on board. Disney Cruise Line has its own Art Decostyle terminal at Port Canaveral to offer maximum convenience. At the ports themselves, there’s plenty to enjoy before or after you sail. Port Canaveral includes the Kennedy Space Center and the port’s Exploration Tower and observation deck, plus all the delights of nearby Orlando. Miami’s Bayside Marketplace is right next to the port. In Tampa, the port is practically in the heart of the city. Port Everglades is a short taxiride from Las Olas Boulevard and Fort Lauderdale. Jacksonville’s port is barely 15 minutes from the city and the nearby beaches. Altogether now – on your marks, get set, sail! ●

“THIS IS THE PERFECT DESTINATION TO SAMPLE A CRUISE-ANDSTAY WITH A VOYAGE TO THE CARIBBEAN, MEXICO OR SOUTH AMERICA”

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Florida Fact File

Helpful hints and tips Drivers

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.

Money & 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.

Apply

For an ESTA quickly and easily at: esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ For more information about entry into the U.S. please visit uk.usembassy.gov

1st night

Visitors must book their first night’s accommodation before they arrive in the U.S. and provide an accurate address.

Insurance Medical expenses are high in the U.S. so travel insurance with medical coverage of at least £2million is recommended.

Power Customs

Personal exemptions may be brought in free of duty. This includes personal effects, one litre of alcoholic beverage if you are 21 or over, 200 cigarettes or 100 cigars or 2kg of tobacco.

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The U.S. uses two-pin plugs so adaptors are required. Electrical goods from the U.S. may not work correctly in the UK.

VISITFLORIDA.com

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Tour Operators

Tour Operators Need some advice from the experts? Here's a list of experienced UK operators each equipped with the latest information on attractions, accommodation, car hire and more to help create that perfect Florida holiday for your clients. British Airways

Attraction Tickets Direct

Attraction World

 0800 977 5248

 0371 700 8888

 attraction-tickets-direct.co.uk

 attractionworld.com

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 years.

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!

CV Villas

Golden Holidays

 01403 755 123  0344 493 0124

 0207 261 5406

 specialoffers@goldenholidays.co.uk

 ba.com/florida

 www.cvvillas.com

 goldenflorida.co.uk

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.

With a hand-picked selection of stunning villas in Florida, most of which are conveniently located for Orlando’s popular theme parks, the travel experts at CV Villas will match you with the perfect property.

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.

Ocean Florida

OrlandoAttractions.com

Thomas Cook

 020 7939 7775

 0800 294 9458

 ocean-florida.co.uk

 sales@orlandoattractions.com

 0844 871 6650

We’re the Florida experts with over 12 years’ experience, specialising in villas and multi-centre trips. Our teams are available 7 days a week, including an Orlando Welcome Centre, to assist guests on holiday. ATOL protected.

 orlandoattractions.com

 thomascook.com

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!

From Orlando’s magical theme-parks to the romantic beaches of the Keys, Florida has something for everyone. And with us, you can tailor-make your perfect holiday.

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Florida Fact File

USEFUL CONTACTS VISIT FLORIDA®

VISITFLORIDA.com  020 7871 2915  visitfloridaUK@visitflorida.org Free vacation guide: florida@bhpdirectmail.com  VISIT FLORIDA  @VISITFLORIDA Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel fortmyers-sanibel.com  020 3697 4318  fortmyers@fourcommunications.com  FtMyersSanibel  @FtMyersSanibel Bradenton Area CVB bradentongulfislands.com  020 7871 2915  info@goshpr.co.uk  VisitBradentonGulfIslands  @VisitBradenton Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Daytonabeach.com  020 3044 2763  sarah@hatmarketing.com  daytonabeach  @daytonabeachfun Discover Martin County discovermartincounty.com  0133 070 0101  office@vvvglobal.com  DiscoverMartinCounty  @DiscoverMartin Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB sunny.org  020 7593 1700  fortlauderdale@hillsbalfour.com  visitlauderdale  @visitlauderdale Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades paradisecoast.co.uk  01732 875 722  oonagh@ommac.co.uk  Paradise Coast UK  @paradisecoastuk Panama City Beach Convention & Visitor Bureau VisitPanamaCityBeach.com  020 7871 2915  info@goshpr.co.uk  visitpanamacitybeach  @Visit_PCB

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The Florida Keys & Key West fla-keys.co.uk  020 8686 2600  info@fla-keys.co.uk  Florida Keys and Key West  @theFloridaKeys

SIMON Shopping Destinations® SIMON.com/travel  020 3697 4200  Martin.Court@ fourcommunications.com  @shopsimon.us  @shopsimon

Visit Sarasota County visitsarasota.org  020 7871 2915  info@goshpr.co.uk  VisitSarasota  @VisitSarasota

VF

Universal Parks & Resorts VF universalorlando.co.uk  020 3618 6364  Universal Orlando Resort  @UniversalORL

Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater VisitStPeteClearwater.com  020 8339 6121  va@visitspc.com  visitstpeteclearwater  @VSPC

Walt Disney World Resort disneyworld.co.uk  Walt Disney World  @WaltDisneyWorld

Visit Tampa Bay visittampabay.com  07557 256 973  jando@thegoldenquill.org  visittampabay  @VisitTampaBay

Car Hire

Attractions

Government Offices

VF

Hertz VF hertz.co.uk  08708 448 844  HertzUK  @HertzUK

Florida Attractions Collection attractionscollection.com  020 3044 2761  kevin@hatmarketing.com  @hatmarketing

U.S. Embassy in London uk.usembassy.gov  0207 499 9000

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex KennedySpaceCenter.com  0203 790 9154  Philip@Ignite-uk.com  KennedySpaceCenterVisitorComplex  @ExploreSpaceKsc

British Consulate gov.uk/government/world/ organisations/british-consulategeneral-miami  001 305 400 6400

LEGOLAND Florida Resort VF florida.legoland.com  LLFRTradeSales@LEGOLAND.com  LEGOLANDFlorida  @Legolandflorida SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment seaworldparks.co.uk  01293 785 685  sea@cubo.com

VF

VF

VISIT FLORIDA® strategic partners

2/1/18 04:03 PM


Here you can find your own place in the sun. Where palms cast cooling shade on an island beach that’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 you’ve been looking for.

BradentonGulfIslands.com

Request our Visitor Guide at BradentonGulfIslands.com/visitor-guide/

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Official FL Welcome Center

Dual Carriageways

75

Motorway

Toll roads*

98

National numbered A-road

Dual Carriageway junction

50

Numbered A-Road within a state

Main roads

13

Numbered A-road within a county

i

Major airports

* 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

Naples

Orlando

Pensacola

Tallahassee

West Palm Beach

Miami

5:00

3:30

0:30

2:00

3:15

9:30

7:00 4:00 0:45

8:15

5:30

5:30

2:15

5:15

2:30 3:15 4:30

3:15

5:00

6:45 13:00 10:00 7:00 4:15

Tampa

Key West

Fort Lauderdale

Jacksonville

Fort Lauderdale

APPROXIMATE DRIVE TIMES (HOURS)

Jacksonville

5:00

Key West

3:30

8:15

Miami

0:30

5:30

3:15

Naples

2:00

5:30

5:00

2:00

Orlando

3:15

2:15

6:45

3:45

3:45

Pensacola

9:30

5:15 13:00 10:00

9:15

6:30

Tallahassee

7:00

2:30 10:00

7:15

6:30

4:00

3:00

Tampa

4:00

3:15

7:00

4:15

2:30

1:30

6:45

4:15

West Palm Beach

0:45

4:30

4:15

1:15

2:30

2:45

9:00

6:15 3:30

2:00

3:45 10:00

7:15 4:15 1:15

3:45

6:30 2:30 2:30

9:15 6:30

4:00 1:30 2:45 3:00 6:45 9:00 4:15 6:15 3:30

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Florida Official Travel Guide 2018  

Whether you are a new or returning friend of Florida’s, we understand it can be overwhelming trying to get the most out of your trip with so...

Florida Official Travel Guide 2018  

Whether you are a new or returning friend of Florida’s, we understand it can be overwhelming trying to get the most out of your trip with so...