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2020 T R A V E L G U I D E T O

FLORIDA floridatravel.com • floridatravelguide.travel

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO

FLORIDA www.floridatravelguide.travel

The 2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA is published by Globelite Travel Marketing Inc., a leading lifestyle media company and publisher of The Travel Guides to Canada, The Travel Guide to California, and Dreamscapes Travel and Lifestyle Magazine. Joseph P. Turkel, President and Group Publisher Valerie Saunders, Vice President Judi Scharf, Vice President PUBLISHER EDITOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR ART DIRECTOR CIRCULATION MANAGER DIRECTOR OF RETAIL MARKETING DIRECTOR OF FINANCE PRESIDENT & GROUP PUBLISHER ACCOUNT DIRECTORS

Joseph P. Turkel Julia Wall Judi Scharf Mark Tzerelshtein Julia Pritchard Craig Sweetman Gloria Mungo Joseph P. Turkel Vivian Hunt Nikki May Joe Turkel Lisa Turner

EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTORS Susan B. Barnes | Vanessa Caceres | Kara Franker Kevin Fritz | Janet Groene | Jen Karetnick | Chelle Koster Walton Melody Pittman | Edward Schmidt Jr. | Donna S. Vieira Jonathan Westbank | Richard Westlund | Sally White | Steve Winston

FLORIDA OFFICE: 401 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 130-446, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 Tel: 1-888-700-4464 Fax: 416-497-0871 email: tigc@rogers.com www.floridatravelguide.travel

CANADIAN OFFICE: Globelite Travel Marketing Inc. 3 Bluffwood Drive Toronto, Ontario M2H 3L4 Tel: 416-497-5353, 1-888-700-4464 Fax: 416-497-0871 email: tigc@rogers.com www.floridatravelguide.travel ISSN: 1926-2531 (Print) ISSN: 1927-7253 (Online)

BEACH AND PIER, VENICE • VISIT SARASOTA

No part of this publication can be reproduced or duplicated without the written permission of Globelite Travel Marketing Inc. The opinions in this magazine are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Globelite Travel Marketing Inc. Publications Mail Agreement 40047932. Contents © copyright 2020. Printed in Canada.


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301

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27

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MONROE DADE

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STATE OF

FLORIDA

Everglades National Park

1 Key Largo

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA BAY Big Pine Key

Key West

1

Marathon

ADMISSION TO THE UNION: March 3, 1845 NICKNAME: The Sunshine State OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: English SPOKEN LANGUAGES: Predominantly English and Spanish CAPITAL: Tallahassee LARGEST CITY: Jacksonville LARGEST METRO: Miami TOTAL AREA: 58,560 square miles WIDTH: 361 miles LENGTH: 447 miles ESTIMATED POPULATION (2019): 21,200,796 HIGHEST ELEVATION: Britton Hill at 345 feet Sources: Wikipedia, StateofFlorida.com and edr.state.fl.us Information, dates and websites were correct at time of printing and are subject to change without notice.

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


TABLE OF CONTENTS

VISIT FLORIDA/PETER W. CROSS

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GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND INFORMATION 12

WELCOME TO FLORIDA: Your Adventure Starts Here

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HISTORY: Journey Through History

FLORIDA VACATION THEMES 22

ECOTOURISM: Uncover Nature’s Beauty

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THEME PARKS: Where Fantasies Meet Thrills

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LIFESTYLE LIVING: A Sunshine State-of-Mind

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SPORTS: A Sports Paradise for All

SHUTTERSTOCK/MARIAKRAY

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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DISCOVER CRYSTAL RIVER FLORIDA

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VISIT ORLANDO

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VISIT SARASOTA

FLORIDA REGIONS, COUNTIES AND CITIES 36

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA: Hot Happenings on the Coast

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The Florida Keys: Paradise on Earth

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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA: Beaches, Culture and Baseball

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CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA: Steeped in Tradition

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Martin County: Let Your Imagination Soar

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CENTRAL FLORIDA: Creating Wondrous Stories

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Sebring: Choose Your Own Vacation Speed

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Visit Central Florida: Delights for the Whole Family

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Holiday Inn Club Vacations: Stay and Play on Your Family Getaway

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WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA: Expand Your Horizons

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Crystal River/Citrus County: Discover the Wonder of it All

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NORTHWEST FLORIDA: A Majestic Coastline

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106 Panama City Beach: Plan Your Perfect Getaway 108 Explore Northwest Florida: A World of Natural Wonders and Adventures 109 Jackson County: Florida’s Natural Side 110

Franklin County: You’ll Never Forget Florida’s Forgotten Coast

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA: A Welcome Surprise

VISIT ORLANDO

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120 NORTHEAST FLORIDA: Sun, History and Fun 127 St. Augustine & Ponte Vedra: Rediscover Florida’s Historic Coast

FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM

FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/ANDY NEWMAN

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COVER: Smathers Beach in Key West, Florida Keys • eStock Photo/ Reinhard Schmid/Huber

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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WELCOME TO FLORIDA

YOUR ADVENTURE STARTS HERE BY JEN KARETNICK

RULES OF THE ROAD Florida is easy to explore by vehicle. Bring your own or, if you’re at least 25, rent one. Visitors ages 16 and up holding licenses from other states or countries may drive in Florida. Cash is no longer accepted on some Florida toll roads. Purchase a SunPass Mini Sticker transponder at one of the more than 3,100 retail locations for US$4.99 plus tax. A minimum opening balance of US$10 is required. Most rental cars come with a SunPass. Drivers and front-seat passengers must wear seat belts. All children under 18 are required to wear seat belts, regardless of where they are sitting. Children, three and younger, must be secured in a federally approved child-restraint seat in the back seat; children, ages four and five, also must be in the back seat and secured by a childrestraint seat or a safety belt. Florida has strict drunk driving laws and texting while driving is illegal. Pedestrians always have the right of way at crosswalks. And remember, hot pavement acts like ice when rain first hits it, so be cautious driving during rain showers.

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BISCAYNE BAY • VISIT FLORIDA/CARLTON WARD

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lorida has exerted a magnetic pull on visitors for the past 500 years— beginning with Juan Ponce de León. St. Augustine, where he landed in 1513, educates visitors and residents alike through attractions, museums and festivals where reenactors dress in historic garb and tell tales. In this charming town, it’s not unusual to have breakfast in a café seated next to a "pirate." Ponce de León named what he saw "La Florida," or "place of flowers," because of the lush landscape. Indeed, Florida has 300 native plants, ranging from the thorny sweet acacia to the wild azalea. The state lists an additional 1,300-plus introduced exotics, many of them considered invasive. Others are housed in botanical gardens, such as the renowned Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables and the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford.

A BOUNTIFUL LAND The state flower is orange blossom, which is considered an exotic, albeit one that became extremely important to the region’s economy. Native to Southeast Asia, the orange tree is an evergreen shrub brought to the colony of St. Augustine in 1565. The orange and its aromatic blossom, which connotes fertility and good fortune, quickly became representative of the area. Many towns such as Davie have Orange Blossom Festivals. Today, Florida is the largest producer of oranges in the U.S. As well, it is the third largest producer of honey which is made by the bees that sip pollen from the fragrant blossoms. In fact, Florida depends on export crops as diverse as sugar cane and tomatoes to survive, while still leaving plenty of sweet corn and green beans available for passersby to purchase. Visitors are often amazed to find farm stands and U-pick farms offering


everything from boiled peanuts and fresh blueberries in Gainesville to mangoes and lychees in the southern areas of Redland and Homestead. Throughout the year, festivals —such as Plant City’s Florida Strawberry Festival in late winter and the mid-summer International Mango Festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables— are hugely enjoyable, multi-day attractions. If you prefer bottled fruit, wineries are popping up everywhere, with many offering both grape varietals as well as tropical fruit vintages.

WILD ABOUT FLORIDA Florida is home to more than 330 commonly found bird species, which amateur ornithologists can track along The Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail. Completed in 2006 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the 2,000-mile trail comprises four sections—the Panhandle, East, West and South—and lists what species can be found where. Florida also has more than 170 native butterflies. In addition to finding them in

the parks and in the wild, visitors can observe them in conservatories such as Butterfly World in Coconut Creek and the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum in Gainesville. The 142 native species of amphibians and reptiles, including around 50 kinds of snakes—of which only six are poisonous— are equally fascinating. You can view these and the 50 plus additional non-native species at many zoos and safaris, ranging from Zoo Miami to Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee and ZooTampa at Lowry Park. At Jungle Island in Miami, brave guests hold giant pythons. Visitors who prefer to check out natural habitats where wild things reside can hit any section of the sprawling Everglades. There, a range of activities, from boating and fishing to biking and hiking, puts one in close touch with nature’s biggest beasts and smallest insects. The curious can also arrange private tours with exotic animal rescue and rehabilitation operations such as the Zoological Wildlife Foundation and McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary, both located in South Florida.

NEED TO KNOW Many beaches, parks and festivals don’t charge an entrance fee or, if they do, it’s only a few dollars. If you do run out of cash, ATMs are everywhere from convenience stores to festivals. Many stores allow debit card users to obtain “cash back” above their purchase without a transaction fee. Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 or 5 PM, however, TD Bank has locations open every day, except major holidays. Banks and government offices, including the post office, are closed on major U.S. holidays. Most attractions remain open year-round. Florida’s base sales tax on purchases is six percent, with some counties adding discretionary taxes. In addition to pet deposits, most hotels charge a “bed” tax and some will add a “resort or amenities tax” and even parking fees.

CLEARWATER BEACH • CITY OF CLEARWATER/BOONE CLEMMONS


WELCOME TO FLORIDA For conservancy on a smaller but no less important scale, many programs all over the state, such as the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, help protect sea turtle nests. If visitors are in the area at the right time, they may be able to witness a hatching.

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE Florida is made up of 1,200 miles of coastline, of which 663 are foot-friendly beaches. It isn’t all salty water and fruity cocktail culture, however. The interior of the state is far different than many expect, with nearly 8,000 lakes and almost 1,700 rivers and streams. Lake Okeechobee—in the center of the state—is Florida’s largest. It not only provides drinking water for many surrounding and southern counties, but it is also an agricultural resource for the state’s abundant produce. It offers some of the best largemouth bass fishing in Florida. The protective dike that encircles the lake is part of the National Scenic Trail, a 110-mile route, popular with hikers, naturalists, cyclists and horseback riders. (Horse enthusiasts should also head to Ocala and the Davie/Plantation region, where there are horse farms, schools, trails and competitions galore.)

DELRAY BEACH PADDLEBOARDER • VISIT FLORIDA/PETER W. CROSS

GREAT SAVINGS Head to South Florida in the heat of summer for good deals. Winter yields great rates in northern Florida. Orlando has its own seasons, which coincide with school breaks; Visit Orlando recommends visiting during “deal season,” August 15–September 30. Save on attractions, restaurants and shopping by visiting VisitOrlando.com/en/ discounts-and-tickets and reputable online ticket brokers such as Mousesavers.com, Ticketmomma.com, UndercoverTourist.com and OfficialTicketCenter.com. The Entertainment Book (entertainmentbook.com) is a local favorite and you don’t have to be a local to buy it. Also try Groupon.com or LivingSocial.com for 35 to 90 percent off at hotels, attractions and restaurants. Four of South Florida’s top attractions—Lion Country Safari, Miami Seaquarium, Museum of Discovery & Science and Zoo Miami— offer unlimited visits for 100-plus days at SummerSavingsPass.com. In the Tampa Bay area, CityPASS offers savings of 50 percent on admission to the top five Tampa Bay attractions: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Museum of Science & Industry or the Chihuly Collection. Since the pass is good for nine consecutive days starting with the first day of use, you’ll have plenty of time to take in all of the sites. Plan your visit at CityPASS.com/Tampa.

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

In addition, the state has some 30 firstmagnitude freshwater springs—more than any other state. Most of these watering holes, including Wakulla Springs—one of the deepest, and Silver Springs—one of the largest, are clustered in Central West and North Central Florida. Finally, Florida claims quite a river culture, notwithstanding the famed River of Grass, a.k.a. the Everglades, where native and non-native wildlife is the most diverse. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot the elusive and endangered Florida panther, the only big cat living in the wild in this state. From airboat rides and alligator spotting in the swamps to kayaking along the immortal Suwannee River, framed by cool, green woodlands, and crabbing in the tributaries of the Apalachicola River, waterway adventures are endless. Here is also where you’ll find wild boar, which acclimated after the Spanish brought over their native pigs 500 years ago.


STAY CLEAR American alligators and crocodiles are found in the state’s 67 counties. Wherever you see a body of water—even a large puddle that has formed on the side of a highway—you should assume a reptile is in it. Do not feed alligators. It is dangerous and illegal. Never swim in a canal or wade in an unknown body of fresh or brackish water, especially at dawn or dusk, which are their feeding times. And keep small children and pets away from fresh or brackish water shorelines at all times. ALLIGATOR, EVERGLADES • SHUTTERSTOCK/ BILDAGENTUR ZOONAR GMBH

Beyond the rivers and lakes, bodies of water on either shore of the Florida peninsula offer deep-sea fishing and diving opportunities galore.

BREAK OUT THE SUNSCREEN Blessed with climates ranging from subtropical in the north to tropical in the coastal and southern regions, Florida is known as the “Sunshine State.” Temperatures average a balmy 70ºF daily, with highs usually peaking in the 90s in July and August. And while the lowest temperature ever recorded in the winter of 1899 was –2ºF in Tallahassee, the normal lows, which last only a couple of days, hover around the 40s or 50s during January or February. Although Florida has its share of inclement weather, it’s renowned for being the warmest state in the U.S. mainland. The currents of Key Biscayne and the coastal areas around Fort Myers, particularly Sanibel and Captiva islands, are perfect for learning the rudiments of paddleboarding, ocean kayaking and other water sports. For shell hunters, the Gulf Coast, from Fort Myers to Sarasota, is where to go. And if you’re lucky, you may find thousand-yearold sharks’ teeth.

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Resorts and attractions are an inescapable part of Florida’s identity and some are destinations in their own right. Head south to the 173,000-acre, mostly underwater, Biscayne National Park where all sorts of outdoor activities are available together with snorkeling, diving and glass-bottom boat tours. It is certainly worth renting a watercraft to search the islands for evidence of Indigenous American inhabitants, to explore shipwrecks and to drift above the coral reef system, where more than 200 species of fish thrive. Popular water parks in Southeast Florida include Rapids Water Park in Palm Beach County and Broward County’s collection of child-pleasing soakers: Paradise Cove Water Park at C.B. Smith Park, Splash Adventures Water Park at Quiet Waters Park, Castaway Island Water Park at Topeekeegee Yugnee Park, and Tropical Splash Water Park at Central Broward Regional Park. Water parks, such as Shipwreck Island Waterpark in Panama City Beach, Adventure Island in Tampa and Adventure Landing in Jacksonville, offer thrilling experiences for the whole family, and are especially refreshing in the summertime when the air can be quite humid.

MEXICO BEACH WINE TASTING • VISIT FLORIDA

STAY COOL Heat exhaustion can affect anyone, especially young children and the elderly. Symptoms include mild muscle cramps to dehydration. If you feel faint, head for air conditioning and start drinking fluids. Also keep in mind that Florida is the lightning capital of the United States. Afternoon storms start and stop quickly and often without much warning. However, most parks and some other public places are equipped with lightning detectors. Heed the saying, “If thunder roars, go indoors.” Hurricane season runs June 1–November 30, but there is no need to worry as your hotel (and the local news) will keep you well informed. If you plan a trip during hurricane season, it’s wise to buy travel insurance.

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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HISTORY

JOURNEY THROUGH HISTORY BY RICHARD WESTLUND

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f you enjoy tales of Spanish adventurers, Civil War battles and U.S. astronauts’ first ventures into space, it’s time to explore Florida’s intriguing history. You can visit coastal forts and lighthouses, museums, mansions, vintage hotels, and a variety of Native American, African, and Hispanic cultural sites that bring Florida’s past to life. Here are some of the many historical treasures waiting to be re-discovered throughout the state.

SOUTHEAST Thousands of years before the first European explorers arrived, Florida was populated by Native Americans such as the Tequesta people, who lived near the mouth of the Miami River. After an excavation uncovered the remains of a village, the Florida Division of Historical Resources has preserved the site as the Miami Circle Park. Other Native American cultures survived the incursion of northern settlers in the 1800s by moving into the Everglades, where they gradually rebuilt their societies. Now, visitors can learn about the Seminole and Miccosukee Peoples, sample native cuisine, take a ride on an airboat or watch alligator wrestling at Billie Swamp Safari and other attractions along U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) and I-75 (Alligator Alley). Clewiston’s Ah-TahThi-Ki Museum (meaning “a place to learn”) is a living village of early Seminole culture and is definitely worth a visit. To help mariners avoid rocks and reefs, several lighthouses, erected in this region in the 1800s, are open to visitors. For fascinating glimpses into Florida’s past, tour the Garden Key Lighthouse at Fort Jefferson National Monument and nearby Loggerhead Key Lighthouse (both in Dry Tortugas National Park); the Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne near Miami; and the 160-year-old Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum in The Palm Beaches, where outdoor exhibits include the Lighthouse Keeper’s Workshop, the Tindall Pioneer Homestead and a Seminole chickee. FORT JEFFERSON, DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK • FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/ANDY NEWMAN 16

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


The Museum of Art & History at the Custom House in Key West is South Florida’s most important historic building. Built in 1891, the red brick national landmark was returned to its former glory in 1999 following a nine-year, US$9-million restoration project. Exhibitions within expose visitors to a Florida they may have never known. Clinton Square Market, now a bilevel shopping mall, is housed in an 1800s building that was once a U.S. Navy coal depot. Historic Key West also offers the Harry S. Truman Little White House, a favorite vacation spot for the president in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. Other cultural sites in the region include Miami’s historic Lyric Theater, which was a major entertainment center for African Americans in the state’s segregated society. A few blocks to the south, Little Havana reflects Miami’s Cuban heritage, with restau-

rants, clubs and shops where you can buy hand-rolled cigars. Pioneer homes and historical hotels are found in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach. Two examples are Stranahan House Museum on the New River in Fort Lauderdale and the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens near the Intracoastal Waterway. In The Palm Beaches, the Boca Raton Resort and Club, the Colony Hotel & Cabana Club in Delray Beach and the worldfamous Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach are examples of Florida architecture from the 1920s. The Breakers actually dates back to the late 1890s when railroad magnate Henry Flagler began bringing northern visitors to Florida, but after the hotel’s second disastrous fire, it was rebuilt in 1926.

SOUTHWEST Inventor Thomas Edison and his friend Henry Ford built their Florida homes in Fort

Myers. The compound is known today as the Edison & Ford Winter Estates and features a museum, laboratory and botanical gardens. To the north, not far from the historic Boca Grande Lighthouse in Gasparilla Island State Park, the Gasparilla Inn & Club has attracted visitors since 1913. Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero was the scene of one of the most unusual chapters in Florida history. In 1894, Cyrus Reed Teed founded the Koreshan Unity, a community of followers who believed the universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere. Today, the site has 11 wellmaintained historical structures dating from 1882–1920 as well as landscaped grounds with exotic ornamental plants from around the world. In Bradenton, the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park is the only remaining antebellum plantation house in South Florida. Nearby, the town of Palmetto boasts

RINGLING MUSEUM OF ART COURTYARD, SARASOTA • SHUTTERSTOCK/MARIAKRAY

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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HISTORY its own historical park for a peek back in time, as well as an ancient Native American attraction, the Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site. Farther north in Sarasota, The Ringling is a standing legacy to the rich history of the American circus and houses a wealth of circus artifacts, including the world’s largest miniature circus. Surrounding gardens feature an extensive variety of native and exotic trees, as well as the oldest rose garden in Florida, founded by Mable Ringling. Next door, the historic Asolo Repertory Theatre is an active performance space, presenting the best in theater, music, dance and film.

CENTRAL EAST In 1949, Cape Canaveral became a test site for the U.S. missile program. A decade later, the Cocoa Beach-Titusville area was the heart of the nation’s space program, including Apollo 11, the 1969 mission that carried astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. Now, the Kennedy

Space Center Visitor Complex allows guests to experience the glory years of the U.S. space program. Located on the U.S. Air Force Base is the historic Cape Canaveral Lighthouse; be sure to check tour information before planning your trip. To the north, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum, Florida’s tallest, guards the waterway at the southern end of the Daytona Beach area.

CENTRAL For a survey of Central Florida’s fascinating past, visit the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando to view exhibits such as a “cracker cabin,” a typical pioneer home from the 1800s. One of Florida’s leading African Americans was Zora Neale Hurston, a prominent 20th-century author whose works influenced such writers as Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison. An annual festival in Eatonville celebrates her life and recognizes her contributions to literature.

WEST CENTRAL Located in Tampa’s Channelside District, the Tampa Bay History Center houses 60,000 square feet of exhibits that link the region’s modern culture with sports legends, railroad tycoons, cattle drives, pioneers, Spanish conquistadors and Florida’s first Native inhabitants. From the museum, it’s a short drive to Ybor City, known as Tampa’s Latin Quarter for more than a century. Visitors can enjoy Cuban coffee and cigars and dance to Latin rhythms. To the west in St. Petersburg Beach, the Don CeSar Hotel is known as “Florida’s Pink Castle” since it opened in 1928. Another Florida treasure is Tarpon Springs, where visitors can tour the historical sponge diving docks and sample Greek food at numerous restaurants.

NORTHWEST One of the nation’s oldest cities on the Gulf Coast, Pensacola has flourished under Spanish, French, British, Confederate and U.S. rule, and today is known as the “city of

BRADLEY’S COUNTRY STORE, TALLAHASSEE • VISIT TALLAHASSEE

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


five flags.” At its heart, Historic Pensacola Village includes 27 buildings and museums operated by the University of West Florida. In the late 1500s, the Spanish first inhabited the region to protect their settlements and galleons carrying gold from Mexico. Storms, battles and other accidents resulted in numerous sinkings, and divers today can explore 12 wrecks along the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail between Pensacola and Port St. Joe. Visitors can also tour historical lighthouses in the region, such as the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum, built in 1859. In the 1700s, the British took control of the region, building Fort Barrancas and Fort George. Then, a Spanish army with U.S. volunteers ousted the British forces during a 1781 battle—a little-known victory of the American Revolution.

NORTH CENTRAL During the early 1800s, Florida’s population was concentrated in North Florida, where Tallahassee became the territorial capital. One of the city’s highlights from that era is the Call-Collins House at The Grove, an historic mansion finished in the 1840s by Richard Keith Call, an aide and advisor to General Andrew Jackson. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Florida joined the Confederacy—the smallest state to secede from the U.S. During the war, Union troops fought the Confederates in several clashes in the North Central area, including the Battle of Natural Bridge in 1865—one of the last Confederate victories in the war. To the south near Lake City, “soldiers” in Civil War uniforms annually reenact the Battle of Olustee. The state also publishes the Florida Civil War Heritage Trail, a guidebook to Florida battle sites. Southwest of Tallahassee, visitors can tour the unspoiled fishing community of Apalachicola, the center of the state’s oyster industry for many decades. Nearby is the St. Marks Lighthouse in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

NORTHEAST Back in 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León set foot on Florida’s sandy shores. and

PONCE DE LEON INLET LIGHTHOUSE & MUSEUM • DAYTONA BEACH AREA CVB

christened the new land “La Florida.” Four decades later, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded St. Augustine, the oldest continuously inhabited European-established city in the U.S. Featuring an historical district containing more than 30 colonial-era buildings, St. Augustine provides a unique glimpse into Spanish colonial life. Highlights include Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fortification in the continental U.S., and the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum. In 1738, in an attempt to destabilize the plantation economy of the British colonies by creating a free black community to attract slaves seeking escape and refuge, the Spanish established the fort and town of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mosé as the first free black community in North America. For an in-depth history of Florida’s African Americans and their contributions, request a copy of the Florida Black Heritage Trail from Visit Florida at 850-245-6333. To the north, Jacksonville traces its roots to the French who landed at the mouth of the St. Johns River in 1562 and founded Fort Caroline two years later. However, a Spanish

force soon captured the fort, and the French became a distant memory. Through the years, the Spanish maintained control of the region, establishing forts, farms and missions, including Fort Caroline and the Kingsley Plantation House (c. 1798), both of which are located in the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve—one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic coast. During the 1820s, when Florida was a U.S. territory, the plantation was the home of Zephaniah Kingsley, a slave-owner who spoke out for civil rights, and his free African wife, Anna. One of Florida’s hidden treasures is Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, north of Jacksonville. Many buildings in its 50block historical district are on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Amelia Island Museum of History showcases the region’s fascinating past. Visitors can also tour the Amelia Island Lighthouse property on Saturdays between 11 AM and 2 PM. Built during the Territorial Period in 1838, it is the state’s oldest lighthouse. While in the area, scout out Fort Clinch for a vivid glimpse into the nation’s past during the Civil War.

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TAUBMAN SHOPPING CENTERS

Florida’s ultimate shopping and dining

BY STEVE WINSTON THE MALL AT UNIVERSITY TOWN CENTER, SARASOTA

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nown for their extraordinary retail environments, Taubman shopping centers offer everything from luxury, contemporary and fast-fashion brands, as well as unique dining and familyfriendly entertainment. Located in several of Florida’s most popular travel spots, make sure the following retail destinations are on your itinerary. Dolphin Mall is Miami-Dade County’s largest outlet shopping center where you can find over 240 value-priced and outlet stores, including H&M, Nike Factory Store, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store and more. Dining and entertainment are essential aspects of the mall which offers over 20 options, including The Cheesecake Factory and authentic Cuban and Puerto Rican food at Metropol. Music lovers can catch live shows featuring local artists every weekend in Ramblas Plaza. Shuttle service to the mall is available from Miami International Airport, Miami Beach and select hotels. Located adjacent to the Tampa International Airport and less than five miles from the Port of Tampa, International Plaza and Bay Street is the dominant luxury shopping and dining destination in the region. It offers the only Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom on

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DOLPHIN MALL, MIAMI

Florida’s Gulf Coast, the first RH Gallery in Florida and an array of luxury brands. Over a dozen restaurants line the center’s open-air Bay Street—among them are Whiskey Cake and Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar. Sarasota may be known for its miles of beaches, but it’s also home to extraordinary shopping. The Mall at University Town Center, anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Dillard’s, features nearly 150 stores and restaurants, over half of which are unique to this region. Many of the restaurants, such as BRIO Tuscan Grille and The Cheesecake Factory, are also exclusive to the market. There’s an indoor play area for the kids and the local hotels offer free shuttle services for guests. Welcoming millions of domestic and international visitors every year, all three

INTERNATIONAL PLAZA AND BAY STREET, TAMPA

shopping centers received the TripAdvisor 2019 “Certificate of Excellence” for outstanding consumer reviews. Special discounts and offers from participating retailers are also available to out-of-town travelers through each of the centers’ Passport to Shopping program.   Explore stores, dining, events, sales and offers by visiting the following websites.

FEATURED LINKS Dolphin Mall: shopdolphinmall.com International Plaza: shopinternationalplaza.com The Mall at University Town Center: mallatutc.com


ECOTOURISM

BY SALLY WHITE

UNCOVER NATURE’S BEAUTY

SWIM WITH THE MANATEES, CRYSTAL RIVER • DISCOVER CRYSTAL RIVER FLORIDA

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nown for glistening sugar sand beaches and sparkling turquoise waters, Florida draws visitors from around the world. With more than 80 different ecosystems and a vast array of natural resources, this sun-kissed state, known for balmy winters and sultry summers, offers something for everyone. The glittering depths of Williston’s subterranean underwater caverns of Devil’s Den and the saltier explorations around the shipwrecks from Pensacola to Port St. Joe, serving as artificial reefs to the local marine life on the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail, beckon avid scuba divers. Hiking enthusiasts find themselves drawn to the challenges of the 1,400-mile Florida Trail, the state’s National Scenic Trail stretching

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from the Everglades to Pensacola Beach, while others prefer to drink in the vista views from the canopy walkway of Myakka River State Park or climb the limestone bluffs above the whitewater rapids at Big Shoals State Park. Eleven thousand miles of waterways, the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the cooler Atlantic entice paddlers to investigate the wilds and anglers to cast their lines in hopes of snagging a bass or prize-winning cobia. With an extensive variety of natural resources available, it can be difficult for travelers to choose how to spend their time. These top 10 Florida ecotours not only aid the state’s ecotourism through public education, but also give back to their community to help maintain these diverse

native assets for future generations to enjoy while allowing visitors unique opportunities to experience wild Florida.

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SNORKEL LIVING REEFS AT DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK IN THE FLORIDA KEYS

Vibrant tropical fish dart past, ducking to hide in the depths of the colorful living coral and sponges at Dry Tortugas National Park, situated within the Everglades & Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve. This 100-square-mile reserve encompasses seven islands and the tail end of a reef that stretches from Miami to this national park, 70 miles from Key West. The remote location has minimized human impact on the reef, making it one of the best underwater snorkeling and diving locations in


America. The Dry Tortugas National Park provides a home to abundant fish life, sea stars, queen conchs, anemones, sea turtles and 30 species of coral. The Dry Tortugas can be reached via daily ferry from Key West. Honored with the ISO Environmental Award, the Yankee Freedom III is the official national park ferry, providing nearly five hours of exploration time and complimentary snorkeling gear to use while visiting this remote national park. Tickets can be purchased online or at 240 Margaret Street, Key West, Florida 33040. The ferry departs from 100 Grinnell Street, Key West, Florida 33040. 1-800-634-0939. drytortugas.com

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occurs June through early October. Come November through May, bioluminescent jelly combs, a creature similar to a jelly fish but without the sting, congregate in the waters of the Indian River Lagoon to illuminate the cooler nights. A Day Away Kayak Tours offers 90-minute bioluminescence guided tours and full-moon paddle tours from Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge yearround. Tours can be purchased through their website. The tour launch point is at Haulover Canal at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida 32782. 1-321-268-2655. adayawaykayaktours.com

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SWIM WITH THE MANATEES ON THE NATURE COAST

Crystal River, a winter playground to the West Indian manatee, attracts thousands of these gentle giant sea cows when water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico begin to drop. In mid-January 2018, over 800 manatees gathered in the Crystal River area at one time. Manatees like to frolic in the warmer waters of the spring systems around Kings Bay and are often spotted in the Three Sisters Springs at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Though no longer on the endangered list, they remain a “threatened”

LOGGERHEAD SEA TURTLE RETURNED TO THE WILD, LIDO KEY • MOTE MARINE LABORATORY & AQUARIUM

WALK THROUGH A WILDLIFE HAVEN AT AUDUBON’S CORKSCREW SWAMP SANCTUARY IN NAPLES A pristine wilderness dating back more than 500 years, greets visitors at this 13,000-acre swamp. It is home to the largest old-growth bald cypress forest in the world, as well as the largest nesting colony of wood storks in the U.S. It also provides an important habitat for numerous endangered species including the Florida Panther and rare plants such as the ghost orchid. A 2.25-mile boardwalk meanders through wet prairie, marshlands and pine flatwoods where around 200 species of birds reside, such as the snowy egret, barred owl, limpkin and sandhill crane. Visitors can choose a complimentary 1.5-hour guided tour on the boardwalk or go at their own pace to enjoy this ancient natural haven. 375 Sanctuary Road, Naples, Florida 34120. 1-239-348-9151. corkscrew.audubon.org

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EXPERIENCE BIOLUMINESCENCE IN A KAYAK AT INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

In the darkness of the night, kayaks glide across the Indian River Lagoon and Mosquito Lagoon in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Every swish of the paddle and movement in the water spawns swirls of glowing electric green color through the water. This glow-in-the-dark phenomenon, caused by a combination of single-celled microorganisms called dinoflagellates, warm temperatures and water salinity levels,

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ECOTOURISM species. River Ventures has been taking guests to swim and snorkel with the manatees since 2010. Prices for their threehour manatee encounters include the boat trip, snorkels, wetsuits and even swim noodles. Other more exclusive trips are available as well. Manatee season is from November to March, but they can be spotted around Crystal River year-round. Tours leave from 498 SE Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River, Florida 34429. 1-877-581-8401. riverventures.com

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SOAR ACROSS LIMESTONE CANYONS WITH CANYONS ZIP LINE & CANOPY TOURS IN OCALA

The whirr of metal on metal takes guests flying through the air across the open landscape of natural Central Florida. The ground drops away to reveal the steep cliff walls and gaping limestone pits of a bygone era. Located on 100 acres of private property with expansive canyons, lakes and islands, Canyons Zip Line & Canopy Tours offers

visitors a unique look at Florida’s geology. The University of Florida discovered evidence of a prehistoric manatee and crustacean fossils in the limestone caves and walls and now visitors can explore this preserved environment from above, with nine zip lines, two rope bridges and a rappel across this area of wild Central Florida. The 1,600-foot “Super Zip” affords a bird’s-eye view of the deepest canyon, while the thrilling 1,100-foot “Speed Trap” takes guests from an observation tower and over the cliffs to cross a water-filled canyon. 8045 NW Gainesville Rd, Ocala, Florida 34474. 1-352-351-9477. zipthecanyons.com

Jacksonville’s Northside. A Florida naturalist leads this 1.25-hour guided off-trail tour through the maritime forest aboard crossterrain fat-tire Segways that ensure stability with zero emissions. Guests are given instructions on riding before setting off to explore the salt marshes, oak canopies and clear waters along the Timucuan Preserve. Paddlers unable to resist the call of the unusual beaches and rock formations around the Talbot Islands have the opportunity to try one of Kayak Amelia’s paddle tours to explore the tidal streams and sand bars. 13030 Heckscher Drive, Jacksonville, Florida 32226. 1-904-251-0016. KayakAmelia.com

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GLIDE THROUGH TIMUCUAN HISTORY AND MARITIME FORESTS WITH KAYAK AMELIA SEGWAY TOURS NEAR JACKSONVILLE

The hum of the Segway propels visitors past sand dunes and Native American Timucuan shell mounds on Fort George Island in

PADDLE WITH SCHOLARS IN A NATIONAL ESTUARINE RESEARCH RESERVE IN ST. AUGUSTINE Paddle the coastal backwaters of the 77,000acre GTM-NERR (Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve) with certified Florida Master Naturalist Instruc-

GTM-NERR, PONTE VEDRA • PALM COAST AND THE FLAGLER BEACHES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

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tors through twisting and winding tidal corridors on a “guided by nature” two-hour kayak tour. Fresh water drains into the watershed, creating a habitat abundant with diverse aquatic plant and wildlife. Around 350 birds, 40 reptiles, 20 amphibians and 580 different plant species reside in this unique ecological environment. Ripple Effect Adventure Outfitters, located in the town of Marineland just south of St. Augustine, also offers tours aboard the only vegetable-oil powered ecotour boat in Northeast Florida and catch-and-release fishing opportunities for angling enthusiasts. 101 Tolstoy Lane, St. Augustine, Florida 32080. 1-904-347-1565. rippleeffectecotours.com

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TUBE THE CRYSTAL CLEAR WATERS OF THE ICHETUCKNEE RIVER IN FORT WHITE Float the pristine sapphire waters of the Ichetucknee River, a spring-fed river in Florida, declared a National Natural Landmark in 1972. Visitors can choose from the 3-hour, 1.5 hour or 45 minute tube float within Ichetucknee Springs State Park on this lazy six-mile river with opportunities to see natural Florida springs, otters, beavers and an occasional manatee. Tube, kayak and canoe rentals are available, and only non-motorized vessels are allowed on the river. 12087 SW U.S. Highway 27, Fort White, Florida 32038. 1-386-497-1113. floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ Ichetucknee-Springs-state-park

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DESCEND INTO THE LABYRINTHINE UNDERGROUND AT FLORIDA CAVERNS IN MARIANNA

The only dry-air cave tour in a Florida state park can be found at Florida Caverns State Park in North Florida. Visitors take a 45minute guided tour with a park ranger winding their way through narrow passages and around unique limestone formations like dripping stalactites, mounding stalagmites, flowstones and draperies. Blind crayfish, bats and cave salamanders can also be found in this unusual 65ºF year-round Florida habitat. 3345 Caverns Road, Marianna, Florida 32446. 1-850-482-1228. floridastateparks.org/parksand-trails/Florida-Caverns-state-park

CANYONS ZIP LINE & CANOPY TOURS, OCALA

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HUNT FOR TREASURE ALONG THE ESCAMBIA COUNTY ENVIRONMENTAL GEOCACHE TOUR

Eight geocache sites take treasure hunters through the diverse ecosystems and unique environmental habitats of Escambia County. Using GPS coordinates, visitors hunt down the hidden caches. Highlights of the geocaching adventure tour include: experiencing bayou boardwalks, a glimpse of the carnivorous white top pitcher plant of Tarkin Bayou Preserve State Park, oyster reefs, salt marsh and sea grass

habitat of Project Greenshores, and the rolling sand dunes of Perdido Key. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Escambia County and the City of Pensacola partnered to create this remarkable ecotour. Visitors who locate six out of eight caches can receive a prize. Participants should log their finds on geocaching.com. Log sheets and coordinates are found at myescambia.com/our-services/ natural-resources-management/natural-resourcesconservation/escambia-county-geocaching-tour. DEP, 160 West Government Street, Pensacola, Florida 32502. 1-850-595-8300.

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THEME PARKS

WHERE FANTASIES MEET THRILLS BY KEVIN FRITZ

INFINITY FALLS, SEAWORLD • SHUTTERSTOCK/VIAVAL

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trip to Florida is not complete without experiencing the thrills and fascination found in the state’s iconic theme parks. Lucky for you, the most revered of those attractions are within driving distance to one another. From Tampa to Orlando, Central Florida is the undisputed king of theme parks. So put on your fun hat and be prepared to be thrilled.

SEAWORLD ORLANDO Introduced in 2018, SeaWorld Orlando’s Infinity Falls is a twisting and turning river rapid ride that showcases a lush South American jungle environment and native animals that call this habitat home. Wind your way around soaking fountains and waterfalls as you pass the remains of an ancient civilization. The 1,520-linear-foot, four-minute adventure features a vertical elevator that lifts rafts in preparation for a 40-foot drop—the tallest drop of its kind— into churning and exhilarating waters. The

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Infinity Falls adventure ends at Harmony Village where you’ll find interactive experiences educating and inspiring guests about conserving freshwater ecosystems. After braving Infinity Falls, enjoy other SeaWorld Orlando adventures, shows and animal encounters. Located next to Shamu Stadium, Sesame Street opened within the SeaWorld Orlando complex. Walk around this new six-acre neighborhood and visit Big Bird’s Nest, Hooper’s Store and all the famous characters. Rides include Big Bird’s Twirl ‘n’ Whirl and Super Grover’s Box Car Derby, among others. The Killer Whale Up-Close Tour gives guests the opportunity to learn about the park’s majestic killer whales in brand new ways. And the popular Dolphin Nursery is interactive and includes large windows, giving guests the chance to see mothers and young dolphins up close. Throughout the animal-themed exhibits at SeaWorld Orlando, you’ll learn about the park’s ongoing work in

the rescue and rehabilitation of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife—more than 35,000 animals over the past 50 years. Nearby, Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive day resort with a list of interactive animal adventures, welcomes guests to swim with both dolphins and sharks. The dolphin swim experience offers the opportunity to interact with a dolphin including an unforgettable swim and a dorsal fin tow. The awe-inspiring shark swim allows guests to enjoy closer-than-ever encounters with several species of these legendary predators. The shark program teaches kids how shark finning and overfishing threaten many shark species. SeaWorld Orlando donates five percent of the proceeds from this attraction to the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) in support of shark conservation and research. The Shark Swim experience is available to Discovery Cove guests 10 years and older.


Discovery Cove also features a Ray Feeding experience, which gives guests the chance to feed cownose and southern stingrays as well as thousands of tropical fish before embarking on a private, guided swim of the Grand Reef. Aquatica, SeaWorld Orlando’s Water Park, features high-speed water slides, exhilarating wave pools, and 80,000 feet of sparkling white, sandy, artificial beaches to the delight of all ages. This one-of-a-kind water park is also home to Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, a multi-drop tower slide. As well, a new adventure, KareKare Curl, opened last year. It seats two passengers in each circular raft and features a 35-foot drop down an enclosed tube slide, providing a high-adrenaline, weightless water park thrill.

BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is the undisputed king of coasters in West Central Florida with world-class coasters: Kumba, Montu, Sheikra, Cheetah Hunt, Scorpion, Cobra’s

Curse and the new kid on the block, Tigris— Florida’s tallest launch coaster. Tigris is aweinspiring with its exhilarating array of looping twists with forward and backward motion, breathtaking drops, a 150-foot skyward surge, and an inverted heartline roll, all at speeds greater than 60 miles per hour. Falcon’s Fury is a face-first fall from 335 feet in the air. For younger guests, the park offers two mellower rides, Sand Serpent and Air Grover. Of course, Busch Gardens Tampa is much more than roller coasters. It’s also one of the country’s premiere zoos. At the park’s Animal Care Center, guests can observe animal care first-hand and even take part in animal-care experiences ranging from nutrition and treatments to X-rays and surgeries. This state-of-the-art facility is also home to the hit Emmy-nominated TV series, The Wildlife Docs, which takes viewers inside the work of zoological professionals, including Busch Gardens’ own veterinarians and trainers.

BABY MALI AND MAMA LUNA, ORANGUTANS AT BUSCH GARDENS • VISIT ORLANDO

KO'OKIRI BODY PLUNGE, VOLCANO BAY • UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT

ORLANDO’S HIGHEST Dr. Doom’s Fearfall: Riders are skyrocketed 185 feet in the air with more thrust than a 747 jet. Ko’okiri Body Plunge: This Volcano Bay water park attraction features a 70-degree fall and 125 feet of white-knuckle fun. Orlando Balloon Rides: An untethered, scenic adventure aboard hot-air balloons reaches heights of up to 2,500 feet. Orlando Heli-Tours: Soar 1,000 feet above Orlando’s top attractions and incredible fireworks shows. The Orlando StarFlyer at ICON Park: The 450-foot-tall attraction provides sky-high thrills at speeds up to 45 mph. Skydive Space Center: An 18,000-foot fall makes this home to one of the world’s highest tandem jumps. The Sling Shot at Magical Midway: This thrill ride launches riders 390 feet high. Wallaby Ranch, Hang Gliding Flight Park: Enjoy a bird’s-eye view from a hang glider as you’re towed 2,000 feet in the air. Warbird Adventures: A 100-percent hands-on experience takes you up to 8,000 feet in a vintage military aircraft. The Wheel at ICON Park: Standing 400 feet tall, this is the tallest observation wheel on the east coast.

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THEME PARKS

HAGRID'S MAGICAL CREATURES MOTORBIKE ADVENTURE • UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO Step right into the middle of the action with the Fast & Furious–Supercharged attraction, which debuted at Universal Studios in 2018. Based on the popular film franchise, this incredible ride takes you from an after-race party to a high-speed escape from a criminal cartel. Guests can’t get enough of Volcano Bay, Universal Orlando’s third theme park. Unlike Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, Volcano Bay, featuring Krakatau, the 200-foot volcano overlooking a Pacific-island, is all about getting wet. The volcano is home to the park’s Krakatau Aqua Coaster, an exciting, first-of-its-kind aqua coaster that propels you upward and downward through the volcano’s interior peaks and valleys. Volcano Bay offers more than 30 experiences including a multi-directional wave pool with sandy beaches and twisting

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multi-rider raft rides. Take the Ko’okiri Body Plunge, a 70-degree, 125-foot fall through a trap door, or relax on the Kopiko Wai Winding River. Join Jimmy Fallon and his guests on a funfilled, 3D motion-simulated race through, under and above New York City. Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon at Universal Studios Florida is also the testing ground for Universal’s Virtual Line program. Guests simply make reservations on the Universal Orlando Resort Mobile app or nearby kiosk. The attraction also features a Tonight Show memorabilia museum and live shows starring the Hashtag Panda and the Ragtime Gals barbershop quartet. Harry Potter fans will be happy to see the addition of Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Board magical motorbikes to fly far into the dark forest past Hogwarts castle, towering trees and magical creatures, dodging fierce beasts. At 50 mph

FEATURED LINKS Aquatica Orlando AquaticaOrlando.com/orlando Busch Gardens Tampa Bay BuschGardens.com/tampa Discovery Cove DiscoveryCove.com/orlando SeaWorld Orlando SeaWorld.com/orlando Universal Orlando Resort universalorlando.com Walt Disney World disneyworld.disney.go.com Visit Orlando VisitOrlando.com

it will rocket you forward, sling you backward and drop you. It is the first free fall on a rollercoaster in the U.S.


WALT DISNEY WORLD Discover a new way to get around Walt Disney World. The Disney Skyliner, aerial gondolas, opened last fall at the resort offering convenient connections from some Disney Resort hotels and Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you may find yourself shrunk to the size of a toy to explore the world of Andy’s backyard with your favorite Toy Story characters, including Woody and Buzz. Toy Story Land also showcases Slinky Dog Dash—a family roller coaster and Alien Swirling Saucers—a ride in which aliens cruise around in toy flying saucers attempting to capture your rocket toy vehicle with “The Claw.”

There are two new attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The first, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, opened late last year featuring two ride options: Being part of a six-person crew on “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run” where you walk through a full-sized replica of the Millennium Falcon and then climb into the cockpit where Hondo Ohnaka leads a secret mission. A cast member hands each person their role assignment—a pilot, gunner or engineer. “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance” is a massive, multi-platform attraction, unlike anything else at Disney World. Guests are in an epic battle between the First Order and the Resistance, boarding an Imperial Star Destroyer with 50 animatronic storm-

troopers waiting in formation. Both rides are expected to incur long lineups. The second new attraction, opening this spring, is Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. With conductor Goofy, be prepared for unexpected twists, slapstick gags and incredible transformations as Mickey and Minnie try to save the day. Another jewel is Pandora - The World of AVATAR, at Animal Kingdom. Experience the Na’vi River Journey as it transports you through a bioluminescent rainforest, while AVATAR: Flight of Passage invites you to take an exhilarating flight on the back of a mountain banshee. At Mission: Space, over at Epcot, Journey to Mars with the more extreme Orange Mission, or orbit the Earth with the less intense, Green Mission.

STAR WARS: GALAXY'S EDGE, DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS, ORLANDO • DISNEY/DAVID ROARK

LEGOLAND FLORIDA RESORT Take the young ones aged 2 to 12 to LEGOLAND theme park, in Winter Haven. It boast more than 50 rides, attractions and shows as well as life-sized LEGO displays. THE LEGO MOVIE area of Bricksburg is a new addition to the park with three rides and character meet-and-greets. LEGO fanatics love MINILAND USA with its LEGO re-creations of famous cities and key scenes from Star Wars movies. On-site, there is also a water park and, opening in April, the Pirate Island Hotel with fullythemed pirate rooms.

MORE ENJOYMENT AWAITS Enjoy open-air views of Orlando on board the 450-foot-tall Orlando StarFlyer, which swings up to 24 guests through the air at up to 45 miles an hour. Orlando Watersports Complex features a modular series of inflatable, interlocking climbing obstacles, pathways and slides for hours of watery fun.

TIP Located at 8102 International Drive in the heart of Orlando’s tourism district, Visit Orlando, the only official visitor center, offers deals and unbiased expert advice to visitors seeking information.

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LIFESTYLE LIVING

A SUNSHINE STATE-OF-MIND BY RICHARD WESTLUND

WATERFRONT CONDOS, DOWNTOWN MIAMI • SHUTTERSTOCK/DANIEL KORZENIEWSKI A DREAM HOME ON PINE ISLAND • V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES

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f you're looking for reasons to move to the Sunshine State, here are some that might seal the deal on your dreams. While the polar vortex grips northern locations, Florida’s moderate year-round climate provides ample opportunities to enjoy and explore the state’s natural treasures, ranging from natural springs to vast conservation areas that include the Everglades, where you can spend days hiking, cycling, paddling, swimming or birdwatching. Central Florida, the country’s top amusement park destination, is perfect for young and old alike. With 11 professional sports teams plus dozens of minor league and collegiate teams, Florida is a sports fanatic’s playground. In fact, many of baseball’s top teams call the state home during their spring training season. And with more than 663 miles of beaches along its Atlantic and Gulf Coast shores, you’re never more than 60 miles from the ocean. If you have a permit to work in the U.S., the state of Florida has no state income tax— a definite plus—and the cost of living is

less expensive when compared to other major U.S. states. It all adds up to a better quality of life. Those who are ready to buy into the Florida state-of-mind have many choices, thanks to an abundance of new homes and condos available across the state to fit any budget or desired lifestyle.

LOCATION OR LIFESTYLE When searching for a Florida home, there are two basic approaches to consider: location and lifestyle. You may already know where in Florida you want to live. If so, you should familiarize yourself with the neighborhoods, look at typical houses, townhomes or condos, get a sense of prices, and contact a real estate professional who understands the local market and can help you make the right choice. Another strategy is to focus on your desired lifestyle. Do you picture yourself in a private golf community, a high-rise on the beach or in a scenic, rural location? Then, you’ll want to compare homes,


prices and amenities in different locations around the state. Those over age 55, for example, might want to compare the offerings at On Top of the World in Ocala with The Villages northeast of Orlando. Again, a real estate professional can help you make a well-informed decision.

RESIDENTIAL OPTIONS If you’re considering a move to Florida, be aware there are some differences in home design and construction compared with houses in cooler climates. For instance, few Florida homes have a basement because of the underlying hard limestone rock and high ground-water level. Newer homes may be more spacious and feature modern kitchens, baths, flooring and fixtures. A number of leading homebuilders in Florida develop residential communities throughout the state. Minto Communities USA, based in Florida since 1978, has represented integrity and value to homeowners for over 40 years. Minto builds exceptional new homes and communities to meet every lifestyle, with more than 25,000 new homes built in 48 communities. Minto is dedicated to continuous improvement in design quality and customer experience. Featuring award-winning homes and world-class recreational amenities, Minto’s

master-planned communities are located in the Sunshine State’s most popular locations, including Sarasota/Bradenton, Naples, Sunrise, Palm Beach County, Port St. Lucie, Daytona Beach and coming soon to Watersound in the Florida Panhandle. Minto offers a home style for every lifestyle, from waterfront condominiums to townhomes and coach homes, villas and single-family homes—priced from the low US$200s to over $1.5 million. In addition, Latitude Margaritaville is a new portfolio of active adult communities developed by the global lifestyle brand Margaritaville and Minto. Offering resortstyle amenities, Latitude Margaritaville is the ideal destination for those looking to live the Margaritaville lifestyle as they grow older, but not up. The communities feature a resort-style pool, fitness activities, game and hobby rooms, arts and learning programs, live entertainment, signature Margaritaville food and beverage concepts, and more. The first Latitude Margaritaville community in Daytona Beach was ranked the nation’s most popular active adult community of 2018 by 55Places.com. Condos and apartment buildings vary widely in design and construction and often develop distinct “personalities.” A high-rise condo with 600 units is akin to a miniature

BLACK ISLAND BUNGALOWS, GULF COUNTY • GULF COUNTY TDC

city with many services and amenities, which command a higher monthly maintenance fee. However, if the purchase price and monthly fees are a big consideration, you may prefer a smaller building with a pool, spa or entertainment area—or no amenities at all. Condos have been a major part of the Florida market since the 1970s, so the age and condition of a building can affect its desirability and price. A recently constructed residence may have a more appealing design, new appliances, marble baths and other modern features compared to an older unit that has never been updated. However, the older unit may still appeal to buyers on a tight budget.

SEASONAL RENTALS If you love the Florida lifestyle, but aren’t ready to buy, consider a seasonal rental. You can enjoy the beach, boating, golf, shopping and all the attractions for several weeks or months without making a permanent financial commitment. It is also an excellent way to “sample” different locations and lifestyles to see where you feel most comfortable if you do decide to purchase in the future. Almost any type of home, condo or apartment around the state can be used as a seasonal rental. For example, Royal Shell offers hundreds of quality vacation rentals on Sanibel and Captiva, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Naples and other locations in Southwest Florida, as well as in the Ocala area in Central Florida. Similarly, Wyndham Vacation Rentals manages Florida vacation rentals in Orlando as well as across the Panhandle.

FEATURED LINKS Holiday Inn Club Vacations discoverhcv.com/florida-resorts Minto Communities USA minto.com/usa/new-homes/projects.html Royal Shell royalshell.com Wyndham Vacation Rentals WyndhamVacationRentals.com/florida

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

31


SPORTS

A SPORTS PARADISE FOR ALL

BY EDWARD SCHMIDT JR.

TIAA BANK FIELD, JACKSONVILLE • VISIT JACKSONVILLE/RYAN KETTERMAN

F

lorida is a vacation dreamland for sports enthusiasts. For those who love watching great sporting events, the Sunshine State has NFL teams in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville, NBA teams in Orlando and Miami, as well as NHL and MLB teams in Tampa and Miami. If you want to participate, the options are plentiful ranging from deep-sea fishing charters at countless marinas to snorkeling and scuba diving at state and national parks brimming with nature, biking and hiking trails and canoe/kayak-friendly waterways.

FIELDS OF DREAMS Baseball fans flock to Florida during the month of March when 15 teams train and play exhibition games prior to the season. It’s a great way to see your favorite players when they’re more accessible for autographs and you can be closer to the action. The engaging venues include George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, where the Yankees train and which

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

has a massive Yankees memorabilia store, and JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, a Boston Red Sox training venue featuring a replica of Fenway Park’s Green Monster. From April to October, enjoy regular season Major League Baseball in Miami with the Miami Marlins, a National League team owned by famous baseball player Derek Jeter, and with the Tampa Bay Rays, an American League team that competes at St. Petersburg’s domed Tropicana Field.

EPIC COURSES You’ll have little difficulty teeing it up in Florida, which boasts more than 1,400 golf courses and over 50 resorts where golf is the main amenity. Many of Florida’s golf resorts are world-renowned and home to iconic courses like THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, the Blue Monster at Trump National Doral in Miami and Copperhead at Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort near Tampa.

In addition, there is a plethora of superb daily fee courses to play with designer tags like Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio and Robert Trent Jones. The PGA Tour utilizes Florida every year as sites for some of its most prestigious tournaments. You can stroll among the lush fairways and palm trees and watch some of golf’s greatest stars. The tournament lineup includes The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens in February; Valspar Championship at Innisbrook's Copperhead course, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort in Palm Harbor in mid-March; Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando in early March; and THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach in mid-March.

HOOPS HEAVEN You can follow the bouncing ball in Florida from October to May with the NBA’s Orlando Magic and Miami Heat. Both teams play in the hotly contested Southeast Division, which also


includes the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards. Check schedules because it’s a great chance to see the NBA’s brightest stars like LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant play against the Florida teams. The Magic play their games at the Amway Center in downtown Orlando and the Heat play at the AmericanAirlines Arena. For major college basketball, the impressive menu is led by the Florida Gators, from Gainesville’s University of Florida. The University of Miami and Tallahassee’s Florida State University annually field strong teams.

FOOTBALL FRENZY Gridiron icons like Don Shula, Dan Marino and Tim Tebow are synonymous with football in the Sunshine State. Pro and college football dominate the sports scene in Florida in fall and early winter. Home to the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars, Florida gives fans the chance to watch NFL football games in warm, sunny weather even in October and November. College football passions run deep in Florida with highly successful programs like Gainesville’s University of Florida Gators, Tallahassee’s Florida State Seminoles and Miami University's Hurricanes. The Gators have won three national championships, the Seminoles have won three and the Hurricanes have captured five. Other colleges with top-flight Division 1 programs where you can experience the game with all of the colorful pageantry are the University of Central Florida in Orlando, University of South Florida in Tampa and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. At the end of each season in December and early January, Florida hosts several major college football bowl games, including the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl and Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa; Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton; Capital One Orange Bowl at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens; NFL Pro Bowl, Citrus Bowl, Cure Bowl and Camping World Bowl are all played at Camping World Stadium in Orlando; TaxSlayer Gator Bowl at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville; and Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

SOCCER SUPERSTARS

OWN THE ICE

Florida has quietly become a haven for great professional soccer. Orlando City SC of the MLS, founded in 2010, plays to record-breaking crowds at Exploria Stadium in downtown Orlando. The team has a loyal fan base as well as fun tailgating parties before the games. There are plans for the Inter Miami CF, a newly-established MLS team co-owned by David Beckham, to compete in the upcoming season beginning in March. They will play at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale until their new stadium, Miami Freedom Park, is completed. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to see the sport in Florida. The Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League is led by superstar Alex Morgan. And, the Boca Raton FC is a National Premier Soccer League team founded in 2015.

With two NHL teams in the state, Florida offers fans superb opportunities to see topnotch hockey on their visit. Playing their games at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa, the Tampa Bay Lightning had top standing in the league during regular play in the 2018/2019 season. They have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs 11 times in 27 seasons and won the cherished trophy once—in 2004. Farther south, in the Miami metropolitan area, the Florida Panthers skate at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. The Panthers are the southernmost team in the NHL and have qualified for post-season action four times since their debut in 1993.

TERRIFIC TENNIS The fuzzy ball set loves to play and watch tennis in Florida. Resorts like Boca Raton

PGA NATIONAL RESORT & SPA, PALM BEACH GARDENS • DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

33


SPORTS Florida’s high-profile horse racing tracks are Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach, Gulfstream Park West in Miami and Tampa Bay Downs.

ANGLING ALL-STARS

12 HOURS OF SEBRING, SEBRING INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY • VISIT SEBRING

Resort & Club, Saddlebrook Resort near Tampa and Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort north of Jacksonville have expansive, world-class tennis complexes. Spectators enjoy the Miami Open presented by Itaú, which dates back to 1985 and has featured major stars such as Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. In 2019, the Miami Open moved to their new home, the Hard Rock Stadium in the city of Miami Gardens, and will be staged from March 23 to April 5 this year.

POWERED TO WIN It doesn’t get any bigger and better than the DAYTONA 500 in Daytona Beach, NASCAR’s speedy answer to the NFL’s Super Bowl. The 62nd annual race occurs on February 16, 2020. Sebring, in Central Florida, is hosting the popular SuperSebring from March 18-21. The doubleheader weekend features the International Motor Sports Association's (IMSA) 68th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday, March 21, preceded by the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) 1000 Miles of Sebring on Friday, March 20. Just south of Miami in Homestead, the Homestead-Miami Speedway hosts the Ford EcoBoost 400, a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race held in mid-November.

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

EXCITING EQUESTRIAN Ocala, 80 miles north of Orlando, with 600 thoroughbred horse farms is known as “The Horse Capital of the World.” Area farms have produced 45 national champions, six Kentucky Derby winners and 20 Breeders' Cup champions. Several of the farms offer tours and Ocala is home to national equestrian events and competitions, including the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, Live Oak International and Ocala Breeders’ Sale. In Northeast Florida, the Jacksonville Equestrian Center features 80 acres of horse paradise complete with a giant indoor arena, outdoor show rings and over 400 stalls. While polo matches take place in Palm Beach, Sarasota, Wellington and The Villages south of Ocala, Wellington is probably the most famous, drawing equestrian enthusiasts and celebrities from all over the world during its equestrian season, which runs from January to April. Every winter, Wellington turns into a hub for the glamorous equestrian lifestyle. From the Adequan Global Dressage Festival to the Winter Equestrian Festival, there is simply no comparison to this horse-lover’s paradise. And with Wellington Insider Tours, visitors are given a behind-the-scenes peek at what the judges, competitors and show managers get to see—a true insider’s tour.

You’ll be reeled in by all of Florida’s phenomenal fishing possibilities. Amazingly, Florida has over 8,000 miles of shoreline if you include inlets, bays and capes. Better still, the weather is warm year-round so you can fish any day of the year. Marinas for deep-sea charters are located in all parts of the state. Two of the most noted are Islamorada in the Keys, which is known as the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World,” and Destin in the Panhandle that’s been dubbed “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” There are also numerous piers, docks and bridges where you can drop a line and make a big saltwater catch as well as reefs and wrecks offshore where fish congregate. For freshwater enthusiasts, Lake Okeechobee and rivers in the Everglades are great spots to fish for largemouth bass, bluegills and sunfish. Throughout the state, a network of lakes, canals and channels provides excellent places to fish for largemouth bass, catfish and crappie.

OCEAN EXPLORATIONS One of the appealing aspects of snorkeling in Florida is the wide variety of “shore dives” possible. You don’t have to swim far to see amazing marine life. The Florida Keys has dozens of intriguing spots such as Cannon Beach at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, where you can see placed remnants of an early Spanish shipwreck about 100 feet off the beach, and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and Beach off Key West, where you can view tropical fish and live coral. Other prime snorkeling havens throughout the state include Red Reef Park in Boca Raton, Phil Foster Snorkel Trail in Riviera Beach and Blowing Rocks in Jupiter. For those who scuba and want to dive deeper, Florida’s thousands of miles of coastline and numerous lakes offer a plethora of opportunities. Many divers flock to the natural reefs near Fort Lauderdale and Miami. There are also several artificial reefs in


different parts of the state created by sunken steel ships and structures. Freshwater divers can explore caves and caverns in various springs and lakes.

READY TO RIDE If you like riding on two wheels instead of four, Florida has some exceptional paved bike trails. Recreational riders absolutely revel in the temperate year-round biking weather and the flat terrain that makes cycling easier. Some of the more popular trails include the West Orange Trail in Orlando, which stretches 22 miles and passes through quaint towns like Winter Garden and Oakland; Amelia Island Trail, a 5.7-mile trail in the picturesque coastal village of Fernandina Beach; and the 22-mile Sanibel Island Bike Trail, a stunning ride that takes cyclists through the pristine J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and past a lighthouse, beaches and Periwinkle Way, where restaurants and shops are easily accessible.

WORKOUT WONDERLAND Keeping in shape is easy in Florida, which has an excellent menu of nature, hiking and running trails in both urban and wilderness settings. Runners have a lengthy lineup of topnotch races, marathons and triathlons

scheduled throughout the year. Some of the biggest are the Walt Disney World Marathon on January 13; Life Time Miami Marathon and Half Marathon on February 9; Florida Challenge Triathlon in Clermont in March; and Star Wars Rival Run Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort in mid-April. A popular spot for serious fitness training is the National Training Center in Clermont, 20 miles west of Orlando, which has a 400-meter outdoor track, cross-country course, sports fields and 70-meter-long swimming pool. Swimming enthusiasts can enjoy ocean swimming and just about every hotel and resort has a swimming pool. To learn about the history of swimming, visit the International Swimming Hall of Fame and Museum in Fort Lauderdale. For those who prefer canoeing and kayaking, Florida is a paddling paradise with more than 1,700 miles of rivers, streams and creeks formed by 700-plus natural springs. The area around Naples and Marco Island is an increasingly popular spot for paddlers. The Everglades Wilderness Waterway is a 99-mile water trail from Everglades City to Flamingo, with no development along the course, and the Paradise Coast Blueway is a system of paddling trails with GPS-marked routes from Everglades City to Marco Island.

FAMILY KAYAKING, CRYSTAL RIVER • DISCOVER CRYSTAL RIVER FLORIDA

FEATURED LINKS Amway Center, Orlando amwaycenter.com Boca Raton Football Club bocaratonfc.com Daytona International Speedway daytonainternationalspeedway.com Disney Marathons and Running Events rundisney.com Florida Panthers nhl.com/panthers Florida State Seminoles seminoles.com Homestead-Miami Speedway homesteadmiamispeedway.com Inter Miami CF intermiamicf.com Jacksonville Football Club jacksonvillearmada.com Jacksonville Jaguars jaguars.com Miami Dolphins miamidolphins.com Miami Heat nba.com/heat Miami Marathon themiamimarathon.com Miami Marlins mlb.com/marlins Miami Open miamiopen.com Miami University Hurricanes hurricanesports.com Orlando Magic nba.com/magic Orlando Pride orlandocitysc.com/pride Paradise Coast Blueway paradisecoastblueway.com/ paradise-coast-blueway THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra tpc.com/sawgrass Sebring International Raceway sebringraceway.com Tampa Bay Buccaneers buccaneers.com Tampa Bay Lightning nhl.com/lightning Tampa Bay Rays mlb.com/rays Tampa Bay Rowdies rowdiessoccer.com University of Florida Gators floridagators.com Wellington Insider Tours wellingtoninsidertours.com

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

HOT HAPPENINGS ON THE COAST

With idyllic coastal beaches and sprawling nature preserves, plus loads of entertainment and shopping opportunities, Southeast Florida is packed with tons of fun things to do for every style of traveler. BY KARA FRANKER

UNDERWATER MUSIC FESTIVAL, FLORIDA KEYS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY • FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/BOB CARE


A DAY IN... KEY WEST

FORT LAUDERDALE

MIAMI

THE PALM BEACHES

Begin your day with breakfast in

Start your morning with a tour of

Relax poolside at one of many

Start your day at the iconic Jupiter

the outdoor courtyard of Blue

the beautiful historic Bonnet

chic hotels and hit the waters of

Inlet Lighthouse & Museum and

Heaven. Then wander the Old

House Museum & Gardens or

South

down

cruise south down to Loggerhead

Town district enjoying color-

snorkel or dive to explore 69

Lincoln Road for shopping al

Marinelife Center to check on the

ful Victorian architecture.

miles of natural coral reef just

fresco and enjoy a world-class

sea turtles. Lunch in West Palm

Snap a “mandatory selfie” at

offshore. Board a water taxi and

meal while people-watching

Beach. Ride the trolley through

the Southernmost Point in the

cruise through some 300 miles

at an outdoor restaurant. Visit

CityPlace and down Clematis

continental USA. Visit the Ernest

of the Intracoastal Waterway

the art collection at the Pérez

Street; with so many local hot

Hemingway Home & Museum

while viewing some of the most

Art Museum Miami next to

spots to choose from, the

and the Butterfly & Nature

incredible mansions and homes.

beautiful Biscayne Bay, and take

decision is guaranteed to be

Conservatory. Grab lunch in the

Revel in a unique dock-and-dine

an afternoon walk through

difficult, but delicious! Head to

Historic Seaport before embarking

experience at one of many

Museum Park. Head over to

Boca Raton for the afternoon,

on a reef snorkeling excursion.

waterfront restaurants before

Wynwood to take in the vibrant

renting bikes to experience the

Catch a beautiful sunset and the

taking in a show at the Broward

street art. Spend the evening at

Ocean Boulevard Path, or stroll

action at Mallory Square. Dine at an

Center for the Performing Arts.

one of the Miami Design

around Mizner Park. End the day

Old Town restaurant and sample

End with a stroll along pictur-

District’s unique restaurants.

dancing

the nightlife on Duval Street.

esque Las Olas Boulevard.

Beach.

Stroll

and

dining

along

Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach.

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

YOUR SOUTHEAST FLORIDA EXPERTS Discover The Palm Beaches: ThePalmBeaches.com Downtown Development Authority of Delray Beach: downtowndelraybeach.com/dda Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau: sunny.org Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau: miamiandbeaches.com Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency: visithollywoodfl.org Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Chamber of Commerce: lbts.com The Monroe County Tourist Development Council: fla-keys.com Sunny Isles Beach Tourism & Marketing Council: sunnyislesmiami.com

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

37


SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

FLAGLER MUSEUM • DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES

INSIDER’S TIP A trip to South Florida must include the live music scene. Check out these hot spots for some of the best concerts and opportunities to sway to the sounds of your favorite band: Boca Raton: Mizner Park Amphitheater, Sunset Cove Amphitheater Delray Beach: Old School Square Entertainment Pavilion, bars along Atlantic Avenue, Art’s Garage Greater Fort Lauderdale: BB&T Center, Revolution Live, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Culture Room, FATVillage Hollywood: Hard Rock Live, Hollywood Beach bandshell Key West: Duval Street bars such as Sloppy Joe’s Bar and Hog’s Breath Saloon Miami: AmericanAirlines Arena, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Bayfront Park Amphitheater Miami Beach: The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, BleauLive at the Fontainebleau, New World Symphony West Palm Beach: Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Palm Beach Opera, Meyer Amphitheatre, Coral Sky Amphitheatre

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

ARTS AND CULTURE Cultural and art institutions dot the coast of Southeast Florida and brim with one-of-akind features, combining eco beauty, rich history and unique works of art. Worth a visit every time you explore Key West, the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, Harry S. Truman Little White House and Audubon House & Tropical Gardens are cultural mainstays. Tour the Key West Art & Historical Society’s permanent exhibit at Fort East Martello Museum to view more than 100 sculptures created by the late Key Largo folk artist, Stanley Papio, whose works are acclaimed for their inventiveness and humor. In Islamorada, the Third Thursday Artwalk features artists, vendors and entertainment. Sails to Rails at Flagler Station is the newest Key West museum. Follow an interactive timeline of Key West history when tall ships plied the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico waters in the early 1900s to the era of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railway. As the home of Art Basel Miami Beach, the world’s most prominent annual art fair held in December, Miami-Dade County boasts a variety of opportunities to experience local and international art. For highly acclaimed performing arts and Broadway-style shows, head to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Stroll down the street-artclad avenues in the Wynwood Arts District, home to an abundant collection of local galleries as well as Tony Goldman’s popular Wynwood Walls. In downtown Miami, waterfront Museum Park boasts the Pérez Art Museum Miami, a highly regarded institution offering a taste of modern architecture and intellectually stimulating exhibits. There’s also the Bass Museum in Miami Beach, which houses contemporary art.

For a different, but memorable, experience, visit the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach or the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center in Dania Beach. Fort Lauderdale has plenty of museums, galleries and performing arts institutions to visit. Located on bustling Las Olas Boulevard, where shopping and dining abound, the NSU Art Museum of Fort Lauderdale is the perfect place to view more than 7,000 works by artists like William J. Glackens, George Bellows and Diego Rivera. Children and adults alike love the Young At Art Museum in nearby Davie. The LEED-certified 55,000square-foot facility inspires, educates and entertains all ages with interactive exhibits, as well as fun art classes and camps. The Cultural Council of Palm Beach County promotes a wide range of theater, dance, art, music and history in what’s known as Florida’s Cultural Capital. Located in the popular Mizner Park, the Boca Raton Museum of Art houses an array of contemporary and modern art collections. For a unique taste of Japanese arts with the picture-perfect Florida backdrop, visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. West Palm Beach is home to the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden, located at Norton’s former residence where she spent the last 30 years of her life creating pieces for the garden she helped design. From her famous Gateway sculptures to pieces inspired by a trip to Tibet, the museum and garden bring the vision of this creative artist to life. Other gardens worthy of exploration include the Four Arts Botanical Garden and the Mounts Botanical Garden. The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach is one of the most renowned art museums in Florida, featuring acclaimed exhibitions, programs and a permanent collection. And, dating back to 1902, Whitehall, Henry Flagler’s Gilded Age estate in Palm Beach, is a National Historic Landmark and open to the public as the Flagler Museum, featuring guided tours, changing exhibits and special programs. For entertaining shows from elegant ballets to Broadway musicals, visit the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, the Wick Theatre & Costume Playhouse and Palm Beach Dramaworks. For something more intimate, but just as impressive, look up the playbill for the Maltz Jupiter Theater in Jupiter.


ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Art Deco Weekend, Miami Beach Key Largo Sailfish Challenge Las Olas Art Fair Part I, Fort Lauderdale South Florida Fair, West Palm Beach Uncorked, the Key Largo and Islamorada Food & Wine Festival

ULTRA musicfestival and the Winter Music Conference, Miami

Miami Beach Pride Miami Open Tennis presented by Itaú Palm Beach International Film Festival

APRIL

ArtiGras Fine Arts Festival, Jupiter Coconut Grove Arts Festival Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival Honda Classic, Palm Beach Gardens Lake Worth Street Painting Festival Miami International Boat Show Miami International Jazz Fest South Florida Garlic Fest, Lake Worth Beach

Delray Affair Miami Beach Polo World Cup OUTshine Film Festival Rock the Ocean’s Tortuga Music Festival, Fort Lauderdale

MAY Sunfest, West Palm Beach

JULY Boca Bacchanal, Boca Raton Calle Ocho Music Festival, Miami Dania Beach Arts & Seafood Celebration Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival, Miami Gardens Las Olas Art Fair Part II, Fort Lauderdale Major League Baseball Spring Training, Jupiter Miami International Film Festival Original Marathon Seafood Festival

Greater Fort Lauderdale Restaurant Months Miami Spice Month

MARCH–APRIL

FEBRUARY

MARCH

AUGUST–SEPTEMBER

Hemingway Days, Key West Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival

SEPTEMBER Brazilian Film Festival of Miami

OCTOBER Fantasy Fest, Key West Key West Goombay Festival South Beach Seafood Festival

NOVEMBER Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Key West Film Festival Key West World Championship Super Boat International Races Miami Book Fair International Miami International Auto Show Miami Short Film Festival NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend, Miami Sunny Isles Beach Jazz Fest

JULY–AUGUST International Ballet Festival of Miami Miami Spa Month

AUGUST Dine Out Downtown Delray

DECEMBER Art Basel Miami Beach Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens Design Miami Holiday Boat Parades King Mango Strut Parade, Coconut Grove


SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

ATTRACTIONS Southeast Florida offers an abundance of family-friendly attractions, many showcasing the Sunshine State’s unique ecosystem and wildlife. In the Florida Keys, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West displays gold, silver and treasures recovered from sunken wrecks, while Dolphin Research Center and The Turtle Hospital in Marathon invite the whole family to get up close and personal with sea life. Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, a conservation center also located in Marathon, conducts guided park tours as well as tarpon and shark feedings. At the Florida  Keys History & Discovery Center  in Islamorada, enjoy an interactive historical experience through a permanent model of Indian Key, once the Florida Keys’ second largest community outside of Key West only accessible by private boat or kayak. The Florida Everglades is where naturalists and adventurers can spot alligators on airboat tours and learn about the Miccosukee Native American Tribe’s unique way of life at the Miccosukee Village. For more exciting animal encounters, visit Zoo Miami just north of Homestead, Monkey Jungle south of the zoo, Jungle Island in downtown Miami and the Miami Seaquarium in Key Biscayne. At the Seaquarium, visitors enjoy the Penguin Isle, a habitat for African penguins, which can be viewed above and below water in a 9,000-

5

SUNFEST, WEST PALM BEACH • SUNFEST/CHRIS SALATA

gallon pool. Boasting an impressive collection of rare plants and flowers, as well as a sprawling tropical oasis, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden hosts special events like the International Mango Festival and International Orchid Festival. The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is located in Downtown Miami’s Maurice A. Ferré Park. The 250,000-squarefoot facility includes a planetarium, aquarium and science museum. Head to ArtsPark at Young Circle in downtown Hollywood to enjoy a 10-acre interactive park complete with a children’s play area. Flamingo Gardens Botanical Gardens and Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary offers 60 acres of diverse native plants and trees, a Bird of Prey Center with a free-flight aviary, and the chance to view alligators, flamingos, bobcats and Florida panthers. For a mix of ecology, history and architecture, the

MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS

1

BOCA RATON HISTORICAL SOCIETY & MUSEUM: bocahistory.org

2

DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK: drytortugas.com

3

GUMBO LIMBO NATURE CENTER: gumbolimbo.org

4

MORIKAMI MUSEUM AND JAPANESE GARDENS: morikami.org

5

PHILLIP AND PATRICIA FROST MUSEUM OF SCIENCE: frostscience.org

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens in Fort Lauderdale is a 36-acre estate preserving a piece of Old Florida charm. While in Fort Lauderdale, hop on board the Jungle Queen for a sightseeing cruise. Then, check out more than 20,000 butterflies from around the globe at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, one of the world’s largest butterfly parks. Visit the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach for guided marsh tours, bird walks, canoe trips and more. Become part of the herd at Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, a drivethrough adventure where you can check out more than 1,000 animals including giraffes, lions, zebras and monkeys. Nearby, the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium includes a planetarium, theatre, one-of-akind 18-hole Conservation Miniature Golf Course designed by Gary Nicklaus and Jim Fazio, the recently completed quarter-mile science trail along with many educational programs. At the Palm Beach Zoo Flamingo Experience, visitors ages five and up are welcome to mix and mingle with pink Chilean flamingos. Providing the opportunity to see endangered sea turtles and other marine life up close, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach is a hospital for injured sea turtles where visitors learn about Florida’s marine life and the ecosystem. An on-site playground and a series of educational programs can keep guests entertained for hours, or families can hop across the street to picturesque Juno Beach.


ROAD TRIPS Probably the most iconic, convertible, windin-your-hair drive in Southeast Florida is the one along Route 1, a.k.a. the Overseas Highway, from Miami to Key West. But who says a road trip means you have to drive a car? Why not let someone else do the driving and hop aboard Brightline, Florida’s new city-to-city passenger train that uses nearly 200 miles of Henry Flagler’s existing Florida East Coast Railroad? And since trains hit speeds of 125 miles per hour, you can expect to reach your destination faster than if you drove. Stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach are designed to connect with current public transportation options in each city, making it simple to explore those locations. Expect railcars with plush seating, on-board amenities such as Wi-Fi, and competitive pricing compared with other travel options.

Dubbed “MiamiCentral,” the Miami station is located at NW 1st Avenue, between NW 3rd Street and NW 8th Street. From here, you can walk to AmericanAirlines Arena, Adrienne Arsht Center, PortMiami and Bayfront Park. Take the train up to the Fort Lauderdale station located at NW 2nd Avenue, between Broward Blvd. and NW 4th Street and walk to the Historic District, Museum of Discovery and Science, Riverwalk A&E District and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. From the West Palm Beach station situated at Evernia Street, between S. Rosemary Avenue and S. Quadrille Blvd., take a stroll to the Clematis District, CityPlace and Centennial Park. With promises of saving 25 percent on travel time compared to existing transportation options, it’s no wonder travelers enjoy riding the passenger train.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY HOME & MUSEUM, KEY WEST • FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/ROB O’NEAL

FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami arshtcenter.org Boca Raton History Museum bocahistory.org Boca Raton Museum of Art bocamuseum.org Cultural Council of Palm Beach County PalmBeachCulture.com The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, Key West hemingwayhome.com Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, Palm Beach flaglermuseum.us Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach holocaustmemorialmiamibeach.org Lake Worth Playhouse lakeworthplayhouse.org Mounts Botanical Garden of Palm Beach County mounts.org Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach norton.org NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale nsuartmuseum.org Old School Square, Delray Beach oldschoolsquare.org Palm Beach Dramaworks palmbeachdramaworks.org Pérez Art Museum Miami pamm.org The Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach fourarts.org

ATTRACTIONS

INTERNATIONAL GATEWAYS Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport: broward.org/airport/pages/default.aspx Key West International Airport: eyw.com Miami International Airport: miami-airport.com Palm Beach International Airport: pbia.org Port Everglades: porteverglades.net PortMiami: miamidade.gov/portmiami Port of Palm Beach: portofpalmbeach.com

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, Fort Lauderdale bonnethouse.org Butterfly World, Coconut Creek butterflyworld.com Jungle Island, Miami jungleisland.com Lion Country Safari, Loxahatchee lioncountrysafari.com Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Juno Beach marinelife.org Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, Key West melfisher.org Miami Seaquarium, Key Biscayne miamiseaquarium.com Miccosukee Indian Village, Everglades miccosukee.com Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society palmbeachzoo.org Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, Miami frostscience.org South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, West Palm Beach sfsciencecenter.org

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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

BOCA BEACH CLUB, BOCA RATON • DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES

BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS

MARATHON TURTLE HOSPITAL, FLORIDA KEYS • FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/ANDY NEWMAN

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A trip to Florida isn’t complete without some much-needed beach time. Spend the day swimming, kayaking and snorkeling in crystal-clear water at Bahia Honda State Park, located between the historic Seven Mile Bridge and Big Pine Key in the lower Florida Keys. This stretch of sand has been listed many times among the best beaches in the USA. Home to two sprawling beach parks, Key Biscayne is perfect for oceanfront family picnics. Visit either Crandon Park Beach at the entrance to the island, or Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the island’s end. At Bill Baggs, climb the steps of the historic Cape Florida Lighthouse (c. 1825) or kayak along the water’s edge. Or fish on the seawall of Biscayne Bay where you can spot the remnants of Stiltsville, a collection of historical structures on stilts hovering over the

water that dates back to the Prohibition-era rumrunner days. Of course, in Miami, you’ll not want to miss the sparkling sands of South Beach. Families love the kid-friendly facilities and mini splash and play area at South Pointe Park Beach, while those who want to be in the “scene” head to the beach along Ocean Drive. Farther north, the beach in Surfside is a favorite among locals because of its laidback vibe and access to a waterfront walking path. Or check out Oleta River State Park Beach, ideal for kayaking and canoeing. Famous for its bustling beachfront district and an entertainment destination in its own right, Hollywood beach features a variety of sidewalk cafés, boutiques and ice cream parlors—so go for a dip and then cruise the Broadwalk. Spend the day boating or canoeing at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach, a popular turtle nesting spot.


CANNON BEACH AT JOHN PENNEKAMP CORAL REEF STATE PARK, KEY LARGO • FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/BOB CARE

Drawing spring break crowds for years, Fort Lauderdale Beach runs the length of North Atlantic Boulevard and makes the perfect beach day easy because of its proximity to a variety of restaurants and amusing attractions. Seeking a quiet respite? Enjoy serenity in the shaded picnic areas at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, which also features monthly mangrove habitat walks. In Boca Raton, the Daggerwing Nature Center features a 3,000-square-foot exhibit hall surrounded by 40 acres of natural area to explore. Check out the panoramic views from the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum at Jupiter Beach Park. In Juno Beach, venture out on a wildlife turtle walk then navigate through the rare coastal hammock and natural dune systems, part of Florida’s most precious habitat.

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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

ENTERTAINMENT For hot days and sultry nights, these neighborhoods and hot spots will keep you entertained around the clock, seven days a week. Fans of fine beers, ales, rums and more can enjoy local libations throughout the Keys. For the ultimate bar-hopping adventure, complete with plenty of local music, Duval Street is party central in Key West. At the end of the stretch, Mallory Square is the perfect place to sip a tropical cocktail and watch street performers during the nightly sunset celebration. Tour the Key West First Legal Rum Distillery, located in a former Coca-Cola bottling plant and on the site of a former pre-Prohibition-era bar named Jack’s Saloon, and sample free rum. The Jolly II Rover Land and Sea Combo Tour blends food, libations, strolling and sailing. The pirate-themed tour introduces visitors to the history as well as the present-day beauty and charm of Key West. It features a variety of food and rum tastings on land as well as two hours on board an 80-foot pirate ship replica. Passengers can help raise the vessel’s red sails, participate in a “firing” of the cannons, and view the Key West Historic Seaport, Sunset Key, Christmas Tree Island and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Miami has so many popular entertainment districts you could spend weeks here and still not hit every hot spot. Two of the most famous areas are Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road on South Beach. Home of the Art Deco Historic District, renowned nightlife, luxurious hotels and tons of local eateries, both locations offer the ultimate South Beach experience. The Time Out Market on Drexel Avenue just off Lincoln Road in Miami Beach features a curated mix of 17 kitchens, three bars, a video installation wall and a demonstration kitchen. Clubs like LIV at the Fontainebleau and Hyde Beach at SLS South Beach draw the hottest DJs and late-night revelers. Back on Miami’s mainland, the Mary Brickell Village near downtown is a popular spot for locals to live, work and play, thanks to a bevy of skyscraper residences, rooftop bars and posh eateries. Both the Wynwood Arts District and Miami Design District have been drawing the

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OUTDOOR MURALS BY TATI SUAREZ, HOLLYWOOD • JILL C. WEISBERG

cultural elite to hobnob over sophisticated cocktails, luxurious shopping and celebrityhelmed restaurants. Joining other trendy neighborhoods, there’s a resurgence of the MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District, where you’ll find hip restored hotels and bars from the 1950s. MiMo, short for Miami Modern, describes a design aesthetic unique to Miami that was influenced by American fascination with futurism, jets and space exploration. Lush and tropical Coconut Grove is experiencing a resurgence with new restaurants and boutiques opening up on a regular basis. And, in Little Havana, stroll down Calle Ocho to savor a taste of nostalgic Cuban culture where eateries serve authentic pastelitos and Cuban coffee that packs an impressive punch. Not to be overlooked, CityPlace Doral near the Miami International Airport is a recent development with dining options, shopping venues and residences. For casino fun, head west toward the Everglades and the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, which includes non-stop thrills like high-stakes poker, jackpot games and a 1,000plus-seat bingo hall. Catch year-round horse racing at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, home of the Florida Derby. Check out some 800 Vegas-style slot machines, poker tables, international restaurants, an open air mall, bowling alley and art galleries. There’s


even a children’s entertainment center called Cool Corner Family Bistro, which keeps kids hopping. Also, in Hallandale Beach, the Big Easy Casino features slots, virtual table games, poker and casual dining venues. For more round-the-clock casino action and nightlife, head to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in nearby Hollywood. A new 1.5 billion dollar expansion opened last fall with the iconic Guitar Hotel, a new state-ofthe-art entertainment venue and a 13.5-acre pool resort featuring a beach, tropical lagoon and water activities which include canoeing and paddleboarding. Check out the Casino @ Dania Beach which, for over 60 years, has been the site of Dania Jai Alai. Or challenge Lady Luck at the nearby Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park, featuring 1,500 slots, poker tables, restaurants, harness racing and entertainment. For a unique gaming experience, let the San Gwann, a 400-passenger high-speed

ferry, transport you from the Port of Miami to Resorts World Bimini to enjoy non-stop action in a 10,000-square-foot casino featuring popular table games, slot machines, a high-limit gaming salon and fine dining venues. In Southeast Florida, dining and entertainment collide on a variety of popular main drags. Stretching more than two miles along the ocean, Hollywood’s Broadwalk features panoramic beach views, a variety of outdoor restaurants and the very popular Margaritaville Beach Resort. Las Olas Boulevard offers plenty of dining options, plus many live entertainment and local music performances every weekend. Mizner Park in Boca Raton is the place to go for shopping, dining and fun. The West Palm Beach Arts & Entertainment District (A&E) unites a fast-growing number of the area’s top cultural institutions and burgeoning art scene. This cultural corridor covers a one-mile city

radius and encompasses more than 20 distinct and distinguished cultural venues including Palm Beach Dramaworks on Clematis Street and the Society of the Four Arts on the island of Palm Beach. Downtown West Palm Beach is also known for its eclectic mix of restaurants along Clematis Street and in CityPlace, a popular West Palm Beach destination for shopping, dining and entertainment.

FEATURED LINKS BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS Daggerwing Nature Center, Boca Raton floridahikes.com/daggerwing-nature-center Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum jupiterlighthouse.org

ENTERTAINMENT Miami Design District miamidesigndistrict.net Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Hollywood seminolehardrockhollywood.com

ROAD TRIPS Brightline gobrightline.com Overseas Highway fla-keys.com/the-highway-that-goes-to-sea/

SHOPPING Aventura Mall, Miami aventuramall.com Bayside Marketplace, Miami baysidemarketplace.com Brickell City Centre, Miami brickellcitycentre.com Dolphin Mall, Miami shopdolphinmall.com Festival Marketplace, Pompano Beach shopfestival.com The Galleria Mall, Fort Lauderdale galleriamall-fl.com The Gardens Mall, Palm Beach Gardens: thegardensmall.com Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale lasolasboulevard.com Sawgrass Mills, Sunrise simon.com/mall/sawgrass-mills Worth Avenue, Palm Beach worth-avenue.com FROST SCIENCE ME LAB, MIAMI 2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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MIAMI DESIGN DISTRICT SHOPS • GREATER MIAMI CVB/MIAMI AND BEACHES.COM

SHOPPING Florida is a shopping mecca and features tons of opportunities to shop ‘till you drop. The Brickell City Centre is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and features a variety of luxury, premium and contemporary retailers, including Sephora, Tommy Bahama, lululemon, Armani and others, and numerous dining establishments. Nearby, the super-luxe Miami Design District showcases the crème de la crème of high-end fashion, including Burberry, Cartier, Christian Louboutin, Dior, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Versace. To the south in Wynwood Arts District you’ll find more art galleries, retail stores, antique shops and hip bars as well as one of the largest open-air street-art installations in the world. In 2018, Aventura Mall, Miami’s premier fashion destination and one of America’s most visited shopping centers, debuted

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a new three-level, 315,000-square-foot expansion wing, featuring dynamic shopping and dining experiences blended with experiential, artistic elements, including a nearly 93-foot-tall sculpture by Belgian artist Carsten Höller, down which visitors can slide. Highlighting the new wing is the much-anticipated return of Zara to the mall and an array of inviting restaurants and cafés. Perched atop the expansion, a 7,000-plus-square-foot VIP Lounge provides a private ambience and a stylish VIP escape. Anchored by Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Macy’s, Aventura Mall features more than 300 iconic retailers, including Givenchy, Gucci, Fendi, Burberry, Apple, Michael Kors and other shopper favorites. Additional Miami malls you might want to include on your list are Dadeland, The Falls, Shops at Merrick Park and Bal Harbour Shops.

Considered among the most fashionable venues in the Sunshine State, Fort Lauderdale’s Galleria Mall features brand-name retailers from Apple to Neiman Marcus, dining and a currency exchange kiosk. And don’t overlook Las Olas Boulevard with all its trendy boutiques, galleries and restaurants. To score some impressive deals, head to Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, where you’ll find 350-plus stores and the largest outlet shopping destination in the USA. Dolphin Mall is Miami-Dade County’s largest outlet shopping center where you’ll find over 240 value-priced and outlet stores, including H&M, Nike Factory Store, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store and more. Shuttle service to the mall is available from Miami International Airport, Miami Beach and select hotels. Another great spot for outlet shopping, Palm Beach Outlets features more than 100 stores including brand favorites Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, Ann Taylor Factory Store, Banana Republic Factory Store, Brooks Brothers Factory Store, J Crew Factory, Tommy Hilfiger and Vera Bradley. Be sure to add Mizner Park Boca Raton, anchored by Lord + Taylor, to your bucket list of shopping malls. Town Center at Boca Raton is another high-end shopping destination anchored by Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, while The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens is a spacious, 1.4-million-squarefoot shopping center with more than 150 world-class brand names. Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue is lined with trendy boutiques and popular restaurants—it’s not uncommon to see all ages walking along this main-street-style neighborhood hot spot. While you’re in town, check out the Delray Marketplace. Don’t overlook Southeast Florida’s popular flea markets. The gigantic flea market at the Swap Shop in Fort Lauderdale features some 2,000 vendors selling brandname items at bargain prices. Florida shoppers in-the-know also head to the Festival Market Mall, a veritable shopper’s paradise in Pompano Beach.


THE FLORIDA KEYS

Paradise on Earth BY STEVE WINSTON

AERIAL VIEW OF KEY WEST • FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/ANDY NEWMAN

A

s you cross the bridge from mainland Florida to Key Largo, you can feel your cares melt away. In this world of tropical islands, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, you gently ease yourself into a world of emerald waters, swaying palm trees, unique experiences and funky villages.

SEE AND DO Key Largo promises excellent diving sites where the waters are so clear that the underwater flora and fauna seem to burst into kaleidoscopic colors. Islamorada, to the south, is renowned for sport fishing and draws celebrities from around the world to do just that. And if you charter a boat, you’ll likely bring home your dinner. Composed of three main islands, the community of Marathon is a favourite

INSIDER’S TIP Situated 70 miles west of Key West and only accessible by seaplane or high-speed ferry, Dry Tortugas National Park features a Civil War fortress called Fort Jefferson, which never fired a shot.

UNCORKED FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL, KEY WEST • FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/LAURENCE NORAH

among families. Join a marine biologist on an interactive Aquarium Encounter experience at the Florida Keys Aquarium. Enjoy an unforgettable dockside encounter or swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center. Visit the Turtle Hospital. Grab your snorkeling or diving gear and discover one of the most beautiful shallow reefs in the Keys at the Sombrero Key Lighthouse. The peaceful and scenic Lower Keys are filled with interesting wildlife and great sites to visit, including two national wildlife refuges, a state park and a national marine sanctuary. And you may even spot the elusive Key deer.

DINE AND PLAY

wonderful restaurants, with menu items ranging from Continental to Caribbean cuisine and often featuring a variety of delicious conch (pronounced “konk”) dishes. Stop by Sloppy Joe’s Bar, one of Ernest Hemingway’s hangouts when he lived here. Or visit his residence at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Other interesting venues worth touring are John James Audubon’s home, the Harry S. Truman Little White House, and the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum where treasures from the deep are displayed.

FEATURED LINKS Monroe County Tourist Development Council: fla-keys.com Audubon House & Tropical Gardens: audubonhouse.org Dry Tortugas National Park: nps.gov/drto Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum: hemingwayhome.com Harry S. Truman Little White House: trumanlittlewhitehouse.com Mel Fisher Maritime Museum: melfisher.org

At the southernmost point, Key West offers

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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

BEACHES, CULTURE AND BASEBALL

With more than 250 species of birds, over 100 miles of beaches and five major league baseball teams that spend their spring training days here every March, Southwest Florida spans a diverse range of attractions for visitors. That’s not to mention superb fishing, boating, golf, shopping, museums, theater and arts. Stretching from the Everglades in the south to the shores of Lake Okeechobee in the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the west and Sarasota-Bradenton in the north, the region retains a reputation for adventure and privilege. BY CHELLE KOSTER WALTON

SIESTA BEACH NEAR SARASOTA • VISIT SARASOTA


A DAY IN... BRADENTON, ANNA MARIA ISLAND, LONGBOAT KEY

FORT MYERS/SANIBEL

NAPLES/MARCO ISLAND

SARASOTA

Begin your day even before

Take an early morning walk

Start your day with a freshly

sunrise to find the best sea

along Marco Island’s crescent-

brewed cup of coffee and pastries

Wake up in your charming

shells along the beach at the

shaped white sand beach.

in downtown Sarasota before

beachfront cottage and head to

1884 Sanibel Lighthouse. Then

Search for shells and birdwatch

heading to Bayfront Island Park

Ginny’s and Jane E’s to indulge in

find out why the USA Today

at Tigertail Beach on the island’s

for a stroll alongside Sarasota Bay.

their famous crème brûlée

newspaper ranked the J.N. “Ding”

north end, a top spot on the

Hop over to St. Armands Circle

French toast. Visit Pine Avenue,

Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Great Florida Birding & Wildlife

for retail therapy and lunch at

the heart of Anna Maria Island,

on Sanibel Island tops for

Trail. Book a sightseeing cruise

al fresco dining spots. Then grab

and paint a sand dollar keepsake

birdwatching. After a coconut

on board Pure Florida’s Double

a paddle and kayak the mangrove

at the Shiny Fish Emporium.

shrimp spinach salad lunch at

Sunshine departing from Tin City

tunnels on Lido Beach. Reserve

Rent a bicycle from Beach Bums

The Island Cow, be amazed at one

on the Old Naples Waterfront.

your evening for a sunset on

and tour the island. Visit Coquina

of the U.S.’s most-visited histor-

Enjoy a grouper sandwich and

Siesta Beach, where the luxurious

Beach, voted best “island sand” in

ical homes, the Thomas Edison

slice of key lime pie at Pinchers

quartz-white sand is unmatched.

the U.S. by Condé Nast. Enjoy a

& Henry Ford Winter Estates in

Crab Shack next to the docks

Top off your day with cocktails

picture-perfect sunset and watch

Fort Myers. Cap off your day with

at Tin City. Explore the Smith

and dinner at any of the

dolphins at play while dining at

dinner at the exclusive Veranda

Children’s Garden and the Naples

delightful restaurants in Siesta

the Sandbar Restaurant.

restaurant or at Pinchers.

Botanical Garden.

Key Village.

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

YOUR SOUTHWEST FLORIDA EXPERTS The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel: fortmyers-sanibel.com Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau: bradentongulfislands.com Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce: bocagrandechamber.com City of Palmetto: palmettofl.org DeSoto County Florida Tourism Development Council: visitdesoto.com Discover Hendry County: DiscoverHendryCounty.com Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau: paradisecoast.com Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor & Convention Bureau: pureflorida.com Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce: siestakeychamber.com Visit Sarasota County: visitsarasota.com 2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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HISTORIC ANNA MARIA CITY PIER • BRADENTON AREA CVB

5

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MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS

1

EDISON AND FORD WINTER ESTATES, FORT MYERS: edisonfordwinterestates.org

2

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK GULF COAST VISITOR CENTER, EVERGLADES CITY: nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/gcdirections.htm

3

J.N. “DING” DARLING NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, SANIBEL ISLAND: fws.gov/refuge/jn_ding_darling

4

NAPLES BOTANICAL GARDEN: naplesgarden.org

5

THE RINGLING, SARASOTA: ringling.org

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Think of Southwest Florida and images of splendid beaches immediately come to mind. However, the region has a strong tradition of arts and culture told in its architecture, galleries, museums and theaters. In Naples, art galleries line downtown streets, where you will also find free exhibitions at the Naples Art Association and lively performances at Sugden Community Theatre and Gulfshore Playhouse. Artis– Naples brings still more performance arts and is home to the Naples Philharmonic and the world-class Baker Museum of Art. Yearround, the region hosts art shows including downtown’s prestigious Naples National Art Festival in February, the Stay in May Festival in April/May and the Naples International Film Festival in October. In the past few years, neighboring Bonita Springs has jumped on the arts bandwagon with the expansion of the Center for the Arts to a second campus with performing arts and a film center, which hosts another annual international film festival. In summer 2016, the Southwest Florida Performing Arts Center opened with a world-class theater, state-of-the-art culinary kitchen and modern event space. The art scene in Fort Myers centers around its historical downtown River District, where Art Walk takes place the first Friday of the month and Music Walk the third Friday. The nationally acclaimed Florida Rep, housed in the Historic Arcade and Artstage Studio theaters, offer a wide variety of performances from September through May. The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center presents a range of events including art exhibitions, concerts, and educational experiences for children. A handful of art galleries completes downtown’s artistic landscape. Watch as Alliance for the Arts turns Fort Myers’ royal palm-lined McGregor Boulevard into a pedestrian-friendly art district of its own. Downtown Punta Gorda’s riverfront architecture recalls the boom years of the late 19th century with Victorian mansions, handsome government buildings and colorful vernacular homes. Browse the galleries of the Visual Arts Center (VAC), which hosts the Peace River National Art Festival in March.


Sarasota arguably holds the loftiest reputation for the arts in these parts, stemming from the influence of the Ringling family, whose circus wintered here. The Ringlings exerted an Italianate influence on local architecture and the arts, culminating in the Ca’ d’Zan mansion on The Ringling grounds. Seeded with John Ringling’s own collection of Rubens and baroque art, The Ringling’s art museum collection covers 500 years of European art and specializes in late-medieval and Renaissance Italian works. It will debut an exhibition in June, Skyway: A Contemporary Collaboration, celebrating the Tampa Bay region, in partnership with four institutions: the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg; The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota; the Tampa Museum of Art; and the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa.

The complex’s Asolo Repertory Theatre contributes to Sarasota’s rich theatrical tradition, which ranges from new plays at the Florida Studio Theatre to Broadway shows at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to resemble a scallop shell. Taking up residence in a restored high school, the Ringling College of Art + Design’s Sarasota Art Museum opened in 2018. For a driving tour of other architectural gems, including examples of the vaunted Sarasota School of Architecture, pick up a copy of the Tour Sarasota Architecture guide at visitors’ centers. Galleries fill the Sarasota– Bradenton area, which boasts two artists’ colonies—Towles Court near downtown Sarasota and Village of the Arts in Bradenton. The colonies and downtown Sarasota schedule monthly gallery walks where you can meet the artists. SARASOTA BALLET • VISIT SARASOTA

ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival, Sarasota Mullet Festival, Goodland

FEBRUARY Bradenton Area River Regatta Cortez Fishing Festival Edison Festival of Light, Fort Myers Everglades Seafood Festival, Everglades City Swamp Cabbage Festival, Labelle

MARCH Clewiston Sugar Festival Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival Marco Island Seafood & Music Festival Peace River National Art Festival, Punta Gorda

MARCH–APRIL Sarasota Film Festival

APRIL De Soto Heritage Festival, Bradenton De Soto Seafood Festival, Bradenton Shark’s Tooth Festival, Venice

APRIL–MAY Stay in May Festival, Naples

MAY Blues, Brews and BBQ, Anna Maria Island Harvey Milk Festival, Sarasota

JUNE Sarasota Music Festival Spammy Jammy, Goodland

JUNE–JULY Suncoast Powerboat Grand Prix, Sarasota

SEPTEMBER Island Hopper Songwriter Fest, Fort Myers Beach and Captiva Island

OCTOBER “Ding” Darling Days, Sanibel Island Naples International Film Festival Ringling International Arts Festival, Sarasota Sarasota Pride Festival Stone Crab Festival, Naples

NOVEMBER American Sand Sculpting Championship, Fort Myers Beach Florida Panther Festival, Naples Sarasota Chalk Festival, Venice

DECEMBER Bradenton Blues Festival

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ATTRACTIONS Most of the attractions in Southwest Florida are outdoor venues or learning centers, which educate and inform visitors about the region’s bountiful nature and wildlife. Take Naples, for instance, where the most visited attractions include the Naples Botanical Garden and Naples Zoo. The garden showcases subtropical vegetation in settings that reflect the culture of Brazil, the Caribbean, Asia and Florida. The zoo began as botanical gardens in 1919 and today is home to wild animals from around the world. The Collier County system of museums occupies five unique venues in Marco Island, Naples, Everglades City and Immokalee—all of them family-oriented. The town’s most family-friendly museum, Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, sits next to every kid’s favorite, the Sun-n-Fun Lagoon water park in North Naples. Naples is known, too, for its superlative golfing opportunities. Besides playing lush, natural golf courses, adults and kids alike can get their game on at various golf schools and programs in the area. In Fort Myers, the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, one of Southwest Florida’s finest treasures, offers guided and self-guided tours. Nearby, the IMAG History & Science Center combines science and history with programs that include virtual reality, touch-tank, animal encounters and stingray feedings. It’s a one-stop museum that appeals to adults and children alike. The Mound House cultural museum, a restoration of a 1906 home, is the oldest standing structure on Fort Myers Beach. See the rich history of the Calusa Indians who built a shell mound on the property some 2000 years ago. Go inside and take a peek.

SIX MILE CYPRESS SLOUGH PRESERVE, FORT MYERS • THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL

At Lee County Manatee Park in North Fort Myers, watch manatees from the observation deck and boardwalk or rent kayaks and paddle out to see them coming and going into the “bay.” The area is especially interesting during the winter months; the colder it gets the more manatees there are. The world-class Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens lies on a lovely riverside estate in Punta Gorda. For families in Sarasota, the canopy boardwalk in the Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a don’t-miss. Other family musts include the

INTERNATIONAL GATEWAYS Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ): srq-airport.com Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), Fort Myers: flylcpa.com

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Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and Sarasota Jungle Gardens. Bradenton’s history dates back to Hernando de Soto, and a national historical site recalls his first landfall. The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature and Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat Aquarium nicely displays de Soto-related exhibits, plus prehistoric animal recreations. The aquarium is a second-stage rehab center for rescue manatees before they are released into the wild. Stroll along Bradenton Riverwalk for views, play areas, and easy-to-absorb learning experiences. Bradenton’s Cortez community retains its feel of an Old Florida fishing village with a working waterfront and maritime museum. A number of charter boats depart from the docks to take you deep-sea or backbay fishing. Head east of town for a little extreme adventure at TreeUmph!, an aerial obstacle course with zip lines.


SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

SARASOTA • VISIT FLORIDA

BEACHES & OUTDOOR GEMS You will find no nature-deficit disorder in Southwest Florida, where the great outdoors ranges from gorgeous, award-winning beaches to the raw wilderness of the Everglades ecosystem. Around Naples and Everglades City, a number of state and federal parks and preserves safeguard fragile Everglade habitats—home to myriad birds and fish, deer, Florida panthers, bobcats, manatees, alligators, crocodiles, turtles and river otters. Big Cypress National Preserve, the most massive of the public lands, provides inimitable opportunities for recreation

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among wildlife. Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge protect the seas and wetlands of the so-called River of Grass. Beach glamour begins in Marco Island and Naples with award-winning strands that cover the gamut from the municipal beach and historic fishing pier in Naples to the wild Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. What do travelers, and particularly families, find so endearing about local beaches? The soft, white sand, gently sloping sea bottom and tot-friendly waves win raves. Certain beach destinations, furthermore, have reputations for distinctive characteristics,

such as the seashell overload on Sanibel and Captiva islands. Captiva Island and Lovers Key State Park are often listed in the most romantic category. The best shelling beaches around Sanibel include Bowman’s Beach and offshore Cayo Costa, which is accessible only by boat. A number of charters will take you there to collect shells. In Venice, head to the fishing pier at Brohard Beach or to Caspersen Beach to sift for sharks’ teeth in the sand. In Sarasota, Siesta Key’s sand is famously soft and blindingly white, so don’t forget to pack the shades. This beach is often listed among America’s top beaches by Dr. Beach.


ENTERTAINMENT The nightlife scene in Naples—particularly downtown and in North Naples—gets continually livelier these days as young couples and families move in. Hit the live theaters around Fifth Avenue South, then stay to party at latenight clubs downtown. Or take in a show at Artis–Naples in North Naples and later head to the clubs and pubs in the Mercato shopping and entertainment district. You can do both dinner and a movie at its Silverspot Cinema or at the Paragon Theaters at The Pavilion across the street. North Naples also has its own comedy club-restaurant complex. For quirky spectator sport entertainment, you can’t beat the Swamp Buggy Races held three times each winter. It involves big-tired Everglade vehicles, lots of mud, and a festival queen who ends up in the deepest mud hole. East of town in Immokalee, the Seminole Casino Hotel hosts gaming and big-name entertainment. To the north, Bonita Springs is building a reputation for comedy, live music, dining, performing arts and indie films. It is also home to a greyhound racetrack. Downtown Fort Myers has the hottest nightlife and special events scene in town.

SWAMP BUGGY RACES, NAPLES • NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

Fort Myers is also home to two Major League Baseball stadiums that host the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox during spring training. Come summer, the MiLB Fort Myers Miracle take to the field. The Tampa Bay Rays train in Port Charlotte to the north and, off-season, the Charlotte Stone Crabs bat the ball around. The Sarasota-Bradenton area is home to two spring training teams as well—the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles, plus summer’s Bradenton Marauders. Beginning this spring, the Atlanta Braves move their spring training to the new state-of-the art

complex, CoolToday Park in North Port, south of Sarasota. Much of Sarasota’s entertainment and nightlife is of a higher brow ilk, with a reputation for fine theater, symphony and opera. Downtown Sarasota sparkles at night with sophisticated clubs, and Siesta Key has a beachy party atmosphere in the village. Don’t miss the beach clubs of Bradenton Beach for more laid-back entertainment options. Bradenton’s Manatee Performing Arts Center infuses energy into downtown, as does its dynamic Riverwalk, the venue for December’s long-running blues festival.


SOUTHWEST FLORIDA ROAD TRIPS Head east of Naples along Tamiami Trail (Highway 41) to immerse yourself in the region’s wild side and Old Florida culture. For glimpses of wildlife, try Janes Memorial Scenic Drive in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park or Loop Road in Big Cypress National Preserve. Backroad Route 92 takes you from 41 to the time-stilled fishing community and seafood restaurants of Goodland. Views along the Sanibel Causeway and Captiva Drive star in many commercials, but all of the coastal islands promise glimpses of sea and local color. The drive through Bonita Beach, Lovers Key and Fort Myers Beach and another from Lido Key through Anna Maria Island in Sarasota and Bradenton are particularly representative of island life.

From Fort Myers, head east along Route 80 to visit the small towns of riverside Alva and Labelle, and lakeside Clewiston. Glimpse the region’s rural, agricultural personality along the way. Or plan a trip to Pine Island to the northwest. Its four communities are known for exotic fruit farming, ancient Calusa shell mounds, an artists’ village and fishing. In the Port Charlotte area, a road trip to Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island scores for historical intrigue and lovely beaches. To its north, Sarasota lays claim to a number of small organic and other farms you can visit. Cross the Manatee River from Bradenton to reach the attractions of Palmetto, a riverside beauty also known for its agricultural heritage.

BEACH CAMPING, THE GULF OF MEXICO • NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE Alliance for the Arts, Fort Myers artinlee.org Artis–Naples artisnaples.org Asolo Repertory Theatre, Sarasota asolorep.org Florida Rep, Fort Myers floridarep.org Naples Art Association naplesart.org Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, Fort Myers sbdac.com Southwest Florida Event Center, Bonita Springs swfleventcenter.com

ATTRACTIONS The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature bishopscience.org Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples cmon.org Manatee Park, Fort Myers leegov.com/parks Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota selby.org Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, Sarasota mote.org Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens napleszoo.org

ENTERTAINMENT Manatee Performing Arts Center, Bradenton manateeperformingartscenter.com Mercato, Naples mercatoshops.com Seminole Casino Hotel, Immokalee seminoleimmokaleecasino.com

ROAD TRIPS Big Cypress National Preserve nps.gov/bicy Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ Fakahatchee-Strand

SHOPPING Fifth Avenue South, Naples fifthavenuesouth.com The Mall at University Town Center, Sarasota mallatutc.com Miromar Outlet Malls, Estero miromaroutlets.com The Promenade at Bonita Bay promenadeshops.com St. Armands Circle, Sarasota starmandscircleassoc.com Sanibel Outlets, Fort Myers sanibeloutlets.com Third Street South, Naples thirdstreetsouth.com Village of the Arts, Bradenton villageofthearts.com

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SHOPPING, NAPLES • VISIT FLORIDA

SHOPPING If you’re looking for unique buys, there’s plenty of that in Southwest Florida. In the Everglades territory, visit the Big Cypress Gallery in Ochopee, home to Clyde Butcher, whose large-format art photography captures the Everglades and other natural treasures. (He also has a gallery and studio in Venice.) In Naples, art galleries fill the downtown Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South districts. At the latter, buy your designer labels at Marissa Collections. Other popular outdoor shopping venues include The Village Shops on Venetian Bay, Waterside Shops and Mercato. On a budget? Look for like-new cast-offs in the area’s consignment shops. To the north in Bonita Springs, visit DeRomo’s Gourmet Market & Restaurant in the Promenade at Bonita Bay. It is an excellent place to dine and shop for food. Coconut Point lays out a huge spread of big box stores and fashion boutiques. Sanibel Island is known for its shell shops, nature art galleries and resort wear

boutiques. For something entirely different, hit the Shell Factory & Nature Park in North Fort Myers, where wildlife viewing and family amusements enhance shopping for shells, jewelry and other Florida trinkets. The Fun Park activities include a zip line, paddle and bumper boasts, playground and climbing wall. In Punta Gorda, downtown and Fishermen’s Village present small, intimate shopping experiences. Hit Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island for a charming historical twist to your shopping. St. Armands Circle is Sarasota’s most wellknown address for upscale shopping in a landscaped outdoor setting. The Mall at University Town Center has shifted focus to Sarasota’s eastern extremities. Farther yet to the east, the community of Lakewood Ranch is known for its delightful shops and restaurants on and around Main Street. For genuine local souvenirs, head to the region’s artist villages—Matlacha on Pine Island off Fort Myers, Towles Court in Sarasota, and Village of the Arts in

Bradenton. Watch for news of art walk events in downtown Fort Myers, Punta Gorda and Sarasota. Bargain-seekers head to the factory outlet malls: Naples Outlet Center, Miromar Outlets in Estero, Sanibel Outlets in Fort Myers and Ellenton Premium Outlets near Bradenton. Or check out the flea markets: Flamingo Island Flea Market in Bonita Springs, Fleamasters Fleamarket in Fort Myers, Sun Flea Market (with its own miniamusement park) in Port Charlotte and Red Barn Flea Market in Bradenton.

INSIDER’S TIP You can’t leave Southwest Florida without getting out on the water, whether it’s a paddleboard or kayak excursion, a shelling or sightseeing tour, or a fishing charter.

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CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA

STEEPED IN TRADITION

Florida’s Central East region proves to be a big draw for families, art lovers, history buffs and beachgoers. Located on 175 beautiful miles of sandy beaches, its towns include family-favorite activities and vacation opportunities that won’t break the bank. Discover many beloved Florida classics as well as undiscovered areas unbeknown to most. Caution: You may fall in love with Florida. BY MELODY PITTMAN

HISTORIC BANDSHELL, DAYTONA BEACH BOARDWALK • DAYTONA BEACH AREA CVB


A DAY IN... DAYTONA BEACH

MARTIN COUNTY

OKEECHOBEE COUNTY

ST. LUCIE

Unwind along 23 miles of hard-

Sit in splendor as the sun rises

Rise early to hook up with your

Relax on miles of uncrowded

packed beaches. Enjoy a casual

over the Atlantic Ocean. Next

hired guide and find out why 730-

beaches or ride the beach on

shopping spree at the Riverfront

take a trip on the Loxahatchee

square-mile Lake Okeechobee

horseback. Kayak on the famous

Shops

Beach.

River, Florida’s first federally

offers one of the world’s most

Indian River Lagoon, floating

Schedule tee time at a tropically

designated wild and scenic river

amazing freshwater game fishing

through tunnels of mangrove

lush golf course. Sample local

at Jonathan Dickinson State

experiences. Other top tourist

trees. Pack your clubs and choose

brews along the Daytona Beach

Park. Tour the last remaining

draws in this area center around

from over 20 golf courses,

Ale Trail. Tour Daytona Interna-

House of Refuge; touch a

hunting and shooting sports.

including the famous PGA Village

tional Speedway and meander

stingray at the Florida Oceano-

Back in Okeechobee, enjoy good

in Port St. Lucie, offering 54 holes

through the local galleries,

graphic Coastal Center; cross the

old-fashioned home cooking at a

of championship golf. Immerse

museums and historical sites.

street to the Elliott Museum to

local restaurant or lunch at your

yourself in “Old Florida” culture

Dine al fresco along the Halifax

be amazed at the antique car

favorite national chain. Grab your

in downtown Fort Pierce, one of

River

for

collection. Visit Jensen Beach,

camera and hike or cycle along

the most historic and idyllic

dolphins. Take in an electrifying

both downtown and the beach.

the

Lake

main streets in the USA, where

performance at The Peabody

End the day in Stuart, known as

Okeechobee Scenic Trail. Later,

Spanish period architecture is

Auditorium. Finish with a

the “Sailfish Capital of the

drive to Kissimmee Prairie

plentiful and local seafood is the

leisurely stroll and watch the

World."

Preserve Park and spend a

main staple.

of

while

Daytona

watching

stars come out over Ponce Inlet.

prettiest

part

of

romantic night stargazing.

CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA

YOUR CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA EXPERTS Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau: daytonabeach.com Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism: VisitSpaceCoast.com Indian River County Tourism Development: visitindianrivercounty.com Martin County Office of Tourism and Marketing: discovermartin.com New Smyrna Beach Area Visitors Bureau: nsbfla.com Okeechobee County Tourist Development Council: visitokeechobeecounty.com Visit St. Lucie – Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie & Hutchinson Island: visitstlucie.com Volusia County: volusia.org/visitors West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority: visitwestvolusia.com

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA

DAYTONA 500 • DAYTONA BEACH AREA CVB

ARTS AND CULTURE In historic Fort Pierce, the nearly 100-yearold Sunrise Theatre, a beautiful performing arts venue, hosts top-notch entertainers, comedy acts, musicians and performing artists. Also on the downtown waterfront of Fort Pierce, the A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery houses the nation’s largest public exhibition of artwork by Florida’s preeminent painter, A.E. Backus, as well as the state’s only permanent multimedia exhibition on the Florida Highwaymen. Changing exhibits from artists of national and international acclaim round out the

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museum’s Florida-centered mission. The outdoor Mural Plaza opens onto a park that borders the Indian River Lagoon and offers a place for fresh air and artistic inspiration. Located in the middle of Central East Florida, Vero Beach has two very special venues. The Riverside Theatre runs six offBroadway performances per season and a Comedy Club event on select weekends. Second is the Vero Beach Museum of Art, which houses regional, state and national art exhibits. Admission is free on the last Saturday of the month. Melbourne’s Eau Gallie Arts District is a

MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS

1

DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY: daytonainternationalspeedway.com

2

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX, MERRITT ISLAND: kennedyspacecenter.com

3

MEL FISHER’S TREASURES, MUSEUM & GIFT SHOP, SEBASTIAN: melfisher.com/Sebastian/Sebastian_Museum.asp

4

NATIONAL NAVY UDT-SEAL MUSEUM, FORT PIERCE: navysealmuseum.org

5

STETSON MANSION, DELAND: stetsonmansion.com

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

cultural pearl that supports the arts through galleries, museums, local stores and antiques. You will find a combination of poets, dancers, potters and painters in this cute neighborhood. Commonly referred to as EGAD, it is home to Brevard County’s top fine art galleries and the Foosaner Art Museum. First Friday events take place in the Community Garden next to the bandshell. Come for hands-on artmaking, music and kids’ activities. Visit Historic Cocoa Village and catch a show at Cocoa Village Playhouse, part of the community since 1924 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Situated between Cocoa Beach and Orlando, the award-winning main-street community of DeLand holds onto its past as it moves into modern times. DeLand is a thriving community full of pride and passion that is apparent by its numerous art murals, friendly patrons, shops and galleries. The Athens Theatre is a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance architecture, offering classic movies, independent films and live entertainment. The Hub on Canal, in New Smyrna Beach (NSB), is unsurpassed for its individuality and original artworks. More than 50 artists convene in this contemporary exhibit hall, which doubles as a workspace where visitors can observe artists at work and buy directly from them. This is only one venue within the town’s four-block radius that makes up the Arts District filled with boutiques, galleries and cafés. Be sure to check out the Atlantic Center for the Arts, which draws aspiring artists from across the country to study dance, poetry, writing and painting, creating unique unified experiences. A newer artsy community is located in the greater Daytona Beach area. A visit to the Museum of Arts & Sciences (affiliated with the Smithsonian) gives you access to a train and railroad station exhibit, the Root Family collection of Coca Cola memorabilia, priceless Cuban and Chinese art displays, and the favorite giant ground sloth in the Prehistory of Florida Gallery. Check out the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, home to the largest private collection of Floridathemed oil and watercolor paintings in the world, with many dating back to the 1800s.


CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA ATTRACTIONS Fort Pierce’s Downtown Farmers’ Market is a big draw on Saturday mornings from 8 AM to noon, rain or shine, with local foods, crafts and artwork for sale. Live music is also featured. Come and see why this farmers’ market consistently ranks among the top five in America. Nature Lovers can choose from two botanical gardens in St. Lucie County. Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce showcases the country’s largest public display of tropical bonsai trees while the Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens feature myriad tropical habitats. For family fun-filled activities in Melbourne, visit the Brevard Zoo or Andretti Thrill Park. The zoo houses monkeys, jaguars, kangaroos, meerkats and a Komodo dragon, plus you can kayak through 22 acres of wetlands. The Andretti Thrill Park includes batting cages, kiddie amusement rides, paddleboats, a large arcade and indoor laser tag. Best of all, there are several go-cart tracks, one of which is restricted to fans with a valid driver’s license who wish to travel 40 miles per hour on a European-style course. One of Florida’s most famous attractions is the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Discover what it means to be a hero through the stories of NASA’s Space Pioneers at Heroes and Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Get a close-up view of Atlantis, the only space shuttle displayed in flight, with more than 60 interactive exhibits. Launched late last year, the newest exclusive activity is the Fly with an Astronaut Experience. Accompanied by a retired NASA astronaut, take a guided tour of Kennedy Space Center, eat a catered lunch, tour Space Shuttle Atlantis and then step aboard the Shuttle Launch Experience to find out what it feels like to blast-off into space. Be sure to check the center’s website for rocket launches.   The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, Florida’s tallest, is located in the town of Ponce Inlet, slightly south of Daytona Beach. It’s a great place to watch the sun set or catch a moonrise. Feel the need for speed? Whether you are a devoted NASCAR fan or have no idea what all of the hype is about, the world’s first and only motorsports stadium, the Daytona International Speedway, will blow you away. Recent

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renovations to the Speedway transformed it into a state-of-the-art facility with premium amenities and unparalleled conveniences including luxury trackside suites with patios and more than 7,000 solar panels, making it one of the top five largest solar installations at a professional sports venue in the country. There are tons of things to see and do. Book a 30-minute, 90-minute or a three hour VIP tour. NASCAR fans should sign up for the Richard Petty Driving Experience, where they can drive on the track or be a passenger for laps with a professional driver. The Daytona International Speedway attracts millions of visitors annually. Looking for quirky hidden gems in the Daytona Beach area? Visit Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens where dinosaur statues left over from

a 1940s tourist attraction can be found. Or how about the wonderful, family-friendly, very affordable Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet where you can touch stingrays, observe the sea turtle hospital and learn about Florida’s marine environment. New last season, the Daytona Lagoon and Family Entertainment Center, steps from the beach, completed upgrades to the property which includes two new water slides, a 54-foot-high 4-lane mat racer slide and a new inner tube experience that shoots riders backwards over a 50-foot drop. Complementing the regular features, this is a favorite family draw. And in De Leon Springs State Park, you can make your own pancakes at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill, take an eco/heritage boat tour, hike nature trails and swim in the springs.

ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY

JUNE

Frog Leg Festival, Fellsmere Port Salerno Annual Seafood Festival ROLEX 24 at DAYTONA Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Titusville

Vero Beach Wine & Film Festival

FEBRUARY

SEPTEMBER

Annual Festival of the Arts, Hobe Sound DAYTONA 500 Downtown Festival of the Arts, Stuart Florida Craft Brew & Wingfest, Vero Beach Merritt Island Pioneer Day NASA Day of Remembrance, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

New Smyrna Beach Jazz Festival Rivertown Craft Fair, DeLand Space Coast Pride Festival, Melbourne

AUGUST Coke Zero 400, Daytona Beach Dancin’ in the Streets, Stuart

OCTOBER

FEBRUARY–MARCH

Biketoberfest Motorcycle Rally, Daytona Beach Dark Sky Festival, Jasper Indiantown Rodeo Volusia Pride, New Smyrna Beach

New York Mets Spring Training Games, Port St. Lucie

NOVEMBER

MARCH Bike Week Motorcycle Rally, Daytona Beach DeLand Outdoor Art Festival Grant Seafood Festival Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival Pelican Island Wildlife Festival, Sebastian Under the Oaks Art Show, Vero Beach

APRIL Cocoa Beach Uncorked Fort Pierce Oyster Festival Ormond Beach Celtic Festival

MAY Stuart Sailfish Regatta

DeLand Original Music Festival Downtown Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Festival of the Trees, Vero Beach Halifax Art Festival, Daytona Beach Jensen Beach Pineapple Art & Music Festival Navy SEAL Museum Muster and Music Festival, Fort Pierce Sebastian Clambake Stuart Air Show Turkey Creek 5K Trail Run, Palm Bay

DECEMBER St. Johns River Christmas Boat Parade, DeLand Stuart Christmas Boat Parade Surfing Santas, Cocoa Beach Top of the Lake Christmas Festival, Okeechobee


CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS

HOUSE OF REFUGE AT GILBERT’S BAR, MARTIN COUNTY • VISIT FLORIDA/JACK HARDING 66

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

South of Stuart, the Jonathan Dickinson State Park offers awesome biking and hiking trails, ranging from normal to rugged terrain, mangroves and river swamps. Primitive campgrounds and water stations are available throughout the park. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the kayaking and boating experiences during the winter months. Have you ever dreamed of riding horseback on the beach? Your dream becomes a reality on the beaches of Hutchinson Island during the cooler months and is just one of many gems to be enjoyed in St. Lucie County. Sebastian Inlet State Park, situated directly between Indian River County to the south and Brevard County to the north, is an excellent choice for family camping. Spread over more than 600 acres, the park is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail and offers myriad activities including swimming, surfing, geocaching and scuba diving.  Merritt Island is one of only a dozen or so places in the world where you can see bioluminescence in nature. Night tours are a must as you kayak along the Banana or Indian rivers and get close to nature. Dinoflagellates and comb jellies glow in the dark river waters. Think neon and maybe a hint of Avatar. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Outside of Deltona, the St. Johns River Eco Tours invites passengers to tour the St. Johns River by boat. Once a main highway for trade and commerce, this river has been designated an American Heritage River. It is home to Florida native wildlife and tropical plants, making it perfect for photo ops. The seaside community of New Smyrna Beach evokes an atmosphere of Old Florida in its sidewalk cafés, boutiques and charming B&Bs and boasts one of the finest beaches on the Atlantic coast. NSB provides a perfect venue for surfing, world-class fishing, boating and kayaking. And like Daytona Beach, cars are permitted on 13 miles of hard-packed white-sand beaches found here.


ENTERTAINMENT Every January, the three-day Taste of Little Italy takes place in the charming neighborhood of Tradition Square in Port St. Lucie where festival-goers embark on a cultural journey filled with authentic Italian food, music and art. Florida is a hot spot for gambling and Casino Fort Pierce will please those seeking thrills. Club 52 at Melbourne Greyhound Park features poker, live racing and a simulcast of horse and greyhound racing from across the nation. Grouchos at Club 52 hosts a comedy show every Saturday night. Guests must be 21 years old to enter either establishment. Central East Florida’s premier music and arts entertainment center is the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne. Furnished with 2,016 seats, this 100,000-square-foot venue hosts musical, cultural and community events.

Port Canaveral is quickly becoming one of the most popular cruise ports in the nation. The Cove, a waterfront recreation area, has a large selection of martini and tiki bars with live entertainment. The views from the nearby Exploration Tower are stunning. Charter fishing boats and casino cruises are also available. The world-class Skydive DeLand facility attracts people from around the world. There are tandem jumps for non-professionals, where an experienced instructor uses a parachute system built for two and jumps with you. Skydive DeLand also offers an Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) course, an instructional program for beginners hoping to become skydivers. The DAYTONA 500 attracts 40 of the world’s best drivers to compete in the biggest NASCAR event with the grandest purse. Dubbed the Great American Race, it’s the most important event on the annual racing calendar.

AIRBOAT EXCURSION, OKEECHOBEE COUNTY • STOCK.ADOBE.COM/ONEINCHPUNCH

INTERNATIONAL GATEWAYS Daytona Beach International Airport: flydaytonafirst.com Orlando Melbourne International Airport: mlbair.com Port Canaveral Cruise Port: portcanaveral.com/cruise Treasure Coast International Airport: flytci.com

The Jackie Robinson Ballpark, in Daytona Beach, is home to the Daytona Tortugas baseball team, a Cincinnati Reds MiLB team affiliate. The premier Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA) headquarters, also located in Daytona Beach, offers two fourstar courses.


CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA

INSIDER’S TIP Major League Baseball teams have been spring training in Florida for more than 100 years. Traditionally, spring training takes place from late February through March. The New York Mets practice and play at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie. A season pass for Florida’s baseball spring training allows fans to attend games all month long. If you are not available for the entire month, you can also purchase singlegame tickets on Razorgator.com starting at US$11. For schedule information, visit: Florida Grapefruit League: floridagrapefruitleague.com New York Mets, Port St. Lucie: newyork.mets.mlb.com

ROAD TRIPS Step back in time at the House of Refuge Museum at Gilbert’s Bar in Stuart. The House of Refuge is the only one remaining of the original 10 havens built for shipwrecked sailors along the Atlantic coast of Florida. These houses played a critical role when ships dominated the trade markets of the world. The House of Refuge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and offers fantastic scenery and photo opportunities. A road trip for conservationists must definitely include the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, a 20-mile stretch between Melbourne Beach and Wabasso. Best known for sea turtle conservation, this area is a natural habitat for 25 to 35 percent of all loggerhead and green sea turtle nests in the United States. It’s also a nesting area for leatherback turtles, a very rare kind of sea turtle. Visit Titusville to explore the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum, which displays

a collection of aircraft carriers and artifacts of all types from around the world, from preWorld War I to the present. Located in Volusia County’s Port Orange, Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens combines a history, nature and garden visit all rolled into one. The remains of the sugar cane refinery, leftover from the 1800s, is adorned with kitschy dinosaur statues throughout the park, ensuring fun for the entire family. The gardens are visually appealing, which is why many choose this site for marriage ceremonies. Bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it. Donations are accepted. Take an inland trip to the Stetson Mansion in DeLand. This gorgeous Victorian mansion was the winter home of the famous milliner John B. Stetson and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tour this spectacular home and note the intricate parquet floors and more than 10,000 original sparkling leaded glass windows.

DINE WITH AN ASTRONAUT, CAPTAIN JON MCBRIDE • KENNEDY SPACE CENTER

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SHOPPING The adorable town of Stuart is ideal for browsing boutiques and dining. From beach-themed to upscale kitchen shops, it is a favorite destination for tourists and locals alike. You’re sure to find clothing, shoes, jewelry and handmade arts and crafts. When it comes to shopping in Central East Florida, Vero Beach is the crème de la crème. Ritzy boutiques on Ocean Drive are filled with items to make you ooh and aah. Nearby, Miracle Mile features shopping venues such as Bark Avenue (goodies for your pet), Chico’s and Cottonways. The Vero Beach Book Store is one of the best independent bookstores in the state, due to its jam-packed calendar full of best-selling author signings and presentations. Florida is renowned for outlet shopping and one of the best is in Vero Beach. Conveniently located at exit 147 off I-95, the Vero Beach Outlets showcases 50 designer and brand-name shops, including Williams Sonoma, Coach, Banana Republic and an expanded Restoration Hardware. Avenue Viera, on the outskirts of Melbourne, is a pleasant outdoor shopping mall flanked with specialty  restaurants, shops and an AMC Cinemas movie theater on palm tree-lined sidewalks. Visit all the chain store biggies such as Kohl’s, Cost Plus World Market and Books-A-Million. Historic Downtown Melbourne’s main street, East New Haven, is three blocks of fun packed with international eye-catching delights,  boutiques, consignment shops and antique stores. Better yet, most are dogfriendly. Looking for a unique shopping experience? The tree-lined Cocoa Village is home to one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants and other points of interest. In this surfers’ paradise, be sure to check out the Ron Jon Surf Shop, a Cocoa Beach landmark and the largest surf shop in the world. New Smyrna Beach offers exceptional shopping and art galleries along both Flagler Avenue and Canal Street. The route stretches from the river to the ocean and is a wonderful reminder of old-school Florida. Note the Flagler Walk of Fame, made up of engraved bricks along the sidewalk.

FORT PIERCE FARMERS’ MARKET • VISITSTLUCIE.COM

Daytona Beach’s famous Boardwalk is lined with funky shops while the historic downtown offers a bounty of distinctive boutiques and restaurants. Situated across from the Daytona International Speedway, the ONE DAYTONA

complex features a unique collection of new-tomarket retail outlets and specialty shops, restaurants and live entertainment. And, bargain hunters will be thrilled with the Tanger Outlets, with brand names at outlet prices.

FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE

BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS

Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach atlanticcenterforthearts.org Eau Gallie Arts District, Melbourne egadlife.com Downtown Fort Pierce Farmers’ Market fortpiercefarmersmarket.com Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach moas.org The Riverside Theatre, Vero Beach riversidetheatre.com Sunrise Theatre for the Performing Arts sunrisetheatre.com Vero Beach Museum of Art vbmuseum.org

Hutchinson Island floridashutchinsonisland.com Jonathan Dickinson State Park floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ Jonathan-Dickinson-state-park St. Johns River Eco Tours, DeBary stjohnsriverecotours.com Sebastian Inlet State Park floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ Sebastian-Inlet-state-park

ATTRACTIONS Andretti Thrill Park, Melbourne andrettithrillpark.com Brevard Zoo, Melbourne brevardzoo.org Heathcote Botanical Gardens, Fort Pierce heathcotebotanicalgardens.org Marine Science Center, Ponce Inlet marinesciencecenter.com The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House, De Leon Springs oldspanishsugarmill.com Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum ponceinlet.org Richard Petty Driving Experience, Daytona Beach drivepetty.com

ENTERTAINMENT PGA Golf Club, Port St. Lucie pgavillage.com Skydive Deland Inc. skydivedeland.com Taste of Little Italy, Port St. Lucie tasteoflittleitaly.net

ROAD TRIPS Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/archie_carr Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens, Port Orange dunlawtonsugarmillgardens.org House of Refuge, Stuart houseofrefugefl.org Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum, Titusville valiantaircommand.com

SHOPPING ONE DAYTONA onedaytona.com Tanger Outlets, Daytona Beach tangeroutlet.com/daytona Vero Beach Outlets verobeachoutlets.com

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MARTIN COUNTY

Let your imagination soar BY JONATHAN WESTBANK

FISHERMAN AT HUTCHINSON ISLAND BEACH • MARTIN COUNTY OFFICE OF TOURISM & MARKETING

D

isconnect to reconnect in Martin County, where seemingly endless Atlantic beaches span nearly 22 miles along the coast. Here you’ll find every kind of family activity to tickle your fancy, from rodeos to high-end shopping, art galleries and one-of-a-kind museums to eco-friendly sea turtle adventures and world-class fishing. Building restrictions have limited structures to four stories, preserving breathtaking views throughout the county. The natural beauty and attractions here offer up a treasure trove of activities—minus the crowds of the popular next-door neighbors. The easy-to-get-to area encompasses the communities of Port Salerno, Stuart, Palm City, Jensen Beach, Indiantown, Jupiter Island, Hobe Sound and Hutchinson Island, offering over 77 parks ready for exploration, unlimited outdoor adventure, golf and a region overflowing with culture to welcome visitors. Located just off A1A and accessible by a plethora of scenic avenues, Martin County is 45 minutes from Palm Beach

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JENSEN BEACH • MARTIN COUNTY OFFICE OF TOURISM & MARKETING

International Airport, an hour from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, 90 minutes from Miami International Airport and two hours from Orlando International Airport. The word fresh takes on new meaning with most Martin County restaurants utilizing locally-sourced produce and freshly caught fish, served alongside ingredients from several local and organic farms, to please one and all. As the sun sets, relax at one of Martin County’s host of lodging options. Ranging from oceanfront resorts and charming inns to brand favorites

and uniquely Florida properties, there is something for everyone. Make plans to visit during a Season for the Arts, which runs from January through March and includes the award-winning ArtsFest. You can also pack your calendar with larger, annual events such as the Stuart Boat Show, Jensen Beach Fine Art and Craft Show and the Port Salerno Seafood Festival in January; the Annual Classics at the Beach Car Show in April or the Single Fin Show Down Surf Festival. Planning a trip in the fall? You will not want to miss the Stuart Airshow, the Pineapple Festival in Jensen Beach or the annual Indiantown Rodeo. From flip-flops to cowboy boots, Martin County truly has it all. This is the perfect place for escaping and making memories that last longer than tan lines.

FEATURED LINKS Martin County Office of Tourism & Marketing DiscoverMartin.com


CENTRAL FLORIDA

CREATING WONDROUS STORIES Central Florida is a wonder. Its world-class attractions, hotels, restaurants and year-round warm sunshine continue to beckon millions of visitors. With so much to see and do, this area fascinates both children and adults alike. From the rural, Old Florida feel of Highlands County to the Ocala National Forest and all the magic in between, the Central Florida region summons your exploration. BY KEVIN FRITZ

IHU’S BREAKAWAY FALLS, AQUATICA ORLANDO • VISIT ORLANDO


A DAY IN... KISSIMMEE

ORLANDO

POLK COUNTY

SEBRING

Getting up before dawn is well

Begin with a beverage from

Stop and smell the orange

Start with a sunrise cycle or walk

worth it when you take in the

Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Co. on Park

blossoms as you begin a day of

along the Cypress Trail boardwalk

sights of the theme parks and

Avenue in picturesque Winter

citrus delight. Polk County

at Highlands Hammock State

landscape from a hot-air balloon

Park. Take a Winter Park Scenic

(VisitCentralFlorida.org) offers

Park. Golf the Citrus Golf Trail

as the sun rises. Then continue

Boat Tour through lush canals

delicious options, October through

featuring Florida’s most afford-

your morning exploring the

and peaceful lakes. Visit the

May, as one of the top citrus-

able courses. Stroll in charming

natural beauty of “Old Florida” as

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum

producing counties in Florida.

Lake Placid with nearly 50

you paddle through the head-

of American Art to view the

Watch citrus candy being made

outdoor murals and small-town

waters of the Florida Everglades

world’s largest collection of works

at Davidson of Dundee and pick

shops. Lunch at Fork & Folk

at The Paddling Center at Shingle

by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Lunch

up some citrus souvenirs in

Bistro in historic downtown

Creek.

Downtown

at East End Market in trendy

the gift shop. Have lunch at

Sebring, then browse through

Kissimmee is the perfect place

Historic

Audubon Park. Stop to smell the

Lang’s Taste of Florida Café—

“City on a Circle” boutiques and

for lunch as quaint Kissimmee

roses at Harry P. Leu Gardens.

don’t miss the award-winning

artist galleries. Sample creative

Main Street offers great dining

Enjoy a cocktail at The Woods in

grapefruit pie. Complete your

treats at the Sebring Soda & Ice

options, antique shopping and

downtown Orlando. End with

day with an authentic Florida

Cream Works. Finish with dinner

even ice cream made with liquid

dinner at the French brasserie

experience,

fresh

at trendy 18 East Main and a

nitrogen.

85-foot

DoveCote followed by a perform-

oranges from the tree at Ridge

performance at the South Florida

custom-made ferris wheel at Old

ance at the Dr. Phillips Center for

Island Groves.

State College Performing Arts

Town.

the Performing Arts.

Ride

the

picking

Wildstein Center .

CENTRAL FLORIDA

YOUR CENTRAL FLORIDA EXPERTS Central Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau: VisitCentralFlorida.org City of Lake Wales: lakewalesfl.gov City of Winter Park: cityofwinterpark.org Experience Kissimmee: ExperienceKissimmee.com Lake County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau: VisitLakeFL.com Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau: ocalamarion.com Orlando North, Seminole County Tourism: doorlandonorth.com Visit Orlando: VisitOrlando.com Visit Sebring: VisitSebring.com

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CENTRAL FLORIDA

ORLANDO MUSEUM OF ART • VISIT ORLANDO

ARTS AND CULTURE Known as the “Town of Murals,” Lake Placid features nearly 50 colorful murals within its outdoor art gallery. This small, Old Florida town is also known for its American Clown Museum and School. Soak in the culture in nearby Avon Park at the Museum of Florida Art and Culture and the Wildstein Center, both on the Avon Park campus of South Florida State College. Located on Iron Mountain, Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales has been a fan favorite since 1929. Its 205-foot neo-Gothic and art deco “singing tower” houses one of the world’s finest carillons, with 60 bells playing concerts daily. Tour Pinewood Estate, a 20-room Mediterraneanstyle home built in the 1930s, nestled among a spectacular collection of ferns, palms, camellias and magnolias. Follow the River of Stone—a mosaic pathway composed of more

INTERNATIONAL GATEWAYS Orlando International Airport: orlandoairports.net Orlando Sanford International Airport: Flysfb.com

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

than 100,000 hand-selected pebbles—to the 2.7-acre hands-on Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden, an outdoor kitchen and a farm-to-table edible garden. Who would guess the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright designs in the world is in Lakeland, Florida? The legendary architect oversaw and designed the construction of 12 structures, including his only planetarium, on the campus of Florida Southern College. A 13th structure, the Usonian House, was completed in 2013. Based on an original 1939 design, the unique building is part of the new visitor center at the college. The City of Orlando is home to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts hosting Broadway shows, concerts and community events in the heart of downtown. North of downtown is the Loch Haven Cultural Park. Covering 45-acres, it is comprised of a variety of culture offerings, including the Orlando Museum of Art, the Orlando Science Center, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando Repertory Theatre and Mennello Museum of American Art. Nearby, Harry P. Leu Gardens is part of a 50-acre botanical park created as gardens in 1936. Stroll pathways past some 50 varieties of azaleas, nearly 50 species of bamboo,

2,000 camellia plants and more than 50 kinds of citrus trees. In artsy Winter Park, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is the world showcase for everything Tiffany with the most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. For the oldest and most distinguished collections in Florida, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College is a must-see. A visit to historic Winter Garden is a step back in time. Once the bustling center of Central Florida and the largest citrus shipping point in the world, artifacts found around Lake Apopka indicate Native Americans inhabited the land for thousands of years, up until the colonization of Florida by Spanish explorers. The Garden Theatre, built in 1935, was restored to its true Mediterranean Revival style in 2008. For a fun way to enjoy culture, join the pedal-powered party through historic Sanford on a 15-passenger Limo Cycle. Sit a spell in a rocker on the porch overlooking beautiful Lake Dora at The Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, circa 1883. Enjoy the quiet while sipping iced tea, just as past visitors Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Calvin Coolidge have done.


ATTRACTIONS While Central Florida is widely known for its big three—Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld (see our Theme Parks story in this issue)—there are many other attractions you want to experience on your next visit. In Lakeland, book a tour of the 260-acre Safari Wilderness Ranch and marvel at more than 450 exotic African and Asian animals. Nearby, you’ll find the Water Ski Hall of Fame and Museum in Polk City. For an airboat ecotour, check out Wild Florida Airboat & Wildlife Park in Kenansville on Cypress Lake. Get an in-depth look at the ‘gators, birds and eagles. They are currently expanding from 13 acres to 88 acres, which will include the addition of a two-mile drivethough safari and a zip line. Old Town in Kissimmee offers a Ferris wheel, a haunted house, themed restaurants, an arcade and shopping. For more rides and go-karts, head over to Fun Spot America–Kissimmee. The Showcase of Citrus in Clermont is a family-owned roadside citrus farm and cattle ranch at which families can pick grapefruits, lemons, tangerines and oranges. Don’t forget the handcrafted creamsicles. At Clermont’s Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards, kids and adults can take turns stomping grapes. The Crayola Experience in Orlando’s Florida Mall is a family attraction offering more than 25 hands-on experiences. Or take part in the Grande Lakes Orlando catch-andrelease fish program and help track data for the Florida Wildlife Commission. Orlando’s International Drive is home to the SEA LIFE

Orlando Aquarium, Madame Tussauds wax museum and The Wheel, a 400-foot-tall observation wheel at ICON Park. Opening in Spring, Dezerland Action Park is an indoor theme park featuring the Orlando Auto Museum which will include cars from James Bond and Batman movies. At nearby iFLY Orlando, test your bravery at this indoor skydiving experience. Don’t tell the kids, but at WonderWorks indoor amusement park on International Drive, they can learn while having fun in this 35,000 square feet of edutainment. Fun Spot America, a family-owned theme park in the area, features multi-level go-karts, thrill rides, family rides and an arcade. (There is also a Kissimmee location.) Just north of downtown Orlando, the Orlando Science Center offers four stories of interactive, hands-on exhibits, an observatory, a café and the Dr. Phillips CineDome, a 300-seat theater for films and planetarium shows. Venture over to Black Hammock Adventures in Oviedo for airboat rides on Lake Jesup, home to the largest alligator population in Florida, estimated at around 10,000. The Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford is home to more than 400 animals and the Barnyard Buddies Children’s Zoo. Feed the giraffes then cool off in the Wharton-Smith Tropical Splash Ground.  Near Ocala, a must visit in this region is the venerable Silver Springs State Park, Florida’s first attraction, known for its famous glass-bottom boats.

ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Central Florida Scottish Highland Games, Winter Springs

JANUARY–FEBRUARY Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, Eatonville

FEBRUARY Mount Dora Arts Festival Silver Spurs Rodeo, Kissimmee

FEBRUARY–APRIL Universal Studios Mardi Gras

MARCH Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Super Sebring Winter Park Sidewalk Arts Festival

MARCH–MAY Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

APRIL Florida Film Festival, Orlando SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo, Lakeland

MAY Mayfaire by-the-Lake Fine Arts Festival, Lakeland Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival

JULY Caladium Festival, Lake Placid Red Hot and Boom, Altamonte Springs

AUGUST Grape Stomp & Wine Festival, Lake Placid

AUGUST–NOVEMBER Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

SEPTEMBER Plantation Redfish Classic, Crystal River Sebring Thunder Car Show Tour of Sebring Cycling

SEPTEMBER–NOVEMBER Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios

DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS, ORLANDO • DISNEY/TODD ANDERSON

OCTOBER MIDFLORIDA Auto Show & Lake Mirror Concours

NOVEMBER Civilian Conservation Corps Festival, Sebring The Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire, Tavares

NOVEMBER–DECEMBER Christmas Town: A Busch Gardens Celebration Epcot International Festival of the Holidays Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration

NOVEMBER–JANUARY Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

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CENTRAL FLORIDA

BOK TOWER GARDENS, LAKE WALES • VISIT CENTRAL FLORIDA

BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS Whether nature-made or artificial, the Central Florida region is home to plenty of options for the family to cool off or explore. Sebring is home to 95 crystal-clear lakes and the Highlands Hammock State Park, one of Florida’s oldest parks and a gem you must not miss. The park is renowned for its beautiful old-growth hammock and thousand-year-old oaks. You may catch a glimpse of a black bear and the Florida

5

MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS

1

HIGHLANDS HAMMOCK STATE PARK: floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ Highlands-Hammock-state-park

2

LEGOLAND: legoland.com/florida

3

SEAWORLD ORLANDO: seaworld.com/orlando

4

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT: universalorlando.com

5

WALT DISNEY WORLD: disneyworld.disney.go.com

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panther. An elevated boardwalk traverses cypress swamp where you may observe alligators, birds and other wildlife. Cycle the scenic three-mile loop drive or hike the park’s nine nature trails. Picnicking, birdwatching, catch-and-release fishing and ranger-guided tours are other popular activities and a fully accessible tram tour allows visitors to view wildlife relatively up close. Campers should check out the full-facility and the youth/group campgrounds.

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

In Polk County, the Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park covers more than 8,000 acres of scrub, sandhill and flatwoods land. Like fishing? In Osceola County, Lake Tohopekaliga, known as Lake Toho, covers 22,700 acres, spans 42 miles in circumference, and is a hotbed for bass. Take the family waterskiing, wakeboarding, wakeskating, wakesurfing and kneeboarding at the Orlando Watersports Complex. A short drive west, Lake Louisa in Clermont is the largest in a chain of 13 lakes and is designated an Outstanding Florida Water Way. Grab a pole or canoe and relish in the beauty of Lake County. Excellent outdoor activities await north of Orlando, including the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, offering 15 miles of family biking where the odds of seeing a ‘gator are fantastic. Want to tube down a crystal-clear river fed by natural springs? Located in Apopka, local favorite Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park offers swimming, hiking trails, picnicking and concessions. Visit Blue Spring State Park, home to hundreds of manatees, where the clear, 73-degree waters welcome swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. Picnic on the beach or stay the night at the campground. In the Ocala National Forest, the southernmost forest in the United States, dozens of campgrounds and 600 lakes, rivers and springs welcome visitors year-round.


ENTERTAINMENT Orlando has the most nightlife establishments per 100,000 residents, clocking in nearly 300. International Drive, known as I-Drive, features an abundance of shopping, dining and entertainment for daytime or nighttime fun. Mango’s Tropical Café showcases exciting live shows, dancing and worldfamous cocktails within a vivacious Miamistyle club while Tin Roof offers live music performances by Central Florida’s best artists. Sip on a cocktail at a bar made entirely of ice at ICEBAR Orlando, enjoy a fiesta at Señor Frog’s or rock out to dueling pianos at Howl at the Moon. Pointe Orlando fuses dining and entertainment with spots ranging from the distinctive flavors of Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar and Greek dancing on the tables at Taverna Opa to the Southern comfort food of B.B King’s Blues Club. Nightly entertainment includes the Improv Comedy Theatre and restaurant as well as Main Event Entertainment. Within close proximity to Orlando’s world-famous theme parks, “Restaurant Row” is a one-mile stretch of Sand Lake Road featuring over two dozen exquisite restaurants. Many feature extensive bars, comprehensive wine lists and live music. Universal CityWalk is another vibrant place to grab a quick snack, relax over dinner, mingle over cocktails, take in an electrifying concert or dance the night away. Select from a

variety of dining options, such as The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food and VIVO Italian Kitchen. Nightclubs and other after-hour hot spots include CityWalk’s Rising Star karaoke club, where visitors take center stage and perform with a live band complete with backup singers. Classic American cuisine hits the spot at the world’s largest Hard Rock Cafe, while worldfamous names in music and comedy perform at the adjacent Hard Rock Live Orlando. Drink in paradise at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. A little of the Big Easy is offered at Pat O’Brien’s, home of dueling pianos and the world-famous Hurricane drink. Savor one-ofa-kind gourmet treats at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen.

Sports fans can catch the big game on nearly 100 HD Screens at NBC Sports Grill & Brew while grubbing out on hearty dishes. Disney Springs, a 120-acre entertainmentshopping-dining complex at Walt Disney World Resort, offers more shops, restaurants and other venues. There are four distinct neighborhoods to explore here: The Landing, Marketplace, West Side and Town Center. For a unique evening, board the Rivership Barbara-Lee in Sanford, an authentic sternwheeler, for a three-hour tour along Lake Monroe and the St. Johns River. And while there is little casino action in Central Florida, Ocala Gainesville Poker in Reddick hosts poker tournaments and live games as well as simulcast wagering. PIRATE’S DINNER ADVENTURE • VISIT ORLANDO

MURALS OF LAKE PLACID • VISIT SEBRING

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CENTRAL FLORIDA

VOLCANO BAY, UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT

ROAD TRIPS

INSIDER’S TIP Going to the Hard Rock Live for a show or a meal at the Hard Rock Cafe? Avoid the massive Universal Orlando parking garages and long walk (it is long) and valet park. You will be much closer to your destination and happier when you leave. Besides, general parking is US$26 and so is valet for two hours or less. For more than two hours, you’ll pay US$45 after 6 PM. But, if you don’t mind the walk, arrive after 6 PM when general parking is free.

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Take a break from the parking lots and embark on a scenic drive to experience some of Old Florida at its finest. The Ridge Scenic Highway travels more than 38 miles along the Lake Wales Ridge, through the historical communities of Sebring, Frostproof, Lake Wales, Dundee and Haines City. While in Lake Wales, be sure to visit Spook Hill, a natural phenomenon that gives the illusion that cars are coasting uphill. A drive west of Orlando to Clermont brings you to the Florida Citrus Tower built in 1956 on one of the highest hills in Florida’s ridge section. An elevator ride to the top gives way to panoramic views of eight counties in Central Florida. In Sumter County, explore the 80-acre Dade Battlefield Historic State Park where, on

December 28, 1835, a Native American ambush started the Second Seminole War. There’s a picnic area, playground and visitor’s center. Look for the Green Mountain Scenic Byway near Lake Apopka that shows off the region’s little-known rolling hills. Among the rural towns and villages, you’ll pass by the historic moss-covered Sadler Oaks in the community of Tildenville. Ocala, in Marion County, is the center of the thoroughbred horse industry in Florida and beautiful rolling farmlands. Hop on the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway, which travels through the heart of Central Florida to the Ocala National Forest. Look for springs, kayaking and fishing spots—you might even see the elusive Florida black bear.


SHOPPING If you are looking for a taste of Florida, there are several outdoor markets selling fresh, local produce, preserves and products, including the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market and Main Street Bartow Farmers Market. For mall shopping in the area, hit the Lakeland Square Mall with over 80 shops. The Loop in Kissimmee is a popular outdoor mall offering 25 retail outlets including Sunglass Hut and Old Navy. Stop for a cone at Ben & Jerry’s or grab a bite in one of a dozen eateries. Disney Springs is home to more than 100 shops, ranging from Anthropologie and Lucky Brand to the LEGO Store and the Art of Disney. Pointe Orlando, the lush landscaped, fresh-air destination near the Orange County Convention Center, is known for more upscale and specialty shops, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Hollister. Want big? The Florida Mall in Orlando offers 1.7 million square feet of space and more than 250 stores to shop ‘til you drop. The Mall at Millenia in Orlando has become a favorite of locals and visitors. This shopping mecca features some of the most

stylish shops in all of Central Florida: Tiffany & Co., Gucci and Louis Vuitton, to name a few. The Orlando International Premium Outlets and Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets offer discounts in hundreds of brand-name stores. Park Avenue in Winter Park is the quintessential place to shop in Central Florida. Wander in and out of shops, such as Tuni, Siegel’s Winter Park, Ten Thousand Villages and Charyli as you walk the brick-lined street. Nearby Winter Park Village features Pier 1 Imports, REI and Ulta Beauty. North of Orlando, Renninger’s Antique Center & Farmer’s & Flea Market in Mount Dora is worth the trip. The family-owned business, situated on 117 acres in the rolling hills of Lake County, features hundreds of vendors, as well as vintage car and garden shows. Nearby, Lake Square Mall in Leesburg features some 30 stores, while Paddock Mall in Ocala has 90, anchored by Macy’s, Belk and JC Penney. Explore the shops and boutiques on First Street in historic Sanford, once a major Central Florida hub. The town is also home to Seminole Towne Center with five anchor stores including Burlington Coat Factory. SHOPPERS, POINTE ORLANDO • VISIT ORLANDO

FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales boktowergardens.org Florida Southern College, Lakeland flsouthern.edu/arts-centers.aspx Orlando Repertory Theatre orlandorep.com Orlando Shakespeare Theater orlandoshakes.org South Florida State College Performing Arts Wildstein Center, Avon Park sfscarts.org

ATTRACTIONS I-Drive Resort Area, Orlando internationaldriveorlando.com iFLY Orlando iflyworld.com/orlando Safari Wilderness, Lakeland safariwilderness.com SEA LIFE Aquarium, Orlando visitsealife.com/orlando WonderWorks, Orlando wonderworksonline.com

BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS Orlando Watersports Complex orlandowatersports.com

ENTERTAINMENT Hard Rock Cafe, Orlando hardrock.com/location/orlando House of Blues, Orlando houseofblues.com/orlando Pirates Dinner Adventure, Orlando piratesdinneradventure.com Planet Hollywood, Orlando planethollywoodintl.com/restaurants/orlando Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo westgateriverresorts.com/hotels/florida/river -ranch/westgate-river-ranch-resort

SHOPPING Disney Springs disneysprings.com Florida Mall, Orlando simon.com/mall/the-florida-mall The Mall at Millenia, Orlando mallatmillenia.com Orlando Premium Outlets International Drive premiumoutlets.com/outlet/ orlando-international Park Avenue, Winter Park winterpark.org/park-avenue

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SEBRING

Choose your own vacation speed BY STEVE WINSTON PADDLEBOARDING • VISIT SEBRING

S

ebring is known for its famous speedway. Yet, when people visit, they’re often amazed to find so much more, including beautiful peace and quiet for those seeking relaxation. In fact, Sebring and the surrounding areas of Avon Park and Lake Placid, bill their multi-faceted vacation opportunities as “Choose Your Speed.” Here, you’ll find something to suit every pace, whether it’s lounging on a dock and watching the sun set or witnessing some of the most exciting auto endurance racing on Earth.

SEE AND DO Although the population of the City of Sebring is only about 10,500, once a year this beautiful, slow-paced little town becomes the center of the auto endurance racing world, hosting the internationally acclaimed 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race at the renowned Sebring International

INSIDER’S TIP Sugar Sand Distillery is Florida’s only estategrown sugar cane farm distillery. Combining the owner’s love of farming with their desire to produce handcrafted spirits, this true farm-to-bottle operation produces rum, whisky, vodka and moonshine and is open for tastings from 11AM to 6PM from Wednesday through Sunday.

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OUTDOOR DELIGHTS

MAXWELL GROVES • VISIT SEBRING

Raceway. Known for its rough surface, it’s America’s oldest endurance race track and considered the birthplace of American endurance racing. The nearby town of Lake Placid is called “The Caladium Capital of the World,” after the fields of the beautiful plants in bloom here, especially in late summer and early fall. Every July, a Caladium Festival features food, entertainment, arts and crafts for sale, and tours of the caladium fields. Lake Placid is also known for its interesting history and nearly 50 colorful outdoor murals. Purchase a mural tour book (US$3) at the Lake Placid Chamber to begin your walking tour and see if you can find the hidden item in each mural. For more entertainment, the Highlands Little Theatre in Downtown Sebring provides local entertainment while the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts in Avon Park hosts world-class performances.

With nearly 100 freshwater lakes, the Sebring area is a great place to enjoy water sports and recreation activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding, waterskiing, boating and more. And the 27,000-acre Lake Istokpoga is renowned as one of the top trophy bass fishing lakes in the Southeast U.S. Tee off at one of several courses on the “Citrus Golf Trail,” where the prices are low, the courses are challenging, and natural beauty surrounds you. In fact, many courses sit in the middle of orange groves, where, in season, the sweet smell of blossoms in bloom permeates the air. Request a free Visit Sebring Travel Guide at: VisitSebring.com or by calling (800) 545-6021.

FEATURED LINKS Visit Sebring (including Avon Park & Lake Placid): VisitSebring.com Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts: SFSCArts.org Citrus Golf Trail: SebringCitrusGolfTrail.com Lake Placid Murals: muralsoflakeplacid.com Maxwell Groves: facebook.com/MaxwellGrovesAP/ Sebring International Raceway: SebringRaceway.com Sebring Soda & Ice Cream Works: facebook.com/SebringSoda Sebring Soda Festival: SebringSodaFest.com Sugar Sand Distillery: SugarSandDistillery.com


VISIT CENTRAL FLORIDA

Delights for the whole family BY STEVE WINSTON

LEGOLAND, WINTER HAVEN • LEGOLAND FLORIDA RESORT/CHIP LITHERLAND PHOTOGRAPHY

F

or a memorable family vacation, consider Central Florida where you are only 45 minutes from Orlando’s theme parks and from the Tampa International Airport. This natural wonderland features 554 lakes and 375 miles of nature trails. Central Florida (Polk County) is also filled with popular family attractions, including a world-class theme park of its own. LEGOLAND Florida reignites the child in all of us, with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions. The park itself is an immersive experience in brilliant technicolour and best expressed with shouts of joy as kids view spectacular architectural LEGO marvels displayed throughout themed zones, among them The Great LEGO Race, an incredible virtual-reality roller coaster. The resort’s newest attraction, THE LEGO MOVIE WORLD, just opened last spring. And, in April, will see the opening of the third lodging choice on the property— Pirate Island Hotel. As with the existing LEGOLAND Hotel and LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, the new hotel will feature LEGOthemed décor. LEGOLAND, however, is just one of many great attractions in Central Florida. Safari Wilderness, for example, was named

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LEMUR FEEDING, SAFARI WILDERNESS RANCH • VISIT CENTRAL FLORIDA

among the “10 Best Safaris in the U.S.” by Fodors.com. Here you can book a tour by kayak, camel or safari vehicle. The Circle B Bar Reserve was listed among USA Today’s “Top 50 Places to See Wildlife” and attracts hikers, photographers, painters and nature-lovers who come from around the world. Built by a Dutch immigrant in 1929, Bok Tower Gardens is a unique attraction featuring beautiful landscapes, hiking trails, a boardwalk and a 205-foot “singing tower” with some bells weighing several tons. At Florida Southern College in Lakeland, there are 13 extraordinary buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. If you love airplanes, visit Central Florida from March 31 to April 5 to attend the

46th annual SUN ’n FUN Aerospace Expo at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. It is the second-largest event of its kind in the world and the whole family will be amazed at the daredevil aerobatics of the renowned U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Where to stay? Accommodation options range from the luxurious Streamsong Resort & Spa, with three of the top golf courses in North America, to the rustic Westgate River Ranch Resort, the largest dude ranch east of the Mississippi River.

FEATURED LINKS Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales boktowergardens.org Central Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau: visitcentralflorida.org Florida Southern College, Lakeland flsouthern.edu/arts-centers.aspx Safari Wilderness, Lakeland: safariwilderness.com Streamsong Resort & Spa streamsongresort.com SUN ’n FUN Aerospace Expo, Lakeland: flysnf.org/sun-n-fun-intl-fly-expo Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo westgateresorts.com/hotels/florida/ river-ranch/westgate-river-ranch-resort


HOLIDAY INN CLUB VACATIONS

Stay and play on your family getaway BY DONNA S. VIEIRA ORANGE LAKE RESORT

B

uilding on the vision of Kemmons Wilson, iconic founder of the Holiday Inn brand, Holiday Inn Club Vacations carries on his legacy by continuing to offer better family travel experiences at a number of unique properties located throughout the Sunshine State. In Orlando, next door to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, stay and play at the Orange Lake Resort, where four different villages jam-packed with amenities keep every member of the family entertained for days on end. Delight in eight restaurants and dining options, seven pools including the signature 1,200-foot lazy river-style pool with its two big waterslides, seven stores and pro shops, four golf courses as well as hosted activities. Add in free daily shuttle service throughout the resort, complimentary Wi-Fi in every villa and hot spots across the property, and an on-site concierge to help you access attraction tickets and transportation services. It’s all here at your beck and call. Just a few miles down the road, the smaller Orlando Breeze Resort takes you

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

SUNSET, PANAMA CITY BEACH BALCONY VIEW

away from the crowds and features a choice of pools, an 18-hole mini golf tournament, an arcade game and an indoor movie theater. Situated between Port Canaveral and Cocoa Beach, the family-friendly Cape Canaveral Beach Resort offers direct beach access, three pools including a kiddie pool, mini golf, a family activity center and arcade, the on-site Cape Grill & Bar and a Marketplace for groceries, snacks and convenience items. Head over to the beachfront Panama City Beach Resort for a fun-filled getaway overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Lounge

around the outdoor pool, relax in the hot tub, play a game of pool or ping pong in the activity center, work out at the track or fitness center or participate in special activities. And with a multitude of attractions nearby, there’s plenty more fun to go around. Farther south on Marco Island, the Sunset Cove Resort is a luxurious choice, where you can gaze out onto the harbor, taking in the balmy breezes and spectacular sunsets, as you soak in the pool and hot tub. Each Holiday Inn Club Vacations resort offers all the comforts of home in spacious one- to three-bedroom villas featuring fully equipped kitchens as well as living and dining areas. And all are within easy access to local attractions, if and when you choose to leave your little piece of paradise and join the crowds. Call 1-866-892-5890 to book your memorable stay-and-play family vacation.

FEATURED LINKS Holiday Inn Club Vacations discoverhcv.com/florida-resorts


WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA

EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS When it comes to the Sunshine State and all it has to offer, Central West Florida presents a little of the best of everything: powder-soft, white-sand beaches; thrilling theme parks; back-to-nature spots; a vibrant nightlife; captivating world-class museums; and much more. BY SUSAN B. BARNES

BEACH DRIVE AT NIGHT, ST. PETERSBURG • VISIT ST. PETE/CLEARWATER


A DAY IN... CRYSTAL RIVER/ CITRUS COUNTY

DUNEDIN

ST. PETE/CLEARWATER

TAMPA BAY

Cycle to Honeymoon Island,

Watch sunrise at North Shore

Savor fresh guava turnovers and

Begin your day feeling wonder

Florida’s most visited state park,

Park in St. Pete. Grab breakfast at

Cuban coffee at La Segunda

again. Swim with manatees in

to swim, fish and snorkel in the

a St. Pete indie coffee house.

Bakery & Café in Ybor City before

the amazing springs of Crystal

warm Gulf waters. Or pack a

Walk to the Dalí Museum to

exploring Tampa’s eclectic Latin

River’s Kings Bay. Take the

picnic and ferry over to Caladesi

view the artist’s largest collec-

Quarter, one of Florida’s two

trolley to the Three Sisters

to hike, paddle or bask on

tion of works outside of Spain.

historical districts. Visit José

Springs boardwalk. It’s like a

award-winning beaches. After

Lunch at Parkshore Grill before

Martí Park, the only piece of

national park in a single acre. At

lunch

historic

heading to Clearwater Beach to

American soil owned by the

the Kings Bay waterfront, dine

downtown Dunedin to shop and

soak up the sun and splash in

people of Cuba. Enjoy paella and

on seafood fresh from the Gulf

stroll through waterfront parks.

the warm Gulf waters. Stroll

sangria at Columbia Restaurant,

of Mexico. Afterward, explore

Sample craft beers at the

along Pier 60. Fish or enjoy

Florida’s oldest dining establish-

the shops of Heritage Village in

Dunedin Brewery. Admire the

nightly entertainment from 6 to

ment. Ride the TECO Historic

downtown Crystal River. Later,

sunset and dine on fresh

9 pm. Sip a tropical cocktail at

Streetcar Line to the Tampa

take a sunset cruise or enjoy the

seafood at the Olde Bay Café and

Tommy’s Tiki Bar at the Hilton

Riverwalk and nearby museums

show from Fort Island Gulf

Dunedin Fish Market. During

Clearwater Beach. For dinner

and attractions. Order cocktails at

Beach. For dinner, reserve a table

spring training, cheer for the

with a view, the outdoor patio at

Franklin Manor, followed by a

at Vintage on 5 , winner of Wine

Toronto Blue Jays at the newly

Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill ends a

sunset dinner at Ulele and a

Spectator’s Award of Excellence

renovated Dunedin Stadium.

perfect day.

nightcap at Ciro’s Speakeasy and

th

return

to

seven years in a row.

Supper Club.

WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA

YOUR WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA EXPERTS Citrus County Visitors Bureau: DiscoverCrystalRiverFL.com City of Dunedin: dunedingov.com Experience Florida’s Sports Coast: flsportscoast.com Hernando County Tourism Bureau: floridasadventurecoast.com Visit St. Pete/Clearwater: visitstpeteclearwater.com Visit Tampa Bay: visittampabay.com Ybor City Chamber of Commerce: ybor.org

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WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA

FORT DE SOTO, ST. PETERSBURG. • VISIT FLORIDA

ARTS AND CULTURE If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, West Central Florida has plenty to share. One showpiece sits on the Tampa Riverwalk, a pedestrian walkway that meanders through the city along the Hillsborough River. The Tampa Museum of Art is housed in an architectural work of art designed by Stanley

INSIDER’S TIP With growing interest in travel to Cuba, it may come as a surprise that you can visit a part of Cuba right in Tampa’s Ybor City. Cuban-born poet, journalist, essayist and revolutionary José Martí frequently visited Ybor City in the late 1800s. During this time he did a large part of his planning and fundraising, and wound up calling Ybor City his “faithful little town” because of the support he received there. Today, the small, 0.14-acre José Martí Park stands in tribute to the revolutionary, but what makes the park perhaps even more interesting is that it has been owned by the Cuban government since 1956.

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Saitowitz. Inside, an incredible collection of contemporary and classical art, as well as enticing traveling exhibitions, are on display. From the museum, follow the Riverwalk south to the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, showcasing works by local, national and international photographers, as well as historical collections. Nobody does pirates like Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay History Center brings to life pirates, shipwrecks and treasure—complete with a 60-foot replica pirate ship to climb around, a real 1700s ship’s treasure chest and an authentic 1703 map of the Caribbean showing exactly where to attack ships full of treasure. The expansion also includes a cartographic research center and houses over 6,000 maps dating back as far as 1493. Back in downtown Tampa, step into simpler times amid the splendor of the storied 1920s “movie palace,” the Tampa Theatre. Tour the mesmerizing theater before the main feature begins, then sit back and relax while a volunteer organist serenades you on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ before the curtain rises. Within walking distance of each other in downtown St. Petersburg are the Museum of Fine Arts, with thousands of objects spanning 4,500 years, from antiquity to the present, and the Dalí Museum with the

world’s largest collection of Salvador Dalí’s work outside of Spain, including 1,300 graphics, photos, sculptures and objets d’art; 96 oil paintings; and more than 100 watercolors and drawings. The structure housing the Dalí Museum is in itself a surreal piece of art. The Chihuly Collection, on the Morean Arts Center campus in St. Pete’s Central Arts District, features amazing works of glass art by the master himself. To the north of Tampa, Dunedin is filled with galleries and regularly hosts arts and craft shows throughout the year. If you’re in the area January 4–5, 2020, head over to the 23rd Annual Downtown Dunedin Art Festival, which showcases more than 100 of the nation’s most talented artists and a broad spectrum of media including sculptures, glass, paintings, jewelry and ceramics. Admission is free. Every spring, world-class Scottish athletes descend upon Dunedin for the annual Highland Games & Festival that include a traditional Scottish gathering with music and dance, a parade and a full day of events and competitions. For a peek into the history of the area, check out the annual Fort Cooper Days event in Inverness, where re-enactments of the Second Seminole War are held twice a day in mid-March along with living history demonstrations.


ATTRACTIONS When it’s time to go wild, be sure to visit Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. One of the largest accredited sanctuaries for exotic cats in the world, this is home to about 60 lions, tigers, bobcats and cougars that have been rescued and are now cared for by loving staff and volunteers. Another place to enjoy close encounters with animals is ZooTampa at Lowry Park. Spend a day with animals from Africa, Australia, Asia and beyond, learning about their habitats and how to protect them, and you’ll easily see why it is highly rated. Located right across the Street from Busch Gardens, Adventure Island is the ultimate combination of high-speed thrills and tropical, tranquil surroundings for guests of all ages. For the slide of your life, head over to Adventure Island Tampa Bay’s epic drop slide, Vanish Point, which is located next to another family favorite, Colossal Curl. Downtown, discover all of the wonders that lie beneath the water’s surface at The Florida Aquarium. Meet penguins, dive with sharks (SCUBA-certified only), swim with fish (for ages six and older) or sharks (for ages nine and older), or cruise out onto the waters of Tampa Bay to watch for dolphins.

The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores (located between St. Petersburg and Clearwater) is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and hopeful release of sick, injured and orphaned birds. North of Indian Shores, Winter, the star of Dolphin Tale movies, makes her home at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and is always happy to greet her fans. Plenty of other marine life live alongside Winter: stop and say hello to her friends, Hope and Nicholas, and the resident sea turtles, otters, stingrays, sharks, pelicans and clown fish. You can get out on the water here, too, on board the aquarium’s 90-minute Sea Life Safari Boat Tour. Take another look beneath the water and you’ll find mermaids in the crystal-clear waters at Weeki Wachee Springs. More amusement is found winding down the Weeki Wachee River on a Bayport River Safari, cooling off in the indoor ice rink at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, creating art at the Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa, indoor skydiving at the new iFLY in Brandon, and walking among life-size dinosaurs at Dinosaur World in Plant City, not to mention the thrilling rides at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Downtown Dunedin Art Festival Gasparilla Pirate Festival, Tampa Outback Bowl, Tampa

FEBRUARY Brooksville Native American Festival Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival Dunedin Mardi Gras Parade and Festival Gasparilla Distance Classic Krewe of Sant’ Yago Illuminated Knight Parade, Tampa

MARCH Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City Fort Cooper Days, Inverness Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Tampa Tampa Pride

MARCH–APRIL Food and Wine Festival, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, weekends

APRIL Bern’s Winefest, Tampa Dunedin Highland Games & Festival Mainsail Arts Festival, St. Petersburg Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival, Clearwater Beach Tampa Bay International Dragon Boat Races

MAY Riverfest, Tampa Riverwalk

JUNE St. Pete Pride Festival and Parade

KUMBA, BUSCH GARDENS, TAMPA • SEAWORLD PARKS & ENTERTAINMENT

JUNE–AUGUST Summer Nights, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER Howl-O-Scream, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

OCTOBER Clearwater Jazz Holiday Creatures of the Night, ZooTampa at Lowry Park Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

NOVEMBER Clearwater Beach Uncorked Dunedin Celtic Music & Craft Beer Festival Dunedin Wines the Blues Festival

NOVEMBER–DECEMBER Christmas in the Wild, ZooTampa at Lowry Park

NOVEMBER–JANUARY Christmas Town, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

DECEMBER Outback Bowl New Year’s Eve Parade, Ybor City Victorian Christmas Stroll, Henry B. Plant Museum, Tampa

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA

CALADESI BEACH, DUNEDIN • VISIT FLORIDA

BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS West Central Florida’s stretches of sugarwhite, powder-soft sandy beaches found along the Gulf of Mexico are perfect playgrounds for all ages. For a quiet, more natural beach day without high-rises towering behind you, consider Fort De Soto Park, south of St. Pete

Beach, or Anclote Key Preserve State Park to the north. Caladesi Island State Park is a perfect destination not only for beaches, but also for its four-mile kayaking trail and its three-mile nature trail. Nearby Honeymoon Island State Park was connected to Caladesi Island until a hurricane separated them in 1921. Once a

popular honeymoon destination in the 1940s and 1950s, it is now a favorite among birdwatchers and welcomes more than one million visitors annually. Not only Floridians think the beaches here are fantastic. Two local beaches made it onto TripAdvisor’s 2019 Travelers’ Choice list of “Top 25 Beaches in the U.S.”—Clearwater

MURAL, POE PARKING GARAGE, TAMPA • VISIT TAMPA BAY/AMY MARTZ

5

90

MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS

1

CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM: seewinter.com

2

THE DALÍ MUSEUM, ST. PETERSBURG: thedali.org

3

THE RIVERWALK, TAMPA: thetampariverwalk.com

4

THREE SISTERS SPRINGS, CRYSTAL RIVER: threesistersspringsvisitor.org

5

YBOR CITY, TAMPA: yborcityonline.com

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


Beach (No. 1 for the second consecutive year) and St. Pete Beach (No. 4). And at the end of the day, there’s no better place than a beach in West Central Florida to watch spectacular sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. When water temperatures dip below 72ºF in Florida, West Central Florida’s natural springs are terrific spots to see manatees, thought to be mermaids by sailors too long at sea. Popular manatee viewing spots include Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River and the TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, just south of Tampa.

FLATS FISHING, CITRUS COUNTY • VISIT CITRUS COUNTY

ENTERTAINMENT When it comes to nightlife, West Central Florida likes to party. And there are plenty of spots to do just that. Ybor City’s thriving nightlife ranges from dance clubs and live music venues to quiet pubs, while Tampa’s South Howard Avenue, or SoHo, is filled with restaurants. However, this hip strip really comes alive after dinner when the drinks begin to pour. Professional sports take hold of West Central Florida on the ice, on the field and on the pitch. The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the ice for their 2019–20 season from October to April, unless the team makes the playoffs and their NHL season is extended in pursuit of the coveted Stanley Cup. Take the family out to the ball game during spring training, or during the regular season for that matter. Beginning in March, the Toronto Blue Jays take their swings at the Dunedin Stadium, while the New York Yankees play spring ball in Tampa and the Philadelphia Phillies step up to the plate in Clearwater. The Jolley Trolley travels from Clearwater to Dunedin and on to Tarpon Springs, making it easy to catch a few spring training games along the route. During the regular season, the Tampa Bay Rays play their opponents at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. On the pitch in downtown St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team begins its pre-season matches in February, and the regular schedule takes them through the summer and late into the fall.

2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA

SUNRISE REFLECTIONS ON THE GOLF COURSE • VISIT ST. PETE/CLEARWATER

ROAD TRIPS

INTERNATIONAL GATEWAYS Port Tampa Bay: porttb.com/cruise St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport: fly2pie.com Tampa International Airport: tampaairport.com

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Greek cuisine, art and culture—it’s all found in the small fishing village of Tarpon Springs. The area was first settled in 1876 by Greek immigrants, and today has the highest percentage of Greek-Americans than any other city in the U.S. What was once “the sponge capital of the world” is a popular daytrip destination from Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Dunedin and Pasco County. Go for the history, culture and food, and you’ll find yourself wanting to go back for more! Park the car and walk, run, cycle or rollerblade along the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, a 40-mile protected, multi-use greenspace created along an abandoned railroad corridor that extends from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs.

For a truly unique experience you won’t soon forget, head over to Crystal River where various tour operators provide the equipment and let you swim among West Indian manatees in super clear waters. Visitors who prefer to stay at arm’s length from the gentle giants can rent a kayak (with or without a guide) to observe them as they swim and play below in the warm waters. If this option is still too close for comfort, you can watch manatees any day of the year from the underwater observatory at the nearby Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. The park also showcases other native Florida wildlife, including black bears, bobcats, whitetailed deer, American alligators and crocodiles, and river otters, and offers Wildlife Encounter programs and a children’s education center.


WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA SHOPPING What’s a vacation without shopping? Pull out your credit cards and get ready to fill your bags at the International Plaza and Bay Street in Tampa. It features the only Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom on the Gulf Coast, as well as all-time favorites, Dillard’s, the first RH Gallery, Gap, J. Crew, Banana Republic and H&M, and over a dozen restaurants. Families will also love the Busch Gardens indoor play area for kids. Just down the road, WestShore Plaza counts Macy’s, LOFT, Old Navy and Dick’s Sporting Goods among its storefronts, so there are plenty of shopping opportunities here, too. Tree-lined streets, historical homes and shopping à la European village make Hyde Park Village one of Tampa’s hot retail spots. It’s easy to spend the day here. Shop for a bit in the morning at brand-name stores, such as west elm, Sur la Table, lululemon athletica, Brooks Brothers, Anthropologie and others. Later, enjoy a bite to eat at the re-imagined Goody Goody, nibble on a cupcake at Sprinkles or sip wine at the Wine Exchange Bistro & Wine Bar. For more outdoor shopping, slip over to The Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel, where boutiques and department stores

entice shoppers with their wares, or Tampa Premium Outlets in Lutz for 25 to 65 percent savings on designer brands. St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District is gaining popularity among shoppers, and it’s easy to see why. Spend a day leisurely strolling along the avenue lined with fine art galleries, record and vintage clothing shops, and antique stores. There are also plenty of restaurants and bars along the way, so take your time and enjoy all this shopping district has to offer. Looking for a little something to take to friends back home? Souvenir shopping is perfected at John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk in Madeira Beach. Drop by any of the 100plus shops for everything from T-shirts and shells to artwork and more. If you admire arts and crafts, don’t miss the Annual Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival in February, or the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in downtown Tampa in March. Just a short drive from Tampa, the small coastal town of Dunedin attracts some of the country’s finest artists and crafters to its annual event. If you miss it, the town hosts additional craft festivals throughout the year, so don’t despair!

JOHN’S PASS VILLAGE & BOARDWALK, MADEIRA BEACH • VISIT ST. PETE/CLEARWATER

FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE: The David A. Straz, Jr., Center for the Perfoming Arts strazcenter.org Tampa Bay History Center tampabayhistorycenter.org Tampa Museum of Art tampamuseum.org

ATTRACTIONS Adventure Island Tampa Bay AdventureIsland.com Busch Gardens Tampa Bay buschgardens.com/tampa Dinosaur World, Plant City dinosaurworld.com The Florida Aquarium, Tampa flaquarium.org Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, Indian Shores seasideseabirdsanctuary.org ZooTampa at Lowry Park zootampa.org

BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS De Soto National Memorial nps.gov/deso Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Homosassa-Springs Weeki Wachee Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/park/WeekiWachee

ENTERTAINMENT Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tampa seminolehardrocktampa.com Tampa Bay Lightning nhl.com/lightning Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg mlb.com/rays/ballpark

SHOPPING Grand Central District, St. Petersburg grandcentraldistrict.org Hyde Park Village, Tampa hydeparkvillage.com International Plaza and Bay Street, Tampa shopinternationalplaza.com John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk, Madeira Beach johnspass.com The Shops at Wiregrass, Wesley Chapel theshopsatwiregrass.com Tampa Premium Outlets, Lutz premiumoutlets.com/outlet/tampa

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


CRYSTAL RIVER/CITRUS COUNTY

Discover the wonder of it all BY DONNA S. VIEIRA

S

ituated 65 miles north of Tampa on Florida’s Nature Coast overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, Citrus County is a delightful combination of charming, small towns in natural settings, spring-fed rivers and bays, wilderness trails and entertainment.

A NATURAL HAVEN The warm spring-fed rivers and bays around Crystal River and Homosassa are a natural playground for visitors and manatees alike. In fact, Crystal River is known as The Manatee Capital of the World and is the only place in Florida where visitors can legally swim with the gentle giants. While many manatees are year-round residents, hundreds more make their way to the warmer waters during the winter months, January through March. For those who prefer to stay dry, visitors can also view these docile creatures from the boardwalk at Three Sisters Springs or rent a kayak for upclose encounters in Kings Bay.

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

SCALLOPING • DISCOVER CRYSTAL RIVER

More water-based activities and adventures abound throughout the county. Paddle a kayak along the Chassahowitzka River in Homosassa. Relax on Fort Island Gulf Beach in Crystal River. The inland chain of pristine lakes in Inverness is ideal for waterskiing and fishing excursions. Head south toward Floral City for an exhilarating airboat tour on the Withlacoochee River. Scallop season runs from July 1 to September 24 and there are plenty of opportunities to hop on board a charter out of Homosassa—one of Florida’s oldest fishing villages—to locate the best spots to scallop and fish. Landlubbers are encouraged to explore the 46-mile-long Withlacoochee State Trail, the longest paved, multi-use trail in Florida and one of the best Rails to Trails conversions in the USA. Cycle through ancient forests to visit the charming city centers of Inverness and Floral City. Duffers are welcome to enjoy Citrus County’s warm climate and natural beauty


year-round at popular public courses such as the must-see Lakeside Golf & Country Club in Inverness and the World Woods Golf Course south of Homosassa Springs, which features two Tom Fazio-designed championship courses.

OLD FLORIDA CHARM Whether you travel to Crystal River, Homosassa, Inverness, Floral City or any of the charming towns along the way, take the opportunity to drive along the roads less traveled to experience the true essence of this natural playground where southern hospitality awaits you in a never-ending array of cafés, boutiques, galleries and museums. The Citrus County Historical Society is a wonderful resource for history buffs and the flavorful bounty of fresh seafood dishes will surely please even the most discerning palates.

FEATURED LINKS Discover Crystal River, Florida: DiscoverCrystalRiverFL.com SWIM WITH MANATEES • DISCOVER CRYSTAL RIVER CAPTAIN STU’S AIRBOAT TOURS • DISCOVER CRYSTAL RIVER


NORTHWEST FLORIDA

A MAJESTIC COASTLINE In Northwest Florida, lights are softer and cities are smaller and friendlier. The attractions are as often natural as they are artificial and the beaches, golf courses, shopping areas, hotels, cultural amenities and restaurants aren’t quite as crowded as some of the state’s larger urban areas. This is the one part of Florida where you’ll still hear plenty of “ya’lls.” BY STEVE WINSTON

PENSACOLA BEACH • VISIT PENSACOLA


A DAY IN... THE EMERALD COAST

FRANKLIN COUNTY

PANAMA CITY BEACH

SANTA ROSA COUNTY

Begin your day with a half-day

Authentic Florida thrives in

At Zen Garden or Finn’s Island

Enjoy the sugar-white sandy

fishing trip, dolphin cruise or

quiet coastal communities like

Style Grub, start your day with

beaches of Santa Rosa County.

sailing

be

Apalachicola, St. George Island,

gourmet coffee and a yoga

Fish from the Navarre Beach Pier

soothed by the emerald-green

adventure

Carrabelle, Eastpoint and Alligator

session or a quick surf check.

(Gulf of Mexico’s longest) or visit

waters of the Gulf. Venture over

Point. Enjoy quiet, pet-friendly

From there, explore 27 miles

the Gulf Breeze Zoo, Navarre

to The Boardwalk on Okaloosa

beaches on St. George Island and

of beautiful beaches. Try snor-

Beach Marine Science Station or

Island where you can lunch on

Alligator Point. Climb historical

keling or paddleboarding in

Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conser-

fresh Gulf-to-table seafood with

lighthouses. Camp, paddle or hike

the emerald green waters at

vation Center. Tour Coldwater

beachfront views of the sugar-

along wooded trails and quiet

St. Andrews State Park, or catch

Gardens near Milton. See why

white sand and the Okaloosa

sloughs. Watch commercial fishing

a boat to Shell Island, a seven-

this part of Florida is known as

Fishing Pier. In the afternoon,

boats unload their daily catch or

mile-long natural barrier island.

the Canoe Capital of Florida

stroll downtown Fort Walton

charter a trip with an oyster

Explore diving history at the

with Adventures Unlimited.

Beach’s

Heritage

and

and

fisherman to learn how to catch

Man in the Sea Museum, before

Canoe, kayak and tube along

Cultural Center, comprised of

Park

your own. Explore the area’s charm,

shopping at Pier Park. Catch the

Coldwater Creek past secluded

the Indian Temple Mound, 1912

boutiques, galleries and museums.

sunset from Schooner’s restau-

sandbars, through the pristine

Camp Walton Schoolhouse and

End with fresh local seafood served

rant, where the nightly event is

ecosystem of Blackwater River

Garnier Post Office Museum.

at more than 30 area restaurants

celebrated with a cannon blast!

State Forest, or soar on its zip

and seafood markets.

line canopy tour.

NORTHWEST FLORIDA

YOUR NORTHWEST FLORIDA EXPERTS

Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce: calhounco.org Destination Panama City: destinationpanamacity.com Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau: emeraldcoastfl.com Franklin County Tourist Development Council: floridasforgottencoast.com Gadsden County Tourist Development Council: dosomethingoriginal.com Gulf County Tourist Development Council: visitgulf.com Gulf Islands National Seashore: nps.gov/guis Holmes County Tourist Development Council: unexploredflorida.com Jackson County Tourist Development Council: visitjacksoncountyfla.com Mexico Beach Community Development Council: mexicobeach.com Northwest Florida: explorenwflorida.com Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Office: getrelaxing.com Santa Rosa Island Authority: visitpensacolabeach.com Seaside Visitors Bureau: seasidefl.com South Walton Tourist Development Council: visitsouthwalton.com Visit Panama City Beach: visitpanamacitybeach.com Visit Pensacola: visitpensacola.com

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NORTHWEST FLORIDA ARTS AND CULTURE

FLORIDA CAVERNS STATE PARK • DENISE RAMOS

INSIDER’S TIPS If you’re bringing Fido with you, St. George Island and Alligator Point in Franklin County have pet-friendly beaches, as does Panama City Beach. Take the road less traveled in Jackson County, where wildlife, farms, rolling hills, wooded areas, streams and canopy trees line nearly 800 miles of unpaved roads. In Panama City, Bay Town Trolley offers convenient public transportation and has multiple stops throughout the city (baytowntrolley.org). Pier Park in Panama City Beach offers unforgettable outdoor shopping and dining experiences. From your favorite retail stores and one-of-a-kind boutiques to great restaurants, sweet shops and amusement rides, there’s something for everyone here! The Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau hosts free nighttime educational beach walks from May to October, suitable for ages six and over. Learn about the nesting habits of sea turtles, which species nest along the beaches of Okaloosa Island and Destin, and how you can help protect them while on vacation. Reservations are required (ECTurtleWatch@gmail.com).

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In Franklin County, easternmost in the Northwest Florida region, Apalachicola is the best-known city. Once the third-largest port on the Gulf of Mexico, reminders of those halcyon days of steamers and schooners, railroads and lumber mills remain. The city’s historic district has nearly a thousand buildings and sites from a bygone era. Along the waterfront, structures that once served as commercial fishing factories and warehouses have evolved into seafood houses and galleries, and old shrimp boats now reside for eternity. Nearby, Cape St. George Lighthouse had been lighting the way for mariners since 1852, until it collapsed in 2005. Now it’s been rebuilt with a new museum. It’s no longer a working lighthouse (blame GPS), but you can’t tell the story of this region without relating the history of this structure. Panama City has four very interesting neighborhoods in which to roam. Downtown is filled with galleries and arts facilities such as the Martin Theatre, the City Marina, the Center for the Arts and the CityArts Cooperative. Historic St. Andrews still resembles the

quaint fishing village it was in the “old days.” Downtown North serves as the cultural hub of Panama City’s African-American community and Millville is named for its once-thriving paper-manufacturing and shipbuilding industries. Holmes County has a population of only some 20,000, however, it boasts one noteworthy historical residence. The Keith Cabin is an authentic 19th-century rural homestead on which William Thomas Keith grew cotton and tobacco . . . and expanded his land holdings from 10 acres to 190. You can access a very mystical and historical spot in this county at the Chattachoochee Indian Burial Grounds in Holmes County. South Walton is home to a vibrant arts community, anchored by the local Cultural Arts Alliance, and enhanced by the opening of the Foster Gallery in 2016. Every month, the vibrantly colored community of Seaside holds the Ruskin Place First Friday ArtWalk, featuring live music, hors d’oeuvres and wine in the largest collection of art galleries on the Northwest Florida Gulf coast. Artists at Gulf Place is an art cooperative including potters, sculptors, painters, jewelers, photographers and furniture-crafters, with

NAVAL AVIATION MUSEUM, PENSACOLA • VISIT PENSACOLA


workshops for kids. South Walton also boasts The Repertory Theatre in Seaside, one of Northwest Florida’s premier professional theater companies. At the Indian Temple Mound Museum in Fort Walton Beach, you can walk through 12,000 years of Native American life and admire one of the finest collections of prehistoric ceramics in the southeastern U.S. A short drive north of Fort Walton Beach, a more recent period of history comes alive at the Air Force Armament Museum, which takes you from the early biplanes of World War I to the SR-71 Blackbird—the fastest aircraft ever built. If Broadway shows and the Northwest Florida Symphony pique your interest, check the schedule at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center. The town of Milton is filled with historical homes and storefronts leading to the Blackwater River waterfront, once the epicenter of thriving timber and shipbuilding industries here. At the old post office, you can ogle the antiques while eating lunch. And you can step back into the 19th century at the renovated railroad depot at the West Florida Railroad Museum. At the western end of Northwest Florida, the city of Pensacola boasts two significant distinctions. It was the first settlement founded by immigrants to America (although later deserted for a few years, thereby ceding to St. Augustine the title of first permanent settlement). And this city of around 52,000 is one of the few in the U.S. with five professional performing arts companies. Pensacola’s iconic Saenger Theatre first opened its doors in 1925, and is now restored to her original glory, hosting dance and musical companies, theater and a Classic Movie Series. Also, Jackson County’s Spanish Heritage trail treats you to 150 miles of beautiful scenery, as well as fascinating old missions, settlements and historic sites. And the Gadsden Arts Center & Museum takes visitors on a trip through contemporary Southern art, while the Davis Shade Tobacco Barn will take you on an historic trip through time. Both are in the town of Quincy. In the Washington County town of Chipley, the Spanish Trail Playhouse is one of the few remaining volunteer theater companies in the state.

ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY

AUGUST

30A Songwriters Festival, South Walton

Paddle at the Porch, Destin

Apalachicola Oyster Cook-off

Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam, Panama City Beach

Pensacola Beach Run Half Marathon and 10K/5K

Wausau Funday & Possum Festival

Stars & Guitars, Panama City

SEPTEMBER FEBRUARY

Gulf Coast Summer Fest, Pensacola

30A Wine Festival at Alys Beach, South Walton

Pensacola Seafood Festival

Emerald Coast Parrot Head Annual Chili

Sandestin RUN/SUP Race

Cook-off, Destin Mardi Gras, Pensacola St. Andrews Mardi Gras, Panama City

Vettes at the Beach (Corvettes), Pensacola Beach WC Heritage Festival, Chipley

Sandestin Gumbo Festival, South Walton

OCTOBER MARCH

BBQ in the Pines, Chipley

Carrabelle Riverfront Festival

Billy Brock Farms Fall Days

Down Home Street Festival, Bonifay

Boggy Fest, Niceville

Gulf Breeze Celebrates the Arts Festival

Destin Fishing Rodeo

Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire and Pirate Festival,

Destin Seafood Festival

Pensacola

Florida Caverns Cultural Celebration, Marianna

St. George Island Chili Cook-off and Auction

Goat Day & Pioneers Day, Blountstown

UnWineD, Panama City Beach

Graceville Harvest Festival Northwest Florida Championship Rodeo,

APRIL Apalachicola Antique & Classic Boat & Car Show Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party, Perdido Key North Florida Wildflower Festival, Blountstown

Bonifay Oktoberfest, Panama City Pensacola Beach Art & Wine Festival Pensacola Greek Festival Schooners Lobster Festival, Panama City Beach Taste of the Beach, Pensacola

Pensacola Crawfish Festival Rock the Falls Music Festival, Chipley

NOVEMBER

Sandestin Wine Festival

Blue Angel Homecoming Air Show, Pensacola

South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival

Creek Indian Celebration Days, Pensacola Emerald Coast Cruizin’, Panama City Beach

MAY

Florida Seafood Festival, Apalachicola

Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival, Fort Walton Beach

Foo Foo Festival, Pensacola

Digital Graffiti at Alys Beach, South Walton

Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival, Pensacola

Forgotten Coast En Plein Air Paint-out,

Seeing Red Wine Festival, Seaside

Franklin County/Gulf County

Thunderbird Intertribal Powwow, Destin

Marianna Municipal Airport Fly-In Tupelo Honey Festival, Wewahitchka

NOVEMBER–DECEMBER Malone Pecan Festival

JUNE

Pensacola Winterfest

Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, Sandestin Panhandle Watermelon Festival, Chipley

DECEMBER

South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival

Destin Holiday on the Harbor Lighted Boat Parade Lighted Boat Parade, Pensacola

JULY

New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, Panama City Beach

Firecracker Day, Vernon

NYE Pelican Drop, Pensacola

July 4th Fireworks, Panama City Beach

Robert E. Long Cane Syrup Day, Two Egg

Pensacola Beach Air Show

Scott 1817 Seminole War Battle, Chattahoochee

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ATTRACTIONS Franklin County’s attractions highlight its natural beauty, such as the Apalachicola National Forest and the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, complete with fish tanks and interactive displays. A long time ago, a Liberty County resident named E.E. Callaway claimed he had found the Garden of Eden in Liberty County. Maybe, maybe not. But the county does have a part of paradise in its share of the Apalachicola National Forest. No visit to Northwest Florida should end without a horseback ride on the beach, particularly in dream-like spots such as Cape San Blas. If you prefer your water inland (with oars or on a tour boat), head for the Dead Lakes, a unique ecosystem that’s part swamp, part river, part lake, and all pristine wilderness. In Panama City Beach, the Man in the Sea Museum covers the history of diving and the Navy’s “Man in the Sea Program,” which showcases SEALAB I, the Navy’s first-ever underwater habitat. New to Panama City Beach is Swampy Jack’s WONGO Adventure, a hybrid amusement park that opened last fall. It currently features five thrilling rides and attractions including Marrakesh Road Rally— an interactive electric go-kart experience and the Yacuma—a huge serpent wipeout ride. Also, the SkyWheel entertainment venue—

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FLORIDA SEAFOOD FESTIVAL, APALACHICOLA • FRANKLIN COUNTY TDC

whose leading draw is the SkyWheel, a 53meter, observation wheel with 30 climatecontrolled, fully enclosed gondolas—added the SkyTrail Ropes Course to their current lineup. It is an aerial attraction with suspended bridges, cargo nets and rope ladders, engineered for an adrenaline rush. Panama City, too, lives on the water. Shell Island Cruises takes you out to snorkel with the dolphins. Chipley has family fun spots like the

MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS

1

GULFARIUM MARINE ADVENTURE PARK, FORT WALTON BEACH: gulfarium.com

2

LIGHTHOUSES ACROSS NORTHWEST FLORIDA: explorenwflorida.com

3

NATIONAL NAVAL AVIATION MUSEUM, PENSACOLA: navalaviationmuseum.org

4

SPRINGS OF NORTHWEST FLORIDA: nwfwater.com/water-resources/springs

5

ZOOWORLD ZOOLOGICAL, PANAMA CITY BEACH: zooworldpcb.com

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Seacrest Wolf Preserve, where you can interact not only with wolves, but also with foxes, raccoons, skunks and Pecos the Coyote. At the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center, there’s a working beehive, a birdwatching station, a rescued snapping turtle, and several species of snakes and frogs. The Destin/Fort Walton Beach/Okaloosa Island area, also known as the Heart of the Emerald Coast, offers attractions such as the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, where you can frolic in the water with rays and spend time observing dolphins. If your kids love dinosaurs, head for Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone, with animatronic Dinosaur-themed and Pirate-themed mini golf courses, a bungee trampoline, laser tag, arcade, incredible 4-D movie theater, and, yes, dinosaurs. Santa Rosa County’s Gulf Breeze Zoo showcases over 50 acres of animals from around the world, and the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station combines hands-on learning and entertainment. In Escambia County, historic Pensacola Village is the site of the original Spanish and British forts in a city over which five flags have flown. In the Pensacola Lighthouse, built in 1859, climb the 177 steps for a dramatic panoramic view of the Gulf Coast.


BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS Northwest Florida’s beaches are worldrenowned. Frolic on more than 227 miles of white, fine-grained, sugar-sand beaches stretching from Apalachicola in the east to Pensacola in the west. And often, they’re so uncrowded that you may come to think of them as your own private playgrounds! The Apalachicola National Forest proffers 564,000 acres that are perfect for camping, picnicking, hiking, biking, boating, hunting and fishing. Offshore, St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge is a 12,490-acre barrier island accessible only by boat; the only residents you’ll see will be wildlife, such as nesting bald eagles, loggerhead sea turtles, and, if you’re lucky, a red wolf and perhaps a pup from last season’s new litter. Situated on the bluffs overlooking the Apalachicola River, Torreya State Park offers excellent hiking and camping facilities. In addition, the Ochlockonee and Chipola Rivers are ideal for kayaking and fishing. If you’re looking for the most spectacular sunsets you’ve ever seen, head for St. Joe Beach and Beacon Hill. Here, a shoreline leading to the horizon offers million-dollar views of the Gulf sun, blazing with color as it sets behind the silhouette of St. Joseph Peninsula. From there, it’s a short drive to Panama City Beach where outdoor enthusiasts can hike and birdwatch along scenic trails, camp along the shore, enjoy unparalleled boating, fishing and diving, take kayaking tours, go off-road cycling, try stand-up paddleboarding and more. And, with everything from airboat adventures to glass-bottom boat tours and marine rescue programs, there are many ways to experience and observe the surrounding wildlife. At the 2,900-acre Panama City Beach Conservation Park, visitors enjoy boardwalks and 24 miles of unpaved trails, which are connected with other trail systems known as Gayle’s Trails through the beach area. On the eastern edge of Panama City Beach, St. Andrews State Park is ranked among the top beaches in the U.S. and is one of the most popular outdoor recreation spots in Florida. Across from the mainland, Shell Island is a peaceful spot to relax or snorkel and the area surrounding the island is home to one of the largest

concentrations of bottlenose dolphins in the country. Shuttle boat service to the island is available during spring, summer and fall. Other locations worth checking out include Pine Log & Point Washington State Forests, Camp Helen State Park and the Florida Trail at Econfina Creek. Gulf Islands National Seashore is one gigantic playground, which includes the barrier islands of Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key and Okaloosa Island. Among the best beaches in Northwest Florida is the pristine five-mile stretch in the charming little town of Mexico Beach, where the beach consists of fine, white quartz crystals, which give the water its gem-like color. Then there’s the Emerald Coast, voted “No. 1 Beach in the South” for many years.

Heading inland, Florida Caverns State Park is home to the only guided dry cave tours in the state. Nearby is the Bellamy Bridge, said to be haunted by—who else?— the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge. Visitors in this area enjoy paddling, birdwatching, hiking, horseback riding, and some of the best bass fishing in the state. For an incredible cave-diving experience, check out Cave Adventurers to book dive lessons or trips at Merritt’s Mill Pond. Falling Waters State Park in Chipley has the tallest waterfall in the state, at 70 feet, and an observation platform from which to enjoy the falls and the surrounding forest. And Ponce de Leon State Park in Marianna has a wonderfully-scenic recreation spot in Merritt’s Mill Pond.

MARDI GRAS, ST. ANDREWS BEACH • DESTINATION PANAMA CITY/DOUG DOBOS

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ENTERTAINMENT If you’re talkin’ Northwest Florida cookin’, you’re talkin’ fresh seafood. One of the best places to find it is in the town of Eastpoint, across the bay from Apalachicola and St. George Island. Eastpoint is lined with rustic seafood houses, serving freshly harvested Apalachicola Bay oysters just hauled in by the weathered skiffs outside. And the oysters come with an extra dose of friendliness as many of these restaurants are now into the fourth generation of family ownership. Panama City offers a variety of nightlife options, among them the multi-venue musical jam called “Music Matters.” The Corner Pocket is a non-smoking pool hall with the city’s largest selection of craft beer and is an owner-operated Cicerone establishment. The Place Downtown, in the historic district of Panama City, features trivia nights and weekly dances with live bands. Neighboring Panama City Beach is a flipflops town during the day, however, when the sun goes down its partying side comes out. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is a branch of Nashville’s world-famous honky-tonk with live country music, nightly. You can also hear live music at Pineapple Willie’s. And keep your throat moist because, in this town, there’s a good chance you’ll be using it for karaoke at night. In the town of Bonifay, you can find good food and sports at Sam’s Place, and pool tables and camaraderie at La Cue Billiards. The picturesque seaside town of Destin may bring back memories of that famous ‘50s song, Harbor Lights. HarborWalk Village and the Destin Harbor are the most romantic strolling spots in town, with great shopping and cool boutiques, galleries, family restaurants and attractions, bars and clubs, pub crawls, live music, and dancing amid those

BALLET PENSACOLA • VISIT PENSACOLA

harbor lights and lapping waters. In Pensacola, nightlife often revolves around performing arts companies like the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, Pensacola Opera, Pensacola Ballet and the Pensacola Little Theatre, the oldest continuously operating community theater in the southeastern U.S. The Seville Quarter is a huge venue offering seven rooms of nighttime entertainment, with DJs, pool tables, dance club, restaurants, live music and dueling pianos. And downtown’s Palafox Street is an exciting strip lined with restaurants, bars and clubs.

ROAD TRIPS The town of Mexico Beach boasts some of the best side trips in Northwest Florida. The Dead Lakes State Recreation Area, 23 miles away, offers perhaps the best freshwater fishing in the state, along with unusual scenery due to the stumps and dead tree trunks sticking out of the water. Another “natural” day trip from Mexico Beach is St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, accessible only by water. Here, you’ll see an incredible variety of wildlife, among them many species of birds, Sambar deer and the endangered red wolf. A good starting point is Indian Pass, an historic trading post and,

INTERNATIONAL GATEWAYS Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport: iflybeaches.com Pensacola International Airport: flypensacola.com

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supposedly, the site of Spanish buried treasure. The Washington County town of Chipley has its fair share of interesting historical buildings in the South Third Street Historic District. And you can take an extraordinary look at early life here at the Washington County Historical Museum. South Walton has 16 beach neighborhoods that make for a beautiful drive along the coast. You’ll drive along Scenic 30A through a variety of distinct neighborhood styles—so distinct, in fact, that you’ll know when you’re going from one town into another. The area’s upscale aura is evidenced by its many artists and galleries, funky local boutiques, and farm-to-table dining philosophy. This route also offers numerous opportunities to kayak on coastal dune lakes, play golf at a PGA-quality course, and bike along the 18-mile Timpoochee Trail. For something truly unique, check out the first Underwater Museum of Art (UMA) in the U.S. off Grayton Beach State Park, where a collection of seven underwater sculptures were installed in the summer of 2018 as artificial reefs to provide anchor points for marine life to inhabit. This ecotourism attraction was named one of TIME magazine’s “World’s 100 Greatest Places" and 12 more sculptures are in the works for a second installation. The Chautauqua Vineyards & Winery is a nice day trip from the Emerald Coast. You can tour the winery and learn the ABCs of grapegrowing, pruning, harvesting, crushing and bottling. You’ll be able to taste some of the wines that have earned Chautauqua over 140 awards, from dry wines and southern favorites to sweet muscadine and blueberry.


SHOPPING In the Jackson County town of Marianna sits a local treasure called Southern Craft Creamery. It’s a place that you won’t be in a hurry to leave, as they feature innovative ice cream treats such as Vanilla & Satsuma Jam, Tupelo Honey, and Roasted Banana with Salted Peanuts. Reid Avenue in Port St. Joe is a half-milelong stroll back into the Old South. Outdoor gear? Books? Jewelry? Local pottery or artwork? Luxury spa treatment? It’s all here, along with restaurants running the gamut from Italian and Southern to Chinese and Mexican. At the Salt Air Farmers’ Market, on the first and third Saturdays from February to early December, you can find clothing, crafts, antiques and timeless treasures along with fresh produce. As you drive through the charming little town of Mexico Beach, you’ll come to Frost Pottery Garden, with imported pottery, fountains, bird baths, wind chimes, jewelry and candles. The Little Village in Panama City has an offbeat collection of outdoor shops. At The Little Mustard Seed, wander through three stories overflowing with custom furniture, handmade soaps and lotions, jewelry, and a thousand items that have been revived, renewed and restored. Historic Downtown Panama City is home to the Elegant Endeavors Antique Emporium and Main Street Antiques, which have been featured on

different shows. Every Saturday, head over to the St. Andrews Farmers’ Market. Across the water in Panama City Beach, Pier Park is an “outdoor shopping and lifestyle center” with a wide variety of items to buy, eat or ogle. The Market Shops, at South Walton, offer outdoor shopping accompanied by musicians and artists. In Rosemary Beach, a planned town built in the mid-90s on the principle of “New Urbanism” (much like its neighbor Seaside, which preceded it by 15 years), the French Quarter, with its balconies and vividly colored buildings and curling wrought-iron railings, is a delightful place to spend an afternoon shopping and dining. In Destin, HarborWalk Village has a vibrant atmosphere, with vendors, artists and street performers outside, and stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay. On The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island, you’ll find five restaurants and some shops. Nearby Fort Walton Beach is filled with boutiques, restaurants and galleries—even a brewery. Hunt for bargains at Silver Sands Premium Outlets in Miramar Beach and Destin Commons. And, in Fort Walton Beach, De’France Antiques and Flea Market has treasures you never knew you needed until now. And if you have a yen to bring home something new from Pensacola, head for the shops on Palafox Street.

FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County culturalartsalliance.com Gadsden Art Museum gadsdenart.com Indian Temple Mound Museum, Fort Walton Beach fwb.org/parksrec/page/Indian-temple-moundmuseum Lighthouses Across Northwest Florida explorenwflorida.com Martin Theatre, Panama City martintheatre.com Museums of Carrabelle carrabelle.org Pensacola Saenger Theatre pensacolasaenger.com The Repertory Theatre, Seaside lovetherep.com

ATTRACTIONS Gulf Breeze Zoo, Santa Rosa County gulfbreezezoo.org Historic Pensacola historicpensacola.org Panhandle Pioneer Settlement pioneersettlement.org Pensacola Lighthouse and Maritime Museum pensacolalighthouse.org

BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS Camp Helen State Park floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ Camp-Helen-state-park Florida Caverns State Park floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ Florida-Caverns-state-park St. Joe Beach visitgulf.com Torreya State Park floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ Torreya-state-park

ENTERTAINMENT DESTIN COMMONS PATRIOT’S CIRCLE • EMERALD COAST CVB

Pensacola Little Theatre pensacolalittletheatre.com Seville Quarter, Pensacola sevillequarter.com

ROAD TRIPS St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/st_vincent South Third Street Historic District, Chipley visitwcfla.com Underwater Museum of Art umafl.org

SHOPPING Destin Commons destincommons.com The Little Village, Panama City littlevillagepc.com The Market Shops, South Walton visitsouthwalton.com/listing/the-market-shops Silver Sands Premium Outlets, Miramar Beach premiumoutlets.com/outlet/silver-sands Shop Small Historic Downtown Main Streets explorenwflorida.com

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Plan your perfect getaway BY JONATHAN WESTBANK SHELL ISLAND • VISIT PANAMA CITY BEACH

H

ome to 27 miles of sugar-white sand beaches, turquoise waters, 320 days of sunshine annually and a year-round calendar of exciting events, Panama City Beach is beloved by travelers of all types seeking an enjoyable beach vacation. Discover the many ways to make it your perfect getaway. From activities for the adrenaline-junkie, eco-adventures, romance and entertainment to food and family beach time, Panama City Beach offers a dream vacation. Thrill-seekers of all ages can explore Florida’s wild side in Panama City Beach by land, sea and air. Spot sea life from a helicopter, swim with dolphins off Shell Island, skid through inland marshland on an airboat or fly across the ocean on a jet ski. Couples will also love Panama City Beach’s natural beauty, waterfront accommodations, pampering spas and romantic restaurants. Take a sunset stroll on the picturesque beach, enjoy Swedish massages at one of the spas and a candlelit dinner. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind.

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CITY PIER BEACH • VISIT PANAMA CITY BEACH

Blessed with secluded stretches of sand, dense woodlands and wild wetlands, the area offers opportunities to experience nature with plentiful eco-adventures. The destination has some of the most beautiful state parks in the U.S., such as St. Andrews and Camp Helen. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking, birdwatching along scenic trails, boating, fishing, diving, kayaking, offroad cycling, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) and more. A variety of family-friendly activities involve marine attractions, water parks,

pirate cruises, boating, fishing, snorkeling, diving and parasailing. Popular family attractions include a boat ride to the pristine Shell Island and watching sunsets from the SkyWheel. Known as the “Seafood Capital of the South,” Panama City Beach showcases an array of dining venues to please all palates including award-winning restaurants, casual beachfront cafés and family-friendly tables. Cajun influences abound as chefs fuse bold flavors and fresh seafood to create signature dishes in distinct spaces that make the most of their seaside setting. Whether you are an outdoor adventurer, a couple seeking romance, a family of beach lovers, an entertainment enthusiast or a foodie in Panama City Beach, you can make it your Real.FUN.Beach.

FEATURED LINKS Panama City Beach: VisitPanamaCityBeach.com


EXPLORE NORTHWEST FLORIDA

A world of natural wonders and adventures BY STEVE WINSTON

SOUTH WALTON • EXPLORE NORTHWEST FLORIDA

N

orthwest Florida encompasses 10 counties, ranging from historical fishing villages in the east to the renowned sugar-white sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Here, where high-rises and crowds don’t exist, walkable small towns with friendly people and interesting shops still thrive. Mother Nature has blessed this region everywhere you look. Play golf on a beautifully manicured course in the morning, and paddle or hike through virgin wilderness and unique ecosystems in the afternoon. Roam through towns like Apalachicola or Marianna, where history lives on in classic old buildings. Or let the gentle breeze embrace you as you lounge on the worldfamous beaches of South Walton. Explore crystal-clear natural springs— 68°F year-round—at Ponce de Leon Springs State Park or Merritt’s Mill Pond by boat or on a snorkeling or swimming excursion. Survey nature from the bluffs at Torreya State Park in Liberty County. In fact, a dozen state parks here offer camping, on both coastal and inland sites, where you can get up close and personal with Florida wildlife.

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SUNSET SAIL, ST. ANDREWS BAY • EXPLORE NORTHWEST FLORIDA

At Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, explore an amazing subterranean system of caves featuring incredible rock formations and green ponds. Hike a beautiful trail to the waterfalls at Falling Waters State Park in Chipley or along any of the two dozen other trails in Northwest Florida. Observe dolphins rollicking in the Gulf of Mexico surf from the numerous white-sand beaches or sand dunes along the coast, or on board one of many fishing boats or charters. Try your hand at paddleboarding, surfboarding, kayaking or rowing.

For divers, there are a half-dozen watery caves and offshore artificial reefs to explore. And fishing, both inland along the tributaries of the Apalachicola and Choctawhatchee rivers and on the Gulf, has been popular here for generations. Take time to cruise the country roads and discover scenic little towns filled with one-of-a-kind shops and locally owned restaurants serving Southern and coastal cuisine. Local specialties include grouper throats, boiled peanuts and oysters. Also capturing the region’s Southern heritage are beautiful old mansions such as the plantation-style Governor A.K. Allison House (circa 1843) in Quincy. Northwest Florida is packed with stunning natural beauty, amusements for the entire family, restaurants featuring down-home cookin’ and plain old-fashioned enjoyment!

FEATURED LINKS Explore Northwest Florida: explorenwflorida.com


JACKSON COUNTY

Florida’s natural side BY STEVE WINSTON

KAYAK FISHING ON MERRITT’S MILL POND • JACKSON COUNTY TDC/JOHN STARRETT PHOTOGRAPHY

Y

ou won’t find high-rises, crowds or

Florida Caverns State Park have re-opened.

Center for the Arts at Chipola College stages a

traffic in Jackson County. Instead,

Rivers like the Chattahoochee and the Chipola,

variety of performances and the college’s

villages

along which runs the beautiful Chipola River

sports teams play to enthusiastic crowds.

such

as

Marianna,

Graceville or Malone are waiting to be

Greenway, are flowing freely again.

eclectic

Northwest Florida’s first AgriTourism Trail

boutiques and antique shops. Tour Old

features U-picks, farmers’ markets, fresh

Florida homes and underground caverns.

produce stands and farm-to-table specialties.

Explore the natural beauty of Merritt’s Mill

You can almost hear the sounds of battle

discovered.

Browse

around

Pond and along wilderness trails.

at the Civil War battlefield in Marianna.

Although Jackson County is still recovering

Some say nocturnal visitors lurk at the 1914

from Hurricane Michael, many hotels, restau-

bridge on the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail.

rants, nature trails, campgrounds and the

During winter and spring, the Gene Prough

So, if you’re looking for an Old Florida experience and delightful surprises at every turn, remember Jackson County.

FEATURED LINKS Jackson County Tourist Development Council: VisitJacksonCountyFla.com


FRANKLIN COUNTY

You’ll never forget Florida’s forgotten coast BY STEVE WINSTON

CARRABELLE WATERFRONT AT DAWN • FORREST WESSON

“F

lorida’s Forgotten Coast,” actually the panhandle’s Franklin County, was so named because it is a beautiful, peaceful place that’s a bit under the radar. And it certainly has been forgotten, all right. Forgotten by crowds. Forgotten by highrises. Forgotten by traffic jams. And forgotten by outrageous lodging and dining and shopping prices. But it won’t be forgotten by you…ever. Here, you’ll still feel salty ocean breezes. You’ll still find old-fashioned Southern hospitality, and friendly “Y’alls.” You’ll still find beaches on which your family may be the only people. And here, you’ll still find colorful old-time fishing villages like Apalachicola, where the fishing fleet still “comes in” to the docks every day. There are historic neighborhoods with interesting little shops, and seafood restaurants offering specialties—such as the famed Apalachicola oysters—that were in the bay just an hour ago. On the idyllic tropical getaway of St. George Island, the historic St. George Island Lighthouse dates back to 1853. The town of Carrabelle has the Crooked River

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2020 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

APALACHICOLA FEATURES A VARIETY OF DINING OPTIONS • VISIT FLORIDA

Lighthouse, built in 1895, and also proudly boasts “the world’s smallest police station”— actually an old phone booth! Both lighthouses have been faithfully restored, and now feature interesting museums. A tiny town called Eastpoint offers boat tours, fishing charters, and opportunities to get out on the water in a kayak or canoe. And Alligator Point, at the easternmost end of Franklin County, has uncrowded beaches with great fishing. On the “Forgettable Coast,” you’ll see the wonders of Mother Nature everywhere. Franklin County is 90 percent state and national forest, with great hiking and biking trails. You can row, kayak, or float on the

numerous lakes and rivers, or on the Gulf of Mexico. And don’t miss the sunsets on the Gulf! Franklin County, however, is also about what you won’t see. For example, traffic lights—there’s only one in the entire county! This region is full of surprises, such as the mom-and-pop shops and the eclectic boutiques and galleries. Or the burgeoning foodie scene, with creative young chefs and new takes on old seafood specialties, and an up-and-coming craft-brewery scene epitomized by Oyster City Brewery and Eastpoint Beer Company. Or the vibrant new music scene. This region is a relaxing, pet-friendly place—including the beaches—where the scenic old villages are built for walking, and each street has its own special character. Franklin County, in a word, is authentic. And when you visit, you’ll leave believing that the “Forgotten Coast” should be changed to “Unforgettable Coast!”

FEATURED LINKS Franklin County Tourist Development Council FloridasForgottenCoast.com


NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA

A WELCOME SURPRISE

In the galaxy of Florida tourism, North Central Florida often goes unnoticed. It has few beaches and no theme parks, yet many visitors are now discovering what nature enthusiasts have long known. Rare natural scenes thrive in the prairies, forests, sweetwater springs, freeflowing rivers and the remote Big Bend area on the Gulf of Mexico. BY JANET GROENE

SNOWY EGRET, WAKULLA COUNTY • VISIT WAKULLA


A DAY IN... LAKE CITY/ COLUMBIA COUNTY

GAINESVILLE

TALLAHASSEE

WAKULLA COUNTY

Kick off your day with a

Take a guided tour of the 1845

Begin your day wildlife watching

Rise and shine as you greet the

refreshing dive into one of the

Historic Capitol (now a museum)

at the beautiful St. Marks National

morning at Alligator Lake Park,

area’s natural freshwater springs.

and Museum of Florida History.

Wildlife Refuge. Then head over to

known for its extensive hiking

After working up an appetite,

Breeze through Florida State

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State

and biking trails teeming with

grab lunch at the award-

University and Florida A&M

Park where you can board a Jungle

birdwatching and nature encoun-

winning Great Outdoors Restau-

University

and

Cruise from Wakulla Springs up

ters. Afterward, it’s time for a

rant in High Springs. Discover

Cascades Park. Enjoy lunch

the river. Lunchtime is the perfect

stroll through downtown Lake

the past at the Florida Museum

outdoors before exploring

time to slip into the Edward Ball

City, filled with eclectic shops,

of

Mission San Luis, the only re-

Dining Room and stop at the Soda

Natural

History

before

campuses

th

local art and an historic museum.

heading out into nature at

constructed 17 -century Spanish

Fountain for a root beer float at the

After lunch at the Marion Street

Paynes Prairie Preserve State

mission in the southeast. Head to

world’s longest marble soda

Gastro Pub and Deli, dive into

Park

120-foot

the Tallahassee Museum to zip

fountain. Round out the day with

Florida’s cool and refreshing

sinkhole at Devil’s Millhopper

through treetops and over cypress

an afternoon kayak trip to explore

spring waters at the world-

Geological State Park. As the sun

swamps, tour pioneer buildings

more of the endless natural

famous Ichetucknee Springs.

sets, head into lively downtown

and observe native wildlife.

resources in the area. End your

Relax a bit before heading

Gainesville for dining options

Dine at an award-winning

day at Posey Up the Creek Steam

back to downtown Lake City for

like Dragonfly Sushi, The Top, or

restaurant

a

Room & Oyster Bar in Panacea to

cocktails and dinner.

Emiliano’s Café.

nightcap

renowned

savor some of the best seafood in

or

down

a

followed at

the

Bradfordville Blues Club.

by

Florida.

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA

YOUR NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA EXPERTS

Alachua County Visitors & Convention Bureau: visitgainesville.com Columbia County Tourist Development Council: springsrus.com Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce: gadsdencc.com Hamilton County Tourist Development Council: hamiltoncountyflorida.com Jefferson County Tourism Development Council: visitjeffersoncountyflorida.org Levy County Visitors Bureau: visitnaturecoast.com Suwannee County Chamber of Commerce: suwanneechamber.com Taylor County Tourism Development Council: taylorflorida.com Visit Tallahassee: visittallahassee.com Visit Wakulla: visitwakulla.com

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ARTS AND CULTURE At the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida in Gainesville see one of the world’s iconic Hammering Man statues by Jonathan Borofsky plus more than 10,000 pieces of African, Asian and contemporary art. Also on display are comprehensive collections of Ancient American, oceanic and natural history art. Five outdoor spaces include the Asian Water Garden and an Asian Rock Garden. Theatergoers can find live professional productions as well as art cinema and art exhibits at Gainesville’s architecturally impressive Hippodrome. It’s housed in the historic Federal Building, richly designed with Corinthian columns and elaborate trim. Anchored by an early (1867) Gainesville homestead, Matheson History Museum showcases local history and native plants in its botanical garden. The complex also includes the Tilson Tool Barn and the quaint 1933 Gainesville Gospel Tabernacle building that serves as the museum library. The Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus is best known for its Butterfly Rainforest. Don’t miss its extensive collections in fields of archaeology, paleontology and ethnography. Outdoors, stroll along nature paths.

INSIDER’S TIPS In addition to this area’s regional airports, locals fly out of Valdosta, Georgia, where a Delta Connection flies three times daily to Atlanta International Airport. Cell phone service in this region’s outback is spotty and GPS is unreliable. Plan for alternative ways to communicate and navigate. Gainesville’s UFHealth Shands Hospital at the University of Florida is internationally known for medical tourism. Many local hotels offer discounts and shuttle service to patients and their families.

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MUSEUM OF FLORIDA HISTORY • VISIT TALLAHASSEE/STEVE MURRAY

Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs has campsites, cabins, ranger-led events and hiking trails, the same as other state parks, but resident artists make this stop a vibrant center for Florida folk art every day. Programs feature concerts, retreats and expert crafters. Heading west to Tallahassee via I-10, stop briefly in Greenville. Tour the restored home of jazz legend Ray Charles, until he was 15, (1930–2004) by appointment or just grab a quick photo of the impressive bronze statue of the iconic musician. Continuing west to Monticello, see the historic Monticello Opera House. In the vaudeville era, touring troupes played the area’s many opera houses. This one still hosts live performances. The Tallahassee Museum is a 52-acre collection of buildings representing 19thcentury commercial, farm and social life in North Florida. One of the most intriguing

is Bellevue, a modest but caringly restored plantation home of a real princess. Catherine Daingerfield Willis, great grandniece of George Washington, became a royal when she married Prince Achille Murat, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. When Napoleon was exiled, the couple fled from France to the United States. The prince served as Tallahassee postmaster and Catherine bought a 520-acre cotton plantation. Their burial plot is in the St. John’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in downtown Tallahassee. Tallahassee’s performance arts include fully staged Florida State Opera productions at Florida State University. A large outdoor venue for seasonal festivals, concerts and events is the Capital City Amphitheater at Cascades Park downtown. Civic venues offer occasional touring shows such as a Broadway series.


ATTRACTIONS Depot Park, a 32-acre family playground and cultural center on the site of Gainesville’s historic railroad station, is fully accessible to adults and children with physical challenges. On hot days, get wet in the splash pad. On the water’s edge, you may see pop-up art galleries, food trucks and festivals throughout the year. Come here any day to find outdoor grills, picnic pavilions and nature trails. Enjoy indoor fun at Depot Park in the Cade Museum of Creativity and Invention, which opened in 2018. Bring the family to engage with displays highlighting innovation. In Tallahassee, Goodwood Museum & Gardens began as a 2,400-acre corn and cotton plantation in the 1830s. The stately home was owner-occupied into the 1920s and its furnishings reflect its many layers of history. The gardens have been returned to the original, 19th-century plantings of heirloom roses, bulbs and sago palms. Something is in bloom all year in a setting of towering live oaks. Despite its modern look, Tallahassee is one of the South’s oldest communities. The Spanish settlement at St. Augustine traded with the Native American Apalachee people here 500 years ago. When the British won Florida from the

Spanish, the Apalachee people fled west and burned their village. Now it has been reconstructed, a living replica of Spanish and Native American life. The Mission San Luis de Apalachee in Tallahassee is a busy village peopled by Spanish “soldiers” at the fort, “friars” at the church and native townspeople who raise crops, weave, make horseshoes, feed chickens and meet at the council house. A faithful restoration, based on original Spanish records and placed on actual sites, the Mission recreates the village when the Natives and their Spanish friends fled approaching English armies in 1704. Although the Tallahassee Automobile and Collectibles Museum has more than 160 vehicles, it’s about much more than cars. The 100,000-square-foot building holds one of the finest private displays of Steinway pianos plus extensive collections of boats, knives, vintage sports items, dolls, Native American artifacts, motorcycles, railroad memorabilia and rare oddities. Plan to spend all day. The Challenger Learning Center in downtown Tallahassee is a university-led outreach for students from kindergarten to age 12. Adults are welcome. See eyepopping IMAX documentaries and attend planetarium shows.

ST. MARK’S NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE • VISIT FLORIDA/KEVIN MCGEEVER

FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE Capital City Amphitheater, Tallahassee capitalcityamphitheater.com Cascades Park, Tallahassee talgov.com/parks/parks-cascades.aspx Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville floridamuseum.ufl.edu Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville harn.ufl.edu Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, White Springs floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ Stephen-Foster-folk-center-state-park

ATTRACTIONS Cade Museum, Gainesville cademuseum.org Depot Park, Gainesville depotpark.org Florida Historic Capitol Museum, Tallahassee flhistoriccapitol.gov Goodwood Museum & Gardens, Tallahassee goodwoodmuseum.org Museum of Florida History MuseumofFloridaHistory.com Tallahassee Automobile and Collectibles Museum tacm.com

BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, Tallahassee floridastateparks.org/maclaygardens Big Bend Scenic Byway floridabigbendscenicbyway.org Osceola National Forest fs.usda.gov/osceola Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Gainesville floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ Paynes-Prairie-preserve-state-park

ENTERTAINMENT The Hippodrome, Gainesville thehipp.org University of Florida Performing Arts performingarts.ufl.edu

ROAD TRIPS Forest Capital Museum State Park, Perry floridastateparks.org/park/Forest-Capital Suwannee River State Park floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/ Suwannee-River-state-park

SHOPPING Bradley’s Country Store, Felkel bradleyscountrystore.com Celebration Pointe, Gainesville celebrationpointe.com Town of Micanopy micanopytown.com

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FISHING, LAKE JACKSON • DESTINATION STYLE/GLENN HASTINGS

BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS Naturalist John Muir trekked through this region to end his famous Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf at Cedar Key, noting many previously unrecorded species of birds and plants. Look for them in the region’s state and national forests, preserves and parks.

5

Stretches of the Great Florida Birding Trail thread through the region, offering sightings of upland and coastal species. Hiking trails abound. Beachgoers speed past this area, lured to the snow-white sands of the Emerald Coast or eastward to the Atlantic beaches. That’s

MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS

1

CEDAR KEY: visitcedarkey.com

2

DEVIL’S MILLHOPPER GEOLOGICAL STATE PARK: floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/Devils-Millhopper-geological-state-park

3

EDWARD BALL WAKULLA SPRINGS STATE PARK: floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/edward-ball-Wakulla-Springs-state-park

4

LAKE JACKSON MOUNDS ARCHAEOLOGICAL STATE PARK: floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/Lake-Jackson-mounds-archaeological-state-park

5

MISSION SAN LUIS: missionsanluis.org

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good news for locals who know a dozen hidden springs, which feed the rivers, are popular swimming holes where hikers and paddlers pause for a swim. Keaton Beach, a fishing village south of Perry, has a sandy beach on the Gulf of Mexico. Tubing the area’s unique springs provides an intimate look at a tangled wilderness. Float through tunnels of vegetation too small for canoes. Entry points include Blue Spring State Park in High Springs and Fort White’s Ichetucknee Springs State Park. The Suwannee River can be paddled for its entire length, from north of Jacksonville to the Gulf of Mexico. Primitive camps are provided for overnight stays. Overnight lodgings, supplies and restaurants are found in White Springs and Dowling Park. An exceptional network of hiking, biking and equestrian trails is well maintained and mapped, thanks to the Florida Trail Association. Gainesville’s Loblolly Woods Nature Path is a serene hideaway in the heart of the city. The two-mile-long Hogtown Creek Greenway loop trail rewards all with views of woods, waters and wildlife seemingly untouched by urban sprawl. The Osceola National Forest’s most popular spot is Ocean Pond, a two-mile-wide swimming hole with a sandy beach. The 200,000-acre forest has hiking, birding, ATV, motorcycle and equestrian trails. The Tallahassee–St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail runs 20.5 miles from the capital to St. Marks. It’s part of Florida’s Greenways and Trails System, a National Recreation Trail and a portion of the developing 120-mile “Capital City to the Sea Loop” corridor on the Big Bend Scenic Byway. Trailahassee.com is an online resource with information and maps of more than 600 miles of trails in the Tallahassee area. Tallahassee’s Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park is a botanical showplace, renowned for winter blooming camellias. More of the region’s unique flora and fauna is found at such diverse spots as the sprawling savanna at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, a prehistoric sinkhole at Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park, the wetlands environment at Cedar Key and wooded upland habitats in state and national forests.


ENTERTAINMENT City life throbs too, thanks to major universities in Tallahassee and Gainesville. International students and faculty bring diverse cultures, ethnic cuisines and youthful energy to cities known for Old South heritage, food and hospitality. As the state capital, Tallahassee also hosts national and international political power brokers. In this region, variety is the spice of life. In the two major cities, student hangouts account for a large slice of nightlife. Abundant choices are found in affordable and supercharged restaurants, sports bars, coffee houses, jazz joints, open-mike nights, dance clubs and pubs. In Gainesville, the mother of all hangouts for every manner of Gator bait, from Univer-

sity of Florida students to elderly alumni, is The Swamp Restaurant near the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium where the Florida Gators football team draws huge crowds. Since 1994 the eatery has been serving the faithful with food, drinks, reunions and cheering sections indoors and out. The front lawn is paved with commemorative bricks. The place to go pub-crawling is West University Avenue, either near campus or in Historic Downtown, where around a dozen hot spots are mere yards apart. Bo Diddley Plaza is a community cultural center in Gainesville’s Historic District. By day it’s busy with lunchtime concerts and a weekly farmers’ market. Free concerts take place every Friday night from May to October.

As the home of Florida State University, Tallahassee has a youthful buzz and football mania. And, as the state capital, “Tally” hosts travelers from all over the world. Here, nightlife venues range from earshattering clubs favored by students to more sedate places for political dealmaking. A must-see is the Bradfordville Blues Club, the only Florida club on the National Blues Trail. Set your GPS and follow the dirt roads until you come to the bonfire and hear the wail of the blues. Known for drinks, late nights, high energy and live music are Bullwinkle’s Saloon and The Moon. Level 8 Lounge in the elegant Hotel Duval is popular for both after-work and after-dinner drinks, tapas and live music.

BOARDWALK, PAYNES PRAIRIE PRESERVE STATE PARK • VISIT GAINESVILLE

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WOOLLEY PARK PIER, WAKULLA COUNTY • VISIT WAKULLA

ROAD TRIPS The belly of this region is so sparsely populated that almost any paved road is a good place for a jog, two-wheel journey or a leisurely drive. The way is rimmed with wildflowers and passes by farm fields and pastures of grazing cattle, horses or goats. The main east-west route I-10 roughly follows ancient paths used since preColombian times. Old roads that parallel the interstate pass through charming communities where the clock stopped once the interstate opened. Starting at Lake City, perhaps with a loop up to White Springs, take U.S. 90 westward, stopping at Live Oak

for fried chicken at the Dixie Grill and a visit to the museum in the old railroad depot. Continue west to Suwannee River State Park on the site of a vanished community called Columbus. The park offers cabins, campsites, a boat launch and picnic sites. Hiking trails take you past Civil War-era fortifications, sawmill remains and an old cemetery. The highway then leads you through Madison with its stately courthouse and antebellum homes. Hotels, once patronized by tobacco auctioneers and cotton factories, now stand empty but the small downtown grid has antique shops and a few restaurants.

INTERNATIONAL GATEWAYS Gainesville Regional Airport: flygainesville.com Jacksonville International Airport: flyjacksonville.com Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport: iflybeaches.com Tallahassee International Airport: talgov.com/airport/airporthome.aspx

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West of Madison off U.S. 90, the Hixtown Swamp Conservation Area is a major wintering spot for wading birds. Public access allows wildlife viewing, fishing, picnics and hiking. Like Madison and Live Oak, Monticello is the county seat, centered by a grand courthouse. Drive around the small historical district, enjoy a meal and buy a bag of treats at Tupelo’s Bakery & Café. There’s also a museum in the old jail that’s worth checking out. U.S. 27, the original highway from Miami to the Midwest, provides an interesting north-south road trip through this region. Known by different names including Claude Pepper Memorial Highway throughout the region and the Apalachee Parkway in Tallahassee, it links High Springs, with its funky restaurants, B&B inns and old opera house, to Perry, home of Forest Capital Museum State Park. Little towns along the way include Branford, where cave divers find lodgings and outfitters, and Mayo, where you’ll discover authentic country food and captivating antique shops.


ANNUAL EVENTS SHOPPING The cities have popular shopping malls, anchored by familiar national chain stores, but the area’s most offbeat shopping is in communities where former main-street mercantiles have evolved into boutiques selling antiques, handmade items of all kinds, specialty foods and baked goods. Within a stroll of two or three blocks you can have lunch and shop for one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Micanopy (Mick-can-OH-pea) is a tiny hideaway on the site of a pre-Colombian settlement that was platted by a New York developer in the early 1800s. Mansions, homes and merchants took root, only to see a fickle public move on to other settlements. Seemingly frozen in the 1950s, the hamlet has restaurants, bookstores and antiques. Alachua’s old town center is home to quaint galleries and restaurants. At Dowling Park, crafters at Advent Christian Village retirement community create handmade quilts and baby gifts for sale in the Rustic Shop. The region has several wineries including Island Grove Wine Company and Bluefield Estate Winery, both creating fruit wines. Butler Plaza in Gainesville features two million square feet of retail space that includes 150 stores and numerous restaurants. In Gainesville, Celebration Pointe is a new 225-acre shopping, dining and entertainment center anchored by a Bass Pro Shop, a 140-room hotel and a multiplex movie theater complex. Ethnic food stores are abundant in the two college towns. On Southwest 34th Street in Gainesville, large stores specialize in Indian, Middle Eastern, Indonesian, Philippine and Asian foods rarely found elsewhere. Bradley’s Country Store, reached from Tallahassee via one of the region’s oakcloaked “canopy roads,” retains the oldtime charm of the 1927 original. Sausages are still made and smoked on-site. Stop to buy souvenirs and stock up on smoked meats, local honey, coarse-ground grits, mayhaw jelly, cracklings and such.

WILD BLACKBERRY FESTIVAL, JASPER • HAMILTON COUNTY TDC

JANUARY–FEBRUARY

JUNE

Hoggetown Medieval Faire, Gainesville

Blueberry Festival, Wellborn Florida African Dance Festival, Tallahassee Jefferson County Watermelon Festival, Monticello Wild Blackberry Festival, Jasper

FEBRUARY Fiddler Crab Festival, Steinhatchee Olustee Festival, Wilson Park, Lake City

JULY FEBRUARY–MAY

4th of July fireworks, region wide

Southern Shakespeare Festival, Tallahassee

SEPTEMBER MARCH Hogtown Craft Beer Festival, Gainesville Red Hills International Horse Trials, Tallahassee Sante Fe College Spring Arts Festival, Gainesville Spring Festival, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville Springtime Tallahassee Suwannee Spring Reunion, Live Oak

Smokin’ in the Pines BBQ Festival, Perry

OCTOBER Alligator Warrior Festival, O’Leno State Park Butterfly Fest, Gainesville Florida Bat Festival, Gainesville Florida Forest Festival, Perry Pioneer Day Festival, Mayo Stone Crab Festival, St. Marks

APRIL

NOVEMBER

Bradford County Strawberry Festival, Starke Cedar Key Arts Festival Down Home Days Festival Parade & Rodeo, Madison Florida State Bluegrass Festival, Perry LeMoyne Chain of Parks Art Festival, Tallahassee Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin’ Festival Tallahassee Jazz and Blues Festival Word of South Festival, Tallahassee

Bradleys Country Store Old Fashioned Fun Day, Tallahassee Cane Boil and Fiddle Fest, Gainesville Downtown Festival & Art Show, Gainesville Florida Tap Invitational All Florida Beerfest, Tallahassee Micanopy Fall Harvest Festival

MAY Florida Folk Festival, White Springs Hamilton County Rodeo, Jasper Suwannee River Jam, Live Oak

DECEMBER Christmas on the Square, Live Oak Festival of Lights, Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park Maclay Gardens Camellia Christmas, Tallahassee Market Days, Tallahassee Suwannee Lights, Live Oak

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NORTHEAST FLORIDA

SUN, HISTORY AND FUN

Northeast Florida is often called the First Coast or Historic Coast, and with good reason. Spanish explorers first landed here more than 500 years ago, when Ponce de León named the region "La Florida" in 1513. Today, the Historic Coast blends its European influence with Southern hospitality, welcoming beaches and plenty of fun. Northeast Florida begins where Interstate 95 crosses into the state from Georgia. The area includes the major cities of Jacksonville and St. Augustine as well as the popular areas of Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach and Palm Coast. BY VANESSA CACERES GOLFING, AMELIA ISLAND • AMELIA ISLAND CVB


A DAY IN... AMELIA ISLAND

JACKSONVILLE

Start with a sunrise stand up

Welcome a new day with a

ST. AUGUSTINE & PONTE VEDRA

Tour Palatka’s 30 plus murals

paddleboard outing along 13

sunrise beach walk, then fuel up

Step back in time at the historic

that depict the history of

miles

Atlantic

your morning with fresh biscuits

Castillo de San Marcos National

Putnam County. Plan to visit the

shoreline, or settle into a kayak

at Maple Street Biscuit Company

Monument. Take a sip of legen-

1850s

and enjoy a guided tour through

and a local coffee at Bold Bean

dary water at the Fountain of

Mulholland House and adjacent

the marsh and surrounding

Coffee Roasters. Grab your board,

Youth. Keep little hands busy

Putnam Historic Museum. Drive

waterways. Plan an afternoon at

or rent one, and learn to surf in

at the interactive Pirate and

or hike through the scenic

Fort Clinch, followed by a

Jax Beach, one of the best spots

Treasure Museum. See every

Ravine Gardens State Park. Be

shopping stroll in downtown

in Florida! For lunch, enjoy the

species of crocodilian at the

sure to visit the St. Johns River

Fernandina Beach to uncover

locally caught Mayport shrimp at

St. Augustine Alligator Farm

Center located on the beautiful

the history and charm, which

one of the fish camps (casual

Zoological Park. Find your perfect

St. Johns Riverfront Park. Dine in

keep the destination a top island

seafood restaurant). In Riverside,

spot on the shore along 42 miles

one of Putnam County’s restau-

favorite among Condé Nast

explore the Cummer Museum of

of beach. Challenge your golf

rants where you can get local

Traveler’s readers. Spend your

Art and Gardens, then enjoy

game at the Stadium Course at

fare and catch the vibe of the

evening

dinner and a craft beer in the

TPC Sawgrass. Enjoy the spicy

town. End your day relaxing

famous Five Points district.

datil pepper in the Minorcan

aboard a water taxi on the

Clam Chowder at Barnacle Bills.

beautiful St. Johns River.

of

scenic

savoring

culinary

delights at one of the nationally acclaimed chefs’ tables.

PUTNAM COUNTY

Antebellum

Bronson-

NORTHEAST FLORIDA

YOUR NORTHEAST FLORIDA EXPERTS Amelia Island Tourist Development Council: ameliaisland.com City of Green Cove Springs: greencovesprings.com City of Fernandina Beach: fbfl.us Clay County Tourist Development Council: claycountygov.com/departments/tourism Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches: visitflagler.com Putnam County Chamber of Commerce: putnamcountychamber.com St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau: floridashistoriccoast.com Visit Jacksonville and the Beaches: visitjacksonville.com

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FORT CLINCH, AMELIA ISLAND • AMELIA ISLAND CVB

ARTS AND CULTURE

INSIDER’S TIPS Jacksonville is the largest city by landmass in the continental United States. If you are visiting for a few days, consider renting a car to experience all of its local, historical neighborhoods, beaches and national parks. Got a hankering for more than just seafood? Then Clark’s Fish Camp in Jacksonville is the place to visit. Try specialty items like alligator poppers, gator tail, fried turtle, llama, antelope and ostrich. Clark’s displays a large collection of taxidermy around the restaurant and has a live exhibit—Lilly’s Pad—with turtles, fish and Lilly, a fivefoot North American alligator. One of the lesser-known but spectacular attractions in St. Augustine is the tour of Flagler College. Built by Henry M. Flagler in 1888, the college is a national historic landmark. Students lead tours twice a day for just US$12 a person.

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Northeast Florida has no shortage of arts and culture destinations. From a symphony orchestra to well-regarded museums, visitors can find something for everyone. In St. Augustine, tours of places like Villa Zorayda Museum give a glimpse into the past. The building was originally constructed in 1883 as a winter residence and was made of poured concrete and crushed coquina shell. Villa Zorayda is built to onetenth the scale of a section of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. Tours detail its historic significance in St. Augustine’s history and display many unique items— there’s even the “Sacred Cat Rug” that is more than 2,400 years old. Nearby, Flagler College was built by railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler in the late 1880s, originally as Hotel Ponce de León, one of the most exclusive resorts of its day. Now an historic landmark, the stunning architecture and sights at the college include a 68foot domed ceiling, a dining room with 79 Tiffany stained glass windows, and original hotel furniture and art. For an in-depth look at St. Augustine’s visual arts, take part in the First Friday Art Walk, which includes more than 20 art galleries opening their doors for the evening. Enjoy refreshments, receptions and live music for free. There’s complimentary parking and a free shuttle at San Sebastian Winery on King Street where you can board the Old Town

Trolley or Ripley’s Red Train Tours to most of the galleries. They run every 30 minutes on a continuous loop. If you want to take in a show, The Amp, (formerly known as the St. Augustine Amphitheatre) seats 4,100 and is considered St. Johns County’s leading multi-purpose arts facility. Recent performing acts have included the Doobie Brothers, Bill Currington Widespread Panic and ZZ Top. St. Augustine’s Farmers Market and the Night Market are also held on the grounds of the amphitheatre. Another place to enjoy music and shows is the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in Ponte Vedra Beach. It features performing artists from around the globe as well as special events and community gatherings. The concert hall also has convention and meeting spaces. Southwest of St. Augustine in Putnam County, Palatka features more than 30 outdoor murals. In February, head north on U.S. Route 17 to Green Cove Springs for the annual Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games & Festival. For a year-round glimpse at the region’s Scottish connection, just visit its historical and military museums. In downtown Jacksonville, the monthly First Wednesday Art Walk covers 15-plus blocks of arts and culture. Check out more than 40 art & cultural galleries, museums, live performance venues and restaurants. The tour connects visitors to the dozens of artists and street performers in Hemming Park. From September to May, the Jacksonville Symphony makes its home in the Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall, praised for its great acoustics, at the Times–Union Center for the Performing Arts, and also performs at other venues in Northeast Florida and around the state. The symphony is ranked among the country’s top regional orchestras. Featuring two stages of live music, local food, drinks and shopping, the annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival is promoted as one of the largest jazz festivals in the U.S. The festival has been part of the area since 1981 and takes over 10 blocks of downtown. Amelia Island welcomes its annual Chamber Music Festival in February, March and April, with concerts featuring worldrenowned musicians.


ATTRACTIONS With more than 450 years of history, St. Augustine is the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the U.S. The city takes its history seriously and has 36 buildings of colonial origin still standing in the historic district. To get the real skinny on the city’s history without wearing out your feet, step aboard the Ripley’s Red Train Tours or Old Town Trolleys. Both sell all-day tickets so you can hop on and hop off as you please. While in St. Augustine, embrace your early explorer on a visit to Castillo de San Marcos, a national park that began construction in 1672. The structure is considered the oldest masonry fort in the country. Over at Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, you can drink water from its “fountain”—but you may come away with fun memories more than ageless qualities. It’s located on the actual site of the first settlement in St. Augustine and was founded 42 years before Jamestown and 55 years before Plymouth Rock. Check out the cosmos in the planetarium, visit the Timucuan Village or marvel at the sound of the Spanish cannon. For all the dog lovers out there, the Fountain of Youth is a petfriendly attraction.

St. Augustine has plenty of tours to guide you around town, from art walks and a “pup crawl” (a walking tour on which you can bring your dog) to nighttime ghost tours and culinaryfocused themes. There’s even the St. Augustine Scavenger Hunt: The Pretty Ancient City, where you embark on a quest for treasures while discovering the city’s many great sights. A visit to St. Augustine isn’t complete without stopping by the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Its exhibit, Wrecked, tells the story of a Revolutionary War-era shipwreck off the area’s coast. In Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will take you on a world tour of animals without ever leaving Florida. From its Wild Florida area to Monsoon Asia, the Africa Loop, and more, you’ll view dozens of animals that are hard to spot elsewhere. For a different view of Jacksonville, use the St. Johns River Taxi in the downtown area. The taxi service also offers tours. A popular attraction in Fernandina Beach is Fort Clinch State Park, where history and nature meet. Explore one of the best-preserved 19th-century forts in the country, then hike or bike on the park’s trails, featuring maritime hammocks, massive live oak trees and wildlife.

ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Old City Pirate Fest, St. Augustine TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, Jacksonville

FEBRUARY Amelia Island Book Festival DONNA Breast Cancer Marathon, Jacksonville Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games and Festival, Green Cove Springs St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival World of Nations Celebration, Jacksonville

FEBRUARY–APRIL Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival

MARCH Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Gate River Run National 15K Championships, Jacksonville THE PLAYERS Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach

APRIL Springing the Blues Festival, Jacksonville

MAY Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, Fernandina Beach Jacksonville Jazz Festival

JUNE DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE • VISIT JACKSONVILLE/RYAN KETTERMAN

Drake’s Raid Re-enactment, St. Augustine

SEPTEMBER Florida Heritage Book Festival Writers Conference, St. Augustine St. Augustine Founding Celebrations

OCTOBER Creekside Music & Arts Festival, Palm Coast Spooktacular, Jacksonville Zoo

NOVEMBER Duuuval’s Bold City Bash, Florida-Georgia football game, Jacksonville Jacksonville Light Boat Parade Kids Free November, Jacksonville Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic, Flagler Beach

NOVEMBER–JANUARY Nights of Lights, St. Augustine

DECEMBER Dickens on Centre, Amelia Island

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BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS

42 MILES OF BEACHES • FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM

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MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS

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CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS, ST. AUGUSTINE: nps.gov/casa

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FORT CLINCH STATE PARK, AMELIA ISLAND: floridastateparks.org/fortclinch

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JACKSONVILLE ZOO AND GARDENS: jacksonvillezoo.org

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RIVERSIDE & AVONDALE NEIGHBORHOODS, JACKSONVILLE: visitjacksonville.com/neighborhoods/riverside-avondale

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Outdoor gems are abundant in Northeast Florida. Whether you want to take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean, fish in the St. Johns River or take selfies at a park, there are plenty of options. Southwest of St. Augustine, Putnam County is known as the “Bass Capital of Florida” and is home to three of the top bass fisheries in the state. The county is also the trail hub of Northeast Florida and offers ample hiking, biking and paddling trails. Be sure to check out the 59-acre Ravine Gardens State Park created in a natural steephead ravine. Marineland Dolphin Adventure in St. Augustine teaches visitors about the beauty of dolphins and provides interactive attractions such as a meet and greet or dolphin swim program. When you’re ready to chill with some beach time, you can’t go wrong with a visit to St. Augustine Beach which continues to receive impressive accolades. This popular destination was, once again, named one of America’s top 10 beaches by TripAdvisor. Another way to indulge in the area’s many water attractions is through a guided kayak tour that allows you to paddle the backwaters of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve in the Ponte Vedra area. It is one of the best places to kayak in Northeast Florida. The city of Jacksonville actually has the largest urban park system in the U.S. So, plenty of natural adventures await you in Northeast Florida, be it in a city or rural area. Jacksonville boasts 22 miles of spectacular beaches. If you’re visiting Jacksonville area, consider using its free Beach Buggies to get around Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville beaches and easily explore all of the beachy neighborhoods and attractions. For more picturesque adventures on the water, Amelia Island offers Amelia River Cruises and Charters or a privately chartered sunset cruise with Windward Sailing. If you’re looking to reel in fish, Amelia Boat Club & Rentals provides rentals for fishing, cruising or sightseeing.


FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE Flagler College, St. Augustine flagler.edu Jacksonville Jazz Festival jacksonvillejazzfest.com Jacksonville Symphony jaxsymphony.org Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, Jacksonville timesunioncenter.com

ATTRACTIONS

ANGEL’S DINER, PUTNAM COUNTY • PUTNAM COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

ENTERTAINMENT In the mood for family fun? Foodie finds? History? Northeast Florida has something for everyone. For instance, you can dine at Florida’s oldest diner, Angel’s Diner, in Putnam County. In St. Augustine, foodies will rejoice at The Floridian Restaurant where they can enjoy farm-to-table meals with a Southern vibe. The restaurant’s carefully crafted dishes are sure to please meat and non-meat eaters alike. The St. Augustine Distillery, producing handcrafted, small batch spirits, opened in 2014 in a former ice plant. It uses Floridagrown ingredients to make spirits like vodka, rum and gin. Take advantage of its free tours and complimentary samples. San Sebastian Winery, not far from the St. Augustine Distillery, also conducts free tours and tastings. If you’re all about the food—and let’s face it, who isn’t?—then sign up for the tour at St. Augustine’s Whetstone Chocolates. Of course, you’ll get mouthwatering samples. At Kernel Popper’s Gourmet Popcorn on St. George Street, try samples of caramel sea salt, Dr. Pepper or dill pickle popcorn, among its cornucopia of flavors, before settling on your favorite. Golfers and nostalgia lovers will want to dine at The Murray Brothers Caddyshack Restaurant. It’s a favorite in the World Golf Village with plenty of memorabilia from the

classic movie, starring Bill Murray. Duffers might also want to check out an original Donald Ross-designed golf course in Palatka, due west of Marineland. In Ponte Vedra Beach, Barbara Jean’s on the Water has a great view of the Intracoastal Waterway and outdoor seating. Go for seafood specials like fried shrimp or catfish, or try Southern comfort food such as meatloaf or chicken fried steak. Jacksonville’s nightlife is filled with bars, pubs and live music venues. Bar hop, dance the night away or buy that happy-hour cocktail—it’s all ready for the taking in vibrant neighborhoods like Riverside, downtown, Avondale and San Marco. Jacksonville is a leader in Florida’s booming craft beer scene. One way to experience all it has to offer is on the Jax Ale Trail, a self-guided tour of the city’s awardwinning craft breweries. Grab a Jax Ale Trail Craft Beer Passport, and get a stamp at each of the local stops, which include Bold City, Green Room, Pinglehead, Aardwolf, Engine 15, Veterans United Craft Brewery and Intuition Ale Works. Jacksonville also has a full-scale organic distillery called Manifest Distilling. In downtown Fernandina Beach, The Patio Place provides a comfortable backdrop to indulge in sweet or savory crêpes and sit outside after a long day on the beach.

Old Town Trolley Tours, St. Augustine trolleytours.com Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, St. Augustine fountainofyouthflorida.com Ripley’s Red Train Tours, St. Augustine ripleys.com/redtrains St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum staugustinelighthouse.org St. Johns River Taxi & Tours StJohnsRiverTaxi.com

BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS Amelia River Cruises ameliarivercruises.com Marineland Dolphin Adventure, St. Augustine marineland.net

ENTERTAINMENT St. Augustine Distillery staugustinedistillery.com San Sebastian Winery, St. Augustine sansebastianwinery.com

ROAD TRIPS Log Cabin Farm, Vineyard & Winery, Putnam County logcabinfarmwinery.com Mandarin Museum & Historical Society, Jacksonville mandarinmuseum.net

SHOPPING Riverside Arts Market, Jacksonville riversideavondale.org/ram-home St. Augustine Outlets staugoutlets.com St. Augustine Premium Outlets premiumoutlets.com/outlet/st-augustine St. Johns Town Center, Jacksonville simon.com/mall/st-johns-town-center

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SHOPPING ON AVILES STREET, ST. AUGUSTINE • FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM

ROAD TRIPS Get a beachy view at a laid-back pace along A1A between Flagler Beach and Fernandina Beach. This route runs parallel to the much busier I-95, and you get to cruise along the scenic route while stopping off as needed for meals, souvenirs or to snap an ocean shot. Take in a country view for more than 60 miles along U.S.-17 between Orange Park and Crescent City. Along the way, view the picturesque St. Johns River, enjoy rolling hills (hard to come by in Florida), and stop at places like the Log Cabin Winery in Putnam County. On the Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail in the Flagler Beach area, take the double loop along scenic roads where you’ll pass by the Atlantic Ocean and Old Dixie Highway. Other highlights include driving past the winter home of John D. Rockefeller, the historic

INTERNATIONAL GATEWAYS Jacksonville International Airport: flyjax.com Jacksonville Port Authority: jaxport.com/cruise

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Ormond Beach fire station and sunset views near Granada Boulevard Bridge. Head off on SR-13 just south of Jacksonville, and leisurely make your way to the small town of Spuds. This route gives you a near constant view of the St. Johns River, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you drive past older homes and trees covered with Spanish moss. Two highlights along the route: the homes of writer Harriet Beecher Stowe and composer Frederick Delius.

SHOPPING St. Augustine Outlets, right off I-95, carries more than 75 brand-name retailers, offering discounts up to 65 percent. Nearby, St. Augustine Premium Outlets advertises exceptional discounts up to 65 percent at more than 85 stores, including Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Coach, J.Crew, Nike Factory Store, Polo Ralph Lauren and Reebok. Ready for some unique finds? Then head on down to the pedestrian-only St. George Street in St. Augustine’s Historic District. Find a bohemian piece of jewelry at Earthbound Trading Co. Nearby, stop by the Spice & Tea Exchange, an 18th-century-like trading post with displays of teas and spices that will stimulate your taste buds. At Bath

Junkie, you can personalize bath and body products with customized scents. Find a gift for the artsy folks in your life at any of St. Augustine’s numerous galleries located in the historic district. The Farmers Market, held at The Amp on Saturdays, welcomes vendors from local farms, bakers, seafood merchants and artisans. The St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville is the place to hit for the latest upscale merchandise from shops such as Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Apple and Nordstrom. The town center also includes bargain stores such as DSW Shoes. Minutes away from downtown, Jacksonville Farmers Market is the oldest operating outdoor farmers’ market in Florida. Since 1939, vendors have offered fresh produce, herbs and local favorites, such as Mayport shrimp. Browse for crafts and handmade goods daily from dawn to dusk. For more market exploration, check out Jaxsons Night Market, a craft market held on the third Thursday of each month at Hemming Park. There’s also Riverside Arts Market, hailed as Florida’s largest open-air market. Held on Saturdays, find local arts and crafts, food galore, a free yoga class, children’s activities and live entertainment. The view isn’t too shabby, either—it’s right beside the St. Johns River.


ST. AUGUSTINE & PONTE VEDRA

CARRIAGES ON KING STREET • FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM/STACEY SATHER

Rediscover Florida’s Historic Coast BY VANESSA CACERES

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ook no further than Northeast Florida’s Historic Coast for family fun and culinary adventure in America’s oldest city, St. Augustine. After all, the St. Augustine and the Ponte Vedra Beach area has been welcoming visitors for hundreds of years. There’s something for everyone, including 42 miles of Atlantic beaches, historical charm and renowned golf courses.

SEE AND DO Talk about a view from the top. The haunted St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum offers breathtaking views from the top, which you can experience day or night on moonlight tours. It features a Maritime

Archaeology & Education Center along with a conservation lab, research library, and X-ray room, all of which provide a more interactive experience of local history. Now celebrating its 125th anniversary, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park gets you up close, but not too personal, with alligators, crocodiles, snakes and birds. The park now has its Oasis on the Nile feeding shows, with two-level crocodile viewing and exhibits of Egyptian artifacts. There’s also the new Hoffman’s Two-Toed Sloth Exhibit featuring Teddy and Grizzly. Feed your new sloth pals a piece of fruit or vegetables while you discover more about sloth conservation.

INSIDER’S TIP Love photography? There’s a Wading Bird Rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park where you can take amazing pictures of alligators and native Florida birds. Nesting season, from March to June, is a great time to get those winning snaps. Two other ideal places for shots around town are the Bridge of Lions and the pier at St. Augustine Beach. Try earlymorning photography for super lighting without crowds.

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ST. AUGUSTINE & PONTE VEDRA Ready for some oddities? Then don’t miss the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium. A collection of the bizarre and mysterious, the Odditorium’s newest addition is the Jungle Room, where guests can play hands-on games or create their own jungle apparel while dancing to jungle sounds and tones. Ripley’s also has Red Train tours, ghost train tours and mini golf. Get behind the scenes—or, actually, behind the seas—with the Behind the Seas Park Pass at Marineland Dolphin Adventure, which is now part of Dolphin Discovery. Behind the Seas allows guests to go “below the decks” through the history of Marineland and see hundreds of exotic species. From late November to Feb. 2, St. Augustine shows off its beauty in Nights of Lights, during which millions of lights adorn the city’s buildings, homes and parks. The lights are over the Bridge of Lions, and cover St. Augustine’s Spanish Colonial architecture, sidewalks, rooftops, hotels and public spaces, for a 20-block light show. Now in its 26th year, last year Nights of Lights was listed by National Geographic among the top 10 holiday light displays from around the world.

DINE AND PLAY Recently Named No. 1 Foodie Town in the South by Southern Living magazine, St. Augustine visitors are making food adventures a growing part of their stay. Restaurants include influences from Spain, France, Italy and Greece, reflecting the area’s history. Add spice to your life with the locally grown datil pepper, found in many local restaurants’ prepared dishes. It’s hot stuff! The St. Augustine Distillery uses Floridagrown ingredients to make small-batch whiskey, rum, vodka and other drinks. Tours and free samples are available. Newer wine rooms around town include the Carrera Wine Cellar (featuring themed wine classes), Casa de Vino 57, and the St. George Inn wine bar, Bin 39. Craft beer tap rooms in town include Dog Rose Brewing Co., Ancient City Brewing, Old Coast Ales, and Bog Brewing Company. For drinks with a view, the Tini Martini Bar on the front veranda of the Casablanca Inn has a full martini and bar selection and provides a scenic view of the Matanzas River and the Bridge of Lions. Nearby, Prohibition Kitchen on St. George Street features flapper dresses, speakeasies, moonshine and swing.

ST. AUGUSTINE DISTILLERY • FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM/STACEY SATHER

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ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MUSEUM • ST. AUGUSTINE, PONTE VEDRA & THE BEACHES CVB

FEATURED LINKS St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches: FloridasHistoricCoast.com Castillo de San Marcos: nps.gov/casa Colonial Quarter: colonialquarter.com Dolphin Discovery: dolphindiscovery.com/florida-st-augustine Flagler College Legacy Tour: legacy.flagler.edu Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park: fountainofyouthflorida.com Nights of Lights: floridashistoriccoast.com/nights-lights Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium: ripleys.com/staugustine St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park: alligatorfarm.com St. Augustine Distillery: staugustinedistillery.com St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum: staugustinelighthouse.org St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum: thepiratemuseum.com San Sebastian Winery: sansebastianwinery.com The Tasting Tours: thetastingtours.com Villa Zorayda: villazorayda.com Whetstone Chocolate Factory: whetstonechocolates.com World Golf Hall of Fame: worldgolfhalloffame.org


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2020 Travel Guide to Florida  

2020 Travel Guide to Florida  

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