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The 2011 Travel Guide to Florida is published by GlobElite Travel Marketing Inc., a leading lifestyle media company and publisher of The Travel Guides to Canada, The Travel Guide to California, and Dreamscapes Travel and Lifestyle Magazine.

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F

lorida has been among the world’s top vacation venues for so long it’s hard to remember a time when it wasn’t. Over the years its abundance of sun, sea, sand and balmy weather has served as a foundation for the growth and development of one of the most multidimensional playgrounds on the planet. Moreover, beyond its vast tapestry of attractions, beaches and family-oriented theme parks, there is a great deal more to know about this 22nd largest of the 50 United States. To present at least part of the Sunshine State’s bigger picture, here is a “did you know” compendium of facts, figures, trivia and useful knowledge. Estimated population according to a 2009 census is 18,537,969. The state covers a total area of 58,560 square miles and measures 447 miles from north to south and 361 miles east to west. Florida has 1,800 miles of coastline including 1,200 miles of sand beaches. More than 11,000 miles of rivers, streams and waterways flow throughout the state, with the north-flowing St. Johns River being the longest river in Florida. Tallahassee is the state capital. The Sunshine State shares its northern border with Georgia and Alabama, and its western border with Alabama. The 10 largest cities are Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Hialeah, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tallahassee, Hollywood and Pembroke Pines. The Florida peninsula is warmed by surrounding tropical and subtropical waters with trade winds providing cooling breezes. No city in Florida is more than 75 miles from either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. State flower is the orange blossom, state bird is the mockingbird and the state tree is the sabal or cabbage palm (Arecaceae Sabal palmetto). Orlando attracts more visitors than any other amusement park destination in the United States. Lying between French Reef and the Dixie Shoals off the Florida Keys, the Benwood is one of the most-dived shallow shipwreck sites in the world. The state has more than 370,000 hotel rooms. The largest freshwater lake in the state is Lake Okeechobee. At least six million people camp in Florida each year.

No part of this publication can be reproduced or duplicated without the written permission of GlobElite Travel Marketing Inc. The opinions in this magazine are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of GlobElite Travel Marketing Inc. Publications Mail Agreement 40047932. Contents © copyright 2011. Printed in Canada.

8

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

There are more than 1,400 golf courses, more than any other US state. Florida has a Rails-to-Trails program providing a network of trails in various parts of the state using former rail lines for walking, cycling and horseback riding.

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MAP OF FLORIDA 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

9

EDITORS’ MESSAGES

W

elcome to the 2011 Travel Guide to Florida. From cover to cover its pages are

filled with engaging things to see and do, places to visit and useful information to help facilitate your travel experience.

I’ve been vacationing in Florida for more than three decades and year after year my passion

for the place has grown exponentially. In fact, from the first time I set foot on Sunshine State soil, I knew it was the beginning of a long and rewarding relationship. Now, as editor of the 2011 Travel Guide to Florida, I have the great pleasure of sharing my enthusiasm. The guide covers all eight regions of the state from the southern Florida Keys north to Georgia and west to Alabama. Within the borders of this sunbathed landscape are the features and attributes that make Florida one of the most popular vacation venues on the planet. As home to Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Tampa, together with other exciting theme parks, Florida’s global reputation as “the theme park capital of the world” is entirely justified, however, the state is anything but one-dimensional. In fact its diverse attractions include such places as historic St. Augustine, America’s oldest, continuously-occupied European settlement where its charming Old City section is one of the most visited sites in the state. Race fans around the globe are familiar with the Daytona International Speedway, one of the most famous racetracks in the world where car and motorcycle racing is unsurpassed. The highlight of Florida’s famous Space Coast is the Kennedy Space Center where outof-this-world attractions thrill adults and children alike. An entirely different character exists in the cosmopolitan city of Miami, home to the largest collection of art deco architecture on the planet and a favorite playground of the rich and famous. At Miami’s back door are the Florida Everglades, one of the most important natural wetland regions on Earth. Off the southern tip of peninsular Florida are the famous Florida Keys, a chain of islands so beautiful they take your breath away. On the Gulf coast, the sophisticated city of Sarasota brims with attractions such as the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, a legacy of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus magnate, John Ringling. Other Gulf Coast attractions are the sister islands of Sanibel and Captiva, home to some of the world’s best shelling. The places I’ve mentioned are merely the thin edge of the wedge of what Florida has to offer. As you read through the guide you will see that it’s not just coastal cities and highprofile attractions that make the Sunshine State special. It’s small towns, magnificent beaches, outstanding golf, hidden gems and much, much more. It’s yours to discover and enjoy.

Donna Carter Editor

10

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

T

he Sunshine State has long been a favorite vacation spot for Americans and Canadians

seeking respite from the cold northern winters and for young families in search of the entertainment and theme parks for which Florida is so well known. And while I had vis-

ited the state on several occasions and figured I knew it well, nothing quite prepared me for all I was about to discover as we gathered information for this guide. It’s been an eye-opening and mind-boggling experience. We’ve enjoyed putting this guide together for you and it has certainly introduced me to new paths of discovery I never knew existed and can’t wait to visit. Personally, I love uncovering off-the-beaten-path locations and, wherever you may roam in the state of Florida, surprises await. For instance, Orlando may be world-renowned for its theme parks, but have you ever heard about or visited the quaint nearby city of Winter Park, a historic resort destination that was popular with wealthy New England industrialists before the turn of the 20th century? This unique little enclave continues to attract thousands of visitors to annual

festivals that include the Bach Festival, the Sidewalk Art Festival and the Winter Park Concours d’Elegance. It remains one of my favorite spots in Florida. Even the busy metropolitan cities have their special neighborhoods. Little Havana and Bal Harbour are two you shouldn’t pass up when in the Miami area; Ybor is definitely worth investigating if you find yourself in Tampa; and St. Armands Circle in Sarasota retains a good bit of circus magnate John Ringling’s razzle-dazzle. An estimated 80.3 million people visited Florida in 2009 and the vast majority opted to fly in. However one of my most memorable trips through Florida involved a drive from the Georgia border down to Fort Myers, then through the Everglades to Miami. We took our time as we scooted along back roads and explored the countryside, stopping on a whim to tour some of the smaller towns and rural areas rarely frequented by tourists. Townspeople were anxious to offer guidance and assistance in any way they could and eagerly shared tips on what treasures and secret spots their communities harbored. Our guide contains a few best drive options we think you might enjoy. Even in the larger cities we continued to experience a warmhearted welcome and, perhaps, this generosity of spirit is the real reason why visitors return to Florida year after year. If the great outdoors and communing with Mother Nature is your idea of a great vacation, there are 160 state parks and more than one million acres of state forests between Pensacola and Key West just waiting to welcome you. Regardless of what Floridian experience you choose, there is no doubt in my mind you will return home with warm, lasting memories, great stories to share with friends and family, and a deep desire to return to the beloved Sunshine State.

Donna S. Vieira Editor

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

11

34

TABLE OF CONTENTS

50

GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND INFORMATION 14

History: Florida Background and History

18

Welcome to Florida: Florida Has It All!

22

Travelers’ Tips for Florida

FLORIDA VACATION THEMES 26

Architecture and Gardens: Splendid Sights in the Sunshine State

30

Arts and Culture: A Feast of Cultural Entertainment

70

34

Beaches: Down by the Seashore

36

Florida’s Best-Kept Secrets

42

Regional Cuisine and Dining: Noshing Around the Sunshine State

46

Ecotourism: Leaving a Small Footprint

50

Hiking Trails: Great Hiking in Florida

54

Campgrounds: The Great Outdoors

58

Family Vacations: The Ultimate Family Playground

12

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

62

Theme Parks: Fun for All

66

Road Trips: Great Florida Road Trips

70

Golf: Gold Medal Golf

72

Spas: Heavenly Spas

76

Shopping: A Shopper’s Paradise

80

Water Sports: Water World

82 FLORIDA REGIONS, COUNTIES AND ATTRACTIONS 82

Southeast Florida: A Region of Contrasts

88

Southwest Florida: Delightfully Different

94

Hendry County: A Call Back to Nature

96

Central East Florida: Racing, Rockets, Beaches & More

102 Central Florida: More than Theme Parks 108 Universal Orlando® Resort: A World of Enchantment 112 Central West Florida: Enjoy, Explore, Discover 120 Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort: A Four-Diamond Eco-conscious Property 122 Northeast Florida: A “Got Everything” Playground

96

126 North Central Florida: Second Nature 129 Wakulla County: A Natural Place to Be 130 Northwest Florida: Explore Hidden Treasures

FLORIDA STATEWIDE INFORMATION 134 Florida Time Zones 134 Annual Florida Festivals 135 Average Monthly Temperatures and Precipitation 136 Tourism Information Sources 136 Florida’s Public Holidays 137 Florida Associations and Useful Groups for Travelers 137 Cruise Lines Sailing from Florida Ports

102

137 Cruise Headquarters, USA 138 Florida State Parks, Forests & Regional Recreation Spaces 141 National Parks, Memorials, Monuments and Preserves 141 Major Hotel Chains in Florida 142 Mileage Chart Between Key Florida Cities 143 Car and RV Rental Companies in Florida 143 Florida Bus Tour Operators 144 Major International Airports in Florida 144 Airline Service to Florida from Canada and the USA

COVER: Florida beach/Michael Melford 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

13

HISTORY

FORT JEFFERSON • VISIT FLORIDA®

Florida Background

AND HISTORY BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS

FOOTSTEPS OF HISTORY What better way to truly appreciate a region than through the history of its people? In Florida, the side roads and small towns are a treasure trove full of opportunities to celebrate and learn about the personalities and events that shaped the state.

FLORIDA’S FIRST RESIDENTS Florida’s first inhabitants were prehistoric hunters and gatherers who thrived on the peninsula’s abundant fish, shellfish and wildlife. Eventually these nomads settled and developed complex social cultures; the 14

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

remains of their cultures have been unearthed

CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS FORT SHOW • VISIT FLORIDA®

and studied throughout the state. Contact with the early Spanish conquistadors proved to be deadly for these early native peoples— their numbers were decimated by disease, warfare and social disintegration. Dotted across Florida are archaeological sites that preserve and interpret the cultural history of the ancient inhabitants: • The Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, near Tampa, explores how the area’s earliest inhabitants used and impacted the coastal islands. • Accessible only by boat, the Mound Key Archaeological State Park in southwest Florida is known for its complex of shell mounds (some rising 30 feet). The site is believed to have been the ceremonial center of the great Calusa Indian nation. • Near Jacksonville, the Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center (a National Park Service site) has displays on the early native inhabitants of the area.

FROM EUROPEAN EXPLORERS TO TOURISM When Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon planted a foot on the shoreline of what is now northeast Florida, he opened the floodgates for the explorers, missionaries and treasureseekers that followed. For the next three centuries, the Spanish, British and French

FORT CAROLINE • VISIT FLORIDA®

enacted an ambitious period of rebuilding

warred over these lands, lured at first by tales

known as The Reconstruction. Eventually, this

of gold and silver, later by the riches of the

opened up many parts of the state for devel-

cotton and tobacco trade. Forts and commu-

opment—a strong part of which was tourism.

nities flip-flopped back and forth between

Today you can explore Florida’s historic

European powers, but it was the Spanish that

sites that stand as testament to the period of

left the deepest imprints on the area in their

extensive exploration and conflict:

feverish construction of fortified garrisons

• The romantic city of St. Augustine is con-

and Roman Catholic missions. Eventually

sidered the first permanent European

Spain ceded Florida to the United States in

settlement in the nation. It’s known for

1821 as part of settling a border dispute be-

narrow, winding streets and well-preserved

tween the two countries.

buildings. At the Colonial Spanish Quarter

Through the period of great unrest and

living history museum, structures and re-

conflict that marked the American Civil War,

enactors model life in the 18th century.

Florida joined the southern states to form the

Built to protect the Spanish Empire, the

Confederate States of America. There were

city’s intimidating Castillo de San Marcos

never any decisive battles fought on Florida

is the oldest standing European fortifica-

soil. After the War, the federal government

tion in the continental US. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

15

HISTORY • The reconstructed fort and exhibits at

AH-TAH-THI-KI MUSEUM • VISIT FLORIDA®

Pensacola’s Presidio Santa María de Galve mark the area’s first successful Spanish settlement. • In Tallahassee, Mission San Luis is the remnant of a late 17th-century colonial Spanish mission. Today it is a living history and archaeological site. • Fort Clinch, garrisoned during both the Civil War and the Spanish American War, is considered one of the best-preserved 19th-century forts in the country. • Fort Caroline—founded by a group of Huguenots—was the first permanent French colony in North America. • At the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Fort Pickens National Park preserves the massive, red brick fort that once imprisoned Geronimo in the 1880s.

SEMINOLE PEOPLE In the mid-1700s, the Creek Indians moved southward into Florida, eventually becoming known as the Seminole Tribe. The group— known for its vibrant spirit—was pushed deep into the Everglades during the federal government’s attempts to mass relocate Native Americans during the 19th century. Some band members were captured and forced

westward to Oklahoma; others escaped into southern Florida’s “river of grass” where they created a life for themselves hunting, fishing, trapping and trading. The Seminole Tribe has reinvented itself in a most 21st-century manner. They paved the way into native-operated games of chance with the establishment of casinos, most notably the very successful Hard Rock brand in both Tampa and Hollywood. They are also involved in the cattle and citrus industries. It is the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation in the Everglades that is at the heart of the Seminole Nation. Its Smithsonian affiliate Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum (which means “a place to learn”) is a living village of early Seminole culture. Storytelling and heritage AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE CELEBRATION • VISIT FLORIDA®

16

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

displays tell of a determined people who

traveled the waterways of the Everglades in

CENTRO YBOR/TAMPA • VISIT FLORIDA®

their long, shallow-draft canoes. Modern-day visitors can tour the museum and explore the swamplands on wildlife expeditions with Billie Swamp Safari (located on the Reservation property) in airboats and swamp buggies, or book an overnight stay in a traditional chickee hut made of cypress poles.

AFRICAN-AMERICANS After the South was defeated in the Civil War, many of the plantation slaves were declared free, although in reality there was no smooth transition. Early slaves escaped to parts of Florida and found their freedom by forging an alliance with the Seminole Indians. But it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that there were significant gains in ending racial discrimination in schools and other institutions.

lent than the Cuban community. The district known as Little Havana along 8th Street comes alive with the sounds of salsa, the smell of strong Cuban coffee and the lively conversations in Spanish. In all parts of the state, history and culture are still vibrant on the well-preserved downtown streets: HENRY FORD ESTATE • VISIT FLORIDA®

• In Tampa, the Ybor City neighborhood

The Florida Black Heritage Trail makes it

ries for African-American culture.

once bustled with cigar factories where

easy to find the sites, buildings and other

• In Delray Beach, the Spady Cultural Heritage

Spanish and Cuban immigrants rolled

points of interest in African-American history:

Museum honors African-Americans who set-

millions of cigars each year. The main

• Historic Eatonville (near Orlando) is the

tled the town in the late 1800s.

thoroughfare, 7th Avenue, has been recog-

first incorporated town founded by and for

African-Americans

after

the

Emancipation Proclamation. Called “the

• Martin Luther King Jr. stayed in St.

nized as one of the “10 Great Streets in

Augustine, in the historic African-

America” and was once home to Tampa’s

American neighborhood of Lincolnville.

Latin Quarter. • In pretty Apalachicola, the buildings that

town that freedom built,” Eatonville is known for its preserved historic district

MAIN STREET HISTORY

were once cotton and sponge warehouses

and for its annual Zora! Festival to honor

Many people have called Florida home and

are now home to unique shops, galleries

local writer, folklorist and anthropologist

their cultural marks have been left on the

and antique stores.

Zora Neale Hurston.

streets, in the architecture and in the dishes

• Villages like Milton, Punta Gorda, Havana

• The African-American Research Library

served by local restaurants. Miami has been a

and the old tobacco town of High Springs

and Cultural Center and the Old Dillard

magnet for immigrants from the Caribbean

all have historic districts that have seen

Museum in Fort Lauderdale are reposito-

and South America, but none is more preva-

new life with shops and galleries. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

17

WELCOME TO FLORIDA!

Florida

has it all! BY ISOBEL WARREN

18

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

“S

omething for everyone” is a time-

In addition to countless man-made attrib-

worn phrase but applied to Florida

utes and enormous natural blessings, scores

it’s entirely accurate. Miles and

of historical venues also contribute to

miles of sunbathed coastline, oodles of golf

Florida’s multifaceted appeal. Who could

courses, festivals, exciting nightlife and family

have guessed that the 1513 landfall by

theme parks are just the tip of the Sunshine

Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon on the state’s

State’s attractions. There are charming small

northeast coast at what is now the city of St.

towns, vibrant cities, unspoiled wilderness

Augustine would ultimately result in a

areas, awesome fishing, abundant water

modern-day attraction? His mission back

sports and the mind-boggling majesty of the

then was to search for a legendary fountain

Florida Everglades. Add diving, snorkeling,

of youth, which he believed he found at a

copious spas, hiking, biking, plus hotels and

freshwater spring just north of what is

resorts to suit all tastes and budgets, and the

presently the town center. Of course, it was

sum total amounts to a remarkable vacation

not a fountain of youth—a fact that seems to

destination.

matter little to today’s tourists who flock to

MIAMI • DREAMSTIME

the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park to

Hall of Fame containing the world’s largest

sip the same waters that Ponce de Leon erro-

collection of memorabilia associated with

neously counted upon to give him eternal

those who first ventured into space

youth (fountainofyouthflorida.com).

(kennedyspacecenter.com).

Among other features that help make

West of the Space Coast, Orlando con-

Florida a place that “has it all” is Daytona

tinues to be the center of the universe for

Beach, an oceanfront community an hour

theme park lovers. Here, the big three—Walt

south of St. Augustine. Here, the city is dis-

Disney World, Universal Orlando® and

tinguished by its magnificent sand beach,

SeaWorld—have helped make this central

affordable accommodation and bargain golf.

Florida city the top family-vacation destina-

It’s also home to the world-famous Daytona

tion on the planet. Among the city’s newest

International Speedway where an annual se-

additions is Universal Orlando’s Wizarding

ries of high-profile races such as the Daytona

World of Harry Potter, a 20-acre attraction

500 attracts hundreds of thousands of avid

inspired by the popular witchcraft and wiz-

fans. Just as many visitors arrive for Bike

ardry books written by British author J.K.

Week in March and Biketoberfest in October,

Rowling. While entire Florida vacations are

events that feature motorcycle shows, races

sometimes built around Orlando’s theme

and live concerts (daytonabeach.com).

park giants, the city offers many layers of en-

Continuing south to a stretch of Atlantic

tertainment from museums to golf, spas,

shoreline known as the Space Coast, one of

shopping, water parks and vibrant nightlife

the most captivating spots for visitors of all

(orlandoinfo.com).

ages is the Kennedy Space Center where

Back on the Atlantic coast, pretty Fort

people can tour NASA’s rocket launch area,

Lauderdale (sunny.org) is nicknamed the

meet veteran astronauts, see giant rockets and

“Venice of America” for its miles of inland

take the controls in space flight simulators.

waterways where there’s everything from

The complex also includes the US Astronaut

gondola rides to kayak tours and sightseeing KENNEDY SPACE CENTER • VISIT FLORIDA®

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

19

WELCOME TO FLORIDA! Marco Island and Naples, upscale communities known for posh hotels, restaurants and championship golf (paradisecoast.com). Other cities along the state’s west coast include Fort Myers, once the winter hangout of inventor Thomas Edison, where visitors can tour his former home and laboratory plus observe some of his famous inventions. Offshore from Fort Myers are Sanibel and Captiva islands, widely known as two of the best shell-gathering locations in the state (fortmyers-sanibel.com). Farther up the coastline is the sophisticated city of Sarasota where chief attractions include the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and a fascinating Circus Museum—both inspired by the former circus magnate John Ringling (sarasotafl.org). Above Sarasota, Tampa Bay is home to three vibrant communities—St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater. These bustling cities offer every kind of Florida entertainment imaginable from golf to nightlife, museums, water sports and beaches. The area also has a JET SKI FLORIDA ADVENTURE • VISIT FLORIDA®

history of attracting baseball fans since several

cruises. Beyond its golden sand beach and

major and minor league teams hold their

scenic boardwalk, both natural and artificial

spring training here (visittampabay.com).

reefs make the waters here one of the top

From Tampa Bay the coastline begins

scuba and dive sites in the state.

swinging northwest into an area often re-

South of Fort Lauderdale, Miami con-

ferred to as “the original Florida.” This region

tinues to be one of Florida’s highest-octane

embodies quaint small towns, quiet beach

hot spots. Dazzling nightlife, luxurious hotels,

communities and a vast protected wilderness

fascinating ethnic neighborhoods, glitzy

of unspoiled beauty. Also, an abundance of

restaurants and the trendy South Beach

freshwater springs are some of the deepest in

area give the city its star-powered style

the world and provide remarkable snorkeling

(miamiandbeaches.com). Below Miami are

and scuba diving. Numerous rivers, especially

the fabulous Florida Keys—a string of about

the mighty Suwannee (inspiration for the

1,700 islands and coral reefs where the surrounding waters are a sport-fishing paradise.

Stephen Foster song, Old Folks at Home) CEDAR KEY • VISIT FLORIDA®

weave across country providing canoe routes,

This is where Ernest Hemingway regularly

covers 1.5 million acres making it the largest

fished and wrote his famous novel, Old Man and

subtropical wilderness in the United States.

Finally, the extreme northwest region of

the Sea. Scuba diving, waterfront bars, charming

Here, airboat and swamp buggy tours are a

the state has some of the widest beaches in

resorts, sailing and historic towns attract a va-

good way for visitors to see an awesome assort-

Florida and its waterfront cities of Pensacola,

riety of visitors from families to fishermen and

ment of birds and wildlife ranging from bald

Panama City Beach, Destin and Fort Walton

folks who want to enjoy the laid-back, relaxed

eagles to alligators. There’s also the chance of

Beach have long been popular with families

atmosphere of the Keys (fla-keys.com).

seeing one of a hundred remaining Florida

and adults wanting to maximize their vacation

panthers (everglades.national-park.com).

dollars yet still have all the sun, fun and en-

Above the Keys, a large portion of southern Florida is dominated by Everglades

West of the Everglades, among the south-

National Park, where its “river of grass”

ernmost attractions on the Gulf Coast are

20

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

boating and fishing.

tertainment offered in other parts of Florida (visitflorida.com).

Explore the crystal clear Atlantic Ocean or visit unique galleries and boutiques on Atlantic Avenue by day; enjoy a night of dining and entertainment at any of Delray Beach’s award winning cafés or restaurants. When you stay in “Florida’s Village by the Sea,” at one of the grand hotels or a quaint seaside inn, you will instantly feel the warm and friendly atmosphere that makes downtown Delray Beach such a joy to visit. Come “downtown” and meet the beautiful people, shopkeepers and the entire community known as a Sociable City.

Downtown Delray Beach, Florida We’re just what you need.™ … style without attitude and poised to become a national destination – The New York Times

DowntownDelrayBeach.com DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY City of Delray Beach, Florida

TRAVELERS’ TIPS

KAYAKING FAMILY • SEMINOLE COUNTY

Travelers’ Tips

FOR FLORIDA BY KATHY WOLF

F

lorida, the Sunshine State, is big— 58,560 square miles, or a 14-hour drive from sultry Key West to breezy

Pensacola. More than half of Florida’s population of 18 million lives south of Orlando. To the north and west, rural countryside with small towns is the norm. In addition to VISIT FLORIDA® (visitflorida.com), the state’s offi-

cial tourism bureau, most of the 67 counties have their own tourism websites.

WEATHER Florida’s temperate weather makes it a top vacation destination. Spring and summer are prime time in the north, while South Florida offers its best in fall and winter. Mild winters can be punctuated with freezing temperatures, down to 20 F. Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures between 80 F and 95 F and evenings in the 70s. Afternoon thundershowers may occasionally bring lightning strikes. Hurricane season runs June 1–November 30. Tune into weather forecasts and be aware of hurricane evacuation routes. 22

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

FLORIDA WATER PARK • VISIT FLORIDA®

WATER SKIING • VISIT FLORIDA®

for all children under five years. Headlights are required from dusk to dawn and during inclement weather. Florida has strict drunk driving laws with zero tolerance for drivers under the age of 21. Pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks. Florida’s heat brings dangers. Never leave children or pets in a car, even with the windows slightly open, as the interior temperature of a car can rise to 120 F in minutes. Hot pavement acts like ice when rain first hits it, so be cautious driving during rain showers. Florida has 657 miles of toll roads, bridges and causeways, more than any other state. Florida’s Turnpike is the longest, at 312 miles, connecting Interstate 75 south of Ocala with Orlando, West Palm Beach and Miami and ending at the gateway to the Florida Keys. Alligator Alley (also known as Everglades Parkway) between Naples and Miami is a toll road. Toll roads also surround Orlando. The SunPass prepaid toll program covers most toll roads and bridges in Florida. Available for $5 at most grocery stores, the SunPass Mini transponder can save drivers up to 25% off tolls. Other major highways, such as Interstate 10 from Jacksonville to Pensacola, Interstate 95 from Jacksonville to Miami and Interstate 75 from Georgia to Naples are free. US 441 and US 27 provide rural alternatives to Florida’s Turnpike.

GETTING AROUND

(greyhound.com).

LYNX

Many gas stations charge five to 10 cents

Major international airports are in Miami

(golynx.com) covers the region. The

more a gallon for using a credit or debit card.

(MIA), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), West Palm

Metrobus (miamidade.gov/transit) services

Proximity to major highways does not guar-

Beach (PBI), Orlando (MCO), Tampa (TPA)

more than 90 routes in and around Miami.

antee the best price, as fuel taxes may vary

In

Orlando,

greatly between counties.

and Jacksonville (JAX). Visitors to Northwest Florida can fly into Pensacola (PNS) or the

DRIVING

new Northwest Florida Beaches Airport

Florida is best toured by car. Car rental

HEALTH

(ECP), and those headed to the Keys save time

agencies are plentiful, with major compa-

Nothing dampens a holiday more than a cold

flying directly to Key West (EYW). The

nies serving both major airports and small

or sudden illness. Pain and cold medications

Overseas Highway (US 1) connects the

towns. Visitors ages 16 and up holding li-

are readily available at any local store.

Florida Keys and is a nationally recognized

censes from other countries may drive in

Prescription drugs can only be filled at phar-

Scenic

provides

Florida. Before getting behind the wheel,

macies, some of which are open 24 hours. To

rail service (amtrak.com). The Silver

drivers should review the rules of the road

avoid an unnecessary doctor visit, make sure

Service/Palmetto connects Jacksonville and

from the Florida Department of Highway

to fill prescriptions before traveling and al-

Orlando, ending in either Tampa or Miami

Safety and Motor Vehicles (flhsmv.gov).

ways carry them in their original containers.

with many stops along the way. Greyhound

Drivers and front-seat passengers must

Travel insurance is recommended. For emer-

bus service links many Florida cities

wear seat belts. A child restraint is required

gency assistance anywhere, dial 911.

Highway.

AMTRAK

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

23

TRAVELERS’ TIPS

DIVING KEY LARGO • VISIT FLORIDA®

January (Martin Luther King Day), third Monday in February (Presidents’ Day), last Monday in May (Memorial Day), July 4 (Independence Day), first Monday in September (Labor Day), second Monday in October (Columbus Day), November 11 (Veterans’

Day),

fourth

Thursday

in

November (Thanksgiving), and December 25 (Christmas). Many companies close during “the holidays” from December 24–January 1.

BANKING AND TAXES Most banks are open Monday–Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM. TD Bank, with nearly 100 locations in Florida, is open seven days a week. ROMANTIC DINING • VISIT FLORIDA®

ATMs (automated teller machines) can be found at banks, grocery and convenience

SECURITY

stores and at some attractions. A transaction

It is prudent to always lock car doors, even

fee of $2–4 is assessed. Many stores will allow

while driving, and secure belongings out of

debit card users to obtain “cash back” up to

sight. Never leave a bag or parcel unattended.

$50 above their purchase with no transaction

Keep valuables in the hotel safe along with

fee. Florida’s base sales tax on purchases is 6%,

copies of important documents, such as your

with counties adding up to another 1.5% dis-

passport. Florida is home to dangerous ani-

cretionary tax.

mals, most notably the American alligator, seen sunning along waterways. Never ap-

TIPPING

proach or feed an alligator—feeding one

Tipping is the norm in America, with those

carries a fine of $500 and may cost you an

working in dining establishments expected to

arm or a leg.

earn up to 25% of their income through tips. Add 15–20% to the bill as a tip for wait staff

ACCOMMODATION AND DINING

and bartenders; airport shuttle drivers, valets

Accommodation in Florida ranges from quaint

$1–2 per night; tour guides, $2–10 per person,

lodges to luxurious resorts. For top-notch small

depending on length and complexity of the

and bellhops, $2 per person; maid service,

properties, visit superiorsmalllodging.com.

chain restaurants while business casual and re-

tour; and fishing guides, 10–15% of the cost

Most properties charge an additional county

sort wear are appropriate in upscale

of the trip. If you see a tip jar, throw a few

“tourist development tax” on room or holiday

establishments. Smoking is not permitted in-

coins in—it’s always appreciated.

rental rates. Hotels and resorts, particularly in

side Florida restaurants or bars that serve

Orlando and South Florida, also add an addi-

food, however smokers can enjoy the outdoor

EVERGLADES

tional 5 to 20% as an “amenities fee.” Ask

patio. Restaurants are air conditioned and can

No trip to Florida would be complete without

beforehand, since these fees are not always dis-

be quite chilly.

a visit to the Everglades National Park (nps.gov/ever), with its majestic and unique

closed in the published or stated price.

HOLIDAYS

landscapes spanning 2,358 square miles.

cultural diversity, from Southern comfort

Even during federal holidays, many attrac-

Dedicated on December 6, 1947 by President

food like fried chicken and collard greens to

tions are open. Banks and government offices,

Harry S. Truman, it can be explored by car,

mojitos and Jamaican jerk chicken. Dining is

including the post office, are closed on

tram, foot, canoe or on an exhilarating airboat

casual, with T-shirts and shorts the norm at

January 1 (New Year’s Day), third Monday in

tour across sweeping swamps and marshes.

Florida offers culinary experiences with

24

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

GOLF / SPA / TENNIS / FITNESS / FINE DINING 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables Miami, Florida 33134 ttCJMUNPSFIPUFMDPN

ARCHITECTURE AND GARDENS

HOTEL ART DECO ARCHITECTURE/SOUTH BEACH, MIAMI â&#x20AC;˘ RJ LERICH/SHUTTERSTOCK

Splendid Sights

IN THE

SUNSHINE STATE BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN

F

lorida is more than just beaches and

sunshine. There are incredible sightseeing opportunities throughout the

Sunshine State, especially when it comes to historic architecture and lush tropical gardens. Landmark buildings from 1920s art deco to modern structures dot the state. For those who prefer a little color with their outdoor exploring, gardens are the perfect way to enjoy native flora and fauna. 26

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

SOUTHEAST

WATER STAIRWAY IN VIZCAYA • ISAME/DREAMSTIME

Starting at the southernmost tip of the state in the Florida Keys up to West Palm Beach, there is plenty of each to explore. Conch architecture, evident by tin roofs, wood-frame structures,

wraparound

verandahs

and

porches with intricate woodcarvings, is evident during any stroll around the Key West area. A great way to take it all in and learn about the history is on a biking or walking tour. Many of these houses feature lovely flora and fauna; however, to truly appreciate the beauty of Key West foliage requires a visit to the Key West Garden Club and the Joe Allen Garden Center at West Martello Tower. Here, brick pathways lined with exotic trees and plants including bromeliads and orchids lead to breezy gazebos and arched courtyards (keywestgardenclub.com). Admiring the wealth of vibrant bougainvilleas, especially around Islamorada, is another must during the drive through the Keys. EDISON GUEST HOUSE & HOME• LEE COUNTY VISITOR & CONVENTION BUREAU

Although Miami’s South Beach is known mainly for beaches and a thriving nightlife, the art deco architecture plays a close second to why this area is world-renowned. Tours with the Miami Design Preservation League, the spearheading organization for the architecture’s revival, are the best way to see it all (mdpl.org). Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on posh South Miami Avenue is a 10-acre National Historic Landmark featuring a 34-room home surrounded by formal gardens and a rockland hammock (vizcayamuseum.org). There are also the Cloisters of the Ancient Spanish Monastery, a phenomenal stone structure with impressive gardens, arched open-air hallways and massive wooden door entranceways (spanishmonastery.com). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

27

ARCHITECTURE AND GARDENS

EAST TERRACE OF VIZCAYA • ELENA KOUZMINA/DREAMSTIME

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fort Lauderdale’s Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is a 35-acre site with a quaint, bright yellow structure and represents five distinct ecosystems including a couple of dunes, the Atlantic Ocean, a freshwater slough, mangrove wetland and maritime forest. The Desert Garden blooms with a hibiscus garden, arid plantings and one of the largest collections of orchids in the Southeastern US (bonnet house.org). And the Historic Stranahan House Museum is typical of the Florida vernacular style. It was restored to its original 1913 configuration and during its history served as a bank, trading post, post office and town hall (stranahanhouse.org). Finally, travel to Japan in Florida with a visit to the 16-acre Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens where a world-class bonsai display is complemented by contemporary Asian art and six diverse, flowing gardens that lend an element of tranquility and calm (morikami.org). The impeccably

landscaped

14-acre

Mounts

Botanical Garden features more than 2,000 species of tropical and subtropical native and exotic species and is the area’s oldest and largest garden of its kind (mounts.org).

WEST COAST The Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers are the centerpieces of historic structures in this quiet town on Florida’s West Coast. The stately homes of these two innovators and the surrounding gardens with more than a thousand varieties of imported plants, including a banyan tree and an African sausage tree, make up the 15,000-square-foot museum. The grand pool is a beauty (efwefla.org). Farther up the coast in Sarasota are Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota Jungle Gardens

and

the

Sarasota

School

of

Architecture featuring the creations of master architect Gene Leedy. The 35-year-old Selby Gardens are a 14-acre wonder nestled amongst 12 buildings along a brick-laid path, and feature seven greenhouses that house thousands of colorful and exotic plants. Hibiscus, tropical fruits, ferns, bonsais, cacti and succulents and 28

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

THE BOK TOWER IN HISTORIC BOK SANCTUARY IN LAKE WALES • NICK SAUM/DREAMSTIME

Rudolph, Mark Hampton, Victor Lundy and

National Register of Historic Places. Lloyd

Gene Leedy. Their designs are pure regional

Wright came to FSC with the intention of

southern architecture where the use of patios,

creating an architectural wonder in a campus

verandahs, modular construction and raised

setting in an effort to contribute his concept

floors allowed for greater ventilation while the

of unifying organic architecture. Light-filled,

flat-roofed buildings created a minimalist

flat-roofed modern structures with plenty of

look (sarasotaarchitecturalfoundation.org).

breezeways, his signature style, fill the college campus (franklloydwrightatfsc.com).

CENTRAL/CENTRAL WEST Orlando and Lakeland, neighboring Central

NORTHEAST

Florida areas, boast a variety of gardens and

St. Augustine, the state’s oldest city, is so filled

an impressive collection of works by Frank

with historic architecture that, merely walking

Lloyd Wright, one of the fathers of Florida

through its heart, it’s evident Spanish archi-

architecture.

Leu

tecture from the conquistador days is

Gardens, a 50-acre botanical park, boasts the

Orlando’s

Harry

P.

prevalent everywhere. Narrow brick-paved

third largest camellia collection in America

streets weave through a multitude of historic

and includes the Leu House Museum, which

buildings. The Oldest Wooden School

is listed on the National Register of Historic

House, Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum,

Places. The herb and vegetable garden, palm,

Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas

bamboo and cycad gardens and the state’s

National Monument are just some examples.

largest formal rose garden are an added bonus

And the most recognizable gardens are

(leugardens.org).

housed at the Ponce de Leon Fountain of

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales fea-

Youth Park, a 15-acre park where landscaped

tures Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr.-designed

gardens, living history exhibits and a spring

gardens, a 205-foot tower and a majestic 60-

house pay homage to founding Spanish

bell carillon. In flat Florida the gardens are

colonists, Timucua Indians and Ponce de

adjacent to Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge, which

Leon’s famed fountain of youth (floridas

at 298 feet above sea level, is one of the state’s

historiccoast.com).

highest hills. The gardens feature a reflecting

North of St. Augustine is Jacksonville’s

pool and, on the grounds, there is the three-

Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, located

quarter-mile Pine Ridge Trail in the Pine

on the historic St. Johns River and featuring

Ridge Nature Preserve. The eight-acre, 20-

rare horticultural specimens shaded by a

bromeliads all share space here along with

room Mediterranean Revival mansion known

canopy of mature live oak trees and a wealth

bamboo and banyan groves (selby.org).

as Pinewood Estate is another centerpiece

of sculptures, arbors, fountains and reflecting

(boktowergardens.org).

pools (cummer.org).

The 70-year-old Sarasota Jungle Gardens have the distinction as one of the oldest con-

Located on Mirror Lake, Hollis Garden

tinuously running attractions in the state.

in Lakeland is a 1.2-acre botanical garden

NORTH CENTRAL

Over the years, the 10-acre lush property

with a lovely gazebo structure surrounded

In Florida’s capital of Tallahassee, two gardens

has become home to a koi pond, open la-

by covered and open-air walkways and

shouldn’t be missed. Surrounded by heirloom

goons, a tiki garden and an area called

winding garden paths filled with flowering

roses and daffodils planted in bulb lawns, the

Gardens of Christ. A massive collection of

plants, ornamental shrubs and historic trees

Goodwood Museum & Gardens features an

trees and cacti includes the rare Australian

(lakelandgov.net/parkrec/parks/Hollis

1830s estate with some of the oldest frescoed

nut tree, a bunya bunya tree, strangler figs,

Garden.html).

ceilings in Florida (goodwoodmuseum.org). in

The Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park was

Florida’s largest-known Norfolk Island pine

Lakeland, boasts the largest single-site collec-

planted in 1923 and now displays more than

(sarasotajunglegardens.com).

tion—10 buildings and two additional

200 floral varieties including azalea and

royal palms, red maples, bald cypress and

Florida

Southern

College,

also

The Sarasota School of Architecture is the

structures within the campus—of Frank

camellia plants along a brick walkway, in a

ultimate representation of works by master

Lloyd Wright architecture in the world, the

secret garden and in a walled garden

Florida architects Ralph Twitchell, Paul

most likely reason why the college is on the

(floridastateparks.org/maclaygardens). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

29

ARTS AND CULTURE

A Feast of

CULTURAL ENTERTAINMENT BY ISOBEL WARREN

I

n a state best known for sun, sand and

theme parks, Florida’s treasure trove of things to see and do also serves up a

mind-boggling feast of cultural entertainment that runs the gamut from symphonies to opera, dance, theater, museums and plenty of surprises.

MUSEUMS GALORE Among a statewide multitude of museums, the northeast city of St. Augustine has one of the most unique. An entire Old City section is a living history museum where ancient cobblestone streets are lined with centuries-old buildings and costumed interpreters replicate life and culture as it was in the 1740s. Cornerstone of the historic area is the Castillo de San Marcos, a massive fortress that bears the distinction of being the oldest 17th-century stone fort in the United States. It features a variety of exhibits, historical weapon demonstrations and military re-enactments performed in period costume. Lying just beyond the Old City area is the more contemporary Lightner Museum where priceless art, glass and furniture are combined with Native American artifacts, rare mechanized musical instruments and a small Egyptian mummy (floridashistoriccoast.com). On the west coast, the pride of Sarasota is

masters such as Rubens, El Greco and

that eventually left him bankrupt. Steps from

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of

Gainsborough. Also on the property is

the mansion, the family-friendly Circus

Art built in 1931 by circus impresario John

Ringling’s former mansion where narrated

Museum traces the history of the Ringling

Ringling. A fabulous sculpture garden and 21

tours describe the life of John Ringling and

family circus, John Ringling as circus king,

galleries contain a vast collection of art by

his passion for art collecting—an obsession

and the famous circus movie, The Greatest

30

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

RINGLING MUSEUM OF ART • VISIT FLORIDA®

(morsemuseum.org). The most fascinating exhibit is a stunning chapel interior Tiffany created for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. The Morse, however, is just one of many museums scattered across the greater Orlando area with several of them offering free admission (orlandoinfo.com). In Daytona Beach, the Museum of Arts & Sciences is one of the best mid-size museums in Florida. Its special features include the largest collection of Cuban art outside of Cuba, an impressive assemblage of American art, extensive Coca-Cola memorabilia and the enormous skeleton of a 130,000-year-old giant ground sloth (moas.org). One of the state’s newest and most exciting openings is the Dalí Museum in West Coast St. Petersburg where a 2,140-piece collection of Salvador Dalí works is the largest outside of Spain (salvadordalimuseum.org).

MUSIC IS IN THE AIR The state’s music and performing arts scene is just as plentiful as its inventory of museums and the options are extensive. Among them, The Florida Theatre in Jacksonville is a grand old lady that dates back to the 1920s era of decadence. Elvis performed there in 1956 and today the theater continues to feature film, musical acts and ballet (floridatheatre.com). Built in 1936, the art deco-style Martin Theatre in Panama City also has a colorful history. In the early years it hosted a string of movie celebrities including actor Clark Gable. Today the renovated theater features a roster of theatrical and live musical performances (martintheatre.com). Once host to Vaudeville and silent film, the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Miami now presents everything from film to ballet and various musical presentations (gusman center.org). The Enzian Theater near Orlando (enzian.org) is the site of the anShow on Earth, filmed in Sarasota in 1952.

Although it’s the theme-park capital of the

nual Florida Film Festival and Daytona

The museum is filled with related memora-

world, Orlando is not without museums.

Beach’s Peabody Auditorium plays host

bilia as well as the world’s largest model of a

Among them is the Morse Museum, con-

to renowned performing arts groups in-

circus in miniature featuring tiny replicas of

taining the world’s largest collection of Louis

cluding the London Symphony Orchestra

animals and performers (ringling.org).

Comfort

(peabodyauditorium.org).

Tiffany

stained-glass

artistry

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

31

ARTS AND CULTURE

TAMPA THEATRE • VISIT FLORIDA®

ORLANDO OPERA • VISIT FLORIDA®

Overall, there are literally hundreds of

mile-long boardwalk through the cypress

statewide theaters and playhouses offering

swamp where there are 67 varieties of flora

entertainment for every cultural taste (visit

and fauna. Another Seminole initiative is the

florida.com).

Billie Swamp Safari featuring swamp buggy and ecotours through a 2,200-acre wetland

OUT OF THE ORDINARY

wilderness (swampsafari.com). For an au-

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum at the Big

thentic cultural experience, visitors can stay

Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation west of

overnight in traditional thatched-roof huts.

Fort Lauderdale is as much a Native historical

Also one of the state’s unique cultural at-

site as it is a museum (ahtahthiki.com). The

tractions is the Ernest Hemingway Home &

Seminoles are part of Florida’s very early his-

Museum in the heart of Key West, the largest

tory

a

city in south Florida’s string of sand keys

COMING SOON

comprehensive illustration of the tribe’s past

(hemingwayhome.com). Here, visitors can

In 2012, The Miami Art Museum is scheduled

and culture. Here in the heart of Florida’s un-

view the place where the renowned author

to open in an impressive new home. When it

tamed Everglades, four main galleries explore

penned some of his greatest novels. The

makes its debut, it will be part of a larger cul-

various aspects of Seminole life and traditions

house contains Hemingway’s original furnish-

tural destination—the new 29-acre Museum

through hands-on displays and artifacts such

ings including a 17th-century Spanish chest

Park on Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami.

as clothing, dolls, baskets and tools. There’s

the author’s wife, Pauline, used as her writing

The park complex will also be the future home

also a living village where tribal elders fashion

desk. The property is also home to more than

of the Miami Science Museum and the

wood carvings, beaded jewelry and grass bas-

60 cats that are descendants of those he kept

Historical Museum of Southern Florida

kets. In addition, the museum site includes a

while living there.

(miamiartmuseum.org/museum_park.asp).

32

and

the

museum

presents

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

BEACHES

Down by the

SEASHORE BY SANDRA FRIEND

W

ith 1,800 miles of coastline,

experience everything it has to offer in-

Florida is one of the world’s top

cluding its spectacular beaches—one of them

destinations for beach lovers.

clothing-optional (miamiandbeaches.com).

Not surprisingly, it was sunbathed beaches and

CLEARWATER BEACH • VISIT FLORIDA®

a year-round, subtropical climate that first at-

ISLAND TIME

tracted tourists to the state now known as one

The Sunshine State has scores of coastal is-

of the most popular vacation spots in the

lands with magnificent beaches, among

world. Today, this balmy holiday haven is

which with a “no-rush, no-hurry” character,

dotted with vibrant cities, charming small

are the Florida Keys. Defined by endless

towns, a plethora of attractions and, last but

sand, this series of connected islands, which

not least, some of the best beaches on the

extends like a string of pearls off the state’s

planet. There is everything from long stretches

southern tip, can easily inspire visitors to feel

of sandy shoreline where serenity reigns, to

like they have arrived in the Caribbean by car

high-activity beaches, shelling beaches and

as they drive south from Key Largo on the

even a beach on which people can drive cars.

Overseas Highway. In the Keys, a slower pace of life is earnestly embraced and among its

PUTTIN’ ON THE GLITZ

best beaches are those found in the Bahia

Miami’s hip and trendy South Beach area is

Honda State Park (floridastateparks.org).

the Sunshine State’s epicenter of glitz, glamor

Here, waves wash onto the longest sweep of

and high-octane entertainment. With a

natural sand in the Florida Keys.

global reputation for glorious weather, beau-

34

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

tiful people, world-class dining and one of

SHELLING

the hottest club scenes in the country, South

Most of Florida’s barrier islands lie parallel to

Beach consistently attracts the rich and fa-

the coast, however one exception is Sanibel

mous and hordes of vacationers wanting to

Island (sanibel-captiva.org). Its unique

east-west orientation causes seashells to per-

Vacationers can ramp up the fun with

petually wash up on shore, sometimes as thick

guided horseback rides on the beach at

WHERE THE RUBBER HITS THE SAND

as leaves on a forest floor. Shelling here is so

Amelia

(florida

The Daytona Beach area is one of the few places

popular that the name “Sanibel stoop” has

stateparks.org). Among the litany of other

in Florida where people can drive vehicles on the

been applied to the posture of people who

good choices for family beach fun is

beaches, a tradition dating back to the days when

comb the island’s beaches in a bent-over po-

the Fort De Soto Park at St. Petersburg

the wide, hard-packed sand from Ormond

sition in search of special shells. Considered

(fortdesoto.com). Here, there are five in-

Beach south to Daytona Beach and onward to

one of the best shelling destinations in the

terconnected islands with three miles of

Ponce Inlet served as the state’s first racetrack.

world, Sanibel Island is also home to the

unfettered beaches and a fort that’s listed on

Racing eventually moved inland to the now

Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, which con-

the National Register of Historic Places.

famous Daytona International Speedway

tains the largest collection of shells in North

There are also nature trails, fishing piers

(daytonainternationalspeedway.com)

America (shellmuseum.org).

and a canoe route.

leisurely beach driving at 10 mph in dedicated

Island

State

Park

but

lanes is a practice that has endured. Thirteen

PANAMA CITY BEACH • VISIT FLORIDA®

auto ramps between Ormond Beach and Ponce Inlet provide beach access points.

BACK TO NATURE Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is a protected environment where green turtles and loggerhead sea turtles nest along a 20-mile strip of beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast south of Melbourne (fws.gov/archiecarr). This is the most significant nesting spot for loggerhead sea turtles in the western hemisphere and it’s also a minor nesting area for leatherback turtles, one of the world’s largest and rarest sea turtles. Between 15,000 and 20,000 turtles return annually to nest on the

DOWN-HOME CHARM

FAMILY ON THE BEACH • VISIT FLORIDA®

beach where they were hatched. Volunteers

With a history that dates back nearly 500 years,

provide guided walks for people wanting to

Florida has a number of beach communities

observe the ritual.

with deep roots including New Smyrna Beach founded in 1768 as a seaside plantation on the

ON THE ROCKS

Atlantic coast (nsbfla.com). This pleasant, laid-

Often overlooked but fascinating are Florida’s

back town has 13 miles of pristine, white sand

rocky shores, places where swimming may be

beaches that are among the community’s chief

limited but exploring sea caves and splashing

attractions. On the West Coast, the town of

in tidal pools provides a different kind of ex-

Dunedin has a Scottish settlement history that

perience. Among the best-known spots is

dates back to 1899. This pretty waterfront vil-

Blowing Rocks Preserve located on Jupiter

lage known for steadfastly preserving its ethnic

Island where Atlantic waves shoot through

roots is also a doorway to two of Florida’s best

the tops of sea caves at high tide (floridian

beach destinations: Caladesi Island and

nature.com/BlowingRocksPreserve.htm).

Honeymoon Island (floridastateparks.org).

In Washington Oaks Gardens State Park north of the Palm Coast, an ocean-sculpted

FAMILY FUN


ribbon of shell-studded limestone at Coquina

On the upper northeast coast, Amelia Island is

Beach is dotted with tide pools and at Big

a perennial family favorite where there are great

Talbot Island State Park east of Jacksonville,

beaches, family-friendly resorts and charming

its “black rock” shoreline is unlike any other

oceanfront rental cottages (ameliaisland.com).

in northeast Florida (floridastateparks.org). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

35

BEST-KEPT SECRETS

Florida’s BEST-KEPT SECRETS

BIKES PARKED AT THE PIER ON ANNA MARIA ISLAND • BRADENTON AREA CVB

BY KRISTEN MANIERI

E

very destination offers out-of-the-or-

dinary adventures for all ages and interests and Florida is no exception.

This quick-reference guide lists some of the unique experiences the Sunshine State has to offer visitors.

BRADENTON/ANNA MARIA ISLAND/LONGBOAT KEY Run your hands across sea urchins and calico crabs in the Intertidal Touch Tank at the South

Florida

Museum

(southflorida

museum.org) where area celebrity and the nation’s oldest manatee, Snooty, can be observed in person or online via the “Snooty Cam.” Meander through a whimsical collec-

DAYTONA BEACH AREA

tion of galleries, studios, boutiques and cafés

Visit one of the few museums in the

housed in colorful cottages at the Village of

country solely dedicated to photography.

the Arts (villageofthearts.com) in downtown

The Southeast Museum of Photography

Bradenton where one-of-a-kind finds from

(smponline.org) presents six exhibition

purses made entirely of recycled pop can tabs

seasons annually and admission is always

to handmade ukuleles turn typical shoppers

free. Thirty miles west of Daytona, float

into happy treasure hunters. Close the day

through de Leon Springs State Park on the

Anna Maria Island-style at the Sun House

Fountain

Restaurant (thesunhouserestaurant.com)

(foytours.net), a narrated, eco-history tour

where every night diners serenade the sunset

onboard the MV Acuera that docks nearby

singing You Are My Sunshine and then down a

the Old Spanish Sugar Mill, a do-it-your-

complimentary “green flash” shooter.

self pancake joint with griddles at each

36

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

of

Youth

Boat

Tour

table. Or travel to Cassadaga in Volusia

Honest John’s Fish Camp (honestjohnsfish

worry about finding a parking spot. Be sure

County (cassadaga.org), a 116-year-old

camp.com) in South Melbourne Beach

to check out the new Village at Gulfstream

spiritualist camp offering palm readings,

where fishermen can rent aluminum boats or

Park (thevillageatgulfstreampark.com), a

psychic healings and ghost tours.

kayaks and cruise out onto the Indian River

luxurious al fresco shopping and dining des-

Lagoon where fish like seatrout and redfish

tination where visitors can shop ’til they drop

FLORIDA KEYS

bite year-round. Drink in the best views of the

at stores like Crate and Barrel and Rock

The unforgettable turquoise water that hugs

Space Coast on a scenic flight inside an au-

& Roll Religion, eat at gourmet cafés, and

the highway en route to Key West is a spectac-

thentic 1940 fully restored Waco UPF-7 open

sample a brew from the world’s largest collec-

ular sight to behold from the Overseas

cockpit biplane at Florida Biplanes located on

tion of draft beer at the newly opened

Highway, but views are actually best from a

Merritt Island (floridabiplanes.com).

Yard House.

tranquil waters by day or, if the timing is right,

FORT LAUDERDALE

FORT MYERS/SANIBEL

opt for a full-moon tour, which gives explorers

Experience one of Earth’s most unusual zoos,

Lounge with the locals at Captiva Island’s

a double feature—the sunset and the full moon.

Butterfly World (butterflyworld.com), a 10-

Mucky Duck (muckyduck.com), a hangout

Turtle lovers will want to visit Marathon’s

acre sanctuary wholly devoted to the study,

loved for its seafood, blueberry sour cream pie

Turtle Hospital (turtlehospital.org), a one-of-

care and display of more than 10,000 butter-

and the area’s best sunset views. Take a trip to

a-kind facility that gives guests the opportunity

flies, many of which fly freely in picturesque

Matlacha on Pine Island (floridascreative

to feed sea turtles and learn about turtle con-

garden aviaries. Traverse Fort Lauderdale by

coast.com), a bygone fishing village now

servation efforts. They even have their own

water taxi (watertaxi.com), a trip that not

home to quaint galleries and restaurants. This

ambulance. Dive into Key West’s rowdy nightlife

only offers glimpses of the waterfront mega

tiny slice of Old Florida is home to a thriving

on the “Duval Crawl” (keywestwalking

mansions, but promises to deliver passengers

artist community as well as Bert’s Bar & Grill

tours.com), a 2.5-hour guided pub tour

to some of the area’s best restaurants without

(bertsbar.us), a dive bar with a more than

kayak (kayakfloridakeys.com). Paddle these

through downtown Key West offering a beer or signature cocktail at each bar.

SPACE COAST BEACHES • SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM

FLORIDA’S SPACE COAST With guided kayaking tours down the Nyami Nyami River, the Brevard Zoo (brevardzoo.org) in Melbourne gives guests a river’s-edge vantage point of the zoo’s Expedition Africa animals. For just $6, guests can paddle their way past giraffes, rhinos and gazelles. Try your angler skills at

KEY LARGO SUNSET • THE MONROE COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

37

FANTASY SURF ACTION • KISSIMMEE CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU

BEST-KEPT SECRETS 70-year-old history and what many consider the best pizza around. Finally, escape to an island paradise only accessible by boat or ferry. Cayo Costa (floridastateparks.org /cayocosta), a pristine barrier island with nine miles of sugary beach, is the ideal getaway for a day of snorkeling. Experience a rustic overnight stay in one of the island’s one-room cabins—they don’t come with running water or electricity but the view of the stars at night is spectacular.

JACKSONVILLE Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the brewing process (including a sampling directly from a finishing tank) on the new Budweiser Beermaster Tour (budweiser tours.com), an enlightening experience that’s sure to turn the typical hoser into an ale aficionado. Hand-pull your very own candy at Sweet

Pete’s

(sweetpete.net),

historic

Springfield’s new all-natural candy shop.

Visit the quaint San Marco district, home to the Peterbrooke Chocolatier Production Center (peterbrooke.com), which gives chocolate lovers insights into the world of chocolate making during public tours. Finally, open Saturdays from March until December, the new Riverside Arts Market (river sideartsmarket.com) stocks a kaleidoscope of finds from original art to farm-fresh produce at its location under the Fuller Warren Bridge.

KISSIMMEE Learn to hang ten at Fantasy Surf, a new 14,000-square-foot indoor surf experience (ultimateindoorwave.com).

Bodyboard,

kneeboard or stand as 15,000 gallons of water rush through the surf simulator at 30 mph creating the perfect continuous wave. Grab a MATLACHA ON PINE ISLAND • LEE COUNTY VISITOR & CONVENTION BUREAU

38

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

cool treat at Pure Magic Ice Cream, a modern

CORAL GABLES IN MIAMI • GREATER MIAMI CVB

Miami courtesy of GoCar Tours (gocar

truffle-creating classes. Kids will adore the

tours.com). These GPS-guided, storytelling

Children’s Garden at Naples Botanical

cars allow day-trippers to traverse the city’s

Garden (naplesgarden.org), an interactive

best sites at their own pace and convenience.

learning environment filled with flowers, but-

Be sure to take a drive over to Coral Gables

terflies, tree houses and babbling streams.

(coralgablesvenetianpool.com), the meticparlor featuring ice cream created in seconds

ulously planned luxury community that’s

ORLANDO

with a vanilla base that’s flash frozen with liquid

home to the Venetian Pool, an 820,000-gallon

Skip the life-threatening thrill of an ocean

nitrogen. Be sure to visit Florida EcoSafaris

spring-fed swimming pool built in 1923 and

shark dive and opt instead for SeaWorld’s

(floridaecosafaris.com) at Forever Florida for

still used today.

tamer version (seaworld.com). Sharks Deep Dive lets shark enthusiasts venture

nature tours on horseback through a 4,700acre working cattle ranch and nature preserve.

NAPLES

into a 700,000-gallon saltwater aquarium,

For thrill seekers, the ranch recently added a

Join a photography tour of the legendary

home to 24 curious sharks. No dive experi-

zip-line safari, which takes guests on a soaring

Everglades National Park, a 1.5-million-acre

ence is necessary thanks to the Sea Trek

treetop tour 55 feet above the ground.

area teeming with wildlife and unspoiled

helmet, which is used instead of typical

vistas. Everglades Area Tours (everglades

scuba gear. International HeliTours (inter

MIAMI

areatours.com) offers this and dozens of

nationalhelitours.com) provides an un-

Wander through Miami’s chic style and

other unique expeditions including bicycle

matched vantage point from which to view

design hub, the Miami Design District

tours, overnight camping trips and sunset

Epcot’s spectacular nightly fireworks show.

(miamidesigndistrict.net), packed with fur-

sea kayak paddles. Visit the new chocolate

Watch the show from above as fireworks ex-

niture and accessory shops and studios

salon created by internationally recog-

plode below. Curb any American Idol urges

promising to give serious home decorators a

nized chocolate artisan Norman Love

at Rising Star, Universal CityWalk’s karaoke

glimpse at the next hottest design trends.

(normanloveconfections.com) at Parkshore

bar where budding singers flaunt their talent

Visitors will also find eclectic clothing shops,

Plaza. Love shows he doesn’t mind sharing his

with the help of a live band and backup

art galleries and a handful of fabulous restau-

secrets by allowing budding chocolatiers

singers (universalorlando.com/Nightlife

rants. Get a private, self-navigated tour of

to take his baking, fondue-making and

/rising_star_karoke.aspx). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

39

BEST-KEPT SECRETS

SNORKELING IN ST. ANDREWS STATE PARK • PANAMA CITY BEACH CVB

PANAMA CITY BEACH Visit St. Andrews State Park (florida stateparks.org/standrews), characterized by its rolling white sand dunes. Outdoor enthusiasts can find hiking along scenic trails, camping facilities, unparalleled fishing, kayaking,

cycling,

diving

and

more.

Experience Miracle Strip at Pier Park (miracle-strip.com), which includes original balloon race rides and other kid-friendly experiences from the former iconic Miracle Strip Amusement Park; parents and grandparents can relax in the shaded pavilion area in the middle of the amusement park. Canoe along Econfina Creek and explore the personality of this ever-changing waterway complete with tight curves and fast water chutes (canoeeconfinacreek.net).

PENSACOLA The Gulf Islands National Seashore boasts the country’s longest continuous stretch of protected beach in Northwest Florida, and in addition to its breathtaking views, offers adventurous ranger-led outings, barrier island walks and tours of historic Fort Pickens—a massive Civil War brick fortress that will whisk

you

back

150

years

in

time

(nps.gov/guis/florida.htm). Carve out an hour or two on a Tuesday or Wednesday BLUE ANGELS • THE BLUE ANGELS/US NAVY

PALM BEACHES AND BOCA RATON Experience Florida’s only drive-through safari, Lion Country Safari (lioncountry safari.com), where you can view more than 900 animals in seven themed areas, ride a camel, feed a giraffe or chill out in a mini water park. Visit the Flagler Museum (flaglermuseum.us), Henry Flagler’s 1902 estate in Palm Beach, for guided tours and the legendary Gilded Age-style lunch featuring gourmet tea sandwiches and traditional scones served on exquisite Whitehall Collection™ china. Catch a polo match at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (inter nationalpoloclub.com) where the US Open Polo Championship is played each year. 40

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

More history can be experienced at the

famous Blue Angels as they practise awe-in-

ST. PETERSBURG/ CLEARWATER

spiring aerial maneuvers in the skies

Have a blast while breaking a serious sweat

museum.org), which features an 1880s

(blueangels.navy.mil). Reserve a day for the

during a stand-up paddling boot camp session

working farmstead, educational exhibits and

Blackwater River State Forest, a pristine area

(standupfitnessinc.com), which combines

classes, plus wildlife exhibits showcasing

of trees and streams perfect for tubing, ca-

the tranquility of paddling, the thrill of

Florida panthers and other endangered ani-

noeing, kayaking and camping out while

surfing and the excitement of sailing, all into

mals. Car lovers will lose track of time in

enjoying nothing but pure nature (fl-dof.com

one glorious exercise regimen. Kayak the

the

/state_forests/blackwater_river.html).

Mangrove Tunnels at Caladesi Island’s stun-

(tacm.com), which boasts more than 130 rare

ning state park (floridastateparks.org

automobiles like a 1936 DeSoto and a 1955

/caladesiisland), voted America’s No. 1 beach

T-Bird Convertible.

morning and visit the home of the world-

SARASOTA Experience the Fountain of Youth at Warm

52-acre Tallahassee Museum (tallahassee

Tallahassee

Automobile

Museum

MISSION SAN LUIS • TALLAHASSEE VISITOR INFORMATION CENTER

Mineral Springs (warmmineralsprings.com), a naturally formed mineral spring with a yearround temperature of 87 F. Leave feeling entirely rejuvenated after a float in the mineral-infused waters, a restorative yoga class, and a massage at the on-site spa. Explore the Myakka River State Park (myakkariver.org) amongst the treetops on the Myakka Canopy Walkway built 25 feet above the ground and extending 85 feet across the tree canopy. Run away with the circus, if only for a day, at The Circus Museum (ringling.org), boasting a world-renowned collection of memorabilia from more than 100 years of Ringling history. Be sure to check out the world’s largest miniature circus, a replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919 to 1938.

ST. AUGUSTINE

in 2008. Don’t leave out exploring the charm

TAMPA BAY

St. Augustine’s Pirate & Treasure Museum

of America’s “Most Walkable Small City,”

Experience close encounters with the world’s

(thepiratemuseum.com) contains one of the

downtown

(dunedin-fl.com).

most mesmerizing mammals at Big Cat

world’s largest collections of authentic pirate

Shop, walk or bike thorough this quaint

Rescue (bigcatrescue.org), a 45-acre wildlife

artifacts—including an actual pirate flag and

town lined with galleries, boutiques and

sanctuary that’s home to 140 cats ranging

treasure chest. Far from your typical museum,

restaurants. If you need a break, head to the

from 750-pound tigers to 13-pound bobcats.

this total immersion into the history of piracy

St. Petersburg Museum of History and rent

Check out the interactive Keeper Tour, which

also gives a nod to modern-day Hollywood

your own Segway (gyroglides.com) as you

offers the chance to prepare food and work

pirates like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. Set

cruise the sights, sounds and photo ops of

side by side with handlers during a training

aside an afternoon for the Florida Seafood

the beautiful waterfront of downtown

session. Join the crew on Captain Gus’ com-

Crabbing tour (904-814-0159). Board the

St. Petersburg.

mercial crab boat where amateur crabbers will

Dunedin

25-foot Sea Hawk Cruiser and venture out to

pull and bait crab traps, then clean, steam and

sea where you’ll pull crab pots and carefully

TALLAHASSEE

eat their catch of Tampa Bay’s stone and blue

remove a single claw from the legal-sized

See history reborn at Mission San Luis

crabs (crabbyadventures.com). Casually

stone crabs before placing them back into the

(missionsanluis.org) where costumed re-en-

glide through downtown Tampa with Magic

water where they can grow a replacement.

actments, hands-on exhibits, re-created

Carpet Glide Segway Tours (magiccarpet

Finish the day at the seaside with a romantic

period buildings and archaeological excava-

glide.com) offering views of the Channelside

horseback ride along the sandy coast

tions take visitors back in time at the only

entertainment district, the Tampa Riverwalk

(countrycarriages.net).

reconstructed Spanish mission in Florida.

Project and the Hillsborough River. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

41

REGIONAL CUISINE AND DINING

Noshing Around

THE SUNSHINE STATE BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN

G

rabbing a bite to eat around

southernmost Key West is too many to men-

simple ambience and food. Downtown Miami’s

Florida is a culinary experience like

tion but there are several standouts. At the

Tobacco Road (tobacco-road.com) appropri-

no other with unique dining estab-

Fish House (fishhouse.com) in Key Largo,

ately called road burgers are juicy; their

lishments, some fancy and others casual.

they’ll cook the catch and sell the freshest

signature Caesar salad with or without grilled

However those highlighted here share one

just-caught fish in their market. On their

chicken is great; and their specials of the day

thing: they offer an experience in taste and

menu, the matecumbe fish, a house specialty,

are always worth a try. Most places around the

flavor not to be missed.

is tops. Marathon’s Keys Fisheries (keys

trendy Miami Design District make the grade

fisheries.com) is the best place to have fresh

but tops is Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink

SOUTHEAST

and hot stone crabs caught straight from their

(michaelsgenuine.com) for the ever-evolving

One thing the Florida Keys are known for is

crab traps. In Key West, the oceanfront

menu of fresh items including dishes made

the vast amount of restaurants that will cook

Historic Seaport features great places like the

with locally caught seafood and creative items

a customer’s catch. After all, fishing is practi-

Half Shell Raw Bar (halfshellrawbar.com)

like pizza topped with Spanish items such as

cally a national pastime there and the ocean

and Turtle Kraals (turtlekraals.com).

chorizo sausage and manchego cheese.

offers a bounty of good eats. The number of

Miami is known as a mecca for fantastic

Fort Lauderdale’s got it all when it comes

great spots from northernmost Key Largo to

restaurants that offer both ultra-elegant and

to dining with great burger places, retro

42

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

DINING IN FORT LAUDERDALE • VISIT FLORIDA®

thatched roof since 1956. Cantonese and

In Delray Beach, one of Miami’s best

American dishes, many featuring tropical

known chefs, Allen Susser, serves up pork

fruits and including seafood and steaks, are

belly sliders, duck confit pot pie and grilled

the main draw on the menu (maikai.com).

cheese and beet salads in his homey uptown

At Le Tub Saloon in Hollywood, the

restaurant Taste Gastropub (tastegastro

question posed is “Can you pass the Le Tub

pub.com). In Palm Beach’s luxurious bou-

test?” The challenge is to eat their juicy,

tique

thick and delicious burger in one bite

American” gourmet cuisine menu at their

(theletub.com). The decor is quirky with

Leopard Lounge and Restaurant features

claw-footed bathtubs and hand-painted sinks.

such classics as Kobe beef mini burgers, lob-

It’s been featured in GQ Magazine and on the

ster salad, rack of lamb and New York strip

Oprah Winfrey Show.

(chesterfieldpb.com).

Chesterfield

Hotel,

the

“New

SEAFOOD BUFFET • VISIT FLORIDA®

restaurants and the newest concept of dark dining. At Market 17, there’s a farm-to-table organic food approach with careful attention paid to serving food free of hormones, pesticides, chemicals and raised from sustainable sources—in other words, clean, fresh-tasting food. More than 350 wines are available here to pair with the food thanks to seasoned sommeliers. They also offer a Dining in the Dark experience, a concept developed in Europe where diners’ senses are heightened by dining blindfolded (market17.net). Also in Fort Lauderdale, people have been flocking to the Mai-Kai restaurant to watch Polynesian dancers and dine among tiki torches under a 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

43

REGIONAL CUISINE AND DINING SOUTHWEST  Sign of the Mermaid on upscale seaside Anna Maria Island has a quaint atmosphere and a varied menu with Gulf Coast fish gumbo, Florida lobster tail with drawn butter, stuffed salmon, scallops and softshell blue crab (signofthemermaidonline.com). In the Sarasota area, Owen’s Fish Camp has a low country boil dish, along with several selections such as Naked Fish, several baskets like fish ’n chips and fried oyster or shrimp, and fish tacos with green salsa and spicy Baja sauce (owensfishcamp.com). For great burgers try El Cap, a small dive burger bar and for great hot dogs (Travel Channel’s Man v. Food went here), the Old Salty Dog is a must (theoldsaltydog.com). Brimming with island flair and a massive collection of very entertaining memorabilia, the Bubble Room on Captiva Island offers a diverse menu that includes its popular RESTAURANT CLOSE TO THE SHIP IN KEY WEST • WORACHATSODSRI/DREAMSTIME

Chophouse serves seasonally inspired dishes using organic or natural foods and grass-fed beef. The jumbo lump crab salad with avocado salsa, cucumber wrap and free-hand vegetarian entrée are perfect examples of their fresh items (martinischophouse.com).

CENTRAL Route 46 Entertainment District in Seminole County is an area devoted to four different types of dining: barbecue at The Smokehouse; classic cuisine at Monroe’s; casual bar food at the Garage Bar, which actually looks like a working garage; and The Saloon for classic generous portions and famous homemade

CENTRAL EAST

cakes. Bubble scouts dressed in khaki uni-

Daytona Beach is famous for the Daytona 500

forms covered in buttons serve up good food

and a beach on which people can drive so

CENTRAL WEST

and nostalgia. Tropical drinks, local seafood,

there are plenty of good restaurants to feed

Tampa’s best spot worth a definite try is Bern’s

choice cuts of prime rib, pork and poultry are

these folks. Housed in a historic building,

Steakhouse, a classic and one of the top-rated

on the menu. The zany decor for which this

Ormond Beach’s Rose Villa (established in

restaurants in the country, serving stellar

establishment is famous includes memorabilia

1901) opened in June 2010 and quickly be-

lamb, beef, veal, pork, poultry and shellfish.

from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. A seven-foot

came a favorite. It boasts a fine dining menu

However, most people come here for the

Mickey Mouse is from a 1930s Disney parade

with escargot, classic roasted chicken,

steak and the incredible classic sides of locally

float. A Santa workshop is from a Macy’s

chateaubriand for two and veal tenderloin

grown charcoal-grilled or steamed vegetables,

Department Store window. And this is only the

(rosevillaormond.com). For a more contem-

French onion soup au gratin and steak house

beginning (bubbleroomrestaurant.com).

porary dining experience, trendy Martini’s

salad (bernssteakhouse.com).

44

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

martinis and fine dining (route-46.com).

TROPICAL LUNCH ON A SANDY BEACH • DENNIS SABO/DREAMSTIME

food for three decades. Aside from oysters

NORTH CENTRAL

topped every which way, a southern favorite

A trio of restaurants in Tallahassee makes the

like fried okra and adventurous appetizers like

“best” list. Avenue Eat & Drink with its

gator, rabbit and frogs’ legs, they also stuff

trendy Southern fusion menu features fried

and charbroil a variety of fish, offer platters

quail with sausage and oyster cream and

and baskets and serve up meat for non-

braised boneless short ribs with mashed

seafood lovers (clarksfishcamp.com).

parsnip potatoes and a rosemary Cabernet

In Cocoa Beach it’s easy to grab a bite but

reduction

(avenueeatanddrink.com).

not get bitten at the Shark Pit, located inside

Cypress Restaurant has an extensive wine list

the Cocoa Beach Surf Company. The draw

and tasty dishes like bacon-wrapped sea

here is dining alongside a tank full of real cir-

scallops, smoked shrimp pachanga, a sugar-

cling sharks. There is good food here such as

cane-mopped 16-oz rib eye and the

pork chops and mahi mahi for entrées, tons of

cypress

brick-oven pizzas topped with buffalo chicken

restaurant.com). The locally owned Kool

wings, shrimp scampi and barbecue pulled

Beanz Café is colorful and casual with a

pork (cocoabeachsurfcompany.com).

modern American menu inspired by the

shrimp

and

grits

(cypress

kitchen staff’s worldwide travels. The choices COLUMBIA RESTAURANT ON SAND KEY • VISIT FLORIDA®

are endless, especially since it’s a daily changing menu but some examples include shrimp and mussel creole stew, sea scallop stir-fry and Indian-inspired garam masalarubbed salmon (kool-beanz.com).

NORTHWEST Located on Grand Lagoon, the Boatyard Restaurant in Panama City Beach offers a superb view as well as their fish tacos, fresh shucked oysters and made-to-order sushi prepared by the sushi chef (boatyardclub.com). The Gulf Coast’s classic dishes are served up with flair at Captain Anderson’s Restaurant & Waterfront Market where diners enjoy grilled bay shrimp, fried stuffed deviled

NORTHEAST

TROPICAL COCKTAIL • DUC MINH TANG/DREAMSTIME

crab or a broiled seafood platter—just a

Santa Maria Restaurant is a waterfront classic

few of the offerings on a huge menu—while

in St. Augustine where it’s as much fun to dine

watching fishing fleets unload their catch

on great food as it is to feed the fish from the

(captandersons.com).

table. The menu includes such items as fried

Pensacola’s McGuire’s Irish Pub is located

catfish; blackened, broiled or fried fish sand-

in the city’s original 1927 firehouse and at last

wich; clam strips; or non-seafood items

count had $700,000 worth of single bills

like rib eye, blackened chicken and burgers

signed by patrons and dotting the restaurant’s

(santamariarestaurant.com). In the historic

interior. Aside from their USDA prime steaks

district, the quaint Prince of Wales Restaurant

like New York strip, bone-in rib eye and filet

serves up English-style beef burgers, beef and

mignon, the Food Network featured their $100

Guinness pie, bangers ’n mash and cottage pie

burger with caviar and champagne as well as

(theprinceofwalesstaugustine.com).

the garbage burger with wasabi, peanut butter

Jacksonville’s longstanding Clark’s Fish

and ice cream to name a few of the ingredi-

Camp Seafood Restaurant, known as “The

ents—even the menu calls it disgusting

People’s Place,” has been cranking out great

(mcguiresirishpub.com). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

45

ECOTOURISM

LOVERS KEY • VISIT FLORIDA®

BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS

F

or the growing number of environ-

mentally aware travelers, Florida offers an exceptional wealth of eco-

tourism

opportunities.

The

state’s

abundant options for responsible, naturebased vacations are supported by a host of assets including protected wetlands, hundreds of rivers and lakes for paddling, vast forest preserves for hiking and biking, wildlife sanctuaries, and some of the best birdwatching in the nation. Here is a sample of the state’s innumerable ecoadventure choices. 46

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

MUST SEE, MUST DO

OUTDOOR RECREATION • VISIT FLORIDA®

Known as “the river of grass,” the Florida Everglades is the only subtropical wilderness preserve in North America and the most visited ecotourism destination in the state. Covering more than a million acres and much of Florida’s southern region, this vast wetland is home to 300 varieties of birds, 25 varieties of orchids and 36 threatened or endangered animal species including the American alligator and the Florida panther. Within this massive watershed, the Everglades National Park contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere (nps.gov/ever). Both inside and beyond the park, ecotourism activities include hiking, birding, wildlife viewing, boat tours, kayaking and canoeing.

FANTASY ISLANDS The sweeping arc of narrow islands, reefs and turquoise bays extending off the southern tip of the state make up the famous Florida Keys, connected by a highway that runs south for

plane (but still part of the Keys), this isolated

125 miles from Key Largo to Key West.

cluster of islands is part of the National Park

Coastal waters and a living coral reef (the only

System (nps.gov/drto/index.htm). Here,

one in the continental US) are protected

coral reefs and seagrass flats are home to the

under the NOAA Florida Keys National

loggerhead, green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley

Marine Sanctuary, a safe haven for 55 types of

and leatherback sea turtles.

SNOWY EGRET • VISIT FLORIDA®

coral and more than 600 species of fish (florida keys.noaa.gov). Beaches in the Keys are phe-

CAVES AND CAVERNS

nomenal and arguably the best of the best is

The Florida Caverns State Park at Marianna,

at the Bahia Honda State Park offering the

a town in Northwest Florida, is the only

longest sweep of natural sand in the islands.

state park to offer cave tours to the public

Activities here (and throughout the Keys) in-

(floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns).

clude awesome snorkeling, diving, kayaking

Featuring dazzling formations of limestone

and canoeing (bahiahondapark.com).

stalactites and stalagmites, the caves are the

Ecotourists interested in the rescue and re-

highlight of the park where tours last about

habilitation of injured turtles can visit The

45 minutes and patrons require moderate

Turtle Hospital in the “heart of the Keys” city

agility. Also on site are several miles of nature

of Marathon (turtlehospital.org). Here,

trails punctuated by floodplains, sinkholes and

guided tours give a behind-the-scenes look at

rivers. There is also a family camping area.

bird population, it was created to protect the pristine habitat that is home to alligators,

treatments such as flipper amputation and the repair of damaged shells. Marathon is also

WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

snakes, marsh rabbits and more than 220

home to the Dolphin Research Center, a

The renowned J.N. “Ding” Darling National

species of birds (fws.gov/dingdarling). The

study and education facility where one of the

Wildlife Refuge on the West Coast island of

Refuge features a four-mile Wildlife Drive and

highlights is the chance to swim with dolphins

Sanibel is among the best-known protected

a canoe trail where paddlers are treated to

(dolphins.org).

preserves in Florida. Part of the largest unde-

sightings of various bird species such as the

A truly rare experience is a day trip to the

veloped mangrove ecosystem in the US and

roseate spoonbill, plus a wildlife cornucopia

Dry Tortugas. Accessible only by boat or

world famous for its spectacular migratory

that includes dolphins, manatees and alligators. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

47

ECOTOURISM

SCUBA DIVING • VISIT FLORIDA®

MANATEES, DOLPHINS AND SEA TURTLES

distinct environments: marsh, cypress forest,

area rich with wading and water birds, native

wet prairie and a pine upland. The preserve is

plants and wildlife such as the gopher tortoise.

The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail is

home to at least 200 species of birds, in-

Bordered by urban development, the 8,700-

a 190-mile well-marked canoe and kayak trail

cluding barred owls, red-shouldered hawks

acre Brooker Creek Preserve has all-natural

that meanders through coastal waters and in-

and rare wood storks as well as varied wildlife

hiking trails and elevated boardwalks that

land tributaries of southwest Florida’s Lee

from reptiles to mammals. Corkscrew is part

wind through cypress swamps and towering

County (calusablueway.com). Manatees

of the longer Great Florida Birding Trail

oak forests (brookercreekpreserve.org).

weighing more than a thousand pounds,

(floridabirdingtrail.com).

VOLUNTEER VACATIONS

Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, alligators and sea turtles can all be spotted along the trail

URBAN OPTIONS

A growing trend among visitors to Florida is

that is suitable for everyone from novice to

There are pockets of protected wilderness even

planning a trip that includes volunteering at a

experienced paddlers. More than 20 outfitters

among busy tourist venues such as the Gulf

beach cleanup to keep the Sunshine State’s

along the route rent kayaks and canoes and

Coast city of Clearwater whose holiday hot

legendary sand shoreline beautiful and safe for

can provide guided tours of varying length.

spot neighbors are Tampa and St. Petersburg.

wildlife. Every September, for instance, the

Here, a popular kayak trail winds through the

Ocean Conservancy (oceanconservancy.org)

FOR BIRDERS

mangroves of Caladesi Island State Park, an

spearheads a volunteer initiative to remove

On the southwest coast at Naples, the

undisturbed barrier island accessible by ferry

trash from beaches and waterways around the

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a protected

(floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland). On

world, including several Florida sites. Also, the

watershed and old-growth cypress forest

the banks of Old Tampa Bay, Weedon Island

Surfrider Foundation (an international group

owned by the National Audubon Society

Preserve is a lush mosaic of mangrove

dedicated to preserving the world’s beaches

(corkscrew.audubon.org). Corkscrew’s rare

swamps, intertidal flats and pine forests

and oceans) has numerous chapters in Florida

habitat is a hot spot for birders and can be ex-

(weedonislandpreserve.org). Two paddling

that regularly host volunteer beach cleanups

plored along a boardwalk trail through four

trails head into the aquatic ecosystems of the

(surfrider.org/chapters).

48

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

HIKING TRAILS

S

and dunes, tropical forests brimming

with orchids, rugged cliffs where trilliums

bloom,

and

palm-lined

corridors in deep shade—they’re all a part of the amazing diversity one finds when hiking Florida’s trails. Hiking in Florida is unlike the rest of the continental United States. With a state so vast, the botanical diversity is immense and immersive. There are no mountains in Florida, but that doesn’t mean hiking isn’t a challenge. The sheer variety of habitats means constantly adapting to a new environment and changes in the footpath. Hikers, and especially backpackers, must be prepared for the elements—always carrying rain gear and enough water, plus warm clothing and the proper gear for coping with sudden freezing weather in winter. Hiking season runs from October through April, with February celebrated as Florida Hiking Trails Month, peak season for backpacking. Trails range from easy urban boardwalks through natural areas to difficult wades through Amazon-like cypress strands. Guided tours are popular in southernmost

Great Hiking

IN FLORIDA BY SANDRA FRIEND

Florida, where splashing through the terrain is a given. In the north and northwest, restored longleaf pine forests in Florida’s National Forests provide a sense of perspective.

THE FLORIDA TRAIL Home of one of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States, Florida provides a particularly unique experience for backpackers. The Florida Trail (floridatrail.org) is more than half the length of the Appalachian Trail, running 1,400 miles from Big Cypress National Preserve between Miami and Naples to the soft white sands of Pensacola Beach. Marked along its length with orange blazes, it connects wilderness areas and public lands through the center of the Florida peninsula before turning west to work its way across vast pine forests and deep ravines before becoming footprints in the sand along the only National Scenic Trail to include a walk on the beach.

WATERFALLS ON FALLING CREEK • WILLIAM SILVER/SHUTTERSTOCK

50

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Most backpackers tackle a segment at a

WOODEN WALKWAY THROUGH THE MANGROVE FOREST AT PENNEKAMP STATE PARK ON KEY LARGO • LUMINOUSLENS/SHUTTERSTOCK

time rather than the whole trail, which takes nearly three months to complete. The trail plunges right into some of the most varied terrain in Florida, from nearly 50 miles of swamp walking through Big Cypress to clambering in and out of deep side channels along the Suwannee River, plus the infamous Bradwell Bay, a wet forest in the heart of a wilderness near Tallahassee, best not to be tackled alone. With nearly 150 trailheads within an hour of major urban centers, the Florida Trail serves as a destination for day hikers, too. Since the trail is linear, day hiking involves shuttling between two cars or retracing your route.

NORTHWEST FLORIDA Near Pensacola, Blackwater River State Forest (fl-dof.com/state_forests/black water_river.html) is a multi-sport outdoor playground, with a diverse array of hiking adventures for the entire family. At each of its recreation areas, such as Bear Lake and Karick Lake, day hikes of varying lengths circle the lakes. Running like a ribbon down the middle of Florida’s largest state forest are

ANHINGA WITH OPEN BEAK CATCHING FISH • MLORENZ/SHUTTERSTOCK

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

51

HIKING TRAILS

OBSERVATION TRAIL IN THE EVERGLADES • HOLGER W./SHUTTERSTOCK

three major backpacking trails—Sweetwater,

a real scramble through some of the prettiest

Jackson Red Ground and Juniper Creek—

spring wildflowers ever to be seen. South of

which together form a 43-mile portion of the

Interstate 10, Torreya State Park (florida

Florida Trail, providing three to four days of

stateparks.org/torreya) is a major destina-

backpacking through hilly terrain where the

tion for weekend warriors, with two loops

forests burst into bloom each spring, with

totaling 11.5 miles of trails that climb in and

pink mountain laurel dancing in the breeze

out of deep ravines and follow the spines of

along the banks of Juniper Creek. Access

ridges with scenic views. At the Garden of

points are at Deaton Bridge, Red Rocks Road,

Eden, named for its botanical diversity, the

Karick Lake and Hurricane Lake.

nearly four-mile trail packs a punch in eleva-

Florida’s most rugged trails are found along the Apalachicola River, west of

tion changes with a payoff of a view across the Apalachicola River Valley.

Tallahassee. Angus Gholson Nature Park (floridahikes.com/angusgholson) in

NORTH FLORIDA

Chattahoochee may be for day hikers, but it’s

Hiking along the Suwannee River means mile

52

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

after mile of scenic views and tough terrain

where caracara and sandhill cranes dance. The

along the waterway that Stephen Foster made

two loop trails provide a weekend’s worth of

famous. The Florida Trail follows it for more

backpacking with wildlife sightings galore.

than 50 miles, with its most spectacular segments

Birding is also the reason to hike the Merritt

through Suwannee River State Park (florida

Island

stateparks.org/suwanneeriver), Stephen

(fws.gov/merrittisland), where a walk on the

Foster Folk Culture Center State Park (florida

breezy levees of the Cruickshank Trail will

stateparks.org/stephenfoster), and Big Shoals

help fill out one’s wish list.

National

Wildlife

Refuge

State Park (floridastateparks.org/bigshoals).

Wildlife, including more alligators than can

Waterfalls and Florida’s only Class III white-

be counted, is around every corner at Circle B

water are part of the mix.

Bar Reserve (swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation

Spanning North and Central Florida, the

/areas/circlebbarreserve.html), a conserva-

Ocala National Forest (fs.usda.gov/ocala) at-

tion and education center outside Lakeland

tracts hikers from around the world.

with a Nature Discovery Center that the

Containing nearly 100 miles of the Florida

children will love.

Trail, it’s especially popular with backpackers. For day hikers and families, there are many

SOUTH FLORIDA

other hikes to explore, including the Yearling

Swing from the trees on Florida’s only canopy

Trail (floridahikes.com/yearling); a visit to

walk at Myakka River State Park (florida

the remains of the pioneer settlement that

stateparks.org/myakkariver), where the

inspired Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; and

park’s nature trails are complemented with a

the

Trail

39-mile loop for backpackers into the open

(floridahikes.com/junipersprings), an ac-

prairies of the backcountry. For immersion

cessible

into the heart of Florida’s most ancient forests,

Juniper

Springs

boardwalk

Nature connecting

two

Highlands Hammock State Park (florida

spectacular springs.

stateparks.org/highlandshammock) offers

FLAGLER'S RAILROAD BRIDGE AT BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK • LOULOU PHOTOS/SHUTTERSTOCK

CENTRAL FLORIDA

trails for day hikers past thousand-year-old

Withlacoochee State Forest (fl-dof.com

trees and over blackwater swamps.

/state_forests/withlacoochee.html) is one

Immersion is the best way to experience

of Florida’s largest, and it’s full of hiking

the Big Cypress National Preserve

trails to explore, including a 43-mile loop for

(nps.gov/bicy) on foot, and it’s best to go

backpackers,

Trail

with a guide. For more than a decade, neo-

(floridahikes.com/citrus). Along its length

the

Citrus

Hiking

phytes ready to dip shoe in swamp have

there are caves, sinkholes and the remains of

flocked to Clyde Butcher’s Gallery (clyde

ghost towns.

butcher.com) for the annual Muck-About,

Play Lawrence of Arabia on the shifting

and now that life-changing experience of

sands of desert-like Catfish Creek Preserve

wading through a tropical forest is available

State Park (floridastateparks.org/catfish

every weekend on Big Cypress Swamp Walks

creek), where the hiking trail system is on an-

(evergladesswampwalks.com).

cient dunes as white and soft as fallen snow,

To savor the same beauty without

and the views are spectacular. The Lake Wales

wet feet, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Ridge is a serious destination for hikers, with

(corkscrew.audubon.org) is the best board-

dozens

through

walk trail in Florida, meandering two miles

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest (fl-dof.com

through a virgin cypress strand festooned with

/state_forests/lake_wales_ridge.html) and

bromeliads and orchids. Giant ferns and pond

surrounding natural lands.

apples make for a primordial feel inside the

of

trails

sprinkled

At Lake Kissimmee State Park (florida

shade of Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

stateparks.org/lakekissimmee), shady

(leeparks.org/sixmile), where the boardwalk

stands of live oaks give way to open prairies

trail is just off Interstate 75 in Fort Myers. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

53

CAMPGROUNDS

The Great

OUTDOORS BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN

FLORIDA BIRDS • VISIT FLORIDA®

B

ecoming one with nature and taking in

Beach, bring a mountain bike along with the

the beauty of the outdoors is easy in

camping equipment and check out the chal-

the Sunshine State. Whether it’s

lenging terrain while enjoying a 1,200-foot

camping with or without electricity, hiking, ca-

sandy beach and tranquil waters that are

noeing, kayaking, or swimming in springs and

ideal for canoeing and kayaking (florida

through caverns, adventurous types will not be

stateparks.org/oletariver). The Oleta River

disappointed. Plenty of sites throughout Florida

runs through nearby Greynolds Park, an out-

offer an incredible multitude of options.

standing camping site with eight natural wood and stone cabins, bunk beds, full

SOUTHEAST

kitchen, fireplace and canoe launch. The in-

Whether in the northern part of Miami-Dade

tact hardwood hammock and mangrove forest

County or farther south in the Keys, stellar

is considered one of the last well-protected nat-

campgrounds offer unique experiences.

ural areas in these parts (miamidade.gov

At Oleta River State Park in North Miami 54

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

/parks/Parks/camp_greynolds.asp).

CAMPING AT THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL • VISIT FLORIDA®

some more remote than others. Almost 70

A couple of campgrounds in Broward

miles west of Key West and completely sur-

County that stand out include C.B. Smith

rounded by water, Fort Jefferson & Dry

Park in Pembroke Pines with lakeside camp-

Tortugas National Park is a primitive

sites; fishing from piers, the shore or a rented

camping site accessible only by boat or sea-

boat;

plane and therefore requires campers to

(broward.org/Parks/CBSmithPark). The

bring everything they need along with them.

sprawling 666-acre Markham Park in the City

It’s worth it though simply for the view and

of Sunrise is perched at the edge of Everglades

the massive structure that sits on the site

Conservation Area and has a three-acre dog

(nps.gov/drto). A little north on Big Pine

park, a series of interlocking lakes for fishing and

Key, Bahia Honda State Park with several

boating and 86 sites for RV and tent camping

and

biking

and

jogging

trails

CANOEING AT HILLSBOROUGH RIVER STATE PARK • VISIT FLORIDA®

Farther south, the 270-acre Larry and Penny

white sandy beaches is consistently ranked

Thompson Park welcomes campers with

among the top 10 on “Best Beach” lists.

Peanut Island Campground in West

woodland, bridle trails, hiking paths, a fresh-

Here, campers can enjoy excellent snor-

Palm Beach County is a tropical-island

water lake featuring a beach and waterslide,

keling, sunbathing as well as nature trails, a

campground located on the Intracoastal

and

RV s

nature center and full facilities. The view

Waterway with 20 campsites, an observa-

(miamidade.gov/parks/Parks/larry_penny.asp).

from the Old Bahia Honda Bridge is priceless

tion deck, a reef habitat for snorkeling,

A bit smaller at 65 acres, the A.D. Barnes Park

(floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda). A little

chickee huts, a fishing pier and a swimming

features The Sense of Wonder Nature Center

farther north in Marathon is Curry

lagoon (pbcgov.com/parks/peanutisland

and Trail, a bird and wild animal sanctuary,

Hammock State Park with a 28-site

/campground.htm). And one of the area’s

a fishing lake and a splash park playground

campground, which offers kayaking through

best-known attractions, Lion Country

f o r k i d s (miamidade.gov/parks/parks

the

1.5-mile

Safari, features an award-winning KOA

/ad_barnes.asp).

walking trail and biking along the Florida

campground with tent sites, cabins, RV

Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (florida

hookups and a camp store (lioncountry

stateparks.org/curryhammock).

safari.com/koa_overview.html).

full

electrical

hookup

for

Even farther south in the Florida Keys, there are several premier camping sites,

tranquil

mangroves,

a

(sunrisefl.gov/2park_markham.html).

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

55

CAMPGROUNDS

CAMPING AT CITRUS COUNTY • VISIT FLORIDA®

SOUTHWEST

private boat ramp, and canoe and banana bike

Over in Sarasota at Turtle Beach Park the

rentals. The 355-acre spring-fed lake is great

campground has 40 sites for tents and RVs on

for canoeing and the Kamp K9 Pet

2,600 feet of beachfront, a kayak and canoe

Playground and General Store with country-

launch area, fishing, free Wi-Fi as well as

style

nearby

(orlandokoa.com).

shopping

facilities

(scgov.net

gift

items

are

added

bonuses

58

Nearby Lake Kissimmee State Park in

square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks

Lake Wales features Florida’s third largest

and pinelands, Myakka River State Park offers

lake, 13 miles of hiking and equestrian trails,

both primitive and full-facility camping as well

incredible evening stargazing, cowboy her-

as lodging in five palm-log cabins, two lakes

itage demonstrations and both full-facility

perfect for boating, freshwater fishing, ca-

and primitive camping. Canoeing, kayaking,

noeing and kayaking plus hiking along scenic

fishing and viewing wildlife inhabitants such

trails (floridastateparks.org/myakkariver).

as white-tailed deer, bald eagles, bobcats and

/TurtleBeachCampground).

With

The largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, Fort De Soto Park con-

sandhill cranes are popular activities here (floridastateparks.org/lakekissimmee).

sists of 1,136 acres made up of five

Southport RV Park Campground &

interconnected islands. Featuring one of the

Marina located on West Lake Toho is a 25-

state’s top-rated beaches, the park’s 236 camp-

acre wooded lakeside park with tent

sites accommodate tents, vans and pop-up

accommodation,

campers with water and electrical hookup

viewing and fishing (southportpark.com).

airboat

rides,

wildlife

along with a camp store. Nature trails, snorCAMPING AT COLLIER COUNTY • VISIT FLORIDA®

keling and fishing round out the experience (pinellascounty.org/park/05_Ft_DeSoto.htm).

CENTRAL EAST In the Ormond Beach area is the pet-friendly Seaside Park Campground with 45 RV sites. Adjacent to the Coral Sands Resort, it has the distinction of being the only oceanfront resort with a campground on the East Coast, complete with water and sewer hookup and amp service. Campers can also enjoy all the amenities at the resort (daytonabeach.com /hotels.cfm/mode/details/id/721).

CENTRAL It turns out Walt Disney World Resort is

CENTRAL WEST

more than just about attractions. The Fort

The 6,260-acre Alafia River State Park near

State Park is one of Florida’s first state

Wilderness Resort and Campground has

Lithia has a full-facility campground for

parks. The park offers full-facility camping

more than 750 acres of woodlands filled with

both primitive and RV camping, as well as

as well as a primitive campsite accessible via

lush pine and cypress trees, four different

equestrian-friendly campsites. The park is

a foot trail. Hikers can explore more than

types of campsites, along with cabins and a

also home to 17 miles of bike trails, ranging

seven miles of nature trails and the

Meadow Recreation Area featuring a nightly

from beginner to advanced; canoeing,

Hillsborough River provides opportunities

marshmallow roast, trails, swimming and out-

kayaking and fishing are popular activities

for

door games (disneyworld.disney.go.com

as well. The abundance of wildlife found

Amenities include a café, which serves

/resorts/campsites-at-fort-wilderness-resort).

along Alafia’s trails will delight any

breakfast and lunch daily and sells camping

Orlando S.E./Lake Whippoorwill KOA

birdwatcher or nature enthusiast (florida

and picnic supplies as well as souvenirs

stateparks.org/alafiariver).

(floridastateparks.org/hillsboroughriver).

has 112 sites including lake-view RV sites, a 56

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Opened in 1938, Hillsborough River

fishing,

canoeing

and

kayaking.

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK • VISIT FLORIDA®

NORTHWEST Featuring what is considered one of the best preserved forts of the 19th century, Fort Clinch State Park has ideal camping with campfire circles, six miles of nature trails tailored for walkers and cyclists, surf and pier fishing and fantastic wildlife and observation spots (floridastateparks.org/fortclinch). St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach is located on the peninsula in a 1,260acre area with more than 1.5 miles of beach on the Gulf of Mexico and Grand Lagoon allowing for camping along the shore and plenty of fishing, kayaking and off-road cycling (floridastateparks.org/StAndrews). Fort Pickens, the largest of four forts in

NORTHEAST

self-guided nature trails, cycling and ancient sand

Pensacola, has a campground in Gulf Islands

Jetty Park in Port Canaveral on Florida’s

dunes (floridastateparks.org/anastasia).

National Seashore Park. Campers can swim at

Space Coast has 150 campsites, a 4.5-acre

In Jacksonville, the top campground is at

the area’s famed sugar-white beaches plus enjoy

beach, a 1,200-foot fishing pier and a perfect

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, an oceanfront

walking trails and historic Fort Pickens.

spot for surfers and cruise ship enthusiasts

park along the Timucuan Trail with sandy

Migrating birds, bottlenose dolphins and

(portcanaveral.com/recreation/beaches.php).

beaches, freshwater lakes, natural dunes and

sea turtles are the stars in these waters

A few campgrounds top the best in St.

nature trails and even a surfing spot known as

(nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fortpickens.htm).

Augustine. The 30-acre wooded North Beach

“the poles.” Hang ten here, canoe or kayak

Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna is

Camp Resort spans a barrier island between

(http://bit.ly/jaxhanna).

one of very few parks with dry air-filled caves,

the Atlantic Ocean and the North River. Here,

which make for a unique experience.

134 sites have full hookup pull-through sites

NORTH CENTRAL

Formations of limestone stalactites and stalag-

to tent campsites, with cabin accommodation

Tallahassee’s numerous campgrounds are

mites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies

also available. The resort features a swimming

among the best. Apalachicola National Forest

are visible here. Horseback riding is also pop-

pool, bathhouse and laundry facilities, a

features 85 miles of hiking trails while

ular as well as the other camping amenities

convenience store and two family restaurants

Munson Hills welcomes mountain bikers

however the caves are the main draw (florida

within easy walking distance (north

and

stateparks.org/floridacaverns).

beachcamp.com). The 18.5-acre full-service

/apalachicola.html). And at Ochlockonee

Nestled near Panama City, St. George

Ocean Grove RV Resort has a kids’ pool,

River State Park brackish, tidal surge and

Island State Park is a 2,023-acre park flanked

Jacuzzi, pool, cable TV, kids’ play area, boat

fresh water converge making it an ideal place

by Apalachicola Bay on one side and the Gulf

ramp and fishing pier. Bicycle, canoe and

for fresh and saltwater fishing. Full-facility

of Mexico on the other making it the perfect

kayak rentals are also available (ocean

camping is available here with campfire circles

spot for fishing, shelling and viewing shore-

groveresort.com). Anastasia State Park on

and hiking and nature trails that are home

birds like black skimmers and willets. Primitive

what’s considered Florida’s Historic Coast covers

to diverse wildlife (floridastateparks.org

and full-facility camping are both available

1,600 acres with 139 campsites for RVs and tents,

/ochlockoneeriver).

(floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland).

horseback

riders

(stateparks.com

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

57

FAMILY VACATIONS

FAMILY ON THE BEACH • VISIT FLORIDA®

The Ultimate

FAMILY PLAYGROUND BY KATE POCOCK

N

ot surprisingly, family vacations in

attractions, fishing and oodles of interactive

Florida very often include a visit

museums and the sum total is the ideal vacation

to one or more of the state’s

destination for children and adults alike.

world-famous theme parks whose latest exciting attractions include the Wizarding

SAND AND SEA

®

World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

Miles and miles of sunbathed beaches provide

Resort (universalorlando.com) and the new

hours of no-cost family fun. With no rip tides

Sesame Street Safari of Fun at Busch Gardens

and a shoreline that gently slopes into warm,

Tampa (buschgardens.com). However, while

emerald-green waters, Fort Myers Beach is

the big-name parks are a huge and important

ideal for young swimmers. The beaches at

attraction, the Sunshine State overall is a

Sanibel Island are among the best on the

multifaceted, action-packed playground with

planet for shell collecting (fortmyers

endless family entertainment.

-sanibel.com) and Sebastian Inlet State Park’s

Equally abundant are family-friendly

shoreline is a great place for kite flying

eateries and a variety of places to stay ranging

and surfboarding (floridastateparks.org).

from mom-and-pop motels to beachfront re-

Wanna-be surfers can take lessons at Cocoa

sorts, upmarket hotels and everything in

Beach (cocoabeach.com) and youngsters

between. Add perpetual sunshine, water sports,

can build sand castles at Siesta Key Beach in

superb golf, a litany of spa options, historical

Sarasota (sarasotafl.org) where its stretch of

58

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

shoreline boasts some of the finest, whitest

ADVENTURE LANDING/JACKSONVILLE BEACH • VISIT FLORIDA®

sand in the world. Off the upper northeast coast, Amelia Island is a place where families can ramp up the fun with guided horseback rides on the beach—one of the few places in America where this sport is allowed (ameliaisland.com).

SKY HIGH Forty-five minutes east of Orlando on Florida’s famous Space Coast, The Kennedy Space Center (kennedyspacecenter.com) is the only place on Earth where kids can tour launch areas, meet a veteran astronaut for lunch, observe giant rockets, train in space-flight simulators and even view an actual launch (spacecoastlaunches.com). The center also features a recently redeveloped Children’s Play Dome, an area where junior astronauts can “lift-off,” climb a moon-rock wall, crawl through tunnels and slide to the “surface of the moon.” In addition, adults and children alike will be entertained by the story of the Hubble Space Telescope documented in the THE FLORIDA AQUARIUM/TAMPA BAY • VISIT FLORIDA®

new IMAX film, Hubble 3D, narrated by actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. Nearby the Kennedy Space Center, families with teens can literally take to the skies at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum in the C-47 Tico Belle, a Second World War aircraft used in the Normandy Invasion (vacwarbirds.org). The flight lets passengers imagine what it must have been like flying in the pre-dawn hours of June 6, 1944, toward the beaches of Normandy as part of the largest aerial invasion the world has ever seen. About halfway between Tampa and Orlando, vintage aircraft are also a huge attraction at Fantasy of Flight (fantasyofflight.com). The facility features a comprehensive museum containing more than 40 rare and vintage aircraft, flight simulators and guided tours. Replicating the earlier days of flying, family members can book 15- or 30-minute sightseeing flights in a vintage biplane. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

59

FAMILY VACATIONS

BIKING IN PARK • VISIT FLORIDA®

ECO ADVENTURES

BEACH HORSEBACK RIDING • VISIT FLORIDA®

At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium visitors can observe the role the facility is playing in the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals and reptiles such as dolphins and sea turtles. Among its top attractions is Winter, the world’s only bionic dolphin who lost her tail in a crab trap, was rescued and ultimately fitted with a prosthetic to which she has completely adapted (cmaquarium.org). Winter is featured in several shows daily, together with other dolphin shows, shark-feeding demonstrations and education sessions focused on a variety of marine life such as stingrays, otters and sea turtles.

At Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, voted top US

glass, they can also swim alongside whitetip

At Tampa’s Florida Aquarium (ranked

zoo by Parents magazine, a new African pen-

among the top 10 in North America), children

guin exhibit is a rare and exciting attraction

Across the entire state there are endless op-

ages six and up can swim with tropical fish and

(lowryparkzoo.com). The zoo also offers

portunities for families to kayak and canoe

certified scuba divers 15 years and older can

sleepovers that include nighttime animal-

Florida’s beautiful waterways. With more than

cavort with the big fish in Shark Bay

spotting safaris.

11,000 miles of rivers and streams—including

reef sharks (discoverycove.com).

(flaquarium.org). The facility also offers

At Orlando’s Discovery Cove (a sister park

the water routes found within the famous Florida

Wild Dolphin Ecotours on Tampa Bay where

of Busch Gardens), a new and thrilling addi-

Everglades—the Sunshine State is a destination

there are more than 500 bottlenose dolphins

tion called The Grand Reef will be introduced

tailor-made for family paddling. An abundance

and it’s also among the best places in Florida

in June 2011. It will feature opportunities for

of outfitters provide equipment and guided tours

to view endangered manatees.

kids to swim with stingrays and, separated by

led by expert paddlers and naturalists.

60

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

APPLIED SCIENCE

Gooding Planetarium at the Museum of

St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum,

Florida has an impressive selection of hands-

Science

Jacksonville

families can search for a genuine 17th-century

on science centers where engaging displays

(themosh.org). They can also gaze at a mam-

treasure chest—the only authentic one in the

and interactive exhibits provide hours of fun.

moth prehistoric skeleton of a giant ground

world. Museum visitors can also set off with a

Young explorers can take a simulated ride to

sloth at the Museum of Arts & Sciences in

treasure map to find Captain Jack Sparrow’s

Mars at Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of

Daytona Beach (moas.org).

sword featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean

and

History

in

Discovery and Science (mods.org) and they

movie or hunt for rare books about rogues of

can travel back in time and walk with di-

WHAT’S NEW

nosaurs in the newly opened, high-tech Bryan

Yo ho ho! Everybody loves a pirate tale. At the

SATURN V IN NASA MUSEUM IN ORLANDO • ENIKO BALOGH/SHUTTERSTOCK

the seas (thepiratemuseum.com).

ART AND ENTERTAINMENT The Gulf Coast city of St. Petersburg is the proud home of The Dalí Museum containing the world’s most comprehensive collection of the late Spanish surrealist’s works (salvadordalimuseum.org). While his art is wide-ranging, not surprisingly it’s his representations of melting clocks and floating roses that tickle the fancy of most kids. This museum opened in a new location in January 2011 and features several programs geared specifically to children. Among the most popular is Breakfast with Dalí, in which children from five to 10 years old, accompanied by an adult, tour the artworks of particular interest to children. This docent-led program is followed by a buffet breakfast. On Saturdays, all ages are invited to “dilly dally with Dalí” in a variety of creative family programs.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY SLEEPOVERS Statewide opportunities for interesting sleepovers range from a night in an authentic chickee hut on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (seminoletribe.com) to the Holiday Inn Resort in Panama City Beach where Splash the Dolphin serves bedtime milk and cookies (hipcbeach.com). At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, guest rooms overlook a wildlife preserve (disneyworld.com) and the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island is consistently ranked among the nation’s top family resorts (southseas.com). With $140 million spent on renovations, together with activities for all ages including golf, tennis, windsurfing, a sailing school, nature center and off-site outings, this is a resort that has all the bases covered for family fun and enjoyment. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

61

THEME PARKS

DISCOVERY COVE/ORLANDO • VISIT FLORIDA®

F

rom water parks and thrill rides to

wildlife encounters and live entertainment, Florida offers a mind-boggling

variety of theme parks (visitflorida.com /theme_parks). Spread across the entire state,

BY BARB AND RON KROLL

each of them is family friendly and among the scores of options there is something for every-

WET 'N WILD/ORLANDO • VISIT FLORIDA®

body from youngsters to adults.

THE WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT Twenty miles southwest of Orlando, Walt Disney World Resort has four theme parks, two water parks, three full-service spas, five golf courses, a wedding pavilion, a sports complex, an entertainment-dining-shopping complex, and more than 20 on-property resort hotels (disneyworld.com). Activities at the four theme parks include everything from a Magic Kingdom jungle cruise to an undersea voyage in Future World, dining on Moroccan cuisine in World Showcase, riding through movie scenes in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and photographing giraffes on a Disney’s Animal Kingdom safari. There are also annual events such as the Atlanta Braves’ Spring Training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in March (espnwwos.com) and the September Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. 62

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

DISNEY'S MAGIC KINGDOM • URMOMENTS/SHUTTERSTOCK

Golf at the Walt Disney World Resort can be a family affair (disneygolf.com). In addition to four 18-hole championship golf courses there is also a nine-hole, family-play course and all five are certified National Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries. A sand trap on the championship Magnolia Course is shaped like Mickey’s head, and a similar image of the world’s most famous mouse appears on the practise green at Disney’s Osprey Ridge Golf Course. The choice of on-property accommodation is extensive and ranges from upscale hotels to value-priced, themed resorts particularly popular with families. Unique options include the Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge overlooking an African wildlife preserve. Also, there is no need to leave the family pet at home. Fido is welcome at the Walt Disney World Resort’s Best Friends Pet Care, a new luxury pet resort featuring covered outdoor runs, play areas, a grooming salon and gourmet treats.

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO® RESORT Universal Orlando® Resort has two theme parks, more than 50 great restaurants, a shopping and nighttime entertainment complex and three family-friendly hotels (universal orlando.com). The resort’s Universal Studios Florida theme park has more than 25 rides based on movie and TV themes, including Shrek 4-D, The Simpsons Ride and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit—Orlando’s highest roller coaster that climbs to 167 feet in 16.5 seconds and reaches

new and popular attraction that opened in

twisting and sudden drops, plus encounters

speeds of 65 mph. Another spine-tingling

June 2010 is The Wizarding World of Harry

with imaginary creatures from the books such

ride is Revenge of the Mummies where

Potter (universalorlando.com/harrypotter).

as venom-spitting spiders, a scary skeleton

roller-coaster riders are chased by swarms of

Based on the wildly successful novels written

and a fire-breathing dragon.

scarab beetles and an army of warrior mum-

by British author J.K. Rowling, the attraction

Located on a separate nearby property,

mies. Fans of the Jaws movie can relive its

is located on a 20-acre island containing

Universal’s Wet ’n Wild water park features 30

thrills on a boat tour that encounters a killer

book-related locations such as the Forbidden

acres of action-packed waterslides, rides, flumes

shark but, since Universal Studios is a land of

Forest, Hogsmeade Village and the iconic

and surf pools (wetnwildorlando.com).

fantasy, passengers escape the realistic-

Hogwarts Castle. Of the three main rides,

There are low-impact water features just for

looking, three-ton fish made of steel,

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is

kids, together with Lazy River tube rides and

fiberglass and latex.

the signature attraction. Located inside

a variety of super slides that make people feel

Hogwarts Castle, the ride involves spinning,

like they are riding a cyclone.

At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

63

THEME PARKS

RISING OUT OF THE MIST • CARY KALSCHEUER/SHUTTERSTOCK

Part of the park’s educational and animal interactive program features behind-thescenes tours where visitors can learn about rescued manatees and swim with highly sociable beluga whales. For the ultimate thrill, adventuresome types can don a breathing helmet and go underwater to view swimming sharks from the safety of a metal cage. At SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive park, families can snorkel with stingrays, feed tropical birds and swim with dolphins (discoverycove.com). Aquatica, SeaWorld’s South Pacific-themed water park features wave pools, a tube slide into a dolphin pool, river tubing, waterslides and sandy beaches. On Omaka Rocka, Aquatica’s high-speed tube slide, riders plummet almost vertically through water funnels and half-pipes (aquaticabyseaworld.com).

BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY A combination amusement and wildlife park, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay features more than 2,000 animals, along with thrill rides, live entertainment

and

themed

restaurants

(buschgardens.com). Here, park visitors get up-close encounters with exotic animals such as Bengal tigers, hippos, lions, hyenas and orangutans. There are also a variety of thrilling rides including a whitewater rafting expedition, an off-road jeep adventure through the wilds of Africa and a water-soaked THE FLORIDA AQUARIUM/TAMPA BAY • VISIT FLORIDA®

SEAWORLD ORLANDO SeaWorld Orlando combines entertainment and marine life education with theatrical shows

and

thrilling

rides

(seaworld

orlando.com). In addition to a variety of animal encounters, SeaWorld features several exciting whale, sea lion and dolphin shows. One of the most thrilling experiences on the property is Journey to Atlantis, a watercoaster ride that includes wet plunges, waterfall encounters and cruising through dark, watery passageways. 64

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

SKYVENTURE/ORLANDO • VISIT FLORIDA®

BLUE MAN GROUP/UNIVERSAL • VISIT FLORIDA®

MARINE AND WILDLIFE PARKS

At Weeki Wachee Springs, near Spring

Included among Florida’s many marine and

Hill, there are live “mermaid” and animal

wildlife parks is St. Augustine’s Marineland

shows, riverboat cruises, flume rides and ca-

where visitors can swim with dolphins

noeing and kayaking (weekiwachee.com).

and join a Trainer-For-A-Day program

Wakulla Springs, near Tallahassee, features

(marineland.net). The Miami Seaquarium

wildlife viewing, riverboat tours, nature

likewise features dolphin interactions and ex-

walks

citing shows where performing whales fly

stateparks.org/wakullasprings). At Ocala’s

through the air and dolphins walk on water

Silver Springs Nature Park, there are glass-

(miamiseaquarium.com).

bottom boat tours, wildlife exhibits, tram

The line between theme parks and zoos blurs at Florida attractions such as Butterfly World

(butterflyworld.com),

and

a

historic

lodge

(florida

rides through the forest, bird shows and botanical gardens (silversprings.com).

Monkey

Jungle (monkeyjungle.com), Jungle Island

DIVERSE THEMES

log flume ride. The ultimate thrill ride is the

(jungleisland.com), Everglades Alligator

LEGOLAND Florida is scheduled to open

park’s SheiKra, a roller coaster that climbs 200

Farm (everglades.com) and Lion Country

in fall 2011 near Winter Haven on the prop-

feet, reaches speeds of more than 70 mph and

Safari (lioncountrysafari.com).

erty that was formerly Cypress Gardens. This

plunges 90 degrees straight down. One of the

Touted as the “Alligator Capital of the

new, much-anticipated attraction is geared

all-time favorite rides at Busch Gardens is the

World,” Gatorland is a protected habitat that

toward families and features 50 rides, live en-

legendary Gwazi, one of the largest and fastest

combines an alligator and crocodile preserve

tertainment and thousands of LEGO models.

wooden roller coasters on the planet,

with

zoo

This is the second LEGOLAND in North

achieving speeds of 100 mph. A variety of

(gatorland.com). Reptile shows feature gator

America and will be the largest in the world

shows include a musical featuring Elmo and

wrestling and, slated to open sometime in

(legoland.com).

his friends from Sesame Street and a rock music

2011, a new Screamin’ Gator Zip-line attrac-

At the Kennedy Space Center aspiring as-

show that highlights hit tunes from the ’50s

tion will offer a high-flying adventure that

tronauts and people intrigued by outer space

and ’60s. Popular with youngsters is the park’s

involves a swamp nature walk and five zip-

travel can observe massive rockets, tour

African-themed playland with rides, shows,

line rides strung above giant alligators and

NASA’s launch sites, blast off in flight simu-

as well as meet-and-greets and dining with the

crocodiles. The 110-acre theme park also in-

lators and meet a real live astronaut

characters.

cludes the Gator Gully Splash Park.

(kennedyspacecenter.com).

an

aviary

and

petting

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

65

ROAD TRIPS

Great Florida

ROAD TRIPS BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS

F

ROUTE 1: THE GULF COAST, CLEARWATER BEACH TO CAPTIVA ISLAND

evening, then head off to Pier 60 for family

both—we love the end goal, but getting there

THE NUMBERS: 160 miles; driving time

dors, buskers, live bands, movies, shops and

is just as much fun. Routes crisscross

3.5 hours

restaurants (sunsetsatpier60.com).

Florida—perfect for vacationers on the hunt

BEST FOR: Laid-back sun and sand wor-

for a little adventure and a lot of relaxation,

shippers and arts aficionados.

known for more than their sparkling white

served up with a splash of sunshine.

DID YOU KNOW: Shellers on Captiva and

beaches. They’re also home to some of Florida’s

Sanibel Islands comb the beaches, bent over

finest

the Atlantic and Gulf waters, inland land-

in the Captiva Crouch or the Sanibel Stoop.

St. Petersburg’s Central Avenue is lined with

scapes ranging from wetlands to orange

The journey along the Gulf Coast starts

dozens of studios and galleries while the new

groves, and some of the most scenic drives in

at

Salvador

the USA. Exploring them couldn’t be simpler:

(cmaquarium.org), dedicated to the rehabil-

(salvadordalimuseum.org) showcases the work

unfold a road map, pack a cooler with snacks,

itation and release of sea turtles, otters, sharks,

of the late surrealist painter. Close by, Bradenton’s

gas up the car and hit the highway.

stingrays and bottle-nosed dolphins.

Village of the Arts (villageofthearts.com)

or some, the classic road trip is all

about the destination. For others, it’s the journey that matters. For most, it’s

Florida is home to pristine beaches on both

66

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

the

Clearwater

Marine

Aquarium

Play on Clearwater’s famous beaches until entertainment, including arts and crafts ven-

The communities along this coastal drive are

artisan

Dalí

enclaves

Museum

and

in

museums.

St.

Pete’s

CLEARWATER BEACH AT SUNSET • SAYRAN/DREAMSTIME

is home to Florida’s largest arts community.

ROUTE TIP: Follow the scenic routes—

Known as the state’s cultural capital, Sarasota

from Daytona to Orlando follow US Highway

boasts a film festival, ballet, orchestra, opera,

92; south of Orlando stay on picturesque

theaters, galleries and the Ringling Museum of

Ridge Scenic Highway (State Road 17) past

Art, revered by circus, art and history fans

orange groves and small towns.

(ringling.org). There’s even art on the beach

Anyone who likes to tinker with an engine

at the Siesta Key Crystal Classic master sand-

knows about Daytona, the spot where NASCAR

sculpting competition (crystalsand.org). At

racing was born and still reigns supreme

the tip of the route, the Bailey-Matthews Shell

(daytonainternationalspeedway.com).

Museum on Sanibel Island connects travelers to

Highway 92 leads to Kissimmee, just min-

the ocean through displays of rare, unusual and

utes from the Walt Disney World Resort and

beautiful shells, including the gigantic horse

the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the

conch shell—the largest of its kind on record!

Walt Disney World Speedway (disney

(shellmuseum.org).

world.disney.go.com). Adults can take the

For baseball fans, spring is the time to visit for

wheel or ride shotgun with a professional

the pre-season Florida Grapefruit League.

driver at speeds of up to 120 mph around the

Thousands of visitors converge on the state,

mile-long racetrack.

gloves and autograph books in hand, to watch

This route ends at North America’s oldest

more than a half-dozen major league teams at

permanent

spring-training camps along the Gulf Coast

International Raceway in the historic lakeside

racetrack

at

the

Sebring

driving route.

town of Sebring (sebringraceway.com). Billed as one of the most spectator-friendly

ROUTE 2: DAYTONA TO SEBRING

tracks in the world, Sebring is home to the 12

THE NUMBERS: 154 miles; driving time

3.7-mile, 17-turn race circuit, part of the

3.5 hours

American Le Mans series. The historic

BEST FOR: Motorsport fans.

Sebring facility is home to vintage racecar dis-

Hours of Sebring classic endurance race, a

plays and to the Skip Barber Racing School. 3M FORD NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES DAYTONA 500 • WALTER ARCE/DREAMSTIME

ROUTE 3: FLORIDA KEYS ALONG THE OVERSEAS HIGHWAY THE NUMBERS: 98 miles; driving time 2 hours BEST FOR: Water babies who live in shorts and flip flops. NAVIGATING TIP: Locals mark businesses and attractions along the one main road (Highway 1) by referring to the Mile Marker (MM). Scenic Highway 1 through the Florida Keys was named one of the best US Road Trips by National Geographic. The string of islands, reefs and turquoise bays is a delight for those who love to play in the water, nosh on fresh seafood and explore a little maritime history. At the north end of the route, Key Largo and Islamorada seem miles away from the busy Florida mainland. Both are known for 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

67

ROAD TRIPS

PANAMA CITY BEACH • MICHAEL WOOD/DREAMSTIME

shrimp, crab cakes and conch fritters are among the specialties. At the end of the country’s “longest deadend road” sits free-wheeling Key West, once home to sea captains, Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffett. The people here have smiles on their faces. And why not? They’re surrounded by pristine waters dotted with coral reefs, and a town that defines “relaxed lifestyle.” Celebrating the sunset is a nightly ritual for locals, visitors, buskers and musicians.

ROUTE 4: FLORIDA PANHANDLE FROM PENSACOLA TO APALACHICOLA THE NUMBERS: 170 miles; driving time 4 hours BEST FOR: The original Florida in a picturesque natural setting. NAVIGATING TIP: Stay on State Roads 30 and 30A, a designated Scenic Highway. The Panhandle of Florida, also known as the “forgotten coast,” is low-key—dunes, white sand beaches and emerald-green waters, some of the state’s most pristine state parks and pretty small towns. Just outside Pensacola, miles of unspoiled, white beaches are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a network FLORIDA KEYS FISHING BOAT WATERWAY • LUNAMARINA/DREAMSTIME

boat rentals, charter fishing, snorkeling and dive excursions. Islamorada is considered a world-class destination for sport fishing—anglers come to hook tarpon and kingfish, and to work the flats for bonefish. At the nearby Theater of the Sea, a marine animal park, you can swim with the dolphins, sea lions and stingrays in the natural saltwater lagoons (theaterofthesea.com). Marathon—“the heart of the Keys”—has its roots as a fishing village. Fresh seafood still dominates the takeout menu at Keys Fisheries (keysfisheries.com) where peel and eat 68

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

of protected barrier islands. Florida’s Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach

DRIVING TO MIAMI OR THE FLORIDA KEYS?

is a marine aquarium with daily sea lion and dolphin shows (gulfarium.com). This marks the start of the famous Beaches of South Walton, home to popular communities like Seaside, Dune Allen Beach and Santa Rosa Beach. This is the spot to try YOLO boarding, the newest paddleboarding sport that’s a cross between surfing and kayaking. MIAMI WATERFRONT • SHUTTERSTOCK

Anglers head for Destin, “the world’s luckiest fishing village,” in hopes of hooking

As of mid-February 2011, all tolls are collected electronically on the southern 47 miles of

grouper, wahoo and mackerel. On dry land,

Florida’s Turnpike between Exit 47 and Exit 1 in Miami-Dade County. Motorists can use

displays of equipment and fishing lore at the

either the SunPass or TOLL-BY-PLATE system and no longer have to stop to pay tolls.

Destin History & Fishing Museum even in-

SunPass is Florida’s prepaid electronic toll collection system, which utilizes small credit

clude an original Penn Reel that once

card-size electronic devices called SunPass transponders, which attach to the inside of car

belonged to Ernest Hemingway (destin

windshields. When a SunPass-equipped vehicle goes through a toll location, the

historyandfishingmuseum.org).

transponder sends a signal and the toll is deducted from the customer’s account. SunPass

In Panama City Beach, Pier Park provides

customers pay the lowest rates, generally saving 25% on tolls. The SunPass Mini

a break from the beach with unique stops for

transponder costs $4.99, which is reimbursable as a toll credit when registering the SunPass

shopping and entertainment (panamacity

account. It is available at Publix, CVS/pharmacy, Navarro Discount Pharmacies, Sedano’s

beachonline.com/pierpark).

Supermarkets, all AAA locations in Florida, all Turnpike service plaza gift shops and gas

This beautiful oceanfront drive ends at

stations, online at sunpass.com or at 1-888-TOLL-FLA (865-5352).

Apalachicola, a Victorian town with seafaring

TOLL-BY-PLATE is a collection method whereby a photo of a vehicle’s license plate

roots that is considered Florida’s oyster

is taken as it travels under overhead tolling equipment and a bill for any tolls incurred over

capital (apalachicolabay.org). Turn off the

a 30-day period, plus a $2.50 administrative charge, is mailed to the registered owner of

engine, park the car and enjoy these delec-

the vehicle. Travelers also have the option of establishing a prepaid TOLL-BY-PLATE

table treats on the half-shell, fried, grilled,

account by calling 1-888-TAG-TOLL and providing a credit or debit card number to

stewed and, of course, raw. Bon appétit!

avoid the administrative charge. For those traveling in a rental vehicle, there is an easy and convenient way to pay tolls without stopping. Most rental car companies have programs that allow their customers to charge the tolls to the credit card being used to rent the vehicle. Motorists should check with their rental car company for details or at sunpass.com/rentalcar. Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise oversees a 460-mile system of limited-access toll highways. For now, travelers can still pay cash on all other segments of Florida’s Turnpike, from its northern point at I-75 in Wildwood to its junction with I-95 in north Miami-Dade. Eventually the entire Turnpike system of roadways will go allelectronic. It is anticipated the next phase, from the Golden Glades interchange in northern Miami-Dade County to the I-595 interchange in Broward County, will be ready in 2014. MAP OF TURNPIKE • FLORIDA’S TURNPIKE ENTERPRISE

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

69

GOLF

Gold Medal

GOLF

BY DONNA CARTER

W

ith more than 1,400 courses,

located at World Golf Village in historic St.

gather for their annual LPGA Final

Florida is among the most pop-

Augustine. Here, the sport’s greatest golfers

Qualifying Tournament (lpga.com).

ular golf destinations in the

are celebrated through historic artifacts, per-

world. Its assets include quality layouts, va-

sonal memorabilia and interactive exhibits.

FASHIONED FOR FAME

riety and affordability, in addition to

The Village also has two championship golf

The words “trophy courses” are music to the

year-round balmy weather and a multitude of

courses plus golf-themed restaurants, a PGA

ears of golfers devoted to playing tracks with

value-added entertainment options. For ca-

TOUR academy and several vacation hotels

global reputations for superior quality and

sual and die-hard golfers alike, there is truly

both on the property and nearby (world

challenge. With no shortage of stellar links,

something for everyone: resort courses,

golfhalloffame.org).

Florida is a prime destination for discrimi-

championship links, oceanfront layouts, municipal tracks and executive nines.

Also unique to Florida is the international headquarters for the Ladies Professional Golf

nating golfers as well as those wanting to establish bragging rights.

Association (LPGA) at Daytona Beach. On

Among the state’s top-rated tracks is TPC

ONLY IN FLORIDA

site are two signature golf courses open to the

Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach where its

The Sunshine State is home to two important

public as well as the LPGA Golf Academy.

Stadium Course is world-renowned and its

golf complexes that exist nowhere else on the

December is a good time to be a spectator

par-3 island green is among the most famous

planet. First is the World Golf Hall of Fame

here when the world’s best female golfers

holes in the realm of golf (tpc.com/sawgrass).

70

TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA 2011

Another of the brightest stars on the

Palm Coast south of St. Augustine. Attached

Florida golf scene is the Trump International

to the upscale Hammock Beach Resort, this

Golf Club at West Palm Beach (trumpinter

award-winning, dune-fringed masterpiece

nationalpalmbeaches.com). Built by “the

stretches alongside the Atlantic boasting sev-

Donald,” the course envisioned by the mega-

eral oceanfront holes that are among the

millionaire was to be exceptional in every way.

prettiest in Florida (hammockbeach.com).

Not surprisingly, it is.

BLUE MONSTER GOLF COURSE AT DORAL GOLF RESORT IN MIAMI • DORAL GOLF RESORT AND SPA

Moreover, it doesn’t get any better than

Other high-profile clubs include the

the stunningly beautiful Ocean Links course

Innisbrook Golf Resort near Tarpon Springs

on Amelia Island, one of three championship

where there are four outstanding champi-

tracks belonging to the Amelia Island

onship tracks (innisbrookgolfresort.com),

Plantation. Five of its holes wind along coastal

and the PGA National at Palm Beach

dunes where views of the ocean and shoreline

Gardens where its five courses have hosted

are memorable (aipfl.com).

most of the world’s top-ranking players

It’s not just coastal Florida where water is

(pgaresort.com). Also in the “trophy course”

part of the game experience. The state has

category is the Tiburón Golf Club at Naples

more than 7,700 lakes larger than 10 acres,

where two superb, links-style layouts weave

hence visiting golfers can expect to find an

through acres of native Florida foliage

abundance of tracks featuring plenty of the

(tiburongcnaples.com).

wet stuff.

VALUE GOLF

TEACHING ACADEMIES

While Florida boasts scores of high-end links,

The Sunshine State is an ideal place for

there are hundreds more offering excellent golf

golfers to hone their skills or even learn to

and modest greens fees. In fact, it’s hard to beat

play the game from scratch. One of the best-

the Sunshine State when it comes to afford-

known names in the business of golf

ability. At Daytona Beach, for instance, there

instruction is David Leadbetter who has 28

are more than 20 quality courses (some de-

teaching academies around the globe, three of

signed by legendary architects) with almost all

which are in Florida. His world headquarters

of them playing for $35 or under. Even the city’s

is located at the Omni Orlando Resort at

two LPGA championship courses can be played

ChampionsGate, where the academy lies

for less than $100 (golfdaytonabeach.com).

alongside

two

Greg

Norman-designed

In northwest Florida, the Emerald Coast

courses. The other two teaching facilities are

cities of Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Panama

located in West Coast Naples and Palm Beach Gardens in the east (davidleadbetter.com).

Also in the mix is the famous Doral Golf

City Beach have long been known for value golf.

Resort & Spa in Miami where five champi-

In Florida’s inland regions there are likewise

Famous name recognition brings plenty of

onship courses include the legendary Great

oodles of courses ranging from mid-tier to

golfers seeking instruction to the Arnold

White and TPC Blue Monster. There are few

championship-caliber where greens fees are ex-

Palmer Golf Academy at the Saddlebrook

golfers who haven’t heard of this challenging

ceptionally reasonable. Indeed, modest golf rates

Resort, Tampa. Here, teaching programs are

duo where multiple tee box placements make

can be found throughout the state where visiting

tailored for players from beginner to profes-

it playable for all skill levels. Doral resort

golfers can easily find great places to play that

sional. In addition to the academy, the resort

packages can be tailored to include golf and

are long on value and short on cost. Not to be

also includes two premier courses both de-

spa, plus accommodation at the on-site

overlooked from a value point of view are

signed by Palmer himself (saddlebrook.com).

Marriott Hotel (doralresort.com). Likewise

stay/play packages, which drive costs even lower.

Overall, there is an extensive inventory of

in the Miami area, the luxury Fairmont

teaching facilities spread across the state with

Turnberry Isle Resort has two championship

OCEANSIDE LINKS

almost all of them attached to golf courses.

courses—one of them featuring a spectacular

With water on three sides, Florida’s coastline

Some feature big names such as the Palmer

island green and a towering waterfall—the

and offshore islands provide breathtaking set-

and Leadbetter academies, but the great ma-

stuff

tings for a host of courses. Among them is the

jority are led by lesser-known yet entirely

Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course on the

qualified teaching pros.

trophy

tracks

are

(fairmont.com/turnberryisle).

made

of

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

71

S PA S

FLORIDA BEACH VACATION HOTEL • CONDOR 36/SHUTTERSTOCK

Heavenly

SPAS BY ROCHELLE LASH

F

lorida is a natural fit for the flourishing

world of spa life. The state’s hundreds of destination and day spas—including

some of the world’s most illustrious brands— embrace all aspects of wellness at a variety of price points. Treatments run the gamut from body and skin care to fitness, weight loss, massage therapies, medical advice and spiritual awakening. Moreover, there are regimens that are primarily about looking good. In fact, plenty of spas are ready to buff and beautify parties of girlfriends, the golf set, sun worshippers and Florida’s A-list of celebrity visitors and international jetsetters. With the Sunshine State’s laid-back, warm-weather vibe, visitors mellow out just being there, hence unwinding at a spa is an added bonus (visitflorida.com/spas).

CHEECA LODGE & SPA/ISLAMORADA, FLORIDA KEYS • CHEECA LODGE & SPA

FLAVORS OF FLORIDA Florida’s spirit of living outdoors has been shaped by brilliant sunshine, magnificent beaches, sparkling waters and lush forests. Locals and visitors alike pursue active living with a cornucopia of choices such as aquafitness, yoga on the beach at sunrise or sexy salsa classes at sunset. The state’s most evocative images come alive in a diverse variety of spa treatments. Think of Florida and you are inclined to picture endless waters, blossoming orange groves, white sand beaches and fragrant tropical flowers. Spas utilize these bountiful resources in treatments that have a distinctive Florida flavor. Imagine a citrus body scrub

72

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

tingling with essences of key lime, lemon and

BEACH MASSAGE • MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL/ MIAMI

orange. Aromatherapy, embodying the pungent essences of hibiscus and eucalyptus, relaxes and rejuvenates. Florida’s abundant fruits such as pomegranate, coconut and mango are essentials for restorative facials and après-sun care. In Florida, weight watching means dining on creative spa cuisines featuring delectable, contemporary dishes of freshly caught seafood and luscious tropical produce. Here, gourmet food means local treats such as Florida stone crabs, red snapper, Gulf shrimp and Apalachicola oysters. Spas originated with the healing powers of water and the Atlantic Ocean conveniently yields sea salts and minerals used in massage oils, detoxifying steam rooms and hydrotherapy baths for soaking away tension.

SPAS ON EVERY COAST Spa life is flourishing in every region of Florida. The legendary Golden Door at the Naples Grande Beach Resort (naples granderesort.com) is where the southern Gulf Coast meets a Japanese Zen ambience, heightened by mesmerizing waterfalls and a meditation labyrinth. At the WaterColor Inn & Resort (watercolorresort.com), on a magnificent stretch of white sand in the northern Gulf, you can sample an all-Florida pineapple-papaya skin moisturizer. The Ocean Waters Spa in Daytona Beach (ocean watersspa.com) synthesizes Atlantic salts and lavender for its aromatherapy glow. Psst! Did we mention the secluded, romantic SpaTerre on Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys (littlepalmisland.com), which offers a unique “cougar-to-kitten” sensuality treatment? Among a wealth of spas in the Gulf Coast city of Clearwater Beach, the spa

Atlantic oceanfront strip of sand and sun, is

lent fountain of youth with manicured gar-

at

Resort

home to one of the highest concentrations of

dens, waterfall whirlpools, Moorish baths and

(sandpearl.com) focuses on relaxation, re-

the

waterfront

Sandpearl

luxury spas in the world. The classic resort ho-

a signature facial that uses Sevruga caviar. At

newal and restorative wellness. Neighboring

tels in the posh communities of Miami Beach,

Bliss Fort Lauderdale in the W Hotel

community Tampa is equally well-endowed

Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale

(blissworld.com), the time-tested trademark

where its exotic full-service Spa Jardin

all have major new spas with world-class ex-

treatment is their carrot and sesame body buff.

(spajardin.com) has been voted “Best of the

ercise specialists and aestheticians. The

Bay” for nine years running.

sunset-pink Spa Palazzo at the Boca Raton

MARVELLOUS MIAMI

Resort & Club (bocaresort.com) is an opu-

The landmark grandes dames hotels of Miami

Florida’s Gold Coast, a shimmering

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

73

S PA S

SERENITY ROOM • MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL/ MIAMI

POOL AT HYATT REGENCY CLEARWATER BEACH RESORT • HYATT REGENCY CLEARWATER BEACH RESORT

Beach are adding extensive luxury spas. In winter 2011, the Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach (edenrocmiami.com) will be opening a dazzling ELLE Spa as part of a major restoration. And at the Fontainebleau, sublime hydro and thermal therapies include a soothing water massage with seaweed extract (fontainebleau.com). Miami’s sexy South Beach—the epicenter of cool—attracts the young and gorgeous to fashionable boutique

Sanibel Island, Naples and Tampa, the warm,

have My First Spa Experience, which combines

spas like The Setai, a haven of Asian serenity of-

relatively tranquil Gulf of Mexico waters are

facials, manis, pedis and fun tips on healthy

fering Balinese massages, a Himalayan body

ideal for parasailing, dolphin-watching,

living for princesses-to-be.

polish and Ayurvedic facials (setai.com). Also

charter fishing—and spa life.

MEDICAL WELLNESS

within the city’s fabulous selection of upmarket

Indulging in manicures, pedicures and mas-

spas, the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is

sages with your preteen is the rage at the

Florida is home to two world-class spas that in-

among the ultimate getaways (mandarin

Aquagëne Spa at the Pink Shell Beach Resort &

tegrate health and wellness with spa therapies.

oriental.com/miami/spa). Swathed in exotic

Spa, a wonderful playground for grown-ups and

At the Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami

natural textures such as bamboo, rice paper and

kids

Myers

Beach (canyonranchmiamibeach.com) and

linen, the Mandarin offers outdoor massages on

(pinkshell.com). Moreover, even Mickey

the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa at the

the beach and holistic treatments that blend an-

Mouse is wild about spas. The Disney Grand

Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami

cient wisdom from around the world.

Floridian Resort & Spa in Orlando, a deluxe

(pritikin.com), guests are in the capable

on

an

island

near

Fort

getaway for adults and a fantasyland for children,

hands of nutritionists, exercise physiologists,

FAMILY-FRIENDLY

offers an irresistible roster of family spa treat-

life coaches and doctors. These exceptional

Family life is paramount at many of Florida’s

ments such as the Gentleman’s Facial and the

centers not only pamper clients with fine cui-

resorts and creative spas have tailored their

Mother-to-Be Massage (http://disneyworld

sine and indulgent spa life, they also help

services to match their young clientele. In the

.disney.go.com/spa/grand-floridian-spa). In

improve their guests’ lifestyles and wellness

Gulf Coast communities of Fort Myers,

addition, guests aged four to 12 years old can

through better habits, weight loss and fitness.

74

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

SHOPPING

A Shopper’s

BAYSIDE MARKETPLACE/MIAMI • VISIT FLORIDA®

PARADISE BY WENDY LINDSAY

76

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

T

he truth about shopping in the

rants overlook the pretty Charlotte Harbor

With a million square feet of shopping and

Sunshine State is this: there is a lot of

Yacht Basin (fishville.com).

restaurants, Pier Park has put the city on the map as the area’s prime venue to shop ’til you

it and a lot of variety. There is also

something for everybody from souvenirs to

SHELL WORLD

drop. Pier Park’s open-air complex is designed

couture fashions. If vacationers are unable to

The Shell Factory and Nature Park in North

around pretty, pedestrian-only streets where

find what they want in Florida stores, then

Fort Myers boasts one of the world’s largest

stores are painted in Florida pastels. They in-

whatever is being sought does not exist.

collections of shells, sponges, coral and sea life

clude upscale department stores, specialty

specimens. A vast inventory of shell novelties

shops, fashion boutiques and popular restau-

WATERFRONT SHOPPING

includes shell jewelry, shell picture frames and

rants such as Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville

In Naples, shoppers can arrive by boat, car or

shell candles, together with Southwest

(margaritaville.com).

trolley at historic Tin City, a waterfront en-

Florida’s largest stock of pearls. The Shell

clave of interesting shops and restaurants. The

Factory is also a family entertainment desti-

UPSCALE SHOPPING

eclectic assortment is housed in tin-roofed

nation with arcade games, bumper boats,

Palm Beach is Florida’s legendary playground

buildings used in the 1920s by the local fishing

miniature golf and wildlife exhibits featuring

of the rich and famous and home to a large in-

industry. With more than 50 shops, vendors

big cats and alligators (shellfactory.com).

ventory of shops selling luxury goods. Traditionally, the historic Breakers Hotel is

offer everything from antiques to funky mood rings, shell souvenirs, perfumes, trendy fash-

WHAT’S NEW

the place to stay and Worth Avenue is the

ions and Florida fruit wines (tin-city.com).

Pier Park at Panama City Beach in

place to shop (worth-avenue.com). With a

Also in Naples, the Village on Venetian

Northwest Florida is the state’s newest

history dating back to the 1920s, it was here

Bay boasts more than 40 shops and restau-

shopping and entertainment destination

that Tiffany, Chanel, Cartier and other up-

rants overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and

(panamacitybeachonline.com/PierPark).

market retailers first opened in Florida.

Venetian Bay. The mix of merchandise of-

THE MALL AT MILLENIA • VISIT FLORIDA®

fered ranges from quirky souvenirs to designer clothes and fine jewelry. Wine tastings, fashion shows, jazz concerts and popular gondola rides are all part of the shopping experience (venetianvillage.com). About 25 minutes from St. Petersburg, John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk in Madeira Beach has more than 100 shops and plenty of restaurants. A long-standing tourist attraction, shoppers here can buy anything from T-shirts to trinkets (johnspass.com). Also among waterfront shopping options is the Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda where modern shops, boutiques and restauSHOPPING MALL AT MIAMI'S WATERFRONT • IVAN CHOLAKOV/SHUTTERSTOCK

Today, many of the stores have Mediterraneanstyle facades and there are shops tucked away in small hidden courtyards that help give the place a romantic European ambience. Miami’s Bal Harbour Shops have the largest collection of exclusive, high-fashion stores outside of Paris and New York. Here, at least a hundred world-class fashion and jewelry stores surround an open-air atrium filled with tropical trees, flower gardens and fountains. The selection of stores includes all 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

77

SHOPPING

MARKET • VISIT FLORIDA®

ORLANDO PREMIUM OUTLETS • VISIT FLORIDA®

the usual suspects: Bulgari, Cartier, Dolce &

vided into a number of mall areas. Known for

Gabbana, Gucci, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton and

discount prices on name-brand goods, stores fea-

Prada (balharbourshops.com).

ture everything from family fashions to jewelry,

Naples likewise has a reputation for posh

luggage, toys, home goods and health and beauty

stores and upscale shopping. Featuring

items. A gigantic food court and movie theaters

Mediterranean Revival buildings, Fifth

add further appeal (sawgrassmills.com).

Flamingo Island Flea Market in Bonita

Avenue South (fifthavenuesouth.com) and

Orlando Premium Outlets mall on

Springs has more than 600 concessions,

Third Street South (thirdstreetsouth.com)

Vineland Avenue has more than 150 stores

which sell everything from new goods to

both have an eclectic mix of galleries and ex-

where name-brand goods sell far below their

antiques and unexpected treasures (flamingo

clusive shops selling one-of-a-kind jewelry

regular retail price. Many Orlando vaca-

island.com).

and fashions. Featuring Spanish-style archi-

tioners make this mall a must-visit venue.

Fleamasters Fleamarket in Fort Myers fea-

tecture, Waterside Shops is a semi-enclosed

Also in Orlando, Premium Outlet mall on

tures more than 900 stalls offering everything

mall that houses the city’s largest collection of

International Drive has 180 luxury-brand re-

imaginable from cowboy boots to fishing

luxury-brand retailers such as Gucci, Burberry,

tailers who also sell at deep-discount prices.

equipment, clothing, sunglasses, household

Cartier and Tiffany & Co. Anchored by Saks

Other Premium Outlet malls in Florida

goods and T-shirts (fleamall.com).

Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and the Apple Store,

are in St. Augustine, Naples and Ellenton

the mall has more than 60 shops and restau-

(premiumoutlets.com).

rants (watersideshops.com).

Daytona Flea and Farmers Market is among the largest in the state (daytona

Miromar Outlets in Naples has been voted

fleamarket.com). With 1,000 booths it of-

Aventura Mall near Fort Lauderdale

Southwest Florida’s top factory outlet center for

fers all the typical flea market stuff and,

houses 300 stores including name-brand re-

the past 11 years. Featuring a park-like setting,

since “speed city” is the North American

tailers such as Nordstrom, Ann Taylor,

an artificial lake and water skiing shows, shop-

epicenter of car and motorcycle racing,

Bloomingdale’s, Calvin Klein and Burberry

pers here can look for bargains at 140 designer

there is also a good selection of motorcycle

(aventuramall.com).

and brand-name stores (miromaroutlets.com).

gear and racing accoutrements.

DEEP-DISCOUNT SHOPPING

FLEA MARKETS

also has an enormous flea market held weekly

Sawgrass Mills Mall west of Fort Lauderdale is

Bargain hunters can have a heyday at Florida’s

at the Volusia County Fairgrounds. Unlike a

the mother of all outlet centers. With more than

scores of flea markets that often unfold over

lot of contemporary flea markets, vendors

400 retailers it ranks as the largest of its kind in

several acres and are typically open Friday

here typically sell more antiques and col-

Florida. This is a shopping venue so large it’s di-

through Sunday.

lectibles than new goods.

West of Daytona, the town of DeLand

78

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Hundreds of destinations. One stop. No bag limit here! Sawgrass Mills has always been the vacation place to shop with more stores, more brands, more values, and more fun. Plus, right now you’ll find more of everything you want for much less. You are now cleared for take off. Visit Simon Guest Services with this ad for a FREE Coupon Book.

Off 595 W at Flamingo. 15 miles from Ft. Lauderdale Int’l. Airport and 30 miles from Miami Int’l. Airport. 954-846-2350

WATER SPORTS

SCUBA DIVERS EXPLORE CORAL REEF • RICHARD CAREY/DREAMSTIME

Water

WORLD BY SUSAN MACCALLUM-WHITCOMB

S

urrounded by water on three sides, to-

able and bait, tackle and fishing licenses are

has more than 2,500 miles of “water paths”

gether with an abundance of inland

usually included. On the southwest coast,

that crisscross the state from top to bottom (floridapaddlingtrails.com).

lakes, rivers and streams, Florida is a

Boca Grande is touted as the “Tarpon Capital

natural for water-based activities. With end-

of the World,” and it’s said that more sailfish

less sunshine and water everywhere the

and marlin are caught in the upper Gulf

SCUBA DIVING

Sunshine State is awash in options.

Coast waters off Destin than anywhere on the

Florida’s underwater world is just as exciting as

planet. In the upper Keys, Islamorada is

its land-based attractions. The Central North

FISHING

dubbed the “Sport Fishing Capital of the

Region boasts an extensive network of under-

Florida is a prime destination for vacationers

World” where its warm offshore waters

water grottos and springs making it a magnet

hooked on fishing, where record-breaking

are known for trophy-size marlin, tuna,

for cave divers (floridacaves.com). Among the

catches are not unusual and anglers from

barracuda, wahoo and sailfish.

area’s top dive sites are the Devil’s Den and the

around the globe are lured by the exceptional

Blue Grotto near Williston. Devil’s Den fea-

variety of fish populating the state’s coastal

BOATING

tures icicle-like stalactites, elaborate rock

waters and inland lakes. Lake Okeechobee, a

In general, if it floats you can rent it and this

formations and fossil beds that are millions of

body of water so large it’s referred to as an in-

includes everything from a pontoon boat to

years old, and the Blue Grotto is one of the

land sea, boasts awesome bass fishing along

jet skis. With more registered vessels than any

deepest caverns in the state. Also in the region,

with Lake Kissimmee where the record catch

other state, Florida is indeed a boating lover’s

Peacock Springs State Park has two major

during a 2001 tournament there weighed in at

paradise. It’s also a great place to sit back and

springs and six sinkholes embodying more than

just over 45 pounds. Also renowned for great

let somebody else do the driving. Sunset sails,

33,000 feet of underwater passages—one of the

bass fishing are Lake Tohopekaliga, Lake

lunch and dinner cruises, glass-bottom boat

longest cave systems in the continental US.

George, Lake Istokpoga, Lake Weohyakapka

tours, sightseeing excursions and private

One of the most famous and most visited

and several others.

charters (with or without a charter captain)

dive sites on Earth is located off John

Opportunities for saltwater fishing are

are widely available from statewide tour com-

Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park at Key

everywhere. Half-day, full-day and even

panies, outfitters and marinas. Canoe and

Largo (pennekamppark.com). Here, a 4,000-lb

nighttime, deep-sea charters are widely avail-

kayak paddlers are also well served. Florida

bronze statue of Jesus Christ stands upright on

80

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

FISHING IN ISLAMORADA • VISIT FLORIDA®

a shallow reef in 25 feet of water. Called Christ of the Abyss, it’s accessible to divers and snorkelers alike. The statue is one of three that was cast from a mold made by Italian sculptor Guido Galletti. Off Pensacola Beach on the upper Gulf Coast, divers can mix reef diving with wreck diving. Five years ago, the decommissioned aircraft carrier, USS Oriskany, was intentionally sunk 24 miles offshore and the vessel is now an artificial

reef

teeming

with

marine

life

(divemightyo.com). The same intriguing combination draws divers to the Florida Keys, home to the third largest natural reef in the world. Here, amid an awesome sea of coral protected by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (floridakeys.noaa.gov), shipwrecks and scuttled vessels are among the most popular dive sites in the state. Most recently, the warship, USS Vandenberg, was scuttled in 2009 joining other intentionally scuttled vessels and ancient shipwrecks such as a Spanish galleon that went down in 1733. There are nine designated sites on the Keys’ Shipwreck Trail where dives range from shallow to 100 feet or more. AIRBOAT RIDE • VISIT FLORIDA®

Overall, Florida and snorkeling are a perfect match and while the underwater wonders in the Keys are hard to surpass, there are scores of other excellent locations including Red Reef Park at Boca Raton, Coral Cove Park off Jupiter Island and Biscayne National Park at Homestead. Northwest of the Keys, in the Crystal River and Homosassa Springs

SNORKELING

snorkel tours. Also in the Keys, the Bahia

area, outfitters such as Sunshine River Tours

Some of Florida’s best snorkeling is found in

Honda State Park (bahiahondapark.com) is

(sunshinerivertours.com) and Manatee

the Keys where 55 varieties of coral, 500 species

another good location where coral and fish are

Tour and Dive (manateetouranddive.com)

of tropical fish and other colorful sea creatures

spectacular and shallow waters make it an ideal

provide snorkelers with awesome opportunities

make the area an underwater wonderland.

spot

Key

to swim with manatees. Enjoying the protec-

Among a host of exceptional spots to don a

Largo, Sundiver Snorkel Tours (snorkeling

tion provided by the Crystal River National

mask and breathing tube is the John

isfun.com) offer family excursions to a shallow

Wildlife Refuge, the largest herd of wintering

Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park where water

inner reef where there are abundant tropical

manatees in the state makes its home in the

visibility is crystal clear and the park hosts daily

fish and multicolored coral.

Crystal River and Homosassa Springs.

for

novice

snorkelers.

At

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

81

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

FLORIDA ISLAND COMMUNITY — PUBLIC FERRY SERVICE TO MIAMI • FLORIDASTOCK/SHUTTERSTOCK

A Region of

CONTRASTS BY CHELLE KOSTER WALTON

F

lorida experiences no greater mood swings

and character changes than in its populous Southeast Region. From West Palm Beach

south to Miami and the Florida Keys, no area in the state embodies more contrasts. With trendy fashion districts, a refined arts scene, chic beaches and Latin-Caribbean vibes, Miami possesses a tempo all its own. At its backdoor lies the unspoiled wilderness and Native American cultures of the Florida Everglades.

Just

south

of

Miami,

the

Homestead area is all about tropical fruit and vegetable farming and it’s also the gateway to the Florida Keys, a long string of islands with a temperament as much Caribbean as American. A big mood swing occurs north of sophisticated Fort Lauderdale with its beautiful beachfront and stylish downtown. From here, big-city frenzy begins to mellow into Deerfield Beach and the affluent community of Boca Raton. At the north end of the region are charming Delray Beach, West Palm Beach and 82

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

finally Palm Beach, historically a play-

Boca Raton, all the way south to Fort

neighbor Fort Lauderdale is mostly about the

ground for the rich and famous.

Lauderdale and Miami Beach.

beach but it too touts an international flavor

The region’s most celebrated drive is the

and a vigorous shopping and entertainment

MUST SEE, MUST DO

Overseas Highway, the southern leg of US

scene. Venetian-like canals honeycomb the

Miami Beach boasts the largest collection of

Highway 1. It picks up in Key Largo and

city making it fun to take a gondola ride or ex-

art

world.

stretches south through the Florida Keys to

plore by water taxi (sunny.org). Farther north

Concentrated in the South Beach area, about

Key West, the city at the southernmost

and quieter than Miami and Fort Lauderdale,

800 significant buildings represent a period

point in the continental United States.

Delray Beach has one of the most charming

was being promoted and developed as a trop-

CITY LIGHTS

beach.com). It has a distinct sense of commu-

ical playground (miamiandbeaches.com).

As a crossroads between the US and the

nity with a main street lined with galleries,

Building after building sprang up in the art

Caribbean, Miami pulses to the beat of a dif-

shops and restaurants. Farther up the coast,

deco style, however the area eventually suf-

ferent drummer (miamiandbeaches.com). Its

Palm Beach has consistently been a play-

fered an economic decline and the vibrantly

confluence of cultures adds texture to a city

ground for the rich and famous and its

colored stucco hotels, apartment complexes

filled with skyscrapers, historic neighborhoods,

upmarket hotels, restaurants and exclusive

and homes fell into disrepair. Since then, a dis-

ethnic enclaves, fine restaurants, sophisticated

Worth Avenue shopping are a testament to its

trict-wide rejuvenation program has restored

beach resorts and high fashion. Next-door

affluent character.

deco

architecture

in

the

downtown sections in the southeast (delray

from the 1920s to the 1940s when the city

the majority of them and in 1979 Miami

ROADS CONNECTING FLORIDA KEYS • RICHARD SEMIK/SHUTTERSTOCK

Beach’s Art Deco Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the area is one of the city’s biggest attractions, particularly along Ocean Drive where some of the buildings are now popular restaurants, nightclubs, martini bars and chic hotels. Often frequented by the rich and famous, this is the place in town to see and be seen.

RECOMMENDED DRIVES Route A1A provides a beautiful oceanfront drive past the mansions of Palm Beach and the coastal communities of Delray Beach and MIAMI BEACH • R. GINO SANTA MARIA/SHUTTERSTOCK

HERITAGE AND CULTURE Miami has changed considerably since wealthy American industrialist Henry Flagler brought his railroad to town in 1896. The first newcomers to the city were warm-weather seekers from the northern states, followed much later by refugees from Cuba who settled in a neighborhood known today as Little Havana. The city’s ethnic blend also includes Haitians who populate an area called Little Haiti. Latter-day arrivals from other Caribbean islands as well as South America contribute to the mix of cultures that now defines the city. One of Miami’s most important cultural attractions is the Vizcaya Museum and 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

83

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

SPA AND POOL AT DORAL GOLF RESORT & SPA • DORALRESORT.COM

Gardens, a grand estate featuring a mar-

FUN FOR FAMILIES

FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS

velous Italian-style villa built in the early

In addition to miles of beaches that are often

Beach resorts that welcome families are found

1900s by wealthy American industrialist

the first choice for family fun, each of the re-

along the region’s entire coast as well as inland.

James Deering (miamidade.gov/vizcaya).

gion’s

of

One of the best-known inland properties is the

Surrounded by 10 acres of formal gardens

family-oriented

Fort

Doral Golf Resort & Spa, a member of the

and overlooking Biscayne Bay, the villa is

Lauderdale’s Museum of Discovery and

Marriott Hotels and Resorts chain, which

filled with a vast array of art, antique treas-

Science (mods.org) is one of the state’s best

makes up for not having a beach with its Blue

ures and elaborate furnishings.

hands-on museums and Miami has several

Lagoon Water Park featuring a giant kids’ pool

family-friendly

the

and waterslide. Appearances from cartoon

Miami’s other cultural venues include the

coastal

cities

offers

plenty

entertainment.

venues

including

Bass Museum of Art (bassmuseum.org), one

Miami Children’s Museum (miamichildrens

characters, SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer,

of the area’s earliest art deco buildings, which

museum.org) and the Miami Science

plus arts, crafts and a special fun camp keep

now houses a priceless collection of art,

Museum (miamisci.org). Tapping into the

youngsters entertained. Adults are equally well

sculptures and tapestries. Fort Lauderdale’s

animal kingdom, Jungle Island (jungle

served with five world-class golf courses, a

Museum of Art (moaflnsu.org) anchors the

island.com) provides people with up-close-

large tennis center and one of the top-ranked

downtown cultural scene, together with the

and-personal encounters with rare birds,

spas in the state (doralresort.com).

Broward Center for the Performing Arts

mammals, primates, reptiles and fish. One of

(browardcenter.org). Key West brims with

its highlights is a show featuring unleashed

SPORTS SCENE

art galleries and museums such as the Ernest

tigers, leopards, lions and cougars, a perform-

Miami is the region’s hub for spectator sports

Hemingway Home & Museum where the

ance produced by The Institute of Greatly

and the city is home to the NFL Miami

renowned novelist wrote many of his famous

Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.).

Dolphins (miamidolphins.com), the NBA

works (hemingwayhome.com). An impor-

Other city attractions include the Miami

Miami Heat (nba.com/heat) and the Florida

tant historical venue in Palm Beach is the

Seaquarium (miamiseaquarium.com), Zoo

Marlins

Henry Morrison Flagler Museum (flagler

Miami (miamimetrozoo.com) and Monkey

(http://florida.marlins.mlb.com).

museum.us), a legacy of the “man who built

Jungle (monkeyjungle.com). High on the

Touted as “the tennis capital of Florida,”

Florida.” Completed in 1902, this mansion-

popularity list with adults and kids alike is a day

the Delray Beach Tennis Center has 14 clay

turned-museum is one of the purest

trip to the Florida Everglades and a visit to the

courts, seven hard courts and 19 night-lit

expressions of Florida’s Gilded Age.

Everglades Alligator Farm (everglades.com).

courts (delraytennis.com). The facility

84

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

major

league

baseball

team

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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA attracts widespread attention in late February

life-sized replicas of more than 200 species of

when it hosts the annual International Tennis

fish and a virtual reality “Catch Gallery,”

Championships (yellowtennisball.com).

where visitors can attempt to reel in a marlin

Miami and area boast more than 20 golf

or a sailfish. This attraction is an angler’s

courses, some of which are ranked among

mecca and a must-visit venue for Florida-

the top 10 in the world (miamiand

bound sport fishermen.

beaches.com/visitors/golf.asp) including

Also in Fort Lauderdale, the Inter-

the Doral Golf Resort & Spa (doral

national Swimming Hall of Fame is a shrine

resort.com) and the new Fairmont Turnberry

dedicated to the history and recognition of

Isle (fairmont.com/turnberryisle).

famous swimmers, divers and water polo

LINCOLN ROAD SHOP/MIAMI • DANIEL KORZENIEWSKI/SHUTTERSTOCK

players (ishof.org). More than 40 exhibits

SPORTS MUSEUMS

illustrate the history of aquatic sports in-

The International Game Fish Association’s

cluding artifacts such as the Olympic medals

Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania

earned by Johnny Weissmuller, the man also

Beach near Fort Lauderdale sets the standard

remembered for his movie role as Tarzan.

for facilities dedicated to the sport of angling (igfa.org). The facility features interactive

CALLING ALL SHOPAHOLICS

fishing-related kiosks, antique rod-and-reel

The region’s shopping options run the gamut

displays, contemporary tackle exhibits,

from huge flea markets to some of the most AIRBOAT/EVERGLADES • HOLBOX/SHUTTERSTOCK

upscale venues in the southern states. Worth Avenue in Palm Beach (worth-avenue.com) is renowned for exclusive stores and luxury brands

while

Delray

Beach’s

Atlantic

Avenue is lined with shops selling a variety of goods for all budgets (downtowndelray beach.com). Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale (lasolasboulevard.com) is home to a fine selection of galleries and fashion boutiques, and Miami’s Bal Harbour Shops (balharbourshops.com) boast the most extensive selection of couture clothing outside of Paris and New York. Vacationers looking to score bargains head to Sawgrass Mills, a mammoth

outlet

mall

west

of

Fort

Lauderdale where name-brand goods are sold at discount prices (simon.com).

SPA LIFE Although the Southeast Region has a huge inventory of spas, the renowned Doral Golf Resort & Spa (doralresort.com) boasts one of Miami’s oldest and most respected. In addition to offering all the typical day spa services, the facility is also home to the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa (pritikin.com), one of the world’s pre-eminent wellness centers, which treats a variety of health challenges. 86

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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fla - keys.com ~ 1- 800- FLA-KEYS

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Delightfully

DIFFERENT BY CHELLE KOSTER WALTON

D

efined by smaller communities, a

quiet sophistication and a sprawl of preserved wilderness, Florida’s

Southwest Region is the very antithesis of the state’s bustling cities and theme park venues. Anchored by the main urban centers of Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples, this coastal area attracts vacationers looking for its warm temperatures, renowned beaches and diverse culture and landscape. A long chain of offshore islands, running from Anna Maria Island off Bradenton to Marco Island south of Naples, is home to some of the region’s top beaches. Siesta Key in Sarasota, Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel and Captiva islands are among the major beach destinations while lesser-known spots such as Nokomis Beach, Venice, Port Charlotte, Gasparilla Island, Punta Gorda, Bonita Springs and Vanderbilt Beach also boast unspoiled white sand shorelines. 88

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

SAILING SARASOTA • VISIT FLORIDA®

CONDOS ON THE BAYFRONT IN NAPLES • BETSY VERB/DREAMSTIME

MUST SEE, MUST DO

priceless collections of art and furniture re-

The pride of Sarasota is the John and Mable

vealing the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the

Ringling Museum of Art, a legacy left by John

rich and famous during the Gilded Age.

Ringling, circus magnate famous for his

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Art houses Old Masters paintings by world-

(ringling.org). Cà d’Zan, Ringling’s dream

renowned artists such as Rubens and van

winter home on Sarasota Bay, is the center-

Dyck as well as a vast collection of European,

piece of a cultural complex that includes the

American and Asian artworks. Adjacent to the

art museum, two circus museums and lovely

art museum are the two circus museums that

gardens. The home is modeled after magnif-

celebrate the history of the American circus

icent mansions in Venice and contains

with memorabilia and artifacts such as glamorous costumes, barn-size posters, performer

FORT MYERS PIER AT SUNSET • TYPHOONSKI/DREAMSTIME

highlights, vintage equipment and a circus in miniature.

WHAT’S NEW Opening in spring 2011, the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples will be a facility that feeds the natural curiosity of children with hands-on, interactive exhibits (cmon.org). Dolphin Transportation Specialists Inc. have created the Historic Naples Trolley Tour that takes place aboard a classic old-style trolley (dolphinnaples.com). Narrated tours paint a vivid picture of Naples then and now. The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel Island has opened a stateof-the-art, interactive education center (crowclinic.org). The facility provides medical care for more than 4,000 sick and injured animals every year. It also features hands-on exhibits designed to immerse visitors in the world of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

89

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

BILLIE SWAMP SAFARI • VISIT FLORIDA®

SARASOTA OPERA HOUSE • SARASOTA OPERA

ering. Pick them up directly off Sanibel beaches or visit the island’s Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, one of the world’s largest storehouses of shells and mollusks (shellmuseum.org).

FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS From two Ritz-Carlton properties in Naples and one in Sarasota (ritz-carlton.com) to scores of other hotels, destination resorts and cottages on the beach, families are welcomed by all. Occupying one-third of Captiva Island, South Seas Island Resort is one of the largest

FUN FOR FAMILIES

animals and reptiles and a tropical garden

with more than two miles of beach, 465 guest

The Southwest Region offers a wealth of op-

founded in 1919 (napleszoo.com).

rooms, 19 swimming pools, a mini water park,

tions for family fun. The Everglades Wonder

G.WIZ—The

Science

in

nine holes of golf, a nature center, a sailing

Gardens in Bonita Springs has lush botanical

Sarasota (gwiz.org) and the Fort Myers

school, and boating and fishing excursions

gardens, rare Florida panthers, exotic birds

Imaginarium

(southseas.com).

and a 1,000-lb alligator said to be the largest

Aquarium

in the world (gulfcoastattractions.com

both offer an exciting blend of mind-stimu-

THE NATURE OF THINGS

/nature/wonder.cfm).

lating activities and exhibits. A highlight of

The Florida Everglades National Park is the

Hands-On

Museum Museum

and

(imaginariumfortmyers.com)

The whole family can enjoy the Naples

the Imaginarium aquarium is a touch-tank

most visited ecotourism destination in the

Zoo at Caribbean Gardens where there are

that lets kids touch a variety of sea creatures.

state and a day trip there is a vacation highlight

two attractions in one: a zoo featuring exotic

Sanibel Island is the place to go for shell gath-

for adults and children alike. The park’s Gulf

90

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

FAMILY FISHING • VISIT FLORIDA®

These forays involve observing a variety of sea creatures including dolphins, sea horses, pufferfish and stone crabs while learning about the ecology of the marine environment. Adventures in Paradise near Sanibel Island offers similar marine science tours together with canoe and kayak ecotours (adventure inparadiseinc.com). Everglades National Park also conducts ecotours by boat, kayak and on foot (nps.gov/ever).

SPA ESCAPES Coast Visitor Center is located at the lower

sculpture and other art forms, the Naples

Throw a dart at a map of the Southwest

end of the region in Everglades City. This is a

Museum of Art has 15 galleries including glass

Region and it’s guaranteed to land on or near

launch point for hiking, birding, kayaking,

masterpieces by world-renowned American

a spa. The variety of treatments is endless and

narrated boat tours and canoe trips into this

glass artist, Dale Chihuly (thephil.org).

includes everything from hot stone massages

wondrous wetlands system that is home to

to Balinese- and Thai-themed treatments.

wildlife such as the American alligator and the

SPORTS SCENE

There are sports massages for golfers, revital-

endangered Florida panther (nps.gov/ever).

Major league baseball’s Boston Red Sox,

izing and wellness therapies and, of course, all

Other nature and wildlife venues include

Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays fill

the body-beautiful treatments such as mani-

the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research

stadiums in Fort Myers and Port Charlotte

cures, pedicures and facials.

Reserve at Naples (rookerybay.org), Sanibel

during spring-training season (floridaspring

Island’s J. N. “Ding” Darling National

training.com).

CALLING ALL SHOPAHOLICS

Wildlife Refuge (fws.gov/dingdarling) and

Sport fishing has attracted visitors to

The region’s engaging mix of shopping op-

Sarasota’s Myakka River State Park (florida

Florida’s Southwest Region for decades and

tions ranges from high-end stores to flea

stateparks.org/myakkariver).

today’s recreational anglers continue to find it

markets and everything in between. Famous

Manatees can be viewed at Sarasota’s

a fisherman’s paradise. Deep-sea and inland

for its posh shops, Sarasota’s ultimate

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

fishing trips are widely available with compa-

shopping venue is St. Armands Circle

(mote.org) and Bradenton’s South Florida

nies such as Six Chuter Charters whose guides

(starmandscircleassoc.com).

Museum & Parker Manatee Aquarium

are experts at making sure vacationers

Naples has two historic shopping streets,

(southfloridamuseum.org).

go home with legitimate fish stories

Fifth Avenue South (fifthavenuesouth.com) Third

Street

Downtown

(sixchutercharters.com). There are even

and

HERITAGE AND CULTURE

family-friendly charters offered by outfitters

streetsouth.com). Here mostly one-of-a-

South

(third

Tours of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates at

such as Everglades Family Fishing (ever

kind shops sell a repertoire of goods from

Fort Myers pay homage to two of America’s

gladesfamilyfishing.com).

European antiques to fine art, designer fash-

most influential inventors, Thomas A. Edison

Golf aficionados can choose from well

ions and custom jewelry. Naples Outlet

and Henry Ford, who lived side-by-side for

over 100 courses, ranging from trophy lay-

Center has more than 40 discount shops

many winters (efwefla.org). In addition to his

outs designed by some of the big names in

selling name-brand goods (premium

home, Edison’s estate also includes his labora-

course architecture to pleasant municipal

outlets.com) and, at the Naples waterfront,

tory containing various inventions, plus a guest

tracks. There are plenty of stay/play packages

Tin City is a funky shopping venue housed in

house where the inventor often hosted US pres-

as well as packages that combine golf and spa.

an old oyster-processing plant (tin-city.com).

ECO ADVENTURE

is found at Bradenton’s Village of the

idents, wealthy industrialists and visionaries. Another legacy left by John Ringling is the

Shopping in an artist-colony environment

Sarasota Opera House (sarasotaopera.org).

The region has numerous ecotourism op-

Arts (villageofthearts.com) and Sarasota’s

This 1926 Mediterranean Revival-style building

tions, some self-directed and others led by

Towles Court Arts District (towlescourt.com).

is on the National Register of Historic Places

companies, such as Sarasota Bay Explorers

Fleamasters, a popular Fort Myers flea

(nps.gov/nr) and its year-round productions

(sarasotabayexplorers.com) who work in

market billed as “Southwest Florida’s No. 1

feature some of the greatest operas ever written.

conjunction with Mote Marine Laboratory to

Tourist Stop,” has more than 900 vendors

Dedicated to displaying world-class art,

provide interactive marine science trips.

(fleamall.com).

92

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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HENDRY COUNTY

A Call Back

TO NATURE BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN

CRESTED CARACARA AT DINNER ISLAND RANCH BIKE RIDERS

CAPTAIN HENDRY HOUSE

N

estled quietly in the middle of

Laura and Belle, daughters of cattle baron and

Florida’s lower half, between Fort

Civil War hero Captain Francis Asbury

Myers and Palm Beach, is Hendry

Hendry, was established. Farming followed

County (visithendrycounty.com), an area

then, in 1920, entrepreneurs developed what

comprised

Seminole

is now Clewiston. In the 1930s the

Reservation, Clewiston and LaBelle. Lake

of

Big

Cypress

Okeechobee Waterway was created and State

Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River

Road 80 through Clewiston was born.

are at the heart of Hendry making it a prime location for nature-based activities. There’s a rich history to Hendry County

BIG CYPRESS SEMINOLE RESERVATION

starting with the Calusa Indians, the first

This area is proud to be the largest Native

known settlers, who were quickly followed by

American reservation in Florida and is occu-

Seminoles, cattlemen, hunters, trappers and

pied by the largest concentration of

traders. Settlements sprang up in the 1880s

unconquered Seminoles, a tribe that never

and LaBelle, the first river stop, named after

signed a peace treaty with the USA.

94

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and Billie

BIG “O” AIRBOAT TOUR

Swamp Safari are two prime examples of the richness and heritage the tribe preserves. AhTah-Thi-Ki highlights include a Living Village, a raised boardwalk through the cypress swamp, and various exhibitions and collections on display (ahtahthiki.com) while the Swamp Safari offers airboat rides through cypress domes, swamp buggy ecotours through the wetlands, and animal and reptile shows (swampsafari.com). The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (dep.state.fl.us/gwt), a 110-mile trail for hiking, horseback riding and biking, and the Great Florida Birding Trail (floridabirding trail.com) are perfect for adventurous types. The Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest (fl-dof.com/state_forests/okaloacoochee.html) is also located here.

FISHING IN HENDRY COUNTY

line the horizon here. Sugarland Tours takes visitors through the fields (Clewiston.org) and a Sugar Festival is held in April. At the Devil’s

CLEWISTON

Garden Bird Park (devilsgardenbirdpark.com)

A tranquil little town, Clewiston is home to SR

several species of birds flock to the prairies,

80, charmingly referred to as the “Sweet Route.”

wetlands and oak hammocks and, in March,

Situated midway between the Atlantic and the

the Big “O” Birding Festival (bigobirding

Gulf, it’s one of the fishing capitals of the world

festival.com) takes place on the southwest

and the Roland & Mary Ann Martins Marina

shores of Lake Okeechobee. A Big “O” Airboat

and Resort (rolandmartinmarina.com) has

Tour through Lake Okeechobee highlights alli-

been the No. 1 Florida bass fishing location

gators, manatees, pelicans and other wildlife,

since 1981. Sugarcane fields and orange groves

which inhabit the Everglades (bigofishing.com /airboat.html). For some insight into the history and heritage of Hendry County, visit the Clewiston Museum for a look at how the area developed (clewistonmuseum.org).

LABELLE Small-town charm surrounds LaBelle with attractions, which include the Captain Francis A. Hendry House and the LaBelle Heritage Museum. The Fort Denaud Swing Bridge attracts

bikers,

fishermen

and

boating

enthusiasts and a visit to the Harold P. Curtis Honey Co. (curtishoney.hypermart.net) shows how the sweet stuff’s made. The Barron Park & Historic District is where to find the LaBelle Nature Park project (labelle naturepark.net) and, every February, the Swamp Cabbage Festival and the Annual Ranch Rodeo are events popular with all ages (swampcabbagefestival.org). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

95

CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA

Racing, Rockets,

BEACHES & MORE BY SUSAN MACCALLUM-WHITCOMB

I

n travel, just like in real estate, location

matters and the Central East vacation region that extends 175 miles south from

the Daytona Beach area to the Palm Beach County line is irrefutably prime landscape. It is also surprisingly diverse offering everything from high-gear holidays to family-oriented vacations, nature-based adventures and laidback, lazy days on sunbaked beaches.

TAKING IT EASY Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no wonder this part of the Sunshine State tempts vacationers who long to simply park themselves on a beach and soak up the sun. Uninterrupted miles of white sand rim the Atlantic Ocean where long stretches are flanked by resort hotels, condos and nearby urban amenities, while others are edged only by grass-tufted dunes. Beyond the shoreline, on-the-water activities include fishing, sailing, kayaking and surfing on some of the eastern seaboardâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best breaking waves. 96

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

DAYTONA NASCAR RACE • WALTER ARCE/DREAMSTIME

Since humans aren’t the only ones at-

family-friendly venue manages to package sci-

tracted to the waterfront, eco opportunities

ence and history with Disney-like pizzazz,

are also widely available. Visitors often witness

creating virtual experiences that include

bottlenose dolphins cavorting just offshore,

taking a walk on the moon, driving across

and from April through October, sea turtles

Mars, plus other exciting simulations related

nest on area beaches. The region’s sprawling

to outer space exploration. There are also op-

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

portunities to meet real live astronauts and

serves as a veritable showcase for critters such

tour the rocket launch area.

as alligators and endangered manatees (fws.gov/merrittisland). Moreover, due to

GET REVVED UP

this barrier island’s strategic position on the

North of the Space Coast (space-coast.com),

Atlantic Flyway, hundreds of avian species

Ormond Beach is deemed “The Birthplace of

flock there annually making it a hot spot for

Speed” thanks largely to pioneer carmakers

birdwatchers.

Henry Ford and Louis Chevrolet who staged the first automobile races there. Next-door

FLORIDA’S SPACE COAST

neighbor Daytona Beach is synonymous with

Although they could not be more different,

the Daytona International Speedway, a world-

the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

famous venue that annually hosts NASCAR’s

shares the island with one of Florida’s top at-

most recognizable race—the Daytona 500

tractions: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

(daytonainternationalspeedway.com).

(kennedyspacecenter.com). The aeronau-

There are also open-air tram tours of the

tical equipment displayed at its Visitor

track where the world’s greatest race car

Complex (ranging from a Saturn V rocket to

drivers have competed.

an Apollo command module) would alone be sufficient reason to visit. However, this

MUST SEE, MUST DO Even in a state known for its stunning

SPACE SHUTTLE LIFTOFF FROM THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER • MIKE BROWN/DREAMSTIME

beaches, Canaveral National Seashore stands out. The pristine 24-mile preserve represents the longest undeveloped expanse on Florida’s Atlantic coast (nps.gov/cana). Twelve miles south of Daytona Beach, the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is the tallest in Florida and among the oldest in the country (ponceinlet.org). Many of the more than 100,000 people who visit it each year climb the 203 steps to the top. The lighthouse went out of official service in 1970 and in 1998 it was named a National Historic Landmark. Its surrounding grounds feature nautical displays, a comprehensive museum and several 19th-century buildings including simple dwellings that once housed lighthouse keepers and their families. The Cocoa Beach Pier is a historical landmark and one of the most popular gathering spots on the Space Coast. Perched high above ocean waters, it is home to restaurants, bars, shops and live musical entertainment. Since 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

97

CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA part of the Museum of Arts & Sciences (a Smithsonian affiliate), which also houses a planetarium (moas.org). Cool pools, creative programs and other on-site perks make Disney’s Vero Beach Resort (disneyworld.disney.go.com /resorts), the Wyndham Ocean Walk Resort in Daytona Beach (oceanwalk.com) and the Ron Jon Cape Caribe Resort near Cocoa Beach (ronjonresort.com) family attractions in their own right.

THE SPORTS SCENE Speed Weeks are the region’s signature sporting events. In 2011 the racing extravaganza at Daytona International Speedway begins with the Rolex 24-hour race in January and culminates with the renowned Daytona 500 in February (daytonainternational speedway.com). The Boys of Summer go to bat every spring when Major League Baseball teams arrive for pre-season training. March through early April, visitors can catch the Washington NEW YORK METS AT PORT ST. LUCIE • DEBBY WONG/SHUTTERSTOCK

Nationals at the Space Coast Stadium in Viera and the New York Mets at Digital FLORIDA BEACH WALK • VISIT FLORIDA®

1962, the pier has been a magnet for celebrities, locals and visitors and it’s also the epicenter of

Domain Park in Port St. Lucie (floridagrape fruitleague.com).

Floridian surf culture where there’s no better

Visitors can sometimes get lucky and spot

vantage point for watching surfers catch the

NBA superstar Vince Carter at his new

waves (cocoabeachpier.com).

restaurant in Daytona Beach just off LPGA

The Port St. Lucie PGA Village is among

Blvd. It’s simply called Vince Carter’s and fea-

Florida’s top golf destinations. Along with a

tures a main dining room, patio seating,

trio of championship courses designed by

sports grill, a VIP dining area called the

Tom Fazio and Pete Dye, it boasts a PGA golf

Owner’s Box, a wine/piano bar and several

school and the PGA Historical Center mu-

huge flat-screen televisions.

seum where the prestigious Ryder Cup is on

ECO ADVENTURES

display (pgavillage.com/stlucie). For culture buffs, the Atlantic Center for

The six-day Space Coast Birding & Wildlife

the Arts in New Smyrna Beach (atlantic

Festival is held in Titusville in late January. It

centerforthearts.org) and the Peabody

features field trips, seminars and ornithology

Auditorium in Daytona Beach (peabody

workshops (spacecoastbirdingandwildlife

auditorium.org) are among the region’s top

festival.org).

picks for the visual and performing arts

go eye-to-eye with giraffes, kayak near rhinos,

Manatees are high on every animal-

respectively.

hand-feed exotic birds and frolic in the zoo’s

spotter’s wish list. The Manatee Observation

themed playground (brevardzoo.org).

and Education Center (manateecenter.com)

FUN FOR FAMILIES:

Williams

in Fort Pierce and Manatee viewing platform

Melbourne’s Brevard Zoo is dubbed “the

Children’s Museum in Daytona Beach has en-

on Merritt Island (fws.gov/merrittisland)

small zoo that does big things.” Here, kids can

gaging, educational, hands-on displays. It’s

provide close-up looks at these gentle giants.

98

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

The

Charles

and

Linda

Adventure Kayaking Vero Beach, Florida

Always an adventure! Adventure Kayaking is based in Vero Beach, a small coastal town with shorelines on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. Vero Beach truly is where the tropics begin and is perfectly located to take advantage of some of the best flat-water kayaking in the world, along the Indian River Lagoon ³ home to dolphins, manatees and over 360 species of birds. The lagoon also boasts five national wildlife refuges, including the United 6WDWH¡VYHU\ILUVWQDWLRQDOZLOGOLIHUHIXJH3HOLFDQ,VODQG ,W LV D QDWXUH ORYHU¡V SDUDGLVH  $QG ZLWK PXOWLSOH VH cluded launch locations, opportunities for varied excursions exist. All of the Adventure Kayaking guides are more than just professional paddlers. They are naturalists who know these waters intimately. They love to share a peaceful paddle and their knowledge of these beautiful locations. For owners/guides Steve and Ronda Cox kayaking is their business, but it is also their passion. They pay attention to detail and have an amazing ability to be in synch ZLWKWKHLUFOLHQWV¡QHHGV 100

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Teaching and helping the rest of us experience and embrace the beauty and the fragility of our world sets them apart. They have spent hours on the water observing wildlife and continue their own education, all with the goal of giving their clients the best guided trip possible. Combined, Steve & Ronda have been in the kayaking business for 25 years. High quality touring kayaks are used. Tours usually consist of 2 to 12 people, but thanks to the number of guides and kayaks, groups of 40 can be comfortable accommodated. Your tour may be complimented by a wholesome and delicious meal. From morning paddles to multiday kayaking excursions, Adventure Kayaking has just the trip you are looking for. Though their expertise is paddling on the Indian River Lagoon, Adventure Kayaking provides year-round, full-service kayak tours throughout Florida and the Bahamas. Popular destinations outside of the Indian River Lagoon include the Everglades, Blue Cypress Lake, St Sebastian River, and Exumas, Bahamas

Inviting crystal clear waters of the Exumas, Bahamas.

Dolphin are a common sighting at Round Island Park, Vero Beach FL.

Kayak-sailing at sunset on the Indian River Lagoon, Vero Beach FL.

Camping in the Exumas, Bahamas.

Adventure Kayaking Experienced professionals, dedicated to giving you the best kayaking adventure in Florida or the Bahamas.

772 - 567 - 0522

www.PaddleFlorida.com 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

101

CENTRAL FLORIDA

More than

theme parks BY BARB AND RON KROLL

D

ubbed “the vacation capital of the world,” there is plenty more to the Central Region than its popular

Orlando theme parks. In fact, the cornucopia that exists includes beaches, golf courses,

HORSEBACK SAFARI - PINE FLATWOODS • FLORIDA ECOSAFARIS AT FOREVER FLORIDA

shops, museums, galleries, parks, nature reserves, family-friendly resorts and fishing. Greater Orlando alone, an area encompassing Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake Counties, boasts more than 100 attractions (visitorlando.com). Other venues such as Kissimmee

(visitkissimmee.com),

Polk

County (visitcentralflorida.org) and the city of Ocala (ocalamarion.com) likewise boast a healthy inventory of surprises and attractions.

CITY LIGHTS The theme-park city of Orlando has more than 5,000 restaurants including dinner theaters where entertainment includes everything from buccaneers (piratesdinneradventure.com) to horses (arabian-nights.com), comedy 102

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

(wonderworksonline.com/html), mystery (sleuths.com),

jousting

(medievaltimes.com)

and

tournaments gangsters

(alcapones.com). Around town there is also an abundance of lounges, martini bars, dance clubs, sports bars, comedy clubs, wine bars and even an icebar (icebarorlando.com) where its interior is an ice-carved, Arctic-style wonderland. In Kissimmee view classic car shows and cruises on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights in the community’s Old Town section, a popular shopping, dining and entertainment complex (old-town.com). The Saturday Nite Cruise of hot rods and antique cars is the largest, weekly car cruise in the country. Kissimmee’s Latin Trail of restaurants satisfies appetites for South American, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Spanish cuisines. Nighttime PARK PLAZA GARDENS RESTAURANT IN ORLANDO • VISIT FLORIDA®

SPECIAL EVENTS 2011 January 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards Winter Music Series (lakeridgewinery.com) Early February Venues across Central Florida ArtsFest 2011 (redchairproject.com) February 5–6 Mount Dora Mount Dora Arts Festival (mountdoracenterforthearts.org) February 18–20 Orlando Museum of Art 29th Annual Antiques Show & Sale (omart.org) March 3–13 Plant City Florida Strawberry Festival (flstrawberryfestival.com) March 5 Lake Wales Lake Wales Mardi Gras (lwmardigras.com) March 18–20 Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival (wpsaf.org) March 19 Downtown Kissimmee Kowtown Festival March 26 Silver River Museum, Ocala Silver River Knap-In and Stone Age Arts Festival (marion.k12.fl.us/district/srm) March 29–April 3 Lakeland SUN ’n FUN International Fly-In & Expo (sun-n-fun.org) May 19–30 Downtown Orlando Orlando International Fringe Festival (orlandofringe.org) February 18–20 and June 4–5 Osceola Heritage Park Silver Spurs Rodeo (silverspursrodeo.com) July 4 Downtown Orlando Fireworks at the Fountain (cityoforlando.net) September 1–30 Participating restaurants Orlando Magical Dining Month (orlandomagicaldining.com) Mid-October Valencia Community College Campus Viva Osceola November 5 Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales Sunset & Symphony (boktowergardens.org/calendar/ sunset-symphony)

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

103

CENTRAL FLORIDA

COACH SAFARI - PINE FLATWOODS • FLORIDA ECOSAFARIS

(universalorlando.com)

and

SeaWorld

Orlando (seaworldorlando.com). Orlando’s Official Visitor Center on International Drive provides free brochures, maps and travel advice. Free Orlando Magicards® offer discounts on accommodation, attractions, dining, nightlife, shopping, golf courses and transportation (visit orlando.com/magicard). Discount tickets for attractions, dinner shows and activities can also be ordered online in advance of a trip (orlandoticketsales.com/oi).

HERITAGE & CULTURE The Orlando Museum of Art (omart.org) and the Orange County Regional History Center ZIP-LINE SAFARI • KISSIMMEE CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU

(thehistorycenter.org) are highlights of Orlando’s

eight-mile

cultural

corridor.

entertainment ranges from Auggie’s Jammin’

MUST SEE, MUST DO

There is also the Bob Carr Performing

Piano Bar at the Gaylord Palms Resort

No Central Florida visit is complete without

Arts Centre featuring Broadway shows

(gaylordhotels.com) to Vintage Vino, a

experiencing one or more of Orlando’s major

(broadwayacrossamerica.com/orlando) and

downtown wine, beer and cheese bar

theme parks: Walt Disney World (disney

international

(vintage-vino.com). 104

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

world.com), Universal Orlando

®

Resort

orchestras

perform

at

the Festival of Orchestras in Longwood

CENTRAL FLORIDA POOLS AT WALDORF ASTORIA ORLANDO • WALDORF ASTORIA ORLANDO

(festivaloforchestras.org). The Orlando Repertory Theatre specializes in children’s performances (orlandorep.com) and the Orlando

Philharmonic

(orlandophil.org)

and

Orchestra

Orlando

Ballet

(orlandoballet.org) also have programs for young audiences. At

Kissimmee’s

Pioneer

Village

&

Museum, visitors can explore early American homestead life as it was in the late 1800s. Exhibits include an authentic general store, schoolhouse and blacksmith shop (osceolahistory.org). In Lakeland (lakeland chamber.com), the Polk Museum of Art (polkmuseumofart.org) features a sculpture garden and a substantial collection of contemporary, African, American, Asian, European

Polk County, Fantasy of Flight offers aerial dis-

(infinitemassage.com)

and pre-Columbian art. Ocala Civic Theatre,

plays, hang-glider simulators, biplane rides and

spa services.

the second largest theater in Florida, hosts

tours of the world’s largest private collection of

musicals and dramas (ocalacivictheatre.com)

aircraft (fantasyofflight.com).

provides

mobile

WHAT’S NEW WonderWorks Orlando, a 12-seat 4-D theater,

while the city’s Appleton Museum of Art (appletonmuseum.org) is one of the premier

CALLING ALL SHOPAHOLICS

features an extreme-motion ride, a sister attrac-

repositories of fine art in the southern states.

Shop ’til you drop at the Florida Mall

tion to the city’s only indoor-ropes course. The

(simon.com), Central Florida’s largest shop-

big challenge on this three-storey rope-climbing

FUN FOR FAMILIES

ping mall in Orlando, which houses more than

adventure is navigating a variety of obstacles

Central Florida attractions cover a variety

260 shops and restaurants. The Mall at

(wonderworksonline.com/html).

of

(florida

Millenia (mallatmillenia.com) is the place to

A new wing at the Charles Hosmer Morse

ecosafaris.com), miniature golf (hawaiian

interests:

go for high-end brands such as Cartier, Gucci

Museum of American Art is expected to be

rumbleorlando.com) and swimming with

and Chanel as well as upmarket goods at

completed by winter 2011 and will feature 11

dolphins and snorkeling with manatees

Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus.

galleries and 250 objects from the Long Island

(floridadolphintours.com). At the Orlando

The city also has several outlet centers of-

Estate of Louis Comfort Tiffany (morse

Science Center, youngsters can observe stars

fering discounted prices on designer clothing,

museum.org). The museum is already a pre-

and

shoes and luggage (premiumoutlets.com

mier repository for priceless stained-glass

/orlando; lbvfs.com).

Tiffany works as well as other fine art.

examine

zip-line

safaris

fossilized

dinosaur

eggs

(osc.org). In Orlando’s WonderWorks, hands-on simulators allow children to engi-

The Amway Center, a new state-of-the-art

neer space shuttle landings and experience at

SPA ESCAPES

concert and special events venue in downtown

least a hundred other interactive activities

Orlando’s 19 destination spas include The

Orlando, will be home for Orlando Magic

(wonderworksonline.com).

Ritz-Carlton Spa, Orlando, with 40 treatment

basketball, Orlando Predators football and

Families can play cowboy on trail

rooms and a fitness center (ritzcarlton.com

Orlando Titans lacrosse matches (amway

rides near Ocala at Double K Stables

/orlando) and The Waldorf Astoria Spa by

center.com). It will also host a variety of big-

(double-k-stables.com) and Makin’ Tracks

Guerlain (waldorfastoriaorlando.com/spa

name performers in the music field.

Trail Rides (guidedtrailrides.webs.com).

andfitness/spa). The Spa at Orlando World

At the Kissimmee Air Museum, Warbird

There’s also plenty of western fun and adven-

Center Marriott Resort has packages for

Adventures now offers helicopter flights over

ture at the Westgate River Ranch Resort near

couples (marriottworldcenter.com) and

Central Florida plus introductory flying

Lake Wales (wgriverranch.com).

chocolate body scrubs are featured at L’Esprit

lessons (warbirdadventures.com).

Hot-air ballooning is a popular aerial adven-

Day Spa at the DoubleTree Resort Orlando

ture offered by Orlando Balloon Rides

(lespritspa.com). Relax with a facial at

FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS

(orlandoballoonrides.com) and Magic Sunrise

The Spa at Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa

With 115,000 guest rooms, Orlando has

Ballooning (magicsunriseballooning.com). In

(buenavistapalace.com). Infinite Massage

everything from budget lodgings to condos

106

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

and luxury resorts. Many family resorts offer

ECOTOURISM

whooping cranes, there’s a high chance of

free shuttles to theme parks, including the

Several companies offer guided airboat,

spotting North America’s tallest flying birds.

Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort Lake Buena

swamp-buggy and pontoon boat tours to view

The largest population of nesting bald eagles

Vista where kids eat free and there are a

alligators, birds and wildlife in Central

in the continental USA is in Osceola County.

variety of suites designed specifically for

Florida’s

(airboatrides.com;

With its weekend elephant encounters, in-

youngsters (hisunspreelbv.com).

bcairboats.com; captfreds.com; alligator

sect zoo and aerial adventure course, Central

coveairboatnaturetours.com)

wetlands

the

Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is a full-day

unto themselves. Nickelodeon Suites Resort

Kissimmee River and Dead River swamps

outing (centralfloridazoo.org). Beautiful

has two water parks, live Nickelodeon per-

(mildtowildairboattours.com). The tours

gardens plus a nature preserve and a 60-bell

formances, character breakfasts and a new

also include sightings of ospreys, egrets and

carillon draw visitors to Bok Tower Gardens in

4-D theater show (nickhotel.com/ovg).

roseate spoonbills and, because Kissimmee is

Lake Wales. Time visits to coincide with daily

a

carillon concerts (boktowergardens.org).

Other Orlando resorts are theme parks

In Kissimmee, Holiday Inn Main Gate

reintroduction

site

for

and

endangered

East has kids’ suites, kids-eat-free dining, as well as a children’s theater, pool and playground (holidayinnmge.com).

SPORTS SCENE Families can cycle the West Orange Trail, Orlando’s longest paved trail (orlando bikerental.com); amateur and advanced skateboarders can hit the courses at Vans Skatepark (vans.com); and tennis buffs can choose from among 800 city courts. The Central Region also has golf galore. Named

the

North

American

Golf

Destination of the Year 2010, Orlando alone has more than a hundred golf courses, including world-class venues such as Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club (bayhill.com) and Grand Cypress Golf Club (grand cypress.com). Great golf is also available in Kissimmee, Polk County and Ocala. See NBA basketball in Orlando from October to April (orlandomagic.com), with Detroit Tigers spring training in Lakeland (floridaspringtraining.com/tigers.html) and Houston Astros spring training in February and March at Osceola County Stadium (houstonastros.com).

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Polk County, the Bass Capital of the World, has 554 lakes with numerous fish camps and fishing

guides

(visitcentralflorida.org

/do/outdoors/fishing). In addition to fishing, Polk County’s Lake Kissimmee State Park offers hiking, equestrian trails, canoeing and camping (floridastateparks.org /lakekissimmee). 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

107

HOGSMEADE • UNIVERSAL ORLANDO® RESORT

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO® RESORT

A World of

ENCHANTMENT BY KRISTEN MANIERI

N

ot one but two excellent theme

BUTTERBEER • UNIVERSAL ORLANDO® RESORT

®

climb into Harry’s enchanted existence joining

parks at Universal Orlando Resort

thousands of other Muggles keen to experi-

are packed with pulse-pounding

ence the long-awaited embodiment of their favorite fictional characters and places.

coasters and up-close encounters with some of the most beloved characters from television, film

The 20-acre sorcerous space features

and pop culture. Like stepping onto a working

Hogsmeade’s cobblestone streets where frosty

movie set, Universal Studios Florida oohs and

mugs of Butterbeer pour by the gallons from

aahs with rides and experiences designed to im-

the medieval keg flanked by shops and a

merse guests in their favorite movies and shows

restaurant peeled right from Potter’s pages.

such as The Simpsons Ride, which zooms visi-

Hogwarts Castle towers over the snow-capped

tors on a madcap journey through Krustyland.

roofs beckoning visitors to the attraction’s

Characters like Shrek, Beetlejuice, Jaws, and

main draw, Harry Potter and the Forbidden

even Barney come to life through a mix of live

Journey. While the site features two roller

action and interactive rides and shows that

coasters (Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon

delight and enchant people of all ages.

Challenge), Forbidden Journey is what’s really turning heads. This knock-your-socks-off at-

AMAZING ADVENTURES

traction featuring robotic technology and

Next door, Universal’s Islands of Adventure

flight simulation uses groundbreaking move-

is a thrill-seeker’s paradise thanks to more

Ground-breaking attractions like the high-

ment and visual tools to take riders on a

than a dozen high-speed, high-adrenaline at-

tech 3-D thrill ride The Amazing Adventures

free-flight frenzy speeding inside and outside

tractions, some paying homage to comic

of Spider-Man and the super fast Incredible

Hogwarts alongside Harry Potter himself.

books’ infamous super heroes. Even the

Hulk Coaster have recently begun to share the

younger set gets its share of exploits at Seuss

stage with popular newcomer The Wizarding

AFTER DARK

Landing, where whimsical tales like The Cat

World of Harry Potter. Unveiled in June

After a day at these two incredible theme

in the Hat leap from the pages.

2010, this incredible attraction lets fans finally

parks, folks who can scrounge up some more

108

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

energy to tackle Universal’s nightlife scene

RED COCONUT CLUB • UNIVERSAL ORLANDO® RESORT

won’t regret a single minute. Packed with bars, clubs and lounges, Universal CityWalk is also home to the world-famous Blue Man Group, the zany troop of tricksters who perform nightly in the Sharp AQUOS Theatre. Next door, internationally renowned rock stars regularly take the stage at Hard Rock Live, the concert venue located within the world’s largest Hard Rock Café. There’s no telling what sort of night visitors will end up having thanks to a seemingly endless array of entertainment venues. Check LOEWS ROYAL PACIFIC RESORT • UNIVERSAL ORLANDO® RESORT

rants continues inside Universal’s hotels. At the Hard Rock Hotel, diners can choose from laid-back comfort food at The Kitchen or opt for the upscale steakhouse known as The Palm. Bice Ristorante and Mama Della’s Ristorante, both at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, take guests on a culinary journey through Italy. At CityWalk, even more choices abound. Ten themed restaurants guarantee there will be something for everyone from sports fans out a live dueling piano show at Pat O’Brien’s,

A throwback from the Italian Riviera, the

to reggae lovers. Take in the Forrest Gump

hit the dance floor at Red Coconut Club, or

Loews

exudes

memorabilia at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.,

karaoke with a live band as backup at

Mediterranean luxury thanks to features like

lazily sip a cocktail and tackle a sky-high plate

CityWalk’s Rising Star. One thing for sure,

the harbor-side piazza where opera singers

of nachos at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville,

the night will be unforgettable. Lively, bright

serenade from the marble balconies every

or devour a dozen Bloody Mary chicken

and colorful, CityWalk lights up like a Vegas

night at sunset. This elegant locale is home

wings at Pat O’Brien’s. At every turn, deli-

strip at night and radiates with an energy that

to three pools, eight restaurants and the

cious food in the coolest locales are plentiful.

will race through your veins like caffeine.

world-class Mandara Spa.

Of course, don’t forget about opportunities to

Finally, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort

dine with favorite characters. Characters

SPECTACULAR ACCOMMODATION

embodies island hospitality at this gargantuan

breakfasts give guests the chance to have a

1,000-room refuge boasting a stunning la-

memorable meal with the likes of Scooby

Universal Orlando’s on-site hotels are truly

goon-style pool with a children’s water play

Doo or Things 1 and 2.

some of the most spectacular and distinctive

area. World-famous dining experiences in-

Afterwards, wander through CityWalk’s

in the area. Far from a mere place to rest and

clude the resort’s fabulous evening luaus and

shops where an eclectic variety of merchan-

relax, these palatial resorts are attractions

unforgettable Pan-Asian cuisine at Emeril

dise from Billabong board shorts to stuffed

unto themselves boasting legendary spas,

Lagasse’s Tchoup Chop.

gorillas awaits. And if VIP treatment is pre-

Portofino

Bay

Hotel

ferred, be sure to book a Universal VIP tour.

pools and restaurants. Rock aficionados flock

On this guided walking tour, visitors will be

stay complete with a 12,000-square-foot pool

ECLECTIC EATERIES AND SHOPS

with an underwater sound system, sandy

From classy Italian bistros to casual rock ’n’

parks and given priority ride access plus

beach and regular “dive-in” poolside movies.

roll eateries, the list of unforgettable restau-

insider information only VIPs get to know.

to the Hard Rock Hotel for a music-themed

personally escorted through one or both

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

109

dream big

• Spacious, two-bedroom, two-bath villas with full kitchens, screened porches and whirlpool baths • An indoor/outdoor pool, including the spectacular new Bluegreen Wakoola Springs 75,000 sq-ft interactive pool area with water slides and cabanas • Fitness Room/Game Room/BBQ grills • On-site food and beverage • Daily planned activities • Minutes to all the attractions including Disney World,® Universal Studios,® and SeaWorld® • Convenient International Drive location

in Orlando

Call 800.456.0009 or visit bluegreenrentals.com Agency commissions paid promptly The Fountains | 12400 S. International Drive | Orlando, Florida 32821 Š2010 Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited. All rights reserved. Bluegreen and the Bluegreen logo are registered trademarks of Bluegreen Corporation and are used under license. All other trademarks/service marks remain the property of their respective owners. RNT.12.10.82 12/10

CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA

TAMPA BAY RAYS • VISIT FLORIDA®

Enjoy, Explore,

DISCOVER

BY FRED. W. WRIGHT JR.

E

ndowed with an outstanding inventory

of assets, there is no vacation wish list that can’t be fulfilled by Florida’s Central

West Region. Check off endless sunshine and some of the best beaches in the country. Also check off stimulating nightlife, museums, historical sites, family-friendly attractions and superior dining. Likewise, check off vibrant cities, excellent fishing, spectator sports, great golf and unlimited fun on the water. Combined, these items spell the perfect getaway. At the heart of the region that stretches along the Gulf of Mexico’s West Coast, about 85 miles west of Orlando, is Tampa Bay, a large body of water whose area cities are Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Together, this tricity group has it all in terms of things to see and do, however, smaller communities such as Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, Crystal River and Zephyrhills also have attractions and characteristics entirely worthy of exploration. 112

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

MUST SEE, MUST DO

YBOR SQUARE • VISIT FLORIDA®

Eight miles northeast of downtown Tampa, Busch Gardens, the combination amusement park and zoo, covers 335 acres and features animals from around the world together with some of the most gravity-defying roller-coaster rides in the country (buschgardens.com). A not-to-be-missed feature at the zoo is a pair of rare white Bengal tigers. Adventure Island Water Park, a Busch Gardens sister park, has 30 acres of water-soaked excitement including corkscrew water slides, a giant wave pool, a rambling river for tubing and a splash-attack fun zone (adventureisland.com).

HERITAGE AND CULTURE Ybor City, a small Tampa neighborhood situated northeast of downtown, is the nucleus of the city’s ethnic roots (ybor.org). Founded in the 1880s by a group of cigar manufacturers and originally populated by Cuban, Spanish and Italian immigrants who worked in the cigar factories, it gained a reputation as the “Cigar Capital of the World.” The community’s fascinating history is detailed at the Ybor City Museum (ybormuseum.org). Other cultural venues include the cities of Dunedin and Tarpon Springs. Just north of Clearwater, Dunedin steadfastly preserves its Scottish roots that date back to the 1850s (dunedingov.com). The sound of bagpipes can often be heard throughout the city whose name is derived from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Once every year clansmen from far and wide arrive for Dunedin’s Highland Games featuring Scottish dancing, caber tossing and bagpipe competitions (dunedinhighlandgames.com). The 2011 Games will be held on April 9 following a Military Tattoo on April 2. North of Dunedin, Tarpon Springs has a spongefishing industry that began in the late 1800s (visitstpeteclearwater.com). Today, the waterfront remains much as it was a hundred years ago and the tradition of sponge harvesting still carries on. Several buildings and the town’s Historic District are on the National Register of CLEARWATER’S PIER • VISIT FLORIDA®

Historic Places. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

113

CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA ST. PETERSBURG PIER • VISIT FLORIDA®

CITY LIGHTS Nightlife in the tricity area is both abundant and eclectic. Hundreds of venues offer everything from comedy clubs to chic martini bars and everything in between. There are scores of sports bars, friendly pubs, dance clubs and dinner cruises on Tampa Bay. Sunsets at Pier 60 Festival is a nightly celebration that takes place at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach (sunsetsat pier60.com). Popular with adults and children alike, it features glass-blowers, face painters, buskers, artisans and plenty of food concessions. Smaller communities also have a lot of nighttime entertainment. Scottish-influenced Dunedin, for example, is a fun-filled place to do a pub-crawl, enjoy a pint and play a game of darts. The waterfront community of Gulfport has beach bars, rooftop restaurants and a dance hall that dates back to the 1930s (mygulfport.us). DOWNTOWN TAMPA • VISIT FLORIDA®

FUN FOR FAMILIES One of the highlight attractions at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the world’s only bionic dolphin. Winter is a baby bottlenose dolphin that lost her tail in a crab trap. She was rescued and fitted with a prosthetic tail, to which she has completely adapted (cmaquarium.org). At Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry, there are dozens of interactive learning exhibits and an IMAX theater (mosi.org). Not far from the museum, the Lowry Park Zoo has more than 1,700 animals including

everything

from

koalas

to

elephants, tigers, leopards and rhinos (lowry parkzoo.com). Another Tampa attraction is The Florida Aquarium (flaquarium.org), ranked among the top 10 in the country. Here, hours of amusement can be spent viewing exotic fish, sea horses, manta rays, sharks, turtles, sea otters and a Goliath grouper weighing more than 300 lb. Always popular with families are the region’s oodles of beautiful beaches including more than seven miles of impeccable sand beach at Fort De Soto National Park. Made up of five offshore keys, the park also has a fishing pier and an ancient fortress built during the SpanishAmerican War (pinellascounty.org/park). 114

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA PROFESSIONAL SPORTS

RECOMMENDED DRIVES

Dunedin and Largo and certain sections pro-

The Tampa Bay area is a prime venue for pro-

Head north up Gulf Boulevard from the tip

vide stunning views of the Gulf Coast.

fessional sports that include the NFL Tampa

of St. Pete Beach for more than 25 miles

For a nature-based outing, hike the

Bay Buccaneers (buccaneers.com) and the

past a succession of some of the most beau-

Brooker Creek Preserve (brookercreek

NHL Tampa Bay Lightning (http://lightning

tiful

Madeira,

preserve.org). Located just east of Tarpon

.nhl.com). The Buccaneers play in Raymond

Redington, Indian Rocks, Belleair, Sand

Springs, the preserve has 8,700 acres of swamps

James Stadium along with the University of

Key and Treasure Island.

and forest and a first-rate education center.

beaches

in

Florida:

Weedon Island Preserve has miles of man-

South Florida Bulls, a rising NCAA football team. The Lightning team plays at the St.

WHAT’S NEW

grove-lined waterways ideal for canoeing

Pete Times Forum in Tampa Bay and the

The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg moved to

where paddlers can choose from two well-

Tampa Bay Rays baseball team (raysbase

a new and larger home in January 2011 to

marked trails within the 3,700-acre preserve

ball.com) plays home games at the domed

house the world’s most comprehensive collec-

(weedonislandpreserve.org).

Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

tion of works outside of Spain by famous

WATERFOWL ISLAND/HOMOSASSA SPRINGS WILDLIFE STATE PARK • MICHAEL WOOD/DREAMSTIME

DINING Hundreds of restaurants offer fish caught the same day, however, there is much more to the region’s dining options than seafood. There is every ethnic cuisine imaginable and for red meat lovers there is no shortage of good oldfashioned mouth-watering steak. Bern’s Steak House in Tampa, for instance, is renowned not only for prime aged steak but also for the largest wine cellar of any restaurant in the world: 90,000 bottles in its cellar and another half

million

in

nearby

warehouses

CALLING ALL SHOPAHOLICS

Spanish surrealist, Salvador Dalí (thedali.org).

Shopping in the tricity area is the epitome of di-

In addition to special exhibits, the museum’s

versity. Luxury goods and high-end retailers such

permanent collection includes 97 oil paintings,

and

as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Tiffany &

100 watercolors and 1,300 graphics, photo-

Restaurant is among the oldest family-owned

Co. are found at the International Plaza and Bay

graphs, sculptures and objets d’art.

restaurants in the country. The Gonzmart

(bernssteakhouse.com). With locations in Ybor City, St. Petersburg Clearwater

Beach,

the

Columbia

Street (shopinternationalplaza.com). For ca-

The Chihuly Collection opened in July

family has offered the same rare and authentic

sual shopping mixed with fun and entertainment

2010 at 400 Beach Drive on St. Petersburg’s

mix of Spanish and Cuban cuisine since 1905

head to John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk at

waterfront (chihulycollectionstpete.com). It

(columbiarestaurant.com).

Madeira Beach where there are more than 100

features the glass sculptures of world-

interesting shops selling everything from sou-

renowned glass artist, Dale Chihuly, whose

FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS

venirs to T-shirts, shell goods and one-of-a-kind

creations have been exhibited around the

The Central West Region has numerous prop-

treasures (johnspass.com). BayWalk shopping

globe. Also on site is a must-see Glass Studio

erties that put out the welcome mat for

and entertainment complex in St. Petersburg has

& Hot Shop where visitors can observe artists

families. Among them, The Don CeSar Beach

a variety of shops and a 20-screen Muvico

creating magnificent glass pieces.

Resort offers poolside Kidbanas and recreation programs tailored to children. St. Pete Beach’s

Theater (newbaywalk.com). St. Petersburg shopping also includes The Pier, a 1970s-era

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

only four-diamond beachfront hotel operates

landmark featuring a collection of casual shops

The Central West Region has endless oppor-

on the philosophy that the family that plays

and restaurants as well as an aquarium

tunities for outdoor activities both on land and

together stays together (loewshotels.com).

(stpetepier.com). Cigar aficionados head to the

on water. Among them, the Pinellas Trail

The new Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater

Tampa Sweethearts Cigar Company in Ybor

is one of the best biking trails in the area

Beach features a children’s program called

City, a family-owned operation that dates back

(pinellascounty.org/trailgd). Extending for

Camp Ridley, which offers everything from

to 1912 (tampasweetheart.com). Here, Arturo

37 miles from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg

fun activities to games, crafts, scavenger hunts

Fuente Jr. sells his famous Dominican hand-

along an abandoned railroad line, the route

and even a Kids Night Out that includes pizza

rolled cigars.

passes through the charming communities of

and a movie (sandpearlresort.com).

116

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

117

118

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

119

HYATT REGENCY CLEARWATER BEACH RESORT AND SPA

A Four-Diamond

ECO-CONSCIOUS PROPERTY BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN

VIEW FROM PRIVATE SUITE PATIO • HYATT REGENCY CLEARWATER BEACH RESORT

T

TWO-BEDROOM SUITE • HYATT REGENCY CLEARWATER BEACH RESORT

he allure and elegance of the Hyatt

bathtub, a large living area, a dining table for

DINING

Regency name is something avid

four and granite countertops and updated

There definitely are many restaurants in Clearwater

travelers seek when choosing accom-

stainless steel appliances in the kitchen.

however dining on site is just as enticing. The Shor American Seafood Grill specializes in local seafood

modation and the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa in Florida is no excep-

REST AND RELAXATION

and features a dramatic show kitchen as its center-

tion, having recently been honored with both

Unwinding and decompressing are integral to

piece. Menu specialties include pan-seared black

AAA Four Diamond and Three Green Key

any vacation and the perfect way to achieve this

grouper, surf and turf with filet mignon and Maine

status. The latter was in honor of their Green

is with a visit to the spa. Encompassing an area

lobster, and seafood pasta with clams, mussels and

Key Eco-Rating Program.

of 7,000 square feet, the Hyatt’s Sandava Spa

prawns. Mahi mahi, tuna and swordfish are some of

Exemplary service, luxurious surroundings

is the answer to any guest’s prayer for tran-

the fish selections. The Swim Bar and Grill provides

and attention to detail earned the resort the

quility. The relaxation room, with its soothing

a more casual atmosphere poolside.

AAA rating while the Green Key was awarded

water wall and floor-to-ceiling view of the

for creating opportunities to reduce environ-

Intracoastal Waterway, sets the mood. This is

mental impacts and operating costs through

where guests await entry into one of eight pri-

ACTIVITIES AND NEARBY ATTRACTIONS

reduced utility consumption, employee

vate luxury spa treatment suites. A wealth of

The name Clearwater didn’t happen by chance.

training and supply chain management.

treatment options includes the Endless Wave

The area was named for its abundant fresh

Massage, Clearwater Beach Wrap and

springs. Derived from the Native Indian term,

ACCOMMODATION

Rejuvenating Citrus Peel. Only environmen-

Pocotopaug, which means “Clear Water,” the

Featuring an inviting West Indies style, the

tally friendly and organic products—such as

beaches around here are stellar and often the

Hyatt houses 250 guestroom suites, each

pure sea algae oil for massages, a marine-in-

main attraction. Three miles of beach run past

equipped with comfortable Hyatt Grand Beds,

fused wrap and lines like Eco-Envy, Osea and

the Hyatt to where the popular entertainment

42-inch flat-screen televisions, full kitchens,

YumYum—are used. Healthy treats like fresh-

venue Pier 60 is found. Nearby family attractions

private balconies and rooftop terraces over-

squeezed juices, nuts and fruits are served

include Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Historic

looking the Gulf of Mexico. Premium guest

throughout the day and a 24-hour fitness

Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks and the Salvador

quarters feature double vanities, a separate

center awaits those seeking a good workout.

Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg.

120

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

experience the new hyatt regency clearwater beach resort & spa. Steps away from the powder white sands of Clearwater Beach, a brand new resort is bringing world-class style and amenities to the west coast of Florida. All guestrooms are suites with fully equipped kitchens featuring granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, private balconies and Gulf of Mexico views. The hotel also offers Sandava Spa, Shor American Seafood Grill, Camp Hyatt, Hyatt StayFit™ Gym, 20 air-conditioned Pool Cabanas and indoor & outdoor meeting space perfect for any business gathering or special event. For reservations, call 727 373 1234 or visit clearwaterbeach.hyatt.com. Hyatt. You’re More Than Welcome.

727 373 1234 CLEARWATERBEACH.HYATT.COM

HYATT name, design and related marks are trademarks of Hyatt Corporation. ©2011 Hyatt Corporation. All rights reserved.

NORTHEAST FLORIDA

A “Got Everything”

PLAYGROUND BY CHELLE KOSTER WALTON

B

ig-shouldered Jacksonville, Florida’s most

populated metropolis, throbs at the heart of Northeast Florida. The region’s historic

towns, important ports, and Atlantic Ocean beaches radiate out from the city that thrives equally on commerce, culture and tourism. The city of St. Augustine, together with Amelia Island and the beaches of Jacksonville (Mayport, Atlantic, Neptune, Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra), are the main centers of tourism. Amelia Island stretches north to the Georgia border and is home to a variety of resorts and the charming Victorian town of Fernandina Beach. South of Amelia Island, the coastal shrimping and shipping town of Mayport segues into a stretch of vacation land from Atlantic Beach to Flagler Beach. Atlantic Beach and Ponte Vedra Beach bookend the more frivolous, playful beaches of Neptune and Jacksonville. South of Ponte Vedra, St. Augustine gives credibility to the region’s nickname, The First Coast, with its colonial pedigree and well-preserved architecture.

122

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

JACKSONVILLE WATERFRONT PANORAMA • JON ZANDER/WIKIMEDIA

HERITAGE AND CULTURE The Northeast region’s enviable shoreline and deepwater ports created an early military heritage with forts reinforcing the stretch from Fort Clinch State Park (florida stateparks.org/fortclinch) on Amelia Island to St. Augustine’s mammoth Castillo de San Marcos (nps.gov/casa) together with southlying

Fort

Matanzas

(nps.gov/foma).

Fascinating tours of these fortresses are offered daily. At Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Maritime Museum chronicles the region’s naval history (jaxmaritimemuseum.org). The railroad was an important driving force behind The First Coast’s development and St. Augustine reveres a man named Henry Flagler, who not only brought the railroad to town, but also spearheaded the construction of several beautiful hotels and churches. One former hotel now houses the Lightner Museum (lightnermuseum.org) where its varied accumulation of artifacts includes a remarkable collection of Tiffany glass and Gilded Age treasures. The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens (cummer.org) in Jacksonville’s historic district

and

its

downtown

Museum

of

Contemporary Art (mocajacksonville.org) assure the town its place among Florida’s cultural destinations. Other assets include Theatre Jacksonville (theatrejax.com) and an abundance of dining options that help conFLAGLER COLLEGE/ST. AUGUSTINE• GOOGLE IMAGES

tribute to the city’s lively nightlife and arts scene.

Next along the continuum, Marineland got

Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum, Florida’s

its name from the first-ever aquarium attrac-

Oldest House, Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in

CALLING ALL SHOPAHOLICS

tion that opened there in 1938 and continues

America, Old Jail and Old St. Augustine Village

St. Augustine’s historic district is an anti-fran-

to operate to this day. Quiet Palm Coast and

(getaway4florida.com/history).

chise shopping experience. At the Lightner Museum an antique mall occupies what used

Flagler Beach remain Northeast Florida’s

RECOMMENDED DRIVES

to be the circa 1889 Alcazar Hotel’s indoor

One of America’s most treasured drives, sea-

swimming pool, the world’s largest at the time.

MUST SEE, MUST DO

side Highway A1A is at its most gorgeous

San Marco Avenue at the edge of the colonial

Founded in 1565 by the Spanish, St.

along The First Coast. Highlights include

district has the largest concentration of antique

Augustine’s famous Old City is a not-to-be-

the drive south of Amelia Island through

shops. Some 30 art galleries and studios sell

missed attraction. Here, in the historic district

Little Talbot Island State Park (florida

everything from blown-glass items and hand-

of the nation’s oldest city, cobblestone streets

stateparks.org/littletalbotisland), followed

thrown pottery to Old Masters paintings, fine

are lined with centuries-old buildings inter-

by the Mayport car ferry ride that crosses the

contemporary pieces, Latin American graphics

spersed with quaint cafés, restaurants and

St. Johns River and the seven-mile section

and the work of well-respected local artists.

shops. Costumed interpreters stroll the avenues

along Flagler Beach called the Ocean Shore

bringing history to life in such buildings as the

Scenic Highway.

best-kept secrets.

For the latest in new goods at discounted prices, St. Augustine’s western perimeter is 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

123

NORTHEAST FLORIDA home to more than 150 outlet stores offering everything from fashions to household products, jewelry, cosmetics, sports equipment and more.

FUN FOR FAMILIES Ninety-some miles of First Coast beaches provide days of fun for vacationing families, together with the popular Adventure Landing water park (adventurelanding.com) on Jacksonville Beach and interactive dolphin programs at Marineland (marineland.net). Even off the beach, Jacksonville drums up the family factor with its Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (jacksonvillezoo.org), interactive Kids

Kampus

educational

park

and

playground (904-630-KIDS), and handson

Museum

of

Science

&

History

(themosh.org).

NFL JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS • GOOGLE IMAGES

FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS Amelia Island Plantation—one of Florida’s first kid-friendly resorts—defines family vacationing in the Northeast (aipfl.com). In addition to programs for every age group, including tough-to-please teens, it offers both junior tennis and golf clinics and camps, and will even teach children how to ride a bike. Amelia Island Plantation pleasures adults with its holistic spa while the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island incorporates the ultimate icon of seaside relaxation into its zero-gravity

FORT CLINCH • KATHERINE WELLES/DREAMSTIME

hammock treatment (ritzcarlton.com). At

SPORTS SCENE

kayaking and swimming.

One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa at Atlantic

The golf resorts of Ponte Vedra Beach and St.

The Atlantic coastline is known for thrilling

Augustine’s World Golf Village nail the re-

surfing, especially during the winter, and

gion’s reputation for the woods-and-irons set

would-be windsurfers can take lessons in

(florida-golf.org). Football fans can get their

the waters at St. Augustine’s Anastasia

ECOTOURISM

fix in Jacksonville, home to the NFL

State Park (floridastateparks.org/anastasia).

Right whales, manatees, pink roseate spoon-

Jacksonville Jaguars (jaguars.com). The city

Kiteboarding and stand-up paddling are the

bills and loggerhead sea turtles are just some

also hosts the Gator Bowl, the annual college

latest extreme sports to hit the area, plus

of the wildlife visitors can see in the region.

football playoff (gatorbowl.com).

Amelia Island is one of the few places in

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is a

Florida that offers horseback riding in the surf.

prime site for spotting whales during the

For the ultimate rush, Adrenaline Alligator

winter months and viewing roped-off turtle

Much of Northeast Florida’s outdoor sports

Adventures offers visitors the chance to

nests in summer (floridastateparks.org

scene relates to recreation on, in or near the

spend a day with one of its licensed trappers

/washingtonoaks).

water. Throughout the region, there are

capturing nuisance gators

marshes of Amelia Island provides eye-level

ample opportunities for fishing, boating,

alligators.com).

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

124

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

(adrenaline

Beach, the Seashell Massage is its signature treatment (oneoceanresort.com).

Kayaking

sightings of a variety of sea birds.

the

salt

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA

THE OLD FLORIDA STATE CAPITOL/TALLAHASSEE • STEVEN FRAME/SHUTTERSTOCK

Second NATURE BY JANET GROENE

T

he clock stopped in much of north

Florida about 50 years ago, which makes the North Central Region a perfect vaca-

tion venue for the unhurried visitor who loves nature and prefers life at a snail’s pace. A day’s drive north from Miami, pine forests, bubbling springs and scores of rivers distinguish the area from much of the rest of Florida. Songwriter Stephen Foster never saw the region’s Suwannee River, yet he made it famous with his unforgettable Old Folks at Home melody. Today, the Suwannee and a network of other rivers are among the state’s top places to canoe, kayak and fish. Early settlers in the region arrived by steamboat until a highway and a railroad were built replacing what had previously been an ancient trading route. Fortunes were made in tobacco, railroading and lumber. Grand mansions were built in communities such as Monticello, Quincy, Live Oak and Madison. Wealthy northerners came to “take the waters” at White Springs while Havana thrived as a leading tobacco auction

126

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

town. Fortunes changed, however, when a

TRI-COLORED HERON WITH EGGS • LORI SHELTON/SHUTTERSTOCK

new interstate highway bypassed the communities and passenger trains stopped serving them. Today, many of these small charming towns welcome visitors to delightful B&Bs, antique stores, down-home cooking and southern hospitality. Sophisticated restaurants, resorts and nightlife are virtually unknown outside of the region’s major cities. Tallahassee, the state capital and western bookend of the region, provides hotels, dining,

shopping

and

entertainment.

Gainesville is a college town with youthful pizzazz and highbrow polish. Overall, the North Central Region is largely rural, sparsely populated and its greatest assets are exceptional natural blessings that make the area popular for biking, fishing, birdwatching, hiking, camping, kayaking and canoeing. Cave diving in the freshwater springs of the Suwannee River attracts expert scuba spelunkers from around the world.

MUST SEE, MUST DO Established in 1633 by Spanish Franciscans, Mission San Luis in Tallahassee was burned to the ground by the Spanish and their

NORTH CENTRAL SPECIAL EVENTS 2011 January 9 Stephen Foster State Park, Gainesville March 24–27 Live Oak Suwannee Springfest Music Festival Stephen Foster Day April 2 Tallahassee Springtime Tallahassee Festival April 15–16 Madison Four Freedoms Festival June 3–4 (or 1st Friday & Saturday in June) Wellborn Blueberry Festival Mid-September Gainesville Annual Downtown Latin Festival

SUWANNEE RIVER STATE PARK • VISIT FLORIDA®

Late December Waterfronts Statewide Christmas Boat Parades

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

127

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA Apalachee allies in 1704 to prevent ap-

MISSION SAN LUIS • TALLAHASSEE VISITOR INFORMATION CENTER

proaching British troops from taking it over. Now much of the village and a fort have been rebuilt on the historic site in compliance with the original Spanish plans. Buildings include a massive council house replicating the one that would have been used for Apalachee tribal meetings. Interpreters in period costume describe Apalachee life and at various times during the year there are historical re-enactments (missionsanluis.org).

HERITAGE AND CULTURE Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park & campground north of Live Oak is one of Florida’s largest and best venues for music festivals. Situated on the banks of the Suwannee River, it hosts a variety of festivals featuring bigname stars of country, bluegrass, folk and western music. Covering more than 500 acres, the park has camping, cabins, fishing, birdwatching, canoeing, kayaking and an arts and crafts village (MusicLivesHere.com).

CITY LIGHTS Tallahassee has posh hotels and upscale

fresh fish. One of the resort’s most famous

in tiny Greenville, there is a monument to music

restaurants

icon, Ray Charles, who grew up there.

capital.

guests was former US President Jimmy Carter

Among them are the Governors Inn

who praised the place as a superb family get-

(thegovinn.com) and the Hotel Duval

away (steinhatcheelanding.com).

befitting

a

state

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

(hotelduval.com) with reputations as “in”

Family vacations in the North Central

The Suwannee River Wilderness Trail runs

spots for dining and nightlife. Being a college

Region primarily involve nature and the out-

about 170 miles from White Springs to the

town, Tallahassee also has an abundance of

doors. Several parks such as the Fanning

land’s-end hamlet of Suwannee where the river

pubs, clubs and sports bars and West

Springs State Park represent what family holi-

enters the Gulf of Mexico. The river weaves

Tennessee Street is where most of the “hap-

days here are all about: camping, swimming,

through long stretches of wilderness and its

pening” ones are found. The primary

fishing, snorkeling, hiking, scuba diving, ca-

banks are lined with towering pines and stately

performing arts venue is the Tallahassee-Leon

noeing and kayaking (floridastateparks.org

cypress. With adequate supplies and planning,

County Civic Center (tlccc.org), which fea-

/fanningsprings).

paddlers can camp the entire distance or spend

tures

Broadway

shows

and

musical

performances (visittallahassee.com).

nights in rustic lodges along the way. This is a

RECOMMENDED DRIVES

trail that can be navigated in its entirety or in

Driving west from Lake City to Tallahassee, US

part (floridastateparks.org/wilderness).

FUN FOR FAMILIES

Route 90 passes by communities frozen in time.

The North Central Region is known for

Steinhatchee Landing Resort is an idyllic re-

Embodying all the quiet grace of yesteryear,

some of the best cave-diving sites anywhere. Two

treat where the Steinhatchee River meets the

towns such as Monticello, with its grand old

of the most popular are Devil’s Den

Gulf of Mexico. This is a laid-back place

1890 opera house, merit exploration. In the sim-

(devilsden.com) and the Blue Grotto (florida

where families can swim, fish, canoe, kayak

ilar community of Madison, a walking tour

caves.com/bgrotto) near Williston. Located in

and wade in shallow waters to gather scallops.

reveals several blocks of homes and buildings

the southwest corner of the region, Devil’s Den

Resort accommodation consists of upscale

whose architecture dates as far back as the 1700s.

features stalactites, intricate rock formations and

cottages and nearby there are several casual

One of the buildings was actually used as a hos-

33-million-year-old fossil beds while the Blue

restaurants whose menus feature plenty of

pital during the Civil War. Just off the highway

Grotto is one of the deepest caverns in the state.

128

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

WAKULLA COUNTY

WAKULLA SPRINGS LODGE • WAKULLA COUNTY TOURISM DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

A Natural

PLACE TO BE BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN

L

State’s

designated as a National Natural Landmark.

Panhandle, Wakulla County (visit

Among the world’s deepest, these freshwater

ocated

in

the

Sunshine

wakulla.com) is billed as “The

springs are perfect for summertime swimming

Natural Place to Be in Florida” and with good

and viewing abundant wildlife either under-

reason. Hiking and cycling through the area’s

water

National Forest, wildlife watching in the

(floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings).

or

along

the

nature

trail

Manatees, cooters, alligators, squirrels, birds

Refuge and boat tours through the springs provide a wide variety of activities that make

WAKULLA WELCOME CENTER IN PANACEA • WAKULLA COUNTY TOURISM DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

this area a great place for outdoor enthusiasts.

and butterflies call the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge home. They inhabit the fresh-

TRAILS AND WILDLIFE

water and saltwater marshes that make up the

HISTORIC BUILDINGS

There’s no shortage of activities for people

Coastal Marsh Belt where marsh grass leads to

San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park

who enjoy nature and a good place to start is

a coastal beach. The variety of bird species here

is home to the 1679 National Landmark fort,

at

is quite extensive (fws.gov/saintmarks).

which bears the same name and is the center-

Established in 1936, it is the largest National

piece of this attraction. The museum features

Forest in Florida and, at 564,961 acres, fea-

FESTIVALS AND EVENTS

pottery and tools discovered near the fort and

tures several long trails including the 4.5-mile

April

visitors can enjoy a self-guided trail through

Wright Lake Trail, the 5.4-mile Leon Sinks

Worm-Gruntin’ Festival, which features

the park (floridastateparks.org/sanmarcos).

Geological Area Trail and the six-mile Trail of

demonstrations, live music, a horseshoe cham-

One of the best views in Wakulla is from the

Lakes. At Leon Sinks, there are several wet

pionship and—yes—a worm-eating contest.

St. Marks Lighthouse, built between 1828 and

and dry sinkholes, a natural bridge and a dis-

In May the Panacea Blue Crab Festival brings

1831 and the only Florida lighthouse with

appearing stream. The rolling terrain on the

folks out for a mullet toss, live music, clogger

wooden stairs. The structure’s history is quite

Munson Hills Off-Road Bicycle Trail is

performances and, of course, lots of crab.

dramatic and includes a guard built for extra pro-

a test for mountain bike enthusiasts

Anglers will love the Rock-the-Dock Fishing

tection from Indian attacks during the Seminole

(stateparks.com/apalachicola.html).

Tournament also held in spring. October

the

Apalachicola

National

Forest.

is

time

for

the

Sopchoppy

War; damage from the Civil War as well as from

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

events include the St. Marks Stone Crab

storms and hurricanes; relocation in 1842 to a

has a charming building known as the park’s

Festival, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

more secure position; a rebuilt tower and re-

Lodge. The entire area is listed on the

Monarch Butterfly Festival and the Mighty

establishment of the light (fws.gov/saintmarks).

National Register of Historic Places and

Mullet Maritime Festival. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

129

NORTHWEST FLORIDA

Explore

HIDDEN TREASURES BY SANDRA FRIEND

F

or seaside serenity and outdoor recre-

ation, there is no finer getaway than Florida’s Northwest Region. Known for

broad sand beaches and the emerald-green waters that lap its Gulf Coast shoreline, some of its larger cities have roots dating back to the first settlements along the Gulf of Mexico. Smaller communities—some thoroughly modern and others with laid-back personalities—offer a true sense of place. The great majority of the region sits in a different time zone than the rest of the state and has a long history of being separate from mainstream Florida. Sometimes called “the other Florida,” this sweep of land exudes a Deep South flavor and hospitality to match. Located west of peninsular Florida and the state capital of Tallahassee, the region is bordered by the Gulf Coast in the south, Alabama in the 130

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

PANAMA CITY BEACH • MICHAEL WOOD/DREAMSTIME

Soar with Florida Zip Line Adventures over forest canopies and clear, sand-bottomed streams while seeing Florida from a whole new perspective. Trips include a combination of zip-lines and sky bridges with three levels of difficulty (floridaziplineadventures.com).

CITY LIGHTS For glitzy neon and flashy nightlife, head to the shores of Panama City Beach (visitpanama citybeach.com) where the sound of lapping waves serves as backdrop to music emanating from a variety of nightlife spots. Much like a younger Miami Beach, the condo-lined waterfront is conducive to spending quality time with friends, family and new acquaintances. A compact and easily walkable city, Apalachicola’s “foodie” culture is built on its seafaring traditions (apalachicolabay.org). Here, oysters, crab, fish and shrimp have been harvested for generations and the continuous bounty from Apalachicola Bay means good eating at a dozen different dining venues. Apalachicola Bay oysters, for instance, are often ranked among the best in the world by chefs and food lovers alike. AIRSHOW AT PENSACOLA • YUFENG WANG/SHUTTERSTOCK

west and Georgia to the north. Contained within this long, narrow corridor are vibrant towns, quaint communities, sprawling beaches, pine forests, bucolic countrysides, rural roads lined with oaks dripping Spanish moss, major rivers such as the Apalachicola, rich coastal estuaries and a host of freshwater springs.

WHAT’S NEW Opened in May 2010 near Panama City Beach, the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is the first international airport to be built in the United States in the past 10 years (iflybeaches.com). Poised to be the region’s major gateway offering easy and convenient access to the area and its Gulf Coast communities, the airport is currently served by Delta and Southwest Airlines. 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

131

NORTHWEST FLORIDA is also home to the National Naval Aviation Museum (navalaviationmuseum.org), a huge attraction for aviation enthusiasts. Venture beneath Florida’s surface on the only cave tour in the state at Florida Caverns State Park, a historic landmark and geological wonder (floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns).

FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS Scenic highway 30A (30a.com) is the gateway to a string of coastal resort communities, such as Seaside (seasidefl.com), ideal for family getaways WINE TASTING/MEXICO BEACH • VISIT FLORIDA®

and the epitome of perfect planning and modern

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

urbanism. Surrounded by nature but with all the

With hundreds of miles of beachfront to

amenities of an upscale resort, WaterColor Inn &

choose from, whether the choice is T.H. Stone

Resort (watercolorresort.com) is a beachfront

Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula (florida

gem. Centered around a vibrant shopping

stateparks.org/stjoseph) for its wild shore or

and

popular Pensacola Beach (visitpensacola

(sandestin.com) offers not just beach access but

beach.com), spending lazy days on the Gulf

also activities on its bayside.

dining

complex,

Sandestin

Resort

Coast sand is a vacation indulgence.

SPECIAL EVENTS

Blackwater River State Forest (fl-dof.com /state_forests/blackwater_river.html) has

Florida’s oldest maritime event, the Florida

excellent rivers for canoeing and kayaking

Seafood Festival (floridaseafoodfestival.com) takes over Apalachicola in November. In early

tours orchestrated by Adventures Unlimited (adventuresunlimited.com).

T.T. WENTWORTH MUSEUM • VISIT FLORIDA®

March, the Gulf Coast Renaissance Fair in

Slip into a freshwater spring and learn

Representing the grandeur of antebellum

Pensacola is an “eat, drink and be merry”

to scuba dive at Vortex Spring dive resort

plantation life, the focal point of the Eden

event featuring jousting knights, magicians,

(vortexspring.com) or go for a day-float

Gardens State Park is the Wesley Mansion,

falconers, Arabian dancers, jesters and jug-

tubing down a wilderness waterway with Bear

an elegant 1898 plantation house set along-

glers (gcrf.net). A Northwest Florida favorite

Paw Adventures (bearpawescape.com).

side a bayou amid ornamental gardens and

is the Sandestin Wine Festival in April. It fea-

grand oaks. Today the home features the

tures more than 600 wine vintages, many of

HERITAGE AND CULTURE

second-largest-known collection of Louis

them hard to find, for tasting and purchase

The Gulf Coast city of Pensacola dates back

XVI furnishings in America, thanks to

(sandestinwinefestival.com). A parade ex-

more than four centuries when Spanish con-

New York heiress Lois Maxon who purchased

travaganza on March 5, 2011 marks the end

quistador Don Tristan de Luna landed there

the home in 1963 (floridastateparks.org

of Pensacola’s annual Mardi Gras season that

in 1559 with a contingent of soldiers, priests

/edengardens).

begins in late February.

and settlers. An important deepwater port

In a community isolated by the sweep of

during Spanish rule and into the Civil War

Apalachicola Bay, exploring the quaint small

FUN FOR FAMILIES

period, present-day Pensacola boasts a vi-

town of Apalachicola is one of the region’s

An hour west of Tallahassee, learn how to

brant downtown where various cultures

best cultural immersions. Founded in 1831, it

press sugar cane or shape a horseshoe at the

mingled over the centuries to create a unique

is one of America’s top National Trust sites

Panhandle Pioneer Settlement (ppmuseum.org),

blend of architecture: Spanish fortresses,

whose primary lodgings are all historic prop-

a living history complex showcasing Florida’s

French ironwork and British colonial homes

erties (apalachicolabay.org).

pioneer past. At Panama City Beach, join a pirate crew on the Sea Dragon (pirate

are all part of the mix. Historic Pensacola Village and the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida

MUST SEE, MUST DO

cruise.net) or ride a wild slide at Shipwreck

State Museum are the best places to learn

Serving as the base of the Blue Angels

Island Waterpark (shipwreckisland.com)

about the history and culture of Northwest

(blueangels.navy.mil), the US Navy’s aero-

where flumes and floats surround a half-

Florida (historicpensacola.org).

batic squadron, Pensacola Naval Air Station

million-gallon wave pool.

132

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

January 1 - 19˚C

'-03*%"´4'03(055&/$0"45 Escape the traffic and follow the snowbirds that have discovered the quiet alternative— Just 30 minutes down the road from Panama City, we’re close enough to all the big-city amenities you’d need, including world-class healthcare and Tyndall Air Force Base, yet peacefully buffered in our uncrowded paradise. Mexico Beach is a friendly seaside village with white sand beaches, a public fishing pier, affordable rentals, RV parks and snowbird activities. Beachfront townhomes under $1,000 a month! Snowbird rental specials, live beach cam and photos on our web site:

www.mexico-beach.com Or, just give us a call in our Welcome Center at 888-723-2546

Destin Panama City

Mexico Beach

Tallahassee Apalachicola

Cape San Blas

Snowbird Shrimp Boil

Affordable Golf

Art & Wine Festival

FLORIDA STATEWIDE

FAMILY AT PLAY • SEMINOLE COUNTY

FLORIDA TIME ZONES While most of Florida is located in the Eastern Time Zone, a small portion of western Florida is in the Central Time Zone. The Apalachicola River is the dividing line between Central Standard Time in the western part of Northwest Florida and Eastern Standard Time in the eastern part.

Central Time Zone

Eastern Time Zone

ANNUAL FLORIDA FESTIVALS With more than 750 annual events happening throughout the Sunshine State, visitors to Florida are never at a loss for things to do and see. Here is a list of the state’s largest events, which represents just a smattering of what is planned. For more information on these and other scheduled events, log onto visitflorida.com or the Florida Festival and Events Association website at ffea.com.

DATES

FESTIVALS

WEBSITES

November 20, 2010–January 31, 2011 November 19, 2011–January 31, 2012

Nights of Lights, St. Augustine

nightsoflights.com

January 14–16, 2011 January 29, 2011 February 10–21, 2011

Art Deco Weekend Festival, Miami Beach Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest, Tampa Florida State Fair, Tampa

mdpl.org gasparillapiratefest.com floridastatefair.com

March 2–May 15, 2011

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, Orlando

disneyworld.disney.go.com /parks/epcot/special-events

March 3–13, 2011 March 4–13, 2011 April 2, 2011 April 2–9, 2011 April 27–May 1, 2011 May 26–29, 2011 May 27–29, 2011 June 4–5, 2011 June 25–July 4, 2011 July 8–9, 2011 July 19–24, 2011 September 23–25, 2011 September 30–November 13, 2011 October 13–16, 2011

Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City Bike Week, Daytona Beach Springtime Festival, Tallahassee Dunedin Highland Games & Festival Sunfest, West Palm Beach Jacksonville Jazz Festival, Jacksonville Florida Folk Festival, White Springs Silver Spurs Rodeo of Champions, Kissimmee Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix Festival, Sarasota Pensacola Beach Air Show, Pensacola Hemingway Days Festival, Key West Pensacola Seafood Festival, Pensacola Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Orlando Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach

flstrawberryfestival.com officialbikeweek.com springtimetallahassee.com dunedinhighlandgames.com sunfest.com jaxjazzfest.com floridafolkfestival.com silverspursrodeo.com suncoastoffshore.org pensacolachamber.com fla-keys.com fiestaoffiveflags.org/seafoodfestival disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot biketoberfest.org

November 10–13, 2011

American Sandsculpting Championship Festival, Fort Myers Beach

sandsculptingfestival.com

December 1–4, 2011 December 3, 2011 December 17, 2011

Art Basel, Miami Beach Winter Festival, Downtown Tallahassee Winterfest Boat Parade, Fort Lauderdale

artbaselmiamibeach.com talgov.com winterfestparade.com

Dates and websites were correct at time of printing. Information is subject to change without notice. 134

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

AVERAGE MONTHLY TEMPERATURES (FAHRENHEIT) AND PRECIPITATION (INCHES) IN SELECTED FLORIDA CITIES JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JUL

AUG

SEP

OCT

NOV

DEC

BOCA RATON

min/max precip.

58/76 F 2.78 in

58/77 F 2.76 in

62/80 F 3.00 in

66/83 F 3.40 in

71/87 F 5.73 in

74/90 F 7.31 in

75/92 F 5.94 in

75/92 F 6.91 in

74/91 F 7.01 in

71/87 F 5.73 in

66/82 F 4.24 in

61/78 F 2.46 in

BRADENTON

min/max precip.

51/72 F 2.94 in

52/73 F 2.66 in

57/77 F 3.36 in

59/82 F 1.83 in

66/87 F 2.85 in

71/90 F 7.41 in

72/91 F 8.71 in

73/91 F 9.43 in

72/90 F 7.25 in

65/85 F 2.88 in

59/79 F 2.35 in

53/74 F 2.45 in

CLEARWATER

min/max precip.

50/72 F 3.17 in

52/73 F 3.14 in

56/77 F 3.85 in

61/81 F 1.96 in

67/87 F 3.02 in

72/90 F 5.78 in

74/91 F 7.07 in

73/92 F 8.47 in

72/90 F 7.25 in

65/85 F 3.36 in

58/79 F 2.37 in

52/74 F 2.98 in

DAYTONA BEACH

min/max precip.

47/68 F 2.75 in

48/69 F 3.11 in

54/74 F 2.90 in

58/80 F 2.23 in

65/84 F 3.45 in

71/88 F 5.99 in

72/90 F 5.4 in

73/89 F 6.16 in

72/87 F 6.34 in

65/81 F 4.13 in

56/75 F 2.84 in

50/70 F 2.59 in

FORT LAUDERDALE

min/max precip.

57/75 F 2.22 in

57/76 F 2.93 in

62/79 F 2.76 in

65/82 F 3.37 in

70/85 F 6.65 in

73/88 F 9.58 in

75/90 F 6.64 in

75/90 F 6.77 in

74/89 F 7.56 in

70/85 F 6.52 in

65/81 F 3.94 in

60/77 F 2.17 in

FORT MYERS

min/max precip.

53/74 F 1.84 in

54/75 F 2.23 in

58/80 F 3.07 in

62/84 F 1.06 in

67/89 F 3.87 in

73/90 F 9.52 in

74/91 F 8.26 in

75/91 F 9.66 in

74/90 F 7.82 in

68/86 F 2.94 in

61/81 F 1.57 in

55/76 F 1.56 in

JACKSONVILLE

min/max precip.

42/64 F 3.31 in

44/67 F 3.93 in

50/74 F 3.68 in

56/80 F 2.70 in

63/85 F 3.55 in

70/89 F 5.69 in

72/91 F 5.60 in

72/91 F 7.93 in

70/87 F 7.05 in

60/80 F 2.90 in

51/73 F 2.19 in

44/67 F 2.72 in

KEY WEST

min/max precip.

65/75 F 2.01 in

65/75 F 1.80 in

69/78 F 1.71 in

72/82 F 1.75 in

76/85 F 3.46 in

78/87 F 5.09 in

80/89 F 3.61 in

79/89 F 5.03 in

78/88 F 5.85 in

75/84 F 4.42 in

71/80 F 2.84 in

67/76 F 2.02 in

MIAMI

min/max precip.

59/75 F 2.01 in

60/76 F 2.08 in

64/79 F 2.39 in

68/83 F 3.03 in

72/85 F 6.21 in

75/88 F 9.33 in

77/89 F 5.70 in

77/89 F 7.58 in

76/88 F 7.63 in

72/85 F 5.64 in

67/80 F 2.66 in

62/77 F 1.83 in

NAPLES

min/max precip.

53/75 F 2.01 in

54/76 F 2.17 in

58/79 F 2.08 in

62/83 F 1.99 in

67/87 F 4.21 in

71/90 F 8.18 in

73/91 F 7.98 in

73/91 F 8.05 in

73/90 F 8.11 in

68/87 F 3.60 in

62/82 F 1.99 in

56/76 F 1.53 in

ORLANDO

min/max precip.

51/71 F 2.33 in

50/71 F 4.00 in

55/77 F 3.24 in

61/84 F 1.30 in

67/88 F 3.10 in

71/90 F 7.53 in

73/92 F 7.15 in

73/92 F 7.07 in

73/89 F 6.27 in

66/84 F 2.86 in

57/77 F 1.65 in

52/73 F 2.01 in

PANAMA CITY

min/max precip.

38/61 F 5.74 in

41/65 F 4.71 in

47/70 F 6.22 in

53/76 F 3.73 in

61/83 F 3.86 in

68/88 F 6.01 in

71/89 F 8.74 in

71/89 F 7.52 in

67/87 F 6.14 in

55/79 F 3.50 in

47/71 F 4.53 in

40/64 F 4.06 in

PENSACOLA

min/max precip.

42/59 F 4.65 in

44/63 F 5.36 in

51/69 F 5.66 in

58/76 F 3.41 in

65/83 F 4.20 in

72/88 F 6.40 in

74/90 F 7.42 in

74/89 F 7.33 in

70/86 F 5.42 in

60/79 F 4.14 in

51/70 F 3.54 in

44/63 F 4.29 in

ST. AUGUSTINE min/max precip.

45/64 F 3.16 in

47/67 F 2.88 in

53/72 F 3.87 in

58/77 F 2.63 in

65/82 F 3.11 in

71/87 F 5.27 in

73/89 F 4.50 in

72/87 F 5.91 in

71/85 F 6.45 in

64/79 F 4.56 in

56/73 F 2.24 in

49/67 F 2.84 in

ST. PETERSBURG

min/max precip.

54/69 F 2.76 in

55/71 F 2.87 in

60/75 F 3.29 in

64/80 F 1.92 in

71/86 F 2.80 in

75/89 F 6.09 in

76/90 F 6.72 in

77/90 F 8.26 in

75/88 F 7.59 in

70/83 F 2.64 in

63/77 F 2.04 in

56/71 F 2.60 in

SARASOTA

min/max precip.

51/72 F 2.94 in

53/74 F 2.66 in

57/77 F 3.36 in

60/82 F 1.85 in

65/87 F 2.85 in

74/90 F 7.41 in

73/91 F 8.71 in

73/91 F 9.43 in

72/90 F 7.25 in

65/85 F 2.88 in

59/80 F 2.35 in

53/74 F 2.45 in

TALLAHASSEE

min/max precip.

38/62 F 4.77 in

40/66 F 5.52 in

47/73 F 6.21 in

52/80 F 3.74 in

61/86 F 4.75 in

68/90 F 6.93 in

71/91 F 8.82 in

71/91 F 7.53 in

68/88 F 5.58 in

56/81 F 2.92 in

46/73 F 3.87 in

41/66 F 5.03 in

TAMPA BAY

min/max precip.

49/70 F 1.99 in

51/71 F 3.08 in

56/76 F 3.01 in

60/82 F 1.15 in

67/87 F 3.10 in

73/90 F 5.48 in

74/90 F 6.58 in

74/90 F 7.61 in

73/89 F 5.98 in

65/84 F 2.02 in

57/77 F 1.77 in

51/72 F 2.15 in

WEST PALM BEACH

min/max precip.

56/74 F 2.80 in

57/75 F 2.69 in

61/79 F 3.66 in

65/82 F 2.91 in

70/85 F 6.13 in

73/88 F 8.09 in

74/90 F 6.14 in

75/90 F 6.02 in

74/88 F 8.53 in

71/85 F 6.60 in

64/80 F 4.69 in

59/76 F 2.49 in

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

135

FLORIDA STATEWIDE TOURISM INFORMATION SOURCES IN FLORIDA Florida Welcome Centers, Convention & Visitors Bureaus and Tourism Offices are located throughout Florida and staff is always eager to offer assistance and help visitors make the most of their stay. VISIT FLORIDA: VISITFLORIDA.COM VISIT FLORIDA operates Florida’s five Official Florida Welcome Centers at I-10 near Pensacola, US 231 near Campbellton, I-75 at Jennings, I-95 north of Yulee, and at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. When in Florida, drop by for a free glass of Florida orange juice and pick up a free Florida Vacation Guide, a large-print map of Florida and VISIT FLORIDA partner brochures.

OTHER FLORIDA TOURISM LOCATIONS

SANFORD GATE • SEMINOLE COUNTY CARRIAGE RIDE • VISIT FLORIDA®

LOCATION

WEBSITES

Boca Raton Bradenton, Anna Maria Island & Longboat Key Clearwater Daytona Beach Delray Beach Dunedin Florida Keys & Key West

See Palm Beaches & Boca Raton annamariaisland-longboatkey.com See St. Petersburg/Clearwater daytonabeach.com See Palm Beaches & Boca Raton See St. Petersburg/Clearwater fla-keys.com

Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism (Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Titusville)

space-coast.com

Fort Lauderdale Fort Myers/Sanibel Key Largo Key West Jacksonville Kissimmee Miami Naples Orlando Palm Beaches & Boca Raton Panama City Beach Pensacola St. Augustine St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sarasota Tallahassee Tampa Bay Tarpon Springs

sunny.org fortmyers-sanibel.com keylargo.org keywestchamber.org visitjacksonville.com visitkissimmee.com miamiandbeaches.com paradisecoast.com orlandoinfo.com palmbeachfl.com visitpanamacitybeach.com visitpensacola.com floridashistoriccoast.com visitstpeteclearwater.com sarasotafl.org visittallahassee.com visittampabay.com See St. Petersburg/Clearwater

SPORT FISHING • VISIT FLORIDA®

FLORIDA’S PUBLIC HOLIDAYS January 1, New Year’s Day January 17, Martin Luther King Day February 21, Presidents’ Day May 30, Memorial Day July 4, Independence Day First Monday in September, Labor Day October 10, Columbus Day (most regions) November 11, Veterans Day 4th Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day 4th Friday in November, Black Friday December 25, Christmas Day

136

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

FLORIDA ASSOCIATIONS AND USEFUL GROUPS FOR TRAVELERS A number of associations offer travel advice and assistance relating to specific needs and interests.

ASSOCIATIONS

WEBSITES

AAA (American Automobile Association) Auto Club South AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) American Association for Nude Recreation American Camp Association CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) Canadian Snowbird Association CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) Florida Amateur Baseball Association Florida Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus Florida Association of Museums Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds Florida Bicycle Association Florida Festival & Events Association Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Florida Gardener Florida Lighthouse Association Florida Professional Paddlesports Association Florida Sports Foundation Florida Trail Association Good Sam Club (The World’s Largest RV Owners Community) International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions International Game Fish Association KOA (Kampgrounds of America, Inc.) Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Scooter and Wheelchair rental for adults/kids

aaasouth.com aarp.org aanr.com acacamps.org caa.ca snowbirds.org carp.ca floridaamateurbaseball.org http://ym.facvb.org flamuseums.org floridacamping.org floridabicycle.org ffea.com myfwc.com floridagardener.com floridalighthouses.org paddleflausa.com flasports.com floridatrail.org goodsamclub.com iaapa.org igfa.org koa.com pga.com caremedicalequipment.com

CRUISE LINES SAILING FROM FLORIDA PORTS

GOLFERS • SEMINOLE COUNTY FORT LAUDERDALE • VISIT FLORIDA®

CRUISE SHIP AT THE PORT OF MIAMI • RICHARD PROSS/DREAMSTIME

Dozens of cruise lines operate from a variety of ports throughout Florida to international destinations. Depending on the time of the year, many offer amazing deals and a broad selection of cruise itineraries.

CRUISE LINES

WEBSITES

American Cruise Lines Azamara Club Cruises Carnival Cruise Lines Celebration Cruise Line Celebrity Cruises Costa Cruises Crystal Cruises Cunard Line Discovery Cruise Line Disney Cruise Line Holland America Line MSC Cruises Norwegian Cruise Line Oceania Cruises Princess Cruises Regent Seven Seas Cruises Royal Caribbean International Silversea Cruises The Yachts of Seabourn

americancruiselines.com azamaraclubcruises.com carnival.com bahamascelebration.com celebritycruises.com costacruise.com crystalcruises.com cunard.com discoverycruiseline.com disneycruise.com hollandamerica.com msccruisesusa.com ncl.com oceaniacruises.com princess.com rssc.com royalcaribbean.com silversea.com seabourn.com

CRUISE HEADQUARTERS, USA Vacation in Florida or cruise from Florida—or maybe both! Florida has several seaports, which host a number of cruise lines.

FLORIDA CRUISE PORTS

WEBSITES

Jacksonville Port Authority Port Canaveral Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) Port of Key West Port of Miami Port of Palm Beach District Tampa Port Authority

jaxport.com portcanaveral.com porteverglades.net keywestcity.com miamidade.gov/portofmiami portofpalmbeach.com tampaport.com 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

137

FLORIDA STATEWIDE CANOES • VISIT FLORIDA®

SILVER RIVER STATE PARK • VISIT FLORIDA®

ST. AUGUSTINE • VISIT FLORIDA®

• VISIT FLORIDA®

138

FLORIDA STATE PARKS, FORESTS & REGIONAL RECREATION SPACES The Sunshine State’s temperate climate makes it the ideal year-round vacation spot for outdoor enthusiasts. A number of rare ecosystems extend from the state’s northern boundaries to its southern tip and beyond. Simply step outside for the fun of it. NORTHWEST FLORIDA Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Bald Point State Park Big Lagoon State Park Blackwater River State Forest Blackwater River State Park Camp Helen State Park Constitution Convention Museum State Park Deer Lake State Park Eden Gardens State Park Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park Falling Waters State Park Florida Caverns State Park Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park Grayton Beach State Park Henderson Beach State Park John Gorrie Museum State Park Oaks by the Bay Orman House Historic State Park Perdido Key State Park Pine Log State Forest Point Washington State Forest Ponce de Leon Springs State Park St. Andrews State Park T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park Tate’s Hell State Forest Three Rivers State Park Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Torreya State Park Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park Big Shoals State Park Cedar Key Museum State Park Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve Cofrin Nature Park Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park Dudley Farm Historic State Park Econfina River State Park Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park and Lodge Fanning Springs State Park Florida’s Nature & Heritage Tourism Center, Headquarters of the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail Forest Capital Museum State Park Ichetucknee Springs State Park Lafayette Blue Spring State Park Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park Lake Talquin State Forest Lake Talquin State Park Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park Madison Blue Spring Manatee Springs State Park Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park O’Leno State Park Ochlockonee River State Park River Rise Preserve State Park San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park Suwannee River State Park Troy Spring State Park Twin Rivers State Forest Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/apalachicola floridastateparks.org/baldpoint floridastateparks.org/biglagoon fl-dof.com/state_forests/blackwater_river.html floridastateparks.org/blackwaterriver floridastateparks.org/camphelen floridastateparks.org/constitutionconvention floridastateparks.org/deerlake floridastateparks.org/edengardens floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland floridastateparks.org/fallingwaters floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns floridastateparks.org/rockybayou floridastateparks.org/graytonbeach floridastateparks.org/hendersonbeach floridastateparks.org/johngorriemuseum dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/ormanhouse floridastateparks.org/perdidokey fl-dof.com/state_forests/pine_log.html fl-dof.com/state_forests/point_washington.html floridastateparks.org/poncedeleonsprings floridastateparks.org/standrews floridastateparks.org/stjoseph floridastateparks.org/tarkilnbayou fl-dof.com/state_forests/tates_hell.html floridastateparks.org/threerivers floridastateparks.org/topsailhill floridastateparks.org/torreya floridastateparks.org/yellowriver

floridastateparks.org/maclaygardens floridastateparks.org/bigshoals floridastateparks.org/cedarkeymuseum floridastateparks.org/cedarkeyscrub dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/devilsmillhopper floridastateparks.org/dudleyfarm floridastateparks.org/econfinariver floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings floridastateparks.org/fanningsprings floridastateparks.org/wilderness floridastateparks.org/forestcapital floridastateparks.org/ichetuckneesprings floridastateparks.org/lafayettebluesprings floridastateparks.org/lakejackson fl-dof.com/state_forests/lake_talquin.html floridastateparks.org/laketalquin floridastateparks.org/letchworth floridastateparks.org/madisonbluespring floridastateparks.org/manateesprings floridastateparks.org/marjoriekinnanrawlings floridastateparks.org/naturalbridge floridastateparks.org/oleno floridastateparks.org/ochlockoneeriver floridastateparks.org/riverrise floridastateparks.org/sanfelascohammock floridastateparks.org/sanmarcos fws.gov/saintmarks floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster floridastateparks.org/suwanneeriver floridastateparks.org/troyspring fl-dof.com/state_forests/twin_rivers.html floridastateparks.org/waccasassabay floridastateparks.org/peacocksprings

CALADESI ISLAND • VISIT FLORIDA®

NORTHEAST FLORIDA Amelia Island State Park Anastasia State Park Big Talbot Island State Park Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park Cary State Forest Castaway Island Preserve Dunns Creek State Park Etoniah Creek State Forest Faver-Dykes State Park Fernandina Plaza State Historic Site Fort Clinch State Park Fort George Island Cultural State Park Fort Mose Historic State Park Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve Jennings State Forest Little Talbot Island State Park Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park North Peninsula State Park Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park Ravine Gardens State Park River to Sea Preserve Washington Oaks Gardens State Park Welaka State Forest Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park

floridastateparks.org/ameliaisland floridastateparks.org/anastasia floridastateparks.org/bigtalbotisland floridastateparks.org/bulowplantation fl-dof.com/state_forests/cary.html dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/dunnscreek fl-dof.com/state_forests/etoniah_creek.html floridastateparks.org/faverdykes recreationparks.net/FL/nassau/fernandina -plaza-historic-state-park-fernandina-beach floridastateparks.org/fortclinch floridastateparks.org/fortgeorgeisland floridastateparks.org/fortmose floridastateparks.org/gamblerogers floridastateparks.org/georgecradybridge floridacoasts.org/gtm fl-dof.com/state_forests/jennings.html floridastateparks.org/littletalbotisland floridastateparks.org/mikeroess floridastateparks.org/northpeninsula floridastateparks.org/olusteebattlefield floridastateparks.org/paynesprairie floridastateparks.org/pumpkinhill floridastateparks.org/ravinegardens dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/washingtonoaks fl-dof.com/state_forests/welaka.html floridastateparks.org/yellowbluff

CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Avalon State Park Blue Spring State Park Bulow Creek State Park De Leon Springs State Park Fort Pierce Inlet State Park Gemini Springs Hontoon Island State Park Jonathan Dickinson State Park Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park Lake George State Forest Lakewood Regional Park Savannas Preserve State Park Seabranch Preserve State Park Sebastian Inlet State Park St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park Tiger Bay State Forest Tomoka State Park

floridastateparks.org/avalon floridastateparks.org/bluespring floridastateparks.org/bulowcreek floridastateparks.org/deleonsprings floridastateparks.org/fortpierceinlet dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/hontoonisland floridastateparks.org/jonathandickinson floridastateparks.org/kissimmeeprairie fl-dof.com/state_forests/lake_george.html dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/savannas floridastateparks.org/seabranch floridastateparks.org/sebastianinlet floridastateparks.org/stlucieinlet floridastateparks.org/stsebastianriver fl-dof.com/state_forests/tiger_bay.html floridastateparks.org/tomoka

CENTRAL FLORIDA Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park Colt Creek State Park Dade Battlefield Historic State Park Goethe State Forest Highlands Hammock State Park Lake Griffin State Park Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park Lake Kissimmee State Park Lake Louisa State Park Lake Wales Ridge State Forest Little Big Econ State Forest Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park Paynes Creek Historic State Park Rainbow Springs State Park Rock Springs Run State Reserve Seminole State Forest Silver River State Park Split Oak Preserve Wekiwa Springs State Park

floridastateparks.org/catfishcreek floridastateparks.org/coltcreek floridastateparks.org/dadebattlefield fl-dof.com/state_forests/goethe.html floridastateparks.org/highlandshammock floridastateparks.org/lakegriffin floridastateparks.org/lakejuneinwinter floridastateparks.org/lakekissimmee floridastateparks.org/lakelouisa fl-dof.com/state_forests/lake_wales_ridge.html fl-dof.com/state_forests/little_big_econ.html floridastateparks.org/lowerwekivariver floridastateparks.org/paynescreek floridastateparks.org/rainbowsprings floridastateparks.org/rockspringsrun fl-dof.com/state_forests/seminole.html floridastateparks.org/silverriver dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings

APALACHICOLA NATIONAL PARK • VISIT FLORIDA®

SHOPPING • SEMINOLE COUNTY SHUTTLE LAUNCH • VISIT FLORIDA®

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

139

FLORIDA STATEWIDE

FLORIDA STATE PARKS, FORESTS & REGIONAL RECREATION SPACES

MANATEE/CRYSTAL RIVER • VISIT FLORIDA®

BOUGAINVILLEA • VISIT FLORIDA®

BUTTERYFLY RAINFOREST • VISIT FLORIDA®

EVERGLADES • VISIT FLORIDA®

140

CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA Alafia River State Park Anclote Key Preserve State Park Caladesi Island State Park Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park Crystal River Archaeological State Park Crystal River Preserve State Park Egmont Key State Park Fort Cooper State Park Fort Foster State Historic Site Gamble Plantation Historic State Park Hillsborough River State Park Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park Honeymoon Island State Park Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site Little Manatee River State Park North Anclote River Nature Park Skyway Fishing Pier State Park Weeki Wachee Springs State Park Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park Ybor City Museum State Park Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

floridastateparks.org/alafiariver floridastateparks.org/anclotekey floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/crystalriverarchaeological floridastateparks.org/crystalriverpreserve floridastateparks.org/egmontkey floridastateparks.org/fortcooper floridastateparks.org/fortfoster floridastateparks.org/gambleplantation floridastateparks.org/hillsboroughriver floridastateparks.org/homosassasprings floridastateparks.org/honeymoonisland floridastateparks.org/madirabickelmound floridastateparks.org/littlemanateeriver dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/skyway floridastateparks.org/weekiwachee floridastateparks.org/wernerboyce floridastateparks.org/yborcity floridastateparks.org/yuleesugarmill

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Cayo Costa State Park Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park Collier-Seminole State Park Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park Don Pedro Island State Park Estero Bay Preserve State Park Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park Gasparilla Island State Park Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park Koreshan State Historic Site Lake Manatee State Park Lee County Parks & Recreation Lovers Key State Park Mound Key Archaeological State Park Myakka River State Park Myakka State Forest Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest Oscar Scherer State Park Picayune Strand State Forest Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Stump Pass Beach State Park Sugden Regional Park

floridastateparks.org/cayocosta floridastateparks.org/charlotteharbor floridastateparks.org/collierseminole floridastateparks.org/delnorwiggins floridastateparks.org/donpedroisland floridastateparks.org/esterobay floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand floridastateparks.org/gasparillaisland dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/koreshan floridastateparks.org/lakemanatee leeparks.org floridastateparks.org/loverskey floridastateparks.org/moundkey floridastateparks.org/myakkariver fl-dof.com/state_forests/myakka.html fl-dof.com/state_forests/okaloacoochee.html floridastateparks.org/oscarscherer fl-dof.com/state_forests/picayune_strand.html rookerybay.org floridastateparks.org/stumppass dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA Apoxee Urban Wilderness Park The Barnacle Historic State Park Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park Hugh Taylor Birch State Park John D. MacArthur Beach State Park John U. Lloyd Beach State Park Oleta River State Park Pinecrest Gardens Sawgrass Sanctuary

dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/thebarnacle floridastateparks.org/capeflorida floridastateparks.org/hughtaylorbirch macarthurbeach.org floridastateparks.org/lloydbeach floridastateparks.org/oletariver dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks

THE FLORIDA KEYS Bahia Honda State Park Curry Hammock State Park Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park Indian Key Historic State Park John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Key Largo Community Park Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park Long Key State Park San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda floridastateparks.org/curryhammock floridastateparks.org/keylargohammock floridakeys.noaa.gov floridastateparks.org/forttaylor floridastateparks.org/indiankey floridastateparks.org/pennekamp dca.state.fl.us/fct/parks floridastateparks.org/lignumvitaekey floridastateparks.org/longkey floridastateparks.org/sanpedro floridastateparks.org/windleykey

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

NATIONAL PARKS, MEMORIALS, MONUMENTS AND PRESERVES Much of Floridaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s history is captured in its national parks, memorials, monuments and preserves and the National Park Service works hard to preserve it (nps.gov). NORTHWEST FLORIDA Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor (extends from North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida) nps.gov/guge Gulf Islands National Seashore nps.gov/guis NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA No national parks NORTHEAST FLORIDA Castillo de San Marcos National Monument nps.gov/casa Fort Matanzas National Monument nps.gov/foma Timucuan Ecological and Historic National Preserve, includes Theodore Roosevelt Area as well as Fort Caroline National Memorial and Kingsley Plantation nps.gov.foca CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Canaveral National Seashore nps.gov/cana CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA De Soto National Memorial nps.gov.deso SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Big Cypress National Preserve nps.gov.bicy Everglades National Park nps.gov/ever SOUTHEAST & THE FLORIDA KEYS Biscayne National Park nps.gov/bisc Dry Tortugas National Park nps.gov.drto

MAJOR HOTEL CHAINS IN FLORIDA No matter where visitors are in Florida, they are sure to find a comfortable, convenient hotel that suits their travel needs and budget. Be sure to check out online reviews submitted by previous guests before making your final selection.

HOTEL CHAINS

WEBSITES

Acqualina Resort & Spa Best Western Cambria Suites Clarion Hotel Comfort Inn Country Inns & Suites Courtyard by Marriott Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts Days Inn Doubletree Guest Suites Econo Lodge Embassy Suites Fairfield Inn & Suites Fairmont Hotels Four Points by Sheraton Four Seasons Hampton Inn Hampton Inn & Suites Hilton Garden Inn Hilton Hotels Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express Homewood Suites by Hilton Howard Johnson Hotels Hyatt Hotels & Resorts InterContinental Hotels & Resorts JC Resorts Knights Inn La Quinta Inns & Suites Le Meridien Loews Hotels & Resorts MainStay Suites Mandarin Oriental Marriott Hotels Quality Inn Quality Suites Ramada Worldwide Red Roof Inn Renaissance Hotels Residence Inn by Marriott The Ritz-Carlton Rodeway Inn Sheraton and Sheraton Suites Sleep Inn Sofitel Hotels SpringHill Suites by Marriott Super 8 Hotels TownePlace Suites by Marriott Travelodge Trump International W Hotels Walt Disney World Resorts Westin Hotels & Resorts Wingate by Wyndham

acqualinaresort.com bestwestern.com cambriasuites.com clarionhotel.com comfortinn.com countryinns.com marriott.com ichotelsgroup.com daysinn.com http://doubletree1.hilton.com econolodge.com http://embassysuites1.hilton.com marriott.com fairmont.com fourpoints.com fourseasons.com http://hamptoninn1.hilton.com hamptoninnandsuites.net http://hiltongardeninn1.hilton.com hilton.com holiday-inn.com homewoodsuites.com hojo.com hyatt.com intercontinental.com jcresorts.us knightsinn.com lq.com starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien loewshotels.com mainstaysuites.com mandarinoriental.com marriott.com qualityinn.com qualityinn.com ramada.com redroof.com marriott.com marriott.com ritzcarlton.com rodewayinn.com starwoodhotels.com/sheraton sleepinn.com sofitel.com marriott.com super8.com marriott.com travelodge.com trumpmiami.com starwoodhotels.com/whotels disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts starwoodhotels.com/westin wingatehotels.com 2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

141

FLORIDA STATEWIDE

WEST PALM BEACH

ST. PETERSBURG

ST. AUGUSTINE

519 613 266

226 197 427 217

26

227

353

106 222 119 117

367 461 211

29

12

275 41

176

159 248 124 199

394

95

262 160 106

327 421 185

19

57

235 22

214

408

71

256 241 54

331 425 53

158 183 233 138

190

178

191 26

535 628 282

232 201 442 233

43

271

139 148 37

445 539 252

108 70

353 119

123

494

153 343 317 135

261 355 38

211 240 163 191

277

195 353 394 408 178 271 494

-

367 153 234 383

696 790 458

378 341 604 385

221

KISSIMMEE

175 106 95

367

-

347 441 117

93

150

MIAMI

42

153

216 -

558 652 307

246 214 466 247

68

NAPLES

118 119 160 241 104 37

317

234

173 107 -

479 573 286

144 107 387 155

144

ORLANDO

191 117 106 54

207 153 135

383

18

334 428 100

105 130 242 85

166

PANAMA CITY

519 367 327 331 535 445 261

696

347 558 479 334

-

342 380 98

330

494

PENSACOLA

613 461 421 425 628 539 355

790

441 652 573 428

103 -

435 473 192 423

588

ST. AUGUSTINE

266 211 185 53

458

117 307 286 100

292 386 -

196 223 194 176

241

ST. PETERSBURG

226 29

19

158 232 108 211

378

93

246 144 105

342 435 196

-

41

249 20

201

SARASOTA

197 12

57

183 201 70

240

341

118 214 107 130

380 473 223

41

-

287 54

172

TALLAHASSEE

427 275 235 233 442 353 163

604

255 466 387 242

98

249 287 -

TAMPA

217 41

385

74

330 423 176

20

WEST PALM BEACH

26

221

150 68

494 588 241

201 172 402 192

201 -

45

170 207 82

CLEARWATER

239 45

-

DAYTONA BEACH

215 170 159 -

FORT LAUDERDALE

17

FORT MYERS

140 82

JACKSONVILLE

302 227 199 89

KEY WEST

207 248 231 -

71

22

282

318 282 -

191 139 153

222 262 256 26

148 343

282 252 38

138 233 119 191

176 214 190 43

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

132 318

124 206 132 -

LAKE WALK-IN-WATER/POLK COUNTY • VISIT FLORIDA®

142

231 206 89

123 277

104 207 153

216 173 18 107 232 188

232 188 -

247 155 85 144 166

RINGLING MUSEUM • VISIT FLORIDA®

103 292 386

192 194

TAMPA

SARASOTA

PENSACOLA

ORLANDO

NAPLES

MIAMI

BRADENTON

B0CA RATON

BRADENTON

TALLAHASSEE

118 191

-

PANAMA CITY

175 42

B0CA RATON

KISSIMMEE

KEY WEST 195

201 239 215 17

FORT MYERS

140 302

FROM / TO

CLEARWATER

JACKSONVILLE

DAYTONA BEACH

FORT LAUDERDALE

MILEAGE CHART BETWEEN KEY FLORIDA CITIES

118 255 74

54

237

237 -

402 192 -

FLORIDA BEACH • VISIT FLORIDA®

CAR AND RV RENTAL COMPANIES IN FLORIDA The Sunshine State boasts endless recreation opportunities that range from an idyllic weekend in Key West to the adrenaline rush of Disney World. By renting a car or a recreational vehicle (RV), visitors are free to explore all there is to see and do at a pace that suits them best.

CAR RENTAL COMPANIES

WEBSITES

ACE Rent A Car Alamo Rent A Car Auto Europe Avis Rent A Car Budget Rent A Car Dollar Rent A Car Economy Car Hire Enterprise Rent-A-Car E-Z Rent-A-Car Florida Sun Car Rental Fox Rent A Car Interamerican Car Rental Hertz Car Rental Honk Worldwide Car Rental National Car Rental Payless Car Rental Thrifty Car Rental U-Save Car & Truck Rental

acerentacar.com alamo.com autoeurope.com avis.com budget.com dollar.com economycarhire.com enterprise.com e-zrentacar.com floridasuncarrental.com foxrentacar.com interamerican-car -rental.com hertz.com honkcarrental.com nationalcar.com paylesscar.com thrifty.com usave.com

RV RENTAL COMPANIES

WEBSITE

America’s Best Cruising Motorhomes & RVs Camp USA Motorhome Rental Citrus RV Rental Cruise America RV Rental & Sales

onfreewheels.com citrusrvrental.com cruiseamerica.com

Palm Beach RV Rental (formerly Easy Rider Motorhome Rental)

palmbeachrvrental.com

El Monte RV Florida RV World Florida RV Rentals Giant Recreation World RV Rentals of Orlando, Inc.

elmonterv.com floridarvworld.com floridarvrentals.com grwrv.com rvrentalsoforlando.com

FLORIDA BUS TOUR OPERATORS A number of companies provide bus charter and rental services for groups traveling to and within Florida.

BUS TOUR OPERATORS

WEBSITES

A.L.M. Transportation & Tours AMC Transportation American Coach of Orlando American Tours & Travel, Inc. Central Florida Tours Charter Bus America Classic Bus Lines Classic Florida Tours CM Tours & Travel EasyShuttle Empire Coach Line, Inc. Endeavor Bus Lines Greyhound Lines, Inc. Magic Carpet Ride Miami Coach & Tours Miami Jet Tours Need-A-Bus Pegasus Transportation Sawgrass Tours Super Tours Superior Charter Bus USA Bus Charter

almtransportation.com amctransportation.com americancoachoforlando.com travelgroups.com centralfloridatours.com charterbusamerica.com classicbuslines.net classicfloridatours.com cmtoursandtravel.net geteasyshuttle.com empirecoachline.com endeavorbuslines.com greyhound.com magiccarpetride.travel miamicoachtours.com miamijettours.com need-a-bus.com pegasusbus.com sawgrasstours.com supertours.com superiorcharterbus.com usabuscharter.com

TOUR BUS AT SEASIDE • JUANJO TUGORES/DREAMSTIME

americasbestrv.com

FAMILY ON CASEY KEY BEACH • VISIT FLORIDA®

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

143

FLORIDA STATEWIDE MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS IN FLORIDA

With millions of visitors traveling to Florida every year, airports are a crucial part of Florida’s transportation system. Following are the major airports located throughout the Sunshine State.

CITY SERVED

PRIMARY AIRPORTS

WEBSITE

Daytona Beach Fort Lauderdale Fort Myers/ Naples Gainesville Jacksonville Key West Melbourne Miami Orlando Orlando Panama City Beach Pensacola Punta Gorda Sarasota St. Augustine St. Petersburg/Clearwater Tallahassee Tampa Valparaiso West Palm Beach

Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB) Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV) Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) Key West International Airport (EYW) Melbourne International Airport (MLB) Miami International Airport (MIA) Orlando Sanford International (SFB) Orlando International (MCO) Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) Pensacola Regional Airport (PNS) Charlotte County Airport (PGD) Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) Northeast Florida Regional Airport (UST) St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) Tallahassee Regional Airport (TLH) Tampa International Airport (TPA) Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS) Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)

flydaytonafirst.com fll.net flylcpa.com gra-gnv.com jia.aero keywestinternationalairport.com mlbair.com miami-airport.com orlandosanfordairport.com orlandoairports.net iflybeaches.com flypensacola.com flypgd.com srq-airport.com flynf.com fly2pie.com tallahasseeregionalairport.com tampaairport.com flyvps.com pbia.org

AIRLINE SERVICE TO FLORIDA FROM CANADA AND THE USA Because the Sunshine State is so popular with American and Canadian vacationers, most major airlines—and many smaller ones—offer regular flight service to Florida destinations.

144

AIRLINES

WEBSITES

Air Canada AirTran Airways American Airlines/American Eagle Continental Airlines Delta Air Lines Direct Air Frontier Airlines Gulfstream International Airlines IBC Airways (VIP private jet charter) JetBlue Airways Miami Air International Southwest Airlines Spirit Airlines Sun Country Airlines Sunwing Airlines United Airlines US Airways Virgin Atlantic Vision Airlines WestJet

aircanada.com airtran.com aa.com continental.com delta.com visitdirectair.com frontierairlines.com gulfstreamair.com ibcairways.com jetblue.com miamiair.com southwest.com spiritair.com suncountry.com flysunwing.com united.com usairways.com virgin-atlantic.com visionairlines.com westjet.com

2011 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

FORT JEFFERSON • HENDRYK SADURA/SHUTTERSTOCK

OUR HOTELS ARE INDEPENDENTLY OWNED AND CONVENIENTLY LOCATED.

Now, with BEST WESTERN®, BEST WESTERN PLUS® and BEST WESTERN PREMIER® we’ve made it easy to find the hotel that’s just right for your trip. When you stay with Best Western, you’re staying with The World’s Largest Hotel Chain®, yet each is independently owned, which means there will always be someone there who cares about you and rewards you for your loyalty.

THERE’S ONE RIGHT HERE IN FLORIDA WHERE YOU’LL GET 1,000 BONUS POINTS. Join Best Western Rewards®, our FREE rewards program, and now through December 31, 2011, you can earn 1,000 bonus points for every qualified night you stay at a participating Best Western hotel in Florida for up to 4 nights! Every dollar spent at any Best Western hotel worldwide will earn you points. Points can be redeemed for free room nights–with no blackout dates, airline rewards, merchandise, dining, retail and gift cards. So, stay more–earn more! Join the club today.

bestwesternFlorida.com/travel3 | 1.800.WESTERN® Promo code: COOPFLTG3 Other restrictions may apply. Visit www.bestwesternFlorida.com/travel3 for complete terms and conditions. All Best Western Rewards® program rules apply. See www.bestwesternrewards.com for additional program terms. For a list of most current properties, local attractions and events visit bestwesternFlorida.com. Property count may fluctuate throughout year. Each Best Western® branded hotel is independently owned and operated. Best Western and the Best Western marks are service marks or registered service marks of Best Western International, Inc. ©2011 Best Western International, Inc. All rights reserved. Hotel photos shown, top to bottom: Dania Beach, Florida; Fort Myers Beach, Florida; Leesburg, Florida.


2011 Travel Guide to FLORIDA