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REGIONS TO DISCOVER

SECRET Islands & places

WHERE TO SHOP For luxury items and bargains

UNIQUE TOURING THEMES Delight all tastes and interests

MONEY-SAVING TIPS

CLASSIC ROUTES For memorable road trips D I S P L AY U N T I L A U G U S T 3 1 , 2 0 1 2

SUN-KISSED “I DO’S” Unforgettable Florida weddings and honeymoons


Where Vacation Becomes Adventure

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Two Theme Parks. Three On-Site Hotels. Non-Stop Nightlife. A Universe of Excitement. Play, scream and laugh with the biggest characters in movies, TV and pop culture at two immersive theme parks— Universal Studios® and Universal’s Islands of Adventure®. Swing high above the city streets with Spider-ManTM, save the day with Shrek®, explore the magic and excitement of The Wizarding World of Harry PotterTM, and enjoy the dining and nightlife of the Universal CityWalk® entertainment complex.

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Plus, you can relax at one of three AAA Four Diamond Award® on-site hotels: ƫƫƫƫƫ ƫƫƫƫƫđƫ$!ƫ(141.%+1/ƫ +!3/ƫ+.0+ü*+ƫ5ƫ+0!(ƫƫƫƫƫđƫ$!ƫ!(!0.%"5%*#ƫ. ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫƫƫƫƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫƫ+'ƫ+0!(IJƫƫƫƫƫđƫ$!ƫ!4+0%ƫ +!3/ƫ+5(ƫ%üƫ!/+.0 ƫ ƫƫƫƫƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ /ƫ*ƫ+*ġ/%0!ƫ$+0!(ƫ#1!/0Čƫ5+1Ě((ƫ!*&+5ƫ!4(1/%2!ƫ!*!ü0/Čƫ%*(1 ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ %*#ƫ.(5ƫ.'ƫ ƫ ƫ ƫ )%//%+*Ķƫ0+ƫ$!ƫ%6. ƫ ƫ ƫ %*#ƫ+.( ƫ ƫƫ+"ƫ..5ƫ ƫ ƫ PotterTM, and FREE Universal ExpressSM ride access* to skip the regular lines in both theme parks!

Visit UniversalOrlando.com/FLGuide or Visit Your Preferred Travel Professional. Call 866-797-2920 for More Information. HARRY POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. (s11) †Requires paid theme park admission. Early Park Admission begins one hour prior to Universal’s Islands of Adventure regular opening hour for on-site hotel guests and is valid 7 days a week for travel through 12/31/12, valid only at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™, Flight of the Hippogriff™, Dragon Challenge™ and The Cat in the Hat™. Universal Express ride access is not valid during Early Park Admission. Additional restrictions may apply and the foregoing benefits are subject to change without notice. *Not valid at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and other select attractions. On-site hotel privileges good for hotel stay as indicated on the room key card. Only good for the number of guests staying in the room. Paid theme park admission required. Express ride access available during normal theme park operating hours only. Not valid for separately ticketed special events. TM & © 2011 Marvel & Subs. Shrek 4-D © 2011 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C. Hard Rock Hotel ® Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc. THE SIMPSONS RIDE TM Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. The Simpsons TM & © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Universal elements and all related indicia TM & © 2011 Universal Studios. © 2011 Universal Orlando. All rights reserved. 249863/0911/CD

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ONE AMAZING DESTINATION Only in Sarasota can you find an international art collection, the world’s largest circus miniature, a jewel-box Italian theater, historic banyans and thousands of roses surrounding the Venetian-Gothic mansion of a circus king.

The The John John & Mable Mable Ringling Ringling M Museum useum of of Art Art T he S tate A rt M useum of Florida Fl o ri d a The State Art Museum T he FFlorida lorida S tate U niversity The State University The Ringling Ringling Legacy Leg acy The T he Ringling Ringling V isio n The Vision

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EDITOR’S MESSAGE

T

here is no doubt about it: tourism is big business in Florida. In fact, according to VISIT FLORIDA—the state’s official tourism marketing corporation—it is the No. 1 industry. Tourism was responsible for welcoming 82.3 million visitors in 2010 who spent more than $62.7 billion, generating 22 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue and employing nearly one million Floridians. And with so many reasons to celebrate in 2012 and 2013 and numerous initiatives under way, tourists will be flocking to the Sunshine State more than ever.

VIVA HERITAGE On January 22, 1912, Henry Flagler completed the Over-Sea Railroad (once known as Flagler’s Folly), which linked Jacksonville and Key West and opened the state as a vacationland for visitors up and down the east coast of the USA. In 2012, numerous communities will commemorate this milestone accomplishment and its impact on Florida’s tourism industry with a series of special events, activities and offers throughout the year. Railway buffs must plan a stop at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, which will feature a special exhibit called “First Train to Paradise.” The museum was once Flagler’s private residence, which he named Whitehall and had built as a wedding gift for his wife, Mary. It’s also the permanent home to his private railcar, No. 91, complete with a master bedroom, bathroom, guest quarters and kitchen—a veritable dream-come-true for model railway hobbyists. A new website—VivaFlorida.org—invites visitors to rediscover the historical “Land of Flowers” as the state prepares to commemorate the 500th anniversary in 2013 of the landing of Juan Ponce de Leon and the founding of Florida. The website is the cornerstone of Viva Florida 500, a statewide commemoration of Florida’s role as a gateway to the Americas, then and now. Here, you also find travel planning tools; videos of events, locations, beaches and waterways; and a section on “hot deals” offered by hotels, restaurants and attractions. Once in Florida, explore the real fountain of youth, visit the first legally free black community in America, stroll the streets of historic St. Augustine or savor a Thanksgiving meal of pork, fish and garbanzo beans that was celebrated 56 years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. Follow the Native American Heritage Trail to learn about those who inhabited this land more than 12,000 years ago and whose many contributions are featured in six other heritage trails: Spanish Colonial, Black Heritage, Florida in the Civil War, Florida in World War II, Jewish Heritage and Cuban Heritage.

NEW INITIATIVES A number of communities throughout Florida are undertaking initiatives to be good stewards of their state and to enhance your stay. For instance, ever-popular Orlando aims to be the greenest destination in the world by creating a totally sustainable experience from the moment you step off the plane. So, if you’re into greening your Florida vacation, you might ask your accommodation and car rental providers if—and how—they are participating in the Green Destination Orlando program. Headed for the Keys? Click on the new “live chat” communications tool at fla-keys.com for assistance from a live person without having to make a phone call. In Panama City Beach, visitors can enjoy boardwalks and 24 miles of dirt trails at the new Conservation Park, created to rehydrate protected wetlands. Similar paths already exist across the city and the plan is to link them together into a system that will stretch from the Walton County line in the north to St. Andrews State Park located at the southern tip of Bay County. With so much to see and do in the Sunshine State, you may have to plan more than one trip to take it all in. And to whet your appetite for all things Floridian, we’ve gathered information on a variety of experiences that await you in Flagler’s paradise. So begins your Florida adventure through more than 12,000 years of history. Enjoy!

Donna S. Vieira Editor

6

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


Whether it’s a plate of just-caught stone crabs, an extravaganza in a foodie palace or a shot of Cuban coffee, Greater Miami’s the place to taste your latest favorite foods. Miami inspires you to do the things you couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do anywhere else.

Express your inner foodie at MiamiandBeaches.com © Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau – The Official Destination Marketing Organization for Greater Miami and the Beaches.


MIAMI BISCAYNE BAY ISLAND BEACH • REBECCA CONNOLLY/SHUTTERSTOCK

2 0 12 T R AV E L G U I D E T O

FLORIDA www.floridatravelguide.travel

The 2012 Travel Guide to Florida is published by Globelite Travel Marketing Inc., a leading lifestyle media company and publisher of The Travel Guides to Canada, The Travel Guide to California, and Dreamscapes Travel and Lifestyle Magazine. Joseph P. Turkel, President and Group Publisher Valerie Saunders, Vice President Judi Scharf, Vice President PUBLISHER EDITOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Maggie Woodburn Donna S. Vieira Judi Scharf

COPY EDITOR

Anne Champagne

ART DIRECTOR

Mark Tzerelshtein

CIRCULATION MANAGER DIRECTOR OF FINANCE

Julia Wall Gloria Mungo

PRESIDENT & GROUP PUBLISHER

Joseph P. Turkel

ACCOUNT MANAGERS

Maggie Woodburn Christa Collins Pam Collins

WRITERS Susan B. Barnes, Donna Carter, Alisson Clark, Dalia Colon, Sandra Friend, Janet Groene, Josie Gulliksen, Jennifer Karetnick, Barb and Ron Kroll, Rochelle Lash, Susan MacCallum-Whitcomb, Kristen Manieri, Jill Martin, Josephine Matyas, Kate Pocock, Roberta Sandler, Katherine Sgroi, Spencer Spellman, Kathy Wolf FLORIDA OFFICE: 1277B High Point Blvd. W. Delray Beach, Florida 33445 Tel: 561-637-0712 Fax: 561-637-6662 email: mewoodburn@bellsouth.net www.floridatravelguide.travel CORPORATE OFFICE: Globelite Travel Marketing Inc. 3 Bluffwood Drive Toronto, Ontario M2H 3L4 Tel: 416-497-5353, 1-888-700-4464 Fax: 416-497-0871 email: tigc@rogers.com www.floridatravelguide.travel ISSN: 1926-2531 (Print) ISSN: 1927-7253 (Online) 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 2012. Printed in Canada.

8

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


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MAP OF FLORIDA 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

9


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

22

48

GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND INFORMATION 14

Welcome to Florida: A Place for All Seasons and Reasons

18

History: In the Footsteps of History

22

Travelers’ Tips: Sound Advice for Florida Visitors

26

Trivia: How Well Do You Know Florida?

FLORIDA VACATION THEMES

68

12

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

28

Best-Kept Secrets: Expect the Unexpected

34

Photo Opportunities: Capture Picture-Perfect Moments

36

Arts and Culture: Pearls of the Sunshine State

40

Architecture and Gardens: Works of Beauty

44

Dining: Feast on This

48

Family Vacations: Action-Packed Playgrounds

52

Theme Parks: Always Something New

56

Golf: Tee up for Golf

58

Beaches: A Beach Lover’s Paradise

60

Water Sports: The Life Aquatic

62

Wildlife Viewing: Birds of a Feather

64

Hiking: Outdoor Treks

68

Road Trips: Classic Routes and Pit Stops

72

Spas: A Haven for Spectacular Retreats

75

Shopping: Hunting for Treasures


78

Weddings and Honeymoons: Happily Ever After

80

Money-Saving Tips: Stretch Your Vacation Dollars

82

Pets: Pet-Friendly Florida

84

Campgrounds: Fresh-Air Outings

88

Ecotourism: True Outdoor Experiences

92

Vacation Homes: All the Comforts of Home

88

FLORIDA REGIONS, COUNTIES AND ATTRACTIONS 98

Southeast Florida: A Diverse Landscape

106

Southwest Florida: Naturally Sophisticated

112

Bradenton: A Flair for the Arts

114

Central East Florida: Pace Yourself

118

Central Florida: Something for Everyone

124

Polk County: Explore Florida’s Land of Plenty

126

Central West Florida: Explore, Engage and Enjoy

136

Northeast Florida: History Meets Luxury

140

North Central Florida: The Way It Used to Be

144

Northwest Florida: A Unique Sense of Place

118

FLORIDA STATEWIDE INFORMATION 148

Annual Florida Festivals

148

Time Zones

149

Average Monthly Temperatures and Precipitation

150

Tourism Information Sources in Florida

150

Florida’s Public Holidays

151

Florida Associations and Useful Groups for Travelers

151

Cruise Lines Sailing from Florida Ports

151

Cruise Headquarters, USA

152

Florida State Parks, Forests & Regional Recreation Spaces

155

National Parks, Memorials, Monuments and Preserves

155

Major Hotel Chains in Florida

156

Mileage Chart Between Key Florida Cities

157

Car and RV Rental Companies in Florida

157

Florida Bus Tour Operators

158

Major International Airports in Florida

158

Airline Service to Florida from Canada and the USA

159

Florida Lighthouses

140

COVER: Emerald Coast | © Melissa Salter/Alamy 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

13


WELCOME TO FLORIDA!

A Place FOR ALL SEASONS AND REASONS

BY JEN KARETNICK

SURFING AT SEBASTIAN INLET STATE PARK

14

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

F

lorida, which means “flowery land,” is virtually impossible to resist. After all, everybody loves flowers, and Florida’s bounty ranges from its state flower, the orange blossom—one of the citrus crops on which the economy depends, along with grapefruit and tangerines—to exotic bougainvillea and birds of paradise. In fact, Florida is largely agricultural and depends on crops as diverse as sugarcane and tomatoes to survive, leaving plenty available for passersby to purchase. Its biggest exports include sweet corn and green beans, and visitors are often amazed to find farm stands and U-pick farms offering everything from boiled peanuts and blueberries in the state’s northwest locations such as Gainesville and Plant City to strawberries and mangoes in the deep south areas

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER CVB; ST. AUGUSTINE, PONTE VEDRA & THE BEACHES VCB; SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM

SUNRISE IN CLEARWATER


of Redland and Homestead. If you prefer fruit that’s been bottled, Florida has plenty of that as well. Wineries abound throughout the state, with many offering both grape varietals as well as tropical fruit vintages.

and on the west by the Straits of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. A couple of Florida’s cities, including Panama City Beach on the northwest coast and Daytona Beach on the east coast, are famous for their Spring Break popularity,

which usually lasts for a couple of weeks in March. The rest of the year these cities are family-friendly and attract boaters and fishermen as well as water sports enthusiasts to some of the most gorgeous beaches, both natural and groomed, in the country.

CLUBHOUSE AT TPC SAWGRASS IN PONTE VEDRA BEACH

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER • VISIT FLORIDA®

CLIMATE

JON RON SURF SHOP IN COCOA BEACH

Blessed with a climate that ranges from subtropical in the northern areas to tropical in coastal and southern regions, Florida is known nationally as the “Sunshine State.” Temperatures average a balmy 70 F daily, with highs peaking in July and August usually in the low 90s. And while the lowest temperature ever recorded in the winter of 1899 was -2 F in the capital of Tallahassee, the usual lows, which only last for a couple of days, hover around the 40s or 50s during January or February. All in all, although Florida has its share of bad weather, it’s renowned for being the warmest state in the US mainland. Florida sets other enviable records, including being the state with the longest coastline on which visitors can set up beach chairs and break out the sunscreen. A long peninsula that takes as long as 16 hours to traverse by car from north to south, the state is bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

15


WELCOME TO FLORIDA! SPORTING EVENTS

THE RUINS OF FORT DADE AT EGMONT KEY STATE PARK

When it comes to professional sports, Florida is again in the running for being the best in the country and has a plethora of stadium and bowl games for sport fans to enjoy year-round. That doesn’t include, of course, the famous baseball-training season facilities. Nor does it take into account the myriad golf and tennis tournaments and facilities in Orlando, Daytona, Naples and Miami, among other cities. In addition, car-racing fans can’t get enough of the heats in Daytona, Homestead and other speedways throughout the state.

Perhaps what comes first to mind, though, are Central Florida’s theme parks. Resorts, such as Epcot/Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Miami Seaquarium, Busch Gardens and, most recently, LEGOLAND Florida, are an inescapable part of Florida’s identity and destinations in their own right. Water parks, such as Shipwreck Island Waterpark in Panama City, Adventure Island in Tampa/St. Petersburg and Adventure Landing in Jacksonville, are also thrilling experiences for the whole family, and especially refreshing in the summertime when the air can be quite humid. BEACH CAMPING ON THE GULF COAST IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

16

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Perhaps nothing is as adventurous, however, as Florida’s natural water park, which stretches from east to west and north to south. The Everglades, nicknamed the “river of grass” because of its slow-moving tidal

system that allows long sawgrass to grow, is a two-million-acre national park with many entrances, all of which offer a variety of options. In this swamp filled with a brackish mixture of salt and fresh water, visitors can fish, kayak, hike, bike or take airboat tours to view protected wildlife, which include American alligators, crocodiles, manatees, bottle-nosed dolphins, wood storks, snail kites, very rare Key deer and the endangered Florida panther. Birders especially love the Everglades, home to more than 350 bird species, including America’s national symbol, the bald eagle, which often nests here. Or head farther south to Biscayne National Park, where all the aforementioned outdoor activities are available as well as some additional activities, such as snorkeling, diving and glass-bottom boat tours. In fact, most of the 173,000 acres of the park are underwater and only accessible by boat! It’s certainly worth renting one to search the islands for evidence of use by native tribes, to explore shipwrecks and to drift above the coral reef system, where more than 200 species of fish thrive. With more than 12,000 years of human history waiting to be uncovered, Florida never disappoints.

FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: VISIT FLORIDA; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

PARKS GALORE


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HISTORY

In The Footsteps of

HISTORY

HISTORIC RE-ENACTMENTS AT CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS IN ST. AUGUSTINE

HISTORIC ST. AUGUSTINE

“H

istory,” said the American author Elbert Hubbard, “is gossip well told.” History is our connection between past and present—and you’ll find Florida has a treasure trove of historical finds, with chances to learn about the people and events that shaped the modern-day 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 remains of their cultures have been unearthed and studied throughout the state. Contact with the early Spanish conquistadors proved to be deadly for these early native peoples— their numbers were decimated by disease, warfare and social disintegration. Dotted across Florida are archaeological 18

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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, who lived in this area for 4,000 years prior to the arrival of the Europeans.

HISTORIC SITES When Spanish explorers planted their flags on the shorelines of what are now Northeast

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: SAMOT/SHUTTERSTOCK; JORG HACKEMANN/SHUTTERSTOCK; ST. AUGUSTINE, PONTE VEDRA & THE BEACHES VCB; VISIT TALLAHASSEE

BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS


and Northwest Florida, they opened the floodgates for the explorers, missionaries and treasure seekers that followed. For the next three centuries, the Spanish, British and French warred over these lands, lured at first by tales of gold and silver, later by the riches of the cotton and tobacco trade. Forts and communities flip-flopped back and forth between European powers, but it was the Spanish that left the deepest imprints on the area in their feverish construction of fortified garrisons and Roman Catholic missions. Eventually Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1821 as part of settling a border dispute between the two countries. Through the period of great unrest and conflict that marked the American Civil War, Florida joined the southern states to form the Confederate States of America. There were never any decisive battles fought on Florida soil. After the War, the federal government enacted an ambitious period of rebuilding known as The Reconstruction. Eventually, this opened up many parts of the state for development—a strong part of which was tourism. Today you can explore Florida’s historic sites that stand as testament to the period of extensive exploration and conflict: • The romantic city of St. Augustine is often heralded as the first continuouslyoccupied European settlement in the nation. It’s known for narrow, winding

streets and well-preserved buildings. At the Colonial Spanish Quarter living history museum, structures and re-enactors model life in the 18th century. Built to protect the Spanish Empire, the city’s intimidating Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest standing European fortification in the continental US. • The reconstructed fort and exhibits at 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.

YOUNG SPANISH WOMEN PERFORM AT A HISTORIC SITE IN ST. AUGUSTINE

MISSION SAN LUIS, TALLAHASSEE

• Fort Caroline—founded by a group of Huguenots—was the first permanent French colony in North America. • The National Park Service will be commemorating the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War at the three forts of the Gulf Islands National Seashore—Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt—all of which saw action during the conflict.

WATCH FOR 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War and there are special events at many National Park Service sites in Florida. Information on all historic sites and events can be found at nps.gov.

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HISTORY

SEMINOLE INDIAN WITH ALLIGATOR IN THE EVERGLADES

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 displays tell of a determined people who traveled the waterways of the Everglades in their long, shallow-draft canoes. AH-TAH-THI-KI MUSEUM

FEATURED LINKS

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 a cypress frame and thatched roof.

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2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Advanced Redoubt | nps.gov/guis Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum | ahtahthiki.com Billie Swamp Safari | billieswamp.com Florida Black Heritage Trail | flheritage.com Fort Barrancas | nps.gov/guis Fort Pickens | nps.gov/guis Gulf Islands National Seashore | nps.gov/guis Mission San Luis | missionsanluis.org Mound Key Archaeological State Park | floridastateparks.org/moundkey Spady Cultural Heritage Museum | spadymuseum.com Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center | nps.gov/timu Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center | weedonislandpreserve.org Ybor City | ybor.org Zora! Festival | zorafestival.com

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; ST. AUGUSTINE, PONTE VEDRA & THE BEACHES VCB; ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER CVB

SEMINOLE PEOPLE


MAIN STREET HISTORY Many people have called Florida home and their cultural marks have been left on the streets, in the architecture and in the dishes served by local restaurants. Miami has been a magnet for immigrants from the Caribbean and South America, but none is more prevalent than the Cuban community. The Miami 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: • In Tampa, the Ybor City neighborhood once bustled with cigar factories where Spanish and Cuban immigrants rolled millions of cigars each year. The main thoroughfare, 7th Avenue, has been recognized as one of the “10 Great Streets in

AFRICAN-AMERICAN HERITAGE CELEBRATION

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. The Florida Black Heritage Trail makes it easy to find the sites, buildings and other points of interest in African-American history: • Historic Eatonville (near Orlando) is the first incorporated town founded by and for African-Americans after the Emancipation Proclamation. Called “the town that freedom built,” Eatonville is known for its preserved historic district and for its annual Zora! Festival, which honors local writer, folklorist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. • The African-American Research Library and Cultural Center and the Old Dillard Museum in Fort Lauderdale are repositories for African-American culture. • In Delray Beach, the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum honors AfricanAmericans who settled the town in the late 1800s. • Martin Luther King Jr. stayed in St. Augustine, in the historic AfricanAmerican neighborhood of Lincolnville.

SPANIARDS AT PLAY AT HISTORIC SITE IN ST. AUGUSTINE

WEEDON ISLAND PRESERVE

America” and was once Tampa’s Latin Quarter. • In Northwest Florida’s pretty Apalachicola, the buildings that were once cotton and sponge warehouses are now home to unique shops, galleries and antique stores. • Villages like Milton, Punta Gorda, Havana and the old tobacco town of High Springs all have historic districts that have seen new life with shops and galleries. 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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VACATIONING IN PANAMA CITY BEACH

BY KATHY WOLF

OFF TO THE FLORIDA KEYS

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overing an area of 58,560 square miles, Florida, the Sunshine State, is big; it’s a 14-hour drive from sultry Key West to breezy Pensacola. More than half of Florida’s population of 19 million lives south of Orlando. To the north and west, rural countryside with small towns is the norm. In addition to VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official tourism bureau, most of the 67 counties have their own tourism websites.

WEATHER Florida’s temperate weather makes it a top vacation destination. Spring and summer are prime time in the north, while South Florida is at 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

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: ANDY NEWMAN/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU; SPORTS STOCK/SHUTTERSTOCK; RUDY UMANS/SHUTTERSTOCK; RICHARD THORNTON/SHUTTERSTOCK

TRAVELERS’ TIPS


GETTING AROUND Major international airports are in Miami (MIA), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), West Palm Beach (PBI), Orlando (MCO), Tampa (TPA) and Jacksonville (JAX). Visitors to Northwest Florida can fly into Pensacola (PNS) or Panama City (ECP), and those headed to the Keys save time flying directly to Key West (EYW). The Overseas Highway (US 1) connects the Florida Keys

are sitting in the vehicle. A child restraint is mandatory 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 always 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

AMTRAK

DOWNTOWN MIAMI'S FULLY-AUTOMATED TRAIN SYSTEM

Many gas stations charge five to 10 cents more a gallon for using a credit or debit card. Proximity to major highways does not guarantee the best price, as fuel taxes may vary greatly between counties.

FESTIVALS Florida weather is ideal for outdoor festivals. Check out some of these unique events happening throughout the Sunshine State. For more listings, log onto visitflorida.com or artfestival.com/FestivalCalendar.aspx.

JANUARY and is a nationally recognized Scenic Highway. AMTRAK provides rail service. The Silver Service/Palmetto connects Jacksonville and Orlando, ending in either Tampa or Miami with many stops along the way. Greyhound bus service links many Florida cities. In Orlando, LYNX covers the region. The Metrobus services more than 90 routes in and around Miami.

DRIVING Florida is best toured by car. Car rental agencies are plentiful, with major companies serving both major airports and small towns. Visitors ages 16 and up holding licenses from other countries may drive in Florida however an International Driving Permit (IDP) is recommended for visitors from foreign countries. Before getting behind the wheel, drivers should review the rules of the road from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Drivers and front-seat passengers must wear seat belts. All children under 18 are required to wear seat belts, regardless of where they

temperature of a car can rise to 120 F in minutes. Leaving a child unsupervised in a car also brings stiff fines. 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.

Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Titusville

FEBRUARY Florida State Fair, Tampa

MARCH Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City

APRIL Beach Kite Festival, Fort Walton

MAY Florida Folk Festival, White Springs

JUNE Watermelon Festival, Chipley

JULY International Mango Festival, Coral Gables

AUGUST Annual Caladium Festival, Lake Placid

SEPTEMBER Pensacola Seafood Festival, Pensacola

OCTOBER Fantasy Fest, Key West

NOVEMBER Fort Myers Beach American Sand Sculpting

DECEMBER ICE! Gaylord Palms, Kissimmee

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS

WINDOW SHOPPING ON AVILES IN ST. AUGUSTINE

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. When a federal holiday falls on a Saturday, it is typically observed on Friday. If it falls on a Sunday, it is observed on a Monday.

BANKING AND TAXES

EVERGLADES AIRBOAT TOUR

HEALTH

SECURITY It is prudent to always lock car doors, even while driving, and secure belongings out of sight. Never leave a bag or parcel unattended. Keep valuables in the hotel safe along with copies of important documents, such as your passport. Florida is home to dangerous animals, most notably the American alligator, seen sunning along waterways. Never approach or feed an alligator—feeding one carries a fine of $500 and may literally cost you an arm or a leg.

ACCOMMODATION AND DINING Accommodation in Florida ranges from quaint lodges to luxurious resorts. For top-notch small properties, visit superior smalllodging.com. Most properties charge an additional county “tourist development tax” on room or holiday rental rates. Hotels and resorts, particularly in Orlando and South Florida, also add an additional 5 to 20% as 24

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

TIPPING

an “amenities fee.” Ask beforehand, since these fees are not always disclosed in the published or stated price. Florida offers culinary experiences with cultural diversity, from Southern comfort food like fried chicken and collard greens to mojitos and Jamaican jerk chicken. Dining is casual, with T-shirts and shorts the norm at chain restaurants while business casual and resort wear are appropriate in upscale establishments. Smoking is not permitted inside Florida restaurants or bars that serve food, however smokers can enjoy the outdoor patio. Restaurants are air-conditioned and can be quite chilly.

Tipping is the norm in America, with those working in dining establishments expected to earn up to 25% of their income through tips. Add 15–20% to the bill as a tip for wait staff and bartenders; airport shuttle drivers, valets and bellhops, $2 per person; maid service, $1–2 per night; tour guides, $2–10 per person, depending on length and complexity of the tour; and fishing guides, 10–15% of the cost of the trip. If you see a tip jar, throw a few coins in—it’s always appreciated.

EVERGLADES No trip to Florida would be complete without a visit to the Everglades National Park, with its majestic and unique landscapes spanning 2,358 square miles. Dedicated on December 6, 1947 by President Harry S. Truman, it can be explored by car, tram, foot, canoe or on an exhilarating airboat tour across sweeping swamps and marshes.

HOLIDAYS Even during federal holidays, many attractions are open. Banks and government offices, including the post office, are closed on January 1 (New Year’s Day), third Monday in 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

FEATURED LINKS AMTRAK | amtrak.com Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles | flhsmv.gov Greyhound | greyhound.com LYNX | golynx.com Metrobus | miamidade.gov/transit VISIT FLORIDA | visitflorida.com

FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: ST. AUGUSTINE, PONTE VEDRA & THE BEACHES VCB; GREATER MIAMI CVB

Nothing dampens a holiday more than a cold or sudden illness. Pain and cold medications are readily available at any local store. Prescription drugs can only be filled at pharmacies, some of which are open 24 hours. To avoid an unnecessary doctor visit, make sure to fill prescriptions before traveling and always carry them in their original containers. Travel insurance is recommended. For emergency assistance anywhere, dial 911.

Most banks are open Monday–Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM. Bank Atlantic and TD Bank locations throughout Florida are open seven days a week. ATMs (automated teller machines) can be found at banks, grocery and convenience stores and at some attractions. A transaction fee of $2–4 is assessed. Many stores will allow debit card users to obtain “cash back” up to $50 above their purchase with no transaction fee. Florida’s base sales tax on purchases is 6%, with counties adding up to another 1.5% discretionary tax.


Minutes from Disney World® – Frank Lloyd Wright’s World.

Child of the Sun Collection

Visiting Central Florida? Don’t miss Florida Southern College in Lakeland, the world’s largest one-site collection of buildings designed by America’s most pre-eminent architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. FSC’s “Child of the Sun” features 12 awe-inspiring structures, including Wright’s only planetarium and his only theatre-in-the-round. The Princeton Review named Florida Southern the “Nation’s Most Beautiful Campus” while Architectural Digest selected FSC as a “Top Ten Campus.” For more information, visit www.flsouthern.edu/fllwctr or call 863.680.4597 to schedule a tour.

111 Lake Hollingsworth Drive tLakeland, Florida


TRIVIA

BAYSIDE IN THE FLORIDA KEYS

How Well

COMPILED BY DONNA S. VIEIRA

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• People first arrived in what is now known as Florida more than 12,000 years ago. • In 1513, Ponce de Leon landed on the east coast and named the peninsula “Florida” in honor of the season Pascua Florida, meaning “Flowery Easter.” • From 1819–1821 Florida was transferred from Spain to the United States; in 2109, the state will finally be part of the USA for as long as it was ruled by Spain. • Florida achieved statehood on March 3, 1845 and was the 27th state to join the United States of America.

• There are more than 200 springs in Florida with a combined flow of about 11,000 cubic feet per second or about seven billion gallons a day. The world’s deepest freshwater spring is Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee. • There are 882 islands or “keys” in the Florida Keys, however the state has an additional 4,510 islands that measure 10 acres or larger. • Florida is home to the largest breeding population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. • The Florida Everglades are the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles co-exist. • Eighty percent of loggerhead turtles in the US are found on Florida beaches. • Florida is home to 11 underwater preserves: the wreck of the Half Moon, Urca de Lima, San Pedro, The City of Hawkinsville, USS Massachusetts, SS Copenhagen, SS Tarpon, Vamar, Regina, Lofthus and Georges Valentine.

GENERAL TIDBITS

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

• Florida covers 58,560 square miles, of which 4,298 square miles are under water. • Florida has more than 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline and 8,426 of detailed tidal shoreline, second only to Alaska in that category. Sand beaches, a Florida signature, account for 650 miles of its coastline.

• There are more than 800 Florida Keys stretching more than 180 miles. Key Largo is the longest key at 30 miles long and a half-mile wide. • Marathon is home to Crane Point Hammock, a 63.5-acre land tract that is one of the most important historical and

outed as one of North America’s favorite vacation venues and for its balmy weather, majestic sunsets and family theme parks, Florida has blossomed into one of the most recognizable multidimensional playgrounds on the planet. Here are some fun facts about this holiday paradise.

A LITTLE HISTORY

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• •

archaeological sites in the Keys. The area contains evidence of pre-Colombian and prehistoric Bahamian artifacts and was once the site of an entire Indian village. Ten Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded to writers who lived on Key West, including Ernest Hemingway. Originally known as “Flagler’s Folly,” the Over-Sea Railroad, which once connected mainland Florida and the Keys and stretched more than 100 miles out over open water, celebrated its 100th anniversary of completion in January 2012. The Overseas Highway crosses 42 bridges. Miami’s art deco district features the largest concentration of art deco architecture in the world.

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA • Naples is known as the “Golf Capital of the World.” • The nation’s smallest post office is located in Ochopee, near Naples. • Cape Coral boasts more than 400 miles of canals, more than any other city in the world. • Sanibel Island is one of the 10 best beaches in the world for shelling. • The strait that separates Captiva Island from Sanibel Island is called Blind Pass. • Marco Island is the largest barrier island within Southwest Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands area.

LEFT TO RIGHT: FLORIDASTOCK/SHUTTERSTOCK; KEVIN WINKLER PHOTOGRAPHY/SHUTTERSTOCK

DO YOU KNOW FLORIDA?


CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA

HISTORIC ST. AUGUSTINE

• The Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building is the largest singlestory building in the world. At 525 feet, its ceiling is so high that rain clouds can form inside the structure. • Completed in 1887, the 175-foot-high Ponce de Leon Lighthouse has 203 steps and is the tallest lighthouse in Florida. • The late billionaire John D. Rockefeller owned a winter estate called The Casements in Ormond Beach. • The city of Sebastian features a sign welcoming visitors to the “Home of Pelican Island, friendly people and 6 old grouches.” • Fort Pierce is known as “The Sunrise City.”

CENTRAL FLORIDA • People flock from miles around to have their holiday mail postmarked at the festive-named Central Florida community known as Christmas. • Kissimmee takes its name from the Calusa language and means “heaven’s place.” • Known as the “City of Swans,” Lakeland in Polk County was named so because there are 19 lakes within its city limits. • The largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world is in Lakeland. • Fort Meade is the oldest settlement in Polk County. It dates back to 1849 when a settlement grew up around the United States Cavalry fort during the Seminole Indian Wars. • The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park boasts the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. • Orlando attracts more visitors than any other amusement park destination in the USA.

CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA • St. Petersburg/Clearwater claims to have 361 days of sunshine annually. • The longest fishing pier in the world is a portion of the original Sunshine Skyway Bridge that extends 1.5 miles into Tampa Bay. • Opened in 1987, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a cable-stayed concrete bridge, which spans 4.1 miles over Tampa Bay and coasts through the clouds at 190 feet above water.

• Established in 1905, the Columbia restaurant in Ybor City is “the world’s largest Spanish restaurant” as well as the oldest Spanish restaurant in Florida. • Once known as the Cigar Capital of the World, Ybor City had nearly 12,000 tabaqueros (cigar makers) employed in 200 factories, producing an estimated 700 million cigars a year at the industry’s peak.

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA • Greenville in Madison County is the childhood home of Ray Charles. • In 1859, the town of Alligator was incorporated and changed its name to Lake City. • The Knott House, a historic Tallahassee home, is nicknamed “the house that rhymes” because Luella Knott, a poet whose husband acquired the house in 1928, wrote verses about the home and its furnishings.

NORTHEAST FLORIDA • First Thanksgiving was celebrated by Spanish explorers, not pilgrims, in St. Augustine on September 8, 1565, between the Spanish and Timucuan tribe 56 years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth. • The oldest continuously-occupied community in North America is St. Augustine, settled by Spanish explorers in 1565. • The Cathedral Basilica in St. Augustine is home to the oldest Catholic parish in the USA with parish records dating to at least 1596. • Amelia Island, north of Jacksonville, is the only location in the US to have been ruled under eight different national flags. • Fort Mose was the first Black community in what is now the USA. • The Saint Johns River is one of the few rivers that flows north instead of south.

NORTHWEST FLORIDA • The first European settlement attempt in the continental USA was made in Pensacola by Tristán de Luna in August 1559. • Pensacola’s nickname is the “City of Five Flags” because throughout its history it has been under the rule of the Spanish, French, English, Americans and Confederates. • The Florida Seafood Festival in Apalachicola is the state’s oldest maritime event. • The Apalachicola National Forest is home to the world’s largest population of red-cockaded woodpeckers. • DeFuniak Springs is where one of two naturally round lakes in the world is found. • The nation’s smallest police station is located in Carrabelle. SOURCES: visitflorida.com; 50states.com 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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Expect THE UNEXPECTED BY KRISTEN MANIERI

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hink you’ve seen it all? Out-of-theordinary adventures and interests await all ages throughout the state— even in its most well-known locales. Here is a sampling of 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 where area celebrity and the nation’s oldest manatee, Snooty, can be observed in person or online via the “Snooty Cam.” Meander through a whimsical collection of galleries, studios, boutiques and cafés housed in colorful cottages at the Village of the Arts in the city of Bradenton where one-of-a-kind finds from purses made entirely of recycled pop can tabs to handmade ukuleles turn typical shoppers into happy treasure hunters. Sip locally-made wine at Bunker Hill Vineyard & Winery, which offers free vineyard tours and tastings of their 10 signature wines.

Cassadaga in Volusia County, a 116-year-old spiritualist camp offering palm readings, psychic healings and ghost tours.

DAYTONA BEACH AREA

FLORIDA KEYS

Visit one of the few museums in the country solely dedicated to photography. The Southeast Museum of Photography presents six exhibition seasons annually and admission is always free. Thirty miles west of Daytona, float through de Leon Springs State Park on the Fountain of Youth Boat Tour, a narrated, eco-history tour on board the MV Acuera that docks near the Old Spanish Sugar Mill, a do-it-yourself pancake joint with griddles at each table. Or travel to

The unforgettable turquoise water that hugs the highway en route to Key West is a spectacular sight to behold from the Overseas Highway, but views are actually best from a kayak. Paddle these tranquil waters by day or, if the timing is right, opt for a full-moon tour, which gives explorers a double feature—the sunset and the full moon. Turtle lovers will want to visit Marathon’s Turtle Hospital, a oneof-a-kind facility that gives guests the opportunity to feed sea turtles and learn about

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2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

SEVEN MILE BRIDGE TO THE FLORIDA KEYS

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM; BRADENTON AREA CVB

BEST-KEPT SECRETS


turtle conservation efforts. They even have their own ambulance. Dive into Key West’s rowdy nightlife on the “Duval Crawl,” a 2.5-hour guided pub tour through downtown Key West offering a beer or signature cocktail at each bar.

FLORIDA’S SPACE COAST With guided kayaking tours down the Nyami Nyami River, the Brevard Zoo 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. Or check out the zoo’s newest attraction, Treetop Trek, a high-in-the-sky zip line adventure. Try your angler skills at Honest Johns Fish Camp in South Melbourne Beach where fishermen can rent aluminum boats or kayaks and cruise out onto the Indian River Lagoon where fish such as seatrout and redfish bite year-round. Drink in the best views of the Space Coast on a scenic flight inside an authentic 1940 fully-restored Waco UPF-7 open cockpit biplane at Florida Biplanes located on Merritt Island.

the waterfront mega mansions, but promises to deliver passengers to some of the area’s best restaurants without worry about finding a parking spot. Book a 90-minute tour of Fort Lauderdale’s quintessential landmarks on an amphibious vehicle with Fort Lauderdale Duck Tours. Drive down famed streets, such as Las Olas Boulevard, before plunging into the Intracoastal Waterway for a tranquil cruise past million-dollar waterfront mansions.

JACKSONVILLE Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the brewing process (including a sampling directly from a finishing tank) on the Budweiser Beermaster Tour, 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, historic Springfield’s all-natural candy shop. Visit the quaint San Marco district, home to the Peterbrooke Chocolatier Production FOREVER FLORIDA HORSEBACK RIDING TOUR

FORT LAUDERDALE Experience one of Earth’s most unusual zoos. Butterfly World is a 10-acre sanctuary wholly devoted to the study, care and display of more than 10,000 butterflies, many of which fly freely in picturesque garden aviaries. Traverse Fort Lauderdale by water taxi, a trip that not only offers glimpses of RELAXING ON ANNA MARIA ISLAND

FORT MYERS/SANIBEL Lounge with the locals at Captiva Island’s Mucky Duck, a hangout loved for its seafood, blueberry sour cream pie and the area’s best sunset views. Take a trip to Matlacha on Pine Island, a bygone fishing village now home to quaint galleries and restaurants. This tiny slice of Old Florida features a thriving artist community as well as Bert’s Bar & Grill, a dive bar with a more than 70-year-old history and what many consider the best pizza around. Play “vet” at the Healing Winds Visitor Education Center, a recently-opened attraction at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife. Here visitors learn about the care and rehabilitation of area wildlife through hands-on exhibits and activities inviting them to practice diagnosing and treating on-site animals.

Center, which gives chocolate lovers insights into the world of chocolate making during public tours. Finally, open Saturdays from March until December, the Riverside Arts Market 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 14,000square-foot indoor surf experience. 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 cool treat at Boola Custom Creamery, a modern parlor featuring ice cream created in seconds with a vanilla base that’s flash frozen with liquid nitrogen. Glide through the treetops of the 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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BEST-KEPT SECRETS

DISNEY BLOCK PARTY BASH

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: VISIT ORLANDO, PANAMA CITY BEACH CVB; PALM BEACH COUNTY CVB

4,700-acre Forever Florida Wildlife Conservation Area with the brand new ecotourism experience called the Cypress Canopy Cycle.

MIAMI Wander through Miami’s chic style and design hub, the Miami Design District, packed with furniture and accessory shops and studios promising to give serious home decorators a glimpse at the next hottest design trends. Visitors will also find eclectic clothing shops, art galleries and a handful of fabulous restaurants. Get a private, self-navigated tour of Miami courtesy of GoCar Tours. These GPS-guided, storytelling cars allow day-trippers to traverse the city’s best sites at their own pace and convenience. Be sure to take a drive over to Coral Gables, the meticulously planned luxury community that’s home to the Venetian Pool, an 820,000-gallon spring-fed swimming pool built in 1923 and still used today.

A FAMILY STROLL ALONG PANAMA CITY BEACH

NAPLES Join a photography tour of the legendary Everglades National Park, a 1.5-million-acre area teeming with wildlife and unspoiled vistas. Everglades Area Tours offers this and dozens of other unique expeditions including bicycle tours, overnight camping trips and sunset sea kayak paddles. Visit the chocolate salon created by internationally-recognized chocolate artisan Norman Love at Parkshore Plaza. Love shows he doesn’t mind sharing his secrets by allowing budding chocolatiers to take his baking, fondue-making and truffle-creating classes. Kids will adore the Children’s Garden at Naples Botanical Garden, an interactive learning environment filled with flowers, butterflies, tree houses and babbling streams.

ORLANDO Skip the life-threatening thrill of an ocean shark dive and opt instead for SeaWorld’s tamer version. Sharks Deep Dive invites shark enthusiasts to venture into a 700,000gallon saltwater aquarium, home to more than 30 curious sharks. No dive experience is necessary thanks to the Sea Trek helmet, which is used instead of typical scuba gear. Check out the latest attraction at Discovery Cove, where visitors to SeaVenture undergo 30

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

a dive-like experience on an underwater walking tour without all the equipment. See the savanna, VIP-style, on a three-hour, privately-guided expedition behind the scenes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Wild Africa Trek offers close encounters with rhinos and hippos as they guide adventurers on an easy hike through the stunning African setting.

THE PALM BEACHES & BOCA RATON Experience Florida’s only drive-through safari, Lion Country Safari, 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, 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 where the US Open Polo Championship is played each year.

PANAMA CITY BEACH Pay a visit to the newly unveiled 3,000-acre Panama City Beach Conservation Park and

Gayle’s Trails, where miles of picturesque walking and biking trails speckled with boardwalks, bridges and picnic areas make it the ideal day-long outing. Experience Miracle Strip at Pier Park, which includes original balloon race rides and other kidfriendly experiences from the former iconic Miracle Strip Amusement Park. New to Miracle Strip is the Butterfly Pavilion, a 2,500-square-foot sanctuary home to more than 400 colorful butterflies. Canoe along Econfina Creek and explore the personality of this ever-changing waterway complete with tight curves and fast water chutes.


FEATURED LINKS

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. Carve out an hour or two on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning and visit the home of the world-famous Blue Angels as they practice awe-inspiring aerial maneuvers in the skies. Spring 2012 marks the opening of Maritime Park, a 30-acre, $54-million entertainment complex located on downtown Pensacola’s bayfront, which will host concerts, festivals and baseball games featuring Pensacola’s new team, the Blue Wahoos. Close the day at the new Margaritaville Beach Hotel, Jimmy Buffet’s first-ever hotel.

BRADENTON/ANNA MARIA ISLAND/LONGBOAT KEY Bunker Hill Vineyard & Winery | bunkerhillvineyard.com South Florida Museum | southfloridamuseum.org Village of the Arts | villageofthearts.com DAYTONA BEACH Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp | cassadaga.org Fountain of Youth Eco/History Tours | foytours.net Southeast Museum of Photography | smponline.org FLORIDA KEYS Florida Bay Outfitters | kayakfloridakeys.com The Key West Pub Crawl | keywestwalkingtours.com The Turtle Hospital, Marathon | turtlehospital.org FLORIDA’S SPACE COAST Brevard Zoo, Melbourne | brevardzoo.org Florida Biplanes, Merritt Island | floridabiplanes.com Honest Johns Fish Camp, South Melbourne Beach | honestjohnsfishcamp.com FORT LAUDERDALE Butterfly World | butterflyworld.com Fort Lauderdale Duck Tours | fortlauderdaleducktours.com Water Taxi Fort Lauderdale | watertaxi.com FORT MYERS/SANIBEL Bert’s Bar & Grill | bertsbar.us Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce | floridascreativecoast.com Healing Winds Visitor Education Center | crowclinic.org The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel | FortMyersSanibel.com The Mucky Duck, Captiva Island | muckyduck.com JACKSONVILLE Budweiser Beermaster Tour | budweisertours.com Peterbrooke Chocolatier | peterbrooke.com Riverside Arts Market | riversideartsmarket.com Sweet Pete’s | sweetpete.net KISSIMMEE Fantasy Surf | ultimateindoorwave.com Florida EcoSafaris | floridaecosafaris.com

BOCA RATON MUSEUM OF ART

MIAMI Coral Gables Venetian Pool | coralgablesvenetianpool.com GoCar Tours | gocartours.com Miami Design District | miamidesigndistrict.net NAPLES Everglades Area Tours | evergladesareatours.com Naples Botanical Garden | naplesgarden.org Norman Love Confections | normanloveconfections.com

SARASOTA Take a dip in the Fountain of Youth at Warm Mineral Springs, a naturally formed mineral spring with a year-round 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 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, 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. Finally, head to Casey Key on Wednesday and Saturday evenings where hundreds of locals and visitors gather on Nokomis Beach for a sunset drum circle.

ST. AUGUSTINE Leading up to its 450-year anniversary celebrations in 2013, a number of events and 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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BEST-KEPT SECRETS

Amidst Florida’s more famous destinations there lies a handful of hush hush hideaways savvy travelers hope the crowds will never discover. Untouched and unfussy, these island locales offer a quiet, laidback escape. CABBAGE KEY

LITTLE PALM ISLAND Arguably the most exclusive and luxurious island retreat, Little Palm Island is discreetly tucked amidst the Florida Keys and is only accessible by boat or seaplane. Guests settle into one of only 30 private thatched-roof bungalows for a getaway filled with gourmet food, spa pampering and plenty of pool or beachside nothingness.

programs are planned for this historic city in 2012 and 2013 so visitors may want to time their visit for one of them. St. Augustine’s Pirate & Treasure Museum contains one of the world’s largest collections of authentic pirate artifacts—including an actual pirate flag and treasure chest. Far from your typical museum, this total immersion into the history of piracy also gives a nod to modern-day Hollywood pirates like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. Set aside an afternoon for the Florida Seafood Crabbing tour (904-8140159). Board the 25-foot Sea Hawk Cruiser and venture out to sea where you’ll pull crab pots and carefully remove a single claw from the legal-sized stone crabs before placing them back into the water where they can grow a replacement. Finish the day at the seaside with a romantic horseback ride along the sandy coast. CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER CVB; SARASOTA CVB; ST. AUGUSTINE, PONTE VEDRA & THE BEACHES VCB

SECRET ISLANDS

EL CONQUISTADOR BOAT ADVENTURE, ST. AUGUSTINE

CAYO COSTA With miles of nature trails and untouched beaches, the Gulf-side barrier island known as Cayo Costa is an outdoor lover’s paradise. This 2,426–acre state park just north of Captiva Island offers humble overnight cabins and tent camping. Expect to see a host of wildlife including manatees, dolphins and an extraordinary variety of birds. Water taxis to the island can be taken from nearby Pine Island. CABBAGE KEY Rumor has it that Jimmy Buffett penned his famous Cheeseburger in Paradise song after visiting this secluded seaside escape. By boat, helicopter or seaplane, visitors travel to Cabbage Key for the picturesque views, stellar fishing and beautiful beaches and nature trails. No cars are needed (or allowed) on this 100acre island just north of Fort Myers. But since the handful of cottages, inns and restaurants are all within a short stroll of each other, no one complains about the lack of transportation. CEDAR KEY Roughly two hours north of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf coast, Cedar Key is a small, relaxed island community that is a home to artists and writers inspired by its pristine environment. The island’s natural beauty and rich history as a major supplier of seafood and timber products draw many people each year to walk the historic streets, browse the shops and galleries, explore the back bayous and enjoy the world-famous restaurants featuring seafood fresh from local waters.

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2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

RINGLING BRIDGE, DOWNTOWN SARASOTA

ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER Have a blast while breaking a serious sweat during a stand-up paddling boot camp session, which combines the tranquility of paddling, the thrill of surfing and the excitement of sailing, all into one glorious exercise regimen. Kayak the Mangrove Tunnels at Caladesi Island’s stunning state park, voted America’s No. 1 beach in 2008. Don’t leave out exploring the charm of America’s “Most Walkable Small City,” downtown Dunedin. Shop, walk or bike through this quaint town lined with galleries, boutiques and restaurants. If you need a break, head to the St. Petersburg Museum of History and rent your own Segway as you cruise the sights, sounds and photo ops of the beautiful waterfront of downtown St. Petersburg.


FEATURED LINKS

INNISBROOK GOLF COURSE

ORLANDO Discovery Cove Orlando | discoverycove.com SeaWorld Orlando | seaworldparks.com Walt Disney World | disneyworld.disney.go.com PALM BEACHES AND BOCA RATON Henry Morrison Flagler Museum | flaglermuseum.us International Polo Club Palm Beach | internationalpoloclub.com Lion Country Safari | lioncountrysafari.com PANAMA CITY BEACH Econfina Creek | canoeeconfinacreek.net Miracle Strip at Pier Park | miracle-strip.com Panama City Beach Conservation Park | pcbgov.com/conservation-park.htm PENSACOLA Blue Angels | blueangels.navy.mil Gulf Islands National Seashore | nps.gov/guis/florida.htm Margaritaville Beach Hotel | margaritavillehotel.com Maritime Park | maritimepark.us

TALLAHASSEE See history reborn at Mission San Luis where costumed re-enactments, hands-on exhibits, recreated period buildings and archaeological excavations take visitors back in time at the only reconstructed Spanish mission in Florida. Car lovers will lose track of time in the Tallahassee Automobile Museum, which boasts more than 130 rare automobiles such as a 1936 DeSoto and a 1955 T-Bird Convertible. A visit to Wakulla Springs State Park with its much-loved riverboat tours and manatee sightings, simply must include a

SARASOTA Myakka River State Park | myakkariver.org The Nokomis Beach Drum Circle, Casey Island | nokomisbeachdrumcircle.com The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art | ringling.org Warm Mineral Springs | warmmineralsprings.com ST. AUGUSTINE Country Carriages | countrycarriages.net St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum | thepiratemuseum.com ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER All About Fun Tours | gyroglides.com Caladesi Island State Park | floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland Dunedin Chamber of Commerce | dunedin-fl.com Stand Up Fitness | standupfitnessinc.com TALLAHASSEE Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park | floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings Mission San Luis | missionsanluis.org Tallahassee Automobile Museum | tacm.com TAMPA BAY Big Cat Rescue | bigcatrescue.org Captain Gus’ Crabby Adventures | crabbyadventures.com Magic Carpet Glide | magiccarpetglide.com SECRET ISLANDS Cabbage Key | cabbagekey.com Cayo Costa | floridastateparks.org/cayocosta Cedar Key | cedarkey.org Little Palm Island | littlepalmisland.com

stop at Wakulla Springs Lodge where its world-famous navy bean soup is served alongside the park’s picturesque views.

TAMPA BAY Experience close encounters with the world’s most mesmerizing mammals at Big Cat Rescue, a 45-acre wildlife sanctuary that harbours 140 cats ranging from 750-pound tigers to 13-pound bobcats. Check out the interactive Keeper Tour, which offers the

chance to prepare food and work side by side with handlers during a training session. Join the crew on Captain Gus’ commercial crab boat where amateur crabbers will pull and bait crab traps, then clean, steam and eat their catch of Tampa Bay’s stone and blue crabs. Casually glide through downtown Tampa with Magic Carpet Glide Segway Tours, offering views of the Channelside entertainment district, the Tampa Riverwalk Project and the Hillsborough River. 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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THE EVERGLADES

BY SPENCER SPELLMAN

PICTURE-PERFECT MOMENTS

A

s the southernmost mainland state in the US, it’s no surprise that Florida is a popular destination among travelers. Not just a seasonal destination, it’s one that can be enjoyed year-round. If there’s a travel experience you want, you can likely find it in Florida. From back roads lined with orange groves and pristine beaches to vibrant city life and colonial historic districts, Florida has it all, offering picturesque experiences at every turn. With so many opportunities, this is one vacation where travelers don’t want to leave their cameras behind. However, with limited time at their disposal, travelers can often miss out on some of the best photo opportunities. To help travelers find those picture-perfect moments on their Florida vacation, we’ve put together a handy photo guide on where best to capture those lifetime memories.

ROMANCE: SUNRISE/SUNSET With coastlines that face both the east and west, you have the best of both worlds at 34

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

SUNSET AT PANAMA CITY BEACH

variety of open-air bars along the Middle Florida Keys that look out over the water as the sun drops below the horizon. They can then wrap up their romantic evening dancing to the sounds of live music at bars located throughout the Florida Keys.

QUIRKY: EXPLORING WILDLIFE IN THE WETLANDS Just off Florida’s pristine beaches visitors will find one of the most unique parts of Florida: ROSEATE SPOONBILLS

your fingertips in Florida. Begin your day with a mimosa in hand as the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean and conclude your day with a margarita as the sun sets on the Gulf of Mexico. For a slice of Caribbean life, there’s the Florida Keys, where it’s convenient and accessible to witness both the sunrise and sunset in one day. Couples in search of the perfect sunset can find a wide

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB; CHICCO7/DREAMSTIME; ST. AUGUSTINE, PONTE VEDRA & THE BEACHES VCB; PANAMA CITY BEACH CVB; LEE COUNTY VCB; PANAMA CITY BEACH CVB

Capture

PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES


beaches and state parks to pristine island beaches and birdwatching reserves. In southern Florida, there are even several clothing-optional beaches. It’s wise to have your camera handy at all times, as the best photo opportunities along Florida’s beaches are usually very spontaneous and momentary. For instance, a pair of dolphins may jump out of the water just beyond the break, a crab may surface for a breath of fresh air, or female sea turtles may waddle ashore to lay their eggs. Many beaches in the Miami area bustle year-round however, if you prefer a more secluded beach, consider the Florida Keys to the south or the Northwest Florida beaches, such as Grayton Beach State Park and St. George Island.

DISNEY PARADE IN FRONT OF CINDERELLA CASTLE

CARRIAGE TOUR IN ST. AUGUSTINE

the wetlands. Characterized by sawgrass prairies, swamps and marshes, Florida is home to nearly a quarter of America’s wetlands, most of which are found in the Everglades of southern Florida. Parts of the Everglades remain unspoiled thereby offering avid photographers unique opportunities to spot a variety of wildlife in their natural habitats. Several hundred species of birds are found there, as well as alligators, crocodiles, panthers, flamingos and manatees. Cameras with a quality zoom lens are highly recommended for excursions into the Everglades since much of the wildlife can only be viewed from a distance on board a boat.

attraction, since it has so many picturesque locations, including Cinderella Castle, Epcot, Splash Mountain and Main Street. Cinderella Castle is probably the most photographed attraction in Disney World. The Magic Kingdom’s castle was modeled on several different European castles, including the Neuschwanstein 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace in Germany, which is often referred to as Cinderella Castle. PARASAILING

FAMILY FUN: DISNEY WORLD For many children, Disney is the be-all and end-all. And Florida’s Disney World is the largest resort of its kind in the world. It’s difficult to narrow down the best photo opportunities at Disney World to just one

CLASSIC: ST. AUGUSTINE A portion of the Northeast Florida coastline is referred to as the Historic Coast or the First Coast. Here travelers will find St. Augustine, the oldest city in the USA, and a classic destination for photographers. Dating back 500 years to when Spanish explorers first claimed the territory, this colonial city features several historic landmarks that must be visited, including Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the US. Built in the late 1600s, this waterfront fortress has endured multiple battles and wars. Many colonial buildings and homes still stand in St. Augustine, most of which line St. George Street. Lastly, a drive across the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island brings visitors to the St. Augustine Lighthouse, an iconic and active Florida lighthouse that is more than a century old.

SCENIC: BEACH HOPPING Florida could hardly be called the Sunshine State if it weren’t for its many sun-bleached beaches. Boasting more than 650 miles of beaches, the state consistently ranks high among the top USA beach destinations. Travelers can find any type of beach to fit their interests, from secluded private

FEATURED LINKS Disney World | disneyworld.disney.go.com Everglades National Park | nps.gov/ever Florida Keys | fla-keys.com St. Augustine | floridashistoriccoast.com

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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ARTS AND CULTURE

Pearls of

THE SUNSHINE STATE BY SUSAN B. BARNES

F

or a state filled with 663 miles of beaches, theme parks featuring mice, boy wizards, killer whales, LEGOs and space travel, it may be surprising to learn there are also world-famous museums and myriad cultural gems in Florida. Here’s a look at a few that ought not to be missed during a visit, wherever travel plans may take you.

The world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany art is found at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum in Winter Park, just outside of Orlando. Impressive works of art include the chapel interior Tiffany designed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, not to mention the leaded-glass windows and lamps. Also in Winter Park, the Rollins Cornell Fine Arts Museum features a combination of original and traveling exhibitions, from early Renaissance to contemporary, which means ever-changing exhibits. Be sure to check out the museum’s permanent collection, including works by Matisse and Picasso. Designed by San Francisco architect Stanley Saitowitz, the Tampa Museum of Art building is artwork unto itself. Step inside and find galleries filled with changing exhibits to suit everyone’s tastes. A year ago, the Dalí Museum made a huge splash in the arts world with the opening of its 20,000-square-foot museum dedicated to the world’s most comprehensive collection of masterpieces by the artist himself, including 96 oil paintings; more than 100 watercolors and drawings; and 1,300 36

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

THE ORLANDO BALLET

graphics, photos, sculptures and objets d’art. The surrealism begins even before you walk through the door. The Armed Forces Military Museum in Largo is 35,000 square feet of permanent, interactive exhibits, including replicas of wartime scenarios, from World War I to the Korean War. Though its name is most commonly associated with circuses, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, built in the late 1920s, is a stunning collection of American, Asian and European masterworks, including Rubens, van Dyck, Velázques, Titian, El Greco and more. And, yes, a circus museum. Railroad tycoon Henry Flagler was instrumental in developing south Florida, and his hotels helped establish tourism in the state. The Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach—Florida’s first museum—is a testament to Flagler’s history and the Gilded Age. The Patty & Jay Baker Naples Museum of Art, open seasonally (October through June), is 30,000 square feet spread over three stories with 15 galleries and a glass-

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT ORLANDO; VISIT TAMPA BAY; VISIT ORLANDO

BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER


THE NEW DALÍ MUSEUM IN TAMPA

JERSEY BOYS

ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE The Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach is home to not only a series of Broadway shows, but also the London Symphony Orchestra, the Daytona Beach Symphony Society and the Daytona Beach Civic Ballet.

Broadway-caliber shows often make their way to the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, not to mention comedians and musical acts, delighting audiences time and again. With Music Director Stefan Sanderling at

dome conservatory. The entrance gates are by metal artist Albert Paley and, once inside, look up to see chandeliers by glass artist Dale Chihuly. Inside the galleries you’ll find world-class paintings, sculpture and drawings. The largest museum in Florida, the Norton Museum of Art in Naples is internationally known for its permanent collection. Visitors are amazed by the 19th- and 20th-century Chinese, European and American works of art, not to mention contemporary art and photography.

ANNUAL EVENTS MARCH Gasparilla International Film Festival Miami International Film Festival APRIL Florida Film Festival Palm Beach International Film Festival Sarasota Film Festival OCTOBER Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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TIFFANY CHAPEL IN WINTER PARK

the helm, The Florida Orchestra is considered one of the best in America, and performs nearly 100 concerts annually throughout Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater boasts near-perfect acoustics and has

received rave reviews from artists, technicians and audiences through the years. Built in 1936, the Martin Theatre in Panama City has gone through a renaissance of its own—including being a shooting gallery—and today sets the stage for live productions.

TAMPA THEATRE

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2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: SARASOTA CVB; VISIT ORLANDO; TAMPA THEATRE; VISIT ORLANDO

THE JOHN AND MABLE RINGLING MUSEUM OF ART

ARTS AND CULTURE


THE SILVER SCREEN The Florida Theatre in Jacksonville is a terrific introduction to movie palaces built throughout the state in the late 1920s, many of which feature Mediterranean-influenced design with balconies, windows, columns, fountains and night skies with twinkling “stars” overhead. Seeing a movie or concert at the Tampa Theatre is a magical experience. Definitely arrive early to the 1926 theater for a Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ performance before the main event. Built in 1928 by J.E. Casale, the Polk Theatre in Lakeland stays true to the movie palace splendor. Independent feature films, cult classics and live musical performances fit the bill at this glorious old movie palace. The Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Miami is another such gem. In addition to feature films, the 1926 theater hosts live performances, and community and social events. For more than 25 years, the Enzian Theater in Orlando has been dedicated to connecting the community with independent feature films and providing a venue for intimate musical performances. Its com-

ORLANDO SCIENCE CENTER

munity outreach is cemented with its hosting of several festivals, including producing the acclaimed Florida Film Festival.

WEIRD SCIENCE With its space exploration, extreme weather and biodiversity, it’s no wonder that several reputable science museums are found throughout the state.

Hands-on, interactive exhibits, laser and star shows, and even IMAX theaters will delight kids. Check out the Museum of Science & History in Jacksonville, Orlando Science Center, Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, South Florida Science Museum in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science, or the Miami Science Museum.

David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts | strazcenter.org Enzian Theater | enzian.org Florida Orchestra | floridaorchestra.org Henry Morrison Flagler Museum | flaglermuseum.us Martin Theatre | martintheatre.com Miami Science Museum | miamisci.org

FEATURED LINKS

Museum of Discovery & Science | mods.org Museum of Science & History | themosh.org Museum of Science and Industry | mosi.org

Experience One of America’s Great House Museums

Norton Museum of Art | norton.org Olympia Theater | gusmancenter.org Orlando Science Center | osc.org Patty & Jay Baker Naples Museum of Art | thephil.org/museum/museum.html Peabody Auditorium | peabodyauditorium.org Polk Theatre | polktheatre.org Rollins Cornell Fine Arts Museum | rollins.edu/cfam

A National Historic Landmark

“An absolute must-see” ~ National Geographic Traveler

Ruth Eckerd Hall | rutheckerdhall.com South Florida Science Museum | sfsm.org Tampa Museum of Art | tampamuseum.org

Start here to learn who invented modern Florida

Tampa Theatre | tampatheatre.org The Armed Forces Military Museum | armedforcesmuseum.com The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum | morsemuseum.org The Dalí Museum | thedali.org

(561) 655-2833 ZZZÁDJOHUPXVHXPXV

The Florida Theatre | floridatheatre.com The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art | ringling.org

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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ARCHITECTURE AND GARDENS

ENTRANCE TO CHARLES AND EDITH RINGLING'S WINTER RETREAT IN SARASOTA

WORKS OF Beauty BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN

A

dmiring lovely architecture and gardens, sometimes separately and oftentimes together, can easily be done throughout Florida and the state is proud of the attractions and structures offering such beauty. Many feature indigenous flora and fauna found only in the Sunshine State and buildings that were built by world-renowned architects and even some homegrown ones.

From the state’s southernmost tip in the Florida Keys to West Palm Beach, historic architecture and garden viewing possibilities are endless. Key West’s conch architecture, evident by tin roofs, woodframe structures, wraparound verandahs and porches with intricate gingerbread woodcarvings, is evident during any stroll around the area. The best way to take it all in and learn about the history is on biking or walking tours. Many 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. Admiring the wealth of vibrant bougainvilleas, especially around 40

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

LEFT TO RIGHT: STEVE CARROLL/SHUTTERSTOCK, STEPHEN ORSILLO/SHUTTERSTOCK

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA


Islamorada, is another must during a drive through the Keys. Although Miami’s South Beach is known mainly for beaches and a thriving nightlife, the art deco architecture is another reason 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. 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

chid collection is one of the largest in the southeastern USA. 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 has served as a bank, trading post, post office and town hall. In Boca Raton, Mizner Park and Royal Palm Place have a refreshing, resort-like atmosphere where you can shop, dine and unwind at the art museum, cinema or outdoor amphitheater. Addison Mizner was the visionary behind Boca Raton. His American

COLORFUL SPANISH-INFLUENCED BUILDINGS OVERLOOK THE WATER IN TROPICAL NAPLES

hammock. 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. At Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in the heart of lovely Coral Gables/Pinecrest is an 83-acre garden, which opened in 1938 with extensive collections of palms, cycads, flowering trees, tropical fruit trees, vines and succulents. Yearly events, such as the annual Ramble in November and Orchid Festival in March, are two of the best known and well attended. Built in 1920 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fort Lauderdale’s Bonnet House Museum & Gardens was the winter home of artists Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett. The whimsical, bright yellow home features their original decorative flourishes, artwork and furnishings. The 35-acre grounds preserve the area’s natural barrier island habitat as well as structured areas that were added by the Bartletts. The estate’s or-

resort architecture with its Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival style left an indelible stamp on South Florida, and, specifically Boca Raton. Finally, travel to Japan 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. 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.

WEST COAST The Edison & Ford Winter Estates are the area’s No. 1 historical attraction. Tour the inventor’s 1886 14-acre riverfront estate and laboratory as well as one of the most complete botanical gardens in the US featuring hundreds of rare plants and trees from around the

world. Next door, the three-acre winter home of automobile industrialist Henry Ford includes a display of Ford vehicles dating back to 1914. In addition, a museum showcases many of Edison’s patents and more antique vehicles. The site is listed among the 10 most visited historic venues in the US. Or, tour the one-of-a-kind Art of the Olympians Museum and the Al Oerter Center of Excellence where visitors have the opportunity to view art created by worldwide Olympic athletes. Located in downtown Fort Myers, the museum showcases 125 pieces of diverse artwork by such famed Olympians as ice skater Peggy Fleming and sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner. The venue marks the fulfillment of Olympians and Olympic enthusiasts, who along with the late, fourtime consecutive gold medalist and Fort Myers Beach resident, Al Oerter, sought to use their passion for art and sports to create an arena to celebrate excellence. 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 36-year-old Selby Gardens are a 14-acre wonder nestled amongst 12 buildings along a brick-laid path and feature seven greenhouses, which house thousands of colorful and exotic plants. Hibiscus, tropical fruits, ferns, bonsai, cacti, succulents and bromeliads all share space here along with bamboo and banyan groves. The 71-year-old Sarasota Jungle Gardens have the distinction of being one of the oldest continuously-run attractions in the state. Over the years, the lush 10-acre property has become home to a koi pond, open lagoons, a tiki garden and an area called Gardens of Christ. A massive collection of trees and cacti includes the rare Australian nut tree, a bunya bunya tree, strangler figs, royal palms, red maples, bald cypress and Florida’s largest-known Norfolk Island pine. The Sarasota School of Architecture is the ultimate representation of works by master Florida architects Ralph Twitchell, Paul Rudolph, Mark Hampton, Victor Lundy and Gene Leedy. Their designs are pure regional southern architecture where the use of patios, verandahs, modular construction and raised floors allowed for greater ventilation while the flat-roofed buildings created a minimalist look. For 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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ARCHITECTURE AND GARDENS

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2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

rose and are home to a variety of wildlife, including alligators.

CENTRAL FLORIDA Orlando and Lakeland, neighboring Central Florida areas, have a variety of gardens and an impressive collection of works by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the fathers of Florida architecture. Orlando’s Harry P. Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical park, boast the third-largest camellia collection in America and include the Leu House Museum, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The herb and vegetable garden, palm, bamboo, cycad gardens and the state’s largest formal rose garden are added bonuses. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales features Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr.-designed gardens, a 205-foot tower and a majestic 60bell carillon. In flat Florida the gardens are adjacent to Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge, which at 298 feet above sea level, is one of the state’s highest hills. The gardens feature a reflecting pool and, on the grounds, there is the threequarter-mile Pine Ridge Trail in the Pine MAIN HOUSE AND GARDENS AT VIZCAYA IN SOUTH MIAMI

TOP TO BOTTOM: TOMAZ KUNST/SHUTTERSTOCK, WILLIAM SILVER/SHUTTERSTOCK

more than 60 examples of modern architecture, the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau offers a guidebook for $10 that is a self-guided driving tour. In St. Petersburg there are a couple of attractions starting with The Dalí Museum, which is the permanent home of the most comprehensive collection of this great Spanish artist’s works. Dedicated almost solely to Dalí, the museum’s mission is to protect and preserve this unique collection, making it available for the enjoyment and education of all. The Museum also features temporary exhibits by other artists relating to Dalí and surrealism. In December 2008, Salvador Dalí Museum officials broke ground on a new $35-million facility, situated along the Tampa Bay waterfront. The new 66,450-square-foot facility was designed by world-renowned architect, Yann Weymouth, who assisted with the renovations at the Louvre in Paris. Opened to the public in January 2011, the building itself is visually iconic—with a geodesic glass structure enclosing the foyer, a grand helix staircase in the building’s center and an outlook to the east with magnificent, palm-flanked views of yachts moored in Florida’s largest municipal marina framed by Tampa Bay in the distance. A giant boulder from Dalí’s native Spain, a versatile theater and separate classrooms for expanded educational sessions are also prominently featured. The new Dalí has further enriched the visitor’s experience by more than doubling the size of the old venue and adding 50 percent more gallery space, both for visiting exhibitions and for the permanent Dalí collection, which comprises more than 2,100 pieces, including 96 oil paintings. The Sunken Gardens are a botanical paradise in the midst of a bustling city. As St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum, this 100year-old garden displays some of the oldest tropical plants in the region. Stroll along meandering paths, lush with exotic plants from around the world. Explore cascading waterfalls, beautiful demonstration gardens, more than 50,000 tropical plants and flowers and enjoy a butterfly encounter. At the Florida Botanical Gardens there are 150 acres of formal gardens, scenic landscapes and natural habitats. More than 25 gardens include tropical, daylily, bromeliad, butterfly and

FORT JEFFERSON, DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK, FLORIDA KEYS


School House, Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum, Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monument are just some examples. And the most recognizable gardens are housed at the Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth Park, a 15-acre park where landscaped gardens, living history exhibits and a spring house pay homage to founding Spanish colonists, Timucua Indians and Ponce de Leon’s famed fountain of youth. North of St. Augustine, Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, located on the historic St. Johns River, features rare horticultural specimens shaded by a canopy of mature live oak trees and a wealth of sculptures, arbors, fountains and reflecting pools.

NORTH CENTRAL

NORTHEAST FLORIDA St. Augustine, the state’s oldest city, is so filled with historic architecture that, merely walking through its heart, it’s evident Spanish architecture dating back to the conquistador days is prevalent everywhere. Narrow brickpaved streets weave through a multitude of historic buildings. The Oldest Wooden

FEATURED LINKS

Ridge Nature Preserve. The eight-acre, 20room Mediterranean Revival mansion known as Pinewood Estate is another centerpiece. Located on Mirror Lake, Hollis Garden in Lakeland is a 1.2-acre botanical garden with a lovely gazebo structure surrounded by covered and open-air walkways and winding garden paths filled with flowering plants, ornamental shrubs and historic trees. Florida Southern College, also in Lakeland, has the largest single-site collection—10 buildings and two additional structures within the campus—of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world, the most likely reason why the college is on the National Register of Historic Places. Lloyd Wright came to FSC with the intention of creating an architectural wonder within a campus setting in an effort to contribute his concept of unifying organic architecture. Light-filled, flat-roofed modern structures with plenty of breezeways—his signature style—fill the college campus. Finally, visit the new 600-foot Wing WalkAir zip line attraction at Lakeland’s Fantasy of Flight where visitors can take hotair balloon rides, biplane flights and get a breathtaking overall view of the area.

In Florida’s capital of Tallahassee, two gardens shouldn’t be missed. Surrounded by heirloom roses and daffodils planted in bulb lawns, the Goodwood Museum & Gardens features an 1830s estate with some of the oldest frescoed ceilings in Florida. The Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park was planted in 1923 and now displays more than 200 floral varieties including azalea and camellia plants along a brick walkway, in a secret garden and in a walled garden. Panama City Beach has a new attraction. The Conservation Park and Gayle’s Trails, a 3,000-acre conservation park complete with walking and biking trails, boardwalks, bridges and picnic areas, is surrounded by colorful and vibrant flora and fauna.

Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park | floridastateparks.org/maclaygardens Art of the Olympians Museum | artoftheolympians.com Bok Tower Gardens | boktowergardens.org Bonnet House Museum & Gardens | bonnethouse.org Conservation Park and Gayle’s Trails | pcbgov.com/conservation-park.htm Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens | cummer.org Edison & Ford Winter Estates | edisonfordwinterestates.org Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden | fairchildgarden.org Florida Botanical Gardens | flbg.org Florida Southern College | franklloydwrightatfsc.com Goodwood Museum & Gardens | goodwoodmuseum.org Harry P. Leu Gardens | leugardens.org Historic Stranahan House Museum | stranahanhouse.org Hollis Garden | lakelandgov.net/parkrec/HollisGarden.aspx Key West Garden Club and the Joe Allen Garden | keywestgardenclub.com Marie Selby Botanical Gardens | selby.org Miami Design Preservation League | mdpl.org Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens | morikami.org Sarasota Jungle Gardens | sarasotajunglegardens.com Sarasota School of Architecture | sarasotaarchitecturalfoundation.org Spanish Monastery | spanishmonastery.com St. Augustine | floridashistoriccoast.com Sunken Gardens | stpete.org/sunken The Dalí Museum | thedali.org Vizcaya Museum & Gardens | vizcayamuseum.org

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Feast

DINING

DINING IN NAPLES

ON THIS

T

ake a culinary tour through the state of Florida to discover the immense diversity of restaurants from the southernmost tip to the northern regions. Whether it’s casual dining, gastropub fare, sustainable eats or traditional steak and chops, the Sunshine State serves up something for every taste and flavor.

SOUTHEAST One thing the Florida Keys are known for is the vast amount of restaurants that will cook a customer’s catch. After all, fishing is practically a national pastime there and the ocean offers a bounty of good food. The number of appetizing spots from northernmost Key Largo to southernmost Key West is too many to mention however several stand out. At Fish House Encore in Key Largo the food is exceptional, especially when they cook a fresh catch. The lionfish on the menu is another popular item, and the lively piano bar makes for a special evening out. At Marathon’s Keys Fisheries, the upstairs bar is the best place to savor fresh and hot stone crabs caught straight from their crab traps. 44

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In Key West, Hogfish Bar will cook your catch and also features a great hogfish sandwich. And best of all, it is located on outer Key West on Stock Island. A piece of old Key West is found at Safe Harbour Marina, where shrimp boats and salvager Mel Fisher’s shipwreck boats passing by create the ideal atmosphere. Miami is known as a mecca for fantastic restaurants that offer both ultra-elegant and simple ambiance and food. Downtown Miami’s Tobacco Road apSTONE CRAB DINNER

propriately-called road burgers are juicy; their signature Caesar salad with or without grilled chicken is also a good choice; and their specials of the day are always worth a try. Most places around the trendy Miami Design District make the grade however Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink is tops for its ever-evolving menu of fresh items. Dishes consist of locally-caught seafood, locally-grown vegetables and creative items such as pizza topped with Spanish items like chorizo sausage and manchego cheese. MOJITO

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BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN


At Sustain the name says it all. This restaurant’s main focus is to serve up seasonal dishes that are the freshest and most delicious possible so the menu is never the same. Everything is prepared with only fresh vegetables and fruits in an effort to support local farmers. When it comes to the nightlife scene in Miami the Latin explosion has reached an all-time high. Local bands like Suenalo, Conjunto Progreso, Palo and others bring their unique Latin sound to the stages at Pax in the Brickell area and The Stage in the Design District. Offering everything from great burger places to retro restaurants and the newest concept of dark dining, Fort Lauderdale’s got it all. At Market 17, a farm-to-table organic food approach is in full swing. Careful attention is paid to serving food free of hormones, pesticides, chemicals and raised from sustainable sources. 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. Also in Fort Lauderdale, since 1956, people have flocked to the Mai-Kai restaurant to watch Polynesian dancers and to dine among tiki torches under a thatched roof. Cantonese and American dishes, many featuring tropical fruits and including seafood and steaks, are the main draw on the menu. At Le Tub Saloon in Hollywood, the question posed is “Can you pass the Le Tub test?” The challenge is to eat their juicy, thick and delicious burger in one bite. The decor is quirky with claw-footed bathtubs and hand-painted sinks. It’s been featured in GQ Magazine and on the Oprah Winfrey Show. At Palm Beach’s luxurious boutique Chesterfield Hotel, the “New American” gourmet cuisine menu at their Leopard Lounge and Restaurant features such classics as Kobe beef mini burgers, lobster salad, rack of lamb and New York strip. Along famous Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, where nightlife is king, there are several outstanding restaurants including Pistache French Bistro and Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar. The elegant Pistache’s menu is filled with all the French classics including foie gras, paté, crepes, escargot, steak tartare and

chicken paillard. At Rocco’s the colorful interior and decor match a menu filled with authentic favorites such as tacos filled with chorizo, slow-roasted pork and grilled skirt steak, enchiladas and chimichangas along with an incredible tequila bar to wash it all down. Other area favorites include Buccan in Palm Beach, a progressive American grill with an emphasis on market-available ingredients (the menu items change daily, weekly and seasonally to maintain their sustainable approach) and Jupiter’s Guanabanas, an open-air seafood restaurant in a lush tropical setting complete with cool cocktails and live music.

ered in buttons serve up good food and nostalgia. Tropical drinks, local seafood, choice cuts of prime rib, pork and poultry are on the menu. The zany decor for which this establishment is famous includes memorabilia from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. A seven-foot Mickey Mouse is from a 1930s Disney parade float. A Santa workshop is from a Macy’s Department Store window. And this is only the beginning. A couple of standouts in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area include Parkshore Grill and Palm Pavilion Bar & Grill. Parkshore, one of the area’s newest restaurants, is highly recommended for lunch WINE CELLAR AT THE COLUMBIA RESTAURANT IN YBOR CITY

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. In the Sarasota area, Owen’s Fish Camp has a low country boil dish, along with several selections such as Naked Fish; baskets filled with your choice of fish ’n chips, fried oysters or shrimp; and fish tacos with green salsa and spicy Baja sauce. For delicious burgers, try El Cap, a small burger dive bar. And for the best hot dogs (Travel Channel’s Man v. Food went here), the Old Salty Dog is a must. 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 generous portions and famous homemade cakes. Bubble scouts dressed in khaki uniforms cov-

or dinner. Outdoor diners sit along the sidewalk overlooking Straub Park and the Vinoy Yacht Basin. Indoor patrons are surrounded by rich mahogany columns with iridescent mosaic tiles and a mahogany bar with twin waterfalls all overlooking a gourmet open kitchen. At the Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar, situated directly on Clearwater Beach, an open-air deck provides casual dining inside or out as well as live entertainment.

CENTRAL EAST Famous for the Daytona 500 and a beach on which people can drive, Daytona Beach offers plenty of good restaurants. At Ronin Sushi + Sake Bar, the extensive fresh made-to-order sushi menu is colorful, healthy and varied with Nigiri, hand rolls, combinations and multi-piece rolls. Wash it all down by choosing from a wide variety of beers and sake. At The Cellar Restaurant, the focus is on Italian food and wine. Homemade pasta 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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DINING dishes of linguini, ravioli, fettuccini, rigatoni and gnocchi share room on the menu with a few risottos. For meat lovers, they feature veal scallopini, braised lamb shank, rack of lamb and filet mignon while seafood lovers can choose from a selection of snapper, shrimp and salmon dishes on the list. A wide choice of wines mainly from Italy and California is also offered.

CENTRAL The 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 martinis and fine dining.

CENTRAL WEST Tampa’s best spot is Bern’s Steakhouse, one of the top-rated restaurants in the country, serving stellar lamb, beef, veal, pork, poultry and shellfish. However, most people come here for the steak, the incredible sides featuring locally-grown charcoal-grilled or steamed vegetables, French onion soup au gratin and the steak house salad.

NORTHEAST Santa Maria Restaurant is a waterfront classic in St. Augustine where it’s as much fun to dine on great food as it is to feed the fish from the table. The menu includes such items as fried catfish; blackened, broiled or fried fish sand46

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

DINING IN DOWNTOWN NAPLES

wiches; clam strips; or non-seafood items like rib eye, blackened chicken and burgers. In the historic district, the quaint Prince of Wales Restaurant serves up English-style beef burgers, beef and Guinness pie, bangers ’n mash and cottage pie. Jacksonville’s long-standing Clark’s Fish Camp Seafood Restaurant, known as “The People’s Place,” has been cranking out su-

perb food for three decades. Aside from oysters topped every which way, a southern-favorite fried okra, and adventurous appetizers such as gator, rabbit and frogs’ legs, they also stuff and charbroil a variety of fish, offer platters and baskets and serve up meat for non-seafood lovers. In Cocoa Beach it’s easy to grab a bite but not get bitten at the Shark Pit, located inside the Cocoa Beach Surf Company. The draw here is dining alongside a tank full of real circling sharks. Entrées include pork chops and mahi mahi, tons of brick-oven pizzas topped with buffalo chicken wings, shrimp scampi and barbecued pulled pork.

NORTH CENTRAL Known as the state’s capital, Tallahassee also has several tasty restaurant offerings. The hot dogs have it at Dog Et Al where there are 10,230 different ways to fix a hot dog. They’ve even got a mathematical equation on their website to prove their claim. This place likes to have fun with names and ingredients,

TOP TO BOTTOM: JORG HACKEMANN/SHUTTERSTOCK; VISIT KISSIMMEE; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

GAYLORD PALMS PIAZZA IN ORLANDO


JERRY'S FAMOUS DELI IN MIAMI

strip steaks as well as fresh Maine lobsters. The interior features a 25,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and piano bar. For something simpler there’s Liza’s Kitchen, a gourmet sandwich spot located across from the beach. Known for making everything from scratch, including their focaccia bread, soups and salad dressings, this is also a great place to take cooking classes with Executive Chef Mike Meek. Pensacola’s McGuire’s Irish Pub is located

in the city’s original 1927 firehouse and, at last count, it had $700,000 worth of single bills signed by patrons and dotting the restaurant’s interior. Aside from their USDA prime steaks such as New York strip, bonein rib eye and filet mignon, the Food Network featured their $100 burger with caviar and champagne as well as the garbage burger with wasabi, peanut butter and ice cream to name a few of the ingredients— even the menu calls it disgusting.

FEATURED LINKS SOUTHEAST Buccan, Palm Beach | buccanpalmbeach.com Chesterfield Hotel, Palm Beach | chesterfieldpb.com Fish House Encore, Key Largo | fishhouse.com Hogfish Bar, Key West | hogfishbar.com Jupiter’s Guanabanas, Palm Beach | guanabanas.com Keys Fisheries, Marathon | keysfisheries.com Le Tub Saloon, Hollywood | theletub.com Mai-Kai, Fort Lauderdale | maikai.com Market 17, Fort Lauderdale | market17.net Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, Miami | michaelsgenuine.com Pax, Miami | paxmiami.com Pistache French Bistro, West Palm Beach | pistachewpb.com Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar, West Palm Beach | roccostacos.com Sustain, Miami | sustainmiami.com The Stage, Miami | thestagemiami.com Tobacco Road, Miami | tobacco-road.com

with titles like “Down to the Earth dogs” where hot dogs called little dog, big dog, super dog, Big Foot dog are listed. There’s also an “Uppity Dogs” choice, which includes a turkey dog, smoked sausage dog and more. Following the gastropub movement are the folks at Midtown Filling Station where casual comfort food with a rock ’n’ roll influence makes up the menu. Roasted poblano mac ’n cheese, drunken taters and sandwiches bearing such names as the Dang Hippie, Train Wreck and The Jam give clues to their love of music here. Grabbing a bite at a museum can be a treat at the Goodwood Museum’s Fanny’s Garden Café. Housed in a Colonial Revivalstyle building, fresh soups, salads, sandwiches and a kids’ menu make it a perfect spot for lunch.

NORTHWEST In Panama City, Saltwater Grill serves up hand-cut, hickory-grilled, succulent filet mignon, rib eye, top sirloin and New York

SOUTHWEST Bubble Room, Captiva Island | bubbleroomrestaurant.com Old Salty Dog, Sarasota | theoldsaltydog.com Owen’s Fish Camp, Sarasota | owensfishcamp.com Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar, St. Petersburg/Clearwater | palmpavilion.com Parkshore Grill, St. Petersburg/Clearwater | parkshoregrill.com Sign of the Mermaid, Anna Maria Island | signofthemermaidonline.com CENTRAL EAST Ronin Sushi + Sake Bar, Daytona Beach | roninsushiandbar.com The Cellar Restaurant, Daytona Beach | thecellarrestaurant.com CENTRAL The Route 46 Entertainment District, Seminole County | route-46.com CENTRAL WEST Bern’s Steakhouse, Tampa | bernssteakhouse.com NORTHEAST Clark’s Fish Camp Seafood Restaurant, Jacksonville | clarksfishcamp.com Cocoa Beach Surf Company | cocoabeachsurfcompany.com Prince of Wales Restaurant, St. Augustine | theprinceofwalesstaugustine.com Santa Maria Restaurant, St. Augustine | santamariarestaurant.com NORTH CENTRAL Dog Et Al, Tallahassee | dogetal.com Goodwood Museum’s Fanny’s Garden Café, Tallahassee | goodwoodmuseum.org/cafe.php Midtown Filling Station, Tallahassee | midtownfillingstation.com NORTHWEST Liza’s Kitchen, Panama City | lovelizas.com McGuire’s Irish Pub, Pensacola | mcguiresirishpub.com Saltwater Grill, Panama City | saltwatergrillpcb.com

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FAMILY VACATIONS

THE CHEETAH HUNT COASTER AT BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY

Action-packed

PLAYGROUNDS BY KATE POCOCK

W

ithout a doubt, today’s youngsters crave excitement. And Florida delivers. Not only do the state’s famous theme parks (such as the new LEGOLAND Florida) attract enthusiastic families, but kids will also thrill to spooky ghost walks in historic St. Augustine, zip lining over live alligators, standing beside a massive rocket at the Kennedy Space Center, or hunting for geocache treasures on Amelia Island. For parents, equally marvelous are familyfriendly eateries and accommodation for every pocketbook—from mom-and-pop motels or camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort to upscale beachfront resorts featuring kids’ camps. Add sports and spas mixed with hours of sunshine, sand and surf, a growing number of interactive museums and eco pursuits, superb golf and fishing venues, historical attractions and amazing nature experiences, and the result is the ultimate family playground for all ages. 48

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

SAND AND SEA Thankfully, thousands of miles of sunbathed beaches provide hours of low-cost family enjoyment. Perfect for young swimmers is the rip-tide-free Fort Myers Beach where the shoreline gently slopes into warm, emerald-green waters. Youngsters can also build sandcastles at Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota where the stretch of shoreline boasts some of the finest, whitest sand in the world for tiny toes. Sanibel Island beaches are world-renowned for shell collecting; spy a cockle heart shell or giant conch in the sand. For kite flying and surfboarding, Sebastian Inlet State Park’s three-mile-long shoreline is perfect, while aspiring surfers can head to Cocoa Beach or Daytona Beach for lessons. Parents are welcome too! Off the upper northeast coast on Amelia Island, families ramp up the fun with guided horseback rides on the beach.


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY; BOB KRIST/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU; VISIT FLORIDA

ECO ADVENTURES But it’s not just the ocean shoreline that attracts. Florida also offers more than 11,000 miles of rivers, streams and waterways inland, including water routes within Everglades National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Sign up for a zippy ride on an airboat through the “river of grass” to see turtles, alligators and more, or splash through the swamp on a Swamp Buggy ecotour. More hands-on tours come with new boat-assisted trips where guides transport parents, offspring and kayaks into remote areas of the park to paddle near manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, alligators and croco-

Tampa Bay, home to more than 500 bottlediles. Touch a mangrove plant or spot white ADVENTURE LANDING/JACKSONVILLE BEACH • VISIT FLORIDA® nosed dolphins. Bring binoculars to see pelicans; best time to go is November dolphins at play, manatees and marine birds. through May. Finally, a new and thrilling marine advenAt the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs ture, The Grand Reef, has opened at Wildlife State Park, find manatees; the reOrlando’s Discovery Cove (sister park of habilitation facility looks after the injured Busch Gardens Tampa). In a mega-gallon and orphaned. Or get even closer—snorkel reef-like lagoon, kids play hide and seek with with Florida’s gentle “sea cows” in nearby thousands of tropical fish, or separated by Crystal River. At the new C.R.O.W., Clinic glass, swim alongside whitetip reef sharks or for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife near the venomous lionfish. J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, junior “vets” follow the cases of birds, reptiles or baby SKY HIGH river otters from admission to diagnosis, to Forty-five minutes east of Orlando on care and release. Florida’s famous Space Coast, the Kennedy Space Center is the only place on Earth where kids can meet an astronaut for lunch, experience space-flight simulators or view a live rocket launch. Next launches for rockets carrying communication satellites into space are scheduled for 2012. Near 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. About halfway between Orlando and Tampa, a vintage aircraft museum attracts

WHAT’S NEW?

A PEACEFUL BEACH SCENE IN FORT MYERS

DOLPHIN RESEARCH CENTER ON MARATHON KEY

MARINE MAMMAL DELIGHTS Probably the most famous marine mammal in Florida is Winter, the spirited dolphin residing at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, who lost her tail in a crab trap, was rescued and fitted with a prosthetic that works. Now visited by thousands who saw the 2011 Dolphin Tale blockbuster movie, she is the focus for education about various rescued mammals such as sea turtles. Pat a stingray, touch a sea urchin, then board the aquarium’s pontoon boat for a floating ecotour in Tampa Bay. At Tampa’s Florida Aquarium (ranked among the top 10 in North America), children from age six can swim with tropical fish while certified scuba divers, ages 15 years and older, cavort with big fish in Shark Bay. The facility also offers Wild Dolphin ecotours into

The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, which opened last year with high-tech pirates, cannon firings and an authentic 17th-century treasure chest, is a huge hit with families. Now zip through 450 years of local history on the waters of Matanzas Bay on El Conquistador, a high-powered speedboat with distinctive Spanish helmets mounted on the exhaust stacks. The exciting and informative ride to pulsing music is thrilling for all ages. Experience “zero to cheetah” speed in a new roller coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (opened May 2011). Inspired by the sprints of cheetahs across the grasslands, the coaster uses the force of magnets to twist and turn, then bursts off again up an incline. After this exhilarating ride, watch one of the park’s 14 resident cheetahs sprint alongside a keeper and learn about the conservation efforts for this magnificent animal. Families can also watch an animal-care expert “cook” a cheetah’s diet in the park’s new Animal Care Center (opening February 2012) or talk to veterinarians as they perform surgery on any of the 2,500 exotic animals on site. Also new for families with kids five and over is a two-hour Serengeti Night Safari. Search for hippos, lions and hyenas under the moonlight. The tour ends with storytelling around a bonfire.

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FAMILY VACATIONS

BIKING IN PARK • VISIT FLORIDA®

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER

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Amelia Island Tourist Development Council | ameliaisland.com Billie Swamp Safari | billieswamp.com Bryan-Gooding Planetarium | moshplanetarium.org Busch Gardens Tampa Bay | buschgardens.com Captain Mike’s Sunshine River Tours | sunshinerivertours.com Clearwater Marine Aquarium | seewinter.com Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife | crowclinic.org Cmon!, Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples | cmon.org Cocoa Beach | cocoabeach.com Discovery Cove Orlando | discoverycove.com El Conquistador Speedboat Thrill Ride & Tour | elconspeedboat.com Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park | homosassasprings.org Everglades Area Tours | evergladesareatours.com Fantasy of Flight | fantasyofflight.com Gatorland | gatorland.com Glazer Children’s Museum | glazermuseum.org G.WIZ–The Science Museum | gwiz.org Jetpack Adventures | jetpackadventures.com Kennedy Space Center | kennedyspacecenter.com LEGOLAND Florida | florida.legoland.com Miami Science Museum | miamisci.org Museum of Arts & Sciences | moas.org Museum of Discovery & Science | mods.org NASA | nasa.gov Orlando Science Center | osc.org Sebastian Inlet State Park | floridastateparks.org/sebastianinlet Seminole Tribe of Florida | semtribe.com South Florida Science Museum | sfsm.org St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park | alligatorfarm.us St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum | thepiratemuseum.com Tampa Museum of Science and Industry | mosi.org The Dalí Museum | thedali.org The Florida Aquarium | flaquarium.org Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum & TICO Airshow | vacwarbirds.org

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

ARTS AND SCIENCE On rainy days, exploration moves indoors to an impressive selection of hands-on science centers and museums. At the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach, kids stare in awe at the newly-restored 13-foot skeleton of a prehistoric giant ground sloth, the most complete skeleton of its species in the world. In the new high-tech Bryan-Gooding Planetarium at the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, see a star show. Or take a simulated ride to Mars at Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Discovery and Science. Scientific hands-on thrills for younger children can be found at the Glazer Museum in Tampa or Cmon!, the new Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples. Already on

LEFT TO RIGHT: SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM; LEGOLAND; THE SHORES RESORT & SPA

FEATURED LINKS

huge crowds at Fantasy of Flight. Donning helmet, goggles and scarf, family members can book 15- or 30-minute sightseeing flights in a vintage biplane over the orange groves of Central Florida. In Key West, teens 16 and older can also blast up over the ocean like James Bond thanks to a new “Jetpack” experience. Flight controls allow “fliers” to take off, make soft turns, hover and land.


MINILAND USA AT LEGOLAND FLORIDA

FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort | omnihotels.com South Seas Island Resort | southseas.com The Shores Resort & Spa | shoresresort.com Walt Disney World Resorts | disneyworld.disney.go.com

ROASTING MARSHMALLOWS

site there is a fantastic 30-foot-tall Banyan Tree climbing structure, topped by a tree house. Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Sarasota and West Palm Beach all provide scientific family enjoyment. 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 work outside Spain. His representations of melting clocks and floating roses tickle the fancy of most kids. Programs include Breakfast with Dalí where children tour specific artworks, and then relish a Spanish-themed buffet. On Saturdays, all ages are invited to “dillydally with Dalí” in family activities.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY SLEEPOVERS Statewide opportunities for interesting sleepovers range from overnights in an authentic chickee hut on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation to cartoon-themed suites at Disney’s new Art of Animation Resort opening May 2012. Nature lovers can bed down at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge where guest rooms overlook wildebeests grazing on the savannah. Beach families appreciate the oceanfront Shores Resort & Spa

in Daytona Beach Shores for s’mores on the beach and a happy family atmosphere or Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort near Jacksonville for its naturalist programs and outdoor activities. Also recommended is South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island for its golf and tennis programs, windsurfing, sailing school, nature and off-site family outings. Yes, Florida resorts know how to please families—with flair. 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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THEME PARKS

Always

BY BARB AND RON KROLL

SOMETHING NEW E

very year brings something new to see and do at Florida’s theme parks. From Universal Orlando Resort’s 3-D Despicable Me experience, Disney’s 3-D Star Wars interactive adventures and SeaWorld’s underwater walking tour to Busch Gardens’ cheetah habitat and the new LEGOLAND theme park, this year is no exception.

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT Universal Orlando Resort is home to two theme parks—Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure—as well as more than 50 great restaurants, a shopping and nighttime entertainment complex called CityWalk 52

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

and three family-friendly hotels, which offer exclusive benefits to theme park guests. Universal Orlando features theme park attractions based on pop culture’s most compelling stories and characters, such as The Simpsons Ride, Shrek 4D and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Each attraction immerses guests in a powerful adventure they can experience with their family and friends. Located within Islands of Adventure, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter brings the wonder, excitement and adventure of the Harry Potter books and films to life. This amazing entertainment experience features

Hogsmeade village, Hogwarts castle, Three Broomsticks restaurant and three great attractions. Located within Hogwarts castle, the attraction Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey allows guests to narrowly escape a dragon attack, have a close encounter with the Whomping Willow, get pulled into a Quidditch match and more. Opening in 2012 are the 3-D Despicable Me experience, with characters from the animated film, and a 3-D high-definition digital animation enhancement of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, with roving-motion-based ride vehicles and live special effects.


ALL ABOARD THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS AT THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO

Located on a separate nearby property, Universal’s 25-acre Wet ’n Wild water park has more themed, multi-person thrill rides than any other water park in Orlando. Wet ’n Wild Orlando’s fun, high-speed family adventures substantiate its “Share the Rush” theme.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT; VISIT ORLANDO

WORLDS OF DISCOVERY SeaWorld Orlando combines marine life education and entertainment with theatrical shows and thrilling rides. In addition to animal encounters, SeaWorld features several exciting whale, sea lion and dolphin shows. The park’s educational and animal interactive program incorporates behind-the-scenes tours where visitors can learn about rescued manatees and swim with highly sociable beluga whales. For thrills, adventuresome types can ride Manta, a flying roller coaster, or don breathing helmets and go underwater to view swimming sharks from the safety of a metal cage. Aquatica, SeaWorld’s South Pacificthemed water park, features wave pools, a tube slide into a dolphin pool, river tubing, waterslides and sandy beaches. At Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive park, families can snorkel with stingrays, feed tropical birds and swim with dolphins. New for 2012 is SeaWorld’s One Oceans killer whale show and Grand Reef at Discovery Cove, where you can snorkel in a fish-filled tropical reef environment and wear dive helmets to take a SeaVenture underwater walking tour.

SPECIAL EVENTS JANUARY–MARCH Busch Gardens Real Music Series

FEBRUARY–MARCH Bands, Brew & BBQ at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens

FEBRUARY–APRIL Universal Studios Mardi Gras

MARCH–MAY Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

MID-APRIL–EARLY MAY SeaWorld’s Viva La Musica Universal Orlando Summer Concert Series

LATE SEPTEMBER–MID-NOVEMBER Epcot Food & Wine Festival

OCTOBER SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular Universal Orlando Resorts Halloween Horror Nights

EARLY NOVEMBER–MID-DECEMBER Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in WDW Magic Kingdom

LATE NOVEMBER–DECEMBER 31 SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration

EARLY DECEMBER–JANUARY 1 Universal Orlando Grinchmas

DECEMBER 31 New Year’s Eve at Busch Gardens

BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY TOP OF THE DROP AT SEAWORLD ORLANDO

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. Park visitors have up-close encounters with exotic animals such as Bengal tigers, hippos, lions, hyenas and orangutans. Thrill rides include a whitewater rafting expedition, an off-road jeep adventure through the wilds of Africa and a watersoaked log flume ride. For ultimate thrills, the SheiKra roller coaster climbs 200 feet, reaches speeds of more than 70 mph and plunges 90 degrees straight down. Shows include a musical featuring Elmo and his friends from Sesame Street and a rock music show with ’50s and ’60s hit tunes. 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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THEME PARKS

DRAGON COASTER AT LEGOLAND

Popular with youngsters is the park’s African-themed playland with rides and shows, as well as meet-and-greets and dining with the characters. Don’t miss the new Cheetah Hunt coaster and Cheetah Run habitat, where you can see these beautiful wild cats up close.

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. Theme park activities 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 Disney’s Animal Kingdom safari. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Star Tours–The Adventures Continue, a new 3-D attraction, brings riders to Star Wars destinations to interact with characters in 50 story variations. Walt Disney World Resort entices families with a nine-hole family-play course, in addition to four 18-hole championship golf courses. All five are certified National Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries. A sand

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Florida’s theme parks | visitflorida.com/theme_parks Aquatica | aquaticabyseaworld.com Busch Gardens Tampa Bay | buschgardens.com Butterfly World | butterflyworld.com Discovery Cove | discoverycove.com Everglades Alligator Farm | everglades.com Gatorland | gatorland.com Jungle Island | jungleisland.com Kennedy Space Center | kennedyspacecenter.com LEGOLAND | florida.legoland.com Lion Country Safari | lioncountrysafari.com Marineland | marineland.net Miami Seaquarium | miamiseaquarium.com Monkey Jungle | monkeyjungle.com SeaWorld Orlando | seaworldorlando.com Silver Springs Nature Park | silversprings.com The Wizarding World of Harry Potter | universalorlando.com/harrypotter Universal Orlando Resort | universalorlando.com Wakulla Springs | floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings Walt Disney World Resort | disneyworld.com Weeki Wachee Springs | weekiwachee.com Wet ’n Wild Orlando | wetnwildorlando.com

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; LEGOLAND; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT ORLANDO

FEATURED LINKS

CAROUSEL


DISCOVERY COVE

trap on the championship Magnolia Course is shaped like Mickey’s head, and an image of the world’s most famous mouse appears on the practice green at Disney’s Osprey Ridge Golf Course. On-property accommodation ranges from upscale hotels to value-priced, themed resorts 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.

DIVERSE THEMES

CHILD AT SKYVENTURE

and dolphins that walk on water. The line between theme parks and zoos blurs at Florida attractions such as Butterfly World, Monkey Jungle, Jungle Island, Everglades Alligator Farm and Lion Country Safari. Touted as the “Alligator Capital of the World,” Gatorland is a protected habitat that combines an alligator and crocodile preserve with an aviary and petting zoo. Reptile shows feature gator wrestling. A new Screamin’ Gator Zip Line attraction offers a high-flying adventure with a swamp nature walk and five zip line rides strung

above giant alligators and crocodiles. The 110-acre theme park also includes the Gator Gully Splash Park and the new White Gator Swamp. Weeki Wachee Springs, near Spring Hill, has live “mermaid” and animal shows, riverboat cruises, flume rides and canoeing and kayaking. Wakulla Springs, near Tallahassee, features wildlife viewing, riverboat tours, nature walks and a historic lodge. At Ocala’s Silver Springs Nature Park, there are glassbottom boat tours, wildlife exhibits, tram rides through the forest, bird shows and botanical gardens.

Located near Winter Haven, LEGOLAND Florida opened in October 2011. The 150acre family theme park features 50 rides, live entertainment and thousands of LEGO models. Its 10 zones include Miniland USA, with LEGO brick versions of Florida, Las Vegas and other cities, and LEGO City, a kidsized town where children can go to driving, flying and boating schools. Shows range from a 4-D theater to a water stunt show. Scheduled to open in time for summer 2012, the LEGOLAND water park will feature a wave pool, Build-A-Raft lazy river, tube and body slides, and an interactive water-play structure—DUPLO Safari. At Kennedy Space Center, visitors can observe massive rockets, tour NASA’s launch sites, blast off in flight simulators and meet a real live astronaut.

MARINE AND WILDLIFE PARKS Among Florida’s many marine and wildlife parks is St. Augustine’s Marineland where visitors can swim with dolphins and join a Trainer-For-A-Day program. Miami Seaquarium features dolphin interactions and exciting shows with performing whales 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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GOLF

HOT AIR BALLOONING OVER A GOLF COURSE RESORT

BY DONNA CARTER

A

s golf destinations go, Florida has it all. With more than 1,400 courses statewide, this land of links features outstanding variety, affordability and some of the world’s most renowned tracks. There is everything from resort courses to championship layouts, oceanfront links and hundreds of mid-tier clubs offering quality play and modest greens fees. Bonus features that help make the Sunshine State the ultimate golf playground include year-round sunshine, balmy weather and an awesome abundance of value-added entertainment.

ONLY IN FLORIDA

FASHIONED FOR FAME

Tee Up For

GOLF 56

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

The words “trophy courses” are music to the ears of golfers devoted to playing tracks with global reputations for superior quality and challenge. With no shortage of stellar links, Florida is a prime destination for discerning golfers as well as those wanting to establish bragging rights. Among the state’s top-rated tracks is TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach. Its Stadium Course is world-renowned and its par-3 island green is among the most famous holes in the realm of golf. Also in the mix is the famous Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami where five championship courses include the legendary Great White and TPC Blue Monster. It’s the rare

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: GARY 718/SHUTTERSTOCK; FLORIDA STOCK/SHUTTERSTOCK

The Sunshine State is home to two important golf complexes that exist nowhere else on the planet. First is the 75,000-square-foot World Golf Hall of Fame located at World Golf Village in the historic town of St. Augustine. Here, the sport’s greatest golfers are celebrated through related artifacts, personal memorabilia and interactive exhibits. The Village also has two championship golf courses plus golf-themed restaurants, a PGA TOUR academy and several vacation hotels both on property and nearby. Also unique to Florida is the international headquarters for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) at Daytona Beach. On-site are two signature golf courses open to the public as well as a state-of-the-art teaching academy that includes three championship practice holes, five putting greens and practice bunkers.


golfer who hasn’t heard of this ultra-challenging duo where multiple tee box placements make it playable for all skill levels. Doral resort packages can be tailored to include golf and spa, plus accommodation at the on-site Marriott Hotel. Likewise in the Miami area, the luxury Turnberry Isle Hotel & Resort has two championship courses—one of them featuring a spectacular island green and a towering waterfall—the stuff trophy tracks are made of.

In Northwest Florida, the Panama City Beach area has long been known for value golf. The state’s central inland region also has oodles of courses where greens fees are exceptionally reasonable. Indeed, modest golf rates can be found throughout the state where visiting golfers can easily find great places to play that are long on quality and short on cost. Not to be overlooked from a value point of view are stay/play packages that drive costs even lower. A BEAUTIFUL FLORIDA COURSE

TIP Discounted golf packages are one of the chief ways to get the best bang for the bucks. Available statewide, they save money and typically feature groups of good courses in close proximity to one another.

stunningly beautiful Ocean Links course on Amelia Island, one of three championship tracks belonging to the Amelia Island Plantation. Five of its holes wind along coastal dunes where views of the ocean and shoreline are memorable. It’s not just coastal Florida where water is part of the game experience. There are more than 7,700 lakes larger than 10 acres hence golfers can expect to find an abundance of tracks featuring plenty of the wet stuff.

TEACHING ACADEMIES

Another of the brightest stars is the newly expanded 27-hole Trump International Golf Club at West Palm Beach. Built by “the Donald,” the course envisioned by the mega-millionaire was to be exceptional in every way. Not surprisingly, it is. Trump International was recently named No. 1 in the state by Florida Golf Magazine. Other high-profile clubs include the Innisbrook Golf Resort near Tarpon Springs, the PGA National at Palm Beach Gardens and the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples.

OCEANSIDE LINKS With water on three sides, Florida’s coastline and offshore islands provide breathtaking settings for a host of courses. Among them is the Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course on the Palm Coast south of St. Augustine. Attached to the upscale Hammock Beach Resort, this dune-fringed masterpiece stretches alongside the Atlantic boasting several oceanside holes that are among the prettiest in Florida. Also, it doesn’t get any better than the

VALUE GOLF

Amelia Island Plantation | aipfl.com

FEATURED LINKS

While Florida boasts scores of high-end links, there are hundreds of others offering excellent golf and modest greens fees. In fact, it’s hard to beat the Sunshine State when it comes to value golf. At Daytona Beach, for instance, there are more than 20 quality courses (some designed by legendary architects) with most of them playing for $35 or under. Even the city’s two LPGA championship tracks can be played for less than $100.

The Sunshine State is an ideal place for golfers to hone their skills or even learn to play the game from scratch. One of the best-known names in golf instruction is David Leadbetter whose headquarters for 28 teaching academies worldwide is located at the lovely Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. His two other Florida schools operate in Naples and Palm Beach Gardens. The Saddlebrook Golf Academy at the Saddlebrook Resort, Tampa, is also a wellrespected school attached to two Arnold Palmer-designed courses. Overall, there is an extensive inventory of teaching facilities across the state with most of them attached to golf courses. While the great majority of them don’t necessarily have big-name recognition, they are led by entirely qualified teaching pros.

David Leadbetter Golf Academy | davidleadbetter.com Daytona Beach Golf Courses | golfdaytonabeach.com Hammock Beach Resort | hammockbeach.com Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) | lpga.com PGA National at Palm Beach Gardens | pgaresort.com Saddlebrook Golf Academy | saddlebrook.com TPC Sawgrass | tpc.com/sawgrass Tiburon Golf Club at Naples | tiburongcnaples.com Trump International Golf Club | trumpinternationalpalmbeaches.com Turnberry Isle Hotel & Resort | turnberryislemiami.com World Golf Hall of Fame | worldgolfhalloffame.org

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BEACHES

A BEACH IN KEY WEST

A Beach Lover’s

PARADISE C STROLLING ON LONGBOAT KEY

onsistently ranked as one of the world’s top destinations for beachgoers, Florida makes it easy with such an array of choices. It helps to have 1,800 miles of shoreline, hundreds of barrier islands, and the tantalizing Florida Keys, a piece of the Caribbean within driving distance. Florida’s beaches come in all shapes, sizes and textures, from the hard-packed coquina-rich sands that made Daytona Beach famous to the soft, gleaming white quartz dunes of Northwest Florida. With balmy weather most of the year, Florida’s beach season is year-round. Accommodation along the shores includes upscale resorts and mom-and-pop motels, RV parks and cabins, and even places to pitch a tent—or sit on a condo balcony above the sea and simply relax.

never quiet along this strand, and visitors like it that way, savoring mojitos under the coconut palms and working on their tans.

ISLAND TIME On a drive to the Florida Keys, time slows down. Heading west from Key Largo, the Overseas Highway provides scenic views unparalleled on any coastal road. With sparkling aquamarine waters on both sides of the highway, it connects islands with tropical forests, mangrove jungles and palm-lined residential streets with tiny beaches, quiet harbors and lodgings along the sea. Bahia Honda State Park boasts the best beaches in the Keys. Slipping into Key West, US 1 ends within a block of busy Duval Street and its perpetual carnival of offbeat characters.

SHELLING THE GLAMOROUS LIFE Miami’s hip and trendy South Beach pumps up the volume for nightlife and high-octane entertainment. Add retro-cool hotels, five-star dining and the hottest club scene in the country, and you’ve got an undeniable magnetic pull for the rich and famous—and millions of vacationers. It’s 58

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Most barrier islands line up parallel to the coast, but not Sanibel Island. Its unique east-west orientation causes seashells to perpetually wash up on shore, sometimes as thick as leaves on a forest floor. Considered one of the top shelling destinations in the world, Sanibel Island is home to the Bailey-Matthews Shell

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

BY SANDRA FRIEND


Museum, a must for collectors, and the “Sanibel Stoop,” the posture of beachcombers looking for the next best shell.

DOWN HOME CHARM With its European settlements dating back nearly 500 years, Florida has homegrown beach communities with deep roots.

SET FOR SPEED Daytona Beach is one of the few places in Florida where you can drive on the beach, and its event schedule is distinctly highpowered, from Bike Week to the world-renowned Daytona 500. The hardpacked strand from Ormond Beach to Ponce Inlet was Florida’s first racetrack,

THREE-WHEELING ON DAYTONA BEACH

MARCO ISLAND BEACH

Founded in 1768 as a seaside plantation, New Smyrna Beach is laid-back and lively, with Flagler Avenue anchored by the Riverview Hotel, an 1885 Victorian landmark on the Intracoastal Waterway. On the Gulf Coast, Dunedin is very much a Scottish village dating back to 1899. It’s the gateway to two of Florida’s best beaches, Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island.

In Northwest Florida, Cape San Blas sweeps out along St. Joseph Bay, its Gulf beaches white as snow. Families can nestle into private housekeeping cabins in the pines or at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, or rent a vacation home within the strum of the waves. Nearby Mexico Beach is notable for its family-friendly atmosphere. A gentle getaway with beaches as soft as baby powder, Siesta Key sits just off cosmopolitan Sarasota. With hotels, cottages and retro motels, it has lodgings for every budget—and fabulous family activities, including peering into tidal pools at Point of Rocks and kayaking off Turtle Beach.

FEATURED LINKS

FAMILY FUN

since the birth of the automobile to the 1950s, when racing moved inland to its own high-speed oval at the Daytona International Speedway.

BACK TO NATURE Florida is home to two National Seashores—Canaveral National Seashore and Gulf Islands National Seashore—both providing lengthy strips of wild shoreline for walking, wading and swimming. At Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge south of Melbourne, green turtles and loggerhead turtles nest along a 20mile strip of beach. More than 20,000 nests are laid each year, with turtles returning to the beach where they were hatched. Volunteers provide guided walks to observe this natural ritual. Whale-watching is a notable activity at Crescent Beach south of St. Augustine, where endangered right whales gather to calve in early spring.

ON THE ROCKS Often overlooked are Florida’s rocky shores, where exploring sea caves and tidal pools is part of the fun. One of the better-known spots is Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island, where waves spray through the tops of sea caves at high tide. Nature puts on a show at the House of Refuge near Stuart, an 1876 lifesaving station standing atop a rocky bluff over the Atlantic. At Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, a ribbon of shellstudded limestone is sculpted by the waves at Coquina Beach.

Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge | fws.gov/archiecarr Bahia Honda State Park | floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum | shellmuseum.org Blowing Rocks Preserve | nature.org Caladesi Island | floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland Captiva Island | sanibel-captiva.org Crescent Beach | floridashistoriccoast.com Daytona Beach | daytonabeach.com Daytona International Speedway | daytonainternationalspeedway.com Gulf Islands National Seashore | nps.gov/guis Honeymoon Island | floridastateparks.org/honeymoonisland House of Refuge | elliottmuseumfl.org/p/20 Mexico Beach | visitgulf.com New Smyrna Beach | nsbfla.com North Hutchinson Island | visitstluciefla.com Sanibel Island | sanibel-captiva.org Siesta Key | siestakeychamber.com Treasure Coast | treasurecoast.com Vero Beach | visitflorida.com/verobeach

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WATER SPORTS

SCUBA DIVER AT FORT LAUDERDALE

The Life

AQUATIC

example, Okeechobee (a body of water so large it is referred to as Florida’s inland sea) is appropriately filled with largemouth bass. Yet the Big O doesn’t have a monopoly. Lake Kissimmee and West Lake Tohopekaliga (both near Orlando) are likewise full—which means you can meet a giant mouse and catch massive bass on the same day. Saltwater fishermen, meanwhile, can be seen casting from almost every bridge, beach and boat. Boca Grande, on the southwest coast, is the “Tarpon Capital of the World” and Destin, on the northwest, purports to be the “Billfish Capital of the World.” Stuart, in the Central East region, claims the global sailfish title; and Islamorada, in the Upper Keys, trumps them all by calling itself the “World Sport-Fishing Capital” since deepsea species (among them trophy-sized wahoo, marlin and tuna) thrive in the warm Gulf Stream. Half- and full-day charters with equipment and licenses are widely available.

FLOAT YOUR BOAT With more registered vessels than any other state, Florida is a boating-lover’s paradise. In general, if it floats you can rent it or ride in it. So whether you’re eager to enjoy a sunset sail around Sanibel, lounge in Fort Lauderdale aboard a chartered yacht or race a CSI Miami-style cigarette boat through Biscayne Bay, there will be a local outfitter, owner or tour operator who will happily help you out. If you would prefer to paddle

R

iddle me this: what do you get when you add 7,700 lakes, 1,700 rivers and 700-odd springs to a state with a 1,260-mile shoreline? A playground for H2O aficionados. Waterskiing, Jet Skiing, parasailing and the other water sports routinely offered in coastal areas are all on tap here. But that’s just the beginning.

GO FISH Florida is a prime destination for vacationers hooked on fishing. After all, thousands of record-breaking catches have come from state waters and countless anglers arrive annually, reeled in by the diversity of the fish stock plus the promise of year-round fresh and saltwater opportunities. Inland lakes are a good starting point for the former. For 60

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

FISHING FROM KAYAK

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: SUNNY.ORG; CENTRAL FLORIDA CVB; VISIT TALLAHASSEE

BY SUSAN MACCALLUM-WHITCOMB


FISHING IN ISLAMORADA • VISIT FLORIDA®

CREATURE FEATURES

AIRBOAT TOUR

Dolphin encounters are big draws statewide and several popular sites, such as Discovery Cove in Orlando and Dolphin Harbor at the Miami Seaquarium, were designed specifically for them. Such programs are also plentiful in Flipper’s old neighborhood, The Keys. In fact, the Grassy Key facility that first inspired the Flipper film—today the Dolphin Research Center—still offers “dolphin dips” and other interactions. For face time with even larger critters, head northwest to the Crystal and Homosassa River region. Enjoying the protection provided by the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the state’s largest herd of wintering manatees calls this area home, and outfitters such as Sunshine River Tours and Manatee Tour and Dive will take you out to swim with the gentle giants all year.

DIVE IN Rather be in the water than on it? Florida is ideal for scuba enthusiasts. Take the North Central region: home to an extensive network of underwater grottos, it’s a magnet for cave divers. You can investigate the Blue Grotto and ominously-named Devil’s Den near Williston; then explore Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park, which boasts one of the longest aquatic cave systems in the continental USA. Alternately, you can mix reef diving with wreck diving off the coast of Northwest Florida courtesy of the USS Oriskany, a decommissioned aircraft carrier intentionally sunk 24 miles off Pensacola Beach. The vessel acts as an artificial reef teeming with marine life, so history and nature vie for your attention. The same intriguing combination draws divers to the Keys. The Florida Keys National Marine

Sanctuary, created to protect the coral comprising the world’s third largest natural reef, contains an array of shipwrecks. The most recent is the USNS Vandenberg, a warship scuttled in 2009. Others have gone to the bottom of their own accord over the centuries (including a Spanish galleon downed in 1733), and nine are designated stops on the Keys’ Shipwreck Heritage Trail.

GET IN THE SWIM OF THINGS You don’t have to be a certified diver to appreciate Florida’s stunning underwater scenery. Snorkelers in the Keys get an eyeful thanks to 55 varieties of coral, 500 of fish plus other colorful sea creatures (think blue crabs, pink-tipped anemones and purple tube sponges). One spot notable for its rich range and high visibility is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, which hosts

FEATURED LINKS

your own canoe (or kayak as the case may be) that’s possible too because more than 2,500 miles of “water paths” crisscross the Sunshine State from top to bottom. Whichever you choose, it will no doubt be a revelation—even for return visitors. Anyone, for instance, who has only experienced the Everglades’ one-of-a-kind ecosystem on an amped-up airboat ride, will gain a new perspective viewing it from the quiet seat of a canoe or kayak. Online tools, moreover, let you explore all these routes with increasing ease. The websites of the Florida Paddling Trails Association and the state tourism board, which contains a PDF version of the “Florida Paddling Trails Guide,” are especially helpful.

daily snorkel tours (glass-bottom boat rides are available for anyone reluctant to don a mask). The fact that the park is home to Christ of the Abyss—a 4,000-lb bronze statue of Jesus standing in 25 feet of water—is an added bonus for snorkelers and divers alike. Bahia Honda State Park, near Marathon, is another reliable option: the shallow water lapping it beckons beginners and snorkeling excursions to the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary are scheduled daily. But while the Keys’ underwater wonders are hard to surpass, you’ll find scores of other excellent locations around the state, including Red Reef Park in Boca Raton, Coral Cove Park outside Jupiter, Bathtub Reef Park on Hutchinson Island, and Biscayne National Park at Homestead. Big adventures await; so come. Take the plunge. In Florida, the water’s always fine!

PADDLE AROUND Florida Paddling Trails Association | floridapaddlingtrails.com Florida Paddling Trails Guide | visitflorida.com UNDERWATER SITES Blue Grotto and Devil’s Den | floridacaves.com Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary | floridakeys.noaa.gov John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park | pennekamppark.com USS Oriskany | divemightyo.com Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park | floridastateparks.org/peacocksprings MARINE ENCOUNTERS Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge | fws.gov/crystalriver Discovery Cove | discoverycove.com Dolphin Research Center | dolphins.org Miami Seaquarium | miamiseaquarium.com

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WILDLIFE VIEWING

Birds of a

BY SUSAN B. BARNES

FEATHER A

nnually, tens of thousands make their pilgrimages south during the winter months to warmer weather, brighter sun and richer feeding grounds. And those are just the snowbirds! During these same winter months, hundreds of species of birds find their way to Florida during migration, not to mention the myriad species that call Florida their home year-round. It’s no wonder, 62

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then, that the Sunshine State is a popular destination for birders the world over, any time of year.

GREAT FLORIDA BIRDING AND WILDLIFE TRAIL More than 500 species of birds have been documented in Florida, and with the right planning, you can most likely spot a few to mark off your Life List. The Great Florida

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: MARTHA MARKS/SHUTTERSTOCK; ARKORN/SHUTTERSTOCK; SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM; ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER CVB

SNOWY EGRET AT MERRITT ISLAND

Birding and Wildlife Trail (GFBWT), a program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, is a 2,000-mile highway trail designed to promote bird and wildlife-watching opportunities, as well as encourage conservation. The trail is divided into four sections— northwest, east, west and south—and nine “gateway” sites have been designated at exceptional birding locations: in Northwest Florida, Big Lagoon State Park in Pensacola and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge near Tallahassee; Ft. Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville, and Tenoroc Fish Management Area in Lakeland in the east; Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Gainesville and Fort De Soto County Park in St. Petersburg to the west; and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples and Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge near Boynton Beach in the south. These gateway sites have staffed visitor centers complete with birdwatching tips, loaner optics and copies of the free trail guide booklets.


PAYNES PRAIRIE PRESERVE STATE PARK

NORTHWEST FLORIDA

NEED MORE INFO?

In the Northwest Florida section of the GFBWT, there are 78 sites at which birdwatchers will want to roost, from Pensacola to Panama City to Tallahassee and points in between. Keep an eye out for the Bachman’s sparrow, black-whiskered vireo and roseate spoonbill (often mistaken for flamingos) in this part of the state.

Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail: floridabirdingtrail.com

Island, Jacksonville and St. Augustine south through Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach to Port St. Lucie, and west through Orlando and Lakeland up to Ocala. BIRDWATCHING AT MERRITT ISLAND

FLY WEST One hundred and fifteen sites make up the West Florida section of the GFBWT, which encompasses Madison in northern Florida hugging the west coastline through Tampa and St. Petersburg, south through Bradenton and Anna Maria Island, with a few inland counties thrown into the mix. Here birders will find the magnificent frigatebird, piping plover, snowy plover and swallow-tailed kite.

WAY DOWN SOUTH

BALD EAGLES

TO THE EAST The East Florida section of the GFBWT was the first to open in 2000. Of the 40 most popular species sought after in Florida, the bald eagle, Florida grasshopper sparrow and the elusive yellow rail, to name a few, are found in the east section. More than 180 birding sites can be found from Amelia

Head to southern Florida and birders will find more than 116 sites crisscrossing the state from Sarasota south to Naples along the west coast, through the Everglades, and east to Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and the Florida Keys. Of the 40 most sought-after birds in Florida, the scarce masked booby, purple gallinule and white-tailed kite may be spotted here. Birdwatching tours and events are scheduled throughout the state, year-round. For more information on these events and an upto-date listing, visit floridabirdingtrail.com.

RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT To make the most out of wildlife-viewing excursions, good binoculars are a must. Binocular choice is quite personal. Ideally, they should be waterproof (not just water repellent) and nitrogen purged; provide long eye relief with an adjustable eyepiece (not the fold-down type); comfortable in your hands; and easy to focus. Choose good quality lenses over higher magnification. Best for all around wildlife observations is the 8 or 8.5 power because the lenses are brighter, provide a somewhat wider field of view than the 10x and typically provide a closer focus to see details. Consider $400 as the minimum for quality binoculars. Rather than a neck strap, consider a harness or pack strap. The harness leaves both hands free, holds the binoculars against the chest (to minimize swinging) and keeps them at a convenient level when you need them. The harness is excellent for hiking, spending long hours standing at a viewpoint and you don’t have to fumble for your binos when you spot something. Spotting scopes are invaluable for observing more distant wildlife and birds. A tripod with adjustable legs is also recommended and must include an attaching mount. For serious wildlife photography, you will need an SLR with a 400 mm lens and a tripod. For general vacation photography, any good point-and-shoot camera will suffice however a camera that provides “super zoom” and wide-angle capabilities precludes the need to carry extra lenses. Be sure to purchase equipment from a store or website that specializes in birding and wildlife watching.

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HIKING

SUWANNEE RIVER IN NORTHERN FLORIDA

Outdoor

TREKS V

ast boggy prairies where pitcher plants bloom, jagged limestone cliffs with the swirling waters of the Suwannee River below, shoulder-high scrub forests, and tangled jungles of coastal mangroves—Florida’s trails provide a parade of the unexpected when you’re out on a hike. Hiking in Florida is unlike the rest of the continental United States. Hiking season runs October through April, with February the best month for backpacking. Trails range from easy boardwalks through natural areas 64

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to difficult wades through Amazon-like cypress strands. While Florida’s terrain is relatively flat, there are more than 80 distinct ecosystems within the Sunshine State’s two time zones, ranging from rugged low hills along the rivers of Northwest Florida to dense tropical forests of Caribbean origin in the Florida Keys. Some of Florida’s wildest places have no equal on Earth, such as the Everglades and the Big Cypress Swamp. Hikers can explore these places on mild interpretive boardwalks or plunge into the heart

of the wilderness on guided walks and longdistance trails. Despite the lack of mountains, Florida’s trails do offer physical challenges. Slight changes in elevation mean frequent changes in the surrounding habitat and the texture of the footpath. Soft sand and standing water are not uncommon. Backpackers should prepare for both extreme heat and the potential for freezing temperatures during peak backpacking season. Carrying plenty of drinking water is a must, as is having rain gear handy.

ALL IMAGES: VISIT FLORIDA

BY SANDRA FRIEND


THE FLORIDA TRAIL Home to one of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States, Florida provides a unique experience for backpackers. The Florida Trail 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. Most backpackers tackle a segment at a 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 wading through the wilds of the Big Cypress Swamp to clambering up and down rugged bluffs along the Suwannee River, plus the infamous Bradwell Bay Wilderness, a floodplain forest near Tallahassee, best not tackled alone. SANDHILL CRANE

With nearly 150 trailheads within an hour of Florida’s cities, the Florida Trail is 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 is a multi-sport outdoor playground with hiking adventures for the entire family. At 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 three major backpacking trails—Sweetwater, Jackson Red Ground and Juniper Creek. Together they form a 43-mile portion of the Florida Trail, providing three to four days of backpacking through hilly terrain, where pink mountain laurel dances in the breeze along the banks of Juniper Creek in spring. Access points are at Deaton Bridge, Red Rocks Road, Karick Lake and Hurricane Lake. Florida’s most rugged trails are found along the Apalachicola River, west of Tallahassee. At Florida Caverns State Park, the Caverns Trail System leads right through a cave and scrambles over massive boulders where columbine bloom. South of Interstate 10, Torreya State Park is a destination for weekend warriors, with two loops totaling 11.5 miles of trails that climb in and out of deep ravines and follow the spines of ridges with scenic views. At the Garden of Eden, named for its botanical diversity, the nearly four-mile trail packs a punch in elevation changes with the payoff of a view across the Apalachicola River Valley.

NORTH FLORIDA Hiking along the Suwannee River means mile after mile of scenic views and tough terrain along the waterway that Stephen Foster made famous. The Florida Trail follows it for more than 50 miles, with its most spectacular segments through Suwannee River State Park, Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park and Big Shoals State Park. Traversing waterfalls and walking above Florida’s only Class III whitewater are part of the mix. Spanning North and Central Florida, the Ocala National Forest attracts hikers from around the world. Containing nearly 100 miles of the Florida Trail, it’s especially 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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HIKING

SWAMP WALKING IN THE EVERGLADES

popular with backpackers. For day hikers and families, there are many other hikes to explore, including the Yearling Trail, a visit to the remains of the pioneer settlement that inspired novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and the Juniper Springs Nature Trail, an accessible boardwalk connecting two spectacular springs.

CENTRAL FLORIDA Withlacoochee State Forest is one of Florida’s largest, and it’s full of hiking trails to explore, including a 43-mile loop for backpackers called the Citrus Hiking Trail. Along its length there are caves, sinkholes and the remains of ghost towns. The Orlando area offers many places to hike, with wilderness areas right on the 66

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edge of suburbia. At Spring Hammock Preserve, thousand-year-old cypresses tower over a primordial swamp forest. The Disney Wilderness Preserve is an immersion in the vast Central Florida prairie. On the shifting sands of desert-like Catfish Creek Preserve State Park, the hiking trail system is on ancient dunes as white and soft as fallen snow, and the views are spectacular. At Lake Kissimmee State Park, shady stands of live oaks give way to open prairies where caracara and sandhill cranes dance. Two loop trails provide a weekend’s worth of backpacking with wildlife sightings galore. Birding is also the reason to hike the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge,


SALT SPRINGS IN OCALA NATIONAL FOREST

where a walk on the breezy levees of the Cruickshank Trail will help fill out one’s wish list. Wildlife, including more alligators than can be counted, is around every corner at Circle B Bar Reserve, a conservation and education center outside Lakeland.

SCENIC LAKE TOUR IN KISSIMMEE

Swing from the trees on Florida’s only canopy walk at Myakka River State Park, where the park’s nature trails are complemented with a 39-mile loop for backpackers into the open prairies of the backcountry. For immersion into the heart of Florida’s most ancient forests, Highlands Hammock State Park offers trails for day hikers past thousand-year-old oaks and over blackwater swamps.

FEATURED LINKS

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB; VISIT FLORIDA

SOUTH FLORIDA

The best way to immerse yourself in the Big Cypress National Preserve is on foot and with a guide. For more than a decade, neophytes ready to dip shoe in swamp have flocked to Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery for a life-changing experience of wading through a tropical forest, available every Saturday from September to March. To savor the same beauty without wet feet, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is the best boardwalk trail in Florida, meandering two miles through a virgin cypress strand festooned with bromeliads and orchids. Giant ferns and pond apples make for a primordial feel inside the shade of Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, where the boardwalk trail is just off Interstate 75 in Fort Myers.

Big Cypress National Preserve | nps.gov/bicy Big Shoals State Park | floridastateparks.org/bigshoals Blackwater River State Forest | fl-dof.com/state_forests/blackwater_river.html Catfish Creek Preserve State Park | floridastateparks.org/catfishcreek Circle B Bar Reserve | floridahikes.com/circlebbar Citrus Hiking Trail | floridahikes.com/citrus Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery | clydebutchersbigcypressgallery.com/saturday-walks Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary | corkscrew.audubon.org Disney Wilderness Preserve | floridahikes.com/disneywilderness Florida Caverns State Park | floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns Garden of Eden | floridahikes.com/gardenofeden Highlands Hammock State Park | floridastateparks.org/highlandshammock Juniper Springs Nature Trail | floridahikes.com/junipersprings Lake Kissimmee State Park | floridastateparks.org/lakekissimmee Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge | fws.gov/merrittisland Myakka River State Park | floridastateparks.org/myakkariver Ocala National Forest | fs.usda.gov/ocala Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve | leeparks.org/sixmile Spring Hammock Preserve | floridahikes.com/springhammock Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park | floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster Suwannee River State Park | floridastateparks.org/suwanneeriver Torreya State Park | floridastateparks.org/torreya Withlacoochee State Forest | fl-dof.com/state_forests/withlacoochee.html Yearling Trail | floridahikes.com/yearling

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ROAD TRIPS

Classic Routes AND

PIT STOPS

BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS

I

f there were ever a destination custommade for a classic road trip, Florida would fit the bill. Beach hoppers can explore miles of award-winning stretches of pristine sand on both the Atlantic and the Gulf coasts. For sports fans there are trails that take them from one winning spot to the next. And for those who are content to just watch the scenery change, there are routes crisscrossing the state’s unique wetland ecology or a day of adventure along the bridges and keys of “the nation’s longest dead-end road.” If a road trip is your style, unfold a Florida map, pack the cooler, fill up the tank and point your car down the highway. 68

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THE GULF COAST: CLEARWATER BEACH TO CAPTIVA ISLAND 160 miles; driving time, 3.5 hours; best for laidback sun and sand worshippers and arts aficionados. The journey along the Gulf Coast starts at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter, the most famous dolphin in the world and inspiration for the new film, Dolphin Tale. The Aquarium is dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of sea turtles, otters, sharks, stingrays and bottle-nosed dolphins. Play on Clearwater’s famous beaches until evening, then head off to Pier 60 for family entertainment, including arts

and crafts vendors, buskers, live bands, movies, shops and restaurants. The communities along this coastal drive are known for more than their sparkling white beaches. They’re also home to some of Florida’s finest artisan enclaves and museums. St. Petersburg’s Central Avenue is lined with dozens of studios and galleries while the new Dalí Museum in St. Pete’s showcases the work of the late surrealist painter. Close by, Bradenton’s Village of the Arts is home to Florida’s largest arts community. Known as the state’s cultural capital, Sarasota boasts a film festival, ballet, orchestra, opera, theaters, galleries and the


FLORIDA'S SOUTHERNMOST POINT IN KEY WEST

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: ANDY NEWMAN/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU; ROB O'NEAL/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU; VISIT FLORIDA

SEVEN MILE BRIDGE IN THE FLORIDA KEYS

ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY

John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, revered by circus, art and history fans. There’s even art on the beach at the Siesta Key Crystal Classic master sandsculpting competition. At the tip of the route, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel Island connects travelers to the ocean through displays of rare, unusual and beautiful shells, including the gigantic horse conch shell—the largest of its kind on record! For baseball fans, spring is the time to visit for the pre-season Florida Grapefruit League. Thousands of visitors converge on the state, gloves and autograph books in hand, to watch more than a half-dozen major league teams at spring-training camps along the Gulf Coast driving route.

DAYTONA TO SEBRING 154 miles; driving time, 3.5 hours; best for motorsport fans; follow the scenic routes from Daytona to Orlando along US Highway 92; south of Orlando stay on picturesque Ridge Scenic Highway (State Road 17) past orange groves and small towns. Anyone who likes to tinker with an engine knows about Daytona, the spot where NASCAR racing was born and still reigns supreme. Highway 92 leads to Kissimmee, just minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort and the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway. Adults can take the wheel or ride shotgun with a professional driver at speeds of up to 140 mph around the mile-long racetrack. This route ends at North America’s oldest permanent racetrack at the Sebring International Raceway in the historic lakeside town of Sebring. Billed as one of the most spectator-friendly tracks in the world, in 2012 Sebring celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring classic endurance race, a 3.7-mile, 17-turn race circuit that’s part of the American Le Mans series. The historic Sebring facility is home to vintage racecar displays and to the Skip Barber Racing School.

FLORIDA KEYS: THE OVERSEAS HIGHWAY 98 miles; driving time, 2 hours; best for water babies who live in shorts and flip-flops; locals mark businesses and attractions along the one main road (Highway 1) by referring to the Mile Marker (MM). 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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FISHING FOR SWORDFISH OFF ISLAMORADA KEY

FORT DE SOTO BEACH

Scenic Highway 1 through the Florida Keys was named one of the best US Road Trips by National Geographic. A new $330-million road connecting the South Florida mainland with the scenic Florida Keys has just been completed. The Keys’ 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 boat rentals, charter fishing, snorkeling and dive excursions. Islamorada is considered a worldclass 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. Marathon—“the heart of the Keys”— has its roots as a fishing village. Fresh

FEATURED LINKS

COURT IN RINGLING’S CA’ D’ZAN MANSION IN SARASOTA

GULF COAST Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum | shellmuseum.org Clearwater Marine Aquarium | seewinter.com Florida Grapefruit League | floridagrapefruitleague.com John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art | ringling.org Pier 60 | sunsetsatpier60.com Siesta Key Crystal Classic | crystalsand.org The Dalí Museum | thedali.org Village of the Arts | villageofthearts.com DAYTONA TO SEBRING Daytona International Speedway | daytonainternationalspeedway.com Sebring International Raceway | sebringraceway.com Walt Disney World Speedway | disneyworld.disney.go.com FLORIDA KEYS Keys Fisheries | keysfisheries.com Theater of the Sea | theaterofthesea.com NORTHWEST FLORIDA Apalachicola Bay | apalachicolabay.org Destin History & Fishing Museum | destinhistoryandfishingmuseum.org Gulfarium | gulfarium.com Pier Park | panamacitybeachonline.com/pierpark

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AERIAL VIEW OF DAYTONA BEACH

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ANDY NEWMAN/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU; R. PETERKIN/SHUTTERSTOCK; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER CVB

ROAD TRIPS


seafood still dominates the takeout menu at Keys Fisheries where peel-and-eat shrimp, crab cakes and conch fritters are among the specialties. At the end of the 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 brilliantly clear 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.

DRIVING FLORIDA’S TOLL ROADS SUNSHINE SKYWAY BRIDGE IN TAMPA

PENSACOLA TO APALACHICOLA 170 miles; driving time, 4 hours; best for experiencing the original Florida in a picturesque natural setting; stay on State Roads 30 and 30A, a designated Scenic Highway. Northwest 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 of protected barrier islands. Florida’s Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach is a marine aquarium with daily sea lion and dolphin shows. This marks the start of the famous Beaches of South Walton, home to popular communities like Seaside, Dune Allen Beach and Santa Rosa Beach. This is the spot to try YOLO boarding, the newest paddleboarding sport that’s a cross between surfing and kayaking. Anglers head for Destin, “the world’s luckiest fishing village,” in hopes of hooking grouper, wahoo and mackerel. On dry land, displays of equipment and fishing lore at the Destin History & Fishing Museum even include an original Penn Reel that once belonged to Ernest Hemingway. In Panama City Beach, Pier Park provides a break from the beach with unique stops for shopping and entertainment. This beautiful oceanfront drive ends at Apalachicola, a Victorian town with seafaring roots that is considered Florida’s oyster capital. Turn off the engine, park the car and enjoy these delectable treats on the half-shell, fried, grilled, stewed and, of course, raw. Bon appétit!

Motorists on Florida’s toll roads can use either the SunPass or TOLL-BY-PLATE system and no longer have to stop to pay tolls. SunPass is Florida’s prepaid electronic toll collection system, which utilizes small credit card-size electronic devices called SunPass transponders, which attach to the inside of car windshields. When a SunPass-equipped vehicle goes through a toll location, the transponder sends a signal and the toll is deducted from the customer’s account. The SunPass Mini Sticker transponder costs $4.99, which is reimbursable as a toll credit when registering the SunPass account. It is available at Publix, CVS pharmacy stores, Navarro Discount Pharmacies, Sedano’s Supermarkets, all Florida AAA locations, all Turnpike service plaza gift shops and gas stations, online at sunpass.com or at 1-888-TOLLFLA (865-5352). TOLL-BY-PLATE is a collection method whereby a photo of a vehicle’s license plate is taken as it travels under overhead tolling equipment and a bill for any tolls incurred over a 30-day period, plus a $2.50 administrative charge, is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. Travelers also have the option of establishing a prepaid TOLL-BY-PLATE account by calling 1-888-TAG-TOLL and providing a credit or debit card number to avoid the administrative charge. Most rental car programs allow customers to charge the tolls to the credit card used to rent the vehicle. Motorists should check with their rental car company for details or at sunpass.com/rentalcar. 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 MiamiDade. Eventually the entire Turnpike system of roadways will go electronic. The next phase, from the Golden Glades interchange in northern Miami-Dade County to the I-595 interchange in Broward County, is scheduled to be ready in 2014.

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S PA S

POOLSIDE MASSAGE AT OMNI ORLANDO RESORT AT CHAMPIONSGATE

A Haven

FOR SPECTACULAR RETREATS F

lorida’s sunshine and mellow vacation vibe create a great foundation for feeling good, however the state’s exciting spa scene takes wellness to another level. Hundreds of destination, resort and day spas offer sublime beauty and body care, marvelous massages, weight loss without deprivation, creative exercises, valuable medical counseling and spiritual pursuits based on sacred, ancient rituals. Now as mainstream as shopping and sunbathing, Florida’s spectacular spas are irresistible attractions for girlfriend groups, the golf set and the A-list of celebrity visitors and international jet-setters.

FLAVORS OF FLORIDA Florida’s spirit for living outdoors has been shaped by temperate weather, magnificent beaches, sparkling waters and lush forests. 72

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Locals and visitors alike pursue active living with a cornucopia of exercises 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 picture soothing seas, 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 scrub tingling with key lime, lemon and orange. Aromatherapy, embodying the pungent essences of hibiscus and eucalyptus, relaxes and rejuvenates. Florida’s abundant fruits such as pomegranate, coconut and mango are essentials for restorative facials and après-sun care. In Florida, weight-watching means dining on creative spa cuisine featuring delectable,

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT ORLANDO; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT ORLANDO

MARRIOTT HARBOR BEACH FORT LAUDERDALE RESORT

BY ROCHELLE LASH


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 yields sea salts and minerals used in massage oils, detoxifying steam rooms and hydrotherapy baths.

HYATT REGENCY PIER SIXTY-SIX RESORT & SPA IN FORT LAUDERDALE

SPAS ON EVERY COAST Spa life is flourishing in every region of Florida. The legendary Golden Door at the Naples Grande Beach Resort is where the southern Gulf Coast meets a Japanese Zen ambiance, heightened by mesmerizing waterfalls and a meditation labyrinth. At the WaterColor Inn & Resort, on a magnificent stretch of white sand in the northern Gulf, you can sample an all-Florida pineapple-papaya skin moisturizer. The northwestern-most Emerald Coast is a secluded, laid-back gem with sugar-white sand and jewel-toned waters that are a fisherman’s paradise. The Spa at Emerald Grande uses an Indian rainstick in its signature therapeutic water treatment. Across the state, the Ocean Waters Spa in Daytona Beach 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, which offers a unique “cougarto-kitten” sensuality treatment? Among a wealth of spas in the Gulf Coast city of Clearwater Beach, the spa at the waterfront Sandpearl Resort focuses on relaxation, renewal and restorative wellness. In the neighboring community of Tampa, Spa Jardin has been voted “Best of the Bay” for several years. Florida’s Gold Coast, a shimmering Atlantic oceanfront strip of sand, sun and glamorous destinations, is home to one of the highest concentrations of luxury spas in the world. The classic resort hotels in the posh communities of Miami Beach, Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale all have major spas with world-class exercise specialists and aestheticians. The sunsetpink Spa Palazzo at the Boca Raton Resort & Club is an opulent fountain of youth with manicured gardens, waterfall whirlpools, Moorish baths and a signature facial that uses Sevruga caviar. In legendary oceanfront

SPA POOL AT REUNION RESORT AND CLUB, ORLANDO

surroundings, insiders opt for the Moonlight Massage at The Spa at The Breakers, an iconic resort.

MARVELOUS MIAMI The city is mad for the therapy baths and fitness programs at the stylish, sexy RikRak Spa and Salon (named for trendsetters Ric and Raquel Watters) in the world’s first JW Marriott Marquis Miami. Chic and cool, the

TIP Watch for Spa Week deals. Imagine affordable manis and pedis, massages or facials at various Florida resorts and day spas. Spa Week (spaweek.com) takes place annually during April and October and many of Florida’s best beauty, body and relaxation centers will offer indulgent treatments for $50.

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S PA S

HISTORIC VENETIAN POOL IN CORAL GABLES

Sharing manis and pedis with your preteen is the rage at the Aquagëne Spa at the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa on an island near Fort Myers. On the Atlantic coast, the luxurious Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale, gives youngsters the royal treatment with a Glitter Makeup and treatments using gentle organic products. Meanwhile, mom and dad can indulge in anti-aging facials and cocoon with a warm Sapphire Sea Wrap in pearl and kelp mud.

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MEDICAL WELLNESS Florida is home to two world-class spas that not only pamper clients with fine cuisine and indulgent spa life, they also help encourage better health habits, weight loss and fitness. At the Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach and the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami, guests are in the capable hands of nutritionists, exercise physiologists, life coaches and doctors. Boca Raton Resort & Club | bocaresort.com Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa | canyonranchmiamibeach.com Chopra Spa | DreamSouthBeach.com ELLE Spa | edenrocmiami.com Florida Spas | visitflorida.com/spas Fontainebleau | fontainebleau.com Golden Door, Naples Grande Beach Resort | naplesgranderesort.com JW Marriott Marquis Miami | jwmarriottmarquismiami.com Ocean Waters Spa | oceanwatersspa.com Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa | pinkshell.com Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa | pritikin.com Sandpearl Resort | sandpearl.com Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel | mandarinoriental.com/miami/spa Spa Jardin | spajardin.com SpaTerre | littlepalmisland.com WaterColor Inn & Resort | watercolorresort.com

TOP TO BOTTOM: VISIT FLORIDA; PALM BEACH COUNTY CVB

FAMILY-FRIENDLY

AERIAL VIEW OF THE BREAKERS IN PALM BEACH

FEATURED LINKS

hotel also features Miami’s first db Bistro Moderne by international chef, Daniel Boulud. The landmark grandes dames of Miami Beach have been updated with extensive luxury spas. The Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach opened a dazzling ELLE Spa as part of a major restoration. And at the Fontainebleau, sublime hydro and thermal therapies include a massage with seaweed extract. Miami’s sexy South Beach—the epicenter of cool—attracts the young and gorgeous to fashionable boutique spas such as the Chopra Spa in the new Dream South Beach Hotel where holistic healing focuses on Ayurvedic treatments. A leader in many world capitals, the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is among the ultimate getaways. Swathed in exotic natural textures such as bamboo, rice paper and linen, the Mandarin offers massages on the beach and treatments that blend ancient wisdom from around the world.


SHOPPING AT ST. ARMANDS CIRCLE IN SARASOTA

SHOPPING

Hunting for

SARASOTA CVB

TREASURES

BY KRISTEN MANIERI

S

hopping in Florida is a “come one, come all” affair with something for everyone regardless of budget or style. With a multitude of malls, outlets, boutique districts, artist villages and Main Street shopping neighborhoods, the Sunshine State not only delivers an enormous selection of everything from clothing and antiques to electronics and jewelry, but it also has the uncanny ability to satisfy every type of spender. From outlet bargain hunters to one-of-akind treasure seekers, Florida’s retail riches score huge points with shoppers. 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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SHOPPING BOUTIQUE AND DESIGNER DISTRICTS

FOUNTAIN IN THE TOWN OF CELEBRATION

It takes stamina and tenacity to triumphantly tackle Florida’s outlets but to the victor goes the spoils. Get ready to log some major mileage walking through Orlando’s Premium Outlets on International Drive and Vineland Avenue, which collectively house more than 300 stores boasting deep discounts such as $15 Gap hoodies and $100 Michael Kors bags. Rest those tender tootsies on the I-Ride Trolley that connects the two gargantuan shopping centers. Premium Outlets also lists sizable centers, including a St. Augustine location with 85 stores such as Banana Republic and Brooks Brothers. The Ellenton Outlet near Sarasota, featuring 130 stores including Kate Spade and Coach, is a pooch-friendly place. Paw prints outside select stores give leashed furry friends the thumbs up to come inside. Miromar Outlets, tucked between Naples and Fort Myers, lures fashionistas with more

than 140 style stars like Off 5th Saks Avenue Outlet and a Nike Factory store. This Mediterranean-style, outdoor center recently unveiled a beach-themed kids’ play area, ideal for buying mom a few extra moments of retail therapy. CLEMATIS STREET WATER PARK IN WEST PALM BEACH

PREMIUM OUTLETS INTERNATIONAL, ORLANDO

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Just south of Fort Lauderdale, The Village at Gulfstream Park’s luxurious al fresco shopping and dining district keeps visitors busy day and night. Rare finds like the Container Store share space with 16 eateries and bars as well as a thoroughbred racetrack and Vegasstyle casino. The stores are eclectic and packed with matchless home accessory treasures, which is why furniture and decor lovers flock to the Miami Design District. With its art galleries and cutting-edge design houses, this is where shoppers will find the hottest design trends before they become mainstream.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: VISIT ORLANDO; PALM BEACH COUNTY CVB; VISIT ORLANDO; PALM BEACH COUNTY CVB

OUTLETS

Swanky strips loaded with one-of boutiques and high-end couture shops abound in some of Florida’s ritziest regions. With its bricklined boulevard housing more than 140 luxury boutiques and posh eateries, Winter Park’s Park Avenue has earned its well-deserved nickname as the Rodeo Drive of Florida. This quaint, upscale neighborhood north of downtown Orlando is the ideal locale for gourmet cheese shops, spice boutiques, croissant cafés, and the new Sassafras Sweet Shoppe, a vintage candy store delighting Charleston Chew and Lemonheads fanatics. Sarasota’s St. Armands Circle, located minutes from luxurious Longboat Key, offers shoppers perusing its boutiques lots of sidewalk cafés and gourmet restaurants to stop at. Be sure to visit le macaron, a quaint little French pastry shop serving colorful and irresistibly delicious French macarons.


GARDENS MALL, PALM BEACH GARDENS

ARTIST VILLAGES Lovers of one-of-a-kind keepsakes flock to the handful of eclectic artist villages tucked into various corners of the Sunshine State. On the southwest coast, the Village of the Arts houses a whimsical collection of galleries, boutiques and studios inside a rainbow of colorful cottages. Lose a few hours wandering through this hub near downtown Bradenton where artists are often at work and happy to share some tricks of the trade. On Saturdays from March until December, treasure seekers head to the Riverside Arts Market a few miles from downtown Jacksonville. Here dozens of local artisans and crafters gather under the Fuller Warren Bridge to share their handmade wares and socialize with other creatives. Finally, with a gigantic 30-foot lobster at the entrance, it’s tough to miss the Rain Barrel

Artisan Village. Located in Islamorada, one of the upper Florida Keys, the village provides the space for more than 100 artists to work or simply showcase their creations, which include pottery, jewelry, sculpture, paintings and stained glass.

QUAINT MAIN STREETS Picturesque streets tucked into charming, Norman Rockwell-like towns are to some like hitting the shopping jackpot. With their one-of-a-kind shops owned for generations by local families, these quaint city centers are the polar opposite of big-box stores. In the quiet seaside town of Fernandina Beach, folks find Center Street, home to gourmet eateries, antique shops and chic galleries. With its Victorian-era architecture, charming lampposts and picturesque street signs, this little-known gem on Amelia Island is a must visit when traveling Florida’s northeast coast. Laid-back and quaint, Jacksonville’s Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach provide the ideal locale for seaside biking and lazy

• Be sure you really love the item you’re purchasing because returning it will be a pain or downright impossible. • Set aside some money in your holiday budget specifically for shopping so you can guiltlessly shop without feeling like you’ve overspent. • Many outlets and some malls will ship your purchases home to you. Seek out the destination’s visitor center to find out if such service is available. • Go online before you head out to see if the outlet or district has a printable coupon book or rewards program. Consider also printing out a map so you can circle all the shops you definitely don’t want to miss.

strolling. The two beaches meet at Beaches Town Center, a small collection of upscale galleries, shops, eateries and popular pubs on Atlantic Boulevard. Pleasantville literally came to life in 1996 with the creation of the town of Celebration, a Disney residential project with a downtown-shopping district that’s proven to be a favorite amongst visiting shoppers. Peruse a dozen or so shops surrounding picturesque Lake Celebration or grab a bite at one of several restaurants. About an hour from Orlando, Mount Dora makes a great day trip for antique lovers and people who love kitschy little finds. Its downtown district, nestled in between 3rd and 5th Avenues, sits on the shores of beautiful Lake Dora and features many galleries, antique shops, gift stores, specialty shops, cafés and tearooms. Be aware that most shops close around 5 PM.

Beaches Town Center, Jacksonville | beachestowncenter.com Celebration, Orlando | celebrationtowncenter.com

FEATURED LINKS

More than 100 shops and restaurants have popped up in downtown West Palm Beach at the 72-acre property known as CityPlace. This open-air, mixed-use center across from the Palm Beach County Convention Center and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is home to retail favorites like WilliamsSonoma and Sephora but also houses a 20-screen movie complex plus a $3.5-million “show” fountain that treats guests to a musical light show every half hour. Finally, head to Jacksonville’s St. Johns Avenue where the Shoppes of Avondale deliver upscale fashions, furnishings and art. More than 60 locally owned shops dot its tree-lined street, which is ideal for strolling on the first Friday of every month when the avenue features street-side entertainment and late-night shopping.

TIPS FOR DESTINATION SHOPPING

CityPlace, West Palm Beach | cityplace.com le macaron, Sarasota | lemacaron-us.com Miami Design District | miamidesigndistrict.net Miromar Outlets, Estero | miromaroutlets.com Mount Dora | mountdora.com Park Avenue, Winter Park | parkave-winterpark.com Premium Outlets, Orlando | premiumoutlets.com Rain Barrel Artisan Village, Islamorada | keysdirectory.com/rainbarrel Riverside Arts Market, Jacksonville | riversideartsmarket.com Shoppes of Avondale, Jacksonville | shoppesofavondale.com St. Armands Circle, Sarasota | starmandscircleassoc.com The Village at Gulfstream Park | thevillageatgulfstreampark.com Village of the Arts, Bradenton | villageofthearts.com

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WEDDINGS & HONEYMOONS

Happily

BY KRISTEN MANIERI

EVER AFTER S

pectacular sunsets, centuries-old churches and an iconic castle are just a few of the backdrops to choose from when planning a Florida wedding. With its endless array of locations, the Sunshine State is an ideal spot for a marriage ceremony.

ROMANCE ON THE BEACH Flanked by both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida offers hundreds of miles of coastline where couples can share oceanfront “I dos.” In Islamorada, one of the upper Florida Keys, Pierre’s Restaurant is one of the best places in Florida for a sunset ceremony. With a westward-facing beach dotted by leaning palms and an elegant twostory plantation house, this locale blends casual beach with polished chic like nowhere else in Florida. Sarasota and its neighboring islands have long since been a popular destination for 78

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

beach weddings. Couples can choose an elegant affair at the Sarasota Ritz-Carlton, which boasts six different oceanview reception sites on its 11-acre property. At nearby Longboat Key, couples can opt for a barefoot event on the snow-white sands of the Longboat Beach Club and Resort. Consider nearby Anna Maria Island where the unassuming but award-winning Sandbar Restaurant will serve guests the area’s best seafood alongside a dazzling sunset. On the east coast, Fort Lauderdale offers 23 miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches however its proximity to one of Florida’s largest ports makes it an ideal choice for couples departing on a honeymoon cruise. Several cruise lines depart from Port Everglades.

GO DOWN IN HISTORY As the oldest city in the US, it doesn’t get more historic than St Augustine. Couples

choose this charming city for its seaside locale on Florida’s east coast as well as for the picturesque architecture sweeping through the tiny town. Several churches, many nearly two centuries old, provide the venue for formal ceremonies while a bevy of nearby reception sites host the after party. Couples can celebrate with guests aboard a pirate ship, inside historic homes or at one of many area museums such as the castle-like Lightner Museum, built by Henry Flagler in 1888. Casa Monica, the city’s most luxurious hotel, is a favorite thanks to its opulent ballrooms and artful decor. Play up the historic theme with horse-drawn carriage rides and haunted walking tours for an event guests won’t soon forget. Less than 90 minutes away, Amelia Island also boasts its fair share of history. This 13-mile-long barrier island on the northeast corner of Florida has a noble and

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: BRADENTON AREA CVB; VISIT ORLANDO; VISIT ORLANDO

NEWLYWED COUPLE ON BRADENTON BEACH


notorious past filled with pirates and princesses. Besides a stunning coastline, the island is home to Fernandina Beach, a 50-squareblock downtown district named one of the country’s Top 10 Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Majestic 19th-century homes, several of which have been converted into charming B&Bs, reflect an array of architectural styles such as Queen Anne and Italianate. Bed and breakfasts, such as The Addison and The Amelia Island Williams House, regularly host intimate weddings filled with oldFlorida charm.

LIVE THE FANTASY The true princess-at-heart longs for a fairytale wedding, which is exactly what Walt Disney World delivers to more than a thousand couples each year. The sky is the limit when it comes to ceremony and reception sites thanks to an endless array of locations across the resort’s sprawling theme parks and palatial hotels. With Cinderella Castle perched in the distance, the Wedding Pavilion is always a favorite for classic nuptials, but couples can instead opt for some uncommon locales to tie the knot by choosing one of the countries at Epcot’s World Showcase. Imagine getting

mariachi band, a string quartet or rockin’ DJ. If you can dream it, chances are, Disney can make it happen. Just over an hour from Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line departs Port Canaveral and offers another ceremony and reception option. Say “I do” on board the ship or choose a beachside ceremony on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Whether on land or at sea, every bride and groom plans their dream Disney wedding with the help of a Disney Wedding Specialist, experts in creating unforgettable weddings both big and small.

TOP FIVE HONEYMOON DESTINATIONS

WEDDING AT WESTGATE RIVER RANCH CHURCH

Miami: Home of South Beach with its iconic art deco boutique hotels and miles of sandy shores, Miami calls to honeymooners seeking beach bum days but also high-end shopping and lively nightlife. Florida Keys: Take a road trip to the Keys, mile marker by mile marker, until Key West comes into view, where a kitschy collection of bars and museums make for night and day fun along the infamous Duval Street and beyond. Orlando: Tackle the theme parks, take in world-class shows and outlet shop ’til you drop in one of the most fun honeymoon destinations in the world, home to several lavish hotels ideal for quiet downtime days.

A CINDERELLA WEDDING AT DISNEY WORLD RESORT

FEATURED LINKS

married in Italy or in France without the transatlantic flight. Afterward, receptions can include safari-themed affairs at Animal Kingdom or glitzy, star-studded occasions at Hollywood Studios. Then come the fun details like transportation—think royal carriages and vintage cars—private fireworks, herald trumpeters and visits from Disney characters. Book a

Naples: Ten miles of award-winning beaches as well as acres of untouched wildlife parks make Naples a favorite for outdoorsy couples. Having the Everglades just a few miles away is an added bonus. St. Petersburg: Hours spent on white sandy beaches followed by trips to local gems like the Dalí Museum make for an unforgettable getaway to St. Petersburg, the cosmopolitan city perched on a peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Casa Monica | casamonica.com Lightner Museum | lightnermuseum.org Longboat Key Club & Resort | longboatkeyclub.com Pierre’s Restaurant, Islamorada | pierres-restaurant.com Sandbar Restaurant, Anna Maria Island | sandbar.groupersandwich.com The Addison, Amelia Island | addisononamelia.com The Amelia Island Williams House | williamshouse.com Walt Disney World | disneyweddings.disney.go.com 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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MONEY-SAVING TIPS

FAMILY DINING AT GAYLORD PALMS RESORT IN KISSIMMEE

Stretch Your

BY JILL MARTIN

VACATION DOLLARS KNOW YOUR SEASONS

W

ith the world’s best theme parks, beaches, and weather, it’s no wonder that Florida is consistently ranked as a top travel destination, especially for families. However, all that sun and fun can come at a hefty price. How can you make your vacation dollars stretch further? You just need a little insider knowledge to save big in the Sunshine State.

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EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL

Florida is a big state so seasons vary greatly from north to south. In January, the average high temperature in Panama City Beach is 62 F, but in Key West, it’s a much warmer 74 F. Know your seasons and you’ll know when and where to find the best deals. Winter will yield great rates in North Florida; in the heat of summer, head to South Florida. Orlando has its own seasons, which coincide with school calendars. Meaning, if you’re like most families and have to travel during spring, summer or winter breaks, prices will be higher. Travel during off-peak times (especially January– February and September–Thanksgiving) to pay less and find fewer crowds.

THEME PARK TICKETS If you plan on spending time in any of Florida’s theme parks such as Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and LEGOLAND Florida, do some pre-planning and purchase tickets before you arrive at the

ALL IMAGES: VISIT ORLANDO

DAYTONA 500 EXPERIENCE


gate. There are many reputable ticket brokers you can find online: Mousesavers.com, Ticketmomma.com, UndercoverTourist.com and OfficialTicketCenter.com—all well known and respected. In a glance, you can see ticket prices and any other discounts you may qualify for (military, for instance, or wholesale clubs and automobile clubs). Brokers also have tickets to dinner theater shows such as Pirate’s Dinner Adventure and Arabian Nights, as well as other area attractions and special events.

EPCOT SEAS WITH NEMO AND FRIENDS

COUPON BOOKS Locals have their go-to coupon books but the secret is, you don’t have to be a local to use them. You just have to know where to get your hands on one. A favorite is the Entertainment Book. Simply go to entertain mentbook.com and enter a city or zip/postal code. Buy it, then pack it! One book has literally thousands of dollars in coupons; it will pay for itself in just one day. You’ll also find coupons in the service plazas along the Florida Turnpike. Stop in and take a moment to notice the racks of brochures. Many have coupons inside.

VACATION OWNERSHIP RESORTS You don’t have to sit through a two-hour vacation ownership presentation to take advantage of comfortable, spacious, condominium-style accommodation with multiple bedrooms and full kitchens. You just have to know where to make your reservation. Thousands of timeshare owners post units they are unable to use at RedWeek.com and you can reap the roomy benefits. You can also visit vacation ownership resorts’ websites directly, check availability and book. Even if you can’t stay for the entire week (as timeshare units are normally leased in weekly increments), the savings will still be worth it, especially during the off-season. Favorite websites include LegacyVacationResorts.com; WestgateResorts.com; and MyResortNetwork.com. You may never stay in a hotel room again.

MEMBERS-ONLY DISCOUNTS Score even more discounts by joining local clubs and/or organizations, if you’re not already a member. For instance, the American Automobile Association (AAA) offers discounted rates on everything to do with travel, from car rentals to hotel rooms.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS MARDI GRAS

Wholesale shopping clubs offer travel discounts as well.

DISCOVER THE JOY OF A KIDS’ CLUB Many resorts offer programs for kids as part of their amenity package. These programs provide supervised childcare during certain hours of the day—or night—however they are a far cry from being a babysitting service; they provide educational, entertaining, nonstop fun! While your children are singing karaoke, dancing the conga, creating arts and crafts or learning about marine life, you and your spouse can enjoy some relaxing “we” time. What’s even more appealing is when these programs are complimentary, as they are at the Panama City Beach Holiday Inn Resort and the Harbor Beach Marriott in Fort Lauderdale. Do your research and be sure to ask your resort if they have a program, if they charge a fee, and what the age requirements are for participation.

AIRFARE SAVINGS Everyone has heard, “book at least 21 days in advance for the best price and seat availability,” but there are exceptions. Visit websites such as TripAdvisor.com or AirFarewatchdog.com and register for airfare alerts. You’ll be sent an email when fares on routes you’re interested in drop, and when they do, jump on it. Florida also has a few

airports and airlines you might not be familiar with. In 2011, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) was the first international airport to be built in the US in more than a decade. Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS) offers easy access to Fort Walton Beach and Destin; and Tampa International (TPA) is only an hour or two from Orlando and flight deals are frequently offered. Vision Airlines is a newcomer to the Sunshine State; sign up for emails to receive their red-hot specials.

SOCIAL NETWORKING PAYS OFF Whether you love it or hate it, there are benefits to social networking. On Facebook, it’s common for resorts, hotels and attractions to offer “Fans Only” discounts. Like them on Facebook and you could get a free night, free meals or a percentage-off discount. Be social media savvy and you will most definitely save. Resorts and attractions love to Twitter their deals too, in 140 characters or less.

FIND FREEBIES If the best things in life are free, especially in Florida, then get outside. Many beaches, parks and festivals don’t charge an entrance fee, or if they do, it’s only a few dollars. In Miami, ride a bike into Matheson Hammock Park along the mangrove-lined bike path (and sidestep the entry fee). You’ll find a beautiful city skyline waiting and the busiest kiteboarding beach in the south. You can also find off-the-beaten-path attractions like the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center. Admission is free (donations are welcome) and you can stroll the boardwalk to the bay, past resident owls and hawks. 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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PETS

Pet-Friendly

FLORIDA

BY JEN KARETNICK

T

he friendliness of Floridians doesn’t only extend to humans. Residents of the spacious, wide-open Sunshine State, almost by definition, love animals, too, and welcome visitors’ pet companions just as much as their two-legged counterparts.

PARKS AND BEACHES

PET FASHIONISTAS

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There’s proof of pet acceptance anywhere from Publix, the popular regional supermarket chain where small pups are allowed inside as long as they are contained, to public dog parks and beaches. Sanford, located in Central Florida, is perhaps one of the most canine-catering communities. It’s known for the Paw Park, the oldest off-leash dog site in Central Florida. With a separate play area for small breeds, self-watering bowls, plenty of live oak shade trees and even showers to cool down your critters on sweltering days, the Paw Park is clearly a puppy paradise.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: DENNIS TOKARZEWSKI/SHUTTERSTOCK; ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER AREA CVB; THE MONROE COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; THE MONROE COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

A LITTLE GIRL AND FAMILY PETS AT PLAY ON A BEACH


DOGS ON FORT DE SOTO PARK DOG BEACH

PET SOUVENIRS Well, Fido deserves a souvenir, and fortunately, many pet boutiques have sprouted throughout Florida. Near the new LEGOLAND in Lake Wales, the Dogs BoWoW in the Eagle Ridge Mall, which allows dogs as long as they are in a stroller or carrier, sells handmade items. Bark Avenue Pet Boutique in Fernandina Beach supplies exactly what it implies with an upscale edge, while Silly Willie’s Pet Boutique in New Smyrna Beach carries more humorous items. Whatever

community

you

visit,

try

searching for “pet boutiques” at Dogster.com and you’re bound to find something to take home to the furry loved one in your life.

PET OUTING IN KEY WEST

For more water fun and exercise, as well as raised bathing tubs and an agility course, dogs and their owners can visit Jacksonville’s Dog Wood Park, a fenced, multiple-acre facility. Indeed, dozens of parks and beaches not only allow owners and their animals to frolic, but also offer special facilities for them. Some, however, require six-foot leashes.

especially if you’re rooming at the “pupular” palace known as the W South Beach, which provides a special pet bed and dogwalking service. Whether you own a senior rescue mutt from a shelter or a purebred Chinese Crested, there’s always someone on Lincoln Road ready to admire it as well as plenty of outdoor cafés with bowls of cool

If you need a spot to stay with Spot, check into The Lodge at New Tampa. Not only does this hotel offer special accommodation complete with exercise lanais attached to your suite for furry family members, there’s also a cattery condominium for feline guests as well as a room for rabbits, hamsters and other pets that traditionally travel in cages. They’ll even accommodate fish at The Lodge. If you want to show off your pet in Florida, Lincoln Road, the famous walking mall in Miami Beach, is the place to stroll,

FEATURED LINKS

LODGINGS AND BOULEVARDS

water for lapping. Then head over to nearby Ocean Drive. Or stroll down to Duval Street in Key West to take in some exotic pet viewing. Ferrets try to make themselves invisible against the walls of art deco or conch-style boutique hotels while iguanas perch on tanned, buff shoulders and Burmese pythons curl around tattooed biceps. There are even roosters that ride around in bicycle baskets. Just be careful about getting too close to someone else’s parrot though. Just because your cockatoo adores people doesn’t mean that African grey is going to be just as forthcoming with chatter and bird kisses.

To scout out a dog-friendly spot nearby even when you’re on the go, see Florida Pet Pages floridapetpages.com/dogparks.asp. For a full listing of pet-friendly hotels, visit bringfido.com/lodging/state/florida. PET LODGINGS The Lodge at New Tampa | thelodgefordogs.com W South Beach | wsouthbeach.com PET PARKS Dog Wood Park | jaxdogs.com Paw Park | pawparksanford.org PET SHOPS Bark Avenue Pet Boutique | barkavenuepetboutique.com Silly Willie’s Pet Boutique | silly-willies.com The Dogs BoWoW | thedogsbowow.com

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CAMPGROUNDS

FORT DE SOTO PARK IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Fresh-air

OUTINGS BY JOSIE GULLIKSEN

T

he great outdoors is calling and Florida has a wealth of options from south to north on how best to enjoy them. Take a trip through the Sunshine State for the premier spots to take in nature and breathe in the fresh air.

SOUTHEAST Whether in the northern part of Miami-Dade County or farther south in the Keys, stellar campgrounds offer unique experiences. At Oleta River State Park in North Miami Beach, bring a mountain bike along with the camping equipment and check out the challenging terrain while enjoying a 1,200-foot sandy beach and tranquil waters that are ideal for canoeing and kayaking. The Oleta River runs through nearby Greynolds Park, an outstanding camping site with eight natural 84

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

wood and stone cabins, bunk beds, full kitchen, fireplace and canoe launch. The intact hardwood hammock and mangrove forest is considered one of the last well-protected natural areas in these parts. Farther south, the 270-acre Larry and Penny Thompson Park welcomes campers with woodland, bridle trails, hiking paths, a freshwater lake featuring a beach and waterslide, and full electrical hookup for RVs. A bit smaller at 65 acres, the A.D. Barnes Park features The Sense of Wonder Nature Center and Trail, a bird and wild animal sanctuary, a fishing lake and a splash park playground for kids. Even farther south in the Florida Keys, there are several premier camping sites, some more remote than others. Almost 70 miles west of Key West and completely

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; EXPRESSION PHOTO/SHUTTERSTOCK

CAMPING IN ST. AUGUSTINE


surrounded by water, Fort Jefferson & Dry Tortugas National Park is a primitive camping site accessible only by boat or seaplane and campers are required to bring everything they need along with them. Because the site is so rugged folks must also clean up all their refuse before departing. It’s worth it though simply for the view and the massive structure that sits on the site. A little north on Big Pine Key, Bahia Honda State Park blessed with several white sandy beaches is consistently ranked among the top 10 on “Best Beach” lists. Here, campers can enjoy excellent snorkeling, sunbathing as well as nature trails, a nature center and full facilities. The view from the Old Bahia Honda Bridge is priceless. A little farther north in Marathon is Curry Hammock State Park with a 28-site campground, which offers kayaking through the tranquil mangroves, a 1.5-mile walking trail and biking along the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. Among the campgrounds in Broward County that stand out is C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines with lakeside campsites; fishing from piers, the shore or a rented boat; and biking and jogging trails. The sprawling 666-acre Markham Park in the City of Sunrise is perched at the edge of the Everglades Conservation Area and has a 3.5acre dog park, a series of interlocking lakes for fishing and boating and 88 sites for RV and tent camping. Peanut Island Campground in West Palm Beach County is a tropical-island campground located on the Intracoastal Waterway with 20 campsites, an observation deck, a reef habitat for snorkeling, chickee huts, a fishing pier and a swimming lagoon. And one of the area’s best-known attractions, Lion Country Safari, features an award-winning KOA campground with tent sites, cabins, RV hookups and a camp store. At the 400-site Vacation Inn Resort in West Palm Beach a total of $320,000 in improvements brings with it a repaved park entrance, new landscaping and fresh paint on the park’s buildings. Billing itself as a luxury RV resort, it features an owner’s clubhouse with exercise room, library, sauna, plus party, meeting and game rooms.

SOUTHWEST Over in Sarasota at Turtle Beach Park the

campground has 40 sites for tents and RVs on 2,600 feet of beachfront, a kayak and canoe launch area, fishing, free Wi-Fi as well as nearby shopping facilities. With 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands, Myakka River State Park offers both primitive and full-facility camping as well as lodging in five palm-log cabins, two lakes perfect for boating, freshwater fishing, canoeing and kayaking plus hiking along scenic trails. The largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, Fort De Soto Park consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands. Featuring one of the state’s top-rated beaches, the park’s 236 campsites accommodate tents, vans and popup campers with water and electrical hookup along with a camp store. Nature trails, snorkeling and fishing round out the experience.

outdoor games. Orlando S.E./Lake Whippoorwill KOA has 112 sites including lakeview RV sites, a private boat ramp, and canoe and banana bike rentals. The 355-acre spring-fed lake is great for canoeing and the Kamp K9 Pet Playground and General Store with countrystyle gift items are added bonuses. Nearby Lake Kissimmee State Park in Lake Wales features Florida’s third largest lake, 13 miles of hiking and equestrian trails, incredible evening stargazing, cowboy heritage demonstrations and both full-facility and primitive camping. Canoeing, kayaking, fishing and viewing wildlife inhabitants such as white-tailed deer, bald eagles, bobcats and sandhill cranes are popular activities here. Southport RV Park Campground & Marina located on West Lake Toho is a 25CARAVANING ON THE COAST OF FLORIDA

CENTRAL EAST In the Ormond Beach area is the petfriendly 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.

CENTRAL It turns out Walt Disney World Resort is more than just about attractions. The Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground has more than 750 acres of woodlands filled with lush pine and cypress trees, four different types of campsites, along with cabins and a Meadow Recreation Area featuring a nightly marshmallow roast, trails, swimming and

acre wooded lakeside park with tent accommodation, airboat rides, wildlife viewing and fishing. At the exclusive class Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster, located 45 miles west of Orlando, extensive renovations and capital improvements have led to furnishing and landscaping upgrades, a new fitness center and an additional 119 RV sites. The Resort already boasts a 20,000-squarefoot clubhouse with multiple recreation and meeting rooms, a library and exercise room, full kitchen and 2,500-square-foot heated allseason swimming pool.

CENTRAL WEST The 6,260-acre Alafia River State Park near Lithia has a full-facility campground for both primitive and RV camping, as well as 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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equestrian-friendly campsites. The park is also home to 17 miles of bike trails, ranging from beginner to advanced; canoeing, kayaking and fishing are popular activities as well. The abundance of wildlife found along Alafia’s trails will delight any birdwatcher or nature enthusiast. Opened in 1938, Hillsborough River State Park is one of Florida’s first state parks. The park offers full-facility camping as well as a primitive campsite accessible via a foot trail. Hikers can explore more than seven miles of nature trails and the Hillsborough River provides opportunities for fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Amenities include a café, which serves breakfast and lunch daily and sells camping and picnic supplies as well as souvenirs. Belle Parc RV Resort in Brooksville recently underwent a $1-million improvement and expansion effort taking it from 101 to 325 sites with all renovated buildings, a pool and spa pavilion installation and a new spacious dock on the waterfront. It also features a fenced dog park, clubhouse with outside kitchen, stocked pond, library, paddleboat and fishing dock. The 292-site Quail Run RV Resort in Wesley Chapel has seen growth over the past two years in an effort to accommodate RVs with big rigs. Sites vary in size and include larger pull-through sites. With the $4-million expansion comes a state-of-the-art laundry facility and 4,500-square-foot clubhouse. Free cable and Wi-Fi service at each site are additional perks. The motto here is “No rig is too big,” and thanks to the additional 5,000 yards of concrete, they’re living up to it more than ever.

NORTHEAST Jetty Park in Port Canaveral on Florida’s Space Coast has 150 campsites, a 4.5-acre beach, a 1,200-foot fishing pier and a perfect spot for surfers and cruise ship enthusiasts. A few campgrounds top the best in St. Augustine. The 30-acre wooded North Beach Camp Resort spans a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the North River. Here, 134 sites have full hookup pullthrough sites to tent campsites, with cabin accommodation also available. The resort features a swimming pool, bathhouse and laundry facilities, a convenience store and two family restaurants within easy walking 86

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CAMPING AT MYAKKA RIVER STATE PARK IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

and new pavers to 100 of its 288 sites. Flamingo Lake sits on the only certified swimming lake in Northeast Florida.

NORTH CENTRAL

CANOEING AT HILLSBOROUGH RIVER STATE PARK

distance. The 18.5-acre full-service Ocean Grove RV Resort has a kids’ pool, Jacuzzi, pool, cable TV, kids’ play area, boat ramp and fishing pier. Bicycle, canoe and kayak rentals are also available. Anastasia State Park on what’s considered Florida’s Historic Coast covers 1,600 acres with 139 campsites for RVs and tents, self-guided nature trails, cycling and ancient sand dunes. In Jacksonville, the top campground is at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, an oceanfront park along the Timucuan Trail with sandy beaches, freshwater lakes, natural dunes and nature trails and even a surfing spot known as “the poles.” Hang ten here, canoe or kayak. Additionally, the Flamingo Lake RV Resort has seen a $1-million improvement effort for new water and sewer connections

Tallahassee’s numerous campgrounds are among the best. Apalachicola National Forest features 85 miles of hiking trails while Munson Hills welcomes mountain bikers and horseback riders. And at Ochlockonee River State Park brackish, tidal surge and fresh water converge making it an ideal place for fresh and saltwater fishing. Full-facility camping is available here with campfire circles and hiking and nature trails that are home to diverse wildlife. The Coe’s Landing RV Park has a full-service RV center with electricity, water, hot showers, dumping station, picnic area, Internet access, boat landings and a fishing pier.

NORTHWEST Featuring what is considered one of the bestpreserved 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, pier fishing and fantastic wildlife observation spots.

ALL IMAGES: VISIT FLORIDA

CAMPGROUNDS


willets. Primitive and full-facility camping are both available. The “A” grade Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort in Panama City has grown from a 138-site park to a 148-site park with the 10 new premium lakeside RV sites as well as 23 new park model cottages, eight of which feature RV pads facing a pond. The $1-million

renovation also included a new swimming pool, bathhouse with two private showers, bathroom facilities, an exercise room and a game room. The clubhouse is now 625 square feet larger offering more seating capacity and an expanded kitchen. There are also a dog run and pet wash facility, new playground equipment and upgraded restrooms.

FEATURED LINKS SOUTHEAST A.D. Barnes Park | miamidade.gov/parks/parks/ad_barnes.asp Bahia Honda State Park | floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda C.B. Smith Park | broward.org/Parks/CBSmithPark Curry Hammock State Park | floridastateparks.org/curryhammock Fort Jefferson & Dry Tortugas National Park | nps.gov/drto Greynolds Park | miamidade.gov/parks/Parks/camp_greynolds.asp Larry and Penny Thompson Park | miamidade.gov/parks/Parks/larry_penny.asp Lion Country Safari | lioncountrysafari.com/koa_overview.html Markham Park | broward.org/parks/markhampark Oleta River State Park | floridastateparks.org/oletariver Peanut Island Campground | pbcgov.com/parks/peanutisland/campground.htm Vacation Inn Resort | vacationinnrvpark.com SOUTHWEST Fort De Soto Park | pinellascounty.org/park/05_Ft_DeSoto.htm Myakka River State Park | floridastateparks.org/myakkariver Turtle Beach Park | scgov.net/TurtleBeachCampground

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. Fort Pickens, the largest of four forts in Pensacola, has a campground in Gulf Islands National Seashore Park. Campers can swim at the area’s famed sugar-white beaches plus enjoy walking trails and historic Fort Pickens. Migrating birds, bottle-nosed dolphins and sea turtles are the stars in these waters. Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna is one of very few parks with dry air-filled caves, which make for a unique experience. Formations of limestone stalactites and stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones and draperies are visible here. Horseback riding is also popular, however the caves are the main draw. Nestled near Panama City, St. George Island State Park is a 2,023-acre park flanked by Apalachicola Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other making it the perfect spot for fishing, shelling and viewing shorebirds like black skimmers and

CENTRAL EAST Seaside Park Campground | coralsandsinn.com/campground.cfm CENTRAL Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort | floridagrande.com Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground | disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/campsites-at-fort-wilderness-resort Lake Kissimmee State Park | floridastateparks.org/lakekissimmee Orlando S.E./Lake Whippoorwill KOA | orlandokoa.com Southport RV Park Campground & Marina | southportpark.com CENTRAL WEST Alafia River State Park | floridastateparks.org/alafiariver Belle Parc RV Resort | belleparcrvresorts.com Hillsborough River State Park | floridastateparks.org/hillsboroughriver Quail Run RV Resort | quailrunrv.com NORTHEAST Anastasia State Park | floridastateparks.org/anastasia Flamingo Lake RV Resort | flamingolake.com Jetty Park | portcanaveral.com/recreation/beaches.php Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park | bit.ly/jaxhanna North Beach Camp Resort | northbeachcamp.com Ocean Grove RV Resort | oceangroveresort.com NORTH CENTRAL Apalachicola National Forest | stateparks.com/apalachicola.html Coe’s Landing RV Park | leoncountyfl.gov/parks/camping.asp Ochlockonee River State Park | floridastateparks.org/ochlockoneeriver NORTHWEST Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort | rvresort.com Florida Caverns State Park | floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns Fort Clinch State Park | floridastateparks.org/fortclinch Gulf Islands National Seashore Park | nps.gov/guis St. Andrews State Park | floridastateparks.org/StAndrews St. George Island State Park | floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland

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ECOTOURISM

True Outdoor

EXPERIENCES BY JOSEPHINE MATYAS NATURE TRAIL

F

lorida out of doors: protected wetlands that are home to alligators, raccoons and birds, hundreds of miles of lakes and rivers for a perfect day of paddling, vast forest preserves crisscrossed by trails for hiking and biking, wildlife sanctuaries on land and in water, and some of the best birding in the nation. For the growing number of environmentally-aware vacationers searching for a true outdoor experience, Florida serves up much more than just sand, surf and animal theme parks. Here’s a sampler menu of eco-adventure choices that show off the very real outdoors of the Sunshine State.

global significance, the Everglades have been named an International Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 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, the Florida panther and the manatee. Within this massive watershed, the Everglades National Park contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere. Both inside and beyond the park, ecotourism activities include hiking, birding, wildlife viewing, boat tours, kayaking and canoeing.

MUST SEE, MUST DO Known as “the river of grass,” the Florida Everglades is the only subtropical wilderness preserve in North America and the most visited ecotourism destination in the state. Due to its 88

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FANTASY ISLANDS The sweeping arc of narrow islands, reefs and turquoise bays extending off the southern tip of the state make up the famous

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER CVB; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB; SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

NATURE TOUR IN THE EVERGLADES


Florida Keys, connected by a highway that runs south for 125 miles from Key Largo to Key West. Coastal waters and a living coral reef (the only one in the continental US and the third largest in the world) are protected under the NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, a safe haven for 55 types of coral and more than 600 species of fish. Beaches in the Keys are phenomenal and arguably the best of the best is at the Bahia Honda State Park offering the longest sweep of natural sand in the islands. Activities here (and throughout the Keys) include awesome snorkeling, diving, kayaking and canoeing. Ecotourists interested in the rescue and rehabilitation of injured turtles can visit The Turtle Hospital in the “heart of the Keys” city of Marathon. Here, guided educational tours give a behind-the-scenes look at treatments such as flipper amputation and the repair of damaged shells. A truly rare experience is a day trip to the Dry Tortugas. Accessible only by boat or plane (but still part of the Keys), this isolated cluster of seven islands is part of the National Park System. Here, coral reefs and seagrass flats are home to an abundance of sea turtles—the Dry Tortugas National Park is the most active turtle-nesting site in the Florida Keys.

FLORIDA ECOSAFARIS ON HORSEBACK

Wildlife Drive (closed on Fridays) and a canoe trail where paddlers can get close to various bird species such as the roseate spoonbill, plus a wildlife cornucopia that includes dolphins, manatees and alligators.

WHAT IS ECOTOURISM?

CAVES AND CAVERNS The Florida Caverns State Park at Marianna, a town in Northwest Florida, is the only state park where cave tours are open to the public—tours are 45 minutes long and moderately strenuous. Featuring dazzling formations of limestone stalactites and stalagmites, the caves are the highlight of the park. Also on site are several miles of nature trails punctuated by floodplains, sinkholes and rivers. There is also a small camping area.

WILDLIFE SANCTUARY The renowned J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, on the gulfside subtropical barrier island of Sanibel, is among the best-known protected preserves in Florida. Part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the US and world famous for its spectacular migratory bird population, it was created to protect the pristine habitat that is home to alligators, snakes, marsh rabbits and more than 220 species of birds. The Refuge features a four-mile

MANATEES, DOLPHINS AND SEA TURTLES The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail is a 190-mile well-marked canoe and kayak trail that meanders through coastal waters and inland tributaries of Southwest Florida’s Lee County. Manatees weighing more than a thousand pounds, Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins, alligators and sea turtles can all be spotted along the trail that is suitable for everyone from novice to experienced paddlers. More than 20 outfitters along the route rent kayaks and canoes and can provide guided tours of varying length.

FOR BIRDERS On the southwest coast near Naples, the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a protected watershed and old-growth cypress forest owned by the National Audubon Society. Corkscrew’s rare habitat is a hot spot for birders and can be explored along a boardwalk trail through four distinct environments:

EVERGLADES TOUR

Ecotourism is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.” These days, anything with an “eco” prefix is in favor—so watch for these signs to make sure you’re choosing a true eco-friendly activity. Look for a company that: • Advocates minimal impact to the environment—minimal pollution and noise, recycles materials; • Offers low-key sustainable activities like snorkeling, kayaking, bicycling and hiking; and • Educates you about the environment and wildlife through interpretive tours with qualified and knowledgeable guides.

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ECOTOURISM

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BILLIE SWAMP SAFARI

GREAT EGRET

marsh, cypress forest, wet prairie and pine upland. The preserve is home to at least 200 species of birds, including barred owls, red-shouldered hawks and rare wood storks as well as varied wildlife from reptiles to mammals. Corkscrew is part of the 2,000-mile Great Florida Birding Trail connecting nearly 500 birding sites throughout Florida.

URBAN OPTIONS There are pockets of protected wilderness even among Florida’s busy tourist venues. Near the Gulf Coast city of Clearwater, a popular kayak trail winds through the mangroves of Caladesi Island State Park, an undisturbed barrier island accessible by ferry. On the banks of Old Tampa Bay, Weedon Island Preserve is a lush mosaic of mangrove swamps, intertidal flats and pine forests. Two paddling trails head into the aquatic ecosystems of the area rich with wading and water birds, native plants and wildlife such as deer and gopher tortoise. Bordered by urban development, the 8,700-acre Brooker Creek Preserve has allnatural hiking trails and elevated boardwalks that wind through cypress swamps and towering oak forests.

VOLUNTEER VACATIONS Looking for a real hands-on experience while on vacation? Volunteering at a beach cleanup to keep the Sunshine State’s legendary sand shoreline beautiful and safe for wildlife has become a popular choice with vacationers seeking a “responsible tourism” experience. Every September, for instance, the Ocean Conservancy spearheads a volunteer initiative to remove trash from beaches and waterways around the world, including several Florida sites. Also, the Surfrider Foundation (an international group dedicated to preserving the world’s beaches and oceans) has numerous chapters in Florida that regularly host volunteer beach cleanups.

FEATURED LINKS

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; LEE COUNTY VCB; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

BIRDING TOUR IN LEE COUNTY

Bahia Honda State Park | bahiahondapark.com Brooker Creek Preserve | brookercreekpreserve.org Caladesi Island State Park | floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary | corkscrew.audubon.org Dry Tortugas | nps.gov/drto/index.htm Everglades National Park | nps.gov/ever Florida Caverns State Park | floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail | calusablueway.com Great Florida Birding Trail | floridabirdingtrail.com J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge | fws.gov/dingdarling NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary | floridakeys.noaa.gov Ocean Conservancy | oceanconservancy.org Surfrider Foundation | surfrider.org/chapters The Turtle Hospital | turtlehospital.org Weedon Island Preserve | weedonislandpreserve.org

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VACATION HOMES

All The Comforts

OF HOME BY DALIA COLON

BEACHFRONT RENTALS IN THE TAMPA BAY AREA

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RESORT-LIKE AMENITIES

“With a vacation rental, you really extend that togetherness,” de Belloy says. Traveling efficiently doesn’t mean skipping on amenities, says Steve Trover, a travel expert with Discover Vacation Homes and vice president of the Vacation Rental Managers Association. “Many vacation rentals are located in resort settings that offer golf, spa, tennis, fishing and other activities ideal for traveling couples,” Trover says.

BEST PLACES FOR FAMILIES Florida is pretty family-friendly everywhere,

but certain areas have a reputation for catering to children. When planning to travel with little ones, put these destinations at the top of your list: Kissimmee: Families and Walt Disney World go together like, well, Mickey and Minnie Mouse. So it only makes sense to visit the city that’s home to the Most Magical Place on Earth. But skip the chaotic hotels and opt for a lakefront vacation rental in Kissimmee. In addition to Disney, theme parks like Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando are also nearby.

ALL IMAGES: COURTESY CONDO ALLIANCE OF THE TAMPA BAY BEACHES

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acationing in Florida? Smart choice. And here’s another smart choice: staying in a vacation rental home. Renting a vacation home makes sense for several reasons. For starters, you’ll save money. “Vacation rentals are 50 percent cheaper per square foot than what you’ll get in a hotel,” estimates Alexis de Belloy, senior vice president of North America for the popular vacation rental website HomeAway.com. Having a kitchen also means saving on food. Plus, the extra space and privacy make sense for families with children, de Belloy says. “I’ve got four small kids,” he says. “Once you put them to bed in your hotel, it’s a nightmare. You’re basically locked in your room, or you’ve got to find an external babysitter.” But with a rental home, travelers are free to spread out—an arrangement that’s also ideal for multi-generational families and couples vacationing together. Vacationers get the best of both worlds: private bedrooms and a common area. Rather than splitting off into separate hotel rooms, travelers can stay up late talking, playing board games or watching movies together.


Many of the area’s vacation homes are even Disney-themed. “People can stay in the ambiance not just when they’re visiting the theme park, but throughout their vacation,” de Belloy says. In addition, many rental homes near Disney include other family-friendly perks such as DVD players, video games, pool tables and board games. Destin: If it’s beaches you want, then look no further than this coastal Northwest Florida town. Located just across the state line, it’s perfect for families driving in from the north with children anxious to get out of the car.

staying within walking distance of Miami Beach’s most desirable destinations, so you’ll save even more money on cab fare and no one will have to be the designated driver. You’ll also have a place to enjoy some downtime between nightclub stops. St. Augustine: On the other end of the spectrum, both geographically and figuratively, is this delightful Northeast Florida city. Recognized as the first permanent European settlement in the United States, St. Augustine teems with Old World charm. Couples can stroll arm-in-arm down the cobblestone streets, ride in a horse-drawn carriage and relax on the beach.

POOLSIDE RELAXATION

Sanibel Island: For a bit more money, enjoy a laid-back vacation on this Southwest Florida island. Its secluded Gulf of Mexico setting is ideal for swimming or sailing with little ones on a less crowded beach.

VIEW FIREWORKS FROM YOUR DOORSTEP

DINING ROOM IN RENTAL UNIT

Be flexible on your location. “Look a little bit farther away from the attractions,” de Belloy says. For instance, if you’re planning a beach vacation, you probably realize that a beachfront rental will cost more than a home that’s a block away from the beach, which will cost more than a house that’s a 15minute drive from the beach. But the farthest-away property might feature a gorgeous swimming pool, in which case you may not need to visit the beach every day. Get creative. Do your homework. “The owner will obviously put their property in the best light,” de Belloy says. So it’s important to read online reviews from previous guests. Some websites also allow potential renters to contact the owner directly, so don’t be shy about asking questions and requesting additional photos. Once you have all the information about the number of bedrooms, square footage, amenities and your other musthaves, you can compare apples to apples.

BEST PLACES FOR ADULTS Watch for last-minute deals. Sometimes it’s the late bird that gets the worm. Sign up for email alerts like the one on VacationRentals.com’s Deals page, and scour the Travel Specials page at DiscoverVacationHomes.com.

Left the kids at home and just looking for a place where the two of you can chill and get reacquainted? Miami Beach: This sizzling South Florida hot spot is a playground for adults looking to hit the town. “Miami Beach is just a great place to spend either a long weekend or a short week,” de Belloy says. Restaurants, shopping, nightlife, beaches—Miami Beach has them all. Of course, all that activity can come at a steep price, which makes a vacation rental a particularly smart option. By renting a home, “you can stay in a really lively area” without blowing your entire budget on hotel rooms, de Belloy says. This means

GET MORE FOR YOUR MONEY With thousands of vacation rentals on the market, the ball is in your court. Follow these tips to save some money on your Florida holiday. Be flexible with your travel dates. By avoiding peak travel times, you can take advantage of off-season deals and be in a better position to negotiate.

Just ask. “Many vacation rental companies are rated by AAA. Be sure to look for special offers for members,” Trover says. Also ask about senior discounts, military discounts and the like. In addition, find out what deals the local hotels are offering—for instance, stay three nights and get a fourth night free—and see if the home owner will match the offer. 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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VACATION HOMES

CASCADA

RENTING VERSUS OWNING Are you a renter or a buyer? Steve Trover, vice president of the Vacation Rental Managers Association, compares the benefits of each: RENTING: • No long-term commitment. • Explore many different destinations. • Ability to select different homes based on the travel needs of each trip. OWNING: • Having a second home in your favorite Florida vacation spot. • Ability to generate income through renting the home. • Flexibility of personal time and use of the home.

OWN YOUR VACATION HOME

LAKEWOOD RANCH KEYSTONE II GRAND

Always dreamed of owning a little piece of paradise? With so much inventory on the Florida market, the opportunities are tempting. However, purchasing a vacation home anywhere can be overwhelming for first-time buyers. Where can you turn for help? Channa Calzone, marketing coordinator for Minto Communities, outlines the benefits of choosing a Minto home.

VARIETY OF INVENTORY

HARBOUR ISLE

GUIDANCE “Buying a new home should be one of the happiest moments of your life,” Calzone says. “To make the process of buying a new home in Florida a seamless one, we have

come up with a variety of programs to help home buyers accomplish the goal of owning a brand new Minto home.” Programs like the HomeBuyers Club and MasterCare help you streamline the process.

FEATURED LINKS Condo Alliance of The Tampa Bay Beaches | flcondoalliance.com Discover Vacation Homes | DiscoverVacationHomes.com HomeAway | HomeAway.com Minto | minto.com VacationRentals.com Vacation Rentals by Owner | VRBO.com

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ALL IMAGES: COURTESY MINTO HOMES

Minto offers homes from the mid-$100 thousands to the $700 thousands throughout Florida. These include singlefamily homes, paired villas, estate homes, oceanside properties, courtyard and terrace homes. The company features four communities on the state’s west coast and six on the east coast. It really depends on your expectations and preferred lifestyle and how much you want to spend.


beinspired

There’s a great Minto community in Florida that’s just right for you! SENSATIONALLY PRICED FROM THE $150’s - $700’s.

Sunrise Courtyard Homes Terrace Homes and Courtyard Villas From the upper $200s (888) 753-0434

Cooper City Courtyard Homes 2-3 Bedroom with 2-Car Garages From the $200s (866) 782-3965

Wellington Single Family Homes 2-6 Bedrooms, Up to 61/2 Baths, 2-4 Car Garages From the $300s-$700s (888) 696-1646

Royal Palm Beach Single Family Homes • 2-5 Bedrooms, Up to 41/2 Baths, 2-3 Car Garages From the mid-$200s (888) 817-2575

FLORIDA’S NEW

#1 ACTIVE LIFESTYLE!

Port St. Lucie Single Family Homes • 2-4 Bedrooms, 21/2 Baths, 2-Car Garages From the upper $100s (888) 897-2657

TAMPA

SARASOTA

Sun City Center Paired Villas, Single Family Homes and Estate Homes From the $150s (877) 257-3419

WATERFRONT RESORT LIVING ON FLORIDA’S LAST PRIVATE ISLAND

Bradenton Island Coach Homes 3-4 Bedrooms, 2-3 Baths, 2-Car Garages From the $330s-$500s (888) 842-7089

Lakewood Ranch Single Family Homes • 3 Bedrooms, 2-21/2 Baths,2-Car Garages From the $390s (888) 691-0497

Since 1955, the Minto Group has focused on a single mission: to build and manage communities and other real estate properties that satisfy and exceed customer expectations. With more than 70,000 homes in North America to its credit (including more than 20,000 in Florida) the company has created a track record of gold-star success, with communities that boast elegant finishes and upscale details; amenities and recreational activities worthy of the finest resorts; plans that are respectful to their existing hometowns; and most importantly, places that inspire life and make residents feel right at home. ASK ABOUT OUR EXCEPTIONAL READY-TO-MOVE-IN HOMES AND MINTO PAYING CLOSING COSTS!* Models Open Daily: Mon-Sat 10-6, Sun 12-6 | Brokers Welcome | On-Site Mortgage Counseling

www.mintofla.com • Minto Creates Better Places To Inspire Life. *When using FBC Mortgage and closing with Founders Title. Offer not applicable to all communities. Minto does not pay ALL closing costs. Purchaser will have expenses at closing such as tax proration and other prepaid items. Seller contribution limits may apply and affect loan amount. Please refer to your Minto Sales Professional and to contract addendum for details. Prices and availability subject to change without notice. Oral representations cannot be relied upon as correctly stating the representations of the developer. For correct representations, make reference to the purchase agreement and homeowner documents, including the documents required by section 718.503, Florida Statutes, to be furnished by a developer to a buyer or lessee in condominium communities. Not an offer where prohibited by state statutes. CGC 505726, CGC 1519880, CGC 019736. 1/2012.


Oceanfront Accommodations

Reservations & Information

800-634-0098 AtlanticOceanPalm.com 3247 South Atlantic Avenue Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118

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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

A Diverse

BEAUTIFUL PALM BEACH

LANDSCAPE

BY CHELLE KOSTER WALTON

MUST SEE, MUST DO From socio-political terrain such as the Kennedy Bunker at the Palm Beach Maritime Museum to the more relaxed, literary—and feline—take on life at the Hemingway Home & Museum, the cultural artifacts left behind by Florida’s most famous residents are irresistible. First, take a boat to get a close-up look at the John F. Kennedy Command Post and Bomb Shelter on Peanut Island State Park. A permanent exhibit that is now open for guided tours and situated near the Kennedy Compound in Palm Beach, the Bunker was built during the height of the Cold War in order to safeguard the 98

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LEFT TO RIGHT: MIRCEA BEZERGHEANU/SHUTTERSTOCK; KAZMAT/SHUTTERSTOCK

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omprising four counties—Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe— Southeast Florida is a diverse landscape. Crisscrossed with the wild, swampy Everglades and dotted with some of the best beaches and offshore islands (called keys) in mainland America, Southeast Florida also features the truly exciting urban venues of Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Key West.


President’s family in case of nuclear attack. The house of another famous war figure, Ernest Hemingway, who authored such tomes as For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Moveable Feast, beckons at the opposite end of the region. Not only can visitors peruse the rooms that witnessed the writer’s toils, they can commune with the six-toed cats that bear his name. At least some of the 40 to 50 polydactyl felines that live on the property are descendants of Hemingway’s original six-toed white cat, Snowball.

FLORIDA KEYS SEVEN MILE BRIDGE

BEST DRIVES Driving from Miami to Key West on the single-lane Overseas Highway, which crosses the Seven Mile Bridge, is considered among the most scenic drives in Florida. With water often nearly at door-level on both sides, it sometimes feels as if you are floating through Islamorada, Key Largo, Marathon Key and Big Pine Key. In the early morning and at dusk, birdwatching for great blue herons, white cranes, anhingas and bald eagles is prime. Consult FloridaRambler.com’s Mile-Marker Guide to know where to stop and when.

For more wildlife viewing, hit the Tamiami Trail, either on your way to the west coast (known as Alligator Alley) or to Shark Valley for biking, hiking and tram-touring on the 15-

mile paved trail. Called “the beauty and the beast of Florida roads” by the St. Petersburg Times, it’s best to keep your eyes peeled for turtles crossing the road or alligators in the canals.

Looking for more reasons to get away? Condé Nast Traveler “2011 Reader’s Choice Award” Top 200 Hotels in the U.S. and “2010 Hot List” Travel + Leisure “Best Kept Secret Getaway” Southern Living’s “Best of the South” Travel Awards Featured on NBC’s Today Show

The Seagate’s private beach club

Plan your escape. Visit TheSeagateHotel.com or call 1-877-57-SEAGATE (577-3242). 1000 East Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, Florida 33483

A Seagate Hospitality Group Property

Leed and related logo is a trademark owned by the U.S. Green Building Council and is used by permission.

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In addition to the natural attractions, cultural ones are playing more and more of a role in Southeast Florida, particularly in Miami. The visual arts have become an integral part of society, with Latin American and Caribbean, especially Cuban and Haitian, painters and sculptors coming to the fore. For an immediate view of the most post-modern stuff, hit the galleries and warehouses in the Design District and Wynwood Arts District; for a more retrospective experience, head to the museums, including Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami; History Miami; and the Freedom Tower Miami. Those seeking an international perspective should visit the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, or the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. In 2011, Delray Beach celebrated its 100th anniversary and, in 2012, the Delray Affair will mark the 50th year of the most popular Arts and Crafts Street Festival in Palm Beach County. Stretching along Atlantic 100

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Avenue over 10 city blocks in scenic downtown Delray Beach, this annual event draws accolades and crowds to one of Southeast Florida’s oldest and largest outdoor arts, crafts and entertainment venues. And admission is free!

FAMILY ATTRACTIONS While galleries and museums are wonderful for the mature mind, nothing beats family adventures like a day at the zoo. Zoo Miami, formerly called Metrozoo, is one of the most fantastic, cage-free enclosures in the world, with more than 2,000 animals available for viewing. Likewise, Jungle Island is a fascinating place to view tropical creatures up close. Just off the mainland, on the way to South Beach and conveniently across from the interactive Miami Children’s Museum, where there’s everything from a faux supermarket to a recording studio, Jungle Island is renowned for its wonderful bird and wildlife shows.

SPORTS AND OUTDOORS Florida is famous for its water sports. If you want to experience anything on a board—

ANNUAL EVENTS For a full listing of annual art festivals throughout Southeast Florida, visit: artfestival.com/FestivalCalendar.aspx. JANUARY Las Olas Art Fair Part I FEBRUARY Delray Beach Garlic Fest Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival ArtiGras Fine Arts Festival, Jupiter MARCH Boca Bacchanal APRIL Delray Affair Palm Beach International Film Festival AUGUST & SEPTEMBER Miami Spice Restaurant Months  OCTOBER Key West Goombay Festival NOVEMBER Miami Book Fair International DECEMBER Art Basel Miami Beach

TOP: ALEX MILLOS/SHUTTERSTOCK

HERITAGE AND CULTURE

MIAMI SKYLINE


SOUTHEAST FLORIDA windsurfing, kiteboarding, paddleboarding or just regular old-fashioned surfing—head to Key Biscayne or Miami Beach, where the pros gather to teach the amateurs or just show off their skills. If all that wave-riding sounds too risky, seek out the calmness of Oleta River Park in North Miami Beach, Florida’s largest urban park, to canoe and kayak in a natural preserve and observe dolphins and manatees. Or, the more adventurous can mountainbike on the park’s off-road trails. For super-charged visitors who really like to make tracks, the Mario Andretti Racing Experience in Homestead might be their style. Serious fans can purchase a training session that includes either a ride-along or a

solo drive for five racing minutes in an opencockpit, full-size Indy car on a real track. Now that’s driving with the top down! Tennis buffs might want to check out the annual Delray Beach International Tennis Championships, which take place in February and March.

SHOP ’TIL YOU DROP Like its sports complexes, many of Florida’s shopping malls are also outdoor venues, each with its own virtues. In Miami’s exclusive Bal Harbour community, Bal Harbour Shops offer premium goods and restaurants in a palm-tree-enhanced setting. Nearby, Lincoln Road in Miami’s South Beach is an enclosed walking mall where the only wheels allowed

NEED MORE INFO? Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau | sunny.org Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau | miamiandbeaches.com The Monroe County Tourist Development Council | fla-keys.com Palm Beach County Convention & Visitors Bureau | palmbeachfl.com

PARROTS AT JUNGLE ISLAND

FREEDOM TOWER IN MIAMI

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are those on baby strollers. Here, galleries rub shoulders with outdoor café after café. In between are iconic originals, such as Books & Books, Van Dyke Café and the art-deco masterpiece, the Colony Theater. Fort Lauderdale brings Las Olas Boulevard to the table, a glam thoroughfare stuffed with design stores, art galleries and restaurants including the venerable Mangos Restaurant and Lounge. Likewise, Worth Avenue in Palm Beach features star-studded complexes where socialites gather to dress up their exterior personas at the likes of Gucci, Cartier and Chanel and to fortify their interiors at the Taboo Restaurant. In Downtown Delray Beach Village by the Sea, bordered by Atlantic Avenue, Swinton Avenue, N.E. 4th Street and Railroad Avenue, a wide variety of specialty shops sell antiques, books, clothing, artwork, jewelry and much more. The area is also known for its numerous fine-dining establishments, cafés and bakeries.

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COLONY THEATER IN MIAMI


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Between boating, diving, snorkeling and splashing on the beach, The Florida Keys offer an almost unlimited variety of ways to help your family grow even closer together. fla-keys.com 1-800-fla-keys

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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA HEMINGWAY'S HOUSE IN KEY WEST

Mizner Park is a beautifully structured mall in Boca Raton, which not only supplies upscale boutique and bistro options, but also houses the Schmidt Family Centre for the Arts. Comprising a concert hall, museum and an amphitheater, Mizner is a grand place to take the family for a day of shopping, then set up a few beach chairs to enjoy a concert under the stars.

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Bal Harbour Shops | balharbourshops.com Colony Theater | miami-theater.com Delray Affair | delrayaffair.com Delray Beach International Tennis Championships | yellowtennisball.com Downtown Delray Beach Village by the Sea | downtowndelraybeach.com Freedom Tower Miami | freedomtowermiami.org History Miami | historymiami.org Jungle Island | jungleisland.com Las Olas Boulevard | lasolasboulevard.com Lincoln Road | lincolnroad.org Mario Andretti Racing Experience | andrettiracing.com Miami Children’s Museum | miamichildrensmuseum.org Miami Design District | miamidesigndistrict.net Mizner Park | miznerpark.com Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens | morikami.org Museum of Art | moafl.org Museum of Contemporary Art | mocanomi.org Norton Museum of Art | norton.org Oleta River Park | floridastateparks.org/oletariver Palm Beach Maritime Museum | pbmm.org Peanut Island State Park | pbcgov.com/parks/peanutisland Schmidt Family Centre for the Arts | centre4artsboca.com Shark Valley Tram Tours | sharkvalleytramtours.com Tamiami Trail | miami.com/traveling_the_tamiami_trail The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum | hemingwayhome.com Worth Avenue | worth-avenue.com Wynwood Arts District | wynwoodmiami.com Zoo Miami | miamimetrozoo.com

PHOTO: LAWRENCE ROBERG/SHUTTERSTOCK

FEATURED LINKS

Where to stay in South Florida depends on who’s traveling with you and what you plan on doing. If you’re traveling with a partner and are looking for some rest and relaxation, head to Little Palm Island Resort & Spa on Little Torch Key, where there are neither televisions nor telephones in the rooms and no one under the age of 16 is allowed on the island. Families seeking something tropical and upscale should try Singer Island, just barely located off the coast of Palm Beach. Here, guests can set up for a long stay in condostyle suites, complete with kitchens and washers/dryers, at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa.


SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

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hell-strewn beaches and beautiful blue Gulf waters coexist with the arts, style and small city sophistication. Bordered by the cities of Bradenton and Sarasota to the north, and Fort Myers and Naples to the south, Southwest Florida has a distinctive tropical landscape and a dedication to its preservation, along with abundant diverse cultural amenities. In addition to beach and water sports vacation options, there are museums, art galleries, spectator sports, golf, tennis, superb shopping, nature preserves and historical sites to entice singles, couples and families to this scenic stretch of coastline. Sprinkled with small towns and barrier islands, and blessed with gorgeous white sand beaches, Southwest Florida has all the essentials required for an exciting and rewarding vacation.

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BY KATHERINE SGROI


GOLFING FOURSOME IN THE NAPLES AREA

CASTING ON THE FLATS IN LEE COUNTY

edge of the largest subtropical wilderness— the Everglades. Showcasing the area is The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, which contains nature trails, a butterfly garden as well as learning and visitor centers. The natural beauty of Southwest Florida is revealed through first-hand experiences and education about coastal environments, wildlife and nature conservation. This undisturbed natural mangrove estuary environment offers an enjoyable experience for all ages. BUILDING SANDCASTLES ON A SARASOTA BEACH

The Visitors Center will delight children and adults with hands-on experiences and live exhibits such as the tortoise exhibit, a 2,300gallon aquarium filled with native fish, a nature store, picnic area and art gallery. Check the website for which day of the week the Touch Tank program is held when children can see and touch crabs, starfish or conch. A boardwalk with a viewing platform and three nature trails along Henderson Creek enable visitors to view the indigenous plants and natural beauty of the coastal habitat. Daily programs can be viewed on the website calendar and may include kayak tours, nature photography workshops, birding expeditions and guided nature walks.

CULTURE AND HISTORY ESCAPES The cultural landscape of Southwest Florida is well developed and sophisticated. The Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples presents an exciting variety of visual and performing arts in a state-of-the-art theater. Broadway shows, musical entertainers and the Miami City Ballet are a sampling of the exceptional options. The Phil, as known by locals, also houses the nationally recognized Naples Philharmonic Orchestra whose inspirational performances of classical, pops, chamber and opera are truly memorable. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers provide a glimpse into the past of inventors Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. The estates are a tropical paradise with 20 acres of botanical gardens containing more than a thousand varieties of plants, flowers and trees set on the Caloosahatchee 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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TENNIS AT SARASOTA BEACH RESORT

SARASOTA NIGHTLIFE

ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Creative Coast Weekends (through April) FEBRUARY Annual Sanibel Shell Fair & Show Edison Festival of Light Stadium Show MARCH Spring Training: Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins Annual Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival JULY Tropical Fruit Fair

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string of barrier islands with beautiful beaches stretches along the coastline. These islands offer exciting experiences for the entire family—swimming, water sports, fishing, boating trips and relaxation. The No. 1 beach in the United States, according to Dr. Beach, is Siesta Beach on Siesta Key. This small island off the coast of Sarasota has bright white sand that is always cool due to the nearly pure quartz content. Known for world-class shelling, the tropical islands of Sanibel and Captiva, located near Fort Myers, also offer bicycle riding,

OCTOBER Annual Oktoberfest J.N. “Ding” Darling Days NOVEMBER Annual Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival Annual American Sandsculpting Championship and Beach Festival Annual Taste of the Town, Fort Myers Cape Coral Coconut Festival DECEMBER Annual Holiday Nights at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates

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River. Visit their homes, museum and the Edison Botanic Research Laboratory. A trip to Sarasota would not be complete without visiting the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art located at the Ringling winter estate—the Ca’ d’Zan Mansion. The complex includes art galleries, a sculpture garden and a circus museum featuring the world’s largest miniature circus that kids won’t want to miss.


SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Panoramic views of tropical nature, skillfullycrafted fairways and expertly-designed resort and public golf courses bring golfers back time and time again to Southwest Florida. To find a course that energizes your game, check out Sarasota Golf Net and Florida Golf. Spring in Southwest Florida attracts baseball fans to various venues along the coast to watch their favorite teams warm up for the season. The Florida Spring Training website contains all the information sports fans need to see the Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays play. A defining characteristic of Southwest Florida is its natural habitats, which are decidedly different from other areas of Florida. To preserve and celebrate these distinctive regions, several botanical gardens and conservation areas have evolved. The Naples Botanical Garden has grown into seven cultivated world-class gardens and natural habitats. Grasses, wildflowers and exotic 110

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SHOP ’TIL YOU DROP Chic designer shops, charming small town centers, discount outlets and flea markets in Venice and Fort Myers are some of the shopping opportunities in Southwest Florida. Visit the delightful town of Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island where casual shops, art galleries and nautical artifacts can be found. Miromar Outlets in Estero has 140 top designer and brand-name stores set in a

tropical outdoor mall. Covered walkways, discount prices and a good selection of restaurants complete the picture. Shady palm-lined streets welcome you to the shopping district known as Fifth Avenue South in Naples. Sophisticated and unique boutique shops intermingle with world-class restaurants, art galleries and businesses to create an exciting shopping experience. Jewelry, home accessories, art and fashion take center stage at this premier shopping destination. Just north of downtown Naples, the Waterside Shops glisten in the tropical sunshine. With bubbling fountains and the sounds of flowing water, this upscale shopping venue comprises top-end stores such as Saks, Louis Vuitton, Coach and Ralph Lauren as well as several restaurants. St. Armands Circle is Sarasota’s shopping and dining crown jewel. Strolling along the walkways, shoppers find one-of-a-kind boutique shops and inviting sidewalk cafés.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS Sprinkled along the coast are resorts, hotels and inns to satisfy any criteria. Large luxury resorts, such as the Ritz-Carlton in Naples and Sarasota, offer full-service restaurants and spas while smaller boutique inns, such as the Inn at Pelican Bay, are set on a lake in north Naples.

Dome Flea & Farmers Market | thedomefleamarket.com Fine Art Fair and Craft Show Listings | artfaircalendar.com/art_fair/florida-art-fairs.html Fleamasters Fleamarket | fleamall.com Florida Golf | fgolf.com Florida Spring Training | floridaspringtraining.com J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge | fws.gov/dingdarling John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art | ringling.org Miromar Outlets | miromaroutlets.com Mote Aquarium | mote.org Naples Botanical Garden | naplesgarden.org Old Naples | naplesdowntown.com Philharmonic Center for the Arts | thephil.org The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve | rookerybay.org St. Armands Circle | starmandscircleassoc.com Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce | sanibel-captiva.org Sarasota Golf Net | sarasotagolfnet.com Waterside Shops | watersideshops.com FEATURED ACCOMMODATION Inn at Pelican Bay | innatpelicanbay.com Longboat Key Club & Resort | longboatkeyclub.com Naples Grande Beach Resort | naplesgranderesort.com Ritz-Carlton | ritzcarlton.com Royal Shell | royalshell.com The Gasparilla Inn & Club | the-gasparilla-inn.com

LEFT TO RIGHT: VISIT FLORIDA; SARASOTA CVB

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

plants from Florida and the Caribbean are only a sampling of the bounty exhibited.

FEATURED LINKS

shopping, water sports, boating and fishing. On Sanibel, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge provides enjoyment for the entire family. The refuge features reptiles, birds, mammals, bike and walking paths, and winding canoe trails. More than 100 species of marine life, including dolphins, manatees, sharks and sea turtles, can be observed at the Mote Aquarium in Sarasota. Learn about where they live and watch sharks feed in the shark tank.

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK


SHARKS TOOTH FESTIVAL IN SARASOTA

In Naples, artists from all over the United States participate in the festivals. The Naples National Art Festival, held in February, showcases the talents of more than 250 artists in a competitive, juried event. Additionally, during most months of the year, Naples presents art and crafts at fairs on Fifth Avenue South and at Cambier Park. A celebration of films and filmmaking takes place at film festivals in April in Sarasota and November in Naples. Film lovers can view independent films from around the world and meet filmmakers in an educational and creative setting.

Just off the Sarasota mainland is the Longboat Key Club and Resort. Near restaurants and shopping in St. Armands Circle, this beachfront resort contains a Kids Klub, pool, restaurant, on-site marina and golf. A stay here will relax and recharge anyone. Nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and a natural mangrove estuary, the Naples Grande Beach Resort is a relaxed luxury property, which offers swimming, water sports, golf and a Golden Door Spa. The beach, three pools, a waterslide and the Naples Grande Kids Club provide sheer enjoyment for children while the Golden Door Spa rejuvenates and renews mind, body and spirit in a tranquil setting. Old-world Florida has been preserved at The Gasparilla Inn & Club in the town of Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island. Reminiscent of times gone by, charm and history surround you in this quaint town and inn. The resort offers a beach club, pool, restaurants, golf, tennis and croquet. Don’t miss afternoon tea.

FESTIVALS AND EVENTS Events throughout this region reflect the natural environment and a love of the arts. From seafood festivals (February in Everglades City) and swamp buggy races (January, March and October in Naples) to a profusion of festivals that celebrate art from juried artists, glass and metal sculpture, photography, jewelry, as well as local arts and crafts, diverse annual events are held in towns and cities up and down the coast. Sarasota’s St. Armands Circle hosts the Annual Art Festival in January. In February and March, Sarasota welcomes visitors to its downtown Festival of the Arts and Art and Craft Festival. 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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A Flair For

THE ARTS BY ROBERTA SANDLER

A QUAINT COTTAGE STUDIO IN VILLAGE OF THE ARTS

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radenton offers a mainland break from the nearby beaches of Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island. Located on Florida’s southwest coast just south of the Greater Tampa Bay area, Bradenton, the seat of Manatee County and its largest city, features a potpourri of attractions and family enjoyment.

HISTORY AND HERITAGE Operated by the National Park Service, De Soto National Memorial commemorates conquistador Hernando De Soto’s exploration through Florida, beginning with his landing on the beaches of Tampa Bay in 1539. Shoreline guided walks, Living History programs, costumed interpreters 112

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and weapon demonstrations vividly bring De Soto’s expedition to life. Bradenton’s Hernando De Soto Historical Society maintains the De Soto Museum in the downtown area and organizes an annual De Soto Heritage Festival as well as related tournaments and parades in Manatee County. Explore Manatee Village Historical Park, which provides insight into how the area’s pioneers lived. This collection of early 1900s-era buildings includes a general store, church, farmhouse and schoolhouse plus a vintage steam engine. In nearby Ellenton, Gamble Plantation Historic State Park showcases the only surviving antebellum plantation house (circa

CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: BRADENTON AREA CVB; BRADENTON AREA CVB; SOUTH FLORIDA MUSEUM; BRADENTON AREA CVB; VISIT FLORIDA

SOUTH FLORIDA MUSEUM

BRADENTON


SNOOTY AT PARKER MANATEE AQUARIUM IN BRADENTON

WHAT’S NEW Pier 22, a beef and seafood restaurant, recently opened at Twin Dolphin Marina overlooking the Manatee River in Bradenton. Early 2012 will welcome two new restaurants along Old Main Street: Old Main Grill, featuring traditional American food, and The Grill at O’Bricks, with an eclectic land-and-sea menu.

1840s) in South Florida. Park rangers happily share their knowledge and insight on guided tours.

ARTISTIC FLAIR Village of the Arts boasts 35 restored 1920s and 1930s cottages, which serve as cafés, studios and galleries for local artisans. These businesses stay open on the first Friday evening and following Saturday afternoon during the monthly ArtWalks. This funky neighborhood is the place to find whimsical garden art, folk art, jewelry, fashions and more. Theater arts take center stage with the Manatee Players, a talented Bradenton theatrical group, which presents musical productions at Bradenton’s Riverfront Theatre.

AN ARTIST'S STUDIO IN VILLAGE OF THE ARTS

FAMILY ACTIVITIES

SPORTS AND OUTDOORS Baseball fans can watch the Pittsburgh Pirates at play during spring training at downtown’s McKechnie Field, a 6,200-seat old-time ballpark. Minor league teams also play here from April to September. PLAYING IN THE SURF ON LONGBOAT KEY

Avid horseback riders might want to check out Great World Adventures, which takes riders bareback along the beach and into the water on Palma Sola Causeway.

Every Saturday between 9 AM and 2 PM, the Farmers’ Market on the quaint, treelined Old Main Street percolates with live music, libations, food and a variety of arts and crafts created by local artisans. Located on the Manatee River in downtown Bradenton, the South Florida Museum features Florida paleontology and archaeology exhibits. Its Parker Manatee Aquarium is the permanent home to 63year-old “Snooty,” the nation’s oldest captive manatee, while the Bishop Planetarium, with its all-digital domed theater, invites visitors to explore the universe. At the Mixon Fruit Farms, visitors are transported on board the Orange Blossom Express tram through the groves to an onsite Wildlife Care and Education Center where injured animals and birds are rehabilitated for release back into the wild.

FEATURED LINKS

Bradenton Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau | amilbk.com De Soto National Memorial | nps.gov/deso Farmers’ Market | realizebradenton.com Gamble Plantation | floridastateparks.org/gambleplantation Great World Adventures | beachhorses.com Hernando De Soto Historical Society | desotohq.com Manatee Players | manateeplayers.com Manatee Village Historical Park | manateeclerk.com/historical/ManateeVillage/MVExhibits.aspx Mixon Fruit Farms | mixon.com Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training | springtrainingconnection.com/bradenton.html South Florida Museum | southfloridamuseum.org Village of the Arts | villageofthearts.com

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Pace

DAYTONA NASCAR RACE

YOURSELF BY SUSAN MACCALLUM-WHITCOMB

SLOW DOWN No wonder this part of the Sunshine State tempts vacationers who long to simply park themselves on a beach. After all, it features uninterrupted miles of white sand on both the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway. Some stretches, flanked by resort hotels and condos, give convenient access to urban amenities; others, edged only by grass-tufted dunes, are deserted enough to satisfy Survivor fans. Yet on-thewater activities such as fishing, boating and 114

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he central east coast—running for some 175 miles from the Daytona Beach area south to the Palm Beach County line—is long and slim. But don’t be fooled: the range of vacation opportunities it offers is surprisingly broad. Sand and sea, rockets and racecars, gentle eco activities and adrenaline-fueled adventures: they’re all here. So whether you’re aiming to shift into high gear or come to a full stop, this region really delivers.


surfing are always close at hand when cooling off is desired. Since humans aren’t the only ones attracted to the waterfront, easy animal encounters are widely available too. You might witness bottle-nosed dolphins cavorting offshore; or, April through October, spy supersized sea turtles nesting right on the sand. At the sprawling Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, visitors can glimpse cool critters such as alligators and endangered manatees. Due to this barrier island’s strategic position on the Atlantic Flyway, hundreds of avian species flock in making it a hot spot for birdwatching as well.

BEACH VOLLEYBALL AT COCOA BEACH PIER

GET REVVED UP Ironically, the slow-paced Merritt Island retreat was designed as a buffer zone for the supersonic Kennedy Space Center, one of Florida’s most stellar attractions. The aeronautical equipment displayed at its Visitor Complex (ranging from a Saturn V rocket to an Apollo command module) is reason enough to visit. But the venue also manages to package science and history with Disneyesque pizzazz, creating virtual experiences such as mock moon walks, shuttle liftoffs and wild drives across Mars. Racier options await north of the Space Coast in Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach. FISHING FROM SUNGLOW PIER DAYTONA BEACH

ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival Rolex 24 FEBRUARY Daytona 500 MARCH Grant Seafood Festival APRIL Cocoa Beach’s Easter Surf Festival OCTOBER Biketoberfest

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PARASAILING OFF THE CENTRAL EAST COAST

A Day Away Kayak Tours | adayawaykayaktours.com Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge | fws.gov/archiecarr Atlantic Center for the Arts | atlanticcenterforthearts.org Biketoberfest | biketoberfest.org Brevard Zoo | brevardzoo.org Canaveral National Seashore | nps.gov/cana Cocoa Beach Pier | cocoabeachpier.com College of Turtle Knowledge | fpl.com/community/learning Daytona 500 | daytonainternationalspeedway.com Easter Surf Festival | eastersurffest.com Grant Seafood Festival | grantseafoodfestival.com Kennedy Space Center | kennedyspacecenter.com Lone Cabbage Fish Camp | twisterairboatrides.com Major League Baseball’s pre-season training | floridagrapefruitleague.com Manatee Observation and Education Center | manateecenter.com Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge | fws.gov/merrittisland Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach | peabodyauditorium.org PGA Village | pgavillage.com/stlucie Ponce Inlet Lighthouse | ponceinlet.org Richard Petty Driving Experience | drivepetty.com Ron Jon Surf Shop | ronjonsurfshop.com Sebastian Inlet State Park | floridastateparks.org/sebastianinlet Space Coast | space-coast.com Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival | spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org The Charles and Linda Williams Children’s Museum | moas.org Treetop Trek | treetoptrek.com

FEATURED ACCOMMODATION Club Med Sandpiper Bay | sandpiperbay.clubmed.us Disney’s Vero Beach Resort | Disneyvacationclub.disney.go.com Ron Jon Cape Caribe Resort | ronjonresort.com Wyndham Ocean Walk Resort | oceanwalk.com

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The former is dubbed “The Birthplace of Speed” thanks to pioneering carmakers Henry Ford and Louis Chevrolet who staged the original automobile races there. The latter is synonymous with the Daytona International Speedway, which annually hosts NASCAR’s most recognizable race— the Daytona 500. With choices like that, isn’t it time you green-lighted a Central East Florida vacation?

MUST SEE, MUST DO Even in a state known for stunning beaches, Canaveral National Seashore stands out. The pristine 24-mile preserve represents the longest undeveloped expanse on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Erected in 1962, funky Cocoa Beach Pier has restaurants, bars, shops and live enter-

ALL IMAGES: VISIT FLORIDA

FEATURED LINKS

LPGA LEGENDS GOLF COURSE, DAYTONA


WHAT’S NEW Now that the shuttle program is history, the Atlantis will go on display at the Kennedy Space Center in 2013. In the meantime, you can ogle rockets, robots and moon rocks; then go out to lunch with an astronaut or out to launch on a shuttle simulator. The Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Port St. Lucie has re-emerged following a $30-million extreme makeover. It is now a 4-Trident premium resort—and America’s only all-inclusive. Attention Tarzan wannabes. The Brevard Zoo has opened a “Treetop Trek” complete with zip lines and an aerial obstacle course. Three networks with varying levels of difficulty ensure fun for all.

tainment. It’s also the epicenter of Floridian surf culture and the perfect place to watch surfers in action. Ponce Inlet Lighthouse is the tallest in Florida and one of the oldest in the country. Aside from panoramic views, the 175-foot National Historic Landmark features a themed museum. The Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach and Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach are top picks for the visual and performing arts respectively.

Strap into an airboat at Lone Cabbage Fish Camp. After whooshing through marshes and cypress swamps in search of alligators, sample gator nuggets at the dockside restaurant.

FUN FOR FAMILIES Cool pools, creative programs and other onsite perks make Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, the Wyndham Ocean Walk Resort in Daytona Beach and the Ron Jon Cape Caribe Resort near Cocoa Beach family attractions in their own right. Melbourne’s Brevard Zoo is “the small zoo that does big things.” Kids can go eyeto-eye with giraffes, kayak near rhinos, hand-feed exotic birds, take a behind-thescenes tour or kick back in the playground. The Charles and Linda Williams Children’s Museum in Daytona Beach has engaging, educational, hands-on exhibits. As part of the Museum of Arts & Sciences (a Smithsonian affiliate), it also houses a planetarium.

THE SPORTS SCENE The Boys of Summer arrive each spring for Major League Baseball’s pre-season training. March through early April catch the

Washington Nationals at the Space Coast Stadium in Viera and the New York Mets at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie. The Port St. Lucie PGA Village is among Florida’s top golf destinations. Along with three championship courses designed by Tom Fazio and Pete Dye, it’s home to a PGA golf school and the PGA Museum of Golf. Can’t make any of NASCAR’s big events? Take a tour of Daytona International Speedway or take the wheel of a racecar yourself on a Richard Petty Driving Experience.

ECO ADVENTURES In June and July, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge runs free “turtle watches” as does Sebastian Inlet State Park and South Hutchinson Island’s College of Turtle Knowledge. The Manatee Observation and Education Center in Fort Pierce and manatee viewing platform on Merritt Island provide close-up looks at Florida’s state marine mammal. On paddling excursions—like those organized by A Day Away Kayak Tours—you might observe anything from ospreys and alligators to flying mullets and bioluminescent marine life.

17 Mile Playground With Many Miles Come Many Choices. New Smyrna Beach is a Perfect Place to Vacation. Take a Breath and Dig your Toes in the Sand. You Will Love It!

www.nsbfla.com 2238 State Road 44 New Smyrna Beach, Florida 32168 1- 800 - 541-9621

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CENTRAL FLORIDA

Something

FOR EVERYONE BY BARB AND RON KROLL

CITY LIGHTS Besides theme parks, Greater Orlando has more than 5,000 restaurants, including dinner theaters with themes ranging from buccaneers at Pirate’s Dinner Adventure to horses at Arabian Nights, comedy at WonderWorks, mystery at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows, jousting tournaments at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament and gangsters at Capone’s Dinner & Show. 118

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W

hat’s your favorite vacation activity? Dining out? Shopping? Golfing? Fishing? Visiting theme parks? Exploring parks and nature reserves? Discovering museums and galleries? You’ll find them all in Central Florida, “the vacation capital of the world.” Greater Orlando alone, an area encompassing Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake Counties, boasts more than 100 ticketed attractions, 200 lakes and 440 hotels. Kissimmee, Polk County and the city of Ocala offer more fun things to see and do.


HOLLIS GARDEN IN LAKELAND

Additional entertainment is found in lounges, martini bars, dance clubs, sports bars, comedy clubs, wine bars and even an icebar with an ice-carved interior. Besides shops, bars and restaurants, Kissimmee’s Old Town features amusement park rides and a Saturday Nite Cruise parade of more than 300 classic cars. Kissimmee’s Latin Trail of restaurants satisfies appetites for South American, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Spanish cuisines. Nighttime entertainment ranges from Auggie’s Jammin’ Piano Bar at the Gaylord Palms Resort to Vintage Vino, a downtown wine, beer and cheese bar.

ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards Winter Music Series Central Florida Scottish Highland Games FEBRUARY ArtsFest 2012 Mount Dora Arts Festival Silver Spurs Rodeo MARCH Sidewalk Art Festival SUN ’n FUN International Fly-In & Expo, Lakeland

MUST SEE, MUST DO

APRIL Great American Pie Festival

No Central Florida visit is complete without experiencing one or more of Orlando’s major

JULY Fireworks at the Fountain SEPTEMBER Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month NOVEMBER Orlando Calling

theme parks: Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando. 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. Discount tickets for attractions, dinner shows and activities can be ordered online.

HERITAGE & CULTURE

MINI GOLF AT PIRATE’S ISLAND

Orlando Museum of Art and Orange County Regional History Center highlight Orlando’s eight-mile cultural corridor. Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre features Broadway shows. International orchestras perform at the Festival of Orchestras in Longwood. Orlando Repertory Theatre specializes in children’s performances. Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and Orlando Ballet also have programs for young audiences. In Lakeland, Polk Theatre, a restored 1928 vaudeville/movie palace, hosts films and performing arts in a Venetian piazza setting. At Kissimmee’s Pioneer Village & Museum, visitors explore late-1800s American homestead life. Exhibits include 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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FUN FOR FAMILIES Central Florida attractions cover a variety of interests: zip line safaris at Florida Eco Safaris, miniature golf at Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf, swimming with dolphins and snorkeling with manatees at Florida Dolphin Tours. At Orlando Science Center, youngsters can observe stars and examine fossilized dinosaur eggs. In Orlando’s WonderWorks, hands-on simulators allow children to ride a virtual submarine and experience many other interactive activities. Families can play cowboy on trail rides near Ocala at Double K Stables and Makin’ Tracks Trail Rides. Western fun and adventure also await at the Westgate River Ranch Resort near Lake Wales. Hot-air ballooning is a popular aerial adventure at Orlando Balloon Rides and Magic Sunrise Ballooning. In Polk County, Fantasy of Flight offers aerial displays, hang-glider simulators, biplane rides and tours of the world’s largest private collection of aircraft. HORSE RIDING, KISSIMMEE

FEATURED LINKS Alligator Cove Airboat Nature Tours | alligatorcoveairboatnaturetours.com Alligators Unlimited Airboat Nature Tours | mildtowildairboattours.com Amway Center | www.amwaycenter.com Appleton Museum of Art | appletonmuseum.org Arabian Nights | arabian-nights.com Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club | bayhill.com Auggie’s Jammin’ Piano Bar | gaylordhotels.com Black Hammock Adventures | theblackhammock.com Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre | broadwayacrossamerica.com/Orlando Boggy Creek Airboat Rides | bcairboats.com Bok Tower Gardens | boktowergardens.org Capone’s Dinner & Show | alcapones.com Captain Fred’s Airboat Nature Tours | captfreds.com Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens | centralfloridazoo.org Detroit Tigers Spring Training | floridaspringtraining.com/tigers.html Double K Stables | double-k-stables.com Fantasy of Flight | fantasyofflight.com Fantasy Surf | ultimateindoorwave.com Festival of Orchestras | festivaloforchestras.org Florida Dolphin Tours | floridadolphintours.com Florida Eco Safaris | floridaecosafaris.com Forever Florida Wildlife Conservation Area | floridaecosafaris.com Grand Cypress Golf Club | grandcypress.com Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf | hawaiianrumbleorlando.com Houston Astros Spring Training | houstonastros.com Icebar Orlando | icebarorlando.com Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores | lbvfs.com Lake Kissimmee State Park | floridastateparks.org/lakekissimmee LEGOLAND Florida | florida.legoland.com Magic Sunrise Ballooning | magicsunriseballooning.com Makin’ Tracks Trail Rides | guidedtrailrides.webs.com Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament | medievaltimes.com Ocala Civic Theatre | ocalacivictheatre.com Old Fashioned Airboat Rides | airboatrides.com Orange County Regional History Center | thehistorycenter.org Orlando Ballet | orlandoballet.org Orlando Balloon Rides | orlandoballoonrides.com Orlando Magic | orlandomagic.com Orlando Magicards | VisitOrlando.com/magicard Orlando Museum of Art | omart.org Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra | orlandophil.org Orlando Repertory Theatre | orlandorep.com Orlando Science Center | osc.org Pioneer Village & Museum | osceolahistory.org Pirate’s Dinner Adventure | piratesdinneradventure.com Polk Museum of Art | polkmuseumofart.org Polk Theatre | polktheatre.org Premium Outlets | premiumoutlets.com/orlando Saturday Nite Cruise | myoldtownusa.com/car-cruises SeaWorld Orlando | seaworldorlando.com Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows | sleuths.com The Florida Mall | simon.com The Mall at Millenia | mallatmillenia.com Universal Orlando Resort | universalorlando.com Vans Skatepark | vans.com Vintage Vino | vintage-vino.com Walt Disney World | disneyworld.com West Orange Trail | orlandobikerental.com Westgate River Ranch Resort | wgriverranch.com WonderWorks | wonderworksonline.com/html TOP LOCATIONS Kissimmee | visitkissimmee.com Lakeland | lakelandchamber.com Ocala | ocalamarion.com Orlando | VisitOrlando.com; VisitOrlando.mobi Polk County | visitcentralflorida.org Seminole County | visitseminole.com

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an authentic homestead and citrus packinghouse, a general store, schoolhouse and blacksmith shop. In Lakeland, Polk Museum of Art features a sculpture garden and a substantial collection of contemporary, African, American, Asian, European and preColumbian art. Ocala Civic Theatre, the second-largest theater in Florida, hosts musicals and dramas, while the city’s Appleton Museum of Art is one of the premier fine art repositories in the southern states.


HOUSTON ASTROS FANS AT SPRING TRAINING

WHAT’S NEW In Winter Haven, the world’s largest LEGOLAND has rides, shows and attractions for the entire family. Visitors can spot birds, butterflies and alligators as they cycle through the treetops at the new Cypress Canopy Cycle attraction in Forever Florida Wildlife Conservation Area. In Kissimmee, the new Fantasy Surf center at FantasyWorld Resort offers surfing on indoor waves and lessons. Visit Orlando’s new website features a trip ideas generator and a drag-and-drop trip itinerary builder in eight languages. A new mobile site offers similar research and planning tools. The Amway Center, a new concert and special events venue in downtown Orlando, is home to NBA’s Orlando Magic basketball team, the Orlando Predators football team and Orlando Titans lacrosse matches.

CALLING ALL SHOPAHOLICS

ORLANDO MUSEUM OF ART

Shop ’til you drop at The Florida Mall, Central Florida’s largest shopping mall in Orlando, which houses more than 260 shops and restaurants. The Mall at Millenia is the place for high-end brands such as Cartier, Gucci and Chanel, as well as upmarket goods at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus. The city also has several outlet centers offering discounted designer clothing, shoes and luggage.

SPA ESCAPES Orlando’s destination spas include The RitzCarlton Spa, Orlando, The Spa at Buena Vista Palace Hotel and The Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain. The Spa at Orlando World Center Marriott Resort has couples packages, while L’Esprit Day Spa at DoubleTree Resort Orlando features chocolate body scrubs.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESORTS Orlando’s 115,000 guest rooms range from budget lodgings to condos and luxury resorts. Many family resorts offer shuttles to theme parks, including Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista where youngsters under 12 eat free at Applebee’s and stay in familyfriendly kid suites. Nickelodeon Suites Resort has two water parks, live Nickelodeon performances, character breakfasts and a 4-D theater show. In Kissimmee, Holiday Inn Main Gate East has kids’ suites, free scheduled shuttles to shopping and Disney theme parks, as well as a children’s theater, pool and playground.

SPORTS SCENE Families can cycle West Orange Trail, Orlando’s

longest paved trail. Vans Skatepark draws amateur and advanced skateboarders, while tennis buffs can choose from 800 city courts. Central Florida has golf galore. Orlando alone has nearly 200 golf courses, including world-class venues such as Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Grand Cypress Golf Club. Great golf is also available in Kissimmee, Polk County and Ocala. Sports lovers can see NBA basketball in Orlando from October to April, Detroit Tigers spring training in Lakeland and Houston Astros spring training in February and March at Osceola County Stadium.

and Dead River swamps. Participants may spot ospreys, egrets, roseate spoonbills and endangered whooping cranes. The largest population of nesting bald eagles in the continental USA is in Kissimmee/Osceola County. Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, which includes a bird show, insect zoo and aerial adventure course, is a full-day outing. Beautiful gardens, a nature preserve and a 60-bell carillon draw visitors to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Polk County, the Bass Capital of the World, has 554 lakes with numerous fish camps and fishing guides. Besides fishing, Polk County’s Lake Kissimmee State Park offers hiking, equestrian trails, canoeing and camping. In Seminole County, you can paddle down the Wekiva River, one of only two national wild and scenic rivers in Florida. Several companies offer guided airboat, swamp-buggy and pontoon boat tours to view alligators, birds and wildlife in Central Florida’s wetlands and the Kissimmee River 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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SPECIAL ADVERTISING FEATURE

THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTERTM

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO® RESORT

A Universe of Excitement for Every Member of the Family other surprises await you before you board the groundbreaking ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™, a state-of-the-art attraction that brings the magic, characters, and stories of Harry Potter™ to life in ways you’ve never before imagined. You can experience Dragon Challenge™, twin roller coasters that engage in a high-speed chase across the sky. Plus you’ll enter the streets of Hogsmeade™ where you can shop at such iconic locations as Ollivanders™ wand shop and Honeydukes™ sweet shop, or sample delicious Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks™.

veryone knows that Orlando, Florida is the world’s favorite family vacation destination. However, if you think Orlando offers nothing but fun and games for toddlers, then you’re in for a surprise. Taking the best of movies, television, music and popular culture and converting it into one-of-a-kind entertainment experiences, Universal Orlando® Resort offers a wide range of thrills and excitement to please young and old alike. With two of the world’s most popular theme parks and a dazzling nighttime entertainment complex, you’ll need more than a single day to experience it all. Best of all, the resort boasts a trio of spectacular on-site hotels that put you right in the heart of the fun.

E

STEP INTO ADVENTURE Embark on an unforgettable journey through Universal’s Islands of Adventure®, a thrill-packed park that consists of meticulously themed islands where the greatest adventures ever put to paper come to life. 122

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MARVEL SUPER HERO ISLAND®

This is the home of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, where you can actually enter Hogwarts™ castle and explore the familiar passageways, classrooms and corridors. Talking portraits and

Islands of Adventure also offers the comic book excitement of Marvel Super Hero Island®, where you’ll battle villains in 3-D on The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man® and blast off on The Incredible Hulk Coaster®. Continue on through the park and you’ll face a hungry T-rex in Jurassic Park®, meet The Cat in the Hat™ in Seuss Landing™, and more.


LIGHTS, CAMER A, ACTION Right next door you can play a starring role at Universal Studios Florida®, the world’s premier movie and TV theme park. At this real working production studio you’ll find an amazing array of rides, shows, movie sets and attractions that put you right into your favorite scenes from your favorite films and TV shows. Here you can help save the Princess in Shrek 4-D, crash through Krustyland on The Simpsons Ride™, plunge into darkness on Revenge of the Mummy ®, zap aliens on MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack™, and pick your own soundtrack on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit ® roller coaster. There’s even a special area with attractions just for kids and their families, Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone®, where you can fly with E.T.®, sing along with Barney ®, and frolic in the Curious George Goes to TownSM interactive play area.

NON-STOP NIGHTLIFE Sitting between both theme parks is the Universal CityWalk® entertainment complex, popular with tourists and locals alike. After a day of fun in the theme parks this is the place to unwind with an array of exciting nightclubs, dining options from casual to haute cuisine, live concert venues, dancing, shopping, and a twenty-screen cineplex with IMAX®. You can order a Cheeseburger in Paradise at Jimmy Buffett’s® Margaritaville®.

HARD ROCK HOTEL®

Dine on the exceptional cuisine of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse at Emeril’s® Restaurant Orlando. Kick back at the Red Coconut club® ultra-lounge. Reggae the night away at Bob Marley–A Tribute to FreedomSM. Catch the biggest names in music perform at Hard Rock Live®, then grab a bite at the world’s largest Hard Rock Cafe®. Sing along with a live band at CityWalk’s Rising Star karaoke club. Savor an authentic Brazilian churrascaria steakhouse experience within Latin Quarter™. CityWalk® is also the Orlando home of Blue Man Group, the wildly popular theatrical show that combines exciting music, outrageous comedy and multimedia theatrics to produce a totally unique form of entertainment that’s fun for the whole family.

WORLD-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS When it’s time to catch your breath, you can stay just steps away from it all at one of three magnificently themed on-site hotels. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is a recreation of the Mediterranean seaside resort of Portofino, Italy, with eight restaurants and lounges, luxurious accommodations, and the world-class Mandara Spa®. The Hard Rock Hotel® features a wealth of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia, the famed Palm restaurant, and a swimming pool with underwater music. Loews Royal Pacific Resort is home to a huge tropical lagoon style pool, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop restaurant and the weekly Wantilan Luau. Best of all, on-site hotel guests enjoy special theme park benefits including Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and the ability to skip the regular lines at most rides and attractions (restrictions apply). From high speed thrill rides to innovative 4-D attractions to great dining to the best in live entertainment, there’s something for all ages to enjoy at Universal Orlando Resort. Visit UniversalOrlando.com/FLguide or contact your preferred travel professional. For more information, call 866-797-2920.

SHREK 4-D

HARRY POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. (s11) TM & © 2011 Marvel & Subs. Shrek 4-D © 2011 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C. Universal elements and all related indicia TM & © 2011 Universal Studios. © 2011 Universal Orlando. All rights reserved. 250152/1111/RA

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POLK COUNTY

Explore Florida’s

BY ROBERTA SANDLER

LAND OF PLENTY FANTASY OF FLIGHT IN POLK CITY

TIP Direct Air operates round-trip flights weekly from various gateways to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (LAL), which is located between Orlando and Tampa (visitdirectair.com).

The White Room, The Red Room, The Tropical Room and so on—creating pathways to a vibrant floral wonderland.

MUST SEE, MUST DO

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FAMILY ATTRACTIONS Polk City’s Fantasy of Flight is a thrilling aviation-themed attraction that invites visitors to ride in a vintage biplane, tackle a ropes course and a 600-foot-long zip line, or take a spin on a hang-glide simulator. Meet the Fokkers! Forty rare and vintage aircraft from WWI and WWII are on display, including the Fokker D-VIII, B-26 Marauder and B-17 Flying Fortress. Color the city of Lake Wales orange as in

FEATURED LINKS

With 554 lakes, Polk County is touted as the “Largemouth Bass Capital of the World.” Lakeland, Polk County’s largest city, boasts 38 of those lakes, providing ample opportunities for fishing, boating, kayaking and waterskiing. Play ball! The Detroit Tigers’ springtraining camp is located in an area of Lakeland called Tiger Town, where Joker Marchant Stadium accommodates 9,000 baseball fans. Lakeland also offers visitors a unique treat: the world’s largest on-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. Twelve completed Wright-designed structures, including a water dome, stand proudly on the campus of Florida Southern College where tours are available. Going from Wright’s streamlined simplicity to a neoclassical setting, Lakeland’s admissionfree public garden, Hollis Garden, is divided into sections or “rooms”—The Yellow Room,

orange juice. Florida’s Natural, a cooperative of orange growers, reveals the history of citrus at Grove House Visitors Center. Exhibits follow the orange juice process from the grove to the store to your home. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales consists of nearly 700 acres of conservation lands and majestic gardens surrounding a 205-foot neo-Gothic and art deco “Singing Tower” carillon. Serene beauty prevails here. A 1,200-seat arena at the family-friendly Westgate River Ranch located near Lake Wales hosts Saturday night rodeos. From hayrides and horseback riding to rustic accommodation, this dude ranch is a memorable getaway. Occupying the site of the former Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, LEGOLAND Florida is the world’s largest LEGOLAND theme park. This 150-acre property bursts with rides, shows and attractions in ten themed “lands” sure to excite kids age two to 12.

Bok Tower Gardens | boktowergardens.org Detroit Tigers’ spring-training camp | baseballpilgrimages.com/spring/lakeland.html Fantasy of Flight | fantasyofflight.com Florida Southern College | flsouthern.edu/fllwctr Grove House Visitors Center | floridasnatural.com/co-op/visitors-center Hollis Garden | lakelandgov.net/parkrec/HollisGarden.aspx LEGOLAND Florida | florida.legoland.com Westgate River Ranch | wgriverranch.com

LEFT TO RIGHT: CENTRAL FLORIDA VCB; LAKELAND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

P

olk County, located between the Tampa Bay and Greater Orlando areas, is blessed with an extraordinary array of attractions that celebrate everything from gardens and architecture to outdoor recreation and orange juice. And the recent opening of LEGOLAND Florida cements Polk County’s reputation as an ideal family vacation destination.

HOLLIS GARDEN IN LAKELAND


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CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA

DON CESAR HOTEL IN ST. PETERSBURG

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AND ENJOY W

hen planning a trip to the Sunshine State, there are certainly plenty of options as far as destinations. When you’re talking theme parks, electric nightlife, fine dining and world-class museums, not to mention sandy white beaches, you must be talking Central West Florida.

PLAY BALL! Warm sunshine and cool breezes make Central West Florida the place to be for spring training. Whether you’re a New York Yankees’ fan (Tampa), pull for the Philadelphia Phillies (Clearwater) or root for the Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin), you’ll find a game to enjoy along with the fine weather. Once the season officially starts, the Tampa Bay Rays play at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Baseball isn’t the only game in town, though. During the fall, cheer on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and through the winter months, the Tampa Bay Lightning take to the ice. 126

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BY SUSAN B. BARNES


MUST SEE, MUST DO

CHANNELSIDE BAY PLAZA IN DOWNTOWN TAMPA

The country’s best zoo (according to Parents Magazine), Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo offers thrills for kids and kids at heart. More than 1,500 animals—including leopards and tigers—can be found within the zoo’s 56 lush acres just a few miles north of downtown Tampa. Be sure to check out the zoo’s website for special events year-round. What’s that rustling in the trees? Could it be a dinosaur? It may just be, if you find yourself at Dinosaur World just off of I-4 in Plant City. One hundred and fifty life-size dinosaurs, from Brachiosaurus to Triceratops, call this home. Docile manatees, or sea cows, make their cold-weather homes in the warm (at least 72 F) waters throughout Central West Florida, and there are many places to sneak a peek at these gentle giants. The viewing platform and boardwalk at the Tampa Electric Company in Apollo Beach is ideal. Folklore has it that sailors, in their delirium after months at sea, mistook manatees for mermaids. For nearly 60 years, crowds have gathered at Weeki Wachee Springs to watch these “mermaids” swim. JOHN'S PASS VILLAGE & BOARDWALK IN MADEIRA BEACH

MAKE A SPLASH Winter, the dolphin, splashed onto the silver screen in Dolphin Tale. The real-life story of Winter is quite inspiring. As a juvenile dolphin, her tail became entangled in a crab trap line. She subsequently lost her tail, yet survived! Winter’s the first dolphin to have a prosthetic tail, and you can visit her at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she happily resides much to the delight of thousands of fans.

BEAUTY IS EVERYWHERE In addition to these fun and maybe kitschy places to check out, several world-class museums are found in Central West Florida. Take the year-old Dalí Museum, 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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for instance, which houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of art from the master himself. Or, there’s the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg featuring the glassmaker’s masterpieces. The collection is displayed in a building designed specifically for the exhibit—that’s impressive!

AN HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE Central West Florida is rich in history, including Ybor City. During its heyday, the small city within a city contained numerous cigar factories where workers would roll millions of cigars a year. It was once known as the “Cigar Capital of the World.” Today, the old brick streets are lined with shops and cafés and you can still find some hand-rolled cigars to try. To get a real feel for Tampa and its surrounds, take a tour via bike with City Bike Tampa. The two-wheeled vantage point will give you a different perspective on the city. AUTOGRAPHING BASEBALLS IN CLEARWATER

ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Gasparilla Pirate Festival

MARCH Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg APRIL Mainsail Arts Festival OCTOBER Seafoods Festival, Cedar Key NOVEMBER Ybor City Heritage & Cigar Festival

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ALL IMAGES: ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER CVB

FEBRUARY Florida State Fair


experience hyatt regency clearwater beach resort & spa. Steps away from the powder white sands of Clearwater Beach, an idyllic resort is bringing world-class style and amenities to the west coast of Florida. Book your next reservation and take advantage of our Special Local Event Rate by receiving 20% off daily rates. All guestrooms are suites with fully equipped kitchens featuring granite counter tops, 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 and reference offer code LOEVR. Hyatt. You’re More Than Welcome.

727 373 1234 CLEARWATERBEACH.HYATT.COM

Offer valid through 12/31/12 at Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach. All hotel reservations are subject to availability and must be made in advance using offer code LOEVR. Offer is not valid with groups/conventions and may not be combined with other promotional offers. Rate is based on double occupancy and standard room accommodations. Room tax and resort fee not included. Additional guests may be subject to additional hotel charges. Additional charges apply to room type upgrades. Promotional blackout periods may apply due to seasonal periods or special events, and normal arrival/departure restrictions apply. Hyatt reserves the right to alter or withdraw this program at any time without notice. The trademarks Hyatt Hotels & Resorts® and related marks are trademarks of Hyatt Corporation. ©2012 Hyatt Corporation. All rights reserved.


CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA

Northwest of Tampa is the small fishing village of Tarpon Springs. The sponge industry brought the Greeks, and today that Greek influence is still prevalent in the community’s culture and in its plentiful choice of restaurants, which are highly recommended after you’ve walked through town or taken a sunset cruise.

CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM—OFFICIAL HOME OF WINTER THE DOLPHIN

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With anchor stores such as Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, not to mention boutiques including Betsey Johnson and Gucci, and international favorite H&M, the International Plaza in Tampa has become a destination unto itself. For more boutiques, make your way to Hyde Park Village. Tucked away between sprawling homes on tree-lined streets, shops in a European-like village make this quiet residential neighborhood one of Tampa’s hot retail spots.

PHOTO: ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER CVB

SHOP ’TIL YOU DROP!


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CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA SUNSHINE SKYWAY BRIDGE, TAMPA BAY

restaurant spans 15 dining rooms and features flamenco dancing performances every night except Sunday. Another Central West Florida dining institution is Bern’s Steak House. For more than 50 years, Bern’s has served aged prime beef, caviar, organic vegetables and wines from an extensive cellar—6,500 labels, to be exact. Insider’s tip: try the tableside Caesar Salad and make reservations for the Dessert Room. Seafood often finds itself in the spotlight in Florida and numerous restaurants offer the catch of the day. Island Way Grill and Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber Restaurant in Clearwater Beach as well as Salt Rock Grill in Indian Shores are three that do it right.

If you’re looking for a souvenir of Florida, try John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk in Madeira Beach, where more than 100 shops sell everything from T-shirts to shells to artwork and more. The Central Avenue Corridor is an enjoyable part of downtown St. Petersburg to stroll along, popping in and out of fine art galleries, record and vintage clothing shops, and antique stores. You never know what you may find on this eclectic stretch of 15 or so city blocks.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

DINING VENUES

FEATURED LINKS

The Cuban influence is prevalent in restau-

rants in Tampa. For a real treat, make reservations at The Columbia. Since 1905, fans of Spanish food have made their way to Florida’s oldest restaurant in Ybor City. Originally serving Cuban sandwiches and coffee to local cigar workers, today the

Bern’s Steak House | bernssteakhouse.com Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber Restaurant | bobheilmans.com Chihuly Collection | chihulycollectionstpete.com City Bike Tampa | citybiketampa.com Clearwater Marine Aquarium | seewinter.com Dalí Museum | thedali.com Dinosaur World | dinosaurworld.com Fort De Soto | pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm Frenchy’s | frenchysonline.com Hyde Park Village | hydeparkvillage.net International Plaza | shopinternationalplaza.com Island Way Grill | islandwaygrill.com John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk | johnspass.com Lowry Park Zoo | lowryparkzoo.com Manatee Viewing Center | tampaelectric.com/manatee Palm Pavilion | palmpavilion.com Salt Rock Grill | saltrockgrill.com The Columbia | columbiarestaurant.com Weeki Wachee Springs | weekiwachee.com Ybor City | ybor.org

FEATURED ACCOMMODATION Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa | clearwaterbeach.hyatt.com Loews Don CeSar Beach Hotel | loewshotels.com/Don-CeSar-Hotel TradeWinds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach | tradewindsresort.com

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NIGHTLIFE When the sun sets in Central West Florida, there are plenty of places to celebrate the day’s end. If you’re at the beach, toast the sun dipping into the Gulf at Frenchy’s or Palm Pavilion right on Clearwater Beach. In Tampa, head back to Ybor City to enjoy its myriad restaurants and bars. SoHo (South Howard), also in Tampa, is another hot spot, featuring several restaurants and bars that party into the night. In St. Petersburg, there are also plenty of choices, from live music venues to nightclubs that are hopping into the wee hours.

RESORTS When it’s time to call it a day, the TradeWinds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach are perfect for families or for couples on a getaway on their own. If you do have the kids, and weather permits, be sure to check out Splash Island, a water park in the Gulf of Mexico! Further down the beach, the Loews Don CeSar Beach Hotel—or the “Pink Palace”—is an historic hotel built in the late 1920s. A Gulf-front room is ideal, and the Maritana Grille inside the Don is a fantastic restaurant.

PHOTO: ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER CVB

Of course, Florida’s premier attractions nearly anywhere you go in the state are its beaches, and there’s no shortage in Central West Florida. In fact, the area boasts some of the best beaches in the US, including Honeymoon Island. Fort De Soto is also a top spot, and was named America’s best family beach by Parents Magazine due to its 1,136 acres and three miles of sandy white beaches. It’s also one of the area’s only dog beaches. If you just want to walk, jog or rollerblade, head to Bayshore Boulevard— the world’s longest continuous sidewalk at 4.5 miles.


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LUXURY BY ALISSON CLARK

R

ed tile roofs and Moorish arches aren’t typical images of colonial America, but in St. Augustine, centuries of Spanish history give the city a decidedly Mediterranean flair. In 2013, St. Augustine—the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the United States—will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon’s arrival. Visitors can explore de Leon’s landing site, stroll cobblestone streets lined with historic buildings, and tour the opulent Gilded Age resorts that have long drawn visitors from colder climes. Leading up to the anniversary, look for re-enactments of pirate raids, daily living-history exhibits in the Colonial Spanish Quarter, even a masked ball in the style of the 16th century. St. Augustine is just one gem in the crown of the northeast coast, which also includes Jacksonville, Florida’s largest city with a cruise port, cultural attractions and plenty of nightlife. Atlantic Ocean beaches beckon, along with inland waterways where kayaking, fishing, birding and hiking opportunities abound. 136

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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: AMELIA ISLAND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; AMELIA ISLAND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; VISIT FLORIDA

History meets


POOLSIDE AT AMELIA ISLAND PLANTATION

Golfers can enjoy pro-quality courses year-round. Music lovers can groove along with top artists at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, while outdoorsy types can get back to nature in Jacksonville’s 111,669 acres of parks, the largest urban park system in the United States. Whether your ideal adventure is to set sail on a sunset cruise from historic Fernandina Beach or ride horses on the shoreline of Amelia Island, the northeast coast awaits. Some of the most spectacular scenery in the region is found in the seven Talbot Islands State Parks. Little Talbot Island boasts five miles of white sandy beaches and top-notch fishing, while Big Talbot draws AMELIA ISLAND BEACH

photographers to Boneyard Beach, where picturesque salt- and sun-bleached skeletons of fallen trees line the beach. Romance and history come together in Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island, often ranked among the top 10 North American islands in Condé Nast Traveler. This village of Victorian homes and inns has a tumultuous past, changing hands so often that it earned the name “Isle of Eight Flags.” Today the atmosphere is decidedly tranquil: artillery still fires at Fort Clinch, but only during monthly historic re-enactments.

BEST DRIVES For an iconic trip down the coast, cruise the A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway, 72 miles of storied highway from Jacksonville Beach south to Flagler Beach. Jacksonville’s William Bartram Scenic & Historic Highway follows the St. Johns River beneath a canopy of moss-draped live oaks.

ANNUAL EVENTS FEBRUARY Noche de Gala, St. Augustine MARCH Great Atlantic Seafood and Music Festival, Jacksonville Florida Azalea Festival, Palatka Amelia Island Concours d’Elégance APRIL Florida’s Birding and Photo Fest, Historic Coast MAY Jacksonville Jazz Festival PLAYERS Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, Fernandina Beach JUNE Drake’s Raid, St. Augustine

MUST SEE, MUST DO From swimming with dolphins in Marineland to taking in a concert under the stars on Jacksonville Beach, the northeast coast revels in activities that make the most of its temperate climate. After exploring St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, a stone fort dating from the 1670s, soak up the sun in style, with beach options ranging from wilderness preserves to oceanfront resorts.

GETTING SPLASHED IN MARINELAND

SEPTEMBER Amelia Island Blues Festival OCTOBER Soul Food Festival, Green Cove Springs NOVEMBER/DECEMBER St. Johns River Blues Festival, Palatka British Night Watch, St. Augustine Nights of Lights, St. Augustine

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NORTHEAST FLORIDA ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH

HERITAGE & CULTURE In the museums of the northeast coast, visitors can admire cultural treasures as well as pirate’s treasure. The new St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum holds thrills for all ages, while art aficionados definitely won’t want to miss Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. For history buffs, St. Augustine’s Castillo and the nearby Fort Matanzas National Monument offer glimpses into the past.

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: AMELIA ISLAND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA

PIER FISHING ON AMELIA ISLAND

FAMILY ATTRACTIONS

SPORTS & OUTDOORS

Families can swim with dolphins in the oceanfront Marineland Dolphin Adventure, while the St. Augustine Alligator Farm offers up-close views of crocodilians from all over the world. Hop aboard one of St. Augustine’s trolleys for a narrated tour of the historic town, a convenient way to navigate the Old City and its kid-friendly attractions. The Jacksonville Zoo and Museum of Science & History are also can’t-miss spots for families. For an outdoor adventure, head to Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, where beaches and camping cabins meet more than 20 miles of biking trails and a lake with fishing and boat rentals.

Football rules in Jacksonville where the Jaguars National Football League team as well as college games play at the riverfront EverBank Field. Golfers congregate at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach and World Golf Village in St. Augustine. Paddlers have their choice of ocean, river and estuary outings in the company of shorebirds, manatees and dolphins. In Clay County, campers can sleep in an enclosed treehouse at Camp Chowenwaw, a former Girl Scout camp dating from 1933. State parks abound in the area, from the profusion of azalea blooms at Palatka’s

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WHAT’S NEW The Georgia Aquarium recently acquired the historic Marineland attraction, renaming it Marineland Dolphin Adventure. The new partnership between the world’s largest aquarium and the world’s first oceanarium will expand the park’s interactive dolphin encounters.

Ravine Gardens State Park to the four miles of beaches at Anastasia State Park, which offers paddleboard, kayak and sailboat rentals. Explore the bass-fishing paradise of Lake


NEED MORE INFO?

JAGUAR AT JACKSONVILLE ZOO

Amelia Island | ameliaisland.com Flagler County | visitflagler.org Jacksonville Beach | jacksonvillebeach.org Nassau County | nassaucountyfl.com

George, set sail on the Amelia River at sunset or rent a houseboat on the St. Johns.

SHOP ‘TIL YOU DROP St. Augustine’s outlet malls offer high-end goods at discount prices, while antique shops, art galleries and boutiques in the historic district provide ample opportunity for browsing. RE-ENACTMENT AT FORT CASTILLO DE SAN MARCOS

In Jacksonville, visitors comb the funky Five Points area for vintage finds, swing by the San Marco and Avondale neighborhoods for upscale boutiques or hit the St. Johns Town Center for shops from Coach to Louis Vuitton.

FEATURED LINKS

Carlton, noted in Travel + Leisure magazine’s 2011 World’s Best Awards. Farther south are the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa and Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. St. Augustine’s historic Casa Monica dates from 1888, while Renaissance World Golf Village offers more than links: at Spa Laterra, unwind with a treatment in an outdoor cabana.

NIGHTLIFE The riverfront bars, restaurants, hotels and shops of Jacksonville Landing pulse with life year-round, while craft brewers dominate the Riverside Brewery District. Big-name acts perform at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre and Jacksonville’s Freebird Live. For a family-friendly evening, head to Jacksonville Beach for moonlight movies and concerts at the oceanfront Sea Walk Pavilion.

Amelia River Cruises | ameliarivercruises.com Anastasia State Park | floridastateparks.org Camp Chowenwaw | claycountygov.com/campchow Castillo de San Marcos National Monument | nps.gov/casa/index.htm Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens | cummer.org Fort Matanzas National Monument | nps.gov/casa/index.htm Freebird Live | freebirdlive.com Jacksonville Landing | jacksonvillelanding.com Jacksonville Zoo | jacksonvillezoo.org Jaguars National Football League | jaguars.com Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park | coj.net Marineland Dolphin Adventure | marineland.net Museum of Contemporary Art | mocajacksonville.org Museum of Science & History | themosh.org Palatka’s Ravine Gardens State Park | floridastateparks.org/ravinegardens Putnam County Chamber of Commerce | putnamcountychamber.com St. Augustine Amphitheatre | staugamphitheatre.com St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum | piratesoul.com St. Johns Town Center | visitjacksonville.com/shopping Talbot Islands State Parks | floridastateparks.org The Alligator Farm | alligatorfarm.com

RESORTS

FEATURED ACCOMMODATION

From golf and tennis to gourmet cooking classes, Northeast Florida’s resorts have activities to suit any taste. Amelia Island gems include the Omni Amelia Island Plantation and the Ritz-

Ponte Vedra Inn & Club | pontevedra.com Omni Amelia Island Plantation | omnihotels.com Ritz-Carlton | ritzcarlton.com/ameliaisland Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa | sawgrassmarriott.com World Golf Village | worldgolfrenaissance.com

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SUNSET IN STEINHATCHEE ON THE GULF COAST

T

BY JANET GROENE

he clock stopped in much of north Florida about 50 years ago, which makes the North Central Region a perfect vacation venue for the unhurried visitor who loves nature and prefers life at a snail’s pace. A day’s drive north from Miami, this is a land of pine forests, bubbling springs and lazy rivers. 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 town. Fortunes changed, however, when I-10 bypassed the communities and passenger trains stopped 140

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: LIQUID PRODUCTIONS, LLC/SHUTTERSTOCK; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA

The Way IT USED TO BE


THE OLD FLORIDA STATE CAPITOL IN TALLAHASSEE

serving them. Only the mournful whistles of freight trains passing forgotten crossings break the small-town silence. 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 regionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s major cities, although major changes are coming to Suwannee County and its county seat, Live Oak. In 2011, voters approved the selling of wine and liquor by the bottle and drink. A boutique winery is eyeing a location here, a new resort for naturists will open and restaurateurs are shopping for sophisticated cellars. Tallahassee, the state capital and western bookend of the region, provides hotels, fine 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.

ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Stephen Foster Day at Stephen Foster State Park

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 Apalachee allies in 1704 to prevent approaching British troops from taking it over. Now much of the village and a fort have been rebuilt on the historic site in compliance STEPHEN FOSTER FOLK CULTURE CENTER STATE PARK

FEBRUARY Civil War re-enactment of the 1864 Battle of Olustee MARCH Springtime Tallahassee Festival Suwannee Springfest Music Festival ROMANTIC COUPLE

APRIL Down Home Days Festival JUNE Blueberry Festival SEPTEMBER Railroad Days Heritage Festival OCTOBER Heart of Florida Asian Festival NOVEMBER Downtown Gainesville Festival & Art Show Four Freedoms Festival DECEMBER Christmas Boat Parades

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA with original Spanish plans. Buildings include a massive council house replicating the one that was used for Apalachee tribal meetings. Interpreters in period costume describe Apalachee life and at various times during the year there are historical re-enactments.

HERITAGE AND CULTURE Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park 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 big-name stars of country, bluegrass, folk and western music. Covering more than 500 acres, the park has campsites, cabins, fishing, birdwatching, canoeing, kayaking and an arts and crafts village.

CITY LIGHTS Tallahassee has posh hotels and upscale restaurants befitting a state capital. Among them are the Governors Inn and the Hotel Duval with reputations as “in” spots for dining and nightlife. A college town (Florida State University), Tallahassee also has an abundance of pubs, clubs, sports bars and other “happening” places. The primary performing arts venue is the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center, which features Broadway shows and musical performances. 142

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CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: TONY STRONG/SHUTTERSTOCK; VISIT FLORIDA; LARA STEWART/SHUTTERSTOCK

THE WESTCOTT BUILDING ON THE CAMPUS OF FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY


FLOATING AT FANNING SPRINGS STATE PARK

NEED MORE INFO? Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center | tlccc.org

holidays here are all about: camping, swimming, fishing, snorkeling, hiking, scuba diving, canoeing and kayaking.

Tallahassee Visitor Center | visittallahassee.com

RECOMMENDED DRIVES guests was former US President Jimmy Carter who praised the place as a superb family getaway. Family vacations in the North Central Region primarily involve nature and the outdoors. Parks such as Fanning Springs, Suwannee River, Stephen Foster and O’Leno state parks represent what family SUWANNEE RIVER IN HIGH SPRINGS

Driving west from Lake City to Tallahassee on US Route 90, visitors see communities frozen in time. Embodying all the quiet grace of yesteryear, towns such as Monticello, with its grand old 1890 opera house, merit exploration. In the similar community of Madison, a walking tour reveals several blocks of homes and buildings whose architecture dates as far back as the 1700s. One of the buildings was actually used as a hospital during the Civil War. Just off the highway in tiny Greenville, there is a monument to music icon, Ray Charles, who grew up there.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS The Suwannee River Wilderness Trail runs about 170 miles from White Springs to the land’s-end hamlet of Suwannee where the river enters the Gulf of Mexico. The river weaves through long stretches of wilderness and its banks are lined with towering pines and stately cypress. With adequate supplies and planning, paddlers can camp the entire distance or spend nights in rustic lodges along the way. This is a trail that can be navigated in its entirety or in part. The North Central Region is known for some of the best cave-diving sites anywhere. Two of the most popular are Devil’s Den and the Blue Grotto near Williston. Located in the southwest corner of the region, Devil’s Den features stalactites, intricate rock formations and 33-million-year-old fossil beds while the Blue Grotto is one of the deepest caverns in the state. Be warned, however; cave diving is only recommended for scuba divers trained in this sport as these labyrinths are often entered through narrow underwater passages.

Steinhatchee Landing Resort is an idyllic retreat where the Steinhatchee (steen-hatchee) River meets the Gulf of Mexico. This is a laid-back place where families can swim, fish, canoe, kayak and wade in shallow waters to gather scallops. Resort accommodation consists of upscale cottages with full kitchens. Drive to nearby restaurants whose menus feature fresh Gulf seafood. One of the resort’s most famous

FEATURED LINKS

FUN FOR FAMILIES Blue Grotto | floridacaves.com/bgrotto.htm Devil’s Den | devilsden.com Florida State Parks | floridastateparks.org Mission San Luis | missionsanluis.org Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park | MusicLivesHere.com Suwannee River Wilderness Trail | floridastateparks.org/wilderness

FEATURED ACCOMMODATION Governors Inn | thegovinn.com Hotel Duval | hotelduval.com Steinhatchee Landing Resort | steinhatcheelanding.com

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NORTHWEST FLORIDA

A Unique

SENSE OF PLACE BY SANDRA FRIEND

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TOP TO BOTTOM: VISIT FLORIDA; CHERYL CASEY/SHUTTERSTOCK

W

ith an inviting mix of seaside resorts, historic cities, and rural charm, Northwest Florida offers vacationers “the other Florida,” a region unhurried and definitely Deep South in its warmth and hospitality. Grand live oaks line cotton plantations and wheat fields along rural roads, while coastal US 98 connects two of Florida’s oldest settlements—Pensacola and Apalachicola—with younger communities like Seaside and Rosemary Beach. Most of the region sits in the Central Time Zone, unlike the rest of Florida, which helps define the unique sense of place. Emerald waters, shimmering white sand beaches and rolling dunes provide a perfect playground on the gentle shores of the Gulf of Mexico, with Panama City Beach in the middle of the region, a major destination for beachgoers throughout the South. Seafood is still harvested fresh from shallow bays, bayous and estuaries, with shrimp, oysters and scallops starring on coastal menus.


AERIAL VIEW OF PANAMA CITY BEACH

WHAT’S NEW Renovations at several historic lighthouses have opened them up for public tours. The Crooked River Lighthouse provides a panorama of Carrabelle Beach, while the Cape San Blas Lighthouse peers out over the Gulf waters and St. Joseph Bay. The reconstructed Cape St. George Light is now the most prominent feature on St. George Island.

guided tour ushers you into homes ranging from a simple 1805 French Creole cottage to an 1890s captain’s home. The Museum of Commerce feels like a stage set from the 1920s, complete with a streetcar and carriages along a city block, while the interactive Museum of Industry offers the sights and sounds of fishing, timbering and railroads. Nearby, the National Naval Aviation Museum is the home of the Blue Angels, the US Navy’s aerobatic squadron. At Florida Caverns State Park, Florida’s only show cave gets you beneath the rocky surface of Northwest Florida and into a world of sparkling stalactites, shimmering rimstone pools and delicate soda straws. US NAVY BLUE ANGELS FLIGHT DEMONSTRATION OVER PENSACOLA BEACH

ANNUAL EVENTS OCTOBER Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival Destin Fishing Rodeo NOVEMBER Florida Seafood Festival

Inland, Florida’s tallest ridges are topped with forests of towering longleaf pines, punctuated by sparkling freshwater springs for swimming and lazy creeks for kayaking and tubing. Located west of the Florida peninsula and the state capital of Tallahassee, east and south of Alabama, and south of Georgia, this long, narrow corridor is easily accessed via Interstate 10.

MUST SEE, MUST DO A walk through Historic Pensacola Village reveals the melting pot of cultural influences that shaped early Florida settlements. A 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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FISHING IN PENSACOLA

SEAFOOD MEAL

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Adventures Unlimited | adventuresunlimited.com Big Bend Scenic Byway | floridabigbendscenicbyway.com Blackwater River State Forest | fl-dof.com/state_forests/blackwater_river.html Blue Angels | blueangels.navy.mil Camp Helen State Park | floridastateparks.org/camphelen Cape St. George Light | visitgulf.com/cape-st-george-light Cape San Blas Lighthouse | visitgulf.com/cape-san-blas-lighthouse Club La Vela | clublavela.com Coombs House Inn | coombshouseinn.com Crooked River Lighthouse | crookedriverlighthouse.org DeFuniak Springs | florida-chautauqua-center.org Destin Fishing Rodeo | destinfishingrodeo.org Econfina Creek | canoeeconfinacreek.net Florida Caverns State Park | floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns Florida Seafood Festival | floridaseafoodfestival.com Fort Barrancas | nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-barrancas.htm Fort Pickens | nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-pickens.htm Fort Walton Beach | emeraldcoastfl.com Grayton Beach State Park | floridastateparks.org/graytonbeach Gulfarium | gulfarium.com Hidden Lagoon | hiddenlagoongolfandracetrack.com Historic Pensacola Village | historicpensacola.org Hotel DeFuniak | hoteldefuniak.com Jackson’s Steakhouse | jacksons.goodgrits.com Margaritaville Beach Hotel | margaritavillehotel.com National Naval Aviation Museum | navalaviationmuseum.org Play | iplaypensacola.com Raney House | apalachicolahistoricalsociety.org Saenger Theatre | pensacolasaenger.com Scenic 30A | 30a.com Sea Dragon | piratecruise.net Seaside | seasidefl.com Shipwreck Island | shipwreckisland.com Southern Star Dolphin Cruises | southernstardolphincruise.com Topsail Hill State Park | floridastateparks.org/topsailhill Turkey Creek | cityofniceville.org/turkey.html Vinyl Music Hall | vinylmusichall.com

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

HERITAGE AND CULTURE Four fortresses once protected the deepwater port of Pensacola, the first European port in Florida claimed for Spain in 1559 by Don Tristán de Luna. Explore the Spanish influence at Fort Barrancas, site of a series of Spanish and English forts since the 1700s. A maze of brick passageways surrounded by sea and dunes, the more extensive Fort Pickens, completed in 1834, served the American military through the 1940s. In Apalachicola, you can tour historic homes or you can sleep in them. Founded in 1831, this port city is part of America’s National Trust and easily explored on foot. Free tours of the Raney House offer insights into the plush delights of a cotton merchant’s life, while a stay at the Coombs House Inn lets you luxuriate in the finery of a lumber baron’s legacy. Home to Florida’s oldest library and the “Southern Chautauqua,” founded in 1885, the town of DeFuniak Springs is an architectural delight. Centered on a perfectly round lake, the historic residential district— bordered by the original Chautauqua meeting hall and a downtown with a renovated railroad-era hotel—the Hotel DeFuniak showcases Victorian architecture.

LEFT TO RIGHT: PENSACOLA BAY AREA CVB; VISIT FLORIDA; CHERYL CASEY/SHUTTERSTOCK

FEATURED LINKS

Keep the windows down for a drive along the Big Bend Scenic Byway, connecting Apalachicola with Carrabelle and points east. The views across calm Gulf waters and shimmering bays are almost as good as the fresh oysters at seafood shacks like Captain Snook’s in Eastpoint.


AERIAL VIEW OF PENSACOLA BEACH

NEED MORE INFO? Apalachicola | apalachicolabay.org Calhoun County | calhounco.org Destin-Fort Walton | emeraldcoastfl.com Gulf County | visitgulf.com Jackson County | jacksoncountytdc.com Mexico Beach | mexico-beach.com Panama City Beach | visitpanamacitybeach.com Pensacola | visitpensacola.com Walton County | visitsouthwalton.com Washington County | visitwashingtoncountyfl.com

FAMILY ATTRACTIONS Get to Florida’s Gulfarium for up-close encounters with the mammals found along Florida’s Gulf Coast. With Southern Star Dolphin Cruises, search for dolphins in the sea. Play pirate on the Sea Dragon or slip down the waterslides at Shipwreck Island, where flumes and floats surround a half-million-gallon wave pool. Lions and tigers take center stage at Zooworld in Panama City Beach, a community that’s home to a host of family entertainment, including Hidden Lagoon, a big go-kart and mini-golf complex.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Follow Scenic 30A to play along one of the most rare shorelines in the world, defined by Florida’s coastal dune lakes. Found only in Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, Oregon and along Northwest Florida’s coast, these unusual freshwater lakes tip into the sea when full. Kayak, paddleboard or hike around these lakes at places like Topsail Hill, Grayton Beach and Camp Helen State Parks. Paddle past waterfalls and bubbling springs on an adventure along Econfina Creek or take an inner tube—and the kids—to quiet Turkey Creek for a gentle afternoon on the water. At Adventures Unlimited, getting away from it all means cabins and camping, rope courses and zip lines, and plenty of paddling in Blackwater River State Forest, one of the largest wild spaces in the region.

crobrews is part of the scene at this adult “barcade.” Vinyl Music Hall serves up music acts and the Saenger Theatre trots out comedians, musicals and the Pensacola Symphony. Walk down Palafox for an array of dining options from sushi and Mexican to top-rated Jackson’s Steakhouse. After dark at Panama City Beach, the party still goes on. Alive with the rhythms of the night, the condo-lined waterfront rocks at venues like Club La Vela. It’s America’s

largest nightclub, with its themed dance spaces and VIP rooms.

RESORTS Play the Jimmy Buffet way—with cheeseburgers in paradise and a cool drink by the pool—at the new Margaritaville Beach Hotel on Pensacola Beach. For family gatherings, Seaside, a perfectly-planned oceanfront community (as seen on The Truman Show), provides a relaxing getaway.

SHOPPING VENUES Go wild for retro style in Fort Walton Beach, where the antiques district offers dozens of boutiques, thrift stores and specialty shops.

NIGHTLIFE Downtown Pensacola is the center for evening enjoyment at venues like Play, where playing Skee-ball while sampling mi2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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FLORIDA STATEWIDE

BOATING LAKE OKEECHOBEE • VISIT FLORIDA

FLORIDA TIME ZONES While most of Florida is located in the Eastern Time Zone, a portion of Northwest 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

January 13–15, 2012 January 28, 2012 February 9–20, 2012 March 1–11, 2012 March 7–May 20, 2012

Art Deco Weekend Festival, Miami Beach Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest, Tampa Florida State Fair, Tampa Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, Orlando

March 9–18, 2012 March 31, 2012 April 21, 2012 May 2–6, 2012 May 24–27, 2012 May 25–27, 2012 June 1–2, 2012 June 23–July 4, 2012 July 14, 2012 July 17–22, 2012 September 28–30, 2012 September 28–November 11, 2012

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, 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

October 18–21, 2012 November 2012

Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach American Sandsculpting Championship Festival, Fort Myers Beach Winter Festival, Downtown Tallahassee Art Basel, Miami Beach Winterfest Boat Parade, Fort Lauderdale Nights of Lights, St. Augustine

mdpl.org gasparillapiratefest.com floridastatefair.com flstrawberryfestival.com disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot /special-events 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 /special-events/epcot-international -food-and-wine-festival biketoberfest.org sandsculptingfestival.com

December 1, 2012 December 6–9, 2012 December 15, 2012 November 17, 2012–January 31, 2013

Dates and websites were correct at time of printing. Information is subject to change without notice. 148

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

talgov.com artbaselmiamibeach.com winterfestparade.com nightsoflights.com


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

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

149


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

MIZNER • PALM BEACH COUNTY CVB FORT LAUDERDALE • SUNNY.ORG

LOCATION

WEBSITES

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

palmbeachfl.com annamariaisland-longboatkey.com visitstpeteclearwater.com daytonabeach.com palmbeachfl.com visitstpeteclearwater.com 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 visitstpeteclearwater.com

FLORIDA’S PUBLIC HOLIDAYS January 1, New Year’s Day January 16, Martin Luther King Day February 20, Presidents’ Day May 28, Memorial Day July 4, Independence Day September 3, Labor Day October 8, Columbus Day (most regions) November 12, Veterans Day November 22, Thanksgiving Day November 23, Black Friday December 25, Christmas Day CAMPING AT COLLIER-SEMINOLE STATE PARK • VISIT FLORIDA

150

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


BEACH VOLLEYBALL AT DAYTONA • VISIT 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 Festivals & 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 fadmo.org flamuseums.org farvc.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

MYAKKA KAYAKING • VISIT FLORIDA

CAYO COSTA STATE PARK • VISIT FLORIDA

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 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 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 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

151


FLORIDA STATEWIDE DISCOVERY COVE • VISIT FLORIDA

ALFRED B. MACLAY STATE GARDENS • VISIT TALLAHASSEE

GOLF PENSACOLA • VISIT FLORIDA

FLAGLER COLLEGE • VISIT FLORIDA

152

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 State Park 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

2012 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 webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse 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 webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse 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


DAYTONA BEACH • 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 Historic State Park 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 webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse 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 webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse 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 webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/hontoonisland floridastateparks.org/jonathandickinson floridastateparks.org/kissimmeeprairie fl-dof.com/state_forests/lake_george.html webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse 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 webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings

VIZCAYA MUSEUM • VISIT FLORIDA

EASTERN SWALLOWTAIL • VISIT ORLANDO CEDAR KEY • VISIT FLORIDA

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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FLORIDA STATEWIDE

FLORIDA STATE PARKS, FORESTS & REGIONAL RECREATION SPACES

G.WIZ • SARASOTA CVB

LEGOLAND

BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY

MARJORIE KINNAN RAWLINGS HOUSE • VISIT FLORIDA

154

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 Little Manatee River State Park Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site 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 webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse 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/littlemanateeriver floridastateparks.org/madirabickelmound webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse 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 webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse 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 webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse

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

webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/thebarnacle floridastateparks.org/capeflorida floridastateparks.org/hughtaylorbirch macarthurbeach.org floridastateparks.org/lloydbeach floridastateparks.org/oletariver webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse

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 webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/lignumvitaekey floridastateparks.org/longkey floridastateparks.org/sanpedro floridastateparks.org/windleykey

2012 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/index.htm 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

Best Western Hotels & Resorts Cambria Suites Clarion Hotels Comfort Inn Country Inns & Suites Courtyard by Marriott Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts Days Inn Doubletree by Hilton Econo Lodge Embassy Suites Fairfield Inn & Suites Fairmont Hotels & Resorts 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

bestwestern.com cambriasuites.com clarionhotel.com comfortinn.com countryinns.com marriott.com ichotelsgroup.com daysinn.com doubletree1.hilton.com econolodge.com embassysuites1.hilton.com marriott.com fairmont.com fourpoints.com fourseasons.com hamptoninn1.hilton.com hamptoninnandsuites.net hiltongardeninn1.hilton.com hilton.com holiday-inn.com homewoodsuites.com hojo.com hyatt.com intercontinental.com jcresorts.us knightsinn.com lq.com sheratonsuites.com 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 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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FLORIDA STATEWIDE

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

WEST PALM BEACH

TAMPA

TALLAHASSEE

226 197 427 217

26

106 222 119 117 367 461 211

29

12

275 41

176

394

95

262 160 106 327 421 185

19

57

235 22

214

408

71

256 241 54

158 183 233 138

190

178

191 26

232 201 442 233

43

271

139 148 37

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

-

93

150

MIAMI

42

153

216 -

NAPLES

118 119 160 241 104 37

317

234

173 107 -

ORLANDO

191 117 106 54

207 153 135

383

18

PANAMA CITY

519 367 327 331 535 445 261

696

347 558 479 334 -

PENSACOLA

613 461 421 425 628 539 355

790

441 652 573 428 103 -

ST. AUGUSTINE

266 211 185 53

458

ST. PETERSBURG

226 29

19

158 232 108 211

SARASOTA

197 12

57

183 201 70

231 206 89

207 248 231 -

132 318

124 206 132 -

71

282

318 282 -

191 139 153

222 262 256 26

331 425 53

104 207 535 628 282 153 445 539 252

216 173 18

347 441 117

68

144 107 387 155

144

105 130 242 85

166

342 380 98

330

494

435 473 192 423

588

117 307 286 100 292 386 -

196 223 194 176

241

378

93

-

41

249 20

201

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

WEST PALM BEACH

26

221

150 68

138 233 119 191

176 214 190 43

SANDHILL CRANE • VISIT FLORIDA

156

282 252 38

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

123 277

107 232 558 652 307

118 255 74

246 214 466 247

22

148 343

118 191 519 613 266

SARASOTA

ST. PETERSBURG

ST. AUGUSTINE

PENSACOLA

PANAMA CITY

159 248 124 199

201 -

ORLANDO

353

BRADENTON

MIAMI

KEY WEST

227

-

KISSIMMEE

JACKSONVILLE

175 42

201 239 215 17

FORT MYERS

195

BOCA RATON

NAPLES

FORT LAUDERDALE

DAYTONA BEACH

140 302

CLEARWATER

FROM / TO

BRADENTON

BOCA RATON

MILEAGE CHART BETWEEN KEY FLORIDA CITIES

188 479 573 286

232 188 -

334 428 100 103 292 386

246 144 105 342 435 196

247 155 85

192 194

330 423 176

144 166 494 588 241

SUWANNEE RIVER STATE PARK • VISIT FLORIDA

20

54

237

237 -

201 172 402 192

402 192 -

SNORKELING AT PALM BEACH • PETER LEAHY/SHUTTERSTOCK


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 Global Rent a Car 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 globalrac.com hertz.com honkcarrental.com nationalcar.com paylesscar.com thrifty.com usave.com

RV RENTAL COMPANIES

WEBSITE

America’s Best Cruising Motorhomes & RVs

americasbestrv.com

Camp USA Motorhome Rental

onfreewheels.com

Citrus RV Rental

citrusrvrental.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

DAYTONA BEACH • VISIT FLORIDA

Cruise America RV Rental & Sales

cruiseamerica.com

El Monte RV

elmonterv.com

Florida RV Rentals

floridarvrentals.com

Florida RV World

floridarvworld.com

Giant Recreation World

grwrv.com

Palm Beach RV Rental

palmbeachrvrental.com

RV Rentals of Orlando, Inc.

rvrentalsoforlando.com DRY TORTUGAS ISLAND • SHUTTERSTOCK

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

157


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.

158

AIRLINES

WEBSITES

Air Canada AirTran Airways American Airlines/American Eagle Continental Airlines Delta Air Lines Direct Air Frontier 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 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

2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

FORT JEFFERSON • VISIT FLORIDA


Florida LIGHTHOUSES

FORT JEFFERSON LIGHTHOUSE• HENRYK SADURA/ SHUTTERSTOCK

BY KATE POCOCK

S

ince most of Florida occupies a long peninsula that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico, the state has by far the longest coastline on the eastern US coast. Most of the coast is low and sandy, broken occasionally by narrow inlets. Therefore, to ensure visibility from a distance, the Florida coast requires tall lighthouses. The Florida Lighthouse Association (FLA) works hard for the preservation of all the light stations. Florida has about 30 lighthouses, including several of the country’s most famous light towers. Not all are open to the public. The following is a list of those that people can visit, climb and access easily.

NORTHWEST FLORIDA Cape St. George Lighthouse seestgeorgeisland.com; stgeorgelight.org Cape San Blas Lighthouse: open for climbing on Fridays and Saturdays. visitgulf.com/cape-san-blas-lighthouse

Seahorse Key Lighthouse in Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge: open to the public during the annual Cedar Key Seafood Festival in October; accessible by boat. | fws.gov/cedarkeys

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

NORTHEAST FLORIDA

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

Amelia Island Lighthouse: limited-access tours available first and third Wednesday of each month; property open to public for viewing on Saturdays, 11 AM to 2 PM. | fbfl.us

Cape Florida Lighthouse in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park floridastateparks.org/capeflorida; key-biscayne.com/about/light.html

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum staugustinelighthouse.com

Hillsboro Lighthouse: currently open to visitors eight times a year hillsborolighthouse.org

Boca Grande Lighthouse in Gasparilla Island State Park floridastateparks.org/gasparillaisland

CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Cape Canaveral Lighthouse on United States Air Force Base: must be a US citizen to visit. | canaverallight.org

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum jupiterlighthouse.org

THE FLORIDA KEYS Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station ponceinlet.org

CENTRAL FLORIDA

Loggerhead Key Lighthouse located on an island; part of Dry Tortugas National Park; access by private boat with permit. nps.gov/drto

No lighthouses Crooked River Lighthouse crookedriverlighthouse.org Pensacola Lighthouse pensacolalighthouse.org

CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA Anclote Key Lighthouse in Anclote Key Preserve State Park: open on special occasions; accessible by ferry. floridastateparks.org/anclotekey

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA St. Marks Lighthouse: located in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge; grounds open, tower closed. | fws.gov/saintmarks

Egmont Key Lighthouse in Egmont Key State Park: open on special occasions; accessible by ferry. | floridastateparks.org/egmontkey

Garden Key Harbor Lighthouse at Fort Jefferson National Monument: located on an island; part of Dry Tortugas National Park; good view available from top of the fort; grounds open, tower closed; access by ferry day trip only. nps.gov/drto Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters Museum| kwahs.com/lighthouse.htm 2012 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

159


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bestwesternFlorida.com/travel | 1.800.WESTERN Promo code: COOPFL12 Other restrictions may apply. Visit bestwesternFlorida.com/travel for complete terms and conditions. All Best Western Rewards® program rules apply. See bestwesternrewards.com for additional program terms. For a list of most current properties, local attractions and events visit bestwesternFlorida.com. Some amenities not available at all locations. 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. Featured hotel photo: Miami, Florida.

2012 Travel Guide to Florida  

2012 Travel Guide to Florida

2012 Travel Guide to Florida  

2012 Travel Guide to Florida

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