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DISTINCT REGIONS So many reasons to go!

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EDITOR’S MESSAGE

I

n 2013, my husband and I embarked on a 35-day road trip through the state of Florida from north to south. We started in Monticello and Tallahassee, then swung west to Pensacola on the Gulf coast, drove all the way down to Key West along the west coast, then up again along the Atlantic coast to Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island, with a few forays into the interior along the way. What a treat that was and it is a trip I highly recommend! Along the way, we experienced what each of the eight regions has to offer visitors and found some gems we’d love to revisit and explore further. There is a saying in Florida: the farther north you go, the more south you are. Laced with moss-draped live oak trees, warm hospitality smothered in southern charm and miles of beaches with sand soft as silk, northern Florida is the Old South as you imagine it to be. Want to get away from it all? We found a few enclaves that satisfy this purpose, such as the Nature Coast of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. Formerly known as “the lonesome leg” of Florida, this is where you’ll find real-life critters including 19 endangered or threatened species in their natural habitat, the unpredictable and pristine beauty of nature, quaint villages and Native American sites, lower prices, no lineups and fresh seafood served with spectacular sunsets. Meanwhile, on the Atlantic coast, sparsely populated Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Brevard, Flagler and Nassau counties are sure to win your heart. We drove for miles admiring uninterrupted views of the Atlantic coast. Beach lovers must check out Pensacola Beach, the beaches of South Walton, Clearwater Beach (voted best beach in 2013), Anna Maria Island, Siesta Key, Sanibel, Captiva and Marco Island along the Gulf coast, as well as Delray Beach, Flagler Beach and Fernandina Beach on the Atlantic. And surfers won’t go wrong at Cocoa Beach or Flagler on the Atlantic. For nightlife, there are Panama City Beach, Clearwater Beach and Naples on the Gulf coast, Miami, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach and Daytona Beach on the Atlantic and Orlando in Central Florida. And let's not forget about Key West, the epitome of coastal nightlife. While seaside communities might draw us to the Sunshine State, we mustn’t neglect the charms and attractions of Florida's inland communities where less commercial and authentic experiences await you. Tallahassee and Gainesville are the epicenter of college sports while fishermen and outdoorsmen flock to the lakes, state parks, forests and campgrounds in the interior. We shopped for bargains at Aventura Mall in North Miami, at the outlets in Vero Beach and St. Augustine and found artistic treasures in boutiques and art galleries in Naples, Key West, Delray Beach, Stuart, New Smyrna Beach, St. Augustine and Fernandina Beach. And who can overlook spring training, the amazing array of golf courses, the professional sports teams, the scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities on offshore reefs and sunken ships, the fishing tournaments . . . the list goes on and on. There are so many reasons to visit Florida. Our lodging experiences ran the gamut from chain hotels to cozy, out-of-the-way bed and breakfasts and inns. I can honestly say Florida hospitality is hard to beat. Finally, I’m proud to report our 2013 Travel Guide to Florida was awarded the “2013 Silver Flagler Tourism Award in the category of Resource/Promotional Materials—Consumer” by VISIT FLORIDA. Our team of contributors hopes you enjoy our 2014 issue as much as we loved putting it together for you and wishes you safe travels through Florida.

Donna S. Vieira Editor

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2 0 14 T R AV E L G U I D E T O

FLORIDA www.floridatravelguide.travel

The 2014 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 ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER EDITOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR COPY EDITOR ART DIRECTOR CIRCULATION MANAGER DIRECTOR OF FINANCE PRESIDENT & GROUP PUBLISHER ACCOUNT DIRECTORS

Joseph P. Turkel Bonny Mager Donna S. Vieira Judi Scharf Kevin Fritz Mark Tzerelshtein Julia Wall Gloria Mungo Joseph P. Turkel

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WRITERS Darien Arden, Susan B. Barnes, Mary & Bill Burnham, Kevin Canessa Jr., Alisson Clark, Jennifer Wylie Fauser, Sandra Friend, Kevin Fritz, Melanie Green, Janet Groene, Linda Haase, Jen Karetnick, Olive Jade, Debi Lander, Rochelle Lash, Kristen Manieri, Jill Martin, Kevin & Amanda Mims, Jeff Ostrowski, Kate Pocock, Edward Schmidt Jr., Chelle Koster Walton, Judy Wells, Richard Westlund, Kenneth Wilhoite, Steve Winston FLORIDA OFFICE: 401 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 130-446, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 Tel: 1-888-700-4464 Fax: 416-497-0871 email: tigc@rogers.com www.floridatravelguide.travel CANADIAN OFFICE: Globelite Travel Marketing Inc. 3 Bluffwood Drive Toronto, Ontario M2H 3L4 Tel: 416-497-5353, 1-888-700-4464 Fax: 416-497-0871 email: tigc@rogers.com www.floridatravelguide.travel ISSN: 1926-2531 (Print) ISSN: 1927-7253 (Online) 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 Š copyright 2014. Printed in Canada.


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SOUTH EAST


TABLE OF CONTENTS

34 GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND INFORMATION 16

WELCOME TO FLORIDA: Endless Adventures Await

22

HISTORY: Explore Historic Treasures

26

TRAVELERS’ TIPS: Helpful Reminders for Visitors

30

TRIVIA: Think You Know Florida?

34

STATE GEMS: Crowd-pleasing Destinations

39

FLORIDA STATE PARKS: Where History Comes to Life

FLORIDA VACATION THEMES

58

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40

THEME PARKS: The World’s Favorite Playgrounds

43

FLORIDA LIGHTHOUSES

44

ARCHITECTURE AND GARDENS: Blooms Among Historical Splendor

48

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT: Where Memories are Born

54

ARTS AND CULTURE: Floridian Masterpieces

58

VACATION HOMES: Property Investments

64

BEACHES: Sandy Havens

66

ROAD TRIPS: Oh, What Sights You’ll See!

70

CAMPGROUNDS: Bunking with Nature

73

PETS: Leaders of the Pack

76

MONEY-SAVING TIPS: Enjoy More for Less

78

WILDLIFE VIEWING: Mother Nature’s Gifts

80

GOLF: Chasing the Sweet Spot

84

WEDDINGS AND HONEYMOONS: Happily Ever After Starts Here

86

SPAS: A World of Wellness

90

SPORTS: Plenty of Action for All

94

ECOTOURISM: Go Wild

98

GAMBLING: Place Your Bets


FLORIDA REGIONS, COUNTIES, CITIES AND ATTRACTIONS 102

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA: A Recipe for Excitement

108

Greater Fort Lauderdale: Paradise Found

112

Sunny Isles Beach: Florida’s Riviera

114

Florida Keys: Embrace the Island Life

116

Delray Beach: The Complete Package

120

Cultural Council of Palm Beach County: Make a Cultural Connection

124

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA: Wrapped in Nature

134

CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA: Recreation for Young and Old

140

St. Lucie County—Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie & Hutchinson Island: A Natural Choice

142

New Smyrna Beach Area: Follow the Locals

144

City of Fort Pierce: Sunrise Never Looked So Good

146

CENTRAL FLORIDA: A Mecca of Merriment

157

Kissimmee: At the Center of It All

158

Highlands County: Unwind Among Heavenly Landscapes

160

Central Florida’s Polk County: A Family-oriented Destination

162

CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA: Exciting, Eclectic and Enticing

168

Citrus County: An Eco Paradise

172

NORTHEAST FLORIDA: Where Extraordinary is Ordinary

178

Jacksonville: River City by the Sea

180

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA: Where Nature and Culture Meet

186

Gainesville: College-town Charm

188

Wakulla County: The Great Outdoors

192

NORTHWEST FLORIDA: A Slice of Southern Hospitality

198

Santa Rosa County: Florida’s Playground

FLORIDA RESOURCE DIRECTORY 200

Florida Time Zones

200

Annual Florida Festivals

201

Average Monthly Temperatures and Precipitation

202

Florida’s Public Holidays

202

Florida Associations and Travel Groups

202

Florida Cruise Ports

203

Florida State Parks, Forests & Regional Recreation Spaces

206

National Parks, Memorials, Monuments and Preserves

206

Car Rental Companies

206

RV Rental Companies

206

Tourism Information Sources in Florida

207

Mileage Chart Between Key Florida Cities

208

Bus Tour Operators

208

Major International Airports

208

Airline Service to Florida from Canada and the USA

COVER: A beach umbrella in Naples, Florida. Photo: © Roberto A. Sanchez/iStockphoto.com

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13


WELCOME TO FLORIDA!

ENDLESS ADVENTURES AWAIT The Magic Dancers at a basketball game at the Amway Arena in Orlando

Enjoying Barbie The Dreamhouse Experience at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise

W

hen visitors think of Florida, many picture tropical weather, beaches and umbrellas. Given this peninsular state boasts nearly 1,200 miles of coastline, of which 663 are foot-friendly sand, they’re not far from wrong. Nonetheless, Florida’s waterways acquaint travelers to a different side of the state. Lake Okeechobee—in the center of the state—is the second-largest freshwater lake in the contiguous United States. It not only provides drinking water for many surrounding and southern counties, but it’s also an agricultural resource for the state’s abundant produce. It offers some of the best largemouth bass fishing in Florida, and the protective dike that encircles the lake is part of the National Scenic Trail, a 110-mile route, which is popular with hikers, naturalists, cyclists and horseback riders.

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CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: EMS ENTERTAINMENT; FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA

BY JEN KARETNICK


Tennis in Sarasota

In addition, Florida has more than 30 firstmagnitude freshwater springs—the most of any state or nation in the world. Most of these watering holes, including Wakulla Springs, one of the deepest, and Silver Springs, one of the largest, are clustered in Central West and North Central Florida. Finally, Florida also claims quite a river culture, notwithstanding the famed River of Grass, a.k.a. the Everglades, where the native and nonnative wildlife is the most diverse. From airboat rides and alligator spotting in the swamps to kayaking along the immortal Suwannee River, framed by cool, green woodlands, to crabbing in the tributaries of the Apalachicola River, waterway adventures are endless. If you’re especially protective of Florida’s natural culture, you can also participate in what is perhaps the weirdest hunting competition in the nation: the Florida “Python Challenge.” A recently established annual event, the Challenge asks participants to bag as many as they can of non-native Burmese python, mostly released pets and their

progeny, the numbers and fierceness of which are unbalancing the ecosystem in the Everglades. Prizes include cash for the most and the biggest pythons caught.

A BOUNTIFUL LAND Florida, which means “land of flowers,” is virtually covered in blooms, ranging from its state flower, the orange blossom, to exotic bougainvillea and birds of paradise. In fact, Florida is largely agricultural and depends on export crops as diverse as sugar cane and tomatoes to survive, while still leaving plenty available for passersby to purchase. Its biggest trade is in 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 Gainesville to mangoes and lychees in the deep south areas of Redland and Homestead. Throughout the year, festivals, such as Plant City’s Florida Strawberry Festival in late winter and the mid-summer International Mango Festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, are hugely enjoyable, multi-day attractions.

Wave runner

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament in Kissimmee

Visit 50 acres of southern-styled gardens at Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando.

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17


WELCOME TO FLORIDA!

Re-enactment at Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine

Florida Fossils exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville

18

BREAK OUT THE SUNSCREEN

SPORTS GALORE

Blessed with climates that range from subtropical in the northern areas to tropical in the coastal and southern regions, Florida is known as the “Sunshine State.” Temperatures average a balmy 70 F daily, with highs usually peaking in the low 90s in July and August. And while the lowest temperature ever recorded in the winter of 1899 was –2 F in Tallahassee, the normal lows, which only last a couple of days, hover around the 40s or 50s during January or February. All in all, although Florida has its share of inclement weather, it’s renowned for being the warmest state in the US mainland. A couple of Florida’s cities, including Panama City Beach on the northwest coast and Daytona Beach on the east coast, are fa-

When it comes to professional sports, Florida is again in the running for “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 spring training facilities. Nor does it take into account the myriad golf and tennis tournaments and facilities in Orlando, Daytona, Naples, Miami and other cities. Of special note, Marlins Park in Miami, the new home for the Miami Marlins, which opened for the 2012 baseball season, is truly user-friendly. And Miami Heat fans will be mobbing the American Airlines Arena in 2014 looking for a “three-peat” in the National Basketball Championship—so get tickets early if you can. In addition, racing fans never get

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

enough of the heats in Daytona, Homestead and other speedways throughout the state.

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Resorts and attractions, such as SeaWorld Orlando, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Miami Seaquarium, Barbie The Dreamhouse Experience at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Busch Gardens Tampa and 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 Beach, Adventure Island in Tampa and Adventure Landing in Jacksonville offer thrilling experiences for the whole family and are especially refreshing in the summertime when the air can be quite humid. Popular smaller parks include Lion Country Safari and Rapids Water Park, both in Palm Beach County, and Butterfly World in Broward County. Or head farther south to Biscayne National Park, where all the aforementioned outdoor activities are available together with 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 native tribe inhabitants, to explore shipwrecks and to drift above the coral reef system, where more than 200 species of fish thrive. With more than 4,300 square miles of total water area and 54,252 land miles waiting to be discovered, Florida never disappoints. FL

PHOTOS: FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM; JOHN JERNIGAN/VISIT GAINESVILLE

If you prefer bottled fruit, wineries are popping up everywhere, with many offering both grape varietals and tropical fruit vintages.

mous for their Spring Break popularity, which usually lasts 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. The currents of Key Biscayne and the coastal areas around Fort Myers, particularly Sanibel and Captiva islands, are perfect for learning the rudiments of paddleboarding, ocean kayaking and other water sports. If you’re shell hunters, the Gulf Coast, from Fort Myers to Sarasota, is where to go. And if you’re lucky, you may find thousand-year-old sharks’ teeth.


HISTORY

EXPLORE HISTORIC TREASURES

BY RICHARD WESTLUND

The Miccosukee Museum of Natural & Tribal History in Miami

B

ack in April 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León set foot on a sandy Atlantic beach near today’s St. Augustine and christened the new land “La Florida,” probably because of the abundance of spring flowers. That discovery 500 years ago was one of the defining moments in Florida’s rich history, which spans from prehistory through today’s Space Age. Today, visitors can explore the historic treasures found everywhere in the state, from Hemingway’s home in Key West to Pensacola, the “City of Five Flags.” Here’s a brief look at some of the highlights of Florida’s rich and intriguing past.

RELICS FROM THE PAST Thousands of years before the first European explorers arrived, Florida was populated by Native Americans, whose artifacts can be found at various architectural sites. For example, the

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Tequesta people lived near the mouth of the Miami River, where a recent excavation uncovered the remains of a village. Now, the state Division of Historical Resources has preserved the site as the Miami Circle Park. Many Florida museums contain Native American artifacts made from bones, shells and stone dating back thousands of years.

EUROPEAN INFLUENCES Forty-two years after Ponce de León became the first European visitor to Florida, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded St. Augustine, now the oldest continually inhabited city in North America. With an historic district containing more than 30 colonial-era buildings, St. Augustine provides a unique glimpse into Spanish colonial life. One of the highlights is Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fortification in the continental US.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM; GLENN HASTINGS/FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM; STACEY SATHER/FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM

Experience Spanish colonial life at the Colonial Quarter in St. Augustine


Celebrating the rich and colorful Spanish heritage in St. Augustine

Offshore, Spanish galleons from the New World carried gold and silver coins and other forms of wealth on the hazardous journey back to Europe. Salvage expeditions have recovered some of those doubloons, anchors, cannons and other treasures, while other underwater sites along the Florida Keys, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are readily accessible to divers. For example, the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail covers 12 wrecks from Pensacola to Port St. Joe. Unlike St. Augustine, Jacksonville can trace its roots to the French who landed at the mouth of the St. Johns River in 1562 and founded Fort Caroline two years later. However, a Spanish force soon captured the fort, and the French became a distant memory. In 1763, Spain traded Florida to Great Britain in exchange for Havana, Cuba, which then divided the region into East and West Florida. Meanwhile, Pensacola flourished under Spanish, French and British rule, giving it the distinction of flying five flags (including the US and Confederate banners). During the American Revolution, both East and West Florida remained loyal to the British, but after the Treaty of Paris was signed, Spain once again took control, and the peninsula became home for hundreds of escaped slaves and Native Americans displaced from their ancestral homes. One branch of the Creek tribe moved to Central Florida and became known as the Seminoles. After several bitter conflicts in the early 1800s, General Andrew Jackson led a successful campaign that gradually resulted in US control over the region. Meanwhile, a handful of surviving Seminoles moved farther south to the Everglades, where they gradually rebuilt their society. Today, visitors can learn about the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes, sample native cuisine, take a ride on an airboat or watch alligator wrestling at Billie Swamp Safari and other attractions along US 41 (Tamiami Trail) and I-75 (Alligator Alley). Clewiston’s Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum (which means “a place to learn”) is a living village of early Seminole culture and well worth a visit.

A STATE IS BORN Throughout the early 1800s, Florida’s population was concentrated in North Florida, where Tallahassee became the territorial capital. One

Re-enactment of Juan Ponce de León's landing south of Ponte Vedra Beach

of the city’s highlights from that era is The Grove, an historic mansion finished in the 1830s by Richard Keith Call, an aide and advisor to General Jackson. In 1845, Florida became the nation’s 27th state under governor William Dunn Moseley. Another famous Floridian was composer Stephen Foster, whose song, Old Folks at Home, became the state anthem. In White Springs, the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park reflects his memory. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Florida joined the Confederacy. With a population of just 140,000—half of them AfricanAmerican slaves—it was the smallest state to secede from the Union. During the war, Union

troops occupied numerous ports and there were several small fights. Now, “soldiers” in Civil War uniforms annually re-enact the Battle of Olustee near Lake City. The state has also published the Florida Civil War Heritage Trail, a guidebook to Florida battle sites.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN INFLUENCES In the century following the Civil War, Florida’s African Americans made significant contributions to the nation’s culture. An annual festival in Eatonville honors Zora Neale Hurston, a leading 20th-century author whose works influenced writers such as Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison.

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

23


HISTORY The remains of Fort Dade, a Spanish-American War-era fort on Egmont Key

restoration project. The theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Taking aim on the gun deck at the Pirate & Treasure Museum in St. Augustine

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

In Miami, the 400-seat Lyric Theater opened in 1913 and soon became a major entertainment center for African Americans in the state’s segregated society. Closed in the 1960s after becoming a church in 1959, it has been part of a massive reconstruction and

In the late 19th century, railroad magnate Henry Flagler put Florida “on the map” as a warmweather vacation destination. He extended his Florida East Coast Railway from Jacksonville south to Miami and the Florida Keys, building luxurious resorts such as the Hotel Ponce de León in St. Augustine and The Breakers in Palm Beach. Near Marathon in the Florida Keys, the Pigeon Key Foundation restored a five-acre island that was the site of a Flagler railroad work camp, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. On the Gulf coast, railroad owner Henry Plant built the Tampa Bay Hotel, which later became part of the University of Tampa. Other historic sites in the area include the sponge diving docks in Tarpon Springs and Tampa’s Ybor City, known as the Latin Quarter for more than a century. Visitors can enjoy Cuban coffee and cigars and dance to the rhythms of Latin music.

FROM THE TOP: VISIT FLORIDA; FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM.

HISTORIC SITES


In fact, many Florida cities have an historic downtown neighborhood with buildings from the early 1900s. One example is Stranahan House on the New River in Fort Lauderdale. A few miles to the south, Dania Beach—once known as the “tomato capital of the world”— now has an antique district along US 1. In Fort Myers, inventor Thomas Edison and his friend Henry Ford built Florida homes, known today as the Edison & Ford Winter Estates with a museum, botanical gardens and laboratory.

20TH CENTURY AND BEYOND In the first two decades of the 1900s, Florida’s population began to explode, thanks to the development of new cities and communities along the railroad lines. Entrepreneur Carl Fisher helped turn a sandy island into the City of Miami Beach, and George Merrick’s master plan for a new community called Coral Gables led to a frenzied real estate boom in the mid-1920s. But hurricanes and the Great Depression slowed Florida’s growth to a standstill during the 1930s, despite the founding of Cypress Gardens near Winter Haven and Marineland south of St. Augustine—the state’s first two theme parks.

Author Ernest Hemingway spent more than a decade in Key West, and his residence is now the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. During World War II, the US Army, Navy and Coast Guard set up training bases in Florida, while German U-boats sank freighters and other merchant ships off the coast— creating more wrecks for today’s scuba divers. After World War II, the development of air conditioning and the Interstate highway system sparked a population boom that has never stopped. The flow of immigrants increased after Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959 and helped transform Miami into a major commercial and financial center. The Cuban Museum in Miami pays tribute to that important chapter in South Florida’s history. In 1949, Cape Canaveral was chosen as a test site for the US missile program. A decade later, the Cocoa Beach-Titusville area was the heart of the nation’s space program, including Apollo 11, the 1969 mission that carried astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. Now, the Kennedy Space Center allows visitors to experience the years of the Space Race—a fitting ending to Florida’s timeless historical story. FL

FEATURED LINKS Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum ahtahthiki.com Billie Swamp Safari billieswamp.com Edison & Ford Winter Estates edisonfordwinterestates.org Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail floridapanhandledivetrail.com Historic Stranahan House Museum stranahanhouse.org Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex kennedyspacecenter.com Miami Circle flheritage.com/archaeology/projects/miamicircle Old City, St. Augustine oldcity.com Olustee Festival olusteefestival.com Pigeon Key Foundation pigeonkey.net Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster The Cuban Museum cubanmuseum.org The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum hemingwayhome.com The Florida Civil War Heritage Trail flheritage.com/preservation/trails/civilwar/index.cfm The Grove flheritage.com/grove Ybor Chamber ybor.org Zora Neale Hurston Festival zoranealehurstonfestival.com

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS

HELPFUL REMINDERS FOR VISITORS BY KEVIN FRITZ

Smathers Beach in Key West

F

lorida is one of the most distinct states in America, boasting a diverse collection of quaint towns and ecosystems mixed fluidly with bustling cities and spectacular beaches. Like all destinations, it also has its nuances. Keeping these helpful tips in mind will make your stay even more enjoyable.

ACCOMMODATION It can be challenging at times to book a place to stay sight unseen from thousands of miles away. Contact the local convention and visitors bureau in the city or county you will be visiting for free assistance—and peace of mind.

BANKS Money is pretty much available at all times. Good thing—you’re on vacation! Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM, however, Bank Atlantic and TD Bank have locations open seven days a week. ATMs (automated teller machines) can be found at banks, grocery and convenience stores and at

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

most attractions, venues and festivals. Many stores will allow debit card users to obtain “cash back” above their purchase without charging a transaction fee.

BOILED WATER ALERTS When a pipe breaks as a result of age, or most often due to a construction mishap, low water pressure inside the pipe may allow some contaminants to enter the water. When that happens, “Boil Water Alerts” are issued. Those affected are notified door-to-door, by signs posted in the neighborhood, and through radio, television and local newspapers. If you find you are under a Boil Water Alert, disinfect any water used for drinking (including pets), cooking, brushing teeth, rinsing contact lenses, shaving and making ice. Water does not need to be disinfected for bathing, showering or laundry.

DEALS There are plenty of deals to be had in the Sunshine State. Check with the visitors bureau

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: ANDY NEWMAN/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/HO; VISIT ORLANDO; VISIT FLORIDA; STEVE HEAP/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Take advantage of Orlando's Deal Season from August 15 to September 30.


Water taxis are an affordable way to see the sights in Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

in the area you will be visiting to take advantage of special offers. Here’s a sampling: • In Miami, PamperPallooza is held in July and August when spa treatments are discounted to US$99 at the city’s most desired locations. • August 15 to September 30 is Orlando’s Deal Season where you’ll find the best prices of the year at theme parks, attractions, hotels, restaurants and more. • In the Daytona Beach area, less expensive meals can be enjoyed at Inlet Harbor on the water and at Ocean Walk restaurants.

DRIVING Florida is a wonderful place to explore by car. Bring your own or rent the vehicle of your choice from the many rental companies throughout the state. Visitors ages 16 and up holding licenses from other states or countries may drive in Florida. Besides Florida’s Interstate highways—4, 10, 75 and 95—many other roads and bridges are toll roads. Alligator Alley (also known as Everglades Parkway) between Naples and Miami is a toll road, as is Florida’s Turnpike. State Road 408 (East-West Expressway), the Beachline Expressway and State Road 417 (Orlando’s bypass) are all toll roads in the Orlando area. US 441 and US 27 provide rural and free alternatives to Florida’s Turnpike. To make your road trips more pleasant, purchase a SunPass Mini transponder at one of the more than 2,000 retail locations for US$5. It can save you up to 15 to 20 percent off tolls, and make your trip a lot quicker bypassing all the toll booths along the way. A minimum opening balance of US$10 is required. Note that some gas stations charge more per gallon for using a credit or debit card. Fuel prices vary, but prices in the Disney World area and Gainesville tend to be higher than other places in Florida. Avoid buying gas just outside the Orlando International Airport, where some stations charge more than US$5 a gallon.

HEAT Heat exhaustion can affect anyone, especially young children, the elderly and those who are already sick. Symptoms include mild muscle cramps to dehydration. If you or someone you are with feels faint, get inside—almost every building in Florida is air-conditioned.

Respect wildlife: Alligator in swamps of Everglades National Park

Gatorade works well to restore fluids and potato chips or pretzels can help restore salt.

HOLIDAYS Keep in mind that banks and government offices, including the post office, are closed on major US holidays as are other businesses. However, most attractions remain open yearround. 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. Holidays are listed at the back of this guide.

’GATORS Florida is home to the American alligator—you may even see one or two sunning along waterways. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, alligators are found in all of the state’s 67 counties in marshes, swamps, rivers and lakes. Do not feed the ’gators—it’s dangerous and illegal. Don’t allow pets to swim, exercise or drink in or near waters that may contain alligators and do not swim with your dog. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.

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TRAVELERS’ TIPS Stay tuned to weather and driving conditions.

TIPPING In America, please tip for good service. It’s how many in the service industry make their living. Add 15 to 20 percent for wait staff and bartenders; airport shuttle drivers, valets and bellhops, US$2 per person; maid service, US$2 per night; tour guides, US$2–$10 per person, depending on length and enjoyment; and fishing guides, 10 to 15 percent.

TRAVEL INSURANCE You can’t plan for bad weather, but you can ensure your vacation does not leave you high and dry. If weather does significantly put a damper on your trip, travel insurance policies reimburse you for your expenses if you submit your receipts as supporting documentation.

WEATHER CONDITIONS Smoking is not permitted inside Florida restaurants or bars that serve food, however smokers can enjoy the outdoor patio at some locations. Many public areas, such as parks, have also banned smoking. Restaurants are air-conditioned and can be quite chilly. Dining is casual at the majority of Florida’s eating establishments; resort wear— collars, slacks and jackets—may be required at club houses and upscale restaurants. Drivers and front-seat passengers must wear seat belts. All children under 18 are required to wear seat belts, regardless of where they are sitting. Children, three and younger, must be secured in a federally approved child-restraint seat in the back seat; children, ages four and five, also must be in the back seat and secured by a child-restraint seat or a safety belt. Headlights are required during inclement weather. Florida has strict drunk driving laws with zero tolerance for drivers under the age of 21. Texting by the driver is illegal in Florida. Pedestrians always have the right of way at crosswalks. And remember, hot pavement acts like ice when rain first hits it, so be cautious driving during rain showers.

TAXIS, TRAINS, BUSES AND TROLLEYS AMTRAK provides the Silver Service/Palmetto, connecting Jacksonville and Orlando to either

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Tampa or Miami with stops along the way. Greyhound bus service links many Florida cities. Some tips to consider: • Enjoy the free bus transportation from Sunny Isles hotels to South Beach in Miami. • Water taxi passes are available through the Fort Lauderdale website where you’ll also find an app for the trolley system. The cost is US$2 for an all-day pass. • In Orlando, the I-Ride Trolley offers transportation in the International Drive resort area for US$1.25; kids 12 and under ride for free.

SAFETY FIRST While Florida is a safe place to visit, don’t let your guard down when on vacation. Keep your car doors locked, even while driving, and secure your belongings as best as you can, keeping valuable items in your trunk. When at your hotel, use the safe in your room for jewelry, passports and important papers—that’s why it’s there. If there is not one in your room, secure valuables with the front desk.

Year-round temperatures averaging in the 60s up north to the 70s down south are the reason people flock here. However, summers can be hot and humid, with temperatures between 80 F and 95 F and evenings in the 70s. Nature’s way of cooling the air arrives in the form of afternoon thundershowers. Note that hurricane season runs June 1–November 30 and be aware of hurricane evacuation routes. Winters can be cool in Florida, followed by moderate springs. Falls are spectacular. Keep in mind Florida is the lightning capital of the United States, so the adage “If thunder roars, go indoors” is a serious life-saving expression in the Sunshine State. FL

FEATURED LINKS AMTRAK amtrak.com

Best Western Florida Hotels bestwesternflorida.com

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles flhsmv.gov

TAXES AND FEES

Florida’s Turnpike

Florida’s base sales tax on purchases is six percent, with some counties adding discretionary taxes. Most hotels charge a “tourist” tax and some will add a “resort or amenities tax” to your bill. There also may be a parking fee. These can all add up significantly, so check with your accommodation prior to booking to know exactly what you will be charged when you check out.

Greyhound

turnpikeinfo.com greyhound.com

I-Ride Trolley iridetrolley.com

LYNX golynx.com

Metrobus miamidade.gov/transit

Superior Small Lodging superiorsmalllodging.com

PHOTO: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES.

OUT AND ABOUT


TRI VI A

THINK YOU KNOW FLORIDA? BY BY JILL MARTIN

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA • North America’s only living coral reef is off the Florida Keys. • Stretching from north of Key Largo to Key West, the Overseas Highway has been designated one of “America’s Scenic Byways” and the only All-American Road in Florida. • How did a man weighing 110 pounds carve and lift more than 1,100 tons of coral? It’s one of the world’s greatest mysteries. Explore Coral Castle in Homestead for yourself. • Fort Lauderdale is known as the “Venice” of America because of its more than 300 miles of inland waterways.

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

• With more than 350 stores, Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Florida, is the largest outlet mall in the US.

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

• Naples has more golf holes per capita than any other city in the US. • The smallest post office in the nation is found in Ochopee on US 41 near Naples. The bathroom is a couple of miles away. • Because of their geographic formation lying east to west instead of north to south, shelling on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva is rated among the best in the world. • The notorious pirate Jose Gaspar is rumored to have buried more than $30 million in treasure in Charlotte Harbor. It has never been found. • Carmaker Henry Ford and inventor Thomas Edison both had winter homes in Fort Myers. These neighboring estates are open to the public.

CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA • The largest single-story building in the world is the Vehicle Assembly Building at

• •

Kennedy Space Center. It’s 525 feet tall and covers eight acres. There are 203 steps to the top of Florida’s tallest lighthouse at Ponce Inlet. Once a former training location for the US Navy SEALs, Fort Pierce is home to the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum. The “Sailfish Capital of the World” is Stuart, two hours north of Miami. Daytona Beach is one of the few Florida beaches on which you can drive.

CENTRAL FLORIDA • When the Magic Kingdom opened October 1, 1971, admission was US$3.50. • Orlando has the second largest number of hotel rooms in the country—more than 120,000. • There are more than 1,200 horse farms in Ocala, making it the “Horse Capital of the World.” • Half-way between Cocoa and Orlando, you’ll find the town of Christmas, where street names include Candy Cane, Sleigh Bell, Frosty and those famous reindeer. • The world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures is found at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.

PHOTO: TAMPA BAY & COMPANY

A

merica’s 27th state overflows with interesting history, odd facts and quirky events that may leave you scratching your head. You probably already know Florida is home to the world’s greatest theme parks, but do you know which roller coaster is the longest? At 4,429 feet, the new Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa beats Disney’s Expedition Everest by a mere five feet. Here are other fun facts about the Sunshine State you may not know:

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa


TRI VI A

CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA

NORTHEAST FLORIDA • Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine is the oldest masonry fort in North America and the only one still standing from the 17th century. It’s said to be haunted. • Built in 1878, the Palace Saloon in downtown Fernandina Beach is the oldest saloon in the state. It sold ice cream during the years of Prohibition. The canals of Fort Lauderdale

St. Augustine waterfront

• Florida’s largest city, Jacksonville, was known as Cowford until 1822 because this is where cattle were transported across the St. Johns River. • The St. Johns River is one of the few rivers on the planet that flows north instead of south. • Established in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest continually occupied city in the US.

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA • Of the 497 verified bird species that call Florida home, 372 can be seen in Tallahassee.

• The deepest natural spring on Earth is Wakulla Springs, 14 miles south of the capital. It’s also one of the longest and deepest freshwater cave systems in the world. • Bones of a 12,000–18,000-year-old mastodon were found in Wakulla Springs. Nicknamed “Herman,” he now resides at the Museum of Florida History. • Florida State University is home to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, the largest and highest-powered magnet lab in the world. Its equipment can produce a magnetic field one million times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field. • In the late 1920s, a banker in Quincy convinced friends and neighbors to purchase stock in a company called Coca-Cola. By 1930, this town of 7,000 had at least 67 millionaires.

NORTHWEST FLORIDA • The small town of Apalachicola produces 90 percent of Florida’s oyster supply and 10 percent of the nation’s. • There are only two naturally round lakes in the world. One is in DeFuniak Springs. • The world’s largest artificial reef lies off the coast of Pensacola. The USS Oriskany (nicknamed the Mighty O) was purposefully sunk there in 2006. • Having been ruled by Spain, France, Britain, the Confederacy and the US, Pensacola lives up to its nickname, “City of Five Flags.” • The idyllic beachfront town of Seaside is where they filmed the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show. FL

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

FROM THE TOP: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE CVB

• On average, St. Petersburg/Clearwater receive 361 days of sunshine each year. • Once part of the original Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the longest fishing pier in the world jets 1.5 miles into Tampa Bay. • Opened in 1905, the oldest restaurant in Florida is the Columbia in Ybor City. It’s also the world’s largest Spanish restaurant. • The town of Venice has a Shark Tooth Festival each year in honor of its distinction as the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World.” • Nature photographer Clyde Butcher is today’s equivalent of Ansel Adams. Visit his outstanding gallery and studio in Venice, close to Sarasota. He might be there.


STATE GEMS

CROWD-PLEASING DESTINATIONS

BY KRISTEN MANIERI

Feeding tarpon on Islamorada

S

ometimes the best-kept secrets and most atypical activities make for the finest vacation memories. Whether it’s an off-the-beaten track attraction or a diner frequented only by locals, Florida is dotted with surprising little delights. Here are some of the state’s “do-not-miss” experiences.

BRADENTON/ANNA MARIA ISLAND/LONGBOAT KEY While most people visit Anna Maria Island for its miles of pristine beaches and dozens of great restaurants, a trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Anna Maria Donuts where fresh, made-to-order donuts are customized with your choice of icings and toppings. At the tail end of Longboat Key, Mote Marine Laboratory features touch tanks and interactive exhibits to showcase its more than 100 species of marine life. Meander through a whimsical

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

collection of galleries, studios, boutiques and cafés housed in colorful cottages at the Village of the Arts in the city of Bradenton where oneof-a-kind finds turn typical shoppers into happy treasure hunters.

DAYTONA BEACH AREA Chocolate lovers ought to steal away from the beach to visit the Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory where chocolatiers give guests a glimpse into their world of sweets on free tours Monday through Saturday. There’s no better photo opportunity than from the top of the giant Ferris wheel at Daytona Beach Boardwalk, a short stroll from the iconic Daytona Beach Pier. Motorcycle enthusiasts will want to visit Bruce Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona where a 109,000-squarefoot showroom is packed with Harley Davidson motorcycles, apparel and accessories.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: BOB KRIST/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU; TOM SHELBY/BRADENTON AREA CVB; SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM

Relaxing at Bean Point on Anna Maria Island in Southwest Florida


FLORIDA KEYS Blink and you might miss Robbie’s Marina on your way through Islamorada. Wander into the tack shop and onto the dock and you’ll soon see what all the fuss is about. Splashing around in the water are dozens of giant tarpon just waiting for their next meal, which often comes courtesy of tourists who buy buckets of fish to hand feed these fearless creatures. Once you arrive in Key West, consider a visit to Dry Tortugas National Park, a 100-square-mile collection of islands that can only be reached by ferry or seaplane. Once there, spend the day exploring the secluded and pristine 19th-century fort or snorkeling the surrounding crystal-clear waters.

FLORIDA’S SPACE COAST Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex continues to delight guests with new attractions including the unveiling of the 90,000-squarefoot Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, featuring more than 60 interactive exhibits and high-tech simulators. Guided kayaking tours down the Nyami Nyami River at the Brevard Zoo in

Melbourne gives paddlers a river’s-edge vantage point of the zoo’s Expedition Africa animals. For just US$6, guests can float past giraffes, rhinos and gazelles. Or set out into the wild on the Manatee & Dolphin Encounter kayak trip with A Day Away Kayak Tours. This two-hour tour heads out to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge where encounters with West Indian manatees and bottlenose dolphins are commonplace.

PRECIOUS ISLANDS Amidst Florida’s better-known destinations lay a handful of idyllic hideaways savvy travelers hope the crowds will never discover. Untouched and unfussy, these island gems offer a quiet, laid-back escape.

LITTLE PALM ISLAND Perhaps the most exclusive and luxurious island retreat, Little Palm Island is discreetly tucked in

FORT LAUDERDALE

the Florida Keys and is accessible only by boat or

Miles of beaches and intracoastal waterways make this area a haven for water-focused activities, which include kitesurfing, the popular year-round sport that combines kite flying, wakeboarding and windsurfing. Newbies can take lessons at the Fort Lauderdale Kite Surfing School. The less adventurous might prefer a dining cruise aboard the JungleQueen Riverboat or a lively sightseeing tour on an amphibious vehicle with Fort Lauderdale Duck Tours. Back on land, visit the 10-acre Butterfly World, home to more than 10,000 free-flying butterflies.

seaplane. Guests settle into one of 30 private

Birdwatching at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

extraordinary variety of birds. Water taxis to the island

thatched-roof bungalows for a getaway filled with gourmet food, spa pampering and plenty of pool or beachside nothingness.

CAYO COSTA Featuring 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 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, beautiful beaches and tranquil nature trails. No cars are needed (or allowed) on this 100-acre 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, the small, relaxed island community of Cedar Key is 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 hosts of people each year to walk its historic streets, browse the shops and galleries, explore the back bayous and enjoy world-famous seafood restaurants.

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STATE GEMS Father and son fishing in Lee County

Located in 90 feet of water, roughly 28 nautical miles off Sanibel Island, the sunken Coast Guard Cutter USS Mohawk provides an unforgettable diving experience. Now home to thousands of fish, sea turtles and bull sharks, the Mohawk recently became an underwater art gallery showcasing photography by Austrian artist Andreas Franke. Peel back Fort Myers’s layers on a walking tour with True Tours, a 90-minute journey that focuses on the area’s historical attractions. Later, grab lunch at Barnacle Phil’s, an eatery on North Captiva Island that’s only accessible by boat.

JACKSONVILLE The hospitality room at the Budweiser Brewery Tour

In 2014, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens celebrates its 100th birthday, a milestone marked by the unveiling of the new Land of the Tiger exhibit, housing six tigers. Visit the King Street District, which recently sprang up in Jacksonville’s historic Riverside neighborhood, now home to a number of locally owned restaurants and two breweries offering organic, local and sustainable options. Beer lovers will appreciate the behind-the-scenes tour of Budweiser’s brewing process during the Beermaster Tour complete with samplings directly from the finishing tank.

KISSIMMEE

Miami's Design District

Airboat rides through Central Florida’s lakes are always an exhilarating ride, but the wow factor is amplified during a night tour with

Boggy Creek Airboat Rides when guests head out after sunset in search of alligators, which can only be spotted by the red glow of their eyes. Another evening attraction to check out is the new AntiGravity show featuring a fusion of high-energy acrobatics and theatrics. Test your own physical skills at the 4,700-acre Forever Florida wildlife conservation area as you zip or cycle through the treetops or partake in an overnight horseback safari.

MIAMI Don’t miss the awe-inspiring Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, the Mediterranean-style estate built beginning in 1914 by wealthy industrialist James Deering. Tour the inside of the home filled with turn-of-the-century art and furnishings, and wander around the meticulously manicured 10-acre gardens overlooking Biscayne Bay. Spend an afternoon shopping in the Miami Design District, home to design stores and galleries. Take a drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway to Key Biscayne where sandy beaches and Florida’s only federally recognized underwater archaeological trail awaits.

NAPLES There is no shortage of ways to explore the outdoors in Naples, the posh southwest town perched on the Gulf of Mexico. Consider hiking at the 2,500-acre Pepper Ranch & Preserve in Immokalee or hiking the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary where a 2.25mile boardwalk trail is open to the public daily. Don’t miss the chance to explore Everglades National Park, one of Florida’s most unique places. Plenty of tour companies are ready to lead the charge, many of which offer bicycle tours—the optimal option for exploring the swamps, marshes and hardwood hammocks.

ORLANDO Definitely spend time at the theme parks as the new attractions at Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios and SeaWorld will be tough to miss. But if you can spare a few days to experience “Orlando,” head to Wekiwa Springs State Park where a pristine spring makes for a memorable swim and the river teeming with wildlife makes for an unforgettable paddling excursion. Harry P. Leu Gardens is another Orlando green space that’s too often overlooked, however the

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM RIGHT: GREATER MIAMI CVB; VISIT JACKSONVILLE; LEE COUNTY VCB; PALMBEACHFL.COM

FORT MYERS AND SANIBEL


An aerial view of John D. MacArthur State Park in North Palm Beach

FEATURED LINKS 7venth Sun Brewery 7thsunbrewery.com

A Day Away Kayak Tours adayawaykayaktours.com

Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory angellandphelps.com

Anna Maria Donuts annamariadonuts.com

AntiGravity Theater antigravityorlando.com

Barnacle Phil’s northcaptiva.net/IslandDining.htm

Blue Angels blueangels.navy.mil

Boggy Creek Airboat Rides bcairboats.com

Brevard Zoo

50-acre botanical park just north of downtown is arguably one of Central Florida’s most beautiful spaces. Finally, pay a visit to the newly revived Church Street District where some of the best restaurants and bars are found, as well as the Mad Cow Theatre, a top-notch professional company featuring plays and musicals.

THE PALM BEACHES AND BOCA RATON One of Florida’s coveted treasures is that its sandy coastline is the nesting ground for sea turtles. Each summer at MacArthur Beach State Park, visitors can participate in guided nighttime turtle walks in June and July designed to provide a glimpse of loggerhead turtles laying their eggs. If you’d rather be in the water, book a guided full-moon kayaking or paddleboard tour at the Jupiter Outdoor Center. Boasting more than 7,000 pieces and an extensive collection of photography, the Norton Museum of Art is an excellent venue to visit. Be sure to check its calendar in advance to see if there is an interesting talk, concert or children’s program planned.

PANAMA CITY BEACH Spend a day splashing and swimming at Shipwreck Island Water Park where 20 acres of slides and rides provide sun-drenched pleasure. Show-stopping dolphins and sea lions populate Gulf World Marine Park, where live shows and exhibits showcase marine animals ranging from sharks to penguins. Interactive programs invite guests to be a dolphin trainer for a day, meet a sea lion, and even participate in a sleepover, during which guests learn about the nighttime habits of marine animals. Known as the “Wreck

Diving Capital of the South,” the area offers divers the chance to come face-to-face with giant rays, octopus and pufferfish that make their home in bygone vessels.

brevardzoo.org

Bruce Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona brucerossmeyer.com

Budweiser Beermaster Tour budweisertours.com

Butterfly World

PENSACOLA Besides being the home of the world-famous Blue Angels, who can be seen practicing their awe-inspiring aerial maneuvers high above the clouds, Pensacola also boasts the 50-acre Gulf Breeze Zoo, where guests can feed giraffes and let parakeets perch on their fingers inside the Australian Free-Flight Budgiery. Families will want to check out the Pensacola Children’s Museum, where curators have brought history to life through a series of interactive and educational exhibits that captivate the imagination.

butterflyworld.com

Cabbage Key cabbagekey.com

Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week and Concert Series visittallahassee.com/capitalcuisine

Castillo de San Marcos nps.gov/casa

Cayo Costa State Park floridastateparks.org/cayocosta

Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce cedarkey.org

Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club cirostampa.com

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary corkscrew.audubon.org

Daytona Beach Boardwalk daytonabeachboardwalk.com

SARASOTA

Dry Tortugas National Park

Kids love the whimsical Sarasota Children’s Garden just north of the downtown core. Here they can wander through a fantasyland filled with mazes, tree forts and a pirate ship. Catch a show on the full-dome screen at the Bishop Planetarium at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, where programs range from astronomy lectures to rock ’n’ roll computergenerated animation shows.

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

nps.gov/drto floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings

Everglades Area Tours evergladesareatours.com

Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida floridaecosafaris.com

Fort De Soto Park pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm

Fort Lauderdale Duck Tours www.fortlauderdaleducktours.com

Fort Lauderdale Kite Surfing School fortlauderdalekitesurfing.com

ST. AUGUSTINE As America’s oldest city, St. Augustine is rich in character and history. Key highlights include the iconic Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest structure of its kind in the continental United States. Creators of Colonial Quarter, a new attraction on St. George Street, bring the area’s Spanish and British heritage to life through authentic exhibits including a leatherworking

Gulf Breeze Zoo gulfbreezezoo.org

Gulf World Marine Park gulfworldmarinepark.com

Harry P. Leu Gardens leugardens.org

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens jacksonvillezoo.org

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park floridastateparks.org/macarthurbeach

JungleQueen Riverboat junglequeen.com

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STATE GEMS Tampa Bay, a paradise for cyclists

FEATURED LINKS Jupiter Outdoor Center jupiteroutdoorcenter.com

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex kennedyspacecenter.com

Key Biscayne key-biscayne.com

Little Palm Island Resort & Spa littlepalmisland.com

Lowry Park Zoo www.lowryparkzoo.com

Mad Cow Theatre madcowtheatre.com

Miami Design District

shop, an 18th-century Spanish home, and the live handcrafting of a real 50-foot caravel. Around the corner, the Pirate & Treasure Museum pleases swashbucklers with one of the world’s largest collections of genuine pirate artifacts.

ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER Thanks to endeavors such as the new Warehouse Arts District, St. Petersburg is earning a reputation as one of Florida’s preeminent arts and culture destinations. A place for working artists to collaborate and create, this district houses about 16 arts businesses and organizations. Fort De Soto, arguably the area’s best park, is an ideal place to hang out on an undisturbed beach or kayak among the manatees. Craft beer aficionados will love the rapidly growing brewery scene in the area, now home to 10 brewpubs including the 7venth Sun Brewery in Dunedin and Sea Dog Brewing Company in Clearwater.

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

miamidesigndistrict.net

TALLAHASSEE Spend the day at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park where one of the world’s deepest freshwater springs and largest cave systems invites visitors to explore the 6,000-acre state park and wildlife sanctuary on swims, hikes or glassbottom boat tours. Take a trip back into Old Florida at the Tallahassee Museum, featuring wildlife habitats, restored 19th-century buildings, and a 1920s caboose and railway exhibit. Be sure to check out the museum’s newest adventure: the Tree to Tree Adventures Course offering three different levels of aerial obstacles. Tallahassee hosts several culinary festivals throughout the year, including the Greek Food Festival (November) and the annual Brewfest festival held every fall, featuring more than 200 different beers. Each May, the annual Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week offers discounted, threecourse, prix-fixe menus at local restaurants.

Mote Marine Laboratory mote.org

Norton Museum of Art norton.org

Palma Ceia Neighborhood Association palmaceiana.org

Panama City Dive Charters panamacitydiving.com

Pensacola Children’s Museum historicpensacola.org

Riverside Avondale Preservation riverside-avondale.com

Robbie’s of Islamorada robbies.com

Sarasota Children’s Garden sarasotachildrensgarden.com

Sea Dog Brewing Company seadogbrewing.com

SeaWorld Orlando seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-orlando

Shipwreck Island Waterpark shipwreckisland.com

South Florida Museum southfloridamuseum.org

St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum thepiratemuseum.com

TAMPA BAY Set aside a full day to explore Lowry Park Zoo, a 56-acre wildlife wonderland with more than 1,500 animals and loads of interactive adventures and rides for smaller kids. Adults love Ciro’s Speakeasy, a 1920s-inspired restaurant and lounge located in an unmarked building at Howard Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard. Reservations, as well as the secret password, are required to enter. A paradise for cyclists, walkers and skaters, the Tampa Bay area has more than 100 miles of paved and off-road trails that wind through urban, suburban and rural environments. For boutique shopping, visit the charming Palma Ceia district where more than 100 unique art galleries, boutiques, antique shops, restaurants and cafés line the antique red-brick roads. FL

St. Petersburg Warehouse Arts District Association warehouseartsdistrictstpete.org

Tallahassee Museum tallahasseemuseum.org

The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel FortMyers-Sanibel.com

The Church Street District churchstreetdistrict.com

The Colonial Quarter colonialquarter.com

True Tours truetours.net

Village of the Arts villageofthearts.com

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens vizcayamuseum.org

Walt Disney World disneyworld.disney.go.com

Wekiwa Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT BOTTOM: GLENN HASTINGS; TAMPA BAY & COMPANY; JOHN WIDDOWS/SHUTTERSTOCK

The Wakulla River Canoe Trail in Tallahassee is part of the Statewide System of Greenways and Trails.


FLORIDA STATE PARKS

WHERE HISTORY COMES TO LIFE BY DEBI LANDER

J

uan Ponce de León discovered La Florida 500 years ago and since then it has been a state of exploration, discovery and innovation. Today, Florida visitors interact with living historians and park rangers at numerous state parks, many of which also include gorgeous beaches.

FORT CLINCH Begin in northeast Florida at Fort Clinch near Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. Daily tours with period re-enactors provide a glimpse of garrison life during the Civil War. First Weekend Garrisons draw crowds with artillery and medical demonstrations and soldier drills. Stroll the grounds and observe soldiers and civilians working in the laundry, infirmary, kitchen, barracks, quartermaster and carpenter shop. Special candlelight viewings are popular on Saturday evenings every first weekend except December. Fort Clinch features a new beach and pier boardwalk and new interpretive videos. Anglers can fish from the pier or try surf fishing. Hikers and bicyclists enjoy a six-mile trail through the park. A full-facility campground offers overnight accommodation.

Re-enactment at Olustee Battlefield

OLUSTEE BATTLEFIELD HISTORIC STATE PARK Located near Lake City and 50 miles west of Jacksonville, Olustee was the site of Florida’s largest Civil War battle on February 20, 1864. More than 10,000 cavalry, infantry and artillery troops fought a five-hour battle in the nearby pine forest. The day ended with 2,807 casualties and a Union retreat to Jacksonville. Olustee Battlefield features a visitor center with historical information and artifacts. A re-enactment is held every February.

FORT FOSTER Travel down the middle of the state to find Fort Foster at Hillsborough River State Park, a reconstructed fort from the Second Seminole War with more than 100 artifacts. The site offers an explanation on conflicts between the Seminole nation and the US military. Step back in time at Fort Foster Rendezvous with skirmishes in February and and the Candlelight Evening Tour of Fort Foster with a skirmish in December.

Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West. Designed to defend the coastline, the fort was built by the army from 1845–1866. During the Civil War, Fort Taylor remained under federal control—one of only three fortresses in Florida to do so. The complex continued on “active duty” status through 1947. Today, it’s a National Historic Landmark containing the largest cache of Civil War-era seacoast cannons in the US. Guided tours are available daily and December features Fort Taylor’s annual Pirate Fest. Visitors can explore inside and outside the fort, enjoy fishing or simply lazing on the beach. Don’t miss this location’s spectacular Key West sunset. FL

FEATURED LINKS For a full list of Florida state parks, visit floridastateparks.org or see our Resource Directory at the back of this guide.

Fort Clinch State Park floridastateparks.org/fortclinch

Fort Foster State Historic Site floridastateparks.org/fortfoster

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/forttaylor

FORT ZACHARY TAYLOR

Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park

Find Florida’s southernmost state park, Fort

floridastateparks.org/olusteebattlefield

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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THEME PARKS

THE WORLD’S FAVORITE PLAYGROUNDS

BY JENNIFER WYLIE FAUSER

T

hrills, adventure, mystery, magic. Many words describe Florida’s theme parks where the shared activities are as diverse as the participants. From the engaging penguins at SeaWorld Orlando, the iconic attractions of Universal Orlando Resort and the wonder of Walt Disney World to the splendor of LEGOLAND Florida and the thrills at Busch Gardens Tampa, the myriad experiences that await you defy description.

SEAWORLD ORLANDO Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or ready to learn about animals, SeaWorld Orlando has something for everyone. Immerse yourself in SeaWorld’s newest realm, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, where you can experience the mystery and wonder of Antarctic life on the ice through the eyes of a penguin, then walk through a 30 F habitat home to more than 200 penguins. Up close is the name of the game at SeaWorld: above land, under water, over head . . . everywhere you turn, you are nearly nose-to-nose with animals, including sea lions, beluga

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whales, bottlenose dolphins, stingrays, sharks, and even some favorite four-legged friends. Zoom on Kraken, challenge Journey to Atlantis watercoaster, and brave Manta, the only flying roller coaster of its kind in the world. Don’t miss One Ocean, SeaWorld’s killer whale show that connects guests to the sea; TurtleTrek, a 360-degree, 3D dome theater experience shown through the eyes of a sea turtle; and Blue Horizons, featuring the majesty and splendor of dolphins, exotic birds and aerialists. An ocean of fun is waiting to be explored at SeaWorld Orlando. Jump in and dive deep. Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark, features some of the world’s most thrilling water rides, including 38 slides, rivers and lagoons and 84,000 square feet of sparkling white, sandy beaches. Aquatica also includes remarkable animal habitats that are the hallmark of SeaWorld and provide up-close animal encounters, including Commerson’s dolphins, tropical fish, tortoises and macaws. Relax on beaches alongside double wave pools or go the extra step and reserve your own private cabana for the day. Guests can also enjoy an all-you-care-to-eat

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: SEAWORLD PARKS & ENTERTAINMENT; SEAWORLD PARKS & ENTERTAINMENT; UNIVERSAL ORLANDO; DISNEY ENTERPRISES INC.

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction at SeaWorld Orlando

The finale at the Blue Horizons Theatrical Animal Show at SeaWorld Orlando


Optimus Prime at Universal Orlando Resort

buffet featuring a variety of pizzas along with traditional hot dogs, pulled pork, baked chicken, classic side items and desserts at Banana Beach. Recently ranked No. 1 in the 2013 TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards, Discovery Cove is the perfect place to spend the day relaxing in a breathtaking tropical atmosphere and experiencing the most exciting animal encounters the world has to offer. This all-inclusive day resort invites guests to swim with dolphins, snorkel among thousands of tropical fish and hundreds of rays and handfeed exotic birds. Pristine beaches, lush landscaping, and a winding river and waterfalls welcome you into an oasis like nowhere else. Your retreat includes freshly prepared breakfast and lunch, snacks and beverages (water, soft drinks and alcoholic) throughout the day, plus swim and snorkel gear, towels and eco-friendly sunscreen. Capacity is limited and advance reservations are required. Discovery Cove admission also includes 14-day unlimited passes to SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark, before, during or after your visit.

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT Universal Orlando Resort offers two theme parks featuring more than 25 of the world’s most outstanding rides and attractions, a night scene out of this universe, and a bevy of dining and merchandise options. Universal Studios Florida packs a punch with iconic attractions such as Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack, Shrek 4D, and Revenge of the Mummy. Star-struck visitors also love Barney, riding Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster and a bike ride with America’s favorite extra-terrestrial, E.T. Or guests could find themselves in the middle of an epic battle between the Autobots and Decepticons at the new, larger-than-life TRANSFORMERS: The Ride–3D. If you’ve ever wondered where in America the beloved Simpson family hometown of Springfield is actually located, look no further. Springfield, USA, now resides in Universal Studios, complete with The Simpson Ride, Krusty Burgers and of course, Duff Beer. It’s about good versus evil, imagination versus reality and good old-fashioned thrills at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Defeat villains

on The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman; propel from zero to 40 mph in two seconds flat on The Incredible Hulk Coaster; help save the day on the Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls flume ride; and get into (and out of) mischief with The Cat in the Hat. Then of course, there’s the Wizarding World of Harry Potter where guests ride with dragons, hippogriffs and Harry Potter as they explore the mysteries of Hogwart’s castle, stock up on wizarding supplies and partake in butterbeer. Although primarily a ride-focused park, Islands of Adventure offers a few shows such as The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show, Poseidon’s Fury and Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear!, a daily show in Seuss Landing featuring Sam of Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, Thing One, Thing Two, The Grinch, and the Lorax dancing to musical renditions of the good doctor’s best-loved stories.

WALT DISNEY WORLD Walt Disney World resort is home to four theme parks, two water parks, 35 resorts, full-service spas, golf courses, miniature golf, running trails, beaches, boat rides, themed shopping, dining and entertainment galore. It’s also home to Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Goofy and every prince and princess you can recall; not to mention some dwarfs, more than a hand-full of villains and even a couple of dragons. From the moment you step foot onto Main Street, USA, inside the Magic Kingdom, you’ll feel a zip-a-dee-do-dah in your heart. Classic

attractions such as the Haunted Mansion, Hall of Presidents, It’s a Small World, Space Mountain, and of course, the Pirates of the Caribbean encompass nostalgia and wonderment. Dumbo, the Flying Elephant ride—an oldie but goodie—has recently been re-imagined leaving guests twirling with delight at a new queue line experience that invites little guests to climb and play inside the big-top tent before boarding the famous airborne pachyderm. Grab a bite in Fantasyland’s brand new Be Our Guest restaurant before splashing in to see Ariel’s newest attraction, Under the Sea— Journey of the Little Mermaid. Later, rest a bit as you oooh and ahhh over the beauty and glitter of the nightly light parade. Dazzling and brilliant fireworks at Magic Kingdom are not to be outdone. Choreographed to beloved Disney music and set to the backdrop of Cinderella’s Castle, every blast, boom and sparkle will be one more drop of pixie dust in the bucket of your perfect Disney day.

Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista 2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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THEME PARKS

LEGOLAND Florida

The force will be with you as you venture into Hollywood Studios for a day full of adventure, animation and mania. Launch into delightful darkness on the Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith; free fall in fear on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror; and fight the dark side on Star Tours The Adventure Continues. Whether it’s singing, shooting or showing off, The American Idol Experience and Toy Story Midway Mania! are two attractions you won’t want to miss. A little breather is required here and there. Kick back during the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! and the classic attraction, The Great Movie Ride. Get in line early to snag a seat at Fantasmic!, Hollywood Studio’s amazing nighttime show. It’s well worth the wait. Epcot is known for its World Showcase. Eleven nations surround the World Showcase Lagoon (also site of the nightly fireworks spectacular), all of which offer authentic cuisine, cultural entertainment, kids’ activities and region-specific merchandise. Before you begin your world travels (note: World Showcase typically opens an hour or so after the main park opens), enjoy many wonderful attractions in Future World. Themed areas focusing on discovery and scientific achievement invite all ages to participate in hands-on educational and entertaining experiences. Tame to extreme rides such as Test Track Presented by Chevrolet, Spaceship Earth, Mission SPACE and Soarin’ are sprinkled throughout the area, along with quick-service dining and theme park merchandise stores. Animals real, extinct and folk-lored thrive at Animal Kingdom. Experience high adventure with up-close encounters of the prehistoric kind, safaris through the forest, savannah and

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jungles, and a trek up Mount Everest to find the Yeti. Wave hello to favorite Disney pals during the afternoon parade and be sure to grab a great family photo at the Oasis entry garden.

LEGOLAND FLORIDA There’s no blocking the fun when you spend a day at LEGOLAND Florida, located 45 minutes from Orlando and Tampa. Unlike other rideheavy parks, LEGOLAND allows kids of all ages and heights to enjoy the experience. Various levels of driving rides enable tots to teens to zoom around with glee. Toddlers love Duplo Village, while the adventurous zoom, splash and soar in Lego Technic, the most extreme portion of the theme park. Enjoy the splendor and beauty of Florida’s historic Cypress Gardens, watch the wake at Pirate’s Cove—LEGOLAND’s water and ski stunt show—and cool off at the new water park (additional admission fee). July 2013 saw the opening of The LEGO World of Chima, a highly-themed area featuring thrilling and interactive rides and attractions for all ages. The centerpiece attraction, The Quest for CHI, sets guests off on an otherworldly and super-wet adventure. Those interested in even more splashing can head over to Cragger’s Swamp, filled with playful bubbles, intermittent water spouts and interactive elements that trigger swamp water effects. At the Speedorz Arena, kids can enjoy a super-charged competition where multiple players battle against each other using ripcord-powered LEGO vehicles. Add in a character meet-andgreet experience, a merchandise location and the 4D LEGO Chima Movie Experience, and you have a signature playland unlike any other.

Who says popping your head up in the middle of a tiger’s den is a bad idea? Not at Busch Gardens Tampa where views of animals never experienced before are all yours. Get inches away from Bengal tigers and clever orangutans in Jungala. See who can be the best primate and challenge the family to a climb on a three-story maze of rope, bridges and nets. Scream your heart out on SheiKra, the ferocious, floorless dive coaster that climbs 200 feet to the edge of a 90-degree drop. Relax as you hop aboard the Serengeti Railway for a panoramic journey along the edges of the wild. Kids love playing with favorite friends at the Sesame Street Safari of Fun while they splash, climb and enjoy rides (some even have no height restrictions). Fly through the desert with Grover, visit Elmo’s Tree House and cool off in Bert and Ernie’s watering hole. You can even dine with your child’s furry friends.  And, of course, there are the ever-popular crowd-pleasers—Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation, a live musical show featuring Alex the Lion and his friends, and Iceploration, an ice show held daily at the Moroccan Palace Theatre. Preying on the fears of visitors, Falcon’s Fury, the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America, opens in spring 2014. Guests climb nearly 300 feet then pivot 90 degrees in midair to a facedown dive position where they plunge at 60 mph straight down to where they started. This conservation-focused theme park provides entertainment, education, up-close animal encounters and thrilling adventure to create family fun that just comes naturally. While in Tampa, be sure to hop across the street to Adventure Island water park for exhilarating rides, great slides and merriment for the entire family. FL

FEATURED LINKS Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark aquaticaorlando.com

Busch Gardens Tampa buschgardens.com

Discovery Cove discoverycove.com

Florida’s Theme Parks visitflorida.com/theme_parks

LEGOLAND Florida florida.legoland.com

SeaWorld Orlando seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-orlando

Universal Orlando Resort universalorlando.com

Walt Disney World disneyworld.disney.go.com

PHOTOS: 2010 CHIP LITHERLAND PHOTOGRAPHY; PALM BEACH COUNTY CVB

BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA


Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum

Florida

LIGHTHOUSES BY KATE POCOCK

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 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 people can visit, climb and access easily.

S

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA and THE FLORIDA KEYS Cape Florida Lighthouse in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park floridastateparks.org/capeflorida; key-biscayne.com/about/light.html 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 Hillsboro Lighthouse: currently open to visitors eight times a year. hillsborolighthouse.org

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum jupiterlighthouse.org Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum| kwahs.com/lighthouse.htm

NORTHEAST 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

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

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum staugustinelighthouse.org

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA

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

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

CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA

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

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse on United States Air Force Base: must be a US citizen to visit. canaverallight.org Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum ponceinlet.org

NORTHWEST FLORIDA

CENTRAL FLORIDA No lighthouses

Cape St. George Lighthouse seestgeorgeisland.com; stgeorgelight.org

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

Cape San Blas Lighthouse: Currently closed to visitors. visitgulf.com/cape-san-blas-lighthouse Crooked River Lighthouse crookedriverlighthouse.org Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum pensacolalighthouse.org

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ARCHITECTURE AND GARDENS

BLOOMS AMONG HISTORICAL SPLENDOR BY KEVIN FRITZ

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach

B

ecause Florida was discovered more than 500 years ago, some of the architecture found in parts of the Sunshine State is a surprise to many who associate the state more with the art deco of South Beach, an architectural treasure unto itself. Associated gardens, many of which surround famed architectural sites, explode with tropical flowers, palms and fruit trees, blending with northerntype flora evident by snapdragons and sunflowers. The foliage can be as diverse as the state’s climate zones since temperatures vary 20 F between Tallahassee and Miami.

SOUTHEAST Nestled on the shores of Biscayne Bay, the Barnacle, built in 1891, was home to Ralph Middleton Munroe, one of Coconut Grove’s pioneers. Its gardens contain one of the last remnants of the once vast Miami Hammock, the tropical hardwood hammock that graced much of the area in the 1920s.

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While visiting Coconut Grove—one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods—a visit to The Kampong will have your mouth watering for an exotic fruit salad. Candle fruit, peanut butter fruit, egg fruit, cocoplums and more than 50 varieties of mango are on site. Miami’s architecture is a splendid blend of art deco, Mediterranean Revival and Miami Modernist also known as MiMo. The Miami Design Preservation League offers 90-minute walking tours in the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District. Take time to visit the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, a Mediterranean Revival estate built in 1916 and home to a collection of rare orchids. Second only to Miami’s vivid architecture is whimsical Key West. Its historic homes are known as “conch” houses, a term first referred to those built with conch shells, and later describing the wooden homes built by settlers. Historians will love the Harry S. Truman Little White House in Key West, which, for health

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: CULTURAL COUNCIL OF PALM BEACH COUNTY; LEE COUNTY VCB; BOK TOWER GARDENS; MANSION AT TUCKAHOE

Aerial view of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers


The Mansion at Tuckahoe on Jensen Beach in Martin County

The Kitchen Garden at Pinewood Estate in Lake Wales

reasons, US President Truman visited 11 times, first in November 1946. Also in Key West, the legacy of John James Audubon, the world-renowned naturalist, lives on at the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens. Audubon first visited the Florida Keys in 1832. Note the 1850s medicinal and herbal garden. The Wray Botanical Collection at Flamingo Gardens in Davie features more than 3,000 exotic, tropical, subtropical and native plants and trees. The centerpiece of the gardens, which include the Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden, Croton Garden and Bromeliad Garden, is a natural hammock of 200-year-old live oaks dotted with orchids and epiphytes. In Palm Beach, Whitehall (c. 1902), a 75room, 100,000-square-foot mansion, built by Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler as a wedding present for his wife, overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway. It is now called the Flagler Museum.

In Delray Beach, the famed Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens offers 200 acres of tropical bonsai, golden koi ponds and nature trails. The Bonnet House Museum & Gardens in Fort Lauderdale has five distinct ecosystems to discover.

SOUTHWEST Two men whose ideas changed the world shared property in Fort Myers that will marvel all ages. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates feature the homes of inventor Thomas Edison and carmaker Henry Ford, and 20 acres of gardens. Edison experimented with bamboo from the gardens while inventing the light bulb and the common goldenrod to produce rubber for Firestone car tires. Pose for a photo next to the largest banyan tree on the estate. Today, the original four-inch Ficus bengalensis sapling, a gift from magnate Harvey Firestone, is the largest in south Florida, taking up an entire acre and measuring almost 400 feet around.

Opened in 1940, the 10-acre Sarasota Jungle Gardens showcases the rare Australian nut tree and a bunya bunya tree. If you love orchids, drop by the nearby Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and marvel at the collection of more than 6,000 of these unique flowering plants. While most pre-Civil War plantations are located in North Florida, the antebellum Gamble mansion in Ellenton gives you a chance to step back in time to the days of this thriving sugar plantation. Once the home of Major Robert Gamble, it’s the only antebellum house still intact in Florida. The Village of the Arts is a community of artists housed in colorfully painted 1920 and 1930 cottages in Bradenton. Check to see if there is an “artwalk” scheduled when you visit. Wander over to Old Main Street to view the neoclassical-style buildings dating back to 1898. Sign up for an historical walk of downtown. Completed in 1913, Mable Ringling’s Rose Garden at the Ringling Estate in Sarasota boasts almost 1,200 varieties of roses laid out in a 28,000-square-foot circular design. Just beyond the Secret Garden, you’ll find the plots of Mable and John Ringling.

CENTRAL EAST The Bamboo Pavilion in Vero Beach was built in Colombia, shipped and reassembled at the McKee Botanical Garden. Originally opened in the early 1930s, the garden is known for its 18acre subtropical jungle hammock. The nation’s largest public collection of tropical bonsai trees is found at the Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce. Experience

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ARCHITECTURE AND GARDENS Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at the Florida Southern College campus in Lakeland

Bok Tower Gardens and Pinewood Estate in nearby Lake Wales comprises 50-acre hilltop gardens surrounding a 205-foot “singing tower” that houses one of the world’s finest carillons with 60 bells that ring every half hour. Pinewood Estate, built in the 1930s, is a 20room Mediterranean-style home, sitting among a spectacular collection of ferns, palms, camellias and magnolias. Visitors are pleasantly surprised that the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright designs in the world resides west of Orlando in Lakeland. Wright designed and oversaw the construction of 12 structures on the campus of Florida Southern College, including his only planetarium and theater-in-the-round. October 2013 saw the opening of the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, the first Wright structure built on the original site, for the original client, since 1966.

CENTRAL

The Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg

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Just a few miles north of downtown Orlando, the Harry P. Leu Gardens and Leu House Museum is a 50-acre botanical park with a 19th-century house. The gardens, created in 1936, include 50 varieties of azaleas, 50 species of bamboo, more than 2,000 camellia plants and 50 kinds of citrus trees. The house, the oldest part of which was built in 1888 by Angeline and David W. Mizell, is open for tours daily (except Christmas Day). Winter Park is home to many architectural trends from the 1880s. Grand mansions can be seen all over town, and Park Avenue, the epicenter of Winter Park, presents original structures from the town’s founding that are still in use. Take the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour, which meanders through the city’s chain of lakes and canals, passing by beautiful lakeshore mansions of yesteryear, mixed seamlessly with modern-day architecture.

CENTRAL WEST On the Gulf coast, the Henry B. Plant Museum in Tampa, circa 1891, originally served as the 511-room Tampa Bay Hotel. Known for its Moorish revival architecture, opulent European furnishings and spectacular tropical gardens, it was a getaway for the rich and famous in its day catering to the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth. Today, the museum is part of the University of Tampa. Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg is home to some of the oldest tropical plants in the region. This 100-year-old hidden treasure features cascading waterfalls, demonstration gardens and more than 50,000 tropical plants and flowers. Don’t leave St. Petersburg before visiting the Dalí Museum. Designed by architect Yann Weymouth, it is said to combine the rational with the fantastical. The outdoor Mathematical Garden allows visitors to experience the relationship between math and nature. Be sure to traverse the labyrinth in the southeast corner.

NORTHEAST Washington Oaks State Gardens in Palm Coast is known for its shoreline of coquina rock formations. Picnic or swim from the beach or seawall along the Matanzas River, or discover nature on its hiking and bike trails. Nowhere are America’s roots more profound than St. Augustine, which was governed under

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; CENTRAL FLORIDA CVB; VISIT GAINESVILLE

microclimates as you pass through Mediterranean and tropical plants in the Japanese Garden, Reflection Garden, Herb Garden and the Rainforest Display. In Jensen Beach, the Mansion at Tuckahoe showcases Mediterranean design with interior terrazzo floors, eight fireplaces and marble restrooms. Overlooking the Indian River, it was built in 1938 by Ann Bates Leach, an heiress to the Coca-Cola fortune.


FEATURED LINKS Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park floridastateparks.org/maclaygardens

Audobon House & Tropical Gardens audubonhouse.com

Bok Tower Gardens boktowergardens.org

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens bonnethouse.org

Castillo de San Marcos nps.gov/casa

Eden Gardens State Park floridastateparks.org/edengardens

Edison & Ford Winter Estates edisonfordwinterestates.org

Flagler College flagler.edu

Flamingo Gardens flamingogardens.org

Fort Pickens nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-pickens.htm

Fort Clinch State Park floridastateparks.org/fortclinch

Frank Lloyd Wright and Florida Southern College franklloydwrightatfsc.com

Gamble Plantation Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/gambleplantation

The Water Garden at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville

González-Alvarez House staugustinehistoricalsociety.org

Harry P. Leu Gardens

five flags in four centuries. The oldest city in the US, there are 36 buildings of colonial origin still standing to be discovered. St. Augustine’s González-Alvarez House, the oldest surviving Spanish colonial dwelling in Florida, has been occupied since the 1600s. Architect and history buffs will love Flagler College, serving as the Hotel Ponce de León from 1888 to 1967. It was built by the same Henry Flagler who co-founded Standard Oil and championed the overseas railroad in the Florida Keys. Be sure to visit the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine built between 1793 and 1797, known as America’s first parish, and Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental US. Its architecture splendidly depicts the “bastion system” of fortification. The Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve in Jacksonville provides tours of the Kingsley Plantation, the oldest standing plantation in Florida. Take time to tour the three acres of riverfront gardens at Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, showcasing a blend of tropic and northern backdrops. At Fernandina Beach, Fort Clinch is one of the most well-preserved 19th-century forts in the country.

NORTH CENTRAL The Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville offers 62 acres of wheelchair-accessible and dog-friendly paths and labyrinths surrounded by azaleas, double-crowned cabbage palms and southern magnolias.

The Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee displays ornamental gardens first planted in 1923 by Alfred B. and Louise Maclay. Considered a “masterpiece of floral architecture,” 1,200 acres feature a secret garden, a reflection pool, a walled garden and hundreds of azaleas and camellias. Pack a lunch! The property provides swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking on its resident Lake Hall. The Tallahassee Museum features native wildlife, pioneer buildings and a plantation home with slave quarters. A half-mile nature trail brings you to a dry sinkhole, gopher tortoise burrows, oak hammocks, longleaf pine trees, and Lake Hiawatha surrounded by cypress trees.

leugardens.org

Harry S. Truman Little White House trumanlittlewhitehouse.com

Heathcote Botanical Gardens heathcotebotanicalgardens.org

Henry B. Plant Museum plantmuseum.com

Henry Morrison Flagler Museum flaglermuseum.us

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens kanapaha.org

Manatee Village Historical Park manateeclerk.com/historical/ManateeVillage.aspx

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens selby.org

McKee Botanical Garden mckeegarden.org

Miami Design Preservation League mdpl.org

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens morikami.org

Old Island Restoration foundation oirf.org

Sarasota Jungle Gardens sarasotajunglegardens.com

NORTHWEST The 161-acre Eden Gardens State Park in Santa Rosa Beach features the renovated, two-story Wesley house with its elegant white columns and a wrap-around porch built in 1897. This restored mansion is furnished with family heirlooms and antiques, and it holds the second largest collection of Louis XVI furniture in the US. Visit Fort Pickens completed in 1834 on Pensacola Beach, the spot where the infamous Apache Indian Geronimo was held prisoner in 1886–87. The area became a tourist mecca for the first time, attracting more than 400 people to see the famed Geronimo. Next, take a “ghostly encounter tour” of the Pensacola Lighthouse, circa 1859, as you climb 177 steps to the top. FL

Sunken Gardens stpete.org/sunken

Tallahassee Museum tallahasseemuseum.org

The Barnacle Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/thebarnacle

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine thefirstparish.org

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens cummer.org

The Dalí Museum thedali.org

The Kampong ntbg.org/gardens/kampong.php

The Ringling ringling.org

Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve nps.gov/foca/index.htm

Village of the Arts villageofthearts.com

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens vizcayamuseum.org

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park floridastateparks.org/washingtonoaks

Winter Park cityofwinterpark.org

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT

WHERE MEMORIES ARE BORN

BY JENNIFER WYLIE FAUSER

T

hroughout Florida, your family will find fabulous thrills, magnificent memory-making moments, and of course, tons of relaxation, education, sun and merriment.

SOUTHEAST There are few destinations where kids can feed a giraffe and ride a camel at the same place but world-renowned Miami MetroZoo offers both, along with more than 2,000 animals, comprising 500 different species, 40 of which are endangered. As you stroll along beautiful landscaped walkways visiting more than 100 exhibits, check out the Amazon and Beyond exhibit, which hosts the infamous anaconda, as well as the giant river otter, jaguar and harpy eagle. You’ve not experienced a museum quite like the Miami Children’s Museum. Here kids climb through a two-story sand castle, walk through a six-foot piggy bank, investigate a 900-gallon marine tank, and “sail” through the newly redesigned Carnival cruise shipshaped exhibit. Amusement and learning go

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Carnival Cruise exhibit at the Miami Children's Museum

hand-in-hand as your family takes a grocery shopping challenge, explores the Everglades, and goes for a little friendly rock-wallclimbing competition. Every little girl wishes she were Barbiesized just to live in her house. Dreams do come true at the new Barbie The Dreamhouse Experience in Sunrise. Saunter into a 10,000square-foot realm of Barbie doll’s home for personalized touches, interactive surprises and virtual experiences that promise a dreamy day for anyone with a little girl’s heart.

After some rest and relaxation at the beach, get your heart pumping again with a visit to the Everglades Alligator Farm in Homestead. Notorious for some of the largest alligators, the farm is located near the main entrance to the Everglades National Park and is home to more than 2,000 of them. Your day promises to be full of excitement and value with ’gator feedings and shows, exotic snake viewings and even an airboat tour (included with admission). Forget oceanside. Go straight to oceanview aboard the Yankee Freedom III catamaran ferry direct from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park to explore majestic coral formations, encounter rare migratory birds, and tour the Civil War-era Fort Jefferson. Luxury and comfort are promised on board the only commercial vessel licensed to carry passengers to one of the nation’s most remote national parks. For those aspiring to be more like Ironman, Tiki Jetpack Adventures on Islamorada Key offers the perfect vacation experience. Those with superhero aspirations receive training on

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: GREATER MIAMI CVB; TIKI JET; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES

Flying high with Tiki Jetpack Adventures on Islamorada Key


Identifying dolphins with the 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project aboard the Dolphin Explorer

a 30-foot tiki-themed pontoon boat and then strap on jetpacks for a 25-minute flying adventure of a lifetime including take off, soft turns, hovering and, of course, landing. The Keys offer much more than bars and the beach. Downwind Kayak Tours from Key West Eco Tours, Key Largo’s Coral Restoration Foundation, or Clydesdale-drawn carriage rides through romantic Islamorada are unique adventures you won’t want to miss.

SOUTHWEST Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples believes that when children play they learn and when families play together, they connect and create memories that last a lifetime. And so it goes at the newest exhibit Build it up KEVA. Using imagination, innovation and gravity—not glue—kids of all ages (and grown-ups, too) can build structures out of KEVA planks before they explore the rest of the museum, which includes the Banyan Tree exhibit, journeying through the Everglades, “eating” it up at the World Café, and piquing artistic interest at the fine art collection. Great for a rainy day or to escape the sun, except Monday when it’s closed. Looking for the perfect place to soak up the sun? The 14-acre Sun Splash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral offers thrilling high-speed water slides, including a five-story free-fall slide and frolic for the little ones at the Tot Spot. Named “one of the 100 places that can change your child’s life” by National Geographic, the 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project invites you on board The Dolphin Explorer on Marco Island to join dolphin researchers on an ecotour that is both fun and educational. Southwest Florida has even more to offer including the Imaginarium in Fort Myers, Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, Circus Sarasota, Sarasota Jungle Gardens and the Bishop Planetarium/Parker Manatee Aquarium at South Florida Museum.

CENTRAL EAST Beach time is key in this region of Florida. However, be sure to take some time away from the rays to experience all it has to offer. Daytona International Speedway, home to the Daytona 500, will blow the sand off your

shoes with its unique tours and experiences. Take the family to explore NASCAR garages, Pit Road, victory lane and all that makes this place the world center of racing. Got a need for speed? Indulge in the ultimate NASCAR fan experience and jump in the fast lane for the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Depending on your adrenalin-seeking level, choose to sit shotgun with a NASCAR instructor as you reach speeds up to 160 mph, or grab the wheel for an experience of a lifetime and drive the car yourself. Now, kids, ages 6 through 13 who are at least 48 inches tall, can also face the wind in the Junior Ride Along experience as they sit shotgun with a professional driving instructor for three exhilarating laps. This experience is sure to claim the checkered flag of fun. Explore a piece of world history at Kennedy Space Center in the Cocoa Beach area. A visit to the space center is a full-day, inspiring adventure as you learn about the history and future of the space program and explore hands-on, interactive space attractions. Home to the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame, which features the world’s largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia, guests will be over the moon with intrigue when they experience simulation exhibits such as the Shuttle Launch Experience and the Astronaut Training Experience. Space Shuttle Atlantis now calls Kennedy Space

The Kennedy Space Center in Titusville

Center home and tells the incredible story of NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program. This trip will be one giant leap of delight for your family. Beyond the beautiful shores of the Central East Florida region, show your family more about Florida’s marine life by visiting the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet. Wow them by standing next to a full-size manatee, see how they measure up to a giant leatherback turtle, check out a real whale skull and be in awe of the 300-year-old brain coral.

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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FA MILY ENTERTAINMENT

Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise in Clearwater Beach

Before you book all your vacation days at the theme parks, save a couple of days for Central Florida’s unique, amazing attractions that don’t include a mouse, whale or Harry Potter. Get up close (without becoming lunch) to Florida’s iconic “giant lizards” at Gatorland in Orlando, the alligator capitol of the world. Watch live ’gator feedings, learn about various exotic reptiles, catch a glimpse of the white alligators and cheer on the ’gator wrestlers. Be sure to offer a toothy grin to the attraction’s newest resident, Bonecrusher II, a 15-foot, 1,400-pound American crocodile. This halfday attraction also features a splash park for kids, included with admission. Expand your visit and book an unforgettable family adventure on the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line Tour. You’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the park’s alligators, including a wild ride over the ’gator mating marsh. A trip to Gatorland promises to take the bite out of boring vacations. For adventure lovers who have had their fill of roller coasters, iFly Indoor Orlando treats visitors to the ultimate indoor skydiving experience. Learn what it really feels like to skydive without having to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Safety instruction and gear are all included in the price of admission.

Wild Florida Airboat Tours at the headwaters of the Everglades in Central Florida

Ready for a little less adventure and a little more mind-sharpening time with the family? WonderWorks in Orlando turns your vacation upside down with more than 100 hands-on exhibits that tweak the mind and pique interests. Experience an earthquake, feel the chill of the water the night the Titanic sank, muscle up the brain to move a ball across a table, and build the theme park ride of your dreams, then ride it using virtual technology. After nourishing your brain with a day of wonder, feed the tummy and giggle at the Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show (reservations recommended). If you have more time to spare, consider the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in Orlando, flip for fun on a flying trapeze at the Orlando Circus School, or get back to nature aboard an airboat tour with Boggy Creek Airboat Rides.

CENTRAL WEST If your kids are dolphin crazy, or perhaps just crazy for Winter, the beloved dolphin of the movie, Dolphin Tale, they will flip over meeting the star face to face at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Get up close and feed the stingrays, wade with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (additional fee) and get to know all of the rescued dolphins, sea turtles, otters and sharks at the aquarium for an afternoon of heart-warming delights. What’s a trip to Florida without a little pirate adventure? Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise in Clearwater is the original pirate adventure in Florida and worth its weight in gold. You’ll get lost in pirate antics of treasure hunts, face painting and dancing as the ship sets sail in search of bountiful dolphins during the cruise. Wild water life is all the rage in Central West Florida so check out Crystal River Tours to snorkel with wild manatees, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and The Florida Aquarium.

NORTHEAST Northeast Florida offers great history, shopping and fantasy for all. America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, is an historical gem. Tour Castillo de San Marcos, a fort built between 1672 and 1695 by the Spanish. Try to reclaim your youth at Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth and get schooled at the Oldest Wooden School House, constructed more than 200 years ago. Beyond history, St. Augustine

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

FROM THE TOP: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES: VISIT ORLANDO.

CENTRAL


Carriage rides in St. Augustine

FA MILY ENTERTAINMENT boasts amazing and unique shopping, and great ghost tours where you and your first mates journey through 300 years of high-seas adventure spying rare pirate artifacts. Heading to Jacksonville? Your visit won’t be complete without a trip to Marineland where you’ll get more dolphin experiences than if you lived in the ocean yourself and, of course, the Jacksonville Zoo where you can feed the giraffes.

NORTH CENTRAL Beyond great universities, North Central Florida is home to antiques, excitement and chills. Journey to Lake Alice in Gainesville to see alligators in the wild. When dusk hits, head across the street to the Bat House for a little nocturnal exploration. Speaking of things that fly, Florida’s Museum of Natural History on the campus of the University of Florida immerses you in a 6,400square-foot butterfly wonderland like none other. Get your heart pitter-patterin’ as you test your fear factor with Big Bend Ghost Trackers in the most haunted small town in the country, Monticello. And be sure to putter an afternoon away checking out the cool antique cars at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum before you cruise on home.

NORTHWEST Very few free attractions are worth an extra drive, but the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola is the sure exception. This is one place where you can look and touch. Climb inside the cockpit, play with the control sticks and flip the switches. Home to the Blue Angels training squadron, motionbased simulator and flight simulator exhibits, this museum soars. The Florida Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach is a marine adventure park where you’ll

discover turtles, fish, penguins, stingrays and dolphins. Offering an array of additional animal encounters (extra fee and reservations required) including feeding penguins, splashing around with otters, or getting noseto-nose with the dolphins, a day at Florida Gulfarium promises to be a real splash. Still looking for more to do? Check out the Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise and the Science & Discovery Center of Northwest Florida in Panama City Beach and the Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola. FL

FEATURED LINKS Barbie The Dreamhouse Experience

Gatorland

barbiedreamhouse.com

gatorland.com

Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park fountainofyouthflorida.com

Big Bend Ghost Trackers

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

bigbendghosttrackers.com

gulfarium.com

ripleys.com/orlando

Boggy Creek Airboat Rides

iFly Indoor Skydiving

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

bcairboats.com

iflyorlando.com

sarasotajunglegardens.com

Captain Memo’s Original Pirate Cruise

Imaginarium Science Center

Science & Discovery Center of Northwest Florida

captainmemo.com

imaginariumfortmyers.com

scienceanddiscoverycenter.org

Castillo De San Marcos

Island Horse Drawn Carriages

Sea Dragon Pirate Cruise

islandhorsedrawncarriages.com

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

centralfloridazoo.org

jacksonvillezoo.org

Circus Sarasota

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

circussarasota.org

kennedyspacecenter.com

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Key West EcoTours

seewinter.com

keywestecotours.com

C’mon! Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples

Marine Science Center

cmon.org

marinesciencecenter.com

Coral Restoration Foundation

Marineland Dolphin Adventure

coralrestoration.org

marineland.net

Crystal River Tours

Miami Children’s Museum

crystalrivertours.com

miamichildrensmuseum.org

Daytona International Speedway

Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

daytonainternationalspeedway.com

caribbeangardens.com

Everglades Alligator Farm

National Naval Aviation Museum

everglades.com

navalaviationmuseum.org

Five Flags Speedway

Miami Seaquarium

5flagsspeedway.com

miamiseaquarium.com

Florida Museum of Natural History

Oldest Wooden School House

flmnh.ufl.edu

oldestwoodenschoolhouse.com

Florida Recreation & Park Association

Orlando Circus School

frpa.org

orlandocircusschool.com

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

piratecruise.net

South Florida Museum/Bishop Planetarium/ Parker Manatee Aquarium southfloridamuseum.org

St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum piratesoul.com

Tallahassee Automobile Museum tacm.com

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo lowryparkzoo.com

The Bats of the University of Florida Bat House wec.ufl.edu/extension/wildlife_info/wildlife_uf/bathouse.php

The Dolphin Explorer dolphin-study.com

The Florida Aquarium flaquarium.org

Tiki Jet tikijet.com

WonderWorks wonderworksonline.com

Yankee Freedom III yankeefreedom.com

Zoo Miami miamimetrozoo.com

PHOTO: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES.

nps.gov/casa

Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens


One bedroom and studio apartments with full kitchens conveniently located near the historic Hollywood Broadwalk • Flat screen tv • Free wi-fi • Washer/dryer on premise • Free parking • Courtyard for sunbathing • Garden area with picnic tables & bbq grill • Trip Advisor Rated 810 South Surf Road Hollywood, Florida 33019-2103 Tel: 954-923-1925 | Fax: 954-981-6878 Toll Free (US and Canada only): 1-877-923-1925 E-Mail: info@marinevillas.com


ARTS AND CULTURE

FLORIDIAN MASTERPIECES

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami

W

hen a destination is known for its sunshine, theme parks and 663 miles of beaches, it’s easy to overlook its world-class art museums and performance halls, not to mention historical museums and sites.

SOUTHEAST

The Ringling in Sarasota

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

In Miami, the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens cannot be missed. Built in the early 1900s as the winter home of James Deering, the main building now houses an incredible, ornate collection of many cultures and periods of art, including ancient Roman sculptures, Renaissance tapestries, 17th- and 18th-century statues, Chinese ceramics, rococo and neoclassical furniture, and so much more. Founded in 1941, the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach remains one of Florida’s major cultural institutions. Renowned

internationally for its distinguished permanent collection of American, Chinese, Contemporary and European art as well as photography, its masterpieces of 19th- and 20thcentury painting and sculpture include works by Brancusi, Gauguin, Matisse, Miró, Picasso, Davis, Hassam, Hopper, Manship, O’Keeffe, Pollock and Sheeler. Special exhibitions, lectures, tours and programs for adults and children are scheduled throughout the year. Kids and kids-at-heart will find the joy in science through hands-on, interactive displays and more at the South Florida Science Museum and Aquarium in West Palm Beach, the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery & Science and the Miami Science Museum.

SOUTHWEST Encompassing 20 acres of historical buildings and gardens, a botanic research lab and a

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; GREATER MIAMI CVB; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; VISIT ORLANDO

BY SUSAN B. BARNES


The Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola

ANNUAL EVENTS museum, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers is quite remarkable. Discover for yourself the private lives of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. It’s where you’ll also find the largest banyan tree in the US. Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural styling, Sarasota’s Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall’s calendar is filled with opera, ballet, orchestra and star-studded performances throughout the year. The Museum of Art on the Ringling Estate in Sarasota houses his personal collection of paintings and sculptures by the “Old Masters,” as well as American and Asian masterworks. Also on the property is the Asolo Repertory Theatre, the largest Equity theater in Florida. The Gamble Plantation in Bradenton is the only surviving antebellum plantation house in southern Florida. In nearby downtown Bradenton, the Village of the Arts is a charming collection of bungalows transformed into art galleries—perfect for strolling and perusing, and perhaps even collecting. Outside of Bradenton, the historic town of Palmetto boasts its own historical park for a peek back in time, as well as the Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site, an ancient Native American location.

CENTRAL EAST A $20-million “green” rebuilding of the Elliott Museum in Stuart graciously captures the spirit

JANUARY Forks & Corks Food, Wine & Beer Festival, Sarasota Key West Food and Wine Festival Key West Literary Seminar Las Olas Art Fair Part I, Fort Lauderdale FEBRUARY ArtFest Fort Myers Everglades Seafood Festival, Everglades City

of the area’s rich history through art, history and technology exhibits. In addition to these exhibits, its extensive baseball collection, which includes baseball cards, balls, bats and other items, may just be the most comprehensive signed collection outside of Cooperstown, New York. Batter up! Artists who seek inspiration while in Florida may want to look into the world-famous residency program at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach. For a shorter stay, stroll through the Mark and Margery Pabst Visitor Center & Gallery, which includes three interconnecting galleries: the Master Artist Gallery, the Jean G. Harris History Gallery and the Jack Mitchell Portrait Gallery. Outside, visitors can saunter along trails, which feature public art and sculptures, indigenous plants and animals. The Florida Museum for Women Artists in DeLand is the only museum in the southeastern

Naples National Art Festival Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games & Festival, Green Cove Springs South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Miami ULTRA Music Festival, Miami MARCH Las Olas Art Fair Part II, Fort Lauderdale APRIL Florida’s Birding & Photo Fest, St. Augustine/Ponte Vedra Florida Wine & Balloon Festival, Sarasota Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribfest, Palmetto Pensacola Jazz Festival Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Panama City Beach MAY ArtsNaples World Festival Food & Wine on Pine, Anna Maria Island JULY Caladium Festival, Lake Placid Hemingway Days, Key West Key Lime Festival, Key West SEPTEMBER Pensacola Seafood Festival Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam, Panama City Beach OCTOBER Clearwater Jazz Festival Les DeMerle Amelia Island Jazz Festival Panama City Beach Seafood & Music Festival NOVEMBER DeLand Fall Festival of the Arts Miami Jazz Fest DECEMBER Art Basel, Miami Beach Bradenton Blues Festival

CineDome in Orlando Science Centre 2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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ARTS AND CULTURE The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg

CENTRAL The Orlando Science Center features hands-on activities and plenty of ways to make science enjoyable. Get engaged and learn at the same time . . . just don’t tell the kids! In Winter Park, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is an impressive showcase for the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, where visitors can admire intricate jewelry pieces, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass windows and lamps, as well the chapel interior the artist designed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A Monet painting at the Harn Museum in Gainesville

Since 1929, Bok Tower Gardens, a National Historic Landmark in Lake Wales, has welcomed more than 23 million guests onto its historic landscapes, not to mention 126 bird species that pass through the area. Visitors to the gardens should also check out the Pinewood Estate, an enchanting Mediterranean-style mansion built in the early 1930s for Charles Austin Buck. The Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala features a world-class permanent collection, incredible exhibits and year-round special events for all to enjoy.

CENTRAL WEST The Armed Forces History Museum in Largo is 35,000 square feet of permanent, interactive exhibits, including replicas of wartime scenarios beginning with World War I. For something a little more surreal, visit The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, which houses the largest collection of the artist’s works outside of Spain. In Tampa, the Museum of Science and Industry isn’t only about science; there are zip lines and a high ropes course, too. Exercise your mind and your body! For a different type of mental engagement, stop by the Tampa Museum of Art and view the stunning traveling exhibits. Right next door is the Glazer Children’s Museum. Make a day of it!

NORTHEAST Set on the banks of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, the gardens at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens have an amazing history that dates back more than 100 years. A not-to-be-missed favorite among locals and visitors alike is the Italian Garden. Flagler College in St. Augustine is an art destination itself. Tours are available daily and highlight the National Historic Landmark, which was built in 1888 as the Hotel Ponce de León. It’s considered one of the best examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture. While on campus, stop by the Crisp-Ellert Art Museum for a peek at exhibits on display.

NORTH CENTRAL The Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville features enticing traveling exhibits, however its

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: JOHN JERNIGAN/VISIT GAINESVILLE; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; VISIT FLORIDA

US to exhibit art of all disciplines, created exclusively by women. Exhibits include contemporary art, collections and traveling exhibits. Science is tons of fun for the entire family at the Museum of Arts & Science in Daytona Beach. And military history buffs will want to plan visits to the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, dedicated exclusively to the elite warriors of Naval Special Warfare.


FEATURED LINKS Appleton Museum of Art appletonmuseum.org

Armed Forces History Museum armedforcesmuseum.com

Atlantic Center for the Arts atlanticcenterforthearts.org

Bok Tower Gardens boktowergardens.org

Crisp-Ellert Art Museum flagler.edu/crispellert

Edison & Ford Winter Estates edisonfordwinterestates.org

Elliott Museum elliottmuseumfl.org

Flagler College Architecture Tour legacy.flagler.edu

Florida Museum for Women Artists floridamuseumforwomenartists.org

Florida Museum of Natural History flmnh.ufl.edu

Glazer Children’s Museum glazermuseum.org

Goodwood Museum & Gardens goodwoodmuseum.org

Harn Museum of Art Flagler College in St. Augustine

harn.ufl.edu

Hippodrome Theatre thehipp.org

permanent African, Ancient American, Modern and photography collections are also worth a visit. Be sure to walk through the new Asian wing. And if you’re all about the natural side of history, you’ll certainly want to stop by the Florida Museum of Natural History. The best of Broadway shows make their way to Gainesville’s Hippodrome Theatre, as do independent films and musicians. What’s more, the theatre’s visual art gallery hosts Florida artists in eight annual exhibitions. The Hipp (as it’s known locally) truly is a destination for artists of all mediums. In Tallahassee, the state capital, the Museum of Florida History’s “Forever Changed: La Florida, 1513–1821” exhibit depicts the Spaniards’ arrival in Florida as well as the area’s adoption as a US territory. During their brief occupation of Florida, the British established a plantation system along the Florida/Georgia border in northern Florida. Today, 71 plantations—the largest collection anywhere in the US—covering more than 300,000 acres exist, many of which are privately owned. However, the Goodwood Museum & Gardens, where the home—once the centerpiece to this 2,400-acre plantation— has been restored to its 1930s heyday, is open to the public for tours.

NORTHWEST In Pensacola, the past is very much present. Roughly bound by Bayfront Parkway, Tarragona, Romana and Cevallos streets, a walk around the Pensacola Historic District is a must. Also known as the Seville Historic District, it contains the Historic Pensacola Village, the flagship T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum, the Pensacola Children’s Museum and Seville Square. Located in the heart of downtown Pensacola, the historic Saenger Theatre sets the stage for a variety of shows such as CATS and Sesame Street, as well as performances by the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, Harry Connick Jr., David Copperfield, Robin Williams and others. Another must-stop is the National Naval Aviation Museum where the Blue Angels just may be taking flight! The Indian Temple Mound Museum, in the heart of the historic downtown Fort Walton Beach, houses interpretative exhibits depicting 12,000 years of Native American occupation. In addition to more than a thousand artifacts, it features one of the finest collections of prehistoric ceramics in the southeastern US. The Man in the Sea Museum in Panama City Beach introduces visitors to the roots of diving with interpretive drawings, a large collection of rare diving equipment and exhibits featuring underwater habitats. FL

Indian Temple Mound Museum fwb.org/museums/indian-temple-mound-museum Man in the Sea Museum maninthesea.org

Miami Science Museum miamisci.org

Museum of Discovery & Science mods.org

Museum of Florida History museumoffloridahistory.com

Museum of Science & History themosh.org

Museum of Science and Industry mosi.org

National Naval Aviation Museum navalaviationmuseum.org

National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum navysealmuseum.com

Norton Museum of Art norton.org

Pensacola Historic District historicpensacola.org

Saenger Theatre Pensacola pensacolasaenger.com

South Florida Science Museum and Aquarium sfsciencecenter.org

Tampa Museum of Art tampamuseum.org

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art morsemuseum.org

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens cummer.org

The Dalí Museum thedali.org

The Ringling ringling.org

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall vanwezel.org

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens vizcayamuseum.org

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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VACATION HOMES

PROPERTY INVESTMENTS BY RICHARD WESTLUND

Luxury residences on the canal in Miami Beach

I

f you love the Florida vacation lifestyle— beaches, boating, golf, entertainment, shopping and dining—why not purchase a home or condominium in the Sunshine State? Every year, thousands of visitors decide to purchase a vacation home or a permanent residence in Florida, a state that offers some attractive tax benefits. Other visitors who aren’t quite ready to buy often book seasonal or longterm rentals for their next visit. With elegant luxury penthouses, beachfront condominiums along the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere, townhouses and estate homes in golf and country club communities, over-55 adult communities for retirees, and moderately priced homes and condos, Florida offers something for everyone. In addition to all the lifestyle benefits, owning a Florida property can also be an excellent long-term investment.

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Today, more than 25 percent of all Florida real estate transactions involve a foreign buyer—the highest rate in the nation, according to Florida Realtors, the statewide real estate trade association. As a result, Florida has large second-home communities filled with Canadian, European, Russian and Latin American buyers, as well as those from elsewhere in the USA. Whatever your native language, you can probably make new friends in Florida!

THE RIGHT CHOICE When beginning a search for a Florida home, there are two basic approaches to consider: location and lifestyle. You may already know where in Florida you want to live—perhaps near your parents’ home, close to the grandchildren or within walking distance of nightlife. If so, you should familiarize yourself with the neighbor-

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: JORG HACKEMANN/SHUTTERSTOCK; BRADENTON AREA CVB; ROYAL SHELL VACATIONS, INC.; ROYAL SHELL VACATIONS, INC.

Relaxing on the porch of a rental home on Anna Maria Island in Southwest Florida


Poolside elegance in the Naples area

hoods, look at typical houses, condos or townhomes, get a sense of prices, and contact a real estate professional who knows the local market and can help you make the right choice. Another strategy is to focus on your desired lifestyle, such as living in a private golf community, a high-rise on the beach or a scenic, rural location. That allows you to compare homes, prices and amenities in different communities around the state. For example, a four-bedroom estate home on the Gulf coast will cost more than a Central Florida inland location. Again, a real estate professional can help you. Plenty of room for the family

THE BOTTOM LINE If you’re considering a move to Florida, be aware there are some differences in home design and construction compared with houses in cooler climates. For instance, few Florida homes have a basement, because of the underlying hard limestone rock and high ground water level. Newer homes may be more spacious and feature modern kitchens, baths, flooring and fixtures. Florida’s leading singlefamily homebuilders include Dezer Development, The Related Group of Florida, Lennar, Toll Brothers and Minto, all of which have developed residential communities throughout the state. Condos and apartment buildings also vary widely in design and construction, and often develop distinct “personalities.” The size of the building or community can also make a big difference in terms of lifestyle, amenities and costs. A high-rise condo with 600 units is like a miniature city with many services and amenities, and a higher monthly maintenance fee. However, if the purchase price and monthly fees are a big consideration, you may prefer a smaller building with a pool, spa or entertainment area—or no amenities at all. Since condos have been a major part of the Florida market since the 1970s, the age and condition of a building can affect its desirability and price. A recently constructed residence may have a more appealing design, new appliances, marble baths and other modern features compared to an older unit that has never been updated. However, the older unit may still appeal to buyers on a tight budget.

OTHER OPTIONS If you love the Florida lifestyle, but aren’t ready to buy, consider a seasonal rental. You can enjoy the beach, boating, golf, shopping and all the attractions for several weeks or months without making a permanent financial commitment. It’s also a good way to “sample” different locations and lifestyles to see where you feel most comfortable if you do decide to purchase in the future. Almost any type of home, condo or apartment can be used as a seasonal rental at locations around the state. For example, the Condo Alliance of the Tampa Bay Beaches handles vacation resort condo rentals in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area. Buying a vacation club membership or a time-share unit is another “in-between” option.

With a timeshare—sometimes called “interval ownership”—you can purchase one or two weeks in a professionally managed community located in your favorite destination. Many buyers like the familiarity and peace of mind that comes from returning to the same Florida community year after year. Most vacation clubs and interval-ownership programs allow you to “swap” your vacation weeks and spend that time in other locations. Or you may be able to put your unit into a rental pool if you will not be using the time yourself.

REGIONAL APPEALS While US and international visitors purchase homes and condos throughout the state, four regions tend to attract the largest share of

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VACATION HOMES Colorful beach condominiums

state’s northwestern region appeals to families and friends also seeking a weekend getaway within a few hours drive from home.

THE PRACTICAL SIDE

FEATURED LINKS Anna Maria Vacations annamaria.com

Condo Alliance of the Tampa Bay Beaches flcondoalliance.com

Dezer Development dezerdevelopment.com

second-home purchases: Southeast, Southwest, Central and the Panhandle. Southeast Florida has traditionally attracted buyers from the Northeast US, Canada, Europe and Latin America. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach have many waterfront condos and apartments that appeal to those accustomed to a faster-paced lifestyle, which includes cultural, shopping, dining and sports activities. Southwest Florida historically appeals to buyers from the Midwest, Canada and Europe.

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Golf, boating and white sandy beaches are among the major attractions. This is a preferred destination for empty nesters and retirees who want a relaxing lifestyle. Central Florida is prime family vacation territory, attracting buyers from throughout the US and around the world. The primary appeal: owning or renting a home near Orlando’s theme parks and just a short drive from the beach. The Panhandle attracts buyers from throughout the Southeastern US. With its miles of beaches and small-town communities, the

Florida Association of Mortgage Professionals famb.org

Florida Realtors floridarealtors.org

Lennar lennar.com

Minto minto.com

The Florida Bar flabar.org

The Related Group of Florida relatedgroup.com

Toll Brothers tollbrothers.com

FROM THE TOP: MARK WINFREY/SHUTTERSTOCK; NICKOLAY KHOROSHKOV/SHUTTERSTOCK

Resorts in the city of Destin

After a multi-year downturn, prices for vacation homes and condos are once again on the rise in many Florida markets. Be sure to take a close look at the local community, since pricing and inventory of residences for sale can vary dramatically from neighborhood to neighborhood or from building to building. For vacation-oriented buyers, it’s best to avoid buying a foreclosure or a distressed property and to look for a home or condo that’s in “move-in” condition. Since financing a second home is an important consideration, take time to talk with several lenders about mortgage terms. One source is the Florida Association of Mortgage Professionals, which offers an online directory. It’s also a good idea to talk with an attorney before buying a home. Obtaining legal advice in advance can help you protect your investment and minimize potential tax liabilities. The Florida Bar offers an online “find a lawyer” service. While it may take a little time to navigate the legal and financial issues, purchasing a Florida home can turn a great short-term visit into an appealing long-term lifestyle. FL


BEACHES

Aerial view of Clearwater Beach in Central West Florida

Enjoying the view on Fort Lauderdale Beach

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arm, blue-green water. Soft, white sand. Beaches are Florida’s original tourist attraction. With more than 1,000 statute miles of coastline and warm, usually calm waters, it’s no surprise Florida boasts some of the world’s best beaches. Gulf beaches are known for their white sand, green waters and a multitude of shells. The waves are generally tiny, and water tem-

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peratures can get well into the 80s in the summer and quite chilly in the winter. The Atlantic waters can be a bit rougher and temperatures don’t swing as much. South Florida’s coast is warmed by the equatorial Gulf Stream current so water temperatures range from the low 70s in the winter to the low 80s in the summer. However in Central and North Florida, the Atlantic can dip into the 60s and even 50s during winter. “We’re really lucky in Florida—we don’t have any bad beaches,” says Stephen Leatherman, who produces a widely watched annual list of the nation’s top 10 beaches. “Some are better than others. It depends on what you’re looking for.”

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE Whether you’re seeking solitude or a party scene, Florida offers something for beachgoers of every stripe. Southeast Florida has much to boast about. In Miami Beach, an international party destination is just steps from the sand.

Twenty-three beach miles between Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale have been certified as Blue Wave Beaches by the Clean Beaches Council of Washington, D.C., since 1999, which ensures they are clean, safe and user-friendly. Fort Lauderdale Beach, now frequented by a tonier clientele, has been transformed into a beach-chic destination that’s within easy reach of all the best oceanfront hotels and just a hop, skip and a jump from the bars, restaurants and activities across the road. Cocoa Beach, Jacksonville Beach and St. Petersburg Beach also offer city-meets-sea vibes. If you prefer peaceful beaches, destinations such as Canaveral National Seashore on the Atlantic coast and Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin take you away from civilization. At such remote locations, you might see more pelicans and dolphins than people. For something in between, view a sunset at Naples Pier or stroll past the mega-mansions in Palm Beach.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE CVB; VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; VISIT JACKSONVILLE

BY JEFF OSTROWSKI

SANDY HAVENS


AN EXPERT’S FAVORITES To identify some of Florida’s can’t-miss beaches, we turned to Leatherman. Also known as Dr. Beach, he’s the director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research. Leatherman travels North America to grade beaches on a 50-point scorecard, which includes facilities and sand and water quality. Among his top picks from south to north: Bahia Honda, Big Pine Key The Keys are mostly known for fishing and diving, but Leatherman recommends this spot for swimming in the Keys. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne Cross the Rickenbacker Causeway from Miami to Key Biscayne, and you feel like you’re stepping into another world. Cape Florida State Park, located at the south tip of Key Biscayne, provides clear, emerald-colored waters and gentle surf, and you can climb the Cape Florida Lighthouse. Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park, Bonita Springs Voted the sixth best beach in the US for 2013, this Gulf setting in Southwest Florida stretches for nearly two miles. Leatherman likes the shallow water, small waves, fine sand and plentiful shells.

Siesta Beach, Sarasota This stretch of sand along the Gulf of Mexico won top honors in Leatherman’s 2011 rankings. Leatherman lauds the wide, sugar-sand beach and the quality of the water. “The powdery sand is nearly pure quartz crystal,” Leatherman says. “The beautiful blue-colored water is clean and clear, making it so inviting to bathers and swimmers.” The beach park at Siesta Key includes showers and bathrooms, snack bars, grills and picnic tables. Leatherman gave the beach extra credit for banning smoking. He offers a couple of caveats: The beach gets crowded during the summer, and the water can be chilly during the winter. Fall and spring bring the right combination of lighter crowds and warmer water. Fort De Soto State Park, Tierra Verde This beach is near the bustle of St. Petersburg, but it’s also removed. “It has so much to offer,” Leatherman says. “There’s fishing from the piers. There’s shelling. They also have a dog beach now.” Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin Most Florida beaches are cheap and accessible. Not Caladesi Island. You’ll pay $8 a vehicle to enter Honeymoon Island State Park. From

there, a 15-minute ferry ride costs $14 a person for adults and $7 for children 6 to 12. If you don’t mind a long walk, you can reach Caladesi Island by taking a two-mile stroll up the beach from Clearwater. Rewards include powdery sand, clear water, eateries, a hiking trail, kayak rentals and few crowds. Nearby Honeymoon Island also has emerged as a good pick, Leatherman says. He downgraded the beach because of debris left from a failed development. But Honeymoon Island’s beach has been cleaned up and there’s now a nature center. St. Andrews State Park, Panama City Like Caladesi Island, this is another beach that’s tough to reach—which is just the way Leatherman likes it. “That’s a bird-lover’s paradise,” Leatherman says. “It’s in the Panama City area, but a world away. It’s beautiful and unspoiled. Not many people go over there because of access.” Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park near Eastpoint This Panhandle beach boasts brilliant white sand and clear waters. Birding and fishing are popular and there’s camping and hiking. Leatherman ranks it as the third best beach in the country for 2013. FL

FEATURED LINKS Bahia Honda State Park bahiahondapark.com

Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park friendsofbarefootbeach.org

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park floridastateparks.org/capeflorida

Caladesi Island State Park floridastateparks.org/caladesiisland

Canaveral National Seashore nps.gov/cana

Dr. Beach drbeach.org

Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland

Fort De Soto Park pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm

Siesta Beach visitsarasota.org/siesta-key

St. Andrews State Park floridastateparks.org/standrews Jacksonville Beach in Northeast Florida 2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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ROAD TRIPS

OH, WHAT SIGHTS YOU’LL SEE! BY KENNETH WILHOITE

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nce Florida’s sun has baked the chill from your bones, the inevitable question arises: What else is there to do? Take a road trip, of course! From adventurous airboat rides in the Everglades to the soul-soothing sunsets over the Emerald Coast, there is a Florida road trip perfect for your whole family. Grab your camera, sun block and sense of wonder and come along for some memorable adventures in fabulous Florida.

MIAMI TO NAPLES THE EVERGLADES ALONG THE TAMIAMI TRAIL (US 41) 96 miles, 2 hours There is no better place in North America to get up close and personal with nature than in the Everglades. City-living stresses quickly recede when a warm tropical wind and the scent of nature surround you. The Tamiami Trail through the Everglades starts at exit 25 off the Homestead Extension of

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the Florida Turnpike. Heading toward Naples, the wild beauty of the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states captures you almost instantly. The shallow-water Everglades is a 1.5-million-acre “river of grass.” The gentle flow of water between Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay supports one of the most biologically diverse areas of the Americas. It is home to the alligator and the endangered American crocodile. Three hundred fifty species of birds, including 16 different species of wading birds, such as the roseate spoonbill (often confused with flamingos), also call the Everglades home. In addition, more than 25 species of orchids grow here naturally. An early waypoint is the Miccosukee Indian Tribe Casino on the right. Continuing west, watch for alligators along the banks of the waterway. Choose an adrenalin-charged airboat ride or in-the-water nature safari from the numerous opportunities available. The Shark Valley Visitor Center is a key stop. Located about midway, the center’s fasci-

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB; VISITCITRUS.COM; ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER AREA CVB; VISITCITRUS.COM

Boardwalk at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples

A golden sunset in Southwest Florida


An art gallery in Homosassa

nating displays include an underwater camera giving you an enchanting look below the surface of the ’Glades gentle flow. Plan time to drive the mile-long loop road or take the tram tour down to the Observatory Tower. Up high, you have a splendid photo opportunity to capture the grey-green grass prairie swaying like sea waves in the warm tropical breeze. The Miccosukee Indian Village is a preservation site for this small tribe’s rich traditions. The professional museum and lifestyle exhibits are entrancing. The alligator demonstrations are riveting, and you will leave thinking very differently about these Mesozoic creatures. Be sure to try the food sampler that includes ’gator steak, frog legs and Indian fry bread. Big Cypress Gallery offers both fabulous photography of the Everglades and guided walking tours for all ages. The Big Cypress National Preserve holds its not-to-be-missed Swamp Heritage Festival each December. The Festival spotlights 10,000 years of habitation in South Florida’s wilderness with thought-provoking presentations, demonstrations of the rugged life in this inhospitable place and tasty introductions to the local cuisine. In Naples, visit the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, home to one of the last remaining groves of old-growth bald cypress trees in the world. From a protected boardwalk, you can admire one of the most breathtakingly beautiful flowers in the world, the ghost orchid.

CLEARWATER TO CHIEFLAND THE NATURE ROUTE (US 19) 119 Miles, 2.5 hours without stops The nature route of Central Florida is a trip back to places where time runs slower, more gently. Start with the Cracker Country Living Museum on the Florida State Fairgrounds. Dating from 1870–1912, the museum’s 13 original buildings, exhibits and live demonstrations provide a fascinating look back in time to Florida’s rural past. Paralleling the Gulf Coast’s Big Bend, you pass hundreds of places and towns with hard-topronounce Native American words such as Chassahowitzka and Wicki Wachee, as well as

Access Honeymoon Island via the Dunedin Causeway.

others that reflect the heritage of Central Florida. For sheer beauty and tranquility, aptlynamed Honeymoon Island is accessible via the Dunedin Causeway (Route 586). Thatchedroofed bungalows, sun-drenched beaches, nature trails, and some of the best shelling on the Gulf make this an enchanting diversion. The Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is a nature lover’s must-see. Its 31,000 acres of saltwater bays, estuaries and brackish marshes are home to more than 250 species of birds, more than 50 species of reptiles and amphibians, and at least 25 different species of mammals, including the endangered West Indian manatee. These gentle plant-eating giants are fascinating. Since the refuge is only

Snorkeling in the Crystal River, home of the manatee

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ROAD TRIPS accessible by boat from either Chassahowitzka or Homosassa, you have a good chance to see one of these magnificent creatures. Crystal River calls itself the “home of the manatee.” The spring-fed river remains a constant 72 F year-round, attracting manatees during the winter months when the Gulf of Mexico cools off. Hook up with one of the local manatee or river tours to arrange for glassbottom boat rides and even a swim with the manatees. Stop by the Plantation for fine dining and local history. East of Chiefland, the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Yearling. The park has a number of programs planned through March 2014. The Manatee Springs State Park represents the best of Florida’s protected natural springs. This first-magnitude spring produces an average of 100 million gallons of clear, cool water daily. Meandering through hardwood wetlands connecting with the Suwannee River, the spring is a route for manatees to reach the warmer spring headwaters in winter.

CHIEFLAND TO CARRABELLE Panacea Mineral Springs in Wakulla County

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SCENIC HISTORIC ROUTE (US 98N) 150 Miles, 2.75 hours without stops In Chiefland, Routes 27, 19 and 98 merge for the leg north. On the way to Perry, you will see the cattle and farm land typical of North Central Florida—a very different view of the Sunshine State. Perry’s annual Florida Forest Festival features lumberjack exhibitions and demonstrations. Watch for the Brahman cattle specially bred for Florida with their characteristic camel-like hump. There are also bison and deer in this stretch of the scenic drive. Turn right on Spring Creek Highway to Wakulla Springs State Park. Thought to be the deepest fresh-water spring in America, Hollywood used the springs as the location for three Tarzan movies and the horror film, Creature from the Black Lagoon in 1954. Sopchoppy, nestled in the heart of the Apalachicola National Forest, is a placid haven for the outdoor enthusiast. Watch for soaring eagles and their large nests. Carrabelle is located at the mouth of the Apalachicola River, which supplies fresh water to one of the richest oyster bays in North

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: V&V HOSPITALITY MEDIA SERVICES; V&V HOSPITALITY MEDIA SERVICES; EMERALD COAST CVB; BILL STRENGTH/PENSACOLA BAY AREA CVB

A quiet fishing community along Route 98


America. In November, the town hosts the Florida Seafood Festival, Florida’s oldest maritime event. All things oyster are the centerpiece of this two-day feast, which draws visitors from around the world. At the end of the day, sit on the deep porch of C-Quarters Marina with a cool drink and listen to the locals tell tales of oystering on Apalachicola Bay.

APALACHICOLA TO PENSACOLA THE EMERALD COAST ROUTE (US 98) 163 Miles, 3.5 hours without stops In the late 19th century, Apalachicola was the third-largest commercial port on the Gulf of Mexico. Today, the town is famous for the oysters still hand-tong harvested in Apalachicola Bay. Between January and March, the restored Dixie Theater hosts professional music and stage performances. Port St. Joe celebrated its centennial in 2013. Have dinner on the patio of the Sunset Coastal Grill—sweet succulent Apalachicola oysters accompanied by their specialty cheese grits—and be mesmerized by a spectacular sinking sun. Panama City Beach came in as No. 51 on CNN’s 100 most beautiful beaches in the world in 2013. White-sugar sand, one of the Gulf ’s largest natural concentrations of bottlenose dolphins and 320 days of sunshine a year are among the reasons it is the new Spring Break capital. From Miramar Beach west, the Emerald Coast Parkway passes highrises and hamlets, interspersed with nearby stretches of dunes, wilderness and breathtaking water scenes. The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park at Fort Walton Beach offers stimulating hands-on encounters with bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, stingrays and seals. At Navarre Beach, cross the Intracoastal Waterway channel to the barrier islands to drive through the magnificent dunes along the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Pause at one or more of the pull offs and walk this wild sea oat stabilized stretch of the Emerald Coast. At the end of Pensacola Beach’s new pier, look down through the clear blue-green water at the sharks and dolphins that often congregate there. The last stop along the dunes drive, Fort Pickens stands guard to Pensacola Bay. Spanish, British and French galleons negotiated this narrow opening in the 16th and 17th centuries as they traded dominion over Florida’s first capital.

Natural unspoiled beach along the Emerald Coast of Florida

FEATURED LINKS Apalachicola National Forest fs.usda.gov/apalachicola

Big Cypress National Preserve nps.gov/bicy/index.htm

Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/chassahowitzka

Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery clydebutchersbigcypressgallery.com

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary corkscrew.audubon.org

Cracker Country crackercountry.org

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings

Florida Forest Festival floridaforestfest.com

Florida Seafood Festival floridaseafoodfestival.com

Gulf Islands National Seashore Sunset in the Pensacola Bay area

Across the bay in Pensacola, visit the newly expanded National Naval Aviation Museum. Home to the Blue Angels, the original aircraft and artifacts here are priceless national treasures. Try your hand at flying a fighter jet in the flight-training simulators. An in-person visit to Joe Patti’s World Famous Seafood Market is a seafood lover’s must-do stop. For more than 80 years, this venerable waterside emporium has delivered fresh Gulf seafood to locals and now ships all over North America. FL

nps.gov/guis

Honeymoon Island State Park floridastateparks.org/honeymoonisland

Joe Patti’s Seafood joepattis.com

Manatee Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/manateesprings

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/marjoriekinnanrawlings

Miccosukee Indian Village miccosukee.com

National Naval Aviation Museum navalaviationmuseum.org

The Everglades National Park nps.gov/ever

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CAMPGROUNDS

Canoeists and kayakers at Oleta River State Park in North Miami

Camping on the beach in Fort Myers

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hank the Tin Can Tourists. In the 1920s, they rumbled along rough roads to Florida and found their way down the coasts, living out of their cars and eating warmed-up meals from tin cans. Since then, a predictable migration of campers comes to Florida every winter, with flocks of RVs taking over vast swaths of campgrounds throughout the state. Luckily, Florida has plenty of campsites to go around. Whether you’re looking for somewhere to plunk that RV near an urban area or want a real in-the-woods experience under the shade of old oak trees, Florida’s diverse inventory of campgrounds includes more than 50 at Florida State Parks, hundreds more on other public lands, and private sites of every stripe. Bring a tent, drive down in your RV, book a cabin, or pull that fifth wheel—Florida has you covered.

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SOUTHEAST Sunlight shimmers over blue-green waters as you look out of your tent over the calm shallows of the Atlantic Ocean in the Florida Keys. At Long Key State Park, all 60 sites are right on the beach for tent and RV campers to enjoy. Wander along nature trails, kayak through mangrove tunnels or learn about marine life at a ranger program. At John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo, it’s not far from its 47 campsites in a tropical forest to board a boat for snorkeling and diving adventures on the offshore coral reefs. Renting for less than US$60 per night, the rustic cabins at Oleta River State Park might be the least expensive place to stay in Miami. You’ll need to bring your own linens and bathrooms are down the trail at the bathhouse. In the heart of C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: LEE COUNTY VCB/FORTMYERSSANIBEL.COM; GREATER MIAMI CVB; VISITCITRUS.COM; BAKER COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

BY SANDRA FRIEND

BUNKING WITH NATURE


RV site at the Chassahowitzka River Campground in Central West Florida

Pines, the 71-site RV park has full hookups and a laundry facility. Centered on Paradise Cove Water Park, it’s a place for summer enjoyment, with a driving range, mini golf and batting cages amid nearly 300 acres. From the pool deck at Lake Okeechobee Outpost in Pahokee, you can see water as far as the horizon—the vast Lake Okeechobee is one of America’s largest lakes. Bring an RV, pitch a tent or rent a waterfront cottage at the only place you can camp on the “Big O” shoreline. It’s rustic, but to be expected—it used to be a state park.

SOUTHWEST Step back into Old Florida and pitch a tent under the oaks at Fisheating Creek Outpost in Palmdale. An ancient forest shades the tentfriendly section of the campground, which hugs the cypress-lined banks of Fisheating Creek. The creek is one of Florida’s wilder places to paddle, with canoe and kayak rentals and shuttles available near the camp store. A quiet place for an RV getaway, Ortona South Campground on the Caloosahatchee River is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The well-groomed 51-space campground perches above the Ortona Locks so you can watch sailboats go by and get in some fishing from the piers. Set your camper up and settle in for the season at Rock Creek RV Resort in Naples, where winter activities keep residents abuzz at the clubhouse and around a heated pool.

CENTRAL EAST Sheltered by a canopy of live oaks, the 177 sites at Manatee Hammock Campground south of Titusville are riffled by breezes off the Indian River Lagoon and have a view of rocket launches at Kennedy Space Center. With 30 tent sites plus a game room and swimming pool, it’s a popular destination for family camping. Tent campers have their own escape at quiet Lake Ashby Park in Volusia County, where the playground and restrooms are within an easy walk of the deeply shaded primitive campsites.

CENTRAL Watch the sun rise over the marshes of Lake Lowery at Oak Harbor Lodging and RV Park, a 198-site family-owned campground that feels like a nature park. At Cherry Pocket Fish Camp, rustic cabins and RV sites provide out-the-door access for fishing on Lake Pierce; at night, their famed restaurant draws diners from around the region. A county park on a breezy peninsula, Trimble Park is a birder’s delight, with shady tent and camper spaces not far from antiquing in Mount Dora. Splash in a spring in the Ocala National Forest by spending a night at one of several popular campgrounds; Alexander Springs has the best swimming, snorkeling and paddling for all ages.

Ocean Pond Campground in Baker County

tent out to Anclote Key State Park—accessible only by kayak or private boat—and camp on that quiet island?

CENTRAL WEST Paddlers love Chassahowitzka River Campground, the launch point for adventures in watery Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Near Dade City, Withlacoochee River Park offers primitive tent sites ideal for families to take the kids on their first camping trip, as well as RV sites near a replica 1840s village. With 238 sites, many of which look out on Tampa Bay, Fort De Soto Park is on every camper’s list. But did you know you can take a

NORTHEAST In Jacksonville, you can’t get closer to the beach than Huguenot Memorial Park Campground, which features 71 sites on a spit of sand at the mouth of the St. Johns River. Campers at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area in Flagler Beach enjoy a soft strum of the waves at night and can borrow bedtime stories from a campground library for the kids.

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CAMPGROUNDS

FEATURED LINKS Exploring the St. Johns River and connecting with nature near Jacksonville

Alexander Springs Recreation Area floridasprings.org/visit/map/alexander-spring

Anclote Key State Park floridastateparks.org/anclotekey

Blackwater River State Park floridastateparks.org/blackwaterriver

C.B. Smith Park broward.org/parks/cbsmithpark

Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/chassahowitzka

Chassahowitzka River Campground chassahowitzkaflorida.com

Cherry Pocket cherrypocket.com/motel_rv ellieraysrvresort.com

Fisheating Creek Outpost fisheatingcreekoutpost.com

Fort De Soto Park pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area floridastateparks.org/gamblerogers

Henderson Beach State Park floridastateparks.org/hendersonbeach

Huguenot Memorial Park visitjacksonville.com/directory/ Huguenot-Memorial-Park

Indian Pass Campground indianpasscamp.com

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park floridastateparks.org/pennekamp

Lake Ashby Park floridahikes.com/lake-ashby-park

Lake Okeechobee Outpost palmbeachfl.com/places-to-stay Biking on Amelia Island

Long Key State Park

venue at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, a massive campground for RVs and tents, with cabin rentals and a popular diner.

floridastateparks.org/longkey

Manatee Hammock Campground brevardcounty.us/ParksRecreation/ North/ManateeHammock

Oak Harbor Lodging & RV Park

NORTHWEST

At Ocean Pond Recreation Area in the Osceola National Forest, watch the sun set over a two-mile-wide cypress-lined lake.

NORTH CENTRAL Centered on its own bubbling spring on the Santa Fe River, Ellie Ray’s RV Resort has cabins and deeply shaded tent and RV sites. If you love concerts—from Phish to Willie Nelson—head to Florida’s top outdoor music

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Imagine your own private white-sand beach on a gentle bend of a freshwater river. Campers at Blackwater River State Park in Santa Rosa County can sneak away from their gravel sites in the woods (optimized for RVs and campers) down a nature trail and boardwalk to a quiet getaway; day visitors to the park have a busier swimming hole upriver. For sugar-sand beaches with a salty breeze, head for Henderson Beach State Park and its 60 campsites in Destin’s dunes, or to T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, with its camping options to delight all visitors, including backcountry tent camping and A-frame cabins above the bay. With tent spaces, RV sites and modern cabins overlooking the scenic straits of St. Vincent Island, Indian Pass Campground promises a quiet getaway. FL

oakharbor-rv.com

Ocala National Forest fs.usda.gov/ocala

Ocean Pond Recreation Area bit.ly/oceanpond

Oleta River State Park floridastateparks.org/oletariver

Ortona South Campground floridaparks.com/floridafederalparks/ ortonasouth.htm

Osceola National Forest fs.usda.gov/osceola

Rock Creek RV Resort rockcreekrv.com

Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park & Campground musicliveshere.com

T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park floridastateparks.org/stjoseph

Trimble Park floridahikes.com/trimblepark

Withlacoochee River Park swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/areas/ withlacoocheeriverpark.html

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: AMELIA ISLAND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; VISIT JACKSONVILLE; VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; ST. AUGUSTINE, PONTE VEDRA & THE BEACHES VCB

Ellie Ray’s RV Resort and Lounge


PETS

BY JEN KARETNICK

LEADERS OF THE PACK Beach dogs in St. Petersburg/Clearwater area

Pet-friendly dining in St. Augustine

A

fraid to take your pets on vacation because you’re not sure how they’ll be received? Lay your fears to rest. Many Florida venues consider Fido and Fifi part of the family and welcome them.

SHOPPING HOUNDS Kiosks at Aventura Mall between North Miami Beach and Hollywood sell carriages for small breeds to rest their paws. However, while toys and miniatures are usually perfectly acceptable in strollers or when carried along the main thoroughfare, they’re not always allowed inside stores. For a unique shopping experience, hit the Coconut Point Mall in Estero in Southwest Florida, where there are marked water fountains for dogs as well as “clean-up” stations. On the first Thursday of every month, there’s

“Dog’s Nite Out,” a gathering of canines and their caregivers, located on Cinema Way in front of Hollywood Theaters across from DipidyDawg, a gourmet bakery and boutique for pooches. Prefer to eat and drink alongside your pup? Check out Jacksonville Landing, which hosts “Yappy Hour,” complete with giveaways, treats, and a doggy beauty or lookalike contest from 2 to 5 PM every third Sunday of the month.

CANINE PLAYGROUNDS For a complete list of dog-friendly parks and beaches, visit DogFriendly.com, which offers information on 20 cities with coastal access. This handy list is especially helpful if you want to know if and where leashes are required. (While many parks and beaches invite animals

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PETS A dog-friendly park in Miami

Sanford’s Paw Park, the oldest off-leash dog site in Central Florida, features 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. Tampa Bay boasts more than a dozen offleash parks, including Mango Dog Park, a shady, five-acre tract with swim areas and pavilions; Curtis Hixon Waterfront Dog Park and Davis Islands Dog Park, both of which are feted for their water features; and a few Paw Playgrounds (in Anderson, Boca Ciega and Fort De Soto), which are fully fenced and even offer showers. For more water recreation and exercise, as well as raised bathing tubs and an agility course, visit Jacksonville’s off-leash, fenced, multi-acre Dog Wood Park facility.

HOWL-WORTHY EVENTS Do you travel because of your pet? If not, perhaps you should start! Orlando, for instance, hosts more than eight annual events, such as Paws in the Park Pet Walk, which raises money for the SPCA of Central Florida; the Orlando Pet Fair at the Orlando Science Center; and the Pampered Pet Expo at the Orange County Convention Center. There’s also the Annual Doggie Art Festival in nearby Winter Park and the Posh Pooch Festival, a multi-tiered contest at neighboring Celebration’s Lakeside Park. Check out Bark at the Ballpark days—one at the George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa and another at the Bright House Field in Clearwater—where you can take in a game and pet vendors simultaneously. If you’re into breed-specific destinations, head to South Beach in Miami in January, for the Dachshund Winterfest. Holidays such as Halloween are arguably the most interesting times to travel with animals, if only to participate in events such as the Pet Masquerade and Parade in Key West, which, even though the dogs are leashed, can be quite a howl.

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to frolic, some require pets to be regulated on six-foot leashes.) One must-stop on the Gulf of Mexico is Dog Island just south of Carrabelle, which is accessible only by ferry or boat and welcomes leashed, well-behaved, four-legged sidekicks everywhere, except in the nature conservatory. South of Cocoa Beach in Central East Florida, Canova Beach Dog Park is a popular dog hangout. Be sure to enter the beach through the south crossover to avoid any fines. Prefer off-leash beaches? Consider Lee County Off-Leash Dog Park, south of Fort Myers Beach and north of Bonita Beach; Roger Scott Complex Dog Park in Pensacola, where facilities include human and hound water fountains and pooper-scooper stations; Happy Tails Canine Park in Bradenton; and Higgs Beach Dog Park in Key West, where small and large animals have separate playgrounds.

If you need a spot for your pet to stay while in Southeast Florida, check it into Camp Canine, a “country club and spa” for dogs and cats. The Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood locations are cage-free, and pets have the luxury of indulging in plenty of playtime. Grooming and shuttle services can also be arranged. Ditto The Lodge at New Tampa. Not only does this canine hotel provide special accommodation complete with exercise lanais attached to an air-conditioned suite, you can make arrangements for your pup to enjoy a swim, a private ball toss with a staff member, a HydroSurge massage bath and playtime in the park. Feline guests are welcome too. The Happy Paws Pet Resort in Orlando is virtually viral-free with hospital-grade air-conditioned units, and is double-insulated for noise reduction so your cat isn’t freaked out by barking dogs. There’s a bone-shaped salt-water pool for exercise and fun, and the staff offers “concierge” grooming services and training. With more than 80 pet-friendly business listings, Orlando is among the friendliest dog towns in Florida. The Loews Hotels group welcomes them with the “Loews Loves Pets” program, which includes personal notes from general managers on hotel pet services and local dog walking routes, gourmet pet food menus, and even catnip and videos for entertainment. The Wyndham Orlando Resort permits furry guests, as does the Sheraton Lake Buena

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: GREATER MIAMI CVB; GREATER MIAMI CVB; ANDY NEWMAN/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU.

PET RETREATS Patron at a pet-friendly café in Miami


Ringing in the New Year in Key West

FEATURED LINKS Aloft Hotels starwoodhotels.com/alofthotels

Aventura Mall aventuramall.com

Camp Canine campcanineflorida.com

Canova Beach Park brevardcounty.us/ParksRecreation/South/Canova

Coconut Point Mall simon.com/mall/coconut-point

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Dog Park tampagov.net/parks

Davis Island Dog Park davisislanddogpark.com

DipidyDawg Bakery & Boutique dipidydawg.com

Dog Island Park carrabelle.org

Dog Thirty dog30.com

Dog Wood Park jaxdogs.com

Happy Tails Canine Park dogpark.com/happy-tails-canine-park

Hard Rock Hotel hardrockhotelorlando.com

Jacksonville Landing jacksonvillelanding.com

Vista Resort. The Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando permits pups on the premises and gives you a hand with pet beds, food and leashes. (For other properties in the Wyndham, Sheraton, and Hard Rock chains, call ahead to ascertain how pet-friendly the property is before booking.) Residence Inn by Marriott in Sebring allows Rover and friends; for other Residence Inns, just call and ask. For a more urban stay, check out the chic Aloft hotels, in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Doral, Miami and Orlando, with outlets opening by the end of 2014 in Tampa and South Beach. At Aloft, the saying goes: “Pets are more than just fun—they’re family, too!”

STRUT YOUR STUFF Lincoln Road in Miami Beach is the place to stroll, especially if you’re rooming at the “pupular” palace known as the W South Beach, which provides a special pet bed and dogwalking service. You can do the same at the W Hotel Fort Lauderdale, then spend a lovely afternoon in and out of cafés and art galleries on North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard or East Las Olas

Boulevard where many proprietors tolerate “purse-carried” pups, and nearly every outdoor café welcomes a well-behaved canine curled up under your table. Wild East Asian Bistro even has a “dog-friendly” area, so you needn’t worry about sitting near someone who is fearful of pooches. Or stroll down Duval Street in Key West. Stop in at Dog Thirty on White Street with a leashed animal for holistic and organic products, and lope around Mallory Square for two hours before sunset every evening and take in the ritualistic Key West Sunset Celebration.

Key West Sunset Celebration

TAIL-WAGGING FAVORITES

Residence Inn by Marriott

sunsetcelebration.org

Lee County Off-Leash Dog Park leeparks.org

Mango Dog Park pawsofmangopark.com

Pampered Pet Expo pamperedpetexpo.com

Paw Park of Historic Sanford pawparksanford.org

Paws Park pawsparkjaxbeach.com

Paw Playgrounds pinellascounty.org/park/dog_parks.htm

Piglet’s Pantry pigletspantry.com

Posh Pooch Festival celebration.fl.us/celebration-events/annual

Pet boutiques have sprouted throughout Florida. Plenty of treats are available at Piglet’s Pantry-Dog Bakery in Mount Dora, which also holds “Yappy Hour” every third Friday of the month. Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming in Winter Park offers a bounty of treats, and also caters to your pet’s grooming needs. There are currently 16 outlets in Florida, with more on the way. Scout out more dog-friendly spots at Florida Pet Pages (floridapetpages.com) and pet-friendly hotels at bringfido.com/lodging/state/florida. FL

marriott.com

Roger Scott Complex Dog Park visitpensacola.com/landing/pensacola-pets

Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort sheratonlakebuenavistaresort.com

The Lodge at New Tampa thelodgefordogs.com

The Loews Hotel Group loewshotels.com

Wild East Asian Bistro wildeastbistro.com

Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming woofgangbakery.com

Wyndham Orlando Resort wyndham.com

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M O N E Y- S A V I N G T I P S

Order a free rewards card for savings and special offers at Aventura Mall in North Miami.

I

f you’re on the lookout for ways to stretch your dollar on your Florida vacation, here are some fantastic tips that can save you a bundle on everything from accommodation to theme park tickets. No special codes to memorize, no strings attached; just great offers and local tips your wallet will love.

KNOW YOUR SEASONS

Take advantage of "deal-season" hotel rates in Orlando.

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Florida is a big state so seasons vary greatly from south to north. In January, the average high temperature in Key West is 74 F, but in Panama City Beach it is a much cooler 62 F. Know your seasons, and you’ll understand when and where to find the best deals. Winter yields great rates in northern Florida; in the heat of summer, head to southern 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 are higher. Visit Orlando recommends families visit during “deal season,” August 15–September 30. In ad-

dition, you can get a free Orlando Magic Card and take advantage of savings on a variety of attractions, restaurants and shopping. Get yours at VisitOrlando.com/magiccard or at the Orlando Visitors Center.

THEME PARK DISCOUNTS If you plan to spend time in any of Florida’s theme parks, such as Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens Tampa, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando, do some pre-planning and purchase tickets before you arrive at the gate. There are many reputable ticket brokers you can find online—Mousesavers.com, Ticketmomma.com, UndercoverTourist.com and OfficialTicketCenter.com—all of which are well known and respected. In a glance, you can see ticket prices and any other discounts that qualify you for additional savings (military, wholesale clubs and automobile clubs). Brokers also have tickets to several dinner theater shows, such as Medieval Times and Arabian Nights, as well as other area attractions and special events.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT ORLANDO; AVENTURA MALL; GREATER MIAMI CVB; GREATER MIAMI CVB

BY JILL MARTIN

ENJOY MORE FOR LESS


Buy a special pass for unlimited visits to Zoo Miami.

COLLECT COUPONS 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 entertainmentbook.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 Florida’s Turnpike. Stop in and take a moment to notice the racks of brochures with coupons inside. What’s more, four of South Florida’s top attractions—Lion Country Safari, Miami Seaquarium, Museum of Discovery & Science and Zoo Miami—offer a special pass that provides unlimited visits for 100-plus days during the summer months. Get yours at SummerSavingsPass.com.

EXPLORE LODGING OPTIONS 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 the websites of vacation ownership resorts, 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 flcondoalliance.com; LegacyVacationResorts.com; WestgateResorts.com; VRBO.com; and MyResortNetwork.com.

MEMBERSHIP RATES 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. Wholesale shopping clubs offer travel discounts as well.

KIDS’ AND “WE” TIME Many resorts offer programs for kids as part of their amenity packages. These programs pro-

vide supervised childcare during certain hours of the day—or night—and are a far cry from being a babysitting service; they provide educational, entertaining and non-stop enjoyment! 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 or included with the daily resort fee, as they are at the Harbor Beach Marriott in Fort Lauderdale or Club Med Sandpiper Resort in Port St. Lucie. One of the best in the state is Splash’s Kids’ Club at the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach. 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.

FLIGHT DEALS Everyone has heard, “book at least 21 days in advance for the best price and seat availability,” however 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 of which you might not be familiar. In 2011, Panama City’s 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.

Register for airfare alerts.

SOCIAL MEDIA SAVINGS 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 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 tweet their deals, too—in 140 characters or less.

WATCH FOR 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-beatenpath attractions, such as the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center in Tavernier, south of Key Largo. Admission is free (donations are welcome), and you can stroll the boardwalk to the bay, past resident owls and hawks. FL

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WILDLIFE VIEWING

MOTHER NATURE’S GIFTS BY SUSAN B. BARNES

TAKE FLIGHT More than 500 species of birds have been documented in Florida, and with careful planning, you can likely spot a few on your list. The 2,000-mile Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail features more than 500 sites designed to promote bird and wildlifewatching opportunities, as well as encourage conservation. Additional popular birding destinations include Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida, where more than 200 species, such as the purple gallinule have been sighted; Highlands Hammock State Park in Central Florida, where the endangered scrub jay nests; Clay

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County in Northeast Florida, where bald eagles are often spotted; and Wakulla County in Northwest Florida, where you may catch a glimpse of a snowy plover or observe the popular whooping crane migration in the late fall.

PLAYFUL DOLPHINS Everyone loves them, and there are plenty of dolphin-sighting opportunities around Florida. Whether you’re strolling the beach and spot a pod feeding offshore or taking a boat tour and catch them playing in the wake, there’s nothing quite like it! If you’re in the Apalachicola Bay area along the Gulf coast of northern Florida, watch for these playful creatures as they frolic and hunt in one of their favorite feeding grounds. Winter guests at the Night Swan Intracoastal Bed and Breakfast in New Smyrna Beach on the Atlantic side may often observe them from the dock— or their waterfront room—as mothers teach their young to feed in the safety of the Intracoastal Waterway.

GENTLE GIANTS Gentle, slow-going manatees are found throughout Florida. In the summer, they can be seen swimming along the Gulf shoreline, and in winter, they make their homes in areas where natural springs are found, venturing out only to feed on aquatic plants. Manatees, herbivores by nature, are susceptible to hypothermia and prefer water where temperatures are 72 F and higher. They cannot survive for extended periods in water colder than 63 F. During winter months, chances are you’ll see manatees at Lee County Manatee Park in Southwest Florida; Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Central East Florida; Blue Spring State Park, bordering Central East and Central Florida; Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, TECO Manatee Viewing Center and Three Sisters Springs in Central West Florida; and Manatee Springs State Park in North Central Florida.

FROM THE LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; JOE DETRICK/VISITCITRUS.COM

W

hile Florida may be renowned for its wild scenes—be it Spring Break in Daytona Beach and Panama City or any time of the year in Miami’s South Beach—there is plenty of natural—and probably better behaved—wildlife in the Sunshine State as well.

Southern bald eagles


Year-round, manatees can be observed at the Miami Seaquarium, Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, SeaWorld Orlando, and Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. The oldest manatee in captivity, Snooty, turned 65 in 2013 and resides at the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.

BOBCATS, PANTHERS AND BEARS In addition to manatees, red wolves, Florida panthers, black bears, bobcats, Key and whitetailed deer, alligators, river otters and much more can be seen at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Central West Florida.

MARINE LIFE The undersea world is teeming with life and there are several areas throughout Florida where snorkeling and scuba diving rival that found in the Caribbean. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo in the Florida Keys is one such destination. Whether you take a glassbottom boat tour, don a snorkel and mask or opt to scuba dive, you’ll be amazed by the coral reefs populated by colorful fish, and perhaps even a sea turtle or shark!

TAKE REFUGE Conservation is big in Florida and several wildlife refuges, conservancies and aquariums throughout the state rehabilitate injured animals, as well as provide educational opportunities. If you’re so inclined, you can assist in the care of rescued marine mammals by volunteering your time and helping with their rehab at the Marine Mammal Conservancy in Key Largo. The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island features a new manatee and alligator exhibit, as well as interactive displays that encourage visitors to be actively involved. Get an up-close look at wildlife rehabilitation in the expanded wildlife hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples. Peek at baby animals through a one-way glass window at the Wildlife Nursery. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium may in fact be home to the most famous rescue of all— Winter, star of the movie A Dolphin Tale.

A TURTLE’S PACE Each year, sea turtles make their way from the ocean to Florida’s coastlines to lay up to 100

eggs apiece. Turtles begin depositing their eggs in May and hatching starts in July and finishes at the end of October. Just one in every 1,000 turtles born survives to adulthood. If you’re visiting Florida during sea turtle nesting season, nighttime beach tours afford the opportunity for a front-row seat to watch this natural phenomenon. Organizations offering such excursions include Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton; the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach; Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch in Southwest Florida; Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach; and Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch in Northeast Florida.

Meet a manatee face to face in Citrus County.

FEATURED LINKS Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch ameliaislandseaturtlewatch.com

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring islandturtlewatch.com

Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/archiecarr

Blue Spring State Park floridastateparks.org/bluespring

Clearwater Marine Aquarium seewinter.com

Conservancy of Southwest Florida conservancy.org

Florida Trail Association

WATER TRAILS

floridatrail.org

The 190-mile Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail in Southwest Florida is ideal for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddling. Featuring its own mobile app, global system coordinates, and plenty of restaurants and overnight options ranging from camping to deluxe accommodation, the paddling trail is a destination unto itself. Fall visitors should check out the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival. In Northwest Florida, take a pontoon boat ride on the Wakulla River at Wakulla Springs where wildlife abounds. Fall and winter seasons are the best times of the year to view the river’s wildlife, which includes alligators, manatees, migrating birds, deer, snakes and more. Hikers, bikers and casual walkers may spot all types of wildlife on the Florida National Scenic Trail. Covering 1,400 miles from southern Florida to northwest Florida, the trail encompasses state and county parks and forests. FL

Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail floridabirdingtrail.com

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center gumbolimbo.org

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/dingdarling

Loggerhead Marinelife Center marinelife.org

Marine Mammal Conservancy marinemammalconservancy.org

New Smyrna Beach Area Visitors Bureau nsbfla.com

Night Swan Intracoastal Bed & Breakfast nightswan.com

TECO Manatee Viewing Center tampaelectric.com/company/mvc

The Great Calusa Blueway calusablueway.com

The Great Calusa Blue Paddling Festival calusabluewaypaddlingfestival.com

The Parker Manatee Aquarium southfloridamuseum.org/TheAquarium

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GOLF

CHASING THE SWEET SPOT BY EDWARD SCHMIDT JR.

The PGA Tour's Honda Classic crowd in Palm Beach

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or a golfer, arriving in Florida is much like standing in front of a massive buffet table with no idea what to select. There are so many enticing golf course possibilities, the task is difficult, but, oh, so enjoyable. Few places in the world have the immense selection of golf courses like Florida. There are nearly 1,500 courses in diverse settings and styles with big-name designer tags such as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye and Tom Fazio, to name a few. Better still, the well-designed layouts feature a variety of tee settings offering play opportunities for all skill levels. Whether you’re a professional fine-tuning your game or a novice just starting out, you’ll find a great place to tee up in Florida. So grab your clubs, bring your “A” game and peruse this enviable golf menu.

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CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: PALM BEACH COUNTY CVB; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB; VISIT ORLANDO; ST. LUCIE COUNTY TOURISM

Golfers in paradise


The Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate

SOUTHEAST Gentlemen and ladies, start your golf carts. Whether it’s Miami, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale or another beach community, you’re never far from a golf course. Donald Trump recently purchased the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami and is spending millions to upgrade an already outstanding resort where five championship golf courses beckon players. In Aventura, 18 miles north of Miami, Turnberry Isle Miami has two palm- and lakedotted courses with high-impact water features. The property showcases a Mediterranean-designed resort hotel, voted one of the “world’s best” by Travel + Leisure Magazine. PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens is home to The Champion, site of the PGA Tour’s annual Honda Classic, and four other impressive layouts plus the PGA National Golf Academy.

SOUTHWEST Encompassing golf-happy communities such as Naples, Fort Myers and Sarasota, this region of the state is extremely welcoming to the whitedimple ball set. The upscale, family-owned Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club has been entertaining golfers since the late 1920s. Redesigned, refurbished and enhanced several times, the course often receives accolades as one of the top women-friendly golf courses in the nation. For fans of legendary Scottish designer Donald Ross, the venerable Bobby Jones Golf Club in Sarasota has two 18-hole championship courses and a nine-hole executive course ideal for players of all skill levels.

The 8th hole at the PGA Village in Port St. Lucie

CENTRAL EAST Daytona Beach is home to the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), which is headquartered at LPGA International, an upscale resort/residential complex with two highly rated layouts: the Arthur Hills-designed Legends Course and the Rees Jones Champions Course. To fully immerse you in the golf experience, the PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, owned and operated by the PGA of America, has 54 holes

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GOLF outs designed separately by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer as well as the ANNIKA Academy, a golf school and teaching facility headed by golf great Annika Sorenstam.

CENTRAL Home to celebrity golfers such as Bubba Watson, Annika Sorenstam and Arnold Palmer, Orlando, which has more than 125 courses within a 45mile radius, is a fantastic golf destination. The Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate is one of the state’s most comprehensive golf resorts with two championship courses designed by Greg Norman, a lighted nine-hole, par 3 layout, and the world headquarters for the David Leadbetter Golf Academy. For those who love Scottish and links-style golf, the Villas of Grand Cypress Orlando is home to Jack Nicklaus’ New Course, which incorporates replicas of St. Andrews’ stone bridges and walls, deep pot bunkers and seven double greens. Nicklaus also designed 27 other holes at the resort. Less than a 10-minute drive from Walt Disney World, Reunion, a Wyndham Grand Golf & Spa Resort, features three 18-hole lay-

CENTRAL WEST There are an estimated 100 public-access courses in the Tampa metropolitan area with an excellent selection of resort and daily fee layouts. Two Arnold Palmer-designed courses await you at Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel near Tampa. A wonderland of cypress, pines, palms, undulating fairways and well-maintained greens, the courses are the quintessential high-quality Florida resort experience. If you want to play where the pros tee up, the 900-acre Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort in Palm Harbor, offers 72 holes of golf including the spectacular Copperhead Course, which hosts the PGA Tour each March for the Tampa Bay Championship. Highly rated TPC Tampa Bay, a co-design by Bobby Weed and Chi Chi Rodriguez, is a great challenge in a natural setting that’s been designated as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Golfing in Ponte Vedra

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NORTHEAST FLORIDA This golf aplenty area is brimming with highprofile courses and resorts. In Ponte Vedra Beach, headquarters for the PGA Tour, the Sawgrass Golf Resort & Spa is home to 99 holes of golf featuring THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, where the famous No. 17 island hole awaits you. Near St. Augustine, the sprawling 6,300-acre World Golf Village resort/residential development draws golf enthusiasts with the World Golf Hall of Fame and the King & Bear and the Slammer & Squire courses. Two other area resorts on golfers’ must-play lists are Hammock Beach, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort in Palm Coast with 36 holes of ex-

FEATURED LINKS Bay Point Wyndham Resort baypointwyndham.com Doral Golf Resort & Spa trumphotelcollection.com/miami Fountains Country Club fountainscc.com

Hammock Beach hammockbeach.com Innisbrook innisbrookgolfresort.com LPGA International lpgainternational.com Mark Bostick Golf Course ufgolfcourse.com Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort omnihotels.com Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate omnihotels.com Perdido Bay Golf Club perdidobaygolf.com PGA National Resort & Spa pgaresort.com PGA Village St. Lucie pgavillage.com Reunion reunionresort.com Saddlebrook Resort Tampa saddlebrook.com Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort sandestin.com Sawgrass Golf Resort & Spa sawgrassmarriott.com Southwood Golf Club southwoodgolf.com The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club naplesbeachhotel.com TPC Tampa Bay tpctampabay.com Turnberry Isle Miami turnberryislemiami.com Villas of Grand Cypress Orlando grandcypress.com World Golf Village worldgolfvillage.com

FROM LEFT BOTTOM: ST. AUGUSTINE, PONTE VEDRA & THE BEACHES VCB; PANAMA CITY BEACH CVB

designed by Tom Fazio and Pete Dye and a stateof-the-art 35-acre learning and performance center for instruction and game improvement.


An 18-hole championship course in Panama City Beach on the Gulf coast

later renovated and modernized by architect Bobby Weed in 2001.

NORTHWEST

ceptional golf, and Omni Amelia Island Plantation, 30 miles north of Jacksonville, which has three picturesque and challenging courses certified by the Audubon International Certified Sanctuaries.

NORTH CENTRAL Away from the theme parks and attractions, this region of the state offers a slower pace and superb golf options.

Southwood Golf Club in Tallahassee, a design by PGA Tour star Fred Couples, is set on lush former pastureland accented by rolling hills, giant oaks dripping with Spanish moss and impressive native grass areas. In Gainesville, the Mark Bostick Golf Course, situated on the northwest corner of the University of Florida campus, is a legendary Florida course, designed by Scotsman Donald Ross in the 1920s and

Known for its outstanding deep-sea fishing, the town of Destin is also home to Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, a 2,400-acre resort development offering play on four championship golf courses. Highlighting the impressive lineup is the Raven Golf Club, a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design that weaves through marshes and pine trees, and the Rees Jones-designed Burnt Pine Golf Club, with its phenomenal views along the Choctawhatchee Bay. In Panama City Beach, Bay Point Wyndham Resort has two layouts that provide a comprehensive test of your golf skills. The resort’s high-profile Nicklaus Course has spectacular panoramic views of St. Andrews Bay and the Grand Lagoon. The Pensacola area entices golfers with up to 15 courses, including the Perdido Bay Golf Club, a venerable championship layout that was the former site of the Pensacola Open for 10 years. FL


WEDDINGS AND HONEYMOONS

HAPPILY EVER AFTER STARTS HERE

BY KRISTEN MANIERI

A vintage wedding in St. Augustine

A

n endless number of wedding venues span the Sunshine State, making it the perfect place to plan a dream destination nuptial. From pirate ships to royal castles to barefoot beach ceremonies, Florida has it all.

ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west, it’s no surprise Florida has a bevy of boats ready to sail couples and their guests into the sunset. For those planning a large event, a luxury yacht might be in order, such as the Yacht StarShip, which departs from downtown Tampa’s Channelside or from Clearwater and accommodates up to 600 guests. In Miami, the 135-foot Carrousel yacht can sail locally or all the way to the Bahamas. It comes with a dining room, dance floor, and expansive deck for an outdoor ceremony with the twinkling Miami skyline as a backdrop. Located in beautiful Destin, SunQuest Cruises offers weddings aboard Solaris, a three-deck luxury yacht with 5,300 square feet of passenger space and a chef team capable of cooking up a gourmet spread.

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For an intimate affair, New Moon Sailing on Captiva Island sails up to six guests to Pine Island Sound on the Gulf of Mexico, or it can take couples to a nearby island for a private beach wedding. Disney Cruise Line, departing from Port Canaveral, gives couples the chance to exchange “I do’s” on board the ship or during a beachside ceremony on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. For a swashbuckling affair, couples might consider a pirate ship wedding at a few different locales throughout Florida, including on board the Black Raven in St. Augustine where brides can marry their matey at sea by an officiant clad in pirate duds. There’s also the 100-foot Buccaneer Pirate Cruise sailing from Destin, as well as Captain Jack Sparrow’s weddings at sea, located in the Florida Keys.

SUNSET SHINDIGS Visitors to Florida’s Gulf of Mexico will find hundreds of miles of coastline perfect for sunset views and beachfront wedding vows.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: GENE DUNCAN; GLENN HASTINGS/FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM; AMELIA ISLAND CVB

Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom


In Key West, where the sunset is celebrated every night, the Ocean Key Resort & Spa hosts weddings on its Sunset Pier, an expansive deck surrounded by turquoise water. Couples tying the knot at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota can choose from a variety of reception sites on its 11-acre property, including the Beach Club, perched right on a white sandy beach. At nearby Longboat Key, brides and grooms host a barefoot event on the snow-white sands of the Resort at Longboat Beach Club. For a casual affair, couples can consider the Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria Island where a menu of local seafood and fun frozen cocktails make the perfect complement to the amazing nightly sunsets. Located on the palatial Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, Walker’s Landing provides a rare sunset wedding venue on Florida’s east coast. Situated on the marsh side of the Plantation, this octagonal-shaped facility boasts a sprawling balcony overlooking the wild salt marsh. Gaining in popularity are sunrise weddings, which are ideal for couples looking to get married on the Atlantic coast. Great options include a ceremony on St. Augustine Beach followed by a brunch reception at the House of the Sea & Sun or The Hoyt House, a luxury Amelia Island inn, which hosts small sunrise beach ceremonies followed by champagne

brunches back at its dining room in the Historic District of Fernandina Beach.

CASAS AND CASTLES Florida is filled with historic homes and luxurious mansions where couples can say “I do” in style. In St. Augustine, the castle-like Lightner Museum, built by Henry Flagler in 1887, and the Casa Monica Hotel both provide venues for brides looking to play up an historic theme enhanced by horse-drawn carriage rides and private trolley tours through the streets of America’s oldest city. Another historic spot is Ellenton’s Gamble Plantation, an antebellum mansion that was once an extensive sugar plantation. Not too far away in Sarasota, it doesn’t get any more opulent than a wedding at Ca’ d’Zan Terrace, the Venetian Gothic-styled waterfront mansion located on the Ringling estate and overlooking Sarasota Bay. The pre-eminent spot for nuptials in Miami is the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens where the sprawling grounds of this magical mansion make for an unforgettable affair. With Cinderella Castle perched in the distance, the Wedding Pavilion at Walt Disney Word Resort is always a favorite for the true princess-at-heart. After the ceremony, brides can choose from a seemingly limitless list of reception sites including one of the countries at Epcot’s World Showcase. FL

The palatial Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort in Northeast Florida

FEATURED LINKS Black Raven blackravenadventures.com

Buccaneer Pirate Cruise destinpirateship.com

Ca' d’Zan Terrace ringling.org

Carrousel Yacht Extraordinaire carrouselyacht.com

Captain Jack Events jacksparrow.net

Casa Monica Hotel casamonica.com

Discovery Cove discoverycove.com

Disney Cruise Line disneycruise.disney.go.com

Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons disneyweddings.disney.go.com

Gamble Plantation floridastateparks.org/gambleplantation

Lightner Museum lightnermuseum.org

Magic Kingdom Park Disneyworld.disney.go.com

New Moon Sailing newmoonsailing.com

Ocean Key Resort & Spa oceankey.com

Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort omnihotels.com/Resorts.aspx

Sandbar Seafood & Spirits sandbar.groupersandwich.com

SunQuest Cruises sunquestcruises.com

The House of the Sea & Sun houseofseaandsun.com

The Hoyt House hoythouse.com

The Resort at Longboat Key Club longboatkeyclub.com

The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota ritzcarlton.com/Sarasota

Universal Orlando Resort universalstudios.com

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens vizcayamuseum.org

Yacht StarShip Dining Cruises yachtstarship.com

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S PAS

Pool at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach in Miami

Marriott Sawgrass Spa pool

S

pa life and Florida go together as brilliantly as the state’s glorious sun, sand and sea. Spanish explorer Ponce de León landed in 1513 near present-day St. Augustine in search of a mythical fountain of youth that he had heard about from Native Americans. Now, 500 years later, the quest for beauty and wellness is stronger than ever. Deluxe spas are opening in chic urban boutique hotels, as well as in large resorts that also focus on golf, tennis and kids’ stuff. More than 100 major properties throughout the state have top-drawer wellness centers where guests can choose from blissed-out relaxation, fitness routines or the pursuit of beauty and buff bodies. It’s all blended with the flavors of Florida. Citrus scrubs, oils infused with aromatic hibiscus and massages with bamboo wands are some of the indulgences. Here’s a peek at some of Florida’s finest spa sanctuaries.

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SOUTHEAST Florida’s Gold Coast is possibly the world’s most glamorous stretch of luxurious hotels and spas. Here, you need beautiful beach-worthy bodies and tender-loving skin care. Start at the sexy Bliss Spa at W South Beach, which rocks with house music, a hot milk and almond pedicure and painless waxing—so they say! You can Blissspa in the party town of Fort Lauderdale, too. The oceanfront Ritz-Carlton, South Beach is one of Miami’s superbly redesigned art deco hotels. It has a museum-worthy art collection, a VIP floor and the DiLido Beach Club with a master mixologist. The sensual Rhythm Massage at the Ritz-Carlton Spa combines Carita products from France and Latin music. Also oceanfront, the Trump International Beach Resort is a modern landmark in Sunny Isles Beach. At Trump’s luxurious Aquanox Spa, you can customize treatments in your guest room or pool cabana and add bubbly and choco-

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: MARRIOTT SAWGRASS; RITZ-CARLTON SOUTH BEACH; BLUE HARRMONY SPA; THE WESTIN DIPLOMAT RESORT & SPA

BY ROCHELLE LASH

A WORLD OF WELLNESS


Lounge at the Blue Harmony Spa in Orlando

late truffles. The coco balm wrap and the Citrus Samba are among Florida-forward services. The Heavenly Spa at The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood recently opened with panoramic water views, the delicate aroma of white tea and the latest in body and spiritual wellness. The Illumination Facial combines Vitamin C, algae and organic mud to clarify skin. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood mixes action at the gaming tables with soothing spa programs. The Orange Blossom Special will buff your body with pure sugar cane and aromatic oils. Do a Seminole vacation biathlon by combining this location with another resort-casino in Tampa. The stunning Seagate Hotel & Spa is a discovery in the cool town of Delray Beach. This posh boutique hotel has its own beach club, country club and the Seagate Spa with a Vichy shower and a Hot Yoga studio. Don’t you just love the GirlsJust-Want-to-Have-Wine package featuring a Chardonnay pedicure and a Merlot facial? Nature is the theme at N Spa at The Delray Beach Marriott where pure essential oils and herbal essences are used. The blissful stone massage hydrates and nourishes skin and the scalp massage delivers vitamins with warm oil. Palm Beach County is a haven for the high life. At the iconic Spa at The Breakers, insiders opt for the Moonlight Massage, the Cardio Kick class and the Guerlain Abeille Royale Facial with bee products. The luxurious Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa (formerly the Ritz-Carlton) offers one of the richest body and face treatments in the world, done with a fusion of crushed diamonds, rubies, sapphires and amethysts.

SOUTHWEST The picturesque communities of Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, Marco Island and Naples are calm havens for superior spa retreats. For water lovers, the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club has had a major makeover, adding a delightful beachfront pool complex. At the spa, your skin is pampered with hydrotherapy baths infused with minerals and aromatherapy oils. The Spa at the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort, facing the glorious Gulf of Mexico, likes to tailor treatments to each guest. Ponce de

León would have adored the Eminence antiaging facial, almost a fountain of youth. Nearby, the Marriott Marco Island Resort & Spa has unveiled $250 million in renovations. Here, the spa features fitness classes, plunge pools and a Balinese massage incorporating Hindu, Chinese and European techniques. The luxurious, eco-sensitive Stillwater Spa at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs offers private yoga, Caribbean hair braiding and an ancient Eastern massage administered by the therapist’s feet.

CENTRAL EAST Spa guests are encouraged to embrace their Zen at the Costa d’Este Resort in Vero Beach, a chic, beachfront, celebrity-owned haven with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, where specialty treatments include an 80-minute personalized body ritual guaranteed to take you to the ultimate state of relaxation. Similar indulgences also await you at the Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach. Among them is an 80-minute massage for couples, featuring sensual lavender aphrodisia body oil followed by a candlelit soak in a claw foot bathtub infused with sea salts and rose petals.

The fitness studio at The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood

TIP Special spa weeks offer discounted treatments. Florida Spa Week (spaweek.com) takes place in April and October. Miami and The Beaches present specials in July and August (MiamiSpaMonth.com) and Fort Lauderdale is on the beat in September (sunny.org/hotels/spas/spa-chic). For more locations, log onto visitflorida.com.

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S PAS

Yoga on the beach at the Marriott Marco Island Resort & Spa

Couples Spa at Omni Amelia Island Plantation

Grande Lakes has new dermatologistdeveloped treatments and a Grande Ultimate Rescue massage.

FEATURED LINKS Aquanox Spa trumpmiami.com/spa-salon

CENTRAL WEST The 60-year-old Tahitian Inn captures the grace of Old Florida at the heart of South Tampa. The Tahiti Seaweed Wrap and the Polynesian Body Polish are among favorites at the pretty South Seas-inspired Serenity Spa.

Bliss World South Beach blissworld.com/spa

Blue Harmony Spa blueharmonyorlando.com

Costa d’Este Beach Resort costadeste.com

Eau Spa eauspa.com

Heavenly Spa

CENTRAL Chilling out at a spa is just the ticket after a full-day outing at Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld Orlando or the Kennedy Space Center. The new Blue Harmony Spa at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek caters to the next generation. The Clear and Pure Facial is geared toward teens while the Fancy Fingers Manicure is tailored to children 6 to 11. The sophisticated spa at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando,

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The area surrounding Jacksonville is a water wonderland with eco-adventures, quiet beaches, history, plus all-around golf, tennis and wellness getaways, such as the Ponte Vedra Beach Resort and the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa. The spa at the picturesque Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort offers the sublime Plantation Blossom Ritual with lemon, papaya, cherry blossom and rice powder cream to soften the skin and invigorate the body.

diplomatresort.com/heavenly-spa

Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort Golf Club and Spa marcoislandmarriott.com

N Spa nspas.com

Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club naplesbeachhotel.com

Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort omnihotels.com/ameliaisland

Ponte Vedra Beach Resorts pontevedra.com

Ritz-Carlton South Beach ritzcarlton.com/southbeach

Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa sawgrassmarriott.com

Serenity by the Sea sandestinbeachhilton.com/serenity

Stillwater Spa coconutpoint.hyatt.com

NORTHWEST

Tahitian Inn

The dreamy northwest Gulf coast around Pensacola and Panama City is home to splendid beaches and resort life. Serenity by the Sea, the spa at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, does body treatments to the music of waterfalls and offers customized sports pedicures and pregnancy massages. FL

The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

tahitianinn.com the-ritz-carlton.grandelakes.com

The Seagate Hotel & Spa theseagatehotel.com

The Spa at The Breakers thebreakers.com/the_spa_at_the_breakers

The Spa at the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort hiltonmarcoisland.com/thespa.aspx

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino seminolehardrockhollywood.com

FROM THE TOP: MARRIOTT MARCO ISLAND RESORT & SPA; OMNI AMELIA ISLAND PLANTATION

NORTHEAST


SPORTS

PLENTY OF ACTION FOR ALL

BY JEFF OSTROWSKI

Follow your favorite team during spring training season in Florida.

F

rom laid-back spring training games to frenzied football action, Florida offers sports fans a bit of everything. There’s auto racing, tennis, golf—even hockey. And if you’re more interested in participating, Florida offers plenty of action on water and land.

START YOUR ENGINES In Florida’s auto-racing world, no event looms larger than the Daytona 500. NASCAR’s biggest race is scheduled for February 23, 2014, at Daytona International Speedway, which is home to other events throughout the year. For fans who prefer to know what it feels like to ride shotgun or to sit behind the wheel, the Richard Petty Driving Experience lets you ride in and even drive a stock car on the famous 2.5-mile oval. The Homestead-Miami Speedway also hosts a NASCAR race and other events. Like Daytona, this track also gives fans a chance to drive. Its Mario Andretti Racing Experience sells training sessions that include either a ride-

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along or solo drives for five or eight racing minutes in an open cockpit, full-size Indy car.

PLAY BALL! Baseball is a big deal in Florida, where the Major League Baseball season starts early. Every March, Florida’s Grapefruit League is home to spring training for 15 clubs, including the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays. The state’s spring-training stadiums have undergone a major upgrade over the years. Fans no longer sit on metal bleachers. Instead, the ballparks have turned into smaller versions of Major League stadiums, complete with luxury suites. Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter (spring-training home to the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals) was designed by the same architecture firm that drew up the well-regarded Camden Yards in Baltimore. For years, Florida’s big-league baseball ended in April, when the players headed north.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; KEN MCCRAY/VISIT JACKSONVILLE; ACTION SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY/SHUTTERSTOCK; PALM BEACH COUNTY CVB

EverBank Field, home of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars


Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach

But now Florida is home to two big-league teams, the Miami Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Marlins, who won the World Series in 1997 and 2003, play in a striking new stadium in Miami. Because Marlins Park has a retractable roof, rainouts no longer pose a problem. Among the new park’s quirky features are an outfield sculpture that twirls when a Marlin hits a home run and a bobblehead museum. Join the party at the Clevelander at Marlins Park where up to 250 fans can enjoy field-level seats, accessibility for the disabled, table service located beside the visiting team bullpen and a menu of classic food selections. The Rays, who reached the World Series in 2008, play in Tropicana Field, an indoor stadium in St. Petersburg. Polo in Wellington

COURTSIDE FANATICS Florida has emerged as a basketball powerhouse, too, thanks to LeBron James’ high-profile decision to join the Miami Heat in 2010. The Heat reached the NBA Finals in 2011 but lost, then won the NBA championship in 2012 and 2013. The state’s other NBA team, the Orlando Magic, has reached the NBA finals twice. College hoops are big news, too. The Florida Gators have won two NCAA championships and Florida State and the University of Miami field strong teams.

FOOTBALL FEVER Florida fans are passionate about all their sports, but football has the strongest hold. The state is home to three NFL teams—the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Florida fans love their pro teams, however they’re even more excited about their college teams. Florida, Florida State and Miami all have produced NCAA championships and Heisman Trophy winners. The football teams at the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida have stepped up their games in recent years.

HOCKEY BUZZ Hockey doesn’t generate the same passion among Florida fans as other sports, but the Sunshine State boasts two NHL teams nonetheless. The Florida Panthers play in Sunrise, near Fort Lauderdale, and the Tampa

Bay Lightning skate in Tampa. Both teams have enjoyed occasional success. The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, and the Panthers reached the NHL finals in 1996.

GRAND SLAMS While hockey isn’t exactly synonymous with Florida, tennis is. The Sony Open in Key Biscayne offers spectators the chance to see some of the sport’s biggest stars. In 2013, Andy Murray won the men’s tournament while Serena Williams captured the women’s trophy. The 2014 event is scheduled for March 17–30. The annual Delray Beach International Tennis Championship also draws a big crowd.

EQUESTRIAN EVENTS Florida is home to a dozen high-profile teams and a number of big-time events, however there are plenty of highlights that’ll never make SportsCenter. For horsepower on four legs rather than four wheels, check out the Palm Beach International Equestrian Club, a mecca for the horsey set in Wellington, west of Palm Beach. The 120-acre club hosts the Winter Equestrian Festival, the nation’s largest and richest grand prix jumping event. Olympic equestrian athletes from around the world compete. Wellington also is home to International Polo Club Palm Beach, which attracts players from around the world.

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SPORTS Kayak through mangrove trails in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area.

If you’d rather participate than watch, Florida offers no shortage of opportunities. Florida is most famous for its water sports, and fishing tops the list. Anglers can find plenty to like in Florida, a state that counts more than 2,000 miles of tidal shoreline, 7,000-plus lakes and more than 10,000 miles of rivers. The state is responsible for some 700 world-record catches, according to the Florida Sports Foundation. Saltwater anglers can cast from the beach or from one of the state’s dozens of piers, and they can reach deeper waters by boat. In the Atlantic, there are blue marlin, grouper, amberjack, wahoo, dolphin, snook, redfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel, among other species. Gulf catches can include sea trout, grouper, pompano, shark, mackerel, snapper, snook and tarpon. For freshwater anglers, the primary prize is the largemouth bass. March and April, when the bass swim into shallow water for spawning, are prime time for catching bass. The largemouth bass is the most common type of bass in the lakes of Central Florida and South The artificial reef Spiegel Grove in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Key Largo

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Florida. In North Florida, anglers can catch the smaller Suwannee bass in the Suwannee River, the Ochlockonee River and the Santa Fe River. Even if you don’t land a record fish, you can witness the feats of anglers who have. At the International Game Fishing Association Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach, nearly 200 specimens that broke world records are on display, including a 2,664-pound great white shark. The museum includes interactive and educational displays, an outdoor wetland and a library filled with books and videos about fishing.

LEAVE ONLY BUBBLES If you’d like to get up close to Florida’s marine life, the state’s warm, clear waters are ideal for snorkeling and diving. Among the easily accessible snorkeling destinations are John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo and John MacArthur State Park in Palm Beach Gardens. The state’s reefs and shipwrecks are a paradise for divers. The waters off the Keys are home to numerous shipwrecks that have turned into reefs, such as the Spiegel Grove, a

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; ANDY NEWMAN/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/HO

GONE FISHING


FEATURED LINKS Alafia River State Park floridastateparks.org/alafiariver

Daytona International Speedway daytonainternationalspeedway.com

Florida Gators gatorzone.com

Florida Grapefruit League floridagrapefruitleague.com

Florida Panthers panthers.nhl.com

Florida Sports Foundation flasports.com

Florida Trail Association floridatrail.org

Footprints in the Sand Eco Trail visitpensacolabeach.com/eco-trail

Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon & Half Marathon a1amarathon.com

Gasparilla Distance Classic tampabayrun.com

Gate River Run gate-riverrun.com Runners in the Annual Seven Mile Bridge Run near Marathon in the Florida Keys

Homestead-Miami Speedway homesteadmiamispeedway.com

International Game Fish Association

510-foot Navy ship, which was sunk near Miami in 2002 after it was retired. The vessel sits in 130 feet of water. Now covered with sponges and corals, it attracts schools of tropical fish. Experienced divers can enter the old vessel, however dive operators steer beginners away from swimming inside the Spiegel Grove.

CHALLENGING RACES Florida offers some of the best ocean swimming you’ll find anywhere, so be sure to pack your goggles. If you’re interested in more than just a casual swim, consider one of Florida’s open-water swim races. Swim Miami hosts races ranging from one mile to 10 kilometers in April, and the Tampa Bay Open Water Swim stages one-mile and half-mile swims in May. Truly hard-core endurance athletes can sign up for the 12.5-mile Swim Around Key West, held each June. In 2013, the winner completed the course in just over four hours. For athletes who like to bike and run after they swim, Florida offers a busy schedule of triathlons. The Miami and Tampa regions host a number of tris, and Clermont, just west of Orlando, has emerged as a hub for athletes who want to go faster. Clermont’s National Training Center includes a 76-yard pool and physiology lab. Runners looking for warm weather and flat courses are attracted to Florida’s winter races. Among the big events in 2014 are the Walt Disney World Half Marathon (January 11) and Marathon (January 12), the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon (scheduled for February 2),

the Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon & Half Marathon (February 16), Tampa’s Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K (February 22) and Jacksonville’s Gate River Run 15K (March 8).

igfa.org

International Polo Club Palm Beach internationalpoloclub.com

Jacksonville Jaguars jaguars.com

John D. MacArthur State Park

HIT THE TRAILS If you prefer trails to pavement, Florida offers hiking and mountain biking—however you might have to search for trails that are firm amid Florida’s sandy soil. Oleta River State Park in North Miami Beach—home to a series of trail races and offroad triathlons—is an oasis of calm in the midst of the bustling city. You can canoe and kayak in a natural preserve and watch dolphins and manatees. If you want to break a sweat, try hiking, mountain biking or trail running on the park’s twisting single-track trails. Alafia River State Park, east of Tampa, is another hot spot for hiking, mountain biking and trail running. This park south of Brandon includes 37 miles of trails on gently rolling terrain. Pensacola Beach in Northwest Florida is establishing itself as a premier eco destination with the completion of the Footprints in the Sand Eco Trail in 2013. Along the way, hikers learn the secrets of Pensacola Beach’s white sand, discover the dangerous journeys of sea turtles, identify mysterious seashells and much more. Serious hikers love the Florida Trail, a 1,400mile network of hiking paths through the middle of the state. Marked with a distinctive bright-orange blaze, the Florida Trail offers plenty of opportunity to spot alligators and birds. FL

macarthurbeach.org

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park pennekamppark.com

Mario Andretti Racing Experience andrettiracing.com

Miami Dolphins miamidolphins.com

Miami Heat nba.com/heat

Miami Marathon and Half Marathon ingmiamimarathon.com

Miami Marlins miami.marlins.mlb.com

National Training Center usantc.com

Oleta River State Park floridastateparks.org/oletariver

Orlando Magic nba.com/magic

Palm Beach International Equestrian Club equestriansport.com

Richard Petty Driving Experience drivepetty.com

Roger Dean Stadium rogerdeanstadium.com

Sony Open Tennis www.sonyopentennis.com

Spiegel Grove spiegelgrove.com

Swim Around Key West swimaroundkeywest.com

Tampa Bay Buccaneers buccaneers.com

Tampa Bay Lightning lightning.nhl.com

Tampa Bay Open Water Swim swimacrossamerica.org/TampaBay

Tampa Bay Rays tampabay.rays.mlb.com

Walt Disney World Half Marathon and Marathon rundisney.com/Disneyworld-marathon

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ECOTOURISM

BY SANDRA FRIEND

GO WILD

Kayaking off the coast of Sarasota in Southwest Florida

W

ild places define Florida, however it’s the scenery and the wildlife that make a visit to the Sunshine State truly unique. Nowhere else in the United States are there mangrove-lined shores and American crocodiles, hundreds of shimmering freshwater springs and lush tropical forests. With thousands of miles of trails on land and on water, Florida is a top-notch destination for nature lovers. Home to more than 160 state parks and the birthplace of the National Wildlife Refuge System, it is also a haven for wildlife rescue and animal rehabilitation. Explore on your own or hire a guide—but go, learn and enjoy.

SOUTHEAST The Everglades, the watery heart of South Florida, covers more than 734 square miles of sawgrass prairies, mangrove swamps and trop-

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ical hammocks. You won’t find anything like it on Earth. Experience the heart of this wilderness via its many trails, roads and guided tours offered in Everglades National Park, including the popular Shark Valley Tram Tours. Paddle through the water supply for West Palm Beach on a guided trip at Grassy Waters Preserve, which encompasses 23 square miles of Everglades habitat, or slosh through its summer sogginess at Apoxee Park, a designated urban wilderness where you’ll get your feet wet between islands of tropical trees on the self-guided Apoxee Wilderness Trail. The Loxahatchee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association offers free guided walks at Apoxee. In the Keys, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects offshore coral reefs and backcountry islands. Its Blue Star program helps you select ecotour and dive operators who take proper precautions to

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: WWW.SARASOTAFL.ORG; KENT PHILLIPS; CHARLOTTE HARBOR & THE GULF ISLANDS VISITOR'S BUREAU

The Wild Africa Trek adventure at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Buena Vista


FEATURED LINKS Aardvark’s Florida Kayak Co., Inc. floridakayakcompany.com

Acme Bicycle Shops acmebicycleshop.com

Amelia River Cruises ameliarivercruises.com

Apoxee Park wpb.org/park/apoxee-park

Apoxee Wilderness Trail floridahikes.com/apoxee-wilderness-trail

Barr Hammock Preserve floridahikes.com/barr-hammock-preserve

Bicycle Loaner Program teampuntagorda.org/bicycleloaner.html

Big Cypress National Preserve nps.gov/bicy

Big “O” Birding Festival bigobirdingfestival.com

Blue Spring State Park floridastateparks.org/bluespring

Blue Star Dive Operators sanctuaries.noaa.gov/bluestar

Bok Tower Gardens boktowergardens.org

Central Florida Nature Adventures kayakcentralflorida.com

Conservancy of Southwest Florida conservancy.org

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/ animal-kingdom Biking along natural trails in Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands

protect sensitive habitats. Based on Key Largo, the Coral Restoration Foundation offers volunteer opportunities for divers to help re-establish coral colonies. In Key West, the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center provides an understanding of the habitats above and below the waters. Birding is big along Lake Okeechobee, where the Big “O” Birding Festival, an annual showcase of birding locales in Glades and Hendry counties, is held each March. Yearround, Hendry County Audubon and the South Florida Water Management District provide birding tours to STA5, part of the Great Florida Birding Trail.

SOUTHWEST Lush cypress strands decorated with orchids and bromeliads await visitors bold enough to explore the western Everglades known as the

Big Cypress Swamp. Blanketing more than a million acres, this watery wilderness is America’s own Amazon, accessed through public lands such as Big Cypress National Preserve and Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, where swamp walks enable visitors to experience the wild with a guide. For a gentle peek into a cypress strand not far from Interstate 75, take a wander through Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers. Kids will love “indoor field trips” at the new Dalton Discovery Center, the central feature of the revamped Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center. Guided group ecotours, electric boat rides on the Gordon River, kayak rentals, and boardwalks meandering through the 21-acre preserve provide a look at Naples as it once was. Learn to row a dragon boat or stand-up paddleboard at the new Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, a venue where

East Central Regional Rail Trail volusia.org/trails

Everglades National Park nps.gov/ever

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand

Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center floridakeys.noaa.gov/eco_discovery.html

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary floridakeys.noaa.gov

Florida Oceanographic Society floridaocean.org

Florida Trail Association floridatrail.org

Florida Trail Association, Loxahatchee Chapter lox.floridatrail.org

Fort De Soto Park pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm

Gainesville “Old Florida” Birding and Nature Festival gainesvillebirdingandnaturefestival.com

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ECOTOURISM Ecotourism in Tampa Bay

Olympic athletes train and visitors can hone their human-powered watersports skills. Bicycles are big around Charlotte County, with the free Yellow Bike Loaner Program offering visitors a new way to explore Punta Gorda. Guided rides by Phoenix Rising Kayaks get you out into Amberjack Environmental Park and Oyster Creek Regional Park, while Acme Bicycle Shop offers cycling tours into the 65,000-acre Fred. C. Babcock-Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area.

Segway tour on Amelia Island

Get to know Florida’s marine communities better at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, a 57-acre facility in Stuart with touch tanks and boardwalks through the mangrove forest; it offers guided after-dark turtle nesting walks on Hutchinson Island. There are more than 225 acres to explore at Oxbow EcoCenter, where programs for children and adults alike showcase the spectrum of nature found in Port St. Lucie. Connect West Volusia’s springs on the Spring-to-Spring Trail, a cyclist/walking path with segments around Blue Spring State Park and Gemini Springs Park. Tiny Green Springs Park in Enterprise serves as a trailhead for the first section of the East Central Regional Rail Trail, which will eventually connect to Edgewater and Titusville along the Indian River Lagoon. With more than 200 acres of natural habitats conserved in New Smyrna Beach, Indian River Lagoon Preserve Park is the region’s newest park, which offers birding, fishing and a kayak launch on the waterway.

CENTRAL Early birds catch the early birds with a photographer’s pass at Gatorland in Orlando. Slip in before the crowds to capture top-notch images of the many nesting birds above the alligator ponds. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Wild Africa Trek harnesses you into a hike above hippos before boarding a bouncing safari ride that takes you past exotic animals in the African savanna. Paddle Lake County’s Blueways with Central Florida Nature Adventures or swirl down a natural lazy river that flows out of a cave at Kelly Park near Apopka. Paved with pebble rock from phosphate mines, the newly

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CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: ECOMOTION TOURS; ROBERT LA FOLLETTE/WWW.ROBERTLAFOLLETTE.COM; VISIT TALLAHASSEE

CENTRAL EAST


opened Preserve Trail at Bok Tower Gardens showcases a restoration area above Lake Wales.

CENTRAL WEST Visitors have more places to play at WernerBoyce Salt Springs State Park thanks to the recent addition of the Main Gate trailhead, providing more hiking and a kayak launch into its vast coastal marshes. The Nature Coast is known for its mazy marshes, so hiring a guide is recommended. Aardvark’s Florida Kayak Co. offers unique tours of the 23,000-acre St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve, as well as more standard manatee tours, a mainstay of the Crystal River-Homosassa area. Celebrating its 50th year, Fort De Soto State Park attracts millions annually to its beaches along Tampa Bay; its trails lead you into mangrove forests where manatees cruise the shallows. For a memorable adventure north of Tampa, go on safari at Giraffe Ranch, a 47-acre working game farm and wildlife preserve.

Or take a guided trip through the estuaries between St. Augustine and Flagler Beach with Ripple Effect Ecotours and its quiet new vegetable oil-powered boats.

FEATURED LINKS Gatorland gatorland.com

NORTH CENTRAL Gainesville has always been a mecca for birders, with Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park a perfect place to spot sandhill cranes and whooping cranes. Now, newly opened Barr Hammock Preserve offers the vast Levy Prairie for visitors to scout, and plans are in place for the Gainesville “Old Florida” Birding and Nature Festival to launch in April. For an off-the-beaten-path paddling trip, head to Wacissa Springs, an unspoiled waterway east of Tallahassee, where Wacissa River Canoe Rentals will float your boat. Keep Paddle Florida in your bookmarks. This non-profit sponsors statewide flotillas of canoes and kayaks on supported trips along Florida’s rivers at varying times of year.

Gemini Springs Park floridahikes.com/gemini-springs-park

Giraffe Ranch girafferanch.com

Grassy Waters Preserve wpb.org/grassywaters

Great Florida Birding Trail floridabirdingtrail.com

Green Spring Park floridahikes.com/green-spring-park

Hendry-Glades Audubon Society hendrygladesaudubon.org

Hinson Conservation and Recreation Area floridahikes.com/hinson-trail

Indian River Lagoon Preserve Park cityofnsb.com

Jax Water Tours jaxwatertours.com

Kelly Park

NORTHEAST

NORTHWEST

Learn where your seafood comes from! Departing from Fernandina Beach, Amelia River Cruises puts all hands on deck to work on their eco-shrimping tours, a perfect match for a city known for its shrimping heritage. Discover just how close the coastal wetlands are to the gleaming skyscrapers of downtown Jacksonville on a dolphin-watching cruise with Captain Brooks Mitchell of Jacksonville Water Tours.

Leading hikers up rugged bluffs covered in trillium and paddlers past big caves along the Chipola River, the Hinson Conservation and Recreation Area in Marianna is one of America’s newest designated National Recreation Trails. Howl with the wolves during an overnight campout at Seacrest Wolf Preserve, the largest wolf preserve in the southeastern US; tours are offered to the public on Saturdays. FL

floridahikes.com/kellypark

Lake County Blueways paddlelake.com

Nathan Benderson Park worldclassrowing.com

Oxbow Eco-Center stlucieco.gov/erd/oxbow

Paddle Florida paddleflorida.org

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/paynesprairie

Phoenix Rising Kayak Tours prkayak.com

Ripple Effect Ecotours rippleeffectecotours.com

Seacrest Wolf Preserve seacrestwolfpreserve.org

Silver Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/silversprings

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve leeparks.org/sixmile

Spring-to-Spring Trail volusia.org/trails

Valley Tram Tours sharkvalleytramtours.com

Wacissa River Canoe & Kayak Rentals wacissarivercanoerentals.com

Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/wernerboyce

Wild Africa Trek wildafricatrek.com Manatees at Wakulla Springs in Northeast Florida 2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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GAMBLING

BY RICHARD WESTLUND

PLACE YOUR BETS

Poker players at the Seminole Casino Coconut

G

ambling is a favorite vacation activity for many Florida visitors. No matter where you travel, you won’t be far from a casino, racetrack or jai-alai fronton. You can even take a gambling cruise and enjoy casino excitement at sea. Among the options: • Casinos, with exciting Las Vegas-style games such as roulette, blackjack and baccarat; • Poker rooms, where you can play cards to your heart’s content; • Slot machines, available in some of the state’s parimutuel facilities; • Thoroughbred and harness racing, including many high-profile events; • Greyhound racing, a longtime Florida favourite; • Jai-alai, where individuals or two-man teams compete in the world’s fastest sport. Today, many Florida gambling venues offer a combination of such gaming activities. You could watch the dogs at a nearby track while placing a bet on a simulcast thoroughbred race in Maryland and dropping a few quarters into a slot machine. Many larger facilities also have retail shops and restaurants, with live

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music, concerts and other special events. Here’s a closer look at some of the state’s leading gambling venues.

SOUTHEAST Southeast Florida has the widest collection of gaming venues with everything from largescale casinos with table games, poker and slot machines, to horse racing, dog tracks and offshore gambling cruises. Magic City Casino in Miami features Las Vegas-style games, including roulette wheels, craps tables and 800 slot machines. There’s also a poker room, live greyhound racing and simulcast wagering. Casino Miami Jai-Alai offers 1,000 slots, a poker room, dominoes and live entertainment, as well a live jai-alai. To the west off US 41 (Tamiami Trail), the Miccosukee Casino offers 24-hour gambling, including 1,900 gaming machines, 32 poker tables and high-stakes bingo. Resorts World Bimini recently launched Bimini SuperFast, a cruise ship sailing twice daily between Miami and Bimini. Once in international

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: SEMINOLE CASINO COCONUT CREEK; GAYVORONSKAYA YANA/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM; RESORTS WORLD BIMINI; SEMINOLE CASINO COCONUT CREEK

A poker hand


Bimini SuperFast cruise ship

waters, passengers can play roulette, craps, baccarat, blackjack, slots and make sports bets at the onboard casinos, continuing at the Resorts World Bimini Casino. Calder Casino & Race Course in Miami Gardens is active with 1,200 slot machines, thoroughbred horse racing and year-round simulcast action, as well as plenty of dining options, all on one smoke-free floor. Hialeah Park recently opened a new casino and offers live horse racing from November to February. Frequented by celebrities, musicians and fans from around the world, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood is one of the region’s most popular attractions. There are 2,500 Vegas-style slots, 100 tables for blackjack, baccarat and other games, poker action and more on a nearly three-acre casino floor. It’s also home to a Hard Rock Hotel, 17 dining options, shopping, nightclubs and live entertainment at the 5,500-seat Hard Rock Live arena. Nearby, the Seminole Hollywood Casino boasts more than 1,000 slot machines, 10 poker tables, and high stakes and “lightning” bingo action. To the north, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek recently completed a $150-million expansion and features more than 2,400 Vegas-style and bingo-style slot machines, along with 65 live tables including blackjack and baccarat. To the west, Seminole Casino Big Cypress offers a “no frills” casino experience at Billie Swamp Safari off I-75 (Alligator Alley). Considered one of the most important venues for horse racing in America since 1939, Gulfstream Racing and Casino Park in Hallandale Beach features the world’s top thoroughbred contenders. In addition to its traditional January through April season, Gulfstream recently added summer thoroughbred racing. Gulfstream also features 850 slots, electronic table games and high-stakes poker. Dania Jai-Alai in Dania Beach features a poker room, simulcast wagering and live jai-alai action, and plans to add 500 slots this winter, increasing to 1,400 slots in about two years. Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach opened its doors in 1934 as the Hollywood Kennel Club. Today, this landmark property offers 1,100 slot machines, the Big Easy Poker Room, and simulcast greyhound, harness and

Eat like a king at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek

thoroughbred races. Mardi Gras Casino is home to four stakes races—the Hollywood Futurity, Hollywood World Classic, Joe Ryan Jr. Memorial, and the Hollywoodian. The Isle Casino Racing in Pompano Beach features 1,500 slots, 38 live-action poker tables, six restaurants, live harness racing and entertainment seven days a week—all in a smoke-free environment. The Isle recently introduced new gaming technology where you can play games such as roulette, craps and Sicbo with a real wheel and real dice, but no dealer. The Isle also offers simulcast wagering and hosts four major poker tournaments throughout the year. In West Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Kennel Club features greyhound racing, simulcast action, a 60-table poker room, many special events, fine and casual dining and more.

An exciting new option is the Island Breeze Casino Palm Beach, a 500-passenger gaming ship sailing daily from the Port of Palm Beach. This offshore gaming venue features traditional casino games, poker tables, and slots, as well as dining and live entertainment.

SOUTHWEST A long-time regional landmark, Naples Fort Myers Greyhound Racing & Poker in Bonita Springs operates year-round with greyhound racing, simulcast dog and horse racing and a casino-style poker room. To the north, Sarasota Kennel Club in Sarasota offers a similar combination of gaming attractions. In western Collier County, the recently renovated Seminole Casino Immokalee, open 24/7, features blackjack, slots and live-action poker.

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GAMBLING Friends winning a lot of money at a casino

FEATURED LINKS bestbet bestbetjax.com

Calder Casino & Race Course calderracecourse.com

Casino Miami Jai-Alai casinomiamijaialai.com

Dania Jai-Alai dania-jai-alai.com

Daytona Beach Kennel Club & Poker Room daytonagreyhound.com

Ebro Greyhound Park & Poker Room goebro.com

Fort Pierce Jai-Alai & Poker jaialai.net

Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino gulfstreampark.com

Hialeah Park Casino hialeahparkcasino.com/casino

Island Breeze Casino Palm Beach

Since 1948, Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker has been a mainstay in the area’s entertainment landscape. Located near Daytona International Speedway, the club offers live greyhound racing, as well as simulcast greyhound, thoroughbred, harness and jai-alai wagering with a large poker room. To the south, Melbourne Greyhound Park and Club 52 hosts Las Vegas-style poker action, live greyhound racing and simulcast wagering. Fort Pierce Jai-Alai & Poker has live and simulcast gaming action along with poker tables and tournaments. Sailing twice daily from Port Canaveral, Victory Casino Cruises offers offshore gambling activity including slots, poker, sports betting and more than 30 table games.

the Asian gaming room Jubao Palace, which features mini-baccarat, pai gow poker, pai gow tiles, Asia poker and blackjack with an adjoining noodle bar. Welcoming visitors since 1926, Tampa Bay Downs is the only thoroughbred racetrack on the Gulf coast. It offers live and simulcastracing action, poker games and even has a practice golf facility where guests can “tee off ” while watching the races. Tampa Greyhound Track and Lucky’s Card Room has live greyhound racing, simulcast wagering and a large poker room.

NORTHEAST With three locations in Jacksonville, Orange Park and St. Johns, bestbet makes it convenient for visitors to enjoy poker, greyhound racing and simulcast wagering.

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www.jckcgreyhounds.com

Magic City Casino magiccitycasino.com

Mardi Gras Casino playmardigras.com

Melbourne Greyhound Park and Club 52 mgpark.com

Miccosukee Casino miccosukee.com/gaming

Naples Fort Myers Greyhound Racing & Poker naplesfortmyersdogs.com

Ocala Poker & Jai-Alai ocalapoker.com orlandojaialai.com

Palm Beach Kennel Club pbkennelclub.com

Resorts World Bimini SuperFast Cruise Ship rwbimini.com/superfast-cruise-ship

Sarasota Kennel Club sarasotakennelclub.com

Seminole Casino Big Cypress

NORTH CENTRAL Jefferson County Kennel Club in Monticello is one of the state’s longest-running dog tracks. Just minutes from the Georgia state line, the club operates year-round with live greyhound racing and a variety of simulcast events, as well as fine dining in the renowned Turf Club.

seminolebigcypresscasino.com

Seminole Casino Brighton seminolebrightoncasino.com

Seminole Casino Classic Hollywood seminoleclassiccasino.com

Seminole Casino Coconut Creek seminolecoconutcreekcasino.com

Seminole Casino Immokalee seminoleimmokaleecasino.com

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood

CENTRAL WEST Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa is one of the world’s largest casinos with more than 5,000 slot machines and 90 table games, which include blackjack, baccarat and poker for non-stop gaming action. It’s also home to Florida’s largest and smoke-free poker room, with 50 live-action tables. A recent addition is

pompano-park.isleofcapricasinos.com

Jefferson County Kennel Club

Orlando Jai-alai

CENTRAL Ocala Poker and Jai-Alai in Reddick (midway between Ocala and Gainesville) is a nonsmoking facility, which hosts poker tournaments and live games, as well as simulcast wagering. Orlando Jai-Alai in Fern Park has live jai-alai action and simulcast wagering.

islandbreezeinternational.com

Isle Casino & Racing Pompano Park

NORTHWEST Since 1955, Ebro Greyhound Park and Poker Room has brought exciting racing action to Northwest Florida. Located northwest of Panama City Beach, Ebro has live racing, a popular poker room and simulcast wagering, along with trackside dining. FL

seminolehardrockhollywood.com

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa seminolehardrocktampa.com

Tampa Bay Downs tampabaydowns.com

Tampa Greyhound Track and Lucky’s Card Room luckyscards.com

Victory Casino Cruises victorycasinocruises.com

PHOTO: GWILLIAM PERUGINI/SHUTTERSTOCK

CENTRAL EAST


SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

A RECIPE FOR BY JEFF OSTROWSKI

Excitement

Sidewalk bistros in the Art Deco District of Miami

WHAT’S NEW The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium in West Palm Beach unveiled a $5-million renovation in 2013. Upgrades include an 8,000-gallon aquarium and expanded exhibition space. A couple of the region’s beaches have been upgraded, too. In Sunny Isles Beach, just north of Miami Beach, the Newport Fishing Pier was rebuilt in 2013. Farther north, Lake Worth’s rebuilt pier and refurbished beachfront were also completed in 2013. Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins play in a striking indoor-outdoor stadium, Marlins Park,

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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: GREATER MIAMI CVB; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES

W

hether you’re seeking bustling cities or peaceful beaches, Southeast Florida has something for everyone. Shopping is top-notch, restaurants are world-class and the cultural amenities are high quality. From the quaint streets of Key West and the nightclubs of South Beach to the restaurants and shops of downtown Fort Lauderdale and the mansions of Palm Beach, Southeast Florida offers a stunning variety of experiences.


which has won rave reviews since it opened in April 2012. The new baseball-only venue is airconditioned (no more sweating) and has a retractable roof (no more rainouts), as well as The Clevelander, an exciting nightspot where you can watch the game from the poolside bars and take a dip. Barbie fans have a new must-see destination: Barbie The Dreamhouse Experience at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise. This 10,000-squarefoot facility aims to bring the doll to life. A more somber venue awaits visitors at the Florida Holocaust Museum, scheduled to open in Dania Beach by spring 2014.

HERITAGE AND CULTURE Visual arts are an integral part of the scene here. To see the most post-modern artwork, hit the galleries and warehouses in Miami’s Design District and Wynwood Arts District. If you’d rather look than buy, head to the Miami Art Museum, the Bass Museum in Miami Beach, the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach or the Boca Raton Museum of Art. In Fort Lauderdale, the Museum of Art hosts traveling exhibits and features a noteworthy collection of works from Europe’s CoBrA movement while the Museum of Discovery and Science promises a fascinating day of exploration on two floors of interactive exhibits. The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach owns paintings by some noteworthy Impressionists and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County showcases exhibitions by local artists at its gallery at 601 Lake Avenue. Also in West Palm Beach, the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Miami City Ballet, the Palm Beach Opera and the Palm Beach Pops and presents more than 350 performances featuring acclaimed artists every year. The award-winning Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square successfully combines historic preservation and the arts. The campus includes the Cornell Museum of Art and American Culture, the Crest Theatre, the Vintage Gymnasium, The Pavilion and the School of Creative Arts. In Homestead, Schnebly Redlands Winery & Brewery makes wines from exotic fruits. Nearby, Miami Tropical Bonsai boasts a collection of 10,000 miniature bonsai trees, and R.F.

Orchids ships a wide selection of orchids nearly anywhere in the world. If you find yourself in Key West, drop in to view exhibits at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum and learn about pirates and the Fisher family’s unwavering quest for lost sunken treasures.

Cultural Council of Palm Beach County

MUST SEE, MUST DO

Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention

NEED MORE INFO? palmbeachculture.com

Downtown Development Authority of Delray Beach downtowndelraybeach.com

South Beach is perhaps Southeast Florida’s most iconic destination. The art deco architecture, wide beach and vibrant nightlife draw pleasure seekers from everywhere. Take a walking tour of the historic district, people-watch from the News Café on Ocean Drive or hit the clubs. Across Biscayne Bay lies Miami, an international city that can feel like it’s more part of Latin America than the United States. To get a taste of the Cuban culture that helped transform Miami, head to Calle Ocho to enjoy a café con leche or vaca frita at landmark restaurants Versailles and La Carreta. A few hours south is Key West, which boasts fishing, snorkeling and diving, not to mention the bars of Duval Street and the home of writer Ernest Hemingway. Visitors can tour the rooms where the author wrote and drank. Also on display are dozens of cats, descendants of Hemingway’s six-toed white feline, Snowball. While here, be sure to visit Truman’s Little White House where US presidents have stayed on visits to Key West. Extra points for anyone who’s ambitious enough to ascend all three of Southeast Florida’s lighthouses. They are the Key West Lighthouse near the Hemingway Home, Cape Florida Light on Key Biscayne near Miami and Jupiter Lighthouse at the northern end of the region.

& Visitors Bureau sunny.org

Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau miamiandbeaches.com

Hollywood Office of Tourism gohollywoodfla.com

Palm Beach County Convention & Visitors Bureau palmbeachfl.com

Sunny Isles Beach Tourism and Marketing Council sunnyislesbeachmiami.com

The Monroe County Tourist Development Council fla-keys.com

TOWN AND COUNTRY Southeast Florida has more than its fair share of suburban sprawl, however the region offers spots for city lovers, as well as for those who want to get away from it all. Downtown Miami and the Brickell neighborhood just to the south are bustling urban areas. In Brickell, the Conrad Miami places you in the heart of Miami’s financial district and within easy walking distance of the area’s trendy dining and nightlife venues. Another happening neighborhood is the Coconut Grove district, where the Mayfair Hotel & Spa offers accommodation, amenities and dining facilities that are second to none. The region’s most

An aerial view of Mallory Square in Key West 2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA Aventura Mall in North Miami

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE In the Florida Keys, dining venues run the gamut from waterfront seafood shacks filled with barefoot patrons to sophisticated fine-dining establishments that rival New York’s finest. Nothing says Florida like Joe’s Stone Crab, a Miami Beach eatery that’s famous for its succulent crustaceans. However, Southeast Florida’s dining options encompass much more than just seafood. Whether you crave fare from Asia, Brazil, Europe or Cuba, there’s an abundance of choices. Should you want to cover Little Havana or South Beach eateries, check out Miami Culinary Tours or Miami Open City Tour. For the best selection in eating and nightlife options, head to one of Southeast Florida’s many vibrant town centers. For instance, Hollywood’s Broadwalk stretches more than two miles, with the beach on one side and cafés, restaurants and boutique hotels on the other.

INSIDER’S TIPS Water Taxi Miami hop-on, hop-off service connects Miami and Downtown Miami and the new Marlins Stadium with Miami Beach/South Beach, Key Biscayne, Coconut Grove, Fisher Island and Indian Creek. Water taxis are also an excellent way to take in the sights along Fort Lauderdale’s waterways and provide access to both Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale beaches, world-class shopping and dining and the many cultural and historical sites in both cities—all for one low price. A convenient trolley system also runs from beachside to downtown.

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Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale is another hot spot for dining and parties as is Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach’s main drag. If your budget is as expansive as the blue Florida sky, the high-end restaurants in Palm Beach are reliably excellent. Gamblers take delight in the number of venues available to them in Southeast Florida. Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino now features year-round thoroughbred racing as well as shops, dining establishments and a casino. Other popular options include the Seminole Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale, the Isle Casino & Racing in Pompano Park and the Calder Casino and Race Course in Miami Gardens. Two casino boats have also begun operation. Every day and evening, Bimini SuperFast cruises depart from the Port of Miami while the new Island Breeze day-casino cruises depart from the Port of Palm Beach.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Southeast Florida is famous for its water sports. The warm, clear waters of the Atlantic offer some of the best ocean swimming, fishing, diving and snorkeling anywhere. Among the most accessible snorkeling destinations are John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo and John MacArthur State Park in Palm Beach Gardens. Oleta River State Park in North Miami Beach is an oasis of calm in the midst of the bustling city where you can canoe and kayak in a natural preserve and watch dolphins and manatees. Try hiking, mountain biking or trail running on the park’s twisting single-track trails. If you prefer leisurely strolls, visit one of the region’s many piers: Newport Fishing Pier in Sunny Isles Beach, Dania Beach Pier, Commercial Pier in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach Pier, Deerfield Beach Pier, Lake Worth Pier and Juno Beach Pier.

BEST PLACES TO SHOP Dadeland Mall, Miami’s original and most iconic shopping center, features more than 185 retail stores and restaurants while the Falls Mall, one of the largest open-air shopping, dining and entertainment centers in the US, showcases more than 100 stores, restaurants and cafés. Bal Harbour Shops, in a ritzy enclave north of Miami, is one of the region’s trendy shopping areas, which counts Chanel, Hermes, Gucci, Thomas Pink and Jimmy Choo among its tenants. About seven miles away on Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami, Aventura Mall is home to six department store anchors, including Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, more than 300 specialty stores such as Louis Vuitton and H&M, 10 full-service restaurants, and a 24-screen AMC movie theater. Available to domestic and international travelers, Aventura Mall Rewards provides access to fabulous savings and special offers at many of the mall’s premier stores. Cardholders also receive a free gift card with eligible purchases of $500 or more as well as special benefits with purchases from select retailers. Obtain a rewards card through your travel agent before leaving home or simply show a passport or driver’s license at the MasterCard Concierge Center at Aventura Mall. Sawgrass Mills, a huge outlet mall in Sunrise, is said to be the No. 2 tourist attraction in Florida, after only Walt Disney World. There’s no shortage of luxe retailers such as Burberry, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Nordstrom, Nieman Marcus and Saks. The success of Sawgrass Mills inspired a competitor, Dolphin Mall, to open west of Miami. Dolphin Mall boasts restaurants and some 240 stores. Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale is anchored by Dillard’s, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus and

PHOTO: COURTESY OF AVENTURA MALL

eye-catching urban environments are in South Beach, with its art deco architecture, restaurants and clubs, and in the conch buildings of Key West, some of which now serve as bed and breakfasts and inns, such as the historic Cypress House on Caroline Street. If you’d rather avoid the hustle and bustle, there are plenty of opportunities. On Marathon Key, check out Captain Pip’s Marina & Hideaway for a real laid-back atmosphere. While the Keys can make you feel like you’re stepping back in time, so can a trip to the Lake Okeechobee region.


FESTIVALS & EVENTS JANUARY Art Deco Weekend, Miami Beach Las Olas Art Fair Part I, Fort Lauderdale Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens South Florida Fair, West Palm Beach

FEBRUARY ArtiGras Fine Arts Festival, Jupiter Delray Beach Garlic Fest Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Miami International Boat Show

MARCH Boca Bacchanal, Boca Raton Calle Ocho Music Festival, Miami Honda Classic, Palm Beach Gardens Las Olas Art Fair Part II Major League Baseball Spring Training, Jupiter Sony Open, Key Biscayne Winter Music Conference, Miami Beach

APRIL Delray Affair Lauderdale Air Show Palm Beach International Film Festival

MAY Sunfest, West Palm Beach

JULY Hemingway Days, Key West Miami Swim Week

AUGUST Brazilian Film Festival of Miami

AUGUST—SEPTEMBER International Ballet Festival, Miami

SEPTEMBER Miami International Wine Fair

OCTOBER Boogie by the Beach, Sunny Isles Beach Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Italian Film Festival, Miami Key West Goombay Festival

NOVEMBER Miami Book Fair International Miami Short Film Festival Sunny Isles Beach Jazz Fest

DECEMBER Art Basel Miami Beach Design Miami Holiday Boat Parades

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FEATURED LINKS Aventura Mall aventuramall.com

Barbie The Dreamhouse Experience barbiedreamhouse.com

Bimini SuperFast rwbimini.com/superfast-cruise-ship

Boca Museum of Art bocamuseum.org

Boca Raton Town Center simon.com/mall/town-center-at-boca-raton

Butterfly World butterflyworld.com

Calder Casino and Race Course calderracecourse.com

Captain Pip’s Marina & Hideaway captainpips.com

Clevelander South Beach Hotel and Bar clevelander.com

Conrad Miami conradhotels3.hilton.com

Dadeland Mall simon.com/mall/dadeland-mall

Delray Beach Center for the Arts delraycenterforthearts.org

Dezer Collection Auto Museum dezercollection.com

Dolphin Mall Panoramic view of the Jewfish Creek Bridge on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway in Key Largo

shopdolphinmall.com

Dolphin Research Center dolphins.org

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bistros and retailers such as Lord and Taylor. Flea market fans flock to Swap Shop locations in Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth while the Festival Flea Market Mall in Pompano Beach, the largest indoor flea market in the world, boasts more than 500 shops and restaurants.

Falls Mall simon.com/mall/the-falls

Festival Flea Market Mall festival.com

Flagler Museum flaglermuseum.us

Florida Holocaust Museum flholocaustmuseum.org

Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino

SCENIC DRIVES For a stunning short drive, head east from downtown Miami. If you choose the Rickenbacker Causeway, you’ll see the ships at the Port of Miami and the downtown skyline, and you’ll quickly be transported to the OldFlorida feel of Key Biscayne. Take the MacArthur Causeway to Miami Beach to see the ships from a different angle, and you’ll be headed straight for the new Florida vibe in South Beach. Another classic drive takes you along State Road A1A from Deerfield Beach north to Palm Beach. You’ll pass some of the world’s priciest oceanfront mansions as you’re treated to views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. If a short jaunt isn’t enough, drive from Miami to Key West on the single-lane Overseas Highway, which crosses the Seven Mile Bridge. Flanked by water on both sides, you might imagine you’re floating through Islamorada, Key Largo, Marathon Key and Big Pine Key.

gulfstreampark.com

Island Breeze Casino ibreezecasino.com

Isle Casino & Racing pompano-park.isleofcapricasinos.com

Jungle Island jungleisland.com

Lago Mar Resort and Club lagomar.com

Las Olas Boulevard lasolasboulevard.com

Lincoln Road lincolnroad.org

Loggerhead Marinelife Center marinelife.org

Mardi Gras Casino Florida mardigrascasinofl.com

Marlins Park marlins.com

Mayfair Hotel & Spa mayfairhotelandspa.com

Miami Children’s Museum miamichildrensmuseum.org

Miami Design District miamidesigndistrict.net

Miami Open City Tour miamiopencitytour.com

Miami Seaquarium miamiseaquarium.com

Mizner Park miznerpark.com

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: ANDY NEWMAN/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/HO; GREATER MIAMI CVB

offers an array of shops, including Apple, Sephora, Michael Kors and Williams-Sonoma. The Town Center at Boca Raton is another high-end shopping destination anchored by Nordstrom, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens lists just about every retailer you can think of, from A to Z. New on the retail scene is the Palm Beach Outlets mall, which is expected to open in February 2014. If malls aren’t your style, consider Southeast Florida’s more authentic environments. Lincoln Road in Miami Beach is an outdoor strip of galleries and boutiques where the street is closed to traffic. In Fort Lauderdale, Las Olas Boulevard is lined with boutiques and art galleries and, on Sundays, check out the Outdoor Green Market for local and organic produce as well as pottery, jewelry and more. Vying for the title of ritziest shopping area in Southeast Florida, Worth Avenue in Palm Beach attracts socialites shopping for wares at such retailers as Tiffany, Gucci, Cartier and Chanel. For a more relaxed vibe, Atlantic Avenue in downtown Delray Beach features a variety of specialty shops. Another outdoor shopping complex is Mizner Park in Boca Raton, a mix of upscale


FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT While galleries and museums are wonderful for the mature mind, nothing beats family adventures like Zoo Miami, which boasts more than 2,000 animals available for viewing in a cagefree setting. Another family favorite, Miami Seaquarium on Key Biscayne is home to dolphins, manatees, crocodiles and a 7,000-pound killer whale. To get really close to the animals, visit its Dolphin Encounter, where you can pay extra to swim with dolphins. Jungle Island is another 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, Jungle Island is renowned for its wonderful bird and wildlife shows.

FEATURED LINKS Monkey Jungle monkeyjungle.com

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens morikami.org

Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale

Dolphin encounter at the Miami Seaquarium

Displaying some 150 species and more than 20,000 butterflies in its aviaries and gardens, Butterfly World in Coconut Creek promotes itself as the largest butterfly facility on the planet. There’s nothing cuter than baby turtles and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach has them by the tankful. The center serves as both animal hospital and tourist attraction. Injured and sick turtles wind up here, where they’re nursed back to health by marine biologists. Once the turtles are healthy, workers and volunteers cart them by stretcher to the beach, where they’re returned to the ocean. While the turtles recover, you and the kids can

get a close look at them—babies, juveniles and adults are divided among half a dozen or so waist-high tanks. If your kids are more interested in primates, visit Monkey Jungle south of Miami, which offers a Rainforest Adventure Tour through a habitat filled with South American monkeys. Auto buffs ought to tour the Dezer Collection Museum & Pavilion in Miami, which boasts a stash of 600 cars divided into sections such as Hollywood Cars of the Stars, European Classics and American Classics. If you find yourself in the Florida Keys, don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Dolphin Research Center and the Turtle Hospital on Marathon Key. Residents at both facilities will surely win your heart. In December, kick off the Holiday Season at one of the many holiday boat parades throughout the region. The Winterfest Boat Parade is a spectacular sight where more than 400 lighted boats promenade along the Intracoastal Waterway through Fort Lauderdale to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach. Another is the Boca Raton Holiday Boat Parade. FL

moafl.org

Museum of Discovery and Science mods.org

Norton Museum of Art norton.org

Palm Beach Outlets pboutletmall.com

Pier House pierhouse.com

Sawgrass Mills simon.com/mall/sawgrass-mills

Shark Valley Tram Tours sharkvalleytramtours.com

Superior Small Lodging superiorsmalllodging.com

Swap Shop floridaswapshop.com

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum hemingwayhome.com

The Las Olas Sunday Market tgmmc.com

The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum melfisher.org

The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts kravis.org

The Turtle Hospital turtlehospital.org

Town Center at Boca Raton simon.com/mall/town-center-at-boca-raton

Water Taxi watertaxi.com

Waterstone Resort & Marina waterstoneboca.com

Worth Avenue worth-avenue.com

Wynwood Arts District wynwoodmiami.com

Zoo Miami miamimetrozoo.com

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GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE

PARADISE BY LINDA HAASE

Found

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oasting 23 miles of sunsplashed beaches, Greater Fort Lauderdale is the ultimate tropical retreat. Add in superior shopping, renowned cuisine and a flourishing cultural scene, and you’ve got tickets to paradise.

Brush up on the art scene at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale. For a historical perspective, wander around the 35-acre Bonnet House Museum & Gardens or the Stranahan House, built in 1901 by Frank Stranahan, the father of Fort Lauderdale.

TOP BEACHES

STREET SCENES

Fort Lauderdale beach’s sun and surf are tropical delights, but its brick-lined, palm-fringed beachfront promenade is also a primo destination for strolling, jogging and rollerblading. Other options: Retro-cool Hollywood Beach, home to the famed 2.5-mile-long Broadwalk, replete with outdoor cafés; and Hallandale Beach, a “guy’s getaway” brimming with golf, boating, gaming and saltwater fishing.

Stroll along the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District and enjoy music, unique galleries and fine dining—all with panoramic water views. And don’t miss the Las Olas Outdoor Green Market from 9 AM to 2 PM on Sundays. Discover eclectic artist studios, galleries and live theatre in FAT Village (Flagler Arts & Technology Village), Fort Lauderdale’s only urban arts district where food trucks line the streets on the last Saturday of the month.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE No shortage of creative cuisine here, including Hollywood Beach’s oceanfront Sugar Reef restaurant, which serves tropical fare, and the Royal Pig Pub on Las Olas, the go-to spot for duck, chicken, pork, ribs and chicken wings. Fresh seafood lures diners to the Bimini Boatyard Bar & Grill or the Lobster Bar Sea Grille. When the sun dips, Mangos Restaurant & Lounge is one of the Gold Coast’s busiest entertainment spots. Sip an inventive cocktail at

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Sailing in Fort Lauderdale Beach

O Lounge or YOLO while people-watching on Las Olas Boulevard or check out their new restaurant, S3, on Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard. Another hot spot, Latitudes, is right on the famous Hollywood Broadwalk, while nighthawks dine and rock around the clock at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.

ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING Start at world-famous Las Olas Boulevard, with its stylish boutiques or visit Galleria Mall at Fort Lauderdale, featuring Neiman Marcus, Apple, Coach and more. Put on comfy walking shoes before heading to Sawgrass Mills, with its more than 300 designer outlets, including PRADA, Gucci, Armani and Ferragamo.

INSIDER’S TIPS Hop aboard the Water Taxi to view multi-million dollar yachts and opulent mansions. Passengers can ride all day on the “trolley-on-the-water.” Visiting off-season? Check out Vacation Like A VIP (room upgrades, resort credits, etc. from May 1 to September 30), Lauderdale Spa Chic (50 percent off treatments in September) and Dine Out Lauderdale (fixed-price threecourse meals in October). FL

FROM THE TOP: GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE CVB; DOUG CASTANEDO

The wave wall at Fort Lauderdale Beach


FEATURED LINKS Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB sunny.org

Bimini Boatyard & Grill biminiboatyard.com

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens bonnethouse.org

FAT Village fatvillage.com

Galleria Fort Lauderdale galleriamall-fl.com

Las Olas Boulevard lasolasboulevard.com

Latitudes hollywoodbeachmarriott.com/cuisine

Mangos Restaurant & Lounge mangosonlasolas.com

Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale moafl.org

Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District, Fort Lauderdale riverwalkae.com

Royal Pig Pub & Kitchen royalpigpub.com

S3 s3restaurant.com

Sawgrass Mills sawgrassmills.com

Stranahan House stranahanhouse.org

Sugar Reef Grill sugarreefgrill.com

Water Taxi watertaxi.com

YOLO yolorestaurant.com


SUNNY ISLES BEACH

FLORIDA’S

Riviera

BY LINDA HAASE

Relax beachside in Sunny Isles Beach.

TOP BEACH The city’s beach beckons with its sparkling white sand and turquoise ocean. Relax, sleep or read under a shady cabana or embark on a water adventure.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE There are plenty of palate-pleasing options in this stylish city, including the Alba Seaside Italian restaurant at Solé on the Ocean, where celebrated Executive Chef Ralph Pagano of Iron Chef fame dishes up culinary delights, and Caracol restaurant at Marenas Beach Resort and Spa, where diners savor Chef Mike Veloz’s Mediterranean-inspired selections. For delicious dumplings, head to Chef Ho, where these delicacies are stuffed with everything from black truffles and scallops to green tea and duck. Don’t miss out on the fine creations at Bourbon Steak located in the Turnberry Isle Miami. Enjoy happy-hour specials at the Sushi Lounge and Restaurant followed by a fine-

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dining experience at Neomi’s at the Trump International Beach Resort, which exudes a vibe only Donald Trump could achieve. Aprèsdinner, seek out TNT Lounge at the Ramada Plaza Marco Polo Beach Resort, known for its lively libations.

A SPECIAL PLACE Oleta River State Park, Florida’s largest urban park, showcases the area’s native plants and mangrove forest preserves. There are also airconditioned cabins for campers to rent, as well as bikes and kayaks available at the Blue Moon Outdoor Recreation center located in the park.

ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING The annual Sunny Isles Beach Jazz Fest in November is a not-to-be-missed musical extravaganza (renowned musician Spyro Gyra has performed here). The newly refurbished historic Newport Fishing Pier is lauded as one of the top venues from which to lure Spanish mackerel, snapper, kingfish and bluefish. It’s the only public fishing pier in Miami-Dade County, and its stunning ocean views are the perfect backdrop for the restaurant scheduled to open by April 2014. If shopping is your style, Aventura Mall has 2.7 million square feet packed with more than 300 specialty stores (including Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein, Coach, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom), as well as a world-class collection of works by renowned international and Miami artists. Later, rejuvenate with a soothing, luxurious spa treatment at Acqualina Spa by ESPA, a Forbes Travel Guide five-star honoree, or at the Aquanox Spa back at the Trump International Beach Resort.

INSIDER’S TIP Buy one-of-a-kind wearable art at Ocean Outfitters, where award-winning artist Roberto Garcia Marquez’s contemporary art collection is displayed on the walls—and on the racks. FL

FEATURED LINKS Sunny Isles Beach Tourist and Marketing Council sunnyislesbeachmiami.com

Alba Seaside Restaurant albamiami.com

Aventura Mall aventuramall.com

Caracol Restaurant marenasresortmiami.com/dining/caracol_restaurant

Chef Ho chefphilipho.com

Ocean Outfitters oceanoutfitters.biz

Oleta River State Park floridastateparks.org/oletariver

Trump International Beach Resort trumpmiami.com

PHOTO: SONNY SABATTO

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unny Isles Beach may be small, but has it all: sun-splashed beaches, delectable dining, trendy shops and culture galore. Residents and tourists both enjoy this 2.5-mile-long gem tucked between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. No wonder it’s known as Sunny Isles Beach, Florida’s Riviera.


FLORIDA KEYS

EMBRACE THE ISLAND

Life

BY MARY & BILL BURNHAM A beach at Bahia Honda State Park

TOP BEACHES Keys’ beaches are colorful and diverse. Smathers Beach in Key West is alive with kiteboarders and parasails. Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Keys regularly wins national “best beach” status. Anne’s Beach on Lower Matecumbe is dogfriendly and a kiteboarding hot spot. Sombrero Beach in Marathon is a hidden “locals beach,” and John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo offers sheltered, family-friendly swimming.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE There are hundreds of eateries, from nouvelle cuisine to no-shoes-no-shirt-no-problem beach bars. Louie’s Backyard, an oasis of fine dining, overlooks the ocean in Key West. The secondstory porch seating at Pierre’s Restaurant in Islamorada feels almost French Quarter-ish. On the casual end, Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo has the best “hair-of-the-dog” breakfasts, and at Blue Heaven in Key West chickens roam the courtyard. Catch is off-loaded daily at the Wharf on Summerland Key. Alternate between

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laps and libations in the bar-side pool at Sunset Grille in Marathon overlooking the Seven Mile Bridge. Guitar chords and bongos float out from tiki bars throughout the Keys. Perch on the rail at pet-friendly Schooner Wharf Bar in Key West, on Lorelei’s sunset beach in Islamorada, Boondocks on Ramrod Key, Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill in Key Largo or the Green Parrot in Key West, just to name a few.

ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING The Florida Keys’ reputation is quirky and colorful. Drag queens strut in Key West, dolphins frolic at the historic Theater of the Sea in Islamorada, men with white beards compete in a Hemingway look-alike contest, and Humphrey Bogart’s African Queen launches daily from Key Largo. In Key West, visit the Hemingway Home and see the famous six-toed cats, or tour the Harry S. Truman Little White House. Visit the Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery in Islamorada or the Marathon Theatre. It’s a good bet there’s a festival of some sort going on every weekend, from Bay Jam in Islamorada and the Marathon Seafood Festival, to Fantasy Fest in Key West. Bargain hunters flock to Big Pine Key’s Flea Market on Sundays and Morada Way’s Third Thursday Walkabout offers a mix of art, food and strolling musicians.

STREET SCENE No visit to the Keys is complete without doing the “Duval Crawl,” the term for barhopping and shopping along mile-long Duval Street in the heart of Key West. End at Mallory Square for the nightly sunset celebration featuring street musicians, sword jugglers and cats jumping through hoops.

INSIDER’S TIP Avoid the hassle of a car in Key West and park at the Historic Seaport and follow the boardwalk to Duval Street. Metered self-service parking machines take credit cards. FL

FEATURED LINKS The Monroe County Tourist Development Council fla-keys.com

Bahia Honda State Park floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda

Harry S. Truman Little White House trumanlittlewhitehouse.com

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park floridastateparks.org/pennekamp

Mallory Square mallorysquare.com

Morada Way Arts & Cultural District moradawayarts.org

The African Queen africanqueenflkeys.com

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum hemingwayhome.com

Theater of the Sea theaterofthesea.com

PHOTO: CREDIT-BOB KRIST/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU

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he Florida Keys are world-famous for year-round warm weather, crystal-clear blue waters, diving, fishing, and a come-as-you-are epitome of island life. For 107 miles from Key Largo to Key West, the joy ride that is US 1 hops over islands and sea to reach the southernmost city in the Continental US.


DELRAY BEACH

THE COMPLETE BY DARIEN ARDEN

Package Taru Gardens at the historic Sundy House in Delray Beach

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PRISTINE BEACH One of Delray’s premier assets is its two-mile beach on the Atlantic Ocean that promises visitors and locals a dreamy venue, ideal for surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, boating and more. The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association named Delray Beach one of the Best Restored Beaches for 2013, highlighting the value of Delray’s surf and sand. Delray Beach on the Atlantic coast 116

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

PHOTOS: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES

elcome to Delray Beach, Florida, the vacation destination you always wanted to visit and will never want to leave. Named “Most Fun Small Town in the USA” by Rand McNally, USA Today and the Travel Channel, this bustling community boasts a pristine beach and myriad art, culture and nightlife options, awaiting your arrival.


Atlantic Avenue restaurant and shops in downtown Delray Beach

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Whatever your palate’s pleasure, Delray offers an exemplary dining scene. From waterfront to downtown, restaurants feature worldrenowned chefs dishing up the latest in culinary trends. Park Tavern, a local favorite, serves patrons an unsurpassed menu of farm-fresh ingredients, craft beers, seasonal cocktails and small production wines. Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant ignites your dining experience with a selection of more than 100 tapas, an award-winning wine list and live music. Coast into relaxation with Delray Yacht Cruises and explore the beauty of the Intracoastal Waterway on a sunset or dinner cruise as you view a bevy of marine life.

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DELRAY BEACH

dining and entertainment complex located at West Atlantic Avenue and Lyons Road.

INSIDER’S TIPS Delray Beach isn’t limited just to “season” anymore, as there is always something happening. Celebrate the holidays with the lighting of the Famous 100-foot Christmas Tree, as well as the First Night New Year’s Eve festival. Additionally, relish restaurant showcase events with Savor the Avenue in March and Tastemakers in August. Delray is a premier wedding destination, whether you choose the romantic and intimate Sundy House with its lush Taru Gardens, or Wright by the Sea, which has delivered Old Florida charm with beachside appeal and tropical surroundings since 1950. Whatever your pleasure, Delray Beach is the ultimate dreamscape with a beachy backdrop. FL

FEATURED LINKS The Delray Affair at Cornell Museum in Delray Beach

Downtown Development Authority of Delray Beach downtowndelraybeach.com

ART, CULTURE AND CHARACTER

STREET SCENES

Delray Beach Center for the Arts

Delray is defined by its wide variety of shops and galleries that sell everything from fashion to art. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “Delray Beach Schools,” the Delray Beach Center for the Arts houses the Crest Theatre, Cornell Museum of Art & American Culture and Vintage Gymnasium. There is also an uplifting health and wellness focus that encompasses biking, yoga, spas and more. nSpa offers guests a nature-inspired menu of treatments in a dreamlike ocean surrounding.

From end to end, the two-mile stretch of Atlantic Avenue is the hub of Delray Beach. This charming streetscape offers a variety of options unique only to Delray, including a sought-after dining and social scene. The ever-growing Pineapple Grove Arts District boasts a never-ending array of eclecticyet-sophisticated shopping possibilities, just steps from the new Hyatt Place. And be sure to check out the Delray Marketplace, a 258,000-square foot shopping,

Delray Marketplace

delraycenterforthearts.org delraymarket.com

Delray Yacht Cruises delraybeachcruises.com

Hyatt Place Delray Beach delraybeach.place.hyatt.com

nSpa Delray Beach Marriott

sundyhouse.com

The Seagate Hotel & Spa theseagatehotel.com

Wright by the Sea Hotel wbtsea.com

PHOTO: RALPH PAPA

nspas.com

Sundy House


CULTURAL COUNCIL OF PALM BEACH COUNTY

MAKE A CULTURAL BY LINDA HAASE

Connection Performers at the Hatsume Fair held at The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in March

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Perusing the ExploreBoard at the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Information Center

FESTIVE EVENTS If you’re planning to visit in late February, you’ll have a chance to experience the world’s largest street-painting festival just steps from the Cultural Council’s doors. During the February 22–23, 2014, event (the festival’s 20th anniversary), more than 400 artists will transform the streets into striking canvasses of original artwork and masterpiece reproductions. Springtime heralds the Delray Affair (April 25–27, 2014). Considered the largest arts and craft festival in the Southeast United States, it stretches 12 city blocks along downtown Delray Beach’s palm tree-lined streets. In 2013, works of art from artists and crafters from 30 states and 12 countries were showcased.

Don’t leave Delray Beach without visiting the tranquil Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, the epicenter of Japanese arts and culture in the county. Festivals and events are held throughout the year, including the Hatsume Fair (March 29–30, 2014), when the gardens are transformed with taiko drummers, a Japanese tea ceremony and martial art and bonsai demonstrations. Music lovers worldwide mark their calendars for SunFest, the largest music and arts waterfront festival in Florida. The event, which takes place in downtown West Palm Beach, is scheduled for April 30–May 4, 2014. FL

FEATURED LINKS Cultural Council of Palm Beach County PalmBeachCulture.com

Delray Affair delrayaffair.com

Lake Worth Street Painting Festival streetpaintingfestivalinc.org

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens morikami.org

SunFest sunfest.com

The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts kravis.org

PHOTOS: CULTURAL COUNCIL OF PALM BEACH COUNTY

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isiting the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County is like having your own personal tour guide. The agency is the county’s official organization for arts and cultural development so it has all the up-to-the-minute information about the best films, festivals, music, theater, dance, museums, art shows and more. However, this isn’t a run-of-the-mill organization. Although visitors discover a wide variety of can’t-wait-to-visit places and events, the Cultural Council’s office is a destination in itself. Located at the corner of Lake Avenue and L Street in artsy, trendy downtown Lake Worth, the agency set up shop in an historic 1940s art deco movie theater. This architectural icon showcases 2,500 square feet of galleries featuring work by local artists, as well as the Roe Green Uniquely Palm Beach Store, stocked with jewelry, accessories and other items created by local Palm Beach County artisans. Visitors can also pick up brochures, publications and guides at the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Information Center while perusing the ExploreBoard, a touch-screen interactive kiosk listing arts and cultural organizations, restaurants and activities throughout Palm Beach County. Staffers are eager to help visitors make their vacation something to write home about. The exciting events below are just a few that make Palm Beach County unique.


SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

WRAPPEDNature IN

BY CHELLE KOSTER WALTON

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orest green landscapes tied with ribbons of blue waterways and white beaches, crowned with a near-constant bow of sunburst: Southwest Florida wraps its sophisticated historic cities, fishing towns and rural hamlets in pristine scenery that it has fought hard to preserve. One of Florida’s final frontiers, the region owes its past to agriculture and commercial fishing, and both still figure prominently into its character profile—from tomato and fruit farms to shrimping fleets and recreational fishing. Early settlements grew up along the waterways—Southwest Florida’s first source of transportation. Fort Myers, as a Seminole War outpost, was the first to take shape, followed by sugar-coated Bradenton, where cane plantations cropped up. Scotsmen settled Sarasota, bringing with them their love of golf. And out of the raw wilderness of the Florida Everglades, developers carved beachfront Naples as a resort for the rich and intrepid.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: LEE COUNTY VCB; LEE COUNTY VCB.; COLLIER COUNTY MUSEUM, NAPLES, FL

Paddling in the shallow waters off Lovers Key


An aerial view of Bonita Beach

Names such as Ponce de León, Hernando De Soto, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, John Ringling, Charles Lindbergh, Teddy Roosevelt, Greta Garbo and Zane Grey populated Southwest Florida bygones. Celebrities continue to join sun-seekers who revel in the warm climate on award-winning beaches amidst a gumbo of people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

WHAT’S NEW Nature attractions put a bit of Old Florida under lock and key, it’s true, yet they evolve and augment to remain ever fresh for first-time and returning visitors. Case in point: J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island improved its four-mile Wildlife Drive in 2013 and, in its free visitors education center, has added interactive manatee and crocodile exhibits, with plans for a sea turtle display to debut in 2014. In Naples, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center reopened in spring 2013 to show off its re-mastered environmental vignettes and live creatures. Down the road, the Naples Botanical Garden has announced plans for its first-ever visitor center and orchid garden, slated for a fall 2014 opening. For those who love outdoor adventure, there’s a new artificial reef in waters off Sanibel Island. The intact USS Mohawk, retired from a career battling German subs, has come to rest 90 feet under where it houses grouper, sea turtles and a docile whale shark. Searching for high adrenalin? TreeUmph!— a zip line and aerial daring park in the treetops—opened in 2013 in Bradenton. Florida Tracks and Trails, another zip line with the added attraction of a water park and motocross trails, is expected to debut in Punta Gorda in 2014. On the metro side of Bradenton, the new Riverwalk reinvigorates the downtown waterfront district with a splash park, a fishing dock, a skate park, picnic areas, a butterfly garden and an amphitheater. On the accommodation front, Naples’ Inn on Fifth just added an all-suite luxury component to its popular locale in the midst of downtown’s hip shopping, dining and clubbing

scene. In downtown Bradenton, the historic 1920-era Pink Palace Hotel underwent extensive renovations and reopened as a Hampton Inn and Suites property. Downtown Fort Myers is perking up with the 2013 inauguration of an extended waterfront basin. The new Firestone restaurant completes, along with Ford’s Garage and The Edison, the trifecta of restaurants named for the town’s most famous residents. Across the river in Cape Coral, Southwest Florida garnered its first Westin property. The Westin at Marina Village, which opened in December 2012, has already earned its four diamonds from AAA. On the other side of town, the distillery of Wicked Dolphin Artisanal Rum joins Sarasota’s Drum Circle Distilling in taking advantage of new state incentives to boost distillery tourism.

HERITAGE AND CULTURE The story of Southwest Florida begins with its native populations and the entrance of Spanish conquistadores. In Bradenton, De Soto National Memorial marks the spot where its namesake is believed to have landed. Calusa Heritage Trail on Pine Island, on the other hand, explores the lives of and traverses a shell mound built by one native tribe gone extinct because of European invasion. Other sites mark unusual, one-of-a-kind local culture. Estero’s Koreshan State Historic

Ponce de León impersonator at the Old Florida Festival in Naples

NEED MORE INFO? Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau bradentongulfislands.com

City of Holmes Beach holmesbeachfl.org

Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau paradisecoast.com

Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau fortmyers-sanibel.com

Visit Sarasota County visitsarasota.org

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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA The Uncommon Friends statue at Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers pays homage to inventors Ford, Edison and Firestone.

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Saturday of each month between November and April. Other art festivals in the downtown area include the prestigious Naples National Art Festival in February. Explore free art galleries at the von Liebig Art Center in downtown Naples and at the Marco Island Center for the Arts. Entrance is free at all Collier County museum locations, including the main Collier County Museum campus in Naples, the Naples Depot Museum, the Museum of the Everglades in Everglades City, the Marco

Island Historical Museum and the Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch in Immokalee.

MUST SEE, MUST DO To understand the social history of Southwest Florida, visit the homes of famous past residents, however the sites themselves tell so much more than the stories of the people who lived there. Where else in the world do you find the homes of two history-making inventors next to each

PHOTO: LEE COUNTY VCB

Site preserves the culture of a scholarly religious sect that settled there. In Punta Gorda, the Blanchard House Museum informs about the importance of the town’s AfricanAmerican early settlers, while Sanibel Island’s Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum explains the importance of shells locally, globally and historically. Naples features many free art shows, including the Art in the Park arts and crafts show on the first


SOUTHWEST FLORIDA other? Thomas Edison first had his home built on the Caloosahatchee River as a health measure and to experiment with plants for making light-bulb filament and rubber tires. Eventually automaker Henry Ford and tire guy Harvey Firestone began wintering in Fort Myers as well, and Ford built a home next to the Edisons. Besides the two homes, visitors can tour Edison’s lab, extensive exotic gardens and a museum holding many of his 1,093 patented inventions. John Ringling made his fortune off the Greatest Show on Earth. He spent it freely on

Ca’ d’Zan, the famous architectural landmark and historic home in Sarasota

building his Ca’ d’Zan Italianate palace on Sarasota Bay and collecting fine Baroque art in Europe. Today visitors can explore his opulent home, a museum that holds his art collection, two museums that pay homage to Sarasota’s circus tradition and acres of gardens. To best understand the region’s natural history, explore it at its source—the Everglades. Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, along with smaller national wildlife refuges and state parks, interpret the massive mangrove, wetland and hardwood hammock habitat—home to

FESTIVALS AND EVENTS JANUARY Mullet Festival, Goodland

FEBRUARY Edison Festival of Light, Fort Myers Everglades Seafood Festival, Everglades City Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival, Sarasota

MARCH Manatee Heritage Old Florida Festival, Naples

APRIL Sarasota Film Festival Shark's Tooth Festival, Venice

SEPTEMBER Culinaria Restaurant Weeks, Bradenton

“Ding” Darling Days, Sanibel Island Ringling International Arts Festival, Sarasota Stone Crab Festival, Naples Swamp Buggy Races & Parade, Naples

NOVEMBER American Sand Sculpting Championships, Fort Myers Beach

DECEMBER Bradenton Blues Festival Lighted Boat Parades

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PHOTO: COURTESY OF VISIT SARASOTA COUNTY

OCTOBER


Dining out in Sarasota County

INSIDER’S TIPS Birders flock to Southwest Florida. Hot spots include the Everglades, Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Tigertail Beach and J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Best birding is fall through spring and at low tides. The Jump On Express, or JOE, is a free shuttle that transports passengers between the popular dining and entertainment districts of Mercato in north Naples and the Fifth Avenue and Third Street districts in downtown Naples. The service runs from 5 PM to 1 AM Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Or, hop on board the Naples Bay Water Shuttle—a real deal at US$5 for the entire day. If a couple of days in Key West are on your itinerary, park the car and climb aboard the Key West Express in Fort Myers Beach (yearround) or on Marco Island (seasonal) for a relaxing 3.5-hour ride (versus a four- to fivehour drive) to Florida’s southernmost point. One of the best surprises in Naples is the affordable Lemon Tree Inn, just two blocks from Fifth Avenue shops, galleries and restaurants.

hundreds of bird species, manatees, Florida panthers, bobcats, white-tailed deer, river otters and a wild menagerie of other creatures.

TOWN AND COUNTRY Southwest Florida’s heart may race in its principle cities of Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples, but you’ll find its quiet soul in small historic towns and fishing villages. Go to the big three for entertainment: Sarasota is especially known for its theater and arts, Fort Myers for its historical attractions, and Naples for its dining and golf.

Day trips from Sarasota take you to Palmetto and Cortez, slices of Florida past. Tomato warehouses still line Manatee River banks in Palmetto, and an agricultural museum in Palmetto Historical Park underlines farming’s importance. Tomato fields, vineyards and pick-your-own fruit farms uphold the tradition. Cortez claims one of Florida’s few remaining working waterfronts, which is a great place for a just-caught seafood lunch. A maritime museum and memorial to local fishermen who died in “the perfect storm,” of book and movie fame, make a visit to the clapboard neighborhood worthwhile. Roughly equidistant between Sarasota and Fort Myers, Punta Gorda and Boca Grande bask in old-time charm. On Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande has a reputation for tarpon fishing, which drew wealthy industrialists to the circa1913 Gasparilla Inn back in the day. The tarpon are still there, so is the gracious old inn and the railroad depot that once transported the Duponts, Vanderbilts and their ilk. Only today the depot holds boutiques and the Loose Caboose, a restaurant and ice cream shop, said to have been a favorite of Katharine Hepburn. South of Naples, Goodland and Everglades also boast working commercial fishing waterfronts, known particularly for mullet and stone crab claws. Make the drive for fresh seafood in honkytonk restaurants filled with colorful characters. A little museum in Everglades City spills the town’s sportsman history and the Rod & Gun Club remembers the era. Catch a boat and kayaking tour of Everglades National Park while in town.

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DINING AND NIGHTLIFE The Bradenton-Sarasota area feeds you in the best ways. It claims more Zagat-rated restaurants than anywhere else in Florida and a preponderance of owner-operated eateries. They range from affordable Amish-Mennonite restaurants in the community of Pinecraft and rustic fish houses such as New Pass Grill & Bait Shop or Casey Key Fish House to upscale originals, Derek’s Culinary Casual and Libby’s Café. In Fort Myers, new Southern is in style at historic Veranda and the new Fancy’s Southern Café. Across the river, Cape Coral is known for its Latino cuisine. Of course, seafood stars on most local menus; try Fresh Catch Bistro on Fort Myers Beach, where fishermen off-load shrimp to yet another working waterfront. On Sanibel Island, locals favor Sweet Melissa’s Café for special occasions and Traders Café and Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille for more casual eats. The downtown Naples scene is a foodie banquet that deserves serious noshing. Go casual and waterfront at Riverwalk, or dress up for fine dining at Mediterranean-vibe Sea Salt or the new rustic-Italian Tulia Osteria. Enjoy free live musical entertainment the second Thursday of each month along Fifth Avenue South during Evenings on Fifth, and every Thursday from January through May along Third Street South. The Mercato center in north Naples sponsors Saturday Nights Alive the second Saturday each month.

Fort Myers area and Boca Grande. Avid hikers hit the trails of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. In Naples, visit the historic Naples Pier, open 24 hours a day year-round with no admission fee for fishing, people-watching and spectacular sunsets. Take part in free ranger-led swamp walks, canoe and bicycle trips during the winter season at Big Cypress National Preserve near Everglades City. Be sure to call ahead for reservations.

BEST PLACES TO SHOP If you’re looking for unique buys, there’s plenty of that in Southwest Florida. For genuine local souvenirs, head to the artist villages—Towles Court in Sarasota, Village of the Arts in Bradenton, and Matlacha on Pine Island. Watch for news of art walk events in downtown Sarasota and Fort Myers. In Naples, galleries fill the downtown Fifth Street South and Third Avenue South districts. At the latter, buy your designer labels at Marissa

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Baseball fever hits Southwest Florida big time in spring, when the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox travel to Fort Myers for spring training, while the Baltimore Orioles play in Sarasota, the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, and the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte. Local teams use the stadium facilities during the summer season. As far as other spectator sports, Sarasota has its polo tournaments and Estero hosts the Florida Everblades hockey team. Professional rowing competitions take place in Sarasota’s new Nathan Benderson Aquatic Park. The best sporting scene takes place in the great outdoors, where fishing, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving, biking and hiking opportunities abound. Marked paddling trails explore hundreds of miles of inland and backbay waters in the Everglades and around the

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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA The Banyan Tree exhibit at the C’mon! Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples

Collections. On a budget? Look for like-new castoffs in the area’s consignment shops. Budget-shoppers will also want to head to the factory outlet malls: Ellenton Premium Outlets near Bradenton, Tanger Outlets in Fort Myers and Miromar Outlets in Estero. For something entirely different, hit the Shell Factory & Nature Park in North Fort Myers, where a nature park and family amusements enhance shopping for shells, jewelry and other Florida trinkets.

Memorial Scenic Drive in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park or Loop Road in the Everglades.

RECOMMENDED DRIVES

FAMILY ACTIVITIES

The views along the Sanibel Causeway and Captiva Drive star in many a commercial, but all of the coast’s islands promise sea glimpses and local color. The drive from Longboat Key through Lido Key and another through Fort Myers Beach, Lovers Key and Bonita Beach are especially typical of island life. For glimpses of wildlife, try W.J. Janes

Aboard the Dolphin Explorer out of Marco Island, families can assist with dolphin survey research projects and keep in touch with progress as part of the Dolphin Explorer’s Club. To get close to manatees in the wild, visit Manatee Park in Fort Myers during the cool winter months. The Sarasota Children’s Garden takes fami-

lies on an old-fashioned magical fantasy of dress-up, maze discovery, and play gardens where pirate ships, dragons and an octopus lurk. Much more than a circus, the ever-popular Circus Sarasota offers youth-training through its Sailor Circus program over the summer months. The perfect antidote to hot Florida days, two water parks help cool down: Sun Splash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral and Sun-N-Fun Lagoon in Naples, which just happens to share the same park as the C’mon! Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples. FL

Anna Maria Vacations annamariavacations.com Asolo Repertory Theatre asolorep.org Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary corkscrewsanctuary.org Big Cypress National Preserve nps.gov/bicy Blanchard House Museum blanchardhousemuseum.blogspot.com C’mon! Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples cmon.org Calusa Heritage Trail flmnh.ufl.edu/rrc/calusatrail.htm Collier County Museums colliermuseums.com Collier County Parks colliergov.net/index.aspx?page=356 Conservancy of Southwest Florida conservancy.org De Soto National Memorial nps.gov/deso Dolphin Explorer dolphin-study.com Edison & Ford Winter Estates edisonfordwinterestates.org Ellenton Premium Outlets premiumoutlets.com Everglades National Park nps.gov/ever Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand

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Fifth Avenue South, Naples fifthavenuesouth.com Florida Tracks and Trails floridatracksandtrails.com Historic Spanish Point historicspanishpoint.org Holocaust Museum holocaustmuseumswfl.org Inn on Fifth innonfifth.com J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/dingdarling Jump On Express jumponexpress.com Koreshan State Historic Site floridastateparks.org/koreshan Lemon Tree Inn lemontreeinn.com Marissa Collections marissacollections.com Miromar Outlets miromaroutlets.com Naples Bay Water Shuttle naplesbaywatershuttle.com Naples Botanical Garden naplesgarden.org Nathan Benderson Park worldclassrowing.com Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve rookerybay.org

Royal Shell Vacations royalshell.com Sailor Circus circussarasota.org/community-outreach/ sailor-circus Sarasota Children’s Garden sarasotachildrensgarden.com Shell Factory & Nature Park shellfactory.com Superior Small Lodging superiorsmalllodging.com Sun-N-Fun Lagoon napleswaterpark.com Sun Splash Family Waterpark sunsplashwaterpark.com Tanger Outlets tangeroutlet.com The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum shellmuseum.org The Ringling ringling.org The von Liebig Art Center naplesart.org The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village westin.com/capecoral Third Street South, Naples thirdstreetsouth.com U.S.S. Mohawk Reef ussmohawkreef.com Waterside Shops Naples watersideshops.com

PHOTO: NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

FEATURED LINKS


CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA

RECREATION FOR

Young andOld BY KEVIN FRITZ

Sport fishing in Florida

T

lorida is known for its playgrounds and Central East Florida’s 175-mile stretch is one of the most exciting and diverse the state has to offer. From the historic town of Stuart in Martin County north to Ormond Beach, beaches co-mingle seamlessly with the nation’s space program, the birthplace of modern racing, attractions and ecosystems, which together make up Florida’s eastern central coast.

WHAT’S NEW In Martin County, the new 48,000-squarefoot, 53-year-old Elliott Museum has re-opened in Stuart after undergoing a $20million renovation. Stuart also debuted a new water park called Sailfish Splash, featuring two waterslides and a children’s area. The permanent home of Space Shuttle Atlantis opened in 2013 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on the Space Coast. This $100-million attraction covers 90,000 square feet, complete with more than 60 interactive

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The new Sailfish Splash Waterpark in Stuart

displays documenting the story of the space shuttle program. The main attraction is Atlantis, displayed at a 43.21-degree angle with its 60-foot-long payload bay doors open as if it were flying high above Earth. A simulator lets visitors manipulate the Canada Arm, a fullscale replica of the original, which is exhibited at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, Ontario. Angry Birds Space Encounter is also new at the Space Center and features seven exhibits for all ages. Daytona Beach unveiled Waterpark at Daytona Lagoon, as well as its renovated Daytona Beach Pier, featuring Joe’s Crab Shack. A new rollercoaster is an exciting addition to the nearby Boardwalk’s growing list of thrill rides, which features a 100-foot Ferris wheel.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; MARTIN COUNTY; KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX; KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX

HERITAGE AND CULTURE If you’ve never seen a sea cow, the Manatee Observation and Education Center in Fort Pierce provides that chance at Moore’s Creek. The best time to view these 10-foot-long, graceful mammals is during the winter when they seek warmer waters. Also in Fort Pierce, the National Navy UDTSEAL Museum, the only museum in the world dedicated to Naval Special Warfare, welcomes 70,000 visitors per year. This is where the Navy trained frogmen for World War II for the infamous landing at Omaha Beach. While in Fort Pierce, drop by the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit to view living models of coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds, providing a window to the state’s underwater world. A free, behindthe-scenes tour of the research station allows families to meet scientists and learn about their important marine research. Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum in Sebastian is a favorite with kids—and adults. Displays of salvaged coins and weapons from a Spanish fleet, wrecked off the coast in 1715, tell the story of a time long ago. At the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, be greeted by real astronauts who walk the grounds and answer questions as you marvel at the size and magnitude of the rockets on display in the “Rocket Garden.” You can crawl through a model of the International Space Station or experience the five-story screens in two IMAX theaters delighting

The entrance to the new $100-million Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

viewers with actual footage shot by NASA astronauts during missions. South of Daytona Beach in Ponce Inlet, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum, built in 1886, is the tallest lighthouse in Florida and one of the tallest masonry lighthouses in the country. Climb the 203 steps to the top of the 175-foot tower to enjoy spectacular views. Named one of the top 100 small art towns in America, New Smyrna Beach hosts an array of art festivals and is home to the Atlantic Center for the Arts, where exhibitions and events are held year-round. Stroll down Flagler Avenue as part of Art and Wine Walks, or browse through famed galleries such as Galleria Di Vetro and its one-of-kind glasswork. Inland, the Athens Theatre in DeLand is said to be a “jewel of Italian Renaissance architecture.” Designed in 1921, the theatre showcases film festivals, classic movies, independent art films, concerts and other live performances.

An aerial view of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Titusville

NEED MORE INFO? Brevard County Tourism Development brevardcounty.us

City of Fort Pierce cityoffortpierce.com

Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau daytonabeach.com

Indian River County Chamber of Commerce indianriverchamber.com

Martin County Tourist Development Council discovermartin.com

New Smyrna Beach Area Visitors Bureau nsbfla.com

Okeechobee County Tourist Development Council okeechobee-tdc.com

St. Lucie County Tourism Office visitstluciefla.com

West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority visitwestvolusia.com

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Possibly the most famous sun ’n’ fun location of its kind in the world, the Ron Jon Surf Shop first opened in Cocoa Beach in 1963. Today, the fourlevel, two-acre surfer’s paradise is flush with sportswear and beach gear. And don’t worry about running late—it’s open 24 hours a day. While the US Space Shuttle program has been retired, NASA and private industry unmanned rockets continue to launch from the Kennedy Space Center, so check with the center for upcoming launches during your visit. Although “The Birthplace of Speed” is a moniker for Ormond Beach just north of Daytona Beach, the latter city has become the racecar mecca, highlighted by the Daytona International Speedway, which hosts NASCAR’s exalted Daytona 500. Year-round, Daytona USA at the Speedway offers activities for race fans of all ages. Work with a pit crew, drive a simulated The Volusia County Court House in DeLand

racecar, or if you are really up for a thrill, ride in a racecar driven by a professional instructor at speeds exceeding 160 mph.

TOWN AND COUNTRY A bi-coastal community allowing you to catch the sunrise and sunset in the same day, Martin County offers the Sunshine State’s version of the Panama Canal—the only place in Florida where you can pass entirely through the state by water. Watch the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean while sunsets are best viewed at Port Mayaca on Lake Okeechobee. Vero Beach has a reputation as a playground for the rich and famous, however anyone can enjoy this well-to-do community. Because it is located in a climatic transition zone, aged oak trees and pine forests blend effortlessly with majestic palms and floral blooms. The area is recognized as the “Citrus Capital of the World,” and tenders some of the most premium, hand-picked Indian River citrus you’ll find anywhere. The Cocoa Beach area is likely the destination offering the most bang for a diverse vacation in Central East Florida. The surfing capital of the east coast, this beach town was made popular by the television show, I Dream of Jeannie. You can even take a drive down I Dream of Jeannie Lane. Watch a rocket launch from the beach, learn to surf from some of the best in world, or take a quiet kayak journey into the Banana River Lagoon.

Historic DeLand transports you to a place where southern hospitality is still the norm. Founded in 1876, the city is home to Stetson University, and gift shops and restaurants intermingle in the downtown district with a sense of rich heritage and culture.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Archie’s Seabreeze, a fixture in Fort Pierce since 1947, is known for great food, beer and wine, live music and dancing. Very casual and on the beach, Archie’s is a place y’all will feel at home. Osceola Bistro in Vero Beach is all about fresh local food. The American-style bistro is owned and operated by Chef Christopher Bireley, who strives to purchase as many fresh ingredients from local farmers and fishermen as possible. Try the shrimp and grits, one of his most popular entrées. At The Cove on Port Canaveral’s waterfront, fresh seafood abounds. At Rusty’s Seafood & Oyster Bar, indulge in oysters, peel-and-eat shrimp and mussels. Dine on the outside patio overlooking the water or find a stool at the fullservice bar and watch as the bartenders shuck your fresh oysters. Capt. Hirams has been serving up the freshest seafood at its restaurant on the Indian River in Sebastian for more than 20 years. Try the Lump Crab Cake Sandwich, an original authentic Maryland recipe served with Abaco aioli. Part of a quintessential beach resort, it

INSIDER’S TIP For great family entertainment, discover the Daytona Beach area by trolley. The CityLine Trolley travels from Ormond Beach to Daytona Beach Shores, with excursions covering historic Beach Street and the Halifax Harbor Marina. Shop for deals at Vero Beach Outlets on Florida's Treasure Coast 136

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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; VERO BEACH OUTLETS; ST. LUCIE COUNTY OFFICE OF TOURISM

MUST SEE, MUST DO


also features the Bahamian-style SandBar with live music seven nights a week. For a change of pace, the Dolphin View Seafood Restaurant in New Smyrna Beach now offers dinner and scenic river cruises for only US$19.95 per person. Daytona Beach is home to whatever your palate craves, but is known for its casual seafood restaurants, live music and high-energy clubs. Check out the Oyster Pub located right on the beach—it’s the city’s largest oyster and sports bar. In DeLand, Cress Restaurant, named the top restaurant in Central Florida by Zagat in 2013, is owned by award-winning Chef Hari Pulapaka (a professor at Stetson University by day) and is only open evenings. Seafood, curry dishes, rabbit and ribeye dot the menu.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS In March, the crack of the bat beckons fans to the annual rite of spring training. Take in a game at Port St. Lucie’s Digital Domain Park, which plays host to Major League Baseball’s New York Mets or at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, home of the Washington Nationals. Since 1938, Indian Hills Golf Course has challenged golf enthusiasts in Fort Pierce. Indian Hills also offers quality instruction by PGA professionals, which includes private instructions,  group lessons and junior golf

instruction. Or check out nearby Port St. Lucie PGA Village, featuring three championship golf courses and a museum. Sport fishing is all the rage on the Central East coast. Stuart is known as the Sailfish Capital of the World for the many sailfish found in the ocean off Martin County. Another premier saltwater fishing spot on Florida’s east coast, Sebastian Inlet is popular for catching snook, redfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Off the shores of Sebastian in the Indian River Lagoon, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the first federal-designated wildlife refuge in the United States, is accessible by a public viewing area to watch tropical birds in their natural habitat. You can also navigate around the island by renting a boat, kayak, canoe or personal watercraft from local companies offering guided tours. Thirty-plus species of birds use Pelican Island as a rookery, roost or feeding ground. An overlay to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is 140,000 acres of coastal dunes, saltwater estuaries, marshes, scrub, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks, creating an ecosystem for more than 1,500 kinds of plants and animals. It is home to more federally endangered species than any other refuge in the United States. For a unique experience you won’t soon forget, bioluminescent kayaking tours allow

Kayaking the St. Lucie River

FESTIVALS & EVENTS JANUARY Frog Leg Festival, Fellsmere Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Titusville

FEBRUARY Craft Beer Festival, DeLand Daytona 500 Downtown Stuart Art Festival on the St. Lucie River Grant Seafood Festival, Melbourne

MARCH Bike Week, Daytona Beach Easter Surf Festival, Cocoa Beach Pier and Shepard Park Under the Oaks Art Show, Vero Beach

APRIL New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest

MAY TO JULY Beach Weeks, New Smyrna Beach

SEPTEMBER TO NOVEMBER Beach Weeks, New Smyrna Beach

NOVEMBER Jensen Beach Pineapple Festival

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An artists' co-op gallery in New Smyrna Beach

FEATURED LINKS Capt. Hirams hirams.com

Costa d’Este Beach Resort costadeste.com

Dolphin View Restaurant dolphinviewseafood.com

Hontoon Island State Park floridastateparks.org/hontoonisland

Hutchinson Island

you to naturally light up the waterways on the Indian River. Whether it’s from a paddle, a hand or a fish, every movement generates white light through the water due to a natural phenomenon that makes organisms called dinoflagellates glow. The bioluminescent tour from Haulover Canal Launch is located 20 minutes east of Titusville.

FROM THE LEFT: NEW SMYRNA BEACH AREA VISITOR BUREAU; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES

BEST PLACES TO SHOP Known for its upscale boutiques and scores of small independent shops, Vero Beach’s Ocean Drive showcases items that cannot be found elsewhere. Deals can be scored at the Vero Beach Outlets, one of the largest outdoor malls on the Treasure Coast, where more than 80 retail stores cater to children, men, women and home fashions. If surf and skate are more up your alley, the Cocoa Beach area features at least a dozen such shops that speckle the Space Coast town and adjoining Indialantic and Merritt Island. For historic Florida charm, Flagler Avenue and Canal Street in New Smyrna Beach are made for strolling and exploring unique shops.

parks offering trails, boating, fishing, hiking, swimming and bicycling.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

FAMILY ACTIVITIES

Manatee Observation and Education Center

visitflorida.com/Hutchinson_Island kennedyspacecenter.com

In Melbourne, the Brevard Zoo features unique perspectives, such as a behind-the-scenes tour, treetop excursions, giraffe feeding and guided kayaking tours through “Expedition Africa.” At DeLeon Springs State Park north of DeLand, griddle your own pancakes at your table at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill. Each table has its own griddle and wait staff brings pitchers of homemade pancake batter and all the fixings for a delicious, fun meal. After filling up on ’cakes, take an eco/history boat tour of the Spring Garden Run. Keep an eye out for alligators, otters, bald eagles and wading birds. West of DeLand, board a boat to Hontoon Island State Park on the St. Johns River. The island is accessible only by private boat or park ferry. Your family will witness evidence of Timucua Indian habitation as a result of the large shell mounds you’ll encounter while hiking through the park.

manateecenter.com

Mel Fisher’s Treasures melfisher.com

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/merrittisland

Old Colorado Inn oldcoloradoinn.com

Osceola Bistro osceolabistro.com

Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail ormondscenicloopandtrail.com

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/pelicanisland

Sebastian Inlet State Park floridastateparks.org/sebastianinlet

Superior Small Lodging superiorsmalllodging.com

Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce sms.si.edu

Space Coast Kayaking spacecoastkayaking.net

The Cove portcanaveral.com/recreation/dining.php

The Martin Grade Scenic Highway Project

RECOMMENDED DRIVES

ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS

In Martin County, the Martin Grade is a 12-mile road shaded by a canopy of 100-year-old oaks surrounded by pastures, groves, swamps and woods. The Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail is a 30mile double loop that offers gorgeous views of natural scenery and homes from the 1930s and 40s along a tree-covered roadway. The road provides access to the Atlantic Ocean and

In Stuart, the centrally located Old Colorado Inn offers a choice of bed-and-breakfast accommodation and vacation rentals. Vero Beach is where you’ll find the Costa d’Este Beach Resort, an exquisite oceanfront property owned by Gloria Estafan and her husband. In Daytona Beach, check out the Shores Resort & Spa with its breathtaking views. FL

sclands.org

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill planetdeland.com/sugarmill

The Shores Resort & Spa shoresresort.com

Treasure Coast treasurecoast.com

Vero Beach Outlets verobeachoutlets.com

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ST. LUCIE COUNTY—FORT PIERCE , PORT ST. LUCIE & HUTCHINSON ISLAND

A NATURAL BY KEVIN CANESSA JR.

Choice A dog-friendly beach in St. Lucie County

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you feel like you’re dining in New York City. Or perhaps you prefer sushi. Try Roy’s, located in one of the many shopping centers.

alling all golfers, anglers, baseball fans and nature and seafood lovers. St. Lucie County on Florida’s Treasure Coast is where you want to be.

ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING

Golf aficionados rave about Port St. Lucie’s PGA Village, a premier golf resort with three courses, a 35-acre learning and performance center and the PGA Museum of Golf. Every spring, Major League Baseball’s New York Mets call Port St. Lucie home as they prepare for the upcoming season. Later, the St. Lucie Mets, a single-A minor league team, play home games at the 6,000-plus seat Tradition Field. Popular with boaters and anglers, the charming city of Fort Pierce is only 10 to 11 miles from the offshore Gulf Stream where large game fish are caught. In shore, both the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon—the nation’s most diverse body of water—offer wonderful fishing opportunities as well as other outdoor recreational activities. Sign up for horseback riding on the beach at Frederick Douglass Memorial Beach Park, or opt for eco-kayaking tours and fishing charters.

TOP BEACHES Hutchinson Island boasts some of the best maintained, uncrowded beaches in Florida. From March to November, sea turtle walks are

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Lobster catch off the coast of Fort Pierce

organized. Got pets? Wildcat Cove on North Hutchinson Island and Walton Rocks Beach on South Hutchinson Island are doggone friendly.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Not surprisingly, the area is renowned for fresh seafood, prepared and served in a variety of ways at local restaurants. Check out Chuck’s Seafood in Fort Pierce for the best fried shrimp you’ll ever sink your teeth into. And don’t miss Archie’s, a landmark and popular gathering spot on Sunday afternoons. Be sure to order a burger and the local fish dip. Want a New York-style Italian meal? The atmosphere at Bobby’s in Port St. Lucie makes

In Fort Pierce, don’t miss the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, the historic 1,200-seat Sunrise Theatre (one of the oldest on the east coast), the Manatee Observation and Education Center, the A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery, as well as the downtown farmers’ market (one of the best in the state) held year-round every Saturday from 8 AM to noon at Marina Square. The shopping centers in St. Lucie West and the Town of Tradition are second to none and feature a mix of large retail chains and unique boutiques.

INSIDER’S TIPS All parks, as well as parking at county parks and beaches, are free. FL

FEATURED LINKS St. Lucie County Tourism visitstluciefla.com

A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery backusmuseum.com

Manatee Observation and Education Center manateecenter.com

National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum navysealmuseum.com

PGA Village pgavillage.com

PHOTOS: ST. LUCIE COUNTY OFFICE OF TOURISM

THE GREAT OUTDOORS


NEW SMYRNA BEACH AREA

FOLLOW

The Locals

BY KEVIN FRITZ Stand-up paddler at New Smyrna Beach

Avenue, both replete with colorful boutiques, galleries, unusual gifts and antique shops.

TOP-NOTCH BEACHES Everyone knows the secret to a great vacation is to follow the locals, and New Smyrna Beach is where they will lead. Indeed, Central Floridian readers of the Orlando Sentinel have voted New Smyrna Beach “Best Beach” every year since 2007. The accolades don’t stop there: USA Today voted it one of Florida’s top 10 beach towns, and National Geographic declared NSB—as the locals like to call it—one of the world’s top 20 surf towns. Clean, safe, wide and void of crowds, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for on its more than 13 miles of pristine, white-sand beaches. For seven to 10 weeks each spring and fall, the action centers around the family-friendly Beach Weeks. Food, music, sand art and film festivals are just some of the events that highlight the two-and-one-half-month party.

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STREET SCENES A stroll down historic Canal Street is a step back in time, right down to the soda fountain at the corner drug store. Built atop an actual irrigation canal dug back in the 1700s, many of the city’s historic buildings line the charming boulevard.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE

INSIDER’S TIP

The locals call Third Avenue “Eat Street,” which features more than 20 eateries from casual to fine dining, offering everything from classic brickoven pizza to fresh seafood straight from the Atlantic Ocean. At night, pubs, clubs and lounges are aplenty on Flagler and Atlantic avenues.

Two of the best-kept secrets in New Smyrna Beach are The Sugar Mill and Old Fort Park ruins. The working sugar mill was built in the early 1800s, but destroyed during the USSeminole Indian wars. The Old Fort Park ruins are more steeped in mystery, although some believe the coquina-rock foundation dates back to Dr. Andrew Turnbull, a Scottish physician and entrepreneur, who settled in New Smyrna in 1768 and named the city in honor of his wife, whose birthplace was Smyrna, Asia Minor, what is now Izmir, Turkey. FL

ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING Home to an array of art festivals and the venerable Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach has been named one of the top 100 small art towns in America. Be sure to catch an Art and Wine Walk on Flagler Avenue or venture down Canal Street, known as the arts and design district, where you’ll find The Hub on Canal that provides a home and gallery space for working artists creating their masterpieces. Shopping enthusiasts will enjoy ambling down charming Canal Street and quaint Flagler

FEATURED LINKS New Smyrna Beach Area Visitor Bureau nsbfla.com

New Smyrna Beach Area Beach Weeks beachweeks.com

PHOTOS: NEW SMYRNA BEACH AREA VISITOR BUREAU

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Dining on the patio at Clancy's in New Smyrna Beach

s the second oldest city in Florida and the oldest continuously settled British settlement in the nation, New Smyrna Beach is an eclectic mix of old and new blending a subtle sophistication with Bohemian soul. Boasting an award-winning art culture, some of the best beaches in the world, and steeped in history, New Smyrna Beach is your ideal Florida destination.


THE CITY OF FORT PIERCE

SUNRISE NEVER LOOKED BY OLIVE JADE

So Good Fort Pierce City Marina

History and art buffs will fall in love with Fort Pierce’s rich history, architecture and unique individuals dating back from 1837. Join one of Fort Pierce’s historical walking tours to learn about famous author Zora Neale Hurston or the talented Florida landscape artists known as the Highwaymen. Visit the National Navy UDTSEAL Museum, the only museum dedicated solely to preserving the history of the Navy SEALs and their predecessors. Stroll downtown to the waterfront and admire original paintings by Albert Ernest (Beanie) Backus at the A.E. Backus Museum & Art Gallery. Fort Pierce also has the largest public art sculpture display in the area.

RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES

DINING OUT

Love nature and the outdoors? Fort Pierce is located on the pristine Indian River Lagoon—

Whether you’re craving the local catch of the day, authentic barbeque, soul food or just a

ART AND CULTURE

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burger and a beer, Fort Pierce can keep you happy during your entire stay. Try the delicious lobster mac ’n’ cheese at 12A Buoy or Tillman’s famous BBQ ribs. For a unique experience, visit the Endless Summer Vineyard & Winery to taste their award-winning Muscadine wines or stop by the Sailfish Brewery to sample an exceptional Yellowfin Blonde Ale. Fort Pierce—the Sunrise City—has everything and more than you would expect from this quaint, sleepy fishing village. FL

FEATURED LINKS City of Fort Pierce cityoffortpierce.com

A.E. Backus Gallery & Museum backusgallery.com

Endless Summer Vineyard & Winery endlesssummerwine.com

Main Street Fort Pierce Mainstreetfortpierce.org

National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum navysealmuseum.com

PGA Village pgavillage.com

Sailfish Brewing Company sailfishbrewingco.com

Tradition Field springtrainingconnection.com/portstlucie.html

PHOTO: CITY OF FORT PIERCE

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the most biologically diverse estuary in the US with one of the most gorgeous inlets in the state of Florida. You’re sure to get lucky hooking impressive tarpon, redfish, snook and more. Or charter a sport-fishing boat out of the city-owned and operated Fort Pierce Marina. Just offshore from Fort Pierce meet the challenge catching sailfish, tuna, swordfish, wahoo, kingfish and more. Relax on an eco-friendly motorized kayak tour down the St. Lucie River or watch dolphins with Captain Chop on board his boat, Gator. Take up paddleboarding or horseback riding along 21 miles of unspoiled beaches in the area. You may never want to leave. A sports fan? Head off to Tradition Field where the New York Mets hold their spring training each year. Visit the PGA Museum of Golf at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, the ultimate golf resort destination featuring 54 holes of championship golf and the state-of-the-art, 35-acre PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance. You’ll surely feel like a pro before returning home. Fort Pierce is also home to one of only five frontons in Florida, which host the exciting game of jai-alai, the world’s fastest sport with a ball that travels more than 170 mph.

ort Pierce is well known for being a quaint, sleepy fishing village, but take a closer look and you’ll find a treasure trove of activities. As one of the most diverse communities on the Treasure Coast of Florida, its culture and excitement rivals any big-city atmosphere. With weekly and monthly events such as ArtWalk, a farmers’ market, Bike Night, Jazz on Moore’s Creek, Classic Car Cruise-in, Friday Fest and premiere shows at the historic Sunrise Theatre, there’s never a shortage of things to do or people to meet.


CENTRAL FLORIDA

A MECCA OF BY KRISTEN MANIERI

Merriment

Lake Eola in downtown Orlando

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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: VISIT ORLANDO; SUNNYCENTRALFLORIDA.COM

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hether it’s due to the year-round sunshine or the central proximity to some of Florida’s best attractions and beaches, there’s no denying Central Florida is one of the Sunshine State’s most popular destinations. Even during the warm springs and hot summers, families can’t resist the area’s theme parks, zoos and aquariums. Besides, the beach is typically just an hour away. While Central Florida gets most of its notoriety from Orlando, the memorable places and experiences to discover reach far beyond the borders of the City Beautiful—far too many to cram into a weeklong vacation. Perhaps that’s why so many visitors return again and again. Once a national hub for agriculture, cattle and citrus, its relatively recent boom can be attributed to one particular historical event: the opening of Walt Disney World. Unveiled in 1971, the sprawling vacation resort ushered in a new era of economic development in Central Florida, resulting in an explosion in tourism. Today, more than 50 million tourists visit the area every year, making it one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world.


WHAT’S NEW To keep visitors coming, the area is constantly changing and introducing new attractions and experiences. Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is the single largest attraction expansion ever at SeaWorld Orlando and the coldest theme park attraction in Orlando. A combination of innovative technology and up-close encounters with penguins in their 30 F world makes Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin an all-new realm and a thrilling, chilling adventure of a lifetime. Magic Kingdom recently debuted the first wave of its $425-million expansion to Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland including the new princess-themed Enchanted Forest, a Little Mermaid ride and a 550-seat Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant called “Be Our Guest.” The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a roller coaster with mine cars that swing independently as the coaster zips around the track, will open in 2014. In 2012, Disney announced plans to update and rebrand Downtown Disney, which will be called Disney Springs and will double the size of the existing entertainment complex. In the meantime, newcomer Splitsville Luxury Lanes, a 50,000-square-foot bowling, billiards and entertainment space, has been a welcome addition. Another luxury bowling concept, Kings Bowl Orlando, also opened on International Drive in 2013 boasting a chefcreated menu and creative list of cocktails. Still on deck is Animal Kingdom’s new AVATAR-themed-land expansion, which broke ground in 2013; however, the opening date has yet to be announced. In June 2013, a new 10-acre expansion opened at Fun Spot America, complete with White Lightning, Orlando’s first (and only) wooden roller coaster, Freedom Flyer, a suspended family coaster, and a 250-foot SkyCoaster, the world’s second-largest sky coaster. In June 2013, Universal Orlando Resort debuted TRANSFORMERS: The Ride—3D, an attraction that combines larger-than-life TRANSFORMERS characters and an exciting storyline with life-like HD CGI media, state-of-the-art 3D technology and amazing special effects to place riders right in the middle of an epic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons. Besides unveiling its new water park, LEGOLAND Florida also opened World of Chima, an interactive water ride based on the

Cartoon Network animated TV series and new LEGO product line. In early 2014, the new 95,000-square-foot dining, shopping and entertainment complex, IDrive Live, will open with more than 75 shops, restaurants and attractions, as well as a 25,000square-foot Madame Tussauds wax museum and a 25,000-square-foot Sea Life Aquarium. On the hotel scene, Disney just opened a new “value” lodging option called the Art of Animation Resort. This contemporary hotel features lavishly decorated cartoon-themed rooms, as well as a gigantic Nemo-themed swimming pool with an underwater audio system that plays a combination of island music and occasional familiar character voices from Finding Nemo. On deck for 2014 is the much-anticipated Four Seasons Resort Orlando, a palatial Walt Disney World resort with luxurious amenities such as a rooftop restaurant with fireworks views. Finally, Universal Orlando will open a new hotel in 2014 as well. The Cabana Bay Beach Resort will offer 900 family suites, capable of sleeping six, and 900 standard guest rooms offering both moderate- and valuepriced accommodation.

HERITAGE AND CULTURE Stroll through Central Florida’s many museums and art corridors and it becomes clear that culture is an important part of the area’s identity.

NEED MORE INFO? Central Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau VisitCentralFlorida.org

Highlands County Visitors & Convention Bureau visitHighlandsCounty.com

Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau experiencekissimmee.com

Lake County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau lakecountyfl.gov/visitors

Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau ocalamarion.com

Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau VisitOrlando.com

Seminole County Convention and Visitors Bureau visitseminole.com

In Orlando, the 45-acre Loch Haven Park provides a home for the Orlando Museum of Art, the Orlando Science Center, Orlando Shakespeare Theater and Mennello Museum of American Art—all excellent ways to bide the day. Downtown Orlando’s Arts District is a hip little neighborhood housing a handful of art galleries, public art installations and shops. The Third Thursday Gallery Hop is an ideal time to wander through the district. The nearby Orange County Regional History Center provides a glimpse into the area’s colorful past. In Winter Park, the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art showcases the world’s most comprehensive collection of

The award-winning Suzanne Restaurant and Country Inn in Lake Wales

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CENTRAL FLORIDA Shopping along trendy Park Avenue in Winter Park

A performance of Twelfth Night at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater

FESTIVALS & EVENTS

MUST SEE, MUST DO Even if there weren’t any theme parks, Central Florida would have no trouble keeping visitors occupied. At Forever Florida, a nature preserve 40 minutes outside Kissimmee, visitors can zip line, round up cattle by horseback or go on a safari. Folks can also zip line at the newly installed course at Gatorland, which sends fearless flyers over some of the 6,000 ’gators that call this kitschy 110-acre animal attraction home.

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With a newly opened river otter exhibit and the addition of the two new rhinos, Jahi and PJ, the Central Florida Zoo continues its commitment to showcasing and preserving local wildlife. This small zoo and botanical garden features a fabulous kids’ playground and splash park and has plans for a 16-acre safari expansion set to open in the next few years. Spend hours strolling around Lake Eola, downtown Orlando’s pristine green space where you can rent a swan paddleboat, feed ducks, and dine at a handful of great lakeside eateries.

TOWN AND COUNTRY Central Florida’s small towns offer plenty of intrigue and charm. About 40 minutes northwest of Orlando, Mount Dora welcomes visitors for weekend getaways at several quaint bed and breakfasts. Boutiques, tea shops, scenic boat trips on Lake Dora, nature Segway tours, historic carriage rides and excellent dining options make this a popular destination. A visit to Celebration, Disney’s residential creation about 20 minutes from Walt Disney World, is definitely a memorable stop. This Pleasantville-esque community boasts hundreds of picturesque homes, as well as a sweet

JANUARY Zora Neale Hurston Festival, Eatonville

FEBRUARY Mount Dora Arts Festival

FEBRUARY THROUGH APRIL Universal Studios Mardi Gras

MARCH Winter Park Sidewalk Arts Festival

APRIL Florida Film Festival, Orlando The Great American Pie Festival, Celebration

MAY Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival

JULY Red, Hot and Boom, Altamonte Springs

SEPTEMBER TO OCTOBER Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios

SEPTEMBER TO NOVEMBER Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

NOVEMBER Festival of the Masters, Disney World

DECEMBER Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights, Hollywood Studios

PHOTOS: VISIT ORLANDO

works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, as well as a major collection of American art, pottery, painting, graphics and decorative art. Mad Cow Theatre, which has been one of Orlando’s best professional theater companies for more than a decade, recently moved to its new home in the Church Street District, making it all the more appealing for a night out on the town. While in the area, visit the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden, a lovely lakeside historical site featuring the work of Czech sculptor Albin Polasek, as well as a small collection of art in the gallery inside Polasek’s former home.


CENTRAL FLORIDA little downtown with restaurants and shops. Take a trip to Lake Wales, a quintessential Old Florida town just 60 minutes south of Orlando. The not-to-be-missed Bok Tower Gardens, as well as the renowned Chalet Suzanne Restaurant and Country Inn, make this old turpentine town a lovely little jaunt.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE The foodie scene in Central Florida is on fire. Greater Orlando has more than 5,000 restaurants, including dinner theaters with themes ranging from buccaneers at Pirate’s Dinner Adventure and Treasure Tavern, Orlando’s hottest nighttime show and dining experience, to comedy at WonderWorks and jousting tournaments at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. Titanic the Experience on International Drive recently debuted a dinner show, which takes guests along for the ride with the Titanic’s most notable passengers. Outside the theme-park zone, locals love Sand Lake’s Restaurant Row with its mix of national chains, such as Morton’s Steakhouse, along with a multitude of award-winning inde-

pendents. In nearby Celebration, the Columbia Restaurant remains a popular choice. Just north of the city, Park Avenue in Winter Park features a collection of upscale eateries, most with patio seating and views of the swanky, bricklined street. Once a hub for antique shopping, the newly rebranded Ivanhoe Village is emerging as one of Orlando’s best dining destinations thanks to a handful of boutique but unfussy eateries, such as White Wolf Café, renowned for its homemade breakfast cinnamon rolls. Lovers of the farm-to-fork movement are flocking to restaurants such as PRIMO at the JW Marriott Orlando, which sources some of its ingredients and honey from its on-site organic garden and apiary. Others jumping on the sustainable-food bandwagon with delicious results are Napa at the Peabody and The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park. Downtown Orlando’s Church Street District has experienced quite a revival in recent years and now houses several great restaurants, including Ceviche, a colorful tapas bar featuring a live Flamenco show on the weekends. Nothing is more casual than grabbing something from a local food truck. The mo-

INSIDER’S TIPS Those seeking the area’s secret gems will not be disappointed. Get your palms read at the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, a tiny town said to have mystical powers. Travel by elevator 226 feet to the observation deck of Clermont’s Citrus Tower and take in panoramic views of hundreds of acres of citrus trees and scenic rolling hills. Stroll through Harry P. Leu Gardens, an unforgettable 50-acre botanical oasis just minutes from downtown Orlando. Those visiting around the first Friday of the month will be treated to an outdoor screening of a film on the garden’s giant alfresco screen. Films typically start at dusk. Finally, pay a visit to the Monument to the States in Kissimmee, a 50-foot assortment of more than 1,500 fossils and rocks from every state and more than 20 countries. Renting a car? Check out Drive Electric Orlando, the first-of-its-kind, cost-effective, fun and easy electric rental car initiative.


PHOTO: VISIT ORLANDO

Diners at Seasons 52 at Little Sand Lake in Orlando

bile meal scene has become increasingly popular in Orlando where weekly and monthly food truck events across the city offer a wide variety of eclectic yet gourmet delights. Visit dailycity.com for a full listing. Outside of Orlando, several popular restaurants await in Mount Dora, including the award-winning Goblin Market, as well as Pisces Rising with its wonderful views of Lake Dora.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Central Florida is paradise for outdoor lovers

thanks to an endless array of adventures. Wander through a tranquil state park, such as Wekiwa Springs where a pristine spring-fed swimming hole and excellent hiking trails await. Rent a canoe or kayak to float down the river where sightings of river otters or whitetail deer are possible. Water ski or wakeboard at Orlando Watersports Complex, where beginners and experts alike can hit the waters via cableway or behind boats. For a glimpse of alligators in their natural

setting, book an airboat trip. These loud and speedy jaunts, offered by several outfitters throughout Central Florida, provide a glimpse into the area’s abundant swamplands. With more than 150 golf courses in the area, hitting the links is a viable option as well. Courses for all levels and budgets, including many designed by some of the PGA’s legends, abound. Early birds will appreciate the breathtaking views from a hot-air balloon taking flight a few miles from Walt Disney World Resort. Rising before the sun, these colorful balloons float into the morning sky for an hour-long ride over the Central Florida landscape before heading back to earth for a champagne breakfast.

BEST PLACES TO SHOP Miles and miles of boutique-lined streets and bargain-packed outlets make Central Florida a favorite shopping destination. In Orlando, set aside two days for the Premium Outlets International Drive and Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue, which together house approximately 330 stores offering incredible discounts.


CENTRAL FLORIDA

Park Avenue, Winter Park’s swanky bricklined boulevard, boasts an upscale shopping scene of boutiques such as Tuni, Gap and Lilly Pulitzer. About a mile away in Winter Park Village, shoppers find national chain favorites such as Ann Taylor Loft and Coldwater Creek. When it comes to malls, Florida Mall reigns among the largest thanks to its 1.9 million square feet of space and more than 250 stores. Visitors also love the Mall at Millenia, a luxury spot, home to haute haunts such as Tiffany & Co., Chanel and Jimmy Choo.

SCENIC DRIVE Ignore Central Florida’s main highways led by the always-congested Interstate 4, and venture into the more picturesque scenic routes that often go unnoticed. In Lakes Wales, the Ridge Scenic Highway extends 38.7 miles to Haines City giving travelers a glimpse of Florida’s rural communities and pastoral vistas. While in Lake Wales, be sure to visit Spook Hill, a natural phenomenon that gives the illusion that cars are coasting up hill.

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FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Orlando reigns supreme thanks to its theme parks, but it’s also home to the Orlando Science Center where interactive permanent and traveling exhibits delight young imaginations. Favorites include the Dr. Phillips CineDome, a 310-seat theater showing films in a format that is 10 times larger than a conventional film theater, as well as NatureWorks, a hands-on exhibit hall showcasing Central Florida’s diverse array of insects, plants and animals. The OSC recently debuted the Digital Adventure Theater, which shows documentary and blockbuster films in 2D and 3D digital formats. Visitors enjoy hands-on experiences at Green Meadows Farm where folks can mingle with animal inhabitants. Memorable moments include riding a pony or milking a cow. International Drive, the area’s kitschy tourist esplanade, offers dozens of delightful diversions including a Wet ’n Wild water park; Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium; a few

mini-golf spots; an indoor skydiving facility; and the new CSI: The Experience, a must-see for fans of the criminal forensic television show. The I-Ride Trolley, which has dozens of stops along International Drive, makes it easy to visit several of the area’s attractions without continually having to find parking. At Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, guests can see the largest privately owned collection of vintage aircraft in the world, as well as fly on biplane flights, soar in a hot-air balloon or traverse the new zip line course. About 20 minutes away in Lakeland, Safari Wilderness Ranch gives guests unforgettable animal encounters via safari vehicles traversing the 260-acre site, home to more than 400 species of African, Asian and American animals. While in Orlando, book your accommodation at the CoCo Key Orlando Resort, which features Orlando’s largest outdoor canopy-covered water park. The resort also offers guests free scheduled shuttle service to a number of theme parks in the area. FL


FEATURED LINKS Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Garden | polasek.org Bok Tower Gardens | boktowergardens.org Celebration Town Center | celebrationtowncenter.com Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens | centralfloridazoo.org Chalet Suzanne Restaurant and Country Inn | chaletsuzanne.com Church Street District | churchstreetdistrict.com CoCo Key Orlando Resort | cocokeyorlando.com Columbia Restaurant | columbiarestaurant.com Drive Electric Orlando | driveelectricorlando.org Fantasy of Flight | fantasyofflight.com Florida Southern College | flsouthern.edu Forever Florida | foreverflorida.com Fun Spot Attractions | funspotattractions.com Harry P. Leu Gardens | leugardens.org Holiday Inn Club Vacations | hiclubvacations.com I-Ride Trolley | iridetrolley.com Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex | kennedyspacecenter.com Kings Bowl Orlando | kingsbowlamerica.com/orlando LEGOLAND Florida | florida.legoland.com Mad Cow Theatre Company | madcowtheatre.com Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament | medievaltimes.com Orange Lake Resorts | orangelake.com Orlando Museum of Art | omart.org Orlando Premium Outlets | premiumoutlets.com Orlando Sanford Airport | orlandosanfordairport.com Orlando Science Center | osc.org Orlando Shakespeare Theater | orlandoshakes.org Orlando Watersports Complex | orlandowatersports.com Pirate’s Dinner Adventure | piratesdinneradventure.com Safari Wilderness | safariwilderness.com SeaWorld Orlando | seaworldparks.com Superior Small Lodging | superiorsmalllodging.com Splitsville Luxury Lanes | splitsvillelanes.com The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art | morsemuseum.org The Citrus Tower | citrustower.com/clermont The Florida Mall | simon.com/mall/the-florida-mall The Mall at Millenia | mallatmillenia.com The Mennello Museum of American Art | mennellomuseum.com Titanic The Experience | titanictheexperience.com Treasure Tavern Dinner Theatre | treasuretavern.com Universal Orlando Resorts | universalorlando.com Walt Disney World | disneyworld.disney.go.com Wekiwa Springs State Park | floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings Wet ’n Wild | wetnwildorlando.com WonderWorks | wonderworksonline.com


SPECIAL ADVERTISING FEATURE

Seaworld® Parks & Resorts Orlando A N O C E A N O F F U N A W A I T S F O R T H E E N T I R E FA M I LY

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here’s a reason that Orlando, Florida is the world’s favorite family vacation destination. At every turn, there are experiences for families to take in and lifelong memories to be made. But no experience is more incredible than walking among a colony of penguins in their 30degree world at SeaWorld® Orlando, floating in a lazy river past a grotto of colorful fish at Aquatica, SeaWorld’s WaterparkTM or sharing a swim with an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin at Discovery Cove®. These three amazing parks blend incredible animal encounters with world-class entertainment, coupled with nearby hotels, for a unique and unforgettable vacation. SeaWorld® Parks & Resorts Orlando, including three theme parks—SeaWorld

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Orlando, Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark, and Discovery Cove—and seven official hotel partners, is a full vacation experience offering money-saving travel values, exclusive benefits, a convenient location and unique sea-themed adventures found only at SeaWorld and its parks. To book your getaway package or to learn more: SeaWorldGetaways.com.

SEAWORLD ORLANDO Immerse yourself in wonder at SeaWorld Orlando, where the aquatic world comes alive like no place else. Climb aboard and ride the mighty Manta®, a facedown, headfirst roller coaster. Experience the power and grace of killer whales in the aweinspiring Shamu® show, One Ocean®.


Share an epic voyage with sea turtles on the 3D 360 TurtleTrek®. An ocean of fun is waiting to be explored right here at SeaWorld Orlando. Jump in and dive deep. And, there’s nothing cooler than the allnew thrilling, chilling adventure, Antarctica: Empire of the PenguinTM. Embark on SeaWorld’s single biggest attraction expansion ever—experience the mystery and wonder of Antarctic life on the ice through the eyes of a penguin, sensing the beauty and drama of their sometimes dangerous habitat. SeaWorld’s Antarctica is a family ride, that combines closer-thanever animal connections with state-of-the-art interactive ride technologies for adventures that are different each time. Explore a massive penguin colony of nearly 250 penguins in an expanse that envelops you in cool extremes, both above and below the penguins’ icy world. It’s a must-see, one-ofa-kind theme park experience only at SeaWorld in Orlando. For more information, visit: SeaWorldOrlando.com.

AQUATICA, SEAWORLD’S WATERPARK From high-speed water slides and exhilarating wave pools, to tranquil beaches and the remarkable animal habitats, Aquatica delights all ages and interests. This one-of-a-kind waterpark is home to some of the world’s most thrilling water rides, featuring 38 slides, rivers and lagoons and 84,000 square feet of sparkling white, sandy beaches. Showcasing the park’s most distinctive animals, Dolphin Plunge® takes riders down 250 feet of clear tubes, underwater, and through Aquatica, S e aWo r l d ’s Wa t e r p a r k’s b e a u t i f u l Commerson’s dolphin habitat. Catch a wave in Big Surf ShoresTM or Cutback CoveTM, the world’s only side-by-side wave pools capable of operating together or independently. Or for those thrill seekers, Omaka RockaTM gives a waterslide taste of half-pipe, near-vertical thrills previously experienced only by daring skateboarders and snowboarders. In 2014, something tall

comes to Aquatica, actually the tallest water thrill ride of its type in Orlando, so don’t miss it! Aquatica’s exclusive attractions promise unlimited fun, sending guests on amazing undersea adventures and through breathtaking animal exhibits. Dive in and learn more at: AquaticaOrlando.com.

DISCOVERY COVE Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive adventure in which guests enjoy the amazing opportunity to swim with dolphins, snorkel with rays and thousands of tropical fish and hand-feed exotic birds, all in one place. At Discovery Cove, guests experience the most exciting animal encounters the world has to offer in a breathtaking tropical atmosphere. Discovery Cove is a paradise of rocky lagoons surrounded by lush landscaping, tropical reefs, winding rivers, a resort-style pool complete with waterfalls, and pristine white-sand beaches. A day at Discovery Cove features a freshly prepared breakfast and lunch, snacks and beverages (water, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages) throughout the day plus firstclass amenities—swim vest or wetsuit, towel and swim gear, a souvenir snorkel and eco-friendly sunscreen—plus unlimited admission to SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica during your Orlando stay; Busch Gardens® can be added for an additional charge and includes transportation to Tampa. Discover your all-inclusive day at: DiscoveryCove.com. PHOTOS: SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

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KISSIMMEE

AT THE CENTER OF BY EDWARD SCHMIDT JR.

It All

Book an air boat ride in Kissimmee.

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s the nearest town to Walt Disney World, Kissimmee affords easy access to Mickey, Donald, Goofy and the gang. Enhancing Kissimmee’s appeal are a plethora of hotels, resorts and the largest concentration of vacation rental homes in the area, nature-based activities, world-class golf courses, dinner/entertainment shows and numerous dining and shopping options.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF EXPERIENCE KISSIMMEE

FAMILY ATTRACTIONS For a welcomed reprieve after theme park hopping, Kissimmee offers a spectacular menu of outdoor activities, including air boating, zip lining, paddleboarding, hot-air ballooning, fishing and horseback riding to name a few. If you don’t want to leave Florida without seeing an alligator, Kissimmee is home to Gatorland, the 60-year old, 110-acre attraction and wildlife preserve featuring thousands of alligators, animal shows, a natural alligator breeding marsh, petting zoo and the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line. For the white-dimpled ball set, the Kissimmee area has 12 golf courses highlighted by ChampionsGate Golf Club with two Greg Norman-designed courses and Reunion Resort, where Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson have created outstanding layouts. During the month of March, baseball fans can enjoy spring training games of the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros as they get ready for the Major League Baseball season.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE

INSIDER’S TIP

Kissimmee has a high concentration of every type of restaurant imaginable along Highway 192, at luxury resorts, The LOOP shopping center, and in downtown Kissimmee and Celebration. Dinner shows that combine glitzy, high-energy entertainment with a multi-course meal are a great Kissimmee option. See incredible jousting at Medieval Times, magnificent horsemanship at Arabian Nights, Prohibition-era antics in Capone’s Dinner & Show and special effects wizardry at the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure.

Kissimmee is home to one of the nation’s best rodeos. Every February, the Silver Spurs Rodeo, which started in 1944, features cowboys competing in bull riding, bronco busting, steer wrestling, barrel racing and other skills. If you’ve never been to a rodeo, the Silver Spurs with its affordable tickets and top-notch competition is a great place to experience your first one. FL

FEATURED LINKS Experience Kissimmee

ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING Immerse yourself in Kissimmee’s history on a visit to the Pioneer Village, where several late 19th-century structures depict life once ruled by citrus production and ranching. The Pioneer Village is just a short walk from the Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum. Shopping enthusiasts in Kissimmee gravitate to The LOOP, an outdoor shopping complex featuring stores such as Kohl’s and Old Navy, and downtown Kissimmee, which has a collection of specialty stores.

experiencekissimmee.com

Arabian Nights arabian-nights.com

Atlanta Braves Spring Training atlanta.braves.mlb.com/spring_training/tickets.js

Capone’s Dinner & Show alcapones.com

Celebration Town Center celebrationtowncenter.com

ChampionsGate Golf Club championsgategolf.com

Gatorland gatorland.com

Houston Astros Spring Training houston.astros.mlb.com/spring_training

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament medievaltimes.com/orlando.aspx

Pioneer Village & Museum osceolahistory.org/ochs1213

SPECIAL STREET SCENE Market Street at Celebration, a master-planned town originally developed by the Walt Disney Company, is a quaint area with themed pre1940s architecture exuding all-American ambiance and brimming with boutique shops and restaurants.

Pirate’s Dinner Adventure piratesdinneradventure.com

Reunion Wyndham Grand Golf & Spa Resort reunionresort.com/golf

Silver Spurs Rodeo silverspursrodeo.com

The LOOP-Orlando + LOOP West attheloop.com/kissimmee-orlando

Walt Disney World disneyworld.disney.go.com

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HIGHLANDS COUNTY

UNWIND AMONG HEAVENLY BY EDWARD SCHMIDT JR.

Landscapes The Sun ‘n Lake Golf Club in Sebring

ATTRACTIONS Golfers and anglers love Highlands County. There are more than a dozen golf courses from which to choose where you get plenty of golf for little money. Better still, the fairways are uncrowded and great tee times are easy to secure. For anglers, the county has 95 lakes and is renowned as a bass fishing haven that hasn’t been fished out like more visited lakes in other parts of Florida. Nature lovers are drawn to Highlands Hammock State Park, a pristine 4,896-acre park occupying a scenic, virgin hardwood forest with nine nature trails and a ranger-led tram tour. Racing enthusiasts gather at the Sebring International Raceway every March for 12 Hours of Sebring, an internationally acclaimed sports car endurance race, which celebrates its 62nd running in 2014.

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DINING

INSIDER’S TIP

Old Florida cafés and family-owned diners serving country breakfasts, down-home barbeque and homemade-style dinners highlight the dining-out menu in Highlands County. Sebring has major chains such as Outback Steakhouse and Red Lobster.

Nearly all of the world’s supply of caladium bulbs originate from Lake Placid, which has 44 murals painted on buildings, many depicting historical scenes—hence its two interesting nicknames, “The Caladium Capital of the World” and “Town of Murals.” This walkable town has several small parks and green spaces, where you can simply sit back and contemplate. FL

ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING To fully embrace Highlands County culturally, visit the Caladium Co-Op Gallery in Lake Placid, the Highlands Museum of the Arts Alan Altvater Cultural Center in Sebring and the South Florida State College Theatre for the Performing Arts in Avon Park. When it’s time to shop, options include the downtown areas of Sebring, Lake Placid and Avon Park, as well as Lakeshore Mall in Sebring, which features anchor stores such as Sears and JCPenney.

FEATURED LINKS Highlands County Visitor & Convention Bureau visitHighlandsCounty.com

Avon Park visitHighlandsCounty.com/avon-park

Caladium Arts & Crafts Co-Op caladiumarts.org

Highlands Hammock State Park floridastateparks.org/highlandshammock

Highlands Museum of the Arts highlandsartleague.org/node/20

SPECIAL SCENE Founded in 1912, Sebring evokes a small-town Americana ambiance with its unique, downtown area. Known as “The City on the Circle,” the historic district dotted with boutique shops, art galleries and restaurants revolves around Circle Drive. There’s even a park where you can step back in time and appreciate your surroundings.

Lake Placid visitHighlandsCounty.com/lake-placid

Lakeshore Mall lakeshoremall.com

Sebring visitHighlandsCounty.com/sebring

Sebring International Raceway sebringraceway.com

South Florida State College Performing Arts performances.southflorida.edu

PHOTO: HIGHLANDS COUNTY VCB

I

f you’re looking to slow down and take a reprieve from theme parks and urban life, Highlands County, about a 75-minute drive from the Walt Disney World tourism corridor in south Central Florida, is where to go to relax. A wonderland of lakes, rolling hills, parks, preserve areas and quaint, walkable Old Florida towns, Highlands County offers visitors opportunities to “experience authentic Florida.”


CENTRAL FLORIDA’S POLK COUNTY

A FAMILY-ORIENTED

Destination

BY EDWARD SCHMIDT JR. The entrance to LEGOLAND Florida in Winter Haven

FAMILY ATTRACTIONS You and the kids will have an absolute blast in Polk County. For families with small children, LEGOLAND Florida entertains with more than 50 rides, 10 themed “Lego Lands,” restaurants, shops and a botanical garden. Aviation enthusiasts gravitate to Fantasy of Flight, home to more than 100 rare and vintage aircraft, a state-of-the-art hang-gliding simulator, ropes course and zip line. Animal lovers relish Safari Wilderness Ranch, a 260-acre preserve with herds of exotic animals. You can “cowboy up” at the Westgate River Ranch Resort, a dude ranch experience at a 1,700-acre resort featuring horseback riding, skeet shooting and hayrides. Baseball fans enjoy spring training games in Lakeland, where the Detroit Tigers have played and trained every March since 1934.

down-home southern-style cooking restaurants and the famous Chalet Suzanne Restaurant and Country Inn, where five-course gourmet dinners are the draw.

ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING Polk County’s art and culture line-up includes the world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at Florida Southern College campus in Lakeland, the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales—home to spectacular gardens and the 205-foot neo-Gothic and art deco “Singing Tower” carillon—and the Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, which has a permanent collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, eight galleries and a sculpture garden. For the shop-till-you-drop set, the region has a plethora of antique shops and farmers’ markets, as well as major malls such as Lakeland Square Mall in Lakeland, where stores include Hollister and Old Navy, and Eagle Ridge Mall, with Dillard’s and Sears as anchor retailers.

just a few of the many performances you can enjoy at the 40th Annual SUN ’n FUN International Fly-In & Expo on April 1–6, 2014, at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. More than 4,000 aircraft participate in this weeklong event, which is the secondlargest air show in the US. FL

FEATURED LINKS Visit Central Florida VisitCentralFlorida.org

Bok Tower Gardens boktowergardens.org

Chalet Suzanne Restaurant and Country Inn chaletsuzanne.com

Detroit Tigers Spring Training detroit.tigers.mlb.com/spring_training

Eagle Ridge Mall eagleridgemall.com

Fantasy of Flight fantasyofflight.com

Frank Lloyd Wright at Florida Southern College franklloydwrightatfsc.com

Lakeland Square Mall

SPECIAL SCENE Set on former phosphate mining land with dramatic landforms, sweeping sand dunes, ridges and vistas, the Streamsong Resort and Spa courses, which debuted last year, were tabbed the “Best New US Course You Can Play,” in 2013 by Golf Magazine.

lakelandsquare.com

LEGOLAND Florida florida.legoland.com

Polk Museum of Art polkmuseumofart.org

Safari Wilderness Ranch safariwilderness.com

Streamsong Resort and Spa streamsongresort.com

SUN ’n FUN International Fly-In & Expo

DINING

INSIDER’S TIP

sun-n-fun.org

The eclectic menu of dining selections in the region includes slow-roasted barbeque joints,

Aerobatic shows, jet team demonstrations and World War II bombing re-enactments are

Westgate River Ranch Resort

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wgriverranch.com

PHOTO: LEGOLAND FLORIDA

D

otted with more than 500 lakes, 37 nature parks and preserves and 34 golf courses, Central Florida’s Polk County, just a few minutes from Orlando’s theme parks, offers visitors a superb and convenient option for enjoyment and adventure. Encompassing towns such as Lakeland, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, Bartow and Haines City, Polk County is an engaging blend of friendly Old Florida towns and family-oriented activities.


CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA

EXCITING, ECLECTIC AND

Enticing BY SUSAN B. BARNES

Windsurfing around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

W

ith all of the options available in the Sunshine State, it can be difficult to choose your destination. Here’s a tip: if you’re looking for a perfect blend of exciting theme parks, electric nightlife, exquisite dining, eclectic world-class museums and enticing sandy white beaches, look no further than Central West Florida.

WHAT’S NEW From hotel openings to more incredible dining options and ways to have fun, there are plenty of new and exciting things happening in this region. One thing is for sure: you’ll want to get out on the water. It’s easy to rent a boat through eBoats Tampa if you want to glide along the waterways. These small electric boats seat up to 10 passengers and they’re simple to navigate.

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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; THE COLUMBIA RESTAURANT; TAMPA BAY & COMPANY

Flamenco dancers at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

Fans of the movie Madagascar are flocking to the new show at Busch Gardens Tampa. While there, check out Iceploration, another new show, and hop on board the Cheetah Hunt for a screaming good time. And everyone loves to take a look inside the Animal Care Center, a zoo hospital with glass walls for observers. You may even be able to help with animal care! Tampa’s David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts has introduced two new series: the Florida Opera Festival runs until March 2014, while the Bank of America Best of Broadway Tampa Bay runs until May 2014. There’s much going on in the way of lodgings as well. In Tampa, Floridan Palace Hotel, built in 1926 and recently reopened after seven years of renovations, is one of the few hotels in Central West Florida listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stay a night or two and enjoy the splendor. Beach aficionados will find themselves right at home at the recently rebranded Guy Harvey Outpost, a TradeWinds Beach Resort on St. Pete Beach previously known as the TradeWinds Sandpiper Suites. The 211 rooms have been redecorated in a Guy Harvey decor theme, as have all the public and exterior spaces. There’s even a Guy Harvey Outfitter Shop on site. The Birchwood is a new boutique, 18-room inn in downtown St. Petersburg. While the Spanish Mission-style building isn’t new (circa 1924), it has undergone historically accurate renovations to bring it to its current glory. The inn and its Canopy Rooftop Lounge provide spectacular views of Tampa Bay. Foodies will want to make reservations at the new Epicurean Hotel in South Tampa, scheduled to open in December 2013. The 137room boutique hotel is dedicated to extraordinary culinary experiences, which comes as no surprise since it’s being developed in collaboration with famed Bern’s Steak House right across the street. Along the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa, Aloft Tampa Downtown is scheduled to open in early 2014. The former Mercantile Bank office is being re-purposed and developed to feature 130 loft-like rooms in a vibrant, social atmosphere. Another restoration project is underway at the classic Federal Courthouse also in downtown Tampa, which will become Le Meridien Hotel, a 130-room property scheduled to open mid-2014.

Central Ybor

HERITAGE AND CULTURE Watch your step! The Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg features the glassmaker’s masterpieces. The collection is displayed in a building designed specifically for the exhibit. Now that’s impressive! Located on the river in downtown Tampa, the Tampa Museum of Art features an incredible collection of contemporary and classical art, as well as enticing traveling exhibitions. Those interested in architecture will appreciate the art of the building itself, which was designed by Stanley Saitowitz. Just down the river from the Tampa Museum of Art is the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. Here you’ll find works by local, national and international photographers. One could say Ybor City is a living museum. Once known as the “Cigar Capital of the World,” the small city within a city contained numerous cigar factories where, in its heyday, workers would roll millions of cigars a year.

NEED MORE INFO? Citrus County Visitors & Convention Bureau visitcitrus.com

Hernando County Tourism Bureau naturallyhernando.org

St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau visitstpeteclearwater.com

Visit Tampa Bay visittampabay.com

Ybor City Chamber of Commerce ybor.org

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Today, the old brick streets are lined with shops and cafés, and you can still find some handrolled cigars to savor. Greek food, art and culture are found in the small fishing village of Tarpon Springs, northwest of Tampa. The Greek influence is still alive and well, years after the sponge industry brought them to the west coast of Florida.

MUST SEE, MUST DO When you think of Central West Florida, you may not imagine world-class museums, however you’ll be surprised. Take the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, for instance, which houses one of the world’s most comprehensive collection of

art from the master himself—more than 2,000 pieces, in fact. A Picasso exhibit is scheduled to open at the museum in the autumn of 2014, adding even more to the museum’s appeal. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, the country’s best zoo according to Parents Magazine, is home to more than 1,500 animals, including leopards and tigers, offering a bit of wildlife on 56 acres just a few miles north of downtown Tampa. Like strawberries? Be sure to plan a visit to Central West Florida where, for more than 80 years, the Florida Strawberry Festival takes place in Plant City from late February through mid-March.

TOWN AND COUNTRY

INSIDER’S TIPS Bayshore Boulevard, which runs from downtown Tampa south along the Hillsborough Bay, has the longest continuous stretch of sidewalk in the world—4.5 miles. At any given time, you’ll find people walking, running, rollerblading, biking and generally enjoying the area. Keep an eye out for stingrays, manatees and dolphins in the water—you may just catch a glimpse!

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Take time to explore other areas in this Gulfside region. Dunedin is an interesting town rich in its ties to its Scottish roots; Dade City is popular for its antique stores and historic architecture; and Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island state parks boast gorgeous, award-winning beaches.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE The dining scene in Central West Florida has really stepped up, with James Beard-nominated chefs and farm-to-table establishments making incredible names for themselves. The Refinery in

Tampa combines the two, with James Beard-nominated Chef Greg Baker at the helm and leading his team in new creations every week using local produce, meats and fish (menus change Thursdays). Everything else is made in-house. Landmark dining options include Bern’s Steak House and its Harry Waugh Dessert Room in Tampa and The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. For an international flavor, make reservations at Istanblu Restaurant and Bar in Ybor City. The Turkish restaurant combines Mediterranean and Ottoman flavors to create sensational dishes. Like cheese? Cheese Please in South Tampa has the best selection of international cheeses and condiments. Food and wine combine at Cru Cellars in Tampa. What’s more, food, shopping, a bookstore, coffee and teashop blend seamlessly at Oxford Exchange. Another unique dining experience can be had in Tampa at Edison Food + Drink Lab, where creativity in the kitchen is served right to you. Enjoy daily flavor experiments by highly talented Chef Jeannie Pierola and her team. SoHo (South Howard), also in Tampa, is another hot spot, featuring several restaurants and bars that party into the night. There are plenty of places to celebrate the day’s end as the sun sets into the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re at the beach, raise a toast at

PHOTO: VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; V

Nightlife scene in downtown St. Petersburg


Frenchy’s or Palm Pavilion right on Clearwater Beach. Nightclubs and music venues such as Jannus Live are jumping most nights along Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg’s Historic District.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Whether you’re a Toronto Blue Jays fan (Dunedin), pull for the Philadelphia Phillies (Clearwater), or root for the New York Yankees’ (Tampa), you’ll find a spring training game to enjoy along with the fine weather in Central West Florida. And once the baseball season officially begins, the Tampa Bay Rays take on the teams in their schedule at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Baseball isn’t the only game in town, though. The Tampa Bay Rowdies take to the pitch to battle rival soccer teams from summer into fall, and once fall and the football season roll around, cheer on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During winter, the Tampa Bay Lightning defend their home ice. If you’d rather play yourself, myriad public and semi-private golf courses for all skill sets abound throughout the region. Two out-

standing local courses are Saddlebrook Resort and Innisbrook Golf Resort. Or, go deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Barry of Gulf to Bay Charters will navigate the waters and find the perfect spots for you to cast a line for redfish, snook, trout, flounder and more. Get more involved and sign up to crew on board Capt. Gus’s Crabby Adventures. If fishing’s not your game, explore the tranquil Hillsborough River in a kayak or canoe or try stand-up paddleboarding. At the northernmost end of Central West Florida, Citrus County is where you’ll find the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which was twice awarded the “Nation’s Best State Park Service” gold medal. Spend the day here enjoying wildlife encounters with manatees, alligators and even a hippopotamus. During the winter months, manatees congregate in the relatively warm water at Kings Bay in Crystal River, just north of Homosassa. In fact, Citrus County is the only place in the US where it’s legal to swim with the popular East Indian manatee. The county also offers endless fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and cycling opportunities year-round and is renowned for its fresh seafood eateries.

FESTIVALS & EVENTS JANUARY Downtown Dunedin Art Festival Gasparilla Pirate Festival, Tampa

FEBRUARY Bands, Brew & BBQ, Busch Gardens Tampa Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City

MARCH Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Tampa Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

APRIL Mainsail Arts Festival, St. Petersburg Viva la Música, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

OCTOBER Clearwater Jazz Festival Howl-O-Scream, Busch Gardens Tampa

NOVEMBER Clearwater Beach Uncorked E.A.T. St. Pete: Food, Art & Wine Festival Ybor City Heritage & Cigar Festival

DECEMBER Christmas Town, Busch Gardens Tampa St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show

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CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA The Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa

FEATURED LINKS Aloft Tampa Downtown starwoodhotels.com/alofthotels

Bern’s Steak House bernssteakhouse.com

Busch Gardens Tampa buschgardens.com

Capt. Gus’s Crabby Adventures crabbyadventures.com

Clearwater Marine Aquarium seewinter.com

Dalí Museum thedali.org

David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts strazcenter.org

Dinosaur World dinosaurworld.com

eBoats Tampa eboatstampa.com

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park floridastateparks.org/homosassasprings

Florida Grapefruit League floridagrapefruitleague.com

If you’re looking for brand names, plug Tampa’s International Plaza into your GPS and pull out your credit cards. With anchor stores such as Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, not to mention boutiques including Burberry and Gucci, and international favorite H&M, the registers will be ringing! Explore the boutiques in Palma Ceia, one of Tampa’s most charming neighborhoods, to discover hidden treasures in more than 100 unique boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and cafés. 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. For souvenirs of Florida, try John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk in Madeira Beach, where more than 100 shops sell everything from Tshirts to shells to artwork and more. The Central Avenue’s Grand Central District 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. Outdoor shopping is the way to go at the Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel. Boutiques and department stores stand sideby-side, enticing you with their goods.

RECOMMENDED DRIVES The Sunshine Skyway is a cable-stayed bridge that spans across Tampa Bay from St.

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Petersburg to Manatee County to the south. The bridge soars hundreds of feet into the air, and provides magnificent views of the bay and the Gulf of Mexico beyond for passengers; drivers should keep their eyes on the road. “Florida’s Nature Coast” in Hernando County to the north promises peaceful vistas ranging from expansive pasturelands to mossladen oak-canopied roads. The area is rich with wildlife and marine life. Watch for deer, manatees, dolphins and rare birds.

Florida Museum of Photographic Arts fmopa.org

Gulf to Bay Charters gulftobaycharters.com

Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts & Marinas guyharveyoutpost.com

Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa clearwaterbeach.hyatt.com

Hyde Park Village hydeparkvillage.net

Innisbrook, A Salamander Golf & Spa Resort innisbrookgolfresort.com

International Plaza and Bay Street shopinternationalplaza.com

Morean Arts Center

FAMILY ACTIVITIES A different type of wildlife is found at Dinosaur World just off of Interstate 4 in Plant City. They may not be real, but 150 life-size dinosaurs, from Brachiosaurus to Triceratops, make their homes here. A sequel to Dolphin Tale begins filming in Clearwater in 2014, but you have the chance to see the star, Winter the dolphin, up close and personal at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. As a young calf, Winter’s tail became entangled in a crab trap line and she lost it. She’s the first dolphin to have a prosthetic tail. Some of the biggest family attractions, however, are the award-winning beaches in Central West Florida. Recently, St. Pete Beach was ranked No. 1 beach in the country and No. 5 in the world by TripAdvisor, while Clearwater Beach was named Florida’s best beach town by USA Today. There’s no better place to throw down a blanket, put on the suntan lotion and enjoy a day at the beach. FL

moreanartscenter.org

Saddlebrook Resort Tampa saddlebrook.com

Superior Small Lodging superiorsmalllodging.com

Tampa Bay Buccaneers buccaneers.com

Tampa Bay Lightning lightning.nhl.com

Tampa Bay Rays tampabay.rays.mlb.com

Tampa Bay Rowdies rowdiessoccer.com

Tampa Museum of Art tampamuseum.org

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo www.lowryparkzoo.com

The Birchwood thebirchwood.com

The Columbia Restaurant columbiarestaurant.com

The Epicurean Hotel epicureanhotel.com

The Floridan Palace Hotel floridanpalace.com

The Historic Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks spongedocks.net

The Shops at Wiregrass theshopsatwiregrass.com

PHOTO: BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA

BEST PLACES TO SHOP


CITRUS COUNTY

AN ECO

Paradise BY KEVIN AND AMANDA MIMS

F

or some, the mention of Florida conjures up thoughts of miles of white-sand beaches. For others, it’s theme parks and shopping experiences. But more and more, people are coming to the state to take part in outdoor recreation and ecoadventures. In fact, it might surprise you to know that wildlife viewing activities rank just second to saltwater beach pursuits on Florida visitors’ itineraries. Travelers looking for more authentic, down-to-earth Sunshine State experiences are going beyond the beaches and are heading to ecotourism hot spots such as Citrus County. Located about an hour north of Tampa, Citrus County is in the center of what’s known as Florida’s Nature Coast. Opportunities abound for eco-adventure enthusiasts, with plenty of recreation opportunities on land and by sea.

DINING For fresh fish, head to any one of a number of seafood restaurants along the coastal Homosassa and Crystal rivers and King’s Bay. The Mullet Hole Tavern in Crystal River serves up a full menu of local catches including pecan-crusted grouper, fire-roasted red snapper and, of course, traditional fried mullet.

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The Trash Can Lid seafood platter at Riverside Crabhouse and Yardarm Lounge in Citrus County

In the mood for something different? Check out Crystal River’s Vintage on 5th for a unique southern dining experience that’s family-friendly to boot. You’ll feel the history inside the circa-1940 building, formerly a

church, while feasting on classic dishes such as shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, rack of lamb and duck breast. Choose from an array of more than 140 wines to complement your meal.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISITCITRUS.COM; VISITCITRUS.COM; CAROL GRANT/VISITCITRUS.COM: VISITCITRUS.COM

Boats at the Blue Water Springs in Homosassa


Snorkeling with the manatees in Citrus County

ON THE WATER The county’s official tagline is “The Water Lovers’ Florida,” and that designation couldn’t be more accurate. On a typical drive through Crystal River and Homosassa, and even inland in Inverness, you’ll get the idea of what awaits— it seems like every other vehicle is pulling a boat or sporting kayaks on the roof. Or both. Fishing is a way of life in Citrus County. As a major fishing destination, Citrus County has plenty of expert freshwater, inshore and offshore charter guides ready to put you onto the catch of the day. Bucket-list saltwater species such as cobia, gag grouper, Spanish mackerel, redfish and world-record-sized tarpon are yours for the taking. Kayakers will enjoy the county’s freshwater springs and spring-fed rivers. Spend time paddling the Chassahowitzka River—or Chass, as it’s known locally—for a trip back in time. Several springs feed the river as it makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Bring your cameras and binoculars. The scenery and wildlife are out of this world.

Landing a largemouth bass in Citrus County

MANATEES AND MORE As a wildlife-viewing destination, Citrus County can’t be beat. This is the only spot in the US where it’s legal to swim with endangered West Indian manatees. During the winter months, hundreds of these gentle giants seek refuge in the warm waters of the area’s freshwater springs. In the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Three Sisters Springs is one of the finest examples of the state’s gin-clear freshwater springs, where kayaking, manatee tours and snorkeling are popular activities.

Consider the Port Hotel and Marina in Crystal River for a picturesque riverside getaway or Running Deer Lodge in Inverness for a rustic bed-and-breakfast experience. Camp in a tent or RV at the Chassahowitzka River Campground, which is within walking distance of the river, camp store and boat rentals. The Holder Mine Recreation Area in the Withlacoochee State Forest also accommodates tents and RVs, and there are numerous RV campgrounds throughout the county, many on or near the water. FL

FEATURED LINKS Citrus County Visitors & Convention Bureau visitcitrus.com

A Crystal River Kayak Company

ELLIE SCHILLER HOMOSASSA SPRINGS WILDLIFE STATE PARK See Florida wildlife up close at this popular destination that is home to numerous species, including red wolf, manatee, whooping crane, key deer and the rare Florida panther. The park has several resident manatees and rehabilitates other manatees until they can be reintroduced into the wild. Visitors enjoy the Homosassa River Walk, Manatee Observation area and Fish Bowl underwater observatory, where educational programs take place. See abundant wildlife along Pepper Creek on a pontoon boat to the wildlife park.

crystalriverkayakcompany.com

Best Western Crystal River Resort

WHERE TO STAY Whether your adventure includes roughing it at a scenic campground or being pampered at a bed and breakfast, Citrus County has you covered. For a unique experience, check into the Upstairs Tree House in Old Homosassa and sleep among the tall oak trees. From there, you’ll be able to walk to the water and the arts and crafts shops for which Old Homosassa is known. The Tree House is adjacent to River Safaris, which offers airboat tours, boat rentals and more.

crystalriverresort.com

Bird’s Underwater Inc. Manatee Tours & Scuba Shop birdsunderwater.com

Chassahowitzka River Campground chassahowitzkaflorida.com

Days Inn Crystal River daysinn.com

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park floridastateparks.org/homosassasprings

Homosassa Guides Association homosassaguidesassociation.com

Homosassa Riverside Resort riversideresorts.com

Plantation on Crystal River plantationoncrystalriver.com

The Port Hotel & Marina porthotelandmarina.com

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NORTHEAST FLORIDA

WHERE EXTRAORDINARY IS Ordinary BY JUDY WELLS

Walking the beach on Amelia Island

A

snowy egret lifts into the air as a kayak slips under its perch while a great blue heron continues its freeze-frame stalk in the marsh. Just across a strip of coastal oaks and the dunes that line A1A, a squadron of brown pelicans glides in single file above the beach lapped by the Atlantic Ocean. To visitors it is an extraordinary sight, but to residents of Florida’s First Coast it’s morning as usual. In Northeast Florida, superlatives, firsts and memorable moments are as common as oak trees draped in Spanish moss. The list includes: • First shared meal between Europeans and Native Americans (1564, Fort Caroline, Jacksonville); • First permanent European settlement in America (St. Augustine); • State’s oldest bar (Palace Saloon, Fernandina); • Largest park system in the country (Jacksonville); • World’s longest river race for sailboats (Mug Race, Palatka to Jacksonville); • World’s oldest operational private skate park (Kona Skatepark, Jacksonville); • Florida’s first in-ground pool (Princess Place Preserve, Flagler County); • First free African settlement in North America (Fort Mose, St. Augustine).

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WHAT’S NEW The Colonial Quarter in the Oldest City has been recreated to capture St. Augustine’s different eras with period crafts, contemporary takes on period cuisine and an evening revue on weekends. During 2014’s 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the First Coast will highlight its role in the struggle for equality. Jacksonville-born lawyer, poet and activist James Weldon Johnson composed Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, the movement’s national anthem, and St. Augustine was a refuge for escaped slaves, as well as the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s frequent visits and protests. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens turns 100 on May 12, 2014, and celebrations begin on March 3 with the grand opening of Land of the Tigers.

HERITAGE AND CULTURE Wealthy northerners who followed Henry Flagler’s example found Flagler County the perfect retreat for fishing, hunting, boating and restful getaways. Princess Place Preserve and Washington Oaks Gardens State Park give us insights into their lives. 2014 marks the 450th year since the French and Spanish began colonizing Northeast Florida with events scheduled throughout the region, while Fernandina Beach commemorates its pi-

rate era, commercial shrimpers and all the flags under which it has been ruled with the 51st Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival in May. Jacksonville, the region’s urban heart, is also the cultural center. The 64-year-old Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra is one of the few American orchestras with its own orchestral hall and the Jacksonville Jazz Festival is the second largest in the country. Three major museums—the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, the 90-year-young Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA) and the Museum of Science & History (MOSH)— provide impetus for creativity and a lively contemporary arts scene while the Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center showcases artifacts from the earliest French to current time. Theater fills stages from the Times-Union Performing Arts Center to Theatre Jacksonville, the oldest continuously operating community theater in the country. Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Artist Series brings in Broadway productions. Major acts take over the Veterans Memorial Arena and the Ritz Theater spotlights African-American talents. One Spark, a crowd-sourced festival and competition, debuted in 2013, attracting creators from around the country vying for attention, recognition and a portion of $300,000.

FRPM LEFT TO RIGHT: AMELIA ISLAND; VISIT JACKSONVILLE

The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra at The Times-Union Center for Performing Arts

INSIDER’S TIPS In St. Augustine, catch a hop-on hop-off trolley tour with Red Train Tours. The adventure begins at the original Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Come evening, book a ghost tour with Ripley’s Ghost Train Adventure, named the best three years in a row. Historical tours of Flagler College are offered daily. Tickets cost $10 at the door and $8.50 when purchased elsewhere. Cross the river in downtown Jacksonville the inexpensive way by using the elevated Skyway. The 2.5-mile fully-automated monorail system crosses the St. Johns River to Kings Avenue on the Southbank.

The location of Fort Caroline remains one of Jacksonville’s mysteries, however the Spanish-built Castillo de San Marcos has protected St. Augustine since the 17th century and Fort Clinch has watched over Fernandina since the 1800s. Both fascinate today’s visitors with re-enactments and tales galore. Towns with significant architecture and a rich history attract colonies of artists, such as those in St. Augustine and Fernandina who are inspired by the ambiance. Jacksonville may have the University of North Florida, Jacksonville University and Florida State College, however in St. Augustine, Flagler College has taken over and restored the historic Flagler Hotel, which, with its glamorous Tiffany windows and elaborate carvings, was a magnet for well-heeled tourists who started the first Florida land boom.

MUST SEE, MUST DO Venture into the marshes and waterways to view the wildlife. Plunge into the Atlantic Ocean then dry off strolling along wide beaches as you search for sharks’ teeth. Wander St. Augustine’s back streets with camera in hand; it’s a photographer’s haven. In the middle of Jacksonville, Tree Hill Nature Center gives children the opportunity to interact with nature. Book an Amelia Island River Cruise to view Fort Clinch and see dozens of wild horses that call Cumberland Island home.

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NORTHEAST FLORIDA The Fairbanks House in Fernandina Beach

FESTIVALS & EVENTS JANUARY Gator Bowl Classic, Jacksonville Hunter-Jumper Winter Horse Show, Green Cove Springs Palm Coast Half-Marathon

FEBRUARY Noche de Gala, St. Augustine

MARCH Amelia Island Concourse d’Elegance Florida Azalea Festival, Palatka

APRIL Clay County Fair, Green Cove Springs George’s Springing the Blues, Jacksonville Beach One Spark, Jacksonville

MAY Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival Blue Crab Festival, Palatka Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, Fernandina Beach Jacksonville Jazz Festival THE PLAYERS Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach World of Nations Celebration, Jacksonville

JUNE Drake’s Raid Re-enactment, St. Augustine

AUGUST The Great Southern Tailgate Cook-Off, Fernandina Beach

OCTOBER Amelia Island Jazz Festival Creekside Festival, Flagler County Georgia-Florida football game, Jacksonville

NOVEMBER–DECEMBER Nights of Lights, St. Augustine Palm Coast Seafood Festival Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic, Flagler Beach

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TOWN AND COUNTRY Flagler has a split personality. To the north, Palm Coast sprang up as a planned community and now houses the majority of the county’s population, as well as the Hammock Beach Resort and its famed golf course. To the south, Flagler Beach is the town that time bypassed. Small and quaint with unobstructed beach views along A1A, the family atmosphere is hard to beat with free parties in the park on the first Friday of every month. St. Augustine is a small town with a big history. Downtown you can walk through the centuries, from 16th to early 20th. Cross the Bridge of Lions and you’re on the way to the beach and definitely into the 21st century. Special events galore, costume galas, good restaurants and an amphitheater that brings in major performers fill the year with entertainment. A stay at the Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront puts you right in the middle of all the historic sites, shops and restaurants. Drive 30 minutes from St. Augustine to Green Cove Springs to explore the banks of the St. Johns River in serene, pastoral surroundings or to relax in the sulfur-scented spring water. The town is part of a consortium that markets itself as Florida’s First Coast of Golf. It’s also on the Great Florida Birding Trail and offers off-road cycling trails and freshwater fishing. While there, check out Camp Chowenwaw’s jungle trails, tent camping, tree houses and walking trails. Treat yourself to a stay at the historic River Park Inn. Jacksonville is a huge area joined and divided by the St. Johns River, 500-plus neighborhoods

and passions for business, water sports, Southern rock, golf and football. It’s big enough for both nature and urban sophistication, yet small and friendly. As one visitor described it, “Locals converse with you.” Mayport, Atlantic, Neptune, Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra and Vilano beaches segue from the north end of a barrier island to its south. Each has its own personality. Jacksonville Beach attracts families while Ponte Vedra appeals to resort goers and golfers. After rowdy beginnings, Fernandina and Amelia Island settled into a timber and shrimping community until tourists discovered the charm of Victorian homes, broad beaches, shallow marshes and oak-canopied roads. For accommodation, don’t pass up the Fairbanks House, a bed and breakfast conveniently located in the Historic District of Fernandina Beach, or, on a grander scale, book the newly renovated Omni Amelia Island Plantation.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE The First Coast is rapidly becoming the Foodie Coast. Fresh, local and organic are the current bywords. When in doubt, ask the locals. Even St. Johns Town Center, home of major chain restaurants from quick burgers to elegant dining, now has a local. Chef Tom Gray, who brought Bistro Aix to multi-star status, has opened Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails. Chefs are growing their own herbs and vegetables. Chef Joshua Agan at b.b.’s in Jacksonville grows his on the rooftop (don’t miss the duck wontons). Chefs at The Ritz-Carlton

PHOTO: THE FAIRBANKS HOUSE

Scottish Highland Games, Green Cove Springs


FEATURED LINKS Amelia River Cruises ameliarivercruises.com

Artists Series Jax artistsseriesjax.org

Camp Chowenwaw Park parks.claycountygov.com

Casa Monica Hotel casamonica.com

Castillo de San Marcos nps.gov/casa

Amelia Island plant theirs, too, and harvest honey from their own hive. Although most fine-dining establishments are stand-alones such as Matthew’s in Jacksonville and David’s in Fernandina, hotels have become competition. Azurea at One Ocean Resort & Spa in Atlantic Beach and 95 Cordova Restaurant at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine serve food to match their white linen settings. Salt in the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, even throws in an education on its namesake. The shrimping industry originated in

Fernandina but the “best fried shrimp” debate is hottest between Singleton’s Seafood Shack in Atlantic Beach and St. Augustine’s Barnacle Bill’s and O’Steen’s. Kicking back and watching boats go by is a favorite pastime. Creative combinations and a comfortable adult atmosphere are behind Marker 32’s success. Gather the family for reliably good fried seafood and a parade of boats from runabouts to yachts at Lulu’s Waterfront Grille in Ponte Vedra Beach or Cap’s and Salt Water Cowboy’s in St. Augustine.

Colonial Quarter colonialquarter.com

Edge City gunnel.com

Flagler’s Legacy legacy.flagler.edu

Florida Agricultural Museum myagmuseum.com

Fort Clinch State Park floridastateparks.org/fortclinch

Fort George Island Cultural State Park floridastateparks.org/fortgeorgeisland

Golf Club of Amelia Island golfclubofamelia.com

Hammock Beach, A Salamander Golf & Spa Resort hammockbeach.com

Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront hilton.com

Jacksonville International Airport flyjax.com

Jacksonville Landing jacksonvillelanding.com

Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center jacksonvillemaritimeheritagecenter.org

Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra jaxsymphony.org

Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena jaxevents.com/venues

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens jacksonvillezoo.org

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park coj.net/departments/parks-and-recreation/ park-search.aspx

Kingsley Plantation nps.gov/timu/historyculture/kp.htm

Kona Skate Park konaskatepark.com

Lightner Museum lightnermuseum.org

Linda Cunningham lindacunningham.com

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FEATURED LINKS Aviles Street carriage ride

Marineland

in St. Augustine

marineland.net

Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville mocajacksonville.org

Museum of Science & History Marineland, home to 60-year-old Nellie

theMOSH.org

Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort omnihotels.com

One Ocean Resort & Spa oneoceanresort.com

Palace Saloon thepalacesaloon.com

Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park fountainofyouthflorida.com

Red Train Tours ripleys.com/redtrains

THE GREAT OUTDOORS In an area blessed with 90 miles of oceanfront, 101 miles of St. Johns River plus its 12 tributaries and 104 miles of Intracoastal Waterway, water activities rule. Outfitters will equip and guide you through the marshes and rivers where you share the views with egrets, herons, even eagles. Urbanites can board a water taxi in Jacksonville or St. Augustine. Environmentalists love the “veggie boat,” a new vegetable oil-powered craft operated by Ripple Effect Ecotours in Flagler. While charter fishing guides are plentiful, you can also fish from piers on Amelia Island, Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Flagler beaches. Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park in Atlantic Beach and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, a national park encompassing parts of Jacksonville, Fort George and

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the Talbot Islands, are treasures. Boating, swimming, fishing, camping, cycling, hiking, birdwatching, ranger talks and historical sites such as Kingsley Plantation attract thousands to the ocean, lake, rivers and marshes. Surfers head to Hanna Park, north of the Jacksonville Beach pier, and hang ten at Mickler’s Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach. In November, Flagler Beach is aglow for the Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic nightsurfing event. Golf is the other passion with more than 1,000 holes to play. Located between St. Augustine and Green Cove Springs, World Golf Village is a mecca for duffers, with its World Golf Hall of Fame, the Murray Bros. Caddy Shack restaurant, PGA Tour Golf Academy and two unique golf courses— Slammer & Squire, co-designed by Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen, and King & Bear, co-designed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Other stand-out signature courses are THE PLAYERS Stadium and Dye’s Valley courses at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Golf Club of Amelia Island, the two public courses at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort and the Hammock Beach Ocean Course in Palm Coast.

ripleys.com/staugustine

Ripple Effect Ecotours rippleeffectecotours.com

Ritz Theatre and Museum ritzjacksonville.com

River Park Inn riverparkinn.com

Superior Small Lodging superiorsmalllodging.com

St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum thepiratemuseum.com

St. Augustine Premium Outlets premiumoutlets.com

St. Johns Cultural Council, Inc. stjohnsculture.com

St. Johns Town Center simon.com/mall/st-johns-town-center

Sweet Pete’s sweetpete.net

TPC Sawgrass tpc.com/tpc-sawgrass

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens cummer.org

The Fairbanks House fairbankshouse.com

The Shoppes of Avondale shoppesofavondale.com

Theatre Jacksonville

BEST PLACES TO SHOP Nordstrom’s cements St. Johns Town Center as the mall to hit whether you’re searching for bargain shoes or Tiffany glass. St. Augustine’s outlet malls keep shoppers in bargains as does Bluetique, an upscale Goodwill resale in Ponte Vedra Beach.

theatrejax.com

Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve nps.gov/foca

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park floridastateparks.org/washingtonoaks

World Golf Village worldofgolfvillage.com

FROM THE TOP: STACEY SATHER/FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM; MARINE DOLPHIN ADVENTURE

For after-dark enjoyment, sophisticated Dos Gatos in downtown Jacksonville and the classic dive, Pete’s Bar in Neptune Beach, were both named to the “Top 10 Bars in Florida” by Great Britain’s Guardian newspaper. Jacksonville’s Latitude 30 with its mix of upscale bowling, music, food, bar, TVs and arcade games is popular with all ages. Freebird Live in Jacksonville Beach keeps the Lynyrd Skynyrd vibe with live performances. Nearby, on Wednesday nights, join the locals at the Casa Marina Hotel for good bar noshes and a great view. Brewpubs are still growing in popularity in Jacksonville. Aardwolf Brewing in San Marco is the latest addition.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not!


NEED MORE INFO? Amelia Island Tourist Development Council ameliaisland.com

Clay County exploreclay.com

Flagler County Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center palmcoastandtheflaglerbeaches.com

St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau floridashistoriccoast.com

Visit Jacksonville visitjacksonville.com

For individual chic in Jacksonville, try designer Linda Cunningham and San Marco Square, Edge City in Five Points and the Shoppes of Avondale. Check out Beaches Town Center in Neptune Beach, the stores along A1A in Ponte Vedra and the shops on the historic streets of Fernandina and St. Augustine.

RECOMMENDED DRIVES Take a trip along A1A from Flagler Beach to Fernandina to survey what brings so many people to Northeast Florida. Follow the St.

Johns River to view stately homes and oakcanopied roads.

FAMILY ACTIVITIES Witness what it took to live in Florida about 150 years ago at the Florida Agricultural Museum, a working farm in Flagler County. Shuck corn and feed chickens, pigs, ducks, horses and cracker cattle amid historic farm buildings during a two-hour tour. Meet Nellie, a dolphin with an honorary PhD. Marineland, the world’s first oceanarium, is where Nellie was born in 1953, making her the world’s oldest dolphin in human care. She’s passed so many tests that Jacksonville University awarded the degree. In St. Augustine, discover gems in the Pirate & Treasure Museum and explore Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the original site of the nation’s oldest city. Take an old-fashioned carriage ride through Old Town. Develop a new skill with a beach-fishing class from Amelia Angler Outfitters on Amelia Island or a bubblegum-making seminar at Sweet Pete’s in Jacksonville. FL

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JACKSONVILLE

RIVER CITY BY

The Sea

BY MELANIE GREEN The majestic skyline of downtown Jacksonville

S

WATER WONDERLAND More than 20 miles of beaches, 40 miles of Intracoastal Waterway, and a river that runs through the city make Jacksonville a water lover’s dream. Fishing, surfing, boating and kayaking are popular. The Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier is a prime fishing spot; no license required. JAXPORT is also home to Carnival Cruise Lines.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE From local favorites such as Metro Diner to fancy eateries such as Orsay, Jacksonville has choices to please every palate. Fresh seafood is always on the menu at Clark’s Fish Camp and Singleton’s Seafood Shack on Atlantic Beach. Matthews, Bistro Aix and bb’s in the San Marco Dining District create eclectic, gourmet fare.

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STREET SCENES Step into the wild side and take a safari walk while visiting the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ thousands of plants and animals. The Riverside Arts Market, open each Saturday from March through December, is less wild but still bustles with live entertainment, a farmers’ market, and sundry artists selling their wares.

INSIDER’S TIP Dining in downtown Jacksonville

For a sweet treat, try Peterbrooke Chocolatier’s hand-dipped chocolates. Azurea, a AAA fourdiamond Atlantic Beach oceanfront restaurant, doubles as a bar scene hot spot. The Riverside Food & Beer District attracts nightlife lovers to pubs and craft breweries serving tasty bites and hundreds of beer selections.

ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING Jacksonville thrives with museums, a symphony orchestra, a Broadway Artists Series and the annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Shopping for trendy art, clothing and antiques is found in Avondale and San Marco’s boutiques and galleries, while edgy Five Points has funky finds. On the grand scale, the St. Johns Town Center has everything from Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton to budget retailers such as Target.

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is a perfect outdoor destination for everyone, including pets. Budgetfriendly (US$3 per car up to six persons), it offers camping, a 1.5-mile beach, picnic/cookout facilities, 20 miles of biking/hiking trails, a Kids Splash Park, and a 60-acre freshwater lake for fishing, kayaks, pedal boats and canoes. It is also home to Northeast Florida’s premier surfing spot, The Poles. FL

FEATURED LINKS Visit Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau visitjacksonville.com

Jacksonville Beach Pier jacksonvillebeachpier.com

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens jacksonvillezoo.org

Riverside Arts Market riversideartsmarket.com

PHOTOS: RYAN KETTERMAN FOR VISIT JACKSONVILLE

panning the St. Johns River and extending to the Atlantic Ocean, Jacksonville is the largest city by area (840 square miles) in the continental US. Powered by a youthful vibe that is enhanced with southern hospitality, Jacksonville is energized by a plethora of leisure options. A golf mecca, Jacksonville has more than 70 courses and hosts THE PLAYERS Championship in nearby Ponte Vedra. Boasting the nation’s largest urban park system, state and national parks showcase 85,000 acres of natural wonders and eco-adventures.


NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA

WHERE NATURE AND CULTURE Meet

Built in 1845, the Historic Capitol in Tallahassee houses a museum exhibiting the state’s political history.

I

n the 190 years since Tallahassee became Florida’s capital, most of North Central Florida has faded from the spotlight. Today, the region’s only city lights are found in Gainesville and the capital itself, both of which are hip, young university towns. So why do in-the-know visitors seek out this area? Nature’s gifts are abundant and small-town hospitality is still a way of life. Serenity sells. The timeless Suwannee River flows free here, providing miles of unspoiled wilderness for paddlers, campers, anglers, hikers and birders. Beneath the many springs that flow into the river are underwater caves that attract expert cave divers from around the world. Within this small region alone, you’ll find the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, the Apalachicola National Forest, as well as numerous state parks and forests, nature reserves, scenic byways, unspoiled rivers and archaeological sites.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: VISIT TALLAHASSEE; VISIT TALLAHASSEE; ANNA MIKELL, COURTESY OF VISIT GAINESVILLE

BY JANET GROENE


Mission San Luis in Tallahassee

WHAT’S NEW In 2013, Heritage Park and Gardens in Live Oak opened a new community history center where travelers can tour a regal 1950s family mansion and acres of park-like grounds. For now, the house and grounds are handsome venues for indoor and outdoor events, art shows and festivals. In time, the house will be furnished with period pieces. Opening in 2014 in Tallahassee, the Cascades Park Amphitheater is a major history, education and entertainment venue. Big-name performances will be held in the $40-million complex, which also features bike paths, a water play plaza and a water fountain sculpture. The 500th anniversary of the founding of Florida in 2013 spawned important additions including a permanent exhibit about the state’s Spanish past, titled “Forever Changed: La Florida, 1513 to 1821” at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.

HERITAGE AND CULTURE Florida’s benign climate and abundance of natural foods sustained Native Americans as early as 14,000 years ago. Sites pertaining to their history are still being excavated. Today, tribes such as Seminoles and Miccosukees make important contributions to the state’s cultural tapestry. In the early 1500s, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto ventured westward from St. Augustine into the present sites of Gainesville and Tallahassee. Mission San Luis, established by the Spanish, has been faithfully rebuilt on the original site and is a major attraction in Tallahassee. The Spanish introduced horses, cattle, pigs, oranges and countless other species that transformed North Florida. Its rich lands attracted such notables as the exiled Prince Achille Murat of Naples, who built and settled at Lipona Plantation east of Tallahassee. The first railroad in the state crossed this region, running from Tallahassee to the Gulf-port town of St. Marks. Passenger trains stopped serving the area when Interstate 10 bypassed little communities along US 90 and the region became “too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash.” While other regions flourished with high-rise housing, dams, drainage systems and concrete cloverleafs, North Central Florida slumbered. As a result, today’s tourists get to enjoy more nature and less congestion.

MUST SEE, MUST DO Mission San Luis was restored on original sites occupied by Apalachee Indians centuries ago in Tallahassee. Many structures, built from original plans found in Spain, rise from their original foundations. Interpretive characters in authentic costumes inform visitors on daily life during the Spanish era as they tend fires, defend the crude fort against hostile tribes, raise chickens, create ironwork, cook corn and venison, and re-create ceremonies in the chapel and council house. Goodwood Museum & Gardens, a plantation in the heart of Tallahassee, has been restored to its 1930s look, but its story goes back centuries. Don’t miss the docent-guided tour followed by lunch in Fanny’s Garden Café. At Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park near Tallahassee, float on primeval waters surrounded by a jungle filled with deer and nattering birds. Three Tarzan films and The Creature from the Black Lagoon were made here. Take a boat tour and stay in a charming lodge built in 1937 where the freshwater spring is one of the largest and deepest in the world.

A tour guide at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home in Cross Creek

NEED MORE INFO? Alachua County Visitors & Convention Bureau VisitGainesville.com

Gadsden County Tourism Development Council egadsden.com

Jefferson County Tourism Development Council visitjeffersoncountyflorida.com

Tallahassee Visitor Information Center VisitTallahassee.com

Wakulla County Tourist Development Council VisitWakulla.com

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA The Wescott Building at Florida State University

Cycling around Gainesville

flourishing with wildlife and distinct species. After unseasonable rains in the 1870s, the area became a massive lake, only to drain completely when a sinkhole opened up in 1891, turning it back into the lush prairie you see today. Bison, wild horses and scrub cattle have been re-introduced to the area, where visitors can also view more than 270 species of birds plus countless plants, trees and small mammals.

INSIDER’S TIPS While simple drives along country roads are a pleasure in North Central Florida, this is also timber territory. Logging trucks are heavily laden and ungainly. Give them a wide berth. Unless you’re visiting the cities to attend football games, it’s best to avoid Gainesville and Tallahassee during big football game weekends because of heavy traffic. If you enjoy a drink with dinner, plan ahead. Lafayette is a dry county and does not serve alcohol anywhere, while other counties prohibit alcohol sales on Sunday.

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The Tallahassee Automobile Museum displays one of the American South’s largest private collections, each filled with important and one-of-a-kind finds. In addition to more than 140 rare automobiles, the museum houses Lincoln’s funeral coach and large exhibits of boats and motors, fishing lures, golf clubs, toys and dolls, office machines, Steinway pianos and more. In Gainesville, the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens feature the largest display of bamboos in Florida and the largest herb garden in the Southeastern USA. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park near Gainesville is another of the region’s geological oddities. When naturalist William Bartram arrived in the 1700s, he found a vast savannah,

Tallahassee and Gainesville are home to Florida State University and the University of Florida, respectively. As a result, populations ebb and swell as students come and go. Tallahassee’s complexion also changes when the state legislature is in session. Both cities offer shopping, fine dining, museums and special events. Venture out of the cities to explore small towns and fishing ports. For instance, less than an hour from Tallahassee, Sopchoppy is as close to Mayberry as you’ll experience. Established in 1528, the nearby historic settlement of St. Marks is definitely worth exploring. If you’re in Wakulla County in December, check the Operation Migration website as this is one of the places where you can watch whooping cranes as they follow an ultralight to their winter home in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Santa Fe College in Gainesville has a teaching zoo where students become certified zoologists. Visit the monkeys and the planetarium next door. Outside Gainesville, historic Micanopy is the town that time forgot and where the movie Doc Holliday was filmed.

FROM THE LEFT TO RIGHT: VISIT TALLAHASSEE; COURTESY OF VISIT GAINESVILLE; GLENN HASTINGS/DESTINATION STYLE

TOWN AND COUNTRY


DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Since the universities in Tallahassee and Gainesville are popular with foreign students, both cities offer an abundance of affordable ethnic eateries. Gaines Street in Tallahassee (known as G Street or Railroad Square to locals) is a lively hangout known for its trendy restaurants, boutiques and studios. College Town at Madison Street, just two blocks from Tallahassee’s FSU campus, is another dining and entertainment complex with trendy bars, lounges and restaurants. Tallahassee also offers a good choice of ultrafine dining restaurants. Georgio’s excels in gourmet Greek cuisine. Sage features a varied menu with entrees ranging from Scottish salmon to fresh-caught striped bass. Andrew’s Capitol Bar and Grill does superb salads and sandwiches while Andrew’s 228 bistro specializes in American and Italian fusion. Small towns best known for simple restaurants serving fresh-from-the-fleet seafood

include Cedar Key, Steinhatchee, St. Marks, Sopchoppy, Panacea/Ochlocknee Bay and Wakulla/Crawfordville. Savor the full range of Gulf of Mexico seafood as well as smoked mullet, a regional specialty usually made into a dip. One of Gainesville’s treasures is the Yearling Restaurant at Cross Creek where you can order conventional foods such as chicken and grouper or sample such Old Florida specialties as cooter (turtle), venison, alligator and quail. Hours are limited so check ahead.

FESTIVALS & EVENTS JANUARY Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, Gainesville

FEBRUARY Pigfest, Tallahassee Olustee Festival, Olustee Battlefield State Park

MARCH Springtime Tallahassee Suwannee Springfest, Live Oak

THE GREAT OUTDOORS The Suwannee River song is familiar to most, but in truth, this untamed waterway is one of the South’s great unsung recreation resources. There are no dams and few markers. Only through patient homework can outsiders learn about the many places that offer lodgings and paddle-in camping along the river. Dozens of boat ramps throughout the region range from crude gravel slopes to wide paved ramps suitable for larger boats. Canoes and

Wild Azalea Festival, White Springs

APRIL Bradford County Strawberry Festival, Starke Down Home Days Festival, Parade & PCA Rodeo, Madison Florida State Bluegrass Festival, Perry Kayak Fishing Tournament, Inglis/Yankeetown Old Florida Celebration of the Arts, Cedar Key Panacea Rock the Dock Fishing Tournament Santa Fe College Spring Arts Festival, Gainesville Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin’ Festival Suwannee River Jam, Live Oak

Dine at Andrew's 228 bistro in Tallahassee.

MAY Big Bend Kayak Classic, Crawfordville Florida Folk Festival, White Springs Florida Wine Festival, Tallahassee Hamilton County Rodeo, Jasper Panacea Blue Crab Festival

JUNE Jefferson County Watermelon Festival, Monticello Tropical Nights Concerts at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak Wild Blackberry Festival, Jasper

AUGUST Starke Florida Bikefest

OCTOBER Alligator Warrior Festival, O’Leno State Park Magnolia Fest, Live Oak Miconapy Fall Harvest Festival Operation Migration Pioneer Day Festival, Mayo Seafood Festival, Cedar Key St. Marks Monarch Butterfly Festival St. Marks Stone Crab Festival

NOVEMBER–DECEMBER Boat parades throughout the region Downtown Festival & Art Show, Gainesville Twilight Christmas Parade, High Springs Winter Nights & Holiday Lights, Tallahassee

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA kayaks can be walked in at hundreds of spots. White Springs is the best place to find an outfitter that rents canoes and kayaks and also provides pick-up downstream. Here, you’ll also find the Nature and Heritage Tourism Center with displays and information on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. Lakes and rivers abound, making North Central Florida a favorite among hikers, fishermen and paddlers. Freshwater springs fed from deep under the limestone gush with sweet water that flows into the Suwannee and other rivers. They’re popular swimming holes because water temperatures remain a steady 72 F year-round. Cave diving in the springs is for highly experienced underwater spelunkers only. Many segments of the 500-section Great Florida Birding Trail thread through the area while the lonely stretches of this region’s Gulf coast are a goldmine for birdwatching and fishing. Sparsely populated Gulf shorelines known as the Big Bend are familiar to boaters as the “long, lonely leg” because waters are shallow and harbors are few. While the area is ideal for gunkholing (cruising) in shallow-draft boats, larger boats must stay well out to sea. Kayak fishing on the Wakulla River

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Spectator sports center around small-town baseball teams and rodeos, high school and college sports, and include big-ticket football games played by the Florida State Seminoles and the University of Florida Gators. Tallahassee and Gainesville are both bicycle-friendly communities. As a result, country roads, some of them designated cycling trails, are popular with cyclists and motorcycle riders. A favorite bike route is a 20.5-mile paved trail from Tallahassee to St. Marks, with two optional unpaved links. There are plans to extend it to the beach. Another is the mostly paved Big Shoals trail near White Springs. The GainesvilleHawthorne State Trail travels through lands made famous by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in her book The Yearling. In the luxury outdoors category is Bienville Plantation near White Springs. It’s one of the South’s prestigious hunting and fishing resorts and corporate retreats where guests have access to a chain of lakes, trophy bass fishing, alligator hunting and fast-paced quail shoots. Lodging is available in five-bedroom cabins and five-course gourmet meals are served in the dining room.

CLOCKWISE FROM THE BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT TALLAHASSEE; ANNA MIKELL, COURTESY OF VISIT GAINESVILLE; VISIT GAINESVILLE

Statues of Albert and Alberta, mascots for the Florida Gators


Feeding the animals at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo in Gainesville

FEATURED LINKS Aloft Tallahassee alofttallahassee.com

Best Western Florida Hotels bestwesternflorida.com

Bienville Plantation bienville.com

Big Bend Scenic Byway floridabigbendscenicbyway.org

Big Shoals State Park floridastateparks.org/bigshoals

Butterfly Rainforest visitgainesville.com/attractions/butterfly-rainforest

Cade Museum cademuseum.org

BEST PLACES TO SHOP

FAMILY ACTIVITIES

Governor’s Square Mall in Tallahassee is a twolevel shopper’s nirvana with such features as stroller rentals, ATMs and a large choice of eateries. Dozens of small stores are anchored by JCPenney, Sears, Macy’s and Dillard’s. The real shopping treasures in this area are the unique boutiques, consignment shops, galleries, studios and workshops one stumbles upon in hamlets such as Havana, Micanopy and Madison. Old tobacco warehouses, downtown mercantiles and former banks now house artists and antiques merchants.

Most family activities here involve small-town festivals. All state parks and a majority of other natural areas offer ranger-guided programs, hiking and nature trails, and exhibits. Highlights for children in Gainesville include the Butterfly Rain Forest, the hands-on Discovery Room at the Museum of Natural History and the Cade Museum, where programs focus on young inventors and entrepreneurs from 5-12 years of age. At Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, children can watch “Indians” and “Spanish colonists” doing everyday 18th-century tasks. The Museum of Florida History houses a mastodon skeleton found in Wakulla Springs and the Tallahassee Museum is made up of historic buildings, a schoolhouse, rail cars and one of the South’s largest zip line systems. The Forest Capital Museum State Park in Perry has exhibits plus a talking tree, which educates children about forestry. A number of log cabins and historic buildings on the spacious grounds allow families to stretch their legs while observing pioneer life. Energetic kids may also wish to climb the viewing tower at Paynes Prairie to sight bison and wild horses.

RECOMMENDED DRIVES The joy of driving in the area is not so much about where as when. Hundreds of miles of rural roadsides are strewn with wildflowers, starting with hot pink phlox in February and March and ending with the brassy glow of goldenrods in the fall. Throw a dart at the map to enjoy two-lane roadways. Some are what locals call canopy roads, where limbs of ancient live oak trees stretch over the road to form a verdant tunnel dripping with Spanish moss. The most popular are around Tallahassee, where nine designated canopy routes total 78 miles. The Big Bend Scenic Byway follows a high ridge once trod by pre-Columbian Indians, later followed by waves of pioneers, traders and tourists. This picturesque 220-mile route is bordered by Apalachee Bay on one side and Apalachicola National Forest on the other. Be sure to watch for playful dolphins as they feed and frolic in the bay. Inland, near Gainesville, the Old Florida Heritage Highway forms the Scenic US 441 corridor. Featuring loop and spur roads, it covers 48 miles from State Road 441 to the Alachua-Marion County line.

Cascades Park Amphitheater cascadepark.org

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings

Forest Capital Museum State Park floridastateparks.org/forestcapital

Florida Gators gatorzone.com

Florida Recreation & Park Association frpa.org

Florida State Seminoles seminoles.com

Florida State University fsu.edu

Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail floridastateparks.org/gainesville-hawthorne

Goodwood Museum & Gardens goodwoodmuseum.org

Governor’s Square Mall governorssquare.com

Great Florida Birding Trail floridabirdingtrail.com

Heritage Park & Gardens heritageparkandgardens.com

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens kanapaha.org

Mission San Luis missionsanluis.org

Museum of Florida History museumoffloridahistory.com

Old Florida Heritage Highway scenicus441.com

Operation Migration operationmigration.org

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/paynesprairie

Santa Fe College

ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS In Gainesville, check out the quaint bed-andbreakfast district located near downtown shops and restaurants. The Aloft is the newest hotel in downtown Tallahassee and just steps from the State Capitol complex, museums and hip dining spots. In Crawfordville, the Best Western Plus Wakulla Inn & Suites offers comfortable accommodation at reasonable rates. FL

sfcollege.edu

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge saintmarks.fws.gov

Suwannee River Wilderness Trail floridastateparks.org/wilderness

Tallahassee Automobile Museum tacm.com

Tallahassee Museum tallahasseemuseum.org

The State of Florida’s Nature & Heritage Tourism Center floridastateparks.org/findapark/natureandheritage.cfm

University of Florida ufl.edu

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GAINESVILLE

COLLEGE-TOWN

Charm

BY ALISSON CLARK The University of Florida campus in Gainesville

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE For a crash course in Gainesville’s arts scene, hit the monthly Artwalk, where drink and dining specials complement visits to artists’ studios. Order Latin fare at Emiliano’s, then sample craft brews at Tall Paul’s before heading to the Bo Diddley Community Plaza for a free concert. Local flavor abounds at the tasting room of Swamp Head brewery, as well as Sweet Dreams Homemade Ice Cream.

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ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING

INSIDER’S TIPS

From the Victorian splendor of the Bed and Breakfast District, Gainesville’s top cultural attractions are within easy reach. Enjoy professional theater and indie cinema at the Hippodrome, or explore the Downtown Festival & Art Show and the Santa Fe Spring Arts Festival. On the UF campus, the Cultural Plaza offers the Harn Museum of Art with its new Asian wing, as well as world-class shows at the Phillips Center and immersive exhibits at the Florida Museum of Natural History, including its Butterfly Rainforest. Shoppers are drawn to the upscale Tioga Town Center, home to the beloved Blue Highway pizzeria and one of the area’s seven farmers’ markets, while families head to the zoo and planetarium at Santa Fe College.

Many area attractions offer free admission or a suggested donation. (At Mill Creek Farm, a sanctuary for retired horses in Alachua, admission is two carrots.) Don’t miss a trip to the other small towns surrounding Gainesville: Antiquing in Micanopy, paddling in High Springs and visiting Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Cross Creek home are can’t-miss experiences. FL

STREET SCENE Nowhere is Gainesville’s revitalized downtown more vibrant than Southeast First Street. Wander the shops and restaurants, browsing the carefully curated records at Hear Again, sampling house-infused cocktails at Boca Fiesta or savoring sushi at Dragonfly. Catch a film premiere at the Cinema Verde Festival held in February or enjoy a concert on the Bo Diddley plaza from the patio of The Lunch Box. The City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs plans a number of such events throughout the year.

FEATURED LINKS Alachua County Visitors & Convention Bureau visitgainesville.com Artwalk Gainesville artwalkgainesville.com Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville autoplusraceway.com City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs gvlculturalaffairs.org Easton Newberry Sports Complex eastonewberrysportscomplex.com Florida Gators gatorzone.com Florida Museum of Natural History flmnh.ufl.edu Florida State Parks floridastateparks.org Harn Museum of Art harn.ufl.edu Retirement Home for Horses at Mill Creek Farm millcreekfarm.org Santa Fe College sfcollege.edu Santa Fe Spring Arts Festival springartsfestival.com Swamp Head Brewery swamphead.com Tioga Town Center tiogatowncenter.com UF Performing Arts performingarts.ufl.edu

PHOTOS: VISIT GAINESVILLE

G

ainesville’s mix of college-town energy and outdoor adventure is as heady a concoction as anything served in its downtown nightspots. While the University of Florida (UF) gives the town its innovative, intellectual flavor, the wild spaces surrounding it draw visitors and residents alike to its natural wonders, from crystal-blue springs to savannahs where wild horses and bison roam. Just two hours north of Orlando and Tampa, Gainesville’s mild winters offer year-round outdoor activities, from cycling the GainesvilleHawthorne Trail to paddling scenic rivers. In the area’s state parks, visitors spot wild horses at Paynes Prairie, descend into a sinkhole at Devil’s Millhopper, camp near the Santa Fe River at O’Leno and mountain bike at San Felasco. Sports fans can try archery at the Easton Newberry Olympic training center, worship speed at Gainesville Raceway or cheer for one of UF’s 21 Gator athletic teams.


WA KU L L A C O U N T Y

THE GREAT BY SANDRA FRIEND

Outdoors Roseate spoonbills

A

ribbon of green along the sinuous coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, Wakulla County has the distinction of having the most outdoors in Florida: 73 percent of the county is natural lands held in the public trust. From the sweep of salt marshes along the shoreline to the wildflower-rich woodlands of the Apalachicola National Forest, it’s a place where everyone who loves the outdoors will feel right at home.

SMALL-TOWN CHARM

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Swimmers at Wakulla Springs

Strummed by salt breezes off Dickerson Bay, Panacea is a favorite stop for seafood lovers, especially during the Blue Crab Festival. Established around an historic spring, it provides easy access to two loops of the 10 segments of the new Apalachee Bay Maritime Heritage Paddling Trail system, where sea kayakers can enjoy many winding waterways along the coast. The Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory offers an upclose view of the microfauna of the Gulf of Mexico, from shrimp to starfish, as well as sharks and sea turtles. The community holds

Christmas in Panacea on the first Saturday of each December. As waters flow south from the Apalachicola National Forest, they slip past Sopchoppy, a cozy Old Florida town along the Sopchoppy River. Sopchoppy’s claim to fame is its annual Worm Gruntin’ Festival, celebrating local heritage with “calling” earthworms to the surface of the forest using metal bars and wooden stakes to vibrate the soil. The artsy vibe of this community makes it a pleasant stop year-round. Paddlers and campers can make use of Myron B. Hodge City Park or Ochlockonee River State Park.

PHOTOS: LOU KELLENBERGER

Water frames Wakulla’s historic coastal communities, providing a backdrop for both sport and commercial fishing, meaning fresh seafood is in abundance, both at local restaurants and seafood shacks along US 98. Events such as the Big Bend Kayak Classic and Rock the Dock Fishing Tournament encourage anglers to get out and explore the estuaries. Situated at the confluence of two rivers, St. Marks is the second-oldest European settlement in Florida, established in 1528 at the site that is now San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. Anglers love the quiet atmosphere of Shell Island Fish Camp on the Wakulla River, and Shields Marina on the St. Marks River is a great launch point for boaters. The 20.5-mile Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail terminates at the confluence.


Manatees winter in the warm springs.

AT THE BEACH While Florida’s Big Bend isn’t known for its beaches, Wakulla County boasts several hidden treasures, slender strands of sand along the shallows of the Gulf of Mexico. Framed by palm trees, a sweep of beach extends behind the St. Marks Lighthouse at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Kayakers use the beach at Dickerson Bay in Panacea to launch their explorations, and both Mashes Sands and Shell Point have small familyfriendly beach parks at the end of the road.

INTO THE WILD Home to the Monarch Butterfly Festival, which celebrates the annual mass migration of monarchs, the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge has both land and water trails for exploration, and a lighthouse built in 1832. Much of the coastline of Wakulla County is protected by the refuge, with multiple access points by land along US 98. Operation Migration, where whooping cranes are led south by an ultralight aircraft for their wintering season, uses the refuge as one of its southernmost stops. Birding and wildlife-watching are top activities throughout the refuge. You’ll always find alligators sunning along the impoundments and wading birds in the shallows. Much of Florida’s largest national forest, the Apalachicola National Forest, occupies the western side of Wakulla County. A drivethrough on the Big Bend Scenic Byway’s Forest Trail will introduce you to the haunting beauty of the forest. It is a mecca for hunters during deer and turkey seasons, and for backpackers traversing the forest along more than 60 miles of the Florida Trail. Protecting one of the world’s largest and deepest springs, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is also home to Florida’s only state park lodge, a grand 1937 building with the world’s largest-known marble bar and the only known surviving period art deco elevator still used to transport guests. Each April, the park hosts the Wakulla Wildlife Festival, part of “Wild About Wakulla” week, with special events throughout the county.

DINING Since 1977, the Lovel family has dished out fine seafood at their Spring Creek Restaurant in the tiny coastal village of Spring Creek. With two locations—their Up the Creek Steam Room and

FEATURED LINKS

Whooping cranes follow an ultralight aircraft to their wintering season in Wakulla County.

Dockside Café—Posey’s in Panacea is a prime stop for fresh shrimp, clams and crabs. Riverside Café is ground zero for the St. Marks Stone Crab Festival, a don’t-miss for seafood lovers.

INSIDER’S TIP Just outside Sopchoppy, George Griffin Pottery is a wonderland of art meeting nature on a private nature preserve surrounding a pottery studio established in 1975. Pottery classes and a gift shop round out this quiet oasis off US 319 at Suncat Ridge Road. FL

Visit Wakulla visitwakulla.com Apalachicola National Forest fs.usda.gov/apalachicola Big Bend Kayak Classic bigbendkayakclassic.com Big Bend Scenic Byway floridabigbendscenicbyway.com Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings Florida Trail Association floridatrail.org Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory gulfspecimen.org Ochlockonee River State Park floridastateparks.org/ochlockoneeriver Operation Migration operationmigration.org Panacea Blue Crab Festival bluecrabfest.com Rock the Dock Annual Fishing Tournament panacearockthedock.com San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/sanmarcos Shell Island Fish Camp shellislandfishcamp.com Shields Marina shieldsmarina.com Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin’ Festival wormgruntinfestival.com St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/saintmarks St. Marks Stone Crab Festival stmarksstonecrabfest.com Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail floridastateparks.org/tallahasseestmarks Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce wakullacountychamber.com Wakulla Springs Lodge wakullaspringslodge.com Wakulla Wildlife Festival wakullawildlifefestival.org

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Wakulla County

Touch. Feel. Taste.


Wakulla County Tourist Development Council www.visitwakulla.com For information call: 850-984-3966


NORTHWEST FLORIDA

A SLICE OF SOUTHERN

Hospitality

BY STEVE WINSTON

T

here’s a place in Florida that’s different . . . different, in fact, than anywhere else in the state. It’s a place where you can find a hundred miles of white-sand “sugar” beaches without the crowds. It’s a place that’s more “southern” than “Floridian” in its traditions and its manner, where “southern hospitality” is a fact of life, not just a slogan, where nouvelle cuisine is spiced with shrimp ’n grits, and where small-town charm long gone from most other tourist destinations exudes. Located about 600 miles from South Florida, Northwest Florida is much closer to Birmingham, Alabama, or Atlanta, Georgia, than it is to Miami or Fort Lauderdale. In fact, it’s not even in the same time zone as the rest of Florida! It’s a place with plenty of things to see, do and experience, however you can expect a relaxing ambiance and a heartfelt welcome from the local folks. And the pleasures are often sweeter and the prices usually lower. If you’re seeking a place where the beaches are world-class, the waters are crystal clear, and the surprises are limitless, consider Northwest Florida.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: BILL STRENGTH; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; EMERALD COAST CVB

An aerial view of the Pensacola Beach area


Pensacola's historic architecture

WHAT’S NEW Pier Park is already Panama City Beach’s premier shopping destination. So once the Pier Park North addition opens in the spring of 2014, there will be more than a million square feet of stylish shopping, dining and entertainment here. Nearby, the Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater opened in April 2013; bring a lawn chair and enjoy great music! The Pearl, the only five-star lodging in Walton County, opened in South Walton in summer 2013. Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone in Fort Walton Beach is expected to open in the spring of 2014. Families will be able to take on zip lining, “sky trails,” ropes courses and mini-golf, all surrounded by the beauty of Okaloosa Island. Also in spring 2014, Jimmy Buffet will open a colorful Margaritaville restaurant in the shops of Destin’s HarborWalk Village. In summer 2013, the city of Pensacola Beach launched its Footprints In the Sand Eco Trail, which takes you past abundant wildlife (including sea turtles) ecosystems warmed by sea breezes. In Pensacola, the largest city in Northwest

Florida (pop. 54,000), Bayfront Stadium opened in late 2012. It’s where you can watch the Pensacola Blue Wahoos baseball team take on their opponents in the Southern League. Pensacola is also welcoming a host of new restaurants along downtown’s Palafox Street.

HERITAGE AND CULTURE Panama City Beach boasts the Gulf World Marine Park and the Man in the Sea Museum, both of which offer up-close and personal looks at the waters and wildlife off these shores. At WonderWorks, which appears upside down from the outside, science and fun come together in an interactive wonderland with a hundred hands-on exhibits. In the Santa Rosa County town of Milton, you’ll find the Museum of Local History, which is located in the Imogene Theater, a vaudevilleera showpiece that’s been restored to its original glory. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a joy to tour. Pensacola may be the only city of its size in America to have five professional arts companies, representing opera, ballet, symphony, theater and the visual arts. A beautiful white-sand beach on the Emerald Coast

INSIDER’S TIPS Timing is everything. Which means it might be a good idea to think about visiting in the autumn, rather than during the peak summer season. Shops and restaurants are less busy, the weather is perfect and prices are lower. The best place to “go local” in Santa Rosa Beach is The Red Bar. It’s, as some locals say with delight, a “total dive” and they love it for its eclectic decor, live music and great food. Destin’s shopping, dining and entertainment mecca of HarborWalk Village is rated highly as “Best Place to be Seen” and “Best Place to Watch a Sunset” by readers of Emerald Coast Magazine; “Coolest Place to Take the Kids” by On the Coast Magazine; and “Best Place to Propose” by the Northwest Daily News. The best fishing spot in Santa Rosa County is the pier at Navarre Beach while the Portofino Boardwalk in Pensacola Beach is a great place for people-watching. Joe Patti’s Seafood has been a Pensacola landmark since the 1930s, and it’s still one of the largest in the Southeastern US. Seafood comes straight from the water to the market. Locals enjoy picking up some steamed shrimp, bread and cheese for a picnic in a park.

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NORTHWEST FLORIDA The Fish House in Pensacola

FEBRUARY/MARCH Pensacola Mardi Gras

APRIL/MAY Interstate Mullet Toss Navarre Beach Fun Fest Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Panama City Beach

JUNE Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival, Fort Walton Beach

JULY Pensacola Beach Air Show

SEPTEMBER Pensacola Seafood Festival

OCTOBER Beaches to Woodlands Tour, Navarre Beach Destin Seafood Festival

DECEMBER Beach Ball Drop, Panama City Beach

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Pensacola’s soul, however, lies in its past. This city’s roots go back to 1559, when the Spanish first arrived. Since that date, it’s actually flown the flags of five different countries—Spain, France, Great Britain, the Confederacy and the US. You can’t walk very far in Pensacola without bumping into an historic landmark. Fort Barrancas, for example, is a Royal Navy redoubt built in 1763 on the beautiful Gulf Islands National Seashore. There’s also Historic Pensacola Village, an authentic 1700s settlement, as well as the Historic Pensacola Lighthouse & Museum, built in 1859, where a climb up the 177 winding steps offers a stunning view from the top. Then, of course, there’s the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the training center for just about anyone who ever sat in the cockpit of a US combat plane, and home to the world-class National Naval Aviation Museum where you can strap yourself into the cockpit of a classic fighter. Nearby Pensacola Beach is the site of Fort Pickens, completed in 1834 and housing

Native American prisoners from 1886–87, the most famous of which was the Apache chieftain Geronimo.

MUST SEE, MUST DO The Fort Walton Beach/Destin area is known as “The Emerald Coast” because of the emerald-green waters offshore over the summer months. Beaches along much of the northwest coast consist of sugar-white quartz, which was somehow transported from the southern Appalachian Mountains by ancient geologic upheavals and feels like soft powder. In addition to this geologic wonder, the South Walton area has the dune lakes ecosystems. These brackish (half salt water, half fresh water) lakes change composition, size and shape according to the whims of the tides. You needn’t get out of the car to see them, either; scenic Route 30A passes over and around the dune lakes. Take a Buccaneer Pirate Cruise in Destin’s beautiful harbor, where you’ll see mock battles and even have a chance to swab the decks.

PHOTO: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES

FESTIVALS & EVENTS


NORTHWEST FLORIDA

Fishing in Panama City Beach

From Pensacola, drive to Perdido Key on the Gulf Islands National Seashore for a picnic in paradise. And if you’re in the area in July, Pensacola Beach offers the biggest event of the year in Northwest Florida—the Pensacola Beach Air Show, featuring jaw-dropping aerial acrobatics you’ll never forget.

TOWN AND COUNTRY

NEED MORE INFO? Emerald Coast Convention & Visitor’s Bureau

Northwest Florida is sprinkled with interesting eco parks, where you can picnic with the family amidst natural beauty and silence. In South Walton, there’s a special town called Seaside, a planned community with pastel cottages and white picket fences and an ambiance that’s long gone from most other places. Nearby, Seagrove is a slice of Old Florida while Santa Rosa County’s Blackwater River State Park is a sweet spot for hiking, biking, birdwatching and horseback riding.

emeraldcoastfl.com

Gulf Islands National Seashore nps.gov/guis

Mexico Beach mexicobeach.com

Navarre Beach Navarrebeachadventures.com

Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau visitpanamacitybeach.com

Santa Rosa Island Authority visitpensacolabeach.com

Santa Rosa Tourist Development Council floridabeachestorivers.com

South Walton Tourist Development Council visitsouthwalton.com

Tourism Division of the Greater Pensacola Chamber visitpensacola.com

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DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Wherever you eat, don’t leave Northwest Florida without sampling the local Apalachicola oysters! Across from Pier Park in Panama City Beach, the Hook’d Pier Bar & Grill features beachfront dining and an amazing selection of freshly caught seafood at very reasonable prices. South Walton offers an interesting array of dining contrasts, ranging from upscale restaurants such as Seagar’s, located on the beach in the Hilton Sandestin, to informal spots such as Stinky’s Fish Camp, where food comes fresh from the sea to your table.

Milton is known for the Old Post Office Antiques & Piano Café, which features good food and a superb collection of nautical antiques. In Destin, head for Rosemary Beach, where Courtyard Wine & Cheese offers a notable wine collection, cheese and fondue specialties, live music, and an outdoor courtyard. Pensacola Beach’s dining landmark, Frank & Lola Love Pensacola Café in the Margaritaville Hotel specializes in Cajun-style dishes and seafood. One of Pensacola’s liveliest spots is McGuire’s Irish Pub and brewery, where the Irish specialties are great and the music will have you tappin’ your toes. Downtown Pensacola has a popular spot called the Fish House, an upscale docksidedining establishment that overlooks beautiful Pensacola Bay. Near Seville Square, the cozy Dharma Blue on South Alcaniz Street offers a truly unique dining experience for lunch or dinner. Known for its full sushi bar, available nightly, it also features a wide selection of fresh seafood entrees as well as steaks, pastas and game. Other choices include the award-winning Jackson’s Steakhouse, housed in an 1860s-era building and renowned for its flavorful, wet-aged beef cuts, and Carmen’s, a popular lunch bar. If you’re talking about the ol’ southern influence, you won’t find it any stronger than at the colorful Flora-Bama Lounge, right on the Alabama state line. A family place by day, it’s a popular gathering spot with live music in the evening.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Northwest Florida lives outside. And why not? The sun shines 300 days a year here. You’ll run out of time long before you run out of things to do. Fish off piers, on lakes or on board ocean charters. Hike in state forests and parks. Kayak among the barrier islands. Cycle along the Gulf Islands National Seashore. View wildlife at any of the eco parks. Dive around the world’s largest artificial reef, the USS Oriskany. Snorkeling, paddleboarding, wave-running, surfing, swimming, parasailing, Snuba-ing (a cross between diving and snorkeling), aqua triking (giant bicycles that float on the water), sailing, golfing or strolling along those sugar-sand, whitepowder beaches are just some of the activities waiting for you. Let your toes sink into the sand and feel its warmth embrace your soul.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; PENSACOLA BAY AREA CVB

The shops at Pier Park in Panama City Beach


A beautiful beach in Pensacola at sunset

FEATURED LINKS Bay Point Wyndham Resort, Panama City Beach baypointwyndham.com

Bayfront Stadium milb.com

Blackwater River State Park floridastateparks.org/blackwaterriver

Buccaneer Pirate Cruise destinpirateship.com

Crowne Plaza Grand Hotel crowneplaza.com/pensacola

E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center eowilsoncenter.org

Flora-Bama Lounge, Package & Oyster Bar florabama.com

Footprints in the Sand - Eco Trail visitpensacolabeach.com/eco-trail

Fort Barrancas nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-barrancas.htm

Fort Pickens nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-pickens.htm

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park gulfarium.com

Gulf Breeze Zoo gulfbreezezoo.org

Gulf World Marine Park gulfworldmarinepark.com

BEST PLACES TO SHOP

FAMILY ACTIVITIES

Shopping in this slice of Florida runs the gamut from fashionable malls to one-of-a-kind boutiques and everything in between. In Panama City Beach, shop ’til you drop at Pier Park and at the cute little shops along the beach. On the Emerald Coast, Historic Downtown Fort Walton Beach has an interesting variety of shops, as does Uptown Station. And you’ll find all sorts of charming little boutiques in Milton’s Historic District. South Walton offers the shops, restaurants and amusements at the Village of Baytowne Wharf at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, the Silver Sands Premium Outlet in Miramar Beach, and the galleries in small towns along Route 30A. Downtown Pensacola offers a vibrant retail and dining scene, especially along Palafox Street, as does the Portofino Boardwalk on Pensacola Beach.

Northwest Florida is filled with fun—and funky—family things to do. For instance, one of America’s first mini-golf courses was built on Panama City Beach in 1959, and the Original Goofy Golf is still here, with sphinxes, buddhas and rocket ships. The younger set will love the Heritage Park & Cultural Center in Historic Downtown Fort Walton Beach, where there’s an Indian burial mound museum, a 1912 schoolhouse and a circa 1918 post office museum. Fort Walton Beach is also home to perhaps the area’s biggest attraction. The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park offers an exciting look at the marine life and ecosystems around this area. South Walton has a premier attraction, too, in the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center, which provides insight into the region’s rich diversity of marine and animal life. And at any of the area’s five state parks, you might spot black bears, coyotes, red wolves and sea turtles. Featuring white beaches fringed by sand pines and scrub oak, boardwalks, swimming, a playground, a nature trail and pavilions, Henderson Beach State Park in Destin is a great spot for a family picnic. Or spend the better part of a day observing animal life at the Gulf Breeze Zoo in Santa Rosa County. Then there’s fishing off a pier, a time-honored southern tradition that can be enjoyed at countless spots along the Northwest Florida coast. FL

BEAUTIFUL DRIVES One of the best drives in this region is Highway 98 along the Emerald Coast. And in South Walton, one of the best drives isn’t a drive at all . . . it involves taking a beach-cruiser bicycle for a ride along the Timpoochee Trail. Along the Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway, you’ll see huge oaks and magnolia trees, quaint restaurants and beautiful Escambia Bay. An excellent drive takes you from Perdido Key to Pensacola Beach and across a threemile-long bridge. Make it a point to drive along the Gulf Islands National Seashore—especially at sunset. It’ll take your breath away.

HarborWalk Village emeraldgrande.com/harborwalk-village.aspx

Henderson Beach State Park floridastateparks.org/hendersonbeach

Heritage Park & Cultural Center fwb.org/museums

Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa sandestinbeachhilton.com

Historic Pensacola Village historicpensacola.org

Historic Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum pensacolalighthouse.org

Joe Patti’s Seafood joepattis.com

Man in the Sea Museum maninthesea.org

Margaritaville Beach Hotel margaritavillehotel.com

National Naval Aviation Museum navalaviationmuseum.org

Naval Air Station Pensacola cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrse/installations/ nas_pensacola.html

Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway pensacolascenicbluffs.org

Pier Park simon.com/mall/pier-park

Portofino Boardwalk pensacolabeachboardwalk.com

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort sandestin.com

Scenic Highway Route 30A discover30a.com

Silver Sands Premium Outlets premiumoutlets.com

The Original Goofy Golf goofygolfpc.com

The Pearl thepearlrb.com

The Santa Rosa Historical Society santarosahistoricalsociety.com

The Village of Baytowne Wharf baytownewharf.com

Timpoochee Trail visitsouthwalton.com/tips-trips/ a-guide-to-the-timpoochee-trail

Uptown Station uptownstation.com

USS Oriskany floridapanhandledivetrail.com/oriskany.html

Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone fwbchamber.org/attractions

WonderWorks wonderworksonline.com/panama-city-beach

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

197


SANTA ROSA COUNTY

FLORIDA’S

Playground

BY KEN WILHOITE The new wheelchair-accessible Navarre Beach Pier

W

SPECIAL SCENE

elcome to Santa Rosa County—the beating heart of Florida’s Playground. From snorkeling in the Gulf ’s emerald waters at Navarre Beach and zip lining through the lush Blackwater River State Forest to antique shopping, dining on fresh Gulf seafood and walking in the footsteps of 16th-century explorers, Santa Rosa has it all.

Nearly a third of a mile and the longest on the Gulf coast, the new wheelchair-accessible Navarre Beach Pier is a magnet for locals and visitors alike. Rent a fishing rod and try your hand at angling for cobia, flounder or king mackerel. Back at the beach end, enjoy a burger and a cold drink as you engage in some people-watching.

INSIDER’S TIP The white, sugar sand of Navarre Beach forms sheltering dunes with secluded outposts for picnicking or watching dramatic sunsets. Stroll along the water’s edge as translucent waves wash ashore or plunge in for a refreshing swim. Although you are only minutes from shopping and dining, the unspoiled isolation provides a rejuvenating sense of peace.

Touring downtown Milton

Evenings can be lively, with toe-tapping country music, line dancing, karaoke or romantic classic guitars and folk vocalists. From the beach to the bucolic country settings of Jay in the far northwest corner, Santa Rosa promises good food and entertainment for body and spirit.

ART, CULTURE AND SHOPPING DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Whether you prefer white tablecloths and fine china, breezy waterside decks, shaded patios under whispering pines, period antique decor or NASCAR memorabilia, you will find what you’re looking for here. There’s something for every taste from the Gulf ’s famous butter-dripping shrimp and scallops and belly-busting all-youcan-eat barbeques to sushi, Chinese and Thai.

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Just west of Milton on Highway 90 and dating back to 1817, the Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site recalls the challenges of the first waterpowered industrial complex in Florida. The mill’s mid-century move to Bagdad on the Blackwater River left a fascinating legacy recorded on history plaques of Bagdad’s crepe myrtle-lined streets. Shop for souvenirs at the Bagdad Historical Museum.

Just over the Navarre Bridge and to the left, two man-made snorkeling reefs are accessible from the beach. Experience the fascinating beauty of these underwater marine life habitats in the well-protected waters of Santa Rosa Sound. A third reef for the slightly more adventurous is just offshore in the Gulf. FL

FEATURED LINKS Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council floridasplayground.com

Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site historicpensacola.org/arcadia.cfm

Bagdad Village Preservation Association bagdadvillage.org

Blackwater River State Forest floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/blackwater_river.html

Navarre Beach Pier fishnavarre.com

PHOTOS: PAUL JOHNSON PHOTOGRAPHY

TOP BEACH


RESOURCE DIRECTORY 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

An art festival in New Smyrna Beach (New Smyrna Beach Area Visitor Bureau)

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 17-19, 2014

Art Deco Weekend Festival, Miami Beach

mdpl.org/events/about-adw

January 22-27, 2014

Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, Titusville

spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org

January 25, 2014

Gasparilla Pirate Fest, Tampa

gasparillapiratefest.com

February 6-17, 2014

Florida State Fair, Tampa

floridastatefair.com

Feb 21-23, 2014

Silver Spurs Rodeo, Kissimmee

silverspursrodeo.com

February 27–March 9, 2014

Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City

flstrawberryfestival.com

March 7-16, 2014

Bike Week, Daytona Beach

officialbikeweek.com

March 29, 2014

Springtime Festival, Tallahassee

springtimetallahassee.com

April 5, 2014

Dunedin Highland Games & Festival

dunedinhighlandgames.com

April 30–May 4, 2014

Sunfest, West Palm Beach

sunfest.com

May 23–26, 2014

Jacksonville Jazz Festival, Jacksonville

jaxjazzfest.com

May 23–25, 2014

Florida Folk Festival, White Springs

floridafolkfestival.com

July 12, 2014

Pensacola Beach Air Show, Pensacola

blueangels.navy.mil/show

July 15-20, 2014

Hemingway Days Festival, Key West

fla-keys.com/hemingwaymedia

September 27-29, 2014

Pensacola Seafood Festival, Pensacola

visitpensacola.com/landing/seafood-festival

Late September—mid-November 2014

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Orlando

disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot /special-events/epcot-international -food-and-wine-festival

October 16-19, 2014

Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach

biketoberfest.org

November 2014

American Sandsculpting Championship Festival,

fmbsandsculpting.com

Fort Myers Beach November 22, 2014—January 31, 2015

Nights of Lights, St. Augustine

nightsoflights.com

December 2014

Winter Festival, Downtown Tallahassee

holidaylights.visittallahassee.com

December 4-7, 2014

Art Basel, Miami Beach

miamibeach.artbasel.com

December 13, 2014

Winterfest Boat Parade, Fort Lauderdale

winterfestparade.com

Dates and websites were correct at time of printing. Information is subject to change without notice. 200

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


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

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JUL

AUG

SEP

OCT

NOV

DEC

BOCA RATON

min/max precip.

58/76 F 2.78 in

58/77 F 2.76 in

62/80 F 3.00 in

66/83 F 3.40 in

71/87 F 5.73 in

74/90 F 7.31 in

75/92 F 5.94 in

75/92 F 6.91 in

74/91 F 7.01 in

71/87 F 5.73 in

66/82 F 4.24 in

61/78 F 2.46 in

BRADENTON

min/max precip.

51/72 F 2.94 in

52/73 F 2.66 in

57/77 F 3.36 in

59/82 F 1.83 in

66/87 F 2.85 in

71/90 F 7.41 in

72/91 F 8.71 in

73/91 F 9.43 in

72/90 F 7.25 in

65/85 F 2.88 in

59/79 F 2.35 in

53/74 F 2.45 in

CLEARWATER

min/max precip.

50/72 F 3.17 in

52/73 F 3.14 in

56/77 F 3.85 in

61/81 F 1.96 in

67/87 F 3.02 in

72/90 F 5.78 in

74/91 F 7.07 in

73/92 F 8.47 in

72/90 F 7.25 in

65/85 F 3.36 in

58/79 F 2.37 in

52/74 F 2.98 in

DAYTONA BEACH

min/max precip.

47/68 F 2.75 in

48/69 F 3.11 in

54/74 F 2.90 in

58/80 F 2.23 in

65/84 F 3.45 in

71/88 F 5.99 in

72/90 F 5.4 in

73/89 F 6.16 in

72/87 F 6.34 in

65/81 F 4.13 in

56/75 F 2.84 in

50/70 F 2.59 in

FORT LAUDERDALE

min/max precip.

57/75 F 2.22 in

57/76 F 2.93 in

62/79 F 2.76 in

65/82 F 3.37 in

70/85 F 6.65 in

73/88 F 9.58 in

75/90 F 6.64 in

75/90 F 6.77 in

74/89 F 7.56 in

70/85 F 6.52 in

65/81 F 3.94 in

60/77 F 2.17 in

FORT MYERS

min/max precip.

53/74 F 1.84 in

54/75 F 2.23 in

58/80 F 3.07 in

62/84 F 1.06 in

67/89 F 3.87 in

73/90 F 9.52 in

74/91 F 8.26 in

75/91 F 9.66 in

74/90 F 7.82 in

68/86 F 2.94 in

61/81 F 1.57 in

55/76 F 1.56 in

JACKSONVILLE

min/max precip.

42/64 F 3.31 in

44/67 F 3.93 in

50/74 F 3.68 in

56/80 F 2.70 in

63/85 F 3.55 in

70/89 F 5.69 in

72/91 F 5.60 in

72/91 F 7.93 in

70/87 F 7.05 in

60/80 F 2.90 in

51/73 F 2.19 in

44/67 F 2.72 in

KEY WEST

min/max precip.

65/75 F 2.01 in

65/75 F 1.80 in

69/78 F 1.71 in

72/82 F 1.75 in

76/85 F 3.46 in

78/87 F 5.09 in

80/89 F 3.61 in

79/89 F 5.03 in

78/88 F 5.85 in

75/84 F 4.42 in

71/80 F 2.84 in

67/76 F 2.02 in

MIAMI

min/max precip.

59/75 F 2.01 in

60/76 F 2.08 in

64/79 F 2.39 in

68/83 F 3.03 in

72/85 F 6.21 in

75/88 F 9.33 in

77/89 F 5.70 in

77/89 F 7.58 in

76/88 F 7.63 in

72/85 F 5.64 in

67/80 F 2.66 in

62/77 F 1.83 in

NAPLES

min/max precip.

53/75 F 2.01 in

54/76 F 2.17 in

58/79 F 2.08 in

62/83 F 1.99 in

67/87 F 4.21 in

71/90 F 8.18 in

73/91 F 7.98 in

73/91 F 8.05 in

73/90 F 8.11 in

68/87 F 3.60 in

62/82 F 1.99 in

56/76 F 1.53 in

ORLANDO

min/max precip.

51/71 F 2.33 in

50/71 F 4.00 in

55/77 F 3.24 in

61/84 F 1.30 in

67/88 F 3.10 in

71/90 F 7.53 in

73/92 F 7.15 in

73/92 F 7.07 in

73/89 F 6.27 in

66/84 F 2.86 in

57/77 F 1.65 in

52/73 F 2.01 in

PANAMA CITY

min/max precip.

38/61 F 5.74 in

41/65 F 4.71 in

47/70 F 6.22 in

53/76 F 3.73 in

61/83 F 3.86 in

68/88 F 6.01 in

71/89 F 8.74 in

71/89 F 7.52 in

67/87 F 6.14 in

55/79 F 3.50 in

47/71 F 4.53 in

40/64 F 4.06 in

PENSACOLA

min/max precip.

42/59 F 4.65 in

44/63 F 5.36 in

51/69 F 5.66 in

58/76 F 3.41 in

65/83 F 4.20 in

72/88 F 6.40 in

74/90 F 7.42 in

74/89 F 7.33 in

70/86 F 5.42 in

60/79 F 4.14 in

51/70 F 3.54 in

44/63 F 4.29 in

ST. AUGUSTINE min/max precip.

45/64 F 3.16 in

47/67 F 2.88 in

53/72 F 3.87 in

58/77 F 2.63 in

65/82 F 3.11 in

71/87 F 5.27 in

73/89 F 4.50 in

72/87 F 5.91 in

71/85 F 6.45 in

64/79 F 4.56 in

56/73 F 2.24 in

49/67 F 2.84 in

ST. PETERSBURG

min/max precip.

54/69 F 2.76 in

55/71 F 2.87 in

60/75 F 3.29 in

64/80 F 1.92 in

71/86 F 2.80 in

75/89 F 6.09 in

76/90 F 6.72 in

77/90 F 8.26 in

75/88 F 7.59 in

70/83 F 2.64 in

63/77 F 2.04 in

56/71 F 2.60 in

SARASOTA

min/max precip.

51/72 F 2.94 in

53/74 F 2.66 in

57/77 F 3.36 in

60/82 F 1.85 in

65/87 F 2.85 in

74/90 F 7.41 in

73/91 F 8.71 in

73/91 F 9.43 in

72/90 F 7.25 in

65/85 F 2.88 in

59/80 F 2.35 in

53/74 F 2.45 in

TALLAHASSEE

min/max precip.

38/62 F 4.77 in

40/66 F 5.52 in

47/73 F 6.21 in

52/80 F 3.74 in

61/86 F 4.75 in

68/90 F 6.93 in

71/91 F 8.82 in

71/91 F 7.53 in

68/88 F 5.58 in

56/81 F 2.92 in

46/73 F 3.87 in

41/66 F 5.03 in

TAMPA BAY

min/max precip.

49/70 F 1.99 in

51/71 F 3.08 in

56/76 F 3.01 in

60/82 F 1.15 in

67/87 F 3.10 in

73/90 F 5.48 in

74/90 F 6.58 in

74/90 F 7.61 in

73/89 F 5.98 in

65/84 F 2.02 in

57/77 F 1.77 in

51/72 F 2.15 in

WEST PALM BEACH

min/max precip.

56/74 F 2.80 in

57/75 F 2.69 in

61/79 F 3.66 in

65/82 F 2.91 in

70/85 F 6.13 in

73/88 F 8.09 in

74/90 F 6.14 in

75/90 F 6.02 in

74/88 F 8.53 in

71/85 F 6.60 in

64/80 F 4.69 in

59/76 F 2.49 in

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

201


RESOURCE DIRECTORY Kayaking at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Northwest Florida (Pensacola Bay Area CVB)

Performer at SunFest held in downtown West Palm Beach (Cultural Council of Palm Beach County)

FLORIDA ASSOCIATIONS AND TRAVEL GROUPS

WEBSITES

AAA Auto Club South

autoclubsouth.aaa.com

AARP

aarp.org

American Association for Nude Recreation

aanr.com

American Camp Association

www.acacamps.org

CAA (Canadian Automobile Association)

caa.ca

Canadian Snowbird Association

snowbirds.org

Florida Amateur Baseball Association

floridaamateurbaseball.org

Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations

fadmo.org

Florida Association of Museums

flamuseums.org

Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds

campflorida.com

Florida Bicycle Association

floridabicycle.org

Florida Festivals & Events Association

ffea.com

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

myfwc.com

Florida Gardener

floridagardener.com

Florida Lighthouse Association

floridalighthouses.org

Florida Professional Paddlesports Association

paddleflausa.com

Florida Sports Foundation

flasports.com

Florida Trail Association

www.floridatrail.org

Good Sam Club (The World’s Largest RV Owners Community)

goodsamclub.com

International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions

iaapa.org

International Game Fish Association

igfa.org

KOA (Kampgrounds of America, Inc.)

koa.com

PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association)

pga.com

Scooter and Wheelchair rentals for adults/kids

caremedicalequipment.com Cooling off at Sunny Isles Beach (Beatrix Csinger)

African Queen in Key Largo (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)

FLORIDA’S PUBLIC HOLIDAYS 2014 January 1, New Year’s Day January 20, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day February 17, Presidents’ Day May 26, Memorial Day July 4, Independence Day September 1, Labor Day October 13, Columbus Day (most regions) November 11, Veterans Day November 27, Thanksgiving Day December 25, Christmas Day 202

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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


FLORIDA STATE PARKS, FORESTS & REGIONAL RECREATION SPACES

Couple Spa at Omni Amelia Island Plantation (Omni Amelia Island Plantation)

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA and THE FLORIDA KEYS Apoxee Urban Wilderness Park Bahia Honda State Park Bill Baggs Cape Florida 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 Hugh Taylor Birch State Park Indian Key Historic State Park John D. MacArthur Beach State Park John U. Lloyd Beach State Park John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Key Largo Community Park Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park Long Key State Park Oleta River State Park Pinecrest Gardens San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park Sawgrass Sanctuary The Barnacle Historic State Park Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda floridastateparks.org/capeflorida floridastateparks.org/curryhammock floridastateparks.org/keylargohammock floridakeys.noaa.gov floridastateparks.org/forttaylor floridastateparks.org/hughtaylorbirch floridastateparks.org/indiankey floridastateparks.org/macarthurbeach floridastateparks.org/lloydbeach floridastateparks.org/pennekamp webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/lignumvitaekey floridastateparks.org/longkey floridastateparks.org/oletariver webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/sanpedro webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/thebarnacle floridastateparks.org/windleykey

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 Gamble Plantation Historic 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/gambleplantation 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 floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/myakka.html floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/okaloacoochee.html floridastateparks.org/oscarscherer floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/picayune_strand.html rookerybay.org floridastateparks.org/stumppass webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse

CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Avalon State Park Blue Spring State Park De Leon Springs State Park Fort Pierce Inlet State Park Gemini Springs 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/deleonsprings floridastateparks.org/fortpierceinlet webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/jonathandickinson floridastateparks.org/kissimmeeprairie floridaforestservice.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 floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/tiger_bay.html floridastateparks.org/tomoka

A tortoise in Southwest Florida (Lee County VCB)

Golfers in Ponte Vedra (St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches VCB)

The Miccosukee Museum of Natural & Tribal History in Miami (VISIT FLORIDA)

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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FLORIDA STATE PARKS, FORESTS & REGIONAL RECREATION SPACES

RESOURCE DIRECTORY

Paddleboarding in Fort Lauderdale (Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB)

The Wakulla River Canoe Trail in Tallahassee is part of the Statewide System of Greenways and Trails (Glenn Hastings) Making waves at Shipwreck Island Waterpark in Panama City Beach (Panama City Beach CVB)

Bike riding on Anna Maria Island in Southwest Florida (Bradenton Area CVB)

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

CENTRAL FLORIDA Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park Colt Creek State Park Dade Battlefield Historic State Park Highlands Hammock State Park Hontoon Island 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 Ross Prairie State Forest Seminole State Forest Silver River State Park Split Oak Preserve Wekiwa Springs State Park

floridastateparks.org/catfishcreek floridastateparks.org/coltcreek floridastateparks.org/dadebattlefield floridastateparks.org/highlandshammock floridastateparks.org/hontoonisland floridastateparks.org/lakegriffin floridastateparks.org/lakejuneinwinter floridastateparks.org/lakekissimmee floridastateparks.org/lakelouisa floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/lake_wales_ridge.html floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/little_big_econ.html floridastateparks.org/lowerwekivariver floridastateparks.org/paynescreek floridastateparks.org/rainbowsprings floridastateparks.org/rockspringsrun floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/ross_prairie.html floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/seminole.html floridastateparks.org/silverriver webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings

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 Wildlife Refuge Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park Fort Cooper State Park Fort Foster State Historic Site Hillsborough River State Park Honeymoon Island State Park Little Manatee River State Park North Anclote River Nature Park Skyway Fishing Pier State Park Weeki Wachee Springs State Park Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park Withlacoochee State Forest 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/homosassasprings floridastateparks.org/fortcooper floridastateparks.org/fortfoster floridastateparks.org/hillsboroughriver floridastateparks.org/honeymoonisland floridastateparks.org/littlemanateeriver webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/skyway floridastateparks.org/weekiwachee floridastateparks.org/wernerboyce floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/withlacoochee.html floridastateparks.org/yborcity floridastateparks.org/yuleesugarmill

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 Fort Clinch State Park Fort George Island Cultural State Park Fort Mose Historic State Park Four Creeks State Forest 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 John M. Bethea State Forest Little Talbot Island State Park Matanzas State Forest Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park North Peninsula State Park Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park Ralph E. Simmons Memorial State Forest 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 floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/cary.html webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/dunnscreek floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/etoniah_creek.html floridastateparks.org/faverdykes floridastateparks.org/fortclinch floridastateparks.org/fortgeorgeisland floridastateparks.org/fortmose floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/four_creeks.html floridastateparks.org/gamblerogers floridastateparks.org/georgecradybridge floridacoasts.org/gtm floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/jennings.html floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/john_bethea.html floridastateparks.org/littletalbotisland floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/matanzas.html floridastateparks.org/mikeroess floridastateparks.org/northpeninsula floridastateparks.org/olusteebattlefield floridastateparks.org/pumpkinhill floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/ralph_e_simmons.html floridastateparks.org/ravinegardens webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/washingtonoaks floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/welaka.html floridastateparks.org/yellowbluff


FLORIDA STATE PARKS, FORESTS & REGIONAL RECREATION SPACES

Father and daughter on a beach outing in the Fort Myers area (Lee County VCB)

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park Big Shoals State Forest 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 Fanning Springs State Park Forest Capital Museum State Park Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail Goethe State Forest Ichetucknee Springs State Park Lafayette Blue Springs 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 Paynes Prairie Preserve 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 Suwannee River Wilderness Trail Troy Spring State Park Twin Rivers State Forest Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park Wakulla State Forest Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park

floridastateparks.org/maclaygardens floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/big_shoals.html 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/forestcapital floridastateparks.org/gainesville-hawthorne floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/goethe.html floridastateparks.org/ichetuckneesprings floridastateparks.org/lafayettebluesprings floridastateparks.org/lakejackson floridaforestservice.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/paynesprairie floridastateparks.org/riverrise floridastateparks.org/sanfelascohammock floridastateparks.org/sanmarcos fws.gov/saintmarks floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster floridastateparks.org/suwanneeriver floridastateparks.org/wilderness floridastateparks.org/troyspring floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/twin_rivers.html floridastateparks.org/waccasassabay floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/wakulla.html floridastateparks.org/peacocksprings

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 Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park Eden Gardens 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

dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/apalachicola floridastateparks.org/baldpoint floridastateparks.org/biglagoon floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/blackwater_river.html floridastateparks.org/blackwatterriver floridastateparks.org/camphelen floridastateparks.org/constitutionconvention floridastateparks.org/deerlake floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland floridastateparks.org/edengardens 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 floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/pine_log.html floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/point_washington.html floridastateparks.org/poncedeleonsprings floridastateparks.org/standrews floridastateparks.org/stjoseph floridastateparks.org/tarkilnbayou floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/tates_hell.html floridastateparks.org/threerivers floridastateparks.org/topsailhill floridastateparks.org/torreya floridastateparks.org/yellowriver

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (Greater Miami CVB) Visitors at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples (JoNell Modys)

Fairbanks House Grounds and Cottages (Fairbanks House)

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

205


RESOURCE DIRECTORY NATIONAL PARKS, MEMORIALS, MONUMENTS AND PRESERVES

CAR RENTAL COMPANIES

WEBSITES

ACE Rent A Car

acerentacar.com

Much of Florida’s history is captured in its national parks, memorials, monuments and preserves and the National Park Service works hard to preserve it (nps.gov).

Alamo Rent A Car

alamo.com

Auto Europe

autoeurope.com

Avis Rent A Car

avis.com

Budget Rent A Car

budget.com

Dollar Rent A Car

dollar.com

Economy Car Hire

economycarhire.com

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

enterprise.com

E-Z Rent-A-Car

e-zrentacar.com

Florida Sun Car Rental

floridasuncarrental.com

SOUTHEAST & THE FLORIDA KEYS Biscayne National Park nps.gov/bisc Dry Tortugas National Park nps.gov/drto

Fox Rent A Car

foxrentacar.com

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Big Cypress National Preserve nps.gov/bicy

Global Rent a Car

interamerican-car-rental.com

Hertz Car Rental

hertz.com

Honk Worldwide Car Rental

honkcarrental.com

Everglades National Park nps.gov/ever

National Car Rental

nationalcar.com

Payless Car Rental

paylesscar.com

SIXT Rent a Car

sixt.com

CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Canaveral National Seashore nps.gov/cana CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA De Soto National Memorial nps.gov/deso 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 NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA No national parks NORTHWEST FLORIDA Gulf Islands National Seashore nps.gov/guis Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor (extends from North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida) nps.gov/guge

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2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Thrifty Car Rental

thrifty.com

U-Save Car & Truck Rental

usave.com

RV RENTAL COMPANIES

WEBSITE

America’s Best RVs

americasbestrv.com

Camp USA Motorhome Rental

onfreewheels.com

Citrus RV Rental

citrusrvrental.com

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

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 VISIT FLORIDA (VISITFLORIDA.COM) also operates Florida’s five Official Florida Welcome Centers at I-10E, 16 miles west of Pensacola; US 231 near Campbellton; I-75S, four miles north of Jennings; I-95S, seven miles 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.


WEST PALM BEACH

TAMPA

TALLAHASSEE

SARASOTA

BOCA RATON

-

BRADENTON

201

-

45

CLEARWATER

239 45

-

DAYTONA BEACH

215 170 159

DELRAY BEACH

20

195 244 216

-

28

FORT LAUDERDALE

17

207 248 231 28

-

FORT MYERS

140 82

JACKSONVILLE

302 227 199 89

KEY WEST

195 353 394 408 213 178 271

494

-

MIAMI

42

343

153

NAPLES

118 119 160 241 131 104 37

317

234 107

ORLANDO

191 117 106 54

184 207 153

135

383 232 188

PANAMA CITY BEACH

519 367 327 331 541 535 445

261

696 558 479 334

PENSACOLA

613 461 421 425 626 628 539

355

790 652 573 428 103

ST. AUGUSTINE

266 211 185 53

38

458 307 286 100 292 386

ST. PETERSBURG

226 29

19

158 219 232 108

211

378 246 144 105 342 435 196

-

41

249 20

201

SARASOTA

197 12

57

183 193 201 70

240

341 214 107 130 380 473 223

41

-

287 54

172

TALLAHASSEE

427 275 235 233 435 442 353

163

604 466 387 242 98

249 287

TAMPA

217 41

191

385 247 155 85

WEST PALM BEACH

26

277

221 68

-

124 206 162 132

26

353 222 119 117 367 461 211

29

12

275 41

176

199

394 262 160 106 327 421 185

19

57

235 22

214

89

408 256 241 54

158 183 233 138

190

162

302

213 52

131 184 541 626 264

219 193 435 218

20

132

318

178 26

104 207 535 628 282

232 201 442 233

43

-

282

271 148 37

108 70

353 119

123

-

494 343 317 135 261 355 38

211 240 163 191

277

378 341 604 385

221

246 214 466 247

68

144 107 387 155

144

105 130 242 85

166

342 380 98

330

494

386

435 473 192 423

588

-

196 223 194 176

241

302 318 282

222 262 256 52

22

226 197 427 217

216 231 206

26

148

264 282 252

138 218 233 119

176 214 190 20

43

123

118 191 519 613 266

ST. PETERSBURG

ST. AUGUSTINE

159 244 248 124

PENSACOLA

227

PANAMA CITY BEACH

170 195 207 82

ORLANDO

195 42

NAPLES

302

17

MIAMI

JACKSONVILLE

140

201 239 215 20

KEY WEST

FORT MYERS

FORT LAUDERDALE

DELRAY BEACH

DAYTONA BEACH

CLEARWATER

FROM / TO

BRADENTON

BOCA RATON

MILEAGE CHART BETWEEN KEY FLORIDA CITIES

331 425 53

153 445 539 252

153 234 383 696 790 458 -

107 232 558 652 307 -

188 479 573 286 -

334 428 100 -

103 292 -

192 194

330 423 176

144 166 494 588 241

Fishing off the pier at the Oleta River State Park in North Miami (Greater Miami CVB)

20

54

-

237

402

237

-

192

201 172 402 192

-

The Elliott Museum in Stuart (Martin County)

The Cheetah Run at Busch Gardens Tampa (Busch Gardens Tampa)

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

207


RESOURCE DIRECTORY CITY SERVED

MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS IN FLORIDA PRIMARY AIRPORTS

WEBSITE

Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB)

flydaytonafirst.com

Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)

fll.net

Fort Myers/ Naples

Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW)

flylcpa.com

Gainesville

Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV)

gra-gnv.com

Jacksonville

Jacksonville International Airport (JAX)

jia.aero

Key West

Key West International Airport (EYW)

keywestinternationalairport.com

Melbourne

Melbourne International Airport (MLB)

mlbair.com

Miami

Miami International Airport (MIA)

miami-airport.com

Orlando

Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB)

orlandosanfordairport.com

Orlando

Orlando International (MCO)

orlandoairports.net

Panama City Beach

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP)

iflybeaches.com

Pensacola

Pensacola International Airport (PNS)

flypensacola.com

Punta Gorda

Charlotte County Airport Authority (PGD)

flypgd.com

Sarasota

Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ)

srq-airport.com

St. Augustine

Northeast Florida Regional Airport (UST)

flynf.com

St. Petersburg/Clearwater

St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE)

fly2pie.com

Tallahassee

Tallahassee Regional Airport (TLH)

tallahasseeregionalairport.com

Tampa

Tampa International Airport (TPA)

tampaairport.com

Valparaiso

Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS)

flyvps.com

West Palm Beach

Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)

pbia.org

AIRLINE SERVICE TO FLORIDA FROM CANADA AND THE USA

208

BUS TOUR OPERATORS IN FLORIDA

AIRLINES

WEBSITES

BUS TOUR OPERATORS

WEBSITES

Air Canada

aircanada.com

A.L.M. Transportation & Tours

almtransportation.com

Air Transat

airtransat.ca

AMC Transportation

amctransportation.com

AirTran Airways

airtran.com

Central Florida Tours

centralfloridatours.com

Allegiant Air

allegiant.com

American Airlines/American Eagle

aa.com

Charter Bus America

charterbusamerica.com

CanJet Airlines

canjet.com

Classic Bus Lines

classicbuslines.net

Delta Air Lines

delta.com

CM Tours & Travel

cmtoursandtravel.net

Frontier Airlines

flyfrontier.com

EasyShuttle

geteasyshuttle.com

IBC Airways (VIP private jet charter)

ibcairways.com

Empire Coach Line

empirecoachline.com

JetBlue Airways

jetblue.com

Endeavor Bus Lines

endeavorbuslines.com

Miami Air International

miamiair.com

Greyhound Lines, Inc.

greyhound.com

Southwest Airlines

southwest.com

Magic Carpet Ride

magiccarpetride.travel

Spirit Airlines

spiritair.com

Miami Coach & Tours

miamicoachtours.com

Sun Country Airlines

suncountry.com

Sunwing Airlines

flysunwing.com

Miami Jet Tours

miamijettours.com

United Airlines

united.com

Need-A-Bus

need-a-bus.com

US Airways

usairways.com

Pegasus Transportation

pegasusbus.com

Virgin Atlantic

virgin-atlantic.com

Sawgrass Tours

sawgrasstours.com

Vision Airlines

visionairlines.com

Super Tours of Orlando

supertours.com

WestJet

westjet.com

USA BusCharter

usabuscharter.com

2014 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


2014 Travel Guide to Florida  
2014 Travel Guide to Florida  
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