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Naturally connected. There’s no better place to feel a connection with nature than at our parks. Where fun and laughter are as common as the stunning sights at SeaWorld®. Where thrilling roller coasters soar through the exotic lands of Busch Gardens®. And where underwater adventures give way to wonder and excitement at Aquatica™. Explore the world around you by making memorable connections at all of our parks. For the best deals on tickets, visit SeaWorldOrlando.com or BuschGardensTampaBay.com.

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Take a step back.


GOVER N O R’S M E SSAGE

RICK SCOTT GOVERNOR

October 2014

Dear Friends: As Governor of the Sunshine State, I invite you to explore the many great opportunities available to enjoy Florida’s beautiful beaches, world-class fishing and golf, award-winning state parks, and cultural wonders and attractions. The people of Florida look forward to showcasing the hospitality that makes our state the number one travel destination in the world. There are many wonderful reasons to visit Florida, and Floridians enjoy hosting millions of guests year round. No matter when you visit or how long you stay, I am confident our great weather and friendly businesses will provide you an enjoyable and memorable experience. As you enjoy our numerous attractions and scenic beauty, I invite you to also learn more about what we are doing to make Florida the best place for businesses to succeed. As a lifelong entrepreneur, I understand what it takes to grow a business and that Florida’s prosperity is linked to the rich and diverse cultural heritage of our residents. A thriving tourism industry is vital to growing jobs, and we are working to draw both domestic and international visitors, as well as increase direct international air service to Florida. Every 85 visitors to Florida equals one job in our state – and that is why we are working every day to continue to attract even more visitors and grow more jobs for Florida families. Enjoy your visit to Florida, and I invite you to visit Florida often. Sincerely,

Rick Scott Governor

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


SOCIAL

There is only one word to describe Downtown Delray Beach, Florida ‌ SOCIAL! Whether you are casual, urban, sophisticated or chic, the heart of our historic Village by the Sea will never disappoint the social side of you. Our thriving community of artists, culture and entertainment, along with our eclectic shops and mouth-watering cuisine, will have you spreading the word about Downtown Delray Beach far and wide. Take your family and friends for a warm dip in the crystal blue waters of the Atlantic along two miles of pristine beach. Come and explore SOCIAL Downtown Delray Beach!

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E DI TO R’S M E SSAG E

T

good old-fashioned road trip is the best way to discover and experience all Florida has to offer. I strongly recommend abandoning the freeways in favor of backroads and oceanside drives, stopping whenever you please to explore small towns and communities along the way. This is where the true essence of Florida shines brightest, oozing with southern hospitality and charm—and delightful surprises. Over the years, my annual road trip of discovery has become a ritual as I search for new experiences to report and recommend to our readers. What I’ve come to appreciate is there is so much more to Florida beyond the bright city lights and theme parks. This year, my husband and I rented a self-catering unit at the reasonably priced Tropical Breeze Resort on Siesta Key. Situated immediately across the road from an award-winning beach regularly recognized as No. 1 in Florida by Dr. Beach and a quick walk to wonderful restaurants and boutiques in the quaint Siesta Key Village, it was a perfect choice. While in the Sarasota area, check out the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and the on-site Christy Payne Mansion and Carriagehouse Tea Shop, performances at the Asolo Theatre, the MOTE Marine Laboratory and the wildly acclaimed Circus Sarasota. From there, tour Labelle and Lake Okeechobee in Hendry County, the second-largest freshwater lake in the USA, and stay at the apparently haunted Clewiston Historic Inn. This area is a haven for bass fishing, birding, stargazing and RV camping. While there, visit the museum in Clewiston to view dinosaur bones, a prehistoric horse and ancient manatees called dugongs. Just 20 miles south of Clewiston, birders should make their way to STA 5 to see the protected caracara bird. In nearby Moore Haven in Glades County, Gatorama is one of the last roadside attractions and home to Goliath, a 50-foot alligator. Owners Patty and Allan Register also operate Fisheating Creek Outpost, a 52-mile canoeing trail through 18,000 pristine acres. Situated on scenic A1A just south of St. Augustine, Marineland Dolphin Adventure—home to Nellie, the oldest dolphin in captivity (born in 1943)—operates as a research institute and is the first responder for stranded animals in the area. Marineland Dolphin Adventure schedules fieldtrip classes, and in partnership with the University of Florida’s Whitney Marine Laboratory for Bioscience, runs summer camp programs for ages seven to 12 and 13 to 17, in which participants rescue dolphins and learn about the local ecosystem. And, by the way, Marineland also hosts unique wedding and corporate events. Visiting Orlando? Take a break and spend a day in Lake Wales visiting Bok Tower Gardens. The singing tower, built using coquina, four million pounds of Georgia marble and ceramic tiles, is something to behold—and hear. A brass door to the Founders Room depicts the story of creation and 60 bells—weighing a total of 60 tons—serenade visitors every day. Catering to youngsters, two to 12, LEGOLAND in nearby Winter Haven covers 150 acres where a 152-room LEGOLAND Hotel is scheduled to open in 2015. In addition to games and rides, children are taught to drive at the Ford Driving School, learn about fire safety at the Big Tent and much more. In neighboring Lakeland, Safari Wilderness Ranch is a permanent 260-acre working game ranch for animals that were born in captivity, for exotic pets whose owners cannot care for them and for animals from zoos that no longer operate. Animal habitats are as natural as can be for each species, and animals breed naturally. It’s all here waiting for you to discover. Just let curiosity be your guide.

Donna S. Vieira Editor

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


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2 0 15 T R AV E L G U I D E T O

FLORIDA www.floridatravelguide.travel

The 2015 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 Vivian Hunt Bonny Mager Joe Turkel

WRITERS Darien Arden, Susan B. Barnes, Mary Burnham, Alisson Clark, Jennifer Wylie Fauser, Kara Franker, Sandra Friend, Kevin Fritz, Melanie Green, Janet Groene, Alison R. Janissen, Jen Karetnick, Debi Lander, Rochelle Lash, Jill Martin, Amanda Mims, Kevin Mims, Jeff Ostrowski, Edward Schmidt Jr., Donna S. Vieira, Chelle Koster Walton, Richard Westlund 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 2015. Printed in Canada.

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


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29

DALE

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Graceville

10

Fort Walton Beach

Pensacola

GADSDEN

231

98 Destin

NORTHWEST

LEON

84

B AY

CALHOUN

Panama City

Tallahassee

i

19

90

Madison

1

GULF

FRANKLIN

98 Apalachicola

19

Apalachee Bay

41

C L AY

Starke

BRADFORD

High Springs

St. Augustine

S T. J O H N S

ALACHUA

Palatka

Gainesville PUTNAM

Flagler Beach

17

MARION

Ormond Beach

L. George

Ocala

Inglis

Deltona

LAKE

441 Winter Garden

SUMTER

98

19

Sanford

Winter Park

301

27

Brooksville

HERNANDO

CENTRAL WEST

PA S C O

Titusville

Orlando

Polk City

Land O Lakes

Tarpon Springs

4 Plant City

Clearwater

PINELLAS

Largo St. Petersburg

275

98

Tampa

92

HILLSBOROUGH

OSCEOLA

Haines City Winter Haven Bartow POLK

Anna Maria Island Bradenton Sarasota

M A N AT E E

.

Sebastian

Avon Park

Wauchula

OKEECHOBEE

98

HARDEE

Gasparilla Island Charlotte Harbor

Jensen Beach Stuart

MARTIN

1

Indiantown Lake Okeechobee

CHARLOTTE

West Palm Beach

Belle Glade

HENDRY

Jupiter

North Palm Beach

27

Fort Myers Cape Coral

PA L M B E A C H

LEE

Immokalee

Sanibel

SOUTH WEST

98

GLADES

Port Charlotte

Englewood

Fort Pierce Port St. Lucie

Okeechobee

DE SOTO

41

95 S T. L U C I E

HIGHLANDS

S A R A S O TA

Venice

Vero Beach

441

27

75

CENTRAL EAST

1

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INDIAN RIVER

Sarasota Springs

G U L F O F M E X I C O

Cocoa Beach Melbourne

St J 192 ohn sR

Frostproof

17

301

Cocoa

Kissimmee

17

Apollo Beach 41

TAMPA BAY

CENTRAL

95

SEMINOLE

ORANGE

New Port Richey

New Smyrna Beach

VOLUSIA

Leesburg CITRUS

Daytona Beach

92

De Land

75

Citrus Springs

Palm Coast

FLAGLER

Williston

27A

41

Waccasassa Bay

1

Alachua

27

LEVY

NORTHEAST

95

Fanning Springs DIXIE

Jacksonville Beach

UNION

GILCHRIST

NORTH CENTRAL

D U VA L

BAKER

L A FAY E T T E

Cross City

A T L A N T I C O C E A N

Fernandina Beach

10

90

TAY L O R

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Jacksonville

COLUMBIA

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319

Cumberland Island NS R.

17

White Springs

129 Perry

95

301

H A M I LT O N

SUWANNEE

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MADISON

WAKULLA LIBERTY

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CAMDEN

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41

221

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CHARLETON

441

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WASHINGTON

BRANTLEY

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WA LT O N

10

84

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BROOKS

GRADY

27

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Milton

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OLA

S A N TA R O S A

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HOLMES

331

APAL ACH IC

OKALOOSA

319

THOMAS

L. Seminole Marianna

WAY N E

AT K I N S O N

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D E C AT U R SEMINOLE

JACKSON

PIERCE

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82

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COLQUITT

MILLER

HOUSTON

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19

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441

Pompano Beach Ft Lauderdale

Golden Gate

Marco Island

75 COLLIER

41

95

Big Cypress National Preserve

BROWARD

Hollywood Miami Beach Miami Kendall

Hialeah

MONROE DADE

Homestead Everglades National Park

1 Key Largo

FLORIDA BAY Big Pine Key

Key West

1

Marathon

MAP OF FLORIDA 12

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Lake Worth Delray Beach Boca Raton

SOUTH EAST


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

52 GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND INFORMATION 18

WELCOME TO FLORIDA: What’s Your Guilty Pleasure?

22

HISTORY: A Rich and Diverse Past

26

INSIDER TIPS: Sound Travel Advice

29

TRIVIA: What’s in a Name?

30

STATE GEMS: Surprising Little Delights

FLORIDA VACATION THEMES

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

34

THEME PARKS: Worlds of Fantasy

38

GOLF: Start Your Golf Carts

42

GAMBLING: Non-stop Gaming Action

46

SPORTS: Get into the Action

50

WEDDINGS AND HONEYMOONS: Simply Add Champagne

52

VACATION HOMES: Buying into Florida’s Lifestyle

57

PETS: Pet-loving Havens

60

ECOTOURISM: Embrace the Wild


FLORIDA REGIONS, COUNTIES AND CITIES 66

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA: A Study in Contrasts

75

Florida Keys: Only in the Keys

76

Delray Beach: Your Perfect Vacation Haven

78

Fort Lauderdale: Delight Your Senses

82

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA: A Natural Choice

98

CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA: Timeless Beauty, New Adventures

108

West Volusia: Endless Recreation and Charm

110

New Smyrna Beach: Steeped in History and Fun

112

CENTRAL FLORIDA: The Epicenter of Fun

124

CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA: Incredible Beyond Compare

134

Citrus County: At the Heart of the Nature Coast

138

Pasco County: Relish the Great Outdoors

140

NORTHEAST FLORIDA: Celebrate 450 Years of Heritage

150

Jacksonville: Natural, Cultural, and Oh So Hip

152

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA: Choose Your Southern-style Adventure

160

Wakulla County: The Natural Place to Be

164

Gainesville: College-town Charm

166

NORTHWEST FLORIDA: Southern Hospitality by the Sea

FLORIDA RESOURCE DIRECTORY 176

Florida Time Zones

176

Annual Florida Festivals

177

Average Monthly Temperatures and Precipitation

178

Florida Associations and Travel Groups

178

Florida’s Public Holidays

178

Florida Cruise Ports

179

Florida State Parks & Regional Recreation Spaces

181

Florida State Forests

182

National Parks, Memorials, Monuments and Preserves

182

Car Rental Companies

182

RV Rental Companies

182

Tourism Information Sources in Florida

183

Mileage Chart Between Key Florida Cities

184

Major International Airports

184

Airline Service to Florida from Canada and the USA

184

Bus Tour Operators

COVER: Reading at the beach. (iStock.com/cdwheatley)

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17


WELCOM E TO F LO R IDA!

WHAT’S YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

Soar through the skies at Coldwater Creek near Milton.

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

A family strolls on Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach.

F

lorida often makes the news in both traditional outlets and social media pages, with plenty of strange headlines. They range from natural occurrences (“Shark Pulls Kayaker Eight Miles Up Coast”) to human goofiness (“Naked Thieves Take Burgers from Southwest Florida Eatery”). The truth is, Florida is a colorful state with a tremendous amount of diversity, and those who live and visit here wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s also a big, long state, made up largely of coastline—1,200 miles of it, of which 663 are foot-friendly sand. When visitors think of Florida, many picture the standard: tropical weather, beaches and umbrellas. Salt and strange goings-on aren’t entirely accurate, however. The interior of the state is far different than many expect, with freshwater resources, agricultural plains, equine culture and plenty of wildlife.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: SANTA ROSA CO. TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; CELSO DINIZ/SHUTTERSTOCK; JOE DETRICK/WWW.VISITCITRUS.COM; MONROE COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; AMELIA ISLAND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

BY JEN KARETNICK


FLORIDA_2015_Layout 1 2014-11-04 3:01 PM Page 19

Take in beautiful scenery and wildlife at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Titusville.

For instance, Florida’s interior 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. (Horse enthusiasts should also head to Ocala and the Davie/Plantation region, where there are horse farms, schools, trails and competitions galore.) 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. If you’re lucky, on a jaunt through the Everglades, you’ll spot the elusive and endangered Florida panther, the only big cat that lives in the wild in the state. From airboat rides and alligator spotting in the swamps to kayaking along the immortal Suwannee River, framed by cool, green wood-

lands, to crabbing in the tributaries of the Apalachicola River, waterway adventures are endless. Here is also where you’ll find plenty of wild boar, which acclimated after the Spanish brought over their native pigs 500 years ago. Beyond the rivers and lakes, there are bodies of water on either side of the Florida peninsula, which offer deep-sea fishing and diving opportunities galore. If you’re especially protective of Florida’s natural culture, you can also participate in what is perhaps the most bizarre hunting competition in the nation: the Florida “Python Challenge.” This recently established event challenges 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

Snorkel with the manatees in Citrus County.

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 The Florida Keys are perfect for paddleboarding.

Tour the downtown district of Fernandina Beach.

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

19


WELCOM E TO F LO R IDA!

Explore outer space at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

EverBank Field is a football stadium in downtown Jacksonville.

BREAK OUT THE SUNSCREEN 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

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

SPORTS GALORE 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 sports fans to enjoy yearround. 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 home of the Miami Marlins, which opened for the 2012 baseball season, is truly user-friendly. And while Miami Heat fans are mourning the loss of LeBron James, they’ll still be mobbing American Airlines Arena

because, after all, it’s “Wade County”—so get tickets early if you can. In addition, racing fans never get 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 Resort, Miami Seaquarium, Busch Gardens in 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

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: FLORIDA'S SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM; VISIT FLORIDA

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

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 famous 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.


H I S TO RY

A RICH AND DIVERSE PAST BY RICHARD WESTLUND

W Learn about Seminole heritage in the Everglades.

ith ancient Native American artifacts, sunken Spanish galleons, Civil War battles, black and Hispanic cultural sites and America’s first spaceport, Florida has an exciting and diverse history. Today, visitors can explore historic forts, lighthouses, homes, museums, parks and other attractions that provide a fascinating glimpse into the state’s unique past. Here are some of the many historic treasures that can be found throughout the state.

SOUTHEAST Thousands of years before the first European explorers arrived, Florida was populated by Native Americans such as the Tequesta people, who lived near the mouth of the Miami River. After a recent excavation uncovered the remains of a village, the state Division of Historical Resources has preserved the site as the Miami Circle Park. Other Native American tribes survived the incursion of northern settlers in the 1800s by

22

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

moving into the Everglades, where they gradually rebuilt their society. Now, 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. To help mariners avoid rocks and reefs, the US established several lighthouses in the region in the 1800s that can now be toured by visitors. For example, the Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne near Miami, as well as Garden Key Harbor Lighthouse at Fort Jefferson National Monument and nearby Loggerhead Key Lighthouse (both in Dry Tortugas National Park), all offer fascinating glimpses into Florida’s past. Historic Key West offers the Harry S. Truman Little White House, a favorite vacation spot for the president in the late 1940s and early ’50s, and the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; JORG HACKEMANN/SHUTTERSTOCK

The historic Ca’ d’Zan mansion, the Ringling winter home, overlooks Sarasota Bay.


The Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center features authentic rockets from past space explorations.

Other cultural sites in the region include Miami’s Historic Lyric Theater, which opened in 1913 and became a major entertainment center for African Americans in the state’s segregated society. A few blocks to the south, the Little Havana neighborhood reflects Miami’s Cuban heritage, with restaurants, clubs and shops where you can buy hand-rolled cigars. Pioneer homes and historic hotels are found in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach. Two examples are Stranahan House on the New River in Fort Lauderdale and the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens near the Intracoastal Waterway. In Palm Beach County, the Boca Raton Resort and Club, the Colony Hotel & Cabana Club in Delray Beach, and the world-famous Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach are examples of Florida architecture from the 1920s. The Breakers actually dates back to the late 1890s when railroad magnate Henry Flagler began bringing northern visitors to Florida, but after the hotel’s second disastrous fire, it was rebuilt in 1926.

SOUTHWEST 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. To the north, not far from another historic landmark, the Boca Grande Lighthouse in Gasparilla Island State Park, is the Gasparilla Inn & Club, which has attracted visitors since 1913. In Bradenton, the Gamble Plantation is the only remaining antebellum plantation house in southern Florida. Nearby, the historic town of Palmetto boasts its own historical park for a peek back in time, as well as an ancient Native American location, the Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site. Farther north in Sarasota, the Ringling Estate is a standing legacy to the rich history of the American circus and houses a wealth of circus artifacts, including the world’s largest miniature circus. Surrounding gardens feature an extensive variety of native and exotic trees, as well as the oldest rose garden in Florida, founded by Mable Ringling. Next door, the historic Asolo Repertory Theatre is an active performance space, presenting the best in theater, music, dance and film.

CENTRAL EAST In 1949, Cape Canaveral 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 Visitor Complex allows guests to experience the glory years of the US space program. Located on the US Air Force Base is historic Cape Canaveral Lighthouse; be sure to check tour information before planning your trip. To the north, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum, Florida’s tallest, guards the waterway at the southern end of the Daytona Beach area.

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

FEATURED LINKS Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum ahtahthiki.com

Amelia Island Tourist Development Council ameliaisland.com

Amelia Island Museum of History ameliamuseum.org

Apalachicola cityofapalachicola.com

Asolo Repertory Theatre asolorep.org

Battle of Olustee Festival and Battle Re-enactment olusteefestival.com

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park floridastateparks.org/capeflorida

Billie Swamp Safari billieswamp.com

Boca Raton Resort & Club bocaresort.com

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens bonnethouse.org

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse canaverallight.org

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument nps.gov/casa

City of Palmetto palmettofl.org

Colony Hotel & Cabana Club colonyflorida.com

Dry Tortugas National Park nps.gov/drto

Edison & Ford Winter Estates edisonfordwinterestates.org

Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum hemingwayhome.com

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H I S TO RY

CENTRAL WEST The lighthouse on St. George Island near Apalachicola.

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

NORTHEAST Back in 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. Four decades later, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded St. Augustine, now the oldest continually inhab-

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ited 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. The highlights include Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fortification in the continental US, and the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum. In 1738, in an attempt to destabilize the plantation economy of the British colonies by creating a free black community to attract slaves seeking escape and refuge, the Spanish established the fort and town of Gracia Real de Santa Terese de Mosé as the first free black community in North America. For an in-depth history of Florida’s African Americans and their contributions, request a copy of the Florida Black Heritage Trail from VISIT FLORIDA. To the north, Jacksonville traces its roots to the French who landed at the mouth of the St. Johns River in 1562 and founded Fort Caroline two years later. However, a Spanish force soon captured the fort, and the French became a distant memory. Through the years, the Spanish maintained control of the region, establishing forts, farms and missions, including the Kingsley Plantation House, dating back to 1798.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: JORG HACKEMANN/SHUTTERSTOCK; JEFF KINSEY/SHUTTERSTOCK; THOMAS BARRATT/SHUTTERSTOCK

The Loews Don CeSar Hotel in St. Petersburg Beach is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


During the 1820s, when Florida was a US territory, the plantation was the home of Zephaniah Kingsley, a slave-owner who spoke out for civil rights, and his free African wife Anna. One of Florida’s hidden historic treasures is Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island north of Jacksonville. Many buildings in its 50-block historic district are on the National Register, and the Amelia Island Museum of History showcases the region’s fascinating past. Visitors can also tour the Amelia Island Lighthouse property on Saturdays between 11 AM and 2 PM. Built during the Territorial Period in 1838, it is the state’s oldest lighthouse. While in the area, scout out the historic Fort Clinch and Visitor Center for a vivid glimpse into the nation’s past during the Civil War.

NORTH CENTRAL During the early 1800s, Florida’s population was concentrated in North Florida, where Tallahassee became the territorial capital. One of the city’s highlights from that era is The Grove, an historic mansion finished in the 1830s by Richard Keith Call, an aide and advisor to General Andrew Jackson. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Florida joined the Confederacy, the smallest state to secede from the US. During the war, Union troops fought the Confederates in several battles in the North Central area, including the Battle of Natural Bridge in 1865, one of the last Confederate victories in the war. To the south near Lake City, “soldiers” in Civil War

uniforms annually re-enact the Battle of Olustee. The state also publishes the Florida Civil War Heritage Trail, a guidebook to Florida battle sites. Southwest of Tallahassee, visitors can tour the unspoiled fishing community of Apalachicola, the center of the state’s oyster industry for many decades. Nearby is the St. Marks Lighthouse in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

NORTHWEST One of the nation’s oldest cities on the Gulf Coast, Pensacola has flourished under Spanish, French, British, Confederate and US rule, and today is known as the “city of five flags.” In the heart of the city is Historic Pensacola Village, which includes 27 buildings and museums operated by the University of West Florida. In the late 1500s, the Spanish first settled in the region to protect their settlements and galleons carrying gold from Mexico. Storms, battles and other accidents resulted in numerous sinkings, and divers today can explore 12 wrecks along the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail between Pensacola and Port St. Joe. Visitors can also tour historic lighthouses in the region, such as the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum, built in 1859. In the 1700s, the British took control of the region, building Fort Barrancas and Fort George. Then, a Spanish army with US volunteers ousted the British forces during a 1781 battle—a little-known victory of the American Revolution. FL

FEATURED LINKS Florida Black Heritage Trail flheritage.com/preservation/trails/ blackheritage/index.cfm

Florida Civil War Heritage Trail flheritage.com/preservation/trails/civilwar

Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail floridapanhandledivetrail.com

Fort Clinch State Park floridastateparks.org/fortclinch

Fort George exploresouthernhistory.com/fortgeorge

Fort Mose Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/fortmose

Gamble Plantation Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/gambleplantation

Gasparilla Island State Park floridastateparks.org/gasparillaisland

Gulf Islands National Seashore nps.gov/guis

Harry S. Truman Little White House trumanlittlewhitehouse.com

Historic Pensacola Village historicpensacola.org

Historic Stranahan House Museum stranahanhouse.org

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex kennedyspacecenter.com

Loews Don CeSar Hotel loewshotels.com/don-cesar

Loggerhead Key Lighthouse vivaflorida.org/Explore/Maritime-Heritage/ Loggerhead-Key-Lighthouse

Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site floridastateparks.org/madirabickelmound

Miami Circle flheritage.com/archaeology/projects/miamicircle

Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/naturalbridge

Old City, St. Augustine oldcity.com

Orange County Regional History Center thehistorycenter.org

Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum pensacolalighthouse.org

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum ponceinlet.org

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum staugustinelighthouse.org

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/st_marks

Tampa Bay History Center tampabayhistorycenter.org

Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks spongedocks.net

The Breakers thebreakers.com

The Gasparilla Inn & Club the-gasparilla-inn.com

The Grove flheritage.com/grove

The Ringling ringling.org

Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve nps.gov/timu

Ybor City Chamber of Commerce ybor.org

Zora Neale Hurston Festival zoranealehurstonfestival.com Fort Clinch on Amelia Island is one of the best-preserved 19th-century forts in America. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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INSIDER TIPS

SOUND TRAVEL ADVICE BY JILL MARTIN

Great white heron at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center in Tavernier.

L

et’s be honest, it feels good to save money. Scoring big savings (like 50 percent off at hotels) can make you feel downright giddy. And while paying less is a good thing, what can make you feel even more confident about visiting your destination is solid, insider advice. So get out a highlighter and get ready for great money-saving tips and travel advice that’s specific to the Sunshine State. First up, how to rake in the savings:

KNOW YOUR SEASONS Seasons vary greatly from south to north in Florida. In January, the average high temperature in Key West is 74 F, but in Panama City Beach it is only 62 F. Winter yields great rates in northern Florida and, in the heat of summer, head to southern Florida. Orlando has its own seasons, which coincide with school calendars. Meaning, if you have to travel during spring, summer or winter breaks, prices are higher. Visit Orlando recommends visiting during “deal season,” August

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15–September 30. In addition, you can get a free Orlando Magic Card and take advantage of savings on attractions, restaurants and shopping. Get yours at VisitOrlando.com/magiccard or at the Orlando Visitors Center.

THEME PARK DISCOUNTS Locals have a saying, “If you’re buying tickets at the gate, you’ve already been taken on a ride.” Plan ahead to visit any of Florida’s theme parks, such as Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando. There are many online ticket brokers—Mousesavers.com, Ticketmomma.com, UndercoverTourist.com and OfficialTicketCenter.com—all of which are reputable. Brokers also have good rates for dinner theater shows, such as Medieval Times and Pirate’s Dinner Adventure, as well as events and exhibits.

COUPONS WORTH CLIPPING The Entertainment Book is a local favorite and you don’t have to be a local to buy it. Go to entertainmentbook.com and enter a city or

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: BOB KRIST/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU; CRISTINAMURACA/SHUTTERSTOCK; HARRY B. LAMB/SHUTTERSTOCK; JOHN PANELLA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Florida is easy to explore by vehicle.


A variety of lodgings is available throughout the Sunshine State, including houseboat rentals.

zip/postal code. Buy it, then pack it because it will pay for itself in just one day. Also try Groupon.com or Dealsaver.com. Enter the city you’re visiting and scroll through such bargains as 35 to 70 percent off at hotels, attractions and restaurants. What’s more, five of South Florida’s top attractions—Lion Country Safari, Miami Seaquarium, Museum of Discovery & Science, Jungle Island and Zoo Miami— offer a summer pass, which provides unlimited visits for 100-plus days. 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 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 directly. Even if you can’t stay the entire week (as timeshare units are normally leased in weekly increments), the savings are still worth it, especially in the off-season. Favorite websites include flcondoalliance.com; LegacyVacationResorts.com; WestgateResor ts.com; VRBO.com; and MyResortNetwork.com.

Stay well informed on weather conditions.

MEMBERSHIP RATES Joining a local club and/or organization, such as the American Automobile Association (AAA) or a wholesale shopping club like Sam’s or BJ’s, can score you discounts on car rentals, cruises, hotel rooms and travel packages.

KIDS’ CLUBS EQUAL MORE “WE” TIME Many resorts offer kids’ programs as part of their amenity packages, providing supervised childcare during certain hours of the day—or night—and are a far cry from being a babysitting service; they provide educational and non-stop entertainment! While your children are singing karaoke, dancing the conga or studying marine life, you and your spouse can enjoy a little “we” time. Some resorts offer these programs complimentary or they’re 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. Other worthy mentions include Splash’s Kids’ Club at the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

FLIGHT DEALS Helpful websites such as Hipmunk.com, TripAdvisor.com and Airfarewatchdog.com let you register for 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 that might not be on your radar. In 2011, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) was the first international airport to be built in the US in more than a decade. Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS) offers easy ac-

cess to Fort Walton Beach and Destin; Tampa International Airport (TPA) is only 90 minutes from Orlando and minutes from Clearwater’s top-rated beaches; Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) welcomes nonstop international service from Canada and Germany as well as US domestic carriers. And Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) was voted one of the best airports to fly into.

SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY SAVINGS Love it or hate it, there are benefits to social networking. Resorts, hotels and attractions offer discounts on their Facebook pages. “Like” them and you could get a special discount. Companies also love to tweet their deals in 140 characters or less.

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INSIDER TIPS Alligators have right of way in Florida.

rants or bars that serve food. Many public areas, such as parks, have also banned smoking. 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. Florida has strict drunk driving laws and texting while driving is illegal. Pedestrians always have the right of way at crosswalks. And remember, hot pavement acts like ice when rain first hits it, so be cautious driving during rain showers.

TAXES AND FEES

Many beaches, parks and festivals don’t charge an entrance fee, or if they do, it’s only a few dollars. Off-the-beaten-path attractions, such as the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center in Tavernier (Florida Keys), offer free admission. Stroll the boardwalk to the bay, past resident owls and hawks. Sanibel’s J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge has a welcome center filled with free, hands-on, educational fun. Next up, here are some insider tips to keep in mind as you plan your travel:

ACCOMMODATION Booking a place to stay sight unseen can be nerve-wracking. Contact the local convention and visitors bureau in the city or county you’ll be visiting for free assistance.

BANKS Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM, however, TD Bank has locations open every day. ATMs (automated teller machines) can be found everywhere from convenience stores to festivals. Many stores allow debit card users to obtain “cash back” above their purchase without a transaction fee.

DRIVING Florida is easy to explore by vehicle. Bring your own, or if you’re at least 25, you can rent one.

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Visitors ages 16 and up holding licenses from other states or countries may drive in Florida. Cash is no longer accepted on some Florida toll roads. It’s a good idea to purchase a SunPass Mini transponder at one of the more than 2,000 retail locations for US$5. A minimum opening balance of US$10 is required. Most rentals cars come with a SunPass.

HEAT Heat exhaustion can affect anyone, especially young children and the elderly. Symptoms include mild muscle cramps to dehydration. If you or someone you are with feels faint, head for air conditioning and starting drinking fluids.

HOLIDAYS Banks and government offices, including the post office, are closed on major US holidays. Most attractions remain open year-round. Holidays are listed in the back of this guide.

’GATORS The American alligator is found in all of the state’s 67 counties. Do not feed alligators—it’s dangerous and illegal. Don’t allow pets near waters that may contain alligators. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.

OUT AND ABOUT Smoking is not permitted inside Florida restau-

Florida’s base sales tax on purchases is six percent, with some counties adding discretionary taxes. Most hotels charge a “bed” tax and some will add a “resort or amenities tax” and even parking fees.

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

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

WEATHER CONDITIONS Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the summer. They usually start and end quickly. Hurricane season runs June 1–November 30, but there is no need to worry as your hotel (and the local news) will keep you well informed. Keep in mind Florida is the lightning capital of the United States. “If thunder roars, go indoors.” FL

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: TONY CAMPBELL/SHUTTERSTOCK; TOM SHELBY/BRADENTON AREA CVB

WATCH FOR FREEBIES


T R I VI A

WHAT’S IN A NAME? BY DONNA S. VIEIRA

Writing a message in the sand on Anna Maria Island in Southwest Florida.

N

ot surprisingly, many Florida cities carry the names of military officers or prominent citizens while others were named after the flora that covered the area. Some, however, are downright intriguing. How did these names come about? What is the history behind them? A little research sheds some light. Anna Maria Island was supposedly named for the queen of King Charles II, the sponsor of Ponce de León’s expedition. While some pronounce it Anna Mar-EE-a, old timers prefer Anna Mar-EYE-a. Boca Raton comes from the Spanish “Boca de Ratones,” which means rat’s mouth, a term used by seamen to describe a hidden rock against which a ship’s cable might rub. Clearwater was first called Clear Water Harbor because of a spring of water that bubbles up close to shore in the Gulf of Mexico, making water in the vicinity clear. Frostproof was named by cowboys who brought cattle to the region during the winter months to avoid frost. Hialeah, which means pretty prairie, is of Muskogee origin: “haiyakpo” (prairie) and “hili” (pretty). Islamorada is Spanish for “purple island.” Some insist the correct pronunciation is “EEsla mo rada,” however locals insist on “EYE la mor rada.” Key West was originally called Cayo Hueso (Bone Island) by early Spanish explorers because it was littered with remains of prior native inhabitants, who used the isle as a communal graveyard. Miami comes from Mayaimi (a lake, now called Lake Okeechobee), which means “very large.”

Miccosukee means “chiefs of the hog clan” and originates from Hitchiti words “miki” (chief) and “suki” (hogs). Ocala literally means “heavily clouded,” perhaps beyond discovery. Okeechobee means big lake and comes from the Hitchiti words “oki” (water) and “chobi” (big). Panama City was named so by George West, the original developer of the town, because it is in a direct line between Chicago and Panama City, Panama. Pensacola is likely a derivative of Pansfalaya, an Indian tribe. The Choctaw called them the “long-haired people.” Punta Gorda are Spanish words for “wide point” or “fat point” referring to the nearby arm of land that juts into Charlotte Bay. Sanibel is thought to be a combination of health and beauty. Sarasota comes from the Calusa Indian language, meaning not known. However some say it could also mean “point of rocks.”

Stephen Foster, whose song, Old Folks at Home (also known as Swanee River), became the state anthem. While many believe he was a Floridian, the truth is he was born in Pennsylvania and never even visited Florida. Suwannee is either Cherokee “sawani,” meaning echo river or a corruption of Spanish “San Juan.” Tallahassee is derived from a Muskogee word meaning “old town.” Valparaiso was taken from the city in Indiana, which in turn was named for the famous Chilean port. The word is Spanish for “valley of paradise.” Venice was named so by Franklin Higel, an early settler, because the blue waters of the bays, rivers and ocean reminded him of the famous Italian city. Wakulla is probably Timucuan for “spring of water.” Weeki Wachee Springs means “little spring” and comes from the Muskogee words “wekiwa” (spring) and “chee” (little).

Seminole may be derived from the Spanish word “Cimarron,” meaning “wild” or “runaway.”

Zephyrhills calls attention to the cooling breezes that blow over the hills in this slice of Florida. FL

The Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center State Park was dedicated to composer

Source: Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources

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STAT E G E M S

SURPRISING LITTLE DELIGHTS

BY DEBI LANDER

W

hether it’s an off-the-beaten-path attraction or a breakfast spot frequented only by locals, Florida is dotted with surprising little delights that yield big memories. Here are some of the state’s notto-miss experiences.

SOUTHEAST It’s called the No Name Pub, and this quirky eatery might also be the hardest to find— it lies off US Highway 1 at mile marker 30.5 bayside, down the winding road in a settlement known as No Name Key. However, its out-of-the-way location doesn’t keep people from discovering the local landmark’s world-class pizza and ramshackle decor. At mile marker 50.5 bayside, Crane Point Museum and Nature Center features the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys, the Marathon Wild Bird Center and the historic Adderley House. Take time to wander along in-

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terpretive nature trails and seek out endangered native foliage, unusual geologic features, exotic vegetation and ancient ocean fossils. Unexpected discoveries await you in Key West, too. Among them is the historic, neverused Civil War-era fort called West Martello Tower, overlooking the Atlantic. It’s now headquarters for the Key West Garden Club, where beautiful indigenous plants and rare palm trees bloom against the weathered brick fort. From café Cubano to Peruvian ceviche and authentic Italian gelato, Miami Culinary Tours are about tasting delicious and authentic cuisine around this city’s historic neighborhoods. Tasting tours include the South Beach Food Tour, Little Havana Food Tour and Wynwood Food Tour. Water taxi tickets let you hop on and off all day along Fort Lauderdale’s world-famous waterways, for which the city is nicknamed “The Venice of America.”

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: KAMIRA/SHUTTERSTOCK; DANIEL KORZENIEWSKI/SHUTTERSTOCK; VISIT SARASOTA COUNTY

A typical Cuban restaurant in Little Havana, Miami.

The famous No Name Pub on Big Pine Key is a landmark in the Florida Keys.


SOUTHWEST Sanibel Island is known worldwide for its shelling with more than 400 varieties found on the beaches, particularly after an especially high or low tide. The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum showcases rare shell specimens from around the world. Sanibel also offers great biking excursions along a 25-mile path, most separated from roadway by vegetation, making it a safe trail for families. The main attraction on Captiva Island: none. That is the attraction! The natural beauty of the island attracted Anne Morrow Lindbergh who wrote her best-selling book Gift from the Sea here. Capture photo-worthy sunsets at the Mucky Duck on the north end, a popular hangout that is never short on cold beer and fresh seafood. Gasparilla Island is home to the sophisticated little beach town of Boca Grande where you can browse and dine in historic venues, such as a railroad depot and movie theater. Then spend the night in the grande dame Gasparilla Inn & Club, circa 1913, a member of the Historic Hotels of America. Just north of Fort Myers, Cabbage Key is a 100-acre island, reminiscent of days gone by. Accessible only by boat, the Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant, built by playwright and author Mary Roberts Rinehart in 1938, sits on an Indian shell mound 38 feet above sea level. The restaurant features cheeseburgers and the

dollar bill bar where walls, beams and ceilings are plastered with dollar bills. The tradition began in 1941, when a fisherman signed and taped his last dollar to the wall so he would have money to buy a beer when he returned. Have you ever wanted to experience the thrill of the flying trapeze? Tito Gaona’s Flying Trapeze Academy & Flying Fantasy Circus in Venice offers classes for adults and children. Similarly, Circus Sarasota delivers incredible family entertainment with year-round performances while its Sailor Circus Academy, dubbed The Greatest “Little” Show on Earth, features scheduled events in which fourth to 12th-grade students exhibit their talents to soldout audiences. Sarasota’s Myakka River State Park offers unmatched opportunities to watch and photograph wildlife habitats ranging from prairie and pinelands to wetlands. Visitors enjoy hiking, fishing, camping and kayaking through dense mangroves. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens presents a stunning tropical conservatory where unusual flora can be viewed year-round. The gardens are dedicated to research and collections of epiphytes, especially orchids and bromeliads. Few realize the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the state art museum, located in Sarasota. The institution offers 31 galleries featuring the works of old masters and modern visionaries. The Ringling property (including

FEATURED LINKS Amelia Island Museum of History ameliamuseum.org

Asolo Rep Theatre asolorep.org

Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce bocagrandechamber.com

Bok Tower Gardens boktowergardens.org

Budweiser Brewery Tours budweisertours.com

Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant cabbagekey.com

Circus Sarasota circusarts.org

Crane Point Museum and Nature Center cranepoint.net

Don CeSar Hotel loewshotels.com/don-cesar

Daytona Beach daytonabeach.com

Elizabeth Pointe Lodge elizabethpointelodge.com

Gasparilla Island State Park floridastateparks.org/gasparillaisland

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens jacksonvillezoo.com

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex KennedySpaceCenter.com

Key West Garden Club keywestgardenclub.com

Lake Istokpoga Park visithighlandscounty.com/destinations/ lake-istokpoga-park

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens selby.org

Marineland Dolphin Adventure marineland.net

Miami Culinary Tours miamiculinarytours.com

Museum of Arts & Sciences moas.org

Myakka River State Park floridastateparks.org/myakkariver

National Naval Aviation Museum navalaviationmuseum.org

No Name Pub nonamepub.com

Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games & Festival neflgames.com

Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate omnihotels.com

Operation Migration operationmigration.org

Plantation on Crystal River plantationoncrystalriver.com

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse ponceinlet.org

Safari Wilderness safariwilderness.com

Seacrest Wolf Preserve seacrestwolfpreserve.org

Smyrna Dunes Park floridahikes.com/smyrna-dunes-park Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota is dedicated to collections of epiphytes. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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STAT E G E M S

CENTRAL EAST The sights, sounds and ground-shaking vibrations haven’t retired with the space shuttle. The excitement is as palpable as ever during rocket launches at the Kennedy Space Center, where NASA science missions and government satellites as well as commercial space endeavors are carried out regularly. Don’t miss Florida’s prehistoric giant ground sloth at the Museum of Arts & Sciences (MOAS) in Daytona Beach. The museum offers the finest collection of American Art in the southeast, the most important compilation of Cuban art outside of Cuba and a significant Chinese art collection. Also on display is Coca-Cola entrepreneur Chapman Root’s lifetime collection of Americana, including two private rail cars. Smyrna Dunes Park rises above a wide expanse of dunes with two miles of elevated boardwalk. While in New Smyrna Beach, get a permit, gather some wood and enjoy the ambiance of a beach campfire. Bonfires are permitted from November 1 to April 30 when The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum is open daily.

Ride a camel at the Safari Wilderness Ranch in Lakeland. 32

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turtles are not making nests. During the summer months, lights on the beach are banned to avoid disorienting females that are laying eggs or confusing hatchlings making their way to the ocean. On the Daytona side of the jetty, find the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum, which is open daily. Driving on the beach is still allowed on clearly marked areas of both New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach. Pay a toll as you enter from a beach ramp.

CENTRAL Get away from Orlando’s hustle and bustle at Polk County’s Bok Tower Gardens featuring a 60-bell carillon Singing Tower where you can enjoy concerts daily at 1 and 3 PM. This tranquil retreat is surrounded by water and historic landscaped gardens, perfect for picnicking, geocaching and taking in sunsets from one of the state’s highest elevations at 298 feet. Every Easter Sunday the site is home to a beautiful sunrise service. Also visit the 1930s Mediterraneanstyle mansion, Pinewood Estate, especially attractive during the Christmas tours. Who would have guessed you can ride a camel while viewing game animals on the plains of Florida? Safari Wilderness Ranch in Lakeland also offers safari truck tours for closeup encounters with eland, water buffalo, springbok, Grant’s zebra, blackbuck antelope and more endangered species in large herds. The Castle Hotel, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection in Orlando, immerses guests in art, music, cuisine and culture within its Bavarian-inspired exterior, elegant accommodation, and one of the best rooftop views of Disney World’s and Universal’s nightly fireworks displays. Ocala is horse country and the 22nd Annual Southeastern Pro Rodeo returns on March 27 and 28, 2015. Get ready for jam-packed performances filled with saddle and bareback bronco riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and, the always popular and most dangerous eight seconds in rodeo, bull riding. Lake Istokpoga in the Sebring area of Highlands County is one of the biggest trophy bass fishing lakes in Florida and the United States. Largemouth bass are the fish of choice here, but you’ll also find black crappie and bluegill. Best time to catch largemouth bass is

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISITCENTRALFL; DAYTONA BEACH AREA CVB; AMELIA ISLAND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

gardens, which are free to the public) also boasts a circus museum and Ca’ d’Zan, the restored Ringlings’ mansion. Adjacent to the Ringling, the Asolo Rep Theatre, originally constructed in Asolo, Italy, in 1798, was brought to Sarasota in the early 1950s and painstakingly restored.


during the spring and early summer. Meanwhile, birdwatchers come to spy on osprey, snowy egret, bald eagles and many wild ducks.

CENTRAL WEST Consider lodging at St. Petersburg’s icon, known as the Pink Palace or Loews Don CeSar Hotel, which oozes the glamor of bygone days. Former guests included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Al Capone, Clarence Darrow, Franklin D. Roosevelt and department store tycoons, Bloomingdale and Gimbel. Thousands of kites fill the sky each January at the Treasure Island Kite Fest, Florida’s largest kite-flying event where some kites are as big as a school bus. Competitors here vie for a spot in the Grand Nationals, so just watching is exciting. Guides from the Adventure Center at Plantation on Crystal River take visitors out scalloping during the summer. The chef at West 82° Grill will then “cook your catch.” In the winter, the Crystal River is the ideal spot to swim with manatees.

NORTHEAST Marineland Dolphin Adventure just south of St. Augustine, the world’s first oceanarium, offers a trainer-for-the-day program including all the activities that fill a marine mammal specialist’s day, such as preparing meals, feeding animals, attending an animal-training lecture, observing and tracking behaviors, and most importantly, encountering dolphins. The Scottish Highland Games & Festival in Green Cove Springs brings a “wee bit o’ Scotland” to Northeast Florida with Scottish athletics, music and food. In 2015, the games will take place on February 28 at  the Clay County Fairgrounds. Smell the excitement at the Spice & Tea Exchange in St. Augustine’s historic district. Following the framework of an 18th-century trading post, displays of teas and spices evoke a sense of stepping back in time. St. Augustine Distillery offers free tours of its handcrafted operations. Walter’s Reef Café, run by First Coast Technical College’s award-winning School of Culinary Arts, is one of St. Augustine’s hidden culinary gems. The café prepares students for careers as culinary professionals, while providing a dining experience for the public.

Amelia Island is rich in championship golf courses.

Located on the campus, the café is open to all for lunch, Tuesday–Thursday, 11 AM to 1 PM, when school is in session. The World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, the ultimate destination for golf enthusiasts, presents fun interactive exhibits and historic golf artifacts. Amelia Island is rich in history and worldclass spas, championship golf and exclusive dining, and features a collection of charming bed-and-breakfast inns. Stop into the Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, which is now open to the public for breakfast and lunch. The Amelia Island Museum of History offers a cell phone tour enabling guests to receive historic tidbits during a self-guided walking tour of the downtown historic district of Fernandina Beach. In Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens added the Land of the Tiger exhibit to its vast array of collections. Admission to the Museum of Contemporary Art and Cummer Museum of Art is free on Tuesday evenings. Beer lovers will appreciate a behind-the-scenes tour of Budweiser’s brewing process complete with samplings directly from the finishing tank.

NORTH CENTRAL

opportunity to experience wolves up close and personal. Saturday afternoon walking tours take visitors through large natural habitats that are home to gray, Arctic and British Columbian wolves. Pensacola is home to the world-famous Blue Angels. Watch them practicing over the National Naval Aviation Museum most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from March to November. Practices typically begin at 11:30 AM (Central Time) and last about an hour. Admission to the practice is free. The Blue Angels X4D Experience, a 3D movie with interactive seats, allows you to feel like you’re in the air show. FL

FEATURED LINKS Southeastern Pro Rodeo ocalarodeo.com

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum shellmuseum.org

The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel fortmyers-sanibel.com

The Castle Hotel castlehotelorlando.com

The Gasparilla Inn & Club gasparillainn.com

The Mucky Duck muckyduck.com

Witness Operation Migration in Wakulla County in December when you can catch sight of whooping cranes following an ultralight plane as they make their southward journey along a route that begins in Wisconsin and ends in Florida. And while you’re in the area, drop by Posey’s Steam Room & Oyster Bar Restaurant in Panacea for some of the best seafood in the state.

The Ringling

NORTHWEST

World Golf Hall of Fame

ringling.org

The Spice & Tea Exchange spiceandtea.com

Tito Gaona’s Flying Trapeze Academy & Flying Fantasy Circus titogaona.com

Treasure Island Sport Kite Championships easternleague.net/TISKC

Walter’s Reef Café fctc.edu/café

Water Taxi watertaxi.com

Seacrest Wolf Preserve in Chipley offers a rare

worldgolfhalloffame.org

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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THEME PA R K S

WORLDS OF FANTASY

BY JENNIFER WYLIE FAUSER

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 face down, headfirst roller coaster. Experience the power and grace of killer whales in the awe-inspiring 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 at one of the world’s most popular marine-life parks. Jump in and dive deep.

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And, there’s nothing cooler than the allnew thrilling, chilling adventure, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. 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. Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is a family ride that combines upclose animal connections with state-of-the-art interactive ride technologies for adventures that are different each time. Explore a massive penguin colony of more than 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-of-a-kind theme park experienced only at SeaWorld Orlando. Tip: SeaWorld offers amazing special events throughout the year. Consider planning your vacation during one of these festivities. Unlike

other theme parks, all of SeaWorld events are included with park admission. Just across the street you’ll find Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark. This extraordinary water park is home to some of the world’s most thrilling water rides, featuring 42 slides, rivers and lagoons and 84,000 square feet of sparkling white, sandy beaches. Brave a watery free fall on the all-new Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, Orlando’s tallest, steepest and only multi-drop tower slide of its kind. At nearly 80 feet tall, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls is where you’ll face your fears and each other. Offering four unique slide paths, you’ll step into one of three “breakaway boxes” and watch each other fall one-by-one, or test your bravery on a fourth open slide for a different but just as thrilling experience. You’ll never know who’s going to break away first—and the

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: SEAWORLD ORLANDO; BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA; WALT DISNEY/MATT STROSHANE

N

owhere in the world do you find mass acreage dedicated to thrills, fun and fantasy like you do in Florida. Old or young; family or friends. . . Florida’s major theme parks promise unreal fun for every type of adventurer.

Visit Shamu at SeaWorld Orlando.


Falcon’s Fury is the centerpiece to Busch Gardens Tampa’s newest reimagined land, Pantopia.

anticipation of who drops next is part of the wild ride. Aquatica Orlando’s exclusive attractions promise unlimited fun, sending guests on amazing undersea adventures and through breathtaking animal exhibits. For the second consecutive year, Discovery Cove was voted the No. 1 amusement park in the world in the 2014 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards. Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort where guests enjoy a unique opportunity to swim with dolphins, snorkel among rays and tropical fish and hand-feed exotic birds in a free-flight aviary. Freshwater Oasis features wading adventures and face-toface encounters with playful otters and curious marmosets. A day at Discovery Cove includes a freshly prepared breakfast and lunch, snacks and beverages throughout the day, plus firstclass amenities—swim vest or wetsuit, towels and swim gear, including a souvenir snorkel and eco-friendly sunscreen. An added bonus is that Discovery Cove includes unlimited admission to SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark, during your vacation or weekend getaway.

BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA Head west to Busch Gardens Tampa where you’ll spend the day discovering wildlife in a way you can’t anywhere else. Hidden gems abound at Busch Gardens Tampa, taking upclose animal encounters to an entirely new level. Stalk over to Jungala and go nose-to-nose with Bengal tigers. Find the viewing area where guests literally pop up (behind plexi-glass) in the middle of the white tiger habitat. The Animal Care Center, home to popular television series The Wildlife Docs, invites guests of all ages to observe live veterinarian procedures and hear from animal experts, enhancing the company’s long-standing efforts to educate guests about animal conservation. The animals aren’t the only things roaring and soaring at this theme park. Take top speed on Florida’s first triple-launch coaster, Cheetah Hunt, and dangle upside down 200 feet from the ground on SheiKra before plunging straight down at speeds of 70 mph. Then, feel the fury on this year’s newest attraction, Falcon’s Fury, the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America, standing 335 feet high and sending

riders plummeting face down. The amazing thrill ride is located in Busch Gardens’ newest reimagined land Pantopia. Chug, chug through the Serengeti on the railway and then head over to Jungala and fly 50 feet above the park on Jungle Flyers before going to meet a few, lessthan-fearsome, furry friends at Sesame Street Safari of Fun.

WALT DISNEY WORLD Disney’s done it again. The new Mine Train in the Magic Kingdom befriends mild and wild just as Snow White befriended the Dwarfs. Interactive queue lines keep little miners patient before boarding what might possibly be described as the smoothest coaster you’ve yet to experience. The park’s recent introduction of FastPass+ allows guests to select rides either before entering the park via the new My Disney Experience app

or upon entering the park at one of the many FastPass+ kiosks. Be sure to grab lunch at the Be Our Guest quick-service restaurant in the newly remodeled Fantasyland, nestled at the foot of Beast’s castle, where you can finally enter the “forbidden” West Wing ... just don’t touch the rose. No more waiting for hours to ride Dumbo this year. Guests receive a pager and are invited to let the kiddies play in the circus-themed playground until buzzed, alerting your party that it’s time to ride the famed flying elephant. Your Disney day isn’t completely magical until you’ve experienced the classics: Haunted Mansion, Hall of Presidents and, of course, Space Mountain. The all-new, daily Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade features friends from Disney’s Frozen and Disney-Pixar’s Brave and spectacular floats. Top off the day with Tinkerbell’s magical flight from the spires of Cinderella’s Castle marking the explosion of the nightly fireworks extravaganza. Check out the Environmental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) for culture, innovation and educational fun. Experience extreme forces on Mission Space, soak in the splendor of the world above in Soarin’ and immerse your kids in interactive attractions highlighting fire safety, financial planning and sustainability at Innoventions. Be a world traveler while never leaving Orlando as you traverse the 11 countries represented in Epcot’s World Showcase. Cultural highlights such as the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats in China will leave you awe-struck, and you could

The new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the crown jewel of New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

35


THEME PA R K S

The Games Zone at LEGOLAND Florida in Winter Haven.

More film friends can be found at Universal Studios. Gru’s minions are going crazy at Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and, of course, Bart and Homer are up to their old antics at The Simpson’s Ride. Prepare for the greatest battle you’ll ever ride on the brand new TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D. Your universe wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t visit family favorites such as ET Adventure, the Blues Brothers Show, and attempt to save the world from aliens on the MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack.

practically eat your weight in divine fare in every country. Be sure to grab a delectable pastry in France and the fabulous authentic cuisine in Japan. Shake hands with Jasmine and Aladdin in Morocco and say “au revoir” to Aurora in France. The future calls; you simply need to walk the streets of Epcot to discover what it has to say. Terror, rock ’n’ roll and every bit of Disney magic sweeps the streets of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Begin to see clearly at Muppet Vision 3D, take a gander at Dorothy’s dazzling shoes on the Great Movie Ride, and set your sights on Toy Story Midway Mania, the park’s 4D shooting game. You’ll drop with fear on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and skyrocket to radio heaven on the Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. Say “Arrr” to some scurvy scoundrels at the new Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow experience and take the pirate’s oath during this adventure that promises to whet the appetite of every mate in your crew. From bugs to dinosaurs, every little and big creature in your pack will enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Explorers will trek through six attention-grabbing lands to spy beasts—real and fictional—waiting to delight guests. Take a bite out of time on the DINOSAUR thrill ride. Make a furry friend at the Affections Section petting zoo where guests can pet, brush and feed cuddly creatures. And remember that it’s kind of a pain in the keester to be a bug in It’s Tough to Be a Bug. Warning, watch your rump near the end of this 3D show. Hop aboard the open-air vehicle at Kilimanjaro

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Safaris to tour the lush Harambe Wildlife Reserve, home to lions, elephants and crocodiles. Expedition Everest–The Legend of the Forbidden Mountain zooms you forward and then zips you backward as you narrowly escape the clutches of the mythic Abominable Snowman. Be sure to yell if you see a Yeti. Glimpse real animals in their natural habitats during an 18-minute expedition into the Harambe Wildlife Adventure.

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO Harry-fanatics will be in Hogwart Heaven this year at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Explore more of the wizarding world than ever before at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Diagon Alley. A new multi-dimensional thrill ride is nothing short of magical as you find yourself navigating the perils of the Gringotts’ vaults with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Grab some grub at the Leaky Cauldron and be sure to wrap your hands around your own “magic” wand at Ollivanders wand shop. Hogsmeade invites wanna-be wizards to explore the classrooms and corridors of Hogwart’s castle. There’s more marvelous mayhem and magic throughout the park. After departing Harry, exhibit your fearlessness by braving the Incredible Hulk coaster, the Amazing Adventures of Spider-man—now in highdefinition 3D—and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. Tiny travelers will love the wonkiness of Dr. Seuss’s creations as they ride the CaroSeuss-el and meet Horton the Elephant.

Be sure to build in time for a journey to LEGOLAND Florida. Give the kiddos a turn behind the wheel at Driving School; pretend to be a giant while marveling at Miniland USA— entire cities built from LEGOs; and romp around in the new DUPLO Valley farmthemed attraction geared toward toddlers, ages two to five, complete with air-conditioned indoor play and outdoor water play areas. LEGOLAND offers more than 50 rides, attractions and shows dedicated to children, ages two to 12. A new six-foot LEGO Globe invites guests into an interactive experience where they can affect its rate of rotation with solar panels, highlighting the importance of renewable energy. LEGOLAND hosts 11 themed zones. A junior-coaster-type theme park includes a recently opened LEGO World of Chima, presented by the Cartoon Network, and provides immersive fun for everyone from novice to master builder. Take a break from the blocks and head over to LEGOLAND’s attached water park (separate admission required) complete with wave pool, slides and splish-splashy water playground. FL

FEATURED LINKS Aquatica Orlando AquaticaOrlando.com

Busch Gardens Tampa buschgardenstampa.com

Discovery Cove DiscoveryCove.com

LEGOLAND Florida legolandflorida.com

SeaWorld Orlando seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-orlando

Universal Orlando Resort universalorlando.com

Walt Disney World disneyworld.disney.go.com

PHOTO: © 2013 LEGOLAND FLORIDA/MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS GROUP, CHIP LITHERLAND PHOTOGRAPHY

LEGOLAND FLORIDA


GO LF

START YOUR GOLF CARTS BY EDWARD SCHMIDT JR.

The Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate features two Greg Norman-designed courses.

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

M

iles of lush green fairways, tee times available 365 days a year, courses designed by big-name architects and world-class golf academies are just a few of many reasons to tee up in Florida. The golf course lineup in the Sunshine State features nearly 1,500 courses, including more than 50 amenity-laden resorts where golf is king. When it’s time to chase the white dimpled ball, there’s no place better than a scenic and challenging golf course in Florida.

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. The Trump National Doral Miami Resort, with its five championship golf courses, has undergone a property-wide US$200-million refurbishment in the past two years. The resort’s famous Blue Monster course has been completely redesigned to be even more monstrous. Be sure to check out the 2015 Cadillac Championship taking place from March 4–10. 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 Mediterraneandesigned 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.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT ORLANDO; DAYTONA BEACH AREA CVB; ; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB; VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES

Daytona Beach is home to the highly rated Rees Jones Champions Course.

Golf is a popular year-round activity in Southwest Florida.


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

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 layouts 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

CENTRAL WEST

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. The resort was recognized as one of the Top 125 Golf Resorts in the World by Condé Nast Traveler.

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

Tee up at the Signature hole at the Innisbrook Resort and Spa.

PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens is home to The Champion course and the annual Honda Classic. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

39


GO LF

Amelia Island offers 117 holes of championship-caliber golf.

NORTHEAST 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 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 exceptional 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.

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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 later renovated and modernized by architect Bobby Weed in 2001.

FEATURED LINKS Bay Point Wyndham Resort baypointwyndham.com

Doral Golf Resort & Spa trumphotelcollection.com/Miami

Hammock Beach hammockbeach.com

Innisbrook innisbrookgolfresort.com

LPGA International lpgainternational.com

Mark Bostick Golf Course ufgolfcourse.com

Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort omnihotels.com

NORTHWEST

Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate

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

Perdido Bay Golf Club

omnihotels.com perdidobaygolf.com

PGA National Resort & Spa pgaresort.com

PGA Village pgavillage.com

Reunion reunionresort.com

Saddlebrook Resort 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 Hall of Fame worldgolfhalloffame.org

World Golf Village worldgolfvillage.com

PHOTO: AMELIA ISLAND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

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.


D I S C O V E R

E X P L O R E

R E L A X

EXP E RI E NC E AN UN PA R A L L E L E D VA C AT I ON World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum Championship Golf Courses

First-Class Accommodations

State-of-the-Art Instruction

8 6 6 . 3 3 1 . 9 0 4 3 | S T. A U G U S T I N E , F L | W O R L D G O L F V I L L A G E . C O M


GA M B L I N G

NON-STOP GAMING ACTION

BY RICHARD WESTLUND

T

oday, many Florida gambling venues offer a winning combination of 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 hotels, retail shops and restaurants, with live music, concerts and other special events. The state of Florida features three forms of casino gambling: casino boats, Indian casinos and gaming machines at pari-mutuels in a couple of southern counties. Casino boats cruise offshore into the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast and into the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast where casino gambling is legal. Most offer blackjack, craps, roulette, slots and video poker while others also offer mini-baccarat, poker, pai gow poker, three-card poker, Caribbean stud poker, let it ride, big 6 wheel, bingo and sports book. There are eight Indian gaming locations; the Seminole tribe owns seven and the Miccosukee tribe has one. The Seminoles feature traditional Class III gaming machines and are also allowed to offer blackjack, bac-

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

carat, mini-baccarat, three card poker, let it ride and pai gow poker. However, the Miccosukee tribe can only offer Class II gaming machines, which look like slot machines but are actually bingo games. The spinning reels are for “entertainment purposes only.” Other games allowed in all Indian casinos include high-stakes bingo, video pulltabs and poker. Broward and Miami-Dade allow slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities within their counties where poker is also offered. 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 featuring table games, poker and slot machines, to horse racing, dog tracks, jaialai and offshore gambling cruises. Resorts World Bimini offers Bimini SuperFast, a cruise ship, which sails to Resorts World Bimini Casino in the Bahamas on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, and Friday,

Saturday and Sunday from PortMiami. Once in international waters, passengers can play roulette, craps, baccarat, blackjack, slots and make sports bets at the on-board casinos. In Bimini, passengers can continue their gambling spree at the Resorts World Bimini Casino. A new option for gamblers is Balearia Bahamas Express, which carries guests on daily trips from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. You can play on-board slot machines and spend the rest of the day in Freeport’s casinos. An exciting option is the Island Breeze Casino Palm Beach, a 500-passenger gaming ship sailing twice 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. Back on terra firma, 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 offers 1,000 slots, a poker room, dominoes and live entertainment, as

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: SEMINOLE HARD ROCK HOTEL AND CASINO; GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE CVB; RESORTS WORLD BIMINI

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.


well as live jai-alai. To the west off US 41 (Tamiami Trail), the Miccosukee Casino offers 24-hour gambling, including 1,900 gaming machines, poker tables and high-stakes bingo. Calder Casino & Race Course in Miami Gardens offers 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 Racing & Casino—known as “The World’s Most Beautiful Race Course”—has slot machines and poker in addition to live horse racing from late December to early March. 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. Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach opened its doors in 1934 as the Hollywood Kennel Club. Today, this landmark property of-

fers 1,100 slot machines, the Big Easy Poker Room, and simulcast greyhound, harness and thoroughbred races. Mardi Gras Casino is home to four stakes races—the Hollywood Futurity, Hollywood World Classic, Joe Ryan Jr. Memorial and the Hollywoodian. Frequented by celebrities, musicians and fans from around the world, the AAA Four Diamond-awarded Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood is South Florida’s ultimate destination for fun and entertainment. Beyond its 500 stylish and spacious guest rooms, play at more than 90 table games and more than 2,200 of the most popular slots, as well as top tournament poker action in the award-winning Poker Room. Additionally, the thrills of blackjack, baccarat and more deliver an amplified, multi-sensory player experience in the new High Limit Tables room. Nearby, the Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood boasts more than 1,000 slot machines, 10 poker tables, and high stakes and “lightning” bingo action. To the north, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek features more than 2,300 Vegas-style and bingo-style slot ma-

chines, 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). Dania Casino & Jai Alai may close for several months to complete a major renovation to its two-story facility, which has 550 slot machines, a poker room, simulcast wagering and live jai-alai games. If that occurs, the casino will reopen in late 2015. The Isle Casino Racing in Pompano Beach features 1,500 slots, 38 live-action poker tables, six restaurants, live harness racing and live entertainment seven days a week—all in a smoke-free environment. The Isle features new gaming technology where you can play games such as roulette, craps and Sic-bo 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, there’s never a dull moment at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, a non-smoking venue, which features live greyhound racing and simulcast horse, harness and jai-alai on more than 600 color screens, as well as a plush, newly expanded 64-table poker room (one of the largest in Florida), many special events and plenty of free parking. The Club also offers a wide range of dining options, including the Paddock Room, the Terrace Restaurant, the Trophy Room, the Deli and numerous concession stands.

SOUTHWEST

Enjoy live world-class thoroughbred racing January through April at the Gulfstream Racing and Casino Park in Hallandale Beach.

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. In western Collier County, the recently-renovated Seminole Casino Immokalee, open 24/7, features blackjack, slots and live-action poker. Step aboard the Big “M” Casino, Southwest Florida’s only luxurious gambling ship, to enjoy your favorite casino table games, roulette, as well as the newest and loosest slots. Departing from Moss Marine, just over the Sky Bridge on Fort Myers Beach, the ship sails year-round and offers a superb “all you can eat” buffet. Check its website regularly for specials, such as “ladies night.”

The Bimini SuperFast cruise ship sails for the Bahamas from Fort Lauderdale or Miami ports. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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GA M B L I N G The Palm Beach Kennel Club features live greyhound racing, a poker room and numerous other options.

FEATURED LINKS Balearia Bahamas Express ferryexpress.com

bestbet bestbetjax.com

Big “M” Casino bigmcasino.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 Racing & Casino

CENTRAL EAST Fort Pierce Jai-Alai & Poker has live and simulcast gaming action along with poker tables and tournaments. To the north, Melbourne Greyhound Park and Club 52 hosts poker action, live greyhound racing and simulcast wagering. Sailing twice daily from Port Canaveral, Victory Casino Cruises offers offshore gambling activity including slots, poker, sports betting and more than 30 table games. Since 1948, Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room 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.

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

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,

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

which include blackjack, baccarat and poker for non-stop gaming action. It’s also home to a smoke-free poker room, with 50 live-action tables. A recent addition is the Asian gaming room Jubao Palace, which features minibaccarat, 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 simulcast racing action, poker games and even has a practice golf facility where guests can “tee off ” while watching the races. Another gaming venue is Lucky’s Card Room, which has simulcast wagering and a large poker room.

hialeahparkcasino.com

Island Breeze Casino Palm Beach ibreezecasino.com

Isle Casino & Racing Pompano Park pompano-park.isleofcapricasinos.com

Lucky’s Card Room luckyscards.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

Orlando Jai-Alai orlandojaialai.com

NORTHEAST

Palm Beach Kennel Club

With two locations in Jacksonville and Orange Park, bestbet makes it convenient for visitors to enjoy poker, greyhound racing and simulcast wagering. In addition, visitors can also sail from JAXPORT (the city’s port) on Victory Casino Cruises, whose offshore gambling activities include slots, poker, sports betting and table games. The ship sails twice daily, seven days a week.

Resorts World Bimini SuperFast Cruise Ship

pbkennelclub.com rwbimini.com/superfast-cruise-ship

Sarasota Kennel Club sarasotakennelclub.com

Seminole Casino Big Cypress seminolebigcypresscasino.com

Seminole Casino Brighton seminolebrightoncasino.com

Seminole Classic Casino seminoleclassiccasino.com

Seminole Casino Coconut Creek seminolecoconutcreekcasino.com

Seminole Casino Immokalee

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

seminoleimmokaleecasino.com

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood seminolehardrockhollywood.com

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa seminolehardrocktampa.com

Tampa Bay Downs tampabaydowns.com

Victory Casino Cruises victorycasinocruises.com

PHOTO: PALM BEACH KENNEL CLUB

To the north, Sarasota Kennel offers a similar combination of gaming attractions.


WHERE ROCK ROYALTY

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SP O RT S

BY JEFF OSTROWSKI

GET INTO THE ACTION

The DAYTONA 500 is popular with families.

W

hether your passion is fishing, diving, running or cycling, there's no shortage of options on water and land in Florida. And if you prefer being a spectator, Florida offers sports fans a bit of everything, from laid-back spring training games to frenzied football action. There’s auto racing, tennis, golf, hockey, and even more exotic options like polo and jai-alai.

THE GREAT AMERICAN RACE In Florida’s auto-racing world, no event looms larger than the DAYTONA 500. NASCAR’s biggest race is scheduled for February 22, 2015, 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

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

Daytona, this track also gives fans a chance to drive. Its Mario Andretti Racing Experience sells training sessions that include either a ridealong or solo drives for five or eight racing minutes in an open cockpit, full-size Indy car.

A NATIONAL PASTIME 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 architectural firm that drew up the

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: GETTY IMAGES; JERRY ZITTERMAN/SHUTTERSTOCK; RICHARD CAVALLERI/SHUTTERSTOCK; PERRY CORRELL/SHUTTERSTOCK

Marlins Park in Miami is home to the Miami Marlins.


The Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne is home to the Sony Open.

well-regarded Camden Yards in Baltimore. For years, Florida’s big-league baseball ended in April, when the players headed north. 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.

A rider competes at the Palm Beach County Horsemen's Association event in Wellington.

SLAM-DUNK 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 championships in 2012 and 2013 before losing again in 2014. 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 both Florida State and the University of Miami field strong teams.

TOUCHDOWN! 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, but they’re even more passionate 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 (UCF) and the University of South Florida also have stepped up their games in recent years. UCF’s quarterback last year, Blake Bortles, was the No. 1 pick in the National Football League draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

If you prefer soccer to American football, the Orlando Lions begin playing Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2015. Miami often hosts international friendly matches and also hopes to field an MLS team in the near future.

GOT STICK? 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 2014, Novak Djokovic won the men’s tournament (his fourth) while Serena Williams captured the women’s trophy (her seventh). The 2015 event is scheduled for March 23–April 5. The annual Delray Beach International Tennis Championship also draws a big crowd.

POUNDING HOOVES 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.

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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SP O RT S Wellington is also home to International Polo Club Palm Beach, which attracts players from around the world.

THE BIG CATCH

A number of marathons take place throughout Florida.

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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 and South 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.

A WHOLE NEW WORLD 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 most 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 Florida Keys are home to numerous shipwrecks that have turned into reefs, such as the Spiegel Grove, a 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.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: DANIEL KORZENIEWSKI/SHUTTERSTOCK; STEVENRUSSELLSMITHPHOTOS/SHUTTERSTOCK; VISIT WAKULLA

A largemouth bass on a fisherman's line.


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 Florida is riddled with hiking and biking trails.

gate-riverrun.com

Homestead-Miami Speedway homesteadmiamispeedway.com

International Game Fish Association

CHALLENGE YOURSELF 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 12.5mile Swim Around Key West, held each June. 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 2015 are the Walt Disney World Half Marathon (January 10) and Marathon (January 11), the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon (scheduled for January 25), the Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon & Half Marathon (February 15), Tampa’s Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K (February 21) and Jacksonville’s Gate River Run 15K (March 14). If rowing is more your speed, check out Nathan Benderson Park’s world-class rowing facility in Sarasota. The newly opened park’s 500-acre lake includes a 2,200-meter sprint course and a 1,500-meter practice course. This

facility is the real deal, and it’s set to host the 2017 World Rowing Championships and the NCAA Rowing Championships in 2018.

igfa.org

THE BEST WORKOUTS

macarthurbeach.org

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 1,400-mile 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

pennekamppark.com

International Polo Club Palm Beach internationalpoloclub.com

Jacksonville Jaguars jaguars.com

John D. MacArthur State Park John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park 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

Nathan Benderson Park worldclassrowing.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 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

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

49


WEDDINGS AND HONEYMOONS

BY ROCHELLE LASH

SIMPLY ADD CHAMPAGNE

Celebrate your marriage on Mexico Beach.

F

lorida has unbeatable features for distinctive weddings and honeymoons: a sultry climate, aquamarine waters, fabulous food, spa life and romantic resorts, which are primed to create memorable occasions. Party guests can dine and dance in grand hotel ballrooms, on sun-kissed beachfronts, in tropical gardens, historic mansions or aboard glamorous cruises.

NEW IN 2014: BE THE FIRST You will be the first on your block to celebrate at these fabulous, new-in-2014 resorts. The superb Florida Keys is prime territory for romance simply because of the pure sand, calm waters and stunning sunrises and sunsets. The allnew Marker Waterfront Resort, which opened in December 2014 in the heart of Key West’s Historic Seaport district, promises to deliver all this, plus a deluxe boutique-chic experience with poolside privacy and gourmet dining. The exclusive, honeymoon-worthy Marker partners with its sister property, breezy Cheeca Lodge & Spa in the Upper Keys, so you can add golf, cycling, fishing, tennis, sailing and lavish spa life.

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

New once again, the sophisticated 1930s National Hotel Miami Beach in South Beach has emerged from a major, loving restoration. This treasure of art deco art and architecture is renowned for its long infinity pool fringed by palm trees, attentive service and a unique three-story penthouse where honeymooners enjoy the pinnacle of luxury and privacy, high atop the international party scene of South Beach. The Waterstone Resort & Marina is a new Doubletree by Hilton in Boca Raton with chic, modern decor and indoor and outdoor dining. Weddings are held in the fashionable penthouse, which has sweeping views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. The new Wyndham Grand Jupiter at Harbourside Place,  overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, offers perks such as a complimentary wedding-night suite, but also ask about a free two-night anniversary visit. Plus, your wedding can have its own signature cocktail—with your name. Perhaps a Miller mojito or Jennifer’s gin fizz?

FROM THE TOP: AMBROSIO PHOTOGRAPHY; MEXICO BEACH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

Cheeca Lodge in the Upper Keys partners with sister hotel, the new Marker Resort Key West, for fabulous weddings and honeymoons.


The spectacular new Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort does it all with luxury and panache—the bridal suite, the rehearsal, the spa and a fabulous choice of a fancy, glittering ballroom gala or an elegant, outdoor lawn party. Your guests will be wowed and brilliantly fed at the Epicurean Hotel, an artful new boutique property in Tampa Bay. Built around gastronomy, the Epicurean curates weddings with gourmet cuisine, premium wines and spirits, rare cheeses and pastries from its divine sweet shop, Chocolate Pi.

THE MODERN FAMILY The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood is big enough to appeal to everyone in the family—golfers, tennis fans, cruisers, youngsters and spa-goers. For the modern family, the Diplomat, as well as the il Lugano in Fort Lauderdale, have introduced LGBT features, including wedding planners who are specialists in same-sex marriages. A dream honeymoon at Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa in Palm Beach County features oceanfront terrace dining, sexy tropical cocktails and the ultimate indulgence—a couple’s massage. If you are blending in kids, they can let loose with everything from scuba and surfing to fishing and cycling. The Waldorf Astoria in Naples, totally renovated in 2014, is the consummate family getaway, with a kids’ club, an adults-only pool and an outstanding beachfront on the sublime Gulf of Mexico. The Waldorf ’s spa is an exceptional sanctuary for a bridesmaids’ party and the groomsmen can go sporty with paddleboarding, golf and tennis. For all guests, the Waldorf holds a champagne evening once a week. Brides swoon over their wedding photos that have Florida’s remarkable Pink Palace as a backdrop. The beautifully appointed Loews Don CeSar Beach Hotel, an icon of historic grandeur on St. Pete Beach, has held society weddings since 1928. Today, experienced consultants will create imaginative bouquets, table decor and dream cakes. And, all the generations will be thrilled: The Don organizes kids’ camps and teen fun. Pets are spoiled with toys, bedding and even massages.

DEFINITELY NOT A BALLROOM South of Key Largo, Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures holds the Guinness world record for the largest underwater wedding—110 divers. Just bring the ring. Slate supplies the gear, a “Justice of the Pisces” and an award-winning videographer to capture all of the undersea action. The posh Hawks Cay Resort in the mid-Keys has aced nature with superb, romantic sunsets and gorgeous water panoramas. For honeymoon-style tranquility, the resort has an adults-only pool, a serene spa and luxurious suites and villas. For family wedding fun, all ages of guests will be enthralled with Hawk Cay’s unique dolphin lagoon for educational underwater encounters, and the hotel’s marina for exciting deep-sea fishing, yachting and scuba. For a true luxury experience, Windridge Yacht Charters cruises out of Miami, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach and customizes dazzling receptions with gourmet cuisine and lively entertainment. In Fort Lauderdale, exciting and unusual venues abound for wedding parties with themes—like the Design Center of the Americas and the Antique Car Museum. At The Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach, brides and grooms can take the plunge—literally. The hotel’s mermaid weddings are underwater nuptials, held in the rollicking Wreck Bar pool. Yes, there are make-up and hair touch-ups after the big dip and before the reception. Florida’s Space Coast has innovative, romantic choices: The Indian River Queen is a paddle-wheel boat that cruises near Cocoa Beach with a full wedding party aboard, including a captain to officiate. And for a heavenly start to your honeymoon, Florida Biplanes will sweep you and your beloved skyward in an open-cockpit craft from the 1940s. Cowboys and cowgirls can tie the knot at the upscale Creek Ranch in Haines City, about one hour south of Orlando. After the roundup, it’s just you, your sweetheart and your prancing horses. And on the picturesque Gulf coast, Phoenix Rising Kayak orchestrates kayak weddings in a secluded estuary around Charlotte Harbor south of Tampa. FL

FEATURED LINKS Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures captainslate.com

Cheeca Lodge & Spa cheeca.com

Creek Ranch creekranch.net

Design Center of the Americas dcota.com

Epicurean Hotel epicureanhotel.com

Florida Air Tours floridabiplanes.com

Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum antiquecarmuseum.org

Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort fourseasons.com/Orlando

Hawks Cay Resort hawkscay.com

Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa jupiterbeachresort.com

Loews Don CeSar Hotel loewshotels.com/en/don-cesar

National Hotel Miami Beach nationalhotel.com

Phoenix Rising Kayak Tours prkayak.com

The Indian River Queen indianriverqueen.com

The Marker Waterfront Resort themarkerresortkeywest.com

Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel sheratonftlauderdalebeach.com

Waldorf Astoria Naples waldorfastorianaples.com

Waterstone Resort & Marina waterstoneboca.com

Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa diplomatresort.com

Windridge Yacht Charters windridgeyachts.com

Wyndham Grand Jupiter at Harbourside Place harboursideplace.com/wyndhamgrand

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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VAC AT IO N H O M ES

BUYING INTO FLORIDA’S LIFESTYLE BY RICHARD WESTLUND

Perhaps a pied-à-terre in a gated golf community is your idea of nirvana.

An upscale condo in Miami Beach puts you in the middle of the action.

I

f the Florida vacation lifestyle appeals to you, perhaps it’s time to purchase a home or condominium in the Sunshine State. The state offers some attractive tax benefits to those who do decide to buy a property, however those who aren’t ready to lock into a purchase might look into a seasonal or long-term rental 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. Today, more than nine percent of all Florida real estate transactions involve a foreign buyer.

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

The two key reasons for their interest are the state’s warm-weather location and homes that offer a good value—a winning combination for any buyer. Due to its global appeal, 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!

LOCATION AND LIFESTYLE 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 neighborhoods, look at typical houses, condos or


CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: IVAN CHOLAKOV/SHUTTERSTOCK; CELSO DINIZ/SHUTTERSTOCK; MINTO

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. 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. There’s a number of leading single-family homebuilders to consider in Florida. For instance, for more than half a century the Minto name has represented integrity, financial strength and enduring value. This familyowned business has since grown into an integrated real estate development, construction and management company. With 20,000 new Florida homes built in 42 communities throughout the state, Minto offers a wide array of award-winning residences and places to meet every lifestyle. A leader in environmental sustainability, the company builds energy- and resource-efficient homes and communities, creating innovative living environments with state-of-the-art design. Such initiatives have set Minto apart as exceptional homebuilders and have earned them the No. 1 ranking by Eliant Homebuyers Choice Awards for percent of sales from referrals, as well as recognition from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and others. Additional developers include Pulte Homes, Lennar and Toll Brothers, 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 akin

to 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. Condos have been a major part of the Florida market since the 1970s, so the age and condition of a building can affect its desirability and price. A recently constructed residence may have a more appealing design, new appliances, marble baths and other modern features compared to an older unit that has never been updated. However, the older unit may still appeal to buyers on a tight budget.

EXPLORE YOUR 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 at-

tractions 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 Florida’s Beach handles vacation resort condo rentals in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area. If you’re seeking a rental property in Southwest Florida, Royal Shell Vacations manages more rental properties than any other company in the region and has been voted the “Best Vacation Rental” company for the past 10 years. For vacation rentals on Northwest Florida’s Gulf coast, Dale E. Peterson Vacations provides superior service.

Minto has been creating award-winning homes and communities in Florida for nearly 50 years. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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Minto Florida Communities. Premier locations. Inspired lifestyles. Unbeatable new home values.

From Florida’s last private island to elegant resort communities, Minto offers an incomparable combination of amenities and new home values that you’ll cherish for years to come.

To learn more about our other award-winning homes and communities, visit mintofla.com. will be reimbursed up to $500 after the buyer closes on a Minto home. Purchase must *Members are Responsible for annual golf dues. **Price excludes taxes. Costs of trip including airfare and expenses for exact expenditures. The reimbursement cost is not to exceed $500. © Minto be made within 90 days of Stay & Play visit. Receipts for airfare and expenses must be submitted in order to be reimbursed transferred in any form or by any means without express written permission Artist’s or stored distributed, altered, copied, reproduced, be Communities, LLC 2014. All rights reserved. Content may not Minto, the Minto logo, The Isles of Collier Preserve, The Isles of Collier Preserve logo, renderings, dimensions, specifications, prices and features are approximate and subject to change without notice. TownPark at Tradition, the TownPark at Tradition logo, Bonita Isles, the Bonita Isles Harbour Isle and the Harbour Isle logo, Sun City Center, the Sun City Center logo, TwinEagles, the TwinEagles logo, the Villas By The Sea logo, Festival and the Festival logo are trademarks of Minto Sea, The By Villas logo, Nona logo, PortoSol, the PortoSol logo, Laureate Park at Lake Nona, the Laureate Park at Lake Communities, LLC and/or its affiliates. CGC 1519880. 2015


Where the Fun Goes on Forever...and the Celebration Never Ends! Enjoy a private gated neighborhood of resort vacation villas only 5 minutes away from Disney’s Magic Kingdom®. Come experience our amazing resort amenities and beautiful natural Florida woodlands and lakes. Now selling from the mid 200s. 8390 ChampionsGate Boulevard, Suite 310, ChampionsGate, FL 33896 (888) 875-5904

Orlando’s Premier Master-Planned Community | New Models Now Open! Located at Lake Nona’s Medical City this all-new neighborhood offers abundant recreation, natural beauty, great schools and a comforting sense of community and belonging. Courtyard and Single-Family Homes from the mid $200s. 8238 Tavistock Lakes Boulevard, Orlando FL 32827 | (888) 674-1436

Final 2 Phases-Last Chance to Own in Sun City Center The final 2 phases of new Minto homes in Sun City Center are now released. Test drive Sun City Center with the Stay & Play Getaway for only $99!* Elegant Paired Villas & Single-Family Homes from the $170s to $300s. 105 Commercial Center Drive, Sun City Center, FL 33573 | (877) 257-3419

New Waterfront Residences on Florida’s Last Private Island Waterfront resort living with a resort-style pool, cabanas, kayak launch, a proposed marina and planned clubhouse. Energy efficient, maintenance included Island Coach Homes designed for carefree coastal living. Island Coach Homes from the $400s. 12300 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton, FL 34209 | (888) 842-7089

Ideal Location. Inspired Lifestyle. Incredible New Home Values. An elegant lakefront community only minutes from Coconut Point Mall featuring the Island Club, a lavish island style amenity center. Single-Family Homes & Luxury Paired Villas from the mid $200s to over $300s. 9008 Isla Bella Circle, Bonita Springs, FL 34135 | (877) 467-4022

Golf Membership Initiation Fee Included! Premier golf community featuring amazing amenities including a 47,000 sq.ft. clubhouse, new fitness center, resort-style pool and the Eagle awarded “Best New Private Course in America” by Golf Magazine. Single Family Estate Homes from the low $500s to over $1 million. 12405 Lockford Lane, Naples, Florida 34120 | (877) 844-5014

Grand Opening! New Single Family, Paired Villa & Coach Home Designs! Located on 2,400 acres dedicated to lakes, nature preserves and natural habitat, outdoor-inspired amenities complete this new community. Just minutes from Downtown Naples, and area attractions. Luxury Single Family, Paired Villa and Coach Homes from the low $400s to the high $700s. 5445 Caribe Avenue, Naples, FL 34113 | (888) 807-7190

Test Drive TownPark with a Stay and Play Getaway!* TownPark at Tradition is Florida’s #1 active adult lifestyle! Enjoy 3 days/2 nights in a Minto home. Plus, full access to resort recreation, golf for 2 at PGA courses, and more! Only $99!* Single Family & Estate Homes from the $200’s to $300’s. 11260 SW Vanderbilt Circle, Port Saint Lucie, FL 34987 | (888) 485-6624

Final Phase of Minto’s Gated Resort Community Enjoy an incredible Royal Palm Beach location and endless fun at the community’s clubhouse complete with every imaginable resort amenity. Single Family & Estate Homes from the mid $300s to $400s. 2448 Bellarosa Circle, Royal Palm Beach, FL 33411 | (866) 415-8028

Final Phase of Oceanfront Residences Opening Soon! This is your last chance for oceanfront living at Villas by the Sea ocean side community. 256 East Commercial Boulevard, Lauderdale-by-the Sea, FL 33308 (888) 624-5520


VAC AT IO N H O M ES Seek advice from financial and real estate experts.

Ultra-luxury condominiums are popular

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 second-home purchases: Southeast, Southwest, Central and the Panhandle.

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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. 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 primarily attracts buyers from throughout the southeastern US. With its miles of beaches and small-town communities, the state’s northwestern region appeals to families and friends also seeking a weekend getaway within a few hours’ drive from home.

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

FEATURED LINKS Anna Maria Vacations annamariavacations.com

Condo Alliance of the Florida’s Beach flcondoalliance.com

Dale E. Peterson Vacations destinresorts.com

Florida Association of Mortgage Professionals famb.org

CONSULT THE EXPERTS

Florida Realtors

For the past few years, prices for vacation homes and condos have been rising gradually 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

Lennar

floridarealtors.org lennar.com

Minto

minto.com

Royal Shell Vacations royalshell.com

The Florida Bar flabar.org

The Related Group of Florida relatedgroup.com

Toll Brothers

tollbrothers.com

CLOCKWISE FROM THE CENTER LEFT: FELIX MIZIOZNIKOV/SHUTTERSTOCK; GOODLUZ/SHUTTERSTOCK; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES

in Sunny Isles Beach.


PETS

BY JEN KARETNICK

A

PET-LOVING HAVENS

s more and more travelers consider pets to be part of their vacation entourage who can’t be left at home, Florida businesses have reacted likewise. Many venues don’t just welcome you and your companions; they competitively cater to your four-legged family members. 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

The pet-friendly beach on Keewaydin Island is accessible only by boat.

Drop by Piglet’s Pantry Gourmet Dog Bakery in Mount Dora.

their caregivers at Coconut Point Mall in front of DipidyDawg, a gourmet bakery and boutique for pooches. In Fort Myers, the Bell Tower Shops, an open-air lifestyle center, is one of a handful of shopping centers in Southwest Florida that allows “doggie dining” on all of its outdoor restaurant patios. Merchants are also petfriendly, displaying the pet-friendly logo in storefront windows. The center also hosts a monthly “Yappy Hour,” where you can meet adoptable dogs, sip on cold refreshments and enjoy live music with your four-legged friend. 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. (Remember, it’s B.Y.O.D.—bring your own dog!)

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PETS All dressed up for the Key West Dachshund Walk.

Paw Park of Historic Sanford, the oldest offleash 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 the freshly renovated 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, and the Global Pet Expo and the Orlando 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 Ball Park 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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CANINE HANGOUTS 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 to frolic, some require pets to be regulated on sixfoot 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 leashed-dog hangout. Be sure to enter the beach through the south crossover to avoid any fines. A little farther north, pet-friendly Smyrna Dunes Park rises above a wide expanse of dunes with two miles of elevated boardwalk. Prefer off-leash beaches? Consider Lee County’s Barkingham Park in Fort Myers and Dog Beach in Bonita Beach; Scott Complex Dog Park in Pensacola, where facilities include human and hound water fountains and pooperscooper 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 saltwater 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.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ANDY NEWMAN/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/HO; FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM

CREATURE COMFORTS


Pets are welcome on city walk tours of St. Augustine’s historic area.

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/parksandrec

Davis Islands Dog Park tampagov.net/parksandrec

DipidyDawg Gourmet Dog Bakery & Boutique dipidydawg.com

Dog Island Park carrabelle.org

Dog Wood Park jaxdogs.com

Global Pet Expo globalpetexpo.org

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

Hard Rock Hotel hardrockhotelorlando.com

Jacksonville Landing

The Wyndham Orlando Resort permits furry guests, as does the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort. The Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando lets 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.) The Alfond Inn, a stylish boutique hotel in Winter Park, now welcomes four-legged guests with its VIP (Very Important Pup) Package. The city is known for its exceptionally dogfriendly shops and more than two dozen dog-friendly restaurants and sidewalk cafés, along with Lake Baldwin Park, the 23-acre green space where dogs can run off leash during posted hours. 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!”

“PUPULAR” BOULEVARDS 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, then lope around Mallory Square for two hours before sunset every evening and take in the ritualistic Key West Sunset Celebration.

jacksonvillelanding.com

Key West Sunset Celebration sunsetcelebration.org

Lee County Off-Leash Dog Park leeparks.org

Mango Dog Park doggoes.com/parks/florida/tampa/mango-dog-park

Pampered Pet Expo pamperedpetexpo.com

Paw Park of Historic Sanford pawparksanford.org

Paws Park Jax Beach pawsparkjaxbeach.com

Paw Playgrounds pinellascounty.org/park/dog_parks.htm

Piglet’s Pantry pigletspantry.com

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

Residence Inn by Marriott marriott.com

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

Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort sheratonlakebuenavistaresort.com

TAIL-WAGGING FAVORITES

Smyrna Dunes Park

Pet boutiques have sprouted throughout Florida. Plenty of treats are available at Piglet’s Pantry in Mount Dora, which also hosts “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

The Alfond Inn

nsbfla.com/petfriendly thealfondinn.com

The Bell Tower Shops thebelltowershops.com

The Lodge of 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

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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EC OTOU R ISM

BY SANDRA FRIEND

EMBRACE THE WILD

Diving off Key Largo.

N

ature lovers have an endless list of reasons to explore Florida’s wild places. Start with the hundreds of shimmering freshwater springs, lush tropical forests, a 2,000-mile coastline, and the world’s only Everglades. Add in the state’s location on migratory paths for birds and butterflies, and native species you’ll rarely, if ever, see elsewhere: the American crocodile, the Florida panther, the West Indian manatee and a colorful spectrum of native orchids and bromeliads. Eco-friendly accommodation and tour options sensitive to the native habitats continue to expand. So when in Florida, embrace the wild: get outdoors.

SOUTHEAST The Everglades, the watery heart of South Florida, covers more than 734 square miles of sawgrass prairies, mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks. Experience this wilderness via its trails, roads and guided tours offered in

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Everglades National Park, which include the popular Shark Valley Tram Tours. Paddle through the wilds of West Palm Beach on a guided trip at Grassy Waters Preserve, featuring 23 square miles of Everglades habitat, or slosh through a designated urban wilderness with wet prairies and islands of tropical trees on the self-guided Apoxee Wilderness Trail. Watch for the eerie red gleam of alligators’ eyes in the dark of night from your airboat on a Gator Nights Tour at Sawgrass Recreation Park. At the Loggerhead Marinelife Center of Juno Beach, join a guided walk to watch sea turtles nesting. Thousands of sea turtles nest on Florida’s shores every summer, particularly on the Atlantic Coast. Those Atlantic coastal breezes come in handy for wind generation, now that wind turbines power the lights at Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, a first for the Hilton chain. Sustainability Property Tours are offered to guests.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: BOB CARE/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA

Safari boardwalk at Billie Swamp Safari in Clewiston.


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

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

Amelia River Cruises ameliarivercruises.com

Anclote Key Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/anclotekey

Apalachicola Bay apalachicolabay.org

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

Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/archiecarr

B Resort & Spa bhotelsandresorts.com/b-walt-disney-world

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

Big Cypress National Preserve nps.gov/bicy

Big “O” Birding Festival bigobirdingfestival.com Camping in Collier County in Southwest Florida.

Blackwater River State Park floridastateparks.org/blackwaterriver

Become a “Reef Explorer” in the Florida Keys, where a new program encourages divers and snorkelers to collect stamps in a passport journal highlighting the top living coral reefs in the Keys. Based on Key Largo, the Coral Restoration Foundation offers volunteer opportunities for divers to help re-establish coral colonies. Stay at one of the 47 campsites set up in a tropical forest in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and take part in snorkeling and diving adventures on the offshore coral reefs. In Key West, the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center provides an understanding of the habitats both above and below the water. Find tropical fruits and retro attractions on the Historical Redland Tropical Trail just north of the Keys in Miami-Dade’s agricultural district. Birding is big along Lake Okeechobee, where the Big “O” Birding Festival is held each March. Year-round, Hendry County Audubon and the South Florida Water Management District provide birding tours to STA5, part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Paddle one of Florida’s most primordial waterways during a stay at Fisheating Creek Outpost in Palmdale. An ancient forest shades the tent-friendly section of the campground, which offers hiking trails, rentals and paddling access to the creek.

SOUTHWEST Lush cypress strands dense with orchids and bromeliads await visitors bold enough to explore the Big Cypress Swamp in the western Everglades. 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. Swamp walks enable visitors to experience the wild with a guide. For a gentler walk into a cypress strand, follow the boardwalks of Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers. Along the Imperial River, Bonita Nature Place is a new nature center to delight the kids, who will also enjoy the indoor field trips at the Dalton Discovery Center, the central feature of the 21-acre Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center in Naples. Bicycles are big around Charlotte County, with the Yellow Bike Loaner Program—the first Florida free bike loan program—offering visitors an eco-friendly way to explore Punta Gorda. Another first is Florida Tracks & Trails, a 1,000-acre outdoor recreation facility with on-site camping and activities ranging from paintball and Motocross to off-highway vehicle trails and a recreation lake. Grab a paddleboard to explore the Neville Marine Preserve Trail, which winds between Casey

Blue Spring State Park floridastateparks.org/bluespring

Bok Tower Gardens boktowergardens.org

Bonita Nature Place bonitaspringsrecreation.org/natureplace.html

Central Florida Nature Adventures kayakcentralflorida.com

Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/chassahowitzka

Chassahowitzka River Campground chassahowitzkaflorida.com

Circle B Bar Reserve floridahikes.com/circlebbar

Cherry Pocket cherrypocket.com

Conservancy of Southwest Florida conservancy.org

Disney’s Animal Kingdom disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/ animal-kingdom

East Central Regional Rail Trail volusia.org/trails

Ellie Ray’s RV Resort & Lounge ellieraysrvresort.com

Everglades National Park nps.gov/ever

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand

Fisheating Creek Outpost fisheatingcreekoutpost.com

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

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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EC OTOU R ISM Pet a stingray at Brevard Zoo.

campers are also welcome. Under a canopy of live oaks, Manatee Hammock Campground south of Titusville is riffled by breezes off the Indian River Lagoon and has a great view of rocket launches at the Kennedy Space Center. Follow in the footsteps of locals to find Space Coast Hidden Gems, a guide to the lesser-known getaways along the Space Coast, featuring places such as 2nd Light—one of the best surfing spots—and many of the region’s natural areas. Visit West Volusia’s springs on the Spring-toSpring Trail, a cyclist/walking path with segments around Blue Spring State Park and Gemini Springs Park. Green Springs Park in Enterprise serves as a trailhead for the East Central Regional Rail Trail, which will connect cyclists to the coast; a new segment is now open in Titusville. With more than 200 acres of natural habitats conserved in New Smyrna Beach, Indian River Lagoon Preserve Park offers birding, fishing and a kayak launch on the waterway.

Watch for the rare and endangered scrub jay in Lake County.

Key and Siesta Key off Sarasota. New to stand-up paddleboarding? Siesta Key Paddleboards can help out with lessons and rentals.

CENTRAL EAST Get to know Florida’s marine communities better at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, a 57-acre facility in Stuart with touch tanks and trails through mangrove forest; it also offers guided after-dark turtle nesting walks on Hutchinson Island. There are more than 225 acres to explore at Oxbow Eco-Center, where

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

programs for children and adults alike showcase the spectrum of nature found in and around Port St. Lucie. The new Lagoon Greenway provides several miles of hiking trails through mangrove forests along the Indian River Lagoon in Vero Beach. Protecting more than 20 miles of oceanfront, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge near Sebastian is a top nesting site for sea turtles. Ocean-goers who love the outdoors will delight in the addition of cabins to popular Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral, where RVs and tent

The B Resort at Walt Disney World raises awareness of Florida wildlife by adopting the gopher frog, a Florida species in decline, as a stuffed mascot in every guest room. Take one home and part of the proceeds benefit the Wildlife Foundation of Florida. 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 savannah. Early risers 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. Wildlife sightings are guaranteed at Circle B Bar Reserve near Lakeland, renowned among photographers and birders for the density of its bird life. Newly opened Holloway Park & Nature Preserve provides cross-country runners with a place to train in nature, and a new natural space for birding in Lakeland. 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 to fishing on Lake Pierce; at night, its famed restaurant draws diners from around the region.

CLOCKWISE FROM CENTER LEFT: LAKE COUNTY CVB; FLORIDA'S SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM; CITRUSCOUNTY.COM

CENTRAL


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, which offers camping near Rock Springs Run. 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.

CENTRAL WEST There are more places to play at Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park. Enter at the Main Gate trailhead to enjoy hiking trails 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., Inc., 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. Paddlers love Chassahowitzka River Campground, the launch point for adventures in the watery Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Fort De Soto Park attracts millions annually to its beaches along Tampa Bay; its trails lead you into mangrove forests where manatees cruise the shallows. With 238 sites, many of which look out on Tampa Bay, its campground is on every camper’s list. But did you know you can take a tent out to Anclote Key Preserve State Park—accessible only by

kayak or private boat—and camp on that quiet island? For a memorable adventure north of Tampa, go on safari at Giraffe Ranch, a 47-acre working game farm and wildlife preserve. Near Dade City, Withlacoochee River Park offers river access to paddlers, extensive hiking trails, primitive tent sites ideal for families with kids on their first camping trip, and RV sites near a replica 1840s village.

NORTHEAST Learn where your seafood comes from. Departing from Fernandina Beach, Amelia River Cruises puts all hands on deck to work on its 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 Jax Water Tours. 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. Take a guided trip through the estuaries between St. Augustine and Flagler Beach with Ripple Effect Ecotours by kayak or on board quiet vegetable oil-powered Eco-Explorer boats. Now partnering with Marineland Dolphin Adventure and the University of Florida’s Whitney Lab, Ripple Effect Ecotours

FEATURED LINKS Florida Keys Reef Explorer fla-keys.com/diving/reefexplorer

Florida Oceanographic Society floridaocean.org

Florida Tracks & Trails floridatracksandtrails.com

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

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

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach floridastateparks.org/gamblerogers

Gatorland gatorland.com

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

Giraffe Ranch girafferanch.com

Grassy Waters Preserve wpb.org/grassywaters

Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail floridabirdingtrail.com

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

Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratories, Inc. gulfspecimen.org

Hendry-Glades Audubon Society hendrygladesaudubon.org

Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort hilton.com

Historical Redland Tropical Trail redlandtrail.com

Holloway Park & Nature Preserve hollowaypark.org

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

Indian River Lagoon Preserve State Park cityofnsb.com/766/Beachside-Parks

Jax Water Tours jaxwatertours.com

Jetty Park at Port Canaveral jettyparkbeachandcampground.com

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park floridastateparks.org/pennekamp

Kelly Park Loop Trail floridahikes.com/kellypark

Lagoon Greenway indianriverlandtrust.org/cfiles/ projects_lagoongreenway.cfm

Lake County Blueways paddlelake.com

Loggerhead Marinelife Center marinelife.org Cycle the Withlacoochee State Trail in Inverness. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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EC OTOU R ISM Dolphins frolic near the shores of the Palm Coast and Flagler Beaches area.

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

Marion County Springs Festival facebook.com/MarionCountySpringsFest

Neville Marine Preserve Trail scgov.net/WaterRecreation/Pages/ NevilleMarinePreserve.aspx

Oak Harbor Lodging & RV Park oakharbor-rv.com

Ocala National Forest fs.usda.gov/ocala

Ocean Pond Campground forestcamping.com/dow/southern/osccmp.htm

Off The Map Expeditions, LLC

NORTH CENTRAL A bounty of springs through this region promises access to the state’s most beautiful swimming holes and camping spots. Celebrate the springs each April at the Marion County Springs Festival, held at a different spring each year for more than a decade. Centered on its own bubbling spring on the Santa Fe River, Ellie Ray’s RV Resort & Lounge has cabins and deeply shaded tent and RV sites. 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 flotillas of canoes and kayaks on supported trips along Florida’s rivers at varying times of the year. Gainesville has always been a mecca for birders, with Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park a perfect place to spot sandhill cranes and whooping

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cranes while nearby Barr Hammock Preserve offers the vast Levy Prairie for birders to scout.

NORTHWEST South of Tallahassee, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is a popular stop on the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail, especially in October during the annual monarch butterfly migration. See the delicate microfauna of the Gulf of Mexico—seahorses, jellyfish, crabs, and more— along with sea turtles and stingrays at Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratories, Inc., in Panacea. For a hands-on experience with aquaculture, learn how to tong oysters from the oyster beds with an oysterman on Apalachicola Bay. Paddle a massive tupelo-cypress swamp known as the Dead Lakes with a guided tour from Off the Map Expeditions, LLC. This watery wilderness is the birthplace of tupelo honey, processed and shipped from Wewahitchka, where you can try a sample at Smiley’s Apiaries. Howl with the wolves during an overnight campout at Seacrest Wolf Preserve, the largest wolf preserve in the southeast US; tours are offered to the public on Saturdays. For sugar-sand beaches with a salty breeze, head for 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. 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 down a nature trail and boardwalk to a quiet getaway; day visitors to the park have a busier swimming hole upriver. FL

offthemapexpeditions.com

Osceola National Forest fs.usda.gov/osceola

Oxbow Eco-Center stlucieco.gov/erd/oxbow

Paddle Florida paddleflorida.org

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/paynesprairie

Ripple Effect Ecotours rippleeffectecotours.com

Sawgrass Recreation Park evergladestours.com/special-adventure.aspx

Seacrest Wolf Preserve seacrestwolfpreserve.org

Shark Valley Tram Tours sharkvalleytramtours.com

Siesta Key Paddleboards siestakeypaddleboards.com

Silver Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/silversprings

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve sloughpreserve.org

Smiley Apiaries smileyhoney.com

Space Coast Hidden Gems spacecoasthiddengems.com

Spring-to-Spring Trail volusia.org/trails

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/st_marks/ T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park floridastateparks.org/stjoseph

Team Punta Gorda teampuntagorda.org/bicycleloaner.html

Wacissa River Canoe & Kayak Rentals wacissarivercanoerentals.com

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

Wild Africa Trek wildafricatrek.com

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

PHOTO: PALM COAST AND THE FLAGLER BEACHES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

leads learning adventures into the southern portion of Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, with its maze of estuaries and islands where the waters of Matanzas Inlet mingle with Pellicer Creek. 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. A nature trail immerses visitors in coastal habitats under windswept trees. At Ocean Pond Campground in the Osceola National Forest, watch the sun set over a twomile-wide cypress-lined lake. Known for its red-cockaded woodpecker population, the forest is a favorite among birders.


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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

A STUDY IN

VÉÇàÜtáàá BY JEFF OSTROWSKI

Y

rom crystal-blue water to big-city culture, Southeast Florida is a study in contrasts. Often, the tranquility of the beach and the bustle of a thrumming metropolitan area are just steps apart. Beyond the beach, the shopping is top-notch, the restaurants are world-class and the already-rich array of cultural amenities keeps getting better. From the quaint streets of Key West and 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.

WHAT’S NEW Visitors to the middle Florida Keys can now enjoy an immersive experience with reef fish, invertebrates, stingrays and even sharks without entering the ocean at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, a marine life attraction that recently opened in Marathon. Learn about the importance of marine conservation and discover the Keys’ complex underwater habitats. A signature feature is the coral

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: VISIT FLORIDA; DDMIRT/SHUTTERSTOCK

A beach in Key West.


reef exhibit and shark habitat housed in a massive 200,000-gallon interconnected saltwater aquarium. Following an instructional presentation, participants can immerse themselves in the tank to hover over the artificial coral reef structure and observe marine species that are part of the in-tank ecosystem. Pérez Art Museum Miami is the newest addition to South Florida’s cultural scene. Housed in a US$130-million building overlooking Biscayne Bay, the freshly opened museum features contemporary art. But the building itself is the star. Designed by awardwinning architects Herzog & de Meuron, the structure is a swirl of striking terraces, canopies and floor-to-ceiling glass. The 200,000-square-foot facility includes a sculpture garden and a restaurant. If you prefer shopping to art, a new entry to Florida’s shopping scene is Delray Marketplace, which includes Polaroid Fotobar, Gymboree, Yankee Candle and other small shops, plus movies and dining establishments, such as Burt & Max’s Grille, Cabo Flats Cantina & Tequila Bar and Shula Burger. The Palm Beach Outlets in West Palm Beach serves up the latest addition to Southeast Florida’s consumer culture. The mall, just off Interstate 95, opened with 100 stores, including such favorites as Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, Cole Haan, Kenneth Cole, The PUMA Store, Nike Factory Store, Under Armour and Banana Republic Factory Store. The adjacent Marketplace at the Outlets opened in the fall of 2014, featuring Whole Foods Market and Sports Authority.

Scheduled to open in summer 2015, the 350room Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort is being built on the famous Broadwalk in Hollywood. It will tower 17 stories over the Atlantic and Intracoastal Waterway and will include multiple food and beverage venues, recreational areas including multiple pools, beachfront cabanas and entertainment venues, the 15,000-square-foot world-class St. Somewhere Spa, a beachfront fitness center, 7,000 square feet of retail space, the Johnson Street Amphitheatre and ample meeting and convention space.

ARTS AND CULTURE Visual arts are an integral part of the scene here, and Pérez Art Museum Miami is just one of the many must-see attractions throughout Southeast Florida. 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. Another popular spot is the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in the heart of Old Town Key West, where Hemingway lived and wrote for more than 10 years. After touring his home, wander through the lush grounds where 40 to 50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats reside, some of which are descendants of Hemingway’s pet Snowball. 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.

FESTIVALS & EVENTS JANUARY Art Deco Weekend, Miami Beach Key Largo Sailfish Challenge Las Olas Art Fair Part I, Fort Lauderdale Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens

JANUARY–FEBRUARY 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

FEBRUARY–MARCH Honda Classic, Palm Beach Gardens

MARCH Boca Bacchanal, Boca Raton Calle Ocho, Miami Las Olas Art Fair Part II Major League Baseball Spring Training, Jupiter Savor the Avenue, Delray Beach Sony Open Tennis, Key Biscayne Winter Music Conference, Miami Beach

APRIL Delray Affair Lauderdale Air Show Palm Beach International Film Festival

APRIL–MAY Sunfest, West Palm Beach

MAY Humphrey Bogart Film Festival, Key Largo

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 Fantasy Fest, Key West Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Italian Film Festival, Miami Key West Goombay Festival

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

DECEMBER Art Basel Miami Beach Design Miami Holiday Boat Parades Miami Short Film Festival Explore beauty and peace in the Japanese Gardens at Morikami Park in Delray Beach. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA Water taxis are a great way to explore Fort Lauderdale or Miami.

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 in both cities from beachside to downtown. Located midway between downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the city of Sunny Isles Beach offers free community shuttle service seven days a week with three different routes for the convenience of residents and visitors. Shuttle buses are handicapped accessible and are available for such use when a reservation is made at least 24 hours in advance. Depending on where you plan to visit, a number of international and regional airports service Southeast Florida besides Miami International Airport: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Palm Beach International Airport and Key West International Airport.

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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. Perhaps no individual has had a greater or more lasting impact on a state than Henry Flagler has had in Florida. While in the Palm Beach area, be sure to tour the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, housed in his opulent 73-room mansion, Whitehall, for a glimpse of what life was like for the wealthy during the Gilded Age in American history.

BEACHES Beaches are Southeast Florida’s original tourist attraction, and the beach experiences here are as varied as the region itself. The beach area at Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Florida Keys was named one of the United States’ top 25 beaches for 2014 by TripAdvisor. Bahia Honda features a pristine, sandy expanse that’s part of a 524-acre state park. Deep near-shore waters are ideal for swimming and snorkeling, and the park also offers camping, picnicking, nature trails, the Sand and Sea Nature Center, a marina and rental cabins. South Beach is perhaps Southeast Florida’s most iconic destination. The art deco architecture, wide beach and vibrant nightlife draw pleasure-seekers from everywhere. For a quieter experience, try snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo or at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in North Palm Beach. The beaches around Southeast Florida’s many piers also are a good bet. Among them: Newport Fishing Pier in Sunny Isles Beach, Dania Beach Pier, Anglin’s Fishing Pier in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Pompano Municipal Pier, Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier, Lake Worth Pier and Juno Beach Park Pier.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: VISIT FLORIDA; FLORIDASTOCK/SHUTTERSTOCK; JORG HACKEMANN/SHUTTERSTOCK

Learn about the Native American way of life at the Miccosukee Indian Museum of Natural and Tribal History in Miami.

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 Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach or the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. Beyond the museums, Miami is 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. 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. Another unusual collection is on display at The Wick Theatre & Costume Museum in Boca Raton. Proprietor Marilynn Wick opened the museum as a place to hold her 1.2 million costumes, many of them Broadway originals. The Boca Raton Museum of Art is also well worth a visit. 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. While in the area, visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, the fascinating center for Japanese arts and culture in South Florida since 1977. 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.


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 Crabs, 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, book a guided tour with 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. Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale is another hot spot for dining and parties as is Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach’s main drag. If you find yourself in Delray Beach in March, check out the Savor the Avenue event, a huge open-air extravaganza featuring a long table set up along Atlantic Avenue. Sharing more than 20 years of international culinary experience at two of the most celebrated and well-known restaurants in the

world, Nobu and Katsuya, Chef Alex Becker has orchestrated the talented team responsible for the December 2014 opening of a contemporary new-style Japanese restaurant at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. In collaboration with his Executive Sushi Chef Shuji Hiyakawa of the famed Morimoto restaurant empire, every fine detail—from the socially-chic ambiance to the specialty crafted flavors—takes guests on a memorable culinary journey. Locally harvested ingredients in perfect tune with the expertly curated selection of fresh fish are uniquely designed for a personal dining experience. If your budget is as expansive as the blue Florida sky, the high-end restaurants in Palm Beach are reliably excellent. If you’re on a budget, grab a quick bite at one of the new Trader Joe’s grocery stores in Southeast Florida. The organic grocer is opening a half-dozen locations between Miami and Palm Beach Gardens. Gamblers take great delight in the number of venues available to them in Southeast Florida. Two casino boats have begun operation. Resorts World Bimini offers Bimini SuperFast, a cruise ship, which sails to Resorts World Bimini Casino in the Bahamas on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from PortMiami. The Balearia Bahamas Express ferry includes slot machines.

FEATURED LINKS Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens ansg.org

Aventura Mall aventuramall.com

Bahia Honda State Park bahiahondapark.com

Bal Harbour Shops balharbourshops.com

Bass Museum of Art bassmuseum.org

Bimini SuperFast rwbimini.com/superfast-cruise-ship

Boca Museum of Art bocamuseum.org

Boca Raton Resort & Club bocaresort.com

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

Boomers! boomersparks.com

Butterfly World butterflyworld.com

Calder Casino & Race Course calderracecourse.com

Clevelander South Beach Hotel and Bar clevelander.com

Cool de Sac cool-de-sac.com

Dadeland Mall simon.com/mall/dadeland-mall

Dave & Buster’s daveandbusters.com

Delano South Beach morganshotelgroup.com/Delano/Delano-south-beach

Delray Beach Center for the Arts delraycenterforthearts.org

Delray Marketplace delraymarket.com

Dolphin Mall shopdolphinmall.com

Dolphin Research Center dolphins.org

Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum hemingwayhome.com

Falls Mall simon.com/mall/the-falls

Festival Flea Market Mall festival.com

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters floridakeysaquariumencounters.com

Fontainebleau Miami Beach fontainebleau.com

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport broward.org/airport

Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa marriott.com/hotels/travel/fllsb-fort-lauderdalemarriott-harbor-beach-resort-and-spa

Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park macarthurbeach.org

Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino gulfstreampark.com

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center gumbolimbo.org Nightlife on Ocean Drive in Miami. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

Visitors at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon.

Casino Miami offers 1,000 slot machines, a poker room, dominoes and live shows, while Miccosukee Resort & Gaming serves up slots, poker and a hotel. A bit north, Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale now features year-round thoroughbred racing as well as shops, dining establishments and a casino. Other popular options include the Calder Casino and Race Course in Miami Gardens, Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale and the Isle Casino & Racing in Pompano Park. If a baseball game at Marlins Park in Miami is on your schedule, there’s no better place to take it all in than at The Clevelander, an exciting nightspot where you can watch the game from the poolside bars and take a dip.

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: ANDY NEWMAN/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU; ALBERT BARR/SHUTTERSTOCK

If you find yourself in the Florida Keys, don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key and the Turtle Hospital on Marathon Key. Residents at both facilities will surely win your heart. Just north of Homestead, Zoo Miami boasts more than 2,000 animals available for viewing in a cage-free setting. Another family favorite, Miami Seaquarium on Key Biscayne is home to dolphins, manatees, crocodiles and a 7,000pound killer whale. To get really close to the animals, visit its Dolphin Encounter, where you can pay extra to swim with dolphins.

NEED MORE INFO? Cultural Council of Palm Beach County palmbeachculture.com

Discover Palm Beach County palmbeachfl.com

Downtown Development Authority of Delray Beach DelrayBeachDDA.com

Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau sunny.org

Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau miamiandbeaches.com

Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency gohollywoodfla.com

Sunny Isles Beach Tourism and Marketing Council sunnyislesbeachmiami.com

The Monroe County Tourist Development Council fla-keys.com

The Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale. 70

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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. 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. For a quieter outdoor experience, try Oleta River State Park in North Miami. It’s an oasis of calm in the midst of the bustling city where you can picnic, 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. There are even cabins for rent. Auto buffs ought to tour the Miami Auto Museum at the Dezer Collection, which boasts a stash of more than 1,000 cars divided into sections such as Hollywood Cars of the Stars, European Classics and American Classics. Cool de Sac is a restaurant and play center at Gulfstream Park Village in Hallandale Beach where you can relax at the full-service restaurant, while your kids play and draw. Another array of indoor gaming is on tap at Dave & Buster’s in Hollywood. For an educational excursion, try Davie’s Young at Art Museum. This hands-on facility lets


FEATURED LINKS

One of America’s Great House Museums

Henry Morrison Flagler Museum flaglermuseum.us

Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort hilton.com

Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six hyattregencypiersixty-six.com

IMAX imax.com

Joe’s Stone Crab joesstonecrab.com

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park pennekamppark.com

Jungle Island jungleisland.com

Key West International Airport keywestinternationalairport.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 mardigrascasinofl.com

Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort margaritavillehollywoodbeachresort.com

Marlins Park

“An absolute must-seeâ€? - National Geographic Traveler When it was completed in 1902, Whitehall, Henry Flagler’s Gilded Age estate in Palm Beach, was hailed by the New York Herald as “more wonderful than any palace in (XURSHJUDQGHUDQGPRUHPDJQLÂżFHQWWKDQDQ\RWKHUSULYDWHGZHOOLQJLQWKHZRUOG´ Today, Whitehall is a National Historic Landmark open to the public as the Flagler Museum featuring guided tours, self-guide brochures and audio tours in English, 6SDQLVK)UHQFKDQG*HUPDQDQGDVPDUWGHYLFHDSSVisit the Flagler Museum to learn more about Florida’s greatest benefactor, Henry Morrison Flagler. h e n r y

m o r r i s o n

FLAGLER MUSEUM palm beach, florida

A National Historic Landmark One Whitehall Way, Palm Beach

Call (561) 655-2833 or visit www.FlaglerMuseum.us

marlins.com

Miami Auto Museum at the Dezer Collection dezercollection.com

Miami Children’s Museum miamichildrensmuseum.org

Miami Culinary Tours miamiculinarytours.com

Miami Design District miamidesigndistrict.net

Miami International Airport miami-airport.com

Miami Seaquarium miamiseaquarium.com

Miami Spa Month miamiandbeaches.com/special-offers/monthlydeals/miami-spa-month

Miami Tropical Bonsai miamitropicalbonsai.com

Mizner Park miznerpark.com

Monkey Jungle monkeyjungle.com

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens morikami.org

Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale moafl.org

Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami mocanomi.org

Museum of Discovery and Science mods.org

Norton Museum of Art norton.org

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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA

The legendary Fontainebleau Hotel Miami Beach overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

hospital. Both Gumbo Limbo and the Marinelife Center serve as animal hospitals where injured and sick turtles are 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 released into the ocean. While the turtles recover, you and the kids can get a close look at them—babies, juveniles and adults are divided among various tanks. For movie lovers, there’s no shortage of IMAX screens in South Florida—the partial list includes Sunset Place in South Miami, Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Dolphin Mall in Miami, Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise and the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale. In December, kick off the holiday season at one of many holiday boat parades throughout the region. The spectacular Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade showcases brightly lighted boats promenading along the Intracoastal Waterway through Fort

Travel canopy-covered roads on Jupiter Island. 72

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Lauderdale to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach. Another is the Boca Raton Holiday Boat Parade.

ROAD TRIPS An all-time favorite is the 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. Dawn and dusk are prime times for birdwatching. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot great blue herons, white cranes and bald eagles. Check FloridaRambler.com’s milemarker guide to know where to stop and when. For a stunning short drive, head east from downtown Miami. If you choose the Rickenbacker Causeway, you’ll spot 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 view 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. For wildlife sightings, head west on Tamiami Trail from Miami, where you’ll spot alligators and turtles. To see more ’gators, head to Shark Valley, a paved trail off Tamiami Trail that’s perfect for biking and walking. If bass fishing is your thing, take State Road 80 west from West Palm Beach. Once you leave the urban area, you’ll be surrounded by sugarcane fields all the way to the small town of Belle Glade, which borders Lake Okeechobee.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA/PETER W. CROSS; FOTOLUMINATE LLC/SHUTTERSTOCK; AVENTURA MALL

kids ride a subway, visit a cave, build sand sculptures and puppets, and learn about other cultures. If arcade-style fun is your speed, try the Boomers locations in Dania Beach and Boca Raton. Attractions include laser tag, batting cages, mini golf, climbing walls and go karts. 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. The place abounds with passionflowers and other nectar-rich plants. Butterfly World is also home to hummingbirds and The Bug Zoo houses scorpions, spiders and, if you’re not feeling too squeamish, giant Asian cockroaches. If sea creatures are more your kids’ speed, visit the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton. See sharks in the center’s saltwater tanks, and view sea turtles that are recuperating before being released into the ocean. In West Palm Beach, the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium recently unveiled a US$5-million renovation. Upgrades include an 8,000-gallon aquarium and expanded exhibition space. If you prefer to get outside, Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach north of West Palm Beach boasts dozens of waterslides, a wave pool and a lazy river. Just one of the highlights: Big Thunder serves up a 45-degree drop and speeds of 20 mph. The Loggerhead Marine Life Center in Juno Beach also includes aquariums and a sea turtle


SHOPPING 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. West of Miami, Dolphin Mall boasts restaurants and some 240 stores. Another popular destination is Bayside Marketplace, situated along the water in the heart of downtown Miami. Shops include Express, GUESS, Victoria’s Secret and Wet Seal. Bal Harbour Shops, in a ritzy enclave north of Miami, is one of the region’s trendy shopping areas, which counts Chanel, Hermès, Gucci, Thomas Pink and Jimmy Choo among its tenants.

Aventura Mall is Miami's premier fashion destination.

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 24screen 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 with eligible purchases of US$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. Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale is anchored by Dillard’s, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus and 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 while the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens lists just about every retailer you can think of, from A to Z. Outlet malls are big draws in Florida. 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

EUROPEAN SOPHISTICATION. TROPICAL DRESS CODE.

EXPERIENCE THE LAGO MAR DIFFERENCE. Nestled amid ten lush acres on the Atlantic Ocean. Offering the area’s largest private beach, 204 luxurious rooms and suites, and full-service European spa. Rated by Zagat as “One of the Best Resorts in Fort Lauderdale.”

1700 South Ocean Lane Fort Lauderdale, FL lagomar.com | 844.268.5162

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SPAS If you’re keen to pamper yourself, South Florida offers no shortage of options. Many full-service hotels feature an array of facials, massages and nail treatments. The Biltmore in Coral Gables, Fontainebleau in Miami and Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach are but a few that provide spa services in Miami-Dade County. In Broward County, the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood, the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six in Fort Lauderdale and the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa are among the partial list of hotels with full spas. In Palm Beach County, there are spas at Boca Raton Resort and Club, Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Manalapan and PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. If you’re in Florida during the months of April or October, watch for Spa Week specials.

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FEATURED LINKS Oleta River State Park floridastateparks.org/oletariver

Overseas Highway fla-keys.com/highway.cfm

PGA National Resort & Spa pgaresort.com

Palm Beach International Airport pbia.org

Palm Beach Outlets palmbeachoutlets.com

Pérez Art Museum Miami pamm.org

R.F. Orchids, Inc. rforchids.com

Rapids Water Park

This bi-annual event features wellness locations across the Sunshine State that provide two to three full-service spa treatments for just US$50 each. Check the official website for a full list of participating locations. Similarly, Miami Spa Month lasts 60 days, from July 1 to August 31, and offers discounted packages designed to rub you the right way. While smaller day spas also participate in this seasonal offer, some of the largest luxury hotel spas are also available at the same price. Some even feature reduced rates on valet parking and unrestricted access to the hotel’s pool deck. Reservations for all appointments are required and most treatment menus are posted on the official website in the spring.

UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY The historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables may not be on the ocean, but the hotel pool is so massive you might not miss the beach. The Delano South Beach epitomizes Miami Beach hotels—beautiful and uber-hip, relaxing and full of attitude. Gauzy white sheets hang in the lobby. Pool furniture upholstered in elegant white adorns the pool deck. South Beach’s art deco architecture means just about any hotel here is unique. North of the Art Deco District sits the freshly renovated Fontainebleau Hotel Miami Beach, a legendary beachfront inn built in the heydays of the 1950s. In Palm Beach County, the Boca Raton Resort and Club and The Breakers are the grandes dames of oceanfront hotels. Both inns deliver elegant, old-world architecture that make them favorites for conferences and weddings. FL

rapidswaterpark.com

Savor the Avenue downtowndelraybeach.com/savor-and-tastemakers

Sawgrass Mills simon.com/mall/sawgrass-mills

South Beach Miami visitsouthbeachonline.com

South Florida Science Center and Aquarium sfsciencecenter.org

Spa Week spaweek.com/spas/Florida

Superior Small Lodging superiorsmalllodging.com

Swap Shop floridaswapshop.com

The Biltmore Hotel biltmorehotel.com

The Breakers thebreakers.com

The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale galleriamall-fl.com

The Gardens Mall thegardensmall.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

The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa diplomatresort.com

Trump International Beach Resort trumpmiami.com

Water Taxi watertaxi.com

Wick Theatre & Costume Museum thewick.org

Worth Avenue Palm Beach worth-avenue.com

Wynwood Arts District wynwoodmiami.com

Young at Art Museum youngatartmuseum.org

Zoo Miami zoomiami.org

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: SEMINOLE HARD ROCK HOTEL & CASINO; COURTESY OF THE MONROE COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

and Saks. To the north, Palm Beach Outlets, which opened in February 2014, aims to siphon off some of those shoppers. Sawgrass Mills has responded with billboards on Interstate 95 listing the stores it has. 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. Another outdoor shopping complex is Mizner Park in Boca Raton, with its mix of upscale bistros and retailers, such as Lord & Taylor. For a more relaxed vibe, Atlantic Avenue in downtown Delray Beach features a variety of specialty shops. 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 and Co., Gucci, Cartier and Chanel. Flea market fans flock to Swap Shop locations in Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth while the Festival Flea Market Mall in Pompano Beach boasts more than 500 shops and restaurants.

Relax poolside at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.


FLO R I DA K E YS

ONLY IN THE^xçá

BY MARY BURNHAM

Y

rom the “big island” of Key Largo to the southernmost city of Key West, the 100-mile barrier island chain is truly unlike any other place on earth. Indulge in tantalizing nightlife, world-class diving, fishing, history and wildlife, all with the backdrop of sparkling Caribbean blue water.

MUST SEE...MUST DO To see why Key Largo is known as the “Dive Capital of the World,” take a dive or snorkel trip from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park out to the living coral reef. You’ll see shipwrecks and the underwater Christ of the Abyss statue. Backcountry sport fishing and saltwater flyfishing were pioneered in Islamorada. Take a charter fishing trip from the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World.” With numerous marinas, family-friendly resorts, the world-famous Turtle Hospital and Dolphin Research Center, Marathon is the Keys’ premier boating and family destination. Wildlife is the theme in the Lower Keys. Seek out the tiny, protected Key Deer in the National Key Deer Refuge or take an ecotour to view stunning birdlife in the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge. From pirates and wreckers to Cuban and Bahamian influences, the island of Key West is

Enjoy an array of outstanding dining establishments in the Florida Keys.

a treasure of rich and varied history, culture and architecture. One of the best ways to take it all in is on the Conch Tour Train, a narrated overview of the southernmost city in the Continental US.

LIVE IT UP Key West boasts more than 350 bars and restaurants, ranging from sophisticated fine dining at Pisces to the clothing-optional rooftop Garden of Eden. In the quieter, low-key Lower Keys, stop in to watch live music or sports on the big screen at Boondocks tiki bar or the quirky No Name Pub on No Name Key. Toast the sunset over the famous Seven Mile Bridge, and take a moonlight dip in the saltwater pool at the Sunset Grille in Marathon. In Islamorada you can find live music any night of the week at places such as the Green Turtle, Morada Bay or the legendary beachside Lorelei. Only in the Keys can you enjoy a beer or wine with your popcorn while watching a firstrun feature film at B&B Tavernier Cinema.

or Largo Cargo. Stroll Key West’s Duval Street for everything from T-shirts, cigars and novelties to high-end jewelry and clothing. Even if you’re not into fishing, the World Wide Sportsman Bass Pro Shop in Islamorada offers two stories of outdoor fun, complete with an aquarium, an historic fishing boat and the Zane Grey Lounge.

INSIDER’S TIP At the southern end of Marathon, park at the beginning of the Seven Mile Bridge and walk, jog or bike two miles on “Old Seven,” the former railroad bridge, to historic Pigeon Key. FL

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

Conch Tour Train conchtourtrain.com

John Pennekamp State Park floridastateparks.org/pennekamp

National Key Deer Refuge fws.gov/nationalkeydeer

RETAIL THERAPY Take home some freshly roasted treasures from Baby’s Coffee on Sugarloaf Key. Shop for novelty souvenirs in Key Largo at Shell World

Pigeon Key pigeonkey.net

Turtle Hospital turtlehospital.org

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DE LRAY B E AC H

YOUR PERFECT VACATION

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BY DARIEN ARDEN

U

oasting a mesh of activities, restaurants and shopping, Delray Beach is a year-round hot spot with an identity all its own. This oncesleepy beachside town offers visitors a complete package of vibrant attractions and social retreats, with a laid-back vibe should you find the sunny, welcoming beach too irresistible. Welcome to Delray Beach, where the front door is always open.

MUST SEE…MUST DO Picture Delray Beach as an all-inclusive resort where you check in and don’t have to go elsewhere. The main street, Atlantic Avenue, is a perfect vacation haven where you have the luxury of choosing from myriad cultural events, attractions and venues to complete your stay. The Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square takes advantage of the great out-

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Dining at Deck 84 on the Intracoastal in Delray Beach.

doors with a toe-tapping lineup of tribute bands during the Free Friday Concert series. Or, partake in the Twilight Bike Festival, where downtown is turned into a Tour de Franceesque bicycle race. Don’t miss the award-winning Fabulous Fashion Week in January where you’ll have a front-row ticket to the hottest downtown styles. Foodies shouldn’t miss the Tastemakers event in August, which offers participants a culinary tour throughout the city, one bite and sip at a time. Savor the Avenue in March is another one of the city’s most delectable food events where you, and hundreds of your closest friends, enjoy a seat at a VIP table (one of the longest in the nation) and a four-course menu from local restaurants. The Holidays get bright as the downtown is dusted with twinkle lights, cheer and festivities galore. The 100-foot Christmas tree is a shining

beacon that heralds the way into the holiday festivities, including the Holiday Boat Parade, Cringle Mingle Santa Crawl and First Night on New Year’s Eve.

LIVE IT UP This big small town offers a countless array of activities, and is fit not only for families and romance-minded adults, but everyone in between. The bustling nightlife is complete with boutique shops, award-winning restaurants and unique downtown spots around every corner. Artists Alley, a quirky gem just off the main strip, harbors a grassroots working colony of artists who welcome visitors to explore their creations during the Third Thursday Open Studios and Galleries event, during which you can mix and mingle with 26 local artists at 18 studios and gallery spaces.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY OF DELRAY BEACH; DELRAY BEACH CENTER FOR THE ARTS

Taru Gardens at the historic Sundy House in Delray Beach


The United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra performs at the Crest Theatre in

The dining scene in Delray Beach dishes up a perfect blend of long-standing restaurants and a new, hip fusion of around-the-world cuisine featuring the freshest and most innovative flavors. 32 East is a Delray staple where the menu includes not only an award-winning chef, but also ever-changing delicious dishes. For jiving on island time, Deck 84, on the Intracoastal, is the perfect place for live music and a waterfront happy hour.

Delray Beach, February 20–22, 2015.

FEATURED LINKS Downtown Development Authority of Delray Beach downtowndelraybeach.com

32 East

RETAIL THERAPY For those days not spent lounging at the beach, hit the streets and enjoy the thriving shopping scene. Atlantic Avenue and Pineapple Grove offer a mix of luxury and boutique to historic (80 years and counting) and modern shops, all within a two-mile stretch of quaint storefronts and welcoming cafés. Periwinkle is a perfect boutique to spoil yourself with fun and energetic Florida fashions, and is a shining complement to the rainbow of items at the playful jewelry store, Sequin.

32east.com

Artists Alley artistsalleydelray.com

INSIDER’S TIP

City of Delray Beach

The downtown is very walkable. In fact, the city is so pedestrian-friendly that the majority of the hotels are located only a block from downtown, so renting a car is not necessary. A free Downtown Roundabout Trolley transports you at your leisure to different stops downtown. If time is an issue, call the Delray Downtowner, a free on-demand ride service that wheels you around downtown like a local. FL

Deck 84

mydelraybeach.com rapoportsrg.com

Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square DelrayArts.org

Delray Downtowner delraydowntowner.com

Periwinkle periwinkleonline.com

The Seagate TheSeagateHotel.com

We’ve added shades of green to complement our gorgeous blues.

H OT E L • S PA • B E A C H C L U B • C O U N T R Y C L U B • YA C H T C L U B • R E S I D E N C E S

Discover the luxury of a resort with the intimacy of a retreat at The Seagate Hotel & Spa in Delray Beach, Florida — recognized as the “Most Fun Small Town in America” by Rand McNally & USA Today. 18-hole championship golf course • Staff of PGA professionals Boutique hotel • Destination spa • Six exquisite dining venues Private beach club • Award-winning aquariums • Boutiques

TheSeagateHotel.com 1-888-689-9564 1000 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, Florida 33483

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GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE

DELIGHT YOUR fxÇáxá BY KARA FRANKER

MUST SEE...MUST DO From the beaches to the arts, nature parks to the Everglades, families will find sun-drenched days and fun-filled nights. Stroll along the retro-cool Hollywood Beach Broadwalk with its outdoor cafés and sunkissed beach. Then hop aboard the trolley to Arts Park in Young Circle. Head to Fort Lauderdale Beach, where you’ll find a bricklined beachfront promenade. Embark on a sightseeing cruise on board the Water Taxi or Jungle Queen, to cruise along the Intracoastal Waterway, explore Millionaire’s Row and learn about the history of the “Venice of America.” Then brush up on the art scene at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale or wander around the 35-acre Bonnet House Museum & Gardens.

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LIVE IT UP

INSIDER’S TIPS

Spin the dial on the Fork Lauderdale Dining App to easily locate restaurants, bars and clubs. Choose from Sunday brunch and rocking happy hour spots to gaming and everything in between. Nosh on imaginative, farm-to-fork dishes at 3030 Ocean at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. For delectable seafood and sushi, dine at S3 Restaurant; like sister restaurant YOLO, just perusing the menu will make your mouth water. Party the night away at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, or set off for the races at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino. Both hot spots feature Vegas-style slots and blackjack tables.

Visiting off-season? Check out Vacation Like A VIP (for room upgrades, resort credits, etc. from May 1 to September 30), Lauderdale Spa Chic (for US$99 treatments in September) and Dine Out Lauderdale (for fixed-price threecourse meals in October). Holiday events include Christmas on Las Olas Boulevard (last Tuesday in November) and the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade (second Saturday in December). FL

RETAIL THERAPY Known as Greater Fort Lauderdale’s “style mile,” Las Olas Boulevard features fashionable boutiques, art galleries and cozy sidewalk cafés. Listing more than 300 designer outlets, such as Burberry and Hugo Boss, Sawgrass Mills is the place to hunt for the perfect deal. Meanwhile, the Galleria at Fort Lauderdale offers more of a traditional mall-style shopping experience, with department stores such as Neiman Marcus and specialty shops like J. Crew and Apple.

FEATURED LINKS Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau sunny.org

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens bonnethouse.org

Jungle Queen junglequeen.com

Las Olas Boulevard lasolasboulevard.com

Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale moafl.org

Water Taxi watertaxi.com

PHOTO: GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE CVB

Y

launting 23 miles of drop-dead gorgeous sandy beaches and more than 300 miles of inland waterways, Greater Fort Lauderdale is an oceanfront paradise. Discover tons of family-friendly activities, including a thriving arts and culture scene. Dine at a variety of delicious restaurants and treat yourself to top-notch shopping.

Known as the "Venice of America," Fort Lauderdale has more than 300 miles of inland waterways.


COME FOR THE BASEBALL. STAY FOR THE PARTY!

Turn your next visit to Miami into a grand slam with a visit to Marlins Park. Experience the thrill of live baseball along with an All-Star lineup of food, drink and entertainment options! Join the party at Marlins Park in 2015. Marlins Baseball. Dive in!


ENJOY THE SUN. DIFFERENTLY.

a total arts experience

THEATER

EXHIBITS

EVENTS

LEARNING

Crest Theatre U Cornell Museum of Art The Pavilion & Vintage Gymnasium U School of Creative Arts 501 PLAZA REAL, MIZNER PARK, BOCA RATON, FL 33432 t. 561.392.2500 BOCAMUSEUM.ORG

DelrayArts.org 51 N. Swinton Avenue t Delray Beach, FL 33444 t 561.243.7922 This project is sponsored in part by the State of Florida through the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

Richard Anuszkiewicz, Radiant Orange, detail, 1962, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 in., Gift of Roy and Gail Kardon, 1999.109

2014 /2015 highlights New lobby installation by Terry e Haggerty / thr ough summer 20 15 Master Prints: Dürer to Matisse / no v. 6, 20 14 – feb . 15, 20 15 Coming into Fashion: A Century of Photography at Condé Nast / no v. 20, 20 14 – feb . 1 Klara Kristalova: Turning into Stone / de c. 2, 20 14 – mar ch 29, 20 15 Pastures Green: The British Passion for Landscape / de c. 23, 20 14 – april 5, 20 15 The Triumph of Love: Beth Rudin DeWoody Collects / feb . 8 – may 3, 20 15 h Tea: Glorious Gl i Manif M ifestations East and West / feb . 19 – may 24, 20 15 High Imaging Eden: Photographers Discover the Everglades / mar ch 19 – july 12, 20 15 145 1 S. Olive Avenue West Palm Beach, FL 334 0 1

Terry Haggerty 2014 T erry Hagg erty (British born, 11970) 97 0 ) Untitled ((detail), detail), 20 14 Acrylic Courtesy artist Sikkema Co., New York A crylic paint. C ourtesy of the ar tist and Sikk ema Jenkins & C o., Ne wY ork This site-specific generously underwritten partt b by T his is the ffourth ourth sit e-specific installation g enerously underwritt en in par y Vanessa Anthony Beyer partt of their c commitment contemporary artt at the Nor Norton. V anessa and A nthony Be yer as par ommitment tto oc ontemporary ar ton.

www www.norton.org .norton.org


SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

A NATURAL

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BY CHELLE KOSTER WALTON

Book an airboat tour of the Everglades.

T

s the last of the state’s frontier to be settled and developed, Southwest Florida remains in solid touch with its natural side. In fact, much of it, particularly in the vast Everglades region, is still undeveloped and pristine, protected by federal and state parks and preserves. Those who first discovered Southwest Florida appreciated the natural beauty of its white-sand beaches, gem-hued seas, forested land, lazy waterways and enviable climate. They treaded lightly and even fought actively to keep it that way. The roll call of early visitors started with Juan Ponce de León and Hernando de Soto then continued with other familiar names, such as John Ringling, Thomas A. Edison, Charles Lindbergh and Rose Cleveland. To this day the famous and the nature-inured come to revel in what’s authentic, historic and intrinsically charming about the region—from its sophisticated cities to its colorful hometowns and persistent wild personality.

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Spend a day at Lovers Key State Park on Estero Island.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: F11PHOTO/SHUTTERSTOCK; LEE COUNTY VCB; NAPLES BOTANICAL GARDEN/NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

WHAT’S NEW

While the scenic tapestry of Southwest Florida remains as Old Florida as the day Ponce de León stepped foot in the Punta Gorda area, change keeps the region ever fresh and attractive to visitors, whether it’s their first time or 100th visit. In the Everglades, no two visits are the same; each changes with the season and extemporaneous wildlife encounters. Nearby Naples mirrors the Everglades’ state of nature with eco attractions such as the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, which celebrated 50 years in 2014, and the Naples Botanical Garden. A new Visitor Center with interactive exhibits and a café opened at the garden in October 2014, along with three new gardens—LaGrippe Orchid Garden, Charismatic Garden, and the lush, tropical and canopied Kathryn’s Garden. In downtown Naples, the restaurant scene continues to gain gourmet traction with the opening of Mereday’s Fine Dining at the Naples Bay Resort; Alto, Live Jazz Kitchen at the Bayfront Naples complex; and Avenue5 at the Inn on Fifth. The star-quality additions boost Naples’ fine culinary reputation, which in 2014 placed it at No. 17 in the Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s prestigious readers’ choice awards for Top US Cities for Foodies. In the Fort Myers area, new trails made news in 2014. Cape Coral completed interconnected bike routes to create a nearly 50-mile-long circular route around the perimeter of the city. On Sanibel Island, a new 2.4-mile nature trail/bike path connects two city parks and the still-developing Bailey Homestead historic site. The island’s nature attractions also continue to make advancements with the introduction of a free interactive shelling map and shelling cruises at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, and a boardwalk with replicated scat panels and a sea turtle interpretive exhibit at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Across the bridge on Captiva Island, the Captiva History Gallery opened at the Captiva Memorial Library, showcased in an exhibit modeled after the islands’ pre-causeway ferryboats. Fort Myers’ Hammond Stadium, home to the Minnesota Twins spring training and the Class A Florida State League Miracle, underwent a US$48.5-million renovation that included a 360-degree boardwalk around the stadium,

expanded seating and a new academy. The Shell Factory & Nature Park in North Fort Myers has added a Fossil and Gem Museum and a 600foot, 30-mph zip line. Near Punta Gorda, you will find more zip lining opportunities at the new Florida Tracks & Trails, a 1,000-acre park with off-highway vehicle trails, Motocross tracks, paintball, RV campgrounds and an amphitheater. Two attractions in Sarasota became more family-friendly in 2014. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art has created a kids’ play space with a three-story slide, basket swings and a splash area. The Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens introduced an elevated canopy walk, rope bridge, treehouse and waterfall. Sarasota-Bradenton won the bid for three Modern Pentathlon world cups that started in June 2014 and again take place in March 2015 and June 2016. In March 2016, the area will welcome the US Olympic Team Trials.

ARTS AND CULTURE

Although most people immediately imagine the splendid beaches of Southwest Florida, the region has a strong tradition of arts and history told in its architecture, galleries, museums and theaters. In Naples, art galleries line the downtown streets, where you will also find free exhibits at

The Caribbean Garden at Naples Botanical Garden.

NEED MORE INFO? Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau bradentongulfislands.com

Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau charlotteharbortravel.com

City of Holmes Beach holmesbeachfl.org

DeSoto County Florida Tourism Development Council visitdesoto.com

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

Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau fortmyers-sanibel.com

Visit Sarasota County visitsarasota.org

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Pick up genuine souvenirs at Village of the Arts in Bradenton.

A plein-air artist in Sarasota.

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

the von Liebig Art Center and lively performances at the Sugden Community Theatre. Artis–Naples (formerly Naples Philharmonic) brings still more performance arts and is home to the Miami City Ballet and the world-class Baker Museum. The city’s Naples Botanical Garden showcases subtropical vegetation in settings that reflect the culture of Brazil, the Caribbean, Asia, Florida and beyond. On a more somber note, the Holocaust Museum and Education Center of Southwest Florida presents collections and stories related to the Holocaust and other genocides. Year-round, Naples hosts art shows including downtown’s prestigious Naples National Art Festival in February, the Mercato Fine Arts Festival in March and the ArtsNaples World Festival in May. The art scene in Fort Myers centers around its downtown historic River District, where Art Walk takes place the first Friday of the month and Music Walk the third Friday. The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center and Arcade Theatre, home to the nationally acclaimed Florida Rep, both occupy historic buildings with distinctive period architecture. The Southwest Florida Museum of History dwells in a former-life train depot. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is one of Southwest Florida’s finest historic gems. A handful of art galleries completes downtown’s artistic landscape. Downtown Punta Gorda’s riverfront architecture recalls the boom years of the late 19th century with Victorian mansions, handsome government buildings and colorful vernacular homes. Browse the galleries of the Visual Arts

Center (VAC) and stroll the gardens and historic structures of Punta Gorda History Park. VAC hosts a popular Peace River National Art Festival in March and other art shows and special exhibits throughout the year. Sarasota arguably holds the loftiest reputation for the arts in these parts, stemming from the influence of the Ringling family, whose circus wintered here. It exerted an Italianate influence on local architecture and the arts, culminating in the Ca’ d’Zan mansion on the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art grounds. Seeded with John Ringling’s own collection of Rubens and baroque art, the museum’s collection covers 500 years of European art and specializes in late-medieval and Renaissance Italian works. The grounds also hold its famed circus museums and beautiful bayfront gardens. The complex’s Asolo Performing Arts Center contributes to Sarasota’s rich theatrical tradition, which ranges from new plays at the Florida Studio Theatre to Broadway shows at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to resemble a scallop shell. For a driving tour of other architectural gems, including examples of the vaunted Sarasota School of Architecture, pick up a copy of the Tour Sarasota Architecture guide at visitors’ centers. Galleries fill the Sarasota–Bradenton area, which boasts two artists’ colonies—Towles Court near downtown Sarasota and Village of the Arts in Bradenton. The colonies and downtown Sarasota schedule monthly gallery walks where you can meet the artists.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; VISITSARASOTA.ORG; VANESSA RODGERS/BRADENTON AREA CVB; LEE COUNTY VCB; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

A night out at the Opera in Sarasota.


Bradenton’s history dates back to Hernando de Soto, and a national historic site and annual De Soto Heritage Festival in April recall his first landfall in these parts. Another historic sight, the Gamble Mansion, pays tribute to the city’s sugar plantation era.

Other superlative beach qualities: Captiva Island and Lovers Key State Park are often listed in the most romantic category; Siesta Key’s sand is famously soft and blindingly white so don’t forget to pack the shades.

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

BEACHES

JANUARY & FEBRUARY

Known for its trophy beaches, Southwest Florida has been winning awards for years. In 2014, Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. Dr. Beach, rated two of Naples’ beaches—Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park—at No. 2 and 10 respectively in his annual best US beaches ranking. In 2014’s TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards for Best Beaches, two Sarasota favorites placed in the top 25—Siesta Key Public Beach at No. 3 and Lido Beach, No. 22. What do travelers, and particularly families, find so endearing about local beaches? Their soft, white sand, gently sloping sea bottom and totfriendly waves are some of the reasons. Certain beach destinations, furthermore, have reputations for distinctive characteristics, such as the seashell overload on Sanibel Island and sharks’ teeth findings in Venice. The best shelling beaches on Sanibel include Bowman’s Beach and offshore Cayo Costa, which is accessible only by boat. A number of charters will take you there to pick up shells. In Venice, head to the fishing pier at Brohard Beach to sift for sharks’ teeth in the sand.

Edison Festival of Light, Fort Myers

FEBRUARY Everglades Seafood Festival, Everglades City

MARCH Manatee Heritage Days, Bradenton Mercato Fine Arts Festival, Naples Old Florida Festival, Naples Peace River National Art Festival, Punta Gorda

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

APRIL–MAY ArtsNaples World Festival

MAY Anna Maria Island Wedding Festival

Fort Myers Beach is handicap accessible.

JUNE Sarasota Music Festival

JULY Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix, Sarasota

SEPTEMBER Culinaria Restaurant Weeks, Bradenton

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

NOVEMBER American Sand Sculpting Championships, Fort Myers Beach Sarasota Chalk Festival

DECEMBER Bradenton Blues Festival

Shore fishing at Delnor-Wiggins State Park. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA The perfect setting for a romantic evening on the Paradise Coast.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE

NOVEMBER 11–DECEMBER 28

SOUTH PACIFIC JANUARY 6–APRIL 11

14-15 SE ASON

THE MATCHMAKER JANUARY 14–MARCH 1

GOOD PEOPLE JANUARY 21–APRIL 12

BOTH YOUR HOUSES

MARCH 11-APRIL 19

OUR BETTERS

PHOTO: NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

The downtown Naples scene is a gourmet banquet that deserves serious noshing. Go casual and waterfront at Riverwalk, or dress up for fine dining at Mediterranean-vibe Sea Salt. Come dark, things heat up along Fifth Avenue South, particularly on weekends and during Evening on Fifth, the second Thursday of each month October through May. The Mercato center in North Naples is also known for its vast variety of restaurants, lively clubs and shops. Try MASA for fine Mexican or the new Rusty Bucket to watch the game and eat all-American favorites. Or do dinner and movie all-in-one with deluxe seating at Silverspot Cinema. Ford’s Garage, a local chain that takes its cues from Henry Ford’s local historic home, fixes appetites throughout the Fort Myers area. Now with

asolo

rep

MARCH 31-APRIL 26

SOTTO VOCE

In the HISTORIC ASOLO THEATER APRIL 28-MAY 24

LUCK BE A LADY:

THE ICONIC MUSIC OF FRANK LOESSER

MAY 30- JUNE 21

WOODY SEZ:

THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF WOODY GUTHRIE

ONE OF AMERICA’S LEADING REGIONAL THEATRES

In Sarasota, next to the Ringling Museum on US 41

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

ASOLO REPERTORY THEATRE

941-351-8000 // 800-361-8388 | AsoloRep.org


SEARCH THE RINGLING

Find art from the masters to the moderns. The joy of performance in a jewel box theater. A miniature circus and big top thrills. A Circus King’s mansion on the Bay. Secret gardens and gnomes. Find yourself at Florida’s State Art Museum. Find yourself here.

ringling.org


SOUTHWEST FLORIDA A royal poinciana-lined street in Naples.

three locations including downtown, it touts its gourmet burgers and craft beers. Other don’t-miss restaurants in and around Fort Myers include Yabo for Italian-based contemporary cuisine, CRaVE for updated comfort food, and Fancy’s for inspired southern cuisine. Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille serves tropical cuisine based on the popular eponymous murder-mystery novels by bestselling

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local author Randy Wayne White on Sanibel and Captiva islands and Fort Myers Beach. Downtown Punta Gorda’s reputation for modern cuisine grows stronger with such recent additions as Trabue and Opus Restaurant and longtime favorites The Perfect Caper and Dean’s South of the Border Cantina. For dinner with a view, head out to the islands to experience South

Beach Bar & Grille on Gasparilla Island and Gulf View Grille on Englewood Beach. 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 such as Yoder’s in the community of Pinecraft to


rustic fish houses, New Pass Grill & Bait Shop and Casey Key Fish House. Upscale originals include Derek’s Rustic, Coastal Cuisine, Café L’Europe, Euphemia Haye and Libby’s Café, to name a few. Nightlife runs the gamut from funky clubs with live music on Siesta Key and Bradenton Beach to a well-developed calendar of symphony, jazz and other highbrow entertainment in Sarasota and Venice.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: PAMELA MCCREIGHT/SHUTTERSTOCK; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT

Some of the best of what Southwest Florida has to offer families lies in the great outdoors. In Everglades City, you can find any number of tours and charters to motor you into the wilderness to spot alligators, raccoons, bald eagles and big pink birds with long, round-tipped bills called roseate spoonbills. Everglades National Park conducts ranger- and naturalist-narrated boat and paddling tours throughout the year. Private charters take you back-bay fishing or zip you along the so-called “River of Grass” on noisy, thrilling airboats. At Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours, you can tour by airboat or bigtired swamp buggy and visit hundreds of ’gators and other animals in captivity. 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. The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning

Center introduces kids to local ecology with hands-on exhibits and outdoor trails. Other nature interactive experiences await you at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center, Naples Zoo and the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (also known as C’mon). Naples is also known for its superlative golfing opportunities; USA TODAY readers voted it No. 5 among the top 10 US golfing destinations. Besides playing lush, natural golf courses, families can get their game on at various golf schools in the area.

In Fort Myers, the name of the game is baseball. Two major league teams—the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox—play their spring league games in March and early April at Hammond Stadium and JetBlue Park, respectively. In summer, the Fort Myers Miracle plays and hosts youth baseball camps. At local parks, kids can do everything from free-falling down a waterslide (Sun Splash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral), extreme biking (Strausser BMX Sports Complex in Cape Coral), riding a mini-railroad train (Lakes

Florida’s Southwest hwest Florida’s nly M onl useum only Museum ted exc lusively devoted exclusively e ivity, pl ay & to creat creativity, play discovery. di d scovery. Daily & weekly programs e in science, history, arts, re music, health, culture, ki & more life skills h festivals and Monthly events ts 38,000 00 square foot Museum eu with interactive it exhibits Fully accessible a regardless d of physical or learning in abilities

www.CMON.org C .org (239) 9) 514-0084 8 84 15080 Livingston Rd, Naples,, FLL 34109 North Collier Regional Parkk (1.5 miles mi from from I-75) Open daily 10am-5pm, Sundayy 11am-4pm 1a *Closed Wednesdays Starting ting Januar January nu y 2015 Waterfront dining on Lido Beach in Venice. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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Scoot around the islands in Southwest Florida.

FEATURED LINKS A Beach Retreat abeachretreat.com

Arcade Theatre floridarep.org

Artis–Naples

artisnaples.org

Asolo Repertory Theatre asolorep.org

Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary corkscrew.audubon.org

Bell Tower Shops

thebelltowershops.com

Bradenton Riverwalk

realizebradenton.com/index-php/riverwalk

Conservancy of Southwest Florida conservancy.org

De Soto National Memorial nps.gov/deso

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park floridastateparks.org/delnorwiggins

Dome Flea & Farmers’ Market thedomefleamarket.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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Don’t miss the new Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, where kids can hike among the treetops. Sarasota Jungle Gardens gets them up close to giant tortoises, snakes and lots of birds. They can even hand-feed pink flamingoes. Bradenton’s Cortez community retains its feel of an Old Florida fishing village with a working waterfront and maritime museum. A number of charter boats depart from the docks to take you deep sea or back-bay fishing. Plan on dining at the Star Fish Company before or after your excursion.

Fifth Avenue South

fifthavenuesouth.com

Flamingo Island Flea Market flamingoisland.com

Fleamasters Fleamarket fleamall.com

Florida Tracks and Trails floridatracksandtrails.com

Fort Myers River District myriverdistrict.com

Gamble Plantation Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/gambleplantation

Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples cmon.org

Hernando DeSoto Historical Society desotohq.com

Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa coconutpoint.hyatt.com

Inn on 5th

innonfifth.com

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

ROAD TRIPS 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 through Fort Myers Beach, Lovers Key and Bonita Beach and another from Anna Maria Island through Lido Key are particularly representative of island life. For glimpses of wildlife, try W.J. Janes Memorial Scenic Drive in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park or Loop Road in the Everglades. To delve into Southwest Florida’s rural, smalltown character, plan day trips to Goodland on Marco Island, Pine Island near Fort Myers, Babcock Ranch outside Punta Gorda, Boca Grande near Port Charlotte, and Palmetto across the river from Bradenton. To its east, Sarasota and Punta Gorda lay claim to a number of small organic and other farms you can visit.

Jensen’s Island Resorts & Marina gocaptiva.com/marina-services.htm

Key West Express

seakeywestexpress.com

Lido Beach Resort

lidobeachresort.com

Lovers Key State Park floridastateparks.org/loverskey

Marco Island Lakeside Inn marcoislandlakeside.com

Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa marcoislandmarriott.com

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens selby.org

Mercato

mercatoshops.com

Miromar Outlets

miromaroutlets.com

Mitchell’s SandCastles mitchellsandcastles.com

Modern Pentathlon sbpentathlon.com

MOSH Planetarium moshplanetarium.com

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium mote.org

Naples Bay Resort naplesbayresort.com

Naples Botanical Garden naplesgarden.org

Naples Outlet Center premiumoutlets.com/naples

PHOTO: TOM SHELBY/BRADENTON AREA CVB

Regional Park in Fort Myers), fishing from a pier (Lynn Hall Memorial Park in Fort Myers Beach), and looking for manatees in the wild (Manatee Park in Fort Myers). Must-see wild places to commune with wildlife include J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, which offers free guided tours and programs, and Six Mile Cypress Preserve in Fort Myers, which also conducts guided tours of its boardwalk. To see animals in captivity, visit the Shell Factory & Nature Park in North Fort Myers, where kids can also play in its fun park. C.R.O.W. (Care and Rehabilitation of Wildlife) on Sanibel Island provides families state-of-the-art, interactive experiences that teach about wildlife and the work the clinic does to help injured and orphaned animals. The Sarasota Children’s Garden takes families on an old-fashioned magical fantasy of dress-up, maze discovery, and play gardens where pirate ships, dragons and an octopus lurk. The Circus Arts Conservatory offers the entire family a chance to watch circus artists perform amazing feats in this fabulous and affordable production. Don’t miss Mote Marine Laboratory on Lido Key, where you can meet Hugh and Buffett, the resident manatees, and see tanks full of sharks, striped burr fish, loggerhead sea turtles and a host of other marine creatures. Visit another locally famous manatee, 66-year-old Snooty, at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.


MIROMAR OUTLETS

®

Wher here else can you buy so much for so little?

VOTED V OTED THE BEST EST SHOPPING MALL ALL & BEST FAC FACTORY TOR RY Y OUTLET OUTLET MALL IN SOUT SOUTHWEST OUTHWEST FLORIDA

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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Relaxing in Naples.

If you’re looking for unique buys, there’s plenty of that in Southwest Florida. In Naples, galleries fill the downtown Fifth Street South and Third Avenue South districts. At the latter, buy your designer labels at Marissa

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. Birding is best fall through spring and at low tides. Ride your bike to the beaches of Sanibel Island to avoid fees. Sarasota beaches offer free parking. 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 (year-round) or on Marco Island (seasonal) for a relaxing 3.5-hour ride (versus a four- to five-hour drive) to Florida’s southernmost point.

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Collections. On a budget? Look for like-new castoffs in the area’s consignment shops. The Bell Tower Shops, an open-air lifestyle center in Fort Myers, features more than 35 retailers, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bed Bath & Beyond, Chico’s, Banana Republic, The Fresh Market and more, as well as 11 restaurants and a 20-screen cinema. It’s also home to Crowne Plaza Hotel & Suites and Homewood Suites, and there’s a free shuttle service on-site for your added convenience. 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. In Sarasota, the Mall at University Town Center opened in fall 2014 featuring Saks Fifth Avenue, Dillard’s and Macy’s as anchors for its name-brand shops and such recognizable restaurants as Seasons 52, the Cheesecake Factory and The Capital Grille. For genuine local souvenirs, head to the artist villages—Matlacha on Pine Island near Fort Myers, Towles Court in Sarasota, and Village of the Arts in Bradenton. Watch for news of art walk events in downtown Sarasota and Fort Myers.

Bargain-seekers head to the factory outlet malls: Naples Outlet Center, Miromar Outlets in Estero, Tanger Outlets in Fort Myers and Ellenton Premium Outlets near Bradenton. Or check out these flea markets: Flamingo Island Flea Market in Bonita Springs, Fleamasters Fleamarket in Fort Myers, Sun Flea Market in Port Charlotte, the Dome Flea & Farmers’ Market in Venice and Red Barn Flea Market in Bradenton.

SPAS Contrary to many resorts these days, fine resorts in Southwest Florida devote special attention to their spas, rather than adding them on as an afterthought. In the Naples area, you will find stand-alone spas at the Marco Island Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa; the Ritz-Carlton Naples; the Waldorf-Astoria Naples; and Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club. The Ritz spa contains its own healthy café, =H2O+, which offers cooking classes January through April. The Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs boasts an indoor water shiatsu pool. The Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa in Fort Myers offers massage with

PHOTO: NAPLES, NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB

SHOPPING


ANTIQUES TO BOUTIQUES, GOLFING TO GREAT DINING, AND FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY AT RODEOS, FARM TOURS AND AN EXOTIC ANIMAL REFUGE. Reel excitement: DeSoto’s dual stock of fresh and saltwater fish makes fishing here doubly rewarding.

Take home a trophy: Local hunting preserves put sportsmen in the thick of the action—deer, wild boar and more.

Fossil frenzy: Dig into a bounty of archeological treasures so rich even the Travel Channel has taken notice. Discover fossilized shark teeth and more!

Happy campers: Spend the night under the stars in DeSoto’s stellar campgrounds where facilities range from RV to primitive.

Enjoying the water your way: Relax on a comfy boat tour or hit the water in a canoe or kayak—the Peace River is water fun just the way you want it. Named a Blueway Community by the Florida Paddling Trails Association!

Historic charm, unforgettable hospitality: With more than 400 buildings and homes on the National Register of Historic Places, DeSoto immerses visitors in turn-of-the-century architectural beauty.

More smiles per mile: Hiking, biking, horseback riding on trails and in parks across the county.

Linked In: Hone your game on our four lushly landscaped golf courses— 54 holes of outstanding golf.

Florida’s Best Small-Town Antiquing: Twenty exceptional indoor establishments, plus street vendors, spread over the heart of downtown for an antiquing experience second to none. And our monthly Antique Fair, held every 4th Saturday, brings more than 100 top-flight dealers to the city. 2nd Saturday Market: Feast on the fruits (and vegetables and crafts and more) of our labors from September through April in historic downtown Arcadia. Florida’s Oldest Rodeo: Bull riding, barrel racing provide edge-of-your-seat excitement at Arcadia’s All-Florida Rodeo, the state’s oldest and one of its most popular rodeo events.

Farm Favorite: Savor the “sweet” life of DeSoto’s citrus farming, spending the day on one of the county’s many thriving agricultural operations. A special treat for families! Lions, Tigers and Bears: DeSoto’s exotic animal refuge is a lifeline for wildlife and for humans a visit to the refuge is life-enhancing. Great Game Plans. Trip planning and more at www.visitdesoto.com

Picture perfect: Deer, foxes, birds, manatees and more make for thrilling birding and wildlife viewing.

CALL FOR MORE INFORMATION 863.491.7574 or call 855.REAL.FLA twitter.com/discoverdesoto facebook.com/discoverdesoto


SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Stay at the historic Cabbage Key Inn.

FEATURED LINKS Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens napleszoo.com

Paradise Coast Blueway paradisecoastblueway.com

Red Barn Flea Market Plaza redbarnfleamarket.com

Ritz-Carlton

ritzcarlton.com

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve rookerybay.org

Royal Shell Vacations royalshell.com

Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa marriott.com

Sarasota Bradenton International Airport srq-airport.com

Sarasota Children’s Garden sarasotachildrensgarden.com

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

sarasotajunglegardens.com

Shell Factory & Nature Park shellfactory.com

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve sloughpreserve.org

UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY The most desired rooms in Southwest Florida look out onto the beach and Gulf of Mexico, however there are plenty of other one-of-a-kind hotels, resorts and bed-and-breakfast inns that create an experience all their own. Naples Bay Resort, for instance, cusps a marina for a different brand of water view and a lifestyle focused on boating and fishing, but also has its own water park features. Inn on Fifth, on the other hand, sits squarely in the middle of downtown Naples action on Fifth Avenue South. Many of its hotel rooms and club level suites overlook the legendary street. Marco Island Lakeside Inn presents an affordable alternative to the island’s luxe Gulf resorts with a sand beach on a lake instead. Historic Everglades Rod & Gun Club in Everglades City fronts a river waterway where accommodation consists of modest cottages. For those who insist on beach accommodation, circa 1946 Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club welcomes families with a free kids’ program. Edgewater Beach Resort has three Gulf-front pools and is also family-friendly. Cottages provide some of the accommodation at one of the Fort Myers area’s more unusual

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resorts, Cabbage Key Inn. Occupying its own small island, the cottages and lodge truly take you away from it all. At the other end of the size scale, South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island is a gated property that features accommodation ranging from rooms to homes, a nine-hole golf course and miles of beach. Fishing types will love Jensen’s Twin Palm Cottages & Marina on Captiva. Sanibel Island offers a nice selection of barefootstyle beach cottage resorts, such as Gulf Breeze Cottages, Castaways Beach & Bay Cottages and Mitchell’s SandCastles. Also on Sanibel Island is the ’Tween Waters Inn Island Resort. Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande is one of the oldest surviving properties in Southwest Florida. Built in 1913 for wealthy industrialists who came to winter and fish for tarpon, this grande dame is a full-service property with golf facilities, a beach club and fine restaurants. In the Sarasota area, lodging ranges from the no-frills beachfront rooms at Lido Beach Resort and A Beach Retreat in Nokomis to the grandeur of the Ritz-Carlton, which shuttles you to the beach. The Resort at Longboat Key Club is an expansive golf and beach property. For something out of the ordinary, venture downtown for congenial hospitality and a gourmet breakfast at the Cypress B&B. For vacation home or condo rentals, contact Royal Shell Vacations, which manages more rental properties in Southwest Florida than any other company and has been voted the “Best Vacation Rental” company for the past 10 years. FL

South Florida Museum southfloridamuseum.org

South Seas Island Resort southseas.com

Southwest Florida International Airport flylcpa.com

Star Fish Company starfishcompany.com

Sun Splash Family Waterpark sunsplashwaterpark.com

Tanger Outlets

tangeroutlet.com

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum shellmuseum.org

The Circus Arts Conservatory circussarasota.org

The Cypress

cypressbb.com

The Dolphin Explorer dolphin-study.com

The Gasparilla Inn & Club the-gasparilla-inn.com

The Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida holocaustmuseumswfl.org

The Mall at University Town Center themallatuniversitytowncenter.com

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club longboatkeyclub.com

The Resort at Longboat Key Club longboatkeyclub.com

The Ringling ringling.org

The Ritz-Carlton ritz-carlton.com

Tigertail Beach tigertailbeach.net

’Tween Waters Inn Island Resort tween-waters.com

Sun Flea Market

sunfleamarket.com

The von Liebig Art Center naplesart.org

Third Street South thirdstreetsouth.com

Towles Court

towlescourt.com

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall vanwezel.org

Village of the Arts villageofthearts.com

Waldorf Astoria Naples waldorfastorianaples.com

Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours wootenseverglades.com

PHOTO: LEE COUNTY VCB

a unique BETAR (Bio Energetic Transduction Aided Resonance) bed musical and sound relaxation system. The Sarasota area’s most impressive resort spas include those at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota and The Resort at Longboat Key Club.


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The Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida makes history personal every day. Open year round, closed major holidays. For more information on upcoming exhibits and events, please visit: www.HolocaustMuseumSWFL.org

May - December Tuesday to Sunday, 1:00-4:00 pm January - April Tuesday to Friday, 12:30 - 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday 1:00 - 4:00 pm

4760 Tamiami Trail North Suite 7 Naples, Florida 34103 239.263.9200 www.HolocaustMuseumSWFL.org

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CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA

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Sunrise on the Indian River in Melbourne.

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t’s true the Central East region of Florida’s easy proximity from the world’s attraction mecca makes it a great side-trip excursion. But there is just so much to see and do in this 175-mile stretch— from beaches and natural wonders to dining and activities with a decidedly local flair—that it’s a rewarding and exciting (or relaxing, if you prefer) destination all its own.

WHAT’S NEW The new Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, an expansion of the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach, is scheduled to open in 2015. This 26,000-square-foot building will house an unprecedented permanent collection of more than 2,700 paintings of Florida, plus six changing galleries. Also in Daytona Beach, fans of the DAYTONA 500 can expect to see and experience some changes at the Daytona International Speedway, which is undergoing a major US$400-million reimagining, known as

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Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum near Daytona Beach.

DAYTONA Rising. Everything is scheduled for completion in time for the 2016 DAYTONA 500, so stay tuned. When all is said and done, the venue will have approximately 101,000 permanent, wider and more comfortable seats, twice as many restrooms, and three times as many concession stands.

FROM TOP LEFT: JESSE KUNERTH/SHUTTERSTOCK; DAYTONA BEACH AREA CVB

ARTS AND CULTURE The Fish House Art Center, located on the site of one of the last operating commercial fish houses on Florida’s east coast, is five miles south of downtown Stuart. In addition to collections of American fine art and crafts, the center is home to eight resident artists who invite you to watch them create works of glass, fine art, silk, weavings and beaded jewelry. Stroll the “PocketWalk” to get a feel for this unique artists’ community. The free Stuart Heritage Museum preserves the heritage, artifacts and history of Stuart, Martin County and its surrounding communities. Countless relics housed by the museum are on display daily from 10 AM to 3 PM. 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 the infamous landing at Omaha Beach during World War II. Located on the shoreline of the beautiful Indian River Lagoon, the Maritime & Classic Boat Museum in Jensen Beach is devoted to the collection, preservation, restoration and interpretation of the maritime and boating history of the Treasure Coast. Educational programs and exhibits, along with opportunities to restore classic boats, are all elements of the museum experience. In Vero Beach, the Hallstrom House demonstrates a bygone way of life in southern Indian River County with collections of documents, photographs, furniture and memorabilia. It’s open Monday through Friday from 1 to 4 PM and the last Saturday of each month from 1 to 4 PM. The McLarty Treasure Museum just north of Vero Beach takes you back in time with tales of an ill-fated fleet whose return to Spain turned disastrous when a hurricane struck. Situated on a survivors’ camp of the 1715

Spanish Plate Fleet, the museum features artifacts, displays and an observation deck that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Even today, salvagers work to recover gold, silver and the “Queen’s jewels” that were lost to the sea and its sandy shores. In Melbourne, the Art and Antique Studio is an artist-owned and operated gallery that features the work of 14 local artists. Their creations range from oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings to photography, pottery and woven baskets. Chat with the artists and enjoy light refreshments during a monthly First Friday Art Walk. At the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, meet real astronauts who walk the grounds and answer questions, marvel at the size and magnitude of the rockets on display in the “Rocket Garden,” crawl through a model of the International Space Station, experience the five-story screens in two IMAX theaters, and explore Angry Birds Space Encounter featuring seven exhibits for all ages. Since 2013, the complex is also the permanent home of Space

NEED MORE INFO? Brevard County Tourism Development Council brevardcounty.us/visitors

City of Fort Pierce cityoffortpierce.com

Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau daytonabeach.com

Indian River County Chamber of Commerce indianriverchamber.com

Martin County Convention & Visitors Bureau visitmartincounty.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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INSIDER’S TIP Turn off the sun, and the beach becomes a natural wonder. It also becomes the location to witness one of nature’s most ancient events: a nesting sea turtle. More than 100,000 threatened and endangered sea turtles nest on Florida beaches in June and July, so parks and environmental groups up and down the Atlantic coast organize guided nighttime turtle walks. On a typical turtle tour, visitors are led to a spot on the beach where a sea turtle is digging a hole a foot or two deep with her hind flippers. The turtle then starts filling the nest with soft-shelled eggs the size of table tennis balls. After laying her eggs, she refills the nest with sand and heads back into the ocean. The whole process takes 30 to 60 minutes. This moving, educational experience is enormously popular with Florida residents so make reservations as soon as you decide to visit. Children under the age of eight are discouraged on most walks in order to minimize disturbances to the mother-to-be. Five entities between Jensen Beach in Martin County and Titusville in Brevard County offer walks:

Shuttle Atlantis, a US$100-million attraction that covers 90,000 square feet, complete with more than 60 interactive displays. A simulator lets visitors manipulate the Canadarm, a fullscale replica of the original. Aerospace isn’t the only flight-related game on the Space Coast. The Valiant Air Command and Warbird Museum in Titusville is a nonprofit museum dedicated to America’s military and actively maintains and restores all types of aircraft that were indigenous to the world’s military Air Forces starting before WW I to the present. You can even take to the skies in the museum’s fully restored “Tico Belle,” a WW II Normandy Invasion Veteran C-47 or attend a Fly-In Breakfast (drive-ins are welcome) on the second Saturday of every month. The Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum in New Smyrna Beach houses a collection of photographs, memorabilia and artifacts on display to educate citizens and students about the history and race relations in small-town Florida over the course of the 20th century.

BEACHES Close your eyes, and picture yourself on the beach. Whether you envision yourself absorbed

into a vacuum of silence between the waves and dunes in Sebastian or surrounded by a raucous crowd in Daytona Beach, the 175-mile stretch of the Central East coast has a beach to fulfill your sandy fantasy. Every point in between offers something that lends itself to non-stop activities or peacefully relaxing with a book. If you’re searching for a unique way to experience the beach, try this. Hutchinson Island in St. Lucie County is one of the few places in Florida where you can enjoy a horseback ride on the beach. Equestrian rental operation Tours On Horseback welcomes beginners and advanced riders alike to walk and trot along a scenic threemile tour on Saturdays and Sundays. Indian River County is home to a dozen public parks between Sebastian and Vero Beach that offer access to 26 miles of unspoiled beaches. Busy full-service locations, such as Sebastian Inlet State Park (one of the best surfing sites on the eastern seaboard), have restrooms with showers, boardwalks and picnic facilities, plus a spot to launch a canoe or kayak. Other parks simply provide access to a quiet stretch of sand along the Atlantic. Stop by Jetty Park beach in Cape Canaveral and watch cargo ships, fishing boats or an occasional

Florida Power & Light Energy Encounter Jensen Beach Fridays and Saturdays in June and July Free Sebastian Inlet State Park Fishing Museum Vero Beach Every night but Wednesday and Thursday in June and July (no walk July 4) Free Sea Turtle Conservancy Melbourne Beach First week of June through the first week of August US$15 PHOTO: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES

Sea Turtle Preservation Society Melbourne Beach, Satellite Beach June and July US$10 Canaveral National Seashore Apollo Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Playalinda Beach, Titusville June and July US$14; free for children 15 and younger Spend a lazy day at the beach in Fort Pierce. 100

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CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA

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Family fun on the Boardwalk in Daytona Beach.


Nature trail at the Cape Canaveral National Seashore.

Waterfront dining in Fort Pierce.

FESTIVALS & EVENTS JANUARY Frog Leg Festival, Fellsmere Jensen Beach Fine Art & Craft Show Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Titusville Treasure Coast Pirate Fest, Fort Pierce

FEBRUARY DAYTONA 500, Daytona Beach Downtown Festival of the Arts, Stuart

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: DAYTONA BEACH AREA CVB; JESSE KUNERTH/SHUTTERSTOCK; ST. LUCIE COUNTY TOURISM OFFICE

Merritt Island Pioneer Day

MARCH Bike Week, Daytona Beach Under the Oaks Art Show, Vero Beach DeLand Outdoor Art Festival

US Navy vessel float out to sea. Chances are good that you’ll also witness a giant cruise ship embarkation, because this is the second-busiest cruise port in the world. Canaveral National Seashore in Titusville is 25 miles of undeveloped barrier island, which preserves the natural beach, dune, marsh and lagoon habitats for many species of birds on Florida’s Space Coast. Year-round recreation includes fishing, boating, canoeing, surfing, sunbathing, swimming, hiking, camping, nature and historical trails. Head a little north and end up at New Smyrna Beach’s Ponce Inlet, whose waves call to surfers living in nearby, but sadly landlocked Orlando. There’s something nostalgic about a boardwalk beach experience. The Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier juts out over the sand and sea of the “World’s Most Famous Beach,” and offers a lively mix of food and fun.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE The Pelican Café in the historic district of downtown Stuart offers casual waterfront dining with its own soft-sand beach and deck seating. Bring your own sand toys because little ones (two-legged and even the four-legged) are welcome to cavort on the shores of the St. Lucie River while the older set enjoys the open-air setting and traditional seafood fare. Burgers and salads complete the menu. The restaurant closes during the winter if winds exceed 20 mph and temperatures plummet into the mid to low 70s. Between Vero Beach and Fort Pierce, Endless Summer Vineyard & Winery is a one-of-a-kind sun-and surf-boutique winery featuring handcrafted, award-winning Florida wines. Swirl your glass on the handmade wine barrel-tasting bar amidst vintage surfboards and the oldest (1910) boogie board known in existence, or stroll outside through the vineyard and festival area that showcases

APRIL New Smryna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest Easter Surfing Festival, Cocoa Beach Fort Pierce Oyster Festival

MAY Stuart Sailfish Regatta

SEPTEMBER Rivertown Craft Fair, DeLand

OCTOBER Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach

NOVEMBER DeLand Original Music Festival Halifax Art Festival, Daytona Beach

DECEMBER St. Johns River Christmas Boat Parade, DeLand

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The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the permanent home of Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Cypress Lake. The Driftwood Resort, established in the early 1900s, is a two-story pirate’s nightmare of a hotel with shifting levels and crammed with a mish-mash of objects. For those for whom an overnight stay would be overwhelming (kids love it), a temporary visit to the property’s restaurant might be just the ticket. Waldo’s serves traditional seafood fare along with wraps, salads and burgers. Cocoa Beach’s blues and music bar, the Beach Shack has long been a local and visitor favorite for good times and soulful music. Located directly on the beach, this mainstay is open daily and features live music nightly. JB’s Fish Camp & Restaurant, on the waters of the Canaveral National Seashore at the south end of New Smyrna Beach, is a favorite with locals, most of whom arrive by boat. It’s so much more than a seafood restaurant, with a full bar, live music and indoor/outdoor seating. Kids can see manatees, dolphins and plenty of exotic shore birds right from the dock, and if they want to fish but forgot a pole at home, they can just rent one! You can even arrange to rent a kayak, take a pontoon boat cruise or hook up with a fishing guide. The camp offers the freshest seafood (literally—it grows its own clams) and is practically next door to the Canaveral National Seashore Park, where after lunch you can climb up Turtle Mound, a Calusa Indian archaeological site.

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Take a break from the beach and spend an afternoon with art, history and technology. The Elliott Museum in Stuart hosts a dynamic and interactive collection of antique automobiles, vintage boats, an impressive baseball collection, and a deep trove of Treasure Coast histories and stories that’s sure to delight all ages. Board the Sunshine Lady from her dock in Stuart for a guided tour of the Indian River Lagoon and its wildlife residents, which include bottlenose dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and a vast array of birds. She even packs a plankton and zooplankton net to fill discovery scopes for a view of life in the ocean. Sunshine Wildlife Tours guides point out the mangroves and the seagrass beds that are responsible for sustaining life in the estuary and discuss the importance of maintaining the fragile balance of this ecosystem. Scheduling your visit early in the year? From January through April you can explore the historical significance of Florida’s citrus industry at Al’s Family Farms in Fort Pierce. A guided tour takes you through a working wet-line and packinghouse. Also in Fort Pierce, the St. Lucie County Aquarium features the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit, providing a window into the underwater worlds of the Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean. Nearly 8,000

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CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; DAYTONA BEACH AREA CVB

a landscaped pond and romantic swings. You can even feed fish and turtles from a covered dock surrounded by a 10-acre muscadine vineyard. In Vero Beach, right on the Atlantic Ocean sits an extraordinary and somewhat startling structure built of cypress logs and pecky-cypress paneling from the swamps around Blue


Surf fishing at Daytona Beach.

FEATURED LINKS Al’s Family Farms alsfamilyfarms.com

Art & Antique Studio & Gallery artandantiquestudio.com

Barrier Island Sanctuary brevardcounty.us/EELProgram/Areas/ BarrierIslandSanctuary

Beach Shack beachshackbar.com

Brevard Museum of History & Natural Science brevardmuseum.com

Canaveral National Seashore nps.gov/cana

Capt. Hiram’s Resort hirams.com

Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art moas.org/ciciandhyattbrownmuseum.html

Cocoa Beach Kayaking

gallons of aquariums and a touch tank allow visitors the opportunity to appreciate the region’s beautiful and fragile ecosystems. Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum in Sebastian is a favorite with kids and adults alike. Displays of salvaged coins and weapons from a Spanish fleet, wrecked off the coast in 1715, tell the story of a time long ago. The Brevard Museum of History & Natural Science in Cocoa Beach traces Brevard County’s natural history from the days of the woolly mammoths and saber-tooth cats to the modern era of rockets and space shuttles. This museum also includes a butterfly garden, a 19.5-acre nature preserve, nature trails and a covered pavilion with picnic tables. Kayaking is all the rage, and it’s the perfect wedding of Mother Nature and relaxation. Cocoa Beach Kayaking guided ecotours take you on an exploration of the pristine Thousand Islands of Cocoa Beach as you paddle at a leisurely pace through a mangrove estuary located in the Indian River Lagoon, home of bottlenose dolphins, endangered manatees and incredible Florida bird life. Are you among the super adventurous? One of the busiest drop zones in the world is Skydive DeLand, which operates out of the DeLand Municipal Airport in Volusia County.

Those with a milder thrill gene can take a tandem jump attached to an experienced skydiver. Or simply watch the action from an observation deck or from your perch at the Perfect Spot Restaurant and Bar. The Daytona International Speedway isn’t just home to the DAYTONA 500, it’s a yearround destination of exhibits and experiences. A guided tour lets you explore the NASCAR Sprint Cup garages, check out the drivers’ meeting room, and even get a close-up look at the champion DAYTONA 500 car. Or, indulge in the ultimate fan experience and jump in the fast lane for a Richard Petty Driving Experience during which you sit shotgun with a driver or grab the wheel and drive yourself. There’s even an experience for kids who are at least 48 inches tall.

ROAD TRIPS The Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail moves through the City of Fort Pierce in a chronological representation of Hurston’s impact on St. Lucie County. Kiosks and trail markers indicate important sites, such as the Seven Gables House, Garden of Heavenly Rest and the former Fort Pierce Chronicle headquarters. Enjoy a bus tour of the trail and peek inside the Zora Neale Hurston House.

cocoabeachkayaking.com

Daytona International Speedway daytonainternationalspeedway.com

DAYTONA Rising daytonarising.com

Elliott Museum elliottmuseumfl.org

Endless Summer Vineyard & Winery endlesssummerwine.com

Fish House Art Center fishhouseartcenter.com

Florida Farmers’ Markets Directory farmersmarketonline.com/fm/Florida.htm

Florida Power & Light Energy Encounter floridawildlifeviewing.com/florida_sea_turtles/ FloridaPowerLight.htm

Friends of Sebastian Inlet State Park friendsofsebastianinletstatepark.org

Hallstrom House irchistorical.org

Holly Bluff Marina hollybluff.com

JB’s Fish Camp & Restaurant jbsfishcamp.com

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex kennedyspacecenter.com

Mainstreet DeLand Association mainstreetdeland.org

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CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Take in beautiful scenery and wildlife at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Titusville.

Indulge at the Ocean Waters Spa at Plaza Resort and Spa in Daytona Beach.

The Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Highway moves through an estuary that provides habitat to more species than anywhere in North America. The 166-mile loop along Florida’s Space Coast starts at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and draws history buffs, as well as nature lovers. A 14-mile drive along A1A starting at Turtle Mound in New Smyrna Beach and ending at Canaveral National Seashore bisects a narrow finger of land, bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other side by the sheltered Mosquito Lagoon marsh and islands. The drive dead-ends at an undeveloped barrier beach historic site, once a federal House of Refuge for shipwreck victims. Features include abundant marine animals and birds, a walk to a ghost town and a boardwalk climb up a 50-foot mound left by a Paleo-Indian culture, considered the largest remaining Native American mound in the nation—and among the most ancient.

SHOPPING Discover an endless source of homegrown foods and handmade crafts at one of the area’s many open-air farmers’ markets. Items such as fresh produce, local honey, regional delicacies and folk art are presented by their makers at markets up and down the Central East region— from the Stuart Green Market in Martin County to New Smyrna Beach Farmers’ Market in Volusia County. Looking for deals? At the Vero Beach Outlets you can count on discounts of up to 65 percent on iconic brands, such as Coach, Dooney & Bourke, Polo Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Williams-Sonoma and much more. Shoppers who are 55-plus receive additional discounts on Tuesdays, and a complimentary

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trolley service makes getting from one end of the venue to the other a breezy break. The beach isn’t just a location, it’s a lifestyle! Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach is 52,000 square feet of everything you could possibly need for a day, a week or a lifetime at the beach. It’s the world’s largest surf shop, and its rental facility offers surfboards, beach bikes, paddleboards, beach chairs and more. Downtown DeLand in Volusia County is a charming collection of eclectic shops, unique restaurants with sidewalk dining and antique stores. It is located just minutes from the brick buildings and giant oak trees of Stetson University, and the entire main street section can be covered in an afternoon of easy walking. You might even catch one of the nighttime shopping and live music events held during the summer.

SPAS Sandpiper Bay Florida Club Med, in Port St. Lucie, is home to the only Club Med Spa by L’Occitane in the US. Its 6,000 square feet of renowned pampering is for anyone seeking to rediscover life’s balance with healthy, nourishing experiences for face, body and spirit. Indulge on a journey to a serene oasis at the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, where nurturing therapies offered by the tranquil White Orchid Spa will inspire and renew. Even the manliest of men will enjoy the facility’s specialty gentlemen’s services, and all can benefit from customized modalities designed to banish tension from the body and stress from the mind. In Daytona Beach, the 100-year-old Plaza Resort and Spa is lovely and restful, but possibly haunted! Local legend has it that a previous guest frequents the hallways and hangs out in the bar. Its Ocean Waters Spa uti-

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; NEW SMYRNA BEACH AREA VISITORS BUREAU; ARTO HAKOLA/SHUTTERSTOCK; MARTIN COUNTY CVB

Shopping in New Smyrna Beach.


lizes Pevonia Botanica products and offers seven categories of treatments to make your beach vacation soar from pleasant to heavenly.

UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY Florida is one of the most-visited places on the planet, so naturally there are as many accommodation choices as stars in the sky. Here are a few unique lodging options within the Central East region. The Old Colorado Inn in Stuart offers studios, suites and a charming cottage within a few hundred feet of the St. Lucie River. Its whimsical, tropical vibe is just a short walk from waterfront dining, shopping and entertainment at the historic Lyric Theater. For a taste of Old Florida, try the River Palm Cottages & Fish Camp. This collection of 25 colorful cottages on the western bank of the Indian River Lagoon sits amid lush tropical palms and native plants. Hammocks hanging aplenty throughout the peaceful grounds make it seem like you’re worlds away, however nearby Jensen Beach offers plenty to see and do. If golf is your thing, then swing into the Perfect Drive Golf Villas in Port St. Lucie. Villas and hotel-style guest suites are located within walking distance of PGA Village, which includes the PGA Museum of Golf, PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance and many nearby courses. Of course, Port St. Lucie’s 21 miles of white-sand beaches are

nearby, if you need a break. Mix sea breeze with laid-back Florida river lifestyle, and you’ve got the Inn at Capt. Hiram’s Resort in Sebastian. This lively, local-favored complex sits on the Indian River, which is narrowly separated from the Atlantic by a thin barrier island. Chill in a hammock (until the live music starts) on your private patio, rent a canoe or kayak or head to the beach. If you seek beachfront charm, the luxurious Windemere Inn by the Sea in Indialantic is just steps from the Atlantic Ocean and claims its own private beach. If you’re whipped from a day of sun and sea, visit the Nest for a massage before retiring to one of the property’s 11 guest rooms. Bed-and-breakfast inns are not just for New England when the leaves turn. The Old Pineapple Inn in the heart of Eau Gallie Art District in Melbourne is a fully-restored threestory Victorian home within walking distance to the Brevard Art Museum. Naturally, the beaches of Melbourne are just a short drive away. How about a place on the water, literally? Holly Bluff Marina in Volusia County offers multi-bed houseboat rentals that allow you to cruise mile after mile on the St. Johns River, where manatees graze on shore grasses. And don’t worry . . . complete training on operating the houseboat is provided. Swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, fishing and hiking can all be part of the plan. FL

FEATURED LINKS Maritime & Classic Boat Museum mcbmfl.org

Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum blackheritagemuseum.org

Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum melfisher.com/Sebastian/Sebastian_Museum.asp

Old Colorado Inn oldcoloradoinn.com

Perfect Drive Golf Villas at PGA Village perfectdriveatpgavillage.com

River Palm Cottages & Fish Camp riverpalmcottages.com

Ron Jon Surf Shop ronjonsurfshop.com

Sandpiper Bay Florida Club Med sandpiperbay.clubmed.us

Sea Turtle Preservation Society seaturtlespacecoast.org

Skydive DeLand skydivedeland.com

Stuart Heritage Museum stuartheritagemuseum.com

Sunshine Wildlife Tours sunshinewildlifetours.com

The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum navysealmuseum.com

The Old Pineapple Inn oldpineappleinn.com

The Pelican Café and Beach pelicancafeandbeach.com

The Plaza Historic Beach Resort & Spa plazaresortandspa.com

The St. Lucie County Aquarium stlucieco.gov/marine_center.htm

The Driftwood Resort verobeachdriftwood.com

Tours On Horseback beachtoursonhorseback.com/index.html

Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum vacwarbirds.org

Vero Beach Hotel & Spa verobeachhotelandspa.com

Vero Beach Outlets verobeachoutlets.com

Waldo’s waldosvero.com

Windemere Inn by the Sea windemereinn.com Indian RiverSide Park is a premier family destination located on Jensen Beach in Martin County. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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ENDLESS RECREATION

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nown for its endless outdoor recreation, the West Volusia Region encompasses 14 distinct communities between Orlando and Daytona Beach, drawing families to its diversity of vacation experiences.

MUST SEE...MUST DO TripAdvisor recently recognized the Stetson Mansion in DeLand as the “Most Popular Tourist Attraction in Florida.” As the Sunshine State’s first luxury home, it was built in 1886 by famed hat maker John B. Stetson. Now meticulously restored, tours are offered year-round on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the streets of Downtown DeLand, historic, architecturally rich buildings house boutiques, antique stores, galleries and gift shops, interspersed with sidewalk cafés and restaurants. Take a self-guided walking tour past sculptures, murals and historic plaques scattered throughout town. For a keener sense of West Volusia’s history, visit the Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts in nearby Barberville, established in 1763 as a trading post on the west side of the St. Johns River. Springs and their crystal-clear temperate waters, wildlife and lush landscapes are major draws in West Volusia. Blue Spring State Park in Orange City is known as the official winter home to more than 250 manatees. Strategically placed observation decks offer excellent viewing vantages. Swim, snorkel or float on an inner tube down the natural lazy river.

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Blue Spring State Park is a great place to swim, snorkel or float on an inner tube.

At De Leon Springs State Park, once home to Native American groups more than 6,000 years ago and plantations in the 1800s, you’ll find the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant where you can cook your own pancakes right at your table. After getting your fill, board the Fountain of Youth ECO/History Tour Boat. Beyond the springs, the St. Johns River offers family adventure. Learn about its rich history on a scenic two-hour narrated river cruise. The river served as the first highway for tourists in the late 1800s; resorts and fish camps still line the riverbanks and offer laid-back accommodation oozing southern charm.

RETAIL THERAPY Feel the New England-southern vibe in the area’s boutiques, antique stores and galleries. Backhome Antiques has been selling the best antiques here for more than 20 years. For unique and unusual gifts by Florida artists, stop by Wolfe’s Gallery.

INSIDER’S TIP People from around the world gather for readings, healings and seances at the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, a mystical 119-year-old community in West Volusia. Browse the shops on the tree-lined cobblestone streets and consult with a medium along the way. FL

LIVE IT UP For gourmet food and exceptional wine selections, try the new Sinatra’s Downtown Ristorante at Artisan Downtown. Great-tasting craft beers and ciders and fresh homemade food are yours at the newly opened Persimmon Hollow Brewing Company. There are so many reasons to dine indoors or out at the critically acclaimed and globally inspired Cress Restaurant in DeLand, featuring locally sourced menu items. Chef Hari Pulapaka is a three-time James Beard semi-finalist for Best Chef South and a two-time Food & Wine Magazine nominee for top 100 People’s Best New Chef. This dining establishment was also rated the top restaurant in Central Florida by the Zagat Orlando Guide and honored by the food editor of the Orlando Sentinel as the Best Overall Restaurant in Central Florida.

FEATURED LINKS West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority VisitWestVolusia.com

Blue Spring State Park floridastateparks.org/bluespring

Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp cassadaga.org

Cress Restaurant cressrestaurant.com

De Leon Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/deleonsprings

Persimmon Hollow Brewing persimmonhollowbrewing.com

Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts pioneersettlement.org

Sinatra’s Downtown Ristorante sinatras.us

Stetson Mansion stetsonmansion.com

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House oldspanishsugarmill.com

PHOTO: VISIT WEST VOLUSIA

BY KEVIN FRITZ

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NEW SMYRNA BEACH AREA

STEEPED IN HISTORY

TÇw YâÇ BY KEVIN FRITZ

Old Fort Park in New Smyrna Beach.

indulge in fresh seafood and steaks to burgers and pasta at a pub or under a sidewalk café umbrella. At night, head to Flagler, Canal Street, Third Avenue and beyond for the local vibe.

troll historic Canal Street, or walk hand-in-hand in the surf on New Smyrna Beach’s 13 miles of white sand. This quintessential family getaway offers first-class fishing, golf, cultural events, two tenweek beach festivals, and eclectic shopping and dining. Known for its Bohemian soul and award-winning beaches, it’s no surprise so many visitors choose New Smyrna Beach as their go-to Florida destination.

MUST SEE...MUST DO Few realize New Smyrna Beach is the second oldest city in Florida. Once the largest British colonization attempt in the New World, the area is steeped in history. More than 30 historical sites continue to intrigue visitors, including the Sugar Mill Ruins, Old Fort Park, Eldora State House and the nearby Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. A walk through the Canal Street Historic District is a step back in time; be sure to check out the New Smyrna Museum of History. Known as one of the top 100 small art towns in America, New Smyrna Beach is said to be a city that celebrates art with a whole heart. Browse around The Hub on Canal, which provides a home and gallery space for working artists. The Atlantic Center for the Arts draws aspiring artists to learn from accomplished peers.

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RETAIL THERAPY

The beaches are the main attraction for relaxing and swimming, or surfing some of the best waves on the Eastern seaboard. For 10 weeks each spring and fall, Beach Weeks embraces water- and beach-based activities, music, food, drink and cultural events, summoning all comers who love the beach life. Like to fish? Surf fishing is renowned in this redfish capital of the world and boating on the Intracoastal Waterway is always a wonderful family adventure. New Smyrna Beach is synonymous with lively and fun events. Join a Gallery and Wine Walk, or visit the Weekly Farmers’ Market.

LIVE IT UP When hunger strikes, the area features more than 150 nosh options. Many sit directly on the water’s edge, including the venerable JB’s Fish Camp. Along Flagler Avenue, Canal Street and beyond,

Pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined streets welcome shoppers to specialty boutiques and galleries. It’s no surprise Florida’s second-oldest city is a haven for antique enthusiasts. Downtown parking is free. Shop along Flagler Avenue and Canal Street and find a unique gift for that hard-to-please friend. Venture to local department and drug stores for all your necessities or the latest in Florida fashions.

INSIDER’S TIP Head out to Disappearing Island, a secluded low-tide piece of land that’s accessible only by boat. Every day, an island appears as the water recedes at the inlet. Join locals and those in the know for a day on pure sandy land. FL

FEATURED LINKS New Smyrna Beach Area Beach Weeks beachweeks.com

New Smyrna Beach Area Visitor Bureau nsbfla.com

PHOTOS: NEW SMYRNA BEACH AREA VISITOR CENTER

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Surfing off the coast of New Smyrna Beach.


NSBFLA.COM NSBFL A.COM 800.214.0166


CENTRAL FLORIDA

THE EPICENTER Éy YâÇ BY KEVIN FRITZ

g

here was a time when beaches were the only thing people associated with Florida. In droves, vacationers arrived by train and car to bask in the sun and plant their toes in the warm Sunshine State sand. Few people, especially visitors, ventured inland. That all began to change when Walt Disney bought tracts of swampland near Orlando in 1965 and began to build not only his own empire, but the most popular vacation spot in the world, now known as Central Florida. Fifty million visitors a year can’t be wrong. Currently home to an array of attractions, zoos, aquariums, thousands of restaurants and places to stay, there is more to do today in Central Florida than Walt could have ever imagined. Beyond its signature icon theme parks—Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando—the area is rich in natural attractions, with gorgeous parks, lakes and rivers that can almost make one forget about the beaches to the east and west, which are only a short car ride away if the urge strikes. Welcome to Central Florida, the epicenter of fun.

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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: VISITCENTRALFL; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES

Head over to the Lakeland area in April for SUN ’n FUN, the Annual International Fly-In & Expo.


WHAT’S NEW Resorts make vacation life seamless and hasslefree. One of the newest, Streamsong Resort in Polk County’s Fort Meade has opened its 216room luxury lodge. The 16,000-natural-acre resort situated between Orlando and Tampa features bass fishing, a sporting clays facility, a grotto-style spa and three restaurants. Guest rooms and suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the property’s lakes and natural surroundings. For attraction enthusiasts with young ones, the new DUPLO Valley at LEGOLAND Florida brings the LEGO DUPLO line of preschool building toys to life. The farm theme includes a train, mini-tractor ride and water play area. Don’t miss the new six-foot LEGO Globe built out of more than 250,000 LEGO bricks, which is part of an initiative to further educate renewable-energy use inside the park. Then meet your favorite characters. Interact and take pictures with Buddy, Max, the LEGO Friends and even Emmet from the LEGO Movie at Buddy’s Character Corner based in the historic Magnolia Mansion inside the Fun Town section of LEGOLAND Florida Resort. Feeling nostalgic? LEGOLAND Florida has reopened the Florida Pool and Oriental Gardens section of Cypress Gardens, which formerly occupied this land in Winter Haven. The pool was originally built as a set for the 1953 film, Easy to Love, starring Esther Williams.     Scheduled to open in spring 2015, the Orlando Eye, a 400-foot observation wheel on International Drive, is part of the new US$250million I-Drive 360 dining-and-entertainment complex filled with restaurants, stores and attractions, including a Sea Life Aquarium and a Madame Tussauds wax museum. At Orlando’s core three theme parks, great new adventures await. Harry Potter continues to marvel young and old alike at the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Diagon Alley situated within a replication of London in Universal Studios Florida. Diagon Alley features shops, a restaurant and a multi-dimensional thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort has opened with 1,800 moderately priced, family suites and value-priced guest rooms. Experience its 10-lane bowling alley and sand beaches. Universal Orlando has also opened

eight new dining choices at CityWalk, including the Hot Dog Hall of Fame, featuring iconic hot dog creations from famous ballparks. Join Snow White’s lovable little friends at Walt Disney World’s new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster. The Magic Kingdom also unveiled a new parade: Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade. Stay at the new Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort and enjoy a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, fullservice spa, four restaurants, an elaborate pool area and nightly views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Make your way to downtown Orlando and visit the spectacular new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in November 2014. The state-of-the-art Center is Orlando’s new home for Broadway productions, the Orlando Ballet and a gamut of concerts and special performances. See a show or just relax with some refreshments on its roomy outdoor plaza.

ARTS AND CULTURE In Highlands County, downtown Lake Placid— known as “uptown” to locals—has preserved its history with masterstrokes of paintbrushes. With more than 40 colorful murals adorning buildings in town, Lake Placid is known as the “Town of Murals.”

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

City of Lake Wales www.cityoflakewales.com

City of Winter Park cityofwinterpark.org

Experience Kissimmee ExperienceKissimmee.com

Highlands County Visitors & Convention Bureau VisitHighlandsCounty.com

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

Ocala/Marion County Visitors and Convention Bureau ocalamarion.com

Seminole County Convention and Visitors Bureau visitseminole.com

Visit Orlando visitOrlando.com

Standing tall on Iron Mountain, Bok Tower in Lake Wales has been a fan favorite since 1929. It boasts one of the greatest works of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., and a 205-foot neo-Gothic and art deco “singing tower” that houses one of the world’s finest carillons. Its 60 bells ring every half hour. Tour Pinewood Estate, a 20-room Mediterranean-style home built in the 1930s, nestled among a spectacular collection of ferns, palms, camellias and magnolias. Afterward, enjoy lunch at the Blue Palmetto Café.

Four million pounds of Georgia marble and ceramic tiles were used to build the exquisite Bok Tower in Lake Wales. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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CENTRAL FLORIDA Take a dip in the clear waters of Wekiwa Springs State Park.

An outdoor art sculpture in Lakeland.

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Who would guess that the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright designs in the world is in Lakeland, Florida? The legendary architect oversaw and designed the construction of 12 structures, including his only planetarium, on the campus of Florida Southern College. A little-known fun culture stop in Lake County is the miniature White House on display at the Presidents Hall of Fame in Clermont. The 10-ton replica was formerly on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The intricate details of the Oval Office, Lincoln’s bedroom and other legendary rooms are incredible. Harry P. Leu Gardens and Leu House Museum are part of a 50-acre botanical park created as gardens in 1936. Stroll pathways past 50 varieties of azaleas, 50 species of bamboo, 2,000 camellia plants and 50 kinds of citrus trees. The house, built in 1858 by Orlando pioneers Angeline and David W. Mizell, is open for daily tours. North of downtown Orlando, the Orlando Museum of Art, the Orlando Science Center,

Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando Repertory Theatre and Mennello Museum of American Art are all conveniently located in the same culture complex, the 45-acre Loch Haven Park. A visit to historic Winter Garden is a step back in time. Because it was situated on the banks of Lake Apopka, it was once the bustling center of Central Florida serving as the largest citrus shipping point in the world. Artifacts found around the lake indicate that Indians inhabited the land for thousands of years, up until the colonization of Florida by Spanish explorers. The Garden Theatre, built in 1935, was restored to its true Mediterranean Revival style in 2008. In artsy Winter Park, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is the world showcase for everything Tiffany with the most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. For the oldest and most distinguished collections in Florida, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College is a must-see. Stay or just sit a spell in a rocker on the porch overlooking beautiful Lake Dora at The Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, circa 1883. Enjoy the quiet while sipping iced tea, just as past visitors Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and US Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Calvin Coolidge have done. The Melon Patch Theatre in Leesburg celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2014, providing family-friendly theatrical musicals, comedies

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; JASON PATRICK ROSS/SHUTTERSTOCK; VISITCENTRALFLORIDA.ORG; VISIT FLORIDA

Discover more than 500 lakes in Polk County.


and plays. The second floor of the Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala is devoted to a wonderful collection of European paintings, sculptures and decorative arts.

BEACHES Although there are no seaside beaches in this region, there are plenty of options to cool off by the water. In Osceola County, Lake Tohopekaliga, known as Lake Toho, covers 19,000 acres and spans 42 miles in diameter. At Fantasy Surf in Kissimmee, indoor surfing and bodyboarding will make you feel like you’re at the beach. Nearby, try water skiing, wakeboarding, wakeskating, wakesurfing and kneeboarding at the Orlando Watersports Complex. A short drive west of Orlando, Lake Louisa in Clermont, the largest in a chain of 13 lakes, is designated an Outstanding Florida Water Way. Take a swim and admire the rolling hills of Lake County. Don’t forget Central Florida’s water parks. There are many from which to choose and many have their own beaches. From Walt Disney World and SeaWorld to Wet ’n Wild and LEGOLAND Florida, wet thrills abound. For a more natural setting, Wekiwa Springs State Park, north of Orlando, boasts a pristine spring-fed swimming hole. Or relax on a canoe or kayak and join the otters as they float down the river.

In Marion County, Rainbow Springs State Park offers cool, clear waters of headsprings. The depth ranges from five to 18 feet, while the water temperature averages a soothing 72 F year-round.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE In the southern reaches of the region, Dock 633 in Lake Placid is famous for its Dock Onion and fresh seafood. Be treated like family and try the fried pickles. If you are looking for some of the finest Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, Arabellas Ristorante in Winter Haven is known for its Chateaubriand in a casually elegant atmosphere. In Kissimmee, Chef John’s Place offers a fusion of mouth-watering steaks and seafood to smoked baby back ribs and pasta. In the Orlando area, options abound, starting with Restaurant Row on the fabled International Drive. Here you will find some of the most sought-after culinary favorites including Morton’s The Steakhouse, Roy’s and Seasons 52. The ICEBAR Orlando on International Drive is an experience like no other. Stop by the largest permanent ice bar in the world and enjoy a frosty beer or cocktail in a 22-F chill while sitting on ice seats. Next door, thaw out in the FIRE Lounge with live DJ music. Down the street, luxury-bowling concept Kings Bowl Orlando boasts a chef-created menu and an innovative list of cocktails.

FESTIVALS & EVENTS JANUARY Central Florida Scottish Highland Games, Winter Springs Zora Neal Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, Eatonville

FEBRUARY Mount Dora Arts Festival Silver Spurs Rodeo, Kissimmee

FEBRUARY THROUGH APRIL Universal Studios Mardi Gras

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

MARCH TO MAY Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

APRIL Florida Film Festival, Orlando SUN ’n’ FUN Fly-In and Expo, Lakeland The Great American Pie Festival, Celebration

MAY Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival Star Wars Weekends, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

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 The Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire, Tavares

DECEMBER Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

ICEBAR Orlando is the largest permanent ice bar in the US. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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INSIDER’S TIPS Your family will never forget this little-known family getaway, offering a hands-on encounter with animals, such as lemurs, kangaroos and deer. The Exotic Animal Experience, located on a horse farm 15 miles east of Orlando, allows you to touch and feed exotic animals that you have only seen in the zoo or on TV. Get kissed by a llama or nuzzled by a pot-bellied pig. All of the animals are tame and love human contact. Enjoy no crowds and plenty of fresh air. Lake County is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Conservation is important here and you just might spot the rare and endangered scrub jay found in the area. SunRail, a new commuter rail operating from the border of Volusia County, south through Greater Orlando, is a great way to get from one town to another for as little as US$2. The trains currently only operate Monday–Friday, between 6 AM and 9:30 PM.

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Bloody Mary brunch on Sundays. Downtown’s historic Church Street Station, once bustling with activity for locals and visitors alike, is making a comeback, offering a number of clubs and restaurants, such as The Rusty Spoon, Cevíche Tapas Bar & Restaurant, and Hamburger Mary’s Bar & Grille that doubles as a cabaret on Saturday nights complete with female impersonators. North of Orlando, Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café in Sanford has served freshly prepared German food in Central Florida since 2001. In Leesburg, Sully’s Smokehouse is the place for fall-off-the-bone ribs and is known locally as the king of barbeque. Also in Lake County, Amrit Palace has delighted foodies for 30 years with the finest Indian food in Florida. Try the lamb curry or shrimp masala. Maggie’s Attic, a cozy, familyowned wine bar and boutique in Mount Dora, serves up craft beer, live music and unique gifts.

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT When it’s time for some fresh air, the Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park in Polk County covers more than 8,000 acres of scrub, sandhill and flatwoods land. Enjoy six miles of hiking trails, fishing and excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities, including several protected animal species: Florida scrub jays, bald eagles, gopher tortoises and Florida scrub lizards. In Lakeland, visit the 260-acre Safari Wilderness Ranch and take a safari ride to ex-

perience 400 species of African, Asian and American animals. If your plans land you in the Lakeland area in April, SUN ’n FUN, the Annual International Fly-In & Expo, educates generations with more than 10,000 aircraft, a variety of hands-on activities and daily air shows. When it comes to airboat ecotours, there is simply no comparison to Wild Florida Airboats. By day, at sunset or by the light of the moon, airboat tours at the Wild Florida Airboat & Wildlife Park in Kenansville on Cypress Lake will present you with a glimpse of Old Florida at its best. Get an in-depth look at the ’gators, birds, eagles, trees and plants as you glide through more than 100,000 acres of wetlands. Have the family experience the tranquility and adventure of an early-morning hot-air balloon ride with Orlando Balloon Adventures in Kissimmee. Later, take the controls of a restored antique fighter plane at Warbird Adventures at Kissimmee Gateway Airport. Old Town in Kissimmee features rides for the kids, go-karts, a haunted house, themed restaurants, an arcade and shopping. Or try your luck at the AMPVenture Experience, an adventure course with a four-story ropes challenge course, a 300-foot-long zip line and a 35-foot rock-climbing wall. Visit Green Meadows Petting Farm in Kissimmee to get a hands-on experience with more than 300 animals, such as pigs, chickens, goats and sheep. Kids can enjoy a pony ride and milk a cow at Central Florida’s most popular petting farm.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: EXPERIENCE KISSIMMEE; VISIT ORLANDO

If you want to make an adventure out of your evening meal, Orlando-area themed dinner theaters Capone’s Dinner & Show, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament and Pirate’s Dinner Adventure will entertain and satisfy the whole family, while the Treasure Dinner Theatre features a cabaret dinner show suitable for adults only. The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show at WonderWorks presents comedy with your supper, and Titanic the Experience gives diners the feeling of eating with Titanic notables and an opportunity to experience life on board the ship. The COOP in Winter Park is a new southern-food favorite serving up chicken and waffles, deviled eggs, buttermilk biscuits and po’ boys. Winter Park continues to be a mecca for visitors eager to stroll its famed brick Park Avenue and dine and people-watch from the sidewalk cafés. Off the main drag, the awardwinning Ravenous Pig is definitely worth a stop. Orlando’s antique district offers classic Italian dishes at Gargi’s Lakeside Italian Ristorante and the venerable White Wolf Café & Bar features a popular US$3 mimosa and

Go-carting in Kissimmee.


The new Screamin’ Gator Zip Line offers high-flying adventure.

In Downtown Disney (soon to be known as Disney Springs), Splitsville Luxury Lanes is 50,000 square feet of bowling, billiards and great food, offering hours of family entertainment. For less petting and more thrills, Gatorland is the alligator capital of the world. Watch live feedings, learn about exotic reptiles, and cheer on the ’gator wrestlers. Say hello—from a distance—to Bonecrusher II, a resident 15-foot, 1,400-pound American crocodile, and visit Bloo and Osceola, the newest members to the Bobcat Bayou habitat. There’s also a splash park for kids and the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line for the more adventurous. Fun Spot America features White Lightning, Orlando’s only wooden roller coaster; Freedom Flyer, a suspended family coaster; and a 250foot SkyCoaster, the world’s second-largest of its kind. (The world’s tallest is at Fun Spot America in Kissimmee, lifting you 300 feet in the air.) Speaking of heights, the Orlando area’s tallest and steepest free-fall waterslide is at SeaWorld’s Waterpark, Aquatica. Ihu’s

Breakaway Falls drops an exhilarating 80 feet— the steepest of its kind in Orlando. For a shorter fall, try the six-story Super 8 Aqua Drag Racer slides at Wet ’n Wild Orlando on International Drive. iFly Indoor Orlando treats visitors to the ultimate indoor skydiving experience.

The Orlando Science Center offers four floors of interactive, hands-on exhibits, an observatory, a café and the Dr. Phillips CineDome, a 300-seat theater for films and planetarium shows. The Showcase of Citrus in Clermont is a

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CENTRAL FLORIDA The Mall at Millenia in Orlando is a favorite shopping destination.

Experience the great outdoors in Central Florida.

family-owned roadside citrus farm and cattle ranch at which families can meander and pick grapefruits, lemons, tangerines and oranges. Enjoy its Swamp Safari | Eco Tour on board the world’s largest 4x4 for a unique look at the groves. There’s also a picnic area, a playground and a petting zoo on the grounds. Don’t forget the handcrafted creamsicles, made on-site, before you leave. For relaxing family fun, the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour takes 18 guests at a time through the city’s chain of lakes and canals, passing by beautiful lakeshore mansions of yesteryear. Want to tube down a crystal-clear river fed by natural springs? Located in Apopka, local favorite Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park offers swimming, hiking trails, picnicking and concessions. Or join the throngs of sunbathers by the shores. The Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford is home to more than 400 animals and the Barnyard Buddies Children’s Zoo. Feed the giraffes then cool off in the Wharton-Smith Tropical Splash Ground. 

ROAD TRIPS Take a break from the parking lots and embark

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on a scenic drive to experience some of Old Florida at its finest. The Ridge Scenic Highway in Polk County travels more than 38 miles along the Lake Wales Ridge, through the historic communities of Frostproof, Lake Wales, Dundee and Haines City. While in Lake Wales, be sure to visit Spook Hill, a natural phenomenon that gives the illusion that cars are coasting uphill. A drive west of Orlando to Clermont brings you to the Florida Citrus Tower built in 1956 on one of the highest hills in Florida’s ridge section. An elevator ride to the top gives way to panoramic views of Central Florida. Look for the Green Mountain Scenic Byway that shows off the region’s little-known rolling hills. Among the rural towns and villages, you’ll pass by the historic moss-covered Sadler Oaks in the community of Tildenville. Take a ride to Ocala, the center of the thoroughbred horse industry in Florida and spot the beautiful rolling horse farms. Hop on the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway, which travels through the heart of Central Florida to the Ocala National Forest. Look for springs, kayaking and fishing spots—you might even see the elusive Florida black bear.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISITCENTRALFLORIDA.ORG; VISIT ORLANDO; THE MALL AT MILLENIA; WYNDHAM GRAND ORLANDO RESORT BONNET CREEK

Cruising through Old Town Kissimmee.


SHOPPING If you are looking for a taste of Florida, the Bartow Farmers’ Market has fresh produce, preserves, pickles and more. Or try the Lakeland Downtown Farmers’ Curb Market for some citrus from Scotty’s Produce. For mall shopping in the area, hit the nearly 100 stores at the Lakeland Square Mall. The Mall at Millenia in Orlando has become a favorite with locals and visitors. This shopping mecca features some of the most stylish shops in all of Central Florida: Tiffany & Co., Gucci and Louis Vuitton, to name a few. The Orlando Premium Outlets International Drive and Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue offer discounts in hundreds of brandname stores, while the upscale Pointe Orlando off International Drive features Tommy Bahama’s Store, Tommy Hilfiger and Armani Exchange. Want big? Florida Mall in Orlando offers 1.9 million square feet of space and more than 250 stores to shop ’til you drop. Park Avenue in Winter Park is the quintessential place to shop in Central Florida. Wander in and out of shops, such as Tuni, Siegel’s Winter Park, Ten Thousand Villages and Charyli as you walk the brick-lined street. Nearby Winter Park Village features Pier One Imports, Owen Allen and Ulta. North of Orlando, Renninger’s Antique Center & Farmers’ & Flea Market in Mount Dora is worth the trip. The family-owned business, situated on 117 acres in the rolling hills of

Lake County, features hundreds of vendors, as well as car and vintage garden shows.

SPAS Nothing says relaxing on vacation like a day at the spa. And nothing says a Florida spa vacation like the 40,000-square-foot spa at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, which employs Sunshine State ingredients in citrus-inspired treatments. There is even an outdoor rooftop eco space where you can lie in a hammock and get a massage. Try the four-hands massage during which oil is drizzled over your body and two therapists perform a full-body massage. At Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain near Walt Disney World, customized treatments help you bid goodbye to anxiety, stress and insomnia. Blue Harmony Spa at Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek reminds guests of the nourishment provided by the great blues of the world—water and skies. The newly remodeled Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa blends the resort’s turn-of-thecentury elegance with modern touches and a dash of Disney. There are 15 treatment rooms and relaxation areas, as well as orchestral music harmonizing with your selected treatment.  In Orlando’s trendy Dr. Phillips community, The Woodhouse Day Spa caters to men and women. Relax with a facial, massage or body treatment in a Vichy shower. Indulge in the Woodhouse Escape, a full-body ritual that begins with a bamboo body scrub followed by a

FEATURED LINKS Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/catfishcreek

Aquatica Orlando AquaticaOrlando.com

Blue Harmony Spa blueharmonyorlando.com

Bok Tower Gardens boktowergardens.org

Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens centralfloridazoo.org

Church Street District churchstreetdistrict.com

CoCo Key Hotel and Water Resort cocokeyorlando.com

Cornell Fine Arts Museum rollins.edu/cfam

Days Inn Kissimmee daysinn.com

Discovery Cove DiscoveryCove.com

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts drphillipscenter.org

Exotic Animal Experience exoticexperience.net

Florida Backroads Travel florida-backroads-travel.com

Florida Southern College flsouthern.edu

Fun Spot America funspotattractions.com

Gatorland gatorland.com

Garden Theatre gardentheatre.org

Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center marriott.com/hotels/travel/mcogp-gaylordpalms-resort-and-convention-center

Green Meadows Petting Farm greenmeadowsfarm.com

Harry P. Leu Gardens leugardens.org

ICEBAR Orlando icebarorlando.com

Kings Bowl Orlando kingsbowlamerica.com/Orlando

Lakeside Inn, Mount Dora lakeside-inn.com

LEGOLAND Florida florida.LEGOLAND.com

Old Town, Kissimmee myoldtownusa.com

Orlando International Airport orlandoairports.net

Orlando Premium Outlets premiumoutlets.com

A massage room at the Blue Harmony Spa at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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Westgate River Ranch in Lake Wales is the largest dude ranch east of the Mississippi.

FEATURED LINKS Orlando Sanford International Airport orlandosanfordairport.com

Orlando Science Center osc.org

Presidents Hall of Fame thepresidentshalloffame.com

Renninger’s Vintage Antique Center Farmers’ & Flea Market renningers.com/Locations/MtDora

Rosen Hotels & Resorts rosenhotels.com

Safari Wilderness safariwilderness.com

Scenic Boat Tour, Winter Park scenicboattours.com

SeaWorld Orlando

UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY While there are thousands of hotel rooms and vacation home rentals in Central Florida, there is a share of accommodation that offers a flair all its own. The largest dude ranch east of the Mississippi, Westgate River Ranch in Lake Wales is an authentic Florida cowboy-themed property, yet home to luxurious villas and cabins where you can rest up after a day of horseback riding, swimming, fishing, nature hikes, trap and skeet shooting and hayrides. Be sure to stay over on a Saturday night to enjoy its championship rodeo with trick riding, bull riding, calf roping and barrel racing in its 1,200-seat rodeo arena. The most popular children’s hotel in the region is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The African-themed resort sits within a 33-acre wildlife preserve, and the entire property is designed to make you feel as if you are staying in the wild among 30 species of African wildlife, including zebras, gazelles, kudu and flamingos. When the sun rises over the savannah, watch giraffes from your room enjoying a tall-tree breakfast. Get even closer on a sunrise or sunset safari. After a long day, refuel at Boma — Flavors of Africa, an allyou-care-to-enjoy buffet resembling a lively African marketplace.

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Ever stay in a glass-enclosed resort? Experience life like Jim Carey’s character did in The Truman Show under Gaylord Palm Resort’s 4.5-acre atrium with themed environments that depict popular Florida destinations, such as Key West, St. Augustine and the Everglades. The themes also characterize the 1,406 guest rooms. For water-lovers, a best-kept secret is CoCo Key Orlando Resort, home to Orlando’s only outdoor canopy-covered water park. With 54,000 square feet of slides, rides and pools, the family can splash all day without harmful sun rays. When the sun sets, head indoors to the Key Quest Arcade and experience 6,500 square feet of games and activities. Also in Orlando, near all the major attractions, are seven Rosen Hotels & Resorts. Minutes from Disney attractions and featuring an outdoor pool and free continental breakfast, the family-friendly Days Inn Kissimmee offers spacious guest rooms and reasonable rates. Scheduled to open in summer 2015, the five-story LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven will feature 152 brightly colored and highly themed rooms and suites, thousands of LEGO models, interactive play areas, a pool and kid-friendly restaurants. Families can choose from one of three popular LEGO toy lines as their accommodation theme—pirate, kingdom or adventure—and all rooms include two separate sleeping areas for grownups and up to three little ones. To round off this ultimate family experience, hotel guests will have early access to the park and be treated to nightly entertainment. FL

SeaworldOrlando.com

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. seaworldparks.com

Showcase of Citrus showcaseofcitrus.com

Splitsville Luxury Lanes splitsvillelanes.com

Streamsong Resort streamsongresort.com

SunRail sunrail.com

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art morsemuseum.org

The Citrus Tower citrustower.com/Clermont

The COOP Troupe asouthernaffair.com

The Florida Mall simon.com/mall/the-florida-mall

The Mall at Millenia mallatmillenia.com

The Ritz-Carlton Spa Orlando ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Orlando/Spa

The Woodhouse Day Spa orlando.woodhousespas.com

Titanic The Artifact Exhibition titanictheexperience.com

Treasure Dinner Theatre treasuretavern.com

Universal Orlando Resort universalorlando.com

Waldorf Astoria Spa waldorfastoriaorlando.com/spa

Walt Disney World disneyworld.disney.go.com

Wekiwa Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings

Wild Florida Airboats wildfloridairboats.com

WonderWorks wonderworksonline.com

PHOTO: VISITCENTRALFLORIDA.ORG

soothing volcanic stone massage. There are 6,000 square feet of Victorian decor adorning 16 private guest treatment rooms. Mount Dora’s state-of-the-art chic Synergy SalonSpa specializes in facials, chemical peels and massages.


SPECIAL ADVERTISING FEATURE

An Ocean of Fun Awaits for the Entire Family There’s a reason that Orlando is the world’s favorite 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 nearly 250 penguins in their 32-degree world at SeaWorld® Orlando; floating in a lazy river past a grotto of colorful fish at Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark™, 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 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. Learn more at 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 awe-inspiring Shamu® show One Ocean®. Share an epic voyage with sea turtles on the 3D 360o TurtleTrek®. An ocean of fun is waiting to be explored at one of the world’s most popular marine-life parks. Jump in and dive deep. And, there’s nothing cooler than the all-new thrilling, chilling adventure, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin®. Embark on the single biggest attraction expansion ever and experience the mystery and wonder of Antarctica life on the ice, through the eyes of a penguin, sensing the beauty and drama of their sometimes dangerous habitat.  Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is a family ride that combines up-close 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-of-akind theme park experience only at SeaWorld in Orlando. Learn more at SeaWorldOrlando.com


Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark™ From high-speed water slides and exhilarating wave pools, to tranquil beaches and remarkable animal habitats, Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark™ delights all ages and interests. This one-of-a-kind waterpark is home to some of the world’s most thrilling water rides, featuring 42 slides, rivers and lagoons and 84,000 square feet of sparkling white, sandy beaches. New is Ihu’s Breakaway Falls® — Brave a watery free fall on the all-new Ihu’s Breakway Falls, Orlando’s tallest, steepest and only multi-drop tower slide of its kind.  At nearly 80 feet tall, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls is where you’ll face your fears and each other. Offering four unique slide paths, you’ll step into one of three “breakaway boxes” and watch each other fall one-by-one or test your bravery on a fourth open slide for a different but just as thrilling experience. You’ll never know who’s going to breakaway first — and the anticipation of who drops next is part of the wild ride. Aquatica Orlando’s exclusive attractions promise unlimited fun, sending guests on amazing undersea adventures and through breathtaking animal exhibits.   Showcasing the park’s most distinctive animals, Dolphin Plunge® takes riders down 250 feet of clear tubes, underwater, and through Aquatica Orlando’s beautiful Commerson’s dolphin habitat. Catch a wave in Big Surf Shores or Cutback Cove, the world’s only side-by-side wave pools capable of operating together or independently. Or for those thrill seekers, Omaka Rocka™ gives a waterslide taste of half-pipe, near-vertical thrills previously experienced only by daring skateboarders and snowboarders. Learn more at AquaticaOrlando.com

Discovery Cove® For the second consecutive year, Discovery Cove was voted the No. 1 amusement park in the world in the 2014 TripAdvisor® Travelers’ Choice™ Awards. Discovery Cove is an allinclusive day resort in where guests enjoy a one-of-a-kind opportunity to swim with dolphins, snorkel among rays and tropical fish and hand-feed exotic birds in a free-flight aviary. Freshwater Oasis® features wading adventures and face-to-face encounters with playful otters and curious marmosets.  A day at Discovery Cove includes a freshly prepared breakfast and lunch, snacks and beverages throughout the day plus first-class amenities — swim vest or wetsuit, towels and swim gear, including a souvenir snorkel and eco-friendly sunscreen. Also included is unlimited admission for 14 consecutive days to SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark. Busch Gardens® Tampa can be added for an additional charge, including transportation.    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 lush landscaping, tropical reefs, winding rivers, a resort-style pool complete with waterfalls, and pristine white-sand beaches. Learn more at DiscoveryCove.com © 2014 SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved.


CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA

INCREDIBLE BEYOND

VÉÅÑtÜx BY SUSAN B. BARNES

Escape to the pristine beaches in Caladesi Island State Park (l) and Honeymoon Island State Park (r).

j

ith all of the options available in the Sunshine State, it might 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 Scheduled to open late 2014, the Tampa Baseball Museum, housed in slugger Al Lopez’s childhood home in Ybor City, is a must-see for those who love the game. Inside you’ll find permanent and rotating exhibits that span more than 125 years of baseball history, from the Little Leagues and the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues and everything in between. Did you know that in addition to Al Lopez, Wade Boggs and Lou Piniella found their love of the game in Tampa?

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PHOTOS: VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER

The chef-owners of a foodies’ favorite, The Refinery, James Beard-nominated Chef Greg and Michelle Baker are digging their forks into another project in Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood—Fodder & Shine. The duo is resurrecting the Old Florida food ways by concentrating on yesteryear cooking methods in a modern kitchen. Slated to open late 2014, the restaurant features a full liquor bar, complete with local craft beers, an expansive outdoor seating area, pool tables and a vintage video arcade. Eat, play and stay awhile. Another highly anticipated restaurant opening in 2014 is Ulele on Tampa’s Riverwalk, in the former City of Tampa Water Works building on the Hillsborough River. Here you’ll find flavors from Florida’s waters expertly prepared on its 10-foot diameter barbacoa grill, as well as an on-site brewery, a domestic wine list and specially created signature cocktails. Hotel Zamora, a new Mediterraneanthemed boutique hotel, opened mid-summer 2014 in St. Pete Beach to rave reviews. Named for the Spanish province that inspired its architecture, the interior design blends South Beach chic and Old World Spanish, resulting in a luxurious place to stay. The Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg now has a shop to match its incredible gallery. In addition to featuring pieces by the glass master, the new space showcases local artists, as well as handcrafted and specialized products. A 33,500-gallon aquarium takes center stage at the new RumFish Grill & Bar at Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach. The restaurant features casual dining options of appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees to satiate any sized appetite. Afterward, walk around the restaurant’s store, which carries the largest selection of Guy Harvey merchandise in the area. And if you’re staying at the resort, you can even snorkel in the aquarium! There are a lot of new things to see, do and eat in Hernando County. The recently opened Springleton Family Park is a terrific place for families to enjoy mini-golf, bumper cars, an arcade and more. A great family event is the new Brooksville Native American Festival, which premiered in February 2014 and quickly became an annual event. As far as dining, two new restaurants opened in 2014—The Cove in Hernando Beach and Al Di Là Italian Bistro in Spring Hill. Bon appétit!

The Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg now has a shop to match its incredible gallery.

ARTS AND CULTURE They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there’s plenty of beauty to be found in Central West Florida. A showpiece on the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa, the Tampa Museum of Art is housed in an architectural work of art designed by Stanley Saitowitz. Inside, an incredible collection of contemporary and classical art, as well as enticing traveling exhibitions, is on display. Follow the Riverwalk south to the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, which features works by local, national and international photographers, as well as historical collections. Farther along the river is the Tampa Bay History Center, which tells the stories of the city on the bay. A short trolley ride from the Tampa Bay History Center is Ybor City, a living museum, if you will. Once known as the “Cigar Capital of the World,” this small city within a city was rich with cigar factories where workers rolled

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 Pasco visitpasco.net

Visit Tampa Bay visittampabay.com

Ybor City Chamber of Commerce ybor.org

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INSIDER’S TIPS There’s a little piece of Cuba in Central West Florida. A small park on the west end of Ybor City is dedicated to Cuban poet and revolutionary José Martí and has been owned by the Cuban government since 1956.

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millions of cigars annually. Today, the brick streets are lined with cafés and shops, a few of which sell hand-rolled cigars. Back in Tampa, step back into a simpler time and the splendor of the storied 1920s “movie palace,” the Tampa Theatre. Take a tour of the mesmerizing theatre before the main feature begins, and sit back and relax while a volunteer organist serenades you on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ before the curtain rises. Within walking distance of each other in downtown St. Petersburg are the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center, featuring 10,000 square feet of dazzling works of glass art by the master himself, and the Museum of Fine Arts with thousands of objects spanning 4,500 years, from antiquity to the present. Not far from these two museums is the Dalí Museum, where you’ll find the world’s largest collection of Salvador Dalí’s work, including 1,300 graphics, photos, sculptures and objets d’art; 96 oil paintings; and more than 100 watercolors and drawings. The structure housing the Dalí Museum is in itself a surreal piece of art, too. These are but three reasons why The New York Times included St. Petersburg among the “Top 52 Best Places to Visit in 2014.”

BEACHES With miles of coastline and beaches, Central West Florida’s stretches of sugar-white, powder-soft sandy beaches found along the Gulf of Mexico each have their own personalities and are the perfect playgrounds for all ages. Whatever type of beach experience you’re looking for—be it quiet, action-packed, or anything in between—Central West Florida has you covered. A few of the region’s best beaches are actually state parks. For a quiet, more natural beach day without high-rises lingering behind you, consider Anclote Key Preserve State Park, Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladesi Island State Park. One of the best beaches in the area is at Fort De Soto Park, south of St. Pete Beach. Not only Floridians think the beaches here are fantastic. TripAdvisor named three beaches in Pinellas County to its annual list of the “25 Best Beaches in America,” namely, St. Pete Beach (No. 9), Caladesi Island State Park outside of Dunedin (No. 11) and Clearwater Beach (No. 21). At the end of the day, there’s no better place than a beach in Central West Florida to take in spectacular sunsets.

CLOCKWISE FROM CENTER LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; VISITCITRUS.COM; CVB PHOTOGRAPHY/CITRUSCOUNTY.COM

The beach on Treasure Island.

Surfers in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area.


DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Once awash with chain restaurants, Central West Florida has stepped up its game with loads of independently owned eateries, which include James Beard-nominated chefs and farm-to-table spots that are certainly garnering plenty of attention. Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood continues to grow in terms of restaurants popping up and staking claim. In addition to The Refinery, where the menu changes weekly based on what’s in season, there are Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe and Rooster & the Till, with more coming in the next year or so. For authentic Cuban bread, stop by Mauricio Faedo’s Bakery, across the street from The Refinery. You’re sure to find something to please your taste buds in Ybor City. Park your car or hop on the trolley and walk around. For Spanish and Cuban flavors, add Columbia Restaurant—the oldest restaurant in Florida— to your list, and try the 1905 Salad with a Cuban sandwich. Once dinner is over, linger awhile in Ybor City to partake in its thriving nightlife, which ranges from dance clubs and live music venues to quiet pubs for a pint. Tampa’s South Howard Avenue, or SoHo, is filled with restaurants from which to choose. Make a night of it and book reservations at Bern’s Steak House, a dining institution. For more than 50 years, Bern’s has served aged prime beef, caviar, organic vegetables and wines from an extensive cellar—6,500 labels, to

be exact. Insider’s tip: try the tableside Caesar salad and make reservations for the Harry Waugh Dessert Room. And like Ybor City, once dinner’s over, the nights come alive along this strip. There are loads of dining options in downtown St. Petersburg, too, from casual sidewalk cafés to fine dining. Here’s another chance to park your car, walk around and see what calls out to you. The oldest microbrewery in Florida, Dunedin Brewery set the scene and now there are loads of pints from which to choose, many of which are award-winning brews. The best of the best include 7venth Sun Brewery, also in Dunedin; Saint Somewhere Brewing Company in Tarpon Springs; Green Bench Brewing Co., 3 Daughters Brewing and Cycle Brewing in St. Petersburg; Brooksville Brewing Company in Hernando County; Cigar City Brewing (with a new cider and mead tasting room opening soon) in Ybor; Southern Brewing, Tampa Bay Brewing Co. and Coopertail Brewing Co. in Tampa. Cheers!

The Withlacoochee State Trail makes its way north from Trilby to Citrus Springs.

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

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Aside from miles of beaches, Central West Florida appeals to everyone in the family. When it’s time to go wild, be sure to visit Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. The largest accredited sanctuary in the country is home to more than 100 lions, tigers, leopards, bobcats and cougars that have been rescued and are now cared for by loving staff and volunteers. Get up close to

FEBRUARY Brooksville Native American Festival Clearwater Beach Uncorked

FEBRUARY–MARCH Bands, Brew & BBQ, Busch Gardens Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Tampa

MARCH Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

APRIL Mainsail Arts Festival, St. Petersburg Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival, Clearwater Beach

APRIL–MAY Viva la Música, Busch Gardens

SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER Howl-O-Scream, Busch Gardens

OCTOBER Clearwater Jazz Holiday Seafood Festival, Cedar Key

NOVEMBER–DECEMBER Christmas Town, Busch Gardens

DECEMBER Outback Bowl New Year’s Eve Parade & Band Blast Order a plate of fresh crawfish at Neon Leons in Homosassa. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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Enjoy a sunset sail off the coast

in the same springs when water temperatures dip below 72 F elsewhere in Florida. Other popular manatee viewing spots include Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River and the TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. Take the family out to the ball game during spring training, or during the regular season for that matter. The Toronto Blue Jays hit the spring training field in Dunedin, while the New York Yankees play spring ball in Tampa, and the Philadelphia Phillies take a swing at spring in Clearwater. During the regular season, the Tampa Bay Rays play their opponents at the always 72-F Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. More amusement in Central West Florida is found at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, canoeing or kayaking the region’s rivers and springs, walking among life-size dinosaurs at Dinosaur World in Plant City, creating art at the Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa, and finding thrills on roller coasters at Busch Gardens Tampa.

ROAD TRIP Greek cuisine, art, culture—it’s all here in the small fishing village of Tarpon Springs. The area was first settled in 1876, and today is a popular day-trip destination from Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Pasco County. Go for the history, culture and food, and you’ll go back for more!

FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; VISITCITRUS.COM

of St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

these magnificent cats and be enthralled by their beauty. Another place to enjoy close encounters with animals is Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, consistently recognized as the “Best Zoo in the US” by Parents Magazine. Spend a day observing animals from Africa, Australia, Asia and beyond, learn about their habitats and how to protect them, and you’ll easily see why it’s rated so highly. Discover all of the wonders that lie beneath the water’s surface at the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa. Meet penguins, dive with sharks (for scuba-certified only), swim with fish (for ages six and older) or cruise out onto Tampa Bay to watch for dolphins. Speaking of dolphins, Winter, the star of Dolphin Tale, makes her home at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and is always happy to meet her fans. Plenty of other marine life live alongside Winter: stop and say hello to her friends, Hope and Nicholas, and the resident sea turtles, otters, stingrays, sharks, pelicans and eel. You can get out on the water here, too, on board the aquarium’s 90-minute Sea Life Safari. Take another look beneath the water and you’ll find mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs. Yes, mermaids! Every day, mermaids don their fins and entertain visitors during their shows in the crystal-clear waters. Manatees, thought to be mermaids by sailors too long at sea, gather

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CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA

Shop for treasures at the Florida Artists Gallery in Floral City.

FEATURED LINKS 3 Daughters Brewing 3dbrewing.com

7venth Sun Brewery 7venthsun.com

Anclote Key Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/anclotekey

Al Di Là Italian Bistro aldila.info

Aloft Tampa Downtown alofthotels.com/TampaDowntown

Bern’s Steak House bernssteakhouse.com

Big Cat Rescue bigcatrescue.org

Brooksville Brewing Company brooksvillebrewingcompany.com

Brooksville Native American Festival brooksvillenativeamericanfest.com

Busch Gardens buschgardens.com

Caladesi Island State Park floridastateparks.org/caladesiIsland

Chihuly Collection moreanartscenter.org

Cigar City Brewing cigarcitybrewing.com

Clearwater Beach clearwaterbeach.com

Clearwater Marine Aquarium seewinter.com

Columbia Restaurant columbiarestaurant.com

Coppertail Brewing Co. coppertailbrewing.com

Cycle Brewing facebook.com/pages/ Cycle-Brewing/454861824560821

Dinosaur World dinosaurworld.com

Dunedin Brewery

What’s a vacation without shopping? Fortunately, there are plenty of spots to find just what you need in Central West Florida. Pull out your credit cards and get ready to fill your bags at the International Plaza in Tampa. With anchor stores, such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, as well as all-time favorites Gap, Banana Republic (his and her shops), H&M, and boutiques including Burberry and Gucci, the registers will be ringing. Tree-lined streets, sprawling homes and shopping à la European village make Hyde Park Village one of Tampa’s hot spots. It’s easy to spend the day here. Shop for a bit in the morning at name-brand stores, such as West Elm, lululemon athletica, Brooks Brothers, Anthropologie and others. Afterward, enjoy a bite to eat at Piquant Epicure & Cuisine, or sip wine at the Wine Exchange. For more outdoor shopping, slip over to The Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel, where boutiques and department stores entice you with their wares.

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St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District is gaining popularity among shoppers, and it’s easy to see why. Spend a day leisurely strolling along the avenue lined with fine art galleries, record and vintage clothing shops, and antique stores. There are also plenty of restaurants and bars along the way to pop into for a respite. Looking for a little something to take back to friends back home? Souvenir shopping is perfected at John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk in Madeira Beach. Drop by any of the 100 shops for everything from T-shirts and shells to artwork and more.

dunedinbrewery.com

Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe ellasfolkartcafe.com

Epicurean epicureanhotel.com

Evangeline Spa epicureanhotel.com/evangeline-spa

Florida Museum of Photographic Arts fmopa.org

Fodder & Shine fodderandshine.com

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

Glazer Children’s Museum glazermuseum.org

Grand Central District grandcentraldistrict.org

Green Bench Brewing Co. greenbenchbrewing.com

Guy Harvey Outpost

SPAS

guyharveyoutpost.com/destinations/florida/ st-pete-beach

When it’s time to really relax and spoil yourself, Central West Florida has what you need. In addition to day spas sprinkled throughout the area, several resorts offer spa treatments to their guests as well as to the public. What’s more, to enhance your experience, several spas feature water-inspired treatments. After all, you are in Florida.

Honeymoon Island State Park floridastateparks.org/honeymoonisland

Hyde Park Village hydeparkvillage.com

Indaba – The Spa innisbrookgolfresort.com/spa-wellness

International Plaza and Bay Street shopinternationalplaza.com

John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk johnspassvillage.net

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: CVB PHOTOGRAPHY/VISITCITRUS.COM; VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER

SHOPPING


Indaba – The Spa at Innisbrook is set amidst 900 acres of rolling hills, pine trees and four golf courses.

Following a day in the springs, relax at Spa Bleu at Plantation on Crystal River. The Aveda spa has nearly everything you could desire, from one-of-a-kind treatments to a full day of pampering filled with manicures and pedicures, massages, facials, Vichy showers and more. Set amidst 900 acres of rolling hills, pine

trees and four golf courses is Indaba — The Spa at Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort in Palm Harbor. The stand-alone spa defines tranquility. Inside the separate dressing rooms are lounge areas, saunas/steam rooms and hot tubs. The state-of-the-art treatment rooms evoke instant relaxation, making it simple to

ease into your treatment. For a change of pace, try the Copperhead Golf Ball Massage, a terrific take on a hot-stone massage. Complete your experience with lunch en spa, or walk the labyrinth for a bit of meditation. The 12,000-square-foot Spa at Sandpearl on Clearwater Beach is a relaxing retreat from the

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The Sunshine Skyway Bridge spans 4.1 miles.

FEATURED LINKS Le Méridien Tampa lemeridientampa.com

Liberté Management libertemanagement.com

Loews Don CeSar Hotel loewshotels.com/don-cesar

Museum of Fine Arts fine-arts.org

Museum of Science and Industry mosi.org

New York Yankees newyork.yankees.mlb.com

Philadelphia Phillies phillies.com

Plantation on Crystal River plantationoncrystalriver.com

Rooster & the Till roosterandthetill.com

RumFish Grill RumFishGrill.com

Safety Harbor Resort and Spa safetyharborspa.com

Saint Somewhere Brewing Company saintsomewherebrewing.com

Sandava Spa clearwaterbeach.hyatt.com/hyatt/pure/spas

Southern Brewing & Winemaking southernbrewingwinemaking.com

Spa Bleu at Plantation plantationoncrystalriver.com/spa.htm

Spa Oceana loewshotels.com/don-cesar/servicesamenities/spa-oceana

Springleton Family Park facebook.com/SpringletonFamilyPark

St. Pete Beach stpetebeach.com

Tampa Baseball Museum tampabaseballmuseum.org

Tampa Bay Brewing Co. tampabaybrewingcompany.com

Tampa Bay Rays rays.mlb.com

Tampa Museum of Art tampamuseum.org

Tampa Theatre tampatheatre.org

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo lowryparkzoo.com

Tarpon Springs spongedocks.net

TECO Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center tampaelectric.com/company/mvc

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to specifically suit your needs. For instance, the Sun Repair Soother is perfect after a few days under the rays. Or opt for one of the spa’s signature treatments, such as the Sun-Warmed Shell Massage, Florida Orange Scrub or the Blueberry Bliss Facial. Sandava has seasonal offerings, too, so be sure to check the menu when you make your appointment for even more choices. South of Clearwater Beach is Spa Oceana at the Loews Don CeSar Hotel St. Pete Beach. Five treatments on the spa menu are exclusive to the Don CeSar, including Spa Oceana Splendor, Oceana Aromatherapy Massage, Tropical Perfecting Ritual, Pearl Radiance Resurfacing Facial and the Floral Blossom Manicure &

The Cove covecasualrestaurant.com

The Dalí Museum thedali.org

The Florida Aquarium flaquarium.org

The Refinery thetamparefinery.com

The Shops at Wiregrass theshopsatwiregrass.com

The Spa at Sandpearl sandpearl.com/spa

The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club marriott.com/hotels/travel/tpasr-the-vinoyrenaissance-st-petersburg-resort-and-golf-club

Toronto Blue Jays toronto.bluejays.mlb.com

Ulele ulele.com

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park weekiwachee.com

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: VISIT FLORIDA; LITTLENY/SHUTTERSTOCK

start. From the whirlpool and steam rooms to treatment rooms and couples’ suites complete with Swiss showers, you won’t want to leave once you step foot inside. And that’s before the treatments even begin! For a real treat, try the Ocean Memory Ritual, an organic algae-based remedy that renders the skin smooth and firm. It’s little wonder why The Spa at Sandpearl is rated among the “Top Spas in North America” by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler. Just down the beach is Sandava Spa at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa. With a focus on individually crafted experiences customized with fresh, organic ingredients, Sandava customizes your spa time


Pedicure. Or, for a truly decadent spa experience, choose the Spa Oceana Sunset Bliss Massage—the most expensive and exclusive couples’ massage in the world, at US$3,500 per couple. Start with a little relaxation in a rooftop cabana and delicacies prepared by the hotel’s executive chef, served with a bottle of Cristal, and followed by a sunset, seaside couples’ massage that will melt the world away. When Hernando DeSoto reached the shores of Old Tampa Bay in 1539, he thought he’d found the legendary Fountain of Youth that Ponce De León had missed. Since its founding in 1925, the historic Safety Harbor Resort and Spa is “where healing waters flow.” Today, the 50,000-squarefoot spa and fitness center, which Spa Finder Magazine consistently recognizes among its top 10 US spas, features everything you need for that youthful glow. Spend a day and choose from more than 50 spa and salon treatments; or, stay overnight and try Lavender Dreams, an Espiritu Springs Mineral Bath combined with the Lavender Dreams Ultimate Experience. In Tampa, Evangeline at the Epicurean Hotel takes organic to a new level with fresh fruit scrubs, buttery lotions and botanical oils infused with herbs from the hotel’s living wall. Each treatment is customized to meet your needs, and each ingredient is carefully selected to awaken your senses and refresh your soul. In homage to its foodie roots, Evangeline features treatments that will leave you hungry, such as the Dulce Delight manicure/pedicure, with scents of Arabica coffee bean, caramel, butter brûlée, dark chocolate and sweet cream milk emanating throughout the service. Or, create your own aromatherapy blend to use during your treatment and take home to enjoy afterward.

Experience Greek cuisine, art and culture in the fishing village of Tarpon Springs.

guests with doors open to the Gulf of Mexico and all of the conveniences of home. The Epicurean Hotel in South Tampa, just outside the downtown area, welcomes foodies and non-foodies alike to its culinary-inspired property. The 137-room boutique hotel is dedicated to extraordinary culinary experiences, which comes as no surprise since it was developed in collaboration with famed Bern’s Steak House, right across the street.

The century-old Historic Federal Courthouse in Tampa, also part of the US National Register of Historic Places, opened as Le Méridien Tampa in June 2014. Classic architecture beautifully sets off modern touches and state-of-the-art technology, turning former judges’ chambers into incredible guest rooms. What’s more, as part of its UNLOCK Art program, the hotel has partnered with the Tampa Museum of Art, offering guests complimentary access to Le Méridien-affiliated contemporary cultural centers in the city by simply showing their key cards. Aloft Tampa Downtown, on the Riverwalk that winds its way through downtown Tampa, opened in mid-2014 and is a terrific option for business and leisure travelers alike. The former Mercantile Bank office was re-purposed and developed to feature 130 loft-like rooms in a vibrant, social atmosphere. Situated upon 232 acres of preserved land, the Plantation on Crystal River reopened in January 2012 after extensive renovations and boasts a fullservice family-oriented dive and tour marina, 27 holes of golf, a spa, dining and relaxing accommodation. The eco-friendly and green luxury resort is surrounded by natural springs. FL

Tails & Trails Bird watching, Biking, Hiking, Kayaking, Scalloping, Fishing and home of the

world famous Mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

Hernando County

BROOKSVILLE

UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY For an historic night’s stay, make reservations at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, a pink Mediterranean Revivalstyle hotel in downtown St. Pete. Though it was built in 1925 and is on the US National Register of Historic Places, the hotel has all the modern amenities to make your stay more than comfortable. The Loews Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach, also known as the “pink lady,” opened in 1928 and quickly became a favorite of the Jazz Age glitterati, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Al Capone, Lou Gehrig and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Today, “the Don” welcomes its

HERNANDO BEACH WEEKI WACHEE

1-855-250-2482 www. naturallyhernando. org EAST - Visitor Info Center, off I-75 at Exit 301 WEST - Visitor Info Center, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Come see how we do Florida...Naturally! 45 minutes north of Tampa 60 minutes west of Orlando

Hernando County’s NATURE COAST

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CITRUS COUNTY

AT THE HEART OF THE

atàâÜx VÉtáà

BY AMANDA MIMS

g

SWIM WITH MANATEES For manatee lovers, there is no better place to be than Citrus County. It’s hard not to fall for the big, gentle creatures, and this is the only place in Florida where visitors are permitted to swim with wild West Indian

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Cycle or ride leisurely along car-free paths.

manatees, also known as sea cows. It’s no wonder people come from countries around the world for a thrilling experience with these endangered animals. Much like the area’s tourists from the north, manatees come here when temperatures start to fall. They escape the cold weather by wintering in the many warm springs within Citrus County, including Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, which remains a constant 72 F

year-round. Hundreds of manatees can be seen within a single group of springs on cold days. At other times of the year, resident manatees can be found throughout King’s Bay in Crystal River. Opt for a guided snorkeling tour, or take a more passive approach and see the animals by kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Local tour companies provide all the equipment necessary for a manatee-filled day on the water.

CLOCKWISE FROM CENTER LEFT: CITRUS COUNTY PHOTO LIBRARY/CVB PHOTOGRAPHY; VISITCITRUS.COM; VISITCITRUS.COM

he Sunshine State is known for its many miles of coastline and world-famous amusement parks, but Florida is much more than beaches and roller coasters. Citrus County, located an hour north of Tampa in the heart of the Nature Coast, is wild, scenic and serene. It’s miles and miles of uninterrupted bike trails. It’s swimming with manatees. It’s bringing buckets full of scallops back to shore after a day of splashing in the Gulf of Mexico. Anyone who spends a little bit of time here can understand how the Nature Coast got its name. Crystal-clear springs that fill with wild manatees and amaze even the most experienced divers, breathtaking sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico, world-class fishing, and ample hiking, biking and paddling opportunities are some of the things that keep visitors coming back time and again.

Swim with gentle manatees in crystal-clear springs.


Paddle at Three Sisters Springs.

FISHING AND SCALLOPING Anglers have endless opportunities to cast their lines in Citrus County, whether they are after freshwater or saltwater fish. And they don’t have to go it alone. Charter fishing guides are available to help ensure a successful day on the water. Spanish mackerel, tarpon and cobia are some of the saltwater species anglers reel in. Businesses along the coast also offer boat rentals for visitors who want to see the springs and rivers on their own or wish to set out for a saltwater adventure on the Gulf. Scallop season, which runs from late June to late September, is of special interest to water lovers. During those months, head out to the Gulf by way of the Homosassa River for funfilled days of recreational bay scallop harvesting, which is something of an underwater Easter-egg hunt. Guided scallop tours are a convenient way to snorkel and catch the daily limit of two gallons of whole scallops per person or 10 gallons per vessel. Local captains anchor at the best scalloping spots, where the water is four to six feet deep, and scallopers of all ages spend hours splashing in the Gulf and finding tasty treasures to bring back for dinner.

PADDLING IN PARADISE Citrus County is known as the water lover’s Florida for good reason. On any given day, paddlers are found in waterways throughout Citrus County, from the Gulf waters of Ozello to the springs of Homosassa and Crystal River to the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes. Exploring the Nature Coast by kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard is an experience unlike any other. For a spring-filled day, rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak and launch from Hunter Springs Park in Crystal River to enjoy the bluegreen water outside the spring swimming area, which is just off a small beach near the boat launch. Then paddle about 30 minutes through King’s Bay to Three Sisters Springs, a trio of crystal-clear springs where snorkeling, diving and paddling are popular activities.

RIVERSIDE CAMPING Whether they come for the mild, sunny winters or summertime scalloping adventurers, RVers know they get the best of all worlds when they stay in waterfront towns such of Crystal River and Homosassa. Campgrounds here make a

perfect getaway spot for visitors in motorhomes, fifth wheels and travel trailers because they are close to—or directly on—the water. At the same time, they are within easy driving distance of shops, restaurants and other conveniences. Many RV campgrounds allow fishing within the park, and none are far from water activities. Check out Crystal Isles RV Resort, which is a short distance away from Fort Island Gulf Beach and offers fishing opportunities right from the campground. For tent or RV camping, stay at the Chassahowitzka River Campground, located within easy walking distance of the river by the same name. The river is home to many clear springs, and boat rentals and a camp store ensure guests have all they need for adventures on the river.

HIKING AND BIKING TRAILS A cycling hot spot in Central Florida, the 46mile Withlacoochee State Trail is a paved, car-free path that runs from Dunnellon to Dade City. Near the middle is the Inverness trailhead, a popular stop because of its bustling downtown. It’s not uncommon to see cyclists in full gear sitting down to a meal at one of the restaurant’s outdoor tables, with bikes leaning beside them.

Additional paved and off-road paths make Citrus County an ideal stop for cycling enthusiasts. For adventures on foot, head off to the Citrus Hiking Trail, the state’s longest hiking loop within a single tract of land. Camp and hike the entire 43-mile trail in the Withlacoochee State Forest, or break it up into short day trips. Hikers can expect varying and hilly terrain, from hardwood forests to prairies. FL

FEATURED LINKS Citrus County Visitors & Convention Bureau visitcitrus.com

A Crystal River Kayak Company crystalriverkayakcompany.com

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

Chassahowitzka River Campground chassahowitzkaflorida.com

Crystal Isles RV Resort rvonthego.com/florida/crystal-isles-rv-resort

Days Inn Crystal River daysinn.com

Homosassa Guides Association homosassaguidesassociation.com

Homosassa Riverside Resort riversideresorts.com

Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee, Inc. railstotrailsonline.com

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PASCO COUNTY

BY SUSAN B. BARNES

T

Find fashions and more at the Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel.

short 30-minute drive north of Tampa and about 90 minutes west of Orlando, Pasco County is a vacation wonderland filled with thrills not found in theme parks. Instead, miles of pristine coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, gentle rivers, flat lands and rolling hills make this Florida gem a terrific getaway where you can get back to nature.

RETAIL THERAPY

MUST SEE...MUST DO

Overcome your fear of snakes at the annual Rattlesnake Festival & Run held each fall in San Antonio, Florida, that is—not Texas. FL

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INSIDER’S TIP

Crystal Springs Preserve offers opportunities for wildlife viewing.

LIVE IT UP Pucker up! Pasco County is the world’s largest producer of kumquats, a small, tart, orange-like fruit that is eaten in its entirety. Sample one at Kumquat Growers, and if the timing’s right, attend the annual Kumquat Festival in January, just like more than 40,000 people do. When it comes to dining, there are plenty of options in Pasco County. One of the local favorites—and Southern Living’s too—is Lunch on Limoges, and if you’re vegetarian, try Kafe Kokopelli, both in Dade City. For dinner, it’s hard to beat Chef Curtis Beebe’s Pearl in the Grove, or his new venture in San Antonio, LOCAL Public House & Provisions.

FEATURED LINKS Visit Pasco visitpasco.net

Anclote Island Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/anclotekey

Crystal Springs Preserve crystalspringspreserve.com

Dade City’s Wild Things dadecitywildthings.com

Giraffe Ranch girafferanch.com

Kumquat Growers kumquatgrowers.com

San Antonio Rattlesnake Festival & Run rattlesnakefestival.com

The Shops at Wiregrass theshopsatwiregrass.com

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

PHOTOS: OFFICE OF TOURISM PASCO COUNTY

On the Gulf coast, four islands and sandy beaches lure visitors to Anclote Island Preserve State Park, accessible only by ferry or private boat. Consider them your own private islands! In addition to the Gulf of Mexico, freshwater springs flow freely in Pasco County, including Crystal Springs Preserve and Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park, both of which offer plenty of opportunities for quiet paddling excursions and wildlife viewing. The rolling hills in Dade City are popular with cyclists. This is also where you’ll find Dade City Wild Things, featuring a Sunken Jungle Trek and Jungle Safari Ride as well as tiger cubs, monkeys and ’gators. And not far down the road, a safari of a different ilk takes you to Giraffe Ranch, a working game farm dedicated to conserving endangered species such as giraffes, ostriches, rhinos, zebras and more.

From small-town Main Street to large shopping centers, shoppers are not disappointed in Pasco County. Boutiques, antique shops and more sell tempting goodies to those peeking in the windows in downtown Dade City. A more traditional mall experience is found at The Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel.


NORTHEAST FLORIDA

CELEBRATING 450 YEARS OF [xÜ|àtzx Book an historic tour of Flagler College in St. Augustine.

i

isitors driving south on Interstate 95 encounter Northeast Florida as soon as they cross the state line. Welcome to a coastal region that includes two major cities (Jacksonville and St. Augustine), hundreds of square miles of beach, and a sultry climate supporting stately live oak trees draped in Spanish moss. However, the First Coast can get quite cool in the winter, which provides residents a nice seasonal change. History is big on the First Coast starting with its nautical landmark where Ponce de León came ashore and named the state “La Florida” more than 500 years ago. And every September, Florida Living History, Mission Nombre de Dios and the Diocese of St. Augustine present the historical re-enactment of Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés landing in 1565. Long considered the Renaissance area, the story of black history in America also began here. Fort Mose was the first free black settlement in America. In fact, the first cowboys were black Africans when Spaniards exported cows to America. Today, St. Augustine enjoys a high number of repeat visitors. Whether you consider it fascinating, original, quirky or experiential, a visit to this historic city is different every time. September 8, 2015, marks its 450th anniversary and establishes St. Augustine as

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FROM TOP LEFT TO RIGHT: JON BILOUS/SHUTTERSTOCK; FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM; FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM

BY DEBI LANDER


the oldest continually occupied European settlement in America. Celebrations are expected to be the grandest ever and are a must for tourists and residents alike. While in St. Augustine, don’t miss the hallmark of the town—the US National Park Monument, Castillo de San Marcos, usually referred to as “the fort.” Construction using coquina (shell-stone) rock began in 1672 and the structure is considered the oldest masonry fort in North America. You’ll also find 36 buildings of colonial origin still standing in the historic district. Begin touring by purchasing a multiple-day, hop-on trolley ticket from Red Train or Old Town Trolleys. Tour the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, the oldest Spanish colonial dwelling, which has been occupied since the 1600s. Children enjoy visiting the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse while adults always hope for miraculous renewal from the water at the Fountain of Youth. The Spanish Military Hospital Museum appeals to anyone interested in medicine. This building on Aviles Street is an authentic reconstruction of a Military Hospital that stood there from 1784–1821. The Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, owned and run by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America, dates back to 1798. Much smaller than the Castillo de San Marcos, nearby Fort Matanzas offers free boat rides out to the uninhabited island named for the massacre that occurred there. The site is also run by the US National Park Service.

Jacksonville’s Fort Caroline at the Timucuan Preserve memorializes the short-lived French presence in 16th-century Florida. You can also explore the grounds at Kingsley Plantation, named for Zephaniah Kingsley, who lived here from 1814 to 1837. This waterfront historic site includes a barn, a plantation house, a kitchen house, slave quarters and an interpretive garden. At Fernandina Beach, Fort Clinch is one of the best-preserved 19th-century forts in the country. First weekend Union Garrison Days draw crowds to observe artillery and medical demonstrations and soldier drills.

WHAT’S NEW March is “Florida Archaeology Month” and November is “Native American Heritage Month.” In recognition of these, Ripple Effect Ecotours is offering special kayak tours called “Native People of the Estuary,” led by Joe Woodbury, Park Specialist at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. Joe’s an archaeologist with a passion for the native people of the region, the Timucuans. Participants will learn how the Timucua thrived within this rich landscape, much of it unchanged since they were here. Paddle the backwaters of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve with Ripple Effect Ecotours and see it as the Timucuan people saw it 2,000 years ago. Dates are scheduled for March 14 and 15 and November 21 and 22, 2015. The new St. Augustine Distillery on Riberia Street offers free tours. The plant began making handcrafted vodka and gin in 2014, by distilling Florida-grown ingredients in smallbatch copper-pot stills. The adjoining Ice Plant Bar and Restaurant sells the liquor and

INSIDER’S TIPS If you plan to visit St. Augustine, July, March, April, June, February and May are the busiest months, in that order. September and October are slow and the weather is perfect, and it’s also a good time for cultural and historical events. Hotels in the downtown core are usually sold out Thursday to Sunday, but deals are available midweek so plan accordingly. Take a biplane ride over St. Augustine with St. Augustine’s Biplane Rides just like the barnstormers did in the 1920s and ’30s. View the San Marcos Fort, Bridge of Lions, Flagler College, the Lighthouse and beaches. The biplane is a 1935 “Model” WACO YMF5C, but was built in 2011. Every February through May thousands of photographers and birdwatchers descend upon the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine. They go, not to see the ’gators— though they are cool—but to get an up-close view of the hundreds of egrets, roseate spoonbills and wood storks that come to nest. It’s a feast for the eyes.

Learn about artisan distilling at the St. Augustine Distillery on Riberia Street. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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NORTHEAST FLORIDA

Built in 1924, the MOCA in Jacksonville features contemporary art exhibits.

features a menu of farm-to-table dishes for lunch and dinner. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park recently opened the park’s newest attraction, a 40-foot controlled free-fall adventure. Python Challenge at Crocodile Crossing exposes thrill-seekers to a fast open-air descent from a tower high above the park. It’s the latest addition to Crocodile Crossing, a zip line course with an aerial view of crocodiles, alligators, birds and other animals. Beat the heat out on the Intracoastal Waterway in a new 18-passenger airboat. Venture where regular boats can’t—through marshes, creeks and streams to view dolphins, manatees, bald eagles, otters, herons, pelicans, and even an occasional alligator. Airboat tours leave Tuesday through Sunday from the Old Florida Fish Camp and Seafood Shack (formerly Crazy Fish) in Jacksonville Beach.

ARTS AND CULTURE

Enjoy free admission at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville on Tuesday evenings and on the first Saturday of each month.

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The First Coast thrives with a variety of museums, a symphony orchestra, which has its own orchestral hall, a Broadway Artists Series and the annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Major attractions, such as the annual Monster Jam trucks and the circus, take over the Veterans Memorial Arena while pop performers fill the seats at the St. Augustine Amphitheater. Historic tours of Flagler College highlight the architecture of the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, a National Historic Landmark in St. Augustine. Built by railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler in 1888, the complex is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture. Tours begin in the courtyard leading into the grand lobby with its magnificent 80-foot domed ceiling supported by eight

hand-carved ornate oak caryatids. Visitors also see the dining room where 79 Tiffany stainedglass windows stream light onto beautiful murals, the walls and ceiling. Tours include original hotel furniture and art, as well as personal photos and mementos from Henry Flagler and his family. The first Friday of each month, from 5 to 9 PM, serious collectors and casual browsers stroll along St. Augustine’s brick-lined streets and pop into more than 20 galleries exhibiting fine art photography to funky gifts. Some galleries offer free refreshments, artist receptions or live music. Even parking is gratis at the San Sebastian Winery on King Street, another great spot to tour. Rather not walk? Take a free ride, literally, compliments of St. Augustine Sightseeing Trains and Old Town Trolley Tours. A free series of concerts in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine presents classical music including internationally acclaimed guest artists. Built between 1793 and 1797, the Basilica is considered America’s first parish. The St. Johns River, one of the few rivers in the world that flows north instead of south, has always played an important part in the region’s development. Visit the Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center, which showcases river artifacts from the earliest French to current times. Explore Jacksonville from “Top to Bottom” on a walking tour that takes guests to the top of the city’s tallest skyscraper down to a subterranean secret underground filled with tunnels and bank vaults. Learn about Jacksonville’s history, architecture and culture along the way. The tours, presented by AdLib Luxury Tours & Transportation, depart every Tuesday and Thursday.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM; FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM; PALM COAST AND THE FLAGLER BEACHES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

The outdoor St. Augustine Amphitheater hosts top entertainment acts throughout the year.


Downtown Jacksonville features a free monthly First Wednesday Art Walk covering more than 15 blocks and includes more than 40 galleries, museums, cultural venues, restaurants, bars and businesses. There are dozens of artists in Hemming Plaza, street performers and live music from 5 to 9 PM, rain or shine. The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA) and the Museum of Science & History (MOSH) both participate in the Bank of America Museums on Us program, which provides free admission to Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders to the nation’s finest arts, cultural and educational institutions during the first full weekend of every month. Housed in an historic building built in 1924, the MOCA features contemporary art exhibits of all kinds, as well as a number of programs for families. Its popular on-site Café Nola is open for lunch and on Thursday evenings for dinner. Also in Jacksonville, the renowned Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens offers free admission from 4 to 9 PM on Tuesdays, as well as on the first Saturday of the month. Take time to enjoy its three beautiful Cummer Gardens that overlook the St. Johns River and its Café at the Cummer, which is open daily for lunch and on Thursday evenings for dinner.

A1A in Palm Coast. The Park’s eastern boundary holds a large outcropping of coquina rock, creating a picturesque boulder-strewn beach especially favored by photographers. Visitors also find 20 acres of formal gardens. Pellicer Creek in Faver-Dykes Park is a popular site for birding with more than one hundred bird species seen during spring and fall migrations. Environmentally friendly boat tours, which leave from the Town of Marineland Marina, teach visitors about the natural and cultural history of this fascinating, diverse and biologically rich region. Ride on Ripple Effect 1, the only vegetable-oil-powered ecotour boat in Northeast Florida.

FESTIVALS & EVENTS JANUARY The TaxSlayer Bowl, Jacksonville

FEBRUARY Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games & Festival, Green Cove Springs

MARCH Amelia Island d’Elegance Gate River Run National 15K Championships, Jacksonville

APRIL One Spark, Jacksonville

APRIL–MAY World of Nations Celebration, Jacksonville

MAY Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, Fernandina Beach Jacksonville Jazz Festival THE PLAYERS Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach

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

BEACHES

AUGUST

Plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, then stroll along any of Northeast Florida’s beaches searching for sharks’ teeth, a favorite pastime in the region. Washington Oaks State Gardens preserves 425 acres of coastal scenery along State Road

Festival by the Sea, Palm Coast Club

SEPTEMBER 450th St. Augustine Founding Celebrations A couple relaxes on Vilano Beach.

Florida Heritage Book Festival Writers Conference, St. Augustine St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival

OCTOBER Creekside Festival, Palm Coast Florida-Georgia football game, Jacksonville Spooktacular, Jacksonville Zoo

NOVEMBER Amelia Island B&B Holiday Cookie Tour

NOVEMBER–JANUARY Nights of Lights, St. Augustine

DECEMBER British Night Watch Grand Illumination Parade, St. Augustine Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic, Flagler Beach Stroll through Washington Oaks State Gardens in Palm Coast. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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NORTHEAST FLORIDA Waterfront dining in St. Augustine.

beaches, St. Augustine, Jacksonville and Amelia Island. Fort Clinch, in Fernandina Beach, makes an excellent fishing spot because artificial reefs (created entirely by accident by the Corps of Engineers while trying to fight beach erosion) produce an ideal underwater habitat for sea creatures. The half-mile-long fishing pier calls to anglers ready to cast a line. Don’t tell too many, but Fort Clinch’s isolated beaches make an ideal getaway for those wishing to avoid crowds.

Treats at a farmers’ market on Amelia Island.

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

City of Green Cove Springs greencovesprings.com

City of Fernandina Beach fbfl.us

Clay County Division of Tourism 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

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Take a guided kayak tour, led by a professional naturalist guide, and paddle the backwaters of the 40,000 acres that have been preserved at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR) in the Ponte Vedra area, voted the best place to kayak in Northeast Florida. During the summer months, jump aboard Jacksonville Beach’s convenient Beaches Trolley to explore all the beach neighborhoods and attractions for just US$1.50. Jacksonville’s Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, near Mayport, is the perfect outdoor playground for everyone, including pets. Take the family picnicking or use the biking trails. Go swimming or surfing at the premier surfing spot in Northeast Florida, The Poles. Surfers also hang ten at Mickler’s Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach and at Flagler Beach. Jacksonville’s Huguenot Memorial Park features 71 campsites at the mouth of the St. Johns River and all water sports. The park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail where a wildlife area for nesting terns and shorebirds is roped off to protect them in season. Lighthouses are popular attractions. Visitors can tour the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum (open daily) or the Amelia Island Lighthouse, which has limited-access viewing on Saturdays from 11 AM to 2 PM. Charter fishing boats, with guides, are plentiful, but you can also fish from piers at Flagler

There are no chain restaurants in St. Augustine’s Old Town—only independent establishments serving local seafood and produce. On the last Saturday of each month, St. Augustine’s Uptown Saturday Night brings locals and tourists together for live music, refreshments, book signings, antique stores and shops between Ripley’s Museum and the Mission Nombre de Dios, the latter of which provides free parking. Walter’s Reef Café, operated by First Coast Technical College’s award-winning School of Culinary Arts, is one of St. Augustine’s hidden culinary gems. The café prepares students for careers as culinary professionals while providing a dining experience for the public. Located on campus, the café is open to all for lunch from 11 AM to 1 PM, Tuesday to Thursday, when classes are in session. Are you a hot shot? See if you can make it onto the Wall of Flame at the Hot Shot Bakery n’ Café by tasting a chocolate-dipped locally grown datil pepper treasured by the Minorcan community. Cool down with an Elvis popsicle made with peanut butter, banana and honey at The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops. Whetstone Chocolates on King Street offers free tours and tastings. Stop in at the Spice & Tea Exchange in St. Augustine’s historic district. Following the framework of an 18th-century trading post, displays of teas and spices evoke a sense of yesteryear. Next, tour the handcrafted operations at the St. Augustine Distillery. Be sure to check out the Ice Plant cocktail bar and restaurant. The Murray Brothers Caddy Shack Restaurant ranks as a casual dining favorite at World Golf Village with plenty of memorabilia from the pop movie.

FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: ST. AUGUSTINE, PONTE VEDRA & THE BEACHES VCB; AMELIA ISLAND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE


IF YOU THINK ALL FLORIDA BEACHES ARE THE SAME, WE WOULD LIKE TO CHANGE YOUR POINT OF VIEW. When you visit Amelia Island, you will discover a Florida that you’ve only dreamed about. With 13 miles of picturesque, unspoiled beaches, majestic moss draped oak trees, world-class resorts, and the charm and splendor of true Southern hospitality, no other Florida beach compares. Choose from historical inns and hotels to vacation rentals and luxury beach, spa and golf resorts. And soak in the beauty of Florida’s legendary island. a meliaisl a nd.com


NORTHEAST FLORIDA

Interact with marine mammals at the Marineland Dolphin Adventure near St. Augustine.

FEATURED LINKS AdLib Luxury Tours & Transportation, Inc. adlibtours.com

Amelia Island Bed & Breakfast Association ameliaislandinns.com

Amelia Island Lighthouse lighthousefriends.com

Beacher's Lodge Oceanfront beacherslodge.com

Casa de Sueños casadesuenos.com

Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant casamarinahotel.com

Casa Monica Hotel casamonica.com

Castillo de San Marcos nps.gov/casa

Colonial Quarter colonialquarter.com

El Galeón and Nao Victoria staugustine-450.com/galeon

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a reputation for outstanding fresh seafood. Try an after-dinner drink at the state’s oldest bar and popular watering hole, the Palace Saloon in Fernandina Beach.

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Learn about Florida’s rural past with a stop at the Florida Agricultural Museum in Palm Coast. The pioneer homestead gives folks a taste of the bygone era. Take a wagon ride, shell corn, pump water and meet farm animals. More than 75 years old, Flagler’s Marineland Dolphin Adventure remains the world’s first oceanarium. Today the research facility continues to study dolphin behavior and visitors can view these charming creatures up close. Make reservations ahead for special dolphin encounters. The St. Augustine Colonial Quarter brings the city’s Spanish and British heritage to life through authentic exhibits including a leatherworking shop, a blacksmith, an 18th-century Spanish home, and an on-site boat construction of a 50foot caravel. Around the corner, the Pirate & Treasure Museum pleases swashbucklers with one of the world’s largest collections of genuine pirate artifacts. There are plenty of fun interactive exhibits as well. A combined ticket saves money. Join the pirate crew on the Black Raven for daytime family outings or evening cruises. Teens won’t complain about the frightful fun of a ghost tour, especially popular around Halloween. Explore the darker side of the nation’s oldest city including the town’s most

Flagler’s Legacy legacy.flagler.edu/pages/tours

Florida Agricultural Museum myagmuseum.com

Fort Clinch State Park floridastateparks.org/fortclinch

Foxy Lady Cruises foxyladycruises.com/jacksonville

Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve gtmnerr.org

Hot Shot Bakery n’ Cafe hotshotbakery.com

Huguenot Memorial Park coj.net/departments/parks-and-recreation/ recreation-and-community-programming/parks/ huguenot-memorial-park.aspx

Ghosts & Gravestones St. Augustine Frightseeing Tour ghostsandgravestones.com/st-augustine

Ice Plant iceplantbar.com

Jacksonville Jazz Festival jaxjazzfest.com

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens jacksonvillezoo.org

Mud Muckers mudmuckers.com

Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville mocajacksonville.org

Nights of Lights nightsoflights.com

Old Florida Fish Camp & Seafood Shack oldfloridaseafoodshack.com

Omni Jacksonville omnihotels.com/hotels/jacksonville

PHOTO: MARINELAND DOLPHIN ADVENTURE-GEORGIA AQUARIUM/FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM

Cap’s on the Water and Aunt Kate’s are two popular waterfront eateries in nearby Vilano Beach. Near Jacksonville, Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas in Atlantic Beach serves wine and beer in its retail shop and there’s also a restaurant. Choose from 1,200 bottles of fine wine and 14 rotating drafts to pair with creative tapas made from farm-to-table seasonal fresh ingredients. Year after year, Ragtime remains a hip drinking and dining spot while Zeta at Jacksonville Beach is new to the list. Its brewery draws a crowd that appreciates handcrafted beer. In Jacksonville, the Riverside Arts Market, open every Saturday from March through December, includes live entertainment, a farmers’ market and artists selling their wares. See Jacksonville from the water aboard the Foxy Lady while noshing on brunch, lunch or dinner menu items. Hungry for sushi and Japanese? Try Tomo. Peruvian calls for Ceviche Jax at the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Seminole Road. The San Marco Dining District features some of the best chefs in the city; try Matthew’s, Taverna or Bistro AIX.  In Riverside and Five Points, climb the stairs at Black Sheep Restaurant for one of the hottest rooftop bars in the city or make it a progressive dinner with stops at The Mossfire Grill & Lounge and O’Brothers Irish Pub. On Amelia Island, stop in at the Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, an award-winning bed and breakfast, which is now open to the public for breakfast and lunch. The Verandah Restaurant at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation upholds


haunted building, the “Old Jail,” for an upclose-and-personal encounter. St. Augustine’s quirky Lightner Museum showcases American Victorian-era pieces, housed within the former historic Hotel Alcazar. Narrated horse-drawn carriage rides offer an idyllic romantic or memorable family outing. Many carriages can accommodate up to 12 comfortably. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens houses more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 varieties of plants. Guests can walk along a 1,400-foot-long boardwalk and observe the herds in a large, open environment called the Plains of East Africa. The new Land of the Tiger (opened in 2014) features five tigers. The zoo also presents ever-changing special events and numerous children’s activities. Tree Hill Nature Center, 50 acres in the center of Jacksonville, is the perfect place for kids and adults to connect with nature. The Hands-on Children’s Museum, on Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville, has managed to fit an entire town into its 8,500-square-foot space. Servers pour pretend milkshakes at a 1950sthemed café, tellers work at the Kids Mini Bank, and all sorts of townsfolk shop at the Winn-Dixie Lil’ Grocery. Twenty exhibits encourage kids to take on the roles of grown-up workers or use costumes and puppets to enter a world of complete fantasy. Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, near the airport in Jacksonville, provides a safe, loving, forever home for endangered big cats. Tours on select days educate the public about the plight of big cats in the wild and captivity. Visit at feeding times for memorable images of tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, bobcat and foxes. A family outing to the ballpark doesn’t need to break the bank. Sports enthusiasts can cheer for the Jacksonville Suns, a double-A minor league baseball team on Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Tickets to the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars games at EverBank Field come at a heftier price tag.

Dolphins are commonly sighted and watch for humpback whales during migration seasons. A day’s drive along A1A from Flagler Beach to Fernandina Beach will help you understand what brings many people to Northeast Florida—the beautiful beaches, warm winter weather and sunny skies. The Carmelite Monastery in Bunnell offers one of the only drive-through versions of the Stations of the Cross, bronze sculptures depicting scenes of Christ’s suffering and death.

SHOPPING The St. Augustine Outlet malls provide discount opportunities at more than 85 brand names, including Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Coach, J.Crew, Movado, Nike, Ralph Lauren and Reebok. You’ll also find a huge Gander Mountain outdoor store. Pedestrian-only St. George Street in the historic district of St. Augustine presents some unusual finds. Explore the Women’s Exchange of St. Augustine gift shop in the historic Pena-

ROAD TRIPS A favorite drive in the Flagler Beach area is the Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail, a 30-mile double loop of winding roads that take you along the Atlantic Ocean and the Old Dixie Highway, past rivers, creeks and marshes, barrier island dunes and beaches, and historic dwellings.

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NORTHEAST FLORIDA

Oceanfront golf on Amelia Island.

FEATURED LINKS One Spark beonespark.com

Palace Saloon thepalacesaloon.com

Ripple Effect Ecotours rippleeffectecotours.com

Riverside Arts Market riversideartsmarket.com

Royal Palm Village Wines & Tapas royalpalmwines.com

Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa sawgrassmarriott.com

St. Augustine 450th Commemoration staugustine-450.com

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park

staugustinebiplanerides.com

St. Augustine Distillery staugustinedistillery.com

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum Shopping along Centre Street in Fernandina Beach.

The St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville is the place to hit for the latest upscale merchandise from shops, such as Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Apple and Swarovski Crystal. A new Nordstrom’s department store opened in October 2014. The Town Center also includes bargain stores such as DSW Shoes. Nearby, visit 1st Place Sports, which was named one of the “50 Best Running Stores in America” in 2013. The Jacksonville Farmers’ Market is the oldest, still-operating outdoor farmers’ market in Florida. Since 1938, vendors have offered fresh produce, herbs and local favorites, such as Mayport shrimp. Browse crafts and handmade goods by local artisans daily from dawn to dusk. The market is minutes away from downtown.

SPAS

Peck House. The Gifted Cork on Hypolita Street offers daily wine tastings based on a theme, seven days a week. Goldsmith Joel Bagnal designs custom-made pieces from his shop on Aviles Street. Discover hidden gems at Bluetique, an upscale Goodwill resale shop in Ponte Vedra Beach. Find trendy art and clothing in San Marco’s numerous boutique and galleries.

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For wellness getaways, consider the Spa at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. The 30,000-squarefoot facility, the region’s largest, combines peaceful surroundings and ultra-modern facilities. Choose from more than 100 beauty and therapeutic services including the spa’s signature service, Ponte Vedra Retreat. Bask in a seductively beautiful environment at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, which offers its 25,000-square-foot sanctuary with 19 private treatment rooms; or at the calming The Spa at World Golf Village featuring 11 treatment rooms.

staugustinelighthouse.org

St. Augustine Music Festival staugustinemusicfestival.org

St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum thepiratemuseum.com

St. Francis Inn Bed and Breakfast stfrancisinn.com

St. Johns Cultural Center historiccoastculture.com

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

TPC Sawgrass tpc.com/tpc-sawgrass

The Catty Shack Wildlife Sanctuary cattyshack.org

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens cummer.org

The Pirate Ship Black Raven pirateshipblackraven.com

The Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club pvspa.com

Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve nps.gov/foca

Walter’s Reef Café fctc.edu/cafe

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park floridastateparks.org/washingtonoaks

World Golf Hall of Fame worldgolfhalloffame.org

World Golf Village worldgolfvillage.com

Zeta Brewing Company zetajax.com

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: AMELIA ISLAND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; AMELIA ISLAND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; JQH/FLORIDASHISTORICCOAST.COM

alligatorfarm.com

St. Augustine Biplane Rides


The terraza at the Renaissance World Golf Village Resort in St. Augustine.

Visiting yoga enthusiasts are welcome to drop into classes at the Yoga Den in Mandarin, Big Fish in Jacksonville Beach and MBody on Southside Boulevard in Jacksonville.

UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY The Casa Monica Hotel is St. Augustine’s only AAA Four-Diamond accommodation and a top-of-the-line choice among locals, visitors and celebrities. Fully restored in 1999, the interior of the iconic landmark boasts the look and feel of Granada, Spain. The 138 guest rooms and suites transport visitors back to oldworld charm and Spanish-style romanticism. The St. Francis Inn may be St. Augustine’s oldest bed and breakfast, but it stays up to date by offering complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi throughout and a solar-heated pool. Guests also have complimentary use of bicycles in the Old City, free tickets to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum and 50 percent discounts for tours of the Oldest House. Casa de Sueños means “House of Dreams”

and is just that. This five-bedroom bed and breakfast in the heart of St. Augustine’s historic district surprises guests with modern decor and eclectic touches. The Renaissance World Golf Village Resort boasts not one, but two championship golf courses. Adjoining the resort is the World Golf Hall of Fame, the ultimate destination for the celebration of golf ’s greatest

players, with fun interactive exhibits and historic golf artifacts. The Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant in Jacksonville Beach stands gracefully poised on the dunes of the Atlantic Ocean. A member of Historic Hotels of America, it offers 23 guest rooms and suites, plus fabulous rooftop dining. The Casa Marina is a favorite for weddings and receptions. FL

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NATURAL,CULTURAL, AND OH SO

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BY MELANIE GREEN

MUST SEE...MUST DO Don’t miss the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. Besides nearly 5,000 works of art, 1.5 acres of exquisite gardens border the St. Johns River. Take advantage of free admission the first Saturday of the month. Right by the Cummer (also free and open on Saturdays) is the bustling Riverside Arts Market, which includes the works of local artisans for sale, along with a farmers’ market and live music by the St. Johns River.

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LIVE IT UP

RETAIL THERAPY

Jacksonville’s nightlife is hotter than ever, thanks to creative live music venues, eclectic dining choices (a wave of new chefs are raising the bar on everything from classic southern dishes to gourmet fare through locally sourced and organic ingredients), and an exploding craft beer scene. Hip, new and now, the Jax Ale Trail comprises seven craft beer breweries, four of which are 2014 Best Florida Beer Championship medal winners. The King Street District, part of the Ale Trail, is the talk of the town with 600plus craft beers and munchies galore. The latest twist is the free Jax Ale Trail Passport, which you use at stops along the trail to earn discounts, prizes and freebies. Foodies love Jacksonville’s mix of southern casual, trendy and high-end restaurants. Give some of these hot spots a try: Azurea, Ocean 60, Bistro AIX, Matthews, Mossfire Grill & Lounge, Orsay, The Brick, Metro Diner, Maple Street Biscuit Company, bbs, the Blind Rabbit, and Black Sheep Restaurant, which features a rooftop bar. Every month of the year is celebrated with some type of festival. One Spark, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, Springing the Blues and Florida Country Superfest are among the largest.

Cozy boutiques highlight vintage, antique and handmade treasures in the Avondale, Riverside, Five Points and San Marco neighborhoods. Power shoppers relish the vast selections at the St. Johns Town Center, visited by 10 million people each year. A slower pace with sea breezes can be found in the local shops that line A1A at the Beaches Town Center.

INSIDER’S TIP Jacksonville thrives on local business success and nowhere is that more celebrated than at Freebird Live, a live music venue in Jacksonville Beach that honors the legacy of hometown rock ’n’ roll legend band Lynyrd Skynyrd. FL

FEATURED LINKS Visit Jacksonville VisitJacksonville.com

Cummer Museum and Gardens cummermuseum.org

Freebird Live freebirdlive.com

Jax Ale Trail visitjacksonville.com/jax-ale-trail/breweries

Riverside Arts Market riversideartsmarket.com

PHOTO: RYAN KETTERMAN

a

atural beauty surrounds you in Jacksonville, where more than 80,000 acres of parks and pristine preserves are nestled together with 1,100 miles of navigable water, including its Atlantic Ocean beaches, the Intracoastal Waterway and the St. Johns River. It’s a premier playground for outdoor and eco adventures. Cultural enjoyments and art flourish. The Jacksonville Symphony, a Broadway Series, The Museum of Science and History (MOSH), The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and Downtown’s Art Walk—a free event the first Wednesday of every month—are just a few options.

Jacksonville and the surrounding area is a premier playground for outdoor and eco adventures.


Looking to plan your perfect getaway? Look no further than Jacksonville. It’s the city for the senses with world-class dining, a dozen local breweries, professional sports, outdoor adventure and more. A perfect trip is possible in Jacksonville with endless combinations of fun in the sun. Start planning your vacation at

visitjacksonville.com


NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA

CHOOSE YOUR SOUTHERN-STYLE TwäxÇàâÜx Kayak at the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee.

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n this region of the Sunshine State, visitors can experience the full spectrum of Florida life. From upscale dining, shopping and accommodation to spectacular natural wonders and outdoor recreation opportunities, North Central Florida has a little bit of everything.  The two major cities in this region— Gainesville and Tallahassee—offer vibrant experiences for all. Both are college towns, so expect to find a diverse blend of ages, races and nationalities, all of which are reflected in a wide selection of independent businesses aimed at locals and out-of-towners. This is where “Old Florida” meets “New Florida.” What you get here are cities that still celebrate their  history  while embracing an everchanging crowd from all walks of life. Consider this Florida statistic that might surprise some. Overall, wildlife-viewing trips are second only to beach-related activities—excluding fishing—in importance to both

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: G. HASTINGS-DESTINATION STYLE; VISIT GAINESVILLE; VISIT TALLAHASSEE

BY KEVIN MIMS


A Calusa Indian permanent exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

residents and visitors. Fishing is right behind in the third position. This means that on the whole, you are more likely to see more folks with binoculars and wildlife-viewing gear than fishing rods, but not beach towels and sand shovels. These numbers are especially noticeable in North Central Florida, where you never have to travel far to reach a playground in the great outdoors. Countless hiking and biking trails, spectacular state parks, gin-clear freshwater springs and timeless scenic rivers are all within easy reach to nature lovers. If you are interested in outdoor recreation, this is the place to be.  Outside of Gainesville and Tallahassee, the small towns and communities of North Central Florida are equally as fascinating, with unique shops and local flavor. Revitalized downtown areas, active with antique shops, eateries and other specialty stores, draw in large crowds from all over the state, especially on weekends. In short, North Central Florida is a “choose your own adventure” kind of place. It’s full of original, authentic experiences that are sure to please everyone.

WHAT’S NEW In 2014, Gainesville’s third craft brewery opened its doors, with a name that pays homage to some of the area’s natural wonders. First Magnitude Brewing Company, a 15-barrel operation established in part by a former University of Florida professor (and passionate home brewer), is helping to fill an increasing demand for local brews. The name takes its inspiration from North Central Florida’s abundant freshwater springs.  The largest ones are referred to as first-magnitude springs and North Central Florida is home to more first-magnitude springs than anywhere else on the planet. Tallahassee’s newly renovated Cascades Park and world-class amphitheater celebrated its official grand opening in March 2014. Located right in the heart of Florida’s Capital City, Cascades Park is home to 2.3 miles of multipurpose paved trails, a kid-friendly discovery area, the Imagination Fountain (73 jets of pure entertainment) and a 3,500-seat outdoor venue. Needless to say, this is definitely a don’t-miss spot when visiting the city. A 700-foot-plus Canopy Walkway was also completed in 2014, connecting two Tallahassee

parks and creating a destination in itself. This project has been in the works for 15 years and links more than 1,500 acres of the county’s Greenway Master Plan. The Canopy Walkway serves as a safe passage between Lafayette Heritage Trail Park and J.R. Alford Greenway, both of which feature a variety of shared-use pathways, a  paddling trail and a network of mountain bike trails.

ARTS AND CULTURE Roots run deep in North Central Florida, just as they do throughout the state. Time-honored traditions are celebrated at annual festivals and examples of the area’s colorful heritage are apparent throughout the region.  To start, the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville showcases 65 million

Visit Mission San Luis for a glimpse into the past.

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

Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce cedarkey.org

Gadsden County Tourism Development Council egadsden.com

Greater Madison County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism madisonfl.org

Jefferson County Tourism Development Council visitjeffersoncountyflorida.com

Levy County Visitors Bureau visitnaturecoast.com

Micanopy Chamber of Commerce micanopychamber.com

Tallahassee Visitor Information Center VisitTallahassee.com

Wakulla County Tourist Development Council VisitWakulla.com

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA The Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville.

North Central Florida is one of the go-to regions in the state for outdoor and history lovers. It’s not the Florida most people think about and offers a side of things a lot of visitors miss. For those who want to get off the beaten path, this is the spot for you. You can’t visit this section of Florida without visiting a few of the freshwater springs. These places are the true gems of Florida and make perfect day trips. Most are part of the Florida State Parks system and only cost a few dollars to access. For paddlers, it’s hard to beat a trip on the famed spring-fed Wakulla River. Head to T-n-T Hide-A-Way Rental for kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals, as well as expert guided tours. This is one of Florida’s premier wildlife viewing areas, so make sure to bring along cameras and viewing optics. One of the best long-distance paddling adventures in the country can be done on the 170-mile Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. Start your trip in White Springs at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, staying at the trail’s river camps along the way. They feature screened-in camping porches, showers and restrooms, and are located about every 10 miles on the trail. This is one adventure you’ll never forget.

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Shark jaws at the Fossil Hall at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

exemplary array of exhibits on art, technology and the natural world. The museum features more than 6,200 works in its permanent collection and a number of temporary exhibitions. North Central Florida’s arts and culture scene can also be found in several smaller area towns, and in some cases, the whole town is considered a cultural destination. For example, the island community of Cedar Key (about 75 minutes southwest of Gainesville on the Gulf coast) feels like a place that time forgot. This small fishing village-meets-arts-town was actually one of the busier places during Florida’s frontier days, serving as a major shipping port.

PHOTOS: VISIT GAINESVILLE

INSIDER’S TIPS

years of the earth’s biological and cultural diversity through educational exhibits of fossils, full-size megaladon jaws and wooly mammoths, interactive Native American displays and galleries, and much more. The museum is the largest natural history museum south of the Smithsonian and the largest university-based museum of its kind in the country. Besides permanent and traveling exhibitions, the museum is also home to the Butterfly Rainforest, a living exhibit that features hundreds of free-flying butterfly and bird species from around the world. It’s a great attraction for the whole family, with daily butterfly releases, feeding stations and a lush tropical landscape. Gainesville’s Hippodrome Theatre, known locally as “The Hipp,” is where it’s at for independent  live performances and cinema. In 1979, the Hippodrome moved into Gainesville’s historic Federal Building, an outstanding example of Palladian Classical Revival architecture, with ornate limestone trim and massive Corinthian columns. Originally the first floor served as the Post Office, while the second floor was a courtroom. These days, more than 200,000 annual visitors pass through the doors of the Hippodrome to check out firstrun artistic films, film festivals and art exhibitions from Florida artists. Another important cultural venue in Gainesville is the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, which maintains an


Now, visitors come for day and weekend trips to stay in several locally owned hotels, take ecotours, eat seafood (don’t miss Tony’s worldfamous clam chowder) and spend a few dollars in the town’s gift shops and art galleries. Up in Tallahassee, a stop at Mission San Luis is a must. This living-history museum is set in 1703, when Apalachee Indians and Spanish settlers (military and religious occupants) lived side-by-side, combining Native American and European cultures. It’s one of the most fascinating attractions in the region, with archaeological and historical exhibits, a thatched Franciscan church, Apalachee council house and other buildings of the era. Don’t pass up Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville and Alfred B. Maclay Gardens

State Park in Tallahassee. Both places are perfect for an early-morning stroll in a beautiful setting, plus both offer regularly scheduled guided tours. Spring visits are always a treat, with blooming azaleas one of the main highlights.

BEACHES Not all of Florida’s 1,200-mile coastline is lined with white, sandy beaches. In some regions— North Central Florida happens to be one of them—the coast is different than the typical Florida postcard. In the Big Bend and Nature Coast regions along the Gulf of Mexico, the shoreline is wild and beautiful, with palm islands and salt marshes. Fishing and kayaking here are world-class; bring your gear and be ready for the trip of a lifetime.

FESTIVALS & EVENTS JANUARY Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, Gainesville

FEBRUARY Pigfest, Tallahassee Olustee Festival, Olustee Battlefield State Park

MARCH Springtime Tallahassee Suwannee Springfest, Live Oak 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

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

JUNE Florida African Dance Festival, Tallahassee 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 Micanopy 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 Downtown Festival & Art Show, Gainesville Twilight Christmas Parade, High Springs Winter Nights & Holiday Lights, Tallahassee

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Visit the Union Street Farmers’ Market in Downtown Gainesville.

There are, however, a couple of places that are great for typical beach activities. Cedar Key has a small public beach, and Bald Point State Park near Panacea (one hour from Tallahassee) has a couple of beautiful natural sand beaches as well. 

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE

Head to the Great Outdoors Restaurant in High Springs for the affordable meals and live music.

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The dining and nightlife scene in this part of Florida—like everything else—runs the complete spectrum. It’s not Miami, but visitors will find upscale dining all the way to ultra-casual, laid-back spots the whole family will enjoy. The same goes for the nightlife—remember, Gainesville and Tallahassee are college towns, so they can definitely hold their own. Satchel’s Pizza in Gainesville is by far one of the coolest pizza joints in the state. Put together folk art displays, a quirky salvage yard and a restaurant, and you have Satchel’s. Order up a homemade Lola Cola, a Satch Salad and one of their famous pizzas (bonus points for the vegan-friendly pesto) for an out-of this world lunch and experience.  While in Gainesville, stick around for good music (tribute bands, blues acts, reggae and more) at Bo Diddley Community Plaza, where all you need to have a good time is a lawn chair or a blanket to sit on. 

Head to the old Opera House in downtown High Springs for the Great Outdoors Restaurant, a beautifully themed landmark with an all-wood interior, vintage cedar and canvas canoes and other outdoorsy trappings. The patio is petfriendly, so bring along the four-legged family members. There’s a regular live music schedule; both lunch and dinner menus are well-rounded and affordable. It’s a great place. Looking for a special lunch spot in Tallahassee? The Paisley Cafe is a favorite with both locals and out-of-towners. It’s right in Midtown, making it easy to reach from Cascades Park or the Florida Historic Capitol Museum. It’s full of southern charm—do yourself a favor and order the shrimp and grits, but be prepared to take a nap afterward. “Coastal casual” is the theme at The Front Porch in Tallahassee, another Midtown hotspot. This 1920s-restored home is the setting for casual upscale gatherings, with unique takes on traditional seafood dishes. The oysters here are as good as they get anywhere, and you can have them prepared just about any way imaginable. There isn’t a bad seat in the house; choose from several options—enclosed porches, a lower deck outdoor space underneath massive live oaks or event rooms suitable for business meetings and events.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: ANNA MIKELL/VISIT GAINESVILLE; ANNA MIKELL/VISIT GAINESVILLE; VISIT TALLAHASSEE

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA


When the sun goes down, head off the main roads and back into the Tallahassee woods toward the Bradfordville Blues Club, a real-deal juke joint. Like most authentic clubs, it’s not much to look at, but there’s real magic here. This isn’t a place to wear your Sunday best; come ready to listen to live, legitimate blues acts and to dance and drink. Outside, there’s always a bonfire. The “BBC” truly is what other blues joints aspire to be. It’s so good that it’s earned a spot on the historic Mississippi Blues Trail, a rare honor bestowed to only a select number of places beyond Mississippi’s borders. 

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT There’s plenty of family fun throughout North Central Florida, with “real” experiences rather than theme parks. If seeing some of the natural side of the state is what you are after, this is the area for you. In Cedar Key, Tidewater Tours and Boat Rentals offers several trips to get your family out on the water to view dolphins, migratory birds (birding is fantastic here) and other species. For a good understanding of Cedar Key, take a two-hour island tour to the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge to see marine life and learn about the ecosystem. North Central Florida is springs country and a visit to a few of these majestic natural wonders should not be missed. For a good walk-up look at a first-magnitude spring, travel to Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland, a popular spot for diving, camping, wildlife observation, hiking, biking and swimming in the

headsprings. For kayakers, Manatee Springs flows a short distance to the lower Suwannee River. For a great family-friendly adventure, set up camp, go swimming, then rent kayaks and spend some time paddling. It’s a wonderful location to reconnect with nature. Dudley Farm Historic State Park in Newberry is only a 30-minute drive north from Chiefland. At Dudley Farm, visitors get the chance to see what Florida farm life was like from the late 1800s to the mid 1940s. It’s a living history experience, with staff presenting daily life chores in authentic period clothing. Dudley Farm is on the National Register of Historic Places and features 18 buildings, including the original Dudley family farmhouse, a post office, general store, barns and more. Proceed farther north and you’ll find Ichetucknee Springs State Park, a wonderland for outdoor lovers and a classic Old Florida experience. The headsprings are incredible, however the park is most famous for being a tubing destination. During the busy season (the Saturday before Memorial Day through Labor Day), a tram shuttles tube-trippers back to the start, making the logistics easy to plan. It’s also extremely popular for kayaking and is considered one of the most beautiful springfed rivers in the entire state. Visitors travel into Florida’s past at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, one of the state’s original attractions. Many early movies were filmed at Wakulla Springs, including Creature from the Black Lagoon. The whole park is simply incredible, from the 1930s Wakulla

The Tallahassee Museum is part wildlife center, part history museum and part adventure park.

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

Apalachicola National Forest stateparks.com/apalachicola.html

Bald Point State Park floridastateparks.org/baldpoint

Big Bend Scenic Byway floridabigbendscenicbyway.org

Bo Diddley Community Plaza gainesvilleshows.com/venue/bo-diddley-plaza

Bradfordville Blues Club bradfordvilleblues.com

Bradley’s Country Store bradleyscountrystore.com

Capital City Amphitheater at Cascades Park capitalcityamphitheater.com

Cascades Park discovercascades.com

Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast cedarkeybedandbreakfast.com

Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/cedarkeys

Dudley Farm Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/dudleyfarm

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings

Fanning Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/fanningsprings

Faraway Inn farawayinn.com

First Magnitude Brewing Co. fmbrewing.com

Florida Historic Capitol Museum flhistoriccapitol.gov

Florida Museum of Natural History flmnh.ufl.edu

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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA

Albert and Alberta, the Gators’ mascots, check out the shops of Gainesville.

and manatees make an appearance on a regular basis. If you are interested in Florida history and nature, this is a terrific stop. There’s more going on at the Tallahassee Museum than the name implies. It’s part wildlife center, part history museum and part adventure park. Stroll around the property and you’ll see plenty of live Florida wildlife displays, the historic Big Bend Farm that looks straight out of the 1800s, and a wide range of fascinating plant and animal collections. Above, the Tree to Tree Adventures zip line provides visitors a completely different perspective on the place. It’s totally kid-friendly and will bring out the kid in any adult as well.

ROAD TRIPS Springs Lodge (book a room here, it’s fabulous) to the Wakulla River tour. The headspring is considered one of the largest and deepest firstmagnitude springs in the world, and you can splash down in it from a two-level diving platform. For those interested in wildlife, the river tour is out of this world. Expect to see alligators, a variety of wading birds, outstanding scenery,

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Who doesn’t love a good road trip? In North Central Florida, scenic drives and country roads are the rule, not the exception. US Highway 19 is a beautiful choice in this area. Start in the south in the small town of Inglis, which Elvis Presley visited during the filming of the movie, Follow That Dream. This section is big on scenery and low on traffic making it a perfect

weekend trip. Cedar Key is a short distance off US 19, and a few great Florida state parks (namely, Fanning Springs and Manatee Springs) are right along the corridor. Don’t miss a ride from Gainesville to the town of Micanopy, another fantastic stop in North Central Florida. Take US Highway 441 south, stopping at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, one of the most biologically diverse places in the state. Add to the trip by bringing along bikes and pedaling a section of the GainesvilleHawthorne State Trail, which  begins at Gainesville’s Boulware Springs Park. Back in the car, make sure to take a spin around historic Micanopy, stopping in at the shops and taking in the views before returning to Gainesville. There are plenty of scenic highways in and around Tallahassee. These are beautiful places, with low-traffic two-lane roads covered with a canopy of ancient live oak trees. These roads have a direct connection to the past and many follow the same route established by Native Americans and early settlers. From downtown Tallahassee, take scenic Centerville Road for 16 miles to Bradley’s Country Store, a familyowned location that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Bradley’s Country Store is famous statewide for its fresh sausage and milled grits, both of which are made right on the premises.  This area is also home to a stretch of the 220-mile Big Bend Scenic Byway. From Tallahaseee, head south through the Apalachicola National Forest, the largest national forest in the state. It’s incredibly diverse with sprays of colorful wildflowers and scenery straight out of a painting. Heading south on the byway, you’ll reach the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, a 70,000-acre paradise originally  established for migratory birds. Many different routes can be taken on the Big Bend Scenic Byway, making this road trip one that you can explore over and over again.

SHOPPING Bringing home a few of the local goods goes hand-in-hand with travel and folks will find plenty of shops with antiques, crafts, art and home decor items in the area. Almost every small downtown area in North Central Florida has something available for those looking to pick up a thing or two.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT GAINESVILLE; ARKORN/SHUTTERSTOCK; VVISIT FLORIDA

Take US Highway 441 south from Gainesville to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.


Micanopy is one of the most well-known antique destinations in the entire state. It’s the oldest inland city in Florida so you can expect to find special treasures in this historic location. Stroll down Cholokka Boulevard and stop in at Delectable Collectibles for a wide range of antiques and vintage items. Don’t miss the Mosswood Farm Store and Bakehouse for earth-friendly crafts, pastries, jams, jellies, marmalades and bread baked in an outdoor brick oven. Just outside of town, Smiley’s Antique Mall offers 25,000 square feet of space with vendors specializing in different types of collectibles and rarities.  The Tallahassee Downtown Market celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014 and is the place to go on Saturdays for local produce, live music, arts and crafts and ready-to-eat foods. Things kick off at 9 AM with the sound of bagpipes during the Mercat March, a piperled parade of merchants announcing they are open. It’s a great place to get a feel for what’s happening in Tallahassee.

UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY When visiting, pass by the national chains and go with something that’s a little more charming. You’ll find it, too. North Central Florida is a unique area, so it makes sense that there are interesting places for you to call home while here. Cedar Key’s Faraway Inn encompasses about half a city block, with lovely rooms and individual cottages spread out throughout

gardens and underneath shade trees. It has all the amenities you need to make a stay in Cedar Key enjoyable. Guests can rent canoes, kayaks and golf carts to get around town and the Faraway Inn is one of the most pet-friendly lodging choices found anywhere. North of Cedar Key, the Steinhatchee Landing Resort is the place to go for upscale outdoorsy accommodation. It feels like an oldtime Florida town, with 31 fully equipped rental cottages (several of which are pet-friendly), a wellness spa and top-notch boating, fishing and scalloping nearby. It’s also a popular wedding destination with an Old Florida flavor. Stay a few nights at the Herlong Mansion in Micanopy, one of Florida’s most elegant bed and breakfasts. The Herlong exudes true southern charm and hospitality and is on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s nothing quite like a stay at the Herlong, with  private Jacuzzis and massage offerings. Both the landscaping and architecture are out of this world, and you’ll surely feel transported back in time. The Telford Hotel is located in the historic town of White Springs, on the banks of the legendary Suwannee River. After being closed for a few years, the Telford has reopened and is flourishing under new ownership. White Springs is considered Florida’s first tourist destination, where travelers from around the globe would come to bathe in the healing mineral waters of White Sulphur Springs. The Telford is the last remaining original hotel from this era.  FL

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

Great Outdoors Restaurant greatoutdoorsdining.com

Herlong Mansion herlong.com

Hippodrome Theatre thehipp.org

Ichetucknee Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/ichetuckneesprings

J.R. Alford Greenway visittallahassee.com/partners/jr-alfordgreenway/148488

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens kanapaha.org

Lafayette Heritage Trail Park talgov.com/parks/parks-parks-trail-lafayette.aspx

Manatee Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/manateesprings

Mission San Luis missionsanluis.org

Paisley Cafe thepaisleycafe.com

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/paynesprairie

Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art harn.ufl.edu

Satchel’s Pizza satchelspizza.com

Smiley’s Flea Markets & Antique Malls smileysfleamarkets.com/florida

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/st_marks

Steinhatchee Landing Resort steinhatcheelanding.com

Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster

Suwannee River State Park floridastateparks.org/suwanneeriver

Suwannee River Wilderness Trail floridastateparks.org/wilderness

Tallahassee Downtown Market downtownmarket.com

Tallahassee Museum tallahasseemuseum.org

The Front Porch frontporchtallahassee.com

The Telford Hotel thetelfordhotel.com

Tidewater Tours and Boat Rentals tidewatertours.com

T-n-T Hide-A-Way Rental tnthideaway.com

Trailahassee trailahassee.com

White Sulphur Springs whitesprings.org

The legendary Suwannee River. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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WA KU L L A C O U N T Y

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THE NATURAL PLACE BY KEVIN FRITZ

estled on the Gulf shores in Florida’s Big Bend, Wakulla County is an outdoor paradise teeming with history. Its prominence as a shipping port during the cotton trade built its communities, which now offer a more laidback lifestyle. Known as “The Natural Place to Be,” 73 percent of the county is made up of natural lands, ranging from the botanical and wildlife splendor of the Apalachicola National Forest to the salt marshes and tidal flats of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Glimpse a wading pink roseate spoonbill or a majestic bald eagle soaring overhead. Explore hidden beachfront communities or hike through a forest. Watch Spanish moss sway from mighty oaks, creating a magical setting. If it’s the outdoors you crave, your search is over.

MUST SEE...MUST DO

Wakulla County is renowned for its abundance of wildlife.

Originally settled in 1528 at the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers, St. Marks was a major shipping port in the 1800s. Florida’s first railroad, built in 1836, connected the port to Tallahassee for the exportation of cotton. Today, you can still travel the abandoned rail line, now a popular bicycle and equestrian trail. The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses 68,000 acres of protected habitats and ecosystem, is a birdwatcher’s

haven. Visit the historic St. Marks Lighthouse, the second oldest in Florida, which rests on a base of limestone rock taken from nearby Fort San Marcos de Apalache. Stop by the San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park and learn how the fort, originally built in 1679, survived occupation by Spanish, English, American and Southern Confederate forces. Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratories in Panacea has the largest array of touch tanks in

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the continental United States. Observe some of the oddest and most interesting creatures from the Gulf of Mexico and learn how to protect fragile sea life. In downtown Crawfordville, the county seat, visit the Old Wakulla Courthouse built in 1894, one of only three existing wooden courthouses in the state. Look skyward to witness the cypress weathervane, hand-carved in the shape of a mullet. In the 1800s, the bony fish played a major role in everyday life here for eating, trading and bartering. The Old County Jail across the way is now a museum. Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is home to one of the longest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. The unspoiled natural look and crystal-clear waters of Wakulla Springs has captured Hollywood’s attention over the years in such classics as Creature from the Black Lagoon. Visit or stay at the 27-room Wakulla Springs Lodge, the state’s only park lodge, circa 1937, home to the world’s largest-known marble bar. Other accommodation includes the Best Western Plus and The Inn at Wildwood, both of which are located on the Coastal Highway. Visit the beach of Mashes Sands in Ochlockonee Bay where freshwater meets the saltwater of Apalachee Bay. Watch for dolphins, picnic or walk the sandbars at low tide. Shell

PHOTOS: VISIT WAKULLA

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The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is a birdwatcher's haven.


Hike along scenic trails throughout Wakulla County.

Island Fish Camp on the Wakulla River is an ideal spot to drop your line in the water. Kayak and canoe enthusiasts flock to Wakulla County for its many access areas and adventures. Explore the 10 segments of the new Apalachee Bay Maritime Heritage Paddling Trail system; most of its trails are located along the coast between Panacea and St. Marks. Paddle three designated paddling trails—the Wakulla River Paddling Trail, the Sopchoppy Paddling Trail and the Lower Ochlockonee River Paddling Trail. If hiking is your muse, the Florida National Scenic Trail traverses approximately 75 miles through the county, which features two designated gateway communities: the cities of St. Marks and Sopchoppy. The trail weaves through the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and the Apalachicola National Forest, the latter of which encompasses most of the western side of the county. Take a drive on the 220-mile Big Bend Scenic Byway that meanders throughout the county to view unmatched scenery, historical sites, recreation areas and wildlife. Festivals are an integral part of life in Wakulla County, the most intriguing being the annual Worm Gruntin’ Festival in Sopchoppy, which involves calling earthworms to the surface of the forest each April. Also in April, “Wild About Wakulla” week features special events scheduled throughout the county. In May, head to the Annual Panacea Blue Crab Festival on scenic Dickerson Bay and fill up on boiled crabs and fried shrimp. The St. Marks Stone Crab Festival and the Monarch Butterfly Festival take place every year at the end of October.

LIVE IT UP Seafood may be the meal of choice in the Sunshine State, but in Wakulla County seafood is king. Retail markets along the county’s coastline sell locally caught mullet, flounder, grouper, red snapper and cobia that will have your mouth watering. For the freshest seafood from mullet to blue crab and oysters, much of which is caught and served by the venerable Lovell family, stop by their Spring Creek Restaurant in the village of Spring Creek. Posey’s Up the Creek Seafood Steam Room and Oyster Bar in Panacea is renowned for fresh shrimp, clams and crabs. Ochlockonee Bay is home to the famous Angelo and Son’s Seafood Restaurant that re-

cently returned to dish out its classic fare after being severely damaged during Hurricane Dennis in 2005. If slow-cooked barbeque is your fancy, Hamaknockers in Crawfordville serves fall-offthe-bone ribs and smoked wings, juicy beef brisket, chicken and pulled pork. For barbeque, seafood and ’gator, look no further than the newly opened Pirates Landing Bar and Grill in St. Marks. On the river, the Riverside Cafe serves up great views and seafood.

RETAIL THERAPY

FEATURED LINKS Visit Wakulla visitwakulla.com

Angelo & Son’s Seafood Restaurant angeloandsonseafoodrestaurant.com

Best Western Plus Wakulla Inn & Suites bestwestern.com/wakullainn

Big Bend Scenic Byway floridascenichighways.com/big-bend-scenic-byway

Crum’s Mini Mall panaceaminimall.com

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings

If you’re an antique lover, Wakulla County’s only antique business, the White Elephant Antique Mall, has catered to visitors and residents of Crawfordville for 20 years. Crawfordville is also home to the Art Warehouse, an art gallery promoting local artists. While exploring Panacea, visit Crum’s Mini Mall, a one-stop shop that has been familyowned and operated for more than 40 years.

Florida National Scenic Trail

INSIDER’S TIP

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

Find serenity in the quaint fishing village of St. Marks at the Sweet Magnolia Inn, the only bed and breakfast in Wakulla County. Originally housing a General Store, it was rehabbed back to its glory days in the 1990s. The Magnolia Room, close to the back porch, is a crowd favorite. FL

Sweet Magnolia Inn Bed and Breakfast

fs.usda.gov/fnst

Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratories gulfspecimen.org

Riverside Cafe riversidebay.com

San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/sanmarcos

Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin’ Festival wormgruntinfestival.com

Spring Creek Restaurant springcreekfl.com fws.gov/refuge/st_marks sweetmagnoliainnbandb.com

The Inn at Wildwood innatwildwood.com

Wild About Wakulla wildaboutwakulla.com

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VisitWakulla The Natural Place to Be in Florida

Forget the crowded rush of beach towns and theme parks. This is Wakulla County, and we’re all about enjoying life. Visit our website and plan your trip today.


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hether you’re interested in exploring natural trails, windsurfing and sailing on coastal waters, relaxing on quiet beaches, swimming and diving in beautiful natural springs, or kayaking down a river, Wakulla County is the place to be. The diverse environment of the area is unique to the natural northern region of Florida, and the terrain of the area is perfect for a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, bicycling, jogging, horseback riding and bird watching. Wakulla County is home to four major rivers — St. Marks, Wakulla, Sopchoppy and Ochlockonee — and is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico. You can explore miles of unspoiled natural habitat and see animals and birds that aren’t to be found anywhere else.

The National Forest and Refuge offer hunting and fishing opportunities within the state seasons. The Wakulla State Forest offers primitive weapons hunting opportunities each season, too. Fresh and salt water fishing is year-round with July 1 opening scallop season ‘til September. Marinas, bait and tackle shops, boat ramps, and chartered and guided fishing is available.

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VisitWakulla.com or call (850) 984-3966


GAI NES V I L L E

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COLLEGE-TOWN

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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 yearround outdoor activities, from cycling the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail to paddling scenic rivers. In the area’s state parks, visitors spot wild horses at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, 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 Sports Complex worship speed at Gainesville Raceway or cheer for one of UF’s 21 Gator athletic teams.

MUST SEE...MUST DO From the Victorian splendor of the Bed and Breakfast District, Gainesville’s top cultural attractions are within easy reach. For a crash course in this city’s arts scene, hit the monthly Artwalk, where drink and dining specials complement visits to artists’ studios. Enjoy professional theater and indie cinema at the Hippodrome, or explore the Downtown Festival & Art Show and the Santa Fe Spring Arts Festival, centered on the historic Spanishstyle Thomas Center. On the UF campus, the Cultural Plaza offers the Harn Museum of Art

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The Ichetucknee River flows through shaded hammocks and wetlands.

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. Families will want to head to the zoo and planetarium at Santa Fe College. Rent canoes from Santa Fe Canoe Outpost or Adventure Outpost in downtown High Springs and spend a day on the river. At 72 F, the water is always cool and inviting. Watch for turtles swimming and maybe an otter or two. You may spot snowy egrets on the bank and even deer drinking from the river. Hear a chorus of birds chirp in harmony.

LIVE IT UP 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 houseinfused cocktails at Boca Fiesta or savoring sushi at Dragonfly. Taste Latin fare at Emiliano’s, then sample craft brews at Tall Paul’s. Local flavor abounds at the tasting room of Swamp Head Brewery, as well as at Sweet Dreams Homemade Ice Cream. Catch a film premiere at the Cinema Verde Festival held in February or enjoy a free 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.

farmers’ markets. Don’t miss a trip to other small towns surrounding Gainesville: Antiquing in Micanopy and visiting Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Cross Creek home are can’t-miss experiences.

INSIDER’S TIP 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. FL

FEATURED LINKS Alachua County Visitors & Convention Bureau visitgainesville.com

Adventure Outpost adventureoutpost.net

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 eastonnewberrysportscomplex.com

Florida Gators

gatorzone.com

Florida Museum of Natural History flmnh.ufl.edu

Harn Museum of Art harn.ufl.edu

Retirement Home for Horses at Mill Creek Farm millcreekfarm.org

Santa Fe Canoe Outpost santaferiver.com

Santa Fe College sfcollege.edu

Santa Fe Spring Arts Festival springartsfestival.com

RETAIL THERAPY Shoppers are drawn to the upscale Tioga Town Center, home to the beloved Blue Highway pizzeria and one of the area’s seven

Swamp Head Brewery swamphead.com

Tioga Town Center tiogatowncenter.com

UF Performing Arts

performingarts.ufl.edu

PHOTO: VISIT GAINESVILLE

BY ALISSON CLARK


NORTHWEST FLORIDA

SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY

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here sugar-white sands meet emerald waters, everything about a Florida vacation is different here. The northwestern region known as the Panhandle rests partly in another time zone, another temperature zone, another mindset. It’s as southern as cheese grits, yet as cutting-edge as the US Navy Blue Angels that fly out of Pensacola. Eons ago, quartz particles flowed down the Apalachicola River from the Appalachian Mountains. A clear, green sea ground them to shining white granules that squeak underfoot like new-fallen snow. While Florida’s Atlantic beaches are brown sugar, the sand that rims the Gulf of Mexico here is saltshaker white. The area also boasts its share of sites that are the oldest, newest or largest. Holding 12,000 years of Native American history, the Indian temple mound at Fort Walton Beach is one of the continent’s oldest archaeological sites. Other standouts include Historic Pensacola Village, where living history interpreters create a live tableau of bygone gardening, candle making, quilting and cooking. The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola houses the largest collection of naval

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PHOTOS: WALTON COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT

Visit the vacation community of Sandestin in Walton County.


warbirds in the world. One of the nation’s best stand of rare and ancient Torreya conifer pine trees can be seen in Torreya State Park. Beaches hold the spotlight but serious nature lovers find additional treasures in pristine woods and inland waters. Rare and endangered flora and fauna are found in the state parks, where spring and fall migrations attract a who’s who of exotic birds. Hike to waterfalls and explore fernfilled sinkholes. At Marianna, visit the only Florida state park to offer tours of dry caves. Now that some of the state’s trendiest resorts have come to the Panhandle, tourists are less likely to dismiss the area as the Redneck Riviera. The Forgotten Coast, a term trademarked in the 1990s by the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce, is now used to refer to the coastline between Mexico Beach and St. Marks. A cosmopolitan citizenry includes naval officers from around the nation, Canadian snowbirds, who enjoy low-season rates during the winter, and international students at the University of West Florida and West Florida State College. Once a summer playground for southerners, Northwest Florida is now an uptown yearround destination.

WHAT’S NEW Two exciting additions are coming into the Florida State Parks system. Kids and their parents can take part in the updated Junior Ranger program similar to that available at national parks. Sign up, get your ranger credentials and see how many activities you can accomplish to earn a badge or pin. The parks now also offer geo-caching. It’s great news for kids of all ages that the Miracle Strip Amusement Park at Panama City Beach continues to add new rides. A southern icon from 1963 until it closed in 2004, the park reopened under new management and continues to grow. Nostalgia buffs will love that many of the rides from the old park were found and restored by the new owners. Acquisitions include the 1964 Allan Herschell Carousel and the Tea Cups ride from 1978. Seaside, a pioneer in new urbanism it calls the “simple, beautiful life,” established the Seaside Institute in the 1980s. New in the community’s lyceum area is the Seaside Institute Village consisting of a cluster of buildings devoted to education for both day visitors and boarders. Courses range from photography and writing to wellness programs.

INSIDER’S TIPS Look for rental fat-tire wheelchairs (and sometimes strollers) in most major beach areas. Conventional wheelchairs can’t navigate the soft sands. Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs on Panhandle beaches from late May through early July. Nighttime turtle walks in beach areas are led by experts. Don’t intrude on turtle-nesting sites; it’s against the law. Easily overlooked because it’s part of the larger Heritage Park and Cultural Center, the Indian Temple Mound Museum in Fort Walton Beach includes a Native American temple mound and relics said to date back as early as 14,000 BC. Keep an eye on the almanac for phases of the moon, then do a search for “city name”+ “full-moon party.” They’re usually found at beach landmarks, such as the Margaritaville Beach Hotel in Pensacola Beach and the Cape St. George Lighthouse on Little George Island. Unlike downstate Florida, this area can get frosty. Some attractions are closed in winter and most others have varying schedules so be sure to check ahead. In small-town America, automobile “cruises” were sometimes the only recreation for young people on Friday and Saturday nights. By silent agreement, cars would just show up to rev their engines, crank up their speakers and cruise slowly up and down Main Street. Such cruises still rumble informally in many Panhandle communities. Some have become large festivals where visitors can mingle with other car buffs. One of the largest is in downtown Panama City where Friday Fest cruises on the first Friday of the month, February through November, feature hundreds of cars as well as bands and vendors covering a six-block area. This area of the Gulf offers world-class fishing with a wide choice of guided charters and boat rentals. The least expensive way to go “out to sea” is simply to walk out on fishing piers where a modest fee is charged for anglers and a token fee for observers. Locations include Panama City, Navarre, Pensacola and Gulf Shores. For Civil War groupies, Northwest Florida offers significant sites. The Battle of Marianna in 1864 saw more than 25 percent of the male population killed, wounded or captured. Battlefield tours can be arranged. Fort Pickens in Santa Rosa Beach was occupied by Union forces through most of the war. A historic marker in Bagdad remembers the Skirmish on the Blackwater.

A beautiful seascape in Walton County. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

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NORTHWEST FLORIDA Anchoring a city-size vacation community, the splendid Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf & Spa has a new look following a four-month, US$13-million renovation in 2014. The Hilton stands on the 2,400-acre Sandestin Resort, which includes a spread of shops, restaurants, recreation facilities ashore and afloat, and offers a wide range of accommodation. Its Village of Baytowne Wharf is the site of many special events, tournaments, concerts and festivals including the popular Gumbo Festival. The new Holiday Inn Resort Fort Walton Beach Hotel has dazzling water features, a choice of dining venues and the chain’s famous Kids Suites with bunk beds and kid-friendly decor. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach has introduced a Kids Safari for children ages three and up. For an added fee, a 30-minute tour provides a behind-the-scenes peek at the park’s sea creatures and keepers. The role of naval aviation in the space program is central to the new Apollo exhibit at the National Naval Aviation Museum, where a Lunar Module replica anchors the new display. Included are a replica Apollo spacesuit in a lunar landscape with “footprints” and a storyline explaining the Navy’s role in recovering command modules. The population explosion at the Gulf Breeze Zoo continues to wow visitors, who delight in seeing the two little kangaroos and a giraffe born here in 2013. In 2014 the zoo welcomed its first spectacled owl chicks, and at press time a mama zebra was expecting. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are giving baseball fans something to cheer about. The Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds has moved to Pensacola, playing in minor league baseball’s Southern League. Games in the showplace Pensacola Bayfront Stadium are action-packed reminders that the city has long been a steppingstone to the major leagues. Pensacola baseball alumni include such immortals as Ted Williams, Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

ARTS AND CULTURE Glorious seas, skies, sands and woodlands here have attracted scores of resident artists, many of whom have their own studios or galleries. Several Panhandle communities host gala Art Walk celebrations seasonally or throughout the year. Galleries keep longer hours, wine may be served,

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restaurants post special menus and music plays throughout the art districts as visitors browse, shop and mingle. Sometimes gallery night is part of a larger celebration in a street scene of food kiosks and performers. Apalachicola holds its Artwalk & Wine Festival annually in March. In Seaside, live music and art demos are offered the first Friday of the month at Ruskin Place and Central Square. Fort Walton Beach holds its Art Walk the third Friday. Artists along the Destin Boardwalk display their creations on third Sunday afternoons. Downtown Pensacola Gallery Nights are on Fridays but dates vary. John Gorrie Museum State Park in Apalachicola is a modest site, but well worth a

stop to view a replica of the ice-making machine invented by Dr. Gorrie to cool his patients during a yellow fever epidemic. The larger discussion here, shown in interpretive displays, is the important role yellow fever, malaria and other tropical agues played in the early Americas. One of the region’s most intriguing cultural enclaves is in the time-warp hamlet of DeFuniak Springs, founded in the 1880s. Leaders of a quaint education movement of the 19th century known as Chautauqua, after its origins on Lake Chautauqua in New York, established a winter home on the scenic shores of what was then called Lake DeFuniak.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: TAD DENSON/SHUTTERSTOCK; WALTON COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

The historic Saenger Theatre in Pensacola.


Revisit the early 1900s, when live vaudeville was giving way to movies, at the Museum of Local History in Milton. It’s housed in the stately Imogene Theatre, built in 1912 and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Milton also has a railroad museum in a typical depot waiting room built in the 1880s to serve the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad. The Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site in Milton preserves remnants of one of the largest antebellum water-powered industrial complexes in the Old South. Operations included a sawmill, lumber mill with planning and lathing machines, gristmill, a bucket factory, shingle mill, cotton textile mill and an experimental silk cultivation operation. History buffs know Pensacola was settled earlier in the 16th century than St. Augustine but lost the right to call itself the nation’s oldest city when the original settlement on Pensacola Bay was abandoned. The city center is now built on the site of an early fort. Spanish culture survives in place names, architecture, cuisine and historic markers. The city, which served under five flags, had a brief French occupation and Britain’s Royal Navy built Fort Barrancas in 1763. Culturally aware, Pensacola has its own ballet, symphony, theater and art museum. Costumed characters toil daily in Historic Pensacola Village, taking on the roles of candle makers, quilters, bakers and merchants who lived here centuries ago. The Museum of Commerce is a street scene of typical 18th- and 19th-century shops.

Opened in 1925 in downtown Pensacola, the Saenger Theatre, a relic of the golden age of Hollywood, has been restored to its original Spanish Baroque/Rococo magnificence. Ongoing programs include classic movie showings and a Broadway series, plus a busy schedule of classical and pop performances. The Mattie Kelly Arts Center at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville provides a showcase for visiting artists as well as local talent, including the Northwest Florida Symphony and Northwest Florida Ballet.

BEACHES With more than 200 miles of beaches along the Gulf coast, not to mention excellent beaches on bays, lakes and rivers, Northwest Florida is the ultimate beach vacation destination. The question is, which beach? If you’re staying in beachfront accommodation, a beach is on your doorstep. If not, you’ll need to find public beaches, perhaps with parking. Many are shown on free tourist maps available at hotels and other visitor stops, as well as on tourism websites listed here. Panama City Beach is known for its nonstop energy, especially in March when students arrive for spring break. For a quiet picnic, the best beaches are the remote and pristine sands on Dog Island, Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park and T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. For families, the beaches at state parks are always a good choice. So is the Florida

FESTIVALS & EVENTS JANUARY Pas de Vie Ballet, Apalachicola Pensacola Beach Run Half Marathon

FEBRUARY Grand Mardi Gras, Pensacola The Sandestin Gumbo Festival

MARCH Celebrate the Arts, Gulf Breeze

APRIL Sandestin Wine Festival Flora-Bama Mullet Toss, Perdido Key

MAY Pensacola Crawfish Festival

MAY–JUNE Bands on the Blackwater, Milton

JUNE Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival, Fort Walton Beach Panhandle Watermelon Festival, Chipley The Fiesta of Five Flags, Pensacola

JULY Firecracker Day, Vernon Pensacola Beach Air Show

JULY–AUGUST Summer Concerts in the Park, Marianna

AUGUST Pepsi Gulf Jam, Panama City Beach Sandestin Triathlon, Miramar Beach Wausau Possum Festival and Miss Funday Pageant

SEPTEMBER Marianna Festival Day and Battle Reenactment Pensacola Seafood Festival

OCTOBER Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival, Niceville Destin Seafood Festival Florida Seafood Festival, Apalachicola Greek Festival, Pensacola Mexico Beach Art and Wine Festival

NOVEMBER Seeing Red Wine Festival, Seaside

DECEMBER New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, Panama City Beach

Take a scenic coastal drive to beautiful Santa Rosa Beach in Walton County. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

169


NORTHWEST FLORIDA Wine tasting in Mexico Beach.

Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce apalachicolabay.org

Emerald Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau emeraldcoastfl.com

Gulf Islands National Seashore nps.gov/guis

Jackson County Tourist Development Council visitjacksoncountyfla.com

Mexico Beach Community Development Council mexicobeach.com

Navarre Beach Visitor Information Center navarrebeachadventures.com

Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau visitpanamacitybeach.com

Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau visitpensacola.com

Santa Rosa Island visitpensacolabeach.com

Santa Rosa Tourist Development Council floridabeachestorivers.com

South Walton Tourist Development Council visitsouthwalton.com

Washington County Tourist Development Council visitwashingtoncountyfl.com

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District of Gulf Islands National Seashore, a snowscape of beaches with bicycle and hiking trails, ranger-led nature programs, historic forts and spots for swimming, snorkeling and fishing. One of the nation’s most credible beach experts is Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University, also known as Dr. Beach. T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, St. Andrews State Park and Grayton Beach State Park are among his picks in this region. The best shelling is not on the most popular beaches but in sheltered bays and on remote sand spits. Horse conchs might be found on the north side of Shell Island while Crooked Island Sound is a happy hunting ground after a storm. So are Mexico Beach and Cape San Blas. At marinas that offer day cruises, such as Capt. Anderson’s Marina in Panama City Beach, ask about shelling cruises that sail to beaches accessible only by boat.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE From fine dining to raw bars, Northwest Florida holds many pleasures for foodies. Plenty of eateries still offer the traditional shore meal of fried grouper, French fries and cole slaw. Apalachicola gave its name to sweet, succulent oysters, favored by many local chefs and served by the bushel at rustic raw bars throughout the region. Stinky’s Fish Camp in Santa Rosa Beach is known for “oysters all day, all ways” and a host of seafood specialties such as crawfish pie and catfish meunière. For the south in your mouth, the area abounds in soul food favorites. Hole in the Wall Seafood in Apalachicola is known for southern, soul fare and seafood with a Creole accent. At Five Sisters Blues Café in Pensacola, you can sample such Dixie favorites as fried chicken, cornbread, pulled pork, fried okra and collards. Luxury reigns at Havana Beach, the happening place for cocktails in The Pearl resort in Rosemary Beach. Thursday through Sunday, sing along at

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: VISIT FLORIDA; WALTON COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

NEED MORE INFO?


Stand-up paddleboarding at sunset in Walton County.

the piano bar. Gourmet food is served indoors, or you can enjoy small plates on the veranda. Good taste reigns for all palates at the Firefly Bar and Library Lounge in Panama City Beach. An extensive menu offers options for children and early dining plus a variety of choices of soups, starters, sushi, pizza and specialty entrees, martinis and samplers. A comprehensive menu at Cuvee Bistro in Destin spans from crispcrusted pizzas to duck, venison, steaks and a signature black pepper yellowfin tuna. The Cubi Bar CafÊ in the National Naval Aviation Museum serves food and is also a museum exhibit based on the famous Cubi Point Officers’ Club that hosted naval aviators in the Philippines during the Vietnam War. It’s plastered with memorabilia from the original Plaque Bar. The newest buzz on Pensacola Beach is the Casino Beach Bar & Grille, a Caribbean-style hangout at the foot of the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier. The iconic McGuire’s Irish Pub has locations in Pensacola and Destin.

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT All-day family fun is a definite promise at WonderWorks in Panama City Beach. More than 100 hands-on activities include its Ropes Course, Laser Tag, the Hurricane Shack with winds up to 71 mph and a bubble lab that generates giggles for all ages.

The Betsy Ann Riverboat at St. Andrews Marina in Panama City is a true sternwheeler. Miniature golf is always a hoot for families, especially when it’s the original Goofy Golf dating back to 1959 on Panama City Beach. Mini-golf by the same name is also found in Fort Walton Beach.

YOU CAN’T GET LOST ON A RIVER

AND NEITHER DOES THE VALUE OF BEING TOGETHER. The family order changes somewhere along the way; the agenda slips behind the treeline. Blackwater River State Forest. The Canoe Capital of Florida. <RXVHQVHIRUWKHĂ&#x20AC;UVWWLPHLQPRQWKVWKHFXUUHQWPRYLQJZLWK\RXVORZO\               WRZDUGWKHEHDFKWKURXJKFHQWXULHVRIKLVWRU\DOOWKHZKLOHUHZULWLQJ\RXURZQ            

www.navarrebeachadventures.com 800.480.7263


NORTHWEST FLORIDA

Building sand castles on Mexico Beach.

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


The Track Family Recreation Center in Destin is raw entertainment, a non-stop carnival with rides, bumper cars, mini-golf, a bungee jump, arcade games and much more. Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park in Destin is the place to cool off in summer with thrill rides and slides. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach showcases dolphins and other sea creatures, and kids love feeding the penguins. Day cruises are offered out of most major marinas in the region, with the focus being on dolphin-watching, shelling, diving, snorkeling or fishing. Known as Florida’s Playground, Santa Rosa County brings together centuries of history and challenges. Explore Florida’s Playground Trail, made up of 12 sites connecting Navarre Beach, named one of the top 25 beaches in the US by TripAdvisor, and historic Milton. Following beautiful signage, begin at the Navarre Beach Marine Science Park, with an educational marine science station, a sea turtle conservatory as well as Gulf and near-shore reefs. Then follow a variety of sites along the beachfront, including the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier, the longest in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, and the Gulf Breeze Zoo, with more than 50 acres featuring hundreds of animals from around the world. At the Gulf Breeze Zoo, start with a 15-minute train ride and get a close-up

view of wild animals roaming free. A boardwalk stroll provides a bird’s-eye view of the 30-acre habitat. Children can pet farm animals, meet with a zookeeper to learn about animals and feed a giraffe. Next, make your way to historic Milton, the Canoe Capital of Florida, and the Blackwater River State Park, for a variety of kayaking, canoeing, tubing and zip lining experiences. The Pensacola Children’s Museum in Historic Pensacola Village has blossomed into a sensation filled with hands-on exhibits for kids. As kids play, they learn about the city’s multicultural past, its lumber and maritime industries, military history and the Native Americans who had a thriving community here in the 13th century. The ultimate family experience for both amusement and learning is the National Naval Aviation Museum. Older children are sure to be wowed by the MaxFlight 360 flight simulators. Unlike arcade games, they’re the real deal. The museum is also the home of the Naval Flight Academy, which offers six-day programs for youngsters.

FEATURED LINKS Bay Bares Park baybares.com

Bay Point Wyndham Golf Resort & Spa baypointwyndham.com

Becks Fish Camp & Wildlife Refuge beckslakefishcamp.com

Betsy Ann Riverboat betsyannriverboat.net

Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park bigkahunas.com

Blue Angels blueangels.navy.mil

Cape San Blas capesanblas.com

Cape St. George Light stgeorgelight.org

Capt. Anderson’s Marina captandersonsmarina.com

Casino Beach Bar & Grille casinobeachbar.com

Cordova Mall simon.com/mall/cordova-mall

Crooked Island Sound mexicobeachfl.com/cdc/crooked-island-sound.cfm

Cuvee Bistro cuveebistrodestin.com

DeFuniak Springs defuniaksprings.net

Dog Island thedogisland.com

ROAD TRIPS

Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park

Drive US 98, the 157-mile-long stretch referred to as the Emerald Coast Route or the Gulf Coast Highway from historic Apalachicola to Gulf Breeze for almost non-

Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village

floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland emeraldgrande.com

Escape Wellness Spa escapeandfeelbetter.com

Falling Waters State Park floridastateparks.org/fallingwaters

Firefly Bar and Library Lounge fireflypcb.com FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: MEXICO BEACH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT; WILLIAM SILVER/SHUTTERSTOCK

Five Sisters Blues Café fivesistersbluescafe.com

Florida Caverns State Park floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns

Florida State Parks floridastateparks.org

Fort Barrancas nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-barrancas.htm

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

Goofy Golf goofygolfpc.com

Grayton Beach State Park floridastateparks.org/graytonbeach

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park gulfarium.com

Gulf Breeze Zoo gulfbreezezoo.org

Gulf Islands National Seashore nps.gov/guis

Henderson Park Inn hendersonparkinn.com

Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa sandestinbeachhilton.com

Historic Pensacola Village historicpensacola.org

Holiday Inn Resort Fort Walton Beach Hotel holidayinnresortfortwaltonbeach.com Falling Waters State Park. 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

173


Harbor view along the Emerald Coast.

A cannon at Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola Bay.

stop views of shining waters and white sands. Although the trip can be done in a day, every hamlet offers a story and every lay-by beckons visitors to take a video and send an Instagram. The unhurried visitor can detour from the main highway to explore stunning St. George Island and St. Joseph Peninsula. Both are slender sand spits, alight with scenery but require backtracking to get back to US 98. Traffic gets denser around Panama City and Panama City Beach, both ideal locations for lodging and attractions. Continuing west, drop down to State Road 30A at Inlet Beach for a beachfront ramble through vacation communities including Seaside and a visit to picturesque Grayton Beach State Park. Destin is a quaint village known for its fishing fleets and Fort Walton Beach offers sightseeing plus urban shopping, dining, lodging and attractions. Here, there’s a chance to leave US 98 again for a leisurely drive to Okaloosa and Santa Rosa Island. If you’re on a fast track you may prefer to stay with US 98. There will be other bridges later that can take you out to Santa Rosa Island, Fort Pickens and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Depending on tourist traffic, shore roads can be slow going, and the only way back is to retrace your route through the same, dazzling scenery. The fast lane through this region is Interstate 10, an alternate route with its own appeal. The route follows the Old Spanish Trail, blazed more than 400 years ago by Spanish traders traveling between St. Augustine and Pensacola. Just off the highway are the hospitable small towns of Chipley, Bonifay and DeFuniak Springs and such natural treasures as Ponce de Leon Springs, Falling Waters and Florida Caverns state parks, and the 189,848-acre Blackwater River State Forest.

SHOPPING Silver Sands Premium Outlets in Destin is the largest in the region with 110 stores. Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is a city-size resort with a pedestrian village filled with shops and places to dine. The area’s natural beauty attracts artists specializing in all media from watercolor to fusion glass, textiles, jewelry and shell art. Places to find prominent galleries include Seaside and other communities along State Road 30A. Portofino Boardwalk on Pensacola Beach is a typical Florida shopping, dining, entertain-

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2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: COLIN D. YOUNG/SHUTTERSTOCK; EMERALD COAST CVB; VISIT FLORIDA

NORTHWEST FLORIDA


FEATURED LINKS Hotel DeFuniak hoteldefuniak.com

Indian Temple Mound Museum fwb.org/museums/indian-temple-mound-museum

John Gorrie Museum State Park floridastateparks.org/JohnGorrieMuseum

Margaritaville Beach Hotel margaritavillehotel.com

Mattie Kelly Arts Center mattiekellyartscenter.org

McGuire’s Irish Pub mcguiresirishpub.com

Miracle Strip Amusement Park ms-pp.com

National Naval Aviation Museum nationalaviationmuseum.org

Noble Manor Bed & Breakfast Colorful shops in Mexico Beach.

noblemanor.com

Pensacola Blue Wahoos

ment, beach and water sports complex, well worth a whole day or entire evening. The Shell, a landmark amphitheater, is always a photo-op backdrop and often the setting for concerts. Arrive on the free trolley or ferry. Visitors may also come by boat and tie up at the dock, or drive in and park at the public beach. Pensacola’s sprawling Cordova Mall, which has dozens of familiar chain stores, is anchored by a Dick’s Sporting Goods and an upscale Dillard’s.

SPAS Outstanding spa services and surroundings are found at Serenity by the sea in the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, InnSpa at the WaterColor Inn & Resort on Santa Rosa Beach and Serenity Spa at the Bay Point Wyndham Golf Resort & Spa in Panama City Beach. Guests at chichi beach communities such as Seaside and Rosemary Beach have a wonderful choice of day spas, many of which offer luxury services. The Pearl, a posh resort in Rosemary Beach, offers a signature facial with crushed pearls. Enjoy your treatments in the spa or in a poolside cabana. The Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village in Destin is a full-service resort with a lavish spa. Guests and non-guests can buy membership in the fitness center on the second floor overlooking the Gulf. The Escape Wellness Spa in Pensacola is one of the area’s largest, offering a wide range of treatments including skin care and prenatal massage. Also in Pensacola, Still Waters Day and Medical Spa offers a relaxation room, cou-

milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t4124

ples’ and deep-tissue massages and laser hair removal.

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park

UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY

Rosemary Beach

This region’s heyday was during the Victorian era, when opulent homes were built to house lumber and cotton barons. Today some of these mansions, such as Noble Manor in Pensacola, are bed and breakfasts. Apalachicola’s Gibson Inn, built in unpretentious Florida Cracker style, is in the heart of town. Old-world style also graces the boutique Hotel DeFuniak. It’s two blocks from the lake and sits directly on the Southern Tier Route for bicycle riders who are undertaking the St. Augustine to San Diego challenge. Bay Bares Park in Youngstown (northeast of Panama City) is a campground member of the American Association for Nude Recreation. Tent and RV sites are available. Ranging from rustic to modern, rental cabins are found in state parks including St. Joseph Peninsula, Three Rivers, Topsail Hill Preserve and Grayton Beach. A wide choice of campgrounds ranges from primitive sites in government parks to lavish RV resorts. Becks Lake Fish Camp & Wildlife Refuge in Cantonment isn’t a traditional farm stay, but it is a working farm that welcomes visitors to pitch a tent or hook up an RV, pick crops, paddle the river and go fishing in a pristine, outback setting. Caribbean-style all-inclusives aren’t easy to find in Florida, but the Henderson Park Inn, a bed and breakfast in Destin, comes close by offering “everything” except dinner. FL

floridastateparks.org/poncedeleonsprings

Portofino Boardwalk pensacolabeachboardwalk.com rosemarybeach.com

Saenger Theatre pensacolasaenger.com

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort sandestin.com

Seaside seasidefl.com

Shell Island visitpanamacitybeach.com/beaches/shell-island

Silver Sands Premium Outlets, Destin premiumoutlets.com

St. Andrews State Park floridastateparks.org/standrews

Still Waters Day & Medical Spa stillwatersmedspa.com

Stinky’s Fish Camp stinkysfishcamp.com

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

The Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site, Milton historicpensacola.org/arcadia

The Battle of Marianna battleofmarianna.com

The Gibson Inn gibsoninn.com

The Pearl thepearlrb.com

The Seaside Institute seasideinstitute.org

The Track Family Recreation Center destintrack.com

The Village of Baytowne Wharf baytownewharf.com

Three Rivers State Park floridastateparks.org/threerivers

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/topsailhill

Torreya State Park floridastateparks.org/torreya

WaterColor Inn & Resort watercolorresort.com

WonderWorks wonderworksonline.com/panama-city-beach

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

175


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

Florida Welcome Centers are found throughout the state. (VISIT FLORIDA)

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 16-18, 2015

Art Deco Weekend Festival, Miami Beach

mdpl.org/events/about-adw

January 21-26, 2015

Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, Titusville

spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org

January 24, 2015

Gasparilla Pirate Fest, Tampa

gasparillapiratefest.com

February 5-16, 2015

Florida State Fair, Tampa

floridastatefair.com

February 20-22, 2015

Silver Spurs Rodeo, Kissimmee

silverspursrodeo.com

February 26–March 8, 2015

Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City

flstrawberryfestival.com

March 6-15, 2015

Bike Week, Daytona Beach

officialbikeweek.com springtimetallahassee.com

March 28, 2015

Springtime Festival, Tallahassee

March 28, 2015

Dunedin Highland Games & Festival

dunedinhighlandgames.com

April 29–May 3, 2015

Sunfest, West Palm Beach

sunfest.com

May 21–24, 2015

Jacksonville Jazz Festival, Jacksonville

jaxjazzfest.com

May 22–24, 2015

Florida Folk Festival, White Springs

floridafolkfestival.com blueangels.navy.mil/show

July 11, 2015

Pensacola Beach Air Show, Pensacola

July 21-26, 2015

Hemingway Days Festival, Key West

fla-keys.com/hemingwaymedia

September 4–12, 2015

Celebrate 450, St. Augustine

staugustine-450.com/ st-augustines-450th-anniversary-celebration/

September 26-28, 2015

Pensacola Seafood Festival, Pensacola

visitpensacola.com/landing/seafood-festival

Late September—mid-November 2015

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Orlando

disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot /special-events/epcot-international -food-and-wine-festival

October 15-18, 2015

Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach

biketoberfest.org

November 2015

American Sandsculpting Championship Festival, Fort Myers Beach

fmbsandsculpting.com

November 21, 2015—January 31, 2016

Nights of Lights, St. Augustine

nightsoflights.com

December 2015

Winter Festival, Downtown Tallahassee

holidaylights.visittallahassee.com

December 3-6, 2015

Art Basel, Miami Beach

miamibeach.artbasel.com

December 12, 2015

Winterfest Boat Parade, Fort Lauderdale

winterfestparade.com

Dates and websites were correct at time of printing. Information is subject to change without notice. 176

2015 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

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

177


R ES O U R C E DIR E C TO RY Cocoa Beach is popular with surfers (V&V Hospitality & Media Services)

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 Collegiate Summer League

floridaleague.com

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

Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA)

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 2015 January 1, New Year’s Day January 19, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day February 16, Presidents’ Day May 25, Memorial Day July 4, Independence Day September 7, Labor Day October 12, Columbus Day (most regions) November 11, Veterans Day November 26, Thanksgiving Day December 25, Christmas Day 178

2015 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 Port Tampa Bay

jaxport.com portcanaveral.com porteverglades.net keywestcity.com miamidade.gov/portmiami portofpalmbeach.com tampaport.com


FLORIDA STATE PARKS & REGIONAL RECREATION SPACES 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

floridahikes.com/apoxee-wilderness-trail 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 pinecrest-fl.gov 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 Hickeyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;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 Oscar Scherer State Park 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 floridastateparks.org/oscarscherer rookerybay.org floridastateparks.org/stumppass collierparks.com/park/sugden-regional-park/

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 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 Tomoka State Park

floridastateparks.org/avalon floridastateparks.org/bluespring floridastateparks.org/deleonsprings floridastateparks.org/fortpierceinlet floridahikes.com/gemini-springs-park floridastateparks.org/jonathandickinson floridastateparks.org/kissimmeeprairie webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/savannas floridastateparks.org/seabranch floridastateparks.org/sebastianinlet floridastateparks.org/stlucieinlet floridastateparks.org/stsebastianriver floridastateparks.org/tomoka

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 Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park Paynes Creek Historic State Park Rainbow Springs State Park Rock Springs Run State Reserve Silver Springs 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 floridastateparks.org/lowerwekivariver floridastateparks.org/paynescreek floridastateparks.org/rainbowsprings floridastateparks.org/rockspringsrun floridastateparks.org/silversprings floridahikes.com/split-oak-forest floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings

Couple Spa at Omni Amelia Island Plantation (Omni Amelia Island Plantation)

A tortoise in Southwest Florida (Lee County VCB)

Golfers in Ponte Vedra (St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches VCB)

Palm Beach Outlets (Palm Beach Outlets) 2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

179


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)

180

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

FLORIDA STATE PARKS & REGIONAL RECREATION SPACES 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 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 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 Castaway Island Preserve Dunns Creek State Park Faver-Dykes State Park Fort Clinch State Park Fort George Island Cultural State Park Fort Mose Historic State Park Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve Little Talbot Island State Park Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park North Peninsula State Park Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park Ravine Gardens State Park River to Sea Preserve Washington Oaks Gardens State Park Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park

floridastateparks.org/ameliaisland floridastateparks.org/anastasia floridastateparks.org/bigtalbotisland floridastateparks.org/bulowplantation floridahikes.com/castawayisland floridastateparks.org/dunnscreek floridastateparks.org/faverdykes floridastateparks.org/fortclinch floridastateparks.org/fortgeorgeisland floridastateparks.org/fortmose floridastateparks.org/gamblerogers floridastateparks.org/georgecradybridge floridacoasts.org/gtm floridastateparks.org/littletalbotisland floridastateparks.org/mikeroess floridastateparks.org/northpeninsula floridastateparks.org/olusteebattlefield floridastateparks.org/pumpkinhill floridastateparks.org/ravinegardens webapps.dep.state.fl.us/DslParks/browse floridastateparks.org/washingtonoaks floridastateparks.org/yellowbluff

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park Cedar Key Museum State Park Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve Cofrin Nature Park Devilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;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 Ichetucknee Springs State Park Lafayette Blue Springs State Park Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park 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 Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;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 Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park

floridastateparks.org/maclaygardens floridastateparks.org/cedarkeymuseum floridastateparks.org/cedarkeyscrub floridahikes.com/cofrin-nature-park floridastateparks.org/devilsmillhopper floridastateparks.org/dudleyfarm floridastateparks.org/econfinariver floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings floridastateparks.org/fanningsprings floridastateparks.org/forestcapital floridastateparks.org/gainesville-hawthorne floridastateparks.org/ichetuckneesprings floridastateparks.org/lafayettebluesprings floridastateparks.org/lakejackson 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 floridastateparks.org/waccasassabay floridastateparks.org/peacocksprings


FLORIDA STATE PARKS & REGIONAL RECREATION SPACES NORTHWEST FLORIDA Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Bald Point State Park Big Lagoon State Park 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 Ponce de Leon Springs State Park St. Andrews State Park T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park Three Rivers State Park Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Torreya State Park Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park

Father and daughter on a beach outing in the Fort Myers area (Lee County VCB)

dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/apalachicola floridastateparks.org/baldpoint floridastateparks.org/biglagoon 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 floridahikes.com/oaks-by-the-bay-park floridastateparks.org/ormanhouse floridastateparks.org/perdidokey floridastateparks.org/poncedeleonsprings floridastateparks.org/standrews floridastateparks.org/stjoseph floridastateparks.org/tarkilnbayou floridastateparks.org/threerivers floridastateparks.org/topsailhill floridastateparks.org/torreya floridastateparks.org/yellowriver

FLORIDA STATE FORESTS Information on the following Florida State Forests is found online at freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Florida-Forest-Service/Our-Forests/State-Forests: SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Myakka State Forest Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest Picayune Strand State Forest CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Lake George State Forest Tiger Bay State Forest CENTRAL FLORIDA Indian Lake State Forest Lake Wales Ridge State Forest Little Big Econ State Forest Ross Prairie State Forest Seminole State Forest

NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA Big Shoals State Forest Goethe State Forest Lake Talquin State Forest Twin Rivers State Forest Wakulla State Forest

Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola (William Silver/Shutterstock) Visitors at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples (JoNell Modys)

NORTHWEST FLORIDA Blackwater River State Forest Cottage Hill State Forest Pine Log State Forest Point Washington State Forest Tate's Hell State Forest

CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA Charles H. Bronson State Forest Holopaw State Forest Withlacoochee State Forest NORTHEAST FLORIDA Belmore State Forest Carl Duval Moore State Forest Cary State Forest Deep Creek State Forest Etoniah Creek State Forest Four Creeks State Forest Jennings State Forest John M. Bethea State Forest Lake George State Forest Matanzas State Forest Ralph E. Simmons Memorial State Forest Watson Island State Forest Welaka State Forest

Fairbanks House Grounds and Cottages (Fairbanks House)

Boardwalk in Apalachicola National Forest, the largest national forest in Florida. (VISIT FLORIDA)

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

181


R ES OUR CE DIR E C TORY 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

Fox Rent A Car

foxrentacar.com

Global Rent a Car

interamerican-car-rental.com

Hertz Car Rental

hertz.com

Honk Worldwide Car Rental

honkcarrental.com

National Car Rental

nationalcar.com

Payless Car Rental

paylesscar.com

SIXT Rent a Car

sixt.com

SOUTHEAST & THE FLORIDA KEYS Biscayne National Park nps.gov/bisc Dry Tortugas National Park nps.gov/drto SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Big Cypress National Preserve nps.gov/bicy Everglades National Park nps.gov/ever CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Canaveral National Seashore nps.gov/cana CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA De Soto National Memorial nps.gov/deso

thrifty.com

U-Save Car & Truck Rental

usave.com

RV RENTAL COMPANIES

WEBSITE

Allstar Coaches Luxury Motorhome Rentals

allstarcoaches.com

NORTHEAST FLORIDA Castillo de San Marcos National Monument nps.gov/casa

America’s Best RVs

americasbestrv.com

Camp USA Motorhome Rental

onfreewheels.com

Cruise America RV Rental & Sales

cruiseamerica.com

Fort Matanzas National Monument nps.gov/foma

El Monte RV Motorhome Vacations

elmonterv.com

Giant Recreation World

giantrecreationworld.com

Timucuan Ecological & 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

182

Thrifty Car Rental

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

/RVRentals.asp Palm Beach RV Rental

palmbeachrvrental.com

RV Rentals of Orlando, Inc.

rvrentalsoforlando.com

USA RV Rentals

usarvrentals.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

159 244 248 124

TALLAHASSEE

227

ST. PETERSBURG

KEY WEST

170 195 207 82

ST. AUGUSTINE

JACKSONVILLE

195 42

PANAMA CITY BEACH

FORT MYERS

FORT LAUDERDALE

DELRAY BEACH

DAYTONA BEACH

302

-

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

22

226 197 427 217

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

696 790 458

378 341 604 385

221

107 232 558 652 307

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

216 231 206

302 318 282

222 262 256 52

26

148

264 282 252

138 218 233 119

176 214 190 20

The Cheetah Run at Busch Gardens Tampa (Busch Gardens Tampa)

-

43

TAMPA

201

123

118 191 519 613 266

SARASOTA

BRADENTON

17

PENSACOLA

201 239 215 20

ORLANDO

-

NAPLES

BOCA RATON

MIAMI

BRADENTON

140

FROM / TO

BOCA RATON

CLEARWATER

MILEAGE CHART BETWEEN KEY FLORIDA CITIES

153 445 539 252

153 234 383 -

-

331 425 53

188 479 573 286 -

334 428 100 -

103 292 -

192 194

330 423 176

144 166 494 588 241

20

54

-

237

402

237

-

192

201 172 402 192

-

Florida is riddled with hiking and biking trails (VISIT FLORIDA)

The Elliott Museum in Stuart (Martin County)

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA

183


RE S OUR CE DIR E C TORY 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)

flyjacksonville.com

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 Airport (MCO)

orlandoairports.net

Panama City Beach

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP)

iflybeaches.com

Pensacola

Pensacola International Airport (PNS)

flypensacola.com

Punta Gorda

Punta Gorda Airport (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

184

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

AirTran Airways

airtran.com

AMC Transportation

amctransportation.com

Allegiant Air

allegiant.com

Central Florida Tours

centralfloridatours.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

EasyShuttle

geteasyshuttle.com

Frontier Airlines

flyfrontier.com

Empire Coach Line

empirecoachline.com

IBC Airways (VIP private jet charter)

ibcairways.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

Miami Jet Tours

miamijettours.com

Sunwing Airlines

flysunwing.com

Need-A-Bus

need-a-bus.com

United Airlines

united.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 Bus Charter

usabuscharter.com

2015 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA


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2015 Travel Guide to Florida  

travel, florida, beaches, theme parks, ecotourism, sports, casinos, art, road trips, hotels, spas, romantic getaways, golf, shopping, histor...

2015 Travel Guide to Florida  

travel, florida, beaches, theme parks, ecotourism, sports, casinos, art, road trips, hotels, spas, romantic getaways, golf, shopping, histor...

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