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Y O U R
A W A R D - W I N N I N G
G U I D E
T H E
S U N S H I N E
S T A T E
NAME YOUR PASSION ARTS AND CULTURE AWARD-WINNING BEACHES ECOTOURISM HISTORY THEME PARKS SHOPPING SPORTS
DIVE IN AND EXPLORE 8 DIVERSE REGIONS 67 COUNTIES MORE THAN 1,500 VENUES AND ATTRACTIONS
D I S P L AY U N T I L J U N E 3 0 , 2 0 1 6
GOLF • SPAS • ROAD TRIPS • LGBT EVENTS AND VENUES ROMANTIC GETAWAYS • TRAVELING WITH PETS AND MUCH MORE
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RICK SCOTT GOVERNOR
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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he long, slender state of Florida boasts 1,200 miles of coastline, about 660 miles of which are sandy beaches. Is it any wonder the Sunshine State attracted 97.3 million tourists in 2014 and a record 54.1 million in the first six months of 2015? Made up of 67 counties within eight very different and unique regions, Florida offers a variety of experiences—if you’re willing to explore. While many vacationers consider Florida a great place to visit during the cold-weather months, it is really a year-round destination. And I’m not just talking about Orlando and its theme parks, which attracted more than 62 million visitors in 2014. For instance, while you may choose to spend time lounging on the shores in the warmer Southeast, Southwest, Central East and Central West regions during the winter, Florida’s northern regions heat up during the spring, summer and fall months with a calendar full of activities, events and festivals. The beaches here are just as beautiful and sandy as their southern counterparts. In fact, on the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the remarkably bright, white sand is powder soft. And, while the northern regions may occasionally experience a fleeting dip in temperatures during the winter, they are also less expensive and less crowded, which some of you may find rather appealing, especially if you enjoy history, cycling, hiking, fishing, birdwatching, golf or tennis. The point I am trying to make here is to keep an open mind when planning your trip to the Sunshine State. It has so much to offer and every region is distinct. So, even if beaches are a must-have on your list of vacation needs, allow some time in your schedule to venture out to areas less traveled. Now that I have you thinking outside the box, also consider all the accommodation options available throughout the state. Whenever my husband and I tour Florida, we like to mix it up. On our most recent trip through Florida, our lodging choices included the Pink Pearl Resort on Fort Myers Beach; Bayview Bed & Breakfast in Cape Coral near Matlacha; a funky floating cottage called The Green Turtle on Stock Island just minutes from Key West; the Best Western Plus Yacht Harbor Inn in downtown Dunedin; and the Seaside Amelia Inn on Amelia Island. All offered very different experiences, and I would recommend any one of them. Luckily, we both enjoy food and experimenting, so we tried everything from ’gator tail in Fort Myers Beach and fresh-off-the-boat seafood at the Hogfish Bar & Grill in the Florida Keys to southern regional cuisine at the grand Veranda restaurant in Fort Myers and the most exquisite and delicious tasting menu I have ever experienced at the Salt restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. Throughout our trip, we also undertook different modes of transportation. We drove, cycled, hiked, embarked on an airboat tour, cruised to the outer islands and used public transportation, some of which was complimentary. We even parked our car and took the Key West Express, a high-speed ferry that operates between Fort Myers and Key West. Needless to say, a variety of experiences awaited us. This year, I did manage to snorkel among the manatees in Citrus County, a memory I will cherish forever. I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed at first. However, when a curious calf and its huge mother gently brushed up against me and floated quietly alongside me, I relaxed and enjoyed the moment. Now, I understand why they are called “gentle giants.” I hope we’ve given you some new ideas to consider as you plan your next trip to the Sunshine State. Travel safely and enjoy your explorations.
Donna S. Vieira Editor
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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2 0 16 T R AV E L G U I D E T O
The 2016 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 Susan B. Barnes, Mary Burnham, Jennifer Wylie Fauser, Kara Franker, Sandra Friend, Kevin Fritz, Janet Groene, LoAnn Halden, 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, Steve Winston FLORIDA OFFICE: 401 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 130-446, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 Tel: 1-888-700-4464 Fax: 416-497-0871 email: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 ÂŠ copyright 2016. Printed in Canada.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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WA LT O N
Fort Walton Beach
Panama City Beach
ST JOSEPH BAY
C L AY
S T. J O H N S
441 Winter Garden
PA S C O
Land O Lakes
4 Plant City
Largo St. Petersburg
Haines City Winter Haven Bartow POLK
Anna Maria Island Bradenton Sarasota
M A N AT E E
Gasparilla Island Charlotte Harbor
Hobe Sound Jupiter
North Palm Beach
West Palm Beach
Clewiston Belle GladeP A L M
Jensen Beach Stuart 1
Indiantown Lake Okeechobee
Fort Myers Cape Coral
Fort Pierce Port St. Lucie
95 S T. L U C I E
S A R A S O TA
B R E VA R D
G U L F O F M E X I C O
Cocoa Beach Melbourne
St J 192 ohn sR
Apollo Beach 41
New Port Richey
New Smyrna Beach
Fanning Springs DIXIE
D U VA L
L A FAY E T T E
A T L A N T I C O C E A N
90 Lake City
TAY L O R FRANKLIN
Cumberland Island NS R.
H A M I LT O N
G LY N N
Mexico Beach GULF
S A N TA R O S A
APAL ACH IC
L. Seminole Marianna
WAY N E
AT K I N S O N
D E C AT U R SEMINOLE
G E N E VA
E A R LY
Pompano Beach Ft Lauderdale
Big Cypress National Preserve
Hollywood Miami Beach Miami Kendall
Homestead Everglades National Park
1 Key Largo
FLORIDA BAY Big Pine Key
MAP OF FLORIDA 12
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Lake Worth Delray Beach Boca Raton
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
46 GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND INFORMATION 16
WELCOME TO FLORIDA: Sun, Sand and So Much More!
HISTORY: Journey Through History
INSIDER TIPS: Sage Advice
TRIVIA: Florida By Numbers
STATE GEMS: Sunshine State Hitmakers
FLORIDA VACATION THEMES
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
THEME PARKS: Let There Be Laughter
GOLF: Get Your Golf On
VACATION HOMES: Living the Dream
WEDDINGS AND HONEYMOONS: Affairs to Remember
SPORTS: A Sportman’s Fantasy Come True
ECOTOURISM: Naturally Yours
PETS: Bone Voyage!
LGBT TRAVEL: Enticing Events for all Seasons
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FLORIDA REGIONS, COUNTIES AND CITIES 62
SOUTHEAST FLORIDA: Sun, Sand and Sizzle
Florida Keys: This Shore is Beautiful!
Greater Fort Lauderdale: A Cosmopolitan Tropical Oasis
SOUTHWEST FLORIDA: Nurtured by Nature
Hendry County: An Old-Florida Charmer
CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA: Where Treasures Abound
CENTRAL FLORIDA: The Land of Enchantment
CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA: An Embarrassment of Beaches
NORTHWEST FLORIDA: Southern Swank on the Gulf
Mexico Beach: A Private Piece of Paradise
Panama City Beach: Country on the Coast
Santa Rosa County: Explore Florida’s Playground
NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA: Unearth a World of Wonders
Gainesville: Gardens, Gridiron and ’Gators
Wakulla County: A Natural Masterpiece
NORTHEAST FLORIDA: Calling All Explorers
FLORIDA RESOURCE DIRECTORY 155
Florida Time Zones
Annual Florida Festivals
Florida Associations and Travel Groups
Florida’s Public Holidays
Florida Cruise Ports
Average Monthly Temperatures and Precipitation
National Parks, Memorials, Monuments and Preserves
Car Rental Companies
RV Rental Companies
Tourism Information Sources in Florida
Mileage Chart Between Key Florida Cities
Major International Airports in Florida
Airline Service to Florida from Canada and the USA
Bus Tour Operators in Florida
COVER: A couple plays piggy-back on Siesta Beach in Sarasota County. (Photo courtesy of Visit Sarasota County)
88 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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WELCOME TO FLORIDA
SUN, SAND AND SO MUCH MORE! BY JEN KARETNICK
he media often presents Florida as an eclectic state filled with wacky denizens. But the truth is, no matter how it’s presented and who has been living here, Florida has exerted a magnetic pull on a number of visitors for the past 500 years—beginning with Juan Ponce de León. In fact, St. Augustine, where he landed in 1513, celebrated his explorations all year in 2013 with a history campaign called Viva Florida that continues to educate visitors and residents alike. Although many Native American tribes already lived here, Ponce de León named what he saw “La Florida,” or “place of flowers,” because of the lush landscape. Indeed, Florida has 300 native plants, ranging from the bountiful bougainvillea to the starkly elegant bird of paradise. The state also hosts an additional 1,300plus introduced exotics, including some that
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; RYAN KETTERMAN; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; ROBERTO GONZALEZ/GETTY IMAGES FOR I-DRIVE 360; SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM
A red-shouldered hawk at Frenchman’s Forest Natural Area in Palm Beach Gardens.
Surf time in Jacksonville Beach.
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were naturally brought into the environment and are considered harmless and others that are invasive. Botanical gardens, such as the renowned Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens, are excellent places to learn about the state’s oft-bizarre vegetative life.
A LAND IN BLOOM Ironically, the state flower, the orange blossom, is considered an exotic, albeit one that became extremely important to the region’s economy. Native to Southeast Asia, the orange tree, an evergreen shrub, was brought to the colony of St. Augustine in 1565. The orange and its aromatic blossom, which connotes fertility and good fortune, quickly became representative of the area. A passenger train that transported New Yorkers to sunny vacationland was nicknamed the “Orange Blossom Special,” running from 1925–1953, and many towns, such as Davie, host Orange Blossom Festivals. Today, Florida is the largest producer of oranges in the country, as well as the honey made by the bees that sip pollen from the fragrant blossoms. In fact, Florida is largely agricultural and depends on export crops as diverse as sugarcane and tomatoes to survive, while still leaving plenty available for passersby to purchase. Its biggest trade is in sweet corn and green beans, and visitors are often amazed to find farm stands and U-pick farms offering everything from
boiled peanuts and blueberries in Gainesville to mangoes and lychees in the deep south areas of Redland and Homestead. Throughout the year, festivals, such as Plant City’s Florida Strawberry Festival in late winter and the mid-summer International Mango Festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, are hugely enjoyable, multi-day attractions. If you prefer bottled fruit, wineries are popping up everywhere, with many offering both grape varietals as well as tropical fruit vintages.
INTO THE WILD Likely, Ponce de León and his men also saw what we now recognize as the seven major ecosystems that exist in the state, which host 82 separate living communities. In addition to the enormous number of plants, Florida is home to more than 500 species of birds, which amateur ornithologists can track along the Great Florida Birding Trail. Completed in 2006 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the 2,000-mile trail comprises four sections—the Panhandle, East, West and South—and explains what species can be found where. Birds are not the only winged creatures one can enjoy in the state. Florida has more than 170 native butterflies, and in addition to finding them in the parks and in the wild, visitors can also view them in conservatories such as Butterfly World in Coconut Creek.
Rattlebox flowers at Cypress Creek Natural Area, Jupiter.
So much to see and do in Orlando.
Explore Florida’s Space Coast bike trails. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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WELCOME TO FLORIDA
Then, of course, there are the wingless creatures that are equally as fascinating—the 142 native species of amphibians and reptiles, including 50 kinds of snakes. Don’t worry, though, only six of those are poisonous. You can view these and the 50 additional non-native species at the many zoos and safaris, ranging from Zoo Miami and Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. For interactive fun, Jungle Island in Miami features shows where guests can actually hold giant pythons; it often takes 10 or more people just to lift them off the floor. Visitors who prefer to check out the habitats where the wild things are—including the 40 species of mammals—can tour any section of the sprawling Everglades. There, a range of activities, from fishing and boating to hiking and cycling, puts one in close touch with nature’s biggest beasts and smallest insects at the same time. The curious can also arrange private tours with exotic animal rescue and rehabilitation operations such as the Zoological Wildlife Foundation and McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary in West Palm Beach, both located in South Florida.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
For conservancy on a smaller, but no less important scale, many programs all over the state, such as the Museum of Science & Discovery in Fort Lauderdale, help protect sea turtle nests. And, if visitors are in the area at the right time, they may be able to watch a hatching.
FLOWING WATERS A big, long state, Florida is made up largely of coastline—1,200 miles of it, 663 of which consist of foot-friendly sand. When visitors think of Florida, many picture the standard: tropical weather, beaches and umbrellas, with some piña coladas served on the side—all the things that make you close your eyes, daydream and relax. Florida isn’t all salty water and fruity cocktail culture, however. The interior of the state is far different than many expect, with nearly 8,000 lakes and almost 1,700 rivers. In fact, 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 US. Not only does it provide drinking water for many surrounding and southern counties, it’s also an agricultural re-
source 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 non-native 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
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL; VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER
Family fishing on a beach on the Gulf coast in the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel area.
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Suwannee River, framed by cool, green woodlands, 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 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.
HIT THE BEACH 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
Award-winning beaches in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area.
winter of 1899 was –2 F in Tallahassee, the normal lows, which only last a couple of days, hover around the 40s or 50s during January or February. All in all, although Florida has its share of inclement weather, it’s renowned for being the warmest state in the US mainland. A couple of Florida’s cities, including Panama City Beach on the northwest coast and Daytona Beach on the east coast, are 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 fishers, 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, between Fort Myers and Sarasota, is where to go. And if you’re lucky, you may find 1,000-year-old sharks’ teeth.
THE SPORTING LIFE 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 year-round. That
doesn’t include, of course, the famous baseball spring-training facilities. Nor does it take into account the myriad golf and tennis tournaments and facilities in Orlando, Daytona, Naples, Miami and other cities. Of special note, Marlins Park in Miami, the home of the Miami Marlins, which opened for the 2012 baseball season, is truly user-friendly. And since Miami Heat fans are still mobbing American Airlines Arena because, after all, it’s “Wade County,” get tickets early if you can. And now, thanks to David Beckham, who is transforming Miami’s Orange Bowl into soccer central, there’s another superstar in the midst. In addition, racing fans never get enough of the heats in Daytona, Homestead, St. Petersburg/Clearwater and other speedways throughout the state.
FAMILY EXPLORATIONS 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 Rapids Water Park in Palm Beach County and Broward County’s collection of child-pleasing soakers: C.B. Smith’s Paradise Cove Water Park, Splash Adventure at Quiet Waters Park, T.Y. Park’s Castaway Island Water Park, and Tropical Splash Water Park. 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
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H ISTO RY
JOURNEY THROUGH HISTORY BY RICHARD WESTLUND
I Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West.
f you enjoy tales of Spanish adventurers, Civil War battles and US astronauts’ first ventures into space, it’s time to explore Florida’s intriguing history. You can visit coastal forts and lighthouses, museums, mansions, vintage hotels, and a variety of Native American, African and Hispanic cultural sites that bring Florida’s past to life. Here are some of the many historic treasures waiting to be rediscovered 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 moving into the Everglades, where they grad-
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
ually 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, several lighthouses were established in the region in the 1800s that can now be toured by visitors. For example, the Key Lighthouse at Fort Jefferson National Monument and nearby Loggerhead Key Lighthouse (both in Dry Tortugas National Park); the Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne near Miami; and the 155-year-old Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum in Palm Beach County, where outdoor exhibits include the Lighthouse Keeper’s Workshop, the Tindall Pioneer Homestead and a Seminole Chickee, all offer fascinating glimpses into Florida’s past.
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: VISIT FLORIDA; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES
Billie Swamp Safari.
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The Museum of Art & History at the Custom House in Key West is South Florida’s most important historic building. Built in 1891, the red brick national landmark has been returned to its former glory following a nine-year, US$9-million restoration project and exhibitions within expose visitors to a Florida they may have never known. Clinton Square Market, now a bi-level shopping mall, is housed in an 1800s building that was once a US Navy coal depot. Historic Key West also offers the Harry S. Truman Little White House, a favorite vacation spot for the president in the late 1940s and early ’50s, and The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. 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 handrolled 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, which feature 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. Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero was the scene of one of the most unusual chapters
in Florida history. In 1894, Cyrus Reed Teed founded the Koreshan Unity, a community for his followers who believed the universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere. Today, the site has 11 well-maintained historic structures dating from 1882–1920 as well as landscaped grounds with exotic ornamental plants from throughout the world. 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 the historic Cape Canaveral Lighthouse; be sure to check tour information before planning your trip. To the north, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum, Florida’s tallest, guards the waterway at the southern end of the Daytona Beach area.
CENTRAL For a survey of Central Florida’s fascinating past, visit the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando, where you can see exhibits such as a “cracker cabin,” a typical pioneer home from the 1800s.
FEATURED LINKS SOUTHEAST Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum ahtahthiki.com Billie Swamp Safari billieswamp.com Boca Raton Resort & Club bocaresort.com Bonnet House Museum & Gardens bonnethouse.org Colony Hotel & Cabana Club colonyflorida.com Dry Tortugas National Park nps.gov/drto Harry S. Truman Little White House trumanlittlewhitehouse.com Historic Stranahan House Museum stranahanhouse.org Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum jupiterlighthouse.org Loggerhead Key Lighthouse vivaflorida.org/Explore/Maritime-Heritage /Loggerhead-Key-Lighthouse Miami Circle flheritage.com/archaeology/projects/miamicircle Museum of Art & History at the Custom House kwahs.org/visit/custom-house The Breakers thebreakers.com The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum hemingwayhome.com
SOUTHWEST Asolo Repertory Theatre asolorep.org City of Palmetto palmettofl.org Edison & Ford Winter Estates edisonfordwinterestates.org Gamble Plantation Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/gambleplantation Gasparilla Island State Park floridastateparks.org/gasparillaisland Koreshan State Historic Site floridastateparks.org/park/Koreshan Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological Site floridastateparks.org/madirabickelmound The Gasparilla Inn & Club the-gasparilla-inn.com The Ringling ringling.org
CENTRAL EAST Cape Canaveral Lighthouse canaverallight.org Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex kennedyspacecenter.com Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum ponceinlet.org
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H ISTO RY
Flamenco dancers in Ybor City.
One of Florida’s leading African Americans was Zora Neale Hurston, a 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.
Olustee Battle re-enactment near Lake City.
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
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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 inhabited city in North America. With an historic district containing more than 30 colonial-era buildings, St. Augustine provides a unique glimpse into Spanish colonial life. The highlights include Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fortification in the continental US, and the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime 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 Fort
ALL PHOTOS: VISIT FLORIDA
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine.
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Caroline and the Kingsley Plantation House (circa 1798), both of which are located in the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve, one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic coast. During the 1820s, when Florida was a 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 fights 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 littleknown victory of the American Revolution. FL
FEATURED LINKS CENTRAL Orange County Regional History Center thehistorycenter.org Zora Neale Hurston Festival zoranealehurstonfestival.com
CENTRAL WEST Loews Don CeSar Hotel loewshotels.com/Don-CeSar Tampa Bay History Center tampabayhistorycenter.org Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks spongedocks.net Ybor City Chamber of Commerce ybor.org
NORTHEAST Amelia Island Tourist Development Council ameliaisland.com Amelia Island Museum of History ameliamuseum.org Castillo de San Marcos National Monument nps.gov/casa Florida Black Heritage Trail flheritage.com/preservation/trails /blackheritage/index.cfm Fort Clinch State Park floridastateparks.org/fortclinch Old City, St. Augustine oldcity.com St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum staugustinelighthouse.org Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve nps.gov/timu
NORTH CENTRAL Battle of Olustee Festival and Battle Re-enactment olusteefestival.com City of Apalachicola cityofapalachicola.com Florida Civil War Heritage Trail flheritage.com/preservation/trails/civilwar/index.cfm Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/naturalbridge St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/st_marks The Grove flheritage.com/grove
NORTHWEST Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail floridapanhandledivetrail.com Fort George Historic Site exploresouthernhistory.com/fortgeorge Historic Pensacola Village historicpensacola.org Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum pensacolalighthouse.org The T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum in Pensacola. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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I N SID E R T IPS
Book an airboat trip through the Everglades.
I Enjoy savings during “deal season” in Orlando.
t always feels wonderful to save money and scoring big savings (like 50 percent off at hotels) can make one feel downright giddy. Here’s some solid insider advice on great money-saving tips and travel advice specific to the Sunshine State. It’s time to get out your highlighter and start raking in the savings.
SEASONS MATTER Seasons vary greatly from south to north in Florida. In January, the average high temperature in Key West is 74 F, however 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 15–September 30. In addition, you can take advantage of savings on attractions, restaurants and shopping by visiting VisitOrlando.com/discounts-and-tickets.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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 Dinner & Tournament and Pirate’s Dinner Adventure, as well as events and exhibits.
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT All the Disneyworld theme parks, SeaWorld, Universal Studios and various bars and restaurants in Orlando have free Wi-Fi to which you can easily connect. A number of apps also save you time and stress and help you plan your holiday. While the Disney World Experience is a must for organizing and planning your days at Disney parks, the InPark Assistant by
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT ORLANDO; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES
BY JILL MARTIN
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Sebastian Wedeniwski features a series of individual apps designed for each theme park in Orlando, which makes it easy to find wait times for attractions, find shops and browse maps. Parking in Orlando may be a challenge, however Orlando ParkIn provides information on parking garages, prices, opening hours, number of spaces available and more. Two other apps worth checking out are the V.A.T. Calculator, which makes it easier to add or remove taxes, and Spending Tracker, which helps keep track of your expenditures and credit card balance.
CLIP THOSE COUPONS 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 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 bargain listings offering 35 to 90 percent off at hotels, attractions and restaurants. What’s more, four of South Florida’s top attractions—Lion Country Safari, Miami Seaquarium, Museum of Discovery & Science and Zoo Miami—offer a summer pass, which provides unlimited visits for 100-plus days. Get yours at SummerSavingsPass.com.
SAVE ON ACCOMMODATION 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 reserve. Thousands of timeshare owners post units they are unable to use at RedWeek.com and you can reap the roomy benefits. Also visit the websites of vacation ownership resorts directly. Even if you can’t stay an entire week (as timeshare units are normally leased in weekly increments), the savings are still worth it, especially during the off-season. Favorite websites include flcondoalliance.com; LegacyVacationResorts.com; WestgateResorts.com; VRBO.com; and MyResortNetwork.com.
SIGN UP FOR SAVINGS 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.
REGISTER YOUR KIDS Many resorts offer kids’ programs as part of their amenity packages, providing supervised childcare during certain hours of the day—or
night. 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 significant other 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.
AIR SEAT SALES 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 2010, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) was the first international airport to be built in the US in more than a decade. Destin–Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS) offers easy access 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 non-stop international service from Canada and Germany as well as US domestic carriers. And the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) gave Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) top rating as 2014–15 Airport of the Year.
#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.
FREE ADMISSIONS 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 Shop for treasures and souvenirs in Key West. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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I N SID E R T IPS Family-friendly Bathtub Beach in Martin County.
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 childrestraint 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
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, except major holidays. 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. 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
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
SunPass Mini transponder at one of the more than 3,100 retail locations for US$4.99. A minimum opening balance of US$10 is required. Most rental 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 start 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 in our Resource Directory.
‘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 where alligators may reside. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.
OUT AND ABOUT Smoking is not permitted inside Florida restaurants or bars that serve food. Many public areas, such as parks, have also banned smoking.
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 during 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
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: MARTIN COUNTY CVB; WEST VOLUSIA TOURISM BUREAU; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES
(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:
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.
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T R I VI A
FLORIDA BY NUMBERS BY KEVIN FRITZ Family fun on the Spring-to-Spring Trail in West Volusia.
he Sunshine State offers a destination rich in history and flush with modern-day activities like no other place in the US. From its humble beginnings as an escape from northern winters to its bevy of world-class attractions and activities today, Florida has always been the ideal getaway to explore, unwind, relax and enjoy. Boasting an average annual temperature of 70.7 F, here in Florida, the numbers say it all.
ON THE BEACH 4 – The number of beaches in Florida ranked by Stephen Parker Leatherman, better known as Dr. Beach, in the top 10 in the US for 2015: #2 – Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park in North Naples; #3 – St. George Island State Park, near Apalachicola; #6 – Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne; and #9 – DelnorWiggins Pass State Park, Naples.) 663 – Miles of beaches in the Sunshine State. 1,197 – Miles of Florida coastline. 4,500 – The number of offshore islands covering 10 acres or more. That’s second in the nation next to Alaska.
A BIT OF HISTORY 1513 – The year Ponce de León landed near present-day St. Augustine and named the state La Florida meaning “place of flowers.” 1565 – Founding of St. Augustine, America’s oldest city. 1845 – Florida became a state.
Strollers on Jupiter Beach.
AT THE THEME PARKS 1936 – Cypress Gardens opens. 1947 – Weeki Wachee debuts its famed mermaids. 1971 – Walt Disney World opens. 1990 – Universal Studios opens. 2011 – LEGOLAND Florida (formerly Cypress Gardens) opens.
’GATORS 1 – The number of college football teams nicknamed the ’gators. (Florida ’gators at the University of Florida, Gainesville.) 67 – Counties in Florida in which you can find alligators. That’s equal to the number of counties in Florida. 1.3 million – Total estimated number of ’gators that can be found in those 67 counties.
BIKING AROUND 4 – The number of cities with public bikesharing programs, located in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa.
READY FOR FOOTBALL? 46 – Length in miles of Florida’s longest paved bike trail, which stretches from Owensboro to Citrus Springs and spans three counties on the Nature Coast bordering the Gulf of Mexico (namely, Hernando, Citrus and Pasco counties). 275 – The number of miles the Coast to Coast Connector bike path will run when complete, connecting the Gulf coast at St. Petersburg, through Central Florida, to the Atlantic Coast at Canaveral National Seashore.
9 – The number of College Football Bowl games you can attend in Florida during the holidays (December and January). 42 – The total number of College Football Bowl games in all of the US.
LODGINGS 144,000 – The number of hotel rooms in Orlando, ranked second in the US. 370,000 – The total number of hotel rooms in all of Florida. FL
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STAT E GEMS
SUNSHINE STATE HITMAKERS
BY DEBI LANDER
hink of this guide as an insider’s peek into Florida’s hidden gems, those lesser-known treasures scattered across the state. We list the off-the-beaten path attractions, local guides, best beaches or breakfast spots frequented by locals. Here are some of the state’s “not-to-miss” experiences.
SOUTHEAST Unexpected discoveries await in Key West. Among them is the historic, never-used 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. It’s called the No Name Pub, and it might also be the hardest to find—the quirky eatery lies off US Highway 1 at mile marker (MM) 30.5 bayside, down a winding road in a settlement known as No Name Key. This out-of-the-way location doesn’t keep people from discovering
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
the local landmark’s world-class pizza and ramshackle decor. On Islamorada, soak up tales over cocktails at the Lorelei, a favorite local hangout whose on-site marina is headquarters for both offshore and backcountry captains. The Lorelei is easy to find—a super-sized mermaid figure reclines at its entrance at MM 82. Key Largo residents might be tempted to keep one of their beloved eateries a secret, but fortunately they don’t. Ask where to have a great home-style meal and chances are you’ll be directed to Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen at MM 99. All dishes and sauces are homemade from scratch with Keys flair— and the “World Famous Key Lime Pie” sign is not an exaggeration. From café cubano and Peruvian ceviche to authentic Italian gelato, Miami Culinary Tours are about tasting delicious and authentic cuisine around the city’s historic neighborhoods. Tasting tours include the South Beach Food Tour, Little Havana Food Tour and Wynwood Food Tour.
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL; GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE CVB; PHOTO COURTESY OF VISIT SARASOTA COUNTY; DAYTONA BEACH AREA CVB
Shelling on Sanibel Island.
Water taxi in Fort Lauderdale.
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Water taxi tickets let you hop on and off at stops all day while traveling along Fort Lauderdale’s world-famous waterways.
SOUTHWEST Sanibel 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 all over the world. Sanibel also offers great biking along a 25mile path, most of which is separated from the roadway by vegetation, making it a safe trail for families. Stump Pass Beach is little known, except to those who seek exceptional shelling. When the tide rolls away from Stump Pass Beach State Park on Manasota Key in Englewood, there remains mixed in among the untold number of shells a plethora of fossilized sharks’ teeth. Cape Coral has the distinction of harboring the largest population of the burrowing owl in the state, with an estimated 1,000 nesting pairs. Birdwatchers and photographers flock to see the pint-sized bird that lives in open, treeless areas and spends most of its time on the ground. Have you ever wanted to experience the thrill of the flying trapeze? Tito Gaona, owner and founder of the Flying Trapeze Academy in Venice, schedules classes for adults and children. Venice was recognized as one of the top
two “Happiest Seaside Towns in America” for 2015 by Coastal Living Magazine. Few realize that the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota is the state art museum. The institution showcases 21 galleries of European paintings, antiquities and Asian, American, and contemporary art, including a world-renowned collection of Peter Paul Rubens paintings. The Ringling property (including gardens, entrance to which is free) also boasts the Circus Museum and Ca’ d’Zan, the restored Ringling mansion. Siesta Beach in Sarasota County was named the overall winner in the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards for Beaches by ranking first out of 25.
seum offers the finest collection of American Art in the southeast and the largest collection of Cuban art outside of Cuba. Smyrna Dunes Park rises above a wide expanse of dunes with one-and-a-half miles of elevated boardwalk. On the Daytona side of the jetty, find the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum, open daily. Driving on the beach is still allowed on clearly marked areas of both New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach.
CENTRAL EAST Find the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the northern hemisphere at the St. Lucie Inlet, an ideal place for unwinding and reconnecting with nature. The sights, sounds and ground-shaking vibrations haven’t retired with the space shuttle. The excitement is as palpable as ever during rocket launches taking place at Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral, carrying not only NASA science missions and government satellites, but also commercial space endeavors. Don’t miss Florida’s prehistoric Giant Ground Sloth at the Museum of Arts & Sciences (MOAS) in Daytona Beach. The mu-
Works of the old masters at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota.
FEATURED LINKS SOUTHEAST Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum shellmuseum.org Florida Keys fla-keys.com Key West Garden Club keywestgardenclub.com Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar loreleicabanabar.com Miami Culinary Tours miamiculinarytours.com Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen mrsmacskitchen.com No Name Pub nonamepub.com
SOUTHWEST The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel fortmyerssanibel.com Stump Pass Beach State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Stump-Pass Tito Gaona’s Flying Trapeze Academy, Venice titogaona.com
CENTRAL EAST Daytona Beach daytonabeach.com Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex kennedyspacecenter.com Museum of Arts & Sciences, Daytona moas.org The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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STAT E GEMS CENTRAL
Whooping cranes follow an ultralight aircraft to Florida.
Get away from Orlando’s hustle and bustle at Polk County’s Bok Tower and Gardens featuring a 60bell carillon “singing tower.” Concerts ring daily. The tranquil retreat is surrounded by water and historic landscape gardens, perfect for picnicking, geocaching, and taking in sunsets from one of the state’s highest elevations—298 feet. Every Easter the site is home to a beautiful sunrise service. Also visit the 1930s Mediterranean-style mansion, Pinewood Estate, especially beautiful during the Christmas tours. Who would have guessed you can ride a camel while touring 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. Fodors named Wilderness Ranch one of the “Top 10 Best Safaris in the US.” Think Florida and oranges come to mind. Right? Ridge Island Groves in Haines City offers a u-pick tour that takes people into the orange groves to pick these citrus fruits straight from the trees. First, go behind the scenes to observe how citrus is washed, waxed and sorted before it’s shipped.
The Castle Hotel, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection in Orlando, immerses guests in art, music, cuisine and culture within its Bavarian-inspired exterior and elegant guest quarters. Head to the rooftop for one of the best views of Disney World’s and Universal’s nightly fireworks displays. Guests of the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando step out of the resort into Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure theme parks with VIP access, which includes “skip the regular line” privileges. Ocala is horse country and the 23rd Annual Southeastern Pro Rodeo returns on March 27–28. Get ready for jam-packed performances filled with saddle and bareback bronco riding, tiedown roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and, the always popular and most dangerous eight seconds in rodeo, bull riding. Lake Istokpoga in the Lake Placid area of Highlands County is one of the biggest trophy bass fishing lakes in Florida. While the largemouth bass is the fish of choice here, you’ll also find black crappie and bluegill. The best time for largemouth bass fishing is during the spring and early summer. Birdwatchers come to spy on osprey, snowy egret, bald eagles and wild ducks.
CENTRAL WEST Consider lodging at St. Petersburg’s iconic hotel, known as the Pink Palace. Loews Don CeSar Hotel boasts the glamour of bygone days. Former guests include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Al Capone, Clarence Darrow, Franklin D. Roosevelt and department store tycoons Bloomingdale and Gimbel. Clearwater Beach, outside of Tampa, was named 2015 second-best beach in the country by TIME magazine in its annual Travel section. It was chosen for its “white sand and warm, gentle waves.” Travel + Leisure listed the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach the 20thbest overall family resort in America. North of Tampa, Dunedin is well worth touring. If you’re in Clearwater, hop onto the Jolly Trolley, which provides service every halfhour to Dunedin and Tarpon Springs along the scenic Coastal Route. While you won’t find any chain restaurants or shops in Dunedin, there are fresh product and arts markets held every Friday and Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM from November through June. Arts and crafts lovers may want to plan to attend a juried arts and The historic Palace Saloon in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. 30
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: AMELIA ISLAND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; LOU KELLENBERGER; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; VISIT FLORIDA
Game animals at Safari Wilderness Ranch in Lakeland.
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Fly a kite on Okaloosa Island.
crafts show, which takes over downtown Dunedin four times a year, on Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM. And, if you’re a baseball fan, head on over to the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium to watch the Toronto Blue Jays in spring training in March. 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, Crystal River is the ideal spot to swim with manatees.
NORTHEAST Looking for BBQ? Try southern barbeque at Captain’s BBQ in Palm Coast, which TripAdvisor named as one of the top 10 best barbecue restaurants in the US and No. 1 in Florida. Pitmaster by trade and fisherman by passion, co-owner Chris Herrera runs a local fishing charter business. So whether you’re hungry for a BBQ feast or a bigwater angling adventure, Chris makes it happen. The Highlands Festival in Green Cove Springs brings a “wee bit o’ Scotland” to Northeast Florida with Scottish athletics, music, food and entertainment. In 2016, the games will take place on February 27 at the Clay County Fairgrounds from 9 AM until 10 PM. Come in and smell the spices 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 gin and vodka operations using Florida-grown sugarcane. In Jacksonville, the Jax Ale Trail offers a selfguided tour of the seven craft breweries across the city including Aardwolf Brewing Company, Bold City Brewery, Engine 15 Brewing Co., Green Room Brewing, Intuition Ale Works, Pinglehead Brewing Company, and Veterans United Craft Brewery. Visitors receive a Jax Ale Trail Brewery Passport, which can be stamped at each of the local craft breweries to receive cool free prizes. Amelia Island is rich in history and offers an abundance of world-class spas, championship golf and exclusive dining, plus a collection of charming bed-and-breakfast inns. The Palace Saloon is the oldest continuously operating saloon in Florida. Formerly a haberdashery, the
building was purchased and opened in 1903 by German immigrant Louis G. Hirth as a “gentleman’s establishment.” During prohibition, it survived by selling gasoline, ice cream, special wines, three percent near-beer and cigars. In 1999, it was struck by fire, however workers and artisans quickly restored the Palace to its former grandeur.
NORTH CENTRAL See Operation Migration in action as whooping cranes arrive in the town of St. Marks in Wakulla County after following an ultralight plane on their months-long southward journey. Operation Migration pilots act as surrogate parents and guide captive-hatched and imprinted whooping cranes along a route beginning in Wisconsin and ending in Florida.
NORTHWEST Seacrest Wolf Preserve in Chipley offers a rare 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. Okaloosa Island on the Emerald Coast hosts two annual kite festivals: the two-day Kitty Hawk Kite Fly Into Spring Kite Festival in April and Flying High on the Harbor in the fall. Pensacola is home of 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 practice is free. The Blue Angels X4D Experience, a 3D movie with interactive seats, allows visitors to feel like they’re in the air show. FL
FEATURED LINKS CENTRAL Bok Tower and Gardens boktowergardens.org Castle Hotel Orlando castlehotelorlando.com Hard Rock Hotel Orlando hardrockhotels.com Ocala Rodeo ocalarodeo.com Ridge Island Groves ridgeislandgroves.com Safari Wilderness Ranch safariwilderness.com The Alfond Inn thealfondinn.com
CENTRAL WEST Loews Don CeSar Hotel loewshotels.com/DonCeSar Plantation on Crystal River plantationoncrystalriver.com Ringling Museum of Art ringling.org
NORTHEAST Captain’s BBQ captainsbbqbaittackle.com Scottish Highland Games & Festival neflgames.com Spice & Tea Exchange of St. Augustine spiceandtea.com
NORTH CENTRAL Operation Migration operationmigration.org
NORTHWEST Amelia Island Museum of History ameliamuseum.org National Naval Aviation Museum navalaviationmuseum.org Seacrest Wolf Preserve seacrestwolfpreserve.org
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LET THERE BE LAUGHTER
illiness is the name of the game when visiting Central Florida’s amazingly fun theme parks. Whether you aspire to fly with the world’s most famous wizard or feel adventurous enough to pop your head up in the middle of a tiger habitat, Florida’s favorite fantasy spots promise excitement, adventure and certainly a few belly laughs.
SEAWORLD ORLANDO Silly Seamore and his pal Clyde invite you to go to high school at their new comedy show, Sea Lion High. The two mammals and their human mascots work hand-in-hand as the dynamic duo work to earn scholarships to Ocean University through myriad adventurous and silly antics. In summer 2016, the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in Orlando comes to SeaWorld. The new hypercoaster, Mako, designed for speed and relentless “air time,” lurks in the park’s new two-acre, shark-themed realm and promises to take a bite out of thrill seekers. Reaching speeds of 73 mph along 4,760 feet of steel track—nearly a mile long—Mako is named for one of the ocean’s fastest-known
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
A concept rendering of the entrance to Mako, the new coaster at SeaWorld Orlando.
sharks and promises to leave riders feeling both breathless and weightless. Happy Harbor continues to keep the minnows in your group content with kid-sized coasters, trains and attractions. And there’s also a place for them to splash around before checking out the big splashes Shamu and his friends can make. Glide around the park feeding dolphins and stingray and dive into frigid fun in the fully-immersive Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin encounter. Your day of animal discovery is filled with closer-than-you-think-you-should-get experiences laced with frivolity and fascination. With five thrill rides and amazing animal encounters, SeaWorld Orlando promises a day full of enjoyment, animal conservation and memories to last a lifetime. Whether you’re a guppy or a dolphin in the water, Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark, offers something for you. The bravest fish in your school will flock to Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, the park’s new free-fallin’ drop slide. Smaller swimmers will love Kata’s Kookaburra Cove, a splish-splashin’ safety zone where kids can play all day. Aquatica offers white sandy
beaches and the only giant side-by-side wave pools in the US. At Discovery Cove, escape the fervor of vacation fun and slip into a day of pampering, beautiful aviaries, exotic animals and up-close marine-life encounters. Splurge on a 30minute interactive dolphin swim where you’ll wade into shallow water to befriend an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin with hugs, kisses and rubdowns before grabbing his dorsal fin for a short tow back to shore. Lush landscapes and all-inclusive drinks, dining and dessert, coupled with extraordinary animal encounters, make your Discovery Cove day nothing short of perfect.
UNIVERSAL ORLANDO Dragons, dinosaurs and Dave (the muchloved minion) wait for you at Universal Orlando Resort. Be sure to grab a multi-park ticket as your best way to explore this universe. Universal Studios brings you face-to-face with TRANSFORMERS, mummies and Harry Potter and crew. Potter experts will immediately spy the “secret” entrance to Diagon Alley. For those less versed,
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ©2015 SEAWORLD PARKS & ENTERTAINMENT, INC; © 2015 CHIP LITHERLAND PHOTOGRAPHY INC.; BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA
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Mia’s Riding Adventure at LEGOLAND Florida Resort’s new Heartlake City in Winter Haven.
look for the double-decker bus and cross the street. While traversing the studios, grab a Krusty Burger in Springfield, hometown to America’s favorite animated family, The Simpsons, before taking an iconic trip with E.T. and his family. Take a flying leap into Platform 9-¾ to make your way over to Islands of Adventure where you can once again soar with Harry and friends at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. Do the right thing and visit Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls to cool off before swinging above the streets with Spider-Man, now in HD-3D. Merriment abounds on the Caro-Seuss-el, the world’s most unusual merrygo-round, and the Cat in the Hat ride. It’s no laughing matter when King Kong begins his reign in summer 2016. Skull Island: Reign of Kong threatens an intense adventure as you become part of the next generation of the Kong legend. It should be no surprise Islands of Adventure was named the best theme park in the world in TripAdvisor’s 2015 Travelers Awards.
WALT DISNEY WORLD Six themed lands beckon you as you step foot into the Magic Kingdom where the 189-foot-tall Cinderella Castle serves as your iconic photo backdrop. Your Disney day begins with lush new gardens and spacious walkways throughout the new Magic Kingdom Central Plaza expansion. Home to classics Space Mountain and Haunted Mansion, Magic Kingdom offers newer nuggets of amusement such as the recently re-vamped Dumbo ride and the newer Journey of the Little Mermaid adventure. Space Rangers can fight for the safety of the world on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and petite pixies and little lost boys will love the new interactive queue line at Peter Pan’s Flight as they
await their journey to Neverland. Be sure to reserve your fast pass faves through one of the FastPass+ kiosks located around the park to optimize your day. Note, the Central Plaza now offers added fireworks FastPass+ viewing areas for “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular.” At Epcot, launch into a day of discovery. Innoventions invites guests to hands-on learning experiences including money management, fire safety and technology while Test Track, Soarin’ and Mission: SPACE transports you on journeys beyond imagination. Traverse the world—Showcase, that is—and visit 11 nations in a matter of hours. Delicious fare, intricate international items and exquisite entertainment abound at every turn. New in 2016, sail over to Norway to meet Princess Anna and Queen Elsa from Arendelle. Enjoy favorite musical moments and royal greetings from your favorite Frozen family. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s all about lights, camera and ice! Frozen fun continues at Hollywood Studios and never before has it been so hot. Anna, Elsa, Olaf and a crew of ice dancers parade the main walkway each afternoon to host a flurry of shows on the main stage. Cool off in the Hyperion theater and enjoy the interactive “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration” hosted by the Royal Historians of Arendelle who render a comedic retelling of the unique story of their kingdom, filled with delightful moments from Frozen, plus all-new in-theater effects and special appearances by Anna, Elsa and Kristoff. Classic goodies, such as the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, continue to thrill guests while mayhem continues to make its mark at Muppet Vision 3D and forces are defeated at Star Tours – The Adventures
Continue. Fans can now meet Doc McStuffins in her new playhouse clinic in the Animation Courtyard near Disney Junior – Live on Stage! In fact, film’s greatest characters can be spied throughout the park including Mickey Mouse, Phineas and Ferb, Sofia, Jake, Buzz Lightyear and Woody, to name a few. Learn the ways of the Jedi at the Jedi Training Academy before wielding a light saber in a one-on-one battle with Darth Vader. And be sure to cut loose at the Disney Junior Dance Party. That’s a wrap! End your day with the Fantasmic! fireworks show where Mickey’s dreams come to life in lights, lasers, fireworks and water animation. Be sure to arrive early to get a seat. Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers a day of exploration and enchantment where visitors are greeted by the massive tree of life and wonders below and above await. Don bug glasses and become an honorary bug in It’s Tough to Be a Bug—watch out for beetles! Brave the Yeti on Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain and avoid being eaten on Dinosaur. Trek through the jungle spying monkeys, lions and zebras. Feast with Donald, Daisy Duck and their friends at Tusker House Restaurant for a new dining experience where Donald’s Safari Dinner offers an African touch as you meet your favorite characters and munch on all-youcare-to-enjoy meats, salads, stews and desserts. Rendering of the new Cobra’s Curse, opening in 2016 at Busch Gardens Tampa.
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T H E M E PA RKS
I-Drive 360 in Orlando features attractions, restaurants, clubs and shops.
to arrive early enough to climb aboard before the sun goes down.
LEGOLAND FLORIDA About an hour’s drive from Orlando, Winter Haven’s themed land recently debuted. Heartlake City, LEGOLAND Florida’s newest expansion, brings to life the five LEGO Friends personalities: Olivia, Stephanie, Emma, Mia and Andrea, as well as their interests—animals, music, nature and fashion. The land includes a ride themed around Mia’s love of horses and an interactive show, Friends to the Rescue. Be sure to catch a fun photo opportunity in Stephanie’s Newsroom with your best friend while you’re there. LEGOLAND’s interactive park lets kids take control by using their creativity and imagination. Children between two and 12 years old will enjoy themed roller coasters, family rides, hands-on building experiences and the LEGOLAND water park. Begin the day on board Island in the Sky, a 150-foot rotating platform ride, which provides a 360-degree view of LEGOLAND Florida. Afterward, hop on the one-of-a-kind, twostory Grand Carousel before catching the Chima 4D movie. Assemble the bravest in your group and head over to the land of LEGO Technic—the most “intense” zone in the park. Harness the power of acceleration, braking and maneuverability as you race a life-size LEGO Technic vehicle around a crazy, twisty track on Project X. Cool off by zipping in and out of waves on the Aquazone Wave Racers, but watch out for those kid-powered water blasters coming your way. With more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, LEGOLAND constructs the perfect family day for you and your little blockheads. Forgo the drive back to Orlando and crash at the new LEGOLAND Hotel, located just steps
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from the park entrance. Before you leave for the day, be sure you don’t miss The Big Shop, one of the largest LEGO retail stores in the world for that must-have souvenir.
I-DRIVE 360 What do wax museums, an aquarium and one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels have in common? They are all “housed” at one glorious attraction in Orlando. The new I-Drive 360 hosts world-class attractions, including Sea Life Aquarium, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and the Orlando Eye, a 400-foot observation wheel. Madame Tussaud’s wax museum offers guests of all ages the opportunity to learn about and play alongside history’s most notable figures. Help Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. give his famous speech; direct E.T. next to Steven Spielberg; and rub elbows with Hollywood power couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Feel free to take the stage with One Direction or groove alongside Taylor Swift. From historic to iconic and real to fictional, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum invites guests into hours of fantasy and fun. Sea Life Aquarium takes you through the world’s oceans to explore eels, starfish, jellyfish and sharks. The experience culminates in a hands-on room where guests can touch many of the creatures they just viewed in their natural habitats. Soar the Orlando skies in comfortable airconditioned compartments, which offer seats and a 360-degree view of Orlando and beyond. The Orlando Eye is the largest observation wheel on the east coast of the US. Although the sights are beautiful any time of day, the most recommended period for gorgeous views of Orlando is at sunset. Be sure
Busch Gardens Tampa puts a spin on family thrills in 2016. Cobra’s Curse, a new spin coaster featuring a vertical lift, is the only one of its kind in the world and takes riders on a whirlwind adventure of exciting explorations. Home to more than 12,000 animals living in state-of-the-art habitats, the Animal Care Center gets visitors up close as they take part in caring for the animals. Fly above giraffes, wildebeests and rhinos on the Skyride before swinging over to Jungala to come nose-tonose with tigers and orangutans on their turf while enjoying an extraordinary mix of discovery and adventure with rides, net climbs, shows and a few giggles. Feel the swiftness of the cheetah on Cheetah Hunt, Florida’s first triple-launch coaster and face the fury of the falcon on Falcon’s Fury, North America’s tallest freestanding 335-foot drop tower that pivots riders 90 degrees in midair to face the plunge face-down at a 60 mph dive. Little adventurers can take flight on Air Grover, a junior coaster perfect for parents and kids to enjoy together. Then explore one of the neatest net climbs in Florida and cool off in watery surroundings at Busch Gardens Tampa’s newest kids’ area, Sesame Street Safari of Fun. Be sure to make a little time to refresh with a day trip across the street at Adventure Island and try out its newest family thrill slide, Colossal Curl. FL
FEATURED LINKS Aquatica Orlando aquaticaorlando.com Busch Gardens Tampa buschgardenstampa.com Discovery Cove discoverycove.com I-Drive 360 i-drive360.com LEGOLAND Florida florida.legoland.com SeaWorld Orlando seaworldorlando.com Universal Orlando Resort universalorlando.com Walt Disney World disneyworld.disney.go.com
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ROBERTO GONZALEZ/GETTY IMAGES FOR I-DRIVE 360; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; GREATER FLORT LAUDERDALE CVB; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB
BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA
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GET YOUR GOLF ON BY EDWARD SCHMIDT JR. Palm Beach Gardens, home of the Honda Classic.
Florida is riddled with golf courses for all levels.
f you’re a golfer, Florida is a dimpled-ball nirvana. Boasting one of the world’s great golf menus, the Sunshine State has more than 1,400 courses, including a plethora of resorts where golf is the featured amenity. Better still, the selection encompasses a wide variety of settings ranging from seaside and wetlands to lake-laden and hilly.
SOUTHEAST Blue skies, swaying palms and carpet-like fairways are part of the enviable golf experience in this hugely popular tourist region. Enveloped by lush foliage, the 800-acre Trump National Doral Miami has five championship courses highlighted by the Blue Monster, the iconic layout that has hosted PGA Tour events for over 50 years. Rabid golf enthusiast Donald Trump also offers the 27-hole Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, a Jim Fazio design with elevation changes. A 25-minute drive north of downtown Miami, the Turnberry Isle Miami Resort has two 18-hole championship courses with contoured fairways, high-impact water features, superbly carved bunkers, a variety of elevation
changes and a private club-style ambiance. In Palm Beach Gardens, the PGA National Resort and Spa has five championship golf courses including The Champion, the spectacular Jack Nicklaus design that hosts the PGA Tour’s annual Honda Classic. The former site of the Honda Classic (1997–2002) is the Heron Bay Golf Club in Coral Springs, which is situated adjacent to the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Coral Springs Hotel and Convention Center.
SOUTHWEST Home to numerous residential golf communities and upscale golf resorts, this region attracts golfers with its variety of play options and lush, palmspeckled courses fashioned by top designers. Emblematic of the high quality of golf in the area is the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, where Greg Norman designed 36 holes, which incorporate unique features such as stacked sod wall bunkers and coquina sand. In Sarasota, the Palm-Aire Country Club offers 36 holes of impeccably maintained terrain dotted with mature oak and palm trees and well-placed water features.
Relaxing after a round of golf at The Rookery on Marco Island.
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GOLF CENTRAL EAST Home to the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the LPGA Tour Qualifying School, LPGA International in Daytona Beach is a beautifully landscaped resort/residential development with two exceptional 18-hole courses designed separately by Arthur Hills (Legends Course) and Rees Jones (Champions Course). In Port St. Lucie, golfers can celebrate all aspects of the game at PGA Village, a multifaceted complex owned and operated by the PGA of America that encompasses three golf courses, a short course, the 35-acre PGA Center for Learning and Performance and PGA Museum of Golf, an on-site building with golf history exhibits, vintage photographs, posters, golf clubs and other memorabilia.
CENTRAL Beyond the world-class theme parks and attractions, Orlando is a golf-crazy city with dozens of top-notch courses. Near Walt Disney World, Orange County National is a world-class complex
encompassing 36 holes of golf, a nine-hole executive course, 42-acre practice facility and a 50-room lodge. Orange County National’s Panther Lake has rolling terrain, 60-foot elevation changes, scenic wetlands and freshwater lakes. Its sister course, Crooked Cat, has a wide-open feel with spacious terraced fairways, few trees and large, sloping greens. Jack Nicklaus design fans gravitate to the Grand Cypress Resort where the Golden Bear designed 45 holes of golf including the celebrated New Course, a special tribute to the Old Course in St. Andrews. It has a quaint starter’s hut, simple white fences, deep pot bunkers and stone walls and bridges similar to the original. For a links-style course with an Australian flair, Greg Norman’s International Course at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate is a wonderland of dunes sprinkled with tall grasses and expansive greens. The other onsite choice is the National Course, a parkland experience with pine, oak and cypress groves and spring-fed lakes.
FEATURED LINKS SOUTHEAST Heron Bay Golf Club heronbay.clublink.com PGA National Resort & Spa pgaresort.com Trump International Golf Club trumpinternationalpalmbeaches.com Trump National Doral Golf Club trumpgolfdoral.com Turnberry Isle Miami turnberryislemiami.com
SOUTHWEST Palm-Aire Country Club palmaire.net Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples ritzcarlton.com
CENTRAL EAST LPGA International clubcorp.com/Clubs/LPGA-International PGA Village pgavillage.com
CENTRAL Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge ocngolf.com Villas of Grand Cypress Orlando grandcypress.com
The LPGA Legends Course in Daytona Beach.
CENTRAL WEST Innisbrook innisbrookgolfresort.com Saddlebrook Resort Tampa saddlebrook.com
Tampa has more than 100 golf courses within a 30-mile radius of downtown. For a thorough golf skills test, play the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort in Palm Harbor, which hosts the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship (formerly the Tampa Bay Championship) every March. The 900-acre resort has 72 holes of golf. Arnold Palmer fans should tee up at Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel near Tampa where Arnie designed two challenging 18-hole layouts featuring undulating fairways framed by cypress, palms and pines. In the popular fishing town of Crystal River, 80 miles north of Tampa, the venerable Plantation on Crystal River Resort has 27 holes of golf dominated by mature pine and oak trees and small ponds and lakes.
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FROM BOTOM LEFT TO TOP RIGHT: DAYTONA BEACH CVB; WORLD GOLF HALL OF FAME
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The World Golf Hall of Fame near St. Augustine.
NORTHEAST PGA Tour stars Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh and Fred Funk reside in this golf rich region, which is home to the headquarters for the PGA Tour in Ponte Vedra Beach. The world-famous No. 17 island hole is a tension-filled but extraordinarily fun experience at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach. Immerse in golf history at the World Golf Hall of Fame within the World Golf Village resort/residential development near St. Augustine. When itâ€™s tee time, the on-site Slammer & Squire and King & Bear courses are superbly maintained and playable. For oceanside golf settings, two great selections are Hammock Beach, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort in Palm Coast with 36 holes of golf featuring the Ocean Course, and Omni Amelia Island Plantation, 30 miles north of Jacksonville, which has 54 holes of golf highlighted by the Ocean Links layout with five oceanfront holes. Nearby, the amenity-rich Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, offers an 18-hole championship course designed by Mark McCumber and Gene Littler. The extensive lineup of exceptional courses in the region includes Cimarrone Golf Club, Country Club of Orange Park, Jacksonville Beach Club, Magnolia Point Golf and Country Club, Ponte Vedra Golf & Country Club at Sawgrass and Queens Harbour Yacht & Country Club.
NORTH CENTRAL For those who like to play parkland-style courses, this inland region offers exceptional choices.
In Tallahassee, the Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club, owned by Florida State University, is a tree-studded gem with rolling fairways and comprehensive practice facilities. Equally impressive is the Mark Bostick Golf Course on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, a Donald Ross design with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss and other lush tree growth, and Ironwood Golf Course, a municipal course owned by the city of Gainesville.
NORTHWEST Course designers have taken full advantage of this areaâ€™s lush, pine-dotted terrain and stunning water settings. Beautiful panoramas and challenging golf holes are the magnets at Bay Point Wyndham Resort in Panama City Beach, which has 36 holes highlighted by the Nicklaus Course. In Destin, a bustling beach town known for its world-class deep sea fishing, the sprawling 2,400-acre, multi-amenity Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort has four championship golf courses with designer tags like Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and Rees Jones featuring palm-dotted fairways, undulating greens and picturesque holes along the Choctawhatchee Bay. At the western end of the Panhandle, Pensacola has more than a dozen courses on its menu. Top play suggestions include Perdido Bay Golf Club, the former site of the Pensacola Open for 10 years, and Scenic Hills Country Club at the University of West Florida, which showcases rolling hills, elevation changes and tall pines. FL
FEATURED LINKS NORTHEAST Cimarrone Golf Club cimarronegolf.com Country Club of Orange Park solegolf.com/country-club-of-orange-park Hammock Beach hammockbeach.com Jacksonville Beach Golf Club jaxbchgolf.com Magnolia Point Golf & Country Club magnoliapointgolfclub.com Ponte Vedra Golf & Country Club thepontevedragolfandcc.com Queens Harbour Yacht & Country Club clubcorp.com/Clubs /Queens-Harbour-Yacht-Country-Club Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island ritzcarlton.com Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa sawgrassmarriott.com World Golf Village worldgolfvillage.com
NORTH CENTRAL Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club seminolegolfcourse.com Ironwood Golf Course cityofgainesville.org/ParksRecreationCulturalAffairs /IronwoodGolfCourse.aspx Mark Bostick Golf Course markbostickgolfcourse.com Plantation on Crystal River plantationoncrystalriver.com
NORTHWEST Bay Point Wyndham Resort baypointwyndham.com Perdido Bay Golf Club perdidobaygolf.com Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort sandestin.com Scenic Hills Country Club scenichills.com
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VAC ATION HOMES
LIVING THE DREAM BY RICHARD WESTLUND
A dream home on Pine Island.
f you enjoy vacationing in Florida, now is a great time to consider purchasing a home or condominium in the Sunshine State. New developments are underway throughout the state for buyers at all income levels, including projects designed for retirees, working-age families and international buyers. Owning a home in Florida can offer significant financial benefits; there is no state sales tax and a “homestead exemption” discount on property taxes applies to residents. Even if you’re not ready to buy, a seasonal or long-term rental can be an appealing choice for your next visit. Whether you’re seeking an elegant luxury penthouse or a beachfront condominium overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico or elsewhere, a townhouse or estate home in a golf and country club community or a retiree community, or a moderately-priced home or condo,
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
there’s a wide variety of vacation options in attractive destinations throughout the state.
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 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, in a high-rise on the beach or in a scenic, rural location. That allows you to compare
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; ROB HARRIS; MINTO GROUP INC.
Waterfront condos in Cape Coral.
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homes, prices and amenities in different locations around the state. Those over age 55, for example, might want to compare the offerings at On Top of the World in Ocala with The Villages northeast of Orlando. Again, a real estate professional can help you make a wellinformed decision.
WORK THE NUMBERS If you’re considering a move to Florida, be aware there are some differences in home design and construction compared with houses in cooler climates. For instance, few Florida homes have a basement because of the underlying hard limestone rock and high ground-water level. Newer homes may be more spacious and feature modern kitchens, baths, flooring and fixtures. A number of leading single-family homebuilders in Florida, such as the family-owned Minto Group Inc. (mintofla.com), have developed residential communities throughout the state. Examples of Minto’s recent developments include their new Downtown Festival resort featuring uniquely designed townhomes located just five miles from Walt Disney World in Orlando; their charming, award-winning gated community at Harbour Isle on Anna Maria Sound in Bradenton on the Gulf coast; and their luxurious Villas By the Sea oceanfront residences in the vibrant seaside village of Lauderdale-By-The Sea on Florida’s Gold Coast. Florida’s condos and apartment buildings vary widely in design and construction, and often develop distinct “personalities.” A highrise condo with 600 units is akin to a miniature city with many services and amenities, which command a higher monthly maintenance fee. However, if the purchase price and monthly fees are a big consideration, you may prefer a smaller building with a pool, spa or entertainment area—or no amenities at all. Condos have been a major part of the Florida market since the 1970s, so the age and condition of a building can affect its desirability and price. A recently constructed residence may have a more appealing design, new appliances, marble baths and other modern features compared to an older unit that has never been updated. However, the older unit may still appeal to buyers on a tight budget.
SEASONAL RENTALS If you love the Florida lifestyle, but aren’t ready to buy, consider a seasonal rental. You can enjoy the beach, boating, golf, shopping and all the attractions for several weeks or months without making a permanent financial commitment. It’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 around the state can be used as a seasonal rental. For example, Liberte Management Group of the Pinellas Islands and the Vacation Rental Alliance of the Tampa Bay Beaches both offer vacation resort and condo rentals in the area. Alternatively, the Superior Small Lodging Association (SSL) handles individually owned small hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, cottages and luxury condos in more than 40 destinations throughout Florida. 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 Today, more than nine percent of all Florida real estate transactions involve a foreign buyer. 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 populated by Canadian, European, Russian and Latin American occupants, as well as those from elsewhere in the
Festival Resort Townhomes by Minto Communities in Orlando.
Marina Walk Resort Homes by Minto Communities in Harbour Isle on Anna Maria Sound in the Sarasota/Bradenton area.
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VAC ATION HOMES A beachfront rental on Anna Maria Island.
Island homes on Florida’s Gulf coast.
CONSULT THE EXPERTS USA. Whatever your native language, you can probably make new friends in Florida! 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. 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:
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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 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 Dale E. Peterson Vacations destinresorts.com Dezer Properties dezerproperties.com Florida Association of Mortgage Professionals famb.org Florida Realtors floridarealtors.org Lennar lennar.com Liberte Management Group of the Pinellas Islands libertemanagement.com Minto Group Inc. minto.com Old San Jose oldsanjose.com On Top of the World ontopoftheworldcommunities.com Riva riva-condo.com Royal Shell Vacations royalshell.com Superior Small Lodging Association superiorsmalllodging.com The Florida Bar flabar.org The Related Group relatedgroup.com The Villages thevillages.com Toll Brothers tollbrothers.com Vacation Rental Alliance of the Tampa Bay Beaches flcondoalliance.com
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES; BRADENTON AREA CVB; PLAYA LARGO RESORT & SPA; THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL
owning or renting a home near Orlando’s theme parks and just a short drive from the beach. The Panhandle primarily attracts buyers from 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.
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WEDDINGS AND HONEYMOONS
BY ROCHELLE LASH
AFFAIRS TO REMEMBER
ith glorious sunshine, fresh ocean breezes and fabulous resorts that personify romance, Florida is an unparalleled destination for weddings and honeymoons.
BE AMONG THE FIRST Dare to be original and among the first to celebrate your nuptials at these fabulous, new resorts, which opened in 2015 and 2016. Honeymooning in the balmy Florida Keys promises a sensual experience of island life with all the required ingredients—fine sand, calm waters and glowing sunsets. The five-star Playa Largo Resort in Key Largo, one of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, is a lustrous beachfront estate along sparkling Florida Bay. Playa Largo features luxurious accommodation, spa facilities, swimming pools and wedding venues such as a posh ballroom with a sun-dappled courtyard, a private lawn, pool and beach. Also new in the Keys, the Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, a Hyatt Place property, is built around a landmark lighthouse in Marathon on the Gulf of Mexico. Arrive in
Outdoor wedding at Playa Largo Resort in Key Largo.
style by boat, then dock at the marina, wed in a sun-kissed ceremony amid the palm trees and honeymoon in a deluxe waterfront suite. Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada in the Keys is another exceptional sun-and-sand destination with wedding venues as diverse as the Sparrows Tiki Deck and the indoor Glass Bowl, a beachfront party tent, a fishing trip picnic or a family BBQ. Miami Beach’s hip and glamorous South Beach is on such an exuberant roll that the action has expanded to Mid-Beach (Collins Avenue from 21st to 44th Street). At the heart of the chi-chi party scene are the contemporary masterpiece, the Miami Beach EDITION, and the eco-chic 1 Hotel, both luxury oceanfront destinations where the views, design, cuisine and honeymoon suites are divine. Fort Lauderdale is a veritable boomtown with multiple openings of fine hotels. Inspired by Jimmy Buffett’s engaging music, the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort is an island-style hotel and entertainment complex with a unique location on the playful Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, which stretches
Newlyweds walking down a beach path.
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from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean. The fun quotient for weddings is skyhigh with rehearsal dinners at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville or the first-ever JWB Prime Steak and Seafood; hot bachelorette parties at St. Somewhere Spa; and buoyant receptions at the Compass Rose Ballroom or the rooftop License to Chill Bar and Pool Deck. Double the pleasure with a honeymoon in a deluxe suite overlooking moonlit waters. Also new is the Beachwalk Resort, a hotelcondo in the Hallandale district of Fort Lauderdale, which overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway and features a stunning, weddingworthy beach club on the Atlantic shore.
THE CLASSICS Florida’s classic resorts promise panache and romance. Imagine exquisite bridal suites, indulgent spa life and gala parties in glittering ballrooms, on a manicured lawn or at the beach. The oceanfront Lago Mar Resort & Club represents graciousness and privacy in the
oceanfront Harbor Beach enclave of Fort Lauderdale. Lago Mar offers indulgent spa life and formal weddings with white-glove butler service, champagne toasts and delicacies such as crab, lobster, filet mignon and homemade chocolate truffles. Say “I do” on the 500-foot stretch of beach or in the ballroom lit by a glittering chandelier. The Delray Sands Resort on Highland Beach (at the southern tip of Palm Beach County) is a seductive secret. With an Atlantic beachfront and 115 renovated rooms and suites, Delray Sands crafts weddings with delightful ideas that include a barefoot-in-thesand ceremony or a party on the sunny, breezy Ocean Terrace. The Ritz-Carlton Naples on the Gulf coast is a grander-than-grand, sophisticated Mediterranean-style resort where wedding experts create dream celebrations from the proposal to the bouquet toss, with the finest food, linens, flowers, music and decor. The venues, such as the Ritz-Carlton’s Beach House, the Vanderbilt Ballroom and the Tea Garden, are gorgeous. It’s your honeymoon, and if your first love is golf, the superb Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, is just three miles away. At the residential heart of Delray, the unique Victorian mansion Sundy House is blessed with lush gardens, serene ponds and waterfalls, meandering coral paths and
Married at last!
A day to remember. 44
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romantic private gazebos, as well as wedding venues such as the gilded Mediterranean Villa and the Romanesque Fresco Villa. On the US National Register of Historic Places, charming Sundy House has 12 suites, fine dining and the only naturalized, freshwater pools in the country. Heading north to mid-coast, the Crowne Plaza Melbourne is an Atlantic oceanfront getaway less than an hour from Cocoa Beach and the Kennedy Space Center and only a little more from Orlando’s world-renowned theme parks. The hotel has a huge roster of sports including tennis and jet skiing, plus relaxation at the Ocean Reef Spa and Quiet Zone guest rooms. On beautiful, pristine Amelia Island near Jacksonville in Northeast Florida, visitors can hop aboard a quaint horse-drawn carriage or cast off on a sailing excursion. The elegant Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, on a precious barrier island near Jacksonville, exudes southern charm and grace and adds the excitement of opulent ballrooms, oceanfront receptions and award-winning cuisine by chef Richard Laughlin at the extraordinary restaurant Salt. The picturesque Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort has done a major US$85million makeover of its rooms, suites and public spaces. With a splendid waterfront setting, the luxurious, nature-inspired resort blends romance and tranquility with activity
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM RIGHT: DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; © 2015 HILTON HOTELS & RESORTS; SUZANNE DELAWAR STUDIOS FOR GOLD COAST, FORT LAUDERDALE AND BOCA LIFE MAGAZINES
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The elegant Diplomat Resort & Spa Hollywood, a perfect venue for a beachside wedding ceremony and honeymoon.
Married at Lago Mar Resort & Club in Fort Lauderdale.
at an adults-only infinity-edged pool, the beach, a spa and salon, family-friendly games and championship golf. Amenities for the bride and groom can include a couple’s massage and a round on the links, as well as packages with cuisine credits and wine, at certain times.
PERFECT PAIRINGS When Florida legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, resorts responded with irresistible deals for all lovers, straight or LGBTQ. And why not? Fort Lauderdale is the No. 1 LGBTQ resort destination in the US, with more than 15 gay hotels and hundreds of LGBTQ-owned businesses serving North America’s highest concentration of same-sex couples (2.8 percent). As one of Florida’s largest and most comprehensive hotels, the impressive Diplomat Resort and Spa has seen it all—movie stars, an international clientele, families and couples, straight and gay. This landmark (part of Curio, a Collection by Hilton) in Hollywood offers perks for same-sex weddings such as welcome bubbly, beach gifts or extra loyalty points. Blessed with calm waters and fun-filled resorts, such as the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, the Naples Grande Beach Resort, and the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita
Springs near Fort Myers, the Gulf coast is superior family territory. The Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina has a special location surrounded by sand and sea on Fort Myers Beach. It has one- and two-bedroom suites with a free night for the wedding couple and many all-inclusive celebration packages. A full slate of recreational options keeps family and friends entertained with water sports on the Gulf that include sailing and kayaking, plus kids’ camp, swimming pools, spa life and nature walks.
DEFINITELY NOT A BALLROOM For a true luxury experience on the water, Windridge Yacht Charters cruises out of Miami, Boca Raton, Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale and customizes dazzling wedding receptions complete with dinner, entertainment and gambling. Imagine your dream honeymoon on the high seas, the ultimate escape. On land, but surrounded by the balmy waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, about 25 miles west of Tampa, is one of the most visited parks in Florida. It is prized for its natural beauty of sand and sea. Here, you can rent a waterfront pavilion for a natural, beach-inspired celebration and revel in Florida’s basic attractions: shelling, canoeing, swimming or fishing. FL
1 Hotel South Beach 1hotels.com/south-beach Amara Cay Resort amaracayresort.com Beachwalk Resort beachwalkresortfl.com Crowne Plaza Melbourne cpmelbourne.com Delray Sands Resort delraysandsresort.com Diplomat Resort & Spa diplomatresort.com Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club faroblancoresort.com Honeymoon Island floridastateparks.org/park/honeymoon-island Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa coconutpoint.hyatt.com Hyatt Regency Sarasota sarasota.hyatt.com Lago Mar Resort and Club lagomar.com Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort margaritavilleresorts.com Naples Grand Beach Resort naplesgrande.com Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort omnihotels.com/hotels/amelia-island-plantation Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina pinkshell.com Playa Largo Resort & Spa playalargoresort.com Sundy House sundyhouse.com The Miami Beach EDITION editionhotels.com/miami-beach The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island ritzcarlton.com/ameliaisland The Ritz-Carlton, Naples ritzcarlton.com/naples Windridge Yacht Charters windridgeyachts.com
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SP O R T S
A SPORTSMAN’S FANTASY COME TRUE
BY JEFF OSTROWSKI
ith its wide variety of sporting options, Florida means something different to every fan. Baseball lovers think of the state’s storied history of spring training. For football fans, Florida is a hotbed of talent and high-profile teams. Anglers and paddleboarders dream of miles of coastline and the bounty of rivers and lakes. Divers, snorkelers and spearfishers love Florida’s balmy blue waters. Runners and cyclists and hikers like the warm winters and flat, fast terrain. Whatever your passion, Florida offers no shortage of athletic endeavors for participants and fans.
THE ALL- AMERICAN RACE For Florida race fans, nothing looms larger or vrooms louder than the DAYTONA 500. NASCAR’s biggest day is scheduled for February 21, 2016, at Daytona International Speedway, when Daytona Rising, a US$400-million upgrade, will be unveiled just in time for the 2016 race. Among the improvements are wider, more comfortable seats,
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
more bathrooms and additional concession stands. The aim? To keep fans entertained and engaged for a long day of racing. The famed racetrack is turning into something more—a racing stadium. For fans who want to ride shotgun or sit behind the wheel, the Richard Petty Driving Experience lets them ride in and even drive a stock car on the famous 2.5-mile oval. The Homestead-Miami Speedway also hosts a NASCAR race and other events. Like Daytona, this track gives fans a chance to drive. Its Mario Andretti Racing Experience sells training sessions that include ride-alongs or solo drives in Indy cars.
A NATIONAL PASSION As the storied home to Major League Baseball spring training for decades, Florida occupies an iconic place in the history of the national pastime. Every March, such legends as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson and Cal Ripken came to Florida to tune up for the regular season. Florida’s Grapefruit League is home to spring training for 15 clubs, including the Atlanta Braves,
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: MATTHEW KAISER 7/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM; THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL; VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
Orlando’s Amway Center sign, home of the Orlando Magic.
Fishing the calm waters on the Gulf coast.
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Driver at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays. The state’s spring-training stadiums have undergone major upgrades over the years. Fans no longer sit on metal bleachers in glorified high-school parks. Instead, the stadiums have turned into smaller versions of big-league ballparks, complete with luxury suites and pricey concessions. The Boston Red Sox play spring ball in Fort Myers, where the park includes a replica of Fenway Park’s famed Green Monster. And the building spree continues. The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals hope to share a new park in West Palm Beach starting in 2017. For years, Florida’s big-league baseball ended in April, when players headed north. But today Florida is home to two big-league teams—the Miami Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Marlins play in a striking new stadium in Miami and, since Marlins Park has a retractable roof, rainouts no longer pose a problem. Among the park’s quirky features are an outfield sculpture that twirls when a Marlin hits a home run and exhibits of bobblehead dolls that delight baseball buffs. Join the party at the Clevelander at Marlins Park, where fans can enjoy field-level views, table service and food beside the visiting team’s bullpen. The Rays play at Tropicana Field, an indoor stadium in St. Petersburg. Big-league ball isn’t the only game in Florida. The Florida State League offers laidback Class A ball played by young pros aiming to make the show. And Florida is a hotbed for college baseball—Florida, Florida State and Miami are perennial powers, and Florida Atlantic University cracked the top 25 in 2015.
HOOPS HOTBED Florida has emerged as a basketball powerhouse, too, thanks to LeBron James’ high-profile stint with the Miami Heat. The team plays at the AmericanAirlines Arena in bustling downtown Miami. During LeBron’s four years in Miami, the Heat reached the NBA finals four times, winning twice and losing twice. The state’s other NBA team, Orlando Magic, has reached the NBA finals twice. College hoops are also big news. The Florida Gators have won two NCAA championships and Florida State and the University of Miami field strong teams.
One of five new redesigned entrances at DAYTONA 500.
GRIDIRON GLORY Florida fans love all sports, but football has the strongest hold. The state is home to three NFL teams—the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Dolphins are in the midst of a US$400million renovation slated for completion before the 2016 season. Among the upgrades: all-new seats, a shade canopy for fans and revamped club levels and suites. The team’s goal is to land another Super Bowl. The big game came to Miami in 2010, but the NFL has looked elsewhere in recent years as upgrades to facilities had left the Dolphins’ home looking outdated and tired. Florida fans are passionate about their pro teams, but they’re perhaps more fired up about college football. Florida, Florida State and Miami each have produced national titles and Heisman Trophy winners. The football teams at the University of Central Florida and the
University of South Florida also have stepped up their games in recent years. Florida hosts a number of college bowl games, highlighted by the Orange Bowl on December 31. If you prefer soccer to American football, the Orlando City Soccer Club began playing Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2015. Miami often hosts international friendly matches and soccer star David Beckham leads an ownership group, which will field an MLS team in the near future.
ICING UNDER THE SUN Hockey remains a niche sport among Florida fans, 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 made the Stanley Cup finals in 2015 but lost. The team won the Stanley Cup in 2004, and the Panthers reached the NHL finals in 1996.
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SP O R T S
GRAND SLAMS While hockey isn’t exactly synonymous with Florida, tennis is. The Miami Open in Key Biscayne offers spectators the chance to see some of the sport’s biggest stars. Formerly known as the Sony Open, the event draws such big-name talent as five-time champ Novak Djokovic and eighttime winner Serena Williams. The 2016 event is scheduled for March 21–April 3. The annual Delray Beach International Tennis Championship also draws a big crowd.
The Delray Beach International Tennis Championships
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 club hosts the Winter Equestrian Festival, the nation’s largest and richest grand prix jumping event, which attracts Olympian equestrian athletes from around the world to compete. Horse racing remains a draw, with Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Calder Casino in Miami Gardens and Isle Casino Racing in Pompano Beach offering live events.
GET HOOKED With 2,000 miles of shoreline, 10,000 miles of rivers and 7,000 lakes, Florida is famous for its fishing.
Endowed with so much marine habitat, it’s no surprise the Florida Sports Foundation says the state is responsible for some 700 worldrecord catches. 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 fishers, the prime 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.
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CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; KEN MCCRAY/VISIT JACKSONVILLE
Riders at the International Polo Club in Wellington.
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Football at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.
TAKE THE PLUNGE To get close to Florida’s marine life, the state’s warm, clear waters are ideal for snorkeling and diving. Among the easily accessible snorkeling destinations are John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo and John MacArthur State Park in North Palm Beach. 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.
MAKE A SPLASH Florida boasts top-notch ocean swimming, so 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 70-meter pool and the LiveWell Fitness Center. 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 2,000-meter sprint rowing and training course.
GEAR UP Prefer trails to pavement? Florida offers hiking and mountain biking—if you don’t mind searching for firmly packed trails amid Florida’s sandy soil. Oleta River State Park in North Miami Beach 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 and identify mysterious seashells. FL
Alafia River State Park floridastateparks.org/park/alafia-river 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 Homestead-Miami Speedway homesteadmiamispeedway.com International Game Fish Association igfa.org International Polo Club Palm Beach internationalpoloclub.com Jacksonville Jaguars jaguars.com John D. MacArthur State Park macarthurbeach.org John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park pennekamppark.com Mario Andretti Racing Experience andrettiracing.com Miami Dolphins miamidolphins.com Miami Heat nba.com/heat Miami Marlins miami.marlins.mlb.com Miami Open Tennis miamiopen.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 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
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AUTHENTIC LOCAL HOSPITALITY BY KEVIN FRITZ
Studio balcony at Crane’s Beach House in Delray Beach.
HIGH STANDARDS But that’s not all. To ensure you’re getting the vacation property you deserve, each property must pass an extensive checklist inspection conducted by a third party every year. Inspectors grade everything from general cleanliness and paint not flaking to amenities and kitchen items. If properties fall short, they must address the inspector’s concerns to remain in good standing. Those properties that
receive a 100 percent score on the housekeeping portion of the inspection are awarded the Donal A. Dermody White Glove Award. This gives you the utmost confidence you will be staying at a property, which has high standards for cleanliness and guest services. No more surprises when you walk into your homeaway-from-home ready to relax and embark on your Florida vacation. An overwhelming number of properties not only pass inspection, but are heralded by reviewers online. In 2014, 90 percent of SSL members received a 4 out of 5 rating on Trip Advisor and 23 percent achieved perfect scores. As a group, this high level of overall reviews is unsurpassed. That’s especially evident in the relationships they forge with their guests—75 percent come back to stay, some as many as 15 years in a row. Maybe it’s because members care a bit more about their properties. They are all managed by mom-and-pop innkeepers. No giant, lost-inthe-sauce hotel chains here. Nor will you find any resort fees or parking fees that many properties tack onto your bill when you checkout.
SO MANY OPTIONS The options offered by the array of properties make it easy to suit your demands. Looking for an apartment with a sitting room and kitchen? How about a condo on the beach? Or maybe a junior suite with a kitchenette on the The Tropical Manor in Daytona Beach.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
The Windjammer Resort in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.
Intracoastal will suffice. Need just a hotel room? No problem. Due to the popularity of these properties located in 43 destinations throughout Florida, you need to book early. From Christmas to Easter, the most popular time to visit the Sunshine State, SSL properties easily reach 100% occupancy. Whether it’s a small ocean-view cottage on the coast or a quaint bed and breakfast in an inland area rich with antiques, the Superior Small Lodging Association has the perfect gem to make your vacation everything you deserve. To find your perfect Florida vacation accommodation, visit superiorsmalllodging.com. FL
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: TROPICAL MANOR; CRANE’S BEACH HOUSE; WINDJAMMER RESORT
othing compares to staying at a place where you’re treated like family. While large hotel chains and resorts have their place, a stay at a small hotel, inn, bed & breakfast, cottage or condo, whose owners are committed to providing each guest an extraordinary vacation experience, is second to none. To ensure you experience that homey feeling on vacation, the Superior Small Lodging Association (SSL) has you covered. The nonprofit organization represents 150 individually owned properties, each featuring fewer than 50 rooms and all working diligently to ensure guests experience authentic local Florida charm and character, as well as the modern amenities and comforts today’s traveler has come to expect.
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E COTO U R ISM
BY SANDRA FRIEND
Blowing Rocks Preserve.
016 is a milestone year for Florida’s parks and trails. With the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, Florida is proudly showing off its 11 National Parks. From the white-sand beaches of Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola to Dry Tortugas National Park protecting historic Fort Jefferson and its surrounding coral reefs off the Florida Keys, Florida’s National Parks provide an abundance of outdoor spaces to explore, including the world-famous Everglades. The Florida Trail, one of only 11 designated National Scenic Trails in America, also marks its 50th anniversary this year. So get outdoors and celebrate!
SOUTHEAST At the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden, Art Garden brings creative sculptures into the natural setting of this patch of tropical forest during the spring and summer months.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
Birders will appreciate the early opening hours in spring with the potential of spotting a Bahama mockingbird among the avians that browse the forest at sunrise. Reef enhancement efforts are underway in the Lower Keys as divers work with the Mote Tropical Research Laboratory to plant 1,000 staghorn corals at six offshore sites. Classic Keys style meets a conservationminded artist’s desire for environmental stewardship at Guy Harvey Outpost Islander Resort. Offering catamaran snorkeling cruises to nearby reefs and ecotours on a 21-foot Hurricane deckboat, the resort is also home to the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center, with a variety of exhibits and a state-of-the-art theater showcasing films of the Keys’ natural and cultural history. Curator and historian Brad Bertelli also leads Indian Key Walking Tours, kayaking from Robbie’s Marina for an interpretive walk through a ghost town amid a tropical forest on Indian Key.
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL; VISIT FLORIDA
Kayak the Blueway Trail in Southwest Florida.
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Get back to nature at Oleta River State Park, where views of downtown Miami across the shimmering waters are framed by mangroves and coconut palms. More than 15 miles of challenging mountain bike trails wind up and over spoil piles. Blue Moon Outdoor Center rents bikes and leads guided paddles through the mangrove mazes, including a popular full moon paddle. For a snorkeling adventure within sight of Fort Lauderdale Beach, join the Spirit of Lauderdale, a 50-foot catamaran, for daily trips to Fort Lauderdale’s nearest reef. At Tradewinds Park South, renovation of the Cypress Trail Boardwalk is underway, with a portion of the walkway now open en route to the heart of a scenic pond apple swamp. Flamingos have returned to Florida by the hundreds, the biggest sensation for birders in decades. They settle into STA-2, one of the remote Everglades stormwater treatment areas, to feed and to mate in March and April. The only way to see them is with the Audubon Society of the Everglades, which leads volunteer-guided field trips to the site. STA-5/6 are also productive birding destinations, accessible by car or on trips with the Hendry-Glades Audubon Society. Sea turtles leave stories with their tracks along the beaches of Palm Beach County, one of the world’s densest areas of loggerhead turtle nests. Unusual limestone outcrops like those at Blowing Rocks Preserve and Coral Cove Park
sometimes stymie the behemoth turtles from their nesting attempts. At Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, specially trained guides lead sea turtle walks to view nesting and hatching activity during the summer season. On a guided ecotour at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, follow the Snorkel Trail at Phil Foster Park Artificial Reef in search of sea turtles.
SOUTHWEST Embrace the Everglades: get active on the Tamiami Trail Triathlon by trying a trio of outdoor challenges involving paddling, hiking and cycling on specified routes in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, including the alligator-rich bike loop at Shark Valley. The Naples Botanical Garden is a sensory delight. While kids play in the Children’s Garden, they learn about Southwest Florida’s cultural history and native habitats. Centered on a visually distinct River of Grass, the themed gardens include formal and wild spaces, with a tactile Enabling Garden and the National Plumeria Collection among them. Immerse in an urban mangrove forest by bicycle, kayak or on foot along the Gordon River Greenway, a ribbon of mangrove forest and trails that snake through the city of Naples past beloved natural attractions such as the Naples Zoo and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. While the Conservancy’s boat tours
FEATURED LINKS SOUTHEAST Audubon Society of the Everglades auduboneverglades.org Blowing Rocks Preserve nature.org Blue Moon Outdoor Center bluemoonoutdoor.com Coral Cove Park pbcgov.com/parks/locations/coralcove.htm Dry Tortugas National Park nps.gov/drto Florida Keys History & Discovery Center keysdiscovery.com Gumbo Limbo Nature Center gumbolimbo.org Guy Harvey Outpost Islander Resort guyharveyoutpostislamorada.com Hendry-Glades Audubon Society hendrygladesaudubon.org Indian Key Walking Tours historicupperkeyswalkingtours.com Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden keywestbotanicalgarden.org Loggerhead Marinelife Center marinelife.org/eco Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium mote.org Oleta River State Park floridastateparks.org/park/oleta-river Spirit of Lauderdale spiritoflauderdale.com Tradewinds Park South broward.org
SOUTHWEST Conservancy of Southwest Florida conservancy.org/dalton-discovery-center De Soto National Memorial nps.gov/deso Gordon River Greenway gordonrivergreenway.org Hooked on SUP Paddle Sports hookedonsup.com J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/jn_ding_darling Master Gardeners Program, Charlotte County charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu Naples Botanical Garden naplesgarden.org Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens napleszoo.com Tamiami Trail Triathlon nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/tamiami-trail-triathlon.htm Tarpon Bay Explorers tarponbayexplorers.com Explore numerous hiking and cycling trails in the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel area. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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E COTO U R ISM Master Gardeners Program in Charlotte County. Knowledgeable guides identify flora along the walking route and explain how native plants can fit into home landscaping. Discover the mangrove coast from above and below on a Standup Paddleboarding (SUP) & Snorkel Tour with Hooked on SUP at Stump Pass Beach State Park. They’ll teach you SUP basics and provide the equipment for exploring the clear waters. Did you know Hernando De Soto landed near Tampa Bay in 1539 looking for gold? You’ll find the full story interpreted along the mangrove-lined trails at De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton.
CENTRAL EAST Along the St. Lucie River and its tributaries, the Oyster Reef Restoration Project will foster cleaner waters in these estuarine waterways. The area is known for its excellent fishing opportunities, and these efforts today will help restore natural nurseries for aquatic life around Stuart and Port Salerno. Join the oldest operator on the Treasure Coast, Airboat Wilderness Rides, for an exploration of the headwaters of the St. Johns River from picturesque Blue Cypress Lake. Summer in Titusville means prime manatee watching at the Manatee Observation Deck in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, plus unparalleled opportunities for bioluminescent kayaking trips in the Indian
River Lagoon with A Day Away Kayak Tours. Just north of Titusville in Mims, Holland Family Farms offers pick-your-own berries from April through June, with blueberries and blackberries ready for good eating. In June, join them for the family-friendly Farm Fest to learn about life on a Florida farm. The Coast-to-Coast Connector Trail, or C2C, continues to grow, with trail bridges constructed and paved bike paths added along the route through Volusia County, extending the East Central Regional Rail Trail west toward Maytown and adding miles of new trail in Edgewater. This dedicated bike path will eventually evolve into a 250-mile ride to St. Petersburg.
CENTRAL Tiptoe through the treetops near Walt Disney World at Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park, where four adult canopy walks are set well above the ground in a thicket of pine trees. It takes skill and dexterity to complete these courses, which increase in complexity and distance as you go. Five more courses are geared to younger adventurers. Special safety features make this one of Florida’s finest canopy courses. At Seminole County’s Black Bear Wilderness Area, you might see its namesake. Set along the shores of the St. Johns River, this wildlife-rich 1,600-acre preserve unveiled a 7.1-mile loop trail in 2015, with a primitive campsite available for backpackers and paddlers. October 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Florida Trail, now a 1,400-mile National Scenic Trail stretching from Big Cypress National Preserve to Pensacola Beach. As its first blazes were painted in 1966 in the Ocala National Forest near Clearwater Lake, a public celebration by the Florida Trail Association will kick off the trail’s second half-century in 2016, with additional events held statewide.
CENTRAL WEST Providing 2.5 miles of urban walking along Garrison Channel and the Hillsborough River, the Tampa Riverwalk connects six urban riverfront parks with all of the city’s waterfront amenities, including restaurants, museums and hotels. Get away from it all on Tampa Bay with an overnight stay on Shell Key Preserve, a Pinellas County park only accessible by boat, or on a day trip out to Egmont Key State Park SeaWorld Orlando returns a loggerhead sea turtle to the wild. 54
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FROM BOTTOM LEFT: ©2015 SEAWORLD PARKS & ENTERTAINMENT, INC.; KOA
have showcased the Gordon River for many years, its fully renovated Dalton Discovery Center now provides an interpretive walk through key Southwest Florida habitats, complete with living creatures and a touch tank of crabs, starfish and urchins found in the Gulf of Mexico. The new 5,000-square-foot Sharon and Dolph von Arx Wildlife Hospital at Conservancy of Southwest Florida is now open and includes an intake room for diagnoses and triage, special treatment areas and a sterile surgery room. Birders flock to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Refuge to spot tri-colored herons, black cormorants, blue herons, reddish egrets, grebes, white pelicans, laughing gulls, white ibis, yellow-crowned night herons, anhingas, willets, double-crested cormorants, roseate spoonbill flamingos, snowy egrets, greater egrets and more among the mangroves. Tarpon Bay Explorers offer tram tours of the refuge and guided kayak and canoe tours of Tarpon Bay. They also offer kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals as well as boat rentals, private fishing charters, bike rentals, sunset and breakfast cruises, nature and sea life cruises and touch-tank exploration. Fifteen percent of proceeds are given to the refuge system, which is run by US Fish and Wildlife Services. Tour the pathways and parks of Punta Gorda with twice-monthly walks on the wild side offered by the University of Florida’s
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Fish from the pier at Madeira Beach KOA, St. Petersburg.
FEATURED LINKS CENTRAL EAST A Day Away Kayak Tours adayawaykayaktours.com Airboat Wilderness Rides airboatwildernessrides.com/airboat Coast-to-Coast Connector Trail fgtf.org/projects/coast-to-coast-connector Holland Family Farm pickyourown.org/FLeastcentral.htm Manatee Observation Deck floridahikes.com/manatee-observation-deck Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/Merritt_Island Oyster Reef Restoration Project oysterrestoration.com
CENTRAL for a snorkeling adventure at this bird rookery and Civil War historic site. The 40-mile-long Pinellas Trail, a linear park and recreation trail, links St. Petersburg to Dunedin and Tarpon Springs and provides an ideal protected green space for cyclists, walkers, joggers and skaters. Located just west of Dunedin, Honeymoon Island’s Nature Center overlooks St. Joseph Sound, which features sea grass beds and a nursery area for juvenile fish. At low tide, watch for wading birds, including roseate spoonbills and herons. Trail walks are found on this 80-acre barrier island and organized junior ranger activities are offered to youngsters. The area is also popular with kayakers. Visitors to Honeymoon Island can board a ferry to nearby Caladesi Island where a three-mile beach extends to Clearwater Beach. On Caladesi, a three-mile nature trail takes visitors through a bird-nesting habitat year-round and a turtle nesting sanctuary in the summer. Take a trek at Dade City Wild Things Zoo to get up close to more than 300 exotic animals, including jaguars, tigers and lemurs, cared for as part of a zoological rescue and rehabilitation facility. Along the boardwalk at peninsular Robert Rees Park in New Port Richey, marvel at the abundance of bird species to check off your birding list, especially during the spring migration. You’ll see clapper rails, roseate spoonbills, gray kingbirds and more. Back on the Gulf coast in Crystal River, sign up with A Crystal River Kayak Company for guided and self-guided kayaking tours on the Crystal River, a popular gathering spot for
manatees during the cooler winter months. While opportunities to swim with these gentle giants are offered by this and other operators, understandably, snorkeling among the manatees is strictly monitored and some sites may be closed to swimmers and snorkelers. Daily snorkeling tours among manatees also leave from the Homosassa Riverside Resort in nearby Homosassa.
NORTHEAST With a renovated and expanded campground, Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area now provides 64 campsites within an easy walk of the Atlantic Ocean at Flagler Beach. At Fort Matanzas National Memorial south of St. Augustine, the beach is beautiful, and so is the ferryboat ride to the historic Spanish fortress guarding the mouth of the Matanzas River. Saturdays are learning days at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, with your choice of a guided hike or beach walk or a family seining adventure; reserve a spot online through their website. Encompassing 74,000 acres along the Atlantic coast surrounding St. Augustine, the reserve is one of the best places in the region for sea kayaking on your own or with a guide from Ripple Effect Ecotours, based in St. Augustine. Oceanfront horseback riding options have increased along Amelia Island, with three operators—Happy Trails Walking Horses, Ride the Beaches of Amelia, and Stay ‘N Country Ranch—now offering guided rides that start at Peter’s Point Park. Kelly’s Seahorse Ranch remains the concessionaire of choice at Amelia Island State Park.
Black Bear Wilderness Area floridahikes.com/black-bear-wilderness Ocala National Forest www.fs.usda.gov/ocala Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park orlandotreetrek.com
CENTRAL WEST A Crystal River Kayak Company crystalriverkayakcompany.com Dade City’s Wild Things Zoo Tours dadecityswildthings.com Egmont Key State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Egmont-Key Homosassa Riverside Resort riversideresorts.com Honeymoon Island State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Honeymoon-Island Pinellas Trail pinellascounty.org/trailgd Robert Rees Park pascocountyfl.net Shell Key Preserve visitstpeteclearwater.com/parks /shell-key-preserve/1808 Tampa Riverwalk thetampariverwalk.com
NORTHEAST Amelia Island State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Amelia-Island Fort Matanzas National Monument nps.gov/foma Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach floridastateparks.org/park/Gamble-Rogers Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve gtmnerr.org Happy Trails Walking Horses happytrailswalkers.com Kelly Seahorse Ranch kellyranchinc.net Ride the Beaches of Amelia Island ameliahorsebackriding.com Ripple Effect Ecotours rippleeffectecotours.com Stay ‘N Country Ranch stayncountryranch.net
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E COTO U R ISM
A campsite on Santa Rosa Island in Northwest Florida.
Snorkeling in the springs.
Just south of Ocala, break out the mountain bikes for the annual Santos Fat Tire Festival, a spring gathering of off-road enthusiasts at one of Florida’s best places to ride. A new collection of self-guided horse farm tours on OcalaMarion.com lets you organize your dream equestrian adventure. Try on an arborist’s view for size with Canopy Climbers, a unique adventure in Gainesville that gets you into the tree canopy under your own power—no previous experience required. During a two-hour course in a city park, you’ll scale the giants while learning how to safely climb a giant tree and walk a limb tethered to a rope. Newly-opened Newnan’s Lake State Forest extends from the floodplain of the 7,500-acre lake through the eastern side of Gainesville, and offers a new hiking trail loop off FL 26, with a paved bike trail planned. Cooperatively managed across two counties, Little Orange Creek Preserve has grown in size to more than 1,000 acres around Hawthorne. It will open in 2016 with the John P. Hayes Trail, a centerpiece for recreation. An annual Earth Skills Weekend has been held on this land each spring by the Putnam Land Conservancy.
NORTHWEST FLORIDA The 11.6-mile Ochlockonee Bay Bike Trail connecting Sopchoppy with Mashes Sands Beach along the Gulf of Mexico is well on its way to completion in Wakulla County, providing yet another way to explore the rural routes of a coastal county that is almost three-quarters protected by public lands. Tallahassee’s Cascades Park is an urban green space developed downtown. It com-
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
memorates the founding of Florida’s capital on a hilltop above a natural waterfall, telling the history of Tallahassee through its interpretive trails. In the middle of the park is the Prime Meridian Marker, set in 1824 as the center point for all land surveyed in the state of Florida. Near Marianna, take a walk in the woods on the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail to one of Florida’s oldest bridges, complete with its own ghostly history. Staying on Cape San Blas? Don’t forget your bicycle, as the Loggerhead Run Bike Path provides an eight-mile ride (each way) along 30E, with great views of St. Joseph Bay. It’s one of several paved paths for cyclists around the shallow bay, where scalloping is the in thing to do each summer. Discover Florida’s Coastal Dune Lakes with a trip along 30A through Walton County. A phenomenon found only in Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, Oregon and along this stretch of Florida’s Gulf coast shoreline between Destin and Panama City Beach, these 15 freshwater lakes sit within a few feet of the Gulf of Mexico. Several state parks, including popular Grayton Beach State Park, provide access for kayaking and SUP on the lakes. Explore Pensacola with GPS in hand while following one of four designated routes on the Explore Pensacola GeoTour, using geocaching to find the area’s hidden treasures. Fill out the GeoTour Passport during your stay and turn it in for a commemorative coin! Along the brilliant white sands of Pensacola Beach, the new Footprints in the Sand — Eco Trail comprises a series of educational signs at beach crossovers that inform visitors about the flora, fauna and habitats that make up Santa Rosa Island. FL
FEATURED LINKS NORTH CENTRAL Canopy Climbers canopyclimbers.com Little Orange Creek Nature Park littleorangecreek.org Newnan’s Lake Conservation Area floridaswater.com/recreationguide/newnanslake Ocala/Marion Horse Farm Tours ocalamarion.com/equestrian/guided-tour Santos Fat Tire Festival santosfattire.com
NORTHWEST Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail visitjacksoncountyfla.com/heritage/bellamy-bridge Cascades Park discovercascades.com Coastal Dune Lakes coastaldunelakes.org Explore Pensacola GeoTour visitpensacola.com/geocaching Florida Trail Association floridatrail.org Footprints in the Sand – Eco Trail visitpensacolabeach.com/eco-trail Grayton Beach State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Grayton-Beach Gulf Islands National Seashore nps.gov/guis Run Bike Path visitgulf.com/biking-walking-trails Ochlockonee Bay Bike Trail visitwakulla.com/Things-to-Do /Ochlockonee-Bay-Bike-Trail
LEFT TO RIGHT: SANTA ROSA TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; VISIT FLORIDA; THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL
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BY JEN KARETNICK
BONE VOYAGE! Taking a much-deserved break from shopping.
FEATURED LINKS GENERAL Aloft Hotels starwoodhotels.com/alofthotels Ocean Partners, Ltd. oplhotels.com/portfolio/our-portfolio
SOUTHEAST Aventura Mall aventuramall.com Camp Canine campcanineflorida.com Key West Sunset Celebration sunsetcelebration.org W Fort Lauderdale wfortlauderdalehotel.com W South Beach wsouthbeach.com
ets are family. And for many travelers, they can’t be left behind any more than toddlers can. No one knows this better than Florida shopkeepers, restaurateurs and hoteliers, who not only accept fur babies are part of the tourism package, but encourage it. Or, as Emma Richard, Corgi owner and ecommerce manager at Ocean Partners Hospitality, which operates five hotels in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral including Days Inn Cocoa Beach, notes, “Some guests come back year after year because we don’t just accept pets, we embrace them. Or should I say, hug them?” Of course, owners need to keep their little ones—especially if they are teeny weeny—in mind. In other words, first find them some wheels. Kiosks at Aventura Mall, located 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 the more fashionable (and delicate) clothing stores. For a dog-friendly shopping experience, head over to Coconut Point Mall in Estero in
Southwest Florida, where there are marked water fountains for dogs as well as “clean-up” stations. Here, 99 percent of the stores welcome canines. On the first Thursday of every month, there’s “Dog’s Nite Out,” a gathering of canines and their caregivers at Coconut Point Mall in front of DipidyDawg, a gourmet bakery, day spa 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 “Yappy Hour” on the second Friday of each month, where you can meet adoptable dogs, sip on cold refreshments and enjoy live music with your four-legged companion. Prefer to eat and drink alongside your pup? Check out Jacksonville Landing, which also hosts “Yappy Hour,” complete with entertainment, 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!)
Coconut Point Mall simon.com/mall/coconut-point DipidyDawg Gourmet Dog Bakery & Boutique dipidydawg.com Happy Tails Canine Park dogpark.com/happy-tails-canine-park Lee County Off-Leash Dog Parks leeparks.org
CENTRAL EAST Canova Beach Park brevardcounty.us/ParksRecreation/South/Canova Days Inn Cocoa Beach daysinncocoabeach.com Hilton Rialto Place, Melbourne hilton.com Lori Wilson Park brevardcounty.us/ParksRecreation/Central/LoriWilson Faye Lake Wilderness Park and Port St. John Dog Park brevardcounty.us/ParksRecreation/North/FayLake Sebastian Inlet State Park floridastateparks.org/park-activities /Sebastian-Inlet#Pets Smyrna Dunes Park and New Smyrna Beach’s Dog Park nsbfla.com/petfriendly Wickham Park brevardcounty.us/parksrecreation/south/wickham
DOG-GONE FRIENDLY For a complete list of dog-friendly parks and beaches, visit DogFriendly.com, which offers information on more than 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
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PETS Beach time in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area.
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 Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, formerly 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. In Melbourne, you and your four-legged companion can get in shape by training for the annual Doggy Run 5K at Wickham Park. Entrance fee includes a five-pound bag of kibble. 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 Key West for the annual Dachshund Walk on December 31 or to Miami in January for the South Beach Dachshund Winter Festival. 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.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
PET PARLORS If you need a spot for your pet to stay while in Southeast Florida, check 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, at the multi-level, double-screened, lanai cattery. The Happy Paws Pet Resort in Orlando is virtually viral-free with hospital-grade air-conditioned units, and is double-insulated for noise reduction so your cat isn’t freaked out by barking dogs. There’s a bone-shaped salt-water pool for exercise and fun, and the staff offers “concierge” grooming services and training.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; FLORIDA’S SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM
beaches invite animals to frolic, some require pets to be regulated on six-foot leashes.) One must-stop on the Gulf of Mexico is Dog Island just south of Carrabelle, which is accessible only by ferry or boat and welcomes leashed, well-behaved, four-legged sidekicks everywhere, except in the nature conservatory. South of Cocoa Beach in Central East Florida, Canova Beach Dog Park is a popular leashed-dog hangout. Be sure to enter the beach through the south crossover to avoid any fines. The Space Coast region is also home to Lori Wilson Park (Cocoa Beach), Wickham Park (Melbourne), Port St. John Dog Park in Fay Lake Wilderness Park (Port St. John) and Sebastian Inlet State Park, all of which welcome pets. Sebastian Inlet and all Florida State Parks, it should be noted, permit leashed domestic pets in “designated dayuse areas” but not on beaches, bathing areas, playgrounds, cabins, park buildings and concession facilities. However, some state parks may have additional restrictions because of wildlife, recreational or cultural resources so be sure to check before you plan your visit. A little farther north, pet-friendly Smyrna Dunes Park rises above a wide expanse of dunes with two miles of elevated boardwalk, and New Smyrna Beach’s Dog Park is divided into large and small dog arenas. Prefer off-leash beaches? Consider Lee County’s Barkingham Park in Fort Myers and Dog Beach in Bonita Beach; Roger Scott Complex Dog Park in Pensacola, where facilities include human and hound water fountains
and pooper-scooper stations; Happy Tails Canine Park in Bradenton; and Higgs Beach Dog Park in Key West, where small and large animals have separate playgrounds. 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 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, including dock diving and jump sessions, as well as raised bathing tubs and an agility course, visit Jacksonville’s off-leash, fenced, multi-acre Dog Wood Park facility. In the Pensacola Bay Area, three dog parks are available for both sand- and grass-based play: Bayview Park, Roger Scott Complex Dog Park and Gulf Breeze Bark Park.
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Arizona checks out Melbourne’s Hilton Rialto Place.
PAWSITIVELY SPLENDID 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. Lincoln Road in Miami Beach is another place to linger, especially if you’re rooming at the “pupular” palace known as the W South Beach, which provides a special pet bed, food and water bowl with floor mat, and a “pet in room” door sign. 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 (A1A) 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. Or take your pet shopping—with a dash of history—in the quaint villages of Melbourne, Titusville and Cocoa Village, all of which feature pet-friendly boulevards. With more than 80 pet-friendly business listings, Orlando is among the most accommodating dog towns in Florida. The Loews Hotels group welcomes them with the “Loews Loves Pets” program, which includes personal notes from general managers on hotel pet services and local dog walking routes, gourmet pet food menus, and even catnip and videos for entertainment. The Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive and the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek both permit furry guests, as does the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort. The Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando lets pups on the premises, although you have to present a health certificate and pay a US$50 per day cleaning fee to a maximum of US$150). 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, welcomes four-legged guests with its VIP (Very Important Pup) policy (for US$50 per day, a non-refundable service charge for cleaning). The city is known for its exceptionally dog-friendly shops and more than two dozen dog-friendly restaurants and sidewalk cafés, along with Lake Baldwin Park, a 23-acre green space where dogs can run offleash during posted hours.
FEATURED LINKS CENTRAL
Residence Inn by Marriott in Sebring allows Rover and friends; for other Residence Inns, just call and ask. The Hilton Rialto Place, Melbourne Beach, also enjoys four-legged guests (or twowinged, as the case may be). Rialto’s Courtney Lillig says, “We regularly have dogs and cats stay with us, and even the occasional pig and bird. The most unusual visitor has been a miniature horse, which was being used as a therapy animal. She definitely turned heads.” For a more urban stay, check out the chic Aloft hotels, in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Doral, Miami, Tampa and Orlando. At Aloft, the saying goes: “Pets are more than just fun— they’re family, too!”
Global Pet Expo globalpetexpo.org Happy Paws Pet Resort happypawsorlando.com Hard Rock Hotel hardrockhotelorlando.com Pampered Pet Expo pamperedpetexpo.com Paw Park of Historic Sanford pawparksanford.org Paws in the Park—Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando petallianceorlando.org/news-events/paws-park Piglet’s Pantry - Dog Bakery pigletspantry.com Residence Inn Sebring marriott.com/hotels/travel /sefri-residence-inn-sebring Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort sheratonlakebuenavistaresort.com The Alfond Inn thealfondinn.com The Loews Hotel Group loewshotels.com Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming woofgangbakery.com Wyndam Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek wyndhamgrandorlando.com Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive wyndhamorlandoresort.com
FURRY FINDS Pet boutiques have sprouted throughout Florida. Plenty of treats are available at Piglet’s Pantry — Dog Bakery in Mount Dora, which also hosts a “Yappy Hour” every third Friday of the month (except during the summer months). Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming in Winter Park—a franchise with more than 25 locations around the state—offers a bounty of treats and also caters to your pet’s grooming needs. For emergencies of a medical nature, the Woof Gang located in Boca Raton also houses a vet clinic. In Melbourne, Foo Bar offers the recurring “Foo Dog Days” every last Saturday of the month, from March through December. The Central Brevard Humane Society brings along adoptable animals, and both Foo Bar and the Humane Society’s Molly Mutt II Thrift Shop supply treats for both humans and dogs to eat. Scout out more dog-friendly spots at Florida Pet Pages (floridapetpages.com) and pet-friendly hotels at bringfido.com/lodging/state/florida. FL
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Dog Park tampagov.net/parksandrec Davis Islands Dog Park tampagov.net/parksandrec Mango Dog Park doggoes.com/parks/florida/tampa/mango-dog-park Paw Playgrounds pinellascounty.org/park/dog_parks.htm The Bell Tower Shops thebelltowershops.com The Lodge of New Tampa thelodgefordogs.com
NORTHEAST Dog Wood Park jaxdogs.com Jacksonville Landing jacksonvillelanding.com Paws Park Jax Beach pawsparkjaxbeach.com
NORTHWEST Dog Island Park saltyflorida.com/areas-to-visit/carrabelle-dog-island Roger Scott Complex Dog Park visitpensacola.com/landing/pensacola-pets
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LGBT TRAV EL
ENTICING EVENTS FOR ALL SEASONS BY LOANNE HALDEN St. Pete Pride revelers.
lorida’s combination of year-round balmy weather and abundant LGBTwelcoming cities has led to a jam-packed annual events calendar—and that’s not counting the state’s many LGBT Pride celebrations. The following smorgasbord of LGBT festivities is guaranteed to add extra rainbows to your visit, whether you’re a film fanatic, beachgoer or nightlife connoisseur.
KEY WEST Artsy Key West, where “One Human Family” is an island motto, has a long history of embracing the LGBT community. Gay playwright Tennessee Williams, a frequent visitor from the 1940s until his death, worked on A Streetcar Named Desire while living in Old Town’s La Concha Hotel. A free exhibition at the Key West Business Guild’s LGBT visitor center on Truman Avenue celebrates his work. In May 2015, the Guild spearheaded the installation of rainbow-striped crosswalks at Duval and Petronia streets to mark the LGBT entertainment district. The group also produces seven annual events to entice global LGBT travelers to the
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end of the Overseas Highway, most notably Tropical Heat in August, a steamy series of clothing-optional gatherings for gay men, and the long-running Womenfest in September, which combines club events and pool parties with sightseeing activities on land and sea. During October’s Fantasy Fest, the costume extravaganza that overtakes the island, the Guild breaks out the sequins and feathers for a fundraising Headdress Ball.
MIAMI Miami was the first major US city to open an LGBT welcome center. Located in the heart of South Beach, the LGBT Visitor Center is a one-stop shop for information on everything from the 12th Street gay beach to the incredibly diverse events that call this art deco-laden island home. The six-day Winter Party Festival unfolds in early March with an emphasis on DJ-driven dance parties and well-toned (mostly male) bodies, raising funds for the National LGBT Task Force and local organizations. The critically acclaimed Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (late April/early May) showcases
No other Florida destination has escalated its rainbow presence in recent years like Fort Lauderdale, which attracted an estimated 1.5 million LGBT visitors in 2014. According to recent US Census data, it also has the highest concentration of same-sex couples in the United States (among cities with populations over 65,000). That translates into hundreds of LGBT-owned businesses, largely concentrated in Wilton Manors; a gay beach at Sebastian Street; the world’s first AIDS museum; and the Stonewall National Museum & Archives on East Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, which has a gallery devoted to LGBT history. Open since March 2014, the Stonewall National Museum–Wilton Manors Gallery on Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors showcases meaningful exhibits and doubles as a visitor welcome center at the hub of LGBT activity in South Florida. The lively gay scene combined with the subtropical weather makes it a popular destination for LGBT sporting events, including the Hurricane Showdown, a regional tournament on the North American Gay Softball circuit. It’s also a top draw for LGBT conferences. In 2015, Fort Lauderdale ended
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: DASH CREATIVE GROUP FOR ST. PETE PRIDE; ANDY NEWMAN/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/HO; STEVEN SHIRES PHOTOGRAPHY
more than 65 queer films over 10 days and accentuates the cinema with swanky receptions. In 2015, it rebranded as MiFo to reflect its October Fort Lauderdale edition. Aqua Girl in May, the world’s largest charity event for gay women, mixes five days of latenight club events, signature pool parties and laid-back receptions to benefit the Aqua Foundation for Women. Nightlife-oriented Sizzle Miami over Memorial Day weekend and July’s more culturally-minded Miami Beach Bruthaz events were created to unite gay men of color. White Party Week, benefiting the HIV/AIDS services of Care Resource, adds a non-stop lineup of club, beach and poolside dance parties to the US Thanksgiving holiday. Like Winter Party, the attendees are predominantly male and muscular, but there is always at least one party for lesbians.
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Costumed revelers at the Fantasy Fest Masquerade in Key West.
Atlanta’s 24-year run as host city for the Southern Comfort Conference, one of the world’s largest transgender gatherings. The late September/early October convention incorporates local tours into its educational programming.
Florida’s more conservative Panhandle doesn’t often register on the gaydar, but that changes over Memorial Day Weekend when the sugary-white sands fill with 60,000 holiday revelers of the LGBT variety. The crowd flocks in from surrounding southern states where LGBT visibility is still a struggle, resulting in a friendly atmosphere and abundant themed parties for men and women. FL
ORLANDO In 1991, a group of gay friends decided to don red T-shirts and meet at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on the first Saturday in June. That casual plan, combined with some Disney fairy dust, combusted into a globally beloved LGBT event. Now, more than 100,000 people, bedecked in crimson, rainbows and other LGBT-centric attire, descend upon Orlando’s theme parks and downtown gay clubs for a week of festivities around the first weekend of June. Much like Gay Pride events, Gay Days hits inclusive notes for families, couples and singles of all genders and ages.
TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG These two cities on either side of Tampa Bay offer complementary LGBT experiences. Tampa has the urban sensibility courtesy of the GaYBOR District in Ybor City with its LGBT nightlife while St. Petersburg offers a more relaxed coastal vibe, complete with a gay sunbathing area on St. Pete Beach. The Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Florida’s oldest LGBT film
FEATURED LINKS KEY WEST Headdress Ball headdressballkeywest.com Key West Business Guild gaykeywestfl.com Key West Tropical Heat tropicalheatkw.com Key West Womenfest womenfest.com
fest moved its opening weekend screenings to St. Petersburg’s Palladium Theatre in October 2015. Additional events are held throughout the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. St. Pete Pride gets a special mention as the largest Pride event in Florida, drawing approximately 100,000 participants each June for its festival and nighttime parade in the downtown Grand Central District. In 2017, St. Petersburg will host the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association’s Annual Global Convention.
MIAMI Aqua Girl aquagirl.org LGBT Visitor Center gogaymiami.com Miami Beach Bruthaz mbb2016.com MiFo mglff.com Sizzle Miami sizzlemiami.com White Party Week whiteparty.org Winter Party Festival winterparty.com
FORT LAUDERDALE Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB (LGBT) gogayfortlauderdale.com Hurricane Showdown hurricaneshowdown.net Southern Comfort Conference southerncomfortconference.org Stonewall National Museum & Archives stonewallnationalmuseum.org World AIDS Museum and Educational Center worldaidsmuseum.com
ORLANDO Gay Days gaydays.com
TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG St. Pete Pride stpetepride.com Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival tiglff.com The Stonewall National Museum–Wilton Manors Gallery in Fort Lauderdale. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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SUN, SAND and Sizzle BY KARA FRANKER The beach at John D. MacArthur State Park in North Palm Beach.
WHAT’S NEW A number of new hotels, restaurants and shopping destinations are opening across Southeast Florida. On the luxe end, Four Seasons is introducing new properties in Miami Beach in 2016 and in Fort Lauderdale in 2018 adding to an already impressive existing portfolio featuring hotels in Palm Beach and Miami. A new Starwood’s Aloft property opens in Coral Gables in 2016 and new hotels have already opened in Brickell, Doral and South Beach. Downtown Miami’s skyline continues to evolve with the addition of massive commercial construction projects, including new venues such as the
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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; MARGARITAVILLE HOLLYWOOD BEACH RESORT
hether you’re searching for a laidback beach town, a bustling big city or your own private island, Southeast Florida appeals to every type of traveler. While well-known areas such as West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Key West continue to draw crowds, there are plenty of hidden locales for those who prefer to venture off the beaten path.
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cutting-edge home of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Museum Park next to the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Over the next few years, expect a wealth of new shopping opportunities and hotels with the addition of Brickell City Centre scheduled to open in fall 2016 and Miami Worldcenter set to break ground in late 2015. Adding to the trendy neighborhoods of Wynwood and the Miami Design District, a resurgence is happening in the MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District, where you’ll find the Vagabond Hotel, a hip restored relic from the 1950s. MiMo, short for Miami Modern, describes a design aesthetic unique to Miami that was influenced by American fascination with futurism, jets and space exploration. The City of Doral is getting a major update with an influx of retail projects, restaurants and a project called CityPlace Doral. The development will include more than 20 new restaurants, shopping, a movie theater, bowling alley and luxury residences. The project is similar to the CityPlace West Palm Beach, where you’ll find a variety of boutiques and dining locales. On a more somber note, the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center is a highly anticipated institution scheduled for construction in Dania Beach.
For those looking to cruise the open water in 2016, the Port of Palm Beach and Pearl Sea Cruises will be launching a 10-day cruise to Cuba. Much of South Florida and the Florida Keys offer a lively LGBT community and culture, especially Key West, South Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Key West’s street scene became even more colorful in 2015 when the City of Key West installed four permanent rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of Duval and Petronia streets in the heart of the island’s LGBT entertainment district. The project marks the first time in Florida that all four corners of an intersection have been connected with rainbow crosswalks.
ARTS AND CULTURE Offering a wealth of art and cultural experiences ranging from historic museums and tropical gardens to live music and performing arts, there’s no shortage of things to do. Brimming with artistic flair and a vibrant artist community, Key West’s cultural institutions, like the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, offer glimpses into a nostalgic place and time of this Nobel Prize winner’s writing career in Florida. Originally built as a carriage house in 1829, the Red Barn Theatre
ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Art Deco Weekend, Miami Beach Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens Delray Beach Garlic Fest Key Largo Sailfish Challenge Las Olas Art Fair Part I, Fort Lauderdale South Florida Fair, West Palm Beach Uncorked, the Key Largo and Islamorada Food & Wine Festival
FEBRUARY ArtiGras Fine Arts Festival, Jupiter Coconut Grove Arts Festival Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival Honda Classic, Palm Beach Gardens Miami International Boat Show
FEBRUARY–MARCH Junior League of Miami Showhouse
MARCH Calle Ocho, Miami Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival, Miami Gardens Major League Baseball Spring Training, Jupiter Miami International Film Festival Original Marathon Seafood Festival Savor the Avenue, Delray Beach Ultra and the Winter Music Conference, Miami Beach
MARCH-APRIL Miami Open Tennis, Key Biscayne
APRIL Boca Bacchanal, Boca Raton Dania Beach Arts & Seafood Celebration Delray Affair Las Olas Art Fair Part II Miami Beach Gay Pride Palm Beach International Film Festival Pompano Beach Seafood Festival Tortuga Music Festival, Fort Lauderdale
APRIL–MAY Miami Dance Festival Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Sunfest, West Palm Beach
MAY Delray Beach Craft Beer Fest Miami International Jazz Festival
JULY Hemingway Days, Key West Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival
JULY-AUGUST Miami Spa Month
AUGUST Brazilian Film Festival of Miami
AUGUST–SEPTEMBER International Ballet Festival, Miami Miami Spice Month The surf simulator at the newly opened Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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SOUTHEAST FLORIDA is a cultural cornerstone in Key West. Take another step back into time at the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens, originally built by the Geiger family in the 1840s. Nearby, the historic Old Post Office and Customs House currently serves as the Key West Museum of Art & History, which showcases exhibits on local history, famous personalities, maritime history and works by local artists. Visit the Harry S. Truman Little White House, once a naval station’s command headquarters, which served as the winter home for the late President. The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum features interesting archaeological artifacts, such as Spanish coins and memorabilia, pulled from the depths of the sea. In Islamorada, visit the Morado Way Arts and Cultural District for a variety of hands-on pottery classes, educational seminars as well as the Third Thursday ArtWalk featuring artists, vendors and entertainment. Miami is filled to the brim with a neverending list of museums, art institutions and live music venues. Head to American Airlines Arena in the downtown area for live concerts by major recording artists. Or catch an entertaining show at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County,
ANNUAL EVENTS SEPTEMBER
the largest performing arts center in Florida. Located in Museum Park in downtown Miami, the Pérez Art Museum Miami is Florida’s contemporary hub, which showcases art from around the world, as well as western pieces, including photographs, paintings and sculptures. All artwork is from the 1940s onwards, including locally inspired art, which reflects Miami’s diverse and culturally rich background. Also in Museum Park, the recently opened Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science (formerly known as the Miami Science Museum) features interactive science exhibits, a planetarium, the Weintraub Observatory, a Sea Lab and the Falcon Batchelor Bird of Prey Center. Broward County is home to its fair share of art and cultural institutions. Catch a play or concert at the Broward Center for Performing Arts, the Stage Door Theatre, the Parker Playhouse and others. All have been bringing in great live performances for years. View some of the hottest musical acts in the world at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. The popular venue hosts everyone from classic rockers to comedians and talk show hosts. In Delray Beach, visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens and the Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square to get a taste of local art and culture. From January 14 through April 17, 2016, the Cornell Museum of Art WILD exhibit features internationally rec-
ognized artists whose contemporary works are inspired by nature and illustrate the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Visit the Arts Garage in Delray Beach for a variety of theater productions, performing arts classes and a contemporary art gallery. The Boca Raton Museum of Art in Mizner Park houses an array of rotating exhibits and a combination of modern and contemporary art collections. The Wick Theatre & Costume Museum hosts a collection of shows as well as the nation’s largest collection of original Broadway wardrobes. In Palm Beach County, the Cultural Council serves as the centerpiece for the art and cultural community, offering endless tips for planning your trip. Built in 1902 on the eastern bank of Lake Worth in Palm Beach, Whitehall was Henry Flagler’s Gilded Age winter retreat. Today, it is the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, a National Historic Landmark, which offers guided tours, changing exhibits and special programs. Just across the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach, the Kravis Center for Performing Arts showcases hundreds of annual performances featuring famous artists from a variety of disciplines and features organizations such as the highly acclaimed Palm Beach Opera. Nearby, the Norton Museum of Art, founded in 1941, remains one of Florida’s major cultural institutions. Renowned internationally for its distinguished permanent collection of American, Chinese, Contemporary and
Lauderdale Spa Chic Month
OCTOBER FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: ANDY NEWMAN/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/HO; KARA FRANKER
Boogie by the Beach, Sunny Isles Beach Fantasy Fest, Key West Humphrey Bogart Film Festival, Key Largo Key West Goombay Festival
NOVEMBER Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Great Grove Bed Race, Coconut Grove Key West Film Festival Miami Beach Polo World Cup Miami Book Fair International Miami International Auto Show NASCAR Ford Championship Weekend Sunny Isles Beach Jazz Fest
DECEMBER Art Basel Miami Beach Christmas-By-The-Sea, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Design Miami Holiday Boat Parades King Mango Strut Parade, Coconut Grove Finalists at the 2015 “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest in Key West. 64
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Crandon Park Beach, one of Miami’s greatest park treasures.
European art as well as photography, its masterpieces of 19th- and 20th-century painting and sculpture include works by Brancusi, Gauguin, Matisse, Miró, Monet, Picasso, Davis, Hassam, Hopper, Manship, O’Keeffe, Pollock and Sheeler. Special exhibitions, lectures, tours and programs for adults and children are scheduled throughout the year. Also near downtown West Palm Beach on the Intracoastal Waterway, the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden features the historic home, artist’s studio and gardens of Ann Weaver Norton as well as more than 100 works by the American sculptor.
BEACHES Get ready for year-round perfect weather and lazy beach days. One of the most impressive stretches of sand in the Florida Keys is Bahia Honda State Park, located between the historic Seven Mile Bridge and Big Pine Key. Spend the day snorkeling among schools of brightly colored fish in crystal-clear water.
Miami is home to a number of picturesque beaches, including the most famous stretch of South Beach that lines Ocean Drive. The southernmost part of South Beach is where you’ll find the 100-year-old, newly rebuilt South Pointe Park Pier, which offers panoramic views of PortMiami, where Biscayne Bay meets the Miami River. Cruise ships regularly traverse this route and it’s the perfect spot for a family photo with the sparkling seas in the background. Also located in Miami, Key Biscayne is just seven miles from the
mainland. Spend the day at the beach at Crandon Park located on the northern part of the island, or cross through the village to find Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and an historic lighthouse offering spectacular views from the top. Famous for its beachfront Broadwalk, Hollywood Beach is an entertainment destination with shops, restaurants and plenty to do. It’s also the home to the brand new Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort. A small beach village offering a welcoming
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The Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, a National Historic Landmark.
On the road in Southeast Florida.
NEED MORE INFO? Cultural Council of Palm Beach County palmbeachculture.com Discover the Palm Beaches 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 visithollywoodfl.org Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Chamber of Commerce lbts.com Sunny Isles Beach Tourism and Marketing Council sunnyislesbeachmiami.com The Monroe County Tourist Development Council fla-keys.com
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atmosphere and artistic vibe, the beach at Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is where you’ll find a popular fishing pier, a handful of local shops and a colorful collection of Adirondack chairs. Among the most popular in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Beach runs the length of North Atlantic Boulevard and features a wide variety of towering hotels, great dining venues and palm-fringed sandy havens. Stroll down Delray Beach’s popular Atlantic Avenue at the end of which you’ll discover a wide stretch of public beach. Delray Municipal Beach offers ample parking, volleyball courts and water sport rentals. A great spot for families, Jupiter Beach Park features picnic areas, a sand volleyball court and impressive views of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum.
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Florida offers excellent dining and entertainment options, from upscale restaurants with celebrity chefs at the helm to laid-back beach bars where you can listen to live music and sip on a cocktail or two. Eat to your heart’s content at a number of restaurants throughout the Florida Keys and know you’re dining on the freshest seafood available. The Dock to Dish Key West, which operates as a community-supported fishery and community seafood market, promotes sustainability and the livelihoods of local fisherman. For the ultimate sunset celebration experience and a view that spans for miles, order a few tropical drinks at the Sunset Pier overlooking Mallory Square and then dine on a fine selection of broiled lobster, Key West pink
shrimp and Latin-braised short rib at Hot Tin Roof, located inside the Ocean Key Resort & Spa. Or, enjoy dinner, live music at the piano bar and an entertaining cabaret show at LaTeDa on Duval Street. Tucked away in Safe Harbor Marina on nearby Stock Island, a few miles from the tourist crowds of Key West, the Hogfish Bar & Grill is for real seafood lovers. Unless you live here, you only find this hidden gem on a tip from a local. Dining here is to experience the way the Florida Keys used to be—fresh seafood, strong drinks, waterfront views, outdoor dining and plenty of local characters. Miami has long been known for its impressive variety of fine-dining options. Located at the luxe Mandarin Oriental Miami, La Mar by Gaston Acurio offers authentic Peruvian cuisine and stunning views. Situated in the heart of the bustling Brickell area of Miami, head to the Edge Steakhouse and Bar at the Four Seasons for happy-hour specials followed by Chef Aaron Brooks’ delectable farm-to-table dinner menu items sourced from local farms. A mainstay for more than 100 years, Joe’s Stone Crab is a must on Miami Beach. Dine at Bianca in the famous Delano hotel. The Rose Bar in the same hotel is a popular choice for cocktails before heading out to nearby clubs on South Beach. For the late night revelers, go for bottle service at Hyde Beach at SLS South Beach followed by a visit to LIV nightclub at the glamorous Fontainebleau hotel. In Hallandale Beach, the Village at Gulfstream Park offers its own sizzling entertainment scene including a casino, shops, racing and scheduled
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: JEREMY FRANKER; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES
Nightlife in the Palm Beaches.
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FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County arshtcenter.org Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, West Palm Beach ansg.org Arts Garage, Delray Beach artsgarage.org Audubon House & Tropical Gardens, Key West audubonhouse.com Boca Raton Museum of Art bocamuseum.org Broward Center for the Performing Arts browardcenter.org Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square delraycenterforthearts.org Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, Palm Beach flaglermuseum.us Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, West Palm Beach kravis.org Morada Way Arts and Culture District, Islamorada moradaway.org Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach morikami.org Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach norton.org Palm Beach Opera pbopera.org Parker Playhouse, Fort Lauderdale parkerplayhouse.org Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, Miami frostscience.org PĂŠrez Art Museum Miami pamm.org Red Barn Theatre, Key West redbarntheatre.com Stage Door Theater, Fort Lauderdale stagedoortheatre.com The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, Key West hemingwayhome.com The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, Key West melfisher.org The Wick Theatre & Costume Museum, Boca Raton thewick.org
BEACHES Bahia Honda State Park bahiahondapark.com Florida State Parks floridastateparks.org Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum jupiterlighthouse.org
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DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Boston’s on the Beach, Delray Beach bostonsonthebeach.com Buccan, Palm Beach buccanpalmbeach.com Café Boulud, Palm Beach cafeboulud.com/palmbeach Casa D’Angelo Ristorante, Fort Lauderdale casa-d-angelo.com Firefly Key West fireflykeywest.com Gulfstream Park gulfstreampark.com Himmarshee Public House, Fort Lauderdale publichouseftl.com Hogfish Bar & Grill, Key West hogfishbar.com Hyde Beach at SLS South Beach slshotels.com/southbeach/hyde_beach Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami Beach joesstonecrab.com Las Guanabanas, Jupiter guanabanas.com LaTeDa, Key West lateda.com LIV, Miami livnightclub.com Lorelei Cabana Bar and Restaurant, Islamorada loreleicabanabar.com Mai-Kai, Fort Lauderdale maikai.com Mandarin Oriental mandarinoriental.com Miami Edge Steak & Bar edgerestaurantmiami.com Four Seasons Palm Beach fourseasons.com/palmbeach Rose Bar at the Delano, Miami morganshotelgroup.com/delano Sandbar Delray Beach bostonssandbar.com Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino seminolehardrockhollywood.com Shooters Waterfront, Fort Lauderdale shooterswaterfront.com Steak 954, Fort Lauderdale steak954.com The Atlantic Hotel & Spa, Fort Lauderdale Beach atlantichotelfl.com The Village at Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach thevillageatgulfstreampark.com Whiskey Blue, Fort Lauderdale wfortlauderdalehotel.com/whiskey-blue
A young baseball fan at the Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. 68
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neighboring Buccan with chef Clay Conley at the helm. Enjoy a fresh take on Italian cuisine along with innovative cocktails at Jové Kitchen & Bar at the Four Seasons Palm Beach. Dine al fresco to the sounds of crashing waves or inside the restaurant’s elegant interior. Las Guanabanas, a waterfront restaurant and bar in Jupiter, has become an institution in northern Palm Beach County. You can’t beat the freshly caught seafood dishes, tropical atmosphere, water views and nightly live music.
FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT For exciting animal encounters, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters is a conservation center located on the island of Marathon that offers guided park tours as well as tarpon and shark feedings. Heading northward to Miami, take time to visit Zoo Miami just north of Homestead. Another proven family favorite is Jungle Island located east of downtown Miami. Formerly known as Parrot Jungle, this zoological park allows visitors to get up and close and personal with animals from around the globe, including Hercules, the 900-pound liger (a cross between a lion and a tiger). One highlight of Jungle Island is the park’s “Everglades Habitat & Walk,” a hands-on experience where guests explore a recreation of Florida’s Everglades, complete with plant life and wildlife. Another must-see, the Miami Seaquarium on Key Biscayne is a spectacular 38-acre marine park, which presents four different aquatic shows daily, as well as a number of educational presentations. The aquarium is also home to Lolita, one of the world’s oldest captive orcas, as well as many other creatures of the deep. FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES
events. Don’t miss the giant Pegasus statue on the way into the village. Fort Lauderdale is developing into quite the foodie scene. Mainstays such as Casa D’Angelo (there’s another location in Boca Raton) offer expertly constructed Italian dishes prepared with the freshest ingredients. Himmarshee Public House in Fort Lauderdale serves up old American comfort food such as slow-cooked meatballs with whipped ricotta and local basil, as well as classic cocktails like the “Smoking” Sangria Mystique. The charming Beauty and the Feast Bar|Kitchen sits on a prime piece of real estate inside the Atlantic Hotel & Spa directly across from Fort Lauderdale Beach. Order a combination of flavorful small plates and family-style dishes to share. Nearby at the W Fort Lauderdale, Steak 954 offers a lip-smacking selection of perfectly aged steaks and fresh raw bar items. The restaurant’s glow-in-the-dark neon jellyfish tank is quite the showstopper. At night, the hotel’s Whiskey Blue turns into a nightlife venue with signature cocktails and a dance floor. For a laid-back bar scene with panoramic views, visit the newly renovated Shooters Waterfront. Delray Beach is home to crowd favorites such as Boston’s on the Beach (casual), 50 Ocean (upscale) and The Sandbar (happy hour and nightlife hot spot), all of which offer breathtaking views of the ocean and are located within walking distance to the shops and galleries along Atlantic Avenue. In Palm Beach, Café Boulud is the brainchild of celebrity chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. Reserve well in advance to ensure you score a table at this trendy venue or at the
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For something completely different, the Coral Castle Museum has dazzled visitors for more than 70 years. This stone-built fantasy world, built by Edward Leedskalnin, a man weighing little more than 100 pounds and standing just five feet tall, comprises numerous megalithic shaped stones, some of which weigh several tons. Cool off at the Venetian Pool designed by architect Phineas Paist in 1924 and steeped in history. Fashioned in a beautiful Venetian architectural style, the pool is formed in an old rock quarry and, with 820,000 gallons passing through it daily, it is the largest freshwater pool in the US. Check out the world’s largest butterfly park at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek where you’ll get up close and personal with more than 20,000 butterflies from around the world. There are also exotic birds and creepy crawlers at the bug zoo. Work up an appetite and then head over to the Mai-Kai Polynesian restaurant for dinner and a show for non-stop entertainment, and a little history as well. The restaurant is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Time for a massage at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach.
In Juno Beach, venture out on a wildlife turtle walk courtesy of the Loggerhead Marinelife Center and learn about the nesting process of sea turtles. Then navigate through the rare coastal hammock and natural dune systems, part of Florida’s most precious habitat. You can also view sea turtles that are recuperating before being released into the ocean at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton. Both Gumbo Limbo and the Marinelife Center serve as animal hospitals where injured and sick turtles are nursed back to health by marine biologists. For family-friendly fun, there’s nothing better than a spring training game in Florida.
Both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins play home games during spring training season at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. And make sure you catch regular season games at Marlins Park in Miami. During football season, don’t miss the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium, which is undergoing a major renovation.
ROAD TRIPS Roll the windows down and blast your favorite tunes. It’s time for a road trip. One of the most popular road trips is a 120-mile stretch known as the Overseas Highway connecting the
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A junior suite at the Seagate Hotel in Delray Beach. Shoppers on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.
Florida Keys to the mainland. Leapfrog over 42 bridges from key to key and enjoy panoramic views of the Florida Bay on one side of the road and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Along the way stop to snorkel near Key Largo at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park before heading down to Islamorada for Key lime pie and cold drinks at Lorelie Restaurant and Cabana Bar. Make it all the way down to Key West and finish off the day with a ride on the Old Town Trolley Tour. Let someone else do the driving while you enjoy the sights and sounds of the southernmost city in the US. Plan a drive into the wild side of the Sunshine State along the Tamiami Trail from Miami into the Everglades. Begin your journey on Brickell Avenue in the heart of downtown Miami and turn onto Calle Ocho—the beginning of the Tamiami Trail. In Little Havana, stop at the Versailles Restaurant for authentic pastelitos and coladas, coffee of the Cuban variety that packs a serious punch in a tiny cup. Once you’ve fueled up on caffeine and pastries, make your way to Coopertown Airboat Tours to skip at lightning speed across the waters of the Everglades and maybe even spot an alligator or two.
Excellent shopping opportunities abound throughout South Florida. Miami’s premier fashion destination and one of America’s most visited shopping centers, Aventura Mall features a collection of upscale boutiques and more than 300 of the world’s most recognized retailers. Anchored by six department stores including Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Macy’s, the shopping center includes Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Tiffany and Co., Fendi, Burberry, Bally, Emilio Pucci, Omega and Brooks Brothers, as well as retail favorites such as Apple, Michael Kors, H&M, Tory Burch, Microsoft Store, Urban Outfitters and others. Visitors also enjoy nearly a dozen restaurants, an artist-designed interactive playground, a 24-screen AMC Movie Theatre with IMAX, and a taste of South Florida’s thriving arts scene with Turnberry for the Arts, featuring contemporary installations by renowned international and local artists. Located at 19501 Biscayne Boulevard, the mall is open Monday through Sunday. Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale is a great spot to shop local boutiques. Watch out for a new project that’s in the works here—a twostory retail building proposed to rise east of the Riverside Hotel.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
PHOTOS: DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES
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Iconic view of the entrance to the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
A mermaid at the Underwater Music Festival in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Big Pine Key.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
If you’re looking for the latest high-end fashions and designer brands, the luxurious Worth Avenue district in Palm Beach, as well as Aventura Mall and the Bal Harbour Shops in northern Miami-Dade County, are must-visit destinations to add to your list. Stroll along the picturesque tree-lined Worth Avenue to visit stores such as Chanel, Tiffany & Co. and Island Company. To score a deal, opt for Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise and Palm Beach Outlets in West Palm Beach. The largest outlet mall in the United States, Sawgrass Mills recently underwent an expansion and boasts a wide selection of both value retailers and luxury-brand outlets like Jimmy Choo and Versace. Palm Beach Outlets features more than 100 stores including Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, Banana Republic Factory Store, the newly opened LXR&CO specializing in such high-end brands as Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. There’s also the Florida Currency Exchange, a full-service foreign exchange desk offering more than 80 currencies. You might want to stop by the Travelpro Luggage Outlet to pick up an extra
FEATURED LINKS FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT American Airlines Arena, Miami aaarena.com Aquarium Encounters Florida Keys floridakeysaquariumencounters.com Butterfly World, Coconut Creek butterflyworld.com Coopertown Airboats coopertownairboats.com Coral Castle Museum coralcastle.com Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Boca Raton gumbolimbo.org Jungle Island, Miami jungleisland.com Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Juno Beach marinelife.org Miami Dolphins miamidolphins.com Miami Marlins miami.marlins.mlb.com Miami Seaquarium miamiseaquarium.com
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: BOB CARE/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU/HO; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; V&V HOSPITALITY & MEDIA SERVICES
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suitcase or two to carry all your hot new finds back home. The Palm Beach Outlets are conveniently located off I-95 at Exit 71 in West Palm Beach. Additionally, Marketplace at the Outlets is an adjacent shopping center that features a dynamic mix of national tenants including Bed, Bath & Beyond, DSW, Designer Store Warehouse, Nordstrom Rack and Old Navy.
The Key West Museum of Art & History.
FEATURED LINKS Old Town Trolley Tours trolleytours.com/key-west Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter rogerdeanstadium.com Venetian Pool, Coral Gables coralgables.com Zoo Miami zoomiami.org
SPAS Finding relaxation and serenity at a spa is a stellar way to spend a vacation. A number of luxurious sanctuaries dot the southeastern coast of Florida. In Miami, Exhale Spa is often the preferred choice among the most discerning spa-goers because of its impressive therapy treatment menu and selection of fitness and yoga classes. Youâ€™ll find Exhale Spa locations at the EPIC Hotel in downtown Miami, Loews Miami Beach Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, and the American Express Centurion Lounge at Miami International Airport. Featuring grand chandeliers that hover over a collection of therapy pools and floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the serene waters of Biscayne Bay, the Spa at the Viceroy hotel in Miami will make you feel like youâ€™ve been whisked away to an urban paradise. Try the Valmont facial, which soothes the skin and repairs DNA. Escape to a chic sanctuary of relaxation at the Four Seasons Palm Beach. Try the 80minute Palm Beach Signature Massage and feel all the stress and tension melt away. The head-to-toe treatment includes an invigorating scalp and body massage using warmed Key lime and vanilla essential oils.
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY Certain hotel properties stand out from the skyline, especially on the glitzy shores along the southeast portion of the Sunshine State. From Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in the Florida Keys to the Brazilian Court in Palm Beach, some properties truly offer something special. The Florida Keys have an array of new hotel openings that include Playa Largo Resort in Key Largo scheduled to open in early 2016, Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada and The Marker Waterfront Resort in Key West. Occupying two of the most envious addresses in Key West, the Ocean Key Resort & Spa (0 Duval Street) and Pier House Resort & Spa (1 Duval Street) offer lavish oceanfront suites with prime access to the nightly sunset celebrations in Mallory Square. Perhaps the most unique and luxurious place to stay in Florida, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in the Florida Keys truly is extraordinary. Nestled on its own five-plus-acre tropical island, this remote oasis is only accessible by boat or seaplane service by Tropic Ocean Airways. Upon arrival sip on a Gumby Slumber, the
ROAD TRIPS John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park pennekamppark.com Overseas Highway fla-keys.com/highway.cfm Tamiami Trail miami.com/traveling_the_tamiami_trail
SHOP Aventura Mall, Miami aventuramall.com Bal Harbour Shops, North Miami balharbourshops.com CityPlace West Palm Beach cityplace.com Florida Currency Exchange, Palm Beach flcurrencyexchange.com Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale lasolasboulevard.com Miami Worldcenter miamiworldcenter.com Palm Beach Outlets palmbeachoutlets.com Sawgrass Mills simon.com/mall/sawgrass-mills Worth Avenue, Palm Beach worth-avenue.com
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View of the Atlantic Ocean from the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
FEATURED LINKS SPAS EPIC Hotel, Miami epichotel.com Exhale Spa exhalespa.com Four Seasons Palm Beach fourseasons.com/palmbeach Loews Miami Beach Hotel loewshotels.com/miami-beach Viceroy Miami viceroyhotelsandresorts.com
INSIDER’S TIPS Think panoramic water views, cold cocktails, live entertainment and great bar bites. No Florida vacation is complete without a visit to a laid-back beach bar. More than 60 beachstyle bars line the coast of Southwest Florida. You could spend months visiting them all and cataloguing your favorites. The good news is FloridaBeachBar.com has already done the legwork. Its Florida beach bar map makes it easy to zoom in for more details on such venues located on the Southeast coast. Click on one of the pink flamingos for photos and directions. Each year the site asks visitors to nominate their favorite and votes are tabulated to come up with the Top 10 Florida Beach Bar List. Delray Beach’s Boston’s on the Beach made the 2015 list. Others include Louie’s Backyard in Key West, Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar in Islamorada, Le Tub Saloon in Hollywood Beach, Two George’s in Deerfield Beach, Benny’s on the Beach in Lake Worth and Las Guanabanas in Jupiter.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
South Beach, Coconut Grove and Key Biscayne, the Ritz-Carlton properties are excellent choices for those longing for both serenity and impeccable service. Families and Parrot Heads alike flock to the newly opened Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Hotel, where guests have access to loads of entertainment along the legendary Hollywood Beach Broadwalk. Another big hit for families is the Lago Mar Resort and Club with its 500foot private beach in Fort Lauderdale. Historic showstoppers such as The Breakers built by Henry Morrison Flagler and Addison Mizner’s Boca Raton Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, are luxurious oceanfront options perfect for fun-loving families and glamorous wedding parties. Another boutique stunner worth adding to your list is the Seagate Hotel in the friendly coastal paradise town of Delray Beach. As an additional VIP service for all guests, the hotel will chauffeur you around the neighborhood in one of two Cadillac Escalades or its signature trolley. Known for its charm and ambiance, Sundy House features historic cottages tucked inside a tropical garden. Located on Palm Beach, the intimate luxe Brazilian Court flawlessly combines historic charm with a romantic garden atmosphere. It’s a great fit for couples seeking a lovers’ escape or for small dog owners who want to bring along their four-legged friend on vacation. The hotel is situated within walking distance to some of the finest restaurants in the area; Café Boulud is on-site and Buccan is just a few blocks away. And with the Worth Avenue shopping district located just down the street, the hotel is every fashionista’s dream. FL
Amara Cay Resort amaracayresort.com Boca Raton Resort & Club bocaresort.com Lago Mar Resort and Club lagomar.com Little Palm Island Resort & Spa littlepalmisland.com Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort margaritavilleresorts.com Ocean Key Resort & Spa oceankey.com Playa Largo Resort playalargoresort.com Pier House Resort & Spa pierhouse.com Sundy House sundyhouse.com The Breakers Palm Beach thebreakers.com The Brazilian Court thebraziliancourt.com The Marker Waterfront Resort themarkerkeywest.com The Ritz-Carlton ritzcarlton.com The Seagate Hotel & Spa theseagatehotel.com
WHAT’S NEW Brickell City Center, Miami brickellcitycentre.com CityPlace Doral cityplacedoral.com Miami WorldCenter miamiworldcenter.com Holocaust Documentation & Education Center, Dania Beach hdec.org Port of Palm Beach portofpalmbeach.com Vagabond Hotel thevagabondhotel.com
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; BOB KRIST/FLORIDA KEYS NEWS BUREAU
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY resort’s signature cocktail, before traversing a shell-laden path to what resembles a Robinson Crusoe-inspired thatched-roof bungalow. There, hidden among lush foliage, featuring a private veranda and a hot tub with ocean views, is an elegant suite with your name displayed out front. Inside, vaulted ceilings with palm-shaped teak fans, king-size canopy beds with butterfly netting, stand-alone antique-style soaking tubs and chilled champagne with fresh fruit welcome guests to this truly unforgettable paradise. With five impressive hotels situated along the shore in Fort Lauderdale, Bal Harbour,
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THIS SHORE IS Beautiful! BY MARY BURNHAM Bonefishing off Islamorada in the Florida Keys.
nter the silent undersea world of the only living coral reef in the US. Feel the thrill of landing a trophy game fish. Unwind with a beachside massage at an island resort. From Key Largo to Key West, the 125-mile barrier island chain is a truly unique culture where shoes are optional and the sunset lingers.
Dolphins Plus in Key Largo, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon and the National Key Deer Refuge in the Lower Keys. From pirates and wreckers to Cuban and Bahamian influences, the Keys are a treasure of rich and varied history, culture and architecture. One of the best ways to take it all in is on a narrated trolley tour of Key West.
LIVE IT UP!
Fishing in the Keys approaches more religion than sport. The Lower Keys backcountry is home to the most sought-after game fish in the world: tarpon, bonefish, permit, red drum and snook, while on the Atlantic side anglers can try for sailfish, swordfish or blue marlin. Lobster season draws thousands of harvesters of these tasty “bugs” from August through March. The 200-mile-long coral reef that parallels the Keys island chain charms novice snorkelers and serious divers alike. Find shipwrecks and the Christ of the Abyss statue off Key Largo, Sombrero Reef off Marathon and Looe Key Reef off the Lower Keys. Water sports range from a tranquil kayak or paddleboard tour in Key Largo or Islamorada to a thrilling kiteboarding ride off Lower Matecumbe and parasailing in Key West. Keys critters can be seen up close at
From the isolated Alabama Jack’s, a biker-bar that sits on Card Sound Road at the top of the Keys, to more than 350 bars in Key West, it’s always happy hour somewhere in the Conch Republic. From north to south, here are some of our favorites: the Caribbean Club in Key Largo, where portions of the Bogart and Bacall movie were filmed; the Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar in Islamorada; Sunset Grille with a saltwater pool overlooking the Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon; Boondocks, a sports tiki bar on Ramrod Key; and the pet-friendly Schooner Wharf Bar in Key West. Most serve food and have nightly live music.
Find a piece of local art at Islamorada’s up-and-coming Morada Way arts district. Even non-fishers will find something fun at the World Wide Sportsman Bass Pro Shop in Islamorada.
INSIDER’S TIP Coffee aficionados should not miss trying Cuban coffee, either a super-strong espresso shot or café con leche—espresso richly laden with sugar and steamed milk. It’s best at one of the Cuban-owned cafés up and down the Keys where you can also sample some authentic cuisine. FL
FEATURED LINKS The Monroe County Tourist Development Council fla-keys.com Dolphins Plus dolphinsplus.com Morada Way Arts District moradaway.org National Key Deer Refuge
SHOP Stroll Key West’s Duval Street for everything from art galleries, cigars and novelties to high-end jewelry, antiques and clothing.
fws.gov/nationalkeydeer Turtle Hospital turtlehospital.org
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GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE
A COSMOPOLITAN TROPICALOasis BY STEVE WINSTON
Sunrise at Fort Lauderdale Beach.
MUST SEE/DO Fort Lauderdale is called “The Venice of America” simply because there’s water everywhere. And no visit is complete without getting “on” the water or “in” it. Both the Water Taxi and Gondolas West ply the New River downtown to shopping areas, cultural centers and restaurants. The Jungle Queen, an authentic paddlewheeler featuring lunch and dinner cruises, travels the New River into the interior, to a private tropical isle where you can watch an alligator show, have your photo taken with exotic birds and wildlife . . . and even hold a baby alligator! If you wish to experience the ocean, charter boats and yachts abound. The city also boasts historic sites such as the Stranahan House, the 1890s home of its first settlers.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
INSIDER’S TIPS Head for Hugh Taylor Birch State Park to experience the “tropical” side of Fort Lauderdale, with guided walks through the flora and fauna, and canoes available for a water-borne view. Hot off the presses! In 2016, the prestigious South Beach Wine & Food Festival, February 24–28, will include a Taste Fort Lauderdale Series. FL Kayaking along the canals of Fort Lauderdale, known as “The Venice of America.”
Winter nights bring the excitement of NHL Hockey, with the Florida Panthers playing at the BB&T Center in the town of Sunrise.
LIVE IT UP! Greater Fort Lauderdale’s downtown streets come alive at night with the sounds of music, the smell of good food and the clinking of wine glasses at sidewalk cafés. Swanky Las Olas Boulevard is filled with trendy restaurants and bistros. Recently opened, Rhythm & Vine is an outdoor craft-beer garden where your drinks are served from a restored old Airstream trailer. Louie Bossi’s Ristorante also opened on Las Olas with five distinct dining areas, including a piazza with a fire-pit and an outdoor bar facing the street. Nearby Mangos is a great place to dance. In the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach, S3 Restaurant offers a chic ambiance and eclectic cuisine.
SHOP Las Olas Boulevard has art galleries, designer shops, specialty food stores and trendy boutiques. And the Galleria Mall has long been known for sophisticated shopping and dining.
FEATURED LINKS Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau sunny.org Florida Panthers panthers.nhl.com Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi watertaxi.com Galleria Mall galleriamall-fl.com Gondolas West gondolaswest.com Hugh Taylor Birch State Park birchstatepark.org Jungle Queen junglequeen.com Las Olas Boulevard lasolasboulevard.com Louie Bossi’s Ristorante louiebossi.com Mangos Restaurant & Lounge mangosonlasolas.com Rhythm & Vine rhythm-vine.com S3 Restaurant S3restaurant.com Stranahan House stranahanhouse.org Taste Fort Lauderdale/South Beach Wine & Food Festival sobefest.com
PHOTOS: GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE CVB
hink of a place where the sun always shines, the palm trees always sway and the warm ocean waters always caress. Fill this place with all the joys of a perfect getaway. Then throw in a vibrant cultural life, unique attractions, glamorous shopping, reborn, trendy urban areas and an exciting nightlife. And, especially from October to May, there’s a non-stop parade of music, art, food and wine festivals. What do you get? Greater Fort Lauderdale! “We live on and in the water,” says Nicki E. Grossman, President & CEO, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Our visitors can enjoy 23 miles of renowned beaches, 69 miles of coral reef and 300 miles of inland waterways. And they never have to walk downtown because we have water-taxi service all along the New River.”
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NURTURED BYNature BY CHELLE KOSTER WALTON Kayaking in The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel area.
ack in the days of railroads and steamships, Southwest Florida developed a reputation as an adventurerâ€™s mecca. Had there been social media back then, tweets would have been posted from such famous visitors and residents as @JohnRingling, @ThomasAEdison, @Henry Ford, @Charles Lindbergh, @HedyLamarr and @Rose Cleveland. They would have described #MonsterFish, #GorgeousGulf, #SugarSand, #SunnyDays and #BlissfulWinters. Thanks to the patronage and devotion of the well-heeled and well-known, the region remains pristine to this day. Adventurers still arrive to explore the backwoods of the Everglades, the treasured Gulf of Mexico beaches, and the bounty of wildlife found on land and in water. Thriving cities and endearing small towns balance the wilderness and its rich recreational opportunities with just the right measure of culture, nightlife and dining that ranges from funky fish houses to top-rated global excellence.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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Live theater and cultural entertainment in Naples.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL; NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB; VISIT FLORIDA
WHAT’S NEW While Southwest Florida’s natural and adventurous persona remains virtually unchanged since its days of early discovery, its towns, cities and attractions keep up with the times in a dynamic and robust fashion. Interpretation of the wilds is the forte of Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples, which in 2014 debuted its Little Explorer Play Zone designed for children ages 18 months to five years old. In fall 2015, it also expanded its wildlife rehab hospital to include an educational complex featuring programs such as the Little Explorer Pre-K sessions, which offer opportunities twice a month for little ones to explore nature and discover wildlife through multi-sensory interactive activities, stories and animal-themed crafts. No registration is required. Admission is free for members and included in the price of admission for non-members. On Sanibel Island, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge has introduced technology into the outdoor experience with the first-of-its-kind free Discover Ding game and social media app. Outside of Fort Myers, Buckingham Trails Preserve opened in 2015 with more than seven miles of hiking and horseback-riding trails. Changes and upgrades continue to preserve the region’s exclusive wilderness while enhancing visitor access and enjoyment. Two new attractions take adventurers into the woods to challenge themselves on trails, zip lines and treetop obstacle courses. At Bradenton’s TreeUmph!, an aerial obstacle course with zip lines elevates adventure to new heights. A Tracks & Trails course in Punta Gorda adds offroad vehicle tracks, paintball and live entertainment to the mix. Near downtown Punta Gorda, a new Outdoor Fitness Zone lets exercisers take their workout alfresco. Plus, more than 100 miles of newly marked scenic bike routes around the area further encourage outdoor fitness routines. New and noteworthy restaurants in Naples—named by Condé Nast Traveler among the top 20 food cities in America—are also nightlife hot spots: new-wave steakhouse The Continental, eclectic 7th Avenue Social and Italian gastropub Bar Tulia. The 500,000-square-foot HeadPinz bowling center opened in Fort Myers in 2015 with laser
tag, an aerial rope course, a sports bar and 24 bowling lanes. In Bonita Springs, Off the Hook Comedy Club, a longtime Marco Island institution of mirth, relocated and expanded at the new Row by Capt. Brien & Crew restaurant. In the realm of culture and entertainment, Sarasota saw the opening of its Center for Architecture in 2015, and in 2016, will welcome an Asian Wing of art at The Ringling complex and the new Sarasota Museum of Modern Art.
A plein-air artist in Sarasota.
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 von Liebig Art Center and lively performances at the Sugden Community Theatre. Artis–Naples (formerly Naples Philharmonic) brings still more performance arts, such as the Miami City Ballet, and is home to the worldclass Baker Museum of Art. The city’s Naples Botanical Garden showcases subtropical vegetation in settings that reflect the culture of Brazil, the Caribbean, Asia, Florida and beyond. Year-round, Naples hosts art shows including downtown’s prestigious Naples National Art Festival in February, Marco Island Festival of the Arts in March and the ArtsNaples World Festival in April/May. Also in Naples, the Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida houses
NEED MORE INFO? Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau bradentongulfislands.com Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce bocagrandechamber.com Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau charlotteharbortravel.com City of Palmetto palmettofl.org DeSoto County Florida Tourism Development Council visitdesoto.com Hendry County Tourist Development Council visithendrycounty.com Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau paradisecoast.com Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce sanibel-captiva.org The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel fortmyers-sanibel.com Visit Sarasota County visitsarasota.org
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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Take a free trolley ride on Anna Maria Island.
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 from fall through spring and at low tides. Ride your bike to the beaches of Sanibel Island to avoid parking fees. Sarasota beaches offer free parking. In the Bradenton area, the Anna Maria Island Trolley is a great way to tour the island and it’s free! Daily service runs from 7 AM to 10:30 PM every 20 minutes between Anna Maria City Pier and Coquina Beach. In Holmes Beach, the trolley runs north on Marina Drive and south on Gulf Drive. You can even load your bike on convenient racks located at the front of the trolley. If a couple of days in Key West are on your itinerary, park the car and climb aboard the Key West Express in Fort Myers Beach (yearround) or on Marco Island (seasonal) for a relaxing 3.5-hour ride (versus a five- to sixhour drive) to Florida’s southernmost point.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
more than a thousand donated artifacts, documents and original photographs from the Holocaust and World War II. Visitors can opt for a docent-led tour and handheld self-guided audio tour. The art scene in Fort Myers centers around its historic downtown 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, occupy separate 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, offering guided and self-guided tours. 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. The Ringlings 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 formal 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. The new Center for Architecture, which opened in 2015, further educates visitors about Sarasota’s unique architecture. 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. Bradenton’s history dates back to Hernando de Soto; 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.
BEACHES Known for its trophy beaches, Southwest Florida has been winning awards for years. In 2015, 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 9 respectively in his annual best US beaches ranking. In 2015’s TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards for Best Beaches, Sarasota’s Siesta Key Public Beach rated No. 1 and Fort Myers Beach came in at No. 18.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: GLEN HASTING/BRADENTON AREA CVB; WWW.PHOTO COURTESY OF VISIT SARASOTA COUNTY
Biking on Siesta Key.
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What do travelers, and particularly families, find so endearing about local beaches? Their soft, white sand, gently sloping sea bottom and tot-friendly waves win rave reviews. 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 around Sanibel include Bowman’s Beach and offshore Cayo Costa, which is accessible only by boat. A number of charters will take you there to pick up shells. Head to the fishing pier at Brohard Beach in Venice to sift through the sand for sharks’ teeth. 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. For boatloads of fun, shops, dining and nightlife establishments, nothing beats Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island, a seven-mile stretch of coastline known for its shallow water. It’s also home to the 10-day American Sandsculpting Championship and Beach Festival held every November.
ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY
Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival, Sarasota Mullet Festival, Goodland
Sarasota Music Festival
JULY FEBRUARY Edison Festival of Light, Fort Myers Everglades Seafood Festival, Everglades City
Sarasota Lionfish Derby Sarasota PowerBoat Grand Prix
SEPTEMBER MARCH Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival Manatee Heritage Days, Bradenton Old Florida Festival, Naples Peace River National Art Festival, Punta Gorda
Island Hopper Songwriter Fest, Fort Myers Beach and Captiva Island
OCTOBER “Ding” Darling Days, Sanibel Island Ringling International Arts Festival, Sarasota Stone Crab Festival, Naples
De Soto Heritage Festival, Bradenton
NOVEMBER APRIL Sarasota Film Festival Shark’s Tooth Festival, Venice
American Sand Sculpting Championships, Fort Myers Beach Sarasota Chalk Festival, Venice
ArtsNaples World Festival
Bradenton Blues Festival
MAY Taste of the Beach, Fort Myers Beach
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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Peaceful pursuits in Charlotte Harbor.
FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE
The downtown Naples scene is a gourmet banquet that deserves serious noshing. Go casual and waterfront at Riverwalk in Tin City, 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, held the second Thursday of each month, October through May. Most nights you will find live music at Vergina on Fifth and The Continental on Third Street South. The Mercato center in North Naples is also known for its vast variety of restaurants, lively clubs, great happy-hour specials and numerous shops. Try MASA for fine Mexican or the Rusty Bucket to watch the game and eat all-American favorites. Or enjoy dinner and a movie with deluxe seating at the Silverspot Cinema. Ford’s Garage, a local chain that takes its cues from Henry Ford’s local historic home, fuels appetites throughout the Fort Myers area. Now with three locations including downtown, it touts its gourmet burgers and craft beers. Other don’t-miss restaurants in and around Fort Myers include the historic Southern-style Veranda, Yabo for Italian-based contemporary cuisine, CRaVE for updated comfort food, and Cru for hip, inspired dining. Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille locations on Sanibel and Captiva islands and at Fort Myers Beach serve tropical cuisine based on the popular eponymous murder-mystery novels by best-selling local author Randy Wayne White. Fort Myers Beach boasts its reputation as Florida’s principal pink shrimp port, so look
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for the sweet, wild product in local restaurants. Cabbage Key Inn, on its own island accessible only by boat (Captiva Cruises takes you there), is a throwback to Old Florida, while Matlacha, off the coast of Cape Coral, is a charming cluster of art galleries, unique shops and fresh seafood houses around its working docks. If time permits, continue on to explore the lovely little community of Bokeelia situated at the northern end of Pine Island. Downtown Punta Gorda’s reputation for modern cuisine grows stronger with such stellar options as Trabue, The Perfect Caper and Dean’s South of the Border Tex-Mex Cantina. For dinner with a view, head out to the islands to experience South Beach Bar & Grille on Gasparilla Island and Gulf View Grill on Englewood Beach. The Bradenton–Sarasota area feeds you in the best ways. It claims a preponderance of owner-operated eateries ranging from the affordable Amish-Mennonite restaurant Yoder’s in the community of Pinecraft to rustic fish houses such as New Pass Grill & Bait Shop and Casey Key Fish House. Upscale originals include Derek’s Rustic Coastal Cuisine, Surf Shack Coastal Kitchen, Selva Sarasota, Euphemia Haye and Libby’s Café, to name a few. For an unusual riverside setting and house-smoked barbecue, hit Snook Haven outside of Venice. 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.
BEACHES Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park colliergov.net Brohard Beach, Venice venicegov.com Cayo Costa State Park floridastateparks.org/park/cayo-costa Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park floridastateparks.org/delnorwiggins Fort Myers Beach fortmyersbeachfl.gov Lovers Key State Park floridastateparks.org/loverskey Sanibel & Captiva sanibel-captiva.org Siesta Key Beach siestakeychamber.com/beaches Tigertail Beach tigertailbeach.net
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE 5th Avenue South Naples fifthavenuesouth.com Casey Key Fish House escape-to-sarasota.com/casey-key-fish-house.html CRaVE, Fort Myers cravemenu.com Cru, Fort Myers eatcru.com Dean’s South of the Border Tex-Mex Cantina, Punta Gorda deanssouthoftheborder.com Derek’s Rustic Coastal Cuisine, Bradenton dereks-bradenton.com Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel & Captiva docfords.com Euphemia Haye, Longboat Key euphemiahaye.com Ford’s Garage, Fort Myers and Cape Coral fordsgarageusa.com Libby’s Café, Sarasota libbyscafebar.com
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: CHARLOTTE HARBOR & THE GULF ISLANDS VISITOR’S BUREAU; PHOTO COURTESY OF VISIT SARASOTA COUNTY
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE
Arcade Theatre, Naples floridarep.org Artis-Naples artisnaples.org Asolo Repertory Theatre, Sarasota asolorep.org De Soto National Memorial, Bradenton nps.gov/deso Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers edisonfordwinterestates.org Fort Myers River District myriverdistrict.com Gamble Plantation Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/gambleplantation Hernando DeSoto Historical Society desotohq.com The Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida, Naples holocaustmuseumswfl.org The Ringling, Sarasota ringling.org The von Liebig Art Center, Naples naplesart.org Towles Court, Sarasota towlescourt.com Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota vanwezel.org Village of the Arts, Bradenton villageofthearts.com
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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 big-tired 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 in Naples 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). Paddlers flock to Collier County’s paddling trail, known as the Paradise Coast Blueway, where a network of routes take kayakers and canoeists on an exciting journey through cypress, mangroves and out toward the Gulf of Mexico. Phase 1, the Ten Thousand Islands section, begins in Everglades City and ends at
Goodland on Marco Island. Once completed, Phase 2 will include routes into Bonita Springs. Naples is known, too, for its superlative golfing opportunities. 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 CenturyLink Sports Complex-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 (BMX/Strausser Park in Cape Coral), riding a mini-railroad train (Lakes 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 places to commune with wildlife include J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, which offers complimentary guided tours and programs, and Six Mile Cypress Preserve in Fort Myers, which
Family fun on Siesta Key. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA Nearby, a tropical adventure at Sarasota Jungle Gardens gets you up close to more than 150 native and exotic animals, including giant tortoises, snakes and plenty of birds, many of which were rescued or donated. Daily schedules include educational and entertaining bird and reptile shows, followed by a question and answer period. Visitors can even hand-feed friendly pink flamingos, which sometimes greet guests face to face. In fact, you can watch them online anytime from anywhere in the world thanks to the venue’s new “Flamingo Cam.” During the summer months, ages 6–13 are welcome to sign up for a week of daily interaction with the animals and participate in educational activities at the Summer Zoo Camp. Don’t miss the Mote Marine Laboratory on Lido Key, where you can meet Hugh and Buffett, the resident manatees, and see tanks full of sharks, rays, loggerhead sea turtles and a host of other marine creatures. Visit another locally famous manatee, 67-year-old Snooty, at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton. He is the oldest manatee in captivity, according to Guinness. 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.
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FEATURED LINKS New Pass Grill & Bait Shop, Sarasota newpassgrill.com Riverwalk Restaurant at Tin City, Naples riverwalktincity.com Sea Salt seasaltnaples.com Selva Grill, Sarasota selvagrill.com Silverspot Cinema, Naples silverspotcinema.net Snook Haven, Venice snookhaven.com South Beach Bar & Grille, Gasparilla Island southbeachbarandgrill.com Surf Shack Coastal Kitchen surfshackkitchen.com The Continental, Naples continentalnaples.com The Gulf View Grill, Englewood Beach thegulfviewgrill.com The Perfect Caper, Punta Gorda theperfectcaper.com The Veranda, Fort Myers verandarestaurant.com Trabue, Punta Gorda trabuerestaurant.com Vergina Restaurant, Naples verginarestaurant.com Yabo, Fort Myers yaborestaurant.com Yoder’s, Sarasota yodersrestaurant.com
FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT BMX/Strausser Park leegov.com/sports/facilities/softball /bmx-strausserpark Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (C.R.O.W.), Sanibel Island crowclinic.org CenturyLink Sports Complex-Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers leegov.com/parks/facility?fid=0225 Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Naples conservancy.org Everglades National Park nps.gov/ever Flying Trapeze Academy, Venice titogaona.com Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples cmon.org JetBlue Park, Fort Myers leeparks.org/Facility_info?Project_num=0050 J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/jn_ding_darling Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota selby.org Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, Lido Key mote.org Naples Zoo napleszoo.com Paradise Coast Blueway paradisecoastblueway.com Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Naples rookerybay.org Sarasota Children’s Garden sarasotachildrensgarden.com Sarasota Jungle Gardens SarasotaJungleGardens.com
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: NAPLES, MARCO ISLAND, EVERGLADES CVB; VISIT FLORIDA
guides tours along its boardwalk. Learn all about Southwest Florida shells at the BaileyMatthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel. To observe animals in captivity, visit the historic Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs or the Shell Factory & Nature Park in North Fort Myers, where kids can also play in its fun park. C.R.O.W. (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) on Sanibel Island provides families with state-of-the-art, immersive experiences that teach about wildlife and how the clinic helps injured and orphaned animals. The Sarasota Children’s Garden takes families on an old-fashioned magical fantasy of dress-up, a 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 its fabulous and affordable production. In Venice, kids and adults can learn and practice circus arts themselves at Flying Trapeze Academy. At the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, kids can hike among the treetops and experience what it feels like to live in a tree canopy. Other highlights include a lush tropical conservatory, a towering bamboo garden, banyan groves, the mangrove bay walk, a fern garden and a koi pond.
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Shopping in Venice Beach.
ROAD TRIPS Views along the Sanibel Causeway and Captiva Drive star in many a commercial, but all of the coast’s islands promise glimpses of sea 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 Big Cypress National Preserve. To delve into Southwest Florida’s rural, small-town 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 the east, Sarasota and Punta Gorda lay claim to a number of small organic and other farms you can visit.
SHOP 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 Collections. On a budget? Look for like-new castoffs in the area’s consignment shops. To the north in Bonita Springs, Promenade at Bonita Bay made a remarkable comeback recently with a fabulous anchor foodie market known as DeRomo’s. The Bell Tower Shops, an open-air lifestyle center in Fort Myers, features more than 35 retailers, including Saks Fifth Avenue, plus 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 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 features 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. Separated from the mainland by Sarasota Bay, St. Armands Circle is renowned for its enchanting assortment of fine shops, galleries and restaurants. For genuine local souvenirs, head to the artist villages—Matlacha near Cape Coral, Bokeelia on Pine Island, Towles Court in Sarasota and Village of the Arts in Bradenton. Watch for news of art walk events in downtown Sarasota, Punta Gorda 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 (with its own amusement park) in Port Charlotte, the Dome Flea & Farmers’ Market in Venice and Red Barn Flea Market in Bradenton.
SPAS Fine resorts in Southwest Florida devote special attention to their spas, rather than merely 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 Naples Grande Beach Resort; and Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club. The Ritz spa contains its own healthy café, =H2O+, which schedules 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 a unique BETAR (Bio Energetic Transduction Aided Resonance) bed musical and sound relaxation system. The Westin Cape Coral’s spa lists a complete menu of services.
FEATURED LINKS Shell Factory & Nature Park, North Fort Myers shellfactory.com Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve sloughpreserve.org South Florida Museum, Bradenton southfloridamuseum.org Star Fish Company, Bradenton starfishcompany.com Sun Splash Family Waterpark, Cape Coral sunsplashwaterpark.com The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, Sanibel Island shellmuseum.org The Circus Arts Conservatory, Sarasota circussarasota.org The Dolphin Explorer, Marco Island dolphin-study.com Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours, Everglades City wootenseverglades.com
INSIDER’S TIPS Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary corkscrew.audubon.org Key West Express, Fort Myers Beach seakeywestexpress.com
ROAD TRIPS Babcock Wilderness Adventures, Punta Gorda babcockwilderness.com Big Cypress National Preserve nps.gov.bicy Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand Goodland goodland.com Pine Island pineislandfl.com
SHOP Bell Tower Shops, Bonita Springs thebelltowershops.com Dome Flea & Farmers’ Market, Venice thedomefleamarket.com Ellenton Premium Outlets, Bradenton premiumoutlets.com Fifth Avenue South, Naples fifthavenuesouth.com Flamingo Island Flea Market, Bonita Springs flamingoisland.com Fleamasters Fleamarket, Fort Myers fleamall.com Mercato, Naples mercatoshops.com Miromar Outlets, Estero miromaroutlets.com Naples Outlet Center premiumoutlets.com/naples Promenade at Bonita Bay promenadeshops.com Red Barn Flea Market Plaza, Bradenton redbarnfleamarket.com St. Armands Circle, Sarasota starmandscircleassoc.com Sun Flea Market, Port Charlotte sunfleamarket.com Tanger Outlets, Fort Myers tangeroutlet.com The Mall at University Town Center, Sarasota themallatuniversitytowncenter.com Third Avenue South Naples thirdstreetsouth.com
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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA A luxurious Fifth Club Level king suite at Inn on Fifth in Naples.
FEATURED LINKS SPAS Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa, Bonita Springs coconutpoint.hyatt.com Marco Island Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa marcoislandmarriott.com Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club naplesbeachresort.com Naples Grande Beach Resort naplesgrande.com Ritz-Carlton Naples ritzcarlton.com/naples Ritz-Carlton Sarasota ritzcarlton.com/sarasota Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa marriott.com/Fort-Myers The Resort at Longboat Key Club longboatkeyclub.com
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-akind hotels, resorts and 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 Hotel has three Gulf-front pools and newly renovated suites. Cottages provide some of the accommodation at one of the Fort Myers area’s more unusual resorts, Cabbage Key Inn. Occupying their 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 prop-
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erty 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 barefoot-style beach cottage resorts, such as Gulf Breeze Cottages, Castaways Beach & Bay Cottages and Mitchell’s Sand Castles. Just north of Fort Myers, the quiet, laidback communities of Cape Coral, Matlache and Pine Island should not be overlooked. Bed and breakfasts such as Bayview B&B near Matlache, cottages on Pine Island, apartment and funky fish house rentals at Cape Harbour, assorted delightful inns and high-end resorts are just a few of the accommodation choices available here. The 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, the 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 the historic Gulf Beach Resort Motel on Lido Key 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 destination property. For an extraordinary island stay, try the Turtle Beach R and its individualized theme accommodation on Siesta Key or Harrington House Beachfront Bed & Breakfast on Holmes Beach. FL
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY A Beach Retreat, Nokomis abeachretreat.com Cabbage Key Inn cabbagekey.com Castaways Beach & Bay Cottages, Sanibel Island castawayssanibel.com Edgewater Beach Hotel, Naples edgewaternaples.com Everglades Rod & Gun Club, Everglades City evergladesrodandgun.com Gulf Beach Resort Motel, Lido Key gulfbeachsarasota.com Gulf Breeze Cottages & Motel, Sanibel Island gbreeze.com Inn on Fifth, Naples innonfifth.com Jensen’s Island Resorts & Marina, Captiva gocaptiva.com/marina-services.htm Marco Island Lakeside Inn marcoislandlakeside.com Mitchell’s Sand Castles, Sanibel Island mitchellsandcastles.com Naples Bay Resort naplesbayresort.com South Seas Island Resort, Captiva Island southseas.com The Gasparilla Inn & Club, Gasparilla Island the-gasparilla-inn.com
WHAT’S NEW Center for Architecture Sarasota cfasrq.org Florida Tracks & Trails, Punta Gorda floridatracksandtrails.com HeadPinz, Fort Myers headpinz.com Little Explorer Play Zone at the Conservancy, Naples conservancy.org/little-explorers Punta Gorda Fitness Zone ci.punta-gorda.fl.us/depts/growthmgmt /ringaroundcity.html ROW by Capt. Brien & Crew, Naples rowseafood.com Sarasota Museum of Modern Art ringling.edu TreeUmph! Adventure Course, Bradenton treeumph.com
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: THE INN ON FIFTH; HENDRY COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
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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AN OLD FLORIDA BY STEVE WINSTON
Charmer Lake Okeechobee in Hendry County.
estled between the shores of Lake Okeechobee, the sawgrass marshes of the Everglades and the winding Caloosahatchee River, Hendry County moves to a beat reminiscent of Old Florida. This is quintessential small-town Florida, where the pace is slower, the pleasures are simpler and the surrounding nature entices you to embark on your own adventure. In fact, this is the US fruit-and-vegetable basket, where most of the country’s citrus and sugar crops originate and the land is filled with “row crops,” such as watermelon and bell peppers.
MUST SEE/DO Attractions in LaBelle include the LaBelle Heritage Museum, filled with photos and artifacts of the days when this really was the frontier, and the Firehouse Community Theatre, known for its excellent productions. Art lovers enjoy the Barron Park House Gallery, which displays local artists’ exhibits in a restored historic home. In Clewiston, the Clewiston Inn is Old Florida at its most vivid, and a showcase of beautifully crafted wood furniture and Victorian lamps, a tiled lobby with a fireplace, and the lovely mural painted in 1945 in the lounge. The Clewiston Museum sheds light on the area’s history, including the surprising fact that flyers from the British Royal Air Force trained here during World War II. Hop aboard a Sugarland Tour for a guided
excursion through the sugarcane and citrus production industry. You’ll even taste some raw sugarcane! Book your fishing guide at Roland & Mary Ann Martin Marina & Resort, a favorite stop on the Fishing League Worldwide fishing tour. Head over to STA 5/6, ranked among the top five birding hot spots in Florida, to view hundreds of species including Everglades snail kites, American flamingos, peregrine falcons and more. The Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation and the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum are perfect places to learn about the Seminole people and their culture, traditions and crafts. And Billie Swamp Safari offers the chance to experience a “swamp-buggy” or airboat ride into the ‘Glades and spend a night in an authentic chickee hut.
DINE AND SHOP Hendry County offers a variety of culinary and shopping options. Housed in the historic Forrey Building (c. 1928) and Annex (c. 1930), the Forrey Grill in LaBelle is known for its local cuisine. In Clewiston, Julio’s Café Tropical serves authentic Cuban fare ranging from perfectly pressed Cuban sandwiches to steaming hot café con leche. While there are large retail stores, Hendry County’s local and family-owned shops are charming. Stroll through downtown LaBelle to experience a variety of retailers, which sell crafts created by local artisans and antiques
from generations past, as well as the Harold P. Curtis Honey House, which has extracted and bottled local honey since 1921. In Clewiston, saunter down Bond Street for a cup of java at Common Grounds Coffee Shop and browse in the friendly local stores.
INSIDER’S TIP Boaters are welcome to dock up to three nights for free at the newly refurbished LaBelle City Wharf, which boasts eight slips just a few minutes’ walk from historic downtown LaBelle. FL
FEATURED LINKS Hendry Country Tourist Development Council visithendrycounty.com Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum ahtahthiki.com Big “O” Birding bigobirdingfestival.com Billie Swamp Safari billieswamp.com Clewiston Museum clewistonmuseum.org Firehouse Community Theatre firehousecommunitytheatre.com LaBelle Heritage Museum labellemuseum.org Roland & Mary Ann Martin Marina & Resort rolandmartinmarina.com Sugarland Tours clewiston.org The Historic Clewiston Inn clewistoninn.com
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CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA
BY ALISON R. JANISSEN Dow Gallery of American Art at the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach.
t may be only a short drive from the world-class attractions in Orlando, but with 175 miles of beachfront and plenty of Old Florida charm, the Central East region presents a different world. And there’s no reason to choose between a fun or an educational vacation here. Activities along this stretch of the Atlantic coast range from surfing and shipwrecks to brain-stimulating historic sites and significant ecological learning centers.
WHAT’S NEW The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Titusville is welcoming the US Astronaut Hall of Fame to its grounds in 2016. New interactive exhibits will explore the human side of space travel and feature a 360-degree video and audio, 3-D video, hologram and virtual reality presentations of astronauts’ experiences. Opening February 2016, Cosmic Quest immerses kids in science, technology, engineering and math and encourages them to dream about being an astronaut by getting involved in missions and experiences that
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include designing their own habitat on Mars. Once or twice a month, visitors to the Kennedy Space Center also have the opportunity to spend a half-day with a real astronaut on a behind-thescenes bus tour. You’re probably used to associating a mouse with Central Florida. Now add cheese! The new Florida Cheese Festival, set in downtown DeLand in late October, showcases more than 35 varieties of cheeses for fromage lovers to savor and sample. Cheese experts are on hand to conduct demonstrations and explain the traditions, science and craftsmanship of this ancient food as well as lead beer- and winepairing seminars. In January 2016, Daytona Beach celebrates the opening of DAYTONA Rising, a US$400million reimagining of an American icon— Daytona International Speedway. Five expanded and redesigned entrances, or “injectors,” lead fans to a series of escalators and elevators, transporting them to three different concourse levels. Each level features spacious social areas, or “neighborhoods,” along the nearly mile-long front stretch. The new venue has approximately 101,000 permanent, wider and more comfortable seats, twice as many restrooms and three times as many concession stands.
FROM TOP LEFT: MUSEUM OF ARTS & SCIENCES; SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM
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 are on display daily from 10 AM to 3 PM. On Hutchinson Island, experience the extraordinary at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, which promises a familyfriendly day of fun and learning with aquariums, nature trails, a butterfly garden, children’s pavilion, visitor center, gift shop and more. Touch a stingray, see a sea turtle up close and witness a feeding frenzy in a 750,000-gallon game fish tank.
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 in the friendly community of downtown Fort Pierce, the Sunrise Theatre for the Performing Arts offers a combination of Broadway shows, musical and comedy acts, as well as ballet and opera performances. 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.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
NEED MORE INFO? Brevard County Tourist Development Council brevardcounty.us/tourismdevelopmentcouncil/home City of Fort Pierce cityoffortpierce.com Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau daytonabeach.com Indian River County Chamber of Commerce indianriverchamber.com Martin County Office of Tourism and Marketing discovermartin.com New Smyrna Beach Area Visitors Bureau nsbfla.com Okeechobee County Tourist Development Council okeechobee-tdc.com St. Lucie County visitstluciefla.com Volusia County volusia.org/visitors West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority visitwestvolusia.com
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CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA
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 Monday – Friday in June and July US$15 Sea Turtle Preservation Society Indialantic June and July US$10 Canaveral National Seashore Apollo Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Playalinda Beach, Titusville June and July US$15; minimum age 8
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
Surfers at Daytona Beach.
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 became the permanent home of Space 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 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 lounging with a book. If you’re searching for a unique way to experience the beach, Hutchinson Island in St. Lucie County offers one of the few places in Florida where you can still enjoy a horseback ride on the beach. Equestrian rental operation Tours On Horseback welcomes beginners and advanced riders to walk and trot along a scenic three-mile tour on Saturdays and Sundays. With 26 miles of unspoiled ocean beaches between Sebastian and Vero Beach, Indian River County is an ecotourist’s dream. Busy full-service beaches, 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.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: DAYTONA BEACH AREA CVB; NEW SMYRNA BEACH AREA VISITORS CENTER; SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM
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 mothers-to-be. Five entities between Jensen Beach in Martin County and Titusville in Brevard County offer walks:
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Stop by Jetty Park beach in Cape Canaveral and watch cargo ships, fishing boats or an occasional US Navy vessel float out to sea. Chances are you’ll also witness a giant cruise ship embarkation, because this is the secondbusiest 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, where waves call to surfers living in nearby 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 entertainment.
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Once the Florida sun sets and the temperature drops, it’s time to head outside. Between sea, sand and music, it’s not hard to imagine that much of this coastal region’s nightlife takes place outside. Open-air, beachfront venues range from romantic dress-up to rocking dress-down. The Pelican Café in the historic district of downtown Stuart offers casual waterfront dining and music with its own soft-sand beach and deck seating. Bring your own sand toys
because little ones (two-legged and even fourlegged) are welcome to cavort on the shores of the St. Lucie River while the older set enjoys the ocean-air setting. The facility closes during the winter if winds exceed 25 mph and temperatures plummet into the mid to low 70s. The bars and restaurants on Hutchinson Island and surrounding areas are unique, to say the least. There’s the “taste bud popping” Cajun cuisine of Crawdaddy’s in Jensen Beach and the laid-back flavors of the Surfside Grill on the island. Many venues, such as Archie’s Seabreeze, provide a full calendar of live music (and karaoke if you dare) to spice up the atmosphere and give their establishments that island theme. 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! If you want to come back during the day, 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).
Surf off the coast of New Smyrna Beach.
ANNUAL 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 Merritt Island Pioneer Day
MARCH Bike Week, Daytona Beach DeLand Outdoor Art Festival Under the Oaks Art Show, Vero Beach
APRIL Easter Surfing Festival, Cocoa Beach Fort Pierce Oyster Festival New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest
MAY Stuart Sailfish Regatta
SEPTEMBER Rivertown Craft Fair, DeLand
OCTOBER Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach Florida Cheese Festival, DeLand
NOVEMBER DeLand Original Music Festival Halifax Art Festival, Daytona Beach
DECEMBER St. Johns River Christmas Boat Parade, DeLand Nightlife in Cocoa Beach Village. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA Mountain biking in Martin County.
Head over to Jensen Beach to the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast located at Indian Riverside Park where kids explore and learn through hands-on and interactive activities. Take a break from the beach and spend an afternoon with art, history and technology. Scheduling your visit early in the year? From January through April, explore the historical significance of Florida’s citrus industry at Al’s Family Farms in Fort Pierce. A guided tour takes visitors 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 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.
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: DAYTONA LAGOON; DISCOVERMARTIN.COM; DISCOVERMARTIN.COM
Schedule your trip from October to May for an opportunity to “tromp the swamp”—free of charge—and observe the exclusive, natural beauty of the Barley Barber Swamp in Martin County’s Indiantown. All groups are accompanied by a knowledgeable tour guide as they meander through the swamp along a 5,800-foot-long closed-loop boardwalk. 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 are 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 responsible for sustaining life in the estuary and discuss the importance of maintaining the fragile balance of this ecosystem.
Play time at the Daytona Lagoon. 92
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Historic House of Refuge, the last US lifesaving station.
FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE Fish House Art Center www.fishhouseartcenter.com Hallstrom House irchistorical.org Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex kennedyspacecenter.com Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum daytonabeach.com/listings /mary-s-harrell-black-heritage-museum/872/ Oceanographic Coastal Center, Hutchinson Island floridaocean.org Stuart Heritage Museum stuartheritagemuseum.com The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum navysealmuseum.com Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum and the Tico Airshow vacwarbirds.org
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 paddlers on a leisurely exploration of the pristine Thousand Islands in Cocoa Beach and through a mangrove estuary located in the Indian River Lagoon, which is home to 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 West 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 new, reimagined Daytona International Speedway isn’t just home to the DAYTONA 500, it’s a year-round 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 Chronicle headquarters. Enjoy a bus tour of the trail and peek inside the Zora Neale Hurston House. 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 50foot mound left by a Paleo-Indian culture, considered the largest remaining Native American mound in the nation—and among the most ancient.
BEACHES Hutchinson Island floridashutchinsonisland.com Jetty Park Beach and Campgrounds jettypark.org Sebastian Inlet State Park friendsofsebastianinletstatepark.org Tours On Horseback beachtoursonhorseback.com
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Archie’s Seabreeze Restaurant and Bar archiesseabreeze.com Capt. Hiram’s Resort hirams.com JB’s Fish Camp & Restaurant jbsfishcamp.com The Pelican Café and Beach pelicancafeandbeach.com
FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Al’s Family Farms alsfamilyfarms.com Barley Barber Swamp barleybarber.org Beach Shack beachshackblues.com Brevard Museum of History & Natural Science brevardmuseum.com Cocoa Beach Kayaking cocoabeachkayaking.com Daytona International Speedway daytonainternationalspeedway.com DAYTONA Rising daytonarising.com Elliott Museum elliottmuseumfl.org Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum melfisher.com/Sebastian/Sebastian_Museum.asp Skydive DeLand skydivedeland.com Sunshine Wildlife Tours sunshinewildlifetours.com The St. Lucie County Aquarium stlucieco.gov/aquarium.htm U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame kennedyspacecenter.com/the-experience /us-astronaut-hall-of-fame.aspx
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CENTRAL EAST FLORIDA
Shoppers at the Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach.
FEATURED LINKS INSIDER’S TIPS Canaveral National Seashore nps.gov/cana Florida Power & Light Energy Encounter floridawildlifeviewing.com/florida_sea_turtles /FloridaPowerLight.htm Sea Turtle Conservancy conserveturtles.org/barrierislandcenter.php Sea Turtle Preservation Society seaturtlespacecoast.org Sebastian Inlet State Park Fishing Museum floridastateparks.org/park-activities /Sebastian-Inlet#Museum
Relaxing at the Ocean Waters Spa at Plaza Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach.
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 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 West 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.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
SHOP Mainstreet DeLand Association mainstreetdeland.org New Smyrna Beach Farmers’ Market nsbfarmersmarket.com Ron Jon Surf Shop ronjonsurfshop.com Stuart Green Market stuartgreenmarket.org Vero Beach Outlets verobeachoutlets.com
SPAS Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa costadeste.com Sandpiper Bay Club Med sandpiperbay.clubmed.us The Plaza Resort & Spa plazaresortandspa.com
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY
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. The Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa, owned by musical superstars Gloria and Emilio Estefan, brings chic style and sophistication to Vero Beach. The luxury oceanfront resort is set alongside miles of golden sand beaches and boasts a skilled staff ready to provide harmony
Holly Bluff Marina hollybluff.com Old Colorado Inn oldcoloradoinn.com Perfect Drive Golf Villas at PGA Village perfectdriveatpgavillage.com River Palm Cottages & Fish Camp riverpalmcottages.com The Old Pineapple Inn oldpineappleinn.com Windermere Inn by the Sea windemereinn.com
WHAT’S NEW DAYTONA Rising daytonainternationalspeedway.com US Astronaut Hall of Fame kennedyspacecenter.com/the-experience /us-astronaut-hall-of-fame.aspx
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: SPACE COAST OFFICE OF TOURISM; VISIT FLORIDA
Canaveral National Seashore nps.gov/cana Florida Scenic Highways floridascenichighways.com Indian River Lagoon Scenic Byway indianriverlagoonbyway.com Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail stlucieco.gov/zora
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and soul to every interaction. In addition, the resort has been designed as an extension of the Estefans’ home and is infused with their spirited personality and style. 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 utilizes 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 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, localfavored 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 Windermere 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 three-story Victorian home within walking distance to the Foosaner Art Museum, formerly known as 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 West 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
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THE LAND of Enchantment BY KEVIN FRITZ
Air boating in Central Florida.
WHAT’S NEW Bok Tower Gardens, home to the 205-foot neo-Gothic and art-deco “singing tower” in Lake Wales, is undergoing the largest garden expansion in the 85-year history of this National Historic Landmark. The 18month-long project, which will include a 2.7-acre hands-on Children’s Garden and a farm-to-table edible
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: VISITCENTRALFLORIDA.ORG; VISIT FLORIDA
ith the City of Orlando as its hub and home to preeminent signature theme parks, Central Florida is known worldwide as the epicenter of fun. While Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando serve as destinations for many visiting families, there is much more to this region that requires exploration. Central Florida’s natural attractions—outstanding parks, lakes and rivers—coupled with an array of amusement parks, museums, zoos and aquariums create a family destination like no other in the world. From the majestic horse farms of Ocala south to the historic city of Sebring on beautiful Lake Jackson, the Central Florida region beckons travelers to revel in its seemingly never-ending things to do.
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garden and outdoor kitchen, is expected to be completed in late spring of 2016. In Polk County, LEGOLAND Florida Resort has opened a new land called Heartlake City, complete with a horse-themed disc coaster called Mia’s Riding Adventure, an interactive show titled “Friends to the Rescue,” and new shops inside the Heartlake Mall. As a nod to the United States Women’s National Team winning the 2015 FIFA World Cup in Canada, Reunion – a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort has introduced FootGolf for guests to play on its award-winning 18-hole, par 72 Watson Course. Do your kids like to color? At the Florida Mall in south Orlando, the Crayola Experience is a family attraction offering 25 hands-on creative and fun experiences for young and old alike. Coloring outside the lines is encouraged. Transforming Downtown Disney into the new Disney Springs has doubled the number of shops and restaurants, including Morimoto Asia, a one-of-a-kind dining experience created by Chef Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef America fame. Or check out the BOATHOUSE, an upscale, waterfront dining restaurant. The king of theme parks is also redesigning Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and will feature 20 bungalows on Seven Seas Lagoon and 360 deluxe studios. Be sure to visit SeaWorld Orlando in the summer of 2016 for the debut of Mako, a 200foot-tall hypercoaster that will reach 73 mph along 4,760 feet of steel track—that’s almost a mile long. Named for one of the ocean’s fastest known sharks, Mako will be Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster. Want an even more exciting thrill? Ride Mako at night. A new trio of attractions await newcomers to International Drive. The Orlando Eye is a 400-foot-tall observation wheel with 30 fully enclosed, air-conditioned glass capsules providing breathtaking views of Central Florida. It’s part of the new US$250-million I-Drive 360 dining-and-entertainment complex filled with restaurants, stores and featuring the 25,000square-foot Sea Life Aquarium and Madame Tussauds wax museum. Restaurants include Yard House, Naru Restaurant and Sushi Bar, and Sugar Factory. Want more? Venture over to Cowgirls and take your chance on Orlando’s only mechanical bull.
New brew pubs are serving up fresh beer throughout Central Florida to rave reviews. Crooked Can Brewing Co. at Winter Garden’s new Plant Street Market, Bowigen’s Beer Company in Casselberry, and Ten 10 Brewery in the Mills 50 District of Orlando are worth the stop.
NEED MORE INFO? Central Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau visitcentralflorida.org City of Lake Wales cityoflakewales.com
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.” 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 artdeco “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. Who would guess the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright designs in the world is in Lakeland, Florida? The legendary architect
City of Orlando cityoforlando.net/visitors City of Winter Garden cwgdn.com/visitor City of Winter Park cityofwinterpark.org Experience Kissimmee experiencekissimmee.com Greater Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce lpfla.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
Stage performance by the Orlando Opera company.
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CENTRAL FLORIDA Cooling off at Blizzard Beach at Walt Disney World, Orlando.
designed and oversaw 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 Presidents Hall of Fame in Clermont. Life-sized wax statues of Presidents George W. Bush, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln greet visitors who learn all about the 43 US Presidents and their first ladies. In Orlando, 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.
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 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 5:30 AM and 11:30 PM.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
A visit to historic Winter Garden takes you 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 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. The Melon Patch Theatre in Leesburg opened 60 years ago in 1955 and continues to provide family-friendly theatrical musicals, comedies 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.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: VISIT ORLANDO: JULIE FLETCHER/VISIT FLORIDA
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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 is the largest in a chain of 13 lakes and 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 several from which to choose and many have their own beaches. From Walt Disney World to SeaWorld and LEGOLAND Florida, wet thrills abound. It’s also your last chance to make a splash at Wet ’n Wild, considered America’s first water park. The landmark on International Drive since 1977 will close at the end of 2016. 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 everything from mouth-watering steaks and seafood to smoked baby back ribs and pasta. In the Orlando area, options abound, starting with Restaurant Row on Sand Lake Road. Here you will find some of the most sought-after culinary favorites including Morton’s The Steakhouse, Roy’s and Seasons 52. For a more casual atmosphere, you can’t beat Rocco’s Tacos. 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. If you want to make an adventure out of your evening meal, Orlando-area themed dinner theaters, such as Capone’s Dinner & Show, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY Central Florida Scottish Highland Games, Winter Springs Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, Eatonville
FEBRUARY Mount Dora Arts Festival
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
JUNE Silver Spurs Rodeo, Kissimmee
JULY Red, Hot and Boom, Altamonte Springs
SEPTEMBER Plantation Redfish Classic, Crystal River
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 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Dining under the trees in Winter Park. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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ICEBAR Orlando, the largest permanent ice bar in the US.
FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTRE Cornell Fine Arts Museum rollins.edu/cfam Florida Southern College flsouthern.edu Garden Theatre gardentheatre.org Harry P. Leu Gardens leugardens.org Orlando Museum of Art omart.org Orlando Repertory Theatre orlandorep.com Orlando Science Center osc.org Orlando Shakespeare Theater orlandoshakes.org Presidents Hall of Fame thepresidentshalloffame.com The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art morsemuseum.org The Melon Patch Players, Leesburg melonpatchplayers.com The Mennello Museum of American Art mennellomuseum.com
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 laughter 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 southernfood 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 award-winning 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 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.
BEACHES Fantasy Surf, Kissimmee ultimateindoorwave.com Lake Louisa State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Lake-Louisa Rainbow Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Rainbow-Springs SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment seaworldorlando.com Walt Disney World disneyworld.disney.go.com Wekiwa Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings Wet ‘n Wild Orlando wetnwildorlando.com Go-karting in Kissimmee. 100
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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 since 1972 with the finest Indian food in Florida. Try the lamb curry or shrimp masala. Maggie’s Attic, a cozy, family-owned wine bar and boutique in Mount Dora, serves up craft beer, live music and unique gifts.
FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT When it’s time for 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 jeep safari ride to experience 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 the finest classic aircraft in the world, a variety of hands-on activities and daily air shows.
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High-flying adventure at Gatorland.
CLOCKWISE FROM THE BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT ORLANDO
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE
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. In 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 in their 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 250-foot 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, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls at SeaWorld’s Waterpark, Aquatica, is Orlando area’s tallest and steepest free-fall waterslide, which 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 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.
Amrit Palace, Ocala amritpalace.com Arabellas Ristorante, Winter Haven arabellas.us Capone’s Dinner Show, Orlando alcapones.com Chef John’s Place, Kissimmee chefjohnsplace.com Church Street Station, Orlando churchstreetdistrict.com COOP, Winter Park asouthernaffair.com Hollerbach’s, Sanford hollerbachs.com ICEBAR Orlando icebarorlando.com Kings Bowl Orlando kingsbowlamerica.com/orlando Maggie’s Attic Wine and Beer Cellar, Mount Dora maggiesattic.us Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, Orlando medievaltimes.com Pirate’s Dinner Adventure, Orlando piratesdinneradventure.com Restaurant Row, Orlando visitorlando.com/things-to-do/orlando-districts /restaurant-row Titanic The Artifact Exhibition, Orlando titanictheexperience.com Treasure Dinner Theatre, Orlando treasuretavern.com WonderWorks, Orlando wonderworksonline.com
FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/catfishcreek Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark, Orlando aquaticabyseaworld.com/en/orlando Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens centralfloridazoo.org Crayola Experience crayolaexperience.com/orlando.aspx Fun Spot America funspotattractions.com Gatorland gatorland.com Green Meadows Petting Farm greenmeadowsfarm.com Old Town, Kissimmee myoldtownusa.com Orlando Balloon Adventures, Kissimmee orlandoballoonadventures.com Rock Springs, Apopka flsprings.com/content/rock-springs Safari Wilderness Ranch safariwilderness.com Scenic Boat Tour, Winter Park scenicboattours.com Showcase of Citrus showcaseofcitrus.com Splitsville Luxury Lanes splitsvillelanes.com Wild Florida Airboats wildfloridairboats.com
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CENTRAL FLORIDA Festival of the Masters at Disney Springs showcases artistic creations from more than 150 artists.
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.
Scenic horse pastures in Ocala.
ROAD TRIPS Take a break from the parking lots and embark on a scenic drive to experience some of Old Florida at its finest. The Ridge Scenic Highway 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
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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 Outlet 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 stroll 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 RitzCarlton 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
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT ORLANDO; WILLIE J. ALLEN JR./VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT ORLANDO
Poolside at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando.
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The Mall at Millenia in Orlando, a favorite shopping destination.
turn-of-the-century 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 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.
FEATURED LINKS INSIDER’S TIPS Exotic Animal Experience exoticexperience.net SunRail sunrail.com
ROAD TRIPS Florida Backroads Travel florida-backroads-travel.com The Citrus Tower citrustower.com/Clermont
SHOP Orlando Premium Outlets premiumoutlets.com Renninger’s Vintage Antique Center Farmers’ & Flea Market renningers.com/Locations/MtDora The Florida Mall simon.com/mall/the-florida-mall The Mall at Millenia mallatmillenia.com
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY While there are thousands of hotel rooms and vacation home rentals in Central Florida, there is a type 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 enjoying a tall-tree breakfast from your room. Get even closer on a sunrise or sunset safari. After a long day, refuel at Boma – Flavors of Africa, an all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet resembling a lively African marketplace. Ever stay in a glass-enclosed resort? Experience life like Jim Carrey’s character did in The Truman Show under Gaylord Palms 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. The five-story LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven features 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 four popular LEGO toy lines as their accommodation theme—pirate, kingdom, LEGO friends or adventure—and all rooms include two separate sleeping areas for grown-ups and up to three little ones. To round off this ultimate family experience, hotel guests have early access to the park and are treated to nightly entertainment. 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. FL
SPAS Blue Harmony Spa blueharmonyorlando.com The Ritz-Carlton Spa Orlando ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Orlando/Spa The Woodhouse Day Spa orlando.woodhousespas.com Waldorf Astoria Spa waldorfastoriaorlando.com/spa
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY CoCo Key Hotel and Water Resort cocokeyorlando.com Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts /animal-kingdom-lodge Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center marriott.com/hotels/travel /mcogp-gaylord-palms-resort-and-convention-center Lakeside Inn, Mount Dora lakeside-inn.com Universal Orlando Resort universalorlando.com Westgate River Ranch westgateresorts.com/river-ranch
WHAT’S NEW Bok Tower Gardens boktowergardens.org I-Drive 360 i-drive360.com LEGOLAND Florida florida.LEGOLAND.com Reunion – a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort reunionresort.com
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CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA
of Beaches BY SUSAN B. BARNES
A family walk on Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach.
hen it comes to the Sunshine State and all it has to offer, Central West Florida presents a bit of everything: powder-soft, white-sand beaches; thrilling theme parks; a vibrant nightlife scene; captivating world-class museums; and much more.
WHAT’S NEW In the historic Ybor City district outside of downtown Tampa, Rock Brothers Brewing opened in late 2015 to the delight of music fans of all genres. The production facility, tasting room and listening room feature craft beers that embody the spirit of the musicians with whom the brewer partners. Expect refreshing pints inspired by Umphrey’s Magee, JJ Grey, Hootie & The Blowfish, 311 and more! Fresh produce and much more are found at the Ybor Daily Market in Ybor City. The farmers’ market features, not only fresh produce and food, but arts and crafts, fresh coffee
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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER; VISITCITRUS.COM; VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER
Second Seminole War re-enactment at Fort Cooper Days event in Inverness.
and tea, and even local and organic treats served from a retrofitted Airstream trailer. A few new restaurants have put themselves on the Tampa map. Goody Goody, a former Tampa institution, has returned and is now located in Hyde Park Village. Their famous hamburgers are back on the menu and feature the “secret sauce” everyone craves. Another crowd favorite, butterscotch pie remains on the menu. Also in Hyde Park Village, bartaco is a recent addition to Tampa’s strong Mexican food scene. Its bright, airy space and affordable menu make it an ideal place to spend time enjoying a meal with friends and family. Watch out for snakes at Busch Gardens Tampa! In 2016, Cobra’s Curse is expected to captivate families with its spine-tingling vertical 70-foot lift that takes riders on a whirlwind adventure of exciting explorations at speeds exceeding 40 mph. Trek over the park’s Serengeti Plain as you discover the mysteries of an Egyptian archaeological excavation and come face-to-face with an 80-foot snake icon, complete with fangs! Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination opens January 2016 and continues through June 2016 at the Dalí Museum in St. Pete. The first-ever Dalí-Disney exhibit showcases the relationship between Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney, two creative visionaries who actually collaborated on an animated short, Destino, which began in 1945 but wasn’t released until 2003. Also in St. Pete, Top Chef contestant Jeffrey Jew recently opened Stillwaters Tavern, having spent a year developing recipes for his new restaurant. Down the street, Brick & Mortar – Kitchen & Wine Bar is a “true food lovers’ and cooks’ restaurant specializing in rustic yet elegant flavors,” not to mention an extensive wine and craft beer selection. In Clearwater, the Opal Sands Resort is set to open by March 2016, setting the bar for luxury beachfront accommodation in Florida’s No. 1 Best Beach Town, as named by USA Today. Its restaurant, Sea-guini, promises to deliver a tropical twist on seafood-centric Italian dining, with a focus on farm-fresh and fresh-off-the-boat ingredients infused throughout the menus and unprecedented views of the Gulf of Mexico. Central West Florida craft beer brewers are making room for distilleries emerging onto the
scene, including St. Petersburg Distillery, NJoy Spirits (Weeki Wachee) and Cotherman Distilling (Dunedin). Set your sights on the treetops at the TreeUmph! Adventure Course opening in Brooksville/Weeki Wachee in fall 2016, complete with high ropes courses, zip lining and much more to keep you and your family on your toes!
Exterior of the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg.
ARTS AND CULTURE They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Central West Florida has plenty of beauty to share. 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, showcasing works by local, national and international photographers, as well as historical collections. Farther along the river, the Tampa Bay History Center tells the stories of the city on the bay. A short trolley ride from the Tampa Bay History Center, Ybor City is a living museum. Once known as the “Cigar Capital of the World,” this small city within a city was rich with cigar factories where workers rolled 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 simpler times and the splendor of the storied 1920s “movie
NEED MORE INFO? Citrus County Visitors & Convention Bureau visitcitrus.com City of Dunedin dunedingov.com Hernando County Tourism Bureau floridasadventurecoast.com Pasco County visitpasco.net Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater visitstpeteclearwater.com Visit Tampa Bay visittampabay.com Ybor City Chamber of Commerce ybor.org
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CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA Aerial view of Treasure Island.
For a peek into the history of the area, check out the annual Fort Cooper Days event in Inverness, where re-enactments depicting the events that took place during the construction of Fort Cooper are staged along with living history demonstrations.
Central Avenue nightlife in St. Petersburg.
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.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
palace,” the Tampa Theatre. Tour the mesmerizing theatre before the main feature begins. Then sit back and relax while a volunteer organist serenades you on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ before the curtain rises. Within walking distance of each other in downtown St. Petersburg are the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center, featuring 10,000 square feet of amazing 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, the Dalí Museum displays the world’s largest collection of Salvador Dalí’s work outside of Spain, including 1,300 graphics, photos, sculptures and objets d’art; 96 oil paintings; and more than 100 watercolors and drawings. The structure housing the Dalí Museum is in itself a surreal piece of art. To the north of Tampa, Dunedin is filled with galleries and regularly hosts arts and crafts shows throughout the year. If you’re in the area January 9 & 10, 2016, head over to the 19th Annual Downtown Dunedin Art Festival, which showcases 150 of the nation’s most talented artists and a broad spectrum of mediums including sculptures, glass, paintings, jewelry, ceramics and much more. Admission is free. Every spring, world-class Scottish athletes descend upon Dunedin for the annual Highland Games & Festival that include a traditional Scottish gathering with music and dance, a parade and a full day of events and competitions.
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 towering behind you, consider Fort De Soto Park, south of St. Pete Beach, or Anclote Key Preserve State Park. Caladesi Island State Park is a perfect destination not only for beaches, but also for its four-mile kayaking trail and its three-mile nature trail. Nearby Honeymoon Island State Park was connected to Caladesi Island until a hurricane separated them in 1921. Once a popular honeymoon destination in the 1940s and 1950s it is now a favorite among birdwatchers and welcomes more than one million visitors annually, making Honeymoon Island State Park the most-visited park in Florida. Not only Floridians think the beaches here are fantastic. Two beaches—St. Pete Beach (No. 2) and Clearwater Beach (No. 8)—made it onto TripAdvisor’s 2015 list of the “25 Best Beaches in America.” And at the end of the day, there’s no better place than a beach in Central West Florida to watch spectacular sunsets.
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Once awash with chain restaurants, Central West Florida has stepped up its game with plenty of independently owned eateries, which feature 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 every three to four days based on what’s in season, there are Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café, Rooster & the Till and Fodder & Shine. For authentic Cuban bread, stop by Mauricio Faedo’s Bakery, across the street from The Refinery.
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You’re sure to find something to please your taste buds in Ybor City. Park your car and walk around or hop on the trolley. 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 a while in Ybor City to enjoy its thriving nightlife, which ranges from dance clubs and live music venues to quiet pubs. Cigar City Cider & Mead is a tasting room with plenty of pint options. Tampa’s South Howard Avenue, or SoHo, is filled with restaurants. Make a night of it and book reservations at Bern’s Steak House, a dining institution where for more than 50 years, Bern’s has served aged prime beef, caviar, organic vegetables and wines from an extensive cellar stocked with 6,500-plus labels. Insider’s tip: order the tableside Caesar salad and make reservations for the Harry Waugh Dessert Room. And like Ybor City, once dinner’s over, the night comes alive along this hip 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. In Dunedin, the Olde Bay Café is known for its lobster bisque, crab cakes, fresh-from-theGulf fish and sunset views. The oldest microbrewery in Florida, Dunedin Brewery set the scene and now there’s a host of award-winning brews from which to choose. The best of the rest in Dunedin include 7venth Sun Brewery and Clear Sky Draught Haus, which features 37 craft beers on tap and
another 60-plus in bottles; 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; and Angry Chair Brewing, Cigar City Brewing (recently ranked among the top five breweries in the US), Coopertail Brewing Co., Florida Avenue Brewing Co., Southern Brewing and Tampa Bay Brewing Co. in Tampa. Food is just one of many reasons to visit Citrus County. The restaurant at the Homosassa Riverside Resort serves excellent fare. If you’re ravenous, don’t pass up their famous trashcan lid filled with fresh seafood. Minutes away, The Freezer is a locals’ favorite, cash-only tiki bar, which serves up the freshest seafood around, along with wine and beer (no frilly umbrellas here!).
Harvesting scallops in Citrus County.
ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY
FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 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 about 80 lions, tigers, bobcats and cougars that have been rescued and are now cared for by loving staff and volunteers. Another place to enjoy close encounters with animals is Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, 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
Downtown Dunedin Art Festival Gasparilla Pirate Festival, Tampa
FEBRUARY Annual Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival Brooksville Native American Festival Clearwater Beach Uncorked Dunedin Mardi Gras Parade and Festival
FEBRUARY–MARCH Food and Wine Festival, Busch Gardens Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Tampa
MARCH Dunedin Highland Games & Festival Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Fort Cooper Days, Inverness
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 Dunedin Celtic Music & Craft Beer Festival Dunedin Wines and Blues Festival
DECEMBER Holiday Boat Parade, Dunedin Outback Bowl New Year’s Eve Parade & Band Blast, Ybor City Cycle along off-road paths in Tampa. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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CENTRAL WEST FLORIDA Winter the Dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Campers in Citrus County.
ARTS AND CULTURE Dunedin Highland Games and Festival dunedinhighlandgames.com Florida Museum of Photographic Arts fmopa.org Museum of Science and Industry mosi.org Tampa Museum of Art tampamuseum.org The Dalí Museum thedali.org
BEACHES Anclote Key Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/park/anclote-key Caladesi Island State Park floridastateparks.org/caladesiIsland Clearwater Beach clearwaterbeach.com Fort De Soto Park pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm Honeymoon Island State Park floridastateparks.org/honeymoonisland St. Pete Beach stpetebeach.com
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE 3 Daughters Brewing 3dbrewing.com 7venth Sun Brewery 7venthsun.com Angry Chair Brewing angrychairbrewing.com Bern’s Steak House bernssteakhouse.com Brooksville Brewing Company brooksvillebrewing.com Cigar City Brewing cigarcitybrewing.com Cigar City Cider & Mead cigarcitycider.com Clear Sky Draught Haus clearskydraughthaus.com Columbia Restaurant columbiarestaurant.com
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
Manatees, thought to be mermaids by sailors too long at sea, gather in the same springs when water temperatures dip below 72 F elsewhere in Florida. Other popular manatee viewing spots include Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River and the TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. For a real treat, rent a kayak from A Crystal River Kayak Company and paddle among the manatees on the Crystal River. You may choose to take a guided tour or head off on your own. Either way, just be sure to respect the rules of the river and the manatees.
ROAD TRIPS Greek cuisine, art and culture—it’s all found in the small fishing village of Tarpon Springs. The area was first settled in 1876, and today it’s a popular day-trip destination from Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Dunedin and Pasco County. Go for the history, culture and food, and you’ll go back for more! Park the car and cycle along the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, a 40-mile protected, multi-use greenspace created along an abandoned railroad corridor that extends from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs.
SHOP What’s a vacation without shopping? 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), and 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
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sharks (for scuba-certified only), swim with fish (for ages six and older) or cruise out onto Tampa Bay to watch for dolphins. More amusement is found at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, 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. 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 clown fish. You can get out on the water here, too, on board the aquarium’s 90minute Sea Life Safari. Take the family out to the ball game during spring training, or during the regular season for that matter. Beginning in March, the Toronto Blue Jays take their swings at the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin (once ranked as one of the “best places to see a game” by Sports Illustrated), while the New York Yankees play spring ball in Tampa and the Philadelphia Phillies step up to the plate in Clearwater. The Jolley Trolley travels from Clearwater to Dunedin and on to Tarpon Springs making it easy to catch a few spring training games. During the regular season, the Tampa Bay Rays play their opponents at the 72-F Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. 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.
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shops for everything from T-shirts and shells to artwork and more. If you admire arts and crafts, don’t miss the Annual Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival. Just a short drive from Tampa, this small coastal town attracts some of the country’s finest artists and crafters to its annual event. If you miss it, the town hosts other craft festivals throughout the year.
SPAS 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. 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, Indaba – The Spa at Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort in Palm Harbor, defines tranquility. Inside the separate dressing rooms are lounge areas, saunas/steam rooms and hot tubs. State-ofthe-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 start. From the whirlpool and steam rooms to treatment rooms and couples’ suites complete with Swiss showers, you won’t want to leave
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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, Sur la Table, lululemon athletica, Brooks Brothers, Anthropologie and others. Later, enjoy a bite to eat at the new bartaco 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 shoppers with their wares. 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-plus
Massage at the Indaba Spa at Innisbrook Resort and Spa. 112
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Shopping for souvenirs at John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk in Madeira Beach.
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 that 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 individualizes your spa time 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 for even more choices when you make your appointment. 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, Beach Glow Body Treatment, Sea of Life Facial and the Floral Blossom Manicure & 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
and a bottle of Cristal, followed by a sunset, seaside couples’ massage that will melt the world away. When Hernando de Soto 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-square-foot 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.
Coppertail Brewing Co. coppertailbrewing.com Cycle Brewing facebook.com/pages/Cycle-Brewing /454861824560821 Dunedin Brewery dunedinbrewery.com Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe ellasfolkartcafe.com Florida Avenue Brewing Co. floridaavenuebrewing.com Fodder & Shine fodderandshine.com Green Bench Brewing Co. greenbenchbrewing.com Olde Bay Café & Dunedin Fish Market oldebaycafe.com Rooster & the Till roosterandthetill.com Saint Somewhere Brewing Company saintsomewherebrewing.com Southern Brewing & Winemaking southernbrewingwinemaking.com Tampa Bay Brewing Co. tampabaybrewingcompany.com The Refinery thetamparefinery.com
FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT A Crystal River Kayak Company crystalriverkayakcompany.com Big Cat Rescue bigcatrescue.org Busch Gardens Tampa buschgardens.com Clearwater Marine Aquarium seewinter.com Cobra’s Curse cobrascurse.com Dinosaur World dinosaurworld.com Glazer Children’s Museum glazermuseum.org Jolley Trolley clearwaterjolleytrolley.com New York Yankees newyork.yankees.mlb.com Philadelphia Phillies phillies.com Tampa Bay Rays rays.mlb.com Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo lowryparkzoo.com TECO Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center tampaelectric.com/company/mvc The Florida Aquarium flaquarium.org Toronto Blue Jays toronto.bluejays.mlb.com Weeki Wachee Springs State Park weekiwachee.com
ROAD TRIP Tarpon Springs spongedocks.net
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Snorkel with the manatees in Citrus County.
FEATURED LINKS SHOP
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
SPAS Evangeline Spa epicureanhotel.com/evangeline-spa Indaba – The Spa innisbrookgolfresort.com/spa-wellness Sandava Spa clearwaterbeach.hyatt.com/hyatt/pure/spas Spa Bleu at Plantation plantationoncrystalriver.com/spa.htm Spa Oceana loewshotels.com/Don-CeSar-Hotel/spa The Spa at Sandpearl sandpearl.com/spa
Manatees may just be your neighbors during a stay at the Homosassa Riverside Resort in Citrus County, where the springs are 72 F year-round. Homosassa means “River of Fishes” in Seminole Indian, so it’s no surprise species include mullet, snook, snapper, tarpon, sheephead, trout, skate and many more. Boat tour operators head out from the resort twice a day to the Crystal River where manatees winter to escape the cold weather and they will provide all the necessary equipment and guidance if you opt to snorkel or swim with these gentle giants. Kids will also enjoy watching five spider monkeys that reside on Monkey Island, a tiny chunk of land owned and tended by the Homosassa Riverside Resort. Situated upon 232 acres of preserved land, the Plantation on Crystal River 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. Citrus County is also the perfect getaway choice for campers and RV owners. Stay in waterfront towns such as Crystal River and Homosassa. Popular campgrounds include the Crystal Isles RV Resort, the Homosassa River Carefree RV Resort and the Chassahowitzka River Campground, among others. Many allow fishing within the park and none are far from water activities. FL
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY Aloft Tampa Downtown alofthotels.com/TampaDowntown Best Western Plus Yacht Harbor Inn bestwestern.com/Dunedin Epicurean epicureanhotel.com Homosassa Riverside Resort riversideresorts.com Le Méridien Tampa lemeridientampa.com Loews Don CeSar Hotel loewshotels.com/Don-CeSar-Hotel Plantation on Crystal River plantationoncrystalriver.com Safety Harbor Resort and Spa safetyharborspa.com The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club marriott.com/hotels/travel/tpasr-the-vinoy -renaissance-st-petersburg-resort-and-golf-club
WHAT’S NEW Brick & Mortar – Kitchen & Wine Bar facebook.com/brickandmortarkitchen Cotherman Distilling Company facebook.com/CothermanDistillingCompany NJoy Spirits wildbuckwhiskey.com Opal Sands Resort, Clearwater opalsandsresort.com Rock Brothers Brewing rockbrothersbrewing.com St. Petersburg Distillery stpetersburgdistillery.com Stillwaters Tavern stillwaterstavern.com TreeUmph! treeumph.com Ybor Daily Market ybordailymarket.com
For an historic night’s stay, make reservations at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, a pink Mediterranean Revival-style 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 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, attracts 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. Open since June 2014, Le Méridien Tampa’s classic architecture beautifully sets off modern touches and state-of-the-art technology, turning former judges’ chambers into incredible guest rooms at what was formerly the century-old Historic Federal Courthouse and is now part of the US National Register of Historic Places. What’s more, as part of its UNLOCK Art program, the hotel partners with the Tampa Museum of Art to offer 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, is a terrific option for business and leisure travelers alike. The former Mercantile Bank office was repurposed and developed to feature 130 loft-like rooms in a hip, vibrant, social atmosphere. In Dunedin, just north of Tampa, the Best Western Plus Yacht Harbor Inn is a boutique waterfront resort that overlooks beautiful St. Joseph’s Sound. It’s within easy walking distance from Dunedin’s delightful downtown core and the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium where Toronto’s Blue Jays conduct their spring training.
Chihuly Collection moreanartscenter.org/chihuly Grand Central District grandcentraldistrict.org Hyde Park Village hydeparkvillage.com International Plaza and Bay Street shopinternationalplaza.com John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk johnspassvillage.net The Shops at Wiregrass theshopsatwiregrass.com
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SOUTHERNonSWANK the Gulf BY JANET GROENE Relaxing on Fort Walton Beach.
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he rim of Northwest Florida begins with the whitest of white Gulf of Mexico beaches, edged with dazzling turquoise waters. Along the bleached sandy shores between Destin and Panama City Beach, a strand of luxury, low-rise vacation homes have become a hideaway for celebrities. It began with the urban-chic development at Seaside, which caught the public’s eye and imagination when it was featured in the Jim Carrey 1998 film, The Truman Show. High-rise developers were kept out of the area by laws overruling multistory buildings. Now one- and two-story beach “cottages” have morphed into millionaire mansions. Also attracting the glitterati are ultra-luxe resorts, such as the WaterColor Inn and Resort at Santa Rosa Beach, which ranks No. 15 on US News and World Report’s list of Florida’s 400 best hotels, out-ritzing hundreds of better known hotels in Miami, Palm Beach and Orlando. One stretch of Highway 30A is becoming known as “Nashville South” and sometimes “South Hollywood” due to the many celebrities who pay up to US$28,000 a week to stay in exclusive beach houses. Celeb watchers have spotted
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such luminaries as Kenny Chesney, Emeril Lagasse, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, Faith Hill, John Oates of Hall and Oates and NFL stars Tony Romo and Eli Manning. In January 2015, the annual 30A Songwriter’s Festival welcomed A-list notable performers such as Graham Nash, Leon Russell, Jason Isbell and Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket. Celebrities aside, there’s always a warm welcome here for travelers who seek accommodation at a familiar chain, such as Holiday Inn, Homewood Suites or La Quinta. Although summer is high season here, many snowbirds choose to roost here during the winter months because of the attractive rates available at motels, residential suite hotels, cottages, selfcatering condos and RV resorts. The tourism menu is rich in variety starting with nature’s gifts. Gulf waters, beaches and water sports are just the beginning. Upland there are pristine woods and waters, an encyclopedia of flora and fauna including many rare and endangered species, and a state park threaded with Florida’s only dry caves, which are open for exploration year-round. Outdoor pursuits range from golf courses, horseback riding and paddle sports to backcountry camping, hiking and fishing. For birdwatchers, spring and fall migrations fill the Panhandle with an outstanding aerial show.
European discovery in the New World began with a Spanish settlement at Pensacola in the early 1500s. The strategic location of Pensacola made it a military center and, today, ancient brick forts still beguile tourists while modern-day Blue Angels jets roar overhead. Attractions exclusive to the Panhandle include the National Naval Aviation Museum, home of the largest collection of naval warplanes in the world, and Torreya State Park with its stands of rare Torreya conifers. On the last Friday and Saturday of April, the small airport at DeFuniak Springs swarms with the largest fly-in air expo in Northwest Florida. Rivaling the more famous fly-in at Lakeland, it attracts aircraft from all eras and features workshops, vendors, food booths and demonstrations.
INSIDER’S TIPS The best time to visit Northwest Florida is in the off-season, between September and early May, when temperatures are prime and crowds disperse. There are also many festivals and events at this time of year. You can get great value for your dollar by renting a condo, cottage or home, which are more plentiful than hotel rooms. However, unlike downstate Florida, this area can get frosty during the winter months. Some attractions are closed in winter and most others have varying schedules so be sure to check ahead. Look for rental fat-tire wheelchairs (and sometimes strollers) in most major beach areas. Conventional wheelchairs can’t nav-
WHAT’S NEW Now that a major airport has been added between Pensacola and Tallahassee, it’s easier than ever to reach the Panhandle. The former Northwest Florida Regional Airport, now known as Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS), is served by American, Delta, United and US Airways flights, which connect with hubs at Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Charlotte. Southern Airways Express also flies to Atlanta, Memphis, and Oxford and Jackson, Mississippi. The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.
igate 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. 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 Beach 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 coast offers worldclass 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 Beach, Navarre, Carrabelle and Pensacola.
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Cyclists in Mexico Beach.
Cruising in Mexico Beach.
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Growth gallops ahead in the Panhandle areas where higher, larger hotels are permitted, giving visitors more choice in accommodation and shopping venues. Scheduled to open in Destin in spring 2016 is a US$300-million luxury hotel, The Henderson, which aspires to five-star status. Visit the National Naval Aviation Museum during Discovery Saturdays for special events such as meetings with real-life aviation heroes. In addition to the popular indoor restaurant, there’s now an outdoor food kiosk for visitors viewing the massive display of aircraft on the grounds. The total collection has grown to more than 150 airplanes and spacecraft. Featuring regionally-inspired beers, such as the “1890 Founder’s Ale” (a classic amber with balanced malt and hop character), “White Dunes” (a Belgian white featuring hints of spice and citrus), and “30A Beach Blonde Ale” (a light-bodied blonde ale with subtle citrus nuance and mild malt sweetness), the threeyear-old Grayton Beer Company has become a favorite of visitors and locals alike. The company’s newly-opened taproom features a 40-foot recycled wood pallet 25-tap bar where Grayton Beer Company’s specialty small-batch beers will be exclusively available. Idyll Hounds, the second brewery to open in South Walton, brews its beer with a flavors-first mentality. Inspired by the white-sand beaches, forever-blue sky, and warm waters of the Gulf coast, Idyll Hounds’ first two beers are “Divide
& Conch’r” (a double IPA with notes of grapefruit, pine and passion fruit) and “Man O’Wheat” (an unfiltered pale wheat ale). The brewers place a special focus on both eco- and beach-friendly products, using 100 percent recyclable materials to can their beer. Florida has long been a national leader in creating artificial reefs. Now Northwest Florida is the recipient of a US$11.4-million project, which is creating nearly 5,000 artificial reefs at 37 sites in the Big Bend area of the Gulf of Mexico. Sport fishing, already a tourism blockbuster in the region, will benefit anglers and divers as well as aid fish populations.
ARTS AND CULTURE World War II history is preserved at the Camp Gordon Johnston World War II Museum in Carrabelle. The camp, which once housed half a million troops, opened in 1942 and trained amphibious forces for assaults from Normandy to the Bay of Pigs. 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 in 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. The Florida Chautauqua Theatre remains active. 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, 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 Art Walk &
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: MEXICO BEACH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; MEXICO BEACH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; VISIT PANAMA CITY BEACH; CHERYL CASEY/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
A family fishing trip in Panama City Beach.
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ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY 30A Songwriters’ Festival, Santa Rosa Beach Pensacola Beach Run Half Marathon Winter Guest Fest, Fort Walton Beach
FEBRUARY Grand Mardi Gras, Pensacola Gumbo Cookoff, Mexico Beach The Sandestin Gumbo Festival
MARCH Celebrate the Arts, Gulf Breeze Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire, Pensacola
APRIL Mardi Gras in Pensacola.
Wine Festival annually in the spring. South Walton’s numerous artists’ colonies encourage an exchange between fine painters, crafters and sculptors who in turn support local workshops and festivals. A steady stream of incredible live music lends an upbeat soundtrack. And the talented players at the Repertory Theater are always ready to add a touch of drama to the mix. Beyond the myriad events and festivals, there’s an engaging array of galleries, studios and public performing arts. A host of galleries are found at Ruskin Place in Seaside and Shops of Grayton, where visitors can enjoy a diverse array of art and meet many of the local personalities in one colorful location. On the first Friday of every month, several of South Walton’s more than 60 art galleries host a First Friday Art Walk along Highway 30A. On this night, galleries stay open late and shoppers have the opportunity to view new artwork, meet the artists and enjoy refreshments and live music. 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 to as early as 14,000 BC. The Mattie Kelly Arts Center at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville provides a showcase for visiting international artists as well as local talent, including the Northwest Florida Symphony and Northwest Florida Ballet. 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. Revisit the early 1900s, when live vaudeville acts were giving way to movies at the Museum of Local History in Milton. It’s housed in the stately Imogene Little Theatre, built in 1912 and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Milton is also home to the West Florida Railroad Museum in a typical depot waiting room from the 1880s. Newly restored in 2015, the Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site in Milton preserves remnants of one of the largest antebellum water-powered industrial complexes in Northwest Florida. 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 for a few years. The city center is now built on the site of an early fort and 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. Costumed characters toil daily in Historic Pensacola Village, taking on the roles of candlemakers, quilters, bakers and merchants who lived here centuries
Apalachicola Antique and Classic Boat and Car Show Apalachicola Art Walk and Wine Festival Flora-Bama Interstate Mullet Toss, Perdido Key Sandestin Wine Festival
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 Running of the Bulls, downtown Pensacola
JULY–AUGUST Summer Concerts in the Park, Marianna
AUGUST Sandestin Triathlon, Miramar Beach Wausau Possum Festival and Miss Funday Pageant
SEPTEMBER Pensacola Seafood Festival Vettes at the Beach, Pensacola Beach
OCTOBER Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival, Niceville Destin Seafood Festival Dog Daze, Fort Walton Beach Florida Scallop and Music Festival, Mexico Beach Greek Festival of Pensacola
NOVEMBER Creek Indian Celebration Days, Pace Florida Seafood Festival, Apalachicola Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival, Perdido Key Great Gulfcoast Art Festival, Pensacola Seeing Red Wine Festival, Seaside
DECEMBER Boat parades, waterfronts region-wide New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, Panama City Beach
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ago. The Museum of Commerce is a street scene of typical 18th- and 19th-century shops. Culturally aware, Pensacola has its own ballet, symphony, theater and art museum. 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 pro-
Family time at Navarre Beach.
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grams include classic movie showings and a Broadway series, plus a busy schedule of classical and pop performances. If you’re visiting Pensacola between April and December, check the schedule for Gallery Night, when the city’s downtown streets come alive on one special Friday each month. Visitors and locals gather at these festive block-party
events to enjoy music, art and cuisine provided by dozens of local businesses.
BEACHES Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce apalachicolabay.org Carrabelle Area Chamber of Commerce carrabelle.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 floridasplayground.com Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau visitpanamacitybeach.com Rosemary Beach rosemarybeach.com Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council floridabeachestorivers.com Santa Rosa Island Authority visitpensacolabeach.com Seaside Visitors Bureau seasidefl.com South Walton Tourist Development Council visitsouthwalton.com St. George Island Visitor Center seestgeorgeisland.com Visit Pensacola visitpensacola.com
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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. This being the birthplace of YOLO Board, visitors can try their hand at standup paddleboarding (SUP) with experts on the region’s rare 15 coastal dune lakes. Open to the public, YOLO Board Adventures is dedicated to creating awareness of what is the world’s fastest-growing water sport activity. SUP is easy to learn and a perfect way to explore the Gulf of Mexico or Western Lake, one of South Walton’s dune lakes. In addition to its white-sand beaches, South Walton boasts the Choctawhatchee River (Florida’s fourth largest in volume),
Choctawhatchee Bay, many creeks and streams, and 15 extremely rare coastal dune lakes, providing a variety of opportunities to get out on the water. Ecotours on the Choctawhatchee River with the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is a great way to explore the extraordinary ecosystems, which are home to numerous and unusual native plants and animals. Similarly, guide Karl Renelt has been introducing people to South Walton’s extraordinary beauty since the early 1990s and leads diverse tours with Into the Wild Eco Diversions (ITW), which include hiking, biking, kayaking and sailing on either the Gulf or the Choctawhatchee Bay. 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 an excellent choice. So is the Florida District of Gulf Islands National Seashore, a snowscape of beaches with cycling 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 top 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.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: SANTA ROSA COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; EMERALD COAST CVB
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FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE
Harborfront dining on the Emerald Coast.
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. Good taste reigns for all palates at Gormley’s at the Gibson in Apalachicola. Chef Brett Gormley, who has been featured in the New York Times, prepares classic French cuisine. Reserve early; the room is open only a few nights each week. The Firefly Bar and Library Lounge in Panama City Beach offers an extensive menu with options for children and early dining, plus a wide selection of soups, starters, sushi, pizza and specialty entrees, martinis and samplers. Luxury reigns at the Havana Beach Bar & Grill, the happening place for cocktails in The Pearl resort in Rosemary Beach. Thursday through Sunday, sing along at the piano bar. Gourmet food is served indoors, or you can enjoy small plates on the veranda. Take a moment to enjoy the room’s original art. The Hub on 30A in WaterSound (South Walton) is a popular gathering place with great restaurants, entertainment and shopping with family and friends. On Seaside’s Airstream Row, vintage Airstreams sit across the street from the beach and serve a variety of American favorites and Southern classics. According to Seaside founder Robert Davis, “The Airstreams are fun and funky and the size of the place means the proprietors keep it simple.” 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. A comprehensive menu at Cuvee Bistro in Destin spans from crisp-crusted pizzas to duck, venison, steaks and a signature black pepper yellowfin tuna. The Cubi Bar Café in the National Naval Aviation Museum serves food and is also an 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 buzz on Pensacola Beach is the Casino Beach Bar & Grille, a Caribbean-style hangout at the foot of the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier. Check out special events for holidays such as New Year’s and Mardi Gras. The iconic McGuire’s Irish Pub, a favorite for St. Patrick’s Day events, has locations in Pensacola and Destin. Nightlife is easy to find. Trends include a growing number of brewpubs and Margaritastyle beach hangouts. In Pensacola the afterdark crowd goes to the Seville Quarter Historic District, which finally went smoke-free in 2015. Worth looking into while visiting this dining-entertainment-shopping complex is the Vinyl Music Hall housed in the historic Masonic Lodge. Check out its current list of headline music acts. 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, Crooked River Lighthouse in Carrabelle and the Cape St. George Lighthouse on Little George Island.
Camp Gordon Johnston World War II Museum campgordonjohnston.com Fort Barrancas nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-barrancas.htm Fort Pickens nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-pickens.htm Gallery Night, Pensacola visitpensacola.com/articles/pensacola-gallery-night Historic Pensacola Village historicpensacola.org Imogene Little Theatre santa-rosa.tripod.com/ilt Indian Temple Mound Museum fwb.org/museums/Indian-temple-mound-museum John Gorrie Museum State Park floridastateparks.org/JohnGorrieMuseum Mattie Kelly Arts Center, Niceville mattiekellyartscenter.org National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola navalaviationmuseum.org Repertory Theater, South Walton lovetherep.com Ruskin Place, Seaside 30a.com/locatios/ruskin-place Saenger Theatre pensacolasaenger.com Shops of Grayton discover30a.com/30a-shopping/shops-of-grayton The Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site, Milton historicpensacola.org/arcadia.cfm The Battle of Marianna battleofmarianna.com The Florida Chautauqua Inc. fcweb.org West Florida Railroad Museum wfrm.org
BEACHES Cape San Blas capesanblas.com Capt. Anderson’s Marina captandersonsmarina.com Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance basinalliance.org Crooked Island Sound mexicobeachfl.com/cdc/crooked-island-sound.cfm Dog Island thedogisland.com Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland Grayton Beach State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Grayton-Beach Shell Island visitpanamacitybeach.com/beaches/shell-island Into the Wild Eco Diversions (ITW) itwecodiversions.com St. Andrews State Park floridastateparks.org/standrews T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park floridastateparks.org/stjoseph YOLO Board yoloboard.com
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Mini golf in Panama City Beach.
A day at the beach in Destin.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
All-day family fun is a definite promise at WonderWorks in Panama City Beach. More than 100 hands-on activities include its Ropes Course, Lazer-Tag, the Hurricane Shack with category-one winds and a bubble lab that generates giggles for all ages. The Betsy Ann Riverboat at St. Andrews Marina in Panama City Beach 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. The Shell, a landmark amphitheater near Panama City Beach, is always a photo-op backdrop and often the setting for concerts. Arrive on the free Shell Island Shuttle or by ferry. Visitors may also come by boat and tie up at the dock or drive in and park at the public beach. 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. Try the new Kawabunga Racer. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach showcases dolphins and other sea creatures, and kids love feeding the pen-
guins. 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 adventures. Explore Florida’s Playground Trail, made up of 12 sites connecting Milton and Navarre Beach, named one of the top 25 beaches in the US by TripAdvisor in 2014. Following beautiful signage, begin at the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, with its educational center, sea turtle conservatory and near-shore reefs. Then follow a variety of sites along the beachfront, including the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier, the longest in Florida and on the Gulf of Mexico. Next, make your way to historic Milton, the canoe capital of Florida, and Blackwater River State Park, for a variety of kayaking, canoeing, tubing, fishing, historic sites 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 multi-cultural past, its lumber and maritime industries, militar y histor y and 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. 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. Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola is attracting more national auto racing events, including the NOPI Nationals car show and the famous Snowball Derby 300-lap stock car race. Family-friendly, tailgate-friendly events feature
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT FLORIDA; VISIT PANAMA CITY BEACH; WALTON COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; VISIT PANAMA CITY BEACH
Standup paddleboarding at sunset in Walton County.
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offbeat cars in out-of-the-ordinary races, such as noisy, smoky-tire “drift nights” and double headers in which winners of the first race start last for the second show. When races aren’t running, licensed drivers 18 and over can drive the half-mile track in a real racecar. Packages are priced for 10 to 30 laps.
ROAD TRIPS Drive US 98, the 157-mile-long stretch referred to as the Emerald Coast Route or the Gulf Coast Highway from the forgotten hamlet of Carrabelle and historic Apalachicola to Gulf Breeze for almost non-stop views of shining waters and white sands. Although the trip can be done in a day, every mile tells 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 beachside neighborhoods 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 to take you out to Santa Rosa Island, Fort Pickens and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Depending on tourist traffic, shore roads can be slow, 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 189,848acre Blackwater River State Forest.
SHOP Outlet malls here are enormously popular with travelers. For smarter shopping, opt into the e-mail list ahead of your trip to receive coupons, news and an idea of where to find things. When you arrive, start at the information kiosk to inquire about coupons, a free shopping bag or other “insider” promotions. Silver Sands Premium Outlets in South Walton is the largest in the region with 110 stores. Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is a city-size resort with a pedestrian Village of Bay Wharf 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 County Road 30A. 30Avenue in Inlet Beach is an up-andcoming shopping mecca. Notable retailers in the new shopping center include Willow + Mercer, which has expanded from the original Willow boutique. The Pensacola Beach Boardwalk (formerly the Portofino Boardwalk) is a typical Florida shopping, dining, entertainment, beach and water sports complex that’s well worth a whole day or an entire evening. Anchored by Dick’s Sporting Goods and an upscale Dillard’s, Pensacola’s sprawling 120-
FEATURED LINKS DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Cape St. George Light stgeorgelight.org Casino Beach Bar & Grille, Pensacola casinobeachbar.com Cuvee Bistro cuveebistrodestin.com Firefly Bar and Library Lounge fireflypcb.com Five Sisters Blues Café, Pensacola fivesistersbluescafe.com Gormley’s at The Gibson, Apalachicola gibsoninn.com Havana Beach Bar & Grill, Rosemary Beach thepearlrb.com/dining/havana-beach-en.html Margaritaville Beach Hotel margaritavillehotel.com McGuire’s Irish Pub mcguiresirishpub.com Seville Quarter, Pensacola sevillequarter.com Stinky’s Fish Camp, Santa Rosa Beach stinkysfishcamp.com The Hub 30A hub30a.com Vinyl Music Hall vinylmusichall.com
FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Betsy Ann Riverboat betsyannriverboat.net Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park, Destin bigkahunas.com Blue Angels, Pensacola blueangels.navy.mil Five Flags Speedway, Pensacola 5flagsspeedway.com Florida State Parks floridastateparks.org Goofy Golf, Panama City Beach goofygolfpc.com Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, Fort Walton Beach gulfarium.com Navarre Beach Marine Science Station navarresciencestation.org Navarre Beach Pier santarosa.fl.gov/navarrebeachpier Pensacola Blue Wahoos milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t4124 Shell Island Shuttle shellislandshuttle.com The Track Family Recreation Center destintrack.com Torreya State Park floridastateparks.org/torreya WonderWorks wonderworksonline.com/panama-city-beach
ROAD TRIPS Blackwater River State Forest floridastateparks.org/park/Blackwater-River DeFuniak Springs defuniaksprings.net Shoppers at Pier Park in Panama City Beach. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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NORTHWEST FLORIDA Jacuzzi at Serenity by the Sea in the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa in Miramar Beach near Destin.
FEATURED LINKS Falling Waters State Park floridastateparks.org/fallingwaters Florida Caverns State Park floridastateparks.org/floridacaverns Florida Scenic Highway floridascenichighways.com Ponce de Leon Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/poncedeleonsprings Scenic 30A 30a.com
SHOP 30Avenue thirtyavenue.com Cordova Mall simon.com/mall/cordova-mall Pensacola Beach Boardwalk pensacolabeachboardwalk.com Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort sandestin.com Silver Sands Premium Outlets premiumoutlets.com
SPAS Outstanding spa services and surroundings are found in the Serenity Spa at the Bay Point Golf Resort & Spa in Panama City Beach, the InnSpa at the WaterColor Inn & Resort in Santa Rosa Beach, and the Serenity by the Sea in the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa in Miramar Beach near Destin. Guests at chic beach communities such as Seaside and Rosemary Beach have a wonderful choice of day spas, many of which offer luxury services. The Pearl Spa 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. Portofino Island Resort in Pensacola Beach is another great choice if you seek a resort with full-service spa facilities as well as a comprehensive fitness center offering personal trainers, triathlon training and a smoothie bar. Fusion is a day spa in Gulf Breeze across the street from the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front Hotel and Holiday Inn Resort and features an Aveda skin care massage and salon services.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY 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 and the Old Carrabelle Hotel, are bed-and-breakfast inns. 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 in DeFuniak Springs. It’s two blocks from the lake and a favorite with the many cycling tourists who come to the area. Ask for maps of several routes designed for the hotel by Kinetic Community Bikes. Situated northeast of Panama City, Bay Bares Park in Youngstown 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 T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula, Three Rivers State Park, Topsail Hill Preserve and Grayton Beach. A wide choice of campgrounds spans from primitive sites in government parks to lavish RV resorts. Becks Lake Fish Camp & Wildlife Refuge in Cantonment isn’t a traditional farm stay. It’s a working farm, which welcomes visitors to pitch a tent or hook up an RV, pick crops, paddle the river and fish in a pristine outback setting. FL
SPAS Bay Point Golf Resort & Spa baypointresorts.com/ Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village, Destin emeraldgrande.com Fusion Spa Salon, Gulf Breeze fusionspasalonaveda.com Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa sandestinbeachhilton.com The Pearl Spa, Rosemary Beachwood Resort thepearlrb.com WaterColor Inn & Resort watercolorresort.com
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY Bay Bares Park baybares.com Hotel DeFuniak hoteldefuniak.com The Old Carrabelle Hotel oldcarrabellehotel.com Three Rivers State Park floridastateparks.org/threerivers Topsail Hill Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/topsailhill
WHAT’S NEW Destin–Fort Walton Beach Airport flyvps.com Grayton Beer Company graytonbeer.com Idyll Hounds Brewery Company idyllhoundsbrewingcompany.com Organization for Artificial Reefs (OAR) oarreefs.org The Henderson, Destin thehenderson.com Walton Outdoors waltonoutdoors.com
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ©2015 HILTON HOTELS & RESORTS; MEXICO BEACH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; MEXICO BEACH COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
store Cordova Mall has food galore and dozens of familiar chain stores.
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A PRIVATE PIECE of Paradise BY STEVE WINSTON Enjoy miles of white-sand beaches in Mexico Beach.
exico Beach is the kind of place you thought didn’t exist anymore. Here, everyone says hello. There are no traffic lights or chain restaurants. And it exudes a delightful small-town intimacy. Mexico Beach is a tiny town right on the Gulf of Mexico. But the secret’s out. TripAdvisor recently named it a “Top Affordable Destination.” In addition, the town has appeared on numerous “Best Places to Live” and “Best Places to Vacation” lists. Here, where buildings are limited by law to four stories, you can sink your toes into five miles of white-sand beaches, cool yourself in the calm Gulf waters, watch a stunning sunset, and dine on seafood that was swimming in the ocean only two hours earlier.
MUST SEE/DO Whether you fish from the shore for pompano, from the City Pier for Spanish mackerel or from a boat for grouper, these are some of the most bountiful fishing grounds in America. And the offshore waters have natural and artificial reefs, complete with shipwreck sites, making it a great spot for diving. Consider hiking at St. George Island State Park or paddling through mangroves at Wakulla Springs State Park. And wildlife viewing is everywhere, ranging from monarch butterflies to armadillos, sea turtles to deer, and river otters
Mexico Beach has a number of interesting little shops along Highway 98, as well as in motels and restaurants. Among them are Frost Pottery Garden and Gift, The Grove and The Shell Shack.
Parasailing in Mexico Beach.
to alligators. If you’re into ecotourism, Mexico Beach has 57 different ecosystems! On the water, enjoy pursuits such as sailing, boating, parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, canoeing, charter jaunts, and standup paddleboarding. Mexico Beach may be quiet, but it’s hardly isolated. It’s only a half-hour from beautiful Cape San Blas, where you can go horseback riding on the beach. It is also close to the attractions and shopping outlets of Panama City Beach, and the historic lighthouse and antique shops of Apalachicola.
DINE AND SHOP Try the fruit of the sea at restaurants such as the appropriately named Killer Seafood, Mango Marley’s and Fish House Restaurant.
Crooked Island! Locals come to this uninhabited island for great shelling and the private-island atmosphere. Catch a boat ride at the Mexico Beach Marina, or drive then cross on the over-water boardwalk. You’ll make the return trip with some beautiful shells in your bucket. “If you’re looking for bright lights and themed attractions, we’re probably not your ideal vacation destination. But if you’re looking for your own private piece of paradise, you’ll find it here,” says Kimberly Shoaf, President of the Mexico Beach Community Development Council. FL
FEATURED LINKS Mexico Beach Community Development Council mexicobeach.com Mexico Beach Marina mexicobeachmarina.com St. George Island State Park floridastateparks.org/park/St-George-Island Wakulla Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Wakulla-Springs
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PA N A M A C I T Y B E A C H
BY AMANDA MIMS
Fishing offshore in Panama City Beach.
covers more than a million square feet of retail space and is home to myriad specialty shops and restaurants. Elsewhere, popular eateries include Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant and Schooner’s Restaurant & Beach Club. For a refreshing bite, grab an outdoor table at Zen Garden, a small, independent eatery and market that locals love.
eal. Fun. Beach. That’s Panama City Beach’s tagline, and it couldn’t be more appropriate. From pristine natural spaces and white-sand beaches to concerts and nightlife that rock the Emerald Coast, authentic Florida fun is what visitors find here.
LIVE IT UP!
MUST SEE/DO The yin to this city’s yang of energetic crowds and concerts is its abundance of natural spaces, which include miles of beaches and thousands of acres of pristine wilderness. Visitors find tranquility, as well as hiking, biking, paddling, boating and camping opportunities at Panama City Beach’s parks, which include Camp Helen State Park, St. Andrews State Park and Panama City Beach
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
Hunting for shells on Panama City Beach.
Conservation Park. St. Andrews State Park offers ferry rides to Shell Island, an unspoiled island just off the mainland, where visitors can snorkel among tropical fish and a variety of marine mammals. Sightings of bottlenose dolphins are an everyday occurrence in St. Andrews Bay. Sea turtles also populate this area. Panama City Beach saw more sea turtle nests in 2015 than ever before.
SHOP AND DINE Whether visitors come for a day on the water or concert on the beach, just about everyone likes to sample the local fare and shop at Pier Park, which
While other regions in Florida tend to be busier during the winter months, winter is Northwest Florida’s slower season. This is a good time to visit for those who don’t mind cooler weather and want to get away from the crowds or for campers and RVers seeking lower rates at private campgrounds and plenty of availability at state parks. If non-stop entertainment and activity is what you seek, come in summer or during spring break. FL
FEATURED LINKS Visit Panama City Beach visitpanamacitybeach.com Camp Helen State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Camp-Helen Panama City Beach Conservation Park pcbeach.org/ecotourism /panama_city_beach_conservation_park Shell Island Shuttle shellislandshuttle.com St. Andrews State Park floridastateparks.org/park/St-Andrews
PHOTOS: VISIT PANAMA CITY BEACH
Situated in Northwest Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, Panama City Beach is known as “Nashville’s Beach,” thanks to big country-music concerts headlined by the likes of Keith Urban, Dwight Yoakam, Lady Antebellum, Alan Jackson and others. Chasin’ the Sun Music Festival and Gulf Coast Jam, which both take place in September, draw massive audiences over multiple days. And while country is at the heart of Panama City Beach, concerts of just about every musical genre—don’t miss the reggae-heavy Chili Vibrations World Music Festival & Chili Cookoff—as well as a variety of events are part of this city’s busy entertainment schedule.
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S A N TA R O S A C O U N T Y
Playground The Navarre Beach Pier in Santa Rosa County.
iles and miles of pristine beaches. Towns rich in history. Tannic rivers with white sandbars. All this and more awaits visitors to Santa Rosa County, where there is something for everyone.
For the full Florida experience, visit during summer when tubing season is in full swing. Float on an inflatable inner tube down the Blackwater River or Coldwater Creek for a relaxing day full of cool, tannic water, bright white sandy beaches and unforgettable North Florida scenery. Butterfly enthusiasts will love the Monarch Madness in October at the Panhandle Butterfly House. FL
MUST SEE/DO Featuring accommodation that includes cottages, condominiums and hotels with breathtaking views, Navarre Beach is one of the most recognizable places in Santa Rosa. However, it is just one of the must-see spots here. The county also contains part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, an important barrier island and one of only 10 national seashores in the US. Although the beaches are one of the main draws here, there is much more to explore in this Northwest Florida county. Look past the coast to see why it has earned the nickname “Florida’s Playground.” Outdoorsy folks will not want to miss Blackwater River State Park and Blackwater River State Forest, known as the “Canoe Capital of Florida,” or Adventures Unlimited, where visitors can camp, zip line and paddle to their hearts’ content. The Navarre Beach Marine Science Station and Panhandle Butterfly House are family favorites that combine hands-on learning and entertainment. For an agritourism twist, retreat to Coldwater Gardens, which grows its own food on five acres and has glamping and prim-
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
Paddlers in Santa Rosa County.
itive camping on the property with cottages coming soon.
DINE AND SHOP Visitors seeking indoor fun can find it at Santa Rosa’s unique restaurants and antique shops. Among the area’s favorite eateries are JJ Chago’s, Cactus Flower Café and the ultra-casual and popular Shark Bite food truck. Shoppers will appreciate Santa Rosa’s assortment of antique stores and specialty shops, several of which are in historic Milton, situated along the Blackwater River in central Santa Rosa County. Milton, originally called “Scratch Ankle” for the briers that grew there, saw its beginnings as a lumber town in the early 1800s. Milton’s many events include the Riverwalk Arts Festival, Riverfest and Scratch Ankle Festival.
FEATURED LINKS Santa Rosa Tourist Development Office floridasplayground.com Adventures Unlimited adventuresunlimited.com Blackwater River State Forest freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices /Florida-Forest-Service/Our-Forests /State-Forests/Blackwater-River-State-Forest Blackwater River State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Blackwater-River Coldwater Gardens coldwatergardens.com Gulf Islands National Seashore nps.gov/guis Main Street Milton mainstreetmilton.org/index.htm Navarre Beach Marine Science Station navarresciencestation.org Panhandle Butterfly House panhandlebutterflyhouse.org
PHOTOS: SANTA ROSA COUNTY TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
BY AMANDA MIMS
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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA
UNEARTH A WORLD
of Wonders BY KEVIN MIMS
orth Central Florida can be described in one word: diverse. Whether you’re talking about people, culture, outdoor destinations, the combination of cities and small towns, authentic Old Florida attractions or shopping and dining, this stretch of the Sunshine State has something for everyone. For outdoor enthusiasts, there is no better place to see and explore natural Florida. Divers and recreational swimmers flock here to experience the many glistening blue springs and scenic rivers. A variety of paved and dirt trails can be traversed by foot, bike or horse and scenic state parks abound for day-trippers and campers alike. If you are interested in outdoor recreation, this is the place to be. Gainesville, home of the University of Florida, and Tallahassee, Florida’s capital city and home to Florida State University and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, create an interesting mix of culture,
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ANNA MIKELL/VISIT GAINESVILLE; VISIT GAINESVILLE; G. HASTINGS-DESTINATION STYLE
Paddling on the Santa Fe River in North Central Florida.
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The Hippodrome State Theatre, an example of Palladian Classical Revival architecture in Gainesville.
business, dining venues and shopping opportunities. This is where “Old Florida” meets “New Florida,” where cities still celebrate their history while embracing an ever-changing crowd from all walks of life. Outside of these cities lie small towns, each with its own appeal, from historic Micanopy to Wakulla Springs. Revitalized downtown areas, active with antique shops, dining venues and specialty stores, draw in crowds from all over the state, especially on weekends. Whatever your interests may be, North Central Florida is full of authentic experiences to keep you coming back for more. With its unique small towns steeped in history, unbeatable outdoor destinations, and its arts and culture scene, the hardest part will be choosing where to go and what to do first.
The Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee.
WHAT’S NEW In May 2015, Sweetwater Wetlands Park opened in Gainesville. With more than 125 acres of wetlands and ponds, this property serves to preserve areas vital to Paynes Prairie and the Floridan Aquifer. For visitors, this means ample opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. Florida Cracker horses and alligators are among the animals that call this park home. There are boardwalks and 3.5 miles of gravel-covered trails along which visitors can walk and explore the area. Ranger-led tours are offered periodically for those who want to become better acquainted with the land, water and inhabitants. Grasslands Brewing Company, which opened in Tallahassee in February 2015, serves craft beer—both its own creations and those from around Florida and beyond—to patrons. However, the popular brewery’s mission goes beyond brew. Grasslands is actively involved in the conservation of coastal regions of the southeast United States and hosts events to further that mission. Also in Tallahassee, an historic Florida treasure has recently been opened to the public: Spring House, the only Frank Lloyd Wrightdesigned home in the state. Built in a hemicycle design in 1954, the house sits on a five-acre parcel of land, which includes a spring that leads to Lake Jackson. The home is being restored and public tours are held every second Sunday of the month from 2 to 4 PM. Tickets are $15. Children 12 and under get in free.
ARTS AND CULTURE Roots run deep in North Central Florida. Timehonored 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 years of the earth’s biological and cultural diversity through educational exhibits of fossils, full-size megalodon jaws and woolly mammoths, interactive Native American displays and galleries, and much more. The venue is the largest natural history museum south of the Smithsonian and the largest university-based museum of its kind in the country. It is also home to the Butterfly Rainforest, which features hundreds of free-flying butterfly and bird
NEED MORE INFO? Alachua County Visitors & Convention Bureau visitgainesville.com Columbia County Tourist Development Council springsrus.com Gadsden County Tourist Development Council gadsdencc.com Jefferson County Tourism Development Council visitjeffersoncountyflorida.com Levy County’s Chambers of Commerce 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
INSIDER’S TIPS 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 many 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 experienced on the 170-mile Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. Start your trip in White Springs at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, staying at river camps along the way. They feature screened-in camping porches, showers and restrooms, which are located about every 10 miles on the trail. This is one adventure you’ll never forget.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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 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 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 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. Now, visitors come for day and weekend trips to stay in several locally owned hotels, take ecotours, eat seafood (don’t miss Tony’s world-famous 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. In the heart of downtown Tallahassee, Cascades Park brings together arts, entertainment, education, history and wellness. This venue includes a state-of-the-art amphitheater, an interactive water fountain, a children’s play area and miles of multi-use trails. Don’t pass up Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville and Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee. Both 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.
TOP LEFT TO BOTTOM RIGHT: VISIT FLORIDA; ANNA MIKELL/VISIT GAINESVILLE
Tubing on the Ichetucknee River.
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BEACHES Not all the 1,200-mile Florida 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 worldclass; bring your gear and be ready for the trip of a lifetime. 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 (about an hour from Tallahassee) has a couple of beautiful natural sand beaches as well.
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Encompassing two major college towns means North Central Florida is teeming with nightlife and restaurants of all kinds. First, there’s Gainesville. At Envy in Gainesville, the party never stops. Located near the University of Florida, this club hosts a multitude of special events. University Club is another hot spot for the nightclub crowd. For good eats, wine and beer, Salty Dog Saloon has you covered. One of Gainesville’s oldest bars, it’s a great place to play your favorite songs on the jukebox and play a game of pool.
If you crave small-town charm and good food, head to downtown High Springs. There, you’ll find the old Opera House, home of the Great Outdoors, a beautifully themed landmark with an all-wood interior, vintage cedar and canvas canoes and other outdoorsy trappings. The patio is pet-friendly, so bring along the four-legged family members. There’s a regular live music schedule, and both lunch and dinner menus are wellrounded and affordable. Then, there’s Tallahassee. Want to shake things up? Bradfordville Blues Club brings the zydeco dance scene to Tallahassee. Dripping with southern charm and jumping with lively music, it’s a main stop for R&B musicians from near and far. Party lights and fried catfish complete the cozy and friendly atmosphere. When you’re ready to hit the night clubs, try Bullwinkle’s Saloon, which never disappoints college crowds with its variety of live DJs, bands and drink specials. If sophistication is what you seek, the hip, elegant Level 8 rooftop lounge at Hotel Duval has just what you’re looking for. The Wine Loft Wine Bar in midtown Tallahassee is popular with wine enthusiasts and proclaims to have the best wine list in town. Prime Time serves food, spirits and good times—particularly on nights of major sports events. A combination restaurant-sports barlate-night lounge, this is where to go for a The Union Street Farmers’ Market in downtown Gainesville.
ANNUAL EVENTS JANUARY–FEBRUARY Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, Gainesville
FEBRUARY Pigfest BBQ Cook-off & Music Festival, 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 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
OCTOBER Alligator Warrior Festival, O’Leno State Park Magnolia Fest, Live Oak Micanopy Fall Harvest Festival Pioneer Day Festival, Mayo Seafood Festival, Cedar Key St. Marks Monarch Butterfly Festival St. Marks Stone Crab Festival Starke Florida Bikefest
NOVEMBER Cane Boil & Fiddlefest, Gainesville Downtown Festival & Art Show, Gainesville
NOVEMBER–DECEMBER Winter Nights & Holiday Lights, Tallahassee
DECEMBER Twilight Christmas Parade, High Springs
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Residents at a home for horses at Mill Creek Farm near Gainesville.
laid-back night of watching sports or having drinks with friends. For good food and a coastal casual atmosphere, make your way to the Front Porch in Tallahassee, a midtown hot spot. 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.
FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT The Tallahassee Museum.
Tour boat on the Wakulla River.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
There are plenty of family attractions throughout North Central Florida, centering around “real” experiences rather than theme parks. If you prefer seeing the natural side of the state, this area is 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 twohour island tour to the outer islands of 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 northeast from Chiefland. At Dudley Farm, visitors have the chance to see what Florida farm life was like from the 1850s to the mid 1940s. It’s a living history experience, where staff presents 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. As a retirement home for horses, Mill Creek Farm is a special place indeed. It opens its doors to the public every Saturday from 11 AM to 3 PM and admission is two carrots. 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 as 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 spring-fed 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 The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The whole park is simply incredible, from the 1930s Wakulla 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,
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: VISIT WAKULLA; VISIT TALLAHASSEE; ANNA MIKELL/VISIT GAINESVILLE; ANNA MIKELL/VISIT GAINESVILLE
NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA
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FEATURED LINKS a variety of wading birds, outstanding scenery, 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 its 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 1880s, 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 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 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 family-owned location that’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
ARTS AND CULTURE
The Great Outdoors restaurant in High Springs.
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 Tallahassee, 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 you can explore over and over again.
SHOP 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. 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
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, Tallahassee floridastateparks.org/maclaygardens Cascades Park, Tallahassee discovercascades.com Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville flmnh.ufl.edu Hippodrome Theatre, Gainesville thehipp.org Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Tallahassee kanapaha.org Mission San Luis, Tallahassee missionsanluis.org Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville harn.ufl.edu Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster
BEACHES Bald Point State Park floridastateparks.org/baldpoint Big Bend Scenic Byway floridabigbendscenicbyway.org Cedar Key Area Chamber of Commerce cedarkey.org
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Bradfordville Blues Club, Tallahassee bradfordvilleblues.com Bullwinkle’s Saloon, Tallahassee bullwinklessaloon.com Envy, Gainesville envygainesville.com Level 8 Rooftop Lounge, Tallahassee hotelduval.com Prime Time, Tallahassee primetimetallahassee.com Salty Dog Saloon, Gainesville saltydogsaloon.com The Front Porch, Tallahassee frontporchtallahassee.com The Great Outdoors, High Springs greatoutdoorsdining.com The Wine Loft Wine Bar, Tallahassee winetallahassee.com
FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT 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 Ichetucknee Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/ichetuckneesprings Manatee Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/manateesprings Mill Creek Farm millcreekfarm.org Tallahassee Museum tallahasseemuseum.org
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NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA Antiques and collectibles in Waldo.
FEATURED LINKS INSIDER’S TIPS Suwannee River Wilderness Trail floridastateparks.org/trail /Suwannee-River-Wilderness-Trail Tidewater Tours and Boat Rentals, Cedar Key tidewatertours.com T-n-T Hide-A-Way Rental tnthideaway.com White Springs whitesprings.org
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY When visiting, pass on the national chains and go with something that’s a little more charming. North Central Florida is a unique area, so it makes sense there are interesting places for you to call home away from home.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
Cedar Key’s Faraway Inn encompasses about half a city block, with lovely rooms and individual cottages spread 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 petfriendly), 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 historic Bed & Breakfast District in Gainesville features a number of plantationstyle inns offering southern tradition and rich history. FL
SHOP Haile Village Farmers’ Market Smiley’s Flea Markets & Antique Malls smileysfleamarkets.com/florida Tallahassee Downtown Market downtownmarket.com The Oaks Mall shoptheoaksmall.com Thornebrook Village thornebrookvillage.com Tioga Town Center tiogatowncenter.com Waldo’s Farmers’ and Flea Market waldofleamarket.com
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast cedarkeybedandbreakfast.com Faraway Inn, Cedar Key farawayinn.com Herlong Mansion Historic Inn & Gardens, Micanopy herlong.com Steinhatchee Landing Resort steinhatcheelanding.com
WHAT’S NEW Grasslands Brewing Company, Tallahassee grasslandsbrewery.com Spring House, Tallahassee preservespringhouse.org Sweetwater Wetlands Park, Gainesville sweetwaterwetlands.org
PHOTO: ANNA MIKELL/VISIT GAINESVILLE
with vendors specializing in different types of collectibles and rarities. The Haile Village Farmers’ Market is the perfect place to purchase fresh produce, enjoy prepared food and connect with some of the finest artisans in the Gainesville area. Fashionistas will find their flair at the Oaks Mall, Thornebrook Village and Tioga Town Center. And don’t overlook the boutiques in downtown Gainesville where you’ll find anything from vinyl albums and Blu-rays at Hear Again Music and Movies to premier designs at Etc… Boutique. For antiques, in addition to Micanopy, check out Waldo Antique Village and Waldo’s Farmers’ and Flea Market in Waldo as well as Roadside Relics in High Springs. 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 piper-led parade of merchants announcing they are open. It’s a great place to get a feel for what’s happening in Tallahassee.
Apalachicola National Forest stateparks.com/Apalachicola.html Big Bend Scenic Byway floridabigbendscenicbyway.org Bradley’s Country Store bradleyscountrystore.com Fanning Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/fanningsprings Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail floridastateparks.org/Gainesville-hawthorne Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/paynesprairie St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/st_marks
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A great egret flies over the Alachua Sink at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.
ome to the University of Florida Gators, Gainesville is definitely a college town, but it is so much more. It’s a city with access to some of Florida’s most scenic natural places, a lively downtown, a vibrant performing arts scene, vast public gardens, museums and more.
MUST SEE/DO Gainesville’s public gardens are definitely on the must-visit list. The Florida Museum of Natural History’s Butterfly Rainforest takes guests on a tropical escape that includes waterfalls, butterflies, birds, turtles and a colorful array of flowers. In November, guests can observe daily releases each afternoon during the monarch butterfly yearly migration. For a journey into succulent gardens and dozens of botanical collections, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, where special events and festivals take place throughout the year, is just the ticket. There, visitors can see the largest herb garden in the southeastern United States and the largest public bamboo display in Florida. Kanapaha also boasts an impressive collection of Chinese royal bamboo and Victoria water lilies. Additional family-friendly, educational entertainment awaits at the Florida Museum of Natural History, where visitors can view fossils and artifacts that tell the stories of the state’s natural past. Guests learn about the Florida’s native people through a variety of programs that include a Calusa Indian welcoming ceremony.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
The Phillips Center for Performing Arts on the University of Florida Cultural Plaza.
Art lovers won’t want to miss seeing University of Florida’s Harn Museum of Art, a 112,800-square-foot museum with a collection of 9,000 pieces of art as well as lush gardens, an auditorium and café.
LIVE IT UP! On the other end of the entertainment spectrum, Gainesville’s lively nightlife and restaurant scene has something for all ages, from young families to college students and retirees. Catch a concert at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts or head downtown for a variety of fun cafés as well as ethnic and casual restaurants. After dinner, catch a live theater show at the Hippodrome, which also features films and hosts gallery exhibits.
No visit to Gainesville is complete without stopping to eat at Satchel’s Pizza, a local favorite, and checking out the adjacent Lightnin’ Salvage, a quirky self-described “junk museum” and popular gift and souvenir shop. After spending time roaming the home of the Florida Gators, be sure to check out the real alligators at Alachua Sink via the LaChua Trail in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The walk is a three-mile roundtrip and ends at a platform that is perfect for viewing the large reptiles, which are often seen sunning themselves there, especially in the winter. FL
FEATURED LINKS Gainesville Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau visitgainesville.com Gainesville Shows gainesvilleshows.com Harn Museum of Art harn.ufl.edu Kanapaha Botanical Gardens kanapaha.org Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Paynes-Prairie The Butterfly Rainforest flmnh.ufl.edu/index.php/exhibits /always-on-display/butterfly-rainforest The Florida Museum of Natural History flmnh.ufl.edu UF Performing Arts performingarts.ufl.edu
PHOTOS: ANNA MIKELL/COURTESY OF VISIT GAINESVILLE
BY AMANDA MIMS
’ and Gators
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WA KU L L A C O U N T Y
A NATURAL BY STEVE WINSTON
Masterpiece The St. Marks Light, the second-oldest light station in Florida.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
Swimmers at Wakulla Springs.
trees dripping with Spanish moss, in contrast to the palms normally associated with Florida. You’ll soon realize, too, that 75 percent of this county is still public land. Wakulla County is Old Florida, the way it used to be. Unhurried. Uncrowded. And filled with natural pleasures and interesting surprises. Some of the gems you’ll come across include historical spots, which capture colorful stories of this region. In every village and hamlet, old buildings, often made of wood, hearken back to the days of Old Florida.
This county was actually one of the first places settled in Florida; its history dates back to 1528. By the 1800s, the town of St. Marks was a bustling port, connected by railroad to Tallahassee, and a central shipping point for the cotton trade, which is probably the key reason why the town has the second-oldest lighthouse in Florida. The fort at San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park was built in 1679. Over the years, it’s hosted a procession of new rulers (and hoisted a number of flags), among them Spanish, English, Confederate and American. In Crawfordville, the county seat, the Old Wakulla Courthouse was erected in 1894, and is one of only three wooden courthouses remaining in the state. It’s also the only one with a weathervane carved in the shape of a fish. (The mullet has played an important role in both commerce and diet here.) Across the street, the Old County Jail was once home to some of Wakulla’s most colorful characters. Today, it is an informative museum about the old days. At the Gulf Specimen Aquarium in the town of Panacea, you can view the largest collection of touch-tanks in the continental US,
PHOTOS: VISIT WAKULLA
estled on the Big Bend of the Florida Panhandle, Wakulla County is the Natural Florida . . . an easy-on-the-eyes wonderland that’s still, thankfully, in its original state. It’s a place where you really can “commune” with nature because you’re completely surrounded by it. In Wakulla County, the pace is slower. Here, you can actually hear everything: your own footsteps, the breeze as it rustles through the woods of the Apalachicola National Forest, the soothing sounds of the water in the salt marshes or the tidal flats of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, and the mellow chirping of birds circling overhead. This is a paddler’s and birdwatcher’s haven. Kayakers and canoeists head to the Apalachee Bay Maritime Heritage Paddling Trail system, where the only sound heard is that of the oar dipping into the water. And it’s great hiking country, as well, with some 75 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail located right here in Wakulla County. If you prefer motorized transportation, take in the natural wonders of the area as you coast along the 220 miles of the beautiful Big Bend Scenic Byway where you’ll see huge old oak
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Wakulla County is a fisher’s haven.
in which the abundant animal and plant life found in the Gulf of Mexico comes alive in brilliant technicolor.
LIVE IT UP! Located on the Gulf as it is, you’d be correct to think seafood is a specialty here. Wakulla County gives new meaning to the word “fresh.” This is where you go to enjoy mullet, flounder, grouper, red snapper or cobia that was swimming in the Gulf just an hour or two earlier. People come from miles around for the mullet, blue crab and oysters served at the Spring Creek Restaurant. In Panacea, locals highly recommend Posey’s Up the Creek Seafood Steam Room and Oyster Bar for the shellfish. Boasting a terrific view, the Riverside Café in St. Marks dishes up great seafood. Wakulla County is in the South, of course, so let’s not forget barbecue! Slow-cooked ribs, brisket, chicken and pork are the preferred fare at Hamaknockers in Crawfordville, and it won’t take you long to see why people come from as far as Tallahassee (20 miles away) to enjoy them. This being rural Florida, there’s another specialty served here that you won’t find in many other places—’gator! And it’s delicious! Wakulla County also stages a number of festivals throughout the year. Where else but in rural Florida, for example, can you find towns with names like Sopchoppy, which hosts perhaps the best-named festival in America . . . the annual Worm Gruntin’ Festival? Other notable annual events include the Rock the Dock
Fishing Tournament in April, the Panacea Blue Crab Festival in May, and the St. Marks Stone Crab Festival and Monarch Butterfly Festival in October.
of the state capital of Tallahassee, home of Florida State University Seminoles, don’t be surprised if you end up with a few Seminole hats or shirts.
The White Elephant Antique Mall in Crawfordville has been around for 20 years. It’s the type of place where you might stop in “for just a few minutes” and walk out an hour or more later. At Crum’s Mini Mall in Panacea, you can find anything from fishing rods (more than 3,000, actually) and supplies to a meal and souvenirs. Another, The Funky Fiddler lives up to its name and sells a variety of colorful beach items, both to wear and use. Since Wakulla County is located just south
The tranquil setting at Wakulla Springs has starred in several Hollywood movies over the years, among them The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1953), Tarzan’s Secret Treasure (1941), and Airport ’77. For more information on what does lie in store for you in Wakulla County and what to see, do, eat and buy, drop by the Wakulla County Welcome Center in Panacea. FL
FEATURED LINKS Wakulla County Tourist Development Council visitwakulla.com Apalachee Bay Maritime Heritage Paddling Trail visitwakulla.com/Things-to-Do/Apalachee-Bay -Maritime-Heritage-Paddling-Trail-System Apalachicola National Forest fs.usda.gov/apalachicola Big Bend Scenic Byway floridabigbendscenicbyway.com Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park floridastateparks.org/park/Wakulla-Springs Florida National Scenic Trail fs.usda.gov/fnst Gulf Specimen Aquarium gulfspecimen.org San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park floridastateparks.org/park/San-Marcos St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge fws.gov/refuge/st_marks The St. Marks Light fws.gov/saintmarks/lighthouse.html
Manatees winter in the warm Wakulla Springs. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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CALLING ALL Explorers BY DEBI LANDER
Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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ink your toes into Northeast Florida’s sandy shores. Explore the waterways, play golf, shop, dine or relax poolside. From ecotourism and professional sports to the arts and local history, the “First Coast” thrives. Visitors driving south on Interstate 95 first encounter Northeast Florida as soon as they cross the state line. The area includes two major cities (Jacksonville and St. Augustine), hundreds of miles of beaches and warm sunshine. However, Florida’s northernmost coast can get quite cool in the winter, which provides residents a nice seasonal change. History is huge here, dating back more than 500 years ago at the nautical landmark where Ponce de León came ashore and named the region “La Florida” in 1513. 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 near St. Augustine in 1565. 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 delights visitors every time. September 8, 2015,
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marked the 450th anniversary of the city’s founding, establishing it as the oldest continually occupied European settlement in America. While in the Old City, 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 your tour by purchasing a multiple-day, hop-on trolley ticket from Red Train or Old Town Trolleys. Visit the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, the oldest Spanish colonial dwelling, which has been occupied since the 1600s. Children enjoy the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse while adults always hope for a miraculous renewal from the water at the Fountain of Youth. Even if you don’t find eternal youth, the archaeology at the site is authentic. The Spanish Military Hospital Museum that covers the Second Spanish Period (1784-1821) medical practices should appeal to anyone interested in medicine. This building on Aviles Street is a reconstruction of a military hospital that was originally constructed in the late 18th century. Learn about life in a boarding house at the circa-1798 Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, owned and run by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America. Much smaller than Castillo de San Marcos, nearby Fort Matanzas offers free boat rides out
to the uninhabited island named for the massacre that occurred there. That event ended the 16th-century settlement in Fort Caroline (Jacksonville) where the French tried to gain a foothold. You can also explore the notable 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 Known internationally as a leader in historic preservation, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum will launch a new exhibition entitled “Wrecked” in spring 2016, which tells the story behind a 1782 British Loyalist shipwreck found in St. Augustine. The Corazon Cinema and Café recently opened in the heart of St. Augustine’s historic district. The cinema distinguishes itself from other movie houses by providing an intimate theatre setting where guests can relax and enjoy food and beverages while they watch the movie. The Corazon also serves lunch daily starting at 11:30 AM. The St. Augustine Outlet Mall has completed an extensive US$7-million interior remodel and has added new stores and merchandise, including H&M, Old Navy, Papaya and Christopher & Banks. Meanwhile, St. Augustine Premium Outlets opened two new stores—Torrid and Swarovski.
History comes alive in St. Augustine.
Looking for BBQ? Try Southern barbeque at Captain’s BBQ in the Palm Coast, which TripAdvisor named one of the Top Ten Barbecue Restaurants in the US and No. 1 in Florida. Pitmaster by trade and fisherman by passion, owner Chris Herrera runs a local fishing charter business. So whether you’re hungry for a BBQ feast or a big angling adventure, Chris can make it happen. 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. 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 on Anastasia Island and beaches. The biplane is a 1935 “Model” WACO YMF-5C, but was built in 2011.
Water taxi in downtown Jacksonville. 2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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Menendez statue and Flagler College in St. Augustine.
Fort Clinch State Park on Amelia Island.
“Florida Stories,” a new walking-tour mobile app available on iTunes, brings the drama of St. Augustine’s history to life. The 10-stop, self-guided, illustrated audio tour is a free download to mobile phones or online for listening and downloading to computers. In Jacksonville, Downtown Zip Tours features new rolling tours that highlight the history, architecture, art and interesting details about the city’s downtown area.
ARTS AND CULTURE The First Coast is proud of its variety of museums, symphony orchestra, which has its own orchestral hall, Broadway Artists Series and annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Major attractions, such
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as the annual Monster Jam of big, big 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 68-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. From 5 to 9 PM on the first Friday of each month, serious collectors and casual browsers stroll along St. Augustine’s brick-lined streets and pop into more than 20 galleries exhibiting their wares. 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 visit. Rather not walk? Take a free ride, literally, compliments of Sightseeing Trains by Red Train Tours 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 flow north instead of south, has always played an important part in the region’s development. While Clay County, situated west of the river, is primarily known for its numerous lakes and pine-forested interior, it also hosts a variety of visual and performing arts at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts located on the grounds of St. Johns River State College. Special events, such as the annual Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games & Festival held in Green Cove Springs every February, take place throughout the year and both historic and military museums document the rich history of the county. 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. 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), the Museum of Science
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& History (MOSH), and the Cummer Museum all participate in the Bank of America Museums on Us program, which provides free admission to Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders during the first full weekend of every month. MOCA features contemporary art exhibits of all kinds and programs for families. Its popular on-site Café Nola is open for lunch Monday through Friday, for dinner on Thursday evenings and the first Wednesday evening of the month during Art Walk, and for Sunday brunch. The renowned Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens offers free admission from 4 to 9 PM on Tuesdays, plus the first Saturday of the month. Take time to enjoy its three beautiful gardens that overlook the St. Johns River.
BEACHES 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 A1A on the 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 will also find 20 acres of formal gardens and walking and biking trails. 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 leave from the Marineland Marina and teach visitors about the natural and cultural history of this fascinating, diverse and biologically rich region. Ride on Ripple Effect 1, the only vegetable-oilpowered ecotour boat in Northeast Florida. 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 pet-friendly. Take the family picnicking or cruise the biking trails. Go swimming or surfing at the premier surfing spot in
The annual Florida-Georgia college football match-up at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.
JANUARY The TaxSlayer Bowl, Jacksonville
FEBRUARY Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games & Festival, Green Cove Springs
MARCH Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Gate River Run National 15K Championships, Jacksonville
APRIL One Spark, Jacksonville
APRIL–MAY Paddling the backwaters of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve in the Ponte Vedra area.
Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, Fernandina Beach World of Nations Celebration, Jacksonville
MAY Jacksonville Jazz Festival THE PLAYERS Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach
JUNE Drake’s Raid Re-enactment, St. Augustine
SEPTEMBER Florida Heritage Book Festival Writers Conference, St. Augustine St. Augustine Founding Celebrations St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival
OCTOBER Creekside Festival, Palm Coast Florida-Georgia football game, Jacksonville Spooktacular, Jacksonville Zoo Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic, Flagler Beach
NOVEMBER–JANUARY Nights of Lights, St. Augustine
DECEMBER Amelia Island B&B Holiday Cookie Tour British Night Watch Grand Illumination Parade, St. Augustine
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NORTHEAST FLORIDA Diners at the Gourmet Hut in St. Augustine.
Elegant dining 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
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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. At Neptune Beach, Jax Surf and Paddle offers standup paddleboarding (SUP) and surfing lessons 365 days a year. Private or group lessons are available. The shop can outfit you with board and gear in addition to swimwear, beach apparel and accessories. Lighthouses are favorite 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 popular, but you can also fish from piers in Flagler, St. Augustine, Jacksonville and Amelia Island. Fort Clinch, in Fernandina Beach, makes an excellent fishing spot because artificial reefs (installed by the Corps of Engineers 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.
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 and shopping between Ripley’s Museum and the Mission Nombre de Dios, the latter of which provides free parking. The 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 small-batch copper-pot stills. The adjoining Ice Plant Bar and Restaurant sells the liquor and features a farm-to-table menu and artisanal cocktails. 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. The Murray Brothers Caddy Shack Restaurant ranks as a casual dining favorite at World Golf Village with plenty of memorabilia from the pop movie. 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 appetizing selections in its 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 Tavern Seafood & Grill remains a hip drinking and dining spot while Zeta at Jacksonville Beach is new to the list. Its microbrewery 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 Japanese Restaurant. Peruvian calls
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DINING AND NIGHTLIFE
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for Ceviche Jax at the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Seminole Road. Jacksonville’s 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. While in Jacksonville, the Jax Ale Trail offers a self-guided tour of eight craft breweries around the city. Visitors receive a Jax Ale Trail Brewery Passport, which can be stamped at each of the local craft breweries to receive cool free prizes. On Amelia Island, stop in at the Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, an award-winning bed and breakfast, which is open to the public for breakfast and lunch. The Verandah Restaurant at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation upholds a reputation for outstanding fresh seafood. For something truly spectacular and special, Salt restaurant at the Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island, offers delicious four- to five-course tasting dinners, each paired with a wine of the chef ’s choosing. Later, enjoy 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. The St. Augustine Colonial Quarter brings the city’s Spanish and British heritage to life through authentic exhibits including a leatherworking shop, a blacksmith shop and an 18th-century Spanish home. Around the corner, the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum pleases swashbucklers with one of the world’s largest collections of genuine pirate artifacts. There are plenty of enjoyable interactive exhibits as well. A combined ticket saves money. Or join a pirate crew on the Black Raven for daytime family outings or evening cruises. Teens won’t complain about the frightful experience of a ghost tour, especially popular around Halloween. Explore the darker side of the nation’s oldest city including the town’s most haunted building, the “Old Jail,” for an up-close-and-personal encounter. A young Amur leopard at the Jacksonville Zoo.
FEATURED LINKS ARTS AND CULTURE AdLib Luxury Tours & Transportation, Inc. adlibtours.com Castillo de San Marcos nps.gov/casa First Friday Art Walk, St. Augustine augustine.com/event/first-Friday-art-walk Flagler’s Legacy legacy.flagler.edu/pages/tours Jacksonville Art Walk jacksonvilleartwalk.com Jacksonville Jazz Festival visitjacksonville.com/events/jacksonville-jazz-festival Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center jacksonvillemaritimeheritagecenter.org Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) mocajacksonville.org Museum of Science & History (MOSH), Jacksonville themosh.org St. Augustine Amphitheatre staugamphitheatre.com The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville cummer.org Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts thcenter.org Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve nps.gov/foca
BEACHES Amelia Island Lighthouse fbfl.us/index.aspx?NID=474 Flagler Beach cityofflaglerbeach.com Fort Clinch State Park, Amelia Island floridastateparks.org/fortclinch Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve gtmnerr.org Huguenot Memorial Park coj.net/departments/parks-and-recreation /recreation-and-community-programming /parks/huguenot-memorial-park.aspx Jacksonville Beach jacksonvillebeach.org Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, Jacksonville coj.net/departments/parks-and-recreation /recreation-and-community-programming/parks /Kathryn-abbey-hanna-park.aspx Ponte Vedra Beach Resorts pontevedra.com Ripple Effect Ecotours rippleeffectecotours.com St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum staugustinelighthouse.org Washington Oaks Gardens State Park floridastateparks.org/washingtonoaks
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE Cap’s On The Water, St. Augustine capsonthewater.com Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, Amelia Island elizabethpointelodge.com Foxy Lady Cruises foxyladycruises.com/Jacksonville Hot Shot Bakery n’ Cafe augustine.com/restaurant/hot-shot-bakery-cafe
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NORTHEAST FLORIDA 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, bobcats 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.
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. Dolphins are commonly sighted. 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, temperate winter weather and sunny skies. The Carmelite Monastery in Bunnell offers one of the only drive-through versions of the Stations of the Cross, with bronze sculptures depicting scenes of Christ’s suffering and death.
FEATURED LINKS Ice Plant iceplantbar.com Jax Ale Trail, Jacksonville visitjacksonville.com/jax-ale-trail Murray Brothers Caddyshack Restaurant murraybrotherscaddyshack.com Palace Saloon, Fernandina Beach thepalacesaloon.com Riverside Arts Market riversideartsmarket.com Royal Palm Village Wines & Tapas royalpalmwines.com Salt/The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/AmeliaIsland /Dining/Salt/Default.htm# St. Augustine Distillery staugustinedistillery.com The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops, St. Augustine thehyppo.com Uptown Saturday Night, St. Augustine augustine.com/event/uptown-saturday-night Verandah Restaurant/Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort omnihotels.com/hotels/amelia-island-plantation /dining/verandah-restaurant Whetstone Chocolates whetstonechocolates.com Zeta Brewing Company zetajax.com
FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT Bragan Field/Baseball Grounds, Jacksonville milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t564 Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, Jacksonville cattyshack.org Colonial Quarter, St. Augustine colonialquarter.com Florida Agricultural Museum, Palm Coast myagmuseum.com Ghosts & Gravestones St. Augustine Frightseeing Tour ghostsandgravestones.com/st-augustine J&S Carousel, St. Augustine augustine.com/thing-to-do/js-carousel Jacksonville Jaguars jaguars.com Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens jacksonvillezoo.org Jax Surf and Paddle jaxsurfandpaddle.com Marineland Dolphin Adventure, St. Augustine marineland.net Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, St. Augustine ripleys.com/staugustine St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park alligatorfarm.com The Pirate Ship Black Raven pirateshipblackraven.com Tree Hill Nature Center, Jacksonville treehill.org World Golf Village, St. Augustine worldgolfvillage.com
INSIDER’S TIPS Captain’s BBQ, Palm Coast captainsbbqbaittackle.com St. Augustine Biplane Rides staugustinebiplanerides.com The Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail. 152
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Kids of all ages like to ride the antique J&S Carousel at Davenport Park, just north of the historic district. And you don’t want to miss three stories of odd and unusual exhibits collected from around the world at the interactive and educational Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium. St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park’s Crocodile Crossing features a zip-line course with an aerial view of crocodiles, alligators, birds and other animals. Narrated horse-drawn carriage rides in St. Augustine offer an idyllic romantic or memorable family outing. Many carriages can accommodate up to 12 comfortably. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is home to 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 and the Land of the Tiger, which opened in 2014 and features five tigers. The zoo recently introduced RiverQuest: Airboat and Kayak Ecotours. Visitors can explore the Trout River via an exciting airboat ride and learn about the native wildlife of the region or opt for a more relaxing self-guided ecotour via kayak. Tree Hill Nature Center occupies 50 acres in the center of Jacksonville and is the perfect place for kids and adults to connect with nature. East of Jacksonville International Airport, Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary provides
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Indulge at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island Spa.
SHOP Located off I-95 at exit 318, the newly remodeled St. Augustine Outlets showcases more than 75 brand-name retailers selling everything from shoes to handbags and home goods to tools at savings of up to 65 percent. Nearby, St. Augustine Premium Outlets offers exceptional discounts ranging from 25 to 65 percent at more than 85 stores, including Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Coach, J.Crew, Nike, Ralph Lauren, Reebok and a huge Gander Mountain outdoor store. Pedestrian-only St. George Street in St. Augustine’s historic district holds some unusual finds. Explore the Women’s Exchange gift shop in the historic Pena-Peck House. The Gifted Cork on Hypolita Street offers daily wine tastings based on a theme, seven days a week. Stop in at the Spice & Tea Exchange, an 18th-century-like trading post with displays of teas and spices that evoke a sense of yesteryear. Goldsmith Joel Bagnal designs custom-made pieces from his shop on Aviles Street.
The St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville is the place to hit for the latest upscale merchandise from shops, such as Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Apple and Nordstrom. The Town Center also includes bargain stores such as DSW Shoes. Minutes away from downtown, Jacksonville Farmers’ Market is the oldest, still-operating outdoor farmers’ market in Florida. Since 1938, vendors have offered fresh produce, herbs and local favorites, such as Mayport shrimp. Browse for crafts and handmade goods daily from dawn to dusk.
Discover hidden gems at Bluetique, an upscale Goodwill resale shop in upscale Ponte Vedra Beach. Find trendy art and pricier clothing in the numerous galleries and boutiques of San Marco, a neighborhood located south of downtown Jacksonville across the St. Johns River.
The new Moroccan-inspired Poseidon Spa at Casa Monica in downtown St. Augustine offers ocean-inspired healing treatments in St. Augustine’s historic district. The 3,000-squarefoot spa features a Fountain of Youth treatment using botanical products to brighten, soften and refresh the skin. The spa’s design is reminiscent of a Moroccan villa with sweeping arches and intimate spaces.
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NORTHEAST FLORIDA View from guest room balcony at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort.
FEATURED LINKS ROAD TRIPS A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway scenica1a.org Florida Scenic Highways floridascenichighways.com Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail ormondscenicloopandtrail.com St. Joseph’s Carmelite Monastery carmelitefathersfl.org
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY The Casa Monica Hotel is St. Augustine’s only AAA Four-Diamond accommodation and a topof-the-line choice among locals, visitors and celebrities. Fully restored in 1999, the iconic landmark features 138 guest rooms and suites and boasts the look and feel of a Spanish-style hotel renowned for its old-world charm. The St. Francis Inn may be St. Augustine’s oldest bed and breakfast, but it remains up to date by offering complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi and a battery-charging station for Teslas. Guests also enjoy complimentary snacks and drinks, use of bicycles and free tickets to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. Casa de Sueños means “House of Dreams”
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
and it 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. At Beacher’s Lodge in St. Augustine, the rules are simple: relax, unwind and enjoy. Located on Crescent Beach, all oceanfront suites at this condo-hotel have a patio or private balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and kitchenettes make cooking an option. 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 definitive destination, which honors golf ’s greatest players through 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 a fabulous rooftop lounge. The Casa Marina is a favorite for weddings and receptions. Seaside Amelia Inn, a boutique hotel on Amelia Island, offers 46 newly-renovated rooms. Discover this hidden gem conveniently located steps from the beach via a private boardwalk. Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, provides the highest standards of lodging and service at a family-friendly resort. Holidays are big at the Ritz. All 446 rooms have ocean or coastal views as well as private balconies. The aquatic arena features a tiered pool with stunning views of the dunes and ocean as well as an adults-only pool, an outdoor terrace and boardwalks. FL
SPAS Poseidon Spa casamonica.com/leisure/poseidonspa Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa marriott.com/hotels/travel /jaxsw-sawgrass-marriott-golf-resort-and-spa The Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club pvspa.com
UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY Amelia Island Bed & Breakfast Association ameliaislandinns.com Beachers Lodge Oceanfront Suites beacherslodge.com Casa de Sueños, St. Augustine augustinecasadesuenos.com Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant, Jacksonville Beach casamarinahotel.com Casa Monica Hotel, St. Augustine casamonica.com Renaissance World Golf Village Resort, St. Augustine worldgolfvillage.com/renaissance-resort Ritz Carlton Amelia Island ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/AmeliaIsland Seaside Amelia Inn seasideameliainn.com St. Francis Inn Bed and Breakfast, St. Augustine stfrancisinn.com
WHAT’S NEW Corazon Cinema and Café, St. Augustine corazoncinemaandcafe.com Downtown Zip Tours, Jacksonville jaxmuseum.org/tours
PHOTO: AMELIA ISLAND CVB
Perfect for wellness getaways, the 30,000square-foot facility at the Spa at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club combines peaceful surroundings and ultra-modern facilities. Choose from more than 100 beauty and therapeutic services including the spa’s signature treatment, Ponte Vedra Retreat. Bask in a seductively beautiful environment at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, which boasts a 25,000-square-foot sanctuary with 19 private treatment rooms, or at the calming Spa at World Golf Village featuring 11 treatment rooms. Just footsteps from the sea on Amelia Island, the spa at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort lists a selection of treatments, using “clean and green” organic products from local “family-owned” businesses dedicated to protecting the environment.
Bluetique, Ponte Verde goodwilljax.org/shop/bluetique.aspx Jacksonville Farmers’ Market jaxfarmersmarket.com San Marco Neighborhood, Jacksonville visitjacksonville.com/areas/san-marco St. Augustine Historic District oldcity.com St. Augustine Premium Outlets premiumoutlets.com/staugustine St. Augustine Outlets staugoutlets.com St. Johns Town Center, Jacksonville simon.com/mall/st-johns-town-center
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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 Family enjoying the view on Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach. (Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater)
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.
January 15-17, 2016
Art Deco Weekend Festival, Miami Beach
January 20-25, 2016
Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, Titusville
January 30, 2016
Gasparilla Pirate Fest, Tampa
February 4-15, 2016
Florida State Fair, Tampa
February 26-27, 2016
Silver Spurs Rodeo, Kissimmee
March 3-13, 2016
Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City
March 4-13, 2016
Bike Week, Daytona Beach
April 1-2, 2016
Springtime Festival, Tallahassee
April 2, 2016
Dunedin Highland Games & Festival
April 26-May 1, 2016
Sunfest, West Palm Beach
May 25-29, 2016
Jacksonville Jazz Festival, Jacksonville
May 27-29, 2016
Florida Folk Festival, White Springs
July 16, 2016
Pensacola Beach Air Show, Pensacola
Hemingway Days Festival, Key West
September 30—October 2, 2016
Pensacola Seafood Festival, Pensacola
Late September—mid-November 2016
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Orlando
disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot /special-events/epcot-international -food-and-wine-festival
October 13-16, 2016
Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach
American Sandsculpting Championship Festival, Fort Myers Beach
November 2016—January 2017
Nights of Lights, St. Augustine
Winter Festival, Downtown Tallahassee
Art Basel, Miami Beach
December 10, 2016
Winterfest Boat Parade, Fort Lauderdale
Dates and websites were correct at time of printing. Information is subject to change without notice.
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RE SO U R CE D IR ECTORY
Horseback riding on the beach on Amelia Island. (Amelia Island TDC)
Dudley Farm Historic State Park in Newberry. (Anna Mikell/Visit Gainesville)
FLORIDA ASSOCIATIONS AND TRAVEL GROUPS
AAA Auto Club South
American Association for Nude Recreation
American Camp Association
CAA (Canadian Automobile Association)
Canadian Snowbird Association
Florida Collegiate Summer League
Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations
Florida Association of Museums
Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
Florida Bicycle Association
Florida Festivals & Events Association
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Florida Lighthouse Association
Florida Professional Paddlesports Association
Florida Sports Foundation
Florida Trail Association
Good Sam Club (The World’s Largest RV Owners Community)
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
International Game Fish Association
KOA (Kampgrounds of America, Inc.)
Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA)
Scooter and Wheelchair rentals for adults/kids
Children at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium. (Discover The Palm Beaches)
FLORIDA’S PUBLIC HOLIDAYS 2016 January 1, New Year’s Day January 18, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day February 15, Presidents’ Day May 30, Memorial Day July 4, Independence Day September 5, Labor Day October 10, Columbus Day (most regions) November 11, Veterans Day November 24, Thanksgiving Day December 25, Christmas Day
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral. (VISIT FLORIDA)
FLORIDA CRUISE PORTS
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
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AVERAGE MONTHLY TEMPERATURES (FAHRENHEIT) AND PRECIPITATION (INCHES) IN SELECTED FLORIDA CITIES JAN
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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RE SO U R CE D IR EC TORY NATIONAL PARKS, MEMORIALS, MONUMENTS AND PRESERVES
CAR RENTAL COMPANIES
ACE Rent A Car
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
Avis Rent A Car
Budget Rent A Car
Dollar Rent A Car
Economy Car Hire
Florida Sun Car Rental
Fox Rent A Car
Hertz Car Rental
Honk Worldwide Car Rental
National Car Rental
Payless Car Rental
SIXT Rent a Car
Thrifty Car Rental
U-Save Car & Truck Rental
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 NORTHEAST FLORIDA Castillo de San Marcos National Monument nps.gov/casa Fort Matanzas National Monument nps.gov/foma 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
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
RV RENTAL COMPANIES
Allstar Coaches Luxury Motorhome Rentals
America’s Best RVs
Camp USA Motorhome Rental
Cruise America RV Rental & Sales
El Monte RV Motorhome Vacations
Giant Recreation World
Palm Beach RV Rental
RV Rentals of Orlando, Inc.
USA RV Rentals
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.
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WEST PALM BEACH
159 244 248 124
170 195 207 82
PANAMA CITY BEACH
215 170 159
195 244 216
207 248 231 28
302 227 199 89
195 353 394 408 213 178 271
118 119 160 241 131 104 37
191 117 106 54
184 207 153
383 232 188
PANAMA CITY BEACH
519 367 327 331 541 535 445
696 558 479 334
613 461 421 425 626 628 539
790 652 573 428 103
266 211 185 53
458 307 286 100 292 386
158 219 232 108
378 246 144 105 342 435 196
183 193 201 70
341 214 107 130 380 473 223
427 275 235 233 435 442 353
604 466 387 242 98
385 247 155 85
WEST PALM BEACH
353 222 119 117 367 461 211
394 262 160 106 327 421 185
408 256 241 54
158 183 233 138
131 184 541 626 264
219 193 435 218
104 207 535 628 282
232 201 442 233
271 148 37
494 343 317 135 261 355 38
211 240 163 191
696 790 458
378 341 604 385
107 232 558 652 307
246 214 466 247
144 107 387 155
105 130 242 85
342 380 98
435 473 192 423
196 223 194 176
264 282 252
138 218 233 119
176 214 190 20
The PGA National Resort and Spa championship course in Palm Beach Gardens. (Discover The Palm Beaches)
302 318 282
222 262 256 52
226 197 427 217
216 231 206
124 206 162 132
118 191 519 613 266
201 239 215 20
FROM / TO
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 -
330 423 176
144 166 494 588 241
Time for a massage at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach. (Discover The Palm Beaches)
201 172 402 192
Sport fishing in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area. (Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater)
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RE SO U R CE D IR EC TORY
MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS IN FLORIDA
Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB)
Destinâ€“Fort Walton Beach
Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS)
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
Fort Myers/ Naples
Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW)
Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV)
Jacksonville International Airport (JAX)
Key West International Airport (EYW)
Melbourne International Airport (MLB)
Miami International Airport (MIA)
Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB)
Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Panama City Beach
Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP)
Pensacola International Airport (PNS)
Punta Gorda Airport (PGD)
Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ)
Northeast Florida Regional Airport (UST)
St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE)
Tallahassee Regional Airport (TLH)
Tampa International Airport (TPA)
West Palm Beach
Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)
AIRLINE SERVICE TO FLORIDA FROM CANADA AND THE USA
BUS TOUR OPERATORS IN FLORIDA
BUS TOUR OPERATORS
Central Florida Tours
Charter Bus America
American Airlines/American Eagle
Classic Bus Lines
Delta Air Lines
Empire Coach Line
IBC Airways (VIP private jet charter)
Endeavor Bus Lines
Greyhound Lines, Inc.
Miami Air International
Magic Carpet Ride
Miami Coach & Tours
Miami Jet Tours
Sun Country Airlines
Super Tours of Orlando
USA Bus Charter
2016 TRAVEL GUIDE TO FLORIDA
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arts, culture, beaches, history, theme parks, sports, shopping, 8 regions, attractions, ecotourism