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SPOTLIGHT:


5 Best Vacation Spots in Florida
by Geoff Klein

Lush, sunlit, green and dipping into the deep blue Caribbean, Florida offers vacationers a taste of the tropical in a safe, welcoming setting. Ranging from otherworldly jungle marsh landscapes, Glades and idyllic Florida Keys to nonstop nightlife, amusement parks, delicious seafood, world-class hospitality and pristine beaches, Florida has it all. But many people who visit Florida come on business, and are to busy web conferencing to enjoy the state. There is a lot to see in Florida, but you have to start somewhere. So for now, we’ve listed five top destinations for a Florida vacation:

Ranging from otherworldly jungle marsh landscapes, Glades and idyllic Florida Keys to nonstop nightlife, amusement parks, delicious seafood, world-class hospitality and pristine beaches, Florida has it all.  But you have to start somewhere.  So for now, we’ve listed five top destinations for a Florida vacation:

Orlando

The magic of Walt Disney World has enchanted families for over three decades, gradually expanding into one of the world’s most entertaining resort destinations.  Each of its four theme parks have captured the imagination of vacationers – the Fairytale spires of Cinderella Castle towering over the Magic Kingdom, the cinematically gnarled Tree of Life planting its roots in the Animal Kingdom, the giant moon-and star Sorcerer’s Hat coaxing travelers into the Disney-MGM studios and the enormous Spaceship Earth sphere rising over the Epcot Center’s horizon.  These dazzling landmarks have eclipsed other attractions in the resort that, in any earthly context, would stand alone as impressive features for any one resort; six golf courses (adding up to '99 holes') plus two mini-golf courses, two water parks, an auto race track and a sports complex round off a spectacular, yet entirely un-finishable list of things to do. 


Orlando © Janice Barchat

Orlando’s second largest resort is Universal Studios, whose Islands Theme park has recently expanded to a total of six exciting, theme-based islands.  The other theme park has amazed and entertained visitors by letting them 'Ride the Movies' since opening in 1990.  Guests are provided the ample comfort of 3 Loews hotels, plus plenty of fun things to do.  Like Walt Disney World, leaving the resort is unnecessary, except to check out the other resort.  Or get splashed by an Orca at Seaworld.  Or check out the shopping, dining and local festivals in cosmopolitan downtown Orlando.  Simply put, it’s impossible to get bored in Orlando. 


Florida Keys

The magnificent Overseas Highway (U.S. 1) strings together about 30 of the Florida Keys, making mainland out of the principal islands and inducting arriving visitors into a surreal, watery roadside landscape shimmering emerald and deep Caribbean blue.  Arching down from the tip of Florida and tucking inward into the Gulf of Mexico, this pearl-like necklace of archipelago wraps off at Key West, the southernmost point in the continental United States. 


Florida Keys © Steven Gibson

With white sugary beaches and shallow turquoise water extending endlessly out from the shore, the Keys are a tropical paradise located conveniently within the US.  On the Keys, about half of the landscape is on or below the sea, making these a prime destination for water sports.  Sport fishers enjoy paradise here, whether bonefishing, spearfishing or diving for lobsters.  Snorkeling or diving, explore underwater coral beds teaming with the colors of countless fish communities at Looe Key or relax in the shade of a tiki hut outside an enviable timeshare or resort on Marathon Key, warm breeze caressing your face and ice-cold mango daiquiri in hand.  On the wilder side, check out the St. George Island State Park, whose rippling sand dunes intermittently sink into verdant marshland for an otherworldly outdoors experience.    

Apart from the highway-accessible islands, there are hundreds more places to go in the archipelago.  Be sure to allot time to boat out to the smaller, untouched islands. 

Video: Key West Travel Tips: Top Five Activities for Visiting Key West
 

Video: Chris Kohatsu hosts a lively look at her top five picks while visiting Key West in this quick but informative video. The island’s diversity and people add a colorful zesty flair to its unique and friendly atmosphere.

Kohatsu recommends taking the Key West Express ferry from Ft. Meyers, Florida, rather than driving to Key West. The video includes info about the ferry, the three and a half hour ride, and the amenities available on-board, so this is a must see for those ferrying tidbits. She then introduces us to the guru-ess of island information at Vacation Key West, where a seemingly endless array of brochures await, offering info on hotels, shops, cars, restaurants and activities. Next, Kohatsu takes us to the La Creperie French Café for the works! Mouth-watering crepes, savory or sweet, define this one-of-a-kind island eatery. While visiting all these island stops, Kohatsu recommends the rental of an electric car. Available by the hour, day, or week, this little car is seemingly just right for buzzing around the island town. Counting down to her number one activity, we are destined for a trip to Sunset Key, accessible from the Westin Hotel by ferry. Here we find beautiful beaches, private cottages, a spa and Latitudes restaurant serving fresh, indigenous foods.

(tags: island, key west Florida, cuisine, food, dining)


Tampa & the Tampa Bay Area

Once a sleepy port town, Tampa has since grown into an understated, yet entirely entertaining destination – despite being overshadowed by attention grabbers Miami and Orlando.  In fact, its seclusion from larger urban centers makes it ideal; Tampa has succeeded in blending lazy, small town ambience with a cosmopolitan touch, offering visitors an intensely historical city with a rich nightlife, outdoor activities and family-friendly attractions. 


Downtown Tampa Florida © Andi Berger

Fun things to do in Tampa include Busch Gardens, an all-thrills theme park featuring two inverted roller coasters – the tallest in the world.  Take the kids to the Aquarium and be dazzled by the diverse display of underwater wonder or visit the Lowry Park Zoo.  Historical Ybor City, where the Cuban cigar industry took off in the 1800’s, is also a must-visit.


Miami

The pulsing nightlife of Miami – especially Miami Beach – provides a decidedly festive atmosphere to this Meeting Point of the Americas.  With a large cosmopolitan confluence of South and Central America, this city is larger than life, and its music intoxicating.  It was here, for instance, that Latin rumba and conga exploded into North American culture.  With its rich history and cultural diversity, Miami is a fascinating, oftentimes picturesque city to explore whether touring by foot, car or even boat. 


Miami Skyline © Paul Greenwald

And the beachfront is perfect for luxurious relaxation or active water sports including jet skiing, sailing, kayaking, scuba diving and windsurfing.  Miami also features some of the finest golfing resorts, including the Biltmore Hotel (one of president Bill Clinton’s favorites.)  At night, neighboring Miami Beach fires up an internationally renowned clubbing scene to the Clubland scale of Ayia Napa and Ibiza.  But with the Miami Metrozoo, Children’s Museum and Seaquarium, family vacationers have a full itinerary as well.  


Video: Miami Travel Guide Video
from Expoza Travel

  

Video: If you want a thorough look at Miami before making your travel plans, this video from Expoza Travel provides an in-depth look at all Miami has to offer from its sandy beaches to its history, arts and culture, nature and attractions.

The video begins with The Art Deco district which is the most popular district in Miami with Ocean Drive being the main drag. Arts, restaurants, vintage homes and buildings. Popular, colorful neon, shiny and a Mecca for tourists. Nighttime is alive with rhythm and warm weather as music fills the streets. Adventure to the ultra-trendy bars and dance until sunrise while well-toned bodies roller-blade the night away.

Downtown Miami is full of world-class skyscrapers and architectural luxury, with a huge financial center.
An overhead railway circles the city center. The cultural center is also downtown with contemporary works of art near the city's history museum which shows the evolution of the Miami Riviera and its climb to a dream holiday status.

Stop in the Bayside Market Place with over 15o shops and restaurants and street music. Or take a jaunt on Island Queen cruises and a trip around the harbour. The Port of Miami is the busiest cruise ship harbour in the world. The tour visits Star Island is just off Miami Beach or you may drive over the causeway to the tranquil home of the rich and famous, lined with villas on the water's edge.

Coral Gables features the 1920s southern European style of George Merrick as well as the Biltmore Hotel, Miami's most attractive district.

Little Havana is close to Coral Gables, the Cuban heart of the city. Also visit the Fairchild Tropical Gardens one of the largest in the United States. Trains carry visitors through the thirty-acre park.

Coconut Grove is a must-stop with Vizcaya Castle with its classical European design and fairytale-like gardens.

The Miami Seaquarium is world famous for its marine-life performances. Part of the TV series Flipper was filmed at the Seaquarium. Seals, whales and dolphins perform making a worthwhile visit.

The Everglades are close to Miami and are the swamplands of Florida. There are small tree-covered islands throughout the vast lake, river and swampland. The national park contains 120 species of trees and all sorts of native creatures. The park eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Follow the trail of the Seminole War visiting native village sites in these Everglades.

The video also covers the Florida Keys; the islands just off the coast. From Key Largo to Key West with its pink taxies, Hemingway's home and over a million tourists a year.

Overall, Miami is a lively metropolis on the edge of the Florida Everglades just waiting for you to explore all of this and much more.


Panama City Beach

Panama City’s main drag offers the vacationer a fascinating mix of the old and new: tacky video arcades, honkey-tonk bars and mom ‘n pop motels stretch out forever, but are separated from the beach by a surreal string of expensive condo high-rises, pink and salmon in color.  Developers are trying to change Panama City, converting this 'Redneck Riviera' into a glitzy international destination.  Building owners, for instance, are likely to downplay the fact that MTV has made this a yearly hub of Spring Break beach parties.  Apart from March, however, Panama City is quite family friendly.  In fact, vacationers of nearly every temperament are able to get something out of Panama City.


Panama City Pier © Jeff Kinsey

Which is not the least true for travelers seeking the natural wonders of Northwest Florida.  With the warm emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico hugging a sugary white shore bursting magenta with the setting sun, Panama City is home to one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.  On either side are state parks providing direct access to untouched nature, walking trails and fishing on a pristine, uncrowded coastline. Boating is big, and for about $50 one can tour the rivers and marshes, or swim with the dolphins at sea. 


Main article by Geoff Klein
of HolidayGroup.com
a leading reseller of timeshares
in the US, Mexico, Caribbean and other international destinations.
800-930-9717 | 206-331-3269 


 



 

 

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