Archive for June, 2012

When's the Best Time to…?

There’s never a bad time to live in Florida, but knowing when to tackle which activities can save you time, money and hassle. So grab your calendar and pencil in some fun.

Swim with (or see) manatees

Sea cows come out when the weather’s chilly, from December to February.

Get a deal on antiques

Mount Dora is the place to score vintage finds. Save the dates for Renninger’s Antique Extravaganzas (held three times a year) and the Mount Dora Annual Spring Antiques Collectibles and Craft Show.

Buy a boat

“More boats are likely put on the market at the end of summer than any other time of the year,” says
VISIT FLORIDA Boating and Fishing Insider Terry Gibson. Boat shows, like the Miami International Boat Show, offer special deals and the opportunity to talk to dealers, test boats and get just what you need.

Try surfing

June is ideal on Florida’s Atlantic coast, says Paul West, president of the Florida Surfing Association.
The waves are small, the water is warm, and you have all summer to practice your new skills.

Take a staycation

When the weather gets hot, the deals in Florida get even hotter. Resorts, hotels, restaurants and attractions save their best deals for summer.

Eat cheap in South Beach

Find discounts during Miami Spice restaurant month, which actually lasts two months – from Aug. 1 to
Sept. 30, 2012.

Take the kids to Disney

Known as Orlando’s “Deals Season” because of all the discounts available on attractions, hotels and restaurants, late August through late September is “one of the best-kept secrets of Orlando,” says Edward Delgado of Visit Orlando.

Play a round of golf

For value, think summer. For weather, think late winter to early spring. For the best of both worlds, try the Escape & Play package from PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. From October to January, get accommodations and unlimited golf for $199 per person per night.

Run your first 5K

As long as you avoid the summer swelter, anytime is good, says Lorraine Evans, publisher of flrunning.com. Choose a race with a flat course and fewer than 1,000 people.

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Give Back to the Beach

“Voluntourism” is fun, fascinating and makes you feel fabulous. Come face-to-face with wildlife, nurture delicate ecosystems or even teach others about Florida’s natural landscape. These opportunities will get you started.

Northwest Florida

Get involved with special projects like the Department of Environmental Protection’s Ecosystem Restoration Section, dedicated to creating, restoring and enhancing coastal dune systems, oyster reefs and salt marshes. You can help foster infant marine life by planting seagrass, making seagrass mats or even distributing oyster shells by boat to create reefs.

Indian Shores

Help save indigenous wild birds at the nonprofit Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. Pitch in with bird care, hospital care and fundraising events, or with rescue and student internship programs. As the sanctuary website says, “To know that your work enables these animals to once again fly free is extremely fulfilling.”

Delray Beach

Residents of the Sandoway House Nature Center include sharks, rays, fish and turtles, and you can assist the staff caring for and feeding them. Volunteers also teach about native Florida plants and animals, greet visitors or present afternoon talks about shells, turtles, fossils, gardens and the nature center.

Naples

Join the crew of the Dolphin Explorer and team up with the Ten Thousand Islands Dolphin Project, a long-term study of the bottlenose dolphins of southwest Florida. It’s the only ongoing study of wild dolphins in the country that engages the general public for everyday involvement and support.

New Smyrna Beach

Volunteer with the Marine Discovery Center, an organization committed to the health of the Indian River Lagoon Estuary. Opportunities include making oyster mats, kayak tour sweeps and rescuing birds. Some duties require training; others don’t – but it’s as sure as fins on a fish that you can lend a hand in some way.

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Photo: Learning to surf in Jacksonville Beach

Learning to surf in Jacksonville Beach

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Photo: Holiday Water Sports, Fort Myers Beach

Fun on Jet Skis at Holiday Water Sports, Fort Myers Beach

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Photo: Goethe State Forest, Levy County

Goethe State Forest in Levy County has an extensive trail system.

Continue reading Photo: Goethe State Forest, Levy County »

See It Like a Native

Evidence suggests that the first Floridians lived here 12,000 years ago, and today, you and your family can find dozens of ways to celebrate Florida’s Native American heritage. Here are just a few ways to spend the day (or even the night) discovering the lasting legacy of Florida’s original natives.

Miccosukee Indian Village, Miami

This is as real as it gets, the home of the Miccosukee Tribe in the heart of the Everglades, and you’re invited to share their rich culture firsthand. Visit the Miccosukee Museum, watch a film on the tribe’s history, then step outside and live it. Wander chickee huts and observe masters of woodworking, beading and sewing. For heart-pounding action, watch as the men demonstrate the traditional techniques used for capturing alligators.

Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation, Clewiston

Explore the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and see how the Seminole Tribe of Florida survived in the unforgiving environment of the Everglades. Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki means “place to learn,” and this living museum fits the bill. Watch films, explore authentic exhibits, learn from the tribal elders and see an extensive collection of authentic crafts, patchwork clothing and more.

True adventurers can extend their visit with a stay in a traditional chickee hut at Billie Swamp Safari. Relish the rustic comfort as you listen to the sounds of the wild. There’s no running water or electricity, only you and up to 10 brave friends under the stars in the Everglades. Relax around the campfire with a Seminole storyteller, or take a guided stargazing tour and nighttime swamp buggy ride. Daytime visitors will also experience unforgettable adventures with airboat and swamp buggy rides, the Bird of Prey show and the chance to hold an alligator. Stop in the Swamp Water Café and taste local specialties like gator nuggets, frog legs, catfish, fry bread and Indian tacos.

Mission San Luis, Tallahassee

History comes alive at this re-created community where Apalachee Indians and Spanish settlers once coexisted. Learn about this fascinating time through costumed interpreters as you explore the lush grounds at your leisure to see where the inhabitants lived and how they farmed. You can even pay a visit to the tribal council house. This is also an important archaeological site, and you can view the ongoing findings in their gallery.

Mound Key Archaeological State Park, Estero

Rising more than 30 feet above the water, miles from shore, ancient shell mounds transform the landscape of Estero Bay. Made of bones, shells and pottery pieces, this is believed to have been the ceremonial center of the Calusa Indians. Access to the site is by boat only, but the journey is well worth it. Trails lead to the center of the mound, with natural vistas and intriguing exhibits along the way.

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Daytona Beach Shores Man’s Day Package: Golf, Steak, Beer & More!

Sure, you could get dad some cologne for Father’s Day. Or a tie. And I’m sure he’d appreciate a card – or even a call.

But if you want to really get him smiling, give him a beach vacation that comes complete with golf, steak, beer and more!

I’m as serious as a stingray – The Shores Resort and Spa in Daytona Beach Shores (the only AAA Four Diamond oceanside resort in Central Florida) is offering exactly that. You can snag their Man’s Day package all month long.

The two-night package includes:

  • A round of golf and roundtrip transportation to the nearby Oceans Golf Club
  • An icy cold bucket of beer poolside
  • A feast at the resort’s award-winning Azure restaurant, complete with house-aged rib-eye steak dinner
  • A private stand-up paddleboard lesson –

And here’s some news to float your flip-flops!

Spoiling dad won’t leave your wallet wailing. This two-night package starts at $119* per night (savings equal to $84.10).

Can you imagine your dad’s face when he sees what you got him? Priceless!

For more information or to make reservations, call 866-934-Shores, or visit  www.ShoresResort.com and mention promotion code: FATHSH. This offer is valid through June 30, 2012

Continue reading Daytona Beach Shores Man’s Day Package: Golf, Steak, Beer & More! »

Declaration of Speed-Dependence

Each year for the past 54 years this event has been lighting up the night.

Part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the weekend features 400- and 250-mile races, a pre-race practice day event, a concert, fireworks and all the racing tradition you've come to expect from Daytona Beach.

Need for Speed

The history of Daytona Beach’s speed-dependence began with the invention of the car and the winter sojourns of industrial-era millionaires. Back in the early 1900s, automaker Ransom Olds was among racers who made a track out of the hard-packed sands of Daytona Beach. In the 1920s, racers topped speeds of 275 mph down the beach. In a Daytona Beach hotel, NASCAR hatched in 1947.

Still known for its drive-on beaches and the famed Boardwalk that parallels them, Daytona Beach moved its car-racing to the now world-famous Daytona International Speedway complex in 1959. The same year, it became home to the annual Daytona 500. The track later began doing speedway tours, and its status as a tourist attraction hit high gear with the opening of the Richard Petty Driving Experience. {pullquote}

Land of the Speed, Race of the Brave

The mid-summer, 400-mile race, now known as the Coke Zero 400, began with the opening of the new speedway. To buffer the heat of a Florida summer, organizers decided to hold the event on the lighted track at night. Now, the Coke Zero 400 Weekend Powered by Coca-Cola has evolved into an Independence Day motorsport-madness weekend full of racing, music and Daytona Beach hospitality.

It all revs up starting Thursday, July 5, with Practice Day, which gives fans an opportunity to preview the cars and NASCAR drivers who will bring excitement to the tri-oval in days to come. The following evening the competition begins with the Subway Jalapeno 250. It's just as hot as it sounds, with Nationwide Series drivers facing off against Sprint Cup Series drivers.

The big race begins Saturday, July 6, at 7:30 p.m., but the action kicks in way before. Sprint FANZONE ticket holders can take advantage of perks throughout the day, including live bands and Driver Q&A stagings. The Grammy award-winning band Train headlines the musical lineup this year. Kids, who are admitted free with adults to the FANZONE, will get a kick out of signing the start/finish line, talking to the drivers and having their pictures taken with flashy-looking show cars.

Red, White & Boom

Speaking of flashy, hang on for the grand finale: a fireworks show that puts the ultimate sparkle into a night of bright lights and roaring engines. In addition to celebrating the end of the 54th annual Coke Zero 400 weekend, this year the show marks the culmination of a special red, white, and blue “NASCAR Unites – An American Salute” initiative that kicked off in May with specially painted race cars. There's no better way to celebrate our nation’s birthday and the all-American sport of auto-racing.

This article was brought to you by Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. To plan your trip to Daytona Beach, visit www.daytonabeach.com.

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Add a Cup of Sugar-White Sand

Recipe for Summer

Start with sugar-white sand beaches ground from ancient quartz rock, and add sparkling emerald-green waves, tranquil bay waters, rich habitats for fish and underwater marine life. Bake it under Florida sun and ta-da! There you have a delicious summer vacation that feels as though you’ve escaped to an entirely different world.

Inspired by Nature

Summertime is all about playing outdoors, and the Emerald Coast makes for a backyard adventure as relaxing or active as you like.

Take to the Gulf of Mexico on a sailing or fishing charter, or rent a Hobie Cat, powerboat or pontoon boat to captain your own adventure.

Destin is known as the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village because of its close proximity to deep, fish-fertile waters, where you can reel in snapper, grouper, marlin and sailfish. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphin playing in your boat’s wake. Some local charters specialize in spotting the mirthful creatures.

Or, if you prefer, rent a kayak to paddle the calmer waters of Choctawhatchee Bay and Santa Rosa Sound. In the backwaters and shallows, cast for sheepshead, channel bass and bluefish. {pullquote}

Then it’s time to hit the downy-soft beach. Take a walk on the welcoming sand, build a sandcastle, frolic in the waves or just get horizontal and contemplate the clouds. If you’re still in fishing mode, station your beach time at the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier. Next to it, The Boardwalk has all your beach supplies, seafood, pizza and ice cream, plus a playground.

There’s also a playground and nature trail at Henderson Beach State Park in Destin. Beach accesses all along the Emerald Coast provide picnic venues and a wide lap of sand for playing beach games or stretching out under the sun.

Extremely Yours

If you’re looking to kick the excitement into high gear, try out a new water sport or perfect your skills at one of your favorites. Stand-up paddleboarding, also known as SUP, appeals to all ages and athletic abilities. On Florida-made YOLO boards, even first-timers are up, paddling and loving it.

Always wanted to scuba dive but not sure you’ll like it? SNUBA diving, a scuba-snorkeling hybrid, is another activity anyone can master with little training. It gives you a taste of scuba by allowing you to breathe air from a floating tank at the water’s surface. Thanks to the Emerald Coast’s proximity to the 100-fathom curve, you can snorkel and dive in deep, clear waters a short distance from shore.

Want something more extreme? Take a waterskiing lesson in the bay, learn to windsurf, try out kite-boarding or take to the sky on a parasail ride for two. Why not do a WaveRunner nature tour? Or rent a board at The Boardwalk and practice skim-boarding? When the waves swell, it’s time to surf. There’s no limit to the fun you can cook up outdoors when you add a cup of sugar-white sand to your summer escape.

This article was brought to you by the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. To plan your trip to the Emerald Coast, visit www.emeraldcoastfl.com.

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FREE Chocolate Sipping Ripples into Panama City Beach: Pourable Chocolate Tasting!

Research tells us 14 out of any 10 individuals likes chocolate. – Sandra Boynton

Where to begin? There’s so much to love about this event!

First, the admission price is $0.00.

And then there’s the chocolate. Pourable chocolate.

Need more?

Well, I didn’t either, but the fact that it’s held in Panama City Beach – which features tons of affordable beachfront accommodations, a mind-boggling 27 miles of sugar-sand beaches and activities galore – really made my beach towel perk up and pay attention!

Summer Chocolate Sipping ripples into Blue Heron Fine Gifts from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. June 16, 2012 – and you should be there.

This event works like a wine tasting and pairing with food… but instead of wine, it's pourable chocolate! Your taste buds will be a-quiver with flavors that include Chocolate Coffee Merlot, Orange Zinfandel, Champagne Mint and more.

And they’ll have wine, too. Oh happiness! Lip-smacking happiness!

Insider’s Tip: Remember, money may talk, but chocolate sings. 

Continue reading FREE Chocolate Sipping Ripples into Panama City Beach: Pourable Chocolate Tasting! »