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THINGS TO DO

PLACES TO GO

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Q: How can I find the perfect beach for me?

A:

Here’s a quick primer on Florida beaches to help you choose. Start by choosing your general location and the time of year you want to visit.

 

  • Gulf of Mexico Beaches will tend to have white sand and calmer waters (which is great for really young children or for those timid about the water).
  • Atlantic Beaches tend to have golden brown sand and waves (which are great fun if you like to surf, skim board, etc).
  • The Florida Keys are great fun, but not renowned for their beaches, with the exception of beautiful Bahia Honda. Many of the Florida Keys’ beaches are manmade, or are just a layer of sand over a sliver of limestone. (If you want superb scuba diving and snorkeling, you cannot beat the Keys.)
  • The north is almost always cooler than south, something to remember in both summer and winter. To find out the average temperature of a destination, just scroll to the bottom of VISIT FLORIDA’s home page. You’ll find a place to enter the city’s name plus the month.

Next, you should figure out the general vibe you’re looking for. Do you want a big city? A charming little town with shopping and cafes? A beach where you see almost nobody else? Someplace upscale? Someplace old-fashioned? Do you like miniature golf and T-shirt shops, or do you hate them? Florida features beaches on both coasts in all these varieties.

A few articles you may find helpful:

To further research any destination that you find interesting, put its name into the search engine on the VISIT FLORIDA homepage, and it will give you lots of info that you can filter by blog, article, photo or video, to help you decide which one is the best fit for you.

I’m happy to help you find exactly what you’re looking for, too! Just write me with details of what you’d like!

Q: What's the closest beach to Orlando?

A:

Cocoa Beach would be the closest to Orlando. It’s on the Atlantic side and only about 55 minutes away. It's also home to the Kennedy Space Center. Daytona Beach or New Smyrna would be about a 75-minute drive. If you seek Gulf coast beaches, head to St. Petersburg/Clearwater Beach (less than two hours). The beaches are beautiful and there is plenty to do for families – we love Pier 60 in Clearwater.

Q: Where can I find discounted theme park tickets?

A:

Most theme parks run their own specials, so before your visit, log on to the park's website and click "specials" or "offers." Often, you'll also find special rates for Florida residents on the them parks' websites. If you live in Florida, be sure to buy your tickets online for SeaWorld, Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World Resorts. If you're an out-of-state visitor, check ticket brokers. Mousesavers offers various discounts for military, GE, Hilton, Costco and AAA. Speaking of AAA, members can get discounts through AAAsouth.com. Another reliable source is the Official Ticket Center, which offers discount tickets for all the Orlando theme parks, plus dinner shows and other attractions. Also try UnderCover Tourist and Orlando Fun Tickets. It may take some digging, but you CAN score a deal on theme park tickets, leaving more money for snacks and souvenirs.

Q: Where and when can I see manatees?

A:

Check out my blog post, “Five Great Places to See Florida Manatees” for some recommendations on where to go, what time of year is best, and how to interact responsibly with Florida’s gentle giants.

Q: Where would I find scenic drives in Florida?

A:

Great back road drives are all over the state and a book that’s recommended often is Jan Godown Annino's Scenic Driving Florida. Also, check out VISITFLORIDA.com/driving_tours, which offers articles, videos, blogs and photos on roads, attractions, parks and museums. Until then, a few of my favorites are:

  • Route 399 southeast of downtown Pensacola, which is a 15-mile seaside drive through the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Heading east, Highway 98 hugs the Gulf coast past Fort Walton Beach and Destin before Highway 30A follows the water way all the way to Panama City Beach, and then hooks back into 98 well beyond Apalachicola.
  • It’s hard to believe that Northwest Florida’s rural Highway 90 parallels busy Interstate 10. This is a great country road that passes small towns and caverns and natural springs and puts you in the heart of the Old South.
  • Extraordinary A1A between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach is a perfect two-lane road that offers nearly uninterrupted views of the Atlantic, inviting beaches and pullover points at historic sites like Fort Matanzas and Marineland.
  • North of Orlando in the center of the state, two-lane Highway 19 cleaves a path north right through the Ocala National Forest and its natural springs and hiking trails.
  • South of Orlando, Highway 27 has surrendered traffic to the Turnpike – which means it’s a great road to take when you’re heading south. It zips through the spine of Florida and past wonderful small towns, orange groves, lakes (including Lake Okeechobee) and into downtown Miami.

Q: Are there any food and wine festivals in Florida?

A:

We have several Food & Wine Festivals, including the famous Food Network South Beach Food & Wine Festival. Here’s a link with more information: http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/articles/2010/february/1495-top-wine-and-food-festivals.html

Q: I want to take a Florida golf vacation with my family at a resort in the winter months. Will it be warm enough to play?

A:

Absolutely. There can be a chill in the air early in the day, especially in the northern part of the state from Sandestin to Amelia Island to St. Augustine, and you’ll even get the occasional brief frost delay, but by lunchtime, it’s what I call “pants golf,” quite comfortable.
The farther south you go, of course, it’ll pick up a few degrees. The resorts will be waiting for you and ready to show their finest.
On the southwest coast, in Naples, just north of the Ten Thousand Islands and the Everglades, you have a can’t-miss selection. The Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club is renowned, as is the Ritz-Carlton Golf resort. The La Playa Beach Resort and the Lely Resort are also terrific golf resorts.
On the other side of the coast, Doral is always a sure bet, with its five great courses, including the PGA Tour-tested Blue Monster and the Great White, one of the most scenic in Florida.
Turnberry Isle Miami is an excellent choice, as is the Bonaventure Country Club in Fort Lauderdale. If you have time, check out Crandon, the municipal course on Key Biscayne. It’s a very good layout with scenic views of the Miami skyline. 

Q: What is the best time of the year to get good sales at the Orlando Premium Outlets?

A:

We posed your question to Chelsea Auffarth, spokeswoman for Orlando Premium Outlets. See below for her response.

Happy shopping (and saving)!

From Chelsea:

While every day is a sale at our centers, outlets do have seasonal sales. Please see below for our 2011 sale calendar. Orlando Premium Outlets offers over 300 stores in the Orlando area which offer savings of 25 percent to 65 percent everyday with additional sales throughout the year. You can visit the Sales & Events page of our website to view our current in-store promotions.

It’s no secret that shopping is a top activity for travelers and vacationers. While kids of all ages enjoy the thrills of Orlando’s theme parks, savvy shoppers enjoy the thrill of finding the finest designer brands at savings at the area’s two incredible outlet centers – one serving the area near Walt Disney World and the other serving the area near Universal Orlando Resort.

Located close to Universal Orlando Resort at the north end of International Drive is Orlando Premium Outlets - International Drive, featuring 180 designer and name-brand outlet stores, including: Baccarat, Betsey Johnson, Coach, Cole Haan, Dooney & Bourke, J.Crew, Jack and Janie, Judith Ripka, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Kenneth Cole, Lacoste, Lalique, Last Call by Neiman Marcus, The North Face, Pearl Izumi, Perry Ellis, Polo Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, St. John, Thomas Pink, True Religion, Vince and much more.

Located only one mile from Walt Disney World on Interstate 4 at exit 68 on Vineland Avenue, Orlando Premium Outlets - Vineland Avenue features 150 designer and name-brand outlet stores. This beautiful, Mediterranean inspired village offers area visitors a chance to purchase some of the finest designer brands at great savings. The impressive list of stores includes A|X Armani Exchange, Barneys New York Outlet, BCBG Max Azria, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Coach, Cole Haan, Diesel, Dior, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss, J.Crew, Kenneth Cole, Lacoste, LeSportsac, Lucky Brand, Marni, MaxMara, Michael Kors, Nautica, Polo Ralph Lauren, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tag Heuer, Tod’s, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, Wolford, Zegna Outlet and much more. 

In addition to these two high end outlet centers, shoppers should save time to stop by a third area center, located just south of Orlando Premium Outlets - International Drive. Orlando Marketplace features 40 designer and name-brand outlet stores that have impressive savings on such brands as Calvin Klein, Coldwater Creek, Nine West, Reebok, Sketchers, Van Heusen and more.

To save even more, shoppers can log onto www.premiumoutlets.com/vip to sign up for the VIP Shopper Club. There is no cost to join, and shoppers will receive additional exclusive savings and discounts. 

For additional information, log onto the website, www.premiumoutlets.com/orlando.  

2011 Calendar:

Presidents’ Day Sale: Friday-Monday, Feb. 18 - 21
Friday, Feb. 18: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 19: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 20: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 21: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Easter: Sunday, April 24
10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Memorial Day Weekend Sale: Friday-Monday, May 27-30
Friday, May 27: 10am-11 p.m.
Saturday, May 28: 10am-11 p.m.
Sunday, May 29: 10am-9 p.m.
Monday, May 30: 10am-11 p.m.

July 4 Summer Sale: Thursday-Monday, June 30 - July 4
Thursday, June 30: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Friday, July 1: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday, July 2: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday, July 3: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Mon, July 4: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Labor Day Weekend Sale: Friday -Monday, Sept. 2 -5
Friday, Sept. 2: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 3: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 4: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 5: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Thanksgiving Day: Thursday, Nov. 24 - Center Open

After-Thanksgiving Weekend Sale featuring Midnight Madness: Friday - Sunday, Nov. 25 - 27

After-Holiday Sales: Monday, Dec. 26 - Monday, Jan. 2

Q: Do you have a list of luxury resorts and hotels?

A:

Absolutely. If you’d like to compare resorts and amenities, take a look at this page that covers all things Florida luxury. You can search listings or browse content by articles, blogs, photos and videos.

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