Another Florida Attraction: Staying Longer

By: Victoria Lim

ADD TO FAVORITES

As the sun sets on your Sunshine State vacation, one more day could be just the Florida fix you need to tide you over… until you return.

Here are a few suggestions to make more memories with your extra day:

Orlando

After the thrills of Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, treat yourself to the Blue Man Group experience.  And try one of CityWalk’s restaurants before or after the show.

Restaurants, entertainment venues and 40 shops line the Downtown Disney waterfront district. Visit the largest Disney store on Earth (51,000 square feet!), enjoy a free concert, or hit the water by renting a boat or riding the free water shuttle around Village Lake.

Take in the sights of quaint Orlando on the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour on Lake Osceola. Central Florida’s oldest community offers a history lesson during its hour-long guided cruises, meandering through three lakes and narrow man-made canals.

Fort Lauderdale, Miami

The beaches in South Florida will beckon you back to the water. After all, Fort Lauderdale is known as the “Venice of America” – so why not enjoy a gondola ride? For the more adventurous, take up kite surfing.

An ultimate pledge to a lost love manifests itself in 1,100 tons of coral rock at the Coral Castle. Engaged to his true love, Agnes Scuffs, Edward Leedskalnin was devastated when she canceled their wedding the day before the ceremony. Heartbroken, Leedskalnin spent the next 28 years carving a monument to Scuffs. The sculptures, surrounded by coral walls, were crafted in secret with hand tools, until its completion in 1951.

Art Deco rules on trendy South Beach, but for a variety of Latin-inspired styles, grab some café con leche and take in the architecture of Little Havana. From 1920s Miami bungalows to Mediterranean to masonry design, Little Havana is a melting pot of building and decorative styles from around the world. Before or after your stroll, hit Calle Ocho – the main drag of this Latin Quarter – to peruse art galleries, cigar shops, and of course, restaurants.

Fort Myers

The most popular keepsakes from southwest Florida come from mastering the “Sanibel stoop.” Before heading home with your collection of shells, take in the history of an ancient Calusa Indian shell mound on Cabbage Key. Built in the mid-to-late 1930s by the son of playwright and novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart, a cozy inn features a dining room wallpapered with $70,000 in autographed $1 bills. Walk the nature trail to the wooden water tower and a view of Pine Island Sound.

Cabbage Key is accessible only by boat, as is Useppa Island, a private island club that covets its continuous occupation of more than 10,000 years. The Pink Promenade (pathways), lush vegetation and “old Florida” architecture celebrate its exclusive membership for residents. .

Nearby Naples was voted among the "top 25 Arts Destinations in the United States" by AmericanStyle Magazine, and it’s easy to see why, with more than 100 nationally renowned art galleries. Most are located in Old Naples and the Third Street South shopping district.

Panama City

Explore unspoiled, natural Panama City by renting a pontoon boat and cruising to Shell Island, a 7-mile long undeveloped barrier island. Native Americans, Spanish explorers and even pirates have tried to settle here, but hurricanes wiped out those attempts. Now, it’s home to deer, shorebirds, ghost crabs, and loggerhead and green sea turtles.

Because of its high concentration of bottlenose dolphins, you may catch a pod frolicking offshore. There are no tourist conveniences such as restrooms, shaded pavilions, or concession stands.

Jacksonville, St. Augustine

Downtown Jacksonville bursts with energy along the St. Johns River with waterfront dining, entertainment and cultural attractions. For a slower pace, and less than an hour’s drive, try the nation’s oldest city – St. Augustine.  Discovered by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513, St. Augustine is filled with more than 60 historic sites, including Castillo De San Marcos – a fort and jail that watches over the Atlantic Ocean coast.

Amble along the brick-paved St. George Street – no cars allowed – where you’ll find the oldest wooden school house, quaint shops and restaurants. Tour the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, built in 1888, which is now part of Flagler College.

If you can imagine riding into the sunrise on horseback, with the wind in your hair and the beach spray at your feet, just gallop over to Amelia Island State Park for this romance-meets-adventure experience with Kelly Seahorse Ranch. An hour-long excursion on the white sandy beaches at the southernmost end of the island is one of the only places in Florida where riding horseback is allowed.

Tampa

Cruise the world’s longest continuous sidewalk while standing on two wheels – a Segway tour of Tampa, with Bayshore Boulevard as the highlight. With the bay on one side and lavish homes on the other, it’s a favorite spot for joggers and walkers. It’s also the path for the annual Gasparilla celebration – when pirates invade the town and shower parade goers with beaded necklaces, Mardi Gras-style. Also worth the trip across the bay, Segway tours of downtown St. Petersburg show off the Pier, Vinoy Park, Dali Museum and city-wide collection of sculptures.

Swim with Florida’s gentle giants in Crystal River, where manatees float and frolic, especially during the winter months. The emphasis here is on passive interaction – let the manatees approach you.

West Palm Beach

Palm Beach County is most known for golf – it has the largest number of golf courses in the United States. Worth a look: polo, a faster-paced sport also involving grass, a ball and sticks.

After grabbing fresh pastries and fruit at the GreenMarket, take your homemade picnic to the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club. Bring a lounge chair – or a blanket will do – and enjoy your feast while watching the match.

Shopping is a sport in West Palm Beach, boasting four main districts vying for your wallet’s attention, with a variety of price points: Antique Row - 40 shops of rare, eclectic and high-end gems; City Place, an Italian-inspired open air center with popular shops including Banana Republic, Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret; Clematis Street – in the historical heart of downtown, known for its home furnishings and accessories; and Worth Avenue – think Rodeo drive, with the world’s top designers collected just steps away from the beach and the Atlantic Ocean.

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