Posted October 29, 2010 by Kate Hamman
Once a Victorian seaport, Amelia Island has a fascinating past. Experience pieces of the island's history in the Fernandina Beach district, where you can stay in Florida's oldest operating hotel and drink at the state's longest-running bar. And when you get hungry, a funky restaurant will bring you back into the 21st century without charging too much inflation.
Florida House Inn: The Florida House Inn is the oldest surviving hotel in the state, and once housed famous guests like Ulysses S. Grant and comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. These days, the hotel hosts a slew of different activities, ranging from Carolina shag dance lessons to bluegrass jam sessions. Ten of the 22 rooms come with fireplaces. Prices start at $109 per night, and include breakfast and free scooter rentals.
The Palace Saloon: The Palace Saloon is not only the oldest continuously run bar in Florida, but it also holds the title as the first hard-liquor joint to serve Coca-Cola. Once the gathering place of sailors and captains docked along Fernandina's harbor, the Palace still welcomes patrons with a thirst for adventure. Pull up a stool and order a cocktail as you listen to the live entertainment that plays daily.
Cafe Karibo: This eclectic restaurant may not be the oldest in town, but its broad menu is one for the history books. You can support the island's thriving shrimp industry with a plate of shrimp and grits, or sample items ranging from turkey meatloaf to seared ahi tuna. Eat inside or under the large oak trees on the garden patio. Dinner entrees start at $14.
To search for flights and compare prices to Jacksonville, which is home to Amelia Islands’s closest airport, please use our price-comparison tool.
(Photo: Amelia Island Tourist Development Council)
Posted September 1, 2010 by Kate Hamman
As the southernmost point in the continental United States, Key West offers an escape from the everyday for anyone from great American authors to vacationers. In fact, Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams once retreated to its colorful streets and lively atmosphere to write. Come see what all the fuss is about by participating in a nightly festival or staying in an author-themed B&B. You can then start your day off right with a flaky croissant, without worrying about the cost.
Sunset Celebration: With musicians, tight rope walkers, psychics, and silver men performing each night along the boardwalk near Mallory Square, you may think you've entered a circus rather than an outdoor pier. But there is no big top here and these entertainers' sole concern is to celebrate the sun setting over the Gulf waters. It's free to watch, but donations to your favorite performer are appreciated.
Authors of Key West: Just a few blocks from all the action of Duval Street, you'll find peace and quiet in the cozy Authors of Key West B&B. Each room is decorated for and named after a different writer or Key West enthusiast who once called this area home. Stay in the Ernest Hemingway cottage, for example, where you'll find a typewriter set among tribal African decor. Other noteworthy rooms include the Tennessee Williams, John James Audubon, and Harry Truman. The B&B offers breakfast each morning in the lush tropical garden. Rooms start at $100 per night.
Croissants de France: Though some say that man cannot live on bread alone, those people have never tried a buttery, flaky croissant from Croissants de France. Resembling a typical French Boulangerie, the bakery overflows with tantalizing pastries for all tastes, including tarts, brioches, and crepes. Breakfast, brunch, and lunch are served outside on the patio, or you can grab any of the scrumptious treats to go.
To search for flights and compare prices to Key West, please use our price-comparison tool.
(Photo: Len Kaufman/Florida Keys News Bureau)
Posted July 21, 2010 by Kate Hamman
Located in Southwest Florida on the edge of the Everglades, Naples
attracts people year-round to golf, shop, and play in the sand. However,
Naples can also be an affordable alternative to pricier beach
destinations. Here, you can shop for bargain designer clothes, eat at an
Italian restaurant, and stay in a tropical inn without going broke.
Options Thrift Shoppe: Located along
Naples' Treasure Trail, an area filled with antiques and secondhand
stores, Options Thrift Shoppe overflows with designer items at discount
prices. You'll find purses by brand names such as Kate Spade, Coach, and
Gucci, Prada shoes (potentially, of course) and much more, all at very
reasonable prices. On top of the racks of clothing and accessories, the
store also sells an impressive range of home goods and furnishings.
Plus, 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Shelter for Abused Women and
Naples Tomato Restaurant and Grocery: Get a taste of
Naples, Italy, at this Naples, Florida, restaurant and grocer, which
offers a fresh take on Italian food and wine. Naples Tomato has the state's first mozzarella bar and sells more
than 300 different wines. Dinner entree prices tend to hover in the
low $20s, but the real bargain is the two-course lunch for
$9.99, where you can pick and choose from a range of pasta and salad options.
Lemon Tree Inn: When life gives you lemons, come
stay at the Lemon Tree Inn, where the lemonade is always complimentary.
Located just blocks from the shopping and nightlife of Fifth Avenue
South, the city's oldest hotel features 34 rooms facing a central
tropical courtyard. Rooms start at $89 per night, and include
continental breakfast by the pool.
To search for flights and compare prices to Ft. Myers, which is home
to Naples’ closest airport, please use our price-comparison
(Photo: Naples Marco Island Everglades CVB)
Posted June 16, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti
Treasure Island is a storybook island on Florida's Gulf Coast. With plenty of beaches and a boardwalk, this summertime destination is perfect for families and kids of all ages. Three beach areas offer plenty of space to spread out, and typical water activities such as deep-sea fishing, parasailing, and day cruises provide lots of entertainment.
Saturday Sunsets: While gorgeous sunsets can be viewed every day of the week on Treasure Island, the first and third Saturdays in June, July, and August, and the first Saturday in September are truly special. Evening activities at the free event along the quarter-mile Treasure Island Beach Trail include live music, and street performers such as magicians, fire eaters, and break dancers. Of course, the main event happens as the sun dips below the horizon across the Gulf.
You can use our tool to compare airfares to St. Petersburg, the closest major airport, from multiple travel providers.
(Photo: crossfirecw via Flickr. CC Attribution. http://www.flickr.com/photos/crossfirecw/)
Posted June 11, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti
Cedar Key, the heart of Florida's Nature Coast, is an island paradise in the Gulf of Mexico with plenty of recreational activities. The nation's oldest bird and wildlife refuges are located in this area, making the area a haven for naturalists as well. Visitors looking for an escape from hectic schedules and crowded theme parks can sit back and enjoy a slower pace in Cedar Key.
CLAMERICA: Cedar Key's annual CLAMERICA Celebration on July 4 is certainly one-of-a-kind. Free live music and fireworks celebrate Independence Day in a traditional way, but the clamfest kicks it up a notch with sweet and savory delicacies. Join in the "I dig clams" line dance every hour on the odd hour, or play one of the Clamania games, such as clam bag races or the chuck-a-mullet toss. Shrimp kabob, smoked mullet, red and white clam chowder, and clams on the half shell are guaranteed to give you your sea legs, but landlubbers won't go hungry here: Hamburgers, watermelon, and funnel cake are also included on the menu.
You can use our tool to compare airfares to Gainesville, the closest major airport, from multiple travel providers.
(Photo: fuzzcat via Flickr. CC Attribution. http://www.flickr.com/photos/fuzzcat/)
Posted June 4, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti
The six islands situated between Everglades National Park and the Florida Straits make up Islamorada, a dream location for fishermen and snorkelers. Known as the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, the area lives up to its name with opportunities to hook sailfish, bonefish, snook, redfish, and more in the crystal blue waters. And divers will benefit from the nearby coral reefs and sunken ships.Whatever your pleasure, Islamorada offers a laid-back, inviting atmosphere for travelers wanting to get away from it all.
Morada Bay Beach Cafe: During the full moon, head to Morada Bay Beach Cafe for the Full Moon Party. You can witness the spectacle from the comfort of your table, at either of the two bars, or you can bring your own blanket. Listen to music from flamenco guitar to electric reggae, watch a Bahamian junkaroo parade or fire breathers, or join in the fun by getting your face painted and dancing the night away. The parties are scheduled near monthly throughout the year. Cover charge is $15.
You can use our tool to compare airfares to Miami, the closest major airport, from multiple travel providers.
Photo: Cheeca Lodge
Posted May 12, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti
Marco Island is the largest of the 10,000 islands off Florida's Paradise Coast, with six miles of white sand beaches tempting snow birds away from home. The off-peak summer season can be a good time to head south, since prices are lower and the Gulf of Mexico is just as beautiful. Relaxing beaches, tasty seafood, and friendly wildlife are just a few of the reasons visitors flock to this 25-square-mile piece of paradise.
The Artist Colony at the Esplanade: The island's first artist colony is located in three locations on the Esplanade, a recent addition of stores and restaurants on the waterfront. Browse among the offerings of seventeen different local artists, who specialize in different media such as photography, painting, concrete, sculpture, clay, and collage. Whether you want to purchase an artist's creation or commission your own interpretation of Marco Island, The Artist Colony at the Esplanade is the place to shop for unique souvenirs that you'll be proud to display at home.
You can use our tool to compare airfares to Ft. Meyers, the closest major airport, from multiple travel providers.
(Photo: gojeffrey via Flickr. CC Attribution. http://www.flickr.com/photos/gojeffrey/)
Posted April 30, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti
At first glance, the city of Cocoa Beach may seem to be just
another popular beach town, but in fact it has much more to offer. Located
on a barrier island off Florida’s Atlantic coast, the six-mile-long island is
also near the Kennedy Space Center. Visitors can enjoy the laid-back atmosphere
at affordable prices, especially during Florida’s low season in summer.
Ron Jon Surf Shop: One of the most recognizable surf brands in the world makes
its home along the shores of Cocoa Beach. Although Ron Jon Surf Shops can be
found in other cities, the one-of-a-kind flagship store shouldn’t be missed.
Browse through more than two acres of beach gear and accessories, no matter
what time of day you want to shop. You can even rent surfboards, wetsuits, and
kayaks to use in the Florida waters. Foam surfboard rentals start at $10 for
four to eight hours.
You can use our tool to compare airfares to Melbourne, the closest major airport, from multiple travel providers.
(Photo: palanza via Flickr. CC Attribution. http://www.flickr.com/photos/palanza11/)
Posted April 19, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti
Pristine beaches, laid-back activities, and quiet waters bring visitors year-round to Siesta Key. The eight miles of sand have long
attracted snowbirds, and have recently grown in popularity with spring
breakers looking for an alternative to the raucous nights associated
with destinations such as Daytona Beach. Whether you want to relax to the sound
of waves on the shore or join in a game of sand volleyball, Siesta Key offers
plenty to do on the beach. The village also provides entertainment for
everyone, for instance the Sunday Drum Circle, where you can watch sword balancing
belly dancers move to the beat of tribal drums.
The Daiquiri Deck: After a long day in the sun, relax at the
Daiquiri Deck, which is open into the wee hours of the morning every day of the
week. Sip on one of more than 30 flavors of daiquiris, from the classic
Strawberry (made with fresh strawberries, dark and spiced rums) to the
innovative Banana Slider (made with coconut rum, crème de banana, Irish cream,
coconut milk, pineapple, and amaretto). And if you’re feeling wild, try the
Deck Diesel, a concoction made from grain alcohol, vodka, and orange. The raw
bar also serves up oysters to eat, although you can also try drinking an
Apalachicola Oyster Shooter—the original comes with a freshly shucked oyster,
chilled vodka, Bloody Mary mix, and fresh pepper. Save some cash by dropping in
during happy hour (from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.), when small daiquiris are two-for-one.
You can use our tool to compare airfares to Sarasota, the closest major airport, from multiple travel providers.
(Photo: iStockphoto/Kimberly Raterman)
Posted February 2, 2010 by Kate Hamman
As the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S., and home to a range of rare and endangered species, the Everglades National Park is well worth preserving. Come to Florida's Paradise Coast to experience the local flora and fauna without spending a fortune. Take a guided kayak tour through remote areas of the park, dine on all-organic dishes at a hip cafe, and stay in a lodge located smack dab in the middle of the swamp.
Everglades Area Tours: Among its several different tour options, Everglades Area Tours offers a kayak eco-tour where you can learn about the untouched ecosystem as you drift along at your own pace. Over the course of four hours, you may encounter manatees, sea turtles, ospreys, bald eagles, and dolphins. Tours cost $129 per adult, and kids under 12 are half price. If you'd rather head out on your own and save some cash, you can stop by the Gulf Coast Visitor Center at the entrance to the Everglades National Park in Everglades City, and explore on foot for as little as $5.
Food & Thought Organic Market & Restaurant: As a 100 percent organic restaurant, Food & Thought makes it easy to feel good about what you're eating. Come have an all-fruit smoothie as you watch the chefs prepare your honey orange salmon in the open kitchen. The menu changes daily, but you will always find a fish, fowl, or vegetarian dish available. The Naples restaurant also serves sandwiches, wraps, baked treats, salads, and soups. Entrees cost $6.95.
The Ivey House Bed & Breakfast: Located in Everglades City, the Ivey House brings nature to your doorstep. The B&B is surrounded by several scenic parks, including the Everglades National Park. You can choose from the inn, lodge, or private cottage to make your stay truly your own, and rent canoes or kayaks directly from the hotel for exploring the area's lush ecosystems. Lodge rooms start at $70 per night, and include a continental breakfast.
To search for flights and compare prices to Miami, which is home to the Everglades’ nearest major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.
(Photo: Josh Roberts)