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.
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(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.
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(Photo: Len Kaufman/Florida Keys News Bureau)
Posted August 18, 2010 by Kate Hamman
Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville, Virginia,
offers natural beauty in a small town atmosphere. Come discover an area
rich in history and culture by taking a tour of Thomas Jefferson's
former home, staying in a masterfully crafted inn, and snacking on
to-die-for donuts made the old-fashioned way.
Step inside the house depicted on the nickel to learn all about Thomas
Jefferson. Completed in 1809, Monticello and its grounds have been
restored to what the President would have called home during his
retirement. You can see the gadgets, furnishings, and objects that made
Jefferson such a unique man. Admission costs $15 or $20 (depending on
season), and includes a tour of the house, grounds and gardens, and the
5,000 acres of plantation. Save money with a Presidents' Pass, where you can also tour the Ash Lawn-Highland (home of James Monroe) and Michie Tavern, as well as Monticello, for only $29 or $34.
The Dinsmore House Inn:
The Dinsmore House Inn stands as a testament to the fine craftsmanship
of Thomas Jefferson's master builder, James Dinsmore. Built in 1817, the
property still maintains Dinsmore's architectural design. Choose from
the inn's eight guest rooms, and enjoy extras such as complimentary
drinks and snacks, an evening wine and cheese social hour, and an indoor
pool. Rooms start at $109 per night, and include a full breakfast. You
can also save a little by choosing from one of the inn's many package options.
The Spudnut Shop:
Though not connected to Thomas Jefferson, the Spudnut Shop is a
Charlottesville institution. With only a handful of
places in the country still producing these potato-flour donuts, the
cafe is living proof that some traditions are just too sweet to ever go
away. The shop makes a variety of homemade spudnuts each day, including
the plain glazed, which is an all-time favorite.
To search for flights and compare prices to Charlottesville, please use our price-comparison tool.
(Photo: Klaas Lingbeek-van Kranen/IStockphoto)
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.
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(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.
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(Photo: fuzzcat via Flickr. CC Attribution. http://www.flickr.com/photos/fuzzcat/)
Posted June 9, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti
Carolina Beach offers a family-friendly beach atmosphere, complete with an old-fashioned boardwalk. Kids of all ages can enjoy spinning at the local amusement park, playing on the sandy shores, or camping at Carolina Beach State Park. If you're looking for good, clean, summer fun, this town is the place to be. Free live music and fireworks light up Thursday nights through September, making entertaining the entire brood on a budget an easy task.
The Fudgeboat: The Carolina Beach boardwalk holds many treasures, but The Fudgeboat is one that definitely shouldn't be missed. A 38-foot wooden boat hull displays delicacies made from fresh pecans, walnuts, caramel, and more. In fact, you might even be tempted to say "that's a yacht of fudge!" Taste your way through peanut butter chocolate fudge, vanilla fudge, chocolate amaretto fudge, and more--all of which is made in the store right in front of you! Be sure to bring along a coupon for a free half-pound of fudge.
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(Photo: mediamama1 via Flickr. CC Attribution. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mediamama1/)
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.
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Photo: Cheeca Lodge
Posted May 24, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti
Hot Springs, Arkansas, lays claim to an enviable locale in the Ouachita Mountains, with three nearby lakes offering water sports and activities for visitors. But the hiking and camping play second fiddle in America's First Resort, where the town's hot springs have been drawing people since Native Americans inhabited the area and enjoyed the healing waters. Hot Springs National Park was the nation's first federally protected land, so today's guests can still experience the one million gallons of water produced daily. The town is also a popular antiquing destination, with nearly 20 antique stores in the area.
Buckstaff Bath House: The only bath house still operated within Hot Springs National Park, Buckstaff Bath House offers a traditional spa experience you can't miss. Take part in a Hot Springs tradition that was established by Europeans in the 1800s. First, you'll soak in a private tub filled with 100-degree spring water. Then, head to a two-minute steam that will help relieve sinus and lung congestion. A 10-minute session in the Sitz tubs, filled with 108-degree water, and hot pack applications will help to relieve aches and pains. Cool down in the Needle Shower, then relax with a 20-minute Swedish massage. Packages for mineral baths without a massage cost $24; packages with a massage cost $55.
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(Photo: Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Posted May 21, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti
Stretching along the Grand Strand in South Carolina, Myrtle Beach is home to nearly 60 miles of sandy beaches. The combination of sun and surf attracts millions of vacationers each year, but the area maintains its down-home charm while catering to visitors' every whim. More than 100 golf courses and over 300 outlet stores provide entertainment away from the water's edge, but with an average of 215 days of sunshine each year, boating and sunbathing rank high on any family's vacation to-do list.
Gulfstream Cafe: Step off the beaten tourist path and drop in on the Gulfstream Cafe, which is known for its amazing views. Situated between the ocean and Murrells Inlet, you can sit outside on the deck of the two-story building and watch the sun set over the water while you relax with a glass of wine and oysters on the half shell or low country crab cakes. The eatery is popular among locals, and the Carolina Coastal cuisine is sure to have you coming back for more. Drop by for Sunday brunch, when the Southern-style biscuits and gravy are on the house and the Bloody Mary drinks flow freely.
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(credit: Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce)