Things to Do in Florida - page 4
Beginning from the beach, Las Olas Boulevard is a main thoroughfare of the Fort Lauderdale with numerous upscale shops, restaurants, and galleries. Lined beautifully with tall palm trees, it’s a beautiful hotspot of activity both by day and night. The ten main blocks that run from the ocean through to the city are well decorated with antique lamp posts, olive trees (with twinkling lights at night,) and Mediterranean style architecture. Many of the area’s best restaurants are located here, several offering al fresco dining as a way to take in the fresh air.
Shoppers can find more than 65 retail stores along the boulevard, while art lovers can enjoy the many museums and galleries. Nightlife comes to life every evening as well, when bars and restaurants become especially lively. Those looking for a scenic stroll would do well to walk along the eastern side of the boulevard, which is lined with canals and some of the area’s most beautiful homes.
Sea Life Orlando is a brand new attraction in the city that only opened in May 2015. Roughly 40,000 gallons of water and 45,000 pounds of sand make up the home of over 5000 sea creatures, including green sea turtles, jellyfish, seahorses, black tip reef sharks and colorful clownfish. Some of the activities that visitors to the facilities can take part in include the Interactive Rockpool, where you can touch starfish, spot hermit crabs and learn about coastal rock pools as well as the Atlantic Ocean Exhibit with its 360-degree tunnel. There, guests can admire sharks and exotic fish from all angles and watch rays float gracefully overhead. Regular talks combined with feeding times let children and adults learn more about the animals as well. It’s a good idea to schedule a visit around those feeding times, as the wildlife will be the most active during those hours.
The oldest masonry fort in the United States, the Castillo de San Marcos has exchanged many hands and undergone many name changes throughout the years, but has evolved into a symbol of the cultural clashes that ultimately unify the United States today. Occupying 2.5 acres (101 km²) in downtown St. Augustine, it was first constructed by the Spanish starting in 1672 in order to protect Spanish territories in the New World. Over the next 23 years, the fort was fashioned from a stone called coquina (Spanish for "little shells"), made of ancient shells that have bonded together.
Throughout the years, the fort changed hands between Spanish, British, and American owners, changing its name each time. It also played a vital role in many famous conflicts, from the Civil War to the Spanish-American War. Today, it is a site worth visiting because of its storied history and impressive stature.
With its name coming from the Spanish word for "Turtles," it's no surprise that the main attraction that the Dry Tortugas have to offer is their beautiful tropical wildlife. The abundant sea life and colorful coral reefs, along with legends of shipwrecks and sunken treasures, are what draw visitors to the seven small islands off the coast of Florida known as the Tortugas. The Dry Tortugas National Park preserves the islands as well as the famous Fort Jefferson.
The park's centerpiece, Fort Jefferson, is a massive but unfinished coastal fortress that is the largest masonry structure in the West hemisphere. It is composed of over 16 million bricks. Come and marvel at the enormous structure, with its stoic, plain construction. After looking at Fort Jefferson, be sure to enjoy the beautiful wildlife the islands have to offer, whether you go snorkeling, scuba diving, saltwater fishing, or bird watching.
The Key West Aquarium, located in a charming white building with blue trim and awnings, is a great place to get up close and personal with some of Key West's aquatic life. Expert guides lead tours that offer a wealth of information about the wildlife of the Florida Keys. Daily shark and turtle feedings are a fun way to see some of the animals go crazy with excitement.
One its most unique features is that it encourages a hands on experience that you wouldn't normally expect to find in an aquarium. Their touch tank allows you to interact with a wide array of aquatic life. There is even an opportunity to pet a shark! A perfect destination for people of all ages, this is definitely an attraction that any animal or nature lover won't want to miss!
This half mile (.8 km) stretch of pristine white sand is the largest public beach Key West has to offer. Located on the south side of the island, against the shimmering turquoise waters of the Atlantic, Smathers Beach is the perfect place to relax while in Key West.
Thrill seekers can rent out water sports gear, kayaks, and mini sail boats from vendors along the beach. There are also numerous opportunities to parasail and snorkel. If you're looking to just relax on the sand, the vendors also offer beach chairs to help make your lounging more comfortable. There are also three volleyball nets scattered along the beach. All of these attractions make Smathers Beach the ideal sport for either a day trip or to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
I-Drive 360 is a new entertainment complex on one of Orlando's main drags, International Drive, commonly known as I-Drive. Opened in May 2015, I-Drive 360 includes a variety of restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions – including an aquarium, a Madame Tussaud's, and the 400-foot observation wheel called the Orlando Eye. You'll find popular eateries like Shake Shack and Outback as well as hopping nightlife at Cowgirls Rockbar, with the only mechanical bull in the city.
The centerpiece is the massive observation wheel. It has 30 passenger compartments, each one air-conditioned, and each one can carry up to 15 people. Your ticket to the Orlando Eye includes a 4D movie experience and a ride around the wheel.
Just three miles of the coast from Miami, Fisher Island is one of the world’s most exclusive beach communities. Cut off from the mainland by the creation of a canal in 1906, it has then been owned by some of Florida’s wealthiest citizens. Today it’s an upscale oasis with private shoreline access and golf course.
Real estate here is prime, and the last census revealed that Fisher Island has the highest per capita income of any place in the United States. No roads or bridges lead to the island - it is accessible only by ferry or private invitation. Aside from the warm, turquoise waters and white sands of its shores, there are mansions, apartments, a private marina, an observatory, and one hotel located on the island. Luxurious and tropical, a visit to the private island offers a glimpse into a community that truly is home to the rich and famous.
Disney's Hollywood Studios puts you center stage in the only place where big-screen thrills, TV fun and the best of Broadway come together. Tires scream, flames burst, motorcycles fly, and moving cars split in half. It's intense, behind-the-scenes movie-making magic at its best - and it’s also a working studio!
Hands-down the most exciting rides are the spooky and unpredictable hotel elevator in the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, where your stretch limo races through the streets of LA after dark. A must-see attraction is Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, a 35-minute show that looks a lot like the movie. Scream as you zoom through 13 floors of fear on a radically random elevator ride, or blast 0 to 60mph (96 kph) in 2.8 seconds as the music of Aerosmith rocks you through a wild, twisting rollercoaster road trip. Then, sit back and let the magic and music of Disney's Beauty and the Beast take your breath away.
More Things to Do in Florida
Loop Road is a scenic one-lane road that provides a two-hour detour from the Tamiami Trail, taking travelers through picturesque cypress marshes along a primitive road. This 25-mile stretch through Big Cypress National Preserve is rich with history and wildlife and folklore, a sort of Wild West of Florida for those who eschewed civilization well into the 1950s and 60s. Fact: Al Capone had a hunting lodge here during the Depression.
The eastern end of Loop Road is paved, with the pavement ending at the Loop Road Environmental Education, run by the National Park, where you can walk the Tree Snail Hammock Nature Trail or stop for a picnic. After this point, the road turns into gravel, but it has been recently upgraded, making it easier on cars than it has been in the past. There are several hikes on the Loop in addition to the Tree Snail Hammock Trail for folks wanting to stretch their legs, as well as a few campsites.
Florida’s Gulf Coast is haven for all kinds of interesting and exotic wildlife, and the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve near St. Petersburg offers the chance to explore unique ecosystems, including hardwood hammocks, sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, swamp woodlands, willow marsh and lake shore. The 245-acre park has six miles of trail and boardwalk along the shore of Lake Maggiore, where you can spot alligators and lizards, myriad birds, butterflies and much more. The park also has an aviary for birds of prey, picnic areas, a playground and overnight camping.
Coconut Grove is a bayside village in Miami, recognized as the oldest modern continuously inhabited neighborhood in the city. Originally settled in the 1800s, Coconut Grove is sometimes referred to as “Bohemia on the Bay.” Complete with a pedestrian-friendly village center where visitors can wander galleries, go shopping or enjoy lunch at a quaint sidewalk café. There are some recognizable chain restaurants and open-air malls but also college bars, as students from nearby Florida International University and the University of Miami flock to the area, especially as the sun goes down. Known locally as “the Grove,” its bay-front location also showcases a number of various parks.
Village West, a noted sub-area, is the modern-day historic home of Bahamian and African-American descendants of Coconut Grove’s earliest settlers. There is evidence that settlers from the Bahamas came via Key West in order to work at the Peacock Inn.
Bok Tower Gardens is a historic landmark near Lake Wales in Florida. The site features not only perfectly landscaped gardens, but a bird sanctuary and scenic walking trails. It also features the Singing Tower with its carillon bells, the Pinewood Estate, plus a visitor center with a cafe, gift shop, and rotating art exhibitions. The gardens, which were designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Junior, span some 250 acres, they’re immaculately kept and home to a colorful array of plant and animal life. At the center of the gardens sits the grand 60-bell Singing Tower, which hosts bell concerts twice each afternoon. Elsewhere in the grounds there are daily tours around the 20 rooms of the Pinewood Estate house – a majestic, 1930s, Mediterranean-style mansion. There’s also ample opportunity for keen walkers to indulge in hikes along both the Pine Ridge Nature Trail and Preserve Trail.
In this amazing place you're in a living storybook on a breathtaking adventure, filled with creatures real and fantastic. Animal Kingdom blends theme park and zoo, carnival and African safari, while mixing in a healthy dose of Disney characters, storytelling, and magic. Board a rickety jeep and ride through the Sahara, past zebras and lions, in Africa, or take a raging river ride in Asia, with Mt. Everest looming on the horizon. Here you can see Bengal tigers, huge fruit bats, Komodo dragons, and other exotic critters.
DinoLand U.S.A. evokes a fun-filled small-town fair, with its carnival-style rides, games and a herky-jerky thrill ride that transports you back in time. Let your heart sing along in a moving musical celebration of the circle of life at Festival of the Lion King. Here, every path and trail invites you to explore the awesome surprises of nature, with all the enchantment of Disney.
Located on Florida’s southernmost Gulf Coast, Chokoloskee Bay is about ten miles (16 km) long and two miles (3 km) wide and is separated from the Gulf of Mexico by the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands. A popular destination for fishermen and water sports enthusiasts, the waters of Chokoloskee Bay offer a vast assortment of saltwater fish such as grouper, flounder and red fish for anglers. The sheltered mangrove islands of Ten Thousand Islands offer plenty of areas for kayakers to explore.
In the heart of Chokoloskee Bay is Chokoloskee Island, a small area that is considered the last great frontier in the Everglades. Settled by Native Americans two thousand years ago, modern settlement began in 1874. If you visit the island, check out the Historic Smallwood Store, which is housed in Ted Smallwood’s general store. Now a museum, it’s on the National Registry of Historic Places and is an authentic glimpse into the colorful—and sometimes bloody—history of this region.
Orlando has a new immersive celebrity hotspot where one can walk down the red carpet and step into the world of fame for an afternoon. At Madame Tussauds, guests are able to find out exactly how tall those sports icons really are, strike a pose with a pop princess, shake hands with a smiling Barack Obama and take a selfie with Einstein. The museum poses TV and film celebrities next to pop icons, the most well-known faces from the arts and science and throws plenty of history and pop culture personalities into the mix as well.
The details of the wax replicas are on the usual Madame Tussauds level of incredible. Creating a wax statue requires taking hundreds of body and face measurements with calipers and measuring tapes, after which artists sculpt the perfect mold for the wax out of clay. Gluing on each hair individually, painstakingly painting facial features and recreating every last wrinkle ensures that the wax figures end up achieving a astonishing realism.
Tucked away in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island is, in many ways, the ideal island escape. Remote yet full of amenities, the area includes sprawling white sand beaches and great water for swimming, while also sitting close enough to the Everglades National Park to support the amazing wildlife.
The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is just a mile or two away and includes impressive nature hikes that could include glimpses of native bald eagles, falcons and kestrels. Rest and relaxation can be found at Marco Island while scavenging the beach for seashells, taking an Everglades tour by boat, buggy or on foot, or by simply dangling your toes in the warm gulf water.
The Hard Rock Cafe is famous for its many locations in cities around the world, and its Hard Rock Key West is the Southernmost member of the chain in the continental United States. The cafe is primely located in the center of the action on Duval Street, and features the American cuisine and rock ’n’ roll memorabilia of its other restaurants — but with a tropical twist. Boots from Jimi Hendrix, a velvet jacket from Stevie Nicks, and a Les Paul guitar that was broken in concert by the band Nine Inch Nails are showcased, among others.
It’s particularly evident how special this Hard Rock Cafe is when dining al fresco on their patio, where you can feel the ocean breeze. Whether you go for a fruity cocktail or a full dinner, the Hard Rock Cafe Key West blends seamlessly into its surroundings. Accompanied by music playing from the stereo or one of the live entertainment acts, it may be the ultimate cheeseburger in paradise.
A firm departure from the everyday, WonderWorks Orlando offers what most attractions cannot – a spin on this thing we call reality. Built to resemble an upside-down laboratory, this science museum offers over 100 hands-on exhibits built to test your belief of what is real and what is illusion. Filled with “oh, wow” moments that include rope obstacle courses, zip lines and laser tag, WonderWorks Orlando is an engaging step into science and discovery – one that will leave the whole family full of wonder.
Miami Beach’s Art Deco District is a historically important area located in the trendy South Beach neighborhood. It includes about 900 unique buildings and was designated a United States historic district in 1979. It was also the first 20th-century neighborhood to be recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, with most buildings constructed between 1923 and 1943.
Signature building elements in the district include sleek curves, liberal use of glass blocks, terrazzo floors, pastel exteriors and porthole windows and railings that are reminiscent of the ocean liners that docked in the area during that time. Ocean Drive is one of the most well-known streets in the area. Notable buildings include Casa Casaurina, a 1930s Spanish-style mansion that was once the home of Gianni Versace, and the 1937 Park Central Hotel, where Hollywood legends like Clark Cable and Rita Hayworth were noted regulars.
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