Arthur Frommers Budget Travel
The Sunshine State:
Floridas Variety Makes a Vacation Easy and Affordable
In the middle of winter, it may not get any better than the Sunshine State. Florida is a state thats larger and more varied than many countries. The Sunshine State offers practically anything you could want in an affordable vacation (except maybe downhill skiing). Our region-by-region overview will get you started with a warm winter getaway.
Floridas Northeast Region--Something Old, Something New, Something for Everyone
Northeast Florida, known as Floridas First Coast, combines Americas oldest European settlement with one of the nations leading modern seaports, as well as a collection of small up-and-coming towns adding to the local color and natural beauty. Encompassing Atlantic beaches as far south as Flagler County and inland rural communities west to Palatka, the region offers travelers timeless adventures through mysterious 17th-century forts, vast prairie lands, and wide beaches lined with sand dunes.
Off the states northeastern-most corner, Amelia Island provides a refreshing change of pace. On this small island, visitors will find blocks of old mansions, miles of beaches and lots of seafood. Fernandina Beach, the islands only town, showcases more than 50 blocks of restored Victorian neighborhoods. One of the nations fastest growing and most modern cities, Jacksonville is situated along the banks of the states longest river. Following the twists and turns of the St. Johns River, visitors will find amusements ranging from the modern downtown delights of Jacksonville Landing to the historic Ft. Caroline National Monument.
From Mayport south to Ponte Vedra Beach, theres plenty of oceanfront fun. A string of sea islands unique to Northeast Florida dot the coast, providing plentiful swimming, fishing, hiking and camping opportunities, as well as city parks and state recreation areas.
Further the south lies the oldest, continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States--St. Augustine. Founded in 1565, St. Augustine has diligently preserved much of its rich heritage along a 144-block downtown historic district.
Nearby, the World Golf Village showcases golfs rich heritage and growing popularity in a world-class resort setting. It features the World Golf Hall of Fame and IMAX Theater, the 300-room World Golf Village Resort Hotel and St. Johns County Convention Center, the Vistana World Golf Village Resort, upscale shopping and dining, and of course, The Slammer and The Squire course.
Anyone travelling on a tight budget are sure to appreciate Northeast Floridas combination of history, natural beauty and economy.
Floridas North Central Region--Southern Charm and Adventure Await in The Original Florida
The North Central Region consists of 16 counties and extends from Gadsden and Wakulla Counties in the west to Alachua County in the east. The group consists of The Original Florida and The Nature Coast. It is here where you will find Floridas capital city Tallahassee. Tourism activities center on the rich history of the area and the vast wilderness, which is an excellent backdrop for outdoor activities.
Tallahassee, Floridas Capital City, is located in North Central Florida, although it bears little resemblance to the rest of Florida. Geographically closer to Atlanta than Miami, Tallahassee exudes the charm of a small Southern city with its oak-lined canopy roads, colorful azaleas and rolling hills -- a Florida few expect to find.
Families will enjoy touring the seat of state government, including the Old Capitol, restored to its 1902 American Renaissance splendor with red candy-striped awnings and stained-glass dome. Behind the historic capitol towers the modern-era New Capitol. From March through May, observe the political buzz of the state Legislature from public viewing galleries. Throughout the year, the Capitols 22nd-floor observatory offers a breathtaking view of the area, including, on a clear day, the shimmering Gulf of Mexico 20 miles away. Also downtown, the Museum of Florida History chronicles more than 12,000 years of state history.
West of town, red wolves, Florida panthers and river otters make their home in a 55-acre natural habitat at the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science. Families can make a splash and beat the heat in the cool spring waters at nearby Wakulla Springs State Park. Native wildlife, glass-bottom boat rides and an old fashioned soda fountain guarantee something fun for everyone at Wakulla Springs.
Surrounded by small towns, Gainesville is the hub of Alachua County activities, which include plenty of unique outings throughout the area. Rated among the top 10 natural history museums in the country, the Florida Museum of Natural History has opened a new 55,000 square foot education and exposition hall; a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes to watch museum scientists, artists and educators build some of the finest natural history exhibits in the world. Here visitors can explore the North Florida cave exhibit, complete with limestone formations and wildlife. Another hands-on educational adventure is the Morningside Nature Center, a 278-acre living history farm, where families can experience turn-of-the-century Florida farm living.
South of Gainesville, visit the home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in Cross Creek. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of such American classics as "The Yearling," Rawlings adopted the Creek as her home and made the area come to life for generations of readers. At the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Historic Site, visitors will see her turn-of-the-century Florida cracker-style home nestled in the shade of an orange grove, with her car still parked in the driveway.
Across the region value and excitement go hand in hand, making a trip to this area one thats fun and easy on the pocketbook. In this region of Florida, small town southern charm makes every stop feel like home. Its an area where nearly everything can be considered off-the-beaten-path.
Five North Central Florida counties -- Wakulla, Jefferson, Taylor, Dixie and Levy -- comprise the majority of Floridas Nature Coast, an eight-county, 980,000-acre natural preserve set aside for recreation and conservation. The area is also sprinkled with small towns steeped in history, such as the rustic coastal villages of Steinhatchee and Suwannee. The tiny island of Cedar Key, located off Levy Countys shore, was once one of the busiest ports and largest cities in the state. Today Cedar Key is a sun-soaked island bustling with fishermen and artists, where seafood and art go hand-in-hand.
Memorialized by Stephen Foster's classic song, the famed Suwannee River flows through this area. Although many Florida tourists pass over the river while driving through the state, the Suwannees timeless beauty can best be appreciated with a visit to the Suwannee River State Park. Located near Live Oak, the Suwannee River State Park is ideal for exploring the river and its mystique. Visitors can also stop by Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center in White Springs, where the worlds largest tubular bell carillon rings out Fosters songs in daily concerts.
For years, cave divers have made Suwannee County a mecca. At Peacock Springs State Recreation Area, in Luraville, divers can explore more than 28,000 feet of underwater caverns and passages. For openwater diving, head to the 80-foot basin at Troy Springs, where divers can explore the sunken remains of a Civil War-era steamer.
Heading east, visitors will find additional recreational activities. Sports fans of all ages will enjoy stopping at the Sports Hall of Fame, in Lake City. The museum showcases world-class athletes whose roots are in the Sunshine State. Adventurers may want to cool off in Ginnie Springs, near High Springs, where crystal-clear, 72-degree waters offer high visibility for snorkeling and cave diving. Canoeing along the Santa Fe River is also a popular activity.
Micanopy, just south of Gainesville, is the oldest inland town in Florida. The towns antique shops, old homes and a charming cafe center around the towns stately Victorian-style Herlong Mansion Bed & Breakfast, where guests can lounge on three roomy porches or curl up next to one of 10 fireplaces.
With a number of rivers and coastal areas in this region, along with the wide-open preserves and state parks, the great outdoors simply beckons visitors to these parts.
Floridas Northwest Region--Surprising Stretch of the Sunshine State
Northwest Florida stretches from the historic city of Pensacola on the states western border, east to Apalachicola. With miles of undeveloped natural beaches, quiet fishing villages and quaint historic districts, visitors will feel like they are among the first to discover the Other Florida.
The beaches of Northwest Florida, from Pensacola Beach to the eastern stretches of the Beaches of South Walton, offer miles of unspoiled natural beauty and endless options for fun. Kids and kids at heart alike will enjoy beachcombing along sugary sand so fine it squeaks beneath the toes.
As a break from the sun, shake the sand from the shoes and head inland to explore Northwest Floridas numerous museums and historic sites, just minutes from the beach. Museums, historic homes and an archaeological trail through downtown historic districts make it an entertaining and educational way to explore Pensacolas colorful past. 1The place to start a tour is at the Historic Pensacola Village, which pays tribute to the five different flags that have flown over the city--Spain, France, Britain, United States and Confederate States of America. Referred to as the "Emerald Coast," the cities of Destin and Fort Walton Beach offer wonderful shelling and several unique small-town attractions. The small coastal town of Destin, hailed as the Worlds Luckiest Fishing Village, offers excellent fishing and a chance to see the big ones that didnt get away. At the Destin Fishing Museum, visitors can check out tons of trophy catches, from the world-record red snapper to the state-record blue marlin. In nearby Fort Walton Beach, the Gulfariums live exhibits display a panorama of sea life, from a 600-pound gray seal to the 2-ounce clown fish.
Strung together along Scenic County Road 30A, a collection of 18 beach communities, called the Beaches of South Walton, remain wonderfully secluded. Stretching for 26 dazzling miles between Destin and Panama City, these beaches are continually ranked among the best in the United States. Unique villages are sprinkled along the sugar white sand. In the nouveau-Victorian town of Seaside, pastel-hued Victorian cottages with tin roofs and whimsical names, like Serendipity and Bit OHeaven, line red brick streets leading to exclusive beaches.
Twenty-seven miles of white-sand beaches and a wide variety of entertainment make Panama City a family favorite. Theres Shipwreck Island, a 6-acre water park, Gulf World, a marine showcase and Zoo World. As night falls, take the family to the Miracle Strip Amusement Park, where more than 27 thrilling rides, including a 105-foot-high roller coaster, and live stage shows will keep everyone out until well past bedtime.
Northwest Florida offers a wealth of affordable activities for the price-conscious traveler. There is no charge for visitors to enjoy the pristine beaches, rolling dunes and sparkling emerald waters along Pensacolas miles of sugar-white beaches.
Along Floridas Emerald Coast, visitors can find sand dollars on the shores of Destin and Fort Walton Beach, and keep some vacation dollars in their pockets. From February to May, Destin/Fort Walton Beach tempts visitors with a 4-month-long extravaganza of more than 50 seaside festivals, competitions and special events, with savings of up to 40 percent on accommodations. During the famous Destin/Fort Walton Beach Winter White Sale, visitors can enjoy warm temperatures and hot savings on more than 10,500 rooms in Gulf-front hotels, condominiums, private cottages, beach houses and bed and breakfast inns.
Visitors to the Beaches of South Walton can expect up to 75-percent savings on room rates during the fall and winter at nationally- and internationally-acclaimed resort communities. Happily, these discounts coincide with many of South Waltons most popular yearly festivals, such as the annual Seaside Red Wine Festival and the Sandestin Oktoberfest celebration.
Apalachicolas working waterfront charm and historically significant structures provide a rare glimpse into Floridas past. On a scenic walking tour of more than 200 historic sites, visitors will pass stately Greek Revival homes dating from the 1830s, cotton warehouses that once housed the citys prosperous cotton export, and the unusual sponge exchange, where the thriving sponge industry was once headquartered. At the nearby Victorian-era Gibson Inn, visitors can lounge on a wide veranda overlooking Apalachicola Bay.
East of Pensacola, the Destin/Fort Walton Beach area is one of the top five shelling destinations in the world. To find these treasures of the sea, beachcombers must venture about a mile offshore to giant sandbars just below the crystal-clear water, where cockles, striped cowrides and sea horses await discovery.
Floridas Central East Region-- Speed, Surf and Space Make A Fabulous Place
Central East Florida makes a roaring start at the Birthplace of Speed, blasts through the Space Coast and quietly ends amid the buried gold and famous oranges of the Treasure Coast. From horseless carriages to speedy racers, and from sunken Spanish galleons to rocketing space ships, the Central East region blends the glory of Floridas yesteryears with the triumphs of her tomorrows.
Visitors looking for high-octane adventures will love Central East Florida, which stretches from Daytona Beach to Port St. Lucie. Here, kids of all ages can marvel at high-performance racing machines or jump aboard high-tech space simulators for the ride of their lives.
Early automotive pioneers once raced their horseless carriages on the hard-packed sands of Daytona-area beaches. Today, visitors can still drive along most of the 23-mile-long shore, stretching from Ormond Beach to Ponce Inlet. After a drive on the beach, check out the evolution of racing at the Daytona International Speedway, where modern-day racing machines thunder around the track at nearly 200 mph. Known as the World Center of Racing, the speedway offers plenty of ways to enjoy the sport even when there are no races going on. At Daytona USA, the speedways newest attraction, visitors can participate in a NASCAR pit stop, design and test a stock car using computer-aided technology or talk to favorite drivers via video.
The Klassix Auto Museum also chronicles the areas auto and motorcycle racing history, including a stunning collection of Corvettes from every year since 1953. Families can enjoy cool treats at the museums 1950s-style soda fountain. At the Birthplace of Speed Museum in Ormond Beach, visitors can see a collection of vehicles ranging from racings modest beginnings at Ormond Beach to the 1937 speed record set by Sir Malcolm Campbell in Daytona Beach.
Stretching from Titusville to Palm Bay, Floridas Space Coast offers out-of-this-world adventures at a galaxy of attractions. Vacationers can experience space exploration from the first Mercury launches to todays modern shuttle flights. Visit the nucleus of Americas space program at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, a massive 140,000-acre complex featuring full-size spacecraft models, lunar rock exhibits and astronaut memorabilia. Visitors can climb aboard a life-size replica of the Space Shuttle Explorer, walk through the Rocket Garden where Mercury- and Gemini-era rockets now reside, soar through various space adventures at two back-to-back IMAX theaters and get an up-close look at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, the most powerful rocket ever built. The attractions newest additions include the Launch Complex 30 Observation Gantry, a 45-foot high, enclosed observation deck with a surrounding open air walkway and the International Space Station Center. The Center provides visitors access to operational areas for the first time in the history of NASA. Guided bus tours give visitors a behind-the-scenes peek at the working-side of the space center. Tour sights include the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building, astronaut training centers, actual launch pads, a simulated moon launch countdown and the old Mission Control Building.
To the south, Florida's Treasure Coast, comprised of Indian River and St. Lucie counties, boasts more than 40 miles of golden Atlantic beaches edging cobalt-blue ocean waters. Nestled along the shore, Vero Beach's small-town atmosphere and casual lifestyle make it a relaxing family vacation destination. In addition to plenty of beach fun, visitors can enjoy the town's shop-lined streets and award-winning restaurants.
To the west, Lake Okeechobee, the second-largest freshwater lake in the country, covers more than 700 square miles and encompasses parts of five Florida counties. Situated on the lakes northern shore, Okeechobee County offers plenty of ways to enjoy the vast body of water. Hike or bike the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, a primitive 110-mile-long trek along a 35-foot dike encircling the lake. Take narrated boat cruises past alligators, bobcats and otters, or drop a line in waters offering some of the best bass and speckled perch fishing around.
Floridas Central Region--In the Middle of the Magic
Central Florida reaches from the oak-lined horse farms of Marion County, across one the top tourist destinations in the world Orlando to the fragrant orange groves of Polk County. Home to perhaps the most famous mouse on the planet, as well as the largest sand pine forest in the world, Central Florida is a thrilling combination of modern man-made attractions and centuries-old natural beauty.
Central Floridas world-famous family oriented theme parks attract millions of visitors every year. With magical mice, mammoth sea creatures, glitzy movie stars and a wide variety of outdoor activities, it's no wonder Orlando is a top choice of visitors of all ages the world over. Families experience Orlandos magic at more than 80 area attractions, including Sea World of Florida, Universal Studios Florida, and the family entertainment mecca Walt Disney World.
Built around Cinderellas castle, Disneys Magic Kingdom branches out into seven whimsical lands with rides, shows, restaurants and shops based on the favorite Disney themes of Fantasy, Yesterday and Tomorrow. Families can take a Jungle Cruise in Adventureland, sing along with country bears in Frontierland, visit a haunted mansion in Liberty Square, take flight with Peter Pan in Fantasyland, encounter aliens in Tomorrowland, and thats just for starters! Be sure to take a break between rides to enjoy the colorful parades that dance through the streets several times a day. And the children will love the chance to dine with their favorite Disney characters. Disney-specified resorts serve eight breakfasts and five dinners with Mickey, Minnie and all their pals each day.
Another world-famous Disney landmark is the massive silver geosphere of Spaceship Earth in Epcot. Here visitors will find two amazing dimensions of discovery. In Future World, visitors can explore the newest inventions, plunge into the mysteries of the deep or take a nerve-wracking ride through the human body. While at the 11-nation World Showcase, visitors can stroll around the world, enjoying rides and sampling food and entertainment from Mexico to Norway and Morocco to Japan all in a day!
At Disney-MGM Studios, fantasy becomes reality every day. Here, such movie favorites as "Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid," "Indiana Jones and "The Twilight Zone" come to life in dazzling shows, exciting rides and colorful parades.
Venturing out of the Walt Disney World theme parks, visitors are faced with a dizzying array of family-oriented attractions. At Sea World of Florida, the worlds most popular marine life adventure park, children delight in watching the creatures of the deep flip, flirt and frolic. In more than 20 major shows, attractions and educational exhibits, the park opens a window into the fascinating mysteries of the sea. Visitors can chat with friendly dolphins, touch baby stingrays, laugh at the antics of polar bear cubs, play in Shamus Happy Harbor and, of course, watch a killer show starring the 5,000-pound whale and friends. Watch out for the splash zone!
At nearby Universal Studios Florida, families can actually step into the action. Soar through the air on E.T.s bicycle, rocket into the future in the Delorean from "Back to the Future" and try to escape the terror of the Terminator. Guests can also experience a behind-the-scenes peek at Universals working motion picture and television production studios. Kids will love touring Nickelodeon Studios, where they can test out new games that may be used on Nickelodeon television shows. And if the kids should happen to get slimed or soaked, just head over to make a splash at Wet n Wild. With acres of slides and flumes to choose from, visitors to Wet n Wilds water park can float down the Lazy River or experience the exhilaration of the Black Hole.
From racing cars and jarring movie rides to crooked mansions and spooky fun houses, visitors can enjoy full- and half-day excursions to more than 80 Central Florida attractions. Swashbuckling, arrow throwing and fire blowing arent usually allowed at the dinner table, but at the themed dinner theaters in the Orlando area, expect the unexpected. Families can end their day in Orlando with plenty of great food and riveting live entertainment.
Location, location, location right at Walt Disney Worlds doorstep may be what brings many visitors to Kissimmee-St. Cloud. But what keeps them there is the areas beautiful scenery and small-town charm, along with unique attractions all its own, making Kissimmee-St. Cloud a favorite family destination. Visitors can explore the mysterious Orient, wander past lovingly restored warplanes, gaze at exotic flowering orchids and gasp at huge alligators all within in a few short miles!
To the southwest, Polk County offers plush gardens, daring water skiing and the fantasy of flight. The most famous Polk County attraction is the 61-year-old Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, known for its premier botanical gardens, world-famous water ski revues and old-fashioned Southern hospitality. At this botanical paradise, guests can meander through a wonderland of free-flying butterflies, meet the world-famous Southern belles, stroll past gigantic topiaries, thrill at the high-octane ski shows or take a leisurely boat cruise through the gardens and nearby lake.
To the northwest, Marion Countys family attractions include deep springs, drag racing and horse farms. Just outside of Ocala, Silver Springs, Floridas oldest attraction, has been thrilling visitors for more than a century. Tourists first arrived by stagecoach and steamboat in the late 1800s to marvel at the largest artesian spring system in the world. Today, Silver Springs is a 350-acre nature theme park, where glass-bottom boats glide through crystal-clear waters as pure as they were more than a century ago. And the pristine, undeveloped Florida wetlands are still teeming with native wildlife. But modern-day families will find plenty of exciting new attractions, such as a Jungle Cruise past giraffes and monkeys, a Jeep Safari through a teeming alligator pit or a Lost River Voyage past the vessel remains from early Spanish settlers. The park's newest exhibit, the "World of Bears," offers heart-pounding encounters with huge grizzly and Kodiak bears. At the wildlife rehabilitation outpost, naturalists talk about the wild animals that are rescued and rehabilitated at Silver Springs.
Built on the highest point in peninsular Florida, Bok Towers is one of Floridas most famous landmarks. Although its place in the Central Florida landscape is well known, its unique structure and beautiful gardens are less familiar. The tower, constructed of pink and gray Georgia marble and coquina stone from St. Augustine, houses more than 57 bronze bells, which ring out daily recitals across the hills of Central Florida. Visiting musicians and moonlight recitals are scheduled throughout the summer and winter. The surrounding 157 acres of gardens and nature trails feature azaleas, camellias and magnolias, and provide habitat for a colony of wood ducks and 126 other wild bird species.
Due to its rich water ski heritage dating back to the 1940s, when water skiing came into its own at Cypress Gardens, Polk County is today recognized around the globe as the Water Ski Capital of the World. The areas strong attachment to the sport is underscored at the Water Ski Museum/Hall of Fame, which houses the worlds largest collection of water ski memorabilia.
Floridas Central West Region--Sophistication and Fun in a Natural Gulfcoast Gem
Encompassing the southern portion of Floridas Nature Coast, as well as the popular vacation destinations of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Sarasota, the Central West region of Florida offers a vast array of cultural, historical, natural and recreational riches along gem-colored waters and sun-drenched beaches.
Hillsborough County is an exciting bundle of thrills, chills and spills for all. From screaming roller coasters and scary sea creatures to gale-force winds and frolicking manatees, visitors will enjoy rides, entertainment and educational exhibits throughout the Tampa area.
Be sure to explore the intrigue of turn-of-the-century Africa at Busch Gardens, a 335-acre family entertainment park packed with thrill rides, live entertainment, animals in natural settings, shops, restaurants and games in nine distinctly themed areas.
Along downtown Tampas waterfront, the distinctive glass-domed Florida Aquarium showcases more than 4,300 animals and plants in natural fresh- and saltwater habitats. Walking through the aquariums huge galleries, visitors can explore Florida wetlands, bays, beaches, coral reefs and offshore depths. For the ultimate hands-on aquatic adventure, visit the new Explore A Shore exhibit, where children of all ages can climb among mangrove tree roots, dig for buried shells, crawl through coral caves and touch live sea creatures in a pool teeming with everything from sea stars and anemones to horseshoe crabs and angelfish.
Twenty miles southwest of Tampa, Pinellas Countys finger-like peninsula dangles into the Gulf of Mexico, offering nearly 400 miles of shoreline and encompassing the eight resort communities of Clearwater Beach, Dunedin, Indian Rocks Beach, Madeira Beach, St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach, Tarpon Springs and Treasure Island. Visitors will find the soft sandy beaches provide a refreshing break from the fast pace of nearby attractions.
St. Petersburg offers numerous cultural activities connected by the citys downtown trolley service, called the Looper. Family-friendly stops include the St. Petersburg Museum of History, where a replica of a Benoist airboat commemorates the worlds first commercial flight made from St. Petersburg to Tampa in 1914; and Great Explorations: The Hands-On Museum. Along St. Pete Beach, kids can enjoy an amusement center full of video games, while parents stroll through shopping villages set in tropical surroundings.
For beach explorers, Bradenton and the Gulf islands of Anna Maria and Longboat Key boast 27 miles of dazzling sand beaches unmarred by high-rise condominiums or hotels. Shelling, sunbathing and swimming opportunities abound at numerous public beaches, while airboat rides offer an up-close look at the vibrant marine ecology of the Gulf islands.
Known as Floridas Cultural Coast, Sarasota offers world-class art and entertainment the entire family will enjoy. Kids will be thrilled to discover the city was once the winter home of John Ringling and his world-famous Ringling Bros. Circus.
Floridas Southeast Region--Tropical Treasures & Waterfront Wonders
The chic elegance of Palm Beach and the pulsating rhythms of Miamis South Beach are more than enough to keep most vacationers deliriously and delightfully entertained. Add in the grassy vastness of the Everglades and the coral majesty of the Florida Keys, and the result is a miracle of diversity and a vacation treasure unlike any other this is Southeast Florida.
Long heralded as a playground for the rich and famous, Palm Beach County is also surprisingly replete with family-oriented activities. For a wild time in West Palm Beach, visitors can drive through the Lion Country Safaris 500-acre wildlife preserve and spot more than 1,000 free-roaming wild animals, from giraffes and bison to elephants and lions. Many of the numerous museums in southern Palm Beach County hold special appeal to visitors of all ages. The International Museum of Cartoon Art, in Boca Raton, is the only facility of its kind, dedicated to collecting, displaying and interpreting important works of cartoon art.
With more than 300 miles of navigable inland waterways and 40,000 resident yachts, its no wonder Greater Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America. Although once known primarily as a mecca for college students on spring break, Fort Lauderdale has become a dynamic vacation destination.
For visitors torn between getting away from it all and being a part of it all, Miami offers the best of both worlds, with a remarkable style of its own. Its a blend of 21st century and Old-World architecture, thrill-packed sports and leisurely sunbathing, colorful big-city culture and quaint small-town neighborhoods.
Island hopping down to Key West along the scenic Overseas Highway, travelers will encounter numerous parks and special attractions sure to enchant and excite the entire family. At the highways end lies Key West, the southernmost city in the continental United States. In Key West, visitors will find 20th-century attractions set amid 19th-century charm. Everyone should see the areas most famous historical site, the Hemingway House, where Ernest Hemingway lived and worked for 10 years, and no trip would be complete without a stop at the Key West Aquarium, the first tourist attraction built in the Florida Keys
Floridas Southwest Region--Island and Inland Intrigue in Old Florida
With unspoiled alabaster beaches, exotic wildlife and lush subtropical foliage, southwest Florida--comprised of Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry and Glades counties--combines the sophistication of a pampered island resort with the relaxed style of Old Florida. From the Ten Thousand Islands that lie in tranquil azure waters off its coast, to the vast wilderness preserves that claim its southern reaches, Southwest Florida luxuriously rolls out the welcome mat, beckoning visitors to enjoy idyllic beach getaways and captivating backcountry adventures.
The Lee Island Coast, from Boca Grande to Bonita Springs, offers more than 50 miles of beaches famous for rare shells and calm Gulf of Mexico waters. Along the way, stop at the side-by-side winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, two famous friends who spent years as neighbors along the Caloosahatchee River.
In Collier County, visitors can enjoy beachcombing along the pristine shores of Naples and the Ten Thousand Islands. Public beaches offer plenty of picnic facilities, playgrounds, showers and other amenities for a memorable day in the sun and sand. Setting off from Marco Island, the largest inhabited isle of the Ten Thousand Islands, visitors can explore a maze of mangroves and marshes. Or head for Collier County's wild back country on guided airboat tours through the Everglades.
In Southwest Florida, the treasures of the sea are free, and the area attractions arent much more. Along the coast, vacationers will find numerous economically-priced beaches and parks available with free admission or only nominal entrance fees.
SIDEBAR POSSIBILITY #1
PLANNING A TRIP
The states tourism office, VISIT FLORIDA, is the perfect resource for planning a visit to the Sunshine State. By calling VISIT FLORIDA's toll-free number (1-888-7FLA USA), consumers can request: General category: - VISIT FLORIDA's 2000 Official Florida Vacation Guide - VISIT FLORIDA's 2000 Official Florida map - VISIT FLORIDA's Worth the Drive Tours booklet - Black Heritage Trail guide - Bed & Breakfasts/Country Inns guide Outdoor Adventure category: - VISIT FLORIDA's Undiscovered Florida guide - Camp Florida guide Sports category: - Florida Golf guide - Fishing and Boating guide Consumers may also request an Official Florida Vacation Guide on their website at www.flausa.com. Also, visitors can download the original six themed Worth the Drive Tours, and ten new road-based tours will soon be added. To do so, just to to "travel planning," "activities," "nature, history, and culture," and "driving tours." The website is the comprehensive resource for Florida information at your fingertips!
SIDEBAR POSSIBILITY #2
FUN FLORIDA FACTS
The Sunshine State features lots of interesting tidbits in geography, history, and fun:
--From any point in Florida, a beach is nor more than 60 miles away. Sand beaches account for more than 1,200 miles of the states 1,800-mile coastline and Florida is second only to Alaska in total tidal shoreline.
--Although beaches and palm trees are synonymous with Floridas landscape, the states shady oaks and rolling hills to the north, denses forests in the center, and vast Everglades in the south make the Sunshine State quite diverse.
--From the most western point of Pensacola to the tip of Key West, its 832 miles.
--Estimated to be the last landmass to rise from the ocean floor, the state is one of the youngest parts of the U.S.
--Florida offers more golf courses than any other state (1,250 and counting).
--More than ten million passengers typically pass through Floridas ports each year, with the Port of Miami the busiest cruise ship port in the world.