Things to Do in Florida - page 5
Sunken Gardens is a four-acre botanical garden located in the heart of St. Petersburg, Florida. At more than 100 years old, it’s recognized as St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum and is home to over 50,000 tropical plants, representing more than 500 species, along with flamingos and other exotic birds.
Look for various areas like a Japanese garden, cactus garden, butterfly garden, and the Chilean flamingo garden. Stop at scenic points like the Wishing Well, Photo Ring, waterfall, and the Wedding Lawn. Don’t miss the Growing Stone, a fossilized limestone rock has a sign that says: “Legend has it that ‘he who sits upon the ancient stone shall be granted tranquility, inner harmony and the talent to make things grow.’”
Sadly, the flamingo population at Sunken Gardens has dwindled. There is a non-profit fundraising campaign currently underway to raise money in order to bring 20 more flamingos to Sunken Gardens. Flamingos thrive (and breed) in flocks; therefore breeders typically only sell them in lots of 20 or more. The city has already agreed to design and finance new housing for the flamingos as well.
No coastal city would be complete without its own shipwreck legends, and Key West is no exception. The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum allows you to explore artifacts from some of the most famous ships that went down in the Florida Keys.
The shipwrecks are mostly from merchant and slave ships in the 17th and 18th centuries. The artifacts on board serve as a window to the past, revealing a great deal about trade, colonization, slavery, and even daily life from the time period. One of the most famous ships to run aground in the Keys, the Henrietta Marie, is believed to be the world’s largest source of tangible objects from the early years of the slave trade. A visit to the museum lets you view historical artifacts in an new way, as the shipwreck legacy casts an eerie and exciting feeling over the objects.
Egmont Key off St. Petersburg, Florida is a tiny island with a grandiose past that’s only accessible by boat. This 450-acre island was used as a jail for Seminoles, and was held by the Union in the Civil War for its strategic location in the bay. With the threat of war against the Spanish in 1898, a fort was built on the seashell shore to guard against potential attack, and stands today as concrete reminder of the island’s historic past. When visiting Egmont Key today on a boat ride from Fort DeSoto Beach, pack along shoes to enjoy the hiking trails that weave through the island’s interior, and keep a lookout for gopher tortoises that inhabit the sandy the island. Also bring your bathing suit, of course, for wading in the cerulean waters, and sunscreen to keep your skin protected while lounging out on the beach. Towards the end of the island is Egmont Key Lighthouse, which has stoically stood here since 1858 as an aid to passing ships. Today it’s one of the only structures that still remain on the key, which is a calming retreat of seashells and wilderness just minutes from bustling Tampa Bay.
The Miami Design District is dedicated to innovative fashion, design, architecture and dining. The area juxtaposes design brands with restaurants, international art collections and permanent and temporary art installations, while its new buildings exist with transformed historic ones. Design showrooms fill the area, including Holly Hunt, Knoll, Luminaire Contract and Ann Sacks, while retailers like Christian Louboutin, Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Prada also saw the potential for the area and have opened stores here.
The district continues to evolve, and new renovations continue with additional luxury brands like Givenchy, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani and Van Cleef & Arpels slated to open shop. The long-term dream for the district is for it to exist as a renowned destination for cutting-edge fashion, art, design and culture, while maintaining its commitment to creative experiences.
Florida’s Hollywood Beach is best known for its red-brick boardwalk and panoramic seaside views. Located in the coastal city of Hollywood between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, this sandy stretch of coast is an ideal spot for people watching, sunbathing, and swimming.
Founded in 1927, Flamingo Gardens pays homage to Florida’s native jungle ecosystem with more than 3,000 plant and flower species. The vast botanical garden contains rare tropical plants along with pristine sections of native Florida wilderness, an animal rehabilitation center, aviary, and onsite museum.
Boats glide alongside actual swans on Lake Eola, at the heart of Lake Eola Park. The site isn’t big by many standards – a mile around – but it packs a big punch as an oasis in the middle of bustling, crowded Orlando. Locals and visitors flock here – like the geese they feed out of hand – to take in a little nature. The Orlando skyline rises in the distance, a stunning contrast to the peace and quiet of the park and a beautiful reminder of the nearby city.
There are countless things to do in Lake Eola Park, including a weekly farmers’ market to visit, complete with fresh produce and live entertainment. Children run amok on the Lake Eola playground, and the iconic swan boats are a favorite for all ages. The park also has its own performance space, the Walt Disney Amphitheatre, which hosts events throughout the year. There’s even a restaurant on the premises; the Relax Grill promises to live up to its name.
Fun Spot America Theme Parks offer locations in Orlando and nearby Kissimmee. It is the only family-owned theme park in the area and admission is free to the park - you just pay to ride and play!
The parks are fully equipped with activities to keep the fun going all day. Each location boasts unique, patented multilevel go-kart tracks, an arcade where visitors can play a variety of games and collect points to redeem for prizes, and several roller coasters. The Kissimmee park is home to the tallest SkyCoaster in the world, which stands at 300 ft (91 m), while the Orlando park is home to Orlando's only wooden roller coaster, White Lightening. There are also thrill rides, bumper cars, bumper boats, and load of other rides that are appropriate for kids and fun for the whole family.
Both Fun Spot America parks are only a few miles from Disney World, Universal Studios and several other popular Orlando area attractions. Parking is free, and free Wi-Fi is available throughout the park. There is also a diner and a sweets shop for when you get hungry.
The 17-acre South Pointe Park, also known locally as just South Pointe, offers expansive views of popular sights like Downtown Miami, Fisher Island and Biscayne Bay, all the way out to the Atlantic.
Originally used in the early 1980s to house a police unit, horse stables and the Port of Miami’s Harbor Pilots, the area has undergone major changes since then. Now a thriving park, the site includes 20-foot wide walkways lined with Florida Limestone and an ocean-themed playground area for children. There are numerous amenities, including a restaurant and a separate dog park, and at night, the promenade is lit up by neon light towers that provide stylish functionality.
Watch for cruise ships sailing past and check out the park’s contemporary art sculptures. The beautifully maintained grounds have become a popular spot for film crews and photo shoots, so keep watch for any celebrity sightings.
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.
More Things to Do in Florida
This quirky museum offers up plenty of fun for travelers who want to take a look at strange oddities and rare specimens. Its colorful galleries filled with wild and bizarre exhibits are perfect for the entire family. And while Ripley’s is a well-known establishment across the globe, the St. Augustine location is the first permanent Ripley’s in the U.S.
Visitors can explore more than 800 interactive exhibits that are stationed inside this historic castle. Whether it’s a rainy afternoon or a too-hot day, this iconic museum is an ideal place to unwind, relax and discover!
Universal’s Islands of Adventure™, set inside Universal Orlando Resort™, is slightly larger than the neighboring Universal Studios Florida™. The 120-acre (49-hectare) park is divided into several themed “islands”— Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, the Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing—where thrill rides stand front and center as heroes and monsters from the big screen come to life.
Travelers don’t have to worry about walking the plank at this popular attraction located in St. Augustine. The Pirate and Treasure Museum is filled with galleries and exhibits that showcases the life and times of sea greats like Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles. Visitors can learn about the role pirates played in early colonial America and gain a deeper understanding of life on the high seas.
Travelers will venture back some 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica when they enter this unique museum that’s perfect for the whole family. Children will love the well-designed treasure hunt that leads the younger set on a real life adventure.
Few places show off the biodiversity of Florida’s waterways better than Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. Here, 3,500 acres (1,416 hectares) of prime Florida wetland and upland ecosystems—created as rainwater drains into Estero Bay—provide a habitat for alligators, wading birds, wild pigs, otters, butterflies, and other native fauna.
Magic Kingdom Park is the heart of Walt Disney World®. The iconic Cinderella's Castle is the park's centerpiece, surrounded by seven different magical lands. Pirates of the Caribbean, one of the most popular, takes passengers on an indoor boat ride through the dark and shadowy world of pirates, complete with snazzed-up special effects and a dash of Johnny Depp. The ride at Space Mountain hurtles you through the darkness of outer space, while over at Frontier Land, the wild and wooly America unfolds past cacti and hot-spring geysers.
Mickey's Toontown Fair and Fantasyland are a hit with smaller kids, as they can fly to Never Neverland, ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant, or travel around the globe by boat while singing “It’s A Small World.” Fireworks displays light up the sky nightly, and many nights end with a parade. At Tomorrowland, kids can discover a space-age science fiction-inspired community inhabited by humans, aliens, and robots. Unique shops and themed restaurants round out the attractions.
Conveniently located between Orlando and Tampa, LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is one of Central Florida’s most imaginative theme parks. Opened in 2011, the resort comprises a theme park, water park, and a botanical garden, and is home to more than 50 rides, sideshows, and restaurants.
When the Tamiami Trail was constructed in 1928, it was considered a feat of engineering, becoming the only route from Tampa to Miami at that time. A two-lane road that stretched 264 miles (it’s last part of U.S. Highway 41 from State Road 60 in Tampa to U.S. Route 1 in Miami, the Tamiami Trail took 13 years, cost $8 million and used 2.6 million sticks of dynamite in its construction.
The problem of the Tamiami Trail is exactly what made it so attractive in the first place: it traverses the Everglades. The Trail effectively created a dam that blocked the water flow of the Everglades, drastically changing the ecology of the area. In order to restore the River of Grass, the Tamiami Trail must be changed. Construction of a one-mile bridge is scheduled to be complete in December 2013; plans are being evaluated for an additional series of bridges or elevations of the Tamiami Trail to facilitate additional water flow, which is critical to the recovery of the Everglades.
Riding along the Tamiami Trail, drivers and passengers will enjoy the surprisingly varied landscape of the Everglades, from pinelands to saw-grass marshes; you might catch a glimpse of an alligator sunning himself in one of the roadside canals and water birds are plentiful. In addition to the natural landscape, remnants of the 1950s and 60s tourist traps remain, man-made kitsch is abundant and there are plenty of opportunities to ride an airboat or go gator-sighting. Keep an eye out for the Skunk Ape, the Everglades’ version of Big Foot.
An ideal stop for history fans, the St. Augustine History Museum features everything from replica ships and vintage toys to treasures discovered off the Florida coast. Find artifacts, photographs, and ephemera showcasing an ever-evolving St. Augustine, dating to the days of Spanish and British rule—all displayed in the museum's galleries.
Parrots and macaws fly freely in outdoor aviaries at Jungle Island (formerly Parrot Jungle Island) in Miami. Visit this lush, family-friendly waterfront facility to spend an educational day seeing cockatoos and orangutans and learn about a range of animals, from flamingos to crocodiles to tortoises.
Universal CityWalk™ is where daytime fun and nighttime excitement meet. It’s everything you’re looking for. And anything but ordinary. Here you can enjoy the fine cuisine of Emeril’s Orlando, the world’s largest Hard Rock Cafe®, Jimmy Buffett’s® Margaritaville®, and unique eateries like The Cowfish®, VIVO Italian Kitchen™, AntojitosAuthentic Mexican Food™, NBC Sports Grill & Brew™, and The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen™.
Catch your favorite bands live in concert or play a game of miniature golf -- the choice is yours! There is also a 20-screen movie theater and a variety of shops and boutiques. You can even sing karaoke with a live band and backup singers. The Universal CityWalk dining and entertainment complex is open nightly until 2 am. There’s no admission fee, although some venues with live entertainment do have cover charges*.
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Thanks in part to its subtropical climate (which allows for large swathes of natural habitat), Miami’s zoo is one of the best in the country, filled with a variety of animals from Asia, Australia, and Africa. More than 200 species roam the cageless exhibits, separated from visitors by cleverly-designed moats.
Pirate’s Cove, “the Original Adventure Golf,” provides guests with a real putting adventure over one of two 18-hole courses. Enjoy waterfalls, meandering streams, lush vegetation, and more in between holes. The expertly designed pirate-themed course takes mini-golfers through mountainous caves, over footbridges and under the cascading waterfalls. Lots of pirate lore lurks around every corner.
There are two Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf locations in Florida; Orlando and Lake Buena Vista. Both Orlando and Lake Buena Vista feature two 18-hole courses, Captain’s Course and Blackbeard’s Challenge. For a real adventure, choose to purchase a combination 36-hole adventure.
If your visit happens to fall over Memorial Day weekend, check out the Putting for Patriots annual fundraiser event, which supports three pre-screened charities that, as a group, provide support to wounded military, their families and survivors of fallen military members.
Consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, St. Pete Beach occupies the entire space of Long Key, a barrier island at the east central edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Featuring white sand beaches and crystal clear water, St. Pete Beach is the ultimate destination for sun worshippers and active vacationers alike. Activities like skim boarding, kite boarding, sailing, fishing and even surfing (it's one of the few spots on the Gulf Coast where you can surf) can be found on St. Pete Beach. There are a wide variety of lodging options, from mom and pop establishments to more swanky digs, but be sure to visit the Don Cesar Beach Resort at some point during your vacation. Built during the Jazz age, celebrities have flocked to the Don for more than 80 years and the spot is now perhaps one fo the most famous landmarks on the beach.
Chocolate lovers can rejoice, because this incredible local sweets factory has one of the best tasting tours around. Visitors can get a behind the scenes look at the Whetstone Chocolate factory operations and learn about the history of this local institution.
Visitors will have the chance to sample a variety of items crafted on the premise and learn how cocoa nibs are transformed from bitter cocoa to decadent truffles and treats. There’s even a well stocked shop to pick up times to take home once the tour ends.
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- Things to do in St Petersburg
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