Manual Life on the Pinellas Trail: Soulful Stories for Cyclists

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There are poolside cabanas which have private patios connecting to the pool and walk-in closet or refrigerator; garden-view units which have a sitting area; custom king and custom double-queen; and beach bungalows, located poolside, which have a balcony, walk-in closet, sitting area with lounge chairs and refrigerator. The Postcard Inn is as casual as a motel, as swank as a boutique hotel, with the charm and personal attention of an inn — including a continental breakfast.

Louis-style spare and baby-back ribs, dry-rubbed or wet, Texas smoked brisket, Carolina pulled pork, all-natural smoked chicken. The meats — all natural without any preservatives, are smoked for hours. Other selections include the most sensational nachos and skillet cornbread, as well as fish-of-the-day, burgers, sandwiches and salads. There is also a Beach Bar where there is live music, a snack shack, and a banquet room accommodating up to people, as well as catered beach functions for as many as The restaurants and the inn, itself, is managed by B.

And when we were ready to explore, we only had to cross the street to hop one of the charming, air-conditioned trolley buses, to ride into downtown St. The Suncoast trolley also goes to south to Pass-a-Grille, an absolutely charming beach village with the prettiest parcel of beach on the island, and north into Clearwater, hitting all the other beaches along the way. The Postcard Inn opened in October but actually is the granddaddy lodging in the area: it originally opened in as the Travelodge, when there was nothing else around but palm trees. The re-do re-imagines the motel concept.

The Moon shines at dusk at St. The Postcard Inn is a partnership between B. Guest Restaurants. Postcard Inn, Gulf Blvd, St. Pete Beach, FL , main line, reservations, www. Location is everything, and from our cozy room at the Postcard Inn on the Beach, chic, remodeled s-era motel with the charm of an inn and the amenities and service of a boutique hotel, we stroll out to the beach. But when we want a change of venue, there are scores of phenomenal beaches all along this spit of Florida, between St. The beach at Pass-a-Grille, a historic town on the southern tip of St.

Pass-a-Grille turned out to be one of our favorite places to idle away. Pete Beach, the s era Don Cesar Hotel, and find yourself in Old Florida — charming houses lining a narrow street that ends in a historic village. You can go on a shelling or snorkeling excursion to Shell Key, watch the dolphins play; or enjoy gentle sea breezes on a sunset cruise.

The sand and the view here were among the best www. I spot heron and egret. But as I emerge in a more open area, mullets are leaping out of the water. Bring plenty of water, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent. Sweetwater Kayaks, Gandy Boulevard, St. There is more to do in Weedon Island Preserve, which combines a wonderful nature experience on a site with fascinating historical significance.

Weedon Island Preserve is a group of low-lying islands in north St. Petersburg whose history goes back 10, years when early peoples such as the Timucuans and Manasotas made the island their home. The center combines a look at artifacts excavated from the site by the Smithsonian in the s, as well as the chance to experience aspects of Native American culture including dance, cooking, art, crafts and more. The preserve also includes a 9-mile hiking trail along with a fishing pier and waterfront picnic sites Weedon Island Drive NE, St.

Another marvelous destination is Fort De Soto Park. Crystal clear waters, luscious sand, seven miles of beaches on five islands, bike trails, fishing piers, camping grounds, picnic areas, dog parks, and canoe rentals make this 1,acre county park a full-day destination. Stephen Leatherman, a. Beach, and best beach in America in and by TripAdvisor. I am jealous of the bike club that we see riding out from Fort De Soto Park — the trails here are amazing, and this group is probably headed all the way back to downtown St. Biking is a big thing here, and I have yet to time my visit right so that I can get on the Pinellas Trail.

Located throughout the St. You can bike, in-line skate, jog or walk — all without the hassle and safety concern of being in automobile traffic. The trail runs from the sponge docks at the north end of Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg in the south end of the county. The original rail track saw the first Orange Belt Railroad train in , and the first stretch of rail line opened for recreation in Bike the Pinellas Trail; www. Had we more time, we could have expanded our travels to include Busch Gardens-Tampa, one of my favorite theme parks www. To plan a trip, contact St. Petersburg; New Dali Museum to Open.

All rights reserved. In fact, Coco Key was built for fun. Most important for families: it offers resort features for a hotel price, is a Universal-Orlando partner property and the waterpark is amazing. And yet, Coco Key is different — because this waterpark is where you stay. This is your home base. And it gives the family time off from traffic, parking, queuing up for entry.

It is amazingly relaxing. But the waterpark is only one of many advantages for families staying here — not the least of which is value: you get the features of a resort at the price of a motel. This saves on the hassle of driving and on parking fees at the attractions. There are many resort-style amenities: CoCo Key has a massive — and I mean massive — 6,square-foot, state-of-the-art arcade ; plus a spacious and bright fitness center with flat-screen TV. It even has a separate party room to accommodate families, and a convenience store on the premises though there is a convenience store across the street and a Dunkin Donuts two doors down; in fact, there are scores of eateries, shops, and attractions ,including miniature golf, just walking distance, that line International Drive.

When it opened in as a Hilton, there was not even an International Drive — it was supposed to be named for Finley Hamilton, one of the early tourism visionaries here who said that it would be more appropriate to name the road International Drive. The motel was being used to house Disney executives while DisneyWorld was under construction.

Today, most of the units are motel style, though they have been marvelously and pleasingly updated, and there is a six-story hotel unit, as well. Dozens of the rooms either overlook the pool or the waterpark. The property has been totally reimagined and updated with a delightful tropical, Key West look and feel.

Many of the rooms are connecting, if families need. There are several wonderful colorful, comfy areas to sit around and lounge together — like in the lobby where you can also find two computer stations. Jackson, Director of Sales and Marketing, referring to a style of travel where grandparents host their grandkids. We offer value. It was built for fun.

The real distinguishing element here, is, of course, the waterpark, which is absolutely sensational. The 62, sq. The real surprise and adventure for me was the Boomerango Double Rider Slide. This is crazy fun. There is also a tot pool including slides and water features, which is the part that is completely under a canopy.

Minnow Lagoon and Slides offers splashing fun for the youngest members of the family! There is no height requirement but riders are strongly encouraged to wear a life jacket which are provided. There are also lovely lounge chairs and tables all around and a poolside Wet Rooster Bar, which add to the resort-feel. When you want a break from the water, go into the 6,square ft. There are also pool tables. Does Orlando really need another waterpark, I ask? Laurel Marriott, Mt. CoCo participates in family activities, and also attends birthday parties and special events.

There is 3, square feet of meeting space on site. The Orlando International Airport less than 13 miles away. The breakfast buffet, available a. For a time, you get to live in the idyllic world of a theme park. You are in Portofino — an Italian village on the water — certainly not two miles off I-4 in Orlando, or walking distance of Universal Orlando theme park.

You know how the best theme parks create an idyllic world that matches a fantasy? That is what it is like to stay at Loews Portofino Bay, one of three on-site hotels at Universal Orlando, home to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure themeparks. Step through the doors, and the fantasy continues. This is more like making that fantastical step into the theme park world which you wish were real, and, at least for the time you are here, is real.

It is pure perfection. What is absolutely real is the quality of the service, from the front desk to the bellman to the concierge, the stunning beauty of your room and lavish amenities; the luxurious features including a beach-pool with a water slide and waterfalls, a lap-pool that looks like it is set in the garden of an Italian villa, a world-class spa, a selection of restaurants laid out as if in the village of Portofino, itself.

The Loews Portofino Bay is so much more than a hotel, so much more even than a resort. Once you are there, you feel such a sense of relaxation and serenity — something that seems a contradiction in terms for a theme park vacation or a business meeting. You can make your own pace, feel like you have really been transported somewhere. And like the best theme parks which work their magic to appeal to every age group, the Loews Portofino Bay can satisfy the fussy corporate VIP here for a convention, boardroom retreat or an incentive program it would be a sin to come on business to Orlando and leave the family home; a destination wedding party; the honeymoon couple or empty nesters; a family, multi-generational or reunion, even people traveling with their pet Loews is pet-friendly.

It is luxurious and sophisticated yet casual and comfortable, romantic yet businesslike, and the Loews Portofino Bay has become one of my favorite hotels in the world. You walk through the portico and experience that OMG moment — taking it all in. My first view of the hotel is a fast one — I am dashing out to make the shuttle bus that will take me to the Orange County Convention Center downtown for my meeting that morning. That is when I appreciate most ardently the professionalism of the staff. I have five minutes to check in, deposit my luggage with the bellman who will keep it for me until my room is ready later in the afternoon, and rush back to the bus.

She hands me my key-card which I note has my name on it, and says that they will call my cell phone to give me my room number. I return in the afternoon after my meetings and before I have to dash out again to a function, I take time to explore. Just being there puts me at peace. It is the stunning beauty of the place. I linger in the lounge — which is decorated as if for a Venetian masquerade — and help myself to some of the refreshing juice that is provided like a cranberry juice zinger. Just being there, you feel this wave of relaxation take over, as if a massage. There is much to explore — the hotel is quite literally a scale model of a fishing village.

Instead of towers, the rooms are arranged in villa wings — but from the outside, look like attached buildings such as you would see in Portofino or Venice. It can take you a day to figure out where everything is the bellman says that it takes them a month to figure out where all the elevators and ice machines are. There are cabanas, as well. For a more private retreat, and to feel like you are truly on a Mediterranean beach holiday, you can rent one of three colorful beach cabanas complete with amenities such as a ceiling fan, phone, Plasma TV, a refrigerator with water, soda and a fruit bowl Cabana Rental varies by season; call to reserve.

A second villa pool is more sophisticated, geared for adults and for lap swimming, but set back, amid the gardens with tall cypress, surrounded by the villas, with more sophisticated amenities and lounge chairs. There are 18 cabanas here.

A waiter who comes by to take drink orders. There is a bocce ball court next to the arbor they think of everything! Next to that, there is a sprawling, manicured lawn, set off by a gazebo at one end — ideal for a wedding. A third pool on the east wing of the hotel, the Hillside Pool, offers a quiet place for contemplation and more privacy. Reservations recommended, Staying at the Loews Portofino Bay is spectacular enough — you almost have to remind yourself to go to the theme park — but there are significant advantages to staying at an on-site hotel the other two are the Hard Rock Hotel and the Loews Royal Pacific.

In the first place, the proximity to the theme parks — that cuts out the surprising traffic congestion, and hassle of parking. Another MAJOR advantage — and why the key-card has my name on it — is that you can come into the park one hour earlier that the official open. I did a small calculation and this saved hours of wait time — more significantly, I could take in that many more rides and attractions in a day.

Even if you arrive early and have to leave before you get your room, you can use your key-card for Express Access at the park; similarly, after check out, your key-card still works at the themepark that day. And getting to the park! You can take a minute walk along the water, or, you can take this adorable boat for a seven-minute ride that feels like a voyage.

Another significant advantage is that you can also take the boat or walk into CityWalk — a complex of dining and entertainment venues, including Hard Rock Cafe where we enjoyed the most scrumptious turkey burger and Rising Star Karaoke club. There is service until 2 a. Because of the proximity to the park, if you want to or need to, you can take a break during the day, or come back after the theme parks close, rest, rejuvenate, luxuriate, then go back to CityWalk for the evening. The agency also offers in-room sitting and a Nanny service — where you can hire someone to help you in the theme parks with your kids; they also do pet-sitting.

Camp Portofino is just one element of the Loews Loves Kids program. Other elements that make the stay especially wonderful are kids menus, on-call gear, Fisher-Price toys and entertainment, poolside activities. Loews is also one of the most pet friendly hotels around: all pets receive their own gifts including a pet tag, bowl and a special treat to start their vacation and there is pet-sitting available if necessary.

Enjoy the refined atmosphere of the elegant Bar American. There is a selection of suites, including Kids Suites which are sq. The newest addition are Dr. The two-room suites offer plenty of space for the whole family at sq. Kids have their own flat panel TV. There are also Portofino Suites sq. Activities go beyond what you would expect, as well. In addition to poolside activities, Bocce Ball courts, jogging and walking paths, a game room, there is also a Dive-In movie; golf on nearby courses can be arranged. What was so special for us was the Musica della Notte — a sunset concert that takes about minutes, of exquisite opera, romantic and festive favorites that perfectly capture the romance and charm of Italy.

The romance that overflows — not to mention the stunning venues — makes the Loews Portofino Bay ideal for a destination wedding. But back to business: there is a Business Center, Internet in the room at a fee , 42, sq. Want to feel like a million bucks? The scion of a Vanderbilt? Perhaps you are seeking the most romantic setting imaginable to pop the question, exchange vows, reconnect.

Possibly you are looking for a power-place to forge a deal. Or maybe you think you were born in the wrong era, and you are more at home in the Gilded Age. The goal at Vanderbilt Hall — with its intimate scale, doting service and attention to detail — is to let you fantasize that you have not come to a commercial lodging, but rather, you are one of the guests invited to a house party. Walking across the threshold, it is easy to imagine you are an invited guest, coming for a house party.

And while you are a guest, you experience the paintings in a more personal way than visiting a gallery. You sit down at a grand desk with someone more like a concierge and are given your pass key. After she died, Vanderbilt donated the house to the people of Newport. Only a few years later, in , Alfred perished in the sinking of the Lusitania, a hero who saved others on that doomed ship, including giving his own life vest to save a mother and her infant.

The suites from the sq. Chihuahua Suite to the 1, sq. Vanderbilt Suite, all with every manner of creature comfort — from sumptuous Italian linens with cashmere throws, marble bathrooms, to in-room entertainment and kitchenettes — that make you feel very much at home, but in the lap of luxury. Ours is one of eight duplex loft suites, with kitchenette, two TVs, a skylight with remote controls — it actually closes automatically if it should rain. From our window, we can look out to the steeple tower of Trinity Church on the next block.

You feel you are at home in Newport. All of this intrigue just reinforces the feeling that you are part of Newport society and you have slipped back into that time. It is delicious to contemplate.

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The mansion itself went through many incarnations: it was a YMCA for a time, and was going to be condemned in the s when it was turned into a hotel and its five bedrooms rooms turned into 33 guest rooms. The dining room is utterly, breathtakingly stunning, bedecked with gold wallpaper that sets off the paintings in gilded frames to spectacular advantage. The ambiance is perfection — and could well have emerged from one of the paintings. The crystal, China and silver, fresh flowers set the mood for a delectable clam chowder and a char-broiled steak; grilled swordfish served with Sherry and red onion sweetened asparagas.

Adjacent to the dining room is a Snooker room a table game similar to billiards , which can be converted to a private dining room or board room. You can easily imagine men in their dinner jackets and cigars taking shots and doing deals. Another hallmark of Vanderbilt Hall is its indoor lap pool, decorated in the most tranquil of aquamarine colors, set off by diamond-shaped mirrors — the low lighting making it seem like a watery inner sanctum.

Allison Schumann, spa director, walks us around three treatment rooms. Allison, with 12 years experience as a massage therapist, has made a particular specialty of pre-natal massage ideal for the couple who wants one last escape together. She likes to blend Eastern and Western techniques. Allison uses Yon-Ka products from Paris, an early innovator in the s in utilizing botanicals — that use five essential oils — Lavender, rosemary, cypress, thyme, geranium. Indeed, the art collection perhaps more than anything else, makes a stay in Vanderbilt Hall an extraordinary event.

There is a corridor of original magazine covers where the paintings had been published — and it is fun to go around the hotel trying to find the originals. The painting has had only three owners De Savary had it in his own home in England , and, I am told, has never before been in public. Vanderbilt Hall is a few blocks away from the Bellevue Avenue mansions and perhaps the glare of disapproving relatives , just off Thames, in the waterfront area on Mary Street, one of the delightfully narrow, cobble-stoned streets with colonial-era homes around.

The area is fabulous for strolling around and taking it all in. The mansion is just across from the revitalized wharfs, with their colorful shops and boats which offer sightseeing cruises or charter opportunities, and of course the magnificent sailboats that Newport is so famous for. The area bustles throughout the day and into the night, and you are a short walk from it all.

The wharfs are marvelous, even in winter, when there are seal watch tours and a skating rink. During our visit, Newport was filling up with sailors who had come for the famous Newport-Bermuda Race. Indeed, it was during one of these races that De Savary began his love affair with Newport and has been entrenched in Newport ever since. Another intriguing aspect to Vanderbilt Hall is the opportunity to join the Vanderbilt Hall Club — affording special privileges as well as reciprocity with other exclusive clubs through the United States and abroad membership by invitation — a concept that De Savary has used at his other properties and developments.

Many of the clubs provide dining, accommodation, golf, spa, tennis and other recreational facilities. The setting of the mansion makes it ideal for special functions and private parties, from weddings to board meetings. A Wedding Planner is available to assist. Nearby, there is tennis at the Tennis Hall of Fame, polo, golf and sailing, and restaurants, the waterfront, museums and even a skating rink on the wharf are walking distance from Vanderbilt Hall.

Dog beds and bowls will be awaiting arrival. There are some magnificent local walks around town and on the Cliff Walk spectacular. Pets must be under 25 lbs. Vanderbilt Hall is a special venue anytime, but is spectacular for the holidays, when Newport, Rhode Island, itself takes on an enchanted quality it is in fact one of my favorite winter destinations, because there is so much to do, inside, in a compact area, and hosts a special Winter Festival.

You arrive early to relax and dress for the evening. Immediately following dinner, a special lounge will be set up for dancing with a three piece band providing entertainment. View New Years Eve festivities from around the world on a large screen while dancing the night away. End the evening with a champagne toast at midnight accompanied by a buffet of delectable late night fare.

On New Years Day, enjoy a late morning brunch buffet. Sixteen harbor-front homes only 7 remain available make up this exclusive condo complex, offering classic New England architecture with gorgeous views of Newport Harbor and priority dockage at Brown and Howard Marina. James Clubs; Stapleford Park in England www. Most recently, De Savary actually, his wife, Lana restored and opened The Old Swan, a romantic year old inn and adjoining 18th century Minster Mill, near Oxford, with 60 acres of gardens, orchards and surrounded by what remains of the ancient Royal Hunting Forest of Wychwood.

The Old Swan offers 16 beamed guestrooms and suites, while the Minister Mill, with 40 contemporary guestrooms and meeting and function rooms, is designed to be for the more budget conscious and groups dog-friendly, too. There is also a destination spa with indoor and outdoor pool. An architecturally stunning Great Hall will be created that will historically fit with the village and surrounds. So close and accessible to the downtown, the Gaylord National is set in a new destination, National Harbor, on the Potomac River, complete with such marvelous amenities as indoor pool, spa, arcade, dining.

It is so breathtakingly beautiful, you really feel yourself decompress from the intensity and the hubbub of the city. There is so much to do and in such a pleasant environment that National Harbor has become a magnet for day-trippers and locals along with travelers.

The Gaylord offers a stunning sense of place and respect for the destination, the mid-Atlantic where Washington, DC. The architecture draws on these elements — Colonial, Federalist, with scalloped colonnades reminiscent of the monuments. Local artists were commissioned to create paintings reflecting history and nautical scenes. You simply cannot believe your eyes when you first look into the atrium. You look first through it to the magnificent view to the Potomac River and then your eyes look down a level to two-story replicas of a Colonial-era mercantile shop and a Federalist-style farmhouse, richly detailed and authentic, with white-clapboard siding on the farmhouse, and red-brick masonry on the mercantile, stone finishes, shakes, shutters and shingles, porches, patios and courtyard spaces with lush landscaping and wrought iron gate.

Thousands of plants and trees re-create a mid-Atlantic landscape, both inside and outside where there are magnificent gardens and another magnificent fountain with pleasant seating areas and walkways afford a spectacular setting beside the river, where there is a dock for the new water taxi service, and a promenade along the water. The historically themed garden palette features a colonial garden, a tree-lined river walk promenade, 1, oak, cherry and chestnut trees, and more than 40, flowers.

And the quality of the craftsmanship and materials! Here, too, the materials and craftsmanship are high quality — marble, granite, fine wood furnishings, detailing in the moldings, lush landscaping — but pricewise, it is moderate, and matched with Hilton, Hyatt and Westin, yet offers supreme quality and unmatched service and amenities. The conventioneers and business travelers we noticed particularly enjoy the 4, sq.

A key attraction of the Gaylord National, especially for families, is the pool — junior-Olympic sized so that it is marvelous for lap swimming — set in another magnificent space with a wall of windows so you see to the gardens and Potomac River, stone floor, with luxurious wicker lounge chairs, potted palm trees okay, not so mid-Atlantic, but so what , perfect temperature.

There is a lifeguard on duty open 5 am. Families will also enjoy the Playzone Family Arcade and the billiard tables — a diversion from a day of immersion in history. The Gaylord offers respite from that, and enables kids adults, too , to decompress.

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All of this means that the Gaylord National is a wonderful hub for visiting the region — and you can easily spend three or more days. As befitting a complete destination resort, the Gaylord National offers an array of restaurants and dining options within the hotel, and there are many more just outside, in National Harbor. Moon Bay boasts a show kitchen, an impressive white-wine collection and a wharf-side bar and lounge.

The menu features seafood from American waters with a modern twist in the way of surprising seasonings and preparations , including fish flown in daily and sushi sashimi creations. The Gaylord is famous for the Old Hickory Steakhouse, and guests at the National will not be disappointed will find its Old Hickory Steakhouserecreates the ambiance of an 18th century Georgian rowhouse. It features an artful blend of urban design and sports memorabilia, a signature foot wide, high-definition video wall, and dozens of flat-screen TVs.

Two bars and various lounges offer curved banquets, custom sofas and individual lounge make for a comfy environment to socialize and watch the games. Where: Brooksville Web: floridablueberryfestival. Small businesses show off their handmade products, pastry chefs and chocolatiers work their artistry and magic and chocolate advocacy groups yes, these exist educate guests on all that is wonderful about chocolate. Where: Tampa Web: festivalofchocolate.

The showcase is a 21,square-foot structure that transforms into an art gallery of sand sculptures created by master sculptors from around the world. Where: Pier 60, Clearwater Beach Web: sugarsandfestival. Dunellon Pageant, which is the highlight event among other entertainment, crafts vendors and delicious BBQ and fair food tents. Where: Historic Dunnellon Web: ocalamarion. Also included: Live music, a tattoo expo, a classic bike show, bikini contests and more. Where: Leesburg Web: leesburgbikefest.

Admire or buy paintings, glass art, metalwork, jewelry, sculptures and photography, or check out the live bands and nearby shops. Each practice session is an hour long. The festival also includes a concert benefitting regional waterway conservation , paddling demos and an evening ghost tour.

The Easter Brunch features an elaborate spread that includes a seafood bar, prime rib carving station, omelets and a dessert station with sweets to die for. The work of more than authors and musicians will be featured. Where: Cascades Park, Tallahassee Web: wordofsouthfestival. Where: downtown Sopchoppy Web: wormgruntinfestival. Attend vegan cooking demos, sample vegan food from veg-friendly restaurants or food purveyors and attend lectures by nationally known speakers and authors.

Where: Cascades Park, Tallahassee Web: northfloridavegfest. Augustine Web: rhythmandribs. Where: downtown Starke Web: bradfordcountystrawberryfestival. There are nightly wine dinners with celebrity chefs, a champagne and seafood cruise and live music. The finale is the Grand Tasting event. Where: Madison, various venues Web: madisonfl. Also on display: authentic oyster boats, steam engine demos and model boat building for kids.

The event includes speakers, demos, as well as a marketplace full of plant and garden accessory vendors. Where: downtown Blountstown Web: facebook. Take time for a family photo along the waterfront, enjoy live music on the festival stage and take in the arts and crafts vendors who set up shop along the downtown streets. Scatting, trombone solos and improv are all the rage during the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, an annual free music festival that showcases three days of live music on three stages. They will be all around town during the week.

It features fab fishing, prize money and trophies for the winners, and an awards banquet complete with door prizes and an auction. Where: Marathon, Florida Keys Web: habitatmiddlekeys. This festival always gets a great lineup. Where: Various locations in Naples Web: stayinmay. At the Annual Punta Gorda Hibiscus Festival, specialty hibiscus and other exotic plants, trees and organics will be displayed and up for sale.

The Redland International Orchid Show is one of the largest in the country, featuring more than 50 booths of orchid vendors and educational events and material. At the Key Largo Original Music Festival , hit songwriters from Nashville and around the country perform on multiple stages and a variety of on-the-water venues.

Web: Respectively, keywestsongwritersfestival. Highlights include: Speed eating and seed spitting competitions, community showcase exhibition area, live entertainment on two stages, stilt walkers, skill games, balloon animals and, of course, mouth-watering watermelon. Open to paddlers on standup paddleboards, prone boards, outrigger canoes, dory boats, surf skis and kayaks. Web: fla-keys. Work featured will highlight the connections of tradition and innovation as they meld with utility and comfort. Live concerts are also featured. Where : Stuart Web : facebook.

Where : Melbourne. It all begins with a kick-off party that features beer and wine tastings, music and fireworks. Where : Various restaurants in Clearwater Beach Web : clearwaterbeachrestaurantweek. Where : New Smyrna Beach Web : fishstock. Spend a day listening to music, taking your kids to the on-site playground, checking out various crafts vendors, and of course, trying the delicious Florida sweet corn.

Where : Mt. Spend a day or roll up in your RV and spend the whole long weekend listening to original and cover tunes and eating BBQ, vegan dishes and other concessions. Where : Sertoma Ranch, Brooksville Web : orangeblossomjamboree.

Florida Vlog 8 Pinellas Trail Bike ride and water views!

Where : New Smyrna Beach Web : nsbfla. Kids Fringe for children and families features entertaining performances by Fringe artists, workshops, hands-on art activities. Where : Orlando Web : orlandofringe. Attend workshops to help hone your own filmmaking skills. Petersburg Web : sunscreenfilmfestival.

Enjoy hand crafted food at the Culinary Arts Court and see live artist demonstrations. Where : Historic Downtown Sanford Web : stjohnsriverartfest. Yes, kayak! This fishing tournament has one strict rule: no motorized transportation allowed. Cast your line in either the saltwater or freshwater division. Where: downtown St. Each fest also features live music and family activities. Where: Fernandina, Pensacola and Panacea Web: shrimpfestival.

Augustine Amphitheatre Web: gamblerogersfest. Lucia, Taiwan, Venezuela and the Bahamas. This day event features workshops, guest speakers and painting stations along the Gulf of Mexico. Then things turn a little more mellow chill at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Where: downtown Jacksonville Web: funkfesttour. Where: various venues, Pensacola Web: fiestaoffiveflags. Channel your artistic skills during one of the zucchini-carving contests, cheer on the contestants of the Duke of Zuke and Zuqueenie Pageant and sample unusual zucchini-flavored treats like cornbread and ice cream.

A biologist will speak about the historical significance of this ecosystem and identify rare carnivorous native plants. Purchase locally-made products featuring the honey, attend the Miss Tupelo pageant, participate in a 5K run and enjoy live music. Attendees will enjoy great music set against the backdrop of historic waterways and top restaurants Where: Huizenga Plaza on the New River, Fort Lauderdale Web: lauderdalelivemusic. Colors of the Caribbean is a free family-friendly festival celebrating Caribbean culture.

Event features live music, A Caribbean Travel Expo, a Kids Zone, arts and crafts, a food village and smaller stages featuring folk dancing and steel bands. Armands Circle on St. This annual event features the best acts that were popular in that decade. With a little luck and weather permitting you might just see a pound loggerhead venture out of the ocean to lay her eggs.

Where: Various locations in Key West Web: fla-keys.

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You can enter by yourself or as part of a team up to five. Where: Downtown Delray Beach Web: seekinthecitydelray. Vendor booths will feature local wines and yummy foods. Children age 11 and under get in free. Demos for kids and adults help even the paddle-weary learn to enjoy this accessible and popular sport. Where : Siesta Key Beach Web : sarasotasupchampionships.

There will also be food trucks, frozen drink tents and a Kids Zone. The festival integrates music, art and cultural tourism. Festival audiences are invited to any of the concerts or lectures, including the Thursday afternoon Artist Showcase concerts, Friday Festival chamber concerts, and Saturday Symphony orchestra concerts. Where : Sarasota Web : sarasotaorchestra. Great live music, too. Petersburg Web : carnivaltampa. Where : Lake Buena Vista Web : onemagicalweekend. The grand finale is the evening night parade and family- and pet-friendly street festival on the last weekend of Pride.

Petersburg Web : stpetepride. Treasure hunters delight in one-of-a-kind finds for their home and garden, as well as unique items of clothing, funky antique jewelry, repurposed bikes, furniture and more. See kite demonstrations and kite club competitions and get free lessons by the pros. A kid's zone offers free kites to the first children each festival day.

Where : New Smyrna Beach Web : new-smyrna-beach-kite-festival. Local artists and crafters show off their goods while patrons may sample dozens of types of wine and beer, as well as soft drinks, food and desserts. Where : Lakeridge Winery, Clermont Web : lakeridgewinery. Where : Historic Cocoa Village Web : cocoavillagebbqandblues. REPTICON — This long-running annual features tub-loads of slithery, cold-blooded creatures for petting, handling, photographing, purchasing or watching in one of the many educational lecture events devoted to snakes, geckos, iguanas, toads, turtles and more.

Petersburg Web : fine-arts. In addition to the pirate ship landing and family festival, other swashbuckling events include a Pirate Pub Crawl, Fireworks and Torchlight Parade. Augustine and burned the city. The highlight of this two-day reenactment is a battle between the British and Spanish in the historic district, ending at Plaza de la Constitucion. The day includes the crowning the blueberry queen and king, water walkers, ponies, the blueberry parade, the blueberry bake-off and a blueberry pancake breakfast.

Blueberry bushes will be for sale. All include parades, live music, running 5K or 10K and, of course, a seed-spitting contest. Workshops include traditional dance styles from the Congo, Senegal and Guinea taught by renowned instructors. DJs will spin merengue and reggae tunes, the Tallahassee Salsa Dancers will perform as will other well-known Latin-American acts. Caddy Shack. The top three teams receive medals and a monetary award for the charity of their choice.

East coast: Fairchild International Mango Festival. Web: Respectively, fairchildgarden. Where: Various luxury spas throughout Miami-Dade County. Web: miamispamonth. Where: Various locations in Key West Web: keylimefestival. Classic rock is piped in underwater via speakers suspended from boats hovering above the third largest reef in the world. Also included: bug hunting seminars, a wreck-diving workshop, underwater photo and video contests, a lobster cook-off and much more.

Hotels are offer 10 per cent off their already lower summer rates. The designers will show case their latest swim-suit creations at various locations in and around Miami Beach, including four fabulous runways that protrude over the water. Where: Various locations in Miami Beach Web: funkshion. The hot music will go great with your cold beers. Fisher fans, past and present crew members, Fisher family members and treasure-hunting enthusiasts will gather to celebrate the discovery.

Where: Various locations in Key West Web: melfisherdays. Five hundred performers. Five thousand fans. Miami Salsa Congress presents non-stop salsa action, showcasing world-renowned international dancers strutting their stuff and showing others how they do it. Highlights include dance workshops, concerts, all-star DJs, parties and exhibition dances. Participants can also buy tickets to workshops and seminars. Where : Haines City Web : visitcentralflorida. Ease your fears of these saw-toothed beasts by learning more about their fascinating history, psychology, physiology, habits and pop culture significance at the returning SharkCon, a weekend of education and interactive fun honoring the ocean.

See displays featuring touch tanks, paddleboard lessons and even mermaids. Grab some BBQ and drinks before settling near the lake to watch a dazzling nighttime fireworks display. Petersburg Coliseum with ceramics, jewelry, photography, paintings, sculpture and multimedia works. Food and drinks, including beer and wine, are also on the menu.

Petersburg Web : pava-artists. Where : Clearwater Beach Web : majorbeachsoccer. Live music provided by colorful bands, artists and artists will lead up to a spectacular fireworks display set to a sci-fi soundtrack. Where : Downtown Celebration Web : celebrationtowncenter. Where : Madeira Beach. Petersburg Web : vanswarpedtour. Be sure to stay for the huge fireworks display after the race.

Where : Venetian Gardens, Leesburg Web : 4thofjuly. Sample some contest entries in the local restaurant Mojo cook-Off Contest, or try some fruity ice cream, smoothies and juice blends. Where : Dunedin. All you need is a saltwater fishing license, snorkel, mask and dive flag — all readily available from local outfitters. Scallops love making their home amid the gorgeous grass beds of the Florida Aquatic Preserve.

Once you find a cache, drop the dive flag and start collecting. George and St. Vincent Islands for almost 30 years. Learn from experts during this lecture series that addresses the nesting habits of turtles, identification and protection of these nests and how you can help. Sea turtle nesting season begins in May and extends through October. The concert series mainly features acts that represent Florida or the downhome beat of the South. No, they are not rowing boats that resemble the edible Mexican snack made famous by Taco Bell.

This is a different kind of chalupa — the long boat that Spaniards used to navigate the waters around St. Augustine in the 16th century. Where: Bayfront in St. Augustine between the Castillo and Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine Web: staugmaritimeheritage. After dinner, sink into your favorite seat for fireworks along the beachfront. Although the annual Pensacola Beach Air Show features other high-flying acts, the Blues are the stars. Where: Pensacola Beach Web: visitpensacolabeach.

Where: Tallahassee Museum Web: tallahasseemuseum. More than boats and 20, spectators participate in the five-day tournament that also features a contest for future anglers under 16 years old. Hallelujah for AC! Skip the sports bar trivia night for a more refined, yet no less competitive evening in the state capitol.

Runners are required to wear a white shirt, white pants and a red neckerchief. Where: Seville Quarters, Pensacola Web: sevillequarter. Florida goes to the dogs in the Hang 20 Surf Dog Classic in Jupiter Beach, which features doggie surfing and paddle boarding competitions as well as agility shows, doggie surfing lessons, live bands, a kids zone and good eats. There are seminars, too, on reef eco-systems, coral restoration and fish identification.

Make sure to climb the tower for a spectacular view of the area. Waterfront watering holes and eateries are great viewing areas. Bonuses: Live music and, of course, a great Keys sunset. This exciting, colorful fest has dance workshops with live drumming, a street fair and culminates with a gala performance featuring guest artists and the IFE-ILE Afro-Cuban Dance Company. Free with estate admission. Where: Deering Estate, Miami Web: deeringestate. Celebrate the opening of the season with a beach party, lobster boil, free concert and street fair and more in the southernmost city in the continental U.

Where: Downtown Delray Beach Web: downtowndelraybeach. Included are workshops, presentations, panel events with renowned crime fiction and true-crime authors and one-on-one consultations with publishing industry experts. Where : Downtown Stuart Web : facebook. Where: Various locations in Key West Web: tropicalheatkw. In addition to doggie surfing and doggies on paddle boards, there are live bands, face painting, good eats, ice cream, cowabunga cocktails by Perfect Vodka and a whole lot more.

This is a fiercely competitive tournament for skilled inshore and offshore anglers yielding impressive results snapper, trout and other tough catches to weigh in and compete for money prizes. Anglers and a dockside BBQ and party for competitors and guests. Where : Marina Jack, Sarasota Web : sarasotaslam.

The all-night-long street party includes Latin-style food and music, tropical and exotic birds, dancing, street performers, a classic car cruise-in and a tropical beer garden. Where: Historic downtown New Port Richey. Soft drinks are also on-hand for the kiddos, as well as food for purchase. Also includes a food court, music video wall, photo booth and great after-parties. Where : Melbourne Auditorium, Melbourne Web : 80sinthepark. Patrons have the option of partying outdoors for a true tropical experience or cooling off indoors, with music and dancing throughout. Teens can learn makeup techniques, kids can play laser tag and parents can learn more about party planning, daycare and other innovative offerings.

Where : ZooTampa at Lowry Park. Any catch will be placed in an onboard aquarium and identified before being released back into the wild. Where: Fernandina Beach Web: ameliarivercruises. Where: Wausau Web: wausaupossumfestival. Each chef has geared their menus toward local and seasonal ingredients. Where: Various restaurants in Pensacola Web: greatsouthernrestaurants. Kids will enjoy the shark-themed crafts and Stingray Bay and penguin animal experiences. The festivities also include a night Groove at the Zoo with live music and dancing.

Where: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens Web: jacksonvillezoo. Celebrities abound. This family-focused event also includes games, activities and live music. Civil War reenactors will bring the battle to life and the Matheson House will be open for tours. Where: Sweetwater Park, Gainesville Web: mathesonmuseum. Yes, what you serve to eat is still important creativity counts! Kick off your shoes. Let down your hair.

And squish some grapes. The grape stomp is just one part of the wine festival, which opens up 45 acres of muscadine grapes to visitors to festival goers. In the Miami area, close to restaurants and bistros off three-course prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner. Further north, more than 50 eateries from Boca Raton to Jupiter will also offer three-course prix fines menus for lunch and dinner. Where: Various locations in Key West Web: keywestbrewfest. Also on tap: specialty-themed food sections, food trucks and a VIP lounge, at which you can get great eats and beers not found elsewhere on the grounds.

Participants will discover hidden gems of the park, as well as completing tasks along the route which make a positive impact on the environment Where: Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers Beach Web: floridastateparks. Also on hand: great live music and an assortment of vendors and food trucks. All the activities take place in the bigger and better Biker Village, which will host all the bike shows, contests, vendors, food and drink offerings and more. REEF FEST — Activities include seminars, social gathering, silent and live auctions and diving events along some of the best coral reef sites in the country.

All seminars are free, but pre-registration is recommended. Where: Various locations in and near Key Largo Web: reef. Happenings include Native American music and dance and food, a Miccosukee fashion show, airboat rides, tribal arts and crafts and, of course, alligator wrestling shows. Where: Various locations throughout Miami Beach Web: brazilianfilmfestival.

This annual event always features some of the best. This event is so big it has been expanded to three locations over 11 days. Where: Miami Beach Cinematheque Web: miafff. Where: Various locations in Key West Web: womenfest. Also included will be raffle prizes, grand prizes and a poker run. Watch art students take part in a community mural project outside of a bar along Central Avenue or take one of the trolley or walking tours. Petersburg Web : shineonstpete. Where : Tampa Theatre, downtown Tampa Web : tampatheatre.

Enjoy the sounds of bands and artists from around the country. Where : Busch Gardens, Tampa Web : seaworldparks. Where : Englewood Web : englewoodpioneerdays. This festival brings together the pilot and aviation community with Florida families. Where : Wesley Chapel Web : festivalofflightwesleychapel. Then relax and enjoy live music, wine tasting, a corn maze and other fun grown-up activities.

Where : Lakeside Ranch, Brooksville Web : kiwanisofthebrooksvilleridge. GECKOFEST — A month of gecko-themed fundraiser events finishes with the well-attended, daylong Geckofest, which takes over the waterfront streets of quirky Gulfport with residents and visitors dressed up as the reptiles. The day consists of a walking parade, a costume contest, street performers, food vendors, two musical stages and arts and crafts tents.

Where : Downtown Gulfport Web : geckofest. Where : Downtown Orlando Web : artinoddplaces. Entrants make their way toward the finish line while being doused with brightly colored powder that tastes like blueberry, strawberry, orange, banana, watermelon and grape. Where : Grand Central District, St. Petersburg Web : stpeteoktoberfest. Where : Universal Studios, Orlando Web : universalorlando. The toughest of palates, as well as those who like it considerably milder, can try hundreds of gourmet and novelty foods, including beef jerky, sauces, salsas, jellies, rubs, lollipops and straight-up raw hot peppers.

Where : Minnreg Hall, Largo Web : ilikeithotfestival. The offerings include gelato, doughnuts, kabobs, pizza, lobster rolls, tacos, chowders, hummus and more. Where: Flora-Bama, Pensacola Web: florabama. The regatta boasts a handful of categories from long-distance racing featuring multihull sailboats to one-man Hobie Wave timed-beach races. More than 50 shops and communities are signed up to participate in the event, which stretches along Highway 90 in the northern part of the state.

Where: Live Oak to Pensacola. Stroll the beautiful grounds at Kanapaha Gardens until you find the perfect scene for your masterpiece during the 13th Annual Worldwide Artist Paint Out. Or, attend a three-day, instructor-led workshop Field Studies to Studio Painting in that spends the first half doing field studies and the second half creating a larger studio painting from the smaller work. Friday and Saturday evening the workshop instructors will put on a show.

Either get in on the action entry fees are a charitable donation or head out to watch crews paddle along the waterfront in Pensacola. More than cars compete for more than 30 awards. You also might want to practice your map reading skills — or at least make sure you know how to use the compass feature on your smartphone for the treasure hunt. Also includes a poker run, mini-golf pirate tourney and family dinner.

Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum Web: facebook. Take the pledge this year to help make our oceans a healthier and trash-free environment. Where: Various locations from St. Augustine across the Panhandle to Perdido Web: oceanconservancy. Hence the classification as a 5K-ish run. With more than entries in the annual show, it is hard not to be inspired by the color play, intricate stitching and creativity expressed through fabric that has moved well beyond retro sewing circles to high-end art.

Where: Prime F. Arts and crafts vendors will be displaying their unique wares, many items reflective of our area's unique Gulf Coast lifestyle. A children's area is filled with activities for all ages. The Fiesta Seafood Grille offers cooking demonstrations where you can watch area chefs prepare local delicacies. Where: Pensacola, various venues Web: fiestaoffiveflags. Head to the beach to harmonize with thousands of your new best friends, as this fest always attracts an eclectic, fun lineup. Web: artfestival.


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Where: Where else but Key West various locations Web: fantasyfest. The festival kicks off with two days of tours at the best SoFla bird habitats. It showcases multi-media creations representing and encompassing the culture, essence and creativity of the Caribbean and the Americas. Hundreds of experts will be on hand under one roof to give you great ideas. This one has it all: windows, flooring, cabinets, patios, spas, landscaping, home entertainment and much more. An added bonus: a sports bar on the sand showing the best college football matchups. Features free tours via tram, foot, kayak and paddle boards , birding and kids crafting.

Where: J. Where: Various venues at the University of Miami Web: festivalmiami. Enjoy live concerts or watch a pirate ship canon battle. Wear your best pirate garb and you could win some serious booty. Besides the flicks, other activities are: cocktail receptions, round table discussions and tours on the original African Queen. Where: Various locations in Key Largo Web: bogartfilmfestival.

Two stages will feature internationally-known Brazilian bands and solo performers and also the best of the local bands. Where: Payne Park, downtown Sarasota. Or, just go watch as the sky over Miami Beach displays a marvelous array of colors and figures from hundreds of kites, wind socks and wind spinners of all sizes.

Also included: Live music, paper-kite building classes, demonstrations, and competitions for kids and adults. Enjoy spooktacular activities and see rescued bats and creepy crawlies on select days. Butt-kicking live music! Kids activities! Bavarian beauties!

More beer! Two big weekends of fun! Get the chance to screen a colorful variety of documentaries, music videos, animation, narratives and other creative forms of film, each running no longer than 15 minutes. Bring your dog, pet a pig, take a yoga class and sample creative and delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes. Think adorable costumes, critters, corn mazes and characters that will make for great photo ops and create nice memories rather than nightmares.

Where : Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa. Check out the impressive costume contest and sample a treat from a cupcake bake-off, all in the name of a mythical turtle named Cooter. Where : Liberty Park, Inverness Web : www. Vendors will be serving up currywurst, warm pretzels and German baked goods.

Web : sheltonbrothers. A series of workshops, field trips and hands-on experiences introduce guests to red cockaded woodpeckers, scrub jays, star blooms, carnivorous plants and other Florida wonders. Where : Venetian Gardens, Leesburg Web : wingsandwildflowers. Where : Downtown Titusville Web : artandalgorithms. Where : Mount Dora Web : mountdorabicyclefestival. Kids can also enjoy activity stations and entertainment and holiday shoppers can get an early start at the crafts and gifts tents.

Where : Downtown Ocala Web : fafo. The tiny Northwest Florida town of Bonifay has hosted the event since Where: Memorial Field, Bonifay Web: bonifaykiwanisrodeo. Despite our love for German things like beer and brats, we also go gaga for Greek eats like pierogis and gyros stuffed with shaved lamb and feta. Tallahassee gets the party started with its Greek Festival -- make sure you budget enough time to take a tour of the church sanctuary and try out a folk dancing lesson. Meanwhile both Pensacola and St. Augustine are hosting their own dueling festivals the next weekend. Augustine Web: hmog.

Joseph Bay is scallop country. This annual food fest honors the tasty bivalves. Where: George Core Park, Port. Joe Web: scallopfestfl. Also includes trunk shows and champagne shopping. Where: Sandestin and various venues throughout South Walton Web: swfw. Festival goers should expect family-friendly films that transcend stereotypes and begins a dialogue about the LGBT experience. Where: various venues, Pensacola Web: stampedfilmfest. Instead, prepare yourself for two weekends of German food, music, themed contests like stein holding and pumpkin bowling, and, of course, beer to welcome fall.

During Jaxtoberfest there will be a daily keg tapping and family-friendly Kinderfest area. Beaches Oktoberfest kicks off their festivities with a Craft-Toberfest party featuring 40 craft breweries and 10 food trucks. This special event honors Hispanic Heritage Month as guests learn what it meant to defend home, family and country centuries ago at Castillo de San Marcos. Where: Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine Web: nps. More than 40 Americana-style musical acts — from national starts to locals -- play on four stages.

VIP packages available. Where: Suwannee River Web: paddleflorida. Then there are the alligators, which will have special feeding at p. Where: McIntosh Web: friendsofmcintosh. Grab your beach chair, fill the cooler and slather on sunscreen for your chance to enjoy a day of sand and surf while the Blue Angels perform their daring tricks along the coast. Where: Jacksonville Beach. Marks National Wildlife Refuge near Tallahassee. The Southeastern Circuit Rodeo Finals in Davie features some of the top rodeo performers in exciting events that include bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding.

Where: Various locations in Fort Lauderdale Web: flibs. No matter which one you attend, you will be awed by the amazing out-of-sand creations. Web: Respectively, fmbsandsculpting. Special guests and celebrities always abound. Web: Respectively, naplesfilmfest. High-speed offshore powerboats race for 6.