Tag: "Florida"

Travel Plan – Sanibel Island itinerary for Spring

You may be thinking of escaping the monotonous daily routine to spend a few days in the sun looking for shells, visiting a wildlife reserve, watching dolphins, or simply enjoying the casual atmosphere of an island not far away. Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast, about 15 miles across the bridge from Fort Myers, might be just the place with warm days, cool nights, and lots to see and do.

Day One – Arrive mid-afternoon at Southwest Florida International Airport and rent a car to drive to the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa, about 21 miles. (Avg taxi fare $45.) Guestrooms have modern amenities and private balconies overlooking the waterfront. Enjoy casual or formal dining at any one of five restaurants. After checking in, you could unwind at the spa before dinner at the hotel’s Tarpon Café. Great steaks, pasta, and seafood after 6pm. Prices: $20-$40.
Rates: From $199/dbl. (Packages & promotions available.) Parking: $12/day.

Day Two – Start early!

With a map and directions from the hotel, take the Causeway across the bridge to Sanibel Island, about an 8-minute drive to the Over Easy Café on Periwinkle Way. Extensive menu of traditional American and Mexican breakfasts. Bridge Toll – $6/car. Café Hours: 7am-3pm. Prices: $10-$15.

Drive to the J.N “Ding” Darling Wildlife Rescue Refuge (named after cartoonist Jay Norwood Darling), 6400 acres of the mangrove ecosystem encompassing 1/3 of Sanibel Island. Bring your camera! You can rent a bicycle, or take a guided tour of the nature trails inhabited by vast numbers of migratory birds and wildlife. Free 30-minute naturalist programs and interactive exhibits at the Cross Dike Pavilion or Education Center. Bookstore & gift shop. Kayaks, canoes, fishing bait & licenses available.
Entrance Fee: $5/car, $1/bicycle
Hours: Wildlife Drive, 7am-7:30/8pm. Daily, closed Friday.
Education Center, Jan-Apr, 9-5pm, May-Dec, 9-4pm.
Tours: Tram, Adult – $13, Child – $8. Kayak/Canoe, Adult – $30, Child – $20. Nature & Sea Life, Adult – $23, Child – $15.

Lunch on the patio of the popular Island Cow. The extensive menu includes baked oysters, shrimp won tons, crab, and frickles (fried pickles). Starbucks, beer, and other beverages. Gift shop for Moo Ware. Hours: 7:30am-till closing. Prices: $10-$25.

Spend time this afternoon at the Sanibel Historical Museum, a village of restored historical buildings from the 1500s-1800s including an old schoolhouse, the Rutland “cracker house,” Ms Charlotta’s Tea Room, and Bailey’s General Store.
Hours: Nov-Apr, Wed-Sat, 10am-4pm. May-Aug, 10am-1pm.
Admission: Adults (18+) – $10. Unique items at the Old Village Gift Shop.

Dinner at the Blue Giraffe on Periwinkle Way before returning to the hotel. Try the chicken scarpariello with Italian sausage, peppers, and potatoes, or an order of babyback ribs. Hours: Daily, 9am-9pm. Prices: $15-$30.

Day Three – Seashells by the shore

Have a quick breakfast at the Palm Court Bakery in the hotel, grab your camera and beach gear, and off to Bowman’s Beach at the eastern end of the island. Enjoy sunbathing, swimming, daydreaming, or bird watching. Join the other beachcombers in the “Sanibel Stoop”; looking for shells in the sand is a popular pastime among visitors and locals. Shells are a significant part of the history, economy, and culture of Sanibel Island, where even the streets are named after shells. Picnic tables, grills, bike racks, restrooms. Hours: 7am-7pm. Parking: $2/hr

Time for lunch at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill, named after the main character in the novels by the owner Randy Wayne White. Recommended for great atmosphere and delicious food prepared with Caribbean spices and special sauces. Clam chowder, fish tacos, and jumbo shrimp are favorites. If you’re in the mood for an afternoon cocktail, have Doc’s specialty rum mojito. Hours: 7 days, 11am-11pm. Prices: $11-$30.

Visit the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel-Captiva Road, the one museum in the world featuring hundreds of shells in fascinating exhibits and interactive displays. The museum houses the most common shells of the islands and mangroves, 25,000 types of land shells, rare shells, and deep sea mollusks. It is educational, as well, with a children’s learning lab and exhibits explaining the benefits of shells used in medicine. The Raymond Burr exhibit, famous shell collector and philanthropist, is a new addition to the museum. You’ll find apparel, books, jewelry, games, china, and wonderful, unique shell items at the museum store (shellmuseum.org/store).
Hours: Daily, 10am-5pm. Closed New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, July 4th, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Admission: Adults – 17 and up, $9. Youth – 5 to 16, $5, ages 4 and under, Free.

Return to the hotel to relax before dinner at the Courtside Steakhouse (menu & prices were unavailable).

Day Four – Sea Cruise

Early morning stop by the Palm Court before driving to the Marina and an exciting sea cruise onboard the Sanibel Thriller. The 55′ yacht takes you on a narrated tour in the Gulf of Mexico and Pine Island Sound around Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Great opportunity to take pictures of dolphins, wildlife, and the 120-year old lighthouse. Tour (1 -11/2 hrs): Adults – $43, Child – $35. Reservations.

Return to dockside and lunch at Gramma Dot’s Seaside Saloon, winner of the Taste of the Island People’s Choice Award for 7 years (original owner & world traveler Dorothy Stearns.) Dine on fresh seafood, enjoy waterfront activities, and browse at the Marina Ship Store. Hours: Daily,11:30am- 8pm. Prices: $15-$30
Back at the hotel, relax and refresh, while looking forward to dinner tonight at the Sangria Grill. Enjoy excellent sangria made in house by Pepper and “food for the fun of it” by Chef Todd Erling. A variety of international cuisine on both regular and vegetarian menus. Good reviews for this recent addition to Sanibel dining.
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11am-10pm. Sun, 11am-8pm. Closed Monday. Prices: $12 & up.
Day Five – Go Shopping

After breakfast at the Over Easy, it’s time to shop at Periwinkle Place for eclectic gift items, jewelry, clothing, and beach wear at numerous stores including Trader Rick’s, Butterfly Beach, and Peach Republic. Visit Sea Life for unique shell items, and Tiki Jim’s for T-shirts and souvenirs. Have lunch at the Blue Giraffe before returning to the hotel to pack before dinner. Enjoy the beautiful sunset and view from the verandah at Charley’s Cabana Bar. Have a mojito, martini, or other specialty cocktail with an order of tapas or a delicious gourmet flatbread. Prices: $10-$25.

Day Six – Thoughts on leaving. Sanibel is like other islands in many ways with beaches, warm weather, and tropical breezes, yet it holds a different kind of appeal from similar vacation destinations. Besides the fun you’ll have exploring for shells and discovering the culture of Sanibel, you will escape the noisy nightlife, bright lights, and fashion conscious crowds that flock to the usual tourist hotspots in the spring. It is an ideal place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature and the simpler pleasures of life. In the words of world traveler Arthur Frommer, Sanibel is “an idyllic haven of white-sand beaches.”
Getting There: All major airlines fly into Florida’s Southwest International Airport, many nonstop. Some travelers may prefer driving their own vehicle (or renting one).

Sharon L Slayton

Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida – videos

I had a fun trip to Tampa today that included a stop at Big Cat Rescue. Admissions was $29 per person and we went on a guided 1.5 hour tour with 19 other people. It was a little bit hard to find prime viewing spots along the fence but it was still very cool. I’d say you got to see their cats (all rescued from pet owners in over their heads or breeders or circus folks or whatever – bobcats, tigers, lions, cougars, an oscelot) closer up than you would at most zoos.

It’s not cheap, but it’s hard to rail against the prices charged by a non-profit animal rescue group. Plus it’s a cool way to spend an hour and a half of your time. There are many more videos on their Youtube channel. My own pictures will come in time.

Things For Couples To Do In Florida

Florida is one of the greatest places in America, and every year millions of domestic and international tourists travel to the sunshine state to experience the best beaches, food, attractions and south-eastern culture. Florida is also an amazing place to visit with your partner, and there are a number of spectacular sights to see and things to do.

Take Orlando for example. 1971 saw the gates of The Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney’s children paradise creation, open to rapturous applause, not only placing Florida on the entertainment map, but also making Orlando the number one resort for young families everywhere. Let’s take a look at some of the best things for couples to do in Florida, and see whether you can be persuaded to book a holiday to this fantastic destination!

Romantic Adventures

Real romance means finding beautiful, tranquil and special landscapes to serenade your wife or husband – and where better to see such places then from a hot air balloon flying high above Florida! Not only will you be able to enjoy amazing horizons and warm breezes, but there are a number of optional extras offered by the local hot air balloon companies to make your experience that little bit more special. From one to four hour excursions, to champagne toasts and video recordings of your flight, a hot air balloon ride over Florida is a great way to introduce yourself to the sunshine state.

Fresh Fruit and Fresh Air

If you’re looking to take a stroll with your other half, then why not visit the Orlando Farmer’s Market, one of the most vibrant and cultured places in the entire state. If you’re catering for yourself on your holiday to Florida, then this market is a great place to source out the finest and freshest ingredients for your meals.

Benefiting from live entertainment all through the market, from street performers to bands and artists, shopping for fresh fruit, vegetables and meats has never been so much fun. Furthermore, the farmer’s market is also a great place to buy fabrics and other arts and crafts materials!

Dinner at the Theatre

Usually couples have dinner before their evening entertainment, but when it comes to the theatres in Florida, they offer nothing less than an entire evenings service, looking after all aspects of your night. Although there is a lot of evening entertainment competition in Florida, the dinner theatres are one of the best ways to spend some time with your loved one, while experiencing some of the best dishes and wines in the state too. From Pirates Dinner Theatre to Al Capone’s, interactive theatres are located all over Orlando, and they offer the best entertainment as well as the best evening meal menus.

Dolphin Training

If you want to surprise your loved one with an experience they’ll never forget, then why not book a day of dolphin training! The ‘Trainer For A Day’ program offered by Florida’s Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive experience with your own dolphin, and with the help of a trainer, you’ll be able to work one to one with one of the world’s most amazing sea creatures. From swimming to feeding, and even talking with the dolphins, this is truly an unforgettable experience.

Guest author Jamie Kind writing for www.cheapflights.com the flight comparison website.

Driving up I-95 from Florida to New York & Massachusetts

Having lived in Korea for a while, it’s been a long time since I’ve driven more than 4 or 5 hours. In the last day or so I guess we drove about 18. It was tough.

Part of that is probably because I’m out of practice. Part of it is probably because I’m 12 years older than I was last time I made a long-haul drive. And part of it was probably bad planning.

We left home around midnight and had no traffic driving through Flordia in the middle of the night. Even construction in Jacksonville on 95 couldn’t do much to slow us down.

But we began to flag as the sun came up and by 8 or 9 in the morning we stopped at a rest area to nap in the car for a couple of hours. We then drove until about 5:00 PM. We were tired but I could have kept going. The only problem was comfort – our backs and necks hurt. We got a hotel room and figured we’d sleep from 7:00 pm to 4:00 am. Then we’d finish off Virginia and get through DC before morning rush hour.

We ended up leaving at 2 am (my wife couldn’t sleep so she woke me up to let me know and then told me to go back to bed while she ate and watched TV – even when she finally went back to bed I couldn’t go back to sleep.) Even going through Washington DC at 5:30 we saw that 95 was getting crowded. Leaving at 2:00 wasn’t so bad. The problem was with three hours of sleep, we were still tired.

So after DC and Baltimore we took a nap at a rest area in Maryland, about 6-9. Then we drove the rest of the way to my friend’s house in Queens (a silly way since my cheapo Garmin navigation things shortest driving time includes going through the Lincoln Tunnel and driving through the hear of Manhattan on 42nd street to the Queens Midtown Tunnel and then onto 495 – at least the dogs got to see Times Square).

In conclusion, I am wiped out. I think my days of driving all night and then all day are done. But the real conclusion is that we’re with friends now and we’ll be with family tomorrow.