Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cape Florida Lighthouse

The Cape Florida Lighthouse is one of the State's most celebrated public landmarks. Located south of Miami Beach on Key Biscayne the recently restored tower and rebuilt keeper's cottage is a grand historic monument, part of Florida's Lighthouse Trail and just beautiful.

As part of the Bill Bagg's Cape Florida State Park you can take a tour of the lighthouse at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. You can bike and kayake in the park but frankly this is a lovely beach so my favorite activity when I'm there is swimming, sunbathing and snoozing. It's a peaceful atmosphere and if you hit the beach on the right* day you almost have the place to yourself.

*People often ask me what's the least crowded days of the week to best enjoy the theme parks and beaches. From my experience I've found non-holiday Monday's and Tuesday's to be the most peaceful and laid back. Even the restaurants around here are less hectic and on those days. If you're planning a long weekend forget taking Friday off, go for the lazy Monday every time.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pirate Soul Museum

Vacations and day trips are all about compromise. For example, I love museums but my husband does not. The result is that he agrees to accompany me and I rush through my visit so he won't be bored to tears. Well at least in most museums that's the case, not so at the Pirate Soul a museum we visited a few months ago.

Pirate Soul, located in Key West, contains an impressive 500 piece collection of authentic pirate artifacts. You can find just about everything there, from guns and swords to compasses and medical equipment. One of the only two authenticated Jolly Rogers is located in the museum's library. Pirate Soul even has the world's only real pirate's chest! In a museum, at least.

The museum is clean and modern with many interactive displays in addition to the artifacts. They don't downplay the brutality of pirate life here so if you have romantic fantasies of pirates you may be shocked by the truth. On the other hand if you have romantic fantasies of Johnny Depp you'll find a look-alike here who will be happy to take a photo with you as Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean.

The $15 admission to Pirate Soul was a reasonable price to pay to keep both me and my husband amused for two hours. For our finale we headed for the Rum Barrel Restaurant and Bar for a Red Stripe beer. After all we had to stick with the Caribbean theme.

Get Ready For Scallop Season

I love fresh seafood and what could be better than seafood that you catch yourself? How about seafood that you don't need expensive gear to wrestle out of the sea? Scalloping is the perfect activity for a family day trip because scallops can be found in shallow water and even younger children can help catch dinner. Think of it as an aquatic Easter egg hunt.

Bay scallop season starts July 1st and runs to the end of August. According to state law each scalloper is limited to two gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell. Trust me, that's plenty! If you hunt for scallops from a boat you'll need a recreational saltwater fishing license but you can pick one of those up at any Wal-Mart or marina. You don't need a license if you wade in without snorkel gear.

Studies have shown that the best area for scalloping is the Steinhatchee River. Since I've never scalloped anywhere else I can't say that it's the best but I can say that I've never felt the need to try anywhere else. If you need to stop by a marina either for a license or a boat rental I recommend the River Haven Marina and Motel. The people are helpful and friendly and, should you decide to stay over night, the motel rooms are clean and cheap ($55).

For dinner try Roy's restaurant. They serve up big piles of fresh crab claws, real potato salad and sweet tea. Roy's is located at the mouth of the Steinhatchee on Hwy 51 is one of the best seafood restaurants in the area.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Golf and Dining at the Walt Disney World Resort


Saturday afternoon my husband and I headed to the Walt Disney World Resort for a little golf and a nice dinner. We ended up playing at Disney's Palm which is one of the original, and best, golf courses at Disney. The $30 after 3:00 special makes it a real bargain too.

Now one of the first things you should know about me is that I'm not the world's best golfer. Basically I'm just along for the ride and I take a whack at the ball every now and then. My husband on the other hand is very serious about the game. I love Disney's Palm because it's so scenic with all the beautiful trees on the course, but of then I'm usually not keeping my score. My husband, who is a "serious" golfer, says that what Disney's Palm course needs the most is a chainsaw. I enjoyed myself despite his bad round.

After golf it was off to the California Grill where the views from the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort are spectacular. Be sure to ask for a seat by the window when you book your reservation, and do make a reservation! The California Grill is one of Disney's most popular restaurants.

The California Grill's decor is sleek and modern keeping with the theme of the Contemporary Resort. Decorated in marble, glass and aluminum the restaurant features an on-stage kitchen with brick pizza ovens, a wood burning grill, a sushi bar and a dessert shop.

Some tips about dining at the California Grill

  • Let your server choose the wines to accompany each course. They're well trained and usually make great selections from specially selected California wines. It will give you an opportunity to try something new.
  • I highly recommend the Wine-Braised Artichokes, the Pork Tenderloin and the center cut Filet.
  • I don't recommend the Sushi. I know I've just offended some people by saying that, the California Grill's Sushi is supposed to be one of it's strongest points, but I've always found it to be a little bland. I will qualify my statement by saying that I've never sat at the Sushi Bar so maybe interacting with the Sushi chef's would make a difference. I promise to give that a try next time.
  • For dessert the Grand Marnier Crepes are always the best choice. With vanilla custard, raspberries and blackberry coulis this dessert is unbeatable. Actually, truth be told, these crepes are the whole reason I talked my husband into going to the California Grill last night.
I won't lie, the California Grill is an expensive restaurant ($30-$50 per person) but it's one of those special dining experiences that you should treat yourself to every now and again. Yeah, that's what I tell my husband but really I just go for the Grand Marnier Crepes!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Florida's Best Beaches

It must be nice to make a career out of going to the beach. That's exactly what one man, Dr. Beach, has done. Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman began publishing his list of America's Best Beaches in 1991 and since then he's become the #1 authority on the subject. He bases his evaluation on 50 criteria, everything from sand quality to litter and he only evaluates beaches that he's visited personally.

Here's a little more information on my favorite Florida beaches that are coincidentally some of Dr. Beach's picks:

Caladesi Island State Park is located between Clearwater Harbor and the Gulf. It's one of the last undeveloped barrier islands on the Gulf coast.

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is certainly one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen. Miles of white sugar sand along the Gulf of Mexico, you won't see another beach like it in Florida.

Bahai Honda State Park is located in southern Florida in the Florida Keys. The park has three sandy beaches which are unusual for the keys. The sunsets here are spectacular.

Visit Florida has the rest of what Dr. Beach considers the best beaches in Florida.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Thinking of Relocating to Florida?

Boy do I have the home for you! Hulk Hogan's house in Belleair, Florida (near Tampa) is on the market.
Situated on a bluff overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico, this magnificent, gated Country French mansion is constructed of the finest materials imported from Europe and elsewhere. The architectural features and appointments are exquisite, and the beautifully landscaped one and one-half acres with 400-year-old oaks are enhanced by breathtaking views. Built in 1996 and featuring more than 17,000 square feet of living area with guesthouse, multiple garages, boat house, two 30,000# boat lifts plus an exceptionally large floating dock for personal watercraft, this celebrity owned home offers privacy, security, comfort and serenity.
At $25,000,000 it's a bargain!

Photos of the house can be viewed at Coldwell Banker's Luxury Real Estate.

Hey, it never hurts to look.
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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Disney Vacation Planning Kit

A great way to prepare for a Florida vacation is to take advantage of the abundance of free information available. Just because you ask nicely Disney will ship you a free vacation planning kit. Visit the official Disney site to get your vacation planning DVD and CD-Rom with planning information.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Welcome!

Welcome to my new home on the Internet!

There's a million things to do in Florida and it's certain that my family is never bored. I spend a lot of time dreaming about our next adventure and that usually involves a lot of hard work researching, planning and bargain hunting. My family takes some really great vacations! Some of our adventures are inexpensive Florida day trips and others are luxurious Florida getaways but they all have one thing in common: Florida! This is such a great state with so many different things to do. Quite simply, we are never bored!

My friends and extended family, in state and out, are always asking me for travel tips, restaurant recommendations and theme park secrets. "A Long Florida Vacation" is where I hope to keep track of all the information I gather about how to get the most out of living in paradise.