Florida,the Sunshine State

A wonderful 18 years in the State of Florida, my biggest chunk of life. Memories that will not go away easy. The State is sunshine, friendly, and happy; so many things to do it will take an entire blog history to tell. I will hit the highlights of my favorites.

Starting with the Daytona Beach area, NASCAR ,the 500, the Pepsi 400 ,the moto 200, the 24 hrs of Daytona, and the Spring Break, the beach season from Memorial day but all year for our snowbirds from the North. You see the Daytona International Speedway, you are now waiting for the Daytona 500 on February 20th. In my time I used to sneak in to see the races for free; those were the college days. Now you can see all about it in the official webpage http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/?homepage=true

You have my University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University the best in the air, Eagles Soar. Go Eagles. That I visit as much as possible now far away, but still involved with the Alumni groups. The official webpage http://www.erau.edu/db/index.html

You have the the Aquatic park and an unlimited amount of water activities, not to mention the Angel & Phelps Chocolate factory tour, the Bulow plantation ruins, Sugar Mills Botanical Gardens, Ponce Inlet lighthouse, Jackie Robinson memorial park, the Casements, and Tomoka Mound. The hotels are plenty such as Treasure Island Hotel, Daytona Hilton, Daytona Inn, Acapulco Hotel, etc,Eating establishements like Barnacles; Alfie Restaurant, Aunts Catfish, Oyster Pub, etc, and a wonderful Daytona International Airport, webpage http://flydaytonafirst.com/ You can see those and a lot more at the Daytona Beach area tourist webpage here http://www.daytonabeach.com/

Up in Saint Augustine, you have the oldest city in the USA founded by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565! Here you have Lightner Museum, Ripley’s Believe or Not, Fountain of Youth ,where the great Pedro landed; Fort Matanzas , trolley tours, horse wagon tours, the oldest House in America, and the Bridge of Lions,old world setting. The Spanish Columbia restaurant ,like you were in Spain.  So many weekends spent in this town, I can walk it again blindfolded. See the beautiful Cathedral, with its Spanish mudejar construction. You will get all info at the official tourist site here http://www.oldcity.com/

Moving to the west along the I4 expressway, you reach the Orlando magical area, what can I say here, Disney, Universal, Medieval Times, International Drive, Lake Buena Vista drive, the Florida Gator Bowl, the lake at Eola, so much that is impossible to list all.  You have the more affordable area of Kissimmee just by the Disney entrance with many hotels, and restaurants  to choose from; my favorites were the Santa Fe Disney hotel, and the Caribbean Hotel too. The restos were the Hemingway at the Hyatt Cypress hotel, Bongos Cafe, Rainforest, Wolfgang Puck, Red Lobster, Ming Court, etc. The best location for staying other than inside Disney property or Universal official hotels is to find a property by Lake Buena Vista. The official Orlando area tourist webpage http://www.orlandoinfo.com/ A bit further in Kissimmee you have restos Applebee’s, Chili’s, Dennys’s Friendlys , the choices are endless here, official webpage for tourism in Kissimmee is http://www.visitkissimmee.com/leisure/

You have shopping at FLorida Mall, Pointe Orlando, and The Mall at Millenia, and Premium Outlets, in addition to those in the theme parks areas. The area is very well serve by the Orlando International Airport webpage http://www.orlandoairports.net/

Moving west still on the expressway I4 you will reach the Tampa area, more wonders, like Busch Gardens,the aquarium at St Petersburg,wonderful beaches like Fort De Soto National Park, Clearwater Beach, Treasure Island,ST Pete Beach, and Ybor City in Tampa, Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo, etc etc . You get nice hotels like the Grand Hyatt, Marriotts, Intercontinental,Embassy Suites, and Holiday Inn Busch Gardens locations.  The Tampa airport site is http://www.tampaairport.com/

Here in Ybor City you will find the oldest Spanish restaurant in the USA ,est, 1905. Columbia, webpage http://www.columbiarestaurant.com/ it was our home away from home wherever they were in Florida.  Also Shells,  webpage ,http://www.shellsseafood.com/  ,and shopping at Channelside,Hyde Park Village, Westshore Plaza,and Ybor City own stores.  The official tourist webpage for Tampa is http://www.visittampabay.com/

And the webpage for Ybor City shopping and entertainment is http://www.centroybor.com/ the local chamber with tourist info is at http://www.ybor.org/index.cfm?section=vs

Further to the west coast you have the wonderful Saint Petersburg area, the Sirata Beach Resort is marvelous to stay in, and restos like Sloppy Joe’s, and PJ’s are great. Make sure to see the pier at St Petersburg at webpage http://www.stpetepier.com/ wonderful place to be at.  The official area tourist webpage is http://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/

Coming down on the I75 you will reach the Cape Coral area, where I spent many times because family is there,well have family in Orlando, Tampa, Cape Coral ,and Miami Lakes ::) still a bunch. However this area is best known for the Sunshine Family Park, great rides in water and else, webpage http://www.capecoral.net/SunSplash/Home/tabid/979/Default.aspx Great fishing out of here on boat rentals at Paradise, webpage http://www.vacationboats.com/

Hotels the Holiday Inn Express at the entrance to the city is great, as well as the Casa Loma Motel ,webpage http://www.casalomamotel.com/ . We try the first one for the pool and the other for its pool and look at the causeway as sometimes we were too many to find lodgings with the family. We ate with them but we had going out to see Anthony’s on the Blvd, Del Prado Blvd , great seafood and ambiance, webpage http://anthonysontheblvd.com/

Shopping best is by the mall Coralwood Shopping Center or the outlet mall by the I75 road at Miromar Outlet ,webpage http://www.miromaroutlets.com/  . There is no designated tourist webpage.

We head down on the I75 and the Alligator Alley to Miami area ,and the wild Miami Beach, plus Ft Lauderdale. You can see the Miami Seaquarium, Miami MetroZoo, Barnacle historical Park, ancient Spanish monastery with webpage http://www.spanishmonastery.com/ , Vizcaya Museum castle and gardens, Fairchild Tropical park, Everglades Alligator Farm, Island Queen Cruises, Miccosukee Indian Village,Wings over Miami museum,etc there is more the above are just my favorites, you can see them all with links at webpage http://www.amazingmiamiattractions.com/index.html

The beaches the nightlife is awesome , so much to tell, Lincoln Road is great down to South Beach at Miami Beach, then up north Bal Harbour is nice and trendy. Coconuts Grove is quaint and chic, as is Miracle Mile. The official Miami tourist webpage http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/visitors/

Shopping /resto is wonderful in Lincoln Road,see webpage http://lincolnroadmall.com/ ,the same can be said of Coconut Grove ,with its CocoWalks, see webpage http://www.cocowalk.net/ , and Miracle Mile at Coral Gables, webpage http://shopcoralgables.com/ . The Bayside Marketplace at http://www.baysidemarketplace.com/ , and Miami downtown or city center area offers plenty, by the port of miami at webpage http://www.downtownmiami.com/ . For transportation best is get in by Miami International Airport at webpage http://www.miami-airport.com/

Plenty of Restaurants, from La Carreta, Joe Allen’s, TGIFridays, Puerto Sagua, Smith &  Wollensky, Joe’s Stone Crab, Bongos Cuban Cafe,Versailles,News Cafe, so many good ones over the years, if you need to find a good one try this webpage http://miami.diningguide.com/

The greater Miami tourist webpage http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/Index.asp , and for the sports enthusiasts you can see the Miami Dolphins and Florida Marlins teams here http://www.miamidolphins.com/ ,and  http://florida.marlins.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=fla ,and Miami Heat, http://www.nba.com/heat/

Shopping you have International Mall, Dolphin Mall, Aventura Mall, Dadeland Mall, Bayside Marketplace as my favorites. Moving a bit north to Ft Lauderdale , you have for shopping the very best Sawgrass Mills, then Broward Mall, Pembroke Lakes Mall, and Galleria as my favorites over the years. The Las Olas blvd area is fantastic, see the dedicated webpage here http://www.lasolasboulevard.com/ .

You should pay a visit to the International Swimming Hall of Fame, http://www.ishof.org/. Visit the Bass Pro Shops for fishing gear par excellence, webpage http://www.basspro.com/homepage.html just go to stores Florida, then Ft Lauderdale. Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, Boomers , Butterfly World, CB Smith Park, Seminole Indians Casino, Billie Swamp Safari, Flamingo Gardens, International Game Fish Association museum at webpage http://www.igfa.org/ , Jungle Queen Riverboat, and Anne Koln Nature Center as some of the best sights.  The sports enthusiast can watch a game of ice hockey at the Florida Panthers stadium in Sunrise, webpage http://panthers.nhl.com/index.html

You can get all the above in details plus more at the official tourist webpage for Ft Lauderdale here, http://www.sunny.org/visitors/  .Plenty of restos such as TGIFridays, Cheesecake Factory, China Grill, le Bistro, le Cafe de Paris,Quarterdeck with great munchies and beers always at webpage http://quarterdeckrestaurants.com/v2/ . For all your restaurants needs see my old reliable site here http://fort.lauderdale.diningguide.com/

No hotels as this was my last home before leaving for France. Great times in the Ft lauderdale/Miramar area of Broward County.  The wonderful airport for international and domestic flighst is http://www.fortlauderdaleinternationalairport.com/

Last in my stop is the Florida Keys, my fondness for Key Largo, Marathon, and Key West. Plenty of water sports, fishing, and good laidback eating. The best is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park the first underwater park celebrating 50 years this year. Everglades National State Park,and the Biscayne Park, all great nature lovers heavens.  Have a bite and great beer at Coconuts Restaurant, you can rent fishing out of here too. Marathon is better for scuba diving, and has the keys Airport as well as the nicest beach at Sombrero Beach, a huge popular conservation program of turtles and dolphins, a city marina with 224 berth. For that leisure back Florida conch living and nice meal try the Porky’s Bayside BBQ ,webpage http://www.porkysbaysidebbq.com/ordereze/Default.aspx

And then we have Key West, the southernmost city in the USA, only 90 miles (145 kms ) . Try  Dolphin encounter charter to chase and see them in the wild, get a seaplane adventure and head out for Tortugas isle even further from the mainland USA, and see Fort Jefferson, get on the Trolley or Conch train for a ride thru the streets of Key West, and of course dont leave without seeing Ernest Hemingway house and museum, Key West Aquarium, San Carlos Institute at webpagehttp://www.institutosancarlos.org/, the Mel Fisher Maritime museum, and Mallory Square  amongst the best.

We had stayed with friends houses in Marathon, and at Marquesa, webpage here http://www.marquesa.com/ . For eating, we are regulars of Kelly Caribbean Bar & Grill, the old actress of TV and movie fame no longer owns it but the food and service is the same at least as far back as 2009.webpage http://www.kellyskeywest.com/ Other been the El Meson de Pepe, and Sloppy’s Joes.

The official tourist webpage for the Florida Keys is http://www.fla-keys.com/ . Hope you have enjoyed this overview of a great State with lots of memories for me. Some photos to follow.

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