America's Best Vacations October 2010 MW : Page 8

Getaway Beyond the Beach Coastal dune ponds, Old South fishing villages, New Urbanism towns, blues juke joints and French bakery cafes — Florida style. from most areas of the country. Or pack up the car for a weeklong vacation that’s an easy ride from many cities. It’s exotic, a true getaway, yet it doesn’t require the hassles and insecurities of international travel, so it’s also easy to take for granted. Been there, done that. But have you really? Now’s the time to find out. There are plenty O of value offers as well as opportunities to discover another side of Florida when you venture beyond the resort. Here are just a few ideas to whet your adventurous spirit: Historic Apalachicola in Northwest Florida exudes old Florida charm. Walk the quiet streets of the bayside fishing village and peek into lovely old homes and buildings. Stop at Gibson Inn, a fully restored Victorian Inn, selected as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” in 2008. The inn has 30 guest bedrooms, a contemporary restaurant, the Cafe Momi, and features murder mystery weekends and monthly wine dinners. Scenic Highway 30A is a 20-mile stretch between Destin and Panama City Beach that takes you past tiny Grayton Beach, upscale resorts like WaterColor, and the New Urban communities of Seaside and Rosemary Beach. Rent bikes and take the path that follows 30A for a close-up look at the coastal dune ponds, beautiful homes, bookstores, cof-fee shops, beach bars and funky shops that populate the stunning white sand beaches. Visit the Museum of Florida History as well as the Historic Capitol and its museum 8 AMERICA’S BEST VACATIONS ne of the beauties of Florida is its accessibility. Hop on a plane and you’re there in a few hours or less in Tallahassee, which are free and open daily. Check the calendar for Florida State University’s Flying High Circus and if there’s a performance scheduled, don’t miss it. At night, stop at the Bradfordville Blues Club and expe-rience an authentic juke joint with an 80-year musical history. Just south of Tallahassee is Wakulla Springs State Park, home of one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. Take a wildlife boat tour to view alligators, turtles, deer and birds. Three of the MGM Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weismuller were filmed in the jungle-like wilderness surrounding the springs. A lodge on the park property has basic rooms and family-style meals. Gainesville, home of the college football champions, also has nationally known muse-ums of art and natural history. The butterfly rain-forest at the Florida Museum of Natural History has 6,400 square feet of subtropical and tropi-cal plants, a walking trail, waterfalls and roughly 2,000 butterflies and moths. In nearby Ocala, literary fans can tour the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, best known for her book, “The Yearling,” and her memoir, “Cross Creek.” While a walk down Key West’s Duval Street is on most visitors’ agendas and the margari-tas certainly beckon, there’s another wild side worth exploring. Besides snorkeling and diving, you can take a glass-bottom boat tour to see life on a coral reef or search for other unique regional species like Key deer in the brush. Looking for the laid-back, homey side of Florida? The Atlantic Ocean towns of Deerfield Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Pompano Beach and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea are well “At night, stop at the Bradfordville Blues Club and experience an authentic juke joint with an 80-year musical history.” suited for families who are happy to watch pelicans fish, grill out along the beach and lounge by the pool of the bargain-priced hotels you’ll find in the area. Daytona Beach has a similar vibe mixed with a part boardwalk, part amusement park atmosphere. It’s fun to watch the cars parade along the beach, the colorful parasails offshore and the walkers along the edge of the surf. In St. Augustine, there are beautiful churches, fort tours, nostalgic shops and some wonderful French bakeries, including Bistro de Leon, which is the perfect way to spend the day in the classic city. Whether sipping coffee in cafes, biking sand-dusted paths or strolling cobblestone streets, soaking up the sun and fun at funky beach bars, eating Key Lime pie in a beachfront shack, enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with a view, taking a Cape Canaveral boat tour or kayaking the St. Johns River, you’ll experience a world that’s rich with sights, sounds and tastes more varied than you’ll find on many exotic islands or in far-off lands.

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