Summer Getaways

Summer Getaways

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BY MARIA IANNUCCI

 

Gainesville

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Gainesville has built a reputation as one of the most desirable communities in Florida. While the city is well-known in the college sports arena, Gainesville offers some great getaways for those who enjoy all things in nature and the outdoors. SO, pack your cargo shorts and sunscreen, jump onto I-75, and be there before you can even get hungry for lunch.

The Morningside Nature Center, Gainesville’s premier nature park, has more than six miles of trails winding through sand hills, flatwoods, cypress domes, and areas where native vegetation is being restored. Morningside also boasts a spectacular wildflower display and opportunity to see a diverse array of wildlife.

At the Florida Museum of Natural History, there are oodles to discover about the natural side of our state. The Butterfly Rainforest is a can’t miss living exhibit that features hundreds of free-flying butterflies and birds from around the world, along with an assortment of other animals including turtles and fish to experience first-hand. The lush landscape is planted in tropical trees and colorful flowering plants amid waterfalls and a walking path. There are several permanent exhibits and a rotation of limited-time offerings to suit every curiosity.

For those who need to cool off after a busy summer day, visitors can visit a number of crystal clear freshwater springs in the area and enjoy the beauty of their landscape.

Cap off the evening at The Jones Eastside, a local and independently owned community restaurant committed to providing sustainable, local, and organic food options. With traditional, vegetarian, and vegan options; there’s something wholesome for everyone’s taste.

Discover more about things to do in Gainesville by visiting www. gainesvillechamber.com.

 

Sanibel Island

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Spending a romantic weekend with your significant other is the dream of many couples when it comes to planning a getaway. With over 250 kinds of shells, 22 miles of bike paths, 15 miles of beaches, and zero traffic lights, Sanibel Island is just a short ride to a long, lazy weekend by the beach and under the stars.

Consider accommodations at one of the many smaller inns or bed & breakfasts to keep it cozy. Castaways Beach & Bay Cottages offers true Florida charm with its brightly-colored and landscaped units. With a pool, nearby spa, beautiful beach access and boating opportunities; there’s plenty to keep couples relaxing together.

When you’re ready to head out, the Sanibel Lighthouse located in Old Town, is a must-see. Built in 1884, it is Sanibel’s oldest structure. Old Town is a quaint historical area on eastern Sanibel Island where the island’s first settlers made their homes. The Sanibel Historical Society has produced a walking and biking tour that is approximately 2.5 miles long with more than 19 sites to see.

Sanibel Island is known as the best shelling spot in the Western Hemisphere. So many shells wash ashore on Sanibel that many visitors come to Sanibel just for the shelling. Blind Pass is an area known for its great shelling due to the tidal currents depositing shells on northern tip of the island.

For those who prefer to look at a collection of some of the beautiful shells from the area, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is just the right ticket. The Museum focuses on collection – based research of shells with an emphasis on Southwest Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

For more information about Sanibel Island, please visit www.sanibel-captiva.org.

 

St. Petersburg

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Attention shoppers: Ever just want to head out of town and just see what treasures you can discover? A trip to St. Petersburg could be just the ticket.

While traditional malls offer a good opportunity to “one-stop shop,” cruise down Central Avenue and through the surrounding streets for some unique shopping adventures. Start at Haslam’s Book Store, said to be Florida’s largest new and used book store. Established 80 years ago, the building is packed with books and hosts the occasional autographing event.

For those with a sharp eye or who just love to wander through aisles of items from yesteryear, there are several antique shops in the Grand Central District of town for perusing. Those businesses include Iron Pelican Antiques, Timeless Treasures Boutique, and The White Elephant Antiques & Collectables.

Fashion seems to be trending high in the area, with a selection of boutiques for the visiting. Brides-to-be can check out The Dressing Room in their quest for the perfect gown. Seekers of handcrafted items and all things casual can check out RoCo Traders with its sterling silver jewelry, coastal casual attire for the ladies, and handmade furniture ad distinctive home and garden décor.

Looking for something more specialized? Paper Street Market offers antiques for a new generation, including vintage, industrial and salvage items that may have been evading you. And for your inner art, stop at Uniquely Yours Boutique. In addition to women’s clothing, jewelry, handbags, scarves, gifts and more; the Artistic Expressions Studio offers silk painting.

When you are ready to recharge your batteries, St. Pete Brasserie Restaurant & Wine Lounge offers you a comfortable seat and a menu full of special goodies like Duck Wings, Grilled Salmon Salad, or their Alsacienne Onion Tart. There are too many shops in St. Petersburg to list.

To create your own list of places to shop, please visit www.stpete.com.

Melbourne

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If it’s a fun family weekend you’re after, Melbourne is a great option. The city sits on the water in Brevard County. With a drive of less than two hours from Polk County, Melbourne is close to I-95 but far enough to not realize it.

Head over to the Brevard Zoo, where the kids (and their parents) can go ape over all the attractions. In addition to all the traditional exhibits are several exciting options. Feeding the giraffes and lorikeets are always a treat and a good moment to pose in front of your camera. Kayaking through Expedition Africa is an option; the trip is guided and available for guests ages 5 and up. One unique opportunity, the Rhino Encounter, allows guests to meet one of the Zoo’s rhinos up close and personal. Treetop Trek combines tightropes, crab walks, jungle bridges, nets and zip lines; allowing visitors to experience nature like never before. The attraction is comprised of three exciting aerial obstacle courses; each suited for various age groups and physical-fitness levels. Several inclusive packages are available.

You can go full speed at the Andretti Thrill Park, where guests of all ages can ride go-karts at up to 40 mph, bumper boats, enjoy batting cages, laser tag, mini-golf and much more. Ride with the kids, or kick back and relax as you watch them have tons of fun in a safe environment.

For those who want to check out the great outdoors, Melbourne’s year-round semi-tropical climate allows you to partake in many recreational amenities such as golf, snorkeling, swimming and the Sebastian Inlet State Recreational area with 578 areas of fishing, boating and camping.

To find out more about the Melbourne area, please visit www.melpb-chamber.org.

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