10 Amazing Historic Hotels in Florida

With its seemingly endless coastline, crystal clear water, and warm weather year-round, Florida has been attracting people like a magnet for generations. Given its long history as a tourist mecca, it stands to reason that the Sunshine State has some of the most amazing historic hotels in America.  From a shimmering pink castle on St. Pete Beach to Art Deco masterpieces on Miami Beach, Florida’s historic hotels continue to dazzle new generations of fans of majestic hotels with a long and colorful past.

10. Fontainebleau Miami Beach

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The Fontainebleau Miami Beach continues to make history as the most famous hotel at one of America’s most desirable locations. Situated on 20 acres in the heart of Millionaire’s Row, the Fontainebleau completed a stunning $1 billion makeover in 2008 that expanded total guestrooms to 1,504 and reconfirmed its long-time standing as one of the nation’s most luxurious resorts. It originally opened in 1954 with 554 rooms, making it the largest hotel in Miami Beach. Designed by noted architect Morris Lapidus, the Fontainebleau in 2012 was named the “Top Building in Florida” by the American Institute of Architects for its distinctive curved façade facing the Atlantic Ocean. The original hotel tower featured a 17,000-square-foot lobby with a bowtie marble floor and the famous two-story “staircase to nowhere.” The elevated, 6,500-square-foot pool was the setting for a memorable scene in the James Bond classic, “Goldfinger.” Today’s Fountainbleau features a 40,000-square-foot spa.

9. Loews Don Cesar

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The Loews Don Cesar has been a Gulf Coast icon since it opened in 1928. The landmark pink castle on St. Pete Beach showcases Mediterranean and Moorish architecture with balconies and terraces lining the 10-story masterpiece. Named for Don Ce-Sar in Vincent Wallace’s opera Maritana, it has been the playground for the famous including Clarence Darrow and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1942, it was purchased by the U.S. Army to serve as a sub-base hospital and convalescent center for airmen returning from WW II. It didn’t reopen as a hotel until 1973 when it regained its status among Florida’s elite resort hotels. Its unique design has served as the backdrop of two notable movies—“Once Upon a Time in America” (Robert De Niro and James Woods) and “Forever Mine” (Ray Liotta, Ralph Fiennes). Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the 277-room hotel recently completed an extensive renovation.

8. The Breakers

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Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, The Breakers stands as a testament to the resilience of great places in beautiful locations. Originally constructed as the Palm Beach Inn in 1896 by Henry Morrison Flagler, the hotel burned down in 1903, rebuilt in 1904, and burned down again in 1925. After $7 million in construction, The Breakers opened in 1926 and today spans 140 acres along Palm Beach. The 540-room, Italian Renaissance-style resort was inspired by Italian villas of the 1400s and features a majestic, 1,040-foot main drive leading to the Florentine Fountain patterned after the Boboli Gardens in Florence. The main lobby’s inspiration was the Great Hall of the Palazzo Carega (circa 1560) in Genoa. Today, it’s better than ever with two golf courses, four swimming pools, eight restaurants, a half-mile of private beach, 20,000-square-foot spa, 11 onsite boutiques, and a new 6,000-square-foot, indoor-outdoor oceanfront fitness center.

7. Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club

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The Vinoy has stood watch over Tampa Bay since it opened with great fanfare on New Year’s Eve 1925 and after a $93 million restoration in 1992, it ranks among Florida’s most luxurious resorts. The salmon-colored, Mediterranean Revival building hosted everyone from presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover to Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmy Stewart, and Babe Ruth during its heyday. It was converted into a training center for the U.S. Army Air Corps and military cooks during WW II. The hotel reopened in 1944 but eventually fell out of favor to the point that it became a boarding house charging just $7 per night. It closed in 1974 but was saved from the wrecking ball by St. Petersburg residents in 1984 due to its cherished place in the city’s history. Today, the 361-room resort boasts a 74-slip marina, golf course, 12 tennis courts, and a 5,000-square-foot fitness center.

6. National Hotel Miami Beach

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The South Beach Art Deco Historic District in Miami is among the coolest collections of American architecture around and nowhere is it better displayed than the National Hotel Miami Beach. Opened in 1939, the National was designed by Roy France, one of Art Deco’s most revered architects. New owners and management did an extensive restoration in 1997 of the hotel that has 116 rooms in its iconic, 14-story tower as well as 36 luxury cabanas and suites. Today, original furnishings can be seen throughout the property including terrazzo flooring in the Martini Room cigar bar, the oak bar that anchors the Blues Bar, and the Oval Ballroom’s original, restored carpeting and chandelier. Polished chrome light fixtures and dark wood furnishings also are original. During the restoration, a narrow, 205-foot-long, infinity-edge pool was created to mimic Art Deco’s streamlined style. The ultra-hip, palm-lined pool is Miami Beach’s longest.

5. Casa Monica

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As the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the U.S., it’s natural to assume St. Augustine is home to some really old hotels like the Casa Monica. The circa 1888 hotel was purchased shortly after it opened by Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler who changed its name to Cordova and built a bridge in 1902 to connect it to another hotel nearby, the Alcazar. It officially closed in 1932 after Flagler abandoned the complex during the stock market crash, and it became the St. John’s County Courthouse in 1968. It was restored and reopened as a 138-room hotel in 1999. Today, the Moorish Revival-style hotel showcases hand-painted Italian tile, Spanish tapestries, and hand-painted gold-leafed archways in the lobby. Rooms are elegantly appointed with Spanish-style furnishings, mahogany tables, and four-poster, wrought-iron beds. In 2001, the king and queen of Spain visited what has become one of Florida’s most luxurious boutique hotels.

4. Gasparilla Inn & Club

The tip of Boca Grande Island has long been a special place with its deep water and legendary reputation as one of the best tarpon fishing spots in the world. The Gasparilla Inn & Club opened in 1913, largely as the result of phosphate rock being discovered nearby and subsequently mined for use in detergents and other products. Built originally to appeal to visiting business barons and wealthy Northerners seeking a winter respite, the Inn has been a favorite over the years for celebrities and business pioneers alike including J.P. Morgan, Henry DuPont, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Katharine Hepburn and George H.W. Bush. Through careful stewardship, Gasparilla remains one of the best examples of old Florida luxury and style. The original pillared Inn has 63 guestrooms, while surrounding cottages offer 74 more. Sandy, secluded beaches, 18-hole golf course and 250-slip marina keep new generations coming back to this Florida classic.

Photo by: Midwest Golf Blog
Photo by: Midwest Golf Blog

3. Terrace Hotel

Air conditioning and railroads had much to do with the creation and enduring popularity of the Terrace Hotel. The railroad boom of the late 19th century had 25 trains stopping daily at the Lakeland depot by the 1890s, bringing increasing numbers of well-to-do visitors from the Northeast U.S. The Terrace Hotel opened in 1924 with the big new thing—air conditioning—which made it enormously popular with A-list guests such as Henry Ford, Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Sinatra. The 10-story landmark was Lakeland’s first high-rise structure and featured spectacular crystal chandeliers imported from Italy, floor-to-ceiling arched windows and patterned Cyprus ceilings in the lobby. After a long run of popularity, it faded from the limelight and eventually became a flop house for transients before closing in 1986. The 73-room hotel was restored and reopened in 1998 as the anchor of Lakeland’s revitalized downtown historic district.

Photo by: Terrace Hotel
Photo by: Terrace Hotel

2. Le Meridien Tampa

Actually, the Le Meridien Tampa is new, having just opened in 2014, but the former Federal courthouse that houses it dates back to 1905. More than $27 million was required to transform this stately, Greek Revival-style hall of justice into a luxurious hotel in downtown Tampa. The courthouse was built to last, and remnants of its former life are prevalent throughout the hotel. A former witness box now serves as a host stand at its restaurant, while a witness selection desk has been re-purposed as a business center. Former courtrooms are now ballrooms or meeting rooms with clever names like the Verdict Boardroom and Sidebar One. What’s special about this place is how the new hotel tastefully blends old with new, like modern chandeliers illuminating traditional marble floors and granite columns. Rooms are decidedly modern with 42” flat-screen TVs, contemporary furniture and carpet and WiFi.

Photo by: Hotels.com
Photo by: Hotels.com

1. Marquesa Hotel

The Marquesa Hotel in the heart of Key West’s historic district is comprised of four Victorian-style homes built in 1884. Together, the pastel-colored houses frame two pools and an interior garden so lush with tropical plants and rock waterfalls that guests will be tempted to simply kick back there and relax all day. Those who do venture out will find all the attractions on Duval Street only one block away. The Gulf of Mexico is just four blocks. The luxury boutique hotel features decadently decorated rooms with antiques, plush bedding and marble baths. It has been included on “best hotels” lists from the likes of U.S. News & World Report and Travel & Leisure, while Zagat named its fine-dining, 50-seat Café Marquesa Key West’s top restaurant. The owners emphasize comfort and quiet for their guests, and children have to be at least 14 years old to stay there.

Photo by: McNees
Photo by: McNees

12 Amazing Galleries Every Art Lover Should Visit

So much more than décor, artistic works have long been used as modes of self-expression and cultural identity, as well as tangible historical tools that visually display the progression of society throughout the ages. Through changes and innovations in technique, mediums and subject matter, a piece of art has the ability to transport the viewer to different points in time, or alternatively (in the case of the modern movement) to different realms of consciousness, and provide some insight into a highly subjective human endeavor. For those of you that want to revel at works that are classical, weird and everything in between, here are the world’s top 10 must-see galleries.

12. Auckland Art Gallery – Auckland, New Zealand

Since opening in 1881, Auckland Art Gallery remains the largest gallery of fine and visual art in New Zealand, currently holding over 15,000 works dating from the 11th century to the present. What started out as a small collection of pieces by European masters, has now grown into the most comprehensive collection of New Zealand art, as well as distinguished pieces by Maori and Pacific Island artists. Art lovers will love how this smaller gallery contrasts with the (though beautiful) often overwhelming scale of the famous European galleries, and appreciate the chance to admire how such an architecturally split environment (the building is part renaissance and part modern) beautifully showcases such a diverse range of works.

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

11. Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Translated literally, Rijksmuseum means “state museum” and is just that, chronicling the development and progression of Dutch art and history through its vast collection of paintings, sketches, photography and applied arts. The newly updated gallery, which reopened in 2013 after a 10-year renovation, offers a unique art-viewing experience, displaying all types of pieces (i.e. paintings, sculptures, furnishings, etc) together in galleries organized by time period. Though holding a small amount of international art, including a dignified collection of Asian art, it is the works hanging in the Gallery of Honor that are the highlight of the museum. It in this corridor that you will find the masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age of painting, including Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and Frans Hals’ Portrait of a Couple, all leading to the gallery’s most treasured piece: Rembrandt’s Night Watch.

Mediagram / Shutterstock.com
Mediagram / Shutterstock.com

10. Prado Museum – Madrid, Spain

Established in 1819, the Museo del Prado in Madrid contains the single largest Spanish art collection in the world, along with notable European fine art works of the 12th-19th centuries. In fact, in addition to displaying works by Francisco de Goya, Diego Velazquez and El Greco, the Prado now also houses the largest collection of art by the Italian masters outside of Italy. A stroll through this national art museum will reveal such well-known pieces as Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation, Rubens’ The Three Graces, and Goya’s The Third of May: The Execution on Principe Pio.

The Prado Museum Madrid

9. National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art – Seoul, South Korea

Composed of several branches in the Seoul area, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art was opened in 1969 as the country’s only gallery devoted solely to works  from 1910 and onwards. The main branch, located in Gwacheon, currently houses over 7,000 works featuring well known Korean artists such as Ko-Hui Dong, Ku Boh-Ung and Kim Whan-Ki, as well as a sizeable collection of international artists like Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys and Marcus Lupertz. Art lovers will also appreciate the gallery’s commitment to discovering and showcasing the works of artists new to the contemporary art scene in its many temporary events and exhibitions.

Joymsk140 / Shutterstock.com
Joymsk140 / Shutterstock.com

8. Musee D’Orsay – Paris, France

Opened in 1986 in the former D’Orsay railway stations (originally built for the 1900 World Exhibition), the gallery contains a vast selection of fine art pieces created between 1848 and 1914. The collection is comprised mainly of works from the Louvre, the Musee du Jeu de Paume which became devoted exclusively to Impressionism in 1947 and the National Museum of Modern Art, which in 1976 trimmed its collection to only include pieces by artists born after 1870. Today, the gallery houses six unique collections in several artistic disciplines (paintings, sculpture, objets d’art, photographs, graphic arts and architecture) and is home to Renoir’s Bal du Moulin de la Galette, Manet’s Olympia and Cezanne’s The Cardplayers.

pio3 / Shutterstock.com
pio3 / Shutterstock.com

7. The National Gallery – London, England

The National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square holds the country’s national collection of art (it belongs to the people, so admission is free!) and consists of over 2,000 Western European paintings dating from the medieval period to the 19th century. The national collection was established in 1824 with the English government’s £57,000 purchase of John Julius Angerstein’s 38-piece personal collection. Originally displayed at Angerstein’s house, the Parliament agreed to construct a dedicated gallery building in 1831, doors opened at the current location in 1838. The collection greatly expanded in the early 1860s under director Charles Eastlake, and now contains several must-see works such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne and Monet’s Bathers at La Grenouillere.

The National Gallery, London

6. Tate Modern – London, England

Another London staple, the Tate Modern is one of four museums in the Tate family and, as its name suggests, houses the UK’s national contemporary and modern art collection (dating from 1900 and later). Housed in a converted former power station in the banks of the river Thames, the gallery offers a unique experience for art lovers, displaying pieces in thematic zones rather than in typical chronological order. The themes currently on exhibit are Energy and Processes, Structure and Clarity, Poetry and Dream and Making Traces, and feature works by Picasso, Rothko and Rothschild.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

5. Uffizi Gallery – Florence, Italy

An unlikely home for fine art masterpieces, the Uffizi Gallery was originally commissioned by Cosimo de Medici in 1560 to hold the offices of the Florentine Magistrates and Judiciaries. Today, this original purpose is especially evident in the gallery’s cramped spaces which were built to accommodate just a few individuals, not the thousands that now flock through its doors each day. Nevertheless, the Uffizi is one of Italy’s best attractions, containing 45 halls that chronologically display works from the 13th to 18th centuries. Highlights of the collection are Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, and also not to be missed are the gallery’s iconic Vasari Corridor and Octagonal Tribune designed by Bernardo Buontalenti.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

4. Vatican Museum – Vatican City, Italy

Dating back to 1503, today’s Vatican Museum is comprised of a combination of pontifical museums and galleries, whose acquisitions began with Pope Julius II’s collection of sculptures. The complex now houses quite a large number of museums, exhibiting everything from Christian Antiquities to ancient tapestries and mosaics to religious and secular relics. The museum also contains a vast painting gallery (Pinacoteca) which opened in 1932 and consists of over 400 paintings displayed more or less chronologically from the 12th to 19th centuries. Undeniably, the largest draws of this museum are the incomparable pieces found within the Sistine Chapel, where visitors can admire the works of Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Rosellini and Signorelli, as well as the world famous ceiling masterpiece by Michelangelo.

Vatican Museums Rome

3. State Hermitage – St. Petersburg, Russia

As one of the world’s largest museums at over two million square feet, and housing over three million items, the State Hermitage Museum complex holds an astounding collection of fine art that is a must see for any art lover. Housed in 120 galleries in four of the Hermitage’s main buildings—the Winter Palace, Great Hermitage, Small hermitage and New Hermitage—visitors  will find the works of Matisse, Degas, Titian, and Rembrandt. The collection, which was established in 1764 by Catherine the Great, now consists of over 600,000 works of art and includes such famous paintings as Da Vinci Benois Madonna, Matisse’s Dance and Rembrandt’s Flora.

Popova Valeriya / Shutterstock.com
Popova Valeriya / Shutterstock.com

2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City, USA

The largest gallery in the United States, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the biggest attractions in NYC, drawing over six million visitors each year. And once you’ve seen it, it’s easy to see why—the current collection includes over 2,500 European paintings, the largest Egyptian art collection (outside of Egypt) and the world’s largest collection of American artistic works. The museum also boasts extensive holdings in African, Asian and Islamic Art, as well as an impressive amount of antique weapons, armor and costumes. With over two million works housed in over two million square feet of space, the Met has something for everyone, making it a must-see for art lovers of all styles and periods.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
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1. The Louvre – Paris, France

As the largest and arguably most well-known art gallery in the world, the Louvre currently houses over 35,000 artistic works and draws over eight million visitors a year. With a history dating back to the 12th century as a city fortress, and later, royal residence, the galleries of the Louvre were not used for art exhibition until 1699 when the artist residents held their first “salon”. The Museum Central des Arts (located in the Salon Carre and Grande Galerie) was opened to the public in 1793 with a growing collection of paintings that eventually expanded into other parts of the building. The site became exclusively devoted to culture in 1882, and today consists of over 650,000 square feet of exhibition space holding some of the world’s most renowned masterpieces, including Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People and Durer’s Self Portrait.

cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com
cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com

The 10 Best Family Activities in Clearwater/St. Pete Beach

The Gulf Coast of Florida offers spectacular beaches along with warm turquoise waters, sunshine and so much more all in a setting that’s perfect for an amazing family vacation. The Clearwater and St. Petersburg Beach areas combine all the perfect elements for a good time: food, fun, nature, history and of course lots of that Florida sunshine. It’s a place that caters to families of all sizes so to get the most of your visit here are some of the best family activities to check out while you’re in the area:

10. Tarpon Springs

Located just a short drive north of Clearwater lies the city of Tarpon Springs, home of the historic Sponge Docks and the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the U.S. Tarpon Springs claim to fame was once being the natural sea sponge capital of the world, the jobs in the sponge industry lead to the large population of Greek Americans that settled here in the early 1900’s. Today the town is still home to a small active sponge industry and is still a great place to pick up a natural sea sponge of your own and also the best spot for authentic Greek cuisine on the Gulf. Tarpon Springs also has some great beaches nearby like Sunset Beach and Howard Park making it a great family day trip from the Clearwater and St. Petersburg areas.

Tarpon Springs

9. Great Explorations

Remember when you were young and playing make believe was the highlight of your day? Well at Great Explorations in St. Petersburg, children get the chance to do that and more while exploring this fun interactive place for play. There’s no ‘do not touch’ signs in this facility as children are encouraged to touch, move, pretend and create all in an environment that encourages learning and creativity. Among some of the favorite exhibits are the grocery store and make your own pretend pizza in the pizza parlor. There’s also live animals and science exhibits designed to teach kids about nature and sciences. Great Explorations also has a section just for toddlers with age appropriate activities and toys, so there’s no age too young to enjoy this fun and creative attraction.

Great Explorations
Photo by: Great Explorations Children’s Museum

8. Sunsets at Pier 60

Florida’s Gulf Coast Beaches are renowned for offering world class sunsets and the best place to catch all the colors and beauty is at Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach. 7 nights a week, Pier 60 comes to life with a festival celebrating the beautiful sunsets that can be seen here on clear evenings. The free family friendly event features artisans, craft stalls, performers and live music and both parents and children are sure to have a great time. Don’t forget about the main attraction amidst all the performances and music! The sunsets here are incredible and on clear evenings you’ll see dazzling colors or red, orange, pink and blue as the sun fades beyond the horizon. It’s something you don’t want to miss while on the gulf coast!

Sunset Pier 60 Clearwater

7. Fishing Charter

One of the most popular activities on the gulf, fishing is a favorite pastime of tourists and Clearwater locals alike and the waters of the gulf coast offer a chance to catch snapper, sea bass, mahi mahi, or the local favorite: grouper. To try your own hand at catching something big, consider taking a fishing charter. There are many operators available out of both the Clearwater and St. Pete Beach areas. Many offer kids fishing for free so the whole family can go and enjoy some time on the beautiful gulf coast waters and hopefully get the thrill of the catch. Most operators offer both half day and full day tours which are usually about 4 and 8 hours each. Tours include all your gear, bait and sometimes even offer food on board for those longer trips. If you do happen to catch something worth keeping, the crew will keep it on ice for you and clean it upon return for a small fee, then it’s all yours to cook up and enjoy!

Fishing Charter Florida

6. Mini Golf

Everyone knows that Florida is a golfer’s paradise with world class courses all around the state, but golf isn’t just a pastime for the retirees. At Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf the whole family can enjoy the fun of mini golfing on courses that have been rated ‘Florida’s Best Mini Golf’ by Florida Monthly Magazine Readers. With rushing water features, dark caves, and lush tropical terrain, the whole family will enjoy playing these fun courses. You can also check out the live gators at Sumgglers Cove and kids can even feed them if they’re feeling brave! Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf has 2 locations in the Clearwater area; Madeira Beach and Indian Shores.

Photo by: Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf
Photo by: Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf

5. Indoor Surfing

Florida’s Gulf Beaches have a lot to offer but world class waves aren’t one of them. That doesn’t mean you have no chance of catching a wave, because at FlowRider Indoor Surfing in Clearwater you can get the awesome thrill of riding a wave without the crowds or waiting for that perfect wave to roll in. It’s always a great time to try this sport out and indoor surfing is especially great if you’re a beginner looking to get some experience up on a board. There’s no need to master the ‘pop-up’ here because at FlowRider, you start standing up already so you’re guaranteed a great wave-riding experience. You’ll find the FlowRider experience located in the Surf Style store on Gulfview Blvd.


4. Caladesi Island State Park

Beach lovers and nature enthusiasts, Caladasi Island is the place for you! This state park located in the north end of Clearwater Beach is only accessible by boat or ferry shuttle. The park is one of the few completely natural islands along Florida’s Gulf Coast, so you won’t find any of the brightly colored beach shops, restaurants or even cars that you find along the main beach. If you’re looking to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the gulf coast without the noise and crowds of the popular tourist areas, consider taking the 20 minute ferry over to enjoy some swimming, exploring, sun-bathing, picnicking and snorkeling in Florida this beautiful unspoilt paradise. The Caladesi Ferry is available year round and runs every half hour during high season and hourly in low season. Fees are $14 round trip for adults, $7 for children age 6-12, and little ones age 5 and under are free!

Caladesi Island State Park Florida

3. Glazer Children’s Museum

While not technically located in the Beaches, this children’s museum is worth the trip across the bay and into Tampa so it’s captivating and educational exhibits of all kinds. The museum features over 170 interactive exhibits and activities grouped into a number of categories split onto 2 levels of the facility. Kids will enjoy designing and flying airplanes in the ‘Engineers Workshop’, mucking about in the huge water table at ‘Kidsport’, and creating their own kaleidoscopes in the ‘Art Smart’ exhibit. For your admission of $10 for kids age 1-12 and $15 for adults you’ll get a full day’s worth of activities and you don’t even have to leave when those tummy’s start to rumble because there’s a Subway restaurant on site. The Glazer Children’s Museum is a perfect activity if you get a rainy day on the beaches or if you’ve had enough sun.

Photo by: Glazer Children's Museum
Photo by: Glazer Children’s Museum

2. Dolphin Watching Tour

If Winter’s story wasn’t enough, take the opportunity to view some dolphins in the wild with one of the many popular dolphin watching boat tours offered in the Clearwater/St. Pete areas. The Gulf of Mexico is home to many species of marine mammals, most notable are the large populations of dolphins that call these warm waters home. There are many tour operators that offer boat cruises varying in length from 1 hour up to half day cruises with the chance to spot some of these playful creatures in their natural habitat. Children won’t be able to contain their excitement when the captain calls out the first sighting and parents will enjoy the calm and serenity of cruising the gulf waterways on a beautiful sunny day. Check out a few different operators before choosing your cruise and shop around for best prices and value.


1. Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure –Clearwater

Meet the stars of Disney’s popular movies Dolphin Tale and now Dolphin Tale 2; Winter and Hope. Chances are your kids are already familiar with the movie and will love meeting Winter and Hope in real life as well as seeing recognizable scenes from the movies. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a marine life rescue and rehabilitation center that has been elevated to its current tourism mega-status after the success of the Disney movie depicting the real life story of Winter, a dolphin rescued by the aquarium who was successfully fitted and rehabilitated with a prosthetic tail after losing her own when she became tangled in a crab net. Your admission to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium also gets you into the popular Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure in Downtown Clearwater. This new facility gives children and their families the chance to go behind-the-scenes of the heart-warming movies and view real movie props, exhibits and also offers a huge gift shop full of all your favorite Dolphin Tale souvenirs and gifts.

Photo by: Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Photo by: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

The Best Tampa Area Attractions

Tampa, Florida’s city on the Bay has long been a favorite vacation destination for snowbirds and families alike -and with so many fantastic area attractions, who wouldn’t want to visit?! The greater Tampa area is located on the Gulf coast of central Florida and encompasses the cities of Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Brandon, and many other small towns along the coast. The first attraction that probably comes to mind when thinking of Florida is a beach…and there’s no shortage of these in the Tampa area, but there’s a whole lot more. With something for everyone from sports fans to families with small children to those just looking for a good time, you’ll find in all around Tampa. Here’s a quick look at 14 of the top attractions to check out on your trip:

1. Sports

There’s no shortage of professional sports teams in the Tampa Bay Area. This area is fortunate enough to have an NFL, NHL and MLB team, not to mention the many ‘Grapefruit League’ games you can catch during the spring with the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies all calling the area their spring training home.

FLorida Auto Exchange Stadium

2. International Plaza

Some of the best shopping in Tampa is conveniently found right beside the Tampa International Airport at the International Plaza and Bay Street shopping center. This upscale shopping destination features designer names like Gucci, Burberry and Tiffany as well as a slew of dining options ranging from quick service eateries to swanky steak houses.

Female shopping

3. Beaches

The attraction that draws people back to the Gulf coast of Florida time after time is of course the beaches! Around Tampa you have your choice of top beach destinations like Clearwater Beach with its fine powder white sand or St. Pete’s beach to the south. You can basically just head west of the city and you’re sure to find a great spot to enjoy some sun and sand.

Clearwater Beach Florida

4. Fishing

Florida’s Gulf coast is known for its amazing fishing and one of the best spots to head out from is John’s Pass; a quaint fishing village on the coast south of Clearwater Beach. Here you’ll find many tour operators ready to take you out on a deep sea fishing adventure where you can catch sea bass, snapper or those famous Florida groupers.

Fishing Charter Florida

5. Dolphin Watching

There’s nothing quite like the magical experience of seeing a dolphin at play in the wild and in Tampa this experience is entirely possible. Many Bottlenose dolphins call Tampa Bay and the surrounding Gulf waters home and can be spotted by taking a dolphin watching tour from one of many spots on the coast.


6. Fort De Soto Park

Pinellas County is home to many beautiful parks and Fort De Soto is the largest of them all. Here you can enjoy many activities like kayaking, nature walks, fishing or enjoying the beautiful 3 mile stretch of beach. There’s also camping in the park so you can really immerse yourself in the gorgeous natural surroundings.

Fort De Soto Park Florida

7. Golf

With year-round golfing weather and literally hundreds of courses to choose from in the Tampa area it’s no wonder so many people come to the Gulf Coast of Florida for their golfing holidays. Whether you’re an amateur who gets out when they can or a scratch golfer looking to try out some new courses you’ll find courses of all skill levels here…including some that have hosted the PGA Tour Championships.

Golf course Florida

8. Gasparilla Festival

You’ve probably heard of the legendary parties of Mardi Gras but Florida has its own giant party, and Tampa residents will tell you it’s even bigger! Every year since 1904, mock pirates ‘invade’ Tampa Bay and take over the city for the biggest pirate party ever celebrating the dubious buccaneer past of Tampa. It’s worth planning your vacation around this colorful celebration which takes place in late January or early February.

aceshot1 / Shutterstock.com
aceshot1 / Shutterstock.com

9. Dali Museum

Learn all about Spanish artist Salvador Dali at this museum dedicated to his artistic creations in St. Petersburg Florida. The museum building its self is as visually intriguing as the works it houses and with its close proximity to Tampa, you won’t want to pass up the opportunity to see some of the most famous Surrealist paintings in the world.

Dali Museum Florida
Jorg Hackemann / Shutterstock.com

10. Busch Gardens

Open 365 days a year, thrill seekers and families looking for fun won’t want to miss Tampa’s Busch Gardens amusement park. Not only does this park have exciting rides and attractions but they are also home to more than 12,000 animals making it one of the largest zoos in North America. For animal lovers Busch Gardens is a must visit during your stay in Tampa.

Lions Bush Gardens Florida

11. Tampa Museum of Art

Newly re-opened in 2010, the Tampa Museum of Art is the region’s largest museum embracing contemporary photography and new media. Before even entering you’ll be wowed by the stunning Sky (Tampa), a 14,000 LED light installation on the building façade by artist Leo Villareal. The convenient location in downtown Tampa makes this museum easy to fit into your travel literary.

Photo by: Richard Barnes/Tampa Museum of Art
Photo by: Richard Barnes/Tampa Museum of Art

12. MOSI Museum of Science and Industry

The Tampa Museum of Science and Industry’s core goal is to ‘make a difference in people’s lives by making science real for people of all ages’. One visit to MOSI and you’ll soon realize science is real and it’s all around us. The museum has many interactive exhibits as well as children’s programs and even an IMAX dome theater showing interesting documentaries and big blockbuster films…often before they hit regular theaters.

Photo by: Museum of Science and Industry
Photo by: Museum of Science and Industry

13. Tampa Bay History Center

To gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Tampa area, visit the Tampa Bay History Center located downtown. Here you’ll find interesting exhibits of history and culture including Tampa’s buccaneer past and the First People of Florida. The center also hosts monthly events and children’s activities that are usually free with admission.

Photo by: Tampa Bay History Center
Photo by: Tampa Bay History Center

14. The Florida Aquarium

What’s a trip to Tampa without seeing some of Florida’s famous aquatic life? Visit the Florida Aquarium, a 250,000 square foot facility showcasing amazing aquatic plants and animals from the area and the rest of the world. From beautiful coral reef displays to murky swamps where alligators lay, the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa is a must visit.

Photo by: The Florida Aquarium
Photo by: The Florida Aquarium

7 Most Beautiful and Underrated Cities and Towns in the U.S.

The family vacation is another one of America’s favorite pastimes. Every year, millions of citizens pack their bags and head out in search of fun and relaxation. Popular cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, and Orlando, become flooded with tourists. However, the struggling economy has caused many people to think outside the box. While not as popular, there are plenty of remarkable cities to visit in this country. Here is a list of seven of the most underrated towns and cities in the United States.

7. Lincoln, Nebraska

When most people think of the state of Nebraska, images of rolling hills and rugged landscapes come to mind. The city of Lincoln, however, has become a modern diamond in the rough. It has high-end shopping, quality museums, and a wide variety of nightclubs. There is also a wonderful exhibit showing the evolution of Nebraska over the past 100 years.
Lincoln Nebraska

6. Perdido Key, Florida

Perdido Key, also referred to as the “Lost Key,” is a small hidden gem actually located within the city of Pensacola. This town is the perfect spot for those who enjoy the beauty of nature. Beaches, parks, and wildlife preserves take up more than half of the area. Diving enthusiasts can also have an underwater adventure by exploring a sunken military ship.

5. Newport, Rhode Island

Unless you are a Rhode Island native or a history buff, you may not be familiar with the refined taste of this city. A formerly favored spot of the legendary Kennedy family, Newport is home to some of the most beautiful mansions and delicious seafood in the world. This city is also a popular location for sailing.
Mansion, Newport, Rhode Island

4. St. Petersburg, Florida

Although not as popular as Miami or Tampa, this city is the perfect example of why Florida is called the “Sunshine State.” The warm, clear weather lasts nearly year-round. True to its coastal nature, St. Petersburg has some of the most beautiful beaches in the state. Those in search of culture can also visit the Salvador Dali Museum, which holds the largest collection of his work in the western world.
St. Petersburg Florida

3. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach has miles and miles of extraordinary coastline. For avid surfers, these beaches also welcome large and abundant Atlantic Ocean waves. In the evenings, the boardwalks offer mouth-watering restaurants and peacefully romantic scenery. Vacationing families can enjoy the thrill and excitement of the Busch Gardens amusement park. Virginia Beach is also extremely close Jamestown, which is America’s oldest existing settlement.
Virginia Beach, Virginia

2. Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is another beautifully historic costal town. Dating back as early as the 1600’s, there are plenty of authentic buildings and Civil War memorials. The quaint, lovely streets and “Gullah” traditions make visitors feel as if they have stepped out of a time machine. For the modern traveler, Charleston also has beautiful beaches, famous golf resorts, and plenty of art galleries.

1. Tunica, Mississippi

Tunica, also commonly known as “The Vegas of the South,” is a surprisingly fun city. Home to at least nine casinos, Tunica has a risk and spice of a typical gaming town. There is more to this little known spot than gambling, however. The city has 4-star golf courses, gorgeous hotels, and several popular nightclubs, including a variety of famous blues clubs.

Tunica Mississippi
Eugene Buchko / Shutterstock.com


World’s 9 Most Stunning Canal Cities

For most of us, the concept of canal cities seems to be connected to images of Venice, with gondola floating down the alleys of this popular Italian tourist destination. You would be amazed to know, however, that there are a number of canal cities in other countries of the world offering equally, if not more, breathtaking sights and sounds. If you are on the lookout for a scenic place to spend your next vacation in, take a look at some of these stunning canal cities:

1. Water Towns, China

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Situated at an hour’s distance from Shanghai, China’s Water Towns are indeed a sight to behold. Combining natural scenery with a peek into the history of Chinese architecture, the six towns are considered to be one of the main tourist attractions of China. If you choose to visit the Chinese Water Towns, brace yourself for the majestic stone bridges, built during the reign of the Ming Dynasty. As you float across the Yangtze River Delta, you will be greeted with the sight of the signature red Chinese lanterns amid the historic temples.

2. Venice, Italy

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Venice exemplifies the concept of canal cities. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, this canal city is on the list of must-visit places for every aspiring traveler. With its historical buildings coinciding with the serenity of its flowing waters, it would not be wrong to count Venice among the most romantic places in the world.

3. Cape Coral, Florida, US

John Coletti / Getty Images

Home to around 150,000 residents, this palm-lined city stands apart from other canal cities due to its planned layout. This ‘Waterfront Wonderland’, as it is rightly known, was designed during the 1950-60s era and comprises a canal network that spans over an area of 400 miles.

4. El Gouna, Egypt

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Any mention of Egypt is usually associated with images of pyramids running through our minds. It, therefore, does not come as a surprise that even a spectacular place like El Gouna remains a relatively unknown Egyptian travel resort. Conceived during the nineties, El Gouna is a dream come true for beach lovers. The canals, channeling out from the Red Sea, connect the islands and breathe life into the desert sands. The area is filled with hotel facilities for tourists.

5. Annecy, France

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There is a definite charm about French cities. While Paris is widely accepted as the place where romance is abloom all year round, places like Annecy redefine the classiness associated with the French culture. As you travel across the canals of Annecy, you will find yourself falling in love with the French delicacies available readily at the eateries that line the city harbor. When in Annecy, make sure that you visit the Palais de l’Isle, the place that has served as a home, a prison, a courthouse, and more recently, a museum.

6. St. Petersburg, Russia

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Russian history is known for its momentous ups and downs, and St. Petersburg bears testimony to every one of them. Standing by the Neva River, this historical canal city is home to a number of nineteenth-century cathedrals as well as the State Hermitage Museum. Depending on your budget, you can choose from a variety of watercraft to explore the waters surrounding St. Petersburg and even scoot off to St. Peter’s much-talked-about palace called Peterhof.

7. Kerala, India

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This South Indian waterfront city represents the exoticness of India in the truest sense of the word. Built during the zenith of British rule in South Asia, the primary purpose of Kerala’s canal network was to aid trade and transportation of raw material. In today’s times, you can travel through these canals and witness the rice fields along with the strikingly colorful outfits donned by the locals.

8. Bruges, Belgium

Photography Aubrey Stoll / Getty Images

Serving as the inspiration for the 2008 movie ‘In Bruges’, this Belgian city has a divine charm about it, spelled out by the Gothic artistry that defines this city’s persona. The canal system of Bruges seems to have been built in the form of a moat that surrounds the old city areas. Each of the canals is famous for its own attractions, may it be the greenery surrounding the Church of Our Lady: Groene Rei or the souvenir shops around Dijver.

9. Bangkok, Thailand

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If the flashy lights of a bustling metropolis are what you are looking for, then the Thai capital should very well be your next stop. Popular for its mouthwatering cuisine and mystic temples, Bangkok’s inherent character as a city is redefined by its widespread network of canals, which was built during the 19th century. Located in the central area of Thonburi, the canals are filled with gondolas selling a wide range of items, varying from clothes to artifacts.