Tag Archives: Travel and Tourism

On a Florida Beach We Saw….

This is phrase that brought a visitor to our site recently. I thought it was a great phrase and it gave me an idea.

Wouldn’t it be fun to share with everyone what you recently saw on a Florida beach?

I’d love for you to share pics or stories about something you recently saw on a Florida beach. You can do this by commenting here or sending pics to us via Facebook or Twitter. I look forward to hearing from everyone!  (Let’s keep this G-rated of course!)

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The Beach on Anna Maria Island, Florida

I’ve been to a lot of local beaches, but Anna Maria Island‘s is one I hadn’t visited much until I met my husband. He says that his family went there a lot when he was young. It’s nice because it has a playground and bathrooms nearby. The water is really close to the parking, which is great when you are toting a lot of stuff. We went there this weekend and last, at two different spots along the beach.

The weekend before last we went to a spot that is to the right of the City Pier. Our timing was perfect, because the tide was really low and we could go out pretty far in the water—which is perfect for the kids. The water was really calm and warm and there was hardly anyone on the beach. We found lots of neat shells in the water too. This past weekend we went to the spot that is to the left of the Pier, between Rod & Reel and City Pier. This is the more populated side of the beach and it was pretty crowded. The water is a little deeper, but that’s great for the adults in the group. You can see the Sunshine State Skyway from both places, but this second spot gives a view of it and Egmont Key and Fort DeSoto. It’s pretty neat to see all these places in one spot. You can even see the glint of the light on the Egmont Key lighthouse as it slowly turns.  I wanted to take some pictures of this lovely spot but was afraid of losing the camera in the water.

The Rod & Reel has some great food, according to author Bruce Hunt (@BruceHuntImages). He’s taken some photos of the area and has some nice history and related places to visit in the area in his book, Visiting Small-Town Florida Third Edition. Next time I visit I need to go into some of the neat shops that you find along the way to the beach. I think it would be a great place to vacation as I saw many people on rented bikes and scooters.

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Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida

This past weekend I visited Myakka River State Park. Myakka has this rambling scenic drive that is really nice, especially on days with low park attendance. It was perfect for this weekend since it was so hot! This visit didn’t yield a lot of animal sightings along the drive, but we did see some turkeys. There were groups of them on both sides of the road.

We tried the Canopy Walk which is a really popular part of the park, but didn’t make it all the way to the bridge and tower part because I mistakenly left the mosquito repellant behind. If I had been prepared, it would have been the best part of the visit. This is a terrific part of the park for kids because they all love the bridge which sways when people walk on it. The towers seem like they stretch high up into the air forever, and it’s hard to make it all the way to the top sometimes.

I did take a stroll along the Bird Walk though. In the right season, many interesting species of birds nest and congregate there. It’s really popular with birdwatchers, artists, and photographers. We did see a duck and some run of the mill birds, but nothing too spectacular this time. I would like to go back when it’s full of birds so the kids can get the full effect. The coolest thing we saw the whole trip was at the boardwalk though. A baby alligator! It was pretty dry out there, but we saw him slithering along and that was super neat.

Overall, Myakka State Park has been one of the best state parks I’ve visited. We publish a book by the park’s naturalist, Paula Benshoff. She’s a wealth of information and you’ll never meet someone who loves her job and its location so much. Here’s a link to that book, http://new.pineapplepress.com/myakka.html

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Looking for Pirates in the Carolinas? A Guest Post by author Terrance Zepke

Look no further, you brave soul. They’re all over the Carolinas. Here are a few suggestions:

There’s a new Blackbeard exhibit at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, North Carolina. It has artifacts from the famous pirate’s shipwreck, Queen Anne’s Revenge. While the exhibit is permanent, the artifacts will change periodically. www.ncmaritimemuseums.com/beaufort.html

Check out the pirate museum inside Teach’s Hole on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. The gift shop, which opened in 1992, claims to have more than 1,000 pirate-theme items for sale, as well as a small pirate museum. www.teachshole.com

The Pirate Voyage is an extravagant dinner show that opened in June 2011 at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina that includes a huge pirate battle. www.piratesvoyage.com

Pirate Invasion is a big, annual festival that takes place in Beaufort, North Carolina every August. Participants will enjoy a pirate attack, treasure hunt, face painting, music, special tours, and much more. www.beaufortpirateinvasion.com

Charleston was a big hangout for pirates during the era of Blackbeard. Take a guided tour to learn more about the Golden Age of Piracy and to see where some of them were hanged! The guide wears a pirate costume complete with a colorful macaw perched on his shoulder. www.charlestonpiratetour.com

Terrance Zepke
www.terrancezepke.com
Author of Pirates of the Carolinas and Pirates of the Carolinas for Kids

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Fort Myers Beach, Florida

I spent a lovely weekend on Fort Myers Beach, Florida at a resort on the beach. I was inspired to share some links to great places to visit in the area.

Fort Myers Beach is in southwest Florida and located near Sanibel, where there is great shelling, a lighthouse, and wonderful wildlife. A visit to J.N.Ding-Darling National Wildlife Refuge there is a must. Naples is to the south and Punta Gorda to the north, bot have great shopping and interesting restaurants. This time we stayed close to the resort, but I’ve visited all of these places before and they’re a perfect complement to a visit to this part of Florida.

The weather was perfect on Saturday, which allowed for a long walk on the beach. We saw some great specimens of shells, both alive and dead. I’ve never seen so many starfish in one place before and cute little crabs were everywhere! We left them where they lay of course, but it was a real treat to see them up close. I have to say I wished we had Florida’s Living Beaches with us, because I wanted to be able to identify exactly what we were seeing.

I also stopped by the Shell Factory on the way home for a shell-shopping treat and found some new surprises! They have a fun arcade and an interesting collection of stuffed wildlife now.

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Blackbeard, a guest post by author Terrance Zepke

Blackbeard Lives!

Or at least his legend does. More than 12,000 visitors have flocked to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, North Carolina during the last few days. They came to see the new exhibit that contains artifacts which have been excavated from what is believed to have been Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.

So far, roughly 300 items have been salvaged from the shipwreck. The project began in 1996 and is projected to continue for many more years. Most of the recovered items have never been displayed publicly so this is very exciting. Visitors have come from all over the U.S., as well as Canada, Britain, and the Netherlands, according to museum officials. The exhibit is on permanent display but the items will rotate when it is time for items to leave or go to the conservation lab.

Blackbeard was one of the most colorful pirates in the history of piracy. He died in 1718 during one of the bloodiest battles ever to be fought with the Royal Navy.

—Terrance Zepke
Author of Pirates of the Carolinas and Pirates of the Carolinas for Kids

Visit www.terrancezepke.com or go to my facebook page to learn more about ghosts of the Carolinas, piracy, lighthouses, and travel.

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Guest Post: The Grand Strand (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina)

One of the top vacation spots in the southeast is the sixty miles of South Carolina coastline that is nicknamed “The Grand Strand.” Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand is more grand than ever, thanks to the many new attractions that have opened in the last couple of months.

The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade meanders from 2nd avenue pier to the 14th avenue pier, allowing terrific views of the Atlantic. www.myrtlebeachdowntown.com

If it’s a pirate’s life for you, check out Pirate’s Voyage. Formerly the Dixie Stampede, Dolly Parton spent $11 million renovating the theater to create the ultimate dinner show complete with a buccaneer battle and pirate feast. www.piratesvoyage.com

Kids and adults alike will find plenty to do at WonderWorks, a new indoor family attraction near Broadway at the Beach. It a four-story building designed to look like it is upside down. The amusement park has 100 exhibits, including a simulated roller coaster and a virtual swim with sharks. The only outdoor attraction offered by WonderWorks is the Soar and Explore Zipline and Ropes Course. Soar fifty feet above the water on a course that travels 1,000 feet between towers. You can also try your hand at the pirate-themed ropes course that is more than forty feet tall and spans three levels. www.wonderworksonline.com

For a view that is 200 feet above sea level, be sure to ride the SkyWheel. This is a 187-feet Ferris wheel with forty-two temperature-controlled glass-encased gondolas. It’s the same concept as the London Eye (London, England). At night, it really comes to life with one million LED lights. There are a half-dozen other amusement rides nearby, including the Slingshot. These attractions replace the old Amusement Pavilion, which was built in 1948 and torn down in 2006. www.themyrtlebeachskywheel.com

For more on South Carolina, be sure to read Coastal South Carolina: Welcome to the Lowcountry by Terrance Zepke

Visit www.terrancezepke.com for more on ghosts, pirates, coastal history, and travel.

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Ca’ d’Zan Mansion at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida

This is the last post in a series on the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida

Did you ever see Great Expectations with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke? Then you’ve seen the Ca’ d’Zan mansion at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The movie portrayed it in quite a state of disrepair, but the real thing is gorgeous! It simply must be on your itinerary list if you come to Sarasota, Florida.

The Ca’ d’Zan represents Venetian Gothic architecture and sits right on Sarasota Bay. It’s an impressive sight with its beautiful orange hue and gorgeous colored windows. There are 56 rooms (41 rooms and 15 bathrooms), all with lovely furnishings and artwork. The construction on the “House of John” began in 1925 and the home was modeled after many sketches and photos that Mable Ringling had saved over the years. In 2002 it was carefully restored to its original splendor. There are tours at various times of the day, but you can always step onto the back terrace to catch a glimpse (unless there is a private party). The view of the bay is also wonderful from the home and they’ve spiffed up the area surrounding the house so you can sit on a bench or take a stroll near the bay.

Leading up to the mansion is the fragrant rose garden, always filled with lovely blooms. (At one time they held the Medieval Fair on the grounds of Ringling Museum, and I always fondly remember that the rose garden was a meeting spot during field trips.)  None of the original plants from 1913 survive, but there have been many wonderful varieties planted in their place. There are beautiful reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, and purples bursting all over it! It’s definitely a fun trip to walk in the rows and read the funny names of some of the roses.

I note that the website mentions the Secret Garden. I’ve never noticed that specifically, yet another thing to take a look at in another trip. I hope our series on the museum entices you to visit soon.

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Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida

This is the second post in a 3-part series about the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. 

My first post on the Ringling Museum was about the spectacular Beyond Bling show. But the museum has tons more to offer! I think it must be fairly unique in that it has a well-stocked traditional art museum, a circus museum, gardens, and a historic home on the same property. I’ll cover the art and circus museum in this post, followed by a post about the home and gardens next week.

John Ringling, of course, was an owner of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus. The winter quarters for the circus was at one time in the Sarasota, Florida area and Mr. Ringling and his wife eventually made it their home. He had some fabulous art pieces, so he wanted his own museum to showcase them. After his death,  he bequeathed the art museum he had built to the state of Florida. Thus, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art was born. For more information about this, visit http://www.ringling.org/ArtMuseum.aspx

Today, the Ringling Museum houses wonderful paintings by Rubens, van Dyck,  El Greco, and other artists. In addition, there are sculptures and other priceless items such as furniture and vases on display. The Museum also features traveling exhibitions that span many time periods and subjects.

The Circus Museum was created in 1948 and touts itself as the first museum of its type in the United States. On display you’ll find costumes, posters, tools, wagons, memorabilia, and more. I always enjoy the large display of circus posters. It’s fun to see how they changed over the years. The exhibits also pay respect to many of the important clowns and performers, like Emmett Kelly, and there is a planned expansion in Fall 2011 that will showcase them even more. One of the other popular parts of the Circus Museum is the The Howard Bros. Circus Model. This is lots of fun–very musical and magical.

Something I don’t recall seeing is the private Ringling railroad car on display. Sounds like I need to plan a visit this fall when the expansion opens to see all the new sites!

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Beyond Bling at Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida

This is the first post in a 3-part series about the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. 

The Ringling Museum is another one of those places I’ve been to a lot. I went there for field trips in school and then my family and I started going on Monday holidays (since there is free admission on Mondays to the art museum). I wanted to write a series about this historical place since it’s such an important attraction in our area. I should probably start with a post that talks about the Museum in general, but I can’t stop myself from first writing about the new exhibit, Beyond Bling. This  is a big change from the usual exhibits of wonderful paintings and sculptures from the past.

In a word, the atmosphere is electrifying. I’ve never been so interested in seeing a particular show at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art before. They really step out of their comfort zone with this one and I think it’s worth it. The art, the movie, the books, the music…it all gels into a total experience. The art is bright and shiny (literally since a lot of it has rhinestones or something similar in it). They have iPods you can use to listen to rap music while you see the exhibit–three different playlists to choose from too, I believe. At the end they have a movie and lots of books to look through. It’s a media explosion!

The hip-hop culture really comes alive for visitors through the art and its descriptions. I love the piece of the speakers with rhinestones, where the description says the artist is trying to convey something that is visually loud. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. It’s really powerful.

The movie is from the beginning of the hip-hop movement and definitely gives you an inside look at what the youths were doing to express themselves. There’s one part where they talk about graffiti being a way to play a game–who can do something faster, higher-up, bigger. Then there’s this part about how the graffiti is personal and tells a story. I thought the break dancing scenes were pretty nifty too.

In researching this post, I came across the Facebook page for the event. I think the page, along with the subject of the exhibit, really shows how the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is evolving. Beyond Bling is a terrific way for the Ringling Museum to mix the old and the new–it creates a little something for everyone. It runs through August 14th.

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