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Southern Shorts

El Conquistador Thrills 

Florida visitors might take a high-speed, one-hour ride across Matanzas Bay aboard El Conquistador, St. Augustine's newest thrill ride. The narrated tour features history, speed and fun. The powerful speedboat departs from the City Marina's Slip 73.

Tickets are $39.50 for adults and $29.50 for children ages 4-12. Admission is free for active duty military personnel with ID. Special rates are available for groups of eight or more. For safety reasons, children under four and pregnant women are not allowed onboard. Visit www.elconspeedboat.com.

A Birder's Heaven

Did you know Florida is located along two major bird "fly-ways." In total, 485 species of birds can be seen in the state. The Great Florida Birding Trail is a 2,000-mile trail through the state with 489 sites selected for excellent bird watching. Visit www.floridabirdingtrail.com.

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Cowboys and More at the Tampa Bay History Center!

A great half-day diversion for those visiting the Channelside District of Tampa is the new Tampa Bay History Center. With three floors of exhibitry and multi-media experiences, the center offers insight into cowboys, native Americans, cigar workers and others who shaped the development of Florida. The Columbia Cafe also operates a restaurant on site, making a visit to the center not only a feast for the mind, but a feast for the tummy as well.
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VRrrroooom! The Daytona 500 Experience

If you're anywhere near I-95 in central Florida, check out the Daytona 500 Experience. Located at Daytona International Speedway, this high-tech, high-touch attraction gives NASCAR fans and sports enthusiasts an up-close look at the speedway's famed tri-oval track, as well as a chance to jump in a simulator and drive the track for themselves. Historical memorabilia, IMAX 3D movies and simulators are on tap. Zooooommmm....
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PHOTOLOGUE: The Murals of Lake Placid

We drove from Tampa to Miami last fall and opted to try a mid-state route, rather than the frenetic Interstates (I-75 and I-95) on either side of the state. In Lake Placid, FL, we discovered a cornucopia of street art -- lovely murals that decorated various buildings around town. We spent an hour or so in the town and here is a photologue of the murals.
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Tallahassee: A Feminine Flair

Surrounded by lush landscapes and rolling hills, Tallahassee often seems more akin to a city in Georgia or Alabama than to the rest of the Sunshine State. As Florida's capital city, this northern FL city boasts government buildings and well-known attractions including the state capitol. But Roberta Sandler delves into the city's heart and soul -- visiting lesser-known historic sites that showcase the influence of 19th and 20th century women.
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Steinhatchee Landing: Where Families Connect

Steinhatchee Landing, along Florida's northwest Gulf of Mexico coastline is a pristine getaway, where families and couples have time and the atmosphere to "connect." Yes, Steinhatchee Landing has modern attributes like a new swimming pool, exercise facility and extensive kids' play area, but it's the simplistic things that make this resort special. So come along to a place that exudes an "old Florida" spirit yet delivers modern, pampering accommodations.
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Discovering "Old Florida" In Everglades City

Traversing FL between Fort Lauderdale and Naples, Interstate 75 (simply called "Alligator Alley" by the locals) delivers scenic views of seas of grass, wetlands and forests. Teeming with birds, gators and other wildlife, the region is home to Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park and the 10,000 Islands. Join Editor Susan J. Young on a day trip south from I-75 to Everglades City. You'll discover Old Florida, drop-dead scenery and tales from the edge of civilization.
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Timeless Naples: Florida's Gulf Coast Jewel

Southwest Florida is a piece of paradise, says writer Marcia Levin. Over the decades, she's journeyed east from Greater Fort Lauderdale to Naples with her family. Her kids are now grown, but Naples remains a favorite getaway destination. Recently she accompanied a dozen family members to the region. Whether your family enjoys eco-sites, the arts, go-cart fun, shopping or other pursuits, Marcia shows that Naples' appeal is timeless.
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In Search of Gentle Giants in Tampa Bay

For a 90-minute outdoor diversion along Tampa Bay, head for the Tampa Electric Company's Big Bend Power Station Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, FL. From November through March, this eco-hot spot is a great place to see lumbering manatees, amble along a nature trail through Florida habitats, go birdwatching, and visit a small manatee museum (the painting at right is part of the museum's artwork). Best of all, parking and admission are free! Join us...
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Sarasota's Ringling Museum: 5 Experiences in One

Circus legend John Ringling and his wife Mable built a massive, European-style palace boasting Italian antiques, art and architecture in Sarasota, FL. Today, you may tour this magnificent Italianate villa along with two superb circus museums; a world-class art museum to rival anything in New York or London; the 1798-era Asolo Theater; and Mable's Rose Garden. The Ringling Art Museum & Estate is a surprising diversion with five unique experiences!
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Southern Chautauqua: DeFuniak Springs, FL

When the railroad steamed into NW Florida in the 1880s, DeFuniak Springs -- sporting a large, perfectly round lake fed by natural springs -- became a popular winter home for those seeking a warm getaway. The new community embraced the Chatauqua movement and celebrated learning, art, culture, politics and recreation. Today, more than 150 homes and buildings are on the National Historic Register and the Chatauqua spirit remains.
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In Search of the Dry Tortugas

Take a boat ride or a seaplane flight 70 miles west of Key West into the Gulf of Mexico and you'll arrive at the Dry Tortugas, a far-flung group of uninhabited islands. The Dry Tortugas actually are closer to Cuba than they are to Key West. In the mid-1800s the United States government built Fort Jefferson atop one of the tiny islands. We'll show you how to visit.
Endearing Winter Park: Shopping and Tiffany Glass

Just five miles north of Orlando and a world apart from Florida's theme parks is Winter Park, a quiet enclave of boutiques, parks and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art with a renowned collection of Tiffany glass. David Wilkening, an Orlando-based freelance writer, gives his "top picks" of what to see and do while on a walking tour.

Whoooo...oooo Haunted St. Augustine!

Perhaps no city in America exudes as much drama and intrigue as St. Augustine, America's oldest city. The area was explored by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon in 1513 and founded as a settlement in 1565. Today the massive stone Spanish fort (once a prison) is reportedly one of the most haunted places in the city. For all the spooky tourism activities come along...
Easy Does It In Vero Beach

Along Florida's central east coast, visitors ease comfortably into laid-back Vero Beach. It's a friendly beach town where local folks say hello even if they don't know you. It's a family place where kids may frolic at Disney's Vero Beach Resort and other upscale hotels. Vero Beach is a refreshing gem amid a landscape of over-development elsewhere in Florida.

Sun, Sand and Speed Rule Daytona Beach

Travelers headed to the Daytona Beach area for a week's vacation or a weekend getaway will find attractive new features added over the past two years. New spas have opened, several major hotels have completed major renovations and innovative new restaurants have opened. Ormond Beach resident Kay Harwell Fernandezgives readers a look at the destination.
Free or Affordable in Greater Fort Lauderdale

Families have plenty of high-priced theme park or attraction options within Florida. But freelance writer Marcia Levin, a Hollywood, FL resident, knows Broward County (basically Greater Fort Lauderdale) inside and out. From alligator spotting to boardwalk hopping, she's come up with a Top 10 list for people who want interesting diversions but at an affordable cost.

Girlfriend Getaway to Charlotte Harbor

Ladies of all ages are hitting the road or heading for airports for a "Girlfriend Getaway," with female peers or family members. Freelance writer Laura Reiley recently traveled off the beaten path in Florida to the Palm Island Resort with her 10-year-old daughter and her 60-year-old mother. Check out her experiences...

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