Florida-wheres the best place to go on vacation????

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My dh just announce we may drive to Florida for a little vacation, we live in N.E. Tx, we don't have a lot of money, so where is the best place to go, see, coupons, discounts etc. We're thinking beaches, nice quiet ones (don't think my 12 yr old son nor dh needs to see the thong bathing suit thing)things for the kids to do ages 12 and 6, someplace not to hot either. Would appreciate anyone from there or whos been there offering advice or suggestions, thanks Carol

-- Carol in Tx (cwaldrop@peoplescom.net), June 26, 2001


Carol, I am in Florida but I'm not much help when it comes to vacation plans since I tend to hermit here at the farm when I am not working. Also don't do beaches anymore. But, there used to be some great beaches up in the panhandle- we had a summer place on Santa Rosa Island, near Pensacola, about 15 years ago. That area might be worth checking out. One activity which we do enjoy a lot is river float trips. We do the Rainbow River mostly, which is a 4-hour trip. The put in is near Dunellon, which is on the Gulf Coast of Central Fla. Another good float trip is on the Itchetuknee (sp), closer to Gainesville. When are you planning your trip? I'll ask around amongst my more outgoing friends and find out if there are any deals around here (Tampa)- Busch Gardens is really nice and the crowds are not as horrendous as they are in Orlando. Of course, your kids might insist on Disney and the studios!

-- Elizabeth (ekfla@aol.com), June 27, 2001.

O.K., I have read your posts in the past and can't figure out what "your dh" means unless its dead husband!

Being native Floridian and 12 miles from Disney's back gate; plus being an old grump; once is enought, same for Sea World, Universal Studios, ect. Of course the kids could live there if you morgaged your souls. There are "park hopper" plans that help defuse the $60.00 per person per day costs; hotels- with a family could cost $125.00 per night for starters; top end places 5 times that near the attractions. Hotels out away from attractions are less severe or renting a motor coach is a way out of the money squeeze.

As for things to see I would recommend St. Augustene, the oldest city in America, there is a fort built in the 1500's and a lot of historical stuff, reenactments, ect. and some very top end quaint shops. Day two would be at Cape Kennedy, NASA has a quality program and excellent facilities, hands on for the kids. Most of the beaches are pretty tame except during college break; note beaches are accessable from small town, small towns have speed limits, need I say more?

As for the attractions: "gatorland" near Kissimmee is educational, the others remind you of Las Vegas. If you plan your trip so that the attractions come at the end, you will save money, everybody will be tired and ready to go home.

-- mitch hearn (moopups1@aol.com), June 27, 2001.

mitch, by the way, DH means "Dear Hubby."

Carol, one vacation that our family will never forget, is driving from Pensacola to West Palm Beach, following the gulf coast the whole way down. We stopped of course each night, and stayed long enough at each place to dip into the water. We then drove back up the east side of the state. Not fun going around Miami, but we arranged to do so at 3 AM, so the traffic was nil. The Atlantic beach was so very different from the gulf beach. Much less gentle. Driving through the Everglades was interresting till it got boring. Spotting alligators and huge water birds was a good occupation for the kids. Camping would have made the trip far cheaper, but that was when my DH had taken leave of his senses and decided to take a vacation on credit cards. NEVER AGAIN. If we had it to do over again, we would have gotten a little trailer and camped each night. We could also have avoided eating out as much, too, by using the stove in the camper. It was a good trip though. Lots and lots of pictures in the album.

-- daffodyllady (daffodyllady@yahoo.com), June 27, 2001.

By the way, at this time of year, anyplace in Florida is HOT! We went at the end of January, and temps were not very warm in the water, except in the Keys.. OH that water!!! We went swimming at a state park in the Keys, and the water was a lovely aqua, and as warm as your bathtub. The beach was very empty, as the Christmas vacations were over for the crowds.

-- daffodyllady (daffodyllady@yahoo.com), June 27, 2001.

I used to live in Florida. Where to go depends on what you are looking for. There are some incredibly beautiful freshwater springs in central and north central Florida. Get some brochures from Ginny Springs, Manatee Springs, and the Crystal and Homosassa River areas. We always enjoyed tubing and swimming at the Ichetucknee River State Park also. That whole area is really neat. Many of the rivers are crystal clear - but since they are spring fed, also quite brisk (around 72 degrees year round). The Gulf beaches in those areas are fairly undiscovered also. Call the local Chamber of Commerce or even a hotel you are considering and ask them for recommendations of family beaches. I think the Florida Dept. of Tourism may also be able to provide you with copious amounts of brochures to consider.

If you do end up in the Tampa Bay area, the town of Ruskin is a little more low key and more of a rural area. It is a very big area for aquaculture and also the winter home to many circus folk.

If you are interested in aquaculture or any specific aspects of wildlife management, contact the FL Dept. of Environmental Protection before you go. They may be able to help you turn your trip into a fun fact gathering mission also. (I used to work for them and occasionally did this for visitors.) You might also contact the local Dept of Ag office to see if they can arrange a tour of any farms you find interesting. If you go to Disney, call the PR people in advance and see if they could arrange a tour of the hydroponic exhibit. It is really neat and very educational, even if you have no intention of actually going that route with your own vegetable production.

Best wishes.

-- Lori in SE Ohio (klnprice@yahoo.com), June 27, 2001.

I just love this kind of question!

The Gulf Coast is probably "safer" as far as body scenery. If you are on the East Coast, try Fernandina and St Augustine beaches. There are (were, last I knew) some public beaches that have NO facilities and as a result are less populated. Going to St Augustine beach also gives you the opportunity to visit the old town.

Cape Canaveral is good.

The Ichnetucknee River near Gainsville is excellent. I've been innertubing down that beautiful river many times. The last time I was there I snorkeled it and couldn't believe I'd missed 1/2 the show all those other times. What the Ichnetucknee is is a big spring head. Big enough to put a canoe in and to dive into. The part you tube/snorkel down is about 7 miles long and takes about 4 hours to float it. At the end of that part there's a place you get out and can picnic. They have buses that can carry you back to your car. Best thing to do is leave your car at the end and then buse up to the begining. That way your picnic stuff is waiting for you where you get out. IF you are game, you can put in a canoe where the tubing part ends and continue on. The Ichnetucknee joins the Sante Fe (I think) which then joins the Suwanee River. You can camp along these rivers. I never got to go farther and camp but would have loved too. Being summer, go early in the day or late in the day and there may be fewer crowds. Just remember how long it takes to float down. The water is crystal clear all the way and COLD. Most of Fla's springs are about 62 degrees year round and the hotter the day the colder the water feels. You can rent tubes and stuff. Or, buy your own if you think you might need it more on the trip or otherwise.

See the Suwanee River of the Stephen Foster song.

On your way through the panhandle, drive through the capitol and see the government buildings. Florida's old capitol bldg. is pretty.

Try getting on the internet and looking up the government's websites. I was looking for something recently and found some pages on historic preservation of architecture and houses. Those would be neat places to visit.

Do you homeschool? or even if not....look up some Fla history and study it before hand or on the way. You may find some places you'd like to visit. Learn about Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth, about the Osceola and Seminole Indians, about the indians from out west that were forced to relocate to Fla.

Read Marjorie Rawlings, The Yearling. Great story and does a beautiful job of describing FL before it boomed. Watch the movie The Yearling with Gregory Peck. Maybe you could find it on audio tape and listen to the story on the way. There is a Marjorie Rawlings State Historic Site near Gainsville.

Have you ever had boiled peanuts? If not, you need to try some and there are sure to be some places selling them along the side of the road on the way through the panhandle.

Also, not far off course coming through the panhandle in Geneva, AL, I was there last October and found that they have a "Constitutional Oak Tree". It is a HUGE Live Oak tree that was there at the time of the signing of America's Constitution.

Oh, and if you do camp, especially along the beaches, be sure to have bug repellant. Even the stuff for your skin. The "no-seeums" can be maddening and the mosquitoes voracious. If you want big rolling waves, go to the East coast. If you want waves like at a lake and large shallow areas, go to the Gulf coast.

If you have time, drive down to Sarasota and Tarpon Springs on the Gulf coast. See the Greek Sponge fishing community in Tarpon Springs and the Ringling Bros. museum in Sarasota.

One of the best things to do is look at a Rand McNally map and follow the roads to see what is near along the way. You could take I-10 straight across the top of the state to Jacsonville and St. Augustine and then down I-95 to Daytona, then I-4 to Tampa and back up I-75 to Gainsville and I-10. Or, Take I-10 to Talahassee and then the back roads down the west coast (Hwy 19/27 would be good) and then come back up through Gainesville on I-75.

You might want to try and find out where there might be fires and where the roads might be closed. I understand Florida has had a lot of problems with drought and forest fires.

Hope you have a great time!

-- LBD, Florida Native living Elsewhere (lavenderbluedilly@hotmail.com), June 27, 2001.

Carol, Dh & our five kids and I go to Blue Mountain Beach every year with his family, and everyone loves it. Blue Mountain is between Destin and PCB (Panama City Beach). That whole stretch, including Santa Rosa, (which someone else mentioned) is a lot of fun. Beaches are okay for kids- no semi-nudes- and you can even see the town where the movie TRUMAN was filmed- Seaside, Fl., which the kids would probably get a kick out of. Plus there are normal fun places to go. It's fairly family-oriented. Enjoy your trip!

-- Kristin, in La. (positivekharma@aol.com), June 27, 2001.

St. Augustine is great--we stopped on the way down and again on the way back. The pier at St. Augustine Beach is great and worth 50 cents just to watch the people fishing. One caught a small hammerhead shark when we were there. We also made it to the seafood festival on our return trip. Watched little kids perform, ate conch fritters, looked at lounge chairs, had a great time all around.

Our favorite Florida vacation was when we left on the cruise ship from Port Everglades (Ft. Lauderdale). Now that was a great trip. We will be taking another cruise as soon as we agree on an itinerary.

-- Anne (HealthyTouch101@wildmail.com), June 27, 2001.

Panama City Beach-Destin area. Fairly laid back and not crowded. Reasonable priced. Beautiful white sand and lots of shallow emerald water a good distance out. Chest deep water and still see your feet, can't do that in barely over a foot of water here in California. Florida panhandle beaches puts Southern California beaches to shame.

-- nobody (nothing@nowhere.no), June 28, 2001.

Carol, Here's a little news item you should be aware of if you are visiting in Florida: A Florida newspaper, The Orlando Sentinel, published a warning from the Florida Fish and Game Commission for all citizens and visitors to be aware that the alligators are becomeing more dangerous, especially the larger ones. It is recommended that everyone who spends time near the lakes and rivers (such as golfers, hikers, picnikers, etc...) wear bells in the laces of their shoes so as to not surprise a gator and to carry a can of pepper spray in case of an encounter. You should also be somewhat able to differentiate between small gator droppings and large gator droppings so that you know what might be in the vicinity. A young gator's droppings will consist of small fish bones, bird feathers, and have a fishy odor. An adult gator's dropping will, among other things, contain bells and smell of pepper spray.

Enjoy your trip to Florida!

-- LBD, FL Native in MD (lavenderbluedilly@hotmail.com), June 28, 2001.

Nice touch, "bells", LOL! Left FL, the heat, the muggers, the forest fires, hurricanes and tourists. If you want a good time stay away from Daytona Beach. Rotten Beach, no seashells for the kids, nothing to do either.

If you are into shopping and history, I vote on St. Augustine. If you are just into sun and fun, try one of the beaches south of Daytona. Along the beach, especially the small towns, you can many times find really cheap hotels and efficiencies.

Go to the library and check out the camping guides, and tourists attractions. Historical areas tend to be cheaper than "mousetown" and you'll have a better time if you don't have to fight traffic.

-- Stephanie Nosacek (pospossum@earthlink.net), July 01, 2001.

I have lived in Florida before. While it is not my favorite place to live, a visit there is a horse of a different color. A GREAT place to vacation is a city called Dunedin. It is near Clearwater and near Tarpon Springs, Florida. All very pretty areas. Clearwater beaches have the "thong" problem you mentioned.

However, there are beaches in Dunedin, as well as nearby Crystal Beach (town/city) between Dunedin and Tarpon Springs and there are beaches at Tarpon Springs.

Last time I was there the beaches in Dunedin, Crystal Beach and Tarpon Springs were secluded -- virtually unknown or un-attended at least -- and there wasn't a thong in sight!!!

There is also some great fishing to be had from those areas, as well.

Dunedin isn't far from the attractions of Disney, Epcot, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and the like. I'm sure more attractions have been added since I've been there, as well.

You can find lodging (hotels/motels) within walking distance of the beaches that are quite reasonable in Dunedin.

Good luck and happy vacationing!

-- (wolflady1000@hotmail.com), August 10, 2001.

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