Best-Known Places for Family Vacationers in Florida

Located in the Southeastern United States, the Sunshine State of Florida is indeed a favorite destination for family vacationers from across the globe. With the many beautiful spots it contained, you cannot dare to miss visiting the place. Evident of this verity are the stunning beaches surrounding the state, particularly the ones on Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Talking about spending family vacation in Florida, the first common thought you may come up with is visiting Orlando. But beyond that, there are still a lot of best-known spots for family vacationers await in Florida.

Below are the best-known places in the entire state of Florida, which acquire the most number of family visits anytime of the year.

  • Amelia Island: Located in Northeast Florida, the Amelia Island is a famed destination of family vacationers visiting Florida. The island is surrounded by lovely beaches and a quaint town to explore. Also waiting is the historic fort filled with actors playing period roles. It has all the perfect spots to spend quality vacation with families and friends, especially on holidays.
  • Central Florida: This is now where Orlando comes in. Among the many cities in Florida, Orlando irrefutably appears to be the most famous destination in terms of family vacations. The place is promising more fun offers to family vacationers including Disney World extras — fireworks, live shows, water parks and theme parks. Apart from the famous Disney World, Orlando also has other major family-friendly spots like the Discovery Cove.
  • Space Coast: Still located near Orlando at exactly 45 minutes east, Florida’s Space Coast is regarded as a 72 miles of shore with cute towns like Cocoa and beautiful beaches. It also contains the famous Kennedy Space Center. Eco-tours such as the saltwater estuaries, marshes and 250 sq. miles of wildlife refuges are also available in the coast to explore.
  • Club Med Sandpiper Bay: Accessible by a two-hour flight from Miami or Orlando, Club Med Sandpiper Bay is an all inclusive resort in the US, perfectly designed for family vacationers with kids. The place contains family and kid friendly-atmosphere with outstanding programs for kids and Baby Club Med. Other exciting activities you can do at Club Med Sandpiper Bay include trapeze, sailing, inline skating and golf.
  • Orlando Resorts: Enormous resorts are surrounding Orlando awaiting family vacationers to offer excellent accommodation while having fun with the nearby attraction sites. Ranging from Value to Luxury, a total of 22 themed Disney World resorts bestow a superb set of extras per se the Universal Orlando, with two theme parks and popular rides. More hotels, resorts and vacation houses surround these fun places all designed to offer comfort to every guest.

Aside from Orlando resorts, family vacationers visiting Orlando and other cities inside Florida, usually opt to stay in vacation homes, where they are provided with inclusive services, facilities and ambiance, similar to that of a real abode.

Florida Getaways: The Top 10 Weekend Retreats

Florida is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S. In fact, the state gets approximately 80 million visitors a year. But what if you only have a few days to getaway? Just because your time is limited doesn’t mean that there aren’t a great selection of options. Luckily for you, Florida boasts a diverse selection of weekend destinations. Whether you are looking for luxury resorts, family fun or a romantic weekend, Florida has options for almost every lifestyle and budget.

Disney World

Of course, one of the most famous places to visit in Florida is Disney World, and the Magic Kingdom Park is a good place to start! It’s the original Disney theme park where kids (and adults) can re-live their favorite Disney stories. Packed with creative discovery experiences, Disney meets technology in Epcot’s Future World and the World Showcase is all about the culture of 11 different countries. At Disney World, enchanting entertainment and beloved Disney characters combine with technological innovation and international culture to create an unforgettable getaway.

NASA

Worlds apart from Disney’s theme parks but just a short drive away, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is known as the gateway to exploring, discovering and understanding our universe and has served as the departure gate for every American manned mission. At the Visitor Complex, Floridians have the opportunity to tour NASA’s launch and landing facilities… and they can even meet a NASA Astronaut.

The Everglades

Another one-of-a-kind Florida retreat is Everglades National Park. The largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S., the park boasts rare and endangered species in a unique ecosystem. From Ranger-led activities to environmental education programs, there’s something for everyone at Everglades National Park.

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are gems strung along a necklace called the Overseas Highway. This archipelago stretches for 100 miles from Biscayne Bay to Key West. This southernmost city in the Continental United States has long been a Mecca for writers and artists; it’s where Tennessee Williams spent the final years of his life and John James Audubon painted tropical birds. Also, Ernest Hemingway wrote a number of novels here. Florida residents looking for something different will certainly find it in the Keys.

Daytona Beach

Motor sports in Daytona Beach got its start on the hard-packed beaches, so it’s no surprise that it allows cars on its 23-mile-long beach. And every year, race fans come by the thousands to watch fast cars and their famous drivers lap the track in the Daytona 500. It’s not only the richest stock car event in the country but also the most unforgettable… some say it’s like Mardi Gras, New Year’s Eve and the Kentucky Derby rolled into one so it’s no wonder that Florida residents want to join in the party.

Amelia Island

On the northeastern corner of the state sits Amelia Island, a barrier beach that shelters the mainland from hurricanes. The island’s only town, Fernandina Beach, is a charming fish and shrimp seaport and its 19th-century buildings comprise a leafy, 50-block historical district of cafes, shops and inns. Amelia Island is a quaint retreat from everyday life… perfect for a weekend escape.

Sarasota – Florida’s Cultural Coast

Located 50 miles south of Tampa, Sarasota is referred to as the “Cultural Coast of Florida.” It’s rich art scene rivals those of much larger cities around the United States. This culturally rich city on the Gulf of Mexico has dozens of independent theaters and performing arts halls. In addition, Sarasota’s repertoire of cultural venues also includes more than 30 art galleries, opera, symphony, ballet, museums, and a thriving visual performing arts scene. For sun lovers, there are also world-class beaches. Sarasota’s Siesta Key Beach is ranked as the second best beach in the United States by Dr Beach.

Miami Beach

Known world-wide as one of the top travel destinations, Miami Beach has it all for those who are looking to enjoy some fun in the sun. You can leave your dress shirt and tie at home, because in Miami Beach, it is all about enjoying the near-perfect weather. However, don’t think that the fun stops when the sun goes down, because that is when things start to heat up. Cocktails flow and tan bodies unite in some of the top night clubs in the United States. It is not unusual to rub elbows with celebrities, models and the affluent if you are lucky enough to get in the doors of some of the top venues like LIV at the Fontainebleau, Cameo, Bed or Mynt. You can also shop till you drop. Miami is known for its fabulous shopping!

Apalachicola

Another of Florida’s hidden gems is Apalachicola. Visitors to this river town can imagine what it must have been like in the 1830s when Apalachicola rivaled New Orleans as the most prosperous port on the Gulf of Mexico. The wealth of those times financed a district of estates and several of those mansions have become inns which makes the town a popular getaway for couples. Apalachicola’s maritime history is brought to life through hands-on museums and a 19th-century sloop in which you can go for a sail… a particular thrill when dolphins escort the ship.

Key Largo

Located in Key Largo is one of the most unusual and exclusive resorts in the world: Jules’ Undersea Lodge. Surrounded by millions of gallons of water, Jules’ Lodge is more select than most hotels: admittance is based not on credit rating but on swimming ability. Named for science fiction writer Jules Verne, it is the world’s first undersea hotel and a night here just may be the ultimate getaway.

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons why Florida draws more than 80 million visitors a year. There are so many wonderful things to do in the Sunshine State. Just remember to bring your sun screen!

Islander Club Condos on Longboat Key

As a haven of pure bliss and tranquility Longboat Key forms barrier the island alongside an 11 mile shoreline of unblemished white beaches hurdled by an azure ocean. Around 8 000 people has made this beautiful island their permanent abode. Seasonal owners escape the hectic city life and stress and come and rejuvenate here for their holiday breakaways. Prospect investors in the popular Sarasota real estate market are enticed by the average pleasant temperature of 73 degrees to flee from icy cold temperatures elsewhere and experience the warmth of not only the temperature but also diverse attractions in this lively community. Options are abundant for participation in hiking, cycling, and running, snorkeling, fishing, swimming and kayaking.

For the residents who want to proof their sporty adeptness vast opportunities are available on island and off shore at prominent distinguished courses like the PGA courses and the Longboat Key course for golf enthusiasts and the USTP tennis courts on the mainland for a challenging game of tennis. A measly distance away is the exclusive and renowned St. Armand’s Circle where Longboat Key residents can experience shopping in miscellanea of stylish boutiques, welcoming sidewalks and elite restaurants.

On the southern tip of Longboat Key is the prestigious Islander Club that offers tranquil island living on the beach in one of the 133 stylish and modern residences. The address of Island Club is 2295 & 2301 Gulf Mexico Drive and the complex were built in 1970 in proper Florida fashion. Prominent of the exterior of the architecture of Island Club is the two gleaming high rises rimmed by the glistening white beach and blue ocean. Residents have the opportunity to make use of a diverse range of amenities and can relax in the junior Olympic swimming pool, the modern fitness center, a billiard room, social room and library equipped with the convenience of a private kitchen. They can daringly spread their wings a little further and to find themselves amidst numerous attractions in downtown Sarasota.

The Islander Club offers prospect real estate buyers of popular beachfront residences the opportunity of investing in a condominium at realistic prices of around $400,000 to soaring prices as high as $1,2 million. Exclusive to Islander Club residents is the owner to owner rental program that is an extreme convenience for owners to accommodate additional visitors and to rent an extra condo for the duration of their stay. The condominiums are spaciously designed with floor plans of 1,180 to 2,470 square foot plans with extending terraces strolling onto the panoramic beach.

Eating and dining out will satisfy the taste of any resident with the superb selection of venues to choose from like Harry’s Continental Kitchens, Blanche Maison, The Chart House, the Wine Cellar, Plaza Steakhouse and the Waterfront Grill.

Investing in a condominium in The Islander Club with its wide open intra coastal views, stunning sunsets dawning over the mighty ocean is assured to warrant a lifestyle of bliss.

How To Recognize Original, Hand-Made Wood Sculpture

Imagine this: you are in a quaint little shop somewhere in the mountains or at the beach, on vacation. You have been admiring a group of nice-looking wood figures on the shelf there, thinking about how nice one of them might look in your home. You know, right there in the living room near the fireplace, maybe even on the mantle!

Yes indeed, this could be the right wood carving for your home. It looks good, it’s of a figure that interests you, and it sure seems like a bargain. Is it an original woodcarving? Well, it MUST be, as this is the kind of art store that seems to sell neat-looking originals, right? Let’s look a bit closer, and learn about this woodcarving and the millions just like it all over the world.

Original vs. Reproduction Wood Carvings: The Age-Old Argument.

So this might be a reproduction, so what? Well, that is really a good point….if you don’t much care about the issue, then it probably will not be a big deal to you. However, if you DO care about the issue of Original vs. Reproductions, then to YOU it is essential to have an original piece of woodcarving whenever you have the ‘choice’.

After all, original wood carving, signed by the artist, is a joy and privilege to own. You know that it is a true one-of-a-kind. This is true even though the artist may have made other pieces in the same theme or style. You know that you will never see another one just like yours. You also know that, as an original, this piece was hand-made from start to finish. The artist took the time (often too much time) to add every detail, make every stroke personally, and perform each step in the creation process. There is not, and never will be an exact copy of your woodcarving.

On the other hand, we all know the limitations of reproductions. If you buy one for a special place in your home, you will never look at it the same way as you could an original woodcarving. You know there are hundreds elsewhere. You know that it was stamped out of a mill somewhere on a big machine. You also know that it is one in a million, not one of a kind.

A Bit Caustic?

Now all this rhetoric may seem a bit harsh to some, but it really is how I feel about art; wood carving in particular. I have seen lots of artists attempt to make the copies as ‘original’ as possible, by using tricks of the trade. Sometimes they will have originals copied, and then the artist will dab on touches of paint, thereby justifying the high prices he demands.

I’ve seen this in wood carving also. There is a process by which an original woodcarving is created over a long time; very ornate. A bronze cast of it is made, and then used to act as a template for creating hundreds of others, in wood, and then painted. Frankly they can be fabulous wood carvings!

Some sculpture is reproduced using a resin casting method. A cast is made from the original, and then hundreds are cast by pouring a wood-resin into the mold. It is a neat way to reproduced sculpture.

But, whenever I hold one of these reproductions, I know in my heart they are not original woodcarvings, they will always be copies. They do not hold the spirit of the artist, only the intention of the millwright that stamped them out.

That may be all right for many people. In fact, it has shown to be just fine for the mass populace of the planet. But for me, and maybe you, the original wood carving makes us feel the connection with the artist, and with what he was trying to convey at that moment.

Knowing The Difference

So, if you agree with me that an original, at a fair price is really worth having, I will tell you how to spot the differences between the two. Not only can this save you the embarrassment of having made a huge mistake in judgement, but also it can save you a lot of money!

Let’s go back to that shop in the mountains, or at the beach, for a moment to look at those wood carvings again. As you look at the pieces, let me whisper in your ear what to look for……..

Here are several nice woodcarving s on a variety of themes. A shelf full of them! Your eye dances over the line-up; there is an old man’s face; carved as a bust. Next to that is a small statue of a woman in a long robe. Then, there is carving of a Native American Indian. Finally, a very nice sculpture of a wolf and his prey. Each one of these wood carvings is painted in different ways, made of different woods, and even different sizes. Let’s begin with the first carving; the old mans face.

Now, a lot of this information is just plain common sense. Even as I write this, I wonder who is going to believe that ANYONE will not be able to tell the lowest level differences between original and reproduction….. but really there are lots and lots of folk that cannot tell the difference even on the most simple sculptures. Add to that the fact that factories make it their business to make copies as accurately as possible, and you can see that it isn’t shameful to be fooled anymore!

There now, having made my disclaimer, let’s discuss that first wood sculpture. In fact, let’s just talk about the ‘word’ sculpture as opposed to carving. What is the difference here? It can be as simple as price.

You know the old joke about the pronunciation of ‘vase’, right? If it is cheap, it’s a ‘vase’ if it expensive, it becomes a ‘vahhse’. That has always made me laugh. Well, it can be the same with wood sculpture. If it is cheap, it might be called a wood carving, if it is expensive, then it might be referred to as a wood sculpture. Sadly, there is a deal of truth to that. After all, art is strictly a perceptive thing. It’s all in how you like it.

Let’s look at the items in the shop today, and start placing judgement on them, making a list, to determine if they are originals or reproductions.

1. Feel It

Pick the wood carving up. How does it feel? Is it cool to the touch, or does it seem to have a warm quality? Is it heavy, or light? Does it feel smooth, or does it have jagged edges? Do you feel a ‘spray-paint’ finish, or is it smooth and slippery to the touch?

2. Look At It Closely

Think about what you are looking at. Wood grain should be visible somewhere on any original woodcarving, even if there is paint on the subject. Do you see evidence of a carving tool having been there? Do you see the tell-tale sign of a mold-seal along the sides of the item? If you see grain that is not painted, can you see ‘into’ the grain? This is almost a 3-D effect that real wood exhibits when viewed in a strong light. They haven’t figured out how to reproduce that yet!

3. Signature, And More…..

Does the piece bear a signature or mark of the artist? Some reproductions are so poor as to have neglected the all-important connection with the artist that created the piece. Does it have a “Made in China” sticker? Don’t laugh, some people don’t even look, and think they have an original. Is there a script that tells you the production number? Such as 30/1000. This means that this piece is the 30th piece that was created out of a production of 1000 pieces: not an original !

4. Check The Attached Information Tag

Look at the tag that is usually attached to an original sculpture. You should always examine these tags, and ask yourself, “What is this tag trying to avoid saying to me?” Does the tag actually state that THIS piece is an original? Does the tag kind of waltz around that statement? Many dealers do not want to say a wood carving is a reproduction, as it will dramatically affect the price. People expect to pay less than 10% for a machine copy of a wood carving.

5. Ask the Shop Owner

Yes, ask the owner of the shop. A reputable shopkeeper will rarely lie about this, as it can surely come back to haunt him later. Keep in mind, if you are at a Flea Market, or a garage sale, your chances of getting the truth might be somewhat less!

6. Internet Purchases?

The Internet is a great source for finding wood carvings that you would never discover in your travels. When you shop online, use common shopping safety practices concerning credit cards info, and personal data. It’s not dangerous, just don’t do anything you would not normally do when buying something online other than a wood carving. Dealers of art and wood carvings are unlikely to attempt to take advantage of you online, as this is their livelihood also. Most will certainly offer you a return policy in writing. Paying with a credit card or even PayPal offers another layer of protection for you, in the event you do not like the woodcarving, you can easily return it.
Once you get the wood carving to your home, you can then use all these tips to properly examine the piece.

7. Do Your Research

Above all, do your research! If you plan to spend $1,000.00 on anything, I am sure you will look into the subject deep enough to satisfy your curiosity. Conversely, most people can spend less than $50.00 on an obvious reproduction of a wood carving without having to spend days in research. There are too many resources available for you to say at the end of the day that you could not find any information on the topic. If you are like me, the Internet is the greatest resource of all, but even there, you must use your common sense!

So, there you are! Now that you have examined the pieces on the shelf, and you are satisfied that these are originals, only question that remains is, “Which one am I taking home?”

Chuck Hall is a wood carver / sculptor living in Fernandina Beach, Florida located on Amelia Island. He is the owner of Shady Oak Studio, and offers his wood carvings and wood sculptures via his website http://www.ShadyOakStudio.com, as well as art shows, and through select shops and galleries.

Denise Brown Talks About Nicole Brown Simpson and Domestic Violence

Denise Brown, the sister of Nicole Brown Simpson, has committed herself to raising awareness against domestic violence. Denise’s life took a dramatic turn on June 12, 1994, when her sister was murdered. Now she has committed her life to raising awareness about a crime that kills three women every day in the United States.

When she recently came to Amelia Island, she was the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for Micah’s Place, Inc., Nassau County, Florida’s only Certified Domestic Violence Center. I had the opportunity to sit down with Brown for a very candid conversation and video interview to discuss the increasing rates of domestic abuse, a message she wants shared with the youth of our country, her rarely spoken about relationship with her sister and what Denise Brown has planned for her future.

One of Brown’s biggest concerns is the misconception that domestic violence is not a serious issue. She told me that the numbers of calls coming into the crisis centers are increasing. The additional financial stress families are facing because of our nation’s poor economic health appears to be adding to the incidents of violence in the home.

Anger management is not the answer to domestic violence and abuse. More shelters are needed, Batterer’s Treatment Programs need to be expanded and education needs to begin at an earlier age. The Violence Against Women’s Act has helped with additional funds for shelters and programs, but awareness and public service announcements are not covered in the funding. Domestic violence is a cycle that can be broken. This is no longer a taboo topic and there are no acceptable excuses. No one should have to endure physical, mental and emotional terrorism in their own home.

Having traveled the country speaking at prisons, treatment centers and shelters, there are a few words about this violent crime the youth of our nation needs to hear. “You don’t have to date the captain of the football team if he is not a nice person.” Domestic violence is a choice someone makes; and our children need to be taught this at an earlier age. The book, Hands are not for Hitting, is a great resource to teach our kids that physical violence is unacceptable. This colorful, bright and inviting book helps spread this important message to even the youngest of children that hitting is not okay.

Though Brown has not publicly spoken about Nicole Brown Simpson much in the past, she has recently realized that to many, her sister has not been portrayed as “a real person” through the media. When we sat down with Denise, she opened up about her sister and what she knew about the violent relationship Nicole was involved in prior to her murder. In this touching interview, the link can be found below, Denise speaks of her sister as a hopeless romantic, and in this moment of remembrance she unconsciously uses the present tense.

Domestic violence is a learned behavior that touches real people. Not just poor people, not just celebrities and not just women! Brown is determined to banish the darkness, end the silence, spread awareness and stop the cycle of violence. She founded The Nicole Brown Foundation (NicoleBrown.org), a non-profit national advocacy organization against domestic violence focused on bringing awareness, education and inspiration to others. Denise learned through diaries and notes that her sister had suffered over 17 years of verbal, mental, physical and emotional abuse.

Through the Nicole Brown Foundation, public service announcements displayed on Los Angeles city buses are generating calls from men. Men who are being abused are calling their hot-line and so are the men who want to know how to help someone out of these dangerous and life threatening situations.

Breaking the circle of domestic violence is not easy, nor is making the choice to get out of a violent relationship. Statistics show that the abused return to their abusers again and again before they finally get out and receive the support they need to start over with their lives.

So, what is next for Denise Brown? She is laying the foundation for The Elite Speaker’s Bureau to discuss not just domestic violence, but also other problematic issues of social responsibility utilizing real people, not just celebrities, who are experts in their field.