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Florida Happenings: Explore & Unwind

Florida Happenings: Explore & Unwind

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South Florida

Let’s Go to the Mall

Shopping pros will be hard-pressed to find a more impressive mall than the Aventura Mall, the largest mall in the state of Florida. Not only are there more than 250 stores, but the Apple store boasts an amphitheater, and visitors can also enjoy impressive sculptures. After finding great deals, kick your feet up with dinner at the food court or at one of the 22 restaurants. Aventura; 305.935.1110;

Rollin’ Down the River

Explore Fort Lauderdale’s New River by hopping on board the Jungle Queen, the iconic riverboat in the Venice of America. Guests can enjoy a leisurely ride through the waterways or opt for dinner and a show. Fort Lauderdale; 954.462.5596;

Butterfly World, Coconut Creek

Butterflies Everywhere

Surround yourself with more than 20,000 fluttering butterflies at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek. Since 1988, visitors to the aviary have encountered 50 species of colorful butterflies and hundreds of birds—an awe-inspiring experience for nature lovers of all ages. Coconut Creek; 954.977.4434;

Secret Garden

Not only are the grounds at the opulent Vizcaya Museum & Gardens a treat, but so is the Italianate architecture of the Gilded Age mansion. Wander through the 1916 main house, catch a behind-the-scenes tour of the swimming pool grotto, and witness the return of the property’s rose garden, which has finally bloomed after almost a century. Miami; 305.250.9133;

Stroll Worth Avenue

The shopping district of luxe Palm Beach Island, Worth Avenue’s palm tree-lined street is also home to high-end boutiques—think Gucci, Chanel, Bottega Veneta, Stubbs and Wootton, as well as haute brands that embody the beach lifestyle. Palm Beach;

Tour the River of Grass

Head west of Fort Lauderdale to Everglades Holiday Park, where buildings are sparse and the world slows down. It’s Florida’s precious wetlands, home to alligators, a host of birds and serene lily pads. Hop on an airboat ride to get up close with nature—and be on the lookout for the glassy eyes of gators popping up to the surface! Fort Lauderdale; 954.434.8111;

North Florida & Panhandle

Jacksonville Zoo, Jacksonville

Animal Kingdom

Enter the domain of Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, home to more than 2,400 animals from land and sea across the globe. You’ll be enamored by the roar of a Sumatran tiger, the strength of a western lowland gorilla, and the colors of a wreathed hornbill. Jacksonville; 904.757.4463;

Put a Cork in It

Just outside of downtown St. Augustine, the San Sebastian Winery is located in one of tycoon Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railway buildings. Drop by for a tasting or self-guided tour of the property’s vineyards and fermentation room, and leave with your new favorite bottle of wine. If you’re headed to Central Florida, visit the winery’s sister property in Clermont. St. Augustine; 904.826.1594;

Local Spirits

Tour the St. Augustine Distillery, a family-owned business housed in the 1907 Historic FP&L Ice Plant. Each spirit is distilled in house using grains by Florida farmers, creating a menu of unique bourbons, rums, gins and vodkas. Add on the Fill Your Own Bottle Experience during the tour and fill your own bottle in the distillery to bring a little bit of St. Augustine home with you. St. Augustine; 904.825.4962;

Keep the Light On

For immaculate views of Florida’s Gulf Coast, climb up the 177 steps of the Pensacola Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1859 and includes a living museum with the lightkeeper’s quarters, as well as exhibits telling the story of women lightkeepers and the different techniques used to guide ships to shore. Pensacola; 850.393.1561;

Sandbar Lounging

While at the beach in Destin, an island seems to crop up in the ocean—it’s called Crab Island, but it’s actually a sandbar that draws boaters and swimmers looking to soak in the sun. Visitors can grab a ride on one of the many shuttle boats on shore to enjoy the day at the sandbar that is anywhere from just 2 feet deep to 10 feet deep. Destin;

Central Florida

Chimes of the Carillon

Arts, architecture and flora—Bok Tower Gardens checks it all off the list. Built in 1929, the property immerses visitors in the beauty of a Singing Tower carillon, a Mediterranean-style mansion, concerts under the stars, and bites at the Blue Palmetto Cafe. Lake Wales; 863.676.1408;

San Sebastian Winery, St. Augustine

Off the Vine

The sister winery to San Sebastian in St. Augustine, the Lakeridge Winery in Clermont is considered one of the top wineries in the Sunshine State. Partake in a wine tasting and tour of the property, as well as Weekends at the Winery, a fete every Saturday and Sunday with food, live music and wine on the greens. Clermont; 800.768.9463;

I See Right Through You

Wherever there’s a body of water, there’s probably a kayak somewhere close. But at Rock Springs, just north of Orlando, you can paddle through the winding waterways in a clear vessel! Get Up and Go Kayaking has locations throughout the state, so be sure to check them
out on your next trip to the water. 407.212.7306;

West Florida

Meet a Manatee

Florida may have many gruesome creatures, but the Sunshine State is also home to gentle manatees, affectionately named sea cows. See them up close and personal at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge’s warm springs—while they float their way through the park all year long, the best time to visit is November through April. Crystal River; 352.563.2088;

Naples Pier, Naples

Pier Review

Whether you enjoy a day of fishing, dolphin spotting, soaking in the sun, or enjoying a snack with a view of the Gulf of Mexico, the Naples Pier checks all the boxes. Built in 1888, the 1,000-foot-long pier has been a favorite for visitors and locals alike for more than a century. Naples; 239.213.7120;

Love of Flowers

Feel your heartbeat slowly drop as you wander through the Naples Botanical Gardens, a 170-acre conservation and habitat area that draws more than 220,000 visitors per year. There are Asian, Brazilian, Caribbean and Florida gardens that capture the flora and fauna of each region, as well as a garden teeming with orchids. Inside you’ll also find Stickwork, a series of whimsical woven sculptures created by environmental artist Patrick Dougherty. Naples; 239.643.7275;

White Sand Beaches

As Treasure Island’s name indicates, its beaches are a true jewel in the Florida treasure chest of natural wonders. Its white sand beaches are some of the widest you’ll find on the peninsula, with plenty of resorts and bungalows to make you feel home away from home.

Roll Me a Cigar

Tampa’s Ybor City is a historic landmark thanks to its origins as a cigar manufacturing district. Today, visitors can stroll the brick streets of the Cigar Capital of the World for a hand-rolled cigar and learn about its history at the Ybor City Museum State Park.


This story is from the 2022 Annual Florida edition. Click to read more.