One of the most joyous tourist attractions at Christmas time is the massive Ringling Estate in Sarasota which includes the famous Ringling Art Museum with its incredible collection of Renaissance religious art. The extensive gardens and grounds add to the holiday spirit.
My favorite spot, however, is the waterfront mansion of circus magnate John Ringling – Ca’ d’ Zan, which with Vizcaya in Miami is Florida’s most beautiful historic house.
In December, for an additional admission, you can visit Ca’ d;Zan Thursday nights from 5 to 8 pm when the mansion is really lit up with its Christmas decorations from the playroom attic to the main living-room.
Christmas in Florida is a wonderful time to visit your favorite vacation spots and this is particularly true at Bok Gardens in Lake Wales.
The spectacular gardens are filled with Christmas ornamentation all the way up the hill to the Bok Tower, the highest spot in Southern Florida. Special holiday programs are part of the weekly calendar in December.
My wife’s favorite spot is the holiday home tour (Nov 29 to January 5) of the twenty room El Retiro estate built in the 1930′s for Bethlehem Steel VP Charles Austin Buck. The grounds are lovely but at Christmas various groups decorate each room in stunning color and design.
Busch Gardens is not only opening a massive new thrill ride this spring, the Tampa (FL) park is also redesigning its Timbuktu theme area into Pantopia.
Pantopia celebrates the spirit of animals and will feature fantastic architecture symbolizing the legends and dreams of adventurers entering the lands of the unknown. Everything from the indoor theater to the restaurants will be transformed into the new theme.
The big attraction is Falcon’s Fury, the tallest freestanding drop tower in the USA. What will make this ride quite unique is it rotates the riders so they face down as they reach forces of 3.5 Gs. The tower is so high, it will be seen from downtown Tampa.
Palm Beach can not match Indian Creek when it comes to wealth and exclusiveness. Miami’s billionaire island fortress is the home to just 40 very rich people, protected 24 hours a day by automobiles, boats and even Jet skis.
That’s because every house on Indian Creek is waterfront property as well as on the golf course. An invitation onto the island is an accomplishment.
Don’t expect to find these properties on the Zillow foreclosure map. Recently, an unknown Russian obtained the last lot for a sweet $47 million dollars.
The mansion at 3 Indian Creek was recently selling for 60 million dollars. That’s a bargain if you want Julio Iglesias (7 Indian Creek) and Don Shula (16 Indian Creek) as nearby neighbors.
Fishing is one of Florida’s top recreational industries and in Dania Beach there is a museum where there are more fish stories than anywhere else in the world.
The Fishing Hall of Fame of the International Game Fish Association is the Super Bowl site for global sports fishing. This is the place where all world fishing records are kept.
On the third floor is the E. K. Harry Library, the world’s largest collection of rare books and old films showing the history of sport fishing. The main exhibit room is, of course, filled with fish and fishing equipment, but the flexible facility also hosts lab programs, fishing camps, scout programs, and even birthday parties.
The Fishing Hall of Fame (954-922-4212) is located at 300 Gulf Stream Way in Dania Beach.
My wife hates flying so we are two of those Floridians who have taken the Silver Star from Tampa, Florida, all the way to Manhattan. It may not be like a train trip through the Rockies, but it is a unique experience in seeing the Eastern states.
Now the Silver Star is getting a new body and maybe a new image for travelers. The New York-Tampa-Miami route has seen an 8% increase in passengers in the last year and news Amtrak is spending $298 million dollars on new cars on Eastern long distance trains will help continue the trend.
The Silver Star is scheduled to have a completely new look with new sleeping cars, new diners, and new baggage cars by 2015 with new cars arriving as early as next summer. Most of the existing facilities are 1950′s cars.
Railroad ridership increases are an important talking point to those who want high speed rail service between Florida cities. The total upgrade in long-distance routes will attract younger and richer travelers.
The impact of Harry Potter on Universal Studios is very clear. With the construction of another section of Potter at the other Universal Park, complete with the infamous train ride, Universal is hoping for another attendance boost.
The people at Disney have been hard at work planning to convert their Animal Kingdom into a night attraction. The big news is the development of a $500 million dollar Avatar ride and theme world. While Avatar might not have the appeal as Harry Potter, it will certainly be a thrill for sci-fi fans and be an incredible experience for visitors.
If you follow the people at WDW, one of the most amazing videos I have seen was the work with a “Talking Mickey Mouse” at Disneyland. Mickey was not on a screen like the popular talking turtle at Epcot, but a real “I can touch you” talking Mickey. Can you imagine your kids meeting Mickey and Goofy and Donald and talking to them? That would be as big as Avatar for Disney.