New Things For Florida Tourists and Vacationeers To See In 2019

This is the time of the year when individuals around the nation make New Year’s Resolutions and also the time Florida Chamber of Commerces start promoting what new things are coming up in the New Year.

For Florida’s all-important tourist industry that means new attractions, new resorts, and even new cruise ships.  Actually the largest cruise ship, the Symphony of the Seas by Royal Caribbean, sailed into the Port of Miami in November.  The ship is (gads) five times larger than the Titanic.

In the theme park industry which heavily impacts the 100 million annual Florida visitors, here are some of the 2019 highlights to come:

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (Disney Hollywood Studios) appears to open minus its ultra-fantastic resort hotel around November of 2019.   The Millennium Falcon ride will probably open sooner at Disneyland, but the Orlando site will include the entire Black Spire village on Batin complete with shops, a restaurant, bars, and performers.

floridatraveler STAR WARS HOTEL entrance way

The first floor of new Star Wars hotel won’t open until 2020

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (Disney Hollywood Studios) will open in late summer in the huge Chinese Theater complex.  This is the first interactive ride where riders will enter a wild film short featuring Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy.

Harry Potter Themed Roller Coaster (Universal Islands of Adventure) may be solidly located away from the other Potter attractions, but will feature the flying creatures of Wizarding World and be a “family” coaster.  A summer opening is hoped.

FLORIDATRAVELER -busch-gardens-new-roller-coasters

Tigris Roller Coaster (Busch Gardens) will fly this Spring next to Jungala, the tiger compound, and display a very scary l,800 foot layout with speeds of 60 mph.  Most terrifying will be the fact riders will fall backwards at one point.


Lego Movie World  (Legoland) is a new section with a giant play area relating to the Lego film.  There will also be two new rides: an interactive boat ride, the Quest for Chi, an a new adventure in Emmett’s Bricksburg.

Next to theme parks, most Florida towns advertise new resorts and large hotels:

 Last year Miami had a hotel boom with some twelve new resorts and complete makeovers, but more are on the way. Most interesting to be is the arrival in South Florida of Paligroup from Los Angeles.

FLORIDATRAVELER Palimous Miami Beach

The Palihouse Miami Beach

They are opening this Spring Palihouse Miami Beach, a 70-room boutique hotel on Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach.  The Intracoastal resort is certainly going to be shabby chic eclectic.


A bedroom at Isla Bella is like staying on a ship

Perhaps more exciting will be the debut of the 24 acre Isla Bella Beach Resort on Knight Key in Marathon, almost next to the famous Seven Mile Bridge.  This is the first big resort in the Keys since the destruction of Hurricane Irma and this 199 room, 4 restaurant, 5 pool place will become an instant landmark in the Middle Keys.

In Orlando, Universal is opening two new resorts.  I thought since the theme park filled up its property, they couldn’t continue its hotel boom, but I was wrong.

FLORIDATRAVELER Universals-Endless-Summer-Resort-Surfside-Inn-

The Endless Resort

Universal’s Endless Resort is being built on the location of the old Wet and Wild park at International Drive and Universal Boulevard.  The first stage will have 750 guest rooms with 390 two-bedroom suites.  Additional sections are in the works.

It will be interesting to see how Universal will operate a transportation system on major highways outside their property.

Have a happy holiday and a Merry Christmas.

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In Search of Florida’s Conquistadors

The story of European Florida begins with the two voyages of Ponce de Leon to the peninsula of Florida, but despite good records by the explorer, the location of his first landing on the East Coast of Florida can not be verified.

My geography professor at the University of South Florida – Dr. Robert H. Fuson – used the logs of Ponce de Leon’s and placed the explorer’s landing closer to Cape Canaveral than Saint Augustine.  Early records and detailed history books reveal that most Americans have a totally mythical image of Ponce de Leon.

  • Ponce de Leon did not discover Florida – there are two detailed maps showing Florida as a large peninsula (or possibly an island). As former Governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce knew of the maps and the fact Cuban slavers went there to capture natives for Cuban plantations.

FLORIDATRAVELER portrait-of-juan-ponce-de-leon

  • Ponce was not looking for a Fountain of Youth – he was in fine health and only on his way back did he send a few men to the island of Bimini, where some thought there was a magical spring. His boss King Fernandina did believe in the legendary waters.
  • Ponce wasn’t interested in gold – he had a successful plantation and a lovely family, but had been ousted as Governor when the Spanish High Court ruled that Diego Columbus owned all islands his father had explored. Ponce wanted to regain the family honor and status.

FLORIDATRAVELER Ponce de Leon park punta gorda

Ponce de Leon’s unsuccessful attempt to set up a colony on the Gulf Coast is honored at Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda Isles.  In truth, no one knows the exact location of his landing.

A more interesting excursion would be to visit the Calusa Heritage Trail (Randell Research Center) on Pine Island to see the miles of canals and mounds that Ponce described in his trip.  If you have a boat or kayak, going to Mound Key Archaelogical State Park in Estero Bay is another sight noted by Ponce de Leon.

FLORIDATRAVELER Calusa trail pine island

Up the coast on the Manatee River five miles west of Bradenton is the DeSoto National Memorial, a museum and constructed village describing the 1539 arrival of the ruthless conquistador who deserted his colony to search for gold.

FLORIDATRAVELER desoto-reinactments

No one is certain exactly where DeSoto landed in the Tampa Bay area, but this 26-acre complex offers a worthy look at early Spanish colonies.  In Saint Petersburg is privately owned Jungle Prada Park, the site of a Tocobaga mound and possible location of the 1528 arrival of Panfilo de Narvaez.

FLORIDATRAVELER narvaez _Jungle_Prada

Most visitors want to see more than a few artifacts so I would like to point out two places history buffs should put on their visit list.   The Crystal River Archaeological State Park, just two miles northwest of Crystal River off US19/98, is Florida’s best early Indian site.

FLORIDATRAVELER Crystal_River_Arch_Park_TM01

There is a museum, six large burial mounds, and a temple platform which leads to a great river view.  This was the type of village that the conquistadors saw.

FLORIDATRAVELER crystal river site by leonard

While this site represents the early colonization of Spanish Florida, Mission San Luis in Tallahassee  is a wonderful reproduction of a 1633 Franciscan mission and the Anhaica capital of Apalacha Provence.  The Indian meeting place is massive.

FLORIDATRAVELER mission_san_luis_01-16_02b

We know de Soto came here for nearby is the DeSoto Historic State Park, just off US27, where actually artifacts used in his long and futile excursion into Southeast United States took place.





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How Safe Are Florida’s Greatest Historic Sites?

The recent destruction of much of Notre Dame in Paris brought a lot of questions from my college students since they know my long-time involvement in historic preservation.
The restoration and rebuilding of historic structures is guided by the 3-M principles: money, manpower (skilled artisans), and materials. Notre Dame will have no problem with the first M for people who have never even been to France are sending in tons of money.
Getting skilled manpower is not as easy as it seems – there are Gothic specialists still working on European cathedrals damaged or destroyed by World War II, seventy years later. Most of what was destroyed in Paris was 800 to 500-year old wood – from forests that no longer exist in Western Europe. Notre Dame purists will resist rebuilding the cathedral with steel, plastic, and California redwood.
Here in Florida our oldest man-made structure is relatively safe from serious fire, hurricanes, and other natural causes: the Castillo de San Marcos, built in 1672-1695 by Spaniard Ignacio Duza.

FLORIDATRAVELER Castillo_de_San_Marcos

With eight-foot thick walls of stone and coquina (shell and limestone), the Saint Augustine landmark is stronger than any other building in the Ancient City. I would be more concerned if a hurricane Category 5 hit the Government House (1713) or Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse (1713) in the Historic District.

FLORIDATRAVELER St_bernard_de_clairvaux_church_yard_2006

The oldest building in Florida is the monastery St. Bernard de Clairvaux in North Miami Beach. It was built of stone in 1133 outside Segovia, Spain, and illegally obtained in 1925 by William Randolph Hearst for his California complex. He lost the directions book and a Florida group finally purchased the “boxed masterpiece” in the 1950’s as a tourist attraction.

To be honest few Floridians are excited about the low-lying monastery even though it is “the oldest European-built structure in the USA.”
Fire is always a concern in Florida – with it low-lying terrain, closeness to two oceans, and huge winds. Florida is the “Lightning capital of America” and this is a fire issue to rural church steeples and tall wooden buildings.

FLORIDATRAVELER 1901 JAX FIREThe 1901 Jacksonville Fire was the third worst in US history (Chicago, San Francisco), destroying over 2,000 buildings in 146 urban blocks, and turning 9,000 homeless. A 1908 fire almost destroyed the historic Latin district of Ybor City in Tampa.

I am quite sensitive to Florida’s historic hotels and resorts which were mainly wooden structures despite the innovation of cement into the Flagler Hotel structure by Henry Flagler. Flagler was not so successful with his hotels in Palm Beach.

The Hotel Royal Poinciana built in 1905 as the nation’s largest wooden resort fell victim to the Great Depression and another Florida problem – the termite. Historic buildings in Florida, left vacant and untreated may be destroyed by bugs in Florida’s subtropical climate and heavy rains faster than buildings in other parts of the USA.

FLORIDATRAVELER Royal poinciana hotel palm beach

Flagler’s Breakers Hotel, a famous landmark today, is in fact the third hotel on the site as fires in 1903 and 1925 leveled the structure.

Floridatyraveler BREAKERS HOTEL

It is not shocking that when a older structure finds a new tenant that can restore its original condition and maintain its costly features, the building can remain the symbol of a community. That is the case with Henry Plant’s 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel, today the University of Tampa.

FLORIDATRAVELER tampa-bay-hotel-john-black

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The Best Alternative Beaches In Florida: Not Here, But Try There

Famed Yankee catcher Yogi Berra once said that “no one goes to that (place), it’s too crowded.”

That is the problem of many of Florida’s top beaches – if you don’t get there early, you might not get a decent parking space.  These famed beaches are also usually filled with people, screaming kids, and blaring music. As I get older, I don’t like such crowds.

So here are some ideas for visiting nearby alternative beaches that offer almost the same quality beach and accessories (food, parking, drink) but with less crowds and often less price tags.

On Miami Beach, every tourist thinks of South Beach – it’s the Malibu of South Florida minus the mountains and surfboards.  It is great to walk the boardwalk, look at the models in volleyball tournaments, and take in the cafes. After all that if you want a huge, wider beach – try Haulover Beach Park.   WARNING: it has a nude beach section.

On Key West, most arrivals pass huge Smathers Beach with its restrooms and recreation rentals by the dozens.  It is free but the water is shallow and dusty.  If you want to avoid the crowds and snorkel in the rocky parts, the beach at Fort Zachery Taylor State Park is hidden from a lot of Key West first timers.

floridatraveler KEY WEST FORT ZACK PARK

This Key West beach (Fort Zack) is a calm treat.

Some people love the pier, the automobiles, the action of Daytona Beach although  I am not a big fare of hard, wet sand.   You get the same beach without the crowds and noise to the north at New Smyrna Beach and there are neat shops and food spots to visit.

floridatraveler NEW SMYRNA BEACH

Where are the cars?

Palm Beach has a narrow beach with very limited access for visitors and little parking. If you can’t get invited to a tycoon’s beach party, I suggest you travel north to John D. MacArthur State Park, the only state park in Palm Beach County.  Besides the natural beauty of the dunes and sands, there is a great rock reef offshore for divers.

floridatraveler John D MacArthur Beach

John D. MacArthur State Park

Sanibel Island is wonderful as a beach spot if you staying in one of the island’s tropical resorts, but it has its serious shortcomings for walking for food.  I prefer the lovely but small Captiva Island Beach, whose only shortcoming is limited parking.

floridatraveler CAPTIVAL ISLAND best

For people who want a more action-filled beach, you should go to the Times Square section on north Fort Myers Beach.  But if you want a South Sea Islands isolated beach spot, you should wander around the beaches at Lovers Key State Park, an island further south.

Everyone will tell you the best beach in the heart of the Suncoast is Siesta Key in Sarasota County and I will NOT reject that headline, but if you don’t like the crowds of families and activities, drive southward.  Crescent Beach has the same cooling white sand and more privacy.


Point of Rocks at Crescent Beach on Siesta Key

And there is a great bonus here for at the southern end of Crescent Beach is Point of Rocks, one of the best snorkeling spots on the Florida Gulf Coast.

 Clearwater Beach has been voted the best urban beach in the nation, but the parking lots are crowded and the crowds soon fill Pier 60.  If you arrive early and want to park next to the best grouper sandwich restaurant and the 1930’s beach pavilion, turn north until you see the park next to the Art Deco hotel.  This North Clearwater Beach spot is best.   #mcbobleonard  #florida  #beaches


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Budget Guide To Dining Outdoors at Walt Disney World

March and early April are the best months to visit Walt Disney World due to reasonably mild temperatures, the lowest humidity of the year, and a low probably that your expensive day will be ruined by heavy rains.

The parks will still seem crowded and the newer attraction like Toy Story will require FastPass to ride. If you wait until August 29 when the Star Wars section opens with about 50% of the planned activities, they might have to close Hollywood Studios by noon.    WDW couldn’t afford to wait until December to cash in on the audiences.

Most of you will correctly expect that few outdoor sections of expensive table service restaurants will be booked and most of the better counter service places with outdoor seating will be crowded.   This is about less expensive meals with neat views.

What do I do when I visit WDW?  How about a relaxing fifteen-minute boat ride away from the noise of Magic Kingdom and eat lunch with a scenic lakeside meal?   Take the small launch at the boat docks that sails to Wilderness LODGEDon’t worry: they don’t check tickets or Magic bands – WDW would actually like some park guests to eat lunch at the half-empty hotel spots.


A view that doesn’t seem like crowded WDW

From the wharf at the Wilderness Lodge, head for the rustic resort, but don’t go inside. Walk around the pool area toward the Wilderness Villas on the left side of the complex. There lakeside is the open-air covered Geyser Point Bar and Grill, open for lunch, dinner, and wonderful sunset views of Bay Lake, the only natural lake at WDW.

FLORIDATRAVELER geyser-point-bar-and-grill2

The place accepts some Disney dining plans and serves the burgers, sandwiches, salads, and kids meals as well as alcoholic drinks.  The view is so relaxing, few people are watching the sports events in the bar television.

With all the new attractions, including the Mickey Mouse movie opening this summer in the Chinese Theater, Disney Hollywood Studios will be crowded.  The counter service places are generally poor.  One of the best restaurants is the expensive Hollywood Brown Derby, a replica of the lost California landmark.


Look for the maroon umbrellas around 11 am

But notice the maroon umbrellas to the right on the restaurant entrance.  The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge opens at 11 am and serves more than just dozens of cocktails. It has the famous Cobb salad, Derby sliders, cheese boards and lush desserts.

It also has a wonderful view of the people in the Main Square.

FLORIDATRAVLER flame-tree-barbecue-seating-2-600x465

Animal Kingdom has a lot of outdoor fast food spots, many with little cover from the sun.  If you have kids – the best food and the chance of a table by the River is found at the Flame Tree Barbecue.  Ribs, chicken, pulled pork, salads, kids meals with beer and cocktails in a wooded picnic sitting.

FLORIDATRAVELER Tiffins_Restaurant_Animal_Kingdom

This spot becomes a riverside lounge-restaurant at night

But there is a secret spot.  A great evening spot for adults is The Nomad Lounge, almost hidden behind the expensive Tiffins Restaurant.  This porch overlooking the exotic Animal Kingdom River serves small plates like truffle poutine and wagyu beef sliders.

It’s a lounge so the beer, wine, and cocktail menu is vast.

Disney Springs has an incredible amount of good restaurants and none of the inexpensive counter service spots have A+ outdoor locations.  So where do I do?  I walk ride down the wharf between the Amphicar and the at upscale Boathouse Restaurant to the bar with table seating at the end of the wharf.

FLORIDATRAVELER -boathouse-at-disney

With a nice lake view of all of Disney Springs as well as the boat-cars going past and the huge collection of antique boats, I can order a beer and a dockside bucket of clam strips or shrimp or something from the main menu.

I must admit that outdoor dining at Epcot is poor since restaurants dominate the lake front.  The best seating at a counter service place is to come early to the outdoor Mexican spot: grab a table and get someone to buy the margaritas and the tacos.

FLORIDATRAVEER La-Cantina-de-San-Angel-3

Good seating at La Cantina fills up quickly!

The best waterfront outdoor spot of the expensive table service spots is the seating right by the water at England’s Rose and Crown.

Have a happy “outdoor dining experience” at WDW!

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Small Town Florida At Its Best: Dade City

Last week I took my annual trip up to Dade City.  The more I visit Florida’s small towns, the more I realize how much of Florida’s personality an charm is lost of tourists who jam into the booming coastal resorts and amusement parks.

 DADE CITY, capital of Pasco County, is named for Major Francis Dade, who with 110 other soldiers was slain December 28, 1835, in a Seminole ambush. The founding of Fort Dade at Lachoochee protected homesteaders in the region but it wasn’t until the arrival of the railroad in 1884 that the present-day Dade City boomed. Judge Samuel Pasco was U.S. Senator when the county was established in 1887.

Most travelers will exit I-75 some thirty miles north of Tampa and drive eastward. It’s worth the stop to visit the historic village of San Antonio.

SAN ANTONIO, five miles to the west, was started in 1881 by Edmund Dunne, former Chief Justice of Arizona Territory and lawyer for land baron Hamilton Disston who gave Dunne 50,000 acres for his legal services. Dunne set up a refuge for Irish and German Catholics.

pasco san antonio st charles inn 1913b.JPG

Five miles east, TURN LEFT (north) ON CURLEY STREET (FL 577),  Just north of this intersection is the 1913 ST. CHARLES INN, a double-balconied two story built by Charles Barthle to serve the Orange Belt Railroad. It was for years  a bed and breakfast now and while it is a beautiful building, it is now for sale as subdivisions have surrounded it..

Return southward and go left on Pennslyvania Avenue; on the left is the SAN ANTONIO CITY HALL (1933),32819 Pennslyvania Avenue, a stone W.P.A. building which originally contained the city council, police, and fire departments. Across  BICENTENNIAL PLAZA, a European style park with a Memorial to Dunne, a nifty bandstand, and recreation facilities. The town’s RATTLESNAKE FESTIVAL is held here. It was the center of the Catholic community when Dunne developed the colony.

pasco san antonio 1885 arnade 219 n main

The Arnade House

South ON MAIN STREET, lined with old Victorian frame houses,  My biased favorite is the ARNADE (1896), 219 Main St., residence for years of Dr Charles Arnade, editor of Latin American Review and my Latin American history professor..

On the south side of the park is a stone grotto and statue to St. Anthony next to the ST. ANTONIO CHURCH (1911), a twin-towered stone church replacing the 1883 original. Next door is the SAINT ANTONY SCHOOL (1922), begun in 1883 when Mrs Cecilia Morse invited the Benedictine Sisters to the village. The school and church are among the olest Catholic centers on Florida’s West Coast.

pasco san antonio 1911 st anthony of padua hall inside

Inside Padua Church

You can join FL 52 at College Road and travel east. TURN LEFT ONTO THE CAMPUS OF ST. LEO COLLEGE, started in 1890 as a monastery by the Benedictine monks. While St. Leo has a small school campus, the institution offers classes online and in person all over the USA and on military bases.  The main attraction on the west side of campus is

ST. LEO ABBEY CHURCH (1948), a Lombardic-Romanesque structure with Indiana limestone trim noted for its fine interior and marble Christ crucifix. Go inside and you’ll recognize the image as a replica of a certain controversial cloth in Turin.

Stroll around the beautiful campus and walk down to Lake Jovita.  It is one of Florida’s most scenic colleges.   Lee Marvin and Desi Arnez went to school here.

pasco st leo abey church in 2019.JPG

St Leo Abbey

Five miles down  along Meridian Avenue into DADE CITY. The area west of downtown has many streets with Victoria masterpieces so a little block by block driving is in order for people who love well-preserved residences.

TURN RIGHT (south) ON 15TH STREET and TURN LEFT onto Church Avenue’s Historic District. At 37412 Church is the FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH(1894), a wooden Gothic, the site of Central Florida Normal College.  As you travel east along Church, you can’t help to notice the fine Victorian houses and large yards.  The RAYMOND-WARD HOUSE at 37335 has a huge wrap-around porch.    The BAPTIST CHURCH was moved here from across town in 1910.

Church Avenue is filled with notable houses: JAMES KNOX WARD HOUSE (1892), at 37805 Church, on the southside. is a classic Victorian house, home of a blacksmith who became Mayor from 1903-1904. His wife took in boarders at the house..  The ROBERT ROSS-LARKIN HOUSE (1882), 37603 Church, was once a three room cottage. Cattleman William Larkin, who introduced the Santa Gertrudis strain to Florida once  at 37604 is the JOHN W. PLATT HOUSE, used as the district Methodist parsonage from 1894 to 1905.lived here.  The Dutch Colonial style of the KNIGHT HOUSE (1900), at 37508 Church, is unusual for the area.

The entire block has older homes but on your right at the end of the block is the 1888 JASPER CARTER HOUSE.  As you travel toward downtown Dade City, you will be impressed with the homes.  Note the  Gothic FIRST METHODIST CHURCH (1889), built of heart pone and cypress by James E. Lee, is the GRAY MOSS INN (1910), 37641 Church, a Mediterranean Revival house when President Calvin Coolidge lunched here in 1923.

pasco dade city at the gray moss inn chucrh st

TURN RIGHT ON MERIDIAN AND LEFT ON 9TH STREET to see the EDWINOLA INN (1912), once a two-story concrete inn, now a large retirement center. RETURN TO MERIDIAN and TURN LEFT. As you CROSS 8TH STREET, on the left is the 1924 COLEMAN-FERGUSON DEPARTMENT STORE, Meridian Street. In 1884 Henry Coleman and William Ferguson started a store which promoted the tiny town. Next door is the BANK OF DADE CITY (1917), a financial institution that did not survive the Florida Land Bust and became a store.

The stores on Meridian downtown are the oldest in town; the TREIBER BUILDING at 37846 was built in 1900 as a hardware shop.   More interesting is the  OLD  HALL, now a store, past the courthouse toward the OLD RAILROAD DEPOT. It is a classic structure.

pasco dade city lunch at limogues interior 2019

Lunch on Limoges Is Behind The Store

You have reached 7th Avenue (US301) and should park to tour the downtown antique shops and visit the ) PASCO COUNTY COURTHOUSE (1909), a two-story brick Beaux-Arts classic by Artemus Roberts. The 1921 bandshell is a landmark.

Going to Dade City not only antiquing but also having lunch and most famous is   (20) LUNCH ON LIMOGES , 14139 South Seventh Street, a wonderful bistro located in the middle of the 1908 O. N. WILLIAMS DEPARTMENT STORE. People travel for miles to eat here.

If you can’t get into Limoges or want a bigger menu, there is KAFE KOKOPELLI at 37940 Live Oak, located in a converted Ford motor building.  Beware: it has a huge stuffed wild animal collection, including a tiger and a black panther.

If all of this is not enough, after downtown visit PIONEER FLORIDA MUSEUM (567-0262), four miles north on US301. You’ll love the 1864 Trilby Depot, the 1864 Overstreet House, the Lacoochee School, and the Enterprise Methodist Church. There is a complete packing plant and a collection of some of the finest Victorian carriages and a unique oil carriage which supplied area farmers.

It is one of Florida’s best heritage museums.  ADMISSION is charged.  #mcbobleonard #florida  #dadecity



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The Saltwater Crocodile Is Florida’s Least Known Local Resident

Florida has l.5 million American alligators and as saltwater intrusion continues in the Everglades, the activity of transporting wandering gators from South Floridians’ swimming pools and backyards has increased as gators move northward.

There are so many gators that there is a hunting season (with limited licenses) – you hunt with spears since a shot reptile might sink into the swamp’s muck.  Most professional hunters use the hides and sell the meat to seafood restaurants.

There is another prehistoric creature that is slowly moving northward and most Floridians have never seen one.

Florida’s saltwater crocodiles, most living until recently on the tip of the Everglades away from populations, are rare sights.  Crocs are Federally and state protected and only number around two to three thousand in numbers in Florida.

FLORIDATRAVELER oceanside -crocodile-sightings-20180125

It May Seem Strange to See An Oceanside Croc Capture

It should also be noted that the American crocodile, unlike alligators, tries hard to avoid people and is less aggressive.  Most research on crocs have taken place in the Cape York Peninsula of Northern Australia where the saltwater crocs number 100,000, but reside far from large populated areas and are studied under more natural habitat.

In recent years, however, the Florida crocodile is moving into the Florida Keys, killing small pets and scaring people.  Part of the problem is the reality that the canals in the Keys are saltwater and people often swim in the canals – and they even swim at night when crocs and gators (who can tolerate salt water for a few days) are hunting.

FLORIDATRAVELER Nile croc seen in Florida crocodylus_niloticus6

Nile crocs are very imposing …

At present, Florida authorities will remove the crocs and move them back into the Everglades, but there are more limited locations to place them since throwing crocs in with gators is not a good idea.

Even of more concern to some Floridians is the discovery of some Nile crocodiles in Florida. These are large reptiles whose behavior in Florida’s animal population is not researched.  Florida is not Africa.

As climates change slowly around the globe, there is reason for Florida scientists to be on the look out for more exotic species from the Caribbean, South America, and even Africa.   #mcbobleonard

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Floridians and Visitors Love Florida Food Festivals

With mild weather and little rainfall this time of year is a great time for one of Florida’s favorite outdoor activities – food festivals.

In the summer almost every Panhandle town has a seafood festival and in the fall Walt Disney World’s Epcot houses the gigantic Wine and Food Festival, which erases the notion that the Fall is a more quiet time to visit Orlando.   In the late winter and early spring, Southeast Florida, however, holds the most food festivals.

If you like celebrity chefs and simply decadent cuisine and wild tastings, you’ll need to get tickets for the 18th Annual South Beach Wine and Food Festival, a five-day event starting February 20 this year.  SO big it is sponsored by  the Food Network, Cooking Channel, and Food & Wine magazine.

FLORIDATRAVELER south beach wine and food

Over 100 food events at South Beach Wine & Food Festival

While some of the social events will break most bank accounts there are dozens of events around Miami that will cost under $100 and make your dining friends envious.  The Festival attracts some 60,000 people and presents over 100 events that raise millions in funds for charity.

If casual food is your thing, there are two food festivals in March that honor Florida’s favorite transplanted sandwich – the Cuban sandwich.  On March 2, at Kissimmee’s beautiful Lakeside Park, the 4th Annual Kissimmee Cuban Sandwich Festival will bring the top sandwich makers together in competition.

FLORIDATRAVELER cuban sandwich festival

Orlando and Tampa have Dueling Cuban Sandwich Contests

There will be music, food of all types, and an attempt to oust the 161-foot long Cuban sandwich made by the Latin Times Media of Tampa.  And guess what?  On March 30, the Orlando winners will be facing the Tampa restaurants in the International Cuban Sandwich Festival at the Centro Asturiano in Ybor City. Some 100 food booths, live music, dance performances, and art will celebrate Florida’s Latin heritage.

More in line with the major Florida image is the 43th Marathon Seafood Festival, held this year on March 9 and 10. Some 20,000 visitors from Miami to Key West pour into the Middle Keys to consume huge amounts of stone crabs, spiny lobster, shellfish, and seafood.

FLORIDATRAVELER marathon seafood fest

An Ocean of Seafood At Marathon Seafood Fest

Marathon Community Park is filled with some 220 vendors and even if you don’t like seafood, there will be plenty of other selections.  For a small town, this festival is amazing!

The Bacon and Bourbon Fest in the Wellington/ Delray Beach area May 22 and 23 at the Wellington Community Center is a rather unique food blend.  The number of bacon and pork-related food selections almost matches the huge selection of bourbon and whiskeys to select.

There’s even bacon ice cream for the kids.  I’ll pass on that one.

FLORIDATRAVELER bacon-bourbon-fest-pictures-20160316

April is the time for some historically large but different food festivals.  On April 5, Fort Lauderdale’s famous Las Olas Boulevard is closed so some seventy of South Florida’s most notable restaurants entertain in the Las Olas Wine and Food Festival.

This is an adults-only event costing $130 to $150 for the American Lung Association.  That price allows you to buffet away for five blocks of food and wine samples by some very expensive restaurants which may cost you that much for a full meal in just one.

I must say that A Taste of Saint Augustine held at the Amphitheater on Saint Augustine Beach April 28, is a more family-oriented affair, held in the daytime, but the diversity of cuisine from some twenty-five local restaurants is wonderful.

FLORIDATRAVELER a taste of st augustine

You purchase $1 “taste-tickets” and run around like a kid on Halloween.  There is music and activities for the entire family.




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