Steeped in Tra­di­tion

2017 Travel Guide to Florida - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY MELODY PITTMAN

Florida’s Cen­tral East re­gion proves to be a big draw for fam­i­lies, art lovers, his­tory buffs and beach­go­ers. Lo­cated on 175 beau­ti­ful miles of sandy beaches, its towns in­clude fam­ily-fa­vorite ac­tiv­i­ties and va­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties that won’t break the bank. Dis­cover many beloved Florida clas­sics as well as undis­cov­ered ar­eas un­be­known to most. Cau­tion: You may fall in love with Florida.

ARTS AND CUL­TURE

In his­toric Fort Pierce you’ll find the only Na­tional Navy UDT-SEAL Mu­seum. With ex­hibits rang­ing from hands-on equip­ment to rare ob­jects from pre­vi­ous mis­sions, this is one mu­seum to which your kids will beg to re­turn. Fort Pierce is also home to the nearly 100-year-old Sun­rise Theatre for the Per­form­ing Arts, which hosts top-notch en­ter­tain­ers, comedy acts, mu­si­cians and per­form­ing artists.

Lo­cated in the mid­dle of Cen­tral East Florida, Vero Beach has two very spe­cial venues. The River­side Theatre runs six of­fBroad­way per­for­mances per sea­son and a Comedy Club event on se­lect week­ends. River­side’s 2017 high­lights in­clude Mame, Satur­day Night Fever and Chicago and hosts four Pre­miere Lec­ture Se­ries that are pop­u­lar among lo­cals. Sec­ond is the Vero Beach Mu­seum of Art, which houses re­gional, state and na­tional art ex­hibits. Ad­mis­sion is free on the last Satur­day of the month.

Mel­bourne’s Eau Gal­lie Arts Dis­trict is a cul­tural pearl that sup­ports the arts through gal­leries, mu­se­ums, lo­cal stores and an­tiques. You will find a com­bi­na­tion of po­ets, dancers, pot­ters and pain­ters in this cute neigh­bor­hood. Com­monly re­ferred to as EGAD, it is home to Bre­vard County’s top fine art gal­leries and the Foosaner Art Mu­seum. A note­wor­thy ac­tiv­ity oc­cur­ring in 2017 is EGAD Rocks, a se­ries of mu­si­cal fes­tiv­i­ties cov­er­ing mul­ti­ple gen­res built around the most pop­u­lar events: April in Paris and Dog Days of Sum­mer.

If you find your­self in Co­coa Beach, catch a show at the beau­ti­ful and fa­mous Co­coa Vil­lage Play­house, part of the Co­coa Beach com­mu­nity since 1924 and in­cluded on the Na­tional Regis­ter of His­toric Places.

Sit­u­ated be­tween Co­coa Beach and Or­lando, the award-win­ning main-street com­mu­nity of DeLand holds onto its his­toric past as it moves into mod­ern times. DeLand is a thriv­ing com­mu­nity full of pride and pas­sion that is ap­par­ent by its nu­mer­ous art mu­rals, friendly pa­trons, shops and gal­leries. The Athens Theatre is a mas­ter­piece of Ital­ian Re­nais­sance ar­chi­tec­ture,of­fer­ing­clas­sic­movies,in­de­pen­dent films and live en­ter­tain­ment.

The Hub on Canal, in New Smyrna Beach (NSB), is un­sur­passed for its in­di­vid­u­al­ity and orig­i­nal art­works. Nearly 80 artists con­vene in this con­tem­po­rary ex­hibit hall, which dou­bles as a workspace where visi­tors can ob­serve artists at work and buy di­rectly from them. This is only one of­fer­ing within the town’s four-block ra­dius that makes up the Arts Dis­trict filled with bou­tiques, gal­leries and cafés. Be sure to check out the At­lantic Cen­ter for the Arts, which draws as­pir­ing artists from across the coun­try to study dance, po­etry, writ­ing and paint­ing and cre­ate unique uni­fied ex­pe­ri­ences. They also have a free sum­mer con­cert.

A newer artsy com­mu­nity is lo­cated in the greater Day­tona Beach area. A visit to the Mu­seum of Arts & Sciences (in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Smith­so­nian) gives you ac­cess to a train and rail­road sta­tion ex­hibit, the Root Fam­ily col­lec­tion of Coca Cola mem­o­ra­bilia, price­less Cuban and Chi­nese art dis­plays, and the fa­vorite gi­ant ground sloth. For art, check out the Cici and Hy­att Brown Mu­seum of Art, home to the largest col­lec­tion of Florida-themed paint­ings in the world, with many dat­ing back to the 1800s.

AT­TRAC­TIONS

Fort Pierce’s Down­town Farm­ers’ Mar­ket is a big draw on Satur­day morn­ings from 8 AM to noon, rain or shine, with lo­cal foods, crafts and art­work for sale. Live mu­sic is also fea­tured. Come and see why this has been a crowd-pleaser for 19 years.

For fam­ily fun-filled ac­tiv­i­ties in Mel­bourne, visit the Bre­vard Zoo or An­dretti Thrill Park. The zoo houses mon­keys, jaguars and kan­ga­roos, plus you can kayak through 22 acres of wet­lands. The An­dretti Thrill Park in­cludes bat­ting cages, kid­die amuse­ment rides, pad­dle­boats, a large ar­cade and in­door Lazer Tag. Best of all, there are sev­eral go-cart tracks, one of which is re­stricted to fans with a valid driver’s li­cense who wish to travel 40 miles per hour on a Euro­pean-style course.

One of Florida’s most fa­mous at­trac­tions is the Kennedy Space Cen­ter Vis­i­tor Com­plex in Cape Canaveral. This 90,000square-foot me­trop­o­lis show­cases all things re­lated to the Amer­i­can space pro­gram. Browse as­tro­naut uni­forms and pay re­spects to the fallen he­roes at the black gran­ite As­tro­naut Memo­rial. A fa­vorite ac­tiv­ity is a buf­fet-style Lunch with an As­tro­naut in an air-con­di­tioned set­ting, dur­ing which your host, a re­tired as­tro­naut, shares some of his or her fond­est mem­o­ries via a slideshow. Fol­low­ing the meal, there’s time to have pho­tos taken with the host­ing celebrity. Be sure to check the cen­ter’s web­site for rocket launches.

The Ponce de Leon Light­house, Florida’s tallest, is lo­cated in the town of Ponce de Leon, slightly south of Day­tona. It’s a great place to watch the sun set or catch a moon­rise.

Feel the need for speed? Whether you are a de­voted NASCAR fan or have no idea what all of the hype is about, the world’s first and only mo­tor­sports sta­dium, the Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way, will blow you away. Hav­ing just un­der­gone a US$400-mil­lion ren­o­va­tion, there are tons of things to see and do. Book a 30-minute or a 90-minute VIP tour. NASCAR fans should sign up for the Richard Petty Ex­pe­ri­ence, where they can drive on the track or be a pas­sen­ger for laps with a pro­fes­sional driver. The Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way brings in mil­lions of visi­tors an­nu­ally.

BEACHES AND OUT­DOOR GEMS

South of Stu­art, the Jonathan Dick­in­son State Park of­fers awe­some bik­ing and hik­ing trails, rang­ing from nor­mal to rugged ter­rain, man­groves and river swamps. Prim­i­tive camp­grounds and water sta­tions are avail­able through­out the park. Out­door en­thu­si­asts en­joy the kayak­ing and boat­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

Have you ever dreamed of rid­ing horse­back on the beach? This ex­pe­ri­ence be­comes a re­al­ity on the beaches of Hutchin­son Is­land and is just one of the gems to be en­joyed in St. Lu­cie County.

Se­bas­tian In­let State Park, 10 miles south of Mel­bourne Beach, is an ex­cel­lent choice for fam­ily camp­ing. Spread over more than 600 acres, the park is part of the Great Florida Bird­ing and Wildlife Trail and of­fers myr­iad ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing swim­ming, surf­ing, geo­caching and scuba div­ing.

Out­side of Del­tona, the St. Johns River Eco Tour in­vites pas­sen­gers to tour the St. Johns River by boat. Once a main high­way for trade and com­merce, this river has been des­ig­nated an Amer­i­can Her­itage River. It is home to Florida na­tive wildlife and trop­i­cal plants, mak­ing it per­fect for photo ops.

The sea­side com­mu­nity of New Smyrna Beach evokes an at­mos­phere of Old Florida in its side­walk cafés, bou­tiques and charm­ing B&Bs and boasts one of the finest beaches on the At­lantic coast. NSB pro­vides a per­fect venue for surf­ing, world-class fish­ing, boat­ing and kayak­ing. And like Day­tona Beach, cars are per­mit­ted to drive on 13 miles of hard-packed white-sand beaches found here.

EN­TER­TAIN­MENT

The first ever Okee­chobee Fest took place in 2016 with head­lin­ers such as Robert Plant, Mum­ford and Sons and Skrillex. This four­day/night camp­ing, mu­sic and arts fes­ti­val wel­comed more than 32,000 con­cert fans in 2016 and is sched­uled to take place March 2– 5 in 2017. The fes­ti­val is ADA ac­ces­si­ble.

The Trea­sure Coast’s Comic Con hap­pens in Septem­ber at the Port St. Lu­cie Civic Cen­ter. Meet fans from all ar­eas of the comic world, buy new and used comics and spot celebrity guests.

Florida is a hot spot for gam­bling and the Fort Pierce Jai Alai and Poker fa­cil­ity will please those seek­ing thrills. The sport of jai alai dates back 400 years. An­other op­tion is Club 52, in Mel­bourne’s Grey­hound Park, fea­tur­ing poker, live racing and a simul­cast of horse and grey­hound racing from across the na­tion. Club 52 hosts a “laugh your aces off” comedy show ev­ery Satur­day night. Guests must be 21 years old to en­ter ei­ther es­tab­lish­ment.

Cen­tral East Florida’s pre­mier mu­sic and arts en­ter­tain­ment cen­ter is the Maxwell C. King Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts in Mel­bourne. Fur­nished with 2,016 seats, this 100,000-square-foot venue hosts mu­si­cal, cul­tural and com­mu­nity events.

DeLand re­cently wel­comed a newer sport, rugby. The Cen­tral Florida War­riors team is a mem­ber of the United States of Amer­i­can Rugby League (USARL). Games run June to Au­gust at the Spec Martin Mu­nic­i­pal Sta­dium. The world-class Sky­dive DeLand fa­cil­ity at­tracts peo­ple from around the

world. There are tan­dem jumps for non­pro­fes­sion­als, where an ex­pe­ri­enced in­struc­tor uses a para­chute sys­tem built for two and jumps with you. Sky­dive DeLand also of­fers an Ac­cel­er­ated Free Fall (AFF) course, an in­struc­tional pro­gram for be­gin­ners hop­ing to be­come sky­divers.

The DAY­TONA 500 at­tracts 40 of the world’s best driv­ers to com­pete in the big­gest NASCAR event with the grand­est purse. Dubbed the Great Amer­i­can Race, it’s the most im­por­tant event on the an­nual racing cal­en­dar. The Jackie Robin­son Ball­park, in Day­tona, is home to the Day­tona Tor­tu­gas base­ball team, a Cincin­nati Reds team af­fil­i­ate. The pre­mier Ladies’ Pro­fes­sional Golf As­so­ci­a­tion (LPGA) head­quar­ters, also lo­cated in Day­tona, of­fers two four-star cour­ses.

LGBT SCENE

Al­though Cen­tral East Florida’s LGBT of­fer­ings are not as plen­ti­ful as they are in other parts of Florida, the LGBT com­mu­nity in this area is rapidly grow­ing and new ac­tiv­i­ties are planned all the time.

Based out of Port St. Lu­cie, the non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion Pride of the Trea­sure Coast strives to ad­vance LGBT ac­cep­tance by play­ing a large role in the com­mu­nity and host­ing nu­mer­ous events through­out the year. Din­ing with the Stars is a fundraiser where at­ten­dees are treated to din­ner and a celebrity im­per­son­ation show. For 12 years run­ning, the non-profit has or­ga­nized the an­nual highly an­tic­i­pated PrideFest, which takes place at St. Lu­cie’s Civic Cen­ter in April. Ad­mis­sion is free and it is the Trea­sure Coast’s only pride fes­ti­val. Pride of the Trea­sure Coast also reg­u­larly hosts fam­ily beach days and break­fasts.

Space Coast Pride is Bre­vard County’s LGBT group, founded in 2007. The Space Coast Pride Pa­rade and Fes­ti­val takes place in the Eau Gal­lie Arts Dis­trict of Mel­bourne ev­ery Septem­ber. Al­though the fes­ti­val it­self lasts only seven hours with live mu­sic, en­ter­tain­ment, food and a kids’ zone, fes­tiv­i­ties ac­tu­ally span an en­tire week and in­clude events such as the Rain­bow Run 5K, Disco Brunch, Cold Keg Night­club Fundraiser, Col­ors Prom Party, Miss Space Coast Pride Pageant, Hang­over Beach Party and a pa­rade. This an­nual event draws peo­ple from around the world to Mel­bourne.

An­other draw in Mel­bourne is the rather new Pro­ject Ne­bula meet up, a Space Coast LGBT com­mu­nity, which or­ga­nizes events in an at­tempt to trans­form Florida’s cul­ture and bring peo­ple to­gether. It is a source of sup­port and con­nec­tion that meets at the Space Coast Well­ness Cen­ter.

The Vo­lu­sia Pride Fes­ti­val has taken place at Old Fort Park in New Smyrna Beach since 2012. Two women (Lisa-Marie Mueller and Kris­ten Cole­santi) had a dream for Vo­lu­sia to or­ga­nize a pride fes­ti­val and, with the help of their com­mu­nity, they pulled off the first fes­ti­val in just eight weeks. This new an­nual Oc­to­ber event fea­tures food, en­ter­tain­ment and more than 70 ven­dors.

ROAD TRIPS

Lo­cated in Vo­lu­sia County’s Port Or­ange, Dun­law­ton Sugar Mill Gar­dens com­bines a his­tory, na­ture and gar­den visit all rolled into one. The his­toric re­mains of the sugar cane re­fin­ery, left­over from the 1800s, is adorned with kitschy di­nosaur stat­ues through­out the park, en­sur­ing fun for the en­tire fam­ily. The gar­dens are vis­ually ap­peal­ing, which is why many choose this site for marriage cer­e­monies. Bring a pic­nic lunch and make a day of it. Do­na­tions are ac­cepted.

Take a trip to the Stet­son Man­sion in DeLand. This gorgeous Vic­to­rian man­sion was the win­ter home of the fa­mous milliner John B. Stet­son and is listed on the Na­tional Regis­ter of His­toric Places. Tour this spec­tac­u­lar home and note the in­tri­cate par­quet floors and more than 10,000 sparkling lead-glass win­dow­panes.

Visit Ti­tusville and ex­plore the Valiant Air Com­mand War­bird Mu­seum, which dis­plays a col­lec­tion of air­craft car­ri­ers and ar­ti­facts of all types from around the world, from pre-World War I to the present.

A road trip for con­ser­va­tion­ists must def­i­nitely in­clude the Archie Carr Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, a 20-mile stretch be­tween Mel­bourne Beach and Wabasso. Best known for sea tur­tle con­ser­va­tion, this area is a nat­u­ral habi­tat for 25 to 35 per­cent of all log­ger­head and green sea tur­tle nests in the United States. It’s also a nest­ing area for leatherback tur­tles, a very rare kind of sea tur­tle.

SHOP­PING

The adorable town of Stu­art is ideal for brows­ing bou­tiques and din­ing. From beach-themed to up­scale kitchen shops, it is a fa­vorite des­ti­na­tion for tourists and lo­cals alike. You’re sure to find cloth­ing, shoes, jew­elry and hand­made arts and crafts.

When it comes to shop­ping in Cen­tral East Florida, Vero Beach is the crème de la crème. Ritzy bou­tiques on Ocean Drive are filled with items to make you ooh and aah. Nearby Mir­a­cle Mile fea­tures shop­ping venues such as Bark Av­enue (good­ies for your pet), Chico’s and Cot­ton­ways. The Vero Beach Book Store is one of the best in­de­pen­dent book­stores in the state, due to its jam-packed cal­en­dar full of best-sell­ing au­thor sign­ings and pre­sen­ta­tions.

Florida is renowned for out­let shop­ping and one of the best is in Vero Beach. Con­ve­niently lo­cated at exit 147 off I-95, the Vero Beach Out­lets show­cases 60 de­signer and brand-name shops, in­clud­ing Wil­liams Sonoma, Coach, Ba­nana Re­pub­lic and an ex­panded Restora­tion Hard­ware.

Av­enue Viera, on the out­skirts of Mel­bourne, is a pleas­ant out­door shop­ping mall flanked with spe­cialty restau­rants, shops and a huge Carmike Cin­e­mas movie theater on palm tree-lined side­walks. Visit all the chain store big­gies such as Kohl’s, Cost Plus World Mar­ket and Books A Mil­lion.

His­toric down­town Mel­bourne’s main street, East New Haven, is three blocks of fun packed with in­ter­na­tional eye-catch­ing de­lights, bou­tiques, con­sign­ment shops and an­tique stores. Bet­ter yet, most are dog-friendly.

Look­ing for a unique shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence? Co­coa Beach’s his­toric tree-lined Co­coa Vil­lage is home to one-of-a-kind shops, sou­venirs and other points of in­ter­est. In this surfers’ par­adise, be sure to check out the Ron Jon Surf Shop, a Co­coa Beach land­mark and the largest surf­ing shop in the world.

New Smyrna Beach of­fers ex­cep­tional shop­ping and art gal­leries along both Fla­gler Av­enue and Canal Street. The route stretches from the river to the ocean and is a won­der­ful re­minder of old-school Florida. Note the Fla­gler Walk of Fame, made up of en­graved bricks along the side­walk.

Day­tona Beach’s fa­mous Board­walk is lined with funky shops while the his­toric down­town of­fers a bounty of dis­tinc­tive bou­tiques and restau­rants. And, bar­gain hunters will be thrilled with the new Tanger Out­lets, which just opened in Novem­ber 2016.

SPAS

Look­ing for a new hair­style? If so, visit the Dei­dra Mar­cus Salon and Spa in Stu­art, where an im­pres­sive list of hair ser­vices in­cludes straight­en­ing and ex­ten­sions, Ja­panese “ther­mal re­con­struc­tion,” and Brazil­ian ker­atin treat­ments. An­other spa choice in Stu­art is the Spa Essence Re­treat. En­joy all this es­tab­lish­ment has to of­fer with a re­lax­ing 90-minute Swedish massage, foot treat­ment, pore-per­fect­ing fa­cial and scalp massage.

A lo­cal’s fa­vorite in Vero Beach is White Orchid on Ocean Drive, which fea­tures tra­di­tional ser­vices plus medi-spa pro­ce­dures, in­clud­ing acupunc­ture for pain man­age­ment and sleep-dis­or­der treat­ments. At Vero Beach’s Royal Day Spa, opt for the nail and skin ser­vices, as well as more com­plex treat­ments like mi­cro­der­mabra­sion and gly­colic peels.

Em­brace your Zen at the glitzy ocean­front Costa d’Este in Vero Beach. A win­ner of the World Luxury Spa Award in 2016, The Spa at Costa d’Este of­fers gen­tle­men’s ser­vices, body treat­ments and fa­cials. Beach­go­ers love the Sun Res­cue Body Wrap.

The Spa at Dis­ney’s Vero Beach Re­sort not only gives pa­trons a rea­son to visit this ocean­side fam­ily fa­vorite ho­tel, but also re­ju­ve­nates them af­ter a busy va­ca­tion or stress­ful work­week. Let go of your cares and woes with a Vichy Shower Treat­ment fol­lowed by a Trop­i­cal Shower Scrub. Be sure to in­quire about the Tween Pack­age, de­signed ex­clu­sively for teenagers.

The Day­tona Beach Well­ness Cen­ter spe­cial­izes in skin care and a smor­gas­bord of mas­sages, in­clud­ing bam­boo, hot stone, re­flex­ol­ogy, deep tis­sue, pre­na­tal and neu­ro­mus­cu­lar. Day­tona’s Ocean Water Spa at the Plaza Re­sort & Spa is an­other pam­per­ing op­tion where the staff in­vites you into their oa­sis to re­vi­tal­ize and re­new your­self. From the en­tic­ing smells of the spa prod­ucts to re­lax­ing in the Utopia Room, leave your cares at the door and en­joy a break from ev­ery­day life. Full make-up ap­pli­ca­tion, air­brush foun­da­tion and hair styling are also of­fered. Day­tona Beach brides should def­i­nitely check out this spa. Do not miss their eu­ca­lyp­tus steam room and hy­drother­apy tubs.

In Or­mond Beach, de-stress at the Amaz­ing You Day Spa, where treat­ments range from acne to anti-ag­ing fa­cials and eye­lash ex­ten­sions. Like them on Face­book and save US$5.

OP­PO­SITE TOP: Surfer statue in Co­coa Beach. OP­PO­SITE BOT­TOM: An artists' co-op gallery in New Smyrna Beach. ABOVE: An aerial view of the Eau Gal­lie Arts Dis­trict in Mel­bourne.

OP­PO­SITE TOP: Kennedy Space Cen­ter Vis­i­tor Com­plex, Cape Canaveral. OP­PO­SITE BOT­TOM LEFT: Tra­di­tion Square in down­town Port St. Lu­cie. OP­PO­SITE BOT­TOM RIGHT: Ponce de Leon Light­house, Day­tona Beach. TOP: Se­bas­tian In­let State Park near Mel­bourne.

OP­PO­SITE TOP: NASCAR Sprint Cup teams at the DAY­TONA 500. OP­PO­SITE BOT­TOM: Beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­ture at the Vo­lu­sia County Court House in DeLand. TOP: Col­or­ful street wall mu­ral in DeLand.

ABOVE: Space Coast Pride Pa­rade in Mel­bourne. OP­PO­SITE TOP: OP­PO­SITE BOT­TOM: Cruise ship in Port Canaveral. Black­point Wildlife Drive in Ti­tusville.

ABOVE: Shop­ping on Canal Street in New Smyrna Beach. BE­LOW: Out­door mu­ral in His­toric Down­town Mel­bourne. OP­PO­SITE TOP: Pool­side re­lax­ation. OP­PO­SITE BOT­TOM: En­joy well­ness spas through­out the re­gion.

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