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Articles for ‘Florida’ Category

Beyond the beach: 5 free things to do in Florida

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

With approximately 800 miles of beaches, Florida offers plenty of free fun in the sun. But when you’ve gotten your fill of vitamins D and “sea,” consider these other amusements that don’t cost a dime.

SummerJazz on the Gulf via Pat Shapiro

SummerJazz on the Gulf via Pat Shapiro

Catch a free concert: Year-round warm weather means perennial outdoor concert season, so pack a picnic basket and a blanket. Options range from the Florida Orchestra’s Pops in the Park concerts in St. Petersburg and Tampa, to the SummerJazz on the Gulf series in Naples, to Springing the Blues in Jacksonville. In South Florida, free is chic, as with the New World Symphony Wallcast concerts projected onto a 7,000-square-foot wall in Miami Beach SoundScape. Sounds like music to our ears.

Southermost Point via nathanmac87 at Flickr Creative Commons

Southermost Point via nathanmac87 at Flickr Creative Commons

Get the picture: The best souvenirs also happen to be the cheapest: photographs. Florida is home to some prime photo ops, so grab that selfie stick and start making your Facebook friends jealous. Begin your shutterfest in St. Augustine, where you can catch the free ferry to Fort Matanzas National Monument in all its 16th-century glory. Then make your way down to Sarasota‘s Ringling Museum of Art on a Monday for free admission to its gorgeous estate. And finish up in Key West with a quintessential photo at the Southernmost Point buoy marking 90 miles to Cuba.

Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area stretch of the Florida Trail via Winnie Lo

Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area stretch of the Florida Trail via Winnie Lo

Take a hike: Keep that camera handy for a jaunt along the Florida National Scenic Trail. The 1,300-mile path stretches from the Everglades all the way up to historic Fort Pickens. Some parts of the trail are more developed than others, but plenty are suitable for hikers of all ages and fitness levels looking to get up close and personal with the Sunshine State’s flora and fauna.

Wynwood Walls via Phillip Pessar at Flickr Creative Commons

Wynwood Walls via Phillip Pessar at Flickr Creative Commons

State of the art: Warm weather is perfect for evening art walks, where you can gallery-hop and sometimes enjoy free wine and entertainment. If you’re in Miami, definitely head to Wynwood – a trendy neighborhood with a concentration of vibrant, larger-than-life murals. If you happen to be there on a Tuesday evening, stop by Wood Tavern for two free tacos — no catch.

Gulf of Mexico via Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater

Gulf of Mexico via Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater

Celebrate the sun: Floridians take our sunsets quite seriously. Whether we’re sitting on a beach, out for an evening stroll or even just stuck in traffic, we take a moment to appreciate the ever-changing cotton candy skies. There are even formal events to mark the end of the day. Two of the best-known take place at Mallory Square in Key West and Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach. Both events feature live entertainment, vendors and a family-friendly atmosphere against the backdrop of the setting sun.

 

Story by Dalia Colon

March Madness: The cost of beer in tourney game cities

Friday, March 20th, 2015

There are a few good reasons to have a cold brewski in March. Once everyone has recovered from their St. Patrick’s Day bar hops, it’s the NCAA college basketball tournament that dominates television screens in sports bars across America. In a matter of weeks, 64 teams will be whittled down by 54 single-elimination games. It’s madness. We collected data from sports bars in the 14 cities where these mad matches take place in 2015 to compare the cost of beer. Here’s what we found:

06_MarchMadnessBeer_v03[1] copy500

Oregon may not be favored in the tourney, but when it comes to the cost of a cold one, Portland is #1 in all three beer categories. If you’re into local brews, Indianapolis and Jacksonville hold a close second. Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and Syracuse hold the next best price for imported beer, like Heineken and Stella. No surprise to any big city dwellers, L.A. had the most expensive beer in all three categories. If you’re heading to a tourney game, keep these stats in mind and choose your winning beer wisely.

Story by Ally Marotti

Graphic by Ramiro Olmos

Cheap City, USA: Miami

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Cheap City, USA is a CheapTickets blog series where we show you that any city can be enjoyed on a budget if you know where to look. In this breakdown of Cheap City, USA, we take a look at Miami.

Key Biscane

Key Biscane

Miamis most prized possession: the beach

Sun-worshipers flock to Miami’s picture-perfect white sand beaches and tranquil aquamarine waters. Not only is the beach one of Miami’s most famous attractions, it’s free — you only have to pay for parking.

Key Biscayne: This secluded island paradise is just a few miles from downtown, yet worlds apart. Check out Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park with its historic lighthouse — it’s the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. The vistas from above are simply breathtaking.

Sunny Isles Beach: With it’s laid-back casual vibe, Sunny Isles Beach is a great spot for families. Visit the Newport Fishing Pier for great fishing and spectacular water views.

Sunny Isles

Sunny Isles Beach

South Beach: Take a stroll along Ocean Drive and you’ll find Art Deco buildings with alfresco cafés on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Stretching from 1 Washington Avenue to around 21st Street, this is the party beach with the funky multi-colored lifeguard stands that you’ve seen on TV.

South Beach

South Beach

 

Go for a walk on the wild side

There’s so much to do in the 1.5 million acre Everglades National Park. Made up of warm mangrove waters and sawgrass prairies, this giant river (yes, it’s a slow-moving river not a swamp) is home to a rare community of tropical plants and animals. You might even see manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and more than 350 species of birds.

Everglades-Kara-Franker

The combination of fresh, salt and brackish waters makes Florida Bay the only place on earth where alligators and crocodiles (in this case, the rare American crocodile) live together.

Take a self-guided or ranger-led tours at the Visitor Center at the park’s southeastern entrance, or journey deeper into the Everglades for a more extensive experience in the Florida wilderness. To the north, the Shark Valley entrance to the park offers one of the best places to observe wildlife in a natural habitat. A 65-foot observation tower provides a spectacular bird’s eye view.

Everglades-Alligator-Kara-Franker

 

Local art scene

From eclectic street art to upscale contemporary art galleries, there are a number of free art walks hosted across the city.

Wynwood: Famous for it’s vibrant graffiti art painted by internationally renowned street artists, Wynwood is truly one of Miami’s most unique and artistic neighborhoods. Art walks happen every second Saturday of the month between 6 and 10 p.m.

Wynwood. Image by Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau

Wynwood. Image by Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau

Little Havana: Experience Miami’s rich Cuban heritage at Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays) in Little Havana. Enjoy live music, dancing under the stars, cigar rolling and domino games on bustling Calle Ocho. And make sure you stop by Café Versaille for Cuban coladas and pastelitos. The event is held on the last Friday of every month from 7 to 11 p.m.

Cafe Versailles. Photo by Jeremy Franker

Cafe Versailles. Photo by Jeremy Franker

Coral Gables: Head to picturesque Coral Gables with it’s tree-lined streets and elegant boutiques. Dubbed “The Great Gables Gallery Stroll,” wander through a myriad of local art galleries on the first Friday of every month from 6 to 10 p.m.

 

Free concerts and Miami’s museums

In Miami Beach is the New World Symphony Center, where the New World Symphony broadcasts free, live concerts on a soaring 7,000-square-foot “Wallcast.” Additionally, the City of Miami Beach Arts in the Parks program shows free movies on the wall on select Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

New World Symphony

New World Symphony

The Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami (MOCA) offers free live jazz concerts on the last Friday of every month at 8 p.m.

A number of museums in Miami offer a number of free days throughout each month:

  • Peréz Art Museum Miami — free on the first Thursday and second Saturday of the month
  • Bass Museum of Art — free on the last Sunday of the month
  • Gold Coast Railroad Museum — free on the first Saturday of the month (except in March)
  • HistoryMiami — free on the second Saturday of the month
  • Jewish Museum of Florida — free every Saturday
  • Lowe Art Museum — free the first Tuesday of the month
  • Miami Children’s Museum — free the first Friday of the month
  • Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA) — free the first Sunday of the month
  • Miami Science Museum — free the first Friday of the month
  • Wolfsonian-FIU Art Museum — free every Friday night
  • The MDC Museum and Galleries of Art & Design — always free
  • The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum — always free
  • Bay of Pigs Museum — always free
Perez Art Museum. Photo by Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau

Perez Art Museum. Photo by Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau

 

People-watch on SoBes two best Catwalks

People-watching is hands down one of the best free activities in sun-drenched Miami. The most important thing you need is a camera. Watch people strut the catwalk known as Ocean Drive, where you’ll find bikini-clad beach bunnies, iron-pumping hunks and everyone in between.

Or visit pedestrian-friendly Lincoln Road, lined with alfresco cafés and trendy boutiques. This lively magnet for entertainment and shopping is another great place to people watch, especially if you want to mingle with the locals.

Ocean Drive. Photo by Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau

Ocean Drive. Photo by Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau

 

Story by Kara FrankerA purveyor of the coastal life and a self-admitted beach addict, Kara is a travel writer based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @KaraFranker.

Awesome Mardi Gras parties that aren’t in New Orleans

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

The Big Easy might be “it” when it comes to Mardi Gras. But it definitely isn’t the only. Colorful celebrations happen across the U.S. — and they come with a lot of the same bells and whistles you get in the French Quarter. We’re talking Zydeco bands, great Cajun food and parades that seem to go on for days. Oh, yes, and beads. Lots of ‘em. If you can’t hop a flight to New Orleans, save some cash and hit a party near you. Here are six of our top picks.

mobile alabama mardi gras

MOBILE, ALABAMA
NOLA’s southern neighbor hosts a dizzying 39 parades over 19 days. Standing idly by isn’t an option; onlookers clamor for beads or go for the ultimate catch: moon pies (chocolate-coated graham cracker cookies with marshmallow in the center). Apart from parade mania, touring the local Carnival Museum is a must and puts the partying in perspective by showcasing the history of Mardi Gras and how it originated in Mobile. For a real insider feel, grab a ticket to a Mardi Gras ball. It’s not uncommon for Mobillians to have a closet full of ball gowns and for men to own a set of tails. Most balls are invite-only, but some bigger groups, like Mystics of Time and Stripers, may open ticket sales to the general public. Mardi Gras celebrations are held through Feb. 17.

 

universal orlando mardi gras

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT – ORLANDO, FLORIDA
If you’re traveling with kids, this tamer celebration is the one to hit. After all, it takes place on Universal Studios property — home to the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The spirit of N’awlins sweeps in from February 7-April 18, when days in the theme parks are capped off with Cajun food, a parade and live concerts. Every week there’s a major headliner, and this year’s lineup includes Jessie J, Kelly Clarkson and Trey Songz. On a smaller stage, New Orleans bands bring Bayou sound to the scene.

 

st louis mardi gras

SOULARD – ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
On any given day, jazz and blues music steams from the many nightclubs in St. Louis’ Soulard neighborhood. It gets especially happening during Mardi Gras, which the historic French district actually turns into a month-long affair (January 6-February 17). Parades wend past the Anhauser Busch Brewery, Cajun cook-offs add sizzle, and even dogs get involved; on the second Sunday before Mardi Gras there is a pet parade (yep, the pups get dressed up, sparkly boas and all). Anyone is free to have a float in the parade, as long as you register your “krewe” (organizations, clubs or groups of friends). That said, it’s just as fun standing on the sidelines, cheering on the drag racers, musicians and costumed merry-makers.

 

MAGIC HAT – BURLINGTON, VERMONT
For 20 years, local brewery Magic Hat has thrown a Mardi Gras shindig, which is known for its parade down Main Street. Trumpets blare, jugglers wow, floats roll by and drums keep the beat as hundreds of people look (and drink) on. The parade is followed by after-parties on Church Street and throughout downtown Burlington. For true local flavor, venture a few minutes from downtown to Magic Hat’s Brewery and Artifactory, where tours are led and revelry is at a peak. Not only is this Mardi Gras a fantastic party, but it’s one with a purpose: This year’s proceeds benefit the Vermont Foodbank. Held Feb. 27-Mar. 1.

 

gaslamp district mardi gras

THE GASLAMP QUARTER – SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
The second largest Fat Tuesday celebration in the U.S. is more street party than cultural immersion — but it’s alluring all the same. The GasLamp Quarter, with blocks of bars, clubs and restaurants, is San Diego’s major entertainment district. On February 17, it kicks into overdrive with five outdoor stages, DJs and a night parade with bands, floats, classic cars, belly dancers and Brazilian entertainment that could rival that of Carnival. Snoopadelic headlines the event, so crowds are expected to be thicker than a bowl of gumbo.

 

breckenridge mardi gras

BRECKENRIDGE MOUNTAIN  – BRECKENRIDGE, COLORADO
More than 15 years ago, a group of New Orleanians moved to this mountain paradise and brought a little bit of NOLA with them. Their modest celebration has expanded to the whole town of Breckenridge and includes live music, fire dancers and snow play. On Fat Tuesday, several blocks of Main Street shut down for a street party featuring Chris Daniels & the Kings, a jazz and swing act that’s performed with B.B. King. Larger-than-life puppets and harlequin-masked bon vivants light up the night as the sun sets behind the peaks of Breckenridge Ski Resort. New Orleans-themed food and drink specials are available at restaurants throughout town. Held Feb. 17.

 

Story by Kelly Aiglon

Cheap spring break: where to go and when

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

It’s a college student’s rite of passage to make the pilgrimage to the closest and warmest beach with a hefty crew of cronies. Fifty-five percent of college students are planning to travel for spring break this year, with Las Vegas, Cancun and San Diego topping the list of the hottest destinations, according to the latest booking and survey data from CheapTickets.com. Spring breakers are also flocking to Florida as the state’s beaches occupy five of the top 15 spots.

To help students find the most popular places to go and get the most bang for their buck, the CheapTickets College Crowdometer maps the spring break schedules of 50 of the largest U.S. colleges.

CTIX_CollegeCrowdomenterFINAL

The CheapTickets spring break list below identifies top college spring break destinations and calculates average hotel and flight prices.

CheapTickets.com top 10 college spring break destinations

2015 average daily hotel prices

% difference year-over-year

2015 average airfare

% difference year-over-year

Las Vegas, Nevada

$99

-12%

$337

-13%

Cancun, Mexico

$298

21%

$533

-4%

San Diego, California

$152

22%

$362

-7%

Los Cabos, Mexico

$242

7%

$489

-13%

Miami, Florida

$212

16%

$433

2%

Nassau, Bahamas

$368

42%

$509

7%

Daytona Beach, Florida

$155

8%

$349

0%

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

$104

7%

$309

-15%

Fort Myers, Florida

$248

48%

$353

-5%

South Padre Island, Texas

$143

14%

$377

-2%

 

Price is the biggest factor in deciding their spring break destination. College students are inherent cheapsters, after all. Party scene and weather also come into play. Seventy percent of students plan to spend less than $1,000 and are stretching budgets by buddying up and road-tripping:

CTIX spring break blog graphic

Be safe out there, you college cheapsters. Have a fun and cheap spring break. Don’t do anything we wouldn’t do. ;)

Story by Kelsie Ozamiz

20 travel resolutions you can actually achieve this year

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Sure you could make a resolution to stop falling asleep while streaming Netflix shows, but let’s dream bigger. Here are 20 cheap-inspired New Year’s resolutions to make you a better-traveled person.

CTIX travel resolutions 1.7.14

Story and graphic by Kelsie Ozamiz

Boardroom meets bedroom in a Fort Lauderdale suite

Friday, July 20th, 2012

A room that multitasks: The conference suite at Sheraton Suites Plantation, Ft. Lauderdale West.

By Mara Tilen

We get it. Spending your work week in hotel rooms can get monotonous after a while, but look at the bright side: Sometimes that hotel room is a gateway to a cheap vacation. Case in point: South Florida, a sunny, affordable destination that begs to be explored when the client meetings are said and done. With a thriving nightlife scene, serene spas and a 600,000-square-foot convention center, you’ll feel that much more productive in beautiful surroundings. (more…)

Florida’s cheap thrills, from mermaids to mullet tosses

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

By Valerie Moloney

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Florida is proud of its offbeat status — and cheap vacation deals. Where else would gators, Goths and bats share the same real estate? Expand your Floridian context beyond a Disney vacation this year to experience the sandy underbelly, and go back to your home state with a few quirky tories and a better tan. (more…)

Tee time during your Disney vacation: Golf Disney like a local

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

World-class champions like Nicklaus, Woods and Singh play Disney's Palm Golf Course. You can, too.

By Amy Drew Thompson

The PGA Merchandise Show comes to the Orange County Convention Center Jan. 25-28, along with the year’s best golfing weather. Mercifully, you don’t have to be Arnold Palmer — or even staying at Disney — to experience play at Walt Disney World’s phenomenal courses, so golfers booking cheap Orlando vacations need not settle. Cool quotient: Carts come equipped with the latest GPS technology. Plan accordingly and enjoy reduced late-afternoon rates for even more savings.

(more…)

Low-season Orlando: Cool weather, cool deals

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Light Up UCF’s free Holiday Light Show illuminates the arena several times a night. Credit: Kathryn Page.

By Amy Drew Thompson

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the holidays are in full swing, Orlando experiences low season — the cool slice of fall through mid-December, then again in January and February. Park lines are shorter, humidity’s a distant memory, and cheap Orlando hotels abound. From campfire sing-a-longs at Disney to SeaWorld Orlando, stretch your vacation dollar further with some of these budget-friendly options:

(more…)