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Florida See And Do

Adrienne Arsht Center
Biscayne Boulevard between 13th & 14th Streets
Downtown
Miami , Florida
33132
Tel: 866 949 6722 (toll-free)
Tel: 305 949 6722
www.carnivalcenter.org

Cesar Pelli's monolithic new arts hub for Miami finally opened in October 2006. It may be one of the ugliest buildings the architect (best known for the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur) has ever built, but what saves it is its technological merit: Wrapped in a soundproofing and reverb chamber, the hall is essentially tucked inside another building to prevent any ambient noise from polluting the performances. The showy, crenellated Art Deco tower that squats in the courtyard between the two main buildings is the only remnant of the Sears store that once stood here. A 2,400-seat ballet and opera house and 2,200-capacity concert hall hosts four resident companies (Concert Association of Florida, Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet, and New World Symphony), plus a sellout Best of Broadway season. Check the event listings on the Web site for the 200-seat black box studio theater; like the other venues here, it brings in everything from jazz concerts to experimental theater and stand-up comedy—and tickets start at $25. Australian artistic director Justin Macdonnell also oversees the Miami Made program, which funds city artists' ideas from script to stage. Parking isn't easy to come by in the area, so buy a $15 parking ticket bundled with your performance tickets.

Art Basel Miami Beach
Miami Beach , Florida
Tel: 305 674 1292
www.artbasel.com

This early December, tropical offshoot of the contemporary art world's foremost schmoozefest had an inauspicious beginning—its 2001 debut was aborted in the wake of 9/11. But cynics who predicted the fair's demise were proved wrong the following year, when crops of Miami's cash-rich locals snapped up pricey canvases, installations, and sculptures from emerging and well-known artists. The Miami Beach Convention Center (1901 Convention Center Dr.) hosts the fair proper, with dealers from across the world shilling their wares, but it's the unofficial, heavily social offshoots that amp up the glitz, many of them parties and exhibitions helmed by Miami's homegrown answer to Charles Saatchi, developer Craig Robins (www.designmiami.com). The artists' enclave of Wynwood also hosts edgier, lower-budget events at the same time, which true art buffs might find more intriguing than the Armani-clad main events.

Art Deco District
South Beach
Miami Beach , Florida

These pastel showcases of the Art Deco style from the twenties, thirties, and forties were in disrepair until the late seventies; their restoration in turn sparked the South Beach renaissance. Today, on the southern tip of Miami Beach, there are approximately 1,000 prime examples listed on the National Register of Historic Places—the largest concentration of Art Deco architecture in the world. The finest examples are clustered on Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Washington Avenue, from Sixth to 23rd streets. The Miami Design Preservation League, the group that spearheaded the restoration, conducts several different tours of the neighborhood Wednesday through Saturday and provides audio for self-guided tours. They all leave from the Art Deco Welcome Center (1001 Ocean Dr.; 305-672-2014; www.mdpl.org). The organization is also behind the annual Art Deco Weekend, a festival of art, architecture, and antiques held on Ocean Drive in mid-January.

Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum
3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road
Sanibel Island , Florida
Tel: 239 395 2233 or 888 679 6450
www.shellmuseum.org

As opposed to the many cheesy shell shacks, this is a serious museum devoted to saltwater, freshwater, and land shells (snails) from all over the world. Exhibits also include fossil shells found in Florida, displays on the medicinal benefits of mollusks, and sailors' valentines—shell crafts made by natives of Barbados for sailors to take home to their lovers. Make this your last stop before shelling on Sanibel or Captiva islands—and remember it's illegal to take live shells from beaches.

Beaches
Miami , Florida

Beaches in seaside cities often have an outsize influence on the culture. As in the south of France or Rio de Janeiro, the pull of the beaches can be found throughout Miami in both attire and attitude. Miami Beach's prime spit of sand is Lummus Park (though nobody actually calls it that), bordering Ocean Drive between 5th and 15th streets in South Beach. All the locals' gym time is shown off here, and, yes, there is plenty of topless bathing. Rent a chaise and umbrella from a concession, or just sprawl on the sand (the white stuff's not local, but shipped in regularly from the Bahamas). The area around 12th Street is an informal gay enclave; the rest is mixed. If you want to hang out with expat Latins, head a little further south to the beach around 3rd Street, popular with bikini-sporting Brazilians and Venezuelans. Miami Beach north of 15th Street is less scene-y, but the sand is just as luscious.

If you're looking for a more family-friendly strand, skip overhyped Sunny Isles (north of Miami Beach). The sand is wide there, but an ill-conceived beach renourishment project has significantly worsened the riptides in the water. Instead, hit Crandon Park Beach on Key Biscayne, another barrier island just south of Miami Beach but accessed via downtown Miami ($1.50 a car); the beach is just as wide, but a sandbar just offshore actually reduces lethal undertows. Also on Key Biscayne is Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, which has restaurants and a lighthouse—109 steps to the top (305-361-5811; www.floridastateparks.org/capeflorida).

Beaches in Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale , Florida

Fort Lauderdale's 23 miles of beaches are, of course, its prime draw. It's usually easy to stake out a spot on the wide sands, hemmed in by swaying palm trees and a low-rise, wavy white wall (the inset strip of neon lighting that has long languished in disrepair has finally been switched back on); if the main drag's busy, head south, as the beach widens in that direction. The water here has been certified Blue Wave for its cleanliness and safety, and there aren't many risky riptides. As for facilities, look for showers at the end of Las Olas Boulevard and restrooms at the junction with Sunrise Boulevard; the unofficial gay beach is around Sebastian Street.

Beaches in Key West

Better known for its offshore reefs and onshore bars than its beaches, Key West is not the place to go with visions of endless sandy strands strewn with conch shells (despite what advertising brochures might lead you to believe). The island's shoreline is mostly coral, so the few sandy beaches that do exist here have had some assistance in coming to fruition. That said, there are a handful of sandy spots to unfurl your beach towel for the day. The state park at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Site (called Fort Zach by locals) offers the prettiest and most appealing beach on the island, fringed by pine trees and with some decent snorkeling just offshore (there are also lots of shaded picnic benches and freshwater showers). Smathers Beach, on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island, is the largest public beach and the place to rent a surf ski or catamaran to ply the shallow waters. And don't miss South Beach, a small patch of sugary sand located near the Southernmost Resorts development. It appears private at first glance but is, in fact, open to the public.—Updated by Terry Ward

Beaches in Southwest Florida

From Marco Island north to the far tip of Captiva Island, almost the entire Gulf Coast is fringed by fine, family-friendly beaches with similar attributes: flat, hard-packed white-sand strands that gently ease into the Gulf of Mexico. From south to north, here are the highlights:

Marco Island's Tigertail Beach (239-252-4000; www.colliergov.net) is actually two beaches—a mainland beach with bathrooms, concession stands, and equipment rental, as well as a deserted gulf beach on Sand Dollar Island, which is accessible by wading across a shallow lagoon. No such effort is required to sunbathe at Naples' condo-flanked Vanderbilt Beach (239-252-4000; www.colliergov.net), where Cabana Dan's kiosk rents chairs and cabanas, and hawks frozen treats like chocolate-dipped Key lime popsicles. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park (239-597-6196; www.floridastateparks.org) is a hit with locals, who picnic in the ample shade provided by sea grape and casuarina trees. The north end near Parking Lot 5 has the most powdery sand, but strong currents from Wiggins Pass make swimming risky. Bonita Beach Park (239-533-7275; cityofbonitasprings.org) is notable for its playground and handicap-ramp accessibility, while Lovers Key Carl E. Johnson State Park (239-463-4588; www.floridastateparks.org), a quartet of barrier islands, is distinguished by its tranquil dunes and lack of development. Its antithesis, honky-tonk Fort Myers Beach, is backed by fast-food restaurants, budget hotels, and tattoo parlors. Over the causeway are the shellacious beaches of crescent-shaped Sanibel and Captiva islands; their unusual east–west orientation acts like a scoop for seashells stirred up by storms. Small shells seem to wash up on Sanibel's eastern Lighthouse Beach, while larger shells aggregate farther west along Bowman's Beach (239-395-1860; leeparks.org), where beachcombers strike the hunched "Sanibel stoop'' pose. December through April is considered the best shelling season, particularly at low tide after a storm, when sandbars are most exposed. Though the offshore currents are tricky, the sunset views are unrivaled at Turner Beach, which straddles silted-in Blind Pass between Sanibel and Captiva (239-432-2006; leeparks.org). There is metered or fee parking near all locations; the state parks have the largest lots.

Hotel Photo
The Bonnet House
900 N. Birch Road
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
33304
Tel: 954 563 5393
www.bonnethouse.org

Undoubtedly one of the city's biggest draws, the Bonnet House is a pioneer oddity among the beachside high rises. Built by two wealthy settlers, artist Frederic Bartlett and his wife Evelyn (whose own massive fortune derived from her first marriage to prescriptions pasha Eli Lilly), the attraction is a pioneer-style bungalow set around a courtyard and populated with a vast collection of trinkets, from whimsical carved animals to merry-go-round menageries. Almost every surface was decorated, whether with a wooden trunk or a stucco ceiling, often by Bartlett himself. The house is stashed at the center of sprawling gardens that are filled with random amenities also built by the Bartletts to while away the time—the thatched tiki-style Island Theater was a private movie house, for instance. If it's hot, don't bother walking through the mangrove thickets, as there's a tram chugging through the park for only $1 per person. As for the name, it's flora-related rather than fashion-inspired: The bonnet is a yellow water lily that grows everywhere on the estate.

Closed Monday and all of September.

Celebration
Exit 64A off I-4
Celebration , Florida
www.celebrationfl.com

In 1994, Disney capitalized on the Central Florida real-estate boom in a controversial way: It opened its own town where it could professionally administer the company's ethos to eager buyers. At first, it seemed as if many of the new residents were actually journalists researching books about living in the enforced paradise, but in time, the town's tastefully arranged, gabled houses and obsessively quaint Market Street acquired earnest residents and businesses, plus a few Disney offices. Now managed by outside real-estate concerns, everything, down to paint color and hydrant placement, was calculated to instill the warm-fuzzies by corporate designers. Drive-by gawking is common, as are return glares from behind shifting curtains.

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
445 N. Park Avenue
Winter Park , Florida
Tel: 407 645 5311
www.morsemuseum.org

Located a few miles north of downtown Orlando in tony Winter Park, the Morse Museum's core collection, spread over 8,000 square feet of hushed and artfully downlit exhibition space, is the world's most comprehensive collection of works by Art Nouveau glassworker Louis Comfort Tiffany, many of which were acquired by a wealthy collector after the artist's Long Island home was destroyed in the 1950s. Case after case of masterpieces can turn even the most casual visitor into an art glass aficionado. In addition to an original Norman Rockwell, make sure to view the on-site chapel, designed by Tiffany for the Chicago's World Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
375 Sanctuary Road West
Naples , Florida
34120
Tel: 239 348 9151
www.corkscrew.audubon.org

The National Audubon Society's 13,000-acre preserve, located 20 miles inland of Bonita Springs, protects pine flatwoods, open prairie, and North America's largest stand of old-growth bald cypress, a moss-draped redwood relative that can exceed 130 feet in height and 25 in girth. A 2.25-mile handicap-accessible boardwalk leads through the pristine forest and over wetlands and shallow "lettuce lakes" that are prime feeding grounds for alligators and wading birds. Almost 200 bird species have been spotted here, including yellow-billed cuckoos, painted buntings, and America's largest nesting colony of wood storks. While this is a self-guided walk, volunteer naturalists along the route will answer questions. Depending on the season, you may spot alligators moving through the grasses, black bears in the pinelands, or raccoons and otters. Given the shade thrown by the towering cypress trees and a thriving population of larvae-eating mosquito fish, this is a pleasant nature call, even in summer.

Open daily 7 am to 7:30 pm, April 11 though September 30, 7 am to 5:30 pm, October 1 through April 10.

Disney's Animal Kingdom
Walt Disney World Resort
Lake Buena Vista , Florida
Tel: 407 824 4321
disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/parkLanding?id=AKLandingPage

Added in 1998, Animal Kingdom is the most spacious Disney Park by a large margin (500 acres), although most of that belongs to the menagerie of exotic, free-roaming animals. See them on the 20-minute excursion, "Kilimanjaro Safaris," as soon as the park opens, before long lines form and the animals seek shelter from the sun. When Disney realized the Kingdom's big-ticket attractions (the clever, sense-tricking movie It's Tough to Be a Bug! shown beneath the Tree of Life, the bruising indoor ride Dinosaur, and a few exhibits about animal conservation) weren't keeping guests busy enough to stay until closing time (at dusk), they added a roller coaster, Expedition Everest, in spring 2006 and a Broadway-style musical version of Finding Nemo, opened a year later. Despite these additions, visitors still tend to vacate the park by 2pm or so. Since much of the park's attractions are exposed to the elements, either limit your visit to the cooler morning hours or make sure to wear appropriate clothing.

Disney's Hollywood Studios
Walt Disney World Resort
Lake Buena Vista , Florida
Tel: 407 824 4321
disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/parkLanding?id=MGMLandingPage

Opened in 1989 (in part to head off Universal Studios, which debuted the following year), Disney's third Florida park was intended to double as a functioning studio, but the clients didn't materialize. The resulting property's most celebrated attractions are the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror—a technological and artistic home run that thrills guests by emulating a haunted elevator car—and an indoor roller-coaster (Disney World's only upside-down ride). It's also home to the new Toy Story Mania, an addictive ride through a 3-D video arcade simulating a half dozen carnival games, such as pie throwing and ringtoss. Otherwise, the Studios are mostly a place to catch live shows suited to the very young, including an electrifying car stunt show and bite-size versions of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas , Florida
Tel: 305 242 7700
www.nps.gov/drto

These seven islands 70 miles west of Key West are a snorkeler's dream. The colorful coral reefs just a few feet offshore are populated by tropical fish and Queen conchs (there are free maps at the ranger's office). Back on land, you can tour Fort Jefferson, America's largest 19th-century coastal fortification. The fort was begun in 1846 but never completed despite three decades' worth of construction. It most famously served as a prison where John Wilkes Booth's unknowing accomplice Dr. Samuel Mudd was incarcerated (and later pardoned for his services during a yellow fever outbreak). The entire archipelago has also been designated a wildlife sanctuary to protect the nesting grounds of the sooty tern here; January is peak time for sightings.

There are two ways to reach the Dry Tortugas: by sea and by air. Taking the swoony 40-minute flight over the Gulf of Mexico is the faster but more expensive option (from $229 per person; 305-294-0709; www.seaplanesofkeywest.com). By sea, the high-speed ferry Yankee Freedom takes a couple of hours and can be choppy (bring Dramamine), but it's much better value ($159 per person including breakfast, lunch, island tour, and snorkel gear; 800-322-0013; www.yankeefreedom.com).

Edison & Ford Winter Estates
2350 McGregor Boulevard
Fort Myers , Florida
Tel: 239 334 7419
www.efwefla.org

One of the town's earliest homeowners, Thomas Edison, once lamented, "There is only one Fort Myers, and now 90 million people are going to find it out." Well, the city has grown since Edison's time, but the inventor's 1886 home remains just as it was during his lifetime. You can tour the house, botanical gardens, and the laboratory where he conducted his experiments and took catnaps on a cot. Then go next door to tour the bungalow of Edison's close friend Henry Ford, which is decorated as it was in the 1920s. Upon request, a living-history actor plays the role of Thomas Edison, Mina Edison, Henry Ford, or Clara Ford, and speaks about his or her experiences in Fort Myers.

Epcot
Walt Disney World Resort
Lake Buena Vista , Florida
Tel: 407 824 4321
disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/parkLanding?id=EPLandingPage

Although Walt Disney wanted Epcot to be a real experimental community, like the Biosphere, what eventually opened 16 years after his death was more akin to a World's Fair, with corporate-sponsored rides and a mini-United Nations of pavilions representing a few of the world's countries. Epcot's focal point, the gorgeous orb of Spaceship Earth, houses one of the last attractions remaining from the 1982 opening, a history of communications. The Future World area, which surrounds Spaceship Earth is really a collection of family-friendly thrills like the launch simulator Mission:Space and the flying simulator Soarin' (it's the current blockbuster attraction, so hit it up early, when the line is short). World Showcase, gathered on a 1.3-mile footpath encircling the World Showcase Lagoon, is staffed by people native to the country of their respective pavilions. The American pavilion takes pride of place at the center, though the most interesting shopping options are in the Japan pavilion, which operates an outpost of Tokyo's historic Mitsukoshi department store. Authentic souvenirs and food are available at each stop, along with alcohol, which isn't sold at the Magic Kingdom.

Hotel Photo
Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
907 Whitehead Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 294 1136
www.hemingwayhome.com

Ernest Hemingway is the most famous of the freshwater Conchs (the term of endearment for a Key Wester who wasn't born on the island), and he lived in this limestone mansion from 1931 to 1940. The house itself was built by a marine architect and salvage wrecker in 1851. The rooms all contain antiques and memorabilia from Hemingway's world travels. The chandelier collection was shipped from Paris by Pauline (the second of his four wives), and Hemingway wrote some of his best-known works (A Farewell to Arms, To Have and Have Not) in the surprisingly small study dominated by a large deer head. The best way to see the interior is by taking one of the organized tours that leave from the entrance every 15 minutes. The guides are salty fun, but their embellished stories should be taken with a shaker full of it: Hemingway's onetime secretary has questioned the authenticity of the house's current furnishings, and the much-repeated tale that the troop of 50 or so six-toed cats on-site are descendants of a pack of Papa's own pets has come under scrutiny as well. The extra digit must have made them extremely good swimmers, since Hemingway's own herd lived at his home in Havana.

Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.

Everglades National Park
Gulf Coast Visitor Center
State Road 29
Everglades City , Florida
34139
Tel: 239 695 3311
www.nps.gov/ever

Although this is the third-biggest national park in the Lower 48, there is only one access point from Florida's Gulf Coast—Everglades City, on the park's northwest border. Here the landscape is much different from the classic saw grass prairie, hardwood hammocks, and cypress swamp characterizing the east side of the 2,358-square-mile park, the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi River. Instead, the dominating feature is the mangrove forest of the Ten Thousand Islands, a labyrinth of ever-shifting islets and channels that is critical habitat for numerous species of fish and birds, as well as such endangered animals as the saltwater American crocodile. The Gulf Coast Visitor Center is the gateway for exploring the grandest mangrove swamp in North America. Park naturalists lead 90-minute boat trips, or you can rent a canoe and poke around Chokoloskee Bay and the Turner River by yourself to spot alligators, greenhouse frogs, bats, and butterflies. For experienced paddlers, this is also the northern launching point of the Wilderness Waterway, a winding, 99-mile inland route south to Flamingo, which takes nine days by canoe and requires a park permit. North American Canoe Tours (239-695-3299; evergladesadventures.com) can arrange day trips or multiday expeditions.

The park's Gulf Coast entrance is open around the clock. Visitor center is open daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm.

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve Park
137 Coastland Drive
Copeland , Florida
Tel: 239 695 4593
www.floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand

Would you hike off the path and wade through waist-deep pond-apple sloughs to see the rare ghost orchid? You don't have to be obsessed with orchids to enjoy this four-hour ranger-led trek through Fakahatchee Strand Preserve Park, where real-life orchid poaching became the subject of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief and the movie Adaptation. You'll also have a chance to see otters, Florida black bears, Everglades minks, and Florida panthers. Wear long pants and sturdy shoes, and bring along food, water, and DEET-fortified insect repellent. (See the website for tour information.)

Fishing in Key West

The Key West marina is packed with fishing boats available for charter. Dream Catcher Charters will take you out into the flats, the four-foot-deep waters around the Keys that are filled with tarpon, ladyfish, and barracudas (888-362-3474; www.fishingkeywest.com). For deep-sea fishing for amberjacks and cobia, Mr. Z Charters offers half, full, and even three-quarter day tours (305-296-0910; www.keywestfishtales.com). For snapper and grouper, head farther back up the Keys to Islamorada and call Richard Stancyzk at Bud'n'Mary's marina (800-742-7945; www.budnmarys.com).

Fishing in Southwest Florida

The Gulf of Mexico's warm, shallow waters and protected estuaries make southwest Florida an angler's paradise. The sheltered Ten Thousand Islands are a favorite spot for backwater fishing and saltwater fly-fishing, especially for snook and tarpon. From Chokoloskee, an end-of-the-road hamlet surrounded by Everglades National Park, Capt. Charles Wright offers trips in either powerboats or sea kayaks (239-695-9107; chokoloskeecharters.com). Capt. Michael Van Jones of Fins-N-Grins (239-784-2442; charterfishingmarcoisland.com) in the Marco Island fishing village of Goodland will hook you up with redfish, sea trout, snapper, and even sharks. The Naples-based 45-foot Lady Brett (239-263-4949; tincityboats.com) and the 43-foot Sea Quest (239-765-7665; seatrekfishing.com), based in Fort Myers Beach, offer deep-sea charters in search of the big stuff, like goliath grouper, barracuda, and king mackerel. Farther north, Captiva-based guides Jim and Jimmy Burnsed lead private fishing trips, from two-hour jaunts to all-day backwater excursions (239-472-1779; sanibelcaptivafishing.com), that can also include shelling and snorkeling. It's also possible to wet a line from dry land: Naples Pier and Sanibel's Fish Pier are hot spots for catching pompano and Spanish mackerel. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (888-347-4356; myfwc.com) requires a recreational saltwater fishing license for non-Florida residents over 16 years old unless you're fishing from a licensed charter boat.

Hotel Photo
Flagler Museum
One Whitehall Way
Palm Beach , Florida
33480
Tel: 561 655 2833
www.flaglermuseum.org

Railroad magnate Henry Flagler spent many of his millions building Whitehall mansion as a wedding gift to his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan (40 years his junior, natch). The circa-1902 mansion was an extraordinary achievement: Fully electrified from the first day, it also had the only private telephone in Florida, inside Flagler's master bathroom (one of an astonishing 28 bathrooms in the house). The docents are a notch above most tour guides—knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and in many cases wealthy enough to have helped sponsor the mansion's renovations in 2002. They'll fill you in on the house's secrets: The seemingly wood and leather trompe l'oeil ceilings are actually made of plaster to better withstand the Florida humidity. But don't expect them to dish on Flagler's colorful personal life, like the fact that Florida passed a new divorce law so that seventysomething Flagler could wed Mary while wife No. 2 remained in an insane asylum. Highlights include the grand Marble Hall with its enormous green Russian marble table and the Music Room's 1,249-pipe organ. Be sure to visit the pavilion that houses car No. 91, Flagler's personal railroad wagon, which featured a private shower. Even Rockefeller didn't have one of those in his.

Closed Mondays.

Gatorland
14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 855 5496
www.gatorland.com

Before Disney gave the Central Florida backwoods a modicum of sophistication, Gatorland's oversized gator mouth entranceway, which debuted in the 1950s, was the epitome of the area's populist tourist mentality. It's still going all these years later, feeding the ornery reptiles for the pleasure of cringing tourists. The most popular show, Gator Jumparoo, features the creatures propelling themselves out of the water to clamp their powerful jaws around chicken carcasses suspended from wires. Visit on warm, sunny days when the cold-blooded animals are more active.

Golf in Miami

It's not just celebrity chefs and hoteliers that have lent their monikers and talents to Miami. Some of the biggest names in golf course design have left their mark on many of the area's 30 courses. The Doral Golf Resort & Spa is home to five championship golf courses, including Dick Wilson's legendary Blue Monster, where the fountain-festooned 18th hole was named among Golf Magazine's top 100 holes in the world. Greg Norman's Great White course at Doral is notable for its transporting desert golf experience (with crushed coquina shells for sand) set amid all that South Florida lushness. It's not completely arid though: There's a water hazard on 14 of the course's 18 holes to challenge even the most devout shot makers. Doral hosts the World Golf Championships, an annual PGA Tour event, and the luxurious spa resort itself is enough of a reason to make the pilgrimage, with or without your clubs. Don Shula's Hotel and Golf Club's par 72 Senator Course is one of the longest championship courses in Miami at 6,982 yards. The golf school is a good place for beginners to get hooked on the game.

Not surprisingly, many of the most notable courses are located outside the city limits. Traditionalists should make the trek to Coral Gables and the Biltmore Hotel, where an Old Florida ambience is combined with the par-71 designed by Donald Ross in 1925 that still beckons the likes of Tiger Woods and European royalty. The fabulous (and fabulously public) Crandon Golf Course is just a short drive from the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. Lakes and lagoons that blend with the island's natural surrounds were instrumental to Robert Von Hagge and Bruce Devlin's organic design, and the course is considered one of the state's most beautiful and most challenging. You'll spot prolific birdlife and perhaps even an alligator while you play.

Golf in Palm Beach

Golf is a huge part of the Palm Beach lifestyle, and the area's waterfront courses and vibrant greens make it a regular stop on the PGA tour. There's even a PGA Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, a 20-minute drive from Palm Beach proper. The courses at the resort are some of the toughest around: Lee Trevino once described the last three holes on the Jack Nicklaus–designed Champions course as "the real killer in golf." Another of the area's more challenging courses is at the Abacoa Golf Club, a 20-minute drive from West Palm Beach in the town of Jupiter. The par-72, 7,200-yard course was one of the final designs overseen by legend Joe Lee before he died in 2002, and the surprisingly hilly elevation rises up to 40 feet, unheard of for a South Florida course.

There are also courses in Palm Beach, of course. The Ocean Course at the Breakers is the oldest in Florida. Railroad magnate Henry Flagler had it built as a 9-hole course when he opened the hotel here in the 1890s, then had it expanded in 1901 to a full 18. It was revamped in 2000 by Brian Silva and is now about 6,200 yards and a par-70 course. The hotel's other course was once known as Breakers West but was renamed the Breakers Rees Jones Course after the designer transformed it in 2004 to a 7,100-yard, par-72 spot. The downside to these two courses is that you have to be either a guest at the hotel or a club member to get a tee time. The public Palm Beach Golf Course is open to all. Endearingly known locally as the Par 3, the course was designed in 1961 by Dick Wilson and is still a favorite today (pro Jasper Parnevik is a fan). The superb views along the Intracoastal Waterway are its best feature, and it's a short course, just 2,465 yards, with holes ranging from 100 to 222 yards each. Its place in golf history was solidified shortly after it opened, when LPGA Hall of Famer Louise Suggs trounced a dozen male pros, Billie Jean King–style.

Golf in Southwest Florida

With more than 130 courses, southwest Florida suits golfers to a tee (sorry, we couldn't help ourselves). Although the majority are private, there are also several dozen public and semiprivate links (the latter accept nonmember players, especially outside the January–March high season). The nationally known Tiburón Golf Club is the centerpiece of the Naples Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, with two Greg Norman–designed 18-hole layouts known for their wetland water hazards and stacked-sod bunkers. The long (7,288 yards), demanding Gold Course is the site of the annual Merrill Lynch Shootout. Another Naples course, the 7,171-yard Lely Flamingo Island Club, was the vision of Robert Trent Jones, Sr., who did duffers no favors by sculpting hourglass-shaped fairways and undulating greens. Hidden in the countryside east of Fort Myers, the Jack Nicklaus–designed Old Corkscrew Golf Club is considered one of the best new courses in the country. A bear at nearly 7,400 yards, it hosted the 2008 Florida State Seniors Championship. The city of Fort Myers owns the recently renovated 6,772-yard Eastwood Country Club, regarded as one of the best public courses in the region. Set amidst a Sanibel Island wildlife reserve, the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club plays short (5,578 yards), but its ever-present water hazards can leave all but the most precise golfers over par.

Holocaust Memorial
1933-1945 Meridian Avenue
South Beach
Miami Beach , Florida
33139
Tel: 305 538 1663
www.holocaustmmb.org

Sculptor/architect Kenneth Treister's Memorial in Miami Beach is both evocative and upsetting. Visitors enter this outdoor memorial through black-granite colonnades with walls etched with surprisingly graphic images of the concentration camps, then pass through a tunnel that echoes with the voice of Israeli children singing World War II songs. The central sculpture is a 42-foot-high bronze hand that reaches up to the sky, emaciated figures clinging to it, fighting to climb higher and escape. The ID number tattooed on the arm's wrist is missing its final digit on purpose, as the artist was careful to make no reference to specific prisoners. Note, too, the address, a nod to the era of persecution.

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
3019 E. Sunrise Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
33304
Tel: 954 564 4521
www.floridastateparks.org/hughtaylorbirch

Birch, a Chicago lawyer, raked in money as the legal counsel for Rockefeller's Standard Oil and used it to buy vast chunks of $1-per-acre land down in newly settled Florida at the end of the 19th century. Birch deeded most of it to the state on his death, and it's now a glorious park, centered on a shady freshwater lagoon with forests of sea grape and hardwood trees—an ideal break from sunning on the beach. And though Birch's estate may have been huge, his still-standing house at the center of it all was surprisingly modest.

Visitors center open only on weekends.

Islands of Adventure
Universal Orlando Resort
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 363 8000
www.universalorlando.com

Considered by aficionados to be the best-designed amusement park on earth, IOA's designers spared little expense. Its five themed areas (Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing) are distinct and hand-designed down to the lampshades and the trash cans. Its entangled Dueling Dragons coasters are synchronized to tease riders with three near-collisions, and the Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges are the wettest and most thrilling of the white-water boat genre. Don't miss the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, where riders don 3-D glasses and whisk through a series of rooms in which motion simulation, animation, and sense trickery (bursts of flame, water droplets) collaborate in thrilling harmony. Next up for the park: A whole Harry Potter universe, set to open in 2010. Leave your bags in your car (the parking lot's covered), since you can't bring anything but yourself and your screams onto the roller coasters.

J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
1 Wildlife Drive
Sanibel Island , Florida
33957
Tel: 239 472 1100
www.fws.gov/dingdarling

If you're lucky, you'll encounter alligators, manatees, loggerhead sea turtles, roseate spoonbills, and even the 11-foot female American crocodile that loves to sunbathe on Wildlife Drive. You'll see and learn plenty in this well-managed preserve, which you can explore by bicycle, four-mile drive, open-air tram ride with naturalist, or two-mile boardwalk trail. You can also paddle a kayak or canoe through Tarpon Bay's mazelike mangrove forest, by yourself or with a guide (239-472-8900; tarponbayexplorers.com). Within the 6,400 acres of wetlands, sabal-palm savanna, and mangrove forests, there are 32 different mammals, 51 types of reptiles, and 238 recorded bird species, including bald eagles, mangrove cuckoos, and two dozen warbler species. Bird-watching is best in the early morning, an hour before or after low tide. Mosquitoes and the annoying no-see-um sand flies are most prevalent at dawn and dusk—avoid those hours, and bring insect repellent at all times.

Wildlife Drive is open Saturdays through Thursdays from 7:30 am until a half hour before sunset. The Education Center is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, November through April, 9 am to 4 pm May through October.

John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
5401 Bay Shore Road
Sarasota , Florida
Tel: 941 351 1660
www.ringling.org

Located on the 66-acre Sarasota estate that once belonged to circus tycoon John Ringling and his wife, Mable, this art museum showcases the work of Baroque masters such as Rubens, Van Dyck, and Poussin. The collection encompasses 10,000 objects—paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, and drawings—from ancient through contemporary times. While you're there, visit the Ringling's 32-room mansion, Cà d'Zan, and check out the posters, props, wardrobes, and parade wagons on display in the Circus Museum.

Jungle Island
1111 Parrot Jungle Trail
Watson Island
Miami , Florida
33132
Tel: 305 400 7000
www.jungleisland.com

Jungle Island (formerly known as Parrot Jungle) used to be an oddball charmer far south of the city, an old rambling park full of squawking, bird-filled cages. Now it's a gleaming, multimillion-dollar family attraction on its own island between downtown and South Beach. The new aviary, home to more than 200 parrots and 3,000 exotic animals such as monkeys and reptiles, has various custom-built environments. The Manu exhibit, for example, mimics a Peruvian mountaintop and has indigenous birds, and the Serpentarium is a good place to see alligators up close (don't miss the albino one). The neighboring Ichimura Miami Japan Garden, also run by the Jungle Island team, is a calm oasis of stone lanterns and boulders, wrapped in a traffic noise-dampening concrete wall and topped by a large, genial Buddha.

Open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Kampong
4013 Douglas Road
Coconut Grove
Miami , Florida
33133
Tel: 305 442 7169
www.ntbg.org/gardens/kampong.php

This often-forgotten botanical garden is one of Miami's true finds—that is, if you can find it. It's located on a mansion-filled stretch in the backwoods of Coconut Grove, the leafy neighborhood south of downtown. This land was originally owned by botanist David Fairchild, of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden fame, who traveled the world collecting exotic plants to populate the garden. When David and his wife passed away, Catherine Sweeney bought the property and carried on this tradition of specimen gathering. Their efforts combined have yielded an impressive array of about 5,000 plants and fruits, from ylang-ylang (the base note for Chanel No. 5) to bael, a hard-shelled Indian citrus known for its laxative and aphrodisiac qualilties, that Fairchild ate daily for breakfast. Oh, and the bizarre name? It's Malaysian for "cluster of houses." Call ahead to make an appointment and the director, Larry Schokman, will lead you on a custom tour.

Open Monday through Friday by appointment only.

Key West Aquarium
1 Whitehead Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 800 868 7482 (toll-free)
Tel: 305 296 2051
www.keywestaquarium.com

Originally a WPA project in the 1930s, this huge aquarium is swimming with barracuda, eels, parrot fish, stingrays, and other exotic creatures that live below the surface in Key West. Visitors can pet a live shark during daily feedings or hold a starfish at the touch tank.

Key West Cemetery
701 Passover Lane
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 292 8177

This 19-acre site jammed into the center of Old Town dates back to Key West's 19th-century heyday, when the shipwrecking industry (salvaging goods from sunken ships) made it briefly America's richest city. Estimates put the cemetery's permanent residents at up to 70,000, most in vaults aboveground because of the high water table and solid coral bedrock that prevent the standard six-feet-under. The cemetery is both a fascinating time capsule—the opulence of some of the older graves underscores the town's onetime economic prominence—and an amusing catalog of Conch eccentrics. Look for Edwina Lariz, whose stone reads "Devoted fan of singer Julio Iglesias" and B. P. Roberts, who moans eternally "I told you I was sick." Pick up a guide to the graves in Walking & Biking Guide to Historic Key West by historian Sharon Wells (www.seekeywest.com).

Open daily sunrise to 6 pm.

Little Havana
Miami , Florida

Just west of the downtown business district is this several-block bastion of the city's Cuban community. Calle Ocho, or S.W. Eighth Street, is the heart of the area, and on it you'll find shops with women rolling cigars, salsa music emanating from old record shops, art galleries, coffee shops for a shot of bracing café cubano, and the restaurant Versailles. In March, the neighborhood hosts a two-week street festival of art, music, and food (www.carnavalmiami.com/calle8).

Magic Kingdom
Walt Disney World Resort
Lake Buena Vista , Florida
Tel: 407 824 4321
disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/parks/parkLanding?id=MKLandingPage

When most first-time visitors imagine Walt Disney World, the place with the castle, the Hall of Presidents, and Space Mountain, they're thinking of the Magic Kingdom, which was the first of the four theme parks to open on Disney property back in 1971. A larger version of California's original Disneyland, its idealized mock-up of a prototypical Main Street USA spills into several themed areas (Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Mickey's Toontown Fair) stocked with tame rides and wandering Mickeys, Minnies, Goofys, and the odd Captain Hook. Get those famous mouse ears at Le Chapeau, just to the right as you enter. The lines for the kiddie rides of Fantasyland are shortest immediately after opening and again in the evening, when tykes go to bed. Otherwise, the Fastpass system allows you to pick up timed tickets, which get you onto the ride with a much shorter wait; use it liberally. The Kingdom experiences its biggest crowds on Mondays, so plan your trip accordingly. And if you plan on staying for the evening fireworks, wait around for 45 minutes or so to avoid the crush of departing visitors that overwhelms the transportation systems.

Mallory Square
Duval and Front streets
Key West , Florida

Locals avoid it and tourists flock to it, but there's still a lot to love about Mallory Square. Vendors selling everything from hand-painted coconuts to conch fritters set up shop in the brick, waterfront area, while tourists take in classic acts like the tightrope walker or the one-man band that looks like something straight from a Dr. Seuss fantasy. Amid all the kitsch, you can find some treasures for sale, too, like intricate palm-frond baskets woven by a man who's been a Mallory Square fixture for decades. Sunset is obviously the time to go, and the scene continues for about an hour afterward, as sailboats pass close to the docks for a photo moment and the sky glows with the day's last color.—Updated by Terry Ward

Margulies Collection
591 NW 27th Street
Wynwood Art District
Miami , Florida
33127
Tel: 305 576 1051
www.margulieswarehouse.com

Local real-estate developer Marty Margulies amassed such an impressive collection of photography over the years that in 1999, he finally bought a warehouse in the emerging Wynwood Art District downtown to showcase his holdings. Seven years—and several expansions—later, the stark-white, 45,000-square-foot space is crammed with permanent and rotating collections of impressive photography, from Cindy Sherman classics to Vanessa Beecroft's sexy, modern snaps. Even better, Margulies's impeccable taste stretches to video installations and sculpture. It's hard to single out particular works, but don't miss Ernesto Neto's creepy, tentacle-like installations made from women's panty hose.

Open Wednesday through Saturday between October and April.

Maria Selby Botanical Gardens
811 S. Palm Avenue
Sarasota , Florida
Tel: 941 366 5731
www.selby.org

A visit to these botanical gardens in Sarasota is especially appealing in the fall, when the weather is cooler and the plants are still in full bloom. Grab a map and embark on a self-guided tour of the orchid-filled greenhouse, bamboo garden, butterfly garden, banyan grove, and fragrance garden. Kids underwhelmed by the vegetation will get a kick out of vividly colored poison-dart frogs frolicking in multilevel tanks filled with mosses and tropical plants. Lunch at the outdoor café, then browse the plant store inside the historic Selby mansion.

Miami Art Museum
101 W. Flagler Street
Downtown
Miami , Florida
33130
Tel: 305 375 3000
www.miamiartmuseum.org

Located downtown in the Miami-Dade Cultural Center, this museum showcases the diverse international makeup of the community in its display of Miami-based artists and art of the Western Hemisphere in general. Founded in 1996, it's not yet a major institution, but it has been gradually expanding its collection and raising its profile; Terence Riley, formerly of New York's Museum of Modern Art, is the director, and architects Herzog & de Meuron are creating a new space downtown next to Biscayne Bay (due in 2012).

Open Tuesdays through Fridays 10 am to 5 pm, Saturdays noon to 5 pm.

Mile Marker 0 and Southernmost Point

There are two key shutterbug sites in Key West. Mile Marker 0, at the junction of Fleming and Whitehead streets, is a small green sign that marks the southern tip of U.S. Highway 1, a full 2,390 miles from its northern terminus in Fort Kent, Maine. The second is the squat red, black, and yellow barrel-shaped marker at the tip of South and Whitehead streets, which marks the closest you can get to the southernmost point of the continental United States (the actual point is part of a naval base). Word to the wise: Taking pics for tourists is a local moneymaking scheme, so the helpful people who offer their photography services will most likely expect a tip.

MiMo Buildings
Miami Beach , Florida
www.mimo.us

Art Deco may be better known, but a growing base of architecture buffs are raving about MiMo style, or Miami Modernism. To protect and promote the genre, the city of Miami Breach established a new preservation zone in 2000, the John S. Collins Waterfront Historic District, between 22nd and 44th streets along Collins Avenue. The buildings, largely from the fifties and sixties, are playful and jokey, brightly colored, and full of atomic-era optimism. There's a sense of movement, with delta fins and pylons added as decoration, or oddly shaped holes, known as woggles, punctured through walls. The best known example is Lincoln Road, the pedestrian mall that cuts across South Beach and whose fountains, benches, and shelters were designed by MiMo master Morris Lapidus. The newly restored Fontainebleau Hotel is considered Lapidus's masterpiece: Check out the bow ties embedded in the terrazzo and the decorative staircases to nowhere. Further up, in North Beach, there are even more MiMo buildings, such as Temple Menorah, a bright yellow synagogue on 75th Street.

Mote Aquarium
1600 Ken Thompson Parkway
Lido Key
Sarasota , Florida
Tel: 941 388 4441 or 800 691 6683
www.mote.org

At this Lido Key aquarium, kids of all ages gawk at color-changing cuttlefish, a 135,000-gallon shark tank, and Molly the Mollusk, a 27-foot-long preserved giant squid discovered in New Zealand. At Contact Cove, Mote's aquatic petting zoo, visitors can touch sea stars, horseshoe crabs, and sea urchins. Just next door, in the Goldstein Marine Mammal Center, wildlife specialists work to rehabilitate injured sea turtles, dolphins, and whales so that they can be returned to their natural habitats.

Museum of Art
1 E. Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
33301
Tel: 954 525 5500
www.moafl.org

Housed in a postmodern building shaped like a slice of pie, this museum is now attracting big-name temporary shows thanks to its well-connected new director, Irvin Lippman, who's spent time at the National Gallery in D.C. Until March 2010, it's home to the "With You I Want to Live" an eclectic exhibit of art from the 1960s and 1970s; the King Tut exhibit was on view in 2006, and it was one of only two North American pit stops for the 2004 Princess Diana dress exhibit. The permanent collection is heavy on Pop Art (plenty of Warhol) as well as the Abstract Expressionist CoBrA movement, with artists like Asger Jorn and Karel Appel known for their intensely colored canvases.

Hotel Photo
Museum of Discovery and Science
401 S.W. Second Street
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
33312
Tel: 954 467 6637
www.mods.org

The interactive exhibits are engaging and educational, including Gizmo City on the second floor (which explains the principles of physics through everyday machines) and the Florida EcoScapes exhibition near the atrium, which houses native Everglades critters such as fish and turtles, plus a huge living coral reef. The $15 admission includes one IMAX film showing at the theater, which shows a rotating schedule of 3-D films (call 954-463-4629 for show times and current movies).

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 5 pm, Sundays noon to 6 pm.

New World Center
500 17th Street
Miami Beach , Florida
33139
Tel: 800 597 3331
Tel: 305 673 3330
www.NewWorldCenter.com

Home to Miami's New World Symphony, this Miami Beach building designed by Frank Gehry debuted in early 2011. Architectural elements include embellishments on the building's facade that resemble Scotch tape origami, along with an unusual flipped-up awning. The enormous campus—which fills two city blocks and houses a concert hall, an opera house, and teaching space—showcases public performances led by conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, founder of the NWS. An egalitarian touch is the free simulcasting of concerts on a 7,000-square-foot exterior wall throughout the year. —Terry Ward

Norton Museum of Art
1451 South Olive Avenue
West Palm Beach , Florida
33401
Tel: 561 832 5196
www.nortonmuseum.org

This eclectic but impressive collection centers on post-1900 boldfaced names like Picasso and Matisse as well as Americana from Norman Rockwell and Edward Hopper. There are also some edgier pieces like Soutine's tight-mouthed Portrait of Madeleine Castaing, Henry Moore's Family Group, and Brancusi's shimmering bronze Mlle Pogany II. The museum was founded in 1941 and a new wing was added in 1997 to accommodate the growing collection. That's where you'll find its roster of Old Masters—the Brueghel still life has been helpfully annotated with all the plant and insect species depicted. There is an Impressionist room full of Renoir and Degas sketches, Gauguin, Monet, Cézanne, plus a typically tender Berthe Morisot. The new wing also contains one of Dale Chihuly's signature trippy glass installations exhibited in a see-through ceiling. If you have kids in tow, duck outside into the garden, where the tiled maze called Theseus and the Minotaur (complete with solution on the descriptive card) will cure any Impressionist boredom. Note that the Norton has a frustratingly small on-site parking lot: It's easier to park at City Place shopping center and hop the free downtown trolley.

Palm Cottage
137 12th Avenue South
Naples , Florida
Tel: 239 261 8164
www.napleshistoricalsociety.org

With cement made from sand and seashells, Palm Cottage was built in 1895 by a Louisville newspaper publisher, one of the city's founders, who spent many winters in Naples. Once the scene of countless glamorous parties, Palm Cottage is now home to the Naples Historical Society and is filled with period furnishings, memorabilia, photographs, paintings, and other artifacts documenting the history of Naples.

Call ahead for guided tour information.

Pirate Soul
524 Front Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 292 1113
www.piratesoul.com

Don't be put off by the Errol Flynn–ish music piped onto the sidewalk and the hokey gift shop—this attraction is a trove of pirate treasure. Pat Croce (onetime president of the Philadelphia 76ers) and his daughter collected this impressive haul of more than 500 pirate-related items and now display it in a smart, engaging multimedia museum. Look for one of only two extant Jolly Roger flags as well as the only authenticated pirate treasure chest in the world. Adults will pick up fascinating nuggets like the fact that dandyish Black Bart was a teetotaler, but it may be scary for little ones: The disembodied animatronic heads and the superbly atmospheric room where Black Beard whispers the story of his demise into your headphones could shiver their timbers.

Open daily 9 am to 7 pm.

The Season
Palm Beach , Florida
33480

Palm Beach is a very different place from Thanksgiving through late April. That's the fabled "Season," when East Coast society swaps New England and New York for the Island. In response, Palm Beach hosts several diversions—many of which are just as enjoyable for the nonresidents. The ponies winter down here as well so there are several polo tournaments at Wellington in January and February (check for dates and schedules at www.internationalpoloclub.com and www.palmbeachpolo.com). February's Fine Art & Antiques Fair attracts the world's top dealers. Even if you aren't in the market, it's worth ducking in for some jaw-dropping window shopping (Palm Beach County Convention Center; 650 Okeechobee Blvd.; West Palm Beach; www.palmbeachfair.com). The Society of the Four Arts Gardens is also a great way to spend the afternoon. Founded in 1936, this cultural organization has sculpture and horticultural gardens open daily and hosts notable speakers, concerts, films, educational programs, and art exhibits (2 Four Arts Plaza; Palm Beach; 561-655-7226; www.fourarts.org).

Seaworld Orlando
7007 SeaWorld Drive
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 800 327 2424
www.seaworld.com

Here, the pace is slower than at most amusement parks, because the focus is on wildlife and education instead of magic or thrills. Yes, there's the savage Kraken roller coaster and the Journey to Atlantis flume to appease the kids, but by and large, this well-manicured park provides a place to peer into aquariums at your own speed and observe manatees, dolphins, penguins, beluga whales, walruses, and other giants of the sea. The park's prize orcas, collectively named Shamu, perform several times daily at a specially constructed stadium that affords views from above and under the surface of the water. The killer whale's favorite trick? Dousing anyone within reach—so pay close attention to the "splash zones" delineated on stadium floors.

Snorkeling + Diving
Key West , Florida

As a place to dive, the Keys may not measure up to, say, Belize, or off the shores of Phuket, but a surprising diversity of underwater creatures and wrecks can be found just a short boat ride from the island chain's shores. Waters are warm enough for a shortie wet suit most of the year (snorkelers can usually go without), and visibility is often well beyond the 50-foot mark. Add to that highlights like the Florida Keys Wreck Trek and its many sunken shipwrecks, frequent dolphin sightings, and the Keys' docile and abundant nurse sharks. Key West offers scores of snorkeling excursions ranging from day trips to sunset snorkeling outings with companies like Fury Water Adventures (305-294-8899) and Sebago Watersports (305-292-4768). And divers have been flocking here in even greater numbers thanks to the 2009 scuttling of the Vandenberg wreck seven miles off Key West to form an artificial reef. The wreck is the largest in the Florida Keys and sits keel down in 140 feet of water, with shallower areas for less experienced divers to explore. Two companies making regular trips to the Vandenberg are Dive Key West and Subtropic. For something more adventurous still, book a live-aboard dive trip with Spree Expeditions; you'll travel 70 miles offshore to the Dry Tortugas for some of Florida's most pristine diving.—Updated by Terry Ward

Southwest Florida Adventure Tours

Wild alligators, panthers, white-tailed deer, and wild turkey—who knew a Florida cattle ranch could be so exotic? Babcock Wilderness Adventures' 90-minute swamp buggy tour of the Babcock Ranch, the largest cattle operation east of the Mississippi River, traverses five ecosystems, from open prairie to cypress swamp (8000 State Road 31, Punta Gorda; 941-637-0551; www.babcockwilderness.com). For those in search of aquatic life, dolphin sightings are almost a sure thing on Captiva Cruises' Dolphin Watch and Wildlife Adventure Cruise. The waters of Pine Island Sound are home to one of the world's largest populations of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. While the playful creatures jump in the boat's wake during the 90-minute excursion, volunteers from the Sanibel and Captiva Conservation Foundation narrate. (McCarthy's Marina, Captiva Island; 239-472-5300; www.captivacruises.com). Everglades Area Tours' half-day fishing and kayaking outing to the Ten Thousand Islands begins aboard the "mother ship" that Captain Charles Wright pilots to a remote island beach, where the kayaks are deployed (City Seafood Café dock on Begonia St., Everglades City; 239-695-9107; www.evergladesareatours.com). While paddling and casting your line, you may spot dolphins, manatees, loggerhead sea turtles, bald eagles, and ospreys. Everyone returns to the beach for a seafood lunch that might include the fresh catch grilled on an open fire. After lunch, you can fish or beachcomb for seashells, but if it's shells you're after, you're better off on Mike Fuery's Shelling Tour. Captain Fuery, a local shell expert, has been guiding trips for 30 years. Out on remote barrier isles such as Cayo Costa, common finds include sand dollars, lightning whelk, lettered olive, and angel wing shells. Find the rare brown-spotted milky junonia, and you'll get your photo in the newspaper (Tween Waters Inn Marina, Captiva Island; 239-466-3649; www.sanibel-online.com/fuery).

Spring Training
Fort Myers , Florida

Diehard fans from Boston and Minnesota come to Fort Myers in December to buy tickets for exhibition games during Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins spring training. But even if you can't camp out for tickets or get them online, you can still watch the Red Sox's morning practice (February through March). Take a bus from the City of Palms Park stadium (2201 Edison Ave.; 617-482-4769; www.redsox.com) to the practice facility. The Minnesota Twins work out in March at Hammond Stadium in the Lee County Sports Complex (14400 Six Mile Cypress Pkwy.; 800-338-9467; www.twinsbaseball.com). Both teams offer special events at the stadiums, allowing fans a chance to meet the players. Also, you can catch the Twins' minor-league affiliate team, the Fort Myers Miracle, playing at Hammond Stadium from April through August (239-768-4210; www.miraclebaseball.com).

The Stranahan House
335 S.E. Sixth Avenue
Fort Lauderdale , Florida
33301
Tel: 954 524 4736
www.stranahanhouse.org

This Florida pioneer-style mansion was the home of Frank Stranahan, known as the Father of Fort Lauderdale, and his proto-feminist, yoga-crazy wife Ivy; they set up a trading post and bank here in the town's early days. Its interior has been lovingly restored and filled with period-specific ephemera—though it's the friendly, enthusiastic docents who really make a guided visit worthwhile. The exterior has also been carefully preserved, including the wide wraparound porch so typical of early Florida settlements; the forward-thinking Stranahan included an area outside where the Native Americans with whom he traded could pitch tents and bunk down for the night.

Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Hotel Photo
Universal Studios
Universal Orlando Resort
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 363 8000
www.universalorlando.com

Universal Orlando emerged on Central Florida's theme-park scene back in 1990, but it's safe to say that the park's crowning moment came in June 2010 with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Devotees descend in (often costumed) droves to sip butterbeer, see quaffle balls fly, and worship at the shrine of screen-set perfection, Hogsmeade Village (if you have to ask what these things are, this attraction is not for you). But there is more to the park than just Harry. Islands of Adventure (which includes the Harry Potter attraction) has high-adrenalin rides like the Incredible Hulk roller coaster and the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Universal Studios, the park's original movie-set offering, includes the Back to the Future ride (still good fun despite all the technology that's come since) and Shrek 4-D. The party continues into the night at Universal CityWalk, the free-admission pedestrian-oriented entertainment complex with live music venues such as Hard Rock Live and Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. Perennially popular Universal Orlando events include Halloween Horror Nights and Mardi Gras; basically, it's a party here year-round.—Updated by Terry Ward

Villas of Grand Cypress
1 N. Jacaranda
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 239 4700
Tel: 877 330 7377
www.grandcypress.com

Orlando is where some of golf's biggest names live: Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, and David Leadbetter all maintain bases here. For them—not to mention all those convention-goers—the more than two dozen local courses have got to be worth their putters. Grand Cypress, which is conveniently located out the north door of the Disney complex, is often hailed as the best golf resort in Orlando and one of the best three in Florida. Longtime local Jack Nicklaus designed the holes (there are 45 on 1,500 acres) and still has a vested interest in the grounds, which operate as a self-contained resort. The easiest way to secure a tee time is to stay at the resort, which gives first dibs on course reservations to villa guests.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
3251 S. Miami Avenue
Coconut Grove
Miami , Florida
33129
Tel: 305 250 9133
www.vizcayamuseum.com

This impressive compound, modeled on the grand estates of Italy, was built by industrialist James Deering and used as his winter home from 1916 to 1925. The 34 rooms open to the public are filled with antiques spanning the 15th through 19th centuries; an additional 12 rooms used by the house's servants are expected to be opened to the public in coming years. The house's setting on Biscayne Bay is also spectacular, on ten acres of French and Italian Renaissance gardens that took seven years to create.

Water Sports in the Gulf Islands

For active travelers, there's no shortage of water sports on the Gulf Islands. Cortez Watercraft rents Jet Skis, pontoon boats, and fishing boats for cruising the bay and reaching isolated beaches (4328 127th St. W., Cortez; 941-798-3721). Or get a bird's-eye view of the islands with Fun & Sun Parasail (135 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach; 941-795-1000; www.annamariaparasail.com).

Wekiwa Springs State Park
1800 Wekiwa Circle
Apopka , Florida
32712
Tel: 877 857 7625
Tel: 407 884 2008
www.floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings

Most Orlando visitors trek east or west to the state's coastal beaches if they are craving a water adventure. They would be better off at Wekiwa Springs, just a half hour north of the theme park corridor, for cave diving, kayaking, and splashing around in a spring. All you need is a snorkel mask to bask in the beauty of crystal-clear waters bubbling up from a pristine source; canoes and kayaks are available for getting out on the narrow river to spot wading birds, turtles, and, yes, alligators. (Heads up: The water is 72 degrees year-round—downright chilly in the winter, rejuvenating in the summer.) On dry land, there's a fantastic spot for picnicking on the gently sloping knoll that descends to a large swimming area at the spring head. The landscape of oak trees draped in Spanish moss is a window into what Central Florida's landscape was like before the citrus industry and theme parks came to town.—Terry Ward

Open daily 8 am to sunset.

Wet 'N Wild
6200 International Drive
Orlando , Florida
Tel: 407 351 1800
Tel: 800 992 9453
www.wetnwild.com

Purchased by Universal in 1998 as another jewel to add to its O-Town crown, Wet 'n Wild made its splash when it opened in 1977 and has since become the most popular water slide park in the country. No cloying themes or lush landscaping here—just wet thrills, like raft flumes, nearly vertical body slides, wave pools, and Disco H20, where cloverleaf rafts swirl around an indoor water disco. The water's heated for year-round sliding, though during winter some rides are shut down in rotation for their annual scrubbing.

Wolfsonian-FIU
1001 Washington Avenue
South Beach
Miami Beach , Florida
33139
Tel: 305 531 1001
www.wolfsonian.fiu.edu

This museum, run by Florida International University, is smack in the middle of the Deco splendors of South Beach, and worth a visit for the building itself: a beautiful example of Mediterranean Revival architecture built in 1926. Inside, furniture, glass, ceramics, and 20th-century German, Italian, and American political propaganda—all part of Mitchell Wolfson Jr.'s 120,000-object collection—are on display, unless a temporary exhibit is showing.

Open 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and Thursday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Closed Wednesday.

Wynwood Art Scene
Miami , Florida

This developing neighborhood in Northwest Miami, which still looks pretty rough around the edges, is a new mecca for art collectors. Several prominent galleries and two notable private collections are located here. Among the top showcases are the Fredric Snitzer Gallery, representing important Latin American artists (2247 N.W. First Pl.; 305-448-8976; www.snitzer.com; closed Sundays and Mondays), and the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, concentrating on narrative-driven international art (3550 N. Miami Ave.; 305-573-2700; www.bernicesteinbaumgallery.com; closed Sundays).

Nearby, the Rubell Family Collection is a provocative display (to put it mildly) of the art collection of Don Rubell, his wife, and children. The book on the collection is called Not Afraid, which is appropriate. One typical piece is Oh, Charley, Charley, Charley, a 1992 fiberglass sculpture by Charles Ray of eight nude figures in homoerotic poses (95 N.W. 29 St.; 305-573-6090; www.rubellfamilycollection.com; closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and for periodic reinstallation).

The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, teeming with collector Martin Z. Margulies' sculptures, video installations, and photographs is also in the area.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.