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NASA astronauts photograph Northern Lights from ISS

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Astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Peake have been posting pictures of the Earth from the International Space Station, but their most recent photos are more stunning than usual.

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Photos posted on Kelly's Facebook page show the astronauts' views of the Aurora Borealis. The extraordinary pictures were said to be taken while Kelly taught Peake how to use his Nikon camera. 

The natural light display they captured happens when a burst of the sun's gas and magnetic field causes a solar wind -- the stream of energy specks from the sun.

That stream hits the Earth's atmosphere and creates the Northern Lights' effect.

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies. You were beautiful this morning! #YearInSpacePosted by NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly on Thursday, January 21, 2016

Aurora brought her fresh colors over Earth today. Stunning! #YearInSpacePosted by NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More morning's aurora. #YearInSpacePosted by NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Good morning, Aurora and the Pacific Northwest! #YearInSpacePosted by NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Day 298. A distant aurora leaves the light on for us. Good night from the International Space Station! #YearInSpacePosted by NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly on Tuesday, January 19, 2016

When, where and how to see 5 planets visible from Earth

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Get your telescopes ready.

Beginning Jan. 20, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter will all be visible from Earth at the same time.

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The occurrence is being called a "rare celestial spectacle," and it is the first time in more than 10 years that all five planets will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye. 

Here's what you need to know to see it:

When can I see the planets from Earth?

The five planets will be visible each morning from Jan. 20 to Feb. 20.  

EarthSky reports people living in the mid-to-northern latitudes can see Mercury best about an hour and half before dawn. In the Southern Hemisphere, it's about two hours before sunrise. Either way, Feb. 7 is expected to be the best day for viewing our solar system's closest planet to the sun.

If you miss it this time, don't worry. The next five-planet showing will happen again in August

Where can I see them?

You can see them from anywhere! Just remember to point your attention to the east.

How can I see them?

Use this trick: Look up in the sky, stretch out your arm and create a fist with your thumb pointing up. Then pass your thumb slowly across what you think is the planet. If the star or planet winks out – goes completely black really quick – then it was a star. If it dims out, then it's a planet.

"For Mercury you will need binoculars," Jason Kendall, a board member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York told the New York Times. "It will not jump out at you, but everybody should be able to see Venus and Jupiter.”

This treehouse is Airbnb's most desired rental property in the world

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Treehouses. People want to stay in treehouses.

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Airbnb, the online home rental site, recently released its top wish-listed destinations and properties, and treehouses were at the top.

As Airbnb put it: "A penchant for fantasy is evident when examining the most Wish-Listed properties by type. The adventure of an outdoor treehouse is by far the most popular type of property on Wish Lists."

At the top of those desired treehouses is one in Atlanta, based on the frequency that active listings appear on people's wish lists.

Hidden away in the affluent uptown district of Buckhead, there are three connected treehouse rooms that rent for $350-$400 a night, with a two-night minimum.

The living room, bedroom and deck are connected by rope bridges. The bathroom is a 30-second walk to the main house.

As of mid-January, the first vacancy, according to the Airbnb listing, is in March.

Other desired treehouse locations include one in Italy and one with a pool, in Bali.

Maybe treehouses aren't your thing. In that case, check out the Seashell House in Mexico or the Pirates of the Caribbean getaway in California.

Airbnb's top destination on its wish list is also in Georgia.

Savannah is the top U.S. destination and No. 3 worldwide among "markets with highest percent of listings that have appeared on at least one wishlist with at least 200 currently active listings."

‘Psychedelic swamp’ in Florida displays rainbow colors

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Florida Landscapes, a public Facebook group of almost 10,000 members, invites social media users to post original photos of unique landscapes and cityscapes in the state. 

On Wednesday, a post to the group's page showed a Tallahassee swamp -- a wetland area not usually recognized for its beauty -- in a new light. 

Michael Hussey posted the photo of a "Psychedelic Swamp" with water that appears to be blue, pink, yellow, green and purple.

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"This happens every year as leaves begin to decompose in the water," Hussey wrote. "The decomposing leaves release tannic acid, and when the sunlight hits it, you see this gorgeous rainbow effect over the water.”

So far over 1,300 people have liked the photo on Facebook, and it has over 2,200 shares on the social media site.

The original photo was posted on Hussey's personal Facebook page last February. 

Psychedelic  SwampThis happens every year as leaves begin to decompose in the water.  The decomposing leaves release...Posted by Michael Hussey on Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It’s Fall ya’ll and I smell funnel cakes!

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As if I needed the calendar to tell me that last week marked the first day of Fall.  What gave it was away was the roar of the crowds at local High School football games, the leaves on my maple tree starting to turn from bright green to yellow, and of course the sweet smell of yeast and dough hitting the hot oil of a deep fryer when serving up  Funnel Cakes  at all the fall fairs!  Oh yes ya’ll Fall is here!  And there is more fun than you can shake a corn dog stick at.  Whether you like apple and pumpkin picking, country fairs, or exploring the mountain leaves, you’ll have enough choices to make everyone in your caravan happy!

Apples, Pumpkins, and Corn- Oh My:  Since fall is all about celebrating the harvest, you certainly can’t ring in this season without spending a little time with the bounty!    North Georgia is brimming with farms full of fall’s harvest.  Did you know that Ellijay is the apple capital of Georgia?  So you know that they take their apple picking seriously! Hillcrest Orchards hosts the Apple Picking Jubilee throughout October.  Not only do they have every type of apple imaginable for picking, but they have plenty of activities too like train rides, a petting zoo, live music, kid’s rides, and what else, pig races!  Not far from the apples, you will find Burt’s Pumpkin Patch  and Buck’s Corn Maze.   Both are up near Amicolola Falls.  Next to first day of school photos, I can honestly say that Burt’s is easily the most popular photo op currently trending on social media!  Propping kids up on one of Burt’s huge pumpkins is a rite of passage!  Not to mention running around picking out a pumpkin, and going on the hayride is fun too!.  If you still need more fun with produce, check out Bucks corn maze which is approximately a 12 acre field of corn that has 4 miles of maze cut into it.  They also offer hay rides, and on Saturday’s, when the farm is open till 9, they offer the Haunted Maze. Check websites for times and pricing.  Don’t want to actually pick your produce? All of these farms have general stores where you can “shop” for favorites items including a funnel cake!

Fair Play—Where else do you get to see blue ribbon livestock, a bearded woman, a giant stuffed gorilla, and a nationally known country singer all while eating a  turkey leg, and of course, a funnel cake?    Why the country fair of course!  Oh yes, fill up the car, turn on your favorite music cause we’re road trippin’ to the fair! I just love these short trips to small towns around North Georgia.  Some of the must see fairs are Cumming Country Fair  happening 10/3-10/13 and the Georgia State Fair at the Atlanta Motor Speedway 10/25-11/3.  Although both of these fairs boast fun rides, carnival games, and fair food, the Cumming Country Fair will also be offering a Miss Cumming Beauty Pageant, bull riding, and a performance by Country singer Kelly Pickler.   The Georgia Sate Fair will be hosting an array of attractions from “Freak Show Deluxe” to Grizzly and Sea Lion acts and don’t forget the Rhinestone Roper…Yeah C’mon!!.  If you are more into taking in the natural surrounding and enjoying local food, beer, and crafts, check out 43rd annual  Octoberfest in Helen Georgia for beer, brats, bands and Lederhosen!    Or celebrate the discovery of gold 185 years at the  Gold Rush Days in Dahlonega, Georgia 10/19-10/20 . Points of interest are a parade, children's activities,  gold panning contest, and hog calling all with a black drop of Dahlonega’s spectacular fall colors. 

Leaf it up to you- If heading up to the North Georgia Mountains makes you think of cameo, a banjo, and a jar of moonshine then think again.  Some of the best fall colors will be on display this side of the Appalachian Trail.  You don’t have to go far either.  Just a short 40 minute drive from the city will land you at Red Top Mountain.    But take the time to head further north because the views are spectacular.  If you travel north of Dahlonega you will hit the beginning of the Appalachian Trail at Neel’s Gap-  From there you can take in the views off of the landing behind the general store or travel one of the trails to Blood Mountain.  Vogel State Park is in Blairsville just a short 2 hour drive from Atlanta.  There is a short lake loop or a longer 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail that makes a nice day trip, offering great mountain color and a birds-eye view of the park’s lake.  If mountain biking is more your speed, consider taking on the 7.5 mile bike trail of Unicoi State Park in addition to shorter foot trails.   Check out this Leaf Watch Guide provided by the Georgia State Parks for more details directions and suggested trails.       After a long hike, considering a little down time with a visit to one of the many North Georgia wineries. Get a complete of nearby wineries. 

Georgia never looks better than she does in the fall.  All dressed up in gold from the autumn sun and swaying her leaves to mountain music.  All I can say is don’t miss the chance to take in all that North Georgia has to offer and experience, the best part of the season,  a little Southern hospitality!

Hidden Gems - Outdoors on a Budget

Summer in Atlanta can only mean one thing.  It’s time to get out doors.  If you are like most people in “these parts” then you probably aren’t from here and the idea of spending long amounts of time outside might bring to mind a scene from “Deliverance”  But as a native of Atlanta, I have found some great ways to explore our fabulous southern surroundings for less than the cost of large sweet tea!

  • The Swimming Hole:  There are a ton of natural swimming holes all around Atlanta and the surrounding areas.  One that is easy to get to and is pretty popular is Vickery Creek at Old Roswell Mill Park.   Vickery Creek is part of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area park, and it is a tributary of the Chattahoochee River.  Vickery Creeks’ popularity comes from the small waterfall that runs over a historic dam and the 19th century cotton mill.  Enter the park through a trellis at the Old Mill and take a path to stunning lookouts, a picnic area, relics of the mill’s hydropower equipment and the dam. Enjoy the sounds of the waterfall, the warm sun, the shallow millpond for cooling off and large flat rocks for sunbathing. In addition there are  miles of hiking trails.  Want more? Visit 
  • Pickin’ and Grinin’:  Summer time just conjures of the imagine of blackberries sliding down the side of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Just crack open any summertime issue of Southern Living and you will see what I mean!  Blackberries are plentiful and easy to pick. Last weekend while spending some time in Lawrenceville,  I found a wild thorny thicket bursting with the berries and managed to pick a pint.  Blackberries grow wild all around Georgia but if you need help find a spot, check out the map of where to pick berries from Concrete Jungle.  This website is great for showing where fruits are  growing naturally in  Atlanta and  to show places to pick blueberries., blackberries, peaches and plums just to name a few.   
  •  It’s the Wheel Thing:  Everyone knows that traffic in Atlanta can be epic.  Take a road less traveled and find a bike trail.  Over the past 20 years Atlanta has done a great job of growing the number of trails and bike paths throughout the 16 county Atlanta metropolitan area. This has really helped to take biking off busy streets and into more protected areas.  The Silver Comet Trail ( begins 13 miles west of Atlanta in Smyrna and runs more than 61 miles westward to the Alabama border.  Another popular trail runs through the city beginning at the Carter Center and runs more than 19 miles to Stone Mountain.  Peachtree City has a 90-mile path system that not only accommodates bicyclists but also golf cards and walkers.  Check out The Path Foundation for path and trail details. 

Try something different this summer and step into the wonderful world happening outdoors all around Atlanta.  You will not only find some hidden gems but you will also make memories that will last a lifetime. 


Paddling the Etowah River in Dawsonville, GA

Just a few miles east of the Outlet Mall extravaganza in Dawsonville, Ga, awaits a serene 9 mile section of the Etowah River that flows through the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area owned by the City of Atlanta.

Like on many north Georgia rivers, Great Blue Herons, wild turkeys, and Kingfishers are frequently spotted as well as deer, Wood Ducks, Red-tail Hawks, and occasionally otters and beavers. Anglers have also reported excellent fishing for River Catfish, Red Eyed Bass, and Bream.


Quick Facts:

  • The Etowah River runs for 164 miles beginning northwest of Dahlonega, Ga and eventually flowing into Lake Allatoona.  
  • A popular day trip (approx. 4 hours) is a 9 mile run that travels through the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area. You can split this trip up by opting for primitive camping in the forest.
  • Put-in:  From Atlanta, take GA 400 North to the North GA Premium Outlet Mall in Dawsonville. Turn left onto Dawson Forest Road. Drive 4 Miles to Highway 9 and turn right. The put in is 1/5 mile ahead on the left. Parking is free and the park offers a nice boat ramp, restroom facilities and picnic table.
  • Take-Out: On Highway 9, drive South 1.6 miles. Turn right on A.T. Moore Road, go about 1 mile and take slight right on Kelly Bridge Road. Continue for 6 miles until you cross the bridge over the Etowah and park in field on the right. There is a very nice boat ramp making the take-out easy. This is private property and requires a $3 fee per person – envelopes available at the gate.

**Download map and helpful information brochure from DawsonCounty.Org


Visit the Georgia Forest Commission website for more info about camping.


Appalachian Outfitters – Rents canoes, kayaks and sit-on-tops. Please call 706.867.7116 or 800.426.7116 to make a reservation.

The Outside World - Retail and rental equipment available. Phone: 706-265-4500


Often the locals will refer to the “radiation caves” located along the river. In the 1950’s this area was owned by the U.S. government who had a secret nuclear facility on the property. You can still see the remaining bridge abutments and hot cell building.  Read more about the history and urban legends.

This Youtube video includes pictures and maps of the facility.


Things to do: Chestatee River

Whether you enjoy paddling, tubing or fishing – many recreational options await you less than an hour from Atlanta.

The Chestatee River in Dahlonega, GA is a favorite for first-time or seasoned paddlers. If boating isn’t your thing you can always take a tube float or try some fishing. The river features some beautiful scenery, fun Class I & II rapids and is teaming with wildlife. Blue herons, wild turkeys, and kingfishers are frequently spotted as well as ospreys, otters and occasionally beavers.

Quick Facts:

  • The Chestatee River is a major tributary of the Chattahoochee River, which begins at the confluence of Dicks Creek and Frogtown Creek in northern Lumpkin County and continues for 50 miles where it eventually spills into Lake Lanier.
  • A popular day trip (approx. 3 hours) is a 6 mile run that travels around a mountain with put-ins and take-out located along Highway 19/60.  From Atlanta, travel north on Georgia 400 until it ends in Dahlonega then turn right on Highway 19/60. map
  • Take-Out: Located on Highway 19/60 about ¼ mile north of Georgia 400. This is a new facility offering plenty of free parking, complete with bathroom and changing areas.
  • Put-in: Highway 19/60 about 3 miles north of the take-out. Parking information listed under the outfitter listings.Alternate Put-in @ Highway 52: From the put-in head north on Hwy 60 then east on Highway 52. The road for the put-in is located on the right before the bridge. This adds another four miles to the trip if you take out just north of Georgia 400. Putting your crafts in the river could prove a little challenging due to the very steep incline. After you put in, you will paddle through residential areas and a golf course – be wary of flying golf balls.


Chestatee River Adventures – Catamarans (aka angler kayaks) $25. Tube rentals $5. Shuttle service for your personal craft - $5. Parking is also available for $5 – please call 770-540-9950 for more information. Appalachian Outfitters – Tube rental $6, kayaks and canoe rentals - $28-$48. Shuttle Service $10. Please call 706.867.7116 or 800.426.7116.


Want More Adventure? Class II+ rapid action happens in the upper section of the Chestatee near Turners Corner – to learn more visit American Whitewater

Beyond Disney: 25 places to see in Florida

GoGo: Fontainebleau, Miami Beach

More groovy than ever after $1 billion renovation

Since opening in 1954, the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel has been featured in several movies, television shows and songs and has hosted Rat Packers Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and just about every other cool celeb of the ’60s. The American Institute of Architects ranked it 93rd on its list of “America’s Favorite Architecture.” And after a two-year, $1 billion renovation, the Fontainebleau houses eight restaurants, two bars and a nightclub. Many guest rooms offer a view of the Atlantic Ocean, and all are equipped with a personal 20-inch iMac. Fontainebleau is pet-friendly and provides children’s programming.

Details: 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, (800) 548-8886,

GoGo: Dry Tortugas National Park

Remote and fascinating, Fort Jefferson attracts lovers of history and nature

It takes planning to visit this cluster of seven islands of coral reef and sand, 70 miles west of Key West. That’s because Dry Tortugas National Park can be reached only by water or air. Arrive by seaplane or ferry from Key West, or take a private boat. But when you get there and tour Fort Jefferson — a big fort built in the mid-19th century to help the U.S. protect this lucrative shipping channel — the history and scenery are well worth it. This channel was once used by Spanish explorers, and the high-risk reefs created a “ship trap” that wrecked hundreds of vessels. It’s a feast for bird-watchers, too. Between March and September, some 100,000 sooty terns will come to nest on the islands of the Dry Tortugas.

Details: Dry Tortugas, (305) 242-7700, (features a list of vendors for snorkeling tours)

GoGo: Feed the tarpon at Robbie’s of Islamorada

How a tarpon named 'Scarface’ created a tourist attraction

Stopping at Robbie’s to feed the tarpon is a must for anyone passing through the Keys. A giant school of tarpon comes daily and stays for hours, but you can stay as long — or as short! — as you’d like. For just a few dollars, you and your family can watch and feed these “silver kings.” This all started 18 years ago, when the owners spotted a struggling tarpon with its jaw torn open. They got “Scarface” stitched up, force-fed him and released him; soon, tarpon throngs followed. You can grab some chow for yourself next door at Hungry Tarpon, a hole-in-the-wall Keys-style fish shack.

Details: Mile marker 77.5, Islamorada, (305) 664-9814,

GoGo: Wow! It’s Weeki Wachee

Find Florida’s real Ariel at 'The Only City of Live Mermaids’

At Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, you can see the story of The Little Mermaid come to life in a live underwater performance. Another live underwater show, Fish Tails, explores the history of Weeki Wachee and its mermaid shows. While you’re there, take advantage of the park’s river-boat cruise and animal shows, and discover why Weeki Wachee calls itself “The Only City of Live Mermaids.”

Details: 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee; adults (13-up) $26, 6-12 $12; (352) 592-5656,

GoGo: Kennedy Space Center

Celebrate the legacy of the space shuttle — and more!

Kennedy Space Center offers fun and education for all ages. Experience the thrilling simulator ride, the Shuttle Launch Experience; watch a 3-D movie in one of two huge IMAX theaters; learn about astronauts and NASA history in KSC’s extensive museum. The last shuttle launch, of Atlantis, is set for July 8. After that, Atlantis will remain at the space center so that tourists can check it out and recall the amazing 30-year history of the shuttle.

Details: State Road 405, Kennedy Space Center, (321) 867-5000,

GoGo: The Everglades

See gators up close on an airboat tour

On the western fringe of Boca Raton, you can experience the Everglades — and enjoy a one-of-a-kind ride — courtesy of this longtime airboat operator. Loxahatchee Everglades Tours takes you over a “river of grass” while you experience the natural flora and fauna of the area, like water lilies, cat-tails, turtles and snakes. Count how many alligators you spot along the way! Ponchos and hearing protection are provided for children and adults. Safety equipment is provided for children 3-6 years.

Details: 15490 Loxahatchee Road, Parkland; adults (13-up) $44, 6-12 $22, 3-5 $8; (800) 683-5873,

GoGo: Ritz-Carlton, Naples

Five-star luxury and endless scenes of the glorious Gulf

Built in 1985, the Ritz-Carlton Naples has a stunning collection of antiques and 19th-century European oil paintings; impressive views of the Gulf of Mexico; one of the largest spas in the Ritz-Carlton group; a fitness center, with personal training available; two heated outdoor pools; and seven restaurants. Spacious rooms feature private balconies, Frette linens, and marble vanities and tubs. Only three miles away, accessible by hotel shuttle, is the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, which was ranked the No. 1 golf resort in Florida by Condé Nast Traveler magazine and as one of the 15 best luxury golf resorts in North American by Golf Digest.

Details: 280 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, (239) 598-3300,

GoGo: California Grill, Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Hot spot for hip cuisine and Magic Kingdom fireworks

Delicious California-style cuisine, sweeping views and attentive service characterize this restaurant at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. With a late-evening reservation, you’ll catch a spectacular view of the fireworks over Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. (Check online for fireworks schedule.) California Grill earned the 2004 Disney Magazine Reader’s Choice Award for Best Overall Walt Disney World Resort Restaurant for Adults. The Grill also features great vegetarian options.

Details: 4600 N. World Drive, Lake Buena Vista, moderate to expensive prices, (407) 939-3463,

GoGo: Siesta Key Beach near Sarasota

Named No. 1 Beach in America for 2011

“Dr. Beach” just named Siesta Key the top beach in the U.S. Why does Stephen P. Leatherman, director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research, like Siesta Beach so much? Forty acres of almost pure quartz crystal sand! Says Beach: “The sand is like sugar … They claim to have the finest, whitest sand in the world, and I can’t argue with that.” Siesta Key itself has a fun bohemian, beachy vibe. Across the street from the beach is Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar. This funky restaurant with award-winning clam chowder and good prices on beach drinks (Siesta Key lemonade — raspberry vodka, pink lemonade, a splash of cranberry — is $4) also offers snow crab ($20.99 for a pound-and-a-quarter). The Sarasota area was also named by TripAdvisor as one of the Top 10 Beach and Sun Destinations in the United States for 2011.


GoGo: Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

When you want to get away ... really get away!

Accessible only by boat or seaplane, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is on a 5.5-acre private island dotted with crushed seashell paths amid verdant tropical foliage. This Florida Keys resort offers the perfect couples getaway, with dinner on the beach, luxurious spa packages and panoramic views of the Atlantic. Little Palm suggests that explorers try its five-day Adventurous Soul Package, which includes a seaplane flight to Key West, snorkeling, fishing and yoga. Call or go online to learn about other packages, or build your own.

Details: 28500 Overseas Hwy., Mile Marker 28.5, Little Torch Key, (800) 343-8567,

GoGo: Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg

A building so cool, even Dalí would approve

The new Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Pete looks like a Dalí work: It has a big blue blog oozing from the side. Inside, it’s got the most comprehensive collection of the surrealist master’s work — more than that of the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Spain. (That’s why the Michelin Guide gave the Dalí the top rating on Florida’s West Coast.) The museum chronicles Dalí’s beginnings as a classically trained artist painting still-lifes, his evolution into surrealism, and his later religious-themed paintings. Pause to snack on Spanish tapas or enjoy a glass of wine at the café before entering the galleries. Architect Yann Weymouth, who had a hand in creating the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris, designed the museum. The surrounding waterfront is gorgeous, too.

Details: 1 Dalí Blvd., St. Petersburg, tickets: $7-$21, (727) 823-3767,

GoGo: Flagler’s Hotel Ponce de Leon, now Flagler College

Florida’s most eye-popping hotel rotunda

St. Augustine was Henry Flagler’s first Florida love — and his last. If you think The Breakers in Palm Beach is beautiful, stroll inside Flagler’s first Florida hotel: the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, now Flagler College. The rotunda, with its carved wood and golden murals; and the circle dining room, with windows done by Louis Tiffany, are masterpieces. It’s easy to imagine how amazing the hotel must have looked in January 1888, when the first society guests arrived at dusk and saw the hotel glimmering with hundreds of electric lights.

Details: 74 King St., St. Augustine,

GoGo: Casa Monica Hotel, St. Augustine

Step back into time ... to Flagler’s Florida, circa 1900

Stay at the luxurious Casa Monica, and you’ll time-travel back to the Gilded Age. If you stand right outside the hotel, at the corner of King and Cordova streets, you can pretend quite easily that you have been swept back to 1900, when this castle-like landmark was Flagler’s Hotel Cordova. It’s hard to go outside the Casa Monica, though, when it’s so fascinating within. Gold walls, deep-blue furnishings, Moroccan-inspired chandeliers ... the décor has a “rock the Casbah” vibe. The ambience feels like a lovely collision of St. Augustine’s cultures: part Spanish conquistador, part English governess.

Details: 95 Cordova St., St. Augustine, (904) 827-1888,

GoGo: St. Armands Circle, Sarasota

Heaven for fashionable middle-age shoppers and diners

This circle was developed by a circus king, John Ringling. But it’s so Chico’s — and not a bit freakos. St. Armands is one of Florida’s top strolling destinations for dining and shopping (with 100-plus stores). Many of the patrons are well-dressed and middle-age, with a taste for outdoor cafés and easy linen clothes. Get a table outside at Crab & Fin and try the gazpacho ($6.95) while you listen to the tunes of the piano player.


GoGo: Dolphin Hotel, Disney World

With these deals, even Mickey might drink here

It’s on Disney property, but it’s managed by Starwood, which means that the beds are extra-comfy and the restaurants are superb. Florida residents often get good deals here, too. We like the Dolphin for its restaurant choices, from the reasonable and tasty Fountain café (where a salmon steak on fresh greens costs just $13) to Todd English’s BlueZoo. Another great deal we recently discovered: “two for $20” cocktails in the lobby bar. From our large shaker of sweet-tea vodka and lemonade, we poured five drinks. That’s a Disney bargain!

Details: (407) 934-4000,

GoGo: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Miami-Dade

Just moments from the din of the metropolis, a lush, sprawling tropical garden rises at the edge of Biscayne Bay in southeastern Miami-Dade County. There, along a network of meandering paths, is an extensive collection of rare tropical palms, fruit trees, flowers, cycads and succulents. The 83-acre garden, which opened in 1938, was designed by landscape architect William Lyman Phillips. It now serves as a sanctuary for plant-loving city dwellers, as a majestic backdrop for weddings and parties, and as host for some of the county’s favorite events — such as the International Mango Festival, held in July.

Details: 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables; adults $25, seniors $18, 6-17 $12; (305) 667-1651,

GoGo: Versailles, the spirit of Cuba in Miami

Gogo to dine, mingle, feel the beat

The heart of Miami’s Cuban exile population beats inside this busy, bright, mirrored café on the city’s famed Calle Ocho (Eighth Street). The fragrance of strong, freshly brewed café cubano mingles with the aromas of homemade Cuban specialties. Despite its French name, Versailles is the hub of all things Cuban in the city — from the pop culture to the politics. In fact, the take-out café window is the daily setting for Cuban Miami’s spirited vox populi (TV news cameras swarm here each election season for citizens’ reactions and sound bites). The vibe aside, Versailles’ food is homey, rib-sticking fare. Whether you’re having crisp Cuban toast with a hot café con leche or a feast of pork chunks with black beans, you are guaranteed an authentic taste of Cuban Miami at this iconic café.

Details: 3555 S.W. Eighth St., Miami, inexpensive to moderate prices, (305) 444-0240

GoGo: Garcia’s Seafood Grille and Fish Market

Old Miami flavor — and fresh fish, too

The Miami River snakes lazily outside Garcia’s, a bustling fresh-fish joint steeped in Old Miami flavor. The ambience is worlds removed from Miami’s more chichi settings and offers a native, rustic aesthetic — a perfect place to dig into an outstandingly fresh grouper sandwich or a whole fried yellowtail snapper, caught by Garcia’s own fleet of fishing boats. This eatery offers a unique, non-glitzy view of Miami, as freighters and their mysteries trudge past on the river.

Details: 398 N.W. North River Drive, Miami, inexpensive to moderate prices, (305) 375-0765,

GoGo: Scotty’s Landing, Miami

One of Miami’s favorite dock-and-dine destinations

Infused with the spirit of Old Coconut Grove, Scotty’s Landing is a laid-back, open-air spot where the beer is cold, and the conch fritters are hot and crisp. Perched at the edge of Biscayne Bay, Scotty’s is a favorite haunt of locals. But it’s not easy to find: It’s tucked behind the Grove Key Marina, near the Coconut Grove Convention Center.

Details: 3381 Pan American Drive, Miami, inexpensive to moderate prices, (305) 854-2626,

GoGo: Bonnet House, Fort Lauderdale Beach,

A bohemian 1920s estate on the beach

Fascinating yet little-known, the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is the anti–Palm Beach estate, built by wealthy artists who didn’t care about the social whirl or what anyone thought of their bohemian lifestyle. Wild, tropical and smack in the middle of Fort Lauderdale beach high-rises, it’s a miracle that this 35-acre paradise has survived the bulldozers. Built in 1921, the Caribbean-style house was the home of artist Frederic Bartlett and his second wife, Evelyn Lily Bartlett, who decorated it with unrestrained wit and whimsy. It’s fun, not fancy, with antiques mixed with shell moldings and exuberant faux-painting. The grounds contain thousands of tropical plants, a desert garden, mangrove forest, freshwater marsh — and a troop of squirrel monkeys descended from Evelyn’s former pets.

Details: 900 N. Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale; adults $20, 60-up $18, 6-12 $16; (954) 563-5393,

GoGo: B Ocean Hotel, Fort Lauderdale

South Beach cool — without the attitude

How do you make a former Holiday Inn newly fashionable? Coat the interior and exterior in bright white and give every room a view of the ocean — some through floor-to-ceiling windows — to create a chic, high-tech getaway across from Fort Lauderdale’s glamorous, renovated beach. Kids and their parents will like the groovy lobby lighting, which alternates from pink to blue. The pool, lined with covered cabana loungers and adjacent to the outdoor Sandbar, is where guests congregate for happy hour. Hell’s Kitchen winner Holli Ugalde is the chef behind the hotel’s two restaurants, SAIA, featuring an Asian menu and communal tables; and the French-inspired B’stro on the Beach.

Details: 999 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, (954) 564-1000,

GoGo: Stranahan House, Fort Lauderdale

Take a ghost tour of this old Seminole Indian trading post

In 1901, Fort Lauderdale was a Florida frontier town when Frank Stranahan built a trading post for settlers and the Seminoles. After he married the settlement’s only schoolteacher, the Stranahans made the trading post on the New River their home. Although dwarfed by downtown high-rises today, Stranahan House is one of the few remaining examples of early life on America’s last frontier. Filled with period antiques (some are original), the humble Dade County–pine interior is arranged to re-create the Stranahans’ lives, circa 1913-15. A stop on the city’s lovely oak-shaded River Walk, which links cultural attractions with the restaurant-and-shopping hub of Las Olas Boulevard, the house is also a link between modern Fort Lauderdale and its humble, river-born roots. Sunday-night ghost tours make the most of several sad and spooky stories associated with the house.


Details: Las Olas Boulevard at 335 S.E. Sixth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; regular tour: adults $12, seniors $11, children $7; (954) 524-4736,,

GoGo: Luma on Park restaurant, Winter Park

Where farm-to-table ingredients are rendered sublime

The calendar determines the menu at Luma on Park, where multiple-award-winning Chef Brandon McGlamery creates daily menus based on local ingredients. This veteran of French Laundry and Chez Panisse in California makes the most of farm-to-table Florida ingredients, such as Palmetto Creek Farms’ free-range pork. In season, local farmers provide vegetables and fruit. With small plates and half-glasses of wine available, Luma on Park appeals to health-conscious diners searching for stellar ingredients rendered sublime. A summer prix-fixe menu includes three courses for $35 or $45 with wine pairings.

Details: 290 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, inexpensive to moderate prices, (407) 599-4111,

GoGo: Johnny V Restaurant and Lounge, Fort Lauderdale

A foodie favorite on fashionable Las Olas

Since this Las Olas Boulevard bistro opened in 2003, Fort Lauderdale’s gourmands have been coming for Chef Johnny Vinczencz’s fresh take on Floribbean dishes, served up with a dose of Latin spice and a menu of cheeses from around the world. Sustainable local seafood is a specialty. So are innovative dishes, including pork belly and quail eggs, and a lobster trio. Unusual ingredients such as rabbit sausage and venison make occasional appearances on Johnny V’s menus. Sit indoors or at the see-and-be-seen tables on “The Avenue.”

Details: Johnny V, 625 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, inexpensive to moderate prices, (954) 761-7920,

GoGo: Scenic Boat Tour, Winter Park

A 70-year-old Central Florida tradition

Gazing from your seat on a pontoon boat, Winter Park spreads in languid repose along its chain of moss-draped lakes. Since 1938, one of Central Florida’s oldest tourist attractions has been scaring riders with alligator sightings, and showing off the peacocks that roost in the lakeside cypress trees. Every hour, boats ply the waters of three area lakes and the winding old logging canals connecting them. Boat captains point out bits of local history and gossipy tidbits about the owners of lakeside mansions.

Details: On east end of Morse Boulevard, on Lake Osceola, Winter Park; adults $12, children 2-11 $6; (407) 644-4056,

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