Seaside, Florida, is a brilliantly laid out, planned beach community on Highway 30A in Florida. The entire town speaks to a different time, when there was time to spend drinking iced tea on porches and when it was important to always say hello to your neighbor. At Seaside’s core is a central square that surrounds the community amphitheater. This square houses a collection of shops, cafes, and ice cream parlor and the like which afford beach-goers some air conditioned relief from the very sunny days. Chances are you’ll duck inside these stores every ten minutes or so during the very hot days of July and August, but during the rest of the year, the trees provide enough shade and encourage more lazy wandering. All sorts of shops can be found here — art galleries, clothing stores, restaurants and funky stores that are difficult to categorize. Read More »
While the Gaylord Opryland Hotel is a hotel there is enough going on inside its walls for it to be a destination in its own right. And because it is always 72° inside the Opryland is a great place to spend the day when the weather gets cold.
Walking in the doors of the reception area you are greeted by an enormous stained glass dome directly over the concierge desk. Adorned with butterflies, ladybugs, flowers, guitars and banjos it only hints at the beauty that waits beyond the lobby.
One of our favorite Midwest destinations is Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Not only is there great shopping in unique stores and Hall’s Department store, fun restaurants for the entire family, easy access to Union Station and the World War I Memorial, and five different theaters, but Crown Center also hosts many of Kansas City’s best festivals throughout the year.
While all of that is well and good what I look for when traveling with my girls is: What can we do for free? Crown center delivers free fun, too! (Even the locals love it!)
During our recent visit we braved the cold for a few minutes so the girls could play around the Mayor’s Christmas Tree on the terrific wooden structures. A train, fire truck, space ship, farm and more sparked their imaginations and made the frigid temperatures a bit more bearable. Read More »
Circus magnate John Ringling bought the 150-acre mangrove key known as St. Armands Circle in 1917, with the vision of creating a world class community of shops and residences. He filled the low-lying center of the island, built seawalls, and laid streets and sidewalks in the wheel-shape that was to become the trademark of the tiny key. Then he built a wooden bridge across Sarasota Bay, using circus elephants to haul the huge timbers from which it was constructed. His vision was on its way to becoming reality when the depression hit. Sales dwindled and then disappeared entirely. Unable to maintain the property, Ringing gifted the island to the city of Sarasota and walked away from his dream.
St. Armands languished for nearly twenty years until enterprising developers took a second look at the property in the mid 1950′s. Today the island looks much as Ringing had envisioned it, with palm-lined streets radiating from the small circular park at its hub and Italian statuary from his personal collection gracing the avenues and central park.
Surrounding the hub, more than 130 extravagant shops and gourmet restaurants offer one of the finest shopping experiences in Florida, especially since most of the stores are unique local enterprises rather than national chains. Sidewalk cafes, galleries, ice cream parlors, and fudge shops provide a welcome respite from the “chore” of shopping, as does the grassy park at the hub of the wheel, which is the site of musical performances on the fourth Friday of every month. The most popular event of the year, “Smooth Jazz on St. Armands – Fourth Friday with Style” is scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 24, 2009.
Since St. Armands is also the gateway to Lido Key, many families start with an early morning visit to the spectacular white sands and shimmering turquoise waters found at Lido Beach. When midday temperatures rise, they escape to the St. Armands, located just two blocks away, and spend the afternoon discovering the many delights of the famous circle.
St. Armands Circle is located one mile from downtown Sarasota, Florida. Both Sarasota and Lido Key have a wide range of accommodations (Lido is within walking distance of the circle), as does nearby Longboat Key. In addition to St. Armands and its nearby beaches, the Sarasota area offers a variety of attractions ranging from opera to the circus.
Photos courtesy of Barbara Weibel
Article by Barbara Weibel of Hole In The Donut Travels