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Take a Peek at Some Unusual Florida Attractions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fraser Hannah   
May 08, 2007 at 04:26 AM
When you are planning your next Florida vacation, you may be starting out with some ideas about the larger, more well-known Florida attractions that you and your family will want to visit. Your Florida vacation guide may be missing many unusual options that you can also check out. Some are near the more popular destinations, while others are just off the beaten path, but all are guaranteed to leave you with some great memories and interesting stories to tell when you get back home. Take a look at the following Florida attractions and discover all that this fascinating state has to offer.

Weeki Wachee Springs
Full of history, Weeki Wachee Springs on the North Gulf Coast offers visitors the opportunity to see "live mermaids." Families looking for something outside of their traditional Florida vacation guide will want to stop by and check out the mermaid shows, which feature actual living "mermaids" swimming underwater with Florida wildlife. (You'll have to visit to learn the secret.) Visitors seeking Florida attractions that offer fun water activities can also enjoy scuba diving or can play at the brand new Buccaneer Bay Waterpark.

The Nabor Kids Doll Factory
Another of the unusual Florida attractions on the North Gulf Coast is this out-of-the-ordinary doll factory and hospital in Homosassa. Nabor dolls are crafted from carved wood and have a unique look to them, to say the least. Check out the historical gallery that features many valuable doll creations from years past. You may even want to purchase one of these original creations to take home. You should definitely make this stop a part of your personal Florida vacation guide.

Coral Castle
One of the more beautiful and mysterious Florida attractions to visit is Coral Castle. It opened in 1923 and has been delighting visitors ever since with a beautiful castle made of over 1,100 tons of coral. To this day, nobody is quite sure how one man managed to move and carve this rock, which he did out of love for a young woman. Located near Miami, Coral Castle is an inviting side trip. Include this in your next Florida vacation guide, and take lots of pictures!

Solomon's Castle
Solomon's Castle is another of the remarkable Florida tourist attractions that families can visit. From afar, this castle simply looks like it is shimmering - up close, you'll find that it is made up of discarded printing plates. The setting also features many works of art created by sculptor Howard Solomon, as well as the intriguing Boat in the Moat restaurant. Keep this in mind when you're searching through your Florida vacation guide. Just a short drive from Orlando, this castle requires a whole day to fully explore all that it has to offer.

The Astronaut Hall of Fame and the American Police Hall of Fame
If your Florida vacation guide suggests a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, near Cocoa Beach, you should definitely include the Astronaut Hall of Fame in your day. As a great foil to the Space Center's scientific angle, the Hall of Fame presents a more personal look at the men and women who have spent time in space. If you still have time after visiting these two Florida attractions, you can also stop by the American Police Hall of Fame, also located in Titusville, to view artifacts from the history of law enforcement and a memorial wall for fallen officers.

The National Museum of Naval Aviation
If you are searching for educational Florida attractions, make sure you stop at one of the largest air and space museums in the country, the National Museum of Naval Aviation, in Pensacola. Stop by and check out over 140 restored aircraft from various military branches, as well as a special IMAX movie and guided tours. The museum offers free admission and is open 362 days out of the year, making it a great addition to any Florida vacation guide.

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Located in Key West, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is a must-see for literature and history buffs seeking relevant Florida attractions. The home has been preserved and includes Hemingway's furniture and his typewriter, which he used to write many of his best-known novels. Living alongside this history are dozens of six-toed cats, all descended from a cat given to Hemingway himself. The home is open year-round and provides an interesting and educational deviation from the traditional activities listed in a Florida vacation guide.

The Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates
If you're looking for even more historical Florida attractions to explore, check out the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, located on the South Gulf Coast of Florida in Sanibel. A great addition to any Florida vacation guide, you can visit the homes in which these two great men spent winters, and take a peek into the chemical lab where many major experiments were carried out. The grounds also feature a beautiful botanical garden originally established by Edison for research purposes but later expanded to include plants renowned for their beauty.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum
This is one of those Florida attractions that is fun for the whole family! Primarily an art museum, the John and Mable Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, also features a Circus Museum full of rare memorabilia. Stop by the Ringling Estate for the day and take in the official State Art Museum of Florida first, with its 21 galleries of European paintings and other fine artwork. Then step right up and enjoy viewing old handbills and posters while learning about the history of the circus.

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
While you're enjoying the sunshine on Delray Beach, consult your Florida vacation guide and then take a detour to visit the beautiful Morikami museum and Japanese gardens. Take time to view the rotating exhibits that are full of Japanese artwork and cultural artifacts, and make sure you stroll through the stunning botanical garden that has been established in the Japanese style. If you're lucky, you may be able to watch a tea ceremony or participate in one of the many other special events that are always going here at one of the more exotic Florida attractions.

Gatorama
Last, but certainly not least, on this list of unusual Florida attractions is Gatorama, located in Palmdale. If you've come to Florida looking for alligators, you'll see more than your share here. Gatorama is a live, operating alligator farm where you can spend a day watching these fascinating creatures. It's is also home to hundreds of other animals, including peacocks, raccoons, and even monkeys. This intriguing spot may not be number one in a traditional Florida vacation guide, but it is definitely worth a visit.

About the Author
Fraser Hannah spent eight years working as a freelance television production manager and researcher before leaving to join his family's business working with the elderly. He founded Traveling2Florida.com in 2003 after purchasing his own vacation home in Florida and being frustrated by the lack of vision shown by many of the existing vacation rental sites. Traveling2Florida.com, an online Florida vacation guide, now connects thousands of travelers directly with the owners of high-quality vacation rentals in Florida, from Orlando to the Florida Keys.
Renting a Villa in Holland PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mij Gnow   
Sep 12, 2006 at 12:28 PM
Holland, a country renowned for having unbelievably flat terrain, windmills and tulips at every turn, traditional images of canals, and its new face as a modern European nation is a must see for the traveler headed to Europe.

Holland is a country with seemingly unlimited opportunities to explore the culture and dive into magnificent beauty in the form of rolling landscapes and perfect backdrops. From the busy pace of life in the streets of Amsterdam to the stunning medieval towns like Utrecht and Delft, Holland is a place for all.

So why a Villa?
A villa usually offers much more than your average hotel. A villa usually comes equipped with a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms and sometimes balconies. Some even come lawns, private pools and even tennis courts.

Because you have a full kitchen, you can save quite a bit of money by cooking instead of eating out. This also gives you ample reason to visit the local markets which is a fantastic experience when visiting places like Holland.

Also, a villa is normally rented in one week blocks so you can hang the hat and relax without the worries and concerns that can come with hotel rooms. Simply unpack your bags and start feeling and living the experience of a true cultural journey.

Villas can be a little more expensive, but if you time it right they can also be quite a bit cheaper. Don't forget to calculate in the money you will save by not having to eat out as much and in a place like Holland the savings will be very noticeable.

As far as location is concerned, it doesn't get much better.

Take Amsterdam for example; some consider Amsterdam to be one of the most visually impressive capitals in the world. It is a place where you can also journey through centuries of history aboard a canal boat or explore the array of excellent museums and enjoy breathtaking sunsets. The Netherlands has far more than just its capital though, with a slew of impressive cities including Arnhem, The Hague and Rotterdam.

Unpack your bags, take a shower, and explore. You've got all week in your Holland vacation villa!

Go ahead, take the plunge and give a villa a try at your next vacation destination. You won't be let down.

About the Author
Mij Gnow is the creator and administrator of GreatVille Travel Directory (http://www.greatville.com), a comprehensive resource to travel, vacations and holidays around the world.
Last Updated ( Dec 21, 2006 at 11:16 PM )
El Salvador, Part 2: The Thoughts PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Welsh   
Sep 12, 2006 at 12:18 PM
Nothing changes a country like a war. That which is history books for many nations, is a yesterday's memory for this one. I realised that all of the things that struck me as unusual about El Salvador have to do with those 12 years

The war of 1980-1992 between the government and the leftist coalition (FMLN) was not your normal war, even as far as civil wars go. There were bombings by the government and battles between fronts, but most of it was the constant undercurrent of vigilante death squads, punitary expeditions, vendettas and tortures, which targeted the population even in times of relative calm. Some fighting units never even faced an armed enemy, "specialising" instead in civilian targets. El Salvador is scarred not as much by violence as by terror.

The real scars are in the psyche. The Salvadorians are friendly but many are somewhat quiet. They seem to be often happy, but it feels like the happiness of relief. They are disciplined and tough, they didn't dwell on the wounds, they just went straight to work and rebuilt the country.

Those who were killed were buried. The rest have agreed that it is time to forgive. There seems to be a pact of silence, I didn't see a single animosity. Two 30 year-old brothers cuddling a 10 year-old sister, a generation of war between them. Amputees, disabled, orphans, the most heart-breaking street kids you have ever seen.

What was it about? We have our theories and we operate with concepts of right and wrong. But many Salvadorians simply don't know. Francisco, a boatman with 7 years of fighting and three bullet holes in him, is not pondering the philosophy of righteous and unrighteous wars, when he says he has no idea. "They recruited me and send me to shoot the other guys. If I hadn't they would have killed me." In many places 13 was the recruitment age, and both sides did it.

But one thing where the trauma of the terror is still apparent is their obsession with security. The English talk about weather, the French about wine and the Salvadorians about violence. All the time.

The violence did not finish with the war. Unemployment, devastation and proliferation of weapons drove huge numbers onto the streets. Things have got a hell of a lot better recently, it's just… everyone is so used to talking about it.

There are shotguns every 50 yards. Half of the nation is employed as security guards. There aren't even enough uniforms for everyone, a white shirt means a good guy, like in a spaghetti western. And they all kept asking me if I can help them find work in UK. I had to repeat over and over again that the demand for skilled shotgun workers is currently low there.

Security is a commodity everywhere. And it works. I am not even talking about house alarms and garden walls. Even a club night flyer will say: "International DJs, discounts on drinks, light show, secure site with security guards".

Perhaps El Salvador is by no means safe, but neither is Guatemala, yet families go there all the time. I saw more violence in both Guatemala and Mexico, yet I spent less time in the two of them put together than in En Salvador. Old habits die hard and I really think the habit is mostly all there is to this fame now. It was nice to see that holiday resorts are becoming more popular with foreign families.

In particular, it is popular with Americans, perhaps due to another striking effect of the war - how Americanised the country has become. I had never seen so many US fast food chains, shining shopping malls and advertising boards in one place. The perception of prosperity and affluence perhaps doesn't reflect the reality of rural EL Salvador, but it certainly is easier to navigate for a tourist.

While this is the stuff that drives Castro, Chavez and Morales insane, there seems to be no grudge in El Salvador. First, I think there is an element of gratitude. US involvement in the war might have been controversial, but they also accepted masses of refugees. Many are well settled and the links are strong. And the US did invest in the post-war reconstruction.

Secondly, this migration has almost made the country the States' little cousin. With so many families communicating over the borders and visiting each other regularly, there is almost a sense of belonging. It's not uncommon to hear "New York" when you ask a Salvadorian where he is from. Neither it is uncommon to hear "Hey, man, got a nickel or a dime?" from a beggar on the street. If your Spanish is bad, this is one of the easiest countries in the region to travel in.

I found it to be a beautiful country with beautiful people, with only one thing missing - acceptance by everyone that security has become sufficient to receive tourism.

Click here for El Salvador: Part 1


About the Author
Alex is the webmaster of Valencia City Guide - an independent resource on travelling in Valencia, Spain.
Last Updated ( Dec 21, 2006 at 09:54 PM )
El Salvador, Part 1: The Trip PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Welsh   
Sep 12, 2006 at 12:13 PM
Out of the way, with nothing extraordinary for the camera, and with a marred reputation, El Salvador remains one of the least travelled Latin American destinations. A perfect place to go off the beaten track?

San Salvador immediately charms you with its phlegmatic and strong presence. For a capital, and after Guatemala City, there is quite a sense of order, a sense that things have a direction and are more or less under control. Although it is a city where edges are in all respects sharper, a city that may show you teeth from time to time, chaos definitely would not be part of the description.

If you stay in El Salvador for a while, you do tend to spend a lot of time in the capital. It is not that San Salvador is that fascinating. It is quite low on things to see, in fact, seeming more residential. Particularly unpleasant is the stuffed centre, which has turned into one dirty market. But the country is so small and the travel arranged in such manner, that it is much more practical to venture to and fro the capital, wherever you go, unless you get far East. However, the city is fairly pleasant and has decent places to go, both in the day and at night, and a more cosmopolitan atmosphere. Besides, tourism there is still new and it is mainly the capital that can offer decent hostels (even there you will find only a few).

The most travelled route here is south to the coast. Beaches like El Zonte and El Sunzal are considered the best surf in Central America and it's such a large chunk of the (tiny) tourist economy that you are likely to be approached in San Salvador with "Are you a surfer"? La Libertad is the coastal hub town that serves as a portal for the string of those beaches. By day everyone in that town looks like a pirate and by night they still do, but spun out on crack. It was a hot and stuffy town and, to be honest, only good for buying some fruit, so there's just no reason not to make the extra 10km down the line, where the pleasant places to stay are abundant. I say this because I met a few people who didn't bother. Those beaches are not great but they are ok and convenient so most Salvadorians from the capital go there. Entirely volcanic, they make you totally black. A storm in El Salvador, viewed from those beaches, is really something special, with spectacular thunder and lightning.

My friend Maria also took me to El Cuco beach, in the East of the country. Another popular spot, it was again ok, but nothing fantastic. The amazing thing though was that this well-known beach was entirely domestic, with no thought given to (non-existent) tourists. To get there we had to cross river Lempa on a newly constructed bridge. The previous one was destroyed during the war and a third of the country had been almost entirely isolated for many years. The East has always been poorer and suffered more in that war, it is still slightly more edgy. San Miguel, the major city of that area, is a Dusk till Dawn haunt. Once the darkness comes people seal themselves in and the beasts walk the streets.

Maria gave me a little tour of the country, through places like L'Herradura, Zacatecoluca and Usulutan. It was an off the beaten track dream. The little tourist awareness that the West of the country has was entirely absent here. A virgin land, free of any pretence. A pure and genuine welcome.

The centre of the country, around the capital and to the north is very cosy and modestly lush. There are some very pleasant routes amongst hills and lakes. Then, there is Perquin - a place scarred by the history of the war. Ex-guerrillas will show you around the civil war museum.

El Salvador is not famous for any of its attractions. It doesn't have anything particularly special but it does have the usual set of things that could occupy you. Bohemia and nightlife in San Salvador, acceptable beaches with a famous surf, volcanoes (one of which is a pure mountain of ash) where you can do scuba diving in the lakes, a national reserve El Impossible with rich wildlife, colonial towns like Suchitoto, Mayan ruins like Joya de Ceren. It is a pleasant, aesthetic country to see from a bus window, with many charming corners.

El Salvador doesn't have Machu Pichu or Foz de Iguacu. You can easily skip it if you are after high impact photos. But for someone who just wants to get away from the industry and wander around an unpolluted social landscape, this is one of the last places in the Latin America. I didn't want it to be great, just genuine and good, and it was really good.

As for the safety, I found nothing out of the ordinary (by Central American standards) apart from a few more shotguns than in Guatemala. Normal precautions apply. Buses don't go after dark, guns are not allowed in bars and everyone talks about violence. On that last point - myth or reality? I would say that some bodies have now become ghosts.

Click here for El Salvador: Part 2


About the Author
Alex is the webmaster of Valencia City Guide - an independent resource on travelling in Valencia, Spain.
Last Updated ( Dec 21, 2006 at 09:54 PM )
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