Live as the tourists do this summer, and hit the drivable destinations we take for granted.
Disney is still a mainstay of Florida summers. Here’s what’s new:
ON JUNE 30, the all-new Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World Resort (inspired by Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story” films) opens—11 acres of it, in which guests in “Andy’s backyard” will feel as though they have shrunk to the size of the film’s toy stars, surrounded by giant building blocks, game board pieces and more. Count on a roller coaster, “flying saucers,” 3D games and more. It’s the largest expansion of Disney to date.
Animal Kingdom marked its 20th anniversary on Earth Day, April 22, and this summer there will be plenty of celebrations marking this milestone. Animal Kingdom will debut its new show “Up! A Great Bird Adventure.”
Disney Springs is a relatively new diversion—a sweeping retail, dining and entertainment destination on Lake Buena Vista with four zones (The Landing, The Marketplace, The Westside and Town Center) featuring everything from games and a hyper-reality experience to fashion shopping (Kate Spade and Lilly and Anthropologie are just a few names you’ll love), jewelry, theaters, even Cirque du Soleil and water taxi tours. There is both casual and fine dining (think Morimoto and Bongo’s Cuban Café), which makes this Disney attraction a much-needed alternative to all-parks, all-day.
THE KEYS TO KEY WEST
Locals always head to the Keys during the summertime. It may be too hot for mainstream America, but we love it; it’s cheaper, it’s less crowded and we know where to go. Plus, we cherish the drive down, starting at Robert is Here in Homestead for a fresh tropical shake, Key Fisheries in Marathon for lunch and our first cold one, and island after island to the end. This year, spend a little money along the way; the lower Keys are still suffering from Hurricane Irma and could use your support.
If you want to do Key West first class all the way, head over to Sunset Key Cottages and rent a gorgeous house, dine at Latitudes on the beach and motor over to Key West on the resort’s launch if you want to see how the “other half” does the Duval Crawl. 245 Front St., sunsetkeycottages.com
We also love Key West’s oldest hotel, Eden House, which offers a wide range of accommodations, has the perfect island vibe and is near enough to the Old Town action (but not too near) to give you as much fun and privacy as you want. 1015 Fleming St., edenhouse.com
You know the drill; go fishing if that’s what you do (who wouldn’t?), but save time for long morning bike rides around the island, Cuban cooking at Siboney, date-night dinner at Louie’s Backyard and some Duval bar time, which you have to do, no matter how many times you’ve been there.
People are still having a national love affair with cruising, and those of us in South Florida can hop on a short one from Fort Lauderdale just about anytime we want. We are talking about those short island hoppers offered by Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America and more.
The affordable three-to-six nighters go anywhere from the nearby Bahamas to eastern Caribbean ports like St. Thomas and St. Maarten in the Virgin Islands—where we should ALL be going this summer to prop up storm-damaged tourism economies. Double that suggestion for the Turks & Caicos, Punta Cana and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Port Everglades is our gateway to a getaway that is affordable and relaxing and vacation-y all at once. We should all be doing this way more often.
However, if luxury cruising is more your style, you can always start dreaming about names like Cunard or Seabourn or SilverSea. Our own Reid Travel, which has been the travel expert in Boca for 46 years, specializes in luxury cruising and can make that summer sail-away a dream vacation. Reid Travel, 326 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton; 800/248-8404