TRY THESE SATISFYING WAYS TO HALT THE HOLIDAY HUSTLE

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Plan your outdoor escape with this Inspiring 2-Day Itinerary

The tree is up and trimmed, the yard decked out with lights and Christmas cookies are baked, much to everyone’s delight!

Your shopping is all done – well most of it anyway – and you’re feeling “holidayed out” before the actual celebrating truly begins. Why not treat yourself to a break from your busy holiday pace?

Whether solo, with your special someone or best buddy, set aside some downtime to rev up. That way, when it’s time for seasonal sparkle, you’ll be ready to shine.
Day 1:

Plan a brief escape from home-base hectic and check into an Adventure Coast hotel for a little pampering. Drop off the shopping bags and go for a leisurely walk on one of many Adventure Coast trails. From paved or wooded walking trails to primitive off-road hikes, the fresh air, sights and quiet will refresh and revive your senses.

Enjoy outdoor energizing effects by traveling our trails by bike. Pedal mile after mile of relatively level, scenic paved trails that are completely free of motorized vehicles.

Didn’t bring your own bike? Rent from Crankworks Bicycles. And, if escaping holiday hustle happens to mean riding forest trails, check with Crankworks to join an upcoming shop ride through the Croom Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest.

Later, stroll the cobblestone streets of historic Brooksville. Stop in for a custom, house-roasted blend at Mountaineer Coffee. Browse shops along Main Street for unique gifts. Next, stroll over to the Uptown Art Gallery at City Hall for a look around.

Take a step back to a bygone era at the May-Stringer House Museum, Countryman One-Room Schoolhouse and the 1885 Train Museum. Browse the nearby Tilted Teacup Tea Room and Boutique.

Notice several murals along the way that also give a nod to earlier times.

After a day of outdoor sunshine, soak up some well-deserved bliss at The White Daisy Salon and Spa, the Candlelight Spa or Capricci Gifts and Healing Waters. Lose yourself and all feelings of hustle and bustle with a massage, facial, hair styling, aromatherapy experience and more. Just the prescription to refresh, rejuvenate and renew.

Day 2:

With the weather outside anything but frightful, answer the call for more outdoor adventures. The natural forested acres of Chinsegut Conservation Center present you with many options.

Start early for the best bird watching and wildlife viewing. Walk the trails any day or check the calendar for such interactive events as creative nature photography.

Travel just a couple miles down the road to enjoy a view from the jewel of Florida’s Adventure Coast: Chinsegut Hill Manor House Museum. Poised atop one of central Florida’s highest points, this exquisitely restored mansion is open daily for tours. A walk around the grounds among ancient Spanish moss-draped oaks or overlooking the valley is picture perfect and soul soothing.

Did you bring your clubs? Florida’s Adventure Coast boasts world class golf courses, challenging for all skill levels. Novice to experienced, a round on shaded fairways and manicured greens are certain de-stressors. Check out our itinerary inspiration just for golfers here and download our Golf Course Map.

Is golf too tame? Do you have energy to burn? Climb, swing and zip through the trees at TreeUmph! Adventure Course.

The holidays are a wonderful, very busy, time of the year. Be energized and ready with a healthy dose of outdoor adventure; it’s just the ticket to polish up your brightest Christmas sparkle.
Sourc : http://blog.floridasadventurecoast.com/halt-the-holiday-hustle

NATURAL WONDERS – SPANISH MOSS

Gracefully draping trees throughout Nature’s Place to Play and much of the southeast U.S.,Spanish moss is not actually moss at all; it’s a bromeliad, a perennial in the pineapple family.

NATURAL WONDERS – SPANISH MOSS

Here are six fun facts about our distinctive outdoor décor.

Without roots and capable of absorbing moisture and nutrients from the air, Spanish moss is non-parasitic; only using its tree hosts for support. Most common on southern live oaks and bald cypress, it can also be seen on other tree types.

Spanish moss isn’t even from Spain. It’s native to Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Native Americans told French explorers the plant was called Itla-okla, which means “tree hair”. The French Explorers in turn named it Barbe Espagnol, or “Spanish Beard.” It is said that early Spaniards pronounced it Cabello Frances or “French Hair” but the name evolved over time to be Spanish moss.

Lacy festoons of Spanish moss can extend up to twenty feet in length.

Its tangled clumps and strands are home to some species of insects, frogs, spiders, bats, snakes and more. A favorite among birds, it’s a popular nesting material.

Spanish moss contains a strong fibrous core that – after curing –  has been used for many things including padding for automotive seating in the 1930’s as well as furniture upholstery, mattresses and home insulation. In the Civil War, it was a favored textile woven into blankets and saddle pads by the Confederate cavalry. Native Americans, particularly such indigenous tribes as the Timucuan and Seminole, fashioned it into clothing, furniture, medicine and other items.

These days, besides being a valuable part of the ecosystem, Spanish moss plays a starring role as an ethereal, gothic, silvery and beautiful backdrop, evocative of the American South.

Sources:
http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/environment/spanish_moss.shtml
http://mentalfloss.com/article/67807/10-things-you-should-know-about-spanish-moss
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_moss
https://www.nps.gov/teachers/classrooms/what-is-spanish-moss.htm

Welcome You to Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in westcentral North Dakota. The park is separated into north and south units. The North Unit is near Watford City, ND and South Unit is near Medora, ND. The remote Elkhorn Ranch site is between the two units along the Little Missouri River.

Welcome You to Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Getting Here

The closest major airport is Bismark, North Dakota, there are smaller airports at Dickinson & Williston, ND.

Establishment the Theodore Roosevelt National Park

On 10 November 1978, Theodore Roosevelt National Park was given national park status when President Carter signed Public Law 95-625 that changed the memorial park to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This same law placed 29,920 acres of the park under the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Size and Visitation of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Total Acreage: 70,446.89
Total Federal: 69,702.12
Total Nonfederal: 744.77
Total Wilderness: 29,920
South Unit / Wilderness: 46,158.57 / 10,510
North Unit / Wilderness: 24,070.32 / 19,410
Elkhorn Ranch: 218.00

History of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

When Theodore Roosevelt stepped off the train in the Dakota Territory for the first time, he was in search of adventure. The date was 08 Sep 1883, and the town that slept at 2:00 am was Little Missouri, a shoddy collection of buildings on the west bank of the river. The 24-year-old Roosevelt was bursting with anticipation about shooting a bison. A feat the took him 10 days to accomplish. Before returning to New York, just two weeks after he arrived, he entered into a partnership to raise cattle on the Maltese Cross Ranch. The next year he returned to the badlands and started a second open-range ranch, the Elkhorn. Theodore Roosevelt returned again over the next few years to live the life of a cowboy, explore, invigorate his body and to have the Little Missouri Badlands renew his spirit. Theodore Roosevelt wrote: “I would not have been President, had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.”

Accessibility

All visitor centers, wayside exhibits, campground amphitheaters, Maltese Cross Cabin are accessible. Both campgrounds have accessible campsites. First portion of Little Mo Nature Trail is paved. Parking areas at each visitor center for buses and trailers. Pull-outs along park road accommodate longer vehicles.

Basic Visit Recommendations

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is noted for opportunities to see bison, elk, mule and white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, coyote and other small mammals as well as a variety of birds including golden eagles. Wild (feral) horses can be seen in the South Unit and longhorn steers in the North Unit.

Biking

All roads in Theodore Roosevelt National Park are open to cyclists. The park roads follow the contours of the badlands allowing riders to enjoy the park close up. Off-road cycling is not allowed in the park. All bicycles must remain on paved or dirt roads.

Camping

Theodore Roosevelt National Park has campgrounds in the South Unit and North Unit.

Entrance Fees

Individual Entry (Bike, Foot) $ 5.00 (Seven Day Pass)
Private Non-commercial Vehicle $ 10.00 (Seven Day Pass)
Annual Pass (Good one year from date of purchase) $ 20.00

Food and Supplies

None available within the park; a variety of restaurants and grocery stores are available near the park or within a short drive.

Hiking

There are many hikes in the South Unit and in the North Unit.

Lodging

There is no lodging in the park.

Visitor Centers

Medora Visitor Center (South Unit)
Painted Canyon Visitor Center (South Unit)
North Unit Visitor Center

Weather of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Summers are warm with temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s with a few days into the 100’s. Evenings can be cool. Average maximum: July is 87.1° and August is 86.7°. Average minimum: July 54.5° and August is 52.4°. Annual precipitation is 15 inches. Winters are generally cold. Recommend layers of clothing, especially in spring and fall. Rain gear in spring. Hat for sun protection is needed in summer.

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Enjoy the Thrill of Discovering Shark Teeth

It’s a picture perfect morning on Southwest Florida’s Venice beach, as the cloudless royal blue sky meets the far off horizon. The emerald-green Gulf of Mexico gently laps onto the sandy shoreline, and a few barefooted beachcombers are off in the distance.
Family looking for shark teeth

A young boy, along with his mother and father, are stooped over searching for something on the beach. They appear to be looking for something amongst the shells and sand. The little boy is holding a long-handled tool that resembles a snow shovel with a wire mesh basket attached to the end. With his dad’s help the boy heartily scoops sand and shells from the water’s edge letting the water and sand drain from the sieved basket.

Enjoy the Thrill of Discovering Shark Teeth
Young boy finds shark teeth treasures

The boy inspects the catch, sifting through the shells. He shrieks, “I found one!” as he proudly bounces up and down holding within the palm of his tiny hand – a small black sharks tooth.

Florida Gulf Coast Venice Beach Pier

Florida’s Gulf Coast Venice Beach Pier

This scene plays out daily on Florida’s Venice beach, the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World” located in Sarasota County.

The Gulf beaches in and around Venice, hold a bountiful cache of fossilized sharks teeth. Ten million years ago, when Florida was submerged under water, the area was teeming with sharks.

Shark exhibit courtesy Florida Museum of Natural History

Shark exhibit, courtesy Florida Museum of Natural History

Over time, as the water receded giving way to land, the prehistoric sharks died, their skeletons disintegrated, but their fossilized teeth remained. The Venice coastal area, just south of Sarasota sits on top of a fossil layer that runs 18-35 feet deep. With storms and waves, the fossils are slowly driven into the shallow waters and then up onto the beach.

Source : http://www.authenticflorida.com/

Experience Miami’s Coral Gables Like a Local

Miami may be a busy metropolis, but if you know where to look, you can still find enchanting neighborhoods that brim with history and charm. Coral Gables is an incorporated city within greater Miami, with an impressive architectural heritage and lush, tropical greenery.

Coral Gables Biltmore Hotel & Pool


Experience Miami Coral Gables Like a Local
The Coral Gables Venetian Pool, sculpted from a coral rock quarry

Visitors should be sure to see famous attractions like the Biltmore Hotel, the Venetian Pool, and Fairchild Tropical Gardens. In case you also enjoy getting “off-the-beaten path,” I’d love to share with you some insider’s tips about one of Miami’s prettiest destinations.
Fairchild Gardens

Fairchild Gardens

From acres upon acres of untamed pine scrubland, pioneer George Merrick created a Spanish-style town in the 1920s, inspired by the City Beautiful philosophy. He named his creation “Coral Gables,” after the coral rock home built by his parents. This graceful, historic bungalow still stands on Coral Way. The Merrick house is currently under renovation and closed for tours (as of Spring 2016), but you can still drive over to take a look. It’s worth parking at the parking lot to rear of the property so you can appreciate the garden and snap a few photos of the elegant canopy of oak trees lining the street.
George  Merrick House, photo, Zickie Allgrove

Now you will want to head north on Granada Boulevard for a drive past houses and mansions, many of them constructed in a Mediterranean style with red tile roofs, considered a signature of Coral Gables. Where Granada intersects DeSoto Boulevard is another photogenic spot, called DeSoto Plaza, with its distinctive pillar and fountain; you may glimpse the Biltmore Hotel’s distinctive tower in the distance. Continue on for a few blocks until you reach a real piece of old Miami: Burger Bob’s.
DeSoto Plaza, photo, Zickie Allgrove 

Overlooking the beautiful Granada Golf Course at 2001 Granada Boulevard, Burger Bob’s recalls a simpler time. Inside, you’ll notice an old-fashioned lunch counter, along with plenty of tables and a number of regulars. Burger Bob’s serves classics like chicken salad sandwiches and home-made chili. On the other hand, you may want to order breakfast, which is served until closing time at 3 p.m. In that case, you can’t go wrong with their yummy pancakes, waffles, or my particular favorite, scrambled eggs, grits, sausage, and toast. The prices are right, and the golf course view can’t be beat. This hidden, diner-like restaurant always reminds me that once upon a time, Coral Gables and Miami were sleepy, mid-sized Florida towns. (Be sure to bring cash, because Burger Bob’s does not take credit cards.)
Burger Bob’s, Granda Golf Course, photo, Zickie Allgrove

After your meal, you can head over to downtown Coral Gables. Just one block off Miracle Mile, you will find Aragon Avenue and the Coral Gables Museum . The building once housed as the city’s police and fire station. Walk around the exterior and get a look at the handsome, art deco carved statues. The museum’s thoughtful exhibitions detail the city’s heritage, including its architecture and George Merrick himself. It’s also worth popping in the gift shop with its collection of jewelry, gifts, and books.
Coral Gables Museum, photo, Zickie Allgrove

Speaking of books, steps away from the Coral Gables Museum you will find Books & Books, Miami’s most famous bookstore, housed in a Spanish style building with a courtyard. Whether you’re in search of a guidebook, novel, or biography, this local institution has a fresh, well-curated selection.
Miami’s most famous bookstore, Books & Books, photo, Laura Albritton

For a genuinely indulgent treat, stroll a bit further and stop in Peterbrooke Chocolatier, where hand-dipped, chocolate-covered Nutter Butters conjure up the flavors of childhood, while dark-chocolate covered potato chips deliver an addictive salty-sweet combination. For special holidays, you’ll find adorable molded chocolates, like teddy bears for Valentine’s Day and turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Coral Gables Miracle Mile, photo Laura Albritton

Now it’s time to wander one block south to Miracle Mile, a historic shopping strip with boutiques, bridal stores, jewelers, restaurants, cafes, and bars. Shutterbugs will want to stop in the tempting Leica Store; if you need a chic swimsuit for the beach, check out fashionable shop Curves N’ Waves. At the very western end of Miracle Mile at Lejeune Road, you’ll spot the grand Coral Gables City Hall and a larger-than-life statue of founder George Merrick himself.

Source : http://www.authenticflorida.com/

HOLIDAY TRAVEL AND SAFETY TIPS

For many of us the holidays are a very busy and festive time of the year. It is a time when we find ourselves shopping and decorating and even planning a joyful holiday gathering for friends and family. Criminals, unfortunately, know this all too well and are preparing just the same.

Sheriff Al Nienhuis and the men and women of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office work diligently, every day of the year, in an effort to provide a safe environment for the citizens of Hernando County. “When we add the stress of the holidays to our already busy lives, it is understandable that many of us let a few things fall through the cracks as we approach both Christmas and the end of another year. Our personal safety, however, should not be one of the things we neglect. Please take a little time to look over these safety tips. If you keep these things in mind, it is very likely that you will prevent a tragedy during a time of the year that should be filled with joy and happiness.” ~ Sheriff Al Nienhuis

We have taken some time to prepare the following holiday health and safety tips in order to help you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

HOLIDAY TRAVEL AND SAFETY TIPS

Travel Safety Tips

– Vehicles should be in good working order before heading out
– Remember to pack emergency supplies (blankets, water, snacks, flashlight, and a first aid kit)
– Do not drink and drive and do not allow someone else to drink and drive
– Wear a seatbelt every time you operate or ride in a motor vehicle
– Always buckle children in a child safety seat, a booster seat or a seatbelt according to his/her height, weight, and age
– Know where you are going and how to get there and back
o Obtain or download a map
o Carry a GPS
o Check for construction detours
o For longer trips, obtain a weather forecast
– Inform a family member or friend where you will be and when you expect to return. Give them your route of travel if you know it
– Travel and conduct business during daylight hours if possible
– If you have a cellular phone, carry or take it (but do not use it while driving; this is unlawful in some states)
– Keep doors locked while driving
– Maintain at least 1/2 tank of fuel and keep the vehicle in good repair
– The single most essential safety tip – devote your fulltime attention to driving

Shopping Safety Tips

– Shop with friends or relatives – there is safety in numbers
– Remain alert in crowded places
– Always supervise children, especially when going to the restroom
– Small children should know their first and last name so they can tell a person of authority if they become lost
– If a child becomes separated from you, have a predetermined plan where you will meet or what you will do (have them seek out a store clerk or a security guard). The child should NEVER go outside to look for you or wait by the car
– If older children go to the mall (or other activities) without you, you should know where they are at all times and they should check in with you by phone, frequently – they should not go alone
– Using a debit or credit card is much safer than carrying a lot of cash

Vehicle and Parking Lot Safety Tips

– If possible, do not leave items (valuables) in plain view in your vehicle
– If you must leave items in your vehicle, place them out of sight before you arrive at your destination
– Lock the GPS, iPod, etc. in the glove compartment. Lock up the docking station(s) and the connector cables too
– Do not leave loose change, briefcases, backpacks, gym bags, lap-top computers, cell phones, day planners, etc. in vehicles as these items are some of the most commonly stolen in vehicle burglaries
– Park in well-lit busy areas
– Lock all doors every time you exit the vehicle
– Set the alarm or the anti-theft device
– Keep your keys in your hand and remain alert to your surroundings – Criminals do not like eye contact
– Check the trunk (to be sure it is locked), the back seat and under the vehicle before you get in it
– Do not clip or hang any identification tag to the rearview mirror – these can be targeted items for identity theft
– Do not hide your key on your vehicle while you are shopping – take it with you
– Never leave your engine running for any reason while you are away from the vehicle
– Avoid placing your HOME address in your GPS in case it gets stolen – this allows the suspect to go to your home while you are still shopping

Banking and ATM Safety Tips

– If there is anyone suspicious at or near the ATM, select another ATM
– Use the “fisheye” mirror (if one is provided) to see what is going on behind you
– If followed, call 9-1-1
– Use the drive-up instead of going in to the bank branch
– Protect your PIN number – do not carry it with you
– Photocopy the front/back of your credit and debit cards and keep that information in a safe place. If they are lost or stolen you will have easy access to the information
– Review bank and credit card statements promptly and report discrepancies

Home Safety Tips

– Keep the doors and windows locked
– If you receive large and or costly gifts (not just during the holidays) cut up the boxes and turn them inside out before placing them out at the curb for removal. You do not want to advertise that you just got a new 55 inch television!
– Set the alarm when not at home
– Do not use voices and names of children on the answering machine – this allows predators the knowledge that children live in your home
– If you are a female living alone, leave the generic outgoing message on the machine
– Watch for the mail, thieves tend to look in mailboxes for checks and cash in Christmas cards
– Mail outgoing mail at the post office to avoid having it stolen – never put outgoing mail in your mailbox overnight
– Consider opening a post office box during the holiday season

Cooking Safety

– Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and related injuries. Follow these safety tips to avoid fire/injury:
o Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the cooking area
o Clean all cooking surfaces to prevent grease buildup
o Remain in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food. Turn burners off when leaving the kitchen
o Keep a pan lid or a baking sheet nearby. Use it to cover the pan if it catches fire.
o Place turkey fryers OUTSIDE and away from the house, the deck, an/or the garage

Health Safety Tips

Manage Stress
o Balance work, home and play and get support from family and friends
Wash Hands Often
o Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs
Stay Warm
o Cold temperatures can cause serious health issues, especially in infants and older adults.

Happy Holidays!

A Vacation Guide to Tampa Bay

If you want to travel to Tampa Bay , you should read this article . Offering quiet sandy beaches, breathtaking sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico, and a wide variety of entertainments to keep even the busiest family occupied, the Tampa Bay area is a vacationer’s dream come true.
Sports fans are sure to love the Tampa Bay area in the spring; nearby Clearwater hosting the Philadelphia Phillies during their spring training, the Toronto Blue Jays calling Dunedin their springtime home, and the New York Yankees spend their spring training time in Tampa. Additionally, six additional spring training teams are all located within one hour’s time of Pinellas County. New Year’s Day is when the annual Outback Bowl is held and, each year, Clearwater Beach hosts the Outback Bowl’s Beach Bowl Day, where fans are able to meet the teams, cheerleaders, and members of the band.

A Vacation Guide to Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay at night ( image : tampabay.com )

If you’re looking to pick a winner and win some money, forget Vegas! Greyhound racing is available at one of three locations in the Tampa Bay area, and Tampa Bay Downs hosts some of the finest race horses in the country. Slots more your style? Several different cruise lines offer trips out into the Gulf of Mexico, where guests can enjoy casino gambling including slot machines, blackjack and roulette. Additionally, the Seminole Indian Casino offers land lovers the chance to win at high stake bingo and poker, as well as offering video gaming machines.

Highly regarded for its sand, Clearwater Beach was one of only two United States sites chosen for the FIVB World Beach Volleyball Championships, the series that determined who would play in the 1996 Summer Olympics. Nearly every spring, the Miller Lite AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tournament is held on Clearwater Beach, as well as other major tournaments throughout the year. If you aren’t interested in the pros and just want to go see a fun game, amateur tournaments are held between the months of May and October. Afraid that beaches aren’t clean? Think again! Clearwater Beach was awarded the Blue Wave Award by the Clean Beaches Council. The symbol of responsible beach management, this prized award recognizes that Clearwater Beach provides a clean, safe and healthy environment for you and your family. Clearwater Beach has also been ranked the “Best City Beach on the Gulf of Mexico” by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. “Dr. Beach”.

Also common to the Tampa Bay area are racing competitions; road races, bicycle races, triathlons, swimming, canoe or kayak races and various marathons are held throughout the year. Just off Clearwater’s coast, international yacht racing takes place in the form of the Clearwater Cup Regatta and South Ocean Racing Conference, while colorful competitions can also be found at the site of the Clearwater Sailing Center. Like something a bit slower-paced? Clearwater is also the home of both the National and International Shuffleboard Halls of Fame. Florida isn’t all beaches, palm trees and theme parks.

If you like Jazz music? There’s no need to go to New Orleans! The third weekend in October, Clearwater takes a Jazz Holiday; four sunny days and starlit nights with more than 100,000 music lovers who gather to experience the largest free jazz festival in the Southeastern United States. If you visit Florida in October, be sure to check out this wonderful musical opportunity at the stunning waterfront Coachman Park.

Over a century’s worth of history is easily accessible and much of it can be viewed for free. The Belleview Biltmore Resort and Spa, built in 1897, is the oldest occupied wooden building, still used for its original purpose. One can tour the underground railway or visit Heritage Village, where men and women dress in period costume, working and living as Florida’s pioneers did. You also  climb the batteries at Ft. DeSoto, a Spanish-American war fort or nearby Hillsborough County’s Ybor City can take you back to when Tampa was the “Cigar Capital of the World.”

If you want to get out on the water, a wide variety of sightseeing boats offer unique ways to experience the Tampa Bay area. One can sail under the billowing sails of three-masted schooners, ride on the world’s largest speedboat, cruise the gulf on a pirate ship, or enjoy dinner and dance cruises which promise a night to remember. Ferry services provide transportation out to natural locales such as Caladesi Island or you can even become a marine biologist in one of several marine life adventure cruises. Additionally, Clearwater Marina is home to the largest recreational fishing fleet on the West Coast of Florida.You can also visit Six Flags in Florida , it located at State Road 50 and U.S. Highway 19, right across from Weeki Wachee.

But no one can visit Florida without visiting some of the main attractions! Featuring nearly 5,000 aquatic plants and animals, The Florida Aquarium provides a wonderful blend of education and excitement. Detailed tours take you on behind the scenes look at how the aquarium is maintained and operated; a wonderful learning opportunity for both young and old. Nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium allows visitors to view, touch and experience the behavior of bottlenose dolphins, river otters , loggerhead sea turtles , sting rays and more!

Museums abound in the Tampa Bay area; A Smithsonian Institute Affiliate, with the largest private collection of Kennedy family artifacts, the Florida International Museum can be found just a few blocks off the interstate in downtown St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast Art Museum features contemporary Florida art for viewing, as well as offering a variety of educational programs for adults and children throughout the year. Museum of Science and Industry ( MOSI ) is the largest science center in the Southeastern United States and is home to one of Florida’s two IMAX theaters.

The Lowry Zoo, located in Tampa, is one of the top three zoos of its size in North America. Voted #1 Family Friendly Zoo in America, by Child Magazine, they are home to some 1,500 animals, where more than 350 different exotic species are exhibited, along with Florida’s ‘mermaid,’ the manatee. View the Sunshine Skyway Bridge; Florida’s first suspension bridge, soaring 183 feet above beautifulTampa Bay. Another main attraction are the sunsets at Pier 60; a nightly ‘street’ festival, in Clearwater, which celebrates the setting of the sun and features artists, craftsmen, musicians and performers. Also located in Pier 60 park, one can find a new beach welcome center, that provides visitors with information about Clearwater and its island beaches (a great place to purchase maps or tickets to special attractions in the area!).

Still wanting your amusement park rides? Forget the long lines at Disney and check out Busch Gardens, in Tampa Bay. The live entertainment is outstanding, the roller coasters sure to keep you breathless, and a wide variety of other rides are set midst beautiful naturalistic animal habitats. Enjoy one of the park’s many safari rides, including one where you get to go out on a land rover and help care for some of the park’s animals!

When you’ve finished, be sure to check out Adventure Island, Tampa Bay’s only outdoor water theme park and finish up your vacation with a relaxing dinner at any one of the numerous fine restaurants in the area. Whether you like it fast or slow, mellow or spicy, there is something for everyone in Tampa Bay!

Essential Sites to See on a Rome Trip

If you have always been fascinated by history, there are few cities in the world that are steeped in more history than Rome, Italy. When the Roman Empire was at the height of their powers 2,000 years ago, they controlled a major portion of the civilized world. This made Rome not just the capitol of Italy, bit the entire planet. Many of the structures from this period of time have survived and are able to be explored by you and your family during your stay. When you see the ancient architecture and statues, you are sure to be taken back to that bygone era. Search for Rome hotels online to find the best deal. Here are some of the essential sites to see on a Rome trip.

1. Sistine Chapel

If you were to ask most people to name the most famous works of art in the history of mankind, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by the legendary Michelangelo, would be at or near the top of every list. Once you view this masterpiece with your own eyes, you will begin to understand why it has received such remarkable acclaim since it was originally painted more than 500 years ago. The ceiling was painstakingly restored to its original glory several years ago. Over five centuries, a large amount of dirt had gathered on the ceiling. This has since been removed, allowing visitors to see the painting as people originally did when it was first completed. It took four years to finish. There is nothing else quite like it anywhere.

2. The Pantheon

Rome Trip

There are many buildings from the era of the Roman Empire that still exist in Rome today. However, many of these buildings are decayed and have fallen into a serious state of disrepair. This is understandable, since no structure is designed to last 2,000 years or more. One of the structures that is still in remarkably good condition, especially when you consider its age, is the Pantheon. What makes its condition even more astounding is the fact that is has been constantly in use for nearly 1,900 years. Its primary function nowadays is that of a church. Marcus Agrippa, the man responsible for the bulk of the building’s construction, would be proud to see how well it has held up.

3. The Forum

If you have ever dreamed of walking in the same place as the ancient Roman senators when they were making key decisions that impacted the entire Roman Empire, visiting the Forum gives you that opportunity. This was the center of Roman government at the height of the empire’s power. The likes of Julius Caesar and Nero dictated policy on this hallowed ground. Unfortunately, not much of the building itself remains, but it is still a treat to see the ruins. This is an essential place to visit for all history buffs.

4. The Colosseum

If there is one structure that identifies Rome more than any other in the minds of the rest of the world, it would have to be the Colosseum. It is a true architectural icon and a symbol of the power and brutality of the Roman Empire itself. Countless slaves were brutally put to death within its walls, to the cheers and delight of spectators and Roman politicians. Nowadays, tourists flock to see where all of the carnage took place. The catacombs under the Colosseum, where the slaves and condemned people awaited their horrible fate, are open to the public for tours.

This article was contributed by Fiona Moriarty of Hipmunk, a complete travel platform that allows you to do everything from comparing charter flights and train rides, to finding the best resort hotels and Airbnb rentals.

Tourism center, educational facility on commission agenda

BROOKSVILLE — County staffers Tuesday will suggest three possible locations for the construction of a visitor information center at Interstate 75.

They also will identify two potential sites for an educational-tourism center: On Osowaw Boulevard, at the entrance to the Weekiwachee Preserve, or a separate site somewhere along the preserve.

If commissioners agree to move forward, staffers will recommend hiring an architectural engineering team to take a closer look at the ideas.

County commissioners have not decided how to spend a $3 million state allocation to build an educational-tourism center in Hernando County. Commissioners have agreed to match the $3 million.

But several sites the staff has recommended have come under fire by county residents. Even commissioners have disagreed about where to build what they tentatively are calling the Nature Coast Educational and Tourism Center.

Last month, for the first time, they considered breaking the project into two concepts: a tourism office on the east side of the county near I-75 and the educational facility somewhere on the west side, preferably near the preserve.

The county commission meeting begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 North Main St. in downtown Brooksville.

Also on Tuesday’s agenda:

♦ Commissioners will recognize Patrick and Shirley Miketinac for their work to petition and collect signatures to try and get a proposed referendum banning red-light cameras on the November ballot.

Because of legal issues, that referendum likely will be delayed to a special election sometime in the future.

♦ The board will recognize the Spring Hill Dixie Baseball all-star teams “for their hard work and determination displayed in the World Series, and their achievements during the summer season.”

♦ George Zoettlein, assistant county administrator of budget and business development, will present a five-year capital improvement program.

To view the proposed capital improvement plan and see the entire agenda, visit http://hernandocountyfl.iqm2.com/citizens/.

mbates@hernandotoday.com

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