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Travel & Outdoors

Best Holiday Escapes Near South Florida

December 16, 2012 1:01 PM

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(Source: www.keylargofireworks.com)
Holiday travel has become a yearly tradition for travelers in South Florida and around the country. After several visits to the same popular tourist attractions, your go-to choices can start to feel mundane and overdone. Popular tourist spots can be quite costly as well and a double whammy results when visiting a high-traffic spot during peak travel seasons. There are several intriguing cities and towns near South Florida that are easy to get to, a relatively short drive from home (compared to an average road trip) and chock-full of character and local charm. These nearby destinations make for a fantastic holiday getaway for a couple of days, or even a couple of weeks.
Vero BeachGetting There

From Miami, the total drive time to Vero Beach is about two hours and 45 minutes. It’s a straight shot north on Interstate 95. Exit #147 is a gold mine – there’s a huge outlet mall, a hotel and a popular country eatery all at the same exit.

Vero Beach Outlets
1824 94th Drive
Vero Beach, FL 32966
(772) 770-6097
www.verobeachoutlets.com

A pre-Christmas getaway would be ideal. A day at Vero Beach Outlets can take care of your full list of Christmas shopping with huge savings in tow. Shoppers can find reputable, national chains like Ann Taylor, Calvin Klein and Restoration Hardware. You can shop for apparel, accessories and home furnishings without moving your car once. Even better, you can reserve a room at the nearby Hampton Inn and indulge in southern comfort at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. All three are within walking distance of each other.

Other Things To Do

Enhance your trip to Vero Beach with an airboat tour, a trip to the local museum, a round of golf or with a kayak trip on the river.

Fort Myers
Getting There

You can get to Fort Myers from practically anywhere in South Florida in under three hours. Interstate 75 is the route of choice. You’ll cut across the state via Alligator Alley and pass by the Big Cypress National Preserve during the drive. It’s important to note that there’s a partial toll on the Alley. However, you only pay the toll upon entering. (This would be a great time to invest in a SunPass if you don’t already have one.)

Edison & Ford Holiday Nights
2350 McGregor Blvd.
Ft. Myers, FL 33901
(239) 334-7419
www.edisonfordwinterestates.org

Dates: December 1-30 (closed December 24 and 25)
Hours: 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.; guided tours at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Price: $15 adults/$8 students 13-college/$1 children 6-12/free children 5 and underThe historic homes of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison are transformed into a sensational holiday wonderland, full of Christmas pageantry. While the festival begins on December 1, it lasts through the entire month. You can take a guided tour of the homes or embark independently on an exploration of the grounds. The event features nightly activities including live entertainment and cooking demos.

Other Things To Do

Fort Myers is a good fit for both the laid back and the adventurous. The beautiful Gulf beaches of Sanibel Island are just a short drive away. For a more active visit, you can head to the Skatium – a multi-faceted activity complex featuring ice skating, a fitness center and a gym. There’s also yachting, superior golf courses and a fully interactive aquarium and museum called Imaginarium.

Related: Getaway Guru: One-Tank Trip to West Palm Beach

Islamorada
Getting There

From Fort Lauderdale, it’ll take about two hours to get to Islamorada, located in the Middle Keys. You can begin your trip on Interstate 95, but you’ll eventually end up on U.S. Highway 1. Once you enter the Florida Keys, the road name changes to Overseas Highway. On either side, there are breathtaking views of the coastline. Because it’s centrally located in the Keys, you can extend your trip with a visit to another city or town along the highway.

Fireworks at Blackwater Sound
Mile Marker 104
Key Largo, FL 33037
www.keylargofireworks.com

Date: December 31Several local businesses, including Sundowners and the Key Largo Marriott, are sponsoring this holiday event. A fireworks show on the waterfront is an inventive way to bring in the new year. Local sponsors and surrounding businesses are providing their properties as prime spots to watch the show and enjoy the festivities. Watching by boat is equally as fun. Arguably the best part is that you won’t have to be concerned with large crowds and congestion.

Other Things To Do

Islamorada is undoubtedly “off the beaten path.” Tourists usually pass by on their way down to Key West. Islamorada, the village of islands as it is called, has a unique identity of its own. You can partake in offshore fishing, local shopping or enjoy a trip to the popular Theater of the Seas. Lodging options range from quaint beachfront inns to exquisite vacation homes.

Related: Getaway Guide: Weekend Trip To The Everglades

For nearly 20 years, Shawanda James has been actively involved in creative writing in Miami, Florida. In addition to her work as a freelance writer, she is actively seeking publication for her debut novel and collection of poetry. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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