By B Ang
When winter hits Canada, some Canadians simply choose to pack their bags and head to somewhere warm. You need not go that far – check out the U.S. Besides being in close proximity, our American neighbours offer minimal disruption to things that you are used to, like preferred brands and products from the local grocery store, and the latest episode of your favourite TV show. Here are some places to consider for that long-stay vacation.
Florida is filled with lots of activities to suit everyone. These range from visiting museums, shopping and entertainment to relaxing on the beach and just watching the world go by. Even without the kids, Orlando still entices with its themed attractions and the new Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Those interested in nature-based offerings need look no further than the swamps in the Everglades National Park.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de León’s landing on Florida’s east coast. It is the first documented European presence in the state and by many accounts, mainland America. On another page of history, St. Augustine holds the record as the oldest city in the U.S., established in 1565.
• Art DecoFestival, Miami Beach: Raises awareness and appreciation of the Art Deco era through lectures, films and music (January).
• Gasparilla Pirate Fest, Tampa: Festivities celebrate legendary pirate Jose Gaspar (January).
• Florida StateFair, Tampa: Saluting the best in agriculture and equestrian events (February).
• Florida StrawberryFestival, Plant City: Features parades, exhibits, entertainment and youth programs (March).
• AmericanSandSculptingChampionships,FortMyersBeach: One of the longest running sand sculpting competitions worldwide (November).
• Art Basel Miami Beach: Sister festival to the one in Switzerland featuring about 150 galleries from around the world (December).
• Winterfest, Fort Lauderdale: Multi-cultural festivities include a boat parade, Black Tie Ball and Shoreline Decorating Extravaganza (December).
• Omni Amelia Island Plantation, Amelia Island.
• Seminole Golf Club, Juno Beach.
• Black Diamond Ranch, Lecanto.
• Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge Bay Hill, Orlando.
• Sharks Tooth Golf Club, Panama City Beach.
• Pebble Creek Golf Club, Tampa.
• TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach.
• Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach.
• Amelia Island: Historic Fernandina beach can be explored via a carriage, Segway or trolley tour. Fishing and other water sports available.
• Atlantic Beach, Duval County: Soft, white sandy beach.
• Canaveral NationalSeashore: Longest expanse of pristine shore in Florida; sanctuary to threatened animals including nesting sea turtles.
• Cap SanBlas: Peninsula curved around St. Joseph Bay. Activities include horseback riding, eco-excursions, kayaking and snorkelling.
• Clearwater Beach: Family-oriented; voted “Florida’s Best Beach” by USA Today.
• Key West: “Paradise situated off the coast of mainland Florida,” according to Jimmy Buffet.
• South Beach,Miami: Quintessential Miami, known for stunning beaches, shopping and nightlife.
• Sanibel Beach: Offers perfectly intact shells in every shape and size; home to the largest shelling festival in the world.
• Zipline over cypress swamps on the grounds of the Tallahassee Museum.
• Go birding – the Florida Birding and Wildlife trail has 500 birding sites with about 510 species.
• Stop by the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola. Into its 102nd year, it features the elite Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron.
• Visit the Miami Design District. Once a pineapple grove, it now houses high-end design showrooms that are home to internationally acclaimed artworks and artists.
• Go to Gatorland and see all things related to alligators and crocodiles.
• Walt Disney World Resort.
• Busch Gardens.
• SeaWorld, Orlando.
• Universal Orlando Resort.
• LEGOLAND Water Park, Central Florida.
Lido Key (close to Sarasota), Worth Avenue (Palm Beach), Bal Harbour Shops, Adventura and Dadeland Mall (Miami), Sawgrass Mills (Fort Lauderdale), Silver Sands Factory Stores (Destin), Fifth Avenue South (Naples), Pensacola’s historic district, Centre Street (Fernandina Beach), The Shops at Omni Amelia Island Plantation, The Mall at Millenia, Orlando Premium Outlets (Orlando); International & Westshore Plazas, Palma Ceia (Tampa).
• Bestbreakfast: Bright Mornings, Fernandina Beach; Alabama Jack’s, Key Largo, Florida Keys, Oxford Exchange, Tampa.
• Bestlunch: Jaco’s Bayfront Bar and Grille, Pensacola; Café Karibo, Amelia Island; Boca Kitchen, Tampa.
• Bestsunsetbar: Yellow Dog Café, Melbourne; Flora-Bama Lounge & Package, Perdido Key; Sunset Grill and Raw Bar, Marathon, Florida Keys; Sail Pavilion, Tampa.
• ScenicByways: A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway, Big Bend Scenic Byway, Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway.
• Average temperatures: 27°C.
Myrtle Beach’s development as a resort started in 1901 when its first beach hotel, the Seaside Inn opened. Today, visitors have a wide variety of water-based activities to indulge in including freshwater and saltwater fishing. Often called the golf capital of the world, some of its fairways are frequently listed among the top 100 courses in the country.
• Canadian-AmericanDaysFestival: Two-week-long affair with military band concerts, athletic tournaments and history days (March).
• BeachBoogieandBarbequeFestival: South Carolina’s official barbecue competition features lots of entertainment, eating and drinking options (September).
• LorisBogOff: Celebrating the heritage Chicken Bog, a Southern favourite. Program includes a top-notch cooking competition, parade and fireworks (October).
• Dunes Club.
• Barefoot Dye Club.
• Tournament Players Club.
• Bald Head Island.
• LittleRiver: Features arts and crafts, entertainment and booths selling blue crab inspired food.
• NorthMyrtleBeach: Place where the shag (dance) was born.
• MyrtleBeach: One of the most visited beaches on the East Coast with hotels, restaurants, attractions, retail stores and other hospitality businesses.
• SurfsideBeach: Family beach with a fishing pier.
• GardenCityBeach: Popular area for fishing, crabbing and water sports. Its well-known fishing pier features live music during summer evenings. A creek walk spans the salt marsh.
• Deep sea fishing.
• Boat tour.
• Paddle board yoga.
• Ripley’s Aquarium.
• Skywheel Myrtle Beach.
• Family Kingdom.
• Broadway at the Beach, Barefoot Landing, Coastal Grande Mall, Tanger Outlets, Pawley’s Island Hammock Shops, The Market Common.
• Bestbreakfast: Pier House Restaurant.
• Bestlunch: Mr. Fish.
• Bestsunsetbar: Gulfstream Café (only place you can see sunrise and sunset on Murrells Inlet).
• ScenicByways: Business 17 Kings Highway – most scenic and oldest road in the area.
• Average temperature: 15°C to 24°C.
With a unique land composition, Hawaii’s four major islands – Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui and Kauai – each have their own special offerings. Among them are alluring beaches and active volcanoes that are constantly expanding the landmass.
Then, there are the lesser-known islands of Molokai and Lanai. In Molokai, the Kalaupapa National Historical Park provides a one-of-a-kind experience. Accessible only by flying, hiking or riding a Molokai mule down a five-kilometre trail filled with 26 switchbacks, it descends 488 metres to the peninsula. It is said to be the most beautiful and inspirational place in Hawaii.
The neighbouring island of Lanai is an ideal destination for a romantic getaway with its two luxurious resorts and many secluded beach areas. There are also two challenging and stunning looking championship golf courses.
• MauiWhaleFestival: Highlights include guided excursions with marine biologists (February).
• WaimeaTownCelebration,Kauai: Events include the Kilohana Long Distance Canoe Race (February).
• MerrieMonarchFestival, Hawaii Island: Hawaii’s most venerable hula celebration (March/April).
• East Maui Taro Festival, Hana: Centred around Hawaii’s traditional staple food and Hawaiian culture (April).
• Ironman Triathalon World Championship, Hawaii Island: Top 1,800 triathletes from 50 countries compete in this superbowl of races (October).
• KonaCoffeeCulturalFestival, Hawaii Island: Celebrating the coffee harvest. Features tastings, farm tours, parades (November).
• Wailea Golf Club, Maui.
• Kauai Lagoons Golf Club, Kauai.
• Mauna Lani Resort, Hawaii Island.
• The Challenge at Manele, Lanai.
• Ko Olina Golf Club, Oahu.
• Waimanalo Beach, Oahu: Kilometres of pristine beaches nestled against the dramatic Ko’olau mountains.
• Maluaka Beach, Maui: Nicknamed “Turtle Beach” as sea turtles frequent this stretch.
• Kee Beach, Kauai: Lying at the end of Highway 560, its reefs make it excellent for shoreline snorkelling.
• Punaluu Beach, Hawaii Island: The most famous black sand beach in the islands located between Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the small town of Naalehu.
• Surf the waves off Waikiki in an outrigger canoe.
• Explore the road to Hana on Maui.
• Snorkel with manta rays off the Kona coast on Hawaii Island.
• Kayak down Hawaii’s only navigable rivers on Kauai.
• Big wave surfers carving through waves up to 15 metres high in the winter, North Shore, Oahu.
• Lavender fields in Waipoli, Maui.
• Ancient Hawaiian stone carvings at Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve, Hawaii Island.
• Best breakfast: Eggs & Things, Oahu; Plantation House, Maui; Hawaiian Style Cafe, Hawaii Island; Little Fish Coffee, Kauai.
• Best lunch: Town Restaurant, Oahu; The Fish and the Hog, Hawaii Island; The Koloa Fish Market, Kauai; Sam Sato’s, Maui.
• Best sunset bar: House Without a Key, Oahu; Capishe?, Maui; Don the Beachcomber, Hawaii Island; Merriman’s, Kauai.
This region is home to some of the best beaches in the U.S. Made up of 1,004 kilometres of coastline, it offers warm waters for swimming and myriad water-based activities.
Most of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail sites are located here, the Rio Grande Valley being the nation’s top bird-watching venue. Corpus Christi has been ranked “America’s Birdiest City” for the last decade. Giant sea turtles including the endangered Kemp’s Ridley, can be found around South Padre Island and Galveston Island.
• CorpusChristiFirst: Friday ArtWalk, Saturday Marina Market Days and Sunday BridgeWalk (first weekend of every month).
• Mardi Gras! Galveston: Third largest Mardi Gras celebration in the country (two weeks before Fat Tuesday).
• Newport Dunes, Corpus Christi.
• Lozano Golf Center, Corpus Christi.
• Moody Gardens Golf Course, Galveston.
• Galveston Country Club.
• NorthPackeryBeach,CorpusChristi: Popular surfing and kite-boarding spot.
• PadreIslandNationalSeashore,CorpusChristi: Home to nesting Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.
• East Beach: Galveston’s most popular hang-out; only beach on the island where alcohol is allowed.
• SouthPadreIsland: Recognized as Texas’ top beach.
• Visit Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi to see the diverse marine life from the Gulf of Mexico.
• Participate in Hotel Galvez’s “Ghost Tour Dinner”, Galveston. A paranormal investigation of the ghost bride in room 501 is followed by dinner.
• Hop onboard a dolphin watch cruise around South Padre Island.
• Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.
• USS Lexington, Corpus Christi.
• Schlitterbahn Beach Resort & Waterpark, South Padre Island.
• Bestbreakfast: Town & Country, Corpus Christi; Sunflower Cafe, Galveston; The Palm Café, South Padre Island.
• Bestlunch: Railroad Seafood Station, Corpus Christi; Farley Girls Cafe, Galveston; Pier 19, South Padre Island.
• Bestsunsetbar: Doc’s Seafood, Corpus Christi; Beach Hut, Galveston; Laguna Bob Bar on Bay, South Padre Island.
• ScenicByways: Bay Area Loop in Corpus Christi, Queen Isabella Causeway, South Padre Island.
• Average temperatures: 18 to 27°C.
Arizona is the only state in the country where parts of four deserts – Great Basin, Mojave, Chihuahuan and Sonoran, can be found. Besides deserts, mountains, rivers, valleys and lakes make up the rest of Arizona's geography.
Its rich history traces the different peoples who lived here starting from Native Americans to Spanish conquistadors, cowboys and gold miners. On the western frontier, towns like Tombstone, Prescott and Wilcox offer an insight into life in the Wild West. The state is known for its Western and Native American art and ancient artifacts. Today, the new Hopi Arts Trail (starting in Moenkopi) allows visitors to connect with artists and galleries on the Hopi mesas in northern Arizona.
• Barrett-JacksonClassicCarAuction, Scottsdale: International car auction featuring antique/classic cars, collectibles and rare “automobilia” (January).
• AccentureMatchPlayGolfChampionship, Marana: Considered the cornerstone of the World Golf Championship series with a purse of US $7.5 million (February).
• RedRockFantasyofLights, Sedona: Holiday lights festival featuring over one million lights (November).
• Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain (Saguaro/Tortolita), Marana.
• Superstition Springs, Mesa.
• Troon North (Pinnacle), Scottsdale.
• TPC Scottsdale (Champions), Scottsdale.
• Seven Canyons, Sedona.
• Ventana Canyon, Tucson.
Metropolitan Tucson CVB/James Randklev
• GreatBasin: Iconic Monument Valley landscape; experience snow in winter in the desert.
• TheMojaveDesert: The driest desert in North America offers activities such as boating on Lake Havasu or rafting the Colorado River.
• Chihuahuan: Excellent for viewing migratory birds.
• SonoranDesert: Comes alive in spring with Saguaro blossoms and wildflowers.
• Join a jeep tour to the red rocks of Sedona.
• Heli-tour over the Grand Canyon.
• Go horseback riding through the Sonoran Desert.
• Grand Canyon National Park.
• Historic guest ranches in southern Arizona.
• World-class resorts, hotels, restaurants and museums like the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) and the Heard Museum.
• Verde Valley Wine Trail.
• Lake Havasu for water sports and the London Bridge.
• Bestbreakfast: El Tovar Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park.
• Bestlunch: Poolside at a destination spa.
• Bestsunsetbar: Pointe Hilton's Different Pointe of View, Phoenix.
• ScenicByways: Coronado Trail, The Red Rock Byway, Apache Trail, Route 66.
• Average temperature: desert 10°C to 20°C.