FLORIDA SUNSHINE GETAWAY 35-DAY – RV CARAVAN
As RVers, we probably all know a little about Florida – it’s where the snowbirds head every winter. We may have taken the kids to Orlando to visit Disney and other amusement parks. We’ve watched enormous rockets launch from Cape Canaveral. It’s home to glorious sandy beaches, balmy weather, giant alligators and swaying palm trees. We drink Florida orange juice. But Florida has a lot more to offer than retirement communities and golf courses. It’s a dynamic, diverse region with a colorful history. And on our 35-day Florida Sunshine Getaway, Fantasy RV Tours makes it possible for us to really explore the Sunshine State.
We rendezvous in Pensacola and, after a welcome seafood dinner and orientation, spend the first few days of this amazing trip touring the city. Look up to the sky, because it’s busy – all U.S. Navy pilots train here. We’ll learn more when we visit the National Air Station Museum, test our skills on a flight simulator and even watch the legendary Blue Angels aerobatic team practice.
Leaving the Florida panhandle, we head south down the Emerald Coast to Destin, where we spend a relaxing two days enjoying its stunning white beaches and emerald-hued waters. You might even want to try out your fishing skills here – it’s widely known as the ‘world’s luckiest fishing village.’ But don’t worry if fishing’s not your thing, you can still sample the delicious local seafood at Fantasy’s Low Country Boil dinner.
We leave the Gulf Coast and head inland to a more bustling environment – Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee. However, we’re still in laid-back Florida, and Tallahassee is a genteel Southern town with good manners, rolling hills, oak-canopied roads, plantation homes and genuine Southern hospitality. It’s also home to Florida State University, Florida A&M University and, of course, Florida’s Legislature. During our two days here, we tour the city and visit the Capitol Museum, part of the Old Capitol Building that has been restored to reflect Florida’s colorful history of representative government through exhibits, displays and even the 1902 Governor’s office.
It’s a short drive to Ocala, in Marion County. It’s known as the Horse Capital of the World, and it has more horses in residence than any other county in the U.S. We’ll explore country roads, pass lavish equestrian facilities fringed with huge oak trees and wood fences and tour a horse farm, meeting some of these beautiful animals up close, all followed by a delicious lunch right in the countryside.
Leaving the peaceful and serene horse country behind, we head back to the Gulf Coast to spend three nights in Tampa – a major business center but still a charming city consisting of diverse neighborhoods, restaurants and museums. Our city tour takes us to Ybor (pronounced Ee-bore) City, which retains its early Cuban influences from its heyday as the hub of Tampa’s cigar industry. Brick-paved streets and wrought-iron balconies still frame its historic buildings, reflecting another place in time. We visit St. Petersburg, which holds the title for ‘ the most consecutive days of sunshine’ at 768 days, and home to great shopping, restaurants and bars. We explore the Tampa Bay Riverwalk, a meandering river on one side and plenty of shops, restaurants and other attractions on the other. We travel to Tarpon Springs, the ‘sponge capital of the world,’ and enjoy a luncheon cruise. But even with all these activities, there’s still time on your own to visit Busch Gardens, get in some shopping or just relax at the famous Ft. Desoto Beaches.
‘Step right up’ as we head south to Sarasota and a visit to the Ringling Circus Museum. In 1927, John and Mable Ringling made Sarasota the winter quarters for their famed Ringling Brothers and Barnum Circus. Today, the Circus Museum houses many of the wardrobes, props and equipment used by the Circus over the years. Beautifully carved parade wagons, sturdy utility wagons, tent poles, massive bail rings that suspended the tent canvas and even a cannon that shot fearless performers across the big top are on display. There is also an incredible wealth of 19th- and early 20th-century posters and props used by famous performers as well as a large collection of circus history and literature that includes newspaper clippings dating as far back as 1816. We’ll also see the newly restored Wisconsin, the railroad car John and Mable used to travel across the country.
Next, it’s time to get up close and personal with the world-famous Royal Lipizzaner Stallions at their winter home just east of Sarasota. Watch these magnificent horses gracefully prance, trot and canter as they train for their spectacular upcoming tour.
We continue south to Ft. Myers, popular for its beaches, fishing and shopping – but also the winter homes of two of our country’s most famous inventors and business leaders – Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Back in 1916, Ford bought land next door to Edison, his mentor. Today, we’ll visit both estates, now serving as museums to honor their founders and their accomplishments.
Now it’s time to really experience the wild Florida we’ve heard so much about as we journey toward Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness area in the United States. We zip along the waters on an air-boat ride to meet up with Florida’s famous ‘gators, who have thrived in this area for centuries; we experience how the Miccousukee Indian tribe still exists in the heart of the Everglades when we visit their village.
Next stop is Key West, which is as far south as we will go, as it is the southernmost point in the United States. We spend three nights here, visiting Ernest Hemmingway’s home where he wrote (in longhand) such masterpieces as A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. You might even run into a six-toed cat – a descendant of Hemmingway’s original pet cat, Snow White. Visit the Little White House, Harry Truman’s winter vacation spot. Chase down the setting sun on our Key West sunset and snorkel cruise. There’s even time for an optional fishing trip to Tortugas National Park, which teems with reef fish and other species. Locals (almost!) guarantee a catch!
The trendy nightlife, Art Deco district, Little Havana, sprawling beaches, shops and the art and food festivals of Miami all beckon as we travel on to the world’s busiest seaport. We’ll see the sights from our guided motor coach tour and enjoy lunch at the original Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant – where in 1913, the original “Joe” began cooking local stone crabs from the surrounding waters. We visit Vizquaya, a European-inspired estate with 10 acres of formal gardens, terraces and fountains overlooking Biscayne Bay. And no trip to this area would be complete without a stop in Fort Lauderdale – famous for its beaches, arts, culture and, of course, its beautifully landscaped beach promenade. We visit quaint Las Olas Boulevard, the swanky downtown heart of the city, and stop at the Elbo Room, which welcomed sailors on leave during World War II, the ‘Beach Blanket Bingo’ crowd during the ‘70s and the spring breakers of today. We cap off our time in Fort Lauderdale with a dinner cruise aboard an authentic paddle boat – the Jungle Queen.
Our next stop on the Atlantic coast, West Palm Beach, offers exquisite shops, fine dining and magnificent homes along Ocean Blvd., including Mar A Lago, one of the homes of President Trump. We drive through 640-acre Lion Country Safari, where tapirs, llamas, rhinos, storks impalas, water buffalo, lions, giraffes and other African animals roam freely and can be viewed from the comfort of your own car. Just keep the windows up! And no visit to Palm Beach would be complete without an outing to Boca Raton.
We (temporarily) leave the beaches behind and head inland to Orlando, city of imagination and adventure, where children and grownups can all enjoy lifetime experiences at legendary theme parks and attractions. We spend three nights in Orlando, and as there is so much to choose from. We leave the selections up to you! Choose optional trips to any of the local attractions: Disney World’s theme parks, Cypress Gardens, Universal Studios and more – or just chill at your rig and enjoy the sunshine.
Break out the sunscreen again as we head back to the Atlantic coast and America’s favorite beach, Daytona Beach. There are 23 miles of beaches, and vehicles are still permitted to drive on many parts of them during designated times. We’ll tour Daytona International Speedway, home to the Daytona 500, with its 31-degree high banks and Victory Lane. Then we’re off to the Kennedy Space Center, where we become part of the future of exciting space exploration, including a virtual launch into space!
Our 35 days together finally come to an end with a gala farewell dinner – a time to reflect on the wonders and beauties of our Sunshine State and our experiences exploring it together with fellow Fantasy guests. We’ll enjoy a continental breakfast together and leave with a well-rounded view and appreciation of this sunshine destination.