By Lori Capullo
There’s no better reason for Floridians to choose a staycation as their vacation than the fact there are so many fabulous places we can get to by car. Wherever you drop the pin on the Florida map, you’re likely to find a place to suit your interests. Rather than put you through any rigorous research, we found five ideas that work whether you’ve got a long weekend or a full seven days to spend away from reality, bringing along the kids or dallying a deux. Get out your calendar and prepare to plan.
1. Inn on Fifth
699 Fifth Ave.,South, Naples, innonfifth.com
To make the most of a jaunt across Alligator Alley to Naples — a peaceful alternative to the hustle and bustle of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, but still offering its own brand of fun — stay in the middle of the action there. That means book a room at a beautifully appointed property in the center of the Downtown Fifth Avenue district, which is chockablock with restaurants, shops, galleries and other such places to keep you amused day or night. The Inn on Fifth, a newly renovated boutique hotel that is just such a place, allows you to bask in a cozy ambience while enjoying the conveniences of modern technology to which we’ve all become so accustomed (and in many cases, addicted) and luxurious amenities, and — bonus — it’s within walking distance of just about any place you’d want to visit while in town. Check that — it’s actually home to a few places you’ll want to visit, like the Spa on Fifth, and McCabe’s Irish Pub & Grill for casual eats and a brew or two. By day, rent a bike and pedal to the beach, take advantage of the guest privileges at one of Naples’ many famed golf courses, knock around some tennis balls at Cambier Park just across the street, or stroll up and down Fifth Avenue South and give your credit card a workout at one of the many stores (don’t miss the Mon “Key” Bread Factory’s to-die-for monkey bread, in flavors like pecan pie and maple and bacon).
For reservations, call 239-403-8777.
2. Omni Amelia Island Plantation
6800 First Coast Highway, Amelia Island, omniameliaislandplantation.com
Far from the madding crowds of South Beach and only 13 by 4 miles in size, Amelia Island is a tiny piece of paradise at the northeast corner of the peninsula that’s rich in historic significance, having been under eight different flags over the past 500 years. But despite its diminutive size, plenty goes on here throughout the year: it’s home to the annual Eight Flags Shrimp Festival each May, which brings about 150,000 visitors to the island; along with an annual Jazz Festival, Film Festival, Blues Festival and the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance every March, a rare-car show dubbed one of the best by The New York Times. Just reopened this March to unveil an $85 million renovation, Omni Amelia Island Plantation is an all-new (literally) way to experience this little-hyped but wonder-filled town. This one’s a biggie — more than 400 rooms strong — on more than three miles of beach, with three golf courses, a range of eateries from upscale to casual, lakes for fishing and paddle boarding and even a shopping village where you can scoop up sporting togs for working out, toys for the kids, clothing (a new Tommy Bahama shirt may be in order) and even new luggage to tote it all back home in. While you’re there, pick up a picnic at the Marché Burette gourmet market. And if you’re too worn out to walk after that, hop a Segway from Amelia’s Wheels and tour the property standing still. If you don’t fit everything in this visit, don’t worry — that’ll give you the perfect excuse to return again next year. For reservations, call 904-261-6161.
3. Grand Bohemian
325 S. Orange Ave., Orlando, grandbohemianhotel.com
Before you do the auto-cringe at the thought of yet another Disney World vacation, take note: This trip to central Florida involves a stay at a very grown-up, un-mousy hotel. The AAA Four Diamond Grand Bohemian calls to mind a trip to the big city, from the moment you step inside and saturate your senses with the textures of the velvet chairs and brilliant red Italian mosaic vaulted ceilings, the hundreds of pieces of artwork from local and international artists, and the positively heavenly guestrooms with snowy pillow-top beds. But chances are you’re not taking a road trip to Central Florida to hole up in a hotel, no matter how sumptuous the surroundings, and that’s good, because there is plenty of fun to be had here outside of The Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios. Like, for instance, Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical garden downtown (it’s romantic). The Orlando Museum of Art, with memorable works by American artists; and The Morse, in Winter Park just outside the city, with the world’s most extensive collection of Tiffany glass, both await. After dark, the nightlife lights up; you can even find a lively (and extremely popular) drag show at The Parliament House, an Improv Comedy Club and the Corona Cigar Company & Diamond Crown Cigar, for raved-about cocktails and, should you fancy one, a stogie. And if after all that you find yourself reconsidering a little Splash Mountain action, you’re just a hop and a skip away. For reservations, call 407-313-9000.