Travel — 26 April 2013
Five fast and fabulous Florida getaways

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.

4. Ocean Reef Club35 Ocean Reef Drive, Key Largo, oceanreef.comIf you’ve lived in Florida for any length of time, you’ve probably heard (raves) about the Ocean Reef Club. The members-only community, just a short drive south to Key Largo, is an excellent option if you can’t beg off work on a Friday and need to wait until 5 p.m. to start your weekend, because it won’t take you hours to get there. But once you do, you’ll feel as if you’re a million miles away. Just try to find one person who’s spent time at Ocean Reef and doesn’t swoon when you mention it. Yes, this is a private membership club, but anyone can rent a private island vacation retreat or take a room — or a suite, or junior suite — at their elegant inn, and partake of the same gorgeous views and most activities members get to enjoy on the regular. The place is ideal whether you’re the type that likes plenty to do on your getaways or just want to relax. Ocean Reef holds a host of “traditional events” for eight months out of the year (with a break for four months in the summer, May-July), including an annual Chili Cook Off, the Grand Masters Fishing Tournament, the Triple Golf Classic and festivities and the popular Vintage Weekend, featuring classic cars, boats and aircraft, scheduled this year for Dec. 5-8; along with celebrations for Memorial Day Weekend, 4th of July, Labor Day that include parades and street fairs as part of the festivities. Non-members can enroll the kids in one of many water-themed summer camps while they hit one of the golf courses, take a cooking class, fish, dive, spa, or simply luxuriate in the subtropical atmosphere. Because membership has its privileges, but non-members can taste the good life, too. For reservations, call 800-741-7333.

5.  The Breakers1 South County Road, Palm Beach, thebreakers.comTo live in South Florida and never know what it’s like to stay at the legendary Breakers would be criminal. Count yourself among the American royalty that has laid its collective head here — the Vanderbilts, the Astors and so forth — and book a room at this oceanfront resort with its fabulous private beach, five swimming pools (all oceanfront), nine restaurants, five bars and 10 on-site boutiques (and we’re talking upscale — think Guerlain, Ralph Lauren, Lilly Pulitzer and Coconut Crew, which carries designer labels for little ones). Golf, hit the tennis courts (there are 10 of those, too) or just laze on a massage table in the delicious spa. And lest you think this sounds a little too posh a place to bring the kids, think again: a 6,000-plus-square-foot entertainment center with a movie theater, video games and toddler’s quarters is the perfect place to keep them occupied while you indulge in more adult pursuits. And when you’re not doing the downward facing dog beachside or savoring the good life at the Beach Club, you can venture off to Worth Avenue for a bauble or two, the Norton Museum of Art to gaze at the Renoirs and the Monets, or the Palm Beach Zoo for a look at the jaguars — real ones, not the kind you’ll find parked in front of Cartier.  For reservations, call 561-655-6611.


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