If you live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida or are planning
a trip there, you can discover some of the state’s hidden gems during a day trip
or a weekend getaway.

To get you started exploring the possibilities, we’ve developed
a list of four inexpensive and fun places for you to visit with your spouse,
partner, family, or friends.

Crystal River

In the heart of the Nature Coast, Crystal River is a haven
for manatees and for people who love the outdoors and history. To get there
from the Tampa Bay area, drive up U.S. 19, which runs through the center of
town.

Plan a day trip to one attraction or stay the night at a
hotel to enable you to see multiple sites.

The environmentally diverse Crystal
River Preserve State Park
can take a whole day to take in on its own,
depending on how athletic you are. The 27,500-acre preserve offers hiking,
biking, fishing, birdwatching, and kayaking opportunities. [Financial tip: If
you want to take the Friends of Crystal River State Parks narrated boat tour,
bring cash or a check to purchase tickets.]

A prime spot for viewing manatees is Three Sisters Springs, part
of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. The springs serve as a refuge
for manatees in winter due to the consistent 72 degree water temperatures.
Overlook the springs via the boardwalk any time of the year or rent kayaks to
paddle out to the springs during the summer months.

Take a break from the outdoor adventures by strolling
through Crystal River’s charming downtown, replete with vintage shops and gift
stores.

History buffs will want to visit to Crystal
River State Archaeological Site
, where six Native American burial and
temple mounds, along with an interpretive museum which houses artifacts
recovered on the grounds. The property also lures anglers and birders because
of its location on a coastal marsh.

Lake Wales

For a new perspective on old Florida, head to Lake Wales,
just a two-hour drive east of St. Petersburg. The town’s picturesque attraction,
Bok Tower Gardens, features almost 50
acres of manicured gardens designed by renowned historic landscape architect
Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. A 205-foot-tall Art Deco bell tower not only adds
to the visual beauty of the property, but it also performs a concert twice
every afternoon. You’ll also find a 1930s-era mansion, a children’s garden, and
nature trails here.

Plan to spend just a couple of hours or make a full day of
it. You can have lunch at the on-site café or pack a picnic. [Financial tip: If
you’re a Florida resident, you can save 50% on admission during the month of
August.]

Before heading out of town, railroad enthusiasts will want
to make time for a stop at the Lake Wales History Museum,
which has three restored train cars on display, along with a 1919 railroad
station.

Winter Park

Art and culture lovers will want to take a day trip to
Winter Park, located just north of Orlando yet worlds away from the theme park festivities.

Along charming Park Avenue, the city’s main road, lie
locally owned boutiques and restaurants, which mingle with a few national chain
stores. Wend your way down to The Charles
Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
to gaze at one of the largest
collections of Louis Comfort Tiffany art glass, including a restored chapel
interior built in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Be sure to get there by 2:30 p.m. to allow enough time to
view the entire collection before 4 p.m., when the museum closes. [Financial
tip: There is free parking behind the museum and on the first, fourth, and
fifth floors of the nearby Park Place garage.]

Have lunch at one of Park Avenue’s cafes, where you can sit
on the promenade and people watch while eating.

After your meal, take a Scenic Boat Tour on an 18-passenger
pontoon that sails along Winter Park’s lakes. You can make reservations for 10
or more passengers ahead of time. Regardless of the size of your party, you’ll
need to have cash or a check on hand to pay in person. During your hourlong
trip, you’ll see local wildlife and beautiful homes.

Sanibel Island

About 2.5 hours south of Tampa Bay, Sanibel Island is a
perfect weekend getaway destination. Reserve a cozy cottage on the beach and
use the built-in kitchen to save some money on dining out.

Start your first day strolling one of the beaches to collect
shells and enjoy solitude with nature.

For more encounters with nature, include J.N.
“Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge
on your itinerary. More than 245 species of
birds, indigenous mammals such as Sanibel Island Rice Rats and bobcats,
reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates like Mangrove Buckeye
butterflies, all live within the confines of the refuge. Drive, bike, or walk
along Wildlife Drive to traverse the property. You can also fish, boat, and do
paddle sports. [Financial tip: Visit on October 20 to celebrate “Ding”
Day 2019
. Admission to the activity-filled festival is free and discounted
nature tours are offered throughout the day.]

The island is also known for its spectacular sunsets and
all-around relaxed beach vibe, whether you’re dining, shopping, or simply
sitting on the sand.

 

Hop in the car and take a Florida road trip this weekend!

Amuni Financial, Inc. is a Broker-Dealer and Registered Investment Advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC. Please see our website for the states in which we’re registered to do business.

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