Category Archives: Florida

Luxury and History–Two Historic Seaside Hotels

Oceanfront hotels are a dime a dozen along the East Coast seaboard, but it’s a real treat to find two that have survived decades and still exist as stunning destinations. Their unique stories are woven into a tapestry of Southern charm and hospitality. I recently had the opportunity to visit the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort located on St. Simons Island, GA, and The Casa Marina Hotel in Jacksonville, FL. Both have fascinating histories and offer unique oceanfront experiences.

The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort

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This legendary hotel, a member of the National Register of Historic Places and a member of the prestigious Historic Hotels of America, is located on one of the barrier islands that make up Georgia’s coast. It first opened in 1935 as a seaside dance club. Six years later, the main hotel building opened to the public as the King and Prince Hotel.

During World War II, the hotel served as a naval coast-watching and training facility. The center of Radar operations was housed at the King and Prince which also provided officers’ quarters and classrooms. The bar at the hotel was an after-hours gathering spot for soldiers, their wives and members of the local Civil Air Patrol.

The hotel’s current restaurant “Echo” pays tribute to the hotel’s crucial part in the island’s naval history. As radar sent its electromagnetic waves in and out, the “Echo” became a heartbeat of the War’s impact on St. Simons Island. For history buffs, I highly recommend a Lighthouse Trolley Sightseeing Tour of St. Simons Island, with stops at historic Ft. Frederica and Christ Church.

Swimming Pool, The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort. St. Simons Island, GA.Over the years, The King and Prince has undergone several renovations and expansions including the Resort’s cherished core–the historic main building. I was privileged to stay in one of the Cabana rooms in this Historic Building with a step-down sitting room off the bedroom and an oceanfront private patio where I enjoyed amazing sunrises and cool ocean breezes. The resort also offers suites, two-&-three bedroom Villas, beach cottages and private homes.

Oceanfront Cabana room in historic building.

Oceanfront Cabana room in historic building.

The King and Prince Resort is the only oceanfront resort on the island and is the perfect place for family vacations, business meetings, destination weddings, reunions, golf outings and romantic retreats. Its serene setting allows guests the option to stay as busy as they want or to enjoy a low-key get-a-way. Take a walk or bike on the beach; enjoy a game of tennis on clay courts; or play a round of golf on the “best marsh front course on the east coast.” And be sure to book a relaxing massage at the Royal Treatment Cottage.

Sunrise at King and Prince Resort

Sunrise at King and Prince Resort

The King and Prince offers amazing food options from casual beach fare poolside, to Echo’s Southern-coastal breakfasts, lunches and dinners featuring signature entrees such as Shrimp & Grits prepared with fresh Georgia shrimp. Executive Chef James S. Flack is always ready to prepare amazing cuisine for that special wedding or other event. The 5-course wine dinner I enjoyed while visiting the resort was the perfect ending to a perfect island adventure and it even included a gorgeous Georgia sunset to beacon me back again.

Check out this video of the resort:

The Casa Marina Hotel

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Located in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, the Casa Marina Hotel (circa 1925) is Jacksonville’s only historic hotel with the designation of Historic Hotels of America (HHA). In its heyday, it was a destination for the rich and famous. Known as the original “Famous Beach” during the Roaring Twenties, the hotel frequently hosted such movie stars as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Mary Pickford and later Katherine Hepburn.

It’s Spanish-Mediterranean design boasted a “first” at the beach–a fireproof building composed of stucco-concrete, tile and an automatic sprinkler system. During World War II, the United States government appropriated the Casa Marina for military housing. After the war, Casa Marina went through a succession of owners who converted it into an apartment building, a restaurant, a tea room and then a vintage clothing store. In 1991, the “grand lady” reopened as a hotel.

Sunrise from Casa Marina Hotel

Sunrise from Casa Marina Hotel

Today, the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant offers guests the opportunity to go back in time and experience its history with 23 bedrooms and parlor suites, each uniquely decorated to represent a different era in the hotel’s history. From the front desk to the hallways lined with black and white photos, the hotel still maintains the feel of a by-gone era.

Casa Marina offers a delicious Sunday brunch, complimentary breakfast during the week, and a fun, open-air penthouse bar on the third level that overlooks the ocean. Its  tapas menu, craft cocktails, and sunsets make the climb to the top worthwhile.

Checkout this video of the Casa Marina Hotel:

(I was hosted at both hotels as part of a media visit, but the comments and reviews are my own.)

More Disney Fun

Three Parks Offer New Adventures

Rivers of Light show at WDW Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s new Rivers of Light nighttime show.

Engage in intergalactic battles at the new Star Wars Launch Bay in Hollywood Studios, view the spectacular “Rivers of Light”nighttime show in Animal Kingdom, make an icy trek to Arendelle at Epcot’s “Frozen Ever After” attraction and become a globetrotter on “Soarin’ Around the World.”

This article appears in Allegiant’s in-flight magazine, Sunseeker (Dec. ’16-Feb. ’17). Click here to read entire article.  more-disney-fun

Happy Meals: Upscale Dining at Walt Disney World

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Walt Disney World may be a kid’s paradise, but the dining options extend far beyond chicken fingers and fries. Grown-ups looking for a little culinary indulgence can choose from a variety of upscale restaurants. Here are a handful of our favorites.

Article appears in West Jet Air’s in-flight magazine. Read full article here: Disney Eats-up-Oct copy

 

Beyond Orlando’s Theme Parks

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 19:  Singer Ricky Martin (R) unveils his brand new figure at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas on November 19, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Figure will soon travel to Florida for the spring 2015 grand opening of Madame Tussauds Orlando.  (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds) *** Local Caption *** Ricky Martin

Singer Ricky Martin meets his double at Madame Tussauds in Orlando, FL

Take flight high above Orlando; dive deep into three oceans; or take a selfie with famous stars. Merlin Entertainments, the second largest attraction operator in the world, is bringing three of its best-known attractions to Orlando: The Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE Aquarium

Read the entire article in Allegiant Air’s in-flight magazine, Sunseeker. AllegiantOrlandoBeyondThemeParks copy

World’s Luckiest Fishing Village

(Guest  Contributor & Photographer: James Richardson)

Destin FloridaDestination: Destin, FL

As you arrive in Destin, Florida, from the west, a sign welcomes you to the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” If Destin is your final destination, you will find out, while the fishing is great, that there is much more to do here than fish.

The Panhandle of Florida is a growing area for many reasons. The major reason is the convenience and accessibility of the Panhandle to the rest of the country. The guidebooks say that Destin is nearer to parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, than Destin is to Key West.

This area of Florida is commonly known as the Emerald Coast because of the white sandy beaches appearing green as seen through the shallow blue waters of the Gulf. Traveling to points beyond the Emerald Coast adds hours to a trip — valuable hours of soaking up the sun’s rays. Destin’s white sandy beaches are the major single attraction of the Emerald Coast.

(Click on Destination: Destin, Florida above to link to rest of article and great photos!)

How Not to Offend Southerners! A Humorous Essay

Wilmington, NC, Azalea Festival represents the South in all its glory!

Wilmington, NC, Azalea Festival represents the South in all its glory! (Photo by Sandra Chambers)

Traveling “Down South” the Right Way!

Since relocating to a beautiful coastal town in North Carolina—leaving behind my old life in the greater Washington, DC, metropolitan area– I have had a true “conversion” experience. My eyes have been opened, my mind enlightened, and joy has filled my heart – I have become a “true Southerner.”

Since my conversion, you will no longer hear four-letter words from my mouth– except for the occasional “y’all” or “yes’m.” I also sleep later, drive slower, and wear the T-shirt that says:  “I wasn’t born in the South, but I got here as fast as I could!

 Many of you already know you’re an outsider, which puts you one step ahead of people like myself who used to think of ourselves as  “part Southern.”  I finally had to admit that being born in West Virginia didn’t make me Southern. “Hillbilly” and “Southern” are not synonymous terms. (And, of course most people know that West Virginia sided with the North in the Civil War. Also, be aware that in the South you won’t hear about the Civil War; only about The War of Northern Aggression.)

Even living in Virginia (I was there for 25 years) doesn’t qualify me to be a Southerner. Coming from the northern Virginia area, I can attest to the fact that there are neither Southern accents nor Southern manners to be found in that area—especially when driving the Beltway! (A very recent trip to DC confirmed that!)

Because of my life-changing experience, I feel compelled to invite you to come along with me to discover this unique territory and culture known as “The South,” and to offer my assistance in making your visit more enjoyable and acceptable —both for you and the rightful residents of the land upon which we Northerners surely trespass.

Basic Rules for Traveling (and relocating) to the South:

 (1) First and foremost, practice your Southern drawl before arriving in the South. Like all foreign travelers, you are more likely to be looked upon with favor if you at least attempt the local language. Practice slurring your words together like “y’all.” Hold for at least two seconds.

(2) Never argue over Southern pronunciations. Although I was an English major in college, I have thrown away my Webster’s Dictionary in favor of the vernacular pronunciation. For example, Standard English will tell you that “Kerr” Avenue is pronounced with an “er” sound, but the Southern pronunciation is with an “ar.”

(3) When you order iced tea at any Southern restaurant you must specify “sweet” or “unsweet.” Of course, real Southerners always drink sweet tea (heated first so that the pound of sugar dissolves before chilling).  It is acceptable, however, to order half and half if you admit to being a recovering sugar addict.

(4) You also need to know that “grits” are not just for breakfast in the South. “Shrimp and grits” is standard Southern fare for lunch, dinner, or snack.

(5) Google Paula Deen before crossing the Mason Dixon line. You don’t want to be culturally illiterate when discussing fine Southern dining with locals. It would also be wise to know what goes into a “mint julep.”

(6) Be sure to eat at a Calabash Style seafood restaurant. Some Southerners will argue that it’s the only way to eat seafood (lightly battered and fried.)

(7) Last but not least –although I do not get the point of whipping my neck back and forth a hundred times while watching cars speed around the track—all true Southerners should know who Richard Petty and Jeff Gordon are.

There you have it– seven rules to help you make the most of your visit (or relocation) to the South. While you’re here on my site, check out some of the awesome Southern destinations we cover in this blog. Sign up to receive notice of any new Southern-Traveller blogs via e-mail or RSS feed. You will get an e-mail whenever I post–which is definitely on Southern time–maybe  once or twice a month. Then you can click to read the article or totally ignore it (which of course, defies all Southern politeness!)

© Sandra Chambers

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort Opens at Disney World

New Resort Offers Fun for Entire Family

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For those of you planning a visit to Disney World this Summer check out their newest resort–Disney’s Art of Animation Resortoffering family suites that sleep up to six and the largest pool in Walt Disney Resort measuring in at 11,859 square feet. The pool is surrounded by larger-than-life Disney characters,  including a 35-foot-tall King Triton and giant-sized Mr. Ray, Crush and Squirt. The pool also features an underwater sound system. Continue reading