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San Francisco Sans Car

by Richa G 24. November 2012 05:58

How does one explore any city in the US?

The answer: Book your flights. Rent a car, get a map of the tourist attractions and find your way around.

Right? Think again. Of course, it is convenient to drive around in a car; but think of the time you have to spend waiting in the traffic and the hassles of parking. In a city like San Francisco where there’s excellent public transport, sightseeing by car can be time consuming as well as expensive.

Explore San Francisco the way the locals do; by public transport. This not offers a more intimate view of the splendid city; it also takes out of your hand the task of hiring a car, seeking directions and parking. Even if you have your own car, park it in your hotel and enjoy your sightseeing using SFO’s buses, trams and cable cars; the city is notorious for its heavy traffic and difficult parking.

How to go about it?
Muni and BART are the two public transport systems available here; while the former serves San Francisco city, the latter is used in SFO Bay area.

Get the San Francisco CityPass. This value pass offers unlimited travel in Muni buses and cable cars for seven days. As a bonus, you also get free entrance to five attractions. You can buy this pass online or outside SFO’s major attractions.

Clipper is another travel card that can be used on Muni, BART, VTA, SamTrans and Caltrain. Directions and maps are available in major bus stops and key attractions; so you don’t have to worry about finding your way around.

Start The Journey
As soon as you land at the San Francisco airport, take the free airport shuttle or walk over to the BART station. The BART trains will take you to downtown San Francisco and from there you can take a Muni to your hotel. SamTrans also has trains from San Francisco Airport to the city with a good frequency. Though it seems much easier to hire a cab for an airport transfer, locals swear that using the public transport is cheaper and gets you downtown quicker.

Moving Around – Cable Car
For tourists, the cable car is both fun to ride as well as an efficient means to travel within the tourist circuit. The Union Square is a convenient place from where you can start your SFO city tour. Do your shopping or window shopping here before you proceed to take the cable car on Powell Hyde line to Mason Street. Get off here to see the Cable Car Museum.

Continue your journey and decide which place to see next. The line continues on to Russian Hill, Nob Hill and goes to Lombard Street, an interesting tourist point with the “crookedest” street. The views over Telegraph Hill and the San Francisco Bay are breathtaking.

All important tourist attractions like the Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardeli Square, the Maritime Museum, North Beach and Nob Hill are easily accessible by cable car.

Save Money With Muni
SFO’s Muni isn’t known for its perfection, but it’s a charming transport system all the same.

Get spectacular views of San Francisco from the Twin Peaks which can be reached by taking the K,L,M or T Muni Metro Subway Lines from Market Street.

Take Muni Bus #39 to Coit Tower from Pier 39 or Washington Square and take in the lovely views from the top as well the beautiful murals.

Muni’s F Line will take you to Pier 33; get down here to board the Alcatraz cruises ferry to Alcatraz Island. Make sure you book your Alcatraz Tours tickets in advance especially during peak tourist seasons.

Muni’s #28 and #29 Buses can take you to Golden Gate Bridge’s South Point; to experience the actual beauty of the bridge, forget the bus or car. Walk across or rent a bicycle to cross the Bridge.

These are just a few sample plans for places to visit. When you get to San Francisco, ignore your car keys and explore the vast city with its efficient and inexpensive transport system.

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Destination Guides

Camping In Orlando

by Richa G 22. November 2012 05:55

Planning a family holiday to Orlando? Before you follow the routine of booking hotel rooms, arranging for extra beds for the kids, making travel and parking arrangements and finding out how much you have to spend on food, consider the option of camping in Orlando. This is a much cheaper option and don't worry; if you want frills, you can have them too.

Camping isn't just for people who want to rough it out. Orlando's convenient campgrounds make sure you have the best of amenities for child-friendly and pet-friendly camps. Of course, if you do want to be one with the wild and avoid the embellishments, there are campsites where you can have that authentic experience. Let's see what choices Orlando has to offer to campers.

Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground
If you think Orlando is a place in Walt Disney World, the Fort Wilderness Campground is the best place for your camp. With over 700 acres of wilderness and four types of camp sites with provisions for accommodation in tents as well as recreational vehicles. Apart from necessities like hot water and electricity hookups, there are amenities like cable, internet and sewer hookups. Get pampered in the wild with Disney's dinner shows, campfires (where the sticks and marshmallows are provided by the resort) and sparkling swimming pools.

Of course, being in a Disney resort means you aren't too far from the action; there are umpteen activities like cycling, a beach, boat rentals and even kayaking. And again, since you are in a Disney resort, you may also be paying more than you would for other campgrounds; but most people swear that the Disney experience of the place and the amenities it offers, especially for families with kids, are totally worth the extra cost. Add to this the perk of being close to the theme parks with free transportation; and you'll never regret having chosen this place for your camping.

Circle F Dude Ranch
Enjoy an authentic ranch experience at the Circle F Dude ranch where you can get hook up facilities for your tent or RV. Along with delicious food, the ranch offers summer camp activities for kids and activities like volleyball, tennis, swimming, family softball and campfire programs.

Wekiwa Springs
Just one hour from the major theme parks, the Wekiwa Springs State Park offers a genuine camping experience with rustic campsites, some of which can be reached only by canoe. So if you want to camp for the sake of camping, this is the kind of place that's most suitable. The springs are lovely for a cool dip or a canoe ride. If you want a full service camping, you get amenities like water, electricity, grill and picnic tables.

Other quality campgrounds like the KOA in Lake Whippoorwill, Kelly Park, Blue Spring State Park and Grayton Beach State Park are also excellent options for your camping site. Most of these campgrounds also offer cabins where you can stay if you are not comfortable in a tent and some of these cabins can accommodate up to six people. This option proves very economical when you travel as a group.

On the downside, remember, camping is not meant to be luxurious. Be careful with your packing and remember to take enough mosquito repellants, bedding, pillows and warm clothes. Also plan your travel when the weather is expected to be good; camping can be a scary experience when there's a storm or hurricane.

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Destination Guides

New York City For The Night Bird

by Richa G 21. November 2012 05:58

Does your day begin when the sun sets? If you are most active after the rest of the world has gone to sleep, New York City is the best place for your holidays. The City That Never Sleeps has lots to offer exclusively to night lovers; find out what you can do after sundown in this vibrant city.

Lights of New York From The Water
The waters of New York are often forgotten by tourists; but one of the best ways to capture the night sights of the city is from a night boat cruise. With a wide range of themes to select from like sunset cruises, musical cruises, dinner cruises and landmarks cruises; you can be sure of a lovely evening over the waters. See the glorious Statue of Liberty and the splendidly lit skyline of Manhattan along with other iconic sights of New York.

Some of the lights of Times Square
Photo by Brad_T, on Flickr

Glittering New York City Sights
The neon lights of Times Square sparkle like gems in the brilliantly lit backdrop of the bustling city scene; this is a sight that’s best at night. Visit Times Square at least once when you are in New York City to experience the true essence of this city.

Catch a show at Broadway; actually try for more than just one show. Yes, you have definitely seen the Lion King and other movies; but everything seems grander and much more fun here. Laugh at the Naked cowboy, shop at the Apple Store, Sephora, the American Eagle and Toys R Us or watch a stage performance; the frenzied atmosphere of Times Square will make sure there’s never a moment here when you will feel bored. In fact, just standing there and watching the world rush by is one of the most entertaining activities of the place.

Views From The Top
For amazing panoramic views of the city, climb to the top of the Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building. While the former has exciting activities and shorter queues, the Empire State building is a well known historic place that shouldn’t be missed when you are in NYC.

Walk In The Dark
Though not on everyone’s list of night activities, a walk in the park in clear weather can be extremely rejuvenating. And of course, in New York, “the park” can only mean the Central Park. Open till 1 AM, the Central Park has plenty of activities for walkers and nature lovers. Another option to walk is over the Brooklyn Bridge; walk or cycle over the resplendent bridge for a refreshing night experience.

Dine, Drink and Dance
It’s a sin to leave New York without enjoying its fabulous nightlife scene. With live shows, nightclubs, jazz, bars, lounges and comedy shows, the list just keeps going on. And when you think you’ve seen them all, a new place pops up and everyone wants to be there at once. Hunger pangs seem to be most active at night; catch some interesting eats at Sarge’s Delicatessen, the Blue Ribbon in Sullivan St or the Corner Bistro in West Village Stalwart. Check out the 40/40 Club, Grill and the BB King Blues club for exciting nightlife.

Bar hopping can be quite exhausting in NYC because there are so many options. For an interesting experience, drink in haunted pubs like the Pete’s Tavern or McSorley’s Old Ale House. Meet famous writers and authors; but don’t try to strike a conversation because, for all you know, they could have died long back.

Book your cheap flight to New York City today for a tantilizing nightlife.

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travel guide | Destination Guides

Passionate About Pets in Miami

by Richa G 20. November 2012 02:29

Petrified about taking your pet along for your holiday? Traveling with a pet is almost always stressful; your four-legged friends need more space, fresh air and comfortable surroundings wherever you go and you can't expect pet comforts everywhere. Miami, however, is one place where you can always expect a warm welcome for your pet and excellent service. In fact, don't be surprised (or jealous) if your pet gets better treatment than you do.

From pet massages to chef specials for pets, Miami's hotels and restaurants are doing all they can to get barks of appreciation. While "pet-friendly" can describe any hotel that allows pets to check-in with owners, there are places in Miami that go beyond just friendly with customized services for pets. Since most people in Miami are dog-crazy anyway, the warmth your pet gets is usually genuine. So what makes this city a paradise for travelers with pets? Find out.

Pet from the Jet
Concourses D, E and J in Miami International airport have pet relief areas with real grass patches, lava rocks and a bright fire hydrant. Convenient waste disposal stations make your travel easier.

Bed For The Pet
The Kimpton Epic Hotel, Loews and the Mandarin Oriental are tail-wagging friendly with pets and go all out with welcome gifts, separate doggy beds, leash, grooming arrangements and personal care. Pet sitting services, walking services and even a Doggie Boot Camp make sure your pet's holiday is even better than yours. The Mandarin Oriental also offers an exclusive pet-butler; so maybe you just have to worry about how to get your pet back home after the holidays. Another option is Grove Isle Hotel where you can treat your pet to a paw massage and let him free in the spacious balconies that come with your room or the 18 acres of waling space right outside your hotel.

Dine With Your Canine
In Miami you don't have to go searching for restaurants that allow pets; most places do. But what you can search for is special restaurants that pamper your pet while you also enjoy a decent meal. At China Grill, you can let your pup loose in the play area or patio and order from a doggie menu. Or take her to the Meat Market, the Nexxt Cafe or Michael's Genuine Food & Drink where they can have a share from your plate as well as Chef specials baked especially for them.

Sights To Sniff
Miami has dog-friendly beaches where you can take your dog on a leash. The leash makes the place safe for other visitors as well as your pet. However, in parks like the Haulover Beach Park and the Flamingo Bark Park, you can let your pet off-leash and let him free to have his kind of fun. The ample green space and amenities provided in these parks are sure to make your pet's holiday a very happy one.

The Market With Your Pet
When in Miami, don't miss the Dog Bar, a lovely store that specializes in products for dogs and cats; ranging from cute apparel, handy gear to aromatherapy and styling, the shop has plenty for your loved pets. Most shops in Miami are pet-friendly. The Lincoln Road shops and the Village of Merrick Park are perfect spots for an evening out with your dog.

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Destination Guides

Love in Los Angeles – Valentine’s Day 2013

by Richa G 17. November 2012 02:25

Love is in the air; so make sure you catch it when you fly to Los Angeles for a lovely Valentine’s Day in a very special place. Whether you are a young couple looking for an exciting romantic getaway, a married pair on a second honeymoon or single, searching for love; your romance needs are sure to be fulfilled in this picturesque city.

From exquisite (and expensive) romantic dinners to simple, yet dreamy getaways, Los Angeles has ample choice of places where you can propose your love, strengthen it or find it. Find out how and where to celebrate your Valentine’s Day, 2013 in Los Angeles.

Long Love The Beach
When a beach is around, you don’t have to waste your time searching for romantic sites. In LA, there's plenty of coastline with all kinds of beaches. So take your pick from the fun-filled Manhattan beach, the ultra-romantic El Matador, the lively Santa Monica or any of the other interesting beaches the city has to offer.

Dreamy Dinner Cruise
A romantic dinner cruise on a luxury yacht starting with a red carpet welcome, complete with entertainment and delicious food and sparkling champagne is just what you need to set the tone for your Valentine's Day holiday. Book your cruise in advance; there are special dinner cruises at the Marina Del Ray Harbor and the Long Beach for Valentine's Day 2013. If you want to avoid the crowds, charter a boat and enjoy your private space.

This Day in Disney
Though romance and Disney may not seem made for each other, the Walt Disney World is a surprisingly idyllic place for 2013's Valentine's Day. Experience everything from stimulating roller-coaster fun to dreamy dinners in fine-dining settings. Whether it is Victoria & Albert's elegant dining room or the picturesque San angel Inn, a romantic dinner is guaranteed.

Make Merry in the Museum
Who'll go to a museum to celebrate Valentine's Day? The answer: Anyone who wants to have a memorable evening. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) offers a surprising package of art and ambience with great food. So feast your eyes to some of the best works of art in the country and follow it up with an intimate Valentine's special dinner at the Ray's and Stark Bar in LACMA; a fine dining favorite with locals.

Say It with Flowers
Lots of them! At the Huntington Botanical Gardens; propose your love at the lovely Japanese garden, take pictures with lush lilies and cute camelias or just sigh at the beauty of the Shakespeare Garden. The Grifith Park is another place where you can spend quality time (without spending too much money) with your Valentine.

Walk, Talk and Gawk
Walking may not on the top of the list of Valentine's Day activities; but if you are the sporty kind, hiking with your partner in LA can be a terrific experience. Take the six-and-a-half mile hike to the Hollywood sign, one of the icons of LA. Enjoy the spectacular views from the top and come back with splendid photos and cherished memories.

Of Course, The Romantic Dinner
No Valentine's Day can be complete without a cosy dinner with lovely food and desserts. In LA, there are restaurants for every cuisine and every budget. If you want to splurge on a memorable dinner, book your table at Ilcielo, Picca, Ado, or, as the occasion calls, Valentino. If you are looking for something different, the Anqi by Crustacean and Saddle Peak Lodge will fit the bill.

Love in the city of angels is manifest in every nook and corner. Just book your flights to LA for Valentine's Day 2013 and celebrate your love.

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Destination Guides

Las Vegas the Playground of the Americas

by Richa G 15. November 2012 05:52
Here is one city that’s actually proud to flash its reputation as “The Sin City” in bright neon lights; Las Vegas offers everything you need to sin in style. But how did a small town, merely a transit point a hundred years back, evolve into a temple for pleasure seekers and gamers? Let’s get into the history of the Las Vegas Strip and find out.

How did it start?
The origins were innocent enough; the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1900’s brought in thousands of workers from all parts of America. When there are so many young people with common interests, there arises a need to offer establishments to entertain these youngsters. The best entertainment these men had were games like cards or a game of dice for the prize of a drink. But when strict gambling laws in Nevada prohibited even these simple interests in 1910, these men were in for a shock; but not for long.

What is prohibited always tends to be far more interesting than what is allowed. So the prohibition of gambling led to the mushrooming of underground gambling chambers with exciting password entries and frenzied all-night games.

In 1931, the prohibition was lifted and with this freedom, Fremont Street’s gambling establishments started prospering. This was helped by the completion of the Hoover Dam which provided employment to many and also helped protect the city from the Great Depression that had affected all other states. This meant more money in the hands of gamblers and much more business for casino-style businesses.

The sinful history of Las Vegas was launched in as early as 1930 when the first nightclub, the Pair O-Dice Club was started in Highway 91. While this speakeasy prospered even during the prohibition, the first nightclub to get a casino license was the Red Rooster. These two clubs along with their competitors started off the casino frenzy in youthful Las Vegas.

In 1941, the famous Las Vegas Strip got its first establishment, the El Rancho Hotel. This was a pioneer for the entire group of hotels and resorts that followed. The inauguration of this hotel was a grand star-studded affair; this marked the end of the era of gambling clubs and started off the trend of luxury resorts with classy casinos.

Sin raised its head again when Bugsy Siegel, the infamous gangster, built the Flamingo Hotel on the strip. This caught the attention of Mafia and soon, many more hotels like the Star Dust and the Riviera were built with capital sponsored by crime lovers.

The business of casinos involved huge sums of money and this attracted financial institutions and other entrepreneurs too and once they jumped into the foray of entertaining, there was no stopping. All this brought in publicity and this in turn attracted stars like Elvis, Sinatra and Liberace. Everyone now wanted to be in Las Vegas.

The Ride
It wasn’t a very smooth ride to the top. Once the sheen of the neon started fading, stagnation set in and the city started losing its appeal. The resorts became old and run down when compared to newer hotels in other cities. The launch of Steve Wynn’s Mirage in 1989 brought back the bloom to The Meadows; this marked the beginning of the era of megaresorts.

The history of the playground of the Americas got yet another twist with the launch of mega hotels such as these complete with indoor theme parks and the best in luxury. Each new mega-resort seemed bigger and better than the previous one and soon Las Vegas shed its image as an exclusive gamblers’ getaway to become a family destination; a place where everyone can play!

With technology backed gaming, this city is still the best bet for your bets; but that’s not all. Las Vegas’s theme parks and modern attractions make it worthy of its status as the playground of the Americas. So buckle up and get ready for the action.

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travel guide | Destination Guides

Is A Budget Holiday Possible In Pricey Honolulu?

by Richa G 10. November 2012 03:34

Who wouldn’t want to visit picture-perfect Honolulu; a place that seems to epitomize everyone’s dream of a holiday? Yes, it is one of the best places for a vacation in the United States; unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive destinations. Starting from high flight costs to expensive food, every aspect of a holiday in Honolulu can break the bank. But this doesn’t mean you can’t have your Honolulu holiday; just find out how to get the best deals and save on costs to enjoy your budget holiday in pricey Honolulu.

Fly Low: You probably know by now that it’s important to book your flights months in advance to get good airfare deals; so let’s not dwell on that. Book your flights to Honolulu for the off-season of April-May or shoulder season from September to November. These are the season when you can get decent fares, good accommodation on the cheap and great service because your hotels won’t be too crowded. And don’t worry; the weather wouldn’t be too bad too.

Stay Away: Lounging in a lanai in your ocean-facing room in a luxury resort makes a pretty picture for your camera; unfortunately it puts a dent in your budget. To stay comfortably, yet within your means, stay away from tourist hotspots like the Waikiki beach though most hotels are located here. Find a nice B&B for a homestay experience or book a vacation rental where you get a kitchenette with your apartment. These are cheaper when compared to hotels and much more practical since you can cook your own meals and save on dining expenses.

See For Free: For an insight into what started the Second World War, visit Pearl Harbor and experience its history through the USS Arizona National Memorial. Visit the Aloha Tower along with its marketplace. There are lots of free and interesting attractions in Honolulu like the US Army Museum, free cultural activities at the Royal Hawaiian Center and band entertainment at the Kapi’olani Park. Of course, these cannot be compared with the best free attraction you get in Hawaii; watching the sun set while relaxing on the beach.

Explore: Take The Bus. The cheap and effective public transport system of Oahu offers a better alternative to renting a car or taking a cab. Parking fees and taxi fares can be quite high; it’s a lot easier to find out which bus to take and make sure you are at the stop on time.

Eat In: Appetites run high on holidays; but food prices in Waikiki may make your stomachs churn. Grocery stores and markets are also quite expensive when compared to their peers in other states. If you are on a budget, it’s better to cook your own food in your apartment kitchenette and pack your lunches if you are planning to go out. If you want to eat out, step out of the key tourist areas and you can get good plate lunches at very affordable rates. Try cafes at Chinatown or local Hawaiian hole-in-the-wall stalls for inexpensive and authentic fare.

Do: Here’s one aspect of your Honolulu holidays that you can’t afford to compromise on. While you can hold onto your money without spending too much on food or stay in Hawaii, make sure you spend enough to enjoy the plethora of activities offered here ranging from surfing to snorkeling, kayaking, paddling, cycling, teeing and diving. Go on a shark adventure, try your hand at hang gliding or if you want a cultural experience, experience a traditional luau on the beach. Yes, you may have to shell out a fortune for these activities; but then, you were the one who wanted a holiday in Honolulu and your vacation would be incomplete without these experiences.

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travel guide | Destination Guides

Qatar Airways Announces Three-Day Global Sale

by Richa G 7. November 2012 05:50
Qatar Airways has launched its three-day global sale and offering great savings to more than 100 destinations from India and around the world. The 72-hour marathon sale starts from November 7 and ends on November 9, 2012. The special fares are available for travel from nine Indian cities, including Trivandrum, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, Cochin, Chennai, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. The travel period on this offer starts from November 12, 2012 through May 31, 2013. Cheap flights can be booked to a variety of destinations, such as New York, London, Paris, Dubai, Cairo, Doha, Johannesburg, Madrid, Rome, Athens, Washington, Brussels, Stockholm, Ankara, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Barcelona and much more.

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Airline News | Offers

Visit Florida without Kids

by Richa G 6. November 2012 03:53

If you ask a child to describe his or her view of heaven, the picture they portray will resemble Florida more than any other place. Though it looks as though it has been designed by a God who loves over-enthusiastic kids, Florida can be a lovely destination for adults travelling without kids too.

If you have been to Florida with kids, you will know the routine: all the theme parks, beaches and national parks that are an absolute must-do for kids. But once in a while, you need a holiday for yourself without having to cater to the demanding needs of kids. Florida is a lovely destination for this private vacation. Find out what you can do in Florida without kids.

The world Famous Disney World at Florida
Photo by Vox Efx, on Flickr

Disneyland: Walt Disney created this wonderland not just for children; but for all age groups. Give in to the temptation of thrilling rides and enjoy your day here. Though hard to believe, most kids’ rides are much more exciting than adult rides; keep this in mind when you go there. Dine at Victoria & Alberts, a restaurant almost exclusively for adults; make sure you stick to the formal dress code.

SoBe: Whether you are looking for a relaxed people-watching session at the beach, great shopping, interesting history or fun filled nightlife, South Beach has it all. Miami’s South Beach, fondly called SoBe, is a haven for all kinds of tourists; while its Art Deco district is a magnet for art and history lovers, the Lincoln Road Pedestrian Mall is paradise for shopaholics and the Ocean Drive satisfies the scenic aspects of this perfect holiday district. Of course, you can’t avoid the terrific nightlife at SoBe; dance, drink and gawk at celebs till dawn at any of Sooth Beach’s celebrated night haunts.

Forever Florida Ecosafari: This is a park too; but the Forever Florida experience is worlds apart from the other theme park attractions you find in Orlando. Enjoy a ride on an open all-terrain vehicle to explore the 4700 acres ranch space where you can sight gators, bald eagles, bears and deer or try your hand at horseback riding safari for that authentic ranch experience. These are not all; here is your chance to be Tarzan for a day with the Zipline Safari, the Cypress Canopy cycle and other adventure rides that make this place seem like a grown-up’s version of Disneyland.

Zoom away at Daytona Beach: If wheels make you squeal, the Daytona Beach is a perfect holiday spot for you. Watch exciting races in the International Speedway, visit the Harley Davidson store, take your pick from a variety of motorsports activities ranging from simulators to go-karting or enjoy a helicopter ride to view Florida from the skies. Look out for events like the Bike Week and Biketoberfest when you plan your travel to multiply your fun.

Fishing: Now, here is one activity that you just can’t get to do if you visit Florida with kids. No child would be willing to waste a day waiting for the fish to bite when they have characters to meet and dates with dolphins. Florida Keys, Tampa Bay and Nassau River offer plenty of scope for fishing. If you are into deep sea fishing, try it out at Fort Lauderdale, the Keys and Daytona Beach.

So, now who said a holiday in Florida is just for kids? Anyone young at heart can enjoy this oversized playground.

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