By Clara Bosonetto
Author Douglas Pagels said, “A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be.” Don’t let too much time pass between reunions. Fly your BFFs down to sunny Florida and show them the best of your ’hood. Here are some trip ideas that will turn on the fun, the laughs and make sweet memories.
Mermaids and More
There’s more about mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, open since 1947. A road trip north to the 538-acre park makes for an ideal day along the Weeki Wachee River on a kayak, a canoe ($35 tandem rentals) or a tranquil wildlife cruise. Go ahead, no one’s looking. Play in the natural spring water flumes at Buccaneer Bay. Before heading home, catch one of the three classic live mermaid shows in the 400-seat submerged theatre. Park admission is $26, including Buccaneer Bay; weekiwachee.com.
A Bit of History in Brooksville
On the trip south, stop in Brooksville, a historic town rife with Queen Anne architecture, charming brick streets and a few exceptional antique shops. The tall old shade trees and the gently rolling hills will have you thinking twice about where you are! Brooksville is home to Pueblo Viejo, for the most authentic Mexican dishes in the region, 12975 Cortez Blvd., 385.596.2320.
Miami Links and SoBe Lounging
Another top gal-pal trip and/or mancation destination is in Miami Beach and with a day of play on the 18-hole Miami Beach Golf Club. This public course gives a true private club feel with a setting between the Intracoastal and the Atlantic with Miami skyline views. Through October 31, a round of golf is $100 (a 5-day advance tee time suggested); miamibeachgolfclub.com. Evening playtime in Miami and South Beach can be loud and go late into the following morning, so step back from the action and stay at the hip Gansevoort on the north edge of South Beach. The hotel highlight is the 18th-floor rooftop, 26,000-square-foot, adults-only oasis. There are fabulous Atlantic views and a 110-foot-long pool with private cabanas outfitted with plasma TVs and plush couches. By night, The Rooftop turns into a posh lounge. Florida residents enjoy nightly rates from $265 on stays through Sept. 30, including a $20 gas card, and late check-out, based on a minimum two-night stay; gansevoortmiamibeach.com.
Soak Up Something Interesting
tankful will take you to the thriving Greek village of Tarpon Springs, the home of the region’s sponge-diving industry. Take a cruise down the Anclote River (spongeoramacruiselines.com) and stop in for a look-see at the town’s aquarium and the sponge museum. Dine al fresco on authentic Greek cuisine along the Sponge Docks or savor delectable Greek pastries and sweets at cafés and eateries interspersed with souvenir and sponge shops. Or, head to funky Rusty Bellies and dine on the riverview deck. The freshest seafood is delivered daily up to their docks; 937 Dodcanese Blvd., 727.923.4047. Make time to stop in downtown St. Petersburg to visit the most talked about museum—the Salvador Dali Museum—with the world’s most comprehensive collection of Dali’s paintings, graphics, sculptures and photographs; $21 adults, thedali.org.
Fun and Fish on the Gulf
Explore Venice from the gulf shoreline, the Intracoastal Waterway or Roberts Bay aboard a 20-foot deck boat with a bimini top (for up to 12 passengers) from Kahuna’s of Venice. These easy-to-manage v-bottom hull boats rent for $50 an hour; $175 for four hours or $285 for a full day; kahunasrentals.com.
Spend a day offshore fishing in the gulf or with some back country fishing. Find licensed and insured captains at The Florida Charter Fishing Guide. From the Panhandle to the Everglades, a number of experienced captains offer half-day trips from $350 to full-day adventures from $500; flafish.com.
Say Aaah and Mmmm
You don’t have to go far to take a “Tranquil Journey” together. Spa Venice offers this themed package of a 90-minute Swedish massage, a spa facial, and lunch for $175. A one-hour Deep Tissue Massage is $90; spavenice.com. Buy special treats for a gourmet picnic from the Island Gourmet (201 W. Venice Ave.) and head to the lush Maxine Barritt Park (just south of Sharky’s) for a sunset toast to great friendships (get creative; neither glass nor alcohol are allowed inside the park).