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Romantic Getaways in Amelia Island Mar 05

My wife and I are big fans of beaches.  There is something about the sand, the sun, and the waves that make for a great place for romantic getaway.  We are always looking for new places and my wife was looking through the internet for hotels close to the beach.  When she was looking, she noticed that there was a Ritz Carlton at Amelia Island near Jacksonville that was beachfront.  She also noticed that there were some great specials running for the Ritz Carlton including daily breakfast for the times we wanted to go.  I had never stayed at a Ritz Carlton before but always heard good things about them from my wife.  We decided that we were going to Amelia Island for our next romantic getaway.

We flew into Jacksonville which was a nice airport.  We were able to use some previous credit from a cancelled flight from Southwest Airlines and some good rates to get down to Jacksonville at a good price.  We rented a car at the airport and headed out toward Amelia Island.  A short 45 minute ride later, we were at the Ritz Carlton.

Right away, I saw what customer service at the Ritz Carlton was all about.  They really understand how to pamper their guests and make the vacation experience memorable.  Whether it is helping you with your bags, recommending places to go, bringing you a cocktail, or just walking by you down the hall, they really make you feel special.  Any request is granted with a smile and the phrase, “It’s my pleasure!” which has become the motto of the Ritz Carlton.  The interesting thing to me was that they really made me believe that it was their pleasure to serve us.  If you ever get the chance, I would highly recommend trying a Ritz Carlton for a romantic getaway.

The Ritz Carlton at Amelia Island is really a nice property.  The rooms are clean and comfortable and many have views of the ocean.  They have a really nice pool adjacent to the ocean.  The pool lounge chairs are set up with tiered views of the pool and the ocean.  They even had a variety of live bands playing music by the pool.  There is a bar and grill at the pool that serves cocktails, soft drinks, and sandwiches.  It is really nice to be lying by the pool, looking at the ocean, while the wait staff brings you cocktails with a smile.

The Ritz also had some excellent dining options.  Salt is a high end gourmet restaurant with expansive ocean views that looked really good and got great reviews.  As part of our hotel package, we had a couple of outstanding breakfasts at Café 4750 including a fabulous breakfast buffet complete with an omelet station and fresh cinnamon rolls.  The restaurant also serves delicious burgers and other lunch fare on the patio overlooking the pool.  We also had a great burger and appetizers at the Eight Burger Bar & Sports Lounge and even got to play a little pool.  The Ritz has live music and dancing every night in the lobby lounge. Finally, they have a fire pit just outside of the lobby lounge with comfortable chairs and great service.  There aren’t many things more romantic than sharing a couple of glasses of wine or cocktails while cuddling next to you sweetie in front of a roaring fire.

We came to Amelia Island for the beach and we weren’t disappointed.  We did spend quite a few hours on the beach right in front of the Ritz laying out on their comfortable lounge chairs, reading a book, and looking at the ocean.  We also enjoyed some long romantic walks along the beach.  We picked up a few sea shells and even saw a few baby sea turtles that were about the size of a silver dollar.  We also enjoyed bodysurfing and just playing in the water to help cool off from the August sun.  We probably spent more time by the ocean than anywhere else which is kind of the norm for us on our romantic getaways.

We primarily stayed on the property at the Ritz but did venture out a few times.  We did go to downtown Fernandina Beach which was about 15 minutes from the hotel.  It is a nice downtown with a variety of shops and restaurants.  We had a fabulous dinner at Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro.  The food was excellent (especially the Seafood Risotto), the atmosphere was pleasant (we sat next to a fireplace), and the service was excellent.

We also spent another afternoon having a lunch / dinner at a really neat bar called Sliders Seaside Bar and Grill.  They had very good live music at the outside tiki bar which was just steps away from the beach.  We really enjoyed our crab burger sandwiches while soaking in the sun and the live music.

Although it isn’t as well know as some other beach towns, Amelia Island has a lot to offer.  They have some very nice resorts with excellent service, good restaurants, and most importantly really nice beaches.  We had a wonderful time and will certainly look to Amelia Island for a future romantic getaway!

Romantic Getaways at Disney’s Hollywood Studios May 25

If you are a couple who loves the movies, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a great place for a romantic getaway.

Once you walk in the park, you think you are inside a movie studio. The streets are designed to look like a movie set and there are actors riding up and down the streets putting on vaudeville type acts.

For those of you who enjoy old movies, you will enjoy the Great Movie Ride. If you are interested in movie making and how special effects are done there are several choices. The Studio Back lot tour starts with a moviemaking show where the audience gets to be the actors and then you hop on a tram to see how special effects are made. The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is a great show to see how stunts are done and the audience gets a chance to get in this one as well. There are movie sets that you can walk through that change with the current movies. If you are interested, there are spectacular sound effects and car stunt shows for your enjoyment.

If you are a big fan of Disney movies, there are some good options for you as well. There is a nice tribute to Walt Disney and also a show on how to do Disney animation. I thought one of the neat things in the animation exhibit is the booth where you get to match your personality with a famous Disney character. Another cool thing is that Hollywood Studios is filled with your favorite animated characters. Meeting and taking a picture with these characters will make you feel like a kid again which is something that my wife and I really look forward to when we plan our romantic getaways.

If you like amusement parks as well as the movies, there are a bunch of movie themed rides to choose from. Star Tours is a fun motion ride for Star Wars fans. Muppet Vision 3-D is a funny show put on by your favorite Muppets. Toy Story Mania is a fun ride for those who like the old style carnival games. For roller coaster fans, the Rock N Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith is an incredibly fast roller coaster with tremendous acceleration and inversions to the driving beat of your Aerosmith favorites. Finally, the Tower of Terror is a fun an exciting ride for fans of the old Twilight Zone TV show and who like experiencing the sensation of free falling.

Finally, you should plan to visit a couple of the shows to complete your romantic getaway. If you enjoy American Idol, there is a show that allows you to experience what it would be like to be at an Idol show. If possible, you should go to the last show of the day so that you can see the best contestants of the day. The Beauty and the Beast show is an abbreviated version of the movie or Broadway show that occurs several times a day and is very entertaining. You should definitely plan to see Fantasmic during your visit. This is a spectacular fireworks and water show featuring your favorite Disney characters. The show is filled with music from your favorite Disney movies and amazing laser light and hydrotechnic effects. The show occurs only at night and is not shown every night, so make sure that you check the show schedule so that you can plan to visit the park on a night when Fantasmic plays.

If you are a fan of movies, Disney animation, and amusement park rides, you should look to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios for your next romantic getaway.

Romantic Restaurant – Emeril’s Orlando May 18

My wife and I enjoy going to romantic restaurants when we go on vacation. We were recently vacationing in Orlando and decided to return to one of our favorite romantic restaurants, Emeril’s Orlando.

The restaurant is located in City Walk which is on the site of Universal Studios Orlando. City Walk is the area between the Islands of Adventure and the Universal Studios Theme Parks. There are several restaurants, live entertainment venues and a little bit of shopping. We actually parked in the valet parking area and Emeril’s validated for two hours of parking.

My wife and I had previously been to Emeril’s about 5 years ago. We then had sat at the chef’s bar where we watched the chefs cook the food. It was really entertaining and an experience that we haven’t forgotten. It is really interesting to watch world class chefs prepare food and they do talk to you while they are cooking. The food was excellent as well.

We elected this time to have a little bit more of a romantic restaurant experience. Emeril’s is a well decorated white tablecloth restaurant with a very nice ambiance. We went for lunch this time and actually got seated with a view of City Walk. It was a nice day and it was kind of fun to people watch the kids walking into the theme parks.

The cuisine is described as Creole-based and we both love Cajun food so we were looking forward to our meal. If you want the experience of Emeril with a little bit less menu options at a reduced price, you can go for lunch, which is what we did. The service at Emeril’s is outstanding. The wait staff works in teams and they seamlessly picked up the service for one another like they were one person.

Our food was outstanding. They had a nice range of food with definite Creole influences. The gumbo was outstanding and they had a nice variety of salads and appetizers for all tastes. The wait staff did an excellent job of helping us with our selections. The entrees were very tasty, unique, and good sized portions. The dessert menu looked really good but we unfortunately were too full from our two courses to have dessert (maybe next time). We definitely enjoyed our romantic restaurant experience at Emeril’s Orlando.

After you leave Emeril’s you have a few choices within City Walk if you want to continue on your romantic experience. If you are a couple who likes to go to dinner and a movie, they have a state of the art theater. If you like live music, they have several different options as well. If you like to dance, they have a dance club. Basically, the advantage of eating at City Walk is that you have a lot of entertainment options after visiting your favorite romantic restaurants. City Walk does have a variety of other restaurants (most of which are themed) but we thought that Emeril’s was the most romantic restaurant of them.

If you are in the Orlando area, we would strongly recommend going to City Walk and Emeril’s for a romantic restaurant experience with some great entertainment options to continue your evening.

Category: Florida, Restaurants  | Tags: ,  | 3 Comments
Romantic Getaways in the Animal Kingdom May 11

Disney World has always been one of our favorite places for a romantic getaway. We like how it makes us feel young and keeps our love fresh. Since we always like to travel to zoos for a romantic getaway we were really excited when Disney created Animal Kingdom because it is a combination of the two.

When you first walk into the park, you walk through an area filled with birds and smaller animals. Then you come upon the tree of life which is a site unto itself due to its size and craftsmanship. It is a great place to take pictures in front of. In the base of the tree of life, there is a great little show called It’s Tough to Be a Bug. It is pretty funny and entertaining.

Our favorite ride in the park is the Kilamanjaro Safari which is located in the Africa section of the park. This is a great ride that is a combination of a ride and a zoo. You get in a jeep and travel throughout the African Savannah where you see Giraffes, Antelopes, Rhinos, Hippos, Elephants, and Lions among other things. At the end of the ride, you can take a walk along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail which is a lot more like a zoo and features animals typically found in Africa.

In the Asia section of the park, you can find the Maharajah Jungle Trek which is a lot like the Pangani trail except it features animals found in Asia. Also in Asia, you will find Expedition Everest which is great for you roller coaster lovers. It seems innocuous to start, like you are going on a train ride up the mountain but then it goes a little haywire but it’s a whole lot of fun.

In the DinoLand U.S.A. section of the park, we enjoy the Dinosaur ride which is based on the movie. It is not really a roller coaster in the normal sense but it does have some twists, turns, and drops while you are surrounded by animated dinosaurs.

We also enjoy the shows at Animal Kingdom. There is a Flights of Wonder show near Asia which is a showcase for birds of prey if you like birds. There is a Finding Nemo stage show that is located between Asia and Dinoland. If you are a fan of the movie, you will probably enjoy the show. Our favorite show is the Festival of the Lion King which is located in Camp Minnie Mickey. We have seen the show numerous times and have even seen The Lion King on Broadway and we still truly enjoy this show. It truly is not to be missed.

There aren’t many great places to eat in the park, but a short trip to the Animal Kingdom Lodge gives you some dining options. The lodge itself is decorated beautifully and is complete with its own version of the African Savannah complete with Giraffes, Zebras, and Antelope. We have always wanted to stay here but I will tell you that it is not cheap. As far as food goes, they have a decent cafeteria type restaurant for lunch and the Jiko and Boma restaurants inside the lodge feature African themed cuisine.

Disney World is a great place for a romantic getaway and the Animal Kingdom is a park that you shouldn’t miss spending with that special someone.

Romantic Getaways in Everglades National Park Mar 02

My wife and I have always enjoyed traveling to National Parks for vacations. We find that being so close to nature can be very romantic. There is nothing quite like taking in a scenic view together and just being in the moment. The first National Park that we ever vacationed to together was the Everglades National Park and it still brings wonderful memories to us today.

The Everglades National Park has two main entrances, one close to Naples and the other closer to Miami. We visited the eastern portion of the park that was closer to Miami and that will be the basis for this blog. If you are interested in other portions of the park, you will want to visit the Everglades National Park website. The best time of year to visit is from November to April to avoid the mosquitoes that overwhelm the park in Summer.

To get to the eastern portion of the park, you can fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale. You will travel to Homestead or Florida City which is just outside the park entrance. There are many mom & pop and chain hotels in these two cities if you are interested in staying close to but not inside the park.

Once you enter the park, we would suggest that you visit the Royal Palm visitor center. At the Royal Palm, you can access the Anhinga Trail boardwalk which is a must to get a good feeling for one of the types of ecosystems in the Everglades. You will also be very likely to see many different types of wildlife including birds as well as alligators congregating in watering holes along the boardwalk. Adjacent to the boardwalk, is the Gumbo Limbo trail which allows you to experience a stroll through a hardwood hammock.

The main park road from the park entrance to the Flamingo Visitor Center travels through eight distinct ecosystems. Some of the highlights of the drive include a dwarf cypress forest and multiple ponds filled with wading birds. There are multiple trails and boardwalks which allow you to visit these areas of the park where you can get out of the car and maybe share a romantic view in a secluded area with that special someone.

We stayed at the campground near the Flamingo Visitor Center which many campsites have views of the bay. My wife and I still fondly remember our campsite where we were able to setup a couple of chairs and watch the sunrise over the bay. After the sun came up, we then enjoyed eating breakfast while watching the many birds flying over the water. There are many hiking and nature trails for you and your sweetheart to find some scenic views and some quiet, romantic moments. At the end of the day, we enjoyed going for a moonlit walk along the bay and then enjoyed cuddling next to each other in our sleeping bags while looking up at the starry sky.

One of the highlights of our trip to the Everglades was a guided sunset cruise that we took from the Flamingo area. The sunset views over the bay were beautiful and we really enjoyed seeing all of the varied species of birds while learning a little about the wildlife and ecosystems found in the Everglades. It was very peaceful, romantic, and relaxing and is something that we would highly recommend doing.

The other highlight of our trip was when we rented a canoe in Flamingo. I had canoed several times before but my wife had never been in one. They gave us a quick instruction and we pushed off in the canoe. We passed alligators, birds, fish, and turtles along the way. We traveled under mangrove trees and saw various ecosystems during our trip. We were alone most of the time and just found ourselves enjoying the sounds and sights that nature provided us.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the Everglades and hope that some of you couples who find being at one with nature romantic, consider traveling to the Everglades National Park.

Romantic Getaways in Panama City Feb 23


When you first think of Panama City and Panama City Beach, you probably don’t think of it as a place for a romantic getaway. Panama City has been known as a popular spring break and summer vacation for college students for years. However, if you know where to go, it can be very romantic. My wife and I spent one of our most romantic weekends ever in Panama City. It was actually where we were engaged to be married and now 12 years later, it always brings back fond memories for us.

Panama City Beach has beautiful beaches. The shoreline is 17 miles long so you should always be able to find your own semi-private spot. The sand is white and powder soft, the water is emerald blue, and there are many water activities available. We traveled from Atlanta both times we vacationed in Panama City and I think many people from Georgia and Alabama do the same.

St. Andrews State Park is a 1260 acre park located on the eastern tip of Panama City Beach. It is well known for its sugar white sands and emerald green waters, and has over one-and-a-half miles of beach on the Gulf of Mexico and Grand Lagoon. Water sports enthusiasts can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and canoeing. It has a campground, pier fishing, hiking trails, or you can take a ferry to Shell Island. Shell Island is a 700 acre park that is rather undeveloped with some of the best shelling around. There aren’t many things more romantic than walking with your sweetheart on the beach collecting seashells!

Across the bay from St. Andrews State Park is the Marriott Bay Point Resort which is where we stayed both visits. The resort is a quiet departure from the touristy section of Panama City Beach. The rooms are tropically decorated with private balconies with beautiful views of the gulf, lagoon, or the resort’s two golf courses. The golf courses are both beautiful and challenging with one of them having water on 17 of the 18 holes.  They have a spa on site if you really want to relax and be pampered.  The Kingfish restaurant is very good and offers a great breakfast buffet and even a champagne brunch on Sundays. The outdoor heated pool is very nice and even has a pool bar that you can swim up to. There is a boardwalk to a private beach with an open-air martini bar on the way to the beach. The beach offers a variety of water sports and also offers trips to Shell Island. Overall, the resort is a nice place to spend some quiet time with that someone special.

Our favorite restaurant in Panama City is Capt. Anderson’s. It is located on the waterfront and offers great seafood and steaks. You can even sit and watch the boats come in with the catch of the day. It is very popular so be prepared to wait in line but at least you will be close to the water while you wait. Some other nice restaurants in Panama City include Boars Head for steaks and The Boatyard for fresh fish and sushi.

Panama City is a great place for a romantic getaway if you know where to look. On the day that I proposed, we enjoyed relaxing by the pool, and even took a Wave Runner from the Marriott through St. Andrew’s Bay. We had a wonderful dinner at Capt. Anderson’s and then went back to the open air bar for some drinks and some live music. I convinced my future wife to join me for a walk on the beach where I recited some poetry and then got down on one knee to propose. I put a ring on her finger and my wife gave me a wonderful and passionate kiss and we have been happily married for over 11 years. Panama City will always be very special to us because it was the place where we began our beautiful life together! We hope that some of you don’t overlook Panama City when you are looking for that next romantic getaway.

Romantic Getaways to Cocoa Beach Feb 09

 

My husband and I recently escaped to the beautiful beaches of Florida. We live in Michigan and this time of year we deal with temperatures in the minus degrees. So when my husband mentioned escaping to mid-70 degree weather I was overjoyed.

Cocoa Beach is a short ride from the Orlando International Airport. Flying into Orlando is one of the cheaper airports to fly into.

I love staying in romantic inns, but they can be costly. An alternative is staying in a condo or timeshare. These places allow you to have a little bit of home while on vacation. It’s fun to eat out at nice restaurants, but my husband and I also enjoying making our breakfast in the mornings. Having a full kitchen is wonderful. We opted for a time share condo at the Ron Jon Resort. Our condo overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. It’s very romantic watching the sunrise over the Atlantic, especially while watching it from your balcony!

If you can’t find a condo or timeshare or would prefer a hotel, there are a great many hotels in the area, many of which are oceanfront. Click on the links below for some good oceanfront hotels.

If you’re a nature lover, don’t miss the Cocoa Beach Kayaking Guided Nature Tour. All the guides are incredible (and girls all the kayaks are tandem, so you can sit back, relax and take in the beautiful scenery while your beau does all the work). You’ll paddle at a leisurely pace along the Thousand Islands of Cocoa Beach. Bring your binoculars to observe the bird life in the most diverse estuaries in the Indian River Lagoon. Don’t forget your camera for your up close and personal view of bottlenose dolphins and the Florida manatees. If you forget your hat, sunglasses or bottled water don’t fret because there provided free of charge.

Another romantic sight seeing tour is Space Coast River Tour on the Blue Dolphin leaving from Merritt Island. It’s a relaxing and enjoyable two hour tour departing through the working Port of Canaveral and into the Banana River to see wildlife. The wildlife ranges from bottlenose dolphins, huge lovable manatees, brown pelican, osprey, endangered bald eagle, great blue heron and many more.

If your really into seeing the endangered Florida manatee and would like to know where to see many of them in one place, please email me and I will send you the directions.

A romantic restaurant not to miss is Milliken’s Reef, it truly has it all. The dining room is very romantic from its white tablecloths, candlelight and piano jazz bar. The ambience is relaxed. The seafood is incredible. You should definitely try their conch. They also have a Tiki bar outside overlooking the water. Milliken’s Tiki Bar has it all: from palm trees to tiki torches, live island music and sand for a dance floor. If you are just looking for good food and not the romantic ambiance, there are many great restaurants in the area including Grills, Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty, and Slow & Low Bar-B-Que.

If you are looking for a room with a great view, a romantic dinner, a relaxing tour on the water looking at wildlife, Cocoa Beach is the place for your next romantic excursion. And by the way, there is nothing more romantic than just walking hand in hand with your sweetheart on the beach! Enjoy your trip!