What’s the Deal:The Alfond Inn, a new boutique hotel in Winter Park, Florida, opened its doors for guests on August 18. Winter Park, which was Florida’s first planned community when it was built in the late 19th century, is located about 30 minutes north of Orlando. It’s known for its lakes, Spanish-Mediterranean style architecture, and brick streets edged with with live oaks and Spanish moss. It’s home to the Morse Museum, which has arguably the finest collection of Tiffany artworks in the world, as well as the esteemed liberal arts institution, Rollins College.
Backstory: The Alfond Inn’s unusual philanthropic and sustainable business model sets it apart. Owned by Rollins College, a private coeducational liberal arts college in Winter Park, The Alfond Inn was built with a $12.5-million grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation. Net operating income from the Inn will endow The Alfond Scholars program. Income will be directed to the fund over the next 25 years or until the endowment principal reaches $50 million, whichever comes later.
Details: The Alfond Inn is a Preferred Boutique Hotel with 112-guest rooms, equipped with complimentary High Speed Wireless Internet Access, iPod docking stations and flat screen televisions. The Inn’s restaurant, Hamilton’s Kitchen, is overseen by Chef J. Christopher Windus, who came from Todd English’s bluezoo. The Alfond Inn is also pet friendly, welcoming dogs in designated pet-friendly rooms and suites. Pets can expect water bowls, a doggy gift basket and signature treats at turndown.
Fine print: Introductory “Welcome Rates” start at $99 per night, based on double occupancy, and are good through September 30, 2013.
There are a handful of museums around the world whose buildings are as creative as the works inside. Add to the list the new Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Architect Yann Weymouth won an international competition to design a building worthy of the surrealist master, and the result is a show-stopper, a dramatic, light-filled showcase for the largest collection of Dalí’s work outside of Spain.
Photos may show the most prominent features of the new Dali, swirling, gridded glass forms on the top and sides, but it is only inside that you can appreciate the full genius of the design. Inspired by the geodesic domes of Buckminster Fuller, who designed the artist’s own museum in Spain, the undulating windows, are made of more than 900 triangular-shaped glass panes, no two alike, infusing the interior with light and offering a uniquely surreal view of St. Petersburg’s waterfront.
The entry through a dim grotto-like space makes it even more striking to emerge into a light- flooded three-story atrium where a central staircase spirals upward. The stairs invite to the galleries, which are located on the third floor, safely above hurricane flood level.
Helilical Staircase, Dali Museum, St Petersburg, Flordia
The $36 million structure, the first designed explicitly for this collection, doubles the space of the original museum. It holds some 2140 pieces, including 96 oil paintings, eight of them master works measuring over five feet. One side of the third floor is devoted to Dali’s paintings, placed in a series of intimate spaces that allow for contemplation. Each of the big master paintings has a gallery to itself. The paintings trace the changes in Dali’s style over the years and include his famous melting watches. Galleries on the opposite side feature changing exhibits, as well as some of Dali’s surreal films and objects such as his iconic lobster telephone.
The museum’s “Avant-Garden” outside is also a playful wonder, with boulder outcroppings, eerie tropical plantings, a “golden rectangle” with multi-color paving and a labyrinth.
The museum is the latest jewel in a city enjoying a spirited revival after decades as a sleepy retirement refuge. The new Dali anchors one end of the expansive waterfront along Tampa Bay, a picturesque landscaped promenade filled with strollers and joggers from daybreak to moonrise. At the other end stands the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, a 1925 landmark whose $93 restoration was the start of the revival that continues throughout the city. Stay here if you can, and ask for a waterfront view.
More changes can be seen all along the waterfront. The Museum of Fine Arts, a fixture here since 1965, expanded in 2008 with an exciting modern wing, also designed by Yann Weymouth. Across the street from the promenade, Beach Drive has grown into a restaurant row with lively sidewalk cafes and cuisines of all kinds. Adding crowds to the scene is the Chihuly Collection, one of the few permanent exhibits of the work of the popular Northwest glass artist Dale Chihuly, which opened in July, 2010.
To be convinced that St. Pete has morphed into a young town, check out the lines waiting to get into rock concerts at the State Theatre on Central or Janus Live on Second Street and look at the many listings for live music in local papers like Creative Loafing, the area’s alternative weekly.
From Dali to downtown, this is definitely not your grandpa’s St. Pete.
Eleanor Berman, a New York freelance writer and award-winning author of a dozen travel guides, has covered 82 countries and all 7 continents. She has written for many national publications, including Travel & Leisure, Ladies’ Home Journal, Diversion, Robb Report, Boston Globe, Atlanta Constitution, Denver Post, Miami Herald, and the New York Daily News. Among her guide book awards are a Lowell Thomas award for Traveling Solo, Thomas Cook Book of the Year for Eyewitness Guide to New York, and Independent Publishers IPPY award, best guide of the year, for New York Neighborhoods.
At the Gulfport Casino Ballroom, where big bands drew huge crowds to Florida’s west coast in the 1930s and 40s, swing is still king.
I discovered the thriving dance scene in the Tampa Bay area in late October during a weeklong trip to St. Petersburg, where by day, we discussed the future of digital journalism at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
Come nightfall, I joined the Tampa Bay swing-dance community, a friendly group of dancers from 18 to 80 that includes college students from the region’s colleges, unemployed construction workers, medical professionals, a few retirees, and a handful of tourists, looking for some fun. Quite welcoming to out-of-town visitors, the dancers move to an eclectic blend of blues and big-band tunes that provides a steady beat for those who love to Lindy Hop or do the sultry dance they call West Coast Swing.
Dancing at Zendah Grotto.
On Sundays, the crowd descends on the Zendah Grotto, a Masonic Hall tucked away on Ohio Avenue, just off Air Cargo Road by Tampa International Airport. Tuesdays you’ll walk along the cobblestone streets of Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood to dance at the historic Don Vicente Inn. Come Wednesday, it’s the Gulfport Casino Ballroom,
I showed up for this year’s Halloween dance as a journalist in a T-shirt that proclaimed, “Trust me. I’m a reporter.” In one corner, a fearsome Dracula danced with the leather-clad Catwoman while a deranged Mad Hatter eyed an angel with wings and a halo suspended over her shoulder-length blonde locks. Dance partners I’d met in Tampa welcomed me to Gulfport like an old friend. I’d found home for a week.
I had a rental car, so driving to these dance halls from downtown St. Pete was a breeze – a half-hour to Tampa and 15-minutes to Gulfport. The car helped me explore the local beaches as well.
The Gulf of Mexico was crystal clear one evening when we drove out to St. Pete Beach to watch the sunset, and take a dip. We parked at the Don Cesar, the landmark pink palace that greets you as you arrive over the causeway. After a day listening about the digital transformation of American media, the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico were a welcome respite as I swam along the shore.
After drying off, I joined a dozen colleagues for dinner at the Don Cesar’s Sea Porch Café for a grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich, plantain chips and zesty pineapple guacamole, and a savory Asian pear tart for dessert.
The next morning, I was off to Fort DeSoto Park, that spit of preserved land off the Pinnelas Bayway, where cyclists were getting in their miles before the sun rose, and the predawn light streaked the early morning sky as the sun rose over the Skyway Bridge. Sandpipers scurried along the sand, a great blue heron dipped his beak into the warm waters, looking for breakfast, and light streaked across the morning sky, announcing another hot, humid day in Florida.
The new Salvador Dali Museum
St. Petersburg tourism officials are looking forward to January 11, when the new Salvador Dali Museum will open on the city’s waterfront. The new museum, with its wraparound glass and internal spiral staircase, will provide exciting architectural complements to Dali’s surrealist works, which have attracted hundreds of thousands of art lovers to the Dali Museum on Third Street since opening in 1982.
In late October, however, eyes were focused on weather reports from the Midwest, then getting hammered by an autumn snowstorm. The mighty Tampa Bay tourist industry was gearing up for the winter season, and working to dispel fears that petroleum from the BP oil spill had washed up on the shores of Florida’s west coast.
“This blizzard could be good,” said Tom Prados, a bartender at Cervice, the popular tapas restaurant on Beach Drive in downtown St. Pete. “Maybe this will start off our season a little earlier.”
David McKay Wilson has written on travel over the past 30 years as a freelance journalist, with his travel stories appearing in The Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Courant, New Haven Advocate, and Gannett News Service. An avid cyclist and skier, Wilson enjoys vacationing in the mountains and by the sea. His articles on public affairs have appeared regularly in The New York Times. He’s currently the nation’s top freelance writer for university alumni magazines, with his work appearing in publications at 81 colleges and universities, including Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown and the University of Chicago.
Our two-night “Golf Getaway for Two” at Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club in Aventura, Florida has just ended. This prize is for a two-night stay in a Fairmont Golf View room included a round of golf for two and a group golf clinic at Fairmont Turnberry Isle in Aventura, Florida.
Pueblo Bonito Pacifica
But the good news is that our latest contest is a three-night “Getaway for Two” at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Resort & Spa in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This prize is for a three-night stay at the luxury all-inclusive Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Resort & Spa. So enter daily for a chance to win!
THE DEAL: A special 15% off discount on a stay at the Trump International Beach Resort through the end of January 2011 for readers of Everett Potter’s Travel Report.
WHAT’S THE DEAL: Located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale in the enclave of Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, Trump International Beach Resort is a lavish oceanfront oasis on 10 acres, complete with its own private and pristine beach and delightful grotto-style pool complex. A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, the Trump International offers 390 oversized guest rooms and suites, each with a private balcony and spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean or Intracoastal Waterway. There are two restaurants, three lounges, tennis courts and business center, along with the Aquanox Spa.
DETAILS: To get your 15% discount, click here. Remember, you must click on “Corporate Rates” and use the rate code “Potter”.
Co-founders of the non-profit
Bike Florida, Linda Crider and Herb Hiller have
spent the past 30 years leading the Florida biking movement. This past October,
they launched their first long-distance bike tour, a 260-mile weeklong jaunt
that starts and ends in Palatka on the St. John’s River. You’ll cruise on backroads to
America’s oldest city,
Saint Augustine, the Merritt
Island and Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuges, state parks, and
along the Atlantic Ocean, with numerous beaches
to stop and rest. All tours are fully supported with luggage-carrying vehicles,
on-road guides, maps, overnights in B&Bs, breakfasts, dinners, and
naturalist-led programs. Hiller is a longtime travel writer who specializes in
few know this state better than him. Cost is $1,250 per person and the tours are
available fall, winter, and spring. Bike Florida.
WHAT'S THE DEAL? Get 50% off a second guest on select travel dates between January 8, 2010 and October 29, 2010, when accompanying one full paying adult. The participating resorts are Buccaneer s Creek, La Caravelle, Punta Cana and Turkoise in the Caribbean; Columbus Isle in the Bahamas; Cancun Yucatan and Ixtapa Pacific in Mexico; the Sandpiper in Florida.
View from a condo on the Big Island, Hawaii. Courtesy of HomeAway.
Whether you’re planning a week on Sanibel, a getaway to Vail or a sun-filled sojourn in the Caribbean, Hawaii or Mexico this winter, there’s probably never been a better time to find a great deal on a rental condo.