Staycations: Play Like A Native

Discover the treasure and adventure your hometown has to offer
-by  Kerry Firth
Ok... So you’re one of over a third of the American population who don’t plan on taking a vacation this year because of lack of funds. Well, don’t expect too much sympathy because you just happen to live in a vacation area that people from all over the world aspire to visit.  Take a look around you. The Treasure Coast is overflowing with fun things to do without ever packing a suitcase!  

A Day at the Beach & Under the Water

    Just throw some beach chairs in your trunk, pack a picnic lunch and load the family up in the SUV for a day a the beach. Did you know that the majority of Americans live their entire lives without ever playing in the ocean?      There’s a whole underwater world to be explored through a snorkeling mask. Just a few feet offshore you’ll find schools of fish, crabs, shells and sand dollars. I personally pride myself on being able to retrieve sand dollars off the ocean floor with my toes. Just shuffle your feet in the sand and grab the edge of the sand dollar between the big toe and the index toe. It’s a true test of a Floridian!
    More experienced swimmers can venture out to the reef just about 100 feet offshore where you’ll find coral ledges and a much larger variety of tropical fish. The water depth is about 8-10 feet so make sure you pull a raft or float out with you to rest if needed. You should also have a dive flag with you at all times to alert boaters that there are snorkelers in the water.  Dive down and peek under the ledges. You might just find a lobster! Don't’ touch it unless you have a Florida lobstering license and it’s in lobster season (August 2009 - March 2010) or during the two day mini season (July 29-30 2009).
    Certified scuba divers know that the water clarity is best this time of year. Consult a local dive operator for interesting dive sites and dive boat charters. Make absolutely sure  the tanks, regulators and buoyancy vests have been inspected and overhauled so there are no unexpected failures.

Prefer Being on the Water?

    Hop on board the River Queen tour boat that operates out of Capt. Hiram’s marina in Sebastian.  Relax in shaded comfort while exploring the diverse estuary of the Indian River Lagoon where you’ll likely encounter Dolphin and Manatees.  
Rent a kayak from Kayak’s Etc or Adventure Kayaking in Vero Beach and paddle to the spoil islands or through the maze of winding mangrove tunnels. You can venture out yourself or go on a guided tour where an experienced naturalist will point out local wildlife and fauna.
    Or visit the Manatee Center in Ft. Pierce to learn about the gentle creatures and their habitat without getting wet.

What About Land Lovers?
    Once you’ve had enough of the water, why not pull your old tennis racquet out of the attic, get it restrung at Center Court Tennis Outfitter in Vero and head on over to Vero Beach Tennis Club for a few matches. Don’t worry if you don’t have a buddy to play with, there’s always someone at the court waiting for a new volley partner!
    Summer is the time to play one of the many challenging golf courses in our area without fighting for a tee time.  Stop by Golf Round Up in Vero for the latest in golf bags, apparel and accessories then hit the course to perfect your game.
    St. Lucie County offers a new twist on golf with its challenging 9-hole disc golf course in the Gordy Road Recreation area. Test your disc throwing skills, then fish and canoe in the lake.
    Kids will love spending the evening at Safari Golf  & Games in Vero Beach where they can play miniature golf, practice their swing in the batting cage, test their skill in the arcade and indulge in home made ice cream.  
    Go hiking on one of the many trails in local parks. One of my favorites is Round Island Park, where a short hike over a bridge and around an island brings you to  a lookout tower. Climb it and you’ll have a breathtaking view of the Indian River Lagoon and a ringside seat to a spectacular sunset.

What About Rainy Days?
       We’ve got that covered! Head down to the St. Lucie Power Plant and visit the Energy Encounter.  It’s a free interactive exhibit where kids learn by doing, not just looking! From displays and exhibits that show how electricity is made, to summer fun with perplexing puzzles, the Energy Encounter has activities for all ages!
    Mom and Dad can escape for an evening of live entertainment at the Sunrise Theatre in Ft. Pierce or it’s new smaller venue, the Black Box Theatre. The Vero Beach Museum of Art is featuring a quilt  exhibition this summer chronicling the history of the art quilt movement from 1980 through the present. And Dad will especially enjoy the nation’s only Navy UDT Seal Museum in Ft. Pierce, where the history of the UDT Seals is told through war crafts, artifacts and photos.  
    Adults can test lady luck at the Ft. Pierce Jai Alai Crystal Card Room where 37 tables of poker are open daily. Off Track betting on throughbred, greyhounds, harness racing and Jai-Alai is also held daily.
    The whole family will enjoy the alure and folklore of  treasure buried beneath the sea at Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum in Sebastian. View treasures salvaged from the Atocha and the local 1715 fleet of shipwrecks.  Learn the history of the ill fated fleets and view a working laboratory where new discoveries are being cleaned and processed.

Still Up in the Air About Your “Staycation”?

    Well how about taking a plane 10,000 feet up in the air and then jumping out of it? No where else in Florida can you take a novice tandem jump over the beautiful Sebastian Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll experience breathtakingly beautiful views as you float down through the air. That is, of course, once you catch your breath  after taking that first step off the plane!
    So you want to fly...but not quite that high.  How about taking zip line safari through Florida’s untamed  wilderness? Forever Florida in St. Cloud has the only zipline safari in the state. Just an hour’s drive from the coast takes you to another world of natural steams, wetlands and dense cypress forest. Choose your own guided adventure via zipline, coach or horseback where you might see gators, black bears, and Florida panther.  

There’s Always Shopping

    Let’s not forget the multitude of specialty shops in our area destined to keep the most fervent shopper busy. Select and create one of kind shell and glass creations from Shells and Things or A Bead Above in Vero. Take home a  signature piece of fine jewelry from Leigh and Company Jewelers.  Visit a local farmers market for fresh produce, seafood and arts and crafts.
     Your “Staycation” is the perfect time to go antiquing as the Treasure Coast boasts many quaint antique shops filled with collectibles.  Grant Antique Mall has the area’s largest selection of Highwayman paintings in the area and now’s the time to get your best price on a piece of local history.

So Kick Up Your Heels and Have Fun   

    Excuse the pun but you can literally kick up your heels and learn to dance like the stars at Royal Ballroom Dance Studio in Vero. Take advantage of their introductory lesson package and group dances. It’s great exercise and you’ll be sure to impress your friends next time you hit the dance floor!  
    Let’s not forget Fido. He certainly deserves a Staycation after a year of devoted loyalty. Take him to the Spa Day at Blue Ribbon Grooming where he’ll be pampered, groomed and spoiled!  
    See there’s really no reason to complain about not going away this summer. You have everything you need in your own backyard.  Personally, I’m going to enjoy every minute of my “Staycation” and save my sympathy for those living in Detroit!

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