By Deborah B Woods
SoBe as it is called by its residents, or South Beach Miami for the rest of us, sits between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and includes all of the islands of Miami Beach south of Indian Creek. South Beach Miami's transformation from farmland into the vacation paradise it is today started in the 1910's with the construction of the Collins Bridge making the first land link between mainland Miami and the beaches. In 1926, a hurricane destroyed most of the new area but now there are around 40,000 residents living in South Beach, and many more residences are second vacation homes.
Before Miami Vice hit the television screens in the 1970's South Beach was really a very poor and undesirable area with a shocking crime rate which is no doubt what inspired the subject of Miami Vice! Today however South Beach Miami is a world away from that den of iniquity and is one of the wealthiest, desirable and most prosperous commercial areas favored by celebrities, fashion designers, business tycoons, sports enthusiasts and tourists. Miami offers an all - year - round vacation climate, and even if it does rain - there are countless choices of activities to keep you and your family occupied on your vacation.
South Beach Miami is a major entertainment destination with over 150 nightclubs, countless restaurants, fashion boutiques and hotels making the area popular with both American and international tourists. Here you can choose from boutique luxury hotels, bed and breakfast or budget hostels making the resort available to everyone including students on a budget and budget conscious families can now also enjoy amazing fun packed vacations in safety on South Beach.
Fashionistas and shopping enthusiasts can choose from glorious and unique selections in the Lincoln Road Malls, spanning the beach between 16th Street and 17th Street going in an east-west direction. South Beach Miami is a place where new fashion is showcased and where you can be the first to try, buy and wear it! The shopping malls are just teeming with fashion boutiques, galleries and small intimate restaurants that succumb to all tastes.
Clubbing fans can head for Washington Park and Washington Avenue, one of the best-known and cosmopolitan areas in South Beach. Washington has some of the world's largest and most popular nightclubs including Cameo and Mansion as well as chic shops and boutique hotels. It can be an art gaining admission to the top nightclubs in Miami - you need to practice buttering up the somewhat enthusiastic doormen, and always have a plan B ready for action! You will soon perfect your technique but do be prepared for one or two refusals. Admission costs anything from $20 to over $100 and can include a line requiring several hours of patience to gain entry to the hottest night spots frequented by celebrities.
Spring Break and Easter are very popular times to visit Miami for everyone. Celebrities of all genre come for the International Film Festival, the Winter Music Conference and Fashion Week which all happen in March. This is perhaps where new trends are set for the coming summer season and being here to witness these annual events is a very special and unique experience. Weather is very pleasant in the spring for beach activities, golf, tennis and watersports with temperatures of high twenties and low thirties so families with children can enjoy the beaches without suffering an overdose of sun on their pale winter skin. Ocean Drive is a very popular Spring Break and tourist area which includes Lummus Drive and the famous Pearl and Nikki Beach nightclubs. Gianni Versace lived here - can't be bad! Popular Ocean drive restaurants include News Cafe, Mango's and Clevelander which was featured and made the cool place to be seen in on MTV.
There is a distinct change in North Lake Tahoe come fall. With the summer crowds gone, the region loses its hustle and bustle and instead encourages visitors to enjoy the area at a more leisurely pace.
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in all things Tahoe fall is to get in the thick of it – literally. Hiking and mountain biking trails twist and turn through forests adorned with changing foliage that boasts the full spectrum of yellows from apens trees that make a striking contract against the reigon’s pines.
Visitors can embrace the fall solitude on several of Tahoe’s trails, but a favorite is the famed Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile trail that loops around Lake Tahoe, specifically the Mt. Rose’s Trail off Highway 267. This five to six-mile, roundtrip trail is rated medium in difficutly and has hikers climbing a sandy slope, meandering past a waterfall and wrapping up with picturesque views of the entire Tahoe Basin.
The guided Donner Party Hike, October 13-14, is steeped in foliage and history. Hikers walk the trails of early pioneers and learn about the success of the Stephens Party, the tragic events of the Donner Party and the importance of the transcontinental railroad.
But the changing leaves is just one of many ways to celebrate autumn in North Lake Tahoe. Also gaining steam are a steady stream of festivals geared for all ages.
The Village at Squaw Valley transforms into a miniature Bavaria for the 11th Annual Oktoberfest September 29 with its Bratwurst Toss and plenty of authentic German beer for tasting. Guests can indulge without guilt by participating in the Oktoberfest Run to Squaw, held prior to the event, a 7.9-mile course that travels along the scenic Truckee River from Tahoe City to Squaw Valley.
The Resort at Squaw Creek will host its 2nd Annual Harvest Festival October 5-14 in Olympic Valley. The event features bluegrass music, hayrides, pumpkin painting, pie-eating contest, pumpkin bowling, glow ball golf, autumn-themed spa treatments, a beer garden, live music and a fall artisan craft faire. The property’s Six Peaks Grille keeps with the season by providing a bounty of fall harvest cuisine that includes pumpkin pie and caramel apple martinis along with scallops with pumpkin ravioli.
Lake Tahoe Restaurant Week, October 7-14, also takes advantage of the seasonal produce and offers organic three-course lunches and dinners for $20, $30 or $40/person at historic eateries throughout the region. No copuons or tickets are required to take part.
The Tahoe City Downtown Association hosts the 8th Annual Tahoe City Harvest Festival October 6-20 with a traditional Cobblestone Oktoberfest along with an Uncorked! German Wine Tasting (October 6), Scarecrow Sprint & Stroll with its 5K and 10K runs (October 13), Zombie Pub Craw (October 13), Gatekeeper’s Ghost Walk (October 18) and the Felt-A-Pumpkin Workshp for arts and crafts lovers (October 20).
In Incline Village, the Oktoberfest and Community Fair, October 13, is a perfect occasion for families to get into the fall spirit. Attendees indulge in grilled brats, peruse arts and craft vendor booths and rock out to live music – all at the Village Center.
Spirits of days gone by are summoned to haunt the streets of historic Truckee during the adults-only Historical Haunted Tour October 18-19. The walking tour attracts more than 300 attendees and 60 volunteers and features tales of yore with a memorable and entertaining twist at Truckee’s historic gems and watering holes. The spooky event begins with a glass of wine, interesting characters and a prize-packed raffle at Moody’s.
In Incline Village, the Trails of Treats and Terror, a special event geared for kids, is October 25. Costumed guests follow a trail to different locations that are rated by “fright factor.” In the past, there has been a graveyard gala, pumpkin photos and ghoulish games, dark theatre and haunted halls.
For more information about fall foliage trails, as well as autumnal events in North Lake Tahoe, as well as get connected via social media channels, click to the North Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureaus’ website at www.GoTahoeNorth.com. The site’s Cool Deals tab is updated daily with deals and savings on lodging and activities.
North Lake Tahoe is a 45-minute drive from the Reno Tahoe International Airport, two hours from Sacramento International Airport and just over three hours from San Francisco International Airport. Visitor information centers are located at 100 North Lake Boulevard in Tahoe City and 969 Tahoe Boulevard in Incline Village. The North Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureaus, the Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau and the North Lake Tahoe Chamber/CVB/Resort Association, work together to promote North Lake Tahoe as a premier, year-round destination.
KEY WEST, Florida Keys — More than 40 masquerade contests, themed parties, parades and other spectacles are to challenge the creativity of mask and costume designers during Key West’s Fantasy Fest, scheduled Friday, Oct. 19, through Sunday, Oct. 28.
Held on the subtropical island whose natives are called “conchs,” the festival is themed “A-Conch-Alypse” to spoof an ancient prophecy that states the world will end in December 2012. Participants in events from the family-friendly Pet Masquerade and Parade to the lavish Pretenders in Paradise competition are expected to draw inspiration from the theme for their mask and costume creations.
Doomsday dogs, cataclysmic cats, exotic birds, lizards and other alien species are to invade Key West Wednesday, Oct. 24, during the wacky Pet Masquerade, a costume competition for domestic party animals and their human companions.
Entries typically range from simple pet-and-person duos to multimember animal-and-human ensembles staging choreographed performances. The apocalyptic animal antics are set to begin at 5:30 p.m. overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at the Casa Marina Resort, 1500 Reynolds St.
Judges traditionally award prizes for the top junior contestants, most exotic attire, best theme adaptation, best pet-owner look-alikes and overall winner.
General admission for spectators is free and VIP seating and cocktail packages are available, with proceeds benefiting Lower Keys Friends of Animals.
Fantasy Fest’s most elaborate costume competition is Pretenders in Paradise, set for Thursday, Oct. 25, on the beach at the Pier House Resort, 1 Duval St. Themed “Zombie Nation Vacation,” the gala typically features rapturous revelers wearing huge, lavish costumes adorned with feathers, sequins, unexpected elements and even moving parts.
The entrants entertain the audience with performances, complete with lights and music, lively enough to wake the undead. Cash prizes totaling $10,000 await the winning amateur, professional and group entries.
The preshow begins at 8 p.m. followed by the competition. General admission and VIP dinner packages are available. For information and ticketing, visitwww.pierhouse.com/Special_Events/index.asp.
Key West visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Lavishly decorated floats, costumed characters, bands and elaborately garbed marching groups are to make a splash on Key West’s Duval Street Saturday, Oct. 29, during the Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest Parade. The glittering parade is the traditional highlight of the annual Fantasy Fest masking and costuming celebration, set this year for Friday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 30.
Tens of thousands of spectators are expected to throng Key West’s historic downtown for the parade. Floats and costumes are to showcase the 2011 festival theme of “Aquatic Afrolic,” with organizers encouraging entrants to draw inspiration from real and imagined denizens of the deep, shipwrecked seafarers, mermaids’ mayhem and undersea worlds. Many entries typically include music, moving parts and elements that tower over the crowd.
Standouts in the 2010 parade included a "1600 Insanity Avenue" spoof of politicians' antics, a flock of giant multicolored cuckoos, a quartet of 15-foot-tall walking puppets and a devilish wedding float whose two riders were legally married during the parade.
Fantasy Fest’s 2011 pre-parade activities begin at noon Saturday with the open-air Duval Street Promenade. Promenade vendors are to offer masking and costuming finery and accessories as well as food and libations, while live entertainment adds a high-energy flair to the festival frolic.
At 7 p.m. the parade is scheduled to begin at the intersection of Southard and Whitehead streets. Floats, bands and other parade participants are to travel down Whitehead toward the Gulf of Mexico, turn onto Front Street and then proceed the mile down Duval to the Atlantic Ocean.
Event information: www.fantasyfest.net
The most photographed hotel in South Beach sits directly across from Lummus Park and the beach.
Built in 1939, the Colony Hotel on Ocean Drive is surrounded by shops, nightclubs, and cafes. Guests can borrow beach towels for use at the beach across the street. The hotel's cafe and lounge includes a sushi bar and offers indoor and outdoor dining overlooking bustling Ocean Drive.
Located across the street from the beach, the unique and stylish The Tides South Beach in Miami, Fla., is one of the first stops on the Art Deco District tour. This restored 1936 hotel sits on fashionable Ocean Drive within walking distance of Lincoln Road Mall and Flamingo Park. Guests are one mile from various museums and nightclubs such as Skybar, Mynt and Mansion. Corporate travelers are within walking distance of Universal Music and Sony Music.