Yellow and orange kayaks drift along the protected estuary of Estero Bay. They're maneuvered by small groups of kayakers led by an experienced guide who points out the multitude of wildlife surrounding the group. The certified naturalists pick out the dolphins, manatees, and wild birds as well as impart knowledge about the surrounding eco system.
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Jet Boat Fun LLC rockets groups across the water aboard Hot Tuna, a yellow-painted vessel packing 375 horsepower and specializing in 360-degree spins. A USCG master captain helms all supersonic voyages, which are available in 30-minute jaunts or extended, 60-minute tour that explores Mantanvas Path and San Carlos Island. During rides, passengers hang tight as the boat zigs and zags atop the water's surface, blurring past local sights and defeating dolphins in hotly contested drag races.
On warm afternoons, ocean breezes gallop across the water to rustle the hair of diners seated on the outdoor deck at Big Game Waterfront Grill. Mingling with that refreshing air in the main dining area are the aromas of fresh-caught fish getting fried, hand-tossed pizzas getting baked, and Angus beef burgers getting grilled like a Chevy on the assembly line. Behind both of the two full bars, staff members pour pint glasses of beer and shake cocktails to the tune of sports commentary from dozens of flat-screen TVs displaying the latest from NFL Sunday Ticket, Big Ten Network, and ESPN GamePlan. Between watching plays on the big screen, patrons can keep entertained with pool, corn hole, ping-pong, and arcade games.
It's the southernmost point of the entire United States, approximately 95 miles north of Cuba with a longitude of relaxation and a latitude of party time. Key West is the place where Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams worked on their tans and perhaps wrote some novels, and where Ponce de Leon searched for his fountain of youth. Since people still haven't evolved to grow wings, they often try to get there via the Overseas Highway, where congestion often quickly spoils holiday inertia. Key West Express instead turns the sea into a shimmering freeway to relaxation, often getting the vacation kick-started before feet hit solid ground.
With a fleet of a turbo diesel, jet-propelled vessels, including the 140' Atlanticat Catamaran, the 155' Big Cat Catamaran, and the freshly hatched 170' Key West Express Catamaran, travelers savor smooth sailing along their treks. Riders can nest inside air-conditioned interiors, where bartenders stir up libations and flat-screens make time fly by, or they can gorge on sunshine and views from the outdoor decks. Upon arrival, travelers can use the second half of their round trip to return home at a later date, after they've guzzled their fill of Cuban sandwiches or written a sequel to The Sun Also Rises.
When Gerald Bennett began work as head chef at the InterContinental Hotel in Cleveland, he was accustomed to whipping up dishes for celebrity clientele. But when the royal family of Dubai came to visit and he served them in their opulent suite, he never thought they'd ask him to leave with them as their personal chef. Since returning to the states and stepping into his role as the president of the Private Chef Association, Gerald has worked to bring his gastronomic prowess to the masses through Food Fun Adventure’s classes and tours. He passes along a visible passion for culinary fusion, which shines through in dishes blending French and Thai or American and German influences.
Culinary tours take participants to local sushi houses, steak houses, and bistros, each highlighting specialty dishes. When head chefs come out to greet their visitors, they often divulge culinary secrets and answer questions about curfew hours for free-range ingredients while doling out tapas and other small plates.
In a more hands-on culinary experience, customers gather in classes and learn to refine dishes based on a chosen theme. Using mostly local and organic ingredients in two kitchen classrooms, chefs show students how to craft delicacies such as scallion waffles with orange-zest chicken and tagine-roasted rack of lamb. In one kitchen, which doubles as an art gallery, knives flick through ingredients, and pots clatter at island stations and small burners. The company’s event center, Heaven, fills with chatter as up to 40 pairs of students filter in. Beneath projectors for screening chef demonstrations and documentaries about the life of a paring knife, separate kitchens equipped with ovens and burners fill with the bustle of creation, which gives way to reverent exhalations as patrons finally sample the fruits of their labor.