Though they're certainly adept at standing still, buildings and monuments present their own set of challenges for people trying to take pictures of them. To surmount these complications, the professional photographers at ShutterGuide set out on two-hour walking tours, teaching groups how to best frame the landmarks on their route. For each site, they demonstrate a different camera technique that suits the landscape, such as adjusting the composition or keeping photo-bombing statues out of the frame. Guests can capture snapshots with nearly any type of lens—even the one on their smartphone.
The tours cover photography topics from lighting to metering and depth of field, but they're also a lesson in history. During the walk, guides dole out trivia on the city's past. They take a maximum of eight people in every group and accommodate aspiring shutterbugs of all skill levels.
Ripley's Red Train Tours range from daily explorations of the city to nightly supernatural adventures. Guests can get on and off the open-air Red Train Trolley anytime from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. as it stops at spots including San Sebastian Winery, Mission Nombre de Dios, and the oldest house. Alternately, they can embark on a Ghost Train Adventure to explore the city at night armed with an EMF Ghost-Meter. Other tours include seasonal Sunset Tours that take advantage of the long days of summer, the bay front’s cooler temperatures, and a recent peace treaty signed by the mayor of St. Augustine and the local merfolk. There are also Black History Tours that showcase local spots that were important in the Civil Rights Movement, including Zora Neale Hurston’s former residence and the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 arrest.
Sailing smoothly since its maiden voyage last fall, the 155-foot Jacks or Better Casino harbors more than 180 ticket-operated slot machines, which allow bettors to digitally select the stake of each spin (from $.01 to $25). Chomp chicken tenders ($5) or a hot dog ($3) and examine the table games found on deck, featuring blackjack, craps, roulette, three-card poker, and baccarat ($5 to $1,000 limits), or place a wager on the ship's virtual sportsbook, which supplies betting options for collegiate and professional contests across the globe.
Standing still in a cloud of free-flying butterflies, exploring the depths of a limestone cave, and gazing at the 14-foot bones of a 16,000-year-old Columbian mammoth skeleton?visitors can do all of this in just one afternoon at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Since starting in 1891 as a professor?s teaching collection of fossils, minerals, and human anatomy models, the museum has transformed into the home of more than 40 million specimens, creating a library of life that features one of the world?s largest collections of butterflies and moths.
Reflecting the museum?s impressive collection of winged beauties, some of its exhibits focus on the butterflies and moths that, unlike humans, can survive long flights without eating a single package of peanuts. At the Butterfly Rainforest, more than 1,000 butterflies from 60 to 80 species take to the air among tropical trees, orchids, bromeliads, and waterfalls cascading into a pond that bustles with fish and turtles. Feeding stations with freshly cut fruit dot the 6,400-square-foot screened enclosure, letting guests get up close as the butterflies feast. Live butterfly releases daily at 2 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. let onlookers watch them fly into an outdoor butterfly rainforest, and among the indoor butterfly exhibits, curious audiences can peer into a rearing lab where staff unpack and sort newly arrived pupae.
Rounding out the museum?s focus on Floridian biosystems, the Northwest Florida: Waterways & Wildlife exhibit invites visitors to wander through a full-scale recreation of a hammock forest, and the South Florida exhibit takes guests down the peninsula with a mangrove boardwalk and a palm-thatched Calusa leader?s house. The museum's internationally acclaimed fossil collection includes highlights such as "shark jaw row," extinction dioramas, and full skeletal mounts and sculptures. Meanwhile, outside, petals unfurl in the wildflower and butterfly garden.
High-profile destinations often cite their high ratings on TripAdvisor, which named e2ride bike tours Jacksonville?s No. 1 attraction. However, few boast that they were highly rated by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her iconic novel, Uncle Tom?s Cabin, is credited with helping to ignite the Civil War, but most of her opinions on travel have been lost to the ages?except on the company?s historical bike tour of Olde Mandarin. As the tour group winds past the lush area?s museums and public parks, the tour guide notes that Stowe dubbed the area ?a tropical paradise.?
On the company?s other tours, guides offer equally juicy historical tidbits, such as that Riverside-Avondale was originally only occupied by just two homeowners or that Truman Capote vacationed in Springfield. As they learn about the past, groups cycle down present-day roads lined with homes in styles ranging from Tudor and Georgian to Star Warsian.
The water-adventure lovers at Crazy Fish have expanded their waterfront activity arsenal with an airboat, taking six-to-eight gleeful guests on a one-hour guided tour with the captivating Captain Hurricane Dave. After pushing off in a bright red boat propelled by Paul Bunyan's desk fan, Captain Dave takes groups of up to eight airboat adorers on a trek through the waters, pointing out alligators, porpoises, manatees, and alligator-impersonating marsh birds along the way. Scenic views of the vibrant intracoastal waterway and the occasional eagle sighting thrill turf-dwellers and seafarers alike on this air-powered voyage.