Tampa resident and history lover Lonnie Herman?s longtime fascination with history has evolved into a broad expertise about the area's vibrant streets where newspapers are printed in three languages. The personable former executive also has the gift of being an evocative storyteller. This convergence of interest and talents resulted in Lonnie's company, Ybor City Historic Walking Tours. The guides' upbeat narration carry small groups down vibrant 7th Avenue with detailed anecdotes that reveal the complex past behind Ybor City's cigar factories, Columbia Restaurant, and the story of the eponymous Vicente Martinez-Ybor, who founded the city as a place to store his statues of himself.
As they flock to the nearby beaches of Clearwater or the nightlife of Tampa, most tourists overlook Dunedin, a pretty burg known for its sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico. But, thanks to the segway-riding guides at Sun Glide Tours, the region’s hidden gem just became much more accessible. Astride their two-wheeled steeds, visitors can explore the Pinellas Trail that cuts through downtown, steering their segways alongside runners, bikers, and the town’s famous rollerblading squirrels.
Dash Around Tours' experienced guides cart up to 14 sightseers to scenic central Florida locales, such as Cocoa Beach, Lake Eola, and Kissimmee, aboard the Dashmobile, a van replete with complimentary food and drinks. During unique expeditions, quirky tour guides take digital pictures for the group's future perusal on the web, as well as dole out their own brand of trivia about central Florida that they admit is more useless than a megaphone at mime school. The tour price includes admission to area attractions, but riders must provide their own change for retail purchases.
Tantalizing Tastes & Tours guides Jerry and Jasmine Bacon shepherd diners through the Fine Dining Tour, introducing palates to the seasonings and styles of four or five handpicked restaurants. Private chauffeurs depart at 6 p.m., driving guests to gourmand gems such as City Fire, at which diners indulge in upscale American fare, and The Nile, whose chef populates a menu with authentic Ethiopian dishes. As journeys roll along, panoramic views of downtown unfold, guides elaborate on places of interest, including Amway Center and City Hall, and rousing games of trivia require guests to consult their noggins to answer questions such as "Is Antarctica actually real?" Drivers will also pick up and drop off residents of other cities for an additional cost, including Kissimmee ($25), Lake Buena Vista ($20), and International Drive ($10). The directors request that guests refrain from wearing shorts, flip-flops, or clown noses on the excursion.
Florida is a state ripe for adventure. Airboats speed across its Everglades, passing by scenic flora and fauna, such as the state's famous American alligators. Elsewhere, a giant Saturn V rocket looms over the Kennedy Space Center, where visitors can learn about NASA, ride a shuttle-launch simulator, or even dine with a real-life astronaut, who may or may not be made of cheese. An astronaut even greets visitors as soon as they arrive, provided they come on one of Gray Line Orlando / Gator Tours' buses.
In business since 1993, Gator Tours became the Orlando branch of the nationally known Gray Line brand in 2006, and has grown to include more than 20 buses that travel across the Sunshine State. The experiences mentioned above are just two of 59 tours that depart from the Orlando area. In addition to simple shuttle service, the company also takes care of full itineraries. Depending on the chosen trip, guides might lead groups through downtown Orlando or historic St. Augustine, home to cobblestone streets and America's oldest schoolhouse. Other times, the company's buses go straight to the ocean, where boats wait to embark on deep-sea fishing trips.