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.
Giant oak trees and old-growth flowering camellias surround The Daffodale Estate, a grand Victorian home built in 1897. Those trees create an aura of mystery that matches the puzzling rumors and ghost stories associated with the property. Ghost-hunting teams have visited in the past, documenting paranormal activity with cameras and motion detectors. One of the teams sensed the presence of a ghostly family with a young child. There's also a Civil War?era slave cemetery nearby, and an Indian mound said to date back more than 1,000 years.
Despite its paranormal reputation, the manor is home to more than just ghosts. The spirit of hospitality also permeates the stately house, which hosts outdoor weddings and parties that spread out across three acres of manicured garden space. Inside, a Victorian dining room filled with period furnishings frequently fills with the friendly din of conversation during the house's lively luncheons and tea parties.
The Taste of Thomasville Food Tour is a culinary exploration of the charming, historic town of Thomasville. Covering approximately 1.4 miles over the course of three hours, the tour introduces visitors to delicious foods as a guide entertains them with facts and anecdotes about local history. The tour’s eateries rotate frequently, but past stops have included Jonah’s Fish & Grits, Grassroots Coffee, Moonspin Pizza, and Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop.
There is one entrance to Okenfenokee Swamp. When visiting Stephen C. Foster State Park, you can see spanish moss draped from tall branches, cyprus knees rising out of black waters, and alligators, deer, and herons exploring their native habitat. There are more than 12,000 American Alligators in the swamp. Visitors can see them from boats on their own or on tours of the 402,000-acre refuge. For a more in-depth study, attend a southeastern snake encounter or astronomy session to see more than meets the eye.
Pilot your brain-plane into a four-way collision with history, nature, and wildlife at the Tallahassee Museum, where wild-lovers can wander 52 acres of Florida florae and faunae as it floridly lounges in the state's natural greenhouse atmosphere. Saunter along the Habitat Trail, via elevated boardwalks that allow you to view animals from above without intruding into their habitats and TV-watching habits. In addition to waterfowl, foxes, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and river otters, you’ll catch glimpses of the endangered Florida panther, the state’s official mammal, and the endangered red wolf. Step into the pre-Internet world your parents and older siblings grew up in at Big Bend Farm, an 1880s living farmstead with a restored period farmhouse and kitchen, as well as reconstructions of an outhouse, blacksmith shed, and smokehouse. Historical voyeurs, meanwhile, can peer inside the rear windows of the restored 1850s plantation house of Catherine Murat, George Washington’s great-grandniece, who later became part of French royalty by marrying Prince Achille Murat, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. With a plethora of annual events coming up, such as the upcoming Market Days on Dec. 4 and 5, you’ll have plenty of more stimulating things to do this winter than hibernate and alphabetize your action figures.