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.
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.
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.
Fresh Spirit Adventures offers hiking and kayaking excursions in five tranquil locations: Lofton Creek, Eagans Creek, Edwards Creek, Eagans Greenway, and Cumberland Island. Expert guides lead participants through watery channels and wetlands abounding with birds, fish, and even the occasional dolphin.
The Amelia Island Museum of History is the fortuitous result of circumstance. In 1975, a committee from the Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society gathered to found a history museum for Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island. Meanwhile, local collector William Decker was studiously acquiring historical documents and artifacts from the area—a lot whose pieces numbered in the thousands. When Decker died, the collection passed on to his son, a noted altruist, and just like that the Amelia Island Museum had its bones.
Today, the museum's exhibits examine local culture of the Timucua Native American tribe, Spanish and French explorers, pirates, and Victorian-era residents. Curators have assembled the Women of the Port photography display to highlight women working in the local maritime industry.
Museum guides are not restricted to the grounds, and often helm tours of the island's haunted locales, historic Centre Street, and Fernandina Beach's north end—with a focus on history from the mid-18th to 19th centuries.