Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands, Fla.- (February 3, 2014) – From Friday, Feb. 28 through Wednesday, March 26, fans will flock to Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands to take in the Tampa Bay Rays’ Spring Training in the warm rays of Florida sunshine. The combination of great baseball, warm climate, varied attractions for young and old, and affordability make a visit to the area a home run for baseball fans
The state-of-the-art Charlotte Sports Park (www.raysbaseball.com/spring_training) was designed for the fan experience, with great player access and family-friendly touches. For collegiate baseball action, over 40 NCAA Division I & III teams will compete fromFebruary 14 through March 31 in the6th Annual Snowbird Baseball Classic at the Charlotte Sports Park and other ballpark venues throughout the county. For a complete 2014 schedule:www.snowbirdbaseball.com.
To line up a “grand slam” of a Spring Training Florida vacation, outside the stadium visitors can revel in 28 miles of uncrowded beaches, world-class fishing, kayaking/paddle boarding, challenging golf, beautiful nature areas and quirky fun for the entire family. Here are just a few of the ways to enjoy Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands this spring, or anytime:
Head to El Jobean for some fun, funky history. Here, a grand hotel once housed MGM actors for Tarzan serials and feature films. In 1942, daredevil circus artist Leo “Suicide” Simon made it the winter home of circus performers, including the Flying Wallenda Brothers. What remains is a 1920s-era post office that once served as the train station, general store, jail, meeting house, and café. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, The Bean Depot is an off-beat museum/café that serves great food and live music, including bluegrass. Cash only. Being old-school, there’s no website, but for more details, call 941-627-3344.
Tyke’s Triple Play:
Take a buggy tour through the swamp with Babcock Wilderness Adventures (www.babcockwilderness.com). Sightings of alligators, wild turkeys, deer, wild pigs, and Florida Cracker Cattle provide the thrills. A museum is housed in an old movie set used to film the Sean Connery movie "Just Cause." The Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (www.checflorida.org) offers a free Wading Adventure. Use dip nets to find the cool, gross and bizarre: sponges called Dead Man's Fingers, sea cucumbers that eject their stomachs, worms that decorate their own homes, shell cases shaped like ice cream cones and an abundance of fish that are just starting off in life here in nature's nursery. The Peace River Wildlife Center (www.peaceriverwildlifecenter.com), an active wildlife rehabilitation park, offers up-close views of mammals, birds and reptiles that have been orphaned, displaced or injured. There are approximately 120 residents, including a bird that quacks like a duck.
Drive Home the Run:
Rick Treworgy's Muscle Car City Museum(www.musclecarcity.net)displays an unparalleled collection of authentic classic cars, trucks and automotive memorabilia. Well over 200 autos date back to the 1920s, with an impressive lineup of Chevys, Pontiac GTOs, Corvettes, Oldsmobile Cutlass 442s, Chevelles, Camaros and Impalas.
Cruise the Outfield:
The Rays’ spring training home surrounds the state’s second largest harbor. Cruise tour operators offer everything from leisurely sunset cruises or full-day trips to Cayo Costa State Park or Cabbage Key (to enjoy a cheeseburger in paradise). Fishing is bountiful in Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands and Rays players have been known to get in on the action. Dozens of guides are available; a complete list of boating, cruising and charters can be found at www.charlotteharbortravel.com/boating.
Step Up to the Plate:
Port Charlotte has a great variety of dining, including Lock ‘N Key Restaurant and Pub (www.lockandkeyrestaurant.com) for fresh seafood and American fare, conveniently located across from Englewood Beach. Open daily for lunch and dinner. For something sweet, head over to Simply Sweet in Punta Gorda’s Fishermen’s Village (www.fishville.com/restaurants.html)to pick up designer cupcakes, chocolates and more. For upscale dining, River City Grill (www.rivercitygrillpg.com)in Punta Gorda offers locally-produced ingredients and creative cuisine. Rays manager Joe Maddon has been known to visit.Or, grab a bite from the Ravenous Rhino (www.theravenousrhino.com) a food truck serving delicious burgers, sandwiches and daily specialties throughout Charlotte County. Follow them on their social channels, twitter.com/RavRhino or www.facebook.com/rav.rhino, to learn where they’ll be next.
Find the Sweet Spot:
Accommodations vary from quaint tropical motels to new budget-conscious chains to family-friendly resorts, to vacation condo and home rentals. Visitwww.charlotteharbortravel.comto find the perfect place to rest.
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About Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands
Located halfway between Tampa and Naples on the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is a charming collection of nine coastal communities surrounding the state’s second largest harbor. Florida’s premier year-round eco-tourism destination, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands offers a pristine unspoiled beauty that has served as the backdrop for seven major feature films as well as countless memorable vacations. Port Charlotte has been named the top U.S. Best Value Destination for 2014 by trivago, the world’s largest online hotel search site.A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands has been named one of SAIL magazine’s “10 Greatest Places to Sail in the United States,” ranked by Golf Digest as “Third Best Place to Live and Play Golf in America,” and rated by MONEY magazine as one of the “Best Places to Live in the South.” The city of Punta Gorda was named in one of “Top Ten Places to Retire Healthy” by U.S. News & World Report. Englewood was named second of the Top Ten emerging travel destinations in the U.S. by TripAdvisor.com.
The area is served by five airports for travel convenience: The Charlotte County Airport (PDG) with private and charter air service, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), Southwest Florida International Airport, Ft. Myers, (RSW), St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) and Tampa International Airport (TIA).
For information about other area events, activities and attractions, contact the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau, 18500 Murdock Circle, Suite B104, Port Charlotte, FL 33948; 941-743-1900, or call toll free at 1-800-652-6090 for a free Visitor Guide; or visit the website atwww.CharlotteHarborTravel.com.
Jennifer Huber, TMP
Tourism Public Relations Manager
Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau
Charlotte County Administration Building B
18500 Murdock Circle, Suite B104
Port Charlotte, FL 33948
Tel: (941) 743-1900
Fax: (941) 764-4932
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