DARNELL MAHONE - Bella Group Funding, Owner
"My favorite destination is Destin, FL. My favorite activity is seeing how long I can keep my feet up on a coffee table outside, while drinking a beer! Hard work!"
Known for its Gulf beaches and many golf courses, it is a favorite in our beautiful panhandle. It shows off emerald green waters, and has graciously blossomed as the "World's Luckiest Fishing Village". Destin is picturesque with white-sugar sand beaches made of finely ground quartz crystal! Some of the must see spots are Crab Island, where you may find boats from one of the largest fishing vessel fleet in Florida; Baytowne Wharf, Harborwalk Village and Norriego Point. Climate wise, the average high ranges between 61-89 degrees, making it fun to charter fishing vessels from the harbor or simply stroll onto the beach from one of 12 beach access points.
From South Orlando - an easy just over 6 hour drive, via Turnpike to I-75, then to I-10, and finally FL-285 South.
Tip - For great water views, music and fresh seafood - Boshamps Oyster House. Make sure you plan accordingly, as there is always a wait - late lunch or before 5pm dinner may be best! Yes - the food is that good!
ANNA TANZILLA - Camaraderie Foundation, Chief Operating Officer
"That is easy! GATLINBURG. My daughter and I went nearly every year when she was on her high school speech team and then again when we judged tournaments. It is a great mixture of tourist attractions and the mountains. We never missed going to the Pancake Pantry for breakfast."
Did someone say pancakes? Gatlinburg is known as a gateway to the roughly 520,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is family friendly, yet it makes for a perfect romantic getaway too.
Family fun - Take the little ones to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, where they can get up close and personal with all of their favorite aquatic animals. If they prefer speed, race go karts at "The Track" has its very own Rookie Karts and Kiddie Karts where your little one can take the wheel as they race around.
Couples - Plenty of tasting of the adult kind! From Sugarlands Distilling Company, to Ole Smoky Moonshine, to homemade wines, you'll sure find a match to your palate.
From South Orlando - just under 10 hours to drive via Turnpike to I-75 to US-23 N.
Tip - There is a 1.5 hour, non-stop flight service from Sanford International Airport to Knoxville Tennessee.
MAYTEL SORONDO BONHAM - Law Office of Sorondo Bonham, Estate Planning & Family Mediation Attorney
CRYSTAL RIVER, FL
"I absolutely love Crystal River on the West Coast of Florida. For at least 12 years, we go every summer scalloping and it is like an Easter egg hunt underwater."
Wait a second - that sounds like too much fun! Crystal River is also home to hundreds of gentle mammals that you may swim with - manatees. Crystal River is quirky and small enough to be relaxing, yet there's amazing seafood, nearby beaches, and so much to do for just the perfect short visit. It is popular among scuba divers, and if you are looking to get certified yourself, you are in luck! You will also enjoy Three Sisters Springs, that you can enjoy from the boardwalk or paddle in on a kayak or paddleboard. Leave enough time for a stop in Homosassa, and take in all off the beaten path gems!
From South Orlando - Approximately 1 hr 45 minutes, via the Turnpike to FL-44 West.
Tip - For a unique New Orleans style Seafood dining experience, check out Cajun Jimmy's Seafood Seller & Cafe, where you can get 50 Cedar Key Little Neck Clams for only $10 and a pound of Crawfish for less than $10 + beignets. Seriously.
CHAD MAALI - Contributing Photographer, Manhattan Bridge Photo @otownchad
NEW YORK CITY, NY
"That’s a loaded question. I have so many favorite spots. Depends on my mood. But, NY is my pick. It always has something to do and great food. Plus, I can just explore and take amazing photos."
Can't go wrong in New York City. Whether you are traveling for a quick shopping trip at the Fashion District, or taking in a heated game of baseball, NYC is the perfect home to immerse yourself in culture, the best pizza in the world, and fabulous Broadway theater, expected to return at full capacity by September 14th.
From South Orlando - Approx. 2 hr. 40 min daily flights from MCO, serving 3 different airports to NYC - La Guardia (LGA), Kennedy (JFK), + Newark (EWR)
Tip - If exploring the city for the first time, save 40%+ with the CityPASS at citypass.com/new-york. It will give you access to 6 top must-do's, like the Empire State Building + Statue of Liberty + the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. If traveling with kids, we recommend a day at the Metropolitan Museum, and follow along the book, Lost In The Museum, A Seek-and-Find Adventure In The Met. Your kids (and you) will ove this interactive and learning experience!
DARNICKA KOSKEY - Koskey's Virtuous Cleaning, CEO
THE BEACHES, FL
"The beach. Lol. This is the first year that I wasn’t a competitive traveling mom, so I’m starting my favorite places now. I’ve never really had a vacation without my children being the reason for it."
We are going to have to pick a beach for you! We know you like all things themish, fun, unique and colorful, so how about staying at a cool tiny house in your own private Sarasota Island - and just 3 minutes from Siesta Key? Yup - now available on AirBnB. Siesta Key Beach's sand is 99% quartz, making it one of the most photographed beaches in Florida.
From South Orlando - I-4 to I-75 South to State Hwy 758, in just over 2.5 hours.
Tip - Want your own private floating tiki bar for a tour? Check out Low Tide Tours for a daytime private charter. There are plenty of Siesta Key Village private trolleys to take you to their location at Turtle Beach in Sarasota.
DENISE FOSGREEN - Contributing Writer + Regenerative Sport, Spine & Spa, Sales & Marketing Ninja
CINQUE TERRE, ITALY
"It's Italy. The food, wine, culture, history and gorgeous men! Lol."
Cinque Terre (Five Towns) is a collection of fishing villages, high in the Italian Riviera in the Liguria Region. So stunning, in 1997 it was recognized by Unesco Mankind's World Heritage. A refreshing and hospitable coastline, here you will be witness to ample terraces harvesting their own grapes and olives, on rugged and steep cliffs. Quite a mesmerizing site!
From South Orlando - Flights from MCO to Genoa (GOA) approx. 15.5 - 20 hours. Then, just under 2 hour scenic drive to Cinque Terre, via A12, then the E80.
Tip - The pesto sauce is this region's specialty and fame. Also, pack your hiking boots for incredibly accessible easy cliffside hiking trails. Your lenses will appreciate the unique village views and sweeping sea vistas. Wait for us in town Denise, and we'll celebrate with Chianti!