The Renaissance of the Baltimore Harbor


Much has changed since 1608 when John Smith first explored the banks of the Patapsco River, whose tidal portion forms Baltimore's harbor and flows into the Chesapeake Bay. From trading posts dotting the shores rose a thriving industrial giant in the 18th, 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. Along the way, the region defeated the British, ignited the Civil War, and was an international leader in shipbuilding, manufacturing and oystering. More recently, one of Baltimore's most famous sons, Olympian Michael Phelps, showed the world just what a local boy could do in the water.

Today, Baltimore's storied waterfront and its eclectic, historic neighborhoods are enjoying a renaissance.

Whatever your interest when anchored fine dining and shopping, museums and culture, urban adventures and more Charm City has it all. The nickname hails from a 1970's marketing gimmick of distributing literal charms at various Baltimore landmarks. The campaign's tchotchkes are long gone, but the name has stuck, a fitting moniker for a region known for its friendliness and unique charm.

Everything Old is New Again on the Baltimore Harbor

Sure, Baltimore's most famous waterfront locale, the Inner Harbor, is approaching middle age its marketplace, National Aquarium, and Maryland Science Center opened in 1980 but it's aging gracefully. The Harborplace Pavilions are getting facelifts this year. The National Aquarium's newer exhibits, including Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes and the Living Shoreline add to the more than 20,000 species that call the state-of-the-art marine center home. Pier Six Pavilion summer concerts continue to draw national acts.

There are several places where history is permanently docked at the Inner Harbor. The restored USS Constellation, the last all-sail ship of the U.S. Navy, welcomes visitors. The storied tall ship was launched in 1797 from the nearby Harris Creek Shipyard in Fells Point. If you're game for some actual stargazing after the USS Constellation, take a short walk to the nearby Maryland Science Center's Observatory. The U.S. Coast Guards' lightship Chesapeake, docked near the National Aquarium alongside the USS Torsk, a Naval submarine, and the USCGC Taney, the last ship floating that fought at Pearl Harbor, all welcome visitors.

Twenty years ago, Harbor East was a ghost town of vacant warehouses, just a stretch of waterfront and streets to pass through on the way from the Inner Harbor to Fells Point. Today, it boasts great shopping, dining, the Four Seasons Hotel and the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, as well as Legg Mason's headquarters. Shop at Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, Warby Parker and other national retailers, including the homegrown Under Armour Brand House. Baltimore boutiques such as the fashionista-favorite Sassanova and Curiosity are for high-end home goods.

Harbor East's revitalization means several options for a memorable meal, beginning with the venerable Charleston where award-winning chef Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman elevate Southern fare to an artform. Or try the Four Seasons' dining options: Azumi, Wit & Wisdom Tavern, the Loch Bar and The Bygone. After a meal at Italian chophouse Tagliata, retire to The Elk Room, with a speakeasy-vibe, for live music, cigars and venison tartare.

Baltimore's waterfront communities have long been home to generations of Polish-Americans and other ethnic groups. This Polish heritage is memorialized in Harbor East's National Katyń Memorial, a massive, 44-foot statue erected in remembrance of the victims of the 1940 Katyń massacre of Polish nationals. The waterfront's many restaurants and cafes celebrate this ethnic heritage from Little Italy's fare to Sophia's Place in Fells Point.

President Street Station, between Inner Harbor and Harbor East and now the Baltimore Civil War Museum, has seen its share of history. The Maryland-born abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass escaped north via train, disguised as a sailor with papers claiming he was a free black seaman. President Abraham Lincoln traveled through Baltimore via the station's secret passageway, clandestine maneuvers required by the first bloodshed of the Civil War in April of 1861.

The View from the Water

Baltimore offers several outstanding marina options, and thanks to the city's expanded water taxi service, it's easy to explore the waterfront neighborhoods by boat, day or evening. The view from on deck is particularly stunning at night. Don't miss the lit-up Domino Sugars sign the Eiffel Tower of Baltimore.

Step off the pier onto the cobbled streets of Fells Point and step back into the quaintness of an 18th-century shipping town, complete with taverns and cobblestoned streets - and decidedly 21st-century coffee bars, antique shops and funky, one-of-a-kind boutiques. Named for William Fell, the Quaker Englishman who founded a shipbuilding company in 1726 that built the worldfamous Baltimore Clippers, Fells Point embraces its nautical past and is among the best preserved historic neighborhoods in the country.

The newest jewel of the Fells Point waterfront is the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, a boutique hotel with 128 luxury guest rooms and suites and amenities galore, including a private dock, cabana-lined pool with panoramic views, the Rec Pier Chop House, and more. Located in the artfully restored Baltimore Recreation Pier, the Pendry's pedigree is quintessential Baltimore.

Any stroll through the streets of Fells Point should include a trip to the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Meyer Maritime Park. Located in one of the city's oldest existing waterfront industrial buildings, it's also the site of the country's first African-American owned and operated shipyard. The museum celebrates African-American maritime history and the life of Isaac Meyer, a free-born African-American. The museum is also home of the Living Classrooms Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Baltimore's historic ships. Outside the museum is an imposing, much-larger-thanlife bust of Douglass. As a slave and young boy in Fells Point, Douglass learned to read and write. Later, he worked on the docks before fleeing north to freedom in 1838.

Grab a water taxi to Locust Point, home to some of the oldest rowhouses in the city, Under Armour's headquarters, and Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. It was here that prominent Washington, D.C., lawyer and Baltimore-born Francis Scott Key, aboard the British flagship HMS Torrant to negotiate a prisoner exchange, watched the British bombard Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in September of 1814.

The poem he penned, while watching the rockets' red glare was later set to music and became "The Star-Spangled Banner". Travel north to Baltimore's elegant Mt. Vernon neighborhood to the Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library to view the oldest known surviving manuscript of "The Star-Spangled Banner". If you visit Camden Yards for a Baltimore Orioles' game, sing it like a local and shout "O" during the anthem's "Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave".

Federal Hill, near the Inner Harbor, is a haven for history buffs, retail fans, and those with an appetite. Filled with galleries, boutiques, cafes and live-music venues, it's also home to Cross Street Market, an indoor food market in the heart of Federal Hill. It is part of the city's public market system, the oldest continuously operating public market system in the U.S. It's a great joint to grab barbecue, a deli sandwich, and naturally, a crab cake.

The neighborhood gets its name from the imposing hill overlooking the Inner Harbor. Long a gathering place, the hill got its name from the ending point of a rousing parade in 1789 following the ratification of the new Federal Constitution of the United States. The cannon, which sits atop the hill, was placed there in 1861 by Union troops to make clear Maryland's allegiance during the Civil War. Climb to the top for a great view of the water and of the many luxury condominiums being built in the neighborhood.

Whiskey devotees will enjoy a water taxi trip to Port Covington to tour the Sagamore Spirit Distillery and drink in the history of Maryland's Rye Whiskey. Afterwards, enjoy a meal of local fare and sustainably raised Maryland seafood at the Rye Street Tavern. Once a vast railroad terminal with coal, grain and merchandise piers, Port Covington, abandoned 30 years ago is now one of the country's largest urban renewal efforts with its 235-acre, mixed-use development and restored waterfront.

Water taxi's aren't the only way to see the waterfront. Grab a bottle of wine and some Maryland oysters and charter a sail aboard Captain H.M. Krentz's restored skipjack. At the turn of the 20th century, nearly 2,000 skipjacks navigated the shallow waters of the Chesapeake to dredge oysters. The single-masted rig was perfect for continuous licks over the Bay's then-many oyster beds. Today, about 30 skipjacks remain with only a few still oystering, the last commercial sail-powered fishing fleet in North America.

If you prefer a stroll, walk the seven-mile Waterfront Promenade from Fort McHenry to the Canton Waterfront. Mostly hugging the shoreline of the waterfront neighborhoods, the paved path meanders past marinas, landmarks, ships and storefronts.

Baltimore's Quirks and Perks

Being quirky is a matter of civic pride in Baltimore. This is, after all, the birthplace of musician Frank Zappa, filmmaker John Waters, literary curmudgeon H.L. Mencken and the Ouija Board. And it was where Edgar Allan Poe chose to finish out his last days.

Embrace the eclectically charming and out-of-the-ordinary at The American Visionary Art Museum in Federal Hill. Dedicated to self-taught outsider art, the museum has a popular outdoor summer film series, Flicks on the Hill.

Little Italy, nestled next to the Inner Harbor and Fells Point neighborhoods, boasts great restaurants and the wonderful Little Italy Open Air Film Festival. Free and open to the public, films are projected onto the wall of Ciao Bella Restaurant in the Da Mimmo Ristorante parking lot. Don't forget to pick up cannolis at Vaccaro's Pastry Shop after a meal at La Scala and a round of bocce ball on La Scala's indoor court.

Brunch on Sunday morning is standard fare when traveling, but Baltimore puts the charm into this culinary chestnut. Stroll the Baltimore Farmer's Market & Bazaar, for a pit beef sandwich, homemade donut, and more. Miss Shirley's in the Inner Harbor puts a crabby twist on all things breakfast-related. The Blue Moon Café, with locations in Federal Hill and Fells Point, serves a self-proclaimed bad-ass breakfast, which includes the not-necessarily- maritime-themed Captain Crunch French Toast.

A trip to Baltimore is not complete without steamed Blue Crabs, especially in late summer when crabs are sweet, heavy and plentiful. Survey a few locals for their favorite crab house and you'll get a dozen different answers. You can't go wrong with steamed crabs from Bo Brooks, Captain James Seafood Palace or Nick's Fish House.


HarborView Marina 410-752-1122

Baltimore Marine Centers at Inner Harbor 410-837-5339

Baltimore Marine Centers at Lighthouse Point 410-675-8888

Crescent Marina at Fells Point 443-510-9341

Henderson's Wharf Marina & Inn 410-732-1049

Baltimore Yacht Basin 410-539-8895

Tidewater Yacht Service 410-625-4992

Harbor East Marina 410-625-1700 Celebrate the grand opening of the marina upon completion of stage two renovations (June 8, 2018).


Sagamore Pendry Baltimore (1715 Thames St.)

Four Seasons Baltimore and Residences (200 International Drive)

The Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel (700 Aliceanna St.)


Light City Baltimore - This three-year-old festival illuminates the waterfront and much of downtown with interactive light displays and live music (April 18-21, 2018).

Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race - The American Visionary Art Museum hosts a land and water race of dozens of human-powered works of art (May 5, 2018).

143rd Preakness Stakes - Part of the Triple Crown, the 143rd Preakness Stakes is held on the third Saturday in May at the Pimilco Race Course (May 19, 2018).

Pier Six Concerts - The 2018 season begins the first week of June at the Inner Harbor music venue. This summer's lineup includes rock, indie bands, jazz and hip-hop. TrawlerFest Baltimore Make your way to Harbor East Marina for PassageMaker's standalone boat show specifically designed for cruising-under-power enthusiasts. Purchase discounted tickets at with promo code: MARINALIFE. (September 26-30, 2018).

Fells Point Fun Festival - Celebrate the festivals 51st year featuring live music and local vendors (October 13-14, 2018).


Baltimore's Water Taxi - Offers stops throughout the waterfront neighborhoods.

Baltimore Bike Share - Download the Baltimore Bike Share app to find rental stations throughout the city.

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Beyond Disney: 10 Cool Family-Friendly Places to Visit on Florida's Coasts


These experiences are all part of a dream vacation to one of Florida’s famous theme parks. But the cool thing is that the Sunshine State offers these same topics as real, hands-on, family-friendly adventures. Here’s a Top 10 to try.

1. St. Augustine Alligator Farm & Zoological Park

Kids who love dinosaurs will love this park. Founded in 1893, some of the oldest and largest alligators are in captivity here. Plus, the Land of Crocodiles exhibit features 24 global species including the African dwarf, rare Nile and familiar North American crocodile.

Beyond crocodiles, “Some visitors like the colorful parrots, others prefer our python cave, the nesting wading birds in our rookery, or our wildlife shows,” says John Brueggen, director.“The more adventurous enjoy zip lining over the animals.”

Where to Dock: Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor

2 .Daytona International Speedway

race cars on the Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway | Credit DIS

The NASCAR season kicks off on February 19, 2023, with The Great American Race – the Daytona 500. However, any day is perfect for a speedway tour. The hour-long tram ride hits the highlights from an infield stop at the start/finish line to a view from high atop the tower seating. At a stop at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, kids can enjoy a wow moment looking at Michael McDowell’s 2021 Daytona 500 victory car.

“The Magic of Lights returns to the Speedway’s World Center of Racing in November through Jan. 1. It’s a dazzling display of more than 1 million sparkling lights and magical scenes, all viewed from the comfort of the guest’s vehicles,” says Russell Branham, Southeast Region director of track communications.

Where to Dock: Daytona Beach Marina

3. Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex

Chat with a real astronaut. Train on high-tech simulators inside the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Go behind the gates of a working spaceflight facility. Experience microgravity like inside the International Space Station. The 42-acre complex on Merritt Island brings to life the U.S. space program’s epic story in an up-close, hands-on way.

“Kennedy Space Center is best known for rocket launches like the historic Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. Now, it’s known for the commercial companies with rocket launches happening almost every other week,” says Rebecca Burgman, senior manager for public relations and communications. The Visitors Complex offers some of the closest public launch viewing locations in the area.  

Where to Dock: Titusville Marina

4. Mel Fisher Treasure Museum

Lift a real gold bar at the famed treasure hunter’s museum in Sebastian, on the Indian River waterfront. “Kids especially like to look, touch and feel the weight of a solid gold bar from the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, the most famous and valuable shipwreck to ever be recovered,” says Nichole Johanson, the museum’s director and Fisher’s granddaughter.

“The bar weighs about five pounds, and you can still see the markings that tell its story like ownership, tax, purity, assayer and weight.” Kids get a fun and educational treasure hunt game to do while exploring the exhibits, with scavenger hunt items and riddles.  

Where to Dock: Sebastian Inlet Marina

5. Countryside Citrus

Children jumping on a "jumping pillow" on a bright sunny day
Courtesy of Countryside Citrus

Oranges are Florida’s top agricultural product, and its freshly squeezed orange juice, soft-serve orange ice cream and orange slushies are some of the kid-friendly draws at this Vero Beach farm. Another is the Fall Festival and Corn Maze in October.

“There are activities such as a jumping pillow, kiddie zip line and air cannon, not to mention the maze and great food offerings,” says Cheryl Roseland, owner-manager. Kids and parents can U-Pick strawberries from the farm’s patch from December to February. Countryside operates its El Sid Taqueria on Ocean Drive in Vero Beach, a more convenient location to marinas for fresh citrus ice cream and slushies.

Where to Dock: Loggerhead Vero Beach Marina

6. Everglades Safari Park

To ride on the wild side, travel less than an hour west of downtown Miami on Route 41, the Tamiami Trail. The chance to take an airboat tour through the Everglades National Park is well worth the time!

An airboat is a flat-bottomed open-air boat with an aircraft-like propeller in the back and a car engine for power that can glide over the waterways and sawgrass of the glades at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. On a half-hour tour, see wildlife, alligators and anhinga birds. Guides make stops to talk about natural and human history, such as how Native Americans used cat tails to make natural gauze.

Where to Dock: Black Point Park & Marina

7. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

The words “under the sea” have a whole new meaning when sight-seeing America’s first undersea park in Key Largo. At 70 nautical miles, it’s a huge natural water park. You can go canoeing and kayaking, fishing and swimming, or choose a glass bottom boat tour, or a scuba and snorkel tour.

“The snorkel tour is an excellent way for families to experience the Park,” says Tim Linafelt, communications manager for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Recreation and Parks. “After a 10-minute coaching session, swimmers can get up close and personal with coral reefs and marine wildlife.” Plan ahead by checking out the park’s new 360-degree coral cam that streams a live feed. Lemon sharks, parrotfish and angelfish have made on-camera appearances.

Where to Dock: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Marina

children snorkeling the shoreline at the Dry Tortugas with crystal clear blue watersu
Dry Tortugas | Credit Yankee Freedom III

8. Dry Tortugas National Park

Play in a 19th century fort in this seven-island park located in the Gulf of Mexico. To get there, book a ride on the Yankee Freedom III, a high-speed catamaran that departs from Key West for the two-hour, one-way trip. Then, have kids watch for Fort Jefferson on approach.

“The enormity of the fort is indescribable. It’s the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere – made with 16 million bricks. It’s fun to explore with its endless halls,” says Piper Smith, VP of marketing for Historic Tours of America. Beside exploring the fort, it’s fun to swim or snorkel around the outside of the moat. The waters are filled with tropical fish, lobster, turtles and game fish.

Where to Dock: Dry Tortugas National Park

9. Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

Sharks, sea turtles and manatees, oh my! These sea creatures star in exhibits at this marine research organization’s aquarium in Sarasota. “Our resident turtles and manatees are much loved, each with its own personality, and they also provide valuable educational opportunities.

For example, green sea turtle, Hang Tough, resides in a specialty rounded exhibit after being blinded in a boat strike. Families can see and understand how Mote biologists care for her while also highlighting the negative impacts of unsafe boating,” says Sean Stover, communications coordinator. Make the visit extra special with an Adopt an Animal Program, which includes everything from sea turtles to sea horses plus jellyfish and octopus.

Where to Dock: Longboat Key Club Moorings

10. Air Force Armament Museum

Florida’s northwest panhandle is a national center for military aviation. Pensacola is called the “Cradle of Naval Aviation” and is the official home of the Blue Angels. One hour east, this museum sits across from Elgin Air Force Base.

Kids whose favorite toys are airplanes will light up at the number of crafts on display during the drive into the grounds. Look for World War II, Korean, Vietnam and Gulf War aircraft, as well as the fastest plane ever built, the SR-71 Blackbird. Inside, please- touch displays include a fighter cockpit simulator.

Where to Dock: Two Georges Marina


palm trees on a minigolf course surrounded by turquoise waters
Courtesy of Fiesta Falls Mini Golf

Playing putt-putt Mini Golf is a ‘must- do’ shore thing on a Florida vacation. Best of all, many courses are near the beach. Lighthouse Cove Mini Golf in Jupiter is one block from the white sands. The two 18-hole courses weave around sea life, waterfalls and boats in a tropical fishing village theme. Play both! A new app lets golfers order drinks without leaving the greens.

Likewise, you can nearly see the sea from Fiesta Falls Mini Golf in St. Augustine. A 60-foot ship is a focal point, plus eight waterfalls make for cool fun. On the west coast near St. Petersburg, the Smugglers Cove Adventure Park in Madeira Beach is 18-holes around a pirate theme. That’s not all. Golf with gators! Win or lose, afterward you can stop to feed live alligators in an educational exhibit.

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Fun at Florida's Boat Shows

Whether You're Buying a Yacht or Not

Two dark grey mega-yachts docked on the water at the boat show
Credit Informa Markets

The twin sets of upward sloping on the superyacht, Thunder, looked to me like stairways to heaven. To say these were only a small part of the eye-candy features of this 164-foot Oceanfast, one of the largest yachts for sale on display at this year’s Miami International Boat Show, says a lot.

Inside, the master suite boasted a ceiling retractable Smart LG TV, chandeliers in the main salon were part of the $8.8 million asking price, and a 22-foot-long crystal blue pool surrounded by sun loungers on the foredeck proved irresistibly inviting on this warm February day.

Best of all to me was the upper deck dining salon and its floor-to-ceiling windows. I could imagine cruising the world and looking out at breathtaking ports from this perch. And it afforded an incredible view of the enormity of the Miami International Boat Show, which is spread out over six downtown locations. Last year, nearly 100,000 attendees walked the docks, and sales were just shy of $1 billion.

I wasn’t in the market for a new boat. Window shop yes; buy no. Still, I wouldn’t miss visiting the Miami Show and many others held in the Sunshine State each year. That’s because these marine events offer so much more.

“Like a festival for boaters, hundreds of exhibits display a variety of vessels, from kayaks to luxury yachts. Food vendors and entertainment attract audiences of all ages. Several large boat manufacturers or brokers host hospitality events on board luxury yachts or in air-conditioned tents, catering to clientele who love to talk about boats,” says Andrew Doole, president of the U.S. Boat Shows division of UK-headquartered Informa Markets, a leading global exhibitions organizer that owns and operates five major Florida shows. “The shows present a way to see the latest in marine products and how to enjoy life on the water.”

Shows Aplenty

Visitors walking the docks at the boat show surrounded by multiple mega-yachts
Credit Informa Markets

Second to Alaska, Florida boasts the most coastline of any U.S. state at 1,350 miles. Add a year-round climate conducive to boating, and it’s easy to see why the marine scene is big here. Each year, the state hosts close to two dozen boat shows. The calendar runs from September to April, corresponding to the top tourism months for visitors from the north.

In September, there’s the three-day Daytona Beach Boat Show, and the Suncoast Boat Show closes out the season in April. In between, Informa hosts its shows: Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October, St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show and Jacksonville Boat Show in January, the Miami show in February, and Palm Beach International Boat Show in March.

“Record-setting attendance at the St. Petersburg and Sarasota shows in the past year now rivals the big shows in Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Miami. In fact, the annual boat show held in downtown St. Petersburg’s waterfront is the second largest event in the city, behind the Firestone Grand Prix in terms of attendance, revenue and logistics,” says Cindy Dobyns, president and owner of AboveWater Public Relations & Marketing, who handles press for the show.

What’s Happening under the Tents?

Exhibitor for "Electrosea" discussing the product with a customer

Beyond boats for sale, you can discover so many things to see, do, eat and drink, toe-tap and clap for at Florida’s boat shows.

One of the most fun sights at the Miami Boat Show was watching a professional flyboarder in action at Pride Park in AquaZone. Standing on a skateboard-size board attached by a hose to a jet ski below that powered the water toy, dual jet streams of water propelled the rider some 15 feet in the air above the 40,000-gallon freshwater pool.

Pros also gave the public a wakeboard experience via a simulator. Crystal Kayaks, Seabobs and Hobie Cats were brands featured for a demo at the Fort Lauderdale Show. In Palm Beach, the intercoastal waterway served as the natural aqua zone. eFoil electric surfboards were an especially big hit.

New last year, the St. Petersburg Boat Show partnered with the Annapolis School of Seamanship to offer one-hour on-water training sessions held multiple times daily. Topics included Women at the Wheel, Basic Boat Operator and a Junior Captains Program. All were free. The only catch is buying tickets ahead of time and pre-registering for the sessions.

Seminars are a sought-out reason to attend boat shows. Every show offers them, and many shows invite local celebrity speakers. A good example is the Jacksonville Show, where last year Captain Tim Altman of HooDoo Sportfishing Charters and founder of the Wahoo Junkies brand gave two talks on wahoo trolling with bait and high-speed trolling.

One of the best-known seminar presenters on Florida’s boat show circuit is Captain Don Dingman, star of the Hook the Future TV show. Dingman hosts interactive fishing clinics full of demos for kids ages four to 16. At the Fort Lauderdale Show, each kid received a free Hook the Future/Carolina Skiff custom rod and reel combo. It shows how boat show seminars can hook the whole family.

Fred’s Shed is worth the cost of admission if you’re a DIY fan. Launched over a decade ago by the Chicago- headquartered National Marine Manufacturers Association, this up close and personal educational experience is held at NMMA events like the Miami Boat Show. Topics range from installing marine electronics to detailing and service and maintenance tips.

Food and entertainment make shows extra festive. There’s no need to leave the fun. On-site at the St. Petersburg show, for example, you can gobble up everything from stone crab claws to Greek gyros, street tacos and wood-fired picanha steak.

The Windward VIP Experience at several shows includes an open bar, wine and spirit tastings, gourmet food such as oysters on the half shell, as well as early access to the show and a shady air-conditioned oasis to sit and relax. Most shows feature live bands with oldies, classic rock and top 40 hits on tap.

View the Boats

A center console passing by a big yacht in front of a house on a canal in Florida

Of course, it’s the boats that float these shows. “All types of watercraft are featured, including fishing boats, cruisers, ski boats, pontoons, inflatables, personal watercraft, and more,” says Erin Johnson, administrative director of the North Florida Marine Association that puts on the annual Jacksonville Show.

Vendors, from national brands to local shops, exhibit and sell all the boating go-withs. There are nearly 100 of these at the Suncoast Boat Show, and more than 1,000 at shows such as in Fort Lauderdale.

Mega and superyachts are here too, just like Thunder. You’ll find the bulk of the 100- to 200-foot-plus vessels at the Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami shows. All it takes is the price of a show ticket to walk the docks and dream.

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Florida's Amazing Creatures Challenge
Sea turtle swimming through coral reef in clear blue waters
Sea Turtle | Credit Matt Botha

“WHAT’S THE DEAL with a flamingo wearing a top hat and puffing on a Cuban cigar or a mustached manatee strumming a guitar at a tiki party?” That’s what many travelers wonder when they come to the Sunshine State.

The answer is rather simple. From beaches and coral reefs to everglades and tropical islands, Florida is home to a diverse array of ecosystems. Toss in a balmy year-round climate, and it’s got habitats that spawn a dazzling display of marine life.

These amazing creatures are so beloved by Floridians that they’ve been integrated into the local pop culture in celebration of the state’s indigenous beasts. Native aquatic creatures are elevated into iconic symbols, reflecting the region’s diversity, unique groove and reverence for the water.


close up view of a flamingo
Flamingo | Credit Pixabay

While you roam around Florida this season, you’ll likely visit the state’s many marine sanctuaries, research centers and protected habitats. But Marinalife also challenges you to join the local fun by finding caricatures, logos and iconic symbols that playfully incorporate these unique creatures into images directed at everyday life.

You’ll discover many of them on sports teams’ logos or mascots, bar napkins, restaurant menus, clothing (shirt, hat, etc.), pool floaties, ads for products, road signs, products in stores, souvenir shop merchandise, glassware, food and beverage labels, boats, flags and more.

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