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Plan a summer getaway, right here in Florida.

Posted on Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 12:10 pm


By Peter Covino
A&E Editor
If the long, hot summer in Central Florida is dragging you down, you can escape to the islands, even if it is only for the night as Hemingway’s at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress celebrates summer with an island summer pre-
fixe menu.
Designed by Executive Chef Kenneth Juran, the three-course menu is available in July and August and features many of “Papa’s” seasonal favorites including:
Key Lime Caesar Salad.
Florida Rock Shrimp Chowder with Zellwood sweet corn.
Hemingway’s “Cayo Hueso” Crab Cakes.
Duvall Street Shrimp Scampi featuring jumbo tiger shrimp.
Cuban Criollo Chicken seasoned with a blend of fresh herbs and spices.
Crispy Black Fin Snapper served with a coconut yucca cake.
Key Lime Tart or Peanut Butter Bombe for dessert.
“Our summer menu serves as a showcase for the high quality, fresh ingredients the season delivers,” Juran said, in a release from the Grand Cypress. “Each course was designed to capture the essence of the islands and provide guests with a truly delectable experience.”
Starting at $64 per couple, the three-course Flavors of Summer menu may also be paired with Canvas wines for $89 per couple.
A TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence recipient, Hemingway’s also offers menu selections for young diners, as well seasonal vegetarian and gluten-free options including the Long Boat Key salad, vegetable truffle, pasta roulade, and vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake.
To make the evening more memorable, the resort offers a Florida resident rate, starting at $129 per night. It is available now through Dec. 31.
For a real island experience, Amelia Island, in North Florida, has special room rates and packages coinciding with the upcoming Fifth annual Great Southern Tailgate Cook-off, taking place Aug. 22-23.  Visitors can take advantage of several specials as part of the two-day cook-off event, which features free live entertainment and teams cooking up their best barbecue to win more than $20,000 in prize money and much more.
The following accommodations are offering discounts for the Great Southern Tailgate Cook-off:
•Returning as the host hotel for the event, the Residence Inn by Marriot of Amelia Island is offering special  rates  with many anemities for a fun weekend on the island. Rates are as low as $109, as well as free transportation to and from the Cook-off all weekend, free full hot breakfast, and access to the hotel’s evening socials. Book online at or call 904-277-2440.
•Amelia Hotel will be offering a deal rate for that weekend with rooms starting at $119 for standard rooms.  Prices on other room types will vary, visit
•The Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, the only luxury resort within a two-minute walking distance of the event, is offering visitors a 15 percent discount on all two- or more night stays at the lodge, during the Cook-off weekend. For reservations, call 904-277-4851, or visit
•ERA Fernandina Beach Reality is offering a free night to guests who stay at least three nights (applies to stays that include Friday, Aug.22 or Saturday, Aug. 23). This is valid for selected properties for any new reservations. Rates are subject to all applicable taxes and fees.
•The Fairbanks House is offering a Cook-off package that includes 15 percent off three nights in any room, or a fourth night free, as well as free bottle of Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and bag of Southern Slush Mix. Guests will also be treated to gourmet breakfasts and evening social hours with adult beverages and hors d’oeuvres. This offer is available for new bookings only, may not be combined with any other offers, and must be booked online. Mention code STC14 when making your reservation.
•The Hoyt House Cook-off package includes two free tickets to the cook-off and 15 percent off any room. This offer is limited to a two-night minimum stay, and cannot be combined with any other special offer.
•Omni Amelia Island Plantation is offering 15 percent off their best available rate during the Cook-off weekend.  Call 888-261-6161 and reference the promotion code “cookoff.” Reservations may also be confirmed online at using the same promotion code.
•The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island welcomes summer with the launch of “Weekday Breakaway” package during the Great Southern Tailgate Cook-off, with $500 in resort credits. This offer is valid weekdays near the Cook-off event: Aug. 17-19 and 24-28. Guests may reserve the three- or more nights “Weekend Breakaway” now through Aug. 28, 2014. For reservations, call 800-241-3333 or visit
Along with the barbecue, musical entertainment during the weekend includes The Dirt Floor Krackers, Swingin’ Medallions, RockIt Fly, and the local Beech Street Blues Band.
For more information about the Great Southern Tailgate Cook-off, enter­tainment lineup and each­ of th­e accommodations offering discounts, visit
There is more island fun south of Central Florida, as in the Florida Keys, as the 18th annual Key West Lobsterfest returns, Aug. 7-10.
The  celebration is all about the  Florida Lobster and all of the events salute the tasty crustacean. It begins following the Aug. 6 start of the Florida Keys lobster season.
Known as spiny lobsters, the Keys’ clawless crustaceans offer sweet and tender meat. Many people prefer them steamed with melted butter, while others enjoy their lobster baked and stuffed, blended into a creamy bisque or chilled in crisp salads.
The festivities kick off at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, with a lobster boil at the Sunset Tiki Bar & Grille, 617 Front St. As well as lobster, the feast also includes shrimp, andouille sausage, corn on the cob and new potatoes. Other attractions include live entertainment and libation specials.
Friday night’s schedule features a lively Duval Crawl with more than a dozen featured bars, plus a jammin’ party at Rick’s/Durty Harry’s Entertainment Complex, 202 Duval St.
The festival’s undisputed highlight is the Key West Lobsterfest Street Fair, set for noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, in the 100 through 500 blocks of Duval.
Lobster lovers can sample offerings ranging from tantalizing appetizers to traditional dinners with all the trimmings. All lobster served will be caught by Keys lobster fishermen, for fresh-off-the-boat flavor, and dishes will be prepared by chefs from leading local restaurants.
Attendees also can browse and buy vendors’ art, crafts and merchandise and rock to the sounds of a free outdoor concert. The music is slated for 1 to 10:30 p.m., with performances by top local and regional acts on a stage at the intersection of Duval and Greene streets.
The festival’s lobster schedule concludes with a Sunday lobster brunch at the DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Key Resort, 3990 S. Roosevelt Blvd. Reservations are required; call 305-293-1818.
Key West Lobsterfest benefits a scholarship fund for Key West High School students.
For more event information go to