Book Lover’s Guide to Fort Myers & Sanibel
When traveling to Fort Myers, Florida, visitors can transport themselves into the setting of their favorite books, allowing them to feel like they’re a part of their favorite stories. Free from the sky-high towers that line much of Florida's coast, Sanibel and Captiva have a long history as a retreat for artists looking for solitude and inspiration from nature. In this book lover’s paradise, visitors will be inspired by the work of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Randy Wayne White and more, who have not only taken up residence in the destination, but also based novels on the many attributes of the destination.
Below is a book lover’s guide to visiting Fort Myers’ islands, beaches and neighborhoods..
Known as the "Seashell Capital of the World," Sanibel Island's shell-lined beaches and laid-back lifestyle served as the inspiration for author Anne Morrow Lindbergh's 1955 novel Gift from the Sea. A profound work reflecting on the lives of modern American women, Lindbergh used seashells as the framework for her meditations on youth, love, solitude and motherhood. Anne took her time on the island to reflect on the life of the American woman in the mid-20th century, highlighting how moments of solitude can be powerful for self-reflection, which still resonates with her readers after over 65 years. Like Anne, visitors may find peace and inspiration from the spectacular shells scattering the beaches.
Fort Myers’ very own award-winning author, Randy Wayne White, has penned many New York Times best-selling novels from his home on Sanibel Island. He’s best known for his series of crime novels featuring the retired NSA agent Doc Ford, with most of the stories set right in Fort Myers and Sanibel. Just as his novels were inspired by the islands of Fort Myers, Randy opened Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille, inspired by the main character of most of his novels, known as a tropical adventurer. Travelers can visit locations in Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, and dine at the famed restaurant today, allowing them to be transported right into their favorite mystery.
For those searching for a new read, Gene’s Books in Sanibel is an independent bookstore with five different locations, two locations on Sanibel Island. The original storefront, the Mystery Cottage, is a vibrant blue and yellow clock tower filled to the brim with signature stacks of mysteries from around the world. The success of this book store led to the opening of the four other buildings, all separately categorized with books varying from American Fiction, World Literature and History, to Science Fiction & Fantasy.
Martha’s Vineyard has a reputation for its beautiful beaches, traditional New England architecture, and for being a summer vacation destination for the rich and powerful. The island is known for being a vacation destination for ex-presidents, as well as being the filming location for Jaws over 40 years ago. You would be forgiven for assuming that Martha’s Vineyard is a destination too expensive for those of us that travel without the means of the wealthy. But you would be wrong. The secret to Martha’s Vineyard is that it has quite a few hotels, campgrounds, and hostels that provide reasonable budget accommodations. There are two tricks for getting these deals: book early, 6-12 months in advance, and book during shoulder-season, which are the months just before and after summer. We’ve assembled a list of our favorite options of stays on the island. $ - Under $100/night Tisbury - Martha's Vineyard Family Campground campmv.com Open May - October With several cottages, also offers space for tents and RVs. Clean, very safe, family friendly campground. Expect to pay $54-60 per campground per night. West Tisbury - Hosteling International Martha's Vineyard capecodhostels.org Open April - October Private and dorm rooms available, Families and non-members welcome. Rates range from $40-150 per night. Oak Bluffs - The Madison Inn madisoninnmv.com Open May - October, this 14 room property is located in the heart of the town center, close to all the fun, the beaches and the food! Rates as low as $79. $$ - Under $200/night Edgartown - Ashley Inn ashleyinn.net 1860 Whaling Captain's home is open year round and is an easy stroll to the town center, beaches and attractions. A charming stay for couples, friends and families. Rates as low as $125/night in the off-season. Edgartown - The Edgar Hotel edgarhotelmv.com Open year-round and recently renovated with all the modern comforts you need, a relaxed Island atmosphere you'd expect and a popular on-site bar and restaurant. Rates as low as $153/night. Oak Bluffs - The Narragansett House narragansetthouse.com This 13 room property is located in the heart if the town center, steps from food, beaches, shopping and fun. Rates from $144/night. Tisbury - Vineyard Harbor Motel vineyardharbormotel.us Open year-round and located on the harbor, each of the 40 rooms is an efficiency unit. Rates from $159/night. Tisbury- The Driftwood of Martha's Vineyard thedriftwoodmv.com Year-round B&B with farm-to-table options, quiet area close to town center. Rates from $150 during off-season and $300 during peak. Tisbury - Look Inn lookinnmv.com Comfortable old farmhouse located in historic district close to shops, restaurants and beaches. Rates from $175-200 per night. $$$ - Over $200/night Aquinnah - The Duck Inn duckinnonmv.com Cozy, year-round, 5-room property is perfect for a true getaway. Located in the western most side of the Island, visitors will enjoy amazing views, easy walk to the beach, fireplaces and divine hospitality. The Duck Inn is pet friendly, but contact them for specifics. Rates as low as $145 but go up to $335/night. Edgartown - The Edgartown Commons edgartowncommons.com Located steps from downtown this budget friendly property has 34 units are apartments (studios, one and two bedrooms) with kitchens, to make it easy for an extra long getaway. Open May - October. Rates from $215/night. Tisbury - The 1720 House 1720house.com Open year-round this 6-room was named one of Yankee Magazine's best small New England Inns. Steps from the beach and town center. Rates from $150 in the off-season and $250 in peak. Oak Bluffs - The Pequot Hotel pequothotel.com Open May - October A Charming small hotel is one block top beaches and a short stroll to shopping and dining. Rates from $200/night. CARD WIDGET HERESponsored by Martha's Vineyard
Join Budget Travel as we continue our new series Discover USA. Discover USA explores states, counties, cities, and everything in between. Each week we will explore a new US destination to help you find things to do, itinerary ideas, and plan where to go next. This week, we invite you to Discover what Cheyenne, Wyoming has to offer. Cheyenne is known for its spirit of the old west, railroad history, rodeos, and western hospitality. Culinary Cheyenne has a wide variety of restaurants, ranging from Asian cuisine to buffalo burgers nestled in historical settings to modern delights. The town is also home to several craft beverage producers creating a variety of libations. Chronicles Distilling Courtesy of ChroniclesDistilling At the edge of downtown, this distillery serves unique infused whiskeys and vodkas. Chronicles Distilling is a Veteran Owned Family Distillery, run by two Marine Corps Infantry Veterans and Brothers, named Aaron and Chase Lesher. Chronicles Distilling produces corn based spirits, distilled in-house, that are bottled and sold for sale to go, as well as used to make cocktails for sale in their bar on the main level. All furniture and equipment have been built by Aaron and Chase Lesher. Free tours and samples are given to anyone who would like to learn about distilling and what Chronicles has to offer. Wyoming’s Rib and Chop House Steaks and fresh seafood are served in a casual yet refined environment in the only official steakhouse downtown. You can also enjoy locally-brewed Accomplice beers alongside your dinner. Voted One Of The 50 BEST Restaurants in America by MSN Lifestyle! The Metropolitan Courtesy of themetdowntown.com Featuring a menu of chef-inspired dishes, the Metropolitan’s mouthwatering brussels sprouts and bison pasta are nothing to balk at. New American cuisine awaits in one of the classiest spots in town. Accomplice Beer Company Courtesy of accomplicebeer.com Accomplice Beer Company is housed in the historic Cheyenne Depot, and is a unique brewery concept with self-pour taps and a newly expanded food menu including such favorites as kale salad, baby back ribs, chicken wings, and brewery sliders. The self-pour taps allow customers to sample a variety of beers without having to purchase a full pint — giving customers complete control of their journey into Accomplice craft beers. Arts and Culture Visitors looking for Western-themed art and a variety of cultural activities will not be disappointed when they arrive in Cheyenne. The city offers numerous galleries and museums to view beautiful and historic Western and indigenous art. Cheyenne Artists Guild hosts numerous art shows throughout the year. The historic Van Tassell Carriage House is the home of the guild, established in 1949 and is Wyoming's oldest continuously operating artists' association. Cheyenne also has an active community theatre, two ballet companies, a regionally acclaimed symphony orchestra, a chamber choir, and several music venues for numerous live performances. Terry Bison Ranch Courtesy of Terry Bison Ranch One of Cheyenne's most unique attractions! Take a tour on one of Terry Bison Ranch's custom-built trains to see ostriches, camels, a huge bison herd, and actually hand-feed the bison! Tours are every day except Christmas Day.You can also go on a guided trail ride and seasonal Sunday lunch train. The train is designed from an old-fashioned dining car and stops to let you visit with a herd of bison. ATV Tours of the Ranch are available as well! Cheyenne Botanic Gardens Courtesy of botanic.org The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens exists to cultivate growth and enrichment in the community of Cheyenne by providing a treasured garden space for enjoyment, celebration, and education. Come experience the dazzling variety of award-winning, curated displays of plants, shrubs, and trees from around the world in the brand-new Grand Conservatory; enjoy family-friendly activities in the Paul Smith Children’s Village; or take a walk through the community vegetable garden and greenhouse. Grand Conservatory and Paul Smith Children's Village. Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum Housing one of the largest collections of horse- drawn carriages in the nation, this museum tells the story of the west, specifically the history of our own Cheyenne Frontier Days. Nelson Museum of the West Courtesy of nelsonmuseum.com The Nelson Museum is dedicated to the preservation of fine Cowboy and Native American objects as well as fine Western art. Home to a collection of nearly 6,000 artifacts encompassing Western history, including cowboy and Native American relics. Cheyenne Artists Guild Provides numerous art shows throughout the year. Located in the historic Van Tassell Carriage Barn (National Historic Registry), The Cheyenne Artists Guild is the oldest continuously operating, nonprofit arts organization in Wyoming. Explore the Outdoors Cheyenne is the gateway to Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest and offers countless outdoor pursuits. Outdoor adventure awaits with three key scenic and distinct areas—the Pole Mountain and Vedauwoo areas within Medicine Bow National Forest, and Curt Gowdy State Park. The destination is a convenient outdoor mecca with a vast array ready-to-discover adventures for all levels from the casual nature lover to the avid outdoor enthusiast featuring mountain biking, hiking, climbing, snow-shoeing, Nordic skiing and more. Pole Mountain Previously administered by the War Department for military training, the area is now home to single-track hiking, running, fat biking and mountain biking trails along with Nordic skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. Curt Gowdy State Park Courtesy of wyoparks.wyo.go Sitting among the picturesque foothills of the Laramie Mountains, the area features granite towers, rocky soils and timbered slopes. Two small reservoirs form the heart of the park, with fishing boating and more! The park also features more than 35 miles of EPIC-rated single-track mountain biking and hiking trails. Vedauwoo Recreation Area Courtesy of heyenne.org Some of the most beautiful natural sculptures you will see are found just 27 miles west of Cheyenne in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. Defying gravity up to 500 feet in the air, these ancient rock formations were created by ice, wind and water. The Native Americans named this area Vedauwoo (pronounced Vee-Duh-Voo), which means "Land of the Earthborn Spirits." You'll see why they believed it was a spiritual place when tons of rock seem to balance on inches of space. Pine Bluffs Recreation Area A rustic system of trails in the eastern portion of the county, Pine Bluffs Recreation Area trails through sandstone bluffs and prairie grasses. There is also a golf course and disc golf course like you’ve never played before! CARD WIDGET HERE
If you’re ‘of a certain age’ as I’ll confess to being, your first exposure to hot air ballooning was likely the classic movie The Wizard of Oz. Prior to that, the only objects I was aware of in the sky were the airplanes that flew frequently over our home in the San Fernando Valley. In the movie, the wizard arrives to rescue Dorothy via a balloon, and though things don’t go quite as planned, that incredible vision of flames shooting up into a huge, colorful ball, a wicker basket rocking back and forth below it, never left me. It was many years later when I finally saw a hot air balloon in real life. I’d moved to Sonoma County, California and discovered, to my delight, that hot air balloons were fairly common in the area I was living in. There were several companies which offered flights over the spectacular vineyards, orchards, and rural landscape I now called home, and their occasional appearance on the horizon was like seeing a rainbow: ephemeral, almost surrealistic. Courtesy of Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic / Dan Golden Several years into living here I was fortunate to be taken to a hot air balloon festival in the county. It was dawn-thirty in the morning when we got there, but like my first exposure via that iconic movie, the whole experience left a lasting impression on me. The colors of the dozens of balloons: being able to see inside them, and see the flames shoot up into them up close, the way they were lit up before the sun came up. I even was lucky enough to ride in one during the event, and though I’d always considered myself having a fear of heights, it not only felt safe, it was magical. Fast forward to today and I find myself as the event coordinator for the very balloon festival I went to all those years ago. I now know that was one of the earliest years of the event, as I’m writing this to tell you about the 30th annual Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic. After a two-year hiatus, due to the pandemic, the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic will finally get to have its 30th anniversary on June 4th and 5th, and we’re hoping to make it a very special celebration. Courtesy of Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic The big news for the Classic is the venue change. For the previous twenty-nine festivals, it was held in Windsor, in most recent years in a large park. But attendance grew so much that parking became an issue and it seemed apparent they needed a new location. This year the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California will be the new home, and with it comes a world of possibilities for growth and spaciousness, not to mention ample parking for cars and RVs. It’s right off the freeway, easy to find, and fully dialed in for an event like this. So what is an event like this? First of all, brace yourself for the fact the gates open at 4am. That’s not a typo. I know you retirees out there might not be in the habit of getting up before the birds have been chirping for an hour or two, but you should consider making an exception on this occasion. Why would anything start at such a sleep-shattering hour? Reason one: Because it’s calm. Wind is not the best friend of the hot air balloonist. The more peaceful the air, the more maneuverable the balloon, and dawn is the peak launching time. Reason two; the visual experience has no match. Before the main launch, which happens as the sun’s coming up, there’s what’s called the “Dawn Patrol.” While it’s still dark, the balloons are lit, creating a magical glow which, especially up close, is awe inspiring. The launch itself is equally gasp-worthy, when as many as three dozen balloons go up in unison, including colorful and clever specialty-shaped balloons, with characters from cartoons, the movies, and other realms. The whole event could very well be compared to a fireworks display. Courtesy of Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic / Will Bucquoy Attendees get to talk to balloon pilots, get up-close to experience tethered balloons, and see first-hand what it takes to inflate and launch them. Tethered ride tickets will also be for sale so visitors can experience a hot air balloon ride without leaving the ground. A few lucky people will have the opportunity to make an Instant Sponsorship which allows them a full ride on a hot air balloon during the event. They’ll be able to wave to the crowd on the ground as they lift off with the pilot on a 30-45 minute ride through the skies with dozens of other hot air balloons. Courtesy of Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic There’ll be lots of family activities, unique gifts and goodies, and we guarantee plenty of delicious food, coffees, beers, champagne and mimosas. This is a 501c3 non-profit event, with the focus of educating and keeping the sport of hot air ballooning alive. Hot air ballooning goes back to the late 1700’s and has a remarkable history in the world of air travel. Events like these are scarce in our country and almost non-existent elsewhere in the world. This is an ideal family festival. Kids are fascinated by hot air balloons, especially in this day and age of computers and special effects. The science behind them is ancient and the magic eternal. Not only is this festival a great reason to travel to Northern California in early June, it’s the perfect opportunity to get a full day or weekend of the unmatched beauty and deliciousness of Sonoma County. By attending so early in the morning you’ll have the rest of the day free to explore the stunning landscape from mountains to the ocean, shop, wine taste, eat out, and do all the things you’d like to fit into a vacation day, but often don’t get up early enough to do. June 4th and 5th, 2022 4am-10am each day at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds: 1350 Bennett Valley Rd in Santa Rosa California. https://www.schabc.org/ for more information. See you there!
Visiting Martha’s Vineyard on a budget? Yes it’s possible
Martha’s Vineyard is a beautiful place that happily welcomes and accommodates visitors from all walks of life. While it is known as a destination for the affluent and has a reputation as being a pricey place to visit, it is home to a diverse population and it can definitely be enjoyed on a tight budget. Like any popular destination there are endless choices to pick from so knowing the most affordable options is the best way to plan a budget friendly trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Here’s our top tips for enjoying your time on Martha’s Vineyard without having to break the bank. Getting here and getting aroundThe cheapest way to travel on to the Island is to take the Steamship Authority (SSA) ferry which departs from Woods Hole in Falmouth multiple times a day. It’s the residents’ year-round lifeline to ‘America’ and it’s $19 for a roundtrip passenger ticket which includes a free shuttle bus ride in Falmouth from the SSA’s designated parking lots. There is a cost for parking which ranges from $10-20/day depending on the seasons, rates available here.Once you arrive on the Island the most cost efficient way to get around is via the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus line which travels through all six Martha’s Vineyard towns daily. A one day pass is only $10 and the bus makes frequent stops including in the busy downtowns of Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, and Oak Bluffs, as well as the popular fishing village Menemsha and the iconic, and majestic Aquinnah Cliffs. Plan to spend the day exploring Martha’s Vineyard’s most popular points of interest and attractions, most of which can be seen for free, including many of our beautiful beaches! Kids love to stop off at the ‘JAWS’ bridge in Edgartown to take a leap into the water, another popular stop along the VTA bus. Another affordable way to get around the Island is to bring your bike over on the ferry (an extra $8 fee round trip) and take advantage of the more than 35 miles of paved bike paths on Martha’s Vineyard. You can also rent a bike once you arrive, as there are several bike rental locations within walking distance from the ferry terminals in both Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. Staying hereThe most cost efficient way to experience Martha’s Vineyard is to enjoy a day trip and avoid the cost of lodging, but it if you want to stay longer (which we always recommend!) there are some very reasonable options available. One of the most affordable is the Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground, located just one and a half miles from the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority ferry terminal and easily accessible via a VTA bus. The Campground offers spacious wooded sites, complete with picnic tables, fireplaces, and hookups to accommodate tents or RVs. They also offer a number of new camping cabin rentals, as well as restrooms showers, laundromat, store, recreation hall and playground. The Campground is open seasonally May to October and rates begin at $59/night. Another reasonably priced option is the HI Martha’s Vineyard Hostel located in West Tisbury and also easily accessible via the VTA bus. The hostel boasts free Wi-Fi; free continental breakfast; a fully equipped, shared guest kitchen; easy access to public transit and bike trails; and a large lawn with sand volleyball, grill, tables and chairs. The hostel is open seasonally from May to October with rates starting at just $38/night.Martha’s Vineyard is also home to dozens of hotels, inns, and beds & breakfast, many of which offer discounted rates in the fall, winter and spring. You can browse our list of accommodations here, and find last minute lodging specials here. Many homeowners also rent their homes with local real estate companies and on online marketplaces that specialize in home rentals. Where to eatThere’s no shortage of restaurants on Martha’s Vineyard but many of them can get pricey if you’re not careful. For starters we’d recommend packing your own reusable bottle of water and granola bars, fruit, or snacks to keep you fueled throughout the day so you don’t find yourself having to spending more in a pinch.Morning coffee is a must for many of us and the cheapest coffee on the go you’ll get is at Cumberland Farms, 99 cents for the biggest size they have, hot or iced. It’s one of the few chain businesses on Martha’s Vineyard and is located within walking distance to the Vineyard Haven SSA ferry terminal, and directly across the street from the Chamber of Commerce offices – where you can stock up on free maps and info on getting around and making the most of your stay.When your morning hunger strikes head to Black Dog Bakery in Vineyard Haven for a reasonably priced breakfast sandwich, Linda Jean’s in Oak Bluffs or Dock Street Diner in Edgartown for some of the lowest cost breakfast plates around. Each of them offer a casual, local vibe, and are the type of ‘hidden gems’ we all long to discover on vacation wherever we may go.Lunch can easily be skipped given the portions you’ll get at the spots above but if you get hungry midday from all of your exploring you can still dine on a dime, or close to it. The Barn, Bowl & Bistro in Oak Bluffs often offers a $9.99 lunch special most days of the week, plus if you’re up for a game of bowling they also offer affordable bowling packages too. If you’re hungry for a burger, Giordano's in Oak Bluffs offers a buy one, get one half off special. You can also score discounted deals on Asian inspired lunch specials, including Chinese and Japanese cuisine at Copper Wok in Vineyard Haven or Thai food at Bangkok Thailand in Oak Bluffs.Alternatively, the cheapest option may be grabbing a salad or sandwich at a local market like Tony’s or Reliable Market in Oak Bluffs, or Stop n’ Shop (conveniently located in Vineyard Haven or Edgartown) and enjoying it outside in the park or on the beach.Dinner is often the priciest meal of the day so be careful where you sit down. Sharky’s Cantina in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown is a local tex-mex favorite known for its big portions and reasonable prices, not to mention their delicious nachos! If you’re looking for an authentic Martha’s Vineyard dining experience you’ll want to try our seafood and Coop de Ville on the Oak Bluffs waterfront has a fantastic view, as well as regular seafood specials including their Tuesday night Lobster Fest. For additional nightly dinner specials browse other options here and be sure to check out local menus before opting to sit down so you know what kind of prices you can expect. So there you have it! Martha’s Vineyard is not made for millionaires, and there’s ample options for the budget-conscious traveler. Good luck discovering the Island and challenge yourself to stay within whatever cost parameters you may have, after all the landscape of the Island is the best feature we have and looking around is absolutely free. CARD WIDGET HERESponsored by Martha's Vineyard