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Punta Gorda, Florida


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    Published 12-28-2019

    Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León is believed to be the first European to explore Florida although earlier expeditions reached the region hunting for native slaves to export to Spain. He set sail in 1513 on a search for gold and new lands, later stories tell he sought the Fountain of Youth. Believing he had landed on an island he named the land La Florida, Land of Flowers, because of its blooming vegetation and because he “discovered” it during the Catholic feast of Easter. His two expeditions led to the first European settlement in what later became the US. pureflorida.com

    Punta Gorda, located in Charlotte Harbor was the site of a potential colony in March 1513 and today much of the Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast, including Ponce de Leon Park, remains pristine. The park has fishing piers, picnic pavilion, beach, mangrove boardwalk and Peace River Wildlife Center. #bestsideoutside

    Ponce de Leon was looking for gold then and today visitors are in search of their own version of a golden destination. Punta Gorda, on the western coast of Florida, is just that. The city seems constantly aglow and the opportunities for active tourism, eco-adventures, unique dining venues and excellent lodging are plentiful. The average temperature is 75-degrees with an average low of 64-degrees. It has been chosen one of the "10 Greatest Places to Sail in the United States" and "Third Best Place to Live and Play Golf in America".

    Punta Gorda was established in 1884 at the juncture of Peace River and Charlotte Harbor by Isaac Trabue and originally named Trabue. After the railroad arrived the city grew because of tourism and commercial fishing. It has remained small and is filled with bike trails, parks,and three historic districts; the 22-block Punta Gorda National Register District, the 23-block African American Bethel-St. Mark Historic District and the 24-block Downtown Commercial Historic District.

    Veteran’s Park, northeast of the museum, houses a 50% replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It is made of the same black granite used in the original and is inscribed with over 58,000 names.

    The Military Heritage Museum is dedicated to relating the human story of our military forces from pre-American Revolution through current conflicts. There are 6 interactive galleries, a lending library with greater than 5,000 books, 1,000 documents and a 30,000 artifact and memorabilia collection.

    Uniquely the story is also told through the arts, Yoga for Vets, performances and artworks. Tours begin on the lower level with chronological displays in 3 period galleries, special exhibits and the Ship’s Store. On the upper level visitors can choose from a variety of interactive experiences, flying a plane, driving a tank, using firearms, etc. @militaryheritagemuseum

    Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens consists of 27-acres of botanicals, 10-acres of waterways and international sculptures. Highlights of the botanical displays are  28 palm tree varieties, 17-acres of Specialty Garden Rooms and an 800-ft. boardwalk with Peace River views. Sculptural exhibits include Andy Warhol, Next Summer and the Ostriches. @PeaceRiverGardens

    Babcock Ranch is a 17,000-acre planned community designed to balance environmental preservation, emerging technology, sustainability, global awareness and core community values. Founder’s Square, the Downtown District, is designed around shops, the incredible Table & Tap Restaurant and a Discovery Center with a small museum. Model homes are situated throughout and make an interesting tour.

    A 90-minute Babcock Ranch Eco-Tour by swamp buggy is an absolute gem. Guests travel 5-miles through Telegraph Cypress Swamp and 3 additional eco-systems as an expert guide points out wildlife and geographical features. The opportunity to get close to Andalusian “cracker” cattle and feral pigs, descendants of those brought to Florida in the 1500s, is unsurpassed, equally so the number of alligators you will see. This is a wildlife lover’s dream. Before departing check out the museum, restaurant and gift shop. Babcockranchecotours.com

    Fisherman’s Village, on Charlotte Harbor’s waterfront, has a resort, marina, shopping, restaurants and offers fishing charters and sightseeing tours. King Fisher Fleet’s 90-minute cruises provide wonderful views of sunsets and cavorting dolphins. At Village Fish Market & Restaurant you can dine on fresh seafood while watching the sunset on the Peace River. This is a perfect spot for souvenir and memento purchases @VillageFishMkt
    PicklePlex is a free complex with 16 lighted courts and covered bleachers. This addictive sport, with smaller courts and bigger paddles than tennis, is America’s fastest growing sport. The World Pickleball Championship is held in Punta Gorda  December 27-30 with a $100,000 purse. worldpickleballchampionship.com

    Alligator Bay Distillers offers free tours and tastings of their award-winning , small batch rum and whiskey. This family operated distillery’s product is created from 100% Florida molasses. alligatorbaydistillers.com
    Four Points by Sheraton, located on Charlotte Harbor, amenities include pillowtop beds, internet, designer linens, outdoor pool, fishing pier and concierge and business services. There are two restaurants and a poolside bar. It is located within a short distance of most attractions.
    There are a multitude of award-winning eateries throughout the area that enhance your visit. Winner of the Open Table Award and Diner’s Choice 2019, Carmelo’s Italian Ristorante is famous for its freshly prepared dishes. Here you must try the signature Cavatelli Bada Bing handmade ricotta flambéed inside a Grana Padana parmesan wheel prepared at your [email protected]
    Dean’s South of the Border serves creative Tex Mex and American classic cuisine in a fun setting.  There is a children’s menu and a full bar. @DeansTexMex
    Peace River Seafood is an authentic crabhouse located in an Old Florida Cracker House. The fish is sourced daily literally from the pierjust behnd the restaurant to your plate. @peace.seafood
    Penny’s Restaurant is known for serving the best breakfast in town. The list of options is huge as are the portions. @PennysRestaurantPuntaGorda

    PERCH 360 at the Wyvern Hotel presents an eclectic Tapas menu as well as standard dishes. This rooftop bar and restaurant is perfect for sunset viewing. @Perch360
    Find your gold and bathe in the 87-degree Warm Mineral Springs once believed to be the Fountain of Youth. You can have it all in Punta Gorda. #LoveFl




    Renee Gordon has written a weekly travel column for the Philadelphia Sun Newspaper for the past fifteen years and has published articles on local, national and international travel in numerous publications. Her columns focus on cultural, historic and heritage tourism and her areas of specialization are sites and attractions related to African American and African Diaspora history. Renee has been a guest radio commentator on various aspects of tourism and appeared in a documentary, "The Red Summer of 1919". As an educator for thirty years she was an English teacher, event and meeting planner, served as an educational consultant and intern-teacher mentor. She contributed to textbooks on women's history and classroom management and has facilitated workshops on both subjects. Renee considers herself a "missionary journalist" and as such she continues to promote heritage and sustainable tourism.

    2013 Recipient of African Diaspora World Tourism Flame Keeper in Media Award for Travel Writing

    IABTW- International Association of Black Travel Writers
    PBJ - Progressive Black Journalists


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