Florida Keys the family choice

Families looking for an ‘alternative’ Florida destination should consider the Florida Keys, where a range of activities are on offer and new skills are waiting to be learned.


The island chain’s activities include a scuba or Snuba lesson, sportfishing and even discovering the art of sand sculpting.

The Keys' year-round subtropical weather, calm, clear waters and perfect underwater visibility provide a safe and easy-learning environment for parents and children to learn snorkeling and scuba skills whilst learning all about the local marine ecosystems.

Snuba (pictured) blends snorkeling and scuba diving, and is a perfect way for travellers aged eight and above to explore the Keys' underwater world. Requiring no prior diving or snorkelling experience, Snuba allows visitors to dive down and breathe underwater using a 20-foot airline that is attached to an air supply floating above.

Kids and grown-ups alike can build intricate, eye-catching sandcastles on the beach in Key West at the historic waterfront Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort under the direction of Marianne van den Broek from Sand-Isle Professional Sand Sculpting.

And the Florida Keys’ 125-mile long arc of islands creates a fishing environment unique in the world. In Islamorada, the ‘Sportfishing Capital of the World’, visitors can search for speedster bonefish on the flats, test their determination against a reel-emptying blue marlin and land mahi-mahi for summertime dinners.

Purely America has a seven-night deal to the Florida Keys for a family of four. Priced from £4,099 and based on two adults and two children (aged 11 and under) travelling and sharing accommodation, the deal includes three nights at the Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada followed by four nights at the Casa Marina Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort in Key West.

Flights are with Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow to Miami and car hire is included. It is valid for departures during August 2016 but must be booked by May 17.

Water way to go in Oklahoma City

Visitors to Oklahoma City will be able to experience the city’s newest attraction next month.

Water way

The Boathouse District, the state capital’s most spectacular newest addition for several years, is scheduled to open on May 7.

At its heart is a $45-million Riversport Rapids Aquatic Centre, a facility designed to meet Olympic training standards.

It is already attracting plenty of attention with the Chicago Tribune recently featuring it among the “five new attractions that promise to deliver big thrills and great views”.

The centre, set on an 11-acre site that will offer both serious and gentle rapids for experts and beginners alike, was designed by the same team that developed the aquatics centre for the 2012 London Olympics.

Class two-to-four rapids flushing through a 1,000 foot channel will be aimed at hard-core whitewater rafting, kayaking and canoeing adventurists, while a slower and gentler 1,300-foot water channel will appeal more to families and beginners.


LA Skyslide shows off city

Next month (June) will see the debut in Los Angeles of Skyslide, a chute that travels 45 feet between the 70th and 69th floors of the U.S. Bank Tower.


What's the big deal? The slide is made of 1 1/4-inch clear glass. And it's affixed to the outside of the building – which happens to be the tallest on the West Coast.

For those able to keep their eyes open, Skyslide will present a stunning view of downtown LA from 1,000 feet up, plus the hills and sprawl beyond.

The brief-but-chest-clenching ride is part of a $50-million renovation of the building's Skyspace observation deck, which offers 360-degree views from what is billed as California's tallest open-air observation deck.

Skyspace and Skyslide open June 25. Tickets for both (adult admission is $33 for the combination or just $25 for Skyspace) are already on sale.


Big expansion in Miami

Aventura Mall in Miami has started work on a major expansion that will include a new three-level, 315,000 square-foot retail wing and multi-level parking garage.


The new wing, which is expected to open in late 2017, will include several destination restaurants, more than three dozen retail stores, a new food court with indoor/outdoor seating and a rooftop garden.

Aventura Mall, which opened in 1983, is one of the top five highest-grossing malls in the country in terms of gross sales and was ranked by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau as the city’s most-visited shopping centre by tourists.

It attracts nearly 30 million visitors each year. Key stores include Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Tiffany & Co.