Despite the sun and sand, Miami just might be the most frustrating place to be this Memorial Day weekend.
With roads shut down, an alleged arrest quota, and thousands of partying tourists, the 3-day weekend may not be much of a respite for locals who don't want to get sucked into an infinite South Beach traffic loop.
Instead of putting up with all that, get out of Dodge! There are fab day or weekend trips in a short drive from Miami -- whether it's snorkeling with Jesus in Key Largo, getting your future read in Cassadaga, or exploring the world of Legos, there's plenty of other amazing things to do and see this three-day weekend.
Snorkel with Jesus
<strong>Christ of the Deep, Key Largo<br> </strong><em>Distance: 1 hour drive <br> Cost: $30<br><Br></em> Out in the topaz waters of <a href="pennekamppark.com" target="_hplink">John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park</a> sits a 9-foot, 400-pound bronze statue of Jesus by Italian artist Guido Galletti. It's been there since 1965 when an Italian scuba entrepreneur commissioned it and donated it to the Underwater Society of America.<br><br> At Pennekamp Park, catch a $30 1.5 hour snorkeling tour out to the Christ of the Deep. Fins and snorkel are available for an extra $7.
See the Future
<strong>Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, Cassadaga</strong><br> <em>Distance: 4.5 hour drive<br> Cost: $7.50 to $15<br><br></em> Into the supernatural? Drive up to this <a href="http://www.cassadaga.org" target="_hplink">century-old spiritualist camp</a> just south of Daytona Beach for a unique getaway. On May 26, take a historic tour of the camp and learn about Cassadaga, take in the strange architecture, and maybe even witness spiritual activity within the homes. While you're there, make an appointment with a medium or a spiritual healer.
Amish Las Vegas
<strong>Yoder's Restaurant, Pinecraft<br> </strong><em>Distance: 4 hour drive<br> Cost: $5.50 pancakes</em> <br><br> Come see where the Amish come to let loose -- Pinecraft, Fla. The Sarasota county government is hoping to make this town --where Amish have been wintering for decade--s a cultural heritage district. <a href="http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/travel/pinecraft-fla-an-amish-snowbird-magnet.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">According to the <em>New York Times</em></a>, the religious community comes to Pinecraft to let loose by playing shuffleboard, using electricity, and thankfully, baking. <br> <br> Stop in at <a href="http://www.yodersrestaurant.com/" target="_hplink">Yoder's Restaurant</a> for peanut-butter-pie pancakes or one of its adjacent markets for red velvet and pumpkin whoopie pies.
<strong>Jules' Undersea Lodge, Key Largo<br> </strong><em>Distance: 1 hour drive<br> Cost: $125 to $1,395</em><br><br> <a href="http://www.jul.com/" target="_hplink">Jules' Lodge</a> sits at a depth of about 22 feet in the tropical mangrove habitat of Emerald Lagoon at Key Largo Undersea Park in Key Largo, Florida. Guests come and go as they please through the open hatch in the floor, just like the aquanauts in Sealab (scuba certification is available on site if needed). With two separate bedrooms and a common area (equipped with a kitchenette, entertainment center, and of course a 42-inch view port), the Lodge typically houses one or two couples at a time, but can sleep up to six people. Gourmet meals - including pizza from a venerable local parlor - are delivered.
Miniature South Beach
<strong>Legoland, Winter Haven<br> </strong><em>Distance: 4 hour drive<br> Cost: $60 to $75</em><br><br> Can't bear South Beach crowds and traffic? Then gaze at a tiny strip of Ocean Drive from the perspective of Godzilla at <a href="http://florida.legoland.com" target="_hplink">Legoland</a> in Winter Haven. The amusement park, which just opened in October, features 50 rides as well Lego re-creations of South Beach, the White House, and New York City.
The Little Mermaid
<strong>Weeki Wachee State Park, Weeki Wachee</strong><br> <em>Distance: 5.5 hour drive<br> Cost: $13</em><br><br> Let the siren's call lure you out of the congestion of Miami. <a href="http://weekiwachee.com/home.html" target="_hplink">Weeki Wachee State Park</a> is most famous for their mermaid shows, with fish-tailed women performing "The Little Mermaid" and several musical numbers performed by the mermaids. While at the park, go on a riverboat cruise or spend the day at Buccaneer Bay theme park, all included in your ticket.
Lions and Tigers
<strong>McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary, West Palm Beach</strong><br> <em>Distance: 1.5 hour drive<br> Cost: $15 to $25</em><br><br> Get in touch with your wild side with a trip to this <a href="http://www.mccarthyswildlifesanctuary.com/ " target="_hplink">animal sanctuary</a> built right into this rural West Palm Beach neighborhood. Mark McCarthy has rescued lions, tigers, leopards, hawks, snakes, turtles and other animals who were surrendered by their owners, abandoned or seized from the strangest of places. Learn more about these exotic animals during a tour of the property. Tours are by reservation only from Monday to Saturday at 11 a.m., noon, 1 and 2 p.m.
Edison and Ford
<strong>Edison & Ford Winter Estate, Fort Myers</strong><br> <em>Distance: 3 hour drive<br> Cost: $20</em><br><br> Tour the <a href="http://www.edisonfordwinterestates.org/ " target="_hplink">historical property</a> where Thomas Edison and Henry Ford spent their winter days. Walk through the laboratory and see the Edison phonograph come to life, stroll the gardens to admire the exotic trees, and admire Ford's original cars. On Memorial Day, veterans and their families go for free. <em>(Wikimedia photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edison_and_Ford_Winter_Estates,_Edison's_laboratory.jpg ">by Euku</a>.)</em>
<strong>Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, Tarpon Springs</strong><br> <em>Drive: 5 hour drive<br> Cost: Free</em><br><br> Also known as "Spongeville" or the "Sponge Capital of the World," a href="http://spongedocks.net/" target="_hplink"> Tarpon Springs docks </a> welcomes boats bringing in sponges to the Greek community on Florida's west coast. Walk the docks to watch the boats come in on your way to the Sponge Factory, where tourist are invited to peruse the sponges, wind chimes, natural body care products, and oceanic and evil eye jewelry.
Hydrobike With Manatees
<strong><strong>Cracker Creek, Port Orange<Br> </strong></strong><em>Distance: 4 hour drive<Br> Cost: $20/hour; $50/daily</em><Br><Br> <a href="http://www.oldfloridapioneer.com/" target="_hplink">Cracker Creek</a> hosts the only launch site for Spruce Creek, a natural black water stream full of protected and endangered species like lovable manatees. Coast over the wildlife in a hydro bike -- a sort of cycling kayak -- at this serene pocket of Old Florida.
'The Rattlesnake' Zipline Rollercoaster
<a href="http://www.floridaecosafaris.com/" target="_blank"><strong>Florida EcoSafaris, St. Cloud</strong></a><br> <em>Distance: 3 hour drive<br> Cost: $135 for a pass that includes the Rattlesnake plus 6 other zipline adventures.</em> <br><br> This is not your friendly neighborhood ziplining. Dip, bounce, and speed your way through the treetops on a winding zip that starts out 8 stories high -- and ends with a turn that'll drop your stomach. The first zipline roller coaster in the U.S., the Rattlesnake'll have you flying at speeds up to 20 m.p.h. on 1,000 feet of track. Best of all, a significant portion of the proceeds of Florida EcoSafaris is donated to the conserving the 47,000 acre Forever Florida preserve in which it sits -- and more of the surrounding lands, too.
Name: <a href="http://www.sunshinerivertours.com/scalloping.asp" target="_blank"><strong>Scallop-O-Rama, Crystal River</strong></a><br> <em>Distance: 5 hours to Crystal River<br> Cost: $55 per person<br><br></em> Foodies and nature lovers, unite! This DIY-with-a-guide adventure takes scallopers out from Crystal River for a day of plucking delicious, wiggling protein from some of the most beautiful water in Central Florida. Groups as big as 12 can head out aboard Captain Mike's covered boat -- complete with on-board restroom -- and then, best of all, have their catch cleaned and cooked dockside at the end of the day. Price includes fishing license, mask, snorkel, iced coolers for storing scallops, and a scenic guided tour of the beautiful Homosassa River.