FLORIDA

Destin, Quite the Destin-nation for Travelers and Vision Airlines

“It's extremely exciting,” comments Mark Bellinger, executive director of Okaloosa County’s Tourist Development Council, about Vision Airlines' upcoming expansion into Northwest Florida. “It's going to help up grow from being primarily a drive market. Not only does this open up new cities, but also allows for folks to extend their vacation here an extra night or two.”

Beginning on March 25, Vision Airlines will provide non-stop, low airfare (starting at $79) from over 20 cities in the southeast that includes Shreveport, La., Baton Rouge, La., Birmingham, Ala., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Atlanta.

Bellinger adds that even though this will undoubtedly increase traffic to the Okaloosa County area, it will also filter out other nearby communities as well.

“It's a grand slam for the area.”

Perhaps best known for its 24-miles of sugar white sand beaches, Destin is quite the year-around destination. According to Bellinger, right now the beaches are gorgeous with some even taking to the waves surfing, and golfing is plentiful.

“Off-season is a great to visit. Not only is the weather is mild, but visitors can also take advantage of the different incentives offering through restaurants and hotels.”

As travelers begin to make their plans to visit now, or late in spring or summer, still in the back of their mind is the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that happened in spring 2010.

“Things are perfect here,” comments Bellinger. “Yes, we did get a few tar balls, however we monitored the beaches daily and the water quality, and there never any issues.”

He adds the winds and currents helped them out.

“We were extremely fortunate. The area wasn't really affected as other places were. It was just the perception of things.”

Soon, beach cams will be up and running on their website, emeraldcoastfla.com, allowing visitors to see the conditions of the beaches for themselves.

“You can talk about it, but having a visual is important. You really hit a home-run with everyone when they can see it for themselves.”

Destin on Your Mind

Thinking about planning a getaway to Destin soon? Well, there are a few things that should be on everyone's itinerary for a true experience.

Visit: Stop by Gulfarium, the second oldest marine park in Florida (first being Marineland in St. Augustine.) It also holds the honor of being that oldest continuously-ran, family-ran marine park in the state. Add in animals, shows and great views of the beach, and you have an one-of-a-kind experience that won't be forgotten anytime soon.

Do: Discover for yourself why Destin is known as the “World's Luckiest Fishing Village,” when you go fishing. From half-day to full-day charters to go either deep-sea, inshore or bottom fishing, develop or hone a skill a reel in a few.

Eat: When it comes to dining in Destin, you won't be disappointed for there's something for everyone's taste and more importantly, budget. Discover such places as the Lucky Snapper, Magnolia Grill, Commander's Palace  and more.

Play: Walk the beach, play a round of golf, shop at Destin Commons; the list of possibilities for fun are endless in Destin.

More information can be found at emeraldcoastfl.com

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