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Looking For Some Fun In The Sun? Then Head Down To Bradenton Florida

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Beachy Villa Vista

If you’re looking to escape the cold and spend a few days soaking up some much-needed rays, we’ve got just the place for you.. Bradenton, Florida! Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida just north of Sarasota, this quiet little beach community has lots to offer, something I got to experience firsthand during a recent guys weekend with a few of my #MenWhoBlog buddies, courtesy of Bradenton Gulf Islands.

The folks at Island Real Estate found us a sweet rental house (“Beachy Villa Vista”) that was just a few steps away from the beach, complete with a heated pool, spa, swim up tiki bar, and a propane grill in the backyard. The house itself was super spacious, with all the amentities you could ask for. So whether you’re planning on coming down here for a weekend with your buds or for a week-long vacation with the entire family, a vacation rental house like this is most definitely the way to go.

Beachy Villa Vista

Beachy Villa Vista

Now you might ask yourself, what exactly is there to do down in Bradenton and Anna Maria Island other than kick back, relax, and enjoy their beaches with miles and miles of sugar-white sand and gentle waves?

Plenty! On our first day there, we went fishing with Egmont Key Adventures, and let me tell you, the fish were biting that day! We caught a ton of fish, including mullet, redfish, snook, snapper, and grouper. And if you’re a first time fisher (like me), not to worry, as our trusty captain was only too happy to bait my lures and help me cast them into the water. It was really a lot of fun, and it also made for a nice dinner later that night.

Egmont Key Adventures

Egmont Key Adventures

Thrill-seekers looking for something a bit more extreme need to check out Top Gun Flyboards. This amazing new water sport is like nothing that I’ve ever done before, and it was seriously awesome! While there is a bit of a learning curve involved, within 5-10 minutes I had gotten the hang of it, and I was able to soar a good 6 feet above the water. Due to some technical difficulties with our GoPro, I wasn’t able to capture any footage of me doing this, but these photos give you an idea of what you can expect.

Top Gun Flyboards

Top Gun Flyboards

We were lucky enough to be visiting Brandenton during the Bradenton Blues Fest, where we got to jam out to a diverse lineup of talented blues musicians on the big stage. The music was amazing, and everyone had a blast. The whole lineup was top notch, but my favorite group had to be Chubby Carrier and the Delta Swamp Band, a zydeco band who brought the house down with their New Orleans-style music. If you can’t make it during this event, not to worry, as there’s plenty of live music happening here year-round.

Brandenton Blues Fest

Brandenton Blues Fest

Foodies will be delighted by Anna Maria Island’s impressive restaurant and bar scene, which honestly caught me by surprise. I was expecting a variety of seafood shacks and beach bars (of which there are plenty), not a ZAGAT “Top Restaurant in America”. Beach Bistro has been wowing guests for more than 27 years with truly exceptional meals, and this was easily one of the best meals I ever had. So much food was had, but some of the standouts include the Colorado lamb, butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster and Hudson Valley foie gras, along with the Short Rib Bourguignon entrée, which was just out of this world.

Beach Bistro

Beach Bistro

Beach Bistro

After dinner, we made our way to The Doctor’s Office, a former doctor’s office that’s now a craft cocktail bar. The drinks here are phenomenal, the bartending staff is top-notch, and it’s a great way to cap off the night.

Bradenton also has some great breakfast spots that are worth checking out. Ginny’s and Jane E’s is a quirky bakery café that has some seriously insane (and huge) cinnamon buns. The Anna Maria Oyster Bar has just what you need after a night of drinking, the aptly named Hangover Sandwich (pepper fried chicken, fried egg, cheese & topped with sausage gravy). And the Gulf Drive Cafe offers breakfast on the beach, complete with a guitar player serenading you as you dine.

The Hangover Sandwich at Anna Maria Oyster Bar

Cinnamon bun at Ginny’s and Jane E’s

Eggs Benedict at Gulf Drive Cafe

Seriously, what more could you ask for? Bradenton and Anna Maria Island have great food, tons of activities, amazing music, and pristine beaches with beautiful turquoise waters. It’s a little slice of heaven, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a taste of Old Florida.

Sujeet Patel is the founder of Guys Gab, and one of the biggest automotive enthusiast you'll ever meet. He's been fortunate enough to turn his passion for cars into a full-time job. Like they say, "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life."

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  1. Pingback: Cool Things to Do in Anna Maria Island Florida • McCool Travel

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Cruises

Who’s Ready To Set Sail On The Largest Cruise Ship In The World?

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Symphony Of The Seas

Back in October, we told you about Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s newest ship that would hold the distinction as the largest cruise ship in the world.

Now, after three years of construction, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas was recently delivered, and it couldn’t be any more enormous, standing 18-decks-high and weighing in at 228,081 tons. It’s the ultimate over-the-top cruise experience.

Royal Caribbean - Symphony of the Seas

“It is a proud and exhilarating moment to welcome a new member to the family. Symphony will take family vacationing to an all new level with energy and options never before found in one place,” Royal Caribbean president and CEO Michael Bayley said during the ship’s delivery ceremony in France.

Symphony of the Seas is part of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class of vessels, which are more than 30% larger than the next largest cruise ships under them. Symphony is about 1,188 feet long and has 2,774 cabins. It will hold 6,680 passengers. It’s basically the Titanic of today. I’m talking size, not tragedy here. The Titanic would be envious of this ship.

Royal Caribbean - Symphony of the Seas

Passengers on the Symphony can look forward to things like laser tag, a new seafood concept, a live performance of the Broadway show Hairspray, a 10-story waterslide that spirals down the rear of the ship, numerous pools, lounges, bars, restaurants and much more. There’s also an ice-skating rink, two rock climbing walls, a basketball court, and seven “neighborhoods” with shops, bars (one with robot bartenders), and more.

If that’s not enough, there’s also the Ultimate Family Suite, which RC is billing as “the most spectacular family suite on land or sea.” This two-story family suite is a massive 1,346 square feet, and it’s chock full of family-friendly features, including a slide connecting the children’s room on the second level to the main living area below. Now that’s freaking cool.

Royal Caribbean - Symphony of the Seas

As you can see, there’s something for everyone on Symphony, and you’ll likely need all week just to explore every nook and cranny of this mega ship.

The Symphony of the Seas began its first real voyage with passengers on March 31, sailing the Mediterranean before heading to Miami. I don’t know about you, but I think I know where I’m going on my next vacation. Who’s with me?

Photo credit: SBW-Photo

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Drinks

If You’re A Fan Of Jack Daniel’s, You’ve Got To Make The Pilgrimage To Lynchburg

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Jack Daniel's Distillery

Earlier this month, the folks at Jack Daniel’s flew us down to Lynchburg, Tennessee to visit the iconic Jack Daniel’s Distillery, where the world-famous Old No. 7 has been produced for over 150 years, to learn firsthand about how their Tennessee Whiskey is made.

As someone who’s been drinking Jack Daniel’s for the greater part of 20 years, I was excited to learn more about the brand’s history of making whiskey, and the man behind it.

Our journey began in Nashville, about an hour and a half north of Lynchburg. During our ride to the distillery, our guide gave us some history about Jasper Newton Daniel (Jack), and the interesting road that led him to start Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

Born in 1849, Jack Daniel was the youngest of 10 children, with his mother dying shortly after his birth (likely due to complications from childbirth). A few years later, his father remarried and had another 3 children with his new wife. Jack leaves home at a very young age and he is taken in by Reverend Dan Call, where he works on the family farm. And on his farm, he had a still, which Jack quickly took interest in it.

It’s here where Jack learns the art of whiskey making from the preacher and his head distiller, Nathan “Nearest” Green. In 1866, Call decides to focus on his calling as a minister, selling his whiskey business to Jack. Jack in turn hires Nearest as his Master Distiller. A few years later, they open the now-famous distillery in Lynchburg, and the rest is history.

Jack Daniel's Assistant Master Distiller Chris Fletcher

A short while later, we arrived at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, and gathered together for a VIP tour hosted by none other than Assistant Master Distiller Chris Fletcher! As you can imagine, he’s got extensive knowledge of the whiskey making process, which he shared with us in great detail as he took us through the entire facility.

Not only that, but Fletcher is actually the grandson of retired Master Distiller Frank Bobo, the distillery’s fifth master distiller from 1966-89. Needless to say, whiskey is in his blood.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

The first stop on our tour was Cave Spring Hollow, which houses Lynchburg’s greatest natural resource – clean, pure, spring water. The cave’s layers of limestone naturally impart a variety of minerals to the water which contribute to Jack Daniel’s character. More importantly, the limestone also removes iron (which is bad if you are making whiskey) from the water.

Did you know that every bottle of Jack Daniel’s sold around the world is made with water from this source? I actually got to take a drink from the spring, and it was perhaps the purest water that I’ve ever tasted.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

From here, we made our way to the Rickyard, where they stack 5-foot tall pallets of hard super maple, douse them in raw, unaged whiskey, before setting the wood ablaze. The inferno peaks at over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit before burning down into smoldering embers. The resulting charcoal is used in the charcoal mellowing process.

We got to take part in this process, and it was pretty wild, the heat getting so intense that you had to walk away after awhile or risk getting burned. How these guys manage to keep cool in the hot Tennessee summers is beyond me, but my hats off to them.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

Afterwards, we walked down to the Distillery Building, where we got to learn more about the whiskey making process including the whiskey stills, the fermenting tanks and the charcoal-mellowing vats. That last part is perhaps the most important, filtering the 140-proof, unaged whiskey drop by drop through 10 feet of handcrafted charcoal.

It’s this extra step that imparts the distinctive smoothness you have come to expect from Jack Daniel’s, and it’s what makes this a Tennessee Whiskey and not a bourbon.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

Next, this whiskey goes into American White Oak barrels that are hand-built at Jack Daniel’s Cooperage. Once assembled, the barrel’s interior is toasted and charred using a proprietary method to coax the wood’s natural sugars out and caramelize them. The whiskey enters the barrel colorless and raw, but during the maturation process, the whiskey draws all of its rich amber color and much of its distinctive flavor from the barrels.

As you can imagine, if Jack Daniel’s were to reuse their barrels, they’d get diminishing returns, as the first batch of whiskey already draws out most of the flavor from the barrel. That’s why they only use a barrel once, after which they sell them off to third-parties.

Jack Daniel's Distillery

Interestingly enough, a number of variables determine how long a barrel of whiskey stays in the barrelhouse, including the barrel itself and where it’s located in the barrelhouse. Barrels located on the upper floors (where temperature changes are more extreme) tend to mature faster than barrels on the lower floors, where it’s generally cooler.

So rather than rely on age, a team of whiskey tasters sample each and every barrel to decide when they’re ready for bottling. Master Distiller Jeff Arnett showed us this process by bringing us to one of the barrelhouses and taking us up to the 6th floor, where he tapped into a couple of barrels and let us sample them right from the source. In a word.. incredible!

Jack Daniel's Distillery

If that wasn’t enough, they also set up a tasting for us, where we got to sample every product in their portfolio, including Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, Gentleman Jack, Single Barrel Select, Rye, Honey, Fire, and more. I really enjoyed the Single Barrel Select, but Honey and Fire were also standouts for me, and I definitely need to pick up a few bottles of these for myself.

Overall, I had a great time visiting the Jack Daniel’s Distillery and seeing everything that they have to offer, and I’d highly recommend taking the tour if you’re coming through Tennessee, even if you’re not a whiskey drinker. There’s a ton of history here, and it’s sure to give you a newfound respect for Jack Daniel’s, and the man who started it all.

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Space

Who’s Ready To Stay In The World’s First Luxury Hotel.. In Space?

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Aurora Station

Sometimes you just need to get away. Sure, you could book a trip to the Bahamas, or Hawaii, or you could choose a destination that’s a little further out there. Like outer space. Imagine being able to play astronaut for a few days, while you unplug from your job and the daily grind. You’ll get your chance soon since a new luxury hotel is launching 200 miles above the Earth. It’s called Aurora Station.

Space tourism is all the rage right now, despite the fact that we can’t go to Mars and beyond just yet. Aurora Station is a project designed to let ordinary humans live out their Astronaut dreams above the Earth for 12 days. And even though you are off-planet, you’ll have all the luxuries of home, thanks to a luxury hotel in zero gravity.

Aurora Station

The hotel aims to welcome its first guests by 2022, and who knows? Maybe one day it will be a gathering place for humans and aliens as they travel to and from the Earth. This is basically a mini space station that consists of a modular capsule that has enough room to accommodate four guests and two crew members at a time.

During your stay, you can participate in research experiments like growing food, experience virtual reality on an actual holodeck, and live-stream with those jealous humans back home. The company behind the project, Orion Span, will only charge you $9.5 million per person for your 12-day stay. That breaks down to $791,667 per night. That price tag leaves most of us Earthbound, but if you have the money this will be the ultimate experience.

Aurora Station

A deposit of $80,000 will secure your reservation. You better be in good shape though, because you’ll have to undergo an intensive three-month astronaut certification program to train for launch, re-entry, and contingency scenarios. Guests will also be required to do exercise during their stay aboard Aurora.

Start saving your money and get ready for your trip to the final frontier.

Photo credit: Orion Span

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