ST. CLOUD - This past February I took my first winter vacation in the south Florida area, and I've talking about going back again ever since.  So, I was very excited to hear this week that direct flights will soon be available between our own airport here in St. Cloud and the Punta Gorda Airport just north of Fort Myers Beach.

Allegiant Airlines says they'll start offering the flights in November and will fly twice a week on a seasonal basis.  They're offering an introductory price of flights as low as $69 one way.

My vacation in February started by flying in to Fort Myers, and spending three days and two nights on Fort Myers Beach.  The first thing you'll notice is the miles and miles of white sandy beaches. The high temps when we were there in mid February were in the mid to upper 70s, perfect for a lazy day on the beach.

And then, when the sun starts to go down, it is hard to beat the spectacular sunsets.

Fort Myers, photo by's Jim Maurice

The nightlife on Fort Myers Beach was fun as well, starting with an area they call "Times Square".  It is an area that offers a lot of open air bars and restaurants and a lot of live music.

I understand the Fort Myers area is a hot spot for spring breakers, but when we were there that season hadn't started yet, so it was mostly a mix of families and people in their 40s and older.

Another option you shouldn't overlook is taking the Key West Express down to Key West.  It is a three hour boat ride that leaves right from Fort Myers Beach.  You can make a day trip out of it and come back that same night.  Or, I recommend doing what we did and staying on the island for a few nights.

Key West Express, photo by's Jim Maurice

Lastly, of course we all know our own Minnesota Twins have spring training in Fort Myers.  We didn't take in a game when we were there, but I just might have to do that on my next visit.