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First look: New day cruises from Florida to Bimini PDF Print E-mail

First look: New day cruises from Florida to Bimini

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First look: New day cruises from Florida to Bimini

BIMINI, Bahamas -- Always wanted to visit Bimini in the Bahamas? A new fast ferry service to the destination from Fort Lauderdale that started up this week is making it easier. Click through the carousel

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The 1,500-passenger Bimini SuperFast operates day trips from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to Bimini in the Bahamas.(Photo: Resorts World)

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BIMINI, Bahamas — Always wanted to visit Bimini in the Bahamas? A new fast ferry service to the destination that started up this week from Fort Lauderdale is making it easier.

Click through the carousel above for our first photos from the vessel, the 1,500-passenger Resorts World's Bimini SuperFast, which will be operating day cruises to Bimini on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The 32,000-ton ship already sails to Bimini from Miami on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

As can be seen in the photos, the Bimini SuperFast features two restaurants, several lounges, an outdoor dance area and a casino as well as day-use cabins. The voyage to Bimini from Fort Lauderdale takes about three hours, and the ship docks at the destination for the afternoon before returning to Fort Lauderdale at night. Passengers can return with the ship on the same day they arrive or book a room in Bimini to extend the visit.

We'll be posting more photos of the ship and the touring options available in Bimini in the carousel above throughout the day.

Click HERE to see the photos in larger format.

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Most romantic California beaches PDF Print E-mail

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California has an awe-inspiring 840-miles of shoreline studded with beautiful beaches, one after the other. While any strand with crashing waves and a Technicolor sunset has potential for passion, there are a handful of Pacific Coast beaches that really move the needle. Here are five California beaches that amour-minded travelers should have on their radar.

Coronado Central Beach

Just outside San Diego lie Coronado Island and its famous Coronado Central Beach, a 1.5-mile expanse of white sand offering great swimming and superb sunsets. Lovers can explore tide pools during low tide against a backdrop of historic mansions along the shore, or toast marshmallows over a beach fire-pit's flames. Active couples can rent bikes, boogie board, take surf lessons, or rent sailboats and paddleboats. Another option is to hire a skippered sailboat and kick back for a sunset cruise with champagne.

Driving from the mainland to Coronado Island is part of the charm. Visitors cross the 2.1-mile Coronado Bridge offering splendid views of sailboats in San Diego Bay before rolling down onto the island, which has a caught-in-time charm. In minutes, guests have driven through town and arrived at the beachfront Hotel del Coronado, which should be the first choice for lovebirds. The distinctive looking red and white hotel opened back in 1888 and has since hosted famous lovers, including Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson. The hotel was also the backdrop for numerous films, including Marilyn Monroe's Some Like it Hot. For the ultimate in privacy, book one of the hotel's villas and cottages in the Hotel del Coronado's Beach Village.

Laguna Beach

If a couple is looking to combine cultural pursuits with a California beach vacation, they can't do better than Laguna Beach, which is located 50 miles south of Los Angeles. Laguna Beach stretches a full seven miles of coastline that is studded with 28 scenic beaches, bays, and coves. Watersports include kayaking, snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding. For a soft workout, couples can descend the 228 steps leading down to Laguna's Thousand Steps Beach, one of the prettiest beaches along the seven-mile expanse.

Nightlife at Laguna Beach is on the sedate side, creating the perfect ambience for couples to concentrate on each other. Foodies will have 70 restaurants to choose from, with many offering scenic views of sunsets during an evening meal or cocktail. Laguna Beach's cultural scene is powered by over 70 galleries and over 400 working artists, with many of them opening their studios for an intimate look at the creative process.

There are many small inns and B&Bs perfect for an intimate getaway. Couples seeking historic accommodations can opt for overnights in Hotel Laguna, which was built in 1888; or the Spanish-style Casa Laguna Inn, which has ultra-private hillside cottages offering dramatic sea views.

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach is a white-sand wonder east of San Diego. This is a good choice for those lovers who want to mix their alone time with some simple diversions. There's a holiday atmosphere at Pacific Beach. Couples can rent bikes and cycle along the three miles of boardwalk, which is lined with restaurants serving simple fare. Beach pursuits include swimming and boogie boarding, while surfers head to Tourmaline Surfing Park. Crystal Pier at Pacific Beach is a prime spot to catch a sunset.

The most romantic aspect of Pacific Beach is the Cape Cod-style cottages at the Crystal Pier Hotel. The cottages were built in 1930 and are truly special, being built out over the water, where the crash of waves will accompany a romantic night.

Newport Beach

Big-hearted lovers with big bank balances should head for Newport Beach, where the well-heeled stroll the strand, enjoying an ultra-sophisticated beach scene. Newport Beach stretches over 10 miles of gorgeous coastline. It also has the biggest recreational harbor on the West Coast.

In addition, there's an array of water sports such as surfing, sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, boogie boarding and sportfishing. Couples can catch a sunset on the Newport Pier or head out to sea on a champagne sunset cruise. The region has added appeal, having received The National Resources Defense Council and Heal the Bay organizations' perfect score of five stars and "A" grades for the cleanliness of its beach and waters.

Newport Beach offers plenty of pleasures on dry land, including live theater, high-end shopping, refined dining and wine tastings. For something different, take your sweetheart on a romantic spin aboard the Balboa Fun Zone's Ferris wheel.

Those looking for sophisticated lodgings should book The Fairmont Newport Beach, where a cutting-edge spa offers soothing treatments and a poolside sky deck serves up trendy cocktails in a South Beach-style setting. For accommodations harking back to yesteryear, book one of the ocean-view cottages at Crystal Cove Beach Cottages, which date from 1935 to 1955.

Carmel Beach

Carmel Beach and the town Carmel-by-the-Sea have a charm all their own and — as its most famous resident and former mayor, Clint Eastwood might put it — a real "make my day" atmosphere. Lovers will be enchanted by the refined beachside setting, where friendly dogs frolic and beachgoers hoist wine glasses to toast the setting sun. Carmel Beach is 120 miles south of San Francisco, tucked in as part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Wildlife lovers have the chance to espy sea otters, dolphins and even humpback whales. Beach bonfires are a Carmel tradition, offering a cozy way to enjoy the beach as night falls.

PHOTO GALLERY: Best dog-friendly beaches in the USA

Away from the beach, there's a wide range of restaurants, with many offering fresh, regional seafood, some with aphrodisiacal qualities, such as locally caught abalone. Further afield, couples can tour more than 75 wineries where it's customary to conduct wine tastings. Shopping runs towards specialized boutiques, art galleries and antique stores, with a great selection clustered along Ocean Avenue.

Couples will have plenty of accommodations to choose from, including 45 inns and B&Bs, which put a premium on an intimate home-away-from-home experience. For something upscale, there's L'Auberge Carmel, open since 1929 and offering a luxurious cocoon or an urbane base to venture out to explore the region.

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Farm dinners: Feast where your food was grown PDF Print E-mail

Larry Bleiberg, Special for USA TODAY 7:45 a.m. EDT October 17, 2014

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On Friday nights from May through Thanksgiving, Fresh and Wyld Farmhouse Inn and Garden in Paonia, Colo., serves a dinner made from fresh ingredients, many grown on the farm or produced in the area.(Photo: freshandwyld.com)

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With farm-to-table restaurants booming in popularity, farms themselves are now getting in on the act, offering meals to diners craving super-fresh cuisine that's often raised on site. "The producers are honoring the ground, presenting the fruits of their labor in a fun and delicious fashion," says Matt Jones of Slow Food USA, an organization dedicated to sustainable, local agriculture. He shares some favorites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY. Many of these meals are offered seasonally and often support food-based charities.

Fresh and Wyld Farmhouse Inn and Garden
Paonia, Colo.
On Friday nights from May through Thanksgiving, this inn sets a table replete with fresh ingredients, many grown on the farm or produced in the area. "It's all organic and all local. It's the epitome of a farm dinner," Jones says. "It's a very engaged agricultural community. This is our Shangri-La, our gem on the western slope of Colorado." 970 527-4374, freshandwyld.com

Our Table in the Field
Sherwood, Ore.
This Portland-area farm regularly hosts meals built around food raised right in the area. "Typically the dinners showcase local culinary talent and raise money for non-profits," Jones says. A recent dinner featured Pinot Noirs from the nearby Willamette Valley wine region. "It's a shining example of the vast variety and biodiversity of the Pacific Northwest." 503-217-4304; ourtable.us

Suzie's Farm
San Diego
This farm near the Mexico border takes a playful approach to its dinners. "They have really fun parties. They'll have music. As opposed to the formal sit-down dinners, it's more of a celebration," Jones says. In the past, organizers have themed events to the Day of the Dead, and have brought in food trucks to serve produce from the region. "There's a lot of acknowledgment of the local cultural diversity." 619-662-1780; suziesfarm.com

New Town Farms
Waxhaw, N.C.
Expect an elaborate and tasty meal at this Charlotte-area farm, which raises heritage and heirloom vegetables and livestock, including poultry and hogs. "Their dinners are spectacular. They're loaded up and they're exquisite," Jones says. "They're able to put together a full meal from the farm." Proceeds benefit local charities. 704-843-5182; newtownfarms.com

White Oak Pastures
Bluffton, Ga.
This 150-year-old family farm located near the Florida border has adapted with the times, and focuses on the humane treatment of its grass-fed livestock. It runs a restaurant and offers seasonal Friday and Saturday night dinners served in the same farm kitchen used to feed employees. "They're opening it up to the public and sharing the bounty of the farm," Jones says. 229-317-0203; whiteoakpastures.com

Shelburne Farms
Shelburne, Vt.
Throughout the growing season, this famous New England farm and restaurant hosts upscale outdoor family-style dinners by its vineyard on the shores of Lake Champlain. The meal, which include cheeses, vegetables and other products from Vermont farm partners, benefits a charity that educates children about healthy eating and sustainable agriculture, Jones says. "The backdrop is fairly spectacular." 802-985-8686; shelburnefarms.org

Spence Farm
Fairbury, Ill.
This multi-generation Midwest farm dates to 1830, but in the last decade has focused on increasing crop diversity and raising rare livestock breeds. "They've taken on rejuvenating the farm, raising a vast variety of heirloom products," Jones says. "The lesser-known vegetables and breeds in their dinners set them apart." The farm often collaborates with top chefs from nearby Chicago. 815-692-3336; thespencefarm.com

Glynwood Farm Dinners
Cold Spring, N.Y.
Monthly dinners showcase sometimes surprising seasonal products from New York's Hudson Valley. Dinners are often topical, and have highlighted ingredients from goat meat to hard ciders. "They have wonderful stuff going on all the time up there," Jones says. "I would fly there just to go to that cider dinner." Often meals welcome a guest farmer as a speaker. 845-265-3338; glynwood.org

Fox Hollow Farm
Crestwood, Ky.
There's no doubting the origin of the ingredients at a "Wheelbarrow to Table" dinner offered by this Louisville area cattle and vegetable farm, which brings in top chefs from the region. "It's in an old Kentucky farmhouse, a simple expression of locality and freshness," Jones says. 502-241-9674; foxhollow.com

Harley Farms
Pescadero, Calif.
This restored 1910 dairy farm produces award-winning goat cheeses and holds dinners year-round. A November five-course dinner in a restored Victorian hayloft offers barbecued Cornish game hens, lamb or skewers of fresh vegetables. 650-879-0480; harleyfarms.com

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NYC secrets: The Burger Joint behind a hotel lobby PDF Print E-mail

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NYC secrets: The Burger Joint behind a hotel lobby

NYC secrets: The Burger Joint behind a hotel lobby

USA TODAY's Nancy Trejos goes inside the hidden Burger Joint in Manhattan where only two burgers are served.

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Photo tour: The most beautiful places in New Hampshire PDF Print E-mail

The Most Beautiful Places in America

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Photo tour: The most beautiful places in New Hampshire

A state-by-state breakdown of the most beautiful places in the United States. View breathtaking photos of little-known places and famous scenic locations.

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USA TODAY 10Best 10:31 a.m. EDT October 17, 2014

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At Gleason Falls in Hillsborough, a beautiful stone arch bridge crosses Beards Brook.(Photo: Donald McQuade, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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New Hampshire has a landscape dominated by forested lakes, picturesque valleys and rugged mountain peaks. Take a photo tour with the slideshow above.

See more photos of scenic states:

ALASKA

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ARIZONA

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ARKANSAS

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COLORADO

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FLORIDA

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GEORGIA

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ILLINOIS

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KENTUCKY

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MAINE

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MARYLAND

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MISSOURI

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MONTANA

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NEW MEXICO

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NEW YORK

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OREGON

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RHODE ISLAND

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TENNESSEE

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UTAH

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VERMONT

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VIRGINIA

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WASHINGTON

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WYOMING

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Dive in to 'Living Springs,' a closer look at Austin's beautiful natural springs: A new interactive documentary project aims to raise awareness for the conservation of a popular Austin attraction, Barton Springs. Photo courtesy of the Austin Parks and Recreation D...
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