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—Holidays on the Harbor” Light up Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands, Florida
CHARLOTTE HARBOR & THE GULF ISLANDS. (September 29, 2008) – In this picturesque area around Punta Gorda, on Florida’s Southwest Gulf Coast, residents deck the decks, docks, seawalls, ship's masts, palm trees, anything and everything that can be festooned with holiday lights, and then rejoice in the kaleidoscope of colorful displays.

During the annual —Holidays on the Harbor” celebration throughout December, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands also sparkles with a wide variety of special events. Some annual favorites include Holly Days, the Symphony of Trees, Holiday Magic Pops Concert, Christmas Bird Count, and Christmas for Critters along with street and boat parades, art festivals and canal tours – all illuminated with thousands of holiday lights. The highly acclaimed Peace River Lighted Boat Parade will again enchant visitors on December 6th.

By lighted boat, or by bicycle, tours take in fifty-foot Christmas trees, snowmen, Santa’s sleighs, and even more elaborate holiday vignettes as residents revel in this holiday tradition with brilliant light displays on decks, lanais and along the waterways. A full holiday schedule follows. Contact the Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands Visitors Bureau at 1-800-652-6090 or www.CharlotteHarborTravel.com for additional information.

King Fisher Fleet’s Christmas Canal Cruises embark three times each evening from Dec. 5 - 31 from the pier at Fisherman’s Village Marina in the city of Punta Gorda. The one-hour tours are $12 for adults and $6 for children under age 12, and reservations are suggested. The 19th Annual Peace River Lighted Boat Parade begins at dusk on Saturday, December 6th. Inland, —Holidays on the Harbor” features a full schedule of tours, concerts and performances throughout the area. Special Holiday Gallery Walks, art exhibits and a gift show and sale celebrate regional and local artists and offer places to find unique items.

Aside from the glittering festivities, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands can be a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Prized for its pristine natural beauty, the state’s second largest harbor area offers more than 28 miles of uncrowded beaches, a 270-square-mile aquatic preserve teeming with marine life; and nearly 200 miles of kayak- and canoe-friendly —Blueway Trails.” Beginning in late fall, the bird population swells to more than 190 species as thousands of swallows, wading birds, warblers, White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills and other neotropical migrants arrive to spend the winters here. If you’re seeking a bit of peace on earth this holiday season, you can easily find it in this corner of paradise.

For more details on the holiday event schedule, accommodations and more, go to www.CharlotteHarborTravel.com.

More links:

To see the beauty of the sparkling holiday harbor tours, and get a preview of private fishing charters, go to: www.kingfisherfleet.com

To view the nature, wilderness and kayaking offerings, go to:www.babcockwilderness.com and www.grandetours.com

About Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands

Located halfway between Tampa and Naples on the Southwest Florida Gulf coast, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is Florida’s premier year-round eco-tourism destination. Known for its pristine beauty, the area has hosted seven major feature films, been featured on SAIL magazine’s list of the —10 Greatest Places to Sail in the United States,” ranked by Golf Digest as the —Third Best Place to Live and Play Golf in America,” and rated by MONEY magazine as one of the —Best Places to Live in the South.” For information about area events, activities and attractions, contact the Charlotte County Florida Visitor’s Bureau, 18501 Murdock Circle, Suite 502, Port Charlotte, FL; (941) 743-1900, or call toll free at 1-800-652-6090 for a free Visitor’s Guide; or visit the Web site at www.CharlotteHarborTravel.com.

Notable Events During the Holiday Season in and Around Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands, Florida:

Fishermen’s Village Holiday Open House
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008
Punta Gorda, Fishermen’s Village
Tel: (941) 639-8721; www.fishville.com
6 to 9 p.m.
The lighting of the Village kicks off the holiday season. Complimentary refreshments, holiday décor, live entertainment by —Sounds of the Virgin Islands” band and visits with Santa Claus.

Christkindl Market at SwissChocolate+
Dec. 1 – 31, 2008
Tel: (941) 639-9484
www.swissconnectionusa.com
Swiss chocolate shop with the finest confections from Switzerland. The Swiss born owners, Maria and Franz von Atzigen, settled in Punta Gorda in 2002. The Christkindl Market will replicate the traditional European Christkindl Market with Christmas décor, cookies and holiday beverages.

28th Annual Christmas Light Canal Tours
Friday, Dec. 5 – Wed., Dec. 31, 2008
Punta Gorda, King Fisher Fleet at Fishermen’s Village
Tel: (941) 639-0969; www.KingFisherFleet.com
Departure times: 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Cruise through the winding canals of Punta Gorda for this family tradition of evening enjoyment with spectacular illumination of community holiday spirit. View dazzling Christmas lights, decorative homes, docks and boat displays.

Christmas Lights Bike Ride
Friday, Dec. 5, 2008
Downtown Punta Gorda
Tel: (941) 639-2263; www.AcmeBicycleShop.com
Begins at 6 p.m.
Festive riding tour of downtown Punta Gorda and Punta Gorda Isles. Enjoy the area’s holiday decorations, good spirit and the lighting of the tree ceremony. Call for safety requirements and details. This event is coordinated around —Holly Days” where visitors are invited to join the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Merchants’ Association and the City of Punta Gorda in the lighting of the Christmas tree. Entertainment provided by regional musicians including the Singing Hands group, the sign language ministry of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Port Charlotte.

30th Annual Christmas Parade
Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008
Taylor Street, Downtown Punta Gorda
Begins at Noon.
See Santa —hang ten” on a surfboard and enjoy the holidays in Southwest Florida style. More than 100 floats.

19th Annual Peace River Lighted Boat Parade
Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008
Punta Gorda, Charlotte Harbor
Tel: (941) 639-3720
Begins at dusk.
Nearly 40 boats will be decked out in holiday décor on Charlotte Harbor. The festive display of lights and gorgeous reflection on the water make this annual event a definite must see!

Englewood Art Festival
Saturday, Dec. 6 - 7, 2008
Dearborn Street in Olde Englewood Village
Tel: (941) 474-2007
The sixth juried Winter Fine Arts Festival. Shoppers stroll through artists’ booths, unique shops, and dining at many restaurants in the village.

New Year’s Eve Fireworks Extravaganza
Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008
Fishermen’s Village Waterfront Mall, Resort and Marina
1200 W. Retta Esplanade
Punta Gorda
800-639-0200
Music by Sounds of the Virgin Islands begins at 8:00 p.m. Fireworks at midnight.

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For Additional Media Information,

Please Contact:

Deborah Stone
SMITH
dstone@smithadv.com
(404) 368-1245

Jennifer Huber, Tourism Public Relations Manager
Jennifer.Huber@CharlotteFL.com
Charlotte County Visitor’s Bureau
18501 Murdock Circle, Suite 502