3. Stuart, Florida
Perched on the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern hemisphere, the St. Lucie Inlet, Stuart is surrounded by opportunities to revel in nature and the arts as well as indulge your inner history buff. See the sea turtles on warm summer nights at the nearby Hobe Sound Nature Center, (gently) touch a stingray at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, or visit the House of Refuge—a former haven for shipwrecked sailors operated by the United States Lifesaving Service and now a beautiful historical museum. Stuart also boasts the newly renovated Lyric Theatre, a former silent movie palace now hosting concerts and art-house movies. And this July, Florida’s “Treasure Coast” commemorates the event that gave the region its name—the 1715 hurricane that struck Florida’s east coast, sinking 11 Spanish galleons laden with New World silver and gold. The summer, area events include a two-day conference at the Vero Beach Museum of Art (about an hour north of Stuart), lectures and public exhibitions.