Florida

For my big trip this year, I went to Florida with my friends and it was amazing. I had never been to Florida before (unless you count a layover at the airport, which I don’t). We decided not to do the touristy thing and go to the amusement parks and I highly recommend it.

We spent five days in Key West and five days in Miami.

Key West

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Photo courtesy of Penny Higgins

Our first beach was Higgs Beach. We got there later in the day so we didn’t get to spend too much time there but it was a cute little beach. It’s definitely not that pristine of a beach so I wouldn’t expect a gem but it was still a great spot to take a swim.

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Down on Whitehead Street in Key West is the southernmost point of the United States. Word on the street is that at night, you can see the lights from Havana since they’re only 90 miles away. Not pictured is the huge line you have to wait in to get a picture taken at this buoy.

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Smathers Beach was my absolute favorite beach on this trip. It was a dream. I sat in the shade by a coconut tree, swam and even napped. I could have stayed on this beach for the rest of the trip and been just fine. The funny thing about the beaches in Key West is that there is a naval air station down there so while you’re chillin’ at the beach, you’ll hear the roar of their planes taking off.

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Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is supposed to be another good beach but the day we went, it was pouring outside. We were told that this is a great place for a sunset and they were right. We ran out into the rain to take pictures of the sun as it disappeared over the horizon. It was beautiful!

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Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory was a cute little place where there are TONS of gorgeous butterflies fluttering around. They’ll even land on top of your head or shoulders. The coolest part for me was seeing the two flamingos they had because you get so close to them. I had never been that close to a flamingo. It’s not a place you can spend a ton of time at so plan to do other activities as well.

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Ernest Hemingway’s house is absolutely amazing. It’s a beautiful place for a beautiful writer. The house has about 50 cats that have six toes. Yes, you heard me right. Six toes. I tried to get a good picture of them but I am allergic to cats and didn’t want to spend the rest of the day sneezing so I’ve linked you to their website to learn more here.

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Truval Ice Cream was a cute little ice cream shop on Truman Avenue with lots of flavors. If you travel anywhere with my sister, be prepared to stop for ice cream.

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Courtesy of Waymarking

You have to stop by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Cafe and get a margarita because hello! Margaritaville? Anyway, get the Last Tango in Paris and thank me later.

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We went on a Ghosts & Gravestones tour to some haunted locations and it was cute! It was the first night of storytelling for our tour guide so it was a little rough… but luckily, I was already very well informed of the stories because I’m a sucker for creepy stories. We also saw Robert the Doll at the East Martello Museum. If you don’t know about him, read his story here. I would post a picture but I didn’t ask him for specific permission to do so.

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Snorkeling with Fury should have been fun in theory. They did a fantastic job, don’t get me wrong. I was so excited to do this because I love getting to try new things and snorkeling in the middle of the ocean sounded amazing. However, the second I jumped off the boat and started swimming, I was having a full-fledged panic attack. I don’t know about you guys, but something about being in the middle of the ocean is unsettling. I was around so many people but I was still worried I was going to die out there. Maybe it’s all the ‘lost at sea’ movies I’ve seen but it was not great. I eventually swam back to the boat and tanned until we docked back at the port. The staff at Fury were amazing and luckily, they made our experience a lot better.

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The Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square is a must. There are street performers everywhere and music playing. We even had our tarot cards read by a sweet psychic named Solaya. She was so kind and we felt so happy & calm after our reading! This is a great place to spend your sunsets at.

BONUS: Duval Street in Key West is where all the parties, restaurants, bars, and dance clubs are at. There is always something to do there and lots of interesting people to meet! Stop here for some definite fun 🙂

Miami

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The VRBO we stayed at was an incredibly nice apartment at the Bay Harbor Islands outside of Miami. It was gorgeous and had a rooftop infinity pool and hot tub so you can imagine where we spent most of our time. It was a little chilly and rainy the couple of days we were in Miami so the hot tub was fantastic.

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A must in Miami is to visit Calle Ocho for a little taste of Cuban culture! We loved it down here. There were musicians in the streets, Cuban coffee, cute souvenir shops and great restaurants.

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While at Calle Ocho, we ate at El Cristo Restaurant. I highly recommend the beef empanadas and the tostones. Tostones are fried plantain bananas that are crispy and delicious. Plantain bananas are not sweet like regular bananas. They are more starchy and salty. It’s definitely not one that you will peel and eat. However, they are delicious. If you ever get a chance to eat plantain chips, you’ll be hooked. (Steph doesn’t agree but then again, she has more of a sweet tooth).

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A few of us went to Marlins Park to watch the Marlins play the Braves and it was so much fun. It was my first time at a major league game so we went to experience it. Marlins Park is huge and has a retractable roof for inclement weather. Because of all the Latin culture in Miami, they sell empanadas and other Latin food at the stadium. This was so cool to see!

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I’m full Venezuelan so one of the big things I wanted to do in Miami was to eat Venezuelan food! Doggi’s Arepa Bar was PERFECT for this. They have the best arepas filled with everything you can think of! For those of you that don’t know, arepas are round baked dough ‘patties’ made from corn flour. You can split them open and put whatever you want in them, almost like a sandwich. I love eating mine with tuna but it’s popular to eat them with cheese, shredded beef or even black beans.

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Courtesy of Wikipedia

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is a beyond beautiful estate on the way to Key Biscayne. I had never heard about it before we went there but it was one of my favorite places. It’s a huge estate and has the prettiest gardens. I found out that you can do weddings there and I can only imagine how perfect that would be.

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While we were out by Key Biscayne, we visited the Cape Florida lighthouse. It was cloudy and rainy the day we went out but luckily, it had stopped raining by the time we walked out here. If we had had more time (and a sunnier day), we would have stayed out here to swim.

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Finally, the gem of Miami… South Beach! The second the sun came out, the 7 of us packed into the rental and drove to the beach to finally catch some rays. It was gorgeous and so incredibly hot. Fun fact about South Beach: there are a lot of older, European women walking around topless. We weren’t used to that so quite the shocker at first, considering it’s not a nude beach. We made it a few hours before the storm from The Day After Tomorrow rolled in and it started pouring on us.

Overall, Florida was amazing and I can’t wait to go back and explore some more! Key West was a party and Miami ended up being a relaxing ending to the entire trip. If you’ve been or you live there, tell us what some of your favorite places are or definite must-sees!

 

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