FLORIDA, MIAMI & KEY WEST
& KEY WEST
It’s not all hamburgers, roller coasters and that mouse with the big ears.
From Miami, the beautiful people and its Cuban influences, to hedonistic Key West. Florida to most is Mickey Mouse and all things Disney. To us? It’s unforgettable road trips, mouthwatering food tours, and as much partying or chilling out in the most southerly point of the USA, Key West.
Oh, and a few roller coasters too of course! When in Rome…
One of our top 3 destinations. Period.
Yes of course we love a good rollercoaster, but the place offers so much more than just Mickey.
Easily accessible from most UK airports all year round, Florida’s temperature rarely drops below 30 degrees, and with it’s humid tropical heat you’ll never be bored, or cold in the sunshine state.
Be it a multi stop holiday, or lounging pool side, Florida offers fun for all the family. Us big kids however wanted something more than a picture with Goofy. Let’s put it out there right now. Florida isn’t a cheap family holiday. Even more so now with the exchange rate. A once in a lifetime trip for many, the devil is in the detail. Planning is key. Day trips and road trips need planned (and paid for) well in advance with a multi park ticket costing over £300 per person.
Here are a few ideas above Disney and all things themed.
I don’t know about you, but I wanted to be an astronaut when I was younger, and even today still look up and catch the international space station going over head and dream what it must be like, can they see us waving back?
There is no better chilled out day trip than a visit to NASA. It is on a huge scale, be prepared to have a sore neck from all the looking up or sore jaw from being in awe of it all. The highlight for us was seeing the space shuttle Atlantis, suspended high above you in the exhibition hall at NASA. The old girl is not looking too bad for clocking up 125 million miles. What the?! Yes really. Orbiting Earth nearly 5000 times and carrying out 33 missions before being retired from service in 2011.
What makes this all the more fascinating for us, is that we met a guy called Scott (Scooter) Altman a few years ago.
(Bare with me on this one) Our flight was delayed, as was his, and as the three of us sat at the bar in the Business lounge in Orlando Airport, and struck up conversation, he began to tell us over the next few hours and numerous beers, about his esteemed career as an astronaut. Seriously.
He flew the spaceship Atlantis and commanded it. He was also the guy that flew the aerobatic scenes for Top Gun the movie and more recently has just entered the Astronaut Hall of Fame. You too can get the opportunity to meet a real life astronaut at NASA, but I’ll guarantee you won’t have a few beers with them, and certainly won’t hear the stories we heard that day. A fascinating man, a legend, and an honour to meet you Scott. Your business card is still in my wallet.
The marks on the underside of the space shuttle are clear to see from all the re-entries in to earths atmosphere. The heat tiles, though still in tact, are badly discoloured but totally as it was when it landed for the last time back in 2011.
The space ship Atlantis in all its glory and cargo bay open with the boom arms extended. The highlight of our trip to NASA. There is plenty to see and do on site and theres even a replica of the inside of Atlantis so you can sit and pretend to fly it. Im not ashamed to admit I did. We both did!
Of course any visit to Florida wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a theme park or two. One of our favourites is Busch Gardens. An hour’s drive from Orlando, it has some of the fastest and biggest roller coasters in Florida. Plus we love the food on offer such as these crazy turkey legs (right) and given Florida’s tropical heat and humidity, it’s also one of the parks that you can buy a cold beer in.
We don’t ask for much.
Don’t expect to buy a cold beer or two in Disney. Its all far too sweet and wholesome for that.
Sheikra rollercoaster (above) in Busch Gardens is 200ft high, tops speeds of over 70mph and has no floor. Absolutely terrifying and we bloody love it.
TIP - wait for the front row. The suspended 200ft drop with an unobstructed view is worth the extra 30 minute wait.
Our other favourite park in Florida is Universal Studios.
Not just because you can visit Moe’s bar from The Simpsons and grab an ice cold DUFF. It’s the whole atmosphere of the place. Designed and aimed more to adults (but still plenty of family and child friendly things to do too).
City Walk is an area buzzing all day and night with bars, eateries and nightlife to keep everyone happy. And that’s before the Hulk Roller Coaster.
Last but not least The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Am I the only one that hasn’t read the books or watched the movies? I must be, given the queues for the place.
TIP - if you stay on site at one of Universal Studios selected hotels, you get park access 1 hour before everyone else each morning and unlimited fast pass access to the rides (but the price of the hotels would lead you to believe that you’re technically paying for it).
We found that going to Universal in the afternoon and staying until late evening, helps to avoid long lines and standing around waiting to ride coasters. So by that stage most families are long gone. It’s one of our best tips for Florida in general. Don’t rush to get to the parks. Half of the State are doing the same thing and you’ll regret it. Trust us. You can’t rush around in 95 degrees AND 100% humidity all day everyday.
You’ll need another holiday when you get back to recover from it.
Turkey legs and roller coasters. They both can mix and stay down.
PARTY IN THE CITY…
Miami deserves a sub-category all on its own, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.
The beautiful people, the real estate, the body beautiful roller skating down South Beach and the skateboarding dog to match. Star Island with its A-list inhabitants. We tried but failed to see Ricky Martin. I know, I know.
Then there’s the Cuban quarter and its cool chilled out vibe, buzzing Espanolla way - the historic Spanish village where it all started basically. Walking food tours of the entire area and don’t get me started on the beauty of The Art Deco district with its Pina Coladas you could drown in.
…when the heat is on, all night on the beach till the break of dawn, welcome to Miami.”
THE OVERSEAS HIGHWAY
Voted time after time one of the top 10 road trips in the world. 170km of bridges and tropical waters.
Island hopping, the USA’s largest collection of coral reefs and magical KEY WEST at the end. Leaving Miami and heading south, allow 3-4 hours, charge your camera and hit the open road. This is one not to be missed.
ONCE BITTEN, FOREVER SMITTEN
Key West, you beautiful, magical thing you.
Party as hard as you want, or hide by the pool and do nothing. Clothing optional bars, America’s finest snorkelling and fishing to match. 90 miles from Cuba & the most southerly point in the US.
Key West has a Caribbean look and colonial feel with a near-hedonistic vibe going on.
And boy do we love it.
The Overseas Highway (connecting Miami with the Keys).
Think of it as a magical road trip and the treasure is at the end. Driving through Key Largo, Big Pine Key, Deer Key. Dozens of little islands and half of them you could miss if you blink a handful of times.
The Florida Keys are home to an array of exotic wildlife including alligators, the American Crocodile, and iguanas that practically dwarf you. I kid you not.
We love this place SO much.