Florida Highlights – USA
Florida has some unexplored and beautiful places that are a must for travelers to see! Our trip to Florida consisted mainly of the sector between Fort Lauderdale, Key West and Miami. One of the smartest ways to explore the area is via hiring a car. Public transport is difficult for getting around.
Fort Lauderdale, popularly known as the "Venice of America", has become a major tourist destination over the years. It is typically more laid back than Hollywood with interesting dining areas and nightlife. One of its important hotspots is the downtown area, especially around Las Olas Boulevard. There are a number of new hotels and high-rise condominiums as well as boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. The Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop boasts of being the world’s largest drive-in movie theater with 13 screens. The Riverfront area and Beach Place make other fun visits.
Additional special attractions include the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum. It captures the thrill and beauty of recreational fishing from prehistoric times into the future. And if tropical gardens with birds and butterflies are your idea of fun, then head to Butterfly World in Coconut Creek for six aviaries, a bug zoo and a fascinating macaw landing!
A distance of 26 miles away from Ft. Lauderdale lies the vibrant city of Miami. In terms of land area, Miami is one of the smallest major cities in the United States. It has been divided into a number of parts – north, south, west and downtown.
Downtown is the heart of Miami, on the east side. The area is South Florida’s main business district and home to several major financial and tourist attractions. Downtown has some fun joints to hang out in like Space, Nocturnal, PS14, Studio A, Circa 28, Grass, Karu & Y, Pawn Shop, Power Studios and Metropolis. For a peek into the local music scene, Transit Lounge is a great place to go, as is Vagabond, Churchills and Circa 28 – all offer a good mix of eclectic music and people.
The southern side of Miami includes Coral Way and Coconut Grove. Coconut Grove is a major hot spot for shopping. A popular hang out area, "The Grove" has a number of clubs, one of the prime ones being Oxygen Lounge, which is underground.
The western side of Miami includes Little Havana, West Flagler and Flagami. The area is home to a number of immigrants from Central America and Cuba. It is also good for trying out some authentic Cuban food. Top picks include the Calle Ocho and Versailles. Stroll around to find cute little cigar shops and other little cafetarias that provide a true Cuban feel. If you are lucky, you might also catch some street action in the form of traditional festivals! Lastly, the northern side of Miami includes Midtown, a district with a great diverse mix.
If beaches are what you love most, then remember the entire East Coast in the area is a beach. No matter where you are, head east until A1A; you should be walking distance from the beach. Some of the best are in Key Biscayne, just south of Downtown Miami. At the end of the Key, lies Bill Baggs State Park and the Crandon Park, both make interesting sights.
If you are looking to experience the real "glamour" that Miami is famous for, head straight to South Beach. Its main streets namely Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue are lined with hundreds of high-end stores, bars, boutiques, hotels and restaurants, making it a major entertainment hub.
Ocean Drive is the easternmost street in South Beach; stems from south of First to 15th Street, running in a north-south direction. It is also home to several prominent restaurants, including News Café, Mango’s and the MTV-popularized Clevelander. Ocean Drive is famous for being the site of Gianni Versace’s former ocean front mansion. The Carlyle Hotel on Ocean Drive near 13th Street is an iconic art deco landmark. Built in 1939, it is one of the most sought-after settings for photo shoots, televised programming and Hollywood films.
Collins Avenue runs parallel to Ocean, one block west. Collins too is home to a number of historic art deco hotels and several nightclubs, including Mynt and Rokbar. Washington Avenue is one of the best known streets in South Beach. Running parallel to Ocean and Collins, it is known for some of the world’s largest and most popular nightclubs like Crobar and Mansion.
South Beach has an active club and bar scene. It is host to more than 150 clubs and other venues, most of which close at 5:00 am. Overall, the clubs have an exorbitant cover charge and are slightly overrated. Opium Garden, Prive, Snatch, Setai, Santo, Forge, Glass, Purdy Lounge and B.E.D. are a few of the big names. There are also a number of fancy hotels in the area, worth checking out. Try the Shore Club, it has an outdoor lounge/pool area called Skybar. There are also two restaurants downstairs called Ago serving Italian food and Nobu for sushi. Another promising experience is to walk through Delano, one of many swanky hotels in the area.
Make sure you see Lincoln Road in South Beach – an open-air pedestrian mall, as well as a premiere hot spot for shopping. To spend a day of pure fun here, I recommend renting a scooter, eating Haitian food at Tap-Tap or Chinese food at Van Dyke’s, and later proceeding to Jazid for nightly music. An interesting way to spend time on Lincoln Road is to people-watch. For this, all you have to do is get a meal in an outdoor restaurant. The area has several popular restaurants like Spris, Café Abacchi and Del Sole. If good Mexican food is what you crave, try the Homestead area in Florida city which has a number of hole-in-the-wall type of places like Rosita’s, NicaMex or Los Azteca’s. For authentic Indian food, go to Mint Leaf.
Apart from the above, South Beach is also one of the world’s foremost locations for fashion shoots, making Miami the model shoot capital of the United States. Approximately 500 models live in the area, with many more arriving during the prime fashion season between the months of October and March.
If nature is what gets you going, then a trip to the Everglades National Park should be high on your agenda. Right before dusk, you might be fortunate enough to spot an alligator coming out! There are also a number of interesting trails for visitors to walk through, the best being the Anhinga Trail. The latter is a boardwalk and so involves easy walking. Here one can get to see a number of different birds, turtles and alligators. You can rent a kayak or canoe and spend time on the water. At Homestead, there is the Biscayne National Park where one can ride on a swamp boat, or a glass bottom boat.
Key West is an island-city perched on the southernmost tip of America. The city is located about 129 miles southwest of Miami and 106 miles northeast of Cuba. It is on the dividing line between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, and stretches deep into the Atlantic Ocean.
The city is divided into Old Town and New Town. The original Key West neighborhood in the west is called "Old Town" and comprises the Key West Historic District. It includes the major tourist destinations of the island, including Mallory Square, Duval Street, Truman Annex and Fort Zachary Taylor. The Duval street bar and restaurant district has many different entertainment options, all within walking distance of each other. It is where you find classic bungalows and guest mansions.
The new section on the east is called "New Town" and consists mainly of shopping centers, retail malls, residential areas, schools, ball parks, as well as the Key West International Airport.
Many visitors rent a bicycle and explore the history and architecture of the Old Town. Walking tours, including a tour of the unusual Key West Cemetery are also available. The Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square is a daily spectacle for visitors and residents. It is at this point that one gets to view a unique display of artists, vendors and other animations amidst a crowded street across the ocean. The beauty of it all is unmatched; boat excursions and tours further provide an interesting way to view Key West from the water.
A number of renowned artists and writers have passed through Key West, but the two most famous are Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams.
Nobel Prize-winning author Hemingway’s former house is in the Old Town. It is where he lived and worked for ten years, now open to the public as a museum. It is undoubtedly one of the most famous tourist spots in all of Key West. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms (Scribner Classics)
while living above the show room of a Key West Ford dealership at 314 Simonton Street.
Hardware store owner Charles Thompson introduced Hemingway to deep sea fishing. Among the group that went fishing was Joe Russell, also known as Sloppy Joe. On Duval Street today, there is a pub by the same name.
Tennessee Williams first became a regular visitor to Key West in 1941, and is said to have written the first draft of A Streetcar Named Desire
while staying at the La Concha Hotel in 1947. He later bought a permanent house in 1949 and listed Key West as his primary residence until his death in 1983. Williams’ home at 1431 Duncan Street in the New Town neighborhood is a modest bungalow. The house is privately owned and not open to the public.