So, before heading to South Florida for the first time I did a lot of research. I read a lot of post. I asked a lot of friends. The best advice came from a friend of mine who lived in Miami for a few years. One thing she told me (after I rented a car) was that I wouldn't need a car while I was in Miami. She was so right. I parked the car for two days and didn't move it once. One, because everything I wanted to see was a mile or less away (at the most) and two, the traffic is CRAY-ZEE! I'm sure it didn't help that the spring breakers were all in full force, but I'm told the drivers are always this nuts. So, just a thought-to save some sanity and money-wait to rent your car until you are done touring Miami. I also found the car rental to be really expensive. I had read it wasn't bad, but....it was pretty pricey and they added a bunch of fees for tolls. Even if you only use the tollway once they charged us every day a service fee, plus the tolls, so....plan to add quite a bit to your usual cost b/c I think it would be really tough to drive anywhere without hitting a toll road.
OK....on to some details. When I first arrived I drove to one of the first Keys-Biscayne (not to be confused with Biscayne National Park). There was a cute lighthouse that sat at the end of the beach. You can climb it and get a great view of the beach around. It was just a beautiful little beach town and worth a stop-especially as we waited for our hotel room to get ready.
My friend also suggested we walk to a place called Lincoln Road with tons of shopping. We went on a Sunday and they also had an antique market with rows of booths with lots of art deco fun, jewelry, and antiques on Sunday.
I read about a stop called Robbie's in Islamarado. There were some little stands etc around a marina, and a place to eat that overlooks a boat marina (the lot was crowded). The draw is the tarpon. ONE THING I didn't know was that to walk out on the dock, it's two bucks a person. If you buy a bucket of fish-(a few bucks more) you can walk out with that, but....just know-it's not free. The fish were pretty impressive.
We shopped and walked up the street. Next time I'd probably skip most of the other shops along the route and just shop Duval. There were lots of different artist shops and souvenir shops and stands. We also hit up Jimmy's Buffets for lunch.
We took a few hours to walk about a mile making lots of stops and finally made it to Mallory Square. There are more shops here, but this is where to aim towards sunset.
There were lots of fun pieces that tell the story of his life here and after, and you can even walk up and see where he wrote many of his books throughout the 7 years he called this place home.
Last up was a drive to Homestead and the Everglades National Park. I LOVE national parks. I'm on a quest to visit all the big ones, and I've got several on my list for the year. It's so neat to see animals in their natural habitat.
We stopped to take the Anhinga Trail. It's less than a mile, but....first up you need to cover your car with the provided tarps so the vultures won't damage your car. Sure enough they were still on the cars that were covered up prancing around.
A day was really enough time to spend in the Everglades, but it was a really unique spot and a different national park from the other wooded ones I've visited in the past. We ate at Buttonwood-it's just a little grill in the park. It was great grill food, nothing fancy, but an easy spot.
After we left the park I stopped at this farmer's market you pass along the Homestead entrance called Robert Is Here. It has all this unique fruit and veggies, but I recommend the fresh fruit milkshakes. They cost about 7 bucks each, but they really were delicious. For dinner I tried out a BBQ restaurant about ten minutes from my hotel called Shivers-another great find. I'm tossing in food recommendations b/c I've had a lot of bad meals in my days-but all of these stops I've mentioned I'd definitely do again!
On my last day, we had a few hours before we needed to head to the airport so I took my friend's advice one last time and went to an area called Wynwood Walls. It says it opens at 11, but that's only a small portion, you can really get there earlier and see a lot of the art work before headed into the small portion that opens/closes etc. The earlier the better because parking is a booger.
What a unique concept though. I LOVE art, and this whole part of town used to be these old abandoned concrete buildings. Artist were brought in and now the whole place is covered with graffiti art by well known artist with little funky restaurants along the way.
All in all I learned a lot. I could definitely do it better next time, and I have lots of tips and tricks I can share now with my friends who head down south. Let me just say-spring breakers or not-March looks good on Florida!