Random List of Advice
collected in a travel forum, and from e-mails

The most important thing to know about Florida is it's very very flat, so get out of the car and walk around, even when it looks like there's nothing there. Especially good for bird watching, and of course swimming. The West Coast beaches are best for shell collecting. Supposedly there are manatees in Crystal River, but I've never been there.

Dont miss the Keys. St. Augustine and Kenedy Space Center are great if you're in to history at all. Take an airboat ride in the Everglades. And Walt Disney World is a blast if you're so inclined.

Definitely visit:
1. Everglades National Park.
2. South Beach.
3. Key West.
- MW


Miami is the place where you'll find a bigger Cuban population, a bigger black population, a bigger Jewish population, Russians, etc.
It also is the place of better food!
If you've never had Cuban food, it's like Spanish food only with Caribbean influences: fried plaintains (like bananas), garlic-roasted chicken with black beans and rice, croquettes (fried fish and bread crumbs), picadillo (spiced ground pork with olives and raisins and almonds). Cuban coffee (espresso with lots of sugar) is highly recommended.

Miami / Fort Lauderdale
- I'd recommend staying on South Beach for the non-nightlife amenities. Its the most interesting area in Miami in which to stay.
- Miami is OK, and worth a day, but if your going to stay somewhere, head to Ft. Lauderdale, which is cleaner, has lots of very nice beaches, and is a lot less crowded. Take a water taxi ride around Ft Laud...some of the most incredible luxury yachts built are based there
- Stay on south beach in Miami. I think you'll find Ft Lauderdale much less interesting, and less convenient. If you do stay up there, try to stay near Las Olas.
- Ditto south beach. Although, if the Big City is not your thing, go to Ft. Lauderdale, or better yet, Hollywood. The beaches in Hollywood are really nice. But I think Broward County is more like a suburb on steroids, while Miami is a real city. And while I bitched and moaned about living there, it really is a facinating place and worth a visit. South Beach is like no other place. I never had nearly enough time to really enjoy Miami, but the little time I did have was fun.

The Keys
Key West is also well worth a visit. Make sure to stay in a guest house in the historic area - far more pleasant than the cookine cutter hotels.
Just one note - the trip to key west by car is alot longer than it looks - at least 5 hours one way from fort lauderdale, so include that time factor in your plans.

Glades are an easy day trip from Miami. Definitely see them!

The Park (www.everglades.national-park.com) has two major entrances close to Miami. Both are day trips. The Shark Valley entrance could actually be a half/three quarter day trip. The road to Flamingo is definitely going to be a day trip (at least for me, I'm a birdwatcher so I stop. The entrances are easy enough to get to. Rush hour traffic in Miami can be bad, so leave early. To go to Flamingo I suggest taking the toll highways south to Homestead, then Route 9336 (I think) into the Park. To Shark Valley, with its elevated tram, take US 41 west. Have fun!

St Petersburg
Has a lovely downtown walking area with an open goldfish/koi pond running the length of the shops, under the walkway bridge. Great food, I think one was The Crab Shack. We ( a large family group) had fresh-steamed seafood (mussels, oysters, shrimp, crabs) and veggies (potatoes, corn on the cob) all cooked in a large pit then thrown onto a long wooden table with holes for the 'trash' (large barrels underneath) where we threw the cobs, shells etc. Great food, atmosphere, and was right on the beach. Lots to do, friendly people.

Has many interesting areas with slave market info, and places where the descendants still weave the 'gulla baskets' (may be called different things), baskets which are hand-woven from local reeds and pine needles in various designs (many states in the area have their own version, with designs from local dyes made from local plants). You can talk to the artists about the baskets, their family history, and about the underground railroad quilt design stories. Very pretty places, too many to name. Great restaurants (especially the smaller places). Find a place which does a Georgia version of the Cuban sandwhich or local foods.

If you decide to go to Orlando for the theme parks, February is a great time to go since it's low season. A friend of mine used www.ticketmania.com/ to get discounted park tickets for us

West Coast
Sarasota has a very nice beach, and beaches on the west side are different. Usually calm, both the water and the wind. And superb sunsets!

East Coast
If you're staying long in Florida and are really interested in history I reccomend going up the coast to Kenedy Space Center or even further to St. Augustine

We just drove a bunch of back roads around Ft Lauderdale and had a great time. I couldn't tell you the routing, but it was through a lot of small towns, and was worth it. No, it isn't scenically gorgeous like the Alps or Rockies, but it has its own beauty and can be fun. Lots of gators, wading birds and jumping fish.

On Interstate highways, figure on an average speed of 60 mph for a daylong trip, including the time for fuel, food and restroom breaks. On secondary roads, figure on 35-40 mph.

If you want interesting drives: the best are (East coast) A-1-A all the way up the coast; or (West Coast) US 41, also called the Tamiami Trail. In fact if you are intent on visiting the West Coast, I would take that all the way up from Miami thru Naples, Ft. Myers, Sarasota. Much more interesting than 27. Even more interesting are the barrier island roads that parallel US 41, such as Longboat Key off of Sarasota. You can take that up to Bradenton, cut over to 41 & take the Sunshine Skyway Bridge right into (well practically right into) downtown St. Pete. This of course slows driving time down to a crawl, since there are actually things there worth stopping to see & do.

If you try www.travelocity.com, they have a number of miami hotels for under $100 (with reviews so you can avoid the bad ones).

There is a neat search engine type thing that compares Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz... etc: www.tripadvisor.com

this travelogue is part of the subside travelzine
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