What should I do while I'm doing nothing in South Florida?
June 11, 2012 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Spending a few days in the Florida Keys (and maybe a day in Miami?) with a college friend... I've never been to South Florida. What should we do/see or stay clear from?

I'm heading down to Key Largo in a couple weeks for the wedding of two very good friends. So I'll be there for Thursday and Friday (wedding on Friday) but then my friend comes in early Saturday afternoon and we're basically on our own until Wednesday.

I know I want to go to Key West and see Hemmingway's house (and bazillion cats, apparently) but what is there to do throughout the keys and is it worth spending a day/night in Miami? I know we'll get down to some snorkeling, though I don't know where yet. Are there any keys between Largo and West that have things on them?

I'd planned on renting a car, so we should be pretty mobile the entire time. If anyone has any itinerary ideas, or like I said must do's and dont's, I'd be forever in your debt. =) And as always, thank you all in advance!

(I did find this AskMe, but it seems to be pretty old... and same thing with this old thread. I'll poke around them, but I'd like to try and be current as I can)
posted by indiebass to Travel & Transportation around Florida (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I really like Miami's Metro Zoo.

Catch some Jai Alai. I wouldn't go out of my way for it, but it's interesting and worth seeing a game if you're passing by.

I really love going to the fruit and spice park and they let you eat the exotic fruit that has fallen, but if it's a crazy hot day, I would pass. If you go, take the tour (you'll also get fruit to eat that way, too).

If you like Art Deco, then going to Miami Beach is a must. The Art Deco Museum does tours.

Also, if you go to Miami Beach, go to News Cafe and sit outside and people watch. Never gets old.
posted by vivzan at 11:43 AM on June 11, 2012

Response by poster: That fruit and spice park sounds AMAZING, and definitely up our alley (one of the benefits of taking a botanist with you on vacay) =)

But this is an excellent start; thank you so much!
posted by indiebass at 11:49 AM on June 11, 2012

If you're going to Homestead, stop by the Coral Castle.
posted by miaou at 12:06 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm obsessed with the fruit and spice park. Beware, you'll get to eat fruit that you'll get nowhere else and then you'll start longing for it. :)

Seconding Coral Castle. Loved it as a kid.
posted by vivzan at 12:11 PM on June 11, 2012

Best answer: There's a vast difference between Miami and Key West. It's a straight 4 hours over the water on the bridges, not including stops and traffic. For a bit it's spectacular, then you start to get a bit weird.

Most of what's between Key Largo and Key West is mostly "the keys" nothing special in particular but most people have a favorite area that they like, either for fishing, or diving or for going to margaritaville, or what have you.

Islamorada has a nice resort, it's pricy and kind of funky, called Cheeca Lodge. Marathon has mosquitos.

Key West has a few things to look at, the Conch Train, Duval St. I enjoyed Hemmingway House, it's kind of weird how it's rusting up and getting moisture damage. The cats are pretty cool. Mel Fisher's Maritime Museum is intersting, but I thought it was spendy for what it was. Have your picture taken at the Southernmost Point. The Truman winter white house is something. Take a picture of a pretty chicken cruising around. Now you're done.

My opinion is that I'd rather spend the time in Miami, than schlep all the way down to Key West to look at cats, but that's me.

On Miami Beach I like Lincoln Rd, for pedestrian strolls, cafes, shops and people watching. The art deco is pretty fantastic, and going into random hotels to have cocktails can be a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Vizcaya, is neat, Miracle Mile in Coconut Grove is sort of touristy, but there are neat houses, and such around. Drive around Coral Gables for more interesting houses.

Another direction is to go to Ft. Lauderdale and check out Las Olas Blvd, go to the main beach and see what's left of "Where the Boys Are". Have lunch at Aruba, walk on the pier, check out the little shops. Personally, I can sit in Aruba all day, sipping fruity drinks and watching the people on the water.

See if there's a nice boat tour on the Intracoastal Waterway. I love spending an evening floating past cool homes, with a breeze and music.

It is very hot and humid in the summer and what you think you can deal with all day, will quickly make you hot and crabby.

A nice way to spend a cooler, sunny day is to drive up or down A1A.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:05 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

See rare and beautiful plants at Fairchilds

Do not bother going to the seaquarium
posted by abirdinthehand at 1:44 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you do the Metro Zoo you MUST rent a bike thingy! Get there early or they'll be all rented out.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:14 PM on June 11, 2012

See The Barnacle, qv, in Coconut Grove, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, yes the Coral Castle--very evocative--and in the Keys, Indian Key, qv. Deco District in SoBe, yes, and Vizcaya. Be sure to eat some Cuban food in Miami at Versailles, qv. (Sorry, can't do links.)
posted by fivesavagepalms at 4:06 PM on June 11, 2012

Best answer: It's been a while since I've been in the Keys but I used to try to eat as many fish sandwiches as possible (like a fish sandwich tour)-- in Marathon, Keys Fisheries, in Key West, B.O.'s Fish Wagon.

For snorkeling you might want to try in Bahia Honda State Park. I've gone kayaking in the mangroves somewhere and that was really fun (and intensely mosquitoey, you could hear the whine of them, bring serious DEET if you do this). There are quite a few pull off points beside the road where you can see the shallow parts that form a path and just wander quite far into the water, which is pretty neat.

Also there are Key deer (basically mini deer) on Big Pine, but I don't think I ever actually saw any.
posted by tangaroo at 7:46 PM on June 11, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you so much, guys! The name of the game is relaxing, so I'm not horribly worried about *locking down* an itinerary but I'd like to have a loose framework to swim through. I still have a week or so before I go, so suggestions are still welcome!
posted by indiebass at 7:52 PM on June 11, 2012

Miami native here. Definitely spend some time on Miami Beach (esp. the Art Deco District and Lincoln Road). Vizcaya is beautiful.

Shorty's BBQ is delicious... as is Rio Cristal. Neither one is terribly fancy, but they are longtime favorites of locals.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:48 PM on June 11, 2012

I enjoyed going swimming at the Venetian pool in Coral Gables, a Miami "suburb".
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 4:50 AM on June 12, 2012

In Key West, the ferry to the dry tortugas is a must. An evening bar hopping on Duval street is also worthwhile.

Miami proper I'll pass on, but Miami Beach and South beach is fun if a little self-consciously cool. I've always been happier going further north from Miami to the little beach towns -- Delray Beach for instance is nice and chilled.

If you have time to run inland on US 41 through the Everglades, you can stop at the National Park and see more gators than you ever imagined.
posted by dzot at 6:26 AM on June 12, 2012

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