Suggestions for offbeat/interesting vacation ideas for Miami and the Keys?
January 8, 2004 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Thinking about taking a vacation to Miami and the Keys sometime in the first half of March. Suggestions? [more inside]

We're looking for: interesting restaurants, hotels that don't break the bank, offbeat and interesting things to see, tourist traps to avoid, and just general stuff you think we should know.

I've gone to Miami a couple of times, but have never been south of Key Largo since I was eight years old or so. Is Key West worth it? How much time should I devote to Miami, the other keys, Key West? (we'll probably go for a week and a half.)

Things I've really liked so far in Miami, to give you an idea of my tastes: the Calle Ocho street festival and dinner afterward at Versailles, the Art Deco walking tour in Miami Beach, peoplewatching over breakfast at News Cafe, Joe's Stone Crab, the Wolfsonian Museum, Jimbo's in Key Biscayne, the Pennekamp Marine State Park on Key Largo, the Card Sound Road and the view from its bridge, et cetera, et cetera.
posted by Vidiot to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Truman Annex in Key West is very pretty
Truman's Little White House -- pay a visit if you're a history buff -- Truman's famous poker table is still there among other things
the beach at Fort Taylor is quite good
Hemingway's House (very well kept, better than the -- more beautiful -- one in Cuba, unsurprisingly)
there's plenty of bars, I quite like the Green Parrot

if you're a coffee drinker check out Babys Coffee
posted by matteo at 11:25 AM on January 8, 2004

I have made many trips to the keys and it remains one of my favorites. I used to have friends living in Key Largo, but if you aren't that lucky, a couple of good places are a resort called Parmer's Place on Little Torch Key, and for anyone interested in camping, Bahia Honda state park. The Sandspur campsites are very nice, and Bahia Honda has one of the few natural beaches on the keys, just past the seven mile bridge outside Marathon.

If you want to avoid touristy areas, don't spend too much time in Key West compared to the other keys (although at least a day trip is fun)
posted by TedW at 12:18 PM on January 8, 2004

We stayed at the Blue Skies Inn in Key West and quite liked it. Small, reasonable, good location, nicely furnished.
posted by widdershins at 12:19 PM on January 8, 2004

A day trip to Key West is plenty, I'd say. The best reason to stay overnight would be to make sure to be there for sunset -- the sunset gathering near the Southernmost Point is (unexpectedly, for me) a very memorable experience. If you're not into the crowds and the street performers, go around to the other (east) side of the island and hit the Afterdeck at Louie's Backyard for a snack and a look at the locals.

If you liked the Pennekamp park, you'll probably like Everglades National Park esp. airboat rides out into the "river of grass". If you're more up for walking through lush gardens, Vizcaya and Fairchild Tropical Garden are both gorgeous and relaxing.

Eat drive-through Pollo Tropical -- just like real Miamians do! Oh, and the Knaus Berry Farm in the Redlands will be open while you're there -- best fresh fruit shakes and cinnamon rolls on the planet, made by German Baptists dressed in traditional overalls.

Go see Jai-Alai in Dania. The sport itself is all about the gambling, but the crowd makes for great people-watching, so it's a family-style outing (my mother used to take us on the day after Christmas).
posted by gleuschk at 1:40 PM on January 8, 2004

If you love to suba-dive, say so, and I'll give you numbers for the scuba place that's taken care of my guy for several years now...home safe and with great stories and photographs.

Rest of you: the more good food places in the neighborhood you can recommend, the happier I'll be! Thanks!
posted by realjanetkagan at 3:27 PM on January 8, 2004

if you want something off-beat (not sure how touristy it is), check out Coral Castle. Vizcaya is also cool if you haven't seen it yet.

Everglades is def. a must see -- unlike anything you've probably seen. Depending on where, you can always go on an air boat ride. That's probably touristy, but worth it I think. You get to see a different part of the "river" then the places that you can drive/walk through.

Just be careful driving -- try not to piss anyone off. And don't don't don't get off the highway, pull out your map and ask for directions. They can both get you killed (at least when I was living there).

Have fun, and use sunscreen!
posted by evening at 5:57 AM on January 9, 2004

I used to live in Key West, and we go back there every couple years. Most of the places I could recommend are now gone, alas, but one of the best meals I have had in my life was a couple years ago at Antonia's on Duval. And despite recent improvements at Fort Zachary Taylor, it still holds that there's no reason to go to the beach in Key West if you're coming from somewhere else in the Keys - Bahia Honda, as TedW mentioned, is the place to be. Park and walk to the beach, then turn left and walk a half-mile or so to get away from the most persistent seaweed (and crowds).

Leave some time for driving down the Keys. Sometimes there will be a backup that will last through a dozen or more Keys, and you only have that two-lane road except for a couple spots on major Keys like Marathon. So you want to have time to waste, and to enjoy the view, which during most of the trip is really great.

You may want to see what's playing at the Key West Film Society not all that unique, I know, but a recent and welcome art-house addition to what used to be a vast cinematic wasteland. On the other hand, I wouldn't stay in town just to see a movie.

Also, in case you're planning going to the Sunset thing at Mallory Square, be aware that, contrary to gleuschk's indications, it's on the opposite side of the island from Southernmost Point. Louie's Backyard, on the other hand, is right there next to the Point.
posted by soyjoy at 9:44 AM on January 9, 2004

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