This October my childhood dream of traveling to Florida finally came true! We had 8 days to get the most out of our trip! Me and my Dad arrived in Orlando where our journey started. After all the security checks and picking up our rental car we immediately drove 40 minutes East to Cape Canaveral where we spend the night.
Day 1: Cape Canaveral / Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center is more of a science theme park / museum than an actual place where we could see the rockets lift off. Upon arrival the lady at the register advised us to take the bus tour first. The 2 hour tour took us along the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building), a huge concrete construction where (well it’s all in the name) the rockets get assembled. From there we drove along various launch pads along the coast. The reason for this area for the launch pads is because it’s safer next to the coast and that Florida has a constant climate whole year round. Part of the tour was a stop at the Apollo center, where the group goes from one experience room into another and end up in a spacious room with an actual rocket semi-assembled.
The other big attraction here is the Atlantis Space Shuttle. After the Americans checked of “going to the moon”, they wanted to make a machine that could be reusable. A $100 million shuttle is on display with more experience rooms.
After we had our dose of space-stuff, it was time to drive to Miami!
Kennedy Space Center
Oh yeah, rockets!
Day 2: Miami
“Party in the city where the heat is on. All night, on the beach till the break of dawn. Welcome to Miami. Bienvenidos a Miami.” Of course the Will Smith song about Miami from 1998 stuck in my head the entire time I was here 😀
Although my expectations of Miami were quite low, I did enjoy the relaxing vibe here! We stayed at Miami Beach in the Art Deco District and walked along Ocean Drive both in the evening and the morning. Loved how the difference in people is during these times. At night when we sat down at a restaurant, we were surrounded by the Miami-going-out-scene with girls in tight dresses and full on make-up. Not a common sight I had in the United States.
On our second day in Miami we went to Bayside Marketplace, from where we took a boat tour along the massive skyscraper skyline of Miami and passed the fancy mansions on the Venetian Islands. Bayside Marketplace is an open air mall with both the known brands and the souvenir trinkets.
Day 3: Key West
From Miami it’s a long long drive to Key West. This is where I somehow expected beautiful bridges and lovely views. But driving across the keys was more of a flat boring ride on a road with a maximum speed limit of 55 miles an hour. I so hoped that Key West wouldn’t be disappointing, knowing we had to drive it all the way back too. Luckily it wasn’t disappointing at all! The centre of Key West is a vibrant place full of hectic and craziness; with lively saloon bars and food stalls scattered across a certain street, it even gave a bit of a Thailand feeling. Especially during dusk we enjoyed strolling through these streets and just take in all that is happening.
On the other day we stopped at Americas continent most Southern point, only 90 miles to Cuba (where I was the year before :D). Plus we relaxed some at the pool of the hotel before starting the ride back to the mainland.
Boulevard of Key West
The streets at night in Key West
Day 4: Everglades
There are several roads to make your way through the Everglades. We started at the 9336 to stop at several points, including the Anhinga Trail. A short loop boardwalk above the grasslands. Unfortunately I didn’t spot any alligators here. We made another stop at Pa-Hay-Okee Lookout Tower for more views before we headed back to Homestead where we stayed the night.
The next day we drove along the 41 a.k.a. Tamiami Trail. Here we stopped at Coopertown, the first company in the Everglades who offer airboat tours. We started with small tour of the alligators and snakes in captivity, just before gliding across the swamp in a propellor engined boat. This was my favourite part of this trip, going full speed over the water and grasslands. When we slowed down we also spotted several alligators in the wild!
Cruising over the grasslands of the Everglades with the airboat
Me holding a baby alligator 😀
Day 5: Napels & St. Petersburg
From the Everglades we drove up North on the West Coast of Florida, where we first made a quick stop in Napels, a fancy city with plenty of villas next to the pretty white sand beach. And ended our day in St. Pete, the friendliest place in whole Florida. Really, it was Canadian-like-friendly! It was almost eery how quiet it was on the streets in this seemingly larger city. Here we strolled along the waterfront and Central Avenue where all the bars and restaurants are. St. Pete also has a Dali museum, but since we already visited the one in Spain, we skipped that.
Pretty beach in Napels
Day 6: St. Augustines
St. Augustines is the first and thus oldest city in the United States, earlier during our trip we met Vince who told us it was definitely worth the visit, so we did. Although the center isn’t big, it has a pedestrian only path with colonial houses with stores and restaurants inside. Unlucky for us it was pouring rain while we tried to see some of the town, nonetheless that didn’t stop us from seeing some of the town.
The old streets of St. Augustines
Day 7: Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Although we’re not big theme park enthusiast, while in Florida you must visit Disney World. Well, at least that’s what I thought. When combining all the Disney venues it might be extremely large. But only the Magic Kingdom is actually disappointingly small! Disneyland in Paris is bigger. This was a bit of a letdown, especially knowing that the entrance fee is $125 for a single day. But we enjoyed our stay; did some rides, saw the parade and got stuck for a while in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Yeahh, those dolls do get creepy after sitting there for a while, oh and especially when the music stops and they keep moving 😀 Even though the park was open until 10 PM, we were done by 6 PM and drove to the Olive Garden close to our hotel for dinner.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Day 8: Apopka & shopping
On our last day we visited Costa Farms in Apopka. My Dad built their first greenhouse 43 years ago and we decided to pay them a visit. We immediately got a tour of the entire complex, and although the surroundings were completely different after so many years, that first greenhouse still stood there.
Close to Apopka is Wekiwa Springs State Park with its natural spring where we spend the last few ours. A place for swimming and relaxation. The water in this spring is surprisingly cold though.
And close to Orlando is both the Mall of Florida and the Mall of Millennia. We visited both and definitely preferred the Mall of Millennia with the more classy look and feel, and it has a cheesecake factory!
The greenhouse my Dad built in 1976.