There is nothing like a Florida road trip to see classic Americana, stunning sunsets, explore wide white beaches in a new car, on sparkling sunny days over good roads with the radio blasting out "oldies" that we haven't heard in a long time. Loved the ultimate sun-themed music playlist that Visit Orlando sent us on Twitter! Definitely keeps the mood happy when one is driving Florida from tip to tip.. Key West all the way to Pensacola and zig zagging across the whole state. We are super grateful to Visit Florida and Visit Orlando who were fantastic in helping us plan this trip and stay on our tight budget.
Our primary purpose was to visit family in Miami ( so Mozart could meet her brave cousin who at 6 has already been through 4 open heart surgeries and is as cute as can be). Plus she decided that after celebrating her 6th birthday in Paris, 7th birthday in Salzburg, 8th in Sweden, 9th in London and 10th in Barelona, it was time to celebrate her 11th in America at Harry Potter's Wizarding World! We have LOTS of stories, photos and videos coming from this amazing Florida vacation, but here is the short version to wet your appetite.
We flew into Miami from Barcelona ( sweet send off from our Spanish friends) via Germany, then headed straight for Key West! National Geographic calls this dramatic 113 mile drive, one of the world's most spectacular and I concur. Key West is one of my favorite spots on the planet and I haven't been back in over 30 years, so I was thrilled to see it again and share this treasure with my family.
Then we bathed in luxury at the gorgeous, historic Betsy Hotel in the dramatic Art Deco neighborhood on famed Ocean Drive in trendy, elegant South Beach where we became part of the weekend scene day and night and stuffed ourselves with sublime food.
That was followed by a visit to the Everglades, a fascinating UNESCO World Heritage site, where we watched awesome alligator wrestling and took an airboat tour.
Then onto an ocean view, deluxe room at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa on the beach in Hollywood,near Fort Lauderdale which is very family friendly. We had a great visit with family near there who treated us to delicious Cuban, Spanish and Lebanese home cooked food by my nephew-in-law while the two cousins, who had instant rapport, played happily as we adults gabbed. We made tentative plans to meet in Spain in two years.
Onto Orlando for five nights to see Harry Potter's Wizarding World and Universal to celebrate kidlets11th birthday, and of course a trip to Disney. We did a tweet up too...all at our "home" in Orlando ...Cocoa Key Resort and Water Park...a perfect Florida family vacation spot where kidlet and her Dad adored the thrilling water park and I loved the Jacuzzi and quieter pool. We even ended up doing a live interview on Fox 35 on the morning show!
Then onto Kennedy Space center and learning all about rockets and going to the moon.We even saw some bald eagles and their nests. We had a great time in St Augustine and stayed at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel near the historical center with awesome sea view and big jacuzzi in our room. We learned a lot of history, saw pirates and cannons going off, drank water from Ponce De Leon's Fountain of Youth and more.
Tallahassee, the state capital was next and onto Pensacola Beach Hilton with stunning beach and pool views, where we had a lot of fun exploring sites I played at as a child like the incredible beaches of the Gulf Islands Sea Shore as well as seeing the Blue Angels and Naval Museum. Mozart loved earning Junior Ranger badges and we built an awesome sand castle in the snow-white sand at sunset.
Then we stopped at charming, hilly Mount Dora on our way back to Orlando for a flight on to Houston and then San Jose, California.
Whew...a whirlwind tour...jet lag and all! We don't normally go at this pace, but really glad we did this time to get a real feel for the best of Florida. A big thanks to all these hotels and places that sponsored our stay so that we could bring these stories to you and stay on our tiny budget.