Monday, July 23, 2012

Places I Love in Florida

Originally I was going to blog about this in one of my 5 Things posts, but I am quickly realizing that I have far too many ideas for that and I need to keep working on posts about life in the Sunshine State.  J and I have been trying to explore our new state within our meager budget.  This can be hard to do.  Miami is a great city for the rich and famous.  Every other day I see that some pop star or actress is frolicking on Miami Beach.  If you have the cash to spend there are a lot of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.  You can get a valet anywhere here (even at Bahama Breeze which is a chain like Chili's).  We've had to dig a little deeper to find some of these gems, but they make life in Southern Florida a little better.

Matheson Hammock Park is located right next to the botanical garden where we volunteer.  It is a good find for families on a budget.  For just five dollars per vehicle there is a little atoll (an enclosed lagoon) that is perfect for swimming with wee people.  There are a lot of tiny shells for kids to collect and minnow-ish fish for them to observe.  There are lifeguards on duty during designated times.  There is a restaurant in the park too (The Red Fish Grill- haven't tried it yet).  There also seem to be oppurtunities for various water sports just off of the parking lot.  We take visitors here because they can see out to Key Biscayne and get a great view of the Miami skyline.  The only issue I have with this place is that it is surrounded by mangroves- which can be stinky at times- but they are important to our ecosystem, so I can't rag on them too much.

Me with Key Biscayne in the background, Thanksgiving 2011

Me in front of the Atoll, Thanksgiving 2011

While driving through Coral Gables you will realize it is truly a one-of-a-kind city.  Surrounded by the ugliness that is most of Miami, Coral Gables is a green oasis.  The trees lining the streets are like nothing I've ever seen before.  Banyans, Live Oaks, and Palms make for strange bedfellows, but here they work together in a strange, jungle harmony.  Banyans are positively huge- I daydream about making one into a little cottage.  They have all sorts of nooks and crannies and they provide shade from the oppressive Miami sun.  I grew up admiring the Village of Greendale and I always appreciated the historical significance of that small town.  Coral Gables has an interesting history and if you are in South Florida you have to drive through.  (Check out the Biltmore Hotel, the Venetian Pool, Coral Way, Granada, and the various "themed villages.")

The Southern Gulf Coast of Florida (Naples to St. Pete's is what I've seen) is absolutely beautiful, in my humble opinion.  I know there are better beaches out there, but the beaches of Miami and Fort Lauderdale don't hold a candle to those on the Gulf Coast.  The sand seems softer, there are bigger and prettier shells to collect, and life seems a bit more relaxed (probably because it's vacation central).  I also happen to like being out-and-out there more than I do in Miami.  Many of the people living there have some Midwestern roots, so they're a bit kinder.  We haven't spent too much time on the Gulf Coast, but if we had the time and money for a Florida vacation, I would like to spend it there.  (If we had the time and money for a vacation we wouldn't head to the beach, but if my parameters were Florida, I'd pick the Gulf Coast.)

There are a couple of more places I love to visit: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens (where I volunteer), Wynwood Art District, and Dining at Food Truck Rallies and on South Beach.  Since I've written about them before I figured I'd stick to newer experiences.  If you've missed any of my posts, check out ones with Miami Life and Food Love labels.

Me, Volunteering for the Ramble at FTBG, November 2011 (I made and sold the scarf on the table)

Me and the Littlest Brudder under a Jacaranda Tree at FTBG, April 2011

J in front of a Baobob at FTBG, April 2011

Me at the John Lennon Installation Piece at FTBG, April 2011

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