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Sea World, Cruising, Kennedy Space Center and Now Key West

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Written by Amy Peck.

When anyone ever asked me about traveling to Florida, I would always tell them that there were only 3 ways to get me to go back. Well I now have a fourth – Key West.

My husband Jeff and I were able to leave the kids behind with the grandparents and get away for a fun little weekend in September. Thanks to Joy and Tom, the annual Classic Travel Christmas bash started out in South Beach, where fun was had by all. Jeff and I decided that while we were down, we would grab a convertible and drive to the Keys for a few days.

Even though there was a hurricane in the Gulf we had the top down almost the entire drive. It is a beautiful drive and if you have the time it is definitely worth it. While the mileage is only 160, the drive will take close to 4 hours. However, we found many places that, if we had more time, we would have loved to stop and explore. Especially Islamorada, Marathon Key and Duck Key. Jeff has always wanted to go Tarpon fishing in Marathon, but we only had 2 days, so that will be on the next trip.

Our stay on Key West was at the beautiful Wyndham Casa Marina. One of only a handful of hotels in Key West that has a beach. Most people don’t realize that while Key West has awesome snorkeling, the beaches are not. The Wyndham had a wonderful pool with hot tub and a pool bar that served tasty tropical drinks and would bring them right to your lounge chair. We found the staff friendly and very knowledgeable with the pulse of Key West.

Once we got settled, we hopped in the car and drove the few short blocks to the heart of Key West, Duval Street. We hit Key West at the tail end of Biker Week and there were plenty of bikers left. As the younger sister of a Harley Girl, I was amazed at some of the bikes. Jeff being a former dirt bike rider was more impressed with some of the “biker chicks”. Anyway, the crowds weren’t that bad but finding a parking place was a chore. We decided that the thing to do on our next trip was to rent mopeds. This is what most people opt for and it looks like fun.

Our first night there we wanted some good seafood and the restaurant choices seem endless. After much discussion we decided to go grazing. This is my mother’s term for hors d’oeuvres and not a big meal. We started out at Half Shell Raw Bar for some raw oysters and buffalo shrimp. The oysters were great and buffalo shrimp hot and spicy. We then found ourselves at Sloppy Joe’s. The band was loud, the drinks flowing and people watching was hilarious.

The next day was spent shopping and just looking around. We found great deals on everything and that dickering for prices is allowed. It didn’t take us long to realize that a lot of stores don’t have prices on the merchandise. Since my husband is a born negotiator, I just stood back and pointed to the things I wanted. We had a wonderful lunch at Crabby Dick’s on the recommendation from the dive shop we stopped in at. We both had fresh clam chowder that was mouth watering. Jeff had frog legs and of coarse said they taste just like chicken, but I wasn’t buying it. We then had the blackened Mahi Mahi fish sandwich. I had never had anything like this and I was not disappointed.

We were in need of a nap so we headed back to the hotel and rested up for our last night. We had intended to go to A & B Lobster House, but were still to full from lunch. We just walked around and found my new favorite hang out, The Flying Monkey. This place is a very small bar attached to an outdoor/indoor restaurant. Besides the best name for a bar, they serve the most amazing frozen drinks. They have some pre-made ones or you can mix and match. I started and ended with the Chocola. I can’t remember all the good stuff in it, but I know I had a couple.

We stopped in at a few different places including the famous Hogs’ Breath, The Bull & Whistle then back to Sloppy Joe’s. If you go to the Bull & Whistle be careful of the 3rd floor, The Garden of Eden. This is advertised as a “naturalist’s paradise”. We did not venture up there but the bartender at The Flying Monkey filled us in plenty.

We realized that we had to get back to the hotel and start packing for the drive back to Miami. Reluctantly we took one last drive around Key West and tried to remember a more relaxing time. This was one of a few vacations were we actually started to plan a return trip even before we left. While the fall may not be the best time of the year to go to Key West, we found the weather warm and pleasant. Key West has many unique features that we did not have time to explore, but for sure we will be back.