Browsing Category "travel"
13 Oct
2015
Posted in: travel
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5 Reasons to Visit Key West

When we started planning our epic road trip to Florida, I knew we had to visit Key West. I’m drawn to superlative places…the biggest, tallest, longest, farthest. Key West is the southernmost point in the United States. For that reason alone, I had to visit the quirky destination. I wasn’t prepared for how much I would enjoy the atmosphere in the Keys.

family posing at the US southernmost point Key West, Florida

Southernmost Point — I knew I would regret not trekking through the entire state of Florida to stand by the cement buoy marking as far south as we could travel. The marker is 90 miles from Cuba, and the most photographed spot in Key West. The queue line at the Southernmost Point was worse than some of the lines at Disney World. There seemed to be an unwritten rule for those in line concerning photography. It was assumed you would take someone’s photo, and they would take yours. The atmosphere was jovial. The marker is at the corner of Whitehead Street and South Street. It’s free, and always open to the public.

start of US Highway 1 in Key West, Florida

We also stopped at the corner of Whitehead Street and Fleming Street for a look at mile marker 0. Highway US 1 starts in Key West and stretches for 2,369 miles to Maine. We parked near the Southernmost Point and walked around Key West, which wasn’t a problem. I didn’t have any safety concerns, and there were plenty of things to see to keep the kids from complaining about the heat and blocks of walking. The t-shirts hanging in gift stores were enough to grab the kids attention. Several times I wished they didn’t know how to read.

Sign in Mallory Square Key West, Florida

Mallory Square — Crowds of people gather each night on the docks of Mallory Square to celebrate the setting of the sun. The rising and setting of the sun is something I take for granted each and every day. Since 1984, Key West has celebrated the end of the day — every day. Partying with hundreds of strangers because I’ve been gifted with yet another day was uplifting. Access to the square during the nightly celebration is free. There are food vendors with such offerings as conch fritters to tacos to fresh coconut water.

sword swallower street performer Key West, Florida

street performer juggling fire Mallory Square Key West

The square is also home to several street performers. We watched a man swallow a heavy, long sword and a man jump through a very small hoop complete with somersault landing. Another man shoved his body through a tennis racket, minus the strings, as a warm up to his eventual balancing, knife juggling performance. You had to be there. It was impressive. The performers are sarcastic, witty and charming. They’re good at working the crowd and managed to convince our oldest to place “professional street performer” at the top of his list of things to be when he grows up. Key West just may have altered that child’s future.

coconut trash can in Key West, Florida

Coconuts — The vibe in Key West is eclectic and free-spirited. I enjoyed being surrounded by artists, tourists, families, college students, grandparents, and musicians. I thrive around creative people, and Key West is not short on creativity. I knew Key West and I would get along when we walked by our first trash can marked “coconuts only.” I had no clue why there needed to be that many overflowing trash cans filled with hollowed coconuts. It became clear that coconuts are a popular beverage container.

boy drinking from coconut Key West

In Mallory Square, our oldest watched as a man plucked a coconut from his cart, hacked it open with a machete and stuck a straw in it for access to the fresh coconut water. After the water was gone, we took the coconut back to the man, and he used his machete again to give us the coconut meat. My future street performer, who loves the quirky just as much as I do, ate it up, the coconut and the experience. We do not have machete-wielding coconut hackers in Wyoming.

igunana in Key West, Florida

Iguanas, Cats and Chickens, oh my — We knew heading into our vacation that there was a high probability of seeing iguanas in the wild in South Florida. Our drive through the Keys to Key West was riddled with iguanas of all sizes, mainly large, darting around next to the highway. There were stretches of the drive where someone was pointing out another iguana constantly. We also spotted them while touring Key West.

rooster strutting in Key West, Florida

The former home of American writer Ernest Hemingway is in Key West and open for tours year-round. Unfortunately, it had closed for the day when we arrived.  We were able to look through the gate and the foliage to spy several cats hanging out in the yard. One of the cats had six toes. Six-toed cats in Key West are believed to be directly descended from Ernest Hemingway’s cats.

gypsy chickens of Key West, Florida

Chickens wander freely around Key West. We spotted several roosters strutting down the sidewalks as well as hens with lines of baby chicks crossing the busy roads. Our kids stopped every time we came across the gypsy chickens which meant a lot of stopping. I’ve read that the roosters are remnants from the now-illegal cock-fighting days. The chickens are quirky and different, perfect for Key West.

key lime pie dipped in chocolate on a stick

Key Lime Pie — My first taste of Key lime pie was in Key West. We opted to purchase pie from Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. I tend to do things big. I can’t simply go to Disney World. I have to drive to Florida, visit 18 states and stop at Disney World. I couldn’t just have Key lime pie. I chose a slice of Key lime pie dipped in chocolate on a stick. While I have no other Key lime pie to compare my experience with, I have no regrets. We learned Key lime can be used to flavor everything from cookies to BBQ sauce to salsa. We ended our night with more Key lime in soft serve ice cream form.

I could have spent days in Key West people-watching and cheering for the sun each night. It was the polar opposite of Disney World and Universal Studios. No one was in a hurry to get anywhere. We lost track of time as we wandered through Key West, which is the best way to spend a vacation.

 


 
Adding to Our List of Unique Camping Experiences
By     |    Sep 9, 2015
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Adding to Our List of Unique Camping Experiences

We’re tent campers, so when we have the chance to camp with an actual roof over our heads, it’s a luxury. We actively search for ways to avoid bringing a tent, cots, and air mattresses while still enjoying the camping experience. Six sleeping bags require quite a bit of packing space. This summer we’ve slept in a yurt, a tipi and now a U.S. Forest Service guard station. The Forest Service has cabins of varying degrees of size, amenities and cost... [Read More]

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One Thing that Changed Our Travels
By     |    Aug 25, 2015
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One Thing that Changed Our Travels

I remember five years ago standing in a visitor center making the decision to purchase a book titled, Passport To Your National Parks. I thought the book would be a nice way to remember places we visited but had no idea how much it would change the way our family travels. It was meant to be a souvenir but changed the way we travel. The passport is a blue, small, spiral book where tourists can collect stamps from visits to... [Read More]

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Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park
By     |    Aug 22, 2015
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Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park

Stand at any number of overlooks in Bryce Canyon National Park gazing at the colorful landscape of hoodoos and you’ll understand the definition of breathtaking. The shades of red, orange, white and gray layered on each other seem unreal. We stood at Sunset Point watching shadows shift and change among the hoodoos as the sun neared the horizon and knew we had to be down in the canyon. Our first hike in the park was down the switchbacks of Wall Street. You... [Read More]

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Loneliest Road Leads to Great Basin National Park
By     |    Aug 20, 2015
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Loneliest Road Leads to Great Basin National Park

There were no other travelers on the “The Loneliest Road in America,” US-50 in Nevada. We drove miles and miles without seeing other vehicles. There were no dilapidated buildings hinting at past habitation. It was just us on an adventure to Great Basin National Park with rolling hills and sagebrush as our companions. I’ve lived in Wyoming for almost four decades. I’m a sucker for the open road. I like roads rural with few people and quaint Norman Rockwell towns... [Read More]

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Walt Disney World: Epcot
By     |    Jul 29, 2015
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Walt Disney World: Epcot

My feelings on Walt Disney World’s Epcot are complicated. It’s the park geared toward adults with smaller crowds and more free space to wander. The pace was less frantic giving the illusion of being a tourist in a different country taking in architecture and food instead of a typical theme park. I didn’t feel pressured to hurry from place-to-place, which was a welcome break from other parks in Disney World, mainly Magic Kingdom. BUT, I would have enjoyed Epcot more... [Read More]

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Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom
By     |    Jul 24, 2015
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Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom

I didn’t think the humidity could get much worse than we had endured until the morning we walked into Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The sky was void of color, replaced with gray haze. I stepped off the bus and my glasses instantly fogged while dew collected on every service, including us. I feared the humidity would lead to a rough day in Animal Kingdom, but the kids were impervious to the weather once we were immersed in the... [Read More]

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Walt Disney World: Star Wars Weekend
By     |    Jul 23, 2015
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Walt Disney World: Star Wars Weekend

A few years back, it came to my attention that Walt Disney World holds Star Wars Weekends annually in May and June. Our boys were obsessed with Star Wars at the time. I took Jedis to the grocery store with me and forced Stormtroopers to remove their helmets for lunch. Their book choices and LEGO sets revolved around Star Wars. I watched YouTube videos from Star Wars Weekends and knew if we were ever to visit Walt Disney World, it... [Read More]

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Visiting the Magic Kingdom
By     |    Jul 10, 2015
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Visiting the Magic Kingdom

The magic at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom begins before you enter the park. The promise of Disney magic can drag even the most reluctant child from bed. There are many benefits to arriving before the gates open at the parks in Disney World. We were greeted by the mayor and several characters made an appearance by train at the Main Street, U.S.A depot 20 minutes before the official gate opening of Magic Kingdom. There were thousands of people, even... [Read More]

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Planning for Walt Disney World
By     |    Jul 8, 2015
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Planning for Walt Disney World

I have two words for potential visitors to Walt Disney World: be prepared. Seriously, don’t arrive in Orlando thinking everything will be magical without planning beforehand. There is a lot happening at Walt Disney World. It’s important to know your options and fit those with your family. Everyone’s trip to Disney World looks a little different, much like a fingerprint. Our visit was fast and furious. We’ve visited Disneyland in California twice and felt our experiences there would be helpful.... [Read More]

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Universal Studios Florida
By     |    Jul 1, 2015
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Universal Studios Florida

Walking through the brick wall into Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida is magical in a way I didn’t know existed. Looking up the crooked narrow street leading to Gringotts Bank and the massive stone dragon perched on its roof stopped us in our tracks. It was the Diagon Alley I had envisioned all those years ago when I read the Harry Potter series the first time. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley could walk out of the Leaky Cauldron any minute. The air... [Read More]

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Florida: Universal’s Islands of Adventure
By     |    Jun 30, 2015
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Florida: Universal’s Islands of Adventure

The main draw for us to visit Universal Orlando was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Harry Potter books captured my imagination in college and now I have my own muggles who wield wands and casts spells like their favorite Hogwarts characters. Universal Orlando consists of two parks: Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. In order to tour both parks, visitors need to purchase park-to-park tickets granting access to both parks. I’m going to discuss the parks separately,... [Read More]

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