Miami, Florida

This past January, just as temperatures reached the negatives in Iowa, my boyfriend, Parker and I escaped to Miami, Florida for a taste of sunshine before the inevitable three months of snow the midwest would see.

This was my first time in Miami and it was also my first time planning a trip without the assistance of my parents. However, I took a few pages from their book to insure that we tried new restaurants and visited some of the best sites.

On day one, we decided to check out Miami Beach. This is regarded as one of the most popular beaches in south Florida with it’s unique architecture in the Art Deco district, shops, restaurants and of course, a massive recreational beach.

Miami Beach

We started by visiting Señor Frogs for lunch. Trip Advisor had this restaurant listed as one of the most fun, and unique, dining experiences in Miami Beach. Our server was all smiles, as she made each of us a balloon hat to wear during our meals. It is a tradition that the servers make each guest a balloon hat and decorate their table with fun signs.

This alone, puts a smile on everyone’s face, because you look ridiculous.

Aside from the playful atmosphere, the food is definitely worth checking out. We ordered chips and salsa, tortilla soup and tacos. All three were very good. Señor Frogs are also known for their margaritas. We did not indulge seeing as we knew we would be drinking later in the day. However, the food and atmosphere alone was enough for me to highly recommend visiting this restaurant.

Second, we headed down towards the beach itself and checked out the famous Sugar Factory. This establishment is known for their goblet drinks. We hit up this stop a little early, because during happy hour, you buy one goblet and get another free. With each goblet being almost $50, this is a great deal.

Parker got a sour watermelon goblet, while I stuck with a blue raspberry ocean themed one. The whole ordeal is an experience. The servers bring your glass to you filled with dry ice and make a show of pouring it.

Another great factor is that if your goal is too be tipsy, but not drunk, one goblet is the perfect amount. You’ll be in a great mood, but not sloppy.

These drinks are delicious and if you are in the mood for a refreshing afternoon break, this is the place to go.

After grabbing a snack, we headed to the beach itself. Miami Beach is littered with lounge chairs, however, they are reserved for hotel guests or are paid only. We found that you can get away with sitting in one for a little bit if you want a quick rest, but someone will approach you eventually.

The beach has plenty of room to set up camp, though.

Another plus of the beach is the boardwalk system and accessibility to bikes. Considering most people who visit Miami Beach have some sort of drinking in mind, there are many bike stations to promote the use of other means of transportation aside from driving a vehicle, while intoxicated.

My boyfriend and I rented bikes, which was pretty inexpensive and allowed us to get around the beach fairly quickly.

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are famous for their long bridges, accessibility to the ocean and of course, being the southern tip of the continental United States.

If you are driving from Miami, the driving time to Key West is about 3 1/2 hours one way, but that can increase with high traffic volumes as most of the road is one lane in each direction.

However, the view is so beautiful, and captivating that the drive is pretty enjoyable, especially as you get further south near Bahia Honda Key and Big Pine Key. The seven mile bridge, takes you over seven straight miles of water with no land. This experience is absolutely unique as you can see miles and miles of ocean. You realize just how vast the body of water truly is.

We stopped at Bahia Honda State Park to take a break from the drive and swim. This state park houses a gorgeous historic bridge, which is no longer in use, but open to the public. It also has a lovely cove beach, that is exempt from raging waves, provides a view of the vehicular bridge to Big Pine Key and has a decently sized recreational swimming area.

Since we visited in January, we had the beach pretty much to ourselves. The weather was about 75 degrees and the water a little chilly, but refreshing. There were maybe ten other people enjoying the beach so it was relatively quiet and private.

I can’t speak for the summer season, but this secluded beach was the PERFECT place for us to take a break from the city and get a breath of fresh air in a stunning location.

Wynwood Walls and Miami Design District

The Miami Design District was about a mile from our AirBnb. I’d heard good things about this outdoor mall, so we decided to check it out. The design district was beautiful, providing many picture opportunities. There are so many things in this district to see.

Many of the shops were far too expensive for us to even consider purchasing anything. You kind of feel Saks Fifth Avenue vibes. However, the atmosphere is beautiful and you feel the luxury just walking around.

While in this district, we stopped into an ice cream shop called Mad Lab which allowed you to add a variety of ingredients to your ice cream. To top it off, the ice cream is topped with glitter. Yeah, I know. Glitter. It’s awesome.

I would highly recommend checking out Mad Lab if you are in the area. It’s delicious and the perfect afternoon treat.

After visiting this district, we moved just a couple miles over to the Wynwood Walls. This area of Miami is known for its wall art. There are so many different artists and concepts to check out at this attraction. The attraction is free and many guided tours will allow you to learn information about the art and the artists themselves. We didn’t even go on a tour, but walking around overheard many fun facts about some of the paintings.

It was a fun experience that I definitely won’t forget.

Miami was a dream vacation considering the frigid weather I would soon experience for several months, but I hope that if you find yourself there, you check out a couple of my must sees. This city has so much to offer and I know I barely scratched the surface. This is definitely a place I will be visiting again.

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