Viz-whaaaat?!? - My Family Travels

     Hello travelers!!  I'm excited to tell you all about the wonderful trip my family took to Miami and the Florida Keys this summer!  This vacation probably lands itself top on the list of places I've been in my 18 years.  Because my parents got engaged in Miami and my mom went to the University of Miami, I was bound to visit the city eventually.  Who knew I would get to enjoy the tropical Florida Keys in the same vacation?

       We started our trip by driving 5 hours from Tampa to Oleta River State Park in Miami, where we rented three kayaks and spent the afternoon paddling between Mangrove trees and exploring the water.  It was neat to see what other boats and paddlers decided to join us.  My sister thought it was especially fun to see a woman and two miniature dogs on a paddleboard coasting by!  From there we went to P. F. Chang's  in Downtown Miami and stayed at the Hampton Inn on Brickell Avenure.  This hotel was very upscale for the price we paid for it and conveniently located next to a lot of nice restaurants and shops.  If I ever visit Miami again, this is the hotel I'm staying at!

      The next day we drove to John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo where we went snorkeling!  I can't even describe how awestruck I was when I first looked at the seagrass.  Not to mention how stunned I was as I swam and discovered how much more there was to see!  It was amazing how close we were able to get to the coral reef and its inhabitants.  We then headed to our condo at Ocean Pointe Suites on Taverneir Key, where we hung out way after dark on a lit gazebo surrounded by water.  I can still hear the sound of the waves crashing against our temporary octagonal paradise.

      We got up bright and early the next day and stopped at an artisan's village in Islamorada before driving down to Key West.  Rain Barrel is a great place to spend an afternoon, if you don't mind the heat.  You could get lost in it because there is simply so much to look at!    It's also a great place to have Key Lime Pie on a stick, which is famous in the Keys.  Once we arrived in Key West, we walked around a bit before passing out at our condo at Sunrise Point Hotel and Suites.

      The next day we visited the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.  Watching butterflies come out of their cocoons and use their wings for the first time was unforgettable.  We eventually headed to Old Town where we had dinner at the Rooftop Cafe and sat at a table outside that overlooked the streets.  When the sun began to set, we paid and walked to the pier to witness the Sunset Celebration.  Many street performers and venders gathered and lit up the night.  It felt magical, and I'm sure the many street performers could see the stars in my eyes!

      The next morning we visited Vizcaya, a mansion that was built by James Deering and converted into a museum afterwards.  It is a huge water-front house with acres of amazing gardens.  Unfortunately we couldn't take pictures of the inside, but I'm pretty sure I used up the space on my iPhone taking pictures of the outside.  Words can't even describe how pretty and cultural it was. 

      I'd say my last family trip before I head off to college was a success!  I would definitely recommend the experience to anyone and everyone!  smiley

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