City Escape: Kid Friendly In The Florida Keys

founders park islamorada

So, we’ve been back in snowy New York  for the about a week and the Florida bug must have been contagious because since returning I’ve had two different mom-friends ask about recommendations in The Keys. The Florida Keys are an easy escape as the start of them (Key Largo) is only about an hour and a half from the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area. It’s an easy drive and great way to get a quick taste of island life. Aria’s Pop and Uncle Adam live there, so I’ve gotten quite familiar with them, especially the little treasures on Key Largo & Islamorada.

Where to stay:
The beauty of having family in any vacation spot is getting to crash with them and not worry about hotels. The Keys leave something to be desired when it comes to accommodations– a lot of roadside motels and no-frills spots that still end up being pretty pricy.

My first recommendation to friends to is check out Airbnb. Often you can find great apartments or private homes for rent (for a lot less than hotels). If you can get a waterfront spot, go for it– the beauty of the keys is really on (or in) the turquoise waters.  If you can’t score being seaside, don’t worry– most of the Keys are only a mile or so wide, so you’re never really far away.

One hotel I do love is Cheeca Lodge. It has gorgeous ocean front accommodations, beautiful spa, tennis and golf courses on site and a pool and private lagoon (which is perfect for the kids). They also have Camp Cheeca,” a day camp for kids 5-12 that explores the natural wonders of the Florida Keys.

What to do:
Now that Aria’s a toddler, I got to experience The Keys in a whole different way. This go-around, I was scoping out playgrounds and kid-friendly spots. And I found them.

Founders Park: This is a municipal park in Islamorada. It’s about $5 for non-residents to park and inside there is a huge pool area (separate fee) and a very pretty little beach with calm waters and two great playgrounds. It’s definitely worth a visit with a little one. Picture above!

Theatre of the Sea: I had passed this place hundreds of time and this trip the whole family made a visit for Miss Aria. It’s a bit of a mini tropical Sea World, but one geared towards preservation and education. They have dolphin and sea lion shows, a nature walk, a fun little bottomless boat tour (where dolphins and iguana’s make appearances), and a bunch of other fun things for kids.

Theatre of the sea

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: Another spot w/little beaches, endless bike and walking trails, and access to Key Largo’s best asset– the water. They do snorkeling tours and scuba tours, but you can also just rent a snorkel, mask and some fins and go in off their beaches. They are in the midst of the mangroves, which are a signature of Key Largo and great explore by kayak (also available for rent on-site).

Where to Happy Hour & Eat
There are endless spots for food and drink, but here are a couple of my regulars when in Key Largo & Islamorada.

Breakfast: Made To Order— sit out on the back deck and enjoy water views and good food.

Lunch:  The Islander Resort: Go for the shrimp tacos and stay to use their pool and beach area.  The pool area is “resort guest only,” but locals can always be found there. The pool also has a wide gradual entrance (zero entry) on one side and mini-waterfall which is great for the little ones.

Dinner: Morado Bay— This bayside retreat offers two great options– The Beach Cafe for casual dining and Pierre’s for a more refined dining experience. Both come along with good food and amazing views.

Happy Hour: The Lor-e-lie (Islamorda)— Great sunsets, drink specials, live music, island vibe. Grab a table or one of the adirondeck chairs next to the water (and away from bar) and let the little one loose in the sand.

Want to know another amazing Florida island spot for families? Check out my all time favorite kid-friendly vacation spot HERE. 

The Islander resort nap

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Weekend Delight: Whole Wheat Pancakes (that actually taste good!)

It’s was rainy Sunday morning at the lake house, so breakfast got more attention than usual. I discovered this amazing whole wheat pancake recipe a while back, and ever since I made the first batch Aria’s been asking for more. She now also wants to “help”, which usually includes a spill and added cleanup, but is still super cute . I spruce up the recipe by throwing sliced bananas in the mix  (as well as on top of the finished product along with fresh strawberries).

Oh, don’t get scared off by the fact that the recipe has you adding apple cider vinegar to milk to essentially curdle it (ew). These are so light, fluffy and really delicious.  A great way to sweeten up a rainy day.

AMAZING WHOLE WHEAT PANCAKES 
Serves 2-3

picstitch

What you’ll need:

1 cup of milk
1 tsp of vinegar (white or apple cider)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp of sugar (I even skipped this and they were still great)
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of baking soda
1/4 tsp of salt
2 tsp of melted butter (and a bit for melting on griddle)
1 egg
1 banana (optional)
3-4 fresh strawberries (optional)

Directions:
Combine the milk and vinegar and let the mixture curdle and then mix together the other ingredients while it does.

In a big bowl, whisk to combine the whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg, melted butter, and the curdled milk, until it looks fairly homogenous and smooth.

Then, whisk the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir the two together until just barely mixed. Make sure any visible loose flour to be stirred in, but leave the lumps. If you stir out the lumps, the pancakes will likely be tough.

Gently stir in 1/2 a banana sliced (optional)

Preheat a nonstick griddle to 375 degrees F and grease the surface with butter.  On my stovetop I just put the flame a little above mid-way.

Add small scoops of pancake batter w large spoon.  Cook for a few minutes, until you start to see bubbling on the surface. Flip the pancakes and cook for a few minutes on the other side, Both sides should be golden.

Garnish with rest of banana sliced and some sliced strawberries.

Enjoy!

Additional HealthyStyle Note:
You can skip the syrup to kick up the nutrition factor. I use a little Agave on mine, and Aria is still happy enough with them as is (I’m all about keeping the sweet stuff away from the littles until it’s impossible to hide it from them!) Real Maple Syrup is also a much better option than a lot of the store bought stuff.