This was our day today after faint recollection lead us on a little treasure hunt. To a secret place tucked away but oh so close (who knew this was only a few miles from the house we go to every weekend?). We felt like we were worlds away from everything.
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.
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.
Baby free. A rarity. Traveling with one bag filled only with my needs and one agenda– to have none. A long walk through the dunes to my private paradise. No one in sight, just a long stretch of sand, a big sky and deep blue sea.
Until recently when I heard the name Gansevoort my only association was the trendy NYC hotel chain where I would sip cocktails rooftop or work them off at Exhale. I came to find out, Gansevoort is also a town about 3 hours north of the city (near Saratoga Springs) which would become the destination of our very first road trip with little Miss A.
I had found a sweet little cabin on a farm on airbnb and since Aria is obsessed with animals I thought it would be an adventure. And, adventure it was since the cabin was without electricity or running water (I totally knew this going in), and although a very slight inconvenience at times, it totally added to the experience.
The cabin itself was gorgeous (beautiful wood interior from floor to ceiling and tons of windows) and the location was perfect for unwinding. We would wake in the mornings to total silence, except for the occasional distant whinny of one of the horses (Aria’s first word in the morning was always an exuberant “Horsey!”). Each day we would go for walks and wander down and see the animals. Evenings consisted of watching the sun go down, cooking out ( on the fire pit/dutch oven, propane burners or charcoal grill) and sitting on the front stoop star gazing and using lanterns to light our way inside. We throughly enjoyed “roughing it” and the beauty, serenity and fun we found there.
Although we could have easily stayed put and enjoyed the weekend without ever leaving the property, we ventured off and found some great local spots. On Saturday I dropped Aria’s dad to golf, and she and I hit Lake George State Park, a lovely spot with several little beaches, a very touristy beach main street and trails and campsite (we snuck in a hot shower there). On Sunday we all hit Saratoga Springs, which, much to my surprise, I loved. It has a great main street, cosmopolitan restaurants and a whole lot of charm. Of course, Saratoga is known for the horse race track so on the way back we checked out the ponies and placed a few bets which was good fun.
All around it was a winning weekend, and one I’d totally recommend for any urbanite looking to shake off the city and get back to the basics.