We have recently visited South Florida and I have described the experience in a three piece article series. This article presents the reasons why I am drawn to South Florida and why I consider it to be a great family destination. The second one focuses on the Florida Keys and lists my favorite places to see and things to do there. Finally, in the third article I go through the aspects of the United States that annoy me :-).
As is our family tradition, come March and we leave Sweden for some sun and warmth. For 2019 we chose to do a rerun of a trip we had done five years ago – Miami and the Florida Keys. During that trip Aneta was pregnant with Emili and we thought it would be cool to show Emili the places that she “visited” then. She is four years old now and recalls a lot of our trips and often says things like “Dad, could we visit Tokyo again?” or “I went to Malta with mom and grandma, next time you should join us”. She is a great travel companion and it is very interesting to see her get sincerely excited about the smallest of things that we usually take for granted. This reminds me how lucky we are to be able to travel as much as we do.
So, why South Florida? Here is a list of my reasons.
This one may be obvious – March in South Florida more or less guarantees nice weather with a temperature between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius. This is cool enough for sightseeing and road tripping, and the same time warm enough for swimming.
As an exception that proves the rule, this time we had two rainy days, but I cannot say that this in any way spoiled the vacation.
Since I don’t consider a trip to be complete without a lot of interaction with the locals, it is necessary to have a common language. Of course, Florida delivers in this aspect. Granted, there is a large number of people that only speak Spanish (which I don’t), but there is always a fluent English speaker nearby.
Even though I have read that Florida is known for bad driving, it is not something I saw in practice. The traffic can be quite dense (especially in Miami, Miami Beach and Key West) but it is still quite relaxed and friendly. And the roads are usually in great shape, which is not very surprising as this is USA after all, a country designed for cars. Being car-centric has its bad sides of course, but for road trippers it is mostly positive.
This is another aspect not specific only to South Florida but valid in the USA in general. Food is abundant – there is an insane amount of restaurants. Yes, a lot of them serve unhealthy food, but then they are also priced accordingly. But go up in price a bit and you can get food of great quality.
It is worth to mention that, according to European standards, American portions are huge. For instance, one order of tapas in the USA is the size of a main course in Europe. A portion of sushi in the States is 15 to 20 big pieces, while in Sweden I am typically full after 12 medium sized pieces. During our trip we kept making the mistake of ordering too much.
The atmosphere and scenery
I love the Caribbean feel of the Florida Keys. Although I am not sure that the Keys are formally a part of the Caribbean geographically or politically, in my opinion they definitely are in terms of atmosphere. The people are laid back, the beaches are sandy white and the sea is stunningly turquoise. We visited Aruba back in 2015 and there are many similarities between Aruba and the Keys.
In my opinion, a bit of this Caribbean magic is lost in Miami and Miami Beach, they are less laid back and more party oriented. I think that they simply cater to a younger audience, while the Keys are more family friendly.
Other than people generally being very kind towards kids, there are at least two concrete examples of child friendliness that I noticed in Florida. The first one is that hotels typically do not charge extra for children up to 12 years old (sometimes even up to 17). The second one is that most restaurants have a children’s menu together with crayons and coloring paper.
In short, South Florida is child friendly and provides a laid back atmosphere with awesome scenery, perfect weather, good roads, nice food and no language barrier. It is a great mix of the West and the Caribbean.