Road tripping Florida

When in 2010 the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, I was 14 and there was still no sign of any Hogwarts letter. So I promised myself I had to go and chase my acceptance letter myself. Since then, 5 years have passed, but my infatuation with Harry Potter hasn’t seemed to fade and hence my attraction to Florida has only been growing. This year, finally, we made it to the United States and did a small road trip through the Sunshine State.

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After landing in Tampa, we took our car and arrived in Orlando – our first stop – late at night. Here’s what we did the following 10 days of our trip:

Days 1 to 3: Universal Studios Orlando:IMG_4796

As written in a previous post, we spent our first three days in Florida in the Universal Studios, where we got to see from the Harry Potter Park, to the Minions, Jurassic Park and E.T. (and tons of other things) every imaginable (and non-imaginable) thing humans could create.

Day 4:Kennedy Space Center:

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Kennedy Space Center was created for the Apollo manned lunar landing program and has since been used to launch every NASA human space flight, including the Space Shuttle program (1981-2011). It was named in honor of President Kennedy shortly after his death. On december 5, 2014, Kennedy Space Center launched its first unmanned flight test of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle currently under development to facilitate human exploration of the Moon, asteroids and Mars.

It is located on Merritt Island, north-northwest of Cape Canaveral, on the Atlantic Ocean. The visitor complex features two IMAX theaters, the Shuttle Launch Experience and displays rests of rockets which came back from  space, such as Space Shuttle Atlantis and Saturn V.

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Rocket Garden

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Day 5: Cocoa Beach:

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After leaving Kennedy Space Center on Day 4, we arrived in Cocoa Beach to a wonderful sunset on the beach of the Hilton Cocoa Beach Hotel.
We spent the morning of day 5 laying on the beach, hearing the waves of the Ocean, and enjoying the wonderful sun, before leaving in the afternoon for our final destination: Miami Beach.

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Days 6 to 10: Miami Beach:

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What did we do in Miami?

The Big Bus Hop-on-Hop-off tour: this tour is the best way to get an overview of such a big city without getting lost. I was a little deceived, that once you hopped off the bus, there wasn’t much to see besides small shops and places to eat, so we stayed on the bus most of the time. Our guide Michael was great and his stories were lots of fun. The tour offers three routes: Miami Beach, Downtown Miami and Uptown Miami, covering famous spots such as Little Havanna, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables and Ocean Drive. We did not have time to take the third route, as we wanted to stop at Ocean Drive on our way back to the Hotel with the bus. IMG_5348

The Everglades: Take a tour on an airboat which floats over some of the freshest water you can find in Florida. You won’t believe it, but the water is only about 20 to 30 cm deep. During the tour, you will have the possibility to see some alligators swimming freely in their natural habitat. It’s also the only place where you can find alligators and crocodiles living in the same place, since the water is a mixture between salt water and fresh water.

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The Beach: We didn’t have much time to stay at the beach, but when we went, we mainly stayed at our hotel’s beach. I’d recommend people to go to South Beach, where you might also find some locals besides all the tourists. Although the beach was nice, personally, I wouldn’t go to Miami for the beach itself. If you’re interested in having a longer break, you might prefer staying in Cocoa Beach or heading over to Key West.

Shopping: I’d definitely recommend Aventura Mall, which is huge and has tons of shops. On the last day, we went to Dolphin Mall before heading to the airport and personally, didn’t like that Mall at all and hence wouldn’t recommend it for an extended shopping day.

Where did we eat in Miami?

On the first evening, we went to a Brazilian Steakhouse, which honestly was so amazing I’m still dreaming of and telling all my friends about it. Everything starts off with a big buffet where you can get from Sushi to salad and cheese everything you might imagine and even more. Then, it’s basically an all-you-can-eat kinda thing, where these guys come with all the meat and give you what you want. (and yes, 99% of them are really Brazilians…)

For the rest, I’d recommend walking around in Espagnola Way, where you can find all sorts of places from Mexican, to Spanish, Italian, Seafood and a Pizzeria (which has the best Pizza I’ve eaten in America.), so basically you can choose something different for every day in only one road.

Where would I recommend people to stay?

We stayed in a huge hotel in Miami Beach among thousands of other huge hotels, so there was no possibility to get anywhere by walking. I’d recommend people to stay at South Beach near Ocean Drive, where you can actually find places to eat, drink and shop without always calling a taxi.

How could this trip be extended?

On this trip, we only did the East Coast of Florida. One could decide to continue to see the Western part of the peninsula or continue the trip to the south and spend some days in Key West, to which I sadly didn’t make it.

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