Florida is dubbed the Sunshine State. Sunshine and beaches go together. According to the State of Florida website, there are 663 miles of beaches in the state. That translates to a choice of beaches! So here we were at the Marriott Stanton sitting prettily after a long walk on the powdery sands of South Beach.
We were famished after an interminable drive from Orlando though we had stopped for lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Palm Beach. I ordered the chicken tacos and I was quite happy with the mix of fillings, not too spicy, just the way I like it. The salads were fresh and the sliders were quickly cleaned off the plate. I highly recommend sitting on the terrace at The Stanton. It's at 161 Ocean Drive.
Driving on Miami's main drag, Collins Avenue, is so distracting with all the tempting shop windows and the iconic Art Deco buildings. In contrast, the drive on Ocean Drive along the coast is more calm and scenic. We found lots of parking spaces (perhaps because it was a weekday), incentive enough to test the sand and exercise our cramped legs after sitting in the car for hours.
Ybor City, Tampa
We discovered Ybor City on our way out of Tampa. We couldn't do much sightseeing as it was pouring heavily. But it cleared up as we approached Ybor City, a once prosperous suburb from the 1890s when the tobacco industry was flourishing and employed immigrants from Cuba, Spain and Italy. Fortunes changed after the Great Depression and Ybor was left to languish. A renaissance of the neighborhood began in the 1980s when artists set up their studios and food and entertainment businesses followed suit. Traces of the good old days are still evident today, especially on 7th Avenue, its main street. Ybor City is a National Historical Landmark District.
The Columbia Restaurant is the oldest restaurant in Florida and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. It was opened by Cuban immigrants in 1905 and continues to be operated to this day by the same family. The Columbia has expanded to six other locations in Florida. Their adress is 2117 E 7th Avenue in Ybor. There is a Spanish flamenco dance show 6 days a week at this location.
For reservations check here: columbiarestaurant.com.
Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral
A trip to Florida wouldn't be complete without a visit to the amazing Kennedy Space Center. Most of us have only seen the launching of rockets on television. To see these spacecrafts in person and to learn about the process leading up to their launching add to a deep appreciation of the NASA space program and of the people who made them happen. I was frankly awed by it all especially while watching the Apollo 11 landing on the moon and hearing the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, say these now famous words, "Houston, Tranquility Base here…the Eagle has landed.” I had goosebumps!
The Atlantis space shuttle was first launched in October 1985. It completed 33 missions including the "on orbit" launch of the spacecrafts, Magellan and Galileo, and 7 missions to the Russian space station, among others. It's last mission was in July 2011.
There's a steep entrance fee to the Kennedy Space Center but the total experience is worth it. Arrive early to see all the exhibits, film footage of the lunar landing, 3D documentary films about space exploration and our planet and the bus trip to the launching pad. Exciting possibility of seeing some alligators along the way. Follow this link for more information:
*This article is a late post. (Better late than never.) We were in Florida in May 2016.
Images by TravelswihCharie