Florida Highlights: Orlando, Key West, and Miami

It's been a few weeks since my family trip to Florida.  It was the trip of my childhood dreams!  Florida was a whole new world of gators, pouring rain, humid swamps, key lime everything, sparkling bodies of water (either ocean or lagoon), Disney Magic™ and HARRY POTTER™! 

We spent some time in the Keys and Miami, but we were mostly based in Orlando, visiting the magical worlds of Universal Studios Orlando and Walt Disney World.  There were lots of things to see and do there, but here are my trip highlights in no particular order: 

1. The Hemingway House in Key West

Ernest Hemingway actually never planned on living in the Keys, but grew to love it after spending three weeks there waiting for a car.  He wrote a lot of books in this property and is pretty much an American hero. If you've read any Hemingway books, its cool to learn about his history and see what kind of man he was. 

The property was really quite charming.  And if you're an animal-lover, there are lots of cats that live on the property.  

2. A Peek at the Everglades

My brother getting a pic of the gators.  

We didn't really have too much time to see the whole Everglades, but we got a pretty good taste of it at The Everglades Alligator Farm.  It's a zoo/air boat ride park with lots of animals and interesting smells.  The only thing I would have done differently is bring ear plugs for the boat ride.  It was fun and surprisingly wet, but it was terribly loud.  

3. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

If you know me, you know that I am a HUGE Harry Potter nerd.  So this was basically a pilgrimage to me.  When we first walked into Diagon Alley, Lex told me that it was really just like the movie.  And it really is!  It was extremely cool to see everything in person and all of the rides we went on were great.  For me, I really liked Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  It's hard not to geek out when Harry invites you to the Quidditch game.  

And of course, finally getting to try Butterbeer was exciting! It is basically like watered-down ginger ale with butterscotch foam on top, if you're wondering.   

4. The Tree of Life at the Animal Kingdom

I think one of the best things about this trip is seeing stuff in real life that I had seen in commercials as a little kid.  

The Tree of Life is definitely one of those things.  Animal Kingdom itself is really great because the attractions are full of really talented people (Finding Nemo the Musical & The Lion King Festival) and you can take a tour of the wildlife preserve on the property.  

5. Spaceship Earth & The World Showcase at Epcot Center

Spaceship Earth (a.k.a. the giant golf ball) is another one of those things I have always wanted to see.  It's the iconic symbol for Epcot Center, complete with a ride inside of it about innovations from the past like the printing press.     

Epcot Center itself was also a really unique place to explore.  I loved walking around the World Showcase.  Even though it only shows kind of tourist-y stuff, it makes the world seem a lot more accessible.  And the overall message of pioneering ideas and innovation for a better future is pretty inspiring.  

6.  SO. MUCH. FOOD.    

Even though we walked around a lot, I don't think we lost any poundage because of all the food we had.  Just to list a few favorites: 

a. Fruit smoothies in The Everglades

b. Lobster Reubens at Keys Fisheries Market & Marina

I'm usually not a big fan of sauerkraut but this was pretty delicious.   

c. Cuban Sandwiches and Fruit Juice at El Palacio de los Jugos in Miami.

d. Butterbeer and assorted meat pies at The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley at Universal Studios, Hollywood.

e. Slow-roasted pork, french onion soup, turkey sandwich, roast beef sandwich, and cupcakes at The Beast's Castle at the Magic Kingdom.  

"The Gray Stuff" cupcake!  As in, the gray stuff that Belle eats in the "Be Our Guest" song.  

Strawberry with cream cheese frosting.  Probably my favorite out of the bunch.

Lemon meringue!  Seriously, these were the best cupcakes ever. 

7. Quality Family Time

I think we have traveled every summer, but this is the first trip in a long time that it was just the five of us.  I would share drinks with my mom and my dad and I got soft serve ice cream.  I even worked out with my brothers.  And we would all watch "The Carbonaro Effect" when we got back to the hotel, even if it was in separate rooms.  

It sounds perfect, but no family is perfect.  Sometimes you have good days and bad days with people, that's just how any relationship works.  At the end of the day, I was glad it was just us.


So there you have it - the highlights from this awesome trip.  This was a long post so, if you read the whole thing, thanks for sticking around.

Were you traveling this summer?  If so, I would love to hear about your trips and favorite memories, so please leave a comment below!