Key West, Part 2 (Florida Keys Trip 2014)

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Florida Keys Trip Report

Our last two days in Key West were just as fantastic as our first two days.  Gorgeous November weather: Not too hot, but still plenty warm for the beach and pools, amazing food, and just a lovely relaxing vacation.  And by relaxing, I mean that we occasionally took breaks from visiting all of Key West’s sites to just enjoy the hammocks at the hotel!

Harry Truman Little White House in Key West

Our next day started with the Harry S. Truman Little White House Museum. Harry Truman apparently loved Key West, so this place served as his “Winter White House.” It was originally a naval station headquarters during the Spanish American War.

Entrance sign to Harry S. Truman Little White House Museum in Key West

Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside, so we just got to snap a few outside.

Outside the Little White House in Key West Harry Truman Little White House Little White House

I must admit that this was not a very memorable tour. Our tour guide just did not seem very knowledgeable or excited. It seemed like she was reciting a memorized script. Very unlike other historical home tours we’ve been on, when tour guides seem to have a genuine passion for what they’re talking about. Heck, even our tour of the Hemingway House just the day before was fantastic.

I think largely because of the guide, I didn’t think this place was terribly worth visiting. But reviews online for it seem to be pretty contrary to what I’m reporting here, so perhaps it can vary based on who you get as your guide!

Afterwards, we walked around Key West some more, purchasing some souvenirs and just taking in the sites.

Walking around Key West Duval and Greene Street in Key West Key West store fronts

Then we headed back to the hotel to relax at the pool and on the hammocks some more.

Sunset at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

From the hotel, we drove to Fort Zachary Taylor, which I had read was a fantastic location to watch the sun set in Key West. And not only that, it had a large beach too! (Well, large for Key West!) So, if you’re looking for a nice, large beach, all you have to do is pay the entrance fee for the state park and you’re all set.

Beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West Beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West Beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West Beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West

There were plenty of trees for shade, and even lots of picnic tables. It was a fantastic place!

Ken sitting at picnic table at Fort Zachary Taylor Picnic tables and sitting area Trees and shade at park

Then, as sunset approached, we were happy to find out that the location lived up to the hype. It was, in fact, a great place to view the sunset! And not at all crowded like the Mallory Square area of Key West, which is also a spot to view sunset, but was way too crowded and loud.

Sunset at Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West Sunset at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West Sunset at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West Sunset at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West

The sunset light provided a gorgeous warm glow on the beach:

Warm sunset light on beach Beach at sunset

And with that, the sun was down, and we had to go! (It’s worth pointing out that virtually right after the sun sets, park employees start to come around reminding everybody that the park closes at sunset and that it’s time to go!

Me at park after sunset

I should point out that there looked to be some other things to see at Fort Zachary Taylor, but we didn’t have time to check them out. (Like maybe one of the actual fort buildings).

Afterwards, we drove back to the hotel, where we enjoyed sitting around the firepits and enjoying the beautiful weather. Then we headed back out for some dinner, and then it was time for bed!

Southernmost Point in the Continental USA

Our last day in Key West. Sniffle!

We started off with a quick stop (walkable from the hotel) at the Southernmost Point in the Continental USA. Only 90 miles to Cuba. There’s not much more than a marker, but it’s still a fun place to stop and have your picture taken!

Ken and I at the Southernmost Point in the Continental USA - Key West Southernmost Point in the Continental USA - Key West

There was a line, but it was very well organized. Self-organized, I might add, it’s not staffed or anything. People stood in line, and the folks in line behind them would take their picture. Very smoothly run!

Line at the Southernmost Point

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservancy

Right around the corner from the Southernmost Point was our next stop, the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservancy.

Outside the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservancy

We paid our admission, and proceeded to the butterfly part, but not after taking note of this warning!

Sign about temperature at Butterfly Conservatory

And whoo-wee, was this sign accurate. It was hot and humid inside! So much so that it took about five full minutes for our cameras to stop steaming up! Our first photos look like this:

Camera steamed up and fogging photos at Butterfly Conservatory

So, we walked around for a little while (without taking photos) and waited for our cameras to acclimate.

And after that, man did we go WAY overboard with photos! (Hmmm, why does going overboard on taking photos of butterflies sound so familiar? Oh, that’s right, because we did the same thing at the Butterfly Farm in St. Maarten back during our Caribbean Cruise in 2007! This place was small, but man was it cool! We probably spent a good hour inside watching the butterflies and taking tons of photos.

Butterflies inside the Butterfly and Nature Conservancy in Key West Butterflies inside the Butterfly and Nature Conservancy in Key West Butterflies inside the Butterfly and Nature Conservancy in Key West Butterflies inside the Butterfly and Nature Conservancy in Key West Butterflies inside the Butterfly and Nature Conservancy in Key West Butterflies inside the Butterfly and Nature Conservancy in Key West

The conservatory was also home to two flamingos!

Sign explaining flamingos at Butterfly Conservatory Flamingos in water at butterfly conservatory

All throughout the conservatory, there are these plates of fruit for the butterflies to eat!

Plates of fruit in butterfly conservatory Plates of fruit in butterfly conservatory

A few butterflies even landed on Ken’s hat! I couldn’t get great pictures of them because they would fly away so fast, but here are a few just so you get the idea!

Butterflies landing on Ken’s hat Butterflies landing on Ken’s hat

In fact, as you exit the conservatory, there are signs reminding you to look at your clothes to make sure you don’t take any butterflies with you! There are even mirrors to do a thorough check!

The conservatory room itself is stunning, with beautiful paths, water features and even butterfly-shaped seats!

Inside the Butterfly Conservatory Inside the Butterfly Conservatory Inside the Butterfly Conservatory Inside the Butterfly Conservatory Inside the Butterfly Conservatory Butterflies Butterflies

Butterflies? Check. Flamingos? Check. And let’s not forget that the Conservatory is also home to birds!

Birds at the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West Birds at the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West Birds at the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West Birds at the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West Birds at the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West

Leaving Key West

After the Butterfly Conservatory, we grabbed some brunch nearby and it was time to head back to the hotel to get packed up. We were driving to Miami, where we’d spend the night before our flight departed for DC the next day.

On our drive from Key West to Miami, we got to see some amazing military jets flying overhead (Key West has at least one big military base!).

Military Jets flying overhead in Key West Military Jets flying overhead in Key West

Our drive north was just as stunning as our drive south on the Overseas Highway!

Driving on the Overseas Highway Leaving Key West Driving on the Overseas Highway Leaving Key West

And I still chuckled when I saw old roads and railroads, parallel to the Overseas Highway, that just had huge gaps!

Gaps in old railroad to Key West

The Overseas Highway is a narrow road most of the way, filled with traffic lights and some relatively heavy volume. So even though the distance itself isn’t terribly far (166 miles), it was a fairly long drive, probably 4+ hours. That was mostly why we didn’t want to drive from Key West to Miami on the same day as our flight departure. We didn’t want to worry about getting stuck in a major traffic jam or anything.

We got to Miami and checked into our amazing hotel. More on that in the next post!

I LOVED Key West. I’d love to go back someday! So gorgeous, so much to do, and that breezy weather was just perfect.

Angler’s Hotel Miami – Hotel Review (Florida Keys Trip 2014)

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Florida Keys Trip Report

Nearly two years ago, I stayed at a Kimpton property in Seattle, the Hotel Monaco Seattle, and man was I blown away. Before booking the reservation, I had requested a status match to the “Inner Circle” elite status of Kimpton Karma Rewards based on my Hilton Gold Status (which, apparently is now a defunct option – You need to have Hilton Diamond now for the match). Based on the Inner Circle status, I speculated that I was upgraded to a much nicer room at the Hotel Monaco in Seattle, and I was hoping that would also be the case for the Anglers Hotel (a Kimpton property) in Miami. And why yes, we were upgraded to a MOST SPECTACULAR ROOM. You can read more about how we selected our hotel room in the introduction post for the Trip Report.

Manor Villa – Two Story (Angler’s Hotel Miami Room Review)

We had originally booked a Tower Duplex Terrace King, which was going to include a hot tub on the balcony. When we checked in, we were upgraded to a Manor Villa, Two Story. It was the room I was hoping to be upgraded to, and after our dismal room at the Casa Marina Waldorf Astoria property in Key West, it was amazing to have a truly fantastic room at the Angler’s.

The room had it’s own private patio and entrance. The entrance to the patio was just a simple locked gate. Up a few stairs was the entrance to the room, and on the right of the patio was a private hot tub for 8 people.

Patio and hot tub at Manor Villa at Angler’s Hotel Miami Patio and hot tub at Manor Villa at Angler’s Hotel Miami

There were also two very comfortable lounge chairs on the private patio.

Lounge chairs and hot tub in Manor Villa suite

Next to the door to the suite were some comfortable patio chairs and a small table.

Patio chairs and table in Manor Villa suite

The suite itself was two floors. Right after entering the door, you were in the living room, which had a couch, two chairs, and a flat screen TV (about 40 inches).

Living room area in Manor Villa Suite | Angler’s Hotel Miami | Kimpton Living room area in Manor Villa Suite | Angler’s Hotel Miami | Kimpton Living room area in Manor Villa Suite | Angler’s Hotel Miami | Kimpton Living room area in Manor Villa Suite | Angler’s Hotel Miami | Kimpton

There was also a full bathroom accessible from the living room.

First floor bathroom in Manor Villa First floor bathroom in Manor Villa

An endtable on the first floor housed a Keurig coffee maker:

Coffee maker in suite

In the corner of the living room was a well-stocked bar and a spiral staircase to the second floor of the suite.

Bar and Spiral Staircase in suite Bar in room

I will say that the spiral staircase was a bit of an inconvenience for doing things like carrying luggage upstairs. But, I understand that no other type of staircase would work in that room given the space constraints. (Not that it’s a small room, but just that regular stairs take up so much space.)

Top of spiral staircase in Manor Villa

The top floor had a king size bed, ample closet space, another full bathroom, a desk with an iPhone/iPod Dock speakers, and a sitting chair. There was also another flat screen TV, probably about 32 inches.

Bedroom area of Manor Villa Suite Bedroom area of Manor Villa Suite Bedroom area of Manor Villa Suite Bedroom area of Manor Villa Suite Desk with speaker dock Closet with safe in suite

The full bathroom was great and had a decent amount of countertop space. There was a shower, but no tub (like the bathroom on the first floor). Who needs a deep soaking tub when you have that enormous hot tub on the patio anyway?

Bathroom in Manor Villa Suite at Angler’s Hotel Miami Bathroom in Manor Villa Suite at Angler’s Hotel Miami Bathroom in Manor Villa Suite at Angler’s Hotel Miami

The bathroom towels and robes were thick and luxurious.

From the second floor, we had a good view of our private patio.

Private patio at Anglers Hotel

We had just one minor complaint about our room. The top floor of the suite (the bedroom) was SO warm. We cranked up the air conditioning as high as it would go, and it was just so hot. Too hot to sleep. I was ready to go to the first floor, where it was cooler, and sleep on the sofa.

We called the front desk, and there were no maintenance folks available to take a look. So some other employee came, took a look at our thermostat that was reading 80 degrees, and did the next best thing: Offered a rotating fan. He came back quickly with a fan, plugged it in, and that made the room comfortable enough to sleep. It was November, so it wasn’t even peak summer heat or anything in Miami, so hopefully this isn’t as big of an issue other times of the year.

Angler’s Hotel Lobby and Common Areas

Like other Kimpton properties, the lobby and other common areas were hip and stylish. I (well, the both of us really) tend to feel a little out-of-place at such hip and stylish places (since I’m a dork), but the friendliness of Kimpton staff made me so much more at ease!

Check in Desk at Angler’s Hotel Lobby area at Angler’s Hotel Lobby area at Angler’s Hotel Lobby area at Angler’s Hotel

There was also a bar and a small dining seating area.

Bar and Dining Seating at Angler’s Hotel - Kimpton Bar and Dining Seating at Angler’s Hotel - Kimpton

Outdoor areas and Pool at Angler’s Hotel

In the evening, the hotel had some fantastic lighting that made the dining and lounging areas very inviting.

Nighttime view of patio at Angler’s Pool at Angler’s Hotel at night

In the daytime, the common outdoor areas looked just as fantastic.

Lounging space at Angler’s Hotel Pool at Angler’s Hotel

Hotel Exterior

The hotel is very unassuming from the street. I was worried that the hotel would be noisy because it sits right on a main street in South Beach (Miami). And, our private patio faced the street, and I thought there might not be that much privacy like when taking a dip in the hot tub on the private patio. However, the trees and landscaping were done in such a way that the hotel still felt very private.

Exterior of Angler’s Hotel in Miami Exterior of Angler’s Hotel in Miami Exterior of Angler’s Hotel in Miami Exterior of Angler’s Hotel in Miami

I also just want to point out that the hotel name is pretty small on the exterior, so we drove right past it when we were first arriving!

Bottom Line

I definitely recommend this hotel, and especially the two story Manor Villa! We paid for our stay using my Barclays Arrival Plus card, so I was able to redeem Barclays points for the entire cost of our stay! (For those not familiar, you essentially get a rebate on your statement). So our entire stay was free!

Miami and South Beach (Florida Keys Trip 2014)

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Florida Keys Trip Report

We only had one day to spend in Miami. Since our flight was leaving from Miami, we had made travel arrangements to leave Key West the previous day and spend the night in Miami so we wouldn’t be rushed or worried about sitting in traffic on the Overseas Highway from Key West to Miami in order to make a flight. Instead, we drove to Miami the night before our flight and had the entire evening and following afternoon to enjoy Miami Beach.

Art Deco Walking Tour Miami

Our first stop was the Art Deco Walking Tour. The tour originated at the Art Deco Welcome Center, which was just a few blocks from our hotel, the Angler’s.

Art Deco Welcome Center in Miami Beach

We bought our tickets for the 10:30AM tour and then walked around the Welcome Center for a while, which had Art Deco-related exhibits:

Inside the Art Deco Welcome Center at Miami Beach Inside the Art Deco Welcome Center at Miami Beach Inside the Art Deco Welcome Center at Miami Beach

Then there was an announcement that the tour was beginning. Our guide began our walk down Ocean Drive in South Beach. The tour started with a stop outside the Beach Patrol Headquarters building:

Beach Patrol Headquarters Building on Art Deco tour | Miami Beach Beach Patrol Headquarters Building

Our guide was very knowledgeable and I tried to absorb as much as possible as what she was telling us, but I know I won’t do the descriptions of these buildings nearly enough justice.

Our next stop was the Congress Hotel:

Congress Hotel in South Beach Congress Hotel in South Beach

The guide explained that two buildings side-by-side in Miami Beach cannot contain too many similar design elements. In other words, when new buildings are constructed in Miami Beach, they cannot appear similar to the one next door!

Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach

We made a lengthy stop outside of this building, which used to be the home of the designer Versace. It now serves as a hotel:

Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach

I just kept snapping photos of all the amazing and gorgeous buildings along Ocean Avenue, even if they weren’t a focus or a dedicated stop on the walking tour:

Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach

Even the post office in Miami Beach is an Art Deco style!

Outside the Miami Beach Post office Art deco tour Inside the Miami Beach Post Office Art Deco Tour

The tour includes stops inside a few buildings as well, to see some of the art deco elements used in the interior designs. One of our stops included The Tides Hotel:

Outside Inside the Tides Hotel | Art Deco Walking Tour

The tour group circled back, viewing more Art Deco style buildings:

Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach Art Deco style buildings in Miami Beach

The walking tour ended where we began, at the Art Deco Welcome Center. We walked across the street and took a quick photo of the actual beach in Miami, since we hadn’t even seen it yet. (Even though our walk took us along Ocean Drive, there was almost a slight elevation from the street that blocks a view of the ocean!)

South Beach

We grabbed lunch, checked out of our hotel and put our luggage in storage, and then headed to our next stop, the Wynwood Walls!

Wynwood Walls

We took an Uber and traveled to the Wynwood Walls, an outdoor grafitti art space in Miami. (We didn’t want to worry about finding parking, hence the Uber).

Wynwood Walls entrance in Miami

This was a really cool spot. And it wasn’t terribly crowded at all (likely because it was an early Friday afternoon).

I’ll just let the photos do the talking here:

Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami

There was also an indoor space featuring the works of Peter Tunney:

Peter Tunney exhibit at Wynwood Walls in Miami Peter Tunney exhibit at Wynwood Walls Peter Tunney exhibit at Wynwood Walls

Anyway, this place was well worth the Uber drive (especially since Wynwood Walls is free to visit). I definitely recommend it if you have the opportunity to go.

Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami Wynwood Walls Graffiti Art in Miami

Ocean Drive … Drive

We took an Uber back to our hotel. We loaded up our luggage into the rental car, and we still had some time to kill before our 6:00PM flight departure. So we decided to do a drive up and down Ocean Drive. We put the roof down of our Camaro rental car and just enjoyed the drive. It’s definitely a slow drive. Lots of cars, pedestrians, and traffic lights. It’s still enjoyable, but definitely requires a lot of attention!

Driving along Ocean Drive in South Beach Driving along Ocean Drive in South Beach Driving along Ocean Drive in South Beach Driving along Ocean Drive in South Beach

We even spotted some sort of fun-looking photoshoot!

Photoshoot along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach

And that was it! We started our drive to Miami Airport. We hit a TON of traffic on the way out of Miami Beach, likely because it was rush hour. Luckily we gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport. We kept the convertible roof down on our entire drive, and we were able to see a stunning Miami sunset while stuck in traffic!

Miami sunset from highway

We dropped off our rental car, checked in for our flight, and we were on our way back home from a fantastic trip!