|Gator in the water at Gator Park|
It is always cheaper for me to fly into Fort Lauderdale from Boston. Weirdly enough, it has also always been cheaper to rent a car from the Miami airport, so it ends up being a wash in the end. I'm not a conspiracy theorist or anything, but I think this must be carefully planned out by someone. My time on the mainland was divided between South Beach and The Everglades. Thinking back on South Beach, I remember being surprised at the caliber of people walking around. Ever since Will Smith started rapping about "ladies half-dressed, fully equipped", I had a vision in my head of what it would like like, but no, most of the people were pretty normal. Maybe it was because I was there during the day, but it was a nice spot to walk along the beach and have a few drinks under the sun.
|On an airboat|
One of the highlights of this trip was the excursions to Gator Park. Thanks to the HBO show, True Blood, I was dieing to ride on an airboat through the Everglades. After careful research online, I decided on Gator Park. The entire experience was lots of fun! It's really easy to find and even though it's on the same road as every other "gator" type of attraction in the area, it stood out. I purchased my tickets online in advance and saved $3 on admission. I know that if you are visiting on a weekend, you can print out a coupon from their website for a BOGO adult admission. Even paying full price, it's worth it. I entered through the little store and was escorted to the airboats for our tour of the everglades. I saw lots of different birds, turtles, and gators! I even saw some baby gators in the wild. The water was high enough, so the boat was able to fly around through the glades pretty fast. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and entertaining. After the boat ride, all the passengers were escorted into a pavilion for a "show". It only lasted about 10 minutes, but it was fun to see some of the other animals local to the Everglades.Oh, best part ever, was paying the $3 to hold the baby gator. He was actually pretty heavy and it made me laugh to watch some of the younger kids hold him up.
|Me holding a baby gator at Gator Park|
The Westin is in a great location, right in the heart of all the action. The concierge was friendly and helped me make some reservations. I am very glad I didn't splurge for an ocean view room because there were cruise ships blocking the view during our entire stay. There is a very tiny view and you are not really close to any beaches. You do have the option to purchase a beach pass for $20/per person per day at the private island beach (a 5 minute ferry ride across the marina). Those were all sold out by 10 AM the day I tried to buy one. I managed to snag a breakfast reservation at latitudes, the restaurant on the private beach, but I was incredibly disappointed. Check out my Yelp review if you want to know why. Fortunately, my dinner experience next door at Shore American Seafood Grill in the Hyatt more than made up for the bad breakfast.
|View from the Westin's Private Island|