Hi, I'm in DC and I was looking at another trip to Key West this July, but I really hate the extra cost of getting from the tip of Florida down to the Keys (either the extra $200 to fly from Lauderdale to the Keys, or splitting a rental car which we'd never use down in the Keys plus the extra 3-4 hour drive time both ways). So my question is: is there an area in Florida that is similar to the laid back style of Key West, that's near a major airport city (like Tampa, Lauderdale, or Miami). You know, streets of cheap (but fun) bars that don't care how you're dressed. Cheap eats. People watching, but not overly crowded. Throw in some kayak or jet ski rentals... stuff like that.
I always think of the big Florida cities as not having places like that nearby (especially Miami), but thought I'd come and ask here. Thanks!