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Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

Cambs
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Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

My family and I (2 adults, 2 children under 10) are travelling to Orlando next March and staying for 3 weeks. We're looking at taking a trip down to the Keys and staying for a night or two towards the end of the hols i.e early April. Could anyone recommend a decent place to stay which won't break the bank! Also how long is it likely to take us to drive down there?

Thanks very much

confused.com

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1. Re: Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

Key West is 8-9 hours drive from Orlando. Since you have 3 weeks, I would spend more than a night or 2. April is part of spring break time so rates will be up. Check out the hotel listings on this sight for

reviews on the various types of accomodations. I would make reservations soon. Have a great trip!

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2. Re: Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

don't know how long it'll take; someone else will answer that one.

Look into the Best Western Hibiscus. Clean rooms, pool, whirlpool, breakfast [though I go elsewhere for that )probably the Deli now that the Dennis Pharmacy is closed;damn)]. Not a bad walk to Duval St (I'd say stay away from Roosevelt Ave.; too far, you have to drive and parking is a premium) and the beach(s) are close by car.

Chill,

K

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Duval Inn
Duval Inn
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3. Re: Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

It is not that far of a drive, it only took us about 12 hours from Atlanta -- once you leave Homestead, you are 90 miles to the ending tip of key west proper. It takes 1.5-2 hours to make that drive because of two lane roads, traffic, and reduced speed limits at every township. I can't remember how far it was from Orlando to that point, but it isnt that far.

For your Orlando leg, Universal is better than Disney, but you have time to do both (your younger child may prefer Disney), as your kids get older, they will prefer Universal (much better rides). Also consider renting a beachfront hotel in Cape Canaveral for a few days, it is only 60 miles from Orlando, and is a quiet beach versus some of the others (and cheaper -- but all the hotels are pretty old and in need of remodeling). The south-end Holiday Inn has a great pool for kids your age. And of course, you have the whole NASA/ Space stuff to tour.

Miami Beach (downtown Miami/ south beach, and the art district are pretty cool ) and Palm Beach would be a nice day-trip too, as it is a whole different, and much cleaner Florida, than what you find to the north.

Keywest:

First and foremost let me tell you that we have been down there twice, and we love Key West. It is a totally different Florida than what we have always encounterd. It is the closest thing to being in the Caribbean while remaining within the mainland US. We stayed at the Westin in Key Largo, which was about $200-225 night for a suite with 2 Queen Beds, which was a bargain in that area for a luxury hotel (the westin is a 4star in my book, i am not sure what the travel sites have it listed as --- the gardens and outdoor property surrounding the hotel are worth 100/night). We also looked at the Hawk's Cay Resort, which looked promising but was booked both times we went. While there, you must:

Go to Mallory Square for sunset and to view the street performers

Tour the Duval Street area

Go to Bahi-Honda State Park/Beach -- you will feel like you are on a private beach, as we walked about a mile and only encountered maybe 6 people in July (the water did have a pungent smell though).

Go to the Everglades on the way down or way back (it is a long drive though, as you have to drive way back into the interior of Florida).

NOW THE BAD: Key west has a large homosexual population (not that there is anything wrong with that), but if you are not ready to explain to your kids why those two men are kissing, you might not want to be in key west at night. The travel books warned of public nudity, but we didnt see any of that, but it wouldnt surprise me if it happened. There are no "Rules" in Key West. My kids were a few years older than yours, and we did not have any problem, and I would not hesitate to take them back, but just keep your eyes open for what lies ahead, and be prepared to divert your walking route, or walk into a gift shop to keep your kids from seeing something you might not want them to see.

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4. Re: Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

The Blue Marlin is across the street from the Best Western Hibiscus and is cheaper, the pool is in a raised up area in the parking lot which some may have a problem with. Personally I wouldn't take kids that young to Key West there really isn't that much for them to do there. The beaches aren't that nice and as a previous poster has explained you may have problems with you children seeing overtly homosexual behaviour on the streets. I would consider Clearwater Beach or perhaps St Petersburg beach, much nearer to Orlando and very family friendly.

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5. Re: Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

Key West is a haul from Orlando but if you don't mind the drive is still worth seeing. We did a similar (but shorter trip) 7 years ago when our girls were 3 and 5. We spent 1 week in Orlando and then drove to Miami (about 5 1/2 or 6 hours) and spent the night at my aunt's. The next morning we drove down to Key West (about 3/12 or 4 hours), spent the day on the beach, the evening at Mallory Square and left around 10 the next morning and drove back up to Ocala for the night before heading back to Illinois. Lots of driving time but beautiful and fun and we don't mind driving.

If you just want to see the ocean then Daytona, Ormond or Cocoa Beach are all pretty close to Orlando. I personally prefer the Gulf side and favor St. Pete's Beach although I've heard Ft. Myers is nice as well as Sanibel or Captiva Island. All of these are closer to Orlando than Key West.

I am going to Miami and then Islamorada for a week the end of April with my Mom and sister. I checked out most of the hotels between Key Largo and Key West and in Key West the best deal I found was the Best Western Hibiscus, which I believe a previous poster recommended. We are actually staying in Islamorada at the Drop Anchor Inn which looks great, is reasonable as far as the Keys go, and is rated well on this site. We had originally planned on staying in Key West but my Mom is 71 and pretty conservative and Islamorada seemed a little more her speed. We will take a day trip to Key West. Anywhere you stay in Florida in early April will be at a premium, mainly with Easter falling inbetween the first 2 weeks-that's why we're going the end of the month-airfare was $118 then as opposed to $800+ the first 2 weeks!

I wouldn't worry too much about "inappropriate" behavior-I've been there twice before and wouldn't hesitate to take my kids back.

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6. Re: Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

if you need to stop on the way for food and drinks, try Ruby Tuesday's they are brilliant and inexpensive, they have a salad bar, burgers and amenu.

If you can allow time for interesting stops, there's everglade's outpost, animal rescue centre, they have snakes gators and other critters.

There is an Indian Museum, near the everglades, and of course the air boats, if you want to see nature!

We discovered a placed called Fort Myers Beach, where it's laid back and totally relaxed from other places in florida, they have a lot of water activities, plus you can get the key west Expess from there, if you take the trip, allow for a stay, it's too much to do there and back in a day!

Get the people on the site to give you driving directions then you'll avoid the toll roads and miami traffic. Can't do nothing about the road works and bridge building though! have a great time!

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7. Re: Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

We went down last April with our daughters aged 12 and 13. They did see their fair share of drag queens and alternative lifestyle type folks, but we really have a live and let live attitude. We kept to Duval by day and then used our rental car at night. We stayed at the Southernmost Hotel, which was affordable, family friendly, had a nice pool, and was right by the Butterfly Museum, the Chicken Store and the Duval Beach Club. We did not run out of kid-friendly things to do. We had been there before and knew what to avoid. We jet-skied around the island, went kayaking through the mangroves (Blue Planet eco tours--very earthy--but very knowledgeable), walked around and had dinner at the Bight (dock area--my favorite part of KW). My girls had fun finding the places they saw on the Real World. The Hemmingway House is a good stop, and we even took the girls to Captain Tony's! (I really wouldn't take younger children to Capt. Tony's though--my girls were slightly taken aback by it. ) There is a Conch Train tour which seems to be kind of touristy, and your kids might also like the Pirate Museum. Blue Heaven was a good restaurant with the kids, so was the Conch Republic and the Duval Beach Club. For the amount of time it will take you to drive from Orlando to the Keys, I'd stay at least a few days.

As for Orlando, I personally feel that Disneyworld is much better than Universal. The whole place is much friendlier--though it does get annoying round about the 100th time someone tells you to have a magical day! With kids 10 and under, I would give Universal 3 days and Disney a minimum of 5. There is also SeaWorld--a one day stop well worth it! I would go there before Universal--but that's just coming from an Anheiser-Busch fan. (There's a hospitality building in the back of the park with free beer samples!)

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Duval Inn
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8. Re: Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

I don't know how your kids are about long drives, but I personally would not try to make that drive in one day...traffic can be heavy in southern FL & although the drive through the keys is very enjoyable, getting from Orlando to Key Largo is not.

We made that drive (from Orlando) years ago by staying in Homestead & then getting up early & refreshed to make the fun part of the drive. It just happened to be Superbowl weekend at the Dolphins stadium & traffic was horrible so it was dark 'til we hit Homestead (would have been a shame to drive thru the keys in the dark).

librarychick also had a good suggestion...maybe hit the Fort Myers/Sanibel beaches & then take the water-shuttle...a little more expensive but a very memorable experience. These are some of the nicest beaches in FL (especially Lovers Key, just south of Ft. Myers Beach).

As for where to stay in KW, we stayed at Lighthouse Court in old town (right across from Hemmingway House) and it was nice and relatively inexpensive. La Te Da is also an inexpensive option. Check the reviews here.

Best wishes on your vacation.

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9. Re: Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

There are many nice places to stay in Key West. La Te da would not be my choice for a family with children. It's an entertainment complex and more suited for adults. Try the Jasmine House, Angelina Guest House, Avalon or the Best Western Hibiscus. It will be around Easter, so kids will be out of school and places will fill up early. I'm sure you will get other suggestions for family friendly places to stay. Enjoy!! We've done the drive to Orlando many times and depending on traffic, it's at least 8 hours, and could be more. Have fun planning your vacation!

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10. Re: Our first trip to the keys - advise please!

If you don't want to stay in downtown key west the north end has many regular hotels like Quality Suites and Days Inn which are clean and reasonable. The difference being if you stay close to Duval you can walk everywhere & won't have to worry about parking.

Also the Waffle House up there has a pretty decent breakfast.

You could also stay further north in Marathon and take a day trip to Key West. Lots of places to stay and good places to eat. Not as much shopping as key west.

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Duval Inn
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