Trip Coach: December 16, 2008
Adam Karlin, the author of "Lonely Planet Miami & the Keys" and co-author of "Lonely Planet Florida," answered your questions about Florida vacations.
Adam Karlin: Hi everyone. This is Adam Karlin. I'm excited to answer your questions and get you ready for a trip to Florida, which must be nicer than the cold, Maryland winter day I'm sitting in right now. FYI, my area of expertise is South Florida—from Ft. Lauderdale on down—so I may not be able to answer questions about other areas of the state. Let's get started.
Los Angeles, Calif.: We are taking a cruise that leaves San Diego and arrives in Ft. Lauderdale on Jan 17. We are also doing a Bahamas cruise from Miami from Jan 19 to Jan 23. We fly home on Jan 24 from Fort Lauderdale. That leaves us Jan 17, 18, and 23 to explore the area. I was thinking of the Everglades Tram tour on the morning of Jan 17. What else would you suggest for those 3 days? We are 62 and 61. We love doing everything, museums, nature, sightseeing, including seeing things that most people ignore or don't know exist.
Adam Karlin: Hi, L.A. Given your schedule, you have a few options. First, I'd say spend the 23rd exploring Ft. Lauderdale. There's easily enough in town to fill a day—you can start around the excellent Museum of Art, then take a stroll down the Riverwalk and soak up the shops and riverfront area. Check out Bonnet House, a historical residency that's right on the waterfront in the riverfront. You'd also want to visit the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and have a look around the surrounding, somewhat artificial but still interesting 'old Florida' village that's been recreated in the immediate vicinity. For dinner, have a stroll down Las Olas Blvd; there's all kinds of restaurants and a general vibe of a city having a good time.
On the 17th and 18th you can either spend one day in the Everglades and one day in Miami, or two days in one or the other—it depends on if you want to rush things or take your time. If you do the Everglades Tram, try to drive across the state to Everglades City afterwards—you'll get to soak up some great 'Glades scenery in the process. If you do Miami, you could either see the deco in South Beach in a day, or take a spin around Little Havana and the Miracle Mile area of Coral Gables—both interesting neighborhoods that are very walkable (you'll need a taxi to get between each 'hood).
Glasgow, Mo.: In your opinion, what is the prettiest beach(es) in Florida? On the Atlantic side or Gulf of Mexico side?
Adam Karlin: There's no right answer here, but in general, if you like deeper blue ocean and waves, the Atlantic side is better, whereas the Gulf offers calmer waters and a bit more teal. Of course, this depends on what kind of cities you like. The Gulf-side towns are much smaller and more laid back than the cities like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Daytona Beach, etc. For my money, I really love Ft. Lauderdale's beachfront promenade.
McCormick, S.C.: When is the best month to visit Florida as to average temperature in the Fort Lauderdale area?
Adam Karlin: It depends on what kind of weather you like best, but I love early spring in that part of the state; it's warm but not uncomfortably so. Obviously, the summer months can be extremely hot, but on the other hand, when you're on the water there's always some breeze that's going to cool you down.
The Villages, Fla.: Hi, Adam! We (two couples) plan to celebrate my husband's 65th birthday by traveling to Key West via Miami and South Beach. What tips for interesting places for our age group can you give me? We want to sample the South Beach architecture and some of the night life—at least until 10 p.m.!—and enjoy all that Key West has to offer.
Adam Karlin: Hey, Tricia. Man, where to start? In Miami, take the walking tour hosted by the Miami Design Preservation League (mdpl.org, 305/672-2014). It's an excellent introduction to the basics of deco architecture and shows off some of the best buildings in South Beach as well.The MDPL is headquartered in an excellent old deco building itself at 1001 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. For another in-depth and well-executed introduction to a lot of the design you see in Miami Beach, visit the Wolfsonian-FIU museum (305/535-1001), at the corner of 10th and Washington Ave in Miami Beach. As regards nightlife, you may want to try Taverna Opa (36 Ocean Drive, 305/673-6730), a Greek restaurant where they encourage a lot of partying of the My Big Fat Greek Wedding sort. It's touristy, but it knows its touristy and embraces that. I also really like the bar/lounge area at Circa 39, 3900 Collins Ave—it feels like (actually it is) a very hip place, but the staff here are very down to earth and wouldn't turn their noses up at two couples celebrating a 65th birthday the way some other Miami Beach bars and clubs might. Just note that Circa 39 is more mid-beach than South Beach.