Last Christmas was freezing. I was living in Chicago and literally have never experienced a winter that cold in my life. My host parents were going to New Zealand for two weeks (my host mums a kiwi as well), so I had vacation time and was determined to find some warmth. One of my friend’s host parents had an apartment in Fort Lauderdale so we decided to celebrate Christmas in Florida.
It was my second time in the sunshine state. The first was in 2007 when I was 18, and all we could do was go to the movies and eat out, so it was definitely a relief to finally be able to go clubbing in South Beach.
Florida had great weather in winter, and it was a relief to leave the snow boots and jackets in Chicago. We arrived to a large apartment with a hot tub downstairs, and immediately went out to explore.
We were wandering around Miami and got sucked into taking a day tour to the everglades. I don’t know why we took the tour instead of driving ourselves since we’d hired a car, but we met the bus at a hotel in Miami and paid for both the transportation and the entrance fee together. It was well worth the trip, since we were taken right through the everglades and given numerous photo opportunities. We then had an hour to wander around, and also got to watch a great show where we were given lot’s of information about the alligators. I was surprised by the size of them- expected them to be bigger and compared to crocodiles they’re pretty small. They’re also scared of humans, and while crocodiles will stalk and attack, alligators just want to be left alone.
After clubbing all night, we got changed and hopped straight on a bus to Key West. Key West is the southernmost point of the United States and there’s tons to do there. We were only there for a day but could definitely have hung around the Keys for a bit longer. It’s very laid back, and there was quite a lot going on with heaps of buskers, museums, etc. We decided to do some parasailing and had so much fun. We paid around $50 each and they took a DVD for us as well.
My favorite part of Florida was definitely visiting Universal Studios. We left around 5am and it took us about three hours to get to Orlando by car. we had a nasty surprise waiting for us-it was freezing. We had only packed flip-flops and shorts, so we had to find a Walmart and buy boots and jeans before we froze to death.
The park was expensive at around $150 for a two day pass which allowed us to visit both parks, but it was definitely worth the price. I love roller-coasters and we spent all day at Universal Studios, and then stayed the night at a Motel 8, before spending the next day at Universal’s Island of Adventure and our favorite….The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The crowds were absoloutely crazy especially for the Harry Potter stuff, and we had to wait for an hour and a half before we could get into the best ride-The Forbidden Journey. While we were in line, we got to wind our way through Hogwarts castle and got to see talking paintings, holograms of Hermione, Harry, and Ron, the sorting hat, the house hourglasses, classrooms, and much more.
Florida is my favorite State in America. There’s fun things to do for everyone, and it’s always warm. You can find an inexpensive hotel in South Beach, but plan to take twice as much money as you think you’ll need, since there’s so much touristy stuff there, and you’ll want to do it all. We spent way more money than we thought we would, but we also could have spent our time lying on the beach instead of doing something different every day.