Miami and the Everglades

We spent a few days in Miami, staying in Miami Beach.

Surfside

I’ll confess that a lot of time was spent on sun loungers by the hotel pool or on the beach. We did manage to stroll around the area of Surfside on one afternoon. Miami Beach is a mix of art deco and Cuban looking architecture, lined with palm trees.

Surfside Turtles

We found a group of decorated turtles. Local Florida artists were invited to paint the thirteen turtles which line 93rd street, with the idea of raising conservation of the turtles native to the area.

Miami Beach

Beach

The beach stretches for miles, and we walked along it, paddling along in the sea, back along to the hotel.

Coopertown

We couldn’t come to Miami without checking out the Everglades. The Everglades National Park is a 1.5 million acres of wetland, and is home to lots of wildlife, including Alligators. We visited Coopertown, who have been running airboat tours since 1945.

The town is home to 8 human residents, who run the tours, and care for the animal residents.

Airboat

We clambered aboard our airboat and we were off. You zip through a variety of different habitats that make up the ‘grass river’. Our guide told us about the National Park and some of the wildlife we might see…we were all hoping for ‘gators! We did spot one, but only the tail, before she was gone.

Alligator

American Alligator

In the animal park, you can see plenty of alligators, including Big Man, the largest alligator in captivity in the world. Another guide showed us some of the other creatures that you can find in the ‘glades, including snakes and turtles. We had a go at feeding some turtles ourselves, but I didn’t fancy getting much closer to the alligators!

Lincoln Road

On our last night, we went to Lincoln Road, which is a gorgeous area, with shops and restaurants, with lots of fountains and art-deco buildings to look at.

Miami is beautiful, but just as mad as Orlando, I think. I’ll be back!

You can see my vlog from Miami here:

Flanigans Seafood Bar and Grille, Surfside

While we were in Miami, we stayed in the Surfside area of Miami Beach. On our third day, Dave and I peeled ourselves from the sun loungers and took a little stroll in search of some lunch. We ended up in Flanigan’s Seafood Bar and Grille.

Surfside

The restaurant felt so American to us visting Brits, with fishing paraphernalia and customers’ fishing photos all over the walls. We grabbed a booth and were talked through the extensive menu by our super friendly waitress (when she’d finished squealing over our accents…)

Flanigan's Seafood Bar and Grille

We were going to be out for dinner with the rest of the family that night, so we decided to order a selection of starters to share instead of ordering full meals each. Our waitress was more than happy to accommodate us and made some suggestions of her personal favourites from the menu.

Potato Skins

The Potato Skins ($5.49) are Idaho potatoes, filled with cheddar cheese and bacon bits. The potatoes were still fluffy inside, with piles of gooey melted cheese. The bacon bits were crispy and salty, and basically, we devoured these.

Mozarella Sticks

The Mozzarella Sticks ($6.49) are a huge portion of stretchy mozzarella cheese, deep fried. The cheese was perfectly gooey, and they were crispy without the dreaded deep-fried oiliness.

Firecracker Shrimp

Our waitress suggested her favourite, the Firecracker Shrimp ($9.99). 12 pieces of shrimp are deep-fried, tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce, and topped with pico de gallo, lettuce and ranch dressing. I would have happily eaten this solo as a lunch portion, as the portion was pretty huge. The shrimp was spicy, with a good jalapeno hit, but the ranch dressing helped sooth the spice levels. This was my favourite of the dishes, and it was delicious.

The portions were huge, so our idea of a light lunch rather failed, but it was all so tasty we didn’t mind. If you’re planning to order one as a starter before a main course, I’d suggest ordering a starter to share between two, or you’ll be very full! The food was great quality, and the service was fast and friendly. A very pleasant lunch!

We paid in full ourselves. All opinions are honest and my own. Flanigan’s didn’t know I was a blogger. All prices correct at the time of writing. 

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is an usual park, mixing rides with shows and animals. This was the last park we did as a family.

Animal Kingdom

Pandora

The newly opened Pandora was our first stop. The whole area is based on the planet of Pandora from Avatar, and is incredible to see. The place is lush with plants, with amazing models of glowing plant life, and piped noises of mysterious animals. Even without visiting the rides, it’s worth a walk around. We didn’t even attempt to queue for Flight of Passage which never dropped below about 3 hours of queue, but we did make it onto Na’vi River Journey which is a gentle boat ride along a glowing, beautiful river. If you want to do both rides, you need to be at the park before opening and ready to run at rope drop.

Pongu Pongu Lounge

Night Blossom

We stopped by the Pongu Pongu Lounge which sells a range of strange glowing beverages. I had the Night Blossom which is a frozen drink with limeade, apple and desert pear, topped with passion fruit boba balls. It was very sweet and syrupy, but refreshing in the heat. The boba balls were a fun touch, bursting pleasantly on your tongue.

Festival of the Lion KIng

Simba

My highlight of the whole day was the Festival of the Lion King. This live show is mind-blowing, with music from the movie, live singers, dancers, acrobats and a special visit from the king himself. Do not miss this, I can’t express how fantastic the show is. I had goosebumps.

Animal Kingdom

Disney Animals

Meerkat

The Animal Kingdom is home to lots of live animals too, kept well away from the park noise in themed ‘treks’. We walked through the Gorilla Falls Expedition Trail where we saw some gorgeous animals, including of course, the gorillas. A cast member told us that one of the gorillas had to have a root canal, which had to be performed by a regular human dentist! They learned their lesson and now they check and clean the teeth of all the primates a few days a week. They bribe them with peanut butter and other treats to allow them to do it. I don’t think I’d like job of brushing a gorilla’s teeth…

Giraffe

Elephants

We saw more animals up close on Kilimanjaro Safaris. You pile into a truck for an 18 minute tour of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. There are so many animal to see here, including crocodiles, elephants, giraffes and if you’re lucky, lions. Your driver is also your tour guide, telling you about the animals you see. A must do.

Pandora at night

Pandora waterfall

Avatar

Pandora is even more beautiful at night. The UV sensitive plants truly come into their own. We walked round gasping at how absolutely incredible it looked. It was almost impossible to photograph, but trust me, it’s stunning.

You can see my vlog from the day here:

top tips for the animal kingdom

  • There is a lot less indoor space at this park than the others, and less air-con. The trees make the heat feel more intense too, so take advantage of shade and fans. Take your own fan if you have one, drink lots of water and wear a hat. Most of the queues are outdoors, so be prepared.
  • If you do Kilimanjaro Safaris during the day, go back for a night safari as it starts to get dark. It’s a totally different experience, and you are likely to see different animals to the ones you saw during the day. You also have a much better chance of seeing the lions.