Where to Dine in Key West, Florida

Travel to Key West will not be complete without sampling the gastronomic delights around town. Here are some of the highly recommended dining spots in Key West.

Blue Heaven
Flick photo by Lisa Sanderson
This old blue building was a witness to a little bit of everything in its century-old history. It's been an artist commune, an ice cream parlor, a gambling house, and a brothel, not necessarily in that order. But now, Blue Heaven is credibly the most laid-back fine-dining restaurant you may ever see. Don't miss breakfast-eggs Benedict with lobster and key lime hollandaise. Key West shrimp and grits, and banana bread -- that's its own little slice of paradise.
located at Thomas St.; blueheavenkw.com

El Siboney
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Tucked away in the center of Old Town, this unpretentious family-owned dining place is known for its good Cuban food. Your meal commences with butter-soaked Cuban bread piled high in a red plastic basket.
You then order numbered dishes such as "1. Roasted Pork" or "24. Breaded Shrimp." Yellow rice, black beans, and sticky sweet plantains crowd every plate, perfectly paired with the homemade sangria.
located at 900 Catherine St.; elsiboneyrestaurant.com

Louie's Backyard
Flikr photo by shawnzrossi
 The food is as fantastic as the scenery at this transformed oceanfront property on Waddell Avenue, which also boasts of having one of the finest views on the island. Chef Doug Shook joined the staff twenty-four years ago, and his talent has established Louie's as stand out favorite. The nightly specials reflect the fresh seafood gathered at the dock that day, which inludes grouper, snapper, swordfish, shrimp, and lobster, depending on the season. To add, the lower deck is a perfect spot for a happy-hour cocktail.
located at 700 Waddell Ave.; louiesbackyard.com

Mangia Mangia
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Key West resembles a bit more of Little Havana than Little Italy, but don't let that deter you to stop at Mangia Mangia ("Eat! Eat!"). The trattoria's marinara sauce and semolina pasta are freshly-made daily, though you'll also find some innovative nods to local tradition (like the conch minestrone). Get ready to choose from the forty-four-page wine list that will blow your mind.
located at 900 Southard St.; mangia-mangia.com

Santiago's Bodega
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 Big flavors come in small sizes at Santiago's, a tapas restaurant situated in one of Key West's oldest neighborhoods, Bahama Village. Heavenly salads and plates like yellowfin ceviche or prosciutto-wrapped dates match well with a fine selection of beer, wine, and ports. The tiny place gets filled up quick every night, so reservations are strongly advised.
located at 207 Petronia St.; santiagosbodega.com

Travel Tips: Seafaring in New England

image via Wikipedia
If New England is about anything, it must be the sea, the root of its original prosperity through trading, whaling and shipbuilding ever since the Mayflower dropped anchor in Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts. The rewards of that nautical heritage could still be seen in the elegant homes of Newport, R.I.; Portland, Me.; and Boston's Back Bay; along the wharves of previous seaports such as Mystic, Conn.: and in the picturesque angling villages of Cape Cod, Mass., and the Maine coast.

For a sample of nautical life, visit Mystic, Conn., to ramble over the Mystic Seaport, a dazzling reproduction of a 19th-century seafaring community. Wander the wharves, walk the whaling vessels, then watch as scrimshaw artists exquisitely engrave whalebone. For a more conventional maritime slant, tour the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in nearby New London, and Groton, "The Submarine Capital of the World."

Rhode Island offers the alternate side in Newport, "The Yachting Capital of the World," a gleaming remnant of America's Gilded Age. The scene is glorious, a shining sapphire of water flecked with billowing white sails and populated by masts. You'll wonder as you tour the collection of opulent mansions, each more astonishing than the last.

Don't leave out The Breakers, a breathtaking Italian Renaissance palazzo, and Marble House, inspired by the Trianons of Versailles. Then rub elbows with sailors and socialites at one of the numerous regattas.

Veteran sailors and landlubbers alike flock to Maine's wild rocky shore, scalloped with coves and inlets and ornamented with rustic fishing villages and fashionable resorts. The south coast features the widest, sandiest beaches. Ogunquit, York and Kennebunkport keep their old-fashioned appeal, with stylish cottages swathed in morning glory and brilliantly colored fishing boats bobbing in the harbor. Stop by nearly any roadside shack for steaming succulent lobster—it's every bit the messy, mouth-watering experience it's known to be!

Sophisticated Portland bears a lovely collection of Victorian houses, and its waterfront has been tastefully renovated, with chic galleries, restaurants and boutiques occupying handsome stone warehouses. Stop in at L.L. Bean, the famous outdoor clothing emporium in Freeport, just northeast of Portland, then head for the delicious retreats of dignified Brunswick, swinging Booth-bay Harbor and quaint Wiscasset.

The greatest glories of Maine's coast start past Penobscot Bay: Mount Desert Island, scissored with fjords, heavy copses of fir tumbling down its craggy peaks to a silvery sea. The area is so sensational that John D. Rockefeller and other wealthy conservationists bought and donated much of it to the U.S. government, which declared it Acadia National Park. Then go along past the last resort of the rich, elegant Bar Harbor, and be rewarded by genuinely unspoiled fishing villages. Wherever you go in New England, you will understand why the come-on of the sea endures to this very day —particularly for travelers.

© 2011 Athena Goodlight

Sail the Maine Coast on the Schooner Stephen Taber 139 years and still beautifulSail the Maine Coast on the Schooner Stephen Taber
The Schooner Stephen Taber offers 3-6 day sailing trips off the coast of Maine. Built in 1871 and based in Rockland, a trip aboard the Taber is unique, authentic, personal and relaxing. The ship carries 22 passengers and is a National Landmark.

Starting at US $550 Per Trip

>> Click For Details & Pictures

RealAdventures | Rockland, Maine Sailing | Maine Sailing | Maine Vacations | Sailing | Rockland, Maine

Florida Islands: The Caribbean of the USA

Florida's romantic offshore isles give all you might wish for in an away-from-it-all island retreat: reclusive beaches, lavish tropical foliage, water sports of every description and sunsets that are breathtaking. But each island has its own brand of spell. Sanibel and Captiva are recognized for their pristine beaches, which offer some of the world's great shell collecting, and the beauty of the emerald-green Gulf of Mexico. Amelia Island, at the northeast corner of the state, extends world-class golf and tennis, and a historic district lined with glorious Victorian mansions. The Florida Keys merge extraordinary natural wonders with a "don't worry, be happy" style that has gained them the title, "America's Caribbean Islands."

Once a playground for pirates, Amelia Island - a 13-by-2-mile island near Jacksonville, receives travelers in true Southern style. The island's only town, Fernandina Beach, boasts a 50-block "Silk Stocking" historic zone, lined with sherbet-hued Victorian mansions. Explore the region on foot or by horse-drawn carriage; either way, make sure to stop at the Palace Saloon, Florida's oldest tavern, which was at one time patronized by members of the Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Du Pont families.

From the moment you cross the causeway that links the town of Fort Myers with Sanibel Island, you will feel the peacefulness of island life starting to take hold. The largest of the 100-plus Lee Islands, Sanibel and Captiva provide the best of both worlds: a quiet refuge and resorts that envelop you in luxury. Active couples will find a surplus of activities, from sailing, windsurfing and deep-sea fishing to over 50 miles of unspoiled beaches that feature over 400 kinds of colorful seashells.

On the north side of Sanibel, more than 5,000 acres have been designated as a National Wildlife Refuge, having hiking and canoe trails along which you may glimpse manatees, bald eagles and other distinguishing flora and fauna. After a morning of exploring, grab a boat to Cabbage Key for lunch at the rustic Cabbage Key Inn, which has received the likes of Jimmy Buffet, Neil Young and Ernest Hemingway.

Stretching 180 miles from Miami's Biscayne Bay nearly to Cuba, the Florida Keys, with their serene lagoons and rustling pine groves, have more than their share of legends—from the timeless love of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the movie Key Largo to Hemingway's adventures in Key West. Honeymooners can fly to Key West or drive the 113-mile Over-seas Highway, reaching seascapes of unbelievable beauty, edged by swaying palms, mangrove and silver button-wood trees. Plan to arrive in Key Westin time for the nightly "sunset celebration" at Mallory Pier, where musicians, jugglers, mimes and the occasional fire-eater get together to applaud the glowing red ball as it glides softly into the silvery sea.

© 2011 Athena Goodlight

Florida Keys Vacation Getaways Bahia Honda National ParkFlorida Keys Vacation Getaways
Get Memerized by the Changing tides and the beauty of the ocean. watch Tarpon rolling and Manatees feeding from the privacy of your balcony. 3 bedroom 3 bath sleeps up to 10. 75'ft concrete dock offers direct access to Gulf or Ocean. Open water views

Starting at US $1,200 Per Week

>> Click For Details & Pictures

RealAdventures | Big Pine Key, Florida Vacation Rentals | Florida Vacation Rentals | Florida Vacations | Vacation Rentals | Big Pine Key, Florida

Dude Ranch Vacations and Honeymoon Destinations in the USA

Horsing Around Dude Ranches in the USA

What a delight it is to slip from your wedding finery to a soft shirt and jeans, fill up a duffel with spares (and perhaps only one full calico skirt for barnyard square-dancing), tie on a bandanna and set out for a dude ranch! Or, clothed in crisp linen suits, to sip mint juleps and cheer as horses boom past in a breathtaking attempt to win first place. Whether you intend to trot over tumbleweed or blue-grass, to wrangle or to root for a winner, horses in almost every state are whinnying their uneasy invitations.

Among the best parts of considering a dude-ranch honeymoon is the capacity to know precisely what you'll spend. Most ranches extend attractive all-inclusive packages that give far more down-home cooking than you will ever be able to consume, campfires and barbecues, and at the least a couple of serious rides a day (generally with free lessons). Alcoholic drinks and tips are typically extra, and you'll want a few spare dollars for a pair of ten-gallon hat and boots.

Dude ranches vary from "roughing it" (cook yer own grub, saddle yer own horse, roll yer own sleeping bag,) to full-service ranches having rustic trappings but resort-style comforts (three-star chefs, exercise rooms and swimming pools). Some ranches also prepare hayrides, rodeos and barn dances, and stagecoach reenactments.

Wranglers across the U.S. are willing to teach you the ropes. In the West, Colorado, a dude ranch capital, asks over honeymooners to pass over craggy Rocky Mountain passes and flower-filled valleys, while Montana's ranches numerate their acreage in thousands, most sneaking up the edges of majestic mountain ranges. For canters under skies draped with glorious sunsets, cool nighttimes in massive log cabins and daybreak rides to abandoned gold mines, pack your saddlebags for Wyoming. Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska feature willing wranglers too.

In the East, the ranches in New York's Catskill Mountains receive everyone, from the greenest of dudes to skilled English saddle riders; observe or learn polo here, or in nearby Connecticut or New Jersey. There are even dude ranches in tiny Vermont and Rhode Island. Or ride along Arkansas's amazing Ozark Mountain trails, halting to fish the rivers and visit Dogpatch, USA, and Silver Dollar City. Head up for Illinois to rally in Abraham Lincoln's tracks or lope around the vast ranch-lands of Texas—any state's department of tourism would refer you to a variety of dude ranches. You may also visit the listings and vacation rental reviews at VacationRentals.com to help you decide best.

Gambling on dressier clothes and more city-bred surroundings, grandstand seeing is another way to pull in your horse time. The ultimate stop is, naturally, Kentucky. Louisville ushers a two-week festival of parades and fireworks, and a huge flea market. If you can not get bookings for the Kentucky Derby (try a year or more in advance), think about a summer stay in Saratoga, N.Y., another "racy" honeymoon alternative.

Whether you climb on horses yourselves or wager on the professionals, horsing around is a sure wager for honeymoon excitement.

© 2011 Athena Goodlight