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Florida 7 day trip August 2022

Yep, I know it will be hot and probably muggy but it is the only time my granddaughter (GD) is able to go. We are flying from Seattle. I have very little experience with travel in Florida. The only place I have explored is St. Augustine. Where would you suggest we travel? GD and I would like: nature tours to include fabulous birds, alligators and manatees; some beach time and yummy food we are not familiar with. We want to try and stay away from any high end resorts and/or party scenes. GD will be 12 yo at the time of the trip. We have 7-8 days. Any thoughts are appreciated.

Posted by
7694 posts

For unfamiliar food, would Cuban food be on that category? Lots of opportunities to try it there.
Look at Sanibel Island on Gulf Coast for great shelling.

Posted by
79 posts

August will be hot and humid and in hurricane season, but there are many natural areas you can visit. I assume you want to avoid theme parks. Plenty of alligators and water birds around then, but manatees are less visible in summer. On the Atlantic coast near Cape Canaveral is Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge where you will see gators and birds. Beaches at nearby Cocoa and New Smyrna are nice and less crowded. On the Gulf coast, Sanibel Island has good shelling and beaches. Inland are several springs including Silver Springs, Wekiva Springs and in the Ocala National Forest are Juniper Springs and Alexander Springs. The Saint Johns River from Sanford northward is very scenic.

Posted by
252 posts

Hi Linda,

It is really going to be very unpleasantly hot and muggy but prices will be lower and it might be less crowded.

I have been to Miami, Miami Beach and Orlando. I can recommend all three cities.

I would also suggest trying Disney World and Universal Studios Park. You can stay at either park and take a shuttle to the other one. I have never made it to Disney World but have been to Universal Studios.

How about Cape Canaveral?

And if you are wanting to go way south, The Florida Keys.

I use booking.com for hotels.

Posted by
9702 posts

For the interests you’ve listed, I’d vote for Sanibel as well. The Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge there is one of my favorite locations for fabulous birds and many, many gators!! If you have a Senior National Parks pass, bring it along.

You can also do a day trip down to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples.

I’d plan to do all activities early AM….due to heat, humidity and bugs, lol.

Posted by
5473 posts

The Everglades is loaded with nature. All the beaches are nice. Key West is worth visiting, but expensive and beaches are not a factor there. Miami is good if you stay away from high crime areas. Find out were they are and avoid. My favorite area of Florida is from St. Augustine down through Cape Canaveral and Vero Beach.

Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are more expensive than the mid-Florida beaches.

Posted by
1202 posts

Check out the Sarasota-Bradenton area. Beautiful beaches and lots of options for things to do and spots to eat. Has an elegant vibe in some places and an Old Florida feel in others.

Posted by
3999 posts

Everglades National park is a great place to see gators and birds. It’s kind of off by itself in south Florida just before getting to the keys. Maybe take a trip down the keys to Key West and the southernmost point.

Posted by
57 posts

Hi, I have lived in Florida for 22 years now and love it. As others have said, be prepared for hurricane season but I wouldn't let it make me stop a trip. South Florida could be muggy, but North Florida is more tolerable. The Gulf coast is beautiful. Destin is gorgeous with pure white sandy beaches; you could also consider almost all places from St. Pete north and you would enjoy a beach experience with plenty to see and do.

I would probably avoid South Beach or Miami if I had a 12 yer old, but Key West is fun and lots to do and see.

I LOVE Sanibel island on the southern gulf coast, sea shelling galore and an old world Florida feel (a tropical island feel to it) My only hesitation is that in the last several years there have been red tides there and the water is very iffy at best. North Florida near Amelia Island and Fernadina are great places for August weather; once again, a beautiful old world Florida feel and not to far from Savannah, Georgia which is fabulous!

Posted by
5261 posts

The Everglades are a unique environment filled with wildlife and fascinating plants. And the Keys nearby would also be great, even if you don't make it all the way to Key West. My visits have all been in winter or early spring, so maybe the heat and humidity will be too much, but I'd think it's worth a try. The Best Western Gateway to the Keys motel in Homestead would make a good base for both areas, with a large central courtyard and pool.

Posted by
3186 posts

And if she likes cats, they have them at the Hemingway House in Key West, plus a tourist train, trip to Tortugas for snorkeling, kayaking to see mangrove swamps.

Posted by
1000 posts

Having lived in South Georgia and North Florida over half my life, you could not pay me to go in August. I'm accustomed to heat and humidity and it's a hard no for me. The handful of times we've braved Orlando theme parks have been only in Oct-Dec. Maybe the weather will be enough of a novelty to you that you will be able to soldier on and have a "I survived Florida in August" story, but don't say I didn't warn you! 😉

Posted by
2938 posts

Another vote here for Sanibel and the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
Sanibel has everything...the best beaches, good restaurants, good seashell hunting on the beach (even a Seashell Museum).
It's a very casual, old-fashioned place, with many good hotels.
Do take care with how close you get to the alligators.......they are dangerous and can move very quickly.

Posted by
798 posts

Thank you everyone for your ideas and suggestions. Many of you suggested Sanibel Island and the surrounding area. Our good family friend who lives here in Washington grew up in Florida and also suggested Sanibel and Captiva Islands (without any prompting on my part). She also said the St. Petersberg área has much to offer along with Clearwater, Honeymoon and Caladesi Island nature preserves, and the fresh springs of Rainbow River and Wikee Wachee.

I will get a guidebook and sit down with GD to talk it all over. When I asked her for a brief idea of what she wanted, she said the beach. Ha ha, that girl. She has had plenty of beach time in Mexico and Hawaii. We may go to a water park but no large theme parks like Orlando for us.

Posted by
798 posts

Oh yes, I want to try Cuban food and also conch, which I think is a shellfish ? We love fish of all kinds including raw fish.

Thanks for the warning about the alligators. They would be a unique animal for us to see from afar.

Posted by
773 posts

I can tell you what I did on my 8 night solo trip to southwest-central Florida in December 2021. Of course none of these places would be bad for a reasonably behaved 12-year-old. Show your granddaughter your guidebooks and give her a few choices of what to do. If your interest in art museums is low, there are plenty of good parks I didn't see. The Fort Myers area seems to have good parks - check the website of Lee county parks, look for the approximately 6 "preserves", the best ones for visitors, the parks that have bathrooms and cost $1 or $2 an hour to park.

Fort Myers area: San Carlos Bunch Beach preserve, Audubon Corkscrew preserve (requires advance timed tickets), six-mile Cypress slough preserve, Edison and Ford estates;

Sarasota: The Ringling (the campus includes an art museum, a circus-related museum which works for all ages, a small circus-related art museum, and John Ringlings's house.

St. Petersburg: art museum, Wheedon Island preserve, Dale Chihuly collection, Salvsadore Dali Museum
Tampa: another small art museum that has two good rooms of ancient Greek and Roman earthenware vessels, along with an unimpressive small collection of drawings; Henry B Plant Museum.

Winter park near Orlando: Albin Polasek house and sculpture garden, Charles Hosner Morse museum (Louise Comfort Tiffany designed glass lamps and stained glass windows, random American drawings, artifacts salvaged from Louise Comfort Tiffany's house on Long Island after it burned down); the narrated boat-ride on the inland lakes; Mead botanical garden, the small art museum at Rolling College (3 old paintings, one Roman sarcophugus, and a bunch of unimpressive modern works, but often you don't know how good an art museum is until you see it for yourself)

Posted by
2938 posts

Linda, About conch......
I would never discourage someone from trying the local cuisine wherever they are visiting; however, just so you know what you'd be getting.......
Here's the Wikipedia page with photos and info on conch:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conch
Look at the photo on the left side, directly under "Culinary use", click to enlarge the photo.
The snails that are poking out of this shell are pulled out, chopped with a sharp knife or machete, then served to you.
They are tough and chewy and have NO taste except for whatever sauce or marinade is put on them.
Imagine putting old chewing gum that you've already chewed into the fridge, letting it harden for a few days, then trying to chew it again. Actually, conch is much worse than that. Conch is very, very tough. It's a tough snail that is all one big muscle.
The Wikipedia article says:
"Queen conchs are valued for seafood and are also used as fish bait."
I am very doubtful as to the first half of that, except to serve to tourists to cheat them out of a dollar or two or more.
The second half--used as fish bait--yes, I would believe that.

My advice is to go for the fish, crab, and shrimp dishes and don't waste your money on conch.

You asked: "conch, which I think is a shellfish?"
No, it is a snail. A huge, tough, hard, chewy, tasteless snail chopped into small pieces and served to tourists because nobody else will eat it.

It is not similar to shrimp, crab or lobster (shellfish) which are 10,000 times more tasty than (GAG) conch.
I just didn't want you to waste your money on something I do not believe you'd enjoy.

Posted by
773 posts

Edit to my above reply:
If you only see one museums Florida, see the Ringling. If you only see one part of it, see the circus museum. It includes a huge model of circus related scenes. The builder spent 50 years working on it. There were kids at the circus museum. I don't remember seeing kids at the other museums.

Posted by
798 posts

Mike, thank you for all the museum and park ideas. Ringing was on my radar but you reminded me to explore it online.

Rebecca, after I posted about conch, I Googled it. I agree, it isn’t something that looks very appealing.

Posted by
798 posts

Hi again. Taking all your and my friend’s suggestions and the amount of time we have into consideration, I have created an itinerary in TripIt that may work. But, I still need some advice on logistics and confirmation on whether it is plausible. Thinking we won’t be able to include the Everglades with this 8-9 day visit to Florida. Remember, my GD loves her beach time and nature. However, even though I enjoy the beach vibe, I am an antsy person and like to learn about the history and architecture of the places I visit. Saying all this, let me know what you think about this itinerary:

8/10 Seattle to Tampa, nonstop flight, pick up rental car, drive to St. Petersburg
8/11 St. Petersburg-Clearwater: Pass-A-Grille beach, Sunken Garden, Dali Museum
8/12 Honeymoon And Caladesi Islands
8/13 Crystal River and Weeki Wachee Springs ? (North of St. Pete)
8/14 Sarasota: Siesta Beach, Ringling Museums
8/15&16 Ft. Meyers, Sanibel & Captiva Islands, Edison Ford Estates, Shell Museum, Ding Darling Refuge
8/17 Tampa: Adventure Island Water Park OR Rainbow River tube float OR Tampa Aquarium
8/18 Tampa to Seattle, nonstop flight, drop off rental car

Should I delete Crystal River and add more time to Tampa or add Naples area before heading back to Tampa? Looks like CR is a lot about seeing manatees, but I think not so much in the summer. Instead we could do the Rainbow River float North of Tampa, but will it be just too hot on a float for nearly 2 hours? OR, and I like this idea but not sure we will have enough time: explore Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples before we head back to Tampa.

Would love your thoughts.

Posted by
1202 posts

If you base in St. Petersburg you can access the Tampa, Dunedin and Sarasota areas without changing hotels. I'd probably drop the Crystal River and Fort Myers parts of your trip to reduce travel time - plus there's plenty to do in the Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota areas. Have fun!

Posted by
798 posts

Yes, I was wondering if I should just base myself in terms f accommodations in St. Petersburg for at least the first portion of the trip and Ft. Meyers for the second half. I really want to explore Sanibel Island because GD will love looking for shells

Posted by
3655 posts

BTW: There's really nothing particularly special about Ft Myers, stay there if it the price is right but don't dawdle.

Posted by
9702 posts

I'd agree to skip Ft Myers. I'd also cut Crystal River and WeekiWachee and put that time to Sanibel or Captiva and I would stay out there NOT in Ft Myers area.

It's been years since I've been to Caladesi but I saw the biggest poison ivy plants I've ever seen in my life. Honestly the trunks were the size of my arm. SO....if either of you is sensitive to poison ivy, keep an eye out for "Leaves of three, let it be". Just basically don't touch any shrubs when you are out there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poison_ivy

And laughing...even though I'm vegan now, I used to love Conch fritters. Yum! Have had them in both FL and the Bahamas and enjoyed them. I don't care for conch salad as it can be as tough as Rebecca pictures. It's along the lines of Calamari if you've had that done well (in Italy??, lol!)

Sounds like a fun trip.

Posted by
798 posts

Tom and Pam, I think you have convinced me to not stay in Ft. Meyers so I will continue to look at accommodations in Sanibel. A place called Kona Kai looks very nice. I was looking at Ft, Meyers because it was less pricey than Sanibel. I welcome your suggestions for places to stay.

Ummmmm…. Pam, about poison ivy. My mom used to get our volunteer fire department come and burn our embankment every Spring-Summer to keep the poison ivy at bay. I was out of school for days because of the very bad reaction I had to the poisonous plant. Not a pretty sight and very painful for me. Guess I’m not used to looking out for it since I don’t believe we have it here in Washington. Guess I may stay away from Caladesi.

Posted by
9702 posts

I didn’t mean to warn you off Caladesi and this was 20 years ago. In looking at the map I believe it was near the old homestead so in the wooded area. Having lived in Idaho for years I’m out of the habit as well. Just keep your eyes peeled!

Make sure you shower thoroughly when you get back to your lodging. A physician I worked with when I lived in FL swore the best thing to do was to do a final rinse with vodka over your arms and legs. His theory was that the alcohol cut the oil in the poison ivy, lol.

Yep, Sanibel prices are way over Ft Myers but it’s worth it to be there. I’m not familiar with the lodging you have in mind but I’ve only stayed there once. There is a $6 toll to get over to the island so it’s better not to plan to go back and forth a lot. There are a couple of FB pages for Sanibel, some info you have to take with a grain of salt (or sand) but you can pick up some good intel as well. Someone mentioned red tide and the pages are all over that if it’s occurring.

Posted by
341 posts

I'm in Sarasota. Go to the beach in the evening for sunset. It's too dang hot to go during the day in August. Go to the Ringling Museum during the day, and then to the beach in the evening. 😊

Posted by
3655 posts

I have some of those poison ivy/poison sumac towelettes in my camera bag just in case, to rub off the oils.

The biggest poison ivy I’ve ever seen was in northern Virginia (Colonial Beach). Real jack-in-the-beanstalk size, creeped me out. I’m used to the short version in the north, 1’ to 3’ high.

Posted by
798 posts

Thank you all once again for piping in. Like you Tom, the poison ivy I encountered as a kid in New Hampshire was no more than 4 or 5 inches off the ground. I wouldn’t be looking out for poison ivy trees. lol.

Appreciate the tip to have our beach time in the evening.

Posted by
26 posts

I lived near Miami in my residency days almost 20 years ago, and if you're now based near Seattle like me, definitely don't over-exert yourself in the summer weather, and hydrate. 90F with 90% humidity daily, and try not be out or on the road during the frequent afternoon heavy thundershowers. A couple inches in an hour wasn't uncommon, but driving in that rain was scary. Those cheap ponchos don't do much, but it's better than nothing.

But I was back in Tampa/Orlando with my family this past December, so my two cents:

Look and see if they have a rental car toll pass program in Tampa. The one in Orlando is convenient, it looks like you're going to miss most toll roads, you don't want to pay the daily rental car surcharge.

I enjoyed the Dali museum even after visiting the bigger sites in Spain. Looks like you're going on the half-price Thursday night, they had a black-tie event with live music the night we were there, don't forget the outdoor exhibits. You can park across the street on Wheldon Way, the meter is cheaper. It wasn't a problem buying tickets at the door instead of a time online.

My first time back to Weeki Wachee since 2004, it seemed a bit more ramshackle than I remembered. The water park was closed, and besides the mermaid show, there wasn't much else. It's a bit of a drive, and it was a long hot wait to get in unless you're there early. But the kids just HAD to see the mermaids...

The Tibbals Center is THE place at the Ringling Museums. Besides the railroad car, the other circus museum was fairly minimal. and I've been kind of spoiled with European art museums, so the Art Museum here was kind of a walk-through. There are numerous good restaurants on Longboat Key with a great view, we went to the Dry Dock Grill.

Conch is a much chewier calamari, grouper is a unique fish in Florida although it seems like just a mild whitefish to me. There are roadside stands selling a dolphin sandwich, although I don't recall any on the Gulf Coast. Caribbean jerk meats also more of a Miami thing, but there is great Cuban food in Ybor City in Tampa. That's the different food I miss here in WA.

You may not find manatees in nature in the summer. The Bishop Museum in Bradenton has a manatee rehab habitat indoors, it's not the wild but you get a great up-close view of them. At the same time, there isn't anything special about the Tampa Aquarium, it didn't seem much different than if you've been to Seattle's. The Clearwater Aquarium is more unique with the larger marine mammals, although now Winter from "Dolphin Tale" passed away. Gator airboat rides are more in central FL or much farther south like Everglades City, but kids really enjoy them.

Insect repellent! Incessant flying bugs are more active at sundown, and I still have a scar from getting bitten by a mosquito the size of my fist.

For you, there is more of a history/architecture vibe in Clearwater/Dunedin and in Naples. If you go that far south, you can also hit Marco Island, which is a bit like a more touristy Sanibel. Summer shelling on Sanibel can get sparse, unless you are out right after a storm or farther out in low tide.

Sounds like you have a great trip planned, hopefully you're able to find some of this useful. Enjoy!

Posted by
291 posts

"the best thing to do was to do a final rinse with vodka over your arms and legs"

Drink the vodka, and shower with dishwashing liquid that is designed to cut grease, that will get rid of the oil (urushiol). It's worked for me, and I break out if I even stare at poison ivy plant.

Posted by
798 posts

Smokey,

Wow, I sure appreciate all of your suggestions and thoughts. The Bishop science museum wasn’t on my radar but I think it will be a real nice activity for our last full day in the Sarasota area. The parking tip for the Dali museum was very good. I like easy