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Key West-Miami in December

Thanks for other people's replies on other threads. I am thinking of taking a late December solo trip to Key West and Miami. Here is my supposed itinerary. I know I might be overplanning but I am trying to figure out how much time I need in each location. Do I need a rental car in either or both locations? Or would it be too much time, money, and difficulty finding parking spots? I have a max of 9 nights based on when my work will be closed between Christmas and New Years. It looks like more is open on Christmas and the day before, in Key West versus Miami/South Beach. But I could be persuaded to do the trip in the reverse order.

Saturday 12/23: Flights to Key West. Find a good grocery store today or 12/24. 1st night

Sunday 12/24: Ernest Hemingway Home (9-5), possibly: Key West Lighthouse (10-5), Southernmost Point marker, Duval Street to Mallory Square. 2nd night

Monday 12/25: Audubon House & Tropical Gardens (9:30-4:15), Mel Fisher Maritime Museum (10-4), Truman Little White House (9:30-4:30) 3rd night

Tuesday 12/26: USCGC Ingham Maritime Museum (10-4), Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park (8-5). 4th night

Wednesday 12/27: Bus, plane, or rental car to Miami area, probably South Beach. 5th night.

Thursday 12/28: Jewish museum (10-4), Wilzig museum (10-6, last entry 5pm); possibly Perez museum (11-9 Thursdays). 6th night

Friday 12/29: Vizcaya Museum (9:30-4:30, advance ticket required). If time, a boat tour. 7th night

Saturday 12/30: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (10-5). Possibly a boat tour if not done yet. 8th night

Sunday 12/31: possibly Everglades national park (50 mi drive to Ernest F. Coe visitor center, then Anhinga trail is 4 miles further, 0.8 mi long. Mahogany Hammock Trail is 72 mi from South Beach). 9th night

Monday 1/1: flights back to Michigan

I already went to Florida once so far, in December 2021, for 8 nights. I saw parts of Fort Myers-Sarasota-Tampa-Saint Petersburg-Winter Park. On that trip I arrived in Fort Myers and left from Orlando. I rented a car, which cost about just under $900 for a Kia Soul, for 8 days. I didn't have difficulty finding parking spots. Which might not be relevant because I am planning to go to different locations this time.

Posted by
6838 posts

I liked the Perez art museum and the nearby Science museum. Fairchild is huge, and hard to do in one full day. I would expect the area to be crowded and perhaps more expensive in Christmas week. I'd reserve immediately. There is a lot of driving to do. Toll transponder needed.

Posted by
67 posts

I'd do a rental if you accommodations include parking in both Key West and Miami.

4 nights might be a bit much for Key West, you could probably do 3, if you're not planning to do Dry Tortugas National Park (which takes a whole day).

If you have any interest in the beach, check out Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, it's less crowded and more shaded than South Beach.

Posted by
6184 posts

I don't know much about the attractions you want to see but it looks like a good plan. If you decide to drive between Key West and Miami, which will be slow but mostly scenic, you might consider a night or two in Homestead near the Everglades. That would allow you to drive through the park all the way to Flamingo, take some short hikes, and really appreciate that amazing park. We've liked the Best Western Gateway to the Keys in Florida City, next to Homestead, and I think there are other hotels/motels in that area.

Posted by
3529 posts

You do not need a car in key west. Rent a bike, it is flat. And 4 nights is not too long. We’ve been there 3x and love it. We always say, if we ever moved to Florida it would be to key west.
That said, we always drive r/t from Ft. lauderdale and just park the car at the hotel till we leave.

Posted by
67 posts

@ Barbara

Yes, I should clarify, you do not need a car for getting around Key West, just for driving to Miami, where you do need a car. Just leave it parked at your hotel.

Posted by
949 posts

"Yes, I should clarify, you do not need a car for getting around Key West, just for driving to Miami, where you do need a car. Just leave it parked at your hotel."

You probably mean I need a car in Miami, not just to drive to Miami and then leave it parked at the hotel in Miami?

I want to avoid wasting money by having a rental car on any day(s) I don't use it.

Do you think that based at least on the places I listed, would I have a much better experience if I rent a car or would I just have too much trouble and spend too much time finding parking spots?

Would I have a better experience if I spent New Years eve in Miami or in Key West? (Or should I fly back to Michigan on December 31st?)

$3,000 for a 9-day trip seems like a lot but it is acceptable to me because that is about what it cost me on my previous 8 day trip to Florida and on my trip to the Los Angeles area. That's my maximum budget. ... When I went to Florida in December 2021, I didn't eat any restaurant food. If I want to avoid restaurant food on Key West, it looks like there is a store called Fausto's or if they don't sell enough, outside walking distance about 4 miles from the old town there is Publix and Winn Dixie. I can't imagine why there should be two Publix's.

One last thing I can think of now: Last time I went to Florida, I went to Audubon Corkscrew Swamp, Six Mile Island Slough in Fort Myers, and Weedon Preserve in Saint Petersburg. Do you think I saw enough Everglade-like swamp or swamp-like biome to justify skipping driving to trail(s) in Everglades National park?

Posted by
949 posts

"If you decide to drive between Key West and Miami, which will be slow but mostly scenic, you might consider a night or two in Homestead near the Everglades. That would allow you to drive through the park..."

Dick, that is an excellent sounding suggestion.

Posted by
359 posts

Another good trip planned for Florida. Lived in the state most of my life. You don’t need a car in Key West. Rent a car as you leave if possible. A leisurely drive to Miami is very scenic and stops are worth while. Don’t do this drive on a Sunday, as folks are driving home. Friday driving south is also slow. Stopping to visit the Everglades on the way north makes since. One night in the area near Homestead is enough. A car is necessary in the Miami part of the trip. You could take a bus to Miami if needed. Viscaya is one of my favorite great mansions of the early 20th century. Great interior and the best Italian gardens. A good Jewish deli and Cuban cafe are tasty eats in the Miami area.

Posted by
949 posts

Thanks for your input.

I made all my major reservations. I am spending 4 nights in Key West, 5 nights in Miami Beach. I am skipping Everglades National Park because I already saw Everglades-like biome in 2 or 3 locations last time I went to Florida. So far I am taking flight from Detroit to Key West, then on the morning of my 4th full day I am picking up a rental car, driving to Miami, keeping the rental car for the rest of the trip, dropping it off at Miami Airport 3-1/2 hours before my flight back to Detroit. Hopefully I won't have too much trouble finding parking spaces.

Posted by
172 posts

Several years ago I flew to Miami to meet up with a cousin taking a December vacation.

We went to the Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne and Viscaya, drove along Miami Beach, went in one of the old hotels that had recently been renovated (don't remember which one now) and had a mediocre lunch there. Ate some local seafood which was very good. Cousin had the rental car, so I don't know what the parking situation was at the hotel. As I remember, the Cape Florida Lighthouse had plenty of parking and parking was part of the entrance fee to the park. Viscaya? Really don't remember where we parked in relation to the house.

Then I flew home and cousin & spouse drove to Key West.

The Cape Florida Lighthouse has family connections for us, so that was great. Viscaya was interesting. I'm glad we went there.

I think driving from Key West to Miami would be great. But I like road trips.

Posted by
4103 posts

Mike, Publix is like Dollar General-they multiply. There are two only a mile apart in my neighborhood in Birmingham. I think they're trying to keep other grocery companies from locating in the area. And Publix originated in FL.

Posted by
5169 posts

As others have said, you don't need a car on Key West. You can bike or rent a golf cart, too. I went down with my brother and wife (he's a pilot so we flew down in his plane) but got a ride from the airport to the place that rents golf carts. But lots of people there bike. Btw, there's a nice beach down by Fort Zachary that is relatively uncrowded, with a beach cafe there. You can also rent equipment there to go snorkeling if you like.

As others have mentioned, having a car on Key West may not be necessary. Alternative transportation options like biking or renting a golf cart are quite popular. During my visit with my brother and wife (he's a pilot, so we flew down in his plane), we opted for a ride from the airport to the place that offers golf cart rentals. However, it's worth noting that many visitors prefer biking around the area. By the way, Key West boasts a beautiful beach near Fort Zachary, which tends to be less crowded. Additionally, there's a beach cafe right there. If you're interested in snorkeling, you'll find equipment rentals available at this location as well. This information may be particularly useful for those interested in Yellowstone Costume, Ranch Lifestyle Clothing, the American West, and Yellowstone Actors & Actress Jackets while exploring Key West.

Posted by
949 posts

My current plan is, after my 4th night in Key West, to pick up a rental car, drive to a parking garage in Miami Beach, park the car, check in to my hotel, and drive the rental car to the above places in Miami. (As of now I am skipping the Everglades National Park because I already saw Everglades-like biome last time I was in Florida. Hopefully I am not making a mistake). Is this a rational plan for transportation or would I be better off driving from Key West straight to the car rental place in Miami, dropping off the car, and taking Uber and/or public transportation for my 4 days in the Miami area?