Hit the road and explore what is beyond the city limits of Miami, with these six easy day trip itineraries. On the way you'll experience amazing adventures, on land and on the water, entertainment hotspots and plenty of family fun at the "happiest place on Earth."
Find Key Largo, one of the northernmost keys of the Florida Keys, within an hour drive from Miami International Airport, off the Overseas Highway (U.S. Highway 1). Many travelers have spotted this aquatic paradise driving to and from Key West. Bordered by the Everglades National Park to the west and John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park to the east. Pennekamp is the first underwater park and the only living coral reef barrier reef in the Continental U.S., to the east.
Not surprisingly, Key Largo's ties to the sea run far and wide. Dubbed the "Diving capital of the world," this island is a top destination for kayaking, snorkeling, sport-fishing, beaches and eco-tours. There is even an underwater motel, Jules' Undersea Lodge where visitors dive more than 20 feet to get to their room.
When is meal time go to Alabama Jack's, an Old Florida bar and grill on Card Sound Road. For more than 50 years, this legendary beach bar has been attracting the locals, bikers, retirees, families and travelers looking for the best conch fritters, cold beers and lively entertainment. Rumor has it that Alabama Jack's is a favorite of NBC TV personality Kathie Lee.
West Palm Beach
Discover a casual, laid-back world filled with al-fresco dining, shopping districts and a thriving live music and arts scene, set along a picturesque waterfront setting in West Palm Beach. One of the three largest metropolitan areas in South Florida, West Palm Beach is just over an hour north from Downtown Miami via Interstate 95 or Florida's Turnpike.
Visit the Lion Country Safari, a 300-acre preserve where animals roam freely. Drive-through or walk the grounds to enjoy the various animal encounters, exhibits and rides. Get back in touch with nature with a stop at the Mounts Botanical Garden, Palm Beach's oldest and largest botanical garden or for a quick trip head to the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens where the famed sculptor once lived and is now open to the public as a historic home, botanical garden and art studio.
Once ready for retail therapy, check out the Palm Beach Outlets or Antique Row to stock up on affordable fashion finds, home decor items and collectibles. Some of the more popular areas for nighttime play include CityPlace and Clematis Street, with plenty of chic boutiques, fashionable martini bars and fine dining eateries. For a hassle-free way to get around, park the car and ride the free trolley for more things to do.
While most travelers are drawn to the beaches and nature, there is a lot to do and areas to explore while in Naples. The city has a cool downtown with lots of shops and eateries that are steps away from the beach. Home to dozens of galleries and the Artis—Naples, a cultural complex housing the Baker Museum and the Naples Philharmonic. Artists of all kinds are on exhibit, from traveling shows to the local talents of Florida artists. The Philharmonic draws some of the biggest names in show business, from world renowned orchestras, Broadway musicals and classic performers. There are also ongoing art classes and special seminars for art lovers of all ages.
In search of cool souvenirs and stylish fashions, head to the Mercato, a modern shopping district known for upscale dining and shopping. If you prefer a more vintage feel, the "Old Naples" district is perfect and located a few blocks away from the downtown area along south Third Street. Shop for fine jewelry and a wide variety of apparel boutiques but do take a much needed break and unwind at the coffee shops and wine bars that line the streets.
Take a beautiful drive on one of America's most scenic highways—the 110-mile Overseas Highway and head to Key West. The nation's southernmost point is actually closer to Havana, Cuba than Miami, exactly 90 miles away. Whether a "Conch," as native Key Westers call themselves or a "Parrot Head" as Jimmy Buffett fans are known, this tropical island city is in a league of its own.
A major draw for eccentrics and creative types, novelist Ernest Hemingway, arguably the most famous Key West resident, playwright Tennessee Williams, President Harry Truman and countless others have spend time in the Conch Republic. Open to the public, you can visit Hemingway's estate and President Truman's "Little Winter White House" now public museums. If you are looking for more history and adventure, step back to the treacherous world of shipwrecking with a stop at the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum. Learn about the history of Key West through live actors, artifacts and a 65-inch tower. There is also the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, which is the only fully accredited museum in the Florida Keys—part research institution and part history museum.
When you are looking for a good time in Key West, make sure to take a trip through world-famous Duval Street and explore the many family and gay-friendly and singles-only activities available here. One of the Keys' most popular destination, Duval Street is where the party is at. Spend the day and sample the array of restaurants, shops, world famous pubs and attractions. Top stops include the 25-year-old watering hole, the Hogs Breath Saloon known for their daily lineup of local and national bands and their signature t-shirt. Experience eight different bars at Rick's Bar, dance to disco, groove to rock tunes and much more. Admire the beautiful work of naturalist John James Audubon at the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens. If you have kids in tow, they'll be wowed and amazed at the 500 jaw-dropping exhibits from Ripley's Believe it or Not.
Everglades National Park
Another great option is a trip to the majestic Florida Everglades, the nation's largest natural subtropical park with endangered and threatened species. With over 1.5 million acres, the park located in Miami's backyard, has many adventures to offer. Alligators, anhingas and even the elusive Florida panther make their home just 45 minutes west of downtown Miami.
For an up-close look, visit the Everglades Outpost Wildlife Refuge or Everglades Alligator Farm near Homestead. Take a short walk to spot wildlife, climb atop Shark Valley's 45-foot observation tower for a bird's eye view of the glades. Glide over Florida Bay by boat or kayak for a glimpse of crocodiles, manatees or dolphins. In addition to short interpretative trails, there are also longer hiking trails in the park perfect for for leisurely walks, extended hikes or bicycle treks.
For campers, Everglades National Park has 48 designated backcountry campsites; choose from chickees, ground sites and beach sites. Make sure to make reservations during the busy winter months.
When it comes to family vacations, Orlando tops the list as the world’s theme park capital. From the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld Orlando, Gatorland to LEGOLAND Florida, Orlando attractions are guaranteed to thrill, educate and captivate.
A four-hour drive from Miami, during the summertime locals pack their bags and head north to enjoy the fantasy land of the parks. After a day of roller coaster riding, make your way to International Drive, bustling with dinner theaters, nightclubs, restaurants and family-friendly attractions like Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s, Wonderworks and the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye.
For foodies, Orlando is a magnet for restaurants helmed by James Beard award winners. Jasper, Florida, native Art Smith recently opened a Southern rustic-chic restaurant, Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine and Rick Bayless brought authentic Mexican cuisine to Disney Springs with Frontera Fresco. In Dr. Phillips, Sand Lake Road has been dubbed Restaurant Row, near Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World, for its sheer number of upscale restaurants and high-end steakhouses. Reminiscent of Las Vegas, Orlando is a town that doesn't sleep with a myriad of things to do and experience.