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Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday Five: Florida Favorites

Happy Friday! I'm back with another Friday Five linkup with Mar, Courtney, and Cynthia. This week is a Free Friday so I thought I'd outline some of my favorite excursions during our trip to Florida. 

We spent three days in Tampa before meeting up with my parents to drive down to Naples. Before vacation, I pinned a bunch of stuff to my Winter in Florida Pinterest board. The weather was gorgeous (upper 70s) and we were able to visit several fun sites.

Lettuce Lake Park, Tampa
Our hotel in Tampa was across the street from Lettuce Lake, so we had to check it out. We started on the far end of the park and made our way along the boardwalk trail which follows the curve of Lettuce Lake. The park includes an observation tower, some small shelter houses, and a nice visitor's center. Along our hike we saw about a dozen different birds (including an eagle), a few alligators, and some turtles. Next time I'd rent a kayak and paddle the calm water. (Parking: $2)

Photo Credit: Oxford Exchange

Oxford Exchange, Tampa
I hesitate to add something non-nature-y to my list, but hear me out. This place is like a Stefon skit; it has everything: bookstore, coffee shop, exotic tea cart, eyewear fittings, quirky gifts, co-working office space, and an excellent restaurant featuring local ingredients. It has old-world charm, but new-world niceties. Originally built as horse stables, the building became an arcade of shops in the 1920s. In 2012, it reopened as Oxford Exchange. It's a little over-the-top, but it's a lovely concept and beautiful inside.

Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg
Sunken Gardens is a 100 year old garden located on the other side of Tampa Bay in nearby St. Petersburg. It contains an impressive variety of plants, trees, and even some exotic birds. It took about an hour to walk the meandering path with many stops for photos (unfortunately, I left my Nikon at home). Pro tip: several printed tourist guides have admission coupons and Groupon also had a deal. I didn't find out about those until after our visit, but it's ok. The garden was absolutely beautiful and I want them to have our money! (Admission: $10)

Air Boat Ride, Everglades
When my parents suggested an airboat ride I was kind of indifferent. Our guide at Wooten's Everglades was young (and kind of reminded me of Jacob from Twilight ha) and fed us tidbits about the area, plant life, and animals. The water was high due to record rainfall and my parents said the ride was a lot more exciting than their previous visits. I had a great time. I have no idea why I was so indifferent in the beginning! (Boat ride: $28)

My photo makes it look like we were alone

Naples Pier, Naples
The pier is located on the beach with the ritziest mansions. Yes, the beach and pier were both crowded and yes, parking was tough to find (and cost a few dollars), but it was worth the visit. It was one of the most beautiful beaches I've been to in the continental United States. (I'm a beach snob after our Hawaii trips.) Apparently, you can see dolphins off the pier on a good day and it is a go-to place for sunsets. After our visit we drove up and down Gulf Shores Blvd to see the giant houses.


  1. Oh I would just be amazed at all that wild life! Beautiful pictures!

    1. It was so crazy to see alligators up close. Luckily, they were only interested in getting sun. ;)

  2. LOVE Florida ! I was near Orlando for 2 weeks a year ago today ! While the weather was quite cold I find there is always to much to do. Love your pictures.

    1. I've been to Orlando twice and I think it's time to go back. There really is so much to do. I want to visit the new Harry Potter park!

  3. Beautiful photos! Glad you had a nice time in Florida.


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