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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

4th Annual Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in Key Largo

The dates for the 2016 Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in Key Largo have been announced! The successful event, which drew Bogie-lovers from around the world last year, will be October 12-16. This year, they celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Maltese Falcon.

The Casablanca-themed Bogart Ball was a hit last year in Key Largo. Luminaries such as Stephen Bogart, son of Bogie and Bacall, and Jack Huston, actor and grandson of director John Huston were on hand for an evening of fun. Well-known film critic Leonard Maltin shared his insights on Bogart's legacy as the tough guy with a heart of gold. 

We were treated to a cocktail reception filled with jazz trumpet and piano music a la the film, casino-style gambling and passed hors d'oeuvres. Dinner was a spicy Moroccan-themed menu capped with a delicious baklava dessert accented with cinnamon whipped cream. Dancing continued into the night, and the inaugural Humphrey Bogart Film Festival was deemed a success by all who attended--some from as far away as Australia.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What to do in Key West with Kids

Photo by Lisa Malcom
Key West has a well-earned reputation as an adult playground in the Florida Keys, but the Southernmost City is also full of family-friendly activities and restaurants. Now that summer approaches, check out these tips for traveling with children in Key West.
Before you go, check the calendar of events. You don’t want to unwittingly show up during Fantasy Fest when costumes can be minimal or Bike Week when Duval Street is full of thousands of roaring Harleys. Other events like the Seafood Festival with live music and children’s activities or Civil War Heritage Days with live battle re-enactments will be more fun for the entire family.
Avoid lower Duval Street. The end of Duval Street closest to Mallory Square is party-central with the highest concentration of popular bars like Sloppy Joe’s and Irish Kevin’s. The “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” vacation mentality means that drinking starts early and ends late.
Get in touch with nature. Spend a day at the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. What kid wouldn’t enjoy exploring a real Civil War-era fort, snorkeling in the crystal clear waters and watching the boat traffic off shore? At the Butterfly Conservatory, youngsters will be in awe of the 800 fluttering butterflies, and at the Key West Aquarium, they’ll delight in sea creatures that they can touch and feed—including a shark.
Key West history can be fun. At the Hemingway House, older children who have read the author’s works in school will enjoy hearing about his adventures, while younger children will be enamored by the 40-50 six-toed cats on the property. Across the street, all ages will love climbing the 88 steps to the top of the 1848 Key West Lighthouse to see the sweeping views of the island.
Visit these family-friendly restaurants. Mattheessen’s on White Street offers American faves like hamburgers, hot dogs and old-time BBQ. Their half-pound cookies and old-fashioned sundaes are sure to be a hit. For Cuban fare that won’t break the bank, head to El Siboney, or chow down on the local catch at Conch Republic Seafood Company where kids blend right into the bustling vibe of the open air restaurant.

Originally published on

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Join the Live Music #flkeys Chat Wednesday

Photo by Nick Doll
On Twitter? Love live music? In honor of the upcoming Key West Songwriters Festival, the upcoming #flkeys chat will be all about music in the Florida Keys! Join in Wednesday, 4/27 from 2-3PM EST for fun info on local musicians, live music and festivals. Just look for the #flkeys hashtag and join us!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Key West Songwriters Festival to Star More Than 200 Hitmakers May 4-8

Photo: Nick Doll / BMI
I'm super excited to be heading to the 21st annual Key West Songwriters Festival Wednesday through Sunday, May 4-8. I'll be joining audiences rocking, swaying and singing along to some of America’s hottest contemporary hits and classics. More than 200 songwriters will showcase their chart-topping offerings during the five-day event, performing 50-plus shows in casual island settings--many of them with free admission!

Scheduled hitmakers include Jake Owen, who rocketed to stardom with the album “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”; Rhett Akins, who has penned 20 number-one singles; acclaimed Texas-based songwriter/entertainer Robert Earl Keen; Jack Ingram, whose notable offerings include the summertime anthem “Barefoot and Crazy”; Liz Rose, acclaimed for co-writing smashes with pop sensation Taylor Swift; and Natalie Hemby, who has collaborated on numerous cuts for Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town. 

Headquartered at Key West’s Smokin’ Tuna Saloon, 4 Charles St., the festival presents shows at venues including island city bars, restaurants, resort beaches and poolsides and the Fury Catamaran during sunset cruises. Most shows feature a rotating group of writer/performers. Events will kick off at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening, May 4, with an outdoor concert starring Akins at the Ocean Key Resort’s Sunset Pier overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at 0 Duval St. In high demand as a writer for other artists, Akins also is renowned for a performing career that spawned such tunes as “Don’t Get Me Started.” 

Other anticipated festival highlights include group shows Thursday and Friday nights at the San Carlos Institute, a Cuban cultural center at 516 Duval St.; Tropic Cinema, a boutique cinema and theater at 416 Eaton St.; the Key West Theater at 512 Eaton St. and The Studios of Key West, an art enclave at 533 Eaton St. At 7 p.m. Saturday, a free “main stage” concert headlined by Owen is scheduled in the 200 block of Key West’s Duval Street. Hailed for exhilarating performances and easygoing country style, Owen is known for singles including “Beachin’,” “Real Life” and the current “American Country Love Song.” 

Presented by international performing rights organization BMI, the Key West Songwriters Festival concludes with five afternoon and evening shows Sunday, May 8. See you there?  

Festival information, schedule and ticketing:

Monday, February 29, 2016

Best Key Lime Pies in the Florida Keys

Key lime pie at Blue Heaven; Photo: Felipe Correa
Capturing sunshine in a pan, Key lime pie represents the heart and soul of the Florida Keys. Each slice is a reflection of the pioneering spirit that led settlers to these isolated islands in the 1850s. Fresh milk was scarce, but the indigenous Key limes were plentiful. When condensed milk reached the market in 1856, it became the perfect marriage of ingredients. The acidic lime juice when mixed with egg yolks and condensed milk caused the filling to thicken without baking—a process called souring. The creamy concoction was poured into a pastry crust and topped with a whipped meringue made from sugar and the leftover egg whites. A classic dessert, named the official Florida state pie in 2006, was born.
Variations of the original recipe have emerged over the years from the graham cracker crust to whipped cream topping. Only one rule holds true: Key lime pie must be made with real Key limes. In 1965, Florida State Representative Bernie Papy, Jr. even tried (unsuccessfully) to make it illegal for anyone to advertise Key lime pie not made with Key limes. The unique taste of the Key lime is more tart and aromatic than Persian limes, which have a slight bitter flavor. The juice is yellow, making the filling of any Key lime pie a pale yellow—never green. Want to embark on your own quest to discover the best Key lime pie? These five restaurants always make the shortlist of favorites in the Florida Keys.

Fish House, Key Largo

Key lime pie is the perfect finish to a meal of fresh local seafood. It’s fitting that the creamy dessert at the Fish House has been making mouths water for more than 25 years. José Ornelas has been baking the pies for 20 of those years, providing the delicate touch needed to whip the meringue topping into the perfect peaks and valleys. People driving by on U.S. Highway 1 have been known to pop in for a slice after simply smelling the pies baking in the oven. The Fish House recipe balances equal parts sweet and tart and uses the graham cracker crust, which became more popular than the pastry shell in the 1940s. They bake 100 to 200 pies a week, depending on the season, for both the main restaurant and their sister eatery Encore. You can pick up a bottle of Key lime juice if you want to try and bake your own pie once you get home. They’ll happily give you the recipe.

Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, Key Largo

You can’t miss the glowing neon sign advertising the award-winning Key lime pie at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen as you drive down U.S. Highway 1 in Key Largo. Featured on PBS’s Flavors of the Florida Keys and Check Please as well as in Cosmopolitan and Travel + Leisure magazines, their silky pie is more on the sweet side. Perfect for a hot tropical day, they serve a cold version more similar to an ice cream pie in texture. The recipe, in use since 1976, was handed down from the original owner’s mother, who is the namesake of the restaurant. They bake their pies daily, using a graham cracker crust for the base and a fresh whipped cream topping. Hungry patrons savor about 200 slices a day, and the restaurant mails an average 300 pies per year to devotees around the country. Now with a second location, also in Key Largo, Mrs. Mac’s makes it easy to stop for a slice on the way south to Key West and north back to the mainland.

MA’s Fish Camp, Islamorada

At MA’s Fish Camp, Barbara Cockerham bakes Key lime pies daily in small batches. A Keys resident for over 48 years, she remembers the joy of watching her mother baking and aims to invoke that same nostalgia in the diner. She uses the meringue topping in the spirit of tradition, but each slice also comes with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. The meringue is so delicate that the pies have to be kept at eight degrees until sliced up and served on a cold plate. The tart filling is the consistency of a chilled stick of butter and layers nicely with the nutty graham cracker crust. During the high season, Cockerham makes at most 15 pies a day, so make sure you put your orders in early. They’ve been known to run out. MA’s doesn’t ship their pies, so you’ll have to make the trip to taste her delicious creations in person.

Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, Key West

The pie at Kermit’s Key Lime Shop in Key West has garnered national attention with spots on Food Network’s America’s Best Sweets and Pie Paradise. Cooked up by Kermit Carpenter, who has been using his grandmother’s recipe for over 25 years, his Key lime pie has a clean, refreshing taste. Carpenter, decked out in his trademark green toque, even showed TV host Al Roker how to make a Key lime pie live on the Today Show. People flock to the Elizabeth Street store to try their specialty: Key lime pie slices dipped in a dark Belgian chocolate and frozen on a stick. Since the chocolate is not too sweet, it provides a nice contrast to the pucker-inducing pie. The store also featur
es more than 125 products made with Key limes from cookies to soaps. Spend some time at the tasting station sampling sauces and jams like Chipotle Key Lime Barbecue Sauce or Key Lime Jalapeno Pepper Jelly.

Blue Heaven, Key West

Meringue lovers will be in, well, heaven at the funky Blue Heaven Restaurant in Key West’s historic Bahama Village. Featured most recently on Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, their mile-high topping is whipped into tall airy peaks and valleys and lightly tanned in the oven. Country crooner Kenny Chesney loves it so much that he flew his grandmother from Tennessee just to have a slice. Since 1994, owner Richard Hatch has based the recipe on his mother’s classic lemon meringue pie. The limes are fresh-squeezed for each pie, and they go through about a case each day. Blue Heaven also wins the contest for best atmosphere. Their private courtyard (once home to Hemingway’s boxing matches) is filled with roaming chickens and lounging cats soaking in the sun. Grab a seat outdoors under the shaded canopy of the gumbo-limbo tree and prepare to be wowed.

Previously published on

Monday, February 15, 2016

Are You Following KeysClaudia on Snapchat?

Do you spend all your time at work looking at tropical wallpapers and webcams in the Florida Keys? Follow me on snapchat for your daily dose of paradise.  

My stories are filled with sandy beaches, sunny skies, wildlife and all the action on the water--not to mention the sunsets!

Since the stories expire in 24 hours, you get to experience everything in real-time--and get that much closer to your vacation! Add me on snapchat: KeysClaudia.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Canoodle Over the Cuisine at These Romantic Restaurants in Key West

While Key West has a party-town rep, lovebirds will find plenty of restaurants tucked away where they can escape for romantic interludes. Charming gardens, ocean views, sunset spots and even a dinner on the high seas await the couple looking to canoodle over fine cuisine. Check out my picks for the top ten romantic restaurants in Key West. Read More...

Monday, January 18, 2016

10 Best Romantic Things to Do in Key West

Honeymooners smooch at sunset. Photo by Claudia Miller
The tiny island of Key West, which is closer to Cuba than Miami, provides a Caribbean-style couple's escape without having to leave the United States. Here balmy breezes caress the skin, and gentle waves lap upon the shore. Whether it's exploring the charming Victorian architecture by bicycle or enjoying a beachfront picnic for two, Key West is packed with romantic things to do even before the sun goes down. Dusk brings additional adventures from sunset cruises to cozy jazz clubs. Dive into the romance of the Southernmost City. Read More...

Monday, December 21, 2015

Give your Key West vacation a buzz at Key West's First Legal Rum Distillery

As a professional kiteboarder in Key West and around the world, Paul Menta has always watched the weather closely for the perfect windy conditions. Now he pays attention to atmospheric changes for different reasons  – it affects the flavor of his rum at Key West First Legal Rum Distillery. Truly a boutique distillery, each batch is slightly different, and you can taste the craftsmanship in each sip. Read More...

Monday, December 7, 2015

Holiday Hot Spot--Christmas in Key West

Photo by Chad Newman
While it may seem counter-intuitive to head to a tropical locale for a dose of holiday spirit, Key West in December is a wonderland of festive surprises. Take resident Eddie Chapman, decked out in a fuzzy reindeer suit and red Converse sneakers, riding the bucking mechanical bull at Cowboy Bill’s Honky Tonk Saloon. After he was tossed off to a round of cheers from the 80-plus Santas and elves joining him on a merry bar crawl down Duval Street, he flashed his prankster grin and said, “There’s a lot of joy here.”

This holiday whimsy spills across Key West — the island at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys. Walking through the Old Town district, my eye was drawn to the twinkling lights and icicles that laced the gingerbread millwork on the Victorian homes. Giant snowflakes hung from wraparound balconies, and red ribbons and green garland really gave the columns stripes. Candy canes, penguins and even snowmen bloomed alongside bougainvillea and hibiscus.
To kick off the season, I joined merrymakers on the Holiday Lights Conch Tour Train. On the hour- long ride, I coasted through the balmy night air, taking in the festive sights and singing “Jingle Bells” at the top of my lungs.\More seasonal cheer awaited on the Holiday Historic Inn Tour. Map in hand, I followed the path of this two-hour self-guided walking tour through shaded neighborhoods, where innkeepers open the doors to their bed-and-breakfasts — six different properties each night, welcoming the public and sating us with wine and festive bites. On a past tour, the Mermaid and the Alligator B&B charmed me so much that I planned a return stay.
Poinsettias and nutcrackers adorn its porch and line the brick walkway of the 1904 Victorian house tucked away on Truman Avenue, one of Old Town’s main thoroughfares. A life-size stuffed Santa wearing a Hawaiian shirt relaxed in a hammock between two palms. “Of course, the elves are still working up north,” co-owner Dean Carlson deadpanned. “Santa disappears on Christmas Eve and is back the next day holding a cocktail.”
Inside, every inch of the inn was impeccably decorated with a mix of traditional and tropical. A 10- foot Fraser fir, with mermaid and alligator ornaments, was set against walls of Dade County pine, a native wood rarely available to today’s builders.
My guest room was Audubon-inspired, with soft yellows and browns, high ceilings, louvered shutters and a private garden door. I woke to the famous Key West roosters crowing, church bells tolling, and scents of jasmine and fresh-baked banana bread mingling in the air. Michelle, a stylish 20-something from Italy, and resident mascots Havana and Caya, two flat-coated retrievers, joined me for a breakfast of frittatas and coffee poolside near the namesake statue of a mermaid kissing an alligator.
Early evening is prime time to visit the renovated Historic Seaport district’s Harbor Walk of Lights, a boardwalk decked out with Christmas trees and towering palms wrapped in lights. The seaport hosts various events as part of the Bight Before Christmas Holiday Celebration; the Lighted Boat Parade is one you don’t want to miss.
Prime viewing for the spectacle is at the Schooner Wharf Bar, where the boats cruise close to the docks and judging station. As families and friends celebrated both on land and on water, I felt the pull of this small, close-knit community at the very end of U.S. Highway 1. You truly can go south and find a holiday spirit worthy of the North Pole.

Portions of this blog originally appeared in Florida Travel + Life Magazine.

Monday, November 30, 2015

10 Best Places for Christmas Shopping in Islamorada and Key West

It's easy to play Santa Claus in Islamorada and Key West, where you're sure to find the perfect gift for everyone on your Christmas list. You'll find galleries and boutiques expertly curated by their owners filled with vintage European treasure, creative up-cycled goods, 3-D crafts and whimsical local art. Shops packed with butterfly-themed gifts and outdoors gear showcase the goods for nature-lovers and fishermen. For the gourmands, wrap up the tastes of Key West from hot peppers to cool Key lime. Who knew vacation could be so productive? Check out my top ten shopping guide...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Take the Over-Sea Railroad to Florida Keys History

Take a drive back in time down U.S. Highway 1 in the Florida Keys and relive the history of the Over-Sea Railroad.
Construction to link the isolated islands to the mainland began in 1905 when oil tycoon Henry Flagler envisioned Key West as an ideal deep-water port for trade with Cuba, Latin America and ships passing through the Panama Canal. The railroad was destroyed during a tragic hurricane in 1935, but you can still explore remnants of what was once called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”...Read More.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Weekend Getaway: Island Party at the 2016 Key West Food and Wine Festival

Key West has long been serious about its libations, but the rise of the Key West Food and Wine Festival to the top of the hot-foodie- destination list after only two years shows that it has more to offer than just the perfect margarita.

With its quirky vibe and come-as-you-are attitude, the Conch Republic (Key West’s nickname since its tongue-in-cheek secession from the United States in 1982) calls for all to leave their pretensions on the mainland. You’ll want to kick back and indulge, in true Key West style, in wines from around the world and local chef specialties featuring the fruits of the sea. This tropical bacchanalia takes over the streets of Key West’s historic Old Town in January; the 2016 festival runs from Jan. 27 through 31.

Must Do

On Wednesday night the top event is the Wine Around Neighborhood Strolls. The Old Town trolley whisks you to your choice of one of three historic areas. Part of the fun is making friends with fellow culinary connoisseurs while watching local chefs prepare their best nibbles, which are paired with wines generously poured into crystal souvenir glasses etched with the festival logo. Jean Hilkens, a 20-something bon vivant in wire-rimmed glasses, says he was lured here all the way from Amsterdam — he saw the festival’s logo on Facebook and his mind was made up. “I looked at that picture with the wine and the water, and I said, ‘That’s where I want to be in January when it’s cold!’”

A Grand Affair

Friday night’s Grand Tasting finds folks sipping wine to music performed by the Key West Symphony. Wine reps pull out their best selections for this more intimate crowd, and shorter lines mean more one-on-one time. Sean Sullberg of Michael Sullberg Wines engages in animated conversations about his day-to-day work. “The people here are fascinated with what it’s like to be out in California working at a winery, and the steps we take, from checking on the fruit to barrel tastings,” he says.
Wine By the Docks

On Saturday afternoon, the trolley fills up once again for a 10-minute ride to neighboring Stock Island’s Hogfish Bar and Grill for the big Key West Shrimp Boil. Set on the last vestiges of a working waterfront, the open-air eatery evokes a sense of Old Florida, and the sweet Key West pink shrimp caught by Rickey Toomer, a member of a longtime fishing family, come straight off his boat, JT.
Shrimp, Florida lobster tail, smoked sausage, corn on the cob, new potatoes, lemon halves, bay leaf and cilantro in red mesh bags are cooked to perfection and served at the wooden picnic tables under the tiki hut. Slices of fluffy white Cuban bread are used to sop up every last drop of the spicy juices. As the steam, scented from Old Bay spices, rises from the huge pot in the outdoor kitchen, wine from Washington State’s Hogue Family Vineyards flows nonstop.

Duval Uncorked

Saturday night brings Duval Uncorked, a mile-long food and wine tasting on Duval Street. Among historic architecture, chic boutiques, funky art galleries and hidden inns, hundreds of hungry foodies, with wine glasses hanging from lanyards draped around their necks, turn out for this upscale signature event. Amid Key West’s free-roaming chickens and the bustle of mopeds, bikes and electric cars, volunteers in white toques and blue aprons stand on corners and guide the wayward. With 40-plus stops to be made in three hours, a strategic game plan comes in handy; you can always adjust on the fly after swapping tips with others at what feels like a neighborhood party.
The first stop is the colorful Towels of Key West shop. Amid beach towels for sale, local chef Alice Weingarten, in her trademark leopard-print chef’s hat, white pearls and red lipstick, serves small plates of spicy conch ceviche to the crowd. The sea snail is tendered with fresh lime juice, red, green and yellow peppers, cilantro, red onion, and her secret ingredient — sriracha. “You can tell the locals from our visitors by how they pronounce ‘conch’ [kongk versus kaunch] and their great surprise at how good it tastes,” she says.
At Vino’s on Duval, one of Key West’s newest wine bars, vintner Donald Patz provides tasting notes while serving his Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast pinot noir. Dessert is cabernet and chardonnay sorbets from the Flamingo Crossing ice cream shop.
Hit the Market

At Sunday afternoon’s Outdoor Wine Market, wine reps set up tasting booths in the parking lot of the restaurant store on Eaton Street; inside, wines served at the festival are for sale by the bottle. Young guys dressed as modern-day pirates hack off the tops of fresh coconuts with machetes and offer cups of the water — the perfect hydrating tonic after a wild weekend — to visitors.
Where to Spend the Night

Wind down at La Mer Hotel & Dewey House. These two connecting homes at the more subdued end of Duval Street provide a quiet respite after a day of festivities. La Mer’s upstairs oceanfront king room has a straight-on view of the Atlantic Ocean and a private wraparound balcony overlooking a sandy stretch called South Beach. Listen to the waves rolling onto the shore, where sun worshipers spread their towels.
The room’s gabled architecture and a recessed bed nook create a sense of both space and coziness. Sink into the brown overstuffed chair, prop up your feet on the ottoman and watch the palm trees swaying outside your window — you’ll never want to leave. On the patio downstairs, tea is served in the afternoon and, in the morning, a bountiful breakfast with made-to-order waffles and a steaming cappuccino.

Portions of this blog previously printed in Florida Travel + Life Magazine

Related Posts:

2012 Key West Food & Wine Festival

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Key West's saucy Fantasy Fest: Tips for first-timers

This 10-day bacchanalia can be overwhelming for the uninitiated, but our local expert's insider tips will make your getaway to this tropical island unforgettable. ...Read More.

Monday, August 24, 2015

6 Tips for How to Photograph the Florida Keys Sunset

Photo by Claudia Miller
No visit to the Florida Keys would be complete without the perfect photo of the sun setting on the Gulf of Mexico. There are a number of resorts, marinas and parks throughout the islands that provide access to unobstructed water views. Check out these tips from local photography pros, Stephen Frink and Bob Care, to capture frame-worthy sunsets.
Be prepared. Learn your camera before leaving home. Read the manual, and play with the different settings. Review what type of equipment you might need, including a tripod and extra batteries.

Find out what time the sun sets, and get there early. You’ll want to scope out the best angles and vantage points. Once the sun begins to go down, it happens quickly. Also, there is a magical range of colors in the sky 30 minutes before and after the sun dips below the horizon.

Take advantage of cloudy days. Don’t think that just because it’s cloudy you won’t get a fantastic shot. In fact, the reflections on the clouds can create the more dramatic moments. No two sunsets are the same with a myriad of colors.

Include compositional elements. Try to include the reflections on the water, as well as tiki huts, boats, palm trees or birds to create interesting silhouettes. Produce a frame between you, the sun and your added subject. Learn the “rule of thirds” in image composition, a guideline that advises placing these elements off center.

Try different focal lengths. A telephoto lens will render a large ball of sun. A wide angle will have a smaller sun element, but will capture more of the sky and seascape.

Experiment with people. Unless you want a dark silhouette, use a flash and fill flash everyone in the foreground. Your subjects can be offset to produce a full frame including the sun. Or instead of facing into the sun with the person in front of you, let the light spill over your shoulder and front light them with the warm, appealing glow.

Originally published on

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Gates Opens Boutique Hotel in Key West

The Gates — a new boutique hotel at the entrance to Key West — pairs chic design with a laid-back vibe. Through partnerships with local businesses, artists, designers and tastemakers, they’ve captured the unique character and heritage of the island. ...Read more.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

10 Best Keys West Hotels for the Budget Traveler

Key West offers a variety of accommodations from B&Bs to luxury resorts. The one thing they have in common? They may give you sticker shock. Limited space on the island, paired with high demand, equals less availability and higher prices. This presents a challenge for budget-conscious travelers. Fear not, you can still find hidden hotels that offer reasonable rates--mostly small independent B&Bs and inns. There’s a price you pay for paradise, and “reasonable” is anything under $200. ...Read more.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

4 Tips for Florida Keys Mini Lobster Season

Mini Lobster Season kicks off in the Florida Keys on July 29th and 30th. The Florida spiny lobster, known for its sweet and tender meat is smaller than its cousin in Maine. Before you go out hunting for “bugs,” as the locals call them, make sure you're prepared. Here are some tips:
1)  Know the local rules and regulations. They were designed to protect lobster populations and the coral reef, as well as ensure the safety of boaters and divers. Plus, they keep you from racking up unwelcome fines. Most of the Monroe County regulations for recreational harvest and lobster information can be found in this brochure. It includes bag and size limits, proper measuring techniques, approved gear and no-take areas, such as national and state parks. 
2)  Get a license. You’ll need a valid Florida Saltwater Fishing License with a current crawfish endorsement. Licenses are available at most fish & tackle or K-mart stores. You can also call 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA or go online to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s site
3)  Know the waters. The Keys are famous for shallow patches, sandbars and coral reefs. All of which could add up to damage to the environmentally sensitive sea grass and corals -- not to mention a costly tow and repairs. Free nautical charts can be found online through NOAA.

4)  No boat? No problem. Check out lobster dive excursions with a local company.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rooms With a View in Key West Photo Series

When you're coming to Key West, it's a must to ask for a room with a view. There's nothing more soothing than soaking in the open ocean vistas or looking out over the Victorian architecture. Here are just a few of the fabulous rooms with a view I've had the joy of staying in.

Oceanfront at Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Key West

Oceanfront Suite at Ocean Key Resort & Spa in Key West overlooking Sunset Pier
Southernmost House, Key West
La Mer at Southernmost Resort overlooking South Beach, Key West
View from top floor room at La Concha Hotel in Key West

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hemingway Days Festival in Key West

Ernest Hemingway’s larger-than-life legacy is woven into the historic fabric of Key West. The Pulitzer Prize winning author made the island his home and playground throughout the 1930s--the most productive decade of his life. Pull back the curtain of time, and you’ll find his “St. Tropez of the poor” during July’s Hemingway Days Festival when the Southernmost City is flooded with hundreds of doppelgangers all vying to win the look-alike contest at Sloppy Joe’s Bar. ...Read more.