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A NASCAR Race AND A Family Vacation – It Is Possible!

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

If you’re a NASCAR fan you’ll know all about Homestead Speedway in Florida. Even though the entire family might not enjoy racing, you can always make a great family vacation that just happens to have a NASCAR race included.© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

If you’ve never been to south Florida, you’re really missing all the best parts. Who needs Disney World when you’ve got real live dolphins and alligators, swimming, camping, snorkelling and many, many other tourist attractions to keep you and the family entertained and busy.

We made our base in Cutler Ridge. We’d never been there before, but it turned out to be a perfect location – about 20 minutes from the track in Homestead, 20 minutes from the Miami airport, and about 40 minutes from Key Largo. Or, you could choose to stay right in Homestead, which has a number of nice-looking hotels/motels or another great option would be to stay in Key Largo – you’re still o­nly 20 minutes from the track, but closer to the good stuff!

If you fly into Miami airport we’d suggest you take the Old Cutler Road from Miami all the way down to Cutler Ridge where you’ll get see a lot of the beautiful Miami homes that are probably missed by the majority of tourists since they’re off the beaten path. If you have the time and want a relaxing drive, it’s a great way to start your holiday. Because Cutler Ridge is only 20 minutes away we returned to spend an afternoon and evening in Miami and South Beach/Miami Beach, wandered the art-deco district admiring the fascinating buildings.Miami Beech Art-Deco Building © 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

Swim with the dolphins

Deciding we should start our vacation off with a splash, we had reservations the next morning to swim with the dolphins in Key Largo. What an amazing experience – completely unforgettable! I promise that your family will love you forever if you take them to this unique encounter at Dolphins Plus – Dolphin and Marine Mammal Education Facility (www.dolphinsplus.com). We chose to partake in the Structured Dolphin Swim – where we got to interact and play with the dolphins in their environment (reservations are always required if you wish to partake in the swim programs). While there are many “Dolphin Swims” available in South Florida, Dolphins Plus offers you the unique opportunity to swim and interact with these mammals up-close and personal in enclosures that are natural –  non-chlorinated, deep pens that are teaming with life. You actually get to swim with them in their environment; it’s not just a quick splash in a concrete wading pool.

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com © 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com © 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

Snorkelling In Key Largo, Florida

Located only 20 miles from the end of the Florida Turnpike at Homestead/Florida City, it’s quick and easy to get to if you’re in the Miami area (about one hour from Miami airport).

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

Although consider to be the Diving Capital of the World, Key Largo is almost as famous for being a sport-fishing and snorkelling destination as well . Some of the best charter captains and fishing guides in the world are located there.

We opted to spend a full afternoon (12:15 – 5 pm) with Keys Diver Snorkel Tours (www.keysdiver.com) for one of their three-location dive tours in the shallow water reefs of Pennekamp State Park and the National Marine Sanctuary (There is also a morning dive available that departs daily at 9 am and returns around 11:45 am).

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

The snorkelling was fantastic and I can only imagine how the scuba diving is in the area – Keys Diver is also a PADI Dive Center. Having also snorkelled in Hawaii, this was better in many ways because of the variety and quantity of fish as well as giant sing rays, reef sharks, small and huge barracudas, huge lobsters, squid, cuttlefish, tiny jellyfish.

The cost of tours with Keys Diver to be very reasonable, and the value is exceptional because all of the quality equipment is included and you don’t pay for the park entrance fee or parking (renting a wet suit for the trip is strongly recommended).

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

Everglades Alligator Farm

Located in Florida City/Homestead (just south of Miami) the Everglades Alligator Farm is a real, working, commercial alligator farm (www.everglades.com) where you can see thousands of alligators up-close. Visitors are treated to fascinating snake and alligator shows, including an alligator feeding where you get a real feel for just how many alligators are in those ponds!

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

Included in your entry fee is an airboat ride into the Everglades where you’ll see Florida’s river grass up close and it’s not uncommon to see alligators, fish, turtles and several species of birds. Be warned though – you just might get wet o­n this ride when the captain performs his amazing 360-degree spins!

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com Everglades Alligator Farm © 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

Key West – The Conch Republic

Approximately two-and-a-half hours from Key Largo is the most southerly point of America in Key West – and only 90 miles from Cuba.  Although we didn’t make any stops along the way, the scenery was beautiful and I’m sure there’s plenty more to enjoy if you have the time.

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

We spent an afternoon wandering through the streets of Key West browsing in shops, feeling more like we were o­n a lush tropical island than in America/Florida. The streets were cramped and parking was at a premium, so many tourists choose to roam the streets o­n scooters or fancy golf carts done over to look like regular vehicles.

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

After covering most of the town by foot, we had a bite to eat (along with the free-range roosters, chickens and chicks that wandered through the restaurant), and made our way to Mallory Square for the famous Sunset Celebration where the street performers or Buskers put on a show every night.

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com © 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

There’s plenty more to keep everyone busy for a week or two in the Florida Keys: camping, glass-bottom boat tours, everglades tours, hiking and much more.

For more tourist information visit: www.homesteadflorida.comwww.fla-keys.com

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland  / TravelBloggers.ca@gmail.com

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