All posts filed under: USA

© 2013 ~ Iain & Gail Shankland /

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

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. 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. Advertisements

Aquarium of the Pacific, Caribbean, Hawaiian Islands, IndyCar, Los Angeles, Santa Catalina Island, California, Avalon City, Long Beach, Casino,

Visit Catalina Island When You’re In The Los Angeles Area

Catalina Island, where the Casino isn’t actually a casino, the main mode of transport is a golf cart and you might almost mistake it for the Caribbean. If you’re ever in the Los Angeles area, take the time to spend a nice leisurely day on this beautiful little island – you won’t regret it. Located just 35 minutes south of LAX is the city of Long Beach – famous for the IndyCar race, the Queen Mary cruise liner as well as the wonderful Aquarium of the Pacific – and your gateway to Catalina Island.

Aquarium of the Pacific, Binturong, California, Catalina Island, Disneyland, Dusky Pademelon, Grand Prix of Long Beach, IndyCar, LAX, Los Angeles, Prevost's Squirrel, the Queen Mary,

There Is More To L.A. Than Disneyland – Take The Family To The Aquarium Of The Pacific

Fountain at Aquarium of the Pacific When you think of Los Angeles, Disneyland and the various film studies may be the first thing that comes to mind. But there’s more to see in the area – just 35 minutes south from LAX is Long Beach.  Probably more famous for the Queen Mary and the IndyCar race that happens every year, Long Beach is quick and easy to get to from the airport and it’s also the gateway to beautiful Catalina Island which is just off the coast.

Travel, Florida,

Snorkelling In Key Largo, Florida

The words Key Largo stir up images of Bogie & Bacall for those of us that have seen any of the old black and white movies or heard the songs about the island. 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). 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. You can catch sailfish just off-shore as well as bonefish, redfish and tarpon in Florida Bay.

Travel, Florida, Alligator, Everglades Alligator Farm,

It’s Not Every Day You Get To Be Close To An Actual Living, Breathing Dinosaur!

It was menacing but intriguing at the same time. We could hear a deep grumbling humming sound all around us but didn’t know what it was. It was loud and deep enough that we should have been able to feel it on our feet, but we didn’t – what was it? We came around the bend and there they were: hundreds, maybe thousands on them… Some were in the water only visible because their eyes were barely above the surface. Some were lying around enjoying the sun, while others had their mouths open and were showing us their huge teeth. This wasn’t a movie or a ride at Disney World – this was the real thing – right in front of us were thousands of  man-eating alligators in the flesh looking like they were sizing up my flesh!

Key Largo, Key West, © 2013 Iain & Gail Shankland /

Key West – The Most Southerly Point Of North America

So do we turn left… and return to the mainland or turn right and drive to within 90 miles of Cuba? Our plans for our Florida vacation didn’t include a visit to Key West – we thought it would be just a little too far and take too long to get there. Our original destination was Key Largo where we swam with the dolphins at Dolphins Plus, but when we were leaving we had a decision to make…two choices: head back to mainland Florida, or drive through the Florida Keys to see how far south we could go before running out of daylight.

Dolphins Plus - Key Largo, Florida, Natural Dolphin Swim, Structured Dolphin Swim

Swimming With The Dolphins In The Florida Keys

Who needs Disney World when you can swim with the dolphins? Deciding we should start our vacation off with a splash, we made reservations to swim with the dolphins in Key Largo (about 40 minutes from Miami Airport). 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. We chose to partake in the “Structured Dolphin Swim” where we got to interact and play with the dolphins. The morning of our swim we were pleasantly surprised to find that we were the o­nly o­nes registered for the structured swim, which is an extremely rare opportunity. Dolphins Plus is very popular, and reservations are always required if you wish to partake in their swim programs. We gladly embraced this opportunity and were pleased to spend some extra time with the trainers asking questions and learning even more about these amazing mammals. We were told that we wouldn’t be playing with the dolphins that …