I have grown accustomed to adventure. I am incredibly lucky to have a mom that loves to travel; so she frequently plans week-long, albeit intense, trips around the country. In the span of a week, we can see a whole state, embark on several hikes, and go on a full rafting trip (without many bathroom breaks).

As much fun I have on these trips, it’s sometimes fun to go on a real vacation—a place to relax and ignore your calendar and have time for the bathroom. So my mom and I decided to take a little beach time in Key West, Florida.

But my mother and I are entirely incapable of taking a vacation without any activity, so we put a few things on the list:

Kayaking in the Big Cypress National Preserve/Everglades.

This was the first thing we did once we got to Florida, and I will never forget it. I remember dreaming weeks beforehand that my mom was going to get too close to an alligator and get eaten. So of course, she got too close, and the tour guide had to settle the alligator this her alligator telepathy (I actually have no clue how she got him to swim away, but thank goodness she did!). It was incredible to be so up close and personal with such large animals. I never felt that we were in danger, just that we were watching large dinosaurs sunbathe. We got to paddle through a very large mangrove tunnel where air plants were blooming. The colorful birds that we saw on the other side of the tunnel were breathtaking. Between the scenery and the animals and the gorgeous March weather, it was blissful.

The Southernmost Point in the U.S.A

We’re big on landmarks—we had to see this one. There is a marker at the southernmost point of the southernmost island of the southernmost islands in the United States. Whoa, I know—very southern. There was a line wrapped around the corner to take a picture with this thing; we were way too excited to get back to the hotel and drink out of coconuts, so we snapped a quick photo without getting to kiss the thing. Oh well!

The Hemingway House

If you’re in Key West, you must take some time away from your mojito and hammock to see this spectacle. The house itself is incredibly beautiful, but Hemingway housed several six-toed (or polydactyl) cats. Now there are roughly 50 of them living on the property, some of which just want to nap on the ornate furniture inside. The cats almost look like they’re wearing mittens, making their paws look massive! They all still have their claws, so be mindful before you flail in its face.

The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

I love butterflies, so this was a no brainer for me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many—or such unique—butterflies in my life. They were everywhere. I was worried I would suck one in if I took a deep breath! There were also tiny birds that mostly walked along the paths. One of the birds had teeny tiny chicks with her. The koi pond was beautiful and relaxing; I even got to give a turtle a foot massage! It was a perfect post-lunch activity.

Robbie’s Pier at Islamorada

Robbie’s is technically a restaurant with outdoor kiosks of fun trinkets and souvenirs. But they are now very popular for the Tarpon that hang out by their docks. Tarpon are very large fish—they can be anywhere between 6-8 ft long and can weigh between 60-280 lbs. Robbie’s will give you a bucket of bate to take out to the 50 to 100 tarpon around the dock. What you don’t read online is that there are at least 30 pelicans to accompany the swarm of fish in hopes of catching some of the Tarpon food. There are signs everywhere warning visitors not to feed the pelicans as they are “aggressive.” But if you tell me not to, I’m going to want to do it all the more. So my mom and I enjoyed seeing if the Tarpon or the pelican could catch the food first. I had no idea pelicans were so stealthy!

Aside from all the excitement, I slept in a hammock overlooking the ocean. We rented mopeds and drove around the island. We went to really fun drag shows at night and ate incredible food. Key West holds a stereotype of being laid back and fun, and boy did they ever live up up to it.  Check out StudentUniverse’s guide to Spring Break in the United States.



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