Visiting Florida

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Boynton Beach

Nov 2003

We're going to Boynton Beach, Florida to visit my mother in law just after Christmas. Is there anyone familiar with the area who can recommend close, decent beaches (last time we went we found an okay one 40 minutes away), tolerable restaurants (don't get me started on the food) and things to do with kids that are relatively (45 minutes max) close by (we have a four year old. My experience with this place is that it exists for elderly people to play golf and bridge, and no one ever goes outside. Please tell me I'm mistaken! nelly

Nelly, You are not alone -- my husband's parents winter in Boynton Beach and we've been visiting them there annually since my daughter was a year and a half (she's now six and has a three year old brother). We've never found much to do in Boynton itself, which is why we stay in Delray Beach at the Seagate Hotel and Beach Club (10 minutes south of Boynton Beach). It is across the street from a nice beach and if you're staying at the hotel, they'll supply towels, beach chairs and umbrellas.

The food is never great in that part of the world. But Rocky's Italian Bistro on 5th Street in Delray is pretty good. And we also like the Old Key Lime House in Lantana, which is the town just north of Boynton. It's right on the water and great for kids. I really like their conch chowder.

We've also found some good kid activities. My favorite is the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. The gardens are beautiful and the kids like running around the lake and feeding the fish. The Japanese cafe there was surprisingly decent. We also like the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton. The Palm Beach Zoo is small but fine for a four year old. There is also a cartoon museum in Boca and a safari park in Loxahatchee, which we haven't done yet (but will one of these days).

Really, you can have more fun than you might think, if you just get out of Boynton! Ann

I know LOTS about Boynton Beach, as my mother lived there for almost 30 years and I've been visiting once or twice a year for that long.

Check out this website:

Beaches: The closest one is Oceanfront beach, which is Boynton's ''beach.'' There's a fee to park there and might be as much as $10 when you are there, however if your mother in law has a resident pass on her car (if she has a car), and is willing to lend you her car, it will be free to park. Maybe she can get the pass for her car before you arrive.

It is a very nice, but narrow beach, gentle waves if any, with outdoor showers, a snack bar (junk food only), picnic area with climbing structure and slides. Lifeguards on duty. Do pay attention to any warnings. Last times I've been there in winter, there have been sea lice (yuk) and my niece got them. Very itchy and uncomfortable.

Less than a 5 minute drive north of Oceanfront Beach and on the west side of A-1-A is another beach whose name I can't remember (I go almost everywhere near Boynton on automatic pilot) and it has a boat launch and a seafood shack.

To the south of Boynton, about a 15 minute drive on I-95 (or take A-1-A for a more scenic, 10 minute longer drive, depending on traffic), is Delray Beach. Bring quarters to park at the beach. There are much better restaurants there. (I'll try to remember a few names - I could drive you there, but I'll have to think about describing them.)

In Delray, on A-1-A there is a naturalist center, very small, but with great easy-to-see at kid level aquariums that have samples of the fish and sea life available in the ocean right there and in the intercoastal. Look for it adjacent and a bit inland after you park in the beach's parking lot (on A-1-A).

Back to Boynton: Would your four year old enjoy a trip on a fishing boat? I don't know how young they take kids, but you might inquire at the marina at Boynton.

Loxahatchee state park, inland (gosh, I've forgotten the road name) it is IN Boynton Beach, but on the western end. Fantastic last bit of remaining ''natural'' Florida, with rangers available, a self-guided tour, and an auditorium. This park is actually part of the Everglades. Take a look at the aerial photos in the visitor center that show before and now views of the area. If you are at the park when it is slow, ask the ranger to show a film that might interest your family, if there is no program on. Last year, my two year old LOVED the alligator movie. Don't just stay at the visitor center. Go into the park a bit deeper (there are signs pointing the way) and don't miss the walk around the water area where you can see all kinds of birds, water life and maybe even snakes. Further west in the park is a put-in for kayaks. Call the outfitters (can't remember their names, either, I'm afraid) and see how young a kid you can bring. You need no experience, and the kayaking is a great way to experience the Everglades.

Check the front of the white pages where the emergeny numbers usually are and you should find a listing for a manatee watch hotline. I can't remember their season, but there is a number to call to find out if the manatees are visiting a power station (!) just to the north of Boynton, maybe at the edge of your travelling time, could take 30 minutes to get there. I just discovered this resource last year, but we were there in the summer (ugh!) and the manatees were no where to be found (smart creatures, they).

To the south: Butterfly World in Boca Raton. About 30 minutes on Military Trail.

Food: Call me or email me about what you like, and I'll try my best to remember. I couldn't find a decent cup of coffee anywhere, but there are wonderful Cuban restaurants and other Caribbean delights to be had. It is true that there is mostly mall food in Boynton, but with a short drive, there are alternatives.

Do you need a health food store for groceries? Whole Foods is in Boca, but there is a smaller store in Lantana and even smaller ones in Boynton that might help. Check the yellow pages.

I'm out of time, and I'm sure I'll think of more as soon as I sign off. Rebecca

There is a great new children's museum in an old schoolhouse. I think it is in Delray. You can get in for free if you are a member of Habitot. Correction to previous post: Actually, the Children's museum is in Boynton Beach, not Delray. Ronnie

Captiva Island

February 2003

We are going to Captiva Island in Florida in March and was wondering if anyone had any ideas of fun things to do. We will have a 5 year old and an 9 month old. We're staying at a resort (it's a family reunion) but I'd love to get away from the golf course scene. Thanks! anon

Hi. my family had a condo in Sanibel when i was growing up so we went every year. It's pretty mellow, mostly just a quiet place to relax. It's fun to rent bikes and ride around the island. There is a nature preserve that is very pretty. Shelling was the big thing there for a long time. They have some of the best shells in the world. You could shell, then go to the local stores and buy the things to make shell mirrors or lamps or other decorative things. Other than that just laying on the beach, tennis, and eating out. The Mucky Duck is at the end of Captiva. its a very fun restaurant. go early bc there is a huge wait. Also, The Bubble Room is one of my favorite restaurants there. There are so many great restaurants there and they are all family friendly. have fun! Julie

There is a wildlife refuge - J Ding Darling or something - very nearby that rents canoes & has nature walks/talks - its a wonderful place and feels very far away from it all. Don't rule out beach-combing down there - the shells are really wonderful. Have fun!

Key West

June 2003

key west for interracial lesbians?

my partner & i (sans teenager!!!) are going to key west in mid- to late-august with another lesbian couple. we're looking for any general information about things to do, places to stay (2- BR condo-type, preferably within walking distance to a beach & other activities), etc., but we also have some specific questions about the level of diversity.

we've heard that key west is so ''gay friendly,'' but all the websites show gay, white men. we are 3 african americans and 1 white lesbian. to give you an example of what we mean, or what our concerns are: we hang out in oakland & berkeley; we've experienced racism (not getting served) & sexism (dirty looks & snide comments from misogynistic gay men) in the castro; we were bored out of our mind (the only lesbian couple, the only person of color) at a ''gay friendly'' resort on the russian river. this is kind of a romantic get-away, being away from ''the kid,'' and all, and we want to feel free to be ourselves. soooooo . . .

how diverse (esp. re: african americans) is key west, really? will we seem out of place, or will there be others like us? is all of key west as gay friendly as the main drag, or does it get more conservative (read: straight, white) in the 'burbs? are there any lesbian or women's clubs, cultural centers, events, activities, hotels/condos/resorts, etc.?

we appreciate any suggestions, recommendations, insight, etc. (esp. re: where to stay)! none of us have ever been to key west, and we're really excited! thanks! lisa

I'm a straight, white woman so I can't speak specifically to your concerns about diversity, but my husband and I honeymooned in Key West and we had a wonderful time. We flew into Orlando and spent the beginning of our vacation there and then drove down to Key West via Miami for the rest of the time. As long time Berkeley residents, we were generally uncomfortable with the political climates of Orlando and Miami and arriving in Key West was like coming home. I think Key West is sometimes even referred to as the ''Berkeley of Florida''. The residents of Key West are definitely open-minded -- if I were you, I would be more concerned about dealing with the other tourists than I would the people who live there.

As far as places to stay, we were very pleased with our hotel, the Center Court Hideaway ( We stayed in a huge ''suite'' that was bigger than our apartment (it easily could have slept 4). The staff was very friendly and there were two pools and a very large jacuzzi in the courtyard.

There are lots of fun things to do in Key West. There are several small, interesting museums there -- the Hemingway House, the Little White House -- but we most enjoyed the outdoor activities. Snorkeling was a particular favorite -- we took three separate trips. I also highly recommend taking a day trip to the Dry Tortugas. Wendy

A pal at work will be going to Key West in October and says that they will be staying at Pearl's Rainbow. It's women only and they advertise in all the LGBT mags. The site is a LGBT travel resource. You might find some info there. Have a great time! Ruthie


Re: kids/toddler program in between Club Med and a plain hotel
We had a super fun vacation in south florida when my son was 2 and 3/4. We went around memorial day so rates were getting cheaper because it was hot. it amazed us how close Miami is to the Everglades National Park (90 minutes!) and to the Florida Keys (less than 2 hours!) we spent four nights of luxury on Duck Key and a nice resort called Hawk's Cay Resort. It had a kids program and a fun kid's/toddler pool/water play area with a pirate ship and water canons. We booked a sitter through the hotel to come to our room for a dinner date out and in the am so we could take an amazing snorkling half day trip. The keys are fun..there are lots of nature places to visit (manatees and Bahia State beach)and it took about an hour to get down to Key West. We spent our last two days in south beach Miami in one of the art deco boutique hotels (where we also got a sitter one night) and ate lots of cuban food. There is tons to do in Miami area with kids. all in all, a fantastic and carefree family trip. PS: I heard prices are low in the keys right now because the storms scared off visitors. cseely

Jan 2004

Hi I will be attending a conference in Miami at the end of February and plan to stay a few extra days with my husband and 1 year- old. We were thinking of going to the Keys for a few days. Does anyone have any suggestions for a palce to stay or which Key to go to? We are looking for something mellow, beach or wildlife-focused. Thanks Emily

Check out John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, My family had a truly memorable vacation there (albeit 30-odd years ago...). Robin

June 2003


Sanibel Island

Jan 2005

Does anyone have specific recommendations re: where to stay on Sanibel Island, Florida? Preferably on or walking to the beach and ideally reasonably priced! thanks. bb

we stayed at the Waterside Inn ( a few years ago-our cottage was right on the beach, it was one of the best vacations we have. I don't know how much the hurricanes have changed Sanibel, but the beach and sea were lovely.

Sanibel Island is great for kids, we go every year. Bike paths thru the whole island - and the Sundial Beach resort has special programs every day for kids. You can check out for condo rentals. michael

St. Augustine

Feb 2003

We will be going to Orlando and St. Augustine, Florida in March. Can anyone recommend some fun and educational places that we could take our 4-year-old, besides the big corporate/commercial funparks like Disneyworld? He is especially interested in the solar system right now. Would EPCOT be worthwhile for a 4 year old, or would so much of it be over his head that it would not be worth the cost and the effort? Are there any nature parks, places to see animals in their natural habitats? Restaurants and grocers that offer healthy food alternatives? Thanks in advance for your recommendations. Marianne

We visited St. Augustine, FL over the Christmas break with our two kids, ages 5 and 8 years old. It was a family reunion, so most of our time was spent on the beach playing. But we also visited:

1. The Alligator Farm - very cool and low key. Bring quarters so that you can buy food pellets and feed the smaller alligators. Consider watching the feeding of the big gators, a bit graphic but my kids were riveted. Visit Gomek, a 16 1/2 foot alligator that used to live at the farm, and after its death was stuffed (He's HUGE). See the rare albino alligators (there are only a handful in the US). The Farm also has some exotic birds and some beautiful black and white swans.

2. The stone fort - it was fun to imagine the olden days, see the places where the soldiers slept and ate, and the places where prisoners were kept.

3. We ended up eating all meals at our rented house, but the restaurant called Saltwater Cowboys was recommended to us. Also, in ''downtown'' St. Augustine there is a walking path lined with shops and restaurants and an AMAZING ice cream/fudge store (chocolate and peanut butter ice cream, yumm!).

4. If we had more time, we would have rented a boat and driven up and down the inner coastal waterway, which was beautiful.
Have fun! Alison