7 Unique Hotels In The Florida Keys

7 Unique Hotels In The Florida Keys

Just another day in paradise.
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The state of Florida is definitely one of a kind. Whether you're in North Florida or South Florida, you can always find something to do. This past spring break, I did what I always love doing: I went to the Florida Keys. The great thing about my little adventure was that I didn't want to plan anything. I didn't want to book a hotel, or plan to stay for any certain amount of time. I just wanted to be spontaneous and go with my gut, so that's what I did. Lucky for me I went on a Thursday, so the traffic wasn't bad and there was plenty availability in the hotels. My problem was that I wanted to keep this trip adventurous. I didn't want to stay in some basic hotel like the Marriott or Hyatt (although these hotels are very nice). I wanted something rustic, something wild, something different. I wanted old Key West type of living. I drove all around the keys searching for unique hotels to stay at that were off the beaten path, and here are my top favorite ones.

1. Jules Undersea Lodge, Key Largo

Yes, it is underwater. If that isn't the craziest thing you've heard all day, I don't know what is. Jules Undersea Lodge is one of the most unique hotels I've ever heard of. In order to get to your room, you have to dive 30 feet underwater. Yes, you do need to put on a suit, a tank, goggles, and flippers. To stay here, you actually have to have a scuba certification, or take a class at the hotel so you can learn how to get to your rooms. You can read all about how it works on their website. It really is a one of a kind place.

2. Floating Sea Cove Resort and Marina, Marathon

You read that right, it's a floating resort. Or to be more exact: a houseboat! This little resort is hidden away on the Atlantic side of the Florida Key's. There are about eight to 10 house boats total, and then there are a few bungalows. You basically get rocked to sleep every night and wake up every morning surrounded by the ocean.

3. Marrero's Guest Mansion, Key West

If you're into spooky ghost stories, you'll love this one. I won't spill about the entire story, but people have said that the woman and her children who use to live in this house got kicked out onto the streets. She claimed that she would always live in the house in spirit. Now, the mansion is said to be haunted by her and her kids. Guests of the hotel claim to have seen her ghost in many places around the hotel and have even heard the sound of a child crying.

4. Tropical Cottages, Marathon

These little cottages are super cute and cozy. They're all different colors and each one has its own space for parking and even a little area outside for sitting. There's also hammocks, a main bar and a tiki hut outside, where the community can come together as one and relax with their neighbors.

5. The Boatel, Key Largo

The Boatel is a very neat place, it's actually right next to Jules Undersea Lodge. You can literally walk from one place to another. There's a restaurant in the middle of the two called the Hidden Restaurant. The Boatel has house boats a little bit bigger than the Floating Sea Cove, and the view here is spectacular. It also has its own little private beach with a bunch of areas to lay out in the sun or just lounge under a palm tree.

6. Wicker Guest House, Key West

What's unique about this inn is that is it right on Duval street, which is the most popular street in Key West. Duval street is known for its bars, food and entertainment. Staying at this inn would definitely be interesting, because you can people watch from your room. Enjoy the music and all the fun without having to mess with the crowd, and if you want to join in, all you have to do is go downstairs!

7. Cruising House Boats, Islamorada

I've mentioned a few houseboats because they're my favorite, but this one is a little different. While most houseboats are stationary, this one actually drives. Instead of staying in a houseboat that is tied up to a dock, you actually take this one out into the bay and anchor the boat. These boats are huge and extremely roomy. There's even a top deck of the boat where you can lay out and tan, or throw a party with all of your friends. They range from 44' to 52', which is plenty of room for a group of people. The small ones sleep six to eight people, and the bigger ones can sleep up to 10 people! Talk about partying on a boat, right?

Cover Image Credit: google.com

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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I Was Thrown Into Dragon Boat Racing And I Loved It

I tried dragon boat racing for the first time not knowing I was going to be doing it and loved it.

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I recently was invited by my boyfriend to paddle a dragon boat. Little did I know this was going to be a race. Neither of us expected it to turn out as intense as it did. I thought it was going to be a semi-leisurely paddle around a lake. There were twelve teams that raced in two heat races then were seeded in a final race. Our team ended up taking 5th place out of the 12 teams which was pretty good for a team who's never raced a dragon boat.

The teams were made up of 21 people each and a coach. There were 20 rowers and one drummer. The drummer's job was to keep the beat of our pace so that we all knew what speed to paddle at. As rowers, we had to paddle in sync. I didn't think it was going to be as difficult as it was. The coach steered the boat and somewhat directing our moves.

The tricky part of paddling is that you had to keep your top arm straight. To propel the boat forward you lean forward and pull your core back to pull water to the back of the boat. There was very little arm movement involved in paddling. The bigger people with more muscles were seated in the middle of the boat as "the engine" while smaller and weaker individuals were towards the front and back. I sat in the very back of the boat next to a female about the same size as me.

The boat was the shape of a canoe but was much longer. There were 10 rows of benches and a seat in the front that faced the rowers. The front and the back were much narrower than the middle. The front and the back of the boat had a dragon head and tail on them, respectively. The coach stood in the back with a large paddle that hooked to the back to steer.

Rowing the boat was therapeutic. It was a great way to focus frustration from my week into something productive. It also made me feel strong and powerful. Additionally, it fostered a sense of team between the people rowing the boat. We all were enthusiastic and went out there to have fun but also try to win. Many of the people on the boat were my boyfriend's family who I have never met. I think this was an interesting way to meet the family and I would definitely do it again.

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