Travel USA

I’ll admit, I thought it was selfish of me to hoard the knowledge of the best experiences the Nation’s Capital has to offer. As many people know, Washington, D.C. is evolving into a lively  city, booming with businesses and a delicious foodie scene (aka the sole reason I moved here) – a place beyond the iconic history, monuments and political drama.

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As an official D.C. resident for almost a year now (time flies), and even MORE visitors, reference (Klo’s Top 10 D.C. Spots), I’ve experienced the highs and lows D.C. has to offer (mostly highs, although I can’t forgo mentioning the pain of the metro and summer heat). I’ve listed out some of my favorite experiences, and would highly recommend all of them to visitors and locals alike.

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Note: there are so many amazing things to do, I had to break it up into two blogs!

1. Watch your drink fog up at Jose Andres’ cocktail lab, Barmini

Floral cloud with liquid nitrogen is a MUST

2. Just keep spinning with Capital Bike Share  

A fun, fast and low cost option for getting around town. One of my bike route go-to’s is the sidewalks around the National Mall. Even though I’d declare myself a city girl, I don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough to face the the chaotic city streets by bike.

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Start at Lincoln Memorial and make your way to the pond in front of the capitol – all sidewalk friendly, disclaimer, you will have to ring at the bell at some lingering tourists in the way

3. Jam out to some Jazz in the Sculpture Garden (attached to the National Gallery of Art)

Every Friday, sangria and beer are available for purchase, and no outside alcohol is allowed in. Be sure to bring picnic supplies: blanket, easy packable snacks (my fave: cheese, grapes, crackers + jam)

4. Make monumental memories renting a pedal or swan boat overlooking the Jefferson Memorial  in the Tidal basin

During cherry blossom season, you’re able to reserve boats in advance.

Pricing:

$18.00 per hour – 2 passenger boat

$30.00 per hour – 4 passenger boat

$34.00 per hour – 2 passenger swan boat

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5. Play D.C. themed mini golf in a bar at H Street Country Club

Drinks + mini golf, is there really a better activity?

6. Buy local produce, bread, cheeses and other goodies at Dupont Circle Farmers Market

A farmers market which the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times of London named one of the top farmers markets in the country.

Times:

Sundays, 10am to 1pm (January to March)

Sundays, 8:30am to 1:30pm (April to December)

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7. Channel your inner creativity with a class at Lemon Bowl

From calligraphy, to photography classes, to learning how to apply make up – Lemon Bowl has a variety of things to fuel your creative soul! After your class, replenish your energy with food at NuVegan Cafe, a vegan soul-food bistro

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8. Watch a movie outside with free screenings around the DMV area

We’re considered outdoorsy for watching a movie in the fresh air, right? Check out the full schedule of outdoor screenings here.

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9. Watch dessert set on fire before eating it

Save room for dessert when dining at RPM, Bill and Giuliana Rancic’s Italian Restaurant.

What the heck is it?? It’s torta meringata which is flambéd tableside.

10. Escape city life at Rock Creek Park

Favorite hiking trails: Valley Trail, Western Ridge Trail and Military Road NW

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What are your favorite things to do in DC? Comment below!

 

It’s been a while since I’ve given my blog some love – it’s been four crazy months as an official D.C. resident. Within four months I’ve survived my first winter (barely, but turns out a v warm jacket makes life easier), lived through the chaos of Inauguration Weekend (picture an end of the world themed movie with Will Smith standing amidst explosions) and been D.C’s newest tour guide to 12 friends who visited various weekends (and yes, a different itinerary for each one)…Phew, I’m exhausted just thinking about all of it.

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I’ve loved every second of working for Marriott International on the Digital Services team – navigating my way through the world’s largest hotel company HQ being a #girlboss every second possible. Safe to say I’ve already taken full advantage of the hotel discounts, from stay-cations to weekend trips.

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I’ve become infamous (and an expert, if I do say so myself) for planning friends’ weekends with itineraries down to the hour. Not exaggerating, full review on hilarious lifestyle blog and Instagram Extraordinaire, You Chlo Girl.

During my time living here, I’ve uncovered some of my favorite local spots – which should be on the top of your list when visiting D.C.

  1. Lemon Bowl

Picture every DIYers dream – a work space where the city’s creative gather to teach workshops. From hand lettering classes, to indigo dye classes – creatives have dyed and gone to heaven. Check out their monthly schedule.

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  1. Dolcezza

Gelato + coffee shop – need I say more?

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  1. Bethesda Bagels

Four score and seven schemers ago -“Chloe Duke

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What I order: Everything bagel with sausage, egg and cheese – or if I’m not in the egg sammy mood, rainbow bagel with strawberry cream cheese is an absolute go to. BUT rainbow bagels are only available on the weekends.

Tip: There are two Bethesda Bagels locations, one in Bethesda and one in D.C.; Dupont specifically. Bethesda Bagels is a small space (think fish swimming upstream at all times) with practically no seating…So I’ll sit in Dolcezza and sip on some chai while eating my bethesda bagel heaven sent bagel.

  1. Le Diplomate

But first, french onion soup. A D.C staple, and in my opinion, one of the best restaurants in D.C.

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What I order: A million times over, the cheese plate. No matter what meal you’re there for, it’s an essential. There are no set cheeses listed on the menu, but tell the server what you like and they’ll whip out the most delicious cheese you’ve ever had. It’s one of those spots where every dish is to die for.

Tip: Reservations open up a month in advance, so book as close to that date.

  1. National Mall

Such a locals only spot right?? Kidding, but I never get tired of this view.

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Tip: When the weather is right, rent a bike and ride around the Mall, to the Washington Monument, then the Lincoln Memorial. Bring some picnic supplies and lay out your set up on the grass surrounding the Monument. Some of the best views of the Monument are from Lincoln Memorial. 

  1. Barmini

Jose Andres’ “cocktail lab” is exactly that, and nothing like you’ve ever experienced before. It’s topped many best cocktail lists, with a mix of eclectic and innovative cocktails and small snacks.

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Tip: Make reservations 6 weeks in advance (I’m not kidding, but it’s so worth it)

  1. Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency, Eat the Rich

These trio of bars are lined up next to each other with most of the time having different pop up themes based on the season. Starting in November, there was a Christmas and Channakuh theme, with a little bit of Stranger Things sprinkled in. In the Stranger Things bar, there was a light show as well as a Demogorgan spotting, and a spot to pay your respects to Barb.

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In March, #cherryblossomPUB is coming, a pop-up which is a mix of cherry blossoms and Super Mario World.

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Tip: There can be a line, especially on weekends, so make sure you’re prepared.

     8. Butter Cream Bakeshop 

A mighty little bakery with sugary goodness overload

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What I get: unicorn bar, and yes – that is glitter

  1. Blagden Alley

A hidden city block that has history which dates before the Civil War. Additionally, I’d say it’s one of D.C’s most Instagrammable spots.

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Tip: In the alley and close by, check out La Columbe (coffee shop), The Dabney (Mid-Atlantic cuisine cooked over a wood fire), The Columbia Room (cocktail bar) and JRINK (cold press juices).

  1. Union Market

Warehouse-esque food market filled with some of the best local vendors. There are also a couple of outdoor murals on the side of the building. My favorite is the vibrant heart wall, created by Mr. Brainwash, an LA-based graffiti artist who painted it for International Women’s Day in 2015.    

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Well, that’s a wrap folks! Do you agree with my favorite finds, or do you have any different? Comment below!                                                                                                                                                

Rush Creek Lodge is the first new resort in the Yosemite National Park’s area in 25 years. There are 143 rooms; including a mix of suites and hillside villas. Glamping enthusiasts from around the world will have plenty of accommodation choices that don’t involve sleeping on the ground.

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Situated on 20 acres, this resort is a destination within a destination. Some of the unique features include: main lobby, general store, separate lodge with game room and living room lounge type set up, a tavern and restaurant, hot tub and pool, event and meeting space, and various recreation activities for all ages.

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Location

I can confidently give this a 10/10 rating. This is the ideal home base, being situated just half a mile from the park’s entrance. Once you’re in the park, the most popular sites and hikes are within 30 minutes to two hours driving from the entrance – keep in mind the park is 761,000 acres, so there’s a lot of land to cover!

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Rooms

Clean rooms with contemporary decor. My favorite feature – the fire place!

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Balconies

Sunset view decks come with every room

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Activities

There are fun things to do for all ages; from a star gazing party, to nature crafts, to trivia night. Every day is full with different activities. The resort also offers different guided tours throughout the park (for a fee).

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S’mores please!

Who doesn’t love gooey marshmallows inbetween graham crackers and chocolate. With their outdoor firepit, there’s s’more making every night from 7-9pm.

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General store

A mix of local products for souvenirs and food for your time in the park

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Pool + hot tub

Love at first dive

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Dining

The dining options on site are a tavern and restaurant. The restaurant side can be a bit noisy and more family orientated. I preferred the tavern, which has a bar and a mix of picnic tables, tables and booths. The food was nothing to write home about, and found it was best to stick to basic items. When visiting in Mid-October of 2016, we were told a new chef had started, so fingers crossed the food improves in the future.

PRICE: Rooms starting at $200 – depending on the season

LOCATION: 34001 CA-120, Groveland, CA 95321

WEBSITE: http://www.rushcreeklodge.com

 

Check out So Flo by the way of a local. Spend a week or a year in the sunshine state exploring the best places!

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1. Play with a tiger cub at Zoological Wildlife Foundation

Take a walk on the wild side. Miami

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 2. Indulge in Sushiritos at Phat Boy Sushi & Kitchen

Japanese fresh takes on sushi and other Japanese classics served in a laid-back and chill setting. Fort Lauderdale

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3. Spend the day at Perez Art Museum

Visit this four story contemporary art museum and see artists like Andy Warhol, John Chamberlain and Basquiat. Miami 

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4. Bayfront Park

Right next to Perez Art Museum. it overlooks Biscayne Bay with views of the water, bridge and downtown Miami. Outdoor concerts are held here as well, check out the schedule. Miami

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5. Eat South Florida’s best ice cream at Jaxson’s

This old fashioned parlor has been scooping out giant ice cream sundaes since 1956, and was recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Dania Beach

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6. Flagler Museum

The house that Flagler built – a man who made Florida what it is today by building a railroad throughout Florida in the late 1800s. Tour through his 55 room mansion, with an incredible backyard overlooking the intercostal. Palm Beach

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7. The Breakers

Down the street from Flagler Museum – look around this historic hotel which opened in 1896. At that time, rooms started at $4 a night, with food included (we can dream of that price now!) If you don’t want to spend $500 a night to stay there, stop by HMF and have some eclectic dishes and upscale cocktails in the lavish dining room and lounge. Palm Beach

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 8. Carb-load at The Salty Donut and Parlour Vegan Bakery

Can’t leave South Florida without these sweet treats.

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 The Salty Donut – Be sure to try their shot infused mini donuts. Miami

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The Parlour Vegan Bakery. Plantation

9. Airboat through the Everglades

Take a thrilling adventure through Everglades swamps and grasslands. Basically guaranteed to see alligators, turtles, snakes and other native Floridian animals in their natural habitat.

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10. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

This estate includes extensive Italian Renaissance gardens, native woodland landscape and a historic village outbuildings compound. Miami

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11. Peanut island

Off of Palm Beach, this island is 80 acres of tropical park with swimming areas and paved parkways. Only accessible by boat/kayak/paddle board. Bring some beers and beach chairs, and relax on the beach shores. Palm Beach

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 12. Sponsor a turtle at Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Loggerheard Marine Center focuses on threatened and endangered sea turtles through education and rescuing sea turtles. With the outside center, you can see the turtles that are being nurtured back to health before being released. When I went, I was lucky enough to see three day old hatchlings that hadn’t made it from their nest to the ocean. Juno Beach

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13. Ferry to Florida’s Dry Tortugas

7 islands + dive and snorkeling sites + 19th century Fort Jefferson. Key West

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14. Explore Miami’s art district in Wynwood

To the Wynwood to the walls.

Events: Art Basel is a collection of modern and contemporary art shows which takes place in December. Miami

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15. Bike down Hollywood boardwalk

Various types of bikes are available for rent along the boardwalk. When you want to take a break, grab a piña colada from Jimmy Buffet’s Bar. Hollywood

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16. Fort Lauderdale Beach

Fort Laudy’s beach hot spot.

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 17. Drop it like a squat at Barry’s Bootcamp

Contrary to popular belief, getting out of bed does not count as a sit-up. Group class set-up designed to give you the best cardio & strength training. Miami

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18. Lauderdale by-the-sea

A more chilled, locals beach spot. Fort Lauderdale

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19. Stroll down Lincoln Road

Although a bit touristy, this mile long, pedestrian-only promenade boasts of excellent shopping and dining. Miami Beach

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20. Morikami Japanese Gardens

Embody zen and Japanese gardens at this center for Japanese arts and culture. After taking in the bonsai and beautiful gardens, head to Cornell café, which has been featured on the Food Network.

Events: Hatsume Fair Festival in April and Lantern Festival in October. Delray Beach

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 21. Swim in crystal clear water in Bahia Honda State Park

Life’s a beach. Big Pine Key

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22. Climb up Key West’s first light house

Check out these killer views of Key West from the 360 degree view at the top. Key West

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23. Eat your way down Las Olas Boulevard

3 must try restaurants: Sweet Nectar, Taco Craft and Louie Bossi’s. Fort Lauderdale

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24. Sample a flight of local brews at Funky Buddha Brewery

A brewtiful way to end the day. Oakland Park

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24. Catch a movie in plush seats with bites & cocktails at iPic

No better way to enjoy a movie. Boca Raton

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25. Dine in opulence at the Versace House

Miami’s most photographed location, which was previously owned by Italian fashion impresario Gianni Versace – and was once listed for $125 million. Stay the night for $1000, or eat dinner inside at Gianni’s. Miami

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26. Find the best latte

No foam-o here.

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Switchbox Coffee. Oakland Park

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Brew Urban Cafe. Fort Lauderdale

27. Get your glam on at Academy of Glam

Get made up by celebrity make up artist Victoria Duke, and her glam squad. They offer makeovers, lessons and incredible beauty products. Davie

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28. Cleanse at Jugo Fresh

Miami-based fresh, organic and plain ol’ good cold-pressed juices, smoothies, food and treats. Sold in Whole Foods throughout South Florida, as well as their flagship store at Wynwood Walls.

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Dive beneath the surface in the Conch Republic in 48 hours…

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Where to stay:

Finding affordable accommodation in Key West can be a struggle. Most AirBnBs (in a decent price range) are on boats, which personally my sea sickness didn’t love that idea. For the best location and price value mix, it’s best to stay at an inn or bed and breakfast off Duval Street. I stayed at The Cabana Inn – a block away from Duval Street. This Inn is the perfect location, and walking distance from everything on the island. The architecture is very Key West style, with a pool, complimentary breakfast and happy hour. Other accommodation suggestion: The Mermaid and the Alligator.

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Transportation:

Flying: Key West International airport is about 15 minutes from the city center.

Ferry: Key West Express – there is a ferry from Ft. Myers and Marco Island to Key West.

Driving: From Miami, it’s a straight shot on Route 1 through the Keys, all the way down to the southernmost island, Key West. It’s a one way road, and if you don’t hit any traffic is about 3.5 hours. If your hotel doesn’t offer parking, there are a few parking garages on the northern side of Key West you can park in over night, which are about $15 per night.

Everything on the island is walking distance, so you won’t need your car. There are no Ubers, but there are plenty of car taxis and bike taxis when you want one.

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Day 1:

Glazed Donuts 

Debatably the best doughnut in Florida. This doughnut shop bakes new flavors daily, and also have great island flavors like key lime and pina colada(YUM!). It’s best to go earlier in the day because they do sell out.

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Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

In a town not known for its beaches, Fort Zachary Taylor Park is a beauty which sits on the western side of the island. It has the cleanest beach and clearest waters in Key West. Umbrella and chair rentals are available ($25 all day for 2 chairs and 1 umbrella). 

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Sunset pier

 Get there early to secure a front row seat to watch the sunset and sip on a pina colada. Try the conch fritters for some local eats.

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Garbos’ Grill

Featured on Diners Drive Ins and Dives on the food network, this food stand serves eclectic, inventive takes on tacos, burritos and burgers. Located behind a bar, Grunts. Perfect spot to have a drink and stuff your face with tacos.

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Better than Sex 

This dessert bar offers an extensive menu of decadent treats in an intimate environment. Be sure to indulge in the dipped wine glasses. With my champagne obsession, I ordered the Kiss Me Katie which is sparkling wine with a carmel sauce dipped glass(drooling just thinking about it). Be sure to make a reservation, this place fills up fast!

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Southernmost Point

This landmark marks 90 miles north of Cuba. Tip: Go at night to avoid the crowds and line of tourists waiting to snap a picture in front of it. It’s very peaceful sitting on the ledge overlooking the water.

Day 2:

Firefly Key West – delicious Southern restaurant, perfect for brunch and blood orange mimosas. If the heat is bearable, sit upstairs on the terrace.

Alternative spot: Blue Heaven

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Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Now a U.S. National Historic Landmark, this literary icon’s house is filled with his original furniture and memorabilia. The garden is remarkable, and one of my favorite parts. The house is swarmed with cats, have their own Instagram account(celeb status), @hemingwayhomecats. $13 admission for adults.

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Key West Light House

The light house is located right across the street from the Ernest Hemingway House. The climb up the 88 steps is steep and constricting. Although, the 365 degree views at the top are worth it. $10 admission for adults.

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Duvall Street

A street over a mile long filled with bars and restaurants. It’s definitely a tourist hot spot, but you can’t avoid going there. Tip: make your own bar crawl (day or night). My favorite spot is Fat Tuesday, a.k.a. frozen drink heaven. 

Bahia Honda State Park 

Add this beautiful state park to your list for some beach time and crystal clear waters.  It’s about an hour drive north from Duvall Street.

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What are some of your favorite Key West spots?!