Everglades and heavy shopping

On the second morning in Florida we had breakfast at the house and hopped in the car to head to the Everglades. We had bought tickets online for Coopertown Airboat that has been in operation since 1945. We arrived at Coopertown Airboat around 11 am and there was already a bit of a line to the ticket booth. We joined the line and once it was our turn, we showed the receipt for the online purchase and paid a USD 3.00 per person Everglades National park entrance. Having bought the tickets online we saved three dollars per ticket so if you want to save a bit it makes sense to buy your tickers in advance. After a quick restroom pit stop, we entered the dock area, first we were directed to attend a short show where we were told about the alligators and snakes they had in enclosures on the premises and those who wanted could touch a baby alligator and a snake. We sat in the backrow, so we did not pet either of the animals. After taking a look at the animals on show it was time to board the airboat. Before taking off the guide passed around some cotton to put in our ears as the boats are quite loud. Then we took off “into the wild”. The tour covers approximately 9 miles of this unique environment and lasts for one hour. First, the guide zoomed us through some vast open saw grass, which was fun especially when the boat went sideways. After a while we slowed down for the first time so the guide could tell us about the area and the birds we were seeing. The guide would drive the boat faster for a while and then slow down or stop so we could keep an eye out for gators and the guide could inform us with facts about the place. We did manage to spot three gators during the ride and plenty of birds, the nature in itself was also impressive. There is no guarantee you will see gators during the ride, but I am pretty confident the guides are able to spot at least one gator for you on every ride as they know where to look and have a trained eye. Once we docked you had the chance to again pet a baby gator if you wished. Before leaving we strolled through the gift shop that was full of gator themed knick-knacks, clothing, toys, etc. When we exited the area sometime after 1pm the line to the ticket booth was super-long so I recommend going early in the day if you don’t want to queue for a long time. I would wholeheartedly recommend going on an airboat tour to explore the Everglades if you are in the area as you get to see some stunning nature and interesting wildlife. There are numerous airboat tour operators in the Everglades, we picked Coopertown due to its long history and were satisfied with the choice, but I am sure there are other good operators out there too.

Rescued gators at Coopertown Airboat
Rescued gators at Coopertown Airboat
Learning more about gators and snakes
We saw many birds
Our airboat guide
Spot the gator
Loved the nature in the Everglades
This guy greated us when we returned to shore

After driving back to Fort Lauderdale we scoped out the local Macy’s and mall, The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale and grabbed afternoon coffee from the Starbuck’s at Macy’s. That evening we had a dinner reservation at Serafina by the water. We had requested outdoor seating in our reservation, which was actually good because the indoor space was very limited with around 20 seats. It started raining just before we got to the restaurant and while we were waiting to be seated a couple of groups of diners moved indoors, which had me a bit worried. It turned out that part of the outdoor seating had problems with a protective tarp and thus water got in but the area where we were seated was fine and we managed to stay dry. We kicked off dinner with an aperitif and some starters. I ordered the Tonno Tartar consisting of sushi grade yellow fin tuna, marinated with sesame oil, over a bed of thinly sliced avocado and hubby enjoyed the Carpaccio Di Manzo, of thin sliced cured filet mignon served with arugula, truffle oil and parmigiano reggiano shavings. Both starters were excellent, which set our hopes high for the mains. We both had a pasta, mine was the Ravioli del Giorno which was lobster filled ravioli with a lobster bisque while hubby’s was Capellini fra Diavolo con Gamberi, angel hair pasta, sautéed with jumbo garlic shrimp in a spicy san marzano sauce. I can honestly say this was the best pasta I’ve ever had in a restaurant outside Italy. The service was super-friendly and the staff really made us feel at home.

Tuna tartar
Carpaccio
Lobster ravioli
Shrimp pasta

On Friday we geared up for a heavy day of shopping at Sawgrass Mills outlet mall. Before driving out to the mall we decided to arm ourselves with a hearty breakfast and found the perfect spot in Wilton Manors only a couple of blocks from the house called Shawn & Nick’s Courtyard Café. We immediately fell in love with the place; its vibe, staff and food were excellent. I feasted on pancakes and hubby had Eggs Benedict. The quality of the food was really good, and the prices were more than fair. We ended up spending around four hours at the mall as it was huge and simply getting from one store to the next on our shortlist of favorite stores sometimes took ages. By the time we were done, we were happy with our haul. We had not made a reservation for dinner that evening so we simply took an uber to downtown and strolled around Las Olas looking for a place for dinner. We had our sights on a couple of Mexican places but by the time we had stopped for a drink at a pub and strolled around a bit, both places were packed, and the wait would have been over an hour. As it also started raining, we were not in the mood to explore the place any further, so we ended up at the same pub where we had the drinks for some food. The place was called Bo’s Pub located below The Balcony. As we had had a late lunch on the way back from the mall, we figured we’d opt for something small and ordered some pub bites: a pretzel with beer cheese and mustard sauce, Bo’s buffalo wings served with celery & blue cheese dip and some parmesan truffle fries. Turned out these weren’t really small bites so we couldn’t even finish off everything. The food was good for what it was, pub grub, the drinks were good and staff friendly. Two more posts to come on our Florida adventures.

Colorful Wilton Manors, Courtyard Cafe on the right
We did some shopping…
Las Olas Boulevard at night
Christmas decor Florida style
The pub grub

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