Florida

Hidden gems: Margate, Florida

Margate is probably not a city that is on most tourists’ radars. I had never heard of it before I moved here in 2006. I would say that Margate is an up and coming city. It is only seven and half miles from the Atlantic ocean, and in close proximity to excellent shopping as well as other attractions. Margate is also home to JM Lexus, the #1 volume Lexus dealer in the world since 1992 (in case you enjoy random trivia). Here are three hidden gems that I love:

La Bamba Restaurant

Maybe it’s the happy hour specials, maybe it’s the complimentary chips and salsa, or maybe it’s the food. This place is always busy. The food has never disappointed me. It is always consistent. Service is prompt and friendly, and the bathrooms are clean. What more could you want? La Bamba has become our unofficial celebratory hangout. Whenever something big is happening in our lives we end up here. Partly because it’s a stone’s throw away from home but it’s also just that good! Birthday dinners are almost always celebrated here, when we found out we were expecting we celebrated with a nice La Bamba dinner, after our 20 week ultrasound where we found out we were having a boy we also ended up here. This restaurant has become our place and we love it. The Margate location has been in business for 25 years. It is a family owned business founded right here in South Florida by the Molina family. They have grown to five restaurants, each managed by a Molina. Their lunch and dinner specials are great and their portions will not leave you hungry. If you’re in need for a quick lunch look no further than La Bamba. Their lunch portions include a soup or a soft-drink and range in price from $6.50- $9.50. In the interest of research, I took my family out to lunch and timed their service. Less than 10 minutes from the time we ordered our food, we were already enjoying it. Good food at a good price in a casual atmosphere that is what La Bamba means to me.

La Bamba II storefront

La Bamba II storefront

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Pollo a la plancha

Pollo a la plancha

Baby palomilla steak

Baby palomilla steak

Chicken Enchilada lunch portion

Chicken Enchilada lunch portion

Ritter’s Frozen Custard

Located at 6700 W. Atlantic Blvd, this franchise was founded in Franklin, Indiana and can now be found in several states. Florida is lucky to be among those. Their special custard is creamy and decadent, and their flavors are delicious. While I prefer vanilla, my sister-in-law swears by their rum raisin, and her husband really enjoys their banana. With their varied menu, indoor and outdoor seating, and late hours I don’t think you can ever go wrong at Ritter’s. Any day is a good day for ice-cream here in Florida but summer evenings are probably the best time to enjoy a cone, cup or sundae. On Monday’s they host a night just for dogs and on Wednesdays they have a kids night complete with bounce houses and face painting. photo 1-12 photo 2-12 photo 3-10 photo 4-8 photo 5-5

 

Coral Gate Park

Coral Gate is our favorite park. It might not boast as many features as other parks but it’s peaceful, safe, clean and convenient to us. Their three half basket ball courts are always busy on weekends, and their four tennis courts get plenty of use regularly. There is a small field perfect for kids to run around as well as a playground. photo 2-11 photo 2-10 photo 5-4 IMG_3771 IMG_3445 IMG_4233

 

When RelayRides contacted me about writing a blog post featuring hidden gems in my community I was immediately inspired visit some of my favorite places. Revisiting old faves is great but discovering new gems is just as awesome!

RelayRides is one such gem, and an idea I wish I had thought of. My husband had mentioned the company to me a couple of years ago when he was considering listing one of our cars. We have since become a one car family but the idea behind car sharing is an amazing one. The service is pretty simple you can either list your car, or find a car to rent. You search by city or airport and once you’ve found a car you like you book it! The company has a $1,000,000 liability policy so as a vehicle owner you’re very well covered. For more information check out their how-it-works section right here. Sharing cars works because we don’t need a car all of the time and the less cars on the road the happier our environment. I think it is the future, and it’s not limited to renting while traveling. Sometimes we need a larger car or truck to haul a large purchase, and renting a car is a great way to get things done without having to pay delivery fees.

I  hope you enjoyed these hidden gems. If you’re ever in town, pay them a visit, and if you’re not go out and discover some hidden gems of your own.

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Afternoon at the park

It was a balmy 90 degrees when we left the house this afternoon on our way to the park. Summer is practically upon us, not that we got much of a break here in South Florida. It was a beautiful day, however, and a nice breeze kept us fairly comfortable. The park is always busy, which is nice. I think it’s great to see so many people enjoying these public spaces. The park is very well kept and from what I’ve seen people help keep it that way by using the trash cans and treating it with care. The basketball courts are the busiest part of the park. The tennis courts get a lot of use as well, and of course the kid’s lot doesn’t fall far behind.

Diego kept to the grassy field today. He loves running around aimlessly and the open space thrills him. He ran until his face was red. All that energy he needed to burn was well spent. Because the playground equipment is on sand he tends to avoid that. In fact, he won’t wander into the sand unless we put him in it. It always take him a while to take that first step and then he moves at a snail pace towards the slides.

Here are some photos from today.

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Planning our first trip to Disney

We will be going to the Magic Kingdom for one day in May and I have been researching all about enjoying the park with a toddler. There is so much about the park that I did not know and would have no need to know if I didn’t have a child.

I’m still at the stage where I need baby changing stations in bathrooms. These are not hard to come by and if worse comes to worse I can always change him in the car. I’ve actually done this a lot as public restrooms smell foul and I’d rather not be in there for extended periods of time. However, Disney has a dedicated baby care centers in their parks that offer changing tables, high chairs, microwaves, nursing rooms, and a little store selling forgotten essentials.

Diego doesn’t need much aside from diaper, wipes, a change of clothes and maybe some water and snacks. I don’t want to pack a heavy diaper bag even though I won’t be carrying it on my shoulders. Our stroller has a nice sized basket where I can store it. Speaking of our stroller, I am unsure if we will be bringing it with us or opting for an inexpensive umbrella stroller. The downside to this stroller is the lack of canopy and storage basket. The benefits include a small, compact fold that will allow us to pop in and out of the tram and monorail with ease. It would also free up space in our trunk. I still haven’t decided but I am leaning more towards just bringing the stroller we already have along. It’s only for one day and I’m sure we will manage.

As I’ve done some research I have been amazed at all the differing opinions and forums that focus on traveling with children. Some parents are professional advice givers and seekers. It’s almost amusing to read the rants about people cutting them off in line or preventing them to catch up to their spouse as they navigate the parks. They must be gluttons for punishment because some of these families practically live at Disney. I did manage to glean some knowledge, such as: the trams have carts with space for a stroller, you can roll your stroller right onto the monorail, strollers can be rented, strollers are often stolen so park it at your peril.

Disney allows you to bring food and drink into the parks and some families bring a little cooler with them in order to save some money. That is perhaps a good idea if you’re going to spend a week or more at the parks but for this trip of ours that is overkill. I will gladly spend money on food at the park. I am not hauling meals with us. While on vacation I expect to spend money so this is an expense I have planned for but I can definitely see the need and value of cutting down costs wherever possible.

The hotel we are staying at is located on International Drive and according to Google Maps it’s ten minutes away from Disney. We had thought about taking the hotel shuttle to the park but Florida law requires children of car seat age to ride in one unless the vehicle is a coach bus. We will definitely be driving to Disney.

I’m a little nervous about a lot of things, such as  how Diego will react to the crowds and my own pesky anxiety rearing its ugly head but I am sure that I will handle it. I am beyond excited for this trip and I cannot wait!