Tag: travel review

10 Fun Things To Do In Siesta Key

Siesta Key is a fun and beautiful place to visit. It also holds the title of one of the most beautiful beaches in America from Dr. Beach. However, there is more to do in Siesta Key than just beaches. Here are 10 fun things to do while you are enjoying Siesta Key, Florida.

1.) Siesta Key Beach

You can’t start an article about Siesta Key without listing the beautiful beaches as the number one item to do. Everything about Siesta Key is perfect. From the smooth and flour like sand, to the crystal clear warm blue waters. This beach really is the definition of a perfect vacation destination. The beach also has on-duty lifeguards from 10:00am to 4:45pm daily, as well as restrooms and a snack bar with hot and cold items. Parking is free, but limited, so make sure to get there early!

2.) Siesta Key Village

After a long day at the beach, take some time in the evening to enjoy “The Village” and everything it has to offer. The Village is walkable from pretty much any point in Siesta Key, however, you can also take the free trolley bus that makes its way from “Turtle Beach” to “The Village” with pickup locations at almost every condo unit on the way. The Village offers tons of dining options, shopping, as well as bars and entertainment. This is a great place to unwind at night.

3.) Selby Botanical Gardens

The Selby Botanical Gardens are located at 900 S. Palm Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236. These amazing gardens are a great place to explore for a few hours if you are tired of the beach and need a break. With a beautiful layout, there are many unique flowers and plants to encounter. Need a break? There are benches located throughout the gardens to sit, relax, and find your inner peace. Entrance fees are $25 per person, however, if you are a member of a local garden / museum / zoo near your home, ask about the “reciprocal membership” while paying, as you could possibly enter for as little as $5. The cashier has a massive binder with a list of all participating groups from every state. Parking is free.

Link: Selby Botanical Gardens Website

4.) Mini Golf and Gator Feeding at Smugglers Cove

Where in the world can you find a place that you can play mini golf, as well as feeding Alligators? Smugglers Cove in Sarasota, Florida (15-20 minute drive from Siesta Key) is the perfect place for a night of family fun you won’t forget. This miniature golf course has a nice layout with tons of props and decorations. The course isn’t particularly easy, so get ready for a fun challenge. Holes in one are tough to come by. Before or after you play a round, ask the cashier about “feeding the gators”. For a few dollars, you can take a pole and feed these cute gators. We had a blast doing this, and can’t wait to try again in the future. The location is easy to find with tons of free parking. Also, make sure to download the $1 off coupon from their website before visiting.

Smugglers Cove is open from 9am until 11pm seven days per week. Their address is 3815 N. Tamiami Trail Sarasota, FL 34234.

Link: Smugglers Cove Miniature Gold and Gator Feeding Website

5.) Kayak Through The Lido Mangrove Tunnels

There is more to the Siesta Key area than just beaches and the Gulf of Mexico. Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures offers a fun 2 hour kayak tour that encompasses both animals (Manatee watching – of which we saw a few mothers and babies), as well as nature. The tour begins with searching for Manatees, and wraps up by traversing through the Mangrove tunnels. This is such an awesome experience, and the amazing guide (Phil) made the trip even more fun. His knowledge of the nature and wildlife was very interesting, and his personality and witty humor gave everyone in our group a good laugh. Phil ensures that the trip is not physically demanding, which means this activity is good for everyone, young and old.

The 2 hour kayak excursion costs $55 per person and is offered in the morning and again in the afternoon.

Link: Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures

6.) Shopping and Dining in Downtown Sarasota

Want to get away from the beach scene for a little bit? Downtown Sarasota is only a 15 minute drive from Siesta Key, and provides the much needed big city feel that you are missing. Parking is free in most places in downtown Sarasota, so park the car, and walk around. The city is a lot of fun to explore. There are tons of museums, shops, and especially restaurants with menus posted in the front. We recommend checking out Mattison’s City Grille on North Lemon Avenue off of Main Street. This open air restaurant offers a fun atmosphere with dining and live music.

7.) Parasailing In Siesta Key

Are you looking for a real adrenaline rush? Take an excursion to Parasail over the water in Siesta Key and get a real view of the crystal clear waters, warm white beaches, and views from both high above and down below. The tours are dependent on weather, so make sure to check the forecast before booking your parasailing adventure.

8.) Seashell Hunting In Siesta Key

No trip to the beach is complete without spending some time hunting for that perfect seashell to keep as a memory. The beaches of Siesta Key make it easy to find that perfect shell, as they can be found both on the beach, as well as in the crystal clear waters. If you get lucky, you may even find a nice Sand Dollar, however, most people commented that you need to arrive early to find Sand Dollars before others take them or they get accidentally stepped on and broken by swimmers.

9.) Siesta Key Drum Circle

What article about Siesta Key beaches can be written without covering the infamous Drum Circle that takes place each and every Sunday evening. The drum circle forms on the beach near the facilities and begins about an hour or so before the sun begins to set. This is a free event that allows you to come and go as you please. People from all over bring drums to play, as well as costumes and other fun items. Usually it is the small children who begin to dance and enjoy, but as the sun sets, and the beats continue, more adults continue to join the dancing and fun entertainment. This is a great activity that you should absolutely check out, even if only for a few minutes.

10.) Breathtaking Siesta Key Sunsets

I have traveled all around the world, but the sunsets in Siesta Key are the most beautiful that I have ever seen. On a clear day/night, you can watch as the sun slowly approaches the horizon, and once it gets close, it quickly vanishes until tomorrow. The beach crowd had thinned out a bit, but as the sun was setting, more people arrived to partake in this amazing natural show. Watching the sunset on the beach is the perfect way to end a wonderful beach day.

A Week In Siesta Key With An AirBNB Condo

My wife and I wanted to plan a vacation to Florida, and with the advice of a friend we found Siesta Key. If you aren’t aware, Siesta Key has been named the #1 Beach in America by Dr. Beach in his annual listing of the best beaches in the country.

A quick search online shows that there are no formal chain hotels in Siesta Key, with the closest property located in Sarasota, Florida, roughly 15-20 minutes away by car.

With no chain hotels available, our next step was to search AirBNB to see what sort of properties were available. Our requirements were simple. Near the beach and reasonably priced for one week in May.

After a lot of searching, I focused my sights on one property. The price was great, and from the photos, it was directly across the street from the main beach access. While the interior seemed dated and older, the past reviewers highly rated it’s cleanliness and communication with the host.

We booked the property for a week and were very excited about our upcoming trip!

We flew from Pittsburgh to Punta Gorda on Allegiant Air, and booked a Mercedes GL SUV from Turo to drive to the condo and around Siesta Key.

The condo was an hour drive from Punta Gorda airport, and upon arrival, the check-in instructions were clearly explained. We had officially arrived at the Crescent Royale Condominiums in Siesta Key!

Our next goal was to park the SUV, however, the parking spaces as well as the condo units are not labeled in order. It wasn’t uncommon to see parking spots and condo units next to each other such as (519, 112, 310, 206). This made things confusing, but we found our parking spot and condo unit.

Upon walking inside, the unit appeared clean and we got ready for a fun afternoon at the beach. Later that evening, we got ready for bed, and that is when the nightmare began. These beds were the absolute worst beds that we have ever slept in. You find more comfortable beds in a $10/night hotel in Phuket, Thailand than these. My wife and I are not heavy folks (130-135 pounds), yet when you laid on the bed, your body totally sunk in. On top of that, the pillows were maybe 1/2 an inch thick only, and the bed creaked anytime you moved. The creaking wasn’t just a slight creak, but a loud screeching “Creaaaaak”. If you did happen to fall asleep, as soon as you or your partner moved, you would wake up from the noise.

I contacted the host and expressed our concern after the second day, however, he explained that the condo was their second home, and they love their bed, so we could cancel our trip and receive a partial refund if we wanted to leave. We ended up sucking it up and staying the rest of the week, but needless to say, we didn’t get any sleep.

The reason we wanted to stay was the location. The condo was clean, and the views from the Lanai deck were incredible. You could get from the Lanai to the beach in less than 2 minutes walking. How perfect is that?

Aside from the bedding issues, we had no other complaints that trip until the second to last day. I came inside to get some fruit out of the refrigerator for us to eat on the lanai, and met the largest cockroach that I have ever seen on the kitchen floor. I tried to kill it, but the little bugger was too quick for me. I called the condo unit and our host, but unfortunately, no one was of any help. You know the saying, if you see one, you don’t know how many more you are not seeing. This made us anxious and ready to leave and get home. We searched and sealed all of our clothing to prevent any of them from sneaking home with us.

On our last night, I came inside and didn’t turn on the light until the last minute. When I did, I caught the roach under my sandals near the front door. I had him cornered, and BOOM. Success. No more roach.

We followed the check out instructions and left the condo having had a good overall vacation. Upon further discussions with the host, we received a small bit of compensation for the bedding, which made us very happy. We would recommend his place in the future.

Park Inn By Radisson Nevsky – Saint Petersburg, Russia

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I have stayed at the Park Inn by Radisson (Nevsky) on two separate occasions, and it is by far my favorite hotel in all of Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Park Inn by Radisson is centrally located in a great part of Saint Petersburg.  You are just steps away from the huge Galeria mall, with many levels of shopping, dining, and entertainment.  The hotel is also across the street from the entrance to the Metro, and just steps away from the famous Nevsky Prospekt, where you can find any store to satisfy your shopping desires, or any food to satisfy your hunger.

My most recent stay at the Park Inn by Radisson was in August of 2015.  I was flying from Kos, Greece to Saint Petersburg overnight, which had my flight arriving in Saint Petersburg at 3:30am.  Based on my past travels, that put me arriving in the hotel around 4:30am.  Since this was well before check-in time,  i had contacted the hotel to see if it was ok for me to check in VERY early, or if i needed to purchase another night to cover these few hours.  The girl at the hotel confirmed that there was no need to purchase another night, and she would notate my reservation to allow for check in at 4:00am.

I landed in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and breezed through customs/immigration.  Within 20 minutes of landing, I was outside the airport and in a cab on my way to the hotel.

When the cab pulled up to the hotel, my excitement began to build.  I had not slept in over two days, and was looking forward to the few hours of rest I would get before my fiancee met me at 9am.

I walked into the welcoming entry of the hotel, and was greeted by a young, but friendly front desk clerk.  I handed him my passport and reservation.  He seemed puzzled at my arrival, and began to enter my information.  After a few minutes, he handed my passport back, and explained that there were no rooms for me to check in to.  My heart immediately fell.  I was tired, had traveled for 2 and a half days straight, and just wanted to sleep!

The front desk worker saw the notation on my reservation that read “Guaranteed Early Check In At 4am per *the girls name*”.  He shook his head and told me that this girl who did this was new, and did not understand that Friday night (the night that was finishing) the hotel was at 100% occupancy.  The following night (day i was checking in) the hotel had only 80% occupancy, so there were many rooms to accommodate a very early check in time.

The young clerk could see that i was tired, and had traveled a long way.  He told me not to worry, and that he would find me an alternative solution.  After a few minutes, he presented me with three potential ideas.

1.) There was a hotel down the street that i could stay at.  The rate for the next 5 hours would be $275.00 USD.  I quickly turned down this offer.

2.) The second choice was to stay at their sister hotel for free (since it was their mistake).  The only problem with this option was that the hotel was on the other side of the river, and all of the drawbridges w
ere up.  The earliest I could get to the other hotel was 6am.  I turned down this option.

3.)  The third option, “is free”.  There was a couch in the corner of the lobby, he offered to w
atch my bag while i slept in the lobby.  I was so tired, that i didn’t care where i slept.  I figured it was free, and safe, as there was a security guard stationed just 5 minutes from the couch.

I went over to the couch, took out my blanket, put on my eye mask, hugged my leather bag with all my personal items, and fell asleep.

About an hour later, the front desk man came over and began to shake me.  “Mr. John.  There is a room available if you would like”.  I shot right up, grabbed the key from his hand, and ran up to my room.  The door was not even shut before my clothes were off, and i jumped into bed.  I set my alarm, and was off to sleep.

The next morning, we were presented with two coupons for free breakfast.  This was a nice touch.

I love the Park Inn by Radisson Hotel.  The staff has always been friendly, helpful, and try to do the best they can.  The location is great, and the price is awesome.  This is one of the best hotels for the money in Saint Petersburg.  The rooms are clean, modern, and fresh.  Bathrooms are nice, but i hate the showers. I understand that these are common for Europe, but it’s tough for me to get used to them.

In short, if you find yourself in Saint Petersburg, you should pay a visit to the Park Inn by Radisson on Nevsky.

Dorint Airport-Hotel Zürich

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My friends and I recently spent a night at the Dorint Airport-Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland. It was an overall pleasant experience and I would recommend this hotel to anyone looking for a place to stay near the airport.

For the past week, I found myself traveling through Germany, Switzerland, Greece, and Russia.  Our flight home had a long layover in Zurich, Switzerland, so we decided to get a hotel for the night.  We were shocked at the insane prices.  This was the cheapest option at $325 USD per night.

We later found out from a cab driver that hotels in Zurich charge not by the room size like in most of the world, but per bed.  Since there were 3 of us, we could never find a thing for less than $300/night.  $100/bed (person).

This hotel was literally 90 seconds by cab from the airport.  However, the 90 second cab ride will cost you $26 USD.  The route is not walkable.  Cabs are required.

We walked into the Dorint Airport-Hotel Zürich and were instantly satisfied with our choice.  You could tell that this was a higher end establishment, and overall, well worth the $325 for one night.

The man working the front desk greeted us with a smile, and made check-in a quick and easy process.  He also gave us slips with logins for the free Wi-Fi…. ANYWHERE!  We had spent the past week paying obnoxious amounts of money for terrible quality Wi-Fi in our hotel lobby.  It was nice to get it anywhere for free.  In the room, bar, outside, anywhere.

We decided to head up to our room, and were pleasantly surprised.  This was one of the nicest hotel rooms I have ever seen in my travels around the world.  Since there were three of us, we had 2 rooms in one.  There was the big room with a king sized bed, and then a small room to the side with a roll away bed.  Since my flight departed very early in the morning, i took the roll away bed in the small room.

The bathroom was spotless and sparkling clean.  The shower was also very enjoyable.  The shower head was almost a feeling of being in a warm rain shower. It was cool.

We decided to head down to the hotel bar and enjoy a beer after the long frustrating day we had just had.  I was hungry and wanted to eat, but there was nothing around the hotel within walking distance.  The hotel bar offered a tiny ‘limited menu’.  These were basically peanuts, cheeses, and a microwaved pasta plate.  I opted for the pasta plate, as it was better than nothing.  I honestly don’t think I have ever spent $28 on re-heated noodles before in my life.  Either way, it was pretty darn good.

After my friends grabbed another beer, the bartender began cleaning up for the night.  We decided to go outside and sit on the couches.  We enjoyed the cool Swiss air for a while, and headed back inside to go to bed.

The next morning when I left to head back to the airport, a cab arrived within 2 minutes.  This time, the ride to the airport took almost twice as long.  3 whole minutes.  However, it was another $26 charge…

Overall, this hotel is great if you are looking for a place to stay near Zurich Airport (ZRH).  Be prepared to spend a lot of money, as Zurich is the most expensive city in the world.