- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Loving the outdoors, but hating the cold? Well, then the District is not the place to be in January. Our average high temperature is 42 degrees. The average low is 27. Brrrr.

Miami, on the other hand, sports a balmy average January high of 76 degrees and almost no precipitation. A quick look at online travel sites shows flights starting at $168 round trip from here to there.

So, what are you waiting for? An itinerary for the active traveler, whether adults-only or family?

Well, here you go: Key Biscayne.

Yes, you easily could spend your active vacation on this key alone, with its mile-long beaches and many outdoor activities, such as biking, kite windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, swimming and golfing. It’s just 10 minutes from downtown Miami, too.

To access much of the fun and some breathtaking views, pay the $5 entry fee to Crandon Park at the north end of the key. You will not be disappointed.

Crandon Park has some of the best beaches - lined with shading coconut trees - with lovely views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Biscayne Bay on the other. If you stay late, you will be treated to a magnificent sunset. No extra charge.

Speaking of cheap: For no-cost activities, walks along the beach are just the kind of low-impact-on-the-joints type of exercise doctors recommend. Swimming falls in the same category.

If you want to splurge a bit, however, the park features an 18-hole golf course. It is the only public course on the bay, and the grounds also include 10 tennis courts and a restaurant.

As for meals, check out the close-by La Carreta with its outdoor seating and Cuban diner-style menu. A children’s menu in the $5 range is available.

While in the park, check in with the Crandon Park Visitor and Nature Center, which offers hikes and tours of the Bear Cut Preserve, a 264-acre natural barrier-island habitat. Activities include bird-watching, canoeing, kayaking and bicycling.

Visitors also can explore the various ecosystems: the dunes, mangroves, and coastal hammock and sea-grass beds. Lucky visitors might even spot herons and ospreys. Other wildlife includes songbirds, hawks, sea turtles, snapper, parrotfish, crabs, shrimp, sea stars and puffer fish.

Also in the area, of particular interest if traveling with children, is the Seaquarium, where crocodile exhibits and shark feedings are among the attractions.

And that’s just Key Biscayne.

There’s also Coconut Grove’s Kennedy Park; Little Havana’s art galleries and cigar shops; Miami Beach’s premier people-watching spots such as the Standard hotel; Little Buenos Aires‘ bakeries, including the Buenos Aires Bakery, where you can get fresh alfajores (the best of these traditional Argentine cookies in Miami, according to some); and of course swimming, swimming, swimming just about everywhere.

And that’s just swimming - er, skimming - the surface.

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