Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Miss Georgetown Alexandria Hannan at the Illinois County Fair Queen State Pageant in Springfield

Miss Georgetown Fair 2011 Alexandria Hannan competed at the 2012 Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant, held January 21-22 at the Crown Plaza in Springfield, Illinois.  Queen Alex won the 2011 Miss Georgetown Fair Queen Pageant in August and competing at the state pageant in Springfield is one of the highlights of her year.  This was our third trip to the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant and it is by far one of the most exciting times of the year.

Queen Alex was among 70 fair queens from across Illinois to compete for the state title, and the contestants spent five days at the Crown Plaza for the pageant.  The big events are the preliminaries on Saturday and the finals on Sunday, but the contestants get there several days in advance for rehearsals and interviews.

Contestants in the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Pageant compete in private interview, on-stage speech, evening gown and swimsuit.  The top 15 finalist each answer a series of on-stage questions before the queen and runner-ups are announced.

After the final competition and banquet there is a reception at the Crown Plaza.  Pictured above is Miss Georgetown Queen Alexandria with 2011 Miss Illinois County Fair Queen Jackie Driscol.

Miss Georgetown Queen Alexandria with Miss Edgar Jessica Richardson, who is Alex's neighboring queen just south of Georgetown.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bass Pro World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada

We've been to many Bass Pro stores across the country because the stores are huge and a destination in themselves, but our absolute favorite is the World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada.  As the name suggest, this store is home to the original Islamorada Fish Company Restaurant, and because it is in the Florida Keys, it also has a full service gulf side marina.

The Islamorada World Wide Sportsman is a big two story building, and if you are just driving by it would be easy to miss the restaurant and marina because they are barely visible from the Overseas Highway.  Inside you will find the Pilar, sister ship to Hemingway's boat, the Zane Grey Lounge with an incredible view of the marina, an everglades themed aquarium and a gallery with an authentic old storefront from Europe.

World Wide Sportsman has lots of fishing and outdoor gear, so this is a great place to find what you need for enjoying the great weather of the Florida Keys.  We recommend going during the day so you can really enjoy the entire store an marian.  We've stopped many times in the evening on our way home, and it is much better to go during the day.  From the gallery you can see the Overseas Highway, and from the Lounge you can get a great view of the marina.

The open-air restaurant is big with lots of seating on the marina.  If you want to eat at the Fish Company, you might go there first when you stop.  That way, if you have a long wait for a table, there is lots to do in the store and around the marina.  You can easily spend a couple hours at World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada, and we know you'll be glad you stopped.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sombrero Beach in Marathon

Sombrero Beach in Marathon is on the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the nicest beaches in the Middle Keys.  To get to Sombrero Beach, from US 1 turn toward the Atlantic side at Publix and Winn-Dixie and follow Sombrero Beach road past the high school to the ocean.

Sombrero Beach is family friendly with a large park area and picnic shelters.  There is a large area for beach volleyball and lots of free parking, so this is definitely the place to spend an afternoon.  We see lots of people with picnic lunches from the nearby grocery stores enjoying a day at the beach.

If you are in the Middle Keys and want to enjoy the ocean, we highly recommend visiting Sombrero Beach in Marathon.  Sombrero is a very clean and well maintained beach park, and even when it is busy there is still plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Key West Sunset from White Street Pier

Key West sunsets are a favorite of tourists and locals alike and most tourists like to go to the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, where you can enjoy the street performers, food and local Key West art while watching the sun go down over the water.  You can always see sunset from Mallory Square, but if you happen to be there in December you can also watch from White Street Pier.

White Street Pier is at Harvey Beach at the end of White Street.  In December you can walk out on the pier and have an unobstructed view of sunset.  White Street Pier is one of the largest piers on the island, and while is now only open to foot traffic, Joe remembers driving out onto the pier many years ago when it was open to cars.

If you are looking for a quiet, family friendly place to watch sunset, we think you will like White Street Pier.  Don't miss watching sunset a few times from Mallory, but if you need a break from all the action, White Street Pier is the place to go in December.  We often see windsurfers near the pier, which is pretty neat, plus you can see the cruise ships coming and going in the distance.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fish Markets on Stock Island

One of the best parts about being in the Keys is all the fresh seafood.  There are lots of great restaurants where you can get seafood, but if you have the chance to cook your own seafood meals you'll need to find a fish market.  If you don't have a kitchen or the ability to cook but like to go fishing, there are places that will cook your catch.  Hog Fish on Stock Island will cook your catch and you can find others if you check their menus.  We like buying our seafood at Fishbusterz market on Front Street on Stock Island.  If you are in the Middle Keys near Marathon, absolutely go to Keys Fisheries - not only are they are restaurant, they are also a fish market.  Joe likes to buy fresh shrimp to make seafood alfredo, and Josh loves blackened grouper.  So if you are in Key West or the Florida Keys and have a chance to cook, look for a local fish market and enjoy your dinner!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island

Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island is one of the best places to go when you are in Key West.  Stock Island is just north of Key West.  It is so close that if you don't pay attention you may not even notice that you have gone from Key West to Stock Island.    To get to Hogfish you'll follow some roads around to Front Street and you'll probably see some signs pointing the way.

Hogfish is an open air restaurant with some extra seating on the dock which is wear we like to sit.  This gives you a view of the fishing boats and even the big underwater salvage ships from Mel Fisher's Treasures.  We normally go to Hogfish for lunch, and while lots of tourists go to Hogfish, it isn't nearly as busy or noisy as the places on Duval in Key West.

The specialty at Hogfish is the Killer Hogfish Sandwich, topped with grilled onions and cheese and served with slaw and fries.  Hogfish has a great menu of seafood, but Josh really likes the chicken tacos served with rice.  The daily specials at Hogfish are put up on boards a couple places so be sure to look for them.  If you are looking for a really fun place to have lunch or dinner near Key West, we think you will really like Hogfish.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Herbies in Marathon

Jimmy Buffet famously sang about his cheeseburger in paradise and he even has Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant on Duval Street in Key West, but when we go out looking for the best cheeseburger in the Florida Keys, we go to Herbies in Marathon.

Herbies is located in Marathon on the southbound side of US 1 just south of the airport. It is a small white restaurant with seating in two separate indoor sections where you get to sit on picnic tables.  Herbies serves some of the best food in the Keys, and we've had some really great dinners at Herbies.  Even if Herbies doesn't look fancy from the outside, trust us when we say their kitchen produces some of the best dinners.  On our last visit we dropped by at lunch because Herbies makes what we think is the best cheeseburger in the Florida Keys, and it is served in a basket with fries for under ten bucks.  These burgers are cooked to order and come to your table "all the way."  If you are used to great cheeseburgers and crave one while visiting Marathon, we think you'll like Herbies.

Key Fisheries in Marathon

Keys Fisheries in Marathon is one of our favorite places to have lunch while we are in the Keys. Marathon is the largest island in the Middle Keys and is about 50 miles north of Key West, so going up to Marathon can take most of the day, but if you go to Keys Fisheries it will be worth the trip.

Keys Fisheries is a small restaurant on the gulf side with all outdoor seating right on the water. Don't worry if you happen to be in Marathon during a rain shower because they have roll down plastic windows to keep you dry. If you are approaching from the southbound side of US 1 you will see a couple large billboards for Keys Fisheries. One of them says "Lobster Reuben" which is one of the specialties of Keys Fisheries. They even have a regular monthly contest where you can try to guess how many reubens they serve.

Hook, Line and Drinker is the sunset view bar at Keys Fisheries, which changes names about once a year.  Changing the name is actually a fundraiser they do to benefit Grace Jones Community Center.

When you arrive at Keys Fisheries there is a large gravel parking lot and you wait in line to order at a window. Each day they have a gimmick when taking your order and they'll ask you to give them a name of a celebrity, cartoon character, sports team, boat, or anything else that might have posted on a special board. The menu is big and posted on the wall so you can study it before ordering.

Most of the food at Keys Fisheries comes in red baskets. With most sandwiches you get fries and slaw, and they give you plenty of fries. Just don't throw those extra fries to the birds or thrown them in the water to feed the fish - the actually sell fish food.

All the food at Keys Fisheries is very good and very fresh, and the sandwiches start around ten bucks so you can eat here even on a budget. Josh normally gets the blackened grouper and Joe almost always gets fried conch for lunch at Keys Fishers so those come highly recommended.