This time of year my mind begins to wander to warmer climates like southern Florida. Places like Key Largo and Key West recall memories of Humphrey Bogart, Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffet. The word “Key” comes from the Spanish “Cayo” meaning small island. And true to its origin, this tiny string of islands connected by bridges separates the Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico.

January and February are the best times to visit the Keys – hurricane season and the holidays are over, but spring break has not yet started. It’s quiet and temperatures are cool: mid 70’s during the day and 60’s at night. There are many unique plants and animals here, and the tropical climate ensures that something is blooming all year round.

Key West, once known for its shipwrecking and drug smuggling, has become an easygoing oasis of fun loving aquatic activities such as diving, fishing and boating. This is the heart of southernmost Florida tourism with destinations like Hemingway’s old house (and bars) and Stinson’s beach.

Don’t forget to check out the sunset scene at Mallory Square. And be sure to visit one of the wonderful nearby parks like Bahia Honda or Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. If you are tired of the snow, cold or rain that plagues most of the US this time of year, and you have some air miles to burn… Why not escape and soak up some rays, eat a cheeseburger in paradise and become a part of the “Conch Republic” for a few days!