As you might already know, Dan and I spent the month of January in southern Florida, exploring the Everglades and the Florida Keys – in preparation for an upcoming travel guide of mine. Although we're in New Orleans at the moment, my head is still very much focused on the Sunshine State. In fact, I was just thinking about one of the last experiences we had on our trip: a Coopertown airboat ride through the East Everglades Expansion Area, a proposed addition to Everglades National Park.
Exploring the Everglades via airboat is a popular activity, especially among families – so popular, in fact, that I recently blogged about it on American Nomad. About a dozen different airboat operators offer narrated scenic tours in the Everglades; many of them are located in Everglades City or along Tamiami Trail, and all of them promise a glimpse at the native flora and fauna.
On our own 40-minute journey through the slow-moving “river of grass,” we saw yellow-bellied slider turtles, greenback herons, and various other birds amid the omnipresent water lilies, sawgrass, cattails, and hammocks (small, tree-filled islands). Naturally, Dan and I were hoping to see an alligator, and we weren't disappointed. We spotted at least four on the trip – one of which lay in all his eight-foot-long glory just inches from the shore. Remarkably calm, he even let us get close enough for a photo opportunity.
Of course, as much fun as we had on that gorgeous day, it's hard to escape the fact that airboats have been controversial for years – as evidenced by some of the comments left on my American Nomad post. Still, travel writing can't always be a smooth road – preserving the environment (and the inhabitants therein) is often at odds with enjoying it, even on an educational airboat ride. Although I believe that conservation and recreation don't have to be mutually exclusive goals, it's certainly not an easy balance – and having written my share of ecotourism articles, I well know it... which is why it's sometimes nice to focus on something a little more frivolous – like the top ten most romantic cities in America, a two-part travel post that I prepared just in time for Valentine's Day. Naturally, four of my old and current haunts – Chicago (where Dan and I met), Las Vegas (where we got married), Los Angeles (where we lived for several years), and New Orleans (where we currently spend a lot of time) – made the list, but it wasn't easy to choose only ten. In fact, I'm curious: Which U.S. city do you think is the most romantic, and what are your plans for the big day?
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