Last month, we took a mini vacation in Miami (Florida). Here’s a quick recap for those who have this city on their list of travel destinations, based on the collective remembrances of my barely functioning, rusty brain innards. I’ve tried to include a little something something for everyone, irrespective of what floats your boat. Read this mini guide if it your first time to Miami and if you are looking for more options, here is another article on how to spend a long weekend in Miami.
Miami, tucked away in the southern corner of the sunny state of Florida, is a city known for its beaches, vibrant night life,art-deco style of architecture and sprawling street art (murals). Its also extremely hot and humid during most of the year (barring the winter months of Nov-March when it is quite pleasant with more than half the country frozen like chicken wings in a freezer, brr) with occasional tropical storms/hurricanes thrown in to knock your socks off. So if you are not a fan of any of the above (weather included) or are not a fan of the series “Miami Vice”, then this city is not for you. Its only fair that I start the post with some forewarning.
Being nestled along the south eastern coast of the country, Miami is flanked by water on almost all sides (at least the south beach section is) and therefore has a beautiful water front to boast of along with pristine beaches along the never-ending shore line. If you are a beach bunny and plan to spend plenty of time frolicking, resting or sunbathing at the beach or going for a swim or surf, pack appropriate beach wear and gear. Beach essentials should include sunscreen, wide brimmed hat, beach towels, a bathing suit (function over form, and, form being strictly on your perception of your body type; these eyes have seen many a sight at the beach which have scarred the soul for life), protective eye-wear, beach towels and a bag to pack it all in. Sounds like common sense, but sometimes that is one asset that most people lack. There was still a nip in the air in March, so do not forget to pack a light sweater if you visit during that time. Even if water scares the living daylights out of you as it does to me, all that is mentioned above is still applicable. Reading a book/doing nothing/people watching/bird watching/ watching grown ups indulge in a stupid sand fight/building sand castles like a 5 year old are all activities you can enjoy.
Like any other big city, Miami too has its share of art, culture and architecture. We stayed at the historic Clay hotel in the heart of the art-deco district. Although pricey with rooms which were nothing to rave about, you are pretty much paying for the location cause its located right on Espanola way, the liveliest, hippest street east of Ocean drive (the street that leads to South Beach). Its flanked with restaurants resonating with live music on weekends and the party goes on till the wee hours of the morning. So if your idea of going to sleep is when the clock strikes 10 whence peace and tranquility takes over the land, then avoid this hotel like the bubonic plague and opt for many of the others close by. You can easily stroll through the neighborhood, take in the beautiful sights of the distinct architecture and sample local cuisine (Latin american, Cuban, Meso-american) at local spots nestled all around. If you need your culture fix, do not forget to visit the Bass museum of art or the beautiful European style Vizcaya Museum (Biscayne blvd) or the Miami museum of art. There is a shady looking World Erotic Art Museum as well, but its sketchiness overshadowed our overwhelming desire to venture further and find out the cause of its notoriety, i.e., step inside the dinky looking building and discover a world of hidden treasures.
Don’t go to Little Havana harboring grandiose exotic expectations. A solitary street, Calle Ocho (literally translating to 8th street) is all that is there flanked with businesses and places to eat (mainly Cuban food, with a famous bakery named Versailles and a Nicaraguan place named Yambo thrown in the mix. We ate yummy Nicaraguan Tacos at the latter. Also, no one speaks a word of English there. Have a Spanish dictionary handy; its Miami after all!)
For the quintessential nature lover, there is Key Biscayne, a small island 20 min to the south. It has a beautiful beach, national park and a lighthouse (closed for renovation during our visit). There are free tours of the light house on certain days of the week so make sure you land on one of those. if alligators and swamp are what you seek, then definitely make a dash for the everglades (We could not squeeze this into our itinerary).
Now for the gourmand. We did our customary food tour thing in Miami as well (read about our past tours here), where we sampled local Cuban, Peruvian and Brazilian cuisine in a span of 4 hours in and around the art-deco district. We went with the Sobe (south beach)Tour des Forks tour option of “Miami Food tours” based on Trip Advisor reviews (you need to reserve tickets before hand) for a tour of the south beach food spots but there are a couple of others you can choose from (see here and here). We loved the tour, the 6ft 4 inch tall amazonian woman tour guide and our fun party of nine who did not mind me shoving the camera in their face at every chance I got. Highly recommended! Special mention goes to La Folie, a charming French cafe tucked away in one end of the boisterous Espanola way and Charlotte Bakery, for its excellent Venezuelan breakfast. We missed some good old Haitian food (Tap Tap Haitian restaurant), but it just did not work out in our crudely hashed schedule.
7) If you are a social butterfly crossed with a night-owl who has infinite patience and can fit into a body-con dress that would shame an Egyptian mummy, then Miami is the place for you. Its the eternal party city, perpetually stuck in spring break mode and the never ending lines in-front of the nightclubs testify willingly to that. Street fashion and any time of the day/night fashion involved itty-bitty skimpy garments of all types for the anterior and posterior, plunging necklines that would put the Colorado rivers deep gorge to shame and are-you-kidding-me rising hemlines. I was easily the nun of the party in my linen shirts and shorts. If you want to get drunk like a skunk, then just walk down Ocean beach drive. Plenty of restaurants to choose from where they serve bucket sized glasses with suspicious looking green/red/blue liquid (giant margaritas) and ear splitting music.
8) Signing off with my favorite part-the murals at Wynwood, the art district of Miami. Abound in Beautiful, jaw dropping murals/street art strewn in careless abandon, there was plenty to be marveled by lovers of art and mildly curious passersby alike. The best part about street art is that it is bohemian, challenges the status-quo, uninhibited and free for all! There is none of the confinement of museum walls and it does not cater to a theme or populist expression. The downside is that its also ephemeral, so click a few photos whilst you are there to capture the art forever cause they will definitely be gone by your next visit!
This was what our trip was all about, Some food, some art, some aimless wandering, some surreptitious flamenco dance watching and meeting up with some friends and family. We stayed clear off Miami sea aquarium (sister franchise to the Sea World kills chain of entertainment). I am many things but definitely not one of those low lives who get a kick out of seeing defenseless animals forced to perform in the name of entertainment. We had a lot of fun without harming any marine, land or airborne animal and hope to keep it that way for future travels too:-)
That’s it till our next getaway. I would love to know the latest on your vacation or anything else that you would care to share. And, if you are looking for an awesome day trip from Miami, don’t forget to read this epic road trip from Miami to Key West!
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