First Impression: Miami’s like another world—refreshingly far from the likes of Central and North Florida destinations, in looks, atmosphere, energy, culture, ambience and overall vibe and contemporary flair. Its reputation holds true for hot beaches, hot bodies and even hotter nightlife, not to mention endless attractions amid a booming metropolis that gives a taste of the glamorous life and offers something for everyone.
Getting Around: Located at the far south end of the Florida peninsula, Miami Beach is a mere 9 miles from Miami International Airport, with some 93 airlines operating with non-stop flights to 133 cities. There are shuttles, cabs, private cars, limos and rental cars, which are the best and most cost-effective ways to explore all of Greater Miami and its many outlying areas and cities. In North Miami Beach, a rental car or taxi is a necessity. But in South Beach, you can walk along Collins Avenue, Ocean Drive and Washington Avenue. Lincoln Road was actually designed to walk, and converted into an outdoor mall that’s home to several restaurants, nightclubs, stores and movie theaters within its 10-block span. If footing it is not your forte, taxis abound in heavy traffic. But a much cheaper way to see South Beach is through the local bus service.
Weather: Miami’s subtropical climate with abundant year-round sunshine and warm temperatures draw visitors annually, especially “northern winter birds.” Locals talk about two seasons in Miami: “the rainy season” and “the beautiful blue-sky season.” You may still have to keep an eye out for hurricanes in early fall, but the ideal times to visit are during the fall, winter and spring seasons, especially for golfers who can also score some great deals during the hot summer months. Average daily temperatures in Oct.-Nov run 78 to 83 degrees F (Fahrenheit) and 89-88 degrees F in and June-Sept. Locals celebrate the winter season because it is neither too cold nor too hot. A light jacket or sweater is nice in the evenings due to offshore breezes, a big draw for northern visitors.
Beaches: The gorgeous beaches of the Miami Beach and South Beach areas are highly rated for their swimming conditions, endless water-sports options, vibrant energy, and clean, pristine sand. South Beach comes alive after dark and many bars stay open late, with clubbers looking to party well into the wee hours of the morning. There’s also Lummus Beach and the North Shore Open Space Park that has picnic tables, showers and restrooms, as well as the best places for snorkeling and scuba diving. When you’re done soaking up some sun and wading into the water, both also have hiking trails and volleyball courts for more fun under the sun.
Nightlife: When the sun sets, Greater Miami and South Beach come alive with party-goers dressed to impress as they hit the numerous trendy restaurants and clubs, some of which are owned by famous celebrities. Clubs open and close as fast as you may hear about them, so call before you head out. So call before you head out. The South Beach streets are teeming with all-night activity and club hopper hitting the diverse establishments. Reliable standbys include The DEUCE, and The Clevelander, with its outdoor pool and large outdoor bar area. There’s also plenty of party action in and live music in the Design District area, emerging hotspots near downtown Miami and late-night fun in Coconut Grove. Those looking for something modern but relaxing enjoy a Caipirinhas cocktail while watching the sunset over the bay at Mondrian’s Sunset Bar. Wine bars are also the newest trend, popping up everywhere, but other hip hotspots include South Beach’s Cameo or Nikki Beach—an open-air upscale restaurant that turns into a vibrant dance club and lounge on the sand—LIV at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, B Bar at the Betsy Hotel on Ocean Drive, Kyma Lounge in downtown’s Epic hotel, The Blue Martini in Mary Brickell Village, Cafeina Wynwood Lounge, Lady Marmalade in Coral Gables and Segafredo on Lincoln Road where you can have a seat on a number of lounges lining the outside area. Note: There are more than 150 clubs in Miami, and some are notorious for being difficult to get into if visitors don’t have local connections or do not plan accordingly. Miami and South Beach have no shortcomings when it comes to nightlife but according to Travel & Leisure magazine, here is a shortcut to the top five can’t-miss establishments. At Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club, a first-rate jazz legend runs a first-rate club perfect for a laid-back night of sipping and socializing. Circa 28 in the heart of Wynwood is a rising star on the city’s club scene. Fox’s Sherron Inn is a classic Miami lounge with aviation-theme décor and a 1950’s-era ambience where a whiskey starter comes highly recommended. The South Beach Love Hate Lounge by Ami James and Chris Nuñez of Miami Ink fame channels a Harley-Davidson vibe with celebrity appearances on any given night. The Martini Bar is the Raleigh’s retro-glam bar, with tropical-print furniture, a wall of glossy portraits from the 50’s, and of course, a variety of trendy ‘tinis.
Coconut Grove: A vibrant enclave that started out as an art colony, "The Grove" is hip and laid back, and richly populated with sidewalk cafés, restaurants, galleries, boutique shops, yacht clubs and sailing centers. By day or by night, it’s always in action.
Coral Gables: A Mediterranean-revival inspired community surrounded by lush trees and lined with dozens of designer boutiques, specialty shops, restaurants and art galleries. Stroll and shop the Miracle Mile in downtown Coral Gables.
Sunny Isles Beach: Ideally situated between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the area is punctuated with world-class resorts and world-renowned restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, cultural and convention centers. Take a stroll through city parks or drop a fishing line at the Newport Fishing Pier.
South Beach: South Beach, also known as SoBe, and the origin of Miami’s surname, the American Riviera. Buzzing with a life and style all its own, South Beach is decidely open-minded and where you totally let loose, with vibrant nightlife, energetic beaches, eclectic boutiques, culinary hotspots, incredible people watching and The Art Deco Historic District, featuring a collection of 800 Art Deco buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places – such a high concentration that it is referred to as the "Art Deco Capital of the World." When the sun sets, South Beach comes alive with chic clubbers and all-night activity going well into the wee hours of the morning.
Local Flavor: Greater Miami is considered the birthplace of New World Cuisine, and dining is like an adventure into a new world of tastes, sights, aromas, seasonings and sensations. The Greater Miami area is a culinary fusion of countless cultures, sure to please even the most discerning palate, from Italian, Thai, Cuban, Indian, Haitian, Peruvian, Argentinean, Japanese and Spanish and traditional treasures like burgers, steaks fresh Florida seafood and Miami-style pizza joints like Miami's Best Pizza, which has wowed guests with super-spinning, hand-tossing skills. Places like the News Café on the South Beach strip are great for a pastry, coffee, local newspapers and exceptional people watching. For Cuban fare with an unforgettable distinctive flavor, check out Versailles on SW 8th Street (Calle Ocho) with its Cuban bakery, delicious sweets, sandwiches, empanadas, arroz con pollo and much more. Badrutt’s Place is a legendary Swiss enclave that has been frequented by Royals and celebrities since 1896. The Mediterranean-style establishment boasts a new breed of socializing and dining known among devout locals as "Miami on European time," with its famed three-martini lunch and late-night crowd. Other popular hotspots include Bal Harbour Beach House, Cafe Avanti Ristorante Italiano, The Capital Grill, Casa Juancho, Cha Cha Coconuts, DUO Restaurant, Escopazzo Restaurant, Grove Island Restaurant, Hard Rock Café, Mambo Café at the Bayside Marketplace in Coconut Grove, Moon Thai, Porcao Steakhouse, The Rusty Pelican and Shula's Steakhouse, just to name a few. Whatever your pleasure, Miami has it, and more!
Retail Therapy: Miami is well known for chic, fabulous, off-the-runway-style shopping experiences and its multifarious selection of trendy, one-of-a-kind boutiques and unique fashion designers hopping to get their big start. Italian designer Gianni Versace, founder of the famous Versace fashion house, even called his South Beach estate “home” until his tragic death in 1997. When in Miami, shopping is a must, especially for the trendiest collections in Florida, so here are a few of the best spots to spend, splurge, save or just window shop:
The Dolphin Mall: Located just west of the airport features stores, restaurants, and entertainment options for everyone.
The Falls: An open-air mall located on U.S. 1 in southern Miami-Dade County.
Sawgrass Mills Just minutes north of Miami and famous for its factory outlet stores.
CocoWalk: An outdoor shopping and entertainment complex in the heart of Coconut Grove with nightly entertainment in the Courtyard.
Bal Harbour Shops: A haute, upscale open-air shopping experience with over 100 luxury retailers anchored by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Ave, and five restaurants for a quick bite in between bags.
Bayside Marketplace: Located right on the water, just steps form downtown Miami, it’s filled with a variety of shops, restaurant and entertainment options right along the water.
The Village at Gulfstream Park: A new Hallandale entertainment destination in Miami, sizzling collection of fashion boutiques, home accessory shops and dine at signature restaurants, outdoor cafés and thriving nightclubs.
Aventura Mall: Anchored with Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, Sear and JC Penney, and more than 250 other specialty shops and Adventurer's Cove for the kids.
Lincoln Road in South Beach: It’s lined with stores, boutiques, art galleries and museums – and the occasional celebrity spotting. Pick just about any street in South Beach—Lincoln Road, Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, Espanola Way and Washington Avenue—and you’ll find cool and eclectic shops and boutiques—some even bit nefarious and risqué, for adults only. There’s numerous outdoor café-style seating, so if you’re a bit modest, look at the window displays before you sit because some shops may be more exotic.
Fish Tales: There are more than one million acres of sheltered waters, excellent year-round weather and a richly diverse fishery that make Miami every anglers dream-come true. With tempting game-filled ocean waters, bays, harbors, lakes and rivers, every direction in Miami will get you to world-class fishing and specific areas for certain adventures. There are offshore big-game excursions and flats fishing hotspots found in bays, estuaries, marshes and atop reefs and atolls, and along shorelines. Some of the world’s best fly-fishing in Miami’s lakes, rivers and streams offer the best fly-fishing in the world. There are also guided fishing tours and kayak fishing tours through Florida Everglades National Park and 10,000 Islands and the pristine waters of the Everglades Backcountry.
Spa Scene: Greater Miami’s spa scene evolution is one of the top reasons why people choose to vacation here. Sought after by spa connoisseurs all over the world, many of the area's spas rank among the "Best Spas in America.” The choices are vast and various, with almost every option for men and women alike. With everything from high-end surgical centers & days spas, Old World retreats, Tuscan-villa inspired resorts, a penthouse suite overlooking the Atlantic to downtown urban day spas for those on the go, Miami spas come in all shapes and sizes, and within price ranges to fit every budget. You’ll find many first-rate spas within the upscale resorts and boutique hotels, and dozens of day spas throughout the Greater area, so you’re sure to find exactly what you need to satisfy your cravings for pampering.
Golfer’s Paradise: Everyone knows that Miami is famous for its beaches, beach bodies, water sports, yachting, clubs, dining and shopping, but golf aficionados know that Miami and the surrounding areas are home to some of the best golf courses in the United States. They offer championship grade courses, stunning views and spectacular wildlife. There are many great ways to relax and tee up without having to fork out expensive resort fees, too. Some of the top courses include The Biltmore, Turnberry Isle Golf Resort, Crandon Bay overlooking Biscayne Bay, and the Doral Golf Resort, a 90-hole golf complex just west of Miami airport and featuring three golf courses: The Great White, designed by golfing legend Greg Norman; The Blue Monster, which hosted PGA golf world championship; and the recently redesigned course, The Silver.
Celebrity Spotting: Seeing a celebrity could be as easy as skipping a stone, given Miami’s popularity as a setting for the silver-screen, TV and reality stars, as well as the sheer number of celebrity-owned hotels, clubs hotels and residences. At the time of print, the list of Miami home owners included but is not limited to Cher, Alonzo Mourning, Anna Kournikova, Antoine Walker, Barry Gibb, Chayanne, Cristina Saralegui, Don Shula, Dwayne Wade, Gloria Estefan, Janet Reno, David Caruso, Jennifer Lopez, John Secada, Julio Iglesias, Lenny Kravitz, Madonna, Matt Damon, O.J. Simpson, Pat Riley, Rickey Martin, Rosie O’Donnell, Shakira, Shaquille O’Neal, Sylvester Stallone, Beyonce, Ricky Martin, Missy Elliott, Nicholas Cage, Timbaland, Julia Roberts and more. Even more flock to the American Riviera for an easy, high-life getaway with the beaches, clubs and indulgent respites. If you see a flock of buzzing photographers, you can bet it’s the paparazzi shooting someone you just may, or may not, want to see.
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