In December 2021, I had the privilege of going on the adult only, brand new Virgin Voyage ship, Scarlet Lady. I absolutely loved this experience and am thrilled to have experienced it first hand so I...Read more
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Known as one of the most eclectic cities in the United States, Miami exudes an air of cultural diversity mixed with a laid-back beach town feel. It is one of the hottest vacation destinations in the country in terms of both temperature and popularity due to its southern location, proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean islands, and its bustling social and nightlife scene. Many visitors come to Miami to relax on its numerous beautiful beaches and enjoy the warm tropical savanna climate. The city also boasts a melting pot of cultures, especially Latin American, Caribbean, and Cuban ethnicities, which all contribute to the great diversity of music, food and language that Miami is so famous for.
The city is one of the smallest in the United States in terms of total land area (only about 37 square miles, or 92 square kilometers), but has a metro population of over 2.5 million people. It's also one of the only major cities in the country that is lucky to be bordered by two national parks: Everglades National Park to the west and Biscayne National Park to the east.
Summer temperatures range between 70°F and 80°F and winter temperatures range between 60°F to 70°F. Wet season generally begins in May and ends mid-October, bringing high humidity and temperatures in the mid 80s to low 90s.
Miami, Florida, has always billed itself as a travel destination. Warm weather, sandy beaches and bright sunshine were selling points more than 100 years ago, just as they are today. But Miami's allure extends beyond its shores. People from all over the Caribbean and Latin America have settled in Miami, giving the city its distinctive, lively international character.
The warm-weather fun is still a big attraction, but the biggest draw is the cosmopolitan flavor coupled with all the great restaurants, sports teams (Dolphins, Heat, Hurricanes and Marlins) and upscale sheen—plus a long list of TV shows that have "Miami" in their titles.
South Beach, with its cheerful, sherbet-colored art-deco buildings and palm-tree-lined avenues, is the center of Miami's trendy dining and nightlife scene. Other corners of Miami, including Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, offer their own versions of fine living and colorful happenings.
And don't overlook the natural world—though you may have to drive to the Everglades to get a good view of it.
Sights—The breathtaking view of the city from the MacArthur Causeway at night; Everglades National Park; the palmy streets and posh estates of Coral Gables; Coconut Grove and CocoWalk; South Beach.
Museums—The Italianate gardens of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens; art-nouveau and art-deco objects at the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum on South Beach; first-rank traveling exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in North Miami.
Memorable Meals—Eat stone crabs with the rich and famous at Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant; Euro-hip at The Forge; Cuban favorites in an upscale atmosphere at Versailles Restaurant & Bakery; Chinese at Hakkasan; dry-aged beef and truffled mac-and-cheese at Prime One Twelve.
Late Night—The street scene in South Beach; the sidewalk bars and bistros, shops and nightclubs along Lincoln Road and elsewhere in Miami Beach; Coconut Grove; Southwest Eighth Street.
Walks—Strolling through the Miami Design District to admire the architecture and public art program; bicycling or in-line skating through Coconut Grove or South Beach; a walk on the beaches along the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Especially for Kids—Performing dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium; tigers at Zoo Miami; Monkey Jungle; boat and tram tours in Everglades National Park; hands-on activities at Miami Children's Museum; bananas and exotic fruits growing at the Fruit and Spice Park in Homestead.
Miami is a sparkler of a city set against the water. The downtown area hugs the junction of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay. A surge of development brought life to sleepy downtown neighborhoods, transforming them into urban vistas of galleries, cafes, nightlife, restored homes and high-rises. To the south, Coconut Grove is 3 mi/5 km along the water, and South Miami is about 6 mi/10 km away. Farther south, you'll find Homestead and, beyond that, the Florida Keys.
The neighborhood of Coral Gables is approximately 6 mi/10 km west of Miami. Beyond that is Kendall—a vast stretch of condos, homes, shopping malls and restaurants that reaches the edge of the Everglades. Miami Beach is a finger of land separating Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic, connected by five causeways to the mainland. At its southern tip is South Beach, also known as the Art Deco District.
Originally settled at the mouth of the Miami River by the Tequesta Indians, Miami wasn't much more than a trading post when real estate and railroad developer Henry Flagler extended his railroad to meet it in 1896 and then dredged the harbor to allow his fleet of steamships to dock.
The land boom of the 1920s put the city on the map, thanks to the millionaires who built mansions along Biscayne Bay. The economic bust in 1929, combined with major destruction from a hurricane the previous year, reduced Miami to a depressed shadow of its former self, with few jobs and little development.
In the 1940s, the invention of air-conditioning and the return of ex-servicemen who had savored Miami's charms during World War II led to steady growth. In the 1950s, thousands more arrived—from New York, Chicago, Detroit and elsewhere—to start careers, raise families and become movers and shakers. Miami was transformed into a cosmopolitan hub.
Beginning in 1960, a flood of Cuban refugees turned Miami into a bilingual city within about five years. Succeeding decades brought many other Latinos, as well as Haitians, Asians, Israelis, Canadians and Europeans. Today the city is considered a melting pot of the Americas, with more than 60% of its citizens foreign-born. Miami's government, politics and businesses reflect its diversity.
Forty of Miami's buildings are permanently decorated in lights. The Bank of America Tower changes color 80-100 times a year. The Metromover, which circles downtown, stays lit by a rainbow of neon that rises over the city skyline at night.
South Beach is a mecca for buff bodies. One estimate put the number of models living there at 1,500.
Miami's residents come from more than 120 countries and speak nearly 70 languages.
The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables was built in 1926 and is one of the most stunning hotels in the nation. It is reputed to have the longest swimming pool in the world. During World War II it was a veterans' hospital. The hotel offers guided tours of its facilities. Many former U.S. presidents, including Bill Clinton and George Bush, have stayed in its presidential suite.
The Cardozo Hotel, located in South Beach, is an art-deco hotel built in 1939 by Henry Hohauser, the most prominent architect in Miami at the time. It has beautifully rounded sides and racing stripes on the exterior beneath the windows and terrazzo floors. It's now owned by singer Gloria Estefan.
If you would like to mail a package from an art-deco landmark, visit the Miami Beach Post Office at 1300 Washington Ave. in South Beach. Check out the mural on the wall of Ponce de Leon and Native Americans.
Celebrities who own homes in Miami include Jennifer Lopez, Lenny Kravitz, Oprah Winfrey, Enrique Iglesias, Janet Reno and Sylvester Stallone.
A flock of flamingos arrived from Cuba in 1934 to inhabit the infield lake at Hialeah Park racetrack. They remain as a tourist attraction at the Park and a symbol of the state in the logo for the Florida lottery.
One of the busiest cruise-ship ports in the world is conveniently located on Dodge Island, which is connected by a five-lane bridge to downtown Miami. There's usually lots of traffic going back and forth—about 4 million passengers a year embark from the port, which serves 22 cruise lines and has eight passenger terminals. Taxis are plentiful. For those who drive to Miami, secured parking lots are adjacent to each terminal. There is a courtesy minibus to take passengers to cruise lines from the car park. Expect to pay US$20 per day.
Most cruise-ship passengers arrive in Miami by air. The trip from Miami International Airport to the port usually takes 20-30 minutes, except in rush hour, when it can be a lot longer. There is a flat US$27 rate from Miami International Airport to the Port of Miami. Most major cruise lines offer bus service from the airport to the port. (If you weren't provided ground transportation as part of a fly-cruise package, it can't hurt to ask if there's room on the bus to your terminal.) Port of Miami. Phone 305-371-7678. http://www.miamidade.gov/portmiami/cruise.asp.
Most cruise lines offer hotel add-on packages that include one, two or three nights in Miami (you usually have several hotels to choose from), along with sightseeing excursions in and around the city. Guided tours are also offered for passengers with late-afternoon or evening flights before or after their cruises.
Typical ship-sponsored tours in Miami include bus tours of the city's famous neighborhoods—Coral Gables, South Beach and Coconut Grove—and the mansions and art-deco architecture, as well as Everglades tours by bus and boat. Boat tours take in Miami's Biscayne Bay. Tours to Bayside Marketplace, art museums, Miami Children's Museum, Miami Science Museum, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Jungle Island are also offered. Keep in mind that excursions—and their prices—vary from cruise line to cruise line. Check with your travel agent for additional information.
Big Bus Miami has an agreement with many cruise lines for "Ship to Shore" tours direct from the Port of Miami. The tours are designed specifically for guests disembarking a cruise ship who would like to explore Miami before going home. The tours include luggage storage service as well an airport transfer. These tours are available through your cruise line or by calling 800-336-8233.
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