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Travel Planner: Miami, Florida, USA

By:
Joanna Hall
 

It might be best known as the first major cruising hub of North America, but Miami is also one of the world’s premier holiday destinations in its own right. Colourful, buzzing and boasting plenty of ethnic culture, it’s a sprawling city on the beach as well as a cruise jumping on and off port. It also has something to suit everyone, from the trendy nightlife of South Beach and the candy coloured Art Deco district, to the bustle and colour of Calle Ocho and Little Havana. And whether you spend a few days or it’s just a stopover, there is plenty to see and do, and keep you amused.

Need to Know 

Location: The southeastern Atlantic coast of the USA, in Florida. 

Language: English.

Money: US Dollar. ATM’s are practically on every corner of the city, and currency exchange bureaus are safe to change money.

Time Difference: GMT -4 hours. 

Getting Around: Taxis are plentiful in Miami, or you have the Uber option these days, but there are other ways to get around by way of public transport. One is the Metrorail, a 40-kilometre elevated rail system with two tracks, providing a fast and inexpensive way to get you from the Miami International Airport (MIA) through Downtown Miami all the way to South Miami. If you’re staying in downtown Miami, Metromover is a free public transportation service offering smaller loops around Downtown Miami and Brickell, whileMiami’s Trolley system is a quirky, fun and free way to explore the city. Renting a car is another great option, especially if you are planning to venture further afield to destinations including Fort Lauderdale, the Everglades, Key Biscayne, and beyond.

When To Go: The best time to visit Miami is between March and May when temperatures are in the high 20s and low 30s during the day, and the humidity is lower. A spring visit also means you’ll peak winter rates. Avoid the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June to November, as there will be much higher rainfall and humidity, on top of a greater risk of nasty storms. 

Tipping: As a general rule, leave wait staff 18–20 per cent of the total bill unless a gratuity has already been added, and leave bartenders 15–20 per cent per round, or around $1 for a beer or wine increasing to $2 for a cocktail. For taxi drivers, leave 10–15 of the fare rounded up to the next dollar, for hotel and airport porters leave $2 per bag, and hotel maids should have $2–4 per night left in envelope on the bed. Remember tipping isn’t optional anywhere in the USA. 

Where To Stay

Miami has some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts in the world, although how much you’ll pay is largely dependant on when you travel. Holidays and peak travel times are expensive, as they are with most US destinations, and in between these times, hotel rooms are busy with business travellers and conferences. Winter is a peak travel season in Miami. Do your research well in advance to secure a reasonable deal, bearing in mind there are hundreds of properties to choose from, especially at the luxury and boutique end of the scale. The location of your hotel is also relevant, depending on whether you are in town for sightseeing, joining a cruise, or hitting the beach. In terms of new and hip hotels to put on your list, check out the Faena Hotel Miami Beach, which has a bit of an ‘Alice In Wonderland’ feel to it, the Betsy South Beach, which has a gorgeous Florida-Georgia style of architecture, Ian Shrager’s The Miami Beach Edition, the quaint 1 Hotel South Beach, and EAST Miami.

Sightseeing Essentials

*South Beach: This is a beautiful Art Deco district located right on the beach, and packed with beautifully restored buildings, shops, boutiques, clubs, cafés and more. The district runs from 6th to 23rd Streets between Ocean and Lenox Avenues, and a self-guided walking tour is available if you grab a map from the Art Deco District Welcome Centre on Ocean Drive.

*The Beaches: There are many to choose from, dotted along the long stretch of strip from south to north, but a few are worth putting on your “must see’ list for different reasons. Lummus Park Beach, or South Beach, is one of the best for people watching, while in contrast, one of quietest stretches which is also good for swimming is the 85th Street Beach along Collins Avenue. 

*Little Havana: This is the lively Cuban section of the city, with Calle Ocho (8th Street) serving as the main drag. It’s a great place to come for an authentic coffee, and if you love cigars, you can watch them being made at the El Credito Cigar Factory.

*Coconut Grove: This is another Greater Miami district and one of the area’s oldest. But besides shopping and eating out, a key reason to visit is because it’s home to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, an early twentieth-century Renaissance style building built for the wealthy Chicago industrialist of tractor fame, James Deering.

*Jungle Island: Love wildlife? If so, and you have time, put a side trip to Jungle Island on your list. It’s located in the heart of the city, and home to a wide variety of rare and curious animals including a high-wire bicycle riding cockatoo, a tame cassowary, and Vulcan the liger (a mix of lion and tiger).

Tours 

* If you are new to Miami, taking a city tour will show you around most of the key sights including South Beach, Coconut Grove and more. It will help you your bearings in what is a sprawling destination, and come tours include a harbour cruise so you can view it all from the water.

* The Everglades is well worth a visit, either on a tour or you can self-drive. It’s a vast and unique area packed with lush vegetation and wildlife, including alligators. The interior of the Florida tropical wetlands is essential for many visitors, not only for an exhilarating ride on an airboat; part of the tour is usually an alligator wildlife show.

*Take to the air on a helicopter tour to really capture how big Miami is, and take in its many beaches and islands. Just don’t forget to take your camera!

Best Happy Snap

Miami has many options to fit into a tight schedule, even though it’s a somewhat flat destination, but there are plenty of ways to capture the best of the city. If you love sunsets, the ornamental breakwater sitting in the bay at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a unique spot for a Kodak moment, along with South Beach at sunrise, when the building colours come alive as they bask in sunlight rising from the east. The Miami Skyline from Biscayne Bay is also one to aim for.

Shopping And Souvenirs

Like any other major US city, Miami is a shopper’s paradise with a lineup of world-renowned department stores, boutique shops, high-fashion and outlet centres. Much of the shopping is focussed on malls, and Miami has many of them, but a standout is Dadeland Mall. It’s recognised as South Florida’s top shopping destination, and can boast more than 175 brand-name stores and dining options. Close to the Miami cruise terminal on the waterfront is Bayside Marketplace; which also has a number of shops and dining options. For upmarket shopping head to North Miami Beach’s Bal Harbour, and you’ll find high end designers including Prada and Louis Vuitton, as well as department stores including Saks 5th Avenue. 

Eating And Drinking

Miami has plenty of culinary diversity, largely thanks to its population which hails from many parts of the world. You’ll find restaurants and bars of all types, blending the flavours of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the US, called floribean. Something unique for many visitors is authentic Cuban cuisine, and if you are just looking for a US-style big burger or ribs, it has those too. Some of the hot names to put on your list to try include Alter, which has a distinct rock ’n’ roll vibe, the contemporary Asian KYU, the legendary Joe’s Stone Crab for seafood and stone crabs from mid-October to mid-May, the iconic Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, and Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann. When it comes to enjoying a tipple or three, check out Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company in South Beach, The Broken Shaker for cocktails, the old school piano bar The Anderson, and Ball & Chain in east Little Havana.

Hot Tip

Occasionally you may walk into a business or hop into an Uber where English isn’t spoken. Don’t worry, because in Miami people are used to using gestures or Spanglish to communicate; it’s not dubbed the Latin capital of America for nothing. 

Got An Emergency? 

Miami Police: 911

Australian Consulate: +305 448 5672 

 

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Found in Miami is an invitation to go beyond the expected, discover new and unexplored sides of Miami, and of yourself. http://foundinmiami.com

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  1. Posted by on 11th Dec 2018 Verified Customer

    We Had Fun 4 Star Review

    We first went to Miami to join a cruise....big family occasion with three generations of us travelling! But the next time we went back, which was in 2016, we stayed five nights and had a ball.....it wasn't super hot but we live in Queensland so the beach wasn't a focus for us. We loved the latin culture, the restaurants and the shopping was great. We left Miami for New York and I was actually disappointed we didn't spend those extra days in Florida....New York was somewhat cold and gloomy in comparision!

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