Sun, Sand, Sizzling Nightlife and Music, Culinary Delights and High End Shopping, Rollerblading, Fishing and Cycling- Miami Beach is a wonderful city appealing to all ages, tastes and budgets. Although divided by the map into the 3 general geographical areas of South Beach, Miami Beach and North Miami Beach, the three are tied together by a continuous stretch of beach on the east and Biscayne Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway on the West. In any part of the city one can watch a glorious sunrise over the ocean and a wonderful sunset over the bay and the Miami skyline by only travelling a few hundred yards. In this issue we will explore the South Beach section of Miami Beach with a few side trips one can make in a day from a SoBe home base.
South Beach has had a variety of images over the years. In the early twentieth century it was a place developers built luxury homes and hotels on once empty barrier islands. Despite the occasional hurricane Miami Beach flourished. In the 1930s block after block of Art Deco buildings rose on the l Island. The area flourished into the 1950s and 1960s, but towards the end of the latter decade SoBe started a downward trend to an area best recognized as the setting for popular shows such as Miami Vice. In the latter part of the century the beauty of the Art Deco district was rediscovered and the South Beach renaissance began. In the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century South Beach developed a reputation as one of the hottest spots on the planet, becoming a playground of the rich and famous. Today South Beach still sizzles. But the action has slowed down a bit and the area is a destination for visitors from all around the world looking for a warm special place in the sun with a cornucopia of activities.
Getting to SoBe is easy. Flying to Miami is the most popular way of arriving as Miami International is a major airport with flights arriving from all over the world and serving as a changing point for many flights to Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. Transportation into Miami Beach from the airport can be had from about $35 for a cab, to lesser fares for shared vans and the least expensive being the bus from the airport into Miami Beach making numerous stops from the 40s down to the southern tip of South Beach. One can drive to Miami Beach, but unless one is staying where parking is included, parking can be an expensive proposition as all parking spots on the street are either metered or set aside for residents during daylight hours. Parking garages and valet services at hotels can also be expensive. The great thing about Miami Beach though is that it is a very walkable city enhanced by a very user friendly bus system that runs most of every day both up and down the beach and into Miami. Miami Beach can also be accessed by Amtrak.
Accommodations in Miami Beach offer a wide variety of choices. On or near the beach one can go high end in luxury hotels with all the amenities to smaller boutique hotels offering highly personalized services. Smaller, older hotels (many of Art Deco design and vintage) offer less expensive accommodations but are still near the beach and all the action. Be sure to check out not only the popular travel websites for deals, but also the hotel’s own website for the best prices. Alternatives include some B&B offerings and a large variety of condominium rentals offering a wide range of prices and amenities. Please note that the general rule in Miami is that non hotels may only provide rentals lasting at least 6 months in length. However, there are a number of exceptions with rentals available nightly, weekly or even monthly. So be sure to check out this detail before booking.
To ask a visitor to Miami Beach what is the one thing that attracted them to the city, be prepared for a dizzying array of answers. However, the top three are bound to include nightlife, the food and the beach. Not far behind would be Art Deco architecture, sports opportunities and shopping.
Nightlife is an ever changing scene in Miami Beach. For those looking for the hottest place of the moment, an internet search or a perusal of upscale magazines might be the best source of information. For those who want a trendy place, but not necessarily the hottest the luxury hotels on the beach or the clubs running up Collins Ave might be a good bet. Ocean Drive offers block after block of music, bars, dance clubs and other night spots running from catering to the rich and famous to the visitors from Europe, the Far East and the Americas. Night life, however, is a movable feast as many events occur every month from the massive SoBe based New Year’s Eve street celebration to fashion shows to the spectacular Art in Basel events in December. Details for these activities are easily found on various websites and the many free tourist publications available on many street corners and hotels.
Dining can be a never ending voyage of discovery in Miami Beach. Infused with many nationalities and catering to visitors from around the world there is an almost impossible number of choices for eating in SoBe. All major cuisines of the world are offered from Northern Italian to just off the boat Sushi and in many price ranges. Of particular note are the many Cuban, Caribbean and Latin American restaurants that populate every block of SoBe. One could spend a fortune on dining or one can do a little menu shopping during daily strolls to discover new or hidden bargains. Areas that are target rich environments for good dining include the Spanish restaurants of Espanola Way, the myriad of restaurants the length of Lincoln Road and the many outdoor dining options along Ocean Drive. If one is looking for familiar names, however, do not despair as many chain restaurants and fast food names can be found in SoBe.
Miami Beach would not be what it is named without the beach. SoBe is bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and Lummus Park constituting a strip of beach and greenway from South Pointe in the south and extending far to the north beyond the unofficial boundary of SoBe. The beach is wide and well maintained. Numerous stands renting umbrellas and chairs for the day are interspersed with the rows of perfectly aligned set ups maintained by the hotels. Unfortunately there are not many public facilities available on the beach nor are there many dining options. However, a picnic basket and a strategic choice of where on the beach to go will ameliorate this issue. All of the beaches in Florida are public and there are many public access points. However, beach parking is limited and expensive. Along the beach, there are paved pathways through Lummus Park and a boardwalk stretching to the north. The pathways make excellent jogging, biking and rollerblading trails. Biking is especially popular as Deco Bike, a short or long term bike rental service, has numerous kiosks along the beach and others located all over SoBe. Rentals can be had for hourly, daily and even monthly periods for low rates. The best deal is the $30 monthly pass. The only catch for the long term rentals is that the bikes will have to be periodically returned to a kiosk, but can be immediately taken back out. Bicycling is easy with a continuous path from the twenties on the northeast corner of SoBe to the fifth street causeway on Biscayne Bay. Riding in the streets is, of course, permitted but the large amount of traffic may make it appealing for only the most adventurous.
Many other activities are available in SoBe or nearby. High end shopping is found in the South of Fifth area and along Lincoln Road. Many boutiques and tourist shops also line Washington and Collins Avenue. Art galleries abound offering many types of art at all price levels. A particular art event to attend is the Second Saturday Night in the Linwood section of Miami, reachable by car, bus or taxi. This night of each month all of the galleries in Linwood stay open late and musical and other entertainment fill the open spaces. Food stalls and trucks offer a bewildering variety of cuisines and add to a street carnival atmosphere. Miami Beach is also home to the famous Art Deco district. This large area of South Beach offers many examples of this form of architecture with a museum on the beach offering detailed exhibits on the district. There are also a number of small pocket museums catering to many art or historical interests. Sports activities also abound in Miami Beach. Numerous marinas offer docking space as well as opportunities for boat rentals and fishing charters. Kiosks along the beach offer jet ski rentals and parasail experiences.
We hope that you will take the opportunity to vacation in Miami Beach. Please browse the many more detailed articles in this newsletter to obtain more ideas of what to do and how to enjoy South Beach.
General Miami Beach Information:
http://www.miamibeachfl.gov/ – Main government website
http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/ – Tourism Website
http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/miami-beach.html – General info about Miami Beach in the context of Florida at large
http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=Cheap+Eats&find_loc=Miami+Beach%2C+FL – Yelp link to high rated restaurants
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g34439-Miami_Beach_Florida-Vacations.html – Trip Adviosr for restaurants/ attractions
http://www.decobike.com/miamibeach – Bike Rental information on Miami Beach
http://miamibeachfishing.com/ – Affordable deep sea fishing venture at Miami Beach
http://miamibeachfl.gov/parksandrecreation/ – Lists of Parks and Activities
http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/places-to-see/south-beach-art-deco-district/south-beach-beaches – Lists of beaches