Your Ultimate Guide To Miami
Will Smith said it: the best ‘party is in the city where the heat is on. All night, on the beach till the break of dawn. Welcome to Miami!
Miami definitely has that heat, that sexiness. Whether it’s from the Cuban people, the food, or the music, Miami has something about it that makes you think of sun, beaches, hot girls and nightclubs. I came to Miami for Christmas to escape the cold of London because, after a shitty summer where it rained most days, I needed a little bit of sun on my skin.
I loved Miami from the very first time I visited for spring break. This bright urban paradise complete with the fusion of Cuban culture with other Latin American culture, the spicy black beans with chicken from the Cuban cuisine, Cuban music blazing as you walked along the streets and strong cocktails from the many restaurants that line Ocean drive.
If you’re looking for a hip, sunny, sexy, getaway, Miami is your city.
Things to Do in Miami
Miami is famed for its beautiful beaches, and South Beach has something for everyone. Start your day early by exploring Ocean Drive by foot or via the Citi bikes. Ocean Drive is the main strip (approximately over 1 mile) in South Beach. The colourful building and art deco architecture will keep you entertained for hours. Ocean Drive runs parallel to the beach, making it prefect for enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean.
The Wynwood Walls are an Instagrammer’s wet dreams. The formerly rundown neighbourhood is now Miami’s mecca for street art, with beautiful murals and art installations scattered around the Wynwood area; definitely makes the surrounding streets worth exploring. I found it was best to arrive early, not only to avoid other tourists but also the hike in prices for parking.
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No trip to Miami would be complete without visiting little Havana. You'll find Cuban cigar shops and the best Cuban coffee you’ve ever tried at La Colada Gourmet.
The mother and daughter duo at La Colada Gourmet serve up some strong Cuban coffee with their own imported beans from Cuba. If you like your coffee with a shot of Baileys or condensed milk and rum, then visit this shop..
I had heard so much about Azucar (the famous ice cream shop) but was underwhelm by the flavours of the ice creams sold there. I was expecting the ice cream to have more flavour and intensity, but it lacked both.
The Symphony World Center on Collins Avenue is a sight to behold. The Centre includes the SoundSpace Park, which serves as an open-air event space. There are thousands of speakers throughout the park including a 10-ft projector wall on the building used for open-air events such as showing movies and live music shows. During special performances, the music from the symphony can be heard in the park via the speakers and people can sit and listen.
Why not take in a Miami Heat Game just like a local? I was able to watch a Miami Heat vs. LA Lakers game during my visit. I watched as the team retired Shaquille O'Neal’s jersey number, which was an iconic and unforgettable experience.
They also showed highlights of Shaquille’s career and how instrumental he was to the Miami Heat winning their 2006 championship.
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During the 75 minutes of the Biscayne Bay boat tour, you’ll get a glimpse of the celebrity mansions on Star Island and pass by the ultra-rich Fisher Island. It’s like being a paparazzi. The back stories of some of the houses were as famous as the people who lived in them.
We saw the mansion where Scarface was filmed. My brother’s favourite house was the one which was used to shoot for both Miami Vice and CSI Miami. He is a big fan of CSI Miami, but my favourite was Miss J. Lopez and Rihanna –They are girls of my own heart.
The Everglades, located just a few hours west of Miami, is one of the main attractions in the region and can be easily visited on a guided tour (or a car if you have one). My brother and I booked an airboat tour (I wanted to go on my own). The tour was interesting; I learnt a lot about the everglades’ ecosystem and the alligators. The everglades are one of the last remaining wetlands in North America and are also known as “River of Grass”.
Our tour took place later in the day, so we got to see an alligator. The ‘captain’ (the guide for the boat tour), told us that because it was busy during the day, the alligators usually hid from all the boats and noise. The everglade is not for everyone and if you are not comfortable with being confronted with an alligator, then give this a miss.
How to get around Miami
The public transport in Miami is pretty good if you don’t have a rental car or are not keen on using Uber. You can get around Miami in three ways using the public transport:
The Metrorail is a 22-station commuter rail line which runs Palmetto (West Miami) to Downtown Miami and down to Dadeland (South Miami). There is also an orange line that goes to the airport.
The Metrobus operates more than 90 routes, serves areas of the city that the rail system doesn’t, like Miami Beach, Key Biscayne and as far as Fort Lauderdale.
The Metromover is a free bus-like vehicle that runs on tracks –and has three major “loops” (Omni Loop, Brickell Loop and Inner Loop). The Metromover is great if you want to explore Downtown Miami.
Where to Eat
I had dinner at one of the restaurants along South Beach for my first night in Miami, but the food was nothing special and totally not worth the price. I recommend trying these two restaurants in Miami:
Puerto Sagua - This place serves authentic Cuban food. It is not the most glamorous restaurant in South Beach but the food is good and filling, the Cuban coffee is strong and everything is affordably priced. I go to this restaurant for the authentic Cuban food. Not the décor, which is dated or the service, which is alright, but the food which is amazing.
They serve Mains such as the half chicken in Spanish sauce with rice – where the chicken is cooked to perfection, very succinct and flavourful, with the meat falling off the bones and onto the rice. I also tried the green plantains which I dipped in the black beans. This was heaven to me!
Another thing that I like about this place is that it is packed with both locals and tourists alike – in the mornings the locals outnumber the tourists and that’s saying a lot.
Yardbird – Southern Table & Bar as the name suggests serves southern cuisine with a hipster vibe.
The restaurant is well known for their biscuits. Their classic buttermilk biscuits were nice and warm, sweet with a hint of saltiness and they went well with their homemade jam. Next was the Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles - I had never had chicken and watermelon before but it was so tasty. The chicken was crispy on the outside but still juicy on the inside; the saltiness, mixed with the soft, sweet waffles, and topped with maple syrup was divine. You should also try their Southern Peach cocktail.
I was not the only one enjoying their signature dish. Everyone in the restaurant was having the same Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles, and judging from their smiles as they bit into the chicken, they were enjoying it as much as I was.
Go Clubbing In Miami
If you go to Miami without taking out time to go clubbing, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The clubs in Miami are expensive to get into (mostly for guys). If you’re a girl, you can get in for free or half-price.
Plus, if you’re on South Beach, there are lots of promoters that walk the beach promoting clubs. This, at first, can be a bit creepy; a guy just pops up out of nowhere, while you're getting a tan on, asking “ladies, so what are you doing tonight?” or “would you like to go to clubbing tonight?” But, if you’re not easily put off by such approaches, and if you’re with friends, then you should be fine. It could make for a fun night and a cheaper alternative to footing the hefty bill yourself.
Story. This club is great if you’re into music and it has a nice size dance floor, so go along with friends and you’ll have a good time.
We visited LIV. It’s one of the biggest nightclubs in Miami and is located in Fontainebleau. The club has two floors and hosts world-renowned DJs, plus, on the night we visited, Lil Wayne was on the bill. The drinks are expensive in there, but again, try getting a promoter’s contacts or buy tickets early.
Liv has a lot of energy and if you love clubbing, it’s a good place to hit up when in Miami; and it's open until 6 am.
If you’re in Miami for New Years’, I would suggest you check out the Pitbull New Year’s Revolution Concert in Bayfront Park. This was my first time spending New Year's Eve in Miami and this was definitely the cherry on the top of my trip. The line-up for the concert included Salt-N-Pepper, Nelly, Naughty by Nature, Coolio, Rob Base and the Godfather Snoop Dogg. The concert was also hosted by Snoop Dogg and Queen Latifah.
Miami has a vibe to it; a cool and laidback feel with a dash of sexiness during the day and a playful energetic feel as the neon lights on the art deco building on Ocean Drive come on. So, if you’re looking to escape the winter blues or just plain escape to somewhere lively and sunny, with amazing culture, then Miami is the city for you.
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