Greater Miami and the Beaches: Where the world comes to play
Miami lovers will tell you, there’s no place on Earth like Miami.
We’re on bucket lists.
We’re the runways of Europe mixed with South American Samba.
We’re the Fountain of Youth realized – 500 years later.
Just when you think you’ve figured us out, we reinvent ourselves again (and invite you to do the same).
Made legendary during the whimsical Art Deco era, and again when Crockett and Tubbs of “Miami Vice” thrilled us as they raced across our mysterious streets, Miami has evolved into the world’s premier playground – so much more than it ever was before. Officially called Greater Miami and the Beaches, our destination offers a fascinating blend of cutting edge of urban chic and Old World Florida, its tropical beauty calling to Ponce de Leon like a siren in 1513.
Great year-round weather, top-ranked beaches and the sparkling waters of Biscayne Bay are the backdrops for a cosmopolitan metropolis, pulsing with the rhythms of its diverse population. Boasting a now “grown up” yet playful arts and cultural landscape, renowned nightlife scene and world-class dining and entertainment, Miami invites an eclectic mix of visitors to come out and play -- from celebrities to families seeking fun in the sun. Because there are so many ways to play here, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau hosts Miami Temptations, a series of ongoing monthly promotions by theme (www.MiamiTemptations.com), such as Miami Museum Month (May), Miami Romance Month (June), Miami Spa Month (July-August), Miami Spice Restaurant Month (August-September), Miami Attractions Month (October) and Live Music Month (November).
Glorious weather has always been the main attraction, with yearly temperatures in Miami averaging 76°F. Sun-kissed days feature bluer than blue skies, dotted with surreal cotton candy clouds. Gentle breezes keep things cool throughout the day, while sultry temperatures heat up clear "Moon over Miami" evenings.
Geographically and culturally at the crossroads of Latin America, it is easy to see why Miami is an attractive destination for travelers from South America. The city is equally popular with Europeans, Canadians and domestic travelers, thanks to direct flights, great highways and a range of stylish accommodations and attractions for all budgets and lifestyles.
Located a few degrees above the Tropic of Cancer, Miami comprises a network of barrier islands, coral rock and mangrove swamps, connected by manmade additions of soaring bridges and causeways with panoramic views of Biscayne Bay. Miles and miles of white sand beaches with sultry Caribbean blue ocean waves hug the coastline. To the south and west, Everglades National Park, the third largest in the U.S. National Park System, is a unique 1.5 million-acre eco-system of sawgrass prairies, mangrove swamps, subtropical jungle and the warm waters of Florida Bay. Nearby, the primarily underwater Biscayne National Park is teeming with sea life and plants, and features living coral reefs as well as the longest stretch of mangrove forest left on Florida's east coast within its 173,000 acres.
With an unparalleled mix of ethnic and cultural groups spread throughout the sprawling city (more than 100 languages are spoken here), Miami offers a live and let live philosophy -- an essential attitude in a large city with so many different points of view. Visitors instantly pick up on the local laid-back mood; and stress melts away upon arrival at the newly revamped Miami International Airport, a short drive to most major destinations and an inspiring collection of hotels, from casual and chic boutiques to the world’s leading luxury properties.
A meandering collection of more than 35 distinct municipalities spread out over 2,000 square miles, Miami is home to over 2 million people, many of whom came here to play and never went home. Some areas, like South Beach's Art Deco District, are internationally renowned, while other less-heralded burgs like Coral Gables, Little Havana and Coconut Grove are hidden treasures waiting to be uncovered by intrepid explorers. Following is a snapshot of Greater Miami neighborhoods and towns at a glance, many of which can now be explored on double-decker bus or duck tours (amphibious buses):
South Beach/Art Deco District/Ocean Drive: To get to South Beach, which even the most cynical can agree is magical, you can follow the MacArthur Causeway like the yellow brick road from the mainland to Miami Beach’s southern tip. Along the way you will pass the eye-popping Cruise Capital of the World – the Port of Miami – with its diverse collection of sparkling white megaships carrying travelers to the Caribbean and back for more play time in Miami. You will also pass great attractions, such as Jungle Island on the left, with their wildlife shows, adorable penguins, monkeys, private encounters with the lemurs – and of course a rainbow of exotic birds. Just beyond this family attraction are a series of inhabited upscale islands, including Star Island, called home by the likes of Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, Julio Iglesias, Sean Combs. On the right you will see the high-design 56,500-square-foot Miami Children’s Museum, recognizable as the work of the award-winning Miami architectural firm, Arquitectonica.
Once in South Beach, the Art Deco District pulls you in with an imaginative collection of more than 800 architecturally protected buildings from the 1930s and 1940s -- the largest concentration of Art Deco architecture in the world. Anointed the “American Riviera,” South Beach is crowned by Ocean Drive, a worldwide catwalk of see-and-be-seen boutique hotels with models, alfresco cafés, bikini-clad in-line skaters and beaches packed with beautiful young sun seekers. Across this pedestrian-friendly town, which features the beach chic of St. Tropez with a rebellious spirit, is trendy Lincoln Road. This lively magnet for culture, entertainment and shopping is another great place to people watch, especially if you want to mingle with the locals. Across the street on the corner of Lincoln and Washington is the New World Symphony Center, the new home to the New World Symphony and world-class performing arts. The neighborhood has drawn global events, such as the über cool Art Basel Miami Beach, the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Miami Beach International Fashion Week and the Miami International Boat Show. Ever on the vanguard of nightlife, pop up bars and restaurants are becoming more popular here, such as the Broken Shaker at the Indian Creek Hotel.
Miami Beach: The rest of Miami Beach continues to thrive, reaping the benefits of its proximity to the Art Deco District's plentiful entertainment and dining offerings. Hotels that put Miami Beach on the map during the swinging 60s, including the Eden Roc and Fontainebleau are still going strong, completed updated in recent years, while neighborhoods like funky Surfside and a revitalized North Beach draw many with unpretentious charms, great local restaurants and easy beach access. North Beach (a.k.a. NoBe) -- a thriving but less crowded beach area just south of expansive North Shore Park – is fast becoming a smaller version of South Beach with its inviting oceanfront cafés. Hotels, restaurants, quaint shops, and an uninterrupted concentration of MiMo (Miami Modern) 50s- and 60s-era apartment buildings give the entire neighborhood a unique character, as does a recent influx of Brazilian and Argentine immigrants who have added character and flavor to the neighborhood with numerous shops and eateries.
Bal Harbour: Bal Harbour and the Bay Harbor Islands are quiet upscale residential communities notable for the famous Bal Harbour Shops, continually ranked one of the top shopping destinations in the world for its concentration of 100+ designer boutiques, including Gucci, Fendi, Tiffany's, Roberto Cavalli and countless others, as well as having the ultra-luxury St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort and ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa.
Sunny Isles Beach: This community is a favorite among French-Canadian and European tourists who are drawn to the laid-back casual vibe, sea grape studded-beaches and range of accommodations from affordable motel-style to a growing mix of luxurious hotels and condos -- including Trump International Beach Resort Miami, Acqualina Resort & Spa, Solé on the Ocean and Marenas Beach Resort & Spa. The city is also a great base for diving the area’s large collection of artificial reefs (Miami Dade County Artificial Reef Program), where divers can explore a wide array of objects ranging from steel hulled ships and army tanks to commercial aircraft.
Mainland – Metropolitan Miami
Downtown Miami: Downtown Miami is a hub for international business and finance, with soaring office towers and ultra-modern condominiums lining Brickell Avenue. Culture vultures young and young-at-heart flock to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami Dade County, Florida’s largest performing arts center, a symbol that Miami has firmly established itself as a sophisticated arts destination. The center houses the Florida Grand Opera and the Miami City Ballet and many world class events, and in terms of size is second in the U.S. only to New York’s Lincoln Center. Since we’re unofficially called the “sixth borough” of New York, we consider this distinction high praise indeed!
Other echoes of Miami’s “sisterhood” with New York is the city’s cutting edge urban evolution, led by Miami real-estate visionaries like Craig Robins in the Design District and Tony Goldman in the Wynwood districts on the northern fringes of downtown . The Design District, dotted with the leading home designer brand stores but open to the public, is redefining how fashion is merchandised, according to Robins, who announced in January 2012 a deal to soon bring other fashion icon brands such as Christian Dior, Fendi, Bulgari, Pucci, De Beers, Celine and Marc by Marc Jacobs. Recently opened is Cartier, Tom Ford, Zegna and Burberry.
Adjacent to the Design District and carrying on the tropical SoHo vibe is Wynwood, home to more than 100 galleries and the astonishing Wynwood Walls, an open air par dedicated to cutting-edge museum quality contemporary urban murals. Began in 2009 as a collaboration between arts guru Jeffrey Deitch and Tony Goldman, it now encompasses 40 cutting edge murals created by innovative artists from around the world, including Wynwood Doors, a collection of artwork inscribed on 176 feet of rolling storefront steel doors. The walls are open to the public free of charge, and can be enjoyed close up from the outdoor terrace of Goldman’s Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, which also features Miami cuisine and intensely colorful panoramic canvases by Berlin artist Christian Awe and an 11 foot sculpture by David Benjamin Sherry in the dining room. The latest way to explore the district is through Roam Ride’s Vespa Tours, featuring gallery and street art tours. Roam Rides also offers a Little Haiti Studio Tour, South Beach Art & Architecture Tour and eco-tours of the Redland.
Both neighborhoods host gallery nights on the second Saturday of the month, with locals and visitors passing back and forth between the adjacent neighborhoods to explore the latest art trends. Nearby in Midtown is a popular pop up restaurant The Federal Miami on Biscayne Boulevard – formerly Phuc Yeah which launched the pop up restaurant craze in Miami in recent years. New hotels are opening up in Midtown, such as the New Yorker Boutique Hotel, the first boutique hotel in the area – known for its 1950s Miami Modernism Architecture (MiMo). Fans of MiMo architecture can take guided tours in South Beach run by the Miami Design Preservation League.
Miami’s renaissance continues to the south of these districts, where Museum Park is under construction, a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly bayfront facility that is future home of the renowned Miami Science Museum, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida and the new Miami Art Museum. The 29-acre grounds, located at what is now Bicentennial Park, will include gardens and sculpture installations that the public can enjoy for free. This location is also where Cirque du Soleil comes each year with their latest jaw-dropping shows. Just to the south is the neon-accented American Airlines Arena, home to the popular Miami Heat basketball team, and Bayside Marketplace, a festive waterfront shopping and dining destination with fun cruises of celebrity homes and gambling excursions.
Just south of Bayside Marketplace is Bayfront Park Ampitheater, a popular concert venue near a growing number of luxury downtown properties such as the Viceroy, Epic, JW Marriott Marquis, Hotel Beaux Arts, Conrad Miami, Casa Moderna Miami and the Mandarin Oriental, Miami. Near these luxury properties is the oldest bar in Miami, Tobacco Road, featuring great local rock and blues bands. Tobacco Road is one of the most popular sites for Miami Food Trucks, held every first Saturday of the month and serving up great gourmet, street and ethnic dishes (held at Wynwood Art Walk every second Saturday). Nearby is Mary Brickell Village, a thriving outdoor center for entertainment, shopping and dining hotspots. Those looking for a more hands-on culinary experience can take a day cooking class at Miami Dade Community College’s Miami Culinary Institute.
Overtown: Just north of downtown, one of Miami's oldest African-American neighborhoods, Overtown, is on the upswing. In its heyday in the 1920s through 1940s, Overtown was Florida's version of Harlem – a thriving black community where businesses and community life prospered, including an entertainment district anchored by the historic Lyric Theater. Today, revitalization is underway to restore the neighborhood's historical legacy with renovations of the Lyric, the Greater Bethel AME Church and the D.A. Dorsey House (home of Miami's first black millionaire.)
Little Havana: It is rumored that one could spend a whole day in Little Havana without hearing a word of English spoken. Saturated with Cuban culture, Little Havana's main thoroughfare, Calle Ocho (Eighth Street) is lined with comfort food restaurants featuring Latin specialties and cafes where men sip cafecitos and play dominos and argue about politics all day. Here, artisans still hand-roll cigars, and tailors create custom guayaberas (traditional linen shirts), while the sounds of salsa and merengue fill the air. For those who want to dive deeper into the flavors of the Latin Quarter, Miami Culinary Tours offers Little Havana Food Tours (and other neighborhoods such as South Beach). Although Little Havana remains Cuban to the core, the area reflects the neighborhood’s reputation as the “Ellis Island of Miami,” with many other Spanish-speaking immigrant groups from all over South and Central America coming to start their American dream. On the outskirts of this rich cultural neighborhood is the historic Miami River Inn, Miami’s only B&B.
Despite rumors, you can hear English here, and Anglos and Latinos mingle more and more on Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays), an open house on the first Friday of the month where people can check out Latin American gallery art and live artistic performances. Those who’d rather spend their day watching sports can check out the sleek new Miami Marlins Park(Opened April 2012) featuring a state-of-the-art retractable roof and an operable wall in left field providing fans with spectacular views of downtown Miami.
Coconut Grove: South of downtown where the foliage becomes lush and tropical, Coconut Grove was legendary in its heyday as an arts colony. Today, the culturally diverse locality draws throngs of tourists and residents to its restaurants and cafés, art galleries, boutiques, movie theaters, farmers markets, and bookstores. The galleries open up for parties on the first Saturday of the month, inviting locals and visitors to soak up the local culture. Home to popular attractions like Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, (an Italian Renaissance mansion), and the Barnacle, historic home of Miami pioneer Ralph Monroe, the Grove honors its artistic roots each February with the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, the nation's largest annual outdoor celebration of visual arts and crafts. It also nods to its Bahamian roots each June with the Miami Goombay Festival, and its beatnik past on New Year’s weekend with the low-budget but hilarious King Mango Strut, a political spoof parade.
Miami International Airport (MIA) is the largest gateway between the United States and Latin America, and is one of the largest airline hubs in the United States (more than 100 airlines). In 2011 the airport ranked first in the United States by percentage of international flights and second by volume of international passengers, behind only New York-JFK. In 2011, more than 38 million passengers traveled through the airport, making the airport the 26th busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic. The airport also ranks as the 12th busiest airport in the United States by annual passenger count and handles more international cargo than any other airport in the United States.
If you haven’t been to MIA in the past few years, you won’t recognize it today. With extensive renovations – including new concourses featuring soaring ceilings, unique local art collections, as well as more shops and restaurants -- the airport now reflects Miami’s status as a world-class destination. The new sky train is a joy to all who travel in Terminal D, extending one mile from baggage claim to the end of the terminal. One of the biggest improvements is the new Rental Car Center (RCC), known as the Grand Central Station of Miami. All of the 16 rental car agencies are located under one roof and public transportation by Tri-Rail, bus and taxi depart from the terminal.
The final stage of the airport modernization is the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC) that connects the Rental Car Center with the Metrorail, allowing the passengers to arrive at the airport and get to downtown Miami without ever leaving the airport.
Many travelers coming into MIA come to play in the destination before or after a cruise. If you haven’t yet been to this jaw-dropping Port of Miami, chances are you probably will one day. No other port in the world beats Miami in terms of cruise passengers, making it truly the Cruise Capital of the World. More than 4.1 million passengers come to cruise to the Caribbean and beyond, and many of the world’s biggest cruise companies are headquartered here. To accommodate growing passengers, the port has undergone many upgrades in the past few years, including new terminals and a new more efficient baggage delivery system. Visitors driving down the MacArthur Causeway will see towering ships with logos such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines. December 2012 welcomes Disney Cruise Line to the roster, with the Disney Wonder calling Miami homehome for a series of four- and five-night sailings from Miami to the Bahamas and the Western Caribbean.
Coral Gables: Designed and planned in the 1920 by early Miami developer George Merrick, Coral Gables features beautiful Mediterranean-style homes and winding waterways. “The Gables” is renowned for world-class dining as well as its flock of top galleries that present the crème de la crème of Latin American and Spanish art. A great time to visit is First Fridays, when the galleries all have open houses – much like other neighborhoods across the city.
Coral Gables is also home to the Village of Merrick Park, one of Miami's most upscale shopping Mecca’s, with more than 100 haute couture fashion and home décor shops and boutiques, as well as several gourmet restaurants in a lushly landscaped setting. Across town is another shopping hotspot Miracle Mile, also known as “Bridal Row” where brides-to-be can find an astounding collection of gowns, invitations, cake designs, rings and accessories in one walkable area.
The neighborhood is also home to the National Historic Landmark Biltmore Hotel, with the largest hotel pool in the contiguous U.S. and the Venetian Pool, a local swimming hole straight out of Venice. The Gables is also famous for the University of Miami, as well as Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, a premier tropical botanic garden with the largest selection of tropical plants, vines and flowering trees and palms in the world.
Key Biscayne: This secluded paradise is just a few miles from downtown yet worlds apart, with miles of hiking and biking trails, boating and water sports, beaches that continually rank in the top ten, top-notch tennis and golf facilities and upscale resort properties. It is home to Miami Seaquarium, which features the Dolphin Harbour which includes the Dolphin Odyssey and Dolphin Encounter programs. The park offers aquatic shows with the dolphins, killer whales and adorable seals and is known as the former setting of the popular 1960s television show Flipper. Recently the park launched Sea Trek Reef Encounters, where you don’t need a scuba certification to take an underwater walking journey through a 300,000 gallon tropical reef with colorful fish, sting rays and a variety of unique sea creatures.
Nearby is the landmark restaurant Rusty Pelican, recently renovated and still offering one of the best bay views of Downtown Miami in town. This upscale beach community is also where you can find Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, with its historic lighthouse built in 1825 and reconstructed in 1846 -- the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. Visitors come to the park to sunbathe, swim and picnic on more than one mile of sandy Atlantic beachfront, often ranked among the top beaches in America.
If you’re a tennis fan, you’ll want to make your way over the Rickenbacker Causeway to Crandon Park Tennis Center and Stadium -- home to the Miami Open, a 12-day tournament featuring the top 96 men and women tennis players in the world. If golf is more your game, the center is adjacent to the Crandon Park Golf Course, rated among the top 75 municipal golf courses in the country.
North of Miami: Considered part of greater North Miami Beach, Opa Locka, designed in the 1920s as an Arabian Nights fantasy, features the largest concentration of Moorish architecture in the Western hemisphere. In addition to North Miami, North Miami Beach (home to the Ancient Spanish Monastery) and other primarily residential areas, the northern part of the city is home to Aventura, known for towering luxury condos, Turnberry Isle Miami with its great golf courses and wonderful shopping at the mammoth Aventura Mall. Just 20 minutes from downtown, Sun Life Stadium, host to the Miami Dolphins football, straddles the county line. The Miami Lakes and Doral areas feature some of the finest golf courses, such as Shula’s Hotel & Golf Club and Doral Golf Resort & Spa Miami. Speaking of golf, Miami is home to one of four World Golf Championship events, the CA Championship.
Rural Miami – Old Florida Splendor
South of Miami: The agricultural bounty of Miami's mild climate becomes apparent as visitors head south of Miami to Redland and Homestead, with vast fields of strawberries, tomatoes and other fresh produce, en route to Miami’s two unique national parks (the only city to boast two!). One of the most famous farm stands is Robert Is Here, a popular stop on the way to the parks. The roadside stand has garnered international acclaim for fresh fruit shakes and unusual produce. Everglades National Park, a World Heritage site, features an untamed ecosystem unlike any other on earth with an astounding collection of creatures, from alligators to tropical birds. You can drive to many sites in the park at the Florida City entrance, and you can kayak, canoe, or take a naturalist-led boat tour of the back country and Florida Bay. At the northern entrance of the park, along the Tamiami Trail (near the native tribe’s Miccosukee Resort & Gaming), there are guided tram tours and self-guided bike tours of Shark Valley. Airboat rides are not allowed inside the park, but can be found at local vendors nearby.
Biscayne National Park (90 percent of which is underwater and features the only living tropical reef in the continental U.S.), a stone’s throw from Homestead-Miami Speedway (hosts the final races of the season in all three of NASCAR's series), is a great place for diving, glass bottom boat riding or snorkeling. Many of the area's tourist attractions are also located here, including Zoo Miami, Monkey Jungle, Schnebly’s Winery & Brewery (wines made from tropical fruits), Everglades Alligator Farm (with cool airboat rides) and the Fruit and Spice Park (tropical agricultural paradise with a café). It is also home to Coral Castle Museum, featured on many mystery TV shows. This impressive stone sculpture garden, carved secretly by one man, Edward Leedskalnin from 1923 to 1951, is made from over 1,100 tons of coral rock – an accomplishment that remains a mystery today.
Throughout this region, and up near the urban areas to the north, you can take advantage of a wide Miami-Dade Parks EcoAdventures -- a wide variety of exciting naturalist-guided excursions for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts that combine adventure, recreation, and natural history. Discover South Florida’s natural treasures as you kayak, snorkel, bike, or hike in this remarkable sub-tropical environment.
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) is an independent not-for-profit sales and marketing organization whose mission is to attract visitors to Greater Miami and the Beaches for leisure, business and conventions. For a vacation guide, visit www.MiamiAndBeaches.com or call 1-888-76-Miami (US/Canada only) or 305-447-7777. To reach the GMCVB offices dial 305-539-3000. Meeting Planners may call 1-800-933-8448 (US/Canada only) or 305-539-3071 or visit www.MiamiMeetings.com.