“I only came for two days of playing
This the type of town I could spend a few days in
Miami the city that keeps the roof blazin’”
Miami – Will Smith
With its tropical weather, thriving art scene, gorgeous beaches, and cultural gems, Miami is, as Will Smith says, definitely bringing the heat. Offering a plethora of options for sun, fun, and culture, it’s little wonder that Miami is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US.
“I only came for two days of playing” more or less on either side of a cruise out of the Port of Miami, and this is what I did, where I eat and where I stayed.
Day 1 (South Beach)
Sandy beaches, palm-lined streets, and early-20th-century architecture are the hallmarks of this much-loved area of Miami. I spent my time in the South Beach area, around the world-famous Ocean Drive, pointing at and snapping pictures of buildings I recognized from a long list of Hollywood films and tv shows that were filmed there, including Bad Boys, Miami Vice, The Birdcage, and the cult classic, Scarface.
Ocean Drive is in the heart of Miami’s Art Deco District, boasting the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world. While it only comprises one square mile, the Art Deco District is home to more than 800 significant structures and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The most prominent styles of buildings, which were constructed between the 1910s – post-WW2, are Mediterranean Revival, Art Deco, Streamline Moderne & Miami Modern or “MiMo”. I roamed around the district on my own because of time restrictions, however, I would suggest a visit to the Art Deco Welcome Center to help you better navigate the area. In addition to walking and self-guided audio tours, the Welcome Center offers lectures, exhibits, and other educational events.
Other things to do in Miami Beach… Eat, drink, and be merry. Miami Beach is the place to see and be seen, and with numerous cafes, restaurants, and bars, it’s the epicenter of Miami’s nightlife.
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And then there’s the actual beach, and since Miami heat is a year-round thing, taking advantage of it on the pristine white sand beach is a must. And while you’re on the beach, do get a gander of the cool lifeguard towers dotted along the sand. The FUNctional design and bright colors reflect the historic architecture and lively spirit of Miami.
The first towers were built in the 1990s to replace those lost to Hurricane Andrew, with several more added in the following decades. Today 36 towers in various colors and styles branded with the city logo can be found all along the beach.
Also in South Beach is Lincoln Road. Known as Miami’s living room, Lincoln Road is a 10-block pedestrian promenade filled with shops, eateries, and entertainment. As is the case with much of South Beach, Lincoln Road also has some of the interesting Art Deco architecture with one shop even occupying a building that was once the Cadillac dealership with the original exterior signage on display.
After shopping and sightseeing, it was time for dinner. I chose Lincoln Road over Ocean Drive because of its more casual atmosphere. Spris Artisan Pizza caught my eye and the delicious thin-crust, authentic brick oven pizza did not disappoint. I sat on the patio and enjoyed my meal alfresco while people-watching and listening to the live music coming from one of the other restaurants nearby.
Day 2 (Wynwood Art District, Little Havana & Bayside Market Place)
From the whimsical Art Deco District to the funky murals and street art of Wynwood Art District. The former industrial neighborhood turned trendy art district is home to more than 70 galleries, museums, and collections, including Wynwood Walls, a 70,000-square-foot outdoor gallery featuring curated street art, and the newly opened Museum of Graffiti, a permanent forum to celebrate and preserve the art genre’s history. You can visit the Wynwood Walls for free from 10:30 a.m. daily or take one of the numerous tours available. I took a photo tour of Wynwood Walls and district through Air BnB Experiences.
Wynwood is also where I had lunch. When Miami resident and fellow travel blogger, Sarah of the website JetSetSarah heard I was going to be spending time in the neighborhood, she recommended Wynwood Kitchen & Bar.
This incredibly hip restaurant located within the Wynwood Walls offers indoor or outdoor seating, with stunning murals all around, and serves global cuisine with a Latin twist on small plates that are perfect for sharing.
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After Wynwood, I made a quick trip through Little Havana, the area where hundreds of thousands of political exiles from Cuba settled in the late 1950s. Once home to nearly 90% of Miami’s Cuban population, in recent years the residents have become more diverse. However, Cuban culture and cuisine still dominate. When visiting Little Havana, don’t miss Calle Ocho, the neighborhood’s beating heart and home to the world’s largest street festival, which takes place annually in March. The Bay of Pigs Monument and Museum, Little Havana’s Walk of Fame and the Cuban Memorial Boulevard are also worth seeing.
My last stop of the day was Bayside Market Place. The 2-story open-air shopping center sits on the banks of Biscayne Bay and is pretty popular with tourists since it is the hub for bus and harbor tours. Bayside Market Place is one of the locations used for the hit 80s TV show Miami Vice. Detective Sonny Crockett’s houseboat (with its guard gator, Elvis) was docked in the marina.
Where I Stayed
As I mentioned previously, I was in Miami on either side of a cruise out of the Port of Miami, which gave me the chance to stay at a couple of different hotels.
One of the hotels was the Pullman Miami Hotel. This 4-star hotel with Art Deco décor is located just minutes from the airport and its amenities include an outdoor pool, 24-hour fitness center, and dining options that range from a restaurant, a small café and a bar/lounge. The spacious rooms come equipped with a refrigerator, coffee/tea maker, a 42-inch flat-screen TV, and free WiFi.
Pullman Miami offers a full range of parking and transportation options including self-parking free roundtrip airport shuttle, and shuttles to the shopping center and cruise terminal at an extra cost.
I also stayed at the YVE Hotel Miami. The 3-star design hotel is in the city center and within walking distance to a number of shopping areas, restaurants, and the sports and entertainment center, American Airlines Arena. YVE has a 24-hour fitness center, restaurant (which was closed for renovation when I was there), bar/lounge and free WiFi throughout the hotel. The small rooms were stylishly decorated and had a coffee/tea maker, iPod docking station, and a 32-inch flat-screen TV. Like the Pullman, shuttles to the cruise terminal are available at an extra cost.
Have you ever been to Miami? If so, what tips and recommendations do you have to offer?
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