Miami, Florida is a Resort City located in the Miami Dade County, Florida. It is incorporated into the United States on March 26, 1915. You should be no stranger and familiar with the typical beach and resort style setting of the area which the city is popular for. The municipality is located near the southern end of the state of Florida on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay not too far off the Caribbean sea. The strong sea presence coupled with the land boundary creates sea breezes which generally makes Miami much more cooler than inland Orlando in comparison, despite both spotting rather hot yet dry climate typical in Florida.
My journey there begins with a 4 hour overnight Greyhound express bus ride from downtown Orlando to Miami international. The Greyhound buses, like the Amtrak trains is the country’s nationwide bus service, allowing you to travel vast distances at the expense of your time on a budget. One way adult bus tickets will set you back roughly $33 each compared to $170 airplane ticket if you so choose to fly there within an hour (or 2-3 hours in total including checking-in, customs, etc, though it doesn’t actually means a faster travel by air). The buses are generally well-equipped, with air-conditioning, individual seat lighting and reasonably comfortable, American-sized spacious seats for us small Asians.
Miami itself is split into two main areas, downtown Miami and South Beach Miami. Downtown is where the commercial and corporate office areas of Miami reside, which in my personal opinion is a rather dead town with noting to see with the exception of few tall buildings, parks, a stadium (Amway stadium) and nothing else. The beach line however is where all the action happens. The neighborhood of South Beach, comprising of the southernmost 2.5 square miles of Miami Beach is home to posh chill out areas decked out with pubs, stores lush hotels complete with the iconic palm filled walkways and boulevards which many of us come to associate with Miami in the movies.
Lincoln road mall
The Lincoln Road mall just off 16 and 17th street is one of the main shopping districts of the island, which is accessible from the airport and bus terminals in downtown Miami just with a sub hour long bus ride across the causeway connecting the mainland to the south beach islands and Washington avenue. The mall was once open to vehicular traffic, but now is only pedestrian exclusive with rows of upmarket boutique, beach bum shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and galleries lining the road between Washington Avenue and Alton Road. Here you can find retailers such as All Saints London, Banana republic, Bonwit Teller, Saks Fifth Avenue, and even Cadillac and Packard car dealerships. There is even an awesome Quiksilver surf and several other surf boarding shops!
Going with the tropical theme are loads of palm tree filled parks, fountains and ponds. Over here in Miami, less is more, it’s not uncommon to see ladies just dressed in bikinis and men in singlets walking along the streets here, which is sensible given the heat of the scorching summer here. The mall is too home to the iconic Miami Beach Community Church, the Lincoln-Drexel Building, the Art Center South Florida as well as well historical landmarks of the arts such as the retro Colony Theatre and Lincoln Theatre.
Not too far off Lincoln road are the shops along 16 and 17th street, home to budget line of eateries and shops in stark contrast to the expensive neighboring neighborhood. You find most locals here, together with an eccentric mix of tourist looking for bargains. Though the place looks very much like a tourist trap, you can find some reasonably priced food stores, gift shops and provision/grocery stores here too. A decent diner meal can set you back 5 to 8 dollars which is not cut throat considering the tourist orientated atmosphere. Making a detour on Meridian Avenue moving off Lincoln road will bring you to the Miami convention center, which is too situated just beside The Holocaust Memorial and the minute Miami Beach Botanical Gardens.
Of course, no trip is complete in Miami without chilling out at south beach, the perfect place for all beach bums alike. The total beachline itself spans over 100km long but the prominent sections are very much nucleated on a 20km stretch along the Miami beach island, stretching from the Aventura, Golden beach southwards towards Fisher Island or the south beach tip. All the beaches are public and maintained by the county itself. Thankfully, there are no reserved or large pieces of the beach totally cut off, owned or condoned off by the beachside hotels, a bad practice widely practiced in Dubai. It’s just a nice long continuous stretch of pure sand, shore and the sea. Besides the all time favorite sport of surfing here, para-gliding, speedboats and jetsking are optional extras, these equipemtn can be rented or charted at any of the beachside counters dotted along the beachline. There are several lifeguard posts along the beach too, as well as recommend safe swimming areas away from the boat launch areas.
Topless beaches are rather common here, though most of them are reserved in specific “child friendly areas” of the beach, after all this is a public beach, so it’s totally up to the responsibility of the patrons here to practice self preservation of dignity if the need calls for, which I say is done rather well and discretely with the number of children playing on the beaches too. The beach also have a very strong LGBT presence, with rainbow flags planted at every corner on the beach and decorated on the lifeguard posts. Chatting with the locals here revealed many interesting folktales of the trade too, particularly the story and believe that making a wish while skinny dipping at the beach at the first break of dawn before sunrise will grant you that wish. Not that I am actually able to see myself up that early to do that!
The waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay are clear and cooling to the touch, particularly in the hot Florida climate. Here you can catch the horizon of the Atlantic disappearing into a sea of green, with nothing else in sight. Feeling like cooling off after chilling about the beach and tan? Head in for a splash from the shoreline. The cool seawater just beckons you to spend the whole day dipping in it, that is of course not without few matches of beach ping-pong and volleyball. Walking the shoreline was a breeze too- from south beach you can grasp the full view of the beachline which curves along the contoured edges of the Miami beach itself.
The beach too is well served by various showers and fountains found tucked behind the beaches. One such example are the fountains at the South Pointe Park. Maintained by the county itself, it offers a quick much needed splash of freshwater to rid of all the salt residue you pick up swimming in the ocean just before leaving the beach. Like all beaches I visit, it’s generally advisable to come dressed for the beach in all waterproof clothing (or surfwear) so you can simply just splash and go, using the hot weather to completely dry out while heading out onto the streets back onto Ocean Drive.
You will be familiar with the South Beach Miami as a popular spot for various shows and movies filmed in Miami itself, such as 2 Fast 2 Furious, Bad Boys I, II and III, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Casino Royale, Miami Vice, Transporter 2 and CSI just to name a few. The opening at the south beach just off Fisher Island is the mouth leading into the Miami harbour, the shore line walk and beach front here along south beach is home to a few lavish beach-front housings and apartments, as well as luxurious marinas decked out with yahcts of all shapes and sizes. The weather in Florida is very predictable and tends to follow a very hot morning and afternoon followed by sudden evening showers, this is too rather evident in Orlando too.
Moving around Miami is mainly done using the rather effective Miami-Dade Metrobus. On the island, these buses plying the south beach serves two major directions, uptown and downtown which is rather straightforward. A sub two hour long ride will bring you up from Washington Avenue from 16th street along scenic Ocean drive, all up to past 196th street where the Aventura mall reside.
The Aventura mall is a large 2 floored shopping center and apparently the largest in South Florida and fifth largest shopping center in the United States. It is an upscale super-regional shopping mall in the north shrubs of Aventura (thus the name). You will be greeted by the mall’s food court entrance with a jawbreaker machine upon arriving at the mall’s bus bay which seemed rather amusingly given the mall itself being branded as an upper class high end retailer. And yes, the stuff retailing here are not cheap though, there are few lifestyle shops too, as well as familar brands such as Nike and Quiksilver, besides those out of my budget such as LV, Amirani, etc.
Anchor tenants here includes Bloomingdale, JC Penney, Macys and Sears. The stores here closes around 9.30 to 10pm, so you are good for shopping till late.
Frequently featured on the crime drama TV series Miami Vice as a popular meeting place in the show, the Miami Bayside is a boat side quay and marina decked out with bayside shopping centers, pubs and eateries alike. Located at 401 Biscayne Boulevard, it was opened in 1987 and developed by The Rouse Co. and managed by General Growth Properties. The Bayside complements an existing marina, situated right in the bayfront park.
The Bayside is home to an open mini theater as well as the Miami Hardrock cafe which surprisingly, opens till late past 10pm when I visited. The nightlife is rather mellow, yet tranquil here with not much of a crowd here late at night, so if you are looking for a nice quiet night by the river side with a nice cold beer and life music playing, this is the place to hangout. Pubs and eateries such as Hooters are all open till late past midnight, despite most of the shops and restaurants in the arcade closing late at night. Many yachts and speedboats can be seen docked along here which is served by the opening at the Miami bay harbor from fisher island.
On the far south end of the area is the Bayfront Park, home to the Bayfront Park Amphitheater and the Challenger Memorial at the southern tip. Just outside the park is the The Torch of Friendship monument, dedicated in memory of president John F. Kennedy, it is located on Biscayne Boulevard in Downtown Miami. North of the downtown strip sits the Miami press and Freedom Tower Building as well as the American Airlines Arena.
That’s all mostly for Miami as a whole, it’s all just beaches, relaxations and indulges. Public transport is well served and that particularly by taxis as well, especially if you are looking to get one up to Miami international airport. A standard cab fare across all cab companies will get you to the airport $33, but do be aware of driver teams jacking prices up to $100 and above. It pays to bargain on fares to, I got a pickup fare from south beach all the way to Miami international for a flat rate of $25 on a registered Taxi cab. It was there I was told by the Latin American driver who despite of the touting most blacks cab drivers have for tourists. Stating he would rather pick up a $25 fare than no fare at all. Sometimes cabbies will go all the way to get one, so it pays to know the local rates and not be conned in the process.
It was not long before I was up on the front row of the small jet for my internal connecting flight to Pennsylvania. The flight was early, which was good but wished it were longer so I could get a better longer sleep onboard. To prepare myself for the next league of my journey in the East Coast.
- New York City & Brooklyn (Photos: New York City & Brooklyn)
- New York Hudson River Cruise, Wall street and Rockefeller Center
- American Museum of Natural History (New York) (Photos: AMNH)
- Washington D.C. (Photos: Washington D.C.)
- Newseum, Washington DC (Photos: The Newseum)
- National Gallery of Art, Washington (Photos: National Gallery of Art)
- Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC (Photos: Arlington National Cemetery)
- Smithsonian Natural History Museum (Photos: NMNH)
- Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (Photos: Air & Space Museum)
- Orlando, Florida & Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort (Photos: Disney Magic Kingdom)
- Orlando Disneyland Hollywood (MGM) Studios (Photos: Disneyland Hollywood Studios)
- NASA- Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, Cape Canaveral (Photos: Kennedy Space Center)
- Islands of Adventure, Orlando Florida (Photos: Islands of Adventure)
- Universal Studios Orlando, Florida (Photos: Universal Studios Orlando)
- Miami Florida, South Beach and Aventura mall (Photos: Miami Florida)
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Photos: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
- Cedar Point coaster kingdom, Sandusky Ohio (Photos: Cedar Point)