miami

Miami beaches and short sightseeing tours

welcome to the beaches!

Miami beach

Image  Flickr

a brief historical summary

Ten thousand years ago the Calusa indians inhabited the area from Key West to the center of what is now Miami. They died of disease and war against the Spaniards or were later absorbed by the Seminoles.  The first  Spanish explorers who reached Miami were Vicente Yanez Pinzon and Americo Vespucio in 1498. They obviously did not love the place for they never returned.  Fifteen years later arrived Juan Ponce de Leon, who was Governor of Puerto Rico and had gone on a trip to find the fountain of youth, which he did not find either because it did not exist or because of the Indians, who killed him by an arrow shot.  He called the area La Florida, in honor of the Pascua Florida, which meant a feast of flowers, Spain’s Easter celebration.  The name Miami comes from the Calusa word “Mayami,” meaning “Big Water”, perhaps in allusion to the Miami River.

Ponce de Leon

The Spaniards continued sending adventurers and explores to see if they could conquer the Indians, with no success, until in 1565 came to the area an expedition led by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, who is said was looking for his son who had been lost in a shipwreck the year before.  No one knows if he succeeded or not but it is known that he stayed and founded the first city in Florida, San Agustin, about an hour or so north of Orlando. For 150 years San Agustin had to defend itself first of the French, then of Francis Drake, the pirate, later of the British until 1763, when finally Britain gained control of Florida.

Twenty years after Spain regained Florida but not for long, because they had to sell to it the U.S.. Meanwhile to the south, in the Miami area, the Seminole Indians lived peacefully, not for long.  When the U.S. took possession of Florida encountered conflict with the Seminoles living there, who refused to leave their land.  During the three Seminole Wars, the Seminoles defended themselves as best they could, but eventually had to migrate to reserves and a few remained in the Everglades. Nowadays the Seminole Tribe of Florida has matured both politically and financially, so much that their investments include several hotels and casinos.

In 1920 the authorities of Miami allowed gambling and were very lax in regulating prohibition, so thousands of people migrated from the northern United States to the Miami region.  Prices rose five times and life became very expensive, until a great hurricane destroyed the city in 1926.  Miami experienced a great rise after World War II and in 1959 many middle class and upper class Cubans moved to Florida and formed Little Havana.  Today more than one-half of Dade County’s two million residents are Hispanic, making it the largest county in the nation with a Hispanic majority. With their wide array of cultures, languages, lifestyles, and festivals, Miami represents one of America’s most vibrant, colorful communities.

640px-Miamiskyline20080113

neighbourhoods

downtown  This is the center of Miami and includes the port and the Brickell area, where the lavish office towers and buildings are.  It is called Brickell because of Mr. and Mrs. Mary Brickell, who opened  up a store south of the area, had five children and lived on Brickell Mansion. The Downtown Main Street is Flager (named after Henry Flager who took the railroad to Miami) People use the Metromover to move around the area, it serves primarily as a fast and easy way to travel within the greater Downtown Miami neighborhoods. The system is composed of three loops and 21 stations,  it’s free and runs from Brickell Avenue to Omni . It’s a great way to go over the city center, just leave your car  and climb to the Metromover and sightsee everything from above.

coconut grove and coral gables Is Miami’s South Side. The Coconut Grove is the oldest neighborhood of Miami, and according to some reviews is a neighborhood “full of fun, filled with art galleries, trendy cafes, elitist snob places”. Located after Brickell Avenue, to the south, between US1 and Biscayne Bay. Here is the Coco Walk, an open air  shopping destination, though there are not many stores there today. A very nice restaurant in the Coconut Grove is the Green Street Cafe, 3468 Main Hyway. Make a tour along the surrounding streets for people watching and sightseeing. Coral Gables and Coral Way are also a very nice drive, the Old Cutler Road is divine, is the one with all those spectacular banyan trees, there’s the Fairchild Botanic Garden. 

800px-Old_Cutler_Road_20100321

little Havana  Is the Cuban hub of Miami, the 8th Street is the center of the neighborhood. There and back are all the restaurants, shops, artisans etc. It is on the west side of Brickell Ave

Miami - Little Havana - Calle Ocho - Photo taken with my iPhone

Image Flickr

key Biscayne  You know, it’s the Key across the bridge. It used to be a coconut plantation and now wealthy people live there.  Has beautiful beaches and is home of the Sony Ericsson Open, the well-known tennis tournament.

South BeachArt Deco District  Ocean Drive between 6th and 7th streets up to 15th street, from there grab Collins Ave towards 17th street, then return by Collins Ave. Always looking up. The Meridian Avenue also has some good art deco buildings

Design District  Walk the Design District early afternoon or better at noon, see the art galleries, designer fashion stores, restaurants, trendy bars and clubs. Located at 39th and 40th Streets 39, between NE 2 Avenue and North Miami Avenue. You should go by car, crossing the Julia Tuttle Causeway (the extension of the Airport Expressway). You should not miss the Wynwood Art Walk,  NW 2 Avenue between 22 and 26 streets and the Wynwood Walls -167 NW 25 St. is the same as the Design District, but trendiest.

Miami - Wynwood: Wynwood Walls

Image Flickr

beaches

The best beach and the most comfortable  is surely the one in front of your hotel, that if we stay in a beachfront hotel.  However there are also other options such as the following.  Within South Beach the perfect spots are 17th Street, one of the main streets of Miami Beach which takes you directly to Collins Ave and the beach and between 3 and 4 Street.  North of Miami, along the Broward County A1A Scenic Highway there are excellent spots to enjoy a day at the beach:  Sunny Isles, Hollywood,  Lauderdale by the Sea, Pompano Beach, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach.  South of Miami, Crandon Park on Key Biscayne is one of the best Miami Beaches and a favorite  spot for families.

Haulover Beach 8.21.09

Haulover Beach  Image Flickr

Nikki Beach  located at One Ocean Drive is comprised of a large oceanfront complex featuring an outdoor beach club, a restaurant and a nightclub . A nice place to enjoy music, lounge beds and full beach bar. Dress code at Nikki Beach includes casual day wear and beach chic attire.

Nikki beach

Image Nikki Beach

La Piaggia Beach Club  1000 South Pointe Drive.  Go  for a drink and people watch on a Sunday evening.

La Piaggia

Image La Piaggia Beach Club

short tours for children and adults

Miami Sea Aquarium   Marine Park on the Biscayne Bay, minutes from downtown, the Port of Miami and the airport.  The Miami Sea Aquarium houses marine mammals, sharks, sea turtles and manatees, among other.

Miami_Oceanarium

Miami Metro Zoo   Miami Metro zoo is not a conventional zoo, it has more than 100 acres of woods and meadows in which are housed about 800 exotic species in a natural environment.  Metrozoo is too large to cross it on foot so there are different options to make the visit more convenient including the monorail, the Safari Tram Tours and pedal cars.

640px-Flamingos_Miami_MetroZoo

Image Wikipedia

Watch a game of the Miami Heats  The Heats are a professional NBA basketball team  based in Miami, Florida.  It’s really an unforgettable show to go see a game of the Heats, and is worth not to miss it.  Check schedules at the website.

Rapids Water Park   West Palm Beach.  Just one hour from North Miami, this water park is the best in the area, otherwise one would have to go to Orlando that is quite farther away.  Check opening hours at the website.

Tour the waters of the Biscayne Bay.   Sightseeing Tours depart from Bayside Marketplace in Downtown Miami and there are several options. The Thriller Miami are Miami Vice style speedboats that make the journey in 45m and costs $ 32 adults and $19 children. Miami Aquatours are large ships and costs  $27 adults and $19 children.
The Island Queen Cruises has several options, group rate is $22 adults and $14 kids for the Sightseeing Tour, Sightseeing Evening Tour is cheaper, $15 adults and $15 children. If purchased online costs $3 less each

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Fairchild Tropical Garden Botanical Garden  Great option to spend the day with your family in a beautiful setting with an extense variety of rare tropical plants, a large collection of palms, flowers and small lakes in direct contact with nature.  The garden, which is known as the tropical beach oasis, also offer many outstanding events throughout the year, including afternoon tea and festivals. There is also a store where you can get treasures for lovers of gardening.

fairchild-tropical-botanic-garden

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden

South Pointe Park   1 Washington Ave.   I love this place. Go at sunset before or after a walk along the south side of Ocean Drive (between 1 and 5). It is best for watching cruises in and out of the port, dine in Smith & Wollensky or Monty’s and rent bikes for a ride along the boardwalk.

Bass Museum of Art   2100 Collins Avenue (between 21 and 22) Is a fine arts museum with objects from the fifteenth to the twentieth century.  Check the temporary exhibitions.

New World CenterNew World Symphony   Designed by Frank Gehry and located in South Beach, the New World Center is home of the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestra Academy.  Worth a visit, check the Calendar of Events.

The Everglades  The Everglades is a major moorland with a wild beauty and a large number of exotic animals that inhabit the place, the area has been declared World Heritage Site, Biosphere Reserve and Wetland of International Concern.  Wear repellent and long sleeves, do not leave the trails, there are no food stalls, costs $ 10 per car entry. The two best options are:

  1. Enter through the entrance of Homestead, the further south, and start at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center. Near this entrance is a very nice place called Robert Is Here, ideal for taking a milk shake of key lime pie and eat some fruit. Once inside, at the Visitor Center you will get all the information you need.  Some 6km further stroll across the Anhinga Trail in the Royal Palm State Park, here you will see crocodiles, turtles, birds of all kinds and the long-neck water birds  that give the name to the ride. There are no air boat tours on this side of the park.
  2. Enter through the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail / SW 8th St.) In the Shark Valley there are two trails , ask for information at the the Visitor Center. Also there is a tram ride, you should book in advance. Along the Tamiami Trail there are several air boat tours, a good one is the Gator Park Everglades Tours.  Drive along the Shark Valley Loop, a journey through the Big Cypress National Preserve,  24 miles starting at the intersection of HWY 41 and the Loop Road in Monroe Station. The speed limit is 20-10miles, that’s why you have to take time to do so.

Everglades_and_Turner_River

Everglades Waterway

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