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So much has been said about Miami Beach — its sunny weather, palm-tree lined streets, its white-sand beaches, its flashy nightlife, impeccable sunsets, its LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere. Beyond its Instagram-famous nature, there are countless more reasons why this cosmopolitan resort city lures millions of visitors every year many times over.
Miami Beach is a natural and manmade island cradled by the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the east, and the steady Biscayne Bay in the west. It is approximately 25 minutes away from the Miami International Airport and approximately 40 minutes away from the Fort Lauderdale Airport. Coming from the mainland city of Miami (yes, it is different from Miami Beach, which is actually a separate municipality), the Beach can be accessed via coastal causeways that call for scenic drives, which are sort of previews of what’s in store for you in this resort city.
This city of about 92,000 has a big Latin American population so it helps to bring a bit of Spanish and even French Creole (street signs are in these languages, too, alongside English) when planning on visiting. As December to May are fairly warm and dry, that’s also the peak season of travel here, especially during spring break. It is hot and humid between June and September and you’ll see a drop in accommodation prices. Just be aware that hurricanes are possible between June and November.
It’s all about the beach
The Beach is a walkable city and the best way to see its sights and sounds is hands down by walking or biking. It will not only allow you to blend in with the locals but it will save you time sitting in a car in traffic, and frustration with a lack of parking space in some areas. People of Miami Beach love to be active because the city’s infrastructure is perfect for athletic activities like skateboarding, rollerblading, jogging or biking. Locals use these activities not just for fitness but also for mobility — may it be to go to their favorite coffee shop, to get to work, or basically just to move around. As an alternative mode of transportation, the hop-on, hop-off Miami Beach Trolley will take you around the town for free. It has four different routes and offers free Wi-Fi on board.
Who are visiting Miami Beach?
Local and foreign tourists visit this vibrant cosmopolitan city to soak up the sun. Who can resist the white-sand beaches that stretch from the North Shore Open Space Park down to South Point Park Pointe on a clear sunny day (which is most of the year, by the way)? And the best part of all is the beaches are just a stone’s throw away from any of the three neighborhoods — South Beach, Mid Beach and North Beach.
South Beach, also known as SoBe, is one of the most popular spots in the city. Not only does it have its world-famous beach that runs from South Pointe Park (the southernmost part of the Beach) to 23rd Street, this neighborhood is also home to the equally renowned Art Deco Historic District. This district has the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world. Hundreds of these prized structures that dot the city — like the Colony Theater on Lincoln Road and the Cavalier Hotel on Ocean Drive — take center stage during the Art Deco Weekend every January. There are also free tours that visitors can join to view and learn more about these gems. (Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the largest art shows in the US, is held here every year where exhibition sites are mostly held in the Art Deco District.)
Get your tan going and lay on the beach peppered with gorgeous bikini-clad bodies basking under the sun. As this is where all the happenings are, SoBe gets pretty crowded so make sure you claim your spot early. Also, don’t miss out on the South Pointe Park and Pier in the southernmost part of the island. There are a lot of water activities to be had here like stand-up paddleboarding, parasailing and jet skiing. Take a stroll on the boardwalk and enjoy the view of the majestic sunrises and sunsets here. Restaurants and bars could be a bit expensive but if you feel like indulging for the day, it is a nice place to wine and dine.
Not far from South Pointe is the hotel-lined Collins Avenue and the famed Ocean Drive, known for its glitzy bars, flashy cars and beautifully garbed people can be seen. When going for a night out here, it is best to take an Uber or Lyft because parking is hard to find in this area of Miami Beach. Also, be prepared to spend a hefty amount when eating out or bar hopping. Miami Beach is generally an expensive city so be prepared to pay double or triple the amount when dining or drinking in popular areas like Ocean Drive, where drinks can go up to $20 for tequila shots and $30 for cocktails.
For a respite from the bustling Ocean Drive, head to Sunset Harbor, a picturesque neighborhood by the Biscayne Bay. Sunset Harbor started to gain its popularity with the locals with its charming boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Grab a drink or two with a local while hanging out al fresco with a view of the Venetian Islands, the unique chain of artificial islands on Biscayne Bay. Dining and drinking here are fairly cheaper compared to those on Ocean Drive and other tourist areas.
For a resort feel and family-friendly vibe, Mid-Beach will get you covered. It’s calmer but also not far from the happenings of South Beach. In the heart of Mid-Beach is a burgeoning revolutionary cultural neighborhood of Faena District. The Faena Bazaar shopping center and Faena Forum, with their grandstanding architecture, are definitely a must-visit.
Miami North Beach
Meanwhile, the North Beach area is also worth a visit. Spanning from 63rd Street and 87th Street, NoBe is home to many locals that come from Argentina that a community here is called “Little Buenos Aires.” There are also many residents who hail from Latin and South American countries that live here that you will see in the vibrant display of food and culture in this neighborhood. Also in NoBe are several neighborhoods that were designated as historic where a lot of Miami Modern (MimMo) buildings can be found.
For a dose of retail therapy, head to Lincoln Road, a pedestrian-only street mall that runs east to west, parallel between 16th and 17th streets. It’s known for its restaurants with al fresco dining where one can just relax and people watch. There is also a beautiful Sunday market here, too.
Miami Beach may be expensive but there are a lot of activities that locals and tourists alike enjoy for free. There’s the Soundscape Cinema Series, an outdoor cinema that offers that screens movies at the corner of 17th Street and Washington Ave.; the 3rd Street Beach Yoga classes (which operates on a donation basis) during sunrise and sunset; an open gym at Muscle Beach; or stroll or bike on the Miami Beach Boardwalk that runs from 5th Street in South Beach to 46th Street at Indian Beach Park.
It’s not hard to fall in love with Miami Beach as you revel in reckless abandon and marvel at the island’s wonders. Many heed the call of the Beach, which appeals to even the most discerning of visitors. The lovely melodies of the ocean are beautifully weaved through the tapestry of this resort island’s soul.