You may only know of the stereotypes when you think of Miami: everybody’s tanned and gets around on roller-skates, every day is a party and no spot beats the famous beach.
But there is more to Miami than you think… did you know that it has the largest cruise ship port in the world? No? We didn’t either! And it’s one of the nation’s busiest cargo ports.
So read this guide to find out why you should be visiting Miami and discover all the surprising facts about the beach most famously known for its white sandy beaches…
This is a place where the real Miami stereotype comes alive (but would it really be the same if you couldn’t witness it?) A beach that’s both contemporary and historical yet tiny and diverse, and where you’ll be sure to see hyper tanned models gliding past on Rollerblade’s with pastel art deco buildings in the background. But it’s not just about sunbathing and looking good, there’s a surprising amount of entertainment and sights to see and a hidden history to it too…
Did You Know: Miami is the only major U.S city to be founded by a woman…girl power!
You can start with South Pointe park which sits on the edge of the beach where the white sand is swapped for fresh grass and you’re surrounded by the Atlantic ocean. There’s wonderful views to enjoy as people ride bikes and skateboards past you in the sun; there’s an interactive water feature, too. If you’re feeling active you can head to Shake-A-Leg Miami Water Sports and have a go at kayaking, canoeing, recreational sailing or power boating!
For those of you who prefer to sit back and relax there’s the Colony Theatre (built in 1934, and let’s face it, that’s ancient for America!) where you can watch comedy, dance or one-off theatre shows. Miami City Ballet is one of the largest companies in the U.S with 51 dancers and a repertoire of 100 ballets, too! There’s lots of stylish accommodation to stay in at the beach itself that faces the sea front if you want to be close to all of the entertainment.
Those of you who love to splash the cash can even be satisfied here with the shops you can find at the beach! Base USA has a funky collection of coffee tables, books and candles, whilst C. Madeline’s sells throwbacks to 1920 and 1970’s fashion, along with brands like Gucci and Chanel. South of 5th street is a place known worldwide for its crab claws so head to Joe’s Stone Crab if you fancy something so worth trying that there’s a queue just to register your name. But don’t worry, Big Pink offers you a menu of American favourites (even TV dinners on a tray!) where it’s wallet-friendly and beach attire is welcome.
Did You Know: An average of 22,000 New Yorker’s move to this South Florida metropolis each year (by contrast: only 11,000 move to LA and around 6,000 relocate to San Francisco).
Art Deco District
You might be surprised to hear that Miami is well known for its art! It contains more than 800 buildings that date from the 1920’s to the 1940’s, making it home to the world’s largest collection of Art Deco architecture- and it has even made it on to the National Register of Historic Places (who’d have thought it!) Take a walk along Ocean Drive, north of 5th street, discovering the strikingly geometric structures along your way until you come to the Art Deco District Welcome Centre. You can involve yourself in a self-guided audio tour and learn about the art history to Miami you never thought existed!
Did You Know: The buildings were originally painted white with a subtle pastel trim until a preservationist came along in the 80s and demanded for it to be more attention seeking, which is why they’re now an iconic candy colour!
Visitors will also learn about preservation and awareness of the Art Deco District through the official walking tour, lectures, films and exhibits. You can choose from a self-guided tour or private tour and discover all sorts of information on the performing arts, attractions, national parks, museums, monuments and transit throughout Greater Miami and the beaches (we don’t know about you but a museum tour sounds bearable if it’s in the city which hasn’t seen snow since January 1977! The chances of a white Christmas are below 1%!)
Cuba in Little Havana
If you haven’t already heard of it, this is the famed Cuban neighbourhood, just west of Downtown, that’s testament to the American dream pursued by the many Cubans that fled to Miami when Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. You’ll find Mediterranean-style coral rock and stucco houses with rocking chairs and pastel painted front porches.
Miami honours Cuba’s past with Memorial Boulevard where an eternal flame burns in memory of those killed in the Bay of Pigs invasion, and Calle Ocho represents the culture of Cubans in their city. The stretch is vibrant and Cuban music comes from the open doors of Latin record stores and the sidewalk is marked with the pink marble stars; this is the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame. Little Havana’s version of the Hollywood attraction recognizes Cuban celebrities and even Cuba’s most famous salsa singer.
Only a 15 minute bus ride from central Little Havana is the neighbourhood’s most famous culinary landmark, Versailles, which is a huge, mirror lined restaurant which serves as a memorable visit for Cubans; it’s a lively spot for families at weekends and Cuban men hang around the bar counter talking Cuban politics and reminiscing.
Did You Know: The city gets its name from one of the native tribes that lived in the region in the 1600’s and 1700’s: the Mayaimi.
If you’re into jam packed entertainment with tons of variety (okay, who isn’t when you’re on holiday!) then Carnival Miami is a good place to start. It’s the largest fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana as it’s been raising money for educational scholarships and community service programmes since 1978! The club helps bring community orientated, cultural events to South Florida by bringing people together to celebrate Latin culture.
And if you want to find some crazy events where you’ll see five year old’s with Rapunzel hair and people intensely competing to make the best cake, you’ll definitely find it here in Miami with ten days of beauty pageants, culinary competitions, galas and upscale Latin jazz performances, with the grand finale being Little Havana’s 23-block street party. Over a million people gather here to watch live entertainment on 30 stages featuring salsa and Caribbean music- what a celebration!
Did You Know: Miami’s average temperature during the winter is 60-75 degrees, making it the warmest U.S location during the season- well we know where we’re heading when we fancy a Christmas getaway!
Miami’s Children Museum
That’s right, Miami caters specifically for the kids too with a little world designed just for them. The parents can appreciate it too with its futuristic design by a Miami-based architecture firm, Arquitectonica. The interactive kids playground offers kids the Castle of Dreams, a 2 storey mosaic tiled sandcastle with a winding slide, a sea room designed for under 5’s and the world’s most cultural teddy bear exhibit (come on now, where else can you get this?)
Despite the innovative and colourful entertainment for the young ones, the activities that celebrate the mundane tend to be a big hit with them: a mock Bank of America where they can design their own currency with fake cheques and learn about financial literacy, plus a supermarket with checkout lanes and shopping carts.
Did You Know: The first suntan lotion invented was by Miami beach pharmacist, Benjamin Green, in 1944!
Established in 1962, Miami Beach Botanical Garden provides guests with a serene escape from the bustle of the city with free entry to 2.6 acres of calm greenspace. The oasis showcases Florida’s native plants and trees with cascading fountains framing the Great Lawn.
Although, it’s not all just plant life! You can shop for local produce at the weekly farmers markets and can have a free self-guided phone tour that’ll give you information on the history of the garden. Plus there’s annual events you could fit your holiday around like the botanical bazaar, Halloween party and tour of Miami beach gardens.
Did You Know: Miami has more than 800 parks and is the only U.S city surrounded by two national ones: Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park. (Top tip: if you’re heading to Biscayne Park remember that more than 95% of it is covered in water so you’ll have to head to the campgrounds by boat!)
Those were just some of the things you would never have expected to be find in Miami! Have you been to Miami before or would you like to go? Which attraction is your favourite? Are you into discovering different cultures within different cities or are you just a sucker for the beach life? Leave us your comments below…