For a tropical city with an international flavour, there is no better place to visit than Miami. No matter what you do, there will always be a palm tree or an ocean breeze nearby, and the sights, sounds and tastes of this truly cosmopolitan metropolis are renowned for their ability to seduce and enchant. No trip to Miami would be complete without spending some time on the beach, and the most famous of these is South Beach. If the crowds get too much, however, there are many others to check out including Crandon Park. With two miles of beach beside the Atlantic Ocean and spectacular views, it is a favourite with the locals.
There is far more to Miami than its beaches, the glitz and glamour of the city's legendary nightlife, or its well-deserved status as a shopping utopia. It has a history and culture that make it as much a distinct urban environment as it is a quintessential American city. Located in the southeast of the state of Florida and on the Atlantic coast, around 5.5 million people live in the Miami metropolitan area. The summers are long, hot and humid, while the temperature remains warm in winter with many Americans heading there for sporting breaks.
South Beach, like many parts of Miami, is packed with fantastic places to eat, from trendy cafes and traditional diners to the height of fine dining. The richness of the city's cosmopolitan culture is reflected in its food where Caribbean, Cuban and Latin American influences combine with traditional American cuisine to superb effect. In fact, South Florida has created its own style of cooking, nicknamed Floribbean, which can be found in the city's restaurants and fast food outlets alike. Joining this is a myriad selection of restaurants from around the world covering most tastes and budgets, and Miami is particularly known for its seafood.
The Little Havana neighbourhood in the west of the city is the place to go for Cuban cuisine, and this is where immigrants from the island settled in the 1950s. The most iconic restaurant is the Versailles on Calle Ocho or 8th Street which also operates a bakery and takeaway service. In fact, Calle Ocho is the place to go for a taste of all things Cuban with its many cigar stores, great restaurants and locals playing traditional domino games, particularly at the time of the Calle Ocho festival in March. This annual celebration of culture, music and food from around the world regularly attracts over a million people, and is part of the city's overall Carnaval Miami.
Parks and the Great Outdoors
Miami is full of the sights and sounds of street life, but there are plenty of places to escape from it all including parks and other public spaces. The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a great example and can be found on Biscayne Bay in the Coconut Grove neighbourhood. This Italian Renaissance-style villa is well worth a visit with its museum, amazing ornamental gardens, woodland landscape and beautiful views across the bay. The stunning setting of Vizcaya has also been used for everything from weddings and film locations to presidential summits.
For those wanting a break from the beach or sports, there is always shopping, and Miami has enough places to go to keep even the most hardened shopper entertained. Shopping malls, often with factory outlets, are dotted across town. All the major fashion brands are well represented in Miami, but they are joined by trendy boutiques, independent stores and flea markets offering all manner of weird and wonderful clothes and accessories. Food fanatics will be in heaven too, as Miami has some excellent farmers' markets including those in Coconut Grove and Coral Gables. Let us not forget the annual Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival either.
Once the sun goes down, the party people come out. Whether it's bar-hopping in Coconut Grove or club-hopping on South Beach, there is no shortage of places to go and dance the night away. Miami is renowned for its nightlife and famous clubs like Space; this is the home of the annual Winter Music Conference for the dance music industry after all. Be sure to look your best on a night out in Miami as the competition is fierce, and never hit the bars and clubs before 10pm - anyone who is anyone goes out late in this city.
As with all American cities, its citizens love their sports and local teams. The Miami Dolphins and the Miami Marlins represent the city in American football and baseball respectively, while it is Miami Heat for basketball and the Florida Panthers for ice hockey. The city also boasts extensive sporting facilities, particularly for tennis and golf, and Florida's only professional soccer team, Miami FC. Tennis fans flock to the city every year for the Miami Masters tournament held in March.
Golf is synonymous with Miami, and visitors can take advantage of numerous public and private courses, many with beachfront settings. Well-known examples include the Blue Monster at Doral Golf Resort, Shula's Hotel and Golf Club, Miami Beach, Miami Shores, Biltmore Golf Course and Palmetto Golf Course. Holidaymakers can book a variety of golf package holidays staying at some of the best resorts and hotels in the city.
Other Important Items
Golf is also popular with those who are in town for a business trip or corporate event. It is hardly surprising, as Miami is one of the major financial and commercial centres in the USA. A wide range of companies have their head offices in the city, and the area around Brickell Avenue in downtown Miami houses the financial district. Brickell Avenue also has the highest concentration of international banks in the country, and is a leading force in television and music production.
Conventions are a large part of the life of the city, and perhaps the best-known destination is the Miami Beach Convention Center close to 17th Street and Washington Avenue. With its tropical backdrop of the nearby white sands and palm tree-lined streets, the centre hosts a diverse collection of business meetings, conferences and conventions as well as public events like the Miami International Boat Show and the Miami Home & Outdoor Living Show.
Tourism plays a vital role in Miami with an estimated 38 million visitors every year. Not surprisingly, the city has an impressive collection of hotels providing everything from budget rooms to opulent penthouse suites. Whether it is beachfront cool, downtown chic, or sport and spa resorts you are looking for, Miami has a huge choice of accommodation all over the city. Particularly popular are hotels on the famous Ocean Drive, just steps away from South Beach, with many built in the distinctive art deco style for which the district is well known. Fine examples include the Avalon and the Winter Haven.
For a more luxurious experience close to South Beach, prestigious modern hotels like the Shelbourne, the Delano and W South Beach all offer glorious sea views and first-class facilities, but they are expensive and often booked up well in advance. Heading to southeast Miami and the Coral Gables district can provide more affordable options which combine style with history. Coral Gables was founded in the 1920s, and has several landmarks and green spaces as well as being created with the pedestrian in mind. Numerous restaurants, delicatessens and designer shops are another feature of Coral Gables.