48 Hours in: Miami
There is perhaps nothing Canadians love more than escaping to Florida over the winter. In 2016, 3.7 million Canadians made the journey south to The Sunshine State, many of whom have long-term vacation properties to wait out Canada’s most frigid season indefinitely. For those who just have a weekend to soak up the sun, here’s how to spend 48 hours in Miami.
Miami South Beach
If you’ve never been to Miami, South Beach is where you’ll want to start. It’s got that quintessential Miami vibe with old Art Deco buildings juxtaposed with colourful neon signage and that balmy ocean breeze.
This is the best area to book your hotel, but don’t bother paying the premium for “waterfront” hotels as the beach in many places is a little distance from the nearest accomodations and it’s completely public along the entire stretch from north to south. Check around Collins Avenue a couple streets back from the beach for better deals.
Head to Ocean Drive for a stroll after sunset when the lights are glistening and luxury cars cruise by breezy, colourful dresses. Miami can be expensive, so plan to go out a bit earlier from 5-7 and you’ll catch the Happy Hour two-for-ones on drinks and appetizers.
It’s a way from the beach but Bodega Taqueria y Tequila on 16th Street is well worth it for US$2 tacos and discounted cocktails in a trendy warehouse conversion. If it’s lunch you’re after, park yourself on a stool at La Sandwicherie, an open-air counter that serves up massive baguette sandwiches. Try the signature tropical with avocado, mozzarella, black olives, papaya, mango and pineapple.
Head inland to find Little Havana, Miami’s Cuban hub. Here you’ll find Latin American art galleries, clubs playing Latin music and of course a glut of cigar shops. Pop into El Rey De Las Fritas for an authentic Cuban frita and a Cuban coffee in a retro diner atmosphere. The frita is like a hamburger and comes with crispy matchstick potatoes and an array of hot sauces to try on top, and the coffee is strong and sweet. Again, it’s a good size portion for an excellent price.
If you’re into cigars or you feel like you ought to try one while you’re here, Calle Ocho, the main drag, is where to find the plethora of shops. Little Havana is a truly local neighbourhood with relatively fewer tourists, quite unlike Miami Beach.
Yes, it is possible to stay in Miami Beach and still make it to the Everglades in a weekend. Tours will take you roundtrip for a half-day excursion for around US$60 per person (try South Florida Trikke for a free bike rental on top of that), and the journey takes around 45 minutes to an hour each way. Airboat tours of the Everglades are a fun way to get up close and personal with the creatures that call these marshes home.
You may even end up with a tour guide named Captain Chaos with skin as leathery as the alligators he takes you to see. In true American fashion there’s a gator show after the airboat ride and a photo op with a baby alligator for an extra fee. These half-day excursions are a reasonable way to fit in a good glimpse of this unique ecosystem in Miami.
Art lovers will definitely need to visit Wynwood, a slowly gentrifying district in Miami home to some of the most spectacular street art I’ve ever seen. Wander the streets on your own, or head to Wynwood Walls to see an impressive collection of painted walls all in one place. There are plenty of cool photo opportunities here.
Of course, when the cool kids move in, the craft breweries pop up. What could make exploring street art better than combining it with a brewery crawl? Start at J Wakefield Brewing where you’ll find more striking graffiti art, and slowly make your way to the indoor-outdoor bar at Concrete Beach Brewery where you can play oversized games of jenga.
From food and drink to art, culture and outdoor adventures, there’s much more to Miami than the beach, though there’s plenty of that too. Pack your sun hat and shades and embrace the trendy vibe of this sun destination that really does make neon look stylish.