I’ve always thought that Miami could be (easily) my second home. Sunny weather the entire year, a lot of ocean (OK, and sharks, but I heard they don’t want to scare off tourists, anymore) and an entire artistic scene (and Art Basel Miami is one good enough reason to book a room in advance).
And, when I got there, I gave a second thought and I realised that Miami could be my home. Period. An I’ve started counting the reasons to stay (again, let’s put the sharks on the “no-no list”). And I found at least 10 things to do and see in Miami, especially if you stay more than a weekend.
Go to the beach. Miami South Beach. Far away to the pier, especially at sunset. The blue crystal water, the sunny beach, the calm and zen feeling of waves… Add to those some black pelicans flying over you, undisturbed by the flash of the camera. Try a walk in the evening and get some drinks at one of the cool terraces on the shore.
Take a walking tour in South Beach, and you will discover, easily, between palmtrees (or coconut trees) and small boutiques, the art deco buildings that South Beach Miami is famous for, painted in blue, pink, pale orange, they host now a set of restaurants, little hotels and some residencies (Cadillac Hotel, Colony Theatre, The Delano). On the Ocean Drive you will find the Gianni Versace house (yep, that one in front of which the designer, sadly, was killed), transformed in a luxury restaurant.
And because it’s walking day (even in America you don’t get so many people wandering the streets – New York and South Beach are exceptions to the rule), let’s have a walk to the Faena complex. The artsy Faena hotel is impressive, and everybody are eagerly waiting for Faena Art complex, a true paradise for those art lovers. (www.faena.com/miami-beach). Near by, worth visiting: Bass Museum (www.bassmuseum.org).
Try a visit to Miami Design District. Don’t bother to rent a car – Uber is awesome here! Luxury brands (from Dior and Gucci to Tiffany’s and Rolex), impressive buildings, a lot of artistic and innovative shop windows, even the famous statue of Kate Moss (www.miamidesigndistrict.net) Near by, stop at Institute of Contemporary Art (www.icamiami.org).
Everybody loves “the hipster district” in Miami. Actually, a very street-art graffiti neighbourhood with a lot of bars, coffee shops, art galleries, artist ateliers and, of course, the (now) touristic attraction, Wynwood Walls. Have a vitamin shake at the juice bar and enjoy the wonderful work from the walls (www.thewynwoodwalls.com).
In the evening – the best place for a good meal and an real American bar vibe – Coconut Grove, an area between a couple of streets, with bars and restaurants, with music and juke boxes, with big TV running on sport shows, with gigantic dishes (burgers, tacos, fries, you name it!).
In a rainy day (it’s Florida, after all) the perfect escape is Little Havana. To do: a walk on the Calle Ocho Hall of Fame, a visit in the oldest Cuban cigar shop & factory, a stop at some old and very interesting antique shops (perfect for finding a poster or a magazine from 1930 in Cuba, a box for havanas or… anything else you could think of). And, of course, a snack and a beer at Ball &Chain (ballandchainmiami.com), the oldest and most beautiful jazz bar in the area (Chet Baker used to play there): the music is secured, the food is delicious (have you ever tried conger fritters or chicharrones?) and the old guys dancing and singing are worth every minute.
For the mind and soul: a visit to Bonnet House, in Fort Lauderdale. The property is amazing, the history of the house and its owners, incredible. And you could get the feeling you are in a totally different time and space when you stay there (www.bonnethouse.org) For getting to reality, stop at Contemporary Art Museum (www.nsuartmuseum.org).
Not to miss: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (http://vizcaya.org). The beautiful property, is the former villa and estate of businessman James Deering, of the Deering McCormick -International Harvester fortune, on Biscayne Bay. The early 20th century Vizcaya estate includes: extensive Italian Renaissance gardens; native woodland landscape; and a historic village outbuildings compound. And it is the favourite scene for a lot of movies (“Iron Man 3” had some scene in here).
Last, but not the least, for those looking for adrenaline experiences, Everglade Adventure Park (www.evergladessafaripark.com): birds, crocodiles, swamps and stuff. I admit I didn’t try it. Have I mentioned I love the zen mood of a beach?