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In My Backyard - 5 Must Do Things in Miami

USA | Sunday, 4 September 2011 | Views [1152]

Miami Skyline at Night

MIAMI, a city recognized worldwide for its beautiful beaches, a non-stop party scene, and a perfect blend of American and Hispanic culture. Lucky for me, I get to call this city home. When I meet people traveling, I savor the moment when someone asks me where I’m from and I can nonchalantly brag reply, “I’m from Miami.” 

Unfortunately, Miami has so much going for it that it is hard for the typical tourist to know where to begin. To remedy this, I present to you “The 5 Must Do Things in Miami”.  Just a few notes: I’m going to skip the festivals/annual concerts so this guide is applicable year-round. I’m also going to skip the museums, the zoo, and the aquarium because all big cities have those. Finally, I advise you to learn some basic words in Spanish to make getting around easier. Miami may be in the U.S. but, as all natives know, it operates by its own rules.

BEACHES: While this is pretty much a given, no one can have a list of Miami attractions without including the beaches. That’s because there are so many to choose from and each one is more beautiful than the next. There’s Crandon Park, which is shady and never too crowded.  There is also Haulover Beach, which is one of the more famous nude beaches in the United States if that’s your thing. (Don’t worry, there is also a clothed section if you aren’t ready to let it all hang out… yet.) Drive over the scenic MacArthur Causeway and you find yourself at the infamous South Beach that, in addition to being iconic, is also a topless beach. What can I say? Miami gets hot; it’s hard for us to keep our clothes on. And like I said, this list is applicable year-round. Jealous yet?

SOUTH BEACH: You may be thinking, “Wait, she already mentioned South Beach!” Yes I did, but I did so in reference only to the actual beach. And what you quickly learn when you visit is South Beach is so much more than a beach.  No visit to Miami is complete without walking along Ocean Drive, admiring the Art Deco architecture, seeing Versace’s Miami mansion, and stopping by the Clevelander for a drink and a show. Along the way you can stop at any one of the many restaurants lining the street, including the well-known News Café, and you can also catch some unique street performances. Then head over to Lincoln Road, a long pedestrian street that has high-end clothing stores, restaurants, and art galleries. Finally, if you are a Jersey Shore junkie you can go to the gelato shop (On 10th and Collins) where the self-proclaimed guidos and guidettes worked during their season in Miami. They’re no longer there but I’m sure there are some traces of hair gel and fake tanner that can remind you of their fist pumping glory days.

VIZCAYA: Originally the sprawling estate of James Deering, the villa now consists of a museum and extensive gardens. The gardens alone make Vizcaya worth a visit, as they act as a peaceful respite from the constant action of the rest of the city. So large that they can take a whole day to explore fully, they’re filled with hundreds of unique and beautiful flower species. Then turn your attention to the Italian Renaissance architecture of the mansion and explore the approximately 70 rooms of varying design. You’ll find yourself subconsciously posing next to the large columns, at last feeling like the prince or princess that has always lived within you. Be warned, you will be competing with 15-year-old Cuban girls in their quinceañera dresses for the perfect photo op spot. 

EVERGLADES: While Miami can seem like it consists only of the glitz and glamour of South Beach, drive west and you eventually find yourself in the swamp-like environment of the Everglades. Now is your opportunity to see Florida as it once was: hot, muggy, and filled with mosquitoes. I’m only slightly joking with that last statement, but in all honesty the Everglades is worth braving the bugs for because it is an ecosystem unlike any other. There you will see giant alligators, snakes, turtles, anhinga birds, and a myriad of other species. You can explore the Everglades a variety of ways, including hiking, kayaking, and riding in an airboat.  Anyone with a light stomach might need to tread carefully however, because you never know when you’ll see a python explode because an alligator ate its way out of the python’s stomach.

CUBAN FOOD IN LITTLE HAVANA: Outside of Cuba, which most Americans can’t go to anyway, Miami has the greatest Cuban food in the world. In order to get the best of the best, you must go to Little Havana. Going to Little Havana feels like you’re stepping into another country, which in a sense you kind of are. There you can get some delicious picadillo or ropa vieja with platanos y arroz or a media noche sandwich. Just make absolutely sure you order in Spanish or you will earn yourself some dirty looks. Finish your meal off with some café cubano for a delightful pick-me-up. Just be careful, a little bit goes a long way, as comedian Ralphie May explains. On your way out of Little Havana, make sure to stop in Dominoes Park and catch the Cuban abuelitos playing a dominoes game. These games get intense and the Cuban smack talk will be abundant. While the trek to Little Havana involves some bravery for the average gringo, this is truly unique Miami experience that cannot be missed.


Like I said, there is so much more to Miami than these five “must do” things can accurately convey. I didn’t even get to mention Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, or Bayside. But I think that with this list you will be able to go home after your vacation completely satisfied with your “3-0-5 “experience. Take it from a native. 

Tags: #blogyourbackyard, beaches, cuban food, dominoes, jersey shore, little havana, miami, south beach, spanish, vizacaya


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